Reviving the Saints

Life is exhausting, and ministry sometimes makes it worse. How can Christians be revived on our life’s journey?

Followers of Christ grow weary and sometimes fall away:

  1. Normal ups and downs of life and ministry – To be human is to encounter sickness, injury, and disappointment. Things break, opportunities vanish, relationships wither, and hopes fade. In ministry, people we love and serve angrily resist and reject. We labor for years with seemingly little effect.
  2. Major hurtful events and people in our lives – Sometimes even friends and loved ones succumb to the pressure of the world and reject us and our faith. Sometimes they end their own lives.
  3. Discrimination against and persecution of Christians in the United States (academic, political, economic) – We lose our jobs and other opportunities due to the practice of our faith. Christian schools are threatened with loss of accreditation, and Christians are seen as unfit for political office because of their beliefs.[1] Christians have become criminals simply for reading a Bible passage or saying something that others don’t like.[2] For example, H.R.5 – Equality Act 2019 – LGBTQ rights states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” Whatever one thinks about LGBTQ rights, religious beliefs would be no defense to prosecution (and persecution). Christians who believe what the Bible states about LGBTQ issues are specifically targeted.

Non-Christians encounter issues one and two, but increasingly Christians are facing problem three as well. It is so easy to despair. Amidst these challenges, how can believers in Jesus Christ be revived?

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In Praise of Hymns

Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.

Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.

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The Christian Community in Society

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.

Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.

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Communion on the Moon

The first food and drink ever consumed on the moon was bread and wine in a Christian communion

No matter the opposition, the testimony of the Lord will not be denied. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins on Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969. He was the second human to walk on the surface of the moon. The following recounts the personal communion he took on the moon:

Almost 50 years ago (July 20, 1969), two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon.

But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it. I’m talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine.

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Adventures in Athens – A Bodily Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was physical, not just spiritual. Likewise, Christians do not live eternally as disembodied spirits, we will have perfect physical bodies.

During our recent trip to Athens, Anna and I wanted to see some of the key Greek places mentioned in the Bible. Philippi and Thessalonica were too far to travel during our stay, at least a six hour drive each way, but Corinth was close, just over one hour by auto.  About 12 miles west of Athens on the road to Corinth, however, lies another important Greek religious site, Eleusius and the site of one of the most renowned mystery cults.

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A Land Called Married

Isaiah describes the “marriage” between God and His people. Christians can learn much for our marriages as well.

My youngest daughter was fighting a virus that sapped her strength and made her miserable. Good movies brighten her mood, and soon we were enjoying the six-hour British Broadcasting Company (BBC) version of Pride and Prejudice. Based on a classic novel by Jane Austen (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice mixes romance, social commentary, and morality, detailing the twists and turns of courtship and marriage among the daughters of the aristocratic Bennett family in early 19th century England. The movie poignantly reveals how vastly different society’s view of marriage was two hundred years ago.

In Isaiah 62, the Lord encourages His people, promising them future goodness and glory after their defeat and exile.  God uses the metaphor of Israel as His bride, telling His readers that their land would no longer be called “Desolate” but be called “Married” (v4). Most people in my experience would not juxtapose these two words, partly because “desolate” refers to a place “in bleak and dismal emptiness” and “married” refers to a relationship between two people. Isaiah 62 is not about human marriage per se, but neither is it about the physical land of Israel. Rather, it is about the restored relationship between God and His people. As such, it becomes a model of how human marriage under God can be, and should be.

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Whence Identity?

A Christian view on how and where we find and build our identity. 

“To be a Turk is to be a Muslim” our Turkish tour guide announced during our tour of the Seven Churches in Revelation. I asked him why he believed that, and he replied that since Allah made him a Turk, clearly Allah intended for him to be a Muslim. Both his logic and his history were faulty. While the descendants of the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks are overwhelmingly Muslim, the modern descendants of the Khazar Turks are largely Jewish. Present-day Gagauz and Chuvash Turks are predominantly Christian.

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Our Persian Sister

She moved out just over one year ago. Things had been tense for several weeks, especially since her sister had visited. We didn’t know why, but I could hear the tension in Jane’s (not her real name) voice, and see her almost continually locked door in our basement. We tried to understand why she seemed to grow more distant, but the closer we tried to get, the farther she moved away.

Jane was a young Christian Persian woman who I had met on a mission trip to Central Asia in 2011.  She had come to New York City in September 2013, lived in rooms rented from families, and ate out. She linked up with the Persian community and enjoyed the night life of the Big Apple. Perhaps to save money, Jane moved to Virginia to live with us in December 2014.

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Judaism

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Judaism. 

A group of Orthodox Jews walked by while I was waiting for my children to get off a roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm in 2013. The men wore beards and yarmulkes and the women wore modest skirts and head coverings. Dozens of children flitted around, excited and energetic despite the heat of the day. One man sat wearily down just a few feet away on the short rock wall where I was perched. After waiting several minutes, we began talking. A few minutes later we were discussing the Old Testament (Tanakh). It was a good opportunity to learn about him, and to put in a good word for Yeshua.

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Christianity and the Arts

How and why Christians should engage in the arts at church, at home, and in all areas of life. 

**Source Images for the The Church, the Arts, and Shaping the World for Christ.**

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A Christian Intellectual

Faith and Scholarship: What does it mean to be a Christian Intellectual? Let’s see…

Years ago my wife and I were buying Christmas gifts for our children and we ran across some information cards that proclaimed in bold letters “It’s OK to be smart.” I was a little surprised that anyone would think that it is not OK to be smart. Having that announcement on a stack of cards is a little like printing “It’s OK to be healthy” on a bag of apples; who would dispute it?

Nonetheless, the marketers for those cards put it there. Over the years I have noticed the same message again and again. It is on products, in the media, and even on the playground. Hearkening back to my childhood, I remember the “nerd” and the “pencil necked geek”. The “jock” would get the girls and the “brain” would get the scorn. This is not a new phenomenon.

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The Old Testament Prophets – What Did They Do?

Prophets seem strange to us, but they also seemed strange to their contemporaries. Who were they, and what did they do?

Some Christians believe that the Old Testament (OT) prophets were men who predicted a distant future revealed to them by God.  Either the coming of Christ or the book of Revelation and the end times (or both) are seen as the main message of the Old Testament prophet.  Some critical scholars in the past have seen OT prophecy as unique or even fictitious; their messages brand new without any connection to Israel’s past and with no relevance for the future.  In reality, the primary mission of the prophets was to proclaim God’s truth to the people of their time and place, just like pastors and teachers today are called to do.

Were the prophets primarily ‘foretellers’ or ‘forthtellers’ or both?

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When a Christian Ends His Own Life

Will a genuine believer in Jesus Christ who kills himself still go to heaven?

My wife called me at work several weeks ago; the morning was good but the news was not. Our daughter had been perusing her friends’ posts on Facebook and saw some from one family that were unclear but disturbing. We called them, close personal friends for over 15 years, and learned that their oldest son had killed himself.

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