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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2020  (Read 1823 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2020
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2020, 10:04:22 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/december-web-only/death-penalty-justice-victims-executions-trump-podcast.html








Does the Death Penalty Bring Justice for Victims and Their Families?





The Trump administration is moving forward with executing a record 13 people. Will this accomplish what it hopes?


Last week the Trump administration carried out its 9th and 10th federal execution of 2020. On Wednesday night, the state executed a 40-year-old man, Brandon Bernard.

According to the AP, “when Bernard was 18 he and four other teenagers abducted and robbed Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way from a Sunday service in Killeen, Texas, during which Bernard doused their car with lighter fluid and set it on fire with their bodies in the back trunk.”

Bernard’s death comes several months after the Justice Department surfaced a proposal to “reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions for federal executions, giving the government more options for administering capital punishment as drugs used in lethal injections become unavailable.”

Last Friday, the government executed Alfred Bourgeois, who has an intellectual disability, whose should have meant he could not have been up for the death penalty. But Bourgeois’s trial lawyers did not present evidence of his intellectual disability to the jury. He was the 17th person executed in the united states this year, and the country’s last scheduled execution for 2020.

This week on Quick to Listen, we wanted to discuss how to wrestle with the death penalty, accountability, justice, and forgiveness from someone who has straddled many sides of this situation.

Jeanne Bishop, a felony trial attorney in the Office of the Cook County Public Defender in Chicago. She is the author of Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer and Grace From the Rubble: Two Fathers’ Road to Reconciliation After the Oklahoma City Bombing. Bishop joined global media manager Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss how her work and sister’s murder have impacted how she views the death penalty, what accountability and justice look like outside of the death penalty, and how to pray for those in the criminal justice system during the pandemic.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2020
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2020, 11:31:05 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/december/welcomed-example-of-pushback.html








A Welcomed Example of Pushback





Vietnamese Evangelicals provide a story of hope even in a deeply divided country.


One indisputable feature of Evangelicals is that we don’t always get along. All sorts of factors play into our lives; our hometowns, family history and schooling influence how we think, feel and vote. In our human brokenness, disunity is often a factor that plays into all we are and what we do.

So, how then do we live as Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17, “May they be one even as we are one”? We know that believing in and following Jesus does not create sameness. For example, in Canada I have Evangelical friends who favour a wide range of political ideals: separatism, socialism, conservatism, liberalism, environmentalism.

In today’s world where conflicting views are the chatter of newscasts, let me point you to a country and its people who, though living in division, chose recently to come together.

A great example from an unlikely place


Vietnam is a classic example of a divided country. It has endured civil and national wars, been fragmented by tribalism, dealt with conflicting economic theories, and juggled a multiplicity of languages. Even its history defines the country as politically split between the north and the south. Some months ago, when I traveled from the northern part of Vietnam to the southern end and back again, I was reminded of its pockets of resistance, its variety of tribes and local ethnic animosities. These demographics don’t cease to exist just because faith is introduced.

Yet here in Vietnam, Evangelicals, though facing headwinds of opposition within their own communities, chose a few weeks ago to buck the trend of division. Instead, they committed to praying and working towards a more unified Christian voice, so as to establish a stronger public presence in the country.

Wars with France and the United States marked this land in our memories. Though Vietnam is currently ruled by a Communist party, more than half of its 90 million people are Buddhist and 10% are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic). Evangelicals, who represent 2% of the population, have been active here for a century. At times they have struggled or even faced persecution, but the church has thrived. In the early 1900s, the Christian and Missionary Alliance started Bible translation work and planted churches. Since then, the small band of Christians has grown despite the wars of the 20th century and the advent of communism.

On November 28–29, 2020, at a meeting in Cam Ranh Bay, the Vietnam Evangelical Alliance (VEA) was formally launched, with Rev. Ho Tan Khoa appointed president. (He serves as general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Vietnam.)

National alliances like the VEA, members of the World Evangelical Alliance, are part of the worldwide phenomenon that started when the WEA was formed in 1846. The main motivation for creating the WEA was a desire for unity and fellowship. In those post–William Wilberforce days of the early 19th century, issues of slavery, child labour and religious freedom were matters of great concern. Even so, the core attraction for Protestant leaders to join together was a passion for unity. In a world of numerous denominations and the hostilities such barriers can produce, those who met chose to resist the status quo of division and create a means by which Evangelicals could meet in fellowship and harmony. Today there are 9 Regional and 135 National Evangelical Alliances, all born out of a similar desire for unity—evidence, we believe, that Jesus’ impulse in John 17 still reverberates among his people today.

It takes determination

Making the VEA a reality hasn’t been a task for the faint of heart. Those who helped to make it happen know how deeply the spirit of division pervades Vietnam. Too much of its history was characterized by internal strife and external invasion. Overcoming disunity required boldness, humility and collegial strength.

For years, Vietnamese church leaders prayed and worked together. But even while they were working to make fuller unity possible, during this past year the historic Evangelical church in Hanoi was torn by unimaginable internal disputes. Furthermore, the largest Evangelical denomination in Vietnam, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam–South (ECVN-South), has chosen to stay out of the VEA. The ECVN-South has declined to acknowledge the legitimacy of many house churches born in Vietnam’s 1988 revival, and those deeply held feelings about the house churches still stand in the way of cooperation.

Even though Vietnam’s largest denomination decided not to join, the current VEA leadership was not deterred from moving forward. In all, 33 denominations and two ministries felt it was the right time to declare their unity and fellowship in Christ. (See the list below.)

In the past 60 years, the global Evangelical community has exploded, from about 90 million people in 1960 to over 650 million today. Evangelism is rooted in our very name. We love to tell the good news of the Evangel: God has come, and he lives among us.

