Category Archives: Church

My Church Is Having a ‘Onward’ ~ 2017 New Year 21-Day Fast

21-day-fast

This is a corporate fast with prayer. New Life Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville does this every year 21-days before Superbowl. We break the fast at sundown Superbowl Sunday. And I’m sure everyone has a great time feasting (translate = pigging out) on that Sunday evening.

The focus of this corporate fast isn’t only on cutting out things we could be overindulging in. The emphasis is on fasting and prayer. The pastor gave us a small fasting study guide along biblical lines. For example there is the Daniel Fast which is designed to eliminate meat, sweets, and bread. Water, juice, fruits and veggies are consumed. [Daniel 1: 11-13]

My best friend at church told me she was going to eliminate beef and pork for the 21-days. Anyone who is struggling with something such as quitting smoking might find this a supportive time to stop.

Ushers not only passed out a printed guide with the biblical types of fasts, we were also given a printed “Week One Devotional” with a memory verse, a prayer, suggested scripture for further study, and a place for us to write notes. Of course, week two and week three devotionals will be handed out as we progress through this fast.

We were also given a list of topics to pray and/or meditate upon during the fast.

1. Revival in America

2. Complete Personal Freedom

3. Blessing Over Troubles

4. Wisdom From Above

5. Victory Over Our Enemy

During this 21-day period the church will be open at different specified times, so people can gather and pray together while fasting. There is great spiritual benefit for a church body to enter into this type of fasting and prayer. This is a tremendous opportunity for individual church members to spiritually grow and for the church to spiritually grow as a whole.

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GRACE, God’s Unmerited Favor by Charles Spurgeon ~ a review

Grace, God's Unmerited FavorI found myself without Wi-Fi or cable in a tiny house in Florida for two and a half weeks. Knowing I would be technologically starved (except for outings to McDonald’s or Wendy’s for free Wi-Fi), I decided to read several works I’d put off for years. GRACE, GOD’S UNMERITED FAVOR by Charles Spurgeon was one of them. To be honest, this work had always been a bit intimidating. After all, the author was a pastoral, evangelical, and theological giant of his era.

Having made the commitment to open the book, I was struck by the simplicity of Spurgeon’s writing. In Chapter 1, ‘The Covenant of Grace’, he writes:

This is all of it. Do you believe in Christ? Then God will work in you “to will and do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God will conquer your sin; God will sanctify you; God will save you: God will keep you: God will bring you to Himself. Rest in this covenant. Then moved by intense gratitude, go forward to serve your Lord with all your heart and soul and strength.

What could be plainer than this? What could be simpler language? And yet, I had been intimidated by the name Spurgeon for years and had put off opening the book.

He writes with eloquence. The passage ‘From Eternity Past’ is stunning. He talks about the time before the earth and stars, “that time before all time — when God dwelt alone.”

In this thin volume Spurgeon says he’s striving to give us the “natural and grammatical teaching” of Bible verses as they relate to the Covenant of Grace..

To me it was astonishing to find the words below because I’ve long believed freedom and liberty have their origin in the Bible. Here Spurgeon declares they are part of the Covenant of Grace.

There is no doctrine like it for putting a backbone into a man and making him feel that he is something better than to be trodden down like straw for the dunghill beneath a despot’s heel.

Spurgeon further points out it’s not any old grace. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter specifically stated, “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.”

I can’t find fault with Spurgeon’s teaching on God’s rod of chastisement, though modern ‘grace teachers’ would certainly use contemporary language and nuance it in a much different manner. The doctrine of grace as presented by the author is not one of the license, which some critics fear comes with this teaching. Far from it. It is one whereby the believer’s heart cries out for a deeper relationship with a Holy God.   

 


Never Enough Pastor Appreciation

Pastor

The second Sunday in October (10/15/2015) is Pastor Appreciation Day, and the entire month of October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

It’s quite common for Christians to ‘church shop’ when moving to a new community, or if they’re dissatisfied with their current church. They visit a number of churches until they find a church that fills their needs.

It’s good to find a church that’s just right. If a couple has an infant, a church with a nursery program is ideal. Senior members might need to be picked up by the church van. Mostly, every Christian needs a pastor whose preaching touches their soul.

Could I suggest that once the Holy Spirit has indicated what church to attend, that all the members of the congregation give their support to the pastor. That would be encouragement, lending a hand, prayer, and yes…financial support. May I also suggest the reason the Holy Spirit sends anyone to a particular church is to be of service in the Kingdom.

Most Christians have no idea of the amount of work involved in running a church, the number of hours the pastor puts in. Members of the church often can’t comprehend how stressful it is for his family living in a fishbowl.

Is it biblical to show public and open appreciation for the pastor?

1 Thessalonians 5: 12-13 [NASB] ~

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.


Most Pastors Are NOT on the Ashley Madison List ~ most are NOT unfaithful

Lipstik on CollarReportedly there have been up to 38 million Ashley Madison users. Ashley Madison, of course, is the organization that sought to facilitate and protect those seeking extra-marital affairs. Their slogan was: Life is short. Have an affair.

