Author Topic: Christian family - family and home topics  (Read 10895 times)

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Succeeding Under Pressure
« Reply #128 on: April 23, 2016, 07:21:09 AM »

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Succeeding Under Pressure

Everybody faces them—the deadlines, the bills, the expectations, the responsibilities. It can feel like your head might explode from all the stress. Having just returned from a frantic trip to Miami, Florida where my daughter had to be suddenly hospitalized for food poisoning (from a chicken quesadilla), I’ve been contemplating my own response to pressure. My daughter was desperately sick, possibly septic, alone in a big city except for the friend who was traveling with her (who coincidentally had eaten a quesadilla too). I had to get to her quick, but I couldn’t find a flight that would get me there as fast as I needed. After selecting the best choice, the weather decided to throw us a curve, and my already-not-fast-enough-flight got delayed three hours. I paced. I fumed. I worried. I developed a headache.


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt trapped and helpless, not sure what to do next? In Daniel 2, I read the story of a guy who knew exactly what this felt like. Pressured by the king’s demands to have his dream explained to him, Daniel not only needed to be wise but he also had to please a crazy man who had already put to death the other men who’d failed him. Talk about a tough situation!


I’ve thought a lot about Daniel and his situation. How was he able to keep his head when others around him were literally losing theirs? As I read the account in Scripture, a few things about Daniel stand out to me.


Daniel Kept His Cool


Even when the pressure got really fierce, Daniel remained calm. The Bible tells us at the moment when the commander of the king’s guard headed out to put to death the other wise men of Babylon, “Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and discretion” (2:14). He didn’t run furiously to the king and demand a reprieve, and he didn’t throw a fit at the commander’s feet. Daniel knew that he could be the next one put to death, and he faced the danger head-on with reason and calm words: “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” (verse 15).


Daniel’s response made me think about my own. When my flight delay was announced, I’d sighed and griped to my fellow passengers in the waiting area (who, by the way, were experiencing the same delay I was). I was none too sweet to the person behind the counter with my words, “Isn’t there anything you can do to help me?” My attitude was demanding. My voice was tense. I wasn’t in control, and I didn’t like it.


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The Trap of Tradition
« Reply #129 on: April 24, 2016, 07:02:11 AM »
The Trap of Tradition

Traditions can be wonderful things.


They can create shared memories that remind those who participate in them of important events or truths.


Family Traditions


If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen I have a standing appointment on the Saturday mornings I am home. In the summer, my daughters and I typically visit the yard sale with food, aka Cracker Barrel, and make the rounds of the garage sales nearby to see if anyone else’s junk should be our junk.


We don’t go to Cracker Barrel because we necessarily need pancakes (I don’t, I assure you), and we don’t go to yard sales because we need more stuff. Saturday mornings aren’t about the particular traditions, per se; they are about making sure my daughters understand how much I love them.


Our dates express to my children their importance to me. They affirm our relationship.


Someday (and I hope it’s not too soon), pancakes and garage sales may no longer be a useful method of communicating this message. When that time comes, I will need to let go of the tradition—even though it will be difficult for me—and develop new ways to continue to communicate that same message to my daughters.


When Tradition Loses Meaning


The message is far too important to let the method of delivery affect its impact.

Continuing the tradition when my children think it is silly or it has lost meaning could actually have a negative impact. It could either become simply rote action or begin to taint the fond memories we have of our Saturday morning adventures.


The message is far too important to let the method of delivery detract from that intended meaning.


The same is certainly true of our churches and the message of the gospel entrusted to us. This can affect every type of church.


Defining Tradition


For sake of clarity, I am not speaking Tradition with a capital “T.”


Many denominations would say their liturgy is Tradition. And, that’s not what I am talking about. You can be liturgical and not get trapped in a negative expression of tradition.


Anglicans would say part of their Tradition is included in “the faith delivered to the saints.” I’m not unaware or opposed to the idea that there is certain Tradition that is so entwined with the gospel and the way we should do church that it should be passed on and propagated. I understand liturgy and I understand why it is a valued big “T” tradition.


The problem comes in when the traditions are built, not on gospel foundations or on liturgical /theoligcal Traditions, but on cultural milieu and are then held to as if they are gospel truth.


Liturgical churches which value Tradition can and must ask questions about traditionalism as well—and you can walk into some liturgical churches and see they have, and walked into others and see they have not. You can almost always tell those who have confused Tradition with their cultural traditions.


Why? Well, when a church is either birthed or flourishes in a certain era, it tends to get trapped in that era and continues to express its culture.


