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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019  (Read 1166 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« on: August 02, 2019, 06:11:28 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/pew-americans-less-faith-in-tech-than-church.html




Americans Now Have Less Faith in Tech Than Church




Christians hope to address the ethical concerns raised as the country grows more skeptical of Big Tech.

 
For the first time in at least a decade, Americans now view churches and other religious organizations more favorably than the technology companies whose service and devices denominate daily life.

Since 2010, most US adults have appreciated the contributions of tech firms, believing they had a positive effect on “the way things are going in the country,” according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

But in the shadow of cultural and legal battles over privacy, the pitfalls of social media, and the increasing dominance of Silicon Valley behemoths, faith in tech has taken a nosedive.

For the past decade, around 7 in 10 Americans said tech companies had a positive effect on the country, peaking in 2015 at 71 percent. Today, just half Americans agree.

No other major institutions examined by Pew—colleges and universities, labor unions, banks and other financial institutions, large corporations, national news media, and churches and religious organizations—saw as severe a decline in support as tech brands.

“For many years, there was an inherent trust in technology companies because of the value their tools and services added to our lives,” Jason Thacker, creative director and associate research fellow at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told CT. “But as the data shows, that trust has been broken as the real impact of these tools are being widely felt.”

Just a few years ago, there was “broad agreement that technology companies and small businesses have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country,” Pew researchers stated in 2015. That consensus, as far as the tech companies go, has taken a serious hit, as just last week Facebook was fined a record-setting $5 billion for privacy violations. Other household names like Apple and Google have felt the legislative sting of consumers and governments angry about the way their data has been handled.

In the wake of this news, Americans have an increasingly pessimistic view of where tech is headed, with one third considering its impact negative and 50% positive. The reputation of churches and religious organization is slightly higher: 29% say churches and religious organizations have an outright negative effect, and 52% say the effect is positive, according to Pew’s findings. (There’s a growing partisan divide—68% of those on the political Right view churches and religious organizations positively, compared to 38% on the Left.)

The recent dip in approval for tech companies could reflect a helpful shift in consumer engagement.

“It is a positive development that the public now is starting to think critically about how we use technology and its influence on our lives,” said Thacker, who researchers the ethical and social implications of tech. “As those who believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, Christians bring a unique perspective to these questions that I hope continues. We must not outsource our moral leadership to culture.”


Increasingly, Christians are stepping up to the challenge. Numerous evangelical leaders, including Thacker, endorsed a specifically evangelical statement of principles related to artificial intelligence earlier this year.

Josh Moody, senior pastor of College Church and founder of God Centered Life, encourages Christians to embrace technology as a means of evangelism. “We must not be luddites when it comes to technology,” he said, with an accompanying caution, “but we must also be aware of what it is doing to us.”

But faithful discussions about current technological issues and upcoming developments ought not be relegated just to theologians and church leaders, said Thacker.

“One of the most practical ways the church can help lead in this area is to begin addressing these questions in our gatherings, classes, and small groups,” he said.

“By simply talking about them in community, we can help our people navigate these issues with wisdom and hope.”




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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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 - August 2019
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2019, 06:36:16 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/jesus-army-abuse-closure-uk-wages-sin-death-krish-kandiah.html






For Jesus Army, Must the Wages of Abuse Be Death?



Closure of UK-based charismatic church network raises question of whether ministries can recover after abuse is uncovered.

 
Rainbow-colored vans and buses were a regular sight in my hometown during my childhood in southern England. Emblazoned with a large red cross on the window and the words Jesus People Loving People on the side, wherever the vehicles stopped a team of people would jump out dressed in brightly colored camouflage gear and start an open-air evangelistic meeting. This was how I experienced the Jesus Army.

But this innovative and controversial British group will now no longer be on the streets. Numerous disclosures of the past sexual abuse of children have led not just to the appropriate criminal prosecution of the individuals concerned, but the dissolution of the entire church network.

Despite these tragic and terrible events, some might ask if the disbanding of the entire denomination is too extreme a reaction? Does the total disappearance of a ministry circumvent the Christian potential for change, learning, redemption, forgiveness and restitution?

How should believers react to the awful fact of the increasing number of ministry abuse scandals in the United Kingdom, United States, and beyond? What can we learn from the Jesus Army’s response?

The Jesus Army is not to be confused with the Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth in 1865 and now numbering 1.7 million members worldwide; nor with the Church of England’s evangelistic organization known as the Church Army, founded in 1882 and now with about 300 evangelists in the UK and Ireland.

The Jesus Army is not to be confused with the Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth in 1865 and now numbering 1.7 million members worldwide; nor with the Church of England’s evangelistic organization known as the Church Army, founded in 1882 and now with about 300 evangelists in the UK and Ireland.

The Jesus Army was founded out of a charismatic church in Bugbrooke in 1969 by Noel Stanton, following his personal encounter with charismatic renewal and the Jesus People movement in the US. By 1987, the group had taken on a clear vision to follow in the footsteps of the Salvation Army and sought to reach out to marginalized people in the UK.

At its peak, the Jesus Army had about 2,500 members. They used targeted evangelistic campaigns and a strongly directive form of mentoring and discipleship which became known as “heavy shepherding.” The forcefulness of these practices led to the Jesus Army being removed in 1986 from membership of both the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK) and the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

In 1999, the Jesus Army was received back into the EAUK’s membership. Its expulsion and re-inclusion seemed to offer good evidence that discipline for the sake of restoration (as described in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11) can be effective when it comes to churches and denominations.

But after the sentencing in late May of 6 men for the assault of 11 victims from the 1970s to 1990s, the Jesus Army voted to revoke its constitution and to shut down as a national organization. With the winding down of the central overseeing body, individual churches were encouraged to become independent fellowships.

Tragically, such incidents of child sexual abuse are echoed in many different denominations and organizations today. The Church of England is currently facing scrutiny by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IISCA), with more than 3,300 allegations reported so far. In fact, the IICSA recently announced a new investigation that will scrutinize safeguards across the broader spectrum of churches and organizations beyond Anglican and Catholic ones, indicative of the growing number of serious allegations and disclosures. Meanwhile in the US, the Southern Baptist Convention acknowledged both media reports of 700 cases of abuse by affiliated pastors over several decades and its own failure to adequately care for victims.

Some feel that such denominations and ministries are now so tainted that they, like the Jesus Army, should be fully terminated. Others would argue that there is the possibility of redemption even after these most serious of crimes.

The Bible is very clear about the intrinsic value, dignity, and worth of all people, and is particularly outspoken about children and the consequences of crimes and sins against them. There is no excusing or dismissing the evil of the abuse of children. As a foster parent, I have seen too many instances of the horrific impact that sexual abuse has on children. It is vital that we as the church prove to be both above reproach in our safeguarding practices and unfailingly compassionate in our care for victims.

However, there does not seem to be a clear-cut approach in Scripture as to whether it is possible for organizations and churches to recover after the guilty have been punished by the legal and civic authorities.

There are times when we see a clarity and severity of the judgement of God. For example, on Ananias and Sapphira—a passage that made my children scream out in objection to the apparent injustice when we read it together. The problem for my children was that God would strike down dead a couple who had exaggerated the gift they were offering to the church, and how particularly harsh this seemed in comparison to the exceptional mercy afforded to the apostle Paul who had been murdering Christians.

Or compare the fate of Uzzah, who is struck dead for putting out his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant so it doesn’t fall, with the clemency given to King David for murdering his mistress’s husband, Uriah. Is murder less important to God than half-hearted tithing? Is adultery less important to God than temple furniture?

From our human perspective, how are we able to determine the full significance of every crime and scandal? How can we even begin to understand every punishment or mercy meted out by God to individuals, let alone be clear about its implications for modern organizations?

Once the perpetrators have been found guilty and sentenced, how are we to respond to organizations that have been affected by abuse? Which side do we err on: mercy and pardon, or judgment and punishment?

There is a strong argument for leaning toward the side of grace. After all, there but for the grace of God go any of us. We are all sinners forgiven by grace, and who are we to judge the living and the dead? All of us fall very far short of God’s standards, and each of us has the capacity to abuse power and harm others.

But each of us also has the responsibility to act in wise and discerning ways that protect the vulnerable and promote righteousness. We must of course lean toward the side of truth, being diligent to investigate accusations, acknowledge wrongdoing, support victims, and take appropriate action against the guilty. How can we balance these two mandates?

Justin Humphreys, CEO of thirtyone:eight—a UK-based Christian safeguarding charity which advised the Jesus Army on its response—told CT:

“There are some circumstances where it almost seems as though there is no way to rebuild where damage has been caused by abuse and harm—especially where this has repeatedly occurred in the church environment. Indeed, sometimes unsafe cultures are so embedded that the ability to sift out all the undesired remnants of harmful attitudes and practices is impossible even after the perpetrators have been disarmed of their power and removed from their positions. Closure may sadly be the only robust step to assure people’s future safety.

But we must remain hopeful that our God is able to redeem all things in His time. We must be realistic in this regard, however, and to assume that acting with grace alone will address issues of abuse is naïve and dangerous. Risk is a reality, and we must be prepared to face the truth and deal with it effectively and appropriately. The church is no exception.”

