Cultivating an appetite for the things of God

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in one home among millions, a family with small children is arriving together after everything their weekday routine has taken them through: work, school, daycare, errands, play dates, traffic jams. The pots and pans simmer on the stove, giving off the aromas of belonging. But after a long day apart, this family reunion isn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell painting. One parent walks through the door straight into a barrage of tears and arguing, while the other, battle-worn and glad to no longer be the only adult, offers a weary greeting of “Hello, will you sort this out?” before retreating to the kitchen. The warning of Lego and TV sanctions brings momentary calm. The table is laid, and as the family gathers around it, the calm dissolves into a chorus of lament. “Look at this green stuff. Is that an onion?!” To the kids, the various—and as yet untasted—ingredients cannot possibly add up to the delicious aroma. Because, clearly, they are not macaroni with a side of cupcakes.

How often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead?

Double, double toil and trouble. Burner lit and stove pot bubble. This is the witching hour in America.

For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, the “witching hour” was repurposed by parenting bloggers who took its original meaning—the hour round about midnight, when people figured witches went out and did their witchery—and applied it to the hour before dinner when increasing fatigue meets growing hunger and everyone in the house turns half feral. That the trouble spills into dinner is an especially cruel twist. So much good can happen at the table, and it’s a real loss to sit down grumpy. It’s a time to talk, to log the face-to-face hours that knit people together. It’s also a time to eat. Our bodies get hungry, and food is a delightful act of grace that meets this need in an especially miraculous way. But try explaining to a hangry toddler the heavenly foretaste offered even in a dish that contains onions.

Of course, the devilish mixture of fatigue and hunger isn’t just a suppertime thing. I can speak from experience of a “witching hour” of the soul. A time when spiritual fatigue and a kind of hunger lead us to feel angry with our heavenly Father. The prophet Amos reminds us of this: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11 NIV). I’ve felt that famine, and yet how often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead? Like a kid recoiling at his supper and pining for junk food.

Funny enough, being a father and wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven. I’ve often caught myself crying out to God about some deferred desire or another, and in a flash I catch a glimpse of myself, exactly like my own sons crying out to me when they want exactly not what I’m offering them. Oh boy, are those glimpses ever humbling. But then I think about the times when my family has sat down and, with little interruption or disturbance, enjoyed our time seated together over a wholesome, delicious meal. Over the years, I’ve had moments like that with the Bible, too.

Wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven.

Not long ago, my church worked through the Gospel of John for a few weeks. The pastor was preaching on the passage where the Lord washes the disciples’ feet. In those words describing Jesus—God with us—stooped over filthy, stinking feet, with a towel around His waist and a basin of water, I felt anew that He has been here. Both in the literal sense that Jesus walked the earth, but also in the spiritual sense that He has been present in my own struggles, no less real than the man scrubbing Peter’s feet. Even scrubbing Judas’s. I drove to church that morning feeling the pang of the famine Amos prophesied. I returned home full because, by some supernatural means I may never fully understand, it’s possible to literally encounter Jesus in the Scriptures.

It’s here, in my wanting to want the Word, that the food wars with my kids actually give me a generous serving of hope.

For my wife and me, food is an especially valuable bit of culture that we really want to pass along to our boys. We love the range of cuisine available around our neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. We gravitate towards the international—and the spicier the better. Korean bibimbap loaded with vegetables and beef, sticky rice crisping against the sides of the hot stone bowl, all topped with the perfect sunny-side-up egg. A rich Indian chili dish, fiery enough to make you sweat, served over buttery basmati rice with a perfectly charred naan. In addition to the Asian influence, a meat place down the road is largely supplied with hogs the owner raises himself (he’s also married to the woman who runs the bakery on the next block). And that place serves a charcuterie of cured meats and cheeses that will steal your heart. Even the head cheese.

Food brings my wife and me together over and over in a kind of communion, and we imagine a shared love of adventurous food knitting us to our boys. But each time they reject what we offer, it feels like a little knife in the heart. Out of desperation, I’ve found myself haranguing my kids with some very familiar parental logic from my own childhood: “Look here, mister. There are starving children in the world who would be thankful to have anything, much less a meal this good.”

Kids are an amazing, confounding mixture—of tooth-grinding defiance, yes, but also of keen-eyed mimicry that just melts your heart. Try to make them do something, and it’s a war. But let them catch you doing something and enjoying it, and they’ll be tucked right up next to you like a shadow. No different from anybody else, they simply want to be happy. Joy and enjoyment are contagious: If you look happy, chances are they’ll give whatever you’re doing a try.

