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It was the house Grandma and Granddad built with a little help from their granddaughter, who also happens to be my wife. That was over forty years ago. Grandma and Granddad are gone, and the house has been in the hands of renters for a number of years. And the landlord, my wife's dad, lived hours away. His age and his health prevented him from keeping up with what was happening to the house and to the land around it, too. When he deeded that house to my wife and her sister, they weren't real pleased with what had happened over the years. The house was run down; the carpet was infested with bugs; various encroachments had slowly whittled away about three acres of the property, and fences had been moved. That's a long list. And nobody in the family had to do anything to accumulate this mess. All we had to do was do nothing.
And who is the silent thief? His name is neglect. He doesn't make much noise, but he sure steals a lot from you. Since my wife and sister-in-law have owned the house, they've been working very hard to recover what that silent thief stole.
Our word for today from the Word of God is a warning against this silent thief. Proverbs 27:23-24 say, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks; give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations." God says, "Take good care of what's important to you. What you don't take care of, you may very well lose."
People end up with major health problems; not always because they do terrible things to their body, but because they just let their body go. But neglect is even more damaging in your important relationships.
It may be that in the spinning gerbil wheel of your busy life, someone you love is suffering from neglect. You haven't done anything to your mate or child that's really bad, or maybe to your parents. You just haven't done much. Remember, neglect is the silent thief. Slowly, but very surely, intimacy is being lost, trust is being lost, communication, or closeness. Take it from someone who is trying to get back what neglect lost in a house. The longer you let things go, the harder it's going to be to get it fixed. It may be time for a priority check; time to bring those that you love and those you need the most back from the margins and back into the center.
Tragically, the most important relationship in your life can atrophy through neglect, too - your relationship with God. Again, you may not have done something awful. You're just slowly pushing Jesus to the edges of your schedule and your life.
And on that day when you go into eternity, as we all will, if you miss heaven will it be because of the silent thief? He will have stolen from you the greatest treasure of all - eternal life. How? By getting you to miss a personal relationship with Jesus just by never getting around to beginning that relationship.
That's why God's book says, "How shall we escape if we neglect such great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3). Many people will spend eternity away from God, not because they rejected what Jesus did on the cross, but because they simply neglected it. They put it off, they made excuses, or they postponed God. This "great salvation" is what Jesus did by loving you so much that He died to pay your death penalty for your sin. But that salvation isn't your salvation until you tell Jesus you're putting your total trust in Him like a drowning person would grab a lifeguard as their only hope.
When did you do that with Jesus? If you never have, and you don't want to risk losing the heaven that Jesus died to give you, would you give yourself to Jesus today? If you want to begin this forever relationship, then I would urge you to go to our website where we've got some help and support for you for that. It's yoursforlife.net. Or you can call for my booklet about it "Yours For Life." The number is toll free. It's 877-741-1200.
I've known too many people who waited one day too long to get to Jesus, and neglect stole their eternity. Don't walk by Jesus any longer. Run into His waiting arms.
To find out how you can begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, please visit YOURS FOR LIFE: HOW TO HAVE LIFE'S MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP at: http://www.yoursforlife.net Or, call 1-888-NEED HIM.
"A Word With You" by Ron Hutchcraft is a daily radio challenge, with slice-of-life illustrations and insights - providing practical help on the issues that matter most. If your local Christian radio station does not air "A Word With You," please let them know how much you value this program. Over six years of transcripts are available online, at http://rhm.gospelcom.net/awwy.php
What have you been reading this summer? Odds are it wasn’t what 3,500 incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina were assigned to read: The Muslim holy book, the Qur’an — or portions of it, anyway. The assignment has brought plenty of arguments, but too many of them miss the most important issues.
To sum it up briefly: Students were told to read Approaching the Qur’an — which translates and comments on 35 passages of the text — then to write a one-page paper and participate in a discussion group. Some Christians objected, feeling this flirted with state-sponsored proselytizing. Their objections mounted when they were told that they could opt out on religious grounds if they wrote an explanation of their objections — an option that struck them as worse than the assignment, because it forced them to identify themselves (in the face of possible reprisal from Islamic quarters) and defend their religious beliefs to the school. A few of them have gone on to sue the university.
The controversy has crossed some of the usual lines, both religious and political. The American Civil Liberties Union shares the concern over proselytizing and plans to monitor the class discussions. Meanwhile, some Christians think the assignment is a good idea. Fred Eckels, a faculty adviser for Campus Crusade for Christ, told the Christian Science Monitor that “as a person who supports prayer in schools, it makes no sense to object to the use of other religious texts in the classroom, as long as the discussions are appropriate.”
So this is one time we can't just line up with our usual allies. We’re going to have to think this one through for ourselves. (As we always should, but—let’s be honest — sometimes don't.)
On the one hand, it's reasonable to study Islam, especially now, and it's doubtful the UNC assignment amounted to an attempt to convert anyone to that religion. Though I think the Christian students have reasons to object to the course (more about that in a moment), their reaction strikes me as an overreaction. Whatever might be said against the university, it hardly seems like religious profiling, much less grounds for a lawsuit. Moreover, there's something strikingly unbecoming about Christians seeking to avoid being identified for their faith. The early Christians proclaimed theirs boldly, in the face of far greater likelihood of persecution and even death. If I were a Christian UNC student asked to explain my objections to Islam, I'd take that not as an unfair imposition but as a welcome opportunity.
