Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The end of the year = the end of the age


Every year I read the Bible straight through, three chapters a day and five on Sunday. It's a habit that's stuck with me since my Bible school days. I think it's fitting that at the end of every year, I get a reminder of the end of the age when reading Revelation. It's normal on December 31st to think about the upcoming year, but reading the last chapter of Revelation gives me a yearly reminder of the ultimate end--the end of suffering, pain, disease, and tears. And then the next day I read the first three chapters of Genesis and the journey from the beginning starts all over again.

If you do the three-chapters-a-day-and-five-on-Sunday plan, on the first day of the year, you'll read about Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden and the angel denying them further access to the Tree of Life. The last day of the year, you'll read:

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.


How fitting is it that the last chapter of the Bible is a recapitulation of the Genesis story? It seems to me that somebody is trying to tell us something.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Verse of the Day. Amos 5:23-24

To what extent do you feel this passage applies to churches in America today?

Take away from me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.


Sobering.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Morgan Freeman: The Power of Words

I just received this video from Amnesty International today. As a Christian, it's a great reminder that God calls His people to speak out for the oppressed.



Enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas message from Aaron

Dear friends,

Rhiannon and I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We pray that you are enjoying your time with friends and family. With Rhiannon being ready to deliver within the next two weeks, the Christmas story is taking on a new meaning for me this year. Yesterday we attended a service at a very large church in Albuquerque. The pastor really brought the message home when he said to the men, "Imagine taking your wife on a 70 mile trip riding a donkey pulling the wagon carrying your nine month pregnant wife. I'm sure that every other minute Joseph had to say, 'Are you all right? Are you still all right? You want to pull over? Again?'"

The pastor's point was that it must have seemed to Joseph and Mary like their world was falling apart because nothing was happening like they would have planned it. Imagine the shame that Mary and Joseph knew they would face from their friends and family knowing that few would probably buy into the whole God-impregnated-my-wife scenario. Joseph could have shamed his wife publicly or, even worse, he could have had her stoned (think about how relevant this story might be to Islamic cultures that practice honor killings), but he chose the path of love and faithfulness. Mary could have made a different choice as well. She knew the ridicule, and threat to her life that she might face, but she chose the path of obedience, and the world has honored her many times over for her choice.

What is the most difficult thing that God has asked you to do? None of us will ever be in a situation exactly the same as Mary and Joseph, but all of us can chose faith over fear, love over revenge, and faithfulness over cowardice. As you reflect on the meaning of Christmas this year, think about Mary and Joseph and the strength they found from their love for each other and for their Creator. May the Lord give you the strength to make the right choices throughout the next year, even when the choices are difficult.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Aaron

Monday, December 21, 2009

The thief on the cross--What saved him?


I've been thinking about the story of the thief on the cross. I've heard people say that they don't believe in deathbed conversions. For many, it seems unfair that a person can live their whole life lying, stealing, cheating or--insert your favorite sin here--and make it to heaven all because of a last minute prayer. And yet, that seems to be exactly what happens in this story. It's important to note that before this story begins, the same thief is on the cross mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44). So we know that some time after the thief has been hanging on the cross next to Jesus, he has a change of heart. Here's the story as recorded in Luke 23:38-42:

And an inscription also was written over Him in letters in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS JESUS KING OF THE JEWS. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, 'If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.' But the other, answering, rebuked Him saying, 'Do you not even fear God seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.' And Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'


Here's a question that I would love some feedback on:

What saved him?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Barack Obama's Nobel speech, what did we expect?


I didn’t get a chance to watch Barack Obama’s Nobel speech live, but I’ve read the transcript and found very little in the speech that couldn’t have been given by any number of past presidents—including George W. Bush. Granted, absent from the speech is the grandiose rhetoric of “Bring it on”, “You’re either with us or with the terrorists” and “Ridding the world of evil”, but should being less arrogant than Bush qualify someone for the Nobel Peace Prize? Probably not. On the other hand, Barack Obama’s rejection of unilateralism, his willingness to dialogue with enemies, and his understanding of the limits of power—howbeit nuanced—make him about as good of a president as we can expect on the foreign policy front given the current state of American culture and, more specifically, the American Church.

According to the CIA world fact book, roughly 77% of the American people are self-identified as Christians. From its inception, America has been a nation of people that name the name of Christ on the one hand and trust in the power of their military might on the other hand. The American civil religion of God, guns, and country has been around for a long time and it’s the height of naivety to think that a few good speeches and a teleprompter are going to change that. If Obama’s escalation of the Afghan conflict has taught us anything, it’s that liberals can be just as susceptible to the value system of might equals right as conservatives can be. Those of us that oppose the escalation can chastise the president all we want, but the fact is there was very little political wiggle room for the president to make any other decision than the one that he made. Even the “liberal” networks of NBC, CBS, and CNN are steeped in the tradition of glorifying military heroes and showing off the Pentagon’s latest weapons technology.

As much as I would love to flatter myself, I know that Barack Obama is never going to read this article, and neither is he going to read the tens of thousands of editorials and blogs calling on him to change his mind. With all of the attention going towards one man, and whether or not he deserves a peace prize, I fear that a larger point is getting lost; and that is that history is defined less by people on top and more by people on bottom. Wars are fought because cultural, religious, media, and economic establishments support them. Wars are ended when the groundswell of the population refuse to support the institutions that make them possible. Until the words “fighting for freedom” become more associated in the average American mind with strikes, boycotts, and voter registrations than with ground invasions and bombing raids, no president is going to be able to deliver on a “change we can believe in” slogan.

To borrow from Jared McKenna’s What if scenario, what if out of the 77% of the American population that self-identify as Christians, the vast majority of them became convinced that following Christ and renouncing the sword go hand in hand? What if John Howard Yoder replaced Augustine as the intellectual giant of the Western Church? For that to happen, a lot more Bible- believing Christians are going to have to be convinced that Romans 13 is not a carte blanche for Christians participating in state-sanctioned violence, that the Old Testament is a poor pretext for just war theory, and that John the Baptist wasn’t condoning violence when he didn’t tell the Roman soldiers of their day to give up their occupations. If there’s one thing to be learned from Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, it’s that Biblical paradigm shifts can have vast political consequences. It can happen again, but it’s going to take all hands on board. Any volunteers?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nedra O Brien on Suffering

Below is a message written by my mother in law for her church bulletin. Nedra passed away in March 2005. Rhiannon and I have a collection of her messages. I'll be posting them from time to time.


About Suffering

As beautiful as this world is, it’s filled with people who are suffering. In Matthew 16:21, Jesus warns His disciples, much to their dismay, that He, too, will suffer. He tells them, “…that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” This goes along with Daniel’s prophecies that the Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26), there would be a period of trouble (9:27), and the king would come in glory (7:13-14). The disciples would also endure suffering and, like their king, would be rewarded in the end.

As much as we’d like it to be, suffering isn’t always avoidable. Jesus’ friend and devoted follower, Peter, tried to protect Him from the suffering He spoke of, but if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died, Peter – not to mention the rest of us – would have died in his sins.

When we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult trial or persecution, it might help to remember Luke 21:17-19, in which Jesus says, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.” He wasn’t saying that believers would be exempt from physical harm or death during the persecutions. As a matter of fact, most of the disciples were martyred. Instead, He was saying that none of His followers would suffer spiritual or eternal loss. On earth everyone will die, but believers in Jesus will be saved for eternal life.

For Christians, there’s always hope and joy beyond the suffering. We have some wonderful promises to see us through: God will always be with us, as it says in Matthew 28:20, and one day He will rescue us and give us eternal life, which we can read in Revelation 21:1-4.

