Thank God For CNN

I knew that I shouldn’t watch it but I did anyway. My kids were in bed and the house was quiet and dark. The week ahead looked busy so this was likely the best opportunity I would have to see it. My gut told me that this would not end well. But I didn’t let that stop me.

That night, my wife and I sat down to watch a new show on CNN called Believer where each week Reza Aslan finds a new religion to be condescending toward. The episode we were about to watch focused on the relationship between Vodou and Christianity in the small country of Haiti.

The show didn’t disappoint. When it was over, I was disappointed. That’s because Christians were presented as religious crusaders for daring to build hospitals in the nation that is saturated in corruption and poverty. Vodou, on the other hand, was presented as grossly misunderstood. If you’re keeping score at home, the religion that motivates people to build hospitals is bad and the one that gets people to sacrifice pigs to demons is good. The last few minutes of the show looked like a commercial for Vodou.

This should come as no surprise from a network that spends millions of dollars producing and promoting documentaries in an effort to, “find the real Jesus.” In the CNN lexicon, “finding the real Jesus” is code for the Jesus of the Bible being fake. That’s right. The church has gotten it wrong for two thousand years now. Thankfully, CNN is here to tell us the truth.

We should be very quick to examine CNN’s version of the truth. This is, after all, the same network that likes to feed debate questions to presidential candidates of a certain party in order to help them to prepare beforehand. Truth, we should all know by now, isn’t so high on CNN’s list of priorities. It appears that trying to discredit Christianity is.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed that CNN doesn’t take time out of its regular programming each year when Ramadan rolls around to, “find the real Mohammed.” You know, the rapist and child molester. Some of that could be out of fear. CNN probably doesn’t want the same fate that their counterparts at Charlie Hebdo suffered. To them, Christianity is a much easier target.

That’s because, in large part, Islam is built on the blood of the so called infidels. Christianity is grounded in and saturated with the blood of Jesus. In our world, acts of terror are much less offensive than God dying for the sins that we committed.

Islam is advanced by the sword. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (Matthew 26:52-53).

If anyone, even a bestselling author with his own show about religion on CNN, ever tells you that all religions are the same, you can be certain that they have no clue what they are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an appeal to boycott CNN. I watch CNN regularly and if you care about getting a glimpse into the secular worldview, I suggest that you do the same. Just know that you are being lied to.

But don’t let those lies get you down.

The book of Acts will help you to put CNN and their constant jabs at Christianity into perspective. Slander and persecution are the fertilizer from which the church grows. Acts is filled with accounts of the church being persecuted. And the persecution is much more intense than anything CNN has thrown the church’s way. But notice what happens after each instance of persecution. The church grows exponentially.

After the disciples are mocked and written off as drunks, three thousand people were added to the church (Acts 2).

After Stephen is martyred, Saul, the man who helped to make it happen, becomes a follower of Christ (Acts 7 – 9).

When Paul is kicked out of one region, he moves to another one and gospel growth follows (Acts 17).

And so on.

Christian, don’t let opposition, slander and media misrepresentations about your faith get you down. Be encouraged and know that it is from this that real growth comes. For a few decades now, some churches have tried to grow their numbers through gimmicks and give aways. At best, all those techniques ever do is draw a crowd. Real growth, or discipleship, comes when the church keeps its course through opposition.

CNN is no threat to the body of Jesus Christ. In reality, they are like a kid kicking over dandelions in the front yard. He thinks he’s getting rid of the weeds but all he’s really doing is making them spread.

So thank God for CNN.

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My Fellow White Folks

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My Fellow White Folks,

Please stop watching the non-stop news coverage of the Baltimore riots. I know that some of you like to stay informed. That’s a good thing. It’s an important thing. But you can do it by taking fifteen minutes to read a few articles about what’s going on instead of staying up all night to watch it on TV. What you are constantly watching is not informing you. It’s programming you.

The video clip of those black teenagers throwing trash cans at white people is programming you.

