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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019  (Read 1422 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« on: December 03, 2019, 05:27:30 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/november/being-pastor-perilous-profession-part-1.html






Being a Pastor: A Perilous Profession, Part 1



Like each of us, pastors are people with needs, capacities, and limitations. These capacities are not limitless despite pressures and messages to the contrary.


Relationships are central to the gospel.

God pursuing and reconciling relationship with and for us is the biblical story. Our responding to God and living in community with each other is central to the Christian life.

Pastors often take the lead in this process. Pastors have multiple relational responsibilities to their families, congregations, and communities. And like each of us, pastors are people with needs, capacities, and limitations. These capacities are not limitless despite pressures and messages to the contrary.

As church members, we acknowledge that we expect a lot from our pastors. They are there to be shepherds, to lead, to care, and to guide. What we tend to forget is that they are also human beings who have relational, emotional, and spiritual needs that should be meet in community. The question that arises is, “Are we listening to our pastors and their needs?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer explored the needs we have in Christian community in his book Life Together. He challenges us to develop the art of listening:

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

So, it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.

This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.

We want pastors to experience having their needs listened to and receiving margin to spend time quietly before God and joyfully in the community in which he has placed them.

In addition to the personal need, this receiving by pastors can be an important spiritual modeling to their communities. However, there are many challenges to this aspect of living a Christ-centered life in the 21stcentury.

Technology, transience due to career, position in the church, and a culture of pressure and anxiety lead people to isolate or seek their only social support from their church and pastoral leadership, further increasing the demands and gobbling up the scarce and sacred margins of our pastors.

Stress and Response

The work of a pastor is truly varied, demanding, wonderful, and at times, very stressful. This work places demands upon physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and relational resources which can result in significant distress.

Distress is associated with a number of very obvious and well documented negative health outcomes related to sleep, blood pressure, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease.

Additionally, there are well documented effects upon mood and relationships, with stress related burnout resulting in increased avoidance and isolation, which may further exacerbate the original distress.

This, is turn, may result in increased irritability/emotional reactivity, isolation, compassion fatigue, physical fatigue, anxiety/worry, avoidance patterns, relational difficulties and suicidal feelings.

In addition to these more obvious emotional effects, there are also the more subtle impacts of stress upon cognitive performance.

Under too much stress we do not perform as well cognitively. This may result in poorer decision making and reduced creativity, which will likely further exacerbate the original distress.

This impact upon cognitive performance is particularly relevant when tasks are not over-learned or well-practiced. Stress has a particularly potent negative impact when performing complicated tasks that are not part of one’s everyday routine.

Given the broad nature of a pastor’s work and responsibilities (i.e., teacher, executive, counselor, friend, marketer, advocate…), there are many tasks that by virtue of these varied responsibilities are not routine and cannot become over learned or “well-practiced.”

These tasks are often pushed to a later time (which continues the gobbling up of even more cognitive resources). This avoidance likely further exacerbates the original distress, often leading to burnout.

The power of this type of avoidant distraction can be increasingly forceful under times of stress. In one of its most damaging forms, stress-inspired avoidance results in increased risk for pursuit of damaging relational patterns including inappropriate relationship (emotional, sexual affairs), substance abuse, domineering leadership stance, and other damaging behavioral and relational patterns.

When burdened by stressful thoughts, it becomes difficult to put our best foot forward, demonstrating our true capabilities allowing us to make our best decisions.

Furthermore, difficulties associated with stress and related decrements in performance may result in further feelings of burnout, inadequacy, and shame. This becomes a vicious cycle – especially if our response is simply to try harder and pull harder on those bootstraps in isolation. This never works for long.

One needs to know the warning signs and look for ways to activate support and self-care and to discern a clearer alignment with God’s sustainable calling. Tomorrow we will address warning signs and how pastors can move forward.

David J. Van Dyke, PhD, LMFT is an associate professor and director of the Marriage & Family Therapy master’s program at Wheaton College. He and his wife, Tara, own and run With U Parenting to provide family support and training for life’s biggest transitions.





Ben Pyykkonen, PhD is a clinical psychologist/neuropsychologist, associate professor, and director of the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology at Wheaton College. He is also a practicing clinician and director of neuropsychology at Meier Clinics of Wheaton.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 04:56:10 am by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2019, 04:53:43 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/wesley-hill-advent-lords-prayer.html





Remember the Future




Advent reminds us we've already seen it.


When Mark the Evangelist wanted to sum up the way Jesus started His earthly ministry, he used these words:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (1:14–15).
The Greek word that Mark uses to summarize Jesus’ message—basileia—is probably better translated with a word that indicates activity. A word like “rule,” “reign,” or even “kingship” is closer to the original meaning of basileia—which means that when Jesus says “the kingdom of God has come near,” He is proclaiming that God is asserting His rule in the world in and through Jesus’ ministry.

But what kind of rule will it be? Coronations can be terrifying. The enthronement of a new king or leader can make one queasy with dread. If you’ve never had to fear when a new prime minister, president, or monarch comes into power, then you have lived a life of rare privilege. For many people in the world—throughout history and also presently, even in the modern West—the passing of power to a new ruler is a matter of gnawing anxiety.

A scene from the end of The Godfather—one of the most haunting pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen—captures this fear well. The protagonist, Michael Corleone, stands near the baptismal font in an ornate Catholic church for his nephew’s christening. As the camera lingers on his stoic facial expression and elegant suit, the scene cuts to a series of assassinations that Michael has orchestrated, which are happening at the very same time as the service of baptism. It turns out that Michael has arranged to become the kingpin of the New York mob, and he is ascend­ing to his throne by means of a bloodbath. The cost of his rule is the death of anyone who stands in his way. The agonizing, devastating final scene of the film shows him being crowned, as it were, as “Don Corleone”—the new monarch of terror.

This fictional story is haunting enough, but similar stories happen in real life all the time. Dictators trample on human dignity to ascend their thrones. Terrorists seize the reins of power. Evil overlords who care nothing for the poor or the sick take control of governments and kingdoms, and the citizens consequently fear for their lives. Coronations, for much of the world, are occasions of uncertainty, worry, and alarm.

Perhaps that same worry and alarm was stirred up in the hearts of Jesus’ hearers when He preached. His message about God’s reign would have conjured up all the churning emotions that coronations usually conjure up: the trembling uncertainty about how severe the new king’s reign would be, the nagging apprehension that the king might demand of them what they aren’t able to give, the dread of what wars the king might lead them into. This is the way things go with kings in our world. Perhaps Jesus’ hearers would have remembered the words of the prophet Samuel:

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king. (1 Sam 8:11–18)

The world of first-century Judea was sadly familiar with this sort of kingly script. The Jews of Palestine were used to ambitious would-be rulers rising through the ranks by means of betrayal and intrigue and nighttime assassinations. They were familiar with the story of Julius Caesar’s stabbing. They knew the way that plot unfolds.

But God’s now-arriving rule doesn’t follow the usual pattern, according to Jesus.

The Unseen Kingdom

God’s reign spells liberation for Israel, not coercion. God taking up His crown means the dawning of a new era of deliverance, not domination. When Jesus wants to point His hearers to the telltale signs of God’s kingship bursting onto the scene, He says things like this: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Luke 11:20).

Where you see people being delivered from oppression, in other words, there you see God’s reign in action. Jesus made His followers into emissaries of God’s saving rule; “he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2). Where you see healing and the restoration of what sin and death have disfigured, there you see God’s kingship displayed.

