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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020  (Read 1718 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2020, 01:34:33 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/easter-coronavirus-weary-world-rejoices-but-first-grieves.html






This Easter, The Weary World Rejoices. But First It Grieves.




As a widow, I have newfound appreciation for why the mourning of Holy Saturday is indispensable to the journey toward joy.


The most striking of my childhood church memories occurred during our parish’s Good Friday service each year. At the end of the service, with the lights dimmed, our pastor would draw a black drape across the altar at the front of the sanctuary. As a child, the gesture reminded me of physicians I’d seen in old Hollywood movies draping the deceased. No doubt the allusion was intended. A black cloth hung on the cross above the altar, the sanctuary dressed for a funeral.

Afterward, my family and I walked quietly to the parking lot. An awkward hush followed us. Jesus had just died in there—what could you say after that? Buckled into the back seat of our station wagon, my sisters and I sat uncomfortably, waiting for the feeling to subside. This was only a pageant, right? The world wasn’t really this dark, our situation this bleak.

Eventually, conversation began to flow, and by the time we arrived home, the transition from Good Friday was complete. Like slowly waking from a bad dream, we emerged into the present once again. The next day, Holy Saturday, was filled with busyness. We made deviled eggs and rearranged the fridge to fit the ham. Nobody spoke of death or dying or thought about the black drape across the altar.

When we arrived at church on Easter morning, I always marveled at the transformed sights and smells of the sanctuary. Fragrant lilies and hyacinths blanketed the chancel, and the altar was covered in a white-and-gold embroidered cloth. The sanctuary had been scrubbed clean of death.

Even then as a child, the contrast seemed surreal. Were we the same people we’d been just two days before? After 40 days in Lent with Jesus, we stood at the foot of the cross and took in its horror, woke on Saturday to make deviled eggs and fruit salads, and then arrived at church on Sunday for celebration. My heart couldn’t make the jump.

It wasn’t until adulthood—and now in widowhood—that I realized why the transition from Good Friday to Easter Sunday felt so abrupt. In all of our careful reenactment, we had forgotten the most human part of the process: the mourning.

By contrast, the early church brought mourning into its Holy Saturday practices. From the second century on, Christians fasted and prayed between Good Friday’s dusk and Easter’s dawn. Inspired by the Gospel narratives, early believers committed those 40 hours to mourning the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus.

Like loved ones attending a wake, they stopped for the day and kept vigil. They mourned their own sinfulness and the world's brokenness. They wept over the dead body of their Lord, knowing that mourning it was indispensable for the journey to Easter joy. And they named the day Holy Saturday because they knew that death, too, is sacred.

In fact, new believers were baptized on this day. Their baptisms were meant in part to underscore Paul’s declaration that “we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10).

This year, COVID-19 has created a drastically different context for Easter. This crisis allows none of us to sidestep conversations around grief and death. The pandemic itself feels like one long Holy Saturday, where we live in the liminal space between death and the life we hope for on the other side. We’re left asking questions like those I had growing up: How do we worship while holding grief and joy in the same hand? Can we manage these mixed emotions? How do we come to Easter in the midst of death?

Since my husband’s death last summer, death is no longer abstract. I have wondered nervously if I can be ready for Easter Sunday in time. The span from Good Friday to resurrection morning is so short. But Holy Saturday helps me. It helps all who now mourn like I do—those who tremble in their weeping; those whose hearts have been pierced by death; those who know the unbearable tension between the now and the not yet; those who will find consolation only in vigil with the buried Jesus; and those who aren’t yet ready to sing “Alleluia.”

And yet, it is from the grave that resurrection happened. Year in and year out, in sickness and in health, come rain or shine, we celebrate Christ’s return from the dead. Every Easter, a song emerges not in spite of our sorrow but because of it. Passion gives way to praise.

“The celebration of Easter tells us what lies on the other side of COVID-19 and on the other side of all our trials: life with God,” writes Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. “This message is necessary not because we are stumbling toward Easter Sunday as a scattered and beleaguered people of God. It is necessary because the truth of the gospel shines most brightly in dark times.”

This Easter Sunday, then, we will stubbornly insist that “He is risen indeed” is our honest and true expression of worship. God’s resurrection power will dispel our darkness, not fully now, but surely on that great day for which our grieving hearts await.













Clarissa Moll (MA, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the young widow of author Rob Moll and the mother of their four children. After a career in fundraising and marketing for small nonprofits, she now supports those in grief through her writing. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2020, 04:17:29 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/easter-fear-natural.html






Easter Fear Is Natural





Jesus’ unnatural resurrection helps us fear not.


Empty churches on Easter Sunday around the world represent an image that, until this year, would have made sense only in a fever-pitched 1990s end-times novel. Yet, in the middle of a global pandemic, that will now be our reality. The grief that Christians already face over missing their church services for necessary social distancing will intensify when it comes to the preeminent day on the Christian calendar. But if we pay attention, we may see something new and holy about Easter in quarantine. And that something is fear.

At first glance, fear seems alien to Easter, belonging more to Good Friday. Even our hymnody reflects this. “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” is in lyric and tune foreboding, while “Up From the Grave He Arose” peals triumphant. This makes musical sense. Good Friday evokes the emotions the first disciples experienced when they thought all was lost and the noon skies above them turned dark. By contrast, Easter evokes a new dawn, the truth that “everything sad is coming untrue.”

And yet, the Gospel accounts are not so neatly categorized by emotion. The first reactions to the Resurrection were confusion and fear. The guards at the tomb “trembled and became like dead men” at the sight of the angel there (Matt. 28:4, ESV). To the faithful women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the first words spoken by the angel were “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just as he said” (vv. 5–6).

Upon hearing the angel, the women were filled with “with fear and great joy” (v. 8). They then ran right into the risen Jesus, who repeated the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). The earliest record of the Resurrection, from Mark’s gospel, closes with the women fleeing the empty tomb, “for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8).

One could imagine, of course, a less traumatic Resurrection, in keeping with the natural rhythms of the world—except that the Resurrection was wholly unnatural, naturally eliciting fear and alarm.

The Resurrection is not a timeless truth about the immortality of the human being, or the reassurance that everything works out in the end. The Resurrection takes place in a graveyard, a reminder that, left to ourselves, every one of us will retreat to the dust from which we came. Thus Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He is the only one of us who has “life in himself” (John 5:26).

The resurrection of Jesus does indeed destroy fear, pulling us out of slavery from the fear of death (Heb. 2:14–15). But that freedom from fear does not come the way we usually pursue it, through denial and the illusion of immortality. On the contrary, to see fully the glory and mystery of the resurrection of Jesus, we must feel the just sentence of our own deaths, the inevitability, apart from him, of our own demise. The Resurrection shows us our lives hidden in Christ, which means that on our own, we are the walking dead. The Resurrection means we follow Jesus where he went, toward where he is. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” Jesus said (Mark 8:34, NIV). Easter is not the end of our carrying our crosses but the beginning.

This is terrifying when you think of it. And Jesus means for you to think of it. Only then can you listen to the Shepherd who walks you through the valley of the shadow of death. Only then can you know what it means to know “Because he lives, all fear is gone.”

Many Christians around the world will not gather this Easter. Our churches empty, we will wait in our respective homes, with dread and alarm from knowing we could witness thousands of our neighbors die and millions more fall sick from a brutal disease. This Easter, we do not know which of our loved ones, or which of us, will die alone on a ventilator, unable even to see the face of the nurse behind a protective mask. Let us experience that fear, and then let us turn to Christ to be reminded that death is awful but, in Christ, death is defeated.

This Easter, our churches will be empty. That’s scary. But the tomb is still empty too. Do not be afraid.











Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2020, 06:51:42 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/alone-on-friday-isolation-identify-and-forsaken-savior-of-w.html






Alone on a Friday: Isolation, Identify, and the Forsaken Savior of the World





If being alone during this pandemic is especially hard, look to the One who experienced loneliness at a level we never will precisely because he faced what he did for us on the cross.


Sometimes a word or phrase arrests us with its simplicity and its weight. This is especially true in a season which renders a given term especially important. “Alone” is such a word right now. Many of us understand the term in a different light than before.

Social distancing, quarantines, and isolation have become a part of everyday life right now. We aren’t used to the elderly who are sick being alone in hospitals separated from family. We are coming to terms with healthcare workers who have to remain isolated from their families while they work with COVID-19 patients. We are moved by the scenes of spouses of many decades waving at their dearest from outside the glass of a nursing home window.

Individualism

Let’s face it, we Americans love our freedom and its corollary individualism. But we love our individualism because it allows us to choose when and who to spend time with. We like to be separate from people, but only when we get to choose it. We can’t escape that we are social beings.

The important measure of social distancing which seems to be showing some positive effect on the spread of COVID-19 reveals “that America’s individualistic framework is deeply unsuited to coping with an infectious pandemic,” because of the shift in our thinking “from an individual-first to a communitarian ethos.”

So, most of the time “alone” is not that big of a deal. But for many right now, alone means very lonely, disconnected, and anxious. But this is not the only prescient expression to consider.

Let me give you another one.

The Ultimate Oxymoron

“Good Friday.”

This expression is the ultimate oxymoron, that the death of our Savior would make this day so good. It’s another term we all know well, celebrating as part of Holy Week each year as it points us to the high hosannas of Easter.

But this year, Good Friday means a bit more, doesn’t it? In times when we face waves of difficulty, we turn to anchored truth.

We can forget in the familiarity of Good Friday and the wonderful ceremonies of the season a central part of the story. Jesus, who made this day good, was isolated during it. He lay down his life as the substitute for sins, carrying such a weight and facing such pain, and he did so essentially alone.

He told his disciples repeatedly of his impending death and they just didn’t get it. That had to be lonely, that your companions with whom you had lived and invested seemed to miss the point.

He took his closest allies to Gethsemane where he agonized in prayer, sweating drops of blood as he lay prostrate before his Father.

And what did his must trusted disciples do?

They slept.

Alone

One of the 12 betrayed him openly, and as once he did the other disciples “all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50). As the religious Council mocked him, spat in his face, and struck him, his most bold disciple, Peter, denied him. At that moment, Luke tells us, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” That had to be a very alone moment.

