How Can We Be Sure God Hears Our Prayers?

Talk of prayer is evident in the Christian home, church, and Holy Bible. We talk about prayer as a means of gaining wisdom, making important decisions, and otherwise living life as God desires for us. Why?

There are numerous examples of people using prayer in the Bible for the same reasons. In some of these instances, prayer is evoked to bring about healing over physical or emotional ailments and even victory over enemies in battle. We can conclude then that prayer at some level is a conversation between the person (or persons) praying and God. Yet, in order to fully comprehend prayer, there first needs to be an understanding of communication.

Communication is the basic foundation for any relationship, friendly, romantic, business. Humans utilize communication through spoken language and also nonverbal body language. Communication is vital in the life of a Christian, not just in how we relate to other people, but more importantly to God. Our language, spoken or otherwise, constantly affects our relationship with Him and our ability to live out His commandments.

At its root, there are three pieces to communication: “the sender, the message, and the recipient.” In prayer, Christians alternate between the roles of sender and recipient. When we operate as the sender, we pray to God seeking some sort of spiritual discernment. We send a message, which God receives. When God answers our prayers, we become the recipient, taking in the message that He sends.

Studying communication explains how prayer fosters a relationship between ourselves and God, and with other people. However, this does not explain the need for prayer in the Christian life. Nor does having communication with God mean He is listening to us. How are we to be sure? For these answers, we must turn to the Bible for insight.

Does God Hear Our Prayers?
We know that prayer is our way of communicating with God. The Bible helps us to further this understanding by giving us examples of how others pray and what they prayed about. One great example comes from Matthew 6 when Jesus presents the Lord’s Prayer. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus draws a comparison between true believers and hypocrites. He calls for those following His teaching to not pray out in the open to be seen and admired by others (Matthew 6:5).

Instead, Jesus advocates for a more personal and intimate conversation with God, one that does not to be heard by others to be heard by God. Important to note is that Jesus does not say to only pray in private, but that public prayer done for admiration is wrong. In this sermon, He goes on to recite the Lord’s prayer which embodies all the reasons why Christians pray.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

Jesus himself informs us of our greatest responsibilities as Christians (Mathew 22:34-40). With this in mind, we can confirm that prayer helps us to live a life dedicated to loving God and others. When we pray, we make our requests known to God, which helps us efficiently live out our responsibilities. Thus, according to Jesus, prayer is intimate, personal, and often private. When we pray, we may seek things to benefit ourselves, but any and all things should redirect us to fulfilling the first and second greatest commandments.

This explains why we pray to God. We pray because of who God is, our Father in Heaven, the one who grants us salvation, the one who guides us through life. We pray in order to live out His will as He has deemed for believers. Like Jesus, there were many figures in the Bible who used prayer to communicate with God. We can follow all of their examples of how to pray, when, and what to communicate to God.

One question still remains though, how do we know God hears our prayers. The Bible too answers this.

How Do We Know That God Hears Our Prayers?
The entirety of the Bible can be read as a love story, a story of God caring so much about humanity that He sacrificed His son in an act of redemption. How do we know God hears our prayers? He loves us.

We know that God hears our prayers because of the prayer accounts presented in the Bible. People tell the story of God answering their prayers, how they prayed, and what they prayed about. The aforementioned example of Jesus in Matthew 6 is just one account of many. And there are lines in the Bible of God himself speaking, that reaffirm He hears our prayers.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Not being able to hear God as we would another person does not mean we cannot find Him. We also don’t pray to other people, meaning our relationship with God is bound to look different. Our relationship with God is governed by our faith and not by our ability to see Him or audibly hear him (2 Corinthians 5:7).

This information lets us know that God hears our prayers. We can look at the evidence in the Bible and the evidence in our own lives of God answering our prayers. God may not act when we want, or exactly how we want, but God does act when we pray according to His will. Knowing that God hears our prayers makes us better equipped to communicate with Him.

