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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019  (Read 1226 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« on: May 01, 2019, 01:05:07 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/april/burkina-faso-assemblies-god-church-attack-six-dead-pastor.html








Terrorists in Burkina Faso Execute Six at Pentecostal Church

Assemblies of God pastor preferred to “die for his faith rather than leave the village” he served for decades.
KATE SHELLNUTT APRIL 30, 2019 2:47 PM







Assemblies of God pastor preferred to “die for his faith rather than leave the village” he served for decades.

 
Christians in Burkina Faso are mourning a deadly attack on a Protestant church as “a new turning point in terrorism” in the West African nation.

Sunday’s shooting at an Assemblies of God congregation in a northern village left six people dead, including the pastor, and represents the first church attack among the recent surge of Islamist violence.

A dozen gunmen on motorcycles stormed the courtyard of the Sirgadji church after worship, fatally shooting its longtime pastor as well as five other congregants after demanding they convert to Islam, according to the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso, Michel Ouédraogo. The attackers also stole from the church and burned its pulpit.

The church was one of the oldest Protestant congregations in the region, which borders Mali to the north, and pastor Pierre Ouedraogo had served there since its founding in the 1980s. The longtime pastor “said he prefers to die for his faith rather than leave the village where he has served for nearly 40 years,” Michel Ouédraogo recounted in a statement.

The victims include the pastor’s son and his brother-in-law, who served as a deacon in the church.

Burkina Faso declared a state of emergency in some of the northern providences last year, due to ongoing violence. The church attack comes days after another half-dozen people were killed by assailants elsewhere in the country. Islamists have been blamed for the abductions of a Spanish Catholic priest and a Canadian geologist earlier this year.

After 200 attacks over the past three years, the government considers Sunday’s shooting to be the first at a house of worship, a sign that the violence could be shifting from indiscriminate to targeted. Burkina Faso is about 60 percent Muslim and about 25 percent Christian (around 20 percent Catholic and 5 percent Protestant).

An op-ed in L’Observateur Paalga suggested that pastors will begin to fear their public worship gatherings could become targets. “Evidently, the forces of Evil who are imposing their dirty war on us, and who know … where it hurts, now want to set religions against each other in a country where, nevertheless, peaceful coexistence between the different religions has always been the bedrock of social cohesion,” read an English translation of the article.

Pope Francis offered prayers for the entire Christian community in Burkina Faso after the Assemblies of God attack.

The country has faced a growing threat of terrorist violence ever since 2016, when al-Qaeda affiliates took hostages and went on a shooting spree in the capital city of Ouagadougou. Seven missionaries were killed in the incident.

The incidents in Burkina Faso in recent years have been attributed to Ansarul Islam, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, and the Islamic State of the Great Sahara (EIGS).













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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 - May 2019
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2019, 11:23:11 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/may/national-day-prayer-ct-women-our-15-favorite-prayers.html





CT Women: Our 15 Favorite Prayers







Women from across the country share words that shape their prayer lives.

 
Today marks the National Day of Prayer in the US. With that in mind, we asked a number of women to share prayers from Scripture and Christian history that hold significance for them as pastors, professors, community developers, writers, and parents. These 15 responses give a glimpse into the prayer lives of Christian women across the country who are on their knees on behalf of families, churches, and leaders.

1. One of my personal favorites is the prayer, “Great are you, Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Augustine uses this prayer—which draws on Psalm 48—to open his Confessions. He starts not with a reference to himself or even to what God can do or has done for him but simply by admitting his awe at God’s majesty: God is a great God!

This prayer reminds us of the ultimate reason why praying is worth doing: not first and foremost because of what we need or feel but because God deserves our unstinting and unremitting praise. The wellspring of profound prayer is the greatness of the Lord.

2. The Celtic Christians who lived on the British Isles during the early Middle Ages practiced a faith that reflected simple lives lived close to the earth, absent the later pomp and hierarchy that would come from the Roman church. Many of the prayers these Christians offered in their Gaelic tongue were collected later in the 19th-century work Carmina Gadelica.

The prayers are notable for the way they invoke God in every aspect of daily life—while kindling the morning fire, making the bed, and collecting the eggs. My favorite prayer seeks God’s blessing on the cow, her milk, and the milker. It models the way we modern-day believers, too, ought to ask God to bless every part of all we have and all we do:

Bless, O God, my little cow,
Bless, O God, my desire;
Bless our partnership
And the milking of my hands, O God.
Bless, O God, each teat,
Bless, O God, each finger,
Bless each drop that goes into my pitcher.

—Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English, Liberty University

3. Harriet Tubman, the small but bold African slave who escaped bondage and then risked recapture by returning South to free others, prayed short and to the point. You don’t have time for fancy words when you make up to 19 trips back into slave country to free parents, siblings, and friends.

Her prayer of “Unconditional Affirmation” cuts to the chase, beseeching God with keen and intimate expectation. Every time she led brave slaves beyond Maryland’s Eastern Shore to freedom, she told God, “I’m going to hold steady on You, and You’ve got to see me through.” It’s an unwavering and determined prayer, to which only one word needs to be added: Amen.

—Patricia Raybon, author of I Told the Mountain to Move

4. I started my doctoral journey at Fordham University. Like many of my classmates, we all came from work feeling tired, hungry, and ready to be done with class before we’d even started. My professor would have us stand, shake off the day, and recite this prayer below. She would say, “You are here to learn and to put your learning into action. Your action will change the world around you and you’ll need clarity for that. So let us pray!”

O God, make your words clear to me, as clear as the ice is.
Make your love be like a compass for me that gives me direction.
Make your truth be like a signpost to me that brings clarity.
Make your peace a guide for my directions.
Make your hope be like a flag that tells me that I am walking beside you.
Clear my mind of all the distractions that steal me from you.
O God, bless me with clarity.
Amen!

I continue to pray this prayer because, now more than ever, in this age of distraction, we are in desperate need of clarity and direction from the Father.

—Elizabeth D. Rios, PhD, founder of The Passion Center

5. “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Ps. 91:2).

Years ago, I began praying Scripture for those who came to me with needs that seemed insurmountable. But what began as discipleship training soon evolved into a lifelong journey of praying the Word for my family, myself, and the precious people God put on my heart.

Still to this day my favorite passage is Psalm 91. I have memorized the entire 16 verses, and these verses have now become a deep space for reflective prayer. The psalm is not a magic formula but rather a reminder that God hears us when we pray.

—Gricel Medina, leadership and community developer

6. One of my favorite prayers in Scripture is found in Ephesians 1:15–23. The verses that I find most impactful are 18 and 19:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

This prayer reminds me of the magnitude of hope that we cling to in Christ and the unmatched power made available to us. This power emboldens us to be salt and light in the world. Accordingly, I pray that we, like the Ephesians, may have our hearts illumined to this truth and seek to live it out daily.

—K. J. Ramsey, writer and therapist

7. My mornings often begin with clangs and cries—a child’s refusals to put on clothes, spilled milk at the breakfast table, or toys strewn across the living room floor. I wish I were always patient and kind with my children, but I’m not. I get upset; I yell. I struggle to see life through my son’s eyes, and incomprehension turns to anger. In moments like this, I find solace and renewed strength from “A Liturgy for a Moment of Frustration at a Child” by Douglas Kain McKelvy:

Let me not react in this moment, O Lord,
in the blindness of my own emotion.
Rather give me—a fellow sinner—
wisdom to respond with a grace
that would shepherd my child’s heart
toward your mercies,
so equipping them
for the hard labors
of their own pilgrimage.

—Michelle Reyes, PhD, author and speaker

8. In Ephesians 1:17–19, Paul writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

I consider this prayer exemplary for church leaders who teach and disciple others. It includes important Christian principles for how we understand spiritual identity, spiritual growth, and intercession. My greatest desires for Christ’s church today are found in this prayer. May we, like the apostle Paul, “keep asking” for ourselves and for one another.

—Lekesha R. Barnett, minister of young adults and prayer, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church

9. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My mother proudly hung this prayer on the bedroom wall nearest her side of the bed. The hand-painted plaster plaque was obviously crafted by the hands of a novice; in fact, it was the product of a Vacation Bible School creative hour for fifth graders. Many mornings during my childhood, I heard my mother pray the words that were painted in faux gold leaf. Without knowing it, she was instilling a foundation into me so that when I faced my own challenges in life, I would turn to the very same prayer for direction.

—Mia Wright, pastor of Fountain of Life Church

10. David has always been a model pray-er to me. Although I cannot always identify with his circumstances, I often find myself praying his words as if they were my own. In the past, I saw Psalm 51 as solely as a prayer of forgiveness. Over time, however, it has transformed into a plea for daily bread from my creator. It’s my soul’s cry to be renewed, restored, and filled—a sacred supplication to be connected with him:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
(Ps. 51:10–12)

—Quantrilla Ard, PhD candidate, Walden University

11. Years ago, I realized that I needed a new way to navigate the space between my head and my heart. My body often clashed with my prayers: My lips spoke peace, but my body buzzed with stress. After searching for something simple enough to speak while in a worry-prone space, I found a way to include my body rather than ignore it—through a breath prayer. I began saying a short version of the Jesus prayer, which I still pray on a regular basis. I inhale and say “Lord,” then I exhale with “have mercy.” As I pray and breathe, my head and heart begin to grasp that God has already drawn near.

— Briana McCarthy, writer and speaker

12. As a special-needs parent and disability ministry consultant, I’m constantly advocating for the inclusion of our children and families, even at church. This (adapted) prayer undergirds my actions and reminds me that God is sovereign, and I am not:

God, grant me the serenity to accept diagnoses and gritty realities I cannot change, courage to advocate against diminished expectations, misconceptions, and exclusion, and the wisdom to know the difference
Fighting one IEP at a time,
Enjoying one inclusive environment at a time
Accepting hardship, rejection, and limitations as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that he will make all things right
If I surrender to his will;
So that I may be reasonably surrendered in this life,
And supremely sanctified with him forever in the next.