Now it’s time that we visibly make him king among us by setting aside those differences that should not divide us. Our brothers and sisters in Vietnam are telling us that it matters. They are also pointing the way.










Members of the newly formed Vietnam Evangelical Alliance

Churches: United Presbyterian Church, Christian Fellowship Church, Methodist Church, Agape Church, Pentecostal Church, United Gospel Outreach Church, United Baptist Church, Evangelical Church (North), Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Word of Life Christian Church, Christian Mission, Baptist Convention, Presbyterian Church, Baptist Evangelistic League, Full Gospel Church, Inter Evangelistic Movement, Foursquare Full Gospel Church, Evangelical Mennonite Church, Christian Life Churches, Church of the Nazarene, Evangelical Holiness Church, Missionary Church of Christ, Evangelical Canaan Church, Lutheran Church, Full Gospel Church, Mennonite Church, Missionary Baptist Church, Gospel of Peace Church, Pentecostal Assemblies, Church of God, United Methodist Church, Christ’s Commission Church. Parachurch ministries: Campus Crusade for Christ, Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International. (Note: most churches include “Vietnam” in their name.)

Brian Stiller is global ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance, the largest network of Evangelicals worldwide. Prior to this appointment he served as president of Tyndale University (Toronto).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2020
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2020, 07:24:33 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/december/compassionate-evangelism-being-daily-witness-for-christ.html









Compassionate Evangelism: Being A Daily Witness for Christ




As Christians, we are called to testify with compassion every day.


As followers of Jesus, we come together in His name and worship Him because He alone is worthy of worship. We believe God has rescued us from darkness and brought us in to the marvelous light of His love. He is worthy of worship because of what He has done for us.

His message is simple, by surrendering to Jesus, (not a religion) confessing and repenting of our sin, accepting His sacrifice of shed blood on the cross, and trusting in Him alone for salvation, we become a Child of God and are given eternal life. We should then want to become more like Him and seek a life of holiness and obedience that is pleasing to Him. He is worthy of worship and we should long for others to know Him. He suffered and shed His blood on a cross to take on the sin of the world and the punishment we deserved. This great news is worthy of sharing with every person on earth, and is what God intends for us:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
We are Ambassadors and Witnesses


I remember being in the Ivory Coast and preaching on 2 Corinthians 5. In verse 20 it says … “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us;”

My interpreter, a young 20-year-old, fluent in French and English was so excited as I finished and said to me “I just realized that I am an Ambassador for Jesus! Wow, I am so excited.” Since that day he has not stopped sharing about how Jesus rescued him and gave him a new life.

We are all ambassadors for the Lord, and it is His plan for completing the work on earth so all may hear and know of God’s love. Why do we find it so hard to be a witness for Jesus with our words?

In Acts 1:8 “witness” in Greek is “martyr”— one who saw something and told others about it. The meaning of the word changed over time from someone who saw and told, to someone who gave his life for the cause he believed in. This happened because so many of the disciples lost their lives when telling what they saw when Jesus was with them.

What is a witness?
If you were called as a witness in a courtroom, they would expect 3 things of you.

You would need to be of good character.
You need to have seen or experienced something.
You must speak of what you have seen and heard.
As believers we have another characteristic.

We are filled with the Holy Spirit and are given power to speak the word boldly! Acts 4:31
God has called us to be witnesses. God has not called us to be lawyers, prosecuting attorneys, or judges. A witness tells the truth about what he knows, and what he’s seen. God has not called us to persuade, force, coerce, or manipulate anybody into the Kingdom of God. He called us to witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving power and to leave the results to Him.

The problem:

97% of Christians will never share the plan of salvation with one unbeliever.
90% of unbelievers will NEVER come to church.
75% are willing to LISTEN to a Christian talk about their faith.
Reasons we don’t talk to the lost:

We don’t know what to say – It’s hard to start conversations with unbelievers, whether they are strangers or friends.
Fear of rejection – No one wants to be rejected or have a confrontation, so our fear paralyzes us.
Lack of Christ’s compassion – we don’t truly care enough.
Satan doesn’t want the good news spread.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38 (emphasis added)

If our fears are greater than our compassion, our fears win!

But if our compassion is greater than our fears, compassion wins!

Which is greater in your life… fear or compassion?

Being a witness involves seeking opportunities to share your story and ask questions of others so you can share who Jesus is.

Have gospel tracts or short booklets on the gospel available. Learn how to share your brief one-minute faith story, your testimony.

Make it your mission to pray for lost people and as the Lord opens doors of opportunities.

There are many ways to witness about Christ. The important thing is to do it in all situations.

There is a story about the famous preacher DL Moody. (February 5, 1837 - December 22, 1899) Founder of Moody Church and Moody Bible Institute. A woman confronted him after a message and said, “I don’t like how you share the gospel” to which Dr. Moody replied, ”Well, sometimes I am uncomfortable with it as well, how do you share it?” to which she replied, “I don’t.” Moody then said, “Well Ma’am, I like how I share the gospel better than how you don’t share it!”

How can you share the gospel story?








Alan Greene is an evangelist, author, and Director of Collaborative Events for Global Network of Evangelists (GNE)—A ministry of Luis Palau Evangelistic Association.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - December 2020
« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2020, 05:05:18 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/december-web-only/oxford-handbook-christmas-bethlehem-middle-east.html








Bethlehem Is More Than a Sentimental Backdrop to Christmas in the West






How Christians are celebrating the holiday in the town of Jesus’ birth—and across the broader Middle East.


