Jesus-Style Experiences of Discipleship for Your Teenagers this Summer

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Service
Whether you’re painting a house yellow, making a group of kids tickled pink, or lifting a lonely old lady out of the blues, you’ll be filling lives with the color of Jesus through your daily service experiences.

Discipleship
Discipleship changes your reasons and motivation for serving. Their  daily adventures in becoming disciples of Jesus transform the way you think, the way you view others, and most of all, the way you see God all around you.

Mystery Excursions
These transformative surprises range from personal prayer experiences to exciting scavenger hunts, quests of generosity, and looking for the heart of Jesus in a community—and they springboard into a lifelong journey with Jesus.

Culture
Each location offers unique experiences that connect you to the locale and its individualized, deep heritage. You might yodel, dance, cook, craft, clog, powwow, or sing—all kinds of unforgettable, cultural wows.

Jesus
Every day you dive deep into Jesus—who he is, how to know his heart, and why we’re designed to love and share our unique gifts and talents (even ones we didn’t know we have yet!). You’ll find God’s love flowing through you in miraculous ways.

Friendship
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Evangelization and Doctrine Are Inseparable

by David G. Bonagura, Jr. | Without question, there are times when it is expedient to emphasize one side of the balance over the other in teaching and preaching: to underscore the divinity of Christ when an age reduces him to a mere moral teacher; to stress the necessity of tradition in understanding Scripture; and to recall the goodness of nature when it is wrongly perceived as antithetical to grace. (Image: Reynaldo Amadeu Dal Lin Junior Juba from Pixabay)

We preach doctrine, and doctrine exists to be preached. If that sounds circular, then we understand correctly that doctrine and evangelization are two sides of the same coin.

Recently announced plans for Pope Francis’s reform of the Roman Curia have produced euphoria among liberals and concern among conservatives that evangelization is being elevated over doctrine by the creation of a new “super-dicastery” for evangelization that will outrank the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of Francis’s closest collaborators working on the Curia reform project, rushed to draw the battle lines: “Pope Francis always underlines that the Church is missionary. For this reason, it’s logical that we put in the first place the dicastery for Evangelization and not the one for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

This falsely perceived dichotomy between evangelization and doctrine, of course, has roots that extend back to the fallout from the Second Vatican Council. Partisans of a mistaken “Spirit of Vatican II” sought to suppress doctrine and Church regulation so they could essentially do as they liked theologically, morally, and liturgically.

Therein lies a particularly important point: after the Council, in the minds of many, “doctrine” was reduced to “rules” that could, or could not, be broken. No one was—or is today—complaining about the content of the Nicene Creed, which is the real core of Catholic doctrine. Instead, there were attempts to make us more like Protestants by altering the Mass and deemphasizing Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist; to make human beings seem like angels by turning sin into psychosis and forgetting confession; and to undermine the Church’s authority to teach morality so that any sexual appetite could be fulfilled as willed.

It is no wonder, then, that conservatives have become so skittish whenever doctrine, which is supposed to be the bedrock foundation of the Catholic faith, is raised in Church circles: it has been under siege by some forces in the Church—with the help of secular, Church-hating allies—for decades. Francis’s ambiguous teachings on marriage and family life over the course of his six-year pontificate have been gasoline for a fire that has long since been burning. Writing with professional restraint, one author said of this latest Curia-inspired dust-up, “The decline in the congregation’s status has accompanied an increasingly lax attitude in Rome towards the gravity of heresy and other forms of deviance from Catholic doctrine, emphasizing unity and ‘accompaniment’ more than doctrinal truth.”

If not for these ecclesial fault lines, this fight over which office should have pride of place—evangelization or doctrine—would be more like arguing over which person of the Trinity is the most important. And the Trinity is the correct analogy here: just as there are three persons inseparably united as the single Godhead, evangelization and doctrine are two manifestations of Christ’s single mission of salvation.

Through his words and deeds, especially his sacrifice on the cross, Christ saved us from our sins and taught us how to live. What he did and what he taught together comprise his doctrine, which he commanded his followers to preach to all nations. The Church, then, has been entrusted with preserving Christ’s doctrine from corruption and distortion precisely so that all people may hear his saving teaching. His doctrine was never intended to be kept in a book away from the world; he gave it to the Church to give to the world.

Properly understanding the teachings of the Church requires keeping two seemingly opposing realities in balance. When we fail to balance properly, problems arise. For example, Christ is fully human and fully divine; most Christological heresies are caused when one of these realities is elevated to the denigration of the other. Likewise, the Catholic view of creation keeps nature balanced with grace and reason balanced with faith. Martin Luther created his own Protestant doctrine when he deemed the former items in each pair intrinsically flawed. He did the same with the law and the gospel, works and faith, tradition and Scripture. By pitting the spiritual items against the natural, Luther impoverished both, since none of these can be properly understood without its parallel.

Without question, there are times when it is expedient to emphasize one side of the balance over the other in teaching and preaching: to underscore the divinity of Christ when an age reduces him to a mere moral teacher; to stress the necessity of tradition in understanding Scripture; and to recall the goodness of nature when it is wrongly perceived as antithetical to grace. So long as the other side remains within our purview, there is no problem with speaking more of one side.

The same goes for evangelization and doctrine: the two work in tandem, as we cannot have one without the other. In certain ages, it may well be helpful to emphasize one or the other: when the Holy Office, the predecessor of today’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was founded, it was at the height of the Protestant revolt when doctrine needed to be protected from distortion. Today, when religious apathy is spreading daily across the West, it makes sense to prioritize preaching the gospel. But in neither instance should the other be minimized: those swept up by Protestant doctrine needed the true faith preached to them in full, and those today who need to hear the word of God need to hear it in its fullness.

Today, with all the problems within the Church, fierce arguing over which should take priority—evangelization or doctrine—is akin to arguing over which saints should be honored in the Titantic’s chapel. There should be no conflict between the two. The fact that there is shows us that the Barque of Peter needs to find balance again while navigating the stormy waters of Modernity.

David G. Bonagura, JrDavid G. Bonagura, Jr. teaches classical languages at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism (Cluny Media).



9 Signs You’re Burning Out in Leadership

by Carey Nieuwhof | Your coping mechanism has gone underground or dark. Whether that’s overeating, overworking, drinking, impulsive spending or even drugs, you’ve chosen a path of self-medication over self-care. Ironically, my self-medication was actually more work, which just spirals things downward.

Burnout. 
Been there?
Seven years ago, I entered into the darkest period of my life.

People had always warned me I would burn out. I thought I could prove them wrong.

And usually I did. I would get tired – out of balance – but when I saw the edge, I could always pull myself back.

Until seven years ago.

I found the edge, and as I was falling, I knew this time I realized I couldn’t pull myself back. 

Although I’m not a person who suffers from depression, I’m sure I would have gone to the doctor and received a diagnosis of clinical depression that summer seven years ago.

It wasn’t your stereotypical depression.

I could get out of bed every day, and I did.

I kept praying and reading my bible.

