Thursday, September 29, 2005

Conformed or Transformed?

Recently I have been reading through my Church history books again, including Foxe's Book of Martyrs, in preparation for some upcoming messages. Although I have read these books before, it has been a while, and I have been moved to tears by the incredible stories of those who preceded us in the faith.

I think of Felicitatis and her seven sons who were killed for their faith, or Rowland Taylor, or the many others. The methods of torture were beyond imagining; I don't even want to go into them on this page, needless to say; they were horrific!

While I am in no way an expert on church history (nor many other things for that matter), it has been on my heart and mind recently to post something about this. I must say that I was spurred by some recent discussions on Pyromaniac's Web Page.

In short: How far do we go to conform to the world in order that we might 'reach' them? If you read through Foxe's Book of Martyrs, some of those tortured and killed were simply asked to make a few concessions to the pagan culture of their time. Wouldn't it have been easier, and wiser, according to some of the modern gurus of CGM, to make these concessions and thereby show the world our 'tolerance' and potentially 'reach' them with the gospel?

Instead we find that, by their faith, these martyrs actually affected the civil authorities around them to such a degree that many were won to Christ!

To be countercultural as the early Christians is anathema to those in today's 'successful' churches. We have more megachurches in the US than ever before, and we find pastors getting their pictures on Newsweek and Time, yet, truth be told, the church is tepid, and lacking in power. Just as large cathedrals and civil recognition did not validate the Roman Church in ages past, so it is true today that these things do not mark CHRISTIAN success. The Church is a mile wide and an inch deep!

Here is an example of today's 'Christian success'; a woman reads portions of a popular Christian book to an escaped criminal, WHILE (it was recently brought to light), she offered him drugs! He eventually turns himself in, and the Christian community cheers about the 'success' of this book. I would assume that we should overlook her offering the criminal drugs, and cheer the 'power' of the book?

Yes, there are big Christian bookstores and megachurches out there, but are they affecting true change in our society or are they slowly, or not so slowly, conforming to the society around them? I recently unsubscribed to a 'supposed' preaching magazine. The articles in this magazine centered around 'being creative' and held up as its examples of successful preachers, men who had sold their birthright for a bowl of the world's pottage! We, as pastors, are no longer to preach the Word, but ENTERTAIN the people.

Do many of these popular, and successful, preachers realize the price that was paid to get the Bible into their hands? Have they read of Tyndale and Wycliffe? Have they studied the lives of people such as Johann Hus? And if so, how can they be so cavalier to relegate the Bible to a reference book that is used only to prove the correctness of their latest book? How can they preach a gospel that is so devoid of power as to be rendered ANOTHER philosophy in the world of philosophies?

Why do we feel that we need to look like, and act like, the world? Why do we need Bibles that are called Revolve and Refuel, that contain beauty and dating tips alongside the Words of Christ? Because those within the very church leadership are not convinced of the power of the gospel. How many could, with Paul, say -- "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

I was not raised in the church, nor did I even care about church! I was a bass player in metal and death metal bands, but what intrigued me about Christ was the woman who is now my wife. She was SO DIFFERENT from those around me. She truly followed Peter's instruction -- ...Do not let your adorning be external -- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing -- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

It was her very demeanor of being DIFFERENT from the world that caused me pause. The rest is history! So, why do we feel that we must conform to the world in order to win it? I worked with youth for fifteen years, many of them troubled youth, i.e. cutters, junkies. I never tried to be 'cool' with them, they were not looking for that; they were looking for truth and honesty and genuine compassion. They were also looking for someone to be an ADULT!

As a matter of fact, most of the folks in the death metal and goth world find the 'Christian' types to be posers and jokes for the most part (there are always exceptions). Most of the so-called 'cool' people in the Christian goth and metal movements do not understand the underlying culture, and simply affect a superficial layer of the culture. What the people in this world need to see is a light, not just another group vying for a place in the world. We are not simply offering up an alternative, but are presenting truth, transforming truth. We should never water that down to be cool!

Monday, September 26, 2005


Being a Messianic Jewish believer can, at times, elicit many conflicting emotions when it comes to witnessing to one's own people.

