Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why So Few "Miracles" in the West?

Some say they’d have more faith in God if he would do a miracle before their eyes. If they could just see him heal a woman whose body won’t stop bleeding or touch the leg of a formerly lame man, they’d believe. They look to places like Africa or Asia, where miracles, they say, happen all the time. 
Do we have less faith than Christians in such places? Maybe. But experience tells me that no one has perfect faith, and Scripture teaches that even those with little faith can find healing (Mark 9:14–29).
There are perhaps several reasons why we, in the West, don’t see miracles like people do in other places—or like people did in first-century Palestine. Justin Holcomb explores some of those reasons here.
But there is another reason: We classify ordinary medicine as the work of man, not the work of God. And this is a mistake.
You can read the rest.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Love Can Show Its Power Through Apologizing

A couple of weeks ago, I had a ministry situation which was pretty hopeless. A family had what seemed to be an irreparable tear in it. Sides had been taken, and lines had been drawn and crossed. What was interesting, is that neither side could see their own faults in the matter, and both sides saw the only way out of the situation being the “others” apologizing.
So I did what probably most ministers would do in this situation. I tried to get them to see their own culpability in this situation, and get them to own up to it…It didn’t work.
But, and here’s what I thought was fascinating, the only thing that both groups did agree on, was what they thought apologizing would do. They said it would make them look weak and vulnerable. And in many ways they were right.
That’s the thing about apologizing…it leaves you exposed. Everything hinges on what the other party does. They could really turn your honesty against you. Their position might not change at all. The relationship might not be healed, and everyone would now know it’s all your fault.
But the alternative is worse.
One of the most famous chapters in the Bible is 1st Corinthians 13. It’s all about Love. But did you ever notice how exactly Paul talks about it? He says Love is long-suffering, enduring, believing…and never failing. This is more than an emotion cooked up by Hallmark, Paul is talking about a tough, virtuous brand of love.
And Paul says this Love never fails.
You can read the rest.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Church Sign of the Week 8/26/16

Must be some passionate sewing enthusiasts in this congregation.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Don't Forget Significant Beauty In Front Of You

Once upon a time, a man loved a woman. He was smitten with her beauty and pursued her with a ravenous desire. He wrote her poetry and sang her music, dripping with promises of fidelity and everlasting love.
Yet, once his love had captured her heart, this man slowly began to lose the ability to see her beauty.
And this man slowly stopped being able to see what was right in front of him.
The Orthodox rabbi and counselor Shmuley Biotech works with a lot of marriages in trouble, and in his experience this is the major problem that marriages have.
We grow too familiar with one another. He points to the Old Testament practice of mikveh, in which the woman would separate from her husband during her menstruation cycle (which is not a topic I thought I’d ever be writing about).
To modern readers, this sounds incredibly mysogynistic and repressive. But Boteach says that most Christians reading this have misunderstood the purpose behind the commandment. According to Orthodox Judaism , this is not a practice concerned with a man becoming unclean, but for a different purpose all together.
It was meant to prevent the couple from becoming overly familiar with one another. It increases the mystery that the lovers feel for each other.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

College Students Need Campus Ministry AND a New Church

First, resist the temptation to keep your membership in your home church. Join a church in your college town, as soon as you find one with a commitment to Christ and the Scripture.
Second, find a church where some people will know your name, and will know if you aren’t present. Find a place where someone will kindly ask “Where were you?” if you miss a week.
Third, spend some time with people in your congregation who aren’t in the same place in life as you—a lonely senior adult, a harried 30-something mom, a sarcastic 14-year-old kid.
Fourth, humbly pester the leaders of the church for some way for you to exercise your gifts in the congregation—and let the leaders recognize and encourage your gifts. This means submitting yourself to serve the body in whatever way the church deems necessary. Most often, this will be something more Christlike than glorious, such as cleaning toilets or serving in the nursery.
Fifth, find a campus ministry that seeks to work alongside the church. Look for a ministry that wants to enhance what’s already happening in your life in discipleship and spiritual growth and mission in your congregation. Be very wary of a campus ministry that isn’t constantly asking you, “Where are you in church—and what’s happening there?” And be very, very wary of a campus ministry that seems to resent the time you spend with your church as “competing” with their ministry.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Glorifying God and Coming in Last Place

Already lauded as one of the top sportsmanlike moments of the Olympic Games, Abbey D’Agostino's run in the women’s 5000m will continue to be talked about in years to come.

