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[Cfamily]Remembering Larry Hurtado, Leading Researcher of Early Christian Worship
« Reply #1472 on: November 29, 2019, 01:03:16 PM »

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Remembering Larry Hurtado, Leading Researcher of Early Christian Worship

The Edinburgh New Testament professor modeled faithful scholarship with his work on historic devotion to Jesus.

I went to Larry Hurtado’s office at the University of Edinburgh immediately after I defended my doctoral dissertation. There he was—a scholarly giant, a celebrity in our world—chatting with my husband and nervously bouncing my baby boy on his knee. That’s how Larry was. Hospitable. Approachable. And committed to service, with both his life and his scholarship.

Larry died of cancer on Monday at the age of 75. He was a remarkable New Testament scholar, and he was my mentor, PhD supervisor, and friend.

Larry’s impact on biblical scholarship was far-reaching. He started his academic career at Regent College, in Vancouver, British Columbia, before moving to the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg. He was appointed Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at the University of Edinburgh in 1996 and established the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins there, focusing on the first three centuries of Christianity.

Larry wrote landmark studies of the Gospel of Mark, and on how ancient Christians manuscripts matter for understanding the New Testament and the early church.

His most groundbreaking work was done on early Christian worship of Jesus. His focus was not only on what Christians believed about Jesus, but on what their actions indicated about their views of Jesus’ divine status. He looked at prayers to Jesus and the use of Jesus’ name to understand how the early church’s worship of Jesus was compatible with Jewish worship of one God.

As fellow colleagues have noted in tribute, Larry “showed the way for many of us as to how a good critical scholar could at the same time be committed to the orthodox Christian faith” and “was a rare breed of scholar ...

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[Cfamily]Give Thanks: US Christians’ Top Thanksgiving Verse and Hymn
« Reply #1473 on: November 30, 2019, 01:13:49 PM »
Give Thanks: US Christians’ Top Thanksgiving Verse and Hymn

We’re called to offer our thanksgiving in all circumstances—but we're especially likely to when it’s a national holiday.

When President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving celebrations official in the US he directed the country to “gratefully acknowledge” God and offer “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father.” Most of the US continues to direct their thankfulness toward God (around 63% according a LifeWay survey), and a favorite hymn and Bible verse have become part of the tradition.

1 Thessalonians 5:18—“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”—is the most popular Thanksgiving Bible verse on Bible Gateway. It’s the most-favorited and most-shared verse on thankfulness each year on the US holiday, held the fourth Thursday in November.

John Wesley described this passage, completing a trio of commands to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16–18), as “Christian perfection.” He said:


Further than this we cannot go; and we need not stop short of it …Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. He that always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from him, and receives them only for his sake; not choosing nor refusing, liking nor disliking, anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to his perfect will.

The most-sung Thanksgiving hymn is “Give Thanks” by Henry Smith, with the familiar line, “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” according to data from Faithlife Music, based on lyrics displayed by churches in worship. It is also the most popular song with the ...

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Jesus Came to Proclaim Good News to the Poor. But Now They’re Leaving Church.

The income gap in the US corresponds with a church attendance gap.

It’s well-established that the gap between the middle class and those who earn the highest incomes in the United States has grown wider over time, spurring partisan responses over how or whether to address income inequality.

But there’s a facet of this issue that should be particularly worrisome to Christians: Many of the poorest Americans are abandoning church en masse. By stepping away from church communities, the people who are most financially strapped also end up losing out on social networks and social capital—which can make their economic situation and outlook even worse.

To test the relationship between religion and socioeconomic status, I took four income brackets (adjusted for inflation over the time) from the General Social Survey (GSS) and calculated the share that said they never attended religious services. The change over the last 46 years was stunning.

In the 1970s, the difference in church attendance among the four income groups was relatively small (about 5%). That gap has widened significantly over the last four decades, with a noticeable spike in recent years. In 2018, a quarter of the wealthiest Americans reported never attending services, while the share of those in the bottom bracket who never darkened a church door was over 35 percent. In essence, the inequality gap in attendance has now doubled.

