Burning Bridges Instead of Reaching Out

There are many church signs with cute sayings. There are many with profound sayings, some with ones that are witty and some that show great creativity. Then there are those that are offensive or just downright rude, like the one I saw while taking my daughter to school this week.

What was on the sign? “If Christmas offends you than go to Thailand for 30 days. They don’t like it there either. Grow up or shut up.” I don’t really know why poor Thailand was singled out, as far as I know they have never gone out of their way to ruin anyone’s Christmas in south Georgia, but what bothers me is the attitude portrayed in the sign from a church  with the word “grace” in their name.

The unsaved are not the enemy. They are our mission. To unnecessarily offend them makes it ten times as hard to witness to them of God’s love. Christmas is God showing love to man by coming down and becoming one of us. It was for dirty, sinful, lost mankind that He came, not for the smug religious crowd. As a minister, this sign offends me. It also offends the unchurched in our community.

Wouldn’t it be better to hold a community party to celebrate Jesus’ birth? Maybe they could be proactive and do a food drive or help gather presents for the poor that would show God’s love in action instead of belittling those who have not yet experienced the grace of God. Come on church, live up to your name — show grace, the giving of a gift to someone undeserving of it this holiday season instead of being snarky and strident.  Telling a large segment of your community to “Grow up or shut up” simply shows them how childish and immature you are. Why would they come to your church for answers when their life falls apart?

Lost people act lost because they are spiritually blind and without hope. They are spiritually dead and incapable of acting any other way than what they do. So-called Christians acting the way this church did just shows stupidity. I know that is harsh but it is true. The sign may play well to the frozen chosen inside her walls but it embarrasses those of us going out and meeting people in the marketplace and introducing them to a Jesus who offers grace, mercy and new life. I truly wish that this church would grow up and until that happens, please – shut up so the rest of us can give a message of hope to our town. It desperately needs it.

Re-educating the Church

Back in the early ’80’s when I attended high school,  one of our required classes was “AVC”, otherwise known as Americanism vs. Communism. Far more than just a class on governments, the course outlined the philosophical differences between the two ideologies.  One of the stark differences I remember was that in countries like North Korea, Soviet Russia and others, political and religious dissidents and advocates were routinely sent to re-education (through labor) camps. These were a highly effective way of ensuring group think and keeping the powers that be in control.

Fast forward 30 years to present day America.  More and more of our citizens are being sentenced to re-education classes, facing fines and/or jail time for not “evolving” on social issues such as abortion, gay rights, marriage equality and other issues. We have seen heavy handed government enforced re-education philosophies at work in Houston, Idaho and Minnesota recently. Private organizations, churches, even football teams are being pressured to adhere to the new social norm. Anyone who resists must be a Neanderthal in need of re-education to get with the program.

Christians have two choices in froont of them: acquiesce and lose all resemblance to Christ we profess to be like or push back, stand for our beliefs and take any and all punishment meted out by the state as Christ and the Apostles did. America is no longer a safe haven for Christiandom. Declare your allegiance because now it is Americanism vs. Christianity. Teach your children now how to stand in the faith so they can rise up in your place and carry the legacy of the cross forward. Stand and be counted. Now is the time to choose who you will serve.

Quit moaning and wringing your hands wondering what you can do. Live your life according to Biblical principles, engage the culture, vote for moral values – not for party or union dogma and pray for those in power over you that the Holy Spirit would transform their lives. Please, stop lying to yourself that you can just “live your witness” and that will be enough. You must speak, must verbally proclaim the life changing gospel while backing it up with your lifestyle. It isn’t one or the other but both in harmony that provides an effective witness.

When I was young I heard over and over, “When we get together we can talk about anything but religion or politics.” We have reaped what we have sown; masses that cannot think critically about the long term implications of policies and a muddled, confused and impotent church that is irrelevant to mainstream America. Now is the time to declare your true intentions – are you ready to stand up for Jesus no matter the personal cost or are you going to shrink away and continue to compromise? Stand up for Jesus. Stand with your brothers and sisters facing persecution. Get involved and be a force for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Zacchaeus and Transformation

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see

These opening lines to the children’s song Zacchaeus are, unfortunately, the only thing many Christians know about this man. “Oh yeah, he was short and climbed a tree to see Jesus.” What so many fail to realize is that he is one of the supreme examples in Scripture on the issue of repentance and transformation. His turning from a life of skimming extra money from his job to repaying four times the amount he had stolen is unparalleled. The transformation from a despicable tax collector to a disciple is as complete as it is unexpected.

