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[Cfamily]Our Spiritual Gifts Have an Expiration Date
« Reply #536 on: May 29, 2017, 07:04:32 PM »

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Our Spiritual Gifts Have an Expiration Date

Let’s rejoice in them—while looking forward to a time when they’re no longer needed.

Spiritual gifts can cause confusion. As a pastor in a charismatic church, I encounter it all the time. Some are worried whenever they hear talk of the gifts of the Holy Spirit—languages, prophecy, healing, miracles, and so forth—and others are worried whenever they hear talk of anything else. The second group risks turning a good thing into an ultimate thing; the first risks dismissing a good thing because it might frighten the horses.

God’s miraculous gifts have often been met with mixed responses. Some pour scorn over them, and some fawn over them. For a better way to think about the place of gifts in the contemporary church, it’s helpful to think back to an Old Testament example: Spiritual gifts are like manna.

There are all sorts of reasons for the comparison. Both are miraculous gifts that come down from heaven daily to sustain people. Not for nothing does Paul describe manna, and the water from the rock, as “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” (1 Cor. 10:3–4), before moving on to talk about “spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 12–14). Both are easily misunderstood. When the Israelites first encountered manna, they asked each other, “What is it?” When the church first encountered spiritual gifts, some muttered that those using them were drunk.

Both gifts bear witness to the miracle-working power of God. Both are given specifically to his covenant people. Both can be overemphasized by enthusiasts, like the Israelites who kept their manna until the next morning only to find it had gone rotten, or the hyper-charismatics who get more excited about speaking in tongues than the gospel. At the same time, both prompt grumbling from others, who complain ...

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[Cfamily]I Survived Katrina and Cancer
« Reply #537 on: May 30, 2017, 07:02:17 PM »
I Survived Katrina and Cancer

Here's what I learned.

As I emerged from the fog of anesthesia, I heard the surgeon informing my wife, Kelly, that our worst fear had improbably come true.

“Cancer!?” I interrupted, before falling back into unconsciousness. That happened six more times before I fully awoke.

Earlier in the week, tests had revealed a suspicious growth atop a nerve bundle in my pelvis, which explained the shooting leg pains I had been experiencing. Baffled about where the mass might have originated, I was scheduled for a colonoscopy. “Chances of cancer in someone your age and health are less than 1 percent,” the surgeon said just before performing the procedure.

Not long after, I found myself at a cancer center looking over an oncologist’s shoulder and examining my test results on his computer.

“It’s cancer,” he confirmed. He went on: The cancer was advanced, and the tumor in my colon had spread to create the mass in my pelvic region.

I cried as the shock started to wear off. The oncologist tried some small talk. “What is it you do for a living?” he asked. I told him I’m a college professor, and that I direct the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI), a Wheaton College research center dedicated to the study of faith and disasters.

“Looks like you’re in for your own personal disaster,” he said.

At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I had multiple surgeries to remove it. Altogether, I underwent chemotherapy for close to a year. For the first six months, my oncologist would only respond to my requests for a prognosis by telling me, “I can’t tell you that it’s going to be okay, Jamie. It’s too early to tell. But if there’s anyone you want ...

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[Cfamily]Moral Outrage in America Is Now for Everybody
« Reply #538 on: May 31, 2017, 07:07:11 PM »
Moral Outrage in America Is Now for Everybody

Gallup finds record-high liberalism on 10 of 19 issues. Yet moderates and liberals are growing more concerned.

Ask Americans about their personal views on moral issues, and they are more likely than ever to hold a liberal position. Ask them about the country’s moral values, and they’re becoming more and more pessimistic.

The church today finds itself in a precarious position, as an ethical shift pushes public opinion in favor of stances that Christians have traditionally sided against. Meanwhile, Americans from all political and theological stripes have their own reasons to be concerned over moral decline.

In a recent poll, Gallup found a widening embrace for more than a dozen moral issues, including record-high acceptance for gay relationships, divorce, pornography, polygamy, and physician-assisted suicide.

