It all began with one little girl and one man in 1948. Bob Pierce was a missionary in China preaching to some children and one little girl, White Jade, became a Christian, went home, and told her family. She was beaten and thrown out by them so she came to Bob and a school director for help. Bob asked the school director what she could do to help the girl. The director threw the question back at him, “What are you going to do about it?” He gave her the $5 he had in his pocket and pledged to continue giving money to support her. When he returned to the US he gathered more money to send, and then told the stories of other children. After the Korean War he began an organization to help the thousands of widows and orphans created by the conflict. Today, World Vision operates in 100 countries with more than 30,000 full time staff, touching millions of lives.
How did this happen? We can look at an organization like World Vision and say, we can’t do that. But the reality is it started with one man and what he had.
Stearns in part 5 of his book talks about repairing the hole in our world. You can look at a story like this and you can look to exampels in the Bible as well. He does a great job with the feeding of the 5,000. Read the rest of this entry »
Imagine two churches. The Church of God’s Blessings looks like what it’s name suggests. It’s been blessed to grow in a new suburban development. The staff has boomed along with the membership. Thanks to a recent campaign, they have a new building with pipe organ, sound system, video equipment. It’s all top notch. And of course, they have numerous programs to meet the needs of their people. And yes, once a year a big mission festival with food, decorations, games, etc to think about those outside their church and around the world. Afterwards, the members hop into thier shiny cars and head back home.
Then you look at the Church of the Suffering Servant. It’s a 50 person congregation in West Africa that meets under a large shade tree becuase they have no building. The people have subsistence style lives. The members endure sickness, hunger, and war in their country. Yet they also gather faithfully and listen to sermons and sing about God’s love and his mission for their lives too.
Imagine what would happen if the Church of the Suffering Servant got a look at the Church of God’s Blessings. What would they think? What would their hopes be? This is how Stearns begins part 4 of his book, A Hole in the Church. Read the rest of this entry »
+Have you ever watched a church being built?
Watching any large building being put together is probably close enough. It’s such an amazing thing to see in process. This morning as I was walking back from chapel I saw two cranes lifting up a huge truss for our new santuary and it got me to thinking. There were so many people involved. There were the men operating the cranes. There were men standing on beams bring the truss to rest There were guys with welders and bolts ready to go. There were the men orchestrating the whole thing from the ground. And then you can think of the people who designed it all, who made the beams, and even delivered them. There are so many people involved in building a church.
Of course, this isn’t just true of a church building. We’re used to talking about the Church as people and that’s true, but then it makes us consider some important questions. How are we part of the process of building the Church? How should we be working together with other members to keep building the Church? And by that, we don’t mean simply getting people into the building to join, but building up people in the faith and extending the Church into all the world, whether it has to do with a physical building or not.
There are so many people involved and we need to work together. We should be aware of what other Christians are doing, how they’re building, and think about how we can partner with them, how we can be part of the process. You don’t worship in isolation, and we don’t reach out in isolation either. We all need to be building together.
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. (1 Cor. 3:9-10)
Are there ever things you know you should read, but you don’t feel like being discouraged by the news?
It’s been a while since I did a post in the series on the book “Hole in the Gospel”, but I thought I’d pick it back up. I’ll admit that it was a little hard to get motivated sometimes to tell you about this chapter. It was a hard chapter to read. It’s the kind where piece after piece is added to what seems like some an enormous mountain describing poverty.
Sometimes it was numbing statistics. Each day 26,500 children die from preventable causes. Yet that just seems like a number right? The author of the book imagined it as if 100 jumbo jets went down in flames every day. We’d react to that right? No cost would be too great right? These deaths are preventable. Sometimes the statistics were challenging. in 1800 the gap between the wealthy and poor was 4-1. Today, it’s 75-1. Wow, you realize where we as Americans sit on that spectrum.
But he didn’t just give statistics. Read the rest of this entry »
So why do we make New Years Resolutions? Have you thought about that as you consider your own coming up?
This is again one of those areas of history where there is much tradition and probably not complete certainty. New Years celebrations themselves go back thousand of years with the ancient Babylonians who celebrated the New Year in March with some pagan festivals and very racous activities. The Romans moved the New Year and while many emperors tinkered with it, it finally did settle onto what we today call January 1st. This month is actually named in recognition of the Roman god, Janus, who had two faces, one looking to the past, and the other toward the future. It is said that Julius Caesar made New Years resolutions to honor Janus. We know that this tradition became popular in Roman times with most focusing on some kind of moral betterment.
As Christian influence rose within the Roman Empire, there was a pushback against New Years celebrations, mostly because of the pagan and immoral activity associated with the revelry around the day. Read the rest of this entry »
So the Hallelujah chorus has to be one of the most beloved pieces of Christian music. While it’s not one we generally find ourselves humming, most of us love to listen to that exultant piece of music. There’s just something about it that truly captures that joy of the season, that overwhelming joy of the Savior who has come, and who has come to us.
Listen and watch. Take some time to feel that joy right now.
Take a moment and pray, thanking God, talking to him in a very real way about how Christmas has hit you this season. What has God been trying to do with you this year as he gathers your life around his salvation story in Jesus?
