Saturday, December 31, 2016

How Big Is Your Vision? 3 Determining Factors

Over the years, I’ve learned that – contrary to popular opinion – the bigger the vision, the easier it is to reach that vision, and, ultimately, the size of your vision should be determined by the size of God.

How big do you think God is? The issue is not who you think you are, but who you think God is. In your dreams for your ministry, don’t limit yourself by saying, “What can I do?” Instead ask, “What can God do in this place?” Read More

Donald Trump's First 100 Days: "Thanks To Russia, 2016 Isn't Really Going To End For Obama And Trump"

In the Washington of 2016, even when the policy can be bipartisan, the politics cannot. And in that sense, this year shows little sign of ending on Dec. 31.

When President Obama moved to sanction Russia over its alleged interference in the U.S. election just concluded, some Republicans who had long called for similar or more severe measures could scarcely bring themselves to approve.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Obama measures "appropriate" but also "overdue" and "a prime example of this administration's ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world."

Other GOP leaders sounded much the same theme. Read More
A thoughtful analysis.
Related Articles:

US Congressional leaders faces foreign policy conundrum
Trump Must Choose Between Obama Sanctions and Putin Detente
Trump Praises Putin for Rejecting In-Kind Response to Obama
Obama's Sanctions and Putin's Skilled Propaganda
Trump's Praise of Putin Could Signal a New Day for US Policy

Russians attempt to hack US power grid:
Russian hack of Vermont utility shows risk to power grid, officials say
Evidence of Russian malware found on US electrical company laptop
'Russia hacking code' found on Vermont utility computer

Trump praises Putin, thumbs his nose at Democrats
As U.S. Confronts Russia, Trump's Admiration Of Putin Is Consistent
Trump hits back at Democrats
Trump tweets Happy New Year to his 'many enemies' who 'lost so badly'
Trump sends New Year wishes to all, even his ‘many enemies’

Trump's role in Sprint plan to return jobs to the US questioned:
Media should stop giving Donald Trump the headlines he wants (Washington Post analysis)
Donald Trump Tricks The Media Into Crediting Him For Creating More U.S. Jobs
Trump Seeks Credit for 5,000 Sprint Jobs Already Touted

Trump-owned private resort under fire for peddling access to president-elect:
Mar-a-Lago sold tickets to New Year’s Eve party with Trump

Trump tweet  disputed:
Donald Trump Claims 100 Percent Of His Foundation’s Money Goes To Charity. That’s A Lie.

Friday, December 30, 2016

10 Key Trends in Global Christianity for 2017

Gordon-Conwell’s annual Status of Global Christianity highlights changes in Christianity heading into next year and beyond. This research gives a glimpse at the future of Christianity.

These 10 trends point to a global church that looks very different from today. Read More

5 Things That Are Not So Wrong with the Church

One of my favorite books, which is out of print today, is W. A. Criswell’s Look Up, Brother. The subtitle is great – “The Buoyant Assertion of What’s Right with Us.” Criswell sought to combat our critical mindset and affirm some things that were right about the church.

Granted, the church is off balance. But we’re always off balance. The church is a lot like a pendulum trying to find its center point while the forces surrounding it continue to move it to one side or the other.

But have we failed? No. We can’t. We are guaranteed victory. We’re on the winning side.

We’re losing ground. We’re struggling to transform our culture. But as I read books and blogs, all claiming to have the biblical diagnosis and cure for what’s wrong with the church today, I’m also determined to stop and realize some things that are right.

There are some trends I see that are good and positive, and deserve celebration and affirmation. Read More

We need to talk about church scheduling

Depending on the kind of church you’re involved in, next year’s calendar is already full—or soon will be. Typical decisions include: What will the Sunday teaching program be? When will small groups happen? What will happen in them? Will there be a weekend away? A youth camp? An ESL class?

We often fill in next year’s calendar much like we filled last year’s. But before we do, we need to stop and think. Read More

Do More Than Admit Your Sin

Christianity doesn’t pretend we are sinless people.

So, why do we pretend that we don’t struggle with sin? Why do we put on fig leaves? Why do we hide? “If we say, ‘We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) CSB). One reason is our seven-layer pride. We want people to think highly of us. We don’t want to disappoint others. We don’t want to look like some icky Christian who still struggles with that sin. Or, the sin we’ve committed feels like the odd one out, no one else in our circles seems to be tempted there (so we think). Read More

4 Christian Principles For Making New Year’s Resolutions

The nineteen-year-old Jonathan Edwards knew his weaknesses and was aware of the destructive nature of his sin, so he resolved to make and keep certain resolutions in his effort to live for God’s glory. He helped pave the way for us all as he prefaced his seventy resolutions with these words:
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
These simple, introductory words of Edwards not only provide us with a glimpse into the mind of one of history’s greatest minds, they provide us with a glorious insight into the heart of a young man whose heart had been humbled and mastered by the Lord God Almighty. We would therefore do well to consider Edwards’ prefatory remarks as we seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in our churches, our homes, and our hearts. Read More

Brutal Rise In Persecution Of Christians Around The World Forecast In New Report

A shocking rise in violent persecution of Christians is forecast for next year by the charity Release International.

The most dramatic increase is expected to be in the Islamic world, where Christians are finding themselves at ever greater risk of persecution from both the state and Islamic militants.

Persecution of Christians is also on the rise in India, from militant Hindus, and China, where the pressure is continuing to grow on unregistered churches.

The full figures will be published next month in Release International's annual Persecution Trends report.

