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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2021  (Read 1802 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - January 2021
« on: January 03, 2021, 01:10:51 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/december-web-only/2020-covid-racial-injustice-politics-podcast.html








We Should Remember the Scars of 2020




Last year was painful. That doesn’t mean we should forget it.


As we close 2020, more than 81 million people total have tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly 1.8 million people have died of it. The virus has had significant economic effects and cost many their livelihoods. Prolonged distance from others, of course, has also triggered an increase in depression and other mental health issues. And the pandemic has revealed increasing divisions over masks, meeting in person, and what constitutes an essential business or service.

Of course, the pandemic was not the only thing that provoked anxiety in many this year. America will get a new president in January, but current president Donald Trump has refused to concede and made false statements about voting fraud for weeks.

In May, a police officer killed Minneapolis’ George Floyd weeks after officers shot Breonna Taylor in her home, actions which sparked demonstrations across the country, protesters fed up with police violence against black Americans. Protests lasted for weeks and were especially heated where protesters, counterprotesters, and outside agitators converged. Many cities suffered looting and some burned buildings.

In a year with so much trauma, we wanted to spend some time talking about how we should start to process and make sense of the year. What should we remember? How should we remember it? And what should we forget?

Sheila Wise Rowe is a writer, counselor, speaker, and spiritual director, and most recently the author of Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience for which she won a 2021 Christianity Today Book of the Year Award. She joined global media manager Morgan Lee and editor in chief Daniel Harrell to discuss how our bodies experienced the trauma of the year, what parts of it we should remember, and what Christians might choose to set as a 2021 New Year’s resolution.

What is Quick to Listen? Read more

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Quick to Listen is produced by Morgan Lee and Matt Linder

The transcript is edited by Yvonne Su

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode 245
What are the big things that stand out for you this year?
Shelia Wise Rowe: COVID is front and center in how it has transformed how we move about and live. It has changed the significance of our relationships and been a wake-up call in terms of taking the temperature of our relationships, shifting how we relate with fellow believers. How do we relate with people in our own families, with our communities? It’s caused us in many cases to reevaluate.

Sometimes it's resulted in relationships ending, including abusive situations. Many of us have also lost dear ones, people who are close to us. Many of us can name even acquaintances who've passed away because of COVID.

For communities of color, we've particularly felt the devastation of the consequences of COVID-19 ravaging black, indigenous, and Latinx communities. It really has exposed that there's been systemic racism in healthcare and also in employment. So when I think about that impact and how far-reaching that has been, it is really one that is going to affect us for many, many years to come.

I believe it’s caused us to come out of a place of denial because we were locked in.

We were all home or socially distancing. Things happened, including the murder of George Floyd in that horrific video that we all saw, that was undeniable. Although there were people who would rationalize why it was, whether he deserved it or he shouldn't have, it just did not sit well for anyone who actually watched that video. It was absolutely horrific and it was very clear that there's something more going on here. In addition to COVID-19, this video really shifted people's perspective and caused us all to come out of denial and pour out into the streets.

I think an amazing part was the diversity of the people who came out and protest. It was something that we had never seen in this country. If we look back at past protests, they were never this diverse. To see this swift move to deal with racism and implicit/explicit bias in organizations and institutions. I don't know if we're going to see something sustainable out of this. But if I look at 2020, those are the two things that stand out for me.

There’s no doubt that that COVID has exacerbated all of the troubles that have haunted America around racial injustice. What does it say about us that it took this exacerbation to truly get our attention and expose what’s long been here?

Shelia Wise Rowe: Many things distract us from being present in our lives, to people in our lives, and to what is going on around us. We can easily just kind of be and hunker down in our own little silos, with our own little people having conversations. And then we have something like that moment where it just burst those boundaries, in which we are then coming face-to-face with a reality that we have denied.

It was a moment for people to really look at “What is American history like?” What has been the experience of people of color in this country? There are ways in which frankly, the white majority has not had to look at it. The information has been doctored and presented a certain way through history books. It was a huge outpouring of people wanting information, wanting to learn, wanting to understand because they didn't have the distractions to hide behind anymore.

How did you see all of these issues play out in the church?

Shelia Wise Rowe: If we go back over four years ago, it was the election of the current president and the realities of how divided the churches are in terms of directives and experiences. There was a real inability to really listen to what are these different realities and what are our roles as believers and as members of the body of Christ in terms of addressing that. What am I to do about it as an individual, as a church community?

For some people of color coming out of that election, they were coming away with this sense of moral injury and their sense of having had this expectation as believers, that the church could be something more, it should be something more. It should be more Christ-like. There was the feeling that that was not the case; as a person of color to hear and see the things that were said and done coming from this administration, it was wounding for people.

So, a part of the body is deeply wounded. COVID and the George Floyd video really were a wake-up call. They’re a part of the body, but also the way the country is in pain and hurting, and it has been over generations and it is not new.

Particularly white churches, but really all churches scrambled to make sense of George Floyd. You sensed that there was this upheaval happening. Some doubled down in a way to defend and protect a way of life that I would argue can no longer be a way of life, but then others who sought to innovate, but don't know what to do. Could you speak on that?

Shelia Wise Rowe: That was a really difficult piece, the whole doubling down part. For many people of color, they saw the inability to listen, the inability to see, and the difficulty of owning up to, “I actually missed the mark” or “I didn't see things totally clearly.”

Rather than taking that moment when people marched out into the streets and looking at that as people saying “Something is wrong here and there's been an ongoing injustice, there was this framing of Black Lives Matter as an organization, then all of the slamming that could possibly happen. The attention was taken away from the realities of the injustice and the focus was then on the organization Black Lives Matter versus the Black Lives Matter movement, which was more around just that simple phrase that is profoundly true.

We’re seeing the latest iteration with Critical Race Theory. We're not going to deal with justice. We're not going to deal with the realities of injustice and systemic oppression, implicit and explicit bias in our organizations in churches.

We're going to fix on Critical Race Theory and talk about how it's Marxists, talk about how it's unbiblical. The average person doesn't even know what Critical Race Theory is. They're not thinking about that. They are living, their lived experience on the ground is one where they are wondering, “Where are my white brothers and sisters? Where are they? I'm in pain, there's injustice happening in the church and outside the church. Where are my brothers and sisters?”

How does that type of trauma actually change our bodies and how our bodies? Could you talk about that in the context of 2020?

Shelia Wise Rowe: We have experienced a collective trauma in real-time all together. We’ve been flooded with stress hormones. We're constantly bombarded by videos, updates of the latest stats. We are experiencing it. When family members become ill, when we've lost loved ones -- we've been on this tight rope for almost a year and it has been excruciatingly difficult.

We've had kids who've been home and we've had to try to figure out how to educate them and still try to work. And then some of us have had to go out and work; we're essential workers in various forms, whether it was working in the grocery store or working in the ER.

So we're all experiencing the big T trauma. We're dealing with lots of mental health issues that the emotional strain is wearing on us. We're battling with depression and anxiety. There are places where there's anger that flares up about “How did we get to this place?”

We're having difficulty sleeping. There's anxiety. It's kind of free-floating. Statistically, they're showing an increase in addictions and that people are self-medicating. There's a need for therapy to really work through this and we're in a place where we can't really we can't gather in person.

But what I'm seeing online in terms of people connecting has been a real huge help. We are dealing with big T trauma as well as little T trauma. Those indignities that have been happening are continuing to happen, whether it's being tailed by a police car or harassed in the mall. Even recently, the gentleman who was trying to check out of the hotel with his 14-year-old son had this woman accused the 14-year-old of stealing her iPhone when they had literally just come down from their hotel. That exchange being filmed is just one incident. These things are continuing to happen while we're all collectively dealing with the big T trauma. In that way, black, indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color are carrying the weight of this, even with the attacks on the Asian community around COVID.

We’re dealing with all of these things and we're grieving. The question is, are we going to be able to do that? And will we allow ourselves to grieve?

During this continued grief and trauma, what are some of the scars we're going to carry forward from this year?

Shelia Wise Rowe: One of them is that this doubling down is resulting in just further division. Predominantly black churches in the Southern Baptist Convention who are leaving because they've just had it.

It's missing the mark, it's missing where the focus really needs to be. So that maybe be a scar. I don't know what the Southern Baptist Convention is going to end up looking like at the end but that's one piece of it. I think another scar is going to be how our young people are going to process 2020 as well as these last four years.

We are seeing our young people leave. This is not even just white young people. This is black young people. We have, on the one hand, white young people who are leaving because they're like, “Look, everything you taught me in Sunday school really meant nothing because everything that you're co-signing is totally against everything you've ever taught me. So what you taught me wasn't real.” And then you have, on the other hand, black as well as other young people of color who have bought into this notion of Christianity as a white man's religion: white men oppressors, white Jesus. There's a lack of understanding about the history of Christianity and its roots. I believe that's going to be a scar and that my hope and prayer is that at some point, those young ones who have basically left the church will return. But it's going to be a while.

We're a church, we're a country. We're on your therapist's couch. What are you saying to us? What's the way forward?

Shelia Wise Rowe: One of the major things that I would say is to remember the importance of relationships and to prioritize people over things. Coming out of 2020, we remember that we really are not in control, that we've never been in control. That's a hard one because human nature is that we want to grab for control.

