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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2020  (Read 1039 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2020
« Reply #26 on: July 21, 2020, 06:08:43 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/john-powell-texas-pastor-killed-highway-new-caney-emanuel-c.html








Texas Pastor Killed While Helping Stranded Driver








Southern Baptist leaders mourn the sudden death of the 38-year-old church planter.


John Powell, a church planter outside Houston and a former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary staff member, was killed in a highway accident over the weekend. He was helping a driver who had stopped in traffic.

The Houston Chronicle reported that in Powell’s final sermon to his congregation, Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, he “preached on Psalm 72 and prayed that ‘in the poor man’s distress, Christians might be there.’”

Less than two weeks later, on Saturday, July 18, Powell and another man pulled over to assist a car that had caught fire after hitting a truck. Powell, 38, was struck by a semi and killed, according to a report from the Sherman, Texas, police department. The driver of the car that was on fire survived.

News of Powell’s death was shared on social media by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore was a friend and former professor of Powell’s.

“I am shocked and shaken and grieving this morning, beyond what I can say,” Moore wrote on Twitter. “My former student John Powell was killed last night, hit by an eighteen wheeler while helping stranded motorists off of a highway.”

Nathan Lino, one of Powell's closest friends in the ministry and the pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, which sponsors Powell's church plant, told Baptist Press that “planting a church is extraordinarily difficult, and so I got to see John under enormous stress and at all times he wanted to know and do the will of Christ. He loved the local church. As much as John loved to preach, and he did, he had an equal passion for the personal wellbeing of his people.”

Powell left behind his wife and four young children. He and his family had moved to New Caney, north of Houston, from Hamlin, Texas, in 2016. He had previously been director of admissions at Southern Seminary and discipleship pastor at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, according to his ERLC bio.

On Sunday, news of his death was met with grieving and tributes on social media.

“It is impossible to imagine the heartbreak of this young family in the death of their husband & father & of this church in losing their pastor,” wrote Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But John Powell loved Christ, preached Christ, trusted Christ. Our hearts break for them. This is why we sing that all we have is Christ.”

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called Powell “one of the best men I’ve ever known.”

Author and pastor Dean Inserra described Powell as a humble pastor who did not seek the spotlight.

“He never cared about being known,” wrote Inserra. “Faithfully plowed daily as a family man and local church pastor. He did not sweat what many sweat.”

A GoFundMe site to raise funds for Powell’s family was set up by Andrew Walker, a professor at Southern.

“We are asking for friends and family to help care for the Powell family as they deal with unspeakable tragedy and grief,” the appeal reads. “As they have shown all of their family and friends love in times past, let us now, as the body of Christ, show them love and care.”

On Monday, Emmanuel released a statement, saying the work of the church goes on.

“This past weekend, our church experienced one of the greatest tragedies we can imagine,” the church said. “Pastor John Powell, in an act in the image of His sacrificial Savior, was killed in a traffic accident. While we deeply grieve this loss, we remember what he would want us to remember: that Christ is the head of this church, and the vision and passion that John instilled in us is still alive.”

The Houston Chronicle quoted from his final sermon: “How could we pray that God would have compassion on those that need it while not having compassion on them ourselves?” he had asked, 13 days before the highway accident. “It would be like praying for someone who got robbed and beaten and thrown into a ditch alive while we pass on our way to wherever we’re going.”
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 - July 2020
« Reply #27 on: July 24, 2020, 07:33:42 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-web-only/jon-tyson-beautiful-resistance-joy-conviction-culture.html








I’m Awash in Christian ‘Content.’ But Am I Living Like Christ?












Jon Tyson’s celebration of joyful, countercultural faith offers a convicting heart check.


What voices are loudest in my life?

Last fall, I wrote this question on a sticky note and posted it near my desk as a reminder to examine who I’m listening to and what I’m being formed by. Between the endless streams of social media posts, the cacophony of podcasts and playlists, and the ever-expanding pile of books on my nightstand, I had no shortage of distractions from the voice of God in my life.

