TD Fri. – “A TD Thanksgiving feat. Offerings 8”!

Hey TD!

This Friday is “A TD Thanksgiving feat. Offerings 8”! Woohoo! It’s going to be great time of giving thanks to our ever-so-gracious God through food, fun, fellowship, and Offerings 8! We’ll meet at the Hsiehs’ home at 6:30 p.m. to begin the festivities.

Potluck

Each small group member will bring primarily main dishes and sides, while one person in each group will bring drinks and one person will bring dessert. Let your small group leaders know what you’ll be bringing.

Offerings 8

The theme is “Engage!” and is an invitation for us to engage with God and one another creatively and artistically by giving Him an offering of music, art, writing, reading, recitation, whatever.  You may be hesitant or nervous about giving Him a public offering, but we encourage you take a risk and go for it.  It will not only be a blessing to others, but to yourself as well.  If you haven’t signed up yet, sign up with your small group leaders today!

I posted this interview last with the one and only Jill Carattini month, but it’s a great reminder as to why the arts are an important component to the Christian life and the Christian community.  I’d encourage you to watch it again and respond:

 

See you Friday! – Arthur

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TD Vlog – Michelle & Anabell from Refresh ’18

 

Ravi - Refresh Benson, Evan, Jason, Arthur, Ravi, Anabell, Michelle, Eunice @ Refresh ’18

Greetings from Refresh ’18!

It was a powerful evening with Ravi last night. Hearts were convicted, tears flowed (as maybe you can tell), consciences were seared, and lives were surrendered to our  gracious Lord. In today’s vlog, Michelle and Anabell share a short recap!

Arthur at the EAP – “Christianity is so exclusivistic … believe in it or go to hell. That’s not right nor fair”

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Hey TD!

I just got back from spending an amazing week in Atlanta with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) as a participant in their Emerging Apologists Program (EAP).  What a phenomenal time it was of nurturing my heart, soul, mind, and strength in the Lord and in my ministry in this world. I hope to pass on to you things I’ve learned in the future.

Part of our program was to address a pressing argument against the Christian faith, as well as to participate in an open forum-style Q&A session. The issue I addressed was “Christianity is so exclusivistic. You either believe in Christianity or go to hell. That’s neither right nor fair.” I thought you might be interested in my answer, in case you come across the same question yourself

“Why is Christianity  So Exclusivistic?” (mp3) – Arthur

RZIM @ UC Berkeley: Clarity in a Culture of Confusion

RZIM’s Abdu Murray & Nathan Betts @ UC Berkeley

Hey TD!

Earlier this week, RZIM joined with the Veritas Forum to hold various open forums on pertinent issues of our day on the campus of UC Berkeley.  One of the forums was on Clarity in a Culture of Confusion and was led by Abdu Murray, who was then joined by Nathan Betts during the Q&A.

Abdu gives a compelling talk, which was followed by Q&A. I found the questions to be quite thoughtful and relevant, and thought you would get a lot out of it.

Here’s the legend of questions:

– In the multi-cultural metropolis that is the Bay Area and UC Berkeley, which is a microcosm of that, how do you balance a desire and celebration of diversity with the exclusive nature of truth? – 56:35

– Living in such a secular society, how do we effectively engage with non-Christians in a way that isn’t a debate, but more of a loving conversation? – 1:06.22

– We stand for great diversity on this campus and love it that this campus accepts all kinds of people, from every walk of life.  Why is it that challenging questions like, What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be male or female? What does it mean to be a good citizen?, isn’t valid in light of an exclusive truth? Is there are value to asking questions that only seem to have fuzzy answers that don’t exactly fit with the worldview you’re positing?   – 1:12.26

– How do you reconcile conflicting viewpoints between science and religion? What makes religion more true than modern science? – 1:25.03

– Are there limitations to Christian truth? Are truth and answers the same thing, and if so, does the Christian worldview offer an answer to every question in modern society? – 1:29.28

– Does the Christian worldview offer a resolution to the human condition? – mental disorders/gender dysphoria/disease – is the Christian worldview actually a resolution for those issues? – 1:38.30

– You’ve argued compellingly that truth is important, but it doesn’t seem it will help us very much unless we can access truth.  There are a lot of impediments to doing that – we’re bound inside human minds and cultures with an overload of information. Please speak to that. – 1:45.16

TD Fri. – Guess Who’s Speaking???

Daniel with Ravi

Daniel Zacharias with Ravi Zacharias

No, it’s not Ravi 😦

But we are excited to invite you to come to TD this Friday to hear his namesake! Did you know that Daniel’s middle name is Zacharias, named after Ravi?

Come as we welcome Daniel to come teach for the first time at a Friday TD meeting, as he teaches from Rom. 12:3-5, with a message titled, “Self-Perception and Communal Flourishing.”

