Sky Links, 5-5-18

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Can We Just Be Friends?  Some Reflections on the Graham Rule
-Alistair Roberts

There are countless ways that strong, meaningful, affectionate, and compassionate relationships can and should be enjoyed between the sexes in beautiful and prudential ways. Learning how to relate well to the other sex in various contexts is simply a basic element of growing to psychological and social maturity. The Graham Rule doesn’t preclude this, although it imposes closer restrictions than many of us believe that we currently need to adopt. Whether we follow it or not, we should be characterized by mature involvement with the other sex, one that is genuinely mindful of their otherness while also mindful of their similarity, one that displays the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves, one that maintains distinction and distance, without falling into detachment.

In our current social context, where external boundaries are low or non-existent, we must be far more vigilant to establish robust internal and personal boundaries where we can. Many of us will have little choice but to negotiate situations within which we will be exposed to more temptation than is good. The question of whether to adopt the Graham Rule is moot for many, as they must spend much time alone with persons of the other sex in the course of their work. In such non-ideal circumstances we must be wise, self-controlled, students both of the ways of our own souls and of the deceptive paths of sin. We must, where we can, support others in virtue and seek their support in our commitment to it too. We must seek to become people known for holiness and integrity in our conduct, fleeing evil and pursuing purity in all things, presenting a model of faithfulness for all to see.

The Evangelical Stream of the Church (Word-Centered Disciples)
-Ryan J. Pelton

Evangelicals are good news people. Grace people. And thankful people for all that has been done for us in Christ.

For too long in our modern era evangelical meant Moral Majority, political, white, or fundamentalist. Not the good news people and word centered people announcing that Jesus’ has lived, died, risen, and his Kingdom has broke into humanity.

The evangelical tradition at its best is when it keeps the gospel the main thing (1 Cor. 15:1-9). When they announce that God is here to reconcile sinners to himself and restore the universe. Word centered people are at their best when they offer salvation to sinners that is free, by grace, and faith. Disciples of Jesus who center their lives on the good news of Jesus and live in response to him.

Fear of the Left: The Most Powerful Force in America Today
-Dennis Prager

The dominant force in America and many other Western countries today is fear of the left.

This is a result of the fact that the most dynamic religion of the past 100 years has been neither Christianity nor Islam. It has been leftism. Whoever does not recognize this does not understand the contemporary world.

What is Leftism?

Leftism -- in its incarnations, such as Marxism, communism and socialism; expressed through egalitarianism, environmentalism and feminism; in its denigration of capitalism and Western civilization, especially America and Israel; in its supplanting of Christianity and Judaism; through its influence on Christianity and Judaism; in its celebration of race; and in its replacing of reason with romanticism -- has almost completely taken over the news and entertainment media and institutions of education.

There is a largely (though not entirely) nonviolent reign of ideological terror in America. In almost every area of life, people fear antagonizing the left.

-Amy Frykholm

Barna’s study, published in 2017 as The State of Pastors, is based on surveys of 320,000 church leaders across the spectrum of Protestantism. It found that pastors are considerably more likely than the general population to rate their mental and emotional health as “excellent” or “good.” Eighty-five percent of pastors rated their mental and emotional health this way, compared to 60 percent of the general population. About 30 percent of pastors surveyed by Barna said that they were at risk of experiencing burnout—which is still a far cry from Krejcir’s claim of 71 percent.

That profile of clergy lines up with the kind of data Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell has seen in her work with the Clergy Health Initiative funded by the Duke Endowment, another important source of reliable data on ministers. For ten years CHI has studied United Methodist clergy in North Carolina, using longitudinal surveys, focus groups, interviews, and biometric data to assess the physical and mental health of clergy.

CHI has investigated depression in clergy and found that about 9 to 11 percent of clergy deal with depression. That figure is about 4 percentage points higher than the general population, but nowhere near the level of distress that Krejcir’s figures suggest.

