guest post (34)

GUEST-POST: A "Bell Curve" Perpsecitve?

Trends on any issue need to be viewed from the center of the bell curve.

Activists like to categorize the opposition by looking at the extremes.

Jeff Hilles • Quotes • 04/16/2024

Trends on any issue need to be viewed from the center of the bell curve.

Quick Quote - Source - Jeff Hilles

A Biblical Christian worldview perspective - With every issue, there will always be extreme opinions. I recently responded to a reader who stated that Christian preachers were calling for the execution of gay people.

I am sure one can find extreme views such as this if we look hard enough. However, in most cases, the extremes on both sides of an issue are in the minority. But they do garner media attention and gaslight viewers into believing extreme positions are mainstream. It is important to look to the middle of the bell curve, rather than the vocal extremes when evaluating the popular direction on an issue, especially a divisive one.

From the center of the bell curve, Christians don't hate gay people, they don't want to turn America into a Christofascist state, and most realize there are times when abortion is an appropriate medical need.

Author - Jeff Hilles | 

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GUEST-POST ~ Discipleship: Walking In Eternal Life  


Walking in Eternal Life

by Francis Frangipane

God’s end time people will "end time." What I mean is that, as we near the end of the age, we will increasingly learn how to walk in eternal life, abiding above the boundaries, constraints and the pressures of the realm of time. We’ll see what’s coming and either avoid it or announce it, but we won’t be limited by it.

Jesus taught that those who come to Him "have everlasting life" (Jn 3:16). Right now, we have eternal life in our spirits. Yet, how do we access the timeless place of God’s presence? This is a serious question, for we have become more "time conscious" than "God conscious." Schedules, meetings, appointments and deadlines all fuel our anxieties and compel us to live horizontally, instead of vertically in the Presence of God. 

The Lord seeks to deliver us from anxiety, but that can only happen if we truly learn to walk in the Holy Spirit. The sad fact is, most Christians fail to spend time with the Holy Spirit. We pray, even calling upon the Lord, but few are they who have cultivated moment by moment openness to the Spirit of God. 

"But, when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:23).

The Holy Spirit "will guide . . . He will speak . . . He will disclose" to us what we otherwise could never know or attain. To guide, speak and reveal are forms of communication. Clearly, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to talk to us.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. There are issues in our hearts that the Holy Spirit alone can reveal and remove. Listen to Him, like Christ, He does not come to condemn but to save. His voice is Salvation speaking to us. 

Jeremiah said that the heart is deceitful above all things. We cannot objectively know ourselves. Yet the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth sees and understands our ways. Trust Him, He cannot be deceived. Indeed, the ancient Greeks used the same word for truth as they did for "reality." Thus, we could accurately say that the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Reality." He shows us the reality of our need and the reality of God’s answer. To hear Him is to hear the voice of eternal life. 

Jesus lived in union with the Holy Spirit continually. The miracles He accomplished came through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit He saw the things the Father was doing; He heard the words the Father was speaking. Every strategy we may come up with pales in comparison to seeing God and doing what God does and hearing God and saying what God says. You see, Jesus lived in the dimension of time, but was not limited by it. His consciousness was always aware of the eternal realm. 

Even the urgent news of Lazarus’ illness did not make Jesus move anxiously. As right as it seemed to rush to Lazarus’ aid, Jesus was aware of another reality. He was conscious of the heavenly Father. Because He knew that the Father was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He lived without hand-wringing or being driven by anxious thoughts or pressures.

Oh how we need to walk in the Spirit today. In every situation, we would consciously be aware of God's involvement in our lives! 

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). 

God has a system of thoughts and ways that are totally on another plane, yet He invites us to abide with Him!

Beloved, we are not mere human beings. We each are a temple for the Holy Spirit, but we must cultivate a listening heart if we will do the things that God is doing. A Christian is not just someone living out a natural life, hoping that God will bless him. No, God has more for us than that. Jesus set the standard, and He’s given us the Holy Spirit so we can follow Him.

Spirit Filled?
When we are born again, we begin a journey with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us gifts to help us grow; He baptizes us in power to increase our effectiveness. All of this is to lead us until we are actually filled with the Holy Spirit, where we think and act like Jesus. 

Many of us think we are already filled with the Spirit, but we are not. We have three quarts of self and one quart of the Holy Spirit, and we think we have a gallon of God. There is still too much self ruling in our hearts. In America, some pastors identify themselves as being Spirit filled and say they pastor Spirit-filled churches. To be perfectly candid, I have never attended a church that is truly Spirit filled. In the Book of Acts, we see a picture of a Spirit-filled church. The leaders met daily for prayer, and on the way to prayer, their shadows healed the sick! Their offerings went to feed the poor. Out of their sense of love and community, they held all things in common. In that atmosphere, the church grew exponentially. 

I know some are thinking, "My church is getting close to this example." Oh, I forgot to mention, in a Spirit filled church, if you lied, you died (see Acts). 

You see, let’s not accept that we are further along spiritually than we are. God desires to take us further, deeper into eternal life. Having a spiritual gift doesn’t mean that you are filled with the Holy Spirit; being born again does not mean you are also Spirit filled. I have never met a truly spiritually mature person who was anxious; no one who is nervous about time can truly be led by the Holy Spirit. 

Where Do We Go from Here?
In our quest to walk in eternal life, we must allow the Holy Spirit to excavate our hearts of self. If we want to tune into the God channel we must tune out the "self channel," where the anxieties, fears and sins exist. 

I want a heart that can hear God; I want perception that can see God. We are too much like the world. How do we break this? Spend time with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to talk to your heart and then write down what you feel He is saying. If we want more of God, we must cultivate the awareness of His Presence, and especially listen for His voice.

We must also take faith and believe that the Spirit is here to help. Zechariah 4:6 teaches us that it’s not by our might or power, but it is by the Spirit of the Lord that we succeed. Acts 2:17 tells us that in the last days God seeks to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. I love the words "pour out." We must stop thinking "thimble" and think Niagara Falls!

It’s time to step out of the box called "time," and live in the Spirit. I’m not suggesting that you become unreliable or are late for your appointments, but that you give yourself to learning how to hear God’s voice and how to live in His presence. If you are one of God’s end-time elect, then it's time to rise above the pressures of time and walk in the eternal life of God. 


Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God

This is the first book ever written by Pastor Francis. It came after three years of studying and repeatedly reading the Gospels. The thrust of these messages is geared towards those who desire the holy, powerful life of Jesus Christ. It is a penetrating study of the human heart and how God prepares it for His glory.

Book - $9.60  (Retail $12.00)
Ebook - $9.60 (Retail $12.00)

Audio Book on CD $12.00 (Retail 14.75)
Audio book on MP3 $6.00 (Retail $12.00)
Companion Teaching - CD Series $26.25 (Retail $35.00)
Companion Teaching - MP3 Series $13.13 (Retail $17.50)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Disciples of the Cross
- audio series

As we learn to share in Christ’s sufferings, we join a society of redeemers who walk in God-given abundance.

Message titles:
Fellowship of His Sufferings
Wimps or Warriors
Disciples of the Cross
Conquering Conflict Through Character

CD Audio Series - $15.00 (Retail $20.00)
MP3 Audio Series Download - $7.50 (Retail $10.00)~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In Christ's Image Training

New self-paced online format.

In Christ’s Image Training is an international online course developed by Francis Frangipane, designed to take Christians at all levels and lead them into a deeper understanding of what it means to be like Christ.

Learn more at

Training also available in Spanish / Español

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Visit Arrow Bookstore to order these and
other resources by Pastor Francis
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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A service of Frangipane Ministries, Inc.
Copyright (c) 2024
All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations were
taken from the NASB.


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GUEST POST: The Power of Stories: Learning from the Past to Shape Our Future

Dean Jones
VIsionary Leader | Driving Transformational CHange

{ Note: Read from a ministry, rather than a busdiness, perspective... } The Power of Stories: Learning from the Past to Shape Our Future


In the grand tapestry of human existence, stories serve as the threads that weave together the fabric of our collective experience. From ancient myths passed down through generations to modern-day narratives unfolding in real-time, stories have always been the cornerstone of how we make sense of the world around us. As a business transformation strategist and consultant specializing in project management, portfolio management, and program management, I have come to appreciate the profound impact that stories have on shaping our understanding of the past and guiding us towards a better future.

Stories have a unique ability to transcend time and space, connecting us to our ancestors and offering insights into their triumphs, struggles, and triumphs. Whether it's the epic tales of heroes and heroines overcoming adversity or the intimate anecdotes shared around a family dinner tableIn the grand tapestry of human existence, stories serve as the threads that weave together the fabric of our collective experience. From ancient myths passed down through generations to modern-day narratives unfolding in real-time, stories have always been the cornerstone of how we make sense of the world around us. As a business transformation strategist and consultant specializing in project management, portfolio management, and program management, I have come to appreciate the profound impact that stories have on shaping our understanding of the past and guiding us towards a better future.

Stories have a unique ability to transcend time and space, connecting us to our ancestors and offering insights into their triumphs, struggles, and triumphs. Whether it's the epic tales of heroes and heroines overcoming adversity or the intimate anecdotes shared around a family dinner table, stories serve as windows into the human condition, revealing our shared humanity and universal truths.

At the heart of every great story lies a lesson—a nugget of wisdom that offers guidance and inspiration for navigating life's complexities. As business leaders and decision-makers, we can draw invaluable insights from the stories of those who have come before us, learning from their successes, failures, and everything in between. By embracing the lessons of the past, we can chart a course towards a brighter and more prosperous future.

But stories are more than just vessels for conveying information—they are catalysts for transformation. When we hear a compelling story that resonates with our values and beliefs, it has the power to ignite our imagination, spark our creativity, and compel us to take action. Whether it's a tale of innovation and entrepreneurship or a narrative of resilience and perseverance, stories have the power to inspire us to reach for greatness and strive for excellence in all that we do.

