the Manna | December 2010
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the Manna | December 2010
Columns 09 | Signals 11 | On the Air 33 | Perspective
20 | Prince Charming?
Stay in Touch
Take your husband off the throne.
22 | A Different Night Can you be joyful in spite of your situation?
28 | Idolatry: What Do We Really Worship? Is it the giver or the gift that matters?
12 | Children of a Lesser god What do you think God is like?
16 | Confessions of a Teenaged Worship Leader
28 | Unfiltered
When how we worship misses the point.
19 | What Idol Worship? You donâ€™t worship idols, right?.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | December 2010
the Manna | A Publication of Maranatha, Inc. Editor-In-Chief: Debbie Byrd Contributing Editor: Randy Walter Creative Director: Joe Willey Contributing Writers: Josh Millwood, Brittney Switala, Brent Timmons, Karen Tull Media Client Liaisons: Janet Beckett, Mary Kinnikin
Frequently Asked Questions Who We Are The Manna is published by Maranatha, Inc., a Christcentered ministry called to proclaim the Good News of faith and life in Jesus Christ through various forms of media, as God directs, until He returns. “Maranatha” (mer-a-nath´-a) is an Aramaic word found in I Corinthians 16:22. It is translated, “Our Lord, come!” Joy! 102.5 WOLC is also part of Maranatha, Inc. Its call letters stand for “Watch, Our Lord Cometh.” Maranatha!
Disclaimer Non-ministry advertisers are not required to subscribe to the “Statement of Faith” printed at right; nor are their businesses and products necessarily endorsed by the Manna, Joy! 102.5 WOLC, or Maranatha, Inc., whose viewpoints are not necessarily represented by the opinions or statements of persons interviewed in this magazine; nor are the viewpoints of its advertisers.
Statement of Faith We Believe… that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that the only hope for man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood; that Jesus Christ in person will return to Earth in power and glory; that the Holy Spirit indwells those who have received Christ, for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and godly lives; and that the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The twin mission of the Church is worldwide evangelization, and nurture and discipline of Christians.
Manna and Joy! 102.5 WOLC P. O. Box 130, Princess Anne, MD 21853 Voice: 410-543-9652 Fax: 410-651-9652 Manna e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Joy! 102.5 e-mail: email@example.com ©2010 Maranatha, Inc. May not be reproduced without written consent of Maranatha, Inc. Photos: iStockphoto and Big Stock Photo
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Signals Ambition There was a time I was in love with my own resume. No kidding. My husband and I used to kid about it. He was the one with a firmer grasp on reality. Some opportunity would come up and I couldn’t say no because “it will look great on my resume.” In the meantime, with an over-committed calendar and few waking hours at home, I popped pills for headaches and an irregular heart rhythm and looked forward to that wonderful day when my resume would pay off. Clue for ya – people really don’t pay all that much attention to resumes. And that’s not just me talking off the top of my head. For many years, I worked as a personnel director and then, ultimately, led a very large organization, interviewing and hiring countless people for countless jobs. Sure, experience is needed. Sure education is often preferable. But when the rubber hits the road, what really matters is how your personality and common sense fit with the job needing to be filled. And few resumes ooze personality. In an article published just this Fall in Leadership Journal, Dave Harvey explores the benefits and pitfalls of ambition. It’s worth a read, regardless of the level of your ambition. Harvey suggests that we dream dreams, expecting God to “come alongside of us and make them a reality.” But the reality is that “God may delay the fulfillment of those (dreams), or even deny the satisfaction of certain ambitions, because He’s got a more important plan that requires the reorientation of our ambitions towards his glory.” Wow! While I was able to experience the fulfillment of many dreams, God most certainly did have a more important plan. Looking back on it, I can see His hand in my life even while I was pursuing what I wanted, not yet seeking what He wanted.
