Friday, January 28, 2022

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Saturday Evening (January 29, 2022) Is Now Online


All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

Agape, the kind of love which Christians are expected to love others and one another is love with a difference. Quite a difference in fact.

The Scripture reading for this Saturday evening is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Let Love Be Your Guide.

The homily is titled “Love with a Difference.”

The link to this Saturday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-saturday_28.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

It 's Friday: '10 Church Poisons That Will Kill a Church' and More


Here are the links to nine articles which may interest readers. The article on church poisons explains the different ways that we can kill our own churches. I was involved for three years in a small Anglican church which made a series of decisions over the years, which led to its demise. 

10 Church Poisons That Will Kill Any Church
9 Things I’ve Learned About Leadership From My Family
7 Dangers of "Undisciple Believers" + Prosperity
5 Actions to Take Before You Publically Read Scripture
7 Steps in Dealing with Cliques
A Simple Game-Changing Practice for Your Small Group
From Providing Self-Care to Receiving Soul Care
5 Warnings for Your Social Media Talk
8 Ways to Strengthen Evangelism in Your Church

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It's Wednesday: '7 Ways We Make People Feel Unwelcome At Our Church' and More


Since I found ten articles that I thought readers migh find interesting, I decided to try something different. I decided to just list the titles of the articles and provide links to them.

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Wednesday Evening (January 26, 2022) Is Now Online

 

All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

How are we made right with God? By our own efforts? By faith in Jesus Christ?

The Scripture reading for this Wednesday evening’s service is Galatians 4: 11-21 Paul Shows That Peter Was Wrong.

The homily is titled “God Can Do Anything.”

The link to this evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for_26.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab. If a song begins partway through the video, move the slider back to the beginning of the video.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Familiarity Blindness in your Church: 7 Ways to Cure It


Familiarity blindness is a malady that infects us all. It happens when we become so familiar with something that we no longer consciously see it. In fact, the brain does this all the time so it doesn’t have to work as hard. If you drive to church or work the same route each time, you no longer pay attention to familiar buildings, signs, and other landmarks along the way. Although our eyes still see them, they’ve become so familiar that the brain doesn’t pay conscious attention to them. However, when something is out of place on your drive, a detour, for example, you immediately pay attention. Familiarity blindness is common in many churches today. In this post I give 7 ways to cure it. Read More

Small Groups are a Leadership Development Factory


If you need more leaders and even people just to help in your church, you are in good company these days. With low attendance numbers dragging on into the third year since COVID began, the leadership deficit in most churches is bigger than it’s ever been. Small groups are a great catalyst for growing leaders. Read More

Also See:
5 Toxic Small Group Ministry Moves

Monday, January 24, 2022

It's Monday: 'Six Reasons Your Church Welcome Ministry Is More Important Than Ever' and More


The church welcome ministry (or whatever your church calls it) has always been important. But the ministry is more important today than it’s ever been.

Joining Others on Their Journey
Radical hospitality is showing up where people already are with a posture of openness and blessing toward them.

The Group Most Likely to Still Be Missing From Your Church
Many who chose to stop attending services did so due to health-related concerns amid the pandemic, but research suggests that other reasons may have also played a role for some.

3 Things God Will Never Do with Your Sin
Consider for a moment how we “deal” with others. We keep fresh in our minds their injustices toward us. We nurture the memory of their faults and failings. We never let them forget what they did and we often make sure others are mindful of it as well.

Miracles Are Outlasting the Arguments Against Them
New Testament scholar Craig Keener investigates contemporary accounts of “signs and wonders,” while suggesting that many grounds for skepticism are behind the times.

Three Practical Ways to Engage in Online Peacemaking
How reflecting the servant attitude of Christ in our online engagement makes us effective ambassadors.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Sunday Evening (January 23, 2022) Is Now Online


All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

There are dozens of self-improvement articles on the internet. Many of them offer good advice. But they are missing one important piece of advice—the need to have Jesus in your life. 

What about all those Christians who have messed-up lives? They may not be a great advertisement for Jesus but at the same time the pathway to being a better person is not one of instant transformation. When we have Jesus in our lives, we have a new relationship with God and that relationship is key to becoming our better selves.

The Scripture reading for this Sunday is Luke 4: 14-21 Jesus Begins His Work in Galilee; He Goes to His Hometown

The homily is titled “An Act of God’s Kindness.”

The link to this Sunday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-sunday_23.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

f an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

What Does It Mean to Be the Body of Christ?

When preparing a homily on today’s reading (1 Cor. 12:12-31) from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, it is tempting to focus on the spiritual gifts due to their popularity in some Christian circles. But if we do, we will be missing an important idea that Paul develops in today’ reading. A summation of this idea can be formed from several key verses in the passage.

"A person has only one body, but it has many parts. Christ is like that too. God put the parts in the body as he wanted them. He made a place for each one. God wanted the different parts to care the same for each other. If one part of the body suffers, then all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part is honored, then all the other parts share its honor. All of you together are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of that body."