Soldiers — an entire battalion Matthew says — spit on him, put a purple robe on him in mockery, and hit him. A thorny crown was pressed into the flesh of his forehead. Those created by him angrily abused him.

He stood before Pilate with no advocate.

Alone.

He was scourged by a whip that killed more than a few men in the process. When he had an opportunity to be released, the crowd chose a run-of-the-mill insurrectionist named Barabbas instead of the King of Glory.

Aloneness was very near to the Son of Man.

He was crucified. Such a brutal way to die. Two obvious criminals hung on crosses to each side, and both mocked him. Yet in the middle of the torment, Jesus showed mercy to the one who cried out to him for mercy. Soldiers gambled for his few possessions. People walking by derided him.

As Jesus hung between heaven and earth, imagine how alone he must have felt. Then, Mark 15:34 records he cried out, “’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

You probably already knew that. You recognize it as one of the last Seven Words of Christ on the cross. But look at it again this year. Jesus was utterly, painfully alone.

Alone.

One comment on this phrase observes how in this moment, Jesus cries out to God in the immense pain of divine abandonment (see Isa. 59:2; Hab. 1:13), which he suffers as a substitute for sinful mankind.”[1]

Our Advocate

We celebrate our Lord as our advocate at this season, and well we should. We should also remember on this Good Friday that “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

If being alone during this pandemic is especially hard, look to the One who experienced loneliness at a level we never will precisely because he faced what he did for us on the cross. But Jesus did more than experience loneliness. He sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). He redeemed us into a family (Eph. 2:19). And he will ultimately remove it (Rev. 21:4).

Good Friday, indeed.











Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.

[1] Crossway Bibles. ESV Study Bible (Kindle Locations 122690-122691). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.













The Exchange is a part of CT's Blog Forum. Support the work of CT. Subscribe and get one year free.
The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2020, 10:19:25 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april/before-christ-rose-he-was-dead-holy-saturday.html






Before Christ Rose, He Was Dead





The truth of Holy Saturday is that God is with us, even in our mortality.


Deep down, I knew I had cancer before the doctor delivered her diagnosis. Still, the news came as a shock. I was 27. My wife and I had just moved to a new town, where we knew hardly a soul. We felt very much alone.

Of course, we knew and believed God’s promise to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). In church the following week, we sang the chorus “O love that will not let me go.” But this knowledge was mostly intellectual. Beneath these affirmations, we were for the first time trying to understand the meaning of God’s presence in our newly unmistakable mortality.

The question of God’s presence in mortality is central to a significant, but seldom recognized, day in the church’s yearly calendar. Holy Saturday is that odd day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday during which Jesus Christ—life himself!—lay dead in a tomb. Before my diagnosis, I had never much pondered the significance of this fact. The church has had little difficulty fixing its attention on the dying of Christ, and even less difficulty on the rising of Christ, but the being dead of Christ has found relatively little expression in its theology and liturgy. Holy Saturday, however, has an integrity of its own. If the church can attune its ear to its frequency, so easily drowned out by the dominant tones of Good Friday and Easter, it may be able to hear a profound word about human living and dying between the Cross and the Resurrection.

Christ the Superhero

Christians have found two primary ways to understand how and why Christ descended ad inferos (literally “to those below”). The predominant interpretation by the early church, what we might call the classical view, stressed Christ’s glory and power in his descent to the underworld. The fourth-century monk Rufinus of Aquileia was one of the first church fathers to write about it:

It is as if a king were to proceed to a prison, and to go in and open the doors, undo the fetters, break in pieces the chains, the bars, and the bolts, and bring forth and set at liberty the prisoners. … The king, therefore, is said indeed to have been in prison, but not under the same condition as the prisoners who were detained there. They were in prison to be punished, he to free them from punishment.

Here, Christ’s divine power, rather than his human suffering, takes center stage. Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, a Roman Catholic theologian, calls Christ’s descent “the beginning of the manifestation of his triumph over death and the first application of the fruits of redemption.”

As a visual representation, consider the anastasis icon of the Maestà Altarpiece (1), from the 13th century. Less common today, works of art like this were traditionally placed behind the elements of the Eucharist on the altar. They bear collections of images that typically depict the entire life of Christ, from Gabriel’s announcement to Mary to Christ’s ascent and reign in heaven. The anastasis portion (named for the Greek word for resurrection) depicts Christ being raised from the dead.



Image: Mondadori Portfolio / Hulton Fine Art Collection / Getty Images
Maestà Altarpiece



In this version, painted by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna, Jesus breaks the bronze doors, trampling the Devil underfoot. Think Jesus as superhero, Jesus as Schwarzenegger, Jesus as Rambo, infiltrating an enemy camp to rescue POWs. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote that “Christ descended into hell not as the devil’s victim but as Conqueror.”

The Eastern Orthodox worship service known as the Matins of Great Saturday expresses this sentiment beautifully. The gathering begins with a grave (epitaphion) erected as the focal point in the middle of the church and includes a reading of Psalm 119, a customary funereal psalm.

The typically mournful tone associated with this psalm, however, is subtly overturned through a series of exultant responses, climaxing with the singing of the Paschal troparion (“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life”), which signals the beginning of paschal joy. In fact, the dominant theme of the service is Christ’s glorious and powerful triumph over death and the Devil; the Matins of Great Saturday is clearly an anticipatory celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

But the shortcoming of the classical take on Christ’s descent, for all its theological richness and truth, is that it plays too much to our collective desire to move past suffering into glory. In its eagerness to express Easter joy, it threatens to eclipse, and therefore obscure, the theological integrity and significance of Holy Saturday.

Christ the Sufferer
During the Protestant Reformation, a different view gained prominence, and its leading proponent was John Calvin. Calvin rejected the notion that Christ saved souls from limbo (“Nothing but a story!” he scoffed). Instead, he interpreted the descent into hell as a metaphorical expression of the fathomless depths of Christ’s suffering, especially spiritual suffering, endured on the cross.

This interpretation reflected Calvin’s emphasis on Christ’s substitutionary atonement. Drawing on Gregory of Nazianzus’s ancient axiom, “What has not been assumed [by Christ], has not been healed,” Calvin boldly asserts that our spiritual healing requires that Christ suffer not just biological death but also the “agony of death” (Acts 2:24), the “terrible abyss” of feeling “forsaken and estranged from God.” For Calvin, the descent into hell is the obvious theological next step of Christ’s cry of dereliction from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). If Christ is triumphant, according to this view, it is only through his passion.

This “passionate view” finds expression in another famous 13th-century painting, the Isenheim Altarpiece (2), by German artists Nikolaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald. This collection of images also depicts scenes from the life of Christ. A notable feature of this altarpiece is that it opens like a cabinet, with two sets of doors, or “wings,” that are painted with vivid imagery from the Gospels so they can be opened or closed to display different images at different times during the church year.


Image: WikiMedia Commons
Isenheim Altarpiece



On most days of the liturgical year, the Isenheim Altarpiece’s wings are closed, displaying the image of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Few graphic representations depict the extent of Christ’s physical and spiritual agony like this one. Open the wings, however, and we encounter scenes that emphasize Christ’s divinity, such as the annunciation to Mary, the Nativity, and Jesus’ resurrection. Open an additional set of wings and we see images of the church in eschatological glory, represented by gilded saints. The church’s glory is hidden in the divinity of Christ, but the divinity of Christ is hidden in his very human suffering and crucifixion.

If the Orthodox liturgy of Holy Saturday is essentially an anticipatory celebration of Easter, the absence of attention to Holy Saturday in many Protestant denominations makes it into an extended observance of Good Friday. The Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Common Worship, for example, concludes its liturgy for Good Friday with the instructions, “All depart in silence. The service continues with the Easter Vigil, or on Easter Day.”

This practice is thoroughly in line with Calvin’s emphasis on the Cross as the center of salvation. For Calvin, as with the Book of Common Worship, the “action,” so to speak, occurs on Friday. For this reason, the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once claimed that Calvin had more or less rendered Holy Saturday “superfluous.” Of course, a liturgical gap—a pregnant pause—could be a meaningful way to attend to the meaning of Holy Saturday. In practice, however, we tend to treat the extended silence of Good Friday as a way to simply move on.

Hearing Holy Saturday
Both of our most common approaches to Holy Saturday miss its full meaning. I would like to highlight a third line of interpretation, which stresses the fact that God in Christ takes on our mortal nature and thereby makes it his own. Because it focuses on Christ’s suffering with us, we might call it the compassionate view.

In addition to victory and suffering, this approach adds a radical reaffirmation of the totality of the Incarnation, which is not suspended in any way during the hours between cross and resurrection. God was indeed in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19) even while Christ lay dead in a tomb. This (admittedly inconceivable) thought, according to the late Reformed theologian Alan Lewis, “forces us to think at deeper levels yet, of who God is and how God works: present-in-absence, and absent where most present; alive in death, and dead when most creative and life-giving.”

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb (3), by 16th-century German painter and printmaker Hans Holbein the Younger, is a rare attempt to depict Jesus Christ in the tomb on Holy Saturday. It is also a fitting pictorial representation of this third view.




Image: WikiMedia Commons
The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb



Eyes toward heaven, mouth agape, Jesus’ continued relation with the Father is hinted. We have seen a similar expression on his face in images of the descent of the Holy Spirit at his baptism. But Jesus is truly dead (indicated by the rigor mortis and gangrenous coloration of his hand and face). Though the grotesque realism of the image is in line with late medieval (macabre) sensibilities, the image ultimately serves as a reminder of the miracle of resurrection and the totality of the Incarnation.

There are pastoral implications to such an interpretation of Holy Saturday. In a world living a Holy Saturday existence, in which God often seems absent, the compassionate view tells us that if God can be present in the death of Jesus Christ, then God can be and is present even where he seems most distant. During a 2010 visit to the famed Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth that is believed by some to bear the imprint of Jesus’ face, Pope Benedict XVI offered a reflection on the importance of Holy Saturday for addressing the spiritual darkness of our contemporary world:

[A]fter having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. . . . After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday.

