Chuches, Why Have We Not Yet United?

Russian_orphansPastors, deacons, elders, church members, Sunday school volunteers – I’m curious.

(And please know that I ask myself this same question.)

Two questions, actually.

Two questions that could revolutionize the world.

A question that could shout volumes to the planet of God’s love.

And here’s the first question:

Why are our orphanages so full?

The way I see it is, the fuller the pews are, the emptier the orphanages ought to be.

Doesn’t that just make sense?

Here’s the second question:

It’s a bit more personal.

The last question was directed at the universal Church.

This one’s directed at you. And me. And my wife. And my neighbors. And my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Okay, so here it is:

It’s a scenario, really.

Suppose you received a text message from an unknown sender.

And it said

THERE IS A NEWBORN IN A DUMPSTER SOMEWHERE WITHIN A SIX-MILE RADIUS OF WHERE YOU LIVE.

FIND HIM. SAVE HIM.

Would you not call all your neighbors and friends and family to comb the entire neighborhood, day in and day out, until you found him?

Would you not be dumpster diving in every dark alley?

Folks, there are babies and kids dumped in the orphanages and the hospital every day.

When Sarabeth and I were visiting our Baby A. in the hospital last week, there was a premature baby tucked in the back of the room all that time, crying.

Crying.

Crying.

And no one, that we saw, ever came to visit him.

A newborn left to his own devises in this great big, cruel world.

Our social worker told us that she was on the very brink of calling us the day we brought Baby A. home because, for the life of her, she could find no one to accept the placement of another little boy who needed a home.

But she didn’t want to overwhelm us with two newborns in one day.

The title of this post is, “Churches, Why Have We Not Yet United?”

I think it’s possible, and necessary, for churches to finally come together and encourage, no – admonish, implore  – their members to go out and adopt the local orphans and unwanted children.

We observe Orphan Sunday.

That’s great to name a Sunday after those we’re to care for. But what’s the point if we’re not all going to go out and care for these orphans?

It’s like celebrating Christmas paying no mind to Christ. Or uttering no one word of thanks on Easter.

Or eating pretend food at dinner, Neverland style.

If you smell a universal Chruch-wide calling in the air, if you’re wondering the same things I’m wondering (like why aren’t we as a whole taking this calling seriously), please forward this post on to your pastors, your elders, your deacons, your Bible study groups.

Let’s start something here.

Let’s start a revolution in the name of God.

Let’s flood our country’s orphanages with not only the love, but the presence of believers everywhere, and wash those children into our homes.

Our imperfect, flawed, loving, caring, warm, welcoming, Christ-centered homes.

And change their lives – and the world – to be a little bit more like what God had intended.

If you are interested in joining me in getting the word out to churches everywhere, or if you would like your church to be involved in this, please email me at andrewtoy1208@aol.com.

Please include your church status as a church employee or member,

and please include your name of the church you’re apart of, with their website address, and tell me the city and state.

One last thing, please share your interest in orphan care, by choosing one of the following:

a) I’ve not given it much thought until I read this post

b) I’ve always wanted to be involved, but just didn’t know where to start

c) I’ve adopted/fostered, and would like to educate others about the process

d) I’ve wanted to see something like this happen for a long time – Let’s do it!

Let’s get something started.

 

Genesis According to Disney

It is said that all great stories derive from the Bible. I emphasize that it’s not all intentional, but just for fun, I couldn’t help pulling a few biblical inspirations from some our favorite Disney films. More to come later.

Clouds

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Day and Night

…He separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3)

Garden

Now the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden. (Genesis 1:8)

Eve

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 1:18)

Snake

“Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)

apple

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:6)

Cain Able

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

animals

You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. (Genesis 6:19)

ark

Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:23)

All images are from Disney Screencaps

Honest Worship, Honest Life

4572427358A.W. Tozer once said, “Christians don’t tell lies – they go to church and sing them.”

Like you, the phrase caught me off guard. But when given to deeper thought, I realized it was true.

Let’s start with the basics. A popular verse found in many Christian songs is, “I lift my hands and I sing.” (If I cited that, I would run out of room on this post.)

I know I’ve never once had my hands in the air as I sang that verse.

Oh, we can justify it all we want by saying things like, “But it’s my heart that I’m lifting up.”

Bull. God knows the difference between your heart and your hands. He also knows the difference between security and insecurity.

What about song verses like, “I lay it all down for You.”

There aren’t many times I’ve repented from things after singing songs that make those bold statements. In fact, not sure if I ever have.

Here’s the thing. We’re so concerned with looking spiritual, we’re willing to live lies in order to come across as having it all together.

Not trying to toot my own horn here, but I don’t have it all together. In fact, I’m a mess. A spiritual, emotional, (sometimes) physical mess!

There are two types of places I’ve worked at. One was corporate. The other local.