This particular Christian belief is known as the doctrine of the Body of Christ. The local congregation of the faithful is like a human body. It is a single body made up of parts like our bodies. Each member of that congregation is one of its parts. God puts us in a particular congregation as he wants us. God wants us to care for each other exactly like we care for everyone else. We are not to treat anyone better than everyone else, nor are we to treat anyone worse than everyone else. It does not matter if we were not present when the congregation welcomed a new member and made a commitment to nurture them in the Christian faith and life and to include them in the congregation’s care. God expects us to care for them. We cannot avoid them or ignore them because we have taken a dislike to them or caring for others is not one of our strengths.

Christians who were forced to take care of themselves as a child and are very independent may struggle with caring for others. They may not be able to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation. They may not be able to understand the feelings of others nor feel any desire to help them. However, they can develop the ability to imagine how someone else feels and become more empathetic.

This concept may be a difficult one to grasp in our culture which emphasizes the individual, independence, and self-sufficiency. We repeatedly hear the message that we are not responsible for others, only for ourselves. Jesus and the apostle, however, take a different view; we are interdependent, that is, we depend on each other. We help each other. We look after each other.

As Paul points to our attention, our lives are intertwined with the lives of the other members of the congregation. What we do to someone else affects the whole body. What happens to one of us affects all of us. When we do something bad or hurtful, the entire congregation suffers the consequences one way or another. We may damage the public image of our congregation. Our congregation may acquire a reputation of being unfriendly and unkind. When we do something kind or good, the entire congregation benefits. Our congregation may receive praise and approval from the community. The members of our congregation feel good about their church and themselves.. Our congregation’s public image gets a boost.

Bad blood between two members of a congregation can spread to other members of the congregation and eventually disrupt the life and ministry of a church. Reconciliation between two members can lead to restored friendly relations between other members. We cannot underestimate the impact our words and actions may have upon the rest of the congregation.

We must be careful about becoming out of misplaced sympathy an enabler, someone who allows or makes it possible for another person to behave in a way that damages that person. We may not have all the facts. Things are not always what they seem.
 
We need to be cautious about becoming involved in a relationship in which we contribute to someone else’s problem because we have a strong emotional need ourselves.
 
For example, we do not help anxious people to deal with their anxiety by making it possible for them to avoid anxiety-triggering situations. They need to deal with their anxiety in situations that trigger anxiety for them. Helping them to avoid these situations reinforces an existing unhealthy behavior pattern of behavior. It will actually make their anxiety worse.
 
If they are not facing any risk of physical injury or severe and lasting emotional shock and pain caused by an extremely upsetting experience, they should be encouraged to cope with the anxiety. The anxiety that they are feeling may be disproportionate to the circumstances and unrelated to the facts or events that make the situation the way it is.
 
Removing the anxiety trigger is not the solution. Working through longstanding and unreasonable feelings of anxiety about a particular feature of themselves or a particular set of circumstances is the solution.

The spiritual health of a local congregation of the faithful is tied to the spiritual health of the individual members of the congregation, just as the physical health of a human body is tied to the physical health of its individual parts. The spiritual health of the individual members of a congregation is tied to their physical, psychological, and emotional health. If we want our congregation to be healthy as possible, we need to be attentive to state of each individual member’s health.

We need to keep two things in mind. Because a person is functioning, exhibiting what we consider normal behavior and doing what is expected of them, and is not complaining of any kind of distress, does not mean that they are in tiptop condition health-wise. They may not recognize their physical and behavioral health problems, or they may be hiding them. The environment in which they are function may enable them not to experience any distress.

A second thing to remember is that what clinicians called “presenting problem” or “chief complaint” is the initial symptom that causes an individual member of a congregation to turn to the pastor or some other church leader for help. To the clinician it is the initial piece of information that they will use in an evaluation.

Pastors and other church leaders should treat the concerns that an individual member of the congregation shares with them in the same way. They may discover on further investigation that the individual in question is accurately reporting a situation, or they are misinterpreting someone else’s word and actions.
 
Pastors and other church leaders may uncover additional information that sheds a different light on what that individual is defining as the problem.
 
For example, they may discover that the individual who came to them with the problem is wrongly imagining that someone else is feeling an emotion or desire where in fact they are the one who feels this way.

They also need to be aware of what is known as the negativity bias. This is the tendency to take a negative view of other people, to give more credence to negative information about them than to positive information, to exaggerate in our minds the seriousness of an individual’s negative qualities, and even to add imaginary details to the someone’s account of what happened. We look for the worst in other people, and not the best in them. The negativity bias can prejudice our opinion of someone and our assessment of the situation.

At the same time pastors and other church leaders will want to give someone who comes to them with a problem the benefit of the doubt and not to dismiss their concerns out of hand. It is helpful to keep in mind what Paul wrote the Corinthians about God wanting the different parts of the body to care for each other the same. In practice, pastors and other church leaders will need to do their best to be impartial, judging or considering the matter fairly without letting their own feelings or sympathies to influence them. This may be difficult when one of the parties involved may be a newcomer to the congregation and the other party is longtime member of the congregation whom they have know for a while.