It should help us to know that Jesus identifies with us and understands our suffering. To know that He endured horrible pain and faced temptation should give us courage to face our trials. Jesus understands our struggles because He faced them, too, when He walked this earth as a human being. We can trust Him to help us survive suffering and overcome temptation. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” When we know that Jesus Christ is with us, we can face any difficult trial with grace and dignity.

Jesus’ human life was on that He chose freely and throughout it, He chose to obey His Father, even though obedience led to suffering and even death. But because He obeyed perfectly, despite what happened to Hem, He can help us to obey. And God responds to His obedient children. As we are patient and obedient, He will not leave us alone with our problems, but He will stay close, helping us to solve them or giving us the strength to endure them.

Please keep Rhiannon in your prayers

I'm not much for posting personal photos on this blog, but a lot of people have wanted to see pictures of my wife Rhiannon now that she is a month away from giving birth. I had trouble uploading this as a status update for my Face Book page.



Please keep Rhiannon and the baby in your prayers!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hurray for Rick Warren for speaking out against Uganda’s anti-gay bill, but where are the rest of the Christian leaders?

As a career missionary to Africa, I fear what would happen to me on judgment day if I didn’t speak out against what is happening in Uganda right now in the name of Christ. I was in the middle of typing my monthly newsletter when I decided to check my e-mail. The subject line read, “Pastor Rick Warren condemns Uganda anti-homosexuality bill.” Hurray for Rick Warren, but my question is where’s everyone else? Christian Right leaders in the U.S. are constantly griping that the media portrays them as bigoted towards homosexuals. Well Mr. Dobson and Mr. Sekulow, now would be a perfect time to prove them wrong. I’m still waiting for my urgent action e-mail.

I’m not talking about an issue that falls within the realm of perfectly legitimate political debate—like whether gay marriage should be legal or not. What I’m talking about is a bill that if passed would condemn homosexuals to prison, would give the death penalty for homosexuals with HIV, and would criminalize heterosexuals that support gay rights. The bill being considered would actually force heterosexuals to report their gay friends and neighbors to the authorities. I would expect something like this from a group like the Taliban, but from a nation with a vast majority of Christians? Who would have thought? But then again, I’m not sure why I’m surprised.

I’d like to think that American Christian leaders have nothing to do with the direction that Uganda’s government is sliding towards, but I know it’s not true. For starters, I’ve been to Uganda and have lived and traveled extensively throughout Africa. Based on my experience, the level of influence that American pastors, evangelists, and missionaries have in predominately Christian countries in Africa is astronomical, especially when you consider how many African churches and ministries are dependent on American support. As difficult as it may be to believe, in most English speaking countries in Africa, American televangelists are like rock stars. The way the average Ugandan feels towards people like T.D. Jakes, Reinhard Bonnke, and Benny Hinn is what the average American feels towards people like—ironically—Bono. If I’m exaggerating, it’s only slightly.

Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not suggesting that the above-mentioned leaders are guilty of stoking anti-gay bigotry in Uganda. I use their names only to underscore the fact that, in most cases, American Christian leaders wield a greater influence over the pop-culture in African countries than they do in their own country. Even pastors of small to mid-sized congregations in the U.S. can go to countries like Uganda or Kenya or Nigeria and preach to tens of thousands of people at a time—and maybe even meet with the country’s leaders. It happens every day. American Christianity has enormous influence in Africa. With great influence comes great responsibility.

Let’s not forget that there was a man about 80 years ago that came to power on the platform of criminalizing consensual gay sex. His name was Hitler. There’s a reason why the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Church, “For what have I to do with judging those who are outside?” (I Corinthians 5:12) Paul must have known that when Christians try to legislate morality outside the confines of spiritual discipline within the Church, the result is usually an ugly monster that looks nothing like Christ. It’s time for American pastors, missionaries, and evangelists, along with our African brothers and sisters declare loudly to the world—not in our name!

Glee rewrites the rules for Hollywood adultery


I'm a sucker for show tunes, which is why I watch Glee, though for the sake of keeping my man card, I must add the caveat of occasionally. I did catch the season finale last night though. I'm not sure why I was surprised at the ending, but I was. It looks like the main character has left his wife for another woman. Granted the wife was a piece of work, but I still found myself rooting for her, especially when she made her final appeal for him to stay with her. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but but by the end of the show, when the Glee club director ran to the other woman after an emotional song by his students, I was left confused. Perhaps I got the memo too late, but I couldn't help asking myself "Were the writers of the show expecting me to root for the other woman?"

If so, then that's a shift even for Hollywood morality. Yes, I know that I shouldn't expect much from Hollywood these days, especially when matching it up to Biblical morality which limits sexual relationships to heterosexual monogamous marriage; but for the past two decades the Hollywood moral standards for its leading male characters has been as follows:

Multiple sex partners before marriage = okay

Fooling around with other women after marriage = you're a scum bag

Apparently the second option is now okay, as long as the wife is neurotic.

I'm not sure if Hollywood is catching up with culture on this point or if the culture will eventually catch up to Hollywood on this point. Either way, it's not looking good.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Verse of the day. Lamentations 3:22-24

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion" says my soul. "Therefore I hope in Him!"

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

An old video of William Branham

Been feeling a little nostalgic today. I found this on You Tube. It's an old video of William Branham, one of the most famous healing evangelists during an unusual outpouring of the Holy Spirit that occurred between 1947-1953 known as the Healing Revival. William Branham was famous for "Words of Knowledge" which in pentecostal/charismatic belief is supernatural insight into a person's life or situation and is one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8.

While it's true that Branham fell into heresy during his later years (he got to thinking that he was Elijah), there's no evidence that William Branham faked his supernatural knowledge. If what you are about to see happened today, people would assume he had an earpiece feeding him the information. One reason why I believe that the words of knowledge operating in Brahman's ministry were real is because Gordon Lindsay, the founder of Christ for the Nations Institute (the Bible school where my wife and I met) was his manager for a period of time and very, very few people dispute Gordon Lindsay's personal integrity.



There's also a famous photo of Branham with what appears to be a supernatural halo floating over his head. This made headline news when it appeared. You can view the photo and read Gordon Lindsey's commentary on the incident here.

I hope this builds your faith...or at the very least make you wonder.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Question of the Day, what else was Simon the Sorcerer's problem?

The other night I read the story of Simon the Sorcerer found in Acts 8:9-25. I decided to reflect on it a little.

Here's the story:

Acts 8:9-25 (New International Version)

Simon the Sorcerer

9Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." 11They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into[a] the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

24Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me."

25When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.


Here's the question: We know that Simon the Sorcerer was greedy in that he tried to "sell the gift of the Holy Spirit" but what else was his problem?

Discuss!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama's escalation in Afghanistan, should Christians take a side?



On the eve of the election last November, I wrote a thinly-veiled endorsement of Barack Obama and blasted it out to my friends and family. Now after listening to President Obama’s speech trying to sell the American people on his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, there’s a verse of Scripture that’s taken on a profound new significance, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).

By all accounts, it looks like President Obama is about to commit a colossal mistake. For starters, 30,000 troops is a drop in the bucket for what’s truly needed for an effective counter-insurgency. The Russians tried to do the same thing we’re doing and it turned out to be the death of their empire. And to top it off, we’re sending our men and women to spill their blood in order to prop up a government of war criminals that brutalize women, oppress their people, and use the tax dollars of hard-working Americans to fleece their people and fill their coffers. Is this change we can believe in? No, it’s not. At least for me it’s not.

Then again, I could be wrong. Let’s do a hypothetical and imagine that by a heavy dose of divine intervention combined with an equal dose of strategy and good luck, Obama’s plan works. In 18 months, the threat of the Taliban is neutralized, the Karzai government does a 180 and cleans up their act, and the war is responsibly brought to an end. If I were to attach God to my political views and make it the “Christian view” that the escalation is wrong, then what will I have done to the credibility of the Christian message if I turn out to be wrong? Even, worse. What if I made that a part of the kingdom gospel that I preach? Come to Jesus and end the war in Afghanistan!