The findings are previewed in the January edition of the charity's magazine, release. Read More

Climate Watch: "Four Critical Energy Issues to Watch in 2017"

The U.S. may be on the cusp of a stark turning point in energy and climate policy with the election of Donald Trump, who has stocked his cabinet with a majority of people who doubt or reject established climate science.

Top priorities of the Trump transition team and cabinet nominees — many who disregard the connection between global warming and fossil fuel energy use — include rolling back eight years of Obama administration climate regulations and restrictions on coal, oil and gas development.

Trump’s energy plan reads like a wish list from the fossil fuel industry: it envisions unfettered oil, gas and coal development as a path to national prosperity and energy independence. Gone are Obama-era overtures to address climate change by modernizing fossil fuel use and development, and embracing ambitious renewable energy goals.

Though it’s unclear how far Trump can go to implement his vision for a deregulated fossil fuel industry during his first year in office, here are four developments in energy policy to keep an eye on in 2017.... Read More

Donald Trump's First 100 Days: "Putin: Russia won’t ‘expel anyone’ in response to U.S. hacking sanction"

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not kick out American diplomats in response to President Barack Obama's expulsion of 35 alleged Russian spies.

"Although we have the right to retaliate," Putin said in a statement, "we will not resort to irresponsible 'kitchen' diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-U.S. relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration."

"We will not create any problems for U.S. diplomats," he added. "We will not expel anyone." Read More

Related Articles:

Putin makes conciliatory gesture to incoming Trump administration:
Russia will not expel anyone in response to U.S. sanctions, Putin says
How Trump Made Russia's Hacking More Effective
Putin Outfoxes Obama, Lies in Wait for Trump
Why Trump Would Be Crazy to Give Putin What He Wants
Giuliani: Obama trying to create problems for Trump with 11th-hour foreign policy moves

Trump dials back economic expectations:
Donald Trump keeps moving the goal post for economic growth

Trump's energy agenda faces numerous obstacles:
Trump could be fighting Obama's climate policies for years

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Climate Watch: "Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources site no longer says humans cause climate change"

More government websites could do the same thing

The website of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources no longer says that humans and greenhouse emissions cause climate change.

The new language says that causes of global warming are “are being debated and researched by academic entities.” It is not true that the causes of global warming are being heavily debated. Almost all climate scientists already agree that human-made greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change, and that global warming is a pressing issue. Before the revision, the site’s text reflected that consensus, saying “human activities that increase heat–trapping ("green house") gases are the main cause.”

DNR spokesperson Jim Dick told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in an email that the “updated page reflects our position on this topic that we have communicated for years, that our agency regularly must respond to a variety of environmental and human stressors from drought, flooding, wind events to changing demographics.” This does not address the question of why the new language implies that we do not know what causes climate change. Read More

Related Article:
Wis. DNR Changes Climate Change Wording On Website

Donald Trump's First 100 Days: "U.S. evicts Russians for spying, imposes sanctions after election hacks" - UPDATED

President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election.

The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties, which have deteriorated over differences about Syria and Ukraine.

Allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts to intervene in the U.S. election process by hacking mostly Democrats have made relations even worse. Read More

Related Articles:

U.S. expels Russian 'spies'
New: Russia’s ‘Grizzly Steppe’ Cyberattacks Started Simply, U.S. Says
New: FBI and DHS release joint report formally blaming Russia for the hacking
FBI analysis fingers Russian spy agencies for U.S. election hacks
Obama Targets Putin's Spies Over DNC Hack
Trump Ally: Obama’s New Russia Sanctions Are ‘Kind of Stupid’
Russia vows response to diplomat expulsion from US
Obama's lame-duck spy caper: David Andelman
Trump, when he takes office, could reverse Obama's decisions to expel the Russian intelligence operatives but in doing so he would be aiding a foreign power that is seeking to harm the United States. He would be further opening himself to the charge of treason, having already called upon a foreign power to interfere in the US presidential election. He might eventually force a reluctant Republican-dominated Congress into impeaching him. Many Republican Congressional leaders would prefer to see Pence in the Oval Office, not Trump.
Buffalo school board demands Trump ally's resignation
Buffalo School Board Passes Resolution Telling Carl Paladino To Resign Within 24 Hours

VA hospital system may be a casualty of the Trump administration
Trump Said to Discuss Veterans’ Care Overhaul With Hospital CEOs

5 Signs That a Path Is Not God's Will for You

About this time last year, my family and I drove to a nearby city that we didn't know very well. My wife and I took turns at the steering wheel throughout the trip. There was one instance when I almost got us in trouble while my wife was driving and I was navigating.

At one point I felt that we were lost but just didn't have the heart to admit it (as do all men, right?). So I tried to look for a way back. I told my wife to take a turn and she hesitantly followed. To our horror, I had led our family into a one-way road with heavy traffic and we were going the wrong direction.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a similar situation: We move so sincerely through seasons, jobs, callings, ministries and relationships, thinking it's God's will, only to realise we were wrong the whole time.

God's will is an important aspect to life. Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."

How can we be sure that we're not walking in the wrong calling and are actively pursuing what God has called us to do?

Here are five signs that a path is not God's will for you and that you should get off that route at once. Read More

Why Remember

Sometimes I like to ask my boys if God can do anything. By now, they understand enough theology to answer that God can do anything He wants to do, or that God can never act against His character. The immutability of God according to His unchanging character is good news for the people of God. If God were not immutable or if God could lie, remembering the God of the past would hold little significance for the believer in the twenty-first century. God would be just another capricious deity and the life of faith would be little more than a guessing game with eternity hanging in the balance. For this reason, our confidence in the Word and the reasons to remember Him are deeply rooted in God’s unchanging character.