Although the Christmas story could be said to have begun at any number of points or places, it was Bethlehem that became the stage for the birth of Jesus. Today, Bethlehem is recreated in village halls, school auditoriums, and churches all over the world for the annual ritual of the Nativity play. The imagery of the humble stable, lit up by a star, with the shepherds and wise men converging upon it, is familiar from the greetings cards we send. At Christmas carol concerts we sing “O little town of Bethlehem.” Somehow this often remains disconnected from our imagining of Christmas, which, in the West, is so heavily tied up with traditions formed in the Victorian period in England and in America and so is removed geographically and temporally from Bethlehem at the time of Jesus.

Our Christmas cards focus on two distinct themes: the snowy scenes and cozy fires of Europe and North America, and the depictions of the Middle East with camels, people in Eastern dress, and a donkey beating a dusty path to Bethlehem. While both these aspects are entwined, the Middle Eastern scenery is present mainly as the backdrop. It represents a distant time and ancient land.

What is glossed over is that Christians live and worship and celebrate Christmas in the Middle East still. For many Christians in the Middle East, and especially those from the Holy Land, there is a sense that they are overlooked, despite the ancient roots of their communities. The Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Christian and pastor in the Lutheran Church, has described in many of his publications and talks how he has encountered surprise that there are Christians in Palestine on numerous occasions. In actuality, there have been Christians in the Middle East continuously since the birth of the Christian faith. Christmas is therefore widely celebrated throughout the region, and its diverse Christian communities proudly celebrate their links to the earliest Christians.

Bethlehem was a village at the time of Jesus’ birth. Today it has a population of approximately 25,000 and is a focus of religious life for Palestinian Christians. The district of Bethlehem includes Bethlehem itself, as well as the towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. Approximately half of Palestinian Christians live in this district. Prior to the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Christians made up the majority of the population of Bethlehem, but they are now the minority.

Despite this, Palestinian Christians emphasize their rootedness in the region and in Christian faith and history by referring to themselves as the “living stones” (al-Hijara al-Haya), an expression drawn from the Bible (1 Pet. 2:5). This chain linking modern Christians in the Middle East with the first Christians is important in many different denominations and national communities. The tradition of the flight of the holy family to Egypt is important to Egyptian Christians, as is the tradition that the Coptic Orthodox Church was founded by Saint Mark. Other Christians, such as those belonging to the Syriac churches (including the Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Syriac Catholic Church) emphasize the fact that they still use a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Clearly, Christianity is not foreign to, nor removed from, the modern Middle East.

This demonstrates that Bethlehem is more than a clichéd image for Christmas cards or backdrop for school Nativity plays. It is also more than a site for foreign Christian pilgrims to visit. Bethlehem, and the Middle East in general, are not just a historical backdrop to the first Christmas. Christians continue to inhabit the region, and the link between their local roots and Christian heritage remains integral to their identity and culture. This context gives the contemporary celebration of Christmas in Bethlehem and the Middle East more significance, not less.

Diverse Celebrations
Are Christians in the Middle East permitted to celebrate Christmas or other Christian festivals openly? Outside of Saudi Arabia, the answer is generally yes. But the way Christmas is celebrated varies according to different local contexts as well as the diversity and number of different denominations and traditions that exist in the region.

In Bethlehem, celebrations naturally focus on the Church of the Nativity. This is set in Manger Square, which was renovated for the millennium celebrations and is lined by shops selling local traditional crafts, such as crosses carved from olive wood. The church was first built on the site identified by Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus in A.D. 339. The local tradition pictures the place as a cave rather than a stable. The original church was later replaced after a fire in the sixth century. In 2012, it was added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and attracts visitors from all over the world, and naturally there is particular interest in visiting at Christmastime. The square is decorated with lights and a Christmas tree, in a way that is familiar in towns across the world.

Bethlehem (as the birthplace of Jesus), Egypt (which boasts the largest Christian population in the region), Lebanon (where Christians have the most political and cultural influence in the Middle East), and Syria (which features frequently in the Bible) are four obvious places where Christmas is celebrated. However, Christmas is also celebrated in more unexpected places. The Arabian Peninsula is not commonly linked with Christianity or celebrations of Christmas, but it does actually have an ancient Christian heritage, and monasteries and bishoprics were established mainly during the fourth to seventh centuries. In modern times there is also a large Christian population in the region, as a result of the waves of migration to the oil-rich states of the peninsula since the second half of the 20th century.

As a result, Christianity has become the second-largest religion after Islam in a number of Arab states in the Gulf region. These Christians come from incredibly diverse backgrounds in terms of nationality, language, and Christian denomination. The celebration of Christmas in the Gulf States, such as Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, and so on, reflects this. It also encapsulates the globalization of Christmas. Shopping malls and supermarkets sell Christmas trees and decorations, and public spaces are decorated with Christmas trees and lights. When viewing these decorated spaces, it can often be hard to tell where in the world you are. Dubai has a delivery service for real “Canadian fir” Christmas trees, while there is a Facebook group called “Christmas in Kuwait,” which is followed by almost 6,000 people.

Political Challenges
Although Christmas can be celebrated without significant hindrance throughout much of the Middle East, it can also bring about a host of challenges, owing to the complications of politics and history. Each year, in the run-up to Christmas, there is the perennial question of whether Muslims are permitted to greet Christians during their religious holidays. For some conservative Muslims, it is wrong to wish Christians a happy Christmas, although Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, the official body for religious rulings or fatwas, has said that it is permissible.

Holidays such as Christmas can also lead to heightened security measures amid fears that Christians and churches could be targeted by terrorists. For example, in 2010, seven people were shot outside a church in southern Egypt at the end of Christmas Eve Mass, while in December 2017, a church was bombed in the run-up to Coptic Christmas, which disrupted celebrations.

