A Child in Need

Children are amazing.  When they smile, indifference isn’t an option; it changes you.

In America, children are conditioned to “say cheese” any time a camera is put in their face.  Their smiles are plastered all over Facebook and Twitter by the millions per minute.

But for many children around the world, they’ve never even seen a photo.  The idea of some person holding a mechanical box in front of them and snapping a button, the whole while telling them that their image will be placed on a piece of paper, is pretty confusing.

It’s hard to smile when you’re confused. 

But this isn’t the only reason why many of these children aren’t smiling.  You see, for most, these children have little to smile about.  Let me tell you about one of them.  His name is Sazzad Hossain.

Sazzad is 6 years old, and lives in Bangladesh with his father and mother.  Work is hard to find for his father, who tries to get day jobs performing general labor in his community.  Sazzad’s mother does her best to raise Sazzad and his two siblings in a safe and healthy environment.  It’s tough when they only have about $35 a month to live on.  Food is scarce.

It’s hard to smile when you’re hungry.

Sazzad loves to play soccer, which isn’t a surprise since that’s really the only sport he can play.  All it takes is a little bit of space and something that resembles a ball.  But he must be careful, as he lives in an area of the world where abuse and trafficking are always a threat.   That’s got to be pretty scary.

It’s hard to smile when you’re scared.

Today is Sazzad’s birthday.  In America, this is the happiest day of a child’s year.  But today, this day is a day that his life changed forever.

Today is the day my family sponsored Sazzad with Compassion International.

He will receive food, education, and clothing.  But more importantly, Sazzad will have people outside his family who will love him and tell him about the love of Jesus.

It’s $38 per month for my family to provide all of this.  That’s less than eating dinner at a restaurant.  It’s really not much for us to do this.

For Sazzad, it’s more than twice as much as his family earns monthly.

And I’m pretty sure when he finds out that we’ve chosen to help him like this, it will bring a smile to his face.

Happy birthday, Sazzad!

Do you want to change a child’s life?  Click here to learn more!

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5 Things I Miss From “Old School” Church

Our society is obsessed with “new”.  We are always looking for the latest gadget or item that we assume must be better because it’s the newest version.  When the original iPad came out in 2009, you couldn’t find one in the stores for months.  As soon as a shipment arrived in the store, there were people waiting to snatch them up.  They would sell out in minutes.

I purchased one within about a month after they came out.  And I loved it.  But around 9 months later, Apple did what Apple always does – they came out with iPad 2.  And millions of people cast aside their outdated, piece of junk iPads, and upgraded to the much more advanced iPad 2.

At first I was disappointed.  I had spent more money than I really should have on something that society was telling me I should get rid of in order to have something better.  But I didn’t.  It’s three years – and three versions of iPads later – and I’m still using my “Model T version” iPad.  And it still works great.  I still love it.  It doesn’t have a camera.  I can’t “Facetime” chat with others who have iPhone 4 or a newer iPad.  But everything I wanted my iPad to do when I purchased it, it still does.

We fall into this trap in church as well.  When I was in Israel four years ago, I stood with about 80 other Christians at Gordon’s Tomb – a site that many believe to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  As we took communion, we could look to one side and see the place where Jesus may have died, and to the other side we could see where He arose.  My wife and I were moved deeply, and felt compelled to lead those with us in singing:

We are standing on holy ground

And I know that there are angels all around

Let us praise Jesus now

We are standing in His presence

On holy ground

We asked the pastor for permission to lead the song, and he agreed.  As we began to sing, we were surprised that very few – maybe a half a dozen or so – had ever heard the song before.  This was one of the most popular worship songs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now these Believers who had been singing all of the latest songs for two weeks, had no idea what we were singing.

This kind of thing happens all the time in church.  We get obsessed with the new to such an extent that we lose the power of the old.  As I’ve thought about this lately, I’ve come up with my own personal list of things that I miss about “old school” church.

 1.       Sunday Evening Service – I’ve recently taken a position as part-time worship leader at a very conservative Southern Baptist church.  At first, I was a little put off by the fact that they still had a traditional Sunday evening worship service.  Don’t they realize that this hasn’t been the “cool” thing to do for over a decade?  People are busy.  They don’t have the time to repeat the same thing on Sunday night that they did on Sunday morning.  But I was wrong.