By harnessing the power of storytelling, leaders can engage their teams, align their vision, and mobilize collective action towards a common goal. Whether it's communicating a new strategy, rallying support for a bold initiative, or inspiring a shared sense of purpose, stories have the power to bring people together and propel organizations towards success.

But perhaps most importantly, stories remind us of our humanity—that we are all connected by a shared narrative, bound by common hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In a world increasingly characterized by division and discord, stories have the power to bridge the gaps that separate us, fostering empathy, understanding, and compassion. By sharing our stories with one another, we can break down barriers, build bridges, and create a more inclusive and equitable world for future generations.

In conclusion, stories are not just a means of entertainment or information—they are the essence of who we are as human beings., stories serve as windows into the human condition, revealing our shared humanity and universal truths.

{Permission was granted to Repost}
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Church Growth: The Road Less Traveled 


Does Your Church Position God Alone as Father?

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The Bible leaves no doubt about the identity of those who follow Jesus.  We are God’s children.  He is our Father.  Satan’s perpetual lie since the dawn of time is that our Father cannot be trusted.  Religious leaders throughout history have questioned our identity and access by positioning themselves as intermediaries between the Father and His children.  Christ came to prove once and for all that His Father (and ours) loves His children personally, unequivocally, and unconditionally.  Often unwittingly and unintentionally, church leaders divert attention from the Father to themselves and churches in ways that undermine our relationshipwith Him.  The result are churchgoers not grounded enough (in their status as a son or daughter) to represent Christ well, fueling popular perceptions of Christians as hypocritical and judgmental.

Our Heavenly Father Produces Faithful Children

Our Father knows His children and they recognize His voice.  If parents are rarely fooled by their kids, the Father is never deceived by His.  Jesus looked at the heart, merciful to those acknowledging their weaknesses but reserving His harshest words for those projecting under false pretenses.  Genuine Christ-followers pursue the Lord with all their hearts and seek His righteousness, not self-righteousness.  Our Father is interested in authentic Kingdom advancement, not the size of a church’s congregation or number of confessions of faith.  He is looking for true disciples, not cultural Christians, who embody…

  1. Growth – To find out “who was who”, Jesus preached His most challenging sermon at the height of His popularity.  His objective was relational, not numerical, growth.  How often do pastors “preach a church down” on purpose to weed out the insincere or (perpetually) unrepentant?  Losing excess weight typically makes people, and churches, healthier.  Jesus didn’t entertain (or, in some cases, tolerate) those only interested in what He could do for them, not a relationship with Him.  He knew who was seeking a favor (temporal help), not God (eternal hope).  Our Father is about depth, not breadth.
  2. Sincerity – In the early Church, no distinction existed between “disciple” and “Christian”.  A public profession of faith in Christ could be a death sentence.  Anyone that courageous was desperate for a relationship like Jesus had with His Father.  Persecution forced believers into small, house churches.   In America, where conspicuous church buildings dot the landscape and Christians are just beginning to experience relatively mild forms of persecution, it’s more difficult to tell those who has surrendered from who’s simply going through the motions.
  3. Obedience – We want our children to obey because they love us, not to get something or avoid punishment.  Their motive for obedience becomes more important than obedience itself.  Agape love, the purest of all motives, is the Greatest Commandment.  Jesus exposed those strictly following the law to appease God or impress people.  In today’s culture, sin has left our vernacular and society flouts and celebrates violations of God’s commandments.  Authentic Christ-followers repent, transform, and even love those who hate them.
  4. Discipleship – Jesus provided a vivid example of how to live out the Great Commission.  His discipleship approach was personal, intensive, and multiplicative.  Christians who don’t become a disciple or make disciples aren’t one.  We discover who truly walks in Jesus’ footsteps by how they respond to adversity.  Do they cower, revile, defend, or view disappointments as God’s appointments?
  5. Compassion – The Greatest of All identified Himself with the “least of these”.  Jesus’ economy flips ours on its head – rich is poor and poor is rich.  He modeled healing and feeding to open ears before disclosing who He is (i.e. the Gospel).  The implication of Jesus’ parables of the Good SamaritanSheep and Goats, and Rich Man and Lazarusis clear – no genuine Christ-follower will ignore the (materially) poor.  For roughly 1,900 years, churches took those warnings seriouslyyet few churches and Christians today make them a commensurate priority.

Any intermediaries or impediments in our lives that operate outside the bounds of Agape will inhibit our relationship with the Father.  Their lack of authenticity will diminish ours as distance from Him impedes our growth, sincerity, obedience, discipleship, and compassion.

Spiritual “Fatherhood” Produces Spiritual Orphans

Intimacy with the Father suffers when churches repair the curtain (separating us from Him) that tore when Jesus was crucified.  Our last blog post listed 25 ways in which churches today insert themselves between man and God, redirecting attention from the Father to the institution.  It becomes difficult to sense the Lord pursuing us (as a child) when the church is pursuing us (as a member).  It’s hard to distinguish our love for our Father from our love for our church when both are asking for our loyalty and allegiance…

  1. Growth – While Jesus humbled spiritual “fathers” and demanded commitment to the Father, many churches today elevate pastors and emphasize commitment to the church (invite/involve/invest).  There’s nothing wrong with numerical growth if it’s attained despite regularly challenging members to follow Jesus’ non-negotiable call to authentic discipleship no matter the cost.
  2. Sincerity – While Jesus invested in those desiring God for who He is and not what He can do for them, most churches exhibit transactional behavior.  Services have been reduced to an hour, salvation to repeating a phrase, evangelism to extending an invitation to church, and metrics to achieving commercial objectives.  “Kingdom” and “Church” often take a back seat to “kingdoms” and “churches”.
  3. Obedience – While Jesus wants love to fuel our obedience, which is normally the case for aspiring pastors, temptations lurk once a church becomes “successful”.  We are to call no man “father”, but leaders can evolve into spiritual “fathers”.  They can begin to believe their own press and become less dependent on their Father.  Spiritual “children” of church “fathers” can be pulled away from our Father as reverence and affinity for pastors grow.
  4. Discipleship – While Jesus instructed parents to disciple their children, churches who don’t disciple members aren’t preparing them to disciple their kids.  Instead, parents drop them off at children’s ministry and youth group, counting on church to assume their discipleship role as spiritual “fathers”.  However, churches that don’t disciple adults don’t disciple children either (to ensure they have fun and want to come back next Sunday).
  5. Compassion – While Jesus treated those He healed and fed with dignity, most churches conduct local missions transactionally and paternalistically.  We are to love our neighbors year-round, but occasional outreach events that “check the box” perpetuate (rather than alleviate) poverty by fostering dependence.

Contemporary church growth models encourage treating “church” as a place, members as “customers”, worship services as events, and metrics as a business.  Pastor-led churches can look like a “genius with 1,000 helpers”, drawing attention away from the Father and toward spiritual “fathers”.

How Churches Can Position God as Father

The following are steps pastors can take to ensure they’re positioning the Father as “Father” and members as His children (not their own):

  1. Growth – Risk losing lukewarmchurchgoers and all they’ve worked so hard to build by leading like Jesus, who loved His followers enough to challenge them and hold them accountable, finding out who truly is a child of the Father.
  2. Sincerity – Disintermediate by flattening the hierarchy, equipping and empowering members to resume their rightful responsibilities for living out GC3 (Great CommandmentGreat CommissionGreat Calling) all week, not just on Sundays.
  3. Obedience – Repent of a Priest/King dichotomy.  Swim against the cultural “current” by decentralizing “Church as We Know It”, relinquishing ownership of the “priestly” role and dependence on “kings” to staff and underwrite the operation.
  4. Discipleship – Reintroduce personal and intensive discipleship, starting with leaders, but quickly multiplying through parents to children and then to families, coworkers, and communities (reaching those who wouldn’t come to your church).
  5. Compassion – Plant or support ministries year-round that serve the materially poor, risking the culture shock of welcoming into the congregation those who look little like your average member, realizing we’re all in some form of poverty.

Few church leaders would argue with that roadmap, yet it remains the road less traveled.  Prevailing church growth models encourage dependence on pastors and loyalty to church – undermining authenticity and intimacywith the Father.

It’s Your Turn…

Does your church position God alone as Father and Christ-followers as His children?

The post Does Your Church Position God Alone as Father? appeared first on Meet the Need Blog.

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Guest Post: #ResetYourChristianity…”Deinstitutionalize”



January 2, 2024


NOTE from Phil @ Reimagine.Network:

  • When you finish this article, click here for our Mini-Course on Worldview>>>


My all-time favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. This classic prison film tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker falsely convicted of the double murder of his wife and her lover. A profound movie on many levels, The Shawshank Redemption  broaches significant subjects including the priority of friendship and the power of hope. And it concludes with a fantastic prison break!


“He’s Just Institutionalized”

In one memorable scene, a senior adult inmate named Brooks (who managed the prison library) was slated for parole after spending fifty years at Shawshank. The thought of leaving the security of prison life felt so overwhelming, Brooks created a dramatic scene in order to remain behind bars. He accosted a fellow prisoner (and friend) named Heywood and placed a knife to his throat. Brooks explained his startling action by saying, “It’s the only way they’ll let me stay.”

After the incident was resolved without harm, Heywood vehemently complained to his friends about Brook’s threatening actions. “Red,” a fellow inmate and major character in the film, defended Brook’s behavior by explaining that he had become “institutionalized.” Heywood, still upset from the knife incident exclaimed, “Institutionalized my ass.”

But Red pushed back on Heywood’s outrage. He said, “The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used-up con with arthritis in both hands. Couldn’t even get a library card if he applied. You see what I’m saying?”

Another inmate named Floyd said, “Red, I do believe you’re talking out of your ass.” Red replied, “Believe what you want. But these walls are funny. First, you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.”

