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[Cfamily]Jesus on the Job: How Faith Mixes With Work, Part 1
« Reply #256 on: August 05, 2016, 07:11:58 AM »

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Jesus on the Job: How Faith Mixes With Work, Part 1

In Acts 11, we read that because of persecution in Jerusalem following the stoning of Stephen, Christians were dispersed into various parts of the world. In their new homes, they continued to live as they had in Jerusalem, practicing and preaching their faith to both Jews and Greeks.

As a result, the Lord saved “a large number,” and the church in Antioch was birthed. The people who had been scattered into Antioch were regular people, dads and moms, who needed work to support their families. They lived among the Gentiles according to their faith, proclaiming the gospel. Many saw and heard and believed.

There is something particularly interesting I would like you to see here: it was not the Apostles who planned a church plant in Antioch, gathered the funds and core groups, and moved into these neighborhoods. The church in Antioch began with believers whom God had sent there, not by their choice, but by way of dispersion.

They had families and jobs and regular lives, and they used those things as a way to represent Christ among their unbelieving neighbors and co-workers. In short, they were on mission in their workplaces and homes, and the Church grew as a result. Do you see it?

Regular people grew the church.

Christ at the Workplace
Most of the people who read this blog are pastors or church leaders, but the people we lead are accountants, teachers, doctors, and electricians.

Church leaders, we need to understand that we are meant to equip all of our people for participation in God’s mission. I am convinced that participation in the mission necessitates bringing everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, including our jobs.

There is an incredibly helpful and encouraging conversation happening in churches right now around faith and work and how the gospel impacts everything we do. The reality is that a lot of Christians are unhappy in their jobs. One of the reasons, I believe, is because just about every devout believer at some time asks the question, “Am I called to full-time ministry?”

As a result, confusion often abounds in regards to vocation and how we can joyfully thrive in our work. Everything we do is shaped by who we are in Christ, including the manner in which we approach our workplaces. At the end of this blog post I am including a helpful video my friend Skye Jethani did on “Recapturing a Theology of Vocation for Gospel Witness.” It is a very helpful piece.

All the way back in the beginning, kingdom work was rooted in God’s command to Adam to cultivate and steward the garden. The principle is more fully revealed in the work of the second Adam, Jesus. Adam was commanded to glean the harvest in Eden, but the second Adam brings a better and more complete harvest of the nations.

That harvest involves us in His mission at work and in our daily lives. The work is not set aside for ‘more spiritual’ or ‘professional’ Christians. God has called all believers to engage well in His mission. “Do your work heartily,” Paul says in Colossians 3:23, “as unto the Lord and not as unto men.”

If we are going to really see Christians satisfied in their work and joyfully engaging in the mission through it, we must equip them to do so. If we want to see the kind of multiplication of disciples seen in Acts 11, every follower of Christ must understand his or her role in God’s mission.

Just as God was sovereign over the dispersion of His people into Antioch, He is sovereign over where we have been placed in our neighborhoods and workplaces. That definitively means that we are in those places for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel among the nations.

In my next post, I will talk about how we can prepare this coming generation to see their vocations as a call from God and help them fully embrace it.

Source: Jesus on the Job: How Faith Mixes With Work, Part 1

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Manny Pacquiao, Championship Boxer, Has a New Opponent: Philippine Poverty

A political candidate was recently elected who is a bigger celebrity than Donald Trump, talks more about his personal relationship with God than Ted Cruz, and understands poverty more intimately than Bernie Sanders. As the winner of world titles in eight different weight classes, the candidate is also considered by many fans and fighting experts alike to be the most dynamic boxer to lace up the gloves since Muhammad Ali.

Manny Pacquiao, who has been a congressman in the Congress of the Philippines since 2010, won a seat in the Filipino Senate on May 9. He retired from boxing this spring shortly after defeating welterweight Timothy Bradley in a 12-round decision in Las Vegas. From street kid to world boxing champion to national hero and global icon, Pacquiao, 37, will continue his unlikely career trajectory by pursuing a new vocation: that of evangelical politician.

From 'Nothing' to $400 Million

A week before his fight with Bradley, I sat and talked to Pacquiao in the basement of Hollywood’s famous Wild Card Boxing Gym as he prepared for a training session with his longtime coach, Freddie Roach.