Well, Ashley Madison was hacked and its list of users leaked. Apparently upwards of 400 pastors and church leaders were on that list. While I do not condone any pastors or church leaders appearing on that list, let’s keep it in perspective. That’s 400 pastors and church leaders out of a total of 38 million users.

What does the 38 million figure actually represent? It is people who have created a profile on Ashley Madison. It breaks down into approximately 32.5 million men and 5.5 million women. Journalists who have looked at the profiles have noted that a large percentage of people (especially the women) who created profiles never actually used the site. Of that 32.5 million men and the 5.5 million women with profiles who may or may not have used the site, there appears to be only 400 pastors and church leaders. I say, ‘only’ because I’m relieved about that small number. Then I take a slow breath, and of course, that’s 400 too many. Then again, the way some have been reporting it and others have been commenting on social media, you’d think half the church was on the list.

I’ve tried to find the total number of Christian pastors, world-wide, and discover it’s an elusive figure. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are 33,000 Christian denominations. Presumably they have numerous churches headed by pastors and they have associate pastors, youth pastors, and various church leaders. I wonder if that would even come close to 38 million? I seriously doubt it.

Most pastors are workhorses who are overburdened. The public is aware of the televangelists, the prosperity preachers who own their own private jets. These high-profile pastors keep incredibly tight work schedules often preaching for weeks on end without a day off. That is also often the case with the pastor down the street, minus the jet of course. Then you have the bi-vocational pastor whose church can’t afford to pay a salary and he works 8-hours a day as a plumber, stock clerk, customer service rep, or the like. After putting in a full work-day, he prepares his sermon and counsels distressed members of his flock. According to the website “Pay Scale,” the average senior pastor’s salary range is from $27,288 to $89,076. Yearly bonuses range from zero to less then $8K. Many small and even medium sized churches do not offer any retirement and/or healthcare package to paid staff. Just to be fair and balanced, most, if not all of the prosperity preachers do offer their staff these benefits packages.

I do not believe God condones hacking and leaking any more than He condones adultery. However, He can use it to clean house. And I must confess, when I first thought of this, I gave a mirthless chuckle. Yes, I did, out of nerves. I also thought of the 38 million Ashley Madison users and noted that the devil doesn’t protect his own. In fact he used one branch of his empire to strike at another. I couldn’t help but laugh again. Not a funny, satisfying, ha-ha laugh. Not at all, but a laugh nonetheless.

Tomorrow (Sunday) or later this week, four hundred men will resign from their church positions. There will be no laughter in the pews of those churches. It will be heart-rending and excruciating for those men, their wives and children, and for the faithful who sit in the pews. The entire body of Christ must keep them in prayer and remember we are under God’s grace. With God’s grace there is room for repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Repentance and forgiveness can be instant. But restoration takes time…months, not days, and many times years. There’s a restoration walk to walk, an open, healthy, and honorable track record to establish. There’s also usually accountability. Those who have transgressed, especially those who are high profile and in leadership, should show a willingness to come under spiritual authority…an elder or leader in their denomination or the pastor of another church who is unbeholden to them should oversee their Christian walk.

It is time to look at this issue and the larger issue of morality in the clergy and in church leadership squarely and without hysteria. Fortunately we have a book that tells us how to do this. It’s called the Bible. Remember, the overwhelming majority of pastors and church leaders are slogging it out in the trenches, often a difficult and thankless job.


Church Security Conference ~ August 7-8 in Colorado Springs

police cars

 

 

The 11th Annual National Church Security Conference will be held at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado on August 7th and 8th.

This event sounds like something more and more churches would be interested in due to today’s precarious environment. Incredibly, it’s estimated 75% of all American churches have no security plan in place. They have never discussed with their leadership and volunteers what to do in a violent emergency.

This conference is a way for pastors and church leaders to raise their awareness in this crucial area. The keynote speaker is senior pastor at New Life Church Brady Boyd who promises to deliver “real meat” for developing a church security team.

Among the topics to be presented are:

  • Preparedness
  • Clear and Present Danger, what are the current and new threats against churches
  • An integrated example of a multi-tiered team; both armed and unarmed
  • The New Life Church medical team will speak on gun shot wound treatment
  • pastoral protection
  • a speaker from the Department of Homeland Security will speak on current threats
  • a special screening of the film “Obsession – Radical Islam’s War Against The West”

 


Heroes For A Day

My huband Joseph and I adopted three half-sisters from foster care 7 years ago. They had been horribly abused. Abject pedophiles had access to them…two men, from what we can tell. One, due to our efforts was sentenced to ten years in prison.

The two oldest girls were the sexually abused ones. The little one was physically abused and went hungry a lot, but was not sexually abused. And she’s the one of the three who’s making it.