— Diane Dokko Kim, disability ministry consultant

13. Through the years, Colossians 1:9–12 has been a go-to prayer for me. I turn to it especially when I’m unsure about a decision. It helps me to surrender my own will and seek the Lord’s. I personalize the prayer in this way:

“Lord, I ask to be filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I will walk in a manner worthy of you to please you in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of you, strengthened with all power according to your glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to you, Father, who have qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

— Kim Cash Tate, author & singer/songwriter

14. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)

What right have I, Gentile sinner that I am, to take hold of the boldness of Bartimaeus? I have no natural claim to the Jewish king, even less a moral one. Still, the blind man’s example has always injected courage into my own heart—like an adrenaline shot to my chest, saving my life through violence.

Jesus, by submitting his body to brutality, by allowing his flesh to be torn, tore down that dividing wall of hostility. He became our peace, grafting Gentiles in where we had no root and creating in himself one new man out of two. To Bartimaeus’s call, Jesus answered, “What do you want me to do for you?” He showed mercy.

Before I even knew to call, while I was still dead in my sins, he showed mercy. This king stops for sinners, therefore I pray boldly.

—Rachel Gilson, director of theological development for Cru northeast

15. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

I’m so unlike the man who prayed this prayer. I’m 2,000 years past his time and 5,000 miles from where he prayed. I’m not a murderer or a thief. I’m not stuck naked and bleeding on a cross, my life slow-draining in the scorching sun. And yet his prayer both shames and inspires my own.

It’s a desperate prayer of faith from a man who looks for all the world like he’s lost, a prayer of hope against all hope that Jesus really is the King—not just for a time, but for all time; not just of one life, but of life itself. As others mocked the crucified “King of the Jews,” this man asked for a place in his kingdom. And he got it: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).




—Rebecca McLaughlin, author of Confronting Christianity

















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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 -


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.

Bladerunner

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2019, 01:29:44 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/may/national-day-prayer-ct-women-our-15-favorite-prayers.html





CT Women: Our 15 Favorite Prayers







Women from across the country share words that shape their prayer lives.

 
Today marks the National Day of Prayer in the US. With that in mind, we asked a number of women to share prayers from Scripture and Christian history that hold significance for them as pastors, professors, community developers, writers, and parents. These 15 responses give a glimpse into the prayer lives of Christian women across the country who are on their knees on behalf of families, churches, and leaders.

1. One of my personal favorites is the prayer, “Great are you, Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Augustine uses this prayer—which draws on Psalm 48—to open his Confessions. He starts not with a reference to himself or even to what God can do or has done for him but simply by admitting his awe at God’s majesty: God is a great God!

This prayer reminds us of the ultimate reason why praying is worth doing: not first and foremost because of what we need or feel but because God deserves our unstinting and unremitting praise. The wellspring of profound prayer is the greatness of the Lord.

2. The Celtic Christians who lived on the British Isles during the early Middle Ages practiced a faith that reflected simple lives lived close to the earth, absent the later pomp and hierarchy that would come from the Roman church. Many of the prayers these Christians offered in their Gaelic tongue were collected later in the 19th-century work Carmina Gadelica.

The prayers are notable for the way they invoke God in every aspect of daily life—while kindling the morning fire, making the bed, and collecting the eggs. My favorite prayer seeks God’s blessing on the cow, her milk, and the milker. It models the way we modern-day believers, too, ought to ask God to bless every part of all we have and all we do:

Bless, O God, my little cow,
Bless, O God, my desire;
Bless our partnership
And the milking of my hands, O God.
Bless, O God, each teat,
Bless, O God, each finger,
Bless each drop that goes into my pitcher.

—Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English, Liberty University

3. Harriet Tubman, the small but bold African slave who escaped bondage and then risked recapture by returning South to free others, prayed short and to the point. You don’t have time for fancy words when you make up to 19 trips back into slave country to free parents, siblings, and friends.

Her prayer of “Unconditional Affirmation” cuts to the chase, beseeching God with keen and intimate expectation. Every time she led brave slaves beyond Maryland’s Eastern Shore to freedom, she told God, “I’m going to hold steady on You, and You’ve got to see me through.” It’s an unwavering and determined prayer, to which only one word needs to be added: Amen.

—Patricia Raybon, author of I Told the Mountain to Move

4. I started my doctoral journey at Fordham University. Like many of my classmates, we all came from work feeling tired, hungry, and ready to be done with class before we’d even started. My professor would have us stand, shake off the day, and recite this prayer below. She would say, “You are here to learn and to put your learning into action. Your action will change the world around you and you’ll need clarity for that. So let us pray!”

O God, make your words clear to me, as clear as the ice is.
Make your love be like a compass for me that gives me direction.
Make your truth be like a signpost to me that brings clarity.
Make your peace a guide for my directions.
Make your hope be like a flag that tells me that I am walking beside you.
Clear my mind of all the distractions that steal me from you.
O God, bless me with clarity.
Amen!

I continue to pray this prayer because, now more than ever, in this age of distraction, we are in desperate need of clarity and direction from the Father.

—Elizabeth D. Rios, PhD, founder of The Passion Center

5. “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Ps. 91:2).

Years ago, I began praying Scripture for those who came to me with needs that seemed insurmountable. But what began as discipleship training soon evolved into a lifelong journey of praying the Word for my family, myself, and the precious people God put on my heart.

Still to this day my favorite passage is Psalm 91. I have memorized the entire 16 verses, and these verses have now become a deep space for reflective prayer. The psalm is not a magic formula but rather a reminder that God hears us when we pray.

—Gricel Medina, leadership and community developer

6. One of my favorite prayers in Scripture is found in Ephesians 1:15–23. The verses that I find most impactful are 18 and 19:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

This prayer reminds me of the magnitude of hope that we cling to in Christ and the unmatched power made available to us. This power emboldens us to be salt and light in the world. Accordingly, I pray that we, like the Ephesians, may have our hearts illumined to this truth and seek to live it out daily.

—K. J. Ramsey, writer and therapist

7. My mornings often begin with clangs and cries—a child’s refusals to put on clothes, spilled milk at the breakfast table, or toys strewn across the living room floor. I wish I were always patient and kind with my children, but I’m not. I get upset; I yell. I struggle to see life through my son’s eyes, and incomprehension turns to anger. In moments like this, I find solace and renewed strength from “A Liturgy for a Moment of Frustration at a Child” by Douglas Kain McKelvy:

Let me not react in this moment, O Lord,
in the blindness of my own emotion.
Rather give me—a fellow sinner—
wisdom to respond with a grace
that would shepherd my child’s heart
toward your mercies,
so equipping them
for the hard labors
of their own pilgrimage.

—Michelle Reyes, PhD, author and speaker

8. In Ephesians 1:17–19, Paul writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

I consider this prayer exemplary for church leaders who teach and disciple others. It includes important Christian principles for how we understand spiritual identity, spiritual growth, and intercession. My greatest desires for Christ’s church today are found in this prayer. May we, like the apostle Paul, “keep asking” for ourselves and for one another.

—Lekesha R. Barnett, minister of young adults and prayer, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church

9. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

My mother proudly hung this prayer on the bedroom wall nearest her side of the bed. The hand-painted plaster plaque was obviously crafted by the hands of a novice; in fact, it was the product of a Vacation Bible School creative hour for fifth graders. Many mornings during my childhood, I heard my mother pray the words that were painted in faux gold leaf. Without knowing it, she was instilling a foundation into me so that when I faced my own challenges in life, I would turn to the very same prayer for direction.

—Mia Wright, pastor of Fountain of Life Church

10. David has always been a model pray-er to me. Although I cannot always identify with his circumstances, I often find myself praying his words as if they were my own. In the past, I saw Psalm 51 as solely as a prayer of forgiveness. Over time, however, it has transformed into a plea for daily bread from my creator. It’s my soul’s cry to be renewed, restored, and filled—a sacred supplication to be connected with him:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
(Ps. 51:10–12)

—Quantrilla Ard, PhD candidate, Walden University

11. Years ago, I realized that I needed a new way to navigate the space between my head and my heart. My body often clashed with my prayers: My lips spoke peace, but my body buzzed with stress. After searching for something simple enough to speak while in a worry-prone space, I found a way to include my body rather than ignore it—through a breath prayer. I began saying a short version of the Jesus prayer, which I still pray on a regular basis. I inhale and say “Lord,” then I exhale with “have mercy.” As I pray and breathe, my head and heart begin to grasp that God has already drawn near.

— Briana McCarthy, writer and speaker

12. As a special-needs parent and disability ministry consultant, I’m constantly advocating for the inclusion of our children and families, even at church. This (adapted) prayer undergirds my actions and reminds me that God is sovereign, and I am not:

God, grant me the serenity to accept diagnoses and gritty realities I cannot change, courage to advocate against diminished expectations, misconceptions, and exclusion, and the wisdom to know the difference
Fighting one IEP at a time,
Enjoying one inclusive environment at a time
Accepting hardship, rejection, and limitations as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that he will make all things right
If I surrender to his will;
So that I may be reasonably surrendered in this life,
And supremely sanctified with him forever in the next.

— Diane Dokko Kim, disability ministry consultant

13. Through the years, Colossians 1:9–12 has been a go-to prayer for me. I turn to it especially when I’m unsure about a decision. It helps me to surrender my own will and seek the Lord’s. I personalize the prayer in this way:

“Lord, I ask to be filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I will walk in a manner worthy of you to please you in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of you, strengthened with all power according to your glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to you, Father, who have qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

— Kim Cash Tate, author & singer/songwriter

14. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)

What right have I, Gentile sinner that I am, to take hold of the boldness of Bartimaeus? I have no natural claim to the Jewish king, even less a moral one. Still, the blind man’s example has always injected courage into my own heart—like an adrenaline shot to my chest, saving my life through violence.

