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Breakfast Outreach - 12/10/2022 - 9:00 am

This is an outreach event so invite someone to come with you.  We start eating at 9:00AM.  Delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, gfits, hash browns, biscuits, pancakes, jams, jellies, etc. The cost is only $7 perperson or $20 for a family of 3 or more... the money goes to offset the cost of the food.  Please grab the family and come out for a great breakfast and fellowship.  

Bible Study on Zoom - 12/14/2022 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Stemley Senior Sensations Fellowship - 12/16/2022 - 11:00 am

Come join this time of fun and fellowship with our seniors of the church.  The meeting place will be announced each week.  There will be activites and food for all.  See you there!

Bible Study on Zoom - 12/21/2022 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Bible Study on Zoom - 12/28/2022 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Monthly Business Meeting - 01/1/2023 - 7:00 pm

We will hold our monthly business meeting immediately following the evening worship.  Please attend to review the church business.

Bible Study on Zoom - 01/4/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Bible Study on Zoom - 01/11/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Breakfast Outreach - 01/14/2023 - 9:00 am

This is an outreach event so invite someone to come with you.  We start eating at 9:00AM.  Delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, gfits, hash browns, biscuits, pancakes, jams, jellies, etc. The cost is only $7 perperson or $20 for a family of 3 or more... the money goes to offset the cost of the food.  Please grab the family and come out for a great breakfast and fellowship.  

Bible Study on Zoom - 01/18/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Stemley Senior Sensations Fellowship - 01/20/2023 - 11:00 am

Come join this time of fun and fellowship with our seniors of the church.  The meeting place will be announced each week.  There will be activites and food for all.  See you there!

Bible Study on Zoom - 01/25/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Bible Study on Zoom - 02/1/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Monthly Business Meeting - 02/5/2023 - 7:00 pm

We will hold our monthly business meeting immediately following the evening worship.  Please attend to review the church business.

Bible Study on Zoom - 02/8/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Breakfast Outreach - 02/11/2023 - 9:00 am

This is an outreach event so invite someone to come with you.  We start eating at 9:00AM.  Delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, gfits, hash browns, biscuits, pancakes, jams, jellies, etc. The cost is only $7 perperson or $20 for a family of 3 or more... the money goes to offset the cost of the food.  Please grab the family and come out for a great breakfast and fellowship.  

Bible Study on Zoom - 02/15/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Stemley Senior Sensations Fellowship - 02/17/2023 - 11:00 am

Come join this time of fun and fellowship with our seniors of the church.  The meeting place will be announced each week.  There will be activites and food for all.  See you there!

Bible Study on Zoom - 02/22/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Bible Study on Zoom - 03/1/2023 - 7:00 pm

We hold a Zoom Bible Study each Wednesday evening.  To be part of this great study, please email Kevin Mayo at kmayo73@hotmail.com for the link.

Monthly Business Meeting - 03/5/2023 - 7:00 pm

We will hold our monthly business meeting immediately following the evening worship.  Please attend to review the church business.

Deacon's Pantry in need
The Deacon's Pantry is in need. This time of year, the request for pantry items are very high. If you have non-perishable items that you would like to donate for this ministry, please bring them to the kitchen and they will be added to the pantry.
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How a church is enduring uncertainty and disappointment as many struggle to find a home.

Since Wong Siu-yung opened a church for Hong Kong Christians in Taiwan last year, it attracted more than three dozen attendees. But in that time the only Cantonese-speaking church on the island has faced significant turnover.

A few congregants returned to their previous residence. But most of the 10 who departed moved to the United Kingdom.

“I watched them all give up and leave Taiwan,” Wong said. “Relocating for the second time in such a short period of time is very difficult.”

This week, Wong himself joined the exodus. The 48-year-old pastor boarded a flight Thursday to Nottingham, England, hopeful about making a new home more than 6,000 miles away. This wasn’t a journey Wong had anticipated when he left Hong Kong for Taiwan in July 2020. At the time, his involvement in the 2019 pro-democracy protests had made him a potential government target, so he decided to leave his homeland immediately.

Taiwan initially promised to provide “settlement and care” to thousands of Hong Kongers like Wong. But in the months since, the government has made it increasingly difficult for Hong Kongers to gain permanent residency, preventing many from working and settling on the island. Government officials fear that allowing Hong Kongers to resettle in Taiwan could provoke China and open the door to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) infiltrators.

Wong and his congregation have faced roadblock after roadblock: After selling their homes in Hong Kong, quitting their jobs, and pulling their kids out of school, they arrived in Taiwan to find the requirements to gain residency changed and their cases stuck in limbo. “Hong Kongers have fallen for [the Taiwanese government’s] great scam of the century,” ...

