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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019  (Read 246 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« on: November 02, 2019, 10:00:01 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/november/11-places-where-persecuted-christians-need-our-prayers.html





11 Places Where Persecuted Christians Need Our Prayers




The International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church draw attention to China and other countries where Christian minorities have suffered blows over the past year.


As Christians prepare for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 3 and 10, advocates have increasingly turned their attention to China.

Christian persecution is not new in China, but it is growing. According to Open Doors—which ranked the country 27th on its 2019 World Watch List, a 16-spot jump from 2018—Chinese authorities are removing young people from church, monitoring worship via CCTV, and prohibiting teachers and medical workers from maintaining any religious affiliation.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors, told CT that many Americans see China as a global superpower, but don’t recognize the extent of the restrictions by the Communist government . “Right now, in 2019, Christians are walking into churches where there are signs posted at the door that say ‘No Children Allowed,’ and where they are being video taped as they worship,” he said.”

Church closings, arrests, surveillance, a crippling rating system, and church demolitions are part of life for China’s 97 million Christians. In October video emerged showing a wrecking ball demolishing a church during a worship service. ChinaAid reports that authorities later detained the pastors.

Todd Nettleton, host of Voice of the Martyrs’ VOM Radio, says that while unregistered house churches have endured persecution for years, the church in the October video was a registered church, marking a new wave of religious oppression.

Over 245 million Christians live in the 50 countries ranked on the World Watch List as worst for Christians. Between November 2017 and October 2018, 4,136 Christians were killed for their faith in these countries, over 1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked, and 2,625 believers were detained, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned — many of them without a trial.

Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, International Christian Concern, and other organizations have provided information, prayers, and an app to help believers pray for and connect with the persecuted church for the days of prayer held each year in November. New in 2019, Open Doors has recorded videos of 20 evangelical leaders praying for Christians around the world (a couple appear in the list below).

Nettleton said Christians can head the exhortation of Hebrews 13:3 and “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” For those suffering due to their faith, “this is a significant encouragement to the persecuted parts of our family because they know they are being prayed for.”

Besides China, here are 10 more places where religious persecution made headlines in 2019:

1. Algeria

Over the past two years, the Algerian government has closed 14 of the country’s 50 churches, including the 700-member Church of the Full Gospel in Tizi-Ouzou, the largest Protestant church in the North African country. Algeria ranks 22nd on the World Watch List. Though Algeria’s blasphemy laws make it difficult for Christians to share their faith, most of the new believers in the country come from a Muslim background, according to Open Doors.

2. Egypt
While Christians in Egypt have had more security under Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including the approval of 168 new churches at the end of 2018, they still experience persecution in the majority Muslim country. Islam is the religion of the state—Christians make up 8%–10% percent of Egypt’s nearly 100 million people—and its Shari'ah law is the main source of legislation. According to the State Department’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom, persecution has increased in Egypt. This year, Morning Star News chronicled several troubling events so far this year, including mobs converging on churches to harass Christians, threats, and arrests.

3. Eritrea
In Eritrea, the small East African nation that borders the Red Sea, more than 150 Christians were arrested this year. Christian detainees often are held in harsh conditions, without ever being formally charged with crimes. “People just get arrested, disappear into the prison system, and sometimes released, sometimes stay in for years,” Nettleton said. In August pro-government bishops expelled Abune Antonios, patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Eritrean gospel singer and torture survivor Helen Berhane met with President Trump in July to highlight the plight of Christians in the country.

4. India
Open Doors has a special prayer focus on India for the 2019 International Day of Prayer. International Christian Concern reports that on October 5 three American pastors were detained by Indian customs agents after they told officials that they were Christians. The government continues to restrict the involvement of Christian NGOs and charities, strengthening anti-conversion laws, and local believers have continued to endure attacks from Hindu extremists. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that mobs go after non-Hindus based on false accusations of conversion or cow slaughtering, and local governments often fail to prosecute the attackers.

5. Iran
The 800,000 Iranian Christians face intense persecution in a country where converting from Islam is illegal. Last month, Open Doors reported that nine Iranian Christians were sentenced to five years in prison each for “acting against national security”—a charge the state often uses to prosecute Christians for their house church activities. According to a report by Middle East Concern, Open Doors, Article18, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 29 Christians were detained in 2018, but many more detentions remain undocumented. The country has also reportedly shut down houses of worship and targeted churches that worship in Persian and could attract Muslim-born Iranians.

6. Iraq

Despite the political defeat of ISIS in Iraq, Christians still suffer persecution and the lingering effects of their culture and population being systematically destroyed by the Islamic extremists. According to Open Doors, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church remain seriously affected by persecution in Iraq, especially from Islamic extremist and government authorities. In central and southern Iraq, Christians often do not publicly display Christian symbols, such as a cross, as this can lead to harassment or discrimination.

7. North Korea
For more than a decade North Korea has topped the World Watch List of most dangerous countries for Christians. In a country where citizens are taught to worship the ruling family, Christian teaching feels particularly threatening. “[North Koreans] are taught that the Kims are divine beings, so they cannot let Christianity come and spread freely in their country because it undermines the Kim family and the government,” Nettleton said. Experts estimate that 300,000 Christians live in the country with “the most ruthless human rights record of the 21st century.”

8. Saudi Arabia
Despite its claims of religious liberty reform, and recent meetings between U.S. evangelical leaders and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most difficult countries in the world for Christians, ranking 15th on Open Doors’ World Watch List. The country bans the public practice of non-Muslim religions, and there are no churches for the country’s 1.4 million Christians. Charges of apostasy are still punishable by death, and Christian symbols or meetings of any kind are illegal. In November 2018, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo re-designated Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern for its violations of religious freedom.

9. Sri Lanka
Coordinated attacks by Muslim extremists on three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday this year killed 253 people and left 176 children without one or both parents. It is believed to be the deadliest church attack in Asia in modern history. Religious freedom advocates see the Sri Lankan attacks as a chilling example of the dangers of religious nationalism. Nearly 11 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is Christian in the majority-Buddhist country, and believers on the South Asian island experience serious persecution that continues to escalate.

10. Turkey
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sends mixed messages on religious liberty. According to World Watch Monitor, “In Turkey, Christianity is seen as a Western religion and evangelicals in particular are considered by many to have links with the USA.” The president attended the groundbreaking ceremony of a new Syriac church in Istanbul, the first new church in Turkey since 1923. At the same time, the government has systematically revoked visas for Christians. The two-year imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson has triggered increased incidents of hate speech against Turkish Protestant communities. And Syrian Christians on the Turkey-Syria border claim the Turkish government aims for their extermination.



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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2019, 10:20:20 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/aram-i-armenian-genocide-orthodox-catholicos-cilicia-turkey.html





Armenian Orthodox Leader: ‘We May Forgive One Day, But We Will Never Forget.’




Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, on what comes next after US House recognizes Armenians’ “legitimate claim” of genocide.


The Armenian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian denominations in the world. According to tradition, Armenia was evangelized by Jesus’ disciples Bartholomew and Thaddeus. In 301 A.D., it became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

An Oriental Orthodox denomination, the Armenians are in communion with the Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopian, and Malankara (India) churches. They differ with Catholics and Protestants over the 451 A.D. Council of Chalcedon decision to recognize Christ as one person with two natures: human and divine. Oriental Orthodox Christians declare Christ has one nature, both human and divine.

