Sky Links 3-17-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Rip the heavens apart!  Come down, Lord; make the mountains tremble. 
-Isaiah 64:1 (CEV)

Your Kids Are Too Clean

Children need microbes — not antibiotics — to develop immunity, scientists say
-Brandie Weikle

Yes, it’s important to wash your hands. It’s critical during cold and flu season and especially if you visit someone at the hospital.

The problem is — in the West at least — parents have taken the business of keeping clean way too far.

New science shows that blasting away tiny organisms called microbes with our hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps and liberal doses of antibiotics is having a profoundly negative impact on our kids’ immune systems, says microbiologist Marie-Claire Arrieta, co-author of a new book called Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Our Children from an Oversanitized World.

The assistant professor at the University of Calgary, along with her co-author, esteemed microbiologist Brett Finlay, make the case that we’re raising our kids in a cleaner, more hyper-hygienic environment than ever before. They say that overdoing it the way we are is contributing to a host of chronic conditions ranging from allergies to obesity. I chatted with Arrieta recently to find out more.

The Cinderella of the Church is The Prayer Meeting

6 Lessons Leonard Ravenhill Taught Me
By Mark Dance

The privilege of knowing Leonard Ravenhill as a teenager was nothing less than a sovereign surprise. Ravenhill was a British evangelist and writer whose quotes on prayer and revival still pop up in sermons and on social media. God crossed our paths during the most impressionable years of my life.

Here are six lessons I learned from this wonderful man of God.

1. Invest In Young People

2. Pray With Conviction

3. Pray In Unity

4. Great Worship Trumps Great Music

5. Anger is Not Always a Sin

6. Prayer is More Caught Than Taught

Figuring Out Your Calling/Purpose/Passion

Is This Japanese Concept the Secret to a Long, Happy, Meaningful Life?
-Laura Oliver

What’s your reason for getting up in the morning? Just trying to answer such a big question might make you want to crawl back into bed. If it does, the Japanese concept of ikigai could help.

Originating from a country with one of the world's oldest populations, the idea is becoming popular outside of Japan as a way to live longer and better.

While there is no direct English translation, ikigai is thought to combine the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live”, and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for”. Together these definitions create the concept of “a reason to live” or the idea of having a purpose in life.

When Your Church Has No Building

A Place To Call Home?
-Andrew Hamilton

I’m really reluctant to lead any bunch of people on a building project in this day and age, partly because it is such an all consuming thing, but it also moves me from ‘pastor’ to ‘fund raiser’ – a man with mixed motives… Its unavoidable when large sums of money come into play. And costs do tend blow out… just a bit…

So I’m pondering… and praying… wondering what’s next? What shape will our missionary endeavours take in the barren outer suburbs? Those planting in established areas with plenty of community buildings may yet experience the struggle to find space too, but when there’s no space available anywhere the question becomes ‘what now?’

I’m up for creative thinking and exploring new options – maybe there are possibilities we just haven’t seen.

Oddly enough in a recent conversation with a mate we were discussing the value of being a physical presence in the community – being seen – being there – being present. He suggested that a church that meets in a local facility often ‘doesn’t exist’ in the minds of the community, and perhaps even in the minds of the church people themselves.

How The Fastest Growing Churches In The World Are Multiplying

-Beth Stolicker

We’ve been hearing how the Church in Iran is the fastest growing church in the world. But the shape of the Church is actually underground and in the form of numerous, individual house churches—and the Iranian government wants to shut them down.

Ironically, the Iranian government created this underground movement when it made it illegal for Farsi speakers to attend physical churches. When that happened, everyone became an evangelist and house churches began popping up across the country.

“One of the leaders we met, he said, ‘I used to have 100 people that came to my church and when they closed the Farsi speaking churches, now we had 100 house churches and 100 house church planters’…so when they shut one down, they just create five more,” Heart4Iran’s *David shares.

Now, those believers are being persecuted. Iran is ranked #10 on Open Doors USA’s **World Watch List. But, there’s also a disconnect amongst believers in Iran. Most of them think they’re alone.

Perseverance and Courage Are The Thing

-Alvin Reid

Why is it that many of the most intelligent people –– those who crush the SAT, have a GPA over 4.0, and excel in so many areas –– don’t necessarily become the most effective or successful people in life? Why is it that some who were told they weren’t talented enough (Michael Jordan famously in early high school, and so on), or smart enough, or skilled enough, often become leaders in their fields?

I see this in ministry. Some of the more average students academically I’ve taught have gone on to have remarkable ministries, while some of the most gifted when starting seminary flamed out before earning their degree. It’s not always the case, but it’s too common to miss. I see it in doctoral students: why do some start, move through seminars, and knock out their dissertation, while so many hit the wall after classes and either take forever or never finish their work?

It’s because of something you can’t measure in an SAT or a GRE. It’s something beyond people skills, emotional intelligence, and natural talent. It’s something scholar Angela Duckworth calls GRIT.

Yes, grit. Passion and perseverance beyond the ordinary. The work ethic required to do the menial and hard when no one is watching. Watch the short TED talk below to get an idea (it may be the best 6 minutes you spend today). Or, if you have time, watch the longer video as well.

How does one develop grit? It’s missing so often in everyone from executives to pastors. It’s too rare and too underrated, while surface ability and grades on a test often get rated too highly.

A Hazardous Job

In Isolated World of Pastors, Churches Mum on Troubling Clergy Suicides
-Leonardo Blair

Dr. Jared Pingleton, vice-president of professional development at the American Association of Christian Counselors, who is a licensed clinical psychologist and a credentialed minister, said of the suicide rate among clergy, "I wouldn't be surprised if it's not at least as high as the general population. I wouldn't be surprised if it's higher."...

...Pingleton explained that the reluctance of churches to openly discuss suicide and other mental health issues is one of the reasons the problem endures.

"I attribute what you experienced to what I called the unholy trifecta — silence, shame and stigma — about mental health issues and especially suicide being the chief of those, there is a deafening silence," he said.

"And there is pervasive shame which causes us to hide from Genesis 3 on, and then there is this consistent stigma for mental and relational health problems, because suicide is a relational thing. It's not just a mental thing. It is often referred to as the ultimate act of self-centeredness, for example, or the ultimate act of last revenge, to play the quintessential or penultimate guilt trip on one's loved ones," he continued.

"We need to end the silence, eradicate the shame and erase the stigma because there's still so much [to deal with]. It's against the rules to struggle in a church. You just don't have enough faith, you don't read the Bible enough, you need to pray more. We would never say that to somebody with diabetes or cancer or that you shouldn't take medication," he said.

A 2014 LifeWay study found that 66 percent of Protestant senior pastors seldom discuss issues of mental health with their congregations. That number includes 49 percent who rarely or never address the issue. Just 16 percent speak about mental illness once a year while 22 percent are reluctant to help those who suffer from acute mental illness because it takes too much time.

Whitewash The Tombs

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity.  In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
-Matt 23:25-28

Perhaps the greatest sin is hypocrisy.  Check yourself for it.  Jesus called this one sin out. 

Public hypocrisy angered Jesus more that private sin.  Why?  Search for Jesus saying, "Woe to you", to any other group.

Jesus took issue with the hypocrites for appearing righteous without being righteous.  Why is hypocrisy so bad, so insidious, and the one thing that Jesus castigated people for?