Progressive evangelicals often chide their right-wing counterparts for focusing on a narrow set of issues and claiming that their political solutions are God’s solutions. It seems to me, however, that both sides of the political aisle run the danger of pimping God to endorse their political views. It’s all too easy to take the big three of the Manhattan Declaration (abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty) and replace them with the big three of progressive evangelicals’ agenda (war, poverty, and the environment). If both sides claim that God sides with their political views or that their issues are the most important, then how are they really that different from each other? If either side takes a position that turns out to be wrong or endorses a candidate that turns out to be disappointing—as I’m sure that right about now there’s a degree of buyers remorse for religious leaders that endorsed Obama—then whose credibility is damaged?

Perhaps a better approach for Christians is to preach the gospel, serve our fellow man with good works, focus on living a Kingdom lifestyle within the life of the Church, and recognize the ambiguity in all political solutions to earthly problems. I may know that abortion is wrong and never counsel a woman to have an abortion because of my religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that I’m privy to special knowledge on how to translate that into a political solution that will save the most unborn lives. I may refuse to serve in combat because I believe that killing in war is a violation of Jesus’ command to “love your enemies”, but that doesn’t mean that I have God’s perspective on what should be done about Iraq and Afghanistan. If I claim that I do, then the credibility of the gospel that I preach is damaged in the end. If Obama’s decision has taught me anything, it’s that political humility isn’t just an option for Christians; it’s a necessity.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Baby news, report from Portland, and plans for next year

Dear friends,

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving. Rhiannon and I spent our Thanksgiving in Albuquerque with my sister-in-law’s family. It was strange being away from our family in St. Louis, but we still had a good time. Rhiannon and I played Scattergories with Cody and Jasmin (my brother in law and his wife). I lost. (Side note: If you ever need an ego boost, challenge me to a game of Scattergories. I’ve never won!)

I was in Portland Oregon earlier in the month participating in the Innovative Evangelism Conference. The conference takes place every three years and is organized by the Next Generation Alliance, a sub-ministry of the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association. This year I got to teach a workshop, which was a neat experience. After the first workshop that I taught, a lady came up to me and said, “You teaching the Mary/Martha story must have been by Divine Providence. My husband and I are going to India next month to teach in some villages. This is the exact story they need to hear!”

One exciting development that’s come about as a result of the conference is the following week; Tim Robnett (the director of the Next Generation Alliance) invited me to go to Ukraine with him next year to preach a series of evangelistic meetings. What makes this exciting is that Tim’s call confirmed something that had already been dropped into my spirit during the conference. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is up to something?

So as it looks right now, Rhiannon and I’s schedule for the next few months are as follows. On December 15th we go to Albuquerque to spend the last month of Rhiannon’s pregnancy. The baby is due on January 14th (If he’s not arrived by then, the doctors are going to induce labor). In February, I’ll be teaching two Simply the Story workshops in Farmington, New Mexico (where we’re living right now). Towards the beginning of March, we’ll be going to Ethiopia to pick up the child we are adopting (In case you’re wondering, no we won’t be taking our birth child with us to Ethiopia). Then on the last week of April, I’ll be going to Ukraine to preach the gospel. As for the rest of the year….well…I’ll keep you informed.

That’s the rough draft. Of course, many things are still up in the air and can change based on the health of our birth child (whose name will be Christian David Taylor) and the logistics of the adoption.

Thank you for your patience and support during this time of transition.

While there is still time,

Aaron

This is who we need to listen to

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Woody Allen interview with Billy Graham part 1

I know this is random, but I've been studying Billy Graham lately and came across this video. I thought Billy did a good job keeping the conversation light, but dispensing spiritual truth at the same time. Woody Allen was funny too.

Woody Allen interview with Billy Graham part 2



Friday, November 20, 2009

Lou Dobbs says bring our troops home!

This one surprised me.



Could this be the real reason Lou Dobbs was canned from CNN?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Verse of the day. Romans 8:32

"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dinesh D'Souza, the New Atheism, and Constantinian Christianity


Last week at the Innovative Evangelism Conference I got a chance to hear Dinesh D’Souza speak to a standing room only crowd. Many in the crowd were fellow evangelists, but there were a few seekers and skeptics present as well.
Dinesh D’Souza is a renowned Christian apologist known for taking on the proponents of the New Atheism (people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens). He’s also one of America’s most influential conservative thinkers.

Dinesh’s arguments from science and philosophy were well thought out. He addressed post-modern arguments against Christian exclusivism with sensitivity, breezed through the theodicy problem (the problem of why a good God allows evil to happen), and built a case for Christian morality without resorting to bashing heads with Bible verses. He even managed—rightly in my view—to avoid the trap of defending irreducible complexity as an argument for intelligent design. All things considered, I thought that Dinesh did a good job presenting arguments for the reasonableness of Christian faith. So why did I leave disappointed?

The weakest part of the presentation for me was when Dinesh defended Christianity against the charge that people in the name of Christ have committed some pretty horrific crimes against humanity, crimes like the Inquisition and the Crusades. Rather than renouncing the evil perpetrated in the name of Christ, Dinesh chose the standard apologetic response of stacking up the body count of crimes perpetrated in the name of Christ against crimes perpetrated in the name of atheism. The body count for the Inquisition? Four thousand. The body count for atheism? Millions. Christianity wins.

Not to say that there isn’t some merit to D’Souza’s argument mind you. It’s true that when you consider Lenin, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot; the body count for atheism in the 20th century alone far surpasses the body count for crimes committed in the name of Christ. D’Souza also rightly pointed out that atheism—more specifically the Marxist brand—was crucial to the philosophies of these barbaric dictators as opposed to the supposedly religious conflicts that are often really about land and resource distributions (like the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict).

Leaving aside the potential counter-argument that Christianity has it’s share of religiously motivated wars as well (think—the 30 years war, the Great Schism) it’s at this point that a thinking skeptic could say, “Yes, it’s true that without religion there would still be wars over land, ethnicity and political philosophies, but the thing particularly dangerous about religion is that religion provides a transcendent source that allows people to dehumanize others with the approval of their conscience”—and the skeptic would be right.

This is why Jesus—not historic Christianity—should be the object of our apologetics. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus categorically rejected violence, nationalism, and the fusion of faith with earthly power, as did His followers for roughly the first 300 years of Church history. At around 325 A.D. the church and state developed a very cozy relationship under Constantine, producing what author David Bercot from Scroll Publishing likes to call the “Constantinian Hybrid.” It seems to me that in his counter-arguments to the New Atheists moral objections to religious faith, what Dinesh defended wasn’t so much Christianity, but Constantinian Christianity—the kind of Christianity that’s very comfortable fusing faith with earthly power.

Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not suggesting that Dinesh D’Souza approved of the Crusades and the Inquisition in his presentation. It’s just that something seems awry to me when a leading Christian intellectual has to tell his fellow believers that we should all be patting ourselves on the back because our predecessors haven’t tortured and killed as many people as the predecessors of other faiths and belief systems. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not sure why a non-Christian should be impressed with that. It seems to me that once we accept Constantinian Christianity as normative, we’ve seriously lowered the bar. As a Christian evangelist, D’Souza’s presentation forced me to ask myself perhaps the toughest of all questions. To what degree does the Christianity that I’m preaching look like Jesus?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A report on the Innovative Evangelism Conference



On November 10-13th, over 350 national and international evangelists gathered in Portland Oregon to attend the Innovative Evangelism Conference. The conference was organized by the Next Generation Alliance, a ministry of the Luis Palau Association. Luis Palau is famous for attracting hundreds of thousands of people in cities across America and around the world to his “festival events”, pioneering what has now become known as “festival evangelism.” Although Luis Palau is about 15 years his junior, many people consider Palau to be the heir to Billy Graham’s legacy.

