Category Archives: Pew Talk

Jesus’ resurrection: Fact or fiction?

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Jesus' empty tomb

By Rusty Wright
Special to ASSIST News Service

MOUNT HERMON, Calif. – At Easter, some might wonder what all the fuss is about.  Who cares?  What difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?

It makes all the difference in the world.  If Christ did not rise, then thousands of believers have died as martyrs for aJesus' empty tomb hoax.

If he did rise, then he is still alive and can offer peace to troubled, hurting lives.

Countless scholars – among them the apostle Paul, Augustine, Sir Isaac Newton, and C.S. Lewis – have believed in the resurrection.  We need not fear committing intellectual suicide by believing it also.  Where do the facts lead?

Paul, a first-century skeptic-turned-believer, wrote that “Christ died for our sins…he was buried…he was raised on the third day…he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve [Disciples].  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred…at the same time, most of whom are still living.”  Consider four pieces of evidence:

  1. The explosive growth of the Christian movement. Within a few weeks after Jesus was crucified, a movement arose which, by the later admission of its enemies, “upset the world.”  What happened to ignite this movement shortly after its leader had been executed?
  2. The disciples’ changed lives. After Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, most of his disciples fled in fear.  Peter denied three times that he was a follower of Jesus.  (The women were braver and stayed to the end.)  Yet ten out of the eleven disciples (Judas committed suicide) were martyred for their faith.  According to traditions, Peter was crucified upside down; Thomas was skewered.  John was boiled in oil but survived.  What turned these cowards into heroes?  Each believed he had seen Jesus alive again.
  3. The empty tomb. Jesus’ corpse was removed from the cross, wrapped like a mummy, and placed in a solid-rock tomb.  A one-and-a-half to two-ton stone was rolled into a slightly depressed groove to seal the tomb’s entrance.

A “Green Beret”-like unit of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb.  Sunday morning, the stone was found rolled away, the body was gone, but the graveclothes were still in place.  What happened?

Did Christ’s friends steal the body?  Perhaps one of the women sweet-talked (karate-chopped?) the guard while the others moved the stone and tiptoed off with the body.  Or maybe Peter (remember his bravery) or Thomas (Doubting Thomas) overpowered the guards, stole the body, then fabricated – and died for – a resurrection myth.

These theories hardly seem plausible.  The guard was too powerful, the stone too heavy, and the disciples too frightened to attempt such a feat.

Did Christ’s enemies steal the body?  If Romans or Jewish religious leaders had the body, surely they would have exposed it publicly and Christianity would have died out.  They didn’t, and it didn’t.

The “Swoon Theory” supposes that Jesus didn’t really die but was only unconscious.  The expert Roman executioners only thought he was dead.  After a few days in the tomb, the cool air revived him.

He burst from the 100 pounds of graveclothes, rolled away the stone with his nail-pierced hands, scared the daylights out of the Roman soldiers, walked miles on wounded feet, and convinced his disciples he’d been raised from the dead.  This one is harder to believe than the resurrection itself.

  1. The appearances of the risen Christ. For 40 days after his death, many different people said they saw Jesus alive.  Witnesses included a woman, a shrewd tax collector, several fisherman, and over 500 people at once.  These eyewitness claims provide further testimony for the resurrection.

As a skeptic, I realized that attempts to explain away the evidences run into a brick wall of facts that point to oneRusty Wright conclusion:  Christ is risen.

The above does not constitute an exhaustive proof, rather a reasoned examination of the evidence.  Each interested person should evaluate the evidence and decide if it makes sense.  Of course, the truth or falsity of the resurrection is a matter of historical fact and is not dependent on anyone’s belief.  If the facts support the claim, one can conclude that he arose.  In any case, mere intellectual assent to the facts does little for one’s life.

A major evidence comes experientially, in personally receiving Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness.  He said, “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him [or her].”