Religious hypocrisy is, in practice, God-mocking atheism.  Jesus is exposing people who are pretenders, fakes, frauds, and deceivers; who pretend to be real but are counterfeits.  

Hypocrites praise God, they feign worship and piety, while pretending that God does not know the truth of their life, in their hearts.  Hypocrisy is insidious because it keeps us out of touch with God's grace.  Hypocrisy ruins a persons soul, because it blocks out righteousness from Christ and lives in the play-acting world.

The group that made Jesus angriest were the people that he resembled.  Jesus also obeyed the Mosaic Law and quoted the teachers of the law (Mark 9:11-12; 12:28-34), but he verbally attacked the Pharisees as hypocrites.

Why would Jesus be so mad at people who extolled family values, tithed, and devoted their lives to Bible study?  Legalism is not authentic spirituality.  Their expressions of love for God were only ways to impress others.

The proof of spiritual maturity is not how “pure” you are but your awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to God’s grace.
-Philip Yancey

The road to perdition is trying to look good rather than be good, caring more about how others see you than developing moral values that you live by.

To be a hypocrite is to give others the impression that we are holier than we actually are. It is the same as being false, or telling a lie. Jesus pronounced a curse on hypocrites seven times in Mt. 23:13-29. It is possible to tell a lie without even opening our mouths. Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit without saying a word - when he pretended to be a wholehearted disciple of Jesus (Acts 5:1-5).

Jesus told the Pharisees that their inner life was ""full of self indulgence"" (Mt. 23:25) - which meant that they lived only to please themselves. Yet they gave others the impression that because they knew the Scriptures well and fasted and prayed and tithed their income, they were very holy. They appeared very pious externally. They prayed lengthy prayers in public, but they did not pray at length in private - just like many today. It is hypocrisy if we praise God only on Sunday mornings, but do not have a spirit of praise in our hearts at all times. God looks at our hearts.
-Zac Poonen

It has been said that hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core. While Jesus makes it perfectly clear that hypocrisy is morally wrong, why is it? Why are hypocrites especially despised by others? Sometimes we hear people say, “I may have this shortcoming or that, but at least I’m not a hypocrite.” As we have seen, hypocrisy involves: dishonesty, deception, and self-deception. It is insincere and disrespectful of others. It is unjust because a hypocrite attempts to receive good by doing bad. It kills the moral spirit by undermining the incentive to live morally. It flouts God’s standards.

We could say that hypocrisy is hydra-headed; it is many sins in one. No wonder it justifies the extreme repugnance that it provokes or the strong resistance we have in being accused of hypocrisy.
-Steven C. Riser

We read Jesus calling people hypocrites and read that as saying that they said one thing, but did another.  That may be true and may be part of what Jesus is saying.  But the hypocrite charge, used in Matthew 23, by Jesus, is actually worse.

I learned and you may have also learned that the word that is written here means 'play actor' or one that wears a mask, a fake, a fraud.  In a word, Jesus was calling the Pharisees here, 'frauds'.  Frauds say one thing and do another.  They are liars, two-faced.

A 'play-actor' plays a part which is assumed for the occasion, who is not their true self.  Jesus was not saying that all Pharisees for all time are hypocrites, but that these particular ones were.

Jesus' hypocrisy charge was worse than that these ones were just fakes.   They were false teachers.

Jesus says, in a sense, "You frauds!", and then lays out seven charges or indictments.  These people were worthy of the charge and we need to understand what Jesus meant, in order to identify what or who this sort of fraud is today.

This is a note I wrote, while listening the Scot McKnight: "Jesus' hypocrisy charge against the Pharisees is not best understood as a contradiction between what a person teaches and what they do, BUT was that they were false teachers, leading people away from God's will, God's true will."

Jesus called these Pharisees 'whitewashed tombs'.  At that time, they would paint and repaint tombs, so that people would not touch them, and become unclean.  The whitewash did not attract you, but repulsed you.

Jesus was saying to these guys, that they beautified their outward appearance, but that this was actually a sign that on the inside, they were corrupt.  The way that they taught had a positive or attractive presentation, but was dead, below the surface.  In other words, their hearts and souls were bad.  In legal terms, they had bad faith.

The bad faith charge means that their way that they taught in not the way of God, not the way of Christ.  Their way is immoral, in that ultimately they are the law unto themselves.  They are making it up as they go.  They were, at best, majoring in the minors.

Alexander MacLaren wrote this:
So He would say, with terrible irony, that the apparent holiness of the rulers was really a sign of corruption, and a warning to keep away from them. What a blow at their self-complacency! And how profoundly true it is that the more punctiliously white the hypocrite’s outside, the more foul is he within, and the wider berth will all discerning people give him! The terrible force of the figure needs no dwelling on. In Christ’s estimate, such a soul was the very dwelling-place of death; and foul odours and worms and corruption filled its sickening recesses. Terrible words to come from His lips into which grace was poured, and bold words to be flashed at listeners who held the life of the Speaker in their hands! There are two sorts of hypocrites, the conscious and the unconscious; and there are ten of the latter for one of the former, and each ten times more dangerous. Established religion breeds them, and they are specially likely to be found among those whose business is to study the documents in which it is embodied. These woes are not like thunder-peals rolling above our heads, while the lightning strikes the earth miles away. A religion which is mostly whitewash is as common among us as ever it was in Jerusalem; and its foul accompaniments of corruption becoming more rotten every year, as the whitewash is laid on thicker, may be smelt among us, and its fatal end is as sure.

This is what NT Wright wrote about Matthew 23:
Jesus' criticisms were primarily against those of his own time who, he could see, were leading Israel astray, causing Israel to look in the wrong direction, at the very moment when its hour, and indeed its Messiah, had come.  The main reason he is taking the trouble to denounce them in such detail is because they are distracting attention from the crucial moment  Their particular failings are simply extra evidence that they are not in fact the true guides that Israel needs at this fateful moment in its history.

Equally, some have supposed that Jesus, whom we think of as kindly and loving, could never have denounced anyone, least of all his fellow-Jews, in such sharp tones...  This present chapter consists, in fact, as a solemn, almost ritual, denunciation of them for their hollow piety and misguided teaching.

Anyone who supposes, however, that these failings were, or are, confined to one religion, culture, or group should look at their own society, and (alas) at their own church, and think again...

...There were saints in that tradition, all right.

But we have every reason to suppose that there were many, probably the majority, who went along for the ride, or more particularly the political agenda that the Pharisees adopted.  They like the idea about being rigorous about the Torah because it suited their nationalistic ambitions.  But when it came to the actual moral and religious struggle to make the inside of the house match the outside, they hadn't even begun.

Once again, this whole attack on the Pharisees only makes sense within the larger picture which Matthew is drawing.  Jesus is on his way to accomplish the real covenant renewal (see 26:28) which all the Pharisees' intensification of Torah could not achieve...  It would be a bad mistake to read a chapter like this as simply a moral denunciation.  It would be still worse to read it as a moral denunciation of somebody else.  That's halfway to committing the very mistake that's being attacked.

Having said that, we shouldn't miss the note which emerges at the end, and points to what is to follow.  Jesus sees the present self-styled teachers of the law as fitting in exactly to the pattern of previous generations:  killing the prophets and truly righteous people of old.  

How do I sum this all up?  The Pharisees Jesus castigated were the Puritans of their day.  They were high minded in their brand of separatism, but at the core, they were corrupt murderers.