In Iraq, where ISIS was expelled from Mosul in 2017, there was profound symbolism attached to the reinstitution of Christmas services that year. Services were held in the recaptured areas, often in partially destroyed churches. Other Iraqis dressed up as Father Christmas and toured the devastated towns to hand out gifts to children, a bright spot amidst trauma. Christmas trees and Nativity scenes were also erected amidst the rubble and in refugee camps hosting displaced Christians.

Christmas that year featured heavily in state propaganda, as Iraqi leaders wanted to show they were protecting their Christian citizens and that displaced people could return home and exercise their faith once more. When the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the largest denomination in Iraq, requested that the Iraqi government make Christmas a public holiday in 2018, the government granted the request. In December of that year, the government tweeted, “Happy Christmas to our Christian citizens, all Iraqis and to all who are celebrating around the world.”

In Syria, the 2018 Christmas holiday was also celebrated with gusto and pride despite the years of civil war and conflict with ISIS. Christmas trees were lit up, with music and celebrations held in the streets and squares. The enthusiasm in evidence that year was partly a reaction to the horror witnessed in the country after years of civil war and occupation. It also served to emphasize Syrian Christian support for Bashar al-Assad, to whom many believers looked as a guardian of their religious freedom. As in Iraq, processions and singing in the streets signaled Christian determination to reclaim their ancient homelands and maintain their faith and culture.

In Egypt also, Christmas has become a symbolic occasion for the relationship between the government and Christian citizens. Former president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak made Christmas a national holiday in 2002. In the wake of 9/11, this was likely a political gesture, meant send a message to Egypt’s Western allies that Egypt was an important partner in the Middle East. It also strengthened ties to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which gave the Mubarak regime consistent and public political support. Under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Christmas has taken on further political value. Sisi was the first Egyptian president to appear at the Coptic Christmas Eve Mass, which is broadcast on Egyptian television. This was considered a dramatic and significant gesture, which he used to emphasize unity among Egyptians.

In Bethlehem itself, political complications around Christmas are well entrenched. In 2002, Israeli Defense Forces occupied Bethlehem as part of Operation Defensive Shield. During this period, Palestinian militants took refuge in the Church of the Nativity, thereby attracting the focus of the world. Normal Palestinian citizens also took refuge inside the church, thinking that they would be safe and that Western countries would not permit a siege in the place of Christ’s birth.

The same year saw the erection of the Israeli West Bank barrier, extending over 80 kilometers and surrounding Bethlehem on three sides. Consequently, checkpoints and roadblocks separate the church marking the place where Christ was born from the church marking the place of his crucifixion, even though they are less than 10 kilometers apart. As a result, it is more difficult for Palestinian Christians from other areas to visit Bethlehem for Christmas and move between the two holy sites.

Jesus and Santa Hats
As elsewhere, Christmas in the Middle East is subject to the pressures of globalization and commercialization. This often has the effect of overshadowing local traditions and watering down the religious aspect of Christmas. At the same time, in places where strong local traditions haven’t developed around Christmas, more universal Christmas traditions often take on greater importance, especially for younger generations. For Christians who live in Muslim-majority societies, adopting international aspects of Christmas, such as wearing Santa hats or Christmas sweaters and singing about dashing through the snow, offers a sense of solidarity with the global Christian community. For some, this is a brief escape from their status as cultural or religious minorities.

Exposure to Western Christmas celebrations does not necessarily undermine the religious message either. Consider, for instance, the way that Western Christmas carols have been translated into Arabic and used in various celebrations. An Arabic version of “Silent Night” was broadcast on Lebanese TV and in Egypt to Protestant Christians in particular.

Christmas celebrations are undergoing a process of change as different traditions come into contact with each other, which is quite natural. In historically Christian countries, various commercializing and globalizing trends might be seen as diminishing the message of Christmas, but in non-Christian countries they can sometimes have the opposite effect. In countries like those of the Arabian Peninsula, that previously had no (or very small) Christian communities, Christmas celebrations are now a familiar feature of life, even if the general message of peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind—or the jolly figure of Santa—often edges out the birth of Christ.

Yet even when it comes to Jesus, Christmas in the Middle East can represent common ground from an interfaith perspective, because Muslims also believe he was born of the Virgin Mary. The Nativity story, albeit with many differences, appears in the Qur’an. Additionally, most people find joy in the birth of a baby. In Arabic, Christmas is called Eid al-Milad, the festival of the birth. Disagreements arise, of course, over who Jesus is and what happened to him; Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet but not the son of God, and they do not believe he was crucified. This helps explain why the common manifestations of Christmas celebrations in the region are typically the most neutral: Father Christmas and Christmas trees, lights and decorations.

In this way, the secular culture that has grown up around “the holidays” in the West has paved the way for open Christmas celebrations in regions of the Middle East where they hadn’t been tolerated before. Despite this, Middle Eastern Christians have a great awareness of their own origins in the region and strong connections with the Christmas story and biblical history in general. This is why, despite declining numbers and political instability, Christians in the Middle East will continue to celebrate Christmas in their traditional homelands, with many wearing red Santa hats.










From The Oxford Handbook of Christmas edited by Timothy Larsen. Copyright © 2020 by Timothy Larsen and published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2020
« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2020, 07:12:59 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/december-web-only/covid-christmas-food-is-love-feast-is-worship.html








On This COVID Christmas, Food Is Love and to Feast Is to Worship





Don't let the pandemic prevent you from cooking and relishing the incarnate tastes of God's grace.


