Unfold the Evangel before your eyes!

Are you lost?
Are you worn out?
Are you overwhelmed?
Are you rational?

Only rational, non-dogmatic persons can understand and accept this message. Give yourself a try. Nothing will be like before, I promise!

quarta-feira, maio 13, 2009

“Para Cumprir” or “Just Getting It Over With”

By James A. Choury

Haven Ministries, April 2009

Words are excellent revealers of truth and are worth careful analysis and understanding. Of course, words come in different packages we call languages and each language comes saturated with a slightly (or sometimes radically) different culture. Words often come in phrases that convey a very special meaning. Very often a particular culture manages to capture a concept and put it into words better than others. Such is the case with the phrase “para cumprir” in Portuguese.

The Portuguese (and very similar Spanish) phrase “para cumprir” literally means “to fulfill” and usually refers to fulfilling an obligation. But when someone fulfills an obligation in this manner he does it with no genuine interest or concern. He does it so as not to be seen as negligent or irresponsible. He may even do it with apparent enthusiasm and willingness but his heart is not really in it. The enthusiasm and energy are part of the role playing. We are not called on to serve the Lord in any area simply “para cumprir”. What is not heartfelt and motivated by genuine concern and love is not pleasing or acceptable to God. Nor can it be truly effective in the long run.

Many years ago, while living in Denver, I drove by Washington Park on a nice summer afternoon. I was surprised to see a man shouting to passersby in cars and wondered if the man was emotionally troubled. I slowed down to see what he was saying and was interested to hear him preaching the Gospel in little sound bites to fast moving cars as they whizzed by. He apparently didn’t expect anyone to stop and wasn’t looking for personal contact or dialogue. I suspected that he was doing it “para cumprir”, maybe out of frustration for lack of a better approach.

In the intervening years I have witnessed others doing evangelism in very impersonal and non-relational ways. I’ve even done it myself. Many personal evangelism methods are purposely designed to be just that. They show little interest in the person being addressed. You might say they really don’t see the person as a person at all. They are after a “decision”. They have a set content to “get through”. The evangelist is told to avoid “rabbit trails” and get to the heart of the matter. The idea is that people are dying by the thousands or millions and there is no time to lose. They appeal to the guilt feelings of those who never witness to anyone. They promise a sure-fire method of getting it done.

I have been experimenting with a different approach. I talk to people and actually listen to them and address them as special creations made in the image of God. I really do want to know what they think and try not to correct them or contradict them before they even finish their thought. I let them finish the conversation when they want to and walk away if they so desire. I try to clarify a point or plant a seed of truth. I’m finding that people thank me for listening and giving them some new perspectives. Often they want to stay and talk more, even when they have a class to go to or some other obligation to fulfill.

When I enter into dialogue in a genuine person-to-person encounter with someone, I am impacted for hours afterward and sometimes for days. I pray for the person and look forward to further interaction with them. I may never see them again but trust that our sovereign God is able to “finish the work” in His time and in His way. I don’t feel guilty about the hundreds of thousands that are dying each day without Christ. I know my limitations and only want to do my part in God’s way; I want to see people as free agents with minds and wills of their own and responsible for the decisions they make without pressure or manipulation.

Homework Assignment: Make a conscious effort to mingle with unbelievers socially. Show some genuine interest in others. Ask them what they think about life. Don’t push. God will open the doors.

domingo, maio 03, 2009

What are the Lessons of the Holocaust?

From the One Jerusalem Blog newsletter

Israel and the Jewish people have just commemorated the victims of the Holocaust. Sadly, this year's commemoration coincided with Iran's anti-Semitic President addressing a United Nations conference to condemn the State of Israel.

It is clear from the world's reaction to this conference that different people have learned different lessons from the Holocaust. Israel's new Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks for the majority of Jews and most civilized people when he says we must confront bestial hatred that drives people to kill innocent people. This mindset translates into taking seriously the threat to destroy Israel by Iran and its terrorist allies. Netanyahu has taken on the mantle of stopping the radical Islamic regime of Iran from carrying out its threat.