The first night of the event brought about 1,000 people from the community for a free Matt Redman concert. Although Redman is well known around the world for his contemporary worship songs such as “Blessed Be Your Name” and “The Heart of Worship”, few people know that Redman was converted at a Luis Palau event in London when he was 10 years old. As a missionary/evangelist attending the event, Redman’s presence, followed by an exhortation from Luis Palau, served as an inspiring example that—contrary to popular belief—mass evangelism does work.

The following evening, after a full day of workshops exploring topics like “Guerilla Evangelism”, “How to Shake a City”, and “How to Effectively use Extreme Sports for Outreach”, Dinesh D’Souza was the headline speaker. The renowned apologist was named one of America’s most influential conservative thinkers by The New York Times Magazine and is best known for his books What’s So Great About Christianity and Letters to a Young Conservative. D’Souza spoke to a crowd of well over a thousand people (many of them seekers) about how to defend the Christian faith from the “New Atheists” (people like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins).

One of the surprises of the night was that Dinesh D’Souza didn’t follow the classic defend intelligent design/bash Darwinism paradigm preferred by many Christian apologists. Rather, D’Souza chose to uphold Darwinism as a natural mechanism explaining the diversity of life (and also upholding the 13-15 billion year age of the universe accepted by most scientists) while rejecting the usage of Darwinism as a metaphysical argument for atheism. D’Souza instead chose to appeal to arguments based on modern scientific discoveries such as “multiple dimensions”, “dark matter”, and the fact that time and space are part of the material universe, (created during the Big Bang) thus making it possible to believe in an eternal being that lives outside of time and space—something that would have been considered nonsense by mainstream science a hundred years ago.

On the final day, the headline speaker was Miles McPherson, a former NFL star turned pastor/evangelist. McPherson wowed the audience with humorous examples about how some of his smaller teammates used to “talk trash” to guys twice their size, even after being knocked down. McPherson’s point was that while the Devil tries to intimidate evangelists by knocking them down, evangelists should always be on the offensive—and never quit! A striking feature of McPherson’s presentation was his emphasis on the elite nature of the evangelist’s calling and how those of us attending the conference were called to a difficult task that few are willing and able to do.

On a personal note, one of the things that struck me about the conference was the noticeable lack of ego on the part of the Palau staff and the conference attendees. Evangelists often get a bad rap in American culture, especially successful evangelists. Many people assume that evangelists that draw large crowds are bound to have large heads as well. What I saw at the conference was over 350 evangelists, many of whom preach to tens of thousands of people a year, ready and willing to help and serve one another, regardless of the size of their ministries. What other conference can an evangelist go to where you can have lunch with someone like Andrew Palau (who preaches to hundreds of thousands of people a year) and rub shoulders with someone like Scott Lenning (who was one of Billy Graham’s North American Crusade directors for 20 years) and feel like you’re a part of the team? Without question, the spirit of camaraderie is due to the staff of Luis Palau Association and the Next Generation Alliance and their vision to train and to mentor the next generation of evangelists. Thank you Luis Palau and NGA for a wonderful event!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

two Christians, two perspectives, one blog=brilliant!!


I'd like to introduce you to a new blog. Kim and Cara are both Christians. One is politically conservative and the other is politically liberal. Get this. They both love the Lord--and each other! Imagine that!

They've started a blog called Lifted on Eagle's Wings to symbolize the two major political ideologies in America, conservativism and liberalism, as two wings for the same bird. They want to bring some civility to the two sides and break down barriers of misunderstanding.

If you've read my book, then you probably know what I think of something like this.

I think it's brilliant!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sleeping under the stars--report from Senegal

Dear friends and family,

I’m back from Senegal, and I have to say, I’m really digging the fall weather! Senegal was miserably hot, which made for an exhausting trip. The good news is that the back- to -back workshops went very well. Our first workshop was in the town of Ziguinshor. We had to start the workshop two days late because of the recent unrest in the area. We were warned repeatedly not to take the taxi because rebels and bandits had been known to rob (and sometimes kill) people on the way to Ziguinshor. Because of that, we decided to take the boat, but unfortunately, the boat was already booked, which is why we had to catch the next one, which didn’t leave until Tuesday evening. Eventually we got there (after a night of sleeping out under the stars) and we were able to make up for the lost time.

On one of the days, a Muslim came in to the church and participated in the stories and discussions for an entire day! Although the workshop was for Christian workers, the Muslim man was one of the most enthusiastic participants, which turned out to be a great object lesson because one of the premises of the workshop is that telling Bible stories and asking questions is a non-threatening way to share the gospel.

The workshop in Dakar brought a very select group of pastors and missionaries. Many of the pastors came from the rural areas. We were told that most of them lived off of $20 a month. Imagine that! The response to the teaching was very positive. One particular pastor told me that he planned to teach the story concept to his evangelism team to enhance their ongoing ministry in the villages. There were also some Western missionaries, including a team of Brazilians, in attendance. Every one of them told us that the teaching we were offering would enhance their ministry.

Next week I’ll be going to Portland Oregon to present a workshop session on evangelizing oral learners at the Innovative Evangelism Conference, organized by the Next Generation Alliance, a sub-ministry of the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association. I am very excited—and honored—to be able to participate this year as a workshop presenter. Please pray that I’ll do my job effectively and that more doors will open for this ministry as a result of the presentation.

Well that’s all for now.

Have a great November!

Aaron

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Billy Graham and theological humility, will the next generation follow in his footsteps?


Every three years, young evangelists from around the world gather in Portland Oregon to attend a conference put on by the Next Generation Alliance, an organization dedicated to mentoring the next generation of global gospel preachers. While I’m looking forward to the Innovative Evangelism Conference next week, I think a serious reflection on the man that most of us attending the conference draw the bulk of our inspiration from—Billy Graham—is in order.

The typical Billy Graham narrative goes something like this. Billy started his ministry as a self-assured fundamentalist. In the early days of his ministry, preaching the gospel went hand in hand with defeating communism. Eventually Graham’s championing of the Vietnam War and his close association with Richard Nixon caught up with him and he got burned, resulting in a crisis of faith that produced a much gentler and wiser Billy Graham.

As familiar as this story is, I think it’s a mistake to reduce Graham’s metamorphosis to pre-Nixon and post-Nixon—as if the only thing Graham learned in his older age was that it’s a mistake to politicize the gospel. Such an oversimplification of Graham’s life and ministry overlooks a key aspect of Billy Graham’s legacy that’s become somewhat of an elephant in the room. Whether we like it or not, Billy Graham’s life and ministry represents a middle ground between fundamentalism and theological liberalism.

Take for example two issues that have become litmus tests for orthodoxy among Biblical fundamentalists—evolution and the fate of the unevangelized on judgment day. On the subject of evolution, Billy Graham has consistently maintained throughout his ministry that Christianity and evolution are compatible. While it may be fashionable for evangelical leaders today to speak of intelligent design over and against young earth creationism, Billy Graham goes even further by insisting that the Bible is not a science book, and shouldn’t be read as such. On this matter Graham is further to the left than the average evangelical, although his Biblical hermeneutic on the rest of the Scriptures remain a far cry from theological liberalism (For example: Graham may see the seven days of Genesis as figurative, but he maintains that Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale).

The same can be said for Billy Graham’s agnostic position on the fate of the unevangelized on judgment day. When asked by Newsweek if he felt that heaven would be open to people of other faiths besides Christianity, Billy Graham responded, "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have."