Worth considering?*     *     *

The New Testament resurrection accounts are in Matthew 27-28Mark 15-16,Luke 23-24, and John 19-21.  Suggestions for further reading:  J.N.D. Anderson, The Evidence for the Resurrection; Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone?; Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Copyright © 2016 Rusty Wright

Heart attack victim raised from the dead!

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By Charles Gardner
Special to ASSIST News Service

DONCASTER, UK — A man from the Yorkshire town of Doncaster in the north of England, was restored to life after being clinically dead for nearly an hour during hospital treatmentRaised_from_the_Dead has been speaking about his experience at Christian meetings around the country.

But in an exclusive interview with this journalist, Joe Stevenson has now shared his amazing story for the purposes of newspaper coverage.

The “miracle” happened six years ago, and has been verified by the surgeon involved.

Joe was admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary for a total knee replacement but, at the initiation of physiotherapy the day after surgery, he suffered a massive heart attack.

For the next 55 minutes he had “no cardiac output and no respiratory effort other than what was maintained by the resuscitation team,” according to Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Mr. A. S. W. Bruce.

When informed by the patient’s son-in-law that Joe had died, his church friends began to pray – not for the Lord to raise him up, but for his family to be comforted.

Then, amazingly, his heart started beating again – “spontaneous cardiac output and respiratory effort were returned,” said Mr. Bruce – and he was in a coma for the next 72 hours. But there was no brain damage and, although initially suffering acute renal failure, this completely settled in time.

“Having seen him in clinic, he has made an uneventful recovery,” Mr. Bruce added in a letter dated Jan. 25, 2011.

Now 75 and in continuing good health, Joe lives in Coniston Road, Askern, with his wife, Wilsie.

Dr. David Garrard, a senior lecturer at the Assemblies of God Bible College at Mattersey, Doncaster, and a fellow member at the time of the Reachout Christian Fellowship at Christ Church in central Doncaster, said: “The miracle of the resurrection power of Christ is evidenced in what happened to Joe.”

Joe was admitted for his operation [surgery] on Dec. 9, 2009. The op itself went smoothly, but it was the following morning, as he lay recovering, that he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Wilsie called their five children, who immediately dropped everything and raced down from all over the country. Then the doctor announced: “We have a pulse, but don’t build your hopes.”

“The medical team had fully expected Joe to be a vegetable due to no oxygen supply to his brain for all that time,” Wilsie recalled. “And though his kidneys were not initially functioning, with regular dialysis on the cards, they eventually returned to normal, to the delight of the medics.”

Joe has since revealed that he had a series of extraordinary visions during his hour of “death.”

This included a scene of “total chaos on the earth” with everyone struggling for power and some arguing over clothing and possessions which had become worthless as money no longer had any value.

“The Lord showed me armies fighting one another, even beginning to kill their own people; young men and women taking people into alleyways, killing them at random and running away, laughing. I saw pillaging and rapes.

“Then I saw millions of dead bodies inside a massive lean-to, all in different uniforms. And giant earth-moving machines pushing the bodies into a quarry – something like a picture of Armageddon described in the Bible.” (Revelation 14.20)

Dr. Garrard explained: “I have no difficulty at all accepting what Joe communicates [of his visions] because… they can be backed up by many portions of Scripture.”

Joe and Wilsie are currently members of the Millennium Christian Fellowship in Hemsworth [a former mining town in West Yorkshire], meeting at the YMCA.

Joe said that in the weeks leading up to his surgery, he had sought a much closer relationship with God as a result of which he experienced “a deep cleansing and a strengthening of spirit.”

He now realizes that we all need to get back to basic Bible principles of loving one another as one body, with Jesus as head.

Round: Make the most of your new year

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“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well”—3 John 2(NIV).

