When he died last week at the age of 57, pop singer Prince was arguably the most famous Jehovah’s Witness in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the obscure religious group that emerged from the Bible Student movement in the late 1870s:

1. Jehovah’s Witnesses—their name is intended to designate them as “a group of Christians who proclaim the truth about Jehovah”—compose less than 1 percent of U.S. adults, yet are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America. According to Pew Research, no more than 4 in 10 members of the group belong to any one racial and ethnic background: 36 percent are white, 32 percent are Hispanic, 27 percent are black, and 6 percent are another race or mixed race. Roughly two-thirds (65 percent) are women, while only 35 percent are men. They also also tend to be less educated, with a solid majority of adult Jehovah’s Witnesses (63 percent) having no more than a high school diploma (compared with, for example, 43 percent of evangelical Protestants).


2. Jehovah’s Witnesses (hereafter JWs) consider themselves to be Christians (but not Protestants), even though they reject the doctrine of the Trinity. JWs claim that Jesus was not divine and that the Holy Spirit is an “active force” and not a person. JWs believe that Jesus is God’s only direct creation, “the firstborn of all creation” and therefore rightly entitled to be called the “son of God.” However, they believe that as a created being “he is not part of a Trinity.” They believe Jesus lived in heaven before coming to earth and, after his death and resurrection, he returned to heaven. They also believe Jesus “gave his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice” and that through his death and resurrection “make it possible for those exercising faith in him to gain everlasting life.”3. JWs believe that the kingdom of God is a real government in heaven that will soon replace human governments and accomplish God’s purpose for the earth. They believe that Jesus is the King of God’s kingdom in heaven and that he began ruling in 1914. A relatively small number of people—144,000—will be resurrected to live with Jehovah in heaven and rule with Jesus in the kingdom. They believe that God will bring billions back from death by means of a resurrection and that “many now living may yet begin to serve God, and they too will gain salvation.” However, those who “refuse to learn God’s ways after being raised to life” will pass out of existence forever (they will not suffer in a “fiery hell of torment”).

4. JWs practice door-to-door ministry because they believe it is an effective way to fulfill the Great Commission and that first-century Christians continued to spread their message both “publicly and from house to house” (they cite Acts 5:42; 20:20). They do not believe that door-to-door ministry is a means of earning salvation by doing good works. They also believe that “pressuring people to change their religion is wrong” though they do believe in attempting to argue for their particular beliefs. In their door-to-door ministry they generally distribute two magazines, Awake!, a general religious magazine, and The Watchtower, a magazine whose content is focused on “the significance of world events in the light of Bible prophecies.”

5. JWs believe the Bible is “God’s inspired message to humans.” In 1961 a JW corporation, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, published its own formal equivalence translation of the Bible: the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). As of 2015, the NWT has been translated in whole or in part into 129 languages. Since the release of the NT translation in 1950, this version has been criticized for changing the meaning and words of the text to fit JW doctrine. A prime example is John 1:1. Both the ESV and NIV translate that verse as, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The NWT version translates the passage as “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” The addition of the indefinite article “a” is added to avoid the conclusion that Jesus is God. Referring to this verse, Bruce M. Metzger wrote in 1953, “It must be stated quite frankly that, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists.” Despite a preference for the NWT, JWs still use other translations of the Bible in their witnessing work.

6. JWs do not celebrate either Christmas or Easter, because they believe the Bible teaches that it’s Jesus death—not his birth or resurrection—that should be celebrated. They also believe that Christmas and Easter are not approved by God because they are rooted in pagan customs and rites. They also do not celebrate birthdays because they believe “such celebrations displease God.”

7. JWs have a number of beliefs that are peculiar to their sect: While they accept medical treatments and do not practice faith healing, they don’t accept blood transfusions because they believe the “Bible commands that we not ingest blood.” They do not believe in going to war or getting involved in political matters, and they do not consider the cross to be a symbol of Christianity, because they claim “the Bible indicates that Jesus did not die on a cross but rather on a simple stake.”

For the rest of the post…

by Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813 – 1843)

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a nineteenth-century Church of Scotland minister revered for the depth of his piety. Upon hearing him preach, a listener once wrote, “I saw in you a beauty in holiness that I never saw before.”1 He served two churches, including St. Peter’s Church in Dundee, before dying at age 29.

Upon M’Cheyne’s death, ministerial colleague Andrew Bonar published a biography that included many of his manuscripts and letters. Taken from that work, this selection illustrates his determination to fight sin through spiritual disciplines. It shows the intensity with which this servant of God craved communion with his Heavenly Father.

