Christians in the News and on the Web

In the News Tanya Logan
Christians are making headlines! On Thursdays I will bring you news, books, and articles that I find thought provoking. Please share what you think of this new addition.
(Oh. This is Wednesday. This week I’m ahead.)
  In The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated , author James Emery White questions why so many Americans are ‘allergic’ to organized religion. White points out that the un-affiliated person is the fastest-growing religious group, according to ARIS, American Religious Identification Survey. The “nones” nearly doubled from 1990 till 2008. The author then attempts to explain what every Jesus follower must do in response to the state of our culture. Here is a link to the book, and here is a link to a fascinating interview with the author.Congress, along with various Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox leaders have released a statement supporting Christians in the Middle East. Called, “the pledge of solidarity and call to action” it asks Americans to pray for learn about and encourage the federal government to help these forgotten people. Christians overseas are often beheaded, executed, kidnapped, and their buildings have been destroyed, with seemingly little or no response from the United States. Read more here.Last, Thomas Kidd asked the question: should Christians date online?
As I told Kidd in my comment on his column,[Tweet ” using a “Christian” dating site doesn’t guarantee that Christians are using it, or that it is being run with your set of standards/morals.”]  using a “Christian” dating site doesn’t guarantee that Christians are using it, or that it is being run with your set of standards/morals.We can’t make assumptions when we venture into the online world. I’ll write more on this topic at another time.

Bible Study – End of Week 5

End of week 5
Bible study plan: Come Back to Jesus — and Don’t Bring your Blackberry
I know that by now we should be nearing the end of week 6, but those whom I spoke with have said they are on week 5. So today’s lesson is going to be on pages 65-78. In the video, we will go over 1 Peter 1 so you might want to have your Bible ready.

James 1: 12 says, “blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” It is a good reminder because, as we begin to worship God better, we often experience Satan kicking back at us. Please try to see this for what it is, and don’t let him win!

Remember that:
• True holiness is, both internal and external.
• There needs to be a continuum between who we say we are and how we act.
• We are chosen, just as Jesus is chosen, so…
• We must walk in holiness.

On day 3, we touched again on drifting-this time since we have actively removed a false god. People who have done this can easily begin to drift because of the emotions involved. Remember that the Lord said, “they are my people.” You are his. He is always there for you.

Because of this, he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5). Trust him into your deepest, darkest secrets. Trust your entire self to his care. He will always bring you to victory.

If you haven’t read day 5 of the Bible study, please read it now and answer the questions.

Lord, I thank you so much for those who have joined me here for this study. We have removed false gods, Lord, and we know that you will lovingly continue to show us where our mistakes are and lead us on the right path. Thank you for your care. Thank you for your patience with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
[book:Come Back to Jesus-And Don’t Bring Your Blackberry|17293992]

Bible Study – End of Week 3

Did you pray for 5 days for someone? Do they help? In other words, I’m wondering if they are still drifting or if you can see some positive motion. Sometimes positive only means that we had a chance to plant a small seed, or perhaps water one that someone else had already set in motion. We don’t always get to see the fruit of our labor.

By now you should have read chapter 3, and you have identified something you are going to give up. This is the hardest week in the entire study. You read some of the things in the book that I myself have given up. The one and keeps coming back for me. All has to do with the computer: spending too much time checking e-mails, too much time on Facebook, and too much time writing in general!

I tend to feel like I didn’t write (because I was busy on Facebook, of course) so I go back to the computer in the evening. Last night I was on it until about 11:15. This has at least 2 negative effects:

  • it keeps me from spending any cuddle time with my husband
  • it leaves me feeling very tired the next day, and like skipping the morning writing-which is the most productive time for me.

I’m just giving you this as an example, I know it’s a small one, but perhaps it will help you in determining what and why your false god is a bad thing.

Please read:

Romans 12:1-2

2 Corinthians 3:18

Jesus did not run around from place to place – remember in Matthew when the disciples tried to rush him past the children and he refused to be hurried? He was not performance based.

We need to learn to serve the Lord without distraction. Satan will try to prevent this by redirecting our focus.

So I’m dying to know-what are you giving up this week? Have you decided?

*We’re Reading Come Back to Jesus–and Don’t Bring your Blackberry

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5 Ways to Humble Yourself Now

 

Humility (NOUN) The quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10

Recently I was writing a piece on humility, and immediately the Lord went to work on me. You need to practice it yourself.

Ugh.

So, off I went to do even more research on the practice of being humble. Here are some ways to humble yourself right now. I hope they are helpful.

Meditate on the greatness of God. When we truly submit to the One Who Is All That Is Holy, we realize that everything about us is from him and we have no control over anything in this world.

Be gracious. Ephesians 4:29 says, ” Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Is what you say building others up, or do you spend a lot of time in putdowns and gossip? Make a decision to only say things that will build others up.

Serve. Whenever you serve anyone in any way, you are building up the kingdom of God. Try to find someone every day that you can serve. This could be anything from bringing a cup of coffee to providing money to someone in need. You might find a senior who needs a ride someplace. Better yet, find a way to serve in secret, and never let anyone know!

