In his final address to the students at Azusa Pacific University, former megachurch pastor Francis Chan announced that he is leaving the United States to pursue ministry in Asia.
In his message to the students, Chan noted that the people of Asia are open to the Gospel and cleaving to the Lord. He compared his ministry in the United States to fishing in a fishing hole that was over-fished, such that the fish no longer bit the lures. As part of his message, Chan expressed frustration at the way scripture is being de-emphasized and how more people are building beliefs on what feels good rather than the truth of the Bible.
“We only believe what we want to believe!” Chan said. “Name one thing in the Bible that you believe that you don’t want to believe.”
He went on to say that there is absolute truth, and that truth can be found in the scriptures.
Chan exhorted students to take the Bible at its word, and not to try to twist its meaning through endless word studies. He criticized the way the current generation (as all generations have) rejects prior wisdom, believing they have found their own wisdom.
“Are you ready to surrender to the Word?” Chan asked. “Let God be true and every man a liar. If your thoughts contradict this book, then you need to come under this book and change your way of thinking.”
Scrolling through my news feed this morning, I came across this gem, comparing the distraction most Americans enjoy via the NFL with the distractions most Romans enjoyed via chariot races, gladiator “games,” and the Olympics.
And while the Roman government deliberately built elaborate stadiums to distract the masses from the crumbling empire and human rights abuses, in America, we distracted ourselves.
Now, I’m not bashing sports, or the NFL. I enjoy watching football, and even have been able to attend a few Big-12 College Football games, and one Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game. I will probably continue to enjoy watching sports for the foreseeable future.
But for some reason, seeing the above-posted meme on Facebook was kind of an eye-opener for me.
Do you know why the NFL protests were so controversial? And subsequently, why the NFL protests have, at least in part, played a role in the decline of NFL ratings? It’s because, once the players used their platform to advance a socially conscious agenda, they reminded us of the social problems that remain in America.
Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, seeing he and his followers take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner reminded you that the reconciliation we thought we had accomplished hadn’t advanced us as far as we had thought. Having that bubble burst, watching football became a reminder of the deep-divides that remain in American society. Once that happened, watching football wasn’t as fun as it was before.
And that’s why the NFL protests were so controversial. People don’t like to be reminded of their problems as they try to escape them. So, we had the controversial debate over the past two years, and we quit watching football.
The good news is that we can use our newly raised awareness to make good things happen. True change will not come through legislation, political action, or by socially-conscious NFL players. It will come through the small, daily decisions made by each individual. So, to borrow a phrase, “be the change.” Extend random acts of kindness to others, and let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.
The elderly preacher was doing what he had spent his entire ministry doing. He was knocking doors to share the Gospel. I welcomed him to sit with me, told him I was also a pastor, and discussed with him the scriptures and the state of the world today.
The year was 2011, and I had just moved into my new house. Bro. Turnbow had gotten my name from the list of new water accounts opened with the city of Early. My heart had been heavy that week thinking about the rise of sin, and the animosity toward Christianity in society. Sin is taking our country down the hill of destruction, but the loudest voices in our society blame Christianity for the downfall.
That’s why a certain stanza from Marc Schultz’ song, “I have been there,” resonates with me:
He’s been a pastor 20 years, but tonight he sits alone and broken-hearted in the corner of the church.
Trying to change a fallen world, with his words and with his wisdom but it seems like it is only getting worse.
“Bro. Turnbow,” I asked, “Do you ever feel obsolete?”
Bro. Turnbow smiled and said, “As long as you preach God’s word, you are never obsolete.”
The problems of the world all come from unbelief. People distrust God, so they sin against Him, which causes all kinds of problems. It has been that way ever since Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they thought that God was holding out on them. Since then, the world has been in disarray, suffering from the effects of sin.
It is tempting to watch the demise of western civilization and conclude that, the end time is here, and Christ will soon return. He very well may, but to give up on the calling God has placed on your life is not only a dereliction of duty, but it expresses the same lack of faith shown by the generations before who “gave up” because of the changes in society, saying “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
I was reading Luke 5 in my personal devotional time the other day, and Luke 5:17 struck me.
“And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”
The power of the Lord was present to heal them. Heal who? The Pharisees and doctors of the law who sat by, watching in unbelief as Jesus taught the word of God and ministered to the people. These people were diametrically opposed to the message Christ brought, and his rise among the people. He was a threat to their influence and lifestyle, so they opposed Him.
