Among the sinners who need amazing grace? #MeToo

MeToo Quote

This column appeared in the Nov. 18, 2017 issue of The Telegraph.

It has become so popular to call out famous entertainers and politicians for their sins in recent days, it’s becoming difficult to keep up with all the #MeToo accusations.

The avalanche of righteous anger first buried Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer who apparently was a creep to nearly every woman in Hollywood.

The others who’ve been accused of uninvited touches, rude comments and out-right assault range from sports stars to Presidents, from business owners to actors, from Congressmen to comedians. As the comedians would tell us, there’s nothing funny about the charges or the fallout of exposure. As the Bible promised, their sins have found them out!

The #MeToo movement has led to millions of posts on social media. Early on, Facebook reports the hashtag was used by 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during a single 24-hour period!

Announcing the release of our newest book!

Christmas book cover final
Want to have a really special Christmas?

First of all, find it. As in, discover the incredible cultural and historical setting of the Christmas story. Actually, Luke and Matthew tried to set the stage for us when both of them began their historical record of the birth of Jesus with the political background of the story.

Why haven’t we noticed it before?

Because, frankly, it’s kind of boring to wade through all the history stored away in those dusty, seminary-library books. It’s easier to simply envision the peaceful, picture-perfect scene our Christmas cards have always painted for us.

That’s why Pastor Andy Cook wrote a novel. Here’s the story of Pastor Jim Ricketts, who just couldn’t get inspired for another round of Christmas sermons. In fact, he was burned out on Christmas weeks before the holiday arrived!

Just in the nick of time, he found himself exploring the land of the Bible, discovering all that Luke and Matthew thought he already knew. The impact of the trip was so profound, it was as if he’d found Christmas for the very first time.

At 216 pages, this hardback book is sprinkled with the color photographs you’ve come to expect from Experience Israel Now. If nothing else, the photographs will prove that there’s nothing made-up about the background of “Finally Finding Christmas.”

One more really special detail about this book. We’re sending a portion of every book sold to a great ministry in Jericho, where God is doing a great work through some friends we’ve met there. So this year, the gift of this book is also a gift for Seeds of Hope. Get a copy for yourself … and pass one along to someone you love!

Order your copy now! Rather have “Finally Finding Christmas” via Kindle? Click here!

Finding Christmas web page ad photos

 

If you vote against gravity, don’t expect to be grounded in truth

Telegraph Saturday Sept 30 2017

The front page of the “Living” section featured a nice story on Jerry Walls and Southside Baptist Church, and a column on the church that “voted on gravity.”

It amazes me that churches purporting to follow Jesus would literally vote to support a practice the Bible condemns. This column appeared in the Macon Telegraph on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Ironically, the same issue of the newspaper did a nice feature on Jerry Walls of Southside Baptist Church. We just hosted a trip to Israel with Southside. What an honor to be connected with a great man and a great church.

Here’s the column: 

There once was a church that entertained a debate on gravity. Some of the more progressive members of the church felt the law of gravity was no longer relevant in a modern society. “Gravity is too restrictive,” said one member.

“It has held us to the ground far too long,” said another.

“Even if I personally choose to believe that gravity still has some value,” said another member, “we need to include those who do not believe as I believe. Who am I to judge?”

“I certainly don’t want to offend anyone in our community,” said the pastor. “That would not be a loving thing to do.”

And so it came to pass that the church had a vote on gravity. After an admirably civil discussion, the majority voted to ignore the old-fashioned and outdated standard. From that day forth, the law of gravity was off the books. When it was over, the church congratulated itself for its progressive attitude. Its members headed happily to their homes. No one seemed to notice that the law of gravity had ignored their decision, even as they left the building.

There are some matters on which a church should never vote. The law of gravity is one example. God’s definition of marriage is another. Perhaps it is not surprising that political leaders and secular courts have recently redefined marriage. Politicians and judges are not charged with upholding biblical standards. That’s a pity, for without a biblical anchor of unchanging morality, generations of political leaders and judges have been amazingly inconsistent in dealing with the most basic of human values.

Consider American history for a moment. Our political leaders and judges once defended slavery. Aren’t you glad another generation abolished the “right” to own human beings?

One generation of our national leaders supported legal segregation only to see the next generation deem their opinions and actions “immoral.” Indeed, there was nothing fair about “separate but equal” policies in this country.

On the other hand, leaders from the past would never have passed or even considered laws protecting abortion or assisted suicide. They also would have never dreamed of defining marriage in any way except the way it had been defined for centuries.

The definition of “right” and “wrong” in any society is a matter of debate and subject to the whims of those in charge. If Abraham Lincoln is your leader, you’ll get solid moral leadership. If Adolf Hitler is in charge, there will be hell to pay.

Thank God for the Bible.

A Sunday when everyone lost

Falcons lost

When the Falcons won a game despite losing in the closing seconds, it seemed to be symbolic of our national spirit. Is there hope for turning things around?

The Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions played football Sunday afternoon.

Both teams managed to lose the game.

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford drove the Lions toward the goal line as time ran out, hitting receiver Golden Tate on a short slant pass for what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown.

The Lions celebrated. Their fans danced in the aisle. The Falcons were downcast, tasting the same kind of collapse that has haunted them ever since last February’s Super Bowl meltdown.

Technically, eight seconds remained. But one look at the Atlanta sideline told the story. They’d lost the game.

For a while, no one seemed to notice that officials weren’t making the touchdown official yet. Instant replay officials were going over the play with a magnifying glass, slowly coming to the conclusion that Tate’s knee hit the ground when the ball was one lace short of crossing the goal line.