Round numbers tend to be big in bad ways, and 2020 met every expectation. Looking back, it’s hard to recall a year more fraught with gut-churning distress. Mix a global pandemic killing close to 2 million with racial upheaval, a bizarro US presidential election season, and economic turbulence. Pour in never-ending conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Yemen. Stir and warm over a planet heating up year after year, and you have the makings for a grim apocalyptic stew.

No wonder many have wondered whether the end is nigh. The prophets predicted pestilence and plague, hubristic leaders, wars and famine, as well as cosmic disruption. Jesus cautioned against searching for signs, but he warned against complacency too (Mark 13:5–10). Should the Lord indeed return before Christmas, it could be construed as the best present ever, but given the delay, we’ve learned to wait wearily.


Nevertheless, Jesus said to “be on guard! Be alert!” (v. 33), to which some manuscripts add “and pray.”The late Eugene Peterson, in true Advent fashion, preached of prayer as a kind of expectant waiting, a “disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” Lent invites us to couple prayer with fasting as we penitently await God’s judgment. But at Advent and Christmas, we pray and feast in anticipation of Christ’s return and God’s justification.

Constrained as we are on this COVID Christmas, festival feasting is bereft of the family and friends customarily surrounding our tables. Resigned to a relative few (if that) to abate the viral surge, the temptation might be to prepare less when it comes to Christmas cooking and baking. We’ll eat, but more to alleviate boredom and stress than to celebrate Christ’s incarnation.

Yet from Leviticus to Revelation, Scripture insists God’s people feast as an act of worship, even if it means spreading a table, as with Moses, in the barren desert; as with Jesus in the upper room, on the eve of his crucifixion; as with Paul, in prison; or as with John, exiled on the island of Patmos envisioning the grand climax of history as a banquet.

Theologian and poet David Russell Mosley has written a delectable ode to holiday feasting, concluding that even if you are alone at your table this Christmas,

have some good wine and cheese or your favorite pizza. Remember your humanity—and remember that the church has called us to celebrate together what is sacred. Share, in whatever way you can, the spirit of Christian feasting with others. For Christ did not come into a rich family but a poor one, and like the Ghost of Christmas Present he tips his torch to our most humble offerings, uniting his divinity, his excess, to our humanity.

Years ago, as a pastor and avid home cook, I preached a sermon series on Food in the Bible and served up the sermon dishes for my congregation to eat. Following each Sunday’s exegetical foray into milk and honey, barley and olives, lamb and fish, or bread and wine, I stepped out of the pulpit and down to the Communion table on which I laid out my inspired ingredients and demonstrated ancient recipes, each symbolic of a deeper spiritual truth. After the benediction, folks queued up for a sample, eschewing the normal coffee and doughnuts for hummus and yogurt, lamb grilled with pomegranate, or mejadra (imagined to be the stew by which Jacob secured Esau’s birthright—it’s that good). In the end, all the dishes combined into a meal to share with friends, family, or church small-group gatherings with prayers and liturgies attached.

From the apple in Eden to the wedding supper of the Lamb, Scripture presents a menu of entrees to express incarnate reality. Jesus offers himself as the ultimate meal. Our Lord calls himself the bread of life and uses vineyards and fig trees, lavish banquets, and fatted calves to tell his best parables. Food also comprises his best miracles, whether it’s turning water to wine, stretching a single box lunch to feed 5,000 people, or grilling fish for his friends on the beach after rising from the dead. Jesus eats a lot of food too, so much so that he’s accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. He’d eat with anybody, including outcasts and sinners of every stripe, much to the consternation of religious authorities. Sharing a meal breaks down barriers of suspicion and hostility. To this day we can still make peace by making an enemy dinner.

As vaccines thankfully roll out this Christmas, debate over who goes first involves determining who’s most essential. Frontline health care workers and nursing home residents head the line, and then the chronically ill, but afterward come the packers and truckers and grocery store workers. These valiant souls, masked up and present, risk infection every day to provide produce, meat, and ingredients for our pots and stoves. Old Testament worship entailed sacrifice, and the risks priests endured and the death animals suffered served beyond the purpose of divine appeasement. Sacrifices were grilled to be eaten; the Lamb of God nourished as well as atoned.

For many of us, our Christmas confinement may hearken back to the Bethlehem story. There is death and fear in our world now, as then, with governments in flux and livelihoods in peril. Eyes gaze heavenward for salvation, but the Savior arrives at our doorstep wrapped as a small package, a vulnerable baby who proved mightier than any virus. Ultimate victory remained far off—and only then after much turmoil and death—but real hope had been born.

It’s hope we hold happily because it’s grounded in God in whom the future has already happened. Amid a pandemic that exacerbates economic disparities, racial inequities, and political consternation, a sure future made right by God makes joy accessible. We wait confidently and with glad hearts. As Mosley reminds, bread and other grain-based foods have long served as humanity’s staple.

Yet, as a species, we didn’t stop with bread. We made cake, something utterly superfluous. We do not need cake. It is the definition of gratuity. We make it because it tastes good, because it is beautiful. But we also make cake to celebrate. And … the ultimate reason humans celebrate, why we feast, is to worship.

Feasting is not just about eating but about preparation too. Good food takes time, and to make it and share it with others—around a table or left on a porch—is itself an act of love as well as worship. As famed Italian cook Marcella Hazan wrote,

To put a freshly made meal on the table, even if it is something very plain and simple as long as it tastes good and is not a ready-to-eat something bought at the store, is a sincere expression of affection, it is an act of binding intimacy directed at whoever has a welcome place in your heart. And while other passions in your life may at some point begin to bank their fires, the shared happiness of good homemade food can last as long as we do.

