“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Toll

While we await for the final count of the death and destruction in the gulf region, I wanted to at least put a post in that provides my feelings.

I have to admit; I find it almost criminally negligent that a major US City was designed and built in such a precarious position, however, the human suffering has forced me to look beyond that.

The design and rebuilding of that area is for later; today we have people who need all the prayers and assistance that we can provide. I must say that I was very moved by the news reporters who, for a change, dropped their 'professional' demeanor, and actually responded to the tragedy around them. Several reporters were moved to tears by the scenes, and I must admit, I was as well...

The size and scope of this tragedy was hard for me to even imagine until some pictures started coming in of the damage! It is truly horrific, and beyond my meager imagination. But, the sight of damaged homes and ruined buildings, cars, and roads, pale in relation to the pictures of the real devastation: families torn apart, children being rescued from rooftops, senior citizens being carried out of homes with a lok of complete horror and/or bewilderment on their faces.

Is there a bright spot: yes, I believe there is. We are seeing a nation coming together to help its own. We saw this in the weeks and months following 9-11, but unfortunately, it faded as everyone got back to their own self-centered world (me included). Maybe this time we can come together as a nation and look around us, and realize that we NEED one another, poor and rich, black, white, brown, city-slickers and country bumpkins.

We have become a nation polarized in our politics, social institutions, income ranges and a whole host of other areas. It is time for us to look beyond the differences and begin to CARE again.

It is also a time for the church to step up and be the light and salt that the Lord has told us we should be. We should be (and many, many churches are) leading the way in the recovery and assistance effort, and we should show the love of Christ in all of our actions; sharing the gospel by LIVING it out. What is truly a disaster is also an opportunity to touch lives with the truth of Christ; not by shoving a tract down someone's gullet, but by TOUCHING the hurting, as Christ reached out and touched the hurting, leperous, blind, maimed and 'untouchable' in the days He walked the earth!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Burundi

Is it possible that the people of Burundi will finally begin to rebuild their lives? Will Nkurunziza actually be able to bring about a true change? We have heard all of the apologies and the attempts at reconciliation, now it is time to see if this can actually happen.

Nkurunziza claims to be Christian, but we have seen what a tough road that is for politicians; including those in the good ole USofA. I would encourage all to pray for this people; while there are many obstacles to overcome, and many other African countries in strife, this COULD be a new day for Burundi.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, the world watches, and waits. We pray that this will be the dawn of a new day for your people!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Thank You Pat Robertson

Another wonderful representation of Christianity by our dear, tottering, old friend Pat Robertson! This week, he has suggested, nay recommended, that we send some Special Forces down to Venezuela to 'off' President Chavez.

I am SO PROUD that the world ties me to Pat because of his professed belief in Messiah! He does such a good job of spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Hezekiah 14 is says - "Go therefore and subjugate all nations, baptizing them in a hail of bullets in the name of democracy, capitalism, and oil; teaching them to observe all that the USA commands. And behold, Ronald Reagan is with you always, to the end of the age."

There is no Hezekiah, I am being facetious...

What it actually says in the Word of God is this...

1st Timothy 2:1-4: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Romans 13:1, 2: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

And finally (there are more places, but these will suffice)...

1st Peter 2:13-15: Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

I am not saying that we abandon the public forum; that is wrong. What I am saying is that we should use the public forum as Paul did on Mars Hill, to present the gospel. Yes, we should challenge the world view of the lost, it is empty and shallow and we should expose it for what it is. Unfortunately, whenever a 'Christian' leader gets an opportunity to speak in the public forum, it is all too often about taxes, school vouchers, and other triviality such as the item that Pat Robertson spoke of this week!

This should not surprise anyone; when we have the majority of Christians reading books about their purpose, and having the good life now, we are going to get this type of nonsense. These books are man-centered (forget the protestations, read the book itself), and therefore, our thoughts and words will be man-centered as well. What ever happened to the true gospel men and women; those who lived a life of self-sacrifice, denying their own comforts in order that Christ may be preached? Alas, they are all too rare in today's 'marketplace' of ideas.

What are we called to?

