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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020  (Read 1324 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« on: June 01, 2020, 09:50:40 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/magnetic-power-of-shared-burdens.html






The Magnetic Power of Shared Burdens












“And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (CSB)


Life feels heavy these days. The weighty burden of everyday life seems to be exacerbated by a relentless stream of headlines that range from the unique (murderous hornets) to the fear-inducing (a global pandemic) to the shockingly horrific (videos of racism and murder). The natural impulse in the face of this unyielding bad news is to cower down and pursue self-preservation. Today’s pandemic has certainly exposed—not caused—our own proclivity toward selfish individualism and isolation.

In First Thessalonians, chapter five, Paul calls the church to a bold faithfulness in light of the certain return of Christ and the assured persecution they will face until then. This passage provides a reminding context that, while it may seem like everything has changed in the span of a few months, that God’s church is sovereignly designed for troubling times. But it is in these unsure moments, that his people, then and now, are tempted to hunker down in isolation and fear resembling those without hope and without the gospel. But that impulse is not the way of Jesus. In the worst of days, Christ calls us into relationships.

All of the commands found in verses 14 and 15 are relational in their very orientation. We can’t obey any of them individually. They require human relationships. It’s as if Paul knew that the secret to facing life in a fractured world necessarily involved others.

There is only one challenge given to all: “be patient with everyone.” The other commands require a degree of intimacy to gain personal knowledge. Somehow, we must be invested in the daily lives of others to know who is idle, who is discouraged, who is weak, and who has done evil. Once I know who fits these descriptions, I’m then able to cater my intentionality in relationships to fit their situation. I don’t “warn the weak’—they don’t need warning, they need “help.” I don’t “comfort the idle”—their obsession for comfort requires a “warning.” I have to know others well enough to know what they need, and in the same way, I must be known in such a way that others can speak grace-filled words of hope or challenge in the ways I need it most.

We’ve seen this need expressed as smaller subsets within local churches have begun to reconnect in-person in some places around North America. As they do, people begin to relay real pain, discouragement, and burdens that they are experiencing. The situations are different. The challenges real. The burdens weighty.

We see the burdens that racism brings. When we reduce God’s beautiful handiwork into human targets to unleash our base fears and insecurities, the burden intensifies. When God’s children cannot feel safe amongst those who are charged to protect them, the burden intensifies. When a smartphone camera is the only way to bring to light the horrors that a people have endured for generations, the burden intensifies. And this burden is owned by many around us.

We see the burdens that poverty brings. When hard working people are no longer employed, the burden intensifies. When simple things once thought of as basic needs suddenly become luxuries, the burden intensifies. When ‘food insecurity’ becomes a household phrase, the burden intensifies. And this burden is owned by many around us.

We see the burdens that a pandemic brings. When ailing loved ones are locked away in hospitals and nursing homes with no opportunity to receive the comfort of family, the burden intensifies. When 100,000 lives are snuffed out in less than three months, each with a family, a future, a story – the burden intensifies. When normal is flushed, and hope for a new normal seems miles away, the burden intensifies. And this burden is owned by many around us.

Yet many of us are largely unaffected by systemic racism, the pain of poverty, or the devastating effects of this pandemic. We have no real burden. We see the pain as we scroll through our social media feeds, but we are insulated, detached, and smugly grateful.

But a snooty prayer of thanksgiving that is reminiscent of a pharisee is not the response the Spirit of Christ invokes in his disciples. He pushes us out of our comfortable safety and into the burdened lives living among us.

This is where the magnetic power of burdens presses us to engage. You’d think that burdens would foster greater isolation, but actually the opposite is true. Burdens draw us together. Why? Because we have a shared understanding that the only way fallen humans endure life’s pain is in the joy of community. We know that our own idleness, discouragement, evil, or weakness doesn’t change while we linger in our self-made prisons. Freedom is only found when we engage with others and allow others to engage with us. Regardless of where we might fall on a scale of introversion or extroversion, we all need others investing in our burdens if we are going to thrive.

It’s impossible to put too fine a point on exactly what this means for each of us. At a minimum it means that this season of isolation shouldn’t foster increased individualism. We have to combat the gravitational pull away from honest relationships that this season inspires—if not, our mission will be stunted. Jesus’ mission necessitates a selfless orientation that presses—wisely and winsomely—into the lives of others. It means I care enough to engage—even, or especially, when this engagement comes with a great personal cost.

And ironically enough, all of our regathering conversations can miss this point. Physical presence in a worship service is actually insufficient to press us into one another’s lives. We could begin to meet together again over the coming months and still remain distanced from the very people who God has designed to be our greatest help.

So, fight that urge now. Take time today to warn someone who is idle, comfort a discouraged brother or sister, help someone who is weak, show patience to someone who gets on your last nerve, and repay good to the one who has intentionally done you wrong. Act in this way toward others in your church so that the watching world notices the uncommon love that we have for one another.

And, act in this way toward outsiders, knowing that the most pressing need they have can only be found in Christ and His love flowing through His people. People like us.

And by training our hearts to enter into the burdens of others, we at the same time will find ourselves entering into the unburdening peace of Christ.












Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute - an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2020, 10:30:46 am by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2020, 01:44:58 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/george-floyd-protests-racism-nation-on-fire-needs-spirit.html







A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit










As racism tears the country apart, the message of Pentecost can help the church find its voice.


This weekend, churches around the globe gathered virtually to celebrate Pentecost, that miraculous moment when tongues of fire descended on the followers of Christ and the gospel was heard in the varied languages of the world. Pentecost is the miracle that follows another miracle (the Ascension), which occurs in the aftermath of a wonder (the Resurrection).

In contrast to Christ’s disciples, we experienced Pentecost this year in the aftermath of a woe, following a trauma, in the context of a tragedy. The protests and riots of Minneapolis (and so many other cities) follow the death of George Floyd, who was choked to death while handcuffed and pleading for his life. For nine minutes, a police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck while the man called for his mother. This occurred in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And all this takes place within the wider context of a global pandemic that has killed 100,000 people. It feels more like we are in the middle of an extended Lent rather than the end of Eastertide.

Some will assume that I’m bringing politics into the church. They’ll wonder why I’m not upset about black-on-black crime, or the breakdown of the black family, or abortion, or looting, or whatever topic that helps us avoid looking at the thing itself. That “thing” is the 400-year history of racial trauma and oppression still plaguing blacks in this country.

What do protests, riots, and police brutality have to do with Pentecost and the passage in Acts 2:1–21? Does the death of the Messiah for our sins have anything to do with how we approach the flames of Minneapolis? Does the church have something to say, or will we be discipled by Fox News on the one hand and MSNBC on the other? As our country is divided, what do the words of Scripture mean right now?

There is no other world in which to talk about Jesus than a world in which black men can have their necks stepped on for nine minutes. That is to say: The only way to answer these questions is to look at the words of Scripture with the burning cities as our interpretive backdrop.

Here’s what God’s Word tells us.

First, the gospel brings us together.
Acts 2:1–21 opens with the followers of Jesus gathered in one place. It is amazing to think that at one point in history, all the Christians in the world could fit into one room. Despite what the history books will tell you, Christianity is not some state-sponsored religion of terror created by Constantine to keep the populous in check. It began humbly with a ragtag group of 120 mostly regular folks who had encountered the living God.

Among them were women like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who came from rural peasant stock, and people like Matthew, the former tax collector. The two of them could not be more different. Matthew collaborated with the oppressors of Israel and extorted money from people to line his pockets. Folks like Mary were the victims of such atrocities.

What kind of church has room for both the oppressed and former oppressors? The Christian church. What united that early church? Their shared convictions about Jesus.

What unites us as a church now? What would this unity look like today for the family of George Floyd? What would it mean for us to be together with them? What would it mean to be alongside the black community in the United States, which over the years has experienced kidnapping, slavery, the injustice of the Jim Crow era, and the litany of contemporary sufferings that mark our lives now?

It would mean that, as an act of love, the church says, “It should not have to be this way, and I will spend my life beside yours testifying to the values that the Christian tradition places on your black life.”

The church has the power to make this statement because the same Spirit falls upon everyone in the room. There is not one Holy Spirit that enables women to declare the word of God and another for men. There is not one Spirit that gives words to the rich and others to the poor. There is not one Holy Spirit that allows us to speak to African peoples and another that allows us to speak to Asians or Europeans. The one Spirit sends the one gospel to varied peoples of the earth.

The gospel’s work through the Spirit arises from our common status as image bearers. We are all fallen and in need of God’s grace. Any ideology that functionally or verbally denies that common status is a heresy. And anyone who can’t see that the heresy of racial bias infects some Christians in this land does so in the face of overwhelming facts.

Second, the gospel moves us out.
The gospel drew the early disciples outside of their own culture to speak and do life with people who were very different from themselves. Everyone at Pentecost was Jewish, but that Judaism had been moved into the varied languages and communities of the Roman Empire. The first thing that the gospel did was to bring people together under the lordship of Christ.

If the gospel draws us into a shared space to hear the mighty works of God, why aren’t we together anymore? And what would it mean for the watching world to see a Christianity that is actually together, spiritually and practically?

Black Christians can deal with people who have no reason support us. We can deal with secular racists. What is heartbreaking and exhausting is to find ourselves fighting for our right to exist and then find that the enemy is our brother. As the Psalms say, “It is not enemies who taunt me—I could bear that; but it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God” (Ps. 55:12–14, NRSV).

Our life together, if we are to be together, can’t come at the expense of our freedom. We shouldn’t have to fight our brothers and sisters to obtain it.

Here again, the story of Pentecost provides insight. As the nations are being drawn together, there are two responses: One group says in so many words, “They are just drunk” (Acts 2:13). The other asks, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12). One group refuses to acknowledge what is going on and draws upon their known experience to dismiss the work of God. The other asks a deeper question: What is God up to in their midst?

Peter addresses the first group with a sentence or two but takes more time to address the question of meaning. He tells the crowd that they are experiencing the Spirit promised in Joel 2:28–32. The prophet Joel claims that when God redeems his people, he will redeem men and women, young and old, rich and poor. Peter wants to remind the early church that the universal gift of the Spirit is a testimony to the universal saving power of the gospel.

In other words, the form of Pentecost—women, men, rich, and poor declaring the mighty works of God—supports the theology of Pentecost—the idea that the gospel is for everyone.

That held true for the early church. It also holds true for the American church of the 21st century.