Jesus, by submitting his body to brutality, by allowing his flesh to be torn, tore down that dividing wall of hostility. He became our peace, grafting Gentiles in where we had no root and creating in himself one new man out of two. To Bartimaeus’s call, Jesus answered, “What do you want me to do for you?” He showed mercy.

Before I even knew to call, while I was still dead in my sins, he showed mercy. This king stops for sinners, therefore I pray boldly.

—Rachel Gilson, director of theological development for Cru northeast

15. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

I’m so unlike the man who prayed this prayer. I’m 2,000 years past his time and 5,000 miles from where he prayed. I’m not a murderer or a thief. I’m not stuck naked and bleeding on a cross, my life slow-draining in the scorching sun. And yet his prayer both shames and inspires my own.

It’s a desperate prayer of faith from a man who looks for all the world like he’s lost, a prayer of hope against all hope that Jesus really is the King—not just for a time, but for all time; not just of one life, but of life itself. As others mocked the crucified “King of the Jews,” this man asked for a place in his kingdom. And he got it: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).




—Rebecca McLaughlin, author of Confronting Christianity

















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

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2019, 04:41:49 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/january/hhs-division-conscience-protections-prolife-abortion-trump.html





New HHS Rule Protects Pro-Life Health Care Workers





UPDATE: Under Trump, federal policy keeps shifting away from abortion rights in favor of religious conscience protections.

 
Update (May 2): A year after establishing a new division to safeguard health care workers’ freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, the Trump Administration has formalized protections for those who decline to participate in certain medical treatments like abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide due to their faith or moral convictions.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed the new rule last January (see below) and issued a final version in a 440-page document on Thursday. The policy is meant to provide stronger protections and more guidance around enforcing conscience protections passed by Congress, according to HHS.

“This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life,” said Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights and former legal council with the religious liberty group Becket Fund. “Protecting conscience and religious freedom not only fosters greater diversity in healthcare, it’s the law.”

This updated policy represents a major religious freedom victory, particularly for pro-life evangelicals who fear being forced to violate their conscience on the issue of abortion.

In a Barna Group survey released last month, the issue of “religious hospitals being required to perform abortions and other services they deem to violate their religious convictions” was US faith leaders’ top religious freedom concern (71% deeming it a “major or extreme” threat). A majority also worried about “religious organizations being required to provide healthcare options they object to” (64%) and “religious owners of businesses being required to provide healthcare options they object to” (61%).

-----

Original post (“New HHS Division Defends Pro-Life Health Care Workers,” January 18, 2018): Ahead of Friday’s annual March for Life, pro-life Christians celebrated new federal protections for health care workers who decline to administer procedures such as abortion, sterilization, or euthanasia on religious or moral grounds.

The Trump administration announced a new division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) dedicated to hearing complaints from those who face discrimination for refusal to accommodate services that violate their beliefs.

The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the existing Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforces existing laws designed to protect conscience rights, including new provisions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that specifically allow providers and insurers to decline abortions and assisted suicide.

Thursday’s announcement continues the administration’s efforts to beef up federal protections for religious liberty, as President Trump laid out in a May 2017 executive order. In contrast, the Obama administration had rescinded conscience protections for health care workers, despite pushback from religious leaders.

“President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” said acting HHS secretary Eric Hargan. “That promise is being kept today. The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free, and OCR’s new division will help make that vision a reality.”

Evangelicals fighting for religious liberty have tried to resist efforts to confine expressions of faith to within church walls, and have pushed for greater protections for their beliefs in the workplace and public life—particularly when it comes to increasingly unpopular ones around LGBT and life issues.

“It’s not the ability to have a religion and practice it in your house of worship; it’s the ability to have a faith and practice your faith wherever you are,” said Sen. James Lankford, a Baptist from Oklahoma who introduced a 2017 bill defending conscience protections.

“There is a long tradition of providing this protection—especially in the abortion context—and that tradition was, until very recently, a bipartisan one,” according to Richard W. Garnett, professor at Notre Dame Law School.

“To me, there should be nothing particularly surprising or troubling about an administration—this one or any other—deciding that the civil rights [office] should allocate resources to make those protections meaningful.”

OCR is already tasked with enforcing several nondiscrimination and conscience protection statutes, including the Church, Coats-Snowe, and Weldon amendments. But the new division indicates that such cases will take greater priority under Trump.

“Unlike the administration’s useless gestures around the Johnson Amendment, these regulations signal meaningful enforcement of existing protections for religious liberty,” said John Inazu, a law professor at Washington University and a First Amendment expert.

“But it’s important to remember that this emphasis is merely executive branch policy that can—and in all likelihood, will—be narrowed or reversed by a subsequent administration.”

Already, the conscience division has drawn criticism from civil groups concerned that the protections will be used as a license to discriminate, particularly against gay or transgender patients, as well as from abortion rights groups.

Everett Piper—the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, which sued the federal government over the ACA birth control mandate—and Montse Alvarado—executive director of Becket, a leading religious liberty law firm which represented the Little Sisters of the Poor in their contraceptive fight—spoke at the HHS announcement and applauded the new office, as did Jewish and Muslim representatives.

“I just want to say how good it is to be here thanking [HHS and OCR] rather than suing them,” Piper quipped.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also applauded the move.

“I am thankful that HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena, and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction,” he said in a statement. “Health care professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound.”

In recent years, Christian pharmacists have fought in court for their right to decline to dispense emergency contraception. A 2015 case in Washington ruled against pharmacists who refused to carry the drugs; however, state law allows that “an individual pharmacist with religious objections may refuse to fill the prescription if another pharmacist working for the pharmacy does so.”

Prior to the new division, the Trump administration had appointed multiple pro-life advocates to positions of leadership within HHS, including former Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest and former National Right to Life lobbyist Teresa Manning, who reportedly stepped down last week.



















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2019, 10:46:46 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may/brazil-amazon-remote-tribe-missionaries-paumari.html




We Set Off to Reach a Remote Tribe in the Amazon. Turns Out, They Were Waiting for Us.







As young Brazilian missionaries, we learned to depend on God and the people we journeyed to reach.

 
Editor’s Note: Last year, John Allen Chau’s fatal mission to India’s North Sentinel Island, home to the world’s most isolated tribe, spurred new conversations about Christians making first contact with indigenous people. A majority of uncontacted and remote tribes remain in the Amazon jungles of Brazil, where for decades missionaries such as Braulia Ribeiro have stepped out to meet them and live among them—hoping to help improve their conditions while supporting their autonomy against the growing threat of government interventions. Here, she shares about her first mission to a remote tribe.

In the Paumarí tribe, in the Amazon region of Brazil, most of the Paumarí people hated to be Paumarí.

They thought the best thing on earth was to become a “Jará,” the term for all those who had the fortune of not having been born in that tiny indigenous tribe, not having been brought up in their “primitive” language.

The name Jará designated any non-Paumarí person, any outsider. For the Paumarí, the majority of the Jará they saw were Brazilians who lived along the river. The Jará image was especially personified by the Brazilians who lived in the micro-village a day and a half away from the Paumarí lake or the drunk merchants who sold them overpriced merchandise.

Most Brazilian river dwellers, themselves subsistence agriculturalists, were just as isolated and as impoverished as the Paumarí. They had no access to school, health care, or way of living for themselves or their offspring. Yet all the Jará the Paumarí knew had one thing in common: They considered themselves superior to the Indians, whom they saw as people of strange costumes who could not even speak an understandable language.

The name the Paumarí call themselves originally indicated the beauty and the perfection the group saw in themselves, and Jará used to be a derogatory word, a synonym for “non-Paumarí” that essentially came to mean “non-human.” After many decades of contact with other Brazilians, the meanings were inverted. To be called Jará became praise. The once-beautiful Paumarí started to see themselves as incapable and dirty, in the same way the outsiders did.

In 1983, I was part of a team of Brazilian young people going to plant a mission station among the Paumarí. There were four of us: José and Frances, a young couple born and raised in the Amazon, experienced in canoes and fishing; Eustáquio, a 20-something tall black guy with an afro; and me, just 19 years old. Both Eustáquio and I were from the same big city in the urban south, newcomers to the immense mystery of the Amazon.

It was our very first missionary expedition. I was chosen to be a part of this trip to help the team start learning the Paumarí language. I had gone through some training with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), where this tribe’s language had been analyzed by two female translators who spent more than 20 years in another very remote Paumarí village upriver.





From the city of Manaus in northwestern Brazil, we traveled for five days on a small transport-line boat to reach the last post, Lábrea, a little town situated in the middle of the jungle. From Lábrea to a small river where the Paumarí were, there were no transport boats available. We would have to hire a private boat to take us there. The trip was estimated to take up to another week by boat, plus one more day paddling a small canoe to reach Maniçoã Lake where the floating Paumarí village was. We would be the first missionaries to reach this particular village.

The only money our little team had left was a few hundred dollars we put aside to buy supplies and food to stay in the jungle for three months. It was not much. We would be able to buy some kerosene for lamps, batteries for flashlights, and some rice and beans—the Brazilian staple—to make sure we would not starve.

“What do we do, Lord? Should we just stay here waiting?” As good new-convert Pentecostals, we asked God for direction. I felt that I had received a verse from the Scriptures as an answer from God. When I looked the verse up, it said, “he went away and sold everything he had” (Matt. 13:46). What could that possibly mean? We all asked ourselves. I felt, however, a cold tinge in my spine. Is God saying that we have to use all our money to pay for the boat ride?

And that was exactly how things went.

We waited a few days before we commissioned the owner of the smallest boat we could find, a wooden boat with no walls, no bathroom, no kitchen—just a four-horsepower diesel engine. The price he charged to take us to that distant village and back to Lábrea amounted to the exact figure we’d saved.

As “good” missionaries we understood we had no excuse to reject the offer. We had to obey the exact order we had received. We hired the small boat and set off with food for only the short trip, no kerosene, a few batteries, and hooks for fishing. It was a five-day trip on the slow boat to the mouth of the Cunhuá River, and from there we found a man with a large canoe that was available to take us to Maniçoã Lake to find the floating village.