That is what Jesus teaches His followers to cry out for: “Your kingdom come” means “Father, make Your healing reign more and more tangible and visible in our world. Let Your rule assert itself ever more concretely in the places where sickness and evil still seem to have the upper hand.”

Jesus also teaches His followers to pray “Your kingdom come” because—we must not evade this uncomfortable truth—God’s rule is not yet visible in the way we long for it to be. God’s reign, Jesus says,

is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4:31–32)

Or, as He puts it in another place, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened” (Matt 13:33). God’s rule is breaking into the world in Jesus’ ministry—but not in such a way that it can be readily identified by the unaided human eye. We can discern it by faith, but we don’t yet see it in the way that we will someday.

One illustration that modern Bible interpreters use to describe the mysterious already-but-not-yet nature of God’s reign is the distinction between “D-Day,” the operation whereby the Allied forces in World War II secured a foothold in France in 1944, and “V-E Day,” or “Victory in Europe Day,” which came some eleven months later when Nazi Germany offered its unconditional surrender.

Historians looking back now recognize that the war was effectively won when the Allies landed on Normandy’s beaches. The D-Day invasion hearkened the end of the Nazi regime, even though the death camps kept running and many more lives of combatants and civilians alike were lost before Germany’s surrender in May of the following year.

It’s as though we live between two similarly momentous days. We look backward to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the moment when God’s rule showed itself to be unconquerable—theological D-Day, we might call it. In a very real way, God’s conquest of His rebellious world was achieved when His Son left His tomb behind on Easter morning. Yet suffering continues, and we go on longing for an end that isn’t yet public and universal. In this time between the times, as we await Christ’s coming in glory, we who have caught the vision of the way the war will end, we “who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23).

We know that God will one day do for us and for His whole creation what He did for Jesus in raising Him from the dead, but for now, in the meantime, we weep and wait. And that is why we continue to pray, “Your kingdom come,” meaning, “Father, let us see, in the present, more and more signs that the war You have won against the powers that corrupt and enslave Your world is nearing its consummation. Give us more tangible previews of that great day when death will be swallowed up in victory. Help us see that Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just a one-off event but will sweep us along in its wake so that we will share in His transformation.”

As we enter this season of Advent, in which we prepare to celebrate Christmas and, beyond that, Christ’s second advent, we wait and long for the promised transformation of the world, the glorious appearing of our benevolent King.




Wesley Hill is associate professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. This adapted excerpt is from his new book The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Prayer to Our Father (Lexham Press).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2019, 10:06:28 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/december/biblical-literalism-among-american-protestants.html






Biblical Literalism among American Protestants




Pastors, denominational leaders, and curious Christians need to be reassured—American Christianity is not becoming more liberal.


The fact that the religious unaffiliated have risen from about five percent of Americans in the mid-1970’s to nearly a quarter of the population by 2018 has all sorts of interesting impacts on what an average church looks like on Sunday morning.

Obviously, one of the most important ones to pastors and denominational leaders is: Does my church look different today than it did a few decades ago? More specifically, what does the average church goer believe about the Bible today and how has that changed over time?

It’s notoriously difficult to assess the theological worldview of an individual through a survey instrument but the General Social Survey has been asking respondents about their view of the Bible since 1984.

The question reads: Which of these statements comes closest to describing your feelings about the Bible?

The three response options are:

The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word
The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word
The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men
While we can quibble with the overall measurement validity of these options, it’s fair to say that the first option is a good proxy for an evangelical’s view of the Bible, while the middle one would seem to be more prevalent among mainline Protestants and Catholics, and the last would be chosen by those who aren’t Christians.

How have three views changed over time in the general public?

How have three views changed over time in the general public?

Well, it’s clear from the above graph that the two outside options are the ones that have seen movement. While the share of Americans who are biblical literalists has dropped by 7.4 percent, those who hold an inspired view of the Bible have stayed incredibly consistent.

On the other hand, the share of Americans who believe that the Bible is a book of fables is up nearly eight percentage points. But, these changes are likely the result of many people choosing to be religiously unaffiliated over the last thirty years. What would happen if the sample was restricted to just people who identify with a Christian tradition?

This portrait is much different.

In fact, there is no statistically significant difference between where these categories were in 1984 versus where they are in the most recent wave of the GSS in 2018. It’s interesting to note that half of all Christians hold to the middle option—the Bible is inspired by God but shouldn’t be taken literally.

Four in ten Christians hold to the view that the Bible should be taken as word for word truth, and just one in ten Christians believe that the Bible was written by men.

But, what about the most religiously active Christians. Do weekly church goers hold to a different type of theology than Christendom as a whole?

To understand that I calculated the share of those who attend church at least once a week who are biblical literalists and compared that to the share of all Christians who are biblical literalists.

As previously noted, about 40 percent of all Christians are literalists. That’s essentially be the case with some small deviations since 1984.

However, something interesting is happening among the most religiously active. While half of them used to be biblical literalists in 1984, now that share has jumped to nearly 60%. In fact, the most religiously devout have become more theologically conservative over time.

So, what’s happening here? It’s very likely that this is due, in some part, to the decline in mainline Protestants. While they used to be 30% of the population in 1976, they are just 10% of Americans in 2018.

Many people in this tradition were not biblical literalists, but were highly active. As scores of mainline Protestants died off or become religiously unaffiliated, evangelicals have held relatively steady. We know that many of them are religiously devout and theologically conservative.

Pastors, denominational leaders, and curious Christians need to be reassured—American Christianity is not becoming more liberal.

In fact, there may be some evidence that we are becoming even slightly more theologically conservative. While millions of Americans have declared that they are religiously unaffiliated, those who remain are steadfast in their faith and in their theological convictions.







Dr. Ryan Burge is a professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. He teaches in a variety of areas, including American institutions, public administration, and international relations. His research focuses largely on the intersection between religiosity and political behavior, especially in the American context.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2019, 12:56:56 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/december/lies-pastors-believe-part-one.html






Lies Pastors Believe, Part One




Pastors are called on constantly to help people fix their lives, because pastors minister to people who are broken. But pastors are broken people, too.


Pastoring is difficult. Ask any pastor how the day is going and about 360 days of the year you’ll hear at least one challenge that day—relational, spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental. Roughly five days a year we feel like we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those are precious days when so many are filled with defeat, discomfort, or discouragement.

Pastors are called on constantly to help people fix their lives, because pastors minister to people who are broken. But pastors are broken people, too. It’s easy to want to come up with the quick fix, the perfect remedy. I just need a plan! we muse to ourselves. I just need a strategy, or, I wish I could stay committed to the strategy I have, we think. Or, I need more sleep. I need more sabbath-ing.

I want to give eight lies pastors believe—those which can pull us off the beaten path traveled by godly leaders in generations past. Part One looks at the first four.

1. I just need more plans and strategies, and I will be a better leader.

Pastors tend to be doers, and in our doing we can forget that who we are in Christ matters far more than what we do for Christ. Derwin Gray summed up the recent G2 Summit’s focus succinctly: “The greatest work God wants to see done is not ministry THROUGH you, but ministry IN you.”

When pastors give and minister to the point of mental or emotional exhaustion we can begin to believe the lie that the answer to every challenge is a new plan or strategy: just give me the one strategy, the “magic bullet” I can use to lead my church to do __, and I am set. There is no magic bullet. We don’t need a magic bullet. We need Jesus.