Submit to all authority. This is difficult in today’s world, because we believe strongly in individualism. But we have many authorities in our lives – our pastor, teachers, and superiors on the job.

 Create a lowly place. Remember when Jesus said that if you go to your friend’ s table, you should sit in the lowest place of importance? Often, what we strive for is recognition when we need to strive for is honoring others. Look for the lowly place, and go there.

Pride comes to us naturally, and yet your mother probably always told you that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). It is only by living as a conduit for God’s service that we become humble. Commit yourself today

For further reading: 1 Peter 3:8 – 17, James 4.

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What is Holiness?

A group I participate in is slowly working our way through an inductive study of Romans; we’re in chapter one. Recently we came to these verses:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23, NIV)

Images. We should never allow them, the pastor said. If we allow them, we are allowing the spirits behind them.

I don’t think they always have to be connected with a spirit, someone else said. Sometimes they’re just for decoration.

This led to a lot of talk and not much of a resolution, so I want to delve in more deeply.

Let’s say I have a small Buddha in my garden “just for decoration.” You come to visit me because you want to talk about Christianity, and while you’re there you see my garden with the Buddha. What will that say to you about my Christian walk?

Won’t it make you wonder?

Wouldn’t it make you say “If it’s okay with her, it’s okay with me”?

We are called to walk in holiness.

And then….what if you begin to study the ‘religion’ behind the statue? And then….what if you become a Buddhist? Now my statue has become the vehicle that led you to Buddhism. Now my unholy walk has caused you, my fellow Christian, to stumble.

Now is it still okay?

There’s a word for avoiding statues and idol-symbols. It’s aniconism.

Christians have only a very early history of that. In Moses’ time, for example, having a statue of a bird would have represented paganism. Nowadays, the bird has no specific religious reference (that I know of). Would I have a bird statue? Yes. I actually have a squirrel and a dog statue.

I stayed at a retreat center once that had an African mask glued to the front of my lamp shade. Now, I could –and did—put small statues away, and plaques with unchristian sayings. But you can’t fit a lampshade into a drawer. I prayed about it and tried to leave it alone, but finally at bedtime I twisted the shade so the little mask could look out the window, away from me.

Paranoid? No. but, in my mind, no need to invite anything unholy into my spiritual retreat.

If we start becoming paranoid about pagan practices, then we cut out many of the various customs we consider our own, customs like celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 and giving flowers at funerals. I don’t think paranoia is the answer. I think that customs we’ve already had in place for years are acceptable.

So the question becomes a matter of where to draw the line. After much deliberation and searching, I will give you my 2 cents’ worth.

Here’s the thing. We are called to walk in holiness. Holiness means avoiding even the appearance of evil. Holiness means emulating Jesus. Most of all, holiness means being “set apart.” It is in being set apart that we are able to fulfill our specific task assigned by our Maker.

God expects nothing less than our best; inferior gifts are not acceptable (Malachi 1:13-14). We are told to purify ourselves out of reverence to God.

Therefore, 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)

To be holy, we must spend time in the scriptures learning what holiness is. As we learn, we will grow toward a better example of a holy human. For me at this time, holiness means I won’t have a Buddha, I won’t put cutesy sayings on my Facebook wall that contain double entendres, profanity, or references to ‘other’ false gods. I will stand apart as I was created to do.

What does holiness mean to you?

 

Bible Study – End of Week 1

This is the end of week 1/Beginning of week 2 discussion for Come Back to Jesus–and Don’t Bring your Blackberry.

Good morning! How is the study going — any questions? Please post a reply even if you do not have questions, so I know you’re there.

What did you learn from Chapter 1? Did something sneak up on you, something you didn’t consider a time-stealer or time waster before? I hope you had the chance to clear some time this past week and spend time sitting in front of the Lord.

Please remember the following points, all found in chapter 1:

* It isn’t the ‘thing’ that is bad — it’s our attitude toward it

* When we allow false gods to take over, the honor due to God and God only is given away to a person, place or thing in His creation.

* When these things block us and cause chaos, Satan wins through the use of our favorite toys.

Chapter 2 is about drifting. This isn’t an idol, of course, but drifting away from God/ your Christian walk can lead to false gods, and that’s why I’ve included it right up front. Our walk is never stagnant, we are either moving toward God or away from Him.

Please memorize Hebrews 2:1 (choose your version). Please be sure to do the homework.

Love you much! I will make a video, it will be up by Monday.

Father God, I ask you to bless each of these lovely people. Bring them to see with your eyes the whole of their lives; not to hurt them, Father, but to help them come closer to you. Please wrap your arms around each of them this week.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Book Review – One Thing: How to Keep your Faith in a World of Chaos

I’m a voracious reader. I read constantly, and many of those books fall in the Christian Living category. So I’ve decided to write book reviews more regularly, in hopes that it will help my readers decide whether they want to read them. Or not—maybe I’ll save you money by helping you decide not to read it!

I’ll be reviewing new and old works; it isn’t uncommon for me to order something with a copyright date of 1987 if I think it is interesting. I also frequent used book aisles, and I love reading classic works. If you’d like to see a review of a particular book, drop me a line; I’ve probably read it.

