last few weeks have provided a fascinating insight into U.S.-Israel relations
and how the leaders of both countries see the Iran nuclear threat. Monday’s Oval Office meeting was important,
but it needs to be put in context with recent statements by CIA Director Leon
Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Let me
this was the first meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu,
it would have been great. The President was warm and friendly. He reaffirmed the
“special relationship” and “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel. He
said he trusted the Prime Minister and appreciated the steps Mr. Netanyahu is
taking towards peace and security. Netanyahu publicly invited Obama to come to
Israel and meet there, and Obama smiled and said, “I’m ready.”
With the advent of the Internet,
advanced telecommunications and satellite uplinks, technology has
changed how we communicate. Most of us never would have imagined these
developments would also impact how we worship. However, in recent
decades, the church has entered a new era: technology.
Traditionally the church brought the
people to the message; now the challenge is taking the message to the
people, regardless of geographic location or status. Today technology
enables the church to reach multitudes worldwide through various modes:
movies, television, podcasts, satellite, streaming and social Web sites
such as Facebook.
The church is using these advancements
to bridge the generational gap. Although baby boomers are accustomed to
human interaction, this new generation isn’t. Progressive churches must
use both the personal and the technical contact of the times. This
generation will sit at the dinner table and text one another, even
though they’re sitting nearby. Because churches are beginning to
utilize technology, they are now able to effectively reach younger and
older generations globally.
For the church to continue reaching
people, we must be willing to change with the times. The Bible says for
us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but who would
have thought that the assembling could one day include a chat room
called the sanctuary?
Bishop T. D. Jakesis pastor of The Potter’s House in
It is a decision that is both disappointing and
troubling. By a vote of 5-4, the
Supreme Court dealt a damaging blow to First Amendment law for religious
organizations in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
The Supreme Court was presented with the
following question: "May a public law school condition its official
recognition of a student group-and the attendant use of school funds and
facilities-on the organization's agreement to open eligibility for membership
and leadership to all students?"
Christianity has always had its controversies and robust debates. The charismatic movement alone has been riddled with arguments over flamboyant ministers, the so-called prosperity gospel and modern-day apostles and prophets.
The same types of debates also have rattled atheism. The most recent major controversy was the defection of the late Anthony Flew—once called the most famous atheist in the world—who in 2004 said evidence and science led him to conclude there was a God.
encouragement. Encouragement helps you reach goals that you thought were
impossible. Discouragement will cause you to operate at a lower level than your
optimum potential and it will limit your vision.
I read the
story of a man who was told by a teacher that he was not very smart. He needed
to quit school and learn a trade. He followed the advice of the teacher and
became an itinerant worker for 17 years. When he was in his 30s he took an IQ
test and discovered that he was a genius. He later became the chairman of the
Mensa Society, which requires an IQ of 140 for membership. For so many years of
his life, this man operated far beneath his potential. Why? Because someone
discouraged him. How different could this man's life have been if he had
Things are tough for many people right now. Give someone a word of
encouragement. Give that person a word of hope. Meet their need for
encouragement and watch that person achieve a great goal in their life.
In 2020 the church will have to rebuild families in an unprecedented manner. We will have to specialize in deeper mentoring, inner healing and deliverance ministries for men who have been captured by the allure of pornography, promiscuity and, in some cases, prostitution. The open struggles of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Larry Craig and others show us the emerging need of this for the future generation of men.
Just as natural technologies evolve every few years, so our spiritual technologies for ministry must evolve to keep pace with cultural challenges. We must place greater emphasis on Christian courtship and youth discipleship. In 2020 I believe the average age for Christian marriages will actually decline.
Parents, pastors and young people must better understand the wholesome expression of sexuality in the context of marriage. In a nutshell, the church will rebuild broken men and women while launching younger, stronger couples to create a new culture of marriage within the church. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, but the things of the kingdom will endure forever (see Heb. 12:27).
Harry Jackson is senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD.
The church is about to experience a
paradigm shift in preparation for life in 2020. I believe the season
for larger and larger houses of worship is coming to an end, as is the Field
ministry strategy that says if we build it, they will come. The idea
that bigger is better, especially as it relates to bigger buildings,
may be an approach to ministry that is about to transition into history.
