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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine February 2019
« on: January 31, 2019, 12:28:24 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/january/technology-move-over-sex-drugs-ease-is-new-vice.html



Move Over, Sex and Drugs. Ease Is the New Vice.



Do modern amenities make it tough for us to embody God’s love?

 
According to recent research, teens are starting their sex lives a lot later. Despite shifting cultural norms and new sexual freedoms, our youngest and most virile are apparently having less sex—at least for now. Sociologists and social commentators debate whether the trend is temporary and whether it marks a healthy or unhealthy societal shift. But it’s possible that the so-called sex recession offers evidence of a wide, disturbing trend that has nothing to do with sex—one that is particularly endemic to our cultural moment. The trend bears witness to the ways that we’re increasingly finding embodied life “tiresome.” (In Japan, that’s the word many younger Japanese people to describe intercourse: mendokusai.)

Our apparent fatigue with bodily living extends to other areas, as well. Two years ago, in response to declining cereal sales, market researchers went looking for answers to why younger people were opting out of the convenience food that had fed their parents and grandparents. According to The New York Times, researchers found the reason: Breakfast cereal—with the whole bother of bowl and spoon—involved far too much work. “Almost 40 percent of the millennials surveyed by Mintel for its 2015 report said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it.”

The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease. Of all the cautions we raise about technology—its distractions and temptations, its loneliness and superficiality—this promise of unencumbered living is perhaps the most insidious danger and also the one we talk the least about.

As Christians, we are rightfully attuned to the hedonic temptations of material life: the sex, the drugs, the proverbial rock-and-roll. But reckless abandonment to the sensual pleasures of the body is not our only vice. So, too, is evasion of bodily life—which is, in one aspect, any attempt to squirm out of the tedium of being enfleshed, emplaced beings with obligations to love. It makes for a nagging question:

Who do we become when we’re no longer willing to bother?

The longing for ease is certainly not new, and we can trace the American home through the stages of swift industrialization. Between 1890 and 1920, the lives of American women (and men) changed dramatically with the introduction of electricity and running water. The promise of the new appliances they added to their homes, however, was not time-efficiency, as we might think. Instead, these appliances were called “labor-saving” devices, and they promised to spare the body of “bother.”

Fast forward one hundred years to our current era of home automation: We have even greater capacities to spare ourselves bother, and efficiency and convenience are delivered with less and less effort. Alexa re-orders our toilet paper and turns on the music. From the comfort of my office cubicle, I control my sous vide, ensuring a precisely cooked roast upon my return home. If I’ve forgotten to turn down my home’s heat during my vacation, I connect to an app on my smartphone, ease delivered with a swipe of my thumb or the command of my voice. Let there be light. With the push of every button, my illusion grows—that exertion is the enemy of modern life.

The modernizing of the American home seems innocuous enough and especially salutary when we consider the introduction of flushing toilets and refrigeration. But the late media theorist Marshall McLuhan, himself a Christian, would caution us against the uncritical embrace of technology, which acts like a prosthetic, removing the body from the labor equation. (According to The Atlantic, that seems to be exactly what we’ve done with sex, since many people now increasingly favor self-stimulation to intercourse.)

Here, then, is the quandary we’re left with: As we continue to reduce the physical burden it takes to move through the world, and the efforts of our lives are often only as effortful as staring our smartphones in the face (why bother with a home button?), how will we galvanize the real will for love of God and neighbor?

I am increasingly conscious of the bother of physicality—increasingly conscious that there is no way to love others without it. My children have an unrelenting need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I am, many days, irritated that I should have to feed them something other than Ramen, despite their happy clamor for it. At the end of a long day, my husband interrupts my well-laid plans for reading in bed with his puppy eyes of desire. Truth be told, marriage can find me tired and wishing to be left alone. My aging mother is growing forgetful, repeating tired stories over the phone when I’m under a deadline. She will expect we come again at Christmas. More recently, a member of the extended family has chosen to die, and attending the funeral—all seven of us—will cost us significantly in time and money. Secretly, I wish for a substitute to serve as our presence among the grieving.

In theory, I want to love. In reality, I want it to tax me less.

However, the arc of the Christian story tells me that these collective affronts are a betrayal, not just of neighbor but of God himself. God entered the bother of embodied life. As a boy, he was subject to the slow agony of growing up. As a man, he was harangued by crowds, touched by lepers, and kept awake on sleepless, hungry nights in prayer. On the night of his arrest, Jesus took up the bother of the basin and towel, washing the feet of his disciples, even those of his betrayer. He carried that bother all the way to his execution for the sake of love.

As the Incarnation attests, the love of God, borne on his back as a weighty, wooden cross, was the corporal love of deed and truth (cf. 1 John 3:18, ESV). As Julie Canlis writes, “The Incarnation is the rule, not the exception. God enters into the world and engages with us on creation’s terms. He uses ordinary, created things to bless us, save us, minister to us. Our ordinary humanity is the place he has chosen to meet with us.”

Following Christ, then, I am radically called to the bother of the material world with its attendant burdens and griefs. Love, in both its everyday gestures and grand flourishes, is the radical embrace of burden, not the rejection of it.

I don’t know that I can fully recover from my entitlement to ease. I am not, after all, giving up my iPhone. But perhaps I can remember that love, patterned after God’s own self-giving, is bent on inconvenience and cost. Perhaps I can temper my expectations for the effortless life I think am owed. Perhaps I can remember, when feeling especially put out by needing to show up in the world (and not by proxy), that I am supposed to love with my body.

As God did with his.




Jen Pollock Michel is the award-winning author of Teach Us to Want and Keeping Place. Her next book, Surprised By Paradox, is forthcoming this May. She lives with her husband and five children in Toronto.





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« Last Edit: March 02, 2019, 06:51:19 pm by patrick jane »
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 February 2019
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2019, 01:51:05 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/super-bowl-53-righteous-indignation-aristotle-jesus-virtues.html



Leave Your Righteous Indignation on the Field



Aristotle taught that outrage can be a natural response, but Christ reminds us that it should be rare.

 
This weekend, Super Bowl LIII pits the New England Patriots, a team with the most successful coach of this generation and one of the best quarterbacks of all time, against the Los Angeles Rams, featuring the hottest young coach in football and a lineup that executes his cutting-edge offense.

The strength of both teams in this year’s Super Bowl matchup almost makes it easy to forget how so many of us felt during the NFC and AFC championships.

The Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, capitalizing on a set of extra-session rules that have always sparked controversy. The Rams won against the New Orleans Saints thanks in no small part to a missed pass interference penalty, stalling out a drive late in the game that could have led to a Saints touchdown or, at the very least, bled the clock in their favor.

That feeling that swelled during the playoffs—and still lingers among some as we await Sunday’s Pats-Rams showdown—is one those of us who watch sports know quite well: righteous indignation.

One of the principles emphasized in sports, from peewee leagues to the pros, is playing fair. All the skill and strength on display during a game doesn’t mean a thing without a sense of justice around the competition; we want teams to play by the rules and refs to make the right calls.

