CONNECTIONS News – 12/16/2012

Connecting man to man to God
For week of December 16, 2012
Issue 438

The weekly newsletter of Path Of Life Ministries.
Our mission is to lead men to Jesus Christ and provide opportunity for Christian men to grow in their faith and minister to others. 

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“The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
- Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

     CONSIDER
Christians think they are prosecuting attorneys or judges, when, in realty, God has called all of us to be witnesses.”
- Warren Wiersbe

     WINNING, BY GOD. JOE GIBBS’ THIRD ACT: EVANGELIST
by Tom Foreman and Eric Marrapodi
Joe Gibbs moves through pit row at Dover International Speedway with purpose. On this clear day he has three NASCAR teams competing under the banner of Joe Gibbs Racing. The NFL coach and Hall of Fame legend barks encouragement as his teams gather in their fire suits in front of racks of tools.

We’re due one today! Let’s go!”

Then the team members put their hands together at the center of a circle, Gibbs slaps his on top with the sun catching his Super Bowl ring, and bows his head in a sudden moment of calm before the high-octane storm. “Father thank you for this day,” he begins to pray.

The white hair under his logo covered ball cap is an oddity here. The pits of NASCAR are a young man’s world. Top speed, quick reflexes and raw power are prized.

The drivers are the captains of the cars, but speed and precision of their pit crews – leaping over walls, changing tires and filling gas tanks – is often the difference between winning and loosing.

So what is the 72-year-old Gibbs, well past retirement age, doing amid the chaos and thundering noise? The same thing Gibbs has always done: He’s calling the shots.

To me, life is so exciting. To me, life is always trying to beat someone in something competitive. It’s kinda been my whole life,” Gibbs explains while sitting in the sprawling Joe Gibbs Racing Complex in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a recent race…. Read this in full at
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/08/winning-by-god-joe-gibbs-third-act-evangelist/

     FEAR AND FAITH IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC CRISIS
by Clare De Graaf
You believe God will meet all your needs, but you’re not sure he’ll provide all your wants and that’s what really frightens you, doesn’t it?”

I asked this question at a special evangelistic gathering of men in January 2009, right in the middle of the great financial meltdown. None of these men were worried about being homeless or hungry. But, to a man they admitted to periods of fear and sleepless nights, even the Christians present. It was humbling for me to admit to them that I too had been afraid. That set me on a journey to figure out why.

Why is it that even Christians worry? …. Read this in full at
http://www.claredegraaf.com/2012/12/10/777/

     A VERY MARY CHRISTMAS
by Robert Crosby,
Some Christians make too much of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The subject of Mariology has been the subject of study and debate for ages, with strong differences existing between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Catholicism, of course, has long advocated Marian veneration. Not only do many Catholics pray to Mary and solicit her prayers for them, they view her as playing an instrumental role in the redemption of mankind, seeing her as “the gate of heaven . . . through which all find Jesus.” Some even contend for adding her to the Trinity, supposedly forming some sort of “divine Quadrangle.” Of course, to Protestants this seems biblically preposterous and theologically indefensible. However, it remains that while some have made far too much of Mary, others, I’m afraid, have made far too little…. Read this in full at
http://www.patheos.com//Evangelical/Very-MARY-Christmas-Robert-Crosby-12-10-2012

     NEWSWEEK VS. THE NEW TESTAMENT — IT MUST BE CHRISTMAS
by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
The major festivals of the Christian year often prompt major cover stories in the nation’s weekly news magazines. Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report all regularly feature major articles timed for Christmas and Easter. The days of these cover articles may soon be over, however, since US News & World Report is no longer publishing a print edition, and Newsweek’s final print edition will be dated December 31, 2012.

In years past, these cover articles had featured the work of reporters who interviewed a range of scholars and authorities from several theological perspectives. More recently, both Time and Newsweek have instead featured essays written by a single author.

Timed for this Christmas, Newsweek just released a cover essay by Bart D. Ehrman, who is well-known for his belief that the New Testament is largely historical fiction. “Who is Jesus?” is the question on the cover. “The Myths of Jesus” is the headline on the essay itself.