In fact, I realize that’s what I need, too: people who have a genuine love for the feast of the Word. It gives me hope just to know they exist—believers who have steeped themselves in the Scriptures and who talk about the Gospels, the Epistles, the Psalms the way I talk about restaurants. Even those thorny patches in the Old Testament, like Job or the story of Tamar. I want to be infected by others’ infectious joy over the banquet the Father spreads before us. At this stage in my life—raising young kids, DIY renovating a house, working and going to school—this hasn’t been easy. It takes effort just to find these blessed kinds of people, much less spend time with them. Yet the busier and more stressful life gets, the more I am convinced how necessary it is to chase after relationships with those who love Jesus and seek Him where He can be readily found. And so I pray for such friendships.

Aside from godly friends, I have found one other helpful practice to grow my appetite. Ironically, it has involved consuming less of the Word. There’s a lot in there, and it’s easy to get scattered and overwhelmed, so sometimes it helps to start small enough to stay consistent. That’s why I’ve spent most of the last year or so meditating on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Having this regular meal has helped Scripture seem familiar again. It has whetted my appetite to go further, which I count as no small blessing.

As for the food wars in my house, glimmers of hope have begun to shine through. After years of watching my wife and me dig into the spiciest meals we can manage (sort of a competitive suffering), one son has taken to putting milder hot sauces on his own food. He has even, once or twice, tried some of the stronger stuff with a full glass of water close at hand. I think he’ll come around. And just the other morning he asked me to cook him an egg like mine (over easy)—and actually ate it. He hasn’t asked for another yet, but what a blessed breakfast that was.

Photograph by Yasu + Junko

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/hungry-to-the-feast

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VIDEO CA Legislators Blame Religious People For High LGBT Suicide Rates – no such thing as transgender

There is no reputable, serious research showing people commit suicide because a particular religion refuses to embrace homosexuality. None.

By Glenn T. Stanton  JUNE 27, 2019

Legislators in California have discovered yet another way to make it clear that mainstream religions holding to the sexual teachings of their sacred texts have no business doing so in the Golden State. Why? Because these faiths, which billions of good people worldwide happily hold, do not embrace homosexuality. This includes the three largest: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

In a resolution that recently passed the state assembly, “the Legislature calls upon all Californians to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance” of LGBT people. It singles out especially faith-motivated individuals and organizations.

These legislators make a very ugly accusation against such people. California lawmakers are planning to spread the idea, with the power and moral authority of the state, that such religious beliefs actually kill people, including children. The text of this bill boldly states:

WHEREAS, The stigma associated with being LGBT often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBT and questioning individuals…

Note the absoluteness of their conclusions, particularly two words: create and cause. Stigma, created by religious groups, causes high rates of suicide.

Do Religious People Make Others Commit Suicide?

Let it sink in. Christians, Muslims, and Jews, your beliefs make gay people kill themselves. If this is indeed true, we are among the worst of the worst kinds of people. These legislators believe this is true and are doing something about it. California is trying to insist that churches, synagogues and mosques, their leaders, congregants, grade schools, universities, and families fully and uncritically support homosexual, bisexual, and transgender identities in every way.

Thus, any teaching, preaching, writings or practices that are faithful to the clear sexual instructions of these faiths will be beyond the pale of official California values. They will not be tolerated. This charge makes this legislation overwhelmingly serious and consequential because of the seriousness of this charge. Either one party is directly culpable for deaths or the other of making such a dreadful allegation.

To be clear, what they’re proposing is a resolution and would not have the razor-sharp edge of law. But it would have the real and devastating blunt force of state-sanctioned shaming of religious convictions. They couldn’t criminalize you, but they could obliterate your reputation and your life. There are too many vivid examples of this already. Of course, this resolution will grease the skids for it becoming enforceable law.

I want to demonstrate, through some objective and undeniable facts, coupled with simple reasoning, why this long-used accusation has no foundation. The case consists of three basic points:

  • There is simply no dependable research support for the accusation. None.
  • Gay and lesbian individuals themselves report being significantly more likely to choose to attend the very churches that teach a more traditional sexual ethic than they do so-called “welcoming and affirming” churches.
  • The most dramatically gay-friendly places in the world still have incredibly and disproportionately high rates of suicides among their gay and lesbian individuals.

1. No Real Evidence

There is no reputable, serious research showing people commit suicide because a particular religion refuses to embrace homosexuality. None. It is largely created as an ideological assumption and political cudgel. But to even question the assertion will cast you immediately as a heartless stone. Remember, any science that does not permit it to be questioned has become fundamentalist dogmatism.
There is a very small amount of literature on the general harms of family rejection (which we at Focus on the Family strongly advise against), but none showing it causessuicide. There is certainly none establishing religious causation. That is an objective fact. Quite simply, anyone making the claim family responses and religious teaching cause suicide do so absent any bit of scientific proof.