By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

A New Year has arrived and with it the usual resolutions to lose weight, get in shape and quit smoking. Some look for quick fixes through crash diets, new exercise crazes or so-called “magical” pills while others seek a solution through surgery, bringing with it a host of possible complications and side effects.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I don’t recall seeing as many overweight people as is prevalent today. I also don’t remember seeing a fast-food restaurant on almost every corner. MyCarol Round mother was a stay-at-home mom who cooked healthy meals. When we did eat out, it was a treat. Today, eating out seems to be the norm as the choice of restaurants and fast-food places have grown as fast as our waistlines and hips.

Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by making resolutions each January, what if we turned to scripture for a permanent solution to our health problems?  What if we chose to do the following?

Make wise choices concerning our health. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what the wisest choices are when we get conflicting information via the media. We must educate ourselves through reliable sources, including those from reputable organizations. (see Proverbs 2:6)

Practice self-control.  With an abundance of food choices in our country comes stress. How is that possible? Just walk down a supermarket aisle and check out the options available. It can be overwhelming. Too many choices can lead us to make hasty decisions. We don’t take time to study labels nor educate ourselves about the best food for our bodies. (see Proverbs 25:28)

Honor God with our bodies. How do we do this? By choosing wisely what we eat and drink and letting go of bad habits that lead to disease and early death. (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Ask for accountability. If you’re trying to make healthier choices, seek an accountability partner who will help you stay on track until your new lifestyle becomes a daily habit. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Rely on God’s power rather than our own strength. A new year brings resolve to do better for most of us, hence the word ‘resolution.’ However, we usually set out to accomplish them in our own power. That’s why most people fail. (see Philippians 4:13)

Choose to exercise our bodies. Say the word “exercise” and most people run in the opposite direction. Why is that? Do we equate it with hard work? Is it because we don’t want to make the time, instead preferring to vegetate in front of the TV? Exercise should be fun. Fun? Choose something that interests you and will keep you motivated. (see Romans 12:1)

Quit making excuses. Just do it! (Luke 14:17-18)

Start your New Year right. Commit all of your goals and plans to the Lord. Ask for His direction and guidance for the coming year. Make the most of 2016.

Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Bradshaw: Bragging rights

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Editor’s note: No. 1 Clemson defeated South Carolina, 37-32, on Nov. 28.

By Sherry Bradshaw
Special to Inside The Pew

As I write this blog…I am sitting in my bed…fire going…listening to the hustle and bustle in our home as everyone gets ready for the Clemson-South Carolina game. Biggest game ofSherry Bradshaw the year in most South Carolinians hearts…if they are honest… 🙂

Yes, I am a Clemson graduate and a Clemson fan…of course I am. Since I married a former USC football player some ask if I am still a Clemson fan. In my mind I say, “Really?” and wonder why they would think I am not a Clemson fan. After years of being asked this question I have come to the conclusion that because I live in Columbia, and don’t go to every Clemson game, and I don’t heckle people about “whose team is better,” many others have concluded that I must have “crossed over!”

To set the record straight–always have been and always will be a Clemson fan. But I can honestly say that my identity does not rest there. In fact, having our identity wrapped up in what team you pull for or what school you go to or graduated from is absurd to me. I am not at all saying “don’t be a fan or be proud of your school choice!” By all means be a huge fan, supporter and cheerleader for your school…nothing at all harmful about that.

But when it defines you…
your happiness meter is based on wins and losses and
it separates you from being friends with people who don’t see things the way you do…
then there is a REAL PROBLEM in my opinion…
that is when…we need to check the “idol status” in our lives.

Yes, I do love my team and my school. I have observed something over the last 5 or 6 years. I have found it interesting to watch how people, on both sides of the fence, act when their school is on top or on bottom. I have watched, in particular, some of the biggest fans for Clemson and South Carolina as the successes of both schools have varied drastically in the last couple of years.

I especially love to see who wears their colors after the game in the weeks to follow and who still flies their flags. Is it based on wins? Or true love no matter the outcome? I can honestly say that in the last few years of living in Columbia I wore my orange to the gym for four years straight after losing to South Carolina. Yes, on the Monday after the game I continued to sport my colors. My love meter didn’t rest in the win/loss tally.