Jesus is our model when it comes to balancing grace and truth. He is the one who is described as “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus magnificently holds in tension the pure holiness of God and the perfect compassion of God. The same Jesus who restored Peter, who offered full forgiveness and a VIP welcome to paradise to the thief dying next to him on the cross, also declared that a millstone ought to be tied around the neck of anyone that causes a little one to stumble.

Following Jesus means we should be gracious and hospitable to the worst of sinners, but also be decisive and unremitting in the way we deal with sin—even shutting down ministries and excommunicating pastors when necessary, if they have lost their moral and spiritual credibility.

We must be more committed to protecting the vulnerable than protecting the reputation of the church, denomination, or ministry involved. We cannot turn a blind eye if we uncover abuse in any form. We must face it head on, refusing to allow grace to eclipse truth or truth to eclipse grace.





Krish Kandiah is founder of Home for Good, a UK-based fostering and adoption charity.




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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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 - August 2019
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2019, 07:29:22 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/jesus-army-abuse-closure-uk-wages-sin-death-krish-kandiah.html






For Jesus Army, Must the Wages of Abuse Be Death?



Closure of UK-based charismatic church network raises question of whether ministries can recover after abuse is uncovered.

 
Rainbow-colored vans and buses were a regular sight in my hometown during my childhood in southern England. Emblazoned with a large red cross on the window and the words Jesus People Loving People on the side, wherever the vehicles stopped a team of people would jump out dressed in brightly colored camouflage gear and start an open-air evangelistic meeting. This was how I experienced the Jesus Army.

But this innovative and controversial British group will now no longer be on the streets. Numerous disclosures of the past sexual abuse of children have led not just to the appropriate criminal prosecution of the individuals concerned, but the dissolution of the entire church network.

Despite these tragic and terrible events, some might ask if the disbanding of the entire denomination is too extreme a reaction? Does the total disappearance of a ministry circumvent the Christian potential for change, learning, redemption, forgiveness and restitution?

How should believers react to the awful fact of the increasing number of ministry abuse scandals in the United Kingdom, United States, and beyond? What can we learn from the Jesus Army’s response?

The Jesus Army is not to be confused with the Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth in 1865 and now numbering 1.7 million members worldwide; nor with the Church of England’s evangelistic organization known as the Church Army, founded in 1882 and now with about 300 evangelists in the UK and Ireland.

The Jesus Army is not to be confused with the Salvation Army, founded by William and Catherine Booth in 1865 and now numbering 1.7 million members worldwide; nor with the Church of England’s evangelistic organization known as the Church Army, founded in 1882 and now with about 300 evangelists in the UK and Ireland.

The Jesus Army was founded out of a charismatic church in Bugbrooke in 1969 by Noel Stanton, following his personal encounter with charismatic renewal and the Jesus People movement in the US. By 1987, the group had taken on a clear vision to follow in the footsteps of the Salvation Army and sought to reach out to marginalized people in the UK.

At its peak, the Jesus Army had about 2,500 members. They used targeted evangelistic campaigns and a strongly directive form of mentoring and discipleship which became known as “heavy shepherding.” The forcefulness of these practices led to the Jesus Army being removed in 1986 from membership of both the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK) and the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

In 1999, the Jesus Army was received back into the EAUK’s membership. Its expulsion and re-inclusion seemed to offer good evidence that discipline for the sake of restoration (as described in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11) can be effective when it comes to churches and denominations.

But after the sentencing in late May of 6 men for the assault of 11 victims from the 1970s to 1990s, the Jesus Army voted to revoke its constitution and to shut down as a national organization. With the winding down of the central overseeing body, individual churches were encouraged to become independent fellowships.

Tragically, such incidents of child sexual abuse are echoed in many different denominations and organizations today. The Church of England is currently facing scrutiny by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IISCA), with more than 3,300 allegations reported so far. In fact, the IICSA recently announced a new investigation that will scrutinize safeguards across the broader spectrum of churches and organizations beyond Anglican and Catholic ones, indicative of the growing number of serious allegations and disclosures. Meanwhile in the US, the Southern Baptist Convention acknowledged both media reports of 700 cases of abuse by affiliated pastors over several decades and its own failure to adequately care for victims.

Some feel that such denominations and ministries are now so tainted that they, like the Jesus Army, should be fully terminated. Others would argue that there is the possibility of redemption even after these most serious of crimes.

The Bible is very clear about the intrinsic value, dignity, and worth of all people, and is particularly outspoken about children and the consequences of crimes and sins against them. There is no excusing or dismissing the evil of the abuse of children. As a foster parent, I have seen too many instances of the horrific impact that sexual abuse has on children. It is vital that we as the church prove to be both above reproach in our safeguarding practices and unfailingly compassionate in our care for victims.

However, there does not seem to be a clear-cut approach in Scripture as to whether it is possible for organizations and churches to recover after the guilty have been punished by the legal and civic authorities.

There are times when we see a clarity and severity of the judgement of God. For example, on Ananias and Sapphira—a passage that made my children scream out in objection to the apparent injustice when we read it together. The problem for my children was that God would strike down dead a couple who had exaggerated the gift they were offering to the church, and how particularly harsh this seemed in comparison to the exceptional mercy afforded to the apostle Paul who had been murdering Christians.

Or compare the fate of Uzzah, who is struck dead for putting out his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant so it doesn’t fall, with the clemency given to King David for murdering his mistress’s husband, Uriah. Is murder less important to God than half-hearted tithing? Is adultery less important to God than temple furniture?

From our human perspective, how are we able to determine the full significance of every crime and scandal? How can we even begin to understand every punishment or mercy meted out by God to individuals, let alone be clear about its implications for modern organizations?

Once the perpetrators have been found guilty and sentenced, how are we to respond to organizations that have been affected by abuse? Which side do we err on: mercy and pardon, or judgment and punishment?

There is a strong argument for leaning toward the side of grace. After all, there but for the grace of God go any of us. We are all sinners forgiven by grace, and who are we to judge the living and the dead? All of us fall very far short of God’s standards, and each of us has the capacity to abuse power and harm others.

But each of us also has the responsibility to act in wise and discerning ways that protect the vulnerable and promote righteousness. We must of course lean toward the side of truth, being diligent to investigate accusations, acknowledge wrongdoing, support victims, and take appropriate action against the guilty. How can we balance these two mandates?

Justin Humphreys, CEO of thirtyone:eight—a UK-based Christian safeguarding charity which advised the Jesus Army on its response—told CT:

“There are some circumstances where it almost seems as though there is no way to rebuild where damage has been caused by abuse and harm—especially where this has repeatedly occurred in the church environment. Indeed, sometimes unsafe cultures are so embedded that the ability to sift out all the undesired remnants of harmful attitudes and practices is impossible even after the perpetrators have been disarmed of their power and removed from their positions. Closure may sadly be the only robust step to assure people’s future safety.

But we must remain hopeful that our God is able to redeem all things in His time. We must be realistic in this regard, however, and to assume that acting with grace alone will address issues of abuse is naïve and dangerous. Risk is a reality, and we must be prepared to face the truth and deal with it effectively and appropriately. The church is no exception.”

Jesus is our model when it comes to balancing grace and truth. He is the one who is described as “the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus magnificently holds in tension the pure holiness of God and the perfect compassion of God. The same Jesus who restored Peter, who offered full forgiveness and a VIP welcome to paradise to the thief dying next to him on the cross, also declared that a millstone ought to be tied around the neck of anyone that causes a little one to stumble.

Following Jesus means we should be gracious and hospitable to the worst of sinners, but also be decisive and unremitting in the way we deal with sin—even shutting down ministries and excommunicating pastors when necessary, if they have lost their moral and spiritual credibility.

We must be more committed to protecting the vulnerable than protecting the reputation of the church, denomination, or ministry involved. We cannot turn a blind eye if we uncover abuse in any form. We must face it head on, refusing to allow grace to eclipse truth or truth to eclipse grace.





Krish Kandiah is founder of Home for Good, a UK-based fostering and adoption charity.




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2019, 11:55:40 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/deliver-us-from-this-racist-evil-age.html





Jesus, Deliver Us from This Racist Evil Age



We believe in a Savior who redeems, a Spirit who reconciles, and a gospel that is the antithesis of white supremacy.

 
On August 3, 2019, a shooter entered a Wal-Mart shopping center in El Paso, Texas, and murdered 22 image-bearers and injured dozens of others. According to news reports, the gunman was a white supremacist, and he is rightly being identified as a domestic terrorist.

This massacre marks the latest overt example of white supremacist terror in the US. The shooter allegedly wrote an online racist “manifesto” in which he refers to Latino/a immigrants as invaders into Texas who could only be stopped by deadly force. The shooter’s statement castigates immigration, making racist verbal attacks about “the heavy Hispanic population” in Texas. Of the 22 he murdered, news sources reveal that the terrorist targeted Hispanics and killed eight Mexican image-bearers.

Recent attacks like this one remind us that racism is a reality. With the rise of 21st-century hate crimes over the past several years, racism enflames the souls of those who allow the embers to burn. Racism will always be a matter of life and death for any image-bearer adjudicated by the racist as an enemy of the state.