Something to remember is that we may not know someone as well as we may think. What we may know is their persona, or social image, the particular type of character that a person seems to have and that is often different from their real or private character. This does not mean that they are secretly bad people who are deceiving us. Rather they may have personal qualities or character traits that they prefer to keep from the view of others out of the fear that others may reject them. They therefore will project what they consider their most desirable qualities, the qualities which they believe will please other people and which they want most people to notice about them.

In writing the church at Corinth about God wanting the different parts of the body to care for each other, Paul is echoing the new commandment that Jesus gave to the disciples—the commandment to love one another as he loved them. This is evident from the section of Paul’s letter that follows today’s reading. It is the way of life that Paul tells the Corinthians is better than the spiritual gifts. In that section Paul describes the kind of love that Christians should show other people and their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Faction Friendships


In his recent insightful article on the Gospel Coalition, Pastor Jeremy Linneman argues that (in America at least) people’s already-weak friendships have been diminished and replaced by screen time and ‘faction friendships’ (friendships based on social-political alignment and little else) which have pushed both the society and the church to further polarization.

My own experience as a Pastor suggests that this is not just happening in America. Too many Christians, on both sides of the controversies occasioned by covid, have retreated into their own tribe, making someone’s view of covid, lockdowns or facemasks the shibboleth of orthodoxy. Too many Christians have strained out gnats and swallowed camels—taking strong stands over covid protocols as if fundamental doctrines like the deity of Christ or justification were at stake, while ignoring the crystal clear and far weightier commands like our duty to love one another and consider others more important than ourselves.

And so we have Christians who will not speak to another Christian if he is wearing a facemask—or unless he is wearing a facemask. There are Christians who are suddenly hailing as heroes those with whom they have very little in common on any other issue, but because they are ‘sound’ on the covid question that’s all that matters. Read More

What’s New in Evangelical Views on Abortion? The Age Gap


Between 2016 and 2020, younger white evangelicals started to shift away from pro-life positions while older ones solidified their stances.

Abortion holds a unique place in the realm of American public opinion.

While views on issues like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization have shifted dramatically over the last ten years, people tend to hold on to their positions on abortion. In my upcoming book, 20 Myths about Religion and Politics in America, I spend a chapter explaining how abortion opinion is basically unchanged over the last four decades.

Evangelicals have been the religious group with the strongest views against abortion, and across generations, they’ve held to their pro-life stances. As recently as 2016, the age gap between younger and older generations on the issue was small and substantially insignificant.

But data from 2020 has begun to show a different trend. Younger white evangelicals have become more permissive of abortion, while older ones have moved in the opposite direction. Read More

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Saturday Evening (January 22, 2022) Is Now Online


All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

Beginning this Saturday I will be using a simpler format for All Hallows Evening Prayer. I will also be posting the homily separately as well as with the service. This is for anyone who might wish to read the homily by itself.

The Scripture reading for this Saturday evening is 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 The Body of Christ.

The homily is titled “What Does It Mean to Be the Body of Christ?”

The link to this Saturday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-saturday_22.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

Friday, January 21, 2022

It's Friday: 'Every Church Is a Culture – What Is Yours?" and More


Every Church Is a Culture – What Is Yours?
"There is no un-enculturated person anywhere in the world. No one is unrelated or un-embedded. We’re all shaped by our interactions with others, and that shaping becomes the culture in which we relate to each other."

MacGyver and the Local Church
There are two important lessons that we can learn from the 1958 and 2016 TV series, "MacGyver."

How to Church Shop Like the First Christians
In an age of virtual worship services, some things should stay the same.

Thabiti Anyabwile Has Strong Words for Pastors Who Create ‘Made up Controversies’
On Thursday, pastor and author Thabiti Anyabwile fired back at fellow evangelical leaders who stirred controversy about him on Twitter.

Three Quick Ways to Ruin Your Church’s Online Reputation
What should you avoid when trying to protect your church’s online reputation? What are the areas that can turn into missteps and then later turn into disasters? Here are three quick ways to ruin your church’s online reputation if you’re not careful.

Great Questions Lead to Great Conversations
I’ve used “S.P.E.A.K.” as an acronym to help me make my conversations go beneath the surface. You can use these questions with anyone you meet—no matter how much money, power, or popularity the other person has, this tool will help you go deeper and be more personal....

4 Ways to Navigate Minefield Conversations
Difficult conversations often feel like trying to get through that mine-laced countryside without killing oneself....

Here’s Who Stopped Going to Church During the Pandemic
Recent research paints a grim picture for local congregations. But it also highlights opportunities
.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

It's Thursday: '9 Things You Should Know About Religious Freedom in America' and More


9 Things You Should Know About Religious Freedom in America
This past Sunday (January 16), the United States observed National Religious Freedom Day 2022. Here are nine things you should know about religious freedom in America since the time of the nation’s founding.

Pastors Who Lack Close Friends: 5 Reasons Why
Barna Research discovered that 61% of pastors are lonely and have few close friends. The loneliest people in churches are often pastors. Why is this so?

By Steps and Degrees: A Short Introduction to Preparatory Grace
"preparatory grace is a gracious but non-saving work of God which prepares sinners, in a means consistent with human nature, for saving faith."

