Connections 05/17/09

For week of May 17, 2009
Issue 252

The Men’s Ministry 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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“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

“Knowledge is the small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify.” Ambrose Bierce

A new study from the Barna Group identifies an underlying reason why there is little progress in helping people develop spiritually: many churchgoers and clergy struggle to articulate a basic understanding of spiritual maturity. People aspire to be spiritually mature, but they do not know what it means. Pastors want to guide others on the path to spiritual wholeness, but they are often not clearly defining the goals or the outcomes of that process. The research — conducted in partnership with Living on the Edge — describes 5 challenges and 5 opportunities:

5 Challenges
1. Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules.
2. Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity.
3. Most Christians offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity.
4. Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance as well as articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes.
5. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.

5 Opportunities
1. Christians and pastors have clarity about the major boundaries that must be addressed to tackle the problem.
2. While most Americans are relatively content with their spirituality “as is,” millions aspire to grow spiritually.
3. Compared to older believers, Christians under the age of 40 are less satisfied with spirituality and less “rule oriented.”
4. Pastors realize they need more help when it comes to assessing spiritual health.
5. Pastors tend to be harder on themselves than are congregants…. Read this research in full at

by Chuck Colson
“ Today Americans find themselves swept up in the perfect cultural storm. We have a financial meltdown caused largely by moral failures in government, Wall Street, and the public. We’re paying the bill for decades of self-indulgence, fueled by rampant relativism, rejection of the Christian work ethic, and materialism. And we have an army of Islamic jihadists who hope to destroy Israel and the Western world.

“ In the midst of this storm, many of our neighbors are in despair. But Christians ought not to despair; we should redouble our efforts to winsomely engage this culture. Remember, culture is just religion incarnate, and politics is only an expression of culture. So to fix a broken culture, you reinvigorate the Church-offering deeper discipleship and worldview teaching.

“ And this is why Christians must learn to band together, making the best use of our resources. Now, this is a novel idea for some of us. The great strength of evangelicalism is its entrepreneurialism, but it’s also our weakness. Church planters and para-church ministries often compete with one another, needlessly duplicating efforts”…. Read this in full at

American evangelicalism is displacing the old mainline. How do we keep from suffering the same fate?
A Christianity Today editorial

The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), recently released by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar at Trinity College, has captured some bold headlines. And no wonder: The share of people classified as “Nones” (who claim atheism, agnosticism, or have no stated religious preference) has nearly doubled since the survey began, from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008. Mainline churches continue their precipitous decline; for example, Methodists have fallen from 8 percent to 5 percent over that same span. Even the share of Americans who call themselves Baptist is down.

Such trends prompted Newsweek magazine to proclaim on its cover, Edward Gibbon-like, “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.” In the April 13 issue, available right before Easter, editor Jon Meacham opined, “While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago.”

But is it possible that Newsweek missed the real story? According to the survey, rather than being headed for a crash, the American church, while shrinking slightly relative to the overall population, is becoming more conservative and evangelical, though somewhat less denominational…. Read this in full at

“I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS. These were the last words I spoke before ascending into heaven. I continue to proclaim this promise to all who will listen. People respond to My continual Presence in various ways. Most Christians accept this teaching as truth but ignore it in their daily living. Some ill-taught or wounded believers fear (and may even resent) My awareness of all they do, say, and think. A few people center their lives around this glorious promise and find themselves blessed beyond all expectations. When My Presence is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place. As you gaze at Me through the eyes of your heart, you can see the world around you from My perspective. The fact that I am with you makes every moment of your life meaningful.”

During an especially bad drought in 1986, the sea of Galilee receded from the property of Kibbutz Ginosar and exposed a boat. Yuval and Moshele Lofan, fishermen, discovered it and called in the archaeologists. The boat began to disintegrate as soon as it was exposed, so a team worked for 11 days to extract it from the mud without destroying it.

Most estimates say the boat is from about BC 50 to AD 50. It probably is quite similar to the type of boat Jesus and his disciples would have used during his ministry in Galilee.

