Thursday, July 30, 2009

Your Local Church-A Pillar of Strength

By Alex McFarland

Wesleyan Life Magazine Online

A church congregation functioning at its best is a beautiful thing to experience. I was recently reminded of this while attending a funeral service. My heart was stirred as I watched fellow church members shower the bereaved family with love, prayers, and home-cooked meals. About a week after the funeral, one of the family members told me, "Our pastor has been so faithful, and we've really felt God's love through all of the members reaching out to us. We're gonna be OK."

Low-Tech but Loving

In this era of televangelism and celebrity preachers, the significance of the humble local church is easy to miss. I think we need to take a second look. Often low-tech but loving, the church is a place where members serve God by serving others. It's a golden rule of the Christian world: When some one is hurting, be there.

Of the more than 384,000 Christian congregations in America, most number less than 125 worshippers on any given Sunday morning. Most will never podcast their sermons, much less garner prime-time media coverage. Week after week, most churches quietly continue to go about their two-millenia-old mission.

A Pillar of Strength

I believe that America's churches are as important today as they were in 1835, when Alexis DeToquiville penned this famous observation: "Not until I went into America's churches and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her greatness and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

Always Relevant

Some today would disagree with DeToqueville. Many would indicate a tacit agreement with the sentiment expressed in the title of Christopher Hitchen's book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. A 2008 poll of 18—29 year olds revealed that most nearly 80 percent of those surveyed had a negative view of organized churches. Nearly 90 percent agreed with the statement, "Someone may have a good relationship with God without being involved in a church."

But whenever I get concerned about the church's place in our society I remember that caring about people will always be relevant. I think about people I've met along my ecclesiological journeys throughout America: People like Ed, who voluntarily fitted his pickup truck with expensive devices that keep meals hot which he transports to area shut-ins each week. I think about Joel, a busy college student, but one who for two years now has organized fellow students from his Sunday school class to sing in rest homes each week just because. I think about Lynn. As a retired international airline stewardess, Lynn fluently speaks half a dozen languages. For years, she has led literacy courses for immigrants and taught ESL classes to hundredsthrough her local church.

Cradle-to-Grave Community

The church affirms life at every stage, provides fellowship, community, instruction, and care of the soul. Churches carry out their all-important function of teaching people about God, the Bible, Jesus, and salvation. Churches teach people of all ages how to worship and how to serve, how to live and how to die.

- Alex McFarland serves as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and the Veritas Graduate School.

From EP News. Used by permission.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ghana Church Grows Through Community Ministry

Jul. 20, 2009


Ghana, Africa, has been in the news since President Obama's recent visit, but for Wesleyans, the best news is about growth in the Kingdom through the ministry of pastors and lay leaders in the country.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Religious Rights of Students

The following activities are legally permissible for Christian students in public schools:

Boy in school
  • Private prayer—Students are free to personally express themselves in prayer.
  • Bible reading—Students may read the Bible or other devotional material during free-reading times or study halls.
  • Symbols—Students may use notebooks, pencils, and other material with religious logos or sayings, including Bible verses.
  • Apparel—Christian messages on clothing or jewelry may be worn unless there is a uniform requirement that applies equally to everyone.
  • Assignments—Students may present speeches, write book reports and research papers, prepare show-and-tell displays, or do artwork using religious themes, provided such assignments follow the teacher’s instructions.
  • Open discussion—Religious viewpoints may be shared as part of class discussions when appropriate to the topic.
  • Performances—Students may sing religious music in a general concert program; such music is not devotional in a concert setting but has historical and cultural value.
  • Group devotions—Students may gather on their own time for devotions before or after school.
  • Tracts & other literature—Students may distribute Christian literature to fellow students or teachers on school grounds outside of class hours.
  • Bible clubs—Voluntary, student-initiated Bible clubs may meet on public secondary school premises during non-instructional time if other non-curriculum related student groups are also permitted to meet.
  • Graduation—Students may speak of God and may offer a prayer in a nonsectarian and non-proselytizing way in a student address at graduation.

Abridged from the article, “Defending Christian Freedom in America’s Public Schools,” by Dr. David C. Gibbs, Jr. and Dr. David Gibbs III. Used by permission from the Christian Law Association (CLA), a legal missionary ministry at

Alcohol: Is It the Devil's Brew? What do you think?