Researchers at CHI are still assessing whether there is something about the ministry that may attract people with a tendency toward depression or whether it’s the profession itself that leads to higher rates of depression. Both Barna and CHI indicate that pastors’ overall mental and emotional health is quite good.

Proeschold-Bell suggests that clergy’s relatively good mental health might reflect the fact many aspects of clergy work are conducive to positive emotions. For example, a study published by the American Psychological Association and conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina showed that there are five activities that when pursued on a regular basis contribute to a positive outlook. Four of the five tend to be a regular part of a clergyperson’s day: engaging in spiritual activity, learning, social interactions, and helping. (The fifth factor in a positive outlook is play, and Proeschold-Bell guesses clergy are no better at this than anyone else.)

On the issue of burnout, Proeschold-Bell and her team compared the burnout rate among ministers to that of people in other service occupations. They found that clergy were in the middle range: they experienced burnout at a rate similar to that of teachers and social workers but were coping better with stress than police or emergency workers.

Six Ways Parents Destroy Their Children Without Trying
-Michael Pearl

1. Get so busy providing for them that you don’t have time for them.

2. Set a bad example.

3. Expressing displeasure regularly.

4. Not enforcing boundaries.

5. Leaving them to choose their friends.

6. Finally, you can destroy your children by not giving them any responsibility or holding them accountable.

Caught in Providence: Thank You For Your Service

Recently I discovered a YouTube series called "Caught in Providence." Judge Caprio is a modern-day Solomon. God has given him an amazing heart to match his brilliant mind. Providence, RI, is very fortunate to have him as a judge. While never forgetting about justice, he exhibits the kind of humanity, consideration, understanding, and compassion that Joseph exhibited 2,000 years ago. May his tribe increase.

Watch and be blessed.

A Letter to My Brothers
-Beth Moore

Dear Brothers in Christ,

A few years ago I told an interviewer friend that, whenever he hears the news that I’m on my deathbed, he’s to elbow his way through my family members to interview me about what it’s been like to be a female leader in the conservative Evangelical world. He responded, “Why can’t we do it before then?”

“Because you know good and well what will happen,” I answered. “I’ll get fried like a chicken.” After recent events following on the heels of a harrowing eighteen months, I’ve decided fried chicken doesn’t sound so bad.

I have been a professing Evangelical for decades and, at least in my sliver of that world, a conservative one. I was a cradle role Southern Baptist by denomination with an interdenominational ministry. I walked the aisle to receive Christ as my Savior at 9 years old in an SBC church and exactly nine years later walked the aisle in another SBC church to surrender to a vocational calling. Being a woman called to leadership within and simultaneously beyond those walls was complicated to say the least but I worked within the system. After all, I had no personal aspirations to preach nor was it my aim to teach men. If men showed up in my class, I did not throw them out. I taught. But my unwavering passion was to teach and to serve women.

I lack adequate words for my gratitude to God for the pastors and male staff members in my local churches for six decades who have shown me such love, support, grace, respect, opportunity and often out right favor. They alongside key leaders at LifeWay and numerous brothers elsewhere have no place in a larger picture I’m about to paint for you. They have brought me joy and kept me from derailing into cynicism and chronic discouragement amid the more challenging dynamics.

As a woman leader in the conservative Evangelical world, I learned early to show constant pronounced deference – not just proper respect which I was glad to show – to male leaders and, when placed in situations to serve alongside them, to do so apologetically. I issued disclaimers ad nauseam. I wore flats instead of heels when I knew I’d be serving alongside a man of shorter stature so I wouldn’t be taller than he. I’ve ridden elevators in hotels packed with fellow leaders who were serving at the same event and not been spoken to and, even more awkwardly, in the same vehicles where I was never acknowledged. I’ve been in team meetings where I was either ignored or made fun of, the latter of which I was expected to understand was all in good fun. I am a laugher. I can take jokes and make jokes. I know good fun when I’m having it and I also know when I’m being dismissed and ridiculed. I was the elephant in the room with a skirt on. I’ve been talked down to by male seminary students and held my tongue when I wanted to say, “Brother, I was getting up before dawn to pray and to pore over the Scriptures when you were still in your pull ups.”

