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Searching for a Father is an inside look into Ramadan to equip you to pray for Muslims.

But it’s more than a prayer guide. It’s a story that draws a human portrait of the experiences and challenges many Muslims encounter – Frontiers

Searching for a Father is a great guide to help you pray for the millions of Muslims who don’t know Christ during the month of Ramadan (June 5—July 5). Frontiers hopes to join Christians around the world to ask the Lord to lead many Muslims to discover the answers to their souls’ deepest questions—not in the religion of Islam, but in peace with God and salvation through Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more on how you can join in on this prayer journey.

ramadan

Ramadan is the most holy month in the Islamic calendar. It’s a time for Muslims to refocus their devotion to Islam as they fast from all food and drink from sunrise until sunset.

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Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  – Galatians 6:1-2

I’ve been through church crisis one too many times. The longtime head pastor of my church that I grew up in passed away due to cancer. Our popular youth pastor was fired abruptly because the new pastor that came in wanted a whole new staff in place. My good friend became an intern for our church (after just becoming a believer) and had an affair with one of the staff members. He took his life soon after. The accountant at my last church embezzled almost half a million dollars. My current pastor had to resign due to extramarital affairs. Yes… the church experiences death, scandals and affairs just like the real world. I must note that in most of these situations, the church handled them very poorly (something I’ve experienced personally as well).

But how are we doing as Christians in handling these situations? Do we deal with those caught in sin in a loving way? Do we restore them gently back to Christ with the truth of the gospel? Do we act Godly when the media tears into us or do we get defensive and attack back? All I know is Satan loves to attack the church when things are going well. All the situations I described above happened when the particular church I was at was at their peak and experiencing tremendous growth. We forget that when we became Christians that Christ warned us that we would face persecution. One of the things I know is that Christians today do not handle persecution well. Look at the Chick-fil-a and Duck Dynasty situations and see how defensive Christians get when our views are spoken against. I’ve been embarrassed how Christians have reacted in the media about gay marriage and other topics that go against our beliefs. Do we not trust that God will ultimately prevail?

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  –  Acts 11:19-21

God works during times of despair. He redeems and restores and takes these situations and uses them for his glory. The church isn’t perfect and it isn’t about one man or a building. It’s a living organic body of messy believers that come to together to grow and worship our Lord. We treat Pastors like rock stars and put them on a pedestal so high they could never meet the expectations we put on them. Pastors are just messy people being used by God. But God isn’t going to let his church fall. He is still faithful even when we are unfaithful.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”  –  Romans 3:3-4

I have been impressed with my current church and how they have handled our current crisis. They are doing it in a loving biblical way. My last two churches were clueless in dealing with people caught in sin and usually let them leave without any restoration. When I heard the news in church, the first thing I did was look at myself. I took this as a warning sign that I myself am a step away from falling into temptation and sin. I am thankful for my community and that I can come to them about anything that I may be struggling with. I am thankful for my church and that God called me to be here during this crisis so I can see firsthand his redeeming power at work. I remember when my last church was going through its scandal, I was quoted in the paper at that time by saying “God is bigger than this”. My viewpoint is still the same – God has got this and He will prevail.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world – John 16:33

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Love

I support loving people as they try to figure out God. I support Christians who understand grace and forgiveness. As a fellow brother in Christ, I urge my fellow believers to stop being cruel and judgemental and stop engaging in culture wars. Allow people the freedom to understand and grow. Love people for who they are and where they are at so that they may experience the Love of Christ.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22: 37-40

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If you love me, you will keep my commandments

John 14:15 (ESV)

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple

Luke 14:33 (ESV)

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I don’t know enough about the LDS church to write about what they are all about. But I have had many experiences with them – my girlfriend in high school was a Mormon and she brought me to the Temple to share her faith with me. I currently work with Mormons at my job. I saw the September Dawn movie a few years back about the Meadows Mountain massacre that paints them in a bad way. I have seen the billboards and been to the I am a Mormon campaign website. I have a heart for these people and I love them. But I also know they don’t know the same Jesus I know even though they proclaim to be Christians. They point to John 10:16 as a scripture verse that points to the Americas (Jesus is really referring to the Gentiles), where a good portion of where the Mormon bible takes place.

