Miracles and Science

For a many people in the West, science seems to be at odds with belief in God because of its ‎claims to the miraculous. How can modern scientific people possibly believe in ancient stories ‎about signs, wonders, and resurrections from the dead; written by uneducated men in pre-‎scientific times?‎

The underlying assumption that the authors of the Bible were gullible and we’ve‎ only now ‎become critical thinkers, is what C.S. Lewis describes as “chronological snobbery”. People have ‎always known that dead people don’t come back to life, and the Bible records very human ‎reactions to miracles (e.g. fear and disbelief). Miracles are never expected.‎

Moreover, modern attempts to relativise theistic beliefs in terms of socio-cultural assumptions ‎of the time, are necessarily rooted in socio-cultural assumptions of our time. The sociology of ‎knowledge (the study of the relationship between human thought and the social context within ‎which it arises) should not only be applied to other cultures, but to our culture as well. As ‎Peter Berger, one of the founders of the sociology of knowledge, points out:‎

“The past, out of which the tradition comes, is relativised in terms of this or that socio-‎historical analysis. The present, however, remains strangely immune from relativisation. ‎In other words, the New Testament writers are seen as afflicted with a false consciousness ‎rooted in their time, but the contemporary analyst takes the consciousness of his time as ‎an unmixed intellectual blessing. The electricity- and radio-users are placed intellectually above ‎the Apostle Paul.‎

This is rather funny. More importantly, in the perspective of the sociology of knowledge, it is an ‎extraordinarily one-sided way of looking at things. What was good for the first century is good ‎for the twentieth. The worldview of the New Testament writers was constructed and maintained ‎by the same kind of social processes that construct and maintain the world view of ‎contemporary “radical” theologians. Each has its appropriate plausibility structure, its ‎plausibility-maintaining mechanisms. If this is understood, then the appeal to any alleged ‎modern consciousness loses most of its persuasiveness – unless, of course, one can bring ‎oneself to believe that modern consciousness is indeed the embodiment of superior cognitive ‎powers.” (Peter Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the ‎Supernatural, 41)‎

One of the differences between ancient cultures and modern Western culture, is that modern ‎Western culture often conflates methodological naturalism (the view that miracles are ‎miraculous) with philosophical naturalism (the view that miracles are impossible). Miracles are ‎miraculous by definition, but what makes miracles impossible (apart from unprovable ‎assumptions about the world)?‎

No one doubts the monumental advances of science, but science depends upon the regularity of ‎nature (also known as methodological naturalism), not the non-existence of the supernatural ‎‎(also known as philosophical naturalism). There is simply no one scientific worldview. ‎Christians can do science, Buddhists can do science, Muslims can do science, Hindus can do science. You don’t have to ‎be an atheist, all you need to assume the regularity of nature.‎

Nevertheless, the assumption of the regularity of nature (which is required for science) wasn’t ‎obvious for most of human history, and it took the Christian view that God is a God of order ‎for it to be well established enough to give rise to the scientific method. In 16th century Europe, ‎the Christian Reformation led to the questioning of tradition and the push to go ‘to the sources’. ‎In 17th century Europe, this was applied to creation, which led to the rise of modern science.‎

No historian of science chalks up the rise of modern science coming on the heels the ‎Reformation, in the same place as the Reformation, to coincidence. Indeed, most historians of science hold to some ‎form of Merton’s ‎thesis, that “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they ‎expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A ‎Preliminary Study, 169)‎

Philosophical naturalism simply does not follow from the regularity of nature. Indeed, without ‎the regularity of nature, we would have no way of recognising a miracle as a miracle. Belief in ‎God doesn’t deny the regularity of nature (which is required for science), but rather, the ‎evidence for God depends on it. As C.S. Lewis wrote:‎