By Hannah Goodwyn Producer

CBN.comCollege presidents are calling on lawmakers to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse on campuses this year. They argue that the current law encourages students to take private underage drinking to the extreme. Teach the kids responsibility is the mantra of these campus leaders.

As this debate is revisited, Christian parents and young adults are also faced with the age-old controversial question – Is it OK for Christians to drink?

Some argue it’s unbiblical to “down a brewski”; while others claim that partaking of a little alcohol isn’t a sin.

Well, let me clarify what God's Word states about drinking.

To Drink, Or Not to Drink?

Drinking alcohol isn't necessarily a sin. Now before you to try and disprove this statement, let me show you what I found when studying God’s Word.

Jesus lived a blameless life.

According to the Bible, Jesus never sinned. In fact, Hebrews 4 states that even though he faced every kind of temptation we do, he didn’t give in to sin.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. Hebrews 4:14-15 (NLT)

Again in the explanation of the power of the Cross, we read that Jesus was without blame.

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)

But, didn’t Jesus drink?

Jesus drank.

A lot of negative connotations can be attached to the phrase… “So-and-so drinks.” Most of us immediately envision a drunk, but that’s not what I’m referring to in this article. I’m simply addressing the action of drinking a self-controlled amount of wine or other fermented beverages.

Not only does the Bible say that Jesus drank wine at the Last Supper, but in Jewish tradition he would have done so at Passover each year as well. In understanding the culture and reading the accounts of Christ, readers can’t presume that Christ views alcohol as taboo. In fact, the first miracle he performed was to turn water into wine (John 2).

The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." John 2:9-10 (NIV)

This was the first time people would see Jesus' power in action. Why would He pick to create something that is innately sinful?

God cannot abide with sin.

The Bible reveals to us that God cannot stand to be in the presence of sin (Isaiah 59:2). There will be no sin in Heaven. But, Jesus said at the Last Supper that we’ll be drinking with Him in Heaven. After passing the bread and the cup, Jesus says:

"I'll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that new day when I'll drink with you in the Kingdom of my Father." Matthew 26:25-27 (The Message)

This same account is recorded two other times in the New Testament (Mark 14:25 and Luke 22:17). Therefore, if there is no sin in Heaven, yet we will be drinking wine with Christ in celebration then drinking is not a sin.

Walking the Straight Line

The argument is fairly cut and dry to this point. The danger is when we, in our humanity, become overzealous. Understanding our limit is the key. Although God allows for the drinking of wine, he does not approve of drunkenness or any kind dependence on alcohol.

Wine makes you mean, beer makes you quarrelsome— a staggering drunk is not much fun. Proverbs 20:1 (The Message)

Simply because it isn’t a sin to drink “wine” does not give us license to abuse it. God doesn’t forbid us from eating. However, he abhors gluttons, those who eat excessively for pleasure. Also, if alcoholism runs in your family or it has been a problem of your past, by all means avoid it at all costs. Why set yourself up?

In I Timothy 3, church leaders and servants in the Body of Christ are told to avoid becoming “overfond of wine.”

He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. (I Timothy 3:3, NLT)

This is a good rule of thumb for us all since we are called to be God’s representatives to the world. If you don't drink, don't condemn those who do. When in doubt, default to focus your attention and energy on Christ. Follow Paul’s advice from Ephesians 5:18.

Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. (The Message)

What are you thoughts? Do you think it is OK for Christians to drink?

Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as a producer for and She also writes for these sites. For more articles and info, visit Hannah's bio page.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Episcopal presiding bishop terms individualistic salvation 'heresy' Print E-mail
By Bob Allen
Thursday, July 09, 2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. (ABP) -- The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church called the evangelical notion that individuals can be right with God a "great Western heresy" that is behind many problems facing the church and the wider society.

Describing a United States church in crisis, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told delegates to the group's triennial meeting July 8 in Anaheim, Calif., that the overarching connection to problems facing Episcopalians has to do with "the great Western heresy -- that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."

"It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus," Jefferts Schori, the first woman to be elected as a primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion three years ago, said. "That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori blames individualistic views of salvation for ills plaguing the church in the United States.