But my speed decreased to a snail’s pace.

And hope felt like it had died.

My motivation and passion dropped to zero. (Make that zero Kelvin).

I had never been there before. 

I knew many in ministry had gone down this road before me, and what scared me is that some of them never made it back.

For them, ministry was done. And sometimes, tragically, they were done – hope never fully returned and they didn’t ever become the person they were before.

That was the last thing I wanted to happen to me.

Looking back, the diagnosis is still a little elusive and mysterious.

Who really knows what corrodes the soul to the point where it deflates?

But I’d say the most likely candidate for what derailed me is what I’d call emotional burnout. 

In caring for others I had not adequately cared for my heart or soul, or let others who wanted to care for it do so.

I spiralled down for about 3 months before I hit bottom.

Then with the love and assistance of a great wife, board, leadership team, close friends, a counselor, and a very gracious God, I slowly began to recover.

It took, honestly, a few years to really feel full stride again, but I recovered to 80-90% of full strength in the first year. The last 10% took two or three more years.

The good new is, there is life after burnout (my next post will be on ways to recover from burnout).

I’m writing this because burnout seems to be an epidemic in ministry leadership.

In fact, there are more than a few of you who know you are right on the edge of the cliff you could so easily fall of of.

And probably a few of you who are in free fall right now.

Why is that?

More than most environments, ministry combines what you do (your work) with what you believe (your faith) and  your community (your congregation/friends). Without skillful navigation, that can creates a roller coaster of emotions that push leaders toward burnout (I’ve written about the emotional roller coaster of ministry here).

So how do you know if you’re heading for burnout? 

Here are 9 things I personally experienced as I burned out.

I hope they can help you see the edge before you careen past it:

1. Your motivation has faded. The passion that fueled you is gone, and your motivation has either vapourized or become self-centered.

2. Your main emotion is ‘numbness’ – you no longer feel the highs or the lows. This was actually one of the earliest signs for me that the edge was near. I wrote more about emotional numbness here.

3. People drain you. Of course there are draining people on the best of days. But not everybody, every time. Burnout often means few to no people energize you anymore.

4. Little things make you disproportionately angry. When you start losing your cool over small things, it’s a sign something deeper is very wrong.

5. You’re becoming cynical. Many leaders fight this one, but cynicism rarely finds a home in a healthy heart.

6. Your productivity is dropping. You might be working long hours, but you’re producing little of value. Or what used to take you 5 minutes just took you 45. That’s a warning bell.

7.  You’re self-medicating.  Your coping mechanism has gone underground or dark. Whether that’s overeating, overworking, drinking, impulsive spending or even drugs, you’ve chosen a path of self-medication over self-care. Ironically, my self-medication was actually more work, which just spirals things downward.

8. You don’t laugh anymore. Nothing seems fun or funny, and, at its worst, you begin to resent people who enjoy life.

9. Sleep and time off no longer refuel you. Sometimes you’re not burnt out; you’re just tired. A good night’s sleep or a week or two off will help most healthy people bounce back with fresh energy. But you could have a month off when you’re burnt out and not feel any difference. I took three weeks off during my summer of burn out, and I felt worse at the end than when I started. Not being refueled when you take time off is a major warning sign you’re burning out.

Identifying with just a few of these signs might just be a sign that you’re tired.

If you identify with half, you might be close to the edge.

If you identify with most or all, well, you might be in the same place I found myself–burnout.

If you are burnt out, I would encourage you to seek immediate professional help – a medical doctor and a trained Christian counselor.  I would also encourage you to talk to a close circle of friends (again, my next post will be on recovery from burnout).

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from many of you on your stories around burn out?

What did you learn? How can we help each other?

Carey NieuwhofCarey Nieuwhof is a leader with over two decades of leading a local church, being a husband, dad, authoring books, speaking to church leaders around the world, podcasting and more…all the while learning to keep his heart and mind alive and healthy. Plus, every week he talk to world-class leaders who share their secrets through his blogpodcastbooksHigh Impact Leader Course, and speaking. You can also connect with Carey by subscribing to his email list. He has helped tens of thousands of leaders make real personal and ministry progress by sharing proven strategies to help them lead like never before.



Healing the Whole

by Mary Oliver and M.J. Slim Hooey | These prayers remind us that what we would like to see, we must help bring into being. All prayer is ultimately an act of hope. Without hope it has no substance. (Image by dae jeung kim from Pixabay )

During this time of great imbalance on planet Earth we may feel ourselves torn between the priorities of healing ourselves…..resolving our own inner spiritual or psychological problems…..and attempting to cure the social and economic ills that beset our culture. While each of us undoubtedly has much inner work to do, this attitude misses the main point of Earth Prayer. It continues to view the individual as somehow separate from the rest of the world. But if we accept that we are totally part of this living Earth, then we must recognize that isolated health is an illusion. Healing ourselves and working to resolve the contradictions in the human-Earth ecology is the same work.

All healing involves making whole again-resolving the contradictions that exist between self and other, body and spirit, mind and nature. The prayers in this section show us a pathway back to an understanding and appreciation of life. They remind us that our participation extends to the whole. Knowing that we are not encapsulated, self-enclosed entities, but rather fields of energy integrated with the environment, everything we do transforms and reshapes the world. If our actions can destroy, so can they heal. In this light there is no difference between work and prayer, no distinction between physical activity and the work of the spirit. Precisely in the restoration of this balance between body and spirit lies the path for healing the greater whole.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk all your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves……

The voices in the following passage remind us that the Earth is itself the primary healer. They speak of silence and solitude. They tell us of the comfort to be found in wild places. As Nancy Wood writes, “My help is in the mountains / Where I take myself to heal / the earthly wounds / That people give to me.

Finally, these prayers remind us that what we would like to see, we must help bring into being. All prayer is ultimately an act of hope. Without hope it has no substance. Hope empowers our intention and gives character to our action. While our action may be turned aside from its purpose or taken over by the milieu in which it occurs, prayer, when it is genuine, cannot be taken over. It attains its goals because it is its goal.

I have come to terms with the future.
From this day onward, I will walk
easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill
no living things. Live in harmony with
all creatures. I will restore
the earth where I am. Use no more
of its resources than I need. And listen,
listen to what it is telling me.

Mary Oliver and M.J. Slim Hooey in Earth Prayers from Around the World. 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocation for Honoring the earth edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon.



Will God Make Me Prosperous and Wealthy?

by Christian Bible Reference | Jesus denied that wealth is a sign of God’s favor or that poverty is God’s punishment for sin. This is shown most clearly in His Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). (Image: Quino Al on Unsplash)

The Bible Does not Promise Wealth
There is no promise in the Bible that being a Christian will lead to a good job, wealth, freedom from debt, etc.
One verse is sometimes cited:

For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 1 (TNIV, Jeremiah 29:11)

In context, this verse was directed specifically to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. The original Hebrew word translated as “prosperity” can mean peace, completeness, safety, health, satisfaction or blessings1. It does not imply financial prosperity. This translation probably comes closer to the intended meaning:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT, Jeremiah 29:11)

God’s faithful people may be rich or poor (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, Job 1:1-3, Matthew 27:57, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 16:19-22, 19:2-9, Proverbs 22:2, Luke 6:20).