Youth Ministry Is Being Reshaped by These 10 Important Trends
What will youth ministry look like in the years to come?More studies of young people and their faith exist today than every before. Despite this wealth of information, our methods haven’t significantly changed since contemporary youth ministry began in the 1950s and ’60s. That will change in the coming years.

Children’s Ministry: An Investment That Will Outlive You
One of the awesome things about children's ministry is this - the investment you make will outlive you.

Small Group Earthquake Plans
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we don’t know what’s next. So, your plans and preparations need to be like buildings made for an earthquake.

Appealing to Caesar
Have you ever thought about how you are to view and leverage your earthly citizenship?

Critical Evangelism Theory
“When we pursue diversity and dismantle racism in the name of Jesus Christ, we can inspire a Spirit-empowered disciple-making movement.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

It's Wednesday: '8 Reasons Pastorless Churches Should Consider an Interrim Pastor' and More

Pastorless churches can get accustomed to having no pastor and can adopt unhealthy attitudes and practices.

How the Stand and Greet Time Disappeared in Churches (And How to Replace It)
The passing of the peace in liturgical churches is NOT a stand and greet time. The peace is a gesture of reconciliation exchanged in preparation for sharing the elements of the Holy Communion.

When Aslan Wept
"While it is within God’s power to remove our suffering and make us feel better again, sometimes He does not. We can only trust that He’s grieving alongside us while working things out behind the scenes for our good and His glory."

How To Understand And Dispel The Fear Of Witchcraft
Witchcraft is not confined to the African subcontinent. While it is a strong influence in Africa, it is also practiced elsewhere in the world, including the United States and Canada.

5 Things Christians Fear (but Shouldn’t)
Here are 5 things that we as Christians should not fear but do.

Never Underestimate the Value of Ordinary, Brief, Christian Conversations
The Holy Spirit can use these conversations to build up the Body of Christ.

Christians Are Going Back to Church—But Maybe Not the Same One
While watching livestreamed services, churchgoers may find a different church more attractive than the church that they were attending. They may also find a different church safer or closer to home than the one they have been attending.

Where Protestants and Catholics Go When They Leave Their Churches
"The major denominational families that had the lowest amount of defections were the traditional mainline traditions, while nondenominational Christianity—almost always considered to be evangelical—had the greatest amount of defections."

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Wednesday Evening (January 19, 2022) Is Now Online


All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

The appropriate posture for prayer does come up from time to time. Do we kneel, stand, or crouch? Do we keep our eyes open, or do we close them? Does it really matter?

The Scripture reading for this Wednesday evening’s service is Galatians 2: 1-10 Years later I met church leaders in Jerusalem: no criticism of my gospel was made.

The homily is titled “Our Postures in Prayer: Do They Matter?.”

The link to this evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for_19.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab. If a song begins partway through the video, move the slider back to the beginning of the video.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Let Love Guide Us in the New Year: Reciprocity


Honeysuckle symbolizes the bonds of love.

Jesus’ commandment to love one another carries with it the expectation that his disciples will show reciprocity toward each other when feeling and expressing love for each other. They will help each other by behaving in the same way or by giving each other similar advantages. Regrettably this may not always happen.
 
Some Christians will feel and express love for their fellow Christians more easily than others. This lack of reciprocity, however, should not keep us from loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
 
Mutually loving each other, loving each other in the same way, while it is highly desirable, may prove difficult to achieve. Different people have different capacities for giving and receiving love.
 
As Christians we are expected to grow in our ability to love each other, but for some of us it may be harder to do than for others. We all have different experiences, and these experiences can affect our ability to give and receive love.
 
The important thing is that each of us works toward loving our brothers and sisters in Christ more.
On the other hand, our love for our fellow human beings may be one-sided. They may be entirely unresponsive to our love for them. Whatever may be their response, we love them anyway.
 
Loving our neighbor and loving our enemy do not carry with them the expectation that our neighbor and our enemy will love us back. “We love because God loves us,” wrote the apostle John.
How do we love one another? How do we love others?
 
Some of the ways that we love one another, and we love others is that we are patient with them. We are friendly, generous, helpful, and caring about them. We give thought to their feelings. We try to understand their feelings and to put ourselves in their place.
 
We are sympathetic toward them, and we offer them encouragement and support. We compliment and praise them. We have a kind word for them. We are honest and truthful with them, and we don’t try to deceive them. We look for the strengths and good qualities in them.
 
We don’t intentionally try to harm them. We don’t deliberately cause them embarrassment or make trouble for them. We treat them with kindness and care. We give them the benefit of the doubt and we trust them.
 
We go out of our way for them. We forgive them and we don’t hold anything against them. When we do something bad to them, we make it up to them if we can.
 
We keep open channels of communication with them. We listen to them. We mend broken fences with them whenever possible.
 
You may think of other ways that we as Christians show love or one another and show love for others.

3 Simple Ways to Flatten Your Neighbor


The title of this article intrigued me. What did Trevin Wax mean by flattening your neighbor? Read the article and you will find out. Trevin reminds us that Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves, not flatten them. Read the article

For Such a Time as This?