What Can We Learn from the Way People Prayed in the Bible?
Prayer Is Honest

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?”
(Psalm 13:1)

Psalm 13 is a great reflection of the human experience of suffering. David prays to God with questions. He is not only seeking insight, but deliverance. His words show that he is not approaching God timidly, but openly bearing his anguish. His words are so dramatic as to question God. Nonetheless, David ends on an upbeat note, saying that he will remain trusting in God.

When we pray, we can share with God our positive experiences, as some of the psalms reveal. However, we can also talk to God about our suffering. Much like the conversations we have with peers, everything we discuss does not have to be positive. God wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives, including the moments of despair and desperation.

Prayer Is Constant

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

We are called to pray every day. Much like any relationship with a person, what we invest in our communication is what we will get out of the relationship. The more we commune with God the stronger our bond. There is no time limit the Bible issues on prayer. Quite the opposite. As Christians, when we learn to pray without ceasing, we will begin to see God is all aspects of our lives. However difficult, the benefits are worthwhile.

Prayer Is Not Instantaneous

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Paul serves as a great example of someone who prayed for God to deliver Him from suffering, but God did not. God had His reasons, and Paul was fortunate enough to learn why. When we pray, God may not answer certain prayers when we want, how we want, or at all. We have to trust His reasoning and timing.

Prayer Brings Healing

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)

Prayer has the power to bring about miracles, whether God is performing the miracle Himself or working through someone. As we seek to bring God’s kingdom to Earth, our prayers for spiritual discernment will put us on the path God sees fit. All the while we can include in our prayers, moments of gratitude, thanking God for the highs and lows of life knowing that He is present always.

The Lord’s Prayer

There are many aspects of prayer. Ultimately, we can conclude that prayer is vital for a relationship with God. Prayer allows us to communicate with Him in a way we do not with other people. Through our words and our actions, we have the ability to live a life that is God-centered like Jesus, or not. Part of power resides in prayer. With this in mind, we can recite the Lord’s prayers with greater wisdom as to how we pray and why we should.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)

Amen.

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Is It Biblical to Say “the Lord Gives, and the Lord Takes Away”?

You might have sung the verse in church or heard it at a funeral, perhaps as a way to explain the inexplicable: The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

But what does this phrase actually mean? Is it biblical, and does it accurately describe the nature of God?

While the term “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” is biblical in that it does appear in the Bible, uttered by Job in a seemingly worshipful, accepting manner after his family and possessions are destroyed, it’s important to understand that it does not necessarily reflect the truth of who God is in relation to his love for humanity.

What Does It Mean, “the Lord Gives and the Lord Takes Away?”?
We find the phrase in Job 1:21, after Job—a man described as blameless and upright, who loved God, shunned evil and was the greatest among all the people of the East (vv. 1-2)—lost his 10 children, thousands of livestock, and countless servants in a single day. This came some time after God and Satan were said to have argued over Job’s character. God described Job as God-fearing, but the devil said Job was only so fearful and righteous because all had gone well for him. God then granted the devil power over all Job had, though He said the devil could not hurt the man himself (v. 12).

When the cursed day arrived and Job did indeed lose everything, he was devastated. He tore his robe, shaved his head, and worshipped God, crying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

Essentially, Job is acknowledging that despite what happened, God is sovereign. He rules over all and has all under control, and this appears to bring Job comfort. He does not blame God for any of this.

Is the Phrase “the Lord Gives and the Lord Takes Away” Biblical?
On one hand, the verse is biblical, meaning these words are indeed contained in the Bible. It is a statement uttered by a righteous man of God in the face of calamity. He’s lost it all, and he clings to the powerful nature of the Almighty God, who created us in the first place and gave us all the blessings we possess. It is a way Job is attempting to worship God, praising God’s stable and triumphant rulership when all else is lost.

And indeed, on the surface, there is truth in this. Genesis 1:1 tells us God “created the heavens and the earth” and went on to create all things in them—people, animals, planets, seas, stars, and more. Revelation 22:13 proclaims God as “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Elsewhere, we are reminded of God’s sovereignty. Colossians 1:16-17 tells us that in God, “All things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Ephesians 1:11 says much the same, noting, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

But taking a look at the entire book of Job gives us more context and understanding of the verse, which should not be read and interpreted on its own.