Arriving at the Paumarí lake was like a surreal dream. To reach to the lake from the river we had to go upstream on a little tributary to get to a várzea forest inundated by waters black like Coca-Cola. After several hours of paddling through the flooded jungle, we finally entered the vast expansion of water of the lake. It was like finding a magical world.

The Paumarí live half the year hiding on the lake margins at the foot of the “dry-land,” the non-floodable part of the forest, and the other half in shacks built on the top of giant floating trees. When we arrived, the afternoon sunlight reflected on the dried palm leaves of Paumarí huts, making everything look silver against the black waters and deep green trees. We felt like we had bought a treasure for a few hundred dollars. If everything went well, we were going to get to live in this paradise.

We got off of the canoe in front of the first hut, into a sort of wooden dock on the water. The Paumarí dry-land huts are tall, skinny structures made by palm tree trunks, rising 10 or 12 feet above the ground. They have no walls, only a palm tree floor and a thin thatch roof.

“Ivaniti?”—Is that you?—I shouted from the land. An old woman answered me from the top, “Ha’ã hovani!”—Yes, it’s me!—not even seeming to find it strange to see me speaking her language, trying out the basic phrases I acquired from the SIL linguists.

We all climbed up to the hut and sat ceremoniously on the shiny floor made of paxiúba, the palm tree used for most of their constructions. The old lady continued the conversation as if she knew me: “You came a long way. Are you tired? Have you eaten? There is fried fish,” etc. “Yes, we did. No, we haven’t. We’re fine. Happy to have arrived after the lengthy trip.” We felt like we were home.

After a good hour of conversation about the trip and our general well being, she asked who we were related to or what we were there to do, questions that are impolite to ask at the moment of arrival.

“We are missionaries,” I said in my broken Paumarí. “We want to help you to know Jesus, the Son of God, and if you want, we can also help to set up a school to teach everyone to read.” The lady looked at me with a puzzled expression and started shouting for her grandson, Danilo. “Come over, Danilo. The missionaries have arrived. Take them to their home.”

“Our home?” I asked. She pointed to an empty tall hut nearby. “Danilo and I built this hut two summers ago, preparing for your arrival. We heard in the radio about the Creator God, and how his Son, Jesus, wants to help us. I said, ‘If that is true, he will send us his people.’ So we built the hut for you.”

We were placed “home,” and from that day on, we were fed with abundant fish, manioc flour, and jungle fruits. For the whole six months we stayed with the Paumarí we were well taken care of, never needing a cent of the money we applied to renting the boat to get there. We had nothing to offer them except ourselves, and that was all they needed at that point in their history.




With the help of the village, we built a high-hanging hut like all the other ones at the foot of the dry-land to function as the school for the Paumarí children during the day and the adults at night, teaching them to read and write in their own language. We had brought medication, first-aid supplies, and the book Where There is No Doctor, so we also opened a sort of humble clinic to help meet basic health care needs and serve fellow families living along the river that needed malaria medication.

Eventually, the adults learned better mathematics and could avoid being swindled by merchants. Did we end up solving the systemic problems that kept the Paumarí and river people below the poverty line? I don’t think so. They are still poor. After a few years, we were able to buy some food, medication, and a boat, but the mission itself was inefficient at meeting their needs.

We did, however, transform the way the Paumarí looked at outsiders. They saw us as the missionaries they had built a hut for and sustained with daily fish rations. We became their very own Jará, smart city people who somehow depended on the “inferior” Paumarí for survival.

The fact that they had to support our group provided the entire village with a sense of dignity and value. They were not the poor receivers of aid; their relationship with us was equal, and the dependency was mutual.

They began to see being Paumarí as a point of pride again. Their language gained prestige because foreigners studied it, taught it in schools, preserved it in books. To this day, the Maniçoã Paumarí in the village we visited speak their mother tongue. And by God’s grace, they are a productive Christian community who escaped the toxic self-hatred that suffocates many other indigenous villages along the Purus River. After all, they had their own set of pet missionaries that they housed and fed, and no other village on the entire river had the same privilege.






Braulia Ribeiro is a Brazilian scholar and a married mom of three with an MA in ethnolinguistics from the Federal University of Rondônia and an MDiv from Yale Divinity School.



















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2019, 10:31:09 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/may/developing-effective-partnerships-with-christian-organizati.html





Developing Effective Partnerships with Christian Organizations





Six practical steps to help bolster partnerships in the kingdom of God.

 
A phrase that gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles is “let’s partner together.”

Sometimes, tasks and projects are too much for one person, church, or organization. Since no one wants or has the time to reinvent the wheel, why not maximize on each other’s strengths and knowledge?

But we all know that is easier said than done.

Once you sit down together to work through what needs to get done, the how can get tricky. In business, partners are motivated by a mutual desire to make money. In ministry, the motivation may appear to the same, but with differences in theology and leadership qualities, many times a partnership is not viable.

So the question becomes: How does one create partnerships within Christian ministries resulting in collective work for the gospel?

Here are some thoughts and lessons I have learned that have helped me.

1 – Assess if you trust the person

This is one of the most important questions, I think. I firmly believe that as believers we are called to “love” everyone, but honestly, we do not get along with or like everyone. If personalities clash from the get-go, or if you don’t trust the other party, there cannot be a successful partnership.

I know what personalities don’t jive with mine and what traits bother me. Therefore, when I meet potential partners, those are red flags that I look for and then avoid.

Trust is huge! You must be able to trust the persons with whom you are partnering. Once trust is lost, regardless of the reason, a long-term partnership seems dim. It has happened to me with even reputable Christian organizations.


Ultimately, lasting partnerships happen when you know the other party will come through with what they say and promise to carry out. With no trust or broken trust, both parties lose out in the end.

2 – Evaluate working styles

How does the partner work and get things done? Are they more collaborative or more independent?

This was a question I was asking myself during a breakfast meeting with a church pastor. I realized that we were never on the same page or were having a hard time communicating with each other. He likes meeting in groups and making decisions collectively as a group. While I see the benefits of being in a group, I tend to rely on my co-workers to work independently and make necessary decisions accordingly. I like to play off peoples’ strengths and I believe that too many meetings are unproductive and can hinder productivity.

It is better to know from the beginning than realize later on that your working styles are different. By knowing whether you can accommodate each other’s working style, you minimize the chance of jeopardizing the relationship or the project’s end goal.

3 – Listen, Listen, Listen

As much as it is good to get your goals across for a project, it is sometimes more important to hear the other party’s goals and motivation. A genuine partnership forms when both parties share a common vision. Forcing a partnership with different visions or objectives is a recipe for disaster. More time may be spent trying to get your point across than working together.

Synergy is important. By listening, you can better understand the other’s goals and manage expectations. It’s important to take the time out to find a mutual vision that works for both parties. Trust can be built that way and there will be less room for misunderstandings and miscommunication.

4 – Create win-win partnerships

If you get beyond my first three points, then creating a win-win partnership should be simple. Understanding and agreeing to mutually help each other achieve a win results in a successful partnership. That can only happen when both sides believe in each other’s mission.

A one-sided partnership will not survive in the long term no matter how much money may be exchanged. At some point, frustration or a sense of unfairness can settle in and eventually destroy the partnership, in which case both sides lose. Of course, there has to be some give and take and room for grace, but that can only happen if the visions are believed mutually to be from God.

5 – Tackle the hard conversations in the beginning

Talking about money and expectations can be weird and awkward, but it’s necessary in partnerships. It is better to be upfront and clear from the get-go to avoid issues later. Many issues can be avoided by clearly stating what is expected for what price.

As an Asian, I hate talking about money. I still feel uncomfortable talking about it but have learned from past experiences that it is worse if I don’t. If there is a disagreement about money or expectations from the beginning, then a partnership may not be the best thing and future conflicts can be avoided all together.

6 – Invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of the partnership

Last, trust the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is and should be involved in all parts of ministry work. I try to always listen to the Holy Spirit, especially when I am dealing with other partners. I need guidance and I want to see things from his perspective and not just mine.

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit will place a burden about a vision or ask for me to hold off on a project. When that happens, I share that with my partners and respected mentors for accountability. It is not always about what is best for the ministry I am working for; it is always about the ministry God has called all of us to participate in.

I will continue to make mistakes, but I will strive to pray and listen more, believing that God will guide my ways. My trust in God grows more everyday as I see his work being done in my ministries as well as those around me.









Tommy Lee is the founder of CreatePossible. Previously, he served as Special Assistant to the President at Moody Bible Institute, bringing new life to their conferences, publishing, and radio entities. Prior to his work in the non-profit sector, he was a consultant with FMHC Corporation and project manager with American Tower, where he was recognized as employee of the year. In addition to overseeing CreatePossible’s operations, Tommy specializes in developing sponsorships and private donor relationships.





















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2019, 02:35:43 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/may/burkina-faso-church-attack-dablo-catholic-mass-terrorism.html







Another Sunday Church Attack in Burkina Faso Kills Six





This time, terrorists interrupted a Catholic Mass in Dablo, separated men from women and children, and murdered the priest and five worshipers.

 
For the second time since Easter, a church in northern Burkina Faso has suffered a terrorism attack during Sunday services.

This time, the target was a Catholic church in Dablo, where the priest and five worshipers were killed. This prompted a series of déjà vu headlines among global media outlets as it matches last month’s attack on an Assemblies of God church in Sirgadji, where the pastor and five worshipers were killed.

The assailiants again arrived on motorcycles and interrupted morning Mass. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee,” said mayor Ousmane Zongo, reported Agence-France Presse (AFP).

They “ordered the women and children to clear the scene before executing six men, including the priest,” reported the Burkina Information Agency. They then set fire to the church and nearby buildings.

