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(AAC) Mark Eldridge–Preaching for a Change

There’s a difference in preaching and teaching. Certainly, preaching contains teaching, however preaching is more – at least it should be. The goal of preaching is the transformation of lives. I once heard someone say that “preaching goes for the guts.” I liked that and often have that in the back of my mind when preparing sermons. Please don’t be offended if you are a teacher. Teaching is essential and as I just wrote, preaching must contain teaching. It’s just that preaching takes good teaching and adds to it the “so what” that will turn the transfer of information into the transformation of life.

Changed lives is what we are preaching for, right? It’s not about impressing people with our speaking ability or intelligence. It’s not about passing on head knowledge about the Bible. It’s about transforming lives for Jesus Christ. Right? Pews full of people who only know about Jesus won’t be the missional disciples that North America desperately needs. We need pews full of people who intimately know Jesus and are daily being changed into his likeness – people who are living as Jesus would in the world around them. In our pulpits we must be preaching for a change. A change of life. A change into mature, missional disciples of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Bible Readings

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

–Colossians 1:15-23

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CT) Ed Stetzer–The Church and Mental Health: What Do the Numbers Tell Us?

Most of us know someone who is in counseling, on medication, or has even taken his or her own life as a result of a mental illness. There are many difficult issues for Christians to talk about, and mental health would certainly be near the top of that list.

Yet, this is a conversation the Church needs to have. Suicide may be one of the most complex and demanding topics of all. Over the past few years, the discussion has felt forced, especially when the event is connected to high-profile suicides of prominent Christian leaders or their family members and close associates.

While the circumstances in these situations are varied, the question of mental health always comes up; and when we talk about mental illness and suicide, it immediately creates a unique challenge for believers. The question is “Why?” Why is it uniquely challenging for us to address issues often associated with mental illness?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Mental Illness, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Uncategorized

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–Perhaps the recent Wheaton gathering will provide an alternative narrative to that of the (so-called) Trump evangelicals

Enter the group that met at Wheaton, which included some of the most prominent pastors, theologians and writers of the evangelical world. Many are disturbed by the identification of their faith with a certain kind of white-grievance populism, which cuts them off from the best of their history, from their nonwhite neighbors, from the next generation and from predominately nonwhite global evangelicalism.

But the stated goal of the leaders who gathered at Wheaton is not to push a politicized faith in a different political direction. It is to provide an alternative evangelical narrative — a more positive model of social engagement than the anger, resentment and desperation of many Trump evangelical leaders.

People like me can point out the naivete and political self-sabotage of the president’s evangelicals. But the groundwork for a new narrative will ultimately be theological, which makes the Wheaton consultation strategically significant. Many political views and denominational traditions were represented in the room. But any thinker who takes the authority of the Bible seriously must wrestle with the meaning and implications of one idea: the kingdom of God.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CEN) Hungarian Premier in new ‘Christian Europe’ controversy

Hungary’s ‘strong man’ premier Viktor Orban’s sweeping electoral victory heralds deeper confrontation with EU – and increased anxiety for Christians across Europe who deplore his equating ‘Christian Europe’ with anti-Muslim and antirefugee sentiment.

Orban’s ethno-nationalist election campaign centred on antimigrant rhetoric, declaring Islam and EU “enemies of Christian Hungary”. Justifying Hungary’s border fence as a “bulwark of Western Christian civilisation”, Orban poses as “defender of Christian Europe” against Muslim settlement and what he deems EU imposed multi-culturalism.