Philippians 1:12-18: I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Philippians 4:11-13: Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

How do those passages fit within the community that is man-centered and ego-seeking? How does it fit within the cult of personality that marks many of the so-called mega-churches today?

Pat Robertson does NOT speak for Christ! And I for one will not let his asinine statements go unchallenged! Pat, pick up the Word of God; refamiliarize yourself with it, and get out of the public forum until you have figured out what we, as people of Christ, are called to be doing and saying!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Tears and Anger

This picture sums up the abandonment of the Gaza settlements:

http://info.jpost.com/C003/Supplements/potw/current/index.html

Here you see the pain of the Jewish people as a Rabbi and an IDF soldier both tearfully hold on to the Torah, and each other as Atzmona is evacuated. At the end of the day, the picture is a poignant picture of the reality of being Jewish; we only have one another and the Word of God to hold on to.

There are many reasons to cry, here are but a few:

First and foremost I cry because I look at my people, who cling to God, yet still reject His Messiah. I realize that my belief in Yeshua Ha Maschiach puts me outside the fellowship of many of my own people, yet I cannot stop caring for and loving them. It is at times such as these that I feel my Jewishness burn at its brightest.

I cry because a professing Christian world leader has abandoned the people of God for political expediency; quite possibly to divert attention from a war going less then well. And we still have people in the US who will turn a blind eye to this because he promotes their 'special interests'!

I cry because a government that not only allowed, but promoted, settlers to go in and 'claim the land' has now completely abandoned these settlers. For millennia there was a belief that if we could only return to our land, and be self-ruled that we would no longer suffer the indignation of being people without a home; yet here we find a government, comprised of Jewish leaders, removing people from their homes, and forcibly destroying the towns that people poured thirty years of their lives into. Yes, they are paid for their relocation, but how do you pay for the lives lost in the struggle to make a home in the midst of your enemy?

I cry because the terrorists celebrate and laugh...

I cry because my people cry...

There are also some realities that I understand. I realize that I, as a Jew living in the US, have a very different perspective on the situation than my brothers and sisters in Israel. I can say many things, yet it is not I that put my children onto Egged buses every morning, praying that the bus will arrive at its destination in one piece. It is not I who has to contemplate going into public places, with the ever-present thought in the back of my mind that there may be a lunatic out there planning to detonate themselves in the very queue that I stand in, waiting to enter a nightclub, or restaurant. To put things into perspective; how long can a people be constantly terrorized, their children killed, and their peace shattered, before they say ENOUGH and are willing to try anything to stop the constant harassment? And it is not only the physical terrorists, but the mental terrorists, most notably the UN (and now the US) who are constantly haranguing the Israelis for any retributive strikes they make against the Palestinians.

If a terrorist kills 15 on a bus, that is freedom fighting; if the IDF levels a block of houses to expose bomb-making facilities, that is harassment of an occupied people. The UN has always consistently, and clearly, been against Israel. Israel has had very few friends in its history, the US being the most notable, and now they find that this friend has used coercion to force Ariel (the lion that no longer roars) Sharon to capitulate to the cutthroats and thugs that surround the nation of Israel. So, yes, many of the people in Israel are willing to remove the settlers. And they call this peace! The stock markets are up in Israel, and the hopes are high that THIS sacrifice will be the one which allows the nation to live in peace.

There are many newspaper columnists in the US and abroad who say it is about time that the Israelis get off the land that is rightfully the Palestinians! They say that Israel has illegally settled on land that is Palestinian. Ah, ignorance is truly bliss it appears! To be so ignorant of such recent history is somewhat surprising, but when it comes to Israel, revisionism doesn't even have the courtesy to wait a generation!

The Israelis were provided a homeland, and within hours of achieving statehood, they were attacked by the Arab nations around them. They survived, and were subject to constant harassment from these so-called neighbors. Then in 1967, they were attacked again, and this time they were able to regain Jerusalem and the Egyptian areas of Sinai and Gaza (and others), and the Jordanian area that is now called the West Bank. Funny enough, the Egyptians and Jordanians never saw fit to provide the Palestinian refugees with decent living conditions in all the years that they owned these territories.