Just like the Puritans who executed other believers they branded as heretics, the Pharisees had that kind of corruption.  The irony is that such a religion is a true heresy against God.

Take a look at how Christians have persecuted other Christians throughout history and into today.  Disavow it and don't be a part of it.

Perhaps the worst people are those who claim to represent God, but do not.  They do not fool God and they are some of the only recipients of excoriation by Jesus.

Jesus' lament over Jerusalem, that ends Matthew 23, is one of the most poignant and revealing statements in the Bible.  He came to save a people who despised, rejected, and killed him.

Today, Jesus is still calling people out of the 'Christian in name only' religion, that rejects the living Christ.

Jesus calls us to a life that is being transformed on the inside and might look messy or not make sense on the outside.  We are transparent and don't have all the answers, ask a lot of questions, are loved, and trust God no matter what.  We are little people with a big God.  We are inviters, includers, gracious, and hospitable.  And we know how to rest in Christ.  We are generous, forgivers, optimistic, and dreamers.  And we live with God and each other in the reality of the already and the not yet of the kingdom.


Whitewashed Tombs, by Richard Phillips
Our Daily Bread, 9-21-09, Philip Yancey
Matthew For Everyone, NT Wright, pp. 104-07
The New Testament Era, Bo Reicke, pp. 156-63

The painting above:

Brooklyn Museum - Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) - James Tissot (1836-1902)

Sky Links, 3-10-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Each new day, make sure that justice is done, and rescue those who are being robbed. Or else my anger will flame up like a fire that never goes out.
-Jeremiah 21:12 (CEV)

Iran: Christians Held in Notorious Evin Prison ‘Will never be the same’
-World Watch Monitor

There was hope among Iranian Christians that the mass protests earlier this year could effect change for them, but they continue to be harassed and imprisoned on spurious charges.

An Iranian convert to Christianity, Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, who recently lost his appeal against a 10-year sentence for “missionary activities”, was reportedly moved to the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran two weeks ago – the same prison where two other Christians, Majidreza Souzanchi Kushani and Fatimeh Mohammadi (both members of the self-styled “Church of Iran”), have also been held since their arrest on 17 November last year.

According to the advocacy group Middle East Concern, Kushani was charged with “disrupting national security” by being a member of an evangelical Christian group, for which he could receive a prison sentence of between two and ten years.

Glenn Beck Chokes Up Over His Recollection of When Billy Graham Defended Him

“I remember five years ago, your father asked me some very pointed questions,” Beck outlined at one point during the discussion. “And somebody in the room said, ‘Just a reminder, he’s Mormon.’ And your father turned to the individual and said, ‘I know.'”

“And he looked back at me and said—we were talking about a certain subject—and he said, ‘Tell me how you know that came from Christ,'” he recalled. “And I told him.”

“And he (Graham) looked back to the other individual and said, ‘He sure sounds Christian to me,'” Beck said.

Ruth Graham nodded her head and smiled.

Beck then fell silent as he became visibly moved in recounting the story.

Moments later, after gathering himself, he turned to Ruth and asked, “How do we get people to play nice with each other?”

“Oh, Glenn,” she replied, taking a deep breath. “I don’t know. We have such division. We have such rancor, not only in our political world, but in our Christian world, our religious world. And I know that breaks Jesus’ heart.”

Ruth said that she characterizes herself as being a person of inclusion.

“I just love people. I don’t want to draw lines. I want to include people,” she stated. “And if in that inclusion, I gather in some black sheep, well and good. But I’d rather err on the side of grace than I would on judgment. I just am not going to stand in judgment of other people.”

What a Glorious Day — My Friend Billy Graham’s Homegoing
-James Robison

I called Billy on one occasion and scolded him for cooperating with so many different Christian groups. He said something to me then that led to an amazing change in my life.

He said, “Do you know these Christians you are telling me to avoid?” I said, “No I don’t.” He said, “Well I do, and I have found them to be in love with Jesus.” And then the sentence that triggered what I believe was a miraculous and very important change. He said, “I suggest you spend time with those you’ve been taught to avoid.”


I did it. This Baptist evangelist began to spend time with Pentecostals and Charismatics, and even went to some of them and asked forgiveness for the unkind way I might have addressed some of the differences we seemed to have.

The miracle? Not only were those individuals I befriended impacted by the fact I came at Billy’s suggestion, but Iwas impacted. Iron began to sharpen iron. Essential friction took place with the powerful aid of Holy Spirit oil.

Today, I am watching major church leaders from various denominational groups come together in supernatural unity, praying for the great awakening we must witness.

Billy Graham was used of God to birth that in my heart.

-William Farrell, with John Gray

Dad deprivation is the main hole in the heart common to boys vulnerable to gangs and to boys targeted by sexual predators.  It was also common to boys recruited by Hitler for Hitler Youth.  And boys too alienated to be recruited by others may recruit themselves-- as, for example, lone school shooters...

...Boys with minimal or no father involvement more frequently suffer from an addiction to immediate gratification. For example, with minimal or no father involvement there is a much greater likelihood of video game addiction, more ADHD, worse grades in every subject, less empathy, less assertiveness (but more aggression), fewer social skills, more alienation and loneliness, more obesity, rudderlessness, anger, drugs, drinking, delinquency, disobedience, depression and suicide. (IFS interview I)

...Boys are even more vulnerable to broken families than girls. In addition to it usually being their role model who is disappearing, studies of children years after divorce report moms of divorce are five times as likely to bad-mouth the dads as vice versa. So a boy’s attachment to his role model often becomes precarious.

Making marriages better serves everyone. Many couples with children who are legally married are psychologically divorced. Divorces are due less to problems with money, sex or children, and more to each partner feeling that her or his perspectives on money, sex, or children are rarely heard. When our partner airs her or his perspective, we often take it as criticism, and the Achilles’ heel of human beings is our inability to handle personal criticism from a loved one without becoming defensive.

That is, we have a “love dilemma”: while “falling in love” is biologically natural, sustaining love is biologically unnatural. For our children to not fear marriage, then, they need to see that their parents have learned how to do what does not come naturally: sustain love.

This creates the greatest single opportunity for the most radical solution to the boy crisis: parental modeling of how to sustain love. (IFS interview, II)

William Farrell: The Boy Crisis

Helping Children Learn to Manage Emotions
-Tyler Jacobson

Model healthy emotional self-regulation.

Children are keen observers and they will emulate what you do. If you yell, they learn to yell. Speak respectfully and they’ll copy that. Your own behavior can go a long way towards negating or reinforcing whatever habits you’re trying to teach your kids. So instead of yelling or making intimidating remarks when angry or upset, model healthy behavior by taking time out to calm down and act rationally. Doing this in front of your child helps them learn emotional regulation and self-control.
Acknowledge and validate your child’s emotions.

Learn to acknowledge your child’s or teen’s feelings even if they make you uncomfortable or you think they are unreasonable. Be empathetic instead of judgmental and use statements that reflect their emotions back to them like “That must have made you angry” or “You seem sad”. This validates their feelings and makes them feel understood.

Acknowledging and validating your child’s feelings sends a message that their emotions are important. They learn that having emotions might be uncomfortable but not dangerous. Consequently, they start accepting and processing their emotions instead of bottling them up, eventually gaining better emotional awareness and control.