One would hope that the rest of the civilized world would follow Israel's lead. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The West has been uneven in its response to the saber rattling of Iran and Iran's illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. There have been half hearted moves to impose sanctions but it is clear that there is not a strong commitment to make sanctions work. German companies still operate full-scale businesses in Iran. And Russia continues to sell Iran military equipment that help Iran fulfill its plans for nuclear weapons.

Even the decision by the British government to attend the Israel hate fest called Durban II shows the failure of many in the West to deal effectively with the Iranian threat. Instead there is a growing consensus that Iran should be treated as a responsible citizen of the international community. After all, no one objected to the United Nations decision to provide Achdeminjad with a platform from which he could attack the civilized world. Yes, some Western countries walked out of Druban when the Iranian President started into his hate-filled rant. But why were they there to begin with? Only Canada showed moral clarity when it dismissed Durban II, even before Achdeminjad said he would attend. Remember, the United States tried to participate but in the end made the right decision to stay away.

Besides Canada and Israel have any other governments learned any valuable lessons from the Holocaust? The inability of the international community to stop the carnage in Darfur suggests the answer is NO. The international communities failure to stop or even criticize the oppression of the Iranian people by its dictatorial rulers suggests the answer is NO. Unfortunately, this list can be extended.

The few nations who understand that Iran must be confronted and forced to abandon its evil ways are the Winston Churchill's of our age. A Churchill's biographer titled the volume covering the years when Churchill was a rare voice in favor of challenging Hitler "The Wilderness Years". Churchill was in the wilderness because the world believed it could appease Hitler and avoid confronting him. They learned the hard way that appeasement only allows the enemies of humanity to get stronger.

While the nations of the world have not digested the lessons they should have from the Holcaust what about America's President?

Recently President Obama spoke at a Holocaust event and his words should be studied. The first to do so is a friend of One Jerusalem, Michael Ledeen. Ledeen urges everyone to read the speech and to contemplate its messages.

Ledeen excerpts significant sections of the speech and offers his commentary. Ledeen writes:

He then gave his version of "never again," and it's a very odd version indeed. First, he draws hope from the survivors of the Holocaust. Those who came to America had a higher birthrate than the Jews who were already living here, and those members of "a chosen people" who created Israel. These, he says, chose life and asserted it despite the horrors they had endured. And then he goes on:

We find cause for hope as well in Protestant and Catholic children attending school together in Northern Ireland; in Hutus and Tutsis living side-by-side, forgiving neighbors who have done the unforgivable; in a movement to save Darfur that has thousands of high school and college chapters in 25 countries and brought 70,000 people to the Washington Mall, people of every age and faith and background and race united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.

Those numbers can be our future, our fellow citizens of the world showing us how to make the journey from oppression to survival, from witness to resistance and ultimately to reconciliation. That is what we mean when we say "never again."

So "never again" means that we learn from others how to forgive and forget, and ultimately live happily with one another. But that is not what "never again" means, at least for the generation of the Holocaust and for most of those who followed. For them, "never again" means that we will destroy the next would-be Fuhrer. In his entire speech, Obama never once mentions that the United States led a coalition of free peoples against Germany, Italy and Japan, nor does he ever discuss the obligation of sacrifice to prevent a recurrence. Indeed, his examples suggest that he doesn't grasp the full dimensions of the struggle against evil. Northern Ireland is a totally inappropriate example (nothing remotely approaching a Holocaust took place there), the relations between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi are hardly characterized by forgiveness, even though the president of Burundi is striving mightily to achieve a peaceful modus vivendi, and as for Darfur, well, despite the tens of thousands who demonstrated on the Mall, nobody has done much of anything to stop the Khartoum regime from slaughtering the peoples of the south.

In the history of modern times, the United States has done more than anyone else, perhaps more than the rest of the world combined, to defeat evil, and we are still doing it. Yet Obama says that we must "learn from others" how to move on, forgive and forget, and live happily ever after. But these are just words, they are not policies, or even actions. And the meanings he gives to his words show that he has no real intention of doing anything to thwart evil, any more than he had any concrete actions to propose to punish North Korea.

Given a President with this mindset can we avoid another dark-age?