Certainly, legislation and policies are important responses to the dangers posed by racism and white supremacy. However, for Bible-believing Christians and our churches, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a supernatural weapon by which to take all racist ideologies and actions captive in Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ can help Christians, with ears to hear, courageously speak in love the truth against racism and white supremacy. Through the power of the Spirit, the gospel can help Christians, with willing hearts, engage in the spiritual battle against racism and white supremacy, even when doing so is unpopular.

The Present Evil Age and Racism
The apostle Paul explains in Galatians that Jesus died and resurrected to deliver ethnically diverse groups of people from the present evil age and to redeem them from the curse of the law (1:1, 4; 3:13). Jesus also died for our sins to deliver us from God’s wrath, justify us by faith, reconcile us to God, and reconcile us to one another (Rom. 3:24; 5:7-10; Eph. 2:11-22).

Christ’s redemption results in the redeemed receiving the Abrahamic blessing, namely, the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:13-14). Scripture tells us again and again that walking contrary to the Spirit is opposed to the gospel and makes us complicit in the evil works of the present evil age (John 3:3-21; 14:15-31; 16:4-15; Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 2:11-3:12; 1 John).

The present evil age at least consists of a cursed universe because of sin (Gen. 3:1-19). This is one reason the Bible speaks of the need for a “new creation” (Gal. 6:15; cf. Isa. 65:17-25).

The present evil age also consists of false ideas (Gal. 1:8-9; 4:8-11; Col. 1:21; 2:8), wicked behavior (Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 1:21), depraved human beings spiritually dead and walking in the path of trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-10), and corrupt earthly and demonic systems and authorities (Eph. 1:19-20; 2:1-3; Col. 2:14-15; Rev. 17:1-18:24).

The present evil age both enslaves people under sin’s power and is also enslaved to sin’s power (Rom. 3:10-18; 6:6, 20; Gal. 4.3), to the demonic forces of evil (Gal. 4:9-11; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19; Col. 3:20), and to everything within the present evil age (Gal. 1:4; 4:3). Racism and white supremacy are part of the present evil age because they are opposed both to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the love produced by the Spirit (Gal. 5:13-26).

Jesus Christ himself gives us good news (Mark 1:14-15), because he is the good news (Gal. 1:15-16). He delivers his people by faith from the present evil age and gives ethnically diverse Christians his Spirit (Gal. 1:4; 3:13-14; 4:4-7).

The Spirit enables followers of Christ—people with beautiful Asian, black, brown, and white skin; with a range of immigration statuses; with different accents—to pursue mutual sacrificial love for one another in the power of the Spirit as the people of God (Rev. 5:9; 7:9-10). Christians must walk in love in the power of the Spirit as opposed to the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:13-26; Rom. 8:1-16; 1 John 3:1-24).

One way we do this is by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, instead of taking advantage of our freedom to gratify our sinful desires or to serve the demonic forces of evil. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:13-14,“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping with this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This Spirit-empowered love can move willing Christians to speak against and to seek to defeat every form of racism and white supremacy with the supernatural weapon of the gospel, the inerrant word of God, and God’s common grace.

Racism is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who willfully live to gratify the sinful desires of racism “will not inherit the kingdom of God” because they reveal they might be still enslaved to the present evil age and to its seductive powers (Gal. 5:17, 19-21), instead of being freely enslaved to love by the power of the Spirit as those redeemed by Christ and bound for the promised land of new creation.

The Requirements of Kingdom Citizenship
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God’s kingdom is a multi-ethnic kingdom, with a brown-skinned Jewish Messiah reigning as king, filled with diverse dialects and stories. These citizens of the kingdom have tasted by faith the salvation of the one God, the one Jewish Lord, and the one Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4-6). The kingdom consists of ethnically diverse image-bearers who have died with Christ in Christian baptism and are raised to live a life transformed by the Spirit (Rom. 6:1-23; 8:1-16; 1 Pet 2:9-10).

Professed Christians who perpetuate racism; pander to any form of white supremacy in overt or covert ways in the church and in society; and remain opposed to taking racist ideologies and racist behavior captive in Christ run the risk of falling short of the kingdom of God. Such people may hear Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness,” when they stand before him in the day of judgment—even if they preached good sermons, performed many great works, and cast out demons in the name of Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23; Gal. 5:21).

Certainly, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God in many ways (Rom. 3:23), but kingdom -citizenship requires allegiance to King Jesus Christ above all (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Allegiance to Jesus requires us to obey Jesus (Matt. 5-7).

From where we sit as African-American Christians, racism and white supremacy are opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they pose a threat to all diverse image-bearers in our churches. Brown immigrants and people of color—families like Jarvis’s, with a Hispanic wife and a mixed African-American and Hispanic son, and Curtis’s, with an African-American wife and children—are genuinely afraid that white supremacists may murder us and our kids because of the color of our skin. These fears are present in many of our churches.

As we continue to live in the present evil age as Christians until Jesus returns, we who believe in biblical authority and in the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ must answer this question with absolute clarity, “How will we respond?”

Regardless of political affiliation, Christians must not play political games with racism and white supremacy. We must reject all forms and expressions of racism and white supremacy. We must not employ racist rhetoric about image-bearers who are immigrants and people of color. We must not dehumanize or hate any image-bearer based on the color of their skin (Asian, black, brown, or white).

Christians must become aware of our own complicity in racism. With God’s help, Christians must also overcome convenient silence about racism because of fear of the political, social, and financial cost. Christians, and the churches in which we worship, must preach, obey, and apply the whole gospel in ways that will take every wicked thought and behavior captive in Christ, including racist thoughts and behavior, in the power of the Spirit and in ways that will cultivate Spirit-empowered love for all ethnically and racially diverse image-bearers.

Racism and white supremacy will spiritually kill the souls of every image-bearer. And racism and white supremacy are literally a matter of life and death, especially for immigrants, for people of color, for white people who oppose white supremacy or who stand in the path of white supremacist terror, and for anyone whom white supremacists view as the so-called ethnic other.

Will we who claim Christ be faithful to follow Jesus and engage in the spiritual battle against all forms of racism and white supremacy with the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit in our churches and in our communities? We do not know. But we do know God is able, and the gospel of Jesus Christ can change lives, including the lives of racists. We pray and live with hope that the Lord Jesus would help all Christians to preach, obey, and apply a sufficient gospel to this present evil age!







Jarvis J. Williams (Ph.D.) is associate professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous academic works on salvation in Paul in its early Jewish context.

Curtis A. Woods (Ph.D.) is the associate executive director for convention relations and communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and an assistant professor of Applied Theology and Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

They are co-authors of The Gospel in Color: A Theology of Racial Reconciliation for Families.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the magazine.




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2019, 10:54:14 am »




https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2019/august/virtue-vice-why-niceness-weakens-our-witness.html





Why Niceness Weakens Our Witness




I can’t follow Christ and also succeed at being nice.

 
God did not call you to be nice. This statement has been rattling around in my head for well over a year now, and I haven’t been able to shake it. It has reemerged at crucial moments, not as an excuse to be snarky, angry, or rude, but because I have noticed something going on in my heart, and in the church, for a while now: A competing allegiance. A warm and inviting idolatry that has managed to wedge itself between us and true obedience to Christ.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to be nice—not just loved but needed—and it is an identity I have struggled to leave behind. I want to be accepted, and I want to be embraced. As a lifelong nice girl, I have not only felt this pressure but I have also caved in to it often. The need to be nice has influenced my ministry as well as my relationships. I have backed away from hard conversations or softened my convictions, opting instead for the wide gate of niceness.

“Niceness” is a form of superficial kindness that’s used as a means to a selfish end. I identify it as an idol in my life because I have served it tirelessly, and it has served me well in return. My devotion to it has won me a lot of acceptance and praise, but it has also inhibited my courage, fed my self-righteousness, encouraged my inauthenticity, and produced in me a flimsy sweetness that easily gives way to disdain.

As I look beyond my own heart, I see this same phenomenon everywhere. Niceness has become a social currency in our culture, one that we value highly without ever really realizing it. I once discussed this topic with Christina Edmondson, dean of intercultural student development at Calvin College and cohost of the podcast Truth’s Table, and she remarked that “we are wooed by superficial niceness. Satiated by it.” We will forgive all manner of ills in a person we deem to be nice. We use niceness to grease the wheels of our social interactions. We employ it like a ladder, helping us to scale the heights of our career. And for many Christians, following Jesus means we are just really, really nice.

The friend who says a hard thing that we need to hear, the pastor who holds us accountable, the leader who disrupts the status quo—these not-nice behaviors are frequently met with swift rejection and even rage. Friendships end. Church members leave. Social media burns with outrage. These kinds of reactions tell us something about the role of niceness in our culture. It isn’t just a social expectation—it’s a sacred cow.

When we turn to it for promotions in our workplace, preference in our community, and power in our ministry, niceness is no longer a harmless social default but an alternative god whose promises compete with Christ. In sum, it stands between us and obedience.

So, how did we get here? And what does niceness mean for our Christian witness?