So when that doesn’t happen, especially in the tense final playoff games, we experience what Aristotle described as pain felt at the undeserved fortune of another. Aristotle, known as the father of virtue ethics, also addressed the reverse of righteous indignation, which comes when we feel pain at our own underserved misfortune, or pity. That was supposed to be us.

Righteous indignation keeps the Saints from being excited to see the Rams take the field in Atlanta this Sunday. The Chiefs also feel a degree of the same.

Football is an intricately rule-bound game bursting with statistical analysis, replays, and media scrutiny. There are ample measures to determine who deserves to win and plenty of time to weigh the evidence. Further, big-time football fuels a mob mentality where fans are surrounded by the momentum of others who agree with their side and are eager to defend it. It seems difficult to find a better setting for righteous indignation to flourish.

The emotions that we experience so starkly, so collectively in the dramatic wins and losses of sports fandom echo, in their own ways, the grasping for justice we see throughout Scripture itself. Again and again, biblical figures feel hurt, disappointed, and mistreated when they don’t get what’s due to them.

Righteous indignation—and pity, for that matter—is what Esau felt when he realized his brother, Jacob, had tricked him into giving away his birthright. It is what Hannah felt as her husband’s other wife bore him children and incessantly needled her because she was barren. (It’s also what the Buffalo Bills feel regarding their four straight Super Bowl losses in the early 1990s.)

Aristotle considers righteous indignation to be an appropriate and logical feeling—stemming from our right desire for justice. Unfortunately, it may easily slide into either of two moral vices.

Righteous indignation can shift to envy, or feeling pain anytime another fares well. Envy is hard to avoid in the world of sports, where the disappointment of a major defeat, missed playoff spot, or lost shot at the Super Bowl can lead us to resent the victors. Players and fans of NFL playoff teams that lost early may envy the Rams and Patriots. Those who support the teams the Saints vanquished earlier in the playoffs may have taken joy in the egregious no-call that dashed New Orleans’ Super Bowl dreams.

While harboring feelings of envy or schadenfreude going into the Super Bowl seems mostly petty, experiencing righteous indignation seems more defensible—but it’s still not our best emotional response.

Aristotle—whose teachings on the virtues can be a helpful starting point for discussing our own sense of Christian morality—considers righteous indignation a partial virtue, a signal that one is on the road to virtuous behavior.

Translator Joseph Sachs explains that experiencing righteous indignation is like when a child complains, “That’s not fair.” It’s often an appropriate reaction, and the feeling may be justified, but it is not a mature response to injustice.

Jesus himself experienced a bout of righteous anger that could be characterized as indignation. Each Gospel recounts his feelings upon approaching the temple in Jerusalem and finding merchants and money-changers turning “his father’s house” into “a den of robbers,” aghast at their willingness to leverage a sacred place for their own profits.

This popular Bible story is a favorite of sports fans who appreciate evidence of Jesus’ willingness to fight and show competitiveness. As one NFL chaplain stated, “In a society that celebrates and pushes soft spoken, avoid conflict at all costs ways of thinking; it’s refreshing to have someone show us God’s plan for what it means to be a man. Yes Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, but he also turned over the tables in the temple!”

But we have to be careful about this example. Throughout the rest of Jesus’ ministry, we see very few other instances of him harboring or acting out of righteous indignation. Jesus is much more often the teacher, the peacemaker, or the healer than the table-flipper. People knew John the Baptist as the fiery preacher calling out sins; the stories of Jesus depict more lamb than lion—righteous, but rarely indignant.

Meanwhile, Aristotle used the term nemesis to refer to righteous indignation—a word we now use to mean a rival or enemy and the name of the ancient Greek goddess of retribution. She doled out wrath to those with hubris, thereby ensuring justice by appropriately dispensing fortune and misfortune.

We cannot count on such a force to bring justice on our behalf, as ancient Greeks believed, so we are left with feelings of righteous indignation that we must deal with ourselves.

Though we may not characterize as we do our rivals on the field, we will inevitably have nemeses in life. Even Jesus couldn’t avoid that. Nemesis—righteous indignation—is not the problem. The problem comes when we don’t handle it well.

Those observing Jesus’ earthly ministry also felt a sense of righteous indignation, afraid that this prophet was violating how they understood rules of their faith. In Mark 3, the Pharisees questioned his willingness to heal on the Sabbath. “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored” (3:5).

In the very next verse, the Pharisees—stewing in a false sense of righteous indignation—begin their plot to have Jesus killed. When he was sentenced to death, they celebrated his crucifixion.

The Super Bowl and other sporting events give us a chance to watch, cheer, and react—but also to interrogate the emotions we experience along the way. Are we capable of handling our righteous indignation appropriately? Are we able to acknowledge personal feelings of injustice while fending off hubris or envy?

God’s formula for justice often seems to move slowly by our standards, and that’s a good caution for us. Christians are rightly frustrated by injustice large and small, yet our reactions require seeking God’s will in each new situation, searching our own hearts, and responding with wisdom.

In sports, like ordinary life, we find ourselves in scenarios where people don’t get what they deserve. Some moments of righteous indignation call for table-flipping, but many times, in both sport and life, our indignation reveals more about how our own desires affect our view of the world.

Chad Carlson is an associate professor of kinesiology and the director of general education at Hope College. Brian Bolt is professor of kinesiology and men’s golf coach at Calvin College. Together, they are co-directing the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity in October.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the magazine.







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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 February 2019
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2019, 03:39:28 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/hell-belief-anxiety-arda-baylor-university.html


Who Worries About Hell the Most


Baylor researcher: “If you believe in a harsher form of hell, you’re pretty sure you’re not going there.”

 
“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession.

Can belief in hell be considered a pathological fear?

Consider the stakes for many believers. With the prospect of an eternity of torture and other forms of suffering, one might say a crippling fear of hell would be warranted.

With those questions in mind, a team of researchers from Baylor University developed a series of measures on “hell anxiety” and tested them in what they say is the first systematic examination of the psychological consequences of belief in hell.

What they found was that individual belief in hell was not in itself connected to any neuroses, and that most people did not display an unhealthy focus on the possibility of eternal damnation.

The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included:

The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety.
Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism.
Free will, or the idea individuals have control over where they will spend their afterlife, was a key element in reducing hell anxiety.

That does not mean belief in hell may not have a dark side when other mediators are involved.

The study found those who viewed God primarily with fear, those who believed they were likely to go hell, and those with a sense outside forces could decide their fate, were more likely to experience greater hell anxiety and death anxiety.

Overall, the results suggested belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs, researchers concluded.

Not for me

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8-in-10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to professor a belief in heaven than hell.

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resources and promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

And warnings about hell and Satan have been shown to be helpful for many people seeking to live up to divine standards in areas from cultivating lasting relationships to avoiding harmful addictions.