The World's Nicest McDonald's 

Dan Rockwell: Find Your Tennis Ball

Saudi Crown Prince Shocks Islamists With Bold Moves in Egypt
-Thomas Lifson

It is hard to overstate the significance of a hugely symbolic move by the reformist crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). American media mostly are clueless about religion and lack any understanding of the momentous changes underway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the full support of the Trump administration. The fact that MbS is reputed to be close to Jared Kushner seals the deal: the mainstream media have little interest in extolling the world-historical transition underway in the nation that is pre-eminent in Sunni Islam, the Guardian of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, and which has been the moneybags for radical jihadists for three generations.

Why Read Philemon? Ten Reasons
-Scot McKnight

...We may not have slavery as some cultures today but we’ve got status differentials not unlike slavery.

Racism, white nationalism, populism, elitism, marginalization, power differential, economic privilege, economic power, political power … I could go on but I leave you to fill in the blanks. Paul’s letter to Philemon addresses each of these and many more situations.

  1. Slavery has immediate connections to our world.
  2. Power is perennially a problem.
  3. Reconciliation is the message.
  4. Decision is the implication.
  5. The way of empire is not the way of Christ.
  6. The church is the location of kingdom realities taking form.
  7. Churches need to perform the letter.
  8. Persuasion can be gentle.
  9. An example of how to read a book in the Bible.
  10. A marginalized letter (appendix to Colossians) with a marginalized voice.

The Problem with Christian Music
-Josh Keefe

Benny Hinn Says He’s Guilty of Taking the Prosperity Gospel Outside of What the Bible Teaches

Yesterday, televangelist Benny Hinn recorded an extended Facebook Live video (the comments start around the 9:30 mark), discussing the legacy of Billy Graham, who died yesterday at the age of 99. And, along with talking about Graham’s influence on himself and his ministry, Hinn also got surprisingly candid about his philosophy on the so-called “prosperity gospel.”

Though he said, “We get attacked for preaching prosperity, well it’s in the Bible,” he continued, “But I think some have gone to the extreme with it sadly, and it’s not God’s word what is taught, and I think I’m as guilty as others. Sometimes you go a little farther than you really need to go and then God brings you back to normality and reality.”

Where Are The Movie Stars?
-Seth Godin

I'm sitting in a crowded lobby in Los Angeles, surrounded by 100 or so people. Not one of them looks like a movie star. No one has perfect hair, a perfect family, a perfect life.

I'm at a fancy conference in Boulder. There are a thousand CEOs and founders here. Not one is gliding through her day the way the folks on magazine covers are. Not one has a glitch-free project and the clear sailing that the articles imply.

And here, at the gym in Yonkers, I'm not seeing a single person who looks like he could be on the cover of Men's Health.

Role models are fine. But not when they get in the way of embracing our reality. The reality of not enough time, not enough information, not enough resources. The reality of imperfection and vulnerability.

There are no movie stars. Merely people who portray them now and then.

Listen Up: What to Say to Hurting People

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
-James 1:19

I grew up not knowing how to listen.  As I read Robbie Miller Kaplan's book, "How to Say it When You Don't Know What to Say", I laughed very hard every time I read the lists of what not to say, because these are exactly what I learned, when I was young.  Some of them are just wrong and some are well meaning, but fall short.

A long time ago, I had a desire to be a better friend and a better listener.  So, I began a journey to learn.  The first book I picked up was The Friendship Factor.  I don't remember anything from that book, except that something inside me wanted to be a better friend and a better listener.

A couple months ago, I picked up this book and it is filled with practical wisdom I agree with and want to take note of.

As are all my posts, this is for me, to remember.  And this is for people, like me, who want to be better and do better

The format here is first, what not to say; and then the better way to listen and what to say.  I cover my notes on 11 or 12 topics, with general listening skills at the end.  In her book, Robbie covers about 20 topics.

My notes from:
How To Say It When You Don't Know What To Say, by Robbie Miller Kaplan

Do not say this to someone who is going through disappointment:
  • It could be worse.
  • It is for the best.
  • You will get over it.
  • This is nothing in the scheme of things: not a big deal.
Instead, do or say these things:
  • Give them a hug.
  • Send them an encouraging note.
  • Acknowledge how hard they worked.
  • Tell them you love them.
  • Let them know that their efforts and focus were not in vain.
  • "I'm proud of you!"
  • "Great job!"
  • "I'm sorry this didn't work out for you."
  • "You inspire me!"

Do not say this to someone who has to put their loved one in long term care:
  • He/she does not even know you are there.
  • I would not want to end up like that.
  • What a burden for you.
Instead, say these things:
  • "I think you are doing a great job."
  • "I would love to see you both."
  • "What can I do to help?"
  • "Would you like some company?"
Pro tip:
  • Offer to install a bird feeder or bird bath at a window accessible to the cared for and caregiver. 

Do not say these things to someone with financial troubles:
  • How could you have let this happen?
  • I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.
  • I told you this would happen.
Instead, say these things:
  • I am sorry this is happening.
  • This must be very difficult for you.
And do these things:
  • Invite them over for a home-cooked meal.
  • Continue to socialize, but in low-cost activities.
  • Give them a gift card
  • Instead of going out to lunch, have them over for lunch or offer to prepare and take them on a picnic.

Do not say these things to someone who is out of work:
  • Did you find a job yet?
  • Don't be lazy.
  • I'm sure you'll find something quick.
  • Take what you can get and don't be too choosy.
Instead, say these things:
  • Explore all your options.
  • How are you doing?
  • I love you and I'll help you in any way I can.
  • I'm sorry this happened.

Do not say this to someone going through divorce:
  • You always seemed so happy, you were such a great couple.
  • Have you tried praying? (Did you know God hates divorce?)
  • I never liked _______ anyway.
Instead, say this:
  • You are not a failure.
  • I am here for you in any way you need me.
  • How can I help you?
  • I'm sorry this happened.
  • It's ok to be angry.
  • I love you and will support you through this.
  • You are doing great.

Do not say this to someone who is separated.
  • Didn't you see it coming?
  • Drop him/her.  Good riddance.
  • Have you been to counseling?
  • I predicted this.
  • I never liked _____.
  • You don't deserve this.
Instead, say this:
  • How are you doing?
  • I care about you.
  • I miss you.
  • I am here for you, here to talk if you want to.
  • It's ok to feel sad.
  • Let's get together on _____.
  • I really don't know how you feel.
  • You can count on me.
  • Take all the time you need.

Do not say these things to a physically handicapped person:
  • Do you mind telling me what happened?
  • How long have you been like this?
  • It must be tough.
  • It's unfortunate that you have that.
Instead, say this:
  • How can I be most helpful?
  • Please let me know what would make you most comfortable.
  • What do I need to know about to accommodate your wheelchair?
Pro tip:
  • Before you say anything to a person with a disability, ask yourself if this is appropriate commentary for an able-bodied person.  If you would say the same thing to an able-bodied person, then it is probably appropriate to say to a person with a disability.

Do not say these things to someone with a special needs child:
  • "God will only give you what you can handle."
  • "What kind of life will he/she have?"
  • "When will he/she be normal?"
  • Do not second-guess their parenting skills with comments.
Instead, say this:
  • We love you all.
  • This must be really rough for you.
  • Give yourself some time.
  • You are in my heart and prayers.
  • This is really hard.
  • It's ok to hope for more.