The clip of rioters cursing the cops, the country, the government, grandma and apple pie is programming you.

You are being programmed so that we can all be divided.

And as is usually the case when mass groups of people are programmed, it’s all by design.

If there’s one thing that our government has shown us it’s this. As much power as they have, it’s never enough. They want more. And if there’s one thing that history has shown us, it’s this. It is much easier to take liberty away from people when they are fighting against themselves. Enter the classic white versus black paradigm that you are watching every night on the news.

See, when you feast on that clip of the trash can being thrown at the white person or the rioters burning a police car, you begin to think that what you are watching is a representation of all blacks. You may not want to think that. You many not even believe that. But, slowly and surely, the programming is being done.

Eventually, in your eyes, every black person becomes a police car burning, grandma-cursing thug.

And then you fail to see the black father who spends his weekends running back and forth between fields so that he can see all of his kid’s games. You fail to notice the black mother who models Christ-likeness by following her husband’s lead and modeling grace for her children. You look past the black couple working who knows how many jobs so that their kids can get a better education and enjoy a better environment.

And do you know why you don’t notice any of that? It’s not because it isn’t happening. It is. It’s because the news isn’t showing it. Can you remember the last time there was a special report on the news about a husband, regardless of race, running home to help his wife cook dinner before taking the kids to practice? And if there was, would you stay up all night watching that?

We all have our stereotypes. We can either do the hard work of breaking free from them or we can reinforce them. Reinforcing stereotypes is easy. All you have to do is watch the news instead of paying attention to the reality outside of your front door.

For a moment at least, forget about the black people you’re seeing on television. Instead, pay attention to the ones around you. The ones you actually know, live next to and work with. Chances are high that they are much more similar to you than you think.

They don’t want anything to catch on fire.

They want peace.

And they want to be left alone by Big Brother.

Just like you.

I don’t know what we can do for peace. But I do know what we can stop. And it doesn’t require us to stop being white. So by all means, drive a big truck. Listen to Hank. Watch Seinfeld. Embrace your whiteness. A culture where everyone pretends to be the same isn’t much of a culture.

But please stop gorging yourself on the news from Baltimore. Instead, if you haven’t already, take the time to develop a relationship with a black person. It probably won’t stop what’s going on in Baltimore. It almost certainly won’t change the world.

But it just might change your heart.

And deprogram your mind.

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The Scariest Places On Earth

The scariest places are always the ones that you least expect.

I was watching Headline News. It wasn’t by choice. That was all that was playing in the room where I was waiting while people worked on my car. Isn’t there a law somewhere that says that all mechanics have to play monster truck videos and clips of old wrestling matches in their waiting room? I’m not one for new laws but we’ve got to get this one on the books.

There were all of the typical HLN stories. Dr. Drew and Nancy Grace were talking about some celebrity court case we’re all supposed to be worried about. Those two ladies from Saturday Night Live won’t be hosting the Golden Globes after next year. And then, as if they pulled it out of a box that read News Stories That Must Be Shown Every Year At Halloween, we got to see the 13 scariest places in the country.

One place was, you guessed it, a former insane asylum. Another one was a place where tuberculosis patients were treated back in the 1800s. In each location we were shown images of people walking up creaking stairs. There were even two ladies walking around with, get this, ghost detectors. Ghost detectors! How exactly does one get in on the business of selling ghost detectors? My guess is that the inventor of the pet rock had something to do with it.

Here’s the thing about places that are supposed to be really scary. They never really are. In real life, the scary stuff is usually in the least expected places. Right under your nose.

It can be in a home where kids are given the freedom to roam about as they please. At a young age, the parents think that this is cute. As the children grow, their lack of discipline becomes more frustrating. By the time the teenage and young adult years come around the child, and I use that word purposefully, is a monster. The fact that disengaged parents would expect anything different from their offspring is truly frightening.