Jefferts Schori said countering individualistic faith was one reason the theme chosen for the meeting was "Ubuntu," an African word that describes humaneness, caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation.

"Ubuntu doesn't have any 'I's in it," she said. "The 'I' only emerges as we connect -- and that is really what the word means: I am because we are, and I can only become a whole person in relationship with others. There is no 'I' without 'you,' and in our context, you and I are known only as we reflect the image of the One who created us."

Jefferts Schori said "heretical and individualistic understanding" contributes to problems like neglect for the environment and the current worldwide economic recession.

"The sins of a few have wreaked havoc with the lives of many, as greed and dishonesty have destroyed livelihoods, educational possibilities, care for the aged, and multiple forms of creativity," she said. "And that's just the aftermath of Ponzi schemes for which a handful will go to jail."

She said in order to be faithful, "we need to be continually rediscovering that my needs are not the only significant ones."

"Ubuntu implies that selfishness and self-centeredness cannot long survive," she said. "We are our siblings' knowers and their keepers, and we cannot be known without them."

"We have no meaning, no true existence in isolation," she said. "We shall indeed die as we forget or ignore that reality."

About 200 Episcopal bishops and 850 clergy and lay deputies were expected to convene for the 10-day meeting. Business items are set to include debates over human sexuality, politics and poverty.

One resolution being considered calls for "generous discretion" to be extended to clergy in exercising pastoral ministry in six states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- where the civil marriage of same-gender couples has been legalized as well as other states that may follow suit in the next three years.

The 2.1-million-member denomination has argued vociferously about homosexuality since 2003, when the group approved the election of its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Many more conservative Episcopalians and a handful of congregations have begun breaking away from the church in the years since.

Southern Baptist mega-church pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, took sides in his sister denomination's debate recently by showing up in Texas to encourage about 800 Episcopalians attending the first annual meeting of a conservative breakaway group calling itself the Anglican Church in North America.

Warren, who spoke out last fall against legal gay marriage in California, said in January that any nearby Anglican congregation that loses its property after breaking with the U.S. Episcopal Church was welcome to meet on the campus of his Saddleback Church.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TBN to Promote Genesis Compromise and Undermine Biblical Authority

Many of you will be familiar with the organization Reasons to Believe, headed up by Dr. Hugh Ross. Hugh Ross is known in Christian circles for compromising secular ideas, such as the big bang, billions of years, etc., with the Bible and reinterpreting the clear language of Genesis. He is one of the leading compromisers in the church today—sadly popularizing beliefs that undermine the authority of Scripture.

In the past, the largest Christian television network in the world, TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), has featured Dr. Ross giving several presentations. Later this month, TBN will air a docu-drama called Dual Revelation. Hugh Ross speaks of dual revelation meaning that one needs to take secular interpretations such as billions of years and the Big Bang and add them to the written revelation, Scripture.

From the trailer, this docu-drama seems to involve (at one stage) a child asking her father a question about dinosaurs. Knowing what Hugh Ross believes about dinosaurs (basically the same as what the secular world teaches, that they died out 65 million years ago and well before the first humans), it is distressing to see how a worldwide television network that purports to be Christian and Bible-upholding will be airing this documentary that appears to be telling people if they don’t tell their children to believe what secular scientists are teaching, the children will walk away from the Christian faith.

However, the opposite is true. Such compromise that comes from Hugh Ross and his organization is what leads young people to walk away from the church. Our research reported on in the book Already Gone makes this very clear indeed.

Others featured in this Dual Revelation docu-drama include Dr. Walt Kaiser—the theologian who debated Dr. Jason Lisle and me on the John Ankerberg television program. If you have never seen this debate and would like to know what compromisers like Hugh Ross and Walt Kaiser teach, then I encourage you to obtain the entire set (which has extra audio sections from Dr. Terry Mortenson answering some of the attacks on Scripture by these two men that we had no time to answer on the program). You can obtain this set entitled The Great Debate from AiG’s online bookstore.

You can find out more about the Dual Revelation video at this link.