What not to say to adoptive parents:
  • Are they real sisters/brothers?
  • Aren't you nice for doing that.
  • Can't you have children of your own?
  • Do your kids know?
  • How could their real mother give them away?
  • How much did it cost?
Instead, say this:
  • Congratulations!
  • I am so happy for you!
  • How exciting!
  • What can I do to help?
  • What lucky parents to have such a wonderful child!
  • What wonderful news!
Pro tips:
  • Do approach the family with kindness.  Chill on the questions.
  • Send flowers on the day that they receive the child.
  • Refer to the child as their daughter or son (not "adopted").
  • Insensitive attention or questions can be hurtful.
  • Adoption is another way of becoming a family, nothing less.
  • Anticipate anxiety, fear, joy, nervousness, uncertainty, and lots of vulnerability.

Don't say these things to someone struggling with infertility:
  • All I have to do is look at my husband.
  • Go away for a romantic weekend.
  • Don't try too hard.
  • Relax.
  • Who's fault is it?
Instead, say this:
  • Go ahead and cry; I'll stay with you.
  • It must be hard to go through this.
  • There is always hope.
  • What can I do to help you?
  • You can talk to me; I care.
Pro tips:
  • Offer to take them to doctor appointments.
  • Bring them dinner on evenings after medical procedures.

Do not say this to someone who has had a miscarriage, lost their baby, or young child:
  • You can get pregnant again.
  • It wasn't meant to be.
  • There was probably something wrong with the baby.
  • Don't be so sad, God doesn't give you more than you can handle.
  • It's a blessing in disguise.
  • There is a reason for everything.
  • Don't you wish it was you instead?
  • He's/She's in heaven.
  • It was God's will.
  • It could be worse.
Instead, do and say these things:
  • If you are close to them, step in and do the basic necessities for them to keep their household going.
  • Offer to make phone calls.
  • Convey compassion.
  • Be careful about sharing news about your child.
  • If you are close, offer to help them clean the child's room.
  • Invite them to holiday celebrations.
  • Offer to accompany them to the cemetery. 
  • Send them simple "thinking of you" cards and remember them and their child around to time of the birthday and death anniversary.
  • Say, "I am so sorry this happened."
  • Tell them that you don't know how they are feeling, but want to be there for them.
  • Say, "I'm sad for you."
  • Tell them to take their time and they can do things when they are ready.
  • Say, "we/I share your sorrow."
  • You can drop by with a casserole, but don't visit without an invitation.
  • Say, "I can't imagine how sad you must feel."
  • Ask, "what is your baby's name?"
  • Ask, "what can I do to help you?"
  • Say, "this was not your fault."
  • (If true) Share, "I have had a miscarriage/lost a child too; if you ever want to talk, let me know."

Do not say these things to someone who has had a suicide:
  • How are you feeling?
  • How did they do it?
  • It was such a selfish act.
  • It was God's will.
  • Time will heal this.
Instead, say and do these things:
  • "I am not here to judge."
  • "I am not going to pretend I know how you feel."
  • "I am not going to tell you how to respond."
  • "I don't have answers, but I am here to help in any way you'd like."
  • "If you would like some company, I am here for you (available)."
  • "It's good to see you."
  • Listen and say nothing.  No one expects you to have all the answers.
  • Keep in touch.  Suicide grief is especially isolating.
  • Suggest sharing a walk once or twice a week.  Do the work of coming over or picking them up.  Coax, but don't force.
  • Thoughtfulness lightens the sadness

Things not to say to someone in bereavement:
  • Death is part of life.
  • Give me a call if you need anything.
  • He/she is in a better place.
  • He/she led a full life.
  • I know/understand how you feel.
  • If there is anything I can do, just let me know.
  • Was it expected?
  • Were they ill?
  • It was God's will.
Instead, say and do these things:
  • Say, "I am glad to see you".
  • Say, "I am sorry for your loss".
  • Say, "I think of or am praying for you often."
  • Do their grocery shopping for them.
  • Tell them that you miss ____ very much.
  • Thank them for sharing their feelings when they do.
  • Acknowledge that this is difficult.
  • Ask, "what can I do for you?" (more than once).
  • Offer to come over and and make a list with them of what needs to be done.
Pro tips:
  • Think of concrete, specific ways to help this person (going places with them or for them, doing things, talking to people, running errands, child care, car pools, dishes, laundry, and chores).

Do not do these things, say these things when someone shares with you:
  • Don't assume you know what they think or feel before they share.
  • Don't look away from someone sharing with you.
  • Don't cross your arms and legs.
  • Don't roll your eyes.
  • Don't nervously play with your fingers, tapping, scratching.
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Don't take it personally if they get angry in telling their story.
  • Don't yawn.
  • Don't constantly shake your head (it can be annoying).
  • Don't rush them.
  • Don't ask questions (it's invasive and controlling).
  • Don't cut someone off before they have finished.
  • Don't break in and tell your own story that their story reminded you of.
  • Don't tell other people's stories.
  • Don't try to solve people's problems (fix them).
  • Don't offer advice (sharing is not an invitation for your advice!).
Instead, listen this way:
  • Choose a quiet, comfortable, and private setting (if possible).
  • Look at the person, tilting your face toward them (you're not Freud).
  • Make eye contact.
  • Be aware of body language, mirroring their's (not copy-miming).
  • Restate words and encapsulated messages, when appropriate.
  • Have an open posture.
  • Be patient, warm, and calm.
  • Disregard your own needs.
  • Allow the other's feelings to unfold into their own words.
  • Learn to read their non-verbal signals and reciprocate.
  • Do not interrupt and make it a tit for tat conversation.
  • Just listen, don't think of your response.
  • Let them ramble and not make sense.
  • Ask open-ended questions, one at a time.
  • If they cry or are at a loss for words, just listen; assuring them that they can share later, if desired.
Pro tips:
  • When the conversation is finished, tell them you are glad for it and would be happy to talk some more soon.
  • Turn off your phone (not on vibrate, but off and out of the way)!!

All of the above are notes (my words occasionally) from:

Sky Links, 3-3-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

After preaching the wonderful news of the gospel there and winning a large number of followers to Jesus, they retraced their steps and revisited Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. At each place they went, they strengthened the lives of the believers and encouraged them to go deeper in their faith. And they taught them, “It is necessary for us to enter into the realm of God’s kingdom, because that’s the only way we will endure our many trials and persecutions.”
-Acts 14:21-22 (TPT)

The Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth
-Charles Pope

Some modern commentators describe sloth as a “don’t care” feeling. Some even say it is a kind of falling out of love with God and the things of God (cf Rev 2:4). On account of sloth, the idea of right living and the gift of a transformed humanity inspires not joy, but aversion or even disgust because it is seen as too difficult or as requiring the setting aside of currently enjoyed or sinful pleasures. Through sloth, many experience sorrow rather than joy or zeal in following God and receiving a transformed human life. They are distressed at the prospect of what might have to occur should they embrace the faith more deeply.

Sloth also tends to dismiss the power of grace, focusing instead on the “trouble” or effort involved in walking in the Christian way.

Again, sloth is not merely laziness; it is more properly understood as sorrow or indifference. And while sloth may sometimes look like boredom and a casual laziness about attaining spiritual good, it can also be manifested by a frantic “busyness” with worldly things so as to avoid spiritual questions or living a reflective life.