While at first Job praises this sovereign God who gives and takes away, later more destruction occurs. He is plagued with painful sores, and his wife and friends begin to falsely accuse him of bringing these sorrows upon himself—perhaps his sin prompted God’s retribution.

Soon, Job sinks into a depressive state. His view of God as one who would arbitrarily give and take away translates into despair. He sees it as an abuse of power, this God who destroys at will, seemingly for the fun of it. He moves away from God, and begins to see God as an enemy unworthy, perhaps, of his adoration.

As he finally utters in Job 30:20-22, “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me. You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm.”

But ultimately, Job repents of this perspective. He understands he cannot define God as cruel or arbitrary. He cannot even say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (Job 3:21).

As he reflects in Job 42:3-6, “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’”

Is Everything That Happens to Us because of God’s Will?
God does indeed have a plan for the world. He has a purpose and a will. And on one hand, God Almighty, who is all-knowing and all-encompassing, is indeed sovereign over everything. But not everything that happens is God’s will. For instance, God does not want us to sin, yet we do. In the case of Job, God was clearly delighted with Job, but while He didn’t cause the calamity to happen, He did allow the devil to do as he wished in the man’s life.

We cannot understand the ways of God, as Job ultimately concludes. But we do know God orchestrates all according to His ultimate purpose, no matter what.

As Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Why Does God Take Away?
It’s important to know that God’s plan is not for humans to live separated from Him by sin forever. He gave us temporary bodies on purpose, knowing that if we chose the true path—His Son, Jesus—we would be blessed with eternal life in heaven, where tears, sadness, and pain do not exist. Bad things do happen, but God uses them for His good purpose. And we can take comfort that when these bad things do happen, this world is not the end. Heaven is our ultimate destination. And the bad things we experience on earth enable us to be prepared for ministry in a deeper, more compassionate way.

We might not understand God’s reasons or even begin to understand a kernel of His plan, but we can trust that He loves us. We can trust that He makes a better way for us—a life removed from the sinful world and all its death and destruction.

A Prayer to Faithfully Trust God’s Plan
If you are in a place where bad things are happening to you or around you and you cannot fathom why a good and loving God can seem to give and take away, can seem to bless and curse in the same breath, here is a prayer that might help:

Father God, help us remember the words of Your servant Job, who understood after all his painful experiences that Your ways are beyond comprehension. I am but a human being, sinful and without full understanding. Some things are simply, as Job said, too wonderful for me to know. Help me, Lord, to trust that You are almighty. You created the world, and You have a plan that is being fulfilled. I might not be able to see it or even define it, but I put my faith in You, resting in the perfect peace that You are in full control. I surrender all to You. In Your holy and precious name I pray, Amen.

God knows all, sees all, and encompasses all. As God said through the prophet Isaiah, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We can indeed trust God in good times and in bad. We are given this life, and breath in our lungs. Because of God’s great mercy and love, we are also given eternal salvation through His Son, Jesus.

This world and its happenings are not the end.

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Is It Okay for Pastors to Have Doubts about Their Faith?

We doubt the promises God has made. We doubt the abilities God has gifted us with. We doubt the provision God has over our lives. We doubt that God has joy set apart for us, because our current suffering doesn’t seem as appealing as our neighbor’s prosperity. We doubt that God is working out all things for His good.

Sometimes we just have questions that we don’t have the answers to, and the quest for those answers turns up empty. Yes, we can even doubt God’s existence.

“Spiritual doubt has been a reality of the Christian journey since the disciples — and today is no different,” said Roxanne Stone, managing editor of the Religion News Service and former editor in chief of Barna Group. “Just like first-century Christians, their twenty-first-century counterparts question aspects of their theology, doubt the existence of God, and mourn His seeming absence during hard times. Doubt remains a flip side on the same coin as faith.”

Many Christians, understandably so, seek answers for these doubts both in their own studies of the Bible and from pastors or leaders at their local church. But what do we do when our pastors and church leaders experience doubts as well? They’re supposed to have the answers for us, right?

