Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hindrances to Fullness of Life

by T. Austin-Sparks

While it is true that every spiritual blessing is a gift of grace and not something to be merited, it is equally true that no blessing is entered into without a real challenge, demanding a genuine and honest proof that we mean business with God. The history of Israel's entering into the inheritance of the land covenanted to them is a great illustration of how spiritual fullness is withstood by foes of many kinds. The New Testament is one continuous revelation of how spiritual fullness for the Lord's people is withstood. It is an education to read the Word with this in mind and to recognize the many forms which this obstructing and frustrating activity takes. Both outside and inside of the Church, and often inside believers themselves, the enemy of spiritual fullness is shown to have his ground of vantage. The fact is, beloved of God, that only ''men of violence'' will really secure the Kingdom (Matt. 11:12), and this violence will often have to be done to some of our own positions, mentalities, prejudices, fears, reservations, antipathies, etc. We may settle it once for all that for the fullness of the Lord's life and blessing we must be on the Lord's ground. This is a law which will apply to many particular matters.

First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Nov-Dec 1941, Vol 19-6

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Most Romantic Thing My Husband Ever Said to Me

I happened to be throwing up at the time.
We have funny ideas about romance. We think of it as candlelight, being showered in gifts, and a stolen kiss. That may be sort-of romantic, but at my age those things have worn kind of thin. And I think they have for a lot of people.

Take Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, for instance. He’s probably the most romantic figure in fiction. Women hold him up as the ideal that they’re looking for. But what is he like? For most of the story he’s cold, distant, and insulting. He certainly never does the candlelight and gift thing. He doesn’t even steal a kiss! But he’s a man of action. When it comes right down to it, he moves heaven and earth for the one he loves at great cost and inconvenience to himself.

And isn’t that what we all ultimately want? Someone who has our backs and will be there when we really need them?

The dictionary defines romance as: Ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people. I like that definition. One of the most romantic things my husband ever said to me was when I was puking my guts out after an airline flight. Feeling like the scum of the world, I apologized that I’d once again put a damper on our trip by getting airsick (for about the 3,000th time). His response? “You’re the bravest person I know.” In that moment, I felt an ardent emotional attachment that was much greater than if he’d bought me 10 dozen roses and suitcases full of candy.

So what’s the key to having an ardent emotional attachment and involvement? I can think of at least five things.

1. You have to set aside time together. Regularly make a date to get away from jobs, ministry, kids, and the phone. If you’re living in the same house and never interacting, that isn’t ardent emotional attachment.

2. Become each other’s warrior and defender. Stick up for each other in front of the kids, in front of extended family, and in front of your friends. That doesn’t mean that you don’t see the other’s faults and face them, but do that privately after much prayer and thought. On a daily basis, make a commitment to build that person up whenever possible.

3. Return blessings for arrows. Whenever possible, return kindness for unkindness. Not only will it improve your marriage, but it will make you more Christ-like.

4. Talk about everything. If you’re afraid to talk to your spouse about how you really feel about something, you won’t feel an ardent emotional attachment. You’ll feel that you’re placating him so that you don’t have a blow out. That will end up feeling like walking on eggshells after a while. I’d rather see a couple have a shouting match about something they disagree on than refuse to talk about it at all. Every once in a while, my husband and I have a good old yelling match, which lets us know how strongly we’re feeling about the subject, then we calm down and really talk about it.

5. Sincerely desire the other person’s best. Most times that I’m angry with my husband, it’s because I didn’t get my way. When I step back and think about how I can help him be everything he can be in Christ, I feel a lot more compassion for him—indeed I feel an ardent emotional attachment that I would call romance.
What about you? What do you think romance truly is?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Three Questions to Ask Your Spouse

They'll open doors for better communication and a stronger relationship

Margie and Bill faced each other in two living room chairs. Four couples observed as this husband and wife demonstrated a process they share with each other every Saturday morning.
This particular evening was part of a six-week lesson and discussion with our church home fellowship group on building intimacy in marriage.