Wealth Is not a Sign of God’s Favor

In Jesus’ time it was a common belief that great wealth was a sign of God’s favor and poverty was God’s punishment for sin.

Some Old Testament verses do reflect the idea that poverty is a natural consequence of foolish actions (Proverbs 6:9-11, 20:13, 23:21).

However, Jesus denied that wealth is a sign of God’s favor or that poverty is God’s punishment for sin. This is shown most clearly in His Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). At least part of the reason the rich man ended up in hell was because of his hard-heartedness toward the beggar Lazarus. His great wealth was obviously not a sign of God’s favor. The beggar Lazarus ended up in heaven although he was about as impoverished as a man could be. His poverty was obviously not a sign of sinfulness or foolishness.

Despite the Bible’s many warnings against it, the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and that the poor have done something to deserve their condition persists as an undercurrent today that is sometimes used to justify a callous attitude toward those who are poor.

Related verses: Proverbs 15:16-17, Ecclesiastes 5:10-12, Luke 1:52-53, 6:20, 6:24-25.

Wealth Is a Gift from God to Be Used in His Service

Jesus saw wealth as a gift from God to be used in His service (Matthew 25:14-30). Those who have been blessed with wealth must share generously with the poor (Matthew 25:31-46), and avoid the sins of arrogance (1 Timothy 6:17-19), dishonesty (Exodus 20:15, Mark 10:19, Luke 3:12-14) and greed (Luke 12:13-21).

Those of us who are blessed with wealth beyond our need have a responsibility to share generously with the less fortunate. We should view our wealth as a gift from God, entrusted to us, to carry out His work on earth.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (NIV, 1 John 3:17)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (NIV, 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Wealth Is Dangerous

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” (NRSV, Mark 10:23-27)

It is not that wealth is intrinsically evil, or that poverty is blessed. Rather, a devotion to gathering wealth is incompatible with devotion to God. God must always be the most important thing in our lives:

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (NLT, Luke 16:13)

The craving for wealth and possessions can lead us into all kinds of temptation. While we spend evenings and weekends earning extra money, we are depriving our families of our love and attention. We may take unfair advantage of our customers, employers, or employees. We may attempt to rationalize our greed by closing our minds and hearts to the needs and rights of others. In the process, we could end up being stingy, bitter and isolated.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (NIV, Proverbs 23:4-5)

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (NIV, Matthew 16:26)

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (TNIV, 1 Timothy 6:9-11, emphasis added)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV, Matthew 6:19-21)

Related verses: Matthew 13:22, Luke 12:15, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 5:1-5.

Avoid Dishonesty

The rationalization required to obtain and keep dishonest gain can make a person cold, cynical and separated from God. It may be taking unfair advantage or misrepresenting the facts to employers, employees, customers, clients or associates. It may be stealing, fraud, inflating insurance claims, cheating on taxes, “pirating” music and movies, willful nonpayment of debts, or any form of dishonesty for personal gain.  In whatever form, dishonest gain brings only fear of discovery – never peace of mind.

‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. (NAS, Leviticus 19:13)

The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. (NIV, Proverbs 11:1)

He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil– this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him. (NIV, Isaiah 33:15-16)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God… For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (NRSV, Romans 13:1, 6-7)

Related verses: Exodus 20:15, Leviticus 19:35-36, Proverbs 21:6, Amos 8:4-8, Micah 6:10-13, Mark 10:19, Luke 3:12-14.



ECWA Weekly Spiritual Digest: Implications of The Resurrection

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Our problem is that we tend to forget our position in and with Christ and we live as earthly souls still bound in chains by the evil one. Let’s claim our position, live free and live in victory.

The resurrection of Christ is the event that sealed as truth every claim and promise Jesus made while here on earth. Those who deny his death and/or resurrection as something cooked up by Christians are not sincere. Secular historical books recorded these events and the sudden boldness of the disciples to witness about the resurrection was not borne out of inner courage. What happened on the cross on Friday and in the tomb on Sunday are events that you and I were not mere spectators, we participated fully. We died on Friday and did away with the body of sin. We were raised up on Sunday to a new life in Christ: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:6-7.

Resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection of Jesus

Sin no longer has dominion over us for we are free and not slaves anymore. We are indeed seated with Christ in the heavenly places and here is what we are commanded to do: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Col. 3:1. Our problem is that we tend to forget our position in and with Christ and we live as earthly souls still bound in chains by the evil one. Let’s claim our position, live free and live in victory. Amen!

Rev. Sunday BwanhotRev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



Palm Sunday

by All About Jesus Christ | Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. (image: Assisi frescoes entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti. Assisi, Lower Basilica, San Francesco, Southern Transept – Wikicommons)

History
Palm Sunday (first known as Pasha) originated in the Jerusalem Church around the late third or early fourth century. Ceremonies consisted of prayers, hymns, and sermons as people moved through the numerous holy sites within the city. At the last site, the place of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the clergy would read the biblical account of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Then as evening approached, the people would return to the city reciting: “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). By the fifth century, the celebration had spread as far as Constantinople. It wasn’t until the sixth and seventh centuries that the ritual blessing of the palms was added. A morning procession replaced the evening one and by the eighth century, the Western Church was celebrating “Dominica in Palmis” or “Palm Sunday.”

Tradition
Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday in recognition of the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to His crucifixion. Falling on the sixth Sunday in Lent and the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday is celebrated in all major Christian churches—Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. In many Orthodox churches, Palm Sunday is known as Entry into Jerusalem. In some countries, the graves of loved ones are decorated with palms. Since palm trees are not indigenous to colder climates, branches of sallow, willow, and yew are often used.

Today, many Palm Sunday traditions remain much the same as those celebrated in the tenth century. Some ceremonies begin with the blessing of the palms. Afterward, many people take the palms home and place them in houses, barns, and fields. In many churches, children serve as an integral part of the service since they enjoy the processions. Children often craft crosses from palm leaves which were used in the Sunday processional. The traditions of Palm Sunday serve as reminders of the life-changing events of Holy Week.

It was traditional in the Near East to place a cover across the path of someone deemed worthy of highest honor. The palm branch was a Jewish symbol of triumph and victory (Leviticus 23:40; Revelation 7:9). In 2 Kings 9:13, Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, received the customary announcing of a king with the spreading of cloaks upon the ground. Jesus, the Messanic King, was given a similar honor. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:8)

Remembrance
In the simplest of terms, Palm Sunday is an opportunity to reflect upon the final week of Jesus’ life. Jesus did not deny the image that the crowd expected — the fulfillment of the hopes of Israel that He would be their earthly king, destroying the Roman government. Instead, Jesus humbly entered Jerusalem to give His life on a cross, saving mankind from sin and death. One day, Jesus will return gloriously as a mighty warrior in battle (Revelation 19:11–16). Palm Sunday serves as a preparation of one’s heart for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.