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While restrictions on religion remain, most Arab nations pass the tolerance test enough for Christian ministry to continue.

In November, officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) made a surprise announcement. Discovered among the white-hot sand dunes of Siniyah Island were the ruins of a 1,400-year-old Christian monastery, likely predating the rise of Islam.

Historians say that as Islam grew in influence in the seventh century, conversions to the new religion created what became the Arabian Peninsula of today. Tracing their lineage back centuries, Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris, Bahrainis, Omanis, and Yemenis today uniformly follow the creed of Muhammad.

The ancient monastery, however novel, is a relic of the past.

But what may be more surprising to many is that the modern Gulf is a mosaic of the present. Thriving Christian communities exist among the millions of migrant workers in the region. Church buildings are bursting at the seams, overflowing into rented hotels and movie theaters. Pope Francis has even visited—twice, including last month.

What explains this under-appreciated dynamic, in a region commonly understood to be a bastion of persecution? And in contrast, as Gulf nations tout their “tolerance,” what does it mean in reality?

The Arabian—or Persian—Gulf, located in western Asia between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean. Most of its neighboring peoples are Arabs, with Arabic as their official language, though dialects distinguish one region from another.

The nomenclature is controversial. Iran, the most-populous country adjacent to these waters with over 85 million citizens, has throughout its history designated the region as the Persian Gulf. Modern scholarship and historical records agree, going back at least 2,500 years to the time of the powerful Pars Empire.

But the nationalism of most ...

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Advent prepares us for the Incarnation, but also for the gift of God's final justice.

A few days ago, I walked into a New Age, vegan grocery store in my Austin neighborhood and noticed something strange: an Advent calendar for sale. As far as I can tell, the store owners have not suddenly become interested in readying their customers for the feast of the Incarnation.

The awkward presence of the Advent calendar in a store devoted mostly to the healing power of mushrooms and crystals is part of the larger secularization of the season of Advent, now purring along to the same commercial hum as secular Christmas. The plethora of Advent calendar themes—from Legos, bath bombs, and teas, all the way up the price scale to Tiffany jewelry—indicates that the season has been overtaken in the long consumerist march from Black Friday to Christmas Day.

I’m not opposed to Advent calendars per se . Of the three “comings” of Christ—the Incarnation, his arrival by the Holy Spirit in the church, and his final coming as king and judge—Advent calendars can help us with the first two. But not the third. Yet, as Fleming Rutledge and others have written, it’s precisely Christ’s third advent that has always been the primary focus of this season of the church calendar. He will return “to judge the living and the dead,” as the Apostles’ Creed says.

When the early Christians began to pray, fast, and give alms in the four Sundays before Christmas, they were mostly preparing themselves to receive in glory the one who had first become their savior in the manger.

From the fourth century onward, hope for the coming judgment of Christ was embedded in the shape of the season. Advent hope is preeminently about hope for the return of Jesus. Even now, ...

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USCIRF protests Nigeria and India not being included among nations added to State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern.

The United States has expanded its list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.

Two new nations—Cuba and Nicaragua—were added on Friday to the State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). Two others—Vietnam and the Central African Republic (CAR)—were added to its Special Watch List (SWL). And one new organization was added to its list of Entities of Particular Concern (EPC): Russia’s mercenary Wagner group, due to its cited offenses in CAR.

“Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs,” stated Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State. “The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.”

His own watchdog, however, is unconvinced.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) tweeted its “outrage” over the non-inclusion of Nigeria and India. It is “inexplicable,” the independent bipartisan organization continued, given the State Department’s own reporting.

In June, Blinken released the US government’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Mandated by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), the report chronicles violations in every nation of the world, whether by governmental or societal actors, measuring also the local legal frameworks.

The sections on Nigeria and India were particularly lengthy.

“They each clearly meet the legal standards for designation,” stated Nury Turkel, USCIRF chair. “USCIRF is tremendously disappointed that the Secretary of State did not … recognize the severity of the religious freedom violations.”

This past ...

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Why Johnny Hunt’s “restoration” convinces me we don’t have ears to hear.

I have seen this before.

As I watched four pastors (two of them belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention) declare former convention president Johnny Hunt restored to ministry—six months after he was put on leave when a third-party investigation found he was “credibly accused” of sexual assault—I realized I knew what I was seeing. I hadn’t watched this exact 14-minute video, of course, with four men offering assurances of repentance, but I had seen it.

I’d seen it at the church where leaders gave their assurances that a young man would not abuse any more girls. “We gave him a stern talking to,” they said. “This won’t happen again.”

I’d seen it when a pastor told a woman whose husband had created a psychologically and spiritually abusive home that she shouldn’t leave. “Let the pastors work with him,” he said. “We’ll be like watchdogs.”

