Sky Links, 1-5-19

10 Things I Learned in 2018 
-Regi Campbell

Every year for a long time, I’ve reflected on the past 12 months and netted out the most significant things I learned. Here’s this year’s edition (go here to see previous years’ lists) . . .

1. Stop protecting God and get comfortable with the gap. I often hesitate to pray for certain things because the odds are so stacked against the outcome I want. That’s not consistent with the New Testament. We’re instructed to pray. God hears our prayers, but there’ll almost always be a gap between what I ask for and what He does. And that’s ok. It’s up to me to obey and pray. It’s up to Him to respond and decide what happens.
2. I am not a work in progress. I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10), just not mature. Think of it like a new smartphone, where all the apps download at activation. It’s up to me to open, explore, and utilize the apps. Same is true for our faith. Our willingness to be vulnerable, our ability to understand Scripture, to sense the Holy Spirit, to give grace when it makes no sense . . . all those ‘apps’ are there from conversion. Maturing is activating those elements of our faith.
3. People respect and remember you for what you do far more than for what you say. Jesus was different from any prophet because of what He did.
4. Life begins and ends with selfishness. Helpless babies end up as helpless old people. It’s what happens in between that matters. Give yourself away. If you reap what you sow and it’s all about you, then, in the end, all you’ll have is you and some memories.
5. Being fully present starts with the five senses.
  • See the person you’re with or the place you’re in.
  • Hear what they’re saying and thoughtfully receive it.
  • Feel what they feel and what you feel at the same time.
  • Smell things . . . take time to recognize and appreciate aromas
  • Taste what you’re eating . . . slow down and savor.
6. Brothering is a verb. Find your brothers and live in community with them.
7. Don’t miss the life you have, comparing it to the life you think is possible but doesn’t really exist.
8. Fatigue, weariness, and “heavy-laden” are very different things. Fatigue is physical and cured with rest. Weariness is mental and cured with surrender. “Heavy-laden” is spiritual and cured with trusting
God with our burdens.
9. God doesn’t need us to be enforcers; He wants us to be a grace-givers.
10. This life has meaning by finding, following, being changed by, and joining the work of Jesus.

The SpyGate Scandal: What We Learned in 2018 
-Jeff Carlson
2018 proved to be a year of numerous revelations that provided clarity regarding events leading up to—and following—the 2016 presidential election.
It is now clear that elements within the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State Department were actively working against the Trump campaign, and that these elements continued to work against President Donald Trump’s administration following his surprise win.
Immediately following Trump’s victory, these efforts focused on two specific fronts: hobbling the effectiveness of Trump’s newly formed administration and simultaneously working toward his impeachment.
Complicit in this effort was the mainstream media, which almost gleefully promoted story after story full of half-truths and partial facts.

But as we moved into the second half of 2017, the president continued to surprise and confound the opposition. His administration began to assert itself, and a semblance of control was exerted over the FBI and DOJ at the most senior levels.
In early 2018, a purge of sorts appears to have taken place; a number of high-profile individuals abruptly resigned or were fired. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired and is currently the subject of an ongoing grand jury investigation.
The investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, which began in May 2017, began to return indictments, but has noticeably failed to produce any evidence of collusion on the part of the Trump campaign. Each indictment from Mueller has specifically noted there was no collusion on the part of any American citizen. The special counsel appears to be particularly focused on violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and influence peddling under the Obama administration.
At the same time, multiple investigations, including a prominent investigation into FISA abuse, conducted by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, remain ongoing.

Looking forward into 2019, the questions become “who will be held accountable?”; “how high up the political ladder will the investigation go?”, and “will some of the more prominent players, such as former CIA Director John Brennan, become part of an investigative focus?”

Our “Jesus accepts all” theology empowers abusers, big time 
-Jimmy Hinton

The soft Jesus we’ve created has produced a sea of oppressed people who have either fled unsafe churches or they’ve been banned from them. At the same time, abusive leaders have grown in power and influence with the full protection and blessing of their fellow leaders. The reason I write and speak about this so much is not to prove I’m right and others are wrong. The real reason is to plead with my fellow church leaders to have an ounce of humility and to revisit the scriptures with a heightened awareness that their bad theology is ruining the very lives of the people Jesus came to rescue.