2. LGBT People Choose More Traditional Churches

Let’s look at data that raise serious questions about the “religion kills” assertion. Research done by two gay-friendly scholars from Columbia and the University of California at Los Angeles found that, to their absolute disbelief, church-attending, same-sex-attracted individuals are 2.5 times more likely to attend congregations that hold and teach a more traditional, biblical view of sexuality than they are to attend so-called welcoming and affirming churches.
Let’s consider the implications of this interesting finding. Suppose for a moment that the “religion kills” accusation is correct. Either these individuals are too dull to realize they are doing grave harm to themselves by regularly attending such churches, or they find such churches are quite lovely and helpful. Why else would they choose to wake up early on a Sunday morning and go to the trouble of getting themselves there?
This study’s abstract states, “Guided by minority stress theory, the authors hypothesized that exposure to non-affirming religious settings would lead to higher internalized homophobia, more depressive symptoms, and less psychological well-being.” They were honest in admitting they found “There was no main effect of non-affirming religion on mental health, an unexpected finding discussed in this article.” No main effect on mental health itself, much less suicide.

3. Gay-Affirming Societies Also Have High Suicide Rates

Leading gay activists and their faithful allies in the media and academia operate on a simple and seemingly reasonable premise: non-acceptance of homosexuality leads to greater levels of suicide. To reduce these tragic rates, replace non-acceptance with full affirmation and all will be well. Doing so would not only dramatically reduce suicide, but also the disproportionately higher levels of mental illness among this population, which are strongly and consistently documented. (See herehere and here for just three strong examples.)
This thesis is easy to test: Determine the most gay-affirming places in the world. Are the suicide rates of gay and lesbian individuals in these places significantly lower than in non-affirming countries?
The most gay-affirming places on the planet are the Netherlands and Scandinavia. In Amsterdam, the gay movement has received every major law, policy, or cultural accommodation they’ve requested, with nearly no opposition, and often with great celebration. They televise their annual gay pride parade, and Amsterdam spends more than a million euros a year to promote itself as “The Gay Capital of the World.” The land of windmills and tulips is gay Valhalla.
Their gay and lesbian suicide rates should be extremely low, if non-existent, right?  That is not what scholars, government officials, and clinicians find. Rates of suicide and suicidal ideation among gay youth and adults are remarkably, tragically high in the Netherlands. Scholars even have a name for this. They call it the “Dutch Paradox.”
Despite the Netherlands’ reputation as a world leader with respect to gay rights, homosexual Dutch men have much higher rates of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts than heterosexual Dutch men. Epidemiologists report similar disparitieselsewhere in Western Europe and North America. [Emphasis mine.]
Let’s look at just a few examples of evidence. A 2006 Dutch study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that despite living “in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality” gay and lesbian-identified people were at dramatically higher risk for suicidality than the general Dutch population.
More recently, a 2016 Swedish study shows that the rate of gay males suffering from lifetime suicidal ideation there is 140 percent greater. The same measure for women there is 110 percent higher than the general population. Bisexuals are curiously even higher, with females 250 percent more likely and bisexual men 160 percent.
In France, fourth on the world’s gay-friendly list, gays and lesbians are on average 80 percent more likely to suffer suicidal ideation than their straight peers. All countries that keep such data show similar findings, regardless of changes in attitudes and policies concerning LGB-identified individuals.

Do Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Affect Rates?

With greater specificity, a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology examined how legalizing gay-marriage affected suicidality. It should have reduced it, right? Yet Swedes in same-sex marriages, enjoying their anticipated greater social acceptance and security, retained suicide rates nearly three times that of their married opposite-sex peers. The authors caution these numbers are likely an underestimation. A similar study found that Danish men in legal same-sex unions had a dramatic eightfold increase in suicide deaths over opposite-sex married peers.
The fact of the matter is this: There is no research whatsoever demonstrating significantly reduced rates of suicidal deaths or attempts among gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people as the overall acceptance or affirmation of these groups in a country increases. Any honest person who knows this literature well will admit it.
Thus, this is the conclusion that must be admitted: If the “acceptance of homosexuality equals reduction of suicide” thesis has any validity to it, a society would need to far exceed the acceptance, affirmation, and even celebratory actions of the Netherlands and other countries to demonstrate it. Of course, this is reasonably impossible. What is there left to do that these countries are not already doing?
Reasonable people, even those in the gay rights movement, must call for a sharp end to the absolutely vile and false accusation that certain mainstream religious traditions are culpable for the deaths of gay and lesbian people. The Bible Belt does not run through Amsterdam, Stockholm, or Copenhagen.
We must admit that something else is driving the tragically high suicide rates of our gay and lesbian neighbors, and it’s not traditional faith convictions. True compassion demands we find out what that cause is; these lives are too valuable to play baseless politics with.

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/06/27/ca-legislators-blame-religious-people-high-lgbt-suicide-rates/


There is no such thing as transgender – John F MacArthur

Overcoming Mom Guilt

Mom Guilt

Have you ever struggled with mom guilt? The feeling of not feeling good enough as a mother, or trying your best but still losing your temper can be discouraging. Don’t worry momma, I have been there too. Maybe you are the mom that works a lot and have mom guilt from not being able to pick up your kids in the car pick up line. I felt prompted to write this to help other moms who have struggled with mom guilt and how to experience freedom.

