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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019  (Read 1112 times)

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Bladerunner

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2019, 09:29:41 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/spring/people-of-ebook.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







Screens Are Changing the Way We Read Scripture



As digital reading habits rewire our brains, how will we process the Bible differently?

 
Christianity is a religion of the Word. Christians are a “People of the Book.” These distinctives have defined the Christian faith from the beginning, even before the age of print that brought us books. As we enter what many are calling a post-literate age, pastors can help remind people that the essence of the Christian faith centers on the Word (and words).

From the carving of the Ten Commandments to the writing of the Torah to the copying and distribution of letters in the early church, God’s plan was for his people to read. However, as the way we read in this digital age changes, so too the character of the church will change. How will those reading habits affect the way we interact with the Bible? How will the way people read the Bible alter the church body?

A Unique Relationship with Words


Long before the printing press and widespread literacy, God was cultivating a relationship with his chosen people focused on the written word. The words God carved into stone at Mount Sinai included a caution against images, setting up a peculiar word-based relationship with his followers that contrasted starkly with the image-worshiping pagan nations surrounding the Israelites (an observation made by Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death).

This trend continues through church history, according to David Lyle Jeffrey in People of the Book. Medieval paintings frequently depict Mary, other biblical figures, and church fathers holding the Bible. Such images, even—or especially—when anachronistic (bound books did not exist when Mary bore Christ), symbolize the centrality of reading to Christian faithfulness and point out the concrete, tangible nature of the Word. In many of these paintings, the subject is depicted with a finger inserted into the book’s pages, suggesting active reading and reflecting how Thomas needed to put his fingers into Christ’s body in order to know and believe. God’s Word, both written and incarnate, beckons us to come close and engage in a tactile relationship.

Despite the centrality of the written word from the beginning of God’s revelation, many generations of believers were unable to read the Bible for themselves. Before the Reformation, biblical words passed through priests, supplemented by images depicted in stained glass windows and in itinerate drama troupes performing biblical stories. These symbols offered rich beauty, but images alone cannot convey the abstractions of doctrine. Thus in the pre-literate age preceding the Reformation, the Bible was delivered and understood only in pieces.

The Reformation’s focus on reading and the resulting age of literacy it birthed were, in some ways, the culmination of the logocentrism that runs through the Bible and God’s relationship with creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” from John 1:1, is a direct echo of Genesis 1, when God created the world through his words. While the “word of the Lord” refers to all the ways God reveals himself, whether spoken (Gen. 1), in a vision (Gen. 15:1), or written (Exod. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:16), his word is always logical, linear, and coherent. Likewise, the key feature of a literate age is cultivation, not only of the ability to read but of the propensity to think in a logical, linear, coherent fashion.

Paper or Pixels?
The act of reading is not natural to the human brain. While scientists see reading in terms of evolution and adaptation, reading is, in some way, supernatural or at least unnatural.

In her book Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf explains that reading is not hardwired in the human brain the way language is. Not only does the remarkable plasticity of the human brain make reading possible, but the activity of reading creates new circuits in the brain. These aid in learning abstract and creative concepts that go beyond the brain’s genetically programmed functioning. Reading demands “extraordinary cerebral complexity,” Wolf says, and the brain requires years for “deep-reading processes to be formed.” Our reading habits, therefore, have the potential to shape our brains, for good or ill.

Deep reading activates regions of the brain related to touch, motion, and feeling, and helps develop the background knowledge that we bring to further reading and living. “The consistent strengthening of the connections among our analogical, inferential, empathic, and background knowledge processes generalizes well beyond reading,” Wolf explains. “When we learn to connect these processes over and over in our reading, it becomes easier to apply them to our own lives.” Her findings seem to confirm the truth of Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Cognitive science shows that our brains work one way when accustomed to reading in logical, linear patterns and another way when continually bouncing from tweet to tweet, picture to picture, and screen to screen. Wolf’s research shows that reading on digital devices does not create the same kind of brain circuits as deep reading. In The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr cautions, “Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts—the faster, the better.”