This is a distinctively modern interpretation of Christ’s descent, emphasizing divine solidarity with the human condition of mortality and vulnerability. The church has long taught that Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of the nature of both God and humankind. So if God was in Christ in the grave, then death cannot be wholly alien to God, and neither can it be wholly alien to the human condition. On this basis, Alan Lewis boldly claims: “The New Testament story of the cross and empty tomb is the profound and dramatic confirmation of the Creator’s yes to our mortality.” This in no way denies the resurrection of Christ or the hope for new creation but rather affirms each as an eschatological surplus. Resurrection and new creation come as a result of God’s abundant grace from above and beyond the possibilities of our current reality. As C.S. Lewis repeatedly wrote, “Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.”

Is there a way for us to highlight the significance of Holy Saturday? Is it possible, in Augustine’s words, “to see darkness, to hear silence”? Perhaps, yes. In the Revised Common Lectionary, the Liturgy of the Word on Holy Saturday draws attention to the burial of Christ (John 19:38–42 or Matt. 27:57–66) while also striking a balance between acknowledging the transience of human life (Job 14:1–14) and recognizing the hope that Christ’s redemption reaches even to the lowest places (1 Pet. 4:1–8 ). Furthermore, the practice of observing Easter Vigil, though it technically belongs to Easter Sunday, emphasizes the tension between the already and the not yet, which marks Christian life between Cross and Resurrection. Therefore Easter Vigil is an appropriate and desirable way to nurture attention to Holy Saturday.

Church historian Eamon Duffy describes an interesting late-medieval English practice associated with Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, three hosts (bread, which is Christ’s body in the Lord’s Supper) were consecrated. The first was used for Communion on Thursday. The second was used for Communion on Good Friday. The third was placed in a pyx, which is a special container, then wrapped in linen and placed in a stone sepulcher on the north side of the church on Good Friday. In this way, the medieval Christians literally buried the body of Christ. Believers would then keep vigil until Easter morning, when the host was returned to its usual place above the altar. Contemporary high church Anglicans have an analogous practice: After consuming all of the host on Good Friday, the door to the tabernacle, which typically stores the reserve sacrament (bread and wine from Communion that is kept for services during the week), is left open on Saturday to demonstrate the visible absence of Christ’s body. These creative liturgies, and others, have the possibility of becoming ways to express God’s solidarity with humanity, which “neither death nor life” can ultimately thwart (Rom. 8:38–39).

Of course, for many churches, liturgies are not simply formulated out of thin air but are specific, historical traditions that the church takes up and enacts. Some churches may have more freedom to improvise than others. All who repeat the creed, however, must come to terms with the meaning of Holy Saturday, when “he descended.” Whatever else it means, this phrase proclaims that God’s solidarity with the human condition extends at least six feet under the earth. Even in the grave, Jesus is still Immanuel, God with us.

As I now reflect on my experience of a cancer diagnosis and successful treatment, I can’t escape seeing my life in the light of Holy Saturday—in all its dimensions. Christ indeed was victorious over death and Hades. He also suffered the spiritual suffering that we experience. But, more than anything, he is with us through it all.








Travis Ryan Pickell is associate director of university engagement at Anselm House in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2020, 09:30:34 am »


Who Is My COVID-19 Neighbor?





The only way to beat the coronavirus in the US is to beat it everywhere. Can we really save the whole world?


In early March, $6,500 could buy you and three friends a round of golf on an island in Charleston, South Carolina, accompanied by a former NFL quarterback or maybe even Chris Tomlin. When the sun sank behind moss-draped live oaks and blackwater marshes, you could retire to a country club for cool drinks and a private show with Grammy-nominated band Needtobreathe.

And in the surreal psychology of philanthropic events, you could have done all this in solidarity with some of the world’s poorest people, your fee going to improve health care in places where a bite from the wrong mosquito or a sip from the wrong faucet can end your life.

At least that’s how OneWorld Health, a Christian medical nonprofit, was marketing its big spring fundraiser.

By the middle of March, however, no amount of money could secure you a berth at a charity golf tournament or gala or silent auction anywhere in the country. Virtually all of them were being canceled. COVID-19 was burning its way across the globe and, for all anyone knew, it was just waiting to press the flesh in VIP circles at such gatherings.

OneWorld Health called off its Needtobreathe Classic on March 13. “It was an easy decision to make, the right decision,” said executive director Michael O’Neal. “But it certainly leaves a hole in terms of operational funds.”

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic threatens to decimate nonprofit groups. Churches, forced to livestream or outright cancel worship services, wonder what will happen when offering plates cannot be passed. Missions groups, forced to halt international travel, ask how long they can survive without sending workers into the field. Everyone worries how big donors will respond as investments dissolve and business profits disappear.

But the pandemic is a two-front war for organizations like OneWorld Health, which operates a dozen medical facilities in Central America and East Africa. Their fundraising efforts are being pummeled just as they scramble to get ahead of an anticipated onslaught of virus-related cases in the countries they serve. “We’re trying to prepare ourselves,” O’Neal said. “But we’re all going to see giving decline in the next 18 to 24 months.”

Global-health experts are particularly concerned about COVID-19’s impact in the developing world, where health care systems are already strained and, in many places, nonexistent. Millions could die. If a nation as powerful and as spread out as the United States has failed to get a handle on the virus, signs are not good for regions with high population densities, cultures of communal living, and deficient water and sanitation systems.

O’Neal knows. He and his wife moved to Uganda to help OneWorld Health open its first medical center there in 2011. “It’s going to have a huge effect,” he said. “There are 55 ICU beds in a country of 36-plus million people.”

Doctors in other countries wish they had it that good. Martie Wahl works in a private medical practice in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and minced no words: “Our health system will not be able to cope with a large number of people who need ventilation,” she said. “It will collapse within days.”

For months, international groups have issued crescendoing calls to help poorer nations prepare for the worst. As early as February, countries including the UK began earmarking millions in special aid to help those with fragile health systems fight the outbreak. The United Nations released $15 million in early March and asked for $2 billion in additional assistance. Other groups like the International Monetary Fund and the G20 have followed suit with proposals of their own.

The concern is obvious: Wealthy countries, once they’ve beaten back the inferno in their own backyards, may be too exhausted to run toward smoke on the horizon. In a firestorm, it’s only human, even prudent, to worry about your own house and your next-door neighbor’s house. But the lesson of pandemics in a globalized era is that there are no clear boundaries between neighborhoods; flames don’t just jump streets, they jump continents.

“In global health, we know with diseases like this, you’re only as strong as your weakest link,” said Ed O’Bryan, who cofounded OneWorld Health and is a physician and director of global health at the Medical University of South Carolina. Taming COVID-19 in China and the US and all of Western Europe won’t matter if it’s still raging and potentially mutating in Africa or Russia, he said. “It’s going to come back around.”

In Namibia, the government has mandated social distancing, but Wahl doubts that will be possible for one of her employees who lives with five siblings and their children in a tiny house in a poor part of town. In Liberia, where there is no ambulance service, a missionary surgeon says he worries how the sick will even get to the hospital since public transit has been restricted. Street selling, which many depend on for income, has been banned, and formal markets may be scrutinized next.

And everywhere in societies where elders occupy special places of honor, people dread a virus that preys largely on the aged.

“Often the unfortunate case is that the grandparents are the breadwinners and caregivers of the grandchildren,” Wahl said. “We would have a lot of orphaned children, more than we already have.”

If the COVID-19 pandemic has hammered wealthy nations, it’s arriving in many poorer ones like a demolition crew. Foreign investment is fleeing, revenue from oil and tourism has vaporized, and unemployment has risen to perilous levels. All this in places where most people have little or no savings to cushion their fall. Days before Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, ordered his 210 million countrymen into their homes, he lamented that it would “save them from corona at one end, but they will die from hunger on the other side.”

For missionaries and aid workers, it’s a foregone conclusion that surging desperation and malnutrition crouch just around the corner.

“It’s said, ‘When the US sneezes, Latin America gets pneumonia,’” missionary Kevin Abegg, who oversees ministry in that region for United World Mission, wrote to donors. “The sheer scale of the US economy and resources available provide significant protections that are not available in the Central American countries where we and our fellow missionaries serve.”

The developing world is not a monolith; some quarters are better equipped than others to fight the virus that has breached nearly every geopolitical border. In low-income countries outside of Southeast Asia, fewer daily flights were emptying bellyfuls of passengers from infection hot spots. That gave some leaders time to watch the rest of the world react to the pandemic. Sudan closed schools and banned large gatherings after reporting only two COVID-19 cases. Haiti closed its airports after announcing its debut pair of infections.

Across parts of Africa, fresh memories of previous epidemics like Ebola primed many countries to respond swiftly and forcefully. Liberia’s first positive test for COVID-19 was at 4 a.m., and by 10 a.m. that day, the president was shuttering schools.

The mood here “is pretty tense,” said Rick Sacra, a missionary physician at ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, who survived Ebola after contracting it in 2014. He reassured his colleagues that COVID-19 is not like Ebola, which killed half of everyone it infected. “Some of the staff, just like during Ebola, they tried to put on the personal protective equipment and felt all claustrophobic and just couldn’t cope with it.”

But responses have varied starkly. On the opposite side of Africa, Tanzania had already reported 12 cases when President John Magufuli smiled calmly and promised a cheering congregation that he would not close houses of worship because COVID-19 “cannot survive” there; “it will burn.” Across the Atlantic, while much of the world was shut indoors, thousands of Nicaraguans marched in the streets in a government-orchestrated show of support for coronavirus victims. (Nicaragua reported its first infection three days later on March 18.) Farther south in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro was dismissing the virus as a “measly cold” while the nation’s reported number of infections blew past 2,000.

“There are some things, from a public health standpoint, that are very scary for us,” said OneWorld’s O’Neal. His organization runs multiple medical centers in Nicaragua.

In most countries, doctors told CT, governments are taking the lead in testing for COVID-19 and preventing its spread. But nearly everyone in scrubs, whether employed by hospitals or by NGOs, is bracing for overwhelming numbers of coughing, feverish patients. “We’re going to be hard-hit when it picks up,” Sacra said.

That’s in no small part because, while COVID-19 has become almost the singular focus of the global health community, more-menacing diseases like tuberculosis and infectious diarrhea continue to prowl. So do less sensational illnesses like pneumonia, the world’s leading killer of children, which claims more than 800,000 lives under age five every year. “Just because you’re battling this, malaria doesn’t go away,” O’Neal said.