Guilt, condemnation, and shame are not from God. All of our situations are different. We have to do the best we can, pray for the fruits of the spirit, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us parent them. It is healthy to feel convicted to strive to work towards progress, but it is not healthy to wallow in guilt and condemnation. If we make a mistake, we can come to God and ask for forgiveness. He is just to forgive and has already extended us grace.

Grace

God has given me grace, therefore I should extend myself grace. Sometimes, I am stressed out and I lose my patience. Other times, I may be tired and then I don’t cook, so I allow my son to eat something unhealthy. I try my best, but sometimes I fail. You may mess up some days, but what matters is you are trying. 

I don’t know about you, but I have gotten so upset at my son. My 9-year-old has such great leadership qualities wanting to do everything on his own and is not afraid to share his opinion and disagree. I love that he is strong-willed. The difficult part of having a strong-willed child is sometimes he will lose his temper and talk back. He might even slam his door and walk away from me.

A few years ago, I ran into an interesting image on the internet. Have you ever seen the image of a parent calling their child all kinds of names such as brat and stupid, etc? It showed the words coming from the yelling parent and the words floating around the child’s brain. I thought to myself how I never wanted to do that to my child and have been conscious about what I say since I saw that image. However, I became that mom by accident one day.

I Made a Mom Mistake

My son had a friend over and he was having a lot of fun. However, several times he talked back to me. I warned him and gave him several chances. A couple of times, I had him go to his room for a few minutes to think about what he said (the version of time out for 9-year-olds). I was sooo upset with him inside.

In as calm tone as possible for being angry, I said, “You are not a brat, but you are acting like one (conscious of that internet image in my head).” He was saddened and said, “Mommy don’t call me a brat.” I told him that I did not. I made sure to say what a good boy he always is, how I didn’t say he was a brat, but he was acting like one. To a 9-year-old, I called him a brat. I hurt his feelings, and let anger get the best of me. I became that mom on the picture that I always kept in my head to not become.

For the rest of the day, I had mom guilt. Sure, he was misbehaving and needed correction, but I was beating myself up all afternoon for not handling it the right way.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Progress

That night my husband and I tucked him into bed as usual and I stayed behind to talk to our son one on one. I apologized to him that I wasn’t trying to call him a brat. We talked about how he was not behaving. I edified him with all the good qualities about him.  Praying replacing lies with the truth is a great thing to do. I prayed for God to forgive me for saying he was acting like a brat, and replaced it with the truth of what a good kid he was and I listed them off. He then prayed for forgiveness for being disrespectful, and prayed for me to still love him. I made sure to tell him that I love him always even when he misbehaves and we all make mistakes.

It was a beautiful moment. I could’ve walked around feeling guilty all week, but instead I extended myself grace and made sure to use this moment as a teaching moment and spend time with him in prayer.

Maybe you are the mom that loses your patience more often than the other mom next to you. You might be the mom that works a lot and cannot take and pick your child up from school. That’s okay, Momma. We must change our perspective and focus trying to make progress, even if it small. One day we will look back and see how much we’ve grown as mothers. This can apply in all areas of our lives.

I recognize that I am a better mom than I was 3 years ago, and I celebrate that progress. Being the best example of what a godly woman is like is what I strive to do for my son, so when he one day seeks to find a wife, he finds a good one.

Seek the Holy Spirit

Friends, we may fail and make mistakes. We can seek the Holy Spirit for guidance, and be strong enough to admit when we were wrong and apologize. Teach your children that we are all imperfect, but we have a perfect God. No more beating yourself up, okay? God LOVES you! He sees you are trying your best. He is there to help us parent and give us patience and the wisdom to guide them.

 

Original here

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals

Christians need to understand that relying on screens and other technology is not leading to better worship, it’s ruining it.

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals

June 18, 2019 By Tom Raabe

A couple of decades ago, churches split in a grand debate over worship. Contentious arguments raged over every aspect of worship style, components, decorum, and practically everything else. Every church seemed to be choosing between opposites—organ or praise band, historic liturgy or rock liturgies, contemporary songs or historic hymns. The fallout was ugly. Assemblies erupted in dissonance and members on the losing side transferred out.

Years later, the voices have calmed and the dust has settled. Some pastors declared a sort of “separate peace” by establishing rival worship services—one traditional, one modern. Others went the “blended worship” route. While this included enough elements from both styles to at least keep the group together, everyone was left a little dissatisfied. Mixing pipe organs with electric guitars tends to do that.

Perhaps we no longer hear about the worship debate because everyone is simply tired of fighting. Positions have calcified. No matter how well-intentioned, few minds are being changed. Bringing up the subject only tears open wounds that haven’t quite healed.

More likely, the reason you don’t hear much about the worship wars is that one side has won. It may not be a total victory, but one side is clearly winning while the other is cowering in a back pew hoping a pack of millennials doesn’t make them wave their arms in the air and sing whatever Chris Tomlin or Bethel Music wrote that morning.

