Connecting man to man to God
For week of December 30, 2012
The weekly newsletter of Path Of Life Ministries.
Our mission is to lead men to Jesus Christ and provide opportunity for Christian men to grow in their faith and minister to others.
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Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said, “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation. You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.”
- Luke 2:28-32 (CEB)
“We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for every one who has a conscience.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), A Testament to Freedom: the essential writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Geffrey B. Kelly, F. Burton Nelson, eds., HarperCollins, 1995, p. 185
WORSHIP CHRIST THE NEWBORN KING
by David Neff
The angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary: "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
The Magi to Herod: "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?"
Charles Wesley to the church: "Hark! the herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn king.'"
The kingship of Israel's Messiah is deeply ingrained in the stories and songs of Christmas. Yet, in our modern and post-modern world, we don't really relate to royalty (other than to gossip about princes cavorting in Las Vegas). Royalty isn't much of a category for us.
In the early 20th century, however, the western world was in turmoil over the best form of governance. In Russia in 1917, political pressures led Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. The Bolshevik revolution threw the country into anarchy, and the royal family was executed the following year. In Mexico, a 1917 constitution was antagonistic not only to monarchs, but to the Catholic church as well. That Mexican constitution served as a model for the new Russian Constitution of 1918 and the Weimar Republic's German constitution of 1919. In Spain, a 1923 military coup undermined the monarch's power. In Italy, the Kingdom of Italy invaded the Papal States in 1860 and Rome in 1870. The next six decades saw hostile relations between the government and the papacy. Mussolini's fascists imposed martial law in 1922, assassinated opposition politicians in 1924, and by 1925 dropped all pretense of democracy.... Read this in full at
THREE OLD SINNERS, JUST LIKE US
by Robert A. Ratcliff
If most people had to choose which of the biblical stories of Jesus’ birth and infancy they preferred, they would choose Luke, because that’s where the coolest things happen. It starts with all that crazy stuff about Mary’s cousin Elizabeth getting pregnant even though she’s too old to do so; moves to the Angel Gabriel announcing the birth to Mary and her exultant song about it; shows Mary and Joseph trudging into Bethlehem, not being able to find a place to stay, winding up giving birth in a barn; and concludes with the heavenly glee club appearing to a bunch of shepherds, of all people. Yep; when people think about the Christmas story it’s Luke’s version they think about.
By comparison, the story in Matthew’s Gospel is less triumphant, more violent, and harder to understand. It starts with the quiet drama of Joseph’s dream about not setting Mary aside. It concludes with the horrifying story of the slaughter of the innocents. And in the middle are those crazy guys, the Magi.... Read this in full at
LEE STROBEL: MAKING THE CASE FOR CHRISTMAS
While still an atheist and crime reporter for The Chicago Tribune, Christian apologist and best-selling author Lee Strobel says a story he covered decades ago about a "poverty-wracked" family and how they showed him the true meaning of Christmas through their actions still resonates with him. Strobel gave The Christian Post an exclusive on his "Making the Case for Christmas" story.
More than 14 years ago, Strobel authored The Case for Christ, a book about how as an atheist he first set out to disprove the existence of Jesus only to find irrefutable evidence for the Son of God. He then became a Christian. His Christian wife, Leslie, had been praying for his salvation all the while.
In writing about the Delgados – 60-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny – Strobel tells about having a yearning "to know Jesus" during his experience.
"To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything – more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus – because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters."
He writes about how the Delgados "sacrificially reached out to their neighbors with a tangible expression of Christ's love." .... Read this in full at
CHRISTMAS AND EVIL
by N.T. Wright
For many, Christianity is just a beautiful dream. It's a world in which everyday reality goes a bit blurred. It's nostalgic, cozy and comforting. But real Christianity isn't like that at all. Take Christmas, for instance: a season of nostalgia, of carols and candles and firelight and happy children. But that misses the point completely.
Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don't light a candle in a room that's already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that's so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it.... Read this in full at
‘NEVER-CHURCHED’ REQUIRE NEW FORM OF EVANGELISM
by Jack Jackson
Last Christmas season, my family walked through the downtown community where we live. In one of the store windows we passed were a small set of woodcarvings that included a baby, two adults right next to the baby, three kingly-looking persons nearby and a scattering of cows, donkeys and ducks. I still am not sure of the significance of the ducks, but we were looking at a crèche.