In the corporate setting, these managers did everything right and by the book. They checked and double-checked everything off their lists that they were supposed to do. They dressed properly, they blushed if they cursed, they obeyed the rules.

Until they thought no one was looking.

First, they gossiped. (That’s how I learned about all the rules they broke on a daily basis.) Online shopping on the clock, not clocking off for lunch, “borrowing” some cash from store funds, engaging in inappropriate affairs with their employees, passing their jobs off to others, shirking duties, and the list goes on.

But you’d never know it by talking to them.

Then I’ve worked for a local place, where the “corporate office” isn’t but half a rung higher than the managers on the proverbial ladder.

These guys smoke weed, curse like sailors, cheat on their taxes, and I’d not doubt for a minute that a handful of them served time.

But you know which group I like better? That’s right – this right-winged fundamentalist Christian would much rather hang out with the rap-popping, weed-smoking, beer-happy “sinners” than the uptight, stiff-necked, hypocrites of the corporate place I worked for.

Why? Because at least these rough necks aren’t hiding anything.

They’re unashamed: “Here I am; take it or leave it… foo’!”

These guys are easier to witness to. They’re not going to get all over you for being politically incorrect or cry foul to the boss because you offended them. They might not admit they need help or change in their lives, but they’re also not likely to say nothing’s wrong with them and that every thing’s fine.

But I tell you. I’m such a mess myself. I do lie every time I sing, “I give You my all,” because honestly, I don’t. I just don’t give Jesus my all. That hasn’t happened before.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t worship. I’m not berating you for singing such songs, and declaring such promises. I’m just at a point in my life where I feel dishonest singing them.

I need to get to a place where I am actually doing such things as “giving my all,” and “taking up my cross,” and being brave enough to raise my hands (only for the attention of God), and then I’ll have a better, more honest, transparent worship time.

Then maybe it will make it easier for Jesus to come minister to me. Heaven knows I’m such a mess that I need it.

Don’t Go to Church on Easter

emptypew33Easter is just one week away.

Have you invited anybody to church?

Easter is a time for believers to gather together and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the grave and our redemption through Him.

But it is NOT an exclusive holiday.

When Christ returns a second time, it’s not going to be done in secret, quietly, behind the doors of a church, nor in the privacy of a stable.

No. Not this time.

It’s going to be loud and explosive and every knee will bow and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of the earth.

Folks, Easter is a dress rehearsal for Christ’s second coming, and all the world will see Him. So what are we doing keeping Easter a private family affair? When we signed up to become Christ’s followers, we agreed to take His message to the ends of the earth. The least we can do is take His message to the other end of our workplace, or down the street.

So here’s my challenge, unorthodox as it may be.

Don’t make plans to go to church on Easter Sunday if you don’t invite a lost person to come with you.

Here’s why I make this challenge. First, it is a reminder that Easter is not about you. Second, how intimidating would it be to have to explain to someone that you didn’t go to church on Easter because you didn’t invite someone else join you?

Now, I may be wrong, but how much less intimidating would it be to just throw out a simple invitation?:

“Got any plans for Easter?”

“No.”

“Want to come to church with me and my family?”

“Naw, that’s fine. Thanks, though.”

Easy peasy.

Now you just need to keep praying for them and witnessing to them since they now know you’re a Christian. Cat’s out of the bag.

Now you can celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with a clear conscious, knowing that you did what you could (and by all means, if the Lord is prodding you to do more, do it). And who knows? The most unexpected thing could happen and they might accept your invitation! And maybe… just maybe they’ll accept the bigger invitation to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and there will be an even bigger celebration in the celestial halls of Heaven than we could ever dream of here on earth.

Don’t make Easter about you. Make it about Jesus. And the thing Jesus is about, is bringing people from death to life.

Note: I understand that some readers may have faced (or may face) persecution or insults or hardships, especially my international readers. I do not mean to make light of inviting people to church and passing it off as something that is easy to do. But that does not negate the challenge (not mine – Christ’s). All of us believers must pray for the lost as well as fellow believers that God may grant them courage and strength.

 

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…

 

The Strength of Mercy

For those of you familiar with All God’s Children International, here is a book that documents its humble origins, written by Jan Beazely, one of the main instruments in getting this mission off the ground.

It’s hard to step out in faith sometimes, but we’re left with no excuse after watching the Beazely family make one faith-filled decision after another, following God’s guidance like stepping stones. The Strength of Mercy is the story of how a girl named Heather took a curious path for her life which lead to the adoption of her sister, and ultimately hundreds of children throughout the world. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“As I look back on what has unfolded during the past several years, I am awed by what god has accomplished. I’ve rediscovered – on an almost daily basis – that when we yield in trusting surrender, we are ushered into the very center of His will, further than we dreamed possible.