Daniel is a gifted thinker, communicator, and serious Christ-follower who will take the baton and lead us as we continue our year’s theme, Renew: Transforming Our Life in Christ.

To get a taste of Daniel’s speaking, here’s the powerful message he gave at this year’s TD Banquet.  It’s one of the best messages I’ve heard this year:

“The Fact and the Fool’s Gold”

In preparation for our time on Friday, please think upon Rom. 12:3-5.  We should have verses 1-5 memorized by the end of this month.  Here it is:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

3For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 

4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 

5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 

See you Friday!

Confessions of a Churchgoer

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Introducing Jill to Almond Green Milk Tea with Boba (or bubble tea, as they say in Atlanta)

Hey TD!

The old maxim says, confession is good for the soul.  As I was reading today’s A Slice of Infinity by my friend, Jill Carattini, I must confess that I too share the same shortcomings that she references in her Slice. Read on, fellow churchgoer, and see if you do too. If so, let’s confess, repent, believe, and let God continue His redeeming work in our lives, so we can share the greatest confession of all:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

– Arthur

Confessions of a Churchgoer

In a world of finger-pointing, Tetsuya Ishikawa paused instead to confess guilt. After seven years at the forefront of the credit markets, he took the idea of a friend to write a book called How I Caused the Credit Crunch because, in the friend’s analysis, “it sounds like you did.”(1) In the form of a novel that discredits the notion of the financial sector as a collaboration of remote, unthinking forces, he admits in flesh and blood that he believes he is guilty, too. Though reviewers note Ishikawa does not remain long with his admission of responsibility, he succeeds in showing the financial markets as a reflection of human choices with moral dimensions and, ultimately, the futility of our ongoing attempts at finding a better scapegoat.

Whenever the subject of blame or fault comes about in any sector of life, whether economic, societal, or individual, scapegoating is a far more common reaction than confessing. Most of us are most comfortable when blame is placed as far away from us as possible. Even the word “confession,” the definition of which is concerned with owning a fault or belief, is now often associated with the sins of others, which an outspoken soul just happens to be willing to share with the world. We are interested in those confessions of a former investment banker/warlord/baseball wife because the “owning up” has nothing to do with owning anything.

Perhaps like many of us in our own confessing, Charles Templeton’s 1996 book, Farwell to God, and the confessions of a former Christian leader, is filled with moments of confession in both senses of the word—honest commentary and easy scapegoating. In his thoughts that deal with the Christian church, it is particularly apparent. Pointing near and far and wide, Templeton observes that the church indeed has a speckled past: “Across the centuries and on every continent, Christians—the followers of the Prince of Peace—have been the cause of and involved in strife. The church during the Middle Ages was like a terrorist organization.”(2) He admits that some good has come from Christian belief, but that there is altogether too much bad that has come from it. He then cites the church’s declining numbers as evidence that the world is in agreement; people are losing interest because the church is failing to be relevant. Pews are empty; denominations oppose one another; the church is floundering, its influence waning—except perhaps its negative influence, according to this confessor.

Paul Klee, City of Churches, pen, pencil, watercolor, paper, 1918.

Of course, many of these confessions regarding the church are indeed riddled with difficult truths that someone somewhere must indeed own. Other assertions are not only difficult to posit as relevant, but are simply dishonest attempts to point blame and escape the more personal, consistent answer. As Templeton determinedly points out the steady decline of attendance in the church as reason to disbelieve, it is unclear how this supports his personal confession that Christian beliefs are untrue. Does the claim of the church’s decline (the veracity of which is debated) say anything about whether Christianity is based on lies, lunacy, or fact? Jesus spoke of those who would turn away, churches that would grow cold, faith that would be abandoned. Moreover, if one is truly convinced that Christianity is an outlandish hoax, isn’t it odd that so much energy is taken in criticizing the church in the first place—as if one had a vision of what the people of God should look like?

Of course, responding to Templeton’s darker admissions regarding the church, I am at times tempted to make a scapegoating confession of my own. Specifically, if I could reasonably judge God by some of God’s followers, I would surely say farewell as well. Like Templeton, I have seen so many lives badly wounded by the pulpit, people trampled by those who call themselves Christians. I have been more disillusioned within the church than I ever have outside of it. Templeton confesses in his book that the church “has seldom been at its best,” and on this point, I couldn’t agree more.(3) But I would also have to add a critical addendum; namely, that I am rarely at my best. I am a part of this church who fails to love well, who says things that hurt, and falls short of its best on a regular basis. But if the church is truly meant to be the place where followers learn to become more like Christ, then I also can’t imagine a better place to be holding such a confession. Failings and all, it is the community that communes with the one who longs most for our human flourishing, who embodies God’s hope for humans at our best. Of the one who meets us in this human place, it was once confessed: “The righteous one shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:12).