‘The Lord raised me
from nothing into
something for a purpose.’ –Manny Pacquiao

We talked a bit about his upcoming match, but mostly about his 2012 conversion to Christianity and the way his relatively new faith might shape his career post-boxing. “Now I understand everything,” Pacquiao said about his boxing career and unlikely rise to stardom. “The Lord raised me from nothing into something for a purpose, not for my purpose but for his purpose.”

Pacquiao said he came from “nothing,” but describing his life story as “rags to riches” captures neither the hopelessness of his youth nor the wealth and fame he found through boxing. Pacquiao was born in a village in the southern Philippines and remembers drinking water in the evening to try to fool his stomach on days his family couldn’t afford rice. But it was more than hunger pangs that pushed him out of his family’s house and onto the streets of General Santos City as a teenager. A difficult relationship with his father came to a painful head when the elder Pacquiao arrived home drunk and angry and proceeded to kill, cook, and eat the family dog. Pacquiao’s father soon abandoned the family. That act left an emotional wound in his son that would not heal for 20 years.

By the time he turned 16, Pacquiao had made the 500-mile boat trip from General Santos City to Manila and was fighting for money. If Pacquiao’s life started with less than rags, through boxing he achieved more than riches. As a teenager, he spent his days punishing heavy bags and his nights sleeping on the gym floor. According to Forbes, since his first fight in 1995 (in which he earned less than $5), Pacquiao has fought 66 times, earning more than $400 million. He raked in more than $160 million in 2015 alone. But financial figures only represent part of the “riches” in Pacquiao’s story.

'Fist of the Nation'

Somewhere during his career he became the living, breathing, fighting symbol of the Filipino people. Pacquiao embodied an entire country’s struggles and triumphs, and served as the public face of the Philippines, a country where nearly 20 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Boxing clichés like “The People’s Champ” were not enough to describe him, so he was dubbed Pambansang Kamao, the “Fist of the Nation.”

Source: Manny Pacquiao, Championship Boxer, Has a New Opponent: Philippine Poverty

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[Cfamily]Jesus on the Job: How Faith Mixes With Work, Part 2
« Reply #258 on: August 07, 2016, 07:14:53 AM »
Jesus on the Job: How Faith Mixes With Work, Part 2

One of the keys to equipping people to see their work as a place where they can point people to Jesus and as a way to fulfill God’s call upon their lives is to begin early.

If we wait until people are in the throes of the questions and struggles of work vs. ministry, there is a much greater probability of deconstruction that will need to be done before they can begin to be rightly encouraged and equipped for work and ministry. In order to engage young people in this type of thought and practice, we need to have a robust conversation around integrating faith and learning.

Believers are asking questions about how we train people in a Christian worldview as it pertains to living as faithful believers in a changing cultural context. On the one hand, this is the work of the local church. This is discipleship, and it should be a part of the regular process of equipping the people in our churches. On the other hand, there are some wonderful partners that can help specifically in developing workers who work hard, are satisfied in their work, and see it as an opportunity for gospel ministry and mission.

And so, pastors, we need to know how to help parents address the educational needs of our young people, particularly in regards to university preparation. With all that is going on in our culture right now, people are increasingly asking about the place of Christian schools, all the way up to the university level.

There is a long and storied history of Christian involvement in creating colleges and universities to train our people for ministry. Today, people are asking about how that Christian intellectual tradition applies in our changing culture.

Many people look to Christian education as a way to guard their children, to isolate them from secular ideologies. Instead, I propose that we explore ways, not to isolate, but to grow within the Christian evangelical tradition. Honestly, because of the current temperature of education in the United States, I think Christian schools and universities are wrestling with that very thing.

Historically, there has been a consistent practice in which Christian colleges and universities move away from their Christian tradition over time, beginning with their denominational affiliations and then moving away from their broader Christian milieu. Schools that once had proud Christian histories and practices eventually shun them in favor of a secular approach. Those that do not wish to follow that path often hunker down and isolate themselves, creating a bit of a Christian bubble for their students.

Many of our schools now, however, want to avoid drift away from their roots, but they are still wrestling with how to raise up young people who know and love the Lord and thoughtfully engage in the broader intellectual conversation. They are looking for ways to train up men and women with intellectual integrity who will passionately engage the culture through their vocation without isolating them from that very culture in the process.

Here at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, we are engaged in this very thing through our Evangelism Initiative. We are working with Christian higher education institutions to help them train their students to be able to segue from any discipline into a gospel conversation. I will share more on this initiative next week.