Pastors Can Have Doubts, Too
First, it’s important to understand that it is normal for pastors to experience doubt.

“I have had doubts and, in fact, sometimes pastors have more doubts than those in the pews, given the pressures pastors face in terms of leadership and the depth of human brokenness pastors see on a daily basis,” said Daniel Darling, a pastor and author in Nashville, Tennessee. “I think most of our doubts center around the mystery of what God is doing in the moment. I think of spiritual leaders in Scripture who doubted like David and Habbakuk and Jeremiah and Paul.

“The key to answering doubts is to rest and remember what we know to be true about God, what we’ve seen him do in Christ, what we know of his goodness and grace. This is where a foundation of thick theology, a reservoir of hymn lyrics, and a community of saints is vitally important.”

While our pastors will indeed have many answers, we cannot expect them to have all the answers. God is a marvelous mystery. He is an infinite being. Our finite minds simply cannot fathom or understand everything about God, nor were we created to.

None of us — even pastors — were given the capacity to fully understand God. This is why we have faith.

Responding to Those Who Doubt
Expecting our pastors to have all the answers is simply unrealistic and puts too much pressure on someone who, like us, is merely human. Pastors are susceptible to the same sins, temptations, heartache, and — yes — even doubts that everyone else is. Oftentimes, as Darling noted, it’s the trying seasons or traumatic events that bring about doubts, even with pastors.

As churchgoers, it is vital that we understand the reality that our pastors can and will experience doubt, and it’s equally important that we pray and support them during seasons of doubt. We must encourage them in their quest for a deeper understanding of who God is and pray for them to find contentment in their limited earthly understanding of God.

“I think churchgoers should welcome a spiritual leader who has doubts in terms of understanding the mystery of what God might be doing in the world,” Darling said. “I think a good shepherd is vulnerable with his own real wrestling with God. Pastors are not content machines or Bible bots, they are flesh and blood people.

“I do think when pastors face doubts, they can model a way to navigate them in ways that help others find their way back to what they know is true. I’d be concerned if a spiritual leader was openly doubting and questioning the basic tenants of the Christian faith. It may be time for a season of rest and stepping away from leadership. But a pastor who has doubts — like David, Abraham, Habbakuk, Jeremiah, Paul — about what God might be doing in a given moment: this is the stuff of real-life as we walk by faith and not by sight.”

When someone expresses doubt in their faith, they are sometimes met with judgment, as if enduring a season of doubt is an affront to God. That misconception can be amplified when the doubt comes from the pulpit. How could a pastor have doubts about God?

Here’s how Adam Weber, pastor of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, put it on Twitter:

“Note to Christians: One of the best answers you can give in response to someone’s questions about God, life, Bible, Heaven,… that you don’t know is: ‘I don’t know,’” he tweeted. “Don’t try and dance around their question. Don’t make up an answer. Thank them for asking and say, ‘I don’t know.’

“You can faithfully search for an answer in addition and share it with humility if you do find answers. I think often we think we lose credibility if we don’t have all the answers to questions. Not true! We lose so much more when we try and sound like we know something that we don’t.”

Not knowing an answer is not always the result of doubt, but accepting that “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer for any Christian will remove any pressure that we might feel to understand it all or seek to understand it all. We simply can’t, and we won’t. And that’s okay.

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Trump Administration Will Spare Bibles from Tariffs on Chinese Goods

The Trump administration has decided to give Bibles a free pass amid an escalating tariff war between the U.S. and China.

In May, Christian publishers began to panic as bibles and other religious texts printed in China, together totaling some 65 percent of the 2018 U.S. brochures and leaflet imports, were set to be slapped with tariffs of up to 25 percent.

On Tuesday, however, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) published two lists of items that will be subjected to a 10% hike in tariff charge starting in September and December respectively — the Bible, USTR said, will be spared from both.

“Bibles and other religious literature are among the items removed from the tariff list and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent,” USTR confirmed to Christianity Today in a statement.

Christian publishers and Bible translators were becoming increasingly concerned by the Trump administration’s refusal to back down from a trade war with China and repeatedly warned that financial restrictions on the printing of the good book would restrict its proliferation across the globe.