The boat’s discover seemed to be a spiritual sign to many. The Yigal-Alon Museum website says that at the time the boat was discovered, “A brilliant double rainbow crowned the skies over the Galilee. Extremely rare, many thought these rainbows and other simultaneous unexplainable events were signs from God.” …. Read this in full (and see photos) at

Las Vegas may be known as “Sin City,” but when it comes to transgressions per capita, parts of the Bible Belt may burn much hotter, suggests a new study by Kansas State University geographers.

The project, conducted by four graduate students in the university’s department of geography, maps out “hot spots” for Christianity’s seven deadly sins — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

The hot-spot data is based on federal statistics such as sexually transmitted disease rates for lust, theft rates for envy and violent crime rates for wrath.

Researcher Ryan Bergstrom emphasizes the project was intended as a secular mapping exercise, but faith leaders have been gradually discovering it through word of mouth. Many express surprise and disbelief at findings that show America’s deep South as suffering from more overall sinfulness than southern Nevada.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., speculated the results could mean that regional stereotypes about morality have been greatly exaggerated.

“Perhaps Las Vegas is known for its tourist industry but the residents are in reality more sedate and conservative,” he said. “And perhaps Florida is known for its retirees but our residents are more `out there’ with our appetites.” …. Read this in full at

See maps of the Seven Deadly Sins

They have stood the test of time and it seems that today, despite all the changes to church services, men still prefer to sing ‘proper macho hymns’. Nearly 60% of those who took part in a survey said they enjoyed singing — but added comments showing they preferred anthemic songs and ‘proclamational’ hymns as opposed to more emotional love songs. Sixty percent said they did not like flowers and embroidered banners in church, while 52% did not like dancing in church.

Comments gathered from the online survey of 400 UK readers of the men’s magazine Sorted also showed many did not like hugging, holding hands, or sitting in circles discussing their feelings in church. Most were churchgoers. The magazine suggested a top ten of male-friendly hymns including: Onward Christian Soldiers, Guide Me O Thy Great Redeemer, All People That On Earth Do Dwell, Amazing Grace, and Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind Forgive Our Foolish Ways.

Most of the readers were churchgoers with the majority filling in a survey form online between January and April. Nearly three quarters, or 72%, said their favorite part of a service was the talk or sermon…. Read this in full at

“So often we focus on Jesus’ mission on the cross to save us from our sins. As marvelous as that is, it’s critical for us to grasp the importance of his mission on earth as a rabbi. His goal was to raise up disciples who would become like him. As followers of Jesus, we are still called to live out the adventure of discipleship, becoming like Jesus through the power of his Spirit at work within us. To do that, we need to tune into what he was saying by developing the ears of a first-century Jew. As we do, we’ll discover that there are many times in the Gospels when knowing what Jesus doesn’t say becomes just as important as knowing what he does say.” Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith

NEW WEBSITE ILLUMINATES TRUTH ABOUT ‘ANGELS & DEMONS’ MOVIE Westminster Theological Seminary has launched an online resource dedicated to providing a balanced assessment and factual response to the spiritual, historical, and scientific assertions in the book and movie of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel “Angels & Demons.”

“This website will help individuals sift through the mix of fact and fiction woven into the novel and presumably the film,” says Dr. Bill Edgar, professor of apologetics at Westminster. “By providing biblically-sound facts and highlighting issues related to the intersection of religion and science that ‘Angels & Demons’ presents, we hope to educate people and empower them to engage in conversation about the book and film.”

The premise of “Angels & Demons” involves the Illuminati, a legendary underground society, and its attempt to destroy Vatican City, the epicenter of the Catholic faith, with a substance called antimatter. Westminster’s website,, follows suit with scholarly articles on topics addressed in the book, such as antimatter, the Vatican, secret societies, angels and demons that speak into the relationship between the Church and bio-ethics, and issues related to religion and science.

This new site is the subsequent initiative following, another online cultural apologetic response sponsored by Westminster that launched in May 2006 before the blockbuster debut of “The Da Vinci Code,” the sequel to “Angels & Demons” and another runaway bestseller by Brown.