Pledged to build with Poland an anti-Brussels coalition of Central European states, Orban (pictured on the right) sees himself as inheritor of Hungary’s 16th and 17th century resistance to Islamic expansion against Christian Europe. Significantly, Pope Francis I immediately rejected Orban’s ‘defender of Christian Europe’ claims with a post-election message urging Catholics to care for migrants “as much as caring for the unborn”, and a Vatican video featuring a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan with a message of Christian compassion.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Hungary, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) PM Theresa May apologises to Windrush British citizens

After pressure from campaigners, the Prime Minister was forced into a U-turn this week after she initially refused to meet Caribbean leaders to discuss the plight of the “Windrush generation” — a reference to the ship Empire Windrush, which, in 1948, brought workers from the West Indies to Britain — who face deportation despite living in Britain for decades…

Thousands of people from the Caribbean, including children who travelled under their parent’s passport, made their home in Britain between 1948 and 1971. Owing to a lack of paperwork, many children of the Windrush generation have struggled to prove that they are in the UK legally, and have faced the prospect of deportation and the suspension of benefits or access to health services.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Theresa May apologised to the 12 Caribbean heads of government for the treatment of the Windrush citizens, and promised that no one would be deported.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Caribbean, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–‘I’ve been doing Thought for the Day for thirty years but I never thought that in 2018 I would still have to speak about antisemitism’

It’s happened because of the rise of political extremism on the right and left, and because of populist politics that plays on people’s fears, seeking scapegoats to blame for social ills. For a thousand years Jews have been targeted as scapegoats, because they were a minority and because they were different. But difference is what makes us human. And a society that has no room for difference has no room for humanity.

The appearance of antisemitism is always an early warning sign of a dangerous dysfunction within a culture, because the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.

At the end of his life, Moses told the Israelites: don’t hate an Egyptian because you were strangers in his land. It’s an odd sentence. The Egyptians had oppressed and enslaved the Israelites. So why did Moses say, don’t hate.

Because if the people continued to hate, Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but failed to take Egypt out of the Israelites. They would still be slaves, not physically but mentally. Moses knew that to be free you have to let go of hate. Wherever there is hate, freedom dies. Which is why we, especially leaders, have to take a stand against the corrosive power of hate.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

So he led forth his people with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
And he gave them the lands of the nations;
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
to the end that they should keep his statutes,
and observe his laws.
Praise the Lord!

–Psalm 105:43-45

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Wash Post) I have no fear of death’: Barbara Bush on faith and finality

Barbara Bush had spent an hour talking about legacy and family — about the Christmas dance where she met the man who’d become her husband, about being “the enforcer” of a family that included two former U.S. presidents.

Then, in a flash, she was talking about death.

It was 2013 and Bush was 88 at the time of the interview, part of a C-Span series focusing on first ladies. She wore a pink blazer and her trademark faux pearls — and spoke with a mixture of grace and bluntness that her family and the American people had come to instantly recognize over the past four decades.

“I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” she said. “And I have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort because we’re getting darned close.

“And I don’t have a fear of death for my precious George or for myself because I know that there is a great God.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Office of the President, Religion & Culture

(Local paper) Can ‘restorative practices’ in schools get at the root of bad behavior? The idea is being tested in Charleston, South Carolina, area Schools

The two boys were play-fighting, until suddenly they weren’t. The slap rang out at Northwoods Middle School.

Students at Northwoods are bound by the same rules and consequences as anyone else in the Charleston County School District. But thanks to a pilot program that started at their school and four others last year, the students also have a unique opportunity to face one another and make amends for their mistakes.

The pilot program is known as “restorative practices,” an approach to resolving conflicts that emphasizes personal responsibility and healing relationships. The approach was developed by Australian police to work with juvenile offenders in the 1990s, and it has since spread to schools worldwide.

Read it all.”>Read it all and note the important previous background article there.

Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(DP) At Princeton, Prominent South Baptist Russell Moore argues politics has altered US evangelicalism

“God does not need the evangelical movement; the evangelical movement desperately needs God,” Moore said.

Moore explained that there is conflation between the evangelical church and politics in modern America.

“So often in 2018 America, evangelicalism is associated more with Iowa caucuses than the good news of Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

He defined evangelicalism as “the link of renewal and revival movements which unite historic, conventional orthodoxy with the necessity of personal conversion and evangelism.”

Additionally, Moore said he believes that any true evangelical movement must be focused upon the Cross.