The Armenian Church is governed by two patriarchs, entitled Catholicos. One, Karekin II, is Supreme Patriarch for all Armenians and sits in Armenia.

CT interviewed Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, which was once located in modern-day Turkey but since the Armenian Genocide relocated to Antelias, Lebanon, five miles north of Beirut. His jurisdiction includes the Armenians of the Middle East, Europe, and North and South America.

Aram I discussed the genocide, the US House of Representatives resolution this week to finally recognize it, and Armenians’ desired response from Turkey.


How do you respond to the US resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide?

Yesterday I made a statement welcoming warmly this action taken. I believe it is very much in line with the firm commitment of the United States of America in respect to human rights. The rights of the Armenian people are being violated. After more than 100 years, we tried to bring the attention of the international community that the Armenian Genocide is a fact of history.

Whether we call it genocide or massacre or deportation, the intention is important. The intention of the Ottoman Turkish government at the time was to destroy [and] eliminate the Armenian people for political reasons. The presence of Armenian people in the western part of present-day Turkey and [historic] Cilicia was an obstacle to their project of pan-Turkism.

This is our legitimate claim: that the international community make a visible, tangible manifestation of their concern in respect to human rights, and recognize the Armenian Genocide. It was carefully planned and systematically executed by the government at the time.

Our people all around the world warmly greeted this action of the House of Representatives. It is our firm expectation that the Senate will reaffirm their decision.

To what degree are you responsible for the Armenian genocide file in your church?

I am not the only person, but I am on the forefront—a dedicated spiritual soldier of this combat, for the restoration of our human rights. This center is a victim of the genocide. My predecessor was in Cilicia, in Sis, present-day Kozan [in Turkey’s Adana province]. The Catholicosate [the Great House of Cilicia, now in Lebanon] was there for centuries. With his bishops, he was forced to leave.

The very existence of the diaspora is due to the genocide. It is an imposed reality. You saw the chapel, the relics of the genocide: Did they come from heaven? We didn’t decide to come here; the circumstances forced us.

The pursuit of our rights has been one of the top priorities in our agenda. The human rights issues are part of the mission of any church. We want to help our people continue this struggle.

For the first time, we took a legal action against Turkey. We filed a case demanding the return of our Catholicosate in Cilicia. Let’s see what will happen. What we are doing is the restoration of historical truth. Turkey has through illegal ways questioned our claim, but the historical reality and evidence is there. No one can deny that.

If Turkey really wants to establish contacts with the Armenian people and open a narrow window of opportunity to turn that page, if they have a good will, this case is their chance. So far, their reaction is negative.

What would the restoration of your legitimate rights include? How is the injustice of 100 years made correct today?

We may get different answers to that question. We must make a distinction between rhetoric and concrete reality. We should not be emotional.

The first step could be the return of the Catholicosate and the churches, monasteries, and community properties. We can limit our expectations to within the church. In politics, we have to be down to earth. Any package deal might not lead us in the right direction. We have to move step by step.

If Turkey shows “a good will,” what are the different visions of a second step?

I don’t want to anticipate anything. Nobody knows what will happen. Some of these churches have been converted into restaurants or mosques. In the last 100 years, some have been totally destroyed, some partially destroyed. But the Catholicosate can be a first step, as it has a profound symbolism—spiritual, national, and to a certain extent political. But it should not be mixed up with politics. For us, the church is the people. It is not just a piece of land.

The creation of good will is very important in international relations. But the American resolution comes at a moment of profound “bad will” between the US and Turkey. Does the resolution threaten to damage the good will necessary to restore Armenian rights, since only Turkey can grant them?

Let me answer your question in a different way. America acts according to two principles: geopolitical interests, and human rights values. Sometimes—very often—you see contradiction between the two. I understand that reconciling them is not easy.

The United States has established relations with Turkey, with Saudi Arabia. This is reality. But the role of the church is always to remind and challenge the state authority to give serious consideration to human rights values—to go beyond the narrow geopolitical interests of a country.

How does the church’s spiritual role for forgiveness and reconciliation apply in the issue between Armenians and the Turks?

Forgiveness is an essential element of our Christian faith. But forgiveness comes when there is confession. The Armenian church said, ‘We may forgive one day, but we will never forget.’

The church has a prophetic role to play. It must take a clear stand. I don’t believe in easy forgiveness, or easy reconciliation. Easy forgiveness may lead us in a wrong direction. The church must have the guts to say “no”; not always “yes” [and] not always “we forgive.”

The church’s role is one of reconciliation, but it is the result of a long process that implies accepting the truth and practicing justice. There is no real, lasting, permanent peace without justice—without accepting the truth.

The Turkish denial for 100 years of the genocide committed by their forefathers created an image of “enemy” with the Armenian people. We have a problem, and that problem is solved by the people and state accepting there was a crime committed. This is our legitimate claim.

In every “battle,” there are often others working behind the scenes to facilitate an eventual peace, even while the fight is going on. Is the Armenian church also involved in spiritual outreach to soften the hearts of the Turkish people or government, as the legal battle for rights is being waged?

The atmosphere in Turkey needs to be changed, and I see certain emerging positive signs. Some intellectuals have started referring to the genocides, using that word. And more than a million Turks have started saying openly that they have Armenian origins, and were forcefully converted to Islam. This is a new reality. They are born as Turks, but have identified their roots as Armenians. We have not yet discussed this issue—Muslim Armenians? [Laughs]. This is a new phenomenon.

I hope these signs increase day-by-day, and the people will come to realize that something very bad has happened against the Armenians. Erdogan, from time to time, refers to that. I hope he goes further, and says it was a crime, carefully planned and executed by the government at the time.

On the level of states, reconciliation is easier. They tried to open borders and start diplomatic and economic relations without mentioning genocide. But on the level of nations [peoples], I think it is very difficult.

The genocide is deeply rooted in our common consciousness. You cannot uproot it. You cannot solve this problem around the table, by coming to dialogue. The atmosphere must change.

Five years ago, I invited the first Turkish intellectual to write a book on the Armenian Genocide to come here. I told him, “My predecessors will anathematize me if they see from heaven that a Turk has come here. But they will see you in a different way.”

My telephone rang: It was my father, who heard I had invited a Turk to come here. When he gets angry, he starts talking in Turkish, because he was born in Turkey. He started criticizing Turkey with harsh words, and the author was sitting next to me.

“How have you accepted a Turk here in our church?” he said.

I said to the author, “I’m sorry for this.”

He said, “No, this is the old generation, how they react.”

I told the author, “The new generation in Turkey should change this atmosphere of animosity, by taking certain concrete steps. And one of these steps could be the return of Armenian churches and monasteries.”

This does not have to be a political action. It can be an act of good will in accordance with international law and human rights.

The European Court of Human Rights has said that churches and monasteries need to be returned to their legitimate owners. We’re expecting this. Let’s see.






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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2019, 03:35:54 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/november/effective-leadership-is-dynamic-and-empowered-leadership.html






Effective Leadership Is Dynamic and Empowering



Bill Gates thinks successful leaders will be those who empower others. I believe that this applies to church leadership as well.


Years ago, I served a short stint as a church planting professor and ended up being a church revitalization pastor.