“In the wake of ‘The Da Vinci Code’s’ popularity, many people began to question the validity of the Bible’s message and its influence throughout history,” explains Dr. Vern Poythress, professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster. “The Da Vinci website fostered doubt about doubt, which we also hope to again generate as it relates to ‘Angels & Demons.'”

A favorite sci-fi franchise is reborn with Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams’ take on the early days of James T. Kirk, Spock and the other well-known crew members aboard the USS Enterprise. The film’s fresh approach to the well-worn franchise takes viewers back to the origins of the crew’s beloved characters. By starting the franchise again, Abrams has brought a freshness to Trek and has launched a memorable young cast into a series that may come to define their careers the way that the same roles defined the careers of predecessors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

But that doesn’t mean the film is a slam-dunk. Far from it. Although it has some fun moments and decent action, Star Trek amounts to surprisingly little and gets by primarily on viewer identification with characters earned over decades of repeats of the TV series and numerous films with the earlier cast. It’s a reset more than a reinvention — familiar lines from familiar characters, but uttered at an earlier age. Seeing these traits in younger incarnations of the Enterprise crew is amusing, but has its limits…. Read this in full at

1. Neither teenagers nor cats turn their heads when you call them by name.

2. No matter what you do for them, it is not enough. Indeed, all humane efforts are barely adequate to compensate for the privilege of waiting on them hand and foot.

3. You rarely see a cat walking outside of the house with an adult human being, and it can be safely said that no teenager in his or her right mind wants to be seen in public with his or her parents.

4. Cats and teenagers can lie on the living-room sofa for hours on end without moving, barely breathing.

5. Cats have nine lives. Teenagers act as if they did.

Tony Dungy, former Super Bowl coach of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts made headlines recently not for what was happening on a football field but for what is happening in people’s lives.

“After the NFL, Dungy is still coaching,” proclaimed the USA TODAY headline. “His strategy now: Minister to inmates.” Dungy has become a frequent speaker to inmates in prisons and is leading or participating in several kinds of faith-based social change projects.

This story is a classic example of a mainstream media source choosing to step out from the norm in three specific ways: the story was positive news, it was faith-based, and it was above the fold (in print) and the website’s lead.

Mr. Dungy coached in a league where the post-game prayer ritual — where both teams gather for prayer at midfield after the game — is intentionally avoided by the networks. While broadcasters and print journalists debate over whether Coach Dungy will ever return to coaching, he has made the story a different one…. Read this in full at

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8:1-2

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them–every day begin the task anew.”
François de Sales (1567-1622), The beauties of St. Francis de Sales, London: Cowing, 1829, p. 220

New research reveals that three in four adults are rethinking their core values and big issues like “the meaning of life.” Out of 2,500 adults interviewed by UK-based Christian Research in April, 70% said they were searching because of the credit crunch, or worries about personal finances and job security.

The search for meaning was found to be occurring to similar degrees among the young and old, in both genders and across all social grades except the very lowest.

Most people are turning first to family and friends to discover their meaning, according to the survey. Fifty-six percent of those interviewed said they considered spending more time with family and friends. Half said they actually did it, and of those, 47% said it was worth it…. Read this in full at

First, the silver lining: people of faith are better citizens and better neighbors, and America is “amazingly” religious compared to other countries, says Harvard University professor Robert Putnam. Now, the cloud: young Americans are “vastly more secular” than their older counterparts, according to Putnam. “That is a stunning development,” Putnam said. “The youth are the future. Some of them are going to get religious over time, but most of them are not.”

A celebrated political scientist, Putnam has long been concerned with declining participation in American civic life, as described in his best-selling book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” When Elks clubs and parent-teacher associations lose members, the ties that bind civil society unravel, Putnam argues.

But religious people may be God’s gift to civic engagement, Putnam and University of Notre Dame scholar David Campbell argue in their book, “American Grace: How Religion is Reshaping our Civic and Political Lives,” which is scheduled to be released next year…. Read this in full at

Adventures In Missions (AIM), a nonprofit organization based in Gainesville, GA, launched its first Missions Photo Contest in a quest to gather photographs of ministry in action from around the globe. The purpose is to cast a vision for what God is doing in the mission field through a collection of compelling photographs that tell the stories.