We have to have these daily reminders of what it is that we value most, what's most important, and come to this place of surrendering our way. I think of the 12 steps of the Serenity Prayer that says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That is the way I would invite the church to stop, to slow down and get quiet, and to honestly ask the Lord about the current state of the church in America. To listen, not to come with our preconceived notions of what is, but to listen and to listen for what have we lost this year.

And what have we gained? Let's look at what has been lost and let's look at how love has grown, or fear has grown in our hearts, our minds, and our relationships. What does that fear or that love look like in our bodies? How does it show up in those relationships that are closest to us or with the stranger?

Those are important questions that we need to ask ourselves as we process this year, as well as the past four years. Because I believe that God is saying something to the church at this moment. We've got to take that time of quiet to really listen to what He is saying.

There's been a lot of communication about how the election was stolen. Is that really possible? If the Lord is sovereign in control, He's doing something. So, what is He doing at this moment? Because you can't steal something from Him. What is He wanting to say to us?

It's taking that honest look at what part of this has been kind of like smoke and mirrors. It's like they're building these shiny bits coming into 2020, but it's also come with a whole lot of mess and devastation. How is the Lord calling us back to the center of our calling? When I think about Matthew 12 and 32 to 34, the essence of it is to love God with all our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strengths, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I love that. The importance of that over all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices, the core essence is that you're not far from the kingdom of God. You’re close closer than you were.

What should we remember and how should we go about remembering it?

Shelia Wise Rowe: That's common to come out of a traumatic experience and not want to talk about it, not want to deal with it, and wanting to go back to the normal times. Those times are gone. At the end of the day, it's going to come down to our relationships with God.

How are we to engage even with our own selves, our own bodies, and our spiritual life and relationships. That really is the essence of it: relationships with those close to us and our neighbors. We have to come out of this remembering that we don't want to lose the diversity of the people who came out to protests. My hope is that it would not just be a moment. When people go back to what they’ve known, that it is a moment that will change us, but it will only change us if we remember. Many incidences where the Lord said to remember and to Institute these memorials and festivals and celebrations.

There's some talk about a COVID Memorial, but even more so, in the day-to-day, how do we go about living our lives? This year should not have been wasted.

What are some practices that help us remember in ways that don't just reduce things to a token act, but to provide space for people to lament and people to honor their loss? Do you imagine families trying to create a ritual themselves?

Shelia Wise Rowe: I think that it can be both. There have been churches and universities that have done lament services in the tradition of the book of Lamentations and the Psalms: times and spaces for people to share their pain, to share their hurt, to share their trauma.

To know that others are listening with them, walking with them as they're grappling with everything that happened. They know that they're not alone in it. The point of walking with each other as we walk to the Lord, where we're going to receive that comfort that we so desperately need.

I also recommend that people write out their prayers. It may be taking some time just being brutally honest about how this year has been, how it has impacted you and your family and the community. And in a God can handle our anger.

We look at Psalms and David's engagement with the Lord at various points. He's brutally honest in questioning God in saying what he wanted to do to his enemies. The Lord engages with us from a place of realness, not from putting on the Christian face, but the healing and comfort come and the tears flow when we're real about what it is that we've gone through. Writing out your prayers and sharing them with someone else is profoundly healing.

How do you apply the road to recovery to this larger trauma we’ve been experiencing?

Shelia Wise Rowe: Resilience is built over time. It isn't this magical moment that happens, but it's one where the Scripture talks about going from strength to strength, incrementally and there are small things that we can do that build that.

In many ways we feel that we've not done things perfectly: monitor, educate our kids while they were being schooled on Zoom. Maybe we didn't engage with our family members. But how we have done it is good enough. That builds resilience, that builds strength, how we can. We look at this year and we look at what are the things that I learned from this, that I want to carry forward in terms of engagement, in terms of how I do my work. How do I see my vocation? How do I engage with politics even? What is it that I want? What quality of life do I want going forward? What is it that I really value that I want to put front and center going forward? All of those things, those steps, and they may be small steps that we take, but they build strength and they build resilience.

So when the next thing happens, we're a little bit stronger. Keep building and building. This is a life where we'll be stronger and stronger. It's taking that those small steps

Resilience isn’t just about survival then. Being able to endure is related to a kind of transformation. Could you say more about how it works?

Shelia Wise Rowe: I firmly believe that our ultimate power source is the Lord in terms of the power to act. The transformation that happens internally is that we're becoming more and more like Christ. Relying not on our own strength, but a deeper strength that is not shifting. It's not shifting sand, it's solid rock. We know the difference. When there's something that the Lord has done internally, there's been a transformation.

Jesus gives us internally the kind of rock that sometimes doesn't show itself until the next hard thing happens.

Shelia Wise Rowe: Absolutely. Sometimes we're surprised at what it is that we can endure when we thought there's no way we could have done that. And yet we have, and that needs to be honored as well. I didn't have the strength at moments, and yet God is still there. Emmanuel God is still with us. He didn't leave. That's so important to remember that we go with the pace that He's setting. He meets us in our places of grief when we're not alone.

What did your prayer life look like this year? And how was it different than other years?

Shelia Wise Rowe: We had spent 10 years in South Africa, so I was familiar with praying more globally. In terms of this year, a lot of prayers around protection for the disease. Usually, it has been protection for my black son, husband, daughter, and extended family. Around this pandemic and also around the race issue, that this would take root and that there would be a transformation in the world.

More importantly, some transformation in terms of the church. It's odd to say this, but because of the nature of the number of people who went out on the street, it left me more hopeful for reconciliation and healing.

How do you think that we should cultivate hope as we go into 2021? Does that show up in the types of prayers that we pray, the conversations that we have, or in the actions that we take?

Shelia Wise-Rowe: When I did a chapel service at Gordon College, the theme of the year for them was hope. I talked about staying in the story. If we think of our lives as a story, there are so many chapters to come. At this point in my life, having decades of living through some really difficult, horrible things, and continuing to move forward because at the end of the day, God is still at work and we need to remind each other of that fact. Even as we're going into January and they're saying it may be worse, it's continuing to remind each other and to pray that our hope is revived for those who are lacking hope. Be a presence with those who are struggling right now and encourage them.

Might you offer a few resolutions to Christians who are seeking to walk faithfully amid the challenges we anticipate in 2021?

Shelia Wise-Rowe: Listen around. Listen for the voice of God, that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and the many ways in which the Lord speaks through people, things, experiences.

He's speaking. My encouragement would be as we go into this new year to listen for direction, listen with the ears of discernment. Don't check out, try not to go back to distraction. Try to be present to what's going on around you, the people around you. What is it that you need to learn and to hear from them?
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 - January 2021
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2021, 07:46:00 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/january/jericho-march-dc-election-overturn-trump-biden-congress.html








Jericho March Returns to DC to Pray for a Trump Miracle





Protesters are putting the pressure on Pence to act on the president’s behalf when Congress meets to confirm the Electoral College votes.


A die-hard group of Trump supporters hopes 2021 will start with prayer, fasting, and perhaps a miracle.

Organizers of the Jericho March, slated for Tuesday and Wednesday, have called on “patriots, people of faith and all those who want to take back America” to travel to Washington on those days for a pair of marches to overturn the recent presidential election.

Marchers plan to blow ritual Jewish horns called shofars on the first day before circling the Supreme Court building seven times in imitation of the Israelites’ siege of the city of Jericho described in the Bible’s Book of Joshua. On Wednesday, they plan to do the same around the US Capitol building.

The demonstrators will also pray that Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress will reject slates of electors from Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Nevada, where Trump loyalists claim there was rampant election fraud.

Courts in those states, along with federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, have rejected a series of lawsuits filed by supporters of President Donald Trump, ruling that there was no evidence of election fraud. Former US Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press in early December that the Department of Justice had found no evidence of wide-scale election fraud.

Preceding the two days of protest, the organizers will hold candlelight prayer vigils and “self-led” marches in the nation’s capital. Similar marches will take place in the states where marchers claim the elections were fraudulent.

In mid-December, a rally in Washington organized by the same group of pro-Trump activists featured speakers such as Eric Metaxas and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. The same day, members of the far-right militia the Proud Boys burned Black Lives Matter banners at two DC churches.

Metaxas and other evangelical Trump supporters have held a series of evening prayer calls featuring pro-Trump figures such as Michael Flynn, a former presidential adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was later pardoned by Trump, along with religious leaders who prophesied that Trump would be reelected.

Jericho March organizers said in a statement that they demand that administration officials, including Pence, intervene in the election.

“Vice President Pence has the ability to elect the President himself and Jericho March calls on him to exercise his rightful power in the face of the blatant election fraud and corruption,” the group said in a statement.

Pence will preside in the Senate on Wednesday when Congress meets to confirm the votes of the Electoral College. Federal law requires him to accept the slates of electors that have been certified by states, according to legal experts.

The announcement of the Jericho March came after Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri announced he would object to the results of several states being certified. Hawley is one of a dozen GOP senators and many more House Republicans who are expected to reject Biden’s win.

Conservative Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska accused his colleagues of putting political ambition above the nation’s good and trying to disenfranchise millions of American voters.

“Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government,” he wrote.