“For the past several months, there has been great concern among the Christian publishing community that our important work would be threatened by proposed tariff schedules,” the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, Ben Mandrell, told CT. “Today’s announcement by [USTR] has given us hope that the administration has heard our concern.”

Mandrell did, however, express concern at the word of God being “taken hostage in an international trade dispute.”

Other items that evaded the tariff charge included child safety seats, cranes used in ports and construction, shipping containers and certain types of fish, according to Reuters. Interestingly, rosaries, which are a staple in Catholic religious practice, remain on the earlier tariff list — they will fall victim to a 10% tax when the new charges come into effect September 1.

Still, the decision to axe tariffs on the importing of Bibles has been widely celebrated by Christian leaders. “I am pleased to see today that US tariffs on China will now exempt the Bibles printed in China,” tweeted Russell Moore, President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. The announcement is “welcome news” for many publishers and ministries, he added.

The ERLC also clarified why such an overwhelming proportion of American Bibles are printed in China as opposed to at home in the United States.

“Like encyclopedias and textbooks, Bibles contain a large amount of text that must be formatted to a bound book on thin paper. China has been specializing in this printing technology for decades and is home to the world’s largest Bible-printing company, printing at least 150 million Bibles in 2016,” the ERLC explained. “To import Bibles from a country other than China would require time, extensive quality tests, and higher prices incompatible with the high and consistent demand for Bibles in the United States.”

Source:
https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/will-maule/trump-administration-spares-bibles-from-tariffs-on-chinese-goods.html

The U.S. Church Isn’t Dying and Young People Aren’t Fleeing, Says Myth-Busting Book

You’ve likely heard the conventional wisdom: The U.S. church is shrinking. Teenagers and young adults are leaving in droves. Atheism and unbelief are growing rapidly.

But a new book challenges those assumptions – and even says the truth is exactly the opposite.

The book, Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity Is Actually Thriving in America and the World by author Glenn T. Stanton, asserts that church attendance in the United States is at an all-time high, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population. That includes the colonial days.

Stanton also says Americans are more attracted to Bible-believing churches that discuss sin and salvation than to liberal churches that avoid both topics.

Stanton – the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family – examined multiple studies and bodies of research for the book.

Christian Headlines recently spoke to him. Following is a transcript:

We hear so often that the church is shrinking today – that young people are leaving the faith, and Christianity is disappearing. You say this is not so. Why?

First, as I got into the research while writing the book, I was really surprised how much stronger the data on this topic actually is. It tells this story: The best forms of Christianity, faithful, Bible-teaching churches calling its members to real discipleship and vibrant worship, are holding very strong, even growing in some ways. The most troubling forms, those that’ve compromised on things like the deity of Christ, the historicity of the resurrection, the reality of sin and miracles as well as caving on issues of sexuality, abortion and homosexuality, those churches are hemorrhaging members by the millions and have been for decades. So the story here is a separating of the wheat and the tares, but certainly not a decline of Christianity.

So America is not becoming more secular, more unbelieving?

Not in terms of the people themselves. Yes, our culture seems to be in terms of media, Hollywood and journalists. But when it comes to people themselves, there is certainly not a mass move toward unbelief. I read an article recently from a major conservative news source that said atheism is the largest “religious” group in our nation. Not even close, for goodness sake. The Pew Research Center tells us that only 3 percent of the U.S. population is atheist. Only 4 percent are agnostics. For the people of truth, we can spread a great deal of falsehood. I’m trying to change that through this book.

We hear so much about the growth of the so-called “nones” – those who say they no longer identify with any institutional church. You say these “nones” are not what most people have been told–that they don’t represent a growing population of new unbelievers. Explain what you mean.

The nones are certainly the most misunderstood, and therefore most misreported, part of the story in all of this. Most leading, university-based sociologists of religion explain these are certainly not a new and growing category of unbelievers. The nones are largely those who were never really attached to a church in the first place. They are folks who might have said, “Yes, I’m Methodist” or “I’m Baptist” but they were actually only CEO Christians… Christmas and Easter Only types. Their pastor never knew who they were. But now, based on how survey questions are being asked, they are more comfortable being honest, saying they have no real connection to any institutional church.