Newsweek’s agenda is clear, and it has chosen to feature a cover article denying the historical basis of Christmas as one of its last print editions…. Read this in full at
http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/12/11/newsweek-vs-the-new-testament-it-must-be-christmas/

Also see, “Why Bart Ehrman Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Christmas (Or Your Faith) Part 1”
http://reknew.org/2012/12/why-bart-ehrman-doesnt-have-to-ruin-your-christmas-or-your-faith-part-1/

     IMAGINING THE MAGI
by Robert Kiely
Many artists have set their minds to imagining the scene of the magi’s visit to Bethlehem. Most medieval and Renaissance painters, following a tradition that linked the episode to an Old Testament passage, made the wise men look like kings. As craftsmen who depended for their living on wealthy patrons, artists must have relished the compelling, dramatic image of richly dressed royalty bowing down to a poor child. The paintings include more people looking on than do typical depictions of the shepherds’ adoration. Images of the magi tend to be crowded, complicated, even confused, perhaps reflecting uncertainty about the meaning of their visit — the universal welcome it promised, but also the violence and suffering it unleashed…. Read this in full at
http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/long-journey

     PROF: ‘CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS’ CAN BE HELPFUL
In the classic TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus reminds the rest of the Peanuts gang of the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2.

Christians could do worse than to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this holiday season, seminary professor David Mills says, because it can remind them to share the Gospel.

“Linus gets it,” said Mills, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“God gave us Jesus in Bethlehem because we need His death at Calvary,” Mills said, emphasizing the necessity of Jesus to be fully human and fully divine in order to fulfill God’s plan for the redemption of sinners.

Mills suggested that Christmas be celebrated by looking forward to the second coming of Christ…. Read this in full at
http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=39342

     A SLEIGH BELLS FUNNY
Sing to the tune of “Sleigh Bells Ring/Winter Wonderland”:

(Verse 1)
Sleigh bells ring? It’s tinnitus
What’s that pain? My arthritis.
We’re both growing old – You’re grey-haired, I’m bald –
Using walkers in the winter once again.
(Verse 2)
When we try watching TV:
“Turn it up! Can’t you hear me?”
We don’t like the shows, but that’s how it goes,
We feel about a century too old.
(bridge)
In the kitchen: “What did I come here for?”
Guess I’ll go ahead and make a snack.
“Have you seen my glasses?” “Shut the fridge door!”
“If you use my dentures, could you give them back?”
(Verse 3)
Early on, we retire,
Eating prunes by the fire.
We’ve had a great life;
We’re husband and wife.
“Tell me what your name is once again?”

Copyright 2011 Bill DiGennaro. Permission is granted to send this to others, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.
http://www.mikeysFunnies.com

     LIFE SIZE NOAH’S ARK LAUNCHED BY DUTCHMAN JOHAN HUIBERS
Just as the first storms of winter roll in, Dutchman Johan Huibers has finished his 20-year quest to build a full-scale, functioning model of Noah’s Ark – an undertaking of, well, biblical proportions.
Huibers, a Christian, used books 6-9 of Genesis as his inspiration, following the instructions God gives Noah down to the last cubit.

Translating to modern measurements, Huibers came up with a vessel that works out to a whopping 427 feet (130 meters) long, 95 feet (29 meters) across and 75 feet (23 meters) high. Perhaps not big enough to fit every species on Earth, two by two, as described in the Bible, but plenty of space, for instance, for a pair of elephants to dance a tango.

Johan’s Ark towers across the flat Dutch landscape and is easily visible from a nearby highway where it lies moored in the city of Dordrecht, just south of Rotterdam…. Read this in full at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/life-size-noahs-ark-launched_n_2279428.html

     EVIDENCE NOAH’S BIBLICAL FLOOD HAPPENED, SAYS ROBERT BALLARD
The story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood is one of the most famous from the Bible, and now an acclaimed underwater archaeologist thinks he has found proof that the biblical flood was actually based on real events.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour for ABC News, Robert Ballard, one of the world’s best-known underwater archaeologists, talked about his findings. His team is probing the depths of the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey in search of traces of an ancient civilization hidden underwater since the time of Noah.

