Headline reads –
“Lone Gunman kills 50 people – worst shooting in U.S. History”
What emotion do you feel? Sadness or Alarm perhaps?
Then you read…
“ISIS Allegiance leads to shooting death of 50 people – Act of Terrorism largest since 9/11”
Fear and anger start to creep in as you think through all the statistics that permeate our minds - that the worlds fastest growing religion, Islam, has more than 1.6 billion members (23% of the world’s population) and of that group there are approximately 7% who would be considered radicals or 112 million people who pull their direction right from the Hadith and Quran (with over 109 verses contained therein) to destroy the infidels (Christians, Homosexuals, and Jews alike).
Then you read…
“Act of Terrorism takes the lives of 50 people in Gay Night Club”
How did your emotion change from line to line?
We went through a number of emotions the morning of June 12, 2016.
Police officers reported how the room was filled with dead bodies and the noise of cell phones still ringing from loved ones who were desperate to hear a voice on the other end – a voice that would never come.
We can ask ourselves – have we become desensitized to death? In Chicago there are 41 violent crimes for every 1,000 residents. It is becoming an epidemic in our nation and immediately we want to blame Islam, Guns, Christians, Polices, Law Enforcement, etc. We can’t call sin for what it is. The irony is that Cain killed Abel with a rock. Ted Kaczynski used the Post Office through a campaign of letter bombs he sent as the 'Unabomber' over a nearly 20-year period, resulting in 3 fatalities. Timothy James McVeigh used fertilizer to make a bomb that killed 168 people and injured over 600. Nawaf al-Hazmi, Mohamed Atta and their cohorts killed 2,996 people, injuring 6,000 more - using box cutters to seize airplanes.
We did not outlaw rocks, the Post Office, fertilizer or box cutters as a result of these horrific events.
The irony of the attack on guns as the source of the problem is that when Mohammed Amri and his cohorts killed 89 people at a concert hall in Paris, earlier this year, it was in a highly restricted, gun controlled area.
The problem – the epidemic – isn’t weapons. It is sin.
However, the other side of this is the fact that our emotions changed further when we read or heard that this shooting took place at a night club and a gay night club at that. How did the Christian community respond? I read about the masses who turned out to give blood, set-up prayer vigils and even Chick-Fil-A opening to give away food to everyone gathering to help in anyway they could. But I also heard the hate “they deserved it.” I even heard “let the gays and Muslims destroy each other – will rid our nation of these sinners.”
The ACLU responded saying “The Christian Right is to blame for the Orlando Terrorist Attack” as reported in the Washington Times.
A Sacramento Baptist Pastor was quoted as saying "they deserved what they got."
This is a hardness of heart and we will find that at times we will self examine that we are growing hardened toward Muslims and those who identify themselves as homosexuals.
Hate is not the solution. We must first recognize that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Do you know what that means? We are all destined for eternal destruction if we don’t have the free gift of salvation found only in Jesus Christ.
Satan wants us to have hardened hearts like Jonah so we will refuse to fulfill our mission and can kill more people. Our mission is to go to the whole world - everyone (Mark 16:15) - and we will fail if discrimination is preventing our hearts from being moved with compassion to serve a lost world. If any of you think you are without sin then you are fooling yourself and need to drop your stone! (John 8:1-11)
In John 21 while Peter and Thomas, Nathanael and the sons of Zebedee were fishing, Jesus comes to them and tells them to cast their net to the right side of the boat and they bring in 153 fish and this represented one of each fish species in the Sea of Galilee – also representing the whole world. Jesus meant what He said when He was going to tell them how to become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).
Let us never become like the Sanhedrin or the Pharisees who regularly debated their position and self-righteousness amongst themselves while offering no hope to the hopeless.
We in the church seem to judge people by a spectrometer of sin. On one end of the spectrum we have ‘saying bad words’ or lies like “you look really good in that dress” – when they don’t and on the other end are murderers, ISIS, homosexuals – and yet the truth is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and if we break one commandment, we have broken them all (James 2:11). The only hope for us all is that “by grace are you saved, through faith, and this is not of yourself - it is the gift of God – not of works lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
All have sinned…but I am not justifying sin saying we should just turn a blind eye and a deaf ear but we are all guilty right now:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to nor perform homosexual acts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:19-26
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32
Disrespecting Parents, Pride, Unloving …how about Unforgiving and Unmerciful? We all fall short. Gossip in the same vein as murder. How many gossiped this week or said murderous things under your breath toward someone?
