man to man to God
“Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God: for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.”
Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Seeds of Contemplation, London: Hollis & Carter, 1949, New Directions. 1949, p. 105
THE NEW EVANGELICALS
by Marcia Pally
Though public support for both major political parties is very low, one group of voters is usually exempted from this malaise: evangelicals. It’s assumed that at least these “values voters” are getting what they want. But we should look more carefully.
A sizable portion of evangelicals have left the right, so to speak, in what the theologian Scot McKnight called “the biggest change in the evangelical movement,” nothing less than the emergence of “a new kind of Christian social conscience.” These new evangelicals focus on economic justice, environmental protection and immigration reform — not exactly Republican strong points. The religious right remains a potent political force, but where once there was the appearance of an evangelical movement that sang out in one voice, there is now a robust polyphony.... Read this in full at
ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS – PART I
by Clare De Graaf
For the last two weeks we’ve talked about spiritual mentoring. I think of accountability groups as group mentoring. But, there are some important differences. So, let’s take a look.
To whom you are accountable spiritually?
Have you ever really thought about that? Of course we’re all accountable to God. And most Christians have a Bible study group or Christian friends they hang out with. But do you have a flesh and blood person or people you’ve empowered to ask you the tough questions that will inspire you to live out the mission God has prepared for you in this life?
I do! I have five men, and my wife has four women, who are committed to help us grow spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and even physically. These are the men who watch my life and my back. They pray for me, encourage me when I need it, and speak truth to me even when I’d prefer not to hear it. They’re my accountability partners, my friends, and my spiritual brothers and we’ve been meeting weekly, for almost twenty years.
And, how did that come about? A simple phone call.... Read this in full at
CHURCH FINDS AMAZING GRACE IN GETTING EVICTED
In September, the parishioners of Vancouver's St. John’s Shaughnessy Anglican Church obeyed a court order to vacate their building. Yet because of being forced to move, associate minister Daniel Gifford believes the church has actually gained more than it lost.... Read this in full at
GOD AS A CHILD
“One of the reasons I find the gospel so convincing is that it's nothing I would have dreamed up. He became a human baby, who like any other infant had to be fed, burped, and bathed. He allowed himself to get the flu, to be teased, to stub his toe like any other little kid. To be thought the illegitimate son of a teenage mother. To have for his main defense against an irate king a human father without an ounce of political pull. And that's just the beginning.
“What if I had been God? Would I have devised an all-loving strategy ... developing a plan that would require weakness, humility, and dependency on the part of my child? I doubt it. My strategy would probably have involved more power than love because power seems less risky.
“Jesus puts it to his disciples like this: ‘Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3–4). Like everything else he demanded of his disciples, Jesus lived the pattern before he asked it of them. But what does it mean to become like little children? Most children don't have much money. They don't have a lot of power. They often lack wisdom. And they aren't afraid to ask for help.
“During the Advent season, God is calling you to become like a little child, asking you to follow him with humility and trust. Decide to embrace his ‘foolish-seeming’ plan for your life, confident that his strength will be perfected through your weakness. Guard against self-reliance and self-promotion. Try to find ways to humble yourself, committing yourself to following Christ in childlike trust and obedience.”
Ann Spangler in Immanuel: A Daily Guide to Reclaiming the True Meaning of Christmas
JERUSALEM’S BIOGRAPHER EXPLAINS A CITY STEEPED IN HOLINESS, VIOLENCE
Its name translates from Hebrew as “abode of peace,” but for more than 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been anything but peaceful.
Ancient civilizations conquered it. The Romans left it a slaughterhouse. Muslims, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the Israelis and the Palestinians all have left their mark, often in blood.
And that’s not even to bring up the religious disputes, the clashing neighbors, the fanatical pilgrims and the earthquakes. (Yes, earthquakes.)
Yet Jerusalem maintains its status as perhaps the most important and holy city in the world. It is here that the three great monotheistic religions lay their claims, that countless cultures have built centuries-old shrines, and where arguably the world’s biggest geopolitical conflict, between Israelis and Palestinians, plays out every day.
