Displaying items by tag: Nov16 Joomla! - the dynamic portal engine and content management system http://www.readjourneymagazine.com Sun, 18 Aug 2019 03:13:50 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb The Value of Faith http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=997:the-value-of-faith&Itemid=113 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=997:the-value-of-faith&Itemid=113

What do you think is the value to society of the practice of religion?  Could you place a “dollar value” on it?

Well, two researchers have attempted to do just that. Brian Grim of Georgetown University and his daughter, Melissa Grim of Newseum Institute, have released a study that has calculated three estimates of religion’s socio-economic value to the United States, according to an article on the Christianity Today website.


Estimate #1 is just over $378 billion. The story relates that in a recent article posted at Religjournal.com, it was explained how the Grims arrived at the three estimates in their study, which was sponsored by Faith Counts.  They wrote: “The most conservative estimate takes into account only the revenues of faith-based organizations falling into several sectors: education, healthcare, local congregational activities, charities, media, and food.”

 

Faith-based health care systems raise about $161 billion a year. Congregations raise revenues of $84 billion a year, with $74.5 billion of it coming from individual donations.  This total represents an amount greater than the global revenues of Apple and Microsoft combined.



Estimate #2: $1.2 trillion. The Grims say the first estimate is an undervaluation because it does not take into account the actual value of the goods and services provided by these organizations.  So, this next estimate factors in the price of social services. The article states that:

Churches sponsor more than 1.6 million social services programs in America each year, and provide 7.6 million volunteers. More than 9 in 10 congregations actively recruit volunteers for outside projects (93%), half allow their building to be used for non-congregational purposes (50%), and close to half have groups that think about how to meet community needs (48%).

 

Included in that estimate is what is called a “halo effect” of having a church nearby: “...it encourages investment in family and children; stimulates the local economy by buying goods and services; provides a place to host weddings, funerals, or large community events; may run schools or day cares; provides outdoor space for leisure activities; and augments the city’s social services.” The value: $418.9 billion.

 

The study also factored in the effect of businesses with religious roots, such as Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods, Chick-fil-A, and Walmart.  These businesses pull in $422 billion dollars per year, with $279 billion from Walmart.



Estimate #3: $4.8 trillion. This is a calculation of just the personal revenues of people of faith, the equivalent of a third of America’s gross domestic product.  The study states: “The third estimate of this study recognizes that many, if not most, people of faith aim to conduct their affairs (to some extent, however imperfectly) guided by and inspired by their religious ideals,” adding, “To the extent that religious ethics and ethos pervade how Americans approach work and life, it could be argued that religion’s socio-economic contribution to American society is incalculably large.”

 

A closing quote from the study, as related in the Christianity Today story:

“Religion is a highly significant sector of the American economy,” the study said. “Religion provides purpose-driven institutional and economic contributions to health, education, social cohesion, social services, media, food and business itself. Perhaps most significantly, religion helps set Americans free to do good by harnessing the power of millions of volunteers from nearly 345,000 diverse congregations present in every corner of the country’s urban and rural landscape.”

 

Recently, I commented on God’s economy.  And, indeed, applied to Christians, if we are using our money according to His principles, we recognize that it all belongs to Him, as it’s been said, and we are stewards of those resources.  God will direct us to use those resources wisely, and I believe that giving from a charitable heart is an essential component of Christian money management.

 

I think it is also important that society recognize the significant contribution of the church.  In his closing comments at The Gathering, a national solemn assembly held recently, Dr. Tony Evans referenced a three-prong strategy, one of which involves helping people recognize, essentially, the value of the church to their communities.  I believe in order for that to occur, we have to be doing the work of Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct and empower our work.  Imagine a culture without the work of Christian charities, including hospitals, the social services that are provided by Christian organizations, and businesses run by Christian principles, not to mention those believers who reinforce the good in society by the financial decisions we make.

 

So, finally, we can think together about using what God has entrusted to us to make a positive impact on our culture.  We all have resources, whether in physical form, or in the form of gifts and talents, to be used to advance the Kingdom of God - and we are called to be about our Father’s business.

 

 

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Bob Crittendon Mon, 07 Nov 2016 14:44:11 +0000
The Blessing Basket: A Family Tradition for Thanksgiving and All Year http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=995:the-blessing-basket-a-family-tradition-for-thanksgiving-and-all-year&Itemid=104 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=995:the-blessing-basket-a-family-tradition-for-thanksgiving-and-all-year&Itemid=104

“Daddy, I know what I wanna put in our blessing basket,” said six-year-old Dena as her father walked in from the office. “I got to be line leader at school. Can we thank God for that?”