In an age of information and trending topics, the present can seem more relevant than the past. With all the advancing technologies, it can be easy to think that the past represents a step backward. From a biblical perspective, however, the future informs the past and the past informs the future and everything in between. The early chapters of Genesis, for example, are not fully comprehended without the final chapters of Revelation, forming one comprehensive goal for creation from a sovereign God. Read More

5 Ways To Make Your Prayer Life More Pleasing To God

How many mountains have you moved recently?Indeed, have you heard of even one large hill being thrown into the sea in recent news reports?

Jesus' words on this theme can seem puzzling: "Have faith in God," he tells his disciples in Mark 11. "Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea', and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you," (v23).

But once we understand the situation in which Jesus is speaking, his words make sense and can provide a healthy tonic for our own prayer lives. Here's what we learned.... Read More

7 Deal-Breaker Traits of the Best Student Pastors

Your student pastor has a tremendous influence over the next generation. They have an extraordinary opportunity to represent the moral compass that points the way to Jesus.

The best student pastors teach and encourage teens how to live a life based on Christian values in a culture that no longer puts God first.

How do you know you’ve made the right choice in a student pastor or volunteer leader? Read More

Can We Evangelize Late Modern Culture?

We cannot assume a shared foundation.

How can we share the gospel with late modern people? We cannot assume a shared, sturdy traditional foundation from which to dialog. We have to be careful about assumptions. Also, people in flux want to be heard. We are shaped by a constant conversation, or information flow—the Internet and social media. This flow travels through our devices and our minds subtly reshaping our priorities, values, morals, and sense of worth.

People in flux want to talk about change, to narrate personal and social twists and turns. If we are to communicate the gospel to late modern people effectively, we must listen to them.

And here is the question people in your church are silently asking: “Is it plausible to evangelize in late modern culture?” Do we have to evangelize? Is it even considerate? Read More

Here’s Who Will Pray at Trump’s Inauguration

What the president-elect's unusually broad and diverse clergy lineup tells us.

Donald Trump has enlisted a larger, more diverse lineup of clergy than usual to pray him into office at his upcoming inauguration ceremony.

The group—bigger than any president’s since Ronald Reagan—reflects his politics, pragmatism, and personality. It includes evangelical leaders Franklin Graham and Samuel Rodriguez, as well as spiritual advisor Paula White, the Florida televangelist credited with his rumored recent Christian conversion, and a Detroit prosperity preacher, Wayne T. Jackson.

“Taken together, [Graham and White] have embodied Trump’s embrace of the twinned ideologies of Christian nationalism and capitalist Christianity,” Kevin Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University and author of One Nation Under God, told CT.

The two represent the type of “pragmatic spirituality” that Trump evoked throughout his campaign, with Graham advancing a political agenda and White a financial one, according to John D. Wilsey, author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion and an assistant professor of history and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Despite Trump’s Presbyterian identity and upbringing, mainline traditions are not represented among the half-dozen clergy involved, which include one Catholic and one Jewish leader. As Wisley noted, “his Protestants are evangelicals”—a crucial voting bloc that helped Trump win in November. Read More

Related Article:
Franklin Graham And Pastor Paula White Among Christian Clergy To Pray At Donald Trump Inauguration

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

7 Key Reasons People Choose a Church

“Why did you choose to come to this church?”

I ask the question hundreds of times each year, especially to people who joined a church within the past year.

Now we have new research that gives us specific reasons why people decide on a particular church. I am grateful to Pew Research for their massive study on the behavioral patterns of members and guests.

In their most recent study, the respondents noted seven key reasons for choosing a church. They were allowed to offer more than one reason. Here are the top seven responses.... Read More

The Leadership Unstuck Podcast: Is Your Church Too Complex? [Podcast]

In this episode of The Leadership Unstuck Podcast, I talk to Joe Dobbins, Lead Pastor of Twin Rivers Worship Center in St. Louis, Missouri about reducing complexity in churches.

Churches often get stuck because they are trying to do too much. That’s why it’s crucial to identify and stop programs that are not working. Listen Now

10 Things That Demonstrate The World You Grew Up In No Longer Exists

You know things are changing, but the real questions is how quickly and how deeply.

Well, the change is pretty fast and pretty deep.

In fact, unless you’re under 25, the world into which you’re born doesn’t really exist anymore.

You may have heard of the the Beloit College Mindset list. It comes out every year and often makes the news.

The list is designed to get college faculty (and others) into the headspace of the entry class of mostly 18 year olds. Essentially, it’s a tutorial on how much the world has changed since the people who will be teaching that class were in college.

Here are a few random snippets from the Class of 2019 mindset list (the entering students are on average 18 years old):
1. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
2. They have never licked a postage stamp.
3. Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa have never been alive.
4. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
5. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.
Clearly, the world has changed.

It’s changed for church leaders too—radically.

So what happens when church leaders move on unaware of what’s going on around them?

It’s simple. Church leaders who are out of touch never touch the culture.

Missing the change around you means you will:

Increasingly speak a language people younger than you won’t understand.

Make assumptions that aren’t widely shared or are just erroneous.

End up answering questions no one is asking.

So what changes do church leaders need to know?

I can think of at least 10. Read More

Unthinkable Today, Obvious Tomorrow: The Moral Case for the Abolition of Cruelty to Animals

On that issue, our evolving standards approach the ancient ones of Judeo-Christian morality.