On the other hand, there's a problem if the reading assignment was an attempt to do something more than educate students about Islam. I suspect it was meant to persuade them that Islam is essentially benign — that it's really (in President Bush's famous words) "a religion of peace." UNC faculty and administrators have suggested as much. By pointing to verses from the Qur'an (or Koran, as some of us spell it) which paint the idea of jihad as a strictly spiritual struggle, the Monitor reports, they hope "to counter [the idea that] the hate-filled rhetoric put forth by Osama bin Laden and other radicals" represents actual Islam.
Now it's true that there's a lot more to Islam than you'll glean from the likes of bin Laden. But it's also true that there's a lot more to it than strictly individual, spiritual struggle. What UNC may be trying to tell students about Islam is "hey, there's no reason we can't all just get along." And if that's their message, they're not promoting understanding of Islam so much as they're whitewashing it.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the story of the Middle East is a simple tale of noble Americans and Israelis fighting evil Muslims who insanely hate us simply because we're virtuous — because they just can't stand freedom and democracy and all that good stuff. I don’t think the Israeli and American governments are blameless by any means. But I also don't buy the notion that Islam, aside from a handful of militants, seeks nothing more than peaceful coexistence. There's just too much evidence to the contrary.
As sometime Boundless contributor Dr. Mark Hartwig has written (in an article you can find here), Islam has a long history of violence. This dates back to its founder Muhammad in the 7th century; he talked peace at the beginning, but once he gathered enough military power he started launching raids and eventually conquered Mecca. Muslim clerics went on to expand the conditions that justified force, until aggression against any non-Muslims — justified by the need to create a single Islamic state — became the norm. So it remained until the last 300 years or so, when militarily superior Western powers rendered expansionist jihad increasingly impractical. Today's militance is no historical aberration, but a resurgence of the pattern that's characterized most of Islam's existence.
This isn't to say no one would adopt Islam voluntarily; its set of moral rules often hold great appeal to people living in decadent or morally anarchic cultures, including our own inner cities. Nor is it to overlook violent aggression by professed Christians; obviously, there's been plenty of that through the centuries.
Yet we should avoid the religious relativism that seeks to place all faiths on the same level, whether that level is low (“they’re all false”) or high (“they’re all basically saying the same good things”). There is a difference between Christianity and Islam. Christian history contains violence, but the faith isn’t founded in violence; it spread peacefully for its first several centuries and on the whole it hasn’t employed coercion to anything like the extent Islam has. Islam has always spread primarily by the sword, and its regimes are pretty universally intolerant. (This includes American allies like Saudi Arabia, where Christian evangelism is forbidden and harsh punishment for even minor offenses is routine.)
I won’t attempt to analyze all the complexities of Islam, which would take far more space than I have here (if you’d like to learn more, see the resources at the end of this article). My point here is to warn against a reflex that’s common in today’s multicultural, pluralistic America: the lazy, “I’m-OK-you’re-OK” assumption that pretty much every major population group, and belief system, is essentially compatible with the others. Any serious conflicts are presumed to be the work of tiny bands of extremists; any group of significant size just wants to get along with everyone else, raise the economic standard of living and build a generally nice global society.
In fact, however, peoples differ; beliefs differ; faiths differ. Many want not just to exist alongside the others but to triumph over others. That’s not inherently wrong (Christians should want Christianity to spread far and wide). But the preferred approach is persuasion, and not everyone works through persuasion. A great many work through various levels of intimidation and force. They always have and, as long as we’re living in a fallen world, always will.
If the folk at places like UNC really are doing nothing more than fostering a better comprehension of Islam, more power to them. Hysteria never serves us well, especially when it leads to a “we’ve got to stop them at all costs!” mentality that justifies any and all military actions and expansions of domestic government power. Nor does picturing Muslims as fanatical hordes rather than as human beings with a range of perspectives and motives.
But if UNC’s faculty are just pledging allegiance to the flag of global harmony, and the equality and benevolence of all cultures for which it stands, they’re not doing justice to their students. They’re just perpetuating fantasy — and college should equip people to deal with the real world.
What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims by George W. Braswell Jr.
A Unique Perspective on Islam
Few Christians know much about Islam or how to talk effectively with Muslims about Christ. What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims — written by a distinguished seminary professor and former missionary to Iran — will help you sort through the propaganda and confusion about Islam to reach the truth.
Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias (Paperback) In a world of so many religions, why Jesus? Arm yourself with irrefutable truths to share with those who think Christianity is only one of many paths to God.
Light Force / A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire by Brother Andrew & Al Janssen (Hardcover) Scenario: The embattled Christian churches in the Middle East. The challenge: To be light in darkness!
So What's the Difference? / A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and Religions and How They Compare to Christianity by Fritz Ridenour (Paperback) Do you know the difference between Christianity and other faiths? This best-selling guide gives you nonjudgmental answers to this vital question.