THEOLOGY & Is modern Christianity not preparing people for a judgement day? One well respected theologian thinks so.

Interview with Michael McClymond by Paul Copen, Christianity Today, 3/11/19.

… When Jesus spoke to his disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24), he combined discussion of the End Times with a call to “keep watch” and a warning regarding the unfaithful servant who is caught off guard by the master’s return (Matt. 24:42–51). This chapter links Jesus’ return not only to the theme of moral and spiritual preparation but also to the theme of evangelism: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (v. 14). Likewise, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) likewise stresses the need to be prepared for Jesus’ return. When the apostles ask Jesus after the Resurrection whether he will “restore the kingdom,” he directs them to evangelize, once again linking his return to the present mission of the church (Acts 1:6–8).

The Book of Revelation represents God’s people as the “bride” to be joined to Christ as the “bridegroom.” It states that “his bride has made herself ready” with “fine linen, bright and clean,” which is “the righteous acts of God’s holy people” (Rev. 19:7–8). The Book of 1 John connects eschatological hope with moral and spiritual purification: “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). In light of the world’s coming dissolution, 2 Peter exclaims, “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (3:11–12). And Paul’s letter to Titus connects our “blessed hope” (2:13) with a summons “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (2:12).

From a pastoral standpoint, the passages surveyed suggest that one might evaluate eschatological teachings in terms of their practical effects. And it is exceedingly difficult to see how the biblical call to self-denial and godly living can flourish on the basis of universalist theology. Who would need to work at being alert or prepared if a universalist outcome were already known in advance? (Some Christian universalists, including Origen, acknowledged this problem and suggested that universalism should be kept secret from the masses and disseminated among only a select few.)

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/march-web-only/michael-mcclymond-devils-redemption-universalism.html

TRENDS & Graphs Reveal Evangelicals Show No Decline, Despite Trump and Nones (but mainline church affiliation is declining)

by Ryan Burge, Christianity Today, 3/21/19.

… As Tobin Grant, editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, pointed out: “Changes in religion are slow. No group gains or loses quickly.” (The “nones,” a popular term for the religiously unaffiliated, being an exception—gaining faster than other affiliations tend to because they pull from multiple faith groups.)

Slideshow

That’s mostly what the 2018 GSS results show us. Evangelicals—grouped in this survey by church affiliation—continue to make up around 22.5 percent of the population as they have for much of the past decade, while the nones, now up to 23.1 percent themselves, keep growing. (For comparison, the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Survey put evangelicals at 25.4 percent and the religious nones at 22.8 percent.)

Slideshow

Other than one outlier—a slight peak of 24.7 percent in 2012—evangelicals have ranged from 22.5 percent to 24 percent of the US population over the past 10 years. Still, this steadiness doesn’t mean “no change” among the evangelical population. There is always a “churn” occurring within any religious group. People leave the group because of death or defection, while new members either grow up in the faith or convert as adults.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/march/evangelical-nones-mainline-us-general-social-survey-gss.html

TRUST & How can we trust others in our fallen world?

by Terrance Klein, America; The Jesuit Review, 3/20/19.

…We live, all of us, in a disappointing world. We deceive each other, and when we incorporate, we seem only to maximize our capacity for deception. The modern news media tells us that we have been lied to by our government, by corporations, by the church, by pretty much every place where “two or three gather.” And now with the advent of “fake news,” we no longer trust the news media either.

Small wonder that we are essentially suspicious. It is sad, too, that one mark of adulthood is the ability to recognize when one is being taken in. Only kids truly trust, and they will learn soon enough, so we say.

Yet this question of trust, of giving ourselves to something outside ourselves, is quite fundamental. It goes to the nature of who we are as human beings. One might pose the question this way: Are we clams or clovers?

A clam closes out the world, hides something precious within a hard, protective shell. A clover can only grow, can only find nourishment by opening itself to the air, the sun, the wind and the rain. Which are we? Are we designed to be closed in upon ourselves? Or does our growth in life depend upon our openness to others?

Moses encounters a burning bush that is not consumed. Set aside questions such as: Did the bush really burn and yet live? How did the bush do that? The most important question is the one that Moses himself faced: Have I truly encountered something—someone, really—beyond myself? Am I confronted with someone who is truly “other”? Who is neither I nor part of my world? If this is true, then the questions come begging. “Who is this?” “What does he want of me?” “Should I trust her?”