‎“If I put six pennies into a drawer on Monday and six more on Tuesday, the laws decree that – ‎‎other things being equal – I shall find twelve pennies there on Wednesday. But if the ‎drawer has been robbed I may in fact find only two. Something will have been broken (the lock ‎of the drawer or the laws of England) but the laws of arithmetic will not have been broken. The ‎new situation created by the thief will illustrate the laws of arithmetic just as well as the original ‎situation. But if God comes to work miracles, He comes ‘like a thief in the night’… The better ‎you know that two and two make four, the better you know that two and three don’t.” (C.S. ‎Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 92-93)‎

Far from disproving the existence of miracles, the regularity of nature is precisely what’s ‎required to recognise miracle as a miracle. Miracles are incredibly rare (because of the regularity ‎of nature), and so most theists are somewhat sceptical about claims of the miraculous. But ‎unlike committed atheists, who, as Lewontin admits, “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”, the ‎theist’s worldview allows them to follow the evidence wherever it leads.‎

http://www.faithbasedonevidence.com/miracles.html

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We Become What We Watch

What Entertainment Does to Our Minds

by Abigail Dodds Regular Contributor

Perhaps one of the more obvious discoveries of my life is that the majority of the thinking that I do is passive, not active. When I read my Bible each day, I am often actively holding up specific beliefs against the light of God’s word to see if I believe anything wrongly. Simultaneously, through the mere act of reading well, a hundred other truths are making themselves at home in my mind, even if I’m not wrestling with any one of them in the moment.

Active learning or active thinking is not the type of thinking most of us are doing the majority of our time each day. And yet, we are all thinking about something all day every day. Thinking is something we do when we’re conscious. It’s something we do even when we’re vegging out in front of YouTube or Netflix.

J. Gresham Machen says, “When any new fact enters the human mind it must proceed to make itself at home; it must proceed to introduce itself to the previous denizens of the house. That process of introduction of new facts is called thinking. And, contrary to what seems to be quite generally supposed, thinking cannot be avoided by the Christian man.”

Whether we are reflecting on a fact at any given moment or not, we are always thinking, and that thinking shapes us in profound ways.

What Tutors Have You Hired?

As we casually scroll social media, or watch the cult-classic sitcoms, or binge on the latest British drama, or entrance ourselves in 24/7 news coverage, we have hired tutors to instruct us.

These tutors are continuously presenting facts and knowledge of varying disciplines (sociological, political, theological, scientific, and more). As we listen, we welcome into our minds whatever teaching they have on the docket for the day. And, often, when we’re watching television or listening to podcasts, our mental guard is down, and so the “teaching” can get a stronger and more subtle foothold.

These tutors don’t teach for free either. They require payment, either directly through your paid subscription to their service or indirectly through the information they obtain about you. Just as college students pay tuition to sit in a classroom and learn from teachers and professors, so we pay “tuition” every time we enter a movie theater or pay for Hulu or DirecTV. The only difference is that rather than calling the shows an education, they are called “entertainment.” By thinking of shows as entertainment rather than education, we assume that we are entering a space free of thinking — a space where we can suspend reality in favor of enjoyment.

But just as Machen says, whenever new facts enter our mind, we are engaged in a type of thinking — whether we want to be or not. Watching shows is one of the most passive forms of thinking, which makes it one of the most powerful. Because we are not engaged in active thinking, we allow any number of morally suspect thoughts to enter our mind unhindered. These thoughts immediately get comfortable in their new home — they start settling in and hanging drapes.

To say this is a cunning move by our adversary is an understatement. Under the guise of entertainment, evil thoughts often move into our minds and entrench themselves unopposed.

Passive Thinking’s Vital Role

When most of us think of becoming more holy, especially regarding our mind or our thoughts, we probably think of an active battle like the one Paul describes: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Taking every thought captive to Christ is how we wage war in the mind. We actively isolate and identify our thoughts so that we can take them hostage. We hold our thoughts up to God’s word. Do we agree with what God says, or are we arguing with him? Do we love what he loves? Do we hate what he hates?

Whenever we find ourselves out of step with God’s word, let the killing begin. Destroy that argument; wage war on that opinion; take captive that thought. This is an essential battle tactic for every Christian to learn, but it is not the only battle tactic.