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that not will be made known. What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops. Luke 12:2-3
We have to pull the log out of our eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Our reality check is that we are on the same level with the rest of the sinners on this planet, therefore we can keep a posture of service and love out of conviction. So, part of this problem is that we think we are well or less sick than others. But Paul reminded us that we must buffet ourselves daily (1 Cor. 9:27) or we will do what we know we shouldn't do and not do what we should do - who will save me from this body of death he pleads (Romans 7:24). Paul was not well - we are not well - but God has saved us through Jesus Christ our Lord and is conforming us unto his likeness (2 Cor 3).
Love is not compromising the truth – it is recognizing that we are all sinners saved by grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If we are to truly model the attributes of Christ then we must learn to love our enemies - did you get that – LOVE them. I am not talking about tolerance or compromise. I am talking about real love. A love without an agenda. This is the love that will draw people to the Messiah.
What is love? Well who could model the attributes of it more than Christ?
Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment:
The Greatest Gift
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Pointing fingers into chests with condemnation from our lips will only fill the chambers of hell with lost souls.
Love Your Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48
So this begs the question – who is your enemy? I believe that as mature believers, we will finally see the truth that Satan has created the labels of religion, race, sexual identity, politics and more in order to create divisions. Thus the agendas of certain groups manipulate those who follow them in order to exploit them and to further harm them. This is Satan’s nature according to John 10:10-29, Revelation 20, Isaiah 14, and Romans 16. It is he who deceives the nations and turns brother against brother. He uses men like sock puppets and then we fight amongst ourselves when he is the real enemy. This is why God says to love those who persecute you and to turn the other cheek if they even punch you in the face:
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39
Why – because we are on a mission to save the lost and Christ practiced what he preached. At any point he could have called down a legion of angels to punish those who were harming him (Matthew 26:53). But his mission was to save the lost and he knew who the real enemy was. At any point we can persecute, attack, or destroy through words or actions but our mission is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
Chances are - you probably know someone or your children do and we can ignore them like they have the plague or we can give them the love of Jesus. A young man at my daughters school would change into female clothing at school and quickly change back before he went home - or his dad would beat him. Turns out he was regularly physically and mentally abused by his father and had no hope for his future. So God put him in our lives and we would just love on him and it totally changed his perspectives about Christians. He was afraid of me just like he was afraid of his own father initially – just breaks my heart to even say that – because he thought I was going to judge him and treat him no differently. Love opens doors and changes lives.
Homosexuals and Muslims are not Homosexuals and Muslims - they are called people and until we start to see them as people - human beings who are your brothers and sisters in the flesh, descended from Adam and Eve, just like you and me - then we will never become Spiritual siblings who share an eternal destination. They are not aliens - they are your cousins, your family and the heart of the Father is that all should be saved (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).
Let’s go back to the story of a woman who was looked down upon in John chapter 4.
A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria.
So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” – John 4:1-26
Jesus lifted up a woman who was looked down upon and living in sin. Truth convicted through Love and as a further confirmation of the love of Jesus, she became the first person He identified Himself to as the Messiah – at least as it was recorded here.
Again, I am not condoning or excusing sin because the Word of God is what convicts (2 Timothy 3) - not me. This is sharper than a double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It cuts both ways. There is a difference between evangelizing the lost vs. maturation in the faith. Those who know the truth and continue in sin must be approached in love (Matthew 18 - confronting a brother - that is the key - a brother) in fact 2 John 1:7-10 was one that scared me for years that I could not associate with people who were not believers because I took it out of context. It is okay to love on sinners. Just be in the world not of the world (John 1518-19; 17:16). The world is now your mission field. Minister but don’t go back to it. If you have just beaten alcoholism or sexual immorality, then most likely, ministering in those areas would only bring temptation. So, we allow the Holy Spirit to put you to work elsewhere until you are ready. We must grow up in the faith (Ephesians 4:13) and then as we are firm in truth we then allow the Holy Spirit to move through us into the assignment of Evangelism.
The world is filled with sick people and so is the church but how can we reach the lost if we are calloused to their condition? If we go to them with condemnation in our eyes then they will not see authentic love. How is the Muslim community growing while the Evangelical church is shrinking? Because Muslims will go to the worst of areas and love on people, meet their needs, tend to their hurts and offer them hope without conditions. They make them family and they can't help but be drawn in to their faith. The church has become stuffy, judgmental and unwelcoming to the sick.
Our nation was founded on the concepts that all men were created equal - in the image of God - with certain unalienable rights. The Statue of Liberty proudly displays - “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (Emma Lazarus).” But how does the door above our church read - no Obamacare welcome here? No Muslims or homosexuals welcome. Or do we subtly believe we have a country club clinic where only United Healthcare is accepted - no Medicare. How exclusive have we become for our own comfort zones? If you are going to go to the hospital you have to expect to find sick people - blood, wounds, fractures, illness. So let's be the church. You want revival - it starts here.