In one recent study, a team of researchers from the Netherlands reviewed 15 cross-sectional studies on moral objections to suicide, especially the conviction of going to hell after taking one’s own life. They found each study supported the idea that moral objections and fear of hell exerted a restraining effect on suicide.

There is also a dark side.

Belief in the existence of powerful supernatural evil beings was one of the strongest predictors of poor mental health in young adults, a study by Purdue University researchers found.

“It may be,” the researchers said, “that views of the world in which life is perceived to be unpredictable, out of control, or worse yet, controlled by malevolent forces, have the potential to be far more damaging to mental health … than the possible protective effects of reassuring beliefs.”

Yet hell anxiety has been largely an unexplored topic. And it’s often addressed with only a single question as part of a larger study on death anxiety.

The Baylor study pushes the research forward in several directions, including developing a hell anxiety scale that considers several different hell beliefs and feelings, along with related measures on topics from free will to psychological distress to afterlife anxiety.

The scale was tested in a survey administered to 353 undergraduate students at a Christian-affiliated university.

Just 13 percent of the respondents said it was more likely than unlikely they would go to hell.

Most respondents were able to place their understanding of hell in a broader perspective that protected against hell anxiety.

Some of the lessened fears around hell may be the result of factors such as the more religious people are, the less likely they will feel hell is in their future. That may be particularly true for individuals who envision it as a place of eternal torture.

“Basically, if you believe in a harsher form of hell, you’re pretty sure you’re not going there,” said lead researcher Stephen Cranney.

Other explanations may include the human tendency not to focus on events far in the future, and to push negative outcomes from their minds as a coping mechanism.

But the research also indicated that a strong sense of free will, or that you have control over your destiny, and a positive God image may be strong protective factors.

In contrast, in addition to respondents who thought hell was a likely option, those experiencing the greatest hell anxiety were people who were more likely to believe their choices are determined by forces outside their control and those expressing fear of God.

The results are consistent with a much larger body of research showing much more positive health outcomes for those who believe in a loving God who personally cares for them than those who believe in a distant, judgmental deity.

Practical implications
There is a great deal of research to be done on the consequences of belief in hell.

But the research so far indicates that those caring for people suffering from an unhealthy fear of hell may benefit from a greater understanding of how hell beliefs can impact lives.

Part of that may include secular and religious counselors working together to offer different perspectives that may emphasize divine love and mercy or more nuanced understandings of hell.

In the suicide study, researchers said moral objections to suicide is a relevant factor in the exploration of suicidality, or the likelihood of an individual taking her or his own life, in every individual patient.

“Suicidal patients with moral objections can benefit from the inclusion of … life-maintaining beliefs from religion in the treatment of suicidality and of its underlying psychopathology,” they noted. “This has to be done in a sensitive and supportive way, not just reinforcing fear, but instilling hope.”

If hell no longer hath the same nightmarish fury conjured up in many depictions in medieval art, it still has a great deal of relevance in the modern age.

David Briggs writes the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)’s Ahead of the Trend blog. The ARDA offers a religion quiz to test beliefs in hell.
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 February 2019
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2019, 09:55:56 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/hell-belief-anxiety-arda-baylor-university.html


Who Worries About Hell the Most


Baylor researcher: “If you believe in a harsher form of hell, you’re pretty sure you’re not going there.”

 
“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession.

Can belief in hell be considered a pathological fear?

Consider the stakes for many believers. With the prospect of an eternity of torture and other forms of suffering, one might say a crippling fear of hell would be warranted.

With those questions in mind, a team of researchers from Baylor University developed a series of measures on “hell anxiety” and tested them in what they say is the first systematic examination of the psychological consequences of belief in hell.

What they found was that individual belief in hell was not in itself connected to any neuroses, and that most people did not display an unhealthy focus on the possibility of eternal damnation.

The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included:

The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety.
Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism.
Free will, or the idea individuals have control over where they will spend their afterlife, was a key element in reducing hell anxiety.

That does not mean belief in hell may not have a dark side when other mediators are involved.

The study found those who viewed God primarily with fear, those who believed they were likely to go hell, and those with a sense outside forces could decide their fate, were more likely to experience greater hell anxiety and death anxiety.

Overall, the results suggested belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs, researchers concluded.

Not for me

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8-in-10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to professor a belief in heaven than hell.

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resources and promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

And warnings about hell and Satan have been shown to be helpful for many people seeking to live up to divine standards in areas from cultivating lasting relationships to avoiding harmful addictions.

In one recent study, a team of researchers from the Netherlands reviewed 15 cross-sectional studies on moral objections to suicide, especially the conviction of going to hell after taking one’s own life. They found each study supported the idea that moral objections and fear of hell exerted a restraining effect on suicide.

There is also a dark side.

Belief in the existence of powerful supernatural evil beings was one of the strongest predictors of poor mental health in young adults, a study by Purdue University researchers found.

“It may be,” the researchers said, “that views of the world in which life is perceived to be unpredictable, out of control, or worse yet, controlled by malevolent forces, have the potential to be far more damaging to mental health … than the possible protective effects of reassuring beliefs.”

Yet hell anxiety has been largely an unexplored topic. And it’s often addressed with only a single question as part of a larger study on death anxiety.

The Baylor study pushes the research forward in several directions, including developing a hell anxiety scale that considers several different hell beliefs and feelings, along with related measures on topics from free will to psychological distress to afterlife anxiety.

The scale was tested in a survey administered to 353 undergraduate students at a Christian-affiliated university.

Just 13 percent of the respondents said it was more likely than unlikely they would go to hell.

Most respondents were able to place their understanding of hell in a broader perspective that protected against hell anxiety.

Some of the lessened fears around hell may be the result of factors such as the more religious people are, the less likely they will feel hell is in their future. That may be particularly true for individuals who envision it as a place of eternal torture.

“Basically, if you believe in a harsher form of hell, you’re pretty sure you’re not going there,” said lead researcher Stephen Cranney.

Other explanations may include the human tendency not to focus on events far in the future, and to push negative outcomes from their minds as a coping mechanism.

But the research also indicated that a strong sense of free will, or that you have control over your destiny, and a positive God image may be strong protective factors.

In contrast, in addition to respondents who thought hell was a likely option, those experiencing the greatest hell anxiety were people who were more likely to believe their choices are determined by forces outside their control and those expressing fear of God.

The results are consistent with a much larger body of research showing much more positive health outcomes for those who believe in a loving God who personally cares for them than those who believe in a distant, judgmental deity.

Practical implications
There is a great deal of research to be done on the consequences of belief in hell.

But the research so far indicates that those caring for people suffering from an unhealthy fear of hell may benefit from a greater understanding of how hell beliefs can impact lives.

Part of that may include secular and religious counselors working together to offer different perspectives that may emphasize divine love and mercy or more nuanced understandings of hell.

In the suicide study, researchers said moral objections to suicide is a relevant factor in the exploration of suicidality, or the likelihood of an individual taking her or his own life, in every individual patient.