Or, put another way, if your Lutheran church in Kenya insists that European structures of music are required to be truly Lutheran, that’s a bad application of tradition. If they apply their understanding of the sacraments, law and gospel, and liturgy in a Kenyan setting, that’s the right application of Tradition.


And, that’s true in suburban Seattle as well.


Some might refer to this inapproriate application as traditionalism.


Traditionalism


Take my denomination and denominations like it, for example.


Several low church, traditional denominations thrived in the 1950s, and I like to joke that if the ‘50s come back we are ready to go.


The ‘50s were a heyday. Because some decominations thrived in that time, they hold it tightly and continue to propagate ‘50s culture in many of their churches. So, some Wesleyans, Baptists, and Pentecostals can get stuck in that era.


On the other hand, some Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Lutherans thrived many years earlier; therefore, their cultural expressions often seem ancient in comparison.


Traditions have Meanings


When we fall in love with a particular era that holds special meaning to us, we always struggle to engage the current culture, because it is different than the one we hold dear.


If we cling to the era we love, it exposes the fact that we value our cultural expressions of the past more than the people God sent us to in the present.


Do not miss that point: When we hold to our traditions, we value our cultural expressions of the past more than the people God has sent us to in the present.


But, It’s Not Just the ‘50s and the 1800s


This practice is obvious in some of our older, more traditional expressions of the church. But I see the same thing in newer churches, as well.


I’ve worked with a number of boomer churches that are locked into the ‘80s where they thrived or were birthed. You’ve seen these churches.


I was preaching at one such church a few years back. I was 44 at the time. The church, which is one of the largest boomer churches in America, had an average age of 10 or 15 years older than me. Yet they believed themselves to be cutting edge.


They thought they were effectively ministering, but they had fallen in love with the way they did church more than the people in their current context.


The Trap of Tradition


When we hold to our traditions, we value our cultural expressions of the past more than the people God has sent us to in the present.

When churches fall into such a trap, it creates a self-affirming value system that upholds their particular methodology and sub-culture. When plans are made within the church, they look back to what is meaningful to them from the past.


For example, when deciding what songs to sing in worship, they return to the songs that have been formative or meaningful and repeat them. This perpetuates the tradition and locks the church into that particular culture and era.


As a general principle churches that are most effective in one paradigm often have the most difficulty moving into a new one. The reason is they “know what works” and refuse to see the need for change.


Business Examples


In the business world, IBM, Xerox, Kodak, and many others learned this principle the hard way. There are myriad companies, once giants in industry, which either disappeared completely or are shells of what they once were because they did not see the need for change.


In similar fashion, many of our churches stand as visible reminders that we’ve valued our sub-cultures more than the people to whom we’ve been sent, and we’ve refused to change.


Culture is always changing. Always.


So, if we are going to continue to communicate the message of the gospel meaningfully, our churches must change as well. If it feels like you are stepping in a time machine to worship with your church, and that’s not because of your (big-T) Tradition, but rather because your trapped in traditionalism, it’s time to change. You’re disconnected from the culture around you, which isn’t in the ‘50’s, ‘70s or the 1700s any longer.


A contextualized church feels like you’re still in the same culture in which it is planted, but the values and the focus are radically different. Churches should be biblically faithful, expressing the unchanging gospel in all we do and representing the character of God’s kingdom.


We must do it in culturally relevant ways; that is, in ways that make sense to the culture around us.


In doing so, however, we reject the sin around us, living counter to the culture. We are to be biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-cultural communities that reflect God’s kingdom for His glory among the people around us at all times.


That should be our tradition.


Next time, I will look at the trap of technique.



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Reach Out—God Is Closer Than You Know
« Reply #130 on: April 25, 2016, 07:23:44 AM »
Reach Out—God Is Closer Than You Know

Where is God?


It is a question that haunted me since I first met him as a boy. It is the type of question that has more than one referent, more than one significance for a life. One can satisfy the mind with a theological answer, but remain held by some visceral, gut-level longing. Is God truly here?


Fortunately, I believe that God has already provided a way to live that answer, indeed that he provided it long before our race could frame the words.


In talking about “where” God is, Christians are forced to retain two equal and (seemingly) opposing truths. We must with one hand cling to God’s transcendence—the doctrine that the triune God is utterly and infinitely beyond creation; and with the other to his immanence—the doctrine that he is utterly and infinitely close to his creation.