At first glance it may seem like the older Billy Graham has single-handedly undermined his entire life’s ministry as an evangelist. Some have even attributed his comments—and other comments like these—to senility. Still others have written him off as a heretic. Again, the reality is more complex. Billy Graham has never wavered in his belief that Christ’s death and resurrection is the only means by which a person can be saved, and neither does he apologize for his commitment to preach the gospel for the conversion of sinners to Christ. What the older Billy Graham has learned, however, is that a person can be resolute in their commitment to the gospel and be theologically humble at the same time.

Ironically, it’s Billy’s example of theological humility that may free the next generation to ask some hard questions about the classic evangelical gospel that he popularized. For example, does the classic evangelical gospel, complete with an altar call and the standard sinner’s prayer, take seriously enough the teachings of Jesus against accumulating wealth and earthly possessions? To what extent should non-violence and identification with the poor be proclaimed as part of the gospel of the Kingdom? Has the sinner’s prayer been overemphasized at the expense of baptism as the initiation into the Body of Christ?

These are difficult questions with no easy answers, which is why the next generation of evangelists could use a dose of Billy Graham’s theological humility. Billy Graham has served his generation faithfully, but even Billy knows that he doesn’t have a corner on truth—and neither will the next generation that follows in his footsteps. Billy Graham has led the way, but now it’s up to us, the next generation, to carry the mantle and hear what the Spirit is saying to our world today. I think Billy would agree.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jesus Camp kids praying for President Obama

Pastor Tim O Brien received a lot of flack when his son Levi O Brien supposedly prayed "to" a cardboard cut-out of President George W. Bush in the film Jesus Camp. Many viewers, including some uniformed people in the media, thought the children at Becky Fisher's camp were worshiping the president, when what they were actually doing was praying for him according to the Scriptural command to "pray for kings and all who are in authority" (I Timothy 2:2).

I've known Tim O Brien, and to a lesser extent his son Levi, since before the release of Jesus Camp. Since then, Pastor Tim and I have had a lot of talks on the role of the Church in society and, although we disagree significantly on many issues, I can say that the portrayal of Tim O Brien and his family as right-wing fundamentalists is off base. The real Tim O Brien, though politically conservative, in no way sees voting Republican as a litmus test for faith. His wife does not consider herself a Republican. And—surprise—his children watch Harry Potter! I've spoken at his church on several occasions, both before and after the release of the film, and each and every time I've found the O Brien family and the church he pastors intelligent and open to new ideas.

Pastor Tim sent me this video this morning of a prayer meeting at his church. I found it inspiring. I hope this breaks some stereotypes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Modern-day Eutychus story!

This e-mail was sent to me by a friend of mine. I think you'll enjoy it.


Towards the end of the morning of our third day of STS training in Ollanta, in the Peruvian Amazon, with some 37 pastors, evangelists and leaders gathered for the training from up to 5 days canoe journey away, we heard a loud cry go up from three houses down. "Rene has fallen, Rene has fallen!" Within moments the room was empty and I was left wondering what we were going to do about a guy who had fallen through a floor onto disgusting, sewage-covered ground more than 6 feet below. We were 30 hours boat ride from the nearest hospital and there was no airstrip nor radio to call in help quicker. Rene had fallen hard and his ankles were in such a mess he could not bear his own weight and he had felt the top part of his spine shudder and felt intense pain in his neck. He could neither walk, nor sit nor lie down. As I made my way slowly over to the gathered group noisily praying round Rene, I felt the Lord said to me, "Tell the Eutychus story!" This is the story in Acts 20 of the man who fell 3 stories to his death when Paul was preaching one night. My middle daughter 'had' that story (of the 16 stories we as a family had prepared for this outreach), and so I asked her to tell it in Spanish, which she did immediately. After a good telling I asked a couple of questions referring to parts of the story as I did so. We saw that Paul was focused and un-fussed by the disruption and distraction of the young man Eutychus falling out a window and, that although, the man's life "was in him" he did not come in among the rest until hours later when Paul had spent the rest of the night talking with the disciples and then departed! I asked everyone to pray, hooking our faith in the story (His Word) and we went off to lunch, leaving Rene in the capable hands of two or three friends. Two hours after praying for him and when we were back in the workshop training, Rene walked in unaided and alone, with a big smile on his face, and was received back with loud shouts and whoops of praise as all the STS students saw the hand of God had been at work. It was easy to discuss later the next day the ways we can use stories in our lives - even in the most traumatic of life's situations!

Monday, October 05, 2009

The ACLJ and Israeli war crimes, who's imagining what?




A few days ago I received a mass e-mail from the ACLJ. For those that don’t get their daily dose of Christian talk radio, ACLJ stands for the American Center for Law and Justice. Think of the ACLJ as the conservative Yin to the liberal ACLU Yang. Most of their mass e-mails have to do with issues like opposing abortion and gay marriage. For the most part, their policy positions are reasonable within the context of a healthy debate. I think the ACLJ is at its best when it addresses freedom of speech issues for Christians in America and around the world (For the record. I strongly support their opposition to certain resolutions that would give Islam a special status for protection against defamation).

Having said that, the last e-mail they sent me was particularly disturbing. With a subject line meant to imbue a sense of panic, “Our sovereignty must not be forfeited”, the e-mail went on to describe just how exactly the U.S. and Israel are being subject to the “whims of radicals around the world.” According to the ACLJ:

“The latest example is an outrageous attack by the Palestinian Authority - not even an actual nation - calling for Israeli soldiers (some who hold dual U.S. citizenship) to be convicted of ''war crimes'' simply for fulfilling their duty, defending their countrymen against attacks by the Hamas terrorists!”


Notice the quotation marks surrounding “war crimes.” Quotation marks can be very revealing because they’re often meant to contradict the very words in between the quotation marks. As in this case, the ACLJ wants its readers to believe that the “war crimes” Israeli soldiers have been accused of aren’t real war crimes, they’re imaginary war crimes,

According to the official Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the Goldstone Report, here are some of the imaginary war crimes committed by Israeli soldiers while fulfilling their duty during the war in Gaza last December:

1. Deliberate attacks against police stations and hospitals
2. The use of white phosphorous munitions
3. At least 11 eleven incidents in which Israeli forces launched direct attacks
against civilians with lethal outcome
4. Attacks on the foundations of civilian life in Gaza: destruction of industrial
infrastructure, food productions, water installations, sewage treatment and housing

5. Between 1,387 and 1,417 civilians killed


The Goldstone report is 575 pages long and meticulous in its detail. Contrary to popular belief, the report also condemns Hamas for its role in the conflict--as it should. It should also be noted that Mr. Goldstone is neither an Islamic radical nor is he a crazy anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist; he's a South African Jew that supports Israel and its right to exist. Even so, Mr. Goldstone nevertheless reports:

“From the facts ascertained in all the above cases, the Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility. It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.”


That the ACLJ would relegate such well- documented human rights abuses to the status of imaginary –even elevating them to the status of duty—is disturbing on many levels. What the ACLJ is effectively saying in this e-mail, howbeit ever so subtly, is that Christians should support the actions of Israeli soldiers and—wait for it—actively lobby their legislators to grant them impunity even if there is evidence found against them.

The irony here is that while the ACLJ markets itself as defenders of Biblical morality, the intentional destruction of civilian infrastructure is a clear violation of the very Scriptures they say they are defending—even when committed by the nation of Israel (See Deuteronomy 20:19). They also conveniently forget that the Old Testament prophets were constantly condemning the children of Israel for their violence and oppression against strangers living in their land.

How ironic that the very prophets they quote to justify any and every act of violence committed by Israeli soldiers were the ones that spoke the loudest in their day against God’s people trusting in their military might. Then again, maybe this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. When poor theology and blind nationalism win, Biblical morality loses.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Alone with a Jihadist officially released today!