Christiane Amanpour’s two-part ABC News special, “Back to the Beginning,” explores the history of the Bible from Genesis to Jesus. Part one airs on Friday, Dec. 21 and part two on Friday, Dec. 28, both starting at 9 pm ET on ABC…. Read this in full at
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/evidence-suggests-biblical-great-flood-noahs-time-happened/story?id=17884533

Also see, “Evidence Suggests Noah’s Ark Flood Existed, Says Robert Ballard, Archaeologist Who Found Titanic”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/evidence-noahs-flood-ark-real-robert-ballard-archeologist-titanic_n_2273143.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

     A TREE FOR ALL SEASONS
Putting our roots down again, after life has unexpectedly uprooted us, is painstaking work. Do we dare invest ourselves in the soil yet again, trusting that the process of planting will yield fruit?

I once visited a Middle Eastern desert tourist attraction called the Tree of Life. The regional climate was temperamental and fussy, and when I got out of my car, my hair whipped me in the face and my clothes snapped like a sail.

The whole scene wasn’t much to look at. Everything was the blah desert beige of rocks and sand. Oil pipelines snaked across the dry ground here and there, but the black tubing was the only interruption in an otherwise monotone landscape. That is, except for the Tree of Life.

Legend has it that the Tree of Life, a four-hundred-year-old mesquite, is the only tree in the entire region that grows from natural irrigation. Though surrounded by barren nothingness, one huge tree shoots up, green and leafy and alive.

This tree is a monument to the unexpected art of Creator God. Even in the most desperate of places, even in the most desolate deserts, even in the most foreign soil, something beautiful can and will grow.”
- Leeana Tankersley in Found Art

     GREATNESS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
by Mark D. Roberts
“Then he said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest’” (Luke 9:48).

In Luke 9:44, Jesus once again predicted his betrayal “into the hands of his enemies.” And, once again, his disciples didn’t understand what he meant. Then, according to Luke, they began to argue about which of them was the greatest, a sadly ironic response to Jesus’ prediction of his own betrayal and implied death.

In this case, Jesus did not lament his disciples’ lack of faith, as he had done a few verses earlier (9:41). Rather, he used this occasion to teach something profound and unexpected about the kingdom of God. Bringing a little child to his side, Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest” (9:48).

In the world of Jesus, children were valued as gifts from God and as heirs of the family name and property. But they were not, in themselves, people of importance. Nor would people of importance bother with children. Great people paid attention to great, grown-up things. So when Jesus told his disciples that welcoming a child was equivalent to welcoming him, and that welcoming him was equivalent to welcoming his Father, they were surely surprised, perhaps even chagrined. They wanted to be great. They didn’t want to mess around with untidy, unimportant children…. Read this in full at
http://www.christianitytoday.com/moi/specialfeatures/greatness-turned-upside-down.html

     HOW SUNDAY SCHOOL CREATED A THEOLOGICALLY ILLITERATE SOCIETY
by Teddy Ray
One of the places where America began to become theologically illiterate was an odd one: Sunday school.

I believe the introduction of Sunday schools truly has caused the American church to know less about what they believe. There are a few reasons:

1. When we began focusing on Sunday Schools, we moved from having theologically-trained pastors teach to having laypeople teach.

2. The Sunday school movement was ecumenical (i.e. representing a number of different Christian churches). A lot of denominations have at least slightly different beliefs regarding doctrine, so they moved away from teaching any version of those debatable doctrines.

3. The easiest commonality was to teach Bible stories. So that’s where the focus went…. Read this in full at
http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/article/entry/3429/how-sunday-school-created-a-theologically-illiterate-society

     VIDEO: PHIL JOHNSON TALKS ABOUT THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
It’s fruit. It’s not a work, it’s not the result of our efforts. Watch this video at
http://www.christianity.com/videos/video-answers/what-is-the-fruit-of-the-spirit.html

     JOHN MULDER, THE PRESBYTERIAN SEMINARY’S FALLEN LEADER, FINDS HIS SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
John Mulder retains the bearded, bespectacled look of a professor, but he speaks in less academic and clinical terms about theology than he once did.

There is less of the confident cadence of one who was once a leading statesman in his denomination, before he lost his prestige and position in a scandal a decade ago that plunged him into a long period of shame, treatment and recovery.