And here it was again.

The most terrifying thing about these scenes is that these leaders are not bad men. I don’t know Johnny Hunt’s quartet of supporters, but I know the leaders of the church where abuse took place. And I know the pastor who gave that bad marital counsel: It was me.

So as eager as I was to go online and denounce all that was appalling about this video—the misuse of Scripture, treating the abuser as the victim, and failing to even mention the real victim—I realized I couldn’t train my sights on this group of men. No, for a Southern Baptist pastor like me, the video is not a target but a mirror.

It is a mirror that shows us what happens when our convictions about complementarity rot into misogyny. It is a mirror that shows us how the can-do, ...

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MAF’s Ryan Koher and two South African volunteers have been detained since November 4 on suspicion of helping Islamist insurgents in Cabo Delgado.

An American missionary pilot has been detained for nearly a month in Mozambique on suspicion of supporting insurgents in the southern African nation.

Ryan Koher, 31, serving with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) through its Mozambican partner Ambassador Aviation Ltd. (AAL), had been due to fly vitamins and other supplies to church-run orphanages in the Montepuez district in the troubled Cabo Delgado Province in the far north.

But he was detained November 4 along with two South African volunteers in the coastal city of Inhambane, far to the south.

The two South Africans, 77-year-old W. J. du Plessis and 69-year-old Eric Dry, had brought in the supplies but police stopped them from being loaded aboard Koher’s Cessna aircraft.

Koher has now been moved to a maximum security prison in Maputo Province, southern Mozambique.

MAF says Koher is innocent. Its president and CEO, David Holsten, called today on the Mozambican authorities to release the pilot so that he can be reunited with his wife and two sons before Christmas.

“I urge Christians around the world to pray for Ryan’s safety and swift release, and call on those in power both in Mozambique and here in the US to do everything they can to resolve this wrongful detainment,” said Holsten in a statement.

“Ryan is a caring and gentle individual,” he added. “Over the last couple of years, he and his wife have worked hard to learn the language and culture of Mozambique to better serve those who rely on our service.”

A profile of the family on MAF’s website says the couple takes inspiration from Matthew 12:21 by wanting “to share the hope of Christ with isolated people.”

Koher’s wife, Annabel, and two sons, Elias and ...

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It’s not the threat of divine surveillance but the extension of divine love that changes our hearts.

Around this time of year, some people argue about whether the baristas at their local coffee franchises should say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” Others argue about whether their churches should hang Christmas wreaths before the end of Advent. Still others focus on more hotly debated points—such as whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or whether Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is festive or annoying.

All the while, we are leaving unattended a debate that might tell us something about the state of American religion. I’m referring, of course, to the Elf on the Shelf.

Sold alongside a book of the same name, first published in 2005, the Elf on the Shelf is a plastic figure, bedecked in a long cap, that perches on the mantles (and various other spots) of some American homes. The elf is said to be a scout for Santa Claus, helping him determine who’s naughty and who’s nice. For some, the elf is uncannily eerie—the way creepy children in horror movies can be.

A decade ago, journalist Kate Tuttle argued in The Atlantic that the Elf on the Shelf is “a marketing juggernaut dressed up as a ‘tradition.’” She listed many reasons she hated the practice, but her most pointed one was the conceit behind the whole thing: teaching children that it’s all right to be spied on. The elf, after all, sits on his perch from Thanksgiving to Christmas to see whether kids keep the rules and behave.

While Tuttle might be right that there’s “something uniquely fake about the Elf,” the idea of controlling behavior with the notion that someone “sees you when you’re sleeping” and “knows when ...

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Report: Nonprofits saw a sizable increase in donations, while many megachurches struggled.

Needs rose last year. But so did giving to evangelical ministries.

The annual State of Giving report from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) found giving to ministries increased more in 2021 than it had any year out of the last 10. Inflation and the pandemic both raised real concerns for ministry leaders trying to make ends meet, but evangelicals responded to the crises with generosity.

The ECFA survey of about 1,800 members found they received more than $19 billion in donations in 2021. Adjusting for inflation, giving went up by about 3 percent. In the last 10 years, the increase has been closer to 2 percent.

“Contrary to what many expected, giving during the pandemic to ECFA members was strong,” Michael Martin, ECFA president and CEO, wrote in the report. “The findings we unveil emphasize the good work that ECFA members are doing to serve and expand their services in the face of inflation and other challenges.”

If Christians are excited and optimistic about the work of parachurch organizations, though, the numbers reveal a different story when it comes to megachurches. The ECFA surveyed 87 churches that belong to the financial accountability organization. Giving to those congregations dropped by 6.6 percent in 2021, following a decline of 1.1 percent the year before.