The only way to lead better is by letting God love you better. Rick Warren framed it this way, “Your first job in ministry is to let God love you. God made you to love you.” Too many pastors either don’t believe this, or don’t live as if they believe this. We don’t need more of anything except Jesus, and only he will be the one to guide us to what we actually do need moreof.

2. I just need better plans and strategies, and then I will be able to lead better.

We live in a culture that is quick to give us the “10 points to being a healthy leader” or the “ADAPT model of strategic leadership” (I made both of those up, by the way.). Having a good plan is not bad and can in fact lead to clarity and focus on where you and your church are headed.

But, with all the information available to pastors today we can easily find ourselves spending more time seeking a plan than seeking the Lord.

Once we have allowed our love of strategy to usurp the ultimate authority of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s promptings in our lives, we are doomed. Nothing compares to the wisdom from above. The first step in leading better is always allowing God to be the first Person to speak into your life.

3. I just need people to affirm what I am doing, and they will follow me.

Who doesn’t like accolades? I may appear to be a confident leader on the outside, but like everyone else, I have times of doubt and insecurity. I like it when people like me or tell me I am leading well. God’s people ought to be people who encourage and uplift and speak life into their leaders. But don’t get confused: when this doesn’t happen, the world will not end. Speaking edification and love into the lives of others is often a learned discipline.

Most pastors are good with people. That’s a good thing. But if you are good with people, you are more likely a people-pleaser, too. We can fall into taking compliments too well or criticisms too harshly when focused on others for affirmation.

We are called to live our lives to an Audience of One. But that’s not easy when we are in front of audiences of people regularly. Scripture is clear that we aren’t to look to the affirmation of others, but to the only One who can truly give it anyways—God alone. The Audience of One idea is real, and helpful. Focus on pleasing God over pleasing people.

4. I just need God (or: all I need is God and I’m good).

Sometimes, we may take the opposite extreme and think that we don’t need to care about what others think of us or the importance of community. The opposite of a people pleaser is a people user.

We shouldn’t be ruled by the thoughts of others; we desperately need community. Far too many pastors are lone rangers, not in a small group, not in accountability, failing to seek out community. We don’t need people for affirmation; God is enough. But we do need people for our sanctification. We grow better in community than in isolation, and that goes for pastors, too.

Once we recognize that our Audience of One really is just that, we will live in such a way that honoring him will honor others. There Is no way to love God well and to not love others well. When we seek to be more like Jesus, we will inevitably do better at leading and loving others.

When we turn a podium into a pedestal, there is an inevitability that we will be knocked off. We are not designed to be on a pedestal, we are designed to be in community. We need God, but we also need God’s people—his church. Those around you are not only his family, but your family as well.

At the G2 Summit Rick Warren reminded us, “If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. God only uses broken people.” And that’s okay, because it’s not about us. It’s about a God who loves us so much that he gave his very life for us. There is no “better Ed” or “worse Ed.” There is only “The Ed God loves.” That’s true for you, too.








Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair at Wheaton College, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications and Marketing for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, creator of the Our Gospel Story curriculum, co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz, and she blogs at Not All Those Who Wander.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2019, 01:01:01 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/december/lies-pastors-believe-part-two.html






Lies Pastors Believe, Part Two





Before we look at strategy or plans, let’s first look to Jesus and to what he wants to do in and through us. After all, he led us into ministry, and he can give us the strength and guidance to help us continue, and finish well, no matter how long the journey ahead.


In the first article we dealt with four lies pastors can easily believe. Here are four more that can deceive pastors if we aren’t careful.

5. I just need to love God better!

This one is so easy because, like so many lies, it has an element of truth to it. We do want to love God with our heart, soul, and strength. But we tend to get this wrong because of our innate tendency toward self-justification and self-righteousness.

Whenever we put ourselves or our performance at the center, things go sideways in a hurry. It’s not about you loving God. It’s about God loving you. We love the One who first loved us.

This is why grace is so amazing: God loved us when we were unlovely. To paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, the only thing you brought to salvation was your sin. And yet God loved you so much Jesus died for you. You are his child; he’s not mad at you.

Try as you might, even if you did everything right, you would still be an imperfect person trying to love God better. Take some time to just rest in the knowledge that God loves you.

Sometimes pastors do a better job of telling others the truth about who they are in Christ than believing the same truth they teach others also applies to them. Understanding our identity in Christ may be the most important issue for the church in our changing times today.

Who you are in Christ defines you, not what you have or haven’t accomplished, or how well you love. Drew Hyun reminded us at the Summit, “What you do matters, but who you are matters more.”

6. God is disappointed in me for not doing ___ .

We have a tendency to think of God like we do people. We have anthropomorphized him such that our default mindset is of a towering figure shaking his finger at all of our wrongs. If we prayed more, he’d love us more. Or if we didn’t watch that series on Netflix, he’d be more proud of us. If we began every day with 30 more minutes of quiet time, he’d think we were on the right path.

Here’s the truth: We've got to stop making ourselves the hero and let Jesus be the hero that he needs to be. Pastor, it’s not about you, or me. Or what we’ve done or haven’t done. It’s about Jesus. That’s it.

Take a lesson from David. David was the man after God’s heart, right? He loved the Lord and focused on serving him. But David also sinned terribly and felt remarkable grief (see Psalm 51). Here’s the thing, though: David didn’t spend the rest of his life in the shadow of his sin, but in pursuit of his Hero.

Maybe that’s why the New Testament doesn’t say a negative word about David. He’s remembered as being one, though imperfect, whose hero was God.

7. I just need a better team, and then our church will be healthier.

There’s a verse on seeing the plank in our own eyes. Go back and read it if you need to. Servant leadership, healthy leadership, begins with the humility of us saying that, like Paul, we are the chief of sinners. There is no way to serve without embracing and running towards a leadership that embodies the humility of Christ.

The most dangerous person in your church is the one who forgot he or she is a sinner. If that person is you, it’s really a bad deal for your church!

Derwin Gray summed this up well at our summit, “Our God loves broken people because broken people are all he has to love. Being found in the Son means that we don't have to run.” If you have a team you’d like to see functioning healthier, first ask yourself how you are part of that problem—and that solution.

8. I must be doing something wrong, otherwise our church would be doing better.

Pastors at some time or another face the question: How can I help fix others when I have things that need fixing in my life? This lie deceives in two ways.

First, it brings the focus inordinately on us, not the Lord. In many ways, pastors tend to personalize all the wrongs they see around them. We tend to think that if we did evangelism better, our church would be growing. Or if we had a better discipleship path, our people would be going deeper in their faith.

We should want to be more effective in evangelism or discipleship simply because this helps us grow closer to Jesus and brings him glory.

Nothing kills a church quicker than a pastor or church staff member who thinks that he or she is the one around which the whole church revolves. Jesus was clear: he will build his church.

The other part of this lie comes down to what is meant by “better.” “Better” is usually subjective. Better than what? If we focus more on drawing closer to the Lord, on knowing him more, we can be sure whatever “better” is needed will take care of itself.

Perhaps “better” isn’t what you need right now, for your church is what it needs to be right now. Don’t think the world depends on you.

Derwin Gray said something that is worth repeating here and a hundred times over: “When Jesus is your all in all, you don't give a rip what other people think. People OVER production.”

Before we look at strategy or plans, let’s first look to Jesus and to what he wants to do in and through us. After all, he led us into ministry, and he can give us the strength and guidance to help us continue, and finish well, no matter how long the journey ahead.









Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair at Wheaton College, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications and Marketing for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, creator of the Our Gospel Story curriculum, co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz, and she blogs at Not All Those Who Wander.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2019, 01:04:11 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/december/beyond-remnants-snapshot-of-vietnam.html






Beyond Remnants: A Snapshot of Vietnam




Vietnam deserves a priority place on our prayer list as we lift our voices as spiritual advocates for the world.


Regardless of one’s politics, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the stories, artifacts, and pictures of the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The horror of conflict they depict is tangible.

The veteran missionary couple who took me there could not complete the tour and said they would not come again. In picture after picture one can almost hear the pounding war machines leaving behind remnants of human destruction.

Against that backdrop, I joined with church leaders celebrating the amazing accomplishment of printing a million Bibles since 1994, when the communist government began permitting it. The pride of church leaders in raising up a national church countermands their long suffering at the hands of foreign influence.

The Vietnamese, a highly resilient and entrepreneurial people, are imbued with a spirit and energy that pushes them up from the ravages of war and destruction, turning their hope of life into energetic ideas and initiatives in a country still under authoritarian communism.

I recently met pastor Nhuong Pham who emerged from the most unlikely places. He’s a window, a way to see the Spirit at work. Let me tell you his story.

Nhuong’s home had no connection to Christian faith. Vietnamese worship their ancestors under the combined influence of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Their culture has no intrinsic connection to the monotheistic faith of Christianity.

Moreover, Nhuong’s world was communism, which was taught in their schools, everywhere framing life and the marketplace.

Added to that, in their not too distant past, they endured two brutal wars of national liberation against the French and Americans – two nations which most Vietnamese assumed were Christian. Any notion of Christian faith as appealing simply wasn’t written into their equation of something good.

Young and adventuresome, in 1990 Nhuong headed off to Moscow, sent by his government for education. Even though thrilled at travelling abroad, he recalled wondering, “Why was I sent here? Was it just a mistake?” The search for who he was and who he would become became a nagging question.

When he arrived, the Soviet Union was crumbling, dying a fast and very public death. Nhuong witnessed it from within, a student filled with conflicting wonderment and disillusion.

The vacuum was instant.

As the Soviet Union dissolved, leaving in its wake a disillusioned and receptive population of young people, foreign missionaries, including overseas Vietnamese, arrived in Moscow, the wider Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries.

Some large evangelistic events were organized. It was through one of these that Nhuong heard the gospel and trusted in Christ. He said, “God sent me to Russia, so I could meet Jesus. In Russia, I was equipped with the Word of God to be sent back to Vietnam to preach His Word.”

In time Nhuong completed his master’s degree in Moscow. Not satisfied with his academic learning, he enrolled in a Bible school and, with others, formed a Vietnamese church in Moscow. Here he developed skills in preaching and pastoring.

A couple of years later – in 2003, he and his wife sensed a call to return to their home country, Vietnam, and Nhuong began preaching to his own people. “We faced many difficulties, moving from house to house six times. Frequently summoned by different levels of authorities, we learned that persecution [comes] . . . in different ways.”

People came to faith. Gradually churches began to open up and he was able to preach to more and more people. In time, their church membership grew to over 5,000 in 50 locations around the country.

He realized he needed a Bible school to train pastors, so his Word of Life Church developed a training program. To date up to 1,500 students have been trained. “Many of them became pastors, preachers and servants of God.” Nhuong goes on to talk of his vision for Vietnam:

We dream of a near future [with] thousands of churches established in all 63 cities and provinces of Vietnam, [along] with a huge revival from North to South. In addition, many Vietnamese missionaries will be [sent by God] to different countries in the world. Please pray for us so that the dream comes true.

Over a century

Over a hundred years ago missionaries of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) arrived in Vietnam and in short order began training pastors, planting churches and, in a stroke of genius, translated with the help of a famous local writer, published a Vietnamese Bible within a decade of their arrival.

Ahead of their time in mission methods, rather than keeping Western missionaries in charge, they raised up Vietnamese leaders, and by so doing rooted the message of the gospel as Vietnamese and not a foreign import. It was this deeply embedded message of Christ that was resilient through the times of foreign invasion, civil war and Communist rule.

Of Vietnam’s 96 million people, eight percent are Christian. Of these 1.7 million are Evangelical. The pioneering church, called the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN) and nicknamed “the C&MA”, remains divided into independent northern and southern entities. House churches have burgeoned over the last three decades.

Development of a National Evangelical Alliance

Over the past few years smaller denominations and house churches have worked at forming a National Alliance, modeled after the over 130 National Alliances already members of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

Recently, I spent a day with a representative group outlining what a National Alliance can do. They are now assembling a constitution with plans to form and launch an Alliance in the coming months.

This will provide Evangelicals with a common voice, a community made up of denominations, house churches and mission agencies, designed to shape a common identity in a country dominated by ancient religions and increasing materialism.

Also, it will provide distinction within the Christian community dominated by a large Roman Catholic church.

In this complex country, in spite of many obstacles and government impediments, there is ongoing gospel outreach, aggressive church planting, and ministry to special needs such as drug addicts.

Three legal Bible schools are augmented by dozens of others to advance scholarship and biblical training. The Vietnamese’ vision and faith illustrates their response to the longing for spiritual life in a nation scarred by conflict and dominated by sterile and repressive communism.

Let me end with Nhuong’s words:

Thank God because Vietnam today undergoes positive changes – the persecution is no longer as severe as it was. Churches are legally recognized to some extent, especially in big cities. The role of Christians is more positively recognized. However, please pray that these changes happen faster and are not limited [to] the big cities but expand to all cities and provinces in Vietnam. Pray also that churches are not only legally recognized in the church buildings but can legally reach the public by holding huge evangelistic meetings and events so that a lot of Vietnamese people have a chance to hear the gospel and come . . . to God, and [that] many churches are established all over Vietnam.

Not just an ordinary country! Vietnam deserves a priority place on our prayer list as we lift our voices as spiritual advocates for the world.








Brian C. Stiller is a Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2019, 01:08:06 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/loneliness-advent-lent-church-calendar.html






Observing Advent Makes Me Feel Less Alone





Following the rituals of the church calendar remind me that my life is part of the larger story of God’s creation, redemption, and restoration.


I remember an Advent when I was struggling with infertility and found it difficult to enter into a season that anticipates the birth of a baby. During church on those Sunday evenings leading up to Christmas day, a different family—a mother, a father, and at least one child—lit the Advent wreath candles and read a Scripture about the coming of our Savior. While I sat in the dim light of the sanctuary and observed those who had that for which I longed, other parents whispered to their children, answering questions about the wreath and the candles or asking the rowdier little ones to settle down.

I saw my pregnant friends sprinkled throughout the congregation whose desires to become mothers were being fulfilled, their bellies full and round. I knew Emmanuel had come. I believed Jesus would return. But I didn’t know if I would ever have a child of my own. I wanted to believe God was always good even if I never became a mother, but I was full of doubt. And my doubt made me lonely.

Christians can find solace in our relationship with God, fellowship with other Christians, and witnesses from Scripture who assure us God will never leave us or forsake us, and yet Christian faith isn’t an inoculation against loneliness and isolation. Indeed, when it comes to this particular suffering, I have often wondered if the mature Christian has an especially deep capacity to notice her loneliness. Does a life of spiritual discipline, Scripture, and truth-telling open our eyes to see the ways that we are always, on this side of eternity, restless for the true intimacy and union that await us?

