Thursday, December 11, 2014

The War on Christmas

The enemies of God have often been very clumsy in their overt attempts to stomp out the messianic line.
Pharaoh and Herod are the most blatant examples of those who went way over the top in their homicidal rage against the blueprint of heaven. 
Of course their satanic chieftain is no longer invited to private briefings at the Throne.
Satan knows something very awful is on the way from a demonic perspective, but he does not have the exact details.

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
-Corinthians 2:7-8

This is why the agents of darkness fight with a shotgun approach. They are in the dark too!  Kill all the children, abolish every reference to Christmas and maybe the whole "Messiah thing," will be crushed in the onslaught. 

All the more reason for the children of light to rejoice exceedingly at Christmas. This holiday (holy day) is under attack, and the fight will surely intensify.  
Satan knows the clock is ticking down, which brings us to a good news/bad news verse:

Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.
-Revelation 12:12

So do not expect a truce in this war. Perhaps you ask, "What about the whole peace on earth deal?"
Well, we must properly parse the angelic phrase, it was, "peace on earth to men of good will," more accurately, people seeking God's will.  Be very sure, as Dylan said, Jesus is a "slow train coming."  
Get on it or be left behind.  You do not want to go to Satan's  tribulation party.


Reports about the secularization of December 25th are coming in from all regions of the United States.
Some stories are bizarre, others laughable, all of them point to a clear trend.  Strong forces are at work to make the traditional Christmas holiday more pagan and less Christian. 
Bill O'Reilly is red-faced, Jay Sekulow is in court and Pat Robertson has his own theories. 
What is your response?  Detached bemusement or intense outrage? Let us get some perspective before we fall into the "ready, fire, aim," error. 
The attack on the Christ of Christmas is only one front of many that are underway in the spiritual realm. Because Christmas is a visible, symbolic, and emotional  battle-ground, it makes for good press and easy conversation.  
But this topic reminds us of a huge biblical fact, the church is at war, spiritual war. It did not begin with Madalyn Murray O'hair and a liberal Supreme Court and it will not end if we force all Macy's clerks to say "Merry Christmas." 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
-Ephesians 6:12

Further, the battle belongs to the Lord. That is excellent news, because an invisible enemy with super powers is kind of concerning. 

Could it be that this "War on Christmas," is merely a diversionary tactic, a smoke-screen to mask a deeper, more devious strategy?  Remember, winning court battles will not win souls. Displays of the nativity are nice, but minds change when hearts change.  Feel free to fight for symbols of our faith as you are led, but the actual battle is about the gospel, that is the real target here. 
And concerning the preaching of the gospel, we can never compromise or retreat.

We also need to keep this issue in global context. Loss of Christmas greetings at the mall or a plastic Jesus at a courthouse pales in comparison to a very real  and violent war on Christians in many parts of the world.

A Pearl of Great Price

The so-called War on Christmas is merely a skirmish thus far. Corporate protocol battles over the verbiage of clerks and court fights over public nativity scenes are child's play compared to what is on the horizon.

Daniel 7:25 predicts this about a coming charismatic political leader:
He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
Shall persecute the saints of the Most High,
And shall intend to change times and law.
Then the saints shall be given into his hand
For a time and times and half a time. 

Changing the seasons refers to the calendar and will involve abolishing 
established national and religious holidays and establishing new, pagan ones.

To disorient and reform the world, this leader will have the audacity to abolish 
Christmas and Easter. That will be his demonic goal.  How happy hell would be if 
only this could be done. No Christmas and Jesus is not born.  No Easter, He cannot rise,
and therefore mankind cannot be forgiven. Pompous words indeed. 

The War on Christmas is a much deeper battle than  a fight over "Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas," this war cuts to the core of the cosmic drama that has consumed the universe since the fall of Lucifer.

God has His purposes in allowing this pretender space in His place. Soon enough, and sure enough, Satan will discover that his claws are too short to box with the Almighty, and that he has merely been an irritant to catalyze and purify the church.  Like a pebble of sand to an oyster, Satan has been used by the Lord to bring forth the pearl of his people. 