I like what Kurt Bubna say in this article about how the followers of Jesus are to be different. He hits the nail on the head. If you follow Jesus, you are to be different--no two ways about it! Read the article

The Power of the Ordinary Moments


Skylar Spradlin makes a good point in this article. God does not always work through the splashy. He more often works through the ordinary. Yet a lot of folks expect God to work through the splashy and are disappointed when he does not. It does not enter their minds that he works through the ordinary. Read the article

Monday, January 17, 2022

Will Few Be Saved?

 

How do we reconcile Jesus seemingly contradictory statements that "few will be saved" and "many will be saved." Manny Lucas offers one solution to this problem. See article. It is very tempting to take Jesus' "few will be saved" satements and build a theology around them, which limits that few to people like ourselves, members of our "tribe." 

All the Reasons Why Kids Shouldn’t Go to Church


For most of the history of the Christian Church children have been included in the local church's gatherings on Sundays. They have not been relegated to their own separate gatherings. During the last century it became the practice to segregate children from the adults in the local church. This practice, however, was found to be responsible for a lack of faith and a high dropout rate among teenagers. Children who had been worshiping in their own separate gatherings were unable to make the transition to the larger church gathering when they reached the age at which they were expected to make that transition. They dropped out of church altogether or they migrated to a church that offered a worship experience similar to the one to which they had become accustomed when they worshiped in their own separate gatherings. It is the second decade of the 21st century and teenagers are still walking away from the church and concerned Christians like Christina Membree are still advocating for the integration of children in the local church's larger gatherings. See article. When will the penny drop?

What's Up with Evangelicals?


The article "9 in 10 Evangelicals Don’t Think Sermons Are Too Long" provides research that supports the claim that "evangelical churchgoers are pretty happy with how things are going at their churches." The article, "12 Lies American Evangelicals Believe" paints a different picture, not of dissatisfaction but of widely-held error. One is prompted to wonder what pastors are teaching in the so-called "in-depth teaching," of which evangelicals are reported to want more in the first article. It has been recognized for a number of years that lives of many evangelicals do not differ from the lives of non-church going Americans except for their churchgoing habits, fondness for contemporary Christian and praise and worship music, and their proclivity to socialize only with other evangelicals. The second article suggests that they are not removed from non-churchgoing Americans in their beliefs.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Let Love Guide Us in the New Year: Love Perseveres, Trusts, Hopes, and Endures


Honeysuckle symbolizes the bonds of love.

In his last two verses of his description of the nature of agape, or Christ love, in his first letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul lists several positive qualities or characteristics. The first of these qualities or characteristics is that love never gives up on people. It perseveres. It continues making an effort in a determined way, even when it is difficult or takes a long time. It does not quit. It does not stop in the face of difficulties. It endures whatever the circumstances are. It will experience and bear the difficulties, the unpleasantness, and the pain. It does not look for an excuse to not love someone and having found an excuse stops loving them.

This quality or characteristic sets agape, or Christian love, apart from the other types of love. It does not abandon someone because they are unresponsive. They do not react in a quick or positive way to the love shown them. In his teaching Jesus encouraged his disciples to be generous in their giving and to not expect anything in return for their generosity. Agape, or Christian love, is the same way. It is not offered in the hopes that it will be reciprocated. It is given freely without any strings attached. Christians, when they are genuinely love others as Jesus taught, are imitating God in their love. They are showing that they are children of God.

The love that we show to others or to our fellow Christians may be spurned by them. They may refuse to accept it for a variety of reasons. For example, they may confuse it with carnal love, love that is related to the physical feelings or wants of the body. This does not mean that we stop loving them. They may come in time to recognize it for what it is. They may not. We have no control over how they chose to respond. As we saw in an earlier article, agape, or Christian love, is not about benefiting from our expression of that love. It does not try to manipulate or control the person at whom it is directed. If it is refused or rejected, we do not go looking for someone else to love. We persevere. We do not move on to someone who is easier to love and who is responsive to our love.

A second positive quality or characteristic that Paul lists is that agape, or Christian love, never loses faith. It never stops trusting. There is no end to its trust. It maintains its great trust and confidence in God, its strong belief in God. It believes what Jesus taught and believes that in loving others unreservedly, completely, without any doubts or feelings of being uncertain, whether neighbors, enemies, or brothers and sisters in Christ, it is doing the right thing. It is doing the will of God. It believes that God puts people in the life of a disciple of Jesus to be loved. Loving them is one of the purposes that God gives the Christian the will and power to achieve.

When we trust someone, we believe that they are good and honest and will not harm us. When we trust God, we believe same thing. We believe that God is good. We believe that he tells the truth, is trustworthy, and is not likely to lie to us. We also believe that God will not harm us. He is kind and helpful. Based on our trust in him, we do what Jesus taught, believing that God has in mind our best interests and the best interests of those whom we love.

A third positive quality or characteristic that Paul is that agape, or Christian love, is always hopeful. It never loses hope. Its hope never fades.

When we hope, we want something to happen or to be true, and we usually have a good reason to think that it might. We have a confident feeling about what will happen in the future. We believe that something good will happen in the future. We feel that something which we desire can be had or will happen.