COVID-19 has left ample mysteries as it sweeps the globe, and doctors don’t know exactly how it will behave in the developing world. Maybe it will be less lethal among Africa’s young-skewing population. Maybe the virus faces headwinds in tropical climates, if the possibility that it doesn’t like warmer temperatures holds true. Maybe, in some tragic twist, all of these advantages are nullified in malnourished bodies.

What countries will probably never be certain of is a death toll. However scarce testing supplies become in the US, O’Bryan said, count on far less in poor countries. “You’re going to see higher mortality rates, but they may not necessarily be attributed to coronavirus. You’re going to see a lot of patients die of ‘unknown respiratory illness.’”

Dieudonné Lemfuka harbors no illusions about human strength in the face of pandemics. The surgeon spent a month in quarantine in 2014 after combatting Liberia’s Ebola outbreak at the ELWA (short for Eternal Love Winning Africa) hospital in Monrovia. “The best way to pray,” he said, “is to ask the Lord, if possible, to stop this disease.”

Prayer is probably as much as most of us ever do—if we manage to do anything—in response to news of plagues and disasters on distant shores. But it’s notable, now that a plague has encroached upon our home turf, that even Western Christians have criticized prayer as an inadequate response to the crisis on its own. “Overwhelmingly, I think the groups I work with would say ‘pray and work’” to solve the problem, pastor and Southeastern University theology professor Chris Green told the Associated Press in March.

We’ve been inundated with messages about what that work looks like domestically—no Google search or news binge is complete without a pop-up PSA to “Do the five.” Compulsive hand washing, keeping distance, and worshiping to stuttering video feeds no longer require imagination. Envisioning how to halt COVID-19 overseas is a fuzzier effort.

Volunteering for medical trips probably isn’t the answer, at least not for now. The usual countries that send medical teams are so desperate for personnel at home that they are pleading with retired health care workers to volunteer locally. For the foreseeable future, attempting international travel will require navigating a bramble of restrictions, exposure to crowds where the virus could be lurking, and potential quarantines. And if already-struggling hospitals are pushed to the brink, they will not have resources to host hordes of foreign volunteers.

Lemfuka will tell you—as will other global-health workers in the US and abroad—that money and resources are critical. Everyone interviewed for this story expressed extreme concern about shortages of personal protective equipment for medical workers and intensive-care equipment for patients. As supply chains tighten upstream in wealthy countries, they dry to dust in places like Liberia. Lemfuka sees this as a planet-size opportunity to show the love of Christ. “But how do we show that without supplies?” he asked.

He answered his own question: “If they really have that love and compassion,” Christians could “donate and support [us] with that equipment.”

If they can get it. Fundraising for public health overseas is an uphill climb, even in cheery times. If it were easier, preventable diseases like tuberculosis, which is projected to kill more than 10 million people in the next decade, would already be gone. Experts estimate that disease could be eradicated for a cool $65 billion—small potatoes when stacked against the more than $2 trillion the US government is spending to stimulate its economy during the COVID-19 downturn.

The church is unlikely to marshal such resources (although Rotary International, surely a less formidable entity than the global bride of Christ, has raised nearly $2 billion and has led the world to the cusp of eradicating polio). And leaders in the developing world are not naive—they know many of their cries for help will be lost amid the roar of appeals as the usual “donor nations” tend to their own needs first.

In the West African Ebola outbreak that Sacra endured, “it was just these three countries [affected],” he said. “We had whole containers of protective gear getting sent our way.” He doesn’t expect that kind of help with COVID-19.

Which raises questions: Would it be fair for doctors to expect such help from Christian strangers around the world? Humans are finite; we can only juggle so many cares at a time. Just how much are we obligated to help others when we need help ourselves? Jesus praised the widow for giving her mites. But would he have asked her for them?

James Thobaben is a medical ethicist and theologian at Asbury Theological Seminary. He juggles lofty questions about public health with his own more personal concerns—like whether his daughter, a physician at a St. Louis hospital, is safe. He understands scholarly ideals like utilitarianism, helping as many people as possible even if a few have to sacrifice. But he also has strong words for anyone who would send health care workers, like his daughter, into harm’s way without adequate protective equipment. “It is morally wrong,” he insists.

He referenced 1 Timothy 5:8: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This, Thobaben explained, grounds the obligations Christians have to the world: “One has a higher duty to one’s nuclear, and perhaps extended, family than to an otherwise unknown stranger. The same higher degree of duty applies to the visible church.”

It’s true, Thobaben said, that, theologically, everyone in the world is the Christian’s neighbor: a brother or sister in Christ or a victim on life’s Jericho Road. But effectiveness matters when we help others, and we are generally most effective at helping those most proximate to us.

Thobaben added a caveat: Christians are also a people on mission. That means we are always expanding the circle of people we consider close. “If I do not help at least some outside my immediate community, I fail to reach out with the gospel,” he said. “Part of the prudential obligation of a Christian is to decide how to use or even use up what one has when there is not enough to go around.”

In our globally connected age, humans—and Christians in particular—have flaunted our ability to stretch the definition of “neighbor” as far as an internet connection or a Boeing 787 will carry it. One takeaway of the COVID-19 crisis so far is that our boasting rings hollow. We clearly still react most strongly to events in our own backyard, and it’s very possible the pandemic will push the world inward to a new, self-centric era.

But proximity is both geographic and relational. Perhaps our shared experiences with this virus—rich nations and poor nations—will bring us all a little closer once we’ve emerged from the haze of self-isolation. Perhaps the next time we hear of some faceless people group out in the world suffering from an invisible, enigmatic predator, those people won’t be so faceless after all, because we’ll see ourselves in them.

For his part, as he bides time at home with his family in Charleston, Michael O’Neal sure hopes that can happen—at least in time for OneWorld Health’s next golf tournament, which he’s rescheduled for October. “Be compassionate,” he said. “Remember what it was like.”









Andy Olsen is managing editor of Christianity Today. Susan Mettes is a researcher and writer living in Washington, DC. She lived in Burundi for two years.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2020, 09:22:06 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/resurrection-hope-beyond-easter.html






Resurrection Hope Extends Beyond Easter Sunday




Even when death looms, the Good News remains.


As the COVID-19 pandemic brought global suffering and death to so many over the past several weeks, Christians eagerly anticipated Easter Sunday with its promise of new life.

Now that the holiday has come and gone, Christians might be tempted to move on. With the scope of the suffering around the world, and trajectories continuing to warn that the worst isn’t over, it would be easy to set aside any Easter joy and hope. But Jesus’ resurrection is not reserved for a single Sunday. Easter may have passed, but the hope of Resurrection is new every morning because Jesus is physically risen from the dead.

Jesus died for our sins, physically rose from the dead, and appeared to many eyewitnesses as recounted in the Gospels and throughout the Epistles. In the New Testament, hope is a confident expectation that God has fulfilled and will fulfill his promises of redemption for his people and for the world in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Christians especially need to remember this word during times of suffering. As Paul himself attests, because we’ve been justified by faith in Jesus Christ, we have both peace with God and hope in God when we suffer (Rom. 5:1–5). This hope “does not disappoint” (v. 5, NLT).

I understand how it can be hard to keep the Resurrection at the forefront when death threatens us, our communities, and those we love.

In 2018, my beloved Auntie, who raised me as if I were her own son, died a horrible death. It was the culmination of a long and painful battle with multiple sicknesses, and hope seemed hopeless.

As I cared for her in those final weeks, I often felt like the hope of Jesus’ resurrection was a biblical and theological truth that I intellectually affirmed but was not sustaining me in those circumstances. It seemed impossible to do anything but despair in those hospital rooms when my Auntie offered up loud cries to God for help as she suffered, or in the ICU when she was in a coma, or in hospice as I watched her slowly transition from this life to the next a couple of weeks before Christmas.

This pandemic is reminding all of us that life is uncertain, fragile, and too short. Along with the rest of creation, Christians should cry out with agonizing groans, disappointments, fears, and brokennes, as we long for the infections, sicknesses, suffering, and deaths to cease. We know this is not the way things should be (Rom. 8:18).

We mourn the world’s current plight. Yet we do not give up on the joy of Resurrection Sunday, with its triumphant hymns proclaiming a risen Savior. Our tears flow from hearts of hopeful lament. We eagerly wait for God in Christ to bring about creation’s redemption from its bondage to sin, sickness, death, and suffering, as we work toward and long for the flourishing of all image-bearers now (Rom. 8:19–21, Gal. 6:10).

We can still have hope amid a pandemic, and even celebrate as we lament, because we believe in a God who proved sickness and death do not have the final word (1 Cor. 15).

Even right now, God is acting on our behalf because Jesus is risen from the dead. The Spirit matches creation’s groans of lament with prayers of inexpressible utterances as he helps us and prays for us when we don’t know what to pray because our current suffering is unbearable (Rom. 8:26–27). The Spirit’s prayers guarantee that God will work out our suffering for our good because of his redemptive work in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28–30).

A little over a year ago, when my Auntie was in the ICU—those hospital wings now being filled with fragile, struggling coronavirus patients—the Lord showed our family the hope of Jesus’ resurrection. Before Auntie died, after 22 years of praying for her and witnessing to her, I had the privilege of leading her to faith in Jesus Christ.

And God has continued his work. A year later, I had the privilege of leading my mom, her sister, to faith in Jesus Christ, and then my 11-year-old son. I don’t know the purpose of Auntie’s suffering and death at the age of 59, and I still mourn her death. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, my family has hope.

The suffering that inevitably accompanies this pandemic—the death, sickness, fear, loss, isolation, and financial struggle—will be hard to bear. It will seem overwhelming and inexplicable. And yet, it’s incomparable to the glory that God will reveal in us when he liberates the entire creation from its bondage to sin (Rom. 8:18).

Even during this inexplicable time of suffering like we’ve never seen before, when death seems to span the globe and lurk right next door, Christians must remember we are more than conquerors through Christ (Rom. 8:31–39). We are united to God’s love in Jesus Christ by faith because he died for our sins, rose from the dead, and sits at God’s right hand reigning in triumphant victory over the power of sin and death (Col. 1–2).

As he reigns, Jesus prays for us in anticipation of that great day when his redeemed will reign with him on earth in a glorified world (Rev. 19:1–22:21).