There is nothing that I desire more than to see my brothers and sisters come to know THEIR Messiah (as well as the world's). I feel for Paul when he writes in Romans 9, these words:

I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit -- that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

However as can be seen from recent events in Eretz Israel this year, the Hasidim are violent in their opposition to the Messianic Believers' presence there. You would think after the millennia of persecution that we have faced, there would be an intolerance to using the same tactics against our own people that were used against us in the not-so-distant past.

However, the reality is that the Hasidim justify this by making the statement; "The believer in this Yeshua is no longer Jewish." But again, I ask, does this justify the violence done to the believers? Although the Hasidim are incorrect; we have never 'stopped' being Jewish; even if this were true as in their bent perspective, would that actually justify stoning and burning a Messianic House of Worship?

Does this not bring up images of Kristallnacht? I am not one of those who would label my own people with the title reserved for the perpetrators of the aforementioned event, however I spoke with a survivor of the camps in WW II, who is now a believer and he said the same things! Is this not tragic; for a man who survived the camps of the Nazis to now, in his old age, be going through the same harassment again, but this time in Eretz Israel?!

The images conjure up not only the events of the pogroms of the past, but also of the days when Messiah walked the streets of Jerusalem, being harassed by the Jewish religious leadership of the day. It is tragic how little has changed in Eretz Israel when it comes to the persecution of those who would follow Messiah!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Is It Just Me...

Or, are you as tired of reading and receiving articles from 'Christian' news outlets that claim they have the answer to Hurricane Katrina?

One group claims that New Orleans was a WICKED city, simply ripe for destruction, as if every other major U.S. city isn't! Another claims that they 'prophesied' this event (even though, upon close inspection of the prophecy, it was made last year during Ivan, which MISSED New Orleans, they just pushed it up a year!) And now the articles have begun flooding in that claim that the whole thing was not necessarily caused by, but certainly exacerbated by, the welfare state/system!

Why is it that we are so quick to claim God's judgment (especially when it promotes our agenda), but so slow to minister God's grace? Is it because there is little in grace that makes ME feel good?

I tire of a Christian community that has become so polarized and political that they no longer can step up and show the world the love of God without sending out articles and newsletters proclaiming God's judgment on all who disagree with them! GIVE ME A BREAK!

It is not that any of us know the dark things of the Lord, so stop the GUESSING, and get down to the business of doing God's work as outlined in the Bible... AND PLEASE NO MORE CHAIN LETTERS, ARTICLES, or PROPHECIES regarding Hurricane Katrina!!!

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Or are they?

Simon Wiesenthal died this week. The former architect who spent his life hunting down Nazi war criminals died in his sleep, in his home in Vienna, Austria. his passing marks the end of an age; one that I pray we never forget.

Being from a family of holocaust survivors, I am appalled by the Holocaust-deniers out there who simply revise history to match their view. General Eisenhower toured the camps extensively, and did so in order to be able to testify to their horrors, yet in today's world we find those who would deny that this ever happened. I assume that they are more capable of reconstructing the camps in their images, rather than depending upon the hundreds and hundreds of eyewitnesses, and the real fact that 6M people diappeared off the face of the earth!

And now, are times really changing? The advisors to PM Tony Blair recommended that he 'ditch holocaust day' (not my words, but the London Times headline).

"ADVISERS appointed by Tony Blair after the London bombings are proposing to scrap the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is regarded as offensive to Muslims.
They want to replace it with a Genocide Day that would recognise the mass murder of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia as well as people of other faiths..."

Here is something that is interesting as well, from the same article -- "A member of one of the committees, made up of Muslims, said it gave the impression that “western lives have more value than non-western lives”. That perception needed to be changed. “One way of doing that is if the government were to sponsor a national Genocide Memorial Day..."

Now, I know that in this day of politically correct speech it is offensive to bring up things such as the foolishness that Jews are NOT Western, and that for precisely this reason they have suffered from millenia. They have been the outsiders, and most people who have any clue at all understand that they are not Western! So, where does this person get off saying that Holocaust Day gives an impression that WESTERN lives have more value than NON-WESTERN lives! And people will listen to this rubbish!