In an article aptly titled “Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain Aren’t the Same Thing,” PRI reports that the habit of superficial comprehension developed in digital reading transfers to all reading such that “the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading—a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.” In reporting on another study published in 2017, Inside Higher Ed notes that “readers may not comprehend complex or lengthy material as well when they view it digitally as when they read it on paper.”

So what does this mean for Christians who are, increasingly, reading the Word on screens instead of on paper?

More than half of Bible users include some form of digital reading, searching, or listening in their Bible usage. A survey reported in a 2015 Journal of Religion article titled “E-Reading and the Christian Bible” finds that a majority of respondents (58%) cited ease and convenience as a major advantage of digital Bibles. Pastors must consider whether this characteristic is one they should tap into or disciple people away from. Many churches already provide physical Bibles during services, but a gentle nudge to use them instead of a Bible app, a page number to help them flip to the correct spot, and a few extra seconds before reading the passage aloud may be worth the slight inconvenience.

Many survey respondents complained that digital text tends to isolate verses apart from their immediate context as well as the Bible as a whole. These respondents noted that the physical layout of the biblical text is important for comprehension, memory, and “correct interpretation.”

Furthermore, despite findings that digital Bibles result in increased Bible reading by many users, challenges to memory and comprehension “persisted even when the frequency of reading actually increased.” As one survey participant reported, “I probably read the Bible more (more often) but possibly less deeply.”

Some users reported that it is harder to view a digital Bible as something set apart from other content displayed on their screens. One respondent said, “I feel more distanced from it [when reading on a Kindle] and frustrated at not having the personal contact of the paper and print.” Another observed that “there is just a special connection being lost when you come out of the tangible Book itself!”

Bible Reading in a Post-Literate Culture
As our reading becomes more immersed in a digital rather than a print culture, the more we return to some qualities of the pre-literate world. We are reading more, but the way we read replicates the effects of the discrete images of stained glass windows more than the sustained, logical, and coherent linearity of a whole book.

The recent publication of high-quality literary editions of the Bible such as the various Reader’s Bibles and the crowd-funded Bibliothecaindicates a resurgence in desire to hold the weight of God’s words in one’s hands. The growing popularity of Bible editions designed to allow journaling and notetaking in the margins encourage the reader to interact with the text. Pastors looking for ways to encourage deep engagement with physical Bibles might consider directing people to these resources.

In a Word-centered faith, the ability to read well is central. As a “People of the Book,” Christians have a particular calling to preserve and promote the gift of deep reading from physical Bibles. Pastors can model, lead, and teach the way.




Karen Swallow Prior teaches English at Liberty University and is the author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos, 2018).





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It has caused a prophecy to be fulfilled. Dan 12:4.. "Increase of Knowledge"
is of the Bible.

Blade
1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2019, 09:00:00 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/righteous-gemstones-hbo-satirizes-televangelist-empire.html







The Righteous Gemstones Shines Its Satire on a Televangelist Empire


For Christians, is the irreverent, unrighteous HBO comedy a laughing matter?

 
For most of my life, pop culture and Christianity have resolved to exist separately together.

Though Christ figures and spiritual journeys were common enough pop culture tropes, the entertainment I was drawn to didn’t really concern itself with contemporary Christianity. And the Christianity around me stayed in relative cultural isolation, occasionally creating its own “popular culture” of music, literature, TV, and movies.

And mostly, this was a beneficial arrangement, a kind of peaceful truce.

Recently, though, as our cultural borders are blurring across spheres of society, the separate peace I enjoyed between the church I love and the entertainment I love began to crumble.

Growing up surrounded by both Southern Baptist and prosperity gospel principles, I’ve noticed the ethical fluidity that Christians can apply to money and wealth. Earlier this year, an Instagram account called “PreachersnSneakers” generated a firestorm of reaction when it highlighted certain evangelical pastors and their taste for expensive and culturally fashionable footwear. And for years, a similar ire has surrounded pastors who pay for private jets and mansions.

And now, this corner of the evangelical world—which sometimes feels like satire being played out in real life—has made its way to HBO, in its new series, The Righteous Gemstones.

