Cecil the Lion and the American Conscience

31 Jul

Cecil the Lion has become a household name, here in the United States.  As a matter of fact, I don’t recall seeing this much outrage about the killing of an animal…since Michael Vick’s dog-fighting shenanigans.  If you’ve been hiding in a cave recently, let me tell you about Cecil.  He was a beautiful and regal lion who lived in a national park in Zimbabwe, until an American hunter named Walter Palmer went to the African nation and allegedly illegally killed the lion on July 1st.

My heart was saddened.  I’ve always had a soft heart for animals, but to see this former “king of the jungle” lying lifeless next to a smiling hunter made me feel a deep sense of sadness.  Apparently, many people have felt that way, as #CecilTheLion has trended on Twitter for days.  Some have called for new regulations on hunting, and others have called for Walter Palmer to become lion food.

Even more so, I’ve been haunted for days over the lack of perspective that so many of us seem to have, as a nation.  There has been FAR more collective outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion then there has been over the Planned Parenthood fiasco…at least in the mainstream media.  How sad that the media would talk more about Cecil the Lion than the killing and dismembering of babies (in the name of medical advancement for the living)!

Now some will say that people can be concerned about both issues.  I agree, wholeheartedly!  But…they aren’t the same.  Life is all important, but humans are far more important than animals.  Humans are the only part of creation that God said in Genesis were created “in the image of God.”  My worldview demands that I value humans more than any other part of creation, because God does, too.

Some believe that all life is equal, and should be cared for in the same manner.  If that is true, then are you also outraged by the fact that Planned Parenthood has killed nearly 7,000,000 babies since 1970?  Are you troubled that 58,000,000 babies have been killed since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973?

If we’re being honest, most of us care more about Cecil the Lion, as evidenced by the blowing up of the interwebs by animal rights activists.  But, you might say: abortion is legal, and hunting endangered animals is not.  True, but is it moral to follow law based on an immoral decision?  I would say not.

So what can we do about this?  I would say that first, we need to find our “True North.”  Our lives’ compasses need to be recalibrated, and quickly.  If we don’t value the next generation more than any animal, then we are in deep trouble.  We’re a nation with blood on our hands and ice in our veins and…consciences that are seared to what is right and good.  May we seek God’s forgiveness for this human holocaust that we’ve put our approval upon.

Secondly, we need to encourage our faith communities to do more than pray and shout outside of abortion clinics.  If I were a woman in crisis (or not in crisis) and was thinking about having an abortion, I’m pretty sure the way to my heart would not be through angry talking points.  What if churches banded together with pregnancy resource centers, and funded the work that they do to put Planned Parenthood out of business?  What if women felt true love from our churches and knew that they would be loved and supported throughout their pregnancies?  I would say that many of them would not have abortions, and would find the love that God intended for them to experience.

Finally, I would encourage everyone who believes in the value of the unborn to speak up.  Raise your voice on social media and in your conversations…in love.  Push Congress to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and vote them out if they don’t.  Sometimes people become anesthetized to current events, and need a chance to process them with loved ones before they see the faultiness of their thinking.

In 2008, in my struggle to choose between Obama and McCain, I had a conversation with someone about the issue of abortion.  I remember saying to my friend that while I believed abortion to be sad, that I leaned toward being pro-choice because I didn’t believe that “morality could be legislated.”  I now believe very differently, thanks to The Center for Medical Progress’s work to expose the sickness of Planned Parenthood.  Morality IS legislated.  Our laws are all based on morality.  It is only “goodness” that can’t be legislated.

Peace,

Neil

Abortion and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

30 Jul

Do you remember last summer when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral? It was incredible to see so many people pour icy-cold water on themselves in the name of finding a cure of the devastating disease, ALS. 17 million people uploaded their videos (me included), and 440 million people watched the videos a total of 10 billion times.  

That is unbelievable reach!

Today on Facebook I read this:
“Every time I see someone complaining about PP (Planned Parenthood) and harvesting stem cells I dig up their ice bucket picture and say “but you supported this…””

The truth is…ALS, according to their website, “primarily funds adult stem cell research,” which means that SOME of their research is done with either tissue of aborted babies, or maybe even from embryonic stem cells which are directly harvested from embryos created for the purpose of scientific research.
This makes me sick to my stomach. Do we really believe that it is right to kill in order to promote life? What kind of non-sensical reality have we found ourselves in?

I love what Pope John Paul II suggested, in a speech to health care workers in 1996: “Every individual man is an end in himself and can never be used as a mere means for reaching other goals…not even in the name of the well-being and progress of the community as a whole.”

So, I’m sorry that I supported the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I will not support any organization that benefits from the killing of babies. The end most certainly does not justify the means.

How to Handle Truth

21 Jul

In a culture that is seemingly inoculated to what is true, it seems that it is of vital importance for the church to re-gain its prophetic voice in a sea of voices that all say “anything goes.”  Last Sunday, I shared a message about how we should handle truth.  As people who love and follow Jesus, we need to only look to his example.