Not because she won.

Not because she finished despite being injured.

But because she thought of her fellow racer first.

You can read the rest.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Generation K: America's Lost Girls?

Earlier this month Samuel D. James, Communications Specialist at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, raised the question, “Where have America’s young men gone?” In his thoughtful First Things piece, James notes that young men have unplugged from careers and marriage because of the false sense of reality and satisfaction found in video games, pornography, and other screen time.
Instant gratification and the false sense of reality that James thoughtfully identifies isn’t only affecting boys. His article got me thinking about how girls are suffering too.
This is not to say that young women aren’t a vibrant part of the workforce or don’t desire marriage. They are absolutely achieving big goals, but I worry perhaps that with the over-exposer to unrealistic images and unattainable lifestyles flooding their screens, the upcoming generation of girls aren’t just entertainment-absorbed, but self-absorbed.
I’ll explain what I mean.
You can read the rest.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (8/19/16)

It seems a bit aggressive, and I don't think that's how baptism works.

Is there another way to get baptized?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Dangers of Dividing By Generation

The bridge between ages seems rickety these days. We’ve grown accustomed to dividing up people by generation: the Builders and Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials – now the biggest generation in American history.
Overall, I’m grateful for good research and analysis on generational commonalities and differences. Some stereotypes are too broad to do much good (“Boomers are self-centered,” “Generation X is neglected,” “Millennials are entitled,” etc.). But at its best, generational research can help us live on mission in the world God has placed us. We come to understand similarities among people who share the same generational sliver of time, just as missionaries note the commonalities among people who share the same geographical space.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Being a Global Christian

Two years ago, a few Christians and I were having a Bible study with a Muslim man from Sierra Leone.  When we got to one of the exorcisms in the Gospel of Mark, I told him that none of us at the table had ever seen anything like a demon possession, and maybe he could speak more to the issue.  So he started talking about the witch doctor in his village, and how he could point at a goat and kill it with his voodoo, and about how he put spells on people, making them go crazy.
When my friend read the Gospel of Mark, he was glad to see that demons obeyed Jesus. Because he knew what a demon was in a way that we don’t.  As soon as he told us that story, I looked around the table and realized that this was a holy moment for all involved. For all of us at the table, the world had suddenly become re-enchanted.
Who was teaching whom?
You can read the rest.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Sunday-to-Monday Gap

I am not sure I fully know the impact, but a thick pastoral fog cannot be a good recipe for congregational flourishing. This fog is especially apparent in the gap between Sunday morning worship and Monday morning work. I have become increasingly convinced in both my own personal experience as well as in my conversations with many pastoral colleagues that the Sunday to Monday Gap is wider and more prominent than we care to admit. An inconvenient truth is that some of our more thoughtful congregants have a more clear perspective of their work as worship than their fog-shrouded pastors.
I see at least four very perilous congregational consequences resulting from a wide Sunday to Monday gap.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

God's Timing v. Your Timing

Often our schedule and God's seem out of sync. He acts earlier than we had expected, or later than we had hoped, or when it seems most awkward and inconvenient. The result is that sometimes we are impatient with God or choose to act impetuously, while on other occasions we are lazy and inactive.