Today’s review is on One Thing: How to Keep your Faith in a World of Chaos by Chuck and Pamela Pierce

There are 13 chapters. Each chapter revolves around one principle for living a better life. Every one of those principles is God-centered, and the entire book is full of anecdotes from their lives that serve to give the reader ‘nuggets’ to use in their own experience.

In chapter one, “Letting Go: Trusting God to be an Excellent Father,” Pamela shares a lot of their struggle with pregnancy and adoption. This helps the reader get to know a little bit about the couple and how strong their faith is.

Chapter 2 is called ”Chaos versus Simplicity: Understanding How to Function in Faith.” Through more of their own trials, we see how we can live by faith. One particularly transparent moment is when they had a discussion over the raising of hands in worship—something my own husband and I have discussed. “I recognized later that the enemy was trying to distract me from what God was about to do, but as we drove along the interstate highway I just wanted to pick a fight,” Pam admits.

Chuck (who did not believe in raising hands, in general) said, “You get desperate enough in all of your circumstances and you will raise your hands, stand on your head, or do whatever, to sense the lord’s presence.”

Can’t we all relate to that?

Chapter 3 “Don’t Be So Complex! Just Do the One Thing He Tells You” is relevant to every believer. On page 35 it says,

‘Many things around us exist to conform us into a way of thinking that negates simple faith and action. Reality is something not imagined or pretended, but the quality of something being true to life.’

I love this. It made me think about what the things are that exist merely to conform us. Consider all the ads that hit us from every side: TV commercials, half the daily newspaper, and ads on every side as well as popping up on the computer. We can’t get away from them.

Chapter 4 is “Lost and Found: Recovering Hidden Treasures” and is very short. It’s about finding lost items through God’s perfect timing.

Chapter 5 is “Out of the Mouth of Babes: How Faith can become Simple”. Pierce explains that faith comes through hearing God, and we tend not to do so because of the chaos in our lives. He shares many stories demonstrating the way we can hear God’s voice is we listen correctly. He relates how the Lord spoke to his heart and said, “Your borders are too narrow. But I can cross your borders, I can bring the supply that’s needed.”

Chapter 6, “Her Name is Maggie: The Power of Adoption” begins with a story about adopting a dog. It goes on to explain how God knows your name, your capabilities, and where you should be positioned.

Chapter 7 is “Please Pass the Biscuits: Finding Your Way Through Discipline.” It is a heartrending story of Pamela’s early life as her family moved from one place to the next, then she was sent to live with an aunt and uncle who eventually adopted her and her sister.  Pamela describes herself as a child who was not easy to love, but who learned it is valuable to do one thing well. She wisely comments that her adoption by this family made it easier to experience spiritual adoption later.

Chapters 8, 9 and 10 are longer and “meatier.” They could have stood alone as a book. They detail how to find security and, places of refuge, and how to adapt to change.

Chapter 11, “Pills and Bills,” discusses being in debt, freedom from debt, poverty, and giving. Chuck gives several points about giving, like “we give when we worship” and “we give when we respond to authority with generosity and blessing.”

Chapter 12 is about boundaries and our futures, and 13 reminds us not to repeat old patterns over and over. “The enemy,” Chuck says, “has another plan: to get us going in cycles.”

There are many helpful bulleted lists and helpful hints in the book besides the many faith-filled anecdotes. It is not a book of theology, but if you enjoy reading about others go through or if you want to read about how Christianity looks when the world isn’t perfect, read the book. Three butterflies.

 

Pre-study Comments and Questions

Welcome to the 6-week Bible study, Come Back to Jesus–and Don’t Bring your Blackberry! Have you started reading the book yet? You can get an ebook or the paperback here. I will  work from the perspective that you haven’t started reading yet. It’s really important before we start the deep work on our hearts that we realize what idols/time-stealers are. Basically they are wants that become misshapen. They can be good things to start, but they get distorted and that’s when they become bad things. Example: you start going online to look for friends because you feel lonely in the evenings. Six months later you are on there non-stop. A year into it you’ve started an online emotional affair, and your spouse is complaining that he never gets to spend time with you any more. Now it’s an idol. The worst part about idols is we don’t realize we have them. Because of that, many people who need this study won’t bother with it.

My working definition is: “Anything that repeatedly gets between you and your worship of God.” Notice repeatedly! Sometimes people ask if they can do an activity one time, say, miss church to visit family out of town. That’s not an idol – it doesn’t repeat. So of course you can. 🙂

Please begin reading Chapter 1. There are 5 days in each chapter; that gives you Sunday off plus one other day, perhaps you are here on Thursdays so you use that as your other no-homework day. The most difficult homework you’ll have in the entire 6 weeks is at the end of Chapter 1, so be sure to allow extra time for that one.

Here’s your video link.The password to watch it is seven.

I’ll be here every Thursday at this time beginning today, but you read/comment as you have time.

Prayer: Father God, I pray that you will use this study as it is intended, to soften and clean each heart so that we can love and represent you better. Help us to hear what it is you are saying throughout the study. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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