Yet Luke 5:17 seems to indicate that the Lord had the power to heal their unbelief. And if the power of the Lord can heal the unbelief of some crotchety old Pharisees in the first-century AD, imagine what he can do for a world blinded by the selfish pursuit of pleasure.
Where my faith has fallen short in the past is that I failed to believe that God is the one who reaches people, convicts them, then redeems them. My faith has fallen short in believing that God can do that, and that He will do that. My faith has fallen short in believing that God WILL save, not just that He can.
That unbelief is in my past. I have repented from that sin, and now I am looking forward to seeing God move in mighty ways.
My wife once said, “True faith is realized when you no longer have to be the solution to the problem.” It would help us Spiritually, psychologically and emotionally to remember that the battle is the Lord’s. He will be the One who effects the change.
Our jobs are the same as the Apostles in Acts 5, who were told to “Go, stand and speak the words of this life.”
So, share the Gospel. Defend the faith. Preach the scriptures. But remember, the results are not up to you. Once you realize that, you’ll more fully understand “freedom in Christ.”
The late comedian Bill Hicks, whose stand-up routines offered fairly profane observations on life in the 1980s and early 1990s, was annoyed by the constant drumming of apocalyptic headlines by CNN.
“War, famine, death, aids, homeless, recession, depression,” Hicks chanted. “War, famine, death, aids, homeless, recession, depression. Then, you look out the window, and *crickets*.
“I want a (happy) Ted Turner newscast,” he continued. “‘Hey, everything’s great, here’s sports.”
Hick’s annoyance today could very likely expand to the Democratic Party, which has promised death and destruction with every piece of legislation, or executive action accomplished in 2017. Some of the farcical claims include:
-If the ACA is repealed, people will die in the streets.
-If net neutrality is repealed, people will die in the streets.
-If the individual mandate is repealed (the tax penalty levied on those who cannot afford insurance), people will die in the streets.
-The tax plan is the apocalypse.
-These tax cuts will have people dying in the streets.
Granted, these are hyperbole, but you get the idea. Still, I drive the streets in my neighborhood, and I haven’t seen one dead body yet. When is this mass extinction supposed to begin?
Now, I don’t mean to be partisan on this blog. In fact, I try to go out of my way to avoid beating the same political drums that form the cadence that is Talk radio and CNN.
Still, I am bothered by the fact that so much anger and fear can be galvanized so quickly by political operatives who have no real connection to the facts. Political action committees put out talking points, as do the leadership of both political parties, as do the political pundits, without really examining the details of the proposal.
The politicians need only give an 8-second soundbite to the news, and the political firestorms follows, all over issues that will have minimal impact on the daily lives of most Americans. Yet, to hear it said on TV, radio, in print, and on the street, “the end is near.”
Those at the top have no real incentive to change this dynamic. The votes of Congress are bought and sold by lobbying firms, regardless of which party is in power. As long as those lobbying firms continue to buy the elections of Congress, those elected have little reason to change, and the firms have no reason to change.
These same firms that buy the Congressional elections also invest in swaying public opinion, and they do so with much style and little substance, providing talking points to the media and members of Congress. So long as this model works, we will continue to see vitriolic political discourse and social volatility.
Therefore, it is our responsibility as individual citizens to break this cycle. It is up to us to demand more, and better information. It is up to us to demand accountability. It is up to us to research the candidates, and vote for the best candidate, not the best publicized candidate. If we continue our failure in this responsibility, then things will continue to get worse, because the current system is a multi-billion dollar industry making thousands of people rich.
Former FCC Commissioner Newton N. Minow once described television as “a vast wasteland,” saying that if you watched TV from sign-on to sign-off, a vast wasteland of sub-par programming is what you would observe. He said it was up to the public to demand better programming, adding that if the public continued to support bad programming, the vast wasteland would remain.
He said that no other bureau or agency could rectify the problem, that it was the duty of the American public to demand better. If they didn’t, then the vast wasteland would be their own fault.
The same holds true for our political system. As long as cable news ratings maintain, and lobbying firms continue to successfully purchase elections and votes, our political discourse will remain volatile, and the mass panic among the rank and file will continue. And we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Primary election season starts now. Research the candidates, go to their public appearances, ask questions, then vote accordingly. Break the cycle, demand better.
Pete Seeger is probably the most influential man whose name you probably have never heard. A social activist of the 1960s, he wrote songs promoting environmentalism, civil rights, the counterculture, and songs opposing the Vietnam War.