Thus, the nones only mark a new categorization, not new unbelievers. Again, like the Harvard/Indiana research and other sources explain, there is not a growing secularization among people in the United States.

We also hear about young people leaving the church in largenumbers–that they are losing interest in matters of faith. You say that’s not true. What did you discover?

This is a very interesting finding of the book. First, we must know that every generation has seen their young people cool their faith practices. If you read the Puritans of the colonial days, they complained about the very troubling secularization of their young people. There never was a golden age of stalwart young believers. Goodness, look at the kids of the parents that had direct, audible intimacy with God. Cain killing Abel could be understood as “walking away from the faith.” The Prodigal Son also. So this age of development has always seen more “independence” in many areas of life. It’s the nature of moving into one’s own adulthood. Nothing new there.

But the truth is that we have more young people, age 18-29, regularly attending church today than in the early 1970s. That was the time of the really remarkable revival of the Jesus Movement. And where are they going? To the more conservative, vibrant evangelical churches.

Young people are not bailing on biblical Christianity. It speaks to the emptiness of the human heart and soul, and it does so to young adults.

People will often tell Christians they need to get with the times, stop talking about sin, miracles, salvation and start accepting things like gay marriage, sexual freedom and abortion or the church will die. You claim the exact opposite is true. Why?

This is one of the strongest and most interesting findings of the book. I included a chapter in the book, one I didn’t originally plan on, entitled “Stick a Fork in It: The Major Fail of Liberal Christianity.” It’s time to call the liberalizing effort in the church a major failure. People are voting with their feet. They are leaving the liberal, compromising churches in massive numbers. Some of those are just tossing the faith while others are going across the street to the more faithful evangelical churches, those that actually believe Christianity is true.

Get this very interesting finding: Two scholars from Columbia University and UCLA investigated where same-sex attracted individuals who attend church, choose to go. To their utter shock –they are very pro-gay researchers –they found that such people are 2.5 times more likely to attend more conservative churches, those holding an unapologetically biblical stance on sexuality. These scholars could not understand why gay- and lesbian-identified folks would choose to go to such “gay-hostile” churches. Well, maybe they find them to be quite kind and gracious, and the Bible teaching and worship enriching to their lives. The very people the rainbow flag-waving “we welcome all” churches are trying to attract are not interested in their liberalizing compromises. We must never forget that people will be attracted to the loving and truthful presentation of Christ’s life-giving Gospel.

What’s happening with the Christian church around the globe? Is there any good news there?

Oh goodness. Philip Jenkins from Baylor University is perhaps the leading sociologist of religion on the global picture. He says the Christian Church is absolutely exploding in most parts of the world, particularly what scholars call the Global South. It is exploding on the African continent, South America, China and throughout many parts of Asia. God’s Word is doing everything but returning void.

It is important for us to have faith in the unquenchable work of the Holy Spirit. What He did at Pentecost, where “many were being continually added to their numbers daily,” He is still doing today. His character and power dictates that He cannot do otherwise. The Church is in very good hands.

So not only is the “church is dying” mantra bad sociology, but it’s also bad theology.

Source:
https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/the-u-s-church-isn-t-dying-and-young-people-aren-t-fleeing-says-myth-busting-book.html

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg Says ‘Church’ is Inspiration for Future of Social Media Site

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he hopes to turn the popular social media platform into a “church” of sorts – a place where users accomplish great things together and influence their community for the better.

“It’s so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter,” he said during a rally for Facebook users who’ve built large community-support groups on the site, according to CNBC. “That’s a lot of of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

He added, “People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity – not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community.”

Zuckerberg continued: “A church doesn’t just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter. A little league team has a coach who motivates the kids and helps them hit better. Leaders set the culture, inspire us, give us a safety net, and look out for us.”

As earlier reported by GH, Zuckerberg earlier this year met with a group of pastors in Waco, Texas to understand more about how churches and faith communities find “deeper meaning” in an ever-changing world.