Today’s technological advances present
options for doing ministry unknown in times past that can revolutionize
life in the kingdom here on earth. What most of us in megachurches see
on Sunday mornings—thousands of worshippers gathering in one
location—is not a New Testament model. As the New Testament church
grew, the mass gatherings with the Temple as the focal point of worship
were replaced by smaller gatherings like the church in Aquila and
Priscilla’s house. Certainly this shift was precipitated by the unique
non-Jewish cultures of these young fledgling congregations, but I think
there is a more universal principle being implied: In order to impact a
city or culture, it may be more effective to shift from the church
gathered in one large location to multiple smaller settings scattered
throughout the community and connected by the prevailing technology of
the day. If we were to corner some of my big-building, megaministry
colleagues when the cameras aren’t rolling and the reporters aren’t
taking notes, many would admit that if they had it to do again, they
would not build as big. I don’t think we were out of the will of God;
it may just be that we were par in a season whose time may be coming to
an end. We shall see.
We love to hear sermons and speeches about change. We love seminars that encourage us to change. We even enjoy traveling different paths in order to change our scenery. The problem is that we don't like to change.
A Canadian neurosurgeon discovered some amazing truths concerning the human mind's reaction to change. He found that when a person is required to change a fundamental belief or opinion, the brain experiences a series of nervous sensations similar to enduring torture. Our minds simply do not enjoy major changes.
Sydney Harris was an American journalist. He was also a drama critic, lecturer and teacher. Harris once said, "Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we want is for things to remain the same but get better."
It is not surprising that things do not remain the same. Many times situations may actually get better. Prepare for change. Although your mind may react as if you are being tortured, you are not. You are merely in the midst of change—for the better!
Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's strategy is now clear.
the worst week in U.S.-Israel relations in 35 years, Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington Monday and gave a powerful
and effective speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC) gala dinner at the Washington Convention Center, warning the world to
stop Iran - or Israel will - and respectfully but directly challenging the
Obama administration on Jerusalem and the peace process.
Netanyahu received scores of standing ovations from the 7,800 guests in
attendance, the biggest event in the history of AIPAC. More than half of the
members of the U.S. House and Senate were there, as were ambassadors from more
than 50 countries and many top Israeli officials, including defense
minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. The longest and most
sustained came when the prime minister firmly resisted the policy of President
Obama, who seeks to divide Jerusalem and stop Israel from building
"settlements" in East Jerusalem.
Two people have been overlooked in the
middle of the Tiger Woods scandal. The consequences of his actions upon their
lives will only be seen years down the road. Of course, I am referring to his
Family breakdown is not limited to
celebrities or the rich and famous. I know this all too well.
Although Valentine's Day is meant to celebrate love, it
can bring bittersweet memories and pain.
For kids, Valentine's Day is a time to exchange funny cards and eat boxes of
chocolate. For adults, it's often much more than just a time to send flowers
and buy heart jewelry, chocolates and cards—it's a time to rededicate your love
to one special person. But when you're a widow or widower, or have lost your
love due to an unfortunate life circumstance, Cupid's arrow can pierce your
heart in a very different way. What was once a holiday of "warm
fuzzies" can turn into a sorrowful day to overcome.
It's true that Valentine's Day holds significance for most couples, but it was
particularly special for my husband Gordon and me. After losing my father in
February, the whole season had become fraught with painful memories. Then a
young man with a lot of heart came into my life, and it just so happened that
Valentine's Day was right after our first date. When I got home from work,
Gordon had left a bouquet of pink carnations on my front porch. So, it became a
yearly ritual for us to use Valentine's Day as the anniversary of our first
you ever wondered why pornography seems to hypnotize the male brain, or
why it can override all logic, sometimes to the point of ruining a
guy's life? William Struthers has the answers. A neuroscientist and
professor at Wheaton College, Struthers has researched what goes on in
the mind of a man when he looks at pornography. His findings are
enlightening. Our conversation with him hit on a variety of topics,
such as why porn seems to be worse for Christians than non-Christians
and how single men can find hope. Don't miss this interview from New Man E-magazine.
New Man: What goes on in a man's brain when he's looking at pornography?
think even before you answer that question you have to know a little
bit about how a man's brain is built. Obviously it starts developing in
the womb. The critical part in making a masculine brain is
testosterone. It causes the brain to develop along a certain pathway.
That's what makes little boys different from little girls. You'll
notice that a baby boy likes to look at things, but a baby girl likes
to look at faces more.
The next big chemical changes
take place during puberty, when the brain becomes cued in to sexual
maturity. Every brain has certain parts that are more masculine or
feminine. What you find during this time is that the masculine parts of
the brain are really triggered by visual stimuli. This goes back even
to the example of babies—the boys are more interested in looking at
things. This visual preference shows up very clearly with pornography.
tests, when men are placed in brain scanning devices and look at stills
of naked women or video of couples engaged in intercourse, the visual
parts of a man's brain light up more than a woman's. The example I use
in the book is that, to a man, pornography is like a high definition
television. For whatever reason, it tends to draw in men reflexively
and maintain hold over them. Just like when you're looking at TVs in
Best Buy, the HDTV is going to grab your attention more than the
standard definition. To a woman's brain, it's all standard definition.