Jesus Wasn’t A Christian
-Carl Medearis

Have you ever wondered who founded Christianity? The dictionary says it was Jesus Christ. Christ = Christian, right? A couple of thoughts on that and why it matters that we have it right…

First of all, Jesus’ last name is not “Christ.” He was Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary. His title may have been “the Christ” or the “anointed one”, but that was not his name. His name was/is Jesus. (Joshua or Yeshua).

He was a Jew by religion/culture.

But he was for sure not a “Christian.” There were no “Christians” then. And he wasn’t the first, as he did not come to start a new religion. He came as truth and grace. He came to show us the Father. He came to explain the way. He came to give life. But he surely did not come to start a new religion – as if the world needed one more religion!

So why does this matter? Is it simply semantics? What difference does it make? Let me suggest three reasons why it makes a ton of difference that Jesus wasn’t a Christian and wasn’t the founder of Christianity:

  1. It sets us free to not have to defend all of the 2000 years of misdeeds done in the name of Christianity. We can simply apologize and move on. We don’t need to own it.
  2. It sets us free to not take sides in the current “culture wars.” We can step out of the “Christians versus _________” debate. There is no debate. We can simply figure out what Jesus did in similar circumstances and what we think he would want us to do today.
  3. We don’t have to feel the pressure to convert people to Christianity – which is a lot of work and doesn’t seem to be very effective. We can simply love them in the name of Jesus and pray that GOD would convert them to himself.

This actually changes everything. The way we live. The way we talk to others and the way we interact in the systems of the world. Think about it. Push back a little. Thoughts?

-James Emery White

Today it seems like the news is littered with leader after leader falling to moral compromise, a lack of integrity with finances, or leading from pride and power. I just knew, from the beginning, that I had one church plant in me – kind of like one marriage, or one family – and I was going to plant it and then be faithful to it to the end.

But when I reflected on his question, five things did come to mind:

1. Persistence and determination

2. Integrity

3. The hide of a rhinoceros

4. Vision

5. A phenomenal wife

2 Ways Most Christians Fail at Evangelism
-Ben Sternke

One of the most difficult aspects of Christianity for me to embrace and practice has been the whole evangelism thing. I’ve just never been comfortable with it.

And as I talk with pastors and Christian leaders around the country (especially younger ones), I hear the same story. Evangelism just doesn’t feel natural to a lot of us.

It’s like evangelism is the awkward guy at the party who can’t follow the conversation and always talks a little too loudly. It’s fine, he’s nice enough, but you just don’t know how to relate to him.

So what’s the deal with that? Are we “ashamed of the gospel” and need to get over ourselves? Are we trying too hard to be “relevant” or something?

Maybe, but I think something deeper is going on here.

The Art of Saying Goodbye in a Culture of See You Later
-Jess Fankhauser

I have often wished someone would have taught me how to say goodbye well when I was growing up. Instead one of two things usually happened. Either I couldn’t wait to say goodbye and good riddance to an experience or person or I held on for dear life to what I was losing. Both negatively impacted my next experience or relationship.

In the church we rarely, if ever, talk about saying goodbye unless we are at a funeral. The reality though is that goodbyes are a part of our lives long before we get to a funeral. Our lives are full of comings and goings, transitions—the changing of seasons, both in nature and in our lives and hearts. Different seasons, with different people, roles and responsibilities.

And the more I encounter these different seasons and roles and relationships in my work and life, the more I am convinced that our inability to say goodbye well, is paralyzing us (me) from living fully into the abundant John 10:10 life that God desires for us.

And so, I find myself at the end of another academic year preparing to say goodbye yet again (maybe you do as well).

