Connecting man to man to God
For week of December 23, 2012
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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“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”
- Luke 2:1, 4, 5 (NIV)
“Only when we are brought to the end of ourselves are we in a position to see more of God than we have seen.”
- Author unknown
ON THE DEATH—AND LIFE—OF INNOCENT CHILDREN
by Mark Galli
We live in a world where Rachel weeps for her children. Where mothers wail and fathers curse because their children are no more. Where friends go mute, and bloodied children stand shocked, and a nation mourns, and a President weeps — for 20 innocent children in Connecticut.
One wants to say, “It will be okay. Order will be restored. We’ll do something about this, so that it will never happen again.” One wants to say this, but we know that it is not okay, that the restored order will be broken again; sadly, it will happen again.
This is why our hearts froze when we heard the news. Not only could it have happened here, but someday it may very well happen here. That’s because we’ve seen it happen so often, going way back. It happened in biblical times at least twice, once after the birth of Moses, and once at the birth of our Lord. Sad to say in this respect, the Bible continues to be a very relevant book…. Read this in full at
WAS THE SANDY HOOK SHOOTER SINFUL OR JUST SICK?
by Amy Julia Becker
So which one is it? A neurobiological disorder that needs therapy and medicine? Or a sin disorder that needs God’s judgment and forgiveness? And why does it matter?
In the Gospels, again and again, Jesus comes as the one who offers salvation. He is the Savior, the one with authority to forgive sins. And just as frequently, Jesus comes as the one who offers healing. These aspects of his earthly ministry often appear side by side as Jesus both preaches the Good News of the kingdom and heals his listeners of their sicknesses and diseases (see, for instance, Mark 2, Matthew 4:23 and Luke 10:9). Jesus is the one who saves us from sin; he is simultaneously the one who heals our diseases. Our need for healing and our need for salvation are intimately related in Jesus’ ministry. As the healing/forgiveness of the paralytic in Mark 2 suggests, to heal is to save, and to save is to heal. This dual nature of salvation recalls Psalm 41:4, in which the Psalmist cries out, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” …. Read this in full at
JOURNALISTS VOTE CONTRACEPTION FIGHT AS TOP 2012 US RELIGION STORY; PICK CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ PRESIDENT AS TOP NEWSMAKER
As the nation reeled from the Dec. 14 killing of 20 first graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn., religious leaders sought to console a stunned public and to discern religion’s role in future debates about mental health and gun control.
The No. 1 US religion story in December 2012 was, without a doubt, the school attack and the mournful search for meaning that followed.
However, before the shooting, professional journalists who cover religion voted on the year’s other significant religious events…. Read this in full at
CHRISTIANS APOLOGIZING BADLY
by Clare De Graaf
A few months ago I witnessed an apology between two Christians; a married couple. It was painful to watch.
The guy apparently made a demeaning comment to his wife in front of her family. He thought he was just being funny and told her to lighten up. She was wounded and the weekend with the family went downhill from there.
So, here they are in my office, each telling me their side of the story, but the man was clearly out of line disrespecting his wife and I tried to get him to understand. His wife was tearing up just thinking about the incident.
Finally, the husband, a well-educated professional, said the following, without even looking at her, in a voice that sounded more weary than repentant: “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. Will you forgive me?”
I watched his wife’s face to see how she was receiving this lame apology and as I anticipated, she appeared to be even sadder than before. In the meantime, her Neanderthal husband naively waited for her to say, “I forgive you”. While it wasn’t the worst apology I’ve ever heard, it got me thinking about why a sincere, satisfying, and truly healing apology is so hard. So, let’s talk about what makes a good apology, and then I’ll share some of my “favorite” worst apologies and why they are…. Read this in full at
THE GLOBAL RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few…. Read this in full at
Also see, “The ‘nones’ now form the world’s third-largest ‘religion’”
PASTOR ED DOBSON SAYS SURVIVAL WITH ALS IS MIXED BLESSING; HE’S SUSTAINED BY FAITH AND HOPE
Ed Dobson is on the podium, preaching the gospel as only he can. Dressed in a gray cardigan and loafers, he’s preaching to Mars Hill Bible Church on the first Sunday of Advent. His son, Kent, Mars Hill’s pastor, listens as his father speaks of the comfort that Scripture, his wife and family give him in times of despair.