A fourth positive quality or characteristic that Paul list is that agape, or Christian love, will endure through every circumstance. It never fails, It will never end. It is eternal. It will outlast everything else.

When we compare these qualities and characteristics of agape, or Christian love, with God's love, we cannot miss the similarity between this type of love and God’s love. God is unwavering in his love for us. Agape, or Christian love, embodies God’s faithfulness. Like God’s love, agape, or Christian love, is true. It is sincere and loyal and continues to be so in difficult situations.

Sexual and romantic love fade. Passions cool. Hormones subside. A partner or spouse may go in search of someone new, someone more exciting. But agape, or Christian love, is, I believe, infused with God’s love and it does not disappear. It not only lasts a lifetime but also for all eternity.

12 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2022 (and the Post-Pandemic Era)


Having been through two excruciating years as a church leader, what can you expect in 2022?

As you can see by the sheer number of trends (the most I’ve ever covered in my annual trends series), 2022 is shaping up to be a pivotal year.

A new reality will emerge, and it will be different than we think. Read More

Baptism: God’s Work Upon Us


A number of years ago I was invited to speak at a Pentecostal seminary in Germany and make the best case I could for infant baptism, which was, as you might well imagine, not just unfaithful but downright unintelligible to my audience. The fact that I represented Lutheranism did not make my task any easier, since they were acutely aware of the historic Lutheran church’s dislike of “free churches” — though I can’t say that, as an American, I felt much inclined to admire state Protestantism politically or theologically anyway.

But by this time I had learned a thing or two about voluntary or “believer’s baptism” in the churches that espouse it, so I began my talk by asking how many of the people present had been baptized in water. All of them raised their hands. Hardly surprising.

Then I asked how many had been baptized in water twice. Result: fully half of the crowd of over 100 students raised their hands.

Then I asked how many had been baptized in water three times. Four or five people raised their hands.

Four times? Just one person — who promptly explained it was because she’d “been living in America at the time.” So much for my illusion that escaping the state church/free church tension solves sacramental problems. Read More

The Difficult Habit of Quiet


The habit of quiet may be harder today than ever before. Don’t get me wrong: it’s always been hard. The rise and spread of technology, however, tends to crowd out quiet even more.

Now that we can carry the whole wide and wild world in our pockets, it’s that much harder to keep the world at bay. Our phones always promise another update to see, image to like, website to visit, game to play, text to read, stream to watch, forecast to monitor, podcast to download, headline to scan, article to skim, score to check, price to compare. That kind of access, and semblance of control, can begin to make quiet moments feel like wasted ones. Who could sit and be still while so much life rushes by? Even if we don’t immediately pick up our phones, we’re often still held captive by them, wondering what new they might hold — what we might be missing.

As hard as quiet might be to come by, however, it’s still a life-saving, soul-strengthening habit for any human soul. The God who made this wide and wild world, and who molded our finite and fragile frames, says of us, “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). In days filled with noise, do you still find time to be this kind of strong? Or has stress and distraction slowly eroded your spiritual health?

How often do you stop to be quiet? Read More

Friday, January 14, 2022

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Sunday Evening (January 16, 2022) Is Now Online

 

All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

A wedding. A miraculous sign. Water turned into wine. Jesu' glory revealed. But does it fill us with awe as did those who were present? As it did those who those who first heard John's Gospel? 

The Scripture reading for this Sunday is John 2:1-11 The Wedding at Cana.

The homily is titled “Through the Eyes of Child.”

The link to this Sunday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-sunday_14.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

f an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.

Let Love Guide Us in the New Year: Love Is Never Happy with Wrongdoing but Is always Happy with the Truth


Honeysuckle symbolizes the bonds of love.

In his first letter to the Corinthians in his description of the nature of love that Christians have for others and one another, Paul emphasizes that disciples of Jesus do not delight in the misdeeds of others. They are never happy when others do wrong, and they do not gloat over their wickedness. They do not rejoice in injustice and wrongdoing. On the other hand, they do rejoice when truth succeeds after a lot of difficulty. They are always happy with the truth and rejoice in truthfulness, and they are glad when the truth prevails, when the real facts about a situation, event, or person are uncovered.

When I was reflecting on this particular verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, gloating over other people’s wickedness was the most noticeable in the various translations of the verse to which I gave careful thought. When we gloat, we feel or express great pleasure or satisfaction because of our own success or good luck, or someone else’s failure or bad luck. The Pharisee in the parable was gloating when he thanked God that he was righteous unlike the publican who was praying nearby, begging God’s forgiveness for his sins. Christians are prone to the same kind of gloating when they compare themselves to non-Christians. So are the adherents of one theological school of thought when they compare themselves to another theological school of thought. “We are right. They are wrong.” When they dwell on what they regard as the other school of thought’s mistaken views, they are gloating. Christians may gloat over other things beside doctrine. This too boils down to taking great pleasure or satisfaction in other people’s mistakes and failings.

Psychologists tell us that some individuals will stir up conflict between two or more persons and cause a break in their friendship or relationship in order to prove to themselves that other people show poor judgment or little intelligence, are easily-duped, and therefore deserve their contempt. Other people are inferior to themselves. Such a view of other people in which they are seen as stupid and undeserving of our liking and respect is not consistent with the nature of Christian love which Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians. Love does not look down on people nor does it focus on their faults and mistakes.