AIM founder Seth Barnes was inspired to start the Missions Photo Contest after seeing an image taken of an orphan at a care point in Nsoko, Swaziland. “I saw this photograph and was so taken by it. It captures a soul, a moment, a place and a ministry. It’s like visual poetry,” he says. Barnes wants to share this experience with more people — and he wants more photos. “As I continued to stare at it [the photo], I thought, ‘We have so many good photographers…we need to showcase their talent.'”

The ultimate goal is to publish a book of the winning photographs that shares the stories and images of reaching out to people in need. “I think it will help cast a vision for what God is doing,” says Barnes.

Anyone is allowed to submit a photo of ministry in action for consideration in the contest. Prizes are $3,000 for first place, $1,000 for second, $500 for third, and $250 for fourth and fifth place. Judging will happen in three rounds, and contestants must enter a photo by June 15th to be considered in the contest. For complete contest rules and submission instructions, visit

Many Christians, new and seasoned alike, tend to bank on promises that God never made, says one pastor. So when God doesn’t come through on those “promises,” some are likely to become angry at God. And “that to me as a pastor over all my years is always one of the saddest things,” says Larry Osborne, teaching pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, Calif.

Osborne, whose church draws over 7,000 people, is hoping to spare a lot of Jesus followers from that anger. He’s also hoping Christians will peruse Scripture more and align themselves with what God really says rather than the “word on the street.” So he spelled out some of the “dumb things smart Christians believe” -– ten, to be specific –- in a new book.

He calls those “dumb things” spiritual urban legends –- a belief, story, assumption, or truism that gets passed around as fact even in Sunday-school class or a Bible study.

“What happens … is somebody passes out a truism that sounds good and we’ve just heard it so many times [that] we don’t bother to check it out,” Osborne explained to The Christian Post. “And that’s the source of most of these urban legends. They’re true partially, but they’re not true completely.”

One of the partial truths many Christians fall victim to is the belief that living God’s way will bring good fortune. “The Bible makes no such promise,” Osborne writes in 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe…. Read this article in full at

by Phil Boatwright
We don’t just speak words, we live by them. We take an oath with words, we make vows using words, and along with actions, we share our character with others through words. Yet, we live in a time when language has been devalued. Objectionable words saturate movie and television dialogue, sending the message to those in our society that obscenity and profanity are now accepted public speech.

So, what do we do? Well, if you’re going to a movie, you should read a review first, one that discreetly, but effectively warns of the type of language contained. As for television, that’s more complicated. But there is also a solution. Maybe.

Recently I spoke with Britt Bennett, president of TVGuardian, a service designed to aid families concerned with inappropriate language bombarding the airwaves.

BOATWRIGHT: “Britt, can you clarify the purpose of TVGuardian?”

BENNETT: “It’s a filter that allows viewers to watch the programming they want … without having to hear the language they don’t want. That’s different from the V-chip, which just blocks out a program in its entirety if any one part of it is deemed unacceptable.”

BOATWRIGHT: “How did you get involved with TVGuardian?

BENNETT: “I was watching the movie ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ with my children. When the main character, played by Robin Williams, shouted out, ‘Back off, [expletive],’ I felt terrible! I had just exposed my children to filthy language right in my own home. A month or so later I heard about TVGuardian and rushed to order one for my family.

“Later when I chose to open a family store online, TVGuardian was the first product I offered. That led to meeting the inventor of the product, Rick Bray, and shortly thereafter being hired to help license it into consumer electronics.

“So I set about contacting all the major TV and DVD manufacturers. Very shortly after getting started, we were excited to get our first account: Sanyo decided they would license TVG into almost their entire line of DVD players. Those players were sold in Wal-Mart, so it brought us a great deal of business.