What we listen to forms us. The most persistent voices—including the quiet ones whispering lies we’re too distracted to notice—can indelibly shape who we are, changing our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We can say all the right words on Sundays and in small-group settings, but when the explicit spiritual agenda has been lifted, how do we live? Are we being shaped into the image of Christ or the image of the world?

In Beautiful Resistance: The Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise, Jon Tyson, pastor of Church of the City New York, challenges believers—particularly those in the United States and other Western contexts—to resist the cultural syncretism of our age. Identifying heart postures, attitudes, and actions that our culture drives us toward, he leads us back to the countercultural, higher call of Christ.

What does it look like to live as a Christian in the world? What does it look like to model the way of Christ, moving beyond spiritual talk to actually walking as one shaped by the gospel? These are the underlying questions Tyson poses.

A Stirring Gospel

I came to Beautiful Resistance familiar with Tyson’s teaching. I listen to Church of the City’s sermon podcast on a near-weekly basis, and I appreciate how Tyson relates the gospel to our current moment, especially as it bears on New York City, where he lives and serves. He deftly weaves together scriptural truth with revival history, current events, and a spiritual hunger to see God launch fresh waves of faith. Tyson doesn’t teach an overly individualistic self-help Christianity or a sleepy moralism that quotes Scripture but lives as if the Holy Spirit is no longer active. Rather, he preaches a stirring gospel, true to its source and confident that God is at work in the world today.

Beautiful Resistance exemplifies this sort of teaching. Developed from a series of sermons Tyson preached in 2018, the book is a call to counteract the discipleship of our culture with a deep spiritual formation founded in the way of Jesus. It’s a call to devote ourselves to the way of Christ—through worship, rest, fasting, hospitality, honor, love, sacrifice, and celebration—so that the church can shine like a city on a hill.

Tyson frames his book with the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose commitment to Christ compelled him to boldly oppose Hitler and the Nazis—the dominant forces of his day. As Bonhoeffer witnessed German churches capitulating to Nazi powers, he determined that believers needed a deeper discipleship, one that cultivated what Tyson describes as an “unflinching loyalty to the cross.”

Tyson doesn’t draw direct parallels between Nazi Germany and the United States, and he doesn’t explicitly name any recent controversies involving evangelicalism and partisan politics, but he is clearly concerned with how such compromises harm the church that God loves. And he’s concerned that our culture is doing a better job discipling us than the church is.

As the world becomes more polarized, the church seems to become more polarized with it. As the world lashes out in contempt and vitriol toward political and cultural opponents, the church does the same—despite the fact, Tyson reminds us, that Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies. As the world embraces fear and hate and stubbornly clings to any power it can grab, the church too easily and too often follows suit.

In eight of his nine chapters, Tyson identifies a worldly posture or attitude that he sees the church easily falling into and fleshes out the Christian alternative. His examples include idolatry (both of religious moralism and of cultural values), busyness, fear of those who are ethnically or culturally different, and contempt for those with different beliefs. He points out that unless we’re paying attention, we’ll naturally follow the paths our culture is shepherding us down.

None of the attitudes or practices that Tyson recommends are new to the teachings of Christianity, but setting them alongside their worldly counterparts provides a convicting heart check. How have I idolized morality or religiousness? How have I drowned out God’s voice with constant busyness? How have I harbored fear or contempt toward those different from me?

Christians in the West don’t lack Christian content. We have plenty of resources for digging into doctrines like the Trinity, the imago Dei, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and so on. But ideas and doctrines, while essential, are not compelling apart from lives that emulate Christ. The way we carry ourselves in the world is just as important as the creeds we profess. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge … but do not have love, I am nothing.”

This gap—a lack of love, for God and for neighbor—is what Beautiful Resistance seeks to address. And although it takes a careful look at the way culture is forming and shaping us, it’s not a book about what’s wrong out there. It’s about what’s wrong or off-balance within the church. It’s a mirror to see the mote in our own eye, a test to learn whether we are salt that’s lost its flavor.

Before Tyson tackles the loves and loyalties that compete for our devotion, he spends a chapter homing in on the church. He writes briefly about the church’s failings in recent years, but he doesn’t stay there for long. Instead, most of chapter one focuses on the church’s three core identities as the bride of Christ, the temple of God, and the body of Christ. This grounding is crucial for readers in a culture that elevates all manner of rival identities—professional, socioeconomic, sexual, political, and everything in between. Digging into the church’s true identity helps us define ourselves solely by our relationship to God.

