Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do Your Ears Itch?

By Jerry D. Scott
Many Christians are ready to dilute the true Gospel of Jesus Christ with silly superstitions, angel stories, and bizarre worship practices. A lifetime of ministry has allowed me to see fads come and go in the church. I've seen many doctrinal aberrations that time has corrected. The current issue of syncretism (mixing religions) is the most serious problem I have seen. Even so-called “Spirit-filled” disciples are turning to strange doctrine and weird practices because many no longer trust the absolute sufficiency of the Scripture for life and godliness.

Part of this grows out of our celebrity culture. The fact that someone can sing or dance or act does not mean they have anything authoritative to say about politics, climate science, or religious truth. Yet, we are regularly exposed to the pontifications of those like Kanye West, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen. Are they experts? On their art, yes! On other issues? Not in my understanding. The same celebrity worship happens in the Church. An athlete who comes to faith in Christ from a life full of dysfunction is put on the stage in front of thousands of teens within months of his conversion, held up as a role model before the water of his baptism has dried.

There many Christian musicians whose passion for worship is unquestioned but whose Scriptural depth and understanding are frequently slim to non-existent. But, because they enjoy celebrity status in church circles, they have a more profound influence than pastors who carefully study the Word and teach from long hours of preparation. The result is shallow Christians with faith built on experience alone, their focus shifted from the Awesomeness of a Holy God to subjective feelings celebrated by the song writer. That is not to say that all musicians are shallow! Some write and lead out of a life dedicated equally to study of truth and excellence of their craft. Then, too, we cannot ignore the huge influence of media speakers whose words fill up books, who take the stage at conferences, using human interest stories and Oprah-like psycho-babble to explain life to us. Frequently their message is without much Bible content or any theological anchors.

Then, too, some are ‘bored’ by steady, solid, life-changing Truth of the Word, and become fascinated by demons, angels, and psychic phenomena rather than the Word of God. Deep reverence for the Presence of Yahweh is insufficient and all manner of hype is invited into the Church to replace the genuine move of the Spirit. This is not new, but it is a growing trend with nothing but terrible consequences for the health of the Church. The Word speaks of this: "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NIV)

Disciple, love the Truth! Seek out leaders whose lives show integrity. Commit yourself to a church that is more than a ‘show,’ that is Word-centered even as they are innovative, looking for ways to bring the unchanging Truth to the culture in which we live.

As we celebrate Advent, I urge you to go back to the Gospel. Read the “Jesus story” told in Matthew and Luke and let the amazing facts of God’s intervention in history wash over you. Read from John 1 and begin to understand the amazing fact that God became a Man! It’s called ‘the Incarnation!’ God, the Creator, mysteriously and wondrously, moved by love entered this world and was born a baby, lived among us teaching us, died to save us from our sins, and rose again to declare His triumph over sin, death, and Hell.

Hallelujah, what a Savior.

"I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
it is enough that Jesus died,
and that He died for me."

My heart is leaning on the Word,
the written Word of God.
Salvation by my Savior's name,
salvation through His blood."

Jerry D. Scott is senior pastor of Washington Assembly of God Church in Washington, NJ. Read more of Pastor Scott's messages on his blog, "Coffeebreak with the Word" at http://jerryscott.blogspot.com.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Clear Leading Presented Tonight

Actor Rich Swingle will perform his one-man play A Clear Leading tonight in the Ellington Room at Manhattan Plaza, 400 W. 43rd St., New York City at 8pm. There is no charge and no donation will be taken.

The two-act play is about John Woolman, a Quaker preacher who spoke out against slavery more than a century before the Civil War. Swingle's script focuses on Woolman's turbulent youth and includes a "Hot Seat," where Rich stays in character after the presentation to answer questions from the audience for any of the characters in the play.

For more information, contact Rich at http://richdrama.com

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haven Kicks Off New Year

The Haven in New York starts the new year Monday, Jan. 18 at 7 pm with a low-key night of worship and fellowship.

The event will be held at Calvary Episcopal Church, 61 Gramercy Park North, NYC. Join artists from around the city for a night of worship and fellowship. See more details and RSVP here. Regular Monday Night programs begin Jan. 25 from 7 to 9 pm at Calvary Episcopal.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review: Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs

Relationship Therapy for the Believer
By Jerry Starks
Dozens of books have been written to address the issue of a believers frustrations with their lives and with their relationships with Jesus. The bible does describe this relationship as a marriage, but setting up marriage counseling between a human and God? It almost sounds too flippant, too cutesy, too post-modern American.

That was the only way Susan E. Isaacs, writer and performer, could deal with her situation, however, so she did it. “Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir” (Faith Words, 2009) is the memoir of this experience. Isaacs approaches this situation from a solid biblical background, and while she is often startling, she is never disrespectful.

She chronicles her growing up as full of contradictions and confusions. None of her Christian community (family, friends, church) supported her talents for performance and comedy. She was the stereotypical black sheep of her family, always compared with her sister. No one seemed to make any effort to meet her where she was except her non-Christian friends and teachers.

College led to her first relationship, first break-up, and depression. Eventually this developed into anorexia which lasted for years. Over the years she attended several extremely different styles of churches. Reading her story, I was amazed that she didn’t just drop Christianity altogether.

All this history comes as “back story” between her counseling sessions. These sessions are recorded as if she, the counselor, and God were in a room together. Isaacs is completely aware that she is playing the role of God as well as being herself, yet her characterization of God in this situation is reasonable: human enough to communicate to us humans, yet inscrutable enough to be… Other. Her characterization of God is also quite orthodox: you never get the feeling that this Being pretends to be God with Isaacs, and pretends to be Buddha with others or Allah with others or Vishnu with others. Isaacs is quite clear about who she’s arguing with, and that He is the God who is revealed in the bible. Yet, as a humorist, she manages to startle and delight the reader while remaining within the Biblical framework.