“I find my greatest hope comes from the people around me,” says Dobson, who’s surrounded by thousands right now.
Then he takes a seat in an easy chair at the corner of the stage. He tells Kent, “I’m going to sit down and go to sleep. So if you want me to say something, wake me up.” Without missing a beat, Kent replies, “Well, I went to sleep in many of your sermons.”
The Mars Hills crowd roars with laughter. This Abbott-and-Costello bit comes amid a father-son preaching lesson at the church where Kent this fall was named pastor. They make a great tag team, Kent preaching with the biblical insight and restless energy his dad displayed in his 18 years at Calvary Church, Ed interjecting plain-spoken wisdom.
But the comic moment doesn’t disguise the hard reality that everyone in the room realizes: Ed Dobson has ALS, and one day it will take his life…. Read this in full at
THE MOST OVERLOOKED COMMAND EVER
by Marcus Brotherton
“Love your enemies.” —Jesus
Nope, not going to do it.
It makes a ton of sense to love friends, sure. To love our neighbors as ourselves. Even to love people from whom we might gain something.
But to love our enemies? Nah, we hate these folks! At very least, we dislike them powerfully.
On December 20, 1943, in the skies above war-torn Europe, two bitter enemies—an American B-17 bomber pilot and a veteran German fighter ace—met in what is undoubtedly one of World War II’s most remarkable encounters.
The American bomber, piloted by 21-year-old West Virginian Charlie Brown, was severely damaged. Bullets from German fighters had chewed the bomber to pieces. Others bullets had shot straight through the fuselage, and several crew members had been hit and were near death.
The German fighter plane, piloted by Franz Stigler, was poised to blast the bomber from the sky. It was Franz’s job to kill the enemy. His sworn duty was to triumph in blood…. Read this in full at
WHY CHRIST DOESN’T NEED CHRISTIANITY
by Shane Hipps
The long slow decline of religion in America has produced much hand wringing among Christians. The grief and anxiety are inevitable, but not entirely necessary. After all, Jesus didn’t come into this world to start a new religion. His stated purpose was actually to announce the presence of the “kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). A reality, which he said, was located within us (Luke 17:21). Oddly enough, the very religion that bares his name has often built the biggest barriers to him and the life he promised.
One thing that might ease our anxiety is to remember that Christ and Christianity are not the same thing; If Christ is the wind, then Christianity is the sail. Some sails are better than others at catching the wind, some sailors are better at using the sail, but there is always and only one wind. A sail without the wind is a limp flag, wind without a sail is still the wind. The relationship is only one way…. Read this in full at
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS DIDN’T SING
by T. M. Luhrmann
Most evangelicals describe the Bible as literally true. Yet for many, “literally” often means “keep what’s there and add details to make it vivid.”
I am an anthropologist, and in recent years I have been exploring a kind of American evangelical Christianity that seeks to enable its followers to know God intimately. These evangelicals talk about the Bible as if it is literally true, but they also use their imagination to experience the Bible as personally as possible. They talk about getting to know God by having coffee with God, or asking God what shirt they should wear in the morning. A man from Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego told me that “the Bible is a love story, and it is written to me.” It is a style of evangelical Christianity with many followers: perhaps a quarter of all Americans…. Read this in full at
THE WILD GRACE OF CHRISTMAS
by Frederick Buechner
The lovely old carols played and replayed till their effect is like a dentist’s drill or a jack hammer, the bathetic banalities of the pulpit and the chilling commercialism of almost everything else, people spending money they can’t afford on presents you neither need nor want, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the plastic tree, the cornball crèche, the Hallmark Virgin. Yet for all our efforts, we’ve never quite managed to ruin it. That in itself is part of the miracle, a part you can see. Most of the miracle you can’t see, or don’t….
Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed — as a matter of cold, hard fact — all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading…. Read this in full at
THAT FRUSTRATING BOOK OF JOB
by Nancy Janisch
Who or what is the book of Job about? Many of us would say the book is the story of Job and about the problem of suffering. When in the past I read Job as the Bible’s discussion of why bad things happen to good people, I found it a frustrating book. While the question of suffering is discussed for chapter after chapter, the question of why people suffer isn’t ever answered–even when God shows up and speaks to Job. God doesn’t answer Job’s and my question. This makes the book a frustrating read.