This realignment is the first step toward countering our cultural formation. If we’re the people of God, if we’re his church, then the way we live should reflect that.

A Shining Light
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus illustrates the hypocrisy of the religious elite by presenting the Samaritan, an outcast from Jewish society, as the one who best embodies the command to love one’s neighbor. While the priest and Levite cling to fear and self-preservation, the Samaritan risks his safety to help the beaten-down traveler.

The blindness of the religious elite in this story should catch our attention. Roads at the time were notoriously dangerous, and there were strong cultural and contextual reasons for the priest and Levite to avoid stopping to care for a stranger left for dead. Their actions are logical. But they aren’t actually right.

Every culture has conventions and norms that shape default attitudes and behaviors. Some of these norms develop in response to legitimate fears and dangers. But what happens when they put our own needs or desires at the center, rather than God and his love for the least and the lost? What happens when cultural norms take stronger root in the church than the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and to love your enemies? During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matt. 5:46).

There are parts of gospel living that sit well in our cultural context, and those parts are important, but it’s the parts that run counter to our culture that demand the firmest degree of commitment. Where our culture holds those different from us at arm’s length, we need to show hospitality and honor. Where our culture drives us toward spiritual apathy and cynicism, we need to foster a hunger to see (and celebrate) God’s work in the world. Where our culture drives us to cling to power and privilege, we need to sacrifice for the good of others.

Yes, these things are always important for Christians to do, but in a cultural context that normalizes the opposite, countercultural faithfulness is what enables the gospel to shine.

Without ragging on the church or the culture, Beautiful Resistance candidly confronts the ways God’s people are being shaped for compromise, with or without their knowledge. Tyson’s heart is clearly for God’s people to catch a vision of God’s work, in and through us, as we joyfully devote ourselves to the way of Christ in a world that desperately needs a shining light.






Meredith Sell is a freelance writer and editor living in Denver, Colorado.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2020, 07:55:11 am by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2020
« Reply #28 on: July 26, 2020, 03:47:55 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/supreme-court-nevada-church-casino-open-coronavirus.html







Supreme Court Rejects Nevada Church’s Appeal to Reopen Like Casinos














Conservative justices say 50-person limit for houses of worship is “obvious discrimination.”


A sharply divided US Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church’s request late Friday to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants, and other businesses to operate at 50 percent of capacity with proper social distancing.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners’ First Amendment rights to express and exercise their beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.

Three justices wrote strongly worded dissenting opinions on behalf of the four conservatives who said they would have granted the injunctive relief while the court fully considers the merits of the case.

“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

“We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility,” Alito said. “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance.”

Kavanaugh also wrote his own dissent, as did Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said:

In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion.

The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

David Cortman, senior counsel for Georgia-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church, said in an email sent to the Associated Press late Friday that they were disappointed in the ruling but will continue to work to protect Calvary Chapel and others “from discriminatory policies that put religious groups at the back of the line for reopening.”

“When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and indoor amusement parks in its COVID-19 response, it clearly violates the Constitution,” he said.

The group of Nevada churches challenging the policy included Southern Baptist congregations, and leaders of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission were also disappointed in the decision.

“Nevada from the start should have relied on pastors and religious leaders to be partners in combating Covid-19 as they have apparently done with casino magnates,” said ERLC president Russell Moore. “As virtually every court and almost every religious organization has affirmed: the state has legitimate rights and obligations to protect public health in an emergency such as this. Every restriction, though, must be both rooted in compelling interest and be consistently applied.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley appealed to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals last month after a US judge in Nevada upheld the state’s policy that allows casinos and other businesses to operate at 50 percent of normal capacity.

The appellate court in San Francisco is still considering the appeal, but it has denied the church’s request for an emergency injunction in the meantime. Its ruling July 2 pointed to the Supreme Court’s refusal in May to strike down California’s limit on the size of religious gatherings.

