Happy New Year to our Saddleback Family!
I will be teaching this weekend.
IN 2009: WILL YOU BUILD BRIDGES OR WALLS?
Too many immature Christians spend all their time taking pot-shots, belittling, and criticizing other believers who reach out to unbelievers, instead of doing what Jesus commanded us to do. Jesus repeatedly commanded that we love EVERYONE – even those we disagree with. Whenever I’m asked why I accept invitations to speak to non-Christian groups, my answer is, “It’s what Jesus would do!”
Mark 2:16-17 tells us that when the religious teachers saw Jesus associating with and befriending irreligious people – the so-called "sinners and tax collectors”, they asked Jesus’ followers, "Why does Jesus fellowship with unbelievers?" Jesus replied, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." I want to be like Jesus.
To be like Jesus, we MUST build bridges of love to people of no faith, to people of other faiths, and to people we disagree with. In contrast, prideful self-righteousness builds walls of fear, refuses to love, or even get to know those who believe differently, and then hurls accusations against those of us who do what Jesus commanded.
Never allow the fear of criticism to cause you to disobey what Christ tells you to do. Live for an audience of one. Last month, I attended a Jewish Sabbath service, a Catholic mass, spoke to a group of Muslims, and had a private conversation with a gay leader who is a friend – all in the same week. Why? Because God has never created anyone he doesn’t love. And Jesus died for the whole world and he wants everyone to know him. But before your neighbors can trust in Christ they usually have to trust you first. In this new year, I challenge YOU to start building bridges of love, instead of walls of fear. (One warning: bridge builders are always feared and criticized by wall builders.)
JAY LENO’S FUNNY SKIT ON SADDLEBACK’S “PEACE AWARD”
On December 1, World AIDS Day, we hosted a Saddleback Forum on Global Health in Washington DC. Kay and I interviewed President & Mrs. Bush, and I invited several world leaders to share their thoughts, including President-elect Barack Obama, Former President Bill Clinton, President Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono, and Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, director of the Global Fund for AIDS.
Because over 2,000,000 lives have been saved by President Bush’s PEPFAR program (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) our P.E.A.C.E. Coalition of churches presented to him the first International Medal of P.E.A.C.E. You can watch Jay Leno’s humor about this by clicking here. He mentions the PEACE Award about 3 minutes and 40 seconds into this clip.
BRINGING GOOD OUT OF BAD
It is always so amazing how God brings good out of bad. As you know, the media and bloggers have been attacking me incessantly and incorrectly for a month. (More on that later.) All of that attention resulted in the good news of salvation being put into the hands (through the Christmas book) into the ears and eyes (through our Christmas TV broadcast) of millions of people who might never step inside a church. “The Purpose of Christmas” book became the #2 New York Times Bestseller in December! Never forget that everything we do is all about connecting people to God and that Jesus loves and died for all those angry people who are attacking me. We will respond with nothing but love for them. We will out-love those who hate us. And if being insulted brings more people to Christ, so be it!
By the way, the phrase “Hate the sin and love the sinner” is NOT in the Bible. Instead, what God tells us to do is “Love EVERYBODY and hate my own sins.” That’s more biblical. Yes, there’s real evil and real good in the world. But the moment you start categorizing people into one of two groups you set yourself up for arrogance, self-righteousness, and harming others. The reality is that we are all a mixture, and we all think and do evil at times. That’s why we ALL need a Savior named Jesus.
THE REFINERY IS SUCCEEDING AS THE PLACE TO BRING YOUR FRIENDS TO MEET CHRIST!
This state-of-the-art building was designed to be a casual drop-in center for our unchurched community. It is working! I’ve got to share just ONE example: On a recent Friday evening, the Refinery was reserved for a women’s event led by Debbie Eaton, our outstanding Women’s Ministry Director. Early in the evening, 4 teenage boys arrived to use our Refinery Skate Park but found it closed due to the women’s event. So they decided to just hang out in our Refinery Food Court, which was also set up for the women’s event. But Debbie said they could hang out and talk there since the boys weren’t bothering anyone. The food court area was filled with tables and trays of tempting deserts, fruit, chips, and cookies.
After about an hour Ben Keenan, our Refinery restaurant manager, walked over to talk with these four teenagers. He thanked them for not touching any of the food prepared for the women and then offered each of them a free desert of their choice. A short time later Ben walked over to chat with them again and discovered that none of these neighborhood boys had ever attended Saddleback or any other church. For that matter they admitted to Ben that they were not Christians, but they did believe in Heaven & Hell. After more discussion, each of them expressed a desire to spend eternity in Heaven. Ben told them he had a map to heaven and a guarantee for their admission. After having them read some Bible verses and answered their questions, Ben asked these guys if they’d like to give their life to Christ? All four said, “Yes.” So Justin (17 yrs), Zack (16), Creek (15), and J. J. (14) prayed to receive Christ. Ben gave each of them a Bible, and some directions on how to read it every day. The following Monday night, all four guys came back and talked with Ben some more. Ben has now recruited them to come to our weekend High School service! Isn’t that cool?
I will see you this weekend! Bring a friend! I love you.