Matthew 21:1-11 says,

    • As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
    • This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
    • “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
    • The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
    • “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    • “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    • “Hosanna in the highest!”
    When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?

All About Jesus Christ
We believe the pursuit of truth is the highest calling of humanity. We are a collection of people who have wandered many paths, but all discovered that same truth. We are passionate about sparking authentic life journeys and sharing compelling content with skeptics, seekers, believers, and a hurting world.

We seek to be non-threatening, practical, and informative, using the technology of the Internet to pose tough questions and seek candid answers about God, Creation, Life, Humanity, Thought, History, and Truth.

Many people refer to us as “Christians,” but we consider ourselves followers of Jesus. Like Jesus, we reject many of the issues found in “organized religion” (man-made attempts to reach God through rules and rituals). Actually, we believe religion has kept more people from the truth than anything in history.

Although we reject man-made religion, we consider the personal pursuit of God as paramount in each of our personal life journeys. We also believe that ultimate, saving Truth is found only through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

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Religious Liberty in Contemporary Evangelical Social Ethics: An Assessment and Framework for Socio-political Challenges

by Andrew T. Walker | Christian reflection on religious liberty is as old as Christianity itself. But unless it is rehearsed and given fresh expression and articulation in new contexts, it can fall by the wayside. Marx was believed to have said, “Take away a people’s roots, and they can easily be moved.

Evangelical public theology often lacks a systematic, theologically grounded social ethic concerning religious liberty. The resulting impasse is one where religious liberty lacks distinctly evangelical contours. Modern and contemporary religious liberty discussions have been ceded, almost exclusively, to political and legal philosophy. At the same time, religious liberty is a foundational principle for evangelical public theology because it addresses issues of how evangelicals enter the public square as a religious people. Additionally, a doctrine of religious liberty is vital for establishing the relationship between the church and state in society. Theological warrant is needed to establish a doctrine of religious liberty on evangelical grounds, and, correspondingly, the lack of consensus or framework around religious liberty jeopardizes the possibility of developing a truly evangelical understanding of religious liberty for public theology.

On a cold, rainy Friday night in October 2017, my wife and I and a few friends from church gathered for a night of worship sponsored by a Christian worship organization that works with local Christian artists in our town

At the end of the evening, the individual emceeing the night closed with an impassioned prayer wherein he expressed gratitude to God for the liberty to join together with other believers to worship Christ without fear of government harassment. There was palpable gratitude for the freedom to worship in this man’s voice.

This gathering did not have to be registered with the government, which is tragically the case in other countries. We entered and left in peace without even a hint of fear of whether we would be “exposed” as Christians. Upon leaving, I knew I would be free to utilize social media and share of the event’s details without fear of that post facing censorship. Moreover, that weekend, I would be free to go to church and hear a sermon on why Christians should seek to influence their culture, whether related to the sanctity of life, racial reconciliation, or any other issue of ethical controversy in the culture. While I am accustomed to sermons and prayers where gratitude to worship freely is often expressed, writing this dissertation while hearing a prayer to God giving him praise for religious liberty struck me anew; and it dawned on me that this dissertation was not just a rote academic exercise.

Something pivotal about my existence as a Christian, and my participation in a local body, is bound up with the liberty to live faithfully in accord with God’s call on my life, and my family’s life. Religious liberty is not the gospel. That night, however, I was reminded that my experience of the gospel assumes a freedom I so often ignore and at worst, neglect gratitude. Religious liberty fans the flames of personal holiness and proclamation. It gives breath to the life of a local congregation gathering together every Sunday to declare that Jesus Christ is king.

I was reminded and convicted that night of how trite, routine, and assumed religious liberty is in my own mind—that as an American, I know nothing other than 212 religious liberty. That is one of the challenges to religious liberty in an American context— that Americans grow so accustomed to it that they may not recognize when its pillars are slowly corroding.

Christian reflection on religious liberty is as old as Christianity itself. But unless it is rehearsed and given fresh expression and articulation in new contexts, it can fall by the wayside. Marx was believed to have said, “Take away a people’s roots, and they can easily be moved.” This report has been an exercise is exposing the roots of freedom found in Christianity. Christians need presented with arguments for the defense of their own liberty, but also the liberty of others—for securing the liberty of others ensures the security of our own. This need for ethical apologetics is true of every age.

At this writing, religious liberty in America is entering a new age beset with challenges and opposition that call into question a once sacred consensus. By grounding religious liberty in the horizons of eschatology, anthropology, and soteriology, my hope is that this contribution to the field of Christian social ethics can be but one resource helping to usher in a new era of Christian preoccupation with religious liberty.

May the Christian church return to its first love, a primal strength—a fortitude that turns the other cheek and confidently, under pressure, insist that no worldly scheme can push back the onward advance of Christ’s invasion—for Christianity needs neither the state nor the culture for its truthfulness and efficacy. The liberty Christians seek and the liberty Christians use is a liberty to seek a city that is not yet, and to allow those in the church’s midst to join it in the promise of its coming.

Any claim or pursuit of religious liberty must always be pointed back toward its telos: The advancement of God’s kingdom. In the spirit of our missionary faith, let each of us, like the Apostle Paul, go about “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31).

Andrew T. Walker is the Director of Research and Senior Fellow in Christian Ethics at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination’s entity tasked with equipping Christians and local churches to address ethical issues facing society and the church. In his role, he researches, speaks, and writes about the intersection of Christian ethics, public policy, and the church’s social witness. This is a summary of his dissertation presented to the Faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree, Doctor of Philosophy back in May 2018



10 Ways You Can Make a Difference in Your Community

Whole Family Happiness Project | Become a mentor to someone who would benefit from your skills, knowledge, and experience. Maybe there’s someone in your social circles or profession you would like to help along the way.

In 2012, Michelle Obama said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” As humans we yearn to make a difference, to leave our mark. And most of us know helping better others’ lives has positive impacts on our own — making us happier, more balanced, and instilling a greater sense of purpose in the everyday. But, it can be easy to get bogged down in the daily grind and miss the benefits, to ourselves and our communities, that getting involved can provide.

And most of us don’t know where to start. So, have a look below at 10 suggestions for how to begin, and start making a difference today!

1. Volunteer
Volunteering energy and skills to a local organization is a great way to give back to your community. Whether a hospital, food bank, youth group, senior’s home, or animal shelter there are tonnes of local organizations that would benefit from your time. A quick search online will help find local opportunities. Or, contact organizations you’re interested in helping out to be put in touch with their local team.

2. Donate Blood
With one donation you can save many lives, yet just one patient could require multiple donors. For heart surgery it’s up to five. Leukemia treatments, as many as eight donors a week. Emergency care for a car accident can use up to 50. Every donation makes a difference in someone’s life, and what greater gift could you give? Plus, they’ll give you a juice and a cookie. Everyone wins, so schedule your next donation today.