God’s divine direction and the strength of His mercy were first experienced intimately in our home. Our greatest hopes and fondest desires as parents culminated in this amazing journey that our daughter – and our entire family – was called to take. Not only did we hope for the fulfillment of the promise God had given me so many years earlier, but it was also an incredible privilege to watch our oldest daughter walk and talk with the Lord on such intimate terms. To watch her strain to hear His voice and then obediently move forward, even when He didn’t explain Himself, was pure delight. It was the most precious gift a parent could ever hope for. Our once-rebellious teenager was transformed into a woman of courage and grace before our very eyes. In the transition, God used her to rescue a needy child – her sister, our new daughter. 

Then God invited us as a family to share this same mercy with the world. When I first received God’s promise back in October 1985, I could never have dreamed that we would bring more than 300 children out of Eastern Europe to new homes and a new life … Neither could I have foreseen working in the countries of Bulgaria, China, Russia, Hungary, Macedonia, and Honduras…

For a truly redemptive story on the power of grace and the beauty and divine possibility of adoption, I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It would do some of us a lot of good to be reminded that even today, outside the pages of the Bible, it is still possible to follow God in faith even if the world is hostile against our decisions. Does anyone else have a good adoption-themed book to recommend to us?

Cult #2: Mormonism

Mormonism is the fastest growing and most successful cult. Their church is called The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. They claim to be Christians, that they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But they employ semantics to nearly every Christian term.

A history:

Joseph Smith Jr.: How it all began:

At the age of 14, Joseph had a vision that Father and Son appeared before him. He asked what Christian denomination he should join. They said, “None,” because they were all wrong and corrupt.

In 1823, Smith, 17, saw the angel Moroni and told him of a book written on golden plates by former inhabitant of the continent that would contain “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” He dug them up 4 years later. Mormons deny this but Smith used occult practices to find information (scrying).

By 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon Church. It grew rapidly from 1831-1844 establishing strongholds in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Mormons drew hostility and persecution. Missouri militia slaughtered, raped and pillaged Mormon believers, obeying an “extermination” order issued by the governor.

Smith continued to receive revelations that guided him where to go and what to do next and established different doctrines.

Polygamy was issued in 1843, Smith said he would destroy his first wife if she resisted.

Smith was killed while in jail and Mormons claim their founder died as a “Christian martyr.” But in truth he went down fighting, using a six-shooter, that was smuggled to him, killing at least 2 of his assailants.

Bringham Young led LDS to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Polygamy became a formal practice.

Polygamy was often practiced until 1890 and was a chief reason Utah had been denied statehood at least 6 times.

LDS Church claims the biblical canon never closed and revelation continued with Joseph Smith as well as other presidents/prophets of the church right up to present day.

Mormons believe that God is “progressive,” having attained His exalted state by advancing along a path that His children (Mormons) are permitted to follow. According to Mormonism, He is an exalted man. One of a species called gods: These gods existed before God. When God was created then fully matured and was sent to another planet. He learned all He could, grew up, died, then was resurrected. Having attained godhood, He returned to a heavenly abode with a body of flesh and bones, where He joined with His goddess wife (Mother God) to have millions of spirit children to populate planet Earth. This is called “the preexistence.” Was not created ex nihilo. God was created by a god out of who resided and one point in eternal matter. God is not eternal, but matter is.

According to Mormons, Jesus is God’s firstborn “creation.” Lucifer was God’s next-born. Everyone else was created to populate the earth. God chose Jesus over Lucifer to be man’s savior. This caused Satan to rebel and fought a war against Heaven (led by Michael archangel). He was cast down to earth to live as a spirit without a human body. Meanwhile God instructed Jesus to create earth and everything in it and Adam and Eve with the help of the spirit children using external matter. Among the descendants were spirit children who fought halfheartedly against Satan in the Great War. They were sentence to be born mortals with black stain as part of their lineage of Cain. God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus married and had children by those women. After His death Jesus “gained fullness,” which He attained through a resurrected body. He reigns in Heaven with the Father-God. Smith says Jesus will eventually take the Father-God’s place as Father-God moves on to even higher realms of glory exalting a progression.

Trinity– Mormons believe that the trinity is not consisted of one God whose essence is found in three persons, but three Gods – three distinct bodies (Holy Ghost is only a spirit body and cannot become a man.)

We, as Christians part ways on just about every point of Mormonism. Do not let them convince you that they are Christians, because our belief systems are as different as night and day. We believe there is just one God, existing in three persons, and Jesus is His only begotten Son who paid the atonement for our sins (including fornication, multiple lovers/wives, idolatry, following false belief-systems). We are to have one one spouse and be faithful to that spouse until death does us part, and when we die, we either go to Heaven where we worship God for eternity or go to Hell and be punished for not believing in the One who offered salvation.

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