A War on Christmas?  We can imagine Gabriel and the angels get a good laugh about that one, this was all set in stone before the foundations of the world.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Detroit: Paris of the Midwest?

It is true. Back in the Glory Days, when Michigan was the engine of  America, Motown was called the Paris of the Midwest.  A slight stretch, but Detroit  in 1960 had a vibrant social scene fueled by the Big Three Auto companies. But that was then. 

Imagine my surprise Friday night when the hotel in-room tourist mag at the Westin Metro airport had the headline: 
New Day in Detroit: Paris of the Midwest. 
Let me say this about that.
I have been to Paris, and, uh, no. 
Get this story:

Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.

Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.

At this point, there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.

 An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.

 When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.

 The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.

Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.

Crime has gotten so bad in Detroit that even the police are telling people to "enter Detroit at your own risk".

It is easy to point fingers and mock Detroit, but the truth is that the rest of America is going down the exact same path that Detroit has gone down.
Detroit just got there first.  

That prediction is a bit dark, unless you live in St. Louis or another inner city.
Beyond the economics, Michigan is a quality state and obviously, has some great lakes. If you ever get a chance to go north, do it. Charlevoix, Petoskey and Mackinac are magic. Accurate to say, The Colorado of the Midwest. 
I went back last weekend for a reunion of our campus radio station and there was a CMU football reunion too. 
Radio was a much different animal in the WCHP days, before voice tracking, corporate clusters and centrally planned playlists.
WCHP was a freak of nature, receiving national recognition in the middle of nowhere.  Superb to see some of the pro's I learned radio with. 
Every baby boomer knows the sensation of seeing a friend for the first time in decades, that's why they invented name tags.
At the football game, I wasn't quite ready to see some guys with canes, but football is rough on the knees.

 It was a trip to see my college roommates, Gary Bevington, the QB, Jim Johnson, the running back and DJ, (still playing the hits in Detroit) and Greg Partalis, 'The Greek' offensive tackle and always the one most likely to become a millionaire.  I was a wide receiver in the wrong offense. Coach Kramer thought passing the ball was a sign of weakness.

The campus had an eerie vibe of another life. Glad to have survived the drama and the trauma that goes with campus days. 

Detroit and Michigan seem to be on the comeback trail. I hope so.  I like comebacks, because I made one. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I Did Not See This Coming

Alivia meets one of her first horse friends in Montana

I can honestly say that until I met our first grandchild, Alivia Sky, eight years ago, I had never given a thought to grandchildren. Maybe it is the branding problem of relating to being a grand parent. I sort of imagined a cross between Grandpappy Amos on the Real McCoys and Marlon Brando stumbling around the garden in Godfather I.  I could not relate.
Actually, I was so consumed raising and surviving the Lusko tribe, this season was never given a glimmer of thought.
Even thirty years of faithful Focus on the Family listening did not prepare me for the obvious when you have a full brood. I do not doubt that the good Dr. Dobson broached the subject, but it just did not penetrate. I am a little thick. No amen needed from you.
Since Alivia made her appearance in So Cal, ten more grandchildren have mysteriously shown up.

Even I get the message, this is a fantastic time to enjoy and invest.  I suppose these kids are like different notes of fine wines, each unique and exquisite.  Amazing really.

All the cliche's about having grandchildren first are understandable, the pressure of parenting is pretty much off, and  unlike your children, you can return them at the end of the day. But that misses the point: Grandchildren are a reward.  A wild blessing and a tremendous opportunity.
Not so much to correct mistakes made on the earlier generation, but to intentionally impact the future.
They will touch tomorrow as grand parents never can.

We are determined to cultivate Jesus as much  as possible in these young vines.
Just the other day, Jaxon asked if he could go forward at the gospel invitation his Uncle Levi was presenting at a church in Denver. Wow. I have frozen that moment, what a joy. And so much more remains.  Eleven grandchildren, so far  that is, Heidi is in the dugout, and a few of the others are still in the game.

