I’m watching Santa Paws 2…and I’m weeping.

So…Here was my bright idea.  After a day like this, it seemed appropriate to give in to the girls’ movie choice for tonight.  Sure, Santa Paws 2, how could we go wrong?  These lovable, cuddly, yet predictably mischievous little pups will be be safe.  Or so I thought.

I watch the plot unfold.  The town of Pineville has lost it’s Christmas Spirit.  The Pups have some bright idea to save to the town, and of course, it goes horribly wrong.  The “Christmas Cold” spreads like wildfire and the whole town is engulfed in a thick, selfish gloom.  All that is left of the once thriving Spirit in the town is found in the tender heart of a little girl.

Through her perseverance, slowly the people around her begin to get a hint of hope again.  As the movie moves toward it’s predictable climax…you know.. when the pups realize that they’ve made a hash of it and gain a new determination to fix it… the little girl remembers what had worked in the past to keep the Spirit alive in the town.  They decide to produce a special Christmas radio show.

So…here I sit.  Just minding my own business, watching this movie of all things.  Suddenly, it starts.

The girl steps up to the mic in the small town radio studio…and begins to sing…

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

So..by now I’m weeping…

Here’s the thing…as she sang, the town listened in.  Radios went on in the homes, businesses, the courthouse, all over.  The hearts of all who heard the song began to warm.  As if waking from a deep slumber, the faces of the people began to change and the hope returned to their eyes.  It was as if the Spirit that had once given life to the town had returned.  The song had cut the darkness.  The ears of all who heard it were opened.  Light was dawning in their midst once again.

I don’t know how the Gospel made it’s way into this movie, but there it was.  In this moment, the whole story about the dogs and the antics and the whatever…it didn’t matter. They had nothing to do with saving this town.  It had everything to do with the child’s song.  It brought the Spirit back.  It simply fell on the ears and brought life.  None in the town wanted it…as if they didn’t even have the capacity to want it.  But this didn’t stop the miracle of new life from being created in them.

Yes, all of this came rushing to me..sitting with my daughters…watching Santa Paws 2…tears rolling down my cheeks.

This town is our town…we don’t have the Spirit…we don’t even know we don’t have it.  We are filled with selfishness and despair.  Our memory of how it once was is gone, covered by the deepest fog.

So what is the hope?  It is not found in foolish antics of trying to fix what we see as the problem.  It is not found in the magic that we will try to conjure.

Our only hope is Jesus.  Not being like Jesus.  Not being inspired by Jesus.  Not even believing in Jesus.  Our only hope is Jesus himself, shining the light of His glory in our hearts.  Only he can cut that darkness so that we see his face.  When we see, we will truly see.  We will come alive, and give him Glory upon Glory. (2 Cor. 4:1-4)

May we Fall on our knees.

May this weary world rejoice.

For yonder breaks and new and glorious morn.

His name is Jesus.

In the midst of our broken world, hurting in so many ways tonight.  I want to encourage all to sing.  Sing of the wonders of God in Christ.  Sing of the beauty of the good news.  Sing in the abiding hope that on the cross Christ took our sin.  Sing that now by His grace alone, through faith alone, we may share in His life.

To the praise of His glorious grace-

Randy

See even the full text of this song and how it can warm this cold night:

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

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A few of my favorite things…(Part 1)

So much is out there demanding our attention in our world and through  our various media and technology.  Unfortunately, the time we focus on our walk with Jesus is at the center of the chaos bullseye.

Here is a list of some resources that I have found helpful for personal and spiritual learning and growth:

Podcasts

The audio podcast has become a personal favorite of mine.  So much so, that I push everyone I meet to give them a try as well.  With the ever increasing range of format and subject matter, there is no reason to not make these a part of your life.  Here are my regulars:

rs91_briefing-ampodcast-logo3The Briefing- “Daily News and Events, from a Christian Worldview”  R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, spends about 15 minutes each day to engage with the happenings of our Genesis 3 world.  Through this podcast, we not only get updated on what is going on, but also how to think critically and biblically in response.

-Perfect for the commute or the time it takes to pack lunches for the kids.

Thinking in Public- “Intelligent conversation about important theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them.”  Yes it’s Al Mohler again, but I find his approach to his short daily podast (The Briefing) and this longer form format to be so refreshing and so needed in our world.  In this podcast (Usually around 50 minutes), Mohler has a conversation with authors and leaders that are involved in particular research and cultural practice that Christians need to take notice of.  We need to be students of our world, so that the light of Christ, through us, can reach out to that world.

-Longer form perfect for your weekly long run or sunday afternoon during naps.

The Accidental Creative- “How to thrive in the create-on demand world”  Todd Henry, a creative professional and consultant, shares his thoughts (and others’ thoughts) on how to be healthy, prolific and brilliant when your job demands fresh creativity everyday.  I would recommend this for anyone in a leadership or create-on-demand capacity.

-Short form (usually 20 min. or less) great as a regular part of your day or in case of a creative slump emergency.

NJ Pastor is Offline (Part 2)

Adding a “Part 2” to my original article wasn’t my plan.  But someone sent me this link and I knew I had to address the issue again.