Where am I going with this…..??????

Don’t let wins/losses determine your joy, your friends, your loyalty. Watch your words…your posts. Check your “idol meter!”

Of course idolatry can be many things…but “sports and the success of OUR team” is a big one. Funny…how hot and cold I have heard the same people be on Coach Spurrier and Coach Swinney.

Love one year and hate the next.

Wow…just Wow…the mentality: “I will love you now if you are winning.”

I am so glad I am not hated or loved by family and friends based on my performance. I encourage you first, to remain a “loyal and true fan to your school, win or loss”. Second, what really comes from boasting? Can’t we just let the record speak in any year without “showboating” like we were the ones who suited up and did the work?

Everyone is going to know the outcome and the score. Do we really have to “roar” or “cock-a-doodle-doo” when our team wins?

If you disagree…oh well…. just saying…… true peace, joy, and contentment in life isn’t at all derived from wins from your team. It is fleeting, not lasting at all. If you are a Clemson or a Carolina fan, just look at the last few years. Both have won and both have lost. What is your joy meter based on? Where does your joy come from?

I encourage you to look for joy and contentment in things that last….that aren’t fleeting. I encourage you to “re-purpose your fan-ship” into a growing and thriving relationship with Christ. One that could bring you to “raising your hands in worship on Sunday” instead of just in the “stands on Saturday”.

Six years ago it was apparent to me that I could not say I was a bigger fan of the Lord than Clemson if I treated one differently in my praise. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks….” (see Luke 6:45). I needed to examine my actions and I realized that when others looked at my life they would probably have said…”your actions are so LOUD…I can’t hear what you are saying!”

What is your heart? It will always overflow into your words and actions! Psalm 33:1, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.”

Columbia, S.C. native Sherry Bradshaw is author of The Front Nine: Making Your Shots Count in Life (Life Bridge Books), and founder of Back 9 Ministries.

Vallot-Baskin: Woman. Warrior. Witness.   

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By Lori Vallot-Baskin
Special to Inside The Pew

We women prepare for the day by applying our makeup, fragrance, and clothing. We contour our faces to perfection, enhancing our God-Lori Vallot-Baskingiven beauty. We spray a fine mist of fragrance over our bodies and we adorn our frames with the right attire to complement our bold, beautiful, and bountiful curves. We take care to choose a shoe that speaks so that we do not have to. Our accessories are exquisite, leaving admirers and onlookers stunned. We spend hours on end achieving a flawless look, right? Imagine if we put this much effort into preparation for every aspect of lives.

Now that I have your attention, hello beautiful! Yes, you! Woman, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Woman, you are more than a conqueror. Being fearfully and wonderfully made and being more than a conqueror, comes with some responsibility as you might imagine. For instance, you must overcome forgetfulness. Unlike your lip-gloss or your mobile phone, your clutch, sweater or planner, there are some things that you just simply must not leave home without. We all do it, in a hurry, rush, or dash for the door; we realize we have left something important at home.

If you knew you were going into battle, wouldn’t you want the necessary tools and resources for the event? Well, there is a war going on and we, as warriors, must be equipped for battle at all times. You see, the media outlets will not show coverage of this war. You must simply be prepared for your time to battle should you be called. After all, we are revered for our strength, courage, and endurance. If you are up to the task

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17)

My prayer for you, my sisters, is that you face each day boldly, that you are equipped and clothed for battle. May God bless the women warriors who stand as living witnesses attesting to the might, power, and strength of our God. I pray that God clothes you with beauty, strength and dignity and that you are always ready to conquer the day no matter the war or how formidable the opponent in your way.

I am a woman. I am a warrior. I am a witness.