3. Become a Mentor
Become a mentor to someone who would benefit from your skills, knowledge, and experience. Maybe there’s someone in your social circles or profession you would like to help along the way. If not organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, futurpreneur, or Trudeau Foundation are there to help you connect you with folks in your area who could use a helping hand.

4. Organize a Charitable Event
Find a cause you’re passionate about and organize on its behalf. Maybe you raise money for a senior’s program, or collect food donations for a community pantry. If you want to help but you’re stuck for ideas reach out to the organization you‘d like to help — they likely have suggestions on hand to pick from, or inspire your own.

5. Shop Local
Shopping local invests in your community. Spending money locally supports the local economy and your neighbours — by keeping money in your neighbourhood, where it can be reinvested again through other shops and services. It’s a cycle that keeps on giving.

6. Adopt a Neighbor
You don’t have to go far or orchestrate grand gestures to make an impact on someones life. Whether the older man from down the street who lives alone, or the young mother (of toddlers) on the corner, there are folks in your neighborhood who could use a hand. Maybe you help shovel after a big storm, take them to the grocery store, or mow the lawn. It might not even matter what you do as long as you show you care.

7. Attend Community Meetings
Community meetings are a great place to meet people from your neighbourhood while developing a deeper familiarity with that community. And it’s a great way to build feelings of belonging and ownership of the place you call home. And you never know, maybe you’ll discover a passion for local politics or activism along the way!

8. Organize a Clean Up
All you need to hold a successful clean up is a big box of garbage bags, a bigger box of recycling bags, a substantial supply of rubber gloves, a group of friends or volunteers, and a location that needs some love. And these days most public parks, beaches, and neighbourhood streets are in need of a little TLC, and sometimes folks just need a little inspiration to encourage them to help out. Lead the way, and see what follows!

9. Join a Community Garden
Not only do community gardens beautify the community, they often provide produce and other goods to local neighbourhoods — often underserved areas. And whether a green thumb or just beginning a relationship with the land there’s always lots of work to be done to get to harvest. You won’t just be growing fruit and vegetables, but friendships and community along the way!

10. Help Build an Affordable Home
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that, with the help of volunteers, builds of safe and affordable housing in more than 70 countries around the world. Houses are built, or renovated, over a number of weeks. And not only can you choose the kind of project you work on but you work alongside the family who will live in the house at the end of the build.

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and assistant editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.

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The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Come join us on Facebook.



Encouraging One Another in the Lord!

by Joanna Bogunjoko “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11–12 (image: CWe spent the end of the year with Joel, some SIM US recruiting team members, and over 10,000 students at Urbana 2018)

Thank you for lifting us up continuously in your prayers and for your support in our global ministry in partnership with you. We are grateful you have stood with us in all our travel to conferences and to visit and encourage our colleagues ministry. We thank God for His protection. We do not take our safety for granted!

We were reminded of this again when we heard of the crash of the Ethiopian Airline six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa to Kenya. We have been on the same type of aircraft with Ethiopian Airline in both December and January. Please pray comfort and peace for the families of all 157 people who lost their lives on the ill-fated flight.

We had asked for your prayers as we gathered with our new global and regional leaders in Nov and Dec in Kenya. THANK YOU for praying. It was a time of learning together, listening to God together, and getting to know one another. The most significant outcome for us personally was our leaders’ commitment to live and to lead based on leadership values rooted in Scripture. Pray that we will live up to the standard of godliness, righteousness, purity and servanthood that we set for ourselves before the Lord.

With the generous gift from a couple who have been our friends and cheerleaders, we were able to spend five days of rest in Ethiopia. What a privilege to visit historic sites, churches cut into rock that date back hundreds of years, and ancient sites such as Axum. It was our best 25th wedding anniversary gift, and we are truly grateful for their generosity.

In Kenya to meet with our colleagues and other Africans who lead international missions

In Kenya to meet with our colleagues and other Africans who lead international missions

We returned to Kenya to meet with our colleagues—other Africans who lead international missions. This was an opportunity to encourage one another, pray together and hear from the Word. We shared glimpses of what we are learning in our roles and issues we are facing, in order to learn from one another. The manager of BTL Christian International Conference Centre where we met invited each leader to plant a memorial tree. He then also invited us (Joshua and Joanna) to plant a tree to commemorate our 25th anniversary. When you are at BTL in Ruiru, Kenya, you may find an avocado tree with our picture next to it.

The manager of BTL Christian International Conference Centre where we met invited each leader to plant a memorial tree

The manager of BTL Christian International Conference Centre where we met invited each leader to plant a memorial tree

We spent the end of the year with Joel, some SIM US recruiting team members, and over 10,000 students at Urbana 2018. At the SIM exhibition booth, we answered questions and prayed with many students seeking guidance about God’s calling into His mission. Please pray for these students. The journey is daunting for many, but they are trusting the Lord, and we are too.

Highlights of Our 2019 Trips So Far
We were in South Africa for Evangel Fellowship meetings in January. This is a gathering of leaders of churches that have come out of the work of SIM in many countries. Over 14 years of bi-annual Evangel meetings, Joshua felt this was one of the best in terms of the quality of discussions. Many churches face significant challenges; they realize their need for one another more than ever. Please pray for church leaders in contexts that increasingly challenge many things the church stands for theologically.

We were also blessed to spend time with the SIM team in Burkina Faso. This team is really feeling the impact of increasing terrorist activities in that part of West Africa. They are now almost totally confined to the capital city and many Christians feel increasing unease in rural areas. Please pray for courage amidst these countrywide security risks.

Our time in Mali was amazing. This is a country where Al-Qaida in the Maghreb has done great damage over the years, yet it was a most refreshing visit for us. How encouraging to see the small SIM team engaged in an unbelievable number of ministries. Two church plants are underway in a rural area outside the capital, as well as children’s feeding program. They have also completed research into a potential outreach among the Moors, Fulani, Soninke, Shonghai, and the deaf—all people who are unreached in Mali. Three families from Ethiopia and a single man from North East India are starting French language studies in Bamako, with plans to serve with SIM among the Fulani in Niger, Mali and Guinea. How encouraging! Please pray we will be able to come alongside them in this amazing vision of seeing a witness for Christ among people who have never heard of Him.

Time with our SIM Guinea team was encouraging. It was great to be back in Guinea after about eight years and to see this team growing. How refreshing to spend time with about 50 university students in Guinea. Many have lots of questions about their future, a desire to serve Jesus, and a willingness to be creative and not depend on government. But they asked, “Who can help us think through these challenges and help us sort out life?” They know that many African migrants have paid the ultimate price in the Mediterranean Sea, and they do not want to follow those steps. At the same time, the present state of things in their country is bleak. They asked, “What is the church’s answer?” After three hours together, we cannot say we had answers to all their questions, but we are grateful for the opportunity to spend time and learn together.

Collaborating mission CEOs in Thailand

Collaborating mission CEOs in Thailand

After a quick three days meeting with the International Directors of some of SIM’s collaborating mission agencies, we went on to Germany for SIM Board of Governors. We remain truly grateful for the godly people on our board. Joshua feels blessed to serve under the guidance of people who are totally sold to Jesus and are only concerned about God’s Kingdom and the Good News of the love of Jesus among the nations.

