For week of September 12, 2010
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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“No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”
John R. W. Stott
THE WONDER OF GRACE
“It is grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our death beds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us in the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace. Grace, wondrous grace. By the grace of God I am what I am. Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
GRACE: SWEETER THAN AMNESIA
“Grace isn’t about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them through all eternity and never come up empty. It’s when you finally realize that the other shoe isn’t going to drop, ever. It’s the moment you feel as precious and handmade as every star, when you feel, finally, at home for the very first time.
“Grace is when you finally stop keeping score and when you realize that God never was, that his game is a different one entirely. Grace is when the silence is so complete that you can hear your own heartbeat, and right within your ribs, God’s beating heart, too.
“I used to think that the ability to turn back time would be the greatest possible gift, so that I could undo all the things I wish I hadn’t done. But grace is an even better gift, because it allows me to do more than just erase; it allows me to become more than I was when I did those things. It’s forgiveness without forgetting, which is much sweeter than amnesia.”
Shauna Niequist, in her book Bittersweet
SPIRITUAL STUDIES TRIUMPH OVER NFL FOR EX-COWBOY DUKE PRESTON
Preston, who is attending Dallas Theological Seminary, realized he was not alone while listening to Dr. Tony Evans, the senior pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, speak at weekly Bible study meetings at Valley Ranch. Evans discussed only now beginning to understand the Bible after 15 years of college and 30 years of ministry…. Read this in full at
SAVING LEONARDO: AN INTERVIEW WITH NANCY PEARCEY
by Matthew Lee Anderson
Nancy Pearcey is perhaps the most famous heir of Francis Schaeffer’s legacy. Her book Total Truth was both a bestseller and award-winner, which can be a rare combination. I was delighted to sit down with her to discuss her latest offering, Saving Leonardo (http://www.SavingLeonardo.com), which is just as unique, thoughtful, and important as her last.
Q: The book is Saving Leonardo. Is he in danger?
A: I wrote the book to be a survival guide to the varieties of secularism that are undercutting freedom and dignity within our culture today. The reference to Leonardo functions as a metaphor for the way the arts and popular culture channel worldviews deeply into people’s minds and emotions.
The substance of the book is an exploration of the two major “brands” of secularism today. It’s a little like Ford and Chevy. We often think of secularism as a single phenomenon, but there are really two strands: modernism and postmodernism.
Modernism still reigns in the natural sciences, in fields like biology, chemistry, physics, where the dominant worldview is scientific materialism, which treats humans as little more than biochemical machines.
At the same time, postmodernism is rampant in literature, theology, the arts, and similar disciplines. It is just as dehumanizing because it tends to treat humans as simply the product of social forces, such as race, gender, and ethnic group. These two streams have created a pincer movement that is crushing human dignity and liberty…. Read this in full at
DISCOVERING THE “MISSING JEWEL” OF THE CHURCH
by Charles R. Swindoll
Let’s think about worship. When was the last time you decided to stop playing “church” and start really worshiping? If the truth were known, many believers don’t have a clue what worship is. We wonder, does worship mean I have to hold my hands up when I sing and pray, like some Christians do? Does worship mean I need to close my eyes and envision something heavenly, lest I become distracted by something earthly? Does worship mean I have feelings that are a little bit ecstatic, maybe bordering on the supernatural?
What exactly is worship? And is it all that rare? In 1961, while he was speaking to the pastors of the Associated Gospel Churches of Canada, the late A. W. Tozer said that worship “is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism.” I think he was a prophet ahead of his time…. Read this in full at
WORSHIP AS LIVING
“If you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on.”
A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, WingSpread Publishers, 2006, p. 9
HIPSTER FAITH: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ‘COOL’ MEETS CHRIST?
by Brett McCracken
Here’s a riddle: A young man walks into a building. From the outside, it looks like a nondescript, run-down, abandoned warehouse. Inside he finds mood lighting, music with throbbing bass, and young people wearing skinny jeans and superfluous scarves. A bar off to the side offers drinks of some sort, and a frenetically lit stage is shrouded in fog. Jumbo screens display what appear to be music videos. Everywhere people text on their iPhones.