Over the centuries, most Christian believers, like Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption, have become institutionalized. We have become dependent on the stability of institutional religion, including familiar doctrines, creeds, structures, liturgies, and traditions. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For those who find meaning in traditional religion, being “institutionalized” can be a comfort and a blessing.


When Being Institutionalized Is No Longer Helpful

But for a growing number of modern believers, the old familiar institutional dynamics are unraveling. The doctrines are no longer relevant. The creeds are no longer believable. The traditions are no longer meaningful. The liturgy is no longer helpful. The rigid structures are no longer palatable. What’s a Christian to do when centuries old institutionalism no longer holds? What happens to followers of Jesus when they, like Brooks, contemplate departing the institutionalized religion of their past and face a changing world without the familiar structures that used to ground them? It can be disorientating indeed.

I’m not suggesting that it’s time to throw away all the vestiges of institutional Christianity. As already noted, for many people, the old wineskins still work. But a growing number of restless believers are looking for new wineskins of Christian expression. They want less institution and more flexibility. Less certainty and more ambiguity. Less arrogance and more humility. Less doctrine and more connection. Less exclusion and more inclusion. Less focus on creeds and more focus on compassion. Less time meeting in church buildings and more time serving in the community. In short, a lot of twenty-first-century believers are seeking a post-institutionalized (or at least a less institutionalized) version of Christianity.


What’s Old Is New Again

Thankfully, the Christian faith has experience with this kind of minimalist institutionalism. You have to go a long way back in church history to find it. But it’s there. I’m referring to the mostly pre-institutional faith that existed during the first two centuries of the Jesus movement. In a real way, what’s old (the first two centuries) has become new again (the twenty-first century). And that ancient pre-institutional way of following Jesus might serve as a useful model for people seeking a post-institutionalized version of Christianity.

The only Christianity today’s world has ever known is institutionalized Christianity. But it wasn’t always like this. In their provocative book, After Jesus before Christianity  Erin Vearncombe, Brandon Scott, and Hal Taussig argue that during the first two hundred years of the Jesus movement, no such thing as institutional Christianity existed.

In the first two centuries CE we do not see anything resembling contemporary “Christianity,” or, for that matter, “Christianity” as it was in the later ancient world, in the Middle Ages, or across human history. In the first two centuries, what we think of as “Christianity” did not exist. (p. 4)

For example, during the first two hundred years after Jesus—and before institutional Christianity became the norm—there were:

  • No set doctrinal beliefs
  • No set structure or organization
  • No set order of church leadership
  • No set authoritative Christian writings
  • No set traditions, liturgies, or sacraments
  • No set Christology
  • No set name for the movement

According to After Jesus before Christianity the early Jesus movement was open-ended, fluid, noncentralized, and diverse. It had no settled theological orthodoxy, no “New Testament,” no formal clergy, and no established ecclesiastical structure. In short, it was not yet institutionalized.

You could argue that After Jesus before Christianityoverstates its case. And to some extent, that’s probably true. Some of the author’s findings, while fascinating, are based on brief and obscure ancient documents. But the core thesis of the book is correct. The first two centuries of the Jesus movement were dramatically less institutionalized than today’s Christianity. And, for good or bad, that’s what many followers of Jesus are seeking today.

Although the early Jesus movement was extremely fluid, common denominators could be found among the various groups. For example, the following four distinctives were found in virtually every Jesus community:

  • An affinity for Jesus of Nazareth
  • Regular communal meals
  • Close sustaining friendships
  • A focus on correct practice rather than correct belief

“Stage Four” Christianity

In many ways, these early years of the Jesus movement sound a lot like Brian McLaren’s description (see Faith after Doubt ) of “stage four” faith. According to McLaren, stage-four faith is post doctrinal. It’s not about religious beliefs but about living a life of love. This expression of faith minimizes doctrines, embraces paradox, exudes humility, welcomes diversity, cares about the common good, and seeks to live out “faith that expresses itself in love.” According to McLaren, stage-four faith communities need to be “big on action, big on love, small on beliefs, and small on bureaucracy.”

This kind of fluid and informal stage-four religious expression described by McLaren is similar to many of the dynamics found during the first two hundred years of pre-institutional church history. However, as already noted, this fluidity will not appeal to everyone. Plenty of people, like Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption, will prefer to remain “institutionalized.” And that’s a perfectly viable option for many (if not most) Christians.

But for the growing number of believers seeking a less institutionalized version of Christianity, the first two centuries of the Jesus movement offer historic precedent, encouragement, and promise. That period also offers a boatload of unanswered questions and an uncertain future. In short, it’s an extremely ambiguous approach to the Christian faith.

It will be interesting to see what happens to this movement in the years ahead. Will it, like the early Jesus movement, eventually become institutionalized and lose its edge? Will it fade away? Will it gain traction and become a sustainable and viable expression of modern Christianity? It’s too soon to accurately predict.

As a retired minister who spent decades of his life fully institutionalized in organized religion, but who is fascinated by a less institutionalized expression of faith, I can’t wait to find out.

Martin Thielen, a retired United Methodist minister and writer, is the creator and author of
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When You #Reimagine ...

When You #Reimagine...

People Of Focus

TargetPoint by Vince D'Acchioli

DEC 29

NOTEA hidden message from our Lord awaits you below

When you observe the world through the lens of your soul you will often experience confusion and despair… when you view the world through the lens of your spirit, you will have discernment and hope.

Jesus makes it very clear that we must be born again. He tells us that when we are, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and will ultimately bring us the proper perspective on life.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13

As believers we are called and expected to see life through a lens unfamiliar to us before we received His Spirit. We see everything through the lens of our soul (our mind, emotions and will). It is only as we allow the Holy Spirit the rightful position in our life that we are able to see a whole new perspective… His.

Consider the example of looking at something through a microscope. When you turn the dial to move the lens, you are changing the focal point of your view. As you do that everything in you see changes—things that were in focus begin to blur and something you have never seen emerges, often with great wonder.

That is the way it is supposed to be in the life of the believer. We are to adjust our focal point from our soulish view to a spiritual one. But this begs the BIG question on the minds and hearts of most of us, how can I do that? I want to help us answer this important question but before I do let’s take a brief look at where we are.

As we enter this new year it might be good to look back over the last several years and examine what we have experienced. For me, over the past 3-4 years, I do not believe I have ever encountered so much doubt and confusion. It seems like any semblance of normalcy, if there ever was, is gone. There is not enough room in this article to talk about all the distortion and lies that have been perpetrated upon us as a people.

Many have lost all confidence in the media, government, politicians, big business, the medical industry and especially our educational systems. The general level of trust for all of these is at an all-time low, and for good reason. We have been in a matrix of smoke and mirrors that is controlled by forces that are not out for our best interest.

I want to suggest that our frustration level here is directly related to how we are viewing what is happening. What is your focal point? For too many of us we are looking at all of this through our soul. When this happens, we are left with a view that simply reflects the condition of our soul. My friend the battle lines are drawn. The forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming, but they are nothing in the sight of our God. The question for you and me is this, do you want to be a casualty in the battles yet to come—or a mighty victorious warrior in God’s army?

The answer is not complicated. It lies in our willingness to step up our game going into this new year. It means drawing ever nearer to Him (James 4:8) and being in His word every day (Romans 12:2). It also means praying specifically for His Holy Spirit to give you the proper spiritual view and an understanding of how He wants to use you in His unfolding plan.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Some tips entering this new year:

  • Pray your problems in life last as long as your new-year’s resolutions do—in other words, don’t make resolutions—make commitments.

  • List all the changes you need to make to get closer to God and sense His Holy Spirit in you.

  • Pick up a one-year Bible and determine to read every day,

  • Prepare a place in your home that is your personal go-to every morning to start your day reading the word, praying, and worshipping Him.

The below image has a message for you from Jesus Himself. To see it you need to focus in a very particular way. Whether you see it or not, the fact of the matter is, it is there. This is also true of God’s vision for your life. God is calling us to focus with our spiritual eyes to discover it. If you end up seeing His message, please let us know. You can also help others by sharing how you adjusted your focal point. Please leave your comments below.



If this TargetPoint has inspired you in some way, please forward it to your friends.

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#Rethink How You Think About Voting

#Rethink How You Think About Voting
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How Would Jesus Approach the 2024 Presidential Election?

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For Christians, the upcoming Presidential election should not be about Trump 2024 or Biden 2024, but Acts 20:24 – “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”  You only get one vote for President, but you can cast countless eternal votes by praying, caring, and sharing the Gospel with neighbors, coworkers, or complete strangers.  Your vote for President only lasts four years, but eternal votes have no expiration date.

Christians shouldn’t abstain from voting in the next election, but our charge is to imitate Jesus, who refused to engage in partisan politics but never missed an opportunity to perform acts of kindness.  Vote for Biden or Vote for Trump will not be your only options in 2024 – you can follow Jesus’ lead and Vote for Eternity.

The Greatest Risk of the 2024 Election…

Yet Christians today too often get embroiled in heated political exchanges, even with other believers, particularly on social media.  Rather than fostering unity, we contribute to America’s divisiveness.  Focusing more on earthly power than spiritual power (through the Holy Spirit) makes little sense when politicians can’t alter God’s plan or bend His will.   However, He’s granted us the privilege of leading people toward Jesus.  Each Christian has greater ability to impact who’s in God’s House than who’s in the White House.  Yet we forfeit that right and lose our voice when we’re seen as guilty by association with a particular politician or party.

We’re still feeling the effects of presumed alignment with a church-friendly former President who alienated large swaths of our population.  Christians already face stiff headwinds.  Our ability to influence culture will diminish further if the tone of our responses to anti-Christian rhetoric continues to reflect anger and not the love of Jesus.  Losing additional ground may mean any expressions of biblical perspectives on morality will soon be deemed “hate-speak” and companies will refuse to hire those not disavowing those views.