This scene occurred at Pastor Mike’s home. He and his family had begun keeping track of their daily blessings by writing them down on slips of paper and accumulating them in a large basket placed on the dining room table.

Pastor Mike shared this story with me a few weeks after he heard me talk about our family custom of keeping a Blessing Basket.  He and his wife decided to include this practice in their family life. In just a few days, it had made a “positive difference” in their conversation around the dinner table. Each of his four daughters had something uplifting to say about her day and then eagerly jotted it down and added it to the Blessing Basket.

 

I loved hearing this. It confirmed in my heart and mind the value of this custom that had been passed on to me by a woman I met years ago when I was going through a difficult time in my life.

 

Grumbling or Gratitude?

“If you want to be content,” she had said, “focus your energy on giving thanks. You might even jot down your blessings on slips of paper and accumulate them in a bag or a basket.  When it fills up, read what you’ve written. You’ll be surprised at how God has been there for you all along.”

 

My husband and I adopted this idea immediately. Several months later we propped ourselves up in bed one morning and dumped the papers on our quilt and read them one by one. What an eye-opener it was!

 

•  Healing of a hurt relationship.

•  A new book contract for me

•  Our daughter accepted at the college of her choice

•  The birth of baby birds in the tree outside our bedroom window

•  A misunderstanding with a co-worker cleared up

 

Our Blessing Basket bulged with a written record of God’s daily blessings in our lives. By the time we got to the last scrap of paper our eyes were wet. How could we ever doubt that God provides for all our needs! 

 

Miles of Gratefulness

The more we became alert to life around us––from the delicate flowers on the hillside along the freeway, to the presence of a good friend when we needed a confidant––we became more and more grateful as individuals and as a couple. An inch of awareness led to miles of gratefulness. 

 

But giving thanks does not seem to come naturally. We have to be taught. We need to learn and practice this ‘discipline.’  Remember in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 17) where Jesus healed ten lepers, yet only one returned to give thanks?

 

“He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him––and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’”   (vs. 16-18).

 

“Thank you”––two words that have been in short supply for centuries––in our homes, offices, churches, and communities. Many children are growing up in such plenty, they may not realize how much they have to be grateful for. They need to be taught that life is a gift, not an entitlement! And the more we all begin to view our lives through the lens of gratitude the more humility and joy we experience. We can begin to count all of life good.

 

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude...” (1Tim. 4:4 NAS).

 

Family Blessing Basket

You may be thinking even as you read this article how a Blessing Basket in your home could transform conversations, prayers, attitudes, even relationships in your family. I hope you will consider making it a communal project. Get everyone involved. You may wish to decorate the basket, then label it (Johnson’s Blessing Basket or Our Blessing Basket) and set it in a prominent place in your house where it’s accessible to everyone.

 

Add a pile of cut paper, put out a few pens or pencils and some colorful stickers and markers. Then spend a few moments each day talking about what there is today to be grateful for at home, in school, at work, and in the world around you. Invite each child to write down or draw a picture of what he/she is thankful for and then put the papers into the basket. At the end of each week, take turns reading a few aloud and talking about them.

 

Pass on the Blessing

You can bless others, as well, by giving away Blessing Baskets as gifts, writing an annual thank you letter as a family to friends and relatives who have contributed to you in special ways.  You might want to create a collage of photos that depict some of the many blessings God has given your family and then hang them in your home for all to see. And you can end each day sharing an original prayer of thanks with your children before they go to sleep.

 

By practicing some of these customs, you will not only raise children with hearts of gratitude but you also will be carrying out Paul’s reminder to “...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Th 5:18 NIV).

 

Karen O’Connor is an award-winning Christian writer and speaker who lives in Watsonville, California. Visit Karen at www.karenoconnor.com.

 

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Articles Mon, 07 Nov 2016 14:02:06 +0000
God's Fingerprints http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=994:gods-fingerprints&Itemid=125 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=994:gods-fingerprints&Itemid=125

God’s fingerprints are everywhere, especially in the world of nature. This point came back to me as I watched a documentary about the migration of barn swallows from Africa to Europe and back.