A young woman with a nose ring and a vaguely Middle Eastern tattoo comes up andintroduces herself. She makes awkward (but refreshingly earnest) small talk about her passion for community gardens and food co-ops. She asks him if he has heard Arcade Fire’s new album, and compliments him on his bushy beard and lumberjack look. Beards like that are cool, she says. Eventually she asks him for his contact information.
Question: Is the man in a bar? Or is he in a church? It could go either way…. Read this in full at
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory
SCREWTAPE LETTERS’ TAKES STAGE IN NEW YORK: REVIEW AND INTERVIEW
[Note: CNN’s Kristen Hamill filed this report about a new off-Broadway production of “The Screwtape Letters,” the C.S. Lewis novel about a two devils who pen letters back and forth about tormenting and tempting Christians.]
I spoke recently with actor Max McLean after taking in a performance of “The Screwtape Letters,” an off-Broadway production staged by his Fellowship for the Performing Arts.
Sporting his character’s slicked-back salt and pepper hair, now matted with perspiration, McLean tells me that adapting an iconic piece of work from one of literature’s most famous Christian writers, C.S. Lewis, was a “long process.”
“Lewis never intended it to be a theatrical adaptation,” says McLean, who wrote and directed the play with the Fellowship for the Performing Arts’ artistic director, Jeffrey Fiske. “He wrote it as a meditation on the banality of evil and how seductive it is and how corrupting it is.” …. Read and see this in full at
LOOK TO JESUS
James Merritt tells the story of Robert Eaglen, who was a deacon in his church in Colchester, England. “He woke up one Sunday morning in January. The ground was blanketed with a foot of snow. He started to turn over and go back to sleep, but he thought to himself, ‘I’m one of the deacons in my church. If the deacons don’t go, who will go?’ He put on his boots, hat and coat and walked six miles to church. He was right. Most of the members did stay home. As a matter of fact, even the pastor didn’t show up. Only 13 people were at church — 12 members and a 13-year-old boy he had never seen before.
“Somebody said, ‘Why don’t we just sing a little bit and go home. We don’t have a preacher.’ But Robert Eaglen said, ‘It’s foolish for us to come all this way and not have a worship service.
“‘Who’s going to preach?’ they asked. Impulsively, Robert said, ‘I’ll preach.’ He’d never preached in his life. He got up and did not know what he was going to preach. I’m sure that’s happened to some of us on Sunday nights, as well, but he didn’t have a clue what he was going to be preaching.
“In his quiet time the day before, he had been reading in Isaiah, so he turned to Isaiah 45:22, ‘Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.’ Later he recalled, ‘I preached maybe 12 minutes, and I must have said 50 times “Look to Jesus.”‘ It was all he knew to say. ‘Look to Jesus.’ He got through with saying, ‘Look to Jesus’ about 50 times. He looked at that little 13-year-old boy and said, ‘Young man, if you’ll look to Jesus, you’ll be saved.’ And they had prayer and left.
“That boy, years later, wrote these words: ‘I did look, and then and there the cloud on my heart lifted, the darkness rolled away. At that moment I saw the sun, I accepted Christ into my heart, and I was born again.’ That 13-year-old boy was Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
“I thank God that Robert Eaglen didn’t get up that day and preach a message on ‘How to Be Up When the Weather is Down.’ Thank God he didn’t get up and say, ‘Let me talk to you today about how to glow in the snow.’ Thank God he didn’t get up and preach a sermon called ‘Snow White and the Eleven Disciples.’ Thank God, he preached the Word. He shared the gospel with a 13-year-old boy and gave that boy an opportunity to be saved. We don’t need to follow fads, fashions or flakes. We need to keep the ship of our ministry anchored to the rock of this Book, believing it, obeying it, defending it, sharing it and preaching it until Jesus comes. That’s how you confront a postmodern world.”
(James Merritt, Pastor, Cross Pointe Church, The Church at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Georgia.)
INTO THE FATHER’S HOUSE
“On the one hand there is the persistent memory of the past with its failures, hurts, shame, and guilt. On the other hand there is the revelation of the gospel that shows me who I now am in Christ. In so many of our lives, the voice of condemnation drowns out the voice of revelation. It is so much easier to focus our eyes on us than on the Lamb. We become overwhelmed with the memory of our past rather than fixing our gaze on the robe, the ring, the sandals, the fatted calf-all symbols of our Father’s grace lavished upon us. We walk down that dark road to find a corner in the servants’ quarters.