I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, and then have family prayer, and breakfast, and forenoon callers, often it is eleven or twelve o’clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ rose before day, and went into a solitary place. David says, ‘Early will I seek Thee; Thou shalt early hear my voice.’ Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre while it was yet dark. Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness; and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then, when secret prayer comes, the soul is often out of tune. I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first—to get my soul near him before it is near another. ‘When I awake I am still with Thee.’

If I have slept too long, or am going [on] an early journey, or my time is any way shortened, it is best to dress hurriedly, and have a few minutes alone with God, than to give it up for lost.

For the rest of the post…

Prayer_2Here are ten reminders for pastors about the vital need to cultivate their personal prayer life, as articulated by notable ministers from church history.

1. True effectiveness in ministry comes not through methods, but through prayer.

A. C. Dixon: When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on. Nor am I disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place, but when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.

Source: A. C. Dixon. Cited from John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, 71.

D. L. Moody: Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer.

Source: D. L. Moody, Great Preaching on Prayer, 8:119.

E. M. Bounds: What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Ghost can use — people of prayer, people mighty in prayer.

Source: E. M. Bounds, The Classic Collection on Prayer, 584.

* * * * *

2. A pastor’s prayer-life is indicative of the state of his walk with the Lord.

John Owen: A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.

Source: John Owen. Cited from I. D. E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury, 192.

Charles Spurgeon: I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this, the measure of the intensity of your prayer.

Source: Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 41:518.

* * * * *

3. Prayer is a vital means of sanctification.

J. C. Ryle: Prayer and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer.

Source: J. C. Ryle, Home Truths, 114.

John R. W. Stott: To pray is not only to be truly godly; it is also to be truly human. For here are human beings, made by God like God and for God, spending time in fellowship with God. So prayer is an authentic activity in itself, irrespective of any benefits it may bring us. Yet it is also one of the most effective of all means of grace. I doubt if anybody has ever become at all Christ-like who has not been diligent in prayer.

Source: John R. W. Stott, Christian Basics, 128.

* * * * *

4. Neglect in prayer leads to vulnerability in temptation.

J. C. Ryle: Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows them to have a tremendous fall.

Source: J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 70–71.

John Owen: If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: “God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.” When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.

Source: John Owen, Triumph Over Temptation, 165.

Charles Spurgeon (in a letter to his young son): One of my sweetest joys is to hear that a spirit of prayer is in your school, and that you participate in it. To know that you love the Lord and are mighty in prayer would be my crowning joy; the hope that you do so already is a happy one to me. I should like you to preach; but it is best that you pray; many a preacher has proved a castaway, but never one who has truly learned to pray.

Source: Charles Spurgeon. Cited from Charles Ray, The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 381.

* * * * *

5. Busyness is never a valid excuse for neglecting prayer.

Martin Luther: Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.

 

“An awakening is ready to burst on the dismal scene when Christians have a deep, profound Spirit of prayer for an awakening.”

~ Lewis Drummond

Mainstream researchers are waking up to the real dangers of porn.

The latest issue of Time Magazine landed on stands yesterday. And, you might have heard, the cover story paints a menacing picture of sex and sexuality among younger Americans. When the story, “Porn and the Threat to Virility,” first appeared online last week, it initiated no small buzz around the Internet, including an unusual teaming of conservative Christian and secular feminist voices characterizing Time’s findings as indicative of a larger, systemic cultural problem.

During the past decade or so, we’ve heard a lot about how viewing pornography affects the human brain. That, apparently, is a relatively controversial claim. Time’s Belinda Luscombe references experts who argue both for and against that idea—and all of whom bemoan a lack of research in the area. Neurological effects aside, Luscombe basically concludes that for a generation of men more or less raised on porn, the law of diminishing returns comes heavily into play—and those effects are leading to a generational health crisis.

She writes:

A growing number of young men are convinced that their [physical, in-person] sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic–more prone to permanent change–than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning. The results of the experiment, they claim, are literally a downer.

So they’re beginning to push back, creating online community groups, smartphone apps and educational videos to help men quit porn. They have started blogs and podcasts and take all the public-speaking gigs they can get. Porn has always faced criticism among the faithful and the feminist. But now, for the first time, some of the most strident alarms are coming from the same demographic as its most enthusiastic customers.

For a generation of men more or less raised on porn, the law of diminishing returns comes heavily into play—and those effects are leading to a generational health crisis.

The men in these online communities and support groups, Luscombe takes pains to reiterate, are not antisex or some kind of emerging asexuals. Just the opposite, in fact. They, at least in theory, like sex, but their addictions to the pornified portrayal of it won’t let them have the real thing. One man told Luscombe, “I just want to enjoy sex again and feel the desire for another person.” Another: “The reason I quit watching porn is to have more sex.” And simply: “Quitting porn is one of the most sex-positive things people can do.”