The growing social gap between the rich and poor extends beyond church attendance, as Americans in the lowest income bracket report being increasingly isolated from their own communities overall.

Based on four GSS questions about socializing with friends, family, and neighbors over the last year—grouped together as measure of social activity—there were no significant differences among ...

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Source: Jesus Came to Proclaim Good News to the Poor. But Now They’re Leaving Church.

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[Cfamily]Give Us This Day Our Daily Catch
« Reply #1475 on: December 02, 2019, 02:29:50 PM »
Give Us This Day Our Daily Catch

With the oceans no longer teeming with life, scientists and missionaries alike challenge Christians to faithfulness in the face of daunting odds.

Last month, the United Nations released a sobering report about the state of the earth’s oceans. The 1,200-page document, issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reported warming water temperatures and sharp declines in fish populations and warned that ocean levels could rise up to three feet by the end of the century.

That’s in stark contrast to early history as accounted in the Bible, pointed out Bob Sluka, the lead scientist of A Rocha’s Marine and Coastal Conservation Program. “Genesis 1 talks about the oceans teeming with life in abundance,” he said. “The only place these days to really see that is in marine protected areas.”

The report is a first for oceans and a wake-up call, said Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at the internationally-acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. “What this report says, at the highest level, is that the ocean has been buffering the impacts of climate change for decades, and that buffering has a limit,” Van Houtan said. “Even though it has an immense ability to absorb and buffer heat and carbon from us, our industries, and our activities, it cannot do that indefinitely.”

Van Houtan, who studied theology at Duke Divinity School while getting his doctorate in ecology, first felt called to help steward creation because of his grandfather, a farmer whose faith exemplified a love for Christ and for creation. “There was a deep reverence for his role as a steward of the land and the animals.”

In contrast, since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has directly contributed to the devastation of ocean health. Van Houtan said the long-term effects of the ocean’s lessened capacity could ...

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[Cfamily]Thankful for the Bad: Upside Down Gratitude This Thanksgiving
« Reply #1476 on: December 03, 2019, 07:07:46 PM »
Thankful for the Bad: Upside Down Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Upside down gratitude is the ability to give thanks even for the parts of our lives which lead us to sadness and struggle and suffer.

Arguably the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job has become, for many of us, a guidebook on how to suffer well (if there is such a thing). It is worth wondering why Moses (or another) chose to document the life of Job as one of the first entries of God’s faithfulness to humanity.

The book begins with a descriptive of Job’s character: “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

In a seemingly senseless act, God allows Satan to, one by one, take away the blessings God has bestowed upon him—his livestock, his servants, his children. At this last measure, Job gets up, tears his robe, shaves his head, and falls to the ground in worship saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:20-21).

Job’s first recorded act in such loss is worship.

This would not be mine, I will be honest.

Nor has it been mine when pain and hurt and sickness have come upon me.

And yet my mind immediately goes to the suffering church around the world, who often, in one accord, cry, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Now we must not idolize Job. His responses (and his friends’ responses) over the course of the loss ebb and flow like the ocean’s tides. This is because Job, like us, was human. He could neither ignore the fears and anger and loss that gripped his heart any more than we can ignore ours today. But read where he lands the proverbial plane:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been ...

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[Cfamily]Being a Pastor: A Perilous Profession, Part 1
« Reply #1477 on: December 04, 2019, 07:54:50 PM »
Being a Pastor: A Perilous Profession, Part 1

Like each of us, pastors are people with needs, capacities, and limitations. These capacities are not limitless despite pressures and messages to the contrary.

Relationships are central to the gospel.

God pursuing and reconciling relationship with and for us is the biblical story. Our responding to God and living in community with each other is central to the Christian life.

Pastors often take the lead in this process. Pastors have multiple relational responsibilities to their families, congregations, and communities. And like each of us, pastors are people with needs, capacities, and limitations. These capacities are not limitless despite pressures and messages to the contrary.