“Your journey to the Father’s house begins with that first step of changing your mind about who you perceive yourself to be and who you truly are. When you do change your mind about who you are, you will change you mind about where you live, moving out of the cold and isolated quarters of the servant into the warmth and intimacy of the Father’s house.”
John Sheasby with Ken Gire, from the book The Birthright
HAPPY PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO GIVE, SURVEY FINDS
Happiness has a greater impact on a person’s giving than their wealth, according to the results of a worldwide study on charitable behavior. The World Giving Index, recently published by the Charities Aid Foundation, was compiled from Gallup surveys conducted in 153 countries.
The surveys asked people, over 15 years of age, whether they had given money to charity or volunteered in the last month, and to rank how happy they were with life on a scale of one to ten. Overall, 20% of the world’s population had volunteered time in the month prior to interview, 30% had given money to charity, and 45% had helped a stranger…. Read and see this in full at
THE GOSPEL OF WEALTH
by David Brooks
Maybe the first decade of the 21st century will come to be known as the great age of headroom. During those years, new houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space.
When future archeologists dig up the remains of that epoch, they will likely conclude that sometime around 1996, the US was afflicted by a plague of claustrophobia and drove itself bankrupt in search of relief.
But that economy went poof, and social norms have since changed. The oversized now looks slightly ridiculous. Values have changed as well….One of the interesting figures in this recalibration effort is David Platt.
Platt earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America.
Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.” It encapsulates many of the themes that have been floating around 20-something evangelical circles the past several years…. Read this in full at
GOD’S PURPOSES FOR OUR WORK
by Steve Scalici
The world’s view of work is that it is a necessary evil; that our jobs should make us happy, and that income defines a person’s worth. What was God’s original intent in ordaining work? How much has the world’s view of work seeped into your thinking? …. Read this in full at
‘MY OWN DAD TRIED TO KILL ME:’ FAITH, FRIENDS HELP IN SURVIVAL
Chris Keith was 12 years old when he learned his family didn’t die in a car wreck. His father suffocated his mother and then shot Chris’ 8-year-old brother, Mikey, in the back of the head while he slept, his grandparents explained.
The elderly couple had taken the boy to a counselor. As they told him the real story of what happened, they pulled out newspaper clippings from October 1985.
Chris had begun to wonder about the scars on his own head, and he had pieced together other clues from the past. Yet he’d never known the full truth. His grandparents then told him the hardest news of all. Before his father killed himself, he put the .38-caliber handgun to Chris’ head and pulled the trigger. Medics had declared everyone in the house dead, including Chris.
Now 30, Chris Keith visits church youth groups and juvenile justice centers to tell his story. A Christian, he believes God had a plan for him and that’s why he survived…. Read this in full at
VERSE TO PONDER
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
“More men fail through ignorance of their strength than fail through knowledge of their weakness.”
HITCHENS: DON’T TROUBLE ‘DEAF HEAVEN’ WITH PRAYERS FOR ME
With less than two weeks before “Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day,” cancer-stricken Christopher Hitchens is encouraging believers to hold off on praying for him.
“I don’t mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries,” the atheist author wrote in a first-person article for Vanity Fair’s October 2010 issue. “Unless, of course, it makes you feel better,” he added, echoing a past comment.
Last month, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Hitchens said he was well aware of the prayer groups that have formed since he announced late June that he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer -– the same cancer his father died of.
When asked if he told people not to pray for him, the devoted atheist told Cooper, “No,” but said those who feel better in doing so “have my blessing.” In an interview days later with The Atlantic, Hitchens also said, “I take it (prayer) kindly on the assumption that people are praying for my recovery.”
Now, about a month after the interviews, Hitchens appears to have decided to discourage prayer –- particularly on Sept. 20 -– noting in his Vanity Fair piece that it would present him with another “secular problem.”
“[W]hat if I pulled through and the pious faction contentedly claimed that their prayers had been answered? That would somehow be irritating,” he wrote.
