Tag Archives: religion

The Pretender and the Genuine

There are two kinds of duty: 1) Duty of the unbeliever; and 2) Duty of the believer.  This can be illustrated by asking the question, “Why does the church goer attend worship service?”

Is it out of duty because it is good that the individual needs such encouragement and correction to be a good citizen of the great land of America?  This motivation being the protective establishment of a system of government created to provide a shield and defense of freedoms to despicable, greedy, corrupt and morally reprehensible citizens and people who naturally seek power and wealth to the detriment of themselves and society.

Or is it out of duty because I (eternally dependent upon the Spirit) am crucifying the flesh, mortifying the deeds of my old man full of evil and vile desires, that I by means of grace, therein proving through test and trial, pain and suffering that God has gifted eternal life and He will by His promise grant me by His gracious generosity on that Day the fulfillment and euphoric completion of His divine gift secured in His Son, worked out by His Spirit?

The duty of the first and former being completed by devout men and women, ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having only a distant, formal, cold and incompatible public knowledge of the power of God similar to the vile devils, and thereby being spiritually dead do pile up future agony upon themselves when on that Day they come to realize their work of religion fails the test of a mighty, awesome, perfect and holy God who has patiently endured their arrogance, and in that patience has actually blessed them with many common graces that He has poured generously and lavishly upon His creation, which they have rudely, arrogantly and selfishly consumed.

The duty of the latter being the yielding and submitting of the believer to picking up the painful cross of Jesus Christ, resulting in the mortification of the deeds of the vile body by the all-powerful, artistic moving of the Creator and Savior God of the universe.

So do we then, the second, condemn the first?  No, not at all.  But rather we share the Good News of God’s great grace, that they too may believe not in themselves, but laying down their lives they take up the real and genuine power of the One who makes all things possible, even the salvation of filthy sinners by a holy and just God.

13For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14

Thoughts written while reading “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen (Chapter 1).

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Try Answering This Question…

Try something and see what you think.  This won’t take but a minute to do.  Get a Penpen, pencil or open Word on your computer.  Then ask yourself the following question, “Am I a good person?”  Answer honestly.  If you want to know what you really think, take a moment right now before reading further and write down your answer before continuing.  I’ll give you time.  Be sure to get it in writing so you can see how you responded later.

This week Michelle, Alexis and I went into Jinja town for some groceries.  As we pulled up, a charming young boy, about 8 years old, approached the vehicle and handed us a sheet of paper telling us about his background and requesting money for his elementary school fees – here in Uganda it’s up to the students to pay for their fees on their own, rather than the government taxing the adults’ paychecks.

As the young boy and I were standing under a small palm tree on Main Street outside the grocery store, I questioned him about his fees.  We were interrupted by an older male teen, whom I did not recognize.  This teen Henry (not his real name) knew me.  Months ago when we first arrived in Jinja, I had invited him to church, and given him my phone number.

About three weeks prior to this meeting on the street, Henry had started callingcell phone and texting me about medical and school fees.  He continued this almost on a daily basis, sometimes 4 or 5 times.  I could not remember his appearance and physical features, but he sure remembered me.

I must admit I was a bit irritated that he had called our phone for requests for money instead of visiting our church.

Henry greeted me with a very large and pleasant smile, which changed my irritation to a more receptive greeting.  This guy was a young, handsome kid and he proudly wanted to show me his recent report card – 19 out of a possible 20 points!  I acknowledged his good work and asked him what type career he was going to pursue.  He liked computer technology.

Henry quickly got to the point, asking again about me covering his school fees.  Instead, I desired to get to know more about him, and returned back to the topic of our original meeting a few months ago.

“Henry, are you a Christian?” I asked.

He smiled and assured me he is.  I then thought about asking him a probing question to determine where his faith rested.

“I want to ask a question,” I stated.

Henry seemed puzzled, but was willing to go along.

Suffice it to say his answer to the question failed.  His answer was like most people’s answer to the question when asked.  Henry gave many reasons for why He was a Christian, yet he failed miserably at the crucially most important answer.

I still gave him the benefit of the doubt, but wanted to explore further.  With his permission I then held God’s lawLaw up to him as a mirror.  “Have you ever lied, Henry?” I asked.

“Oh, no.  I never have!” came the surprising response.  I was quite astonished.

“You have never lied?” I continued.

“I have not,” Henry assured me.

“Not even when you were a boy?” I asked.  This guy is 17 years old.

He would not admit to lying.  “I think you are lying now,” I said, laughingly.  He chuckled a bit, but assured me again he has never lied.  Wow, not many people are that bold.

“OK, have you ever stolen anything?” I asked.

Henry thought for a few seconds.

“I did steal one time,” he replied.

“Only once?”

“Yes,” he insisted.

“Ok, what does that make you?  If you steal, even once in your life, what does that make you?  What do we call people who steal?”

I could tell Henry began to realize what my question implied.

“A thief,” he quietly and sheepishly admitted.

“Ok, have you ever disobeyed your parents?” I asked.

A few seconds pause and then, “Yes,” was the reply.