And I can’t help but wonder how differently things might be if I hadn’t reached the point where I actually asked Him what He would have me do with the rest of my life! God’s dream for me was definitely better than anything I could have imagined on my own. It’s not something that we’re comfortable with, any of us; but we put ourselves on pedestals. It might feel really awkward to say out loud, but we idolize ourselves. Life becomes what we want to do, what we want to have, what we make time for. And we don’t seek His will. Harvey says, “I believe that much of what God is doing in our lives is to sift out and rework our ambitions. Sometimes our ambitions are too grand for our gifts and we need them realistically downsized. But I’m also concerned that we can settle on ambitions that are too small because we fear failure, ultimately fear failing God. So we squelch those dreams. Godly ambitions are good because they have been honed by God for his purposes.” “I think the ambition that pleases God is focused on God…it is the desire to do great things for God because He is worthy of great things…that’s the kind of ambition God can use to make a difference in the world.” If only youthful ambition could be coupled with the vision that comes with maturity. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that we may plan our own course, but it is He that establishes our steps. Touchpoints for Leaders puts it well “Unholy ambition attempts only to advance one’s own reputation and cause. Holy ambition, however, means to offer oneself to be used by God to advance his reputation and his cause. A holy ambition is a large vision rooted in the will and service of God – a cause so large only God can pull it off.” Debbie Byrd is General Manager of Maranatha, Inc., a ministry that includes Joy! 102.5 and the Manna. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | December 2010
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On the Air Merry Christmas On the air this month are the sounds of Christmas! You’ll hear traditional Christmas songs that we’re all familiar with, as well as some new Christmas tunes from artists like Casting Crowns, Francesca Battistelli, Mandisa, the Newsboys, the Daniel Doss Band, Revive, Barlow Girl, and many more. No matter whether they’re traditional, remakes, or new releases, you can be assured that the songs we’ve selected are Christ-centered. We’ll be playing mostly all Christmas music throughout the entire month. And again this year, we will present 39 hours of uninterrupted Christmas music beginning at 9 AM on Christmas Eve and continuing through midnight Christmas Day. During these 39 hours of continuous Christmas music, we will be preempting all our normal Friday programming on December 24th and all day on Saturday, December 25th. This has become a listener favorite over the past several years and so we continue the tradition this Christmas as our gift to you! So be sure to let Joy! 102.5 fill
your home with the non-stop, Christ-honoring sounds of Christmas this year. And, as 2010 is winding down, we are excited about the coming year as we strive to continue to be a source of encouragement and hope found in Christ Jesus. Our goal continues to be to provide music and programming that honors our Lord Jesus Christ. Please pray for us as we seek to serve Him and you in the most professional way possible in the coming year. As always, we consider it a privilege to hear from you. Your comments and feedback are truly helpful to us as we choose the music and programs that are played on Joy! 102.5. So when you hear a song or a program that you’re glad we’re playing — let us know. Likewise, if there is something we play that you don’t care for, we want to hear about that as well. Thanks for listening and supporting Joy! 102.5! From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest New Year ahead! Rodney Baylous is Program Director of Joy! 102.5. Visit www.wolc.org.
Listen Now! Check out our Program Guide at wolc.org
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | December 2010
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hen you think of God, does any kind of visual image come to mind? We’ve probably all seen the common secular depiction of an old, white-bearded man towering above the clouds. He has a bellowing voice and not the happiest expression on his face. There’s the chance he might strike you with a lightning bolt if you slip up. Then there’s the idea put forth in the famous 18th century sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by American theologian Jonathan Edwards, in which humans are described as dangling precariously over the threshold of Hell and at risk of being cast into the flames at any moment of God’s choosing. Neither visual is particularly warm and inviting. To view God in either light isn’t likely to inspire love and devoted service. Who can approach a God who is, well... mean?
Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on how others portray God. Through His Word, He makes it possible for us to know His authentic character, straight from the Source. In Scripture, we are told, among other innumerable truths, that God has always existed, always will, and is inherently perfect and just. He made all of creation, including our individually unique selves, and He commands that we be perfect just as He is perfect. But, because sin entered the world, that is not a standard human beings are capable of upholding. And, the consequence of sin is death and eternal punishment. God, however, did not leave us in a predicament of sure doom. In His mercy and everlasting love for us, He made a way out, and He did so through sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to die and wipe clean our record of wrongs. Through Christ and only Christ has our access to God been re-opened. Scripture
Children of a Lesser god By Karen Tull
says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). By accepting this gift of salvation, we are no longer enemies of God, but His children. What freedom and peace there is to know that we have been forgiven for every sin we have committed and are even yet to commit. Freeing to the point, perhaps, where the tendency might arise to feel comfortable... maybe a little too comfortable. Can we be so at ease with God that our view of Him shifts in the other direction? God no longer being the severe punisher, but our BFF who doesn’t have a hang-up anymore with our sin. He just loves us and wants us to be happy. The fact remains that God is holy and hates sin. While we may be forgiven, God does not take sin lightly and, therefore, requires that we strive to live a holy life according to what is written in His Word.
Seeing God as merely our pal isn’t likely to elicit in us the appropriate respect or reverence. So, is it then possible that a casual view of God can be just as dangerous, just as much a stumbling block as one where He’s regarded as a bully? Both are equally false gods... they do not exist. To place an erroneous view of God above the true God – either through ignorance or apathy – is tantamount to idolatry. Evangelist Ray Comfort of Living Waters Ministries writes, “And so a man who has the knowledge that the eye of the Lord is in every place beholding the evil and the good, will separate himself quickly from the sin... He knows that he is accountable to God for every word, every thought, and every deed, and therefore a healthy fear of God keeps him from sin.” And, keeps us from worshipping a god of our own making.