Today, some people look at the black demands for justice and can only reach for a political explanation. These critics respond by saying, “They are just Democrats trying to ruin the church,” or “They are really theological liberals beholden to Marxism.” But maybe those are ways to avoid looking at the thing itself. What are black, Latino, and Asian brothers and sisters really saying when they call for justice? What does it mean? And what is God up to? He is drawing diverse people together and then moving us into new gospel spaces by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Third, the gospel gives us hope in the coming kingdom.
I am convinced that the hope for this country is found not in any election or political party. Votes matter, but neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party will save us. What we need is a Spirit-filled Christianity big enough to draw different people together.

This unity involves two things. First, we have to recognize that the problem is not just “out there.” It’s in our hearts. The problem isn’t just that racists exist in the world. The problem is that we all in various ways live in rebellion against God and his will for us. The gospel demands a decision from each of us about our own sins. One of Jesus’s oft-repeated messages was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

He calls us to repent personally for our sins. Why? Because—and here’s the second point—the kingdom of God is coming. This kingdom is depicted in Jesus’ first sermon, in which he proclaimed good news to the poor and liberty to the captives (Luke 4:16–21). Jesus came to save sinners, but those saved sinners now bear witness in their lives to God’s kingdom vision. We know that this kingdom is coming because Christ is risen. Peter says it this way: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

Who controls the future? Who unfurls history according to his purpose? The one who is the Lion and the Lamb at the same time (Rev. 5:5–6). The one who embodies both justice and mercy.

We the American church have a message for a country and a world on fire: There is a God who loves you and died that you might know him. This love is sufficient to gather the divided peoples of the world, even when all the politicians and philosophers fail. There is a God of justice who sees and acts on behalf of the beleaguered peoples of the world, people like George Floyd. There is a king and kingdom. And he has given us his Spirit to make him known to the ends of the earth.














Esau McCaulley is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and the author of the forthcoming book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope (IVP Academic).

This piece was adapted from a sermon preached at Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 31.
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 - June 2020
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2020, 10:49:07 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/navajo-nation-coronavirus-carol-bremer-bennett-world-renew.html







Tears on Red Soil: Navajo Evangelical Leader Hears Her Homeland ‘Crying Out’










World Renew’s Carol Bremer-Bennett rallies coronavirus relief to the close-knit, under-resourced reservation.


The 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation—stretching across parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah—has surpassed New York’s per-capita COVID infection rate. Among a population of around 175,000, the Navajo people have registered 5,250 cases of COVID-19, and 241 deaths.

While states scramble to respond and reopen, Christian ministries are among those turning their attention to the unique needs of the Navajo, who have less access to basic resources like utilities, the internet, grocery stores, and hospitals, with just four inpatient facilities on the reservation.

Carol Bremer-Bennett is positioned well to lead the charge. The only Navajo at the head of a US evangelical organization, she became the national director of World Renew—the international relief and development agency of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC)—after a career as an educator at a Christian school for native students. In the classroom, Bremer-Bennett said she learned to see the God-given potential in every child and help “eliminate as many barriers and obstacles and challenges in the way.”

That attitude has shaped her approach development work, pushing her to see the opportunity that lies within a community, but may have been held back by injustices of the past. As she turns her attention and relief efforts to her former and ancestral home in Navajo Nation, she is rallying the church to join along.

Besides the CRC, other denominations operating in Navajo Nation have joined in to help. Franklin Graham visited last week to meet Navajo President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer and distribute supplies. He offered to set up a Samaritan’s Purse field hospital.

Bremer-Bennett talked with Megan Fowler about her “Esther moment” as World Renew addresses the challenges facing the Navajo.

Tell me about your background. Did you grow up in the Christian Reformed Church?

I did. I’m Navajo, and my clans are To’aheedliinii and Todich’iinii. To’aheedliinii is the Water Flows Together Clan; Todich’iinii is the Bitter Water Clan. As an infant I was adopted. My biological parents determined that they were not going to be able to raise me and wanted me to be adopted into a Christian family. I was adopted, then I was raised by Dutch CRC people who are not Navajo.

I grew up mostly in West Michigan. When I graduated from Calvin College, I wanted to connect into my Navajo heritage, so I moved out West, not exactly knowing what I was going to do. The Lord brought me into education and to Rehoboth Christian School [near the Navajo Nation in Gallup, New Mexico], which had been started in 1903 by Christian Reformed missionaries. I spent 25 years there.

How are you keeping in touch with Navajo communities as they bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic?

I am part of different Facebook groups where we can hear updates and some private message groups. Some of it is phone calls and emails back and forth.

Now that I’m in the position that I’m in, I had to come to this Esther moment, where I thought, “Okay, Lord, I’m the leader for World Renew US that responds to crises, and this is obviously a crisis hitting my own homeland. How am I supposed to use the power, the responsibility, and the access that you’ve given to me in a way that it doesn’t feel like I’m just advocating because the Navajo are my people? Is it for such a time as this that you called me into this leadership?”

I did a check with my leadership staff and asked them if it was alright if I use my connections and the people I know and the connections I have as the director of World Renew to bring these worlds together. And my staff said, “Absolutely, you do that.” God put these things together for this time, so I’m going to let the Spirit flow and let God do his amazing work, and if that’s through me then all glory to God.

What are you hearing from your contacts among the Navajo right now?

I’m just hearing a crying out. The tears are hitting that red soil that I love so much. I’ve done my fair share of walking at daybreak and feeling like there’s a heaviness and an extra-oppressive weight on indigenous people.

I hear the crying out of how up to 40 percent of Navajos still don’t have electricity still and up to 30 percent don’t have running water. When people are left behind in development, this crisis exposes those injustices so much more. You’ve got people who have to haul their own water and yet are being told, “You also need to wash your hands so many times.” Now you’re choosing between water that you need for drinking, cooking, and your livestock, and also then for making sure that this virus stays at bay. You’ve got kids who can’t go to school and yet have no access to the internet and to remote ways of learning.

Then I hear the stories of loss. I’ve heard about 175,000 live on or near the Navajo nation. It seems quite remote, but within those homes, the Navajos have such a strong family connection. You live with a big, intergenerational family group. When the virus comes through one person into a family, they’re not very isolated. One of the huge griefs is just how the beauty of that close-knit family is being ripped apart because of the virus. Oftentimes, families only have a couple of vehicles, so you all pile in together to go to places. Even for the testing, you end up taking a whole bunch of people with you. And it’s very, very hard to isolate, both culturally but also economically.

I also hear of just amazing strength and messaging. We have an incredible president of the Navajo nation, President Nez, and Vice President Lizer, who are both Christians. They are trying to make really good decisions and model how to wear masks and how to be safe, and are really out there, but also shutting things down. The Navajo Nation has had several weekends now where they’ve had 57-hour curfews starting Friday night all the way through Monday morning, where everybody is being told to stay home and to stay safe. So I’m thankful for that.

But I’m also hearing from my friends who work in the hospitals in Gallup, just how maxed out they are. They converted the Miyamura High School [in Gallup] into an overflow field hospital for COVID patients. One of my friends is the chaplain at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital, and the nurses and the doctors are testing positive [for COVID-19], and they didn’t have enough nurses and doctors on staff already. And at the Gallup Indian Medical Center, they only have six ICU beds there. It’s just devastating to me.

In Navajo things happen in circles, so our joys and our sorrows are closely tied in our hearts together. I hear about the hospital where the other staff of the hospital said, “We can sew masks. We can sew the personal protective equipment. We don’t have enough gowns but we have lots of the bedding that is disposable,” so they made this assembly line. Navajos are very adaptive people. It’s really great to see the innovations and the coming together that happens when a community is in crisis.

You mentioned that President Nez and Vice President Lizer are Christians. What place does the Christian church have among the Navajo?

I have heard that up to 60 percent Navajo’s would say that they’re Christians. When missionaries came, as many mistakes as they made in spreading the gospel, the truth can still persevere even when people are using it for power or to colonize or whatever. It’s amazing to me to see how Navajo Christians have sorted through a lot of that and continue to sort through a lot of the message that has been brought, also realizing that the Creator God is our Redeemer and our friend and our sustainer.

Because President Nez and Vice President Lizer are Christians, they’ve had a special insight into how a church can be a center for community outreach and community assistance. Early on President Nez set up a response team called the Navajo Nation Christian Response Team and put someone in charge of helping Navajo churches respond to the needs of their community.

What are some ways that World Renew is responding to the needs in the Navajo community?

World Renew is partnering with [churches], and one of the main collecting and distribution sites is at Rehoboth Christian School. A lot of the money that we’ve been able to raise is going to that location for them to then use and to distribute to people who are in need, especially those that are most remote, most vulnerable and elderly, without the running water, and so forth.

When World Renew goes in and helps in a disaster situation, or even a longer-term community development context, we know that we aren’t going to be there forever. We work and partner with local churches so that people don’t see us, but that people see that light and truth and love of God, and can know Jesus as their Savior.

We’ve also been able to send some personal protective equipment out when that was very scarce. We’re also granting funds to churches. We’ve been working closely with the Reformed Church of America too, who has funded some of our work in the Southwest, to look at how can deacons be those hands and feet of Jesus. How can churches, who are ready and able and working in communities where there are vulnerable populations, how can they help serve?

Are there unique challenges in the Navajo nation that have caused the outbreak to hit so hard?

The Navajo culture is part of the solution and part of what’s going to help overcome the virus. The challenges are things that had been forced upon the people in the past, so some of those injustices — the discrepancy in access to running water and electricity — are certainly hurdles. The great distances are also a hurdle.

There are only 13 full-service grocery stores in all of that 27,000 square miles of the Navajo nation. It’s a food desert. People have to travel a very long ways to get to those bigger, full-service grocery stores. Because you’re going a long distance to the grocery store, you’re probably going with a lot of people in one vehicle.

Because of the economic disparity amongst the Navajo, there are higher rates of health conditions that are often paired with economic injustices and vulnerable populations—diabetes, heart disease, and cancers—a lot of different diseases and health conditions that make the Navajo people more at risk for catching the virus but also having a higher mortality rate because of the virus.

How do you want the body of Christ to be praying for and helping Navajos?

During this time of crisis, I would certainly encourage people to donate. There is a huge need, and it’s still climbing. We’re called to compassion. And we can do that, even if we’ve never met that person. If we’re far away from that person, we can engage in their stories.

As Christians, I hope that as the coronavirus goes around the world, that we will realize we have more than enough, and we can be generous—not to become numb but to become even more engaged.

What is your biggest prayer right now and where are you finding encouragement in Scripture?