Christians have not always done well holding the two in balance. A quick survey of Christian literature, oratory, and art indicates that we prefer to emphasize transcendence over immanence. The truth that God is beyond all too often trumps the truth that God has chosen to be here with us—and “here” beyond any categories of time or space as we think of them.


From one perspective, this is understandable. After all, we’re here already, and here is a bit of a mess. We must look beyond, for the transcendent power of God from outside our experience of time and space to intersect our world in justice, meaning, and redemption. It is our only hope of salvation. But it is a meaningless hope if he did not dwell immanently with us here and now.


Here is the truth, historic and orthodox: When we look out at the world, we look out at a place where God the Creator is actively dwelling and working to sustain what he’s made.


It is of this truth that Paul spoke, when he quoted Epimenides of Crete on Mars Hill, saying that “in [God] we live and move and have our being.” In the preceding oration to that lovely line, the apostle argues,



The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else ... so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:24–27)



Paul’s discourse brilliantly illustrates the simplicity of the Christian story of creation: God made everything, and he never left it. So you there, you runner from God, reach out. He is closer than you know.


For Paul, of course, the point of talking about any of this is to reinforce the clearest unity of the Creator’s transcendence and immanence—the resurrected Jesus. And this should be the center point of the haunting doctrine for us, too.


But the implications of this story touch every thread of the world’s weave. If it is true that in God we live and move and have our being, then what does that mean for life, spiritual and physical? Indeed, might those two be more intertwined than we think?


The best Christian conception of reality is very simple: The uncreated One is the source of all things. From one perspective, any sense of distance from the Creator is an illusion. It is mythical (though of course God remains transcendent over all, and our sin causes a degree of relational distance). My haunting question, from one perspective, is answered by simple existence. Where is God? Closer than we remember.



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In 'A Hologram For The King,' Tom Hanks Goes to Saudi Arabia
« Reply #131 on: April 26, 2016, 07:13:52 AM »
In 'A Hologram For The King,' Tom Hanks Goes to Saudi Arabia

If you haven't read the Dave Eggers novel on which it’s based—and I haven’t—A Hologram for the King is less adaptation, more light diversion. You wait the whole time for the inciting incident to arrive, the big thing that will kick off the action, only to realize that it happened without you noticing.


Tom Hanks in 'A Hologram For the King'

Tom Hanks in 'A Hologram For the King'



That sounds negative. I don’t exactly mean it that way. Life, after all, is full of moments you only realize were important in retrospect: that party you almost didn’t go to, the dashed-off blog post that led to a friendship, the accidental meeting in a doctor’s office.


But translating life’s happenstance into an effective bit of entertainment is trickier, and the movie has a disconcerting tendency to turn a hero’s existential, enigmatically signposted journey into a sandy path strewn with red herrings. When A Hologram for the King succeeds, it’s for two reasons: the presence of American’s true sweetheart Tom Hanks, and the inherent humor of its fish out of water premise, which psychologists tell us is a surefire recipe for comedy in human brains.


Hanks plays Alan Clay, a middle-aged American fellow who we come to understand once was a bigshot at Schwinn (the bicycle company). He did what seemed to be a good idea at the time and outsourced production to China. It wasn’t a good idea. Now he’s divorced, and his beloved daughter has had to take a college hiatus since he can’t make tuition payments. He’s lost his way. He’s a disappointment to himself. He's stuck being a salesman for a company that creates 3-D holographic conferencing systems. And he’s trying to meet with the King of Saudi Arabia, to sell him the technology.


This initial hoped-for encounter starts to sour when it becomes clear that the King of Saudi Arabia pretty much shows up whenever he wants, and in a Godot- (or GroundhogDay-) like manner, Alan slips into a routine of oversleeping, calling up Yousef the driver (Alexander Black) whose car may or may not blow up (he’s toying with the wrong vengefully-husbanded woman), going to random parties, and poking at a growth on his back, which could be most anything. He sees condos being built at a future development site in the desert. He interacts with obsequious but unhelpful staff. It is hard to get booze in Saudi Arabia; he overdoes it a bit when it is slipped to him by a Danish consultant, sterilizes a steak knife in a lighter, and attempts surgery. (Mercifully, we only see the aftereffects.)


Sarita Choudhury in 'A Hologram For the King'

Sarita Choudhury in 'A Hologram For the King'



This lands him in the hospital, where a doctor (Sarita Choudhury)—who, to Yousef’s surprise at least, is a woman. But it’s benign, as is the anxiety attack that brings them back in contact later. In between, Alan treks out to see his team at the presentation site. They are basically just waiting around. Everyone is basically just waiting around.