We cannot avoid these questions in our lives. They are the portals to the intimacy of friendship and love. Once we realize that another wants to be part of our lives, we must choose. Either we trust—entrust ourselves to the other—or we turn away. Sadly, this is a decision we can and sometimes do regret. Yet clovers cannot be clams. If we try to live like clams, we slowly die…

Of course, once divine revelation enters our human sphere it is subject to misunderstanding and misreading. It can be adulterated or truncated, culpably and inculpably, by those charged with its presentation. We cannot fully trust the preacher any more than we can fully trust ourselves. But if the offer, if the person before us comes from outside our fallen and false world, then opening ourselves to that “other-worldly other within myself” is the only way to live.

That brings us to our New Testament tree. Unlike Moses’ bush, the fig tree is not burning. No question there. There is nothing amazing about it. That is because in this story, we are the fig tree, and the questions are: Have we been planted by another? Were we meant to bear fruit? Are we bearing fruit?

… So what are you, clover or clam?

Read more at … https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/03/20/how-can-we-trust-others-our-fallen-world

TRENDS & 6 in 10 US churches are declining or plateaued per #LifeWayResearch

Read more from LifeWay Research here … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/03/15/are-american-churches-growing/

TEMPTATION & how to remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about #JayMorgan #AppalachianPrayerCenter

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Reverend Jay Morgan shadowed me for year in my consulting practice to become a Missional Coach. He now heads up the Appalachian Prayer Center and is writing a great historical analysis/application from the widespread influence of the Welsh revivals. Read the insights he applies from them for today.

“The Message of the Welsh Revival Part 2: If in doubt, remove it.” by Jay Morgan, Appalachian Prayer Center, 3/15/19.

This post is the second in a four part series exploring the message that fueled the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905.  During this short period of time, revival swept through nearly every town on the Island of Wales and over 100,000 people came to faith in Christ.

A young preacher, Evan Roberts, stressed the following four tenets to his companions.  As they began to personally do these, God used this group to help spread revival all over Wales.  There is much to be learned from these tenets as we prepare for revival today.

  • Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ

  • Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

  • Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly

  • Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the last post we focused on confessing all known sin to God.  Today let’s focus on the second tenet:

Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

This is a step beyond confessing known sin.  This is a decision to step as far away from sin as you can.  

Many people defend their “right” to do something as a Christian. They try to get to the edge of sin without falling in.  This is a dangerous way to live, yet many think they can “flirt” around with sin and not get into trouble.

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Proverbs 6:27

Jesus taught us to be pray that we would not be “lead” into temptation.  The behavior itself might not be sin, but will it lead you into a tempting, sinful situation?  If so, get rid of it.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  Matthew 6:13

 

Paul taught us that there are things that we may we feel have a right to do, but are not beneficial to us.  Some of these things can actually sabotage you and your mission in the world.

 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Ask your self the following three questions:

  • Will this behavior lead me to sin?

  • Will this behavior lead a weaker Christian to sin if they copy me?

  • Will this behavior limit or harm my ability to influence people for Jesus?

If so, remove it!

This can include:

  • Relationships that pull you back to your old life

  • A “border-line” sinful book, song or TV program that makes you vulnerable to sin.

  • Videos you watch on your phone.  

  • Conversations you have.  

  • Certain places you drive by.  

  • Certain clothing.  

  • Unnecessary debt for things you don’t need that will overwork you and pull you away from God’s purposes.

  • Flirty conversations.  

  • Using alcohol or other drugs.  

  • Health Damaging habits.

The list goes on.

Read more at … https://www.apcwv.com/single-post/2019/03/15/The-Message-of-the-Welsh-Revival-Part-2-If-in-doubt-remove-it?utm_campaign=99758eab-5cf9-4b27-abd1-6ee84ae4fa4a&utm_source=so

TEAMWORK & 3 Reasons Why You May Want People Who Are Chronically Late On Your Team, According to Research

by Rebecca Hinds, Inc. Magazine, 3/1/19.