Starring Danny McBride, Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, and the incomparable John Goodman, The Righteous Gemstones is a heightened look at a family of evangelical royalty. Think the Kennedys, but less polished, more Southern fried, and strategizing Jesus instead of politics.

As the series opens, they’ve just returned from a mission trip to China and they are settling in to the business of expanding their evangelical empire, but alas, for all of the characters, the seeds of struggle are coming to bear, culminating in Jesse Gemstone (McBride) being blackmailed for a tape showing him participating in some very unbiblical behavior.

Christian culture on TV
The arrival of Gemstones is exciting because, historically, we don’t have a ton of precedent when it comes to TV shows that aspire to authentically recreate the Christian subculture in popular culture.

Kevin (Probably) Saves The World on ABC and God Friended Me on CBS were two network comedy-dramas that debuted last year, somewhat on the tail of the supernatural-themed NBC hit The Good Place. As far as actually examining the life of a pastor and Christian family, Seventh Heaven would probably be the most straightforward example we’ve seen on TV.

The Righteous Gemstones, though, takes a less traditional and far less wholesome approach. In this respect, it skews more toward the Fleabag Season 2 template when it comes to considering religion.

Of course, every believer establishes their own boundaries around entertainment, and verses like Philippians 4:8 and Romans 12:1 have been used to justify and condemn a range of options. Like many HBO shows, there are more than enough content flags to keep The Righteous Gemstones off Christians’ TV lineups, and I understand and respect the impulse to avoid it altogether. The language is more locker room than fellowship hall, as are the visuals, which, in the pilot episode, include both male and female nudity.

But there are many Christians, myself included, whose Sunday plans include worship in the morning and an HBO series at night. And for us, The Righteous Gemstones raises issues beyond the television content warnings. This is a bawdy comedy about the church. Is it really okay to watch the body of Christ being played for laughs? What about when it’s a deeply flawed expression of the church that many of us would indeed condemn?

The richness and capability of this satire presents a complicated proposition. While some Christians declare any negative portrayal of the church as biased or an attack on our faith, there are also good reasons for us to be sensitive to Christianity being mocked. We know Christ loves the church fiercely, and we want to defend it as his expression and a force for good in the world. And we don’t want to see our God or our sincere faith belittled (I imagine that most people, faithful or not, would agree with that).

As someone who attends what could be reasonably labeled a megachurch, I feel a balance between catharsis and defensiveness in watching Gemstones. On the one hand, I love seeing the prosperity gospel exposed for its simplistic reduction of the gospel into fortune-hunting. The show succeeds at highlighting overlap between religion and emotional manipulation.

But on the other hand, I fear that Gemstones might feed into the clichés and stereotypes many of us are working so hard to subvert. Thus far, the harshest criticisms seem to be reserved for the Gemstone family and the archetype of oily and dishonest televangelists, but there is a part of me anxious about whether or not this critical gaze will be leveled at members of the faithful.

Humor with humanity
Any show taking on such a dense, complex subject as American megachurch culture is bound to be an approximation, but surprisingly enough, Gemstones taps into a faithful dysfunction that is, at times, both sympathetic and satirical.

For example, the show is incredibly shrewd in its depiction of the evangelical blurring of capitalism with ministry. The scale and immensity of the casual wealth of all the Gemstones children is unremarked upon but a powerful subtext throughout.

But the series also captures some of the smaller, unsettling details that come up among Christians in the spotlight or the megachurch stage. One of my favorites: Bad Christian Haircuts. If you’ve been at a trendy church lately, you probably noticed a couple on staff, and Gemstones reflects this by featuring characters whose hair styles manage to straddle the line of looking both expensive and idiotic.

For me, the pilot episode of Gemstones works because it is set up as a story about family first, and the larger context of evangelical Christianity is what surrounds that. The religion part is definitely played for laughs, more silly than stinging. There’s a bit at the beginning of the pilot episode concerning a 24-hour marathon baptism session conducted in a wave pool that is ruined by someone accidentally triggering the wave pool function leading to mini-tsunamis ravaging the gathered faithful.