“What do we call a person who disobeys?”

Henry had a little more difficulty with this answer.  After a bit of time I tried to help him.  “Would you call that person a rebel?” I asked.

Again, he sheepishly answered in the affirmative.

“Henry,” I said, “you have just admitted to being a rebellious thief.”  In reality he is a rebellious, lying thief, but he honestly could not see that.

Henry was a bit taken aback.  So he naturally sought to justify his position, providing excuses.  We talked about this, but it only got worse.  He even (from his own mouth) claimed he was “not in the same category” as sinners.

My heart sank.  I had been giving the guy the benefit of the doubt about his faith in Jesus Christ.  But he clearly set himself apart from drunkards, drug addicts and other filthy type sinners.  He was not in that category he boasted.  Like the Pharisee in Luke 18, he was better than they were.  In fact Henry revealed to me his reasoning for this conclusion.  One of the reasons being, “I pray twice a day.”

In interest of time I won’t go into detail about the remainder of the discussion.  Bottom line, he could not see his need for a Savior.  I longed for him to recognize his eternal need, but he just could not see it.

As the rich young ruler, Henry walked away sorrowful.  He didn’t have great possessions, but Henry had an imposing idol that blinded him to the reality of his spiritual poverty.  His obedience sufficed in his eyes.

John MacArthur asks, “You want to cut the heart out of the church’s Gospel message?  Just convince the (listeners) that people are good.”  Most people think they are good, especially church going people.  James Boice quoted a Gallup poll revealing 75% of evangelicals believe man is basically good.

Try this yourself and see what responses you get from others, “Are you a good person?”

Now after reading the above story, how does your answer stack up?  In my experience most will somewhat sheepishly admit at first to making mistakes or doing wrong (almost never have I had someone use the word “sin”), but most will quickly follow up by saying something to the effect that overall their good outweighs their bad or they do their best.  The more arrogant ones will boast of their goodness.  Those who have difficulty with confidence or are down on themselves often will answer something to the effect, “I’m terrible” or “I’m really bad.”  And if the question is asked by someone else in a verbal conversation or chat the vast majority are so ashamed of Jesus they won’t even mention His name in response to a question about goodness.

Although some may generally refer to their belief in God in their answer, the apostle James warns about that, “You believe in God?  You do well, the demons believe, and they tremble.”

This answer is no small matter.  Not once in the conversation did Henry turn to Jesus.  Not once did he claim his need for a Savior.  In fact, the opposite happened.  As spiritually destitute as we all are, Henry’s pride got in the way.  He greatly erred by assuming he was in with God, based squarely on his goodness and probably somewhat his errant belief that God will somehow overlook his sin if he (Henry) means well.

My purpose here is not to condemn Henry.  If God saves Henry by His grace, then I am a blundering fool.  Thus let God be praised and me be a fool.  However, Jesus said, you will know a tree by its fruit; and from the heart, the mouth speaks.  My purpose is to use this real life example to point out how we can easily think we are resting in Jesus, when in reality we are ignorantly resting in our commandment keeping, obedience or good works.  No doubt those things are extremely important.  The Bible clearly testifies of the obedience of the saints, but true followers of Jesus are not ashamed of Him, nor are they resting in their works, obedience or commandment keeping.  They are resting in none other than their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Pride is a deceitful enemy.  It thoroughly permeates our being.  We get focused on so many peripheral issues.  We all have pride, but are we truly trusting and resting in Jesus Christ for our salvation?  Or are we trusting and resting in something else?  Anything else, even religious commandment keeping, is an idol.

If you believe or feel like you’ve failed and can’t make it, that’s the awesome Good News:  Jesus saves sinners.  The power of our salvation is not “doing” or “obeying.”  BibleThe power of our salvation is Jesus Christ, who causes us to obey and do from the heart.  Rest in Him.  Abide in Him.  Trust in Him.  Repent of your pride.  Accept Him into your life.  The result will be the power of salvation showing forth repentance, obedience, commandment keeping from the heart, and good works that glorify and honor God through our Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory forever and ever.

“The effort of liberal and borderline modernists to woo men to God by presenting the soft side of religion is an unqualified evil because it ignores the very reason for our alienation from God in the first place. Until a man has gotten into trouble with his heart he is not likely to get out of trouble with God.”

The Fear of God, AW Tozer

Two Accidents This Week!

Two accidents this week which happened around me/us:

IMG_6104

Direct hit to our friend’s door on the driver’s side. Remember driver’s side of the car is on the right in Uganda.

1. Sunday night after a home Bible study, we were driving home with a missionary friend, his wife, family and 3 interns packed in his car following us in the dark.  They were T-boned in the driver’s side of their car.  The driver, which was the husband / father, had only minor injuries, which Michelle was able to assist with and provide some simple nursing care (thanks to MMI training).  No one else in the vehicle or the other vehicle was hurt, just a bit sore.  Thank the Lord our Bible study group had just prayed for God’s protection.  Something that could have been much more tragic resulted in only very minor injuries. A 3-year old son, who was in the car during the accident, said right after it happened, “God was in between our car and their car.” He is so right.  The car has since been repaired.