You can find out about TBN showing this movie here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ken Ham on the State of the Nation

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis Ministries recently gave a "State of the Nation" address via the World Wide Web. Ken addressed the social and moral decline of the United States and the world around us. You can view that address by clicking this link: Address

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kirk Cameron's Real Life Growing Pains

By Will Dawson
The 700 Club Will Dawson [reporting]: He’s graced the cover of teen magazines and starred in feature films. But actor Kirk Cameron is best known for his portrayal of the mischievous Mike Seaver on the hit show Growing Pains.

Will Dawson [reporting]: I have to tell you, I was eight years old when Growing Pains debuted. I remember the sunglasses, the leather jacket. I wanted to be Mike Seaver!

Kirk Cameron: It was fun to play the guy that people wanted to be like. It was just a very unique way to grow up.

Dawson [reporting]: Kirk won two Golden Globes and numerous other awards during the show’s seven-year run. He was the quintessential child actor, and he admits it went straight to his head.

Cameron: It can’t help but go to your head, you know? I was driving around in bullet-proof limousines, because stalkers were coming after me. I was flying around in Leer jets, because dignitaries wanted me to play tennis with their daughter. So it was a strange life, but it was normal to me.

Dawson: You considered yourself a devout atheist. Is that right?

Cameron: I was living large, hanging out with beautiful people, and making lots of money. I didn’t want to entertain the thought of a God or get involved in religion. For all I knew, that would put a wet blanket on all my fun.

Dawson [reporting]: He wasn’t following God, but he says he was following girls. One girl led him some place he didn’t expect.

Cameron: I was about 17 years old, and I followed a girl into church. Not because I wanted to learn about God, but because I wanted to be with this girl that I heard the Gospel for the first time. I was sitting in my sports car on the side of Van Eiss Boulevard, dropping my friend off at an acting class, and thinking about the fact that I could die at any moment. If I were to find out that there is a God and a heaven, I knew that I wouldn’t be going. I decided that I needed to be saved. I needed God to reveal Himself to me, and I asked Him to do that.

Dawson [reporting]: As Kirk’s thoughts toward God changed, so did his life.

Cameron: My heart had been changed. It had been softened, and it had been opened to the reality that God existed. I didn’t know everything. As I began reading His Word and understanding, I saw my need for his forgiveness, and it was a willingness to obey Him and to live my life in a way that pleased Him, that then began to characterize who I was.

Dawson: How did that change Kirk Cameron on the set of Growing Pains? How did it change your working relationship with the people who you had known for so long?

Cameron: My language changed. You know? All the f-bombs stopped and the parts that I would accept in Hollywood changed. The things that I was willing and not willing to do on Growing Pains changed.

Dawson [reporting]: Controversy took center stage when Kirk refused a scene that portrayed an unmarried Mike Seaver sharing a bed with a girl.

Cameron: When you make a decision, like, 'I’m not comfortable saying that line or doing that scene.’ Well, that meant that 11 writers had to come up with a new scene. And that meant that the other actors and actresses in that scene had to learn new lines, because I didn’t want to do that scene. It’s very easy for tabloids to grab onto that and say, ‘What’s the best way we can spin this into a front page story? I know! Kirk Cameron goes off the religious deep end!’ When in actuality, it was nothing more than a 17-year-old kid finding something that was worth more than all the celebrity in the world and wanting his life to be a living thank you to the God who had saved him from hell and adopted him into His own family.

Dawson [reporting]: Growing Pains ended in 1992, but not before Kirk fell in love and married co-star Chelsea Noble in 1991. The couple is raising their six children in California where Kirk is involved in a ministry called Way of the Master. He continues acting, most notably in the Left Behind series and his newest project, Fireproof. Kirk admits mainstream Hollywood isn’t beating down his door. It’s a reality he’s willing to accept.

Cameron familyCameron: My default position is not to be an actor. My default position is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. If that means I continue in acting, great! I’d love that. But if it means I need to change professions someday because I can’t provide for my family, well, that’s what I need to do. I’m sure I’ve lost a few jobs, because I’m a Christian. That’s irrelevant. I can honestly say that of everything I have, of everything I’ve experienced, nothing compares to the joy of knowing Christ. Because I’ve been given a glimpse of heaven and it outshines all of the rest.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Power of Connection
Leadership in the 21st Century

By Jo Anne Lyon/Wesleyan Life Magazine

General Superintendent/The Wesleyan Church

I joined Facebook a few months ago. I find it interesting that when I need to confirm a friend, the language is inviting and signed, “The Facebook Team.” One gets the feeling the team knows you and somehow derives happiness when you connect with your friend. I must admit, when I get a note from a friend that automatically transfers to my Blackberry my heart is warmed.