You could describe the film as yet another chronicle of a middle-aged man having an existential crisis in another country. Which it is, for sure, but that feels like a flat characterization: A Hologram for the King, as the title implies, is kind of about America’s fish out of water position abroad, a whole nation’s difficulty picking up the social cues and customs of a world that’s becoming less interested in catering to their products and whims. It’s an uncomfortable place, because all the pop cultural cues are still there—”we watch the same movies,” Yousef remarks, and subjects him to a steady stream of American pop music on cassette on their drives. But Youssef also gets uncomfortable when Alan looks at sacred religious sites with too much touristy interest, and Alan can’t really figure out how he’s supposed to operate in this world.



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When Altar Calls Don't Work
« Reply #132 on: April 27, 2016, 07:10:06 AM »
When Altar Calls Don't Work

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, the third of four children. Or was it fourth? For years I believed I was born 30 seconds before my identical twin, Josh. But he recently challenged this 33-year-old fact, turning the Bailey family world order upside-down.


Josh and I were adventurous and independent twins who made the suburbs of North Dallas our playground. The flame of our adventurous spirit was fanned by our older brother, Jeremy. Together we wanted to take risks and experience them firsthand. I wasn’t content to just watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I had to be Indiana Jones. I needed to wade through the creeks behind my house, build rope swings, and explore sewers. And not with a flashlight, but by tying my shirt to a stick, dipping it in gasoline, and lighting it on fire.


As a boy, I listened intently to my dad recount some of the greatest adventure stories ever told: Noah and his ark, David defeating a giant, and Joshua shouting down walls. These men experienced wild adventure, and God, firsthand. My longing for intimacy with God was born from story time with my dad.


Dad pastored a nondenominational, charismatic—or, as he liked to say, Happy-Baptist—church. It was our family’s second home. BB gun shootouts commonly took place in the vacant sanctuary. Josh and I raced the petting-zoo miniature ponies around the parking lot after the fall carnival and learned how to do donuts in our youth pastor’s car before we could legally drive.


When I got a little older, I threw myself into the behind-the-scenes work of our youth group. My brother and I made announcement videos and hooked up lighting and fog machines for our Wednesday night services. I insisted on working the sound booth, because it allowed me to avoid worshiping and watch others worship instead.


As a teenager, I was pretty sure I believed God existed, but without firsthand experience of him, “Christianity,” whatever that meant, went in one ear and out the other. I knew facts and Bible verses and how to say, “Thank you, ma’am” to the old ladies who said they were praying for me.


Then there was my arch nemesis: the altar call. I had never experienced any meaningful or long-lasting change after raising my hand and repeating a prayer, so over time, I came to loathe phrases such as “walk the aisle,” “come forward,” “raise your hand,” and “repeat after me.” Each attempt at getting saved seemed to take life rather than give it. By high school, my belief system was that I didn’t want to go to hell but wasn’t too psyched about heaven, either.


As my contempt for all things Christian hardened, my church involvement actually ramped up. At age 22, I became a summer camp counselor alongside one of my best friends. We played sand volleyball, slung frogs into the lake, and pranked our youth pastor.


Each attempt at getting saved seemed to take life rather than give it.

The final night of summer camp, the guest pastor ended his sermon with an emotional altar call. Here we go again, I thought. I started to zone out, until out of the corner of my eye I saw my friend walk forward. More shocking than him walking the aisle was the later evidence that something had happened to him that night. He stopped drinking and partying. He started studying the Bible, voraciously reading Christian books, and attending church. Further, his behavior seemed to come not from obligation but from love. He seemed to want to know God and learn from him and be like him. His countenance said it all. He had joy.



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http://www.faithwall.co.uk/index.php/15-christian-family/10937-when-altar-calls-don-t-work
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Offline John

Re: Christian family - family and home topics
« Reply #133 on: April 27, 2016, 07:36:50 AM »
Christianity is far more than a 'feel good' emotion and sermons and alter calls that depend on that 'feel good' emotion are doing far more harm than good.
A sermon should be a rational explanation of a biblical passage. Try reading Pauls or Peters sermons recorded in acts, look up the reports of Pauls mission trips. Again and again you get reasoning from the scriptures and in Peters penticost sermon it is the reasoned argument that cut to the heart not a cheap emotional blackmail.
Ask your minister where is the challenge for growth in Christian maturity and understanding in his sermons.
Is he answering your questions about biblical or theological problems etc.