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Confessions of a Teenaged Worship Leader
by Josh Millwood
t was during a Sunday night worship team practice and planning meeting when the drummer said the words that stopped me in my tracks. “This would be so much better with the fog machine from the sanctuary…” Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fog machine. I didn’t disagree with the sentiment at all. It would have been so much cooler with a fog machine in the youth room! But that was the moment I realized I was organizing and preparing for a concert, not worship. It was a nagging suspicion I had suppressed for months and it came rushing into the forefront of my mind, never to leave me alone again. A couple of months later, I stepped down from my worship team leadership role. I’m a fan of modern worship music. I love going to a concert where I can worship God, enjoy the music from an artistic standpoint and from that much harder to define thing that makes music emotional, personal and exciting. But at the age of nineteen, after a few years of leading worship fora rather large youth group I was burned out. I had enjoyed that weird fame that worship leaders get – which as a teenager was as addictive as heroin. A small group of us had worked tirelessly to create a worship machine. We featured a rotating core group of musicians and singers that all knew how to click with each other. Throw in a decent sound system, a custom built stage, and an emotive lighting system – we were the youth group band to end all youth group bands! Our job for the church was to be so cool that kids wanted to come to church. We did that. To top it off, we experienced some truly amazing times of worship with those kids – but that wasn’t our chief goal. And that was a problem for me. I loved the attention. I loved the power of emotionally sweeping those teenagers into a frenzy of praise. I loved the applause at the end of the set, too. Somewhere along the way I started working on making the band great, instead of protecting our hearts and minds from the enemy. We should have been more diligently fighting the battle that all church leaders face – to be authentic and honest before God. It wasn’t like I intentionally lost sight of the goal. It was a gradual thing that happens to many worship leaders. Generally you just stop, reset, and move foreword. I wish I had had that type of maturity, but all I could do was step down. (I
was still a teenager, and suffered from a tremendous sense of self-importance.) In no way do I think a worship team with awesome bands and great stage presence is a bad idea. I think it is essential for each generation to worship God authentically through its own style. A decade later, I still miss being on stage, worshiping and leading worship. It takes a certain high level of humility to genuinely lead worship. When King David brought the Ark of the Covenant home to Jerusalem, he danced like a fool in worship with his people, but his wife Michal chastised him for it. He told her that what he did was for God and he would happily be called a fool for Him (2 Samuel). David knew something that many worship leaders come to terms with. Even when you are on a stage before a congregation with a spotlight pointing you out, your first responsibility is to worship God, not convince others to do so. I’ve seen churches call the position “Lead Worshipper” and I kind of like that. Worship teams should worship, and invite others to join in. If it doesn’t happen that way we run the risk of performing, or worse – thinking that all of that applause is for us and not God. I used to think the term “a sacrifice of praise” meant suffering through organ music at church, but to genuinely worship we have to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Jesus taught that if you go to worship (to make a sacrifice) and your conscience is not clear, you need to go take care of business before coming before God. He wants our undivided attention when we praise Him. And you know what? He deserves it. When I was a worship leader, I couldn’t worship on stage anymore. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit revealed that to me so I could deal with those hang-ups and return to giving my praise whole heartedly to God. We are fulfilled as created beings when we worship. (In fact, we are almost always worshipping in our hearts and our heads – just not always worshipping our Creator.) Thankfully the more we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, the more we can fulfill our destiny: to worship Him alone.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | December 2010
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What Idol Worship? By Randy Walter
rimitive. Superstitious. Simpleminded. That’s what most of us think when we hear the term “idol worship.” We picture people prostrating themselves before statues fashioned from wood, stone or metal, believing them to embody gods with the power to grant their wishes. We think we are too sophisticated for that. After all, in the Ten Commandments on which our nation’s law was founded, God commands, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them…” We relegate idol worship to cultures in which gods are venerated. One of the four largest religions in the world, Hinduism, has 330 million “forms” or gods. Mahayana Buddhism holds that the universe is populated with deities which assist Buddha’s followers. In Japan, Shintoism means “the way of the gods.” God says in the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” While recognizing the gods in other cultures, we are usually blind to the things which become gods in our own lives. God regards as an idol anything we put ahead of Him in our hearts. He sees it as spiritual adultery. Interpreting idol worship that way changes the playing field. An idol doesn’t have to be a biblical “graven image.” It can be an object of lust, envy or pride – something we idolize. Idol worship involves a religious exercise, while idolatry is anything we exalt above God. Western culture uses the term “idol” casually. Phrases to describe admired and famous people, like “teen idol” or “movie idol,” don’t raise many eyebrows. “American Idol” has become one of the most popular shows in television history. These may be innocent titles rather than evidence of idolatry, but they resonate in a culture which has progressed toward the secular, where public acknowledgement of God is increasingly considered unfashionable. Before viewing this as overly religious, consider how God deals with what He calls idolatry. He told the prophet Jeremiah that He would cause Jerusalem’s enemies to capture and destroy the city because its people “have offered incense to