In the meantime, we live with the hope of the Resurrection, and we practice a love ethic that compels us to love our neighbors well and wisely and to seek the common good of all people, even when that means we must practice social distancing and stay at home. We dream up new ways to share the message of God’s salvation with—and show the love of Christ to—our family and neighbors for whom Easter Sunday was just another day on the calendar. As the suffering around us grows, we pray for the gospel and God’s kingdom to continue to advance.

Easter Sunday has come and gone, and what lies ahead is unknown even to the best forecasters, statisticians, and scientists. But the truth of the Resurrection has not changed, and our hope in Jesus is still certain because he is risen from the dead!












Jarvis J. Williams is an associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the author of numerous books, including a recent Galatians commentary.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2020, 09:25:35 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/justin-bass-bedrock-christianity-resurrection-appearances.html






What Skeptical Scholars Admit about the Resurrection Appearances of Jesus





The historical evidence is clear: Those who claimed to see him risen must have seen something.


On June 26, 2000, ABC aired a documentary called The Search for Jesus. The network’s leading news anchor, Peter Jennings, interviewed liberal and conservative scholars of early Christianity about what we can know historically concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The series ended with a striking statement by New Testament scholar Paula Fredriksen, who is not a Christian herself.

Commenting on the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, Fredriksen said,

I know in their own terms what they saw was the raised Jesus. That’s what they say, and then all the historic evidence we have afterwards attest to their conviction that that’s what they saw. I’m not saying that they really did see the raised Jesus. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what they saw. But I do know that as a historian that they must have seen something.
She’s admitting, in other words, that the best available historical evidence confirms that followers of Jesus like Mary Magdalene, his brother James, Peter and his other disciples, and even an enemy (Paul) were absolutely convinced that the crucified man Jesus appeared to them alive, raised from the dead.

Fredriksen is not alone in supposing that these followers must have seen something. Virtually every Bible scholar across the Western world, regardless of religious background, agrees that Jesus’ earliest followers believed he appeared to them alive. This is what launched the world’s largest religion. As a result of these appearances, Jewish fishermen began proclaiming to crowds in Jerusalem that “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32). Two thousand years later, the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is proclaimed by billions of Christians in nearly every nation and in almost every language on planet earth.

What did all these witnesses see?

A Bedrock Confession
According to the earliest source we have on record for Jesus’ death and resurrection, a hidden pearl found within 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus appeared to multiple individuals and groups, and at least one enemy. This creedal tradition, according to virtually all scholars, dates to within five years of Jesus’ death. Through this source, we can reach back to the earliest years of the Christian movement in Jerusalem, to the bedrock confession of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Here is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

This catalog of Resurrection appearances is unparalleled in the New Testament, even in all of ancient literature. We learn from this list that Jesus appeared to three individuals: Cephas (Peter), his chief disciple; James, his brother; and Paul, his former enemy. And we also learn that he appeared to three groups: the Twelve (disciples, minus Judas); more than 500 early followers; and all the apostles.

That Jesus appeared to more than 500 men and women at the same time is a truly remarkable claim. Paul boldly puts his credibility on the line when he mentions that most of them are still alive. After all, he is essentially inviting members of the Corinthian church to travel to Jerusalem and speak to these witnesses, investigating for themselves what it was like to see the risen Jesus. We can see, then, that solid eyewitness testimony to the risen Jesus was readily available in the decades following his resurrection. As G. K. Chesterton observed in The Everlasting Man, “This is the sort of truth that is hard to explain because it is a fact; but it is a fact to which we can call witnesses.”

Mary Magdalene also belongs on the list of key eyewitnesses, as she too was readily available to be questioned about her experience with the risen Jesus. As the agnostic New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman writes in How Jesus Became God, it is “significant that Mary Magdalene enjoys such prominence in all the Gospel Resurrection narratives, even though she is virtually absent everywhere else in the Gospels. She is mentioned in only one passage in the entire New Testament in connection with Jesus during his public ministry (Luke 8:1–3), and yet she is always the first to announce that Jesus has been raised. Why is this? One plausible explanation is that she too had a vision of Jesus after he died.” Mary Magdalene was given the high honor of being not only the first to see the risen Jesus but the first person in history to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).

Whatever these eyewitnesses saw, it transformed their lives to the point of being willing to suffer and die for it. In 2 Corinthians 11:23–33, Paul recounts his almost daily suffering for his conviction that Jesus appeared to him. He was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, starved, lost at sea, and daily in danger of all kinds of evil on his journeys throughout the Roman Empire.

We also possess strong historical evidence that certain key eyewitnesses were martyred for their faith. Peter, for instance, was crucified. James was stoned. Paul was beheaded. Whatever they saw, it was worth giving their lives for. They sealed their testimonies with their blood.

The Magic Wand of ‘Mass Hysteria’
In order to explain away these Resurrection appearances, some scholars have speculated that the eyewitnesses were merely hallucinating.

In his excellent book Resurrecting Jesus, New Testament scholar Dale Allison surveys the available scientific studies and literature on hallucinations. In documented cases, he concludes, there are four things that do not happen (or rarely happen). First, hallucinations are rarely seen by multiple individuals and groups over an extended period of time. Second, hallucinations are rarely seen by large groups of people, especially groups of more than eight. Third, hallucinations have never led to the claim that a dead person has been resurrected. And fourth, hallucinations do not involve the person’s enemy. (We could also add the fact that hallucinations typically aren’t known for launching global movements or world religions.)

Yet in the case of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, every last one of these rare or seemingly impossible circumstances has come to pass.

Allison sums up the implications forcefully: “These appear to be the facts, and they raise the question of how we should explain them. The apologists for the faith say that the sightings of Jesus must, given the reports, have been objective. One person can hallucinate, but twelve at the same time? And dozens over an extended period of time? These are legitimate questions, and waving the magical wand of ‘mass hysteria’ will not make them vanish.”

Cautious Agnosticism
The only other answer given by respectable scholars wrestling with this robust historical record is some variation of “I don’t know.” Much like Fredriksen, renowned New Testament scholar E. P. Sanders also represents this cautious-agnostic approach when he writes, in The Historical Figure of Jesus: “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had Resurrection experiences is, in my judgement, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.”

Article continues below
Jordan Peterson, the popular professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, also belongs in this category. He neither affirms nor rejects the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. When asked directly if Jesus literally rose from the dead, Peterson responded, “I need to think about that for about three more years before I would even venture an answer beyond what I’ve already given.”

The cautious-agnostic’s position is a respectable one. Even the original apostles did not believe the claim of the Resurrection when the women first told them (Luke 24:8–11). Yet if someone like Peterson, with an open mind and heart, follows the evidence where it leads, I am convinced he will find himself at the feet of the risen Jesus, proclaiming with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Convincing Horatio
The extraordinary nature of Jesus’ resurrection reminds me of my favorite scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play opens with the “wondrous strange” appearances of Hamlet’s dead father to Bernardo and Marcellus and then later to Hamlet’s friend Horatio. Horatio is the skeptic of the group, and Hamlet challenges his disbelief of the supernatural in this exchange:

Horatio: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

Hamlet: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare speaks through Hamlet, telling us to expect the unexpected. Welcome the strange and extraordinary. It is indeed wondrous strange that the ghost of Hamlet’s father is appearing to people, but do not reject it for that reason alone. Your philosophy should be wide enough for the supernatural. More things are happening in our wonderful world (and beyond) than you can imagine. If your philosophy is not wide and open enough to include the miraculous and the extraordinary, then you need a new philosophy.

We should be open to miraculous claims from the ancient world and in modern times. Our philosophies should make room for the unexpected, strange, and extraordinary. And yet, the most important question to ask of any miraculous claim is “What is the evidence?”

We have seen that, even from the perspective of the most skeptical scholars, the weight of the historical record attests that a host of individuals and groups believed they saw the risen Jesus. All the evidence we have suggests that his eyewitnesses were trustworthy and honest. Why disbelieve them?

And if that doesn’t convince our modern-day Horatios, then we can go further, summoning the Twelve and the more than 500 who saw the resurrected Messiah.

We can even move beyond the first-century time frame, exploring how belief in the Resurrection laid the foundations of all Western civilization, inspiring some of the greatest art, literature, music, film, philosophy, morality, and ethics that the world has ever seen. Is this all based on a lie?

And if all that is still not enough, then let our Horatios behold the billions across the world today who readily testify to how the living Christ has transformed their lives. These include intellectual giants who have converted to Christianity from every world religion (or from atheism and agnosticism). In Christ, they have found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

On Easter, these billions were proclaiming the same message the apostles proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

Now more than ever, in this dark, plague-ridden world, your family, friends, and neighbors are looking for hope. The living Christ is the only hope for us all. Before Easter fades into the rush of everyday life, ask your neighbor: What (or who) did all those witnesses see?

They saw hope incarnate, new creation, life in its fullness, God in the flesh.

This indeed is wondrous strange! Encourage your skeptical friends not to stop at “I don’t know.” Give the risen Jesus welcome.












Justin Bass is professor of New Testament at Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary in Amman, Jordan. He is the author of The Bedrock of Christianity: The Unalterable Facts of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection (Lexham Press) and The Battle for the Keys: Revelation 1:18 and Christ's Descent into the Underworld (Wipf and Stock).

Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2020, 11:33:37 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/prayer-in-pandemic-part-one.html






Prayer in a Pandemic: Part One






Social Distancing from Each Other, Drawing Near to God


A global pandemic calls God’s church to prayer. On Sunday, March 15, a National Day of Prayer was held regarding the ongoing pandemic that we currently face in our nation. As we face uncertainty about health, jobs, and the immediate future, large numbers of believers in communities and on social media are choosing prayer over paranoia, prudence over panic.

As the spread of the coronavirus touches more lives, shuts down more events, shelters more people in their homes, and awakens more people to the fact that this is real, churches have been challenged to consider both the issues facing corporate worship and how best to minister to the vulnerable. This is indeed a time to remember that prayer serves as the unceasing and appropriate response of believers.

S.D. Gordon observed, "You can do more than pray after you pray, but you cannot do more than pray until you pray." We should be listening to healthcare experts. We should be practicing recommended sanitizing practices, social distancing, and quarantine when necessary. But as God’s children, we do all these practices on the solid foundation of prayer.

