Posted by: Aaron Allison | March 30, 2015

Our “List” for the Coming of the Lord

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On Sunday, as I preached about the coming of the Lord, I used the analogy of our maintenance volunteer at the church who leaves town frequently, creating a need with maintenance projects the staff does not have the skills to repair. We make a list for him to “fix” when he comes home. The list means we may have to wait, but we know its going to get fixed eventually.

In our analogy, Jesus is in heaven, and we are waiting for His return to restore our broken world.

Acts 3:21 – “Heaven must welcome Him until the times of the restoration of all things …”

Here is a list I made (and preached) that Jesus will repair when he returns again.

Come Lord, Jesus and . . .

Fix human trafficking
Repair broken families
Eradicated vicious diseases
End senseless war & conflict
Let there never be weapons of mass destruction
chemical warfare
genocide or terrorist acts
Mend racial divide
Tear down prejudice
Feed the hungry
Stop all famine, flood or destructive fire
Let crime cease to exist
There will be no more courts or jails, for they all will obey the work of the Lord
Raise up a righteous standard
Show forth your justice to the oppressed
Shine forth your truth to the deceived
Wash away the consequence of our sin
And let holiness be what we desire

Posted by: Aaron Allison | March 2, 2015

Stop Demonizing the Wealthy

torn-dollar

One of the great challenges to American culture is the demonizing of the wealthy. Prosperity has been equated with selfishness, as many in America believe there are limited slices of the economic pie. The erroneous belief is that if one person has more than me, than there is less for me. This is a poverty mindset that believes, “there is not enough to go around.” On the contrary, the principals of capitalism have demonstrated that as the economy expands we all should benefit. While it appears true that the American middle class is decreasing, I believe that is a symptom of many contemporary issues wrong with our current culture.

I have noticed that people who earn their wealth tend to appreciate it. Second and third generation recipients of wealth tend to down play its importance. Those who have always had a comfortable home, cars that run and access to food at every meal take for granted the privilege of provision. So, we have a lot of critics of the wealthy who have never known the stress of running a business, or the risks of starting one. It is easy to criticize the wealthy when there is no understanding of what it takes to obtain prosperity.

Bible_and_MoneyI have obviously been writing from a secular standpoint, which can be dangerous for a pastor. Now, let me include some spiritual perspective. The Bible warns us about the love of money, which is the root of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Scripture has much to say about injustice, oppression of the poor (Amos 5:11-15), and the challenges of being wealthy (James 2:5-7). On the other hand, the Bible calls us to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and denounces idleness and a lazy lifestyle (Proverbs 10:4). The story of the Bible is full of rich people who served God with humility, and poor people who will be highly favored in heaven. To sum up the story of Scripture on money, it is not wrong to be rich or ungodly to be poor. The heart is challenged in both situations. So, it is not good to be insecure about the blessings of God, nor demean those who are challenged economically.

So, in our current American culture, I desire to see Christians advance professionally and economically. It is my hope that believers will not get sucked into the excesses of the “prosperity gospel”, which has been a shame on the gospel message the last forty years. Instead, let us practice what John Wesley has been attributed to saying, “Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”

Posted by: Aaron Allison | February 11, 2015

A Response to Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech

Prayer Breakfast 2015

For the last six years I have been as supportive of President Obama as my conscious allowed me, attempting to demonstrate civility and understanding towards a leader with whom I share little policy agreement.  I have accepted him as a brother in Christ, as he claims the same grace I depend on for salvation. However, he crossed a line with me as a Christian leader during the February 5, 2015 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.

There were positive aspects to the speech, as it contained some great observations about the importance of religious liberty and the need to respect religious freedom. I also appreciate his acknowledgement of Kenneth Bae’s release form North Korea and the continued struggle that Pastor Saeed Abedeni encounters in Iran.  You can view the speech here:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?324188-1/2015-national-prayer-breakfast

The troubling part of this speech came with his poorly-timed and inequitable comparison of Middle-Age Christianity to modern, radical Islam. In a time when we need global leadership against the threat of ISIS, Obama chose to minimize ISIS’ danger by generalizing them as a common threat, such as many religions have been.  ISIS is a grave, global threat to peace that the whole world should be concerned about.

