Monthly Archives: July 2012

Snyder: Recovering post-Christian Christians

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Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect the thoughts of Inside The Pew staff.

By John Snyder
Special to Inside The Pew

In the United States, many people are praying fervently and trying with all their might to recover a “Christian America,” and they’re convinced it can happen with just the right political candidate. “With our person in the White House we can go back to what we used to be!”

But even if we could elect St. Paul or St. Augustine as our new president, what impact would that have on a very un-Christian, post-Christian population without some massive spiritual awakening taking place first? It’s been said that no leader can be worse than the people who elected him/her.

It’s one thing for Christians to be living in a post-modern, post-Christian society, but it’s quite another for our churches to be packed with “post-Christian Christians.” What I mean is that unless and until we as Christians finally commit ourselves to live our lives as Jesus intended, it really won’t matter who occupies the White House or the seats of Congress, or sits in the Parliament of any other nation in the world.

Even if we can’t generate a predominantly Christian nation here in the USA, we can create a great number of Christian societies in the midst of it through our churches. But the church would have to be very different from what we see right now. By “different” I don’t mean in terms of the usual religious externals—clothing, appearance, religious language, and all of that—but in the way we act, what we value, and particularly how we treat one another.

“How they love one another!” and “With what great joy they live!” were things the pagan world said of the earliest Christians. Who says that about the church today? Virtually every poll that has come out in the last few decades has simply confirmed the continuous dismal slide of the church toward a complete conformity to the culture. We’re no longer distinguishable in any way from the secular world.

OK, so most of us have heard this before. Continuing to wring our hands about it won’t make any difference. Here’s what we can do about it. We can humble ourselves, turn from our own sin and selfishness, and give ourselves to prayer—real prayer, fervent prayer—continuing to ask, seek, and knock until God hears from heaven, forgives our sin, and heals our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

For churches to have any impact on society, change has to begin in us and our families first. We need to clean up our act, ensure that our family is centered on Christ, and then become healthy, active members of a real, God-honoring church.

It’s been said of nations at one time influenced by Christian faith (but no longer) that their social problems are primarily the fault of the church. In other words, when the church really is the church—when the word “Christian” means a person in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells—things happen. The medicine of the Gospel works only when taken full strength. And history has demonstrated that the Gospel has the power to revolutionize society even when a minority are believers.

Few doubt that the world is at one of its most critical points in all its history. We can’t make a mistake here. We’re faced with a full-blown call to arms, not with the weapons of the world, but with unrelenting prayer and the power of the Spirit, manifest in sacrificial love and steadfast obedience to whatever God calls each one of us to do.

This just isn’t the time for Christians to be pursuing along with the world more and more luxury, ease, entertainment, property, toys, and all the rest. The church may have been lulled to sleep by bread and circuses as the rest of the culture, but we don’t have to remain so. Listen to the call of the Spirit. It isn’t too late…yet.

Let’s ask ourselves, what can we do personally to resist the slide toward total cultural absorption of the church?

John Snyder (@jisnyder)is a pastor, author, and conference speaker. He has taught New Testament Studies at New College Berkeley, California, and has pastored and planted churches in California, New York, Switzerland, and Hawaii. Snyder received his Bachelor of Arts from Vanguard University (Costa Mesa, Calif.); his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary; and his Doctor of Theology from the University of Basel, Switzerland. Snyder’s new book, “Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God”, is now available from Thomas Nelson Publishers on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and other major retailers. He is also the founder of Community 321, an online faith community, and Basel Community, an information and relocation service to expats in the greater Basel, Switzerland, area. Contact Snyder via email john@community321.com.

Christian events calendar for July 9

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In Lewisville, Texas: Youth Enjoying Salvation (Y.E.S.) Ministries of Denton will host is first Born 2 Be Free conference and concert on Saturday, July 14 beginning at 9 a.m. at Macedonia Ministries, 702 S. Mill St. in Lewisville. Youth and young adults, ages 13-29, are invited to attend. Event is free and meals provided, but pre-registration is required. Day sessions and workshops include music, praise dance/step, spoken work/rap and sign language. The concert begins at 6 p.m. at the Medical Center Lewisville Grand Theatre. The event will feature the Born2BFree Conference choir and dance, mime, and step teams, and Christian and gospel artists.

In Fort Worth, Texas: The Fort Worth Christian Women’s Connection will hold a “Young at Heart” luncheon honoring mothers, daughters, and granddaughters from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 18 at Mira Vista Country Club, 6600 Mira Vista Blvd., in Fort Worth. Guest entertainment is Jana Fick and Girls N Grace Dolls. Cost is $17 for adults and $9 for children ages 5 to 12. Free childcare will be provided by Christ Church, 5301 Alta Mesa, in Fort Worth. Deadline for reservations for the luncheon and childcare is July 13. Call Patsy at 817-232-0106 or email fortworthwomensconnection@yahoo.com for reservations.