My biggest prayer is that we don’t have COVID fatigue. When I look to the Scriptures, Romans 8 talks about suffering and how we are called to be in places of suffering but we also realize when we’re in that great suffering, there’s great joy that is coming ahead. And creation is suffering. The red rocks and the sagebrush and the far-and-few-between rivers on the Navajo nation and the mountains, they are groaning in expectancy for that renewal that God promises to us, and God’s children as well, crying out for that renewal. That’s where our hope comes from, that’s where our joy comes from.

I look into Romans, probably Romans 8:24, where it talks about through all that creation and all that groaning, it’s in God’s hope that we are saved. It’s a hope that’s not seen. That’s where our faith calls us to be.
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.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2020, 12:32:06 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/liberty-university-african-american-alumni-jerry-falwell-jr.html






African American Alumni Call on Jerry Falwell Jr. to Step Down









Thirty-five faith leaders who went to Liberty University released a letter criticizing the college president's rhetoric, including his recent blackface mask tweet.


Nearly three dozen black alumni of Liberty University denounced school President Jerry Falwell Jr. on Monday, suggesting he step down after he mocked Virginia’s mask-wearing requirement by invoking the blackface scandal that engulfed the state’s governor last year.

In a letter to Falwell, 35 faith leaders and former student-athletes told Falwell that his past comments “have repeatedly violated and misrepresented” Christian principles. They said they would stop urging students to attend Liberty, would no longer donate to the university, and would urge fellow people of faith to avoid speaking at the school unless Falwell changes his behavior or steps aside.

“You have belittled staff, students and parents, you have defended inappropriate behaviors of politicians, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths,” they wrote, advising Falwell that “your heart is in politics more than Christian academia or ministry.”

Falwell, a stalwart backer of President Donald Trump, is the son of the late evangelist Jerry Falwell, whose legacy the alumni invoked in imploring the younger Falwell to “stop this infantile behavior.”

In response, Falwell said his comment about the blackface scandal was made in defense of Liberty students, including minorities, who would be affected by tuition assistance cuts proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat. Falwell said his involvement in politics was the spirit of Jesus Christ, “who was not silent about the establishment political folks of his era.”

“All they need to do is read the Gospels—Jesus got involved in politics,” Falwell said in an interview.

Last week, Northam issued an order that masks be worn inside all retail stores, while using public transportation, or in any other indoor place where people congregate. The next day, Falwell tweeted that he was “adamantly opposed” to the mask mandate “until I decided to design my own.” With it, he posted a picture of a mask bearing a racist photo that appeared on Northam’s medical yearbook page and—when made public last year—sparked a scandal that nearly forced him from office. The photo showed a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume.

Monday’s letter was signed by more than 30 former students at Liberty, one of the nation’s biggest Christian universities, including pastors with churches in Virginia, Tennessee, and Michigan. Among the signatories were Latasha Morrison, who graduated from Liberty in 2013 and is the founder of a racial reconciliation network called Be the Bridge, as well as current pro football player Walt Aikens and former pro football player Eric Green.

“While your tweet may have been in jest about Virginia’s Governor, it made light of our nation’s painful history of slavery and racism,” the alumni wrote to Falwell. They described the tweet as “a microcosm of the past several years of divisive rhetoric” that falls short of their faith’s ideals.

The leading signatories were pastors Chris Williamson, of Strong Tower Bible Church in Tennessee, and Eric Carroll, of the Ascension Church RVA, who graduated from Liberty in the early ‘90s and helped organize the letter. Williamson and his wife—writer Dorena Williamson, who also signed—are the son-in-law and daughter of the vice chairman of Liberty’s board of trustees, Virginia pastor Allen McFarland.

The rebuke came after an online instructor for Liberty, a black pastor who also teaches at Ithaca College, announced his resignation online in response to the tweet. According to a screenshot posted of his resignation email, the instructor wrote, “I cannot remain part of an institution whose senior leader would engage in such actions at any time, but then to have the unmitigated gall to do so at a time when black communities are once again grieving over recent incidents of racial violence.”

The alumni who wrote Monday’s letter also lauded their experience at the university and offered to meet with Falwell to “provide counsel on ways for LU to best move forward” if he stays in office.



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People have asked why I won’t apologize for reminding people of the
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They asked him to “withdraw your racist tweet immediately and make a public apology.”

The Virginia General Assembly in March passed a budget for the 2021-2022 biennium that eliminates a tuition assistance grant for online students at private colleges such as Liberty. Existing students are grandfathered in, said Laura Osberger, spokeswoman for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

“The governor’s intent was to harm Liberty, and to harm minority students and to harm low income students,” Falwell said, linking the cuts to his tweet by saying that as a result, “people needed to be reminded of (Northam’s) racist past.”

Northam initially said he was in the yearbook photo and then denied it the next day, while acknowledging that he did wear blackface to a dance party that same year. He faced swift, widespread calls to resign, but he resisted, saying he instead wanted to help heal the state’s lingering racial wounds and devote the rest of his term to promoting racial equality.[/size]
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 - June 2020
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2020, 12:34:38 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/george-floyd-protests-minneapolis-evangelicals-cleanup.html







George Floyd Protests Mark a Turning Point for Minneapolis Evangelicals











From cleanup efforts to sermons against systemic racism, local pastors say an effective response requires they listen to the communities hurting the most.


Dozens of evangelical churches are joining together to help Minneapolis as protests against racism and police violence rock the city and destructive riots devastate minority neighborhoods.

In the week after the death of George Floyd, local evangelicals have participated in the citywide response, donating food and supplies and rallying volunteers for cleanup efforts. But as church leaders consider the long-term needs that will continue when the news cycle and national attention move on, they’ve realized how important it is to work together to coordinate their responses.

“People want to just do something, but that doesn’t mean we know what to do,” said Shawna Boren, the engagement pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul. “We’re really trying to be effective by listening to the churches in the neighborhoods that are affected and doing what they tell us to do.”

Boren was one of more than 250 ministers who joined a Zoom call on Monday to discuss ways that churches can collaborate. The call was organized by Transform Minnesota, an evangelical organization that brings pastors together to wrestle with social issues.

The church leaders heard about specific community needs, like baby formula and hand sanitizer. They shared their exhaustion after months of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. They talked about best practices for helping clean up after a riot, like checking in with community leaders before showing up in a neighborhood with a van full of people. And they discussed concerns about how helping could hurt.

“We don’t need saviors. What we need are partners,” Charvez Russell, a black Baptist pastor, told the group. “Yes, we need your help right now. Yes, we need your help cleaning up. Yes, we need your resources. But we also need long-term partners who are going to help us stand up for God and tear down the systems that hold people down.”

In the Zoom meeting’s chat window, several Christian leaders typed “Amen.”

Bethlehem Baptist Church, where John Piper served as pastor for more than 30 years, is focusing its response on local grocery stores that have been destroyed or forced to close because of the protests. The church wants to meet the immediate needs of hungry people while supporting these businesses and ultimately improving the community’s food distribution system.

Ming-Jinn Tong, a neighborhood outreach pastor at Bethlehem’s downtown campus, outlined a tentative three-step process. Right now, the church is setting up emergency “pop up” grocery stores and providing direct deliveries to people who need food. Next come plans—still being developed—to bail out the local grocery stores, buying their new inventory and distributing the food from a temporary farmers market while teams of carpenters fix up the buildings so the businesses can reopen.

“The question is, ‘Are we scratching where it doesn’t itch?’” Tong asked the pastors Monday. “The situation is always changing—the implications of what has happened and the implications of the ongoing injustices. So we must have an attitude of listening, learning, and then leading.”

Another pressing concern this week involved brush piles. Laurel Bunker, campus minister and church-relations coordinator at Bethel University, said Minneapolis churches were prioritizing yard cleanup after several people found bottles of flammable liquid hidden in piles of debris. Locals are concerned about arsonists after several nights of fires. Volunteers can help by hauling away brush.

The city’s current crisis may forge new relationships among evangelical churches, according to Carl Nelson, director of Transform Minnesota. Founded in the 1960s as the Greater Minneapolis Association of Evangelicals, the group initially focused on organizing prayer. It now puts on leadership conferences for 300–400 churches a year and works to connect ministers and help them develop relationships. The response to the protests is built on individual relationships, he said, like those that grew out of the organization’s civil rights trips.

The “sankofa journeys” take small groups of black and white pastors to landmark sites in Atlanta, Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis. They are expensive and time consuming, but also effective at preparing pastors to work together to address racism, Nelson said.

“In the white evangelical churches, it has created some courageous willpower to say ‘We’re going to press into this,’ even in the face of congregations that sometimes think concern about racism is just a progressive agenda, or even Marxism,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen the churches in the last week build on that existing action and start coming together to say that we have to invest in the institutions that represent communities of color, the communities that were most impacted by the violence and, before that, by the underlying ideological issues that allowed the death of George Floyd to take place.”

On Monday, the ministers also talked about the need to address racism in evangelical churches and the importance of using this moment to spur change in white people. Pastors in the area said they rewrote their sermons last week to address Floyd’s death and the ongoing issues of systemic racism.

At Hope Church, in the suburb of Oakdale, Clay Edens preached about the need to lament racial brokenness, confess racism, and listen and learn from black voices. The congregation prayed in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, believed to be the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck despite Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

“I’m not someone to consistently allow the news to dictate what I preach from the pulpit, but this felt different,” Edens told Christianity Today. “There’s definitely a movement of the Spirit here to open up our eyes to the racism both in our own hearts and in the systems of our country.”

At Woodland Hills, senior pastor Greg Boyd rewrote his sermon as well. He told the pastors gathered on the Monday Zoom call that he was convicted that racism is the responsibility of the white church. If white Christians had loved like Jesus loved, he said, they could have stopped slavery before it began, squelched the Ku Klux Klan, and prevented the laws that instituted racial segregation in America.

“It’s on us,” he said. “And for white folks, the security and familiarity and privilege of the way things have been will lull you to sleep if you don’t have ongoing familiarity with black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ.”

The Minneapolis pastors are hopeful that this new cooperation and coordination will meet the needs of the city in its moment of crisis, but also mark a change for the evangelicals in the area.

“It has to be a turning point. It has to,” Nelson said. “There have to be enough of us in the church to say we’re going in a different direction. We can’t battle our way through this just to return to normal.”
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 - June 2020
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2020, 11:17:17 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/david-taylor-bailey-sing-songs-of-injustice-psalms.html







Singing the Songs of Injustice








Biblical, angry, congregational worship can help transform our hearts and churches.


While many nonviolent protests and some destructive riots took place over the past week in reaction to George Floyd’s death, churches have responded in various ways—marching peacefully, holding prayer vigils, and addressing racial injustice from their pulpits. David Bailey, director of the reconciliation ministry Arrabon and founder of Urban Doxology, and David Taylor, associate professor of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, believe there is another way churches can respond: in worship. But not just any kind of congregational singing. Bailey and Taylor are specifically passionate about offering a biblical outlet for anger through singing the psalms.