There are a lot of people groups who need Jesus out there. I think of Scientists and Engineers in this group as well.
Did you know that Scientists discovered God? WMAP - at this point there is what they call Quantum Fluxuations - a singular event previously known as the Big Bang. However Scientists now agree that with the discovery of non-locality at the CERN Hadron Collider, that there were Laws of Nature prior to Space, Time or Matter. These laws also hold the Universe together bringing order out of chaos and they brought the Universe together out of nothing and have no form out of matter - does that sounds familiar to you? Colossians 3 says that God holds it all together. You see we just have to learn to speak the Love Language of those we are ministering to in order to have a viable and productive outcome built on trust and respect. The same is true for all people groups and the Holy Spirit will burden you for a particular people group or mission assignment but the problem is that we tend to get hardened toward the others that are affecting the group we have a heart for. Concentrated mission is not bad but we must be aware that all people groups are the target and work together.
As I have said in the past - Homosexuals believe they are rejected for who they are - not just because of what they do. So when we call them sinners they equate it as a label or a form of racism or a civil rights violation. You might as well be attacking them personally. So how can you reach them with hope when they feel labeled, like a scarlet letter, for their sin? We don't label others like that. For other sins it is a "short-coming".
During my 15 years at Focus on the Family, I worked with a ministry called Love Won Out - and I had the privilege of ministering to people who were in the gay lifestyle and they came with walls up and the only way those walls were coming down was through love and respectful conversation - filtered through grace and mercy. Many became my friends and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We had tears together and even did ministry together. God heals us all and I was no better than them. We were sinners together – saved by grace.
“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8)
The only way to bring hope to the hopeless is to wear the cloak of humility and walk the path in the footsteps of the Messiah.
Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’… Matthew 22:37-39
Was this the only time God tells us to love our neighbor – NOPE: Leviticus 19:18, Galatians 5:14, Romans 13:8-10, Matthew 19:19 – just to name a few.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Me preaching to you right now does not count as brownie points for me as if I am doing the real ministry here. Truth is - Ephesians 4 says I am to equip the saints for the work of ministry - that means that if you were to go out right now and share the gospel with someone - that would be more ministry than I am doing right now. I am preaching to the choir. The real ministry happens when we grab hold of this reality and get to work!
I remember going go Buffalo New York right downtown - we set up tents and offered free food and then gave away Bibles to all who came and everyone came. People who couldn't speak English - yah those people - the ones we tell aren't welcome here. We had gay, straight, and all walks of life including a lot of homeless come out. Then it happened. I started praying with one person and the crowds started forming and they were all so desperate to be hugged and prayed over. I couldn't get to everyone fast enough. They kept coming and the rain started pouring but they wouldn't stop coming. Dozens gave their life to Jesus right there because the Spirit moved through our love for them. Jesus touched the Lepers (Matthew 8, Luke 17)and didn't care because he loved and that strategy worked like nothing else.
So we went and did it again and again - we set up tents near Colorado Springs courthouse and offered to pray for anyone coming in and people said yes - again and again.
If we drove down to the night clubs and the inner city and picked up everyone we could find and brought them to church every Sunday – the broken, the beaten, down trodden,… could you hug them – embrace them – wash their feet even?
What does all this mean - well what happened on Sunday morning last week revealed hardness of hearts. So what are we going to do about it? Let people die caring only for ourselves or go round up every single person we can - gay, straight, black, white, poor or rich - bring one bring all. But that requires intentionality on your part to go be salt and light - not secret agent Christians that look like the world and unwilling to get our hands dirty.
Jesus Christ says in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…”
The point is this - if you are willing to get your hands dirty then let's go to the mission field together - or if you can't - then please - don't run if the chairs next to you are filled with people who don't look or smell like you.
Can we be like Christ? Be the light into the dark places. The future of our nation – our world – depends on it.
I praise God the church didn't judge my mother - a sexually abused runaway who had turned to drugs, alcohol and sex. She had 3 abortions before coming to church. They could have labeled her and she would have walked away and I would have ended up in prison - but because the church said "Hope is here" and delivered on that promise - I stand here today.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:9-17
To love our enemy like Christ did means that we become so mission-minded to save souls that even if they punch you in the face or strip your clothing (Matthew 5:40; Luke 6:29-30) something they did to our Messiah (Matthew 26:67: Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him…”) - that the enemy cannot break you in your mission of love and service.
Let God be the judge and let us be the servants. The empty chairs next to you - make it your mission to fill them. I am not looking for club members - I am looking for souls who need Jesus. Are you with me!