Christians must remember we’re dual citizens of a democracy and a Kingdom.  Politicians battle for supremacy in this nation, but Jesus remains Lord of all.  Our foremost allegiance should be to the King.  Jesus doesn’t do battle like us.  He fought the culture war with a “ground attack” of love and compassion, not an “air assault” of dropping verbal bombs. Once His ground campaign sufficiently weakened resistance, He launched His air campaign – the Gospel message.  Following Jesus’ example would counter the prevailing culture of division and discord with powerful displays of God’s love.  Christianity has suffered tremendous collateral damage and some churches never recovered from self-inflicted wounds caused by missiles they fired at the “opposition”.

Yet many prominent Christian leaders still believe the path to cultural redemption lies in recapturing control of the 7 Mountains (government, media, religion, education, entertainment, family, and business).  They feel a larger megaphone (by occupying a position at the peak of the mountain tops) is the only way to reinstitute the Christian values our nation once held dear.  Uncertain God is sovereign, they seek to assert control, giving rise to accusations of theocratic ambitions and Christian Nationalism.

It seems the louder Christians yell, the less we’re heard.  To be heard we must be seen.  Espousing beliefs and opinions like everyone else, not loving and serving our political “enemies”, will drive the prevailing view of Christians and churches deeper into the ditch.  Christians have bemoaned, campaigned, and lobbied vigorously over recent decades.  The higher the decibel level, the greater the resistance to biblical positions on social issues.

Enter #CastAnEternalVote…

During divisive elections in 2016 and 2020, #CastAnEternalVote encouraged churches and Christians to think and act like Jesus.  The campaigns provided an alternative to engaging in political vitriol on social media.  We urged Christians to pray, care, and share about Jesus, casting votes that will have implications far longer than just the next Presidential term.  We substituted the “2016” in the typical Presidential campaign slogans with “20:16” (from Matthew – “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”)

Next year, #CastAnEternalVote will encourage Christians to put aside partisan politics and vote for (Acts) 20:24 in the months leading up to the 2024 election.  This Christ-centered “Ice Bucket Challenge” will replace combative social media posts with stories, photos, and videos of acts of kindness.  Many participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge because they knew someone with ALS.  Every one of us has a neighbor, coworker, friend, or family member who doesn’t know Jesus.  Not to diminish the severity of ALS, but isn’t the plight of those lost without Christ far worse?

Yes, Christians are called to engage in the culture war, but the most powerful weapon at our disposal is the Father’s love.  Each #CastAnEternalVote participant will use that hashtag in social media postings and challenge friends on Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms to “pay their kindness forward”.  Countercultural demonstrations of God’s love are the best response to an upcoming election that threatens to tear our nation apart and further vilify Christians.

But #CastAnEternal Won’t Help Unless…

Acts of kindness without heart transformation won’t make a difference.  Anything “nice” we do absent love is meaningless.  #CastAnEternal is not about the good deeds themselves but providing impetus for repentance and transformation.  Addressing bad behaviors (e.g. Christians lashing out at those on the other side of the aisle and lobbying harder for a candidate than for Jesus) goes only skin deep, putting band-aids on gaping wounds.

#CastAnEternalVote seeks to reverse the trajectory of our culture, something no President is able or expected to do.  Watching the national or local news, we’re frequently reminded how urgently America needs:

  • More love, less division
  • More faith, less self-centeredness
  • More mercy, less suffering
  • More grace, less hostility
  • More hope, less poverty

As the impact and influence of churches and Christians diminishes, the essential elements of Christianity – Love, Faith, Mercy, Grace, and Hope – leak from our nation.  Biblical principles like the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, the importance of family, and the freedom to worship will continue to be undermined in proportion to the distance Christians put between themselves and those who don’t subscribe to our values.  Unless #CastAnEternalVote effects the following changes in Christians, we’ll return to business as usual when the 2024 election cycle ends and efforts to eradicate Christianity will resume, regardless of which President is in office…

  1. Heart Before Rules – The more we dig our heels in, the less we can connect with non-believers – and the less they can identify with us.  We must imitate Jesus who generously served and cared for those in need of help and hope.  Yes, Jesus holds His followers to a standard of behavior but those rules are entirely contained within His command to love (God and our neighbors).  Yet churches have surrendered their historical role on the front lines of compassion and Christians are better known now for what they’re against than who they’re for.
  2. Draw Circles, Not Lines – Jesus did not conform to social norms, crossing lines, including political ones.  Party and religious leaders took offense when He welcomed their sworn enemies into the fold.  Jesus reserved His harshest words for those who drew lines, demeaning women and children, the sick and the “sinful”.  We must draw circles as large as Jesus’, never compromising His Word but seeing past people’s exterior (appearance, words, and actions) to the eternal souls made in the image of the Father needing desperately to know Him.
  3. Love our “Enemies” – Unthinkable, scandalous acts of generosity would go “viral” and awaken slumbering souls to the love of Jesus.  It’s difficult to imagine a Christian conservative washing the proverbial feet of a liberal Democrat (or vice versa), coming to their defense when members of one’s party unjustly malign the other’s character.  Envision acts so radically counterintuitive that Jesus would say, “that’s what I’m talking about!”  #CastAnEternalVote is designed to activate that dormant part of our brains, voting for Jesus because no other candidate can save America.
  4. Die to Self – Few Christians grasp one of the most life-changing concepts in all of Scripture.  Dying to self means laying down our lives, our desire for power or prominence, and our need to be “right”.  Only by reckoning ourselves dead, like the soldier in the foxhole, can Christians maximize Kingdom impact and churches achieve biblical unity.  Jesus was first and foremost a servant.  True servanthood requires a humility not possible when any vestige of self remains – because humility may involve humiliation, but not if there’s no self left to humiliate.
  5. Demonstrate Agape at Scale – Love is also a misunderstood and misapplied term, not only within secular society but among Christians.  Brotherly, romantic, and familial love are typically not unconditional.  Our Father is the only source of Agape and it’s best exemplified by our righteous Savior dying for the unrighteous.  The more we’re forgiven (and we’ve all been forgiven much) the more we should love – and forgive.  #CastAnEternalVote is actionable, yet also educational – we’ll stress that Agape should be the “why” behind all prayer, care, and share actions.
  6. Knowledge to Transformation – When intellectual understanding (about God) meets with personal experiences (with God), transformation should be the result.  Transformation empowers us by the Holy Spirit to be more faithful in prayer, passionate in worship, loving in relationships, studious in Scripture, vocal in evangelism, and generous in giving.  Few churches push members to take mind-blowing steps of faith (which open doors to revelations of God’s love, leading to transformation).  #CastAnEternalVote will provide inspirational examples of faith.
  7. Talk Less, Do More – Jesus doesn’t intend for His followers to be complacent, comfortable, and content.  He doesn’t call us just to worship and fellowship safely on Sundays.  We are to be “church” all week, acting and speaking openly in the light of day.  Most of all, Jesus demands we avoid pride and anger in response to a world increasingly hostile to our faith.  But it’s far easier to talk than to act.  #CastAnEternalVote will encourage passive, pensive, private, and proud Christians to follow Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love and then sharing who He is.

The 2024 Presidential election may be the best (or last) opportunity for Christians to spark revival in America.  When will there be a better chance to shock the world by doing exactly the opposite of what’s expected.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?  Yes, and it altered the course of history.

It’s Your Turn…

Are you frustrated with the state of America and concerned about our children’s future?  Do you feel powerless to do much about it, knowing you only get one vote, for candidates that may not instill a great deal of confidence?  #CastAnEternalVote hasn’t started yet, but that shouldn’t stop you from being the hands and feet of Christ, making an eternal difference in someone’s life today!

The post How Would Jesus Approach the 2024 Presidential Election? appeared first on Meet the Need Blog.

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GUEST POST: "Christianity is no longer the norm"

By Curtis W. Freeman

...research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. His book Pilgrim Journey: Instruction in the Mystery of the Gospel

was published in September by Fortress Press as a sequel to Pilgrim Letters: Instruction in the Basic Teaching of Christ.


This proposal for reordering in discipleship isn’t an attempt to be “seeker-sensitive,” in the worst sense of the phrase, giving nonbelievers less to disbelieve. It’s a realistic response to our society’s profound cultural and political shifts. It’s a recognition that Christianity is no longer the norm and, therefore, does not feel normal to many of our neighbors.

We can no longer assume a basic familiarity with our faith that makes a sense of belonging, at least superficially, relatively easy to achieve. We must start with belonging in the sense of “faith as trust” in God and membership in God’s family, not belief in the sense of “faith as understanding,” because getting to the doctrinal affirmations is a much longer journey than it used to be. In post-Christendom, occasional church attendance is not a sufficient basis for making Christians—if that attendance happens at all.

Moreover, the disciple-making process is not about enculturating people into an affinity group of support and togetherness. It’s about cultivating a community committed to following Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). In a secular society, to believe and behave, we must be able to grasp that we belong not only to that community but to God who created us and demonstrated a profound love for us in Jesus Christ.

Belonging, then, is not simply a matter of church attendance or even membership. It’s a covenant relationship based on trust and commitment. It’s deeper than cultural similarities or consumer attraction to a congregation’s programming. It’s belonging to God and one another in the ties that bind our hearts in Christian love. It’s the fellowship of kindred minds. It’s bearing one another’s burdens and sharing the joy of blessings. It’s a common journey and a common hope.

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GUEST POST ~ "They just don't know how"

GUEST POST ~ "They just don't know how"

But How?  

By Mike Glenn

Every parent has made the mistake of asking their children to do something the child wasn’t quite ready to do. Maybe it was bringing in a bag of groceries before the child was quite strong enough to carry it by themselves. Maybe it was getting dressed before they understood the tag always goes in the back. The child understood what needed to be done. They just didn’t know how to do it. 

I’m afraid this is true in most of our churches. Every Sunday, our members leave the worship service, inspired by the sermon, committed to doing something differently in their lives, but not knowing how they are to do the new thing they want to do. 