Author of the New York Times bestseller God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens is one of the most prominent figures in the “new atheism” movement, though the English-born author describes himself as an anti-theist…. Read this in full at
A COURSE IN DYING 101: WHAT CHRISTIANS CAN TEACH OUR DEATH-DENYING CULTURE
by Amy Julia Becker
A good death is possible for most people in America, but not because a good death comes through physician-assisted suicide. A good death is possible when the resources exist to help patients express their wishes to caregivers and family members in such a way that they find healing in relationships, purpose in their lives even at the end, and hope for the world to come…. Read this in full at
CONCERN IS VOICED OVER RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE
The Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (http://www.newevangelicalpartnership.org/), said: “To those who would exercise derision, bigotry, open rejection of our fellow Americans of a different faith, I say, shame on you. As an evangelical, I say to those who do this, you bring dishonor to those who love Jesus Christ.” …. Read this in full at
by Steven Martin
“Thank you, God, for this water,” I said as I shaved this morning. Funny how living in a desert makes you think about these things.
Water is a basic human right. People cannot survive without it, and it is universally recognized that one role of a humane government is to supply its people with basic necessities, water being one of the most important.
We have learned that the Israelis control 80% of the water in the West Bank. 20% is left to the Palestinians. Out of the 83%, the Israelis sell some of the water back to the Palestinians. People here in Bethlehem have told us that the water supply can be shut off for days, sometimes weeks.
They are smart, adaptable people who find solutions to great problems: some homes are built with cisterns to collect water when it is available and also to gather rainwater. Large storage tanks can be seen on the roofs of most houses…. Read this in full at
USA AS RELIGIOUS OUTLIER
By Charles M. Blow
With all of the consternation about religion in this country, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of just how anomalous our religiosity is in the world.
A Gallup report underscored just how out of line we are. Gallup surveyed people in more than 100 countries in 2009 and found that religiosity was highly correlated to poverty. Richer countries in general are less religious.
But that doesn’t hold true for the United States. Sixty-five percent of Americans say that religion is an important part of their daily lives. That is compared with just 30% of the French, 27% of the British, and 24% of the Japanese.
I used Gallup’s data to chart religiosity against gross domestic product per capita, and to group countries by their size and dominant religions…. See this graphic chart in full at
THE REAL THREAT OF PAGAN CHRISTIANITY
by Brandon O’Brien
This year I have begun making the transition from student to teacher by teaching an introductory course on World Religions at a local college (while I’m still taking doctoral classes myself). We’re a couple weeks into our journey, and earlier this week we talked about indigenous (“pagan”) religions. One aspect of pagan religions that strikes me is that the relationships between the adherents and their gods is most often manipulative. When the gods are happy, the rains come, the crops grow, people have babies, people stay healthy. When the gods are unhappy, the land is blighted by drought, famine, barrenness, and disease. In order to set things right, the people have to make sacrifices, perform rituals, or repeat incantations to appease the gods. The system is set up to control the power of the deities.
Biblical Christianity is essentially the opposite: the relationship between God and humans is not based on rites, rituals, and incantations; it is not a religion of manipulation. Instead, the relationship between God and God’s people is based on covenant and, first and foremost, on God’s gracious desire to love us in Christ.
That’s easy to say. But I’m ashamed to say that I catch myself from time to time beginning to think about my personal relationship with God in pagan terms…. Read this in full at
FEDERAL COURT RULES UNIVERSITY CANNOT DENY FUNDING TO RELIGIOUS GROUPS
In what has been more than a 5-year battle, a federal court in Chicago ruled the University of Wisconsin should not deny religious student organizations funding due to worship, prayer or proselytizing, a suit brought on by the UW student organization Badger Catholic.
Former Chancellor John Wiley denied Badger Catholic — then known as the UW Roman Catholic Foundation – funding granted from the Student Services Finance Committee in February 2006.
Badger Catholic responded by filing a lawsuit against UW in November 2006, stating UW’s funding denial on the basis of religious affiliation violated the organization’s First Amendment rights.
The suit settled in May 2007, the terms of which included UW funding Badger Catholic’s budget for the 2007-08 academic year and considering future budget requests the same as any other student organization.