Informality at Church Is Increasing

Published in 2015, The National Congregations Study undertaken by researchers at Duke University surveyed nearly 4,000 congregations across the Christian spectrum. It found that traditional aspects of worship were in decline. Between 1998 and 2012, congregations that used choirs in worship decreased from 54 to 45 percent; those using organs dropped from 53 to 42 percent. Use of drums increased from 20 percent to 34 percent of congregations between 1998 and 2012.

While churches printing bulletins fell from 72 to 62 percent, the use of projected images rose by 23 percent. Informality in worship is way up (shouting “Amen,” wearing shorts to church) and formality is way down (calling the minister “Pastor So and So,” dressing up for services).

The survey didn’t come right out and say it, but informal worship with contemporary Christian music (CCM) seems to have won the worship war. All the megachurches are doing it. It’s hard to find many churches that haven’t bowed at least one knee to the modern, informal trend.

For those who attend their church’s traditional service, the demographic trends are not encouraging. Ushers for these services might as well require an AARP card for entry. At my church, the number of kiddos who trotted forward for the children’s sermon last Sunday was zero. It won’t be long until “old-timey” Protestants are searching out liturgical worship services like Catholics have to search out a Latin Mass.

While the larger worship war seems to be over, there might still be time to save at least one element of the traditional service: the hymnals.

Hymnals Are Disappearing

Hymnals are a wonderful legacy of Western Christianity. They’ve been housed in pew racks in church sanctuaries for centuries. Since they first appeared in the United States during the 1830s, hymnals have been indispensable for worship—objects of treasure both in the sanctuary and in households. In my denomination, many received engraved hymnals as confirmation presents.

Churchgoers used to proudly carry their own hymnals to church. Nobody’s doing that anymore. In fact, more and more worshipers aren’t even looking at hymnals in church. Instead, their gaze is fixed to the front wall and a screen attached to it.

On this screen, everything from lyrics, to announcements, to YouTube videos is displayed. Churches in all traditions, meeting in all manner of worship spaces, are fastening large white canvases to their chancel walls and leaving the hymn books to molder in the pew racks.

A report from 2004 indicated that almost 60 percent of churches used some form of projector technology at last once a year. Another study from 2011 estimated that two-thirds of Protestant churches employed a large-screen projection system. In a last-gasp effort, here’s the case for bringing back hymnals and ditching those awful screens.

Screens Don’t Belong In Church

To the first point: they’re horrifically ugly. In churches that don’t look like churches, the sort that instinctively prompt you to look for basketball nets and a scoreboard, they almost fit. Screens feel at home among the accouterments of contemporary worship that also dominate the space—guitars, mics, drum kits, keyboards, and amps—and behind that, typically giant luminescent slabs on the wall.

In a traditional sanctuary, on the other hand, with subdued natural lighting, pews, and steps leading to a chancel, the screens jump out and slap your aesthetic sensibilities. Housed next to time-honored trappings of ecclesiastical tradition like an altar, a pulpit, and a lectern, screens just don’t fit.

So why are they there? Some reasons are practical. Screens elevate worshipers’ heads out of hymnals and up toward the front, which amplifies the volume during the songs. Screens also free worshipers’ hands. Parishioners with weak eyes can often see words on a big screen better than words in a hymnal. For visitors or the unchurched—“seekers,” as they’re often called—screens remove the learning curve required to read music.

Projector Screens Reflect Our Tech-Obsessed Culture

In our visual culture, screens possess another, less practical appeal. The control screens have over our daily life is staggering. We spend countless hours at the office staring at a computer screen then come home to watch another big, flat screen for our evening’s entertainment. Between tablets, laptops, smartphones, and e-readers, there’s no getting away from the bits and bytes, the ones and zeros. With all this, why not worship screens in church too?

In a culture that treasures the new, convenient, and informal, and plants a sloppy wet kiss on every new tech toy, the appeal of worship screens is easily explained. The downside is that as we eliminate hymnals from the worship life of the church, we lose everything they contain and represent.

It becomes difficult to teach new songs on a worship screen, primarily because there are no notes. Screens only work when worshipers already know the melodies. Worship “playlists” at contemporary services are often meager because the same songs tend to be sung over and over.

If you’re not already familiar with the tune, you cannot sing from a screen. There are no instructions on how many pitches you must devote to each syllable. In cases like these, most just end up keeping their mouths shut. This also limits the complexity of the songs’ music and words, because it’s easier to learn simpler songs when new ones are introduced without sheet music.

Hymnals Provide Deep, Theologically Rich Worship

As hymnals fade, theology also suffers. The rich repository of religious wisdom contained in hymns will be lost. The old-fashioned language of hymns may strike some as unusual, but their text teaches the Christian faith far better than most of the praise choruses that dominate contemporary services. Old hymns were carefully crafted with theology at the forefront. Traditional hymns present doctrine clearly and beautifully convey the gospel story of saving grace.