But what if we ask a different question? What if we, assuming God is the main character in this story, ask what does this story tell us about God? What do you think?
Careful. I didn’t ask what does this story tell us about God’s relationship to and involvement with suffering. I asked what does this story tell us about God? What does this story tell us about God’s relationship with us? Here are some initial thoughts…. Read this in full at
CHANGE YOUR LIFE
“The way to happiness: keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Fill your life with love. Scatter sunshine. Forget self, think of others. Do as you would be done by. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.”
- Norman Vincent Peale
TOLKIEN: MAN BEHIND THE MYTH
by Bradley J. Birzer
On January 3, 2003, J. R. R. Tolkien would have celebrated his eleventy-first birthday, a most momentous occasion, the same birthday on which Bilbo departed the Shire for Rivendell.
What would this venerable Oxford don have thought about his position in Western culture at the age of 111, almost a half-century after he initially published his trilogy?
He would have seen reason enough for distress, chilling marks of the modern secular-scientific ideal. In the East: the killing fields, the gulags, and the holocaust camps. In the West: materialism, invasive corporate capitalism, and softly tyrannical bureaucracies. An anti-modern conservative, Tolkien often fell into despair, especially toward the end of his life, as he took account of the world situation.
“The spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and so many-headed in its incarnations,” Tolkien wrote in 1969, “that there seems nothing more to do than personally to refuse to worship any of the hydra’s heads.” The world, he thought, seemed little better than a new Tower of Babel, “all noise and confusion.”
Yet, this most devout Christian would also see signs of immense hope, knowing well that St. Paul accorded it the second highest place among the virtues. Karol Wojtyla, pope, poet, playwright, and philosopher, had told Tolkien’s beloved Roman Catholic Church, “Be not afraid,” quoting Christ. Emboldened by this message, millions between 1989 and 1991 peaceably tore down the misanthropic Marxist-Leninist regimes…. Read this in full at
DENOMINATIONS: UNPACKING AN ODD 12-LETTER WORD
by Richard Ostling
The American tendency toward individualism and localism produces increasing numbers of “non-denominational” congregations. When 1960s disruptions fostered general suspicion toward authority, tradition, and institutions, the chief religious victims turned out to be the older and relatively liberal “Mainline” Protestant denominations. Meanwhile, notable expansion continues among unaffiliated congregations of Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and Charismatic persuasion.
Since World War Two especially, much dynamism in Protestant outreach has come from Evangelical entrepreneurs and their “parachurch” organizations instead of denominational agencies. This is sometimes a mixed blessing. Harold Camping of Family Radio quit his Christian Reformed denomination and eventually spurned all conventional church groups as his broadcast network promoted a series of failed predictions for the dates Jesus Christ should have returned to establish his kingdom…. Read this in full at
VERSE TO PONDER
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
- Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
“God didn’t want me to do more for Him. He wanted me to be more with Him.”
- Bruce Wilkinson
GOOGLE, ISRAEL PUT DEAD SEA SCROLLS ONLINE
More than six decades since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls — and thousands of years after they were written — Israel on Dec. 18 put 5,000 images of the ancient biblical artifacts online (http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/) in a partnership with Google.
The digital library contains the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the second listing of the Ten Commandments, and a portion of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, dated to the first century BC.
Israeli officials said this is part of an attempt by the custodians of the celebrated manuscripts — often criticized for allowing them to be monopolized by small circles of scholars — to make them broadly available…. Read this in full at
NASH PAPYRUS DIGITIZED: ANCIENT COPY OF TEN COMMANDMENTS GOES ONLINE
The Cambridge University Library in the U.K. has released a copy of the Ten Commandments dating back two millennia in what is one of the oldest known manuscripts from the Old Testament.
“Cambridge University Library preserves works of great importance to faith traditions and communities around the world,” University Librarian Anne Jarvis said in a statement.