I suspect that's how the Israelites must have felt as they stood on the banks of the Jordan River, prepared to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. They learned a lesson there that all of us must learn sooner or later. The lesson is simply that the God we love and serve is often the God of the unlikely time.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Both Religion and Science Can Fail Against Bigotry

Atheists sometimes pretend that if we all just followed “science,” bigotry and intolerance would cease.
American treatment of First Nation (“Indians”) shows this is false.
Religious people sometimes imagine that if we all became more religious then bigotry and intolerance would cease.
American treatment of First Nations shows this is false.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Praying in the No-Spin Zone

Regardless of what we think of Bill O’Reilly and his show we can certainly agree that he has put his finger on an issue common to all of us—we are prone to spin. Prayer is one area that we as Christians tend to spin. And when we read the Bible, especially the Psalms, we find that faithful, mature prayer is characterized by honesty. From confession to doubt to lament, the psalter is filled with prayers that seem to represent feeling.

You can read the rest.

Monday, August 8, 2016

New Christian Documentary Film Series Addresses Sexual Ethics

The Grand Opera House in Oshkosh, Wisconsin once fell on hard financial times and needed a means to keep its doors open. Lessors decided to show X-rated films. Thank goodness times have changed for the historic theatre. On Saturday, August 6, the Grand Opera House will open its doors to show a different kind of pornography film: The Heart of the Matter, a film documentary offering a compassionate response to Christians addicted to pornography and sex.

You can read the rest.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (8/5/16)

Whether it ties in with the name of the town or the history of the church, I don't know. 

But I think this church's name should be changed. It's not very encouraging.

Have a great August weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Young Men Are Living the (Unhealthful) Dream

Research shows that young men 18-30 are more likely to be living with their parents than with a woman.  And that the large number of the unemployed in this demographic are not only living with their parents but spending virtually all of the time they would normally be working playing video games.
But here is the kicker:  They LIKE living this way.  It isn’t that poor economic prospects are causing them to retreat into a depressing isolation.  They consider this a good life. Expending their sexual impulses in internet pornography, rather than marriage or dating that could lead to marriage, and channeling all of their aggression into first person shooters, instead of the military or ambition or earning a living or protecting a family, this generation is happy, content, and living the dream.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Casserole-Toting Ladies Have the Secret to Happiness

[Elizabeth] Gilbert’s divorce-hedonism-remarriage-divorce saga is obviously distasteful to many Christians, but we can be equally fascinated (and misguided) by a very similar narrative. Gilbert wrote a memoir about questioning expectations and leaving her husband; Christian authors are writing about questioning God and leaving the church (for awhile, anyway).
These spiritual wanderings are propelled by the refrain: I don’t want to be a Christian anymore. Or, at least: I don’t want to be that kind of Christian anymore. And thousands of us quickly turn the page, eager to read what comes next.
Perhaps we’re intrigued by the spiritual adventurer’s premise that there might be something new to find out there, out beyond the ordinary spiritual graces of Word and prayer and sacrament. Perhaps, as one writer suggested about Gilbert’s book, we are looking for permission to pursue our own wanderings. Or perhaps we see the writers’ frank confessions of sin and doubt as uniquely authentic expressions of spiritual experience.
The memoirs of spiritual wondering and wandering are diverse—there are at least 50 ways to leave your church. But the dazzling quality of the maverick spiritual quest can cause us to overlook the quiet, ordinary, Sunday-by-Sunday faithfulness of the women in our own church’s pews.
And maybe it’s time to find new heroes.
You can read the rest.

Monday, August 1, 2016

"One Day You'll Thank Me For This" - True Story of Church Discipline

A story of church discipline that has a happy ending!

Let’s be honest. The only stories you ever hear about church discipline are the bad ones. I think that’s partly because there are lots of ways to foul it up, but also because the good stories are six years in the making. The good stories don’t make headlines. Church discipline, when rightly practiced and graced by God, “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11) in those chastened by it. And when they come back to say thank you, it’s not a history-making moment. It’s just an another evidence of God’s redeeming grace.

In Jack’s case, deception put him under discipline. On the surface he was a sharp, committed church member—a medical student helping to lead and oversee a small group. But under the surface, he was hiding a serious problem with lust and alcohol.

You can read the rest.