As we continue work on The 180° Project, Ta Ethne hopes to introduce the reader to the awesome power of God demonstrated in many lives, including Zacchaeus. Repentance is such a crucial component to the gospel that we feel compelled to bring resources that will help the Christian church worldwide both understand it better and proclaim it more. Join in prayer with us about this exciting project and if you have any powerful stories about repentance, please share them with us at taethne@outlook.com

 

Wednesday Book Reviews – 2 Books for Children

Today’s reviews focus on two books for younger children. Both are good, with Christian values and morals written in, but not in an overly preachy way. This might be a good starting point for un-churched children to be exposed to some Christian-based stories.

F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by FireF.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire by M.C. Pearson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book, especially from the middle to the end where the pace picks up quite a bit. Not that the beginning was bad, it was necessarily slower paced to introduce the main character and set up the plot line. My daughter also read and enjoyed the book. Very well suited for the 10-15 yr old market although others will enjoy reading it. There are so many characters in the story that it is well suited for follow up books that could use any number of them in a larger role. A good, safe read for kids.

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A Rat and A RansomA Rat and A Ransom by Y.I. Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short book that is well suited to a younger audience. The only complaint I have about the story is how it ended. The story was moving along very well and then .. it just ended. I would really have liked to see the ending handled with the same skill as the rest of the story. I debated between 3 and 4 stars because of this, but went with 4 because what was written was entertaining and kept my interest. A good, safe read for kids.

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Wednesday Book Review

Each Wednesday I will try to review a Christian book or two. They may be fiction or non-fiction. I am eclectic in my tastes so the books will run a wide gamut. If you are an author and would like a review of your book posted here, contact me. Today, I have two books to review. The first is The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish. This review has also been posted on Goodreads. The Air We BreatheThe Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book to review from Bethany House. Since this isn't my normal genre to read, I wanted other eyes to look at it also, so my wife was elected. This way, I wouldn't let my biases get in the way. Chrita Parrish writes a book that is full of rich detail, interweaving the stories of three individuals masterfully. The plot line was well thought out and the story kept our attention. The book elucidated many Christian values. Personally, I would have liked a clear gospel presentation given but since the goal of the book wasn't to use it as a witnessing tool, I can't quibble. It is easy to see why this author has won the ECPA Christian Book Award for Fiction more than once. I recommend it as a good read.

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The second book is called God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big-Screen Batman Can Teach Us About God and Ourselves by Paul Asay
God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach Us about God and OurselvesGod on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach Us about God and Ourselves by Paul Asay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well written and thought provoking. I went into the book a bit skeptical, even though I am both a minister and a comic book collector. With Batman being my favorite hero, I was apprehensive about him being forced into some Christian role model/hero. No worries. An extremely engaging book well worth your time to read - it will even give you a lot to think about

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What Does It Mean To Wait On The Lord?

So many times I hear people telling me that they are waiting on the Lord, and what they mean by that is, they are sitting still, waiting for some move on God’s part to give them a clear direction. I would argue that the better understanding of waiting on the Lord is that of a waitress or waiter at a fancy restaurant. A good waitress or waiter is very attentive to the customer. They are there, asking is everything is okay, seeking to be there when the customer is ready to order and seeking to be there when they are ready to leave, seeking to be there when the customer has a need.

I would say that we are to wait on the Lord this way. Hovering, anticipating, ready at a moments notice to spring to His side when summoned. Willing to serve, knowing that there are things we are to do that is common to all His children: serving the poor, ministering to others, edifying the body, witnessing to the lost, discipling the brethren. Just as a waiter has jobs that he does for each customer – filling drinks, taking orders, etc. There is never a time when they are not busy working, even if a particular customer hasn’t summoned them yet.

Instead of sitting and doing nothing until we hear a specific call or direction, maybe we should be actively waiting – doing those things already commanded for us to do by our boss, the Lord Jesus.

You see, the two definitions of the word wait that show two completely different ideas. The first is to be in a state of  repose or to remain inactive until something expected happens. That is how most Christians define waiting on the Lord. The second is considered archaic,  to attend upon or escort, especially as a sign of respect. I would argue that it is this archaic definition that is the more biblical one.

How are you waiting on the Lord?