What I have come to remember was that Sunday evening was when the family gets together.  We get to service early and share with each other.  We laugh.  We pray.  We worship together and hear from the Lord.  And no one wants it to end.  We stay after in the auditorium and the lobby talking for sometimes thirty to forty-five minutes.  We go to dinner together afterward and keep it going as long as we can.  Those that skip Sunday evening, miss out on good quality “family time.”

2.       Choir – In an era of praise bands and worship teams, I miss the traditional choir.  I miss giving as many people as possible the opportunity to be a part of the music in the service.  I miss the prayer time we have during rehearsal.  I miss the big choir numbers with the difficult hours of preparation.  I miss the Christmas and Resurrection Sunday cantatas.  Some of my fondest church memories took place in choir rehearsals.  There’s something special about a large group of Brothers and Sisters in Christ coming together regularly to prepare to lead in worship.

3.       Sunday School – Many churches still have Sunday School, they’ve just changed the name to be more contemporary.  They call it home group, fellowship group, cell group, life group, etc.  And a lot of the time, these churches try to pull these groups out of the church building into homes in an attempt to foster more of a relational dynamic.  This isn’t bad.

But I miss the traditional Bible study, entry into church life aspect of Sunday School.  My pastor recently reminded me that for a century, the Sunday School was the primary evangelistic tool of the church.  This was where children and teenagers and adults who were not familiar with the Scriptures came together to learn them.  I miss that.

4.       Hymns – I love the new contemporary worship choruses.  I find myself singing songs like “10,000 Reasons” and “Our God” often as I’m going about my day.  But I also miss singing songs like “There is Power in the Blood” and “There is a Fountain.”  There are such deep theological truths buried in these old hymns that we often can’t fit into the more modern worship styles.  But when I’m struggling and hurting and wondering where God is, I don’t think of songs like “I love you, Lord.  And I lift my voice.”  I remember lines like “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God, my Father.  There is no shadow of turning with Thee.”  I’m afraid that in our attempt at staying relevant and modern, we’ve lost some of this.

5.       Dressing Up – I get why pastors and churches have gone to more casual attire in church.  I know that this is done in an effort to help visitors who may not have the “fancy church clothes” to feel comfortable when coming to church.  I don’t believe that those who wear a suit or a dress are more accepted by God on Sunday than those who are wearing jeans and flip-flops.  But I remember Sunday being a day of distinctions.  When I was a kid, my family got up early and had cinnamon rolls.  We got dressed in our “Sunday Best” and went to church.  We had a big family dinner afterwards.  Sunday was a different day than the rest of the week.  And what we wore to church was a part of that.  I wonder if our casual attire has contributed to us losing that distinction.

 

That’s my list so far.  I’m sure there are many other things you and I can add to it.  What is the biggest thing you miss from “Old School” church?

3 “Rather Thans” We Can Learn from Chick-fil-A Day

1. This is a Spiritual, Rather Than a Political, Issue

As I stood in line for an hour at Chick-fil-A in Colorado Springs (as most of you did all across the nation), I heard many people talking about “free speech” and “liberty”.  These are important secondary issues at stake in the controversy surrounding the comments by Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy.  But if the hundreds of thousands (and perhaps millions when we hear the final tally) of people who stood for hours in line to buy a chicken sandwich and waffle fries walk away from this moment only to feel like they exercised their personal right to speak their mind and support Cathy doing the same, we will miss the greater lesson.

Dan Cathy took a stand for a Biblical principle.  He wasn’t making a political statement, but a Spiritual one.  This company has done this since the day it was founded, by choosing to close its doors on Sunday.  Since Chick-fil-A got its start in mall food courts, this was a difficult and controversial position.  Malls wanted to require Chick-fil-A to follow the same standards that every other tenant was required to follow, and to be open during all mall hours.  But for Chick-fil-A, being closed on Sunday wasn’t just a “good idea” or something they “wanted” to do; this was a matter of Biblical faith and practice, and they refused to budge.  It’s been documented for decades that Chick-fil-A restaurants in mall food courts out produce every other fast food restaurant in these malls, even though they are open one day less per week.  This is God’s way of honoring the company’s choice to honor Him.  So while I’m sure that Cathy had no desire for the attention or controversy generated by his expression of his personal belief regarding Biblical marriage, I’m confident that this wasn’t a difficult decision for him to make.