The church in Nevada’s Lyon County appealed to the Supreme Court six days later, asking for an emergency injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the cap on religious gatherings at least temporarily while the justices consider the merits of the case.

“The governor allows hundreds to thousands to assemble in pursuit of financial fortunes but only 50 to gather in pursuit of spiritual ones. That is unconstitutional,” its lawyers wrote in their most recent filing to the high court last week.

The church wants to allow as many as 90 people to attend services at the same time — with masks required, sitting 6-feet apart — at the sanctuary with a capacity of 200. Other secular businesses in the state that are allowed to operate at half capacity include gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and water parks.

Nevada’s lawyers said last week several courts nationwide have followed the Supreme Court’s lead in upholding state authority to impose emergency restrictions in response to COVID-19.

“Temporarily narrowing restrictions on the size of mass gatherings, including for religious services, protects the health and well-being of Nevada citizens during a global pandemic,” they wrote.

Alito said in the lead dissent that by allowing thousands to gather in casinos, the state cannot claim to have a compelling interest in limiting religious gatherings to 50 people — regardless of the size of the facility and the measures adopted to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The idea that allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshipers present a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow,” he wrote.

Kavanaugh said he agreed that courts should be “very differential to the states’ line-drawing in opening businesses and allowing certain activities during the pandemic.”

“But COVID-19 is not a blank check for a state to discriminate against religious people, religious organizations, and religious services,” he wrote in his own dissent. “Nevada is discriminating against religion.”
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 - July 2020
« Reply #29 on: July 26, 2020, 03:54:41 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/july/supreme-court-nevada-church-casino-open-coronavirus.html







Supreme Court Rejects Nevada Church’s Appeal to Reopen Like Casinos














Conservative justices say 50-person limit for houses of worship is “obvious discrimination.”


A sharply divided US Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church’s request late Friday to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants, and other businesses to operate at 50 percent of capacity with proper social distancing.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners’ First Amendment rights to express and exercise their beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.

Three justices wrote strongly worded dissenting opinions on behalf of the four conservatives who said they would have granted the injunctive relief while the court fully considers the merits of the case.

“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

“We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility,” Alito said. “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance.”

Kavanaugh also wrote his own dissent, as did Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said:

In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion.

The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

David Cortman, senior counsel for Georgia-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church, said in an email sent to the Associated Press late Friday that they were disappointed in the ruling but will continue to work to protect Calvary Chapel and others “from discriminatory policies that put religious groups at the back of the line for reopening.”

“When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and indoor amusement parks in its COVID-19 response, it clearly violates the Constitution,” he said.

The group of Nevada churches challenging the policy included Southern Baptist congregations, and leaders of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission were also disappointed in the decision.

“Nevada from the start should have relied on pastors and religious leaders to be partners in combating Covid-19 as they have apparently done with casino magnates,” said ERLC president Russell Moore. “As virtually every court and almost every religious organization has affirmed: the state has legitimate rights and obligations to protect public health in an emergency such as this. Every restriction, though, must be both rooted in compelling interest and be consistently applied.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley appealed to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals last month after a US judge in Nevada upheld the state’s policy that allows casinos and other businesses to operate at 50 percent of normal capacity.

The appellate court in San Francisco is still considering the appeal, but it has denied the church’s request for an emergency injunction in the meantime. Its ruling July 2 pointed to the Supreme Court’s refusal in May to strike down California’s limit on the size of religious gatherings.

The church in Nevada’s Lyon County appealed to the Supreme Court six days later, asking for an emergency injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the cap on religious gatherings at least temporarily while the justices consider the merits of the case.

“The governor allows hundreds to thousands to assemble in pursuit of financial fortunes but only 50 to gather in pursuit of spiritual ones. That is unconstitutional,” its lawyers wrote in their most recent filing to the high court last week.

The church wants to allow as many as 90 people to attend services at the same time — with masks required, sitting 6-feet apart — at the sanctuary with a capacity of 200. Other secular businesses in the state that are allowed to operate at half capacity include gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and water parks.

Nevada’s lawyers said last week several courts nationwide have followed the Supreme Court’s lead in upholding state authority to impose emergency restrictions in response to COVID-19.

