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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Season of Advent is Here

The Online Collection of Christian and Liturgical Art

The season of Advent is upon us. This is the time Christians celebrate and ready their hearts for the first and second coming of Christ. Today I'm online looking for Advent family resources.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brad Boydston: Random: Fuller Seminary Class Lectures -- FREE

Brad Boydston: Random:
"IN ADDITION to the special lectures and podcasts Fuller Theological Seminary has the class lectures for three courses online. You can sit in on Biblical Hermenutics, the Prophets, and the Pentateuch through iTunesU. ~ link"
Thanks Brad.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Affinity Evangelism Web Site -- Relaunched

I decided to relaunch my Affinity Evangelism web site. It's the same content but more of a web site look than blog styled. There is plenty of content available but more will be published weekly. What is Affinity Evangelism?

Adaptive vs. Technical Leadership Challenges

The Harm of Procrastination

Modern Love: Second-Hand Procrastination

I remember having a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor who believed we really did nothing on accident and never actually forgot anything. He also used to say that procrastination was a sign of anger and passive aggressive behavior.

This article talks about the "second-hand" consequences of procrastination. Though we often pride ourselves on being able to pull it off at the last minute after a season of procrastination, there are consequences on others around us. Procrastination can be very stressful on others. As the author says, "Procrastination harms relationships at home and at work." and "... procrastination has social consequences."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MARITAL AIDS: Sexual Health Benefits & Help

After the last post being kind of heavy and dealing with sexual brokenness, let's put a positive touch to intimate relations.  Numerous articles have come out recently touting the health benefits of a healthy sex life.  Sex is good for your cholesterol, hormonal balance, pain reduction, weight maintenance, immune system, prostate health, blood circulation, sleep health, coping with depression and other physical and psychological benefits.  I believe that is all part of God's plan for marital relations between a husband and a wife.

Spiritual Women Have More Sex | LiveScience.com

Health Benefits of Sex

10 health benefits of sex: Rediff Getahead

5 Reasons to Have Sex Today! | Healthy and Green Living

What Sex Can Do for You - AssociatedContent.com

And as an added benefit just for you pastors and other public speakers:

BBC NEWS | Health | Sex 'cuts public speaking stress'

Over in the left column of this blog there are several resources for marriage and marital relations.  Here are a couple more.  The first is for putting a little spice and the second two relate to dealing with brokenness and getting help.

Marital Intimacy Products for Married Couples-Make married sex better!

VirtueOnline: Sexual Healing is Goal of Mastering Life Ministries

Master Life Ministries

The first social relationship God created was between a man and women, a husband and wife.  That relationship is foundational to the human family and every society and culture.  The church needs to aggressively support the institution of marriage, including the fundamental role of marital relations.

Our God is the author of love and lovemaking.  We as His people ought to be experts at both.

Friday, November 20, 2009

VirtueOnline - Episcopal Priest Praises Mohammed, Vishnu, Buddha, Confucius in Liturgy

VirtueOnline - News - Exclusives - Episcopal Priest Praises Mohammed, Vishnu, Buddha, Confucius in Liturgy

It's been a little while since we've had a one of those stunning wacky theological statements / incidents from the Episcopal Church. Here is a new one: an Arkansas priest used a liturgy for All Saints Sunday, Nov 1 to praise Buddhist saints, Hindu saints, saints of the Koran, native people saints, Chinese (eastern religious) saints, and eventually some Christian ones also.

When questioned about this seemingly odd liturgical rite for a Christian church and getting it approved by his Bishop the priest said, "I have never thought of sending it to the bishop for his approval or non- approval. I saw no reason to send it to him; it is not contrary to our beliefs."

I Want You To Grow Spiritually 17: Intimate Issues

When I was a youth pastor in Watertown I would take my kids on trips to Darien Lake or Water Safari in Old Forge, NY.  We would go over the rules: no drugs, alcohol, weapons and then I would have 'the talk' with them.  They would laugh about it, those who heard it previously would recite it word for word with me.  But honestly, I think they appreciated that I was up front about it and made my expectations clear.

I would say, "... and no sexual relations.  No heterosexual relations.  No homosexual relations.  No solo sexual relations.  If you're here with your gf/bf I officially declare you broken up for the weekend and you're not here to date someone else.  Keep your hands to yourselves. No pairing off. No kissing, handholding, etc. No sexual relations."