One of my children’s friends pointed out the Nativity scene. He said it was the strangest thing he had ever seen. Cows never hang out with ducks, much less people, he said.
“What is this?” he asked.
My wife responded by saying it was the Nativity scene.
“What is that?” came the response.
“It is the story of Jesus’ birth in the stable.”
To which our friend said, “Never heard of it.”
It is not necessary to recap the growth trends of people leaving Christian places of worship. Recent polls suggesting that 20 percent of U.S. citizens have no connection to any religious tradition surprise few. Most of us also know that there are people in our communities, like my child’s friend, with virtually no awareness of the basics of the Christian gospel. And yet evangelistic and missional practices in many churches seem to assume an awareness of the Christian story that clouds effective evangelism.... Read this in full at
LES MISÉRABLES FILM: MERCY TRIUMPHS
by Rusty Wright
Could receiving a healthy dose of kindness and mercy help transform a person’s life?
Victor Hugo thought so. The 19th Century French social reformer wove his classic novel Les Misérables around the theme of grace trumping legalism. A new film based on the successful musical opens Christmas Day across the US and Canada, soon in many other nations.
Until recently, I was one of the few in the western world unfamiliar with this powerful saga, somehow having missed it through formal education and beyond. I now understand why it continues to attract audiences 150 years after it was written.
Spoiler alert for Les Mis novices: this article encapsulates the essential story. But understanding the plot and characters can help you appreciate the film.
A kindly bishop provides dinner and lodging for paroled convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). In return, while the priest sleeps, Valjean steals his silver.
The next day, approached by constables who've apprehended Valjean, the bishop tells them that the silver was a gift. He then privately counsels Valjean to see this as part of God's plan for him and to use the silver to become honest. The priest's heartwarming mercy evokes a biblical admonition: "Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." .... Read this in full at
THE CHALLENGE OF HOPE IN 'LES MISÉRABLES'
by Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio
Will you be strong and stand with me? That’s the question the cast of "Les Misérables" asks viewers at the end of the film as they stand along a barricade. But it’s also the question one particular character, a bishop, asks early in the movie.
And that question has radical implications for all of us who want to see our world transformed by hope.
That bishop meets the main character, Jean Valjean, after he’s released from serving nearly two decades in prison. With no job prospects and lifelong parole haunting his name, Valjean cannot find employment, a home, financial stability.
Then he stumbles upon the bishop, who invites him into his home, feeds him dinner, offers him a bed.
That night, a desperate Valjean flouts the bishop’s kindness by stealing his silver, but the next morning, when he’s caught and returned to the bishop’s home for condemnation, the bishop says something quite curious:
“But my friend, you left so early, surely something slipped your mind.” He hands Valjean two silver candlesticks.
“You forgot I gave these also. Would you leave the best behind?”
The bishop’s act is a radical exercise of the Christian command to turn the other cheek, and it has a profound effect on Valjean. Stunned by the bishop’s forgiveness and the faith placed in him, Valjean sings, “One word from him, and I’d be back beneath the lash, upon the rack. Instead he offers me my freedom.... Read this in full at
FROM NUNS TO ‘NONES,’ 10 WAYS RELIGION SHAPED THE NEWS IN 2012
by Kevin Eckstrom
From the nuns to the “nones,” religion dominated the headlines throughout 2012. Faith was a persistent theme in the presidential race, and moral and ethical questions surrounded budget debates, mass killings, and an unexpected focus on “religious freedom.”
Here are 10 ways religion made news in 2012:.... Read this in full at
IN THE CONFESSIONAL AT MCDONALDS
by Clare De Graaf
Last week I sat in a McDonalds with a college student, listening to this stranger’s confession. I had spoken at a local college the week before and on the way back to my car this young man stopped me and asked if we could talk sometime. So, that day at McDonalds was “the same time”.
After less than five minutes he just came out with it, “I did something terrible six months ago and the guilt has been tearing me up. Do you think God will forgive me, when I can’t even forgive myself?”
I listened quietly to his confession and his attempts to make right his wrongs, including his heartfelt apologies to God and everyone else involved. When he finished I asked a few follow-up questions, then said to him in a priest-like voice, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” He burst into tears and a half an hour later he was gone.