“Bolstered by our early success with Sanyo, I thought the rest would be easy. So I set out traveling from city to city, touting TVG’s features and how they would help manufacturers sell more TVs and DVD players. But nothing ever came as easily as that first big account. Before I knew it, I had invested eight years of my life, traveling to five countries, over 75 cities, meeting with more than 100 companies and 200 executives, and holding over 400 meetings. That’s a lot of times to hear the word ‘no!’

“Almost three years ago, we set our sights on the major cable and satellite providers — Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Dish, etc. Since nearly 90 percent of Americans receive their TV through either cable or satellite, this seemed like the perfect way to get this much-needed feature into the hands of America’s families … so we asked our customers and others to contact the leading cable companies, requesting them to add TVGuardian. We figured that if enough of their customers wrote, the cable companies would listen. Within less than a month, over 40,000 customers wrote in asking for TVGuardian. Yet the cable companies still refused to offer TVGuardian to their customers.” …. Read this in full at

by Rodney Clapp
“While I never suffered the childhood trauma of parents getting divorced, I know as an adult what it is like to suffer with a divided family. That is because I am an Episcopalian. As everyone knows — the late-night arguments and breaking of dishes have been audible since spring 2003 — the Episcopal Church teeters on the edge of a breakup.

“ If you zoom in from the denomination level to individual parishes, you see that divorce has already occurred in many parts of the family. According to at least some of the people who have separated from the Episcopal Church, there isn’t a single parish in America unaffected by the turmoil. And surely it’s on the parish level that the family fight hurts the most. That is where it really comes, well, home.

“ A while ago someone suggested to me that the best way to choose a congregation is to ask oneself: Are these the people I want to bury me?” …. Read this in full at

Christians used to be a vital force in the Middle East. They dominated Lebanon and filled top jobs in the Palestinian movement. In Egypt, they were wealthy beyond their number. In Iraq, they packed the universities and professions. Across the region, their orientation was a vital link to the West, a counterpoint to prevailing trends.

But as Pope Benedict XVI wound his way across the Holy Land recently, he addressed a dwindling and threatened Christian population driven to emigration by political violence, lack of economic opportunity, and the rise of radical Islam. A region that a century ago was 20% Christian is about 5% today and dropping.

Since it was here that Jesus walked and Christianity was born, the papal visit highlights a prospect many consider deeply troubling for the globe’s largest faith, adhered to by a third of humanity — its most powerful and historic shrines could become museum relics with no connection to those who live among them.

“ I fear the extinction of Christianity in Iraq and the Middle East,” the Rev. Jean Benjamin Sleiman, the Catholic archbishop of Baghdad, said in a comment echoed across the region…. Read this in full at

The entire population of evangelical Christians in the West Bank and Gaza could fit into one large church in the United States, one pastor from Jerusalem realized after a recent visit to the US.

“ Because of the economic pressures, many Christian families when they get the chance, are leaving for a better life abroad,” said Pastor Jack Sara, senior pastor of the Jerusalem Alliance Church in Old City Jerusalem, to Release International.

There are no more than 5,000 evangelical Christians remaining in the West Bank and Gaza, revealed a new report by Release International, a UK-based organization serving the persecuted church around the world…. Read this in full at

“No man is a true Christian who does not think constantly of how he can lift his brother, how he can assist his friend, how he can enlighten mankind, how he can make virtue the rule of conduct in the circle in which he lives.”
Woodrow Wilson

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day.
(Richard of Chichester)


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!

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

Better Jobs
Raises or bonuses
Sales & commissions
Business Growth
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 the church guys to pray for your safety and spiritual effectiveness. I’ll add your name to the list for the time you’ll be away.]

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

Book your next vacation with us!

Books, Music & More!

Get your domain name here!

Let me show you how to earn money as you travel!
It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

Tell us what sites you find enjoyable and why.

Is this what infinity looks like?

American Trails

Stunningly large sports photos

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

(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.)

Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.
Min. Frank Coleman, Editor

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, if you’d like to participate in a men’s discipleship program.
Path Of Life Ministries is located at 6459 S. Campbell Ave. Chicago, IL 60629.
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