I did this because I knew we could have a lot of mistakes or accidents or incidents happen on a youth group retreat and recover from them.  Incidents of the sexual nature were different.  There were serious and could jeopardize a ministry's existence.  And I knew it would jeopardize them.

Sexual sin is serious though no more so than some others.  Christians are tormented by their sexual brokenness.  Despite the fact they know they are forgiven and even when they are walking in freedom but especially when they are not, sexual sin just destroys us.  The guilt remains.  We have such a difficult time of letting them go.

For some, they have been sinned against sexually -- abuse or rape -- and we live in continued shame and guilt because of what happened to us.

It could have happened decades ago.  It could have been an addictive behavior or a single solitary incident.  But our minds hold onto it, magnify it's significance, magnify it's consequences and results in our being paralyzed spiritually.  We end up living with a black mark on our soul that only we see and we project onto God that He somehow remembers it.  We silently proclaim ourselves unfit and unworthy of forgiveness or for any future ministry assignment.  We live captive to the lies of Satan.

We struggle with (or lack the struggle against) inappropriate desires, lust, porn or we're involved in sexual sin outside of the bonds of marriage.  If we were truthful, some of us have really done some heinous, jaw dropping sinful acts.  There is grace for you.

Many of us have no place to go to fix the problem.  We know we need help but our churches aren't safe places.  We feel we will face condemnation there, be removed from our ministry and the gossip mill will churn.  For many of you, you are rightly fearful of seeking help at church.  Sadly, many of our churches aren't equipped to care for us and our issues related to sexual brokenness.

I want you to grow spiritually.  For so many of you to be able to do so you absolutely must deal with your sexual brokenness.  You need to be set free from the condemnation that burdens you.  Sometimes we think or often we have been told that if we just pray more fervently, read more Scripture so it really takes hold of our hearts or if we just try harder that we'll be set free from the guilt, shame, lust, addiction, adultery, etc.  That's probably not the answer.  You likely need help and I urge you to make a commitment to find it.

I don't have all the answers for you right here in this blog post.  But it is important you believe truth over lies.  You have not committed the unpardonable sin.  You are not unforgivable.  There is no stain on your soul that was some how over looked by Jesus -- all your sins were nailed to the Cross.  You can be set free from shame, guilt and addiction.  There is a future for you where you walk in serenity and hope.

If nothing else, as an act of worship to God: make the sign of the cross over yourself committing your head, your heart and your whole being to God for His kingdom purposes. Admit you need help beyond more prayer and Scripture.  Commit yourself right in this moment to finding the help you need and that God desires you to have: a 12 step or Celebrate Recovery group, a professional counselor, a priest who is sworn to secrecy, a web ministry like xxxchurch.com, your physician, a pastor or trusted friend, etc.  Begin praying for God to give you guidance to the safe place you can begin talking about your issues and be set free.

Do not lose hope my friend.  God is love.  He loves you.

This is part 16 in a 20 part series on spiritual growth. If you feel like you are not growing deeper in your faith or relationship to God, if you are not loving and serving others more, if you have a sense of 'stuckness' in your spiritual journey, and you really want to grow, the answer might not be to try harder. All too often I have heard the same solutions offered over and over, 'All you have to do is have daily devotions, pray more, read more of the Bible, be in worship every week and get more involved in the church.' In other words try harder.

Sometimes that doesn't work and I'm going to offer some suggestions that might help you move forward.

Previous Installments:
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 1: Give Up Daily Devotions
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 2: See A Counselor
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 3: Spiritual Direction
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 4: Get A New Church
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 5: Go On Retreat
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 6: Fight A Spiritual Battle & Win
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 7: Take A Seminary or College Class
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 10: Observe The Daily Office & Church Year
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 11: Get Tough on Sin
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 12: Start Journaling
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 13: Time For Fasting
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 14: Forgive Yourself
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 15: Participate in an Alpha Class 
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 16: The Examen

Note: Part 9 isn't published yet. I'll get to it eventually.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome Exponential Initiative!

Welcome Exponential Initiative!: "The 10-10-10 Initiative is a cross-denominational emphasis on the urgency and importance of starting healthy new churches. The 10-10-10 Initiative seeks to catalyze 100s of ministries with 1,000s of existing churches to see 1,000,000s of lives transformed through healthy new churches."

Great to see another new church planting initiative.  This one is hoping to link churches and ministries in an 'open-source' fashion to catalyze and accelerate church planting.  They will share resources and are coordinating a common preaching effort targeting Oct 10, 2010. 