I glanced at the three-by-five card in my hand. Bill had passed out one to each person. "This is a personal exercise," he announced. "Each partner is responsible for his or her part." The headline read: "Three Questions to Ask Each Other Every Week."
  1. Is there anything that I need to apologize for? (i.e. Did I do anything that hurt you?)
  2. Is there anything you need from me that you're not getting?
  3. How can I be a better spouse?
I noticed my heart rate increase. There might be more here than I bargained for. Sure, I was open to a few tips. Charles and I had just celebrated 26 years of marriage and we could always use a refresher. Even so, a feeling of dread came over me. My husband and I were not the best at communicating about our own relationship. We were much better at evaluating other people's marriages!

I squirmed in my seat as I listened to Margie question Bill and then Bill ask the same of Margie. They were sohonest. Not that I expected them to lie. Of course not. But could we do the same?

To Ask or Not to Ask

On the way home I asked Charles what he thought of the evening. "I don't think we need this process," he said. "We're talkers. We pretty much cover everything on a day-to-day basis."

I nodded, relieved not to wade in any deeper than we were already. And yet, I wanted to try—to see what would come up. My husband has a quick temper and I have a tendency to back off when things get hot so I couldn't predict how these questions would work for us.

And so we let it go, week after week after week. Then one day on a drive to the city, I suggested we test the process. We were in a good place emotionally and it seemed we could "practice" without the risk of a meltdown. He agreed. I started. "Is there anything that I need to apologize for?" I asked.

Charles paused. "I get frustrated by our lack of understanding each other, but it's not usually anything specific you've done."

Whew! I got by easy on that one.

Next question. "Is there anything you need from me that you're not getting?" I sensed the answer before it came.

"I'd like more sexual intimacy. I know it's not like it used to be between us (before his prostate cancer), but I'd like to at least be playful with each other."

"That would be nice, but I'm scared," I replied. "I'm older now and I'm not as interested as I was. I like cuddling in bed and a massage is nice, but …"

"Okay, we can start there."

Relief. We'd gotten past the first two questions and we were still talking. Yeah!
"How can I be a better spouse?" I asked.

"I don't know. You work hard. You're good to me. I'm happy."

Nice to hear—all of it—even the part that had scared me. Now I worried that I might not be able to answer Charles' questions as easily as he answered mine.

My Turn in the Hot Seat

He started with question number one and I was quick to respond that his temper is an ongoing challenge and I need him to apologize when he takes out his anger with others on me. "I want us to talk about that habit and make some changes."

Question number two raised the hair on my arms. "Is there anything you need from me that you're not getting?"

I had a ready answer. "I need simple kindness," I said in a quiet voice. "I'm grateful for all your help, the gardening, ironing, painting, financial management, and your support of my writing but I long for a kind attitude, bits of grace when I'm stressed or worried."

His eyes opened wider. I knew I had picked at a scab. Our viewpoint on kindness differs. He seems to see it as practical acts of help. I view it as an understanding disposition and words of comfort.
And finally, the last question about how to be a better spouse. I told Charles he is a good mate, a willing partner in so many ways that matter, and aside from what I'd said before I didn't have anything to add.

Love—and Then Some

We hugged each other, said, "I love you," and agreed that even though the questions prickle, they also release pent-up anxiety about each other that festers if it's not expressed.

Have we repeated this process every week since? No. But we do talk more often now about the "state of our union" and we ask these and other questions that cover the same terrain. We're moving closer together. In fact, just this morning, I was able to ask Charles for mercy when he spouted his impatience over something trite. He apologized. I accepted it and then he left for a meeting. I don't know how it will be when he returns. But however it is, we'll have a conversation about that.

A marriage partnership, at least for us, is not 24/7 harmony. It's about telling and living in the truth of the moment. The three questions included here can help. They've helped us. But don't stop there. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the questions and answers that work for you. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5, NIV). I can't imagine better advice than that.