Lori Vallot-Baskin, founder of On Fire to Inspire is a speaker, mentor, vocation trainer and personal brand strategist with 10 years of experience. She is dedicated to impacting and inspiring women to identify their unique and God-given gifts and talents for use in the workplace, their communities, their churches, with their families and in their personal lives by a three-point strategy: Motivate. Educate. Empower. Visit Lori’s blog and connect with her on Facebook (On Fire to Inspire), Instagram (@onfire2inspire), and Twitter (@onfiretoinspire).

‘I got tainted’: Justin Bieber’s monumental return to Jesus

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Justin Bieber

By Mark Ellis
Special to ASSIST News Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – In the last few years, singer-songwriter Justin Bieber’s bad-boy antics and run-ins with the law have alienated some of his Christian fan base and even led thousands to petition the White House to have the Canadian-born star deported. But recently, the 21-year-old pop sensation has reconsidered the error of his ways and made a stunning turnaround in his relationship with Christ.

In an interview with Joe La Puma for the Oct/Nov 2015 issue of COMPLEX conducted at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel, Bieber bares his soul about the dramatic restoration of his walk with Jesus.

“I forgot what I was about, what my mom raised me to be,” Bieber confessed to COMPLEX. “I veered off, and I got tainted. I came into the music industry at 13. I was trying to trust people and they’d break my heart at 15,” he says.

Bieber became disillusioned with people who took advantage of him. In response, he started to “do his own thing.”

“I got into a little bit of trouble,” he admits, “—nothing that other 20-year-olds don’t get into—just rebelling a little bit. Now, being 21, I’m coming into my own and around some pretty cool people who are not afraid to tell me what’s real.”

He says his behavior pushed the limits. “I was doing anything. I was doing so many things that I shouldn’t even be on the planet still. I think that it (my survival) was by the grace of God.”

During his time of rebellion, he says his manager, Scooter Braun always made sure he was safe and that situations didn’t escalate out of control. Sometimes Braun’s oversight as a “fixer” worked, and other times it backfired, he told COMPLEX.

The night he spent in jail was an unforgettable experience. “It’s freezing; it’s uncomfortable; there are people in there you just don’t want to be around. I had people who were yelling at me. They were saying, “Bieber! We f___ with you, bro! We love you! Aye! Keep your head up, bro!” It was kind of funny to hear that, especially from cats in jail.”

Bieber admits some people around him wanted him to rebel.

Following his epic break-up with Selena Gomez, his heart began to soften toward God. “Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling. People have made it seem in movies that it’s this fairy tale. That’s not what love is.

“You’re not gonna want to love your girl sometimes but you’re gonna choose to love her,” he continued. “That’s something in life that I had to figure out. I can’t lean on people. I got to lean on God. I gotta trust in Him through all my situations. Then, hopefully, my other relationships will flourish around me.”

After his turbulent adolescence, he also began to reflect on the limits of science and his place in the universe. “For a ‘big bang; to create all this is more wild [cq] to think about than thinking about there being a God,” he told COMPLEX.

“Imagine putting a bunch of gold into a box, shaking up the box, and out comes a Rolex. It’s so preposterous once people start saying it. At this point, my faith has gotten me to where I am. My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith.”

Photo captions: 1) Bieber with Selena Gomez. 2) Justin praying with friends.

Mark Ellis is senior correspondent for the ASSIST News Service and also the founder of Godreports, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions.

 

Round: Faith or fear: Which would you choose?

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By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”—Psalm 56:3(ESV).

Does the headline news make you afraid to leave your house? Constantly paying attention to the negative can stop us from living out our faith.

With the constant feed of bad news, some are fearful the end is near. Could it be? Remember, Jesus doesn’t even know. “But no one knowsCarol Round the date and hour when the end will be—not even the angels. No, nor even God’s Son. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36, TLB).

Choosing faith over fear is the only answer. When we choose faith, we are stretched and forced to grow spiritually. In Romans 10:17, Paul says, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” So how do we build our faith?