So the areas where they 'illegally' have settlements were won in a war! Much like the US' illegal settlements in Honolulu, Harlingen, San Diego etc. How about we start removing the settlers from Brownsville, Texas next week? Would that work Mr. President? It seems to me that this would only be fair, right?

I started this post out with the intent to simply share my sadness, but it is followed so closely by my anger at a world which is clearly anti-Semitic, that I have a hard time stopping at a prudent point.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Travel - Part Two

I told you this was coming. Rather than a full-blown rant, how about a few suggestions? This concerns passengers. It is quite easy to be hard on the airlines and their employees, but what about us; are we good travelers/customers? NO, not all the time!

So, here's a couple of suggestions/comments from me to you, you will recognize yourself, I do :-) Maybe you are in more than one group, so just read on!

Vacationers (and extremely infrequent travelers):

1. Please take time BEFORE you get to the TSA screening area to familiarize yourself with procedures for entering into the secured departure terminal. Do not stand at the X-Ray screening device and THEN begin to figure out what to do.

2. Just because you are on vacation DOES NOT mean that everyone else is, so please be efficient and prepared, OK? And DO NOT play twenty questions with every ticket agent, TSA agent, and/or gate agent that you encounter. If you see a line forming behind you, don't stand there discussing your travel destination. There is nothing wrong with doing this if the terminal is lightly loaded, but please refrain from this practice otherwise!

3. Some answers for you NOW (before you get to the screening area)
a. YES - You DO HAVE to place your purse on the X-ray belt to be screened.
b. YES - You SHOULD remove your shoes.
c. YES - If its metal put it in a plastic bin for screening.
d. NO - DO NOT put your ID and ticket in a plastic bin for screening, CARRY IT WITH YOU!

Parents:

1. Every one of your children DO NOT need a roller bag for the trip, gimme a break! What does a 5-year old have that requires a seperate roller bag? While this may placate the child, it also takes away space in the overhead bins for someone who actually needs a rollerbag.

2. Bring something to occupy your child, especially if they are a self-centered brat used to getting their own way! Everyone on the plan does not want to be serenaded with "I WANT A CRACKER" at the top of the child's lungs for a 3 hour period. Do not punish the rest of us for your lack of parenting skills!

3. DO NOT bring the largest stroller you can find and the complain about not being able to get it in the overhead.

4. DO NOT bring a newborn/infant on the plane. I know, Grandma wants to see her baby; let her fly down/up to see you. Flying hurts a baby's ears, which in turn has a tendency to hurt everyone else's ears. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but overall, there is not a good reason to bring an infant on a plane. People USED TO sacrifice travel for a while in deference to others and their own children! I feel bad for those infants who are in obvious pain as the plane pressurizes. give them, and us, a break!

5. Arrange to sit with your children, do not foist them upon some poor, unsuspecting business traveler who then has to defend himself/herself from projectile vomiting, a precocious child, screaming, or getting his/her briefcase colored with bright crayons (happened to me).


Businessmen/Frequent Travelers:

1. You're not that important; get over yourself.

2. STOP treating everyone else like dirt, I probably have twice as many air miles as you, so learn to put up with the annoyances of traveling. I may not like these annoyances, but I do not sit around cussing at the top of my lungs about it.

3. STOP bringing everything you own on-board the plane and then berating the attendents when you cannot fit the steamer trunk, (just because it has wheels does not make it a rollerbag), that you brought, into the overhead bin. CHECK a bag, give everyone else a break.

4. GET OFF your cell phone when the attendent asks you to, and don't turn it on AS SOON as we are wheels down, calling someone and then proceeding to talk in as loud a voice as you can. NO ONE (and I mean no one) is so important that they cannot be out of touch for an hour or so.

5. STOP putting your stuff in my overhead bin!

6. DON'T assume that everyone else is interested in your phone and/or business conversation. If you are talking to someone, try to keep it below a level where others are kept awake by your self-absorbed nonsense.

Everyone:

1. BOARD when your group/seat/row is called, and DO NOT stand around the door to the jetbridge so that no one else can board the aircraft. There is a reason that the airline places a seat number on your ticket; this is so everyone HAS a seat. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceptions, OK?