So pornography lends itself to a man's brain.
critical thing for a man's brain when looking at pornography is that
many men will use pornography to masturbate. Once again, when you look
at what goes on in the brain around an orgasm, it is the parts of the
brain that are involved in reinforcement. They are the same parts that
activate when a person eats or drinks or takes addictive drugs.
when you start pairing the visual image of pornography, which men see
incredibly well and are almost hypnotized by, and if you combine that
with the reinforcement of masturbating or acting out sexually, you're
laying down a powerful neurological habit where the orgasm reinforces
the response to pornography.
Within our larger
Christian worldview, the purpose of the brain reinforcing the response
to an orgasm is to bind a man to his wife. This response ties you to
whatever is sanctioned with it. In the context of marriage between a
husband and a wife, this binding is a good thing. If, however, this
sexual response is bound to something else, like a pornographic image,
you are bound to it and you develop an attachment to it. This is a
neurological process as much as a spiritual one.
New Man: Does
this process only happen when looking at extreme pornographic
images—such as naked pictures or video—or does it apply to anything we
are sexually drawn to?
lot of that is culturally defined. All men are drawn to look for nudity
and the female form, but how much depends on the culture you grow up
in. If you are in a conservative culture where the female form is
taboo, a little female skin may get you sexually aroused. If you are in
a culture where there is a lot of sexual imagery, you may need even
more than a naked body in order to elicit a sexual response. To
continue the metaphor, if you've been watching HDTV for a while, you
want a bigger screen. You've gotten used to it.
our culture, which is hypersexual, many men will need to escalate their
pornography usage. Some men will develop fetishes and go to specific
Web sites or look at particular types of women. They are training their
brains to only respond to that one thing. Other men will view multiple
Web sites with multiple different models and types of pornography,
training themselves to only be aroused by lots of women doing lots of
different things. Then, when they go to their one wife whose appearance
doesn't change and generally keeps to the same sexual script, it
doesn't arouse the man anymore.
New Man: That's
fascinating. Why does it seem sometimes like Christian men can have a
greater struggle with pornography than non-Christians?
you don't see sexually acting out as a spiritual matter, then you don't
have the same issues as a Christian, who sees it as sin or a moral
failing. Christians will have emotions like guilt and shame related to
their pornographic use, and that can make it worse. They feel a
self-loathing because of their issue, and they try to soothe that
loathing by acting out sexually. That momentary orgasm response of
relief and pleasure gets rid of the shame for a moment. It's a cycle
that gets worse over time, even more so for men of faith.
important thing to understand is that viewing pornography and sexually
acting out is not just done because it causes pleasure. It can be done
as a way of relieving stress, dealing with depression, or done just out
of a compulsion. Some men see it as a reward. They've been good all
week and they deserve it.
Some men are narcissists.
Actually, that's a personality type that attracts a lot of pastors. We
have to be careful when dealing with pastors in recovery because
sometimes they'll talk too openly about it so that they can be admired,
but they will draw others unnecessarily into the issue.
point is that you wouldn't treat a heroin addict the same way you would
someone who is depressed or someone who has a compulsive disorder. So
when we rightly understand the particular reason why men are viewing
pornography, we have a better chance of helping them. Rather than just
saying, "It's an addiction," we have to find the reason why men are
acting out and develop behavioral patterns to deal with the issue.
New Man: Is there hope for men who are stuck in this habit to rewire their brains?
as you are creating neurological habits out of your sexual immorality,
so too can you also create neurological habits out of sexual purity.
The same rules that govern how you got to this point can also be used
to get you out.
Imagine that you were addicted to
purity and compassion. You would feel the same lack of freedom to
control yourself, but you wouldn't be able to stop yourself from doing
good things. That process of being neurologically unable to fall prey
to temptation is called sanctification. As I make small decisions, they
have long-lasting neurological consequences for me. That can be good or
The other important part is having a right
understanding of what our sexuality is for. It is not primarily about
reproducing. If that were the case, every man should get married, no
man should have sex with his wife after menopause, and there would be
no place for single men and women.