Burkina Faso suffered 136 violent incidents linked to jihadists in 2018, up from 24 in 2017 according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The Vatican’s news service noted in March how the killing and kidnapping of priests and other Catholic workers was on the rise in West Africa.

The nation’s Catholic bishops had asked congregants to spend the month of February praying for “peace and cohension,” reported Crux. The bishops stated at their January meeting that mounting violence was “revealing of a social thread that has been weakened, despite the legendary tradition of living together among all the social components of the Burkinabe nation.”

CT reported last month how the Assemblies of God was reeling from the “new turning point in terrorism” in the landocked West African nation.

“It’s not only the church of Sirgadji that has been attacked; all the values of tolerance, forgiveness, and love that have always led our country have been hurt,” said Henri Yé, president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches and Missions in Burkina Faso (FEME), in an April 30 statement. “The freedom of worship consecrated by our fundamental law [the Constitution] has been flouted.”

“In the face of blind hatred, let us ask God to give us the strength to spread love, which makes us the children of God,” stated Yé. “The unity of the body of Christ and of the whole nation must be preserved at all costs.”




[CT has queried church leaders for more information. This post will be updated.]
















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2019, 12:19:19 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may/stephen-mary-lowe-ecologies-faith-digital-age.html






With All Your Heart, Soul, Wi-Fi, and Websites







Stephen Lowe offers a biblical defense of online spiritual formation.

 
Over the course of 30 years, the internet has inundated our lives, changing the way we access information, discover music, and shop for groceries. But has it also added a new medium for spiritual transformation?

Stephen and Mary Lowe address this question in Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age: Spiritual Growth through Online Education. For over two decades, the Lowes have witnessed the evolution of online education as they helped launch Erskine Theological Seminary’s first online program in the late ’90s. In 2015, the Lowes left Erskine to share their expertise with the Rawlings School of Divinity at Liberty University, where Stephen now serves as the graduate chair of doctoral programs and Mary as the associate dean for online programs. The Lowes believe an interconnected view of ecologies can provide clarity—and hope—to those who remain skeptical of the transformative power of disembodied words.

Mark Galli, CT editor in chief, recently spoke with Stephen about his experience in online Christian higher education and how it can also be a tool for spiritual formation.

In thinking about forming spiritual lives or spiritual growth, what do you mean when you use the term spiritual formation?

Spiritual formation has to do with whole-person transformation into the fullness of Christ—borrowing that language from Paul in Ephesians 4. It’s a combination of this vertical connection that we have to Christ and the Spirit and the horizontal connection we have to other members of the body of Christ. Those all work together to form us individually and corporately into this image of Christ in all of its fullness and beauty.

So for you, spiritual formation has a corporate texture, not just an individual one.

One of the weaknesses of the traditional approach to spiritual formation is that it has focused almost exclusively on an individual relationship with Jesus and an interior spiritual formation through the use of spiritual disciplines. We think that is certainly necessary, but it isn’t sufficient to bring about whole-person transformation. The New Testament teaches that in addition to that relationship, iron sharpens iron—one person sharpens another—in those reciprocal relationships between members of the body of Christ as we encourage one another and promote one another’s spiritual growth and development. And that’s the missing piece.

What do you mean by ecologies?

We’re using it in the broadest possible way to think about the relationship between the individual and the larger context or setting or environment—or ecology—in which they exist. It balances that individual and community perspective, in that there are innate capacities that an organism has to foster its growth, but it cannot achieve full growth and maturity by itself. It can’t disconnect from the environment. There are nutrients and resources in that environment that it needs, and it shares its own with the other members of that ecology.

That’s how the writers of Scripture come at this issue of spiritual formation, or growth in righteousness. The language all seems to be drawn from creation, from nature—all of which we call under the umbrella of ecology. They use all this language to describe and illustrate spiritual growth in one form or another. It’s all the larger picture of growth in that growth in God’s universe is always ecological growth, no matter where you look.

Did you intentionally not use the more familiar language of communities here?

The problem that church leaders or Christian education leaders confront today is that they’re ministering in the digital age, but they’re using an analog model of spiritual formation. Their idea of community is individually oriented and place-based—there has to be a physical component, a face-to-face component, in order to be nourished. Our argument is that the Spirit of God isn’t limited to those environments.

If we really believe, as the Apostle’s Creed does, in the communion of saints and this notion of the spiritual household of God that Peter talks about, the household of faith that Paul talks about—these are concepts that embrace all realities, all experiences, whether we’re talking about physical or digital. The Holy Spirit can operate in any of those in the communion of saints in the body of Christ in the Spirit of God. All of these function in an interactive way regardless of the environment to bring about whole person transformation into the fullness of Christ. And ecology captures that better than any other term.

Why do you believe ecologies are central to spiritual formation?

It’s the way God’s made the universe to function. The “fear of the Lord” is an idiomatic expression that refers to submitting yourself to the way in which God has designed the world to function—socially, physically, spiritually, in every way. There is a set pattern to how things grow in God’s creation, and the way God has designed things to grow is ecologically. He wants things to grow through interconnections, through interactions, through the sharing of resources and nutrients, and all of that interactivity and interconnectedness produces beneficial outcomes for all the connected elements of that ecosystem.

So one’s ecology includes a much greater context than one’s community?

That’s right. All the different elements we tend to overlook or downplay we need to include in our understanding of what God is using to contribute to our formation. If we begin to take a zoomed out view of that, the language that helps us describe that is the oikos language, the ecology language. That’s why Ernst Haeckel, when he coined the notion of ecology, borrowed it from the Greek language, because originally it had to do with that household of the earth. And that original notion of some kind of a big picture view, how everything is connected and everything contributes to the whole, is why we like that ecological language.

Is there one ecology that is particularly important for Christian spiritual formation?

The most critical one is the ecology of family. That ecological environment is where the nitty-gritty work of spiritual formation should begin. It is a model we see in Deuteronomy 6 when Moses describes to the Jewish parents how they can pass on their faith to the next generation. It has all these different elements: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile. All these different parts of the family experience that he encourages parents to use to form their children spiritually.

How do you respond to someone who says you are making an idol of the family when the church is the new family of God?

The consistent pattern from Old Testament to New Testament is that the sphere of the family environment is where a lot of this basic work of formation is first introduced to children. Especially the Old Testament pattern shows the centrality of that environment that is ultimately preparing them to be members of a larger community. The tribe of household prepares the Jewish child for membership in the larger tribe or nation. In the same way, the cultivation of spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation in the Christian home prepares that child for effective ministry and contribution to the larger body of Christ, whether that’s in a local church setting, in some form of ministry, or in the wider church. There’s a relationship between those two. You can’t have one without the other.

Many argue that discipleship cannot occur without bodily interactions, yet you say the disembodied digital world still holds the potential for spiritual transformation.
How is that possible?

Paul had a spiritual relationship to his church, and he was able to present himself physically, to have a bodily presence in the community through the writing and reading of letters. Colossians 2:5 says, “For even though I’m absent in the body, nevertheless I’m with you in spirit.” This whole notion of apostolic parousia is part of the scholarly discussion of the New Testament. Parousia deals with the appearance and the coming of Jesus; the appearance of Paul in the locale has to do with his parousia. So apostolic parousia in the scholarly discussion has to do with both his physical presence and his spiritual presence in a congregation.

Paul thinks that he can affect the spiritual growth of the folks who are in his churches both through his physical presence with them and through the letters. He expects that the words are going to have a spiritual impact on them—that they’ll be encouraged by his words, that they’ll be formed by his words, and that the combination of those have a total effect on the people he’s trying to transform to the image of Christ.

So you believe the classic idea of “the communion of saints” plays into all this.

That’s exactly what is happening in the gathering together of the physical body of Christ in a specific location—while we are gathered physically, there is a spiritual communion of the saints gathering with us. This is a highly dynamic understanding of this relationship between physical and spiritual that you’d find in the Passover celebration of the Old Testament and in the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The folks who were participating in future celebrations of the Passover were doing so as if they were experiencing the Passover themselves for the first time. And the same is happening in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We are experiencing firsthand the death, resurrection, and the later coming of Christ in that celebration, and we anticipate that by the things that transpire here. To me, that’s a much more biblical and theologically sound way of thinking about it than the typical criticisms that have been made of online education as non-incarnational and disembodied.

Do you believe spiritual formation should be an overt goal of online education, or is it simply a byproduct of studying Christian material or material from a Christian perspective?

We believe it’s the latter, and we arrived at that because of how Jesus talks about it in his nature parables. In Mark 4:26–29, Jesus is relaying the parable of the sower. This farmer goes out and he sows his seed, and then Jesus says he goes to sleep. He gets up and does not understand how the grain has grown. But when it is ripe, he puts in the sickle and reaps the harvest. And that’s kind of how the spiritual ecology of the kingdom and the church work.

There are certain things that we have to do as God’s people. We’ve got to sow the seed, and we have to reap the harvest. But in between that growth process is something that the Lord does. God causes that to grow. That’s what Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” We do our part to create the environment—prepare the soil, plant the seed, do the watering—but in the end, the growth comes because the Spirit of God is working through and in all of those connections and interactions that produce the ultimate outcome of a bountiful harvest.

How would you respond to those who argue that you’re encouraging people to spend more time online instead of learning how to be with each other?

We’re not necessarily advocating that they do anything digitally. But in your model of spiritual formation you have to allow for all the possibilities of where that can occur. It may be you want nothing to do with online. That’s fine, but don’t say that is true then for every other person in the body of Christ. It may be that there are places where people can carry out their gifts and callings in that environment connected to things they’re doing physically.

One of the researchers I read made a compelling argument about teenagers. As the study focused on their digital media habits, she concluded that teenagers are not addicted to technology—they’re addicted to one another. Through the digital environment, they can be connected to one another without adult supervision. This allows them to create their own adolescent culture without having adults interfering. Technology is a means for them to connect with each other, and when they are together, they put the devices aside. The researcher also attended a Friday night football game, and she said at the game there weren’t any devices out. They were in the stands, being students, interacting with one another in a face-to-face environment and cheering their team on.