He popularized the song, “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, and his song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)” became a major hit for the Byrds, and a musical standard for the 1960s.
The song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” was taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes 3 in the King James Bible. The song itself was used as an anthem to call for an end to the Vietnam War, with the final line stating, “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” Those who listen to the song can find themselves transported to a peaceful state of mind, relaxing and just enjoying the moment.
The irony of “Turn, Turn, Turn” is that Seeger rejected the Bible as scripture. He did not believe the Bible is God’s word, and he thought much of the book was a collection of folk tales and poetry. In an interview with Paul Zollo, which later appeared in the book, Songwriters on Songwriting, Seeger discussed his views on the Bible:
I don’t read the Bible that often. I leaf through it occasionally and I’m amazed by the foolishness at times and the wisdom at other times. I call it the greatest book of folklore ever given. Not that there isn’t a lot of wisdom in it. You can trace the history of people poetically.
Ironically, Seeger’s biggest hit came by setting music to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3. The idea came after Seeger’s publisher complained that he was unable to sell the protest songs which he was writing. Seeger, a social activist at heart, put the music to the scripture, hoping that the publisher would hear a Top-40 hit, and that the listeners would hear a call for peace.
Further irony is that a song that became an anthem for peace in the 1960s also proclaimed there was a time for war, a time to kill, a time to hate, and a time to cast away stones. Also, there was a time for peace, a time to heal, a time to love and a time to gather stones together.
The opening lines say it all, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
Seeger rejected the Bible as God’s word, and as such rejected the one who could put more power into those lyrics than David Crosby or Roger McGuinn ever could.
Ecclesiastes is a popular book among atheists and agnostics because of its seemingly humanistic approach to life. In many places, the book claims that life is empty, and none of man’s works will last for eternity. Therefore, one should simply enjoy the simple pleasures of life and the fruit of his labor. That approach to Ecclesiastes is extremely dangerous, because it plays right into the error that the writer was warning against.
Taken in its context, words of wisdom from a King who wanted his people to live with the enlightenment of the Lord’s wisdom, Ecclesiastes teaches that life outside of God’s presence is empty. It’s pointless. It is temporary and the struggles of life are futile.
The lesson in all this is that God is in control, and there is nothing we can do to add to, or to take away from, the plan that He is working on this Earth. Therefore, we should be content to live with the blessings God has given us, to learn the purpose of the seasons of life we endure, and to obey and reverence God.
Furthermore, we should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all our labor, for it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13). While we do that, we should give thanksgiving to God for that gift.
Or as one theologian put it, “Obey God and do as you please.”
Had Seeger understood this concept, he would not only have seen that the wars, conflicts, and times of peace and prosperity served God’s purpose, but he still would have been free to pursue his social agenda of equal rights and preserving God’s creation. Instead, he will be mildly remembered as the man behind a happy little ditty from the 1960s.
God created you with a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them. In giving us that purpose, he gave us passion for that purpose and the talent to pursue it. Do not separate your spiritual/church life from your daily life. The whole of your persona was built in when God formed you in the womb.
Janet reports to her evening shift at a fast food franchise where she has worked as an assistant manager for the past six months. Her assignment tonight is the same as every night, organize her crew of teenagers and college students into a well-oiled machine that serves up burgers within 90-seconds of being ordered, all while minimizing food and labor costs.
It’s a good job that pays well above the median household income for the local area, but keeping a crew of 12 teenagers in line can be a headache sometimes. She is flanked by two shift leads, who manage the grill and front counter operations.
Tonight is a wild night. It’s the local high school’s homecoming, business is heavy, and crowds will soon let out from the homecoming football game to swarm the establishment for the post-game meal.
As the crew ramps up for the Friday night rush, Jimmy, an 18-year old cook who has been on the crew for two years, grabs Tommy, another 18 year old cook, and twists his nipple. Both boys laugh, as does much of the crew. Tommy then looks at Janet and says, “Did you see what Jimmy did? Can I do that to you?”
Janet brushes off the statement, but Tommy persists, even advancing toward her. She orders Tommy back on the job, which he ultimately does after cornering her near the office door.
Janet calls the store’s general manager. Tommy is fired. Jimmy is suspended. A memo is posted concerning appropriate conduct in the workplace, the company’s policy is restated, and the crew is reminded that sexual harassment is not tolerated at this establishment.