More than 2,000 religious leaders, including former World Vision president Rich Stearns, have signed a statement organized by progressive faith groups that calls on Congress to honor the election results and avoid “a delayed and drawn-out objection,” the AP reported.

Several well-known anti-Trump evangelicals, including Southern Baptist author and Bible teacher Beth Moore and author and First Amendment lawyer David French, have denounced the way that evangelical supporters of the president have embraced conspiracy theories.

“I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism,” Moore said on Twitter in mid-December. “This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it.”
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 - January 2021
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2021, 11:34:32 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/three-words-for-2021.html








Three Words for 2021





The new year offers us a time to reflect and to prepare a new approach for 2021.


While I was pastoring, I would pick a theme that would drive us for the year and then do a mini-series on it. I’ve also observed over the years that many leaders pick a word that speaks to how they want to approach the new year.

Given the abnormal year 2020 was, I figured it was appropriate to pick three words that describe my themes and approach to 2021.

“New”

I love the word new. Who doesn’t like new things? When I think about a new year, or a new day, I’m drawn to Lamentations 3:22–23:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

If God’s compassions, or his mercies, are new every morning—what are they every year? If God breathes freshness into every day, I’m pretty sure he provides a fresh canvas for us every year.

For me, I always see each new year like a blank canvas.

Regardless of what did or did not happen the previous year, 2021 is a new year, with new possibilities, with new opportunities. When I think about new possibilities or opportunities, I’m reminded of Isaiah 43:19 where the prophet writes, “See, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Of course, God is talking about the new covenant he will initiate through the Savior. Nevertheless, I believe God is constantly working in us and through us to bring about something new.

If we are new creations in Christ, and if we are small windows for the world to peek through to see the new creation in which Jesus inaugurated and will one day consummate, then I’m constantly asking myself what new thing Jesus want to do in and through me and His church.

For me, 2021 is the year of new beginnings, new possibilities, and new opportunities.

“Promise”

I know people are ready to see 2020 in their rearview mirror. However, not much changed between December 31st 2020 and January 1st, 2021. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Hundreds and thousands are still dying every day from the virus. Our nation is still divided, and we, as a nation, face a lot of uncertainty in 2021.

In addition, the Church in the U.S. is bleeding severely. We are coming off one of the toughest years in our Western history. Our models of church have been disrupted, our metrics of success have been challenged, and our fellowships have been fragmented.

Needless to say, 2021 will be a rebuilding year. Therefore, 2021 is also a year of promise, of opportunity to reimagine our current patterns and ways of doing things. As I journey into 2021, I need to rest on the promises of God.

One of the most important promises God uttered was to Joshua and the disciples. In Joshua 1:9 God promised Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Jesus told his disciples at the end of their commission, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Regardless of what transpires in 2021, God is with me and God will never leave me. I don’t know if 2021 will be better or worse than 2020 from a human perspective. But what I do know is I will not be alone. And not only will I be anchored to the promise of God’s presence, but also to all the other promises he has made.

For me, 2021 is a year to anchor to the promises of God.

“Anticipation”

I’m an optimist—mostly. Given what has been said or projected regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, it seems that at some point this year strict restrictions should begin to lift. The dust settling from the COVID-19 pandemic reminds me of the water subsiding from the flood. Could you imagine Noah looking out the window seeing the water levels slowly reside. The lower they became, I am sure he anticipated life after the flood all the more.

What will life after COVID look like? What will return to normal? What will remain different? Only time will tell…

However, I’m anticipating the day when our church family can be at full capacity. I’m anticipating the day when I can meet with my small group and see the entirety of their face. I’m anticipating the day when I can gather with my co-workers around a meal recounting the faithfulness of God. I’m anticipating the day when my children can return to in-person schooling and sports.

For me, 2021 is a year of anticipation.

New, promise, and anticipation—those are my three words for 2021. What are your words?









Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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 - January 2021
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2021, 09:00:23 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/donald-trump-character-and-consequences-of-conspiracies.html








More Than the Capitol Has Been Breached













Donald Trump, character, and the consequences of conspiracies.


“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap,” reads Galatians 6:7 (ESV).

This season of political sowing has brought the harvest we see at the Capitol today.

Parents teach their children that actions have consequences. Unfortunately, we have plenty of examples these days of people who never seemed to learn this lesson. And, most disturbingly, when these examples are those entrusted with power, the consequences are far reaching.

When a person has the most powerful job in the world, the consequences can last for generations.

This day will be remembered for years to come.

President Trump’s ongoing claims of massive fraud and his unwillingness to concede the 2020 election have had consequences. Trump told us that it would.

The president himself said:

And because of what you’ve done to the president, a lot of people aren’t going out to vote and a lot of Republicans are going to vote negative because they hate what you did to the president.
Trump’s actions have reaped the harvest before us.

The Georgia Senate races appear to be lost, which will have significant implications for religious liberty and the pro-life cause—both deeply important to me and many other evangelicals.

Trump made sure he was the issue on the ballot this week, and people voted accordingly, the ramifications of which will impact the very evangelicals that supported him for years to come.

Many evangelicals reluctantly voted for Trump, acknowledging concerns about character, but aligning with his policies. However, the fruit is showing today, and evangelicals who have complicity must also condemn this illegality.

When peaceful protests, at times, turned into riots in the wake of the death of George Floyd many people (including Trump supporters en masse) condemned them out of hand. Now, Trump faithful are storming the Capitol.

What we see on our screen today is not a peaceful protest. Only in this case, the impact of the unrest in Washington, DC, has led to the evacuation of both the House and the Senate.

Riots are never right, whether incited by criminals pillaging communities, or presidents peddling conspiracies.

In the summer of 2020, after significant and important peaceful protests following the killing of Floyd, cars burned and cities were pillaged and looted throughout the US. Many of us joined in those peaceful protests to call for both racial justice and an end to the riots and violence.

Today, evangelicals must call this out for what it is, as they were eager to do last summer. This is an unprecedented breach of the Capitol by a lawless mob, involving many people incited by conspiracy theories—many of those theories circulated among certain (and even well-known) evangelical Christians.

The Defining Moments of Trumpism
Over the last few months there have been several defining moments that explain why President Trump lost the election, Republicans lost the Georgia Senate runoff, and how now Trump’s refusal to concede has inflamed some of his faithful to charge the Capitol in images that will be seared in the memory of American history.

These actions that will be remembered for decades.

When Donald Trump emerged on the political scene, many saw him as a breath of fresh air. Far from put off by his image as a fighter, voters were drawn to him because of his willingness to hit back. Yet this tendency won him just as many opponents as fans, particularly when he crossed lines into bullying, demeaning, and racist tropes.

Unleashing four years of personal assaults, Trump then amplified a wide range of conspiracies. It was, sadly, an embrace of tribal politics rather than an attempt to overcome it.

More than just sinking his campaign, this tactic betrayed a willingness to muddy the waters of truth in service to himself.

In the wake of the election, Trump has made repeated and unsupported claims of massive voter fraud.

To be clear, I support any politician and their campaign going through legal channels to challenge and present evidence of voter fraud and voting inconsistencies—but he had his day in court. His legal challenges did not prevail, often dismissed by judges he appointed.

On Sunday it was made known that Trump spoke by phone with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), asking him to “find” enough votes to help him win, indication those votes rightly belonged to him. This only served to motivate Democrats and raise concerns among many Republicans.

The way Trump has conducted himself cost Republicans the Senate this week. When you fill people’s minds with falsities of election fraud it, not so shockingly, depresses the vote.

In the coming months, I believe many more will see these things more clearly, as we sort through the damage done.

More than the political situation, I fear an enduring damage to our witness as (white) evangelicals have been so closely aligned with this president.

Reckoning

There’s an American reckoning coming…

But there is also an evangelical reckoning to be had.

For now, we know three things.

Character matters.

Elections have consequences.

And, so do conspiracy theories.










Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article and has updated the article.
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 - January 2021
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2021, 11:39:17 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/hows-covid-19-dance-going-10-months-into-pandemic.html







How’s the COVID-19 Dance Going 10 Months into the Pandemic?







We must continue to innovate and persevere through the ongoing pandemic.


Early in the pandemic, we compared COVID-19 to a dance that the church needed to learn. The dance terminology was adopted from Tomas Pueyo, who published an article entitled, “Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance.” In this article, Pueyo explained that the months-long period between the Hammer (strict measures taken to address the virus) and a vaccine will require a broad variety of approaches and a constant flexibility (the Dance), due to spikes and dips of coronavirus cases.

The Hammer was released for a season, temporarily lightened, and then towards the end of 2020 in some places it fell again. So, we thought at the beginning of 2021 we would update everyone on how the COVID-19 Dance going.

The Effect the COVID-19 Dance Has Had on the Church

This dance has worn people out—mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, and [even] spiritually.

The pandemic has also affected churches and her leaders. I've seen it in my own life.

It has disrupted the predominant practices of the North American church—physical gatherings on the weekend. It seems that while most churches participated in the early lockdowns and stay-at-home orders (back in the spring), most churches are back to some form of in-person gatherings. But church experts, like Thom Rainer, believe it will be a while before pre-COVID attendance bounces back—if it bounces back at all. At the same time many continue to engage with church online.