If an institution, whether school or local church, were to try to create an online ecology, what would it need to produce spiritual growth?

Every ecology has to have two critical ingredients, whether it’s a natural, social, or spiritual ecology: You have to have interconnections and interaction. Everything in a natural ecosystem is organically connected to everything else. Quantum physicists have demonstrated to us that everything in the universe is connected to everything else. But those connections aren’t any good to the different elements of the ecosystem if they’re not doing something with them, if there isn’t something transpiring between those connections.

And the same is true in the spiritual ecology of the church. Simply because we gather together on a Sunday morning, we’re in the same locality, we have that connection, but that’s not enough. You also need interactions that transpire between those connections so that spiritual nutrients are spread and growth occurs.

What are concrete examples of interactions in the local church, for example?

You can do those any number of ways. You have all kinds of digital platforms and applications to make connections and interactions. You can do that through blogging, tweets, Facebook, and environments that you have embedded in a webpage for a local church. You can do it through emails, phone calls, text messaging. And through those you are communicating God’s Word. You are praying for one another. You’re sharing your life stories, your experiences. It is a rich environment only limited by our own creativity.

What are the major cautions churches or schools need to be aware of in trying to make use of digital platforms for spiritual growth?

Everything has to be grounded in the Scripture. Pay attention to the text of Scripture, and be faithful in your interpretation of those texts and drawing out implications and applications from them to the world in which we’re living. As long as we stay tied to the Scriptures, where we’re recognizing that what we are doing is something that is laid out for us if not in reality at least in principle, to me that is where the strength of any of these approaches comes from. And as long as we stay tied to that, it keeps us from going off the rails.















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2019, 12:48:50 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/tony-reinke-competing-spectacles-media-age.html





The Call to Self-Discipline in a Media-Saturated Age








Our society is addicted to spectacle. How do we keep our eyes are fixed on Christ?

 
According to research released last summer by The Nielsen Company, American adults spend an average of 11 hours, or almost half of each day, consuming some form of media. From the moment we wake up (and instinctively check our phones), through our daily commutes (with radios or podcasts humming in the background), to the end of the day (when we binge on Netflix), we live those statistics day in and day out. According to Nielsen’s numbers, we spend more time consuming media than eating, sleeping, or any other activity.

With so much of our lives revolving around media consumption, it behooves us to develop what Tony Reinke, in his new book Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age, calls “a theology of visual culture.” Reinke, a senior writer for Desiring God and author of another tech-focused book (12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You), has emerged as a prophetic voice, one crying out in our digital wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” In Competing Spectacles, he asks an urgent question: “In this age of spectacles ... how do we spiritually thrive?”

Aching to Be Awed


Reinke’s answer forms the basis of his book, which works anecdotally through various forms of spectacle that are common today. He proves a skillful cultural exegete, making observations about everyday spectacles and spectacle-makers that few of us have the eye to catch.

For Reinke, a spectacle is “a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment. A spectacle is something that captures human attention.” He gives particular attention to the spectacles generated by social media, politics, television, and pornography, among others. Along the way, he opens fascinating windows onto our culture’s addiction to spectacle, such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’s claim that his company’s biggest competitor is sleep. From Scripture, too, Reinke draws thought-provoking examples, including the story of David on the rooftop watching Bathsheba. This, Reinke states, “is a prototype for all digital pornography: a woman before the eyes of an unseen man.”

None of this means, however, that spectacle is inherently bad. As Reinke observes, human beings are “hardwired with an unquenchable appetite to see glory.” The problem with spectacles, then, is not that we crave them but that we look for glory in all the wrong places. Reinke cites a tweet from John Piper that expresses this reality well: “The world aches to be awed. That ache was made for God. The world seeks it mainly through movies.”

The week I read Competing Spectacles coincided with the release of Avengers: Endgame, the movie spectacle of the decade. Endgame shattered box office records, hauling in $357 million during its opening weekend in the US and capturing another $500 million in its first week and a half in China. It inspired more tweets than any movie before, surpassing Black Panther. In an odd but telling story, a South Korean soldier reportedly went AWOL in order to catch a screening. These metrics seem to confirm Reinke’s hypothesis, that in our quest to quench our thirst for glory, we are quicker to turn to the empty cistern of Hollywood than to the fountain of living water found in Christ.

Reinke affirms that Christ is the ultimate spectacle, the only one worthy of our undivided attention. He writes,

Christ was not merely made a spectacle on the cross; the cross became a shorthand reference for everything glorious about Christ—his work as creator and sustainer of all things, his incarnation, his life, his words, his obedience, his miracles, his shunning, his beatings, his crucifixion, his wrath bearing, his resurrection from the grave, his heavenly ascension, his kingly coronation, and his eternal priesthood—all of his glory is subsumed into his heavenly spectacle.

When we seek out glory in the passing spectacles of this world rather than in Christ, the culprit isn’t an ever-expanding buffet of shallow entertainments; our own sinful hearts are to blame. Adam and Eve didn’t have an endless selection of forbidden fruits tempting them to reject their Maker; they only needed one. And our spectacle-craving eyes have been looking elsewhere ever since. From ancient idols to the CGI-infused movies of today, people have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:23).

Reinke wisely shuns the idea of digital asceticism as a solution to our hyper-connectedness, in part because spectacle is so unavoidable in our age. But the more important reason mirrors Paul’s warning to the Colossians about captivity to “merely human commands and teachings” (2:22). Rules like “Do not watch,” “Do not stream,” and “Do not surf” are just that: rules, made by fallen human beings, and likely administered not by grace-filled hearts but by digital pharisees all too eager to accuse and condemn. Instead, Reinke provides 10 practical principles for anyone seeking to engage our visual culture in Christ-honoring ways.

When to Push Back?
Competing Spectacles, then, is not a call to give up social media or renounce our visual culture but a call to self-discipline. Reinke alludes to the early Christians who fought to abolish the Roman blood-sport industry, as well as the Puritans, centuries later, who were involved in shutting down the theaters of London. But Reinke doesn’t call Christians today to any equivalent form of protest or activism. By his own admission, Competing Spectacles is geared more toward developing a theology that helps believers think through these issues on a personal level.

But the question does remain: At what point should Christians begin considering how to push back against the spectacle industry? Take pornography, for example. While Reinke urges us to reclaim the category of sins of the eye, he doesn’t call upon Christians to work toward toppling the porn industry as a whole.

Another issue left unresolved, perhaps because it lies outside the scope of the book, is the extent to which Christians should involve themselves in the making of spectacles. Reinke touches on the debate over churches using spectacle as an aid to worship, but many other questions come to mind. If, in fact, Christians should participate in spectacle-creation at all, should they limit themselves to creating spectacles that carry a Christian message? Or does their involvement simply worsen the problem by layering more diversion atop a society already drowning in it?

In our day and age, it’s a safe bet that American media consumption patterns will keep climbing upward. After all, the already staggering 11-hour-per-day figure cited by The Nielsen Company represents a 1.5-hour jump from just four years ago. Where will we be in another four years? In another 10? Competing Spectacles can’t predict this future, but Reinke’s theological framework leaves us better prepared to sort our way through the noise and fanfare—and fix our gaze on the immeasurably greater glory to come.









John Thomas is a cross-cultural Christian worker living and serving in ministry in Central Asia with his wife and their two children. He writes regularly at medium.com/soli-deo-gloria. You can follow him on Twitter @John_Thomas518.


















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2019, 11:57:52 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/what-jesus-didnt-do-miracles-faith-silence.html





Why Jesus Couldn’t Do Miracles in His Hometown











The lack of signs and wonders in Nazareth says more about Jesus than about people’s lack of faith.

 
Off the shores of the Philippines, a fisherman discovered a very large, misshapen pearl. It was not pretty. It looked more like an amoeba, with blobs and folds everywhere. He took the unusual find home and stowed it under his bed.

When he moved ten years later, he had no use for it, so he gave it to the local tourism office. It turned out to be the world’s largest pearl, with an estimated worth of roughly $100 million.

It’s easy to miss the value of something when it bears no resemblance to what we were thinking. Scripture tells us that the good news of the kingdom is like a priceless pearl (Matt. 13:45). But what if it doesn’t look like any pearl we’ve ever seen?

There’s a story in the gospels about a time in Jesus’ ministry when he returned to his boyhood stomping grounds of Nazareth. The reception was less than stellar, because he didn’t look like the hope anyone expected.

There’s no place like home


Mark tells us that Jesus and his disciples visited his hometown on a Sabbath. He went into the synagogue and started teaching in a way that stunned his listeners. People were shocked that this man they had known since childhood had the audacity to say the things he did, as if he had the authority and credentials to do so. It was offensive.

That reception impacted Christ’s work outside the synagogue:


Quote
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:5–6)

It’s a little jarring to read that Jesus was unable to perform any miracles that day. What happened? At face value, it sounds as if the people’s lack of faith was his kryptonite, as if it weakened him or robbed him of his power. The incident reads like a sad footnote to a day gone wrong, where Christ couldn’t do what he really wanted to do. Here is a cautionary tale against the dangers of unbelief.

Granted, faith is essential to the Christian life (Heb. 11:6). It’s difficult to receive anything from Christ if we don’t believe he can offer it in the first place. But is that all there is to this story? Is this nothing more than a warning about what happens when faith is subpar? If so, the unbelief of the people of Nazareth (or us) replaces Christ as the main character.

In the play Peter Pan, there’s a moment where audience members must clap their hands if they believe in fairies so that Tinkerbell will live. Her very existence hinges on the volume of the applause.

We can adopt a similar attitude toward Jesus, making his strength dependent on the strength of our faith. We become preoccupied with the sufficiency of our own belief, agonizing over the question: Do we have enough faith to make miracles happen? It puts Christ at the mercy of our commitment to him. And our unease increases as we step up the pressure to generate our own adequacy.

