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Doing some research for an apologetics (defending the faith) series I’ll be preaching starting January 2020, I stumbled across author and blogger Natasha Crain. Wow! She has a fantastic website crammed with resources for parents trying to help their children with answers to common questions either they have–or will have the first time they encounter a friend who does. The following post is a wise callout to Christians about what we discussed yesterday: be discerning who you follow.

Man of Conviction, Man of Courage, Man of Sacrifice

Absalom Jones just wanted to pray. Thanks to faithful evangelism by him and his friend Richard Allen, the number of African members at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, had grown substantially. Anyone of any race could become a member of St. George–and despite slavery being something of a norm in colonial America in 1791, Africans were sometimes invited to preach. But as the non-white membership grew, others grew nervous. And on that Sunday when Jones and others tried to pray on the first floor, the ushers pointed to the balcony. As lay ministers for the black congregants, Jones and Allen had organized a mutual aid society for those in need, and their group had generously helped raise money for the church’s new balcony. With the balcony’s completion, its purpose now became clear: segregated seating. James 2:3-4 speaks about a

Absalom Joneschurch segregating according to economics, but the rebuke applies to every way of separating people : “If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’–well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?”

 
When the ushers tried to forcibly move Jones, he and most Africans walked out the door. It would be another year until the completion of a new African Church of Philadelphia, which then affiliated with the Episcopal Church. In 1794, when it called Absalom as pastor, Rev. Jones became the first black priest in America.
 
This is black history month and Christians like me in need of ample amounts of sunscreen would do well to broaden our historical horizons. Jones‘ life and ministry is a great addition. In addition to being a great Christian leader in the church, so he was at home. Jones pestered a number of Quakers (all abolitionists) to buy his wife’s freedom from her master–while he remained a slave. True, there was a practical reason to begin with her. She had to be set free before they had children, or by law they would have became property since their mother was a slave. But if a woman was free, so were her children–regardless of the father’s status. She became a free woman in 1778, but it would be another 6 years before Absalom too was free. Leader, provider, protector; just what a husband’s called to be.
 

Christians & Food & Faith & Fellowship

Please don’t judge me but I don’t eat enough vegetables. And I eat more potato chips than I should. Then there are some friends with the self-discipline of a SEAL who NEVER stumble, never sneak so much as a cookie. Living in a land of plenty with plenty of food options, food–and what can or should be eaten–not only become upper tier decisions but yardsticks for measuring each other. Stacy Reaoch shines the light of the gospel on our choices and chastenings–sometimes of others–but sometimes ourselves.

 

Help, my adult child is breaking my heart!

Some of you read the title and began to weep. You remember when your son was seven, or when your daughter was ten and you had such high hopes for them. You love the Lord and want to serve Him–and that’s what you wanted for him/her too.

But somewhere it all went south. Maybe it was in his late teens, maybe in her early to mid-twenties, but despite all that you’d done right as a parent, promises you’d heard from teachers saying X + Y always = Z, were broken.

The son of pastor and prolific author John Piper was on the run from Christ and his family for four years. I can only imagine the groan of grief that must have coursed through John’s heart when he joined his elders in excommunicating Abraham.

Having long since been reconciled to Christ and his family, Abraham has some wise counsel to offer other parents whose adult children are breaking their hearts. https://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/12-suggestions-for-loving-a-prodigal-child/

Missionary: No Halo Required

You collide with the gospel everywhere: your church, maybe your parents/family, your friends–even internet podcasts.  Is it even possible in this age of hi-tech communications that there are still billions who have never bumped into the gospel.  Ever.  Nor will they.  They don’t know any Christians, none live near them and no Christian knows their language.  Who will love the Jat people, the Hui, the Pashtun, the Ansaris, or the Kap people enough that they will sell all, sell out, and set out to live among them so that these frontier peoples can learn that Jesus died for their sins too?

May 19, 2019 will be Keystone’s mission conference, “To Congo, with Love”.  And on May 12 I will speak on being “On Mission for the Whole World”.  Every day the number of people who don’t live near any churches or have any Christian friends–who have never heard the gospel, grows.  A few years ago, it was 2.8 billion.  Now it’s 3.15 billion.  Praise be to God for indigenous missionaries evangelizing their own, but the need and God’s call for the West to serve the unreached, has not been cancelled.  What if God called you?

Maybe you so idealize missionaries that you think sainthood-or near sainthood, is required.   Mission biographers can contribute to this nonsense by portraying their subjects with an angelic glow.  The stories of some past missionaries have been so polished that no one can measure up.  That’s why Kathryn Long may have done the world a service by publishing “God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador”.   I think very highly of Elizabeth Elliot but as reviewer Madeline Arthington shows, she was just a regular woman that–thanks to God’s grace, was greatly used in spite of her very human flaws.  https://www.imb.org/2019/04/22/after-jim-elliot-good-bad-ugly/

Lies Sufferers are Told

Not only is the teaching of the Prosperity Gospel widespread (it has conquered so much of Africa and Latin America that in some places it is the only version of Christianity known), it traffics in half-truths and outright lies.  Sufferers endure the worst.  Initially some see hope in PG claims but in short order, are devastated by unfulfilled promises that heap unfounded blame and guilt onto the shoulders of those already at the end of their ropes.

Tragically, elements of the immensely marketable but sometimes sinister teachings of people like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Fred Price,  have slipped unnoticed into the thinking of many Christians.  While nearly all Christians believe God can and still does do miracles, PG advocates say He’s promised to.  Always.  If only you have enough faith.  Or do quality praying.  Or have a large number of people praying.  Or obey perfectly.  Or…

At the age of 38, Duke Divinity School professor Kate Bowler has stage 4 colon cancer, a battle she’s waged for several years.  The author of Blessed, a well-researched 2013 book on the Prosperity Gospel, she made this observation in 2016.  The “Prosperity gospel is a reflection of American avoidance of our finitude. Their denial of the inevitability of death taught me something about American confidence. Americans want to be in control. Self-determination is a theological good. It’s really hard when it comes to the fragility of the end.”

Battling the PG lies, Vaneetha Risner reminds us how horribly wrong we can be–and how horribly hurtful to others when instead of a worshipful “let God be God” message, we take one to our suffering friend like,”If you just do it right, you’ll be healed/get your marriage back/have a child/child will live/the job will come through/your stocks will go through the roof…”  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/just-have-more-faith?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=70927869&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–MJVPy9__xfBwp2bDZbQ05IywU55yfPCd2j3bjuX5lToSh6f47iX2zi2cyQdyYy4fu6AByLIeU19tnv3EOVkLihILt_De2pKth-3IPueE3YLmTaFs&_hsmi=70927869

They’re worth it, Moms

Looking back now I wonder what I was thinking when I quit my job and began a journey through higher education that would take 7 years.  Especially since we were young parents of not one, but two–soon to be three children.  When we struggled to pay the bills on my part time salary, we kept eating because Betty did childcare in our home and held down other part time jobs.  It’s not what either of us preferred but we made it work; she’d go to her job and I’d take care of the children.  Then she would watch them if I was at my job or in class.

Back then there was tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms, with some of the SAH moms accusing the rest of neglecting their children.  With some indignation the rest fired back that since they could (thanks to ability and/or education) they were going to do more than simply be a mother.

I don’t observe the same crossed arms today but I do think it’s impossible to overstate or too often repeat the high calling of being your children’s mom.  I hope you’ll find this encouraging: https://jdgreear.com/blog/everyday-faith-3/