He did three things in all of his interactions with regular people, just like you and me:

1~ He was led by LOVE.

2~ He spoke the TRUTH.

3~ He shared truth with COMPASSION.

Click the link below if you’d like to hear the whole message

http://bit.ly/1JeFP9x

Peace,

Neil Schori

The Gospel, Church and Domestic Violence

21 Jul

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is GOOD NEWS.  What does that mean?  What is the news?  It’s the news that we have been set free.  Free from sin and death.  Free from the tyranny of self.  Free to be the people who God created us to be.  Free to serve, and free to use our power to uplift the marginalized.  Jesus didn’t come to give you everything you want…that’s a patently false gospel.  But Jesus did come to restore the image of God in you, and he came to partner with you in offering that same life-giving gift to others.

 

I’ve wondered for years how this applies to the 1 in 3 women who sit in church each Sunday and are victims of domestic violence.  How does this Gospel impact their lives?  For most it doesn’t.  Why?

 

Because church leaders have hindered their access to Jesus.

 

You might say…but when did I block someone’s way to Jesus?  I’d NEVER do such a thing.

 

But, you did just that when you told the woman who came to you with tears and trembling that her husband beat and raped her at gun-point each day for 10 years that she must have done something to cause him to have to treat her that way.

 

You did just that when the woman came to you and she said she was afraid for her life, and you said you were sorry, but the Bible made it “clear” that divorce was only possible in case of sexual infidelity.

 

And you did just that when you told the woman suffering from PTSD that she needed to embrace the “cross that she was meant to bear” and that God would reward her for it in Heaven one day.

 

The Gospel IS good news for victims of domestic violence, while very sadly, the church has not been.  We must change our response, or be held accountable to God for our careless theology and our lazy and heartless, religiously-devoid-of-goodness sort of responses to the ones that Jesus came to set free.

 

So what can we do?  Here at Naperville Christian Church, we pledge to stand with victims of domestic violence.  What that means is that we will LISTEN to victims when they come to us, and we won’t ever try to convince victims to reconcile with their abusers.  Victims aren’t the problem; abusers are.  We also work to find temporary safe places for victims to stay that are unknown to their abusers.  Shelters can’t do it all, so we’re here to help complement their good work.  Finally, we help victims get a “head-start” in the legal system, by encouraging each of them to complete the Evidentiary Affidavit of Abuse, which is a ground-breaking tool designed in response to the disappearance of Stacy Peterson.

 

Even though we’re doing significant work to help victims, the resources needed are diverse, and sadly quite scattered.  I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with some great people whom are doing incredible work around our local community and around the world.  Here are some of them:

 

1.  Rise From The Ashes ~ They help women sever the legal ties that bind them to their abusers.  They also assist with the emotional trauma of DV with counseling.

2.  Restore ~ An international Christian alliance which seeks to end violence against women.

3.  SafeNight APP ~ An App that helps domestic violence and human-trafficking organizations crowd-fund hotel rooms when there’s an urgent need and no available room in DV shelters.

4.  A Cry for Justice ~ Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst.

5.  Focus Ministries ~ Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse Help for Women and Families

 

All of these organizations are good news for victims of domestic violence.  Will you and your church become that, too?  Please contact me at neil.schori@napervillechristian.org if you’d like to book me to speak at your church or to your organization, so that more will experience the GOOD of the Gospel.

 

**I added numbers 4 & 5 tonight, as I inadvertently failed to mention them and the good work they do.  Forgive my oversight.

 

Peace,

Neil Schori

 

 

Jesus Came for So Much More

10 Apr

Earlier today, one of my favorite followers of Jesus (that I’ve never met), Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit), tweeted this:

Jesus didn’t die just so you could go to heaven.  He died so you could fully live on earth.  Salvation is for today.

I LOVE this for so many reasons.  Too many Christians walk around filled with hopelessness.  Too many Christians have settled for mediocre lives.  Too many Christians have bought into the idea of “surviving earth” and one day floating on a cloud in heaven.

What about NOW?!

Why do we paint Jesus into a corner, instead of expecting him to do GREATER things in our lives?  Because we don’t understand why Jesus came.

In the gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 10, Jesus said that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the FULL.”  While heaven is our destination, we shouldn’t wait to truly live until we get there.  Heaven can start to manifest itself in our lives the moment we say yes to Jesus.  If we are supposed to have FULL life, then why do we settle for less than that?

I am daring to believe that Jesus meant what he said, but I know that it will take work on my part.  I’m not going to sit and do nothing and expect to live a full life.  I believe that Jesus wants to partner with me in bringing about the full and whole life that he spoke of throughout the gospel accounts.

So what does that look like?  At my church, Naperville Christian Church (@napervillecc) we are on a mission to experience every bit of wholeness that Jesus wants for us while we’re on this earth.  It will be messy, but we’re going to stand with you and contend for it all.