Going back to ancient times, virtue has traditionally referred to a particular moral good. In Plato’s Republic, the philosopher names four classical virtues: wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. These virtues are not merely about doing the right thing—they’re about doing it for the right reason. Plato describes virtue as “the desire of things honorable,” which means we are motivated by a greater good outside ourselves.

Niceness, on the other hand, aims small. In her book American Niceness, author Carrie Tirado Bramen describes niceness as a virtue of “surfaces rather than depths,” while Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, calls it “a trivial virtue that is easy to fake.” Niceness is concerned with the appearance of goodness and not the reality of it. It gives the facade of serving others but exists primarily to serve ourselves. In the end, niceness only makes us into “whitewashed tombs” (Matt. 23:27)—pristine on the outside but empty within.

In addition to being a false virtue, niceness radically diminishes our Christian witness. Author Randy Alcorn describes it this way: “We’ve been schooled that it’s inappropriate to say anything negative. Being a good witness once meant faithfully representing Christ, even when it meant being unpopular. Now it means ‘making people like us.’ We’ve redefined Christlike to mean ‘nice.’”

Not surprisingly, this false idol has shaped the reputation of Christians throughout the world. Alcorn goes on to say, “Many non-believers know only two kinds of Christians: those who speak truth without grace and those who are very nice but never share the truth.” In other words, niceness is one of the reasons our gospel message is uncompelling and our witness limp. Niceness is a false form of spiritual formation that has crept into the church, seduced Jesus’ followers, and taken much of the power out of our lives. It is one of our generation’s favorite idols, and it is high past time to name it.

After observing the fruit of this false idol in my own life, here’s what I have concluded: I cannot follow Jesus and be nice. Not equally. Because following Jesus means following someone who spoke hard and confusing truths, who was honest with his disciples—even when it hurt—who condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and turned over tables in the temple. Jesus was a man who went face-to-face with the devil himself and died on a cross rather than succumb to the status quo.

We exist in a world that swings between sweetness and outrage, two behaviors that seem to be at odds with one another. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin: a lack of spiritual formation. When our civility isn’t rooted in something sturdy and deep, when our good behavior isn’t springing from the core of who we are but is instead merely a mask we put on, it is only a matter of time before the façade crumbles away and our true state is revealed: an entire generation of people who are really good at looking good.

The solution, however, is not to trade in our appearance of niceness for an appearance of boldness. We have to go deeper into Christ.

Jesus was loving. He was gracious. He was forgiving. He was kind. But he was not nice. He was a man who would leave the 99 sheep to rescue the one, but he was also totally unafraid of offending people. Jesus understood the difference between graciousness and personal compromise, between speaking truth and needlessly alienating people. Rather than wear a shiny veneer, he became the embodiment of rugged love. This, not niceness, is what we are called to.





Sharon Hodde Miller, PhD, is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mother of two. She is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not About You and Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More, from which this essay was adapted.

Copyright August 2019. Used by permission from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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 - August 2019
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2019, 10:59:32 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-august/john-koessler-practicing-present-intuition.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29






Sometimes, God Wants You to Go with Your Gut



Our intuitions aren’t infallible. That doesn’t mean we should ignore them.

 
Watson Thornton was already serving as a missionary in Japan when he decided to join the Japan Evangelistic Band, an evangelistic mission founded in England in 1903. He decided to travel to the town where the organization’s headquarters were located and to introduce himself to its leader. But just as he was about to get on the train, he felt a tug in his spirit that he took to be the leading of the Lord telling him to wait. He was puzzled but thought he should obey.

When the next train rolled into the station, Watson started to board but again felt he should wait. When the same thing happened with the third train, Watson began to feel foolish. Finally, the last train arrived, and once more Watson felt a check. “Don’t get on the train,” it seemed to say. Shaking his head, he thought, I guess I was wrong about this. Watson thought he had wasted most of the day for no apparent reason. Yet as he turned to go, he heard a voice call out his name. It was the mission leader he had intended to see. He came to ask whether Watson would consider joining the Japan Evangelistic Band. If Watson had ignored the impulse and boarded the train, he would have missed the meeting.

What was this impulse? Watson believed it was the voice of the Lord. Despite this, he felt unsure of himself. His actions didn’t seem to make sense at the time. It felt more like a matter of intuition than anything else.

Coincidence or Guidance?

Jonas Salk called intuition the inner voice that tells the thinking mind where to look next. Intuition is that flash of insight that prompts us to act in the moment. We all have had some experience with this. You feel a strong urge to call someone you haven’t talked to in ages. When they answer the phone, they say, “I was just thinking about you.” Or you are planning to depart for your road trip at a certain time but decide to leave two hours early. Later you learn that you missed a major traffic jam. Was it coincidence or guidance?

We can’t just live by our intuition, can we? Scripture warns that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). How can we trust it? And the mind does not seem to fare much better. Proverbs 3:5–6 advises, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We can’t trust our heart or our mind. What is left to guide us?

There is the Bible, of course. But it often does not speak to us with the specificity we might desire. It certainly works well enough on the big things. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. Make disciples of all nations. Yet it doesn’t speak about the fine details. To which church should I accept a call as pastor? What week should we schedule Vacation Bible School this year? Should our short-term missions team go to Mexico or Uganda? There are all kinds of decisions I have to make that cannot be made by turning to a specific chapter and verse.

We do see something like intuition at work in the lives of God’s people in the Bible. Paul tries to enter Asia but is “kept by the Holy Spirit” from doing so (Acts 16:6). He tries to enter Bithynia but his progress is checked by “the Spirit of Jesus” (v. 7). He passes Mysia and goes down to Troas, where he has a vision of a Macedonian man begging him to come and help them (v. 9). Paul took this as a call from God and got ready at once to leave.

Whole-Self Decisions
Acting on intuition seems as if it is relying on the irrational, or at least something non-rational in us. However, it might be better to describe it as supra-rational. It involves thinking, but there is more to it than that. An intuitive act does not entirely skirt the rational processes since it often involves a decision. But it is one that is made based on different criteria than we usually rely upon when deciding or acting. Intuitive acts seem non-conscious because they don’t involve long deliberation, exhaustive research, or lists of pros and cons. Instead, the decision is made or the action taken in a moment.

Intuitive acts are more holistic than those that are purely rational. They seem to come from some place deep within. They are decisions made by the whole self rather than just the mind. Those who act on intuition often say that they are acting on the gut or their instinct. They cannot explain how they know what they should do; they just know that it is the right thing to do. It is still rational in the sense that the mind is engaged.

There is an additional factor involved where God’s people are concerned. Believers often act based on what might be called “inspired” intuition. They are moved not only by the unseen processes that affect everyone else but also by the Holy Spirit. That was how Paul understood his decision not to enter Asia, Bithynia, or Mysia. The influence of the Spirit was what compelled Watson Thornton not to get on the train, even though that was what he had come to the station to do. We usually describe this as following the “leading” of the Holy Spirit.

This is a sensitive subject for some Christians. One reason is we are not exactly sure how this guidance works. Even though there are clear instances in the Scriptures, the exact details are not always included nor do they necessarily fit our experience. For example, we are told in Acts 13:2 that the church of Antioch was prompted by the Spirit to commission Paul and Barnabas and send them out on mission. In that case, the call did not come through some inner intuition but when the Holy Spirit spoke as the church was fasting and worshiping. But how did the Spirit speak? The explicit mention of prophets and teachers could suggest that there was some kind of prophetic directive. Yet the text does not actually say this.

The same is true of the directions Paul received while he was on his missionary journey. We know the Spirit directed him not to enter some regions and allowed him to enter others. But apart from the one vision, we really don’t know what form this direction took. Was it a “feeling” on Paul’s part that some destinations were just not right? Did God use obstacles and circumstances to nip at Paul’s heels like a sheepdog in order to guarantee that he ended up in the right place at the right time?

In the end, Paul was directed to his destination by a vision. In our case, the Spirit seems to carry out his ministry of guidance by employing more ordinary means. Instead of being visited by a prophet, we receive an email or a phone call inviting us to apply for a pastoral position. When trying to decide which youth pastor to hire, the choice is made when one them turns us down. The processes we use are not at all extraordinary, but that does not mean that God is not in them.

A Measure of Risk
Just as we do not entirely understand the natural processes involved when we act intuitively, we do not always know the spiritual processes involved when God directs us as believers. We often talk about being “led” by the Lord, but when Paul employs this language in Galatians 5:18, he is talking about morality, not decision-making. Those who are led by the Spirit are empowered by him to obey. They “walk”—that is, live—by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh, the sinful nature. Being led by the Spirit in a biblical sense is not the art of spontaneous direction or action but the power of God to obey. As New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce once explained, “To be ‘led by the Spirit’ is to walk by the Spirit—to have the power to rebut the desire of the flesh, to be increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Here, then, is the first principle when it comes to guidance. You already know most of what you need to know to be where you are supposed to be. The art of being led by the Spirit is not a matter of waiting each moment for some mystical experience of divine direction. It is a matter of trusting God for the power to obey what he has already told you to do.

