A dog walks into Western Union and asks the clerk to send a telegram. He fills out a form on which he writes down the telegram he wishes to send: "Bow wow wow, Bow wow wow." The clerk says, "You can add another 'Bow wow' for the same price." "But," the dog responded, "wouldn't that sound a little silly?"
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Fog by Carl Sandberg
The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.
Americans Have Commitment Issues, New Survey Shows April 18, 2006 – The Barna Group http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrowPreview&BarnaUpdateID=235
(Ventura, CA) – More than seven out of ten Americans (72%) claim they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today. But a survey examining some of the other commitments that adults make – and avoid – suggests that people are inconsistent in their spiritual perspectives.
Lowering the Bar on Church Commitment
While nearly half of the adult population attends religious services during a typical week, people’s conceptual bond to the local church remains tenuous. Fewer than one out of every five adults firmly believes that a congregational church is a critical element in their spiritual growth and just as few strongly contend that participation in some type of community of faith is required for them to achieve their full potential.
Only 17% of adults said that “a person’s faith is meant to be developed mainly by involvement in a local church.” Even the most devoted church-going groups – such as evangelicals and born again Christians – generally dismissed that notion: only one-third of all evangelicals and one out of five non-evangelical born again adults endorsed the concept. Only one out of every four adults who possesses a biblical worldview (25%) agreed with the centrality of a local church in a person’s spiritual growth.
Just as few adults (18%) firmly embraced the idea that spiritual maturity requires involvement in a community of faith. The subgroup that showed the greatest devotion to spiritual growth through belonging to a faith community – Revolutionaries – is, ironically, the group often accused of seeking to grow independent of community ties. Adults who possess a biblical worldview were twice as likely as those who do not have such a perspective to acknowledge the importance of community in spiritual growth. Even so, only one-third of those who see life through a biblical lens embrace the necessity of growth in the company of other believers.
Commitment to Changing Lives
While most Americans contend that they want their lives to matter, a minority (44%) strongly affirms their commitment to “personally make the world and other people’s lives better.” One unexpected outcome was that such a commitment was more evident the older a person was: one-third of those under 40, half of Baby Boomers, and nearly three out of five people 60 or older felt strongly about this duty. Revolutionaries (59%) and evangelicals (57%) led the way among the religious segments studied. In comparison, barely one out of every four atheists and agnostics (27%) were committed to improving the world.
Devotion to God
A slight majority of Americans (54%) said they are so committed to “having a deeper connection with God” that they would “do whatever it takes to get and maintain that deeper relationship.” Adults 40 and younger were the least devoted to this outcome: less than half (44%) strongly affirmed such a commitment, compared to 58% of Boomers and 63% of older adults.
Among the religious subgroups, Protestants were much more likely than Catholics to have such a mindset (66% versus 50%, respectively). However, within the Protestant sector there was a huge gap between those who attend mainline churches (49% of whom were so committed) and those who attended non-mainline Protestant churches (76% were strongly committed to such an effort).
African American adults also distinguished themselves from people of other backgrounds. Eight out of ten black adults were firmly committed to deepening their ties with God, compared to just 58% of Hispanics, 50% of whites and 20% of Asians. Also, those who are mostly conservative on political issues were twice as likely as those who are mostly liberal on such matters to affirm their investment in their relationship with God.
To some observers, the recent barrage of faith-affirming statistics seems to clash with these measures of limited commitment to faith. George Barna, who conducted the study, felt that the numbers are consistent with the wealth of data on spirituality he has analyzed over the past quarter century.
“These figures emphasize how soft people’s commitment to God is,” Barna explained. “Americans are willing to expend some energy in religious activities such as attending church and reading the Bible, and they are willing to throw some money in the offering basket. Because of such activities, they convince themselves that they are people of genuine faith. But when it comes time to truly establishing their priorities and making a tangible commitment to knowing and loving God, and to allowing Him to change their character and lifestyle, most people stop short. We want to be ‘spiritual’ and we want to have God’s favor, but we’re not sure we want Him taking control of our lives and messing with the image and outcomes we’ve worked so hard to produce."
Barna pointed out that one of the challenges these figures present to church leaders relates to building a more positive community experience. “It is obvious that most Christians in the U.S. do not see much value in a communal faith experiences,” commented the author of more than three-dozen books on faith and culture. “Even though the Bible is unambiguous about the importance of experiencing God through a shared faith journey, and Jesus’ example leaves no room for doubt about the significance of involvement in a faith community, Americans remain unconvinced of the necessity of the collective faith experience. This is partially because the typical church model esteems attendance rather than interaction and immersion, partially due to the superficial experiences most believers have had in cell groups or Christian education classes, and partially attributable to our cultural bias toward independence and fluid relationships. Developing a biblical understanding of the preeminence of community life will take intentional leadership, strategic action and time.”