First, we must know the Word. In Psalm 119:66, the writer penned these words: “Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.” Knowing God’s Word is our foundation. It’s the beginning of choosing faith over fear. It’s not enough to attend church on Sunday mornings. We must also read, study and memorize His Word, letting it soak into our spirit.

Second, we must obey the Word. James 2:22 puts it this way: “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” When we obey God’s Word, we are confident when confronted by fear. The more often we step out in faith in obedience to God’s Word, the more our faith grows in the Lord.

The third step is speaking God’s Word. Deuteronomy 30:14 states, “No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Have you ever spoken God’s Word aloud? If you have, you know the power it gives you to let go of fear and of the unknown. There’s just something about repeating Holy Scriptures that propels us forward when we want to give up.

Praying the Word is step four. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword when you speak it in faith!” Some of the best prayers come straight from the Bible. Prayers of great Bible heroes abound as wonderful examples of how to move our faith over a mountain of fear.

Step five is to live the Word. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” As a believer, if you know, obey, speak and pray the Word of God, you will live out your life in faith and not fear.

Pastor Alexander MacLaren once said, “Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles. If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation. He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust.”

Faith or fear—which will you choose?

Photo information: Scripture Art courtesy of Share A Verse.

Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

Northrop: Jesus didn’t come to the world to judge

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By Cynthia Northrop
Special to Inside the Pew

Editor’s note: This is part one of a series of articles developed by Northrop on this topic.

As Christians our job isn’t to judge the world. Jesus came into the world, sent by the Father, to save the world, toCynthia Northrop save those in the world, not to judge them (: “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” And John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”)

We are ambassadors of Christ.  We are His hands and feet and His representatives. As Jesus spoke only what the Father told Him to speak so we are to speak only that which Jesus and the Holy Spirit tells us to speak.

Jesus said if He was lifted up he would draw all (men and women) to Him. As we speak His words, He will still draw all to Him.  This is an immutable spiritual principle sealed by His death on the cross as He paid the debt for our sin).

God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and it is God’s loving-kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It is because of His great love for us that He sent His only son to pay the price for our sinful state.

So while there is time and it is still ‘today’ we share the good news of God’s great love, speaking the truth in love to save people, not to judge them.  I am reminded of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26) when Jesus pointed out her sin (of multiple partners) and yet still offered her ‘living water’ and eternal life.  Or how about the woman caught in adultery and the religious people of the day brought the her to Jesus demanding she be stoned and yet Jesus responded to her by telling her he didn’t condemn her while at the same time encouraging her not to continue in sin. In other words, Jesus spoke the truth in love. Why? Because there is coming a day when we will all stand before the One who judges.

It is interesting to note that immediately following John 12:47, where Jesus says he didn’t come to judge the world but to save it, Jesus continues and tells us, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (John 12:48). And though God will judge us what is amazing is that He also provided the way by which we can escape that judgment. He gives us the keys to paradise, to life; it’s like He gives us a test but also gives us the answers to the test! How cool is that?

We have the choice of choosing life or death. One of life’s great ironies is that when we choose what may seem to be the ‘straight and narrow’ path we experience and reap wide open spaces of freedom and joy. Conversely, when we choose those things that seem pleasurable and fun at first, over time we experience the inevitable negative consequences of those choices.  The irony is that we don’t make the connection between the choices we made and the outcome we are experiencing.

I chose life and love through God’s son, Jesus Christ. You too have a choice and whether you consciously choose or not, you DO choose. So, which will you choose?

Cynthia Northrop considers herself a community activist desirous of being salt and light in the world as called by God. She has been active in local government serving in the capacity of elected official and has served on numerous boards and committees including The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and currently serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of North Central Texas. She is a musician singer/songwriter with five self-produced CD’s of mostly original work and has served on her church praise and worship team for over 20 years. Cynthia’s writing endeavors include stints reporting for a Christian tabloid released in the DFW metroplex, articles for local newspapers, technical writing and blogs. She is currently writing her first book. 