Joshua spoke at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, the first weekend of March where Genn and Margie Betts generously hosted us. We are truly grateful for their kindness and hospitality.

Joshua spoke at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, the first weekend of March where Genn and Margie Betts generously hosted us

Joshua spoke at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, the first weekend of March where Genn and Margie Betts generously hosted us

We also reunited with long-time friends and colleagues Don and Jenny Townsend from Galmi, Niger, and Allen and Marge Peltier from Egbe, Nigeria, as well as other SIM missionaries in the area.

We also reunited with long-time friends and colleagues Don and Jenny Townsend from Galmi, Niger, and Allen and Marge Peltier from Egbe, Nigeria, as well as other SIM missionaries in the area

We also reunited with long-time friends and colleagues Don and Jenny Townsend from Galmi, Niger, and Allen and Marge Peltier from Egbe, Nigeria, as well as other SIM missionaries in the area

Last weekend, we were in Columbia, South Carolina, during the Missions Emphasis Month at First Northeast Baptist Church. Joshua preached during the service on Sunday. Praise God for these opportunities and for the privilege of sharing with God’s church what we are learning from His Word, from His work, and about His mission in His world.

Please pray for Joshua’s speaking at the Rock Hill Bible Fellowship Church this Sunday, March 24. Late Sunday afternoon, we fly to the UK to join a Mission Leadership course. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to learn as we serve.

From there, we go to the Ukraine where Joshua will speak at the mission conference of the Volyn Region Baptist Association. Next we will visit the SIM offices in France and Switzerland, then join Joshua’s Executive Team for a retreat in the UK. In April, we will speak in Greece to a group of SIM workers from limited access locations. From there we continue to Canada for Prairie College Board meeting. We will conclude our five-week trip with another church mission weekend in Ontario.

Thank you for praying for all these trips and speaking engagements. We could not undertake any of these if we did not know that you are standing with us in prayer. No one would try without a solid backing of God’s people who pray, at least we will not.

Praise and prayer:

  • Give praise to God for restoring our children to good health and for continuing to uphold them.
  • Pray for sustaining grace for Jochebed at work and for Joel in school.
  • Jochebed is considering a job change. Please pray for the Lord’s leading and open door

A Special Opportunity
We are most grateful to each one of you who support us sacrificially out of what the Lord has blessed you. We know many of you give from the little that you have, and Joanna and I feel most unworthy of your generosity. However, a supporter who is concerned about our shortfall is making a generous offer. For those who have not received his email:

“Thank you so much for being fellow supporters of Joshua and Joanna. I’m writing in an effort to get them fully funded.

Frankly, I’m of mixed mind on whether it’s a good idea for the International Director to be required to raise his own support. However, given that that is how SIM works, it seems to me that it is extremely unfortunate to have a situation in which individual missionaries are expected to raise full support while the International Director is himself substantially under-funded. It would be even more unfortunate, in my opinion, if Joshua were to spend a disproportionate amount of his time raising a relatively small amount of money for his and Joanna’s support, rather than spending that time on issues of much larger import to SIM and the Kingdom at large.

As a result, when Joshua was at our house recently, I told him that my wife and I would match dollar-for-dollar any contributions that others make toward eliminating his $50,000+ deficit for this year.

If you’re able to help with the $25k match, please contact Joshua with your pledge or donation. For example, if five families each provide $5,000, we’re there. (I certainly don’t need to know who’s pledging how much, but only the total which I need to match.)

Thank you so much for your past support and for your consideration of this request.

In Christ,
T.

To date, $9,500 have been given or pledged. Please let us know if you are interested in participating.

Joshua and Joanna Bogunjoko

Joshua & Joanna Bogunjoko

Joanna Bogunjoko is the SIM’s Special Assistant to the International Director and Archives Assistant under the umbrella of SIM International Leadership and Services. She have served at three mission hospitals in West Africa and became full members of SIM in 2001.

 



What Does it Mean that the Righteous Shall Live by Faith (Habakkuk 2:4)?

by Got Questions | When Habakkuk wrote, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he was echoing a timeless truth first modeled in Abraham’s life Genesis 15:6. (Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay) 

Habakkuk 2:4 includes the well-known statement “the righteous will live by faith.” What does this mean? The context helps us to understand God’s intent in this passage. The whole verse reads, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” “His soul” is a symbolic reference to Babylonia. This nation had become proud or “puffed up.” As a result, they were unrighteous and facing God’s judgment. In contrast, the righteous (or the “just”) would live by faith in God. By contrast, the righteous are humble in God’s eyes and will never face God’s judgment.

Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament. Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17, emphasizing the idea that righteousness by faith is for both Jews and Gentiles: “For in the gospel a righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Then, in Galatians 3:11, we read, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Here, Paul stresses that we are justified or made right before God by faith. The Law has no ability to justify anyone. As Habakkuk had recorded, people have always been saved by faith, not by works. Habakkuk 2:4 is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38.

In the third century, Rabbi Simla noted that Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to eleven commands in Psalm 15; Isaiah made them six (33:14-15); Micah bound them into three (6:8); and Habakkuk condensed them all to one, namely—“The righteous shall live by faith” (from P. L. Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, #1495).

Christians are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Only by faith in Christ are we made righteous (Romans 5:19). Paul further expounds on this truth in Galatians 2:16, saying, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” It is Christ’s righteousness that saves us, and the only way to receive that gift is to trust in Him. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

When Habakkuk wrote, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he was echoing a timeless truth first modeled in Abraham’s life (Genesis 15:6). The righteous man will “live” in that he will not face God’s judgment; rather, in return for his faith in God, he has been given eternal life



What Matters Most: Seeking God’s Glory

by Andrew Kerr | You also need to remember that, whenever you are bent on the Glory of God, every help will be given to those who ask, seek and knock.  (Image of Praying man by Pexels from Pixabay)

Over the last week or two, I’ve been taking some time out to study John’s Gospel in more depth. My particular concern and focus has been to get a better handle on the relationship that exists between Jesus and the Father.

This morning I was looking at John Chapter 7.10-24. This section narrates the doctrinal head-to-head between Jesus and the Jews, both the masses and their masters. The debate took place in the precincts of the Temple. Christ had come in cognito, resisting the pressure of his relatives. Now, constrained by the duties of His office, He stands in God’s House to declare divine doctrine in order to decimate human tradition.

What is apparent, throughout this account, is the commitment of the Son to the glory of His Father. This, in fact, is the thing, above all, that distinguishes Jesus Christ clearly from His Judean teachers and hearers. The central section of the passage is found in the statement recounted by John in Chapter 7 Verse 18:

“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (NKJV).

This portion of the 4th Gospel raises many searching questions that we need to regularly answer as professors, lecturers, ministers, elders, deacons, members, adherents, or covenant children:

What Matters Most To Me – My Own Personal Kudos, Reputation, Prestige, Honor OR The Honor, Praise and Glory of God?

