Monthly Archives: December 2006

Adding to the Gospel

Sorry my blogging has been sparse lately. I’ve been in Orlando with my inlaws. Here is a post I wrote on Aug. 20th 2006

I would like to give my readers a little pop quiz. What must a person believe to be a Christian? This is a multiple choice quiz.

A. The universe is less than 10,000 years old.
B. You must tithe off your gross income, not your net income.
C. Women are created to be subjugated to men.
D. Global warming is a left-wing conspiracy.
E. God wants the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights to be annexed to the State of Israel and all remaining peoples to be either driven out or in subjugation to the Jewish people.
F. Everyone in the Western Hemisphere who lived and died before 1492 will be in hell for eternity.
G. God tortures people endlessly in literal flames.
H. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

Only one of these statements is the correct answer. Can you guess which one? Everything else, if made compulsory to become a Christian, is adding to the gospel. Is it any wonder why the world doesn’t want to hear our “good news?”

Warning!

This is a public service announcement. Given the serious nature of what I am about to write, I ask that you devote your full attention to the words you are looking at right now on the screen. What you do not know may kill you…well…not exactly, but it will cause you unbearable pain and frustration of wasting an entire 45 minutes of your time at Disney’s MGM theme park.

I am referring to the Narnia “tour” at MGM. When I go to a show or a ride or take a tour or do anything at Disney World, I expect high quality. After all, it is Disney World and everything that they do is top notch. Picture this, the park is so crowded you can barely put two feet in front of you when you walk. You know you will only be able to do maybe four or five rides during your 9 hour stay. Everyone in your group wants to do the Narnia attraction so you agree. You wait a full 35 minutes in a crowded line. You enter inside (of course, the place is packed like sardines) and you see a wardrobe. You think wow this is going to be awesome! You walk inside the wardrobe and their is a large screen, not large enough to fill the room, but perhaps twice the size of a very large screen TV. You look up and see an actress playing the white witch who warns you about entering her domain….and then the lights go out.

What happens next is perhaps the most anticlimactic moment of your life. You watch an extended preview of the film Narnia (which you’ve already seen) and then the lights go back on. You think that this can not possibly be the end of the ride, but then you see the door open and people filtering outside.

That was it. I stood in line for 35 minutes to watch a preview of a movie I had already seen. I wasn’t the only one a bit miffed. One by one I watched and listened to the complaints of every single individual as they walked out the doors. I wanted to give a fair warning to all those who were waiting in line, but I chickened out. Therefore, I am writing this post to redeem myself.

I wonder if Jesus felt the same way when He cursed a fig tree for not producing any figs. What a tragedy if our lives give others the same feeling.

The wonderful world of Disney

For the past few days, I’ve been living in a fantasy world. A world of dwarfs, reigndeer, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, and everything in between. It was the world that a man named Walt Disney created to be enjoyed by children around the world-whether the children are 8, 28, or 68. And from around the world they come. To the surprise of myself and my family, we have found that the average visitor to this magical kingdom does not speak English. We have felt like a bit of a minority with our white skin throughout the week. Last night at Epcot center, they combined a lazer show with a fireworks display to the song “Peace on Earth”. To listen to the music and to watch the fireworks explode over a pond surrounded by buildings representing numerous countries from around the world, I couldn’t help but think about how wonderful heaven will be with so many different types of people from around the world.

I honestly feel like I’ve been reliving my childhood over the past few days. The last time I was in Disney World was when I was five and all I remember is the Dumbo ride and It’s a Small World. Now that I am older, I can take all the sights in and log them in my memory.

Here is a good question to ask: How likely is it that a place such as Disney World could have originated in a non-Western country? The answer is not very likely at all. It has not always been assumed by people throughout history that childhood is something to be valued. I can hardly imagine Disney World originating in a Muslim or a Buddhist country ( The reason why Disney world could not have originated in a Muslim country is because the painting of living forms is considered idolatrous. Buddhism isn’t likely to produce Disney World either because of its emphasis on absence of desire). Neither could I imagine the society in which Jesus was born extolling the values of childlike wonder and imagination. As Westerners, we believe in art and inspiration and imagination as values largely because the founder of Western Civilization (at least the good parts of it) believed that the Kingdom of God had to be entered as a child- an idea that would have been considered preposterous in His day.

So whether the man Walt Disney was a Christian or not, his ideas could have only found their fullest expression in a society that values childlike faith and imagination. It may have taken 1,900 years for ideas such as this to develop, but develop they did. And the world is a better place because of it. It is in this sense that the gospel of Jesus is good news for everyone. Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu children enjoy Mickey Mouse just as much as Christian children do. The values that Jesus introduced to the world enrich all of our lives. Our Savior is so good that much of the world agrees with His teachings whether they realize it or not.

So the next time you see Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and Goofey and you remember the wonders of your childhood, you can thank the man who made it possible. The man who inspired Walt Disney. His name is Jesus Christ.