And of course, part of the fun with Christmas songs of old is to find out the story behind them. This is probably the best telling of it that I could find, giving some real insight into both Handel and his composition of ,”Messiah”. Oh, and one sidenote, a lot of people ask about the standing for the Hallelujay Chorus. As best I could tell from my research we do not actually know that King George came and stood for the chorus because he was moved to recognize the King of Kings. This is certaily a possiblity for the origin of the practice, but this isn’t first written down until years after the piece was first played in England.
God’s blessings on your Christmas season!
This song points out exactly why God is God and we’re not.
We certainly have in our minds the way God should do things. How he should do things in our lives and how he should do things in the world at large. But so often, as he works things out, it’s not at all what we would have planned.
This is also true of Christmas. You’ve probably heard people highlight this before- who would have imagined that God would choose to save the world by becoming man, a baby, and such a humble arrival at that. And yet, when Jesus was in the manger, it became a throne. He was attended by lowly shepherds, but also by wise men, powerful men from the East. No one would make room for him in a house, but angels from the throneroom of heaven made their way to earth to sing his praise.
God does things his way, not our way. Some of it seems like utter contradiction, but with God it all comes together in such a beautiful way. Philippians 2 points that out, “Jesus made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…. he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place…. ”
Notice the “therefore”. Death on a cross is not what our minds would have naturally linked with exaltation to a throne. But in God’s mind, it comes together perfectly for our salvation. Jesus is exalted becasue of what he did on the cross. And it begins before passion week. God brings these tensions and seeming contradictions to bear all throughout his salvation history. He raises up the young, the weak, those not considered powerful in the world, and he makes precisely such things into his means of salvation.
And so this week, as you consider the birth or our Lord, as you think about the tensions and the strange circumstances of his birth, consider also how God uses tensions and contradictions in your own life to work out his will. As the song says, “That dirty manger is my heart, too I’ll make it a royal throne for You”. Our hearts may not appear fit for a king, but our king says he wants them anyway. Praise God!
This is another song that captures the mystery of Christmas. The words and music are both beautiful and they pull me to that night when Jesus was born.
Imagine it again…
Imagine being there that night as Mary or Joseph, sitting there and pondering the God that you worshipped, now somehow in front of you in the form of a tiny baby that you just gave birth to. If you’ve ever been part of a birth you know how amazing every baby is, but imagine that night. Looknig at those hands and feet. Taking in the face. Trying to figure out how this can be your child and also your Lord.
Imagine being one of the shepherds who came to see this. They’d been visited by the angels and told us a Savior was being born, but that he’d be found in a manger. And they were supposed to be the honored guests to attend him. Can you imagine the mystery of a night filled with angels and their powerful words and then peering in at a tiny infant wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Imagine being the angels. It’s probably hard to get inside their heads, but you have to imagine this was all a little awe inspiring for them too. To see Jesus, the Son of God, one they worshipped in heaven now down on earth, in the form of a child.
Imagine it afresh again for a few moments as you ponder these words, as you listen to the music. Let the mystery and the miracle capture you. Let your imagination wrap itself around what God did in the incarnation. He was Immanuel. God with us.
O look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me.
This is a pretty impressive though isn’t it. To think that from the beginning of time God had a plan for sin. To think that it would mean sending his own son to earth. To take on flesh (God become flesh- amazing!) To think that the plan wasn’t just to incarnate on earth, but for his son to suffer and die on earth.
And so Christmas Day is a day that forever changes things. It’s a day that looks back, that calls on people to glory in a God that is so powerful that he has perfectly controlled history to bring things together in this moment so that he could come to earth. It’s a moment that celebrates that God took the risk of putting himself into flesh, and not as a mighty warrior or king, but in the flesh of a tiny baby, laid in a manger.
And Christmas Day is a day that looks forward. It looks forward to the purpose of Jesus’ life, which was his death. It’s a day that looks forward, knowing that his life and death would give us a chance for new life.
And I love love that this song just celebrates that. The title , “I celebrate the Day” and the last line is perfect
“And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die”
That is what we should be doing in this season and on Christmas. We should be celebrating. We should feel it and sing it, and shout it, and let it really shine forth on that day, that we have something incredible. We should truly be caught up in the joy of the season which is the Christ child and his purpose.
Last year I did a series on favorite Christmas and advent songs and I barely scratched the surface of good songs, so I thought I would bring this back as we focus on preparing ourselves for the coming of our Lord.
The song, While You Were Sleeping, is a great song by Casting Crowns for this time of year. I love that it captures the importance of Advent as a season that reflects on the first coming of Jesus Christ, the first advent in Bethlehem, but it also brings us to today, asking the question, “Are we ready for Jesus Christ to come again?”
Think of what did happen while most people in Bethlehem were sleeping that night. The world changed, God came to earth as a child, but how many people noticed? There were certainly signs and the shepherds seemed to get the idea. But most of the people were so wrapped up in what was going on with the census, that they probably didn’t notice. The night of Jesus’ birth was a silent night.
Then the song takes us to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was abuzz with the events of Jesus, but when he died on the cross that Good Friday, most probably returned to their homes, to their families, and focused on the Passover. There were certainly signs. Jesus’ death got people’s attention, there was darkness, the Temple curtain was torn! But most were so preoccupied by other things that they went back to sleep that night considering it again a silent night.
And then the song asks us, this United States of America, are we watching for our king? Are we going to focus on Jesus or are we so busy that we will ignore him and his desires for our lives that we too will pass each night, treating it as a silent night, ignoring the call to watch for the coming of the King.
A great song to start our Advent reflections!