I thought that my book Alone with a Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War was going to be released on October 15th. I got a call from my publisher last night and, it turns out, the release is today! The book is now available on Amazon, and also look for it at your local bookstore!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Listen to my interview with Robert Kellemen!



Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Robert Kellemen, co-author of Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith on my blog talk show.

Robert Kellemen served for over a decade as founding Chairman of the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling and Discipleship (MACCD) Department at Capital Bible Seminary. He is now professor of large at that department and the founder of RPM Ministries.

What I enjoyed about the interview, and what I'm sure many will enjoy about the book, is that Kellemen addresses the issue of female Christian heroes in a way that transcends the traditional egalitarian/complementarian divide. Although it seems to me that Kellemen is a complementarian (meaning he sees prescribed gender roles in the family and church) what is also clear from the interview is that Kellemen also feels that women have been wrongfully silenced due to poor theology and a patriarchal culture.

The subject of women in ministry is of no passing interest to me. When I attended Christ for the Nations Institute, I sat under the teaching of Dr. Eddie Hyatt, a preacher and teacher on revival and women's issues. In Hyatt's writings (along with that of his wife Susan Hyatt), he makes a compelling argument that in every genuine revival in church history, the status of women is always elevated. Eddie and his wife are some of the chief proponents of egalitarianism (which rejects the notion of prescribed roles for women) today. Due to Eddie Hyatt's influence (and not to mention the plethora of women preachers in historic pentecostalism), my theology over the years has tended to flow in the direction of egalitarianism and I've tended to--wrongfully I think--equate the complementarian view with sexism.

Robert Kellemen has effectively shattered that stereotype for me! Judging by the book and the interview, it's clear to me that Robert Kellemen makes essentially the same argument that Eddie and Susan Hyatt write about in their books--that women are a crucial key to any genuine move of God--and they need not be silenced! Wait till you hear Kellemen's response to when I asked him tongue and cheek "Are you trying to emasculate us men?" Kellemen's reply was very revealing.

And for that, you'll have to listen to the interview.

And when you finish with the interview, don't forget to pick up the book.

Regardless of what side of the egalitarian/complementarian divide you find yourself on, I think you'll find the profiles of women Christian heroes throughout history fascinating!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hope this brightens your day

I thought the blog could use a little something light-hearted. Perhaps we can learn something from these squirrels?



Enjoy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

When you thought I wasn't looking

My mom forwarded this to me this morning. It reminds me of the time when I was a young boy and my dad used to have a computer portrait stand at the flea market on the weekends. There was a young girl that hung out at the flea market every week, and she just loved to visit my dad's stand. My dad could tell that she was poor by the way that she dressed, so one day he bought her a new pair of shoes and told her that every time she looks at her shoes, she should remember that Jesus loved her. I was watching!

I'm getting ready to be a parent, so this is a good reminder.

Enjoy!


A message every adult should read because children are watching

what you are doing as you do, not as you say.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you feed a
stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind
to animals.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.


When you thought I wasn't looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make a
meal an d take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each
other.


When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of
your time and money to help people who had nothing,
and I learned that those who have something should
give to those who don't.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it's all right to cry.


When you thought I wasn't looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.


When you thought I wasn't looking I learned most of
life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.


When you thought I wasn't looking I looked at you and
wanted to say, 'Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn't looking.'


I AM SENDING THIS TO ALL OF THE PEOPLE I KNOW

WHO DO SO MUCH FOR OTHERS,
BUT THINK THAT NO ONE EVER SEES.

LITTLE EYES SEE A LOT.


Each of us (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, friend)
influences the life of a child.
How will you touch the life of someone today? Just by
sending this to someone else, you will probably make them at least think about their influence on others.


Pass this along!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Verse of the Day. 2 Corinthians 12:10

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Is CPT the new face of global missions?


I’m trembling as I write this one. Not because I don’t feel strongly about what I’m about to write, but because I’m already isolated within my own faith community (Pentecostalism) for my unorthodox views on war and peace; and I know that what I’m about to write may put me at odds with a lot of people in the progressive evangelical community—a community I’m just getting used to. In addition, there’s always the fear of being misunderstood, so regardless of whether you agree or not with what I’m about to write, know that at least it’s my aim to speak the truth in love. So here goes.

I love Christian Peacemaker Teams. I especially love their motto, “What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to non-violent peacemaking that armies devote to war?” I wish every Christian on the planet would ask themselves that question. I have nothing but admiration and respect for full and part-time CPT workers that live out that motto every day. When I went on a delegation with CPT in October 2007 to the West Bank, it radically changed my life.

So why am I conflicted about CPT? It’s not that I don’t believe in the organization. I do. Nor is it because I necessarily disagree with their anti-proselytizing policy. I understand that every organization has it’s own purpose and mandate. The reason why I’m conflicted is because I’m concerned about the implications of progressive evangelicals continuing to promote CPT as a new face of global missions.

As a long time evangelical missionary and a recent convert to non-violence, I find myself caught between two worlds. On the one hand, I move freely in circles that “pray through the window” and map “unreached people groups” (ethnic groups that have yet to embrace Christianity). On the other hand my devotion to peace and non-violence cause me to move in peace circles—many of which are comprised of theologically liberal Christians.

Never was this more obvious than when I was on the CPT delegation. It took all of about two hours for everyone in the group to realize that I was the “evangelical” in the group. When I was asked to describe myself, I shared with the group honestly about what I had been doing over the past several years—traveling the world and sharing the gospel. For the most part, the group was respectful, but there was the occasional anti-missionary remark that reminded me of my minority status within the group.

Throughout the week, I had many discussions with individuals in the group about why I believe that Jesus is God and why I don’t believe that all religions are equal paths to the same truth. Because I was the odd man out in the group, I left that week thinking that Mennonites were mostly theologically liberal. It wasn’t until much later that I befriended some Mennonites and discovered that Mennonites are mostly theologically conservative—which is one of the reasons why I’m so concerned. If a Biblically orthodox denomination continues to send its young people to CPT to experience a “new face of global missions”, how many of these young people will eventually jettison their Biblical orthodoxy?

My concern isn’t just about conservative Mennonites and their ongoing relationship with CPT, but with the progressive evangelical movement at large. I wonder if in our sincere efforts to promote peace and tolerance between people of different faiths, we’re becoming more “progressive” than “evangelical?” I wonder if our zeal to be good stewards of God’s creation has dampened our zeal to evangelize the lost—as if Jesus would have approved of a carbon footprint exception clause to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” I wonder if we’ve gone too far in laboring to share physical bread with the masses that we’ve neglected to share the “Living Bread” with the masses.

Maybe peacenik evangelical missionaries like myself need an alternative to CPT. Then again, maybe not. I think it’s at least an option that should be looked into, and I’m willing to dialogue with anybody even remotely interested in pursuing the matter further. Either way, I pray that we in the progressive evangelical community will never forget that despite all of our efforts to save the world, that the “form of this world is passing away.” May we labor “not for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life.”

Somalia Christian killed for possessing Bibles

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (Worthy News)-- Islamic militants have shot and killed a long-time underground Christian in Somalia after finding Bibles in his possession, BosNewsLife learned Sunday, September 20.

Well-informed Christian news agency Compass Direct News said 69-year-old Omar Khalafe was killed by al-Shabab fighters Tuesday, September 15, at a check-point near the port city of Merca, 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the capital Mogadishu.

Shalafe carried 25 Somali Bibles he hoped to deliver to an underground congregation, Christians said. "By 10:30 a.m. he had arrived at the checkpoint controlled by al Shabab, a rebel group linked with al Qaeda that has taken over large parts of the war-torn country," said Compass Direct News, which has close contacts with Christians in the region.

The news agency cited a source as saying that "the passengers were ordered to disembark from the bus for inspection."