Mulder, 66, speaks today in more measured and deliberate tones, reflecting the one-day-at-a-time spirituality of addiction recovery.

He’s traveled “what’s called the longest distance in the world — the 18 inches from my head to my heart,” Mulder wrote in a new book, “Finding God: A Treasury of Conversion Stories.” “It’s like talking about Jesus for years and then suddenly, meeting him personally.” …. Read this in full at
http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20121126/NEWS01/311180102/John-Mulder-Presbyterian-Seminary-s-fallen-leader-finds-his-spiritual-renewal

     WHY I DON’T BELIEVE IN CHRISTIAN ACCOUNTABILITY
by Mike Foster
I am deeply committed to all of us living a life of radical integrity and grace.

Through People of the Second Chance, I get to work with leaders on personal sustainability and living a life with no regrets. And though I champion the ideas of transparency, authenticity, and brutal honesty, I don’t believe in Christian accountability.

The whole concept makes me cringe, and I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment. It’s horribly broken, ineffective, and doing a lot of people a disservice. In many ways, Christian accountability is facilitating a pathway to our lives being chopped up by character assassins.

So here are a few reasons why I don’t believe in Christian accountability and why a new discussion needs to happen around maintaining our integrity…. Read this in full at
http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/145836-why-i-don-t-believe-in-christian-accountability-giveaway.html

     POLL: ONLY 52% OF AMERICANS GIVE CLERGY HIGH MARKS FOR HONESTY, ETHICS
Who do Americans regard as the most honest and ethical people in their lives? According to a new Gallup poll, most people would not say a pastor or clergyman, Christianity Today reports.

The survey, in which respondents rated the “honesty and ethical standards” of different professions, finds that 85% of Americans rank nurses as “high/very high” and nearly three-quarters say the same about pharmacists — but only 52% of respondents say clergy are highly honest. However, this number is up 2% from similar data in 2009, which marked the lowest recorded level of public trust in clergy in 32 years.

Confidence in clergy has stayed relatively stable over time, ranging from 61% in 1977 to a high of 67% in 1985, and remaining consistently in the low 50s in recent years. And in 2012, clergy still fell within the top half of all rated professions, ranking 8th.

Respondents regarded car salesmen and members of Congress as the least honest, garnering high/very high responses from only 8% and 10%, respectively.
http://www.religiontoday.com/blog/52-percent-americans-clergy-high-marks-honesty-ethics.html

     DID YOU KNOW?
If you have 3 quarters, 4 dimes, and 4 pennies, you have $1.19. You also have the largest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for a dollar.

     JESUS’ SURPRISING VIEW OF MOTHERHOOD
In the ancient world, a woman’s highest calling was to bear children — particularly male children… In ancient Sparta, a mother who gave birth to a son would receive twice the food rations as a mother who gave birth to a daughter. The only women who got their names on their tombstones were women who died in childbirth.

For much of Rome’s history, even freeborn girls (unlike boys) lived under guardians throughout their lives. Caesar Augustus decreed that a woman could be liberated from her guardian after the birth of her fourth child.

One day Jesus was teaching. “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’”

Someone was complimenting Jesus’ mother. We could expect a polite reply: “Thank you. My mom’s the best ever. She was a virgin, you know.” Instead, Jesus offered a sharp rebuttal: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Jesus deliberately gave an edgy response: “No; you’re wrong.” For Jesus, the highest calling of a woman was no longer to bear a child.

Motherhood, like fatherhood, is a noble calling. But it’s not the ultimate calling. If you don’t have children, you have not missed out.

Not on Jesus’ call. And by the way, if you do have children, you are not defined by how they “turn out.”

Because they share a common humanity, the highest calling of a woman is also the highest calling of a man: The glorious adventure of coming to know and do the will of the God in whose image they are created. Through Jesus, this calling is now available to any woman regardless of her age, marital status, or child-bearing capacity.
- John Ortberg in Who Is This Man?