David Taylor (DT): How do you feel about what has happened over the past couple of weeks?

David Bailey (DB): Former pastor and Native American activist Mark Charles says, “the temperature of race relations in America is always at a simmer and every so often there is an event that turns it to a boiling point.” As a black man living in America, so many decisions in my life are influenced by fear. When I jog, I go to a gym, so I don’t end up like Ahmaud Arbery. I never put myself in a position where it could be one white woman’s word against mine so that I don’t end up in a situation like Emmett Till or Amy Cooper in Central Park. This reality is often a private matter, but when racial disparity is in the news it causes a mixed feeling of vulnerability, relief that more people are aware, embarrassment that you don’t have as much control over your life as white Americans do, and anger that it is this way.

James Baldwin said that “to be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time.” I don’t think black Americans are walking around in a constant state of rage, because you have to live your life. He is articulating the reality of the constant simmer and how it is something that can’t be ignored even when you want to ignore it.

As a pastor who shepherds people through the realities of race, class, and culture in our country, I’m constantly discipling people through complicated emotions of fear, shame, grief, and anger. In order for me to help others, I’ve had to learn how to attend to my own soul care. I’ve had to learn to lean into the book of Psalms that acknowledges an unjust world and gives language to express fear, grief, and even rage before the Lord. God has given us the psalms to be an “anger school” for us and I’ve discovered that when we skip class, we aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with difficult stuff we’re experiencing now.

DB: As a professional Christian, how have you learned to deal with anger in a godly way?

DT: It’s scary and embarrassing to admit you have an anger problem. You still have to keep confessing and asking for help. But it’s also deeply reassuring to discover in the psalms both permission and help to be angry at the right things—like cancer, domestic abuse, ecological disasters, and the experience of a global pandemic, or like the racism and injustice that we’ve witnessed recently.

As the psalms see it, the difference between a right and a wrong response to anger is a humble heart and a hardened heart. A humble heart is honest to God about one’s feelings; a hardened heart wants only to exact an eye for an eye. A humble heart entrusts one’s enemies to God; a hardened heart demonizes one’s enemies. A humble heart is angry before the face of God and in the presence of the community; a hardened heart hides from God and perpetually finds the community wanting. The psalms always invite us to choose a humble heart.

The extraordinary gift of the psalms is that they show us how to pray angry prayers without being overcome by our anger, how to hate without sinning (to borrow from Saint Paul’s language), or, as Eugene Peterson once put it, how to “cuss without cussing.” To pray these angry psalms is to trust that Jesus prays these same prayers for us, and by his Spirit does something much better than “managing” our anger: he sets our hearts free to love our enemy in a way that we never imagined possible.

DB: In the New Testament, Paul says, “we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood,” but there is a very real and physical reality of racial harm as people “wrestle against flesh and blood.” How should we think about enemies at a time like this?

DT: Evil infects the human heart and people do bad, cruel, and dehumanizing things to one another. Women get gang-raped, the elderly fall victim to scams, workers are cheated out of their pension, a child is lost to a drunk driver, a pastor abuses his authority, a man is profiled because of his skin color, a Christian is persecuted because of her faith, millions are displaced from their homes. One could call this “the challenges of life.” Yet for the psalmist, reality demands that we use the language of “enemy” to describe things truthfully. Its purpose is to remind us that the violent and sinful ways of human beings—including our own violent, sinful ways—need to be named so that God can step in and do something about it.

Psalm 139 is the paradigmatic psalm on this account. In verses 19-22 we find an instance of quintessentially angry “enemy” prayer. “Kill the wicked”? Hating “those who hate you”? A “perfect hatred”? Can we really say this as followers of Jesus? But soon after this imprecation, the psalmist prays a prayer of relinquishment: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts…” (vs. 23-24).

Praying against one’s enemies is most emphatically not a license to do violence to others; nor is it an invitation to indulge our irresponsible desires to call anybody we do not like an enemy. It is instead a way to get us to talk to God. Its goal is healing, not self-gratification. What the psalmist longs for is God’s vindication. The psalms, then, don’t deny our anger at being wronged, but they do deny us the right to take vengeance into our own hands (Rom. 12:18–20).

DB: In 2008, my wife and I were part of a church planting team in Richmond, Va. committed to the values of reconciliation, community development, and racial diversity with the vision of living in the community for 40 years to see what God would do. The aspirations of our church vision were awesome! The reality of putting these practices into play has been painful. Just like most things of value, it comes at a cost. One of the costs was that our college-educated planting team was suddenly entrenched in the lives of our urban poor brothers and sisters, and “their” problems became “our” problems. Very soon into the journey, we realized that we were not smart enough to “fix the system” and most of us were ill-equipped for the longevity of this endeavor. Out of desperation, we stumbled into the practice of lament.

We introduced lament in our Sunday gatherings when a young man we were mentoring went to jail or there was a murder in our neighborhood—but it was a Saturday night in the summer of 2013 when the verdict of the Trayvon Martin trial came out. The heaviness of the verdict was palpable in our congregation. For our church, not addressing the trial would be the pastoral equivalent of not saying something the Sunday after the tragic 9/11 event. We held a worship service with the theme of lament, where we allowed people to say whatever was on their heart, unfiltered.

As a leader, there is a temptation to control the public prayer life out of fear that something would be said that would cause division. We’ve found the opposite to be true. Allowing people to express their heart before God built intimacy with one another in ways that a well-crafted sermon or prayer can’t do. Since then we’ve always practice public lament services in response to tragedies.

DT: Are there examples of songs or spoken word hip hop pieces that might capture the connection between justice/injustice and songs of anger/imprecation—especially as it relates to what’s happening in our society right now?

DB: Ten summers ago, we started the Urban Doxology songwriting internship out of the need for language to express both the horizontal aspects of what it means be a Christian and the vertical aspects of Christian worship. Because so much of the Christian publishing and worship resourcing decisions are marketed to the suburban consumer, there is a significant lack of worship resources for churches in the urban context engaging with people of poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. I noticed that there were a lot of songs about loving God, but not a lot of songs about loving our neighbors, so we decided to write the worship songs that are missing.

We began to write from the Old Testament because it has some of the best vision for justice and articulation of calling out injustice. We paraphrased Isaiah 58 in a spoken word format. We wrote a call to worship to love our neighbor and for God “to heal our land, meet the need, set the captives free.” Most recently in response to Ahmaud Arbery, we released a song called “God Not Guns” that is a lament of anger and despair based on Psalm 10 that describes the same exact scenario of Arbery’s murder.

If we don’t address injustice inside the church, then “we will forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. said. We are seeing some of the fruit of that with the mass exodus of young people in the church. As pastors and Christian leaders who address issues of injustice inside the church, but don’t provide people with the tools to deal with the emotional weight of dealing with injustice, there is a level of irresponsible leadership we are engaging in as leaders.

Loving God and loving our neighbor, proclaiming the kingdom of God and prophetically calling out the ways of Babylon, repenting of personal sin and systemic sin is what God calls every Christian to do no matter your tradition. This is what makes the church relevant to society at any age.

DB: You’ve written that these curse or anger psalms ultimately lead to healing. That seems like a surprising outcome. What do you mean by it?

DT: Let me answer it by using Psalm 137 as an example. While the first two sections of the psalm have generated vast numbers of musical and poetic settings—“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept” and “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”—the third section—“Dash the babies against the rocks”—has been removed from worship contexts throughout church history.

But we’re wrong to do so, argues the Croatian-born theologian Miroslav Volf, who insists that psalms such as these should remain within our devotional practice. “Such psalms,” he writes, “may point to a way out of slavery to revenge and into the freedom of forgiveness.” For most of us, that’s easier said than done. Yet Christian practices that are devoid of the psalmist’s visceral and even violent language leave us vulnerable to theologies and pastoral practices that are incapable of dealing with the anger that so easily leads to violence in public and in the privacy of our homes.

It is never easy to know how to incorporate a psalm like 137 or 88 or 109 into our corporate worship. But it is important to remember that the Holy Spirit, as the author of Scripture, keeps these psalms in the Bible for good reason. They lead us to Jesus. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “The imprecatory psalm leads to the cross of Jesus and to the love of God which forgives enemies. I cannot forgive the enemies of God out of my own resources. Only the crucified Christ can do that, and I through him.”

DB: How do you feel churches should deal with this level of pain, disappointment, anger, and rage? What should church leaders do? How can they pray or sing the “angry psalms”?

DT: That’s not an easy answer and Christians have struggled with this question for centuries. But I can think of a few examples that might offer a way forward. There’s a wonderful hymnal, called Psalms for All Seasons, that includes a responsorial setting for Psalm 137. The congregation sings a refrain, drawn from Psalm 137:1 while an individual reads the three parts of the psalm, in turn. This allows the people to sing the words “from the heart,” without being asked to sing the dreadful words about “dashing babies,” which would seem inappropriate. Another way to read this curse psalm is for a poet to offer a personal response to the text or to have a spoken word artist sing an interpretation of the psalm in light of the news of the day, with the congregation invited to sing the refrain at specific intervals.

DT: If a church wanted to try something out with this kind of song or prayer, where would they start? How could they do it carefully, constructively, and in faithful and fruitful ways?

DB: First, it’s important for church leaders to understand that we are in some dire times. Navigating through calm waters is a different type of leadership than navigating through turbulent waters. In turbulent times, you can’t lead with moderation. You have to create “brave spaces” and sometimes they don’t feel like “safe spaces.” In 1831, the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison articulated the type of leadership we need in this moment:

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as Truth, and as uncompromising as Justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. … I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.

The type of leadership needed in these times is the courage to create brave spaces for people to be raw before God. When people are raw before God, their faith moves beyond moderation towards transformation. I want to encourage people to use one of these resources mentioned in this conversation and make room for the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit does.












David M. Bailey is a public theologian and the founder and executive director of Arrabon; an organization that builds reconciling communities in the midst of a digital, diverse and divided world.

W. David O. Taylor is associate professor of theology & culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life (Thomas Nelson). He tweets @wdavidotaylor.
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 - June 2020
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2020, 01:45:21 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/hong-kong-christians-pastors-letter-china-security-law.html







Hong Kong Christians Respond as Beijing’s Grip Tightens










Pastors repent for staying silent to protect ministry at the expense of justice.


