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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cultural Preaching May 3, 2017

Why we all might need a little more "dirt" in our lives, how a tragedy can help us better understand God's holiness, and why new gym equipment could include beds in the future.
Welcome to Cultural Preaching
May 3, 2017
Welcome to this week's edition of Cultural Preaching. I am honored to share this resource with you. Know that I am praying for all who receive this email with gratitude for your service and faith.
This week, the "Preaching" section discusses why we all might need a little more "dirt" in our lives, how a tragedy can help us better understand God's holiness, and why new gym equipment could include beds in the future. I've also attached a sermon for this Sunday, Measuring Success as God Does.
In "Pastoring," we discuss Tom Doyle's latest book on the courage of those who follow Jesus amid the conflicts of the Middle East. In "Personal," we consider God's eternal commitment to your next prayer.
In addition, I tweet on current news occasionally throughout the day. I invite you to follow me @JimDenison.


Why you need more dirt in your life.
A recent "National Geographic Magazine" article states that it's estimated children now spend less time outside than the average prisoner! It goes on to say that this could have devastating effects, since, they claim, that children need to be exposed to the microbes in the soil to build up their defenses against diseases that may surface later in life. But, it's not only children that the article examines.  It claims that the EPA estimates average American adults now spend 93 percent of their lives indoors. Getting "dirty" it appears is good for our health, our sense of well-being and, in an additionally-linked article about why we're wired to be outside, lowers the murder rate!
In Genesis 2:7 God's word says, "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Perhaps being called "a bag of dirt" is a more accurate description of mankind than we'd like to think!  But, the creation was made for us – even the dirt.  Perhaps there are more benefits to playing/being outside and getting a little dirt under our fingernails than we imagine.  Charles Shultz's Peanuts cartoon character, Pigpen, maybe be the healthiest of us all!
 Blunt obituary attracts attention from White House
 Perhaps all of us can point to a personal tragedy that begs the question, "Why do bad things happen – especially to good people?"  This story of a mother's grief at the sudden death of her daughter due to a drug overdose is all too familiar in our day.  Even the attention from the White House does not mitigate the loss.  This kind of grief is overwhelming and sometimes causes the faithful to question the faith… sometimes even our God.  Yet, King David was grieved at the death of his newborn son when he said, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23).  He believed that his child was already where he would ultimately go, and David trusted him to the God who made him. 
God redeems all he permits.  Even if I cannot see all the ways God is using suffering for good, that makes it no less knowable or real.  C.S. Lewis observed that the man who denies the sunrise doesn't harm the sun.  God is free to use pain for gain, whether I see his love at work or not.  Romans 8:28 does not claim that all things are good.  Rather, it claims that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God never wastes a hurt.  He will use anything he allows for his glory and our good.  His holiness requires him to do so.  "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he."  Deuteronomy 32:4.
"Napercise" at gyms available for tired parents!"
Gyms in Britain are adding a feature that might cause many of us exercise-avoidant types to reconsider joining one.  Beds!  Sleep deprived moms and dads are being lured into a class called "napercize" that promises not only additional snooze time, but burning some calories, as well!  The 45-minute "classes" are offered in low-temperature rooms (60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit) as a more holistic approach to wellness for today's sleep-deprived parent. Some studies suggest that sleeping in a low-temperature room might rev-up one's metabolism and burn a few extra calories. 
Rest is a vital part of anyone's lifestyle regimen.  Genesis 2 tells us that even God rested after six days of intense creation.  In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  And, rest is particularly important for those who minister to others, as evidenced in what Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 6:31, "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'"
While most of us won't find a gym offering such a "napercize class," we need to consider doing the "homework" anyway!

Measuring Success as God Does
For this week and next, I will be providing Mother's Day sermons I have preached in the past. I know that this can be a challenging Sunday for preachers. I hope the messages will be helpful to you.


Tom Doyle is one of my favorite people. He and his wife are missionaries to the Middle East with e3 Partners and are among the most perceptive interpreters of Muslim culture in the world. His books about Christians in the Middle East are informative and inspiring.
Standing in the Fire is no different. Here you'll read about courageous Christians "facing down the enemies who appear in today's top news stories." He offers eight accounts of believers who are "standing in the fire" today.
Cynthia Yanof, our executive coordinator, has written an outstanding review of Tom's book. To read it, click here.


May is one of my favorite months, and not just because it's the month of my birth. May has been designated Egg Month, Hamburger Month, Loaded Baked Potato Month, and Blood Pressure Month. Does anyone else see a correlation here? It is also Zombie Awareness Month. I have no idea why.
Some more reasons why May is a special month: tomorrow is Star Wars Day ("May the Fourth Be With You"). "Dr. No," the first James Bond film, appeared on May 8, 1963. On May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss patented copper-riveted jeans. And on May 31, 1859, London's Big Ben began operation.
Here's a thought: while most of us have favorite months and seasons of the year, every day is God's favorite day. That's because he is not bound by time. Our Lord is the Great I Am (Exodus 3:14). This fact means he has all the time you need to listen to your next prayer.
So, name your challenges today. If you're like most pastors, you cannot tell others what you're going through right now. But you can tell God. As the psalmists show, he welcomes our most honest complaints and struggles. He calls us to "argue it out" (the literal translation of Isaiah 1:18, "let us reason together"). He has all of eternity for you.
All of God there is, is in this moment.

It is a great honor to share this ministry with you. May the Lord empower and encourage you as you serve him today.
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