Whenever we read the Bible well, far more is happening than we perceive in the moment, just like when we watch our favorite shows. God’s thoughts are entering the human mind — more than we can count, much less isolate — making themselves at home, and introducing themselves to whatever ideas they find. While we may focus on a verse or two while reading a chapter, we are standing under a waterfall of teaching, and absorbing much more than we realize.

Where Righteousness Feels at Home

We want our minds to be a hospitable place for righteousness to dwell. How do we do that? We do it in the same way the immoral entertainment industry tries to educate and acclimate our minds to unrighteousness. Our minds become a home for righteous thinking when we regularly and submissively soak ourselves in God’s word — either by reading or listening — and let God himself (through his word) be the tutor that shapes and transforms us most. God’s word is more powerful than a movie. It is more insightful and compelling than social media.

Fill your mind with God’s thoughts by acclimating it first and foremost to the stories and laws and letters and poetry of the Bible, rather than the stories being sold to you by the world. Put yourself daily in the stream of his cleansing and purifying waterfall of holiness and grace in Scripture. Reading is often passive, just as watching is often passive. But reading is also a form of thinking, just as watching shows is a form of thinking. Both affect the atmosphere of our minds, either for good or ill — for clean air leading to pure thoughts or polluted air leading to perverse ones.

The Bible isn’t the only place we can go for this kind of sanctification, although it is far and away the very best place. There are also stories and biographies and movies and documentaries and nonfiction and poetry and sermons that all help us to think better. They put thoughts in our mind that we very much want to settle in and put up drapes. They change us and sanctify us in ways we don’t always understand in the moment.

What Stories Are Shaping You?

When I read Andrew Peterson’s “Wingfeather Saga” with my children, I am putting myself in a stream of good water, allowing it to wash off some dirt that has built up in my mind. Reading of Nia, the strong and gentle mother, strengthens my arms with endurance. The saga reminds me of why God made me. It expands my imagination so that loyalty, honor, sacrifice, and truth are habituated into my mind — righteousness becomes the normal air for my thoughts to breathe.

Destroying evil thoughts and lofty opinions really begins with passive thinking. It begins by refusing to put ourselves in the polluted streams of entertainment, and acclimating and habituating our minds to righteousness through God’s word and the echoes of his stories we find in other stories. We know when to destroy the strongholds of wrong thinking when we’ve tasted what right thinking tastes like, when we’ve fed on it, when it’s nourished our thoughts and imaginations.

We will learn, again and again, that his thoughts are not like our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), and then experience the absolute joy of surrendering to his superior ones.

VIDEO Iran has world’s ‘fastest-growing church,’ despite no buildings – and it’s mostly led by women: documentary

 

Sept 27, 2019 By Caleb Parke

A new film tells the story of the “fastest-growing church” in the world, an underground, persecuted Christian movement in a country known for exporting radical Islamic terrorism — Iran.

People in Iran, a Muslim-majority nation, are fleeing Islam in droves as believers bow their knee to Jesus and become aggressively pro-Israel, according to the documentary “Sheep Among Wolves Volume II.”

“What if I told you Islam is dead?” one unidentified Iranian church leader says in the film, which was directed by Dalton Thomas and produced by Frontier Alliance International Studios.

“What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran?” he continues. “What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? Would you believe me? This is exactly what is happening inside of Iran. God is moving powerfully inside of Iran.”

IRAQI CHRISTIAN SURVIVES BEING BURNED ALIVE BY ISIS 3 TIMES: ‘[JESUS] SPOKE TO ME’

The pastor adds: “What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini? The ayatollahs brought the true face of Islam to light and people discovered it was a lie…After 40 years under Islamic law — a utopia according to them — they’ve had the worst devastation in the 5,000-year history of Iran.”

More Iranians have come to faith in Jesus in the last 20 years than the 1,300 years since Islam swept through Persia-combined.

More Iranians have come to faith in Jesus in the last 20 years than the 1,300 years since Islam swept through Persia-combined.

Thomas calls the movement “the Iranian awakening.”