Baal and poured out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke Me to anger.” The people of ancient Israel went through cycles of fearing God, then worshiping idols. God told Ezekiel they “have set up idols in their hearts.” As the people worshiped idols of stone, their hearts toward God were hardened and became like the objects of their worship. We’re not in danger of the same judgment as the people of antiquity, are we? As we wonder whether we, too, worship idols, perhaps it’s the idea of “worship” that confuses us. What constitutes worship? Extolling with superlatives? Offering sacrifices? Singing praises? After all, we don’t bow down or sacrifice our children to idols, do we? We don’t idolize the things we make with our hands and consider them objects of worship, do we? We don’t pray to spirits and expect them to meet our needs, do we? It is evident that we place many things ahead of God. Money is probably number one. How often do we look to money as the solution to our problems? That’s why Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and Mammon” (the god of wealth and greed). Part of ancient idol worship was sacrificing children (”passing them through the fire”) to Molech, an idol containing a furnace in which children were burned alive. Today we sacrifice unborn children to the god of convenience, and they are burned alive by saline abortions. We revere technology and gloat over what man can accomplish, just as in Nimrod’s day when builders sought to erect a tower that would reach to heaven. We think imagination will deny us nothing. We admire ourselves as the source of our ability, and we worship the things we create. They become idols. For centuries in America, we interpreted the word “religion” in Judeo-Christian terms. Now “religion” means any kind of worship we choose – including paganism, occultism and atheism (the veneration of unbelief) – and these practices are accorded equal recognition with traditional faith. Worse, opposing these false religions is considered a violation of personal rights. What idol worship? We glorify the things we sing about. Much of popular music concerns beauty, romance, riches, possessions, and the corruption of morality. What idol worship? We give our hearts to what we make time for. Even more than money, time can be the test of where our priorities lie. It is easier to find time for pleasures than for God. What idol worship? What do we reverence? How easy is it to esteem temporal things while ignoring the eternal? What idol worship? What are we willing to sacrifice? We can overlook discomfort and inconvenience to obtain something we really want, but what about sacrificing to do the will of God at our own expense? It is said that when God asks us do something, the first response out of our mouths is what we worship. “I don’t have the money.” “There isn’t enough time.” “I’m inadequate for the task.” These represent the gods of Self, which include neediness, inconvenience, inability, unwillingness and doubt. That is why God waits for someone like Isaiah who, in spite of his shortcomings, said, “Here I am. Send me.” Randy Walter is Contributing Editor to the Manna. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | December 2010
Prince Charming? By Brittney Switala
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he “Disney Princesses”– my daughter Lindsey has spent her childhood following each and every one. Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty – We’ve watched all the DVDs and are guilty of buying several of the overpriced toys that go along with them. When Lindsey was four years old, her aunt purchased her a floor-length Snow White costume. Puff sleeves and a velvet bodice. With her porcelain white skin and nearly black hair, matching hair bow and shoes, Lindsey truly fit the part of a princess. Every little girl wants to be a princess – and grow up to marry her prince. “And they all lived happily ever after”… in a Christian marriage we may replace the image of the fairytale a couple riding off into the sunset with a cozy couple sitting in front of a crackling fireplace while the husband reads the Bible aloud, the ideal image of the Christ-centered marriage. We have often heard a solid Christian marriage is like a triangle with Christ at that apex and the man and the wife occupying the two lower corners. However, as Christian women we are often guilty, just like an imaginative child, of idolizing a prince who will emotionally (and even spiritually) complete our lives. This is an even more seductive trap in the Christian community than the outside world because of our emphasis on finding the “right” life-long companion. A husband serves as the God-appointed leader of the home, but that does not mean he takes the place of God at the top of that triangle in marriage. Sections of Christian bookstores, seminars, and even radio programs focus our attention on the Christian marriage relationship. This relationship is proper as a second priority, below our relationship with God. It is idolatry to give the marriage relationship control to turn the rudder of our lives. I can’t help but think of the Biblical example of Abraham. Abraham loved his wife Sarah (and lied on more than one occasion to keep other men from getting their hands on her) but his true love was his son Isaac. Isaac was the promised one, the one from whom Abraham was told he would one day have descendants as numerous as the stars. Yet, God saw that Abraham was putting Isaac on an improper pedestal and chose to test his loyalty. God allowed Abraham to bind his son and lay him on an altar until the Angel of the Lord stepped in and stopped the potentially horrific sacrifice. Who did he love more – his son or God? In this case, Genesis 22 shows us that Abraham passed the test and proved that God was most important in his life. In marriage, God does not ask us to tie up our spouse and throw him on the fire (even though during some heated arguments that might seem tempting!) We don’t often have a
clearly defined way to test our own hearts to see if our spouse has taken the place of God in our lives. However, when pain and disappoint enter our lives, we each come face to face with a point of decision, “Who is my true God?” Let’s look at the example of Jessica and Jeff. They have been married 12 years and have two adorable daughters, ages 6 and 8. Jeff is a youth minister at their church and Jessica spends much of her time mentoring young teen girls and homeschooling her own children. They have common interests in helping others, raising godly children, and good Chinese food. By most definitions, they have a good, Christ-centered relationship, but one sin can reveal how fragile it really is. One night about a year ago, Jessica was on her husband’s computer and came across some pornographic photos. She confronted him about them and he was broken and repentant – He decided to leave his post as a youth pastor at the church. She was initially thankful for his response, but her anxiety level continued to skyrocket. She hovered around his every move and chose to distrust him. She was angry that God allowed her to marry this man when she deserved so much better. Her thoughts were consumed by bitterness over her husband’s sin and she secretly contemplated divorce. This one sin, though quite painful, reveals Jennifer’s true heart which makes her spiritual health contingent upon her husband’s behavior. When her husband sinned, all of her focus shifted to him instead of properly focusing on the Lord. Jennifer’s idea of an “ideal marriage” had usurped the place of God in her life. It is easy (and quite natural) to focus on our own husband’s character flaws, idiosyncrasies, and sins, but the Bible encourages us to focus on our own hearts. In Psalm 139 23-24 King David penned these famous words: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” “Search Me, Lord, and I’ll trust You to take care of my husband!” Our spouses will sin and fail us and “happily ever afters” are for Heaven. I am still in the process of learning that joy comes in worshipping the Unchanging One, our Heavenly Father and keeping Him on the throne in my life. (Crazy enough, I discovered letting my “Prince Charming” �get down from the throne also creates a happier husband!)