In uncertain times, we remember that prayer is far more than a contemplative religious practice. God truly hears our prayers! We aren’t the first to face times like these. We can look to the church in the book of Acts for wisdom; they faced intense persecution, famine, and a litany of ministry issues, all of which they met on their knees.

Prayer serves as the natural foundation of the Spirit's work in Acts. Over the next four articles I want to highlight features about prayer that we see in the Acts. The first thing I want you to see is that the church was birthed in prayer. Acts 1:14 tells us “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” Following the Lord’s instruction after his resurrection to his followers, these believers gathered for prayer. Before anything else took place, they were praying together.

Judas has betrayed Jesus and has died. What did the leaders do? They begin to pray for wisdom for Judas' successor. And in his summary of the life of the church in Acts 2, Luke says this: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers." In fact, both Acts 3:1 and Acts 16:16 shows how daily prayer marked their routine. Our first recourse is prayer.

My wife Donna and I got married in college between our junior and senior year. We then felt the Lord calling us to plant a church somewhere. We begin to pray about where and the Lord began to guide us to Buffalo, New York.

We moved there in the time when Buffalo was the fastest shrinking city in America. You read that right. We moved there in the middle of the crack epidemic of the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s. When we arrived, there were drive-by shootings on our street. But we felt the Lord call us there.

How did we know? We began to say, "Lord, what is your plan for our lives?" I was graduating from college. I started seminary when I got to Buffalo, so I had a lot to learn. But we knew enough to know that prayer was vital, and we began to pray. I remember hearing a pastor say, "Don't go somewhere, don't do something until you are sure God called you to do it." We began to pray and say, "Lord, how would you make us sure?"

I went to visit Buffalo. Donna was working at the time and couldn't go. I went and prayed, and I prayed at a certain intersection on Prospect Avenue where it crosses right in the inner city of Buffalo, New York. I , "Lord, is this what you have in mind for us?" And the Lord, led us clearly, prompting into my heart said, "Come and plant my church." Not Ed's church, but Jesus' Church.

Back then we didn't have cell phones, so I got into the car and began to drive back home.

We had been praying and fasting for over a week at that time saying, "Lord, we can't do anything without the clarity that you give us. We look to what you did in the Book of Acts. And we look for you to do it in our hearts today."

I came back home and Donna said, right away, "I've been praying. God wants us to go to Buffalo." And I said, "Yes, God wants us to go to Buffalo." I called my dad. We were from the other side of the state. I grew up on Long Island, outside of New York city. My dad said, "That's the worst city in the whole Northeast." And it was tough. Someone had a sign on the outside of the town that said, "Would the last worker in Western New York, please turn off the lights?"

But God called us. He called us as we prayed.

We moved to a city in economic distress in a post-steel and post-industrial manufacturing age. But when you know the Lord has led you to do something, you step out in obedience to what the Lord has in mind for you. Just as in the early church in the Book of Acts, we went to the Lord in prayer. He gave us his direction. Two thousand years ago, they went to the Lord in prayer. They then got God's direction.

The decisions we make regarding the coronavirus should be informed by the best in medical wisdom we have today. It is not a mark of faith to ignore fact. But we have hope beyond the immediate and dire circumstances we face. We remember that we are ultimately dependent upon him for guidance now and in the days to come.

Prayer becomes alive when we see the privilege and the joy it is to come before God to bring our needs. To simply worship him and give him thanks. To confess our sin. To be reminded of our one mediator between God and man, Jesus. They could go to God the Father and sing and pray and praise, and the Church was birthed because of those prayers.

We can draw near to God while we maintain social distance from others. Let’s be wise and let’s worship. Let’s use the technology available to pray with others safely. Let’s be servants and be surrendered. Let’s praise and thank God while we love and serve others.












Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #21 on: April 19, 2020, 06:57:39 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/how-those-incarcerated-suffer-most-in-covid-19-pandemic.html







How Those Incarcerated Suffer Most in the COVID-19 Pandemic





Whenever systems are broken and dysfunctional, it is always the most vulnerable who suffer the most.


COVID-19 is affecting everybody. But like most catastrophes, the majority of us are inconvenienced, while for the most vulnerable, this virus becomes another life-and-death experience.

There has been a lot of lively debate recently about releasing nonviolent offenders from jails, prisons, and juvenile detention facilities. But what has been missing in the discussion is how it impacts the most vulnerable who might soon be released—and by implication the rest of society, too.

Certainly, a virus like COVID-19 infiltrating into a jail is a cruise ship nightmare on steroids! And the reality is, many who are being held on bail in county jails are there simply because they can’t afford the bail that more wealthy citizens can. In fact, on any given day, 60 percent of the U.S. jail population is composed of people who have not been convicted of anything, but are too poor to post bail or to hire an attorney to work on their behalf.

But let’s think about who this 60 percent of the jail population is. They are largely the homeless, the addicted, those struggling with mental health issues, and the poor.

Data from a national study in five major American cities shows that at the time of arrest, 63 to 83 percent of arrestees had drugs in their system. And according to the Mental Illness Policy Organization, more mentally ill persons are in jails and prisons than in hospitals.

But to simply put these people on the streets—empty streets, nonetheless—may be creating long-term devastation for a short-term fix. Without the much-needed community resources being there to receive them, most will end up back in these jails, but now more likely to be infected with the virus than they might have been by being exposed to staff entering the facilities.

All of this exposes just how broken our criminal justice and social welfare system is. And whenever systems are broken and dysfunctional, it is always the most vulnerable who suffer the most.

Tragically, our jails have become dumping grounds for those whom society has neglected through the closing of countless mental health facilities, not investing in adequate and affordable drug rehabilitation, and preferring to lock up the poor rather than invest in them (though prison is many times more expensive than college education).

Yes, it would be horrible for the coronavirus to be brought in by staff from the outside to the vulnerable incarcerated of whom “social distancing” is a far cry from being possible.

The ministry I serve with works with juvenile offenders. As we have talked with many youth who are to be released soon because of the pandemic, many say they are feeling scared, vulnerable, abandoned, and often despairing of what they will be returning to.

It’s hard enough to be locked up in these days, with no family visits, recovery groups, Bible studies from outside volunteers, school classes, or counseling. As a result, staff are challenged with trying to keep kids focused and occupied 24-7, with very little positive to offer them. And the biggest thing these kids need are positive adults connecting with them.

The actual teachers and counselors and Bible study leaders and recovery facilitators are as critical as the content they bring in.

And yet, believe it or not, many of these kids are most afraid of getting prematurely released into a world that has completely changed since they left it. Re-entry work is hard enough as it is. We labor long and hard to set up jobs, schooling, community-service opportunities, introductions in churches, and other positive peer groups. But none of these are operating now. And so when someone gets out of lock-up and has to fend for him or herself without such resources, the ensuing results are not hard to predict.

Two girls we know who have been part of our Bible study are getting out this week, as there is a big push to release youth across our state. Both are terrified. One will be put into a foster home with four other kids because there is no other place to put her. She knows she needs more support than this will afford her and is rightfully feeling dumped into a situation that bypasses all the work she’s been doing with our re-entry staff to help assure her needs are met and she can successfully transition to healthy adulthood.

Keeping people locked up during a pandemic is not a good thing. But running to quick, short-term solutions may also create much more long-term devastation than so many of our most vulnerable citizens can afford to endure. Most of us will get through this. But not all of us. We are commanded to remember those in prison (Heb. 13:3), and Jesus said that how we treat the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned is how we ultimately treat him (Matt. 25:45).

How can our churches think through providing job training and opportunities for employment for ex-offenders? What about recovery programs during this time, as well as parenting, financial budgeting, and tutoring for many who have missed out on such opportunities because of incarceration?

Let’s pray for those in prison right now, where this is far more than a simple inconvenience.













Dr. Scott Larson is president and co-founder of Straight Ahead Ministries, an international faith-based organization working with juvenile offenders in both detention centers and community-based re-entry.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #22 on: April 21, 2020, 04:36:01 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/relaunching-church-how-to-seize-this-moment-for-your-church.html






Relaunching Church: How to Seize this Moment for Your Church’s Future




What do we want to take into the future from the present crisis?


Each life is shaped by a series of defining moments. Sometimes, these crucial episodes are a single, unpredicted hour within our lives. Sometimes, they are seasons.

It is true that every day of our lives matters, but they do not all have equal weight in shaping the person we will be in the future. For good or ill, our lives are marked by a handful of significant moments.

The same holds true for churches. Each church is defined by key events or periods of time that have uniquely impacted the shaping of the values, beliefs, and practices that it now embodies. The church that you lead has been deeply imprinted by a few defining moments of the past – many of which have little to do with the present, and nothing to do with the future.

But it is an exceedingly rare occasion when both people and institutions all face the same defining moment together. A moment like that calls for a courageous church leadership to become ruthlessly honest about its current state, equally frank about the conditions of the mission field, and then audacious enough to ask the most candid question of all: “How should this shared moment prepare us to become Jesus’ church for the present-future?”

Since we know that this is a defining moment, and we know that this moment is changing both us and the churches that we lead, let me ask a more approachable question: “What do we want to take into the future from the present crisis?”

We at the Send Institute, with our colleagues at Christ Together, have been leading coaching cohorts with over 1,500 churches of numerous denominations across North America, and additionally, dozens of global networks, in order to assist pastors and network leaders in navigating the present crisis into future Kingdom opportunities. Our rubric that underpins the discussion are four strategic stages in navigating a cultural crisis: stabilize, normalize, mobilize, and finally, futurize.

1. Stabilize. This first phase of the COVID-19 crisis was marked by the frenzied, and often frenetic, activity which dominated all available energies in instantaneously creating a new reality on a dime.

For most, this was the process of virtualizing things always thought to be physical. Facebook Live, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Push-Pay – things considered by many as periphery – now occupied most every church leader’s attention. Best efforts were given—sometimes awkward, clunky efforts—in order to bring some kind of stability to a congregation that could no longer congregate.

Things once considered secondary to the Sunday headcount suddenly became primary: missional communities, missional impact within neighborhoods, missional training. The stabilizing season is coming to an end for most churches.

2. Normalize. Once some semblance of stability has been achieved, we naturally enter into the phase that most churches find themselves in right now – normalizing our new reality. Easter is over, high-speed upgrades are tweaked and working, we are semi-comfortable with our tech. So now what?

