I was reading yesterday a book by Father Faber, late of the Oratory, at Brompton, a marvellous compound of truth and error. In it he relates a legend to this effect. A certain preacher, whose sermons converted men by scores, received a revelation from heaven that not one of the conversions was owing to his talents or eloquence, but all to the prayers of an illiterate lay-brother, who sat on the pulpit steps, pleading all the time for the success of the sermon. It may in the all-revealing day be so with us. We may discover, after having laboured long and wearily in preaching, that all the honour belongs to another builder, whose prayers were gold, silver, and precious stones, while our sermonisings being apart from prayer, were but hay and stubble.
May God raise up many prayer warriors among us so that the preachers are strengthened for service.
“6 Hours for Us” is open to anyone who is married or preparing for marriage regardless of faith or background. Our speakers will discuss the various trials and turning points in their marriages. One couple has three children still at home; another couple are near empty-nesters who have also navigated marriage through 20+ years in law enforcement.
Cost: $35 per couple (includes lunch and conference materials) Time/Location: 9:30AM-3:30PM at Cornerstone Church Facility
Alan Jacobs (now professor at Baylor University) wrote his Original Sin book in 2009. It's a fun ride of a read through Western history (with a few anecdotes from the East) on why humans are the way they are. For Jacobs, the three competing options are benign, divine, or fallen.
Humans could be benign arrivals in the evolutionary scheme of history. Simply put, we are what we are. Sometimes people go so far to call humans "noble savages," meaning we are born with goodness in us. Or we're blank slates that can go either direction morally. If we've become "evil," it's society or education or something else that brought about that turn of events. It's nurture, not nature that deserves the blame.
Humans are sometimes painted in the glowing light of divinity. This may be a religious/mystical view or a evolutionary view that puts humans at the heights of moral goodness. This could be a noble savage idea that goes further and says we begin noble, stay noble, and may go even further than that. It could refer to a divine spark in us that is actualized throughout our lives.
The view that Jacob holds out, as well as orthodox Christianity, is that humans are actually fallen beings. There is a bi-polar nature in the humanity--we do what we don't want to do, and it's in our nature. Call it an illness, a brokenness, or a bent moral will, but humans and their history make much more sense if we reject benign and divine suggestions and deal with the real problem--the human heart.
Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley (a fun, fictional journey of the life and hometown of a small church pastor...sadly, Philip Gulley's non-fiction writings on the church, theology, and Christian practice do not reflect historic or orthodox Christianity.). We also enjoyed reading aloud a few of the Jeeves' books by P.G. Wodehouse this year.
More in the Ender's Series by Orson Scott Card (Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender's Shadow). These sci-fi fantasy books feel like a guilty pleasure sometimes, but the insights Card brings up with regard to humanity, justice, and God are profound at times.
Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You. A book I also reviewed in 2017. If you aren't reading something to consider our technology shapes us, consider this title as a worthy choice.
Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word by Daniel Henderson. The book's premise is simple, the writing is clearly the work of a novice, but it brings home truths I need to hear again and again.
Every generation of Christians faces new obstacles for clinging to Christ. In our lives today, one of the most deadly tools Satan uses for destroying our souls is our phones. These precious technological devices go with us wherever we go, promising that all boredom can be undone, and connectivity is a click away. At the same time, they zap us from deep meditation on Christ, slow prayer before the LORD, and presence before God and others.
The Southern Baptist Seminary recently posted an article by a pastor from Alabama. This pastor has been on the same journey as me (reading almost all the same books this year) regarding technology and the Christian. His insights are worth our time and meditation.
Tips for Technological Sanity and Respect (for you and others):
- Turn off all notifications from email, social media, and apps. Don’t invite distractions into your life.
- Keep phone and messaging on silent or vibrate as much as possible.
- Have periods each day (1-3 hours periodically throughout the day) and each week (24 hours) where your phone is totally off or on silent and you avoid a computer or tablet.
- Leave phones in designated locations for the evening (not your pocket). Be present with the people in your home.
- Leave phone in car (best) or turned off in purse/pocket during appointments, meals, concerts, movies, and meetings. Use the “emergency rule” sparingly. The emergency rule allows you to inform your host or guest that you need to leave your phone on for an expected and important call. If you haven’t utilized the “emergency rule,” do not look at your phone until the event is over.
I sent this to my congregation today; thought you'd find it interesting if you hadn't come across it yet...
Since many of you have relationships with friends and family influenced by the dangerous heresy of "Health and Wealth" (also known as "The Word of Faith" movement), please give this 90 minutes podcast a listen. This is an interview of Costi Hinn, the nephew of the false teacher Benny Hinn. Costi has left the Health and Wealth movement and has embraced the Christ who calls us to pick up our cross to follow and suffer. The reason I so appreciate this interview is that Costi Hinn still loves his uncle and those who haven't seen the light. It's a thought-provoking interview. There was also a September 20th, 2017 Christianity Today article by Costi Hinn entitled, "Benny Hinn is My Uncle but Prosperity Preaching Isn't for Me."
The man has been dead for many weeks. His business almost stole my soul. He was not and is not my enemy, for my Enemy is not flesh and blood. By the grace of God, my first look in Hefner's deadly magazine was not the last word on the man God is making me to be.
More on God's redemption in my life can be read here...warning: this is not PG.
With a new crisis of epic proportions every week, I have felt the weight of tragedy fatigue. Just in the past days, two twenty year old died in a car crash in our county and over 50 people died a horrific death in Las Vegas. In the past several months, there have been other shootings, natural disasters, and international conflict. How is a finite person able to face all of these and still function?
On top of the fatigue, we experience social expectations to Tweet this or Post on Facebook that in order to show our solidarity. Woe to us if we forget to mention it or speak on another subject because then we'll be insensitive or uncaring. That adds a whole new layer to the sense of guilt and obligation on facing tragedies.
I offer two words on this...
The first is, "Loving your neighbor" is primarily about the real people, in plain sight, that need your care and attention. Though the world clamors at you to worry about "the big stuff" in "the big places," we need to minister to the wounded around us. You don't need to go running for regional and national emergencies; they will find you one day in your backyard. So today, a good way to respond to tragedies afar is to look for the just as real wounded among you. Love them, encourage them, call them, and be available to them.
Second, prayerfully consider simple acts of kindness to those afar. In the New Testament, Christians from all across Europe were sending money to famine-effected Jerusalem. There is a precedent for intentional care beyond your geographic locality. But don't feel guilty for sending a generous cash donation and bowing before the LORD in prayer. It may be all you can do...and it may be exactly what is needed. God will raise up "helpers" in each place. Churches have developed disciples in these locations for these very purposes. Support them in prayer...ensure they have the resources they need to love the neighbors among them.
God cares about the big hurts and the little hurts. He sent His Son to end the suffering by suffering on the Cross. Jesus' resurrection confirms that one day all will be made right. Those who know and believe in Jesus today can rest in the sure knowledge that Heaven is coming...a New Earth will dawn. Until then, we seek God's blessing on all aspects currently impacted by the Fall.