You don’t really know your fellow man until you’ve pondered the fact that most people say they love animals, professing admiration and sympathy, and most people eat them. The great masses of creatures in our industrial farms today would be entitled to conclude, if they could do any pondering themselves, that our love is not worth much. Judging by the fruits, it more resembles hatred. They come and go knowing nothing of existence but misery. No season of gentleness anymore before the blade. No glimpse of earth’s comforts or of life’s goodness. It’s all just pain, courtesy of a world filled with self-described animal lovers. Cruelty to animals, and to farm animals in particular, may not be humanity’s worst offense. It has no rival, however, for the title of humanity’s worst hypocrisy.

Lately, some eminent thinkers have turned to the subject, offering us vegans the rare brush with respectable authority. The Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for one, seems to be especially troubled by the abuse of animals, and he’s certainly not a man to be casually ignored. A Krauthammer column last year was welcomed in animal-welfare circles as a sort of mainstream landmark, signaling that perhaps the issue is truly beginning to register. There’s nothing like seeing a long-held conviction confirmed by others of greater gifts, and that’s how I felt reading his piece. He began:
We often wonder how people of the past, including the most revered and refined, could have universally engaged in conduct now considered unconscionable. . . . While retrospective judgment tends to make us feel superior to our ancestors, it should really evoke humility. Surely some contemporary practices will be deemed equally abominable by succeeding generations. The only question is: Which ones?

I’ve long thought it will be our treatment of animals. I’m convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale — for the eating. Read More

C. S. Lewis and the Art of Disagreement

As a fellow of one of the colleges at the University of Oxford, I have the responsibility of being senior member (faculty supervisor) of two student-run societies, the C. S. Lewis Society, a literary and theological discussion group, and Oxford Students for Life, a group that aims to promote a culture in which the unborn, the disabled, the terminally ill, and other vulnerable minorities have a place.

In recent years, the pro-life group has discovered how deeply people at Oxford disagree not only with its viewpoint but also with its very right to exist and hold meetings. On one occasion, the group had permission to stage a debate on abortion rescinded at just a few hours’ notice because of a threat of disruption from students who objected to their college hosting such a discussion.

On another occasion, the opposition was subtler. We were interrupted halfway through a meeting and advised by a college official to draw the curtains so that the female Member of Parliament addressing us on gender-selective abortion should not be visible from the quad. Our opponents outside the room felt it would be easier if we were required to hide ourselves from them, rather than that they should avert their eyes from us.

The other society of which I’m faculty supervisor, the C. S. Lewis Society, has experienced no such run-ins with these opponents of free speech on campus. But I mention the Lewis Society because Lewis is a helpful example to consult when considering how to interact with people one disagrees with in an academic environment. Read More

Why Are Women More Eager Missionaries?

We love global missions at And missions is a huge priority for you, Pastor John. In fact, I think this episode will go live online at about the same time you’ll be traveling to Indianapolis to speak at the 2016 Cross Conference.

So it’s no surprise, we get a lot of questions from missionaries in the field, and a number of questions from missionaries in training, and a fair number of questions from college students who are interested in giving their lives to missions. Today’s question comes from a podcast listener named Amy, who writes, “Pastor John, I’ve recently noticed that the number of women going to the nations far outweighs men. I looked for more statistics on this, and struggled to even find information. If this is the case, what are your thoughts on this trend, and what do you think are the most probable causes?” Read More

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

8 Church Predictions for 2017

A new year is less than one week away. Based on my work with churches around the country, here are some trends I see moving forward into the next year.... Read More

Know Your Demographics, Reach Your Community

It is hard to be all things to all people if we do not know who those people are. Communities have planning commissions, businesses do market studies, the military analyses its foes—and the church takes attendance.

It is one thing to know your congregation and quite another to know your community. What often happens is the church stays the same and the community changes … actually, the church usually just ages and the community changes. Read More

15 Common Church-Construction Mistakes

The church is a living, breathing embodiment of your faith’s values and offers respite and support to faithful followers. The best intentions of decision-makers and church leaders may not help them avoid the pitfalls of a new church-building project.

Understand more about how to avoid excessive costs and common issues associated with a new church-construction projects with the following 15 church-construction project mistakes. Read More

Surviving the Wasteland of Faith

Years after my dramatic, unlikely conversion, it seemed God had gone silent.

If midlife crisis is rare, midlife ennui—for the mind as well as the soul—is almost universal. For the past 20 years, economists have surveyed people around the world and found that virtually everyone suffers a dip in happiness in middle age. Americans hit their nadir at roughly 45. Why? Our 40s and 50s bring unrelenting responsibilities: kids, aging parents, work, mortgages, college tuition. We sense that the pulse of life has slowed, the path grown more arduous, our options inexorably narrowed. The good news is that people generally grow more contented after their mid-50s, in a phenomenon called the “U-curve of happiness.”

My observation is that the spiritual journey follows a similar curve: from a dramatic honeymoon to a sepia middle passage to a centered, seasoned faith. Mid-faith ennui is not tied to chronological age but to spiritual maturity. If you have striven to know God for a decade or more, you are almost certain to cross a spiritual wasteland, which ranges from dryness and boredom to agony and abandonment.

Spiritual ennui is the crazy uncle of church life, an embarrassment rarely mentioned in the company of believers. In my search to understand and fix my own ennui, I talked with pastors and laypeople, theologians and spiritual writers, and fellow congregants in my own Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, Virginia. Read More

The State of Theology: An Interview with Chris Larson and Stephen Nichols

Tabletalk (TT): Why did Ligonier do The State of Theology survey?