For me, Christmas is being marked, in part, by slow-braised short ribs with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and cipollini onions over mashed potatoes with fresh horseradish cream, and double-chocolate-cherry espresso drop cookies for dessert. This is an all-day affair, one demanding patience as you chop all the vegetables, sauté them, and then wait for the braise to tenderize the tough cut. But your patience will prove virtuous as you’ll enjoy a luscious aroma and, later, an unforgettable flavor. With everything canceled, you’ll likely have time. If you’re not a cook or don’t like to do it, you still have to eat. So why not eat well? You may find yourself all the more eager to give thanks and praise the Lord for it. As the psalmist sang, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:8).

The late Robert Capon, author, priest, and food columnist, insisted,

Man invented cooking before he thought of nutrition. To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.








Daniel Harrell is editor in chief at Christianity Today.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - December 2020
« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2020, 10:34:54 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/december/biblical-archaeology-new-discoveries-2020-bible-artifacts.html








Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2020





Evidence of idol worship, evil kings, and Christian churches add to our understanding of the world of the Bible.


There was no shortage of biblical archaeology news in 2020, despite COVID-19 restrictions that canceled almost all of Israel’s scheduled excavations. Some limited digs still took place in Israel and surrounding countries, and research on previous excavations continued, resulting in some major announcements.

Here are 2020’s biggest stories about archaeology connecting us with the biblical world:

10. Assyrian god carvings


Italian and Kurdish archaeologists uncovered 15-foot rock carvings depicting an Assyrian king and seven Assyrian gods standing on the backs of sacred animals. The artwork was carved in relief in a cliff along a canal in the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq. The king is believed to be Sargon II, who ruled from 722 to 705 B.C. and conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:6). It is possible that the canal where the relief was found was dug by Israelites enslaved by Sargon II.

9. Church built on a solid rock


A dig in Banias in northern Israel has revealed the remains of a fourth-century church built, as was a common practice, atop a shrine to another god. Banias was a cultic center of worship of the god Pan, and the shrine was likely for worship of the Greek deity associated with sex and spring.

Christians in the fourth century, however, would have recognized the location as the biblical Caesarea Philippi, near the location where Peter told Jesus, “You are the Christ” and Jesus replied, “On this rock, I will build my church” (Matt. 16:13–19). One stone in the ruin is marked with cross etchings left by pilgrims who visited the church shortly after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

8. Fort allied with King David

Archaeologists uncovered a fortified building in the Golan Heights dated to the time of David’s rule, about 1,000 B.C. A large basalt stone in the fortress is engraved with two horned figures with outstretched arms.

Archaeologists believe this building was an outpost of the kingdom of Geshur, an ally of King David. David’s wife Maacah, the mother of Absalom, was the daughter of the king of Geshur.

7. Holy smoke residue
A new test on organic remains on the burned surface of an eighth century B.C. altar revealed a residue of marijuana. This is the first evidence cannabis was associated with any form of worship in ancient Israel and the oldest known ritual use of marijuana to date. The altar was dedicated to the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The worship center at the desert stronghold of Arad was first excavated in the 1960s. Tests done half a century ago came back inconclusive. New tests were done using improved equipment and techniques. A second altar at the site carried traces of frankincense.

6. A temple to rival Jerusalem
Tel Aviv University archaeologists calculate that a temple, discovered during reconstruction of Israel’s Highway 1, near Jerusalem, was built around 900 B.C. The Motza temple is estimated to be similar in size to the temple built by Solomon a half-century earlier and just five miles to the east. The rival temple was likely used to worship the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt—and other gods too.

The discovery was startling but fits well with the Old Testament narrative of national disputes over where, how, and who to worship. Scholars think some key Scriptural texts were composed as defenses of Jerusalem-based worship, and 1 Kings recounts how, during the same century, the northern kingdom of Israel constructed worship centers at Dan and Bethel.

5. Smiting gods of Canaan
Israeli archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel uncovered the ruins of a Canaanite temple from the 12th century B.C. The excavation site, located in Lachish, one of the most important Old Testament cities in the region, has yielded a trove of artifacts used in Canaanite worship, including jewelry, daggers, and two four-inch-tall bronze figurines of “smiting gods.”

Perhaps the most significant discovery at the temple is a bronze scepter coated with silver. Garfinkel believes it was held by a human-sized statue of the Canaanite god Baal. The statue itself was not found, but large statues of ancient Canaanite gods are rare.

4. Well-preserved palace
Archaeologists working on a road project in the Jezreel Valley outside the modern city of Afula discovered a royal complex that served Israelite kings such as Omri and Ahab. The complex is located just a half dozen miles from Tel Jezreel, site of another palace of King Ahab. A large pillared building they uncovered was described as “the best preserved building of the House of Omri ever found in Israel.” Storage jars found at the site reveal what appears to have been a centralized system of food distribution.

3. Church in a house at Laodicea
Turkish archaeologist Celal Şimşek discovered sacred items used in Christian worship while excavating a house in Laodicea. The peristyle house—built around a central garden or courtyard—was located next to a theater and was likely owned by wealthy people. The apostle Paul sent an epistle to the church at Laodicea, which is mentioned in Colossians but appears to have been lost. The church is also mentioned in Revelation, when Jesus condemns the Christians for saying, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing,” when actually they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

Şimşek has not the detailed the religious items he unearthed, but concluded the house with a church will add to scholars’ understanding of “how Christianity spread in Laodicea since the middle of the first century.”

2. “Replica” is real; fragments are fake
One ongoing problem for biblical archaeologists is determining the authenticity of artifacts they don’t personally excavate—the items sold on the antiquities market. This year saw several major examples of how cutting-edge technology can help: A clay seal impression, once believed to be a forgery, was shown to be authentic, while fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, once believed real, were uncovered as fakes.