Scary Statistics

Sorry I haven’t been consistent these past couple of days. I’ve been very busy. I was watching the evening news the other night with Katie Couric and they gave a statistic that I thought was interesting. They said that in the 70’s, the average college student stated that what they wanted to get out of their college experience was a meaningful philosophy of life. Today the average response is to train for a career to make lots of money.

Then I heard on Bill O Reilly’s radio broadcast something even scarier. I’m not even sure if this is true, but the statistic is that approximately 95% of Americans adults have had pre-marital sex.

It seems like today’s generation has traded philosophy and meaning for money and sex. I think it is time for a revival!

Do you believe in Santa Clause?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time of family, fun, and holiday cheer (hey that rhymes) and, I might add, a time when the world celebrates the existence of someone they know is not real but would love to believe he is real anyway. (Sorry, Pete. I really hate to be the one to break the news to you). Yes, I am sure you know by now who I am talking about. He is the man with a belly full of jelly and a heart full of cheer for all the good little boys and girls around the world (at least the ones born in Christian countries who have heard of his existence, believe it or not, they actually celebrate Christmas in some Muslim countries too).

Santa must have a full time publicist working overtime during the month of December because never does this jolly fat man get so much media attention than during this magical month that the world refers to as the “Christmas season” (or..should I say holiday season?). I’m referring specifically to what is now a permanent part of American culture…the Christmas movie. I’ve seen almost all of them. Well, at least the ones that have to do with Santa Clause- films like Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Every year my poor mother puts herself through watching the movie “Prancer.” Why my mother cries every time when actor Sam Eliot ,who plays a gruff, macho, overworked father down on his luck, gets in touch with his inner child by actually believing that a reindeer can fly is quite beyond me.

Then again, maybe it’s not so beyond me. For I myself after watching Polar Express wanted to write a letter to the director and say “I’ll have you know that I am not one of those adults who has forgotten about Santa Clause. I still believe.” Knowing that this would not look very good on a psychiatric evaluation, I declined.

Believe it or not. I actually have a point in all this. The question I have is this: Why does our popular culture exalt the value of child-like faith even when it is a faith in something known to be false? Perhaps the “believing is seeing” lines in these films are an attempt to pander to evangelical Christians. But if that is the case, then we are really being patronized and laughed at behind our backs. Although I think this can be a part of the explanation (hence the emphasis on faith in Polar Express), I would like to think there is something deeper going on here. After all, it is primarily non-Christians that make such a big deal about Santa Clause. Many Christians, at least the evangelical ones that I know, are rather miffed at S.C. overshadowing J.C. during the holiday season. Certainly we know that it is not only Christians that watch these movies and shed a few tears when an innocent child or a cynical adult discovers that there really is a Santa Clause.

Could the answer to this strange paradox be that there is something within all of us that wants to get in touch with our inner child? If this is true, then the question becomes why is this the case? Who or what put it there? For what purpose? There was a Jewish rabbi that lived 2,000 years ago that said a few crazy words about “entering the kingdom of God as a child.” Could it be that Jesus, the real reason for the season, knew that as long as there were humans, then their would always be a need for child-like faith? If this is the case, then I suspect that this humble carpenter from Nazareth may have a few more things to say about reality that we need to know about. After all, truth is very difficult to escape no matter how hard you try.

Are you religious?

What do you think of when you think of the word “religious?” If you’re like me, you probably have a bit of a semantics crisis when a non-evangelical asks you if you are religious. Let me explain. Growing up in a charismatic church, the word “religious” had a very negative connotation. A person thought to be “religious” was a person thought to be “old-fashioned, legalistic, not open to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.” Growing up with this definition of the word, it was rather strange for me when I finally went to a public high school at the age of 15 and met people who did not grow up understanding my religious lingo. When people would ask me if I was religious, I had to stop and think about it. Given the fact that I was very outwardly religious in the beginning (yes, I was the one who carried a Bible around and wore Christian t-shirts, I did mellow out after a while though), I am certain that it probably never occured to those who asked if I was religious that in my own context, the word “religious” was an insult.

Having had 10 years to sort through my identity crisis, I now ask the question: Why should the word “religious” be an insult? After all, didn’t the Apostle James say “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

If we take James’ criteria seriously, it takes a significantly moral life to be able to claim that one is religious. Why should the word “religious” have to mean self-righteous and legalistic? I think objections to this term within American evangelicalsim are far more cultural than Biblical. If the word religious or religion means compassion for the poor and an upright life, I hope to God that I get more religious in the years to come. Shouldn’t we all?

Tribute to Steve Irwin

The other night I was watching Barbara Walter’s special on the 10 most fascinating people of 2006. One of the people that Barbara interviewed was Steve Irwin’s wife. I have to say that I was deeply touched by the way that she talked about him. She described the way Steve appreciated the simple things of life and how he allowed his children to role around in the mud and get dirty. He didn’t sweat the small stuff. In the midst of her tears she gave the most honest description of her late husband, “He was fun.” Everything I saw in the interview showed me that this was no Hollywood marriage, nor was their love a fairy tale for the cameras. Everything that I could see was 100% genuine. In a culture with very few healthy celebrity role models, it was very refreshing to see a family where first came love, then came marriage, then came the babies in the baby carriage. Let’s pray that God will raise up more role models to lift the standard in our sex crazed narcissistic culture.