Also, you hear all
kinds of crazy things about men being wired to spread our seed [or our]
being biologically promiscuous and women being more selective. That's
just rubbish. When you look at the statistics, women are just as
promiscuous as men. It's just that men tend to over-report their
experiences and women tend to under-report them.
other thing is, it's not just about pleasure. If that were the case,
men should just sit around masturbating all day. Neither reproducing
nor pleasure is the primary purpose for sexuality.
primary nature of our sexuality is tied to the fact that we are made in
the relational nature of the image of God and that sex is about knowing
and being known. It is about speaking goodness into someone else and
having them speak goodness to you. That takes place in a unique way in
the context of marriage between a man and a woman, and it models God's
exclusive love for His people or Jesus' exclusive love for His church.
we also need to move away from understanding sexuality as solely
between mates. Sexuality affects every relationship we have. I can be a
father figure to many young men on my college campus, but I'm a father
to my son in a different way. I'm a son to my parents, but I can be a
spiritual son to older men and women. I can be a spiritual brother to
women who aren't my wife, but I have a unique relationship with my wife
that is exclusive. All these relationships are affected by our
sexuality. It's about intimacy that is being made into a relational
image of God.
New Man: Single guys have a unique situation. Any advice for them?
our culture, and this is exacerbated in the church, single men feel
trapped because they don't have an outlet for their sexuality. This is
because they only see their sexuality as genital. When they can see
their sexuality in a relational context, like I was talking about a
minute ago, then they can be freed up of feeling the weight of having a
sexual outlet. They need to understand that sexuality isn't just about
pleasure and that they can channel that energy into their relationships
and service. Combine that with the fact that the sexual drive will die
down with age, and there's hope for them.
important for the rest of the church. When we understand they can be
ministers for good in a way that a married man can't be, then we give
them greater esteem and a higher place in the church. Just because
married is the norm, it doesn't mean it is the ideal. The church
doesn't value chastity as a lifelong decision anymore, it only sees it
as a holding pattern until marriage. That's not biblical. The church
desperately needs the service that single men can give. Without it, the
church cannot become what it is supposed to be.
Concerned Americans have been shaken by sobering images from ubiquitous news footage of rubble and rescue in Haiti after a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked the tiny poor Caribbean nation earlier this month, prompting many to ask, "Where is God and why would He allow such extensive suffering?"
Whether it is an earthquake or some other adversity that turns our lives upside down, Christians grapple with trying to reconcile God's sovereignty and His role in human suffering, including our own personal afflictions. I believe there are important truths about God and suffering that we need to keep in mind.
In the aftermath of what the Red Cross, United Nations and other agencies now consider the greatest tragedy in the history of our Western Hemisphere—the massive 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti—the reaction by leaders and the common man were predictable.
The immediate response to this incomparable human tragedy by governments, world relief agencies and religious organizations is the only bright spot in this dark episode of human drama. An event like this “natural” disaster could happen anywhere at anytime and reduces us all to simply being human. Tragedies like this graphically remind us of the fragility of our existence on this unstable planet we call Earth.
I was in New York City years ago shopping with my sister, when a young
man stopped me on the sidewalk and asked me for a handout. He was
wearing designer everything, so I didn't give him a dime. In this case,
it was easy for me to ignore a poor person. After all, this man wasn't
poor—he was a con!
People who try to take advantage of our kindness
have approached many of us. Street peddlers or drug addicts who trick
people out of money so they can buy drugs or liquor make it difficult
for the truly destitute who are forced to live on the streets.
Since we don't want to decide who's really poor and who isn't, we tend to look the other way. It's easier to just ignore them.
Rewind this story 2,000 years and something sounds familiar.
was an expectant mom who arrived in an unfamiliar city and was told
there were no motel rooms or boarding houses available. Though she was
about to have a baby, she and her husband were homeless.
recognized her need, so she was forced to give birth in a barn. Her
baby's name was Jesus. He became poor so we could have the priceless
gift of eternal life (see 2 Cor. 8:9).
you recognize the poor around you? This holiday season many of us will
shop until we drop and on the way out the door, we'll probably throw
some loose change into the Salvation Army kettle to help others. Or
possibly some of us will volunteer to feed the hungry during a church
But helping the poor needs to become more of a
priority for all who follow Jesus. So much of His ministry was directed
to the poor. Why, then, do so few churches in the U.S. support
ministries that meet the physical needs of underprivileged people?
Word instructs us to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, care for orphans
and widows, and give clothes to those who don't have any. So when we
don't make room for these people in our hearts, we are doing what the
innkeeper did to Mary and Joseph when they sought a room in Bethlehem.
We are turning Jesus away—again.
When you see someone truly in
need, allow Jesus to break your heart, so you can feel what He feels
for the woman who has to live in a cardboard box, the many who must
sleep on bench or the child who rarely eats a healthful meal.