The oldest is in Manhattan somewhere. She phones now and then. She’s selling her body in the sex trade and pedling drugs on the side.

The middle one just took off with some guy she met on Facebook. She’s left a few phone messages. We don’t have a clue where she is. She’s been gone five days, going into the sixth day.

Funny thing is, I wrote a manuscript four years ago about a girl who is found murdered not far from where we live by a man she met online. I’d been getting it ready for submission when my daughter ran off. Life can mirror fiction, just as fiction can mirror life.

I’ve been very affected by the 9/11 anniversary this year. I’ve played a number of the songs from the Concert For New York City — in 2001 just after the terrorist attack.

I find myself playing David Bowie’s Heroes, from that concert. It resonates with me in my own personal hell. I want to swim like the dolphins swim. I want to be free like the dolphins, and yet I am chained to the computer combing Facebook, looking for anyone who might know where my daughter is.

My husband and I were heroes for a day, adopting them, having dreams for them…and then the evil of the world consumed them again…swallowed them.

I write of this evil in my Christian crime fiction novels…for which I’m seeking a publisher. I tell stories of  the evil consuming children, devouring them while so many of us are playing at church. We’re so pioulsy polite, and the enemy, the destroyer is glad we are…as we’re largely ineffectual against him.

We’re afraid to touch the girl in the sex trade and if we won’t touch her, how can we give her a hand up and out? We don’t understand when she rejects us and the wonderful Christian life we offer…and runs back to hell. And it’s hell on earth. It’s all too easy for us to heap judgement upon her.

The old addage, hate the sin/love the sinner, is all too true. We must hate the life she’s run back to, and yet somehow try to communicate to her how worthwhile she is.

To see the David Bowie music video…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdo5f_ozf6E


Christmas In The American Colonies


I began researching Christmas in the colonies for the Social Studies portion of my daughters’ homeschooling lessons. It became such an interesting subject, I decided to use it as a blog article…

New England Colonies: Christmas celebration was banned from 1659 -1687 because it reminded Puritans of church traditions in England, where Christmas had fallen into drinking, gambling, and sometimes violence. By the French and Indian War, Christmas had made its way into some parts of the New England colonies, as both the French and British soldiers who remained and settled after the war tended to celebrated Christmas. During the American Revolution, middle and southern colony soldiers came to assist New England patriots in the war and these men observed Christmas. The New England colony most lenient toward Christmas was Connecticut. Thomas Hooker left Massachusetts in 1636 because the rules there were too strict and he began a new settlement in Connecticut with wider religious freedom. There are Connecticut Christmas sermons and stories dating to 1774, and perhaps even before that (A Connecticut Christmas: Stories, Poems and Sermons, 1774-1918, by Ed Ifkov). In addition, some Dutch settled in Connecticut, but their big day of celebration was Epiphany (Three Kings Day). [As most of the Dutch settled in NY, see below]
Middle Colonies: Christmas celebration started on Christmas Eve and lasted 12 days until Epiphany (also called Three Kings Day). Food was very important, but it was a light meal on Christmas Eve and off to church, as this was mainly a religious holiday. Most folks were Anglicans or Roman Catholic and on Christmas morning, it was church again, then a big feast at home later. The Quakers did not celebrate Christmas, nor did the Baptists. The tradition of Christmas trees, then called Paradise trees, was brought to New Jersey by German soldiers fighting for the British (1775/76). The ornaments were handmade bits of colorful cloth or yarn, pinecones, and the like. Middle colony homes were decorated with bits of holly on mantles and in windows. The Dutch in New York celebrated Christmas, with their big celebration on Epiphany, when stockings were hung. On this day, Sinter Klaas came and left small gifts for children, such as a hair ribbon, a small flute, socks, nuts, or bits of chocolate. With the exception of the Dutch, Christmas giving was not aimed at children. It was a time for masters to give to servants, for employers to give to employees, for craftsmen to give to apprentices, and usually it was a small gift in coins. Christmas day meals included wild turkey, goose, deer meat, rabbit stew, fresh fish, a fruited Christmas loaf, spice cookies, apple cider, and beer. For the Dutch, Christmas day activities included ice-skating on frozen ponds and streams.
Southern Colonies: As in the middle colonies, the southern colonies started their celebration on Christmas Eve and it lasted 12 days through Epiphany. Most folks were Anglicans who had a light Christmas Eve meal and went to church. Christmas morning meant church services followed by an early feast at home on Christmas Day. In the evening, they went caroling and visiting. In the southern colonies, Christmas celebrations often included a public dance. Richer people had balls in their mansions during the 12 days of Christmas. Fox hunting would follow during the remaining 12 days. Homes were decorated with bits of holly on mantles and in windows. As in the middle colonies, Christmas was not a children’s holiday, but a time of giving by the richer to the poorer. The gift, often a few coins. Typical Christmas day meals included wild turkey, beef, goose, deer meat, rabbit stew, fresh fish, apple dumplings, gingerbread cookies, wine, and spirits.

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