My faith certainly hasn’t shielded me from loneliness. I’ve known different forms of loneliness since I was a child. Observing the church year has become one buoy that holds me up when I’m overwhelmed with feelings of unbelonging. It reminds me that my life is part of the larger story of God’s creation, redemption, and restoration. “The Christian year, by its rhythms, allows us an opportunity to both look back and remember the story of Christ, and to look forward to its ultimate conclusion,” said Bobby Gross in an interview about his book, Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God. “The Christian year participates in that same sacramental pattern that God instituted and blessed for the people in the Old Testament and the New Testament, to help us remember in a very active way and anticipate in a way that brings grace into our present spiritual experience.”

I don’t follow the church year with the intent of diminishing my loneliness. I observe it to know more intimately the life of Jesus, his work in the lives of those whom he has rescued and redeemed, and the hope of the “not yet” on this side of heaven. I also enter into the liturgical seasons because they help us wait, lament, hope, celebrate, and acknowledge the full spectrum of the life of the Christian and the life of the church. But one blessing I have received from engaging the church year and its rituals is an increased sense of belonging to myself, others, and God.

Rituals can enhance our affiliation with fellow group members, increase a sense of group loyalty and trust, and produce stronger feelings of connection because they help to integrate our private and public lives. When we partake in rituals, we put words, actions, and meaning around our beliefs. Rituals also help us learn and share cultural knowledge that defines our group’s priorities and creates a sense of closeness because they help us interact with others who share our beliefs.

The same is true when we observe the church year. Many of our liturgical rituals are performed in community with our families, friends, neighbors, and members of our local church congregations. As we embark on a collective observance of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and the other liturgical seasons, we are linked with others who are observing the church year in similar ways. While we light Advent wreath candles on the four Sundays before Christmas or receive ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, we know scores of Christians all over the world are doing the same thing and generations of Christians before us have done the same thing throughout a large portion of the church’s existence.

Observing the church year also allows us to feel closer to the Triune Lord. As we explore the stories of Jesus and the truths of the gospel of grace in the Scripture readings and rituals that unfold throughout the church year, we learn more of who God is and more of who we are. When we view time primarily through the lens of the liturgical seasons, we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us clarity regarding the movement of God in our lives, the church, and the world. Every year we cycle through the various seasons and see how our lives are intertwined with the life of Jesus brings more invitations to experience greater spiritual intimacy. We walk the well-worn paths again and again and know God will meet us along the way because he has shown up before and has told us in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In my own life, I have also found that practicing the church year connects me to past versions of myself when I engaged time and my faith in similar ways. While I am asking God how I should observe an upcoming Lenten season, I may remember where I spiritually was during Lent the previous year and reflect on what has changed and what has stayed the same. I hear and read the familiar stories about Jesus as he approached the cross and am reminded that while my circumstances change, the truths of the gospel remain the same. When I pull out the bright red tablecloth that adorns our dining table on Pentecost, I think about the very real power of the Holy Spirit that is active in my life and in the church, interceding for us, comforting us, and redirecting our attention to Jesus and the gospel of grace.

Despite the strong communal ties reinforced by following the church year, this sense of belonging won’t always insulate Christians from feeling lonely. When we have lost loved ones through death or other forms of separation, we may feel more alone during seasons and celebrations we used to share with others. When we are in a season of feeling far away from God, we may feel guilt and shame because we think we should be more enthusiastic about observing Advent or Christmas or Easter. The widow or divorcee reading a well-meaning devotional that uses language of families might feel she doesn’t belong in the ritual. And when we elevate our participation in the church year in ways that minimize our communion with other Christians and our common gospel foundation, those who don’t feel led to observe the church year might sense that those of us who do think less of them and their faith.

On Easter Sunday a few years ago during a period of significant suffering, I wept all day. In addition to the isolation I felt because of my circumstances, I was also grieving my inability to celebrate the resurrection. Yet, I still had confidence in the test of time and confidence in the saints from many eras who companioned me in my Christian journey, whose witness reminded me of the generations of Christians who have observed the church year in order to know God and root their own stories to Jesus’ story.

As we consider Jesus throughout the course of the year and give our attention to his life, death, and resurrection, we can ask God to help us see those whom Christ sees. Who is suffering, grieving, lost, or alone? How can we invite others to join us as we observe and celebrate the life and work of Jesus? How can we have conversations with other Christians during Advent or Lent or Ordinary Time about how the current season is or isn’t helping us connect with ourselves, others, and God? How can we be, as James K.A. Smith wrote, a people of memory and expectation while “praying for and looking forward to a coming kingdom that will break in upon our present as a thief in the night”?

I will continue to ask myself these questions and follow the path of those who have gone before me while I discover the answers. This year, on the first Sunday of Advent, I did what I have done the past several years. I woke before the rest of my family, possibly before the rest of my street. I walked down the hall to my living room and dining area. As the sun was beginning to rise and offer itself to the darkness of the night, I lit the first candle in the Advent wreath. I basked in the glow of that one purple candle and contemplated this season that helps me remember Jesus’ birth and wait for his second coming when we will face the fullness of our true belonging.

Then I went to church with my family. We worshiped with our local congregation using a liturgy designed especially for this day. We sang hymns of waiting, heard the appointed Scripture readings including Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 about his return, and prayed the Collect for Advent Sunday, Rite One from the Book of Common Prayer, that says :

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Throughout the remaining days leading up to Christmas, I will continue to view this season as a fresh opportunity to give my attention to the life and work of Jesus that has ushered in the light and pushed away the works of darkness. And I will anticipate another year full of familiar readings and rituals that might help me connect more with myself, others, and God.








Charlotte Donlon is a writer, spiritual director trainee, and host of the Hope for the Lonely podcast. Her first book, The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other, will be published by Fortress Press in November 2020. Learn more at CharlotteDonlon.com.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2019, 01:10:42 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/let-psalms-be-your-guide-this-advent-season.html







Let the Psalms Be Your Guide This Advent



In Old Testament poetry, we find echoes of our deepest longings.


Whenever Christmas rolls around, I get a little sad. I look back and am encouraged in the ways God worked in the past year, but also acutely aware of the things still hoped for—the things yet unseen (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 11). I look back and have hope. I look forward and ache.

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I tend to be a melancholy person, so a song in a minor key speaks my language of angst. But I think another reason it resonates with me is because it contains echoes of our collective longing. I find a kinship in this haunting song because, like the ancient Israelites, I am also mourning in exile, waiting for the Son of God to appear. I count myself among the “weary souls” we sing about in “O Holy Night.” I am waiting for Christ to return, and every unanswered prayer in my life today is a reminder that his return is still an awaited longing in my own soul.

This is also why I am drawn to the Psalms. At Advent, we often gravitate toward the same passages—Matthew’s genealogy, Luke 1–2, and the prophecies in Isaiah. But the Psalms have been a comfort to God’s people since this first songbook was put to parchment. They were the songs of ancient Israel as they were forced into exile and longed for their return. They were the songs of Israel’s greatest king as he faced persecution, struggles to ascend to the throne, and even his own sinfulness. They lived thousands of years before us, but they too were waiting for the Christ to come. And in their waiting, they sang of their experience. They sang of their questions. They sang of their sorrows. And they sang of their hope.

The Psalms continue to be the songs we sing or read in our moments of deep anguish and times of great joy. But they also have something to teach us during Advent.

