"ON THE EIGHTH DAY MAN CREATED BEER." So claims the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a brewery housed in a former church building. This is just one of many bars and breweries opening in former churches across America.
When churches close, their buildings can be difficult to repurpose. Large stained glass windows and cavernous sanctuaries are hard to make into condominiums, and historic landmark protections can impede renovation. So developers are turning them into beer halls.
In Europe, the trend is even more disturbing: churches are being turned into Islamic mosques. In Dublin, Ireland, the largest central mosque is located in a former Presbyterian church. Numerous churches in Cyprus, England, France and Germany are now mosques.
We can lament the post-Christian nature of Western civilization, or we can be agents of transformation while there is still time. On our decision rests the future of our culture.
I am reading the Book of Ezekiel in my personal Bible study and find it as relevant as if it were written last week. Through his prophet, the Lord warned the people of Jerusalem that "they have rejected my rules and have not walked in my statutes" (Ezek. 5:6). As a result, he would withdraw his presence (v. 11) and bring his judgment (v. 12).
God exposed their idolatry (valuing anything or anyone more than God) and warned that they would face his wrath (Ezek. 6). He saw the sins being committed even in their houses of worship (Ezek. 8) and the deceit of their leaders (Ezek. 11:1–13), prophets (Ezek.13), and elders (Ezek. 14:1–11). He knew the murder (Ezek. 22:1–5), extortion (v. 7) and sexual sins (vv. 10–11) they were committing.
As a result, the Lord warned, "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:4b).
In the face of such impending judgment, God called Ezekiel to be a "watchman" for his people (Ezek. 3:17a) with this charge: "Whenever you hear the word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me" (v. 17b). Ezekiel was sent to them as an example of godliness and a spokesman for God.
However, Ezekiel's ministry was 2,600 years ago. Why is his book in our Bible today?
Neither human nor divine nature changes. The sins God judged in ancient Jerusalem he still judges today. If the holy city could fall because of the sinfulness of her people, no city is safe.
If you're certain that your nation's future is secure, you need to read Ezekiel.
The good news is that God is ready to forgive anyone who repents and seeks him. He will do this "for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways" (Ezek. 20:44).
He is calling us to share His truth and grace as His watchmen for this day. He will give us the words to say and the courage to say them. He anoints all he appoints.
In the midst of wildfires that have swept across Northern California and killed at least 17 people, one survivor told The New York Times: "Our phones were off and our neighbor was relentless in trying to wake us up. ... She was knocking and ringing our doorbell, and because of her, we got out with our two young children."
Whose door will you knock on today?