It is a subtle yet dangerous shift in our focus. As author Bryan Chapell puts it in his book The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach, when we are in that place, “Our faith is not so much in God as it is in the amount of belief we have conjured up to control him.”

In the very first verse of his gospel, Mark makes it clear that his writing has one theme: “Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Every line supports his contention that Jesus is the Messiah. The author stays singularly on topic throughout the entire book.

That includes this passage. Despite appearances, it is not primarily about followers and their role in making miracles happen: It’s about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And it is about his strength—not his weakness.

When Mark says Jesus “could not” perform any mighty works there, he isn’t suggesting the Lord was incapacitated in some way. As New Testament scholar William Lane makes clear in his commentary on Mark, the “could not” is one of principle more than power. Working miracles in the absence of faith was impossible because it would have directly contradicted Christ’s message.

No need for approval
In fact, Christ’s choice to do nothing in this story embodies a bigger truth. Instead of indicating failure, his inactivity told the world exactly who had arrived. Theologian P. T. Forsyth in The Cruciality of the Cross alludes to how the silence of Christ speaks volumes about his work. Similarly, the very lack of a dramatic display in Nazareth becomes a revelation of Jesus’ character.

Think for a moment about the people of Nazareth. They could not bring themselves to accept Jesus as the Son of God. The whole notion of him being special was offensive. It did not fit their understanding of the world.

And why would it? Important people have money. They have good looks, the right schooling, impressive resumes, connections to other influential individuals. Jesus was just a local boy no different than anyone else who had a sketchy origin story and a blue-collar skill set. Humanly speaking, he didn’t have the credentials to merit paying him much attention. Isaiah had spoken to this fact centuries earlier: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him ... and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:2–3).

In the face of that skepticism and outright hostility, Jesus chose not to do miracles. If I were in his shoes, I think I would have gone the opposite direction. Given my tendency to want everyone’s approval and acceptance, I would have thought, “Here’s an opportunity to win these people over. I must give them what they want. They don’t believe now, but if I do something impressive, it will convince them once and for all that I really am the Son of God.”

Praise God that Christ does not share my insecurity. People were always asking him for a sign, some evidence of his claims. It took tremendous inner strength to not act in an effort to prove himself. That strength came from being firmly grounded in the love and delight of his Father (Mark 1:11). His was the only assessment that counted, and he was thoroughly pleased with his Son before he had even begun his public ministry.

That unshakable love was the foundation that freed Christ from the compulsion to scramble after the crowd’s approval. He could stay focused on his singular mission without getting caught in the trap of satisfying everyone’s expectations. He came to save, not to sell.

Foreshadowing temptation
It is easy to convince ourselves that making the best impression on people is what will most serve the gospel. Our rationale is that the better we package the message, the more attractive Christ will be.

Yet our motivation for wanting to be spectacular can often be traced back to fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of not being enough. When those anxieties sit behind our efforts, we’re no longer living out of the reality that God loves us beyond measure and nothing can snatch us out of his hand.

Christ’s willingness to suffer the misunderstanding and rejection of his own people is not just some unfortunate byproduct of a day that should have gone differently. It is him revealing his character in a manner that far exceeded any validation he could offer through a miraculous display. Here is the Son of God, suffering injustice and bearing iniquity without defending himself. Here is the Lord of heaven willingly embracing helplessness. And we catch a glimpse of the Lamb who stood silent before his shearers (Isa. 53:7).

The temptation to be impressive in his hometown foreshadowed the temptation Christ faced during his trial and crucifixion. From Pilate to the priests to the disciples, everyone assumed that the best thing Jesus could do was to help himself not be crucified. That seemed like the obvious choice for anybody with the power at their disposal that Jesus claimed to have.

The religious leaders looked at him hanging on the cross and verbalized it directly: “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32).

Yet if he had listened to their logic and used their criteria for attempting to prove himself—miraculously getting down from the cross—he would have undermined the very core of his mission and disproved himself instead. The true demonstration of his power was the opposite of what everyone was wanting from him. He showed his strength by doing nothing, by staying right there on the cross. And it was his death, not a remarkable escape, that caused the centurion to say, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

Every miracle a gift
Kosuke Koyama wrote in Three Mile an Hour God, “Jesus Christ came. He walked towards the ‘full stop’. He lost his mobility. He was nailed down. … At this point of ‘full stop’, the apostolic church proclaims that the love of God to man is ultimately and fully revealed.”

We speak frequently of being crucified with Christ. What if this is what it looks like? Doing nothing and embracing our powerlessness. Not explaining or defending or proving ourselves. Being brought to a full stop where, as Brené Brown puts it, you “get clear on whose opinions of you matter.”

I don’t much like getting to full stop. When I reach the point of utter fatigue in ministry. When I am unfairly treated. When I am helpless to create change. It feels wrong. Where’s the victory? Where is the one who is fully capable of taking our breath away?

In the absence of miracles, a greater wonder emerges: a Savior who transforms my suffering by staying with me through it. Instead of bending to my demands for proof of his power, he enters the vacancies in far more redemptive ways.

I want to have a big faith that looks expectantly for the wine-making, disease-curing, water-walking Jesus. I want to live like everything is possible for the one who believes (Mark 9:23).

But it is good to know that Christ’s work is not all depending on me. His hands are not tied by disbelief. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Tim. 2:13). He is present in the silence of non-answers, true to himself regardless of my fluctuating trust.

Every magnificent miracle he graces us with is a gift worthy of celebration. May he also give us eyes to see and trust that even his inaction—maybe especially his inaction—reflects his full stop on the cross. Because it is only his acceptance of the grave that brings us the hope of the resurrection, the best miracle of all.





Jeff Peabody is a writer and senior pastor of New Day Church in Northeast Tacoma, Washington.














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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2019, 07:32:04 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/may/southern-baptists-acp-membership-baptism-decline-2018.html




Southern Baptists Down to Lowest in 30 Years




While giving is up, membership, baptism, and church numbers continued to drop in 2018.

 
A boost in giving—up to $11.8 billion total—and major church growth in Texas was not enough to fend off more than a decade of declines among the Southern Baptist Convention last year.

The nation’s biggest Protestant denomination isn’t as big as it used to be, according to its Annual Church Profile (ACP), released today. Membership fell to 14.8 million in 2018—its first time below 15 million since 1989 and the lowest it’s been since 1987.

“Facts are our friends, even when the facts themselves are unfriendly,” said new Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam Greenway. “Heartbreaking to see these ACP declines. We must do better as Southern Baptists. God help us.”

Compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources, the ACP is based on self-reported data from about three-fourths of SBC churches, so it’s not a comprehensive picture but is still used to capture overall trends in the denomination. For more than 10 years, the trajectory hasn’t looked good.

In 2018, baptisms dipped by 3 percent, not as dramatic as the previous year when they were down 9 percent. Overall, Southern Baptists’ namesake practice has reached a historic low of 246,000 baptisms a year—around how many people were dunked by the denomination back in the 1940s, when it was less than half its current size.

The slight increases in worship attendance and total number of churches in the previous report did not continue their turnaround in 2018. Attendance saw a tiny decline of 0.43 percent to 5.3 million weekly worshipers, and churches are down by 88 to 47,456.

Still, “four state conventions saw double-digit growth in the number of Southern Baptist congregations,” Baptist Press noted. “The Baptist General Convention of Texas added 44 congregations, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention grew by 31, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention added 22 congregations, and the SBC of Virginia grew by 20.”

The other major area of growth came in the offering plates, where giving grew for the second year in a row. Despite having fewer members and fewer churches, total church receipts were up by $82 million in 2018 to $11.8 billion. (These figures do not include giving to the SBC’s Cooperative Program.)

“I was encouraged by the slight increases in giving. I look forward to ongoing discussions about our generosity, and how our systems can best aid in effective partnership toward the Great Commission,” Greer said.



Since peaking in 2006, Southern Baptist membership has fallen by nearly 1.5 million, corresponding with a larger decline in Protestant identity along with the rise of the “nones.”

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said that the recent report shows “urgency is not an option.”

“It is time to press reset spiritually and strategically in the Southern Baptist Convention,” he told the Baptist Press. “Our generation of Baptists must believe and determine now that we will do whatever it takes to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”

Greear offered a similar call: “For the upcoming generation, our prayer should be to see an increase in evangelism, church planting and revitalization, and ultimately an end to decades of decline. First things must be first, not only in our declarations but especially in our demonstrations. I pray that our annual meeting in Birmingham will spur all of us to that end.”




The SBC will hold its annual denomination-wide gathering June 11–12.
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 - May 2019
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2019, 12:11:56 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/god-animals-evolution-of-beauty.html






Did God Endow All His Creatures with an Appreciation of Beauty?










When it seems the whole world suffers, animals are still offering praise.

 
There’s no shortage of ugliness in our world. A quick scan of today’s environmental headlines reveals any number of horrors: burnt-out Californian forests, flooded Midwestern plains. It’s hard to pause to appreciate the wildflowers in bloom when dead whales wash ashore with plastic-engorged stomachs on beaches all over the world.

Perhaps it helps to know that when we fail to see the beauty around us, other creatures don’t. Some scientists now believe that animals appreciate beauty for its own sake.

Usually, the first (and most common) purpose ascribed to beauty is its functionality. Beauty can alert us to healthfulness or the presence of fertility, a useful and vital role in producing healthy offspring. In this scientific view, beauty serves no other purpose than as a genetic signpost.

But another potential exists. Some scientists recently proposed that beauty in the natural world might sometimes exist just for aesthetic purposes. In his book The Evolution of Beauty, ornithologist Richard Prum suggests that some animals may appreciate beauty outside of any reproductive purposes and may choose mates based on an aesthetic sense alone, a phenomenon known as sexual selection. He cites the laborious process a male bowerbird undertakes when building his bower, or nest. “The bower serves no physical purpose other than as a location where courtship takes place,” he says, indicating that this artistic demonstration is meant solely for the female bowerbird’s aesthetic enjoyment.