British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of the new book “Jerusalem: The Biography,” knows the city well. His great-great uncle, financier Moses Montefiore, was a major philanthropist who founded one of the city’s first “new” neighborhoods in the 1860s.
Montefiore spent three years on the biography, which chronicles the city’s evolution over more than four millennia, from a Canaanite development to the modern city splintered between Israelis and Palestinians.
Montefiore spoke to CNN from his home in London. The following is an edited version of the interview.... Read this in full at
THE BLESSED SON OF GOD
The blessed son of God only
In a crib full poor did lie;
With our poor flesh and our poor blood
Was clothed that everlasting good
The Lord Christ Jesu, God's son dear,
Was a guest and a stranger here;
Us for to bring from misery,
That we might live eternally.
All this did he for us freely,
For to declare his great mercy;
All Christendom be merry therefore,
And give him thanks for evermore.
... Miles Coverdale (ca.1488-1568), Ancient English Christmas Carols, 1400-1700, Edith Rickert, New York: Duffield & Co., 1915, p. 192-193
EXPLORERS SAY THEY'VE FOUND PIECES OF NOAH'S ARK
It's perhaps one of the most told stories in the Bible. Cartoon sketches of Noah's ark fill children's books, and Hollywood even produced a modern-day adaptation in "Evan Almighty."
Now, a group of scientists say they've found parts of the biblical ark (http://noahsarkfound.com/). Daniel McGivern and his team claimed to have discovered two large sections of Noah's ark resting just below surface atop Mount Ararat in Turkey - where the Bible says the ark came to rest.
"The mountain is treeless. The mountain is volcanic with gases. There is no conceivable way that you could have an object that big on a mountain," McGivern said.
The team used military satellite imagery and ground penetrating radar technology to locate the ruins. They believe the large object is wooden.... Read this in full at
HOLINESS LEADERS FORM GLOBAL WESLEYAN ALLIANCE
Leaders of eleven faith communions met recently in Anderson, Indiana, to form the Global Wesleyan Alliance (GWA), a unique partnership to amplify the prophetic voice of Wesleyan-Arminian, holiness ministries and increase their effectiveness in spreading scriptural holiness throughout the world.
According to The Wesleyan Church General Superintendent Dr. Jerry Pence, who was elected as the organization's first president, "This alliance will enable holiness denominations to achieve a historic level of cooperation and unity for evangelism, discipleship, church multiplication, compassion, and justice. Our passion is to pursue the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment -- making Christ known through words and deeds and millions of lives filled with perfect love."
The December 2-3, 2011, organizational meeting for the Global Wesleyan Alliance included the general superintendents, bishops, and general directors of the Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, Free Methodist Church USA, Church of God (Anderson), Churches of Christ in Christian Union, The Evangelical Church, Evangelical Methodist Church, Congregational Methodist Church, Church of Christ Holiness (USA), and the Pilgrim Holiness Church.... Read this in full at
SCROLL FRAGMENTS COULD 'SHED LIGHT' ON OT TEXT
The potential contribution to Dead Sea Scroll scholarship of nine scroll fragments owned by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was underscored when several SWBTS professors discussed their research to date during the Society of Biblical Literature's 2011 meeting in San Francisco.
"Southwestern's scrolls contain readings of Old Testament passages that are nowhere else attested," Ryan Stokes, assistant professor of Old Testament, noted after the SBL's three-day mid-November meeting. "We are just beginning to comprehend their importance for the field, but we expect them to shed light on how we came to have the Old Testament text that we have today." .... Read this in full at
TRYING TO MICROWAVE GOD'S TIMING
“My $2 million idea turned out to be a $15,000 personal loss. In retrospect, I think I was trying to manufacture the miracle for God. This is what we often try to do, isn't it? When God doesn't answer our prayer right away, we try to answer it for Him. Like the day Moses took matters into his own hands and killed an Egyptian taskmaster, we get ahead of God. But when we try to do God's job for Him, it always backfires. Trying to get ahead of God cost Moses forty years. Of course, even then, God redeemed the forty years Moses spent as a fugitive tending sheep by prepping him to tend His sheep, the people of Israel. If we repent, God always recycles our mistakes.