The Mainstream Backlash

Time’s cover story is reminiscent of a late 2013 article in GQ called “10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.” At least to me, this article came as a little bit of a surprise, given the magazine’s history of love for the conquesting “gentleman.” The article looked at a survey of the Reddit group NoFap (which also figures in prominently to the Time research). GQ warned sexually active men essentially about the same thing the Time piece now warns an entire society about.

In addition to this kind of anecdotal evidence, Luscombe’s article in Time also details some of the statistics surrounding pornography use—she mentions, too, that the academic world seems curiously hesitant to study the phenomenon, which results in relatively scant data. Still, the results she does report are as damning as the testimonies. She cites an “independent Web-tracking company” that counted some 58 million monthly U.S. visitors to adult sites in February 2006. “Ten years later,” Luscombe writes, “the number was 107 million.” She also claims that the website Pornhub reported 2.4 million visitors per hour in 2015 alone. Around the world, people watched a gargantuan 4,392,486,580 hours of porn on the site. According to the Time article, that represents “twice as long as Homo sapiens has spent on earth.”

All this porn watching adds up to an overwhelmingly consistent claim from the consumers themselves: Porn users are saying that what they wanted from porn—the pleasure and fulfillment of sex—they’ve now lost completely.

As revealing as Luscombe’s article is, it may not even be the most indicting porn data in this week’s issue of Time.

Porn users are saying that what they wanted from porn—the pleasure and fulfillment of sex—they’ve now lost completely.

Also in this week’s issue, a small column appears titled “How Porn Is Changing a Generation of Girls” by Peggy Orenstein, the author of a new book, GIRLS & SEX. Her account of the toll of pornography culture on women, particularly young women, might even be more alarming than the cover story. Orenstein writes:

There is some indication that porn has a liberalizing effect: heterosexual male users are more likely than their peers to approve of same-sex marriage. On the other hand, they’re less likely to support affirmative action for women. And porn users are also more likely than their peers to measure their masculinity, social status and self-worth by their ability to score with “hot” women.

Perhaps because it depicts aggression as sexy, porn also seems to desensitize: female porn users are less likely to intervene when seeing another woman being threatened or assaulted and are slower to recognize when they’re in danger themselves.

If we take this issue of Time seriously—and why shouldn’t we?—porn not only robs men of the very thing they want from porn, but it also damages women, the very people it supposedly celebrates.

A Paradoxical Fight

Back in January, the Barna Group published the results of large study on this same pornography culture. The findings confirm and underscore what we’ve known for a while: Porn use is a massive and growing problem, even among Christians. In part, the Barna study reveals that a staggering 57 percent of younger Millennials (ages 18 to 24) seeking out porn at least once or twice a month. Among older Millennials, the number is only slightly better at 43 percent. Gen-Xers and Boomers reported 41 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Perhaps the most dejecting finding of the study is that only half of adults consider viewing porn is wrong (54 percent). In fact, on a list of taboos, respondents said viewing porn ranks number seven on a list of 11. Things like overeating and not recycling ranked higher.

Anyone who has ever struggled with pornography—or helped someone who has—knows the paradoxical nature of it. On the one hand, of course, sexual drive and desires come naturally. On the other hand, these same desires, as the Time piece clearly articulates, can get out of control and lead toward actions that actually make light of sex and hinder sexuality.

A Spiritual Conflict

One of my former professors talks about what he calls “refugees of the sexual revolution.”
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/porn-addiction-now-threatening-entire-generation#b7v9FLEDdTAwrr6Q.99

“True revival is that divine moment when God bursts upon the scene and displays his glory.”

~ Del Fehsenfeld Jr

Worth sharing again…

Pray for Revival!

Why Revival Taries by Leonard Ravenhill (From Harvest Bible Chapel)

Here’s the full quotation on prayer that I referenced in my sermon this Sunday. I hope this challenges you, like it did me, to get on your knees and seek God’s face with more fervency and more frequency.

“No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shopwindow to display one’s talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off.

Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of praver. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here…

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“We need a quickening of faith; faith in the power of the God of Pentecost to convict and convert three thousand in a day. Faith, not in a process of culture by which we hope to train children into a state of salvation, but faith in the mighty God who can quicken a dead soul into life in a moment; faith in moral and spiritual revolution rather than evolution.”

~ A.C. Dixon

 

“There is no spiritual awakening without the power of the Holy Spirit”

~ Quoted in Revive, Vol. 46, Issue 3: The Signs of a Jesus Revolution by Alvin L. Reid

“A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living is the crying need of our day.”
~ Duncan Campbell

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