I was young, but still had a few years of church planting experience and was ready to dedicate my time to teaching others how to do the same. During my time there, however, I got a call from an established church, asking me to be their interim pastor. Not ready or able to dedicate myself to serving as their full pastor, and learning that their church was looking for someone to revitalize what had become a dying congregation, I stepped into a role as a transitional teaching pastor.

Essentially, I was walking alongside 35 (mainly senior adult) people helping them consider how to bring their church back to life. Their church used to have over 200 members, but it had dwindled down and they were open (and even ready) for change.

The bigger issue, however, was that their church had been declining for a long period of time, which meant that it could take an even longer period of time to bring it back to life. We had to really analyze what had been going on in the church, identify areas of potential change, and find ways to actively change the habits and routines of the church.

It quickly became the hardest job I’d ever had— harder than church planting, I think. In a humorous way, this made sense, of course: It’s always easier to birth something than to bring it back from the dead.

The reason that it was such a challenging job was because it required consistent and effective leadership. We had a good portion of the church people committed to being leaders, and we quickly formed smaller leadership groups that were assigned different tasks, all with the goal of revitalizing the church. The process of determining what we wanted the church to look like and how we would get there, of course, first required that we define leadership.

Leadership is a dynamic process

Robert Clinton wrote in a book on leadership saying that it is a constantly-changing, ever-evolving process. He says that leadership requires a man or woman to use their God-given capacities to influence a specific group of God’s people towards God’s purpose for the group.

Clinton’s definition is abundantly clear.

In the case of my church revitalization opportunity, our leadership experience constantly evolved based on the focus of the group on any given week. One week we may have focused on revamping our services, another week may have been dedicated to analyzing our mission work outside of the church.

Because the work we were doing was constantly evolving, our leadership evolved as well. Different people used different skills. All of this was done, of course, with the intention of revitalizing the church according to God’s will.

God’s will was the most important part of revitalization.

In Bible times, when people needed guidance from God, an apostle or prophet would be the one to deliver it. People heard from the Holy Spirit and came back, eagerly telling their people, “I’ve heard from him. This is what we’re going to do.” But, although we may not function and receive direction in the same way, I believe that receiving direction from the Holy Spirit still happens and should still be valued, but the act of receiving that word is often more collaborative today.

Today, it feels more like a process. It is not a one-and-done incident. Instead, understanding God’s will for a group is a more drawn-out experience, filled with active prayer and reflection that eventually leads towards discernment. And this is okay; this is all simply a part of the dynamic process of leadership.

Direction from the Lord

Once we decided which direction to take the church, we were able to revitalize it over the span of many months. We took steps together because we took the time to hear from the Lord together. One of the biggest keys to making sure the church was able to become strong again was the importance we placed on leadership within the church.

Leadership is about empowering people to take action together. 2 Timothy 2:2 comes to mind here: “These things you’ve heard from me in the presence of faithful men, teach others also to be able to teach others also.” It’s about empowering other.

So many leadership principles have remained the same for years, but whether planting a church, revitalizing a church, or simply serving those in your church community, I believe that empowering others in Christ will always be the biggest aspect of effective leadership within the church.





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






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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2019, 03:47:20 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/motherhood-mom-rage-understandable-but-not-excusable.html






My ‘Mom Rage’ Is Understandable. But It’s Not Excusable.




In my fury, I’m invited to repent and be restored at the foot of the cross.


I am the mom who tries to have it all. I work a full-time job from home with two kids ages two and under. As a result, my life is very tightly wound. One sleepless night, one cancellation from the nanny, or one last minute trip to the doctor can collapse my carefully crafted plans and provoke me to anger.

Recently, I’ve found myself in a protracted battle with my youngest daughter over breastfeeding. When she arches her back and refuses to comply with my feeding plans, rage courses through my veins.

Yesterday, I looked into her eyes and said the words, “Shut up.” I was tired of her whining and constant grunting in dissatisfaction, so in a moment of desperation, I uttered words that I could never have imagined saying to a baby. I didn’t even know I was going to say them until they came out of my mouth. Then in sheer terror I remembered: “Out of the heart speaks the mouth” (Matt. 12:34), and “whoever hates his brother in his heart commits murder” (1 John 3:15).

These days, a lot of mothers (and fathers) struggle with anger. Various Facebook groups for moms—including those I’m part of—often discuss strategies for dealing with “mom rage.” Major magazine publications, too, are giving voice to women’s experiences of rage. They’re providing space for vulnerable and brave conversations and stories of women who struggle in their relationships with their kids.

Though it’s largely assumed that mothers have natural, self-giving love for their children (and we do), being a mom does not preclude real, powerful darkness from growing in our hearts. As Minna Dubin shared recently in The New York Times, “Mother rage can change you, providing access to parts of yourself you didn’t even know you had.”

As a Christian, I see my anger through the framework of brokenness that sin brings to my life. In other words: The Bible speaks directly to my parental anger.

The first time I realized I had committed biblically defined murder against my child was only a few days after we arrived home from the hospital with my oldest. After yet another sleepless night, I looked down into my daughter’s crib and wept with the knowledge that not only was my love for her limited, but evil lurked in my heart.

Even now, I am most guilty of hating her when she is most in need of me, a sad and heartbreaking reminder that the strong do not naturally look out for the best interests of the weak. When my child has sleepless nights, needs extra time in my arms, seems incapable of adapting to my schedule, or feels sick, those are the times I am most likely to rage against her. Those are the times I am most likely to believe that my needs—the needs of someone stronger, older, wiser, and healthier—are more important than hers.

What’s the solution, then? Dubin claims that “couples therapy, individualized therapy, life coaching, [and] anger management for mothers” have helped her, along with exercise, art-making and healthy food. “In toolbox lingo: These things fill up my patience cup.” She also studies emotional intelligence as a helpful tool for understanding her rage and others’. “Repeated aggravations,” she writes, “can dramatically increase anger, so that by the third or fourth rage trigger, the person is reacting on a level 10 in response to a misplaced key or a dropped spoon.”

Dubin is right: We have to understand parental anger as a psychological and interpersonal phenomenon. But that isn’t enough. As believers, we find freedom in repentance.

First, repentance enables us to see ourselves as we truly are—sinners in need of a savior. It’s directional; it moves us away from sin and toward Christ. Paul writes, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinth. 7:10). And Peter urges, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Second, repentance moves us toward reconciliation with the one we’ve offended. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul encourages us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

But how do you apologize to a baby? I’ve come to realize that by the time my daughter is old enough for me to look into her eyes and say “I’m sorry” in any meaningful way, the pile of sins will already be too high and too deep for me to atone for. There is already a backlog of incommunicable reconciliation that needs to happen between us.

As a mother, the guilt I feel over this backlog is crushing. As a Christian, however, it drives me to rest in this gospel reality: The countless acts of rage and “murder” that I’ve already carried out against my child are fully covered by Christ’s blood. Motherhood has brought this wisdom to life in painful ways. On this day and every day to come, Jesus’ blood will cover each and every aspect of my parenting until final reconciliation takes place in the new heavens and the new earth.

Finally, repentance moves me to my knees. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent,’” wrote Martin Luther, “he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Constant repentance requires constant prayer, so as my daughter gets older and finds new ways to challenge me, I often find myself praying these words: “God, save my child from myself! Do not let her suffer the consequences of my sin, of my hard heartedness. Love her more than I can dare to hope to love her. Speak softly to her soul. Love her first so that she might love you. Shield her from who I am, from my brokenness. Be tender to her in ways I fail to be.”