“It owns no property, no buildings, no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women,” he said in a statement.

NORTH KOREA PROPAGANDA VIDEO DETAILS CHRISTIAN MARTYR’S ‘MISSION FROM THE ENEMY’ TO BUILD UNDERGROUND CHURCH

Named after the Bible verse Matthew 10:16 which says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” the documentary claims “Muslim-background Iranians are leading a quiet but mass exodus out of Islam and bowing their knees to the Jewish Messiah — with kindled affection toward the Jewish people.”

But the new believers in the Islamic Republic face great risks.

CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION CLOSE TO ‘GENOCIDE LEVELS,’ LARGELY IGNORED DUE TO ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS’: REPORT

“We know that if they get us, the first thing they will do to us as a woman is rape us and then they will beat us and ultimately they will kill us,” one believer said. “This is the decision we have made that we want to offer our bodies as sacrifices. Because I have this thought when I wake up, that when I leave, that door I might not come back.”

A leader of the Iranian underground church explains their goal is not planting churches but rather making disciples, the majority of whom are women.

MORE ON FAITH

“Disciples forsake the world and cling to Jesus ’till he comes. Converts don’t,” the leader said. “Disciples aren’t engaged in a culture war. Converts are. Disciples cherish, obey, and share the word of God. Converts don’t. Disciples choose Jesus over anything and everything else. Converts don’t. Converts run when the fire comes. Disciples don’t.”

And a pastor explains everything they do underground is built on prayer.

“We find people of peace through prayer. We even find locations through prayer,” he says. “[Jesus] has come in their dreams or he’s come miraculously in their lives. When we hear this, we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us.”

Greater Than Pizza, Movies And Ice Cream

Pastor Ray Patrick

 

I’m always disheartened, bewildered and even confused by the way we use the word “love,” prompting the question “what is love?” We love food, movies, clothes and sports, but we also love our family or spouse.

In the Word of God, we see God’s true definition of love. First Corinthians 13 tells us that “love is patient and kind. It does not envy nor boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not seek its own way, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Love believes, hopes and endures. Love never fails.” This is how God responds to us, and this is how we should respond to the people in our lives with patience, kindness, hope, humility and love. Scripture tells us that God is love, and His character never changes!

Today, and every day, know that God loves you more than you love pizza, ice cream and cake. He loves you with an everlasting, unconditional love. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is there for you and has a great plan for you. Receive His perfect, consistent and patient love, and let Him transform you from the inside out. His love is the greatest love and will last throughout all eternity! Hallelujah!

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

(1 Corinthians 13:13, NKJV)

Pray With Me
Yahweh, thank You for loving me and accepting me with all my faults and flaws. Father, thank You for doing a work in my life that no one else can do. God, please help me to love like You, with patience and consistency. Help me to see others the way You see them, and respond in love, because You are love. I bless You,  honour You and love You today and always, in Jesus’ Name! Amen.

https://godinterest.com/2019/09/27/greater-than-pizza-movies-and-ice-cream/

 

Here We Go Again

By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

September 30, 2019

 

 

How long would you sit through a horror film before you got up and left?  Would you sit through the same horror film so many times that you would you be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Some people have reoccurring dreams where they keep falling. For some, those dreams of falling are so real that they are afraid to go to sleep.

No one is immune to fear or worry. Those who learn to make their fear work for them are more successful and go on to experience the beauty of peace.

There are those who prey upon others by bullying and inciting fear in weaker people feeding their victims’ fears. The bully exploits the fears of others.

The Domestic Violence bully exploits the fears of their victims and cuts off avenues of escape which only heighten the anxiety level of the victim. The Domestic Violence bully claims victimhood and tries to silence the actual victims by fear and intimidation.

The Domestic Terrorist bully exploits the fears of a community or nation, while claiming victimhood and trying to silence the actual victims. Domestic Terrorists employ dangerous methods which can injure or kill large groups within the community.

Life can be frightening enough without having bullies of any kind added to the mix. The fear the bullies cause add stress to our lives that we did not need.