Just as some people collect anger stamps, these individuals collect what may be described as contempt stamps. They use them to justify disliking other people, showing them no respect, and treating them badly while at the same time feeling superior to them.

Paul also writes that disciples of Jesus do not feel or show great happiness about situations in which there is no fairness and justice, and which favor someone unfairly. Treating people equally or in a way that is right or reasonable, on the other hand, is consistent with his description of the nature of Christian love. Loving others and loving one another means treating others fairly and treating one another fairly. They also mean showing no favoritism or partiality.

In the same verse Paul emphasizes that truth and truthfulness, the quality of being honest and not telling any lies, are things that Christians who love others and one another greatly value. They are an expression of their love for other people and their love for their fellow Christians.

What can we learn from this particular verse?

Do not think or talk about other people’s faults and failures all of the time.

Look for the good in other people, and not focus on the bad.

Treat other people fairly.

Be honest and truthful.

Always seek to uncover the truth of a matter—what really happened.

Value the truth and assign no importance or worth to lies and half-truths, while they may be what we want to hear, are not true and are meant to deceive.

In writing this article I sensed that the Holy Spirit was using the writing of this article series to instruct me in how to better treat people. I hope that the article series helps you in the same way.

I must give credit to the Cambridge English Dictionary for the explanation of various words and phrases used in this article.

No, Religious Freedom Doesn’t Send People to Hell


Why Christians should support our government staying out of religious affairs.

Last week an old video resurfaced on Twitter in which John MacArthur, pastor of Los Angeles’s Grace Community Church, announced he did not support religious freedom. In the clip, MacArthur argued that supporting religious freedom promotes idolatry and enables the kingdom of darkness—that “religious freedom is what sends people to hell.”

Some reports contend that quote is out of context, fitting as it does in a larger argument. Even so, this kind of argument against religious freedom is a familiar one—usually in reference to somebody else’s religion.

Years ago, a pastor told me that religious freedom is essentially the affirmation of the words of the Serpent, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). To grant religious freedom for false religions, this person contended, is the equivalent of allowing the prophets of Baal have a place of their own on Mount Carmel.

These are certainly statements of strong conviction—like propositions of biblical truth to which the only appropriate response should be a loud “Amen!” That is, until one actually listens to what is being said and hears it for what it is: theological liberalism. Read More

Church Leaders Are Still Waiting for Volunteers to Come Back


Gallup survey found involvement in religious service dropped again in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many churches and ministries to rethink how they recruit, train, and maintain the fleet of volunteers they need.

Volunteering for religious organizations dropped during the first year of the pandemic, when in-person services were canceled and outreach events were put on hold, and has continued to decline.

According to Gallup, 35 percent of Americans reported volunteering for a religious organization last year, down from 38 percent in 2020 and 44 percent in 2017.

“A recovery in volunteering may be more elusive as concerns about COVID-19 exposure and public health safety measures limit Americans’ willingness and ability to perform volunteer work,” the researchers wrote.

A lot of churches saw their longtime, reliable volunteers back away from their roles because their age put them at risk, said Chuck Peters, director of the kids ministry team at Lifeway Christian Resources.

Even those who remain willing to serve can be unpredictable; the likelihood of illness or exposure at home, especially during COVID-19 surges, has meant more volunteers are calling out sick when leaders are strapped for help. Plus, church attendance is down overall, though nearly all churches have reopened. Read More

The Perfect Sound Check


Frustrated with sound checks? Are they taking too long?

I am pretty sure that every worship team member has been fed up with sound check at some point, if not every week.

Although there are probably several ways to perform an efficient sound check, I’ll walk you though the process I have settled into after ten years of leading worship. Read More

Thursday, January 13, 2022

All Hallows Evening Prayer for Saturday Evening (January 15, 2022) Is Now Online


All Hallows Evening Prayer is a service of worship in the evening for all pilgrims on the journey to the heavenly city.

God gives his people many good gifts. Among these gifts is the Holy Spirit, God’s gift of himself.

The Scripture reading for this Saturday evening is 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 Spiritual Gifts.

The homily is titled “Gifts Given to Help Each Other”

The link to this Saturday evening’s service is—

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/2022/01/all-hallows-evening-prayer-for-saturday_13.html

Please feel free to share the link to the service with anyone whom you believe might benefit from the service.

If an ad plays when you open a link to a video in a new tab, click the refresh icon of your browser until the song appears. An ad may follow a song so as soon as the song is finished, close the tab.

Previous services are online at

https://allhallowsmurray.blogspot.com/

May this service be a blessing to you.


The Meaning and Importance of Loving One Another


How do we know that we are on the right track when it comes to loving one another? The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus gave his disciples as new commandment. It was to love one another as he has had loved them. How do we know that we are fulfilling this commandment?
 
To understand what he had in mind when he gave this commandment, we must look at Jesus’ attitudes, his behavior, his character, and his teaching as reported not only in John’s Gospel but also the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We must also consider what the apostles tell us about Jesus.
 