This outpouring of support simply isn’t normal.  For countless thousands of people to stand for hours in line, some in plus-100 degree temperatures, in order to eat fast food is simply a supernatural moment.  There have been no stories of angry crowds or mean-spirited protests; just everyday Americans laughing and smiling and excited to be doing something that they believed could make a difference.  People were guided – I believe by the Spirit of God – to honor Chick-fil-A and its CEO, because that company and individual were willing to suffer whatever backlash they must in order to stand upon the Word of God.  To reduce this down to free speech misses the bigger truth here.

2. Our Impact is Exponentially Greater When We Stand FOR, Rather Than AGAINST, Something

For decades, Christian conservatives have been opposing abortion, homosexual marriage, and a slew of other social and political issues, and for the most part have made very little tangible impact.  They’ve looked like a bunch of angry fundamentalists who are stuck in the dark ages, refusing to evolve with society.  They’ve been unable to generate any kind of significant movement that could truly garner the attention of the rest of America.

But yesterday these same Christians made an impact.  People all over the country were forced to take notice of what happened at Chick-fil-A.  The news media couldn’t dispute it.  The radical left couldn’t dismiss it.  The apathetic couldn’t ignore it.  This one event made more of an impact culturally than all of the protests Christians have held in my lifetime.

Psychologists have been saying for years now that the human mind finds it very difficult to process the negative.  If I tell my son NOT to touch something, the human mind translates that into an image of doing the opposite; of touching the forbidden item.  The mind can’t visualize NOT doing something.

The world doesn’t want to hear what we’re against; they want to know what we are for.  Rather than shouting out to the world that as Christians we oppose homosexual marriage, we must give them the Biblical alternative.  We must tell them that we believe in the Biblical view of marriage; a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman.

This principle must carry over into all of these issues.  We can’t just oppose abortion; we must support life and adoption and all the alternatives.  We can’t just oppose sex and violence in media; we must support wholesome entertainment that presents a positive alternative

3. There is the Potential for Revival, Rather Than Judgment, in America’s Future

Too often we feel like Elijah after calling down fire from Heaven on Mt. Carmel: all alone.  But yesterday’s outpouring of support for Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A revealed that there are so many more people who stand for Biblical principles than the media and opposition would have us believe.  No one could have predicted the numbers that turned out yesterday.  And this can provide a ray of hope for the future of America.

If these people who stood in line yesterday continued to band together, not for a chicken sandwich but for prayer and repentance, how could that impact the future of America?

Where is the Light? A Response to the Critics

All I was doing was putting my own, personal thoughts down in writing.  I never expected anybody to read them, let alone care what I said.

On Friday morning, after hearing of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the range of emotion I was feeling needed an outlet.  I’m a writer.  If I was a composer the feelings would have come out in song.  If I were an artist, I would have painted or sculpted.  But I’m a writer.  So naturally, I wrote.

I contacted Third Option Men, a Christian men’s website that I regularly contribute to, and they desired to publish what I wrote.  I put my thoughts down, posted them to Third Option Men, and went about my day.

To read my article: “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?” CLICK HERE

And then things got a little wild.  My article garnered more attention than I expected, both positive and negative.  In my experience of writing online, I’ve noticed a pretty common pattern: when someone agrees with what I write, they share it through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  When they disagree with it, they comment.  This posting almost immediately starting seeing both of these responses on a greater level than ever expected.

But nothing prepared me for the phone call I received about two hours after the post went live.  A journalist for ChristianPost.com, Alex Murashko, called requesting to interview me regarding what I wrote.  He specifically wanted to know what I meant when I said that “The shooting in Denver yesterday is the fault of the Church.”

To read the interview: “Colorado Shooting: 13 Years  After Columbine, is the Church to Blame?” CLICK HERE

Again, I wasn’t trying to make a statement.  This was as much about me getting my thoughts out of my head as anything.  And frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the negative reaction that so many have had to that statement.

But I stand behind every word I wrote. 

Still I understand that for many, there needs to be a greater development of this claim.  To state that the Church could possibly have any culpability in a tragedy such as this shooting is not something that is easy to accept.  But just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Let’s clear up something right away: I never claimed that the shooter, James Holmes, is NOT responsible.  As a single incident, James Holmes is solely responsible for this heinous act.  He should be punished for what he’s done.  He will have to answer both to an earthly, and a Heavenly, court for his crime.

But as far as this crime reflects the society we live in, the Church IS responsible for this tragedy.  Let me explain.