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efore the miraculous events at the Red sea even took place, God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites that they were in the makings of what would become a festival. To a people yet bound in slavery, God commanded them to celebrate forever the things that were about to take place, adding, “Then your children will ask, ‘What does all this mean? What is this ceremony about?’ And you will reply, ‘It is the celebration of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the homes of the Israelites in Egypt’” (Exodus 12:26-27a). Today the Jewish Passover continues to be a celebration of remembrance, and there is a tradition within the ritual in keeping with the inquisitive children God described. The youngest child at the table asks aloud, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The question is then answered in the telling of the events of the Exodus as an explanation of the meal before them: We eat bitter herbs to remind us how bitter our ancestors’ slavery was in Egypt... We recline on pillows because we were once slaves but are now free. I was trying to imagine what it would look like if we were to borrow this tradition of inquiry for use within other approaching holidays. For those in the United States who just celebrated the feast of Thanksgiving: why is this night different from all other nights? Or for our Canadian
neighbors who celebrate thanksgiving at the close of harvest in October: Why is this night of thanksgiving different from all other nights? Or for the feasts of Christmas that will soon be had all over the world: why is this Christmas different from all other Christmases? Why are these nights different? How are they rooted in nights long ago? How are these symbolic meals before us explained by the God who has gone before us? When we gather wherever we gather, what are we remembering? How is this night different from all other nights? In the spirit of inquiry, we might remember again the history that reaches far beyond our own family traditions, when the first thanksgiving meal was celebrated or the first Christmas embraced among very different neighbors. We might recall the provisions of a creator that make the very act of giving thanks or the wisdom of remembrance a natural response among creatures. Or perhaps we might discover candidly that, save for the quantity of food, these nights are actually not that much different. Still for others, the question may turn us necessarily inward. The holidays might be different this year because life is different, because someone is not at the table this year who was last year, or because we come this year facing new illness or pain. In the midst of such events, how do we approach a festival of remembrance?
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How do we mark these nights with thanksgiving when it feels as though we are standing in the dark? Eighteenth century poet John Donne asked of God a similar question. “How shall they come to thee whom thou hast nailed to their bed?” His writings during the time of the bubonic plague give us an idea of how we might find our way to thanksgiving though we walk in shadows and struggle, how we might remember God when we need God most. In the prime of his life, Donne was struck with illness and thought he too had contracted the plague. Though it was not the plague and he eventually recovered, Donne wrestled with all of the emotions of one looking to God through the darkest of nights. While he was nailed to his bed along with scores of others in similar situations across London, he comprised a series of meditations that recorded his thoughts. His words offer a manual for the one struggling to remember God, to recollect God’s acts of mercy, to recall the spirit of thanksgiving and remembrance that move us even through the dark. I offer an excerpt of his words as a sounding board for our reflection this holiday season: “O most gracious God, on this sickbed I feel under your correction, and I taste of humiliation, but let me taste of consolation, too. Once this scourge has persuaded us that we are nothing
of ourselves, may it also persuade us that you are all things unto us.... When your Son cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” you reached out your hand not to heal his sad soul, but to receive his holy soul. Neither did he desire to hold it from you, but surrendered it to you. I see your hand upon me now, O Lord, and I ask not why it comes or what it intends. Whether you will bid my soul to stay in this body for some time, or meet you this day in paradise, I ask not. My true healing lies in silent and absolute obedience to your will, even before I know it. Preserve that obedience, O my God, and that will preserve me to you.” Whether we are facing dark days at the table this year or looking again at the rich history of the feast days before us, might these nights be different from all others in their certain recollections of the God who leads us nearer. Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. A Different Night by Jill Carattini, A Slice of Infinity, No. 2079, orignally printed November 25, 2009 (www.rzim. org). Used by permission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
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Idolatry: What Do We Really Worship? By Diana Pletts
t is Christmastime again, and the flurry of activity surrounding the season, even in an off and troubling year, reminds us of man’s need to worship. Bright decorations and festive Christmas lights light up the night; cash registers ring like old fashioned sleigh bells, hopefully toting up heartening receipts for merchants; rich and delectable foods we will too soon repent of having eaten fill our refrigerators and our homes, awaiting January’s resolutions to undo what we have done in celebration. It is oft repeated that the One whose birth we are supposed to be celebrating is frequently the missing guest at our holiday festivities. Like the Israelites of old we have allowed other things to be the centerpiece of the season, receiving the worship meant truly for only One. So, at this time of the year, we must ask the question, “What is it that we truly worship?” Is it indeed Christ, at Christmas? Or have food and family, status, from gift giving and display, become, instead, the centerpiece of the season? Even in a Christian home, this can so easily happen. The difficulty of living as foreigners in a foreign land lures us to live just the same as those around us, just as did the Israelites. We idolize, or give great importance to, many of the same things that the world does. We worship features of Christmas which, rather than giving us the meaning we hope for, instead, take over the holiday and bring us into financial and other kinds of bondage. This bondage is what Joshua reminded the Israelites of, exhorting the people to avoid the snare of serving other gods, there in the land the Lord has just helped them conquer. Regarding those gods he said, “You must not serve them or bow down to them...” (Joshua 23:7) and, “…Be very careful to love the Lord your God.” (Joshua 23:11) Although the people insisted that they would love and serve the Lord, and not serve the other gods among them, these idols apparently still physically existed in their ranks, as Joshua again exhorted the people, “…Throw away the foreign gods