CFamily

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Responsible Freedom
« Reply #134 on: April 28, 2016, 07:08:53 AM »
Responsible Freedom

Not that long ago, many universities operated in loco parentis—literally “in place of the parent.” Colleges set boundaries of student conduct that were meant to instill character and bar immoral behavior. Today, in a culture that glorifies individual freedom, many faith-based colleges keep the spirit of in loco parentis alive, and actual Christian parents are grateful for it.


At the Christian college I attended, though, the emphasis was a bit different. Drawing from Galatians 5 as well as its Reformed heritage, Calvin College leaders talked about “responsible freedom.” They believed that a Christ-centered college exists to help students love the Lord with mind, soul, and strength—but that students had to own their own development. We wouldn’t be spoon-fed safe ideas; we would be given tools to discern which ideas and behaviors are true, noble, right, and pure (Phil. 4:8), and to live accordingly.


I see parallels here to the work of Christianity Today. We want to equip our readers to live responsibly and freely under the lordship of Christ. Sometimes this will mean setting clear boundaries of theology and ethics. But many times it will mean presenting readers with the facts, then letting them discern.


Our cover story (p. 30) is a good example of this journalistic, and spiritual, principle. It’s a clear, charitable, yet at times critical look at Bethel, an influential charismatic church in Northern California. Some readers will want us to tell them what to think about Bethel—whether it’s wholly good or wholly bad. Yet the on-the-ground truth is more complicated—and makes for a more interesting read.


Complicated is also a fitting word for the story of Saeed Abedini, the Iranian American pastor whom we interview on page 38. Abedini was jailed for three-plus years in Iran and released this January, but not before facing abuse allegations from his greatest campaigner: his wife. Some readers won’t like that we question Saeed’s conduct. Other readers won’t like that we spoke to him at all. As the Abedinis’ story continues to unfold, we offer a clear-eyed conversation with Saeed—and trust our readers to draw their own careful conclusions.


Such a “hands-off” approach doesn’t mean we editors don’t have strong beliefs about abuse, or charismatic excesses, or any number of pressing issues. For example, our editorial (p. 23) draws a solid line in the sand on presidents’ leadership styles. And we pick topics we think are important, such as eviction (p. 53) and apologetic tools (p. 44). That said, we want our readers to own their own discernment and development as they read every issue of CT. We hope this one is a fruitful exercise in responsible freedom.




Follow Katelyn Beaty on Twitter @KatelynBeaty.



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Leading Those Who Are Different from You
« Reply #135 on: April 29, 2016, 07:25:19 AM »
Leading Those Who Are Different from You

I’ve spent most of my career being led by people who are different from me: people of the opposite gender, other races, different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. I learned early on how to succeed in work environments in which I was a minority. I did my best to act like the people in charge, trying to think like them and even talk like them. I was pretty successful at it, and that made the achiever in me very happy.


Yet when I found myself moving into leadership positions, I realized that my desire and need to conform left me unsure of my own voice and perspective. I realized that my previous work experiences had not prepared me to trust and value my ability to lead and create change. Conformity had been valued over diversity of opinion, and there was very little room for me to exercise my own voice.


Looking back, I wonder what might have been if I had realized the value of my unique perspective—a perspective shaped by my heritage, gender, and life experiences.


Today, I have the privilege of working with a multicultural congregation in downtown Chicago. I get to lead an amazing group of people that includes different races, ethnicities, ages, economic classes, and political views. Navigating through the many perspectives can be challenging, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. By serving among so many different people, I have learned more about myself, God, and how to lead and love better than I ever thought possible.


Leading Toward Inclusion


I often meet with other leaders who are interested in planting or leading diverse congregations, and they want to know what it takes to lead in a diverse context. My response? “That depends. Do you want to lead a church where everyone conforms? Or do you want to be a leader who creates a space for everyone to be heard and valued?”


The first is easy and comfortable; the second is challenging but transformative.


Leading toward inclusion is difficult, but I believe that brings out the best in everyone. I don’t know if anyone ever “arrives” when it comes to inclusive leadership. It is a lifelong journey, but we learn a lot of lessons along the way.


Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned (mostly the hard way) about leading toward inclusion.


Lesson 1: It’s Not About Me

Leading people who are different from one another means that I don’t always get to be right. Honestly, that’s a hard pill to swallow some days. Leading toward inclusion starts with me and my willingness to be open to different thinking and perspectives. I have to choose to invite people who are different from me into the decision-making process.


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