In Port Arthur, Texas: The Port Arthur Christian Women will hold its luncheon titled “A Million Dollar Look on a Ten Dollar Budget” beginning at 11:45 a.m. on July 13 at the Pompano Club, LeChambre Room, 330 Twin City Highway, Port Neches. The cost of lunch is $15 per person. Christine Rothchild from Katy, Texas, is the guest speaker. Her theme will be “How to dress like a million bucks without spending it.” Reservations are essential for the luncheon and for the nursery, if needed, and may be made by calling Donna at 722-0951 or Mary at 962-5571 by Tuesday, July 10.

In Port Arthur, Texas: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 821 Freeman Ave. in Port Arthur, will hold Vacation Bible School from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, July 16 to Friday, July 20 at the church. Join them for a week long summer adventure for ages 1 to 100 as they “Go Fishin’ Deep for God’s Word Finding Heavenly Treasures,” through this opportunity for fellowship, discipleship and praise. Classes are held in the education building of the church. Call 409-985-9977 to schedule transportation.

In Katy, Texas: The Katy Christian Women’s Connection will hold a prayer coffee and fellowship meeting from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 12 at La Madelaine’s, 23322 Mercantile Parkway, in Katy. Betty Fancher is the guest speaker. Bring a friend and don’t forget to bring your Bible! Plan to arrive 30 minutes before the prayer coffee begins for breakfast and fellowship; the prayer coffee will begin promptly at 10 a.m. RSVP to Nancy at 281-232-8338.

Ancient synagogue discovered in Galilee excavations

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By Elisa Moed, Founder and CEO of www.Travelujah.com
ASSIST News Service

HUQOQ, ISRAEL – A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (circa fourth and fifth centuries C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.

The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and the University of Toronto in Canada.

Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.

Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). This second season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building. The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges, chapter 15).

In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refers to rewards for those who perform good deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”

Excavations are scheduled to continue in the summer 2013.

 

A fourth of Ju-lye I’ll never forget

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By Rick Marschall
Special to ASSIST News Service

Swartz Creek, Mich. – A number of years ago I was working on a book, a three-part biography of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, and country music superstar Mickey Gilley, who all are first cousins to each other. A friend offered me his unused condo in Montgomery, Texas, to get away for research and writing one summer. Since Lewis lived in Mississippi, Swaggart in Louisiana, and Gilley in nearby Pasadena, Texas, it made geographical sense.

Once settled, I took out the Yellow Pages to chart the location of Assembly of God churches for all the weeks ahead, intent on visiting as many as I could. East Texas was in every way new to me, and I wanted to experience everything I could. I was born in New York City… you get the picture.

Well, the first church I visited was in Cut and Shoot, Texas. That’s the town’s name; you can look it up. A small, white frame AG church was my first stop that summer… and I never visited another. For one thing — coincidence? — I learned that a member of the tiny congregation was the widow of a man who had pastored the AG church in Ferriday, La., the small town FOUR HOURS AWAY where, and when, those three cousins grew up in its pews. She knew them all, and their families, and had great stories. Beyond that, the pastor of the church in Cut and Shoot, Charles Wigley, had gone to Bible College in Waxahachie, Texas, with Jerry Lee Lewis and played in a band with him, until Jerry Lee got kicked out. Some more great stories.

But there was more than that kept me there for that summer. In that white-frame church and that tiny congregation, it was, um, obvious in three minutes that I was not from East Texas. Yet I was treated like family as if they all had known me three decades. It was the Sunday before July 4, and a fellow named Dave Gilbert asked me if I’d like to go to his farm for the Fourth where a bunch of people were just going to get together and “do some visitin’.”

On the Fourth I bought the biggest watermelon I could find as my contribution to the get-together. Well, there were dozens and dozens of folks. I couldn’t tell which was family and who were friends, because everybody acted like family. When folks from East Texas ask, “How ARE you?” they really mean it. There were several monstrous barbecue smokers with chimneys, all slow-cooking beef brisket. (Every region brags about its barbecue traditions, but I’ll still fight anyone who doesn’t claim low-heat, slow-smoked, no sauce, East-Texas BBQ as the best) There was visitin,’ after all; there were delicious side dishes; there was softball and volleyball and kids dirt-biking; and breaks for sweet tea and spontaneous singing of patriotic songs.

I sat back in a folding chair, and I thought, “THIS is America.”