Only freeze-frame instant replay could have possibly led to such an ruling. But the ruling was announced, leaving the ball dead at the six-inch line. No game-winning touchdown. Points on the scoreboard were removed.

There was more.

Worried? Anxious? Don’t miss Isaiah’s message!

Train of His Robe

More than likely, you already love Isaiah 6. Among Bible readers, who hasn’t reveled in the glorious sound of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty?” Here’s a reason to love it even more.

Isaiah’s vision of God came when he was in desperate need of knowing God was still in charge. The king was dead. His people felt unsettled. And he was called to be God’s primary spokesman!

In that hour of personal distress, Isaiah said something incredible happened.

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne, and the train of His robe filled the Temple!”

When I think of “the train of his robe,” I’ve only got one reference point. It’s the train on a wedding dress. When Isaiah saw the “train of his robe,” he saw something completely different. 

Tough Temple Mount security: For a non-Muslim, it’s been that way for years

TempleMount

On the left are photos from security near the Western Wall. The long line of tourists (bottom left photo) are waiting to go through a security check from Islamic policemen who have authority over the Temple Mount. The wooden platform (center left) was built to accommodate tourists as they wait for a security hut (top left) to open. The new metal detectors (right photo) have been placed outside of the Temple Mount area near the Lion’s Gate. Only Muslims are allowed to enter here. Click on the photo for a larger version.

SecurityTempleMount

Maybe you’ve seen some of the news footage coming out of Jerusalem in the past few days. Massive protests have erupted in Jerusalem near the Lion’s Gate and throughout the West Bank because of new security measures installed by Israel. Some protestors have died. Many protestors and some Israeli forces have been injured. It’s a little crazy, to say the least.

The new and “controversial” security measures aren’t unusual. In simple terms, we’re talking policemen and metal detectors. You’ll find similar treatment in the world’s airports, museums, sporting arenas and at concert venues.

And get this. Such security measures aren’t even unusual on the Temple Mount.

In fact, if Muslims think it’s too much trouble to visit the Noble Sanctuary, they should try getting to the famous site as a visitor.

Let’s hear it for the girls!

Huldah

An artistic portrayal of the prophetess Huldah. She was a beloved messenger of God during the time of young King Josiah.

The Bible often takes a hit from critics as somehow being “anti-women.”

Someone hasn’t done her homework.

Take the obscure passage I noticed just this morning in 1 Chronicles 7:24.  That biblical detail tells us that Ephriam’s daughter Sheerah “built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah.” So she was a builder. That’s cool. Cooler still, those who compiled the words of the Bible made a note of it.

No big deal?

Think again. Truth is, the ancient, Eastern culture that is the framework of the Bible was a male-dominated society. Women had a traditional role in family life and in their communities. And yet the Bible is not afraid to say, “Hey, look at Sheerah. She was quite the builder!”

But Sheerah’s notation is only an obscure one, and only one of many obscure, positive references to women.

Proverbs 31, the acrostic poem about great women, is unique in all of ancient literature. You won’t find such an uplifting and lengthy passage about women in Greek, Roman, Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Islamic or Asian antiquity. In many copies of the Hebrew Bible, the book of Ruth immediately follows Proverbs, as if to give us an example of a woman living out the ideal of a woman of noble character.

Then there is Esther, who saved the Jewish people from annihilation, and Huldah, the Jewish prophetess. Did you know she was the only one of the Bible’s prophets who was buried on the Temple Mount grounds?

Jesus treated every woman he met with great respect, no matter their status, reputation or sin. Did you know there was a group of women who traveled with Jesus and supported him financially?

Here’s what our travelers are saying about their trips to Israel with EIN … while they’re in Israel!

We’ve just announced our first trip of 2018. Click here to discover more!

If you can’t see the leader …

Tim leads the way

One night during our most recent tour of Israel, Ingleside Baptist Church pastor Tim McCoy told our group, “You know, I think I’ve learned something new about following Jesus on this tour.”

Immediately, the long-time pastor from Macon had our attention. Known for his ability to communicate clearly and simply, he reminded the group of how we’d been in a very crowded Jerusalem earlier in the day.

Pastor Tim McCoy explains a point while teaching in a theater at Caesarea. Many events in the book of Acts happened in this location.

Pastor Tim McCoy explains a point while teaching in a theater at Caesarea. Many events in the book of Acts happened in this location.

“I found that in a group this large, I can’t always see the leader of our group,” McCoy said. “When that happens, I simply find someone who’s following the leader, and I follow him.”

The next day, as we made our way through the Muslim Quarter in the middle of the day, I remembered the lesson my friend had offered. Not only could I not see the leader of our group … I could barely find any members of our group! But up ahead, Tim instinctively threw up his hand, knowing those behind him would need a focal point as we zig-zagged our way through the Damascus Gate.

Sure enough, we all made it out of the city gate and regrouped in a more spacious setting, no worse for the journey.

It sure had helped to know that someone ahead of me was following the leader!

When Paul wrote letters to his young churches across the Roman Empire, he wasn’t afraid to say something like this: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16) Paul wasn’t being arrogant or trying to draw attention to himself. He simply knew that those who were trying to follow Jesus could at that moment … only see Paul.

Maybe you’ll never tell your friends, co-workers, children or grandchildren to “imitate me.” But I promise you … they’re going to imitate someone. They’re going to follow someone who appears to know where he’s going, even if he’s headed for destruction.

If you want the people you love to follow Jesus, then by all means, you follow Jesus first. You will certainly have to spot someone ahead of you who is also following our leader. If you do this, many people who have you in sight will walk in the same path. This is the way our community of faith works.

So keep your eyes on Jesus today and keep your hand in the air. Someone behind you is counting on you!