     ARE YOU SEEING WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO SEE?
Richard Mouw says, “What’s at the center of God’s vision is often at the margins of our sight.” Watch him at
http://www.churchleaders.com/index.php?news=164257

     REACHING YOUR NEW YEAR’S GOALS
by Elizabeth Mangham Lott
My husband and I sat down a few days before Thanksgiving to catch up with each other after putting the kids to bed. We had flown from August to December and sat looking back at the busy season of school events, work meetings, birthday parties, seasonal allergies and illnesses, unexpected losses, and new routines. Our lives are full and busy, and we talked about the challenges of staying healthy and prioritizing wellness when the calendar seems already packed. Focusing on personal health and wellness can be particularly challenging when daylight hours are shorter, holiday food is doughy, sweet, and abundant, and the weather outside is frightful. As we sat and talked, we agreed to encourage each other through these Winter months to eat well, keep moving, and stick with our shared goal to be healthier at 40 than we were at 30.

Your calendar is probably just as tagged and Google-alerted as our work and family calendars are, but now is the time to block out an hour to think about how you will care for yourself in the next twelve months. Setting a goal should not be an arbitrary wish tossed into the wind. Whether you are getting started with an exercise routine for the first time, looking to transform your diet from processed foods to whole foods, or in need of a fresh start after falling off the wagon during the holidays, treat yourself to an intentional time of realistic goal setting for 2013…. Read this in full at
http://www.abpnews.com/blog/uncategorized/reaching-your-goals-in-the-new-year-2012-11-30/

     EFFECTIVE GOAL SETTING
Setting performance goals and success measures is the first step in the FOCUS Performance Management Cycle. To make this process more manageable, because it may seem difficult at first, use the SMART acronym as you develop your goal statement. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time framed. SMART goals contain all these elements. Here’s a chart…. Read this in full at
http://www.yale.edu/hronline/focus/goal.html

     TALKING LEADERSHIP
Read this interview with Tami Heim, the newly named president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA).

Heim brings a wealth of experience to her new role, including service as president of the national bookstore chain Borders Inc. and as executive vice president and chief publishing officer of Thomas Nelson Inc. She has served as a consultant to NavPress, Zondervan and other ministry organizations. She also held leadership roles with Federated Department Stores, Inc. Most recently, Heim served as a partner and brand strategist with The A Group Brand Development.

Service on nonprofit boards is integral to her experience, as well. She serves on boards such as Lead Like Jesus, EQUIP, Growing Leaders, Christian Women in Media Association and more. She has been a guest lecturer at universities such as Harvard, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Colorado, and Albion College. Heim has also appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, The Today Show, NPR, and other national media programs. She and Toni Birdsong co-authored @StickyJesus: How to Live Out Your Faith Online (Abingdon, February 2012.)

Tami Heim and her husband Dale are deeply involved in the life of their local church, including an initiative close to their hearts: leading mission trips to Jeremie, Haiti, to minister to orphans and to teach, disciple, and develop them as Christ-centered leaders…. Read this in full at
http://www.christianleadershipalliance.org/?page=LeadershipJourney

     MUSICAL PIONEER EMBARKS ON 30-CITY TOUR; ARTISTS OF ALL GENRES INVITED TO JOIN
Ralph Carmichael will make history in 2013 as the oldest conductor to embark on a 30-city tour.

According to a news release obtained by the ASSIST News Service, the Ralph Carmichael Legacy Tour (http://www.ralphcarmichaellegacytour.com/) will feature 30 major symphony orchestras, the Ralph Carmichael Big Band, and the Ralph Carmichael Mass Choir, recruited from local communities.
Additionally, the tour has announced guest soloists in select cities to include Larnelle Harris, The Archers, First Call, and Wayne Watson, with other artists being added soon, according to tour producers.

Holt International, an adoption agency established over five decades ago, will serve as a sponsor for the tour.

Carmichael, 84, is known as the “Father of Contemporary Christian Music” for his transitory influence on the style of music that was slowly embraced by mainline churches in the early 1960s…. Read this in full at
http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12120038.htm

     VERSE TO PONDER
Simeon took [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”
- Luke 2:28-32 (NIV)

     CONSIDER
The truly happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery even when he must take a detour.”
- Unknown

     NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL KICKS OFF 850TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS IN PARIS
Dignitaries, tourists and Parisians gathered in the thousands Dec. 12 for a ceremony and Mass marking the beginning of year-long commemoration of Notre Dame Cathedral’s 850th anniversary.