Stephen Nichols (SN): One of the cardinal rules of giving a speech is “Know your audience.” Back in 2014, we partnered with LifeWay Research to conduct a survey of the theological beliefs of three thousand Americans. We decided to undertake the survey again in 2016 and expand the visualization of the data into a new website, Our ultimate purpose for this survey is to help churches, Christian ministries, and Christians live as the body of Christ in our place and in our time. Read More

5 Reasons You Need To Stop Imitating Other Leaders

Have you ever found yourself imitating others—in style, in content, and in strategy? I mean sometimes you can hear preachers who sound exactly like their ‘hero’. They’ve adopted the same style, same approach, and even the same cadence in their voice as the leader they admire.

Why do people do this? They might think, If I imitate a great leader, I’ll become a great leader.

Well, yes and no. Learning from great leaders can make you a better leader.

Constantly imitating other leaders can actually do damage. Read More

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Movements of God’s Mission (Part 3)

The mission of God is attractional and incarnational.

I don’t know why, but I have a fascination with yo-yos. Now, I can’t yo-yo. Nevertheless, I find it amusing and entertaining as a skilled yo-yoer (if I can use that term) cast the yo-yo out with great rhythmic force only to have it return with an energetic bounce to be cast back out and to come back to its starting place.

I often use the yo-yo and it’s movement as a way to describe God’s mission. Just as a yo-yo, when properly used, has a 'going out' and 'coming in' function, so too does God’s mission. Missiologists sometimes refer to this going out and coming in as the centripetal and centrifugal forces (movements) of God’s mission. Read More

God Will Give You Something to Say

Jesus’s promise that the Holy Spirit will teach us what we ought to say is not meant to free us from anxiety in only one kind of trial and then leave us to ourselves in another. The promise is that the Holy Spirit will help us in the most frightening settings, and so how much more may we depend on him in less threatening situations. Read More

Monday, December 26, 2016

What’s Trending in Multisite? 2017 Edition

Now in its third decade, the multisite movement has transformed the church landscape across North America. More than 5,000 denominational and nondenominational multisite churches are increasing at an exponential rate in urban, suburban and rural communities.

The multisite movement began as a space solution for megachurches, developed into a growth strategy for healthy churches of all sizes. It evolved into a revitalization plan for stable but stuck churches, and has become a rebirth solution for declining churches that merge with a multisite church. So what’s next? Here are some of the trends emerging from the multisite movement in 2017. Read More

The Glory of Christmas

On the night Jesus was born something spectacular took place. The plains of Bethlehem became the theater for one of the most spectacular sound-and-light shows in human history. All heaven broke loose.

Luke tells us what happened.... Read More

10 Things You Should Know about God's Will (s)

There is a reason I said God’s “Will(s)” (plural) instead of God’s “will” (singular). My focus in this installment of 10 things you should know is the question of whether or not there are two senses in which God may be said to “will” something. Read More

Why I use Social Media as a Pastor [Video]

A video I made for Exponential

Social media is being used with increasing frequency by churches and church leaders. In this training video, I was asked to explain how you can be effective with social media and how to do it without using up too much of your time. Watch Now

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Message of God’s Mission (Part 2)

God is on mission to glorify Himself.

With regard to the missio Dei, the message of mission is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If we misunderstand the message, or get the message wrong, the mission will be either off, or wrong altogether. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the message of God’s mission.

Simply put, the message of the missio Dei is that God is on mission to glorify Himself by means of advancing His kingdom on earth through the means of His people, empowered by His Spirit, who share and show the gospel of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ.

There are at least five themes that serve as the elements of the message of God’s mission. Read More

Climate Watch: "The Arctic is showing stunning winter warmth, and these scientists think they know why"

It is all looking rather consistent with an outlook that has been dubbed "Warm Arctic, Cold Continents" -- a notion that remains scientifically contentious but, if accurate, is deeply consequential for how climate change could unfold in the Northern Hemisphere winter.

The core idea here begins with the fact that the Arctic is warming up faster than the mid-latitudes and the equator, and losing its characteristic floating sea ice cover in the process. This also changes the Arctic atmosphere, the theory goes, and these changes interact with large scale atmospheric patterns that affect our weather (phenomena like the jet stream and the polar vortex). We won't get into the details yet, but in essence, the result can be a kind of swapping of the cold air masses of the Arctic with the warm air masses to the south of them. The Arctic then gets hot (relatively), and the mid-latitudes -- including sometimes, as during the infamous "polar vortex" event of 2013-2014, the United States -- get cold. Read More

Also see:
It's Going to Be the Warmest Christmas at the North Pole Ever

Donald Trump's First 100 Day: Taxes, Trade, and Conflicts of Interest

Over the last three days I have bookmarked more than 35 articles related to the incoming Trump administration. I have winnowed a number of them down to three categories: taxes, trade, and conflicts of interest.

Republicans have a massive plan to overhaul the tax code — here's how it would work
Democrats Plotting ‘Collision Course’ With Trump’s Tax Plan

Paul Krugman Is Right Here - The Danger Of Trumps' Trade Plans Is The Reverse China Shock
Stocks Could Suffer As Trump Trade Policy Takes Shape
A Trump Tariff Wall Would Help a Little, But Hurt a Lot
Just how far will Trump go on China and Mexico?
What Trump's Twitter diplomacy means for Australia and China

Conflicts of Interest:
Donald Trump's sons behind nonprofit selling access to president-elect
Eric Trump Foundation flouts charity standards
Donald Trump To Close Foundation To Avoid Potential Conflicts Of Interest
Trump Plans To Dissolve His Foundation; N.Y. Attorney General Pushes Back
Trump Vows to Dissolve Controversial Foundation (Democrats Say it Isn't Enough)
Trump announces plan to close foundation
Donald Trump Announces Intention to Dissolve Charitable Foundation

I have also included three other categories of articles:Trump himself, the media, and the Democratic Party.