Ravi ZachariasOnce you are familiar with the speech, read the reaction from Christian apologist and author, Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias’ response is well stated, and is helpful in defending Obama’s mischaracterization of Christianity.

Citing the Crusades, he used the single most inflammatory word he could have with which to feed the insatiable rage of the extremists. That is exactly what they want to hear to feed their lunacy.  ‎In the Middle East, history never dies and words carry the weight of revenge.” – Ravi Zacharias

http://rzim.org/blog/a-presidential-blunder-my-response-to-obamas-address-at-the-national-prayer-breakfast

Posted by: Aaron Allison | February 3, 2015

Don’t Be Scared to form an Opinion

American culture is reconciling many different social, political and religious issues in our atmosphere of pluralism. While diversity has created a greater understanding of various perspectives, there is also a great lack of confidence in actually taking a position. There are extreme groups on every position, but most Americans desire to find reasonable conclusions on complex issues. However, we often get stuck in the middle ground. If we are not careful, every discussion on difficult subjects is simply an exercise of identifying opposing views, with no personal conclusion on the matter.

What is my point? Take a position. Study. Discuss. Debate. Empathize. But, let those exercises lead you to an informed opinion. We cannot be a nation of “undecideds.” Though the middle ground may seem desirable in order to avoid labels and misunderstandings, it is not a productive place to stay.

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Posted by: Aaron Allison | January 23, 2015

Scheduling Community

community

At the end of our lives, community will matter most.  Community occurs instinctively through casual conversations, sharing meals or a drink, or participating together in a variety of social activities.  But, community is something we have to plan for also. We have to invest in community, even when its hard and inconvenient. At CIL, scheduled community comes in the form of 242 Groups, Men’s Bible Study and Ladies Bible Studies.

In the devotional Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwn shares these thoughts on community on his January 23 writing:

. . . community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). (p. 24).

2:42 Groups are this Sunday night (January 25) at 6:00 p.m.  Decide now to schedule in the value of  community.

Posted by: Aaron Allison | January 19, 2015

MLK, the Church and the Civil Rights Movement

On MLK Day, the church should celebrate the American Civil Rights movement because it was birthed out of the church, and it exemplifies our core beliefs of peace and justice. While Dr. Martin Luther King had heroic qualities, his legacy is most powerful when one realizes that he personifies million of people in America who were part of a cultural change. A new generation decided that it was time to change, and the preaching of Dr. King and other pastors was a huge part of engineering that change. The Civil Rights movement was based off non-violent protest, and Scripture helped form this conviction. An example of this wide-spread participation was when 24 ministers in Montgomery, Alabama, were arrested in 1956 during a non-violent protest. What would pastors be willing to be arrested for today?

gty_1960_reverend_martin_luther_king_ss_thg_130114_sshMartin Luther King was groomed by his father to be this movement’s spokesman from an early age. He was well-prepared through mentoring and education. He graduated from Morehouse College (1948), Crozer Theological Seminary (Chester, Pennsylvania, 1951) and earned a Ph.D in Systematic Theology from Boston University (1955). Despite his formal education, nothing could prepare a man for the enormous pressure he was under from all segments of society, which included the scrutiny of those participating in the Civil Rights movement.

Do you realize King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) at age 25?  King was only age 34 when he delivered the I Have a Dream speech (1963) in Washington, DC.