Barn swallows are called the birds of summer. They gather into giant flocks that fly from England and Northern Europe in September to arrive below the equator where spring is just beginning. Then in the autumn month of April they depart Nigeria to fly back across the Sahara Desert to return to their European homes. Why do they do that? Because God created them with an irresistible desire to do so. It is their calling. And their calling protects them from the freezing winter. But sometimes there are hazards in answering one’s calling.

 

Consider their flight over the Sahara, a desert as large as the United States. Much of it includes ranges of jagged, lifeless mountains. The rest is a constantly changing mass of sand dunes, over a thousand miles across. Temperatures can go over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing can survive on the surface for long.

 

The barn swallows instinctively know that there is a place in the middle of that scorching wasteland where water comes up from an underground reservoir.  Surrounded by palm trees, it is the only water for many miles. This looks inviting to the weary birds. But there is a catch. The water is poisoned by a high concentration of desert salt. No animal can drink it and live. Well, except for the flies.

 

 Flies love this toxic brine. A giant swarm of them buzzes across the little lake frequently. Which is good, because they are God’s provision for the barn swallows. Without landing on the sand, the swallows swoop in to snatch the flies in midair. In doing so they consume not poison, but pure water that the flies have filtered with their bodies. After a day of this feasting, the birds are refreshed and continue their long migration to Europe.

 

So what has that to do with us? Quite a bit, I think.

 

Like the barn swallows, we each have a divinely created desire to do something useful, something important in God’s sight. Some would call it a gift, a talent, or a passion. But we all have something.  Once we accept the Lord, He begins to nudge us toward the one activity or responsibility that will make us fulfilled and glorify His Name.

 

And I don’t mean just the professionals, the teachers, preachers, or missionaries. One’s calling may be caring for a child, singing in the choir, or preparing meals in the kitchen. It may be mowing the grass or driving a bus. It may be flying an airplane, building a house, or writing a poem. It may be exciting, intense, or very low key. But when it is done to the glory of God, it matches up with our personality and we feel His pleasure in our souls.

 

 However, sometimes there are roadblocks between where we are in our calling and where the Lord has called us to be. The distance can appear to be as great as the span between continents. The effort needed can seem as exhausting as crossing a burning desert. The roadblock can be financial, physical, mental, or relational. But it is there and we don’t know how to overcome it. Achieving the goal seems impossible to us. But it is not. God has a solution to our roadblocks.

 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

 

Don’t be turned off by the miles of burning sand, the bitter water, and the flies in your life. Maybe His answer will appear to be part of the problem, but trust Him. Look for His provision in unexpected ways and places. Then just keep on keeping on.

 

 Remember, Jesus loves you. When He sends you to do His will, He always provides for the journey. Just watch for His fingerprints along the way.

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Pondering the Journey Mon, 07 Nov 2016 13:54:09 +0000
Guarding Integrity http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=993:guarding-integrity&Itemid=104 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=993:guarding-integrity&Itemid=104

When my father was young, my grandfather lost his business and their home when our country experienced an economic crisis. My grandfather was forced to move his family of eleven to a tiny rental house on the edge of town and grow vegetables in the backyard to feed them. While he eventually managed to rebuild his business and another house, this experience of loss reminded them that while things can disappear, certain qualities remain. As a result of their losses, my grandfather told his children, “Your name is all you’ve got. Don’t do anything to tarnish our name.”

 

The family name stood for integrity in town because my grandfather had been honest and fair with his customers. When he experienced loss, people watched this man with a big family to see how he responded, just as they watched him before to see how he lived with prosperity. In the same way, others observe us to see if our actions and words equal integrity and to see if we live out Christian values when things aren’t going well in our lives.

 

When we compromise personal integrity, we tarnish our witness and the name “Christian.”

 

Here are 4 ways to Guard Integrity:

 

Value Honesty.On the surface, telling the truth seems simple enough, but often ego and pride take center stage, and before we realize it, we’re enhancing the truth to elevate ourselves or escape reality that may diminish our image. The same grandfather who said, “your name is all you’ve got” also said, “tell the truth and you don’t have to remember what you said.” If you tell a lie, you have to remember what you said, who you said it to, and in what context. And unless you keep a detailed list of untruths, you’re bound to slip up, at some point, and say something different. So, tell the truth. You expect others to be honest, so hold yourself to that same standard. “Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone. You are living a brand new life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you” (Colossians 3:9-10 TLB).