James Holmes was acting out – in reality  – the fictional world of the movie playing at the time: The Dark Knight Rises.  He was moving the story from fiction to fact.  He became a real-world manifestation of the villains present in the story.

This isn’t much different than what happened thirteen years earlier at Columbine High School.  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold mimicked scenes from The Basketball Diaries and The Matrix.  They took fantasy, and made it reality.

These shootings were life imitating art.

But as I said in the original article, the problem isn’t Hollywood, or video games; it isn’t the fact that the world is acting as should be expected.  The problem is the Church being less than it is called to be.

In His seminal message to His disciples, Jesus charges us with the following:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the word.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

Salt and Light.

That’s our calling as followers of Jesus.  There’s nothing new to this statement.  We all know that we are called to this.  But knowing something and doing something are very different.

And this isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a command.  We must understand that along with the call to be salt and light, comes a warning to those who are not.  Salt that fails to be useful is worthless and cast out.  Light can be hidden, and if it is, it fails to give light to those who need it.

After charging His disciples with this important mission, Jesus then continues to give examples of what the life of salt and light looks like.

Don’t hate; it’s the same thing as murder. (Matthew 5:21-26)

Don’t lust; it’s the same thing as adultery. (Matthew 5:27-30)

Don’t use oaths to manipulate situations.  Just stand by your word. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Don’t retaliate; instead, give more than what’s being demanded of you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Give to those in need, not because you have to or because it makes you look good, but because you love those in need and it glorifies your Father in Heaven.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  You get the point.

Jesus closes this sermon with a series of disturbing warnings:

Don’t look at the tree, but at the fruit.  If the tree isn’t bearing fruit, it’s diseased and should be thrown into the fire.  (Matthew 7:15-20)

Don’t think that everyone who says the right things, or even claims to have done amazing things in my Name, really knows me.  Many who make that claim won’t enter the Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Build your “house” on the right foundation, if you don’t, it will be washed away with the storm. (Matthew 7:24-27)

So if Jesus gave us these benchmarks and warnings, is it wrong if we use them to measure the health of the Church today?

What is the fruit of the Church in America?  We’ve got a lot of amazing programs and buildings and ministries.  Dozens of books and videos are released daily that teach us how to become better people.  But what real, lasting, tangible impact are we having on American society?

At the turn of the 21st Century, Dr. Michael L. Brown produced a document entitled, The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution.  In it he shared these startling statistics:

The United States boasts the highest percentage of professing evangelicals in the industrialized world, with more than 36% of Americans – meaning more than 90 million people – classified as born-again. Yet America has:

  • The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
  • The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
  • The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea transmission are almost 500% higher than the highest rates in the other industrialized nations)
  • The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (by far!)
  • The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world

Honestly, can you tell me that this is the fruit of a Church that is living out its calling to be salt and light?

Brown goes on to say:

Our society is deteriorating all around us and even non-believers sense that something is wrong. Why? It is because we, the people of God, the army of the Lord Jesus, the messengers of liberation, the ambassadors of reconciliation, have been sidetracked by the love of this world and distracted by the cares of this age. As a result, we have not changed this generation. This generation has changed us!

Rather than seasoning the world like salt and brightening the world like light, we now smell and taste like the world, and its darkness is snuffing out our lamps. Rather than setting captives free by the power of Jesus’ blood, many of us are being ensnared and enslaved, making a mockery of that sacred blood. Rather than making disciples of sinners and teaching them the ways of God, many of us are being discipled by them, learning their ways, imitating their lifestyles, and conforming to their values.

To read The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, CLICK HERE

Here are a couple of examples of this taking place.  A few weeks ago social media was buzzing due to the premiere of the movie, Magic Mike.  This movie is about a male stripper and his lifestyle.  This is a movie that glorifies lust and sex.  And many Christian women not only attended this movie, but bragged about it on Facebook and Twitter as they attended with other ladies from their individual churches!

Another is the overwhelming popularity among Christian women of the book 50 Shades of Grey.  This book is commonly referred to as “mommy porn”.  It is disgusting filth that NO Christian should ever put before their eyes.  Yet there are “Christian women” who read this and celebrate it on social media sites!

Now, I hesitate even mentioning these two as examples, in fear that some will infer that I believe this problem is one that is isolated to women.  That is not the case.  If men were leading in the Church – being the men that God called them to be – we wouldn’t be seeing this spiritual degradation among Christian women.  The reality is, if this corruption has reached this level, it is because men have ceased to be men, and we are truly in serious trouble.

