Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Christmas Didn't Change a Thing

I was listening to Greg Laurie yesterday, and he made an interesting observation.  He said that our perception of Christmas is rather clean and neat, especially in regards to the shepherds.  They were dirty and smelly and yet angels appeared to them.  

I began thinking about what changed the day Jesus was born.  I sadly concluded, nothing. Stay with me on this one. 

Rome still ruled with violence and swift retaliation for any threats against its autocratic rule.  Caesar Augustus continued to refer to himself as the "son of god."

Herod still ruled over the area where Jesus was born.  He would later seal his cruel and irreverent reign by killing innocent children in an attempt to eliminate any claimants to his throne.

The poor were still poor.

The rich were still rich.  

The Jewish people were still in their own land but with the glory days of King David far behind them and the pagan rule of a cruel people still on them.

In the quiet of a village night, a small newborn cried.  All around Him the world carried on, no different from the day before and no different in the days to come.

What exactly did the angels tell those shepherds? 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

                                                                            (Luke 2: 8-14)

Something did change here.  The shepherds had something to go look for: 

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:15-20) 

Maybe that is what changed that first Christmas.  We had Someone  to go and look for and He would be there. 

There is a wonderful scene in the movie, Shadowlands, (about C.S. Lewis) where Joy's son comes to Lewis's house and he runs upstairs to find the wardrobe.  He flings the doors open, expecting to see the entrance to the world of the Lion and all the characters of that story.  He just sees clothing hanging there, silent and still.

Isn't that humanity?  We go looking in every "wardrobe" expecting to find what our imaginations have created, only to find, well, nothing but the ordinary, the mundane, the usual, the still broken.

Jesus' birth changed nothing in the world that day. But, and this is huge:  He gave us Himself to go and find. Those who sincerely seek Him are never disappointed.  

Even the lowliest of us can find Him.  Think of the shepherds.

Even the mightiest of us can find Him.  Think of the magi.

Even the most ordinary of us can find Him.  Think of May, Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

That night, when that newborn cried, a Light pierced the darkness and said, Come find Me.  I am at the end of your searching, your longing. Everything around you will be the same, but when you find Me, that will change you, and a changed you will go out and bring the light this broken world so desperately needs.  

True, nothing in the world changed the night of Jesus' birth, but in that small gathering of  people in the Christmas story, everything changed.  Forever. 

Merry Christmas and be blessed in His name!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The San Andreas Fault of the Church: Covid-19 (Part II)

I am looking at the metaphorical earthquake that hit the evangelical church in America.  It is called Covid-19.  It showed the weaknesses of the church and how we are still trying to sort out what happened and why.

This is my small effort to weigh in.  A friend of my daughter's made an interesting point about "scope of practice."  Every profession has one, he said, including pastors.  

So I went and looked it up.  Here's what Dr. Google said, " Scope of practice helps to identify procedures, actions and processes an individual is permitted to perform. An individual's scope of practice is also based on specific education, experiences and demonstrated competence." [bolded in the original]

It applies to healthcare workers of course, but the definition makes an interesting point.  We are all trained in our professions and have operational and theoretical knowledge about our subjects.  I am a teacher, but I am not qualified to run a school as a principal, for example.  I am not trained as a college and career counselor or as a guidance counselor.  I am not qualified to teach math, science, robotics, drafting, art, social work, nursing...You get the picture.

I have been years teaching certain subjects, and have a good grasp on them, including my education earning a Master's Degree.  Am I an expert?  By no means.

Ditto about my love for the Word.  I have been a Christian for a long time, but I have never been to seminary or had theological training.  It's been more like on the job training, if you will, as I have taught Bible studies, sat under many sermons, and done my own personal study.

Now, I have a small amount of knowledge in many of the above subjects, (some more than others) but I am not qualified to teach them.  I would have to invest a lot of time to gain competency in those subjects, and even more time to teach them to academic standards.

A pastor invests his time in studying the Word, learning its historical context, understanding the ancient languages.  There was a time when many people sought out pastors for psychological counseling, but after a man committed suicide after meeting with John MacArthur (1985) and legal action was brought against the Pastor by the man's parents, many pastors today may meet with a person one time, but are much more inclined to refer the person to a psychologist for help.


Because many pastors recognize that counseling a person with mental health issues is beyond their scope of practice.  They are not trained to deal effectively with such people.  How many pastors have failed to recognize a victim of domestic violence?  Sexual abuse? Suicidal tendencies?  

How many of them, well-intentioned to be sure, made a biochemical or situational problem out to be purely spiritual?  They are trained in the spiritual, but we are fully fallen beings who are a broken combination of physical, psychological and spiritual.

Then came Covid-19.

Suddenly pastors, with no medical or epidemiological training, were opening churches back up while Covid-19 raged; didn't demand mask-wearing; downplayed the vaccination process by not getting one themselves; not acknowledging the severity of the pandemic.  Even John MacArthur himself talked of "Big Pharma" in a YouTube video I watched as I was trying to understand why such an influential man was so opposed to basic CDC protocol.   

I saw pastors working outside their scope of practice.  

The results?

Covid-19 is still playing havoc with those who decided not to be vaccinated. Many people have needlessly died.

How many of them are/were following their pastors' lead?

Why did so many pastors decide they were qualified enough to make such enormous decisions about the health and welfare of their congregations?

A focus on essential oils, prayer, and a self-righteousness that Job's friends would have admired, permeated the church during the pandemic.  

As Andy Stanley pointed out, we turned inward, and fought each other.  How could a world that needs saving be attracted to people who, instead of uniting together and helping one another, fought against each other and acted as if their limited knowledge (social media is not education) was sufficient to make decisions about literally life and death in their congregations?

I stand ashamed of the American church.  

Jesus made an interesting observation about the church in the End Times:  

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matt. 24: 36-39)

On other words:

Let's get back to life as usual, people. 

It's not so bad.  

We have faith, not fear.  

We know what's best. 

Our pastor doesn't wear a mask, so why should I?

I read it's all a big lie.  Overblown.  Maybe, even a hoax. 

"Really?" I must ask.

Our witness to the world may be irretrievably damaged. 





























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