“Suicidal patients with moral objections can benefit from the inclusion of … life-maintaining beliefs from religion in the treatment of suicidality and of its underlying psychopathology,” they noted. “This has to be done in a sensitive and supportive way, not just reinforcing fear, but instilling hope.”

If hell no longer hath the same nightmarish fury conjured up in many depictions in medieval art, it still has a great deal of relevance in the modern age.

David Briggs writes the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)’s Ahead of the Trend blog. The ARDA offers a religion quiz to test beliefs in hell.

Aside from most all of the Catholic Faith; who are told they are going to HELL first and have a wait in Perdition before getting to Heaven have no idea of what awaits them.  How many, will make it to heaven once the Harpazo happens?

Think of this,,,,,,,If you are alive when the Harpozo (Rapture)happens and you are one of the ones going to heaven, ask yourself this question??????

How many loved ones, family, friends and neighbors will I be leaving behind? Look around yourself and you will be surprised at the number of people who will have a "1 to 1" shot of going to Heaven.

Look at the forums and the many different ideologies presented. How many of those you know 'here and there' who will have that 1-1 shot of going to Heaven?

I say a one to one shot for this reason: When the Rapture happens, there will be NO (Zero) believers left on earth (except the 144,000, but that is another story).

Of those that live long enough to accept Jesus Christ (before they die) will still have to die in His name to become Tribulation Saints. That is the 1 shot,,,, and the 'Other Shot' is the they die before they get the chance to...................!

Of course there are those that I have not considered in this "1-1 Shot" as the bible tells us, the more hurt put upon them by GOD's wrath, the more they curse their creator. Their chance of getting to Hell is likely 100%!

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 February 2019
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2019, 11:15:22 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/january-february/differences-between-black-christians-white-evangelicals.html


Who Counts? How to Rightly Divide American Christianity



The academy's debate over black church differences is more than a numbers game.

 
‘I’m not trying to be argumentative, but there are obvious differences,” says Jason Shelton, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Arlington. He repeats his concern: “I don’t want to be provocative.”

Shelton, 42, grew up in the black church in the 1980s and ’90s. Now he’s quickly becoming one of its most prominent researchers. In 2012 he wrote (with Michael O. Emerson) a widely praised book on how black and white American Christians differ from each other. Now he’s reshaping the way American Christianity is studied and discussed by turning his attention to significant differences within the black church itself.

“As a kid who grew up in the black Methodist tradition and also went to a large Pentecostal church, I can say there’s a lot of distinctiveness between these traditions,” he says. At the same time, he says, shared experiences as black Christians in America unite black Methodists, black Pentecostals, and other black Christians in a special way. As he argued in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion last summer, “For blacks, the legacy of racial discrimination and inequality in America overshadows consequences of contrasting denominational affiliations.”

In that journal article, Shelton (with his UT–Arlington colleague Ryon Cobb) proposed a coding scheme for dividing African Americans into nine religious streams. Half a decade ago, it might have been received as a helpful nuance to the dominant way that sociologists, political scientists, pollsters, and others study American religion. But questions of unity, diversity, and division in the American church are not merely academic at the moment. Asking whether black Christians are on the same page with each other—let alone the same page as white Christians—seems more challenging. What unites black Christians with each other? What separates them? What unites and divides American Christians, or Christians globally? To what degree is Christian diversity division? To what degree are terms like “the black church,” “evangelicals,” or “mainline Protestants” helpful labels that identify real traditions?

To put it another way: How do we identify ourselves? Whom do we think of as our closest family members? As Paul asked the Corinthians, is Christ divided? Or in our attempts at unity, have we papered over real differences?

These are significant questions among Christians right now. It’s hard to find a major Christian conference not wrestling with them; they’re also at the center of church board discussions about congregational makeup and evangelism efforts.

Likewise, it’s hard to find an academic conference on religion not wrestling with them. In November, a panel on “Who Gets to Define Evangelicalism?” at the American Academy of Religion in Denver focused in large part on questions of whether whites and ethnic minorities could be considered part of the same movement. At the same time, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion was publishing a series of articles debating whether the most common way of quantifying American religious identification had distorted Americans’ understanding of evangelicals and black Christians specifically and Christians more broadly. One of the key respondents in that series: Jason Shelton.

Do black and white Christians differ?
Shelton’s 2012 book, Blacks and Whites in Christian America, had its origins in the hiring of an administrative assistant when he was a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University. He was working with Michael O. Emerson, the leading sociologist studying multiracial congregations. (Emerson is now provost at North Park University.) An African American candidate for the position, a woman we’ll call Sharon, talked openly about how she “had to talk to the Lord” before her interview—just as she does several times a day, whenever she “needed some extra strength.” She even ended the interview asking for the Lord’s mercy as she drove home in the rain. After she left, Shelton remarked that her open religiosity and her frequent prayer were not unusual among churchgoing African Americans. But he didn’t know the white experience well.

“How many white Sharons are out there?” he asked Emerson.

“Probably not too many,” Emerson replied. “Perhaps a few evangelicals.” Soon they set out to find out: Do black Christians really pray more often than white Christians? If so, why? What other differences in faith and practice might there be? And what would that say about Christianity?

The answers came from two of the most respected academic surveys, the Portraits of American Lives Survey (PALS) and the General Social Survey (GSS), along with focus groups and in-depth interviews with black clergy. (Shelton and Emerson could not get white pastors to participate in the in-depth interviews.) In short, yes: Black Christians pray more than other Christians. In fact, controlling for other background factors, Shelton and Emerson found that black Protestants pray nearly three times more often than white evangelicals do. And they are twice as likely as white evangelicals to read their Bible away from worship services and more likely to attend Bible study groups. (The Bible engagement gap evens out when controlling for church attendance and age.)

Shelton argues that past and present oppression has been the driving factor in shaping these differences. As one black focus group member told him, “We’ve had to pray more and worship more and read the Bible more to survive in an oppressive situation. … If you have had to overcome, if you’ve had to make a way out of no way, if you didn’t have any food for your children and God provided food on your table, then you’re gonna go to church and praise and worship Him because He’s worthy.”

But Shelton is also quick to argue—contrary to doubts he and Emerson heard from both white and black Christians—that black and whites indeed worship the same God. “On [survey] measures largely drawn from the orthodox Apostles’ Creed and on the centrality of faith, black and white Protestants look like identical twins,” he wrote. It’s easy to lose sight of that theological unity when you document all the ways that they differ in practicing and thinking about those core beliefs, he says. Black Protestants and white evangelicals practice their Christianity in very different ways at very different levels. But they’re both practicing Christianity.

“Efforts aimed at improving race relations will have limited success until social scientists, religious leaders, and the wider American public recognize that there are profound similarities—and most especially differences—among blacks and whites with respect to how they think about and practice their religious faith,” he wrote.

Do Methodists and Baptists differ?
Shelton still firmly believes that black Christians have more in common with other black Christians across denominations than they do with white Christians in their own denomination. That claim is a sociological truism at this point. Where Shelton is getting attention is in his proposal to measure the diversity among the multiple streams in the “Greater Black Church.”