There is no shortage of amazing quotes from MLK regarding humanity, but I have been impacted by a less spectacular quote that exposes King’s conclusion on the nature of sin. In relationship to his training in liberal theology, I find his statement on sin to be remarkably insightful:

It was mainly the liberal doctrine of man that I began to question. The more I observed the tragedies of history and man’s shameful inclination to choose the low road, the more I came to see the depths and strength of sin . . . The more I thought about human nature the more I saw how our tragic inclination for sin causes us to use our minds to rationalize our actions.

King realized that human beings need a savior, and only Jesus can save us from our sinfulness.

________________________

1 King, Martin Luther, and James Melvin Washington. I Have a Dream : Writings and Speeches That Changed the World. 1st ed. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, 11 .

Posted by: Aaron Allison | January 17, 2015

Tips for 2015

2015- Get an annual physical that includes blood work.
– Don’t text or post when you are angry.
– Hike Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville.
– Order the dip sampler as a meal at Sopapilla’s in Hendersonville.
– Do not de-friend anyone on Facebook.
– Walk more.
– Don’t allow a sports team you root for effect your emotions negatively for more than 60 seconds.
– Laugh more without becoming a cynic.
– Think about something inspirational or positive before you fall asleep.
– Do not try to read through the Bible in a year, but read the Bible through out the year.
– De-clutter.

Posted by: Aaron Allison | January 15, 2015

Aaron’s Wednesday Class

grudem-podcastOn Wednesday night I restarted my Christian Growth class that runs concurrent with our Awana program. This class is for all the adults who are not involved in Awana, youth ministry, or dinner without their kids. This gathering is a discussion-oriented class over theological subjects. Most weeks, the class spends time in an outline from theologian Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology book. However, if a current event or unplanned subject pops up, the group uses Scripture, testimonies and stories to frame these issues in a Christian world-view.

The class begins at 6:30 p.m., so after you drop off your kids at Awana at 6 p.m., grab a coffee in the lobby, say hello to some folks, then join me in the Living Room to learn together. Give it a try – its a lot of fun!

 

Posted by: Aaron Allison | December 16, 2014

As Christians, let’s celebrate Hanukkah, too

Nativity

Today (December 16) is the start of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  An email from the International Christian Embassy for Jerusalem, a ministry CIL supports, really expanded my thoughts towards Hanukkah.  Susan Michael’s article is informative and thought provocative, so take a read, and see if you agree:

A common understanding of the December holiday season is that Christmas is the holiday for Christians and Hanukkah is the holiday for Jews. Few Christians relate to Hanukkah since it is not one of the biblical feasts of Israel. But, the fact that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah should make Christians curious enough to investigate the possible importance of the festival to their faith. 

It is no exaggeration to say that had it not been for Hanukkah, there could have very well not been a Christmas. Hanukkah prepared the way for the birth and ministry of Jesus. Therefore, Christians may want to not only wish the Jewish community a Happy Hanukkah, but celebrate it themselves!

God Gives the Victory

The story of Hanukkah begins during the period in-between the Old and New Testaments, when Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the ruler of the Greek empire. While the Hellenization of the area already threatened the survival of the Jewish religion, Antiochus seemed obsessed with ensuring the demise of the Jewish faith and thereby, the future of the Jewish people. 

He not only murdered the High Priest, Onias III, but he slaughtered 40,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem. All sacrifices, the service of the Temple, and the observance of the Sabbath and of feast days were prohibited. The Temple was dedicated to Zeus, the Holy Scriptures were destroyed, and the Jews were forced to take part in heathen rites. 

In his attempt to destroy every trace of the Jewish religion, the final assault was the slaughter of a pig on the sacrificial altar of the Temple, thereby desecrating it. The Maccabean family, from the priestly line of Aaron, led a revolt against this evil ruler and miraculously experienced victory after victory over the mighty Greek forces, until at last the Temple could be purified and its services restored. 

This rededication of the Temple to the God of Israel is celebrated during Hanukkah, originally known as the Festival of Dedication. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word derived from the word “to dedicate.”

