THE WAY OF THE CROSS

STANDING STRONG TROUGHT THE STORM

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…Philippians 3:10

Members of the persecuted church around the world have long understood the true significance of the cross of Christ. Pastor Allen Yuan in China, who spent almost twenty-two years in prison for his faith away from his large family, often talks about his sufferings over those years. But he invariably concludes with the statement, “They are nothing compared with the Cross!

The best known and loved pastor in China was Watchman Nee who was martyred in the early 1970’s. One of his elderly co-workers said recently, “If we call ourselves Christians—people following Christ—we should know what road we are taking. Christ went the way of the Cross. We should be prepared to do likewise.”

A Canadian Christian aid worker was overwhelmed at the enormous need among the believers of southern Sudan. He recalls some children in a village wearing nothing but hand carved bone crosses fashioned in necklaces around their necks. He pointed to the cross on one emaciated child and questioned her with hand motions. She smiled broadly, took off the necklace and handed it to him.

His thoughtful analysis is this: “That little act symbolizes the state of the suffering church in Sudan. With absolutely nothing in the way of material possessions, they still have the cross of Jesus Christ. They are prepared to share its hope – even though it means death.”

Indian missionary and martyr, Sadhu Sundar Singh, wrote in his diary, “It is easy to die for Christ. It is hard to live for him. Dying takes only an hour or two but to live for Christ means to die daily [to self].”

A thirty-two-year-old pastor works in upper Egypt, an area of intense persecution for Christians. He runs a day care centre, a medical clinic, a literacy training program as well as caring for the families of those in prison. He has been beaten twice by Muslim extremists and threatened daily with death. He knows they are trying to kill him…but he continues to daily bear his cross.

A leading pastor in Egypt shared about a parishioner who tearfully came for counselling. Young people she had trained at her work were recently promoted to be her supervisors. She was passed over solely because she was a Christian. The pastor concluded, “That’s the cross we must bear here in Egypt!”

The essence of these examples is that instead of exercising and asserting my will, I learn to co-operate with God’s wishes and comply with His will.

RESPONSE: Today I will walk the way of the cross with Jesus and comply with His will.

PRAYER: Pray for believers under severe persecution who today will take up their cross to follow Jesus.

CHRISTIAN HEADLINES NEWS

Church Engagement Down about Half Since 2000, Barna Group Reports

Tim Tune | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Monday, March 9, 2020
Church Engagement Down about Half Since 2000, Barna Group Reports

CHURCH ENGAGEMENT DOWN ABOUT HALF SINCE 2000, BARNA GROUP REPORTS


The Barna Group, a research agency focusing on Christianity, has found that just one in four Americans can be considered “practicing Christians,” a significantly smaller percentage (25 percent) of the U.S. population than in 2000 when “45 percent of all those sampled qualified as practicing Christians.”

Barna shared the finding in the latest report on the yearlong State of the Church 2020 project, which the report says explores “the current challenges and opportunities facing the Church” with an “aim to shed more light on why Americans’ relationship to churches is changing and help Christians discern a faithful direction forward.”

According to Barna, the State of the Church 2020 report, a study of the long-term cultural changes in the U.S. over the last two decades, is comprised of 96,171 surveys collected during the period.

This body of data, Barna says, offers “powerful insight into the changes happening in terms of faith practice, such as church attendance, Bible-reading and prayer.”

From this body of research, Barna says, “emerges is a nuanced portrait of people trying to figure out what faith means in the 21st Century and the role of Christianity in their lives. And while key markers of religiosity have diminished overall, there are some signs of steadiness among committed Christians that stand in contrast.”

Overall, the report concludes that “Christianity in the United States has undergone dramatic change in the last few decades,” including “the manner in which Americans relate to Christianity.”

Barna has identified what it calls “three segments” of Christianity in America: practicing Christians, non-practicing Christians and non-Christians.

  • Practicing Christians self-identify as Christian, attend church at least monthly, and consider faith very important.
  • Non-practicing Christians self-identify as Christian but based on their observances don’t qualify as practicing.
  • Non-Christians are U.S. adults who don’t identify as Christian.

The decline of the practicing Christian segment, Barna suggests, is “perhaps the most significant change” the research has revealed thus far.

Over the last two decades, Barna says, the decline among practicing Christians was about evenly distributed between the non-practicing and the non-Christian segments. Half of the practicing Christians “fell away from consistent faith engagement, essentially becoming non-practicing Christians (2000: 35 percent vs. 2020: 43 percent), while the other half moved into the non-Christian segment (2000: 20 percent vs. 2019: 30 percent). This shift also contributed to the growth of the atheist/agnostic/none segment, which has nearly doubled in size during this same amount of time (2003: 11 percent vs. 2018: 21 percent).”