But clearly, Gemstones isn’t interested in being a referendum on Christianity, though the church is the setting for its antics; it is primarily a show about family dynamics and the impact and corrosiveness of unearned privilege.

In this regard, Gemstones has a considerable amount in common with another HBO show, Succession, a satirical comedy about a dysfunctional family at the helm of a corporation. Where Succession abandons its characters’ humanity and instead leverages greed and power to propel the story, Gemstones seems to obfuscate its characters’ humanity and faith enough to that you start to doubt whether it actually exists but still hold out hope for them to resurrect it.

Whether or not Gemstones’ satire will manifest deeper truths about this ministry landscape, I can’t say. There is certainly an opportunity to skewer the most appalling aspects of high-dollar televangelism without putting the entire body of Christ on blast. The show does a good job of highlighting the very real tension of pursuing godliness versus pursuing the facade of godliness, something I struggle with and most Christians can relate to.

Christians tend to consider satire the same way we think about doubt; both are things that exist but are not really encouraged, lest they give root to darker impulses. To me, a good satire—like doubt—functions with the interest of sharpening our awareness and pushing us to find a deeper commonality. Here’s to hoping that Gemstones will succeed on that front.




Knox McCoy is the cohost of The Popcast with Knox and Jamie and author of The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life’s Biggest Questions.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2019, 08:20:21 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/righteous-gemstones-hbo-satirizes-televangelist-empire.html







The Righteous Gemstones Shines Its Satire on a Televangelist Empire


For Christians, is the irreverent, unrighteous HBO comedy a laughing matter?

 
For most of my life, pop culture and Christianity have resolved to exist separately together.

Though Christ figures and spiritual journeys were common enough pop culture tropes, the entertainment I was drawn to didn’t really concern itself with contemporary Christianity. And the Christianity around me stayed in relative cultural isolation, occasionally creating its own “popular culture” of music, literature, TV, and movies.

And mostly, this was a beneficial arrangement, a kind of peaceful truce.

Recently, though, as our cultural borders are blurring across spheres of society, the separate peace I enjoyed between the church I love and the entertainment I love began to crumble.

Growing up surrounded by both Southern Baptist and prosperity gospel principles, I’ve noticed the ethical fluidity that Christians can apply to money and wealth. Earlier this year, an Instagram account called “PreachersnSneakers” generated a firestorm of reaction when it highlighted certain evangelical pastors and their taste for expensive and culturally fashionable footwear. And for years, a similar ire has surrounded pastors who pay for private jets and mansions.

And now, this corner of the evangelical world—which sometimes feels like satire being played out in real life—has made its way to HBO, in its new series, The Righteous Gemstones.

Starring Danny McBride, Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, and the incomparable John Goodman, The Righteous Gemstones is a heightened look at a family of evangelical royalty. Think the Kennedys, but less polished, more Southern fried, and strategizing Jesus instead of politics.

As the series opens, they’ve just returned from a mission trip to China and they are settling in to the business of expanding their evangelical empire, but alas, for all of the characters, the seeds of struggle are coming to bear, culminating in Jesse Gemstone (McBride) being blackmailed for a tape showing him participating in some very unbiblical behavior.

Christian culture on TV
The arrival of Gemstones is exciting because, historically, we don’t have a ton of precedent when it comes to TV shows that aspire to authentically recreate the Christian subculture in popular culture.

Kevin (Probably) Saves The World on ABC and God Friended Me on CBS were two network comedy-dramas that debuted last year, somewhat on the tail of the supernatural-themed NBC hit The Good Place. As far as actually examining the life of a pastor and Christian family, Seventh Heaven would probably be the most straightforward example we’ve seen on TV.

The Righteous Gemstones, though, takes a less traditional and far less wholesome approach. In this respect, it skews more toward the Fleabag Season 2 template when it comes to considering religion.

Of course, every believer establishes their own boundaries around entertainment, and verses like Philippians 4:8 and Romans 12:1 have been used to justify and condemn a range of options. Like many HBO shows, there are more than enough content flags to keep The Righteous Gemstones off Christians’ TV lineups, and I understand and respect the impulse to avoid it altogether. The language is more locker room than fellowship hall, as are the visuals, which, in the pilot episode, include both male and female nudity.