Jeff Schloss, a professor of biology at Westmont College, said in an interview that Prum’s theories have further inflamed an “ongoing debate” in the scientific world. Schloss, who studies the evolution of altruism, feels Prum is “onto something,” though he finds Prum’s theory a bit too dismissive of other options. He noted that recent studies of human attractiveness do support some of Prum’s theory. For instance, facial symmetry, a cross-cultural standard of beauty long thought to be an indicator of health, has been recently questioned as an indicator of genetic fitness.

It seems, then, that animals and humans alike have the capacity to appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake. Can beauty be about more than just natural selection? Scripture provides ample evidence of creation as a source of pleasure. Psalm 96 describes the earth—and its creatures—as having an awareness of God’s majesty and praising him in kind: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them” (vv. 11–12).

Madeleine L’Engle remarked that when looking for inspiration on the nature of God, she often turned to scientists, calling them “contemporary mystics.” But what is it like to be one of those scientists, seeing this beauty up close and personal?

Schloss remembers sensing God in the night sky even before becoming a person of faith. “I just thought, ‘This is so beautiful. There’s something there that I don’t yet have and I don’t yet see.’ And I think that was Jesus,” he says. “I wanted to be grateful, but I didn’t have anybody to be grateful to.” Schloss says that, as a scientist, he sees resounding evidence of God’s wisdom and guidance in the natural world. “God hasn’t just arbitrarily designed creatures and imposed rules on them,” he says. “I think he’s designed us specifically to flourish when yielding to the good, and he’s given instruction on what the good is, for our flourishing. And boy, that’s a good creation!”

Scripture tells us that God is good and cares for his creatures. Psalm 104 depicts God tending to and providing for all his creatures, big and small, from birds and badgers to lions and the cedars of Lebanon. In Matthew 6, Christ also reminds us that even “the grass of the field” is clothed by God’s tender hand. Romans 1:20 says that the created world leaves us “without excuse,” and that it illustrates God’s character in full, vivid color.

Scripture also tells us that the created world will respond to God with worship (Isa. :12–13). But is it already? If even the trees of the field clap their hands, perhaps the crafty bowerbird, when building a beautiful nest for its mate, is also singing a song of praise. Perhaps God endowed all his creatures with an appreciation of beauty in order to draw them closer to himself.

In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis describes pain as “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Our world is surely as deaf as ever. But what if God were using beauty to rouse us? What is he trying to say? Schloss says he feels “a sense of nostalgia” in the beauty of the natural world. “I think it’s the heaven that we’re not fully in,” he says, paraphrasing another quote from Lewis.

If we pay close attention, we can see the created world as a perpetual testimony of who God is. John Piper says God takes pleasure in his creation knowing that this living testament to God’s glory will ultimately point us back to him: “[God] means for us always to look at his creation and say: If the work of his hands is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself?”

Theologian Christopher C. Knight posits that God is more intimately connected to the created world than we often think. He says we should do away “with the assumption that God is essentially ‘outside’ the creation,” noting that this helps us avoid being accidental Deists. Knight suggests that God, as one ancient Eastern Christian prayer puts it, is “everywhere present and filling all things.”

What can be said for us, then, that live on this planet of washed-out plains and burnt-out forests and whales choked with plastic? “A tremendous amount of ecological deterioration is due ultimately to our idolatry,” Schloss says, “by trying to fill our deepest yearnings with the stuff of creation rather than the creator.”

Ezekiel likens idolatrous Israel to a shepherd who neglects his flock. “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who take care only of yourselves!” he warns. “You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock” (34:2–3). The earlier prophet Isaiah wrote of the restoration that creation would undergo, if only we would set our idolatry aside: “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow” (55:12–13).

When we experience the beauty of the natural world, God himself is calling to us. He is reminding us of the way things could be, if only we would follow him and tend his creatures. Schloss sees this as yet another testament to God’s goodness. “The way human creatures are designed biologically, we flourish when in touch with the good, the true, and the beautiful,” he says, “and God has so constructed our nature all the way down to our physiology that conforming our lives to these transcendent goods actually enhances life.”

We can join the bowerbirds in appreciating the beauty of this world, and the trees of the field in their song of praise. And when we do, we will draw near not only to the good and the beautiful, but to God.




Elyse Durham is a writer in Detroit.







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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2019
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2019, 07:26:42 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/may-web-only/god-animals-evolution-of-beauty.html






Did God Endow All His Creatures with an Appreciation of Beauty?










When it seems the whole world suffers, animals are still offering praise.

 
There’s no shortage of ugliness in our world. A quick scan of today’s environmental headlines reveals any number of horrors: burnt-out Californian forests, flooded Midwestern plains. It’s hard to pause to appreciate the wildflowers in bloom when dead whales wash ashore with plastic-engorged stomachs on beaches all over the world.

Perhaps it helps to know that when we fail to see the beauty around us, other creatures don’t. Some scientists now believe that animals appreciate beauty for its own sake.

Usually, the first (and most common) purpose ascribed to beauty is its functionality. Beauty can alert us to healthfulness or the presence of fertility, a useful and vital role in producing healthy offspring. In this scientific view, beauty serves no other purpose than as a genetic signpost.

But another potential exists. Some scientists recently proposed that beauty in the natural world might sometimes exist just for aesthetic purposes. In his book The Evolution of Beauty, ornithologist Richard Prum suggests that some animals may appreciate beauty outside of any reproductive purposes and may choose mates based on an aesthetic sense alone, a phenomenon known as sexual selection. He cites the laborious process a male bowerbird undertakes when building his bower, or nest. “The bower serves no physical purpose other than as a location where courtship takes place,” he says, indicating that this artistic demonstration is meant solely for the female bowerbird’s aesthetic enjoyment.

Jeff Schloss, a professor of biology at Westmont College, said in an interview that Prum’s theories have further inflamed an “ongoing debate” in the scientific world. Schloss, who studies the evolution of altruism, feels Prum is “onto something,” though he finds Prum’s theory a bit too dismissive of other options. He noted that recent studies of human attractiveness do support some of Prum’s theory. For instance, facial symmetry, a cross-cultural standard of beauty long thought to be an indicator of health, has been recently questioned as an indicator of genetic fitness.

It seems, then, that animals and humans alike have the capacity to appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake. Can beauty be about more than just natural selection? Scripture provides ample evidence of creation as a source of pleasure. Psalm 96 describes the earth—and its creatures—as having an awareness of God’s majesty and praising him in kind: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them” (vv. 11–12).

Madeleine L’Engle remarked that when looking for inspiration on the nature of God, she often turned to scientists, calling them “contemporary mystics.” But what is it like to be one of those scientists, seeing this beauty up close and personal?

Schloss remembers sensing God in the night sky even before becoming a person of faith. “I just thought, ‘This is so beautiful. There’s something there that I don’t yet have and I don’t yet see.’ And I think that was Jesus,” he says. “I wanted to be grateful, but I didn’t have anybody to be grateful to.” Schloss says that, as a scientist, he sees resounding evidence of God’s wisdom and guidance in the natural world. “God hasn’t just arbitrarily designed creatures and imposed rules on them,” he says. “I think he’s designed us specifically to flourish when yielding to the good, and he’s given instruction on what the good is, for our flourishing. And boy, that’s a good creation!”

Scripture tells us that God is good and cares for his creatures. Psalm 104 depicts God tending to and providing for all his creatures, big and small, from birds and badgers to lions and the cedars of Lebanon. In Matthew 6, Christ also reminds us that even “the grass of the field” is clothed by God’s tender hand. Romans 1:20 says that the created world leaves us “without excuse,” and that it illustrates God’s character in full, vivid color.

Scripture also tells us that the created world will respond to God with worship (Isa. :12–13). But is it already? If even the trees of the field clap their hands, perhaps the crafty bowerbird, when building a beautiful nest for its mate, is also singing a song of praise. Perhaps God endowed all his creatures with an appreciation of beauty in order to draw them closer to himself.

In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis describes pain as “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Our world is surely as deaf as ever. But what if God were using beauty to rouse us? What is he trying to say? Schloss says he feels “a sense of nostalgia” in the beauty of the natural world. “I think it’s the heaven that we’re not fully in,” he says, paraphrasing another quote from Lewis.

If we pay close attention, we can see the created world as a perpetual testimony of who God is. John Piper says God takes pleasure in his creation knowing that this living testament to God’s glory will ultimately point us back to him: “[God] means for us always to look at his creation and say: If the work of his hands is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself?”

Theologian Christopher C. Knight posits that God is more intimately connected to the created world than we often think. He says we should do away “with the assumption that God is essentially ‘outside’ the creation,” noting that this helps us avoid being accidental Deists. Knight suggests that God, as one ancient Eastern Christian prayer puts it, is “everywhere present and filling all things.”

What can be said for us, then, that live on this planet of washed-out plains and burnt-out forests and whales choked with plastic? “A tremendous amount of ecological deterioration is due ultimately to our idolatry,” Schloss says, “by trying to fill our deepest yearnings with the stuff of creation rather than the creator.”

Ezekiel likens idolatrous Israel to a shepherd who neglects his flock. “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who take care only of yourselves!” he warns. “You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock” (34:2–3). The earlier prophet Isaiah wrote of the restoration that creation would undergo, if only we would set our idolatry aside: “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow” (55:12–13).

When we experience the beauty of the natural world, God himself is calling to us. He is reminding us of the way things could be, if only we would follow him and tend his creatures. Schloss sees this as yet another testament to God’s goodness. “The way human creatures are designed biologically, we flourish when in touch with the good, the true, and the beautiful,” he says, “and God has so constructed our nature all the way down to our physiology that conforming our lives to these transcendent goods actually enhances life.”

We can join the bowerbirds in appreciating the beauty of this world, and the trees of the field in their song of praise. And when we do, we will draw near not only to the good and the beautiful, but to God.




Elyse Durham is a writer in Detroit.







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Interesting
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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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