Now, this season is not one big My Little Pony or Spiderman party.
Yes, we have pretty much received a double blessing numerically from the first generation, which multiplies the upside. But love is 
always a risk, and so the possible heartbreak is expanded as we so painfully learned when Lenya was called home. 
But we are willing to run those Class IV whitewater rapids.

We are now very conscious of this window of time we preparing for impact.
Not everyone has this particular channel to the future, but remember, so many young children are fatherless. Nationally, forty per cent of children grow up in single parent homes, In some demographics, it is seventy per cent!  This is a fantastic opportunity for individuals and the church to step in and fulfill what James called, pure religion undefiled.

Now that I see this season, I want to enjoy every moment. Since I am not ready for retirement, my grandkids can expect deep sea fishing instead of a quiet day at the pond and Grand Prix go- karts instead of rocking chairs.
As long as my knees hold out, I'll run as far and fast with them as possible.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Israel: Royal Nation, Gift to the World

I first encountered anti-semitism when I was in second grade. I distinctly recall my parents talking about Jewish neighbors who would, "never be accepted into the country club."  This put my little mind on tilt and I asked why. Because they were Jewish my mom said. Reason enough, given that I was raised during the White Flight in Detroit by racist parents who voted for George Wallace in the 1968 presidential race. 
Gratefully, both mom and dad came to Christ, thus their hearts and minds changed. 
But the mystery of hatred for the Jews remained until I explored the roots of the Old Testament and discovered Genesis 12:2 & 3, God's permanent promise to Abraham and his Jewish nation: 

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and you shall be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curse you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.

 I have since been to Israel numerous times, visited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu and count many Jews as dear friends. But none of this compares with the wonder I feel when I consider the fantastic Jewish past, present and future.  If you want a concrete reason for faith in the Bible, I suggest an El Al flight to Tel Aviv.
One day in the late 19th century Queen Victoria of England reportedly asked her Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli this question, "What evidence can you give me for the existence of God?" Disraeli thought for a moment and replied, "The Jews, your Majesty, the Jews."

From Pharoah to Herod to Hitler, the Jews have been hated, hunted and exterminated. And yet, the slow train of God's deliverance of the World through His Royal Race and Jesus the Jewish Messiah is moving down the tracks. 

Get on it or be under it. 

Here are portions of an excellent article about 'How Jewish Values Enrich the Earth.'