"The Islamic militants found 25 Somali Bibles in one of the passengers’ bags; when they asked to whom the Bibles belonged, the passengers responded with a chilled silence. The militants found several photos in the bag and saw that the elderly Khalafe resembled a face in one of them," source was quoted as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

"They asked Khalafe if he was the owner of the Bibles; he kept quiet. They shot him to death," the source said.

ISLAMIC LAW

Al-Shabab, has campaigned to establish Sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Somalia and to topple the government. Shalafe's was the latest in a series of incidents against the Christian minority in the lawless nation, Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife established.

Last month, the group killed 41-year-old Ahmed Matan in the Bulahawa area, near the Somali border with Kenya, for converting from Islam to Christianity, several Christian sources told Worthy News earlier.

In July al-Shabab militants beheaded four Christian aid workers for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ.

Fatima Sultan, Ali Ma'ow, Sheik Mohammed Abdi and Maaddey Diil after kidnapping them on July 27 near in Merca, Christian advocacy groups said.

It has become increasingly difficult for international peacekeepers to prevent these attacks.

PEACEKEEPERS KILLED

On Thursday, September 17, at least 21 African Union troops, including the mission's deputy commander, were reportedly killed in suicide bombings at military headquarters at Mogadishu airport.

Al Shabab said it had carried out the attack "to avenge the death" of one of its leaders.

The rebel Islamic group has also threatened neighboring Djibouti that a similar fate awaits its troops should they be sent to Somalia.

The country has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease in Somalia are believed to have led to the deaths of up to one million people.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Persecution in Pakistan continues


Below is an e-mail I received this morning from one of our contacts in Pakistan:

The call to hunt Christian launched at local mosques after the Friday prayers on September 11, 2009. The mob stormed and set fire to the church, ransacked two houses. Muslims accuse a young Christian Robert Danish had desecrated the Quran.

A church burnt by a mob of angry Muslims, who attacked Christians for a new- alleged- case of blasphemy. This is what happened in a village Jaithikey, around 20 kilometers from Sialkot, Punjab, where the Christian community has targeted by Islamic extremists. The extremists were protesting against the desecration of the Quran by a young Christian around 12:30 local time, a Muslim mob gathered and damaged the buildings then set it on fire. The extremists also looted two houses adjoining the church.

The young man was accused of teasing the girl and “throwing away the Quran had in her hands”. No one can agree with the idea that Muslim women might fall in love with a Christian man. It’s clear that utterances against the Quran are just lame excuses to attack Christians. Christians are increasingly persecuted by Islamic fundamentalist.

Robert Danish was arrested under section 295 B on September 11, 2009, Vide FIR # 1176/207/09 on Sambarial police station on complaint of Mohmmad Asghar Ali resident of village Jaithikey. He accused that Robert Masih to push her daughter Hina Ali who was coming home after Quran recitation and he took Quran Supare from his daughter and threw it in drain. In that village 40 Christian families are living with Muslims over a century with harmony and peace.

He was produced before the local magistrate and sent to judicial custody in Sialkot central jail where he was killed. According to his family and relatives they don't believe the fabricated story of Jail authorities about committing suicide. He was torture so badly, there were cuts on his forehead, wrist, legs and neck. He wasn't coward as he himself present to police. His father refuse to have funeral inSialkot, they strike against the police officials along many Christians and they were baton by police and gas shelling being used to scatter the Christian mob. Finally they were not allowed to burry him in the village.

This incident was plotted by a local Muslim Cleric who hangs banners during Gojra incident to "Kill the blasphemers". Such people are funded by foreign Jihads organizations. In fact Taliban has already threat to strike Punjab's main cities. As whole world know that these fundamental organizations were involved in the Anti- Christian attacks in Gojra in the beginning of August where several people were killed.

Increasing violence against Christian under blasphemy has created fear among 20 million Christian in Pakistan. With 18 Christians accused of blasphemy and seven towns had been attacked this year so far. Muslims are misusing the blasphemy law to torture Christians without fear of any punishment after the violence in Korian and Gojra, there is a real risk of a new massacre against the Christian community in the name of blasphemy law. There was great weave of anger and grief among Christian of Pakistan after the accessnation of Robert Danish. BEM have strongly condemned killing of innocent Christian and demanded to arrest the killers.

More then 35 Christian families are still compelled to live out side the village as Muslims usurp their homes. No Christian is allowed in the village even visitors. There are reports that some Christian being torture by Muslims who went to see the burnt homes and Church. Please pray for these Christian people who became homeless. Their children are missing classes which is unbearable loss of their lives. They have to get admissions in new schools and get new books and uniforms, which is pile on the agony.

Please remember Christian of Pakistan in your personal prayers especially victim of Jaithikay. They deserve your moral and spiritual support in this difficult time, as they face the frustration of Muslims regarding 9/11 on the same day. May God bless you abundantly as you bless them with your prayers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's get the facts!


In the current partisan debacle over health care reform, there's been a lot of misinformation on both sides of the political aisle. As a Christian, I believe that facts matter, and that no matter how devoted one is to his or her political ideology, ideology should never trump truth. And neither should Christians distort facts to fit their prejudices.

For this reason, I'd like to recommend the website www.factcheck.org. I've monitored this site over the past year and I can truly say that this is the only website that I know of that holds both parties accountable.

Here's to hoping that this post will introduce some sanity in this debate.

No, Obama is not a black nationalist that wants to kill your white grandmother

and

No, Republicans do not want to privatize medicare.

Both sides need to be held accountable to the facts.

Check it out!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who makes the race cards?--Paul Alexander

Below is reposted from PCPJ's blog.

I’m going to tell just one little story that happened last year, of dozens I could tell from my personal experience, that reveal just a little of who keeps stirring race up and how race keeps getting stirred up. This is a true story:

A Christian woman I know very well had a house for rent next door to her own home, so she put up a sign. A black woman with a small child knocked on her front door and asked if she could apply to rent the house. The Christian woman told her that it had already been rented, the young woman said, “thank you,” and walked away. The owner came back in and said, “I don’t ever rent to blacks or Mexicans. I don’t trust them.”

The Christian woman who owned the rent house, whom I know very well, dealt that young black woman a race card. The ~owner~ played the race card in this transaction. So now the young black woman, unfortunately and through no fault of her own, can’t rent the home and of course wonders if the house is really rented. This happens repeatedly, even though it is illegal (thankfully), and in my experience it is common knowledge in African-American, Latino, and other minority communities. It is also common knowledge among those who rent homes; at least it was in Texas where I often heard it from landlords (and realtors) who didn’t know me very well.

So I cordially ask, as a male of European descent, where are all those thousands of race cards coming from? Who dealt the race cards in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s when only land owning white males could vote and pass on inheritance? Who dealt the race cards in the 1900s when the KKK lynched African-Americans by the hundreds and it took colossal efforts just to pass voting rights acts and try to limit and end discrimination in housing and employment? Millions of race cards have been dealt by those of us who were experts in making and printing them – white people have been in power in this country for centuries and we have manufactured race cards by the millions. The race card game is ~our~ game.

Then, when a person of color dares to suggest that perhaps they were discriminated against because of race I hear of chorus of white people saying, “How dare they play a race card!” Well, sisters and brothers, they have stacks and stacks and stacks of them that they’ve been given. They just store most of them in the closets, garages, and attics of their souls and we white folks never hear a word about them. But every once in a while the wrong colored hand puts the card on the table and it makes those of us who thought we had a monopoly on the cards, a corner on the market, squirm with discomfort.

It is possible that a person of color might think they’re discriminated against when they aren’t – this just seems to be an obvious possibility to the non-Anglo friends that I’ve talked to – but that’s another deeply destructive aspect of the race card game where so many white folks have handed out so many race cards over the years. How is that young black woman to know whether she really got a race card handed to her from that landlord or whether she’s being overly skeptical? If she thought, “I’m just too skeptical,” she was wrong.