The Donald
Disrupter-in-chief: How Trump has made us rethink everything

The Media:
Continuing Battle With Media, Trump Avoids News Conference
Trump Adopting Same Behavior He Criticized Clinton For
The Media Blew Overall, Yes, But There Were Noteworthy Exceptions, And Here They Are

Democratic Party:
Obstructionism is the path to disaster
The Democratic Party needs to offer an alternative vision of America to US voters, a vision that takes into consideration the concerns of a large segment of its population and not just to those of the party's liberal wing. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Alleluia! Unto Us a Child Is Born!

O Come, Let Us Adore Him! Alleluia!!

For readers who may be planning to join the folks at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in celebrating the Feast of the Nativity on Sunday. December 25th, I have listed the music selections for Christmas Day:

Prelude: “Sing we now of Christmas” NOEL NOUVELET – solo

Processional: “Hark the herald angels sing” MENDELSSOHN

Kyrie Eleison ( threefold): Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena Healey Willan

Sequence: “What child is this” (original version) GREENSLEEVES – solo

Sermon: O little town of Bethlehem” ST. LOUIS

Preparation of the Gifts: “Away in a manger” CRADLE SONG – instrumental

Communion: “In the bleak midwinter” CRANHAM – instrumental

Post-Communion: “Angels we have heard on high” GLORIA

Recessional: “Joy to the world” ANTIOCH

Postlude: “Joy to the world” ANTIOCH - instrumental

Wherever you are on Christmas Day, I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas. May joy and peace fill your hearts this Christmas Season and for all time. 

5 Christmas Truths for Plateued or Dying Churches

In North America, more churches than not are plateaued or declining. That fact doesn’t mean, though, that those churches have nobody who’s praying for God to revive them. In fact, church revitalization is a growing commitment movement today. For those churches needing revitalization, maybe these reflections about Christmas will give you hope.... Read More

O Disrupted Night: Reading the Christmas Story More Carefully

For many of us, Christmas probably evokes feelings of cozy comfort, a mix of family around the tree, warm fires, good food, bright carols, and goodwill. And the Christmas story, whether Matthew’s or Luke’s version, read by a minister at church, or Linus, or mom or dad, speaks beauty and hope and peace to the soul, does it not? I love traditions and enjoy nostalgia, comforting gifts of the season.

Yet, to “get” what is going on as the gospels tell about the birth of Jesus, we need to read more carefully, folding a deeper hearing of the story into our experiences of Christmas. Read More

He Is Born: A Christmas Hymn

Merry Christmas!

Today, I just wanted to share a Christmas hymn that my blog guru stumbled across recently. It was originally published in French back in 1862. It is called “He Is Born,” and the traditional English translation is below. Note the reference to the prophets and the reminder of the Gift.

Enjoy Christmas this weekend with friends and family, remembering the miracle that is the incarnation. Read More

Listen to Il est né le Divin Enfant par les Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois

How to Respond When People Say ‘No’ to Jesus (Part 2)

InterVarsity evangelist offers words of encouragement

#4. Relate to the Response
Entering into a person’s concerns and reasons for rejecting Jesus can be powerful where it is appropriate. Frequently, the very reasons why a person would say ‘no’ to Jesus are the same reasons we said no ourselves or represent areas where we continue to struggle in our relationship to God.

As we explain the gospel, it is important to stop and check for understanding. Asking questions like, “Am I making sense with this?” or “How is this connecting with you at this point?” give a person the opportunity to absorb and process, as well as respond. Often, as a person responds to these kinds of questions we see areas where a ‘no’ to Jesus is rooted. Read More

Supporters rally to Russell Moore after Trump criticism

A reported backlash against Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has turned into an outpouring of support for one of President-elect Donald Trump’s leading evangelical critics.

“Dr. Russell Moore does a good job of leading the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission [ERLC] in speaking out on the moral issues of the day in the public square,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a Southern Baptist, told me. He called the ERLC an effective advocate for family values, life, religious freedom, and other issues important to Baptists. Read More

Donald Trump's First 100 Days: "Democrats aim to launch comeback with Cabinet showdown"

An opposition strategy for January confirmation hearings is emerging: To expose Trump's campaign platform as a 'scam.'

Senate Democrats are approaching the January confirmation battle over Donald Trump’s Cabinet as a chance to launch their political comeback and expose the president-elect as a fraud.

Lawmakers know they’re unlikely, at best, to stop any of Trump’s Cabinet picks from being installed. But they still see major opportunity in the confirmation hearings. The goal, according to lawmakers and aides: to depict Trump’s chosen inner circle of billionaires and conservative hard-liners as directly at odds with the working-class Americans he vowed to help.

“His campaign, based on his nominations, was a charade. [H]e sold the American public on a story that is a false story. It is a scam,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who was recently promoted to chief deputy whip. “He said: ‘I’m for working people and for taking on Wall Street, I’m for draining the swamp.’ And his nominees say the exact opposite.”