I have this dream rattling around in my head for a missional church planting conference for the North Country, Central New York and the Mohawk Valley with leading national church planters speaking both to the church planters and established church leaders.  They would talk strategy and methodology with the church planters and talk about the benefits of church planting to established churches.  In all it would be a catalyst to see more churches planted in New York State.  New York is much closer to becoming Eurpoe than you might think and we need to stem the tide with new churches.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Presbyterians Launch 'Every Church Plant a Church' Thrust | Christianpost.com

Though the thought of more Calvinists doesn't excite me, I thought that was a great headline.

Every Church Plant a Church.

We need to make the theme of all Central New York.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The French Revival?

VirtueOnline: PARIS: Rise of French evangelicals puts secularism in a spin

OK. So revival would be an overstatement but it makes for a good sensational headline.  HOWEVER, there is a growing number of evangelicals and churches in France.  They are still 3% of the population but apparently a growing 3%.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Your FREE Church or Ministry Web Site

In the past I've blogged about the importance of having a web site of reasonable quality and keeping it updated.

Here is a great example of an extremely simple, useful, clean web site.  It's cost is about $10 a year for the domain name -- and that's optional.  It's all done via Google's blogger.com.

Masterpiece Church

Brad Boydston is the church planter for this new Evangelical Covenant Church in Phoenix, AZ.  Using Blogger, he limits the number of posts displayed and uses previous posts as pages for the links on the side.  The new Blogger has a variety of easy to use widgets to create link lists like Brad used in the right column and for inserting graphics in the title.  This is essentially using a blog and very easily manipulating to appear as a web site.

As you can see, The Land of the Ultra Rev is just a plain, no-frills, web site in the tradition of The Drudge Report.  But you can download a variety of themes, templates or skins to make great looking web sites.  I downloaded a template to create the Affiinity Evangelism site and I'll be debuting a new site using this template sometime this week.

Check out these sites for some great FREE blog templates:

Or just Google, 'free blogger templates'.

Your church can have a decent web site for free or for less than $15 if you want to have a special domain name.  Go to Blogger.com and start now.

UPDATE 9/16/09 9:53 pm
Someone just recommended yola.com as a free web site designer and host. Looks great.

Grace Brethren Church -- A Syracuse Church Plant

OUTSTANDING!  Syracuse has yet another church plant!  Syracuse Grace Brethren Church Home Page  In case you didn't know, the Central New York region is shockingly unchurched and seemingly jaded towards church.  We need more churches here desperately as most cities do throughout the northeast. 

Checkout Grace Brethren's home page.  There's nothing novel about it's layout but I find that it's bright red and charcoal gray theme to be strikingly attractive.  Well done!  Interestingly they make very little mention of their wider connection to Grace Brethren churches.  Their mother church is in PA so this is a pioneering church plant (the most difficult kind) with two families sent in as missionaries.

The church is located on the west side of Syracuse in the area in-between Solvay, Westvale and Tipperary Hill, just off W. Genesee St.  These courageous church leaders deserve a lot of credit for planting in this needy area that is under served by healthy evangelical churches. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Affinity Evangelism: Affinity Evangelism For Small Churches 3: Training

Why Should Christians Care About Anything At All by R. York Moore

“I understand that these things are important but when the students I send to your conferences come back caring more for the environment or slavery or clean drinking water than the gospel and evangelism, I have a real problem!” These were the frustrated words of a mega-church pastor as we shared lunch together after I had delivered evangelistic messages for his four services. The comment came as we were discussing the new face of evangelism and how addressing the gospel through the lens of justice has produced so much fruit in our ministry nationally. This pastor’s concerns or not rare, there is a growing frustration with conservative evangelicals regarding the direction of the church, particularly when it comes to social justice issues. Racial reconciliation, caring and loving the creation, AIDS, child prostitution, urban poverty, immigration-the list of issues and causes Christians are awakening to is long and growing and the pastor’s “problem” is a good one to have. The questions of why we should and how we should care about the injustices and needs of the world around us need to be answered. Embracing causes without critique just because we think God cares about them is not a good trend.