As I wrote my initial response, I considered throwing out the idea that the urgency and irrationality of this pastor’s efforts was probably linked to personal guilt.  I could have said that he is making this firm stand, and forcing his people to take it too, because he was guilty of what he is denouncing.

Well, I didn’t add that to my previous post.  I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Unfortunately, I was right in my hunch.

In no way would I imply that everyone who takes a firm or irrational stand on something is guilty of it….but it has been the trend in high profile religious scandal recently.  This makes me sick…but it is also very frustrating.

Along with what I discussed in Part 1, it is helpful to remember some biblical truth here:

And he called the people to him and said to them,  “Hear and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”12Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Matthew 15:10-20 (ESVemphasis added)

Like the apostles needed to see, we need to see what the real issue is here.

The problem is not Facebook….or Twitter….or alcohol…or guns…etc.  The problem is what is in our heart.  What is in our heart will come out, through our words and our actions, and will show who we are.

We could rid the world of every form of social media and guess what….people will still find ways to have inappropriate relationships.  We could bring back prohibition and you know what….people will still turn to something to give them relief…something other than God.

Of course there are some things that are evil in and of themselves (pornography, human trafficking, etc) and I don’t want to stir up confusion here.  But in this case with the Facebook denouncing pastor, the real issue is clear.

We, as fallen creatures, have a problem with sin.  Most of the time we don’t want to acknowledge that problem but would rather put the blame on someone or something else.  That is the way it has been since the garden of eden…and it will remain this way until Christ reigns in Glory.

Until then, we need pastors and other children of God to stand up and confess their sin, be discerning in their thoughts and behavior, and compel others to explore Christ because of their humility not their self-righteousness.

NJ Pastor is Offline (Part 1)

If you haven’t heard about pastor that is telling his staff to get off Facebook, you can read about it here and here.

In my opinion, the pastor is misinformed and moving in a direction that is simply not helpful.

Here is his main argument:

In his pastoral counseling, he has seen a increase of people using Facebook to reignite old flames.  People essentially think that what they are doing is hidden and anonymous.  This leads to a trail of deception and is highly damaging to their marriages and families.

Of course, this is true.  People are guilty of this.  However, I don’t think that the problem is the social network itself.  I definitely don’t think the answer is leaving the network in protest.  Yet this is what he has determined for the others on staff:

It’s to the point now that this Sunday, anyone in our church in a leadership position and who is married and is on Facebook has to resign their church position if they do not give up Facebook.

Bad idea…and it really doesn’t make sense.

Suppose people use automobiles to drive themselves to bad places where they engage in bad behavior.  Are the cars to blame…or the roads…should they be abandoned and torn up.  Or what about those pesky restaurants where people eat way too much food.  Should we stop going to out to eat.

It is the same with social networking.  Sure, people abuse it.  People take advantage of the connection it enables and use it for sinful purposes.  Since the dawn of time this is the plight of man.

Most importantly, we should not remove ourselves from the environments that so desperately need the Gospel.  A better line of action would be to encourage our pastors and leaders to engage their communities and people through the social networks.  We should show that our ‘online life’ and our real life actually have no distinction.

If we are so quick to remove ourselves from such engagement, we may actually be ensuring that the negative and destructive behavior will remain unchecked.

Media Monday: Social Media Revolution…Really?

Watch this Video and then read my response below:

The statistics in this video are staggering.  I couldn’t believe  some of the numbers the first time I watched this.  Over the past couple of months I have been working with various leaders and organizations to help them understand the new reality that Social Media has ushered in.  This is not a fad, it is here to stay.

But…What is it?

Is this really a revolution?

Sure, the technology and software that has come on the scene in recent years has changed the way in which we communicate.  In my short 33 years I have witnessed the shift from email to tweets, from sharing pictures from a wallet to sharing them on facebook.

Just considering the last ten years shows the advancement of technology.  Ten years ago I had a pager.  Yes…I even clipped it to my belt.  Contrary to popular belief at the time I was not a ‘local pharmaceutical rep’.  I thought it was amazing that people could get a message to me at any time…and the message went through the air to this little box.  It was incredible.

Now I sit here, accessing the internet wirelessly on my very compact super-computer and my phone is nearly just as powerful.  On my smart phone I can receive email, text message, check the weather report, track UPS packages, tweet, check-in to GPS locations, etc….Oh and I can call people too.

Technology and Social Media really is amazing.

But what’s the point?  Is this revolution something new?

I don’t think so.  We have certain capabilities like never before, but the mission of is all is as old as the earth itself.

As humans, made in the image of God, we were created for connection.  We are designed to be in fellowship with our creator and with our neighbor.  The technology that we have today provides ways of connecting that are not too different from the stories told around the campfire, the conversations in the pub or coffee shop.

As Christians, we need to understand our culture.  We need to be on the forefront of the advancement of media and influence it for good.  But we must not lose sight of ultimate reality.  God is over all.  Jesus is Lord.  We must be connected to Him.  As the body of Christ, we must be connected in ways to advance the proclamation of the Gospel to the nations.

If there is a revolution as a result of social media, my hope is that it will be a Gospel revolution.  Let us leverage what we hold in our hand for the greatest good: That people will see Jesus, that they will repent and believe.

Social Media is only a threat and danger when we lose sight of this.