The 12th-century Gothic cathedral looming over the heart of the French capital will get a set of new bells in February, one of the highlights of a year’s worth of planned events including seminars, concerts of sacred music, and the issuance of commemorative stamps.

Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe were among the civil and religious dignitaries taking part in the evening events marking the beginning of the cathedral’s construction in 1163…. Read this in full at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/12/notre-dame-cathedral-850th-anniversary_n_2288237.html

     CHRISTIANITY IN THE UK NOT ‘FADING AWAY’ SAYS ARCHBISHOP AHEAD OF CENSUS FIGURES
Dr. Rowan Williams said that even if the Anglican church appears “dysfunctional and muddled,” it was a common “cliché” that religion is in decline.

His upbeat comments come as the Office for National Statistics is set to release findings from last year’s census widely predicted to show a sharp fall on the 72% who described themselves as Christians in 2001.

Some estimates, accepted by senior figures within the Church of England suggest that Christians could become a minority for the first time, with less than half of the population of England and Wales describing themselves as such…. Read this in full at
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9735486/Christianity-not-fading-away-says-Archbishop-ahead-of-census-figures.html

     BIOLA TO LAUNCH CENTER FOR CHRISTIANITY, CULTURE AND THE ARTS
Biola University has received a $750,000 grant to establish a new Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts, a significant initiative that will host events, support artists, and seek to promote rich thinking about faith and art.

The grant, awarded by Fieldstead and Company this fall, will help to launch the center during the 2013-14 school year and fund the center’s operations and activities for its first three years.

“The Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts will allow us to engage in a neglected but historically vital endeavor: thinking deeply about what it means to be Christians and a Christian institution in the midst of a culture that evinces both beauty and dissolution,” said David P. Nystrom, Biola’s provost and senior vice president…. Read this in full at
http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/1751571073.html

     I PUBLICLY CONFESS THAT I AM ONE STEP FROM STUPID
by Patrick Morley, PhD
If we see our capacity to sin as decreasing over time, we have grossly misunderstood the gospel.

As a friend said, “We’re all just one step away from stupid.”

Progress is seeing yourself as more sinful, not less sinful. It’s understanding that sin is always crouching at your door. It’s The Screwtape Letters. It’s not denying that when I would do good, evil is right there with me. It’s to believe that my flesh does not want to do what the Spirit prompts me to do.

Through the nihilism of our age, the devil is tempting us to underestimate the sinfulness of our sin — to think we can “manage” our sins. And that’s just one step from stupid.
http://www.maninthemirror.org

     MARY NEAL DESCRIBES HER VISIT TO THE GATES OF HEAVEN
In 1999, orthopedic surgeon Mary Neal was kayaking on a river in southern Chile when she got trapped under a waterfall and apparently drowned. In the thirty minutes she was “dead,” she says, she experienced some incredible things, which she finally described in her book Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again (Waterbrook).

The book has been on the New York Times best-seller list for over two years now. It is accompanied by two other near-heaven experience books: Todd Burbo’s Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, which has been there since 2004, and Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster), which was published in October.

In the cover story in the current issue of Christianity Today, Mark Galli’s interview with Neal tries to understand why these experiences fascinate us so, and how we might understand them theologically. Galli begins the article by summarizing Mary Neal’s experience…. Read this in full at
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/december-web-only/mary-neal-describes-her-visit-to-gates-of-heaven.html?paging=off

     PICKING AND CHOOSING OUR SINS
by Geoff Surratt
I recently heard a pastor open his sermon with a lighthearted comment about his sin of overeating at Thanksgiving. The crowd chuckled and nodded approvingly. Most had committed the same sin but knew their sin was OK because they are under grace and not under law.

Later in the same sermon the pastor commented that when we buy coffee at Starbucks, we are “supporting homosexual laws.” The crowd shook their heads in disgust. This was not a sin they had committed, and they knew the Bible is very clear about homosexuality. It is an abomination and must be stopped in its tracks.

It doesn’t matter that gluttony makes the deadly sins Top Seven, nor that according to the CDC, 36% of Americans are obese, nor that “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.”

Gluttony is funny and understandable; homosexuality is evil and should be illegal.