-Paul Alexander

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mo Stegall interviews Aaron on his nationwide broadcast

I just finished an interview with Mo Stegall on his nation wide podcast. There were several people that called in with questions, which was a new experience for me. You can listen to the interview here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/talkaboutittoday/2009/09/11/Talk-About-It-Today-with-Mo-Stegall


Enjoy!

An 'Election' Burma's People Don't Need

I received this from the U.S. Campaign for Burma today.
It's a powerful article written in the Washington Post by one of the leaders of
Burma's pro-democracy movement.



By U Win Tin

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Much attention has been focused on Sen. James Webb's recent visit to my country and his meetings with Senior Gen. Than Shwe and incarcerated Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. I understand Webb's desire to seek a meaningful dialogue with the Burmese ruling authorities. Unfortunately, his efforts have been damaging to our democracy movement and focus on the wrong issue -- the potential for an "election" that Webb wants us to consider participating in next year as part of a long-term political strategy. But the showcase election planned by the military regime makes a mockery of the freedom sought by our people and would make military dictatorship permanent.

In our last free election, the Burmese people rejected military rule in a landslide, awarding our National League for Democracy party more than 80 percent of the seats in parliament. Yet the military has refused to allow the NLD to form a government. In the 19 years since that election, Burmese democracy activists have faced imprisonment, intimidation, torture and death as they have peacefully voiced demands for justice, individual and ethnic rights, and a democratic form of government that is representative of all Burma's people.

While never ending our struggle for democracy, the NLD has continually sought to engage the regime and open a dialogue -- based on peace and mutual respect -- that could address Burma's critical political as well as social problems. Make no mistake -- these two issues are linked. Burma was once the rice bowl of Asia. Today, because of the regime's destructive economic policies and its use of oppression to maintain military rule, Burma is a shattered, poverty-stricken country.

The regime is seeking to place a veneer of legitimacy on itself through showcase "elections" and claiming that "disciplined democracy" will be instituted next year. Yet in May 2008, just days after a massive cyclone devastated Burma and killed more than 100,000 people, the regime used a farcical process to claim that 93 percent of voters chose to adopt a constitution that permanently enshrines military rule and prevents those with undefined "foreign ties" from holding public office -- catch-all provisions that would bar Suu Kyi and democracy activists from seeking office.

Some international observers view next year's planned elections as an opportunity. But under the circumstances imposed by the military's constitution, the election will be a sham. We will not sacrifice the democratic principles for which many millions of Burmese have marched, been arrested, been tortured and died to participate in a process that holds no hope whatsoever for bringing freedom to our country.

The demands of the NLD are reasonable. In April we issued another declaration to encourage engagement with the military that called for the release of all political prisoners, a full review of the constitution, reopening of all NLD offices and the right to freely organize. The regime's answer is the continued jailing of Suu Kyi and 2,000 other activists, massive military offensives against ethnic groups and the enforcement of rules to gag democracy.

How can the international community play a meaningful role? First, officials such as Webb should stop fear-mongering about China. His language about containing China, and working with Burma's regime to do so, is based on an outdated and unrealistic thesis. Suu Kyi rejected such notions by informing Webb that "we will not deal with anyone with fear and insecurity. We will deal with anyone, China, America, India, equally and friendly. As we can't choose our neighbors, we understand that we need to have a good relationship with China." Second, the NLD encourages other countries and international organizations to engage with Burma's military leaders to persuade them to engage with us and Burma's ethnic groups. The United States and many other nations have imposed sanctions on Burma. That is their decision and in keeping with their justified solidarity with the democratic values that we all hold so dear. If the regime genuinely engages with the NLD and ethnic representatives, releases political prisoners, ceases attacks against ethnic minorities and takes additional steps to build a true democratic state, these sanctions will be repealed at the right time.

In the meantime, let no one doubt our resolve. The NLD is a reflection of Burmese society. We will not be cowed or coerced into participating in a fatally flawed political process that robs the Burmese people of the freedom for which we struggle. We stand ready to engage, but we are more than willing to continue our struggle for the democratic values that so many have given their lives and their freedom to achieve.

U Win Tin is a member of the Central Executive Committee and a founder of Burma's National League for Democracy party. He was a political prisoner from 1989 to 2008.

Support 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for freedom and democracy in Burma:

Become a member of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

Or, make a tax-deductible donation today.

The Smile Experiment 9/11

I thought my readers might enjoy something uplifting on this day.



Enjoy!

Sept. 11: The right way to remember (guest contributor Mark Orfila)

When I was in the States I saw lots of bumper stickers that said: "9/11: We will not forget." I'm all for remembering, but I think that there's a right way and a wrong way to remember.

The book of Deuteronomy is all about remembering. Over and over God commanded the people of Israel not to forget. Among the things that they were to remember were their years of slavery in Egypt. Whenever they are told not to forget the evil that had been done to them it was usually in the context of a social justice command. Take for example Deut. 24:17,18: "Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord you God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this." In other words, "Don't forget what it's like to be under someone's thumb in order to make sure that you never turn around and do the same thing to someone else."

Living here in the Balkans I've seen first-hand the danger of the wrong kind of remembering. Members of every ethnic group have committed enough atrocities against one another that everyone has something terrible to remember; everyone can justify the hatred that his group nurses; everyone can see his people as the victims and the others as the aggessors. Remember when you were a kid and you got into a fight with your sibling and your parents intervened and you and your sibling both said, "But s/he started it!"? As a parent I know how tricky it can be to sort how who really started it and what exactly constitutes "starting it". Much of the debate among Balkans people seems to me to come down to a deadly, grown-up version of "Who started it?". Memories are the chips with which this high stakes game is played.

I want to be careful not to be misunderstood here. I'm not trying to suggest that all parties in the recent Balkan wars were equally guilty or that all atrocities were equally atrocious. I certainly don't want to feed that arrogant American attitude which says, "Those guys have been killing one another for thousands of years. If it's not one it's the other. Why should we care?" This kind of statement is not only unbearably smug but also historically inaccurate. The truth is that in the Balkan wars of the 1990s I believe that the Serbs were the primary aggressors, but the point I'm getting at here is that I don't think that we Americans are willing to admit how much we have in common with them. Both of us have caused a lot of devastation in the name of fighting Islamic fundamentalism -- and ultimately fueled its fires.

As September 11 rolls around again, by all means, let's remember. Let's remember the destruction, the economic disruption, the national trauma and humiliation, the suffering of thousands who were injured and maimed, and the anguish of tens of thousands who lost family members in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And as we remember let's repent of the fact that our very first response was to turn around and inflict the very same destruction and death on someone else.

I'll close with a 9/11 quote -- this one from September 11, 1915. It's by Stanley Frodsham, a Pentecostal pioneer and an early editor of The Weekly Evangel (the forerunner of Today's Pentecostal Evangel.)
When one comes into that higher kingdom and becomes a citizen of the ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), the things that pertain to earth should forever lose their hold, even that natural love for the nation where one happened to be born, and loyalty to the new King should swallow up all other loyalties. …National pride, like every other form of pride, is abomination in the sight of God. And pride of race must be one of the all things that pass away when one becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. . . . When seen from the heavenly viewpoint, how the present conflict is illumined...The policy of our God is plainly declared in the Word, "Peace on earth, good will toward me." Stanley H. Frodsham, “Our Heavenly Citizenship,” The Weekly Evangel, 11 September 1915, 3, quoted in Shifiting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God by Paul Alexander.

As followers of the Prince of Peace, we must make sure that our remembering is not poisoned by national pride. If it is, we will only perpetrate on others the evil that was done to us.

(this article was posted with permission, the original article can be found at www.kosovacajun.blogspot.com)