But there are many Christians, myself included, whose Sunday plans include worship in the morning and an HBO series at night. And for us, The Righteous Gemstones raises issues beyond the television content warnings. This is a bawdy comedy about the church. Is it really okay to watch the body of Christ being played for laughs? What about when it’s a deeply flawed expression of the church that many of us would indeed condemn?

The richness and capability of this satire presents a complicated proposition. While some Christians declare any negative portrayal of the church as biased or an attack on our faith, there are also good reasons for us to be sensitive to Christianity being mocked. We know Christ loves the church fiercely, and we want to defend it as his expression and a force for good in the world. And we don’t want to see our God or our sincere faith belittled (I imagine that most people, faithful or not, would agree with that).

As someone who attends what could be reasonably labeled a megachurch, I feel a balance between catharsis and defensiveness in watching Gemstones. On the one hand, I love seeing the prosperity gospel exposed for its simplistic reduction of the gospel into fortune-hunting. The show succeeds at highlighting overlap between religion and emotional manipulation.

But on the other hand, I fear that Gemstones might feed into the clichés and stereotypes many of us are working so hard to subvert. Thus far, the harshest criticisms seem to be reserved for the Gemstone family and the archetype of oily and dishonest televangelists, but there is a part of me anxious about whether or not this critical gaze will be leveled at members of the faithful.

Humor with humanity
Any show taking on such a dense, complex subject as American megachurch culture is bound to be an approximation, but surprisingly enough, Gemstones taps into a faithful dysfunction that is, at times, both sympathetic and satirical.

For example, the show is incredibly shrewd in its depiction of the evangelical blurring of capitalism with ministry. The scale and immensity of the casual wealth of all the Gemstones children is unremarked upon but a powerful subtext throughout.

But the series also captures some of the smaller, unsettling details that come up among Christians in the spotlight or the megachurch stage. One of my favorites: Bad Christian Haircuts. If you’ve been at a trendy church lately, you probably noticed a couple on staff, and Gemstones reflects this by featuring characters whose hair styles manage to straddle the line of looking both expensive and idiotic.

For me, the pilot episode of Gemstones works because it is set up as a story about family first, and the larger context of evangelical Christianity is what surrounds that. The religion part is definitely played for laughs, more silly than stinging. There’s a bit at the beginning of the pilot episode concerning a 24-hour marathon baptism session conducted in a wave pool that is ruined by someone accidentally triggering the wave pool function leading to mini-tsunamis ravaging the gathered faithful.

But clearly, Gemstones isn’t interested in being a referendum on Christianity, though the church is the setting for its antics; it is primarily a show about family dynamics and the impact and corrosiveness of unearned privilege.

In this regard, Gemstones has a considerable amount in common with another HBO show, Succession, a satirical comedy about a dysfunctional family at the helm of a corporation. Where Succession abandons its characters’ humanity and instead leverages greed and power to propel the story, Gemstones seems to obfuscate its characters’ humanity and faith enough to that you start to doubt whether it actually exists but still hold out hope for them to resurrect it.

Whether or not Gemstones’ satire will manifest deeper truths about this ministry landscape, I can’t say. There is certainly an opportunity to skewer the most appalling aspects of high-dollar televangelism without putting the entire body of Christ on blast. The show does a good job of highlighting the very real tension of pursuing godliness versus pursuing the facade of godliness, something I struggle with and most Christians can relate to.

Christians tend to consider satire the same way we think about doubt; both are things that exist but are not really encouraged, lest they give root to darker impulses. To me, a good satire—like doubt—functions with the interest of sharpening our awareness and pushing us to find a deeper commonality. Here’s to hoping that Gemstones will succeed on that front.




Knox McCoy is the cohost of The Popcast with Knox and Jamie and author of The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life’s Biggest Questions.

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Hate to tell: "Mr. Knox McCoy is the cohost of The Popcast with Knox and Jamie and author of The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life’s Biggest Questions."

That He is not finding the right answers!...Don't think I need to tell him the resulting judgement of such... Really I don't think He cares!