Church leaders, we too must be involved in the conversation. Although it is a difficult one, it will pay incredible dividends for our people and ultimately, for the kingdom.

Source: Jesus on the Job: How Faith Mixes With Work, Part 2

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[Cfamily]Dobson Explains Why He Called Trump a ‘Baby Christian’
« Reply #259 on: August 08, 2016, 07:09:39 AM »
Dobson Explains Why He Called Trump a ‘Baby Christian’

James Dobson didn’t realize his off-the-cuff remarks about Donald Trump’s faith would set off so many questions about the Republican candidate’s alleged recommitment to Christ.

The former Focus on the Family leader, who has endorsed Trump, publicly addressed the situation for the first time in a letter sent to followers today, stating he “didn’t waffle on anything” when he had to clarify that he didn’t know the exact details of Trump’s relationship with Jesus.

Dobson explained what happened following the June gathering of 1,000 evangelical leaders at Trump Tower in New York:

I talked that day to what seemed like 500 people in a 15-hour period ending at 11:30 p.m. One of those well-wishers was carrying a recording device, and he suddenly appeared before me and held a microphone in my face. He asked for my impressions from the day.

I spoke candidly for about 20 seconds, as I recall. Then he disappeared. By the next morning, millions of people were talking about my saying I had heard during the day that a minister had led Donald Trump to a relationship with Christ. I didn’t elaborate because I said all I knew.

The man with the recorder was Pennsylvania pastor Michael Anthony, and Dobson told him that Trump “did accept a relationship with Christ” and “really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian.”

Trump, whose awkward referrals to Jesus as “somebody I can revere in terms of bravery” and communion as “my little wine … and my little cracker” have made evangelicals cringe, describes himself as a Presbyterian who goes to church “when I can.” Few Americans consider Trump to be very religious, according to the Pew Research Center.

Pastor Jentezen Franklin, who sits with Dobson on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, told the Gainsville Times that the candidate said he rededicated his life to Christ a decade ago.

Some of the mainstream media jumped on Dobson’s comments, leading him to point to controversial televangelist Paula White as the source of the potential “born again” incident. In an interview with Trump, Mike Huckabee also referred to the close relationship between White and Trump, calling her his “spiritual counselor and advisor.”

“My conversations with Paula, who I adore, (are) a great reminder to me that you are willing to listen to spiritual counsel from people who you know and you trust,” Huckabee told Trump.

With little evidence of repentance, many questioned the claim.

“Oh give me a break,” author and blogger Rachel Held Evans tweeted. “Donald Trump hasn’t been born again. The Religious Right has simply sold out. James 2, folks.”

Baptist blogger and seminary professor Denny Burk agreed, tweeting that “if true, we’d rejoice w/arms open. But if ‘baby Xtian’ means ‘Xtian with no fruit,’ how does this change anything?”

If anything, Trump’s candidacy is revealing the inner secularization of the evangelical movement, where evangelical no longer means something many would recognize as properly Christian, Westminster Seminary–California professor Michael Horton wrote for CT.

But that doesn’t mean Trump is a hopeless case.

“If God gets a hold of Trump, it won't be the first time people didn't believe it,” wrote Anthony, the pastor whose interview started it all. “It won't be the first time that a terrible person who lived completely against Christ came to know him.”

Trump “lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., who endorsed Trump early on.

Later he added, “Jesus said ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ Let’s stop trying to choose the political leaders who we believe are the most godly because, in reality, only God knows people’s hearts. You and I don’t, and we are all sinners.”

Pew recently examined whether Americans see Trump as a religious man (few do, and few care), as well as whether they want their president to be religious.

Overall, Trump and Hillary Clinton have weekly churchgoers unusually split. Most evangelical laypeople say they are voting for Trump—though most not for Trump—while most evangelical leaders have not supported his candidacy in past polls.

[Photos courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr and Focus on the Family]

Source: Dobson Explains Why He Called Trump a ‘Baby Christian’

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[Cfamily]Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church
« Reply #260 on: August 09, 2016, 07:10:34 AM »
Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church

For several years, I served in a church that was known for its commitment to world missions. Many of our college kids were called into full-time cross-cultural ministry, including a bright young man named Bill. The reaction of his parents, however, caught Bill by surprise. His family had supported missionaries financially, prayed for them, and even fed them Sunday lunch when they were on furlough from the field. But the idea of their son giving his life to overseas missions was too much for Bill’s parents. They wanted Bill to find steady employment and raise a nice Christian family—one that supports missions, of course—like they had.