Pakistani Christian hunted by Muslims

This article comes from Pastor Tim, a friend of mine who pastors a church in Missouri. Speaking from the viewpoint of someone who has been to Pakistan twice, I believe every word in this story.

My Friend Hunted by Muslims

Maliq (not his real name) was born and raised as a Muslim in Pakistan. This last weekend he visited my personal family and my church family. We learned a great deal from the story he shared with us.

Maliq was forced to study the Qur’an as a young boy. His instructor would repeatedly bruise him with a stick until he learned the Arabic verses correctly. He grew up believing in Islam but never had peace in his heart.

Eventually he became a military officer, a highly regarded position in Pakistan. Even with this success, including personal servants, he was full of anger and bitterness.

At age 25 everything changed for Maliq. He audibly heard the voice of Jesus speak to him. Soon afterwards he saw Jesus in a vision. He was later to discover that many Muslims have heard or seen Jesus.

After realizing that Jesus was much more than the Qur’an had to say, Maliq became a dedicated Christian. His life was threatened because Islam calls for the death of anyone leaving Islam.

He fled to a Christian village. According to Maliq, Christians in Pakistan must live in segregated communities and can only hold the most menial jobs. After two years, Maliq married a Christian woman and they had two children.

In the late 90’s, while the children were still very young, the local Muslim population rose up against the Christians. A rumor was spread that the Christians were tearing apart Qur’ans and speaking against Mohammed. The rumors were not true but they instigated a huge mob to attack his village.

Maliq remembers the day of the attack vividly. All 500 homes in his village were burned, men beaten, women raped and kidnapped, and everything destroyed. Incredibly, the very next Sunday, 20,000 Christians gathered in his village to worship Jesus.

The authorities turned a blind eye to the incident, but some Christians in another city went to the streets to protest. The government demanded from the protesters the names of the people they had found out about the incident from. Maliq’s name was one of the names given.

From then on Maliq has been under threat of death from his own government. He miraculously fled with his family from Pakistan and now lives in the U.S. He still receives death threats and his own parents in Pakistan are constantly being watched and threatened. I want to thank Maliq for his personal courage, his willingness to share his story, and the labor of love he still carries on for the persecuted church of Pakistan.

[Comment to this article at tnt5@jobe.net.]

By Pastor Tim O’Brien

Rock of Ages Church and Ministries

http://www.roaministries.org

For Daily Guide Publication, December 15, 2006

Aaron’s nightmare

Two nights ago I had a very disturbing dream. I had rented a car and was at a full service gas station. At first it was rather nice having a friendly person fill my tank and air my tires for me, but at the very end, I received an incredible shock when I looked at the price of the gasoline. The full tank cost over a thousand dollars. My shock led to fear, then anger, and, at the end I did what real men supposedly never do, I cried.

I think that God may be trying to tell me something. If you haven’t read my post “Road Rage” yet, then you need to. If there is something I have learned from my travels around the world it is that we in America really are clueless when it comes to the devastating spiritual, emotional, and psychological effects of abject poverty.

And yet, what do we do about it? We may give pocket change to a few charities here and there, but the abiding principle usually is-out of sight, out of mind.

Here is an issue that we evangelicals hear very little about in our churches: social justice. Yes, we hear a lot about how not to be poor (e.g..if you will only tithe and give offerings, then God will bless you so that you won’t be poor), but we hear very little about the social, historical, economic, and political conditions that create conditions for poverty around the world. There are historical reasons for this by the way, the chief reason being that these issues are often associated with the political left (although, to his credit, Pat Robertson was, in fact, a leading advocate for third world debt relief at the turn of the century) and the left is, of course, associated with secularism.

That’s too bad because history shows that it was primarily liberal Christians that were behind the civil rights movement. It’s time for “judgment to begin in the house of God.” There are issues that affect the world that evangelicals had better not miss the boat on. One is third world debt relief. I would suggest to my readers to educate yourselves on this issue. Here is a place to start. It’s time that we get on the right side of history.

Iran’s twisted logic

In today’s news, Iran is hosting a conference of “scholars” from around the world to look into the question of whether the holocaust really happened. According to President Ahmadinejad, we in the West have all been duped by “Schindler’s List.”

Excuse me Mr. Ahmadinejad, I’ve actually been to Auschwitz, the camp in Poland where Jews were gassed to death. It happened.

Somehow I don’t think Mr. Ahmadinejad really cares about the truth. Look at this classic case of Iranian doublespeak.

“If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. And if, during this review, it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Muslim people of the region and the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis’ crimes?” Mottaki said.

Let me get this straight. If the holocaust didn’t really happen, then why should Israel have been created in the first place? If it did happen, then why should the Palestinians pay for Euroope’s crimes?

Sounds completely logical to me!

Here is the scary part: The West is actually turning a blind eye to allowing this man develop nukes.

The Western world needs to wake up. Ahmadinejad is Hitler.

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