And one look at pastors in America today shows us how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Roger Charman of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries reports that approximately 20 percent of the calls received on their Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. (To see the stat, CLICK HERE)

And the examples could go on and on.  Our nation is becoming darker and darker, and we in the Church are doing very little to change that.  Earlier in The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, Dr. Brown describes Satan’s scheme for the Church in America:

Satan’s strategy is to institutionalize the Church, to turn the Body of Christ into a powerless religious system. If that tactic fails, he tries to desensitize us and lull us to sleep until we lose our convictions and our sense of outrage is gone. And he is always seeking to seduce us into sin until we become just like the world, enslaved by its passions and lusts. And when he thinks he has succeeded, when he no longer feels threatened by the people of God, then he gets aggressive and brazenly puts forth his agenda. He’s doing it today. We need a revolution!

I believe that Satan no longer fears the Church in America, but rather laughs at it.

Some have made the comment that the Church is doing fine, and that to suggest that the Church is at all responsible for the deterioration of American society, which has manifested itself in horrific acts such as Columbine and the “Batman Shooting” is not only incorrect, but heretical.  Some have suggested that such criticism of the Church is tantamount to being the mouthpiece of Satan – the Accuser of the Brethren.  To that charge I respond with these two passages:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.  If they have called the master of the house “Beelzebul”, how much more will they malign those of his household.  Matthew 10:24-25 ESV

Making the accusation that someone who is pointing out sin within the Church, and calling it to repentance, revival, and awakening, is doing the work of Satan is not a reasonable justification for that person to cease what they are saying;  especially when we see that Jesus, Himself, has called His Church to repentance and revival.  Consider Jesus’ own words to the Church of Laodicea:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  Revelation 3: 15-22 ESV

This passage by Jesus has been referred to so often over the past 50 years, that it has lost much of its power.  Stop and think about it.  It is a description of a church that thinks it has it all together, while Jesus isn’t even invited in!  This is the Church in America, TODAY!

And we wonder why we see evil prevailing in society.  We wonder why young men can so easily plan to murder people in cold blood.  We wonder why homosexuality is celebrated, while Biblical marriage and those that support it are labeled “bigots”.  We wonder why life isn’t valued on any level, while ten times more children have been murdered in this nation since 1972, than were Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust!

I blame myself.  I have been passive and silent too long.  I have allowed this culture of darkness to grow and take over.  I have not lived as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5 through 7.  So if the world around me has become darker, IT IS MY FAULT.

And I’m not alone.  We are all responsible.  I’m not blaming Jesus and His power.  I’m blaming those of us – which constitutes the vast majority of Christians in the United States – who have sat back and pretended that things are not so bad, or that things are getting worse because “that’s just where society is heading and there’s nothing we can do about it”.   I’m blaming His Church for not being what we are called to be.  I can do this, because I’ve seen the fruit.

The Church of Acts was one that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17).  The Church of America is one that has allowed the world to turn IT upside down.  This has to change.  Now.

And if you’re sitting here reading this saying, “Not me!” than maybe you should go back, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal His Truth to you, and read this again.

The “Batman Shooting” is our fault.

Please return over the next several days, as I will begin to unpack SOLUTIONS to this spiritual crisis.

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?.

This is an interview I did with ChristianPost.com regarding my comment on the ThirdOptionMen.org article, “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?

The journalist, Alex Murashko, made some additional comments on his personal blog on Sunday.

http://blogs.christianpost.com/alex-wire/sunday-sermon-where-is-the-light-in-the-dark-night-10951/

The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the LIGHT?

So it’s thirteen years later, and the emotions are the same.

I woke up this morning to a text from my mother informing me that 12 people have been killed, and 38 injured, in a shooting at a Denver area movie theatre during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the finale of the latest Batman movie trilogy.

I’m still trying to process everything, but as a Colorado native, I can tell you that the raw, gut-feeling that I have is exactly as it was in 1999, when I learned of the shooting at Columbine High School, also in the Denver area.

The parallels between the shootings are eerie.  Both involve shooters with multiple guns in trench coats walking through the crowd, picking off victims at random without emotion.  Both have movie-related connections.  And I fear that the reaction from Christians will be the same as well.