Copyright © 2015 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

 

 

Thompson: Seek God’s guidance before leaving a church

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By Nina Thompson
Special to Inside The Pew

First of all, we must be clear why we have chosen to attend church. For me, it was simply that something was missing from my life and I wanted more of God. I wanted to understand God, and have help in navigating my life and making decisions. I also had learned that we all have special gifts and talents given by God, and I dearly wanted to know what those were and how I should use them to serve God and others. I didn’t want to go to the graveyard “full” as they say (1 Peter 4:10).

There are indeed some situations, though, where we should stop attending a particular church because it has become detrimental to our spiritual health. In thoseChurch Hurt Ain't No Joke by Nina Thompson instances, pack your bags and ask God to lead you somewhere else or show you what the next step is.

However, you do not want to leave a church before you have obtained what God sent you there to give or get, so my overall suggestion is that you ALWAYS seek God’s guidance before leaving a church. Remember that you are there to begin or strengthen your relationship with God. When you decide that you want more of God, expect that all sorts of things will come up against you moving forward – friends who ask you to do things on the day you planned to attend church or study the Bible, people seemingly staring at you or talking about you in church, horrible memories of church as a child – the list goes on and depends on where we are most vulnerable. So keep your eyes on the benefits of the journey.

While we can definitely have a relationship with God without attending church full-time, the community of church forces you to grow and mature spiritually, as you deal with the myriad of issues that always come about when working with people. So it is a good idea to have some type of relationship in a setting with others who are trying to more fully discover and interact with God, whether it be a church, ministry group, organization, etc.

In my book, Church Hurt Ain’t No Joke, I also offer very practical guidance for becoming a true disciple of Christ and maintaining your focus on your relationship with God. However more importantly, the book outlines steps that can be taken to move past the feelings of hurt or pain and toward a God-led and God-ordained life.

Here are tidbits from some of those steps that you can take right now that will help you to heal and reconnect with both God and the church. Be prepared because it takes WORK!

  • First and foremost, pray and ask God to send you to an environment that while it may have its faults, will be a place that focuses on teaching individuals how to expand their relationship to God, and not simply to follow leadership. Just say it in plain English and watch God lead you to an environment in which you can grow. It will still hurt, but it will be pain with a purpose. Understand that you are responsible to God and others.
  • The God-given charge focuses on our responsibility to God and those we have been assigned to. Our commitment is first to our relationship with God, and secondly, to our relationship with man. (Matthew 22:36-39). Love should be the basis for all that we do or we can do irreparable harm to ourselves and others. In the book we discuss how focuses on love can turn our actions into acts of worship to God, as opposed to empty, public gestures.
  • Pray daily but don’t just ramble. In the book, we highlight the best way to use this time in prayer so that you can begin to receive direction and guidance from God. Sometimes simply jotting down words, images, perceptions while you are sitting in the presence of God is what will help you obtain guidance.
  • Feed your spirit material that helps it to grow. At the end of the book, there is a list of books and publications that help me grow tremendously. The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson is one of the best, but there are many others that will definitely cause a growth spurt. I’ve read many others as well since the book was published but the lesson is to study to show thyself approved (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Read and study the Bible, especially scriptures that heal you. Examples include Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 23:11-14, and 1 Peter 5:7. It may be hard to memorize but read it aloud and it will get into your spirit. The scriptures will come to you almost miraculously at times at times when you need them if you read and study often.

Be diligent and persistent in your participation.  You can’t learn if you aren’t present to be taught.