Ben Gurion University professor Yuval Goren and his team determined that a “bulla,” or clay seal, depicting a roaring lion, dates to the reign of Jeroboam II, who ruled from 788-748 B.C. It was purchased at a Bedouin market for a small sum a few decades ago.

At the same time, a firm that specializes in detecting art forgery discovered that 16 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the collection of the Museum of the Bible were all modern forgeries. The museum won praise for its thorough investigation and is now displaying the fakes with an exhibit focused on the problem of forgery. There are more than 70 other possibly faked fragments that have been offered to evangelical collectors since 2002.

1. Remains of Manasseh’s reign
The discovery of the remains of a palace possibly belonging to King Manasseh, the ruler in 2 Kings 21 who “did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger” and led the people to “do more evil than the nations had done that the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel,” dramatically expands archaeologists’ understanding of the reign of the later kings of Judah.

The ruins are located on the Armon Hanatziv promenade, a site that overlooks the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem from the south. The “proto-Aeolian” stonework is associated with royal buildings in the first temple period. The structure dates to the 55-year rulership of Manasseh, who took over the southern kingdom from his father King Hezekiah.

A few blocks away, near the newly constructed US embassy, archaeologists also found the remains of a large warehouse. It is believed to be a centralized food distribution facility and perhaps also served as storage for agricultural surplus. It dates from the same period.

A decade ago, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a palace and administrative center nearby in Ramat Rachel. This year’s publication of the report of the excavation, combined with the new digs, shows scholars that this area along the road to Bethlehem was a major center of activity for the later rulers of the kingdom of Judah.









Gordon Govier is editor of Artifax, a quarterly biblical archaeology news magazine, and host of the weekly radio program The Book & The Spade.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 - December 2020
« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2020, 11:55:48 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/december/gift-of-2020-perspective.html








The Gift of 2020: Perspective














What have you learned in 2020 that you're bringing into 2021?


I’ve said it, and I’ve heard countless other people say it as well, “2020 has been a very trying and difficult year.” I’m sure all of us cannot wait for the ball to drop and usher in 2021.

However, before we leave 2020 and enter into 2021, I want to challenge us to think deeply about 2020.

When I think about 2020, I’m reminded of Joseph in Genesis 50. In his exchange with his brothers (who had sold him into slavery years earlier) Joseph shares, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:19–20).

As Joseph contemplated his life, God gave him the gift of perspective. What the brothers saw through their eyes, Joseph saw through the eyes of God. Similarly, looking back over 2020, I would say God brought the same gift this year, perspective. [There may be some irony in this, given the year—20/20.]

In looking through the eyes of God, here are five areas from 2020 that God has given me a deeper more divine perspective.

The year of loss.


2020 was filled with loss—loss of jobs, businesses, sports, entertainment, daily/yearly rhythms, and the death of loved ones.

The loss of livelihoods and people we love affect us deeply. Loss brings about grief and sorrow, and if not dealt with in a healthy manner can lead to a host of unhealthy manifestations—some including anger, resentment, and depression.

Jesus declared when tempted by Satan that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Jesus directs man’s attention to the most important facet of life—God. Job also did this when he exclaimed, “Though [God] slay me, I will hop in him;” (Job 13:15). In short, God is greater than bread and better than life.

2020, the year of loss, has taught me that God is our greatest gain.

The year of social distancing.
I think we have all memorized the three W’s: wash your hands, wear your mask, and watch your distance.

As human beings it is healthy to practice good hygiene. At times, it is appropriate to wear protection against airborne viruses. And, sacrificially, for brief periods we may keep our distance.

However, human beings were not made to live at a distance but in close proximity to one another. We were made for handshakes, high-fives, holding hands, and hugs. We were made for physical community.

2020, the year of social distancing, has taught me the value and importance of physical community and being in close proximity.

The year of pivots.
According to Merriam-Webster, pandemic was the word of the year. I would say the runner-up was pivot.

Businesses, organizations, families, and individuals found themselves pivoting as the pandemic brought about a host of crises. Even churches found themselves having to pivot to engage their members and reach their communities.

Most churches find pivoting extremely difficult. Why? Because churches typically don’t embrace change very well. But 2020 forced the church, at least in the West, to pivot their ministry and mission strategy. As a result, churches saw the birth of new ministry and mission initiatives.

2020, the year of pivoting, has taught me that a fluctuating world needs a flexible church.

The year of shutdowns.
The pandemic disrupted our everyday and yearly rhythms. For a period of time, we found ourselves sheltering-in-place and only going to places that our government deemed essential. We also experienced working remotely, distant learning (for our kids), cancelled sports, park (museum) closures, and limited travel.

I’m sure like many, we were less “busy” this year than in years past. However, closed doors in one area allowed us to seek open doors in other areas. For instance, we were able to accomplish some projects around the house (or my wife did). We were able to spend more time as a family (although it was like pulling teeth). We were able to exercise more and take the dog for longer walks.

2020, the year of shutdowns, has taught me to be more discerning and a better steward of the doors that are open.

The year of longing.
I would say 2020 has been the year of longing. People have longed for the pandemic to be over, for racial reconciliation, for justice, for peace, for consistency from leaders, etc. When there is chaos, people long for order; when there is restlessness, people long for rest; when there is turmoil, people long for peace.

If people didn’t think something was wrong with the world, 2020 has been their case in point.

In the last installment of the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, the ring has been destroyed and Sam, surprised to be alive, asks Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?” J.R.R. Tolkien, the one who penned Lord of the Rings, strikes a chord with the world. We long not necessarily for our dreams to come true, but for our nightmares to come untrue.