Karen O'Connor is a freelance writer and writing mentor from Watsonville, California. 
Visit Karen at

This Week in Christian History

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1863 - President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens..." (Read more)
Read the full article here

1531 - Oeceolampadius, the "House Light"
Today most Protestant churches, at least in the western world, take for granted that those who attend a church should have some say in how it is run. That hasn't always been so. Even when the Protestant Reformation began in the sixteenth century, Luther and other reformers thought that the church ought to be directed primarily by the clergy. The first person to suggest otherwise was a little known reformer... (Read more)
Read the full article here

1654 - Blaise Pascal's conversion
Blaise Pascal of France was a Renaissance man. He was a prominent mathematician, physicist, and inventor. He made important contributions to geometry, calculus, and helped develop the theory of probability. But on November 23, 1654, he experienced a Christian conversion that would cause his outstanding scientific work to take second place in his pursuits... (Read more)
Read the full article here

1963 - Death of C.S. Lewis
November 22, l963 is the date that is remembered around the world and annually recalled on the evening news as the date President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Far less noticed is the fact that another famous twentieth century figure also died on this date. C.S. Lewis (who preferred to be called "Jack") went to be with the Lion named Aslan... (Read more)
Read the full article here

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Word, Church Tradition and EXPERIENCE

May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love... that you may really come to know practically, through experience for yourselves, the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge without experience. (Ephesians 3:17,19).

The Holy Spirit, with all that the gift of the Spirit means of enduement and endowment and instruction and strengthening, is not a substitute for experience. We are very often found asking that certain things shall be done for us by the Holy Spirit which the Holy Spirit will never do. He has to lead us into experience. It is the only way in which He can answer our prayers. Many prayers are answered through experience. You ask the Lord to do something, and He takes you through experience, and you arrive at the answer in that way. You had not meant that, of course: you wanted the Lord to do the thing there and then as a gift, as an act; but that would have been merely objective, something given, whereas He wants to make it a part of yourself, and so He answers prayer by some experience. 'Stedfastness worketh experience', and if there is no experience, what is the good of anybody or anything?

So then, experience is of greater importance than being delivered from tribulation. 'Tribulation worketh experience'. Oh, how often we have asked the Lord why He allowed this and that, or why He did not do this or that. Why did He not hinder Adam from sinning? Why has He not stopped the world in so many things that have had most terrible results? Experience is very largely the answer. Experience is very important because, after all, it is the very quality of service. When we come to real life, and we are really up against things and the issues are of the greatest consequence, we do not want just information, we want experience, and we go where experience can help us. Is that not so? Thus experience is the very body and quality of service and usefulness to the Lord.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Importance and Value of Experience 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

a man's perspective

a man's perspective

Philip Yancey: A Living Stream in the Desert

How the Christian faith will be a subversive—and liberating—influence in the Middle East.
If someone had stood here in Julius Caesar's day and predicted the decline of the mighty Roman Empire and the triumph of an upstart religion founded by a Galilean peasant, he would have been judged a lunatic. As would anyone who stood in the Middle East five centuries later and predicted the downfall of Christianity, by then dominant in places like Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Yet here we are in the 21st century meeting rather furtively in a backyard in an Islamic state, hoping that none of the hired help are eavesdropping. As a visitor, I cannot help wondering why this part of the world, the birthplace and once the center of the Christian faith, became the region most resistant to it.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Aunt Bethany saying grace

This Week in Christian History

Friday, November 19, 2010

1863 - Sarah Hale Gave Us Thanksgiving Day
Sarah Hale used her popular magazines as a forum to advocate America's national day of gratitude to God. She worked tirelessly towards this goal for over fifteen years before Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863. Not a bad track record for a girl educated at home, largely by her own efforts... (Read more)
Read the full article here

1839 - John Williams Martyred on Erromanga
November 20, 1839 - John Williams encountered hostility when he landed on Erromanga, New Hebrides (Vanuatu). He tried to dash back to his ship, but he wasn't quick enough. The missionary who had hoped to feast them with the Gospel became their... (Read more)
Read the full article here