Bill’s parents are hardly unique. American adults, according to a recent Barna study, are “most likely to point to their family as making up a significant part their personal identity.” Country and God come next. Christians are no exception; natural family has usurped God and his family as the primary identity marker for most church-goers.

Most of us prioritize our commitment to family above our commitment to the church. This is unfortunate, because the Bible offers us a different set of relational priorities.

Jesus: Pro- or Anti-Family?

Many Christians rightly say that God loves family. All throughout Scripture, families are given the task of rearing children in the Lord. Husbands and wives are commanded to be faithful to one another, and children to their parents. Paul writes that “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

Yet in the Gospels, we find a mixed bag of instructions about family. In some places, like Matthew 15:3–4, Jesus appears to be pro-family, questioning the Pharisees’ commitment to the fifth commandment to “honor your father and mother.” But in other places, he seems to be anti-family. For instance, in Luke he says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (14:26).

While shocking to us, the meaning of Jesus’s statement in Luke would have been especially challenging to his first-century audience. Ancient Mediterranean society was a strong-group culture. The health and survival of the group took priority over the goals and desires of individual members. Loyalty to family constituted the most important relational virtue for persons in the New Testament world.

But following Jesus meant belonging to two families, a natural family and a faith family. Unlike his surrounding culture, what is most important to Jesus is faith family: “Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 12:46–50).

Jesus’ call to join a new family generates an unavoidable loyalty conflict. Which family do I now owe my ultimate loyalty?

Getting Our Priorities Straight

Most of us would rank our relationship priorities like this:

  1. God

  2. My family

  3. God’s family (church)

  4. Others

But both Scripture and Christian history reinforce the idea that the family of God should rank higher than natural family. Jesus did not primarily call individuals into a private relationship with him. He calls us to join a movement, to become part of a new family. The notion that loyalty to God could somehow be separated from loyalty to God’s family would have been foreign to Jesus and the early Christians. As third-century theologian Cyprian of Carthage famously said, “He who does not have the church for his mother cannot have God for his Father.”

Source: Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church

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[Cfamily]Leadership Legacies: Why Character Trumps All
« Reply #261 on: August 10, 2016, 07:10:22 AM »
Leadership Legacies: Why Character Trumps All

The Apostle Paul wrote,

What after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who made things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. (1 Cor. 3:5-8)

Whatever else one may say about Paul’s logic, he makes it clear that all the credit and glory for his work belongs to God. Every person in ministry would humbly acknowledge the same truth. And yet, how often do we seek to position ourselves so that when the report, article, or book is written, we will receive significant credit for the breakthrough? We can’t seem to help wanting to take some of what should be God’s glory alone.

And the problem is even wider than the scope of the personal example Paul cites. Not only are there those who plant and those who water, but there are those who weed, those who stake, and those who prune, just to name a few analogies that could be cited. In every ministry context there are multitudes of people doing all sorts of tasks that support the establishment and strengthening of churches and further God’s kingdom purposes.

So what does this say about leadership legacies? Consider the following:

First, it says that our categories for understanding complex tasks are oversimplified, and that the Body of Christ is as varied in its doing as in its being. Good leaders are known for celebrating and encouraging the toes in their organization as much as the tongues and the arms. They also know that there is only one head, and it is he alone who holds all things together by the power of his might.

Second, it says that there are times when innovation is truly needed, but far more often the crying need is for more passion in doing the same tried and true things that first century believers did—things like bearing joyful witness, living lives of integrity, and teaching others what they have learned. The result, as Roman Emperor Trajan once remarked, was to turn the world “upside down.” Leaders who understand this are far more interested in their team doing a few important things well than mapping out a new pathway that can be described in clever acronyms. They also lead in showing the way by example.

Third, it says that the leadership legacies that really matter may have more to do with successfully unleashing the energy and gifts of those who work with her/him than how brilliantly the leader can move individual workers around the ministry chessboard, or outline a new global strategy. But the penchant for the leader to feel that he/she must do something personally that is visible or quantifiable in order to be considered successful is sometimes irresistible.