The defeat of the Greek forces by this small band of Jewish zealots was nothing short of a miracle. God had once again demonstrated His steadfast love and faithfulness to His people by saving them from the threat of extinction. This in itself is cause enough for celebration!

The story goes on to claim that when the Jews re-entered the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, there was only enough of the special oil to light the Temple menorah and keep it burning for one day. But, the oil miraculously burned for eight days while more was being brought from the Galilee—an eight day trip there and back. 

The story of the miracle oil is nowhere found in the inter-Testamental writings, therefore it is largely believed to be a legend, however, the very first Hanukkah was indeed celebrated for eight days, and the festival was called the festival of lights as early as the first century. Perhaps archeology will one day uncover a clue to the story’s authenticity.

A Turning Point in History

The events leading up to the Maccabean revolt were prophesied in vivid detail in the Old Testament book of Daniel. In chapter 8, the Angel Gabriel described to the prophet Daniel the coming abomination of a king who would put a stop to sacrifices and desecrate the sanctuary. 

The fact that it was prophesied some 250 years before it occurred indicates how serious the threat was to the Jewish people. The Maccabean revolt was a turning point in history that saved the Jewish people and their religion from the threat of extinction.

This story, and the various archeological finds that support it, provide further proof as to the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. So, while Israel’s modern-day enemies attempt to rewrite history and distort fact by denying the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem, the celebration of the Hanukkah story takes on new meaning. 

Jesus and Hanukkah

In John’s Gospel, chapter 10, Jesus entered the Temple during the Feast of Dedication. He would have surely known the story behind the Feast and that the Temple He stood in would not have been in operation without it. 

Christians today would also do well to remember the faithfulness of God to the Jews on that first Hanukkah. Had Antiochus succeeded to annihilate the nation of Israel, there would have been no Jewish woman named Mary to become the mother of Jesus Christ.

There would have also been no Temple for the beginning of the Christmas story. Luke 1 starts the nativity story in the Temple with an angel announcing to the priest Zacharias that his wife would give birth to John the Baptist. It is no coincidence that God chose to begin the Christmas story in the Temple, the heart of Jewish life and faith at the time.

Without Hanukkah, the celebration of Christ’s birth could very well have not been possible. So as you wish friends and family Merry Christmas this year, you might also like to wish them Happy Hanukkah!

For Zion’s Sake,

ICEJ: Susan Michael

Susan M. Michael
US Director

Posted by: Aaron Allison | December 3, 2014

Hey church, it’s not 1992

book_seeker_sensitiveIn the early 1990’s I attended a seeker church for the first time, and loved it! This church was reaching my friends, impacting our city, and presenting the message of Jesus in a fresh way. As a high school student who had grown up in church, this seeker church invigorated my faith and passion for Jesus. In those days, “seeker church” was not a dirty word.

Then, pastors discovered the seeker church movement in the 2000s, and it has been a downhill slide for the American evangelical church ever since. Instead of transformational art in church that attracts non-Christians, duplication has produced a bad imitation of culture on Sunday morning platforms. In my opinion, a lot of the cultural imitation churches now practice actually repels more non-believers than attracts them.

More disturbing than the bad programming is that Christians now expect church to be entertaining. The intent behind the seeker church movement was not to entertain Christians, but to engage non-Christians who found church irrelevant. Some churches still do the seeker-model well, but most do not.

Looking beyond what is happening inside the church, culture has changed so much in America over the last 25 years, that seeker churches are no longer relevant to Millennials and many Gen Xers (some Baby Boomers still enjoy hearing Journey cover songs in church). I believe the seeker-model was generally effective from 1975 when Willow Creek was launched until the September 11th era began. We fundamentally changed as a people after 9/11.

Superficial entertainment still has its place in our culture, but not in the church. When considering church, believers and non-believers both want sacred space each week to find meaning for their life. Relevancy is over. People are not looking for a relevant message, but a transformational message. I thank God for the impact the seeker church had on my life, but it is no longer 1992.

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