Ultimately, in seeking to reconcile with my nonverbal daughter, I must first reconcile with the Lord. My sins against my daughter are offenses against God. He created her, imbued her with dignity and beauty, and understands the pleas of her heart when I cannot or will not. In the midst of my anger and guilt, my only hope is in Christ, who covers my shame with his blood.







Hannah Nation is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and temporarily living in the Netherlands. She received her MA in church history from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and serves as the communications and content director for China Partnership.









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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2019, 07:39:25 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/motherhood-mom-rage-understandable-but-not-excusable.html






My ‘Mom Rage’ Is Understandable. But It’s Not Excusable.




In my fury, I’m invited to repent and be restored at the foot of the cross.


I am the mom who tries to have it all. I work a full-time job from home with two kids ages two and under. As a result, my life is very tightly wound. One sleepless night, one cancellation from the nanny, or one last minute trip to the doctor can collapse my carefully crafted plans and provoke me to anger.

Recently, I’ve found myself in a protracted battle with my youngest daughter over breastfeeding. When she arches her back and refuses to comply with my feeding plans, rage courses through my veins.

Yesterday, I looked into her eyes and said the words, “Shut up.” I was tired of her whining and constant grunting in dissatisfaction, so in a moment of desperation, I uttered words that I could never have imagined saying to a baby. I didn’t even know I was going to say them until they came out of my mouth. Then in sheer terror I remembered: “Out of the heart speaks the mouth” (Matt. 12:34), and “whoever hates his brother in his heart commits murder” (1 John 3:15).

These days, a lot of mothers (and fathers) struggle with anger. Various Facebook groups for moms—including those I’m part of—often discuss strategies for dealing with “mom rage.” Major magazine publications, too, are giving voice to women’s experiences of rage. They’re providing space for vulnerable and brave conversations and stories of women who struggle in their relationships with their kids.

Though it’s largely assumed that mothers have natural, self-giving love for their children (and we do), being a mom does not preclude real, powerful darkness from growing in our hearts. As Minna Dubin shared recently in The New York Times, “Mother rage can change you, providing access to parts of yourself you didn’t even know you had.”

As a Christian, I see my anger through the framework of brokenness that sin brings to my life. In other words: The Bible speaks directly to my parental anger.

The first time I realized I had committed biblically defined murder against my child was only a few days after we arrived home from the hospital with my oldest. After yet another sleepless night, I looked down into my daughter’s crib and wept with the knowledge that not only was my love for her limited, but evil lurked in my heart.

Even now, I am most guilty of hating her when she is most in need of me, a sad and heartbreaking reminder that the strong do not naturally look out for the best interests of the weak. When my child has sleepless nights, needs extra time in my arms, seems incapable of adapting to my schedule, or feels sick, those are the times I am most likely to rage against her. Those are the times I am most likely to believe that my needs—the needs of someone stronger, older, wiser, and healthier—are more important than hers.

What’s the solution, then? Dubin claims that “couples therapy, individualized therapy, life coaching, [and] anger management for mothers” have helped her, along with exercise, art-making and healthy food. “In toolbox lingo: These things fill up my patience cup.” She also studies emotional intelligence as a helpful tool for understanding her rage and others’. “Repeated aggravations,” she writes, “can dramatically increase anger, so that by the third or fourth rage trigger, the person is reacting on a level 10 in response to a misplaced key or a dropped spoon.”

Dubin is right: We have to understand parental anger as a psychological and interpersonal phenomenon. But that isn’t enough. As believers, we find freedom in repentance.

First, repentance enables us to see ourselves as we truly are—sinners in need of a savior. It’s directional; it moves us away from sin and toward Christ. Paul writes, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinth. 7:10). And Peter urges, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Second, repentance moves us toward reconciliation with the one we’ve offended. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul encourages us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

But how do you apologize to a baby? I’ve come to realize that by the time my daughter is old enough for me to look into her eyes and say “I’m sorry” in any meaningful way, the pile of sins will already be too high and too deep for me to atone for. There is already a backlog of incommunicable reconciliation that needs to happen between us.

As a mother, the guilt I feel over this backlog is crushing. As a Christian, however, it drives me to rest in this gospel reality: The countless acts of rage and “murder” that I’ve already carried out against my child are fully covered by Christ’s blood. Motherhood has brought this wisdom to life in painful ways. On this day and every day to come, Jesus’ blood will cover each and every aspect of my parenting until final reconciliation takes place in the new heavens and the new earth.

Finally, repentance moves me to my knees. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent,’” wrote Martin Luther, “he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Constant repentance requires constant prayer, so as my daughter gets older and finds new ways to challenge me, I often find myself praying these words: “God, save my child from myself! Do not let her suffer the consequences of my sin, of my hard heartedness. Love her more than I can dare to hope to love her. Speak softly to her soul. Love her first so that she might love you. Shield her from who I am, from my brokenness. Be tender to her in ways I fail to be.”

Ultimately, in seeking to reconcile with my nonverbal daughter, I must first reconcile with the Lord. My sins against my daughter are offenses against God. He created her, imbued her with dignity and beauty, and understands the pleas of her heart when I cannot or will not. In the midst of my anger and guilt, my only hope is in Christ, who covers my shame with his blood.







Hannah Nation is a writer and editor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and temporarily living in the Netherlands. She received her MA in church history from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and serves as the communications and content director for China Partnership.









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

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

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2019, 04:46:08 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/november/motivation-of-transformation.html






The Motivation of Transformation






Personal transformation had powerful missionary implications.


Before and after pictures are compelling. In a glimpse they communicate that something—often someone’s life—has changed.

Lost in all of the talk about evangelism and mission is the fact that, far too often, it’s been a long time since many people have actually seen God’s Spirit transform someone’s life. Yes, they’ve likely heard the stories.

They are familiar with the pastor’s clever tales about salvation and life transformation, but these stories are often about people and places they’ve never met and haven’t seen first-hand. Some of these individuals can recount their own personal story of transformation, but even these stories have accumulated dust over the years.

Many in the church haven’t had a front-row seat to observe God orchestrate powerful acts of deliverance and change.

Over time, a lack of visible transformation fosters a certain predictable apathy. We know that God can save. We know that he does bring freedom from sin. We’re aware of the hope found in Jesus.

Yet, like a certain diet or exercise regimen, mere affirmation of potency does nothing if not matched by actual practice. We may know in theory, that something, or someone, is transformative, but we all need personal examples of that change to continue to inspire our actions.

We read these stories in the journey of Israel to the promised land.

Time and again, each of the 12 tribes are mentioned, the various land allocations described, and the people accounted for. God’s deliverance wasn’t for a vague powerful group, but real-life people who experienced the power of God in a personal way.

When Moses testifies that the Israelites were cared for the in the wilderness, that they were fed miraculously by God, that their clothes didn’t wear out, and that they learned humility and dependence on God (Deut. 4-8), he’s speaking of actual people who were transformed by God’s work in their life specifically.

When the tribes settle in the land, it’s as if God is saying, “Yep, I got them too.” God saves people and he saves people who other saved people know.

The same personal transformation colors Jesus’ earthly ministry. You can imagine the friends of the woman with the issue of blood, the Demoniac, or the notorious woman at the well. Each met Jesus and everything changed.