Moments before law enforcement officers violently cleared protesters in Lafayette Park so President Donald Trump could walk from the White House to St. John’s Church and have his picture taken holding a Bible, a journalist who had recently spent months on the streets of Hong Kong confidently donned a gas mask while nearby colleagues looked on confusedly as they became engulfed in the ensuing melee.

Chemical irritants and flash-bang grenades are not the only similarities between the clashes taking place in Washington DC and those that have consumed Hong Kong for the past year. As in the United States, Christians in Hong Kong struggle to define their role in a society marred by institutionalized injustice and sharp division.

An open letter drafted by a group of evangelical pastors, theologians, and parachurch leaders and signed by more than 2,400 Christians in Hong Kong echoed sentiments shared by many believers in the US and elsewhere in the world: commitment to the fullness of the gospel; refusal to submit to an authoritarian regime; dedication to walk with the people of their community; and the church’s need to repent of apathy and inaction.

Whether in Washington or Hong Kong, the current conflicts center around abuse of official power. In Hong Kong’s case, China’s central government has effectively thrown out the “one country, two systems” formula under which the former British colony was to be governed for 50 years after 1997. Smashing through the wall of separation that was meant to protect the city from the vagaries of China’s socialist legal system, China’s leaders are now unilaterally imposing draconian national security measures that would render illegal any opposition in word or action to the regime in Beijing.

While Hong Kong churches and the many Christian organizations that play a vital role in the city’s social infrastructure continue to enjoy freedom as before, many have curtailed their outreach activities in mainland China. (Believers account for about 12 percent of the population in Hong Kong, compared with about 7 percent on the mainland.

Under the new security legislation, the appearance of connections to foreign “anti-China” individuals or groups, or to local political activists, could have possible legal consequences. So could speaking out on sensitive issues, including the treatment of Christians in the mainland.

Declaring God’s sovereignty in the face of this political overreach, the Hong Kong pastors stated in their letter:

“The King of Heaven does not rule by controlling the world. Rather, He rules by showing His love and humble servitude…. Thus, as the King of Heaven, His political blueprint is ‘to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Luke 4:18-19)”

Their letter confessed that churches have been “too focused on their internal affairs” and neglected social justice—including speaking up for oppressed minorities in the city—and have been silent in the face of mounting authoritarianism:

“When facing the authority’s strong governance and the persecution and suppression towards the dissidents, churches often chose to protect themselves. They engaged in self-censorship and remained silent towards the evil deeds of the authority, with their only wish being the smooth and uninterrupted operation of church ministries.”

Proclaiming Christ as the highest authority, the pastors offered “sincere repentance” and vowed not to submit to the leadership of any government entity or political party whose demands run counter to biblical teaching.

Pent-up Frustration
Similar to those protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, Hong Kong’s protesters are voicing the pent-up frustration of years of seeing personal liberties eroded as the Chinese government has systematically tightened its stranglehold on the city’s media, schools, civic organizations, and the business community, including a vibrant expat population that is key to Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center.

“Everybody understands that Hong Kong is very useful to China for the exchange of currency and many other things,” said Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, in an interview last month. “And now, they are ready to destroy everything, and we can do nothing because Hong Kong is a small thing—[China] can crush it as they like.”

Many local politicians across the US have encouraged their citizens to seek change at the polls, not merely in the streets. In Hong Kong, however, the goalposts for universal suffrage promised under the “one country, two systems” framework continue to move further downfield with every new decision emanating from Beijing.

Hong Kong’s protestors have grown weary of tone-deaf local officials charged with looking out for the city’s interests who have increasingly defined those interests in terms of Beijing’s demands. This includes championing restrictive election reform measures designed to strengthen central government control, as well as white elephant infrastructure projects that enrich mainland companies and local business elites.

On the streets of Hong Kong, living under the watchful eye of what had been considered “Asia’s Finest” brings not reassurance but fear, compounded by the eventuality of China’s own national security agents being introduced into Hong Kong as part of the new national security provisions. In the eyes of those assigned to protect them, the people of Hong Kong have become the enemy, some being labeled as terrorists by officials.

Now that the gloves are off and Beijing has chosen to bypass Hong Kong’s partially elected legislature entirely, the local government has become largely irrelevant. Like many of those seen on American streets this week, Hong Kong’s protesters feel they have reached the end of their rope; there is no legitimate forum in which to air their grievances.

“We have nothing good to hope for,” said Cardinal Zen. “Hong Kong is simply completely under [China’s] control. We depend on China even for our food and water. But we put ourselves in the hands of God.”

Institutional Sins
The conflicts raging on the streets of Hong Kong and the US did not appear overnight, but are the result of deep-rooted institutional sins.

Hong Kong’s lopsided prosperity and its tenuous political situation are, paradoxically, the twin offspring of colonization, beginning with Britain’s military conquest in the opium wars of the mid-19th century. While in the 1980s, hopes of China’s eventual democratization inspired the optimistic rhetoric of the “one country, two systems” formula, Hong Kong has since gone from being seen as a laboratory for what China could become to an example of what China’s paranoid leaders fear most.

As these leaders become increasingly anti-foreign, Hong Kong becomes a casualty in the unraveling of China’s relationships with the West. How the Trump administration chooses to follow through on its recent determination that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant special treatment will significantly impact the city’s future.

Like a tear gas canister lobbed abruptly into an unsuspecting crowd, the mainland government’s recent moves have left those who sought lasting change for Hong Kong gasping for air.

For many Hong Kong Christians, it is neither a time to retreat nor to take political matters into their own hands, but rather to double down on their commitment to the people of Hong Kong.

As Mimi Lau, a journalist with Hong Kong’s English daily South China Morning Post, urged in a Twitter thread:

“#HKers : now is not the time to desert your home. Rise up to your roles, become a KOL [key opinion leader] in your own fields and stand by your core values and believes. Most importantly, have #Faith. #HongKong is worth fighting for.

What else can I do as a #HK journalist? What can I do as a disciple of Christ? What can I do as a friend, as a collegue [sic], as a member of my community, as a daughter and as a sister? What would I give to #StandWithHongKong ?”

The pastors in their open letter pledged that “no matter how tough it gets, we shall hold onto our duty as the church to walk together with all Hongkongers, and to uphold Hong Kong ceaselessly with prayers and pastoral care, as a living testimony of ‘Emmanuel’ — God is here with those who are suffering.”

Affirming their belief that God will lead Hong Kong people through the dark days ahead, they offered a reminder that seems equally appropriate for Christians in the politically fractured United States:

“The church is neither a political party or a political organization, therefore, political agendas or demands should not become the main focus of the church. However, when facing injustice and evilness in the society, the church should act as the social conscience and fulfil [sic] its prophetic role to denounce injustice, to proclaim the will of God, and to bear witness to truth.”




Brent Fulton is founder and catalyst of ChinaSource.
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 - June 2020
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2020, 01:49:40 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/june/why-i-protest-and-you-should-too.html







Pro ALL Life: Why I Protest and Encourage You to Do So Too












I've marched for life like lots of evangelicals. I encourage you to march for black lives as well. Protests are part of who we are.


I’m convinced that Christians need to speak out and to protest at times. And the reality is, all Christians believe this about certain issues. For example, it does not seem controversial when we march for life. But it does seem controversial when we march for racial justice, and I think it’s worth exploring why.

Earlier this week, I marched in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago to join thousands of others in a peaceful protest led by African American faith leaders.

Yesterday, my family and I participated in a lament walk in Wheaton. I tweeted at the time, "At the Wheaton lament walk with my family. Communities all over the country are coming together to mourn and work for justice. I’ve never seen a group like this in Wheaton. It’s encouraging." And I meant it.

Now, mind you, I am doing more than protesting—things like partnering churches together and giving to help impacted communities, but I’m also headed out again right now to be a part of a local protest.

I think protesting matters.

Let me explain.

Our Heritage

As Protestants, protest is a part of our faith heritage. That’s part of why we are called Protestants.

Martin Luther protested abuses in the Catholic Church with his 95 Theses. When he was given a papal bull from Pope Leo X calling him to recant, Luther burned it in protest. He was called a heretic and worse, yet he stood on his convictions. Indeed, we draw Protestantism from those who followed Luther in “protest” after he broke from the Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms in 1529.

Also, as a specific strain within Protestant Christianity, evangelicals have long history of protest. We draw our theological heritage from English Puritans who dissented from the Church of England.

As Americans, it is part of our civic heritage (one which we often venerate in textbooks and through holidays. The one that sticks out in our national conscience is the Boston Tea Party, one of the earliest protests of the American Revolution which rallied people against the oppressive tyranny of King George.

And as Evangelicals, we are people defined in part by our heritage of revival, reform, and renewal. We are at our best when we are calling ourselves, our churches, and our communities to resist both dead orthodoxy and empty moralism. At our core, we are supposed to be people who work to protest spiritual lethargy.

Christians have also protested moral wrongs throughout the years.

Most recently, evangelicals and other Christians have consistently—and against considerable public pressure—protested abortion, including participation in a major national March for Life every year.

Our Call

Far from a recent evolution, modern evangelicalism was born out of a rejection of isolationism of fundamentalism. Carl F.H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism drew attention to the ways theological conservative Protestants in America had lost sight of the social dimensions of the gospel. Later, in his book A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration, Henry would focus more practically on the issue of public protest in calling evangelicals to take seriously our faith:

This is a call for authentic evangelical protest. A sensitive Christian conscience must openly confront enduring and intractable social injustices. Biblically concerned Christians need not forego a moment of open identification with those of other faiths and alien views in protesting what all together recognize to be unjust."[1]

As Peter Heltzel rightly observed, this was “Henry on fire for lasting social change as a vital expression of our gospel witness.” Drawing a clear parallel to Martin Luther King’s famous exhortation to moderate clergy that "injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere,” Henry pleaded for Christians to protest “what all together recognize to be unjust.”[2]

With unrelenting surgical precision, Henry repeatedly honed in not only on the systemic nature of evil but also on the necessity of a public response by the people of God. The result was an unavoidable call to evangelicals to see the call to protest as intimately and unavoidably connected to their faith.

Our Current Situation

Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed countless marches and demonstrations to protest not only the killing of George Floyd, but also the broader issue of systemic racism., Following other tragic reports of African American deaths in the recent past, Floyd’s death seems to be a tipping point in waking people to action.

But there is a difference it seems between the protests over the past two weeks and the litany of those I just noted above. The difference in these recent protests is that some conservatives (often evangelicals) seem intent upon focusing on other issues so as to bypass the heart of the matter.

It’s worth addressing their argument.

Even as evidence of violence and prejudice mounts and the pleas from their brothers and sisters of color intensify, their social media feeds instead focus on the riots and looting. Tying the protests and riots together, some are trying to dismiss the former by way of the latter.

