Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All Around the Web - June 10, 2014

Thom Rainer - Five Common Characteristics of Churches That Survived a Near Death Experience
  1. All of these churches had sudden negative events that exacerbated their declines. That event was often connected with a pastor. In some of the churches the pastor had a moral failure. In other churches, the pastor left suddenly and unexpectedly, often at a critical time in the life of the church.
  2. Each of the “near death” churches had a significant exodus of members who resisted change. At the time of their departures, the exodus was seen as a very negative occurrence. In hindsight, it became viewed as a blessing.
  3. A remnant of the membership began gathering together for fervent prayer. One church member noted, “We were so desperate that all we had left was prayer.” That prayer gathering became the beginning of a new dream in the congregation.
  4. The membership remnant made a commitment to God to sacrifice whatever He asked and to do whatever He asked. The members thus let go of the idols of their perception of “how we do church” and became open to new directions and new ideas.
  5. The church became outwardly obsessed to reach and minister to their community. One member said it well: “We became determined in the power of God to discover what it would take to be Christ in the community. We had never asked that question before.”

Joe Carter9 Things You Should Know About the Southern Baptist Convention

1. The name Southern Baptist Convention refers to both the the annual two-day convention and the decentralized organization comprised of 46,034 autonomous, local churches and 15.9 million members.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a network of autonomous churches voluntarily banded together at state, regional, and national levels to engage in missions and ministry activities designed to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Each church in the SBC is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers that makes their own decisions on staffing, budget, programs, etc.

3. In 1814, Baptist churches in the U.S. joined together to create the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination. By 1845 the churches were divided over the issue of slavery. As church historian Miles Mullin explains, southern Baptists desired to make slavery a non-issue, while abolitionist forces in the North (and among northern Baptists) desired the convention to take a moral stand against it. The following year group of representatives from Southern churches created a new denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

National Review - Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman
The phenomenon of the transgendered person is a thoroughly modern one, not in the sense that such conditions did not exist in the past — Cassius Dio relates a horrifying tale of an attempted sex-change operation — but because we in the 21st century have regressed to a very primitive understanding of reality, namely the sympathetic magic described by James George Frazer in The Golden Bough. The obsession with policing language on the theory that language mystically shapes reality is itself ancient — see the Old Testament — and sympathetic magic proceeds along similar lines, using imitation and related techniques as a means of controlling reality. The most famous example of this is the voodoo doll. If an effigy can be made sufficiently like the reality it is intended to represent, then it becomes, for the mystical purposes at hand, a reality in its own right. The infinite malleability of the postmodern idea of “gender,” as opposed to the stubborn concreteness of sex, is precisely the reason the concept was invented. For all of the high-academic theory attached to the question, it is simply a mystical exercise in rearranging words to rearrange reality. Facebook now has a few score options for describing one’s gender or sex, and no doubt they will soon match the number of names for the Almighty in one of the old mystery cults.

Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.

Genital amputation and mutilation is the extreme expression of the phenomenon, but it is hardly outside the mainstream of contemporary medical practice. The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one’s life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Church
1. Is this a church where my family will be regularly fed by God’s Word?
2. Is this a church where I am convinced the care of my soul will be a priority?
3. Is this a church where my family will experience meaningful Christian fellowship and accountability?
4. Is this a church where I can serve God’s people and use my gifts for its benefit?

Bible Gateway - If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: An Interview with Alister McGrath
What do you mean when you say, “One of Lewis’s great achievements in Narnia is to help us understand that we live in a world of competing narratives”?

Dr. McGrath: When the four Pevensie children enter Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, they are told different stories about the kingdom. One story they hear tells them that the White Witch is the real ruler of Narnia. It is her kingdom, and she is entitled to rule it. But they also hear another story—that Narnia is the realm of the noble lion Aslan, and the witch is a usurper. When Aslan returns, he will overthrow her and restore the kingdom. Both stories can’t be true! Gradually, the children realize that the second story is right. Lewis wants us to realize that we live in a world shaped by stories. Some are told to deceive—for example, the story that this world is an accident, and that we have no meaning. Lewis wants us to search for, and discover, the true story that makes sense of the world and our lives—the Christian story.

As an example of Lewis’s inclusion of biblical principles in his novels, explain how the “undragoning” of Eustace Scrubb (in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) relates to the power of divine grace.

Dr. McGrath: Lewis was deeply aware of the power of sin to entrap. He had clearly read Paul’s letter to the Romans, and realized how important this theme was to his own conversion, when God set him free from his slavery to sin. But how could Lewis help others to see this great biblical truth? Lewis decided to tell a story. It’s the story of Eustace Scrubb, a greedy boy who turns into a dragon. (Lewis saw dragons as symbols of greed). Eustace discovered that he didn’t like being a dragon, and frantically tries to become a boy again. He tries to scratch away his dragon skin, but it doesn’t work. Lewis’s point is that sin has so deep a hold on us that we can’t break free. Then Aslan bounds in, and his sharp claws tear away the dragon skin. Finally, Eustace is set free. Lewis wants us to realize how Christ, and Christ alone, is able to break us free from the power of sin. It’s a great example of Lewis’s love of telling stories to make biblical points.

Christianity TodayDid Jesus Make Mistakes?
CT asked experts, "Did Jesus make mistakes?" Answers to the question are arranged below on a spectrum from "yes" at the top to "no" at the bottom.

"Driscoll's point is prosaic and uncontroversial. Jesus learned to do things as a child through trial and error like reading and writing. That's obvious if we take the humanity of Jesus seriously. It's in Gnostic writings like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas where the child Jesus is a supernatural prodigy, incapable of error though prone to fits of vengeance against adults and other children. While critical scholars have argued that Jesus made factual, theological, and even moral errors during his ministry, traditional Christians have never agreed, and neither would Driscoll, I suspect. Driscoll's point about Jesus making mistakes, while needing qualification, is theologically sound."
~ Michael Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College

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