Many have noticed that the gospel upside to the cataclysmic collapse of our ecclesial praxis is that the basket containing or extinguishing the Light has been crushed—and Light is leaking everywhere.

What day in history has had more ears tuned to the gospel message than this Easter Sunday as it was livestreamed into the living rooms of both the spiritually curious and devout alike? When have neighborhoods had more Christ-followers from various tribes joining forces in prayer-walking, needs-meeting, and gospel sowing than these past weeks? When have more disciples been driven to their knees on behalf of the spiritual and physical condition of others?

Latent within the spirit of Jesus’ disciples is a Kingdom impulse of otherness that is surfacing. It isn’t requiring coaxing and cajoling from sacred professionals to emerge; it is spiritual fruit borne from the Holy Spirit in some of the most unlikely places and people.

And a question starts to fascinate our spiritual imagination: “How will believers who have tasted the mission of Jesus ever again be satisfied with a consumer-centric version of church?”

3. Mobilize. So, we’ve shored things up as best as possible. Ecclesiastical minimalism is something that our circumstances have forced upon us. But in that simplicity, we have been discovering a spiritual verve that we haven’t seen in years. Normalizing the Kingdom priorities and mission of Christ seems to be happening without our usual levers and campaigns.

New and unlikely leaders are emerging with passions and spiritual clarity that are both intoxicating and intimidating. Many do not fit our old forms. We can’t imagine them sitting through our committee meetings, but we also cannot imagine how the whole church could bring the whole gospel to the whole city without spiritual leaders like these.

And then the penny drops. Maybe our Sunday-centric version of church neuters the passions and extinguishes the possibilities for much of the body of Christ. Maybe the body of Christ should more closely resemble the person of Christ in its missionary sentness, prophetic voice, evangelistic power, shepherding instincts, and equipping functions.

Perhaps in this season of simplicity and change, we have the freedom to celebrate new leaders, new voices, and new ways.

4. Futurize. After we stabilize, normalize, and mobilize, then we begin to re-structure ourselves for the future. In an inexplicable way, every existing church has an opportunity to relaunch [1] – much like a new church plant.

For many spiritual leaders, this shared moment in history has been exceedingly clarifying. Things that once occupied our priorities now seem like a life-sized game of trivial pursuit. The mission of Jesus’ church has been refined in our minds and it is so much larger and more exhilarating than producing endless Sunday extravaganzas.

Corporate worship will always be a rallying point, but the gospel mission of the body will require all of the body. We are interdependent. There are no spare parts. No spectators. No unimportant days. No second-class callings.

With metrics recalibrated toward Kingdom impact, the church’s future [2] becomes one of power and redemption. We now have a moment that we can take into the future. May we be leaders of conviction and courage.

Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute - an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.

[1] Dr. John Davidson, Director of Discovery and Development – AOG, spoke about the opportunity for every church to “relaunch” in the wake of this pandemic. John is a missiologist and part of the Send Institute’s Missiologist Council.

[2] I wrote a new book published by Exponential called, Venal Dogmata: A Parable of the Future Church, which, in God’s timing, came out this month. In a narrative fiction, I weave 10 missiological problems within evangelicalism that is keeping it from missional advance – illustrated through an inner-city Philadelphia church that closes – and from its ashes is born a global movement.



















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #23 on: April 21, 2020, 04:41:07 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/april/resilient-church-leadership-initiative-launched-to-help-pas.html







Resilient Church Leadership Initiative Launched to Help Pastors in Crisis








The WCBGC has launched the Resilient Church Leadership initiative to resource, inspire, and connect pastors dealing with both internal and external pressures.




Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Launches Latest COVID-19 Resource—The Resilient Church Leadership Initiative to Help Pastors in Crisis

For the past four weeks, the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center (WCBGC) has been leading the conversation for churches dealing with the largest global crisis many of us will face in our lifetimes.

Recognizing that church leaders are facing challenges on many fronts, the WCBGC has launched the Resilient Church Leadership initiative to resource, inspire, and connect pastors dealing with both internal pressures like burnout and mental stability and external pressures such as moving their church online, caring for their congregations, and ministering well in a time of crisis.

The initiative—a partnership of the WCBGC, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the National Christian Foundation-South Florida, and the Church United initiative—continues the conversation began in December 2019 with the GC2 Summit on Facing Hard Truths & Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Lifeway Research revealed that 23 percent of pastors acknowledge they have personally struggled with a mental illness and 49 say they rarely or never speak to their congregation about mental illness. Another Lifeway Research study of pastors concluded that 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day and 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming. Add the current crisis and the massive logistical, relational, and financial pressures our churches are facing and we have a significant problem.

“I don’t think we can understate how important it is for church leaders to take care of themselves during this crisis,” said Dr. Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. “We cannot assume we are well or that all will be well. We need to be diligent to understand how we are and to get the care we need.”

Both national and global agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are taking seriously the impact of COVID-19 fears and anxieties on the mental health of entire populations. Our churches are key to providing hope for those without hope, and the necessity of having healthy pastors is more critical than ever in this regard.

“The adrenaline will wear off as church leaders rise to the challenge of doing ministry in a ‘new normal’—whatever that will even be,” said Jimmy Dodd, CEO/Founder of PastorServe, a partner in this project. “Leader burnout and even depression and other mental issues are on the table.”

Mindy Caliguire, Executive at Gloo and President/Co-founder of SoulCare.com, encourages pastors to not neglect their own spiritual health even though workloads grow. “We need to make sure we embrace experiential spiritual practices like meditating on Scripture. Even well-known passages, like Psalm 23, can minister to us in new ways as verses take on new meaning for this time of crisis.”

The Resilient Church Leadership initiative provides both counseling options and multi-media resources for church leaders to understand their own mental health and to find ways to cope with the anxiety and stress that accompany times of crisis. In the days to come, the initiative will also include cohorts for pastors in crisis and an assessment tool to gauge the health of our leaders.

“All of our church leaders want to be healthy for their congregations,” Stetzer said. “But we simply can’t fake it, especially now. Church leaders often don’t know where to turn when they are overwhelmed and facing burnout and mental health concerns. We need to help them to take those first steps that will lead to long-term, healthy ministry.”

The initiative comes on the heels of two significant resources the WCBGC has launched in the past few weeks. Since its launch, tens of thousands of people have visited Coronavirus And The Church, a clearinghouse of free resources for churches and church leaders to help them navigate the COVID-19 crisis. The site, a partnership of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, Rick Warren, and Saddleback’s The Peace Plan, includes sermons, articles, planning manuals, and pertinent CDC information.

Additionally, the WCBGC launched a new podcast to help leaders navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Stetzer Leadership Podcast features more than two dozen interviews with global and national leaders talking about issues related to culture, faith, and mission.

“Our church leaders and our churches are working very hard to navigate this difficult season,” Stetzer added. “We need to be ministering and equipping them as well.”













The Wheaton College Billy Graham Center is a world hub of mission and evangelism training and inspiration. Founded 40 years ago by the Rev. Billy Graham, the Center is committee to convening global leaders for greater gospel impact and creating resources to equip churches and leaders to show & share the love of Jesus in a broken and hurting world.

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #24 on: April 21, 2020, 03:14:11 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/billy-graham-rule-married-women-need-more-male-friends.html





Why Married Women Need More Male Friends








Christlikeness, not social distancing, is key to male-female contact in the church.


If I’m being totally honest, I probably would not have written a book were it not for two friends, Dan and Stanford. After church one Sunday, Dan listened as I muddled through some thoughts for an upcoming retreat I was co-teaching with Stanford. “That would make a great book topic,” he said. I dismissed his encouragement with a laugh. But months later, when asked by a publisher if I had any book ideas, his words came back to me.

Dan is one of a number of men over the years who have been friends, allies, and encouragers to me. I’m not alone in this experience. Emily Hunter McGowan, a lecturer at Wheaton College, recently tweeted her acknowledgment to two men who played pivotal roles in her life by naming gifts they saw in her and encouraging her to develop them. Like me, many other women chimed in with similar stories of significant men in their lives. And, like me, many of these women are married.

The idea that married women should have relationships with men they’re not married to raises alarm bells for many, and with good cause. Sexual indiscretions regularly make headlines. Pastors and other leaders now have to contend with the threat of polyamory. And a devastating number of marriages are shaken and shattered by affairs. Naturally enough, we feel an urgent inclination to batten down the marital hatches and protect husband-wife relationships.

In church circles especially, men and women have practiced social distancing of a sort for many years. We lean on the oft-debated “Billy Graham Rule.” We give awkward side hugs. And more often than not, we outright avoid each other. My marriage of 16 years is precious, so wouldn’t it be better to cut off all relationships with other men? After all, Paul advises us to “[make] no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14, ESV) and “stay away from every kind of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).

However, I am increasingly persuaded that Paul’s words about the rules on food and Sabbath also apply to man-made (or woman-made!) rules about married people avoiding the opposite gender: “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom … but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col. 2:23). Colossians is clear that if we are to put our sinful natures to death, we don’t need more caution tape so much as more Christlikeness. Sexual infidelity ultimately results from a lack of character, not a lack of constraints. After all, the safest dog in the neighborhood is not the one on the shortest leash but the one with the most discipline.

“Between legalism and license lies the messier space of wisdom and cultivation of virtue,” writes Tish Harrison Warren in “It’s Not Billy Graham Rule or Bust.” “It is in that space where we—as individuals and in relationships—flourish. People need meaningful relationships with members of the opposite sex, and they need them to be safe, honoring, and full of integrity.”

What’s more, to suggest married people should cut off relationships with the opposite sex fundamentally misunderstands the nature of Christian relationships. On our wedding day, I promised myself to my husband alone, “forsaking all others” in the language of our vows. However, that forsaking applied only to the taking of other husbands and sexual partners. It did not mean forsaking relationships with any and all men.

As a disciple of Christ, I am called to love, serve, help, encourage, and partner with other Christians—not just the “unforsaken” half of the population in the women’s ministry but also the male half. And even though my husband promised himself to me alone—forsaking all other spouses and sexual partners—he is still called for Jesus’ sake to love, serve, help, encourage, and partner with both men and women.