 

Remain Trustworthy.Have you every shared a concern with someone, asked them to keep what you discussed in confidence, and then heard your words come back at you from multiple people? It hurts, doesn’t it, to have someone betray you by talking to others about what you told them in private. “Trustworthy” means you are worth trusting with information or a requested action. Some people have a hard time being trustworthy because they just can’t resist the feeling of power it gives them to have information and then share it. But it only takes one time of breaking a promise to lose the trust component of integrity. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13 NIV).

 

Accept Responsibility.The current trend in our culture is to accuse and blame others rather than accept responsibility for our mistakes. When someone fails to read directions and misuses a product, she blames the manufacturer and sues for damages. A person who is diagnosed with a disease, blames his employer, claiming the illness resulted from job stress rather than admitting years of unhealthy living. The list could go on, but the point is most people don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. Sidestepping responsibility goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden: “The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it’” (Genesis 3:12 NLT). However, unlike Adam, people of integrity admit mistakes without putting a “spin” on the event that implies others are really at fault.

 

Avoid Corruption. Satan has a way of tricking us into thinking no one will know if we compromise integrity. But remember, Satan is all about enticing us to do things that will reflect poorly on the name “Christian.” Corruption usually refers to someone who accepts money or something else of value to perform a dishonest action. Another definition of corruption is decay. If you’ve ever taken a walk in the woods in the fall, you know the smell of decay—rotting leaves and berries. Corruption stinks. It damages your reputation and it doesn’t just happen in the business world or to government officials. Corruption happens when a person writes a paper for someone else, texts an answer to a test question,, or implies something about someone that damages their reputation. No matter how careful you are, this type of activity eventually becomes public. “Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:7 NIV).

 

Integrity honors fairness, by-passes selfish motives, and mirrors Christ-like qualities. It is more valuable than any financial gain, fame, or position. Integrity is worth preserving and guarding.

 

Candy Arrington is a contributing writer.

 

 

 

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Articles Mon, 07 Nov 2016 13:16:53 +0000
I Want to Forgive, But How? http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=992:i-want-to-forgive-but-how?&Itemid=126 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=992:i-want-to-forgive-but-how?&Itemid=126

An offense creates highly detrimental weather between us and our fellow humans or even God. Holding onto an offense is never profitable because it allows our souls to be poisoned by the slime of bitterness, resentments, anger, rage, and un-forgiveness that brings about a wounded spirit.

You may recognize that you took the pill of unforgiveness, expecting someone else to suffer for it. Then you discovered that your offended heart had become so heavy, it weighs you down like a ton of bricks.

 

Jesus told a story of a king who forgave a huge debt his servant owed him. He later learned that this same servant had refused to forgive another fellow servant a very small debt. The king became incensed by the unforgiving act of his unmerciful servant, and queried him by saying, “I forgave you an enormous debt, could you not have reciprocated the mercy given to you?” The king concluded by saying that because the man refused to forgive, he was handed over to tormentors. (See Matthew 18:23-35.)

 

Are you feeling weighed down, heavy hearted, confused, oppressed, ruffled in the inside, or experiencing a lack of peace?  If you are, take a deep look inside your soul. It could be that you may have given access to the tormentor, whose name is the devil, through an avenue of unforgiveness.

 

The apostle Paul was clear on the fact that if we don’t forgive, Satan will outwit us and take the advantage we give him, in order to torment us. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11.)

 

Perhaps you want to forgive, but don’t know how. To really forgive and live the life you were created to live, a life void of stress and anxiety, I want to share a few points that have helped me navigate through my own hurts and pains.

 

 

1. Move On to the Next Act

I will borrow a statement from Wayne Dyer that helps give language to my thoughts: “Your past history and all of your hurts are no longer here in your physical reality. Don’t allow them to be here in your mind, muddying your present moments. Your life is like a play with several acts. Some of the characters who enter have short roles to play, others, much larger. Some are villains and others are good guys. But all of them are necessary, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the play. Embrace them all, and move on to the next act.” 

 

2.  Knowing Why You are Offended Can Help You Forgive

Here are some questions to consider:

 

  • Do I have an unhealthy desire to please others?

When I feel offense coming on I ask myself why. I know everybody is entitled to their opinions, but why am I allowing myself to be defined by what they say? I have learned that it is usually because I care too much about what they think.