1827 - Henry Alford, Author of "Come Ye Thankful People Come"
Henry Alford is best known as the author of the Thanksgiving hymn "Come Ye Thankful People Come." Among scholars, he is better known for his commentary on the Greek New Testament, on which he labored for... (Read more)
Read the full article here

869 - Enduring Legend of Popular Martyr King
It is said that Edmund was a godly English king. When the Danes invaded in 866, Edmund struggled to hold his little state against them. Upon his capture, he refused to submit to pagan conditions saying that his faith was dearer to him than life, and that he would never purchase his life by offending God. Infuriated, the Danes beat him with sticks, then tied him to a tree and tore his flesh with whips. Next they shot arrows into him until..." (Read more)
Read the full article here

270 - Gregory Worked Wonders
When Gregory became bishop of Neocaesarea in the region of Pontus (modern Turkey) in the year 239, there were only seventeen Christians. When he died (which tradition says happened on November 17, 270), there were only seventeen pagans. That transformation was owing largely to... (Read more)
Read the full article here

Ricky Bobby family dinner or How Not To Pray

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eschatology Matters: Competing Worldviews

Christians aren’t the only ones with a view of the future. Every religion and major social or political movement has an eschatology that effects how they conduct day to day life. In this episode Gary looks at some of the various major eschatological views and the impact they have had on our culture.
Related posts:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The simplicity & spontaneity of ministry

When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:16,17).

Liberty from what? Well, if we turn to the Lord, and are occupied with Him in the way we have indicated, the Holy Spirit sets us free. It may be you are struggling, striving, fighting, wrestling, praying, pleading, longing, yearning, asking the Lord to set you free from condemnation, free from fear, from those paralysing bonds in which Israel was when the glory appeared. Do you want to be free from fear, from dread, from terror, from condemnation? What are you doing to get free? There is one simple, direct way, namely, to be occupied with the Lord, to turn to the Lord. Get Christ as God's satisfaction in your view, and cease trying to satisfy God yourself. Faith in Christ is all God's requirement. How deeply true were His words, "Apart from me ye can do nothing". "Abide in me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me". That is only figurative language, which means, Be occupied with Him, set your mind on Him, dwell in Him, rest in Him, abide in Him; or, as Paul would say, Gaze on Him, behold Him, let Him be the object of your occupation, and the Spirit will make you free.

More than that, this beholding of Christ means that the Holy Spirit changes you into God's likeness: "Beholding... we are changed". It is not said, Beholding, we begin to change ourselves, we embark upon self-transformation with all its struggle, and conflict, and battle. We are changed by the Lord the Spirit. Be occupied with Christ, and the Spirit takes up the matter of transforming into His image. Be occupied with yourself, and you will see that the law of conformity to type operates. If you are the type, then you will conform to that type. If Christ is the type, then the Holy Spirit will conform you to His likeness. Then this being occupied with Christ means that the Holy Spirit makes us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant. I do not think that ministry is such an onerous thing after all. We need to come back to the simplicity, the spontaneity of ministry. Be occupied with Christ, and the Holy Spirit will show you more and more in Christ with which to be occupied, and as He makes that livingly real you will have something to give to others. Your ministry may not be a platform ministry, but it will be ministry, something for others. Who wants more than that? Oh, the snare of the platform idea that so often constitutes the whole conception of ministry, as though other people are not ministers at all. It is just as much your privilege to behold Christ as any man's in this universe, and, that being so, it is just as much your calling to minister what you see in Christ to others.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: Spiritual Ministry - Chapter 3
From "A Witness and A Testimony" magazines, 1937-1938

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hilary Swank Visits Prison Fellowship

November 11, 2010
Star of 'Conviction' was present for screening at evangelical ministry

Hilary Swank, who plays the lead role in Convictionrecently visited the Washington headquarters of Prison Fellowship for a screening of the film. She is working with the ministry to spread the word about prisoners wrongly convicted of crimes.