“The one upside to our failed business is that I did learn some valuable lessons about unanswered prayers. First of all, I came to the humble conclusion that our prayers are often misguided simply because we're not omniscient. I'll be the first to admit that I've drawn some prayer circles around the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and God didn't answer those prayers the way I wanted Him to! If we were absolutely honest, we would have to admit that most of our prayers have as their main objective personal comfort rather than God's glory. If God answered those selfish prayers, they would actually short-circuit the purposes of God in our lives. We would fail to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us or cultivate the character God is trying to shape in us.
“I also learned that we shouldn't seek answers as much as we should seek God. We get overanxious. We try to microwave our own answers instead of trusting God's timing. But here's an important reminder: If you seek answers you won't find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you.”
Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
FRANCIS CHAN: CHRISTIANS NOT PRAYING HOW GOD INTENDED
Many Christians today are praying the wrong way, all too often focused on themselves than on the mission of God, influential preacher and bestselling author Francis Chan lamented.
It is no wonder that many prayers are ineffective and left unanswered when the subject matter is limited to a list of to do’s and selfish desires, he explained.
“James 4 says a lot of times you’ll ask and you don’t receive because what you’re asking for you’re asking to spend on your own passions and no one warned me about that,” Chan shared in his latest “BASIC” series, which premiered on Relevant Magazine’s website.... Read this in full at
VERSE TO PONDER
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
“You have been created by God and for God, and someday you will stand amazed at the simple yet profound ways He has used you even when you weren't aware of it.”
A DOCTOR REFLECTS ON THE BODY OF CHRIST
“I know a retired doctor named Wooly who deeply loves Jesus. In conversation with him a few years ago he illuminated my understanding of how our bodies are brilliant examples of the body of Christ. He described how the head is the control center of the body. It makes millions of decisions subconsciously per second and directs impulses throughout the nervous system at about seven hundred miles an hour. When something in the body blocks these instructions from getting through, sickness and disease begin to develop.”
“‘The body has enormous built-in power to recreate and regenerate itself,’ Dr. Wooly explained. ‘It can fight interlopers like viruses and infections that might otherwise cause harm or death. The Bible tells us we are the body of Christ and Christ is the head of the church. Jesus is like the brain, and sin is the inhibitor that keeps the instructions from getting through to the body's organs’ [see Ephesians 4:15-16].
“If we're all interconnected as the body of Christ, it's not possible to be free-standing, isolated entities. It's not possible to survive without each other. The bad news is that living in community requires sacrifice. The good news is that we can survive and thrive in community. The great news is that we have permission to be ourselves. We're uniquely placed. Our role is irreplaceable and our value immeasurable. A good many of the troubles that arise in community seem to come from our brokenness and insecurity, and so much of this happens because we ultimately think we're on our own and that we can survive that way. We can't.
“When the body works together fighting against that which would kill it, whether from within or without, there is enormous power to heal, restore, and renew what was sick and dying. When the body begins to attack itself, it dies.
“If we are the body of Christ as the Bible declares and we cannot separate ourselves from one another and survive, then the Bible is one of the most indispensable resources God has provided to give balance on the high seas of life in community. The Bible gives us our orientation to God and the baseline for processing the drama each day brings. It challenges our motivations and gives us the deep wisdom it takes to function as the body of Christ.”
Brian Hardin in Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You
BIBLE BAN AT WALTER REED MILITARY HOSPITAL DROPPED
Patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., can read their favorite Gospel passages once again after a ban on the Bible and other religious texts was repealed Dec. 8.
"Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center," said a statement released today by the hospital. "The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded." .... Read this in full at
FAITH RESPONSE TO OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH VOTED NO. 1 RELIGION STORY OF THE YEAR
The death of Osama bin Laden — which spurred discussions among people of faith on issues of forgiveness, peace, justice and retribution — was voted the No. 1 Religion Story of 2011 by leading religion journalists.
The 2011 survey of Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) members marks the 30th year the professional organization of religion beat specialists has conducted the poll.
Faith-based groups reacted to the terrorist leader’s death with renewed sympathy for victims’ families, scriptural citations justifying the demise of evil, and hopeful prayers for peace among the nations.