For the last two decades, social scientists studying American Christianity have almost universally rallied to one tool in particular: a database code, abbreviated as reltrad, that uses survey respondents’ denominational “religious preference” to sort them into “religious tradition” buckets. For example, Wesleyans are coded as evangelical, United Methodists are coded as mainline, and African Methodist Episcopal Church attendees are coded as black Protestants. The other traditions in the reltrad schema are Catholic, Jewish, “other faith,” and “nonaffiliated.”

Race doesn’t usually factor into the count: If you’re white but attend an African Methodist Episcopal church, you’d get classified as “black Protestant.” But race matters in reltrad when respondents say things like they’re Methodist, but they don’t know which kind. And African American Baptists are counted as black Protestants even if they say they’re Southern Baptists or American Baptists. “Most blacks who belong to these denominations attend predominantly black Baptist churches,” argued the reltrad sociologists, led by Brian Steensland. “And most black Baptist churches in the American and Southern Baptist Conventions have a dual affiliation status with other black Baptist denominations.”

There are other ways to divide American Christians into groups. Many public opinion polls break out evangelical Protestants by asking, “Do you consider yourself an evangelical or born-again Christian?” then omit any Catholics or African Americans from those who said yes. Other surveys (like those from Barna and LifeWay) ask a series of questions about theology and religious practices. But when scholars talk about religious data today, they almost always separate black and white Protestants in some form. And reltrad has become, in many researchers’ words, the gold standard.

“Reltrad itself is the greatest thing since sliced bread for a nerdy academic like me,” Shelton says. But as an African American, he says, reltrad’s lumping together all black Protestants is its “biggest limitation.” Just as old surveys might only indicate whether a respondent was a Protestant, Catholic, or Jew and miss the complexity in various traditions, when you split Protestants into evangelical, mainline, and black, “you’re missing a lot of the unique traditions and distinctions,” he says.

So he and Cobb created a “black reltrad” that identifies nine categories for identifying African Americans: Baptists, Methodists, Holiness/Pentecostals, historically white mainline Protestant denominations, historically white evangelical Protestant denominations, nondenominational Protestants, Catholics, other faiths (including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses), and respondents with no religious affiliation.

To work, “black reltrad” needs big datasets with a large number of black respondents. That will limit some of its adoption, says Tobin Grant, a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. But there are plenty of large-scale studies like the GSS ready to be mined. The real test for black reltrad, Grant says, will be in its explanatory power and in its ability to find real differences between those categories.

“If black reltrad just said historically these are different groups, but empirically I couldn’t find any differences, I probably wouldn’t use it in a study,” he said. And the differences matter. “If you tell me that the Pentecostals are more likely to believe miracles happen today, or that the Baptists believe in adult baptism, you’re not telling us much.”

But Shelton and Cobb are already finding significant differences, including a kind of mirroring of the evangelical-mainline split among historically white churches. Nondenominational Protestants, Holiness/Pentecostals, and members of historically white evangelical denominations are far more likely to have conservative views on sexual morality than Baptists, Methodists, and blacks in historically white mainline Protestant denominations. In fact, the Baptists, Methodists, and blacks in white mainline churches seem not to differ in their sexual ethics from African Americans who don’t have a religious preference. Shelton and Cobb found a similar split on abortion.

But on other measures, Shelton and Cobb think that there’s less of a split between conservative and liberal black Protestants and more of a spectrum. Baptists and Methodists (who don’t differ from each other on many of the issues the researchers looked at so far) occupy a kind of “moderate Protestant” middle between the black members of historically white mainline Protestant denominations and the more conservative groups, like Holiness/Pentecostals, nondenominational Protestants, and members of historically white evangelical denominations.

Maybe for smaller surveys where there aren’t enough black respondents to divide into nine categories, Shelton and Cobb ventured, it might be possible to collapse the categories down to three: “liberal, moderate, and conservative.” But this would potentially conceal a lot of the meaningful differences that black reltrad was created to identify, they warned.

The question at the heart of that suggestion—how many groups can you reasonably condense American Protestants down to without misrepresenting reality—is at the heart of a heated argument that has long been simmering in the field of the sociology of religion. And in late 2018, the fight went public.

Sociologists definitely differ
Darren Sherkat, an influential sociologist of religion at Southern Illinois University, does not think that reltrad is the greatest thing since sliced bread. In 2016 he posted a working paper (coauthored with Derek Lehman, now at Tarleton State University) called “After the Resurrection: The Field of the Sociology of Religion in the United States.” On his blog, he used a more succinct title: “Why Reltrad Sucks.”

In the paper, he describes a cabal of religious sociologists in the early 20th century who took over the sociology of religion “to the advantage of particular types of religious believers.” In his telling, modern scientific surveys in the late 20th century helped to rescue the field from religious sociologists. “Yet, the ascendance of the field had not purged it of the sources of marginalization,” he lamented. “The entry of religious conservatives into the field destabilized the sociology of religion.”

Sherkat identifies few of these younger “religious conservatives” other than Notre Dame’s Christian Smith, though it’s clear that among his chief targets are Steensland and his reltrad coauthors: Jerry Park, Mark Regnerus, Lynn Robinson, Brad Wilcox, and Robert Woodberry. His criticisms of the cohort are legion.




Princeton’s Robert Wuthnow, from Inventing American Religion: Polls, Surveys, and the Tenuous Quest for a Nation’s Faith. Copyright Robert Wuthnow and published by Oxford University Press 2015. All Rights Reserved.





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« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 11:26:44 am by patrick jane »
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 February 2019
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2019, 09:48:56 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/january-february/more-loving-than-god-luther-theology.html



Are You More Loving Than God?


Let's be real. Many of us think we can do it better.

 
Most folks in the pew wouldn’t say so right out, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we often think we are more loving than God. For instance, when I think about those who’ve never heard the gospel or that great neighbor who just can’t bring himself to believe such a long list of difficult and offensive truths—people I think that I would save if I were God—I’d be lying if I said the thought had never crossed my mind.

Indeed, it did just the other day when I was stopped cold by one of the most arresting lines in the Book of Romans. Beginning at chapter 9, Paul is rounding the corner of his grand argument about salvation history into the question of how to make sense of the current unbelief of his Jewish brethren. Expressing great anguish on their behalf, he says, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people” (Rom. 9:3).

Cursed. Damned to hell. This is what Paul wishes he could trade for the salvation of his beloved people, Israel. The thought hit me like a two-by-four. Martin Luther comments, “It seems incredible that a man would desire to be damned, in order that the damned might be saved.”

How can Paul, Mr. “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), say he is willing to be “cut off from Christ” for them? This is a love and mercy I can scarcely fathom; it puts all conceits about my own compassion to shame.

I’d be tempted to call it hyperbole if Paul didn’t say that he is speaking the divine truth of Christ and that his “conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 9:1). Paul’s love for his people is a “hell and back again” kind of love, given by the Spirit of love himself (Rom. 5:5).