Tonight we had a discussion on Mormonism. I looked at it as an opportunity to learn more about Mormons and what they believe. Not for me to judge them, but how I can better love them and share the gospel. I have a great book called Kingdom of the Cults by Ravi Zacharias that talks about all the different belief systems of the world that I love to use as a reference. We talked a lot about what scriptures says concerning false teaching and this passage was the foundation of what we feel as Christ followers need to base our faith on against these teachings.

But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.   Deuteronomy 18:2-22

I love that the main message of our discussion was to love Mormons. There are enough debates out there that aren’t loving and too many people that judge others. God is love and sharing the gospel without love just isn’t effective. As the same time, we as Christians need to be ready to defend the gospel against false teaching.

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Today is, according to the United Nations, Social Justice Day.

For me, this is cool.

I like the phrase ‘social justice.’

We started The Justice Conference, which is coming up this weekend in Portland and is one of the largest international gatherings around biblical and social justice, so maybe it’s pretty obvious I like social justice and see it as a part of the outworking of my Christian faith and biblical justice.

Other folks share my excitement for social justice.

Here is World Vision from their blog today:

“Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation. From a scriptural point of view, “justice” means loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and is rooted in the character and nature of God. As God is just and loving, so we are called to do justice and live in love.”

Eugene Cho also tackles this subject on his blog today with this intro, “Today is World Day of Social Justice. Those two words, “Social Justice” can be very polarizing. For me, it matters because the Gospel matters. If you truly believe in the Gospel, then you have to believe that it matters not just for your personal salvation but God’s pursuit of restoration, redemption, & reconciliation for the entire world. I believe in this Gospel. I live for this Gospel.”

On the other end of the spectrum, I received this e-mail thread from a wise, older trusted friend and mentor this morning.

“By the way, I listen to MacArthur on my way to early morning workouts just to remind myself of how good it is to be free from all that crap. He’s in a series proving that the social justice movement isn’t biblical. So, brace yourself for the attacks.”

So why would some Christians be so excited about social justice while other Christians would be so hostile as to try and prove it to be unbiblical?

I think the biggest problem lies in the use of language.

What is the definition of Biblical Justice? This one is pretty easy. It is a definition that refers to justice referred to or promoted in the bible or scripture. There is an authority source (the Bible) and the question references this definitive source in seeking its answer.

What, however, is the definition of social justice? This one speaks to a category or sphere of justice. It doesn’t have in its name, though, the definitive source for it’s definition.

Thus the problem. Social justice can be defined or interpreted in a myriad of different ways.

If someone is mentored by Glen Beck (who made headlines a year ago for calling people to leave churches if “Social Justice” was talked about or espoused) they will define it as “Democratic socialist politics aimed at the forced redistribution of wealth.”

If someone follows a very legalistic Christian leader they will find it defined as “that liberal social gospel agenda whereby we try to make earth into heaven and distract people from the centrality of the cross and salvation.”

The more straightforward definition, however, is that social justice describes a sphere in which justice works – namely ‘the social sphere’ where issues of racism and poverty reside, where orphans, widows and foreigners face injustice, oppression and vulnerability and where huge issues like trafficking, HIV/Aids, famine and natural disaster relief fall into or overlap.

What other category of justice – criminal, business law, political law, international justice etc. – is large enough to include every aspect of the issues above?

If we drew this as a pie graph (see image below), social justice would be a slice, a sphere, in which justice operates.

Therefore, if God cares about the issues that would fall in that sphere, orphans, widows and foreigners, then it logically follows that social justice (as a category) harmonizes with Biblical Justice.

Here is the caveat.

Social justice, if it is a sphere of justice in the social arena, doesn’t necessarily settle the question on how best to enact justice for the poor, oppressed or vulnerable. It leaves the question of method, means, efficiency and effectiveness up for discussion.

This is another part of the problem with peoples’ understanding of social justice… believing there should be justice in the social sectors doesn’t pre-commit you to a certain political party or theory of enacting social justice.

Wealth redistribution and other hot buttons can be argued about, both sides can present cases as to why their view is the most effective or efficient, without attacking the idea of social justice itself.

We would be far better off realizing God cares for and wants justice for the marginalized while arguing means than denigrating social justice itself.