When Your Friends And Family Don't Get Your Battle With Mental Illness
-Brittney Moses

It can be disappointing when the ones you depend on the most, can’t seem to meet your deepest needs of love and belonging when you need it the most.

A parent. Your closest friends. A significant other. Maybe your faith community.

It’s easy for us to give others the expectation of fulfilling us at our lowest moments, when in reality, we find these relationships still have their limitations. You may be deeply struggling with depression, anxiety or a diagnosis and those around you either don’t take it seriously, think you’re being dramatic, preach at you with little empathy, or simply check out because they cannot relate. One might argue that it’s not that they don’t genuinely love and care for you, but they are loving the best way they know how based on the range of knowledge and experience they’ve obtained up to this point in their lives. Now, that’s not an excuse for anyone to stay where they are and not commit to the growth of understanding others. But the hard truth is, this is just the state of many people.

-Matthea Glass

After the initial shock of my son’s death, I became inconvenient.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross finds acclaim for writing the most important book for caring for the dying, On Death and Dying. In her well researched book, she describes the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She is both right and wrong. If I were caring for the dying understanding these stages would be helpful. If I am caring for my friend whose child died, these stages do no good. There are no stages for the ones left living. No one grieves the same. Every loss is not the same.
I found that grief came in waves, easing some days, and crashing over me in overwhelming super waves on others.

Everyone around me wanted me to get to the finish line. They wanted the final stage according Ross, acceptance. I wearied them with my sadness. I wearied them with my insistence that not everyone could just get over it and move on. They were busy. My grief didn’t fit in with their schedule. God was doing big things 

Brian Simmons
The most difficult season of your life is about to be over. You will see a victory that will cause you to explode with joy and rejoice in song. The prophetic destiny of your life will be advanced, even in a wilderness of uncertainty. You will turn a setback into a comeback.

Beyond Sundays by Wayne Jacobsen — A Book Review
by Kenny Burchard

Wayne Jacobsen’s great new book, Beyond Sundays (176 pages published by Trailview Media) is essential reading for those seeking to better understand and engage with the reality that tens of millions of Jesus-followers are leaving the typical church structures they’ve always known while they continue to intentionally pursue their relationship with Christ, His people, and His mission. If you are one of these people, or you know someone on this journey and you’re trying to understand what’s happening to them, this should be the next book you read.

Muslims Are Converting to Christianity in Record Numbers.  How are so many conversions taking place in oppressive countries where proselytizing can bring a death sentence?
-Patti Armstrong

“We are in a time of the first ever mass conversions of Muslims,” Father Mitch Pacwa SJ told me in a phone interview. “God is doing a mighty work among them.”

Pacwa is a host for EWTN radio and TV, a frequent pilgrim guide to the Holy Land and is fluent in 13 languages including Arabic. He is considered an expert on the Middle East and produced the DVD Christianity & Islam: Are We at War? and co-authored Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics.

Pacwa said he began hearing talk of conversions to Christianity around 2005 on Al Jazeera Television, the Arabic news satellite TV channel with 80 bureaus around the world. “They were reporting on the mass conversions of Muslims—as many as 6-8 million—in sub-Saharan, Africa, and they have repeated the warning every year,” he said. “I’ve confirmed it with Africans I know who have told me again and again about conversions in places like Nigeria, Uganda, Mali … that’s why Boko Haram has become so active. They are actually quite scared and trying to terrorize. But the very act of terrorizing people has ended up with people becoming more disgusted with Islam.”

135 Questions Jesus Asked
-Eric von Atzigen

I have been amazed by how masterfully our Lord uses questions to teach vital spiritual truths. Jesus never asked a question because he needed to know the answer. He used questions the way a surgeon uses a scalpel, to delicately cut into a new level of understanding.

Billy Graham Oral Roberts Prophecy
-Mark Chirrona

The Stripping Away
-Christy Wimber

When I laid my Church aside last year clearly I felt the Lord remind me that if I cannot lay aside what ministry I lead then it is the ministry that is leading my life rather than the God I serve. How easy that is to say. How gut wrenching painful it is to walk out.

However, its not just letting go of things as God is too economical for that. He tends to do much before we can even realize whats happening. Its the letting go as well as the stripping away of anything that may have attached itself to what we've been called to let go of. Whatever we were leading or spending our time on and it could be the letting go of a relationship, a job or a ministry and perhaps thats not the hard part, although difficult, is doable. But the stripping away of misplaced identities or false ideas of security or what our hope was truly in gets revealed quickly and that in itself can be much harder, even painful. But its necessary. All of its necessary as what was must be removed in order to step into new spaces. Oftentimes we don't realize the depth of what we are carrying until those things begin to fall by the wayside. The stripping process can be painful and also quite exposing, but there is no way around it. I have found, yet again, to let go is not to lose, but rather to gain what I wouldn't have been able to take hold of otherwise.

How to Really See a Blind Person
-Brad Snyder

I tell my story a lot. I tell the story of how I wasn’t always blind. I tell the story of how I lost my vision while serving in Afghanistan, by stepping on an I.E.D. I tell the story of how I put my own injury into perspective by considering the greater sacrifice of my fallen comrades, and how I owed it to them to make the most of my escape from death.

I tell the story of how I did that by winning a gold medal in swimming at the Paralympics on the first anniversary of the loss of my vision. And after I tell it, people often thank me. They tell me that it’s an incredible story, and that I’m a good storyteller. They tell me how inspiring it is to see how I’ve overcome my blindness.

But that’s not my whole story.

It’s part of it, I suppose — in many ways, I have overcome my blindness. Five years after losing my sight, I have a rewarding job teaching leadership at the Naval Academy, a lovely house on a creek in historic Annapolis, Md., a loving family and a number of truly deep friendships. My quality of life is very high. Day to day, week to week, I don’t find that my blindness is an obstacle.

Sky Links, 2-24-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.
-Esther 4:14

Who Does God Want To Train Our Children?
-Suzi Ciliberti

I was encouraged, by a dear friend, to read the article, “Five Reasons Why the Children’s Minister Is the Staff Position in Greatest Demand.” Here is the link to the article:

Most of the comments were from people concerned about who they thought should be teaching our children about God. I was left with the question in my own heart: Just who is God holding responsible to teach our children and what does it mean to meet that responsibility?

What Is “Progressive Christianity” and Why Should You Beware of It?
-Roger Olson

First of all, do not assume anything! I will define what I mean by “progressive Christianity” here. It is, of course, an indexical phrase which means it cannot be defined except within a particular context. And, of course, different people mean different things by it. And yet, it is being used within churches and denominations and Christian organizations and cannot just be ignored. Generally speaking, at least outside of very conservative Christian circles, it tends to have a positive “ring” and many especially educated Christians are attracted to it. Sometimes, however, it is an insidious and pernicious code phrase for liberal theology being introduced into moderate Christian circles. Many people do not seem to see what is happening in such situations; I believe I do see it and I want to sound an alarm so that others may begin to ask questions they might not think of asking.

My notes from the article and comments:  You can be a 'progressive evangelical', which is hard to understand, if progressive (like liberal) is a bad word, in your mind.

Billy Graham focused on unity among Christians, not on divisions
-Steve Simms

Many Christian evangelists have worked within one Christian denomination or doctrinal system. However Billy Graham crossed lines and courageously worked together with Christians of various backgrounds, doctrines, races, and churches. (In the racially segregated South, he even broke local laws and made his crusades open for anyone to sit wherever they wanted.)