Those who encountered a once-demon-possessed man now clothed and sitting in his right mind were surely stunned at the transformation. The promiscuous woman now begged her friends to meet this man, not one in the long line of immoral men in her life, but one who loved her enough to give her grace and truth.

Personal transformation had powerful missionary implications.

That’s seemingly what the act of baptism is meant to signify. By publicly proclaiming the Lord’s death and victorious resurrection, baptism provides a vivid picture that God’s saving mission continues to move forward. Those who enter the water do so testifying to their need for Jesus and his loving pursuit and power on display in their individual life.

Then, in the days and weeks that follow, those baptism testify to being raised to walk in newness of life by offering their lives as acts of worship—holy, acceptable, and pleasing to God. Those in their lives—family, friends, their local church, can eavesdrop on the transformation that God brings to even the most broken in this life.

Perhaps this is another compelling reason to grieve the languishing baptism numbers in many of our churches. These churches are missing out on stories of transformation. They’re having to hear of God’s saving activity by reading books, listening to podcasts, or scrolling through social media. Or, even worse, some are not even hearing these stories.

So what should we do? Here are a few quick suggestions:

Pray for transformation. If there are not any stories right now, ask God to send a fresh move of his Spirit and produce transformation somewhere in the congregation.
Expect God to answer. As you pray, believe that God longs to transform and save. Live with a unique attentiveness to what he is doing.
Celebrate even the smallest signs of change. Find ways to highlight the work of God among his people. This might not mean a story of whole-life transformation at the start, but begin to draw people’s attention to change on any level.
Take advantage of friends. There’s nothing like personal change in the church, but second-best is celebrating the change God is bringing to people in other’s churches. Find ways to highlight stories of personal transformation through blogs, sermon illustrations, social media, and the like. Make it clear to your people that change is the expectation rather than the aberration.
Change yourself. Make it clear that change isn’t merely something you are expecting others to do, but something you are doing as well. Be careful not to make yourself the hero, but use your leadership role to demonstrate the bumbling steps you are taking to see God’s Spirit change you.
Spend time where change is happening. If you are a leader in the church, start to allocate more time to places that are moving and changing rather than unnecessary time in places that are stagnant.
Invest in change stories. When God changes someone’s life in your church, give that person a great amount of attention. Make it clear to the church that these stories of change are why you do what you do. Don’t outsource care and discipleship but make it your personal mission to invest where change is happening.
For us to move the needle on the evangelistic fervor in our people, we’ve simply got to make transformation normative. People have to see the power of God on display in bringing genuine change to their family, friends, coworkers, and classmates.

What inspires hope here is that this is just the type of work God longs to do and he’s really good at it.






Matt Rogers is a pastor at The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, South Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Southeastern and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2019, 09:32:27 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/what-would-jesus-ask-inspired-questions.html





What Would Jesus Ask?





Asking ourselves questions found in the Bible can transform our spiritual life.


Have you ever been around a child who did not stop asking questions? Do you recall doing the same thing when you were young?

Even as adults, much of our day is still spent asking others for information—soliciting feedback on a project, for example, or requesting status updates on an event. We probably spend even more time each week with those closest to us enquiring about work, school, marriage, parenting, leadership, time management, and the direction of our lives. But have you ever paused to consider asking inspired questions?

What are Inspired Questions?


Inspired questions are the ones found in the inspired Word of God—the Holy Scriptures. They help us sense the presence of God in our life and empower us to become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s moving. They reveal our hearts in ways other questions cannot. They help us discern God’s calling on our lives. They drive us deeper into our own reading of the Holy Scriptures. They are a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking key information in the Bible. They persuade us toward a godly direction. Indeed, they are for everyone who lives on this planet for the simple fact that God’s Word is for everyone. The fact that the Spirit inspired them means we are meant to ask and consider them as well.

Yet in the age of secular counseling, and now question-centered therapy, inspired questions have largely been set aside. Even though they are among the most effective and time-tested ways to help us diagnose our spiritual condition, strengthen our walks with God, and foster our journey with others, many Christians don’t understand what they mean for our spiritual growth. Maybe now is the time to notice and note the question-driven nature of the Bible. Perhaps we should start allowing God to lead us in the question asking.

Four Ways to Utilize Inspired Questions
A substantial portion of our Bible is questions, and asking questions was a primary teaching method of Jesus. To put this in perspective, the Book of Proverbs has approximately 930 sayings, while the New Testament alone contains about 980 questions. That means, you could ask yourself a new question from Scripture every day for the next two and a half years and never see the exact same one—even if you limited yourself to just the questions in the New Testament.

Now it is important to note upfront that we must understand each inspired question in its inspired context. Otherwise, we might mistakenly give a generic answer to what looks like a generic question. For instance, in Mark 10:3, when Jesus says, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus isn’t asking the religious leaders to think about any or all of Moses’ commands, but specifically about his command concerning divorce. Therefore, we shouldn’t ask this inspired question and then meditate on God’s law against coveting, even if that would be spiritually beneficial to do.

A second issue we might face is giving a completely wrong meaning to a text because we didn’t look at the inspired question in context. For example, in Matthew 6:25, Jesus asks, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” It would be possible for someone to get the idea that God was unconcerned about what we eat and what we wear. But just the opposite is true. Our heavenly Father is intimately concerned about these things. The point of the question is that we are often more concerned about material things than we are about the kingdom of heaven and whether we are living righteous lives. God still wants us to have food and clothing, but living in a world that preoccupies itself with them can easily rub off on us, even to the point of addiction.

For some of us, wrestling with the question in its context comes as no surprise. For others, this careful reading might require you to ask a more mature believer for prayer and guidance. You may need to reach out to a local pastor, or grab a reliable commentary or devotional, for assistance. The good news is that help is available, and learning how to study, interpret, and apply the Bible becomes easier over time as you do it both individually and communally.

With that in mind, here are four ways to utilize inspired questions for the sake of your spiritual formation and the spiritual formation of your community.

1. Start with yourself.
Pause for a moment and remember that someone in the Scriptures heard each question you read in the Scriptures. Many of the questions were ones Jesus himself heard or asked. Now you—the 21st century listener—can hear the same ones when you encounter them during your time alone with God.

Start by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and listen to the questions they heard or asked. Imagine what it was like for some people in Simon the leper’s house to hear Jesus ask them, “Why do you trouble her?” (Mark 14:6). Or think about what it would have been like for Peter, who just openly denied being one of Jesus’s disciples, to hear the resurrected Jesus ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:17).

Then direct the questions to yourself like the godly saints in Scripture did. Consider this question that the Psalmist asked himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5). Or recall how each disciple, “one after another,” asked this question after hearing that someone would betray Jesus, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19). They did not start by looking around, pointing fingers, or questioning others. They first examined themselves with a question that you too would do well to use for your own spiritual growth.

Don’t be afraid to ask the exact same questions that the people in Scripture did. When Habakkuk was struggling with his surrounding circumstances, wondering why so much evil was going on around him, he cried out to God with questions. He spent time alone with God, asking questions that are now included in the inspired Word of God for your use and instruction (Rom 15:4).

2. Enjoy them with friends and family.
Whether it is with your parents, roommates, siblings, friends, or kids, discuss inspired questions as part of your daily conversations, mealtime fellowship, or family worship. Put a handful of them into a bowl or jar, for example, and then over the meal discuss the question someone picks.