“Temporarily narrowing restrictions on the size of mass gatherings, including for religious services, protects the health and well-being of Nevada citizens during a global pandemic,” they wrote.

Alito said in the lead dissent that by allowing thousands to gather in casinos, the state cannot claim to have a compelling interest in limiting religious gatherings to 50 people — regardless of the size of the facility and the measures adopted to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The idea that allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshipers present a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow,” he wrote.

Kavanaugh said he agreed that courts should be “very differential to the states’ line-drawing in opening businesses and allowing certain activities during the pandemic.”

“But COVID-19 is not a blank check for a state to discriminate against religious people, religious organizations, and religious services,” he wrote in his own dissent. “Nevada is discriminating against religion.”


https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/july/nevada-supreme-court-churches-casinos.html




We Can’t Roll the Dice on Religious Liberty: Nevada, the Supreme Court, and Churches







Religious liberty still matters in the midst of this pandemic.


The Supreme Court has chosen in a 5-4 ruling not to grant injunctive relief to churches in Nevada in light of the state’s arguably inconsistent Covid-19 guidelines. In doing so, the Supreme Court let stand what is wrong: churches are being treated differently than similar gatherings. Multiple justices in the minority wrote dissents, and those help us to see the issues in play. I’ve quoted the justice’s words since their expertise is more important (and informed) than mine.

Justice Neil Gorsuch explained in his dissent:

This is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10-screen “multiplex” may host 500 moviegoers at any time. A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps sic people huddled at craps table here and a similar number gather around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But, churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting 50 worshippers—no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear masks, no matter the precautions at all.
Gorsuch is correct. It was a simple case.

Even left-leaning Vox (known for its explainer articles) was surprised, asserting that Roberts is supportive of state officials “even when they hand down public health orders that draw constitutionally dubious lines.”

As I (and many others) have consistently said, that’s a line that churches cannot accept. Other states have consistently applied the rules in similar settings.

The SCOTUS Blog put it quite forthrightly:

A divided Supreme Court on Friday night turned down a request by a Nevada church for permission to hold services on the same terms that other facilities in the state, including casinos, are allowed to hold gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The key argument was:

The church stressed that it is willing to comply with rules regarding masks and social distancing (both of which were largely absent from a photo included in the church’s brief, taken at a crowded Las Vegas casino on June 4); all that it was asking, it emphasized, was to be treated the same as everyone else.

Context

Let me take a moment to remind us that religious liberty is so important that it is enshrined in our Constitution’s First Amendment. Furthermore, such freedom is beyond (and before) our Consitution.

Such rights are endowed by our Creator, not our founding documents.

Now, for those reading who may not know my thoughts on these issues, I’ve written in national publications that churches should consider not meeting (before that was mandated), and been extensively involved in equpping churches to do ministry while not gathering on Sundays. And, I’ve also defended religious liberty for all. Both issues matter to me.

Caring for our neighbors in a pandemic matters. And caring for religious liberty also matters.

We can (and should) be concerned about both.

Rolling the Dice

Justice Brett Kavaenaugh explained in his dissent that the transmission risk “is at least as high at restaurants, bars, casinos and gyms as it is at religious services.” Additionally, the states can “subject religious organizations to the same limits as secular organizations,” they can’t “impose strict limits on places of worship and looser limits on restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms, at least without sufficient justification for the differential treatment of religion.”

The Supreme Court is the law of the land, but there is also a higher law. When they are wrong, and they have been before, we need to do what is right.

I get that this seems like a little small thing to many, but it has been what many of us have said is too far—many Christian leaders have said we would speak out if a state crossed the line and treated churches differently. And, it is more than just one case. It is a principle.

Gorsuch went on to say, “In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion.”

Justice Samuel Alito also explained in his dissent, “allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshippers presents a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow.”

Indeed it is. And we should not.

There are churches in other places choosing to disobey state mandates when the laws are rightly applied, and I am not talking about them in this article. I’ve been careful to talk about the consistent application of the law, even having a long discussion with John Inazu, a leading religious liberty scholar to help churches understand that states can restrict worship gatherings when consistently applying mandates.