Of the 19 issues queried about, Americans have become more liberal on 13 of them (with 10 hitting record highs) and stayed consistent on 6—most notably abortion, which 43 percent of Americans and 34 percent of Protestants deem morally acceptable.

Americans have not shifted more conservative on any of the 19 moral issues measured.

“There was a time that basic Christian morality was at least something people were afraid to violate—at least in an answer on a public survey,” said Dan Darling, vice president of communications for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in response. “I am not so sure this is reflective of a moral slide, but of greater honesty.”

In May, both Gallup and LifeWay Research released polls showing about 4 in 5 Americans are worried about the moral state of the country. This year, 77 percent say the country’s values are getting worse, the highest level since Gallup started tracking this topic 16 years ago.

Historically, ...

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[Cfamily]Planting 1,000 Churches in Your Lifetime
« Reply #539 on: June 01, 2017, 07:35:37 PM »
Planting 1,000 Churches in Your Lifetime

Churches need to be planted and then quickly need to plant other churches.

In order to start a movement and plant 1,000 churches in your lifetime, you need to think about church planting through the lens of rabbits and elephants. Years ago, I remember preaching at a conference where I felt like the odd man out. It was like that song from Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the others...” The conference was on church planting, but it seemed like every speaker had started a church that had grown to at least 5,000 people—and some 25,000.

When it was my turn to preach, I decided to shoot straight and say it like it was. “Now listen. This is probably not what you’re going to experience when you plant a church. When you drove onto this campus, you drove on four lane roads called ‘Purpose Drive’ and ‘Saddleback Parkway.’ When you got out of your car, people greeted you and music was playing in the background. And now look, you’re with 5,000 people in this room.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to deter your faith. I don’t want to be? that guy. But I need to be honest with you. This here can actually distract you from what God has called you to do. If you’re not careful, this conference can become ministry pornography for you—an unrealistic depiction of an experience that you’re never going to have, and one that distracts you from the real and amazing thing.”

As long as your goal is to plant a single, solitary elephant church like Saddleback, you’ll never get to 1,000 churches in your lifetime. We need more rabbits, without dismissing the elephants. (The Saddleback “elephant” has planted lots of churches, too.)

Yet, for a movement, we need rapid reproduction, not slow addition. ...

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[Cfamily]Why the US Military Wants Fewer Generic Christians
« Reply #540 on: June 02, 2017, 07:29:14 PM »
Why the US Military Wants Fewer Generic Christians

Department of Defense now recognizes 216 religions.

If you’re an evangelical entering America’s military—and about 4 out of 10 service members are—you’re going to have to get more specific than that.

The general categories of “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches” have been removed from the Department of Defense (DoD) list of recognized religions as the US military seeks out more detailed designations for its 1.3 million service members.

This spring, the DoD doubled the religious identities that military personnel can declare on official paperwork and dog tags. The list now totals 216 different affiliations [full list below].

About 150 of them are Protestant groups, with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) remaining the most popular individual denomination in the Armed Forces.

Evangelicals without denominational ties can choose from options including Reformed churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Church Alliance, “evangelical churches, other,” and “Christian, no denominational preference.”

The military is also prompting the “nones” to narrow down their beliefs. The religiously unaffiliated are an increasingly significant demographic in the US military, making up between 20 percent to 25 percent of the force. As CT reported, the number of atheists in uniform surpassed the number of Southern Baptists in 2014.

The new list nixes not applicable and no religious preference—among one of the most popular affiliations among service members— and replaces them with a litany of designations. In addition to agnostic and atheist, soldiers can now mark no religion, no preference, none provided, humanist, or heathen.

The government ...

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[Cfamily]The Silver Lining on the Zombie Apocalypse
« Reply #541 on: June 03, 2017, 07:03:10 PM »
The Silver Lining on the Zombie Apocalypse

In his upcoming book, a university professor explores the horror—and the hope—of pop culture’s favorite disaster scenario.