The trouble with living by natural intuition is that it sometimes leads us astray. Some will say that our instincts are never wrong, that we should always lead with our gut. But our actual experience proves otherwise. And research confirms what our own experience tells us: Intuition is real but not infallible. “Psychology,” says Hope College psychologist David Myers, “is replete with compelling examples of how people fool themselves. Even the most intelligent people make predictable and costly intuitive errors; coaches, athletes, investors, interviewers, gamblers, and psychics fall prey to well-documented illusory intuitions.”

This raises an important question. If Christians can err just like anyone else when they act intuitively, then why should we listen to intuition at all? We must admit that there is a measure of risk. The intuitive choices made by Christians are not automatically better than those made by unbelievers. Like everyone else, our hunches can and do go wrong. That investment that our gut told us would be good suddenly tanks. The employee we hired and with whom we seemed to have an instant connection turns out to be lazy. Our sudden impulse to call a friend results in a pleasant but insignificant conversation. We do not always get it right.

Yet the same is sometimes true of the decisions we make after long thought and careful deliberation. The fact that we sometimes get it wrong after doing our research and weighing all the pros and cons does not cause us to conclude that we should throw reason and deliberation out the window. Why would we do the same with intuition? Believers who trust in Spirit-guided intuition are not afraid to make a decision in the moment when they sense God’s prompting. It is worth the risk.

Why didn’t God use the Holy Spirit to give us an infallible understanding of the choices we have to make? I don’t know. I know that if he had, it would not have guaranteed our obedience. The Bible is full of instances in which God’s people know without a doubt what he wants them to do, and yet they often do otherwise. When Israel was poised on the border of Canaan, they did not need intuition to tell them where to go from there. Their problem was that their intuition sent them the wrong message. When they saw the size of the enemy, their gut reaction was: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Num. 13:31). Notice that this wasn’t just intuition. It was also the result of their research. Yet Caleb’s intuition sent the opposite message: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (v. 30). What made the difference? Caleb’s intuitive sense was shaped by God’s promise.

God uses both careful deliberation and intuition to guide us. There is an element of risk in each. Our confidence is not in our own infallibility but in God’s sovereignty. We know that if we belong to Jesus Christ, even when we get things wrong, all things work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). God’s ultimate plan for our lives—to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ—cannot be thwarted, not even by our own missteps.

God’s Familiar Voice
In the summer of 1988, Watson Thornton stopped at a post office in the small town of Green Valley, Illinois, to mail a package. By then, he was in his 80s and had retired after a long career in the ministry. He had moved to a nearby town to live with his daughter after his wife’s death.

Watson’s first visit to Green Valley did not especially impress him. “The town does not even have a filling station for gasoline,” he later observed. “I parked across the road from an old dingy store-front, with the title ‘Valley Chapel’ on it, and some children running out from their [Vacation Bible School].”

Despite its dingy appearance, Watson was interested in the tiny church. Two hours earlier, he had prayed, asking God if there might be a small country church nearby where he would feel comfortable. On an impulse, Watson crossed the street and walked in the door. “I stopped in and introduced myself to the young pastor, his wife, and some of the teachers,” he later wrote. “They took me right in and I have felt very much at home.”

I know that this is true. I was the young pastor at the time.

If this was a miracle, it was a small one. Most people would probably write it off as a coincidence. What are the odds of finding a small country church in a town like Green Valley? Pretty good, I suppose. But to someone like Watson, who had spent his life listening for the gentle whisper of the Spirit, it was much more. It was a moment of inspired intuition. This was no coincidence; it was God’s familiar voice—faithful in directing Watson in the small decisions, just as he had always been in the large ones.





John Koessler is chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. This article was adapted from his book, Practicing the Present: The Neglected Art of Living in the Now (Moody).







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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2019, 12:16:34 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/assemblies-of-god-elects-first-woman-general-secretary-donn.html




Assemblies of God Elects First Woman to Top Leadership Team




A historic vote for Donna Barrett as general secretary “has been meaningful for many women who feel God’s calling on their lives.”

 
For the first time in its 105-year history, the Assemblies of God (AG) General Council has elected a woman to its executive leadership. Ohio minister Donna Barrett was voted in as AG general secretary during its biennial gathering last Friday.

Barrett had been appointed to the post last year—the third-highest position in the denomination—after her predecessor resigned in the middle of his term. She is now both the first woman to fill a seat on the AG’s six-person executive leadership team and the first woman elected by its ministers to such a position for a four-year term.

As general secretary for a denomination that claims 3.2 million adherents and over 13,000 churches in the US, Barrett oversees the credentialing of ministers, church chartering, church statistics, and the world’s largest Pentecostal archive, located at AG national headquarters in Springfield, Missouri.

Her nomination at age 59 comes as the denomination grows younger and more ethnically diverse. According to its own statistics, over half of AG adherents are under 35, and more than 43 percent ethnic minority.

“The gifts God gives sometimes end up in a container [that looks] different from what people are used to seeing and different than history,” Barrett said in her acceptance speech. “And the gifts that I have seem to be aligned with this position greater than any other ministry assignment I’ve had from the Lord in my past.”

Barrett’s nomination came from Doug Clay, who holds the AG’s top leadership position as general superintendent. In a statement emailed to CT, Clay said, “Through her service as a church planter, district leader, and general presbyter, Donna Barrett has shown humility paired with a special gifting for leadership.”

“The Assemblies of God affirms women at every level of leadership,” he said. “While Donna was not selected on the basis of her gender, I know her executive leadership has been meaningful for many women who feel God’s calling on their lives.”

Since its founding in 1914, the AG has endorsed women preaching and leading in ministry, and 24 percent of AG ministers in the US are women, compared to fewer than 9 percent among Protestant pastors overall.

In 2010, the Pentecostal body officially opened its top leadership spots to women, with a position paper stating, “We conclude that we cannot find convincing evidence that the ministry of women is restricted according to some sacred or immutable principle.”

The AG’s position on women in ministry has not historically resulted in women rising to the top levels of the denomination, and fellow Pentecostal bodies like the Foursquare Church have seen a similar struggle.

Last May, Foursquare voted on a historic female presidential candidate, the only woman in its executive leadership, Tammy Dunahoo. Theologian Leah Payne suggested that because women have far more models of female pastors and congregational leaders than regional and national leaders, it can be harder for them to see themselves in bigger roles and advance in their denomination.

In the Assemblies of God, it was only after the General Council mandated that a woman be included among its executive presbyters that Beth Grant became the first woman to fill the spot in 2009, joining the group of 21 leaders who function as the AG’s board of directors. It took another decade before the AG elected a woman to serve on the executive leadership team.

Grant was just reelected for another term, now one of three female executive presbyters. “I see God doing a new thing among women,” Grant said at the General Council, with more than 22,000 people in attendance. “It’s a great day. Ladies, step up, step in, step out.”

Fellow female AG members in particular celebrated Barrett’s historic election.

“Could not be more thrilled to witness the election of this called, highly qualified, godly woman as the General Secretary of the Assemblies of God!” wrote Jodi Detrick. “You have both my deep admiration and my prayers.”

Since becoming an AG minister in 1988, Barrett, who is single, has served as a church planter, associate pastor, and youth pastor at churches in Ohio.

She has also served in leadership at the state level as an Ohio Ministry Network executive presbyter and is the author of Leveling the Prayer Field: Helping Every Person Talk to God and Hear from God. She founded and pastored Rockside Church in Independence, Ohio, for 16 years before her general secretary appointment.

“I hope the model that has been set at the national level will drizzle down throughout our districts with the message that men and women can work shoulder to shoulder as ministerial colleagues much like we see from our church members in the professional world,” Barrett said last year. “I hope young girls will be able to look up on the platform and see someone they can identify with. Many of our churches still have an all-male board.”

The AG’s position in favor of female leadership in the church puts the denomination in the minority among fellow evangelicals. Just 39 percent of evangelical Protestants say they are comfortable with a female pastor, according to a Barna Research survey.

The Assemblies of God has been seen as an exception to the denominational decline experienced by other Protestant groups in the US over the past couple decades; the AG continues to grow in number of churches and average attendance, John Davidson, director of discovery and development for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, reported.






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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2019, 09:21:48 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-august/muslims-mary-bridge-catholics-maryam.html







Why Muslims Love Mary


Followers of Islam admire the mother of Jesus. But can she be a bridge to Christianity?

 
Mohammed, a pious PhD student from Egypt, sat guardedly in the “Community of Reconciliation.” Invited by David Vidmar, director of coaching for Peace Catalysts International, the middle-aged Muslim seemed soured on the idea of interfaith exchange at his northern California university.

Vidmar suspected Mohammed came to the jointly led Muslim-Christian dinners because he felt obligated to do da’wah, the Arabic word for spreading Islam. But over a shared meal and discussion about Mary, the Egyptian’s attitude shifted. “The deeper we got into the life of Mary and how Christians understand the virgin birth of Jesus, he became very enthused,” Vidmar said. “There are so many misunderstandings . . . it was wonderful to observe him see the similarities and be able to relax.”

Peace Catalysts is a Jesus-centered peacemaking effort, focused primarily on Christians and Muslims. Vidmar and his family worked for eight years with Uighurs in Kazakhstan and still wish Muslims would experience the love and forgiveness God reveals through Jesus. But now he works to help both sides experience heart transformation through deep and genuine friendship—and Mary proved a fruitful bridge.