As church members, we acknowledge that we expect a lot from our pastors. They are there to be shepherds, to lead, to care, and to guide. What we tend to forget is that they are also human beings who have relational, emotional, and spiritual needs that should be meet in community. The question that arises is, “Are we listening to our pastors and their needs?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer explored the needs we have in Christian community in his book Life Together. He challenges us to develop the art of listening:

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.So, it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among ...

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[Cfamily]Evangelical Giving Holds Steady Despite Tax Reform
« Reply #1478 on: December 06, 2019, 12:00:08 AM »
Evangelical Giving Holds Steady Despite Tax Reform

Though far fewer Americans are writing off charitable donations, most ministries reported stable giving last year. Denominations saw the biggest decline.

It will take months to tally the millions Americans donate to charity on Giving Tuesday. But analysts already know what kinds of charities are favored by American evangelicals—and that the GOP tax reform bill that went into affect last year has had an impact on giving.

Overall, cash giving to evangelical ministries held steady between 2017 and 2018 (the latest year for which data is available), declining 0.6 percent after six consecutive years of increases, according to a new report by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

The virtually unchanged giving levels among evangelical ministries emerged despite a 6.2 percent decline in the stock market’s S&P 500 index, which tends to mirror trends in charitable giving, and despite a 3.9 percent decline in overall giving to religion between 2017 and 2018, according to an analysis by Giving USA.

“I am pleased to see this ongoing support for Christ-centered churches and ministries,” said Dan Busby, ECFA president and CEO. “This generosity positions ECFA members to continue their positive impact for their causes both domestically and internationally.”

The State of Giving 2019 analysis from ECFA considered the finances of more than 1,900 of its accredited members and included $13.9 billion in cash giving. All year-to-year comparisons in the report were adjusted for inflation.

Despite some recent scrutiny over its role as a financial watchdog, EFCA itself has been growing, from 1,409 member ministries in 2009 to more than 2,400 today. (The year-to-year analysis relied mostly on audited financial statements and considered only ministries that were members during both years under evaluation.)

Eleven of the 26 ministry categories ...

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‘Divine Collision’ in Uganda Changed New Pepperdine President’s Life

Before he was named to the university’s top post, law professor Jim Gash helped free a falsely convicted teen in East Africa and became an advocate for justice reform.

A few hours after Jim Gash’s inauguration this fall as Pepperdine University’s eighth president, his wife, Joline, showed up at her husband’s fourth-floor executive suite with a Ugandan medical student.

Tumusiime Henry, 26, had flown nearly 10,000 miles to help celebrate Jim Gash’s unlikely ascension to the top post at the 7,900-student university, which is associated with Churches of Christ.

Henry wore a black suit with a red plaid bow tie as he joined the Gashes in an office overlooking the Pacific Ocean—a postcard-perfect view flanked by Pepperdine’s 125-foot-high monumental cross on one side and a smaller cross atop the stained-glass Stauffer Chapel on the other.

At the inauguration festivities earlier that morning, Henry had sat in the front row as a special honored guest among the thousands of students, dignitaries and faculty members dressed in academic regalia.

As Jim Gash, 52, will tell anyone who will listen, he never would have become president if he hadn’t met Henry.

“It’s all due to this young, brave man next to me,” Gash said of Henry—the nickname by which the aspiring ophthalmologist is known in Uganda, an East African nation that doesn’t have family surnames.

Jim Gash had a life he loved in Malibu, a coastal community about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles. When the Pepperdine law professor reluctantly joined a global justice trip to Uganda a decade ago, he had no intention of ever going back.

“I was very interested in somebody helping there, but it wasn’t going to be me,” he said. “I went once … to show my wife and my kids and my God that I was willing to take a step of faith.”

Three years earlier, Pepperdine ...

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Source: ‘Divine Collision’ in Uganda Changed New Pepperdine President’s Life

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