Here’s the challenge: You can simultaneously speak out against systemic racism and looting and violence. Evangelicals sometimes struggle with the former but demand the latter. Followers of Jesus must do both.

Faith Leaders March

The faith leaders I marched with for justice in Chicago modeled this duality. Walking through the streets, they called out victims by name while proclaiming that black lives do matter.

I’m aware of concerns surrounding the BLM movement (and have published about those concerns here) but that doesn’t negate the significance of the phrase. We should be ashamed we have reached a place where so many in the African American community believe their lives do not matter to us. Regardless of politics, it marks a tragic failure on our part to live out scripture’s imperative to be known for our love.

Moreover, as we marched through Bronzeville for justice and fairness, leaders of that condemned the destructiveness of rioting and looting not only on the goals of the protest but in the very communities we were trying shine lights upon.

No Christian affirms a violent riot but this is the straw man some are using. Yet consider how this same tactic is used against us when applied to other protests. When extremists bomb an abortion clinic and kill an abortion doctor, we are defensive when others try to use the incident to tar the entire pro-life movement. Even as we join in condemning this violence as antithetical to the movement, it can quickly become a talking point to label the movement as violent, hypocritical, and self-defeating.

As we ask for others to avoid straw man tactics to silence our protests, we must resist the same temptation to silence others.

Behind the Protesting

One of the disappointing facts of debates over the nature of protests is that the underlying message can get lost. Yet the reality is that the act of protesting itself is not the issue. Indeed, for too many, focusing on the protests can often be a smokescreen to avoid dealing with the harsh reality.

Instead, we get endless debates of protesting the right way. If only African Americans (and others seeking justice) would protest the right way, then we would understand and deal with the problem, we hear. Well, I can’t think of a righter way than a peaceful protest walking through Bronzeville in a march led by African American pastors.

It must not be lost that so many of these marches are saturated in the gospel and lead by gospel ministers. Indeed, David Neff reminds us that one of the most prominent civil rights song, "We Shall Overcome," was adapted by Peter Seeger from Louise Shropshire's "If My Jesus Wills (I'll Overcome)." That so many white people see only the looting fringe and not their brothers and sisters in Christ speaks to centuries of oppression must be bridged.

It's my hope and prayer that the church today will be building bridges rather than burning them. Otherwise, something far worse than property will be destroyed.

Standing and Marching for Lives that Matter

For me, I stand with the unborn who’ve been ignored. It’s interesting to see so many throw that back up on social media to me, yet I wonder if they’ve joined us at the national March for Life or even the Chicago march.

Many people have tweeted back at me mentioning abortion in the last couple weeks. I’m glad that are concerned for the innocent unborn. I’ve not tweeted back to ask how many have joined us for such marches for life. Tweets are easy— action is hard. I hope they will.

I assure you, it was pretty cold in Chicago when I spoke at that Chicago march. And yet, I saw Anglican Bishop Stewart Ruch there. And I saw him again this week. I tweeted, “I saw Anglican Bishop @StewartRuch at the faith leaders March on Tuesday AND we regularly see one another at pro-life marches. I love his consistency.”

This weekend, many of your African American brothers and sisters need to know you care. I was invited first by James Meeks—Meeks is an evangelical pastor who is a trustee of Moody Bible Institute and grad student in our Wheaton College graduate program. How could I not stand by my brother in Christ when he asked me to stand with him against injustice and stand by him in his community’s pain.

I was surprised that James Meeks insisted I join him at the front of the march—that’s me at the middle holing the Y and James holding the D. (It’s blurry in the article picture at the top, but here we are together—and I am glad to be by his side.)

I did not want to be up front, but he and Charlie Dates explained to me that it is important that white allies be present and evident. So I listened to them.

Lots of evangelical pastors where there that day, and I was glad to be a part of it. You might consider joining such a peaceful event in your own area this weekend yourself, because protesting is what we Protestants have been doing since day one.

Don’t let the fringe voices on Twitter keep you from standing for justice with your neighbor.

You already probably knew that the unborn need your voice. Well, so do your African American brothers and sisters who have been born into a world where they wonder if their lives really do matter.











Endnotes

[1] Carl F. H. Henry, A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), 13.

[2] Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics, 86.

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.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2020, 11:50:23 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/craig-barnes-diary-pastor-soul-holy-moments.html







Pastors and Their Strangely Attractive Scars










An intimate look at the joys and regrets of those who shepherd God’s flock.


There’s something about the art of pastoring souls that can’t be codified and taught in a classroom. Ministry is best learned in context. Just as medical doctors move through rotations during their hospital internships, so physicians of souls accumulate practical wisdom by serving the people of God patiently over the years. You don’t master this craft overnight; nor can you adequately sum it up in a how-to manual.

M. Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Theological Seminary, has done us all a favor, whether or not we are pastors. His book, Diary of a Pastor’s Soul: The Holy Moments in a Life of Ministry, provides a unique picture of what it means to pastor people with sensitivity and grace. No, this is not a how-to manual, but that is its saving grace. We don’t need any more how-to manuals on ministry. Nor do we need yet another book tracing the latest trends of the day and forecasting how pastors and churches will need to scramble to reinvent themselves in the image and likeness of an ever-shifting culture.

Instead, Barnes’s book takes the long view on ministry. It takes seriously the formative impact of sheep on their shepherds over time. It traces the grooves of God’s grace worn deep in a pastor’s soul as he invests himself in caring for people through good times and bad. Those grooves do not appear overnight; there is no shortcut to sensitive and effective ministry in Jesus’ name. This book is the personal legacy of an academic whose first love is clearly the parish. Here he bares his soul for all to see, and so enriches us all.

Ministry Stories
Barnes notes in his preface that the old-timers—old Pietists, to be exact—used to speak a great deal more than we do about the necessity of gravitas among clergy. Personally, I think those Pietists were on to something. We’re all quick to list the qualities we’d like our pastors to possess: friendliness, cheerfulness, passion, drive, ambition, leadership skills, and so on. But gravitas? Not so much. Maybe that’s because we think of it as a turn-off. Who wants a dour, ponderous personage in their church’s pulpit? But Barnes is quick to clarify what the Pietists had in mind: Gravitas “was their description of a soul that had gained enough weightiness to be attractive, like all things with a gravitational pull.”

That’s what we need, don’t we? Pastors who don’t merely proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom but tug us toward it by their own example and faith—their lived experience of the grace of God at work in the tangle of daily life. But gravitas is not synonymous with longevity, as Barnes points out. Speaking of pastors who possess it, he writes:

It really has less to do with their age than with their response to the way life unfolds. They have scars, which are strangely attractive, but not open wounds. They’ve settled into themselves, and into the people God has given them to love, without any irritating plans for improvement.

So what does pastoral gravitas actually look like? Barnes tries to capture it by composing a series of journal entries from a fictionalized senior pastor of a fictionalized church, St. Andrews Presbyterian. This pastor, who is wrapping up his final year of active ministry, writes one entry per week for each month leading up to his retirement, offering a window into both his own life and the lives of many parishioners.

From the journal, we learn that the pastor’s wife was named Ellie, and that they had a daughter named Mackenzie. We never learn the pastor’s name, though I suspect he is modeled after Barnes himself. As Barnes (the author) confides, when he began writing about the formation of a pastor’s soul, he found himself telling stories—stories from his own ministry. They are fictional stories, he writes, both because he wanted to preserve pastoral confidentiality and because “I found myself wanting to rewrite some of my own stories that I might have lived differently if I had known then what I know now.”

What Barnes gives us, then, as he looks back on his pastoral career, is a book somewhere between fiction and nonfiction. Whether his stories are real or imagined, they all depict the real lives lived by parishioners and pastors. That’s the best part of this book: We can all find ourselves somewhere within its pages. And when we do, we will discover how God goes to work forming pastors after his own heart. As Barnes observes, “The formation of the pastoral soul does not lend itself to being explained as much as revealed.” Amen to that.

I’ll admit that I found myself, on occasion, wanting to enter into theological debate with the pastor of St. Andrews, as I suspect many readers will. Not all of us will agree with his theology—or his pastoral decisions, for that matter. But that’s not the point. This book is not a systematic theology; nor is it exactly a pastoral theology. But in these pages you will find all the ingredients for a truly pastoral disposition. These matters don’t call for argument or disputation, but emulation.

Barnes’s book brings to mind Eugene Peterson with its folksy whimsy blended with deep insight into the human heart. Through the shifting seasons of the church year and the changing weather of the passing months, I found myself captivated by the people of St. Andrews. I’ve met many of them myself over my own 49 years of ministry.

There’s Alice Matthews, matron of the church’s property committee. For 23 years she’s kept a vigilant eye on the parish’s aging edifice, ever prioritizing matters of structural soundness over spiritual mission. She was married in this building, as was her daughter. Her children were baptized there and her husband buried there. As Barnes notes: “Everything she knows about Jesus and his grace for us is lingering in the mortar that holds the stones of her church together.” Yet for all her limitations, Alice had a heart for service and a generous spirit.

In September we meet Esau, the family’s hairy sheepdog. The narrator notes that he’s learned a lot about ministry from his dog. Jesus is the true shepherd of the congregation, he writes: “It’s far more helpful to think of myself as a sheepdog that nudges sheep toward the only Savior of the flock.” Having run into that sheepdog analogy elsewhere, I was pleased to make Esau’s acquaintance while learning something else about pastoring. When chasing birds on the beach, Esau never runs straight at them. Rather, as a herding dog, he circles in on his targets. As Barnes observes, “Long ago I learned the value of not approaching problem parishioners with head-on confrontation, but by coming at them ‘slant’ as Eugene Peterson calls it.”

Another of my favorites at St. Andrews is Mrs. Thelma Parker—the “Queen of the congregation,” as Barnes calls her. From her key leadership position in the congregation, she saw to it that the wishes of the elders gained traction among church members. Smiling her way through the church fellowship hall, she smoothed ruffled feathers, calmed controversies, and answered questions about new staff members. “All the while,” Barnes writes, “she was sipping coffee and ‘just chatting.’” Every church could use a Thelma—someone who knows its inner politics and moves graciously and unassumingly within them, all in service of the kingdom. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Unworthy Servants
Diary of a Pastor’s Soul contains none of the usual platitudes about pastoral ministry. Instead, it paints a clear picture of the raw horror into which pastors pour the healing balm of the gospel with some regularity. We meet Stan, an early widower whose wife had been killed in a traffic accident shortly after the narrator had baptized their little baby girl, Mary Jane. Years later Stan brings his beautiful teenage daughter into the pastor’s study to disclose impending tragedy. Mary Jane has contracted a debilitating disease that will quickly paralyze her, leaving her in a wheelchair by the time prom rolls around. Tears flowed freely all around, all three “taking turns at the tissue box.”