In addition to the disruption, it has caused division. Churches (or more specifically believers) have been divided over:

To obey or disobey the stay-at-home orders?
To wear masks or not wear masks?
To sing or not to sing?
Furthermore, the pandemic has brought about much discouragement and depression, among her leaders. Pastors and church leaders have had to navigate the disruption in church gatherings, ministries, and, in many cases, church finances. They’ve had to navigate the competing voices and opinions of their people. Pastors have had to wade through the murky waters of politicized perspectives and at times see members co-opted by conspiracies. Many pastors have witnessed the shrinking size of their congregation. For many churches, this long-term effect of the pandemic will be deep and lasting.

Thoughts about the COVID-19 Dance in the Midst of a Dark Winter

While we wait on the vaccine, which seems to be making good progress, many places in our country are seeing a significant spike in coronavirus cases. Where we live, the governor of Illinois tweeted a couple of weeks ago that hospitalizations surpassed the spring peak. Other government officials have talked about a coming “dark winter,” signaling a surge in COVID-19 cases.

With the rise in cases, many states are initiating previous restrictions in a renewed effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. In this accordion-like season with a rise in cases and more restrictive mitigations, once again, going into effect, what should churches do?

In light of what we have learned and observed over the last ten months, here are three thoughts about the COVID-19 dance.

1.It’s hard to stop what you’ve started.

With the rise of restrictions in many parts of the U.S., churches continue to face pressure (from both people and local governments) to suspend their in-person gatherings—or to reduce them. Yet, they continue to face the pressure from those who have been attending to keep offering in-person gatherings. Arguments continue to be made on both sides. People will label large church gatherings as “super spreader” events.

This pressure may just be what leaders like Andy Stanley foresaw when they called their worship gatherings for the remainder of 2020. They knew what we all know: it is hard to stop once you’ve started.

2.Be overly cautious.

We’re not against churches meeting for in-person worship gatherings in the pandemic. We wrote elsewhere about how corporate worship gatherings are essential. However, part of the COVID-19 dance involves churches being overly cautious and taking the necessary precautions to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

By now we all familiar with the following guidelines that are proactive measures people can take to fight the spread of COVID-19:

Wash your hands
Watch your distance
Wear your masks
Many churches are implementing these three guidelines for their in-person gatherings. Many churches also go the extra mile in taking other precautions to help mitigate the spread. Churches are requiring people to register for a service. They are keeping their occupancy rate small (some only filling their rooms to 25% capacity). They are cleaning between service gatherings. Some, if possible, are meeting outside.

Other churches have attempted to go back to normal. We think this is a mistake. We would agree with those who say the virus has been over-politicized. There are those that will point to the death rate and show how it has decreased over time. And, they would be correct—although total deaths have begun to increase as cases spike nationally. However, hospitals are filling beyond capacity again, while now over 340,000 have died as a result of this virus. And this still leaves many people worried, concerned, and afraid. This is the reality.

We want our communities, cities, and country to know that we care, and we are in this together for the common good. We want to be guided by compassion and not by personal preference or comfort. We don't want professional sports or political leaders to display more compassion than the church. We can both be actively engaged in fighting the spread of the virus while also contending for the essentials of our faith.

3.Remember we are in the era of hybrid ministry and mission.

COVID-19 has forced businesses and organizations to adapt to the changing environment. Early in the pandemic we noted how the move to online (to digital) wasn’t the crisis. While it wasn’t the crisis, digital has become the new Mars Hill. Online provides the opportunity to engage those outside the church (as well as those distancing themselves from in-person gatherings).

Many church leaders see digital, especially online church, as feeding the American consumer and providing them with a more convenient and comfy worship experience. This is an understandable concern. But we also need to remember the church has utilized technology, from the printing press, to published sermons, to television, to football arenas, to multi-site campuses for the cause of Christ. And we need to recognize that for many who are elderly, immuno-compromised, or live with those who are, online services are a viable option during this season.

We also understand how many churches are overwhelmed with digital strategies because they have been more groomed under an analog ministry and mission model. Nevertheless, a missionary mindset would direct us to go where the people are. In a land of digital natives, we need to employ digital means.

Don’t Become Weary in Doing Good

Most of the projections from months ago that this winter would be worse seem to be coming true. Though the vaccine is beginning to be distributed, we are at least months to a year from seeing the end of the pandemic. In other words, we aren't home yet.

The Apostle Paul, late in his letter to the churches in Galatia, writes, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

Pastor, church leader, be encouraged… You are doing well!

While you may be tired of the environment of ministry and mission, don’t become weary in doing ministry and mission. Keep dancing in the midst of this pandemic. Why? Because “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

God’s fruitfulness lies on the other side of our faithfulness.

..






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

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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 - January 2021
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2021, 09:26:11 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/january-web-only/humoring-president-not-harmless.html








Humoring the President Was Not Harmless





As a little leaven works through a loaf, indulging deceit led to disaster at the Capitol last Wednesday.


The administration officials and members of Congress who enabled President Trump’s attempts to delegitimize the presidential election did not truly believe he won. They chose to coddle the president’s deception (and, I suspect, self-deception) because they thought it would endear them to his most loyal voters, and they assumed no one would get hurt.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” an unnamed senior Republican official told The Washington Post in November. “He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”


I think Trump will indeed leave, as he finally said he would in a brief video Thursday. But that doesn’t mean there was no downside. It doesn’t mean no one got hurt. In Washington on Wednesday, we witnessed a “failed insurrection,” to use the phrase of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which pro-Trump demonstrators, some armed with guns, stormed the Capitol and rioted inside. The chaos claimed multiple lives as it made credible all but the direst warnings about what Trump’s elevation to the highest office in our country could bring.

Humoring him was not harmless.

For Christians, this should be no surprise. Scripture warns us that small patterns and habits grow to shape our lives in large ways. This is true of both faithfulness and sin, virtue and vice. “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” Paul asked the Corinthian church, incredulous at their acceptance of open, incestuous adultery in their congregation (1 Cor. 5:6).

Not every Corinthian was guilty of this sin—so far as we know, only two people were involved (1 Cor. 5:1). But the whole church did tolerate it (v. 2), and Paul knew the corruption would spread if left unchecked. “God will judge those outside” the church, he concluded (v. 13). Among fellow Christians, we challenge each other—in love and humility—to conform our lives to the standard of God in Christ (Eph. 5:1–2).

Jesus hit on the same theme to close one of his parables. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).

The small things we do shape who we become. A practice of small kindnesses grows into a character of magnanimity; a habit of small lies becomes a compulsive monster of deceit. This is true of groups as much as individuals. It was true of the body of Christ at Corinth, and it is true of our body politic in the United States today.

The madness in Washington last week was not created ex nihilo. It is the due result of five years of humoring deception, of falsely believing that truth could be brought about by lies. It is what happens when you embrace a president who is dishonest in the little things, and the big things, and just about everything. It is what happens when you “call evil good and good evil” for the sake of political convenience or power (Isa. 5:20). It is what happens when warnings about the importance of character are ignored. It is what happens when those who cautioned their fellow evangelicals against backing Trump—because he has lived a very public life of gaudy rapacity, vainglory, cruelty, dishonesty, and lust—are attacked and dismissed as “liberals” or accused of insufficient care for the unborn.

What we saw in Washington last Wednesday is what happens when the president insists he won an election he lost and, instead of telling him and the American people the truth, his allies go along with it. It is what happens when they file lawsuit after lawsuit without a whit of merit, pushing legal claims so bad they are dismissed in court after court, by judge after judge—including judges nominated by Trump himself.

It is what happens when they prioritize power over honesty and cosset mass delusion, even in Jesus’ name. It is what happens after two months of the president and his associates telling millions of disappointed, frightened, angry people that they were cheated, that the foundation of our representative government was undermined, that they really ought to do something about it, that maybe that something should be violent, and that they should “never concede.”

Well, some of them did do something. This is what the dough looks like leavened. This is where dishonesty in the little things leads.

In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s events, I’ve seen defensiveness over assignment of responsibility to white evangelicals because of our unusually high support for Trump at the ballot box. Is it fair, some have asked, to blame all evangelicals for actions (storming the Capitol) many would never condone, or for the election of a president many backed for policy reasons if at all?

Blame is too strong a term. Paul didn’t blame the church at Corinth for the adultery in their congregation. But he did call them to account for their toleration of it—acceptance of the sin was a sin itself. He also issued a bracing call to recommitment to “sincerity and truth” as followers of Jesus (1 Cor. 5:8), which is precisely what we need as well. It is an indictment of our discipleship and fidelity to the truth, as CT contributing editor Ed Stetzer recently argued in USA Today, that “not only our people, but many of our leaders, were easily fooled and co-opted by a movement that ended with the storming of the Capitol building.”

We must practice trustworthiness in the little things, scrutinizing our own actions and bearing one another’s burdens so that together we may “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), who is truth itself.









Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at 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 - January 2021
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2021, 10:42:50 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/january-february/andrew-wilson-gospel-gods-judgment-nations.html








Where Is the Gospel in God’s Judgments on the Nations?





How to find the good, true, and beautiful in passages that seem anything but.


The hardest parts of Scripture, in my experience, are not the bits you don’t understand. Failing to understand can be good; it can prompt thought, investigation, and discovery. No, the real trouble comes when you know exactly what is going on, and it doesn’t look good, true, or beautiful. Think, for instance, of the prophetic oracles of judgment against the nations, which run for page after terrifying page, with (apparently) no hope, no contemporary application, and no end in sight.