By way of reply to the question posed by Jesus through His beloved disciple John, let me make a number of points: my aim is to stress the benefits of fruitful meditation on and consideration of the challenge this passage faces us with:

If what matters most to you is the Glory of God then the following facts flow from this passage (no doubt there are many others):

You will (according to the measure of grace and faith granted in Christ) be…..

enabled to BE TIMELY v14
enabled to TEACH TRUTHFULLY v15-16
enabled to RECEIVE CHRIST v17a
**enabled **to DISCERN ERROR v17b
enabled to ENDURE SLANDER v20
enabled to RESPOND KINDLY v21
enabled to DISCUSS THEOLOGY v22
enabled to EXPOSE TRADITION v23
enabled to JUDGE RIGHTLY v24

….Of course, on the other hand, if you are self-seeking, or man-pleasing, you are going, as His disciple, to be seriously deficient or defective, in your character, walk, and service of the Gospel. None of these things are possible while you are motivated by carnal, anthropocentric, thinking.

You also need to remember that, whenever you are bent on the Glory of God, every help will be given to those who ask, seek and knock. The Father, in the Son, by the Spirit of Grace, will reward you passion for conformity to His Son: your heart will be aligned to, and constrained by, His most holy, pleasing and perfect, will. The Jesus who sought God’s glory, and never wearied or deviated from doing so, is a cascading fountain of God-glorifying life, from whom you may obtain abundant grace.

As you seek His power to concentrate your Christianity on God’s glory, expect to see the overflow of His wisdom being worked out in your life. Of course it means you’ll divide opinion (v12), make theologians scratch their heads (v15), collide head-on with tradition (21), and be called a child of the devil (v20) – nobody ever claimed that seeking God’s glory was easy! But, as by the work of the God-glorifying Spirit, in the Grace of the Gospel, faith leads you into ever-closer communion, your relationship with the Father, will be revealed through the Son: your desire to seek God first will be evident in your life, as your mouth and manner are filled with the truth of the Gospel like Jesus.

God grant us grace each day to be God’s Glory Seekers more and more.

Andrew KerrAndrew Kerr is Pastor of Knockbracken in Belfast – Husband of Hazel, Dad to Rebekah, Paul and Andrew, Lover of Skiing, Walker of Lucy (our Bernese Mountain Dog), with a Passion for OT – in Deep Need of Grace. Connect with Andrew via gentlereformation.com

 



Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry

by Joel Kurz | By the year 2050, the United States will no longer have a majority ethnic group. The nation’s population will be majority-minority. This future nationwide reality has already been a present reality in several cities, including many in the urban south, for nearly a decade. In a 2011 State of the City Address, the mayor of pastor and author Mark Hearn’s city said there were fifty-seven languages spoken at the local high school.

Title: Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry.
Author: Mark Hearn
ISBN-13: 978-1433691737
ISBN-10: 1433691736
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2017
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)

Mark Hearn accepted the call to pastor First Baptist Church in Duluth, GA, and quickly discovered his new community was the one of most diverse counties in the United States. His immediate neighbors hailed from India, Korea, and Zimbabwe.

His new church, however, was almost entirely white. Over the next few years, Hearn led his church to reach the many ethnic groups surrounding them. His new surroundings reminded him of the movie “Wizard of Oz” as Dorothy awakes in Oz and the movie changes from a black-and-white film to a technicolor film––at which point Dorothy exclaims, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

The story of this transition is retold in Hearn’s new book, Technicolor.

A Changing America
For Hearn, Dorothy’s phrase could just as easily describe a changing America and its explosion of diversity. The author points out that according to the International Mission Board, there are 11,695 people groups in the United States. This isn’t something to fear, Hearn says, but rather is an opportunity to reach the nations.

Many monolithic churches find themselves in changing neighborhoods; unfortunately, some are content to remain monolithic. Appealing to Matthew 28:18-20, Hearn argues that Christians are called to make disciples of all nations; therefore, Christians must be willing to transition churches from mono-cultural to cross-cultural communities. Churches must seek to reach the many different ethnicities and language groups surrounding them.

First Baptist of Duluth’s Story
For Hearn’s First Baptist Church, the transition came with a mixture of enthusiasm and difficulty. After he discovered that 57 different language groups resided in Duluth (Gwinnett County has the 25th largest undocumented immigrant population), he knew things had to change.

Fueled by the Great Commission, Hearn wanted his new church to become a welcoming home for all. The transition began with a creative sermon series and tirelessly progressed from there. Hearn even learned Spanish and, one Sunday, surprised his congregation by preaching an entire sermon in Spanish. Since then, motivated by the language-inclusive school system, First Baptist has begun a translation ministry that merges various language groups into one gathering. The church currently translates each service into three different languages with live professional translators.

First Baptist has also formally recognized each country represented through their membership by placing that particular country’s flag in the sanctuary; currently, 26 flags hang in their auditorium.

The congregation also utilizes mission trips to build familiarity with their neighbors’ home countries. “Celebration days” from around the world have been added into the church calendar—including Indian Independence Day, Three Kings Day, and the Chinese/Korean New Year. Hearn writes, “These events have galvanized the entire congregation into a genuine cross-cultural team that is ready and willing to invite people of all ethnicities to ‘my church’” (116).

Strong in the Celebration of Diversity
Technicolor achieves its purpose in that it inspires transition toward a multi-cultural church. Filled with examples of lives changed from around the world, First Baptist is indeed a unique congregation that’s experienced a remarkable shift.

As a result, Technicolor has a number of strengths. First, Hearn is clear that the book is a motivation, not a model. I appreciate his humility when he states that the book is “not intended for emulation but for inspiration” (4).

Second, the primary thrust behind Hearn’s passion is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s clear that their new multi-cultural community is something “Jesus has accomplished . . . on our behalf” (42). Hearn knows: the call for cross-cultural and multi-ethnic churches is a call to look more like the body of Christ, which we already are. In other words, it’s not dependent on us but is a gift from God. Hearn writes, “We have one thing in common: our faith” (37).

Third, Hearn presents basic ecclesiology as the primary method of creating this cross-cultural family, namely baptism into the local church. It’s not about creating a group of cross-cultural friends, Hearn argues, but developing a sense of spiritual community through baptism.

Fourth, Hearn makes a strong case for partnership in the work. First Baptist partners with the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, and Mosaix in creating a cross-cultural missions awareness.

Lastly, Hearn’s resilience in the midst of backlash and negativity is encouraging. He knew where he wanted to go and was convinced that it was right in spite of the hostility.

Limited in Scope
While the book is strong in inspiring the reader toward diversity, Technicolor is somewhat limited in scope. First Baptist Church’s diversity is primarily international. Debunking the fear of the foreigner, this is a wonderful picture of Gospel ministry. Yet, as a result of the international focus, the book doesn’t address other racial issues. Hearn is silent on the African American struggle and on issues of white superiority. Churches who are trying to bring together white and black communities may still be inspired by Hearn’s story, yet discover this book simply has a different purpose.