What we see in Paul is what James Denney called “a spark from the fire of Christ’s substitutionary love”—the love of God—demonstrated in the cross, where while “we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). His love is the flaming Sun; our earthly loves are flickering candles in comparison. This is what sets Paul’s passion ablaze.

But this immediately raises the question: What about Paul’s adamant insistence on a gospel not according to the works of the Law? It would have been so easy for him to fudge this, to downplay the offense to his Jewish brothers and sisters to gain converts out of this great love. Why doesn’t he?

The image of flame clues us in to the difference between our loves and God’s: It is a holy love. God’s love cannot deny his perfection, his glory, or his righteousness—God’s love consists of these. As Karl Barth says, “in this turning towards the other He remains true to Himself” (see 2 Tim. 2:13). God lovingly wills to be with sinners but only as the Holy One he is.

This means Paul’s love cannot be simply blind passion, a “zeal . . . not based on knowledge” (Rom. 10:2), but one that knows sinful flesh will only be justified by faith in the redeeming work of Christ to lovingly and justly blot out our sins on the cross, not by works of the Law (Rom. 3:20, 24–25).

Here I recall C. S. Lewis’s defense of the doctrine of hell in The Problem of Pain:

In the long run, the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: “What are you asking God to do?” To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary.

What does God need to do? Go to hell and back for them? Astonishingly, he already has. Perhaps, then, we need to consider different questions: Are our loves as holy as his? Is our zeal seasoned with knowledge? Do we burn with the ember of Christ’s substitutionary love?

Leave aside for a moment being cut off from Christ. Are we even willing to be cut off from comfort and respectability for the sake of ministering the gospel to our neighbors?




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




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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine February 2019
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2019, 11:03:25 am »
The fruit of the Spirit is No. 1 at Bible Gateway—in both English and Spanish queries.

 
Of the 920 million readers who visited the world’s top Bible website last year, most are literally searching for love more than anything else.

Only 3 of the other 9 fruits of the Spirit joined love among Bible Gateway’s top searches of 2018: peace (No. 2), faith (No. 3), and joy (No. 4). The pattern holds true in Spanish-language searches, though gozo (joy) ranks 12 slots lower [full lists below].

Love has been the most popular topic at Bible Gateway, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year by reaching more than 14 billion views, ever since the site’s inception in 1993. Such searches perennially spike on Valentine’s Day.

“This may be the time of year that we talk most loudly about love, but [our] usage statistics show us that we long to understand and experience love throughout the year,” stated Andy Rau, Bible Gateway’s then-senior manager for content, in a 2017 post.

In 2014, when the site first offered more detailed stats, CT reported how “the word never fell out of the top 10 searches, and was the top searched word more than 200 days of the year.”

In contrast, searches for lust only came close to love on one day: September 30, 2015.




Overall, searches for heart, pray, and spirit rose the most from 2016 to 2018. All rose in rank by double digits. (CT analyzed the top 2018 verses of Bible Gateway vs. YouVersion in December.)

Among CT’s coverage of Valentine’s Day, last year—on the first VaLENTine’s Day since WWII—CT noted how Twitter suggested chocolate and alcohol would be absent from many dates, while Tish Harrison Warren reflected on God’s message on “Ash Valentine’s Day.”

Bible Gateway’s top 25 topic searches in English for 2018:

love
peace
faith
joy
hope
heart
pray
holy spirit
prayer
spirit
grace
light
fear
children
forgive
heaven
worship
strength
truth
father
the joy of the lord is my strength
sin
trust
rest
salvation





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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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Re: Christianity Today Magazine February 2019
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2019, 10:58:50 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/february/preoccupied-with-love-interview-colin-smith-nominalism.html



Preoccupied with Love: One-on-One with Colin Smith on Nominal Christianity




“I have found the story of the thief on the cross profoundly helpful in challenging this assumption...that entrance into everlasting joy depends on living a good enough life.”

 
Ed: It’s hard to deny that we are living in challenging times culturally. The church’s influence is fading, and we are struggling to find answers to some hard questions. What’s your take on the health of the church today, especially as it relates to our witness?”


Colin: Church health is not the same as church size. I come from the U.K., where secularism has made deeper inroads into the culture than here in the U.S. Church attendance has dropped dramatically but, in my opinion, church health in the U.K. is better than it was 20 years ago.


One reason for this is that as nominal Christians abandon the faith and leave the church, those who remain realize their dependence on God in new ways. When numbers go down, spiritual temperature can go up, and I have seen new resilience, new cooperation, new faith and new venture in many U.K. churches.


If that happens here in the U.S., we may be in a better position than before and, like Gideon’s army, more useful to the Lord than when our numbers were larger.

Ed: Evangelism has especially fallen on hard times. It seems that everything else—even good things like discipleship—has overwhelmed our passion for sharing the love of Jesus with others. What does evangelism look like today, and how can we begin to develop a passion for showing and sharing the love of Jesus on a daily basis?

Colin: I really appreciate the focus of Amplify on evangelism. Discipling goats is an impossible task. The first priority is always that a person becomes one of Christ’s sheep.


Evangelism today needs to begin further back. For much of the 20thcentury, Christians were able to assume a basic understanding of who God is, what sin is, and why we need a Savior.

When people rebelled, they usually had some knowledge of the God they were rejecting, and when they chose not to believe, it was the God of the Bible they chose not to believe in. So when Christians shared the gospel we could assume a basic understanding its categories. But today, many of the people we are called to reach do not understand the basic categories of the gospel—hence the need to begin further back.

Some years ago, I met Tony Howarth, a pioneer missionary, sent by his church in the U.K. to an unreached people group in northern Thailand. He described the long process of gaining the trust of the tribe he served, and then of learning to read and write their language.

When I asked him where he began in sharing the gospel with these people, he said, “We tell them the Bible story.”

This answer made immediate sense to me. The Bible begins with God introducing himself, and the Old Testament builds a framework for understanding who we are, why we need saving, and what a Savior would need to accomplish.

God has given us all that we need for explaining the Gospel to any person, at any time, in any culture, and I am convinced that we need to rediscover the longstanding practice of pioneer missionaries, and learn how to evangelize by sharing the storyline of the Bible.

Our team at Unlocking the Bible is working on a practical tool for doing this using 50 chapters of the Bible that lay out the main themes of the Bible story. Our major project for the coming year is to challenge people to open the Bible with a friend, relative, neighbor, or colleague.

This may be slower than other approaches to evangelism, but I am convinced that it will continue to bear fruit that lasts.

My other thought with regard to evangelism today is that what we win people with we win people to. If we win people with celebrity, we win them to celebrity. If we win them with entertainment, we win them to entertainment.

But if we win people with the Bible, we will win people to the Bible, and the same Word that begets faith will also sustain faith (1 Peter 1:23, Matt. 4:4).

Ed: At Amplify next summer, and you are talking about “A Gospel for the Nominal.” Tell me about what a gospel for nominal Christians looks like and why it matters.