The short answer to why we should care about injustice is because God does, but the deeper question is why does he? Certainly, all causes aren’t equal-caring for animals is not equal to setting children free from the brick kilns of India. Does God care about animals? Proverbs 12:10 says, “The righteous know the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel,” (NRSV). Certainly, God and His people do and should care for the creation. While finding passages that demonstrate God’s love for animals is a bit challenging (even in my ‘Green Bible’!), it is nearly impossible to miss God’s concern and passion for the poor, the oppressed, and for those despairing. There is a hierarchy of needs so to speak when it comes to things that we are to be about. The needs of peoples both physical and eschatological certainly are at the top of such a hierarchy but this is where the lines get fuzzy. If a family of farmers on the Malaysian coast can no longer farm because of the effects of climate change and are thrust into abject poverty and are thus at a greater risk to be trafficked into forced labor by the powerful, it is difficult to untangle their temporal needs from their eternal needs. Additionally, we can see from this illustration how directly linked the issue of climate change is to poverty, oppression, and ultimately conversion. This may seem like a leap for many conservatives, but I don’t think it is an irrational one. Charles Finney said that one of the greatest obstacles to salvation was the blinding that comes from being worldly, or preoccupied with the overwhelming temporal needs of the world. Certainly, these Malaysian farmers need Jesus but they also need to be productive, own their own land, have access to the fruits of their labor, live free and enjoy the earth. These issues are not mutually exclusive and Jesus Christ is the answer to both sets of needs.

How we should care about issues is probably the main concern of my mega-church pastor friend. Certainly, it would be a calloused and out of touch Christian to hear of the needs and have no regard for the 13 year old African child who lives alone because both his parents have died of AIDS. Even if such a so-called Christian existed, she would keep such disregard private. Every day, however, we demonstrate our lack of love for God’s creation and the people of the world by the way we care or fail to care for the temporal needs of those around us and by doing so we allow Finney’s conception of worldliness to proliferate, blinding hundreds of millions to the great news of Christ. For the on-looker, the Church seems aloof, unconcerned about the real needs of people and this disillusions them to the person and message of Christ. For those caught in the cycle of poverty, oppression, and despair, such lack of action and concern by the Church prevents them from hearing and seeing Christ and, according to Luke 10, is tantamount to being complicit in their victimization. We must care, but how? How do we stay committed to the gospel and avoid a new kind of liberation theology or spiritualized activism? Are we doomed to the same dichotomization that produced left and right, conservative and liberal? The answer is to never allow such a schism between gospel proclamation and Kingdom demonstration to appear practically in our lives and ministries. This may be easier said than done but it must be done and done right.

For instance, recently I spoke at a large Presbyterian church and was excited to see their commitment to recycling everything from light bulbs to Sunday morning brochures to bottles and cans. I asked my guide at the church about their program and she said, “We are so excited to help our people understand the importance of caring for God’s creation and it really helps us connect with other non-Christian organizations in our community!” This is the right attitude! Why does our care for the earth need to be separate from our concern for non-Christians? I think the concern for many, and legitimately so, is because so often one comes at the expense of the other or for many “evangelistically minded,” the care for an issue is really a cloaked mechanism to get a gospel presentation in with little or no real concern for the issue. Both concerns are important to note but should not prevent us from creatively and sincerely committing do both-to proclaim Christ and demonstrate His Kingdom. We should never even try to conceive of providing clean drinking water or AIDS relief or freedom for slaves without also thinking about the eternal needs of those we are seeking to help. This is not to say that caring for the poor or the earth does not have intrinsic value that is worthy to be expressed even if people don’t “get saved” - this is what worries some. However, it is often shortsightedness, a lack of creativity, and a stunted theology that prevents us from bringing the two mandates-proclaiming Christ and demonstrating His Kingdom-to bear in our expression of Christian evangelization.

Back to my pastor friend. What I shared with him was that we stand to lose on both sides if we allow the old dichotomization to emerge in our generation’s expression of the faith. If we don’t care for the earth and for the peoples of the earth, we lose our legitimacy in the eyes of the watching world and will perpetuate spiritual blindness through our complicity of inaction. If we continue to evangelize without demonstrating God’s Kingdom power and love, we may win individuals souls for Christ for a season, but end up losing the battle for the hearts and minds of a generation. If we divorce our cause, whichever cause that may be, from the transformative power of the gospel, even at our best we will continue to perpetuate the spiritual damnation of the lost, God’s chief concern in sending Jesus to be our propitiation for sin. Human flourishing is God’s ultimate goal for us, eternal, abundant life and this starts with conversion. We must be saved. We must proclaim Christ, calling women and men everywhere to repent but we do so through the lens of demonstrating God’s Kingdom power and love as Paul says in I Thess. 1:5, “…the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.” The word of the Lord-thanks be to God!