Excerpts from 

Why does America need Jewish values?
 For all the wealth this country has generated it has not found the contentment it seeks. America has some of the highest rates of depression in the world.
Here’s why.
You can’t pursue happiness. You can’t chase it like it a rabbit. You can’t run after it like a kite. Rather, happiness is the natural by-product of a purpose-lived existence. If your life’s plate is filled with meaning and you feel directional and other-person-focused, then the organic outgrowth of that experience is happiness. But trying to pursue happiness is like trying to fall asleep. The harder you try the more elusive it is.
The Jewish people were entrusted by God with awesome purpose. No nation in the history of the world has had a more significant and positive impact on human development than the Jews.
While the globe was still polytheistic, worshipping many Gods, the Jews offered that from the many there could be only One. Disseminating the belief in the single, indivisible, unified God--what we declare thrice daily in our holiest prayer, the Shema--meant that men and women don’t stem from Zeus and Hera, Jupiter and Juno. Rather, since both genders come from one source there exists the possibility that male and female might love each other, build a family, and raise children who feel cherished. Because there is only One God there exists the probability that nations will one day live together in harmony in peace rather than forever battle each other for dominion and conquest. Because there is only One God there exists the hope that even within ourselves we will find inner peace in the reconciliation of intelligence and emotion, conviction and compromise, reason and instinct.
The Jews gave the world the Ten Commandments, the most important moral code of all time. In a debate I had with the late Christopher Hitchens at the 92nd St. Y I was told, in essence, that the Jews were simplistic. They had to hear from God not to murder or steal.
The Nazis believed that you could not murder human beings. But they said the Jews were vermin and could thus be exterminated with poison gas. But our laws against murder come from God himself. They are not ours to manipulate. Hence, Israel, the Jewish state, behaves morally, risking the lives of its soldiers on a daily basis to minimize civilian casualties, because every Jewish soldier is taught that a Palestinian child’s life is created equally in the image of God as a Jewish child’s life. 
We also bequeathed the world unique values, and I don’t just mean a love for learning, charity, and community. I also mean our insistence on destiny over the Greek emphasis on fate. The latter is a disempowering belief which implies that our future is scripted in the stars. We have no choice. The former, however, insists that God’s promise of a glorious future that can be captured with righteous action is always within our reach.
We gave the world the idea of redemption over the Christian emphasis on salvation. The latter emphasizes an individual soul’s quest to enter heaven. But the former insists that where we personally go does not much matter. It’s rather our contribution to the lives of others that is all-important.
And we gave the world the idea of marriage as a holy sacrament, captured in the Bible’s first story of God bringing together Adam and Eve as husband and wife. Other nations celebrate brute masculine aggressiveness, which is why the Greeks taught of Achilles, the Spartans King Leonidas, and the Romans Caesar and Augustus. But the Jews gave the world Abraham who is told by God to listen to his wife Sara. We believe that masculine aggression must be tempered by feminine nurturing. Blind masculine ambition must be softened by feminine warmth. Hence, the Jews are a gentle nation, renowned for their compassion and philanthropy.
Jews are, thank God, prosperous in America, but not because we are smarter or better than anyone else. We are not. The Bible is clear in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” It is not intelligence that leads to prosperity but values. Jewish values emphasize the power of choice and thus personal accountability, a curiosity for life and thus a love of learning, the sanctity of the Sabbath and thus the prioritization of family and community over possessions and wealth.
With such glorious teachings allied to such a powerful willingness to sacrifice in the name of these cherished values, it is no wonder that the Jews have had such positive and lasting impact.
John Adams, our second President, expressed it eloquently: 
I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation....They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.
America’s greatest writer, Mark Twain, added this: 
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
Winston Churchill, the twentieth century’s greatest statesman, said, “Some people like the Jews, and some do not.  But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No Cheap Shots at the Son of God

The team at Calvary in Miami took a road trip yesterday to see the 'Son of God' film. 
At the macro level I applaud the exposure of the life of Jesus at a multiplex. 
This treatment came from the producers of 'Touched By An Angel' and 'Shark Tank,' so the bar of cinema expectation needs to be set at that level.
'Son of God' is a repackaged distillation of the well received History Channel mini-series from last spring.  
So, no surprise seeing  Surfer Jesus starring in a predictable TV quality telling of the gospel. Nothing wrong with that, but......
this is not the movie I would have made, however it is probably the zenith of what these filmmakers are capable of. Move on. 

Truth be told, I think Daniel did a better job of casting and costumes in our reenactment of the storm on the sea of Galilee in our 'The Jesus Boat Revealed' documentary. (Biased view)

Well, the Word never comes back void, so it is what it is.  Those with nit picking critiques about 'Son of God,' need to seriously get a life, this is an honest attempt by two well connected Hollywood types to use their craft for the Great Commission. May their tribe increase.

The evolution of Christian film has been laborious and full of cheesy knock-offs. We are well past the time when Christians should be happy just to be in the game. As Phil Cooke cryptically commented, 'Christians have their own media awards for the same reason there are Gay Olympics, we can't compete with the big boys."  Ouch and amen. 
I've never attended a Dove Awards ceremony precisely for that reason.

Chariots of Fire, Shadowlands, The Passion (nearly a perfect film) and Jesus of Nazareth, all illustrate that our message can have a powerful adaptation to the film medium. 
The list of lame Christian films is too long to detail. 

Speaking of Phil Cooke, here are his thoughts about the upcoming movie, 

We need to simply tell our story, true testimonies of changed lives are stronger than fiction.
So many great movies remain to be made, we should not be satisfied with churning out second rate faith based films.

 Progress has been made, much more remains to be done.