2. Try to at least dress like you are traveling and not about to attend a National Homeless Convention. I know, I am being incredibly insensitive here, but there is nothing worse than being smashed into a seat next to a person who looks and smells like they have not seen a good bar of soap for a week or more. Its not cool; YOU STINK, so have some courtesy here. Also. women, could you at least put on enough clothing that you don't make the poor man sitting in the seat next to you so self-consious that he is uncomfortable the entire trip! Yes, the younger men (and many of the older) may find it stimulating, but those of us who are happily married, and simply wanting to get from point A to point B find it uncomfortable. If you want to dress inappropriately, wait til you land, and can do it where I am not sitting 8-10 inches from you! Also, both sexes: Lay off the perfume/cologne. There is nothing that is more painful than to be sitting next to someone who put their perfume on with a paintbrush!

3. GET OUT of the way when boarding the plane. Get to your seat and get out of the way! Why is it that everyone has to straighten out their seat, comb their hair, and ensure their bag is neatly packed while everyone else waits behind them?

4. TURN DOWN or OFF your PC speakers; better yet, get headphones.

5. If you cannot lift your bag into the overhead bin, then you should check it. STOP making everyone else feel obligated to help you lift the sixty pound behemoth that you packed into the overhead. Exceptions: Wives, if your husbands lift the bag into the bin, that is fine. If size, diability or age prevent you from being able to do so, then have an attendent help you. Otherwise, pack what you can carry, and carry what you pack!

6. TURN OFF all annoying ring tones that constantly go off as everyone is waiting to get off the plane.

7. AND, upon arriving at the gate, let the pilot turn off the 'Fasten Seat Belt' sign BEFORE you knock over the old woman in the row across from you, scrambling to ensure that you are off the place before everyone else. Also, sit on your butt if you know that others are trying to catch a connecting flight and you are at your destination!

There they are; a few suggestions/comments that will make traveling better for us all... Thanks, your traveling buddy, Ray!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Travel Part One

Is it just me, or are the major airlines really providing abysmally poor service? I travel almost every week, and consistently I have a poor experience.

This week, it took me ten hours for a two hour flight! I got to the airport bright and early, as instructed by the TSA, and found out that the airline had cancelled my flight, but somehow had failed to notify me after I checked on the flight from my home. (I live ten minutes from the airport).

Don't get me wrong; when I arrived, the ticket agent did his job, but the airline itself is consistently poor in its performance. The flight that I was scheduled on was cancelled because somewhere in the world there was poor weather the day before, and they could not get an aircraft to DFW to provide a flight. This goes along with the poor planning and scheduling that I experience weekly. DFW is the hub of American Airlines, and they cannot find an aircraft? I could understand this if it was an anomaly, but this is the standard operating procedure.

And EVERY time (for the last five trips) that we have arrived on AA in DFW, there has been a plane at our gate, regardless of whether we are early or late. So we sit, on the tarmac, waiting.

One of my favorite things is how the airline places the blame for departure delays on the passengers. During yesterday's debacle, after many of the passengers had waited in excess of six hours to catch this flight, as we boarded, we heard the flight attendent saying this: "We cannot move the plane back until everyone is seated, so please move to your seat and be seated." As if we were lollygagging about, joking and laughing! Somehow it is suddenly the passengers who are delaying the plane from rolling back! WHAT? I have been waiting for hours, so at least have the courtesy to let me get to my seat and get my stuff put away!

I mean, why does it take forty minutes for a major airline to turn a plane when Southwest can do it in twenty, and guess what, when I board a SW plane, it actually appears as though someone HAS cleaned it! Last week, after our forty minute wait (which was after an hour plus delay), my seatback and the one next to me had someone's lunch and newspapers in the pocket. So what were they doing for forty minutes?

Then we get on the plane, and the seats are so small that I literally cannot fit between the armrests (and no, I am not obese, I am 6'5", and about 245), and once I have gotten into the circulation-blocking seat, my knees are pressed against the seatback in front of me. The minute the flight leaves the ground, the person in front of me dutifully lays their seat back, causing me intense pain until I beg them to lean forward a bit.

