One of the issues that prompts Christians to action is keeping “Christ” in Christmas. Every year as Christmas approaches, great concerns are expressed about nativity scenes at city halls and the lighting of Christmas trees or “Winter Festival” trees. I visited the UK last week. One of the Nov 7th articles in The Daily Telegraph (UK) headlined “Christmas stamps ignore Christianity”. The news item was triggered by the Church of England criticizing the Royal Mail service for featuring snowmen, reindeer and Father Christmas on its stamps, while ignoring religious art or the nativity scene.
Lately I’ve been ‘hanging out’ in 1st and 2nd Corinthians; what a marvelous book! Almost every major doctrine is covered in there and Paul does it in an extremely clear and relevant way. Of course we all know 1 Corinthians 13 which is probably the finest piece of literature ever written on love! But the rest of the book has real gravitas (you can go look that word up later and use it in a conversation tomorrow with your boss’..haha) as well.
Recently I was asked to articulate the purpose of this ministry in a single sentence. The questioner pointed out that to many organizations this could be a trying, even painful process. It could be difficult for me because I have to consider a wide range of ministries we are involved with: the Celebration Church, World Impact Ministries, Celebrate Jesus International, Celebration Bible College, overseas Gospel Festivals, television ministry and International Pastors’ seminars. I could break down every one of those departments into other areas of activities. For example the Celebration Church is currently in three locations: Toronto, Niagara and Hamilton, each one presenting its own challenges and opportunities.
As if a military coup was not enough, Thailand is once again in the news, this time in regards to Bangkok’s new four billion dollar Suvarnabhumi international airport. According to the London Times, the airport has been haunted by ghosts, spirits and mystical deaths. The official opening, scheduled for today September 28th, has already been postponed a number of times, most recently because of sightings of ghosts. A number of employees claim to have seen the spirit in the form of an old man. During the nine weeks leading up to the official opening, 99 Buddhist monks had been praying for the spirit visitations to cease. The exorcism reportedly ended with 1000 employees present and the spirit taking embodiment in one of the people present. With this the Buddhist monks claim that the matter should be over, at least for now.
There is a great dialogue that can be found in John 18 (verses 33 to 38) between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. In my mind it shows a stark contrast in priorities between a politician and a believer. Pilate was an extremely good politician who had managed to survive as Governor in one of the most unruly provinces in the Roman Empire. The first thing that Pilate asks is “are you a king?” That’s what a politician is worried about – political opposition. Who’s in office right now? Who has the title of President, Prime Minister or King? Because that person must have “the power”?!
It is starting to sound familiar. Muslims are up in arms and the Vatican is defending Benedict XVI and his speech quoting 14th Century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologis. The issue in question is whether or not Islam is an inherently violent religion? The Pope’s claim is that Islamic extremists convert by violence, an argument he claims to make in an attitude of “not trying to offend Muslims”. To the Muslim Brotherhood Chairman Mohamed Madhi Akef the Pope’s speech only adds fuel to the fire and shows the west’s “hostility to Islam”.
“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”
“Those who know don’t speak. Those who don’t know speak.”
I don’t know how true these quotes are, but I like them nonetheless. One of the “read between the lines” doctrines in the Bible is that of Friendship(s). This sounds like a bit of shallow discussion but I have seen over the years numerous relationships based on numerous things: work, next door neighbor, family etc. However, how many sincere friendships do you have? How many people are in your life that truly know you and genuinely care about you?
I just spent five days traveling across the United States. Staying in hotels and having some free time on my hands I made it a point of watching a lot of Christian television. Something struck me very strange in program after program. The viewer is inundated with the preaching which claims we need victory?, breakthrough?, the next level?, etc. The preaching is quite obviously targeting born-again, spirit-filled believers. Are we really that needy? Or are preachers merely feeling a false emotion-based feeling of need?
I have a confession. Early on, I realized that as a minister I was standing up and telling people to live one way (for example – pray every day) while I myself was struggling. I found that on any given week I certainly couldn’t say that I prayed more than one hour per day. And even if I did pray it was usually at a prayer meeting (ie. in front of people). We were all very forceful prayer warriors then. I can’t speak for what the others were like when they were alone, but I know that my private prayer life was not nearly as…how should we phrase it – vocal! In retrospect, years later I find myself wondering how much of our prayers back then were for God’s ears and how much was for each other’s.