In a Facebook post, he explained: “I met with ministers in Waco who are helping their congregations find deeper meaning in a changing world … This trip has helped me understand just how important community is, and how we’re all just looking for something we can trust. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all want to find purpose and authenticity in something bigger than ourselves.”

During his trip, which was part of his “Mark’s Year of Travel” campaign, Zuckerberg also met with “young moms … who moved back to their town because they want their kids to be raised with the same values they grew up with.”

Earlier this year, 32-year-old billionaire recently announced he is no longer an atheist, but in fact sees religion as “very important”. Last year, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, met with Pope Francis to discuss ways that technology could help the poor.

Following the visit, Zuckerberg took to social media to shared their admiration for the pontiff’s ability to connect with people of different faiths while remaining true to his own.

“Priscilla and I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican. We told him how much we admire his message of mercy and tenderness, and how he’s found new ways to communicate with people of every faith around the world,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook message.

“We also discussed the importance of connecting people, especially in parts of the world without internet access. We gave him a model of Aquila, our solar-powered aircraft that will beam internet connectivity to places that don’t have it. And we shared our work with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to help people around the world,” he added.

“It was a meeting we’ll never forget. You can feel his warmth and kindness, and how deeply he cares about helping people.”

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Meet the Christian Tech Executive Who Wants to Save Silicon Valley’s Soul

Of all the rituals of modern life that Silicon Valley technologists have burrowed their way into — eating, exercising, communicating, doing the laundry — one ritual that’s stayed largely undisrupted is religion. Despite its other advances, Silicon Valley remains one of the least religious parts of the country.

Vincent “Skip” Vaccarello is trying to change that. A 30-year veteran of the tech industry, Vaccarello was an executive at VisiCorp, an early PC-software-maker, and has been the CEO of Applied Weather Technology and Communications Solutions Inc., as well as a division manager for 3Com. He’s also a Christian, and has spent the last two decades trying to spread the gospel to Silicon Valley’s masses. He’s the chair of the Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast, and the author of “Finding God in Silicon Valley,” a blog containing interviews with prominent Silicon Valley Christians that he is hoping to turn into a book.

I spoke to Vaccarello about his blog, his efforts to evangelize Silicon Valley, and what makes it hard to convert the tech-savvy. Here’s a condensed and edited version of our conversation.

Tech workers in Silicon Valley tend to be young, progressive, and very secular. Is this the hardest community in America to convert?

It is. George Barna [the evangelical pollster] did a survey and indicated that on any given Sunday, less than 5 percent of the people in Silicon Valley go to church. Silicon Valley people are smart skeptics. They also tend to live isolated lives. There are many transplants from other countries and states. Many of those people have not developed deep relationships. They desire to be successful. They want to change the world.

But at the same time, people are very skeptical of Christianity. Among the more successful, there’s a complacency. They think, Life seems great, I’ve got my stock options.

The guiding principle of Silicon Valley seems to be that the world can be perfected through technology. That hope seems to substitute for religious purpose in a lot of the tech people I know. Is that something you’ve seen?

I’d agree with that. I have a friend who did a book called Soul in Silicon, and his conclusion was that Silicon Valley is actually a very spiritual place, but that some of it is what you mentioned — people are, in a way, worshiping technology and success.

What I’ve found is that God is at work in Silicon Valley in the lives of many people. There really is a very committed group of people who have the desire to help others in their faith, who are committed to charity, who want to make the world a better place.

For a lot of people in Silicon Valley, though, the attitude seems to be that doing the work of technological advancement itself is a form of charity — that the world is better because they’re succeeding.

I’ve had many people say that. But people go through setbacks. It might be a divorce. It might be that stock options that were worth millions are now worth nothing. Or maybe they get fired from a job. When that happens, there are opportunities to talk about something that’s more important.

You’re saying there’s a counter-cyclical thing going on? When the tech bubble bursts and things are really bad for Silicon Valley companies, it will be good for Silicon Valley churches?

I do think there are absolutely those opportunities. I remember back in 1989, when the earthquake happened, Silicon Valley churches were packed with people. People were shaken up by it. People were saying, “There has to be something else.”