that are among you…” (Joshua 24:23) This image of a people rescued and fought for by the great Creator is astonishing! What were these little idols that the Israelites carried around with them, thinking that they would have some positive impact on their lives? Are they some fall back measure, perhaps a “security blanket?” Yet, like the Israelites, we, too, fear the prospect of life without these idols that God has saved us from. Idols of status and money and comfort. We believe that Christmas means these specific things: many gifts and much food, decorations and celebration and song. We fear the difficulty, perhaps the emptiness, of a life without them. And, in a year of difficulties, it can be hard on those who lack the means to provide a bounty of gifts as they once did. Meals are simpler than in other years, or come, perhaps, from a soup kitchen or other donation, and electricity is too dear to spend on extra lights. Yet this lack can be a blessing, if we can see past the missing goods to find the One who has been missing. Indeed, perhaps these missing things, these idols, can make room for a greater good, a return to the centerpiece of Christ in Christmas and fill that empty place in our hearts. If, this Christmas, our stockings are a little smaller, or our gift piles beneath the tree a little barer, or our tables a little less stocked with the fattening sweets and luxuries to which we are accustomed, let us give thanks for the space that has been freed up. Let us give thanks for the One who left His royal throne and kingdom, to be born a helpless baby in an animal pen, to a teen mother. Let us thank the One who came to earth to die for us, so that we can join Him in unending celebration in His heavenly kingdom. When we celebrate this Christmas, may we all choose to truly worship Jesus Christ and to remember that He is our Light; He is our Centerpiece; He is our Bread, even if we have nothing else for our holiday feast. He is our Great Gift. And, even if we have nothing else, if we have Him, we have all things.
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Is God Really Jealous? By Randy Walter
uch of this edition of the Manna deals with idolatry – the things we place ahead of God in our hearts. These idols can be the “graven images” forbidden in the Ten Commandments, or the objects of lust which we value more than a relationship with our Creator. In the Bible, God labels idolatry an “abomination,” something which brings a curse on the land. Why is it such an affront to Him, when men ignorantly worship idols?
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In Romans, Paul says men who worship the Creation instead of its Creator are without excuse, because the knowledge of God has been deposited in every one of us. Worshiping images of animals or spirits defiles a man’s heart. This can irreversibly corrupt his mind, leading to perversion and the inability to distinguish right from wrong. When the Bible describes God as “jealous,” does that mean He is envious of the idols men worship? No, He is not threatened by anything. He does not experience the kind of jealousy men do because of insecurity. Rather, He desires a unhindered, intimate relationship with the people who inhabit His Creation. God is not jealous of gods; He is jealous for our sakes. He wants us to be His, so He can be our Father and occupy first place in our hearts. He wants us to recognize His love for us as so all-encompassing that we have no worries or fears. He wants us to allow Him to care for us, rather than believe we must provide for and protect ourselves. God is jealous – not envious, but angry – at anything which denies Him the standing He desires in our lives. Paul called this “the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” The word “Abba” was an endearing name like “Papa.” God wants us not just to be related but to have a relationship with Him – one so close that we are comfortable showing our affection. The fondness and familiarity of intimate names like “Abba” goes both ways. Abraham was called “the friend of God.” Jacob (Israel) was “the apple of His eye.” And David was “a man after His own heart.” What if God had pet names for every one of us? Jesus said that to every man who overcomes the things of this world, one day He will give him a white stone inscribed with his new name, known to no other man. God is tenderhearted toward us. Peter described Him as “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God wants all of His created beings to experience eternal life with Him, which comes through asking His forgiveness and accepting Christ as Savior. When John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world…” it doesn’t refer merely to a place; it means the people He put on it. He didn’t send Jesus to save the planet but its inhabitants,
out of love for us. Yet how often do people think of Him as a severe, punishing God of Old Testament legalism who is waiting to catch us in a sin so He can drop the hammer? Yes, God brought judgment against people for violating His commandments. But He also made a way for a better arrangement (new covenant) through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, so we now can be forgiven once and for all. Before we subscribe to the image of God as rigid and harsh, we should take Him at His Word and see Him as He described Himself to Moses. After Moses led Israel out of Egypt to the foot of Mt. Sinai, he ascended the mountain and received the Ten Commandments which God engraved in stone. He returned to find the people involved in immoral revelry and worshiping a golden calf – an idol. Moses was so angry that he smashed the tablets of the Law and had to return to the mountaintop to receive replacements. While Moses was there, God announced Himself as He passed in front of Moses: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” God said He would do wonders never before seen on Earth so the people “will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.” He promised to drive out the inhabitants of the land He was giving to His people, and cautioned them not to make any treaties with the land’s occupants, so their practices would not tempt the Hebrews to worship idols. Then God said, “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” God was jealous for the sake of His people, and He still is. He loves His children and does not want them to be deceived by any kind of idolatry. Randy Walter is Contributing Editor to the Manna.