“Since so many Muslims use the term ‘Jesus, Son of Mary,’ it would be helpful for evangelicals to think more deeply about this,” Vidmar said. “Muslims often excitedly tell me their favorite chapter in the Qur’an is Maryam, and women especially express appreciation for it.”

Mary is mentioned 34 times in the Qur’an—more than in the New Testament—and its only named woman. Islam upholds the virgin birth, the annunciation by Gabriel, and—mirroring the Ave Maria in Luke’s gospel—declares Mary to be “exalted above all women.”

Yet even Catholics have been slow to recognize the similarities. “Few church leaders today have highlighted Mary’s potential role as a bridge between the two religions,” wrote Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago and the co-chair of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, in America magazine. “This seems like a missed opportunity.”

Beyond dialogue, some like Rita George-Tvrtkovi, author of Christians, Muslims, and Mary: A History, view Muslim devotion to Mary as a prompt for the church. “I hope that Catholics will be touched when they witness Muslim piety—not only their devotion to Mary but also their faithfulness to praying five times a day [and] fasting during Ramadan—and will be inspired to practice their own Catholic faith more fervently,” she told Chicago Catholic.

History suggests Catholics could have known better. A popular moniker, “Our Lady of Fatima,” stems from the reported 1917 apparition of Mary to shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. The town name stems from the 15th-century Reconquista, where a Catholic knight helped drive out the Iberian Peninsula’s last Muslim rulers. According to tradition, the knight fell in love with the ruler’s daughter—named Fatima, after Muhammad’s favorite daughter—who stayed behind to marry him and converted to Christianity.

But it wasn’t until the 1950s that Catholics began to grapple with Mary as a bridge to Islam. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, famed for his television preaching, believed that Mary might lead some Muslims to convert. But Louis Massignon, a secular French scholar of Islam who converted to Catholicism after witnessing Muslim spirituality in Baghdad, saw Mary as a bridge to deeper Christian-Muslim relationships.

It was Massignon’s vision that won out. His scholarship contributed significantly to the 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, the first official Catholic recognition of Mary as a figure of importance also to Muslims—as well as a bridge to dialogue and friendship.

Still, it was far behind the times. Christian shrines to Mary had long existed in the Islamic world, drawing frequent Muslim supplicants. Our Lady of Africa in Algeria, Meryem Ana Evi in Turkey, Mariamabad in Pakistan, and Our Lady of Saidnaya Monastery in Syria are all esteemed places of blessing.

And in Lebanon in 2010, a Muslim sheikh led the effort to declare March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, as a national holiday. His motto: Together around Mary, Our Lady.

Arab evangelicals, however, tend to be offended. “It is nice that Christians and Muslims can use Mary as a bridge, but so what?” said Imad Shehadeh, president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary. “It is the nature of any system that rejects a superior truth to elevate less important truths or to mix error with lesser truths.” Islam celebrates the virgin birth but denies Jesus’ deity and his death and resurrection, he said. And Catholics add to the gospel their understanding of works and church tradition.

Still, evangelical missiologists have encouraged Muslims to interact with biblical stories held in common, in hopes they will provide interpretation to the Qur’an. The Maryam chapter states clearly that Jesus would die and then rise again, which could alter perceptions of a more frequently cited verse elsewhere in the Qur’an that denies the Jews crucified him.

And since the Islamic Mary is told that the child coming to her is a “word” from God, perhaps other theological concepts—like the incarnation—can also shift. “Christians and Muslims believe essentially the same thing regarding the how question, [but] the main scandal for Muslims is the who question,” wrote Fred Farrokh, a former Muslim, in Biblical Missiology. “In Islam, the baby growing in Mary’s womb is part of creation. In Christianity, the baby growing in Mary’s womb is actually the Creator.”

Christians disagree over the use of the Qur’an in evangelism, and Muslim apologists are skilled in refutation. But for many, there is a perhaps more significant stumbling block to Mary’s usefulness as a bridge: Mary herself.

“The question with the use of Mary is not only how does it connect with Muslims,” said John Morehead, director of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, “but how would evangelicals react who have previously taken issue with Catholicism?”

The strongest voices might come from Rome. “Roman Catholics have a more distorted view of Mary than Muslims,” said Leonardo de Chirico, vice chair of the Italian Evangelical Alliance, noting how Mariology goes beyond the similarities in the two scriptures. “Muslims may venerate her, but Roman Catholics hyper-venerate her.”

He cited the 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception as an example. Without using the term, Islamic tradition also holds that Mary, along with Jesus, was born without sin. But de Chirico also took issue with the spirit of Vatican II, and in particular the 2015 Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis. “Nowhere in the document are unrepentant unbelievers called to repent and believe in Jesus Christ,” he said. “More than focusing on a distorted and inflated view of Mary, we should engage our Muslim friends by pointing to the biblical Mary who points to her son.”

René Breuel, pastor of Hopera Church in Rome, is more optimistic. He agrees most Italian evangelicals would be put off by centering discussions upon Mary but suggests a subtle shift would especially appeal to Muslims. “Both Christianity and Islam care for the worship of God alone,” he said. “Protestants could use such conversations to share concerns about idolatry, yet explain why they still worship a man: Jesus.”

“I don’t see a discussion about Mary as being good for the world as a tool for doing da’wah or evangelism,” Vidmar said. “But talking about Mary and Jesus helps us humanize each other and authentically connect.”




Jayson Casper is Middle East correspondent for Christianity Today.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2019, 09:47:39 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/august/china-bibles-exemption-trump-tariffs.html






Bibles Escape Trump’s Tariff Fight with China



America’s Christian publishers no longer have to render to Caesar an extra 10 percent.

 
The Good Book got good news from the Trump administration today: The Bibles that Americans purchase—most of which are printed in China and imported to the United States—are now exempt from the burgeoning trade war between the two nations.

With a 10-percent hike on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods looming, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) posted two long lists: one of items imported from China that will become subject to tariffs on September 1, and one of items whose proposed tariffs will now be delayed until December 15.

It also noted that “certain products are being removed from the tariff list based on health, safety, national security.”

Missing from both lists: Bibles.

“Bibles and other religious literature are among the items removed from the tariff list and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent,” USTR confirmed to CT.

The news came as a relief to Christian publishers in the US, who warned this summer that the “Bible tax” would make some translations too costly to produce. China is the world’s largest Bible publisher, thanks to Nanjing-based Amity Press which has printed almost 200 million Bibles since 1988 in partnership with the United Bible Societies.

For example, the publishing arm of America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), spends 31 percent of its total printing costs in China.

“For the past several months, there has been great concern among the Christian publishing community that our important work would be threatened by proposed tariff schedules,” Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, stated to CT. “Today's announcement by [USTR] has given us hope that the administration has heard our concern.

Nevertheless, I am troubled that the Word of God would ever be taken hostage in an international trade dispute,” he stated. “These past months have strengthened our resolve to get Bibles to the people who need them. Our mandate is built on obedience to Christ, regardless of any policy proposal from Washington, D.C.”

“Whatever one thinks about trade policy, the Bible should never have been a subject of this sort of taxation,” stated Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the first on Twitter to spot the news.

“With as many Bibles as are printed in China, the news that they will not be subject to such tariffs is welcomed news for LifeWay and other publishers of God’s holy Word,” he stated. “Even still, it is concerning that trade books and educational materials—also vital to the lives of Christians and churches—are still subject to a tariff. My hope is that this too will be addressed promptly.”

Some Twitter users responded to Moore’s praising the good news on Twitter with confusion or criticism of why American Bibles are made in China. The ERLC statement noted:

Due to longstanding supply chain issues, more than 75 percent of Bibles are printed in China. Like encyclopedias and textbooks, Bibles contain a large amount of text that must be formatted to a bound book on thin paper. China has been specializing in this printing technology for decades and is home to the world’s largest Bible-printing company, printing at least 150 million Bibles in 2016.

To import Bibles from a country other than China would require time, extensive quality tests, and higher prices incompatible with the high and consistent demand for Bibles in the United States. Because such a large percentage of Bibles are printed in China, the proposed tariff would have devastated the importation of Bibles into the United States and other parts of the world where American ministries distribute God’s Word.

For example, more than three quarters of HarperCollins Christian Publishing (HCCP) production costs are incurred in China, as CT previously reported. Its two popular Bible translations, the New International Version and the King James Version, give HCCP 38 percent of America’s Bible market, which sees about 20 million Bibles sold annually.

HCCP did not respond to CT by press time, nor did Tyndale House Publishers or the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. All gave testimony to the US government this summer on the harmful impact of the proposed tariffs.

The American Bible Society (ABS), which previously told CT it was praying that Bibles would win such an exclusion, praised the news.

“We are overjoyed and relieved to hear that Bibles will not be included in the initial list of items facing potential tariffs,” Roy Peterson, ABS president and CEO, stated to CT. “Any hindrance to Bible access as a result of these tariffs could have severely impacted the ability of people worldwide to engage Scripture and exercise their religious freedom.”

While ABS prints “the vast majority” of its millions of Bible and Scripture resources in the US each year, it does print a handful of titles in China (about 60,000 to 75,000 copies) and faced about $50,000 in additional costs per year.

