Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:7-9 (NIV)

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.
Psalm 4:3-5 (NIV)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Romans 12:14- 16 (NIV)

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It is rare to see the Lord discipline a follower, especially a pastor, so openly as he has done with Pastor Terry Jones (of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville), who organized the planned September 11 book burning causing such international attention. Yet, that is exactly what is happening.

Book burning has a decisively bad reputation. It has historically been, and continues to be, an act of people who are in a weak and desperate position, and acting on pure emotion. Sadly, that is always apparent to everyone except the people themselves involved in the book burning. The act is always designed to incite strong emotions in others: boldness and confidence in the supporters of the cause, and fear in the people it targets. It’s always been used by people who choose hysteria over rationality and reasoning. History shows that the act may have some short term gain, but is always costly in the long term.

Many organizations throughout history have burned many sorts of books they felt threatened by. Religious organizations, dictators, tyrants and even oppressed people have had organized book burnings. The one common result of these actions: over time, rational thinking prevailed. If their motives were to subdue people under their way of thinking, it was only a matter of time until the people who fervently followed the leaders came to their senses: sometimes with the help of an unstoppable invading army.

There are also people who hold these events with another agenda: to capitalize on unvented anger to further a cause. Pastor Jones is one I put into this group. He could have scheduled this for any time. Yet the convenience of timing the  Sept 11 memorials with the heated debate over the planned muslim cultural center in New York proved just too tempting. When national leaders chimed in with their warnings about the planned burning, I’m sure they were pleased at the attention. And when a muslim cleric offered to negotiate with the pastor to stop the burning, I’m sure things seemed to be going the way he wanted.

And then, it all falls apart. The things the muslim cleric supposedly promised during the negotiations didn’t come to pass, and the pastor finds this out within 24 hours of the scheduled burning. And he still postpones it.

Did Pastor Jones fall into a classic trap? Because the planned book burning event was capitalizing on the emotions of Sept 11, any negotiator could tell you the time frame for any value from it was extremely narrow.  All any negotiator would have to do is… stall, to wait for that time frame to pass. And once it passed, not moving forward with the act says one of two things: either the plan to burn the books was a front to draw attention, or pressure from national leaders… worked. I lean towards the former.

Whatever the outcome, it was a bold step for a small church in Gainesville. Whether it was the right one or not, I won’t say. I won’t judge Pastor Jone’s motivations, or if God really did tell him to do this. I’ve seen the Lord make some amazing Lemonade from some really sour lemons. Only time will answer this.

All I will say is this: every time I talk to people about the Lord’s love for us and his desire for us to get right with him, they ask how a Christian Pastor, who claims to know and follow God, can do something like book burning. So Pastor Jones… because of your actions, you are making the job of helping people discover Jesus Christ as the one true Savior unnecessarily difficult. This includes Muslims especially, one of the largest groups of people currently turning to Him.