And consider the church. I’ve spent most of my life in church buildings. Sometimes, I’ve been in them late at night or early in the morning when all of the lights were out. I never saw a ghost but of course I didn’t have my ghost detector with me so that could have something to do with it. The scary things I’ve seen in churches haven’t been in grave yards or dark, empty buildings. They have been in business meetings where pastors and members act more like the church belongs to them than to Jesus. I’ve left churches frightened after sitting through sermons where the good news of salvation from sin was replaced with the just sort of okay news of how to take your awesomeness to the next level with the world’s greatest life coach, Jesus.

The frightening images aren’t confined to the walls of a house or a church building. You can see them out in the open too. Like when people sit by apathetically while injustice, crime and corruption grows. Zombies aren’t just the stuff of television and movies. They’re real people who only care about others when caring comes with the promise of another feeding.

If you haven’t already, you’ll probably end up watching a horror movie or going to a haunted house before Halloween is over. Have a good time. But just know this. If you really want to be scared, all you have to do is take a look around you.

Racial Volleyball

A white man kills an unarmed black youth and gets away with it.

Four black teenagers break into a home and kill the owner. They are never found.

Stories like these are lobbed back and forth almost everyday. It’s like a game of racial volleyball. Talking heads ramble on and on about that unjust killing of a black youth. Frustrated viewers respond by posting stories, unreported by the national media, about black kids that killed a white father of two and got away with it. Al Sharpton says something stupid. Ann Coulter responds by saying something equally stupid.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Racial volleyball.

I never see or hear too many stories about young black males like the one that lives next door to the church that I pastor. This kid loves hip hop. And he sometimes wears a hoodie. Gasp! But on Wednesday nights when our church eats dinner together, he’s in the kitchen long before it’s time to eat. Usually I see him putting ice in cups for people. If that’s already been done, he asks if there is something else he can do to help out.

The national news never reports on people like Lynne. She treated her black neighbor like he was her own son. To the best of my knowledge, she still does. When he was growing up, they spent a lot of time together. She helped him get ready for going back to school. She corrected him when he was out of line. Most of all, she just loved him.

But these stories don’t fit the agenda. The agenda is that races are supposed to be divided in this country. And if we’re not careful to turn off the television and take a look around, we will buy in to that agenda.

That’s yet another reason why we need the gospel. It helps us to love and serve the people we’re supposed to hate and ignore. Paul gives us a good example.

He was locked in prison for preaching the gospel. God sent an earthquake that shook the prison, opening the doors, loosening the chains and giving every prisoner his chance at freedom. The jailer, the man responsible for guarding these prisoners, pulled out his sword. He wasn’t interested in using it to keep prisoners from running. He was going to kill himself. For him, suicide seemed easier than trying to explain his way out of the situation.

Paul could have walked on by, happy that the pagan jailer was finally getting his. Instead, he yelled. “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28). Paul was thinking beyond his own needs. He knew that Jesus died for him, an overzealous religious murderer. And he also knew that Jesus died for that jailer. Paul’s words changed everything.

And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:29-31 (ESV)

God used Paul’s one act of selfless love to send this jailer from suicide to salvation. The gospel changes everything. And the change kept on coming.

And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:33-34 (ESV)

The man who had played a role in Paul’s persecution was now caring for Paul’s injuries, welcoming him into his home and feeding him. All because of the gospel. The gospel changes everything.

Al Sharpton is selling an agenda of divisiveness. Ann Coulter is too. And the national media is their vehicle. They, and others like them, are merely playing their part in this country’s long, ugly game of racial volleyball. But the gospel helps us to love those who are different from us. Even the ones who are supposed to be our enemies.

There’s a foster family in our church. One day two of the kids, one white and one black, were riding home in the back of the family car. They were talking about girls.

“I gotta get me a black girlfriend.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m African-American.”

“What? You’re not from Africa.”

Confused, the boy looked to the front seat for answers.

“Well, what am I?”

The answer that came back was a result of gospel truth. Gospel truth that changes everything.

“You are ours and we love you.”

Game over.