Jake Lapp, ECFA vice president of member accountability, attributed the decline to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some churches have reported that they are still only at 50 percent of pre-pandemic attendance.

“One of the big impacts is with churches not being able to meet or maybe meeting with limited capacity again,” Lapp said. “Congregants had been slow to return to the pews.” The decline in giving ...

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Our festive favorites this year span from kids’ carols to heavy metal.

It’s that time of year again—I’ve removed the decomposing pumpkin from my front porch, my family has watched The Polar Express several times, and my kids ask to walk through the “forest” of lit Christmas trees when we’re shopping at Target or Home Depot.

It’s time to build our Christmas 2022 playlists. This year brings new albums from prominent artists like Joss Stone, the Backstreet Boys, Michael W. Smith, and Switchfoot. After listening through the latest holiday releases, I’ve put together a list of seasonal tunes that spans multiple genres and styles and highlights albums that you might have missed.

The seven albums on this list include music that is festive, worshipful, traditional, sentimental, merry, and heavy (metal, that is).

December Songs, Resound Worship

December Songs from Resound Worship is a set of four theologically rich, thoughtfully arranged original songs, written with the congregation in mind.

The first track, “Do Not Be Afraid,” is a contemplative refrain that builds slowly, adding instrumentation and voices to each repetition of the phrases “Do not be afraid, God is here. / Do not be dismayed, O my soul, / For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It’s a beautifully meditative and simple song that so perfectly expresses the posture of waiting in the darkness for the Light we know is coming.

December Songs is intended to be a resource for worship leaders. Resound Worship makes lead sheets and chord charts available for free. Full scores, videos, and backing tracks can be purchased as well.

Appalachian Christmas, Chosen Road

Chosen Road has a strong track record of reimagining favorite songs of the church for their albums ...

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Analysis: The rise of the nonreligious raises questions for the faithful in a new era of pluralism and diversity.

Remember those math puzzles you used to do as a kid? What’s the next number in this sequence: 2, 5, 11, 23, … ? Or maybe try this one: 2, 4, 10, 28, … ?

Well, I’ve got another one for you: 71, 59, … ?

I’ll admit this one is trickier as you’ve got only two numbers to get going, but if you said “47,” you’d be on the right track.

The true answer is, in fact, 46—that being the percentage of people in England and Wales who, in the 2021 census, ticked the Christian box. Having been 71 percent in 2001 and 59 percent in 2011, it’s now 46 percent. Anyone want to take any guesses for 2031?

The decline in the proportion of adults in England and Wales (and in Scotland and Northern Ireland too) calling themselves Christian should shock no one who hasn’t been on Mars these last two decades.

Nor should the rise of the nonreligious category, reaching 37 percent this time and set to become the biggest single group in the country next time.

The demographic and cultural trends have been pointing in this direction for over half a century. What the census has done is clear up some of the uncertainty that always swirls around polling data, while also giving us a level of granularity that reveals how minority religious groups—Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, and others—have all increased in numbers over the last decade.

At this point, the usual lines of argument from the usual suspects will go forth and multiply. Some religious groups will try to claim that the nonreligious are actually, in fact, religious; they just don’t know it. That won’t wash. People tick the no-religion box for a reason. Nonreligiosity may be complex—but ...

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Our culture values self-protection. But true love demands that we move toward each other.

One particular argument will figure in our family lore for generations: the adults upstairs, lancing one another with loud accusations, while the children downstairs slowly realized the holiday movie, planned for the afternoon, would not be.

Years later, I can’t remember the reasons for our conflict among extended family members. I only know the conditions were right. The “most wonderful time of the year” was upon us, and expectations were at a fever pitch.

It’s a risky business, this thing we call love. Unfortunately, in our cultural environment today—when personal safety is prized so highly—I fear we grow less and less tolerant for the normal bruising that happens in the contact sport of human relationships. We will love insofar as we are never hurt.

A quick swipe through social media reveals a lot of relationship advice centered on self-protection. We are taught to be vigilant against injustice, to repudiate toxicity, and to avoid situations that make us feel unsafe. The law of no trespass has become inviolable.

To be clear, I celebrate the growing emphasis on accountability. It is good and right to protect victims from abusers, and I welcome the more precise ways we’ve come to name the violations of human trust. Importantly, the Christian gospel never diminishes the trauma of sin and the necessity of repair. With a crucified Messiah at its very center—a scapegoat made to suffer for the sins of the world—it is a story that upholds the necessity of justice.

Still, I worry we are growing unrealistic in our expectations for human relationships. We seek safety, by which we often mean invulnerability. We imagine that incurring wounds in a relationship signals reasons to quit, ...

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    Stemley Baptist Church
    399 Rock Church Road, Talladega, Al 35160