This, on the other hand, is an inappropriate overreach which, in not checked, could have significant implications.

We simply can’t roll the dice on religious liberty.

So, the question remains, how should churches respond?

First, churches should consider their own context.

In Illinois, we have no rules—only guidelines. Yet, my church— like many others— is not meeting yet. We want to love our neighbors and make choices. If meeting puts people in danger, don’t meet.

The fact that the Supreme Court made a bad ruling does not mean your church should rush to meet in your context. There are many factors to weigh in that decision. A bad ruling on this issue does, however, mean that you should speak up and out.

Second, churches need to remember that gathering is a major part of a church’s function.

Gathering is a mark of what a church is. It is central to church life.

Thus, we should all want to meet—to work toward it. And, when it is denied, we should grieve over its loss. And, finally, when it is denied wrongly, we should take action.

Third, churches need to recognize that this was the line that we all said should not be crossed, and respond accordingly.

Nevada won the injunction battle, but churches need to help the state back up and make the right choice. This is the line that every mainstream evangelical group said they would draw, and it has now been crossed.

Thus, when the Supreme Court does not follow the long-held traditions of the law, and does not grant relief when states unfairly singles out churches, I will support churches that (when following the first two points) choose to meet and follow the guidelines for similarly-meeting groups.

To quote Alito’s dissent:

The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities.

As Justice Gorsuch put it, “There is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesar’s Palace over Calvary Chapel.”

But, unlike New York, Illinois, and California, people in Nevada are living in that world. And, we need to speak up. And, for those churches that gather Sunday, contrary to the Nevada governor’s order, but by following all the rules that theaters and casinos do, and working to keep their parishioners safe— I stand with you.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to agree that churches should be meeting. You don’t have to agree that it is safe. However, we can and should agree that churches should not be treated differently than similar contexts. That’s fundamental to our approach to religious liberty and in general.

This crosses an important line. It’s time to speak and time to act.








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. You can contact the Nevada governor here.
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 - July 2020
« Reply #30 on: July 27, 2020, 11:31:10 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-august/hope-beyond-vaccine.html








Hope Beyond a Vaccine













Remember that Christian purpose has always been rooted in the not yet.


Surveying the calamitous landscape wrought by the tiny coronavirus, Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conceded a grim reality: “This is here to stay, in all likelihood, until we have a vaccine, and a vaccine could be a year or two away.” And that’s the optimistic scenario. Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, described the possibility of developing a reliable vaccine anytime soon as “a moon shot.”

This does not bode well, as I badly need a haircut.

It does not bode well for my barber either, one of the millions of people now out of work. Aside from the moon shot, or viable treatment options, the only shot at returning to some semblance of normal requires corralling our way to herd immunity. The risk is well rehearsed: viral exposure, widespread contagion, infection, disease, and more death. By the time we arrive, businesses will have been decimated and churches shuttered. Millions more jobs will have evaporated, poverty and indebtedness will have soared. Emotional devastation litters the route: depression, brokenness, terror, and grief. Some say it feels like the end of the world.

For Christians, the end of the world is the end of all hope because, for Christians, hope ends with its fulfillment. Jesus returns in glory to make all things new (Rev. 21:5)—so much so that the word hope never even appears in Revelation. Biblical hope is not especially optimistic but rather is the fruit of suffering, perseverance, and character (Rom. 5:3–4). Author Marilynne Robinson describes biblical hope as “constantly and intensely vulnerable.” G.K. Chesterton added, “It is only when everything is hopeless that [Christian] hope begins to be a strength at all. . . . it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.” Paul assures us that hope cannot disappoint because it’s anchored in love, and love never fails (Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 13:8).

Still, perseverance requires patience, and patience is a virtue nobody has time for. Huddled in our houses, waiting for a vaccine, we wonder how long we can endure. In Revelation 6, martyrs who died for their faith huddle in heaven and wonder how long. As we wait for the end, Peter reminds us how, with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and any slowness on God’s part is not really slow. What feels like forever is actually God being patient with us—“not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8–9). Throughout the Bible, trouble and hardship—pandemics and problems—all shatter illusions of human power and control. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and all are justified freely by God’s grace (Rom. 3:23–24). God has the power. God has the control.