On a larger scale, how do worship screens affect worship? Are they like other technology—truly neutral, beneficial when used well and deleterious when ill applied? We still have the same worship, they say. We simply added the screens! Instead of people looking down at their books, now they’re looking up at the wall—everything else is exactly the same!

Maybe so. But probably not. We may not want screens to change how we worship, but they certainly will. They definitely change the sermon-receiving “experience.” Images on the screen constantly interrupt attention. They do change the view, and they do put the technology front and center, rendering it visible where it used to merely exist subtly in the background.

While singing in a modern service, it’s hard not to start thinking about things other than the music. Will the slide change at the right time? Will the correct slide come up next? “Oh, look, there’s a typo!” It’s hard not to see how technology distracts from the meaning of the words we sing.

Screens represent a move away from permanence to the transitory. The words contained in a hymnal were printed in a book that was published with care. Inked on the paper accompanied by notes and staffs, hymnals were real. The words on the screens may look like the words in the book, but they lack substance. They’ll disappear the moment the switch is flipped off.

To Save Worship, We Must Rediscover Hymnals

If circumstances don’t change, worship screens will eventually kill hymnals—although it may be a slow, painful death. Long after Gutenberg, books were still being hand-copied or printed from woodblocks. In his book “The Shallows” Nicholas Carr points out, “The old technologies lose their economic and cultural force. . . . It’s the new technologies that govern production and consumption, that guide people’s behavior and shape their perceptions.” We traditionalists may take the hymnal with us to the grave, while economic forces will push publishing companies away from producing new hymnals and revising old ones.

Does any of this matter? Will the warnings of traditionalists bring any worship screens down from the chancel walls or lead congregations to rethink installing them in the first place?

Maybe the whole thing is moot. How long before implanted hardware in our brains will allow us to download hymns and project them directly onto our retinas? Voila! No more screens.

Those who wish to see the Christian faith prosper, however, should consider the long-term effects that replacing hymnals with screens will have on worship and faith itself. What technology giveth, technology taketh away. The musical and theological repertoire of the church will be constricted. Even marginally unfamiliar hymns will slide out of the public consciousness, forgotten forever—and worship will be impoverished for it.

Tom Raabe a writer and editor living in Tempe, Arizona.

Photo Steven Bornholtz / Wikimedia

https://thefederalist.com/2019/06/18/churches-should-ditch-projector-screens-bring-back-hymnals/

VIDEO If The Foundations Are Destroyed

By Dr Charles Stanley

 

David cried out to God in his time of distress, and said, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). It’s how we all feel when adversity comes to our lives: It’s as if the ground beneath our feet has started to crumble. The story of Saul persecuting David illustrates how to find a sure path when it feels like your life is falling apart.

If the Foundations Are Destroyed

Key Passage: Psalm 11:1-7

Supporting Scriptures: 1 Samuel 18:7 | John 3:16 | 2 Corinthians 5:8 | Hebrews 13:5 | 1 John 1:9 | 1 John 5:14-15

Summary

God’s Word is a stabilizer in our lives.

Within its pages we find comfort, strength, and guidance for every situation in life. But if we choose to live without the Bible, we won’t have the assurance of God’s promises to help us through hard times. These are some of the most difficult days we have ever faced in our country. We’ve lost our oneness, stability, strength, and care for one another. Now our nation is suffering from uncertainty, uneasiness, conflict, and distrust. If ever we needed to rely on the Scripture, it’s today. Such times should lead us to cry out to God, asking Him for the wisdom, courage, and obedience to do what’s right.

Sermon Points

David was familiar with difficult situations, and through them all, he learned to trust the Lord.

When he faced Goliath, his confidence was not in himself but in the faithfulness of his God. And when King Saul became jealous of David and tried on several occasions to kill him, David fled for his life, hiding out in the wilderness. Psalm 11 gives us a glimpse into David’s heart at a time when his world was falling apart. His main question is found in verse 3.

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

When everything is crumbling beneath us, we must remember that God’s Word is our true foundation. No matter what we face, Scripture assures us that we are children of God, and He promises to see us through it. This doesn’t mean we won’t experience suffering or disappointment, but the Lord walks with us every step of the way. His Word is our compass and guidebook for every hardship, heartache, and problem. As long as we follow His instructions, we will be able to face every situation.

David likened the foundation of a nation to that of a building. If a house is to last, it must be built on a strong foundation. Otherwise, it will begin to crumble, and the house will fall. In the same way, a nation whose foundation is weak cannot endure. A strong national foundation consists of law and order, justice, truth, morality, decency, integrity, fairness, and trustworthiness. When these are abandoned, the foundation begins to crumble, and the nation is in danger of collapsing.

How should we respond if the foundations are destroyed?

