Prayer for Egypt

Perhaps you’ve noticed Egypt in the news quite a bit recently.

Last week, I spoke with an Egyptian Christian who described the situation in Egypt as “bleak” for the native Christian population. After our discussion, I found an article that corroborated her story.  The article and my Egyptian sister both painted a picture of “anti-Christian pogroms.” Fifty-eight churches have been burned, looted, or otherwise destroyed. In some reports, Christian homes and businesses have been tagged during the day for destruction in the evening. One paper compared the event to Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass,” in November 1938 that signaled national violence and vandalism against Germany’s Jewish population. Over a dozen Egyptian Christians have lost their lives in attacks by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The rest live in fear until the crisis ends.

While darkness covers the land of Egypt, there is sunlight in the land of Goshen with two pieces of news. First, there are reports that some Muslim neighbors have acted to protect their Christian neighbors from the Brotherhood. Some Muslim leaders have called on Muslims to stand and protect their Christian neighbors. Second, the Egyptian military agreed to pay for the full restoration of many churches destroyed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

We Christians in the West must not forget our brothers and sisters in the land that sheltered Jesus as a young child fleeing a power hungry king. Please join me this week in praying for the Egyptian church:

Father in heaven,

We ask that you protect the Egyptian Christians with your angels; that you would grant the church boldness to speak your word in confidence, extend your hand to heal, that signs and wonders would take place through your holy name. We ask that your light not be extinguished in the land of Augustine and Athanasius. We ask that this persecution, like so many throughout history, bring a revival to that great nation. We thank you for your faithfulness to bring deliverance to your people through unexpected means.


-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Lens of Love

Self-perception can be everything. At CityLight Church we focus on the believer’s identity in Christ. When God looks at you – his child – He sees you through a lens of love. He sees you as He sees His only Son, Jesus Christ.

John was a man who had a handle on his identity in Christ. He refers to himself as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’ on five different occasions (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20). John had a handle on just how strongly Jesus felt about him. He loved him, and he was not afraid to let the world know.

God loves you just as much as He loved John. You are the disciple whom Jesus loves. Now start acting like it!

-by Pastor Mike White

Fall at His Feet

What is required to see the dead raised? We must fall at Jesus’ feet.

Mark 5:22: And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet…

Jairus’ daughter was at the point of death, but he believed that Jesus could raise her from the dead. As Jairus made the journey to see his daughter with Jesus, he was not swayed by reports that his daughter had died. Jesus promised him that if he believed (v. 36) his daughter would live – and she did!

John 11:32: Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet…

Lazarus had been in the tomb four days by the time Jesus got to Bethany. Yet Mary and Martha were not discouraged, even after Jesus had taken so long to get there. They knew that if Jesus asked anything of God, it would be given to Him (v. 22). Jesus promised that if they believed (v. 27) their brother would live – and he did!

Jairus and Mary did not just lie down at Jesus’ feet. They fell. They were so worn out, exasperated, and tired that they succumbed to the pressures of life and of gravity, and dropped to the ground. Whatever you are going through – and whatever you are praying for – stop using your own energy to try and remain standing. Fall at his feet. All it takes is one forceful command from Jesus for the dead to be raised up from the grave (Mark 5:41, John 11:43)!

John 11:40: Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

Do not let doubt and unbelief keep you from the glory of God and the joy of His Presence. Fall at His feet and believe!

-by Pastor Mike White

We Hear Them in Our Own Tongues

“We hear them in our own tongues, speaking the mighty deeds of God.” And they continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:11-12

There is something powerful about spirit baptism which is most often evidenced by speaking in tongues. In July, I read a report that the Assembly of God (AG) denomination is the fastest growing in the country and growing faster than the U.S. population as a whole. As someone whose roots began in the AG, I was also happy to hear tremendous growth among ethnic minorities within the AG. 38% of AG members in the U.S. today are ethnic minorities. This is good news, not for its own sake, but because homogenized groups often have challenges reaching people outside their own group.

Also in the news, Brazil recently experienced a visit from Pope Francis I, the Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church (RC). One of the reasons for his visit was to revitalize the Catholic Church in Brazil, the most Catholic country in the world. As recently as 60 years ago, 99% of Brazilians were considered Roman Catholic. Today, 67% claim to be Roman Catholics. The RC church has been losing members largely to Pentecostal groups, such as the AG. During his visit, Francis I promoted a deeper spirituality including the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the RC’s answer to Pentecostalism. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is the fastest segment of growth within the RC church today. It has absorbed many of the aspects of Pentecostal or charismatic churches. The results have been amazing. While some RC churches have struggled to fill cathedrals, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is able to fill soccer stadiums.

Pentecost is a powerful force. Pentecost marked the birth of the church. Just as God had come down to confuse languages at Babel, the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost to initiate a reverse Babel. The occupants of the upper room spilled out into the street and became radical witnesses to something God had just breathed onto the earth. Visitors from many nations heard the first Christians speak in strange languages; some of them even heard these Christians speaking their own native languages. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the act of speaking in tongues seems to be a key to overcoming cultural and denominational obstacles. This is one reason I believe Pentecostalism is growing so quickly around the world.