Second, smaller churches who don’t have the ability to provide professional translation services may be discouraged and unsure of next steps. Language-based church plants are subtly discouraged in favor of live-translated services. That’s unfortunate, because planting language-specific churches is always a viable choice. The question never occurs to Hearn if translation is even a wise idea. Yes, you can translate services, but can you translate life together for the congregation all week? If not, has church become a once-a-week service?

Third, the transition at First Baptist seems very senior pastor-driven. While it worked for First Baptist, this approach could be devastating in other contexts and churches. I could see a pastor moving too quickly or too strong and splitting his church due to his good intentions.

Conclusion
I thank God for Mark Hearn and the work at First Baptist Church in Duluth. Hearn’s desire for evangelism and commitment to the gospel is evident throughout. While there are a few weaknesses, this book offers a unique and much-needed contribution to American evangelicalism, especially as demographics change. I pray many churches will experience the kind of explosive diversity that’s recently been experienced and celebrated at First Baptist Church in Duluth, GA.

Joel KurzJoel Kurz is the lead pastor of The Garden Church in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find him on Twitter at @joelkurz.



What is Lent?

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan. (image, Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jésus tenté dans le désert), James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum)

Lent this year started on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 and ends on Saturday, April 20th 2019. In short, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. It always lasts for 40 days, mirroring the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before starting his ministry. It can also be seen to mirror the 40 hours that Jesus spent in the tomb prior to his resurrection. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.

During Lent many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain foods, habits or luxuries – for example sweets, alcohol, smoking – for its duration (the money saved is often then donated to charity). This is done both as a form of penitence and as a spiritual tool to tame the body and ‘sharpen the spirit’ for prayer, reflection and contemplation in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Purple is the color most associated with Lent – during this period purple church vestments (altar cloths and the priests’ liturgical garments) are used. The purple is symbolic in two ways: it is the traditional color of mourning (recalling Jesus’ death) and also symbolic of royalty (celebrating Christ’s coming as King).

The Gloria in excelsis Deo, which is usually sung on Sundays at Mass (or Communion) of the Roman and Anglican rites, is omitted on the Sundays of Lent, but continues in use on during special solemn celebrations like on Maundy Thursday. The Lutheran Divine Service, the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Churches, and the Presbyterian service of worship associate the Alleluia are omitted entirely during Lent in the canonical hours and outside the liturgy.

The sixth Sunday in Lent, commonly called Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter. Holy Week and the season of Lent, depending on denomination and local custom, end with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday or on the morning of Easter Sunday. It is custom for some churches to hold sunrise services which include open air celebrations in some places.



7 Tips For Keeping the Spark Alive in Your Marriage

by David Peach | That word communicate is a fancy word for talk. Remember when you used to do that without having to raise your voice? Pay attention to your spouse. Intentionally put your book down when they are speaking. Listen to what they have to say.

Thinking about when you were dating should bring a smile to your face. You were young (at least younger than you are now). You had fewer pressures in your life and you could focus more time on the one you loved. If there were other important things going on, they only seemed to get in the way of your dating relationship.

Now, a few (or several) years later, it seems that everything is turned around. You have more pressures with work, hobbies, social activities and less time to spend with your spouse. Your marriage seems like it gets in the way of everything else you have to, or want to do.

Ignite a flame in your relationship again. If a flame seems a little too ambitious to you, start with just a spark. After implementing these tips I hope you remember what attracted you to one another back those many years ago.

Respect

When you first got married did you ever think that you would treat your spouse as poorly as you treat your own brothers or sisters—those people you were forced to live with and knew every fault they had? Yet here you are a few years down the road and find that you treat your own siblings with more respect than you have for your spouse.

Your siblings come to visit and you offer to get them something to drink. You hold in your bodily noises when they are around. You call just to chat. What about your relationship with your spouse? Do you still show them the respect you did when you were dating? If not, get back to those days when you valued your spouse more than your own family.

Dress nicely when you go out. Let other people know it is an honor for you to be with the one you love. Speak kindly. Listen to one another again.

Spontaneity

Do things just for fun. Be random. Play. You don’t always have to act your age. When was the last time you invited your spouse to the back seat of your car to kiss in the mall parking lot? As a complete surprise you can arrange with your friends to take the kids for a night and you sweep your spouse off to a hotel across town.

Communication

That word communicate is a fancy word for talk. Remember when you used to do that without having to raise your voice? Pay attention to your spouse. Intentionally put your book down when they are speaking. Listen to what they have to say.

Compliment one another. Find something nice to say to your spouse. Then find nice things to say about them to other people. This honors them and communicates to others your affection for the one you love.

Public Display of Affection

It is perfectly acceptable to hold hands in most cultures. But have you held hands lately? When my wife and I were dating we were in an environment that did not allow dating couples to hold hands. How thrilling it was each time we did get a chance to sneak in a little squeeze. Sometimes we recreate that feeling by acting like it is taboo as we hold hands underneath our Bible during church.

Why do we think it is cute for teenagers to act like a married couple out in public, but somehow think it is disgusting for a married couple to act like teenagers? There should certainly be limits to what is done in public as a sign of respect to other people, but maybe a little bit of public affection would do your marriage good.

Dating Again

Plan some time alone with your spouse. A date doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be intentional. If you just go out to eat at the same place you go every Thursday evening, that wouldn’t necessarily be a date. But if you would ramp up your wardrobe, show obvious respect to your spouse and throw in a little PDA (public display of affection) you could be surprised as to how exciting the local fast food joint can be once again.

Gift Giving

Gifts don’t have to be elaborate. It could even be as simple as a random card with a nice note about how you are thinking about them. My wife was cleaning out some files yesterday when she found some cards that we had given each other years ago. Though these gifts didn’t have monetary value, they still brought a smile to our faces as she told about some of the things we wrote to one another.

A gift can be something simple, but it should be well thought out and given with purpose.

Studying One Another

I was around an older couple recently and witnessed a hilarious conversation. The wife said something about her husband liking a certain food. He said to me that he really didn’t like it, but he tolerated it for her sake because he thought she liked it so much. She was shocked and was genuinely surprised by this revelation. She hated the food but only made it because she thought he liked it.

What things are you doing because you think your spouse likes it, but you never took the time to find out the truth? Of course you can’t know until you ask them and start studying them like you did when you first met. In fact, it can be a fun game to go to an event and pretend you don’t know one another. Ask each other questions like you are meeting for the first time. You might be surprised that what you thought was true, or what may have been true 20 years ago, isn’t the case any more.

I hope these 7 tips for keeping the spark alive in your marriage will inspire you to spend some quality time with the one you love this week and for many years to come.

David PeachDavid Peach has been in full time missions work with the Deaf since 1994. He has started several deaf ministries in various countries and established a deaf church in Mexico. David now works as Director of Deaf Ministries for his mission board. David has written numerous articles on What Christians Want To Know! Read some of them in RSS feed here.