  • Turn to God. Like David, we can choose to say, “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1). This means we place our confidence in God and become attentive to His voice. He has given us unshakeable, absolute truth in His Word. When we place our trust in what He’s said, we will receive stability and direction for our lives.
  • Don’t run. David said, “How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain’” (v. 1). Instead of trying to run away from our difficulties, we should run to God. He’s all-powerful and knows all our struggles and needs. There is no stronger or safer refuge than almighty God. He loves us and intends for us to stand strong, firm, and true in the midst of hardship, suffering, and loss, knowing that He is trustworthy. The foundations of our physical world may crumble, and we could lose every possession we own, but even then the Lord is sufficient to carry us through.

How does God respond when we turn to Him?

  • The Lord places us under His divine protection. When we are in a right relationship with Him and walking in obedience and submission, He determines the limits of our trials and suffering. This doesn’t mean He’ll remove all pain and trouble from our lives, but He guards us through it. And even if we lose our lives, He promises that we will immediately be in His presence (2 Cor. 5:8).
  • God is available. “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (Ps. 11:4). Nothing is beyond His control, and He is ready to hear our concerns and requests when we come to Him in prayer. Whatever our needs may be, He has provided assurances and promises in His Word.
  • God sees. “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked” (vv. 4-5). From His divine perspective, He sees and knows everything, and He uses our trials to test us. We have no reason to fear evil because we are secure in our relationship with the Lord. He hates violence, and promises that one day He will punish the wicked (vv. 5-6).

What attitude should God’s people have?

  • We must trust the Lord. No matter what our circumstances may be, we can believe God. It may seem as if He’s inactive, but He’s not. When situations get worse, He is not sitting in heaven wringing His hands. The Lord rejoices in the opportunity to intervene and show Himself strong for His children. Therefore, instead of running away, we should learn to wait upon the Lord and seek His direction.
  • We must ask God for cleansing.When the foundations around us crumble, it’s time to look within ourselves, asking the Lord to reveal any sin in our lives. Then we must confess it and repent by making a determined choice to turn away from that sin and to the Lord. If we don’t deal with our sins, they will hinder our prayers. Only after our lives have been cleansed will He be able to use us in whatever ways He chooses.
  • We must be willing to encourage others. People who don’t know Christ become frightened when the foundations around them crumble and circumstances become difficult. They look for ways to protect themselves, but we can encourage them to look to the Lord, who is the only true source of security. He will show Himself strong to those who are willing to trust Him. As believers, we have a responsibility to share the teachings of God’s Word.
  • We must pray for revival. The difficult times we face are larger than our own issues; our entire country is in trouble. The solution is not found in voting new candidates into office, but in pleading with God to send a revival. According to history, revivals always begin with just a few people who humbly seek the Lord. If we’ll sincerely turn away from sin and to God, a handful of individuals could become a crowd joining together to cry out to the Lord for our country.

Response

  • When the foundations begin to crumble, whether personally or nationally, do you turn to God and His Word? What effect would it have on your emotions, thoughts, and reactions if this became your first choice?
  • As our society abandons its former foundation, will you commit to interceding for our nation and asking God to revive His church?

https://www.intouch.org/watch/if-the-foundations-are-destroyed

VIDEO Surviving the Death of a Loved One

By: Redeemed on Purpose

Surviving the Death of a Loved One

I am sorry for the loss of your loved one. Losing someone is a pain completely unimaginable. Surviving the death of a loved one can even seem impossible. My hope is that as you continue reading, you will see a light at the end of this dark tunnel and that light is Jesus. That may not be something you want to hear, but I can tell you first hand that it is the best thing to hear.

Several years ago on June 10th, my first husband died after having a motorcycle accident. Our marriage had just been restored 1 year prior from a 9 month separation. Life was perfect as I knew it. I was now left alone to raise our little boy. I didn’t know how I was going to manage paying all of the bills and taking care of our son, maintaining our house and yard, and working full-time.

Bitterness with God could’ve set in but instead I pressed into Him. I also witnessed how different members of the family grieved, how some had peace who sought comfort in the Lord, and others no hope who tried to do it on their own. I would like to help you walk through this healing journey. It is possible to live a happy life again.

  1. Why can’t God end all of the pain and suffering in this world?

The answer is… He can, and He will. Jesus did not create this world to have pain and suffering. In the Garden of Eden, there was no death or suffering. Since the fall, pain and evil has been allowed into this world by mankind. The good news is Jesus is coming back to restore everything. He loves us and does not want to see us suffering.

There have been times when I was grieving that I would wish Jesus would come back right now, so all of the suffering in the world could end. The Holy Spirit convicted me quickly. If Jesus comes back now, there is no hope left for those who do not believe in Him to go to heaven. The more time we have here, the more time we have to minister and help save as many souls as possible. He is graceful and will come back at the perfect time.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias answers tough questions about God and Christianity. For more on this question, please watch this video of Ravi Zacharias. You can also view it at the end of this post.  