First, the Psalms instruct us to remember. Scripture helps us to remember the story of how God has worked in his people from Creation to Christ (Ps. 89, 90, 114, 124). Israel was called repeatedly to remember how God had delivered them over and over again (Ps. 103:2–5). Christians are called to the very same remembrance. We remember our salvation Sunday after Sunday when we preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. We remember our Savior’s birth at Christmas. We even remember the personal ways he has worked in our lives.

In 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel set up a stone of remembrance—an Ebenezer stone—to call the Israelites to remember God’s deliverance of them from the Philistines. They had the Ebenezer stone as a continual reminder that God saves. The Psalms contain similar “stones” of remembrance. There are entire Psalms that recount Israel’s history. There are Psalms that remember what God has done personally in the life of the psalmist. There are Psalms that look back only to have the faith to be sustained in the future (Ps. 66, 116).

Advent, too, calls us to remember. In our pain we need to remember that we have a God who saves (Ps. 68:20). In our grief, we need to remember that we have a God who raises the dead (Ps. 27:13). In our joy, we need to remember that we have a God who gives good things to his people (Ps. 107:9). And in our waiting for Christ’s return, we need to remember a God who is near, not far off (Ps. 46:1).

The Psalms also teach us to wait. Advent means to wait or be expectant. In the weeks leading up to Christmas Day we are looking forward to Christ’s birth and expectant with hope. But we are also waiting for another entry of Christ into this world—when he returns to make all things right (Rev. 21:1–8). The Psalms speak to this story of waiting, both for Israel in the Old Testament and for us.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2019, 11:57:28 am »








9 Common Myths Christians Believe at Christmas





Many myths have been added to the greatest story ever told.


Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, because it calls our attention to one of the most beautiful teachings of Scripture—the Incarnation of Christ.

When you realize the incredible truths behind the reality that God came and dwelt among us, it can’t help but impact the way you live. Plus, it’s an awesome reminder that God kept his promises from the Old Testament to send a Messiah to rescue his people from their sins.

However, since that time, many myths have been added to the greatest story ever told.

Here are nine common myths Christians believe at Christmas:

First, the Bible says that Jesus was born On December 25.

It’s the age-old question, “Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday?” The answer is that we really don’t know when his actual birthday was. The Bible doesn’t tell us an exact date.

So, it begs the question, “How did Christmas land on December 25th?” Some historians believe that it was a Christian reaction to a Roman pagan holiday, while others believe the date is a response to the traditional date of Jesus’ crucifixion in March. Honestly, we don’t really know when Jesus was born, however, two things are certain—Jesus was born of a virgin, and the Bible doesn’t give us an exact date.

Second, the Bible says Mary rode into Bethlehem on a donkey.

An extremely pregnant Mary riding into town on a donkey is definitely a common myth most Christians believe is in the Bible. Now, she very well could have made the 65-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey.

Nevertheless, the account of this story in Luke 2:1–6 does not specifically teach this. Nevertheless, we all should consider how tough Mary was to make this trip while being pregnant, because most of us men can’t get out of bed if we have the common cold.

Third, the Bible says there were three wisemen.

One of the most popular Christmas carols, We Three Kings, shows the commonality of this particular myth. The Gospel of Matthew describes these men as magi or wise men. People commonly think there were three in number, because the Bible details the fact that they brought three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

But, this doesn’t mean there were three magi; there could just as easily have been four, eight, or ten. Also, one could ascertain that these guys were the very first Essential Oils dealers.

Fourth, the Bible says a star hovered over the manger.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a nativity scene that doesn’t include a bright shining star hovering above it. It’s definitely a nice sentiment and symbol.

The problem is there’s no reference to this in the Gospels. The magi were given a star that first led them to Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1-2), then on to Bethlehem (v. 9-10), where they found the child. In jealousy, King Herod gave a command that all babies in the region younger than 2 years old to be killed (v. 16). This suggests that Jesus had been in Bethlehem for some time at this point, so neither the wise men nor the star were hovering over the manger the night Jesus was born.

Fifth, the Bible says Jesus was born in a barn or stable.

Just about every nativity set places the baby Jesus in a barn, surrounded by animals. Once again, this is an assumption because the Bible does not specify this.

The Scriptures actually say, “And she gave birth… and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). It’s easy to assume that Jesus was born in a barn or stable, because of the manger mention. A manger is a feeding trough for animals.

However, these feeding troughs were also commonly used inside homes, because families would sleep upstairs while small animals were kept downstairs on cold nights.

Sixth, the Bible says there was a little drummer boy.

A little drummer boy playing his drum – pum pum pum pum.That’s what all first-time parents want, right? Mary and Joseph haven’t had any sleep. The birthing arrangements and location haven’t been ideal, but yes, please come play your drum for my newborn baby boy.

Just make sure you play it as loud as humanly possible. It doesn’t make much sense, and there is no account of this ever happening.

Seventh, the Bible says Jesus was born in 0 A.D.

“B.C.” stands for “before Christ”, and “A. D.” stands for a Latin phrase anno domini; which means “in the year of the Lord.” However, according to Matthew 2:1, Jesus was born during the days of Herod the king. Most historians place Herod’s death at 4 B.C.

With Herod ordering all boys 2 years old and younger in the area to be killed before his own death, it seems as though a more proper estimate of Jesus birth would have sometime between 4 B.C. and 6 B.C.

Eighth, saying “Merry X-mas” is “Taking Christ out of Christmas.”

Over the last decade or so, many Christians have felt like there is a “War on Christmas.” Some believers see the phrase “Merry Xmas” as an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.

Although some people may be deliberate in their attempts, the statement by itself is not offensive. The first letter in the Greek word for “Christ” is chi. In the Roman alphabet, chi is represented by the symbol X. Therefore, Xians don’t have to be flustered by hearing or seeing “Merry Xmas!”

Finally, saying “Happy Holidays” is “Taking Christ out of Christmas.”

This statement may be an attempt at being “politically correct.” However, holiday literally means, “holy day.” Celebrating the birth of Jesus definitely makes it a holy day. Thankfully, because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, everyday can be a happy holy day.

To the believer, Christmas shouldn’t be a one-day celebration, but rather, a lifestyle of celebrating the truth that Jesus is Immanuel—God with us.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2019, 07:17:31 pm »








Trump Should Be Removed from Office





It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was.


In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment.

The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being. We take pride in the fact, for instance, that politics does not dominate our homepage.

That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders (as well as ordinary citizens) on both sides of the political aisle.

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:

The President's failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.

And this:

Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.

Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.

To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.




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


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2019, 09:31:55 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-evangelicals-editorial-christianity-today-president.html




The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President




12/23/19



Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue.


Reader responses to Mark Galli’s recent editorial have spanned the spectrum. We have received countless notes of encouragement from readers who were profoundly moved. They no longer feel alone. They have hope again. Many have told us of reading the editorial with tears in their eyes, sharing it with children who have wandered from the faith, rejoicing that at last someone was articulating what they felt in their hearts. They felt this was a watershed moment in the history of the American church—or they hoped it would prove to be. Stay strong, they told us, knowing we were about to reap the whirlwind.

On the other hand, we have heard from many readers who felt incensed and insulted. These readers felt the editorial engaged in character assassination, or maligned a broad swath of our fellow evangelicals, or revealed that we prefer the Democrats to a President who has done a lot of good for causes we all care about.

Of course, we appreciate the support and listen humbly to the criticisms. But at the end of the day, we write for a readership of One. God is our Tower. Let the whirlwind come.