We live in a networked world.

At our recent General Conference, minute-by-minute reports were going throughout the world via text messaging. Pastors are blogging about their sermons and laypeople are connecting through Twitter.

Connection is the bottom line; technology is just one of the means by which we do so.


Much of leadership has to do with being connected. Good leadership today revolves around community, collaboration, and self-organization that strives toward the common vision empowered by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that is what the writer of Proverbs meant: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (15:22). People in this century call for a flattened organization, which keeps the leaders near the grass roots. People don’t want distant managers; they want to be involved at a significant level. They want to be connected.

Biblical language for being networked would be Paul’s image of the “body of Christ.” Jesus’ words at the Last Supper certainly are connectors: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Another powerful image of people connected comes from the writer of Revelation: “Before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…[crying] in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (7:9–10).


We, in the 21st Century, with all our connecting tools, have the opportunity to create a global community. Yes, I mean us—The Wesleyan Church. Our theology, history, tradition, and flexibility are foundations for connectedness to bring healing to a broken people and our world.

The words of Samuel Chadwick, British Methodist pastor and author in the early 1900s, are still relevant to us today: “The Church has lost the note of authority, the secret of wisdom and the gift of power through its persistent and willful neglect of the Holy Spirit of God. Confusion and impotence are inevitable when the wisdom and resources of the world is substituted for the presence and power of the Spirit of God.” *

After Pearl Harbor it was the clergy who called the nation to prayer. After 9/11 it was Oprah Winfrey who called the nation to a type of muted prayer. Who’s calling the nation to prayer today?

Greater Things God

Chadwick’s words give me pause, but I am not wringing my hands in despair. I am encouraged by the desire I sense throughout The Wesleyan Church for a hunger to be holy and active in being part of the future Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is at work, and new gifts of leadership are evident around the world.

When I read the words of the prophet Joel, as repeated by Peter on the day of Pentecost, I am compelled to consider again what the Holy Spirit wants to do in each of us. The very Spirit of God—the third Person of the Trinity—promises to give guidance, comfort, power, wisdom, desire for God, heightened prayer, conviction, as well as the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. What more is needed to be effective leaders in this world?

In the 21st century, the measure of power is connectedness. While nations are measuring military strength and economies, the church has a clear advantage of leadership in connectedness. Solutions to issues and challenges are discovered through people with like passions. Rick Warren recently said, “The only thing big enough to solve the problems of spiritual emptiness, selfish leadership, poverty, disease, and ignorance is the network of millions of churches all around the world.” The Wesleyan Church has the opportunity to shape the 21st century through its global connectedness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ words are always a challenge. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 NIV).

— Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church

* Samuel Chadwick, The Way to Pentecost, (Fort Washington, Pa.; CLC Publications, 2000), 17.

Red Skelton on the Pledge of Allegiance

Friday, July 3, 2009

If You Could See Me Now

If You Could See Me Now
(Kim Noblitt)

Our prayers have all been answered. I finally arrived.
The healing that had been delayed has now been realized.
No one's in a hurry. There's no schedule to keep.
We're all enjoying Jesus, just sitting at His feet.

Cho: If you could see me now, I'm walking streets of gold.
If you could see me now, I'm standing strong and whole.
If you could see me now, you'd know I've seen His face.
If you could see me now, you'd know the pain is erased.
You wouldn't want me to ever leave this place,
If you could only see me now.

My light and temporary trials have worked out for my good,
To know it brought Him glory when I misunderstood.
Though we've had our sorrows, they can never compare.
What Jesus has in store for us, no language can share. (Chorus twice)

You wouldn't want me to ever leave this perfect place
If you could only see me now
If you could see me now
If you could only see me now

Kim Noblitt, (c) 1992 Integrity's Praise/BMI and Dad and Dann Music
Sung by Truth (Russ Lee, soloist) on "Something to Hold On To," 1992.