2. How do I find peace while I am suffering the loss of a family member?

It is possible to find peace in the pain. I would spend my nights crying in pain from not having my husband, but I would cling onto God. In the flesh, I would try to stay up all night cleaning to wear myself out and be tired, but that didn’t help me. I would play worship music as I tried to sleep and just cry, and cry, and cry again to Jesus. There was a supernatural comfort that would come over me. Many nights I would have TBN playing on the TV. When I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would hear a word from God that would settle my spirit. As I worshipped Him in tears, I could literally feel His love and peace upon me.

3. What can I do now?

surviving the death of a loved oneI recommend gathering with a group of believers who can love and support you. Having a church family to encourage you, uplift you, and give you a shoulder to cry on is healing in itself. You can also join a support group such a GriefShare.

Do not hold in your feelings. Focus on God’s promises. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Your family member would want you to continue living life to the fullest, not to survive but to thrive, to love others, to truly know the love of Jesus.

Fast forward years later, God absolutely provided for me. I became a Registered Nurse with all of my tuition paid for. God used family, friends, and even random people to bless my son and I. My relationship with God and faith grew even deeper. I am now married to the most amazing man that I have always dreamed of, and my son has the dad he had always prayed for. My life is better than I could have even imagined or planned. God is so faithful. 

Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

My husband’s books are also great resources to help you see God in all of your trials, and that there is purpose in the pain. Please comment below with any other encouraging tips for someone else who is also walking through this journey. 

 

https://redeemedonpurpose.com/2019/06/10/surviving-the-death-of-a-loved-one/

Student expelled from university for quoting Bible

Now court issues stunning ruling in fight over social media

 

Bible

The Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom has issued a landmark victory for a Christian student who was expelled from Sheffield University for citing the Bible’s view of sexuality and marriage in social media conversations.

The university learned of Felix Ngole’s social media posts through an anonymous complaint.

The new court ruling reversing the punishment is a “statement of the law likely to be relied upon in hundreds of cases,” according to the U.K. activist group Christian Concern.

The decision affirmed the rights of British Christians “to freely express their faith,” the group said.

Calling it a “major development of the law,” Christian Concern said it’s “now clear that Christians have the legal right to express Biblical views on social media and elsewhere in public without fear for their professional careers.”

“This is the first Court of Appeal judgment regarding freedom of expression of biblical views which sets limits on the rights of professional regulators to limit free speech on social media,” the group said.

Ngole was expelled in 2016 from his social-work studies at Sheffield University after quoting Bible verses on Facebook that were deemed critical of homosexuality, the organization said.

The year before, Ngole engaged in a discussion on Facebook about Kim Davis, the Kentucky registrar jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

During that debate he quoted Bible verses regarding marriage and the sin of homosexual activity.

The anonymous complaint to the school, apparently from a fellow student, came months later. Sheffield officials held a “Fitness to Practice” hearing because of his social-work studies.

“He was informed that he had brought the social work profession into disrepute and was then expelled from the course, losing the career he had worked so hard for,” Christian Concern said.

School officials later tried to justify their actions by claiming Ngole lacked “insight” into his social media posts.

They said that expressing Christian views was unacceptable.

“In some shocking exchanges from the High Court hearing, [which preceded the Court of Appeal decision] the University of Sheffield implied that Felix was not allowed to express the Christian viewpoint on same-sex marriage or homosexuality on any public forum, including in a church,” Christian Concern said.

But the Court of Appeal’s decision means it was the university that was “lacking insight” into the Christian viewpoint.

The Court of Appeal condemned the position of the university, which would have people fearing they would become the target of an anonymous complaint.

“The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds,” the judgment said.

It noted Ngole never was shown to be acting with discrimination.

“The outcome of this case will have significant implications not only for Christian freedom of speech, but in relation to all free speech. For example, comments made by people on social media (often many years ago) have recently been arbitrarily used to silence viewpoints that people dislike or disagree with,” Christian Concern explained.

Ngole said: “This is great news, not only for me and my family, but for everyone who cares about freedom of speech, especially for those working in or studying for caring professions. As Christians we are called to care for and serve others, and publicly and privately we must be free to express our beliefs, especially when asked, without fear of losing our livelihoods.

“I have suffered tremendously as a result of how I was treated by the University of Sheffield and I feel that four years of my life have been taken away from me. Despite all this, I feel overwhelming joy that what I have lost will be so much gain to Christians today and in the future as a result of this important ruling for freedom.”

Andrea Williams of the U.K.’s Christian Legal Centre called it a “watershed case for Christians and a resounding victory for freedom of speech.”

“We are delighted that the Court of Appeal has seen the importance of this case and made a ruling that accords with common sense. It is shocking that the university sought to censor expression of the Bible in this way, and we hope this sends out a message of freedom across all universities and professions that Christians and others should be allowed to express their views without fear of censorship or discipline.”

Williams said the case now returns to the university which must review its actions in light of the new precedent.

 

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/student-expelled-from-university-for-quoting-bible/