The coronavirus has proven an equalizer. It infects righteous and unrighteous alike. But there’s viral inequity, too. The aged, the poor, the marginalized, and the already sick suffer and die disproportionately compared to the wealthy, the strong, and the privileged. This was the reason for the heavenly martyrs’ plea. Having suffered injustice on earth, they demanded to know how long till God would ride out in judgment and “avenge [their] blood” (Rev. 6:10).

In response, the martyrs are all given white robes and told to hold their horses, so to speak. Because our hearts and hurts so easily deceive us, Scripture continually cautions against throwing stones or passing judgment, lest ye be judged. To wait in hope for the Lord, “our help and our shield” (Ps. 33:20), starkly counters empty optimism or wishful thinking. To wait in hope for the Lord aims at a future so sure we can live as if it’s already happened. We are new creations now (2 Cor. 5:17).

In Christ, the future breaks into the present, pulling and empowering us forward to persevere with a purpose. Virtue begets virtue, and thus endurance produces character. As harbingers of new creation, we can provide foretastes of glory intentionally when we love our neighbors and enemies, when we forgive those who wrong us, when we care for the poor and the sick among us, when we speak truth and make peace and do right.

As I wait for my haircut, my barber waits for a paycheck. It’s the same for so many who serve—from housecleaners, restaurant workers, warehouse stockers, and delivery drivers to health care providers and doctors. I did what I could for my out-of-work barber: I contributed to a salary fund for him, even as my hair grows to my shoulders.

It’s a small offering given all I’ve received. But it’s a sure sign of the sure hope we hold to as we wait on Jesus to return.








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


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - July 2020
« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2020, 09:42:42 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-august/steven-lawson-new-life-christ-born-again.html








Even Among Well-Meaning Christians, ‘Born Again’ Is Often Misunderstood








Recapturing the meaning of a much-stereotyped phrase.


Being called a “born-again Christian” can mean many things to many people. For some, it means you are a Bible-thumping fundamentalist or a political conservative. For others, it means you were converted at a Billy Graham crusade. Countless stereotypes have created endless confusion.

In New Life in Christ: What Really Happens When You’re Born Again and Why It Matters, Steven J. Lawson moves beyond today’s (mis)use of the phrase to recapture its biblical meaning and extraordinary significance for the Christian life. With pastoral care, he takes us back to that eerie late-night encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus, like many today, was as religious as they come. By today’s standards, he would be the popular pastor or professor everyone knows and respects. That makes Jesus’ words of warning so surprising: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (v. 3). Nicodemus admits he has no idea what Jesus is talking about: “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter into their mother’s womb a second time to be born!” (v. 4).

As the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus should have remembered Moses and the prophets, who used several metaphors to describe this second birth. Moses told the people of Israel they needed God to circumcise their hearts (Deut. 30:6), and Ezekiel promised Israel that one day God himself would act as a surgeon, removing the dead heart of stone and implanting a heart that beats (Ezek. 36:26). Jesus may move the metaphor to the delivery room, but the message is the same: Unless the Spirit of God does something supernatural, we remain spiritually lifeless.

Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning Christians today can get this miracle backwards. We think the new birth is something we must do. But that misses the miracle of it all. It also misses the meaning of the metaphor: Birth is something that happens to us, not something we accomplish. How much more so with matters of the heart? Lawson stresses that the new birth is the work of the Spirit, not the work of any sinner. Jesus says as much when he tells Nicodemus that one must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5). But like the wind, the Spirit is sovereign, blowing wherever it wishes (v. 8).

That might sound unnerving to evangelicals today, in that it pictures the new birth as something other than an offer we can choose to accept or reject. But Jesus is in the habit of turning preconceived assumptions upside down, even if they belong to Israel’s most renowned scholar. The reason Jesus’ words are so shocking is this: Like babies in the womb, we can do nothing to bring about this new birth. It is not something we initiate. Nor is it a cooperative effort between us and God. It is completely his doing, a phenomenon so unnatural it can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit.