 

  • Am I too serious about life?

It could be that I am taking life too seriously. We have only one life to live, and only 24 hours in each day to live it. I believe we need to let our hair down sometimes, and enjoy the gift of life we’ve been given. God does not want us be so uptight about everything. Choose to ignore some of the provocations that life throws at you and focus on a positive aspect of your life. By doing so you will gain perspective and find that there is not a whole lot to forgive.

 

  • Am I confronting the real issue?

Jesus says if your brother does something against you, go to him to settle the matter between you and him. If he refuses to listen, take the matter to a respectable party. If he refuses to go with you, just leave the issue alone as you have done your part. Your only responsibility is to make sure you forgive him truly from your heart immediately. Scripture tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. This will help issues not to fester.

 

You know you have forgiven when you can look squarely in the eyes of the person who has wronged you, without animosity in your heart. You can also know you have forgiven when you are able to remember the issue without experiencing a prick in your soul.

 

We have a responsibility as Christians to model Christ’s life to others, but that is only possible when we submerge our flesh in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s power then helps us to subdue our fleshly nature toward un-forgiveness. It is then only that we truly can forgive as Christ forgave us.

 

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Pastor Kemi Searcy Mon, 07 Nov 2016 12:21:51 +0000
Jodi Hargrove Speech Therapist (AL Early Intervention) Owner, The Christian Collection http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=991:jodi-hargrove-speech-therapist-al-early-intervention-owner-the-christian-collection&Itemid=124 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=991:jodi-hargrove-speech-therapist-al-early-intervention-owner-the-christian-collection&Itemid=124

RRJ:  You grew up in Gadsden, Alabama in a Christian home. How did your parents create an environment for you to come to know God’s love through Christ?

 

Jodi:  I was blessed to have parents who provided a home of unconditional love. It was not until I became a parent that I began to understand just how much my parents created a home environment of love and support, which established my foundation of confidence and security in my faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My parents demanded hard work and also practiced tough love, when needed, but I never questioned their love.  Through these early years at home, I began to understand and see the depths of God’s love.  Now that I am a parent, we have strived to create the same home atmosphere of love and security, and pray that our kids will learn how much our Heavenly Father loves them. Through this we pray they will have confident foundations for their own faith.    

 

RRJ:  Times certainly have changed rapidly in recent years.  How would you say the childhoods of your children are different from your own?

 

Jodi:  Times have certainly changed from my childhood, and the most obvious examples are the cell phones, social media, and instant everything.  Our kid’s lives also seem light years busier than ours ever were.  The challenges come in new and different packages, but if boiled down, the issues appear to be the same.  With the issues deceptively the same, we believe that the ultimate solutions are also the same, to love where we are.  Our best quality times as a family come when we can laugh, play, and be ourselves with no fear of being judged. It takes putting all distractions temporarily on the shelf and opening up to be loved...true family time.      

 

RRJ:  God…Father, Son and Spirit are timeless.  Their wisdom unto salvation and hope for this life and the next are eternal principals. As a parent, how do you set an environment for your children to know God’s love for them?

 

Jodi:  Having children and the responsibility of raising children has created the necessity in my life of enhanced prayer.  Parenting is an amazing gift and wonderful blessing, but it is HARD.  Raising children has taken me to emotional places that I never thought existed. Raising children has also taken me physically “to my knees.”  During those times of confusion, self doubt, and questioning I find that prayer is the only means to true comfort and peace. 

 

When we were brand new parents, we had a guest teacher in our Sunday School class.  I am sure that she shared many meaningful lessons, but the one that spoke directly to me that day was to “establish NOW a morning devotional and prayer time with your children.”  She convinced us that it was imperative to establish, fight for, and protect that time EVERY morning.  Teach them to pray, show them how to pray, and let them know you are praying for them daily. 

 

It has been hard, especially during the daily tornado of getting ready for school.  However, our 10th grader and 9th grader know that each morning (since they started kindergarten), we will have devotional time and prayer for them and others.  I am so grateful for that Sunday School message so many years ago. To that guest teacher (you know who you are) – I THANK YOU and I know in their hearts my children thank you.

 

RRJ:  You mentioned intervening for your children through prayer.  How have you seen your prayers answered?

 

Jodi:  I would say the best example of answered prayer is that through every trial and time on our knees we get closer and closer to Him – seeing more of His character and who He created us to be. I guess that’s the ultimate answer to all prayers.