The pastor said in the sermon we need to pray more. The members want to pray. They just don’t know how. 

They’ve heard a sermon convincing them they need to read the Bible more. Again, every member wants to. They just don’t know how. 

Discipleship, for most of us, has become a matter of information. Our depth of discipleship is determined by how much trivia we know about Jesus and the Bible. If someone can rightly point out the wise men visited Jesus in a house and not the stable, they are considered to be a serious student of the Word. In other words, they are real disciples. 

This knowledge, however, never seems to transfer to the way these Bible quoting disciples  actually live their lives. During my ministry, I have been repeatedly surprised to find my Scripture quoting members were some of the meanest people in the congregation. Why this disconnect?

Because we saw success in the church as people being able to quote the text, not necessarily live the Way. If someone could quote 1 Corinthians 13, they didn’t necessarily have to love their neighbor. They just have to know the words. 

This happens when we become overly concerned about good works actually saving us. So, we focused on “belief” which means being able to repeat the discipleship lessons we’ve learned. To be able to say it meant we obviously believed it. True belief is confirmed in the doing, not the talking. All of us would agree good works don’t save us, but we forget good works are the evidence of our salvation. What we know and believe about Christ blossoms into the choices and actions lived out in our  lives. We love our neighbors because we do loving things towards them. We love Jesus if we do what He teaches us to do.

That brings me to my point. How much time do we spend talking about how we do the disciplines of the faith we talk so much about? How many of us have spent time working with someone teaching them how to pray? How much time do we spend working with a class teaching them to read, study, understand then apply the learned truths to our actual living? How many times have our people left the church after hearing an inspiring sermon and realized they have no idea what to do with what they’ve just heard?

Paul reminds the Philippians to do whatever they have seen him do. I used to think this was an arrogant boast on behalf of Paul, but when I became a father, I understood his statement. I can’t remember the number of times I would say to one of my boys, “Do it like this. Watch me.” They learned to wash their hands, brush their teeth, tie their shoes, comb their hair, read their Bibles, love their wives and yes, become fathers to their own children by watching me. I had to show them how to do the things I wanted them to do and how each desired action should be done. 

Why  are we surprised we would have to be shown how to love our neighbors, pray, or study the Word? After all, we should remember, none of these actions come naturally.

I guess the only thing more surprising is realizing how little of our time is devoted to helping new or young believers actually do what we’re asking them to do as followers of Christ. No one is born being good at being a disciple. No one is born knowing how to pray or study Scriptures. All of us have to be taught. 

Every good teacher I know is very patient. None of this stuff is easy. There will be days when our young disciples are brilliant. There will be other days when they don’t have a clue. Teaching – and learning– these skills takes a long time. In fact, learning them well takes our entire lives. The second quality good teachers have is intentionality. They have a goal for their student and they are determined to get their student to achieve that goal. 

To know and not do, a wise man said, is the same thing as not knowing. Knowing the Word is proven by living the Way. Discipleship happens when disciples live out the teachings of Christ, not when we have memorized the words. 

So, ask yourself, how well are you teaching the application of the teachings of Christ to those you are discipling? (You are discipling someone aren’t you? Every disciple makes a disciple…but that’s another blog). If your disciple can’t do what they believe they should be doing, it may be because they don’t know how. 

Most people are living the best way they know how. The great thing about Jesus is He has a better “how.” Make sure your friends know how to do His “how” the way He would do it. This makes all the difference. 

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Guest Post ~ Three Ways to Seek the Wekfare of Our Cities

By Jim Denison 


Peter called his fellow believers “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). The former describes someone who is a foreigner or stranger; the latter refers to temporary residents. Taken together, they remind us that this world is not our home and that we are only here for a short time.


How are we to live in this foreign land?


The Lord’s letter to his Jewish exiles in Babylon is instructive (Jeremiah 29). It was preserved in Scripture because it has value not just for its original readers twenty-six centuries ago but for all readers across all times and cultures.


It begins: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce” (v. 5). This is the opposite of what they might have expected. Rather than finding temporary shelter, they were to construct lasting structures in which to “live” (the Hebrew is literally translated as “sit down and remain”). Creating gardens takes time, but they were not only to plant them but to “eat their produce” in the years to come.


In addition, they were to “take wives and have sons and daughters” to fulfill God’s call that they “multiply there, and do not decrease” (v. 6). Rather than allowing their nation to wither in exile, they were to seek to grow and prosper.


Now comes the most shocking instruction of all: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lᴏʀᴅ on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (v. 7). “Seek” means to “run diligently after”; the “welfare” of the city refers to its peace, prosperity, health, and success. The exiles were to do all they could to promote the Babylonian city’s welfare and then to “pray to the Lᴏʀᴅ on its behalf” that he might do what they could not.


The reason was simple: “In its welfare you will find your welfare.”


Three ways to “seek the welfare” of our city


One response to the brokenness of our secularized culture is to withdraw into spiritual “huddles” with little concern for those outside our circle. But this ignores our commission to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And it impoverishes us while denying others the good we can offer them in Christ.


What are some biblical ways we can “seek the welfare” of our broken culture?


One: “Show kindness and mercy to one another” (Zechariah 7:9). As the sign-holding man in Jacksonville reminds us, we cannot know the larger impact of a single act of encouragement and affirmation.


Two: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10). John Grove argues persuasively in Public Discourse: “We do not need more self-conscious crusaders for the nation or even for Western Civilization, but instead more priests, teachers, businessmen, artists, writers, and parents who perform their own activities faithfully, serving . . . as ‘leaven for the whole lump.’”


Three: “Bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel” because it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). According to Tim Keller, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”


How to love well


Christians have a unique gift for our culture today: we alone can demonstrate the kindness of Christ by offering our best service to hurting souls while sharing the good news of God’s love. But we cannot love well until we embrace the fact that we are well loved.


To that end, let’s close with this intercession from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “Help us so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that was we may fully serve you, whose service is perfect freedom.”


Will you join me in offering these words from your heart to your Father today?


About Jim Denison

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.

Denison Forum
17304 Preston Rd, Suite 1060
Dallas, TX 75252-5618


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GUEST POST ~ "Gospeling"

The One-Word Gospel


In working again through my translation of the Book of Acts I began to record passages where Luke the Storyteller put into words a summary of what the apostles preached when they were gospeling.

Here are the verses in the The Second Testament, with the appropriate words in bold:

Acts 8:35: Philippos, opening his mouth and beginning from this writing, gospeled Yēsous to him.

11:20 Some of them were men from Kyprios and Kyrēnaios [Cyrene] who, coming to Antiocheia, were speaking also to the Hellēnists, gospeling the Lord Yēsous.

17:18 Also some of the Epikoureioi [Epicureans] and Stoïkoi [Stoic] philosophers were engaging him, and some were saying, “Whatever might this scrounger want to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign demons.” (Because he was gospeling Yēsous and the resurrection.)

18:5 As both Silas and Timotheos [Timothy] went down from Makedonia [Macedonia], Paulos [Paul] was absorbed with the word, witnessing to the Youdaians that Yēsous is the Christos.

18:28 For he was vigorously refuting the Youdaians in public, exhibiting through the writings that Yēsous is the Christos.

19:13 Even some of Youdaian itinerant exorcists attempted to name the Lord Yēsous upon those having evil spirits, saying, “I implore you by the ‘Yēsous’ whom Paulos announces [to leave].” (Notice then 19:17 This became known to all the Youdaians and Hellēnes who reside in Ephesos, and awe fell on all of them and the Lord Yēsous’ name was magnified.)

20:20 … as I did not back off of what is beneficial so to announce to you and to teach you, in public and house-to-house, 21 witnessing to both the Youdaians and Hellēnes [Greeks] about conversion to God and faith in our Lord Yēsous.

28:23 Ordering for him a day, even more came to him in his guest room, before whom he laid out, witnessing about God’s Empire, and persuading them about Yēsous from Mōüsēs’ [Moses’] Covenant Code and the Prophets, from early until evening.

28:30-31 He remained two whole years at his own wage and he received all journeying to him, announcing God’s Empire and teaching unhindered matters about the Lord Yēsous Christos with all frankness.

Here are eight or nine – one could combine the last two – instances of summarizing early Christian gospeling.

This gospeling is being done in the first generation. This gospeling is done by the apostles and those formed by them (Philip, others).

I believe in the Bible as God’s revelation to us, and I believe Christian theology has to begin first with Scripture (prima scriptura).

I also believe if our framing of theology is not according to Scripture, we are called to adjust it until it conforms to and is consistent with the gospel. This is what I do in The King Jesus Gospel.

The uniform message can be reduced to one word: Jesus.

Or to:

Jesus is the Messiah
Jesus and the resurrection
Repentance toward God and faith in Jesus
God’s kingdom and the Lord Jesus Christ

Not one of these summaries of apostolic gospeling contains a word about salvation – justification, reconciliation, redemption, substitution – and that’s worthy of note.

Why not?

Not because redemption is not the impact of that gospeling, for it is, but the content of the message according to Luke is the person, Jesus, and not about what he accomplished. He did it all, he accomplished it all, but the focus of the apostolic preaching was Jesus – who he was, what he did, what he accomplished, in that order.

Gospeling today could learn from the apostles. We could learn that gospeling others is about talking about Jesus, announcing Jesus, and generating conversations about Jesus. I promise you, it will get to redemption because it leads there, as can be seen with Peter in Acts 10. And, telling others about Jesus is attended by the Spirit who will prompt repentance, forgiveness of sins and redemption, that too in Acts 10.