The good news is that you don’t need to make up your own questions. You don’t need to be creative here. Simply allow God’s Word to lead in the question-asking. Let the inspired questions be the icebreakers. Let them become the launching pad into the type of conversations that leave your souls most satisfied.

Indeed, the best questions are inspired questions. Their home is already the Bible, where they are nurtured. They move us from being passive observers to being active participants. And Bible questions point us to Bible answers.

3. Discuss them with your church community.
Inspired questions unite Christians across congregational and denominational lines. No matter where you live, or what church community you plug into, all Christians have the same inspired questions. Therefore, consider adopting a new approach to your small group discussions where you ask and answer a handful of inspired questions each week. Perhaps select a character or book in the Bible, and chronologically engage each question that surfaces. What a great way to foster dialogue within your group, develop life-on-life learning, and help each person find their place in the bigger story of God’s Word.

When you do this, the payoff is great. Questions draw us out of our comfort zones. They remind us of our dependence on God and each other. And despite our differences, inspired questions connect us with other believers and remind us that we are one in Christ. Listen afresh to the questions Paul asked the Corinthian church: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?

Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).

As individualistic as we are, and as isolated as we’re becoming, we need to seize upon more occasions and opportunities to come together, ask and answer questions, and grow as communities. Discussing inspired questions communally is yet another way to foster community connections and grow together into Christlikeness.

4. Use them to engage your surrounding culture.
From his youth, Jesus spent time asking people questions (Luke 2:46). He engaged lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other leaders with questions (Matt 22:41). His followers did the same. In the Book of Acts, for instance, Philip engaged an Ethiopian eunuch with a question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (8:30). The eunuch immediately replied with yet another question, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (8:31).

Using such inspired questions is an effective but neglected way to engage your surrounding culture. The same questions that Jesus and the early church used to engage their surrounding culture you can still use to engage yours. You have the opportunity (indeed, privilege!) to use them to point others to Christ—in whom is the fullness of all wisdom and knowledge. Their quest for understanding—just like yours—can only be found in him alone.

Perhaps start by picking one or two questions in the Scriptures that nonbelievers asked, and then ask a nonbeliever you know if they have ever considered the same one. For instance, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Imagine giving your surrounding culture the opportunity to ask you the same question because you engaged them with it via the Scriptures. Even if they do not believe the Bible to be true, they can at least understand that it is part of our common literary heritage, like Plato and Aristotle.

Change Your Questions, Change Your Spiritual Life
Using inspired questions as a tool for spiritual formation is both spiritually forming and informing. They facilitate a deeper engagement with God’s Word. They aid us in better understanding and more effectively living out the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. They help us recognize God’s work in others and us. They keep us missionally minded.

Through both personal experience and pastoral counseling, I can testify that asking inspired questions has radically changed my life and ministry. My marriage has been positively impacted because of them, such as the ones posed in James 4:1: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” My counseling benefited from questions like Luke 12:25: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Indeed, there are many others: witnessing and missions via Romans 10:14; communion via 1 Corinthians 10:16; and parenting via Hebrews 12:7.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all asked questions, as did Jesus, his apostles, and their disciples. Perhaps now is the time for you to consider using the same ones for your spiritual growth, as well as the benefit of those around you.

Any questions?





Brian J. Wright is a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and teaches for several universities and seminaries as an adjunct professor. His latest book is a 365-day devotional, Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament (Christian Focus, 2019).







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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2019, 04:47:25 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/what-would-jesus-ask-inspired-questions.html





What Would Jesus Ask?





Asking ourselves questions found in the Bible can transform our spiritual life.


Have you ever been around a child who did not stop asking questions? Do you recall doing the same thing when you were young?

Even as adults, much of our day is still spent asking others for information—soliciting feedback on a project, for example, or requesting status updates on an event. We probably spend even more time each week with those closest to us enquiring about work, school, marriage, parenting, leadership, time management, and the direction of our lives. But have you ever paused to consider asking inspired questions?

What are Inspired Questions?


Inspired questions are the ones found in the inspired Word of God—the Holy Scriptures. They help us sense the presence of God in our life and empower us to become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s moving. They reveal our hearts in ways other questions cannot. They help us discern God’s calling on our lives. They drive us deeper into our own reading of the Holy Scriptures. They are a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking key information in the Bible. They persuade us toward a godly direction. Indeed, they are for everyone who lives on this planet for the simple fact that God’s Word is for everyone. The fact that the Spirit inspired them means we are meant to ask and consider them as well.

Yet in the age of secular counseling, and now question-centered therapy, inspired questions have largely been set aside. Even though they are among the most effective and time-tested ways to help us diagnose our spiritual condition, strengthen our walks with God, and foster our journey with others, many Christians don’t understand what they mean for our spiritual growth. Maybe now is the time to notice and note the question-driven nature of the Bible. Perhaps we should start allowing God to lead us in the question asking.

Four Ways to Utilize Inspired Questions
A substantial portion of our Bible is questions, and asking questions was a primary teaching method of Jesus. To put this in perspective, the Book of Proverbs has approximately 930 sayings, while the New Testament alone contains about 980 questions. That means, you could ask yourself a new question from Scripture every day for the next two and a half years and never see the exact same one—even if you limited yourself to just the questions in the New Testament.

Now it is important to note upfront that we must understand each inspired question in its inspired context. Otherwise, we might mistakenly give a generic answer to what looks like a generic question. For instance, in Mark 10:3, when Jesus says, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus isn’t asking the religious leaders to think about any or all of Moses’ commands, but specifically about his command concerning divorce. Therefore, we shouldn’t ask this inspired question and then meditate on God’s law against coveting, even if that would be spiritually beneficial to do.

A second issue we might face is giving a completely wrong meaning to a text because we didn’t look at the inspired question in context. For example, in Matthew 6:25, Jesus asks, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” It would be possible for someone to get the idea that God was unconcerned about what we eat and what we wear. But just the opposite is true. Our heavenly Father is intimately concerned about these things. The point of the question is that we are often more concerned about material things than we are about the kingdom of heaven and whether we are living righteous lives. God still wants us to have food and clothing, but living in a world that preoccupies itself with them can easily rub off on us, even to the point of addiction.

For some of us, wrestling with the question in its context comes as no surprise. For others, this careful reading might require you to ask a more mature believer for prayer and guidance. You may need to reach out to a local pastor, or grab a reliable commentary or devotional, for assistance. The good news is that help is available, and learning how to study, interpret, and apply the Bible becomes easier over time as you do it both individually and communally.

With that in mind, here are four ways to utilize inspired questions for the sake of your spiritual formation and the spiritual formation of your community.

1. Start with yourself.
Pause for a moment and remember that someone in the Scriptures heard each question you read in the Scriptures. Many of the questions were ones Jesus himself heard or asked. Now you—the 21st century listener—can hear the same ones when you encounter them during your time alone with God.

Start by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and listen to the questions they heard or asked. Imagine what it was like for some people in Simon the leper’s house to hear Jesus ask them, “Why do you trouble her?” (Mark 14:6). Or think about what it would have been like for Peter, who just openly denied being one of Jesus’s disciples, to hear the resurrected Jesus ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:17).