Finally, the legacy of leaders that will be most enduring will stem not from how many battles were won, or how many lands were conquered, but by how much they loved the Lord, the glory of his name, and those with whom they stood shoulder to shoulder day by day to bring God glory. In many ways, it reminds us of the epitaph wisdom we sometimes hears: “There are very few people in their final moments who say, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’” No, it’s all about relationships, and that is as true for leaders as it is for anyone. Ministry leaders just have a broader field of relationships—at home, as well as with those with whom and to whom they minister. The greatness of a legacy, therefore, depends most of all on how well and how broadly a leader can love.

Some may be wondering whether I am giving too short shrift to things like strategic insight, visionary planning, and spellbinding oratory. Perhaps, but that is not the direction that under-appreciation usually goes. So if I have overemphasized that which is too often missed at the expense of other important qualities, I can live with that.

After all, these other qualities are no more the product of our own cleverness and will than the most menial and humble task that can be imagined. God stands behind it all as author and finisher, just as Paul reminds us. God bless those leaders who remember this is so, as God has already blessed those who have that kind of leader to follow.

Source: Leadership Legacies: Why Character Trumps All

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[Cfamily]How Evangelism Can Be Woven Into All Parts Of An Academic Institution
« Reply #262 on: August 11, 2016, 07:04:52 AM »
How Evangelism Can Be Woven Into All Parts Of An Academic Institution

Evangelism should be a value that shapes all Christian academic institutions.

Dear Friends,

When I visit campuses I sometimes hear the following complaint about making evangelism an explicit value: “We’re an academic institution, not a Bible college!” The underlying worry is that the academic mission will be displaced by evangelism. My response is that I don’t think this is the right way to think about evangelism as a core institutional value. We’re Christian academic institutions, so values like evangelism, worship, and service should permeate everything we do.

Nevertheless, if evangelism displaces our academic majors, or if it becomes that one course taught in the Bible department that some students take, we have missed our Christian academic mission.

Instead, evangelism should be a value that shapes our academic mission.

There are many ways this shaping might take place. For instance, evangelism might be a component of a core class all students take, where the relationship of the gospel to the academic subject matter is explored as part of the course. Students might have an assignment where they discuss how sharing the good news of Jesus relates to that subject matter as a means of assessing an academic outcome for the course.

Another idea would be to have a capstone outcome on evangelism that provides orientation for how departments can shape some of their faith and learning activities so that students can successfully demonstrate that outcome as part of their capstone work.

Let me share an example. In my weekly physics senior seminar, I strive to talk about how the gospel relates to my students as lovers of Jesus and lovers of physics as we move through the seminar material. We have one session devoted explicitly to talking through issues and opportunities for sharing ...

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Source: How Evangelism Can Be Woven Into All Parts Of An Academic Institution

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[Cfamily]Clergy Working Fewer Hours, Getting Paid More
« Reply #263 on: August 12, 2016, 07:08:57 AM »
Clergy Working Fewer Hours, Getting Paid More

Counting the cost is getting easier.

The wages of battling sin are getting better for men and women of the cloth.

Non-Catholic clergy have experienced significant increases in income even as their work weeks declined by more than 15 percent in recent decades, according to a major new study of clergy compensation published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. (While the non-Catholic category was primarily Protestant, it did include a small number of non-Christian clergy, the study said.)

The study is believed to be the first to take into account the benefits clergy receive in the form of housing allowances or living in church-provided residences, which usually cause difficulty in any wage comparison of clergy to the general public.

Overall, in inflation-adjusted wages, non-Catholic clergy made $4.37 more per hour in 2013 than they did in 1983. That figure is more than double the wage increase of the average worker with a college degree.

Over the past 37 years, the average income for American workers was $49,225; non-Catholic clergy earned $46,216. Put another way, the general population averaged $21.20 an hour, while church clergy pulled in $18.85 an hour. (Clergy that worked elsewhere, like in hospitals or administration, earned $21.79 an hour.)

Like most everyone else in this age of increasing economic inequality, clergy continue to fall financially behind elite professions such as doctors, lawyers, and hedge fund managers, the study found.

But the price of their calling is declining as the wage gap that separates them from other college-educated Americans shrinks, according to the study, which used Current Population Survey data from 1976 to 2013.

Just how much? The study found clergy are gaining financial ground faster than more than 9 in 10 Americans ...

Continue reading...

Source: Clergy Working Fewer Hours, Getting Paid More

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