Blade
1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2019, 04:07:25 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september/moses-burning-bush-prayer-fire.html







Praying With Fire


What Moses and the burning bush teach us about approaching God.

 
There are many reasons I don’t pray: distraction, busyness, or the sense that I should be doing something. These are all terrible, of course, but I think the saddest reason is simply boredom. If you’ve grown up in church or simply acclimatized to the secular air we breathe, prayer can appear as small potatoes. It’s something good you know you’re supposed to do because God, like your Great Aunt Suzy, would like you to call more often. But there is little urgency or anticipation.

How much would change, I wonder, if we looked to the story of Moses and the burning bush as our paradigm for prayer?

We begin inauspiciously enough, with Moses tending sheep in Midian. Here he is, minding his own business, living his everyday life, when the fantastic intrudes upon him. On the “Mountain of God,” he sees a bush that was on fire, yet “it did not burn up” (Ex. 3:2). Unlike every other flame, this one uniquely did not depend on the bush for fuel, so it did not consume it but was nevertheless somehow transcendently present within it.

Curious at this sacred phenomenon, Moses approaches but stops short when God calls him by name from the flame, “Moses! Moses!” After recovering from the shock, he humbly replies, “Here I am.” To which the Lord responds by warning him, “Do not come any closer. . . . Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Ex. 3:4–5). Moses rightly obeys, and from there his improbable interview with the Flame continues with the astonishing gift of the Divine Name and a commission to liberate Israel.

The whole encounter is remarkable, but it is particularly significant that the Holy One appears as fire, not to repel but to attract Moses—to cause him to draw near so he can meet with him and call him by name.

You see, Israel would come to know a more fearsome Yahweh revealed by fire. When the Divine Warrior routed the Egyptians at the Red Sea, he did so as a pillar of fire (Ex. 14:24). When they met their Redeemer at Sinai, he appeared in lightning, smoke, and flame (Ex. 19:16–25). Out of that flame he spoke to them, inviting them into his covenant. Predictably, this glory was so terrifying that they asked Moses to mediate for them—the fiery One was far too much for them. Importantly, as Israel was about to cross over to the promised land, Moses reminds them of their fear, telling them not to construct idols, for Yahweh “your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deut. 4:24; 5:4–5, 23–27).

It’s only in light of that later reminder that we can appreciate the marvel of Moses’ experience at the burning bush: In that moment, the God who is Fire did not consume. Instead, with gracious condescension, he invited Moses into the intimacy of personal relation, of address, of communion, of the exchanging of names.

Here the warmth, the presence, the mysterious and inviting light of God the Fiery One was on display. And yet, with the clear warnings about how Moses was to proceed, we are given to understand that God is still one and the same overwhelming Flame that Israel would prove unable to bear for most of its history.

Thankfully you and I, as participants in a better covenant, also have a better confidence “through Christ before God” (2 Cor. 3:4). We can cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15) as we draw near to God “with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (Heb. 10:22).

And yet, the author of Hebrews warns that although he is “ours,” this God is nevertheless “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).

In which case, none of this intimacy with God should ever be an excuse for the familiarity that so often breeds contempt. Certainly, there is no place for lethargy or boredom. To pray is to enter the Temple, the high and exalted place, where the Holy One dwells in majestic light (Isa. 57:15). It is to call on the name of Yahweh, the fear of Israel (Isa. 8:13).

Considering the One we are praying to, there should be an exhilarating rush of adrenaline and a quickening of the pulse when we take God’s name on our lips. We are called to pray anywhere and everywhere, but we should still look to “remove our sandals,” approaching him with holy trepidation, joy, and awe. Prayer is nothing less than an intimate encounter with the voice from the Flame.




Derek Rishmawy is a doctoral candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.






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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2019, 09:51:53 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/christian-song-murder-confession-big-daddy-weave.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29





Big Daddy Weave Frontman ‘Blown Away’ That His Song Led to Murder Confession







The Christian chart-topper “Redeemed” brought spiritual freedom for a man now serving a life sentence.

 
A Tennessee man was recently dealt two sentences: freedom in Christ and life in prison.