In the film, she plays the role of Betty Anne Waters, whose brother Kenny spent 18 years in prison after wrongfully being convicted of murder. Betty Anne went to law school and spent almost two decades trying to prove his innocence before DNA evidence cleared him in 2001, and he was released.

Just before her appearance at Prison Fellowship, Swank told The Washington Post that since the film released, she had met 12 former inmates who had been exonerated, and that all of them spoke of "having found faith in prison, that it was what got them through their ordeal and the circumstances.”

Swank said she regards the film and Waters' story as "such a story of faith. Faith in this other person, the faith that Kenny had in his sister that made her feel loved, to continue on. It was this beautiful circle that they gave each other, this unshakable love. And you know, that faith can be compared in myriad ways: to having faith in a higher power, faith in trusting your future, having hope." She also mentioned "the power of faith" and that the film "is a great way to continue to spread the word" about those wrongly imprisoned. She has worked with Waters and The Innocence Project to that end.

America's changing perception of Mormons

Once portrayed as country bumpkins, LDS saw a shift after the 1893 World's Fair

Published: Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 11:31 p.m. MST

PROVO — First they were portrayed as liars, deluded country bumpkins and blasphemers. Then, Mormons were philanderers with multiple wives and malevolent motives. But America's perception of Mormonism dramatically shifted at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago when the relatively new Mormon Tabernacle Choir dazzled the crowd and the judges, earning a silver medal and requests for national tours.
"Suddenly, Mormons weren't just legitimate, they were popular," explained University ofRichmond professor and religious scholar Terryl Givens during his lecture, "Fraud, Philanderers and Football: Negotiating the Mormon Image," at the first Mormon Media Conference Thursday and Friday at BYU.
However, in a religious gathering at that same world's fair, Mormons were deliberately not invited. Petitions for an invitation were eventually granted, but LDS apostle B.H. Roberts was not allowed to present his paper as were other delegates.
"(America) will let Mormons sing and dance ... win all the slots on 'So You Think You Can Dance?' keep the NFL supplied with a steady stream of quarterbacks, and they're pretty good in a disaster too," Givens said. "But as Charles Dickens said, 'What Mormons do seems to be excellent ... but what they say is mostly nonsense.'"
From the beginning, early public perception of Mormonism was rarely if ever informed by theological beliefs or doctrine. Instead, critics were too busy belittling the culture or reviling the leaders, Givens said, "invalidating the message without a hearing."
Early church missionaries were often unprepared against polished clergymen and left the debates beaten without ever getting to doctrine.
In fact, in order to keep a safe moral distance, the American public developed a false sense of radical differences between themselves and the Mormons, Givens said.
In 1861, two scientists at the New Orleans Academy of Science went so far as to describing the physical characteristics of Mormons: "the yellow, sunken, cadaverous visage; the greenish colored eyes; the thick protuberant lips, the low forehead ... constitute an appearance so characteristic of the new race as to distinguish them at a glance."
Despite such maligning rumors, Mormons did little to combat them, Givens said. In fact, most felt that such alienation and persecution reminded them of God's favor and helped them create greater unity among themselves.
"Their response was to engage in the debate according to the terms of the attackers," he said. "They were rather reticent to lead with those doctrines that tended to be most differentiating and polarizing. That seems to clearly be the pattern of early church public affairs, and to some extent, continued ever since."
However, early LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt was far from reticent. In response to "Mormonism Unveiled," a religious leader's pamphlet that criticized LDS doctrines like spiritual gifts, visitations by angels and the deification of man, Pratt responded with a pamphlet of the same title.
"Yes Mormonism will be unveiled," Givens said, imitating Pratt, "but we will do the unveiling."
"What Pratt accomplished with his pamphlet, he forced the conversation to theology," Givens continued. "He was leading with an unabashed presentation of the doctrines that differentiated Mormonism from those others in the arena."
Pratt believed that while there was much that united Mormons with those of other faiths, Mormons shouldn't be afraid to stand up and share their differences.
"As Mormons we almost shy away from our faith," Amy Roskelley, a BYU senior in media arts said after the lecture. "We need to be bolder, be brave about the differences. It's nice to be told it's okay to be different."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Atheist Ministers Struggle With Leading the Faithful