In a related story Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, shared his experience with being baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues back in 1975. The Archbishop said that speaking in tongues is a “routine part of spiritual discipline” for him. While speaking in tongues is not a core part of the Anglican tradition, it demonstrates how the Holy Spirit is working throughout His church in every corner of His Kingdom. God is not working in just American evangelical churches. He is taking over everything. Praise God!!

God is doing some amazing things in His church today. We Christians sometimes pay attention to all the negative going on in the world (and sometimes with good reason). We should not forget that He is still the Lord of His church and that the Holy Spirit who fell at Pentecost is still here today. Let’s tap into Him and reach across the cultural and denominational divide.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Power of Forgiveness

We must practice forgiveness all the time. In fact, forgiveness should be part of your daily routine.

2 Corinthians 2:10-11: Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

When we forgive someone who has offended us, it is for OUR sake: for our own benefit. If we do not forgive, we give the enemy a foothold, and a legal right to operate in our bodies and in our lives. Unforgiveness is one of Satan’s oldest tricks, and we must not be ignorant of his devices.

Forgive others: not only for their sake, but also for your own.

Matthew 6:14-15: For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

-by Pastor Mike White

Why Millennials are Leaving the Church

Last week Christian writer, Rachel Held Evans, wrote a piece for CNN belief blog provocatively entitled “Why millennials are leaving the church“. It has become a major subject of discussion in the evangelical blogosphere with over 150,000 hits.

Evans conclusion is that millennials are leaving because we, the church, have only made stylistic changes when we need to make more sweeping changes of substance. I believe both stylistic and substantive changes are misguided attempts at being “cool”. Cool works for watches, tablet computers, and clothes. It does not work for the gospel of Christ.

Not all of her statements are bad. The one point on which we agree:

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates  edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

I wholeheartedly agree. Relevant is not the same as cool. We make a huge mistake in conflating the two ideas. To be relevant we need to not only answer the important questions, but we need to show our culture what the important questions are and why those questions are important. In many cases, we as the church have given answers to questions that people are not asking. We need to change that and learn to communicate the gospel better.

While I may agree on a few points, there are many points here that I take issue with.

For instance, Evans says “the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules.” Who exactly is obsessed with sex? The church did not suddenly become Victorian in the last 50 years. The Christian orthodoxy has not changed on the issue of human sexuality nor is it an overemphasized aspect of our message. It is our pornified culture that is obsessed with sex. Once upon a time a person’s religion was public and their sex life was private. Now things have reversed. Sexuality is ubiquitous in the news, television, movies, and internet. Our culture sexualizes even our children. Has anyone noticed that women now wear lingerie in public? Do Christian guests beg Piers Morgan to back them into a corner about Christian sexual ethics? How many more articles must we endure on the Huffington Post about how the church needs to update her sexual mores to survive the 21st Century?

We talk about sex rarely at CityLight. But every time we’ve addressed our singles within the church on the topic, someone comes up and thanks us for being so candid about sex, and for talking about a biblical sexuality. We are sexually broken and the gospel offers the only cure.

Sex is our culture’s number one idol. We can talk about greed, lying, murder, and a host of other sins without protest. Questioning the idolatry of sex will earn nothing but scorn.

Evans makes several statements about things we need to change but is vague on how these changes will actualize:

We want an end to the culture wars.

Our culture matters just as much as the natural environment. Christians have not only a right but a responsibility to speak up on important issues in the culture around them. Christianity is not just for the private sphere. Much of the cultural trouble we see today stems from Christians abdicating their place in the public sphere. We do need to learn better ways to approach cultural issues so we are persuading our neighbors and not just arguing with them.

We want a truce between science and faith.

All truth is God’s truth. There is not a conflict between faith and science. Rather there is a conflict between philosophical naturalists, who hijack the mantle of science, and theists who recognize God as the divine source for everything. Should we agree with secularists that we can keep our faith within the walls of the church while the philosophical naturalists take everything else under the name of science? We cannot let atheistic religion masquerade as science. Christians should call them on it when they violate their own principle of accepting facts based on evidence and when they smuggle philosophical assumptions into the discussion.

We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We would all love to be known for what we stand for rather than what we are against. But consider this: much of what is known about evangelical Christians (outside of our own communities) comes from the media. Do the media care what we want to be known for? Or, do they just care about the controversial aspects of faith? The things Christians want to be known for will not give them the ratings they desire. So, no matter how well we craft our message, they will always find some knuckle-head to drag out and mock. We have our work cut out for us.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

I’ve been to many churches in my lifetime. While some evangelical churches have a conservative political bent, I have never heard any one church promote allegiance to a single party or single nation over allegiance to the kingdom of God. Christians should be working within both political parties to move our country toward righteousness. Christians, when putting God first, will not participate in the animosity that passes for public discourse today.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

At our church we genuinely welcome all people to our faith community. I know there are some churches that do not. Churches should not single out LGBT people for special scorn when we are all devastated by sin in some way. When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, he had no stones to throw. But he did leave her with a warning to “go and sin no more”. We need love AND truth. In the end, if we think we love by letting people believe they are okay when they are not, we are doing the most unloving thing of all.