“An emphasis on the Cross is one of the hardest thing to maintain in any Christian group, and that includes American evangelicalism,” Moore said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

From the Morning Bible Readings

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.

–Psalm 37:3-5

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Diocese of South Carolina) Kate Norris–Confessions of an Ordinand

Unlike so many, I have been well supported, as a woman and as a person called to ministry. I am grateful and realize what a rare gift that is. Though there are many women who have felt called to ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of North America; many whom the Episcopate has confirmed, I follow many pastors whose families rejected or misunderstood their call and many women who were refused fair discernment of their gifts whether because of theological belief or personal bias. To be honest, I wrestled with whether to join the Anglican Church of North America because of their disagreements over women’s ordination. However, those God surrounded me with encouraged me.

There is no perfect church. There is one form of opposition or another everywhere. I felt called to bloom where I was planted. Archbishop Duncan also encouraged me saying the fact that there is room for difference among orthodox Christians in the ACNA is a good sign. Usually denominational leadership kicks you out if you don’t agree with them. Not so here. I appreciate that. It seems to ring true with the way family goes this side of heaven: it’s messy. It took me a long time to own my call but now I feel settled assurance that God has in fact called me. I am willing to stand in this expression of the body of Christ for as long as it is possible.

The ordination began with my presenters surrounding me saying they affirmed my call. The Kate at the beginning of seminary (13 years ago!) would have been filled with self-doubt wondering if this was what she wanted or felt called to do. The Lord has been patient and thorough, leaving no stone unturned taking a self-doubting know-it-all into the depths of his death and rebirth and bringing the graciousness of his counselors, teachers, and pastors to come alongside. Knowing his forgiveness and love in my pain kept my feet from running out the door when time came for my vows. This is the God I want others to know. In the way he has made me to share, I will by his grace.

I spent the day before confessing. The Lord had pointed out areas of resentment by reminding me that his love “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and rejoices with the truth.” He opened my eyes to see that kind of long-suffering love throughout the ordination service. He had bigger things afoot. He was confirming the accord between the Diocese of South Carolina and the Anglican Church in North America, which had happened the week before. As I stood in the circle of presenters before my ordaining bishop, Bishop Hobby, I knew the Lord had been long-suffering with me, patient with me, enduring all things with me. He made me able to step into my small part of his big and growing family and his grace would sustain me. Only that.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

(1st Things) Michael Doran–The Theology of Foreign Policy

Allow me to stand, like a tourist on the lip of the Grand Canyon, and marvel at the wondrous chasm that separates the Jacksonian and Progressive persuasions. They differ in their understandings of: human nature (as broken or perfectible, static or malleable); morality (as absolute or relative); the relationship between the individual and society (as requiring personal responsibility, or as requiring collective and systemic solutions); the proper role of government (to safeguard personal liberty, or to safeguard equality); the mission of the United States in the world (to be a beacon of freedom, or to lead the way toward a new era of peace and brotherhood); and the meaning of history (as maintaining a holding pattern until the end of days, or as leading inevitably to human betterment).

These began as religious disagreements. Yet even as God recedes from our public life, the disagreements persist. Perhaps it is because God has receded that they persist. In a secular world, there is no universal moral authority capable of adjudicating between the two sides. All we have now are experts.

For the better part of a century, the descendants of H. L. Mencken have dominated our cultural life. They have relentlessly presented the preferences of the Progressive persuasion as if they flowed directly from science, logic, and secular expertise. Our latter-day Menckens have painted the religious face of Jacksonianism as mumbo jumbo, while depicting secular Jacksonians as bigots, ignoramuses, or worse. But the Progressive persuasion is every bit as religious and irrational as the Jacksonian persuasion. Its vision of history and of America’s place in it is no more scientifically verifiable than dispensational premillennialism’s belief in the Rapture. Indeed, the Progressive persuasion’s belief in the perfectibility of man defies all experience—at least all of my experience. It is a conviction that can only be described as theological, yet our schools teach it as if it were science.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities””all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

–Colossians 1:15-23

Posted in Theology: Scripture