In a murder trial last Friday, defendant Danny Holmes opened with a 20-minute testimony where he confessed to killing a man three years ago and then he recounted his spiritual transformation in prison since then, the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal reported.

Instrumental to his confession was the song “Redeemed” by Christian rock band Big Daddy Weave. He brought the lyrics in a notebook to court.

Mike Weaver, the band’s eponymous lead singer, told CT he was “blown away” when he learned how God used his band’s music in Holmes’ life.

“Over the last handful of years, so many stories have come from God using that song,” said Weaver, who lives north of Nashville in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, just 33 miles from the site of Holmes’ crime in Murfreesboro. “It is a message that is so dear to [God’s] heart.”

The song emphasizes redemption and Christ’s work to free us from our past sins and past selves. The line that sealed the deal for Holmes came from the first verse: “Then you look at this prisoner and say to me, Son, stop fighting a fight that's already been won.’”

Holmes accepted his life sentence and vowed to serve the Lord and spread the gospel while behind bars. “I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been fighting for nothing all my life. I’ve been fighting for gangs,” Holmes said in court. “I ain’t never fought for anything that made sense. But I knew the Lord was telling me to fight for him this time. I just knew he was stirring on my spirit."

Weaver said he and “Redeemed” co-writer Benji Cowart intend to visit Holmes in prison.

Several years ago, their 2012 hit also grabbed the attention of musician Zach Williams. While on tour with a rock band in Spain, Williams heard a portion of “Redeemed” as the bus driver flipped through radio stations.

“The Holy Spirit spoke to me in that moment, saying, ‘You need to quit doing what you’re doing and turn your life around,’” Williams said. “That was a turning point for me. I called my wife and told her I was coming home.”

He canceled all his scheduled tour dates, abandoned the destructive habits that had hijacked his life on the road, and reconciled with his wife. In 2016, after his own spiritual turnaround, Williams co-wrote “Chain Breaker,” which topped the charts and won a Grammy last year.

“Redeemed” has spurred listeners to share dramatic stories of freedom from the adult entertainment industry, substance abuse, and more. One fan told Weaver that the song helped her forgive the man who abducted her and held her captive.

“From the moment we started singing it, the stories started coming forward,” Weaver said. After 54 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Christian Song list in 2012, it’s become one of the band’s most-requested songs.

The Christian rocker said he wrote the song to work through with his own struggles with self-hatred. “I told Jesus everything I hated about myself, and he told me that’s not the way he feels about me.”

After that moment, the chorus of “Redeemed” came together in Weaver’s head: “I am redeemed, you set me free / So I’ll shake off theses heavy chains, and wipe away every stain / Now I’m not who I used to be.”

He and Cowart hammered out the rest of the song together. For Weaver, the song represented some closure on his battles with himself. But Cowart, then a worship leader at a church in Buffalo, New York, introduced the song to his congregation.

No matter how many stories Weaver hears of the impact of “Redeemed,” he never stops marveling. “We have nothing to do with [the stories we hear], only Jesus can use a song in that way.”

Holmes said in a statement that he hopes to urge young people that he meets prison to look to Jesus for salvation, not money or extravagance, as he used to do.

From the stand, he said he was praying for the victim’s family, understanding he was responsible for their loss. He also made a pledge to his mother: “Momma, you know I love you. But Momma, I promise you, your baby boy, he’s going to serve the Lord forever.”
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2019, 08:57:34 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/august/bridges-of-god-church-and-rural-urban-divide.html




Bridges of God: The Church and the Rural-Urban Divide




Since the dawn of Christianity, God's people have been called to be a bridge across the barriers constructed by any given society.

 
In 1954, Donald McGavran, a third-generation missionary in India who would go on to found Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission, published Bridges of God: A Study in the Strategy of Missions.

In the book, McGavran offered western missionaries a new paradigm for ministry that cut against the dominant mission-station approach that catered to Western individualism by pulling converts out of their relational networks.

McGavran’s proposal emphasized the evangelistic power of interconnectedness. He witnessed entire “people movements” when new converts were encouraged to return to their social networks and families rather than take up residence in a walled-off missionary compound.