I’m not Catholic, but I’ve always admired the idea of the confessional – one believer confessing to another. We, Protestants, have a knee-jerk revulsion to the belief that a Priest or the church can forgive sins. However, we do believe in the priesthood of all believers; therefore, when one believer confesses their sins to another believer, I think we can tell them with confidence, “Your sins are forgiven” and here’s why.... Read this in full at
GOD IS LIKE THAT
by Will Willimon
The God of Scripture has this wonderful way of showing up just as we thought the story was ending, and by showing up, continuing the story, giving the story a more interesting ending than the drama would have had, had there not been a God who loves to raise the dead. A large degree of optimism is warranted by the biblical evidence.
A farmer needs workers for his vineyard (Matthew 20). So he arises early, goes out and finds some willing workers to harvest his grapes, agreeing with them on the usual daily wage. An invitation has been offered and accepted. End of story.
But as is so often with Jesus, it isn’t the end of the story. Midmorning we are surprised to find the farmer back downtown, hiring more workers for his vineyard, agreeing to pay them “what’s right.” At noon, mid-afternoon, one hour before quitting time, the farmer is out wheeling and dealing, seemingly unable to rest until everyone in town is working in his vineyard. And Jesus says, God’s kingdom is like that.... Read this in full at
CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME FROM NAZARETH? (COME AND SEE)
“Jesus’ life is not an abstract subject to be debated by experts. It is an invitation.
“Early in Jesus’ ministry, a man named Nathanael was skeptical about claims made on Jesus’ behalf: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” he asked.
“Jesus was not offended by this. Philip, who was already following Jesus, extended an invitation to Nathanael that still goes out today: "Come and see."
“Said another way, put what Jesus said to the test. Run an experiment. We all learn how to live from somebody: our parents, our peers, favorite writers, our appetites, our boss, or a vague combination of these. Try learning how to live from Jesus. Come and see. Whatever your ideas about religion might be, you can try being a student of Jesus. And that's a very good place to start.
“Jesus told Nathanael, "You will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." He was referring to the Old Testament story of Jacob's ladder. The place where heaven and earth overlap. Try Jesus. Come and see.
“Do you know what Jesus said about anything? Try living accordingly. Take a stab at removing contempt from your life, and see how life runs. See how well you are able to do it. Try living as if there is a heavenly Father who cares for and listens to you. Try living "without worry" one day at a time.
“You have to go through tomorrow anyway. Try it with Jesus. Come and see.
The offer still stands.”
- John Ortberg in Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus.
VERSE TO PONDER
“Let my whole being bless the LORD! Let everything inside me bless his holy name! Let my whole being bless the LORD and never forget all his good deeds.”
- Psalm 103:1-2 (CEB)
“Many will say that Jesus was a good moral teacher. Let's be realistic. How could he be a great moral teacher and knowingly mislead people at the most important point of his teaching- his own identity?”
- Josh McDowell
THE NEW FACE OF RELIGION IN NEW ENGLAND
by G. Jeffrey MacDonald
On a snowy 20-degree day in December, the visitors shiver as they move among vestiges of a long-closed Pizza Hut on this city's struggling main street. A salad bar teeters off kilter. Dust collects on the dismantled facade of a soda dispenser. A few bolted-down tables and chairs remain – usable, but only after a good cleaning.
Yet none of this bothers the three leaders from the Auburn Seventh-day Adventist Church, who seem warmed by holy fire to carry out their task: Help transform the pizza joint into something with a bit more piety. Their church has reached capacity, having doubled attendance in the past year. So they've crossed the Androscoggin River to plant a second church, the Ark, in the heart of one of the nation's least religious states.
This won't be worship as usual. Starting early in the new year, a smorgasbord of community services will be served where deep-dish pepperoni used to be the lure. Vegetarian cooking classes and health seminars, hydrotherapy treatments and massage instruction, marriage classes and smoking-cessation clinics – all will be free of charge and led by volunteers. A vegan restaurant will open to bring in revenue. Worship services will begin next spring.
"It's almost like you have to use a place like a Pizza Hut," says Tracy Vis, a new member of the Auburn church. "Some people are not going to be comfortable with [traditional church buildings] or traditions. But they'll come here and listen to these different messages."