Earlier in the year, New York U.S. Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y), chaired a series of controversial hearings in the House alleging radicalization among US Muslims. Meanwhile, US Senate hearings centered on crimes against Muslims. The hearings were voted the No. 2 religion story of 2011.
The complete Top 10 Religion Stories of 2011, in order from first to tenth are:.... Read this in full at
FIRST-EVER US CHRISTIAN DISASTER RESEARCH CENTER TO EQUIP LOCAL CHURCHES
America’s first faith-based academic disaster research center located at Wheaton College in Illinois, aims to equip Christian churches and organizations to respond to natural catastrophes in the best way possible.
Wheaton College launched the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) just before the start of the fall semester. It is also one of the few disaster or humanitarian centers in the Midwest, according to school officials.
The institute is using its experience in Haiti and a planned trip to tsunami-affected areas in Japan to equip relief organizations.
“Our main mission is to equip the church in society to respond to disasters,” Psychology department professor and HDI co-director Jamie D. Aten told The Christian Post. “As part of that work, we are looking at disasters across the whole continuum, not just the event, but also what makes a community or region more vulnerable to disasters.” .... Read this in full at
THE TERRIFYING TIM TEBOW
by Elizabeth Scalia
It says a great deal about the depths to which America’s values have fallen that Tim Tebow — who, once upon a time, would have been the wholesome, women-and-mom-respecting, clean-playing, fresh-faced and faithful Hollywood ideal of a football hero — is the target of such deep derision from so many sources, and in an era of such vaunted “tolerance.”
Although it may seem too easy to some, I blame the baby-boomers — a generation so in love with deconstructing old standards (and so completely neurotic about being perceived as anti-establishment, smart, and most of all, cool) that it only can express full-on admiration for the anti-heroes. Were Tim Tebow using his on-camera time to swagger and preen and lecture the nation on green energy, greedy millionaires, and gun control, his Christ-fixation would not only be permitted, it would be held up as a gaudy rebuke to uncool Christians everywhere, and his pronouncements — as long as he kept his mouth shut on abortion and gay marriage — would never be challenged.... Read this in full at
THE MODERN DAY HOLIDAY GREETING CARD
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious low carbon footprint, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, low saturated fat, smoke free, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of all other faiths and minorities or those who choose not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms - This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual applications of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of any subsequent holiday greetings, whichever comes first, and the warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.
Merry Christmas from me and my attorney.
“Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?”
Charles H. Spurgeon
VERSE TO PONDER
[Jesus said,] "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing ... This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
John 15:5 & 8
THIS WEEK'S HYMN: LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS
Words: Christina Rossetti, 1885
Music: traditional Irish melody
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
>from NetHymnal at
“God is always speaking; He is never still. Just as in prayer it is not we who momentarily catch His attention but He ours, so when we fail to hear His voice it is not because He is not speaking so much as that we are not listening.”
Charles H. Brent (1862-1929), With God in the World , London: Longmans Green, 1914, p. 34
PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS TODAY
DAILY BLESSING PACT
Use the following list as your daily prayer guide. Think of a brother or situation that applies and lift them up in prayer.
I am agreeing in prayer with you for God’s blessings to overtake you!
Favor with God and man
Be in God’s will
Raises or bonuses
Sales & commissions
Estates & inheritances
Rebates & returns
Checks in the mail
Gifts & surprises
Money to be found
Bills decrease while blessings increase
"And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God" (Deut. 28:2).
[As you travel on business or vacation, let me know if you'd like us to add you to our prayer chain to pray for your safety and spiritual effectiveness. I'll add your name to the list for the time you'll be away.]
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I sat up all night thinking about the sun. Then it dawned on me.
Min. Frank Coleman, Editor
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CONNECTIONS is a periodic newsletter of announcements, news, recommendations, articles, and other information helpful to men in our spiritual growth. Thanks for welcoming CONNECTIONS into your in-box!
The CONNECTIONS Team offers a variety of activities for men to interact with other men on our journey of faith in Christ together. Large group, small group, and one-to-one events encourage relationship building and spiritual strengthening that result in maximizing the potential we all have in Christ.
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