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I’ve been thinking!
I believe that we are living in times of amazing transition that are exhilarating and terrifying at the same time and that challenge us to be our very best selves.
In a meeting with a small group of pastors and theological academics, I said: "I'm convinced that in the next 10-30 years, the local congregation as we know it will, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist. Most of our efforts at revitalizing the church are about renewing systems and structures that serve a world that no longer exists. I'm not saying the body of Christ is going away. But where and how it mobilizes to serve, I believe, will be very different."
In a different conversation with a denominational executive, I asked, "If you could get your congregations to do just one thing - and that one thing would foster significant movement toward the transformation of the people of God and the communities they serve, what would that one thing be?” Her answer: I'd have 80% of the congregations I serve sell their building and figure out how to use the money to structure different kinds of ministries to the community in which they exist. The building both defines and profoundly limits change, because we think our building is where God is on mission and we are spending so much on keeping the building in repair.”
I've thought a lot about these two conversations. How will the body of Christ look in 10 to 30 years? I don't know. If I had to make some predictions based on my current perspective, I would say house churches, churches in the workplace functioning subversively, and the return of vibrant, small neighborhood churches. I think these neighborhood churches will be evaluated by two criteria. Do they regularly produced transformed people who can love God, neighbor, stranger, enemy and self? And do they serve the felt needs of the community in which they exist? In other words, do they add measurable value to the quality of the community, to the presence of the Shalom of God.
What interesting times we live in. God grant us wisdom for the living of these days.
Jim Herrington
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GUEST POST ~ How Should We Think About Record Numbers of Churches Closing?

The Great Replacement

By Mike Glenn

As I have admitted before, I’m a sucker for sacred spaces. I love old churches. I love sitting in  a classically built sanctuary and watching the light play through the panes of the stained glass windows. I love the quiet solitude of sitting in a pew and praying. We’re losing these places. For one thing, we can’t afford to build them anymore. That’s why I cringe every time I see that a church has been sold to a developer to turn into a condominium or shopping center. 

According to the experts, we are in a crisis in North America. Churches are closing at record numbers. Once vital, even famous congregations, are having to close their doors because of  failing attendance and as a result, falling financial support. Experts around the country are holding conferences and writing books telling us how we can turn this crisis around. Their suggestions run from changing preaching and music styles to rethinking our basic theology. 

In our panic, the one thing we haven’t done is focus on the obvious. What are the obvious facts we are overlooking?

First, nothing lasts forever, not even a good church. While Jesus did promise that hell wouldn’t prevail over his church, He made no such promise for every individual church. Churches are founded, serve their communities, and when those communities change or die out, their churches die with them.  I know it sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes, it's OK for a church to die. Like any well lived life, we need to celebrate the church, express our grief at its loss and then move on.

Funerals are a part of life, even for churches. 

Another reason churches are dying is they become obsolete. Obsolete things are discarded and replaced. We live in a disposable world. Everything is made to wear out. Mobile phones need to be updated and replaced at regular intervals. Cars wear out and new ones, or slightly used ones, need to be bought. Our entire world economy thrives on building and selling things to replace things that have worn out.  Churches wear out. The ministries and programs that once made the church “cutting edge” become dated and stale. Student ministries have to be updated to incorporate current social tastes. Technology changes. Screens replace the paintings of the Jordan River over the baptismal pool. If you don’t keep up, you get left behind. It’s that way in business, sports, movies and even games like golf. Change is the only constant in our world.

While we should expect some congregations to die, they shouldn’t be dying at the rate they are. Then, why? Sadly, too many churches have abandoned the mission. There is almost universal agreement on the mission of the church — to make disciples of Jesus by fulfilling the Great Commission. Most churches have forgotten this. They think the church exists to serve their members. The business community serves its stockholders. When church leadership adopts this philosophy, they begin to focus on the membership of the church rather than the lost around them. The membership, after all, does pay for the church budget, so, shouldn’t the staff focus on taking care of their needs?

In a word, no. The church has to focus on its community. Feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, giving aid to every disadvantaged person and yes, sharing the good news of Jesus. The focus on members is for yes, their care, but also their training and deployment in ministry and mission. The old preachers tell a story about some churches being like cruise ships and other churches being like battleships. Cruise ships focus on taking care of their passengers. Battleships don’t have passengers. They have sailors and sailors are focused on the mission. 

When churches are no longer focused on the mission, they no longer have a reason to exist. And yes, in my ministry, I’ve talked to a lot of churches who were focused more on their own comfort than the community around them. The first clue is when one of the members asks, “What about us?” 

When a church abandons the mission, another church is born to replace it. Now, we aren’t replacing churches in the numbers we need, not yet anyway, but we are replacing them. In fact, not all of the closing churches need to be replaced, but more do than not. In time, we’ll catch up. The Spirit will make sure of it. We serve a God of infinite resources. If one church won’t stay faithful to the mission, God will find one that will. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to anyone – including churches. 

That’s hard. 

That’s the truth. 

The mission is our life. Without it, we’re just another non-profit community organization.

Our mission is the reason we exist. If we aren’t faithful to our calling, we don’t have a reason to be here at all. 

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GUEST - POST ~ Knowing God. A Two-Sided Coin?


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We're living in dark and desperate days, my friends.


When you live in days like that, you need the facts because knowledge is power. Knowledge tells us what our opponent is all about, and how to fight that opponent. Knowledge is a very good thing. In the biblical Greek, there are two words for “to know.” One is the word oida, which means “to have knowledge of.” It’s a great word that influenced the European culture which in turn influenced our culture. The great danger of that word is we can think that when we've come to know in the mind and know the facts, that will be sufficient for us.


There is another Greek word for “to know” and it’s ginosko. It means “to know by experience.” This is the word that influenced the Hebrew culture. It basically says that we have no right to say that we've come to know something until we've experienced it. Let me give you some examples. I know about Abraham Lincoln. I've read a lot of books and they're encouraging to see a man of integrity, passion, and courage, who would fight for his nation. But I only know about Abraham Lincoln, because I have never met him.


Here is another example. I know about a kiss ― where two mouths come together to exchange tongues and saliva. That doesn't sound very appealing, but I've also experienced it, ginosko, with my sweet bride, and it's wonderful. You see, to just know about love is not enough. I need ginosko. I need to experience love. I share that with you because, in dark and desperate days, we need to know God. You see, it's not enough to oida, to know about God. You can read your Bible and learn that God is omnipotent and He's omnipresent and He's omniscient. He knows all things. He's all-powerful. He's everywhere. This is all wonderful, but in reality, if God is only a concept in my mind it does nothing for me.


What good is it to know that He's omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent unless He's all those things to me by experience? My friends, in dark and desperate days, don't settle for knowledge about God. You need the experience of God — the ginosko. This is what Paul was hammering home to the Philippians in his own life. He said, “This is my one thing. I press on because I want to know Him.” He didn’t use the word oida. He didn't want to just know about Jesus. He used the word ginosko. He wanted to experience Him — to experience the power of the Resurrection because death was coming at him every day of his life. 


Every day there's loss and sorrow, grief, hurt, fear, and anxiety, and it can paralyze us. 


We need the power of the Resurrection to raise us up from the death that we are encountering today.


My friends, the wonderful thing is, He wants to be known! He wants to be experienced. He wants to be all that He is to whatever you need in the moment of faith. He wants to supply all your needs. He wants to save you with His Life and give you hope. In the midst of a dark world, pursue a relationship with Him. Talk to Him as you read His word. Ask Him to teach you. Ask Him to open your eyes to the glory of what He has provided. May you understand the height, length, breadth, and depth of how much He loves you. Bless you, in Jesus’ name.


Frank Friedmann | Our Resolute Hope


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GUEST POST ~ Fostering Spiritual Transformation

Are you seeing transformation?

New blog post from Bob Logan

The gospel itself–Jesus’ death and resurrection–is an overwhelmingly powerful story of transformation. When all hope seems lost, we see light. Something difficult becomes something beautiful. The Red Sea rolls back to reveal dry land. The new heavens and the new earth arise from the ashes of the old. That’s the story of the gospel. As a senior pastor, where are you currently seeing that kind of change? Even the kernels of such change can provide much-needed hope for your people. 

If you yourself have been transformed by the grace of God, you can then go on to help others experience that same powerful change. Our God is a God who loves us too much to let us remain as we are. He has so much for us to learn, grow, experience, and do. Senior pastors are uniquely positioned to lead and guide others toward the joy and challenge that is spiritual transformation. 

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Fostering Spiritual Transformation  

For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, Fostering Spiritual Transformation means engaging and equipping others to deepen their walk with Jesus.

Jesus promises significant transformation to those who place their trust in him:  

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24

The very rite of baptism at conversion provides an image of cleansing, renewal, and rebirth, as it symbolizes crossing over from death to life. John the Baptist clarified: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). That is the power source of the change: God himself. If we are in him, we become a new creation. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The Christian faith is a continual retelling of a story of transformation, restoration, and new creation. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

One important element to remember is that we, as mere humans, cannot generate spiritual formation in others. We cannot make it happen. Only God has the power to bring about spiritual transformation. We, however, can engage in behaviors that foster and promote it in others. 

7 Habits that Demonstrate Fostering Spiritual Transformation  

What does it look like for someone to foster spiritual transformation? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:  

1. Cultivates prayer, worship, and listening to the Holy Spirit

If a senior pastor does not set an example of cultivating prayer and worship and listening to the Holy Spirit, how will the congregation learn? They need to see this example set and modeled and prioritized for all. That is how they will know what the church is called to be and do. 

2. Creates relational environments for life change 

Within every large group, smaller pockets of community need to be available for real-life interpersonal change. People need those close relationships to grow and change, sometimes fail, and then get back on their feet. Without it, each person will be ultimately alone and likely pretending to be somewhere they aren’t. How much better to be in an honest relational environment?   

3. Delivers transformational messages 

Transformation is difficult. That’s why we all need reminding… regular reminding. Preach about the coming Kingdom, the new heaven and the new earth, the small glimpses and tastes of that we experience here and now, and how we can move toward all that God has for us. Without a message of hope for change, the people wander and ultimately perish. 