Colin: I mentioned earlier that the number of nominal Christians in the U.S. is falling, but we may still be talking about as many as 100 million people, and we must do all in our power to reach them with the gospel.

Nominal Christians typically believe in heaven and assume that entrance into everlasting joy depends on living a good enough life. I have found the story of the thief on the cross profoundly helpful in challenging this assumption.

Everyone loves a good story, and the story of the thief is easy to tell. Clearly, this man had not lived a good life. By his own confession, he was getting what his deeds deserved, but Jesus said to him, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’

I have found that telling this story opens up conversations that often lead to a new understanding of the gospel. Jesus saves sinners. This is why he was hanging on the cross. The thief turned to Jesus, asked of Jesus and trusted the word of Jesus. We must do the same.




After using this approach over many years, I wrote Heaven How I Got Here in which the thief tells his story. The book was then adapted into a one-man play presented by Stephen Baldwin. We have seen many people come to faith in Christ through this story, which I think is especially useful in reaching nominal Christians.





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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine February 2019
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2019, 10:52:42 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/february/suffering-disability-praising-god-saves-me-in-pain.html




Praising God Saves Me In My Pain



In the face of illness, death, and disability, Lamentations gives me a script for how to suffer.

 
In 2015, my husband and I opened the doors to our church plant, Renewal Church. We celebrated the tremendous movement of God in our lives and our neighborhood. But the very same week, I woke up inexplicably unable to walk. I couldn’t put any pressure on my legs whatsoever. I didn’t know at the time that this surprising illness-visitor would become a long-term tenant.

I now experience health issues so disruptive that my husband, Kevin, on more than one occasion has had to carry me around the house. While I suffer from the physical discomfort of this mysterious illness, Kevin suffers too. He made the “in sickness” vow before God and all of our friends and family without really knowing what that might one day entail. Here it is—come to collect. Come to test if we are truly people of our vows.

As if that’s not enough, there’s also the unresolved search through Crater Lake, Oregon, for a loved one, my cousin and dear friend Cameron. Park rangers have found remnants, clues: a coat, broken branches on the side of a cliff, snowshoe prints near a well-traveled photo spot—a place where many hikers before him have gone and returned safely. But not Cam. We held his funeral in an airport hangar. Photos in lieu of a coffin. Unanswered questions instead of resolution.

And still this: our youngest son’s developmental issues. His spinal-cord surgery and ongoing aftercare. His life-threatening allergies. Weeks at the local children’s hospital, months of therapy.

During this season of pain and loss, there’s a voice in my head—some combination of pastor, parent, and professor—that says I need to handle this suffering and handle it well. Learn whatever lesson God is trying to teach me so that I can graduate on to the next stage of spiritual maturity. Be brave. Be strong. Be an example to others.

And yet I don’t know how to hold these two opposing truths in my hands at the same time: Evil is evil, and God is good and in control over it all. I don’t want to admit that I might have to learn to hold God’s sovereignty and my own suffering in tension. I don’t believe God is the agent of pain, evil, or death, but I don’t know how to make sense of God also being the one who didn’t stop pain, evil, or death from happening to me or those I love. This is not an ontological argument about God and the existence of evil. I’m a real person with real faith wrestling with real pain. And it’s very difficult. So in these early days of struggle, I’m doing everything I can to avoid my conflicting emotions in order to prove how okay and optimistic I am.

Where there wasn’t one before, a demarcation exists now, a dividing of my life: before and after. How do I learn to stop pretending and avoiding? How do I learn to exist in this, my new epoch?

As I make sense of suffering, the Book of Lamentations has given me a roadmap, a way through the wilderness.

At the very center of Lamentations we find chapter 3, by far the longest chapter. It is the physical and emotional climax of the book, the heart of Jeremiah’s lament, and the place where the prophet’s cry is most personal and passionate. Just before he seems to give up, something significant happens. In chapter 3 verse 21, Jeremiah hammers his stake into the ground. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope,” he declares. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:21–23).

Here, Jeremiah utters the most powerful word in all of Lamentations: yet.

Yet is the moment the prophet moves from his painful laments—his cries of how could this happen?—to his only hope. His yet is found in the unchanging, steadfast love of God, and through this yet, he declares, “Even if this suffering never ends, I will always worship God.”

For us, too, yet is the paradigm shift of all laments. It arises even when the cancer isn’t cured, when the debt never decreases, when the questions aren’t answered. Yet believes that even if it doesn’t go well with us, Jesus is still enough. Yet is the fighter’s prize. It hopes in God, for God’s sake alone. “In the darkness we have a choice that is not really there in better times,” writes Timothy Keller in his treatise on grief and suffering. “We can choose to serve God just because he is God. ... If we do that—we are finally learning to love God for himself, and not for his benefits.”

All laments lead to the truest form of worship—the worship of God alone. Not God and blessings, not God and benefits, but God for God’s sake. No matter God’s apparent absence and no matter what happens, lament utters a profound yet: “This is horrible. Yet I will praise my God, for he alone is worthy.” Or in Jeremiah’s words, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lam. 3:24).

Here, though, is the hope of all laments: Generations after the events of Lamentations, Jesus left the comfort of heaven and entered Jerusalem’s long years of suffering. He voluntarily became both the object and subject of lament. In taking upon himself the consequences for all of our sin, the penalty for the world’s idolatry, the power of death—and in taking on the principalities and forces of darkness—Jesus didn’t hesitate. Instead, he willingly bore the full weight of it on the cross. After years of longing, after generations of lament—through the suffering of their very own King—the Israelites were, as we are, healed.

In my own lament journey, something new has now begun: another expression of illness. My hands and arms, up to the elbows, have started to go numb. I call them my “dead fish arms.” I’m getting electromyography tests, cortisone shots, and occupational therapy, but something is not adding up. There will always be mystery in lament, I suppose. And yet my hope in suffering is not found by striving to see the positive or looking on the bright side. For me and for every Christian, it’s about the object of our hope, the one all laments long for and lead to, the embodiment of our laments: Jesus.

By his suffering, we are saved in ours.






Aubrey Sampson is the director of discipleship and equipping at Renewal Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of Overcomer and The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament. She is currently earning her masters in evangelism and leadership. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament by Aubrey Sampson. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.





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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine February 2019
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2019, 09:23:40 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/united-methodists-lgbt-vote-umc-general-conference-denomina.html



United Methodists’ LGBT Vote Will Reshape the Denomination




Pulled right and left by various factions of the global church, the UMC’s decision-making body meets this weekend to pick a path forward.

 
One of the world’s largest Christian denominations faces potential fracture as United Methodist leaders gather to finally decide how to navigate deep divisions over gay marriage, ordination, and ministry.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) meets Saturday through Tuesday to weigh options to address the differing convictions on the issue, including some that would lead one side or the other to leave the denomination.

This special session of its General Conference, a denominational decision-making body made of around 1,000 delegates, represents the culmination of years of passionate debate about the application of scriptural teachings, particularly when it comes to issues around sexuality.

