It is a huge understatement to say that there is a lot of hate in the world today, but sadly it is very true. Yesterday an alleged "white supremacist" opened fire in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. A security guard was killed in the exchange of gunfire. Just a couple of weeks ago a notorious late term abortion provider was gunned down in the foyer of the church he attended. The news casts are full of hate, violence and evil. There is a lot of senseless violence in this world. One might wonder why, but the ancient Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah summed it up pretty well when he wrote, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?"
That explains the violent acts of pagans, but what about those who perpetrate such crimes in the name of religion or their religious beliefs? Militant Muslim extremists have killed thousands of "infidels" the name of Allah. On the other hand, there has been tremendous blood shed at the hands of those who call themselves Christians as well. How tragic is that?
Whereas some cults believe that heavenly reward comes from dispatching unbelievers to hell, true followers of Christ are called to be heralds of the Good News of eternal life in Him. It is sickening to hear of those who perpetrate violent acts of others in the name of Christ. No behavior could be farther from the true path of following Jesus. He came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
Facebook is amazing! I have reconnected with people I haven't seen in more than four decades through this social networking website. It can certainly eat up a tremendous amount of time, but what a blessing it is to be able to keep up with old friends, share family updates and photos, and to stay loosely connected as we all go our separate ways. I have been able to keep up with many of our children's friends, who are grown now with families of their own. Recently I have hooked up on Facebook with old college classmates who are now serving God in various ministries around the world. Some, like me, are serving as pastors of local congregations. One has a children's home in Texas and does puppet ministry throughout the southern U.S. Some are serving as missionaries in South America, Africa, France, and as church planters here in North America.
I've also entered the world of Twitter, but the jury is still out my feelings toward that world. (perhaps I'm just too verbose for the 140 character posting limit!) Perhaps when I learn how to "Tweet" from my Blackberry, I may like it a little better. Unfortunately, I am so technologically challenged that I have not been able to work on that application. Jay, if you're reading this, perhaps you can help me work that out while we're together in Louisville in a couple of weeks.
Speaking of Louisville, there is a real (potentially divisive) issue shaping up for the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes together for the Annual Meeting there on June 23-24. Controversy is beginning to swirl around a "Great Commission Resurgence" document http://www.greatcommissionresurgence.com/ that Johnny Hunt and SEBTS President Danny Akin have produced and endorsed. I am one of more than 3,000 people who have signed the document, (after all, who ISN'T for the Great Commission?) but I share the concerns of many others regarding the controversial article IX, " A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure", which, in it's original form, seemed to accuse certain convention entities of being "bloated". The article has been revised twice to soften it a little, to make it a bit more palatable, but it still raises questions about the motives behind the article.
It is expected that Convention President Johnny Hunt will appoint a committee to examine the structure of the convention and recommend possible changes at next year's meeting in Orlando. There has been some talk of combining the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board into one entity. Also, someone has put forth the idea of combining all six Southern Baptist Seminaries under one board and president or chancellor. I personally oppose both of these ideas, but am open to anyway that we may streamline all of our entities to help better accomplish our mission for global evangelism.
Could be an interesting debate...
Did you catch President Obama's speech in Cairo, Egypt last week? I watched the entire thing and came away feeling like I needed a shower. He identified himself as a Christian early in his speech to the predominately Muslim audience, yet throughout the discourse, he made at least five references to "the Holy Koran", quoting verses to the cheers of the audience. Do you know ANY Christ followers who consider ANY writings (other than the Bible) as "holy"? The Koran parallels the Torah (which our Christian Scriptures also contain) but then goes off into false religion.
The President deplored the "illegitimate" Israeli settlements on the West Bank and demanded that they be abandoned. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many years ago, made a good point when he pointed out the Arabic nations surrounding the tiny land of Israel on a map. He referenced the large Arabic neighboring countries surrounding the Jewish state, and called attention to the tiny space of Israel in comparison. "Now they want us to divide our small nation to create a Palestinian state". I fear that our traditional support of the nation of Israel is fading quickly under the Obama administration.
Speaking of the President and Israel, his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright has surfaced again with some anti semitic comments recently. When asked by a Virginia newspaper if he was in regular contact with President Obama, Wright said, "Them Jews will not let me get near him..."
It is hard for me to imagine that Obama sat under this man's "preaching" for 20 years, and yet claim that he didn't realize what a racist Wright truly is!
When my grandfather died at the age of 59, I thought of him as an old man. (he was 40 years older than me at the time). But now, approaching the age of 59 this October, I realize how relatively young he was. Today I will attend another funeral of friend. This will be the third memorial service of a friend in the past four weeks - two men and a woman, ages 57, 55, and 44. Each circumstance was different, each left me with a reminder of the fragility and brevity of life. It was four and a half years ago when I was first faced with my own mortality. That's when I heard the "C word" and was told it was incurable. With an average survival time of 18-22 months, by the Grace of God I have lived more than 2 1/2 years longer than expected.
I have been thinking quite a bit recently about the events of the past few years. Why has God spared my life this long, and taken these three, and several other dear friends, who were not even sick at the time I was told I was terminal? Certainly I was no more deserving than any others. Only God knows His sovereign plan for me - and for you. I am so thankful that God has granted me "extra" time with my family and my church. Heaven is a wonderful place, and I know I am going there when God says it's time. But for now, I relish every day He has given me.
God, please help me do what you have left for me to accomplish, and grant me joy for every day of the journey.