 

RRJ:  What means did God use in your life to mature your faith and prepare you to minister to your family in these and other ways?

 

Jodi:  Being a parent has helped me grow and see a glimpse of God’s love for His children.  This stage of my life has created deep growth out of necessity.  Through realizing and understanding my shortcomings as a parent, I have come to understand that HE is in control and He waits to hold us and meet us where we are. Through many stumbles, and routine attempts to be self sufficient, I am slowly realizing that the only right way is His way. He is slowly peeling away layers to reveal His purpose.

 

RRJ:  Another unique way you put your faith to work is in your startup clothing company, TheChristianCollection.org, where you combine fashion and faith.  What was the inspiration for this venture?

 

Jodi:  The Christian Collection has been a complete leap of faith which has taken me utterly out of my comfort zone – it has to be all God.  God had been gently nudging us for years to take this step.  Many of His nudges were ignored, scary, and doubted.  Finally, after many years, the leap was taken.  The Christian Collection is a clothing line which combines fashion and faith.  The Collection allows Christians to make a confident statement about their faith, wherever life leads them.  The inspiration behind The Christian Collection are the men and women who desire to take a stand within their daily walks of life.  The Collection line started with men’s ties.  Bankers, financial planners, lawyers, administrators, ministers, and college students are just a few of the examples of men using The Christian Collection to share their faith. 

 

RRJ:  Finally, what encouragement would you give young mothers just starting out in raising their children in the Christian faith?

 

Jodi:  The blessing of raising children and raising them in faith is exciting and daunting.  I am slowly learning that God’s love for His children, your children, is far greater than anything we could give or imagine.  With each up and down, success and failure, moment of joy or tears, the only way is to continually call on Hisname and be open and ready to be used by Him. Know that His ways are right and true.

 

Jodi Hargrove is married to her husband Alan and they have two children. The Hargroves attend First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Vist

www.TheChristianCollection.org.

 

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Faith @ Work Mon, 07 Nov 2016 12:07:43 +0000
Sexual Morality in a Christless World by Matthew Rueger http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=990:sexual-morality-in-a-christless-world-by-matthew-rueger&Itemid=123 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=990:sexual-morality-in-a-christless-world-by-matthew-rueger&Itemid=123

The times are changing. Sexual morality is undergoing nothing less than a revolution as traditional morality gives way to something radically different. The former morality, based on the Christian scriptures, is being shoved aside by a new one that not only departs from the Bible, but outright rejects it. Meanwhile, Christians who abide by those traditional sexual morals are increasingly seen as outcasts, backward people dangerously hung up on ancient, oppressive principles. It is all very disconcerting.

Into the fray steps Matthew Rueger with his book Sexual Morality in a Christless World. Though the last few years have brought us no shortage of books on how to live on this side of the sexual revolution, Rueger offers something unique in examining and explaining the historical and cultural backdrop to the New Testament’s teaching on sexual morality. In this way he shows that Christian sexual morality has not always been traditional but was at one time its own revolution. In other words, Christians have been here before, and there is much we can learn from our own history.

 

Rueger turns first to the Roman context in which the early Christians lived and into which the Bible was written. Here he offers a fascinating, disturbing examination of what Roman culture considered good and normal. “Rome’s sexual climate is a model of the utopia for which today’s sexual ‘progressives’ are striving.” Yet it was hardly utopian. He shows that “In the Roman mind, man was the conqueror who dominated on the battlefield as well as in the bedroom. He was strong, muscular, and hard in both body and spirit. Society looked down on him only when he appeared weak or soft.” Respectable men were permitted to have sexual relations with just about anyone, provided they were the aggressors rather than receivers of such sexual acts.

 

Marriage existed, of course, but was not first about mutual love, but about the provision of an heir. A far purer form of love was the love of a man for a boy, so a culture of pederasty arose in which adult men carried on overt sexual relationships with adolescent boys. Prostitution was rampant. Rape was widespread and accepted, provided a man raped someone of a lower status. In so many ways Roman sexual morality was abhorrent and one of its most prominent features was the strong dominating the weak.