The 'service' is, well, no much quite frankly. In order to save a few dollars, AA has now removed pillows, food, and anything else that was actually for the customers, and has become the modern Aeroflot (for those who flew this wonderful airline, you know what I mean). The attendents are misnamed, they are quite often inattentive, and while it used to be the norm, it is now a welcome change to get a flight crew who seems to care.

I understand that the flight attendents have a lot to deal with as well, but is it too much to be at least courteous? I think not. Everyone at the airline seems to have adopted the 'I am going to do my job and very little else' attitude. Ticket agents are not friendly, merely functional. Gate agents are a bit better, and, to be fair, there are always those shining examples of wonderful service as well, but they are becoming more and more rare, and I fear that they will become extinct in a few years.

And here is the kicker! I paid 1500 for my last flight! So, it is not like the fares are properly priced for the bare-bones service that is received. And, of course, lets blame the price of gas etc etc etc, yet I paid this price before the gas situation!

I am just venting, but I am so sick of this type of service that I am about to cancel my AA cards, and simply fly an airline that wants my business, and I know of several that I have had consistently good service on, such as AirTran, and Jet Blue. (I know, I have a few horror stories about these as well, but the key word is CONSISTENTLY)

Part Two will allow me to vent about the passengers... :-)

P.S. My entire family has worked for, or does work for American Airlines or another major carrier, so I understand those frustrations as well, but I truly believe that the service has reached an all-time low, as has morale...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Israel

It is a shame that no one knows or cares about history. The US is disgusting in it's wanting to 'right' all the wrongs that have been committed in Israel, and have pressured that big disappointment, Sharon, into ceding land...

If anyone thought about it, they would remember that these most of those areas were won in a war, after the other side attacked.

BTW, I have several Palestinian Christian friends who now reside in the US. They used to live in Bethlehem, and when the PLO took over, they were so persecuted that they fled. There is a massive brain drain going on in PLO territory. Also, isn't it interesting that with all of the money that ISRAEL, not even counting everyone else, pours into this 'state' they still lack the most fundamental items, such as drinking water, sanitation etc. And yet, the leaders and terrorists cells are financed without a problem.

Israel has not been innocent in all of this, but much of the problem lies within the corrupt and ignorant leadership of the PLO (you call them whatever you want). BTW, after the recent land grab was announced, one of the leaders in the occupied territories said that now they are on a march to Jerusalem. Anyone who thinks for a second that the Palestinian state will be satisfied with the land is crazy. Their stated goal is to eradicate the Jewish state.

Not only did Israel win this land in a war, but the land that was originally provided via the Balfour (the original Israel in 1948) was wasteland, which Israel has restored, and they have built a thriving economy. What do you think would happen if the PLO would get their hands on all of this? The only democracy in the region, the only real economy in the region, the only country that could be considered first world in the region. Hmm, lets persecute them, and make them give the land back... WHAT IS BUSH THINKING? Bowing to pressure... Political expediency versus morally correct action...

BTW, now that Sharon has stepped up and done what is right, when does Bush cede back Texas and California to Mexico, and the remainder of the country to the nations of Native Americans that we took it from? Oh, and lets not forget the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 19th century. Let's fix that... BTW, the way we fix that today is to give native Hawaiians land that is oftentimes useless... Why have we not been pressured to give back the Islands? Hmm... And those critics of Israel, Turkey, when do they give back the Armenian lands that were taken in the Holocaust in Armenia in which 1.5M people were exterminated? Need I go on?

What a load!

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Day in the Life

Here I sit, in the dark, in another hotel room; 3000 miles from the people I love, especially the woman I love. For 20+ years I have been a ‘business’ traveler. I have scaled the ladder of mileage programs from nobody to Executive Platinum, and back down the other side, and you know what? It’s all about the same. There are those who would disagree with me, but I have a million plus miles, so I do have some experience. Waiting in a noisy gate area, delays, delays, and more delays, then standing in line to board, and then getting jammed into a seat designed by the Marquis de Sade, and finally LEAVING loved ones. As I sit here and think about it, I traveled BEFORE laptops and iPods, cell phones and Blackberries (or Crackberries). Time has certainly flown!