Research Description and Definitions
The data in this report are based on interviews with 1003 adults from across the nation. These telephone surveys were conducted by The Barna Group, during January 2006, based upon a random sample of people 18 years of age and older living within the 48 continental states. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of adults is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. In the research, the distribution of survey respondents corresponded to the geographic dispersion of the U.S. population. Multiple callbacks were used to increase the probability of including a reliable distribution of qualified individuals.
“Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”
“Evangelicals” meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”
“Revolutionaries” were classified on the basis of meeting 11 specific criteria. They have a clear sense of the meaning and purpose of their life; describe their relationship with and faith in God as the top priority in their life; consider themselves to be "Christian"; read the Bible regularly; pray regularly; deem their faith to be very important in their life; contend that the main objective in their life is to love God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul; describe God as the "all-knowing, all-powerful being who created the universe and still rules it today"; have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life today; believe that when they die they will go to heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; and say that their faith in Christ has "greatly transformed" their life.
The Barna Group, Ltd. (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a privately held, for-profit corporation that conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, weekly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website www.barna.org
"Help me know about Christ because The Da Vinci Code book has got me confused."
Already hundreds of emails like this are pouring in, and with tens of millions expected to see "The Da Vinci Code" movie, even more people will be asking crucial faith questions.
As part of Campus Crusade for Christ's efforts to reach people with the real Truth about Jesus, Josh McDowell has completed a new book entitled The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers. To learn how you can receive your own copy and help place Josh's book into the hands of seekers, click here.
Or visit: http://give2.ccci.org/featured/da-vinci-email
The Lord's Career Advice Or, how to take your job and love it. By Max Lucado
The Lord's Career Advice Image: Stockbyte
Contrast two workers.
The first one slices the air with his hand, making points, instructing the crowd. He is a teacher and, from the look of things, a compelling one. He stands on a beach, rendering the slanted seashore an amphitheater. As he talks, his audience increases; as the audience grows, his platform shrinks. The instructor steps back and back until the next step will take him into the water. That's when he spots another worker.
A fisherman. Not animated, but frustrated. He spent all night fishing, but caught nothing. All night! Double-digit hours worth of casting, splashing, and pulling the net. But he caught nothing. Unlike the teacher, the fisherman has nothing to show for his work. He draws no crowds; he doesn't even draw fish. Just nets.
Two workers. One pumped up. One worn-out. The first, fruitful. The second, futile. To which do you relate?
If you empathize with the fisherman, you walk a crowded path. Consider these sobering statistics from author Dan Miller's 48 Days to the Work You Love:
* One-third of Americans say, "I hate my job."
* Two-thirds of your fellow citizens labor in the wrong career.
* Others find employment success, but no satisfaction.
* Most suicides occur on Sunday nights.
* Most heart attacks occur on Monday mornings.
Many people dread their work. Countless commuters begrudge the 83,000 hours their jobs take from their lives. If you're one of them, what can you do? Suppose you did what Peter did? Take Christ to work with you. Invite Him to superintend your nine-to-five.
Change careers? Perhaps. But until you change, how do you survive? You still have bills to pay and obligations to meet. The problem might be less the occupation and more the outlook toward it. Before you change professions, try this: change your attitude toward your profession.
Give up the boat Jesus' word for frustrated workers can be found in the fifth chapter of Luke's Gospel, where we encounter the teacher and the frustrated fisherman. You've likely guessed their names-Jesus and Peter. Random pockets of people populate the seacoast today. But in the days of Christ, it swarmed, an ant bed of activity. Peter, Andrew, James, and John made their living catching and selling fish. Like other Galilean fishermen, they worked the night shift, when cool water brought the game to the surface. And, like other fishermen, they knew the drudgery of a fishless night.
While Jesus preaches, they clean nets. And as the crowd grows, He has an idea.
He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was [Peter's] and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowds (Luke 5:2-3, MSG).
Jesus claims Peter's boat. He doesn't request the use of it. Christ doesn't fill out an application or ask permission; He simply boards the boat and begins to preach.
He can do that, you know. All boats belong to Christ. Your boat is where you spend your day, make your living, and to a large degree live your life. The taxi you drive, the horse stable you clean, the dental office you manage, the family you feed and transport-this is your boat. Christ shoulder-taps us and reminds:
You drive My truck. You preside in My courtroom. You work on My job site. You serve My hospital wing. To us all, Jesus says, "Your work is My work."