 

And then Christians showed up. Christians began to teach that men were to be chaste, that homosexuality and pederasty were sinful, that men were to love and honor their wives, that wives and husbands had equal authority over one another’s bodies. Such teaching was not only seen as repressive, but as full-out destabilizing to the Roman system. No wonder, then, that the whole culture turned against Christians. “Though Christian morality promoted genuine self-emptying love and was positive for society, it nonetheless set Christ’s people against the prevailing culture. Romans did not like being told that some of their favorite activities were displeasing to the Christian God, and they pushed back.” And here is where we can draw important lessons for our day, for today, too, Christian sexual morality is seen as destabilizing to the culture around us, as a serious societal sin.

 

And so far we have only discussed the first chapter. In chapter 2 Rueger sets the Jewish context, showing that Christian morality was almost as opposed to contemporary Judaism as it was to Rome. This was especially true in according equal rights to men and women, in protecting women from divorce, and in putting away notions of sexual purity that harmed women. Again, Christianity offered a sexual morality that was kind and equitable and that protected the weak and marginalized.

 

And with all of that in place, Rueger now works through the New Testament texts on sexuality. With all of that context, he is able to show how these Christian teachings were full-out counter-cultural, how they were radical, not traditional. He shows how Christian sexual morality helped individuals, it helped the marginalized, it helped society—it was a tremendous blessing to everyone. Yet Christians suffered because their views were seen as destabilizing and harmful. Though today we see that their morality was actually a blessing, at that time it was considered a curse. And Christians suffered terribly for it.

 

The rest of the book turns from the roots of Christian sexual morality to modern sexual morality, offering the biblical alternative to society’s revolution. Rueger says, “My desire in writing this book is to help Christians engage the world around them in reasoned discussion.” He does so very well. And his greatest contribution is helping us understand that this is not the first time that Christians have been at odds with the culture. This is not the first time the biblical understanding of sex and sexuality has caused the culture to turn on Christians, to consider them disloyal, to push them to the margins. For that reason we need books like this one to interpret the times and equip us for today and the days to come. I thoroughly enjoyed this work and highly recommend it.

 

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Books to Read Mon, 07 Nov 2016 12:01:56 +0000
Never Alone http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=989:never-alone&Itemid=105 http://www.readjourneymagazine.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=989:never-alone&Itemid=105

Several prominent pastors have stepped down from their pastorates over the past few months citing burnout and depression. No matter the size of their church, all pastors must deal with stress and difficult situations. Having been a pastor for 32 years, I know that sometimes you feel alone, overwhelmed, isolated and inadequate. We can end up feeling like Elijah under the juniper tree—like we are the only servant God has left.

 Whether we are pastors or not, we know the theological truths that we are not alone and that God is with us, but frustration and discouragement can often rob us of the joy of these truths.  We get so busy working for God in our churches or our communities that we do not make time to spend with God. We need God and we need each other.

 

One reason I have been pondering this subject is that I have the privilege of serving as the president of the Alabama Baptist Pastor’s Conference. Part of my responsibilities as president is to plan a conference for hundreds of pastors from all over our state which will be held at Heritage Baptist Church on Monday, November 14, 2016. (For more information see alpastorsconference.com).

 

At this conference we want to encourage pastors and remind them that they are not alone. Our theme is “Together.” As Christians, we are all in this together--together with God and together with each other. Togetherness starts with our relationship with God and our love for Him. Togetherness also means our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ within the body of believers. The preacher in Ecclesiastes said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Remember these two important truths today:

 

We can accomplish more when

we work together, and you have friends here to pick you up when

you fall down.

 

We all need friends in our lives who will encourage us, invest in us and pick us up when we fall down. Both pastors and parishioners need friends like Timothy, Barnabas and Paul in our lives. Like Paul, friends who will teach and mentor us. Friends who will walk beside us, pick us up when we fall down and encourage us like Barnabas. Like Timothy, friends who will allow us to invest in them and then go on to do great things for the kingdom.

 

I hope you will pursue those kinds of relationships in your own life. I hope you will pray for and encourage your pastor. I hope you will be that kind of friend for your pastor and church leaders, so that together we can make a greater impact for the kingdom.

 

 

Dr. Teman Knight is the Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church on Perry Hill Road in Montgomery. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary extension centers in Birmingham and Montgomery. Teman and his wife Darlana have a daughter (Alana), a son (Jay) and an awesome grandson Adam. He can be reached at teman@hbcm.net.

 

 

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Pastor's Perspective Sat, 05 Nov 2016 12:55:00 +0000