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Columbine that resulted in 14 deaths and dozens of injuries, Christians all across the country jumped on the opportunity to blame society and Hollywood for the demise of culture.  They pointed out the similarities of scenes in movies like The Basketball Diaries and The Matrix, and the constant barrage of first-person shooter games like Doom, and proudly declared that the problem was that our culture had become so corrupt and obsessed with evil, that something like Columbine was inevitable.

We took some solace in stories of victims like Cassie Bernal and Rachel Scott, who stood strong in the face of the shooters who sought them out simply because of their faith in God.  We celebrated these martyrs for their boldness, as we should have.  But we missed the bigger point.

The problem was not society and culture.  The problem was us.

And so now I sit in a hotel lobby in Flagstaff, Arizona, preparing myself for what I’m sure will be a countless parade on TV, radio, and print, of Christian pundits all wagging their fingers at a world that is dark and hopeless and obsessed with death and destruction, and completely missing the point.

The terrifying shooting in Denver last night is not the fault of Hollywood; it’s not the fault of society; it’s not the fault of a world walking further and further away from the Truth.

The shooting in Denver yesterday is the fault of the Church.

Yes, the world is getting darker.  The movies out of Hollywood are getting more and more violent.  Society is becoming more and more obsessed with evil.  But these facts are not the problem; they are only the symptoms.  When we see the world getting darker and darker, we have to wonder where the light has gone.

Better to light a candle, than curse the darkness. – Chinese Proverb

Jesus told His followers how they were to impact the world:

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. – Matthew 5:14-15

The world is darker, because the light is not shining.  Those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, must understand that the light is absent because our influence is absent.  At best, we are hiding our light.  We have thrown up our hands and said, “There’s nothing we can do about.”  And let’s be honest enough to call this attitude what it is: sin.

Let me be clear: being light does not mean complaining about the darkness.  It means showing Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him.  We must be different.  We must demonstrate to the world that there is another way.  We must show the world that there is light.  The world is searching for it.

Instead of looking at the world and shaking our heads, what if we had the guts to admit that we are largely responsible?  What if we fell on our faces before our Savior who has left us in the world to shine His light, and asked forgiveness for our failure to make the world a better place?

When the world gets darker, the reasonable person understands that darkness is not the problem, but rather the absence of light.  You don’t sit in a room yelling and cursing because it keeps getting darker; you walk over and turn on the light.

So again, out of death and destruction, the Church has an opportunity to “turn on the light.”  We can repent of our failures and shortcomings, and seek to live lives that show a different path; a path of life; of hope; of a future.  Or we can do what we did thirteen years ago, shirk our responsibility, and wag our fingers at a world consumed by darkness.

Out of darkness, the Light of Jesus can shine forth.

But it’s up to us.

 

Photo credit: http://www.mirror.co.uk/

5 Ways My Faith Has Changed After Returning from Israel: The Feasts

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

Have you ever tried to pick up the storyline of a movie after it was half-way over?  Not easy is it?

That’s what most of Christianity has been doing for about 2,000 years.  In fact, we celebrate this approach.  I had a pastor who founded three of the largest churches in my city actually tell me that he tries not to teach the Old Testament because it’s too confusing.  He sticks with the New Testament story.  When children are baptized or dedicated, we give them New Testaments to commemorate the event.  When new Believers ask what they should read, we tell them to start with John and stick to the Gospels.  We ignore the first two-thirds of the story.

This confusion and lack of understanding has hurt us as Christians.  We miss that God laid out His plan for humanity very early on.  The first Christians understood this plan.  They were Jews who had been rehearsing it for 1,500 years.  The plan is seen in the feasts.

You should take a few minutes to read through Leviticus 23.  God’s plan for humanity is described in it.  The cross (Passover).  The burial (Unleavened Bread).  The resurrection (First Fruits).  The Spirit (The Feast of Weeks).  The Second Coming (The Feast of Trumpets).  The Judgment (The Day of Atonement).  The New Heaven and New Earth (The Feast of Tabernacles).

God’s roadmap is there.

And understanding this roadmap makes reading the Scriptures – both the Old and the New Testament – much easier.  You see God’s hand moving to accomplish His plan through these feasts.  Jesus’ teachings take on greater significance.  As do the rest of the New Testament writers.

Understanding the feasts has changed the way I read the Bible.

Want to learn more?  Read Return to Eden here!

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning from Israel: Introduction