We are working on beginning a recovery ministry, because everyone has issues and hurts to deal with.  We are only supporting missions that we can “go and see,” because we don’t think that people are really changed by just giving a few bucks to people they’ll never have the chance to know and love.  We are encouraging all of our staff to get regular counseling, because healthy people encourage others to seek and find wholeness.  We are not going to overly program, because programs don’t lead to life; relationships do.  We believe that physical fitness and healthy eating matters, too.  All of these things lead to life and not to death.

We don’t have all of this figured out, but we’re convinced that this is a more life-giving way to live out the full-life that Jesus came to give.

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote:

…work out your salvation with fear and trembling…

Paul wasn’t suggesting that we have any power to get ourselves to heaven.  What he meant was that God had given us power to work toward our “wholeness.”  He gives the strength, but we have to get up and use it.

So…work it out.

Peace,

Neil

#911Anniversary

11 Sep

It is almost exactly 13 years since Mohammed Atta flew American Airlines flight 11 into the 93rd through 99th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Every generation has its own defining moments, and I know with certainty that this was mine.

I had just started my day at Verizon in Normal, IL. I did inside sales with a talented group of colleagues, and we were all logging onto our computer systems.

And then…one by one, we started noticing the radio that was piped in throughout the office.

A plane has hit the North Tower.

I saw heads pop-up around each of our cubicles, but we all thought it was just some Cessna that flew off course because of a disoriented pilot. Sad, but not a tragedy of terrorism fueled by hate-filled ideology.

After making our first phone calls of the day, about 17 minutes later, we heard that United Airlines Flight 175 had just flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

This was no accident. This was on-purpose. America was under attack.

And 34 minutes later, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. And 30 minutes after that, Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

The day became still. Work stopped. Hearts were blended together. Tears were mingled. Grief was shared. There were no democrats or republicans.

Only unity.

13 years later.

We aren’t united. We’ve forgotten about what matters. We chase after nothing and call it something. We have lost our togetherness.

But we need it more than ever.

Last night, as President Obama addressed the nation about the threat of the Islamic State. the Islamic State is more organized and has more money than al-Qaeda ever has. And they are filled with a hatred that made al-Qaeda shudder and disavow them. Their goal isn’t terror. Their goal is world domination through the form of an Islamic Caliphate.

We must unite. We must remember. God, make us remember. And act.

13 years after the worst terror attack our nation has ever seen, we are facing the likelihood of facing even greater attacks on our soil. So what can we do?

Remember.

But not the kind of remembering we do to simply recall information. Remembering in a way that transforms our actions.

On the last night of Jesus’ life, he had dinner with his close followers. He took a loaf of bread and said that it represented his body, that was going to be broken for them. Then he took the cup filled with wine, and he said that it was like his blood which would be shed for them for the forgiveness of their sins. Then he said: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

This was no casual thought or religious ritual. This was life-informing and life-altering.

His followers knew that he was demonstrating what kind of lives they were to lead from that point on:

broken and poured out for the sake of others.

And we are, too. 3000 Americans died on 9.11.01. And because of that, we have a responsibility and even a calling to live differently. To live AWAKENED. To live PASSIONATELY. To see everything as SACRED.

And to respond to terror threats wherever the exist.

Anything less is simply not acceptable. Remember.

Peace,

Neil

Open Letter to Janay Rice

9 Sep

Janay~

I want you to know how sorry I am for what has happened to you. You were violently attacked by Ray and the whole world saw it on video. You were probably embarrassed, and I would guess very afraid. After all, Ray is an elite athlete, and more importantly, your intimate partner. Then just a couple of days ago, you had to be humiliated again with the release of the video that showed exactly what was done to you in that hotel elevator.

Please don’t feel blame for what happened to you. You can’t do anything to make anyone hurt you. Nothing. You are not in charge of any other person’s emotions, or lack of self-control. Please hear that and internalize it.

Don’t listen to the voices that blame you for staying with Ray. They just don’t understand. They don’t understand how fearful a person can be because of the repeatedly frightening actions that one person can perpetrate upon another. They can’t comprehend how you could possibly stay in a relationship after seeing what was done to you in the video.

But I can.

I understand it because I’ve met and assisted countless victims of domestic violence. I was Stacy Peterson‘s pastor and counselor. She was married to Drew Peterson before she disappeared. Drew is the former Bolingbrook, IL police sergeant that you may have heard about…and is spending the next 36 years in prison because he was convicted of murdering a different wife, named Kathleen Savio.

Since meeting Stacy, I’ve helped many women around the country get renewed courage. Courage to believe that they were worth more than what their abusers told them. Courage to believe that they could make it alone. Courage to believe that they could be wanted by another person. Courage to leave.

I don’t know you, but I’d be honored to help you.

I hope you will take a look at this site: documenttheabuse.com ~

There is hope, and we are waiting to help you…with NO judgment, whatsoever. You are not alone. You are loved.

Peace,

Neil

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