Issue #76

Jesus' Love for the Marginalized, Honor-Shame Culture and the Gospel, the Contradiction of Healing Prayer, and more...

Issue #76
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

Read and Reflect 📖

Churches Hear the Call of Creation | Bekah McNeel 📃 →

When Michael Martin accepted the pastor position at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship, he expected he’d preach, pray, counsel, marry, bury, baptize, and otherwise shepherd the flock at the Evangelical Free Church in Baltimore.

He didn’t plan on becoming an urban forest keeper.

“It took a minute,” he said, laughing at the evolution of his ministry.

Gary Koning knows how that goes. What started as a pretty typical stream clean-up effort has completely altered his congregation at Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“From one thing it has grown to another and another,” said Koning, now an expert on watershed macroinvertebrates.

The two men don’t know each other and don’t have any common connections. But in their separate churches, and their separate callings, they both found that being faithful in ministry meant taking care of nature. Christ’s call to “feed my sheep” required tending the patch of earth where their churches were standing. While not every congregation, or every Christian, has a literal garden to tend, Martin and Koning’s ministries offer examples of what the sometimes-abstract concept of “creation care” can look like taken seriously.

Amid the pandemic, social upheaval, and generational shifts in church membership, both pastors have seen how the special relationship between God and nature, a communion reflected throughout Scripture, has given new life to their congregations.

This article was well-written and certainly interesting. The original call of humanity was to flourish and spread the Garden of Eden throughout the world. In a way, these churches are doing the work of the garden to care for and help creation flourish. Beautiful things reflect our beautiful creator and savior, and helping nature become beautiful again is deeply Christian work.

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Consider the Culture 🎨

6 Things Christians Should Know about Gen Z | Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 📃 →

The leading edge of Gen Z turns 25 this year, which means this cohort is starting to graduate from college, get jobs, and rent apartments. They’re old enough to drink alcohol, vote, rent a car—and walk into your church.

Research tells us that Gen Z is less likely to read the Bible than previous generations. They’re also more likely to go to college, believe the government should do more to solve problems, and have a TikTok account.

They live in a digital world that changes rapidly—if they spend a few days offline, they don’t know the jokes their friends are giggling at. As a result, Gen Z isn’t as cohesive as previous generations: the cultural references and growing-up experiences of a 25-year-old aren’t the same for a 19-year-old, and are different again for a 14-year-old.

But they aren’t inaccessible. They clearly see the brokenness of the world. They’re not afraid of hard questions about the meaning of life or the pursuit of justice. They’re looking for community. And all of those things are found in the gospel.

Gen-Z is the first generation that doesn’t remember a world before the internet was popular and prevalent. Even the oldest was in elementary school when the iPhone (and social media) launched. Understanding their world will help us reach them.

Listen and Learn 🎧

Honor-Shame Culture and the Gospel | Tim Mackie and Jon Collins 🎧 →

American Christians don’t live in an honor-shame culture. It’s hard for us to understand the idea of honor and shame in the community being a fundamental value, but for many people, it’s the air they breathe. That was the case for the New Testament authors. The BibleProject crew of Tim Mackie and Jon Collins walk us through how understanding Greek and Roman honor-shame culture can help us understand the apostles' letters.

Key Takaways
– Most people in the ancient Roman world were simply trying to survive. With no wealth and no political power, the message of the Gospel would have stood in stark contrast to the “good news” of Rome.– The ancient Roman world was an honor-shame culture, and this should affect how we read and understand Paul’s letters in the New Testament. – Much of the disagreement in interpreting the New Testament today comes from differing opinions on what elements of the letters should be interpreted through the lens of cultural context.

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Consider Another Perspective 🤔

Does God Really Want Everyone to Be Happy? | Austin Bonds 📃 →

How about God? Does God want you to be happy? Indeed. Consider Psalm 37:4, an invitation from the Almighty to intently and earnestly seek happiness. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Jesus echoes the psalmist. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Take note of how these verses are structured though. First, make God first. Delight yourself in him first. Seek him first. Second, receive his gift.

Sadly, we tend to neglect the former and become consumed with the latter.

This must change.

Watch and Wonder 📽

Is There Medical Evidence for Miracles? | Craig Keener, Michael Shermer, Elijah Stephens, and Justin Brierley 📽 →

Elijah Stephens wrote and directed a recent documentary on the reality of modern miracles called Send Proof. In this discussion, he and professor Craig Keener talk with skeptic Michael Shermer (who’s also a part of the documentary) about the possibility of miracles and what would count as evidence for one.

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Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Jesus’ Love for the Marginalized of the World | Thomas Schreiner 📃 →

Francis Schaeffer wrote a commentary on Luke titled No Little People. What a striking and fitting title for the third Gospel because it is clear in reading Luke that he had a particular concern for the little people, for the so-called nobodies in the world. Of course, this concern for the marginalized wasn’t fundamentally Luke’s. The beloved physician records Jesus’s love for those who are neglected by the rich and the powerful. The influential are identified by C. S. Lewis as “the inner ring”—those who walk in the corridors of power. But Jesus was particularly concerned about the “outer ring”—those who lack social prestige and influence. We, by way of contrast, are inclined to give our attention to and serve those with influence and power, to praise those who wield influence in the world, those who are celebrated in society.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

The Contradiction of Healing Prayer | Rachel Roth Aldhizer 📃 →

I grew up Presbyterian, and I think I learned implicitly somehow not to pray for healing. God’s will seems so vast and unchanging and unbending that why even supplicate, especially for something as fleshly and worldly as an ailment? My good health and my shining youth, I think, made this an easy position.

I took my little son to a healing prayer service the other night. I would have balked at this a year earlier, but I know much less now than I did about Big Things. I saw a room full of old people, ailing people, and people who came alone to sit in the back. I am like these people. I am not coming alone, but I am carrying a little boy with many ailments. Too many ailments to list, and the list seems both fleshly and otherworldly at the same time. The Book of Common Prayer tells us ailments are a sign of the Lord’s visitation. “Wherefore, whatever your sickness is, know that it is certainly the Lord’s visitation.”

What sort of Lord both visits the sick and sends sickness to visit?

If we pray for healing, and as Sufjan Stevens sings in a song I like, “Tuesday night, at the Bible study, we lift our hands, and pray over your body, and nothing ever happens,” and if nothing does ever happen, are righteous prayers not working? Are they not powerful?

Perhaps the sustenance of God, the healing of God, goes much deeper than I can see. David is still blind, and he still has a cleft. But perhaps, or I would say, certainly, God is sustaining his every breath. I am not sure of the length of his life lease, or mine, or my husband’s, or my other childrens’, another of which I am carrying now. But the healing of God, his salvation, is much deeper than the skin marred by sin. It is now in our souls and bones. We are baptized; we are marked.

I wonder if the disciples prayed for healing when Christ was on the cross. What a futile prayer it must have seemed. And then he died, and there was a stone, and in the darkness all seemed lost. What righteous prayers worked then? But where their eyes could not see, Christ had defeated death, and broken light into all the darkest spots, not least my own heart. And so it could be that we look for healing in the wrong place. Our physical bodies may be healed of some things and not others, but they will have a certain end. Christians can say that the end is just our beginning, and when I touch the bread and the wine to David’s lips, I feel like the friends of the lame man lowering their friend down the roof to Christ. I have nothing to offer this little boy, no more words, and no more prayers, but I can lift him down to Christ, cut a hole in the roof of my heart, and know the end of David’s story isn’t in just healing but his story ends and begins in the person of Christ, our friend and our brother.

Such a beautifully written story of pain and trust.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.
— Hebrews 12:1 (CSB)

Joel Fischer