So what have I learned about saying goodbye that I wish we talked about more (and that we and our students practiced) in this season?

  1. We are meant to live and invest fully until the very last day. Withdrawing or checking out early from a relationship or experience before the end may feel easier in the moment, but it doesn’t help us say goodbye well.
  2. It is better (if at all possible) to leave with no regrets. This is where it can be easier to avoid hard conversations because you know you’re leaving soon and it doesn’t feel worth it. If it is healthy and safe for you—have the hard conversation.
  3. Take time to grieve what you are losing. We live in a culture that rarely likes to name emotion or slow down long enough to reflect. But to leave well we have to do both. Name what you are losing and give yourself permission and time to grieve it.
  4. Extend extra grace to yourself and others as each person says goodbye and grieves differently. If it is a group experience like college or a trip—where there is a group of people all grieving the same loss at the same time, this step is critical. Emotions are high, sleep and self-care are usually lacking and a little extra grace can go a long way in helping you not leave with regrets.
  5. And finally: when the time comes there is a need to actually say goodbye, not see you later.

5 Spiritual Dangers of Skipping Church
-Nathan Rose

1. You will miss out on God’s primary design for your spiritual growth and well-being.

2. You disobey God.

3. You make a statement to the world that God is not worthy of worship.

4. You can’t minister to anyone.

5. You skip out on a foretaste of heaven.


There is no danger of skipping church, a relationship with Jesus is everyday, hearing Gods voice is daily, being let by the Holy Spirit is daily. prayer is a daily thing, reading the bible is a daily thing. what is dangerous is Christians who are not in a daily relationship with Jesus, Christians who don't spend time alone with Jesus. we are here to share our faith with people who don't know Jesus, we are here to share the love of Christ with them. if we don't receive from his spirit, we can't give out to others, who need to know about him. we are not called to sit in churches, we are called to make disciples.
-Christopher Thompson

Ok, so I am a huge advocate for going to church and I believe that all believers should go to church if they can. With that said, this article is very harsh.

1. "You will miss out on God's primary design for spiritual growth and well being"
OK I can buy that, but what about the shut-ins, the sick, the disabled who are unable to get to church? In theory the church should come to them but we all know that it doesn't.

2. "You disobey God"
Now wait a minute, Hebrews 10 does talk about not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together but it does not specifically state going to church. I DO believe that is a huge hindrance if believers isolate themselves and aren't part of a community of believers, but nowhere does the Bible specifically state the terms under which we are to meet. Again, what about the shut-ins? I DO think that it is a disobedience to not partake of communion and to not follow Jesus' example in meeting with others.

3. "You make a statement to the world that God is not worthy of worship."
OK, maybe so. God isn't worth getting up an hour early to go to church for a couple of hours. Yes, it does tell the world that. And that's something we should be aware of. However, worship is not just a once-a-week thing. Our LIVES should be living and breathing worship to God, which should show people that God is worthy of worship. Our lives should be the example. Not our going to church.

4. "You can't minister to anyone."
This is absolutely 100% NOT true. Has the writer of this article ever experienced the online world? There are thousands of opportunities to minister and serve others online. Social media is one great way to connect with others and minister to them through encouraging, building up, showing grace, and even teaching. It's not the ultimate way, but it is A way. I know a few people who don't go to church, and while I wish they would, they still minister to others.

5. "You skip out on a foretaste of heaven"
Yes, this is very true. However, for a lot of people, church comes with a lot of negative connotations and experiences. Most churches are not a foretaste of heaven because there's judgmentalism or cliques. If you find a church that isn't like that, congratulations. But a lot of people won't.

-Christina Goding

The Bible nowhere tells us to “go to church”. We are the church! Can we really go to ourselves as a church? Scripture does however tell us to become the church and to assemble as a church. Sorry but “go to church” is unscriptural which makes this post unscriptural.
-C-Evan E Eschew