The resolution of her counseling process also is reasonable. She finally learns to recognize that her problems have stemmed from her off-balance desires and expectations, and that conforming to God’s pattern really does produce satisfaction. This is a lesson we all need to learn, and sometimes it’s helpful to watch someone else go through the process. That is the major benefit of this book: watching an artist wrestle with God.

You can purchase the book here.

Jerry Starks is associate director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and has numerous acting and directing credits in both secular and Christian productions. He resides in Essex Junction, VT where he is active in the arts ministry at his church.

A review copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

Book Review: Don't Say I Didn't Warn You By Anita Renfroe

You'll Laugh Out Loud and Say 'That's so True!'
By Terry Robins
Many people know Anita Renfroe as the performer of the "Mom Song," or from her appearances on Good Morning America, but are not aware that she is also a talented humorous writer. With her combination of wit and truth, Renfroe touches on topics of motherhood and other conditions of womanhood with hilarious insight that will have any woman laughing aloud as she relates completely to the situations that life throws at her every day in her book "Don't Say I Didn't Warn You" (Voice, 2009).

Renfroe tells it like it is with a twist that makes even finances funny: "....I've had money and I've had no money, and I can tell you from experience that money can, indeed buy you a more comfortable brand of misery." This from her chapter titled "Money Can't Buy You love-But it Can Buy You Chocolate!"

One whole chapter expounds the psychological information one can find by just examining a woman's purse! Who thought so much information could be discovered by investigating what a woman carries around with her every day! It is her "purse-onality," and if you have a friend who tells you she doesn't carry a purse because she doesn't need it, watch out when you ride in her car because her car IS her purse!

Over and over again the reader will find herself (or himself) laughing aloud as she reads about another every day fact or event that is suddenly illuminated in a new way with humor, causing the reader to say out loud, "That is so true!" Want to feel more normal? Make sure you hang out with people weirder than you!

For a break from reading heavy mystery or murder novels, serious self-help books, or shallow romance novels, “Don't Say I Didn't Warn You” offers a fun, light-hearted and even eye-opening escape to a land of pure self-indulgent fun for women (and even some guys) of all ages!

You can buy the book here.

Terry Robins is a retired middle school teacher and serves at her church in the Kansas City area running its drama ministry and cafe and resource center. She has three daughters and four grand children.

A review copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

CITA Sketch Competition Scripts Could Be Performed for Lausanne Congress

Our friend Rich Swingle passed the following along:
Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA) has agreed to use their Sketch Writing Competition as a way for the Media and Arts planning committee to consider material for incorporation into the plenary sessions of the Third Lausanne Congress for Worldwide Evangelization. So some may be performed in Cape Town, South Africa, in October for 4,500 delegates from 200 nations: http://cita.org/site/?page_id=68

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mohler Will Head World Journalism Institute

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., has been appointed to the Francis Schaeffer Chair of Cultural Apologetics at the World Journalism Institute at The King’s College in New York City.

Dr. Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and hosts The Albert Mohler Program, a daily nationwide radio show devoted to engaging contemporary culture with his Bible-based beliefs. He also writes a popular blog.

Mohler received a BA degree from Samford University. He holds a Master of Divinity degree and the Doctor of Philosophy from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at Oxford University (England).

Christianity Today recognized Mohler as a leader among American evangelicals and Time called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

Mohler has contributed to several books including "Here We Stand: A Call From Confessing Evangelicals and The Coming Evangelical Crisis." He served as General Editor of "The Gods of the Age or the God of the Ages: Essays by Carl F. H. Henry."

As the holder of the Francis Schaeffer chair, Dr. Mohler will give a series of lectures to the World Journalism Institute students at its multi-week course on convergence journalism in May in New York. This will be the second series of lectures by Dr. Mohler to WJI students.

The World Journalism Institute’s mission is to recruit, equip, place and encourage Christian journalists in mainstream newsrooms. WJI offers courses, conferences, internship funding, and monographs on the intersection of Christianity and journalism. For more information or to apply for the course, go to www.worldji.com.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ideas Sought for New Banner Art

Our friend Dave Avanzino, one of the authors of the Uncle Phil's Diner dinner theater series passed this along:

Hi there friends in ministry. I'm writing to you because I am in the process of launching a new artwork venture and I could use your help.

I've had the idea to create digital printed banners for some time and finally got the chance to do it before Christmas. Above are images I created for a church in Riverside to show you. Each banner was 4' x 8' and was carried in on a pole.

I am in the process of figuring out sizes, prices, etc. and will be putting together a flyer and website where people can purchase these. If you have any ideas about what you think would be a good direction to go, verses to use, price points, etc., I would love to hear from you. Also, I need to come up with some additional samples so if there is something you are interested in let me know and I will use that idea as a concept that maybe you can use. Thanks so much for your help. I look forward to hearing from you.

You can contact me at davavnzino@yahoo.com or call 714-307-3940.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Start the New Year in Fellowship!

All professional and aspiring actors are welcome to join the Actors Group at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York for a time of work and fellowship 7 pm Monday, Jan. 25 at Ripley-Grier Studios, 520 8th Ave., Studio 16T (between 36th and 37th)!

Bring something to work on: a monologue, audition piece, sides, etc. (First-timers feel free to just bring yourselves.) Come enjoy theater games, skill-sharpening exercises, and work on your craft in a judgment-free environment. Dinner will be provided.

Please RSVP by emailing actors@redeemer.com. See you there! Questions? Contact Kenyon Adams, kenyon@redeemer.com, (212) 808-4460 x1344.

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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