Billy Graham Crusades were an amazing thing to see: tens of thousands of people of various backgrounds and persuasions coming together to hear a humble and unassuming man talk about Jesus and His love for all people. Billy Graham cut through the sectarianism and divisions among Christians and brought them together to reach their city for Christ.

Billy Graham Crusades were amazing demonstrations of the power of unity in the body of Christ. Every one of them was a cooperative effort of many local Christians and churches (of various doctrines & denominations) who set aside their differences and worked together for many months to share the good news about the living Jesus. They were held in more than 250 cities around the world.

-Amanda DeWitt

A wiser woman once told me that, much like the children of Israel, God sometimes leads us in circles. We learn and relearn life’s lessons as we walk through similar circumstances again and again.

If you look at the geography, there wasn’t much room for the children of Israel to wander in the wilderness. Instead they trod the same paths over and over again for forty years. And amidst those circular trails, they learned dependence, obedience, and trust.

My Email Exchange with Eric Metaxas
-Jon Ward

hi Eric, I’m a journalist in Washington D.C. for Yahoo News. I’m writing a profile about you. I read your Bonhoeffer book when it came out. I grew up in an evangelical church. My family and I attend an evangelical church now.

I’ve wanted to write about your support for Trump for a while. In a sense, the mere fact of your support for Trump is now old news. But I’ve tried to come up with questions that get at some of the more substantive questions and issues that I think led some religious conservatives such as yourself to support Trump, while others who feel just as strongly as you do about abortion and religious liberty came to very different conclusions about supporting Trump.


I’ll respond to each question you’ve asked, but first let me say:

I think one of the saddest things about the period in history through which are living is that we’ve come to a place where graciousness and empathy and trying to see the other side’s point of view has fallen by the wayside, and in many cases has been forcibly hurled away, most grievously by self-described Christians. It seems that some people have come to the view that Trump is simply so irredeemably bad that all the previous rules must be flung from the window, that anyone who would support him — whether in a more full-throated way like Robert Jeffress or Jerry Falwell, Jr., both of whom I respect greatly, or in a more measured and let us say “tepid” way, in which group I would put myself — must be demonized in no uncertain terms, must be scorned as someone who has no principles and who can only be doing what he is doing because he has made a naked calculation for his own self-interest. This is not only not true in most cases of those I know who support Trump, but is also simply a dramatically uncharitable interpretation. It represents an unprecedented scorched-earth policy toward anyone who hasn’t expressed utter contempt for the current president, as though contempt can be the only reasonable and acceptable response in civilized circles.

Eric Metaxas interviews Jack Deere about his coming book (podcast):

Jack Deere shares his powerful journey through the pain of loss and tragedy with insights from his soon-to-be-released memoir, “Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life.”

Even In Our Darkness, by Jack Deere at Amazon

Benny Hinn and Mark Chironna prophesy about Billy Graham's passing:

7 tough lessons people often learn too late in life

-Nicolas Cole








What I Would Have Done Differently, Billy Graham's regrets, in his own words

For all of Billy Graham's remarkable accomplishments, he made his share of mistakes. These mistakes might have harmed his ministry if not for Graham's willingness to confess them and learn from them.

God Hears Our Prayers and Wants to Heal Our Land
-James Robison (video)

The Stream‘s founder James Robison posted today on Facebook that God hears our prayers and answers them. In his timely message, James points out that God wants to make our land well and bless His people. “There is great hope for America,” he said. “Christ is the hope.”

“God is answering the prayers of His children,” James said. “He is seeking to lead our nation, for whatever reason, out of the darkness, out of the ditch.”

“God is answering the prayers of praying people.”

The other Billy Graham rule 

In recent months, the so-called “Billy Graham rule” reappeared in the American lexicon with stories about how Vice President Mike Pence followed Graham’s example of not being alone with any woman who wasn’t his wife.

As I’ve read obits and tributes, another rule Graham tried to follow seems worthy of mentioning as well:

Be willing to use your influence, but wield it humbly.

10 Funeral Mishaps

10 Funeral Mishaps That I Have Witnessed

1. A local minister, that no one knew, was hired by the favorite son.  He was not given simple family information and may have thought the son was the only close kin.  A lady spoke up, and said, "She was my grandmother too!"

2. A family had such a deep division that they had 'dueling funerals', but at least on different days.

3. A squad of veterans were asked and tasked to come and present the flag to the widow, but demanded that they must preach a sermon, and also insisted on shooting off their guns.

4. Son and grandsons told negative stories about the foibles of the deceased, to a full chapel of friends who loved him, including the revelation of a gay son who had died from AIDS.

5. A carefully produced slideshow got jammed up and stuttered, then was accidentally erased by the musician/tech hired by the undertaker.

6. A world-famous missionary agency and training school leader and prolific author's funeral was hamstrung by his adult sunday school teacher, who was long-winded, and ran over into the time set aside for open mic sharing from the congregation, of people who had come long distances at great cost. The service had to abruptly end, because of that church's Saturday evening service set up needs.

7. The people at the funeral who deeply loved and had served the deceased and shared their grief openly, were not invited to share a meal afterward, with the family.

8. A father and his minister, confronted his son, at the meal after the funeral, while his best friends were gathered, about stealing the deceased assets; fearing he was going to flee the country.

9. After a clear gospel presentation of salvation by and through Christ alone, the mortuary attendant openly made a comment that there is more that one way to be saved, that universalism was true.

10. At a famous minister's celebration of life event, who's specialty was pastoral counseling, where the many speakers (over 50) were allowed only 2 minutes each, his pastor, from his home church, decided to mention the dying man's divorce.

Grace, Favor, and Mercy Bestowed

For the music director; to be accompanied by stringed instruments; a psalm, a song. May God show us his favor and bless us! May he smile on us!
-Psalm 67:1 (NET)

Psalm 67 is an invitation to partake of God's favor.

The song is a priestly blessing.  We can say this to each other.

"May the Lord bless you!", and we answer back, "May the Lord bless you!"

Where did this gracious blessing start?  It started with Abraham.  God said to Abe that he would be blessed and the whole world would be blessed through him.

The Lord told Abram, “You are to leave your land, your relatives, and your father’s house and go to the land that I’m going to show you. I’ll make a great nation of your descendants, I’ll bless you, and I’ll make your reputation great, so that you will be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you, but I’ll curse the one who curses you, and through you all the people of the earth will be blessed.”

Abraham was as good as dead, yet from this one man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
-Genesis 12:1-3 and Hebrews 11:12 (ISV)

It is a good guess that this is what Psalm 67 has in mind.

Psalm 67 is a missionary Psalm.  It is about God's mission to save all people.  The blessing of God on our lives is for saving the world.

Each of us are not saved in a vacuum, but through God's blessing on other people.  That is what the blessing of God on your life is for.  And the more we realize this and let the blessing work for others, the more we will be blessed.

May God show us favor and bless us.  Other translations say, 'show mercy' or, 'be gracious'.  The Hebrew  carries with it the idea of grace, mercy, favor, and kindness.  And to be blessed by God encapsulates all four of these.

I learned from a faith leader, to sign notes with 'blessings'.  Blessings means, 'grace, mercy, favor, and kindness to you'.

May God show us his favor and bless us! May he smile on us!