“We are pleased that the administration did not include Bibles and other religious books on the first list of products to be subject to the tariffs, and delayed tariffs on children’s books,” stated Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers. “However, we remain deeply concerned that a wide range of other books remain on the list, including American fiction and nonfiction books; art books; textbooks; dictionaries and encyclopedias; and technical, scientific and professional books.

“A tariff on books is a tax on information, and at odds with longstanding US policy of not imposing tariffs on educational, scientific and cultural materials,” she stated.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2019, 07:06:02 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/august/what-does-tower-of-babel-say-to-us-today.html







Babel and More Speaking in Tongues



There are hopeful implications embedded in this Old Testament story.

 
The Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel is one that many of us often overlook in terms of its implications on the life of the church. Honestly, for those of us reading the Bible in our modern context today, the storyline itself can sound quite confusing.

A group of men and women conspire together in the same language to form a great civilization. As the writer of Genesis conveys in chapter 11, the people said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).

In these moments, self-glory and hedonism manifest themselves quite overtly. This ancient cohort wanted to assert their own will and make their name great; it wasn’t about honoring God or seeking his guidance, but about finding a way to hold and keep power for themselves.

So, in Genesis 11:9, God scattered the people and they stopped building this city they had so carefully schemed to construct.

While it might be easy to assume that this story has no bearing on the people of God living thousands of years later after the coming of Christ, that would miss a key part of the point. In fact, we see an important linguistic thread throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament.

What flows out of the Tower of Babel is quite significant: nations are created and then, eventually, Israel becomes a missionary to the nations. The prophet Isaiah proclaims this in Isaiah 2:2: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

The idea in the Old Testament was that the people of God (the Israelites) were to bring the nations UP to Jerusalem so that they might rightfully worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Their mission initially was to be a bright light to the world, pointing them to Jerusalem. But we know now that this mission was not engaged rightly and fully as God originally intended.

The New Testament: Preparing for the nations to gather

As we read the New Testament, we see that things have changed for the people of God. And, we can see the end result of that change. The picture that’s painted for us in Revelation 7 is one of the nations gathered around the great throne:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God,who sits on the throne,and to the Lamb.” Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”(Rev. 7:9-17)

Something seems to have happened between the Tower of Babel and the time when John writes the book of Revelation. And I would argue, it’s recorded in the book of Acts near the time of Pentecost in Chapters 1 and 2.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.”

Before, the mission was for the nations to be led up to Jerusalem. Now, the mission is for them to be go out from Jerusalem.

Later in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost, God supernaturally shows us what it will one day look like for people of all tribes and tongues to gather in worship. We see this in the gift of speaking in tongues that the Spirit gives to those who gathered to receive it.

Regardless of your thoughts on speaking in tongues, all Christians should agree that we need more linguistic tongues in our churches. That is, we need to lean into this vision we see in Revelation and Acts of the tongues of men and women from every tribe and nation communing with the Lord. This is the church’s future—one of harmony with Christ and one another in the new heaven and the new earth.

So, the church needs a lot more speaking in tongues— the tongues of every people group in the world. That was God’s design all along; Babel is just a step toward the throne in Revelation. But, that means we have to prioritize missions to people of all different languages so that they all can indeed be around that throne.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that day. Amid our anticipation, we must allow this story to compel us to go out and tell all.





Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2019, 07:51:41 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/august/critical-connection-between-context-and-culture.html







The Critical Connection Between Context and Culture


Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture for an organization.

 
I’ve started churches, served more established congregations, and been the vice president of a half-a-billion-dollar company. Now, I am privileged to lead the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

In my roles, I have seen leaders who overwhelmingly succeed and those who phenomenally fail. One of the key differentiators of success for leaders that I have observed is their ability to create, protect, shape, and embody an appropriate culture that matches the goals and purposes of their organization.

In the discussion about culture, it is easy to make broad, sweeping statements about the need to shape culture. But good leaders go awry when they try to shape the culture into one they personally enjoy instead of the culture that is appropriate for their context.

Every leader will naturally embody the things he or she believes and the values she or he cares about. And that is good and should be cultivated. But in the nuance of a specific role or a specific place, leaders must be adaptable and intuitive enough to know the right culture to shape in the right places and the right times in an organization’s history.

Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture.

1 – Good leaders know the value of context


Where some good culture-shapers stall is forgetting the value of place.

Location and context matter immensely when shaping culture, and I’ve often seen the dichotomy of a good leader shaping unhealthy cultures in education or church leadership. It frequently comes from successful business leaders who make the switch to nonprofit leadership. They are often hired for their leadership acumen and provide great benefits to spaces where practitioners (educators/professors and pastors/theologians) don’t have direct leadership training and years of experience. This is good for churches and educational institutions alike.

But where these nonprofit leaders often have hang-ups is when they insert a profit-driven culture into a nonprofit environment. The production-driven culture is out of place and out of touch with the moving target goals of nonprofit leadership. Success becomes measured differently, and advancing the institution becomes harder to gauge, which can be problematic for a cut-and-dry culture that is often present in successful businesses.

Good leaders keep the principles of valuing clear goals, streamlining communication, and expecting hard work and production from their employees. But good leaders must understand their landscape and adapt the culture in which those goals are communicated to match the context of an institution or organization. So, the principles can be the same, but they can be packaged with more care and nuance, especially in the switch between for-profit and nonprofit leadership.

2 – Good leaders bring their value-set to contextualized cultural shaping
The value-set of a leader’s principles is crucial to keep in the contextualization of culture.

For instance, if a leader is known for encouraging on-time and accurate financial reporting, he or she should not compromise on that in a different leadership context, but the mechanisms of how that person accomplishes that (culture) can and should change with the organization with which she or he partners.

Again, where I have seen leaders drift is where they compromise their convictions in order to care for the culture. It is a balance between the two: culture and convictions. Good organizations understand that good leaders bring convictions (and the underlying philosophical principles that underpin them) to the table. But culture is what an organization hires a leader into, and shaping that culture with value-based convictions means that a leader’s methods should adapt while the principles should stay the same.

For instance, when I came to the Billy Graham Center in 2016, I valued innovation and organizational flexibility (as I had in my last role). However, I needed to adapt how I communicated those values in our team. I communicated like a vice president of a large company, but I needed to communicate like the leader of a traditional academic institution. So, my convictions and expectations for our team didn’t change, but I changed how I communicated those expectations and matched convictions with the culture that I was responsible for stewarding and advancing.

3 – Good leaders invest in others and value the tension of culture and convictions
One of the marks of good leaders is that they instill their convictions in others. However, often where the miss occurs is that they also pass on their preference of culture with those convictions. This where the mentor conflates values and preferences, and those who are being mentored also do the same, rendering them less adaptable when they become leaders themselves.

Leaders who develop others that conflate culture and convictions can set their mentees up for failure when they miss the first point—the value of context. As leaders grow and invest in others, they must learn the nuance of investing their values and principles, while differentiating their preferences and the specific culture of where they are currently leading. When they can do this, they develop more adaptable leaders who can lead outside of a specific cultural context, giving them a foundation of principles instead of a full-built house of principles alongside the constricting walls of preferences.

As we lead, we must learn to differentiate between our convictions and the culture we are current in and shaping. When we do this, we will develop deeper, principled convictions that will allow us to be more adaptable in different cultural contexts and ultimately become better influencers.

Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.




This article was originally published by the Global Leadership Network.




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2019, 04:46:42 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/may/defund-planned-parenthood-title-x-trump-hhs-plan-pro-life.html






Planned Parenthood Drops Title X Funding Over Abortion



UPDATE: Trump administration upholds Title X funding cuts for abortion providers.

 
Update (August 19): After a court of appeals ruled in favor a Trump administration policy barring federal funding for clinics that offer abortion referrals, Planned Parenthood announced on Monday it will withdraw from a government program that offers low-income women reproductive healthcare.

Title X currently provides 1.5 million women with contraception, pregnancy tests, and STD screenings. It does not fund abortions.

“The news that [Planned Parenthood is] refusing to accept taxpayer funds to target vulnerable women is a good thing for women's health,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life in a statement. “...Women who need true healthcare will have their needs met by authentic and eager healthcare providers across America."

While policy previously restricted the federal government from covering abortion costs, the new rules go even further in not allowing the funds to go to any clinic that also makes abortion referrals.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups have spent months in a legal battle against the tighter rules. In a tweet, Planned Parenthood wrote that it serves 40 percent of patients in the Title X program.

Since Trump’s inauguration, the Department of Health and Human Services has once again enabled states to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and rescinded an Obama administration memo warning states against blocking Medicaid funding for providers that offered abortion.

----

Pro-life evangelicals are celebrating another move by the Trump administration to cut federal funding for abortion.

According to reports, the White House is expected to announce new regulations prohibiting Planned Parenthood and other entities that make abortion referrals from receiving grant money through Title X, the government’s quarter-billion-dollar family planning program.

Already, Title X funds cannot be used for abortion itself. But Planned Parenthood still receives more than $50 million every year to cover birth control and other services for low-income and uninsured patients. Under the new policy, clinics could not accept the money at all if they perform or recommend abortions.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the proposal “a responsible and commendable step toward our goal of totally separating taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.”