In the years since, there have been many justified critiques of the church growth movement that McGavran’s work eventually helped launch, but the principle that God uses relational bridges in the work of his kingdom is something that in retrospect looks so obvious that one wonders how missionary organizations could have ever missed it. Yet they did.

We still do.

Although the correlation between the current state of the church in America and McGavran’s work is hardly one-to-one, the reality today is that we in the church in America still need to be extremely intentional about cultivating relational bridges, especially as our nation approaches what is sure to be another divisive election season.

As a pastor of a small, rural church, I feel this need keenly. If history is any indicator, one of the most polarizing divides heading into the 2020 election cycle may again be the divide between those—Christian and non-Christian alike—who live in the nation’s rural regions and those who live in more urban areas.

My wife and I felt this divide in the summer of 2016 when we moved from the university town of Charlottesville, Virginia, to rural western Pennsylvania to plant a church. In Charlottesville, a majority of the Christians we knew could hardly imagine voting for Trump; in western PA, a majority of the Christians we knew could hardly imagine voting against him.

In addition to noticing how much of one’s political convictions seemed to rely on one’s geographic and social location, the other thing I noticed during that election cycle and the time since is how few churches actually had any kind of sustained relational involvement with other churches—even churches in their same denominational tribe—from different geographic or social backgrounds.

Where were the churches—not just pastors—who had befriended “brother” or “sister” congregations who did not share similar economic, geographic, social, or political sensibilities? Where were churches dedicated to long-term friendship, dialogue, and even partnership across the barriers of race, political sensibilities, and the geographic divides that seem almost insurmountable in today’s divisive political climate?

Before you start emailing me with examples of churches doing just that, let me say that I’m sure these kind of rural-urban-divide-spanning relationships exist.

I’m also sure that not enough of them exist.

I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about the unique features of rural and small-place ministry, and I’ve come across very few examples of rural churches (or urban churches for that matter) who have sought to intentionally bridge the growing chasm between the nation’s rural regions and its urban centers.

I can’t help wondering why, in the face of the next election and the divisiveness that is sure to accompany it, more church leaders and congregations aren’t working in advance to forge deep relationships with leaders and congregations from different geographic backgrounds, especially when no organization is better equipped than the church to bridge these great divides.

From the very first decades of Christianity, we’ve seen how the church was able to span (with lots of blood, sweat, tears, and prayers) some of the greatest social divides of its day. Acts is the story of God’s people bridging one divide after another, and the rural-urban divide is no exception as cosmopolitan leaders like Paul and Herod’s friend Manaen work as equals alongside fishermen-turned-apostles from rural Galilee.

Even though my vocational and geographic context gears me to focus on ministry in rural places and small towns, when I dream about the future of the church I don’t dream about a thriving rural church—or even a thriving urban or suburban church for that matter—but a thriving CHURCH.

Our fractured society needs relational bridges, not affinity-group silos; and the church, if willing, is perfectly positioned to be a kingdom bridge across the troubled waters of our society. Of course, this will be difficult.

Of course, there will be failures. God has grace for that. My concern is that so few even seem to want to try to invest in long-term relationships of mutuality between congregations from different social and geographic locations.

I live in a river town of 10,000 people and seven bridges. Those bridges make life in my town navigable. Without them, relationships, education, local government, and all of life would be stifled.

The church is and has always been called to be the primary bridge of God across the barriers constructed by any given society. This still holds true today. In recent years, the church has learned quite a bit about the importance of community for the life of the individual believer. Maybe today’s climate calls for a rediscovery of community in the life of entire congregations?

What might it look like for churches to begin to build bridges from the country to the city and from the city to the country, not as mission fields but as relationships from which to learn, grow, and together partner as equals in the mission of God? It’s a question—and a dream—that could change the landscape of towns, cities, and a nation.




Charlie Cotherman is pastor and planter of Oil City Vineyard Church in Oil City, Pennsylvania. He has degrees from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (MDiv) and the University of Virginia (PhD), and is the administrative director of the Project on Rural Ministry at Grove City College.




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