David Kinnaman, [cq] president of Barna, commented that the group’s practicing Christian measure is unique from other religious researchers which measure practices such as church attendance in isolation. The Barna Group, he said, “combines three variables: calling oneself a Christian, strongly prioritizing faith and regular church attendance.”

“The net effect shows the major reshuffling of Americans’ spiritual lives,” Kinnaman said, calling the change a shift that “has major repercussions for church leaders as there is increased struggle to attract and retain the active segment of churchgoers.”

Despite the decline of engaged churchgoers, Kinnaman offered an optimistic assessment of American Christian church involvement:

“While the decline of Christian engagement is real, the data remind us that one-quarter of the population qualifies as a practicing Christian. This represents more than 80 million adults – a level of churchgoing that is a statistical outlier among affluent and educated societies.”

Photo courtesy: Sarah Noltner/Unsplash


Tim Tune is a freelance journalist based in Fort Worth, Texas. His work has been published by Baptist Press, as well as the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Business PressArlington Today magazine and other North Texas publications.

WISDOM MOM WISDOM

 
 
I was just talking with a fellow Warrior about how accepting something on an intellectual level doesn’t mean that the emotional component subsides. In fact, the two sit side by side each other as if two strangers on a sub-way with not enough space on the seat. It’s almost as if, however, that we think that the intellectual realization of something should make the emotional aspect more bearable. It doesn’t.  In fact, sometimes, the intellectual realization of something makes the emotional aspect more intense. You see, before we realized something on an intellectual level, we may have been oblivious, and almost a little more protected (in our ignorance) regarding the degree of the emotional pain or discomfort that something was causing us.

Wow, that was a mouthful – or a heart-full. This concept hit me about a year ago, and I was excited about it. I felt a little more powerful, a little more-free, less confined when I realized that the intellectual knowledge of something doesn’t mean that I exist in an emotional free reality. Until I realized that the two concepts are almost like oil and water, I walked around confused and exhausted trying to shake the two together, thinking that “Since I now knew something, I should feel better about it.”

I mean, “Now that I have the intellectual answer to something, I should feel a sense of resolution about this issue.” I have to say that learning the “reason,” i.e. the intellectual answer to something, does help a little; it at least sheds some light on the topic and lessens the confusion of why I feel or act a certain way, but it sure doesn’t mean that “Now that I officially know why I’m upset doesn’t mean I’m automatically not upset anymore.”

I just wanted to share this because you may be walking around wondering why, now that you know the reason to something, why in the world are you still upset by it? Gaining knowledge doesn’t mean we gain super-human powers to feel less emotional. In fact, maybe we become more emotional once we understand the issues. They goal then, at this point, is to go to God with it and say, “Okay, God, I now know that the reason I have been so upset is because _______________. Will You now help me manage my emotions surrounding this new-found knowledge.   And can you give me a new sense of insight and healing surrounding this new-found knowledge?  I can’t merge the two concepts.  Will You merge, create, and fold together the two concepts within me and make me anew?”

The cool thing about God is He can do it! For example, I remember being extremely crushed over some medical news. I was so distraught that I told God, “Okay, my heart is shattered in a million pieces over this. I don’t even see how even, You, God, can put my heart back together.  After all, some of the pieces of my heart are dust – not even pieces anymore.”  To this God responded, “I will give you a new heart, one that is more equipped to handle what I am asking you to handle.” I almost chuckled. “Of course, You will give me a new heart. You are God.  You aren’t bound by my old heart’s limits, by my mentality, or by my despair.  You are God! You can give me a brand new upgraded, stronger, more steadfast, faith-filled model of a heart because you are God.”

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

 

 

Ezekiel 36:26

I kind of felt like chuckling at that moment because I realized that God is God;   He can take the oil of intellectuality and lovingly shake and mix it with the water of my emotional tears and cleanse my soul with insight, equip me to endure, and encourage me with His wisdom.

All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.

Isaiah 28:29

And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11

Kristina Seymour loves to encourage and equip women through the Word and through community. She is the author of The Warrior Mom Handbook, The Warrior Mom Leadership Manual, and The Warrior Wife Handbook; they are available at Amazon.com. Kristina’s Bible studies are for women who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. She has learned that women can’t survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about Kristina, please visit her website, https://kristinaseymour.com/God loves to share His story of love and grace through us all, and Kristina believes that everyone has a story to tell.