Pastors encounter such heartbreaking scenes often enough; that much most people assume. But not many grasp the impact of these situations on a pastor’s soul. Here’s how Barnes sums up what he learned by caring for Stan and Mary Jane:

I assured them of my own sorrow and that the congregation would do everything to surround them with compassion and any help we could provide, and that most importantly none of this was lost on the God who created Mary Jane and would never leave her. These are the things I was trained to say long ago. Then I prayed for her healing. I actually begged God, which is something I didn’t learn in seminary.

When they left, I needed a pastor of my own, which is something else they didn’t teach me in seminary.

Diary of a Pastor’s Soul opens a window into the pastoral soul that will enrich both pastors and those who love them. In this captivating book we discover anew the profound gift God has given us in compassionate shepherds for our souls. As honest pastors can attest, they themselves need shepherding for the very reason we do—to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Christ Jesus.

Ultimately, this book underscores what every pastor already knows—that in the end, all of us are nothing more than unworthy servants. We’ve got nothing to give that we have not first received. The Apostle Paul expressed it well: “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).











Harold L. Senkbeil is an executive director of Doxology: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel. He is the author of The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Lexham) and Christ and Calamity: Grace and Gratitude in the Darkest Valley (Lexham).
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 - June 2020
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2020, 12:47:18 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2020/spring/preach-double-edged-sermon.html







Preach a Double-Edged Sermon










The message you prepare for your congregation is also meant for you.


A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but that the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word doth not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.
— John Owen, from The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government

When I graduated from seminary, I braced myself for the worst. I had heard my fair share of ministry horror stories, but, to my surprise, ministry in my first pastorate was a joy. Eager to apply all I had learned, I was busy and active in the church: teaching Sunday school, orchestrating Awana, reforming the church’s finances, and so on.

But the real surprise came not at potlucks, men’s breakfasts, or other church activities; it came in the quiet recesses of my study. As I prepared sermon after sermon, I began to notice that my messages moved beyond people’s heads and penetrated their hearts most often when those messages had first taken root within my own soul. My congregation could tell the difference, and, in time, so could I.

I began to learn from experience that an accurate or well-researched sermon was a long way off from a sermon I had wrestled with, wept over, and carried into the pulpit like a fire that could not be put out. I first had to do the internal work of preaching my sermon to myself before I preached it to my people. It was 17th-century Puritan John Owen who first said, “A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.” Owen was an influential leader in his time, writing theological texts, serving as Oliver Cromwell’s personal chaplain, and delivering sermons before the British Parliament. But Owen not only preached on England’s national stage; he also pastored local congregations.

Owen is a model to preachers today for many reasons: his gifted rhetoric, his insight into the biblical text, and his ability to move from theological mountaintops to the common terrain of the average Christian. But what sets him apart as an influence in my own ministry is his recognition that his first duty as a pastor was to feed his flock the Word—and to do so, he first had to feed himself.

The importance of preaching the Word to oneself was a topic Owen returned to frequently. In an ordination sermon called “The Duty of a Pastor,” he preached from Jeremiah 3:15: “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (KJV). With all his emphasis on the importance of feeding the flock through proclaiming the Scriptures, Owen stressed the absolute impossibility of this task if pastors do not begin with themselves. Owen observed, “We must labour ourselves to have a thorough knowledge of these mysteries, or we shall be useless to a great part of the church.”

If we enter the pulpit without our souls first having been transformed by the very gospel we intend to share, we will not help our congregations. In fact, we may do harm to those we intend to serve. Owen went so far as to compare messages that hadn’t moved the preacher to “poison,” for unless a pastor “finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others.”

I admit, this is easier said than done. Not every sermon will feel like a fire that cannot be put out. Not every sermon will come from the heart or at least feel like it’s from the heart. I am the first to confess that some Sundays the Word of God hasn’t penetrated my heart as I intended. Perhaps it’s sin. Perhaps it’s distraction. Or perhaps it’s just plain fatigue.

Further, your sermons will not always affect your people in the same way they have affected you. Perhaps that’s due to the people’s sin. Perhaps they are distracted. Or perhaps they, too, are fatigued.

Owen’s prescription for this pastoral reality is not a quick-fix pill; it is a routine, a habit of ministry life. It is the internal work that happens far away from the external actions of ministry: church events, committee meetings, upfront teaching, and leadership. It is a habit that takes time, practice, and, most of all, the grace and power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the Word in our lives over the long haul. Just as nothing aids a Christian’s growth like a lifetime of formation under the preached Word, so too nothing can be substituted for a lifetime of exhortation to one’s own soul.

To truly receive this exhortation week in and week out, we preachers must intentionally become receivers. We must choose to listen attentively and patiently to the Word and the Spirit. Owen knew that, which is why he finished his ordination sermon by reminding his new ordinand that prayer is the pastor’s best friend. Every pastor is to cultivate what Owen calls a “spirit of prayer.”

But the prayer that fills the pastor’s study during sermon preparation is not for the pastor alone. Rather, Owen taught, the pastor is to pray for the congregation. “The more we pray for our people,” said Owen, “the better shall we be instructed what to preach to them.” How right Owen is. As I look back on my years in pastoral ministry, the sermons that flew off the runway with the greatest conviction were those paved with prayers not only for myself but especially for my people.

Pastor, preach the sermon before the sermon. Preach to yourself. Prayerfully receive the instruction and conviction that comes from the Word of God. Then preach to your people. And perhaps, over a lifetime of ministry, your people will be transformed alongside you.












Matthew Barrett is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, executive editor of Credo Magazine, and host of Credo Podcast. His most recent book is 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 - June 2020
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2020, 09:30:13 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/politics-as-strange-rite.html







Politics as a Strange Rite









Even Jesus was tempted with political power.


The rapid evolution of religiosity in the United States is by now a familiar story. The decline of American Christianity “continues at a rapid pace,” Pew Research reports, while the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones,” grew from 16 to 26 percent of the country from 2007 to 2019 alone. Evangelical churches are retaining more members than their mainline counterparts, but evangelicalism too is losing cultural cachet and overall population share.

Yet we would be mistaken to conclude Americans are becoming less religious. We live in a secular age, as philosopher Charles Taylor famously argued, not because we have lost our human instinct to worship but because the object of our worship is no longer assumed. We have options. We can seek meaning, purpose, and community outside the church and institutional religion altogether, and increasingly so, as Tara Isabella Burton details in her forthcoming Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World(Hachette, June 16, 2020).

“We do not live in a godless world,” Burton argues in subversion of her own subtitle. “Rather, we live in a profoundly anti-institutional one, where the proliferation of internet creative culture and consumer capitalism have rendered us all simultaneously parishioner, high priest, and deity.” Armed with a doctorate in theology from Oxford and a journalist’s eye for anthropological curiosities, Burton delves into self-focused “new religions” as disparate as SoulCycle and Harry Potter.

What odd creatures people are, I kept thinking while reading, confident in my own strength to resist such alien liturgies. Yet there’s a more insidious temptation in what Burton dubs “remixed” religion, a siren song away from Christ that—unlike fixation on wellness culture or Hogwarts fan fiction—isn’t as easy to identify as a superficial contender for our souls. That age-old lure is politics and its consuming pursuit of power, demanding an allegiance from us we owe only to God.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them,” Jesus warned his disciples when the sons of Zebedee sought seats of honor at his right hand and his left. “It will not be so among you,” he charged, “but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:20–28, NRSV).

This call to humility, service, and even self-abnegation is integral to Jesus’ invitation to the upside-down kingdom of God, where the last are first and our weakness is occasion to display God’s strength—and it goes against our every fallen instinct. “All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes,” as Proverbs 16:2 (NRSV) observes, allowing us to convince ourselves we only seek political power with the best of intentions and the purest of principles. But if good intentions and principles were a sure guard against idolatry, Satan couldn’t have tempted Jesus with “all the kingdoms of the world … their glory and all this authority” (Luke 4:5–6). It is the very potential to do good, in fact, that often makes the idolatry of politics and power so enticing. That is never truer than in times of intense political strife and opportunity, such as our present moment of pandemic, racial protest, and presidential campaign.

Burton’s Strange Rites trains its political coverage on three new movements, each born online but eager to reshape the offline world. First is the social justice movement—“social justice warriors” in the pejorative—critical equally of tradition and the rationalism and capitalism of the liberal order. Second is the “culture of Silicon Valley … [techno-utopians who] envision an equally radical account of human potential.” Third is what Burton dubs “new atavism,” a broad category encompassing everything from the “intellectual dark web” to the “black pill,” their commonality a vision of a hierarchical world where one makes meaning through sheer willpower—bootstrap existentialism, sometimes with a heavy dose of racism and misogyny.

Burton argues compellingly that these rising movements function as religions for their adherents, but I wondered if she was letting more traditional political alignments off too easily. Though certainly the content of a civil religion matters, the mere fact of it matters, too. When we so deeply invest ourselves in politics, particularly politics as acquisition of power, any political movement can provide us with the fixtures of faith: beliefs, rituals, saints, virtues, heresies—and an idolatrous claim of our allegiance.

Conventional political loyalties can be just as religious as the new trio Strange Rites examines, I suggested in a conversation over email. Burton agreed, pointing to the partisan fervency of many “white evangelicals, who overwhelmingly voted for [President Donald] Trump [and tend to] vote along GOP party lines.” Some “pockets of white evangelicalism” are particularly vulnerable to the “intuitionalism” and “best-self-ism” of remixed religiosity, she told me, especially those given to prosperity gospel teachings, interest in conspiracy theories, and instinctive distrust of established authorities. Mainstream Democrats have had difficulty “in recent years, around mobilizing behind a strong candidate the way, say, Trump voters have,” Burton noted, but a left-wing version of Trumpian civil religion is plausible: Oprah Winfrey once described then-candidate Barack Obama as a rare politician “who know how to be the truth.”

The temptation of political power is sly. It confuses us about reality in a social climate Burton described to me as already ambiguous “about what is ‘real’ (physically, spiritually, socially, biologically).” Like the Devil in the desert, it lies about what we can have and what we should want, encouraging at once undue fixation on our present world—politics as a source of meaning, purpose, and community we ought to find in Christ—and too little true love for neighbor and enemy alike, especially those with politics unlike ours. “
  • ur citizenship is in heaven,” we are too often inclined to forget, “and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). That hope “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), no matter what politics we face or what strange new rites arise around us.[/size]












    Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today, a contributing editor at The Week, a fellow at Defense Priorities, and the author of A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (Hachette).
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 - June 2020
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2020, 10:43:49 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/june-web-only/george-floyd-racism-justice-god-who-conquered-death.html







I Have Only One Hope for Racial Justice: A God Who Conquered Death










Christians coming to terms with racism need to be re-enchanted by the Resurrection.


