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Book Review: The Name Quest

downloadThe Name Quest, by John Avery, is a well-written, exhaustively researched manuscript on the various names of God found in the Bible. Although Avery digs deep into the Scriptures, there is nothing stuffy or erudite about his approach. On the contrary, his prose is both personal and easy to digest.

Avery does more than simply regurgitate information. Because he focuses on the characteristics of God and our relationship with Him, the author draws the reader into the very heart of God. For example, when discussing God as the God of Daniel, Avery beckons, “As we walk through life’s challenges, each one is a new opportunity to know God better. What will people learn about God’s nature from your relationships with Him?”

Many times, Avery reveals the limitless care that God demonstrates to us. For instance, God is the God of Comfort, and He is our Helper, Comforter, and Advocate. Avery states, “He meets us where we are and comforts us.”

Avery often shares personal stories as a testimony to God’s character.  For example, he explains the care of God by relaying a difficult experience he had at school and the way God showed him favor. He said, “God soothed me with a sense of his presence.”

Avery describes the person of Christ as being woven in four threads: Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, and The Suffering Servant. He says that Jesus “linked messiahship with service and suffering”, thus redefining kingship. Avery substantiates this by quoting Jesus in Mark 10:45: “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The Name Quest would be appropriate for personal or group study. It is full of encouragement and life-giving words for all of us. Avery ends his book with the tone existent throughout—by challenging us to be transformed into the image of God. I cannot think of a more fitting goal.

The Opportunities of a Blended Family: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

family lemonade standThere is nothing easy about blending two families together. If there are kids involved, we don’t have the honeymoon period after the wedding to get to know each other. We say, “I do”, and BOOM—instant family. We are thrust into a new family with baggage, diverse personalities, and little time to keep the romance alive.

Are we doomed from the beginning? We can turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade. It all depends on our approach and expectations.

Blended families certainly have challenges, but they also provide unique opportunities for every member of the new family. Here are some:

  1. Two Parents. Many times, children of divorce live in single-parent families. Mom has to be both mom and dad. This puts strain on parents as well as children. Blended families allow children to experience parents working together as partners. It also gives children both male and female role models. With two parents, discipline can be more balanced. Mom now has another adult to support her disciplinary measures and relieve some of the pressure.
  1. Additional Siblings. A blended family can provide that “only child” a new brother or sister. This gives him a playmate and life-long friend. For children that already have siblings, blended families provide additional opportunities to develop social skills with people around their own age.
  1. Diversity. Blended families are diverse in many ways. Individuals contribute their different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences to the family. These provide opportunities to learn from each other. If the two families are ethnically diverse, the opportunities are multiplied.
  1. Conflict Resolution Skills. Chances are that the previous family did not adequately learn how to resolve arguments or disagreements. A new family provides new opportunities to work together and develop conflict resolution skills.
  1. Peace. People that come from families that dissolved may be suffering from broken relationships, pain, and a loss of security. Blended families provide a fresh start. They can foster healing and hope. Parents need to communicate to children that they are committed to their family forever—then act like it.

A blended family can turn lemons into lemonade. It takes intentional work, time, and patience, but the results offer dividends that last a lifetime!

Related Posts:
Parenting Step-Children
Blended Families Podcast

State of Atheism in America

Barna Research just released a report entitled, “2015 State of Atheism in America.” The study interviewed 23,000 adults, of which 8,220 were unchurched. For the purposes of this study, Barna combined atheists and agnostics into one group and called this group, “skeptics.”

The research revealed that there have been some demographic shifts among skeptics in America over the past 20 years. Today:

  1. Skeptics are younger. Today, 34 percent of skeptics are under 30 years old. This is nearly double the percentage from 20 years ago. Additionally, the percentage of skeptics that are 65 years old or older has shrunken by half, to 7 percent today.

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  1. Skeptics are educated. 20 years ago, one third of skeptics were college educated. Today, half of skeptics have a college degree.
  1. Skeptics include more women. The percentage of women that are skeptics is 43 percent, nearly triple the 16 percent of women skeptics in 1993.
  1. Skeptics are more diverse. 20 years ago, whites comprised 80 percent of skeptics. Today, whites represent 74 percent of skeptics. There has been an increasing percentage of Hispanic and Asian skeptics.
  1. Skeptics are more regionally diverse. In 1993, 43 percent of skeptics lived in the West. Today, that percent has shrunk to 30 percent, indicating that skeptics are dispersed more evenly across America.

Some observations:

  • It seems that skeptics are becoming increasingly representative of America—better educated and more diverse. This makes sense. Today, it is more difficult to “peg” atheists and agnostics into a preconceived hole. Skeptics represent every race, gender, and economic status.
  • There is a rising tide of younger skeptics. Although the percentage of the Millennial generation in America accounts for some of the rise in skeptics under 30, it does not adequately describe why the percentage of skeptics in this age group has doubled. On average, younger Americans are simply becoming more skeptical of Christianity.
  • The large increase among women skeptics is a surprise. It used to be that more women attended church than men by a ratio of 9 to 1, but that ratio is rapidly decreasing.

 

What can we do to address the state of atheism in America?

Related Posts
Global Decline of Religiosity
State of Churches in America

State of Churches in America

The church in America is in decline. According to research by Gallup, church attendance in the U.S. has fallen from 62 percent in 1994 to 53 percent in 2012, a 9% loss. One example is the Churches of Christ, which have declined by 9.8% since 1990.

GallupAttendance

Since 1990, the population in the U.S. has grown from 250 million to 320 million, an increase of 22%. If the U.S. population continues to grow at this rate and church attendance continues to decline at its current rate over the next 25 years, it will take approximately 1.6 million new Christians per year just to keep pace with the population growth.

Research by Olson (2005) indicates that new churches grow faster than old ones. In fact, once the average church reaches 40 years of age, it actually begins decreasing.

chart

According to The Christian Post, 4000 new churches are planted each year. However, if we figure that they have an average attendance of 200 people (perhaps an unrealistic assumption), we are still 4000 churches shy of staying even with current trends.

What does this mean? Either we need better methods of evangelism or we need more churches. Perhaps the old adage, “It is easier to have a baby than raise the dead” is an apt lesson in this case. My post, Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America, discusses additional reasons to plant churches.

We need more churches!

Related Posts:
Why Plant Churches?
Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America

What’s the Difference?


Excellent video that begs the question, “What’s the difference” between all of us? Rich, poor, weak, strong–we are all the same in God’s eyes. This is also a fantastic way for your church to spread the love of Jesus.

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

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Stories of Homeless People
Helping Homeless K-12 Students

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