Reprinted without permission from R. York Moore's Facebook status.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Society of Evangelical Arminians

Does the Gospel According to Calvinism Offer Salvation to Anyone at all? | Society of Evangelical Arminians

Never thought of it like that. Check out the link.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catholics and Lutherans Statement on Justification

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Have you ever read the 1998 statement on the doctrine of justification produced jointly by Lutherans and Catholics?  It attempts to declare where the two churches hold common beliefs in the matter of justification and related beliefs regarding sin, good works, assurance of salvation, grace and faith.

It is a well crafted statement and not so scholarly that lay people would not find it useful.  In fact, I think many Catholic and Protestant friends could find it a useful discussion starter.  So many people are still of the belief that their good works here on this earth earn them entrance into heaven.  Formally, that belief is anathema to the Christian faith whether it be Roman Catholic, Lutheran or otherwise.

Justification is God's act of declaring a sinner righteous before Himself.  It is a gracious gift through faith in Jesus Christ and not earned through good works.

Though you may believe or your church may teach that heaven and eternal life will be yours because you have been a good person, that is not now, nor has it ever been, the formal teaching of the church universal nor of the teaching of the Bible.  Jesus never taught that.  St. Paul or the other authors of the New Testament never taught that.  And it has never been the formal belief of the church.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery ... Except?

Is It Still Adultery if Your Spouse Has Alzheimer's? - WSJ.com

If you are a pastor, how are you going to counsel your people?  How would you preach about this?

Some would say, "Yes, it is."  You took a vow of fidelity 'in sickness and health' and you should keep it. I have to admit that I have admired those spouses who have faithfully cared for their aging spouse with dementia or other illness. Their sacrifice appears heroic to me.

Others would say, "No. That's really not my spouse any more." or "He or she would not want me to be lonely and committed to her body without her mind." Some are saying that I am keeping my vow of "in sickness and health."  I am not abandoning my care of or provision for this person.  I'm not even getting divorced. But relationally, the person who was my spouse for so long is no longer mentally there. I've grieved as if they had already died and have moved on.

So the question people are really asking is, "What is adultery and faithfulness?"  Is it fidelity to a partner no matter their mental capacity, or is it fidelity only as long as they maintain their ability their ability to communicate?

Certainly a problematic issue is what if a cure for Alzheimer's is found tomorrow and your spouse awakes to find you have moved on, perhaps with someone they don't approve of.

I'm not sure you could point to any one Scripture text that addresses this issue definitively, so you have to look at the preponderance of the evidence.  I've been thinking about what Scripture texts deal with someone, anyone who doesn't have their mental faculties.  My wife thought of "whatever you do to the least of these" (Matt 25.40).  I thought of the compassion that Jesus shows the demon possessed but those are people who could be restored to sanity.  I also thought of God's faithfulness to an unfaithful people and the story of Hosea.

I wonder if the Vatican has addressed this. They tend to think through these sanctity of life kind of issues.

Perhaps the scripture text that does address it is, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  What would you want your spouse to do? Perhaps we should communicate that to them. What if there are children involved? How would they feel about it?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Get Your Free Mac Software Here

MacHeist nanoBundle

MacHeist. It's like stealing Mac software only it's free.

Mormons and Evangelicals in Conversation

Most Improbable Dialogue | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

The dialog between Evangelicals and Mormons continues. This article gives a little history and some of the extraordinary results of these interactions.  One interesting event was the permission granted by Mormon leaders to a large group of evangelical churches to use a Mormon Temple for an evangelistic event with Nick Vujicic of Life Without Limbs.

It was interesting to read that Mormon leaders are not trained in academic theology -- very few Ph.D.'s.  Whereas most of the evangelical leaders we know of have at least an M.Div. or M.A and a Ph.D., Th.D. or a D.Min.

(Thanks Brad.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Affinity Evangelism For Small Churches

Affinity Evangelism

Started a new series on Affinity Evangelism for small churches.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Jujitsu Fighting Pastors

Fight Nights and Reggae Draw Churchgoers in Brazil - NYTimes.com

A Brazilian church outreach involves Reggae and a "fight night" with jujitsu fighters including the pastor. An odd attempt at being relevant. I've been thinking about this theologically for a while and something troubles me about it but I'm not sure what it is. What do you think? Do you want your pastor or you as the pastor to be fighting for sport?

I guess at a bare minimum his church treasurer and leadership team won't hassle him.

The article clearly outlines how it and some other extraordinary measures are being taken in Brazil as an evangelistic outreach. It's being done purely in the name of Christ and done for mission.

Yet something troubles me about it. You?