There are days that we just feel stressed from too many things to do and with not enough time to accomplish it all.  When the threat is even less obvious, we might feel restless, bored, or antsy (Nothing good is on TV). Perhaps we find ourselves procrastinating to avoid a certain task or encounter (I’ll pay the bills tomorrow), or we find ourselves compulsively driven to finish projects, accomplish goals, or meet deadlines (I can’t relax until I get this done). Fears inhibit our ability to begin or complete tasks big or small, which can exacerbate the situation raising the anxiety level.

Fear is an emotion that typically occurs when we perceive a threat to our personal well-being. Sometimes, it can prompt action against the threat. Fear is a common emotion experienced by most people at some point or another; it’s considered to be a normal, natural part of life.

However, fear can lead people to experience a wide array of physical and mental changes, and irrational or intense fear may interfere with a person’s happiness, sense of security, and ability to function effectively.

Fear can lead you to avoid actions or events. This fear can keep you in the prison of avoidance.

Fear can lead to self medication to suppress the fear, pain, and anxiety. Ironically sell medication can spiral down to addition and death.

Sometimes the assistance of a professional is required to get back on track.

Fear can be tamed.

Fear takes energy.

Fear can be a positive motivational factor.

There are plenty of people and groups who play on our fears and want to turn us in a certain direction. Advertisers often create a need, present their solution and push for a sale.

For three years we have witnessed a group people trying to convince us that up is down and down is up. Now that their scheme is unraveling they are flailing. As they unravel, often times they resort to incoherent and irrelevant arguments.

Lifeguards can tell you the most dangerous person to rescue is a drowning person who is flailing.

It remains to be seen how much collateral damage the drowning group trying to play on our fears will cause this time. They remind me of a two year old throwing a tantrum in a supermarket isle. Good parents know the remedies available. One could only hope they would become penitent children avoiding being fired.

Taming your fears and overcoming worry includes just saying NO to bullies.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2019/10/04/here-we-go-again/

 

Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise.

Two new books push back on Chicken-Little narratives of evangelical decline.
BRADLEY WRIGHT  SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise.

When Christians write about the status and reputation of Christianity in American society, they usually focus on two questions: What is happening? What should be done?

Two recent books have taken up these questions in a markedly optimistic spirit: Glenn Stanton’s The Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and the World and Rick Richardson’s You Found Me: New Research on How Unchurched Nones, Millennials, and Irreligious are Surprisingly Open to Christian Faith.

The books share many similarities. Both make extensive use of survey findings and other types of data. Both are written by leaders at prominent evangelical organizations (Focus on the Family and The Billy Graham Center respectively). Both take a myth-busting approach to misconceptions about American Christianity. And both even use the story of Chicken Little to describe how Christians react to bad news about the faith.

Nonetheless, they are different books. With some exceptions, they address different aspects of Christianity in society. They also make different recommendations for how best to further its prospects.

Portrait of Resilience

In describing what is happening with the faith in America, Stanton focuses on the size and vitality of evangelical Christianity, especially as compared to mainline Protestantism.

Stanton marshals an impressive array of evidence. He emphasizes Christian affiliation rates, giving special attention to what’s happening with young people. He also examines a wide range of other topics, including charitable giving, church construction, missionary efforts, youth ministries, Christian colleges, and Christian publishing.

The story that emerges from Stanton’s overview is that evangelical Christianity is doing rather well for itself. Where it is not increasing, it is holding steady. As Stanton writes, “Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing Biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. In some areas, they are seeing growth.”

In contrast, the fortunes of mainline Protestantism in America are falling fast. Its long decline has been documented before, and Stanton updates our understanding of it. As he puts it, “people are leaving those churches like the buildings are on fire.”

Stanton’s portrait of resilience is one more strike against the widely held narrative of evangelical failure. This failure narrative is surprisingly resilient. It spreads in the minds of Christians like dandelions. After reading Stanton’s analysis, it’s clear that Christianity is not on its last legs.