Two Active Ministers Say They No Longer Believe in God but No One Knows


Nov. 9, 2010 —

"I am an atheist," says "Jack," a Southern Baptist with more than 20 years in ministry.
"I live out my life as if there is no God," says "Adam," who is part of the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church in the Bible Belt.
The two, who asked that their real identities be protected, are pastors who have lost their faith. And these two men, who have built their careers and lives around faith, say they now feel trapped, living a lie.
"I spent the majority of my life believing and pursuing this religious faith, Christianity," Jack said. "And to get to this point in my life, I just don't feel like I believe anymore."
"The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had," Jack said. "The more things didn't make sense to me -- what it said -- and the more things didn't add up."
Jack said that 10 years ago, he started to feel his faith slipping away. He grew bothered by inconsistencies regarding the last days of Jesus' life, what he described as the improbability of stories like "Noah's Ark" and by attitudes expressed in the Bible regarding women and their place in the world.
"Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God," he said.
He said it was difficult to continue to work in ministry. "I just look at it as a job and do what I'm supposed to do," he said. "I've done it for years."
Adam said his initial doubts about God came as he read the work of the so-called New Atheists -- popular authors like the prominent scientist Richard Dawkins. He said the research was intended to help him defend his faith.
"My thinking was that God is big enough to handle any questions that I can come up with," he said but that did not happen.
"I realized that everything I'd been taught to believe was sort of sheltered," Adam said, "and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies. ... I thought, 'Oh my gosh. Am I believing the wrong things? Have I spent my entire life and my career promoting something that is not true?'"
He said he feared for his salvation and soul. "In that point where I realized I was losing my faith yet I still feared for my own salvation, I asked God to take my life before I lost my faith," Adam said.
Adam said he now considers himself an "atheistic agnostic." "I don't think we can prove that there is not a God or that there is a God," he said. "I live out my life as if there is no God."
He and Jack said that when speaking to parishioners, they tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that they still believed in -- the parts about being a good person. Both said that they would like to leave their jobs though they can't afford to.
"I want to get out of the position that I'm in as quickly as I can because I try to be a person of integrity and character," Adam said. "With the economy the way it is, with my lack of marketable skills other than a seminary education, it has me in a tough spot."

Atheism Secret 'Going to Be Devastating'

Jack said that his secret left him feeling isolated but that he would certainly lose a lot of friends when he professed to no longer being a Christian. His wife doesn't know and he said it was possible he could lose her as well.
"It's going to be very confusing for her," Jack said. "It's going to be very devastating and it's going to take us a while to work through it."
Adam said his wife knew that he was struggling with his faith but not that he had lost it completely.
"It's a very tough situation to be in," he said. "I can't think of another career that is so dramatically affected by a change in one's opinions or thoughts."
"At first I feared if I lose my faith, I'm gonna become some terrible person," Adam said. "As I lost my faith ... I realized that really had no bearing on who I am and my character and my actions. I live no differently than I did when I was a fervent believer."
Adam and Jack were included in a report by philosopher Daniel Dennett, a professor at Tufts University and well-known atheist, and his co-researcher, Linda LaScola. They are continuing their research into non-believing clergy. ABC News contacted the two pastors through Dennett and LaScola, verified their identities and positions, and interviewed them separately.
Copyright © 2010 ABC News Internet Ventures

Monday, November 8, 2010

Who Is The Antichrist?

Through the years there have been many theories on the identity of “The Antichrist“. The common belief held by many Christians today looks quite different than what you actually find in the Bible. How important is it to have a correct eschatology and does it really matter?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010