…Despite your valiant attempts to confront perpetually late co-workers and cure chronic lateness, you’ve probably been less than successful. It’s not all your fault. There are psychological reasons to explain why people are perpetually tardy…

1. Optimism

According to Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again, individuals who are perpetually late tend to be more optimistic. As optimists, latecomers are likely to look at the bright side of things….

Optimism is a highly desirable trait in the workplace… Research by the University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman, as outlined in his book “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life”, found that sales professionals who are optimistic outperform others by 37 percent. 

2. Creativity 

… According to research, creative individuals aren’t adept at filtering out distraction. Their mind moves freely from one idea to another without constraint. While this proclivity spurs creativity, it also causes their minds to wander from calendar invitations and show up late to commitments. 

3. Low levels of neuroticism

Some highly punctual people express anxiety about being late. Being late feels unsafe and results in stress… a 2006 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, habitually punctual people exhibit higher levels of neuroticism.

Neuroticism can be toxic to the workplace. Neurotic people are more likely to be moody and experience depression…

Read more at …https://www.inc.com/rebecca-hinds/3-reasons-why-you-may-want-people-who-are-chronically-late-on-your-team-according-to-research.html

THEOLOGY & What to Say When Someone Says Women Are Not Permitted to Teach

by Chesna Hinkley, CBE International, 2/18/19.

1 Timothy 2 is a tricky passage to interpret well. Verses 11-15 alone contain four biblical “buzz phrases” often employed by those who oppose women’s equality in the church. Paul writes:[1]

1. Women should learn in silence (2:11).
2. I do not permit a woman to teach or dominate a man (2:12).
3. The woman was decieved and became a sinner (2:14).
4. Women will be saved through childbearing (2:15).

These troubling verses form, for many, the foundation of the case for women’s submission to men and against the legitimacy of women’s preaching and teaching in church and/or to men. Though it would appear those opposed to women’s equality in the church have the upper hand in interpreting “problem passages” like 1 Timothy, egalitarians are actually better equipped to explain why Paul, normally a strong supporter of his female ministry colleagues, would seemingly prohibit those same coworkers from carrying out gospel work. So the next time someone cites 1 Timothy to obstruct women’s gifts and leadership, here’s what you can say:

The Purpose of 1 Timothy

The major crisis in 1 Timothy is false teaching. This takes up most of the content of the letter, and 1:3 says that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to “command certain people” not to teach falsely or continue in “myths and endless genealogies.” Some people have “turned to meaningless talk.” They want to be teachers, “but they do not know what they are talking about” (1:7).

So, what is false teaching? We know not all the apostles had exactly the same ideas. We also know that Paul didn’t want people fighting about less central ideas, because his primary concern was that the “one faith” be preached (1 Cor. 1:12-13). That means that the “false teachings” referenced here were outside the bounds of Christianity.

The Artemis Cult and Other False Teachings

Artemis of the Ephesians (see Acts 19) was the goddess who kept women safe in childbirth (2:15). If she wasn’t appeased, many Ephesians believed mother or baby would die. In Ephesus, Artemis worship was everywhere. There was an extraordinary temple to her there. Her cult was so deep in the Ephesian worldview that it would have been terrifying for women to give birth without offering sacrifices. The easiest way to soothe this fear would’ve been for women to continue worshipping Artemis on the side. They might’ve also brought elements of Artemis worship into Jesus worship.[2]

Further, some of the church fathers believed that an early form of Gnosticism was being taught at Ephesus. Later on, Gnosticism was a widespread heresy that preached “endless genealogies” of demigods and demons (1:4). It also taught that salvation came through “secret knowledge” (gnosis).

The Gnostics liked Eve because, as they saw it, she wanted to gain wisdom by eating the forbidden fruit. Sometimes, she took on a mysterious power as the spiritual Feminine. In some Gnostic creation myths, Eve was created first. According to church father Irenaeus, Gnostics taught that Eve brought “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20-21) into the world.[3]

This context is crucial to interpreting this passage as modern believers. Knowing that Ephesian Christians were receiving false teaching, perhaps especially from women who would benefit from Eve’s high status, helps to explain why Paul is so concerned about how women were leading and teaching in church. Now, let’s look at Paul’s message to women within this context:

Read more at … https://www.cbeinternational.org/blogs/what-say-when-someone-says-women-are-not-permitted-teach?