In our current cultural moment, most of us are probably familiar with the myth of the “zombie apocalypse”—the idea of a sudden, widespread uprising of undead that threatens civilization and, more often than not, forces humanity to fight off hordes of shambling corpses to prevent its own extinction. This basic premise has been the starting point for films, TV shows, and other media texts for nearly half a century, from George Romero’s foundational 1968 masterpiece Night of the Living Dead to AMC’s popular series The Walking Dead, which recently concluded its seventh season.

Given the myth’s current ubiquity, it may be tempting to think of zombie-themed media as a passing fad. In his upcoming book, Living with the Living Dead : The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalyse, however, writer and Baylor University professor Greg Garrett argues that our fascination with apocalyptic scenarios filled with undead creatures speaks to many of the anxieties—and, oddly enough, the hopes—of our contemporary world.

Today, we feature an excerpt from Garrett’s book, which examines the surprising silver lining on the dark cloud of the zombie apocalypse.

On the surface of it, the apocalypse seems to be nothing but negative. As a story, it is an acknowledgment that things are going wrong for the world in which we live. At the opening of the film Gravity, astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) says, for the first of many times, “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.” Following as closely as it does on a title that reads “Life is impossible in space,” we are inclined to give that premonition some weight.

Yes, it’s the end of the world. Yes, life is impossible. We ...

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Leaked Trump Rule: Any Religious Employer Can Opt Out of Contraception Coverage

Draft broadens exemptions to controversial Obamacare mandate. But Little Sisters will still sue.

The Trump administration appears to be preparing to follow through on the president’s recent promise to relieve religious employers fighting the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate.

A leaked draft reveals plans for a new regulation to allow more companies and organizations to stop covering certain treatments—including birth control pills, emergency contraception, and sterilization—on religious and moral grounds.

The 125-page federal proposal was obtained by Vox, which reports that the document, dated May 23, is under review by the President’s Office of Management and Budget. The regulation would go into effect as soon as it is signed.

“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market,” the draft rule states.

Obamacare initially provided an exemption for churches and other houses of worship, and Hobby Lobby won some private corporations the right to decline coverage for religious reasons in a 2014 Supreme Court case. The new regulation would apply more broadly to “any kind of employer,” including Christian colleges and religious orders, some of whom have been battling the mandate in court for years. Last year, the Supreme Court sent their cases back for more review.

The drafted regulation essentially spells out the case that contraception mandate opponents had been making all along. Officials previously saw the requirement as serving a compelling government interest, according to the new rule, but they now recognize the mandate as “impos(ing) a substantial burden on the exercise of religion” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“The ...

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[Cfamily]Seven Evangelism Environments Artists Create
« Reply #543 on: June 05, 2017, 07:08:36 PM »
Seven Evangelism Environments Artists Create

How the church can leverage the arts for evangelism.

Given that the objective truth of the gospel never changes, the PROCESS of evangelism is much more about helping people encounter Christ than it is explaining Christ. And ARTISTS are some of the most powerful God-designed servants who can create environments wherein people experience the God-desired fruit of evangelism—people reconciled to God through the work of Christ.

In fact, when we emphasize explaining over encountering God’s gospel, we raise at least two barriers to witnessing. The first barrier is the fear that I’ll make a mistake or that I’ll miss something. The second barrier is the fear that “I’ll” be rejected. Plus, these barriers are both about me, not about those I’m praying will access God’s help, healing, love, forgiveness, and life.

All this to say that if church and mission leadership strategically turn to the artistic kingdom servants in their networks, they will embrace untold creative resources for designing at least seven environments wherein they and their vast army of normal Jesus-loved-people-loving volunteer Christians can meet with, pray for, care for, and share with people in their neighborhoods and communities.

So let me suggest at least seven evangelism environments that artists are God-designed to create.

Environment Designers. Artists are the ones God capacitied to imagine, then design, the culturally appropriate gathered events of the community—worship liturgies, celebration rituals & memorializations: all the various community gatherings, funerals, weddings, rites-of-passage. These are any GATHERINGS in which the community manifests its heart & soul (its transcendent reality—the expressions of the sum of its participants) ...

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