Richardson, in You Found Me, has a different focus on what is happening. In 2016, the Billy Graham Center commissioned a survey of 2,000 Americans who don’t actively participate in religion—the “unchurched.” The survey asked these people about how they perceive Christians and Christianity. This included their view of Christianity, their willingness to talk about faith matters with Christians, how they would respond to being invited to a church event, and which types of invitations would they be most willing to accept.

Analyzing these data, Richardson finds that many unchurched Americans think well of Christians and are open to engaging matters of faith. For example, 42 percent of the unchurched think that Christianity is good for society, 33 percent admire their Christians friends’ faith, and up to 67 percent would be willing to attend a church event (depending on the type of event). Richardson concludes that the unchurched include “a massive number of people who are open to being invited, persuaded, and connected to a local congregation.”

Richardson’s analysis counters misconceptions about the unchurched. Christians commonly overestimate the hostility of the unchurched in matters of faith. We can slip into viewing them as mini-versions of Richard Dawkins—hostile to all things Christian. If this is true, why would we want to talk with them about our faith? It would be asking for rejection. Instead, Richardson’s findings invite us to share our faith openly, lovingly, and without fear. Not all of them will constructively engage us, of course, but many will.

Measures of Success

Turning from the question of where things stand to the question of what should be done in response, Stanton examines how Christian parents can effectively pass on their faith to their children. Drawing on research studies of young people transitioning into adulthood, he identifies multiple practices for fostering faith in children. It starts with a healthy, warm, and secure parent-child relationship. In this context, parents can lead their children into Christian practices such as prayer and reading Scripture. They can train them to see God’s work in everyday life, to handle their doubts without abandoning their faith, and even to face persecution.

Stanton’s discussion of parenting is very helpful. I wish I could have read it when our children were young. It identifies best practices for raising children in the faith. Christian parents care deeply about doing this, and Stanton gives hope that it can be done successfully. As he puts it, “passing faith to our kids is neither a crapshoot nor rocket science.”

Richardson takes on the issue of sharing faith with our unchurched neighbors. He offers practical guidelines for individual Christians, church leaders, and entire congregations. Particularly useful is Richardson’s treatment of evangelism by congregations. He describes the ideal congregation as a “conversion community”: It is steadily growing, it has recent converts attending its services, and it integrates evangelistic outreach into all its activities.

These characteristics come from data collected by the Billy Graham Center in a large-scale survey of several thousand Protestant churches in the United States. Richardson ranks these churches by their growth rates due to conversion. He then looks for the unique characteristics of the churches that rank the highest. From these, he makes recommendations for how churches can reach out to their local communities.

Among churches that succeed at evangelism, Richardson discerns two key characteristics. Frst, they develop a culture of innovation, frequently inviting the unchurched to church events. Importantly, the congregation leaders themselves lead the way in inviting others. And second, they develop a culture of hospitality, meeting the needs of people outside the church, whether they are physical, social, or emotional needs. Richardson shares many stories of people finding the love of God through a church’s hospitality. As one woman expressed it, the church to which she was invited “showed us so much love, unconditional love.”

Some Small Concerns

These two books complement each other well. Stanton goes deep into what’s happening with religion in society; Richardson gives insight into the thinking of the unchurched. Stanton advises parents; Richardson gives strategies to church leaders and congregations.

But even good books leave us wanting more, and these are no exception. Stanton gives a thorough description of how different Christian traditions are changing, but he gives much less attention to why these changes are taking place. For the United States, he briefly reviews the relative appeal of conservative, demanding theologies versus liberal, laissez-faire theologies. Presumably, there are also other factors at work as well. Stanton does give a fuller explanation as to why Christianity is spreading in the Global South.

Article continues below

A concern with Stanton’s book is the uniformity of his evidence. All of his statistics show that evangelical Christianity is holding steady or growing. It’s my experience as a researcher that social data are rarely this consistent in their message. Instead, they are like unruly children, going in many directions at once. Stanton has the overall story absolutely right. However, I assume that continued research on this issue will add qualifications and exceptions to this overall pattern of ongoing evangelical success.