The last seven chapters of Jeremiah are a case in point. How can a book containing such glorious promises have such a depressing ending? There are nine oracles of judgment against the nations—Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam, and Babylon—followed by Jerusalem’s destruction. The judgments are severe and sometimes graphic. Four nations receive a one-verse promise of future mercy (46:26; 48:47; 49:6; 49:39), but these are just four droplets of hope in a seven-chapter desert of disaster. How do we find goodness, joy, and gospel in these passages? As happens so often in the Old Testament, we find an answer in the exodus story.

The final chapters of Jeremiah contain ten divine judgments: nine against foreign nations, and the last upon Judah itself. Ezekiel 25–33 runs through an equivalent sequence: nine oracles against nations and their kings, followed by Jerusalem’s destruction. And a similar pattern occurs in Isaiah 13–23. That is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Ten, of course, is a very significant number in the exodus story. We all know the Ten Commandments, and we may recall the wilderness generation forfeiting entry to the Promised Land by disobeying God ten times (Num. 14:22–23). Crucially, there were also ten plagues sent upon a foreign nation (Egypt), the last of which led to Israel’s deliverance in the middle of the night. Since the plagues are the paradigmatic biblical example of judgment on foreign nations, it is possible that Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel are deliberately presenting their oracles as plagues of judgment.

Looking closer, we see other clues. Jeremiah begins his oracles with Egypt (46:2). He ends with an escape in the middle of the night, with enemies in hot pursuit (52:7–9). His imagery in these chapters includes the river Nile, biting flies, dead livestock, locusts, judgment upon Pharaoh and Egypt’s gods, the overthrow of horses and chariots, and the sea drying up.

Reading Jeremiah with that in mind, at least three things become clearer. The first is that we are witnessing a battle of the gods. Repeatedly, Jeremiah reminds us that Amon, Ra, Chemosh, Molech, Bel, Marduk, and company are being exposed as a sham. Our culture may worship different gods—Ares, Mammon, Bacchus, Aphrodite, Gaia—but they are just as powerless to save. When God brings judgment, their impotence is revealed, which is cause for celebration.

The second revelation is that the climactic judgment falls upon God’s people. In Exodus, the tenth plague strikes Egypt, and Pharaoh loses his firstborn son. But in Jeremiah, the tenth judgment strikes Jerusalem, and King Zedekiah loses both of his sons before being blinded and deported to Babylon. Oppression and idolatry among the nations provoke plagues of judgment; in Zion the consequences are even worse. Israel can’t scapegoat a depraved world while there are idols in the sanctuary.

The third thing to notice is that after the tenth plague comes deliverance. In Exodus, after God’s people have been mired in slavery for four centuries, judgment comes and they are graciously freed from captivity. Jeremiah ends the same way. God’s people have been mired in idolatry for four centuries, and judgment has come. But the final four verses show King Jehoiachin being graciously freed from captivity, given fresh clothes, raised above all other kings, and seated at the royal table (52:31–34).

Amid judgment, God remains gracious. Jehoiachin has hope and a future, and so do his people. In the years to come, one of them will be lifted from the prison of death, given fresh clothes, raised above kings and nations, and seated at the royal table. And he will invite everyone—including foreigners like me from idolatrous nations that deserve judgment—to join him.








Andrew Wilson is teaching pastor at King’s Church London and the author of God of All Things. Follow him on Twitter @AJWTheology.
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 - January 2021
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2021, 10:48:30 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/vital-information-for-churches-and-christian-leaders.html







Will Churches be Back to Normal by Easter, Summer, or Fall? Vital Information for Churches and Christian Leaders





A brief overview of Ed Stetzer's interview with Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health


Ed Stetzer: [Church leaders] are asking questions about when we might be back together. Help us understand the timeline a bit more, knowing thing might not go the way that we expect.

Dr. Francis Collins: I’ve been working from home for almost a year and I expect I’m going to be in my home office for a few more months. Here we are at the beginning of 2021, and this pandemic across our country is the worst it’s been, with 3,000 people or more losing their lives every day.

The bright spot, of course, is the development of vaccines. We do now have two such vaccines that are carefully reviewed, shown to be safe and effective by rigorous means, and authorized by the FDA for emergency use. We’re doing everything we can to get those dosages into people’s arms because that is how we are going to get past this.

I know people may have mixed feelings about the vaccine. For me, as a scientist, it feels to me that God gave us the skills to be able to understand how these things work, to identify this pathogen, and to (in record time) be able to come up with the vaccine, which has 95% efficacy. They’re actually a lot better than most of us dreamed we would have at the present time. So this is a gift from God, and a gift we all need to embrace to get past this.

To be able to immunize 300 million people is not something that can be done in less than a few months. I do think, by June or thereabouts, we might be getting close to that point where 80-85% of the country is immune. At that point, the virus has to start fading away, because there aren’t enough new people to infect.

I don’t think that we’ll be able to bring churches together for an Easter celebration this year, though I would love if that were the case. It is going to take all of us to get there.

I am concerned that people of faith, in some instances, seem reluctant to embrace this as a gift. If only half of Americans take this vaccine, we will not be past this any time soon. We have to get to the point where most of the population is immune, or we haven’t really ended things.

Stetzer: What would you say to those who think this vaccine was rushed?

Collins: We did move this more quickly than has ever happened. Partly this is because of new technologies that were developed in the last 25 years. Let me assure you, as a physician and scientist who has been in the middle of these vaccine developments for the past year, the only corners that have been cut were the bureaucratic ones.

The science is as rigorous as anything we have ever done, in terms of vaccine development. The ultimate conclusion about safety and efficacy, which is in the public domain, is incredibly compelling. 30,000 people enrolled in these trials, and 95% efficacy showed up with no real evidence of any safety concerns. The data is there! So, ignore the conspiracy theories and look at the evidence. That is what we are all called to do.

[Dr. Collins also addressed question about stem cell lines, the process, and conspiracy theories. Listen to the full interview here]

Stetzer: You’ve said elsewhere that taking the vaccine is not something you do for your just yourself, but as a way to love other people. Can you tell us more about that?

Collins: There are two primary ways.

First, this virus is so hard to manage because you can carry it and spread it without even knowing. Vaccination is a way to reduce that risk.

Second, on a larger scale, if we are all part of a community, we really need all of us engaged in the effort to generate herd immunity.

We need everyone to succeed. This isn’t so different from putting on a seatbelt or not drinking and driving. We don’t want to make the vaccine a law, but it is a moral responsibility.

Stetzer: What do you think the level of mitigation will be at by summer?

Collins: I wish I could be more precise. Some of this depends on whether other vaccines get approved. There are six more being studied. The more that get approved, the quicker we can vaccinate.

We also have to study whether or not the vaccine is safe and effective for children. There is still a lot of uncertainty.

Don’t have your heart set on June, but by the fall we ought to be in a pretty good place. I don’t think it would be totally unrealistic to think that by June or July that we might be in a place to have a lot more public gatherings, including churches, but I can’t promise that.

If 30% or 40% of Americans don’t take it, we don’t get out of this.

Stetzer: When you say it’s going to be different in the fall, what will it look like?

Collins: There is a big unanswered question.

We are intensely investigating whether or not those who have received the vaccine can still spread the virus even if they don’t get sick. If the vaccine means they don’t get sick and they can’t convey the virus, mask wearing won’t be expected. If you can still spread the virus even after the vaccination, you’ll still have to wear a mask.

I don’t think so, but we have to keep the option open.

Stetzer: To close, give us a short vision on why Christians should be engaged with the vaccine, and should advocate for it.

Collins: This is not the first plague that we’ve had to deal with. Christians have always had the courage to figure out how to help. We should do that now.

We won’t help the situation if we don’t get the vaccine and continue to spread the virus or ignore protective measures.

One of the ways we evangelize is through our actions. Are we creating a positive public witness? Are we a group people want to be a part of? Are we helping our neighbors? Are we reaching out to the lonely? Are we being a listening ear, virtually?

Let’s focus on being a part of worldview that others want to be a part of. We can get through this, but we have to get through this together.








Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article and has updated the article.
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 - January 2021
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2021, 11:50:20 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/january/houston-pastor-kirbyjon-caldwell-prison-sentence-bonds-frau.html








Houston Megachurch Pastor Sentenced to Prison Over $3.5M Fraud Scheme





Church leaders believe entrepreneurial pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell already accounted for the wrong by apologizing and repaying investors.


A Houston megachurch has sided with its longtime pastor, Kirbyjon Caldwell, and expressed disappointment in a recent sentence that will send him behind bars for six years for his role in a fraudulent investment scheme.

After Wednesday’s sentencing in federal court in Shreveport, Louisiana, the leaders of Windsor United Methodist Church defended Caldwell, who has served the church for 38 years but gave up his title as senior pastor when he pled guilty in the faulty Chinese bonds case last year.

“We’re very disappointed that Caldwell’s contributions to society and his extraordinary efforts to make every victim whole resulted in [this] sentence,” said Floyd J. LeBlanc, chairman of the church’s personnel committee. “We look to God because we believe God has a final answer in everything.”