4. Helps people apply biblical principles in contemporary contexts 

The Bible was written a long time ago, and not everyone has been to seminary and able to interpret all of the context. Yet everyone who believes does have the Holy Spirit within them to help them understand the word of God. As a senior pastor, provide guardrails and guidance for how to apply the Bible and its principles to everyday life. Point them to the essentials and how to live those out. Without that, people tend to become focused on the non-essentials and the divisive. 

5. Shares personal experiences of spiritual growth 

If the senior pastor isn’t growing, others won’t either. And if the senior pastor isn’t sharing about that growth–including the times when he or she doesn’t look perfect–others won’t open up either. If we are to be humans on a journey of growth where the path isn’t always straight, we need to hear the stories of others who have gone before us… and that includes from our senior leaders. 

6. Facilitates growth that includes both inward and outward components

The transformative growth that we model isn’t just words and it isn’t just behaviors–it’s an entire holistic experience of change. Transformation includes emotions, ideas, joy, memories, actions, words, and initiatives that reach out into the world. It starts on the inside, but if it’s real, it works its way outward to ways the whole world can see. 

7. Inspires people to godly action 

We can help people not only learn the scriptures, but live them out in ways that promote godly action and real world impact. Setting the tone for change—and indeed, the expectation of change—is one of the essential elements of a senior pastor’s role. This is a faith based in resurrection, new life, and the world to come… and we all have a part to play in that coming Kingdom.  

How well are you fostering spiritual transformation? 

If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor. 

  • How have you facilitated prayer, worship, and listening to the Holy Spirit in your community?   
  • What relational environments for life change have you created? 
  • To what degree does your preaching result in transformation?  
  • How do you help people apply biblical principles in their contemporary contexts? 
  • When have you shared personal experiences of spiritual growth?   
  • How have you facilitated spiritual growth that includes both inward and outward components?  
  • How have you inspired people to godly action? 

Fostering Spiritual transformation is 1 of 12 qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.  


Feeling the weight of fostering transformation on your own? Grab a few good folks and get them on board by walking with them through The Guide for Discipling‘s series on Community Transformation. Outward focus tends to start a softening work in people’s hearts. Once you see that work begin move on to the series on Personal Transformation. Bringing others on the journey will lessen your load and expand your influence. The studies have been adapted for the Vineyard, Lutheran, and Episcopalian denominations. You can find the full set of guides HERE.

Christian Coaching Essentials

Christian Coaching Essentials

Developing people to be all that God created them to be is the heart behind empowering spiritual transformation. Learning simple coaching techniques raising your ability to that exponentially. Christian Coaching Essentials is a brand new book that teaches you all you need to know to implement effective coaching.


Experiencing excellent coaching is a catalyst to coaching with excellence. Dr. Bob Logan and Dr. Gary Reinecke are taking a small group of leaders through coach training beginning April 20th, 2023! Get details at Christian Coaching ToolsRegister today and pay in full by April 1, 2023 and get $500 off your Cohort Tuition!

Photo by Cyrus Crossan on Unsplash

The post Are you seeing transformation? appeared first on Logan Leadership.


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GUEST-POST: Dying Churches Successfully Revitalized

Small churches are using strategies to alter their mission and successfully relaunch.

  * MinistryWatch

More Protestant church congregations close than open in a year in America. According to Lifeway Research, in 2019, 4,500 churches closed their doors while only 3,000 new churches were started.


Photo by Carolina Jacomin / Unsplash / Creative Commons


As they face closure, some churches are turning to a strategy found in the 2018 book, “Dying to Restart” by Greg Wiens and Dan Turner, not just to survive, but thrive.

The West Side Church of God in Wichita, Kansas, decided to adopt the strategies in the book.

On March 12, the congregation gathered for its final service. Its attendance had dropped to only 45 people, about one-third the number it had in the early 2000s when Pastor Forest Cornwell arrived.

According to the Faith Communities Today study in 2020, half of all churches in the country have less than 65 people worshiping in services each week.

Cornwell recognized that West Side Church of God was facing closure. “If we keep going like we’re going as a church, we are going to die,” Cornwell told The Wichita Eagle. “That might drag out five or 10 years, but we’re not accomplishing anything the way we are going now.”

Instead, the church’s board relinquished control and will be replaced by pastors and leaders of other churches that are growing. They have agreed to sit on West Side’s board for two to three years and help them succeed in relaunching.

West Side will close for several months and then re-open with a new name and an operational makeover. During those months, the members will attend weekly workshops to learn about changes that need to be made. The church building will be fixed up, painted, and new sound equipment installed.

Church member and music director Tracie Nice has been at West Side for 55 years. She supports the relaunch. “We’re excited, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it will be real, real difficult too,” she said. “We know in our hearts it’s the right thing.”

Eleven other churches have followed the relaunch advice in “Dying to Restart.” Co-author Dan Turner said they’ve been successful with an average growth of about 3 ½ times what it was prior to closing.

In 2004, Turner himself was a pastor who led a small church of only 32 in Washington, D.C. After a year of doing everything he knew to grow the church, nothing changed.

Turner followed advice he learned online from another pastor, and the church relaunched in 2006 as Northwest Community Church. A larger church agreed to help finance outreach efforts, like sending postcards about the relaunch to the community.

In Turner’s opinion, the relaunch effort was successful. Each year the church has grown steadily to a present membership of over 200.

Heritage Free Will Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, had dwindled to an attendance of only 15 members before deciding to relaunch according to the Dying to Restart principles.

Its pastor, Chris Davenport, thought the church had lost its focus. It had a rigid dress code and didn’t care about spiritually lost people, he said.

It sold its building and relaunched in an elementary school in March 2020 as Bridge Church. It has seen an increase in attendance to 175.

Davenport credits Dying to Restart with helping refocus the church on its mission: “[T]his is God’s church, and we need to do whatever we can to get people to know Jesus.”

Turner agrees with Davenport. He believes churches often die because they become insular and lose focus on the greater mission of sharing the Gospel and discipling people.

He doesn’t believe small churches need to grow into large churches in order to survive, adding that relaunch efforts will not look the same for every church.

Turner’s usual consultation fee for helping churches relaunch is $2,200. However, he said he waives the fee for churches who can’t afford it.

The Southern Baptist Convention is also supporting church replants through its North American Mission Board. In 2020, NAMB helped fund 50 replants.

LA City Baptist Church was a successful replant. The small historic Hispanic congregation had dwindled to 12 when Pastor Min Lee arrived in 2018. In 2022, it had grown to about 50.

Lee said replanting is slow and steady work that begins with building trust with older congregation members and moves to changing the church’s approach to ministry.

If not handled correctly, the replanting process can have perils.

In 2020, older church members at Vineyard United Methodist Church felt discarded when their church was restarted.

Mark Hallock, author of “Replant Roadmap” encourages pastors to gain support from existing church members.

“This is not a takeover situation,” he said. “This is a situation where we’re coming in and loving those who are there and inviting them to be part of something together that God could do moving forward.” 

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.

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GUEST POST ~ Learning About Presidents from President Carter

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Our attention has recently been drawn to Jimmy Carter, our 39th president. As we know President Carter is quietly facing death at home under hospice care. Like him or not, Jimmy Carter has modeled faith throughout his long lifetime. Few doubt this if you can move the conversation away from policy to the man.

James Earl Carter, Jr., born October 1, 1928 (98 years), was the 76th governor of Georgia (1971-75). He was then elected president in 1976, serving only one term (1977-81). Remarkably, he has been married for 77 years. In the words of the president of Emory University, at the dedication Emory’s seminary chapel in 1979, “[President Carter’s] fusion of piety and pragmatism [is] characteristic of our region and remains enigmatic to the rest of the nation.” This made it difficult for many to assess the real Jimmy Carter. This is especially true for conservative Christians who voted for him in 1976 and then abandoned him for Ronald Reagan in 1980. As a pastor I never publicly endorsed political candidates. I see a vote as a sacred trust, given to us under our form of government to use for good. Your vote is for you to make without pressure from the church. This does not mean moral issues are ignored but rather that they inform us so we can make up our minds in an election. In an age of intense polarization I still urge this stand e upon church leaders. (Sadly, this approach changed in the Carter era with the rise of conservative groups openly urging ministers and evangelical churches as specific and special political constituencies!) Now, all these years later, I can say I voted for Jimmy Carter twice. I have no regrets. 

We must understand that Carter was the most openly Christian man of any U.S. president in the twentieth century. (I have no doubt other presidents were Christians but the word openly is the key to my statement.) In 1972, as the governor of Georgia, Carter welcomed the General Conference of the United Methodist Church to Atlanta by saying, “The most important factor in my life is Jesus Christ!” Simply put, Jimmy Carter represented evangelical Christianity at its best! In doing so he sought to develop a deep personal piety united with a public vision of justice and righteousness. (In this, whether Carter knew it or not, he was following the influence of the great Jonathan Edwards in his  belief about the gospel creating a culture and transformation of love!) He lived what N.T. Wright calls “God in public life” while maintaining a personal faith which continued to grow over his nine-plus decades. 

A friend recently told me about a visit to Plains, Georgia, to see the Carter home and hear him teach Sunday School. He met the former president, as all visitors did who stayed around long enough. He was amazed that Carter’s personal life remained so simple. There was no outward ostentation, no extravagant lifestyle. He lived well below what his earned income provided. His basic choices about life always featured generosity, simplicity and love for all. If ever a well-known American loved God and his neighbor as himself it was Jimmy Carter. For this reason I read many of his books and have followed his life since I first heard of him in 1975. (Anita and I met him for a handshake in a line to sign a book.)

There are two basic aspects of Carter’s life that stand out to me. First, Carter possessed core basic faith in the Lordship of Jesus. He continually celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Thus his hope was solidly grounded in Scripture as authority without embracing fundamentalist arguments about the Bible. He read widely, especially the most important theologians of the 20th century. The way he remained a lifelong learner bothered many conservative Christians but it inspired me even I did not always agree with him. His personal joining of piety and intellect pattern intrigued me. It actually helped me move away from the rigid stance of certain aspects of my own background.