President Donald Trump would have you believe we are “far left.” Others have said we are not Bible-believing Christians. Neither is true. Christianity Today is theologically conservative. We are pro-life and pro-family. We are firm supporters of religious liberties and economic opportunity for men and women to exercise their gifts and create value in the world. We believe in the authority of Scripture.

We are also a global ministry. We travel the world and see the breadth and depth of what God is doing through his people all around the planet. It is beautiful, and breathtaking, and immense. The global Body of Christ—and the community of evangelicals—is vastly larger than our domestic political squabbles. But partly on behalf of that global body, we can no longer stay silent.

American evangelicals have always been a loose coalition of tribes. We have fought one another as often as we have fought together. We at Christianity Today believe we need to relearn the art of balancing two things: having a firm opinion and inviting free discussion. We need, in other words, both a flag and a table.

First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.

As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.

Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.

Galli’s editorial focused on the impeachment, but it was clear the issues are deeper and broader. Reasonable people can differ when it comes to the flagrantly partisan impeachment process. But this is not merely about impeachment, or even merely about President Trump. He is not the sickness. He is a symptom of a sickness that began before him, which is the hyper-politicization of the American church. This is a danger for all of us, wherever we fall on the political spectrum. Jesus said we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. With profound love and respect, we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty.

Let me protect against two misunderstandings. The problem is not that we as evangelicals are associated with the Trump administration’s judicial appointments or its advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty. We are happy to celebrate the positive things the administration has accomplished. The problem is that we as evangelicals are also associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more. In other words, the problem is the wholeheartedness of the embrace. It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.

Similarly, this is neither a criticism of the evangelical Trump voter nor an endorsement of the Democrats. The 2016 election confronted evangelical voters with an impossible dilemma: Vote for a pro-choice candidate whose policies would advance so much of what we oppose, or vote for an extravagantly immoral candidate who could well damage the standing of the republic and the witness of the church. Countless men and women we hold in the highest regard voted for President Trump, some wholeheartedly and some reluctantly. Friends we love and respect have also counseled and worked within the Trump administration. We believe they are doing their best to serve wisely in a fallen world.

We nevertheless believe the evangelical alliance with this presidency has done damage to our witness here and abroad. The cost has been too high. American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC. We are a diverse movement that should collaborate with political parties when prudent but always standing apart, at a prophetic distance, to be what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the conscience of the state.” That is what we believe. This is where we plant our flag. We know we are not alone.

Now, to the table. A table is a place of welcome, a place where bread is broken and friendships are forged. In a political landscape dominated by polarization, hostility, and misunderstanding, we believe it’s critical for Christians to model how to have a firm opinion and host free discussion at the same time. Evangelicals of different stripes cannot continue to shout one another down, bully those who disagree, or exclude one another and refuse to listen.

We hold fast to our view that the wholehearted evangelical embrace of Trump has been enormously costly—but we are committed to irenic conversation with men and women of good faith who believe otherwise. (And since an open letter was published even as we were preparing to publish this statement, let me simply say that I appreciate the thoughts it expresses, and I hope this statement too can be the beginning of a dialogue.)

In the words of Proverbs 27:6, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (ESV). Deeply aware of our own sinfulness and limitations, we are going to invite supporters and critics alike to produce essays agreeing or disagreeing with our stated views. It is time for evangelicals to have a serious discussion about how our identity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens. We will invite authors who represent a variety of viewpoints in a thoughtful and charitable manner. We will publish those essays in mid-January. We hope we can come together in convicted humility and learn from one another.

Now it is time for Christmas. Christ is still the light that shines upon a people living in darkness. We look forward to resuming the conversation soon.

The flag is planted. The table is set. We invite you to join us at either one.




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


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2019, 08:03:30 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-evangelicals-editorial-christianity-today-president.html




The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President




12/23/19



Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue.


Reader responses to Mark Galli’s recent editorial have spanned the spectrum. We have received countless notes of encouragement from readers who were profoundly moved. They no longer feel alone. They have hope again. Many have told us of reading the editorial with tears in their eyes, sharing it with children who have wandered from the faith, rejoicing that at last someone was articulating what they felt in their hearts. They felt this was a watershed moment in the history of the American church—or they hoped it would prove to be. Stay strong, they told us, knowing we were about to reap the whirlwind.

On the other hand, we have heard from many readers who felt incensed and insulted. These readers felt the editorial engaged in character assassination, or maligned a broad swath of our fellow evangelicals, or revealed that we prefer the Democrats to a President who has done a lot of good for causes we all care about.

Of course, we appreciate the support and listen humbly to the criticisms. But at the end of the day, we write for a readership of One. God is our Tower. Let the whirlwind come.

President Donald Trump would have you believe we are “far left.” Others have said we are not Bible-believing Christians. Neither is true. Christianity Today is theologically conservative. We are pro-life and pro-family. We are firm supporters of religious liberties and economic opportunity for men and women to exercise their gifts and create value in the world. We believe in the authority of Scripture.

We are also a global ministry. We travel the world and see the breadth and depth of what God is doing through his people all around the planet. It is beautiful, and breathtaking, and immense. The global Body of Christ—and the community of evangelicals—is vastly larger than our domestic political squabbles. But partly on behalf of that global body, we can no longer stay silent.

American evangelicals have always been a loose coalition of tribes. We have fought one another as often as we have fought together. We at Christianity Today believe we need to relearn the art of balancing two things: having a firm opinion and inviting free discussion. We need, in other words, both a flag and a table.

First, then, the flag. Numerous reporters have asked whether the ministry supports what was stated in the editorial. Was Mark Galli speaking on behalf of the institution? CT does not have an editorial board. Editors publish under their own names. Yet Galli has stood in the trenches for men and women of faith for over three decades. He has been an outstanding editor in chief. While he does not speak for everyone in the ministry—our board and our staff hold a range of opinions—he carries the editorial voice of the magazine. We support CT’s editorial independence and believe it’s vital to our mission for the editor in chief to speak out on the issues of the day.

As an institution, Christianity Today has no interest in partisan politics. It does not endorse candidates. We aim to bring biblical wisdom and beautiful storytelling both to the church and from the church to the world. Politics matter, but they do not bring the dead back to life. We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount.

Out of love for Jesus and his church, not for political partisanship or intellectual elitism, this is why we feel compelled to say that the alliance of American evangelicalism with this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian witness. It has alienated many of our children and grandchildren. It has harmed African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American brothers and sisters. And it has undercut the efforts of countless missionaries who labor in the far fields of the Lord. While the Trump administration may be well regarded in some countries, in many more the perception of wholesale evangelical support for the administration has made toxic the reputation of the Bride of Christ.

Galli’s editorial focused on the impeachment, but it was clear the issues are deeper and broader. Reasonable people can differ when it comes to the flagrantly partisan impeachment process. But this is not merely about impeachment, or even merely about President Trump. He is not the sickness. He is a symptom of a sickness that began before him, which is the hyper-politicization of the American church. This is a danger for all of us, wherever we fall on the political spectrum. Jesus said we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. With profound love and respect, we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty.

Let me protect against two misunderstandings. The problem is not that we as evangelicals are associated with the Trump administration’s judicial appointments or its advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty. We are happy to celebrate the positive things the administration has accomplished. The problem is that we as evangelicals are also associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more. In other words, the problem is the wholeheartedness of the embrace. It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.