The New Testament makes this calling clear. Men and women who are adopted by God the Father become brothers and sisters to one another in the family of God. The Epistles emphasize this conviction in their consistent address of believers as adelphoi: brothers and sisters in the family of God. (See for example, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 2:1, and 2:9 as three of 15 references in that letter alone.)

This language is not just metaphorical, as in verses where believers are described as branches to Jesus’ vine or living stones in the temple. The familial language of the gospel is ontological. It describes a new reality of our being. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” enthused the Apostle John (1 John 3:1, emphasis added).

What this means, then, is that as a daughter of God, I’m called to see the men around me at church not as risks I ward off but as relatives I welcome. My goal is not so much to be friendly but to be familial, and this remains true regardless of my marital status. For in the body of Christ, do we not all need one another? If the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” (1 Cor. 12:21), then how can being married mean that I say to half the members of Christ’s body, “I don’t need you?” I cannot. I need my sisters and my brothers in Christ, and they need me.

Cultivating healthy relationships between men and women within the family of God is something God calls us to as his beloved children. Of course, this requires wisdom, character, self-control, and the accountability of community. We are fallen and fallible and should not be glib about these or any other temptations. Yet God has called us to live as the family he has made us to be, which means that as a married woman, I must consider how to cultivate healthy, holy, and wholly appropriate community with the brothers God has given me.

Especially in our current crisis, as we rethink how to do church and how to serve our communities, we need each other more than ever. We cannot isolate along gender lines.

Someday soon, when this pandemic is over, I will worship with Dan and Stanford, my brothers in Christ. I will worship and serve alongside other men, too, some as acquaintances but others as true friends. All of us in the global church will get to worship and serve together again. And when we do, it will be wonderfully familiar and familial.













Bronwyn Lea is the author of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and Sisters in a Sex-Crazed World (Thomas Nelson, April 2020). She lives with her family in Northern California and serves on the pastoral staff of her local church. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - April 2020
« Reply #25 on: April 21, 2020, 05:08:24 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/prayer-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-science-healing-pence.html







Prayer and Science Have Sparred Before, But It’s a False Dichotomy






How Mike Pence and Queen Victoria both started intellectual debates over these avenues of healing.


Last month, Thomas Chatterton Williams, a contributing writer for TheNew York TimesMagazine and Harper’s Magazine, tweeted an image of Vice President Mike Pence and the members of the Coronavirus Task Force praying in the White House. The simple photograph, originally uploaded to the White House Flickr account on Feb. 26, shows Pence sitting in a chair and bowing in prayer as at least 15 others in the room also pray. Williams seemed to be deeply troubled by the scene. “Mike Pence and his coronavirus emergency team praying for a solution,” he wrote. “We are so screwed.”

The tweet quickly garnered thousands of retweets. Initial criticism was mostly regarding the alleged lack of physicians or medical doctors in the photo. Others noted the few if any public health or policy experts. But ultimately the tweet devolved into a heated debate on social media about science, religion, and the efficacy of prayer. Astrophysicist and science educator Neil deGrasse Tyson, for instance, tweeted that the coronavirus crisis requires science, “not magical thinking.” Angela Rassmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, also criticized the prayer. “I have yet to attend a scientific meeting that begins in prayer,” she wrote.

These are just some examples of recent “prayer shaming,” a term describing the ridicule toward people who offer their “thoughts and prayers” for victims of tragedies. But they are also part of an old debate about the conflict between religion and science. A similar controversy raged on both sides of the Atlantic during the second half of the 19th century.

In the fall of 1871, the prince of Wales, Albert Edward, fell gravely ill from typhoid fever. The crown pleaded with British clergy to pray for the prince. They did, and amazingly the prince survived. Queen Victoria called for a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey, inviting all clergymen but none of the leading figures of Victorian science.

This enraged the prominent Victorian physicist John Tyndall. Earlier, Tyndall had entered into debate with Oxford theologian James B. Mozley, who defended the evidential value of miracles in his 1865 Bampton Lectures, which were published in 1867. According to Mozley, the “laws of nature” should not undermine belief in miracles, for science rested on the accumulation of empirical evidence and was thus descriptive rather than prescriptive. The principle of induction was useful in gathering information but could not give us a definitive understanding of the natural world.

Tyndall responded to Mozley’s sermons by defending the principle of induction, arguing that it was the backbone of modern science. He maintained that nature had no gaps and that all apparent holes in our knowledge would eventually be filled. Looking at the history of science, he argued that before the scientific method was adopted, “unbridled imagination” caused “keen jurists and cultivated men” to commit atrocious deeds. Science had advanced because its theories and claims could be empirically tested.

After Queen Victoria’s slight, Tyndall published an article in 1872 titled “The ‘Prayer for the Sick’: Hints towards a Serious Attempt to Estimate Its Value.” He proposed an experiment suggested by Henry Thompson, a prominent British surgeon. “I propose to examine,” he wrote, “a means of demonstrating, in some tangible form, the efficacy of prayer.” One hospital ward should be set aside for patients suffering from diseases with known mortality rates, and should for three to five years be made the object of special prayers but not medical treatment. Supervised by “first rate physicians and surgeons,” the progress of these patients would be compared to the progress of patients who had not been prayed for but had been treated medically. Tyndall believed the experiment would demonstrate the superiority of the “scientific” method over spiritual healing.

Tyndall’s “prayer-gauge debate,” as it was called, incensed the religious community. Many theologians argued that Tyndall misunderstood not only the nature of God but also the true nature of prayer.

Some Christians were all too willing to accept the challenge, though—to downplay prayer. For them, the controversy served as a call to reinterpret prayer for a scientific age. These more theologically liberal thinkers strove to bring Christianity into alignment with modern thought. Liberal-leaning clergy supported Tyndall’s exclusion of the divine from the physical world and called on believers to rethink prayer as merely therapeutic in nature.

But the debate is actually much older than the 19th century. The prayer-gauge controversy reframed an older debate over miracles between Protestant and Catholics. The Protestant Reformation powerfully upended traditional understandings of miracles and prayer. According to Martin Luther, for instance, ecclesiastical miracles were “lying wonders” and “tom foolery.” John Calvin explained that one should not expect to see miracles in his day, for “we are not forging some new gospel, but are retaining that very gospel whose truth all the miracles that Jesus Christ and his disciples ever wrought serve to confirm.” In other words, the age of miracles was over. With the Incarnation, God no longer needed to intervene in nature. All alleged miracles were superstitions or diabolical perversions.

But if God no longer intervenes in the physical world, what becomes of prayer? Here, Protestant writers made a distinction between miracles as such and acts of providence. Miracles were dramatic and immediate. But in his providence, God acted through the natural order. The beauty, harmony, and order of nature testified to the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. Law governed the natural world, and God neither broke nor altered these laws.

But this focus on what came to be called “natural revelation” came with a cost. It ultimately helped transform godly natural philosophy (i.e., science) to naturalistic modern science and thus brought about the perception that science and religion are at war. Indeed, Tyndall and others had appropriated the Protestant critique against Roman Catholics and used it against all claims of the miraculous.

Perceptions of conflict between science and religion are one of the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation. While we cannot possibly settle the debate here, the history of theology offers us a more nuanced view of both how God works in creation and the nature of prayer, which I think are especially relevant in such a time as this.

Drawing on development over several centuries by theologians as they grappled with the Bible and their experience of the created world, some Christian thinkers have concluded that God’s usual way of acting in creation is concursus—that is, acting through and alongside the processes of creation that were all made through the Son. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it:

God’s providence is His almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.

This view is at once more biblical and Christological than the sort of semi-deism that many 19th-century liberal theologians proposed. The Christian faith is not simply a set of personal values or spiritual preferences, but a claim about reality. As Paul put it in his letter to the church in Colossae, Christ is the one in, and through, and for whom all things were created (Col. 1:15–17). We live in a cosmos ordered and sustained by God and destined to be perfected according to his good purpose. All things, whether quarks, cells, organisms, stars, or galaxies, were made and are continuously sustained by God.

When it comes to explaining miracles (and divine answers to prayer), this view calls for multiple layers of explanation—scientific but also theological, among others—to fully capture the richness of God’s activity in creation. Scientific investigation helps us understand some of the “how” of God’s ways of working in and through creation, and the Bible and theology help us understand some of the “why” of God’s intentionality in creation.

In 1919, German theologian Friedrich Heiler defined prayer in six categories—asking for deliverance from misfortune and danger, liturgical or ritualistic prayers, and contemplative prayers, among others. But Heiler felt the highest form of prayer is speaking directly to God without formula or meditation. This is what he called “prophetic prayer,” following after the biblical prophets, in which no limitations are placed on method, location, or liturgical ranking. Prophetic prayer involves importunity, passionate pleading, lament, and even wrestling with God. As biblical scholar N. T. Wright recently observed in a Time magazine op-ed on the pandemic, lament does not always bring answers. But that is not the point. We lament because God also laments with us.

Prophetic prayer is both a gift and a task. Indeed, the whole ministry of Jesus exemplified the prayers of a prophet (Matt. 21:11, 46; Luke 7:16). In fact, a view of creation that affirms Christ’s role in creating and sustaining all things compels us to think about the world’s current meaning and structure, with clear ethical implications. What is creation telling us? While creation is no doubt good, it is also currently an embattled place. All creation is groaning (Rom. 8:22). It has been subjected to disorder. Knowing that Christ responded by intervening in creation to heal the sick, befriend those on the margins, and more, Christians are called to follow his example. Thus, prophetic prayer should be a call to action.

Prayer empowers us to work in the world for God’s glory. We pray not only for personal blessing but for the extension of God’s kingdom. The work of Christ through us does not extricate us from a damned world—it seeks to redeem it. We come before God as finite creatures who do not fully understand, who need the mind of Christ, the wisdom of God, and who rely on the Holy Spirit’s power. We are not in control. We’ve made remarkable scientific and technological advances, but a microscopic organism has unleashed a torrent of disruptions, closing cities and even entire countries. To pray in this time is what people of faith have always done when they face trials and tribulations—pray for wisdom and courage, acknowledging that God is ultimately in control, and that his grace is sufficient, made perfect in our weakness.
















James C. Ungureanu is an intellectual historian with a particular interest in the history of Christian thought. He is currently historian in residence at the George L. Mosse Program in History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is author of Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition: Retracing the History of Conflict (University of Pittsburgh Press).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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