God's eyes fall on the work of our hands. Our Wednesdays matter to Him as much as our Sundays. He blurs the secular and sacred. One stay-at-home mom keeps this sign over her kitchen sink: DIVINE TASKS PERFORMED HERE, DAILY. An executive hung this plaque in her office: MY DESK IS MY ALTAR. Both are correct. With God our work matters as much as our worship. Indeed, work can be worship.
Take Him to work Peter, the boat owner, later wrote: You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, His very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God (1 Pet. 2:9, NLT).
Next time a job application requests your prior employment, write priest or priestess, for you are one. A priest represents God, and you, my friend, represent God. So let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus (Col. 3:17, MSG). You don't drive to an office; you drive to a sanctuary. You don't attend a school; you attend a temple. You may not wear a clerical collar, but you could. Your boat is God's pulpit.
I have a friend who understands this. By job description she teaches at a public elementary school. By God's description she pastors a class of precious children. Read the e-mail she sent her friends:
I'm asking for your prayers for my students. I know everyone is busy, but if you ever can, I know there is power in specifically addressed prayers. Please pray for …
Randy (smartest boy in my class-mom speaks no English-just moved from Washington-blind in his right eye because he poked it with a sharp tool when he was three.)
Henry (learning disabled-tries with all his little heart-it takes him about a minute to say two words-I think he's used to me now, but it was hard for him to keep up at first!)
Richard (a smile that could almost get him out of any trouble-his mom can't be much older than I am-and he's very smart and pretty naughty, just the way I like 'em!)
Anna (learning disability-neither parent can read, write, or drive-they have four children!!! Who knows how they keep it together-colors me a picture every single day, writes her spelling sentences about me, I'm the main character in her stories.)
On and on the list goes. Does this teacher work for a school system or for God? Does she spend her day in work or worship? Does she make money or a difference? Every morning she climbs in the boat Jesus loaned her. The two of them row out into the water and cast nets. My friend imitates Peter. She, however, shows more enthusiasm than he did.
When [Jesus] finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch."
Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets" (Luke 5:4-5, MSG).
Root-canal patients display more excitement. Who can blame Peter? His shoulders ache. His nets are packed away. A midmorning fishing expedition has no appeal. Still, he complies.
In the light of day, in full sight of the crowd, the fishermen dip their oars and hoist the sail. Somewhere in the midst of the lake, Jesus gives the signal for them to drop their nets, and "it was no sooner said than done-a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch" (vv.6-7, MSG).
Peter and his cohorts stand knee high in gills. The catch and the message of their lifetimes surround them. What is the message? Some say it's take Jesus to work and get rich! The presence of Christ guarantees more sales, bigger bonuses, longer weekends, and early retirement. With Jesus in your boat, you'll go from Galilean fishing to Caribbean sailing.
But if this passage promises prosperity, Peter missed it. The catch didn't catch his eye. Jesus did. Though surrounded by scales of silver, Peter didn't see dollar signs. He saw Jesus, the Lord: mighty enough to control the sea and kind enough to do so from a fisherman's boat.
What a scene: Christ amid the common grind, standing shoulder to shoulder with cranky workers. Directing fishermen how to fish; showing net casters where to throw. Suppose you did what Peter did? Take Christ to work with you. Invite Him to superintend your nine-to-five. He showed Peter where to cast nets. Won't He show you where to transfer funds, file the documents, or take the students on a field trip?
A beautiful cesspool Hold it, there. I saw you roll those eyes. You see no way God could use your work. Your boss has the disposition of a pit bull; hamsters have larger work areas; your kids have better per diems. You feel sentenced to the outpost of Siberia, where hope left on the last train. If so, meet one final witness. He labored 18 years in a Chinese prison camp.
The Communist regime rewarded his faith in Christ with the sewage assignment. The camp kept its human waste in pools until it fermented into fertilizer. The pits seethed with stink and disease. Guards and prisoners alike avoided the cesspools and all who worked there, including this disciple.
After he'd spent weeks in the pit, the stench pigmented his body. He couldn't scrub it out. Imagine his plight, far from home. And even in the prison, far from people. But somehow this godly man found a garden in his prison. I was thankful for being sent to the cesspool. This was the only place where I was not under severe surveillance. I could pray and sing openly to my Lord. When I was there, the cesspool became my private garden.
He then quoted the words to the old hymn, In the Garden:
And He walks with me And He talks with me And He tells me I am His own And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known.
I never knew the meaning of this hymn until I had been in the labor camp, he said.
God can make a garden out of the cesspool you call work, if you take Him with you.
For Peter and his nets, my friend and her class, the prisoner and his garden, and for you and your work, the promise is the same: everything changes when you give Jesus your boat.
Adapted from Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot
I just want to say that it took me a long time to open this e-mail that I didn't know where or who it was from and when I finally did for what reason I don't know - I have enjoyed every word, article and reading that is printed.