And I really dislike travel on Sunday as this is the day when many children are being sent back to one parent or another. It was true again today; a father walked his small son up to the gate agent; she dutifully placed a tag around the boy’s neck with his ticket and ‘vital’ information in it, and the agent took the child’s hand (he gave it reluctantly, clinging to his dad as long as possible), and walked him down the jet bridge. As I watched the father, he walked along outside the glass, paralleling his son’s path until he could no longer see him, and then, turning away, he slowly, almost imperceptibly, wiped a tear from his eye. The boy was returning to his mother, on the same flight as me, 3000 miles away from dad. Is it any wonder that God hates divorce?

I also dislike traveling on Sunday because this is the day when my extended family gets together (my church) and I look forward all week to seeing everyone. I truly love the people that God has placed in this little roadside church. We are not very upscale, and we don’t have a lot of frills (matter of fact, I don’t think we even possess ONE frill, much less two!), but I believe that we care about one another. These people have come to mean as much to me as anyone in my life, save my wife whom I love beyond words. This is my day to spend as much time as possible with them and traveling on this day cuts into that. Sometimes I wonder why they put up with a traveling pastor, but I am glad that they do. My life has been enriched beyond words by my friends.

So, here I sit, in a darkened hotel room, alone. This must be what bone-tired feels like…

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

That's Entertainment

I want to preface this post with a statement: I am not naming names in this post; not because I want to protect those I am speaking of, but because, when names are used, people tend to forget the problem and focus on a person.

I recently read an article where a well-known pastor was being interviewed. He was being asked about the role of the mega-church in our society. The first thing I noticed is that he spent much of his time presenting his credentials. For example, several times he mentioned that he was a VERY successful author, and leader of a VERY large church, as if these were, in and of themselves, somehow pertinent to his ability to speak of the faith. I wonder; would they allow Jesus Christ to speak at the conference? This same Jesus Christ, when speaking of the committment required to follow Him, pared his followers down from thousands to twelve. (John 6) He certainly would not be a hit amongst the Church Growth Movement (CGM) groups out there today! Jesus knew that the people were simply following Him for the bread that He provided, and were not interested in actually becoming true disciples of His.

Many of the so-called preaching magazines today are not focused on building up the pastor, but in offering up a modern 'bread' in the form of cool 'effects' that you can add to the worship 'experience' which will keep people attending. Some examples are; proper lighting for a worship experience, the correct illustration at the correct time, physically moving the location of the worship team to keep people in a state of expectancy, etc. These are nothing more than various forms of bread to keep the people coming back for more. Clearly we see a move away from the faith and a move towards entertainment. But understand that this is not new! Jesus experienced people following Him for the entertainment as well.

How many people attend mega-churches because of the wonderful music, or the fun events, or the interesting illustrations using large-scale military equipment (I am not exaggerating)? Or worse yet, attend because they can 'blend in' and safely attend with no accountability? In other words, how many attend because of the 'bread' that is being offered? How many would attend if next week there were no lights, no videos, no cool gimmicks, etc. What if the the pastor came out and gave a sermon and that was it? No special effects, no special music, or lighting, simply reading of God's Word.

When Ezra read the Word of God to the people, in a sermon lasting all day and night, they fell on their faces and repented, seeking God. Why don't we see that in our churches? We have trained people to have their needs met, not to meet with God.

When it comes down to it, I believe that pastors are called to equip the saints for the works of ministry, doing this by edifying the saints, teaching on the beauty of God's grace, the awesomeness of His Holiness, yet at the same time preaching in order to see sinners convicted of their sin. This runs counter to many of the shallow sermons I have heard coming from pulpits today. Many of the ones I have witnessed have involved philosophical dissertations on how to be better at parenting, or cooking low-carb food, or sex. These are all real sermons that I heard myself!