Then direct the questions to yourself like the godly saints in Scripture did. Consider this question that the Psalmist asked himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42:5). Or recall how each disciple, “one after another,” asked this question after hearing that someone would betray Jesus, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19). They did not start by looking around, pointing fingers, or questioning others. They first examined themselves with a question that you too would do well to use for your own spiritual growth.

Don’t be afraid to ask the exact same questions that the people in Scripture did. When Habakkuk was struggling with his surrounding circumstances, wondering why so much evil was going on around him, he cried out to God with questions. He spent time alone with God, asking questions that are now included in the inspired Word of God for your use and instruction (Rom 15:4).

2. Enjoy them with friends and family.
Whether it is with your parents, roommates, siblings, friends, or kids, discuss inspired questions as part of your daily conversations, mealtime fellowship, or family worship. Put a handful of them into a bowl or jar, for example, and then over the meal discuss the question someone picks.

The good news is that you don’t need to make up your own questions. You don’t need to be creative here. Simply allow God’s Word to lead in the question-asking. Let the inspired questions be the icebreakers. Let them become the launching pad into the type of conversations that leave your souls most satisfied.

Indeed, the best questions are inspired questions. Their home is already the Bible, where they are nurtured. They move us from being passive observers to being active participants. And Bible questions point us to Bible answers.

3. Discuss them with your church community.
Inspired questions unite Christians across congregational and denominational lines. No matter where you live, or what church community you plug into, all Christians have the same inspired questions. Therefore, consider adopting a new approach to your small group discussions where you ask and answer a handful of inspired questions each week. Perhaps select a character or book in the Bible, and chronologically engage each question that surfaces. What a great way to foster dialogue within your group, develop life-on-life learning, and help each person find their place in the bigger story of God’s Word.

When you do this, the payoff is great. Questions draw us out of our comfort zones. They remind us of our dependence on God and each other. And despite our differences, inspired questions connect us with other believers and remind us that we are one in Christ. Listen afresh to the questions Paul asked the Corinthian church: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?

Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).

As individualistic as we are, and as isolated as we’re becoming, we need to seize upon more occasions and opportunities to come together, ask and answer questions, and grow as communities. Discussing inspired questions communally is yet another way to foster community connections and grow together into Christlikeness.

4. Use them to engage your surrounding culture.
From his youth, Jesus spent time asking people questions (Luke 2:46). He engaged lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other leaders with questions (Matt 22:41). His followers did the same. In the Book of Acts, for instance, Philip engaged an Ethiopian eunuch with a question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (8:30). The eunuch immediately replied with yet another question, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (8:31).

Using such inspired questions is an effective but neglected way to engage your surrounding culture. The same questions that Jesus and the early church used to engage their surrounding culture you can still use to engage yours. You have the opportunity (indeed, privilege!) to use them to point others to Christ—in whom is the fullness of all wisdom and knowledge. Their quest for understanding—just like yours—can only be found in him alone.

Perhaps start by picking one or two questions in the Scriptures that nonbelievers asked, and then ask a nonbeliever you know if they have ever considered the same one. For instance, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Imagine giving your surrounding culture the opportunity to ask you the same question because you engaged them with it via the Scriptures. Even if they do not believe the Bible to be true, they can at least understand that it is part of our common literary heritage, like Plato and Aristotle.

Change Your Questions, Change Your Spiritual Life
Using inspired questions as a tool for spiritual formation is both spiritually forming and informing. They facilitate a deeper engagement with God’s Word. They aid us in better understanding and more effectively living out the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. They help us recognize God’s work in others and us. They keep us missionally minded.

Through both personal experience and pastoral counseling, I can testify that asking inspired questions has radically changed my life and ministry. My marriage has been positively impacted because of them, such as the ones posed in James 4:1: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” My counseling benefited from questions like Luke 12:25: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Indeed, there are many others: witnessing and missions via Romans 10:14; communion via 1 Corinthians 10:16; and parenting via Hebrews 12:7.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all asked questions, as did Jesus, his apostles, and their disciples. Perhaps now is the time for you to consider using the same ones for your spiritual growth, as well as the benefit of those around you.

Any questions?





Brian J. Wright is a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and teaches for several universities and seminaries as an adjunct professor. His latest book is a 365-day devotional, Inspired Questions: A Year’s Journey Through the New Testament (Christian Focus, 2019).







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interesting

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

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2019, 08:31:04 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/november/chick-fil-stops-christian-donations-fca-salvation-army.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29






Chick-fil-A Stops Giving to Salvation Army, FCA Amid LGBT Protests




Some evangelical supporters consider the shift away from Christian charities a betrayal.


Chick-fil-A has announced plans to end charitable giving to Christian organizations—including the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)—amid concern over LGBT backlash as the popular Christian-owned business expands beyond the US.

The strategic shift has disappointed evangelicals who admired the chain’s stance and leaders at Salvation Army, who say its outreach supports members of the LGBT population facing homelessness and poverty.

“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told the site Bisnow on Monday. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”

Chick-fil-A—the country’s third largest fast-food chain, behind McDonald’s and Starbucks—has been blocked from opening new locations in the San Antonio and Buffalo airports this year over criticism for donating to organizations with a traditional Christian view of sexuality. Previously, it has faced resistance for the same reason from politicians in Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Internationally, a shopping center in Reading, England, announced eight days into Chick-fil-A’s lease on a new location that the lease would not be renewed when it expired. The mall cited a desire to “offer an inclusive space where everyone is welcome.”

An unnamed Chick-fil-A executive told Biznow the chain was “taking it on the chin” in media reports about LGBT protests and could not ignore the threat to its growth.

Several years ago, the restaurant chain stopped giving to some organizations that oppose same-sex marriage, like the Family Research Council, but continued to support groups like FCA and Salvation Army, which are not focused on political action. Going forward, it will end multiyear commitments to both charities after donating $1.65 million to FCA and $115,000 to the Salvation Army in 2018, according to tax forms.

The Salvation Army, the Christian denomination now better known as one of the biggest charities in the US, told Christianity Today it is “saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations—areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed.”

The Salvation Army brings in $4.3 billion in revenue annually and says it does not discriminate against the LGBT community in its programs, services, and hiring. Officers in the Salvation Army, who are ordained as ministers, are asked to comply with its theological teachings on sexuality.

“We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community,” the Salvation Army stated. “In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population. When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk. We urge the public to seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment and greatly appreciate those partners and donors who ensure that anyone who needs our help feels safe and comfortable to come through our doors.”

FCA did not respond to CT’s request for comment. According to its own report, FCA brought in $141 million in 2018, but financial support from foundations like Chick-fil-A’s make up just 14 percent of its donations. The FCA asks leaders to sign a purity statement, committing to avoid homosexual activity and sex outside of marriage.

Beginning in 2020, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, will instead focus $9 million in philanthropic gifts on three initiatives: promoting education, combating youth homelessness, and reducing hunger, Chick-fil-A announced.

For years, evangelicals in particular have appreciated the Christian identity and values espoused by the popular closed-on-Sunday restaurant chain, founded by the late Truett Cathy, a faithful Baptist. In a brand study by Morning Consult, 62 percent of evangelicals said Chick-fil-A had a positive impact on their community, compared to 48 percent of Americans on average.

Conservative politician and commentator Mike Huckabee, who organized a campaign to support Chick-Fil-A amid pushback from LGBT advocates in 2012, said “Today, @Chickfila betrayed loyal customers for $$. I regret believing they would stay true to convictions of founder Truett Cathey [sic]. Sad.”