Nina Thompson, DMin., has more than 25 years of experience in Public Relations and Communications. She has been published

Nina Thompson extensively in local, state-wide and national magazines, journals and newspapers, and has served as a magazine editor and writer, a newspaper columnist and a newspaper reporter. She lives in Missouri where she has operated NICHE Public Relations and Communications since October 2004 and serves as an adjunct English instructor for several colleges. In July 2011, she helped to launch Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, where she served as church administrator for four years, and helped to establish and now leads the college-age ministry, “Yes to God.” She also serves as Executive Director of the Gateway Board for Mission and Growth of the United Methodist Church, and Executive Director of Rose of Sharon Ministries, Inc., which she established in 2014. Thompson is available for workshops, speaking engagements and book signings for both of her published works, Church Hurt Ain’t No Joke and Why Yes to God: Essays on Life and God by Young Adults.

 

I am Second short film highlights Jeff Fisher’s walk to salvation

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Nonprofit, Pepsi MidAmerica collaborate to give fans VIP game-day experience with longtime NFL head coach

By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

When NFL fans think of Jeff Fisher, the moustache and cool sunglasses come to mind.

But now, Fisher has provided an enduring image of himself – son of the Almighty.

In a bonus short film released by I am Second, Fisher, who is entering his fourth season with the Rams, takes his place on the ceremonial white chairI am Second Jeff Fisher to detail the walk that eventually lead to his commitment to our Savior.

The Plano-based nonprofit announced Aug. 17 it is collaborating with Pepsi MidAmerica to offer fans the opportunity to win a VIP sideline experience with coach Fisher. Fans can enter the text-to-win and online contest between now and Sept. 30. Four winners will be chosen to receive a VIP prize of two suite-level tickets to a St. Louis Rams game, hotel accommodations, a meet and greet with Coach Fisher, a stadium tour and Saturday field passes. Entries are being accepted now at http://www.pepsimidamerica.com/iamsecond/.

“We are excited to be partnering with Pepsi MidAmerica for the first time to offer fans an inside look at NFL life from a coach’s perspective,” said John Humphrey, director of communications. “We want to give viewers a never-before-seen perspective via the film but also help create an experience they will never forget.”

In his testimony, the coach candidly admits a hurtful event that took place in the pews when Fisher was approximately 8 years old.

“I had this moment in church which I think really, really turned me off,” he said.

Fisher recounts how monsignor corrected his behavior with a hint of aggression and little explanation.

“It terrified me; I was in complete shock,” he said. “This is where my journey began.”

The spiritual void remained with Fisher, as he experienced success in collegiate and professional football as a player with USC and the Chicago Bears, respectively. Fisher’s coaching career – his 20th – isn’t exactly shabby either, as he spent 17 seasons as head coach of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. Fisher’s Titans played the team he now coaches, St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.

“In my world, there’s never time to figure out what is, in fact, missing,” Fisher said.

In 2010, Fisher’s life was about to change for the best. One day, a friend asked Fisher an important question: Do you honestly believe that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior?

At the opportune moment, Fisher was rescued from the drudgery he experienced, the part of him that longed for more than a successful NFL coaching career.

Sadly, according to Nina Thompson, author of Church Hurt Ain’t No Joke, what Fisher experienced happens to children and adults. She said she hasNina Thompson encountered many people who are the way Fisher used to be: they avoid Him and church out of fear of being hurt again.

“Church hurt is anything other Christians do to interrupt others’ closeness to God,” the Ferguson author said. “We need to be very careful that we are not concerned with the pettiness while, at the same time, we maintain structure, process, and ceremony in the church.”

After viewing Fisher’s I am Second testimony, Thompson said the chastising Fisher encountered as a child is an example of the pettiness she discusses in her book.

“Why chastise him for something as small as that?” she said. “Church became unattractive to him, solely because of one bad experience. Why become associated with something that brings pain?”

Thompson said she is grateful that Fisher’s friend opened that door of knowledge of God.

“Early on, he didn’t get that God is his helping mate and that he doesn’t have to exist in his own strength.”

Humphrey said Fisher’s reaction to the events that happened one day in church is not foreign.

“It is sometimes common for people to form an opinion like that based off those experiences,” he said. “Jeff’s story is an honest portray of a new believer who is sorting how to grow in the walk with his Father.”