Similarly, this is neither a criticism of the evangelical Trump voter nor an endorsement of the Democrats. The 2016 election confronted evangelical voters with an impossible dilemma: Vote for a pro-choice candidate whose policies would advance so much of what we oppose, or vote for an extravagantly immoral candidate who could well damage the standing of the republic and the witness of the church. Countless men and women we hold in the highest regard voted for President Trump, some wholeheartedly and some reluctantly. Friends we love and respect have also counseled and worked within the Trump administration. We believe they are doing their best to serve wisely in a fallen world.

We nevertheless believe the evangelical alliance with this presidency has done damage to our witness here and abroad. The cost has been too high. American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC. We are a diverse movement that should collaborate with political parties when prudent but always standing apart, at a prophetic distance, to be what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the conscience of the state.” That is what we believe. This is where we plant our flag. We know we are not alone.

Now, to the table. A table is a place of welcome, a place where bread is broken and friendships are forged. In a political landscape dominated by polarization, hostility, and misunderstanding, we believe it’s critical for Christians to model how to have a firm opinion and host free discussion at the same time. Evangelicals of different stripes cannot continue to shout one another down, bully those who disagree, or exclude one another and refuse to listen.

We hold fast to our view that the wholehearted evangelical embrace of Trump has been enormously costly—but we are committed to irenic conversation with men and women of good faith who believe otherwise. (And since an open letter was published even as we were preparing to publish this statement, let me simply say that I appreciate the thoughts it expresses, and I hope this statement too can be the beginning of a dialogue.)

In the words of Proverbs 27:6, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (ESV). Deeply aware of our own sinfulness and limitations, we are going to invite supporters and critics alike to produce essays agreeing or disagreeing with our stated views. It is time for evangelicals to have a serious discussion about how our identity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens. We will invite authors who represent a variety of viewpoints in a thoughtful and charitable manner. We will publish those essays in mid-January. We hope we can come together in convicted humility and learn from one another.

Now it is time for Christmas. Christ is still the light that shines upon a people living in darkness. We look forward to resuming the conversation soon.

The flag is planted. The table is set. We invite you to join us at either one.




Timothy Dalrymple is president and CEO of Christianity Today.

 Christianity Today  has become the traitor
1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - December 2019
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2019, 02:52:04 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/december/isis-nigeria-executes-christians-iswap-christmas-boko-haram.html






11 Nigerian Christians Executed in ISIS Christmas Video



Martyrdoms by Boko Haram splinter group occur as US finally adds West African nation to religious freedom watch list.


In another filmed massacre, 11 Nigerian Christians were executed by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) over the Christmas holiday.

Wearing the orange jumpsuits made familiar by similar executions of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya, the first Nigerian victim was shot in the head by the black-clad terrorists who then slit the throats of the remaining ten. It is understood to be the largest group killed by ISWAP, a Boko Haram splinter group, so far.

“This message is to the Christians in the world,” stated the 56-second propaganda video, released December 26, in both Arabic and Hausa, according to The New York Times.

“Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs.”

The reference is to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former ISIS caliph killed by US troops in an October raid in Syria, and Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, his purported successor, who was killed the next day.

The video offered no information about the victims, other than that they were recently seized in Nigeria’s northwest Borno state. But an earlier video was released by ISWAP in which captured aid workers appealed to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

Four aid workers were killed by ISWAP earlier this month. Dozens of others are believed to still be in captivity, including Leah Sharibu, a teenage girl kidnapped almost two years ago whose perseverance under pressure has inspired Nigerian Christians.

The International Crisis Group estimates the jihadist group consists of between 3,500 and 5,000 fighters.

“These agents of darkness are enemies of our common humanity, and they don’t spare any victim, whether they are Muslims or Christians,” stated Buhari, according to al-Jazeera.

Nigeria’s population of 200 million is evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.

Muslim victims have been many, agreed CAN in an earlier statement. But it stated the widespread killing in Nigeria’s north has predominately targeted Christians, who make up 95 percent of those currently detained by jihadists.

“The government has been paying lip service towards securing their freedom,” stated CAN, mentioning in particular the case of Sharibu.

American officials took notice.

“We are appalled by the vicious ISIS-West Africa attack targeting Christians in Nigeria,” tweeted Tibor Nagy, the US State Department’s top Africa policy official. “Nigeria’s history of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims and constitutional protections for freedom of religion will not be defeated.”

Johnnie Moore, a commissioner with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), highlighted an opposite feature.

“The ongoing execution of Christians by terrorists in Nigeria (a country where more Christians have been killed for their faith than any) is a shame to the entire world,” he tweeted. “No one, whatever faith, should fear for their lives. Nigeria must do more [to] stop this.”

Prior to the attack, the two federal entities had actually agreed on Nigeria for the first time. Following USCIRF recommendations since 2009, on December 18 the State Department included Nigeria on its Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

Nigeria joined Cuba, Nicaragua, Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Sudan one level below the Tier One nations known as Countries of Particular Concern: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group, has been listed as an “Entity of Particular Concern” since 2017.

Moore’s tweet referenced 2015 data from the Global Terrorism Index stating that Boko Haram’s 6,664 killings that year had exceeded those of ISIS by a few hundred victims.

And over the last 10 years, United Nations data cited by AsiaNews recorded 36,000 victims of Islamic terrorism across West Africa, with 2 million displaced individuals.

ISWAP broke away from Boko Haram in 2016, in part over offense at its brutal methods.

But USCIRF’s report noted religious freedom violations were “trending negatively” even so.

Open Doors, which ranks Nigeria No. 12 on it World Watch List (WWL) of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian, provided sobering statistics.

Its 2019 report tallied 3,731 Nigerian Christians killed because of their faith, almost double the 2,000 deaths the year before—and comprising 9 in 10 of all the WWL’s reported martyrdoms worldwide.

Open Doors also cited 569 attacks on Nigerian churches and 29,444 attacks on homes and shops, compared to 22 and 5,120 the year before, respectively.

“Nigeria is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian,” stated Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer, according to Premium Times. “It is high time this is recognized.”

Both USCIRF and Open Doors attributed much of the violence to Muslim herders raiding “Middle Belt” Christian farming areas. US Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, called on Buhari to stop the “deteriorating” situation, and for the State Department to monitor further the Miyetti Allah group responsible.

But the Nigerian government called the State Department listing “false,” and blamed political opponents for misrepresenting the situation.

“The religious tag given to the clashes has no basis in fact,” it stated, according to Premium Times.

“But it is very convenient for those who will very easily give the dog a bad name, just to hang it.”

Buhari’s administration said it was making progress in curbing the environmental and socio-economic herder-farmer clashes, and had “largely defeated” the Boko Haram insurgency.

Its statement, released prior to the most recent killings, did not mention ISWAP.

The Christian Association of Nigeria disagreed with the Nigerian government’s position, and commended the US State Department for “standing with the oppressed and the truth.”

CAN stated that Buhari’s administration “turned a deaf ear” to its many suggestions for addressing issues of religious intolerance. And remarks by the Muslim chief justice to promote elements of sharia law in the national constitution were a “slap in the face.” Twelve Muslim-majority northern states have already included sharia in their regional legal code.

The association also criticized Buhari for creating an imbalance in the religious composition of the security council, through recent appointments. “The bitter truth,” CAN stated, “is that Christians are yet to be given any sense of belonging since this government came on board.”







CT went to Nigeria in 2018 to report a cover story on the double persecution of Africa’s largest church. CT also previously reported how the Bible Society of Egypt turned ISIS’s Libya propaganda video into its most successful Bible outreach ever.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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