I am not arguing for either gluttony or homosexuality. There are multiple scriptures about each; you can look it up for yourself. My question is, how do we decide? …. Read this in full at
http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/164202-geoff-surratt-better-fat-than-gay-picking-choosing-our-sins.html

     WHY IS THE CHURCH LOSING INFLUENCE IN SOCIETY?
by Bill Leonard
Time was, when the population of many regions of America was almost entirely religious; it is not so now. Thousands there are, even of those who regularly attend public worship, who have no theology, no family prayer, no catechizing, who care for no differences of doctrine, and whose children grow up even more ignorant than themselves…. The nature of genuine piety is less weighed, less understood. The agency of the Holy Spirit has been cast into the shade; new and dangerous views of regeneration have become common; while the tendency has been taken away from dependence on God, and towards a religion of human fabrication.”

That declaration on the state of Christianity in America was made by the Rev. James W. Alexander, minister of the Nineteenth Street Presbyterian Church, New York City, in a sermon titled “The Holy Flock,” published in 1858.

With certain postmodern modifications, I offered a similar description of our contemporary situation on Nov. 17, 2012, at the “multi-denominational” Lake Oconee Community Church in Georgia.

Perhaps the two words, “time was,” are simply the nostalgic longings of old preachers who idealize earlier eras as more vibrant and spiritually engaged than the present evil age — until the statistics come rolling in…. Read this in full at
http://abpnews.com/opinion/item/7995-%E2%80%98time-was%E2%80%99-won%E2%80%99t-hold

     WHY I FORGAVE MY HEZBOLLAH CAPTORS
by Terry Waite
Last week I returned to Lebanon, a quarter of a century after being kidnapped and held captive for almost five years, most of the time chained to a wall and denied many basic comforts. You might think such a trip foolhardy, but the crisis developing there desperately needs attention.

I had been invited to go back to see for myself the plight of the many Christian refugees who are flooding across the Syrian/Lebanese border, and travelled to the Bekaa Valley to visit the refugees who have been forced into exile from Syria. The situation there is tragic. Syria has a unique and rich history of religious diversity and tolerance, and in the past Christians and Muslims have shared the same place of worship. Since the beginning of Islam, they have lived in relative harmony – but the war is pushing Christians out, and many believe there will be no way back…. Read this in full at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/11/terry-waite-plight-christians-lebanon

Also see, “Don’t trust Hezbollah — whatever Terry Waite says” by Michael Karam
http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/12/dont-trust-hezbollah-whatever-terry-waite-says/

     I AM SECOND GIVES READERS TIPS ON HOW TO ‘LIVE SECOND’ 365 DAYS A YEAR WITH NEW BOOK
The concept of living second isn’t easy and requires humility and openness to listen, serve and submit to God’s will, forgiveness and purpose for one’s life. To help individuals understand this, the I Am Second (http://www.iamsecond.com/) movement released “Live Second: A Daily Guide to Live a God-honoring Life” on Dec. 11.

“This book is for anyone looking to discover meaning in life, your mission on this planet, or the cure to life’s difficulties,” said “Live Second” author Doug Bender. “You do not need to believe in Jesus to start this journey, but I think you will be challenged by His message before you trek too far. I believe the power of His love, the vastness of His forgiveness and the strength of His presence will inspire you to rethink your relationship with God.”

With 365 readings, prayers and action steps, the book serves as a tool built with truth and scripture that will challenge an individual to picture their life as if Jesus was priority No. 1. No matter one’s faith, “Live Second” will help readers discover the meaning of life by beginning to really live it to the fullest…. Read this in full at
http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/4660471049.html

     AFTER WINNING FREE CAMPUS, GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY SAYS ‘NO THANKS’
Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.

Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.

We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield,” Mueller said. “Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area.”

The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed…. Read this in full at
http://www.religionnews.com/culture/education/after-winning-free-campus-grand-canyon-university-says-no-thanks

     CONSIDER
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
- C. S. Lewis

     VERSE TO PONDER
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
- Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

     THIS WEEK’S HYMN: ADVENT TELLS US, CHRIST IS NEAR
Words: A. Katherine Hankey (1834-1911)
Music: Johann Scheffler, 1657

Advent tells us, Christ is near:
Christmas tells us Christ is here!
In Epiphany we trace
All the glory of His grace.