The entire globe is convulsing with social unrest and protests. Almost every day, I wake up to an endless stream of news that tempts me to despair. I look at the persistent racism and systemic oppression that mars our society, and I see no hope that things will change. I see political leaders failing to unify and not divide the country, and my trust in the system falters. I look at a church that so often views everything through the lens of a particular political party and not the gospel, and I feel downcast.

I take some small comfort in knowing that white Christians are stepping up to participate in public protests, analyze their organizations, and make room for change. But nonetheless, I’m still left with questions: Are black Christians seeing a momentary spike in sympathy, or is something deeper at work? Is a significant segment of the white evangelical church ready to join the fight for justice, or will the coming weeks and months see a return to the status quo? What will happen when there isn’t a steady stream of videos showcasing the undeniable face of black suffering?

There is an even more urgent question than whether white evangelicals participate in this movement. Our ultimate aim is not to secure allies; it is to secure freedom. With that in mind, can we really hope to slay or at least deeply wound the monster of racism that is so deeply imbedded in American culture?

In the context of this question, I sometimes go looking and praying for a sign. I need some signal that God has not abandoned us to human vice, that it is possible, in the words of Samwise Gamgee, for “everything sad … to come untrue.” I want to find room for hope when the reasons for it seem in short supply.

Where does my hope come from? Not from the usual places. Not from the fact that we’ve added more faces to our marches. My trust goes much deeper—to the Resurrection, and the way in which it reconfigures our spiritual imagination. God has a long history of giving his people a belief in the seemingly impossible.

Scripture reminds me of this story.

In the Gospels, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign that they might trust him. Instead of some trick or miracle that might comfort them in the moment, Jesus points toward something greater. He says to them, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).

When the disciples on the road to Emmaus say, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” Jesus reminds them that it is necessary for the Messiah to “suffer these things and then enter his glory” (Luke 24:21, 26).

In both responses, Jesus points to the Resurrection. He knows that what his people need is not some small signal of God’s presence that can be dismissed as a coincidence. What we need is a sign of his victory. The feeding of the 5,000 or the walking on water is great, but if it can all be unraveled by death, then what is the point? If the Roman Empire has the ability to stop Jesus, then what is to keep the current empires from stopping us?

We need a hope big enough to overcome death itself. The Resurrection, then, is not a mere sign. It is a hermeneutical key that unlocks the mystery of God’s purposes. It is the power that overcomes principalities.

As I survey the history of race relations in America, I see this truth in play.

My ancestors knew that, in order to secure their freedom, slavery had to bend to the will of God and be destroyed. They knew that the Jim Crow era, despite its oppression, was not more comprehensive in its power than the Resurrection. We introduced Jim and Jane Crow to a Resurrection-empowered hope, and the civil rights movement was born. Similarly, what evidence do we have that today’s racial divisions can be defeated and that our societal sickness is not unto death? Our answer is the same: the empty tomb and the risen Christ.

Instead of looking for more signs, we need to be re-enchanted by the Resurrection. Instead of looking at the problems facing the church and the world through the lens of our Twitter feeds, we need to remember that Christ is risen and rules over all. His power applies to all of our enigmas. Racism and systemic oppression are not more difficult to overcome than death. And our hope for a transformed society comes directly from the risen Lord.

Let me be clear. This doesn’t mean that God is our genie and that we can rush into any arena assuming that he will rescue us from any folly or grant every request. It doesn’t mean that Christians can never feel discouragement. Here’s what it means: Our limited imaginations do not form the boundaries of what God can do. Humans have limited power; we can maim and kill or be killed. We can make promises of social unity that we often lack the power to actualize. But a God who has defeated death—and called to himself a people who understand the full scope of his victory—is unstoppable.

That belief in an unstoppable God is precisely what made the early church so difficult to control. It made them dangerous.

After the birth of the church, “Christians became a nation within a nation, a new oikoumene or universal commonwealth that spanned the known world, crossing traditional cultural barriers,” writes Gerald L. Sittser, author of Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian “Third Way” Changed the World. “Their primary loyalty was to fellow believers, not nation or race or tribe or party or class.”

How do we regain that vision today? How do we claim a resurrected Christ as our reason for hope?

I must confess that much of my life has been spent doubting the Resurrection. I don’t question whether it occurred—I am convinced that the tomb remains empty. But I do often wonder whether the world is truly a different place. Things seems to go on as they always have: The rich exploit the poor. Evil triumphs over good. Going low appears to be much more profitable than going high. Racism sweeps our land, and the weakest among us suffer the most.

As I watch the news these days, I see genuine expressions of sympathy for the black situation in America. But I don’t simply want people to feel sorry for us. I want freedom. And in my best moments, I remember where that hope for freedom resides. It resides in the God who conquered death. Although the full fruition of that freedom will not come on this side of heaven, nonetheless, I am not forbidden the beginnings of it here and now. By desiring freedom now, I am not turning America into the kingdom. I am demanding the right to live and love and work as a free black child of God.

The defeat of death is God’s great triumph. It reshapes the Christian imagination, forever obliterating the limits we place upon our Creator. As the protests press on, then, I pray today and every day that we remember the Resurrection, when the entire cosmos became something different. We have yet to realize the full scope of that change.












Esau McCaulley is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and the author of the forthcoming book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope (IVP Academic).

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 -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - June 2020
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2020, 10:15:47 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/june/ecfa-coronavirus-church-ministry-giving-finances.html







Christian Giving Rebounds to Pre-Pandemic Levels










Most evangelical churches and ministries tightened budgets yet saw steady giving this spring.


When the US economy shut down in March due to COVID-19, financial predictions for churches and other ministries were dire. But a new survey suggests those predictions may have been overblown.

Most evangelical churches and ministries saw giving remain steady or grow during the height of stay-at-home restrictions, according to a survey of more than 1,300 Christian ministries released last week by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

Among those surveyed, total cash giving in April 2020 equaled or surpassed April 2019 giving levels at 66 percent of churches and 59 percent of nonprofits. An even greater percentage of churches (72%) and other Christian nonprofits (61%) said their April 2020 cash gifts met or exceeded January 2020 levels, when the economy was booming and the stock market’s Dow Jones Industrial Average was approaching its all-time high.

Those healthy giving levels have translated into economic optimism. More than half of the leaders were optimistic about anticipated cash gifts in May through July, while 27 percent were uncertain, and just 15 percent were pessimistic.

ECFA analyst Warren Bird told Christianity Today that churches and other nonprofits with cash on hand may want to consider putting their “money to work in doing ministry” rather than continuing “to hold [their] breath in fear that [their] circumstance is unusual and the bottom is just about to fall out.”

That’s a different outlook than ministries had two months ago. The State of the Plate poll, released April 23, found 65 percent of churches had seen giving decreases since mid-March. “For pastors and church staff, there will be difficult days ahead,” predicted State of the Plate founder Brian Kluth. Similarly, the Barna Group reported in a March podcast that 62 percent of US pastors said giving was down at their churches.

But the initial economic nosedive reversed in the span of a month as giving picked back up and Congress made small business loans available through the Paycheck Protection Program. (Sixty percent of churches and 81 percent of other Christian nonprofits either applied or planned to apply for one of those loans, according to the ECFA survey.)

For analysts, the key questions now are whether the positive outlook will hold and if any segments of the Christian world are being left behind.










The situation at Southridge Church in San Jose, California, has paralleled national trends. Giving dipped 25 percent in March, pastor Micaiah Irmler said, before picking back up in April and expanding in May. The congregation, which has conducted drive-in services during the pandemic, has a $580,000 annual budget and is in the midst of a capital campaign to purchase its first building.

Southridge’s giving has moved almost entirely online because of the coronavirus, up from about two-thirds online before the pandemic. Nationally, ECFA found 64 percent of churches saw an increased percentage of online giving between January and April.

“From what I’m hearing here in the Silicon Valley, we’re not going to be hit that hard,” Irmler said of the church’s finances. His greatest uncertainty involves Bay Area tech companies like Google and Twitter that decided during the pandemic to let many employees work from home permanently. “The only thing that has me somewhat nervous,” he said, is how many church members “might move out of our area” to decrease their cost of living.

Despite the overall optimism, ECFA’s findings were not all positive. About 1 in 5 churches (18%) and Christian nonprofits (20%) have established hiring freezes for nonessential roles. Eleven percent of churches and 14 percent of other nonprofits have reduced the number or hours of part-time staff.

Among Christian nonprofits, smaller organizations are less optimistic about cash gifts than their larger counterparts. Forty-six percent of nonprofits with annual budgets of under $500,000 expressed optimism about gifts in May through July. The number fell to 40 percent among nonprofits with budgets from $500,000 to $999,999. Optimism was higher in all other budget categories, peaking at 67 percent for nonprofits with budgets over $10 million. (Among churches, optimism levels were similar across all budget sizes, around 70 percent.)













Raleigh Sadler, executive director of the small Chicago-based anti-human-trafficking ministry Let My People Go (LMPG), expressed tempered optimism about the organization’s financial outlook. Between March and mid-May, the ministry’s receipts dipped 40 percent before beginning an upward trajectory in late May. LMPG has pursued larger donors to fill the gap as it waits for small and mid-size givers to recover financially.

Initially, “everyone was starting to lose their jobs,” said Sadler, LMPG’s only full-time employee. “People were scared. Everyone was uncertain, so they were pulling their purse strings.”

A segment of the evangelical world where economic hardship may not be reflected in ECFA’s report is African American churches. Bird told CT he isn’t aware of any research that examines the correlation between ethnicity and church giving during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate for African Americans is approximately 4.5 times that of white Americans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anecdotal evidence suggests the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus has taken a toll on black churches, many of which struggled to apply for or receive stimulus grants.

America’s largest black Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God in Christ, has seen seven of its bishops die from coronavirus, ABC News reported. Pastor A. R. Bernard of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, said the pandemic caught “many traditional black churches” off-guard because they lacked a “digital footprint” that permitted them to move worship and giving online with ease.

Still, the overall financial story for churches and ministries—at least for now—is reflected in the ECFA report’s title: “Optimism Outweighs Uncertainty.” ECFA will continue to monitor church and ministry finances during the pandemic, with a new report every quarter for the next year.

David Roach is a writer in Nashville.
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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