As the sun set, the same food came out again — smoked brisket galore; all the side dishes; and desserts of all sorts. Better than the first time. Then the Gilberts cleared the porch of their house. People brought instruments out of their cars and trucks. Folks tuned their guitars; some microphones and amps were set up; chairs and blankets dotted the lawn. Dave Gilbert and his brothers, I learned, sang gospel music semi-professionally in the area. Pastor Wigley and his saxophone, later in the summer, opened for Gold City Quartet at a local concert. But everyone else sang, too. In some churches, in some parts of America, you’re just expected to sing solo every once in a while. You’re not only expected to — you WANT to. So into the evening, as the sun went down and the moon came up over those farms and fields, everyone at that picnic sang, together or solo or in duets or quartets. Spontaneously, mostly. Far into the night, exuberantly with smiles, or heartfelt with tears, singing unto the Lord.

I sat back in a folding chair, and I thought, “THIS is Heaven.”

Recently I came across a video that very closely captures the music, and the feeling — the fellowship — of that evening. A wooden ranch house, a barbecue picnic just ended, a campfire, and singers spontaneously worshiping, joining in, clapping, and “taking choruses.” There were cameras at this one, this video, but it took this city boy back to that Fourth of Ju-lye, finding himself amongst a brand-new family, the greatest barbecue I ever tasted before or since… and the sweetest songs I know.

Rick Marschall is the author of 65 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture. He is recipient of the 2008 “Christian Writer of the Year” award from the Greater Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, and produces a weekly e-mail devotional, “Monday Morning Music Ministry.” His e-mail address is: RickMarschall@gmail.com.


Second death confirmed in Colorado Springs wildfire

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Reuters reported June 29 authorities have found a body in the debris of a burned-out home in Colorado Springs, marking the second fatality from a fierce wildfire that ranks as Colorado’s most destructive on record after incinerating 347 homes, police said.

“Police Chief Peter Carey released no further details about the victim, who becomes the sixth person killed this year in a Colorado wildfire season described by the governor as the worst in the state’s history. The discovery came on the same day that President Barack Obama visited the affected area,” said the Reuters story.

Meanwhile, ANS correspondent, Kenneth D. MacHarg, has forwarded a message to us about a missionary couple, Brad and Jeannette Hillman, who have lost their home in the Colorado Springs fire, after just returning to the United States to work with the Navigators.

A friend of the couple wrote, “I just talked with Brad and Jeanette and they’re sad to have lost all the family memorabilia. They had just moved in three weeks ago and started unpacking their stored boxes, including family photos. The stuff from [overseas] had not yet arrived. They ask for prayer to grieve well and for opportunities to minister amidst of this. Several ‘Nav’ staff [have also] lost homes, including the president.”

According to the Navigators website, “Dozens of Navigator staff have been evacuated from their homes and some have had their homes consumed by the fire. Please pray for them to know God’s loving care.”

The statement went on to say, “In the midst of this tragedy, there is hopeful news about Glen Eyrie [their property]. Initial reports indicate that no buildings have been lost. We will update you with official word as it becomes available. The unpredictability of this fire reminds us that we are not out of danger, only that we’ve made it through one more day.

“All Glen Eyrie conferences and activities have been cancelled through July 5. Please check the Glen Eyrie website for updates on future events. All Navigator personnel, including staff, guests, and participants in the Global Student Program (GSP) were safely evacuated from the area long before the fire approached. The GSP students are being housed in private homes.

“We have not heard any more news about the Eagle Lake Camps property, other than the loss of one small cabin. However, all remaining camps have been cancelled and the summer staff has returned home. It is hoped that Eagle Lake Day Camp will resume, based on the availability of Glen Eyrie.”

It added, “A group of about 40 staff from USHQ, IO, Glen Eyrie, and Eagle Lake Camps, have taken up temporary offices at Focus on the Family. Scores more staff members are working from home, conducting business with amazing effectiveness.

“Your prayers mean a great deal to us. Thank you for your concern. Continue to remember the Colorado Springs community, as more than 30,000 people have been displaced.”

Rick Wood, editor of Mission Frontiers, and his wife, Lorena, have updated the situation and asked for prayer for the many thousands affected by the wildfires. In a message to friends, he said, “The official count right now is that 346 homes were lost and one person has been found dead in one of those homes. This is the first casualty of the fire. This is officially the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

“The city as a whole is beginning to return to more normal operation and the TV stations are not covering this event 24 hours day as they had been on Tuesday, thru Thursday.

“Continue to pray for soaking rain and calm winds. The calm winds, which I asked you to pray for a couple days ago, have made a huge difference in the progress the firefighters have made.”

Among the many groups helping with the situation, is Springs Rescue Mission, located at 5 W Las Vegas St., Colorado Springs. It has been is opening its warehouse to help the victims. Needed items include Gatorade, blankets, food, clothing and household items. Collection hours are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday. Donated items will be dispersed to agencies directly engaged with those affected by the Waldo Canyon fire. Call 719-632-1822.