Those three Sundays before Lent
Will prepare us to repent;
That in Lent we may begin
Earnestly to mourn for sin.

Holy Week and Easter, then,
Tell who died and rose again;
O that happy Easter day!
Christ is risen indeed,” we say.

Yes, and Christ ascended, too,
To prepare a place for you;
So we give Him special praise,
After those great forty days.

Then, He sent the Holy Ghost,
On the day of Pentecost,
With us ever to abide:
Well may we keep Whitsuntide!

Last of all, we humbly sing
Glory to our God and King,
Glory to the One in three,
On the Feast of Trinity.

>from NetHymnal at
http://nethymnal.org/htm/a/d/v/adventel.htm

     FRIDAY NIGHT REPLAY
Listen to Friday night’s Path Of Life fellowship gathering online broadcast on Blogtalk radio here:
EASY YOKE OR HEAVY BURDEN?
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepath/2012/12/15/easy-yoke-or-heavy-burden

     ON PRAYER
Have you ever learned the beautiful art of letting God take care of you and giving all your thought and strength to pray for others and for the kingdom of God? It will relieve you of a thousand cares.”
- A. B. Simpson

     PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS TODAY 
http://christiansincrisis.net/

     DAILY BLESSING PACT
Use the following list as your daily prayer guide. Think of a brother or situation that applies and lift them up in prayer.

I am agreeing in prayer with you for God’s blessings to overtake you!

PERSONAL
Marital harmony
Family unity
Children saved
Faithful pastor
Spirit-filled church
Real friendships
Relatives redeemed
Educational benefits
Recreational time
Fulfilling career
Favor with God and man
Be in God’s will

FINANCIAL
Better Jobs
Raises or bonuses
Benefits
Sales & commissions
Business Growth
Settlements
Estates & inheritances
Investment increase
Rebates & returns
Checks in the mail
Gifts & surprises
Money to be found
Bills decrease while blessings increase

“And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God” (Deut. 28:2).

[As you travel on business or vacation, let me know if you'd like us to add you to our prayer chain to pray for your safety and spiritual effectiveness. I'll add your name to the list for the time you'll be away.]

     CLASSIFIEDS
Are you looking for something or do you have something to sell? Let me know and I’ll put it in this newsletter.

The Complete Gift Solution
http://www.FranksWorldOfGifts.com

Books, Music & More!
http://www.ChristianConnectionBooks.com

Get your domain name here!
http://www.GoGlobalDomains.com

     SHARE YOUR FAVORITE WEBSITES 
Tell us what sites you find enjoyable and why. 

Video: He’s Here – from the Jesus Storybook Bible
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2y2FJqsv_8&feature=share&list=PL88C6294EBFC555EA

Winter Weather: Stay Safe and Healthy tips
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/index.asp

Winter Sports safety tips
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml73/73046.html

CBS News Religion & Culture
http://www.cbsnews.com/religionandculture/

All links to websites are provided as a service, and do not imply endorsement by this ministry. 

(BTW: whenever the URLs in this newsletter are too long to turn into links on your e-mail program, just copy the entire URL (two lines or more) and paste it into a temporary email message. Then delete the return in the middle of it and copy it again. Then paste it into your web browser and hit enter.) 

If there were an award for pessimism, I wouldn’t win it.
Frank Coleman, Editor
frank@frankcoleman.com

Thanks for welcoming CONNECTIONS into your in-box! 

CONNECTIONS is a periodic newsletter of announcements, news, recommendations, articles, and other information helpful to men in our spiritual growth. Thanks for welcoming CONNECTIONS into your in-box! 

The CONNECTIONS Team offers a variety of activities for men to interact with other men on our journey of faith in Christ together. Large group, small group, and one-to-one events encourage relationship building and spiritual strengthening that result in maximizing the potential we all have in Christ. 
Contact Min. Frank Coleman, 773-410-1483, frank@frankcoleman.com if you’d like to participate in a men’s discipleship program. 
Path Of Life Ministries is located in Chicago, IL.
Visit our website at: http://www.pathoflifeministries.org/  

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