Beth Moore sparks fiery debate after saying spending time reading Bible doesn’t equal spending time with God
-Leonardo Blair

Popular Bible teacher and author Beth Moore has sparked a fiery debate online about whether spending time reading the Bible is the same thing as spending time with God.
“Spending time with God and spending time with the Bible are not the same thing. The Bible is the Word of God, crucial to knowing Him, but it’s not God. We can study our Bibles till the 2nd coming & leave God completely out of it. We can grow in facts & never grow a whit in faith,” Moore declared in an initial tweet on the subject late Wednesday.

Pope urges perpetrators of child abuse to ‘convert and hand yourself over to human justice’ 
-Hattie Williams
On institutional abuse, he gave the example of King David in the books of Samuel, who, he said, committed a “triple sin, three grave abuses at once: ‘sexual abuse, abuse of power, and abuse of conscience’”.
“Today, too, there are many Davids, who, without batting an eye, enter into the web of corruption and betray God, his commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God, and the trust of little ones and their families. Often, behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity, and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.”
These ministers, he said, took advantage “of their position and their power of persuasion. They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked.”
Pope Francis vowed that the Church would “never again” cover up, or fail to act on evidence of any form of abuse within its institution: “Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case.
“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience — we need to judge the past with a hermeneutics of the past — or spiritual and human myopia, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.”

5 facts about the religious makeup of the 116th Congress 
-Aleksandra Sandstrom

The new Congress is slightly more religiously diverse than its predecessor, but it remains overwhelmingly Christian, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of congressional data collected by CQ Roll Call.
For the first day of the 116th Congress, here are five facts about the religious affiliation of members of Congress:
1. The religious composition of the new Congress is very different from that of the U.S. adult population. While the number of self-identified Christians in Congress has ticked down slightly, Christians as a whole – and especially Protestants and Catholics – are still overrepresented in proportion to their share in the general public. But by far, the largest difference between the U.S. public and Congress is in the share of people who are unaffiliated with a religious group. In the general public, 23% say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” In Congress, just one person says she is religiously unaffiliated – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who was recently elected to the Senate after three terms in the House.

1 in 5 freshman politicians falls into a Protestant catchall category -Kate Nuttshell
Congress now includes a total of 80 unspecified/other Protestants. Though the catch-all affiliation is among the most overrepresented in the legislature (15% of representatives compared to 5% of American adults), the disparity may be in part due to elected officials opting not to indicate a particular tradition.

Several of the incoming representatives who selected the unspecified/other Protestant category do attend denominational churches, such as Representative Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, who built houses in Haiti on a short-term missions trip with his Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation earlier this year; Representative Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, a Southern Baptist-turned-Episcopalian who prayed the words of St. Francis of Assisi every day of her campaign, according to a Religion News Service report; and Representative William Timmons of South Carolina, a member of Greenville’s Christ Church Episcopal whose faith inspires him to advocate for victims of domestic violence.
Two new lawmakers belong to Church of Christ congregations: Representative Lance Gooden of Texas, who attends Rockwall & Brin Church of Christ and identifies as Congregationalist, and Representative John Rose of Tennessee, who attends Buffalo Valley Church of Christ and identifies with the unspecified Protestant designation.
Six of the new class are Baptist, with half attending Southern Baptist churches: Representative Chip Roy of Texas, Representative Michael Guest of Mississippi, and Representative Ross Spano of Florida.
“While the issues we represent affect much more than Southern Baptists and while we have great relationships with members of Congress across denominations, we are always grateful when our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters are elected to Congress,” said Daniel Darling, vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“We do try to build special relationships with those SBC members and their staffs, and we find that sharing a common faith tradition helps us in our advocacy because we are working from many of the same assumptions,” he said, noting recent partnerships with incumbents Mark Walker, Mike Johnson, and James Lankford.
Baptists represent the largest Protestant affiliation in the country, about 15 percent of US adults, and they make up 13.5 percent of Congress, with 72 members total.
Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Massachusetts’s first African American congresswoman, attributes her passion for speaking to her upbringing in her grandfather’s storefront Baptist church.
Representative Carol Miller of West Virginia, another incoming Baptist, campaigned on her habit of praying before every vote while in the state legislature.
Anglicans and Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists make up between about 5 percent and 8 percent of Congress a piece, a few percentage points higher than each denomination’s current share of the US population.
Pentecostals (0.4% of Congress) and nondenominational Christians (1.9%) remain underrepresented, but some lawmakers from those traditions may use the popular unspecified/other Protestant category instead.
Representative Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, for example, attends nondenominational Seacoast Church outside of Charleston but identifies as unspecified Protestant. The incoming congressman said his positions on health care and climate change come from his Christian faith.
Another unspecified Protestant, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, attends New Song Church, affiliated with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. The Hill reported that the Concordia College graduate and one-time aspiring minister switched from mainline Lutheran to evangelical and views his political career as a Christian vocation. “I really see the vocation of politics like I see every vocation … as an extension of ministry,” said Cramer.
Overall, though the portion of Christian lawmakers continues to dip slightly, there are still a higher share of Christians in Congress (88.2%) than in the US overall (71%).
The biggest gap in congressional representation comes among the religiously unaffiliated. While nearly a quarter of Americans fall into the “nones” category (23%), just one member of Congress does (0.2%). (This year, that sole lawmaker—Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—was elected to the Senate after three terms in the House.)