However, the damage has been done. The crew turns on Janet, many of whom were friends to Tommy and Jimmy. The two shift leads mock Janet by re-enacting the scene to the amusement of the crew.
The company handled the situation properly, but the crew and middle-managers continued the behavior. Thinking that the company could not fire the entire crew and both shift leads, Janet resigns herself to the situation. Her two options were to quit, or continue working and hope the company joke would soon fade. She chose the latter, and eventually things returned to normal.
Time Magazine honored women like Janet when they named “The Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year this year. All who spoke out against sexual harassment and sexual assault under the #MeToo movement on social media are counted as “Silence Breakers.”
The #MeToo movement gained steam nationally in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and continued to build with each new set of allegations leveled at Hollywood elites, politicians and business moguls. Sexual harassment and assault victims, mostly women, posted the hashtag on social media, with some telling their stories.
The #MeToo movement has its share of critics. Some blast the movement as a cheap political stunt, while others make jokes about celebrities like Monica Lewinsky joining the movement.
But to politicize the movement, or turn it into a punchline is to spit in the face of the millions of women who post their #MeToo stories on social media, and the millions more who remain silent.
You see, the #MeToo movement is not about disarming a political party, taking out political opponents, or even “taking it to the man.” It’s about giving people like Janet a voice, raising awareness of an issue that many didn’t know was so widespread, comforting the victims by showing they are not alone, all while sending a message that sexually aggressive behavior will no longer be tolerated.
Without regard to the political affiliations of those who started and promoted the movement, #MeToo is the right choice for Person of the Year. It brought to light a rampant sin that needed to be stopped, and it shaped not only the news cycle, but our cultural perceptions of this issue over the past year.
May we repent of our sexual immorality that has allowed this problem to persist unchecked for so long.
A secular Jew who loved Christmas, that’s how you would have described Andrew Klavan (pictured right) as a young child growing up on Long Island, N.Y. Klavan, author of the True Crime series, as well as other mystery/suspense novels, in addition to providing commentary for The Daily Wire, shared in his autobiography how the joyousness of the holiday attracted him to Christmas.
The Great Good Thing chronicled Klavan’s journey from secular Jew, to agnostic, to Christian by detailing the influences that shaped his faith and worldview. He wrote that as a child, he was attracted to the festiveness of the holiday, as well as the presents and the music that made Christmas the splendid celebration we have enjoyed over the centuries.
A friend of the family used to send Klavan Christmas presents, a practice his mother ended. When Klavan protested, his mother allowed him to celebrate Christmas with a Christian family down the street. Even though Christmas was synonymous with toys, Tonka trucks and candy, it was the music and festivities that attracted him to the holiday well into his adult years.
The joy of Christmas is contagious. The holiday spirit spreads like wildfire this time of year. And even though most people celebrate the holiday with the secular traditions of music, parties and gift exchanges, it does provide an opportunity for us to share Christ with an unbelieving culture. The joy of Christmas is a conduit through which we can transmit God’s message of love, redemption and hope, if we conduct ourselves properly.
Over the past several years, we have seen a national debate over “The War on Christmas.” Now, companies should not prevent their employees from celebrating or even acknowledging Christmas. We should advocate for those employees rights.
However, the Christmas war involving greetings or decor in retail locations concerns me. It concerns me that we organize boycotts over a store hanging “happy holidays” in their window, or accost a store clerk for uttering the same phrase to a customer as he checks out.
Often, very little thought goes into saying “happy holidays.” Most of the time, it’s just a catch-phrase that goes with the season. That, or it’s said to include the other holidays of this season, like New Years.
I have said this before, and I’ve been branded an apostate for it, but I do not believe we do the cause of Christ any good when we complain to store managers about “happy holidays” or correct retail employees for saying that phrase. In our battle to keep “Merry Christmas” on the tips of everyone’s tongue, I believe we lose sight of the larger mission to spread Christmas cheer and to re-insert the Gospel into a cultural cornerstone.
If the joy of Christmas can be the starting point for drawing a young secular Jew like Klavan into the faith, imagine what could happen if we let that joy permeate throughout our culture. Imagine how many other Klavans are out there.
So, as we enjoy a wonderful Christmas season, let’s remember the word of God, inscribed in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
If someone tells you “Happy Holidays,” gently respond with “Merry Christmas.” And if you get a chance to share the Reason for the season, then by all means, do.