Richardson and the Billy Graham Center should be commended for their innovative data collection. It’s exciting. Their data give us a rich understanding of both the perceptions of the unchurched and the practices of congregations that evangelize effectively. While Richardson identifies principles of effective outreach, it would be helpful to have more guidance on how to implement these principles. Knowing what to do and actually getting yourself to do it are two different things—both for individuals and groups. Richardson offers some preliminary thoughts on executing these principles. More would be useful.

A concern with Richardson’s book is a byproduct of its wide-ranging nature. It addresses many different themes—social trends, people’s attitudes, leadership development, and congregational practices. It draws evidence from multiple sources—survey data, Biblical principles, and personal stories. It would be difficult, with all of these components, to construct a tight, coherent narrative for the reader. It’s not always clear that Richardson does so. At some points, the presentation of the material, as well as the analysis of the data, felt underdeveloped.

Taking the Next Step

In reviewing these books, allow me to make an important but entirely unfair (I’ll explain why) observation about their use of data. Both use data to formulate strategies that should work. But neither actually uses data to test if these strategies really do work. This would require randomized evaluation studies. It is the difference between thinking that a medicine should work and actually giving it to people to carefully measure what happens. This leaves us with promising—but unproven—theories.

Here is why this observation is unfair. No one in American Christianity, to my knowledge, is doing this type of evaluation research. It’s common with other organizations, such as international aid programs, but it hasn’t found its way into Christianity yet.

Nonetheless, this type of research is entirely doable. It can cost less than a survey, and its results are crucial for knowing which strategies of Christian growth really work. Think of all the medicines found to be ineffective once tested. This type of evaluation research is the gold standard. Something as important as sharing the faith deserves this quality of evaluation.

But regardless of whether these authors, or the organizations for which they work, ever take the next step and directly test their recommended actions, these books give us deeper insight into what’s happening with Christianity and what might be done in response.

Bradley Wright is a sociologist at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (Bethany House).

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september-web-only/glenn-stanton-myth-dying-church-rick-richardson-you-found.html

VIDEO What to Do with Your Tears

by Greg Laurie on Sep 15, 2019

In this webcast, Pastor Greg Laurie shares a message about grief from Psalm 126 titled “What to Do With Your Tears” in our “Sunday Morning” series at Harvest Christian Fellowship.

Sermon Notes

Did you know “Man can live 40 days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope!” One in five adults experiences mental illness each year. Suicide is never the right choice . . . ever! We all grieve differently. Jesus wept. C.H. Spurgeon struggled greatly with severe depression. What do we do with our tears? We bring them to God.

Application

The Bible must be read, memorized, and applied. We must be engaged in prayer constantly committing it to the Lord again and again. The Church must engage in encouragement from fellow believers. Lastly, we must worship, magnifying God instead of focusing on me and my pain This hope has anchored us in the midst of this tumultuous storm.

  • When the Israelites criticized and turned against Moses, he “cried unto the Lord”
  • When Hezekiah received a threatening letter, he “spread it out before the Lord”
  • When John the Baptist was beheaded, his disciples “went and told Jesus”

Grief happens to us all in different ways,

  • David, the man after God’s heart, experienced depression and discouragement.
  • Job, a man who God bragged on, felt it too.
  • Jeremiah wrestled with great loneliness and feelings of defeat and insecurity.
  • Jesus felt it when He sweat great drops of blood.

Remember to love those around you who are suffering! God will right every wrong.  He promises to bring beauty out of ashes and give joy instead of mourning.

Scriptures

  • Psalm 126
  • Romans 8:38
  • Psalm 119:114
  • Hebrews 6:19
  • Exodus 15:25
  • Isaiah 37:14
  • Matthew 14:12
  • John 11:21
  • Psalm 126:1–6
  • Psalm 126:4
  • Psalm 42:11
  • Jeremiah 20:14, 18
  • Psalm 34:18

 

https://harvest.org/resources/webcast/what-to-do-with-your-tears/

 

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