There’s a lot at stake. Beth Ann Cook, a UMC minister and clergy delegate, said the issue comes down to “how we interpret and apply Scripture in our daily lives,” and she’s praying that “delegates fully and honestly face the depth of our divisions.”

“While this General Conference is about much more than LGBTQ justice and inclusion for the United Methodist Church, we are at this juncture because of the discrimination against LGBTQ people in the church,” said Jan Lawrence, whose Reconciling Ministries Network advocates for the UMC to change its longstanding policies and language around homosexuality.

Since its first official statement on homosexuality in 1972, the denomination has tried to mark out a middle ground of grace and traditional orthodoxy, stating that “homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are person of sacred worth” while still considering “the practice of homosexuality … incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Decades later, with half the 12.5 million-member denomination located outside the US, the UMC’s historic position has become the source of heated debates at the General Conference gatherings, held every four years. The clashes have intensified as protestors eager to see the denomination change its stance interrupt deliberations and in one case, a demonstrator threatened to jump from a balcony.

This dissent has been going on for well over 20 years. By now, some pastors and bishops violate the prohibitions on same-sex marriage outright, and several regional bodies have chosen to ordain and commission openly gay clergy and a bishop.

Many in the United States consider the UMC a more progressive denomination, though they have officially held a more traditional position on sexuality, voting to add statements barring ordination for “practicing homosexuals” in 1984 and same-sex marriage ceremonies in 1996.

Though some American Methodists have shifted in favor of welcoming those in same-sex relationships, the American UMC’s numbers have experienced a consistent, gradual decline. Methodists’ traditional stance now stems from more conservative membership on the African continent, whose growth has outpaced the American decline.




But even in the States, members are twice as likely to identify as “conservative-traditional” (44%) than “liberal-progressive” (20%), according to a denominational poll. After gay marriage became legal in the country in 2015, members of UMC churches in the US remained pretty evenly split on the issue, with 41 percent in favor of keeping the church’s ban on same-sex ceremonies and 42 percent against it.

If Methodists have been divided on this issue for so long, what’s kept them from splitting before? One factor holding the denomination together is its trust clause, which deeds all property to the regional body rather than to the local church. Because of this setup, any church that decides to leave the denomination looses its property (or must buy it back from the denomination).

More than 100 proposals related to human sexuality were brought up at the last general conference in 2016. After days of consideration, debate, and prayer, the church voted to table all resolutions related to the issue and instead called its bishops to appoint a commission to evaluate possible ways forward.

Over the next two years, the commission generated three plans as possible solutions, which delegates will review at a special General Conference February 23–26.

The “One Church Plan” removes prohibitive language from The Book of Discipline, the UMC’s book of law and doctrine, allowing regional bodies, churches, and pastors to exercise their own conscience on this issue. It adds language that permits UMC clergy to choose whether or not to conduct same-sex marriages, churches to choose to allow those weddings to take place in their sanctuaries, and regional bodies to choose to ordain LGBT clergy. It also adds language that ensures clergy and churches who make those choices will not be punished for them.

Mark Holland is a clergy delegate and executive director of Mainstream UMC, a group working to pass the One Church Plan. He says that “the One Church Plan gives a gracious place for both ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ to be who they are for their mission fields.” This focus beyond the legislation to enabling diversity of mission and ministry is a central argument made by those supporting this plan.

The “Connectional Conference Plan” maintains an umbrella organization that will provide shared organizational needs like pension management and disaster relief while creating three branches that are split along ideological lines on human sexuality. In this plan there would be a progressive branch, a unity branch, and a traditional branch. Those new branches would decide on new names and function relatively independently of each other.

The “Traditional Plan” maintains the current stance against gay marriage and ordination, proposes enhanced accountability, and offers a gracious exit to those who feel they cannot in good conscience remain part of the denomination. Those bodies who leave would be given an exemption from the trust clause and allowed to retain their property. (In an early ruling by the denomination’s judicial body several parts of the original plan were deemed unconstitutional, and it has since been altered and will be presented as the “Modified Traditional Plan.”)

Going into this meeting, several lobbying groups have formed in support of various plans and drawn lines in the sand.

A group of evangelical United Methodists called the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) represents the largest subset, with 125,000 people in 1,500 churches favoring the current, more traditional stance under the rallying cry of being committed to the “Authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Though they have not endorsed a single plan, they have been clear that if the One Church Plan were to pass, it “would be untenable and would force us to lead in the formation of a new expression of connectional Methodism.”

The WCA has appointed a group to begin working on everything needed to begin what would become a new Methodist denomination. “Our differences are irreconcilable,” WCA president Keith Boyette said. “Divisions within the UMC have led to missional paralysis and largely prevented the church from fulfilling its mission.” After the gathering in February, the WCA board will meet to decide whether or not bringing that new expression into existence at a convening conference for a new denomination will be necessary.

But a sizable number of Methodists have prioritized keeping the body together. Groups like Mainstream UMC and Uniting Methodists are lobbying for the One Church plan, which they say “holds the denomination together for the widest ministry with the most impact for living out the United Methodist Mission.”

Lastly, groups like the Queer Clergy Caucus, Affirmation, and Reconciling Ministries Network that say the One Church Plan is not progressive enough. Jan Lawrence is clear that “none meets our mission of affirmation and inclusion of LGBT persons in the full life of the church.” The UM Queer Clergy Caucus has offered an alternative to the three plans that resulted from the work of the Bishop’s Commission. Their “Simple Plan” removes “the language from the Book of Discipline that excludes LGBTQIA+ people from full participation in the church.”

All of those groups will converge in St. Louis, Missouri, where 864 lay and clergy delegates around the globe will come to a decision. The four-day meeting begins with an entire day in prayer and worship. The following day, the delegates will prioritize the various pieces of legislation to determine which proposals to move forward. The third day will be focused on refining legislation to be brought to a final vote and debate on the fourth and final day.

To that end, the denomination has issued a call to prayer asking “for God’s leadership to guide us effectively in fulfilling the mission of the church.”

“My request of God is for an inbreaking of his presence that returns our attention to proclaim the gospel as Christ,” said Joy Moore, senior pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan, and the founding associate dean of Fuller Theological Seminary’s African American church studies center.

Some like Randall Miller, a lay delegate, say they “still hope for a fully inclusive United Methodism in which pastors, local, churches, and regional bodies can make their own decisions.”

Others like David Livingston hope to keep all sides at the table. “For a bird to fly it needs a left wing and a right wing. For the UMC to be faithful to its roots, we also need a left wing and a right wing,” he said.

In the midst of the passionate debate and some trepidation, there is a lot of hope for the UMC, with those on all sides sharing concern for the church’s witness and mission going forward. Or, in the words of Kansas pastor Mark Holland, that the outcome might “fully usher in the fullness of God’s grace in this world.”




Jeremy Steele is the teaching pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama, as well as a writer and speaker. His most recent book is All the Best Questions.





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