Senate Democrats want to force Trump’s picks to lay down markers on specific policies that can be used to build a case against the incumbent as his administration unfolds and the next election approaches, insiders said. More immediately, they want to begin to make the case to Trump voters that what they voted for is a far cry from what they’ll be getting with the next president. Read More
At this stage I do not believe that the Democrats are going to reach Trump supporters with this strategy. During the election campaign they dismissed or minimized any criticism of their candidate, now the president-elect. They had an emotional investment in Trump's candidacy and that investment colored their judgment. If the post-election polls are correct, they are not likely to blame Trump if he fails to fulfill his campaign promises but rather Congress. Trump also made conflicting promises during his campaign, a strong indication that he had no intention of keeping all of them. Trump supporters explained away these contradictions if they gave them any attention at all. They bought into Trump's basic message: Elect me and I will make America great again. Some understood this message to mean that he would make their lives better. For others it had a different meaning. No one really knew what Trump meant and even Trump at times appears to not know what he meant. Like "drain the swamp," it was a great slogan, one which Trump found useful in winning the election. For Trump supporters to conclude that he let them down, they must feel betrayed by him. I do not know what that will take. But if Trump is true to his colors, he will betray them in many ways in coming days. What the next four years will be is a test of the capacity of Trump supporters to overlook these betrayals. Trump has proven himself adept at misleading and manipulating his supporters and retaining their goodwill toward him.

At the same time I believe that the members of the Senate have a responsibility to the American people to thoroughly investigate each of Trump's nominees for posts for which Senate confirmation is required. It is an important check in the system of checks and balances that are integral part of our nation's government.
Related Articles:

Trump's tweets, attention-getting device?
Donald Trump's Call for 'Arms Race' Boggles Nuclear Experts
What, Exactly, Is Trump Getting at With His Comments About Nukes and an Arms Race?
Trump’s a nuke nightmare
Trump's tweets like the nuke tweet grab attention which I am convinced is their primary purpose. They keep attention focused on Trump and what he says. As for figuring out what Trump means in a tweet, I do not believe that Trump himself always knows what he means when he makes a tweet. They are apt to be made off the top of his head. Trump's tweets also serve another purpose. They keep people off balance and Trump has boasted that he likes to keep people off balance with his unpredictability. To what extent his unpredictability is deliberate is debatable. Trump has shown himself to be erratic. Describing himself as unpredictable may in part be a way of covering up his own erraticness: he changes with his mood. When he is angry, he says one thing. When he is calm, he says something else. Trump's anger may not be a reaction to a stimulus in his immediate environment. It may be a reaction to something that occurred earlier and over which Trump has been ruminating. 
Trump's F-35 threat, tip of the iceberg
Lockheed shares sink further on Trump's F-35 threat
Trump's nuclear tweet raises question of 'quid pro quo' for defense contractors
Trump's $440 billion weapon
Trump seems to be using one of his favorite negotiating tactics on Lockheed Martin and Boeing

Trump's operating outside norms, high risk game
Trump writing his own White House rules
Trump creates competing power centers in his West Wing

China responds to Trump's opening gambit
Unpredictable Trump Puts China On The Defensive
Chinese State Newspaper Accuses Navarro of Anti-China Bias

Trump ally in hot water over racist remarks
N.Y. developer Carl Paladino's 'gorilla' remark spurs outrage
Trump’s New York Co-Chair Says Michelle Obama Is A Man Who Should Live In Africa With Gorillas

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On the Net: "5 surprisingly simple reasons your church may not be growing" and Much More

5 surprisingly simple reasons your church may not be growing

Having preached in tons of churches across the nation and having personally interviewed hundreds of pastors and thousands of youth pastors I'm convinced there are at least 5 big reasons why your church may not be experiencing significant growth. Read More

I don’t have to understand it all in order to believe

I do not understand all the prophecies of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.

Nor do you.

Nor is it necessary that we do. Read More

10 Gifts to Give That Don't Cost Money

Christmas can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we usually give gifts that don’t last anyway. This Christmas, give one of these gifts to someone.... Read More

What Evangelicals Can Love about Mary [Podcast]

Beeson Divinity School dean Timothy George joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editor-in-chief Mark Galli this week to discuss how Mary models discipleship, what the reformers thought of her, and whether or not Protestants should pray to her. Listen Now

5 Things for Which All Leaders Should Pray

Leaders have a great responsibility. By the very nature of their role, they are responsible for guiding others. They are responsible for stewarding the talents and skills of people for a greater good. It is a responsibility that most choose to avoid.

For those who choose to take on this responsibility, prayer becomes a necessity. But what should a leader pray for? Here are five things for which all leaders should pray.... Read More

Know Your Audience: 8 Principles for Speaking Effectively in Any Situation

Speaking effectively has more to do with how well you listen than how much you talk. Read More

5 Bible Inputs to Grow, Grow, Grow

r/> At one recent conference Rico Tice spoke about reading the Bible on four different levels. I am going to borrow his framework and develop it in my own way. So here are five Bible inputs that will help you grow upwards in Christ.... Read More

Peace On Earth This Christmas? Five Places That Need Your Prayers

Here are some places to pray for and think about while we gather with our loved ones this festive season.... Read More

The Gospel Compels Hospitality

For the Christian, hospitality is not just an act to be performed; it is a posture to be assumed. Read More

How to Respond When People Say ‘No’ to Jesus (Part 1)

InterVarsity evangelist offers words of encouragement. Read More

I recommend sharing this article with your congregation if you are a pastor or with your small group if you are a small group leader or member.
Why Can’t Christians Just Join the Revolution?