Caldwell, a spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush, was known for his entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Through the predominantly African American church and his own projects, he invested millions into community development and job creation in southwest Houston.

The fraudulent scheme, which totaled $3.5 millions of bonds targeting elderly investors, has led to him and his Louisiana-based investment adviser being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; both pleaded guilty.

In a video on behalf of the church staff, LeBlanc placed blamed on the adviser and emphasized that Caldwell was also a victim in the scheme, having first invested in the Chinese bonds himself. The church believes that his generosity and desire to pay back victims had already accounted for the wrong he’d done.

UM News reported that before his sentencing, the 67-year-old pastor told the judge, “This experience has brought me to the valley of disgrace and dishonor. I’m ashamed of my actions.”

Caldwell said he has repaid his victims more than $4 million, including over $1 million prior to the 2018 indictment.

According to UM News, Caldwell’s lawyers “pleaded for him to be confined to his home, rather than going to prison, citing his ongoing treatment for prostate cancer, as well his hypertension and the threat COVID-19 poses for those incarcerated with underlying conditions.” The judge deferred his report date to June.

The 16,000-member church is currently led by pastor Suzette Caldwell, Kirbyjon’s wife. Both have been outspoken and involved in ministry throughout the pandemic, including each preaching the last two weekends.

United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones offered his prayers in a statement after sentencing and acknowledged the pastor’s “sincere expression of remorse.”

The church’s statement concluded by saying, “The Lord will see our Church Family through this season. Let’s continue to have faith and pray together. Be encouraged by Psalm 30:5, which promises that joy will follow sorrow.”

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 - January 2021
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2021, 08:42:21 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/moral-good-of-evangelism-redeeming-godly-work-of-proselytiz.html








Redeeming the Godly Work of Proselytization







Evangelism is a moral good and a key expression of our faith.


Before all-things streaming, when television was simpler and there were only 3 options at a time (at best), one of my favorite shows was the original ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ with Monty Hall. The game show concept is simple: offer audience members prizes over and over again to entice them to keep choosing to risk what they have in hopes of something even better. The catch is that at any moment, the prize that they’ve already won can be lost to something with little to laughable value, like a goat or a bag of rocks. The game show has also spawned a philosophic and mathematical problem known as the ‘Monty Hall Paradox.’ The Paradox has to do with how to pick the one of three doors most likely to have, say, a car instead of the goat.

The host of the show has the knowledge that the contestant does not. There are no probabilities to calculate for him. He alone knows where the car, the blender, and the goat are always. I’ve watched the show enough to know that the host also WANTS the contestant to get the good prize, the car and not the goat. Regardless, the contestant must choose, and they must choose blindly, regardless of what statistical methods we could possibly employ through the Monty Hall Paradox.

In a few ways, there are some striking similarities to this scenario when it comes to God’s plans and desires for us. If we can liken God to the host of the show, He wants us to have the very best prize. He knows what is behind each door or path. Unlike this scenario, however, God is not tempting us to gamble our good things with worthless things. He is not taking away our prizes with laughable alternatives. Most importantly, He is not withholding his knowledge when it comes to what’s behind door #1, #2, or #3-that knowledge is made available to us all. So why do so many people still choose the goat over the car?

Let’s make a deal is not just a clever title for an award-winning game show, it is also God’s invitation to us. God offers us the deal of peace, hope, and love through ‘togethering,’ or the deep companionship that comes from knowing Him personally. All the deals God gives are good and the only bad deal is to not take any of His good gifts at all-to reject Him and all He offers.

When we think of examples of moral good, we think of things like physicians doing all they can to heal children from cancer, law enforcement arresting human traffickers, or local non-profits providing food and shelter for the homeless. These are, in fact, deep and abiding expressions of moral goodness.

Philosopher, Immanuel Kant, gives us several contours of ‘moral goodness’ in his seminal work, Critique of Pure Reason. He says moral goodness is objectively good, not based on opinion, that is to say it is not contingent but is intrinsically good by itself; moral goodness expresses higher ideals of values that are transcendent, ideals that are not contained by this world, and; moral goodness is by itself good, meaning that it is not some means to an end. Kant says lots of things, but the point here is that moral goodness expresses the very highest ideals that cannot be contained by opinion or the changing winds of the world around us.

While the word ‘proselytization’ is seen is as the exact opposite of moral goodness, I believe it is itself one of the very best expressions of moral goodness. Historically, proselytization, in its worst expressions, has entailed coercion, manipulation, and trickery. As an expression of moral goodness, however, proselytization invites discussion and engagement, is expressed out of a motivation of love and concern, and has as its aim deep attitudinal, emotional and volitional change.

We refer to this change as conversion. Words like conversion and proselytization are not merely antiquated, but they are seen as expressions of power, of colonization, and control. This is to be expected when much of religious evangelism has been done through a proselytization that is not a moral good. If, however, there really are ontologically fixed realities behind the doors of life and we don’t have to guess what they are, then there seems to be a moral obligation to help others make the right and good decisions about life.

For Christians, we call this ‘help’ evangelism. Evangelism is the Christian expression of proselytization. Christian evangelism is core to what it means to be a faithful adherent to the faith. So important is evangelism to the Christian that one could argue that a Christian who does not evangelize is not living out a full or authentic Christian faith. The primary reason for this goes back to the concept of moral goodness.

If the Christian truly believes that she has real knowledge about what is behind the three conceptual doors and does not help others to know that same knowledge, she has not merely failed to express moral goodness but rather is complicit in the demise that comes from choosing in ignorance things that have grave consequences for life and the afterlife. Evangelism for the Christian is both a moral duty and an expression of devotion born out of a relationship of love with God and, by extension, love of others whom God also loves.

Evangelism is the highest expression of moral goodness. That is not to say that there aren’t other moral goods. Remember a moral good stands on its own as ontologically good. We do not serve the homeless in order to proselytize. This practice is exactly what has desecrated Christian evangelism. No, we serve the homeless because it is an end in itself, a moral good that cannot be diminished by doing it by itself and for itself. Having said this, however, evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all. One can cloth the naked, feed the hungry, free the slave but eventually, these same people who are made in the image of God, without being converted will all suffer a much worse fate than cold, hunger, enslavement and the like-they will suffer eternal separation from God in a place of suffering. This is at least the conviction of Bible-believing Christians, so we evangelize, in part, because it is an expression of moral goodness based on the concern for the eternal state of people.

Unfortunately, even among Christians, eschatological categories like wrath, hell, damnation, and eternal separation from God are rarely talked about-even from our best platforms and pulpits. This reality does not negate their ontological standing-these categories are real and the real consequences behind door #3. Again, the great news is what’s behind these doors is not unknown to the host, God Himself. They are also not unknown to the Christian who is tasked with the moral good of proselytizing or evangelism.

We are tasked with this out of the love of God who wants to give all people all of the blessings behind all of the doors of life and also to save us from each and every pain, heartache, and ultimately, eternal hell and damnation. It is a moral good and requisite expression of faith to help those around us make the right and good decisions about God, life and the afterlife. As we help them, we are asking them to risk what they have in hopes of something even better, to make a deal, knowing what they will win in exchange is eternally better than what they now possess.









York Moore is an author and serves as National Evangelist and National Director for Catalytic Partnerships for InterVarsity USA. Moore is a convener of leaders for evangelism and missions in America, and a founder of the Every Campus initiative.
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 - January 2021
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2021, 08:46:13 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/january/national-march-for-life-dc-cancel-virtual-security-covid-19.html








March for Life Plans Disrupted by DC Security Concerns






The annual event is asking participants to “stay home” for the first time since Roe v. Wade.


The National March for Life, the biggest pro-life rally in the country, has asked hundreds of thousands of supporters to stay home for the January 29 event, citing the pandemic and security concerns around the Capitol.

It’s the first January since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that pro-lifers won’t be gathering in DC to march to the Supreme Court to signal their opposition to abortion. In 2016, the march went on despite DC shutting down before a blizzard that brought nearly two feet of snow.

March for Life organizers shared the change in plans on Friday, inviting participants to a virtual event instead. The National Park Service had announced that the National Mall will be closed through at least January 21, the day after the inauguration, and DC is also under a state of emergency until then.

“The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life,” said March for Life president Jeanne Mancini.

While Catholics traditionally took the lead in organizing and attending the rally, the Protestant cohort has grown over the years, including the addition of a corresponding Evangelicals for Life conference five years ago. This year’s speaker lineup included prominent evangelical leaders Jim Daly, Focus on the Family president, and J. D. Greear, the first Southern Baptist president to address the event.

Organizers plan to have a small group of Christian leaders still march in-person to represent the larger group that typically descends on DC for the march, Mancini’s announcement said. As of Friday, Daly was still planning on attending the event in person, according to a Focus on the Family spokesperson. Tim Tebow is scheduled to offer a keynote at a virtual gala following the march.

Attendance was already expected to be down at the event due to the coronavirus. Organizers had planned to require face masks, display signs about social distancing, and urge those with symptoms not to come.

Some state and local marches—including in Arkansas, Hawaii, and Oregon—recently opted to cancel or postpone this year’s in-person gatherings due to “political unrest and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.”
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 - January 2021
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2021, 11:09:52 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/january-web-only/trump-prophets-apologize-election-prophecies-humility.html








Failed Trump Prophecies Offer a Lesson in Humility





Instead of persecuting prophets who have apologized, we might do better to join them.