Second, Carter’s values were openly Christian especially he embraced them as president. (Many speak of him to this day as a “bad” or “weak” president but a “great ex-president!”) I reject this distinction for the several reasons. 

The first reason I see was in Carter’s farewell presidential address where he said “America did not invent human rights, human rights invented America.” He called us to open our hearts and affirm the rights of all persons made in God’s image. Further, during his presidency he made world peace, rooted in the biblical truth of shalom, a matter of priority. His foreign policy reflected this stance again and again. He never used power to threaten nations. Carter was mocked in the 1970’s for installing solar panels at the White House. We now know he was far ahead of most Americans in seeing the issues of environmentalism as an ultimate existential threat to our planet. Finally, Carter was the first president from the Deep South in 140 years, something never lost to me since I am a child of the Deep South. He practiced inclusiveness before the term became popular. He had a stellar moral reputation on race. He included women, people of color and persons with disabilities in his government. (Some have gone well beyond what he did but he was a true pioneer.) 

Jimmy Carter was not a perfect man. Nor was his administration without flaws. Clearly, his lack of executive experience, serving only as a one-term Georgia governor, was not adequate  preparation for administering the complexities of the White House. But Carter took a number of positions in which, to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., he sought “to bend the moral arc of history toward justice.” 

Several years ago I enjoyed reading Stuart Eizenstat’s thousand-page book, President Carter: The White House Years (2018). The author, who was Carter’s chief domestic advisor during the White House years, does not whitewash Carter’s record. His account of those four years was inspiring to me. Eizenstat, who is Jewish, speaks admiringly of Carter’s Christian faith and says he was never treated with anything but respect and grace by his friend. 

Carter was finally defeated (1980) by the mobilization of many of the same “born again” voters who had elected him. Reagan, supported by the rise of the religious right, became the choice of a large number of folks who spoke of the Carter “malaise.” Yet Carter told us hard truth, even to his own political peril. I am reminded of the popular lines of a well-known movie: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” I think this was true of Jimmy Carter. People did not like being told hard truth then as they still don’t today. I wonder what would have happened if we had heeded Carter’s basic call for justice and peace and given him four more years. (I feel certain Iran-Contra, a dark time, would not have happened.) 

As Jimmy Carter prepares for his final journey in this life I follow his story with even deeper interest. Like him or not it is hard not to see him as our finest Christian president. He may not be our “best” president but he is surely not our worst. (As an American history major, and lifeline learner, I might someday tell you my list of our “worst” presidents. The “best” were clearly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.) 

Jimmy Carter lived his faith and gave God the praise for the grace he knew personally. He was a pietist without pretense and an intellectual leader who spoke the truth even if he was condemned for his decisions. I pray for him almost daily and I thank God for his immense encouragement in my own life. God bless you Jimmy Carter, my brother, and may your Lord lead you across the river to your eternal rest and peace. 

Pax Christi,

John Armstrong



Prayer Notes 

  1. I asked last month for prayer regarding the sale of our daughter’s house. We listed it and it sold three days later, after multiple bids. This is almost unheard of these days. We sold it for $12,000 more than the list price. This will retire all our debts incurred over the last two years in helping our daughter and the boys. Our adjustments in merging our families have been minimal. I cannot think of a better way to finish my journey than to love my family! 
  2. I have begun to write again, this time my book about God’s love. My health tends to block my mind and impact my ability to concentrate for significant periods. Please pray for this work. 


From My Library

I read a number of books last month but two stand out for very different reasons.

White Hot Hate: A True Story of Domestic Terrorism in America’s Heartland (2021), Dick Lehr. 

I found this book I hard to put down, reading it over three days. It recounts how the FBI foiled three militiamen in Garden City, Kansas, who plotted for over a year to kill Muslims out of pure hate! The key witness was a gun-rights citizen in the group who became an informal undercover agent because his Christian influence gave him courage to say no to such hate. Arrested hours before they planned to set off bombs that would have killed hundreds of people, these men were convicted in federal court. This raw portrayal of hatred on the far-right, and the way Christian nationalism is being used to promote anarchy, is deeply troubling. Be aware and pray. The New Testament cannot be used to support anarchy!

Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation (2023), Collin Hansen.  

Hansen’s biography is a deep dive into the social, cultural and theological convictions and formation of the famous New York pastor and best-selling author. I confess I knew little about Keller before reading this book. My respect for him has increased ten-fold. Here is a man whose fame never spoiled him. His piety is real and his influence is still bearing fruit. While I disagree with Keller on several issues, especially his opposition to the ordination of women as ministers, I respect his missional balance and deep convictions about the gospel. I have friends who know Keller well thus I now understand why they respect him so profoundly.

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If you've been a part of Our Resolute Hope's ministry over the years, you know that we are not very fond of religion. I love to tell people I'm not religious in any way, but I love Jesus. The word religion comes from the Latin religio and it’s a compound word which means “return to bondage.” And I tell people that the word religion isn't even in the Bible. Some Believers are quick to point out, “Oh no, Frank, you're wrong. It's in James.” 


“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27 (NASB) 


Well, I don't ever want to undermine our English translations, but we have to remember a translation is a work of man where we take the original Greek or Hebrew language and translate it into English. That's why we have concordances and lexicons to look up those words and see if the translators really did their job. 

In this instance, they did not do their job. The Greek word that has been translated “religion” in the Book of James is actually the word “reverence,” or I would translate it as “worship” because that's what reverence is. And so the text should read, “Pure and undefiled worship is the taking care of orphans and widows.” You see, we've reduced worship in our culture to singing praise songs. 


Worship is life. 


The number one word used in the New Testament for worship is latreia which means “to serve.” So, as Jesus said, when you visit someone in prison, you're visiting Him. When you bring someone a drink of water, you're serving and worshiping Him. 


True worship is the expression of His life of love flowing through us to love others.


Pure and undefiled worship is revering the One who deserves it most, the One who redeemed us so that we could fulfill our glorious purpose in creation. That purpose is to express the invisible God to a physical and visible world. Go express Him, my friends, and the love and care of those who need to be loved and cared for. I hope you were encouraged today by the ministry of Our Resolute Hope.





Dr. Stephen Phinney

President & Founder


IOM America | Identity Matters Worldview Institute


End Times Prophecies Connection Points:



Mail | IOM America | P.O. Box 71, Sterling, KS 67579

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GUEST POST ~ “Let’s be talking about Jesus.”

Dr. Paul Cedar

Lausanne * MissionAMerica Coaltion * The Table Coaltion


“Let’s be talking about Jesus.”  That was the theme of a recent article in Our Daily Bread devotional booklet a few days ago. It is a wonderful insight that has been resonating with both of us during the past few days.  That’s what our ministry is all about - talking about – sharing - our Lord and Savior – Jesus! Then it happened to us again when we were departing from the theater last Friday evening after viewing the wonderful film ,“The Jesus Revolution!”  And now, we’re trusting – we’re praying that we can use every opportunity - to speak – to share all about Him – Jesus!  To let others know – all about Jesus! 


It is something that every one of us could and should be doing!  We can share His Name when we are with Christian friends.  We can share Him when we are with our neighbors or in other settings of non-Christians. Of course, we always need to do sowith love, gentleness and sensitivity without using our church “insider” vocabulary that often “turns off” outsiders.  


Without a doubt, Jesus is the most wonderful, loving, captivating person who has ever lived on this earth.  He personified the life of love.  He not only preached about love, He lived it!  And He has invited us to live the life of love; to share His love with others.  As we do, let us be talking more and more about Him - Jesus


Dr. Paul Cedar

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GUEST POST ~ "Christmas" Can Be Any Day of the Year


As I read Scripture daily, pray and watch the continued loss of Christian influence in our culture, I often ask: “What can be done to reveal Christ’s mission to the world?” Or, “How do we make an impact on our neighbors so that our message about Jesus risen and reigning as Lord will be truly heard?”

Two recent experiences of mine shed light on my response. The first came when I delivered books from my library to Tyndale House Publishers to be shipped to a buyer in Florida. (I once had 12,000+ books. Now I have less than 1,300. My goal is to keep what I will use and make sure my physical effects do not present a problem for my family to deal with when I pass.) Anyway, I had packed some 45 boxes and drop-shipped them from the Tyndale warehouse. The warehouse person who met my friend and I to help unload these books was an exceptional man who treated us both with amazing care. I thanked him and invited him to have lunch with me a few days later. I was surprised when we told me that he was not a Christian. The more I probed carefully into his story the more clear it became to me that my new friend was not turned off by working with Christians. In fact, he spoke well of the culture he had worked in for decades. I plan to spend more time with him in the days ahead but here is my point: working for a Christian company, as a non-Christian, was not a negative for him. That tells me something very positive about the culture of Tyndale House. 

My second experience came when my daughter arranged for me to go with the twins to pack food at a nearby Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) warehouse. The drive and work took us about three hours. We packed enough food to feed three children in Ukraine for a whole year. But what impressed me was how the mission included Stacy and me helping two six-year old boys get into this witness for Christ’s kingdom. 


What a teaching moment! But, much like Tyndale House, FMSC made it clear that non-Christians were welcome to come alongside and help. This invitation to share with Christians in their mission was a wonderful way to “involve” all people in a basic human concern for the needy. I was impressed with the FMSC enterprise and their workers, who made us all feel like we were doing something important, which of course we were. 

Check out FMSC at:

Here is my point. We can actually include all people in Christ’s mission of mercy in fresh and winsome ways that we have never seriously explored. I am convinced people are more likely to “hear” our message of God’s love when they share with us in showing that love. That is basic and it surprises far too many Christians who think our only witness is to talk about Jesus all the time and to oppose a culture they do not like. 


May you and your loved ones experience a wonderful Advent this year.  

John Arnstrong


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