Fortunately, many in the British Parliament have spoken out against this blatant nonsense, expressing that the Holocaust was a unique and horrific event in the annals of European History. Now, as I have said in past posts, I still think that the Armenians are given short shrift for the Holocaust that wiped their country out, but I find it interesting that no Muslims are decrying that ommission. I wonder if it is because the Ottomans (Muslim) were responsible for that genocidal move?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My View on 'Polls'

I saw the latest CNN poll today... Is it me, or do we really need a poll to tell us that the black community and the white community view the calamity in New Orleans differently?

Why is it that CNN and other stations think this is news? Why are we bombarded with the items that divide us, and very little reporting is done on the things that bring us together? I find CNN and others, in their polls, to be practicing the age-old practice of race-baiting. Polls such as the latest one by CNN do nothing to unite the country, but are self-serving and pandering. The racists on both sides of the coin use this as fodder to fuel their furnaces of lies, hate and mistrust!

I think that the tragedy in New Orleans was painfully one-sided, not only within the black community, but specifically the poor black community. Yes, that is a travesty, but we should use this as a time for FIXING the problem, not for polls that will only further heat the simmering pot of race.

I found it interesting as I examined this disaster that much less reporting was done on the damaged Mississippi and Alabama coasts, where they actually had hundreds of deaths as well, and they suffered from the same lack of assistance from the US Government. And I hate to say this, but I believe this is because the 'picture' of the tragedy was not the one that media outlets wanted to present. That is, that these were also low-income and poor people, but many of them were white.

The reality is this; the problem that the US has is with the disparity between the haves and have-nots, NOT simply with issues between black and white. That is slavish pandering, and it does not address POVERTY; it creates tensions within the very peoples that need to be working together to create a solution! Yes, there is a disproportionate number of blacks in major cities which suffer from abject poverty, but within the hill and country communities it is a predominately white issue, and within the valley in Texas it is predominately a Hispanic issue... POVERTY is the enemy, not another race!

And the politicians use these polls to 'prove' their positions. Quite frankly, all politicians are pretty much the same, they care little about their constituency unless it is election year. New Orleans is a city with a black mayor, in a state with a female Democratic governor, yet their problems seem to be no less than those in the states where there are white, male, and/or Republican governments. We need to start getting knowledgeable on the issues that affect us and vote for the right person; not the right color, or right party! And that means ALL SIDES!

The truth be known, it is time for the people in this country to turn off the news outlets, ignoring their polls, turn off the TV and the vicarious living through reality junk, and begin to get smart on the issues in this country that affect all of us as a nation. It is time for us to find out who our neighbor really is. I recall a parable called the Good Samaritan, where a person was taking a poll of who his neighbor was, and Jesus set him straight. You will find this in Luke 10, and I highly recommend reading it! Our neighbors are those who show care and concern, regardless of race. The Samaritan and Jew, in Jesus' day, were bitterly divided over race, and religion; but Jesus went to the heart of the matter: our neighbor is the person who stands with us, and shows mercy... Let us begin to reach our hands across the racial, cultural, and economic boundaries that have, for too long, separated us. Let us shut down the politicians, and news outlets on ALL sides, who would try and divide, and let us take our country back, and let it be ruled by a UNITED PEOPLE... And let us care for, and love, our sick, poor, elderly and dispossessed regardless of race!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Simple Observation

We forced Sharon's hand in removing people from their homes in Gaza; a few weeks later, thousands are dispossessed of their homes in the US... Coincidence? Maybe...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

National Geographic

I found this on Albert Mohler's blog, and wanted to share it with you --

The October 2004 issue of National Geographic Magazine featured a major article warning of an impending catastrophe in the New Orleans area -- a catastrophe most likely to be caused by a major hurricane. The article, entitled "Gone with the Water," now appears to have been hauntingly prophetic.

Writer Joel K. Bourne, Jr. outlined a "doomsday scenario" like this: The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level--more than eight feet below in places--so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it. Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't--yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great. "The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours--coming from the worst direction," says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast. Suhayda is sitting in a lakefront restaurant on an actual August afternoon sipping lemonade and talking about the chinks in the city's hurricane armor. "I don't think people realize how precarious we are," Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. "Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make things much worse." The chances of such a storm hitting New Orleans in any given year are slight, but the danger is growing. Climatologists predict that powerful storms may occur more frequently this century, while rising sea level from global warming is putting low-lying coasts at greater risk. "It's not if it will happen," says University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland. "It's when."