The failed prophecies of Donald Trump’s reelection may have damaged the credibility of the US independent Charismatic wing of evangelicalism more than any event since the televangelist scandals of the 1980s. They have led some outsiders to criticize Christianity itself and rightly call us to introspection.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m Charismatic myself, and the majority of Pentecostal and Charismatic pastors I know were not paying attention to such prophecies. Millions of online views and shares, though, show that many people were.

The first step toward correcting mistakes is admitting that we have made them. As we approach the inauguration of President Joe Biden, some who prophesied Trump’s reelection remain adamant that they were correct. Perhaps the election was stolen or will be overturned, or in some mystical realm Trump is actually spiritually president. Some just change the subject. Unfortunately, their hardcore followers may settle for that.

Others acknowledge that prophecy must be tested and, by affirming Biden’s win, now tacitly concede that they were wrong. Yet certain prophets have drawn the attention of Charismatics and non-Charismatics alike by publicly confessing that their prophecies were indeed mistaken and extending their apologies.

R. Loren Sandford, Jeremiah Johnson, and Kris Vallotton have recently expressed contrition and even repentance for incorrectly prophesying that Trump would win again in 2020. All three urge us to pray for and work respectfully with the new administration.

Their explanations for how they may have initially misheard God’s voice may help in guarding against similar errors in the future. Meanwhile, those of us who might be tempted to tell them, “I told you so” ought to remember that God requires the same humility from us (Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 5:19–20).

Their confessions, along the examples of prophets throughout Scripture, offer some useful cautions about the influence of peer pressure, pride, and presumption—and the need for Christians to remain cautious about predictions and open to correction when their interpretations prove false.

Prophets and Peer Pressure
Sandford, who has an MDiv from Fuller, is the only one of the prophetic voices circulating today of whom I knew several years ago. He has a pretty good track record. I am a witness that, by the beginning of President Trump’s first term, he predicted that an economic crisis caused by circumstances outside the US would shake Trump’s fourth year and that subsequent events depended partly on Trump learning to control his divisive rhetoric.

Yet Sandford eventually fell in line with the prophetic chorus announcing the president’s reelection. He now confesses that he allowed the consensus of other prophets to sway his own heart.

“Up until now, I have always sought the Lord on my own, gotten the word first from him and then, and only then, have I compared it with what others were saying,” he wrote in a public apology last week. “My first confession is therefore that I departed from that discipline. I allowed myself to be caught up in a prevailing stream and to be carried along by it. In doing that, I actually compromised what the Lord had already told me years before.”

Peer pressure can be considerable; a messenger urged Micaiah, “the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your words agree with theirs, and speak favorably” (1 Kings 22:13). Micaiah stood alone in proclaiming the truth and was jailed for it. (In the US today he would simply lose his market share of social media attention.) Jeremiah was confused because his message contradicted that of all the other prophets (Jer. 14:13).

Peer review has its place; in the church in Corinth, where few converts had been believers more than a couple years, those who prophesied needed to evaluate one another’s words (1 Cor. 14:29); the Spirit enables evaluation (1 Cor. 2:13–16). But it is possible to depend too much on a peer-review safety net: “‘Therefore,’ declares the Lord, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me’” (Jer. 23:30).

Prophets and Pride
All believers hear from God: At the very least, his Spirit testifies to our spirits that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:16). Some are gifted to hear God in clearer ways than others; God has measured out faith for different gifts, and some thus prophesy—hear from and speak for God—more fully (Rom. 12:3, 6).

Unfortunately, if we grow overconfident in our gift, we may speak beyond the measure granted to us. (That is a temptation to which we who have the gift of teaching also may succumb; certainly those with the “gift” of commenting online often do.) Pride can mislead us: We humans have a temptation to take credit for God’s work or gift and make it about us. A gift—whether prophecy, teaching, giving, or the like—does not make us better than anyone else; by definition, it’s something we receive, not based on our merit (1 Cor. 4:7).

Not everyone who hears from God does so on the same level: Visions and dreams are often like riddles that require interpretation, as opposed to God speaking in person as he did with Moses (Num. 12:6–8). Most of us will experience that face-to-face knowing only when we see Jesus at his return (1 Cor. 13:8–12). Impressions and even fairly fluent prophecy still flow through frail vessels. The Lord’s assurance that everything will be all right does not always mean that the outcome will be the only scenario that we suppose “all right” must mean.

The humblest prophets who were wrong have apologized. Even when we speak initially, we must remain humble and frame our opinions carefully where we lack certainty.

Prophets and Presumption
Sometimes we may want to hear one thing from the Lord when he has something different to tell us. Sandford laments that he fell prey partly to “the tendency we have to hear what we want to hear.”

Sometimes we can be tempted to speak simply because people expect our voice, but that can risk drawing on the vaguest of impressions or inclinations, thus filling in with “visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. 23:16). “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:21-22, NRSV).

Julian Adams, who prophesied specifically and accurately to my wife and me, also told me that people were expecting him to prophesy about certain coming events. He says that he resisted because the Lord simply hadn’t told him anything about them. He did not prophesy the election outcome. No surprise: The Lord did not show everything supernaturally even to Elisha (2 Kings 4:27).

Although overlap is possible, futurists aren’t prophets. Biblical prophecy is about declaring the word of the Lord, which is more a matter of revealing God’s heart (forthtelling) than about prediction (foretelling). Being a competent futurist—someone who predicts trends based on current events and significant information—has value for planning, but it is not identical with the biblical gift of prophecy. And even futurists are liable to give lopsided predictions when they get their news from only one source, whether on the Right or on the Left.

We also need to be flexible in applying what we believe we have heard. Jeremiah Johnson offered many accurate predictions, including Trump’s 2016 election even when he was a longshot candidate early in the Republican primaries. In his apology, however, he confesses that he read too much into some of what he heard earlier. Because God shows us a purpose for a season does not mean that this will remain his purpose.

Jonah was angry when God withdrew his promised judgment against the Ninevites (Jonah 3:4–4:3), but the Lord reminded Jeremiah that repentance or apostasy would affect outcomes (Jer. 18:6–11). God had his purpose in having Samuel anoint Saul as king over Israel. But Samuel didn’t assume that his earlier instruction meant that God planned for Saul to serve another term if Saul did not mature in his calling.

Elijah prophesied the obliteration of Ahab’s dynasty, but God told him afterward that because of Ahab’s repentance the judgment would be delayed (1 Kings 21:28–29). My theologian friends hold a range of views on how to explain this; my personal understanding is that though God foreknows the outcomes, he often speaks to us just what we need for the moment. We need to be ready to change course as needed.

Prophets and Public Platforms
Wicked kings tended to give platforms to false prophets or to corrupt them through political favor (1 Kings 18:22; 22:6–7; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Pet. 2:15). But who gives platforms to prophets, true or false, today?

Local accountability has warded off some errors and facilitated the process of introspection for those who have publicly repented of public errors. Acts 13 shows us prophets and teachers leading the church community in Antioch. Even when the visiting prophet Agabus predicted a global famine (which apparently hit different parts of the eastern Roman Empire at different times), believers in Antioch had to decide how to respond (Acts 11:27–30). Those listening for God’s voice should be tested and get their practice in small groups (analogous to ancient house churches) and other less potentially harmful local levels before obtaining the national stage.

Unfortunately, social media makes it next to impossible to control the national stage, and consumeristic North American Christians tend to gravitate toward what they’re inclined to hear (2 Tim. 4:3–4). It’s not the fault of true prophets and teachers if false ones often get higher view counts. Times when the prophetic voice is silent in the land are desperate times or even times of judgment (1 Sam. 3:1; Ps. 74:9; Isa. 29:10–12), but times when false prophecy dominates are worse (Jer. 37:19; Zech. 13:1–6).

This means that the law of supply and demand can affect religious media: When people do not want true prophecy, they will get what is false. People say “to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions” (Isa. 30:10). “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule as the prophets direct; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jer. 5:31 NRSV).

If consumers of a particular political or other bent want to hear prophecies that support their desires, prophets who meet those felt needs will become most popular. Recent history suggests that some of them will maintain most of their audiences even when their prophecies fail.

Especially in difficult times, most prophets tell people what they want to hear (Jer. 6:14; 8:11; 14:13), making things all the harder for true prophets (15:10, 15–18; 20:7–18). But God reveals the burden of proof: “From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (Jer. 28:8–9).

Pouring Out the Bath Water?
At the other extreme from inflexible defenders of prophecies are those who are tempted to throw out prophecy altogether, neglecting the baby in that bath water. When Paul urges us to examine everything, he also warns us not to despise prophecy (1 Thess. 5:19–22). When he exhorts us to evaluate prophecies (1 Cor. 14:29), he also urges us to pursue the gift (1 Cor. 14:1, 39).

What may be the Bible’s most sustained denunciation of false prophets (Jer. 23) is delivered through a true prophet, Jeremiah. “‘Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:28).

Three obscure persons, who did not know each other or me, independently prophesied to Médine Moussounga in Congo that someday she would marry a white man with an important ministry. There aren’t many white men in Congo. Yet Médine and I have been married now for about 19 years.