One very well-known pastorprenuer, (that is the title of a book out now, but I like how it sums up many of these folks), even preached several sermons (on sex) without ever opening his Bible, referring to it only when he held it up at the beginning of his service in order to chant the 'official' liturgy that he has developed. He, like so many others, use the Bible as a magic amulet, pulling it out only to 'proof-text' a point he is trying to make, rather than reading it and providing some exposition of the text in order to provide true application in the lives of his congregation.

Now, I am not against 'mega-churches' per se; although many have claimed that it is out of envy that pastors at smaller churches are so cynical about CGM. For example, I had one CGM pastor tell me, 'Well, you simply don't have what it takes to grow a church into the thousands', and that was his reasoning as to why I was against what his church was doing. No, I am not against mega-churches, but I am against the goal of creating a mega-church using any method that is deemed successful. God does not function by the adage, "The end justifies the means", that is pragmatism, not God! God wants to bring glory to Himself, NOT to a church, or particular preacher.

Truth be known; sure I would love to have a larger church, but I also realize that it is God who builds the church, and all of the methods that the modern church has borrowed from the world may increase the numbers, but it is God who provides the true increase. There will be many tares amidst the wheat, and Christ Himself said that the world will hate us when we are preaching the gospel in its proper form.

When I see pastors getting their pictures on the cover of Time magazine and being asked to speak at major secular conferences, I watch what they say. Not because it is a sin to receive accolades, but because that is a moment when the opportunity for the gospel to reach a wider crowd is at its zenith, and how these men respond will tell whether or not they are 'preachers'. Alas, all too often, nary a word concerning the gospel comes out, rather they spew forth some idealogically 'safe' non-gospel, sometimes they even mention Jesus' name (albeit in a very general way, not as Savior and Lord) a couple of times to ensure that everyone is at least aware that they profess some form of Christianity and they are not simply Dr. Phil wannabes.

It is no longer in vogue to preach the gospel in its true form, because, as one of the guru's of the modern church movement says, people don't want to be 'scolded'! Funny, that seems to run contrary to the very book that they proclaim to be following! If you read any of Paul's writings, I think you would find that he was 'scolding', and truth be known, the regeneration which every pastor should desire to see in his congregation comes about by conviction of our sin. 1st Thessalonians opens up with the fact that the gospel came to the church in Thessalonika with CONVICTION, in Acts 2 we find that men, upon hearing the gospel, were pierced in their hearts by the message.

How is it that these men get it so wrong? These men who have degrees, and knowledge etc.? It is simple; they are using the world's ways to 'woo' people to Christ, and their churches are growing larger all the time, and the money and fame is flowing. I don't say that these men are any different than I might be in the same situation (I would pray that I not be, but that is something for another post). My point is that we are warned about the allure of fame and fortune, and when I hear these men spouting the numbers in their church, or the volume of books they sell, and then using that as a basis for their 'authority' on the Christian faith, I tend to be leery. The world would say that it is hard to argue with success, but as a pastor I would say that these things are meaningless unless the true gospel is being preached.

In Jesus' time the biggest 'church' was run by the Priesthood, they had big, beautiful buildings, they had people flocking to the temple, yet Christ seemed disinterested in this. As a matter of fact, when the disciples spoke of the beauty of the Temple, and the size of the grounds, Jesus tells them that none of the stones would be in place, and all would be thrown down. In other words, that big beautiful building would be destroyed. The enduring aspect of the church is the gospel, NOT the facilities.

With all of this being said, I would like to make it clear that I am not some backwoods Luddite, eschewing any modern technologies. However, when the message is overshadowed by modern methods, then I believe that we are wrong. What these (CGM) men have done with the church is made it consumer- based, rather than God-centered. If people want consumer needs met, then let them shop at Wal-Mart (another post about my feelings regarding Wal-Mart may be in the offing); the job of a pastor is to preach the gospel that is so unpopular; that message which has the audacity to say that man is desperately sinful and in need of a Savior, that God Himself provided that Savior, and that by placing our faith in Him, we are found righteous. Man is not a little bad, he is fallen, let us proclaim that and then follow immediately with the GOOD NEWS, which is that we can be picked up from our fallen state and brought into the presence of God!

Telling people how to be better people may make them nicer, but it won't provide salvation. Let us return to the gospel and leave the entertainment to others!