Skip, what made you decide to take up this cause?

I grew up in the Boston area – loving family, attended a Catholic church. But I was also a child of the late sixties and early seventies. And during college at Harvard, I kind of walked away from faith. Then, about twenty years later, a few people came into my life, and I began to think about faith. During that time, I was mostly building a career and a family. But the birth of our first child, I felt, was a miracle. And then our neighbors invited my wife to church. I was in Paris on business at the time, but she dragged me along when I got back. That was in the mid-eighties.

So I listened to what the pastor had to say, and over the next several months, I investigated the evidence for Christianity and really came to faith. And from that point forward, I really had a desire to live out my faith. So I got together a group of Silicon Valley executives, to say, “Well, how do we live out our faith day-to-day?”

And when did the blog come into play?

I went back to a Harvard reunion in 2008. There was a group of Christians who got together for a discussion, and right after that meeting, we got a book called Finding God at Harvard by Kelly Monroe. That planted a seed in my own mind to do something similar for Silicon Valley. One of [Monroe’s] purposes in writing that book was to show that you can be intelligent and still have faith. In Silicon Valley, a lot of people put material things and their career first, but I found it was really only God who could fill that space.

As a Christian in tech, what do you make of this issue, which seems to be a very contentious one, about start-ups and the homeless? Some tech workers have been publicly disparaging the homeless, saying that they need to get out of the “respectable” communities of Silicon Valley and go somewhere else.

I would hope that someone who is a follower of Christ would approach it differently. We’re to take care of the poor and the homeless.

Say you have a 22-year-old Google employee who is not religious, who is making a lot of money and living in Silicon Valley. How would you approach them and convince them to find Jesus?

There’s probably nothing I could do to convince such a person. It may sound odd, but it’s up to God. My hope is that some of the things I’m doing here will help. Service is one of the important ways to do it. Young people, whether they’re a Christian or not, have a desire to serve other people. That person might have his or her eyes opened if they were to go to a homeless shelter, to CityTeam or Freedom House, and in the process, they say, “Why are you doing this?” And we say, “Well, I’m a follower of Christ, and this is what I’m supposed to do.”

We also live in a little bit of a celebrity culture. I’m hoping that people might see someone like Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of VMWare, and a very committed follower of Christ, that someone might look at him and say, “Well, he’s different.” But if you’re talking about someone that’s happy, with lot of stock options and a cushy job at Google, it’s going to be difficult.

Who would be the ultimate convert? Mark Zuckerberg? Jack Dorsey?

Well, yeah, those are the current heroes. If any of those people were to say, “Okay, I’ve found the key to life,” that’d be great.

But some of it is going to come through service. The deficit that many Christians face is that people look at followers of Christ more for what they’re against than what they’re for.

That’s a big thing, I think. If you ask people in Silicon Valley why they’re not evangelicals, a lot would say, “Because I support gay marriage,” or “Because I support a woman’s right to choose.” How do you get around that?

There are people on the right and the left that are followers of Christ. But it’s unfortunate in some ways that Christianity has been identified exclusively as a right-wing group. When I have discussions with people, I don’t get into politics. To me, it’s not about politics. If someone’s gay, they’re gay, and that’s their lifestyle. I would talk more about the person of Christ.

Part of what’s interesting to me, about all of this, is that Silicon Valley is actually a place with a ton of faith. It’s just not faith in God. It’s faith in technology, in the future, in the power of innovation to shape society. Is there any way in which Silicon Valley might actually be well-suited to a religious revival?

People here live isolated lives. Christianity is about relationships and community. Yesterday, I was interviewing a guy, he’s a biotech guy, he’s brilliant. God has given him the mission in life of helping make the world a better place through biotechnology. He’s been doing stuff that is saving millions of lives with the product his company made.

Other people feel they’re on a mission to change the world in other ways. And maybe they make a billion dollars. But my hope is that when people go through a tough time, they’ll look at the site or read the book, find out more about what it is, and say, “Maybe these people aren’t as crazy as I thought they were.”