The Title X program—which now supports about 4 million patients and 4,000 providers—dates back to 1970. Previously, President Ronald Reagan had put a similar rule in place to restrict the funds from being used to back abortion. The Trump administration’s restriction, drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is currently being reviewed by the White House budget office, NPR reported.

“President Trump has shown decisive leadership, delivering on a key promise to pro-life voters who worked so hard to elect him,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which will host the president at its annual gala in Washington next week.

Trump has moved to restrict federal government funding for abortion since taking office by pushing back the policies put in place by his predecessor—following up on campaign promises to pro-lifers and answering many Christians’ prayers.

A majority of Americans—60 percent—oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, according to a Marist Poll conducted in January.

“I’m grateful that my tax dollars will not fund Planned Parenthood, thanks to the Trump administration, to Vice President Mike Pence, to Kellyanne Conway, and to the many pro-lifers in the Department of Health and Human Services who have worked tirelessly to fulfill their campaign promise, a promise made to the pro-life movement for the past decade,” said Abby Johnson, president of And Then There Were None, a ministry for former abortion clinic staff.

In January, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama administration memo warning states against blocking Medicaid funding for abortion providers. Last year, it reversed an earlier policy barring states from withholding Title X funds for abortion clinics. Trump also reinstated a ban on federal funding for organizations performing abortions abroad.

After the administration freed states to set their own regulations for clinic funding, more than a dozen have moved to defund Planned Parenthood either through diverting federal Medicaid or Title X funding or cutting off state funding to abortion providers. Nebraska and Tennessee were among the most recent states to do so, approving new restrictions just last month.

Some of these state-level efforts have been challenged in court; for example, a federal appeals court ruled last month against Ohio’s policy blocking federal funding from Planned Parenthood was unconstitutional. Last year, a court ruling favored Arkansas’s decision to end Medicaid funding for its two Planned Parenthood affiliates. The governor of South Carolina also directed its state agencies to cut off funding for abortion clinics.

“We thank President Trump for the numerous actions his administration has taken to restore pro-life policies,” said National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. “We are encouraged to see the announcement of Title X regulations that are back in line with previous policy that prevents federal dollars from being used to directly or indirectly promote abortion domestically.”

Christianity Today previously reported how the Trump administration has turned HHS from a pro-life antagonist to an advocate, including adopting new protections for health care workers who refuse to perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice advocates are expected to counter the latest pro-life policy shift in court, as they’ve done for previous changes, according to Politico. Opponents to the rule say it amounts to a “gag order,” keeping doctors from referring patients to abortion providers even though abortion remains a legal, FDA-approved option.




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - August 2019
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2019, 03:05:57 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/spring/people-of-ebook.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







Screens Are Changing the Way We Read Scripture



As digital reading habits rewire our brains, how will we process the Bible differently?

 
Christianity is a religion of the Word. Christians are a “People of the Book.” These distinctives have defined the Christian faith from the beginning, even before the age of print that brought us books. As we enter what many are calling a post-literate age, pastors can help remind people that the essence of the Christian faith centers on the Word (and words).

From the carving of the Ten Commandments to the writing of the Torah to the copying and distribution of letters in the early church, God’s plan was for his people to read. However, as the way we read in this digital age changes, so too the character of the church will change. How will those reading habits affect the way we interact with the Bible? How will the way people read the Bible alter the church body?

A Unique Relationship with Words


Long before the printing press and widespread literacy, God was cultivating a relationship with his chosen people focused on the written word. The words God carved into stone at Mount Sinai included a caution against images, setting up a peculiar word-based relationship with his followers that contrasted starkly with the image-worshiping pagan nations surrounding the Israelites (an observation made by Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death).

This trend continues through church history, according to David Lyle Jeffrey in People of the Book. Medieval paintings frequently depict Mary, other biblical figures, and church fathers holding the Bible. Such images, even—or especially—when anachronistic (bound books did not exist when Mary bore Christ), symbolize the centrality of reading to Christian faithfulness and point out the concrete, tangible nature of the Word. In many of these paintings, the subject is depicted with a finger inserted into the book’s pages, suggesting active reading and reflecting how Thomas needed to put his fingers into Christ’s body in order to know and believe. God’s Word, both written and incarnate, beckons us to come close and engage in a tactile relationship.

Despite the centrality of the written word from the beginning of God’s revelation, many generations of believers were unable to read the Bible for themselves. Before the Reformation, biblical words passed through priests, supplemented by images depicted in stained glass windows and in itinerate drama troupes performing biblical stories. These symbols offered rich beauty, but images alone cannot convey the abstractions of doctrine. Thus in the pre-literate age preceding the Reformation, the Bible was delivered and understood only in pieces.

The Reformation’s focus on reading and the resulting age of literacy it birthed were, in some ways, the culmination of the logocentrism that runs through the Bible and God’s relationship with creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” from John 1:1, is a direct echo of Genesis 1, when God created the world through his words. While the “word of the Lord” refers to all the ways God reveals himself, whether spoken (Gen. 1), in a vision (Gen. 15:1), or written (Exod. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:16), his word is always logical, linear, and coherent. Likewise, the key feature of a literate age is cultivation, not only of the ability to read but of the propensity to think in a logical, linear, coherent fashion.

Paper or Pixels?
The act of reading is not natural to the human brain. While scientists see reading in terms of evolution and adaptation, reading is, in some way, supernatural or at least unnatural.

In her book Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf explains that reading is not hardwired in the human brain the way language is. Not only does the remarkable plasticity of the human brain make reading possible, but the activity of reading creates new circuits in the brain. These aid in learning abstract and creative concepts that go beyond the brain’s genetically programmed functioning. Reading demands “extraordinary cerebral complexity,” Wolf says, and the brain requires years for “deep-reading processes to be formed.” Our reading habits, therefore, have the potential to shape our brains, for good or ill.

Deep reading activates regions of the brain related to touch, motion, and feeling, and helps develop the background knowledge that we bring to further reading and living. “The consistent strengthening of the connections among our analogical, inferential, empathic, and background knowledge processes generalizes well beyond reading,” Wolf explains. “When we learn to connect these processes over and over in our reading, it becomes easier to apply them to our own lives.” Her findings seem to confirm the truth of Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Cognitive science shows that our brains work one way when accustomed to reading in logical, linear patterns and another way when continually bouncing from tweet to tweet, picture to picture, and screen to screen. Wolf’s research shows that reading on digital devices does not create the same kind of brain circuits as deep reading. In The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr cautions, “Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts—the faster, the better.”

In an article aptly titled “Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain Aren’t the Same Thing,” PRI reports that the habit of superficial comprehension developed in digital reading transfers to all reading such that “the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading—a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.” In reporting on another study published in 2017, Inside Higher Ed notes that “readers may not comprehend complex or lengthy material as well when they view it digitally as when they read it on paper.”

So what does this mean for Christians who are, increasingly, reading the Word on screens instead of on paper?

More than half of Bible users include some form of digital reading, searching, or listening in their Bible usage. A survey reported in a 2015 Journal of Religion article titled “E-Reading and the Christian Bible” finds that a majority of respondents (58%) cited ease and convenience as a major advantage of digital Bibles. Pastors must consider whether this characteristic is one they should tap into or disciple people away from. Many churches already provide physical Bibles during services, but a gentle nudge to use them instead of a Bible app, a page number to help them flip to the correct spot, and a few extra seconds before reading the passage aloud may be worth the slight inconvenience.

Many survey respondents complained that digital text tends to isolate verses apart from their immediate context as well as the Bible as a whole. These respondents noted that the physical layout of the biblical text is important for comprehension, memory, and “correct interpretation.”

Furthermore, despite findings that digital Bibles result in increased Bible reading by many users, challenges to memory and comprehension “persisted even when the frequency of reading actually increased.” As one survey participant reported, “I probably read the Bible more (more often) but possibly less deeply.”

Some users reported that it is harder to view a digital Bible as something set apart from other content displayed on their screens. One respondent said, “I feel more distanced from it [when reading on a Kindle] and frustrated at not having the personal contact of the paper and print.” Another observed that “there is just a special connection being lost when you come out of the tangible Book itself!”

Bible Reading in a Post-Literate Culture
As our reading becomes more immersed in a digital rather than a print culture, the more we return to some qualities of the pre-literate world. We are reading more, but the way we read replicates the effects of the discrete images of stained glass windows more than the sustained, logical, and coherent linearity of a whole book.

The recent publication of high-quality literary editions of the Bible such as the various Reader’s Bibles and the crowd-funded Bibliothecaindicates a resurgence in desire to hold the weight of God’s words in one’s hands. The growing popularity of Bible editions designed to allow journaling and notetaking in the margins encourage the reader to interact with the text. Pastors looking for ways to encourage deep engagement with physical Bibles might consider directing people to these resources.

In a Word-centered faith, the ability to read well is central. As a “People of the Book,” Christians have a particular calling to preserve and promote the gift of deep reading from physical Bibles. Pastors can model, lead, and teach the way.




Karen Swallow Prior teaches English at Liberty University and is the author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos, 2018).





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