It was with such a conviction that G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper seeking opinions on the question “What’s wrong with the world?” in one sentence. “Dear Sirs,” he replied, “I am.” In confessions of dark or disappointing realities, can our own hearts really be excluded? It was with visions of war and brokenness around him that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”(4) It was before the cross scarred body of the human Christ that Thomas confessed, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This, I believe, is humanity’s best confession.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Sathnam Sanghera, “Confessions of the Man Who Caused the Credit Crunch,” The Times Online, April 20, 2009, http://timesonline.co.uk, accessed April 21, 2009.
(2) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996), 129.
(3) Ibid., 127.
(4) Psalm 51:10.

The Key to Living Well?

Hey TD!

What is the key to living well? I believe it is abiding in Christ.  John 15 speaks quite a bit on this:

4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Our friend, Margaret Manning Shull, from Ravi Zacharias Int’l Ministries, recently posted a very valuable article in RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Please read the article below and grow your acumen in abiding in Christ, not only for your sake, but for the sake of all those around you! – Arthur

The Art of Abiding by Margaret Manning Shull

When it comes to exercise many of us ask: “How long will it take?” or “How much do I have to do?” The shorter the duration the better, we hope. Scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have researched the benefits of shorter-duration, high-intensity workouts. They found that the aerobic benefits were just as high as those who had worked out for much longer periods of time.(1) As one professor noted, “If you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”(2) This is good news for all who feel there are not enough hours in a day.

Yet, as good as this news may be for some, I am increasingly nervous about all the schemes and strategies to make one’s life more efficient. From the One Minute Manager to the One Minute Workout the short-cutting of our lives appears endemic. If one needs a quicker, faster, shorter version, there is an app for that. But I worry about what happens to our aptitude for endurance in the elevation of the efficient?

Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra, oil on canvas, 1872.

By contrast, author Malcolm Gladwell argued in his book Outliers that ten thousand hours of deliberate practice are needed before one can become good at some things. He cites Mozart, Bill Gates, and the Beatles as examples of brilliant artists and inventors whose patient practice and discipline began at an early age.(3) In fact, many artists suggest that their creative expression is something that must be practiced—exercised, as it were, just like any muscle. Significant achievement—in any area—is realized when bounded by discipline, and a tireless commitment to practice, routine, and structure. The painter, Wayne Thiebaud, once said that “an artist has to train his responses more than other people do. He has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom.”(4) Sadly, Thiebaud’s and Gladwell’s views are often the minority report in our hurried age.

Assumptions about growth in the spiritual life often parallel these assumptions about efficiency. Often, the drive to see measurable results creates unrealistic expectations. We often want a One Minute Spiritual Life that still yields unbounded growth and instant transformation. We expect the constant flow of “good feelings” surging through us. If we do not experience these things, or if we don’t perpetually experience something novel and instant from the rhythm of worship, prayer, or study, then we believe that something isn’t right. Sadly, we eschew the repetitive nature of discipline and routine.

Ritual, discipline, commitment, and structure seem impediments to growth, rather than the soil in which spiritual growth is nourished and fed. The drive for efficiency lures us into wanting a spiritual life more like osmosis—a process over which we have little control or responsibility.

There are not three easy steps to a vital spiritual life, nor an efficiency guide to greater transformation. And in his life and ministry, Jesus makes this connection between growth and discipline. In the gospel of John he exhorts his followers to “abide” in him—literally to rest and to take nourishment from the life Jesus offers.(5) Rest is the opposite of the efficient. In addition, he describes abiding in terms of love and obedience. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”(6) Jesus insists that joy flows from a life of discipline and obedience that includes keeping his commands. They are not separate endeavors, but intimately enjoined to produce abundant life.

How ironic this statement seems when most of us do not associate joy with discipline or endurance! Our daily living often feels like monotonous routine. We can understand the desire to find a short-cut that brings excitement or instant results. But joy cannot be reduced to a feeling, nor is it dependent on the whims of our personalities. Joy is the result of a life lived in the rhythm of rest, routine, and discipline. Following in the way of Jesus can sometimes feel both tedious and difficult, as surely it is both tedious and difficult at times. But disciplined obedience is not a blockade to fullness of joy, but rather a doorway that opens into the abiding presence of God. There, we encounter one who produces something beautiful that remains.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Gretchen Reynolds, “One Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion,” The New York Times Blog, April 27, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(2) Ibid.
(3) As cited by Timothy Egan in “The One Minute Life,” The New York Times, May 13, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(4) As cited in Clint Brown, Artist to Artist: Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past & Present (Corvalis, OR: Jackson Creek Publishers, 1998), 87.
(5) John 15:4-5.
(6) John 15:9-11.