As Lawson reminds us, accepting Jesus is not what triggers the new birth, as if God sits around waiting—hoping!—that somebody somewhere will believe so that he can make that person alive. In reality, apart from new life, we will never believe. Our depravity is that pervasive, sin’s grip that enslaving. In another audacious exercise in ticking off Israel’s religious experts, Jesus tells the Pharisees not only that they won’t come to him for life but also that they can’t (John 6:44, 65). Not unless Jesus draws them, that is; until then, they will never believe in the Father who sent him.

The fact that the new birth produces faith and repentance, rather than stemming from them, is truly liberating. We do not preach or evangelize as if we must somehow work the sinner over until he or she is willed into the kingdom. We are more like the prophet Ezekiel: God tells us to speak words of life to a valley of dry bones. They are dead until they begin to rattle and come alive (Ezek. 37).

The point is, let’s remember who the true miracle worker is: God, not us. We tell others about King Jesus, and then we wait and watch the kingdom fill up, as the Spirit who created the cosmos creates new life in hearts otherwise dead in darkness. No, we can’t see the wind. But we know its power because we can see its effects: a kingdom full of new life in Christ.







Matthew Barrett is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of many books, including None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God (Baker Books).
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 - July 2020
« Reply #32 on: July 31, 2020, 10:52:12 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/july/keep-your-distance-words-of-medical-advice-from-surgeon-gen.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29








Keep Your Distance: Words of Advice for Churches from the Surgeon General









Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States, offered important medical guidance for faith communities today.


Ed Stetzer:

There is a growing pressure from congregations of all faiths to begin to meet… What medical advice would you like us to communicate to churches from you?

Surgeon General Adams:

I completely get it. That's one of the problems is human nature. You all know this as faith leaders, it is hard to get people to stay the course. It is hard to get people to do something when they don't see a reward for themselves on the back end. It is hard to get people to do something that's hard without a timeline that they're working towards, where they know when it’s going to end…

Arizona was one of the hardest places in the country. Just three weeks ago, the cases were running out of control. We were able to turn that around by doing the simple public health measures…

So my, my message—if I was talking to your congregants—would be number one, we can turn this thing around in three to four weeks, by doing three simple things:

Embracing wearing face masks when we're in public,
Making sure we're washing our hands frequently for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer, and
Then watching your distance.
The hard one is watching your distance, because there's some details in there that are important, and that includes not having large gatherings and no house parties, no going to bars, and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and maintaining six feet of distance from others. It sounds simple—but truly that's what we need to do and the reward that you get on the back end, if we do that, we can turn around our rates in three to four weeks, to be able to open schools, to get back to worship.

We need people to understand that when we get the younger people—especially who are our problem folks, not just for COVID, but you know, in an array of different areas, but also our people out there with the most energy and the most ability to spread messages—if we can get them cooperating, then in three to four weeks, we can drive down rates in communities to the point where we can open up places of worship.

Look at New York, literally the hardest place in the world and their positivity rates are now well under 5%, they're in a position where they can open schools and open places of worship back again.

People need to know that if we don't get spread under control, it is not going to be safe to gather once again…

Ed Stetzer:
Part of the challenge is that 70% of churches, according to a Lifeway Research study released a couple of days ago, are actually meeting again already. I know you're not giving directives or mandates, but what medical advice do you want us to articulate to our faith communities?

Surgeon General Adams:

So, medically, if you are already meeting, I would say number one, make sure you're protecting the vulnerable. Make sure people who are older and people who have chronic medical conditions aren't coming to those meetings or that you give them consideration, because those are the people who are most at risk of dying or having severe complications from COVID-19. You need to protect those folks.

If you are meeting, make sure you do it in a socially distanced manner, at least six feet and encourage people when they're around other folks who aren't in their household to wear a mask. If you are meeting, understand that this virus likes to spread person to person. The closer we are to one another, the more likely it is to spread. The further away we are, the less likely it is to spread. The more barriers we have in between—and a mask is a barrier that prevents those droplets from coming out when we're talking or singing or coughing—the barriers we have prevent spread from the virus.

The final thing to tell those folks is—if you want to open and stay open—then you have to be the loudest advocates in the community of wearing a mask and doing the things that will lower that background transmission rate.









This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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.
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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