God created man in His own image, male and female he created them. And because we were fashioned in the image of our Creator, we are uniquely capable of enjoying a relationship with Him in a way that no other living being can. God has given us the unique ability to know Him, to understand His self-revelation, and to consciously worship Him. He created us to be worshippers, and that’s exactly why everywhere we look we see that mankind does in fact worship.
Though I’m not an old man by any stretch, I quite often feel that way when I tell my kids how much life has changed in these United States since I was their age. We had a five and dime store in our little town, a big pack of M&Ms was a quarter, and a genuine milk shake at the local drive-in set you back 75 cents. My children can’t believe that while still very young we used to ride our bikes all over the neighborhood and even down to the grocery store without adult supervision. They get the same storybook sensation when watching It’s a Wonderful Life where George Bailey works the counter, serves up ice cream, and makes home deliveries for Mr. Gower’s drug store at the tender age of ten. My children wonder if life really used to be like that or if it’s just the fanciful imagination of a fictional story.
Across the United States, the month of July is known for hot weather, family vacations, and of course the ubiquitous celebrations of Independence Day. The Fourth of July happens to be my favorite holiday. From backyard barbecues to fireworks exploding across the night sky, America loves the fourth. Besides being the day that I asked my wife on our first date, I love what it symbolizes: Freedom! We as a nation declared our independence from Britain and told King George III in no uncertain terms that the bonds between us were now dissolved. We were our own nation and we were free to establish our own form of government.
The learning curve in ministry is very steep. I have not yet been a pastor for three years, and everyday I am learning something new about the ministry and something new about people. When I became a pastor I knew that one of the areas of ministry I would certainly encounter was that of helping the needy. And what I have discovered will probably come across as a shock: the local church’s general approach to helping needy and homeless people has only exasperated their misery and complicated their recovery.
When a religious subject hits the Modesto Bee you know that the story is either really old or really big. The headline read “What is hell? Book sets off discussion,” as the article covered a subject that is arguably both old and big. The story dates back to the Garden of Eden when Satan tempted Eve with the challenge “Has God indeed said?” But it’s also a very new story sparked by Pastor Rob Bell and his recent book, “Love Wins.” The story gained national momentum last week when Pastor Chad Holtz posted a Facebook message supporting the book and was then summarily dismissed from his pastorate at the United Methodist Church in Henderson, N.C.
The last couple of weeks at CCT we’ve been learning about our Christian liberties from Romans 14. Specifically, we’ve discussed our responsibility to use these liberties wisely, and correspondingly to withhold judgment from our brothers and sisters in Christ as they freely exercise their own liberties. Fussing and feuding over one another’s convictions that remain within the clear boundaries of scripture can do tremendous damage to the body of Christ. Churches have split and ministries have been destroyed by the infighting of Christians over secondary, non-scriptural matters.
The world’s eyes have been fixed on Japan this last week as we’ve witnessed images that seem more like a Hollywood production than actual life. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Japan just adjacent to Sendai, and spawned a tsunami that produced catastrophic results. Videos showed sea water surging over dikes and causeways along the coastal cities, as the wave consumed everything in its path. With its colossal power, the wall of water pushed everything from trains to warehouses miles inland as though they were children’s toys on a miniature landscape.
I’m currently reading through the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. It’s a sobering read. Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, had the unenviable task of foretelling God’s judgment upon the nation of Judah for their perennial disobedience, idolatry, and lust for wickedness. Throughout the books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, God laments the depth of Jerusalem’s depravity and the destruction that He would ultimately bring on them. The Lord even grieves that they caused their children to pass through the fire, a barbaric ritual of child sacrifice to pagan gods.