Why not just join the revolution? This question seems obvious to many people who look at conservative Christians and honestly wonder why we cannot just change our views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the entire constellation of LGBT issues. We are constantly told that we must abandon the clear teachings of the Bible in order to get “on the right side of history.” Read More

Pray for Aleppo? Survey Says Fewer Christians Pray for Refugees

World Vision president sees ‘America’s heart closing’ to Syria and Iraq. Read More
Caught up in the growing anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States and Europe Christians forget that Jesus himself was once a refugee and that the Scriptures teach that we should treat the strangers and the sojourners in our midst with kindness. Our homeland is also not here on earth but in heaven.
Prince Charles Hits Out Against Religious Persecution [Video]

Prince Charles has hit out against religious persecution around the world and spoken about "Our Lord Jesus Christ" in an unprecedented appearance on the Thought for the Day slot on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Watch Now
Also see Prince Charles warns against religious persecution, Britain's Prince Charles Says Anti-Immigrant Populism Echoes Nazis and Charles' Thought for the Day sermon mixes religion with politics

Donald Trump's First 100 Days: "Trump pledges to 'expand' U.S. nuclear capability" - UPDATED

President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday pledged his commitment to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, saying the country must “greatly strengthen” its capabilities, at least for now.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump said in a tweet on Thursday, right after he hit back on reports that he is backing off his “drain the swamp” campaign pledge.

Earlier Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on his country to "strenghten" its nuclear forces.

"We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems," he said, according to multiple news reports. Read More

Related Articles: 

Trump to beef up U.S. nuclear arsenal
New: Trump alarms arms-control community with nuke tweet
New: Nuke Experts to Trump: WTF?
Trump Says U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Must Be ‘Greatly’ Expanded
Donald Trump Wants to Build Up America’s Nuclear Arsenal
Trump Tweets About Nuclear Growth

New: Advocacy groups unsatisfied with Trump's vague stance on Muslim ban
New: Trump stokes fears he'll pursue Muslim ban
New:The Bush-era Muslim registry failed. Yet the US could be trying it again
Conway: Trump will not pursue immigration ban based solely on religion

New: Trump appoints White House communications staff
New: Trump's White House press shop intends to change status quo
New: Trump names his White House communications team
New: Trump picks Sean Spicer as White House press secretary, Jason Miller as communications director

New: How about Trump turning over his tax returns too
New: Key senators spar over State nominee’s taxes
Requesting Tillerson's tax returns is reasonable as the returns will reveals any existing or potential conflicts of interest that should be considered in any decision to confirm or reject Trump's nominee. The Republicans may not want to take a too close a look at Tillerson but in doing so they are putting their own interests before the interests of the nation.
New: Carl Icahn to bring 'talking your book' to White House
New: Carl Icahn Wrote the Playbook for Trump’s Bullying Tweetstorms. Now He’ll Turn Them Into Policy.

Are we on the verge of a second 'Cold War'?
Russia gives US cold shoulder, saying relations between countries 'frozen'

Or detente?
9 questions about Russia you were too embarrassed to ask

Congress to go ahead with probe into Russian hacking
Drop the defensiveness Mr. Trump. The problem of Russian hacking is bigger than you

Conway to continue as Trump aide and spinmeister
Trump picks Kellyanne Conway to serve as counselor to the president

Corey Lewandowski: 'Drain the Swamp' low priority for Trump
Corey Lewandowski Says ‘Drain The Swamp’ Is No Longer A Priority For Donald Trump

Eric Trump caught influence peddling
Trump corruption fail: Eric Trump’s pre-inauguration pay-for-play scheme collapses

Richard Lowry makes some good points in this article
The Conventional Threat to Trump

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the Net: "9 People Who Need Our Prayers This Christmas" and More

9 People Who Need Our Prayers This Christmas

It’s Christmas, and everyone’s celebrating. Or, at least it seems that way.

Actually, many people will struggle through this weekend, and they need our ministry and our prayers. In the busyness of the holidays, don’t forget these folks.... Read More

The Real Meaning of Christmas

One of the most remarkable stories of Christmas comes from one of the darkest moments of modern history. Read More

What We Celebrate at Christmas [Video]

In this excerpt from What Did Jesus Do?, R.C. Sproul reminds us that what we really celebrate at Christmas is the incarnation of God Himself. Watch Now

10 Ways to Dramatically Increase Giving in Your Church

It takes money to lead a church to experience dynamic spiritual and numerical growth. Read More

When Was Jesus Born?

It’s amazing how often people get caught up in the debate over when Jesus was actually born. Although we should never be dogmatic on this point, the biblical text does provide us with a number of clues. Read More
Some years ago I attended a lecture by Professor Thomas Tallis in which he persuasively argued that the early Church chose December 25th as the date to celebrate the the birth of Jesus, not to Christianize a pagan mid-winter festival but rather as a result of its calculations of when Jesus was born.
Apologetics: New Heresies Are Rarely New [Video]

Ancient heresies still matter because—much like the claims about Jesus that are recycled year after year in popular magazines—the same claims that were made in the past are still made today. With that fact in mind, take a quick look with me at this video that unpacks a few false teachings from the early centuries of Christian history. Watch Now

Seven Commitments of Renewal Every Church Leader Should Make for a New Year

Consider these seven resolutions to be statements of renewal. Ask others to keep you accountable. Above all, ask God for the wisdom, strength, and perseverance to move these commitments of renewal to reality. Read More

Leading Evangelicals Plead With Donald Trump To Withdraw Scott Pruitt From Environment Protection Agency

A group of evangelical church and lay leaders in the US has called on Donald Trump to reconsider his choice of climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Read More

Is It Too Late for Russell Moore to Say Sorry?

Southern Baptist leader’s critiques of Trump and his supporters are having an impact beyond the election. Read More

Why Southern Baptists Should Back Russell Moore, Not Sack Him

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is no softy liberal. Read More