While the narrative may not be as detailed as might like, it does give us an idea of what the early church understood Jesus to represent and to teach. We also know from accounts of their contemporaries that the early Christians took Jesus' new commandment seriously. Their love distinguished them from their pagan neighbors.

We may live in a time in history in which those who profess to be Christians give little attention to loving one another but their negligence is not enough reason for us to keep from loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
 
As Jesus points to our attention, loving one another is more fulfilling an obligation or duty. In obeying Jesus, we show that we love him. As Jesus told his disciples, those who love him obey what he commands. They keep his word. Our love for one another is an expression of our devotion and loyalty to our Lord. In loving my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am not just loving them, but I am also loving Jesus.
 
How then do we love one another, our brothers and sisters in Christ?

First and importantly, in a kind way, not judging in a severe way, we think that it is likely true that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the principle of charitable presumption. We believe that they are what they profess.
 
We do not harbor the thought that they are really not Christians and therefore we are under no constraint to love them. Even if they were not what they professed, Jesus has taught us to love them. They are our neighbors, and we are to love them as ourselves.
 
God knows our hearts. He knows our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing is hidden from him. He knows if there is a glimmer of faith in our hearts. He knows whether we have faith no matter how slight it may be. It does not fall to us to decide who God has foreseen and chosen, who he has destined for life.
 
God knows the state of our souls. He knows whether we need his enabling grace or his perfecting, sanctifying grace. We know one thing—that we all need God’s grace—his merciful kindness, his holy influence. Without the help of his grace, we cannot even have the desire to please him, much less to do anything to please him.

We show respect for one another. We show understanding and care for one another’s feelings. We are honest and truthful with one another. We do not try to deceive one another. We treat one another as being important and valued. After all God dearly loves and treasures each one of us. If we are important and valued in God’s eyes, we cannot see one another as anything less than God does. Think about that for a moment.
 
We copy God as a child copies a parent. God is kind so we are kind. God is merciful so we are merciful. Being kind means that we are friendly to one another. We listen to one another. We are able to share our thoughts and feelings with one another without fearing something bad or unpleasant will happen if we do. We are not quick to react angrily to what one another says or does. We do not refuse to talk or be pleasant to one another.
 
Being kind means that we are generous with one another. We are generous with our time, compliments, praise, help, and encouragement, and in all the other ways that we can be generous with one another.
Being kind means that we are helpful to one another. We go out of our way to lend a helping hand. We do what we can to make it possible or easier for the others to whatever they are doing. We may do part of the work ourselves, or provide money, advice, support, and that sort of thing. We may turn up early at a church event to see if we can help in any way. We may help to stack folding chairs after the event and to take apart table decorations. We may offer to help load speakers onto a dolly.
 
Being kind means that we give thought to one another’s feelings. We care about how one another feels. We think that one another’s feelings are important, and we are interested in one another’s feelings. If someone is unhappy, we want to know why and whether we can do something about it.
 
Being kind means that we care about one another. We are concerned for one another’s health, safety, and wellbeing. We give attention to one another. We look after one another, protect one another, and ensure that one another is dealt with in the right way. We share one another’s burdens.
Being kind means that we are gentle and loving with one another. We show a lot of love toward one another. We may show one other affection, feelings of liking. At the same time, we respect one another’s personal boundaries, the limits of what the other consider to be acceptable behavior.
We do not leave others to guess what our personal boundaries are, only to discover that they have been overstepping our boundaries and triggering feelings of unease and discomfort in ourselves.
 
We try to understand one another, the way that we may communicate differently and how we communicate can affect one another’s behavior. We are patient with one another, not letting one another’s faults and mistakes anger or annoy us. We also recognize that when we do not communicate with one another enough, we can misread one another’s words and actions.
 
We do our best to get along with one another, to be friends and to get to know one another. We look for the good qualities in one another and not for the bad ones. We set our hearts on liking one another and we do not change our minds.
 
Being merciful means that we treat one another with a special type of kindness, a kindness that makes us forgive the failings of others. We are not only willing to forgive one another, but also we actually do it. We stop blaming someone for something that person may have done, and we do not punish them. We let go of any anger and resentment that we have toward them, and we do not hold against them whatever they may have done.
 
We take seriously what Jesus said about making peace with someone who has something against us, putting being reconciled with them before fulfilling our religious obligations. We also treat with the same kind of attention the apostle Paul’s warning not to stay angry for so long a time that our anger causes us to do bad or hurtful things and gives the spiritual forces harmful to us an opportunity to do us harm or someone else’s harm.
 
As you can see, loving one another goes beyond having warm, fuzzy feelings for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It involves acting in a friendly, loving way to one another the better part of the time. We may have bad days, but they do not excuse us from making a serious effort to love one another.
 
God knows our infirmities and weaknesses. God provides us with an infinite supply of grace. We on our part must open ourselves to God’s grace and make use of it. God’s Holy Spirit has made his home in us and gently encourages us to love one another. We have a lot going for us. Most of all we have God’s goodness that he shows us in so many ways. Let us not hold back from loving one another, but trust in God’s goodness.