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Think Out Loud
Little Town of Bethlehem: Mart Green The town where the Prince of Peace was born can be anything but peaceful. Filmed in the West Bank, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Little Town of Bethlehem is a documentary which does not cater to a single viewpoint. It shows life through the eyes of a Palestinian Christian whose grandfather was killed in Jerusalem in 1948, an Israeli Jew whose grandparents were Zionist settlers when Israel became a modern state and a Palestinian Muslim who lives in a Bethlehem refugee camp. All three of these men look to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi as role models. With stark and sometimes graphic images, Little Town of Bethlehem provides insights on the Middle East not common to network news accounts. It intertwines historical footage, personal experience and religious idealism to show the desire for peace and nonviolence amid the passions of faith and nationalism. “I live in a place where violence could be on a daily basis,” says Ahmad Al’Azzeh of the refugee camp where he has lived his entire life. Despite frustration, he heads a nonviolence program at Holy Land Trust and trains others in methods of peaceful activism. Produced by EthnoGraphic Media, Little Town of Bethlehem (littletownofbethlehem.org) is being screened internationally on college campuses. Maranatha Media | Home of Joy! 102.5 and the Manna
Twilight Saga Eclipse: David Slade Mention Twilight to someone and you’ll likely be answered with a giddy squeal or a rolling of the eyes, depending on whom you’re talking to. In most cases, you won’t be met with a confused stare; unless, of course, that person has lived on a deserted island the past couple of years. These days, you’d be hard-pressed not to know at least a little something about the ubiquitous Twilight novel series and its insanely popular films. To bring you up to speed, this third installment involves a grisly battle between an army of “bad” vampires and an allied force of “good” vampires and werewolves. I can understand if some parents have reservations about their teenagers being entertained by these sorts of fantasy creatures. But, if it’s any consolation, as a girl who has read the novels and watched the movies, I can safely say that those elements are not the main reason so many people (mostly females) are completely enamored with the series – it has to do with chivalry. Because, at the center of all the drama, is a relationship between a teen girl named Bella and her immortal vampire boyfriend, Edward, who is very much a blast from the past (he’s technically over 100 years old) when it comes to the way he treats her. Specifically, he is unwilling – despite Bella’s protests – to consummate their relationship until they are married. He sets the boundaries in her best interest and holds to them.
Now, I’m not saying that this very fictional relationship should serve as a template for others to follow or that some underlying Christian message was incorporated into these books, but in this age of Jersey Shore and the glorification of drunken hook-ups and co-habitation, it’s refreshing to see a modern-day depiction of a romantic relationship that is characterized by self-control and self-sacrifice. Who knows? It may give some young and impressionable women – who’ve only known what the world has thrown at them – something else to think about... wait for, even.
understand where it’s coming from. It’s all about the frame of reference. White Christmas is 56 years old now and although still fun to watch, you just might wonder if people ever really bought someone bursting into song like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney or shuffle into a dance like Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen. The age of the musical has been over quite a while now. But, the music – now that’s a different story. Really more than anything, White Christmas is a vehicle for the songs of Irving Berlin and the voices of Crosby and Clooney. That’s really what a musical is. But, the “classic” parts of the movie are those great songs sung well. And, who hasn’t heard the movie’s title track? There are other songs that you will be trying to get out of your head until way into spring. “Snow”, with its four part harmonies, makes going outside in freezing temperatures seem idylic. “The Old Man” pushes you to march in formation right out to your turkey dinner. Clooney and Ellen deliver “Sisters” with stiffled smirks and playful jabs at each other’s ribs. Okay, maybe all of the songs aren’t great – what exactly “Mr. Bones” is doing in this movie, other than taking up some time, I’ll never know. Maybe, it’s just to show that Irving Berlin wasn’t perfect. Still, White Christmas is fun and it’s only once a year. These reviews are provided by Maranatha, Inc. staff and contributing writers.
White Christmas: Michael Curtiz It can be difficult to watch a movie that is considered a Christmas “classic.” It’s not that the movie might be bad, most often they are good, but the older it gets, the harder it is to
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he male lead actor caught my attention as I surfed through the TV channels late one night. He was playing the character of an old man who was about to die and wished to set things in order before he did. I tuned in at the tail end of the movie, but this character was riveting, so I stuck with it. Most of his final business involves a young woman who worked for him in his toy store. She will not accept the news that he is about to die. He seems perfectly healthy. She has concerns about the fate of the toy store, which is no ordinary one. It “lives” due to a sort of magic that disseminates from the old man. The toys come alive in his presence. He takes enormous pleasure in this and in sharing it with his customers. The old man spends his last days preparing his young protégé to assume the responsibility of managing the store. She argues with him about leaving her (he seemed to be going to the grave of his own will) and about her inability to carry on. A bookkeeper hired to put the old man’s financial affairs in order serves as an unlikely encourager to the young woman.