Unlike Glen Beck, I don’t find the term (historically or otherwise) as necessarily being defined as socialist politics. Additionally, if God is a God of justice and commands justice then I don’t find it helpful, like many legalistic pastors, to pit God against mercy, compassion or justice. As if God would be happy with us if we kept ourselves pure by avoiding social justice and walking to the other side of the road.

Wasn’t the parable of the Good Samaritan aimed at just this point? That legalistic or pietistic religion can often lead to a counter-intuitive ignoring of love of neighbor (the Priest and Levite) and that often it is the least religious who empathizes or understands love of neighbor best (the Samaritan). See Luke chapter 10 verses 30 and following.

Maybe being against social justice is a white middle-class issue.

I know this sounds inflammatory, but most folks I know who have a lot of animosity toward the phrase itself tend to be white middle-class. However, all of my Christian friends in the relief and international development world, those who work in urban contexts, those who have taken vows of poverty or service or those who are or live in minority communities seem to take the phrase at face value and almost as a given – there should be justice in the social sectors… God, scripture and much of Christian history stand with and for the vulnerable and oppressed!

Theologian John Stott once called the movement away from justice issues by the church in recent times, “the Great Reversal.” He meant to imply that this was a departure from Christian history where Christians where often at the forefront of social issues, justice issues, charities, hospital building and so much more.

I find this whole question, “Is Social Justice Biblical,” to be the sort of silly game that Paul warned about when he said to avoid petty arguments.

People matter to God and therefore they should matter to us – every bit of them from the salvation of their souls to the meeting of material needs (see 1 John 4:20-21).

Justice is rooted in the character of God, commanded in his Holy Scriptures and exemplified in the life of Christ and the history of the church.

Justice is the right ordering of our relationships with God and neighbor.

Justice, in all spheres and slices of life and especially in the social sectors, is biblical, God-honoring and right. Politics, theories or political platforms, however, are open to dispute and disagreement.

Let’s keep the means and ends from being confused on this one.

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Today is the big New England Patriots/ Denver Broncos game. But more importantly, the story line is Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow. Tom Brady has proven himself on the football field with 3 Superbowl rings. This is Tim Tebow’s rookie year in the NFL. His stats are so/so and he doesn’t have the greatest technique when it comes to skills. Yet he has engineered several 4th quarter come-backs in a row. So what’s the big deal about this game…? Tim Tebow.

You can’t turn on ESPN without hearing about Tim Tebow. What makes him so special? Tim Tebow is very open about his faith and professes it every game he plays in. He reminds me a lot of Kurt Warner in his day. I admire Tebow very much for his faith and I root for him each game. But lately I’ve been a little concerned with some of the overkill media hype with it. I’ve been reading comments lately from other players saying they are sick of hearing about him. Now even preachers from different denominations are starting to call him out.

I like reading inspirational lines on Facebook here and there. Sometimes I will read something that makes me stop and pause my day to reflect on Christ. But then there are other times I find myself getting annoyed with people too when they overdo it. The question I am starting to have is if Tim Tebow is starting to annoy people? Is he turning people away or toward Christianity? The Christian community is loving him and are even calling him God’s quarterback. I hope we aren’t attributing his 4th quarter comebacks to the fact that he loves Jesus. Loving Jesus doesn’t make you win football games.

I know we are to live out a Godly life through our actions just as much as our words. I do believe Tim Tebow lives a Godly life. But I like that Kurt Warner has requested him to tone it down a bit too. I do believe we as Christians need to make sure we are winning hearts to the Lord and being careful that we are not turning them away. What happens if Tim Tebow makes a mistake in life? Does it make Christianity a joke because our fearless spokesperson is a human being? We have a tendency to be judgemental and we need to demonstrate the love of Christ through how we act and treat people. I know for a while I got caught up with being a little judgemental on Facebook with my status updates. I had to check myself after seeing occasional non-Christian friends de-friend me here and there. Yet it was a struggle because I want to be open and honest about who Christ is in my life as well and not hide my faith.

I have no answers to what is right or wrong with the Tim Tebow situation. It has been fun to watch him. But I do think we need to be seeking the Spirit more in guidance in how we portray ourselves to the world. We are to be a shining light to others and that comes from the Holy Spirit working in us. That’s what makes Christianity attractive to those that don’t believe, not our forced actions and words on people.

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