As believers, we understand that the brokenness in 2020 will continue in 2021 and beyond. However, we also believe Jesus came to redeem and restore sinners as well as the world marred by sin and has promised to come a second time to fully complete his cosmic restoration project.

2020, the year of longing, has taught me to not only long for the world to come, but to offer people a glimpse of the world that is to come.

In closing, 2020 gave me the gift of perspective. I pray that you will allow 2020 to give you the gift of perspective as well. What have you learned in 2020 that you will take into 2021?
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2020
« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2021, 05:39:44 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/december/gift-of-2020-perspective.html








The Gift of 2020: Perspective














What have you learned in 2020 that you're bringing into 2021?


I’ve said it, and I’ve heard countless other people say it as well, “2020 has been a very trying and difficult year.” I’m sure all of us cannot wait for the ball to drop and usher in 2021.

However, before we leave 2020 and enter into 2021, I want to challenge us to think deeply about 2020.

When I think about 2020, I’m reminded of Joseph in Genesis 50. In his exchange with his brothers (who had sold him into slavery years earlier) Joseph shares, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:19–20).

As Joseph contemplated his life, God gave him the gift of perspective. What the brothers saw through their eyes, Joseph saw through the eyes of God. Similarly, looking back over 2020, I would say God brought the same gift this year, perspective. [There may be some irony in this, given the year—20/20.]

In looking through the eyes of God, here are five areas from 2020 that God has given me a deeper more divine perspective.

The year of loss.


2020 was filled with loss—loss of jobs, businesses, sports, entertainment, daily/yearly rhythms, and the death of loved ones.

The loss of livelihoods and people we love affect us deeply. Loss brings about grief and sorrow, and if not dealt with in a healthy manner can lead to a host of unhealthy manifestations—some including anger, resentment, and depression.

Jesus declared when tempted by Satan that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Jesus directs man’s attention to the most important facet of life—God. Job also did this when he exclaimed, “Though [God] slay me, I will hop in him;” (Job 13:15). In short, God is greater than bread and better than life.

2020, the year of loss, has taught me that God is our greatest gain.

The year of social distancing.
I think we have all memorized the three W’s: wash your hands, wear your mask, and watch your distance.

As human beings it is healthy to practice good hygiene. At times, it is appropriate to wear protection against airborne viruses. And, sacrificially, for brief periods we may keep our distance.

However, human beings were not made to live at a distance but in close proximity to one another. We were made for handshakes, high-fives, holding hands, and hugs. We were made for physical community.

2020, the year of social distancing, has taught me the value and importance of physical community and being in close proximity.

The year of pivots.
According to Merriam-Webster, pandemic was the word of the year. I would say the runner-up was pivot.

Businesses, organizations, families, and individuals found themselves pivoting as the pandemic brought about a host of crises. Even churches found themselves having to pivot to engage their members and reach their communities.

Most churches find pivoting extremely difficult. Why? Because churches typically don’t embrace change very well. But 2020 forced the church, at least in the West, to pivot their ministry and mission strategy. As a result, churches saw the birth of new ministry and mission initiatives.

2020, the year of pivoting, has taught me that a fluctuating world needs a flexible church.

The year of shutdowns.
The pandemic disrupted our everyday and yearly rhythms. For a period of time, we found ourselves sheltering-in-place and only going to places that our government deemed essential. We also experienced working remotely, distant learning (for our kids), cancelled sports, park (museum) closures, and limited travel.

I’m sure like many, we were less “busy” this year than in years past. However, closed doors in one area allowed us to seek open doors in other areas. For instance, we were able to accomplish some projects around the house (or my wife did). We were able to spend more time as a family (although it was like pulling teeth). We were able to exercise more and take the dog for longer walks.

2020, the year of shutdowns, has taught me to be more discerning and a better steward of the doors that are open.

The year of longing.
I would say 2020 has been the year of longing. People have longed for the pandemic to be over, for racial reconciliation, for justice, for peace, for consistency from leaders, etc. When there is chaos, people long for order; when there is restlessness, people long for rest; when there is turmoil, people long for peace.

If people didn’t think something was wrong with the world, 2020 has been their case in point.

In the last installment of the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, the ring has been destroyed and Sam, surprised to be alive, asks Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?” J.R.R. Tolkien, the one who penned Lord of the Rings, strikes a chord with the world. We long not necessarily for our dreams to come true, but for our nightmares to come untrue.

As believers, we understand that the brokenness in 2020 will continue in 2021 and beyond. However, we also believe Jesus came to redeem and restore sinners as well as the world marred by sin and has promised to come a second time to fully complete his cosmic restoration project.

2020, the year of longing, has taught me to not only long for the world to come, but to offer people a glimpse of the world that is to come.

In closing, 2020 gave me the gift of perspective. I pray that you will allow 2020 to give you the gift of perspective as well. What have you learned in 2020 that you will take into 2021?

:-X
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - 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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

 

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Prayer Forum by Chaplain Mark Schmidt
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Philosophy and Theology with Jay Dyer by patrick jane
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Killer Whale Channels - YouTube Live Streams by truthjourney
July 25, 2021, 10:16:28 am

Christian Music by truthjourney
July 25, 2021, 10:05:23 am

TOMMY TRAVELS YOUTUBE CHANNEL by patrick jane
July 24, 2021, 06:24:54 pm

Woman's Suffrage Movement Compared To Feminism Today by patrick jane
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Sleeping With Fire - Not All Sins Are the Same (SEXUAL SIN) by patrick jane
July 23, 2021, 07:16:07 pm

ROBERT SEPEHR - ANTHROPOLOGY - Myths and Mythology by patrick jane
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