“Because of their age and delicacy these manuscripts are seldom able to be viewed – and when they are displayed, we can only show one or two pages. Now, through the generosity of the Polonsky Foundation, anyone with a connection to the Internet can select a work of interest, turn to any page of the manuscript, and explore it in extraordinary detail,” Jarvis added…. Read this in full at
ONE OF THE EARLIEST BIBLICAL MANUSCRIPTS
A papyrus containing part of the book of Ephesians dates from after the middle of the second century AD, and is one of the earliest surviving for this portion of the Bible. Thirty leaves of the original book survive in the Papyrology Collection (http://www.lib.umich.edu/papyrology-collection) of the University of Michigan, which is among the leading study centers for ancient papyri in the world…. Read this in full at
WANT TO BE HAPPY? READ, AND SEE, ANNA KARENINA
by Halee Gray Scott
Mexican children must be reading Tolstoy. In a recent study titled “The New Definition of Childhood,” a global brand agency headquartered in Chicago found that the happiest kids in the world live in Mexico—despite its many social ills and widespread poverty. The study asked 4,000 children ages 6 to12 in 12 countries what it’s like to grow up today. According to the first-ever Global Kids Happiness Index, kids in Mexico were the happiest in the world, followed by Spain, Brazil, and Germany. American kids scored fifth. Across almost all countries, the most important source of happiness for kids is close family and friends.
Leo Tolstoy must be cheering from his grave.
The search for happiness is as old as time, and there’s no end to where we’ve looked for it: love, work, home, family, friends, having everything, having nothing. This season, director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement) has brought to the big screen his adaptation of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s tale of how two very different people seek happiness…. Read this in full at
ENGLAND CENSUS: WHY HAVE THE RANKS OF THE RELIGIOUS DECLINED?
Results from the first census of England and Wales for 10 years this week revealed a crisis engulfing what until recently had seemed to be Britain’s newest and most vibrant religion: The ranks of Jedi Knights have more than halved to 176,632.
Yet while analysis of the survey came with tongue-in-cheek consideration of the seeming demise of a fictional “faith” from the Star Wars movies that first mischievously made an appearance in 2001, it is a 12% drop in the number of those identifying as Christians that has prompted fresh reflections on the makeup and identity of modern Britain.
While they remain the largest religious group in the two countries that make up the lion’s share of the UK’s population, the number of respondents who designated themselves as Christian was down 4 million, to 33.2 million. As a group they are now 59% of the population, compared to 72% previously…. Read this in full at
“At Bethlehem God became what He was not before, but did not cease being what He always was.”
- Paul Lowenberg
VERSE TO PONDER
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’”
- Luke 2:8-11 (NIV)
THIS WEEK’S HYMN: CHRISTMAS BRINGS JOY TO EVERY HEART
Words: Bernhardt S. Ingemann, 1840; translated from Danish to English by Cecil Cowdrey
Music: Christoph E. Weyse, 1841
Christmas brings joy to every heart,
Sets old and young rejoicing,
What angels sang once to all on earth,
Oh, hear the children voicing.
Bright is the tree with lights aglow,
Like birds that perch together,
The child that holdeth Christmas dear
Shall keep these joys forever.
Joy comes to the all the world today,
To halls and cottage hasting,
Come, sparrow and dove, from roof tree tall,
And share our Christmas feasting.
Dance, little child, on mother’s knee,
The lovely day is dawning,
The road to paradise is found
The blessèd Christmas morning.
Once to this earth our Savior came,
An infant poor and lowly,
To open for us those gardens fair
Where dwell His angels holy.
Christmas joy He bringeth us,
The Christ child King of heaven,
“To every little child,” He saith,
“Shall angel wings be given.”
>from NetHymnal at
FRIDAY NIGHT REPLAY
Listen to Friday night’s Path Of Life fellowship gathering online broadcast on Blogtalk radio here:
Lord, help us follow the way of love — let the love of Christ, shown in his coming to earth, compel us to action.
PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS TODAY
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!
Favor with God and man
Be in God’s will
Raises or bonuses
Sales & commissions
Estates & inheritances
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.]
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Someone showed me how static electricity worked today. I was shocked.
Frank Coleman, Editor
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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, email@example.com if you’d like to participate in a men’s discipleship program.
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