Peace did not last long, however, with Badger Catholic filing another suit in September 2007 because UW placed restrictions on and even denied certain items of the budget, which were meant to fund religious events and materials, according to the archives…. Read this in full at
FRAT HOUSE FOR JESUS: THE ENTITY BEHIND C STREET
by Peter J. Boyer
One midwinter night in 2008, Senator John Ensign, of Nevada, the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, was roused from bed when six men entered his room and ordered him to get up. Ensign knew the men intimately; a few hours earlier, he had eaten dinner with them, as he had nearly every Tuesday evening since he’d come to Washington. Now they were rebuking him for his recklessness. They told him he was endangering his career, ruining lives, and offending God.
The men leading this intervention considered themselves Ensign’s closest friends in Washington. Four of those who confronted Ensign — Senator Tom Coburn and Representatives Bart Stupak, Mike Doyle, and Zach Wamp — lived with him in an 18th-century brick row house on C Street, in southeast Washington, a short walk from the Capitol. The men regarded themselves in part as an accountability group. Despite their political differences — Coburn and Wamp are Republicans, Stupak and Doyle are Democrats — they had pledged to hold one another to a life lived by the principles of Jesus, and they considered the Tuesday supper gatherings at C Street an inviolable ritual…. Read this in full at
GOD IS NO LONGER MALE, SAYS SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH
UK Daily Mail reports that the Scottish Episcopal Church has caused controversy by removing masculine references to God in a new order of service. The new liturgy and worship forms with more “inclusive” language are an attempt to acknowledge that God is “beyond human gender.” Not every church, however, will be using the new form — only those who have difficulty with a male God. To that end, words such as ‘Lord, he, his, him’ have been removed; ‘mankind’ has been replaced with “world” in most instances. Traditionalists have criticized the changes on the grounds that they smack of political correctness and because they believe they are not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. The church’s Liturgy Committee produced the new form in consultation with the Faith & Order Board of General Synod and the College of Bishops…. Read this in full at
AWARD-WINNING FILM “WESLEY” AVAILABLE FOR CHURCH SCREENINGS
Foundery Pictures has just announced the availability of a special license for local churches to screen the award-winning independent film Wesley (https://www.visionvideo.com/detail.taf?_function=detail&a_product_id=35244&refurl=/start.taf) for their congregations. The movie, which premiered in 2009, was exhibited at select theaters across the US and at several international film festivals. The home DVD was released in July from Vision Video, www.visionvideo.com.
The film stars Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping) as John Wesley, Emmy-nominated TV legend June Lockhart (Lost in Space, Lassie) as his mother, Susannah Wesley, Golden Globe winner Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Death of a Salesman) as Bishop Ryder, and R. Keith Harris (Big Fish, Junebug) as John’s brother Charles Wesley.
The movie documents the personal struggles of John Wesley, whose work and ministry would transform the face of England in the 18th century. For the first time, Wesley’s fascinating spiritual struggle is presented in this dramatic feature film based on John’s own private journals. These journals, kept in a secret code, were not translated until the early 1980s; earlier books and one 1950s feature film were based only on the public record, and did not have access to the private thoughts, doubts, and struggles of this great spiritual leader…. Read this in full at
“What makes the Dead Sea dead? Because it is all the time receiving, but never giving out anything. Why is it that many Christians are cold? Because they are all the time receiving, never giving out.”
Dwight L. Moody
VERSE TO PONDER
“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
2 Corinthians 7:1
THIS WEEK’S HYMN: WE LIFT OUR HEARTS TO THEE
Words: John Wesley, 1741
We lift our hearts to Thee,
O Day Star from on high!
The sun itself is but Thy shade,
Yet cheers both earth and sky.
O let Thine orient beams
The night of sin disperse,
The mists of error and of vice
Which shade the universe.
How beauteous nature now:
How dark and sad before!
With joy we view the pleasing change,
And nature’s God adore.
O may no gloomy crime
Pollute the rising day;
Or Jesus’ blood, like evening dew,
Wash all the stains away.
May we this life improve,
To mourn for errors past;
And live this short, revolving day
As if it were our last.
To God—the Father, Son,
And Spirit—One in Three,
Be glory; as it was, is now,
And shall forever be.
>from NetHymnal at
“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’”
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 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.]
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Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
Min. 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.
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