5 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule in 2019 - Carey Nieuwhof

1. Charismatic expressions of church will grow while attractional will decline
2. Online church will become a front and side door, not just a backdoor
3.Churches will begin staffing online like it is a real thing.
4. Consumerist church will continue to lose momentum.
5. Churches will no longer be able to get away with bad workplace culture. 

Zinzendorf and Moravian Missionary Principles 
-Joshua Marcolina

The central though of Zinzendorf and the Moravians was Christ and His suffering. Zinzendorf stressed that instead of giving elaborate proofs for God’s existence, the missionary should cut to the chase and simply tell the story of Jesus. Christ is the only way to personally experience the love of God in an intimate relationship; therefore it is of utmost importance to make Him known. Zinzendorf emphasized the blood and wounds of Christ since this is how humanity can be saved from their sin and experience this love. By presenting the person of Jesus and His life to people, it could bring about conversations that may lead into deeper thoughts on the existence of God but the initial need for Jesus is what is of more importance. He thought knowledge of God can be assumed but Christ is the good, new news that needs to be shared with the world. To this day, the motto and logo of the Moravian church is the triumphant Agnus Dei with the words “Our Lamb has conquered; let us follow Him.” The Moravians wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings, knowing that Jesus has the victory and we are to follow Him in faith, laying aside our agenda to take up His cross.
The second major aspect of Moravian thought was the importance of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the king and leader of missions while the Holy Spirit is the only missionary. The church has no other mission than to follow Christ and we serve as agents of the Spirit to preach the message of Jesus to those who are called to receive it. It was not in the preaching or cleverness of missionaries to win converts; it is all the Spirit’s doing. Therefore, missionaries should not fear failure or be concerned with converting everyone. If they are faithfully following Jesus, the missionary can know that what they are doing is part of God’s plan and the Spirit is guiding them to where they need to go as far as sharing the gospel, regardless of outcome.
Closely associated with this was the idea of “first fruits,” those who accept the gospel message first. Zinzendorf looked to the stories in Acts of the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius to show the importance of first fruits. There are four principles in finding first fruits. First the Holy Spirit prepares the convert to receive the gospel as they seek out truth. Second, the Spirit directs the missionary to those that need to hear the gospel. Third, the missionary should avoid preaching and initiate a conversation with those with a good disposition. And lastly, baptism should take place as soon as possible once they are converted with no need for several weeks of preparation in answering questions. Missionaries were to look for those who may be receptive to hearing the gospel. If this process does not bring any results over a period of time, then the missionary can move on to a new location without guilt, knowing that they did everything they could in the power of the Spirit.

Pentecostalism May Have Done More for Africa Than All Aid Organizations Combined 
-Micael Grenholm
The vast majority of Pentecostals and Charismatics around the world deeply care about social work and poverty alleviation. Research even indicates that Pentecostalism is the largest movement for social justice that has ever existed.
Pentecostal studies are booming. While it used to be the case that Spirit-filled Christians stayed out of academia and scholars viewed the movement as a bit too much "out there", this is not the case today.
Pentecostal scholars like Amos Yong and Craig Keener are leading experts in their respective fields and there is a massive academic interest in why Pentecostalism has grown so fast and how it impacts society. The social sciences are no longer ignoring how 600 million Spirit-filled believers shape the world.