This Christmas—and all through the year—let's make room in our hearts for the poor.
Thanksgiving approaches once again, I am reminded of so many people who are
learning to be thankful despite their suffering. However I want to encourage them to go one better — I believe we
can even learn to be thankful for suffering.
is a common response to question God's goodness when we endure hardships — whether physical limitations, illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, you
Soon after I graduated from college I gave my life to the Lord. Even though I grew up in a godly home, I treated salvation like a game of Russian roulette. I played around because I figured I had time on my side. Was I ever deceived!
I know today what made me drop to my knees, repent of my sins and ask Jesus into my life: prayer. My mother spent untold hours in prayer crying out to God, "Lord, save my children." She knew back then what I know now: Prayer changes things.
In the last several years I have witnessed at least two astounding miracles where Christian ministries have experienced a literal rebirth.
The first is a doctrinal miracle. The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934, reexamined its doctrines and practices after Armstrong's death in 1986. This led to a complete theological reformation to Christian orthodoxy in the 1990s. Today, no longer viewed as a cult, the denomination has changed its name to Grace Communion International and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In my research for Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey, I spent time with a shepherd in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado and vintner in California. With each person, I opened up the scripture and asked, “How do you read this passage—not as a theologian—but in light of what you do every day?”
The journey was chock-full of spiritual insights, but one of my favorite stops was my time with Lynne, a shepherdess, who took care of a flock of a few dozen sheep in the fields near her home in Oregon. Not only did we feed and water the sheep together, but we just spent time among the flock sitting in the field, watching the sheep and talking.
During our time together, I was struck by just how much a sheep knows its shepherd. One of the most amazing times I had with the shepherdess, Lynne, was the very first time she introduced me to her flock. I followed her up a muddy path to the upper field where the sheep were grazing.
She whispered to me, “When they hear my voice, they’ll come running.”
Then simply by saying the words, “Sheep, sheep, sheep,” she called her flock. Every last sheep in the field bolted toward her.
That moment was powerful for me. John 10 describes the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice as a metaphor for us knowing God’s voice. Yet it isn’t just a metaphor—it’s the way sheep really behave. Standing in the field with Lynne and watching the sheep run toward her made that verse come alive in a whole new way. I recognized that just as a sheep is created to know its shepherd, we are created to know God and live in relationship with Him.
During my research on sheep, I discovered a remarkable story from Gary Burge, a professor at Wheaton College, that illustrates the close relationship of shepherds and their flocks. He describes how Israeli soldiers visited a poor village outside of Bethlehem after a Palestinian uprising and demanded that the people pay the taxes they owed. They refused.
The officer in charge gathered up all the animals of the village—primarily sheep and goats—and placed them into a huge pen. A poor woman approached the officer in charge and begged him to release her animals. Because the poor woman’s husband had been imprisoned, her sheep were literally all she had.
The officer laughed at her request. How could she possibly find her dozen sheep in a pen of more than 1,000 animals?
The woman challenged the officer. If she could find her animals, could she keep them?
Intrigued, the soldier agreed.
The woman then invited her 10-year-old son to stand before the pen. He pulled out a flute and began to play a simple tune. As he walked through the fenced-in area, a dozen sheep gathered behind him, following him all the way home.
The officer and soldiers were impressed. They broke into applause, shut the gate and then announced that no one else could use the trick to get their sheep back.
Why did the sheep follow the boy? Because they knew he was their shepherd. And they knew he was a good shepherd. They were not only familiar with his voice, they knew the very tunes he played on his flute—songs he had played in the fields many times before.
That portrait of a sheep knowing its shepherd so well gives me hope that I, too, can know God intimately. For me, spending time with a loving shepherd was a powerful portrait of God’s love for each of us—a love that is tangible, practical and unending. From this perspective, some of the seemingly opposite attributes of God, such as discipline and grace, began to make sense.
Over the course of our time together, I watched a shepherd who truly loved her sheep—it was so evident in the way she spoke to and about them. Whether feeding her animals by hand, changing their bandages, administering medicine or keeping a watchful eye, her love was constantly on display. I also watched when Lynne had to reprimand or punish a sheep by placing it in time out. Even those moments were founded in love and caring for her flock.
The entire time, Lynne wanted what was best for the flock and the individual sheep. She was for them. For me, it was a tangible reminder of just how much God is for us, individually and as His flock.
You are successful to the degree that you empower others! Too often, in today's world, success is defined by the size of your organization, the amount of money you accumulate or how influential your name is. Although each of these things may be found in a successful person's portfolio, they are not true indicators of real success. Success as a leader is measured by the degree that you empower others.