Sky Links, 2-15-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

All this will flow from the kind and compassionate mercy of our God.
A new day is dawning: the Sunrise from the heavens will break through in our darkness,
And those who huddle in night, those who sit in the shadow of death,
Will be able to rise and walk in the light, guided in the pathway of peace.
-Luke 1:78-79 (VOICE)

Only God Can Make America Great Again
-James Robison

Those words were in the first sentences out of my mouth when I sat facing then-candidate Donald J. Trump. We were in his office in Trump Tower, with his son Eric sitting to my left. I spoke the words forcefully while expressing unconditional love for our country and for Mr. Trump’s family.

I repeated, “If America becomes great again, it will be because God and ‘we the people’ do it. But we need a leader with a father’s heart to inspire our too often fatherless families as George Washington did. It was the strength of his leadership and inspiration that earned the title of our nation’s father.”

Can a Woman Be a Pastor? Looking at the New Testament
-Sandra Glahn

Recently someone raised this question: Were there any mentions in the New Testament of men/women who were actually titled "pastor"? I keep hearing arguments that there were no women pastors in the Bible, but I can't find any men called "pastor" either.

The observation that no one, male or female, is called “pastor” is absolutely correct. We don’t see “Pastor Paul” or “Pastor Mark” or “Pastor John” in the Bible. Or “Pastor Phoebe” for that matter.

In the same way that no one person is ever referred to as the giver (imagine “Giver Aquila”), the exhorter (Exhorter Priscilla?), the evangelizer, the teacher, the mercy-shower…there is also no one in the New Testament referred to as the pastor. Even in their correspondence with local congregations, the writers of New Testament epistles never greet local “pastors.”

Six Keys For Corporate Worship In A Replant
-Thom S. Rainer (podcast)
  • It’s not uncommon for pastors in small churches to double as the worship leader.
  • The authenticity of worship matters much more than the style of worship.
  • When leading corporate worship, meet the congregation where they are and lead them where they need to go.
  • Don’t let your style of worship become your idol.
  • In corporate worship, the heart of the matter is the heart of the people.
  • The greatest instrument to worship God is the human voice.

-Wayne Jacobsen & Brad Cummings (podcast)

Gene Edwards is an enigmatic personality and a polarizing figure. No one has done more to encourage people think outside the box of institutionalized Christianity and see the Bride of Christ as Jesus is giving her shape in the world than Gene Edwards. And yet his model for replicating that church has been controversial and for some, painful. Wayne had the opportunity last month to sit down with Gene to share their mutual passion and the differences in how they see God working in the world. Brad and Wayne process that conversation and why trying to replicate his church by teaching people to follow a model, no matter how well constructed, is problematic at best. As a side note Brad and Wayne reflect on the imperfect vessels we all are, and how to celebrate God's work in a life, even when we recognize their flaws.

-Matthea Glass

Grief GOT HARD! So I stopped blogging for what… 3/4 years. I don’t know.

I’ve been thinking about starting again for a long time now. This journey of healing has been crazy. I will blog about the deep grief and recovery later, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve worked on a piece titled Unloved.


From my earliest memories, I felt unloved. I remember thinking maybe I was simply unlovable. There’s just something about me that people can’t love. When Kai died, I thought his death meant God didn’t love me. Feeling unloved is part of the fall. If you, like me, have felt unloved, you are NOT ALONE. We all seek to fill this void with everything except The One Who is Love.

1 John 4:8 … God is love.

One Cause of Christian Syncretism Beautifully Explained in a New Documentary: What Is New Thought?
-Roger Olson

If you are a Christian, especially an American Christian, and you are concerned about the eclectic blending of non-Christian philosophies and spiritualities with Christianity (syncretism) in contemporary American culture, you must watch “What Is New Thought?”—a documentary available on Amazon. It is free for those with Amazon Prime and can be purchased by others.

I have long known about and been very concerned about the subtle influence of the 19th century philosophy, spirituality, and movement known as New Thought both on American culture in general and on American Christianity. The documentary is pro-New Thought but gives a very helpful overview of New Thought history, major thinkers and promoters, varieties, and influences in American culture and religion—even where those influences are hardly noticed.

It is my opinion that New Thought, as presented in this documentary, is a major threat to orthodox Christianity and has brought about a condition in which thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans who think they are Christians are mentally and spiritually corrupted by what is basically a pagan worldview.

-Roger Olson

But a problem I notice among many Young, Restless, Reformed Calvinists and even some of their highly intelligent mentors is that they do not keep their Calvinist doctrine of providence in mind when talking about predestination. Unless stopped, and forced to bring them together, they often disconnect the two. Here’s how that goes: “Adam and Eve fell by their own free will and all of their descendants deserve hell because of their inherited iniquity and their sinfulness and God out of love and for his glory mercifully and graciously chooses some of the fallen who deserve hell to save.” But that immediately raises this question: “Did God foreordain and render certain Adam’s and Eve’s fall and all of its consequences including the iniquity and rebellion of their descendants?”

Rarely do I get that far in a conversation with a Calvinist. However, when I do, and they choose to answer, they divide and go in two directions. First, some will say “That all lies in the realm of mystery; we do not know exactly why or how the fall happened. All we know is that God permitted it for good reasons beyond our comprehension and used it to demonstrate his love and justice.” Then, with those Calvinists, the conversation must change and go to why God elects some of the fallen descendants of Adam and Eve to save and leaves the others to suffer in hell eternally when, since election is unconditional and grace is irresistible, God could save all people. At that point, if the conversation has gotten that far, most of those Calvinists say something like “Whatever God does is good just because God does it.” Ah! Nominalism/voluntarism as the “escape hatch” from having to explain how “good God” is compatible with such a horrible decree.

-Shane Blackshear (podcast)

Fresh Expressions is an international movement of missionary disciples cultivating new kinds of church alongside existing congregations to more effectively engage our growing post-Christian society.

Beginning in 2004 as an initiative of the Church of England and the British Methodist Church, the movement has resulted in the birth of thousands of new communities in the UK alone and brought renewal to scores of established churches. The movement has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Germany. In 2010, the movement began taking shape in the US through the vision and generosity of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and a growing number of partners committed to a new era of missional ecumenism, a unity around the mission of God the Father through the resurrected Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

"How much of what we call church are we willing to give up to be the church?" 
-Lisa Smith

-Jason Daye, Church Leaders (podcast)

“We live and we love and we lead from the inside out.”

“Sometimes when we think of leadership development we think of the skill sets…but we also need to attend to our internal life.”

“He’s given us this wonderful privilege (ministering) but he didn’t give it to us to burn us out. He gave it to us in partnership with him.”

“As leaders we have different relationships with mentors than we do with peers so I try to have accountable relationships in both areas.”

“The discipline of celebration, we need to sit down and enjoy what God has given us. It is important to remember how God has helped you.”

“What isn’t happening because we’re held back by a broken identity? A healthy identity gives rise to a vibrant purpose.”

“These broken pieces of our lives…as we place them in God’s hands we can find a greater freedom to move into what he has for us.”

“The broken pieces are broken but under the grace of God they don’t have to stay broken, they can be redeemed”

“Wilderness experiences reveal what we are about….it brings us to the end of ourselves.”

“Sometimes we don’t even know what our expectations are until they aren’t met.”

“When we walk in our valley of dry bones….God is present. You’re still his child and he’s still with you.”

Whitewash The Tombs

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-ind...

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