While we still see churches that show animosity toward LGBT people, we see many more either abandoning Christian orthodoxy altogether or being cowed into silence. Abandoning orthodoxy is plainly wrong but silence is viewed as an accepted alternative. The problem with silence is it becomes a vacuum to be filled by the licentious culture or a demagogue.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

I agree. We should be leading in all of these areas. I believe that Christianity offers the only rationale for why these things are important for us to achieve.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions  Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

I do understand the draw toward a more historically grounded spirituality. We have much to learn from those who went before us. I hope we can understand the rich traditions and keep the best parts. Still something deeper is happening here. For some who grew up in the evangelical community, being drawn to high church traditions hides the subtle reality that they might be ashamed of the evangelical churches they grew up in. Like a vintage t-shirt, high church traditions have recently become more in vogue. They are now considered cool precisely because they are unconcerned with being cool. Being unconcerned about coolness is a prerequisite for being cool, which is why a church too obsessed with being cool could never really be cool. That’s the irony of coolness.

The discussion on coolness brings me back to the point made in the beginning. Relevant is not the same as cool. A Christianity that looks like everyone else around them is largely irrelevant.

Whether the church is the ‘edgier worship, coffee shop, multi-media’ church; or the ‘emergent, we don’t get involved in culture war issues, and support our LGBT friends’ church; or the ‘high tradition’ church; relevance is not found by being cool. Any of these churches could be relevant, but they will not be relevant if they water down the truth of the gospel. The message of the cross must mean something in how a person orders his or her life. The Christians who inspire me the most are the ones whose lives reflect a risen Christ. Pastors who spend years in prison, Christians who give up lucrative careers to serve in remote parts of the world, and Christian leaders who are willing to stand for truth especially when it is not popular, are examples of lives reflecting a risen Christ. Even the former alcoholic whose life has been changed by Christ, though his current life seems ordinary, lives on the cutting edge just by being sober every day.

Some of these substantive changes are just more attempts at being cool. The culture war is not cool, or at least being on one side isn’t cool. Being associated with a certain political party: also un-cool. Not supportive of the LGBT community? Mega un-cool. Perhaps if the Church were cool in the right ways the millennials wouldn’t be leaving. Then again, the mainline protestant churches have taken these positions for years and it hasn’t helped them keep members from leaving. Many evangelical churches are still growing despite being un-cool on these issues.

So, why are millennials leaving the church? I believe this exodus is the result of our failure to demonstrate how to live lives that are different because of the gospel. Millennials are not challenged by the lives we have lived in front of them. Great men and women of God never sought relevance. They sought Christ in the midst of their culture, and that is what made them relevant. We need to move beyond the American consumer Christianity and let the true gospel change us. Furthermore, we need to what are the important questions. As a member of Gen X I remember back to an important question posed to us as children on our televisions: Where’s the beef? Now, that’s a good question.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Do You Really Believe?

Believing is different from knowing.

John 6:69: “Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

To know means to have cerebral knowledge of something. To believe has multiple dimensions: not only do you have complete and total confidence in something, but you are also entrusted with information that will change you forever. Knowing something will not necessarily change your life; believing something always will.

Don’t get stuck in a place of knowing. Make your home and rest in a state of belief.

-by Pastor Mike White

Fresh Manna

Faith comes by hearing God speak to us. We must always endeavor to hear the Lord as we pray. Prayer must be a dialogue; never a monologue. Are you hearing God when you pray? Are you leaving enough time and space in your prayers to let Him speak to you?


Romans 10:17: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

‘Word’ here is the Greek ‘rhema,’ which is defined as ‘that which is or has been uttered by the living voice’ (Strong’s #4487). We must read our Bibles, because everything that has been written in that Book was spoken by God at one point in time. Knowing our Bibles inside and out is absolutely an expectation. But this text challenges us to go further than that. We must expect to hear God as we pray. As God communicates with us through His spoken word and we hear Him in prayer, we are refreshed and our strength is replenished.

When the Israelites came up out of Egypt, God gave them manna to eat (Exodus 16:4). Because His people let Him know they were hungry, He satisfied them with bread from Heaven. However, this food had an expiration date. Every morning, the people of Israel had to leave their tents and collect fresh manna; if they relied on manna supplied on a previous day, they would find it spoiled (Ex 16:20-21): inedible and no longer suitable for its intended purpose. Just as the people of Israel had to rely on fresh manna, we must rely on fresh communication from God.

God’s Word does not have an expiration date. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8), and His teachings will always apply. Yet we must go further than this. We must let the Holy Spirit show us how to apply the Word of God to our lives. We must let God speak to us in times of prayer.

-by Pastor Mike White

No more posts.