She questions him as to whether he sees in her any of what the old man has. His first response is a no. The day comes for the old man to go, and she reluctantly says goodbye and leaves the store. She cannot fathom pressing on as caretaker. Selling the business seems to be the only alternative. She shows the store to a potential buyer. The toys have taken on shades of gray. Death seems to have overcome. But it is not to be. With the help of her encourager, the bookkeeper, the young woman sees a hint of life emanating from her into the toys spurred by a little bit of belief she musters up as she recalls the instructions of the old man. She comes to the realization that there is, in fact, a life within her which she can pass on to the toys. With a crescendo of belief, she gradually imparts life to the entire store. Whether by design or just by chance, the author created an awesome picture of the propagation of life. In this story, life was to come from the owner of the toy store and make its way into the toys. But this is just a story. We aren’t interested in imparting life to toys. The
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life that we are interested in is the Life of Christ, and in seeing it flow into the lives of people. But how does that happen? It’s much less complicated than one might think. The Life of God came to earth in the form of a man, Jesus Christ. He did extraordinary things. After His death and resurrection, that Life ascended into heaven, to the great disappointment of His disciples. This whole death-resurrection-ascension plan was not exactly clear to them. As it began to unfold, they kicked and screamed. How could the will of God be carried out without the physical presence of Messiah? It made no sense in their eyes. In due time, all became clear. He was not leaving indefinitely. He would return in Spirit and indwell his disciples. And then the work would continue, but on a massive scale. The Life of God would not be confined to one physical body in the man Jesus Christ. It would rest upon all who profess to believe in Him. That Life would continue to do the extraordinary work of God. Those believers walk through life in the midst of darkness, just as Christ walked.
They are surrounded by death; in fact, they have been placed there by God Himself, just as Christ was. They have just one task – to live in union with their God, just as Christ did. As they do this, that Life of God is poured out to those around them. It brings light to the darkness, life to the dead. We often try to make this process complicated. We try to figure out our role in doing this work of God. We worry about our lack of qualifications for the job and about our failures. We spend a lot of time discussing how to facilitate the process of spreading this Life. Fortunately, God has given us the Encourager of the Holy Spirit and other encouragers in fellow believers to assist us. The Encourager points us towards focusing on the union between us and our Christ. He encourages us to rest in the truth that this union will produce the desired effect. Then, perhaps without even being aware of it, that Life of God flows out of our lives and into the toy store, rather, the world. Dull lives drenched in deathly shades of gray are touched, and they take on the appearance of The One Who imparts life. They will never look the same.
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Surrounded by Idols
For many years there has been a popular tract called “This Was Your Life.” Before I knew what it really meant to be a Christian, I came upon one of these little booklets, left in a conspicuous place to be picked up by someone like me. It is a comic book rendering of Jesus’ parable about the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21), in which a man’s fields produce such a large crop that he hasn’t enough room to store all of it. He decides to build bigger barns, gather the harvest and kick back. He says to himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” “This Was Your Life” uses that parable to illustrate the condition of a prosperous American. The first panel in the tract is still burned into my memory. A man is standing in his front yard next to his shiny sports car, smoking a pipe and holding a drink. It is the personification of leisure and comfort. The man’s expression is smug and self-satisfied. Surrounded by the things he treasures, he thinks he needs nothing else to make him secure. The next panel in the tract shows what happens when a man dies in his selfishness. “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you,” God says as the parable continues and the rich man drops dead. When the man faces final judgment, a review of his life reveals the idols he worshiped instead of God: wealth, popularity, lust and unbelief. He bewails his folly, but it’s too late. The Message, a paraphrase of the
Bible, sums up the parable, “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” That tract showed me how my existence on Earth would end if I didn’t change. I had made comfort, convenience and entertainment my gods, and I paid homage to them daily. Life was about me and the things I thought would make me happy. They were, in fact, my idols. No, they weren’t little statues of spiritual entities to which I bowed and prayed. They were what I held most dear, ahead of other people and even God Himself. And what we idolize, we worship. The human capacity for worship craves a relationship with the object of our adoration. That’s why false religions which do not recognize the True and Living God leave people empty. Just like the “dumb” idols in Scripture – which cannot talk, hear, see or move – the things I idolized were unsatisfying in the long run. Living a material life is lonely. The very things we think will bring us joy, once the novelty wears off, only make us feel more alone. They can’t satisfy the aching need to know the love of our Heavenly Father. They can’t tell us why He put us on Earth, and where we will spend eternity. Things can’t fill a spiritual vacuum in our beings. Only God can do that. Many things give us the impression they will appease our desires. Technology can make the palm-sized computer our source for information, entertainment and social interaction. It is a mechanical substitute for the
fulfillment of face time. As with all worldly goods, it eventually loses its new-toy charm and becomes one more thing to maintain and, someday, replace. Isn’t this representative of what Jesus called “the deceitfulness of riches”? The convenience of a new possession promises to make time better-spent, relationships richer and life more gratifying. In reality it is a surrogate, a poor replacement for the real thing. It fails to live up to expectations and eventually leaves us feeling empty. When we try to satisfy our need for a relationship with God by stuffing our souls with material things, it’s like eating junk food when we need the nutrition of a healthy meal. “This Was Your Life” doesn’t end with the rich man going into everlasting punishment. It shows that every one of us can break free of the deceitfulness of riches by asking God’s forgiveness for making wealth our ultimate desire. It explains that God is patient. The Bible describes Him as “long-suffering,” waiting for us to ask His forgiveness for trying to replace Him with the things we idolize. Then, after we die, we are ushered into His presence and welcomed into His Kingdom forevermore. Randy Walter is Contributing Editor to the Manna.
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