2. Then today (Thursday morning here about 9 am) in Jinja on busy Main Street, the same missionary was with me when a boda boda (motorcycle) driver was hit by a van.  I witnessed the entire accident.  I was shocked as I heard the awful crunch and saw the man on the boda thrown to the ground mercilessly.  We ran over to help with such a heavy heart for this man.  I can still hear the sound of the impact.  I wanted to do something, but felt helpless.  As I arrived, the van took off (otherwise the driver of the van would probably have been beaten badly or killed by the crowd) and a fellow boda driver picked up the injured man and carried him to the sidewalk.  I squatted by the man, placed my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him.  He sat dazed and bloody with a long, large, deep gash in his right leg, blood on his forehead, shoulders and other parts of his body.  I then realized a very large crowd was gathering while men (and one Muslim man in particular) were yelling in Luganda (which is normal after an accident here).  I began to feel unsafe.  I noticed the fellow missionary with more experience standing at a little safer distance watching.  I thought, “I better leave.”  I joined my friend and we recounted the experience.   The boda drivers picked the dazed and injured man up and put him on a boda and drove him to the hospital.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja. The accident on July 11th happened just in the distance of the photo (left side), about a 1/2 block away. Photo was taken during a quiet time on the street. It’s normally much busier.

Bodas are everywhere in Jinja, hundreds of them weaving in and out of traffic.  Boda accidents happen all too often here.  This man, like the majority, do not wear helmets.

Once again, I found myself feeling helpless, so helpless, and wondering what to do in such a difficult situation, similar to the situation of the girl on the bus who had a seizure (see my previous blog entitled, Do You Ever Want More? June 16, 2013).  I thought of the driver often throughout the day today and prayed for him.  I hope and pray he will be fine.  Life is so fragile and comes at us unexpectedly.  Thanks for your prayers, especially this week!

UPDATE (Friday, July 12):  Friday afternoon I went to Jinja Main Hospital to visit the boda driver.  He was in the same ward and the same area as Musisi, the man I visited and witnessed to when we were here 3 years ago.  3 years ago, Musisi accepted Jesus as his Savior.

Today, I found out the boda driver in the accident yesterday is part of another religion, too.  I met him and found out his name.  He does not speak very much English at all.  His family was there to support him and his wife just kept smiling at me.  They really enjoyed it when I was able to speak just a little Lugandan to them.  People generally see it as a sign of respect when a white person tries to speak their language.  I was able to let the boda driver know I witnessed the accident, was concerned for him and prayed for him.  At first he seemed resistant to my visit, but he warmed up as time went on.  His brother translated for me as we chatted.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, though I would like to.  By God’s grace I was able to talk, pray and it seemed the Lord’s Spirit encouraged him. I shared that Jesus was the reason I came, that Jesus changed my life and asked him to thank Jesus, not me.  I told him a couple times that Jesus loved him and that’s why I was there.  By the end of the conversation, he was opening up and seemed happy that I came.  His wife was very appreciative of the visit, and just kept smiling.  I just wanted to hug her as it seemed we connected.  She was holding a baby.  I hope to visit more and talk to him further.  He is supposed to be in the hospital for about another week.  Please pray for him.  His roommate is an older Protestant gentleman.  Families in the hospital here support one another openly.

As I was leaving the hospital, walking across the compound, I was encouraged.  However in the distance I heard the wailing of a girl.  As I approached a large truck on the way to my vehicle, a girl was in the back of the truck loudly crying and being consoled by a person who seemed like her mother.  A group of about 10 men were standing in a circle in a serious discussion.  Not sure what was going on.  So many needs.  So much hurt, pain and oppression.  The world needs Jesus – not religion, not legalism, and not for you and me to remain quiet.  They need to know He loves them and gave Himself for them.  When that happens, the world changes.  People watch and listen when they are in need.  May Jesus cause us to share His love more and more.  Let’s go!  And make disciples.

UPDATE #2 (Saturday, July 13): I visited the boda driver (we’ll call him William) again this morning at the hospital.  This time I took along a young man, Andrew Olson, from Minnesota who is here doing Bible Translation.  “William” was much more receptive today.  He sat up when we arrived.  His roommate’s spouse said “William” was vomiting this morning, maybe from a concussion.

Andrew was able to read from Psalms 23 and James 5:14 out of the Lugandan Bible.  William was receptive.  I was able to pray for William, and Andrew anointed him.  William’s roommate’s spouse asked that we pray for them, which Andrew did.  Then another person came from across the hall and asked us to pray for his son John, 21, who was in a vehicle accident.  We did and Andrew anointed him.  Then a man who was the roommate to the 21 year old, asked for us to pray with him.  We did and anointed him, too.

People here are not only receptive and open to prayer, but request it of people who are visiting others.  Their hope is still in the Lord for healing.   Here in Uganda, people desire prayer.  They are not embarrassed, ashamed or consider it a “private” matter.  They are desperate, yet sincere and openly appreciative of it, with smiles and warm handshakes.