I am a Bible professor who gets to spend most of my time learning more about Scripture. Those we call prophets and teachers have much to learn from each other; prophets may offer insight in how Scripture applies to our generation (note Huldah in 2 Kings 22:11–20). But neither prophets nor teachers are writing Scripture today.

Whereas prophecies and spiritual intuitions must be tested, Scripture comes to us already having passed the test; there are good reasons why Jeremiah’s words are in our canon whereas those of the failed prophets of his day aren’t. Scripture offers a secure foundation.

Still, even Scripture must be interpreted, and diverse interpretations (and political biases) surface in teaching also. Those of us who exercise the gift of teaching deal with God’s Word in a far more explicit form, yet even we often differ on our interpretations. When we teachers say, “The Bible says,” but we are wrong, our interpretation is false. Teachers will be judged strictly (James 3:1), so we too must be humble and open to correction.

If we judged teachers as harshly as some judge prophets—one wrong interpretation and you’re out—we probably would not have any teachers today. (Based on the context, I do differ from the one-strike-out interpretation from Deuteronomy that many give prophecy today, but that is another subject.) But Scripture usually reserves titles of false prophecy and false teaching for the most serious of errors. If that means that our commentaries or classes must correctly explain every verse we engage, most of us would file for early retirement right now!

Persecution or Purification?
We have a mess to clean up on our US Christian landscape today. After Congress certified President Biden’s win, Johnson publicly repented for prophesying Trump’s reelection. To his astonishment, some professed Christians denounced him, cursed him, and even threatened his life. While we should avoid conspiracy theories, priests and prophets devised real conspiracies to kill the biblical Jeremiah for his unpatriotic prophecies (Jer. 11:21; 26:11). Diehard defenders of falsehoods can prove inflexible.

Instead of persecuting the repentant, we might do better to join them. While still believing that Trump would have been the better choice, Johnson lamented that many Christians put their hope in him. No president and no political party, right or left, can take the place of Jesus. It is not just the prophets who need repentance.

Christians may disagree among ourselves, but where we have divided from one another by putting politics over the one body that Christ died for, repentance is in order. The repentant prophets show us a way forward. If we seek revival, then repentance and humility are a good place to start.

If the Lord has humbled us, he has also given us an opportunity to learn. May we embrace this opportunity and take the steps necessary, bringing together different gifts in the body of Christ and—above all—humility.








Craig Keener is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is the author of Christobiography: Memories, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels, which won a 2020 CT Book Award.
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 -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2021
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2021, 11:21:06 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/january-web-only/wall-street-gamestop-parable-what-if-we-are-all-1-percent.html








In the GameStop Frenzy, What If We’re All the 1 Percent?





Jesus’ economic justice doesn’t mean beating the rich at their own game.


Everybody loves a David and Goliath story. In recent days, millions of aspiring Davids took on one of society’s least favorite Goliaths: Wall Street.

It all started with a Reddit page called WallStreetBets. Many of the 3 million amateur investors involved in the chat room decided to come together to coordinate the purchase of stocks in a handful of companies. By doing so, they generated a massive increase in the value of those companies’ stock. GameStop’s market value, for instance, went from $2 billion to $24 billion in just a few days. While this created an enormous profit margin for individual investors, it also nearly bankrupted a hedge fund that had bet against GameStop by short selling their shares.

By all accounts, many folks involved celebrated both outcomes. “You stand for everything that I hated during [the financial crisis],” one user wrote in an open letter to the hedge funds. “You are a firm who makes money off of exploiting a company and manipulating markets and media to your advantage.” One evangelical pastor even drew on Jesus’ parable about the rich fool (Luke 12:13–21) who used his profits to build a bigger barn to describe what was happening. “Since 2008, it feels like Wall Street has had an overabundant harvest, financed by public money, and rather than share the billions with the less fortunate, they’ve built bigger and bigger barns for themselves.”

I certainly see what he means, especially when we consider the likely economic realities behind the parable. When the rich man tears down his barns to build bigger ones, he probably isn’t creating an enormous rainy-day savings fund. He’s more likely opening the first-century equivalent of a one-man hedge fund. But focusing on the way the parable puts financial Goliaths in the crosshairs may cause us to miss another group targeted by Jesus’ strange story: us.

While the vast majority of farmers in Jesus’ day would have been engaged in some form of subsistence agriculture, large landowners were increasingly profiting off grain speculation. Those who had enough of an agricultural surplus could afford to keep their grain off the market while prices were low. Then, when grain was scarce and people were hungry, they could sell their surplus at a massive profit. Such speculation wreaked havoc on the local economy while allowing the opportunist to profit both financially and socially from the chaos he helped create.

Against this background, Jesus condemns at least two aspects of the rich man’s greed. Not only does the rich man fail to share from his abundance, but he apparently plans to use the economic power his abundance affords him to gain further riches for himself at the expense of his neighbors.

Jesus’ parable offers a warning to those who made ludicrous profits while creating a crisis that devastated the global economy. It’s hard to imagine that the Jesus who characterized a first-century agro-entrepreneur as a malicious fool would overlook the way bank CEOs claimed multimillion-dollar Wall Street bonuses while Main Street burned. Surely the Jesus who sniffed out the money-loving Pharisees’ hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) would have something to say about modern-day financial market manipulation.

But notice why Jesus tells the parable in the first place. A man from the crowd asks Jesus to help him get a share of his inheritance. While we don’t know anything certain about this man’s economic status, we do know that the vast majority of Jesus’ audience faced brutal poverty, the likes of which hardly any American can imagine. Carol Wilson argues that a quarter of the population of Palestine in Jesus’ day was so destitute they were “slowly starving to death,” while another 30 percent hovered “precariously near the edge of subsistence.” Only an elite 3 percent of the population was secure against economic poverty. It’s likely, then, that the man asking for help with his inheritance faced serious economic hardship. It’s certain that most of Jesus’ audience did.

It is this primarily poor audience that Jesus warns about the need to “guard themselves against all kinds of greed.” Jesus’ anti-greed parable wasn’t only a warning for the super-rich. It was also a warning about the kind of financial insatiability that Jesus believed even the poor could get caught up in.

As best I can tell, the WallStreetBets folks got involved because they wanted to make money quickly. One of the most popular trading platforms, Robinhood, advertised their services as allowing “people like us” to trade “just like the big guys.” So while these investors’ actions put the squeeze on a hedge fund, their market manipulation also sought to create quick, substantial profits for themselves.

I’m not sure that’s all necessarily sinful. But when we wield the parable of the rich fool as a weapon against the super-rich, we risk missing the way Jesus offered it as a challenge to folks like us.

The danger here is much bigger than this week’s stock market story. The danger is that in the face of a deeply dysfunctional economic system and corruption by the super-rich, middle-class American Christians forget that in global and historical terms, we are the 1 percent.

Every single investor in GameStop lives a life of unimaginable comfort and wealth compared to the vast majority of those Jesus warned about their greed. Most of us are richer than the fictitious rich fool in terms of life expectancy, health, and luxury items. Economically speaking, compared to the typical first-century Jesus-follower, we are kings and pharaohs living lives of unimaginable security and ease. Yet middle-class Christians consistently read Jesus’ warning about the wealthy as applying to somebody else. We, the richest people who have ever lived, read ourselves in the role of the peasant and find somebody further up the economic ladder to play the part of the fool.

We all do this. We talk about being “poor college students” while attending schools that cost enough to feed entire villages in the global south. Pastors and professors like me regularly remind people “we sure don’t do it for the money,” even though the money gives us some of the highest standards of living experienced in human history.

As that Robinhood advertisement makes clear, we often criticize the large-scale behavior of the “big guys” while imitating it in our own economic practices. For years, Christian economist Bob Goudzwaard has warned about the ways that financial markets have gotten out of hand, with devastating effects on the “real economy” at home and abroad. While I wouldn’t claim that all hedge funds are intrinsically immoral, aspects of our contemporary financial markets, like aspects of the grain market in Jesus’ day, demand prophetic confrontation.

But we shouldn’t confuse fighting for a better seat at the blackjack table with confronting an economy addicted to gambling. That’s especially true when either gambler’s loss can wreak havoc on the lives of others. After all, it’s not just Wall Street financiers who invest in hedge funds; pension funds, like the ones that fund the retirements of school teachers and firefighters, do too. We ignore the ways we are the rich fools at our own moral and spiritual peril and at our neighbors’ expense.

Jesus doesn’t tell his flock to beat the rich fool at his own game. He invites them to live an economic life free from greed or fear, storing up treasure in heaven by giving generously to the poor (Luke 12:33).

Such kingdom investments include charity to the destitute, but, as Brian Fikkert, Robby Holt, and I argue in Practicing the King’s Economy, it also includes orienting the whole of one’s economic life toward love of God and love of neighbor.

If we want to invest in Jesus’ kingdom, I suspect there are better ways than squeezing hedge funds. We could invest in black and brown business with the help of lending platforms like WeFunder and Kiva. We could invest our money and social connections in organizations that help the economically poor build wealth through education or homeownership. We could creatively protest some of the dysfunctions of our economic system while remembering that Jesus’ parable is a warning for us as much as it is for financial professionals.








Michael J. Rhodes is an Old Testament lecturer at Carey Baptist College and co-author of Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give.

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


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

 

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