The Ark is symbolic of a transforming religious landscape in New England. Long defined by dominant Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant institutions, the terrain is undergoing a fundamental shift as traditional denominations cope with steep declines in membership and shutter churches and seminaries.
At the same time, evangelical and Pentecostal groups are doing just the opposite. They're expanding their footprint in what statistics show are America's four least religious states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. And because more and more Americans today identify with no particular religion, what happens in this land of spiritual free agency could offer insights into the future of religion across the country. The recent changes in New England have been significant:.... Read this in full at
THREE IS THE LOVELIEST NUMBER
by Michael Reeves
There is something irresistible about overhearing your name being whispered in a private conversation. Usually (of course) I try to stop my ears, but once I could not help taking in this little snippet, which has tickled me ever since:
"Yes, well, Reeves does love that Trinity stuff." (Picture eyes being rolled.)
It was the way this Christian man put it that fascinated me: not "Reeves does love God," but "Reeves does love that Trinity stuff." His choice of words seemed to sum up perfectly a common perception: that there is the God we know and love—and then, in some mental ivory tower far, far away, there is that Trinity stuff.
That mathematical mystery. That mind-bending oddity. That strange, even embarrassing idea. Yes, deep within the Christian psyche today seems to be the notion that the Trinity is an awkward and odd irrelevance, an unsightly wart on our knowledge of the true God. And so, when it comes to sharing our faith, we speak of God's offer of salvation, we speak of God's free grace, but we try not to let on that the God we are speaking of is a Trinity. We wax lyrical about the beauty of the gospel, but not so much about the beauty of the God whose gospel it is.... Read this in full at
HOW TO OVERCOME DIFFICULTY AND SEE THROUGH ITS TRICKS
"In the world you will have tribulation," Jesus promised (John 16:33 NKJV), and added, "but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
“God is always with us and always making a way for us to do his will, to bring his hope and change into this world. But there's so much temptation to think otherwise. You'll be asked to speak to a group but think, I can't! I’m too shy. You’ll want to volunteer at a local shelter, but your schedule will tell you that you’re too busy and cannot add one more thing. You’ll want to give some money or groceries and goods to a family burned out of their home, but your checkbook says there’s not enough in your account to pay even your own bills, let alone help with someone else’s. You’ll want to make a career change to follow what you know is your calling, yet your confidence will mutter: Stay where you are. There are too many unknowns!
“Difficulty is the bully that steps into your path and tries to arm-wrestle you to the ground until you cry uncle. No matter what you're trying to do, if it's worthwhile, he will try to outshout both God and your own thoughts, confusing you. He tries to loom so large that you can only see what's right in front of you — the problems, the obstacles, and the walls. Difficulty sings an old song: Whatever it is you're trying to do will take too much time, money, risk, comfort, health, strength, willpower.
“Don't let Difficulty keep you from daring to go where God wants you to go. God will make a way.
“We are well able, God tells us whenever the bully Difficulty crosses our path. With God, Psalm 18:29 promises, you can leap over a wall.
“Get your eyes off the bully of this world, Difficulty, and onto God, who promises nothing is too difficult for him (Matthew 19:26).
“Prayer allows you to knock Difficulty off its feet, even when you're on your knees. It's a power like no other, a great first option — not just a last resort. When you move into the future undaunted, miracles begin to happen. The impossible becomes possible.”
- Christine Caine in Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do
“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but actually to be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.”
- Ignatius of Antioch
VERSE TO PONDER
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
- Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
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
FRIDAY NIGHT REPLAY
Listen to Friday night's Path Of Life fellowship gathering online broadcast on Blogtalk radio here:
CHRIST - OUR GIFT
“No matter what we pray for, whether it be temporal or spiritual things, little things or great things, gifts for ourselves or for others, our prayers should really resolve themselves into a quiet waiting for the Lord in order to hear what it is that the Spirit desires to have us pray for at that particular time.” O. Hallesby (1879-1961), Prayer, London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1943, reprint, Augsburg Fortress Books, 1975, 1994, p. 99
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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Tried to play my shoehorn. Managed to make some footnotes.
Frank Coleman, Editor
Thanks for welcoming CONNECTIONS into your in-box!
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.
Contact Min. Frank Coleman, 773-410-1483, firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to participate in a men's discipleship program.
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