Columnist Rod Dreher wrote, “I love Chick-fil-A, but it’s going to be a while before I go there again. This is nothing but gutless surrender.” Wheaton College professor Ed Stetzer tweeted, “Biblical orthodoxy matters—and biblical orthodoxy increasingly has a cost in #America2019.”

Chick-fil-A’s new charitable focus directs funds to Junior Achievement USA, Covenant House, and local food banks. The restaurant said it will dedicate $25,000 to a local food bank at each new Chick-fil-A opening.

The chain’s mission statement, established by Cathy, is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

Tassopoulos, the current president and COO, told Bisnow that the foundation will be open to partnering with faith-based charities in the future, but that “none of the organizations have anti-LGBT positions.”

He said the shift in giving is “just the right thing to do: to be clear, caring and supportive, and do it in the community.”





David Roach is a writer in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2019, 10:46:53 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/november/hong-kong-chinese-diaspora-churches-north-america-response.html







Praying for Hong Kong Can Be Politically Disruptive—Even in America




Why Chinese diaspora churches remain silent while Christians in Hong Kong take to the streets.


On the afternoon of Sunday, August 18, about 70 people gathered for a prayer meeting at a church in Vancouver organized by the group Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace, and Justice. Their focus was the same as their three previous gatherings: to pray for the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong, for those affected, and for human rights and freedom in the city of 7.4 million people.

Before the meeting ended, the Tenth Street church building was surrounded by as many as 100 pro-China demonstrators waving Chinese and Canadian flags. The attendees inside, according to a spokesperson, feared for their safety and were escorted out by Vancouver police officers.

This confrontation took place more than 6,300 miles from Hong Kong and six months after Chief Executive Carrie Lam introduced a controversial extradition bill that would allow fugitives to be extradited into mainland China. The proposal was seen as a ploy to grant Beijing more power over the city, setting off large-scale demonstrations that have continued to this day.

While Lam canceled the extradition bill in September, unrest has continued as protesters press for Lam’s resignation, an inquiry into police brutality during the protests, the release of those arrested, and greater democratic freedoms.

The situation in Hong Kong hits close to home for the 500,000 Hong Kong immigrants residing in Canada and the more than 200,000 in the US. Many still have relatives and friends in Hong Kong, which is part of China but governed by separate laws. Others have directly benefitted from the freedoms and opportunities offered by the semi-autonomous region.

Pastor John D. L. Young grew up in Guangdong Province in mainland China, and then spent about six years studying for his doctoral degree in Hong Kong before immigrating to the US. “I have great affection for Hong Kong. My studies in Hong Kong were financially supported by churches there,” Young, who now leads two Methodist Chinese churches in the New York metropolitan area, said in a recent interview with CT. Speaking in Cantonese, he explained, “The church in Hong Kong has given me a lot of support and encouragement. They provide a lot of love and financial support to the church in China also.”

But these deep ties to Hong Kong have not been enough for Chinese churches in North America to take a public stance. Meanwhile, Christians in Hong Kong have played an active role in the protests: marching, offering food and shelter to demonstrators, and attempting to diffuse tensions with the police.

The Hong Kong Christian Council published a strongly worded statement in July, calling for the suspension of the extradition bill and an independent inquiry into police brutality. In contrast, the Chinese church in North America—numbering more than 1,000 institutions in the US alone—has been largely silent.

The choice not to publicly comment on the Hong Kong protests is an intentional one, with Chinese Christian leaders fearing repercussions from both their own congregants and external supporters of Beijing.

According to Fenggang Yang, founding director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University and author of Chinese Christians in America, the majority of Chinese churches in the diaspora have members who come from different regions of East Asia. “In most congregations, you will find people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, and southeast Asia,” Yang told CT. “Ten years ago, mainland Chinese were still a minority in many churches. Now many have a majority from the People’s Republic of China.”

Different origins among ethnic Chinese immigrants can foster different political views, with more Christians from China supporting the policies of the Chinese government, and those from elsewhere often more critical of the Chinese Communist Party. Even among Chinese immigrants from the same place, views on the situation in Hong Kong can diverge greatly depending on age, personal politics, and tolerance for civil disobedience.

“When you have very nationalistic Chinese Christians and more democratic Chinese Christians, it’s hard for them to have any meaningful conversation,” said Yang. At his own home church in Indiana, a longtime member from Taiwan offered a prayer for the situation in Hong Kong, and another member from China immediately filed a complaint with church leaders.

The simplest solution, then, among Chinese church leaders and laypeople in the diaspora, is to remain avidly apolitical. There is a hard-fought sense of unity within Chinese churches, which gather immigrants of diverse backgrounds around shared culture and ethnicity. But this unity can be easily disrupted by discussions of controversial or complex political issues.

The current situation in Hong Kong is particularly fraught, as it presses on uncomfortable questions of sovereignty, nationalism, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, civic responsibility, and personal loyalties.

“Just as Hong Kong Christians most want peace, those in the diaspora also want peace in their churches and in Hong Kong,” explains Justin Tse, a social and cultural geographer and the lead editor of Theological Reflections on the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, which covers the 2014 protests considered a precursor to today’s demonstrations.

As violence has escalated between Hong Kong protesters, opponents of the demonstrations, and the police, leading to several fatalities and serious injuries in recent weeks, prayers for peace are not inconsequential. Prayers for peace are certainly significant for the number of Hong Kong pastors who are regularly serving as front-line peacemakers in the demonstrations, trying to calm tensions and act as buffers in confrontations between protesters and police

But Tse is concerned that broad statements or prayers about peace have become a proxy for more substantive conversations.

“One of my longstanding concerns about the Chinese church is that when stuff happens that is upsetting to people in general, they don’t want to talk about it,” Tse explains. “Because they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want to learn about it. But in not talking about it, they are talking about it.”

There’s a belief among many Chinese pastors that it’s simply not their place. Chinese churches in North America have generally stayed out of partisan debates, with the notable exception of being vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.

Joseph Chun, a Hong Kong native who is now the senior pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles, said that he has his own personal views of the demonstrations in Hong Kong. “But I would not influence my people to have the same opinion I have,” he told CT. “That is not my role, to press my opinion upon my people that I am shepherding.” Instead, he focuses on teaching them biblical principles, such as what is evil and good and merciful, and lets them make up their own minds.

Several Chinese pastors in the US declined to be interviewed for this article, citing similar reasons: They don’t want to speak for their congregations; they don’t want to risk harming the unity of their community; they don’t feel like they know enough; or they haven’t discussed the Hong Kong protests at all with their churches.

Kevin Xiyi Yao, a native of mainland China who is now an associate professor of World Christianity and Asian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, understands why Chinese congregations in North America choose not to take sides on controversial political issues. But, in this case, he believes they’re missing an opportunity to address a fundamental challenge that extends beyond current events and plagues Chinese people as a whole: a strong prejudice against other Chinese based on language, culture, and geographic origin.

In the current demonstrations, “I would say there is a lot of rhetoric and mentality of parochialism and outright discrimination,” he told CT in a recent interview. Among many Hong Kong protesters, there is an overt bias against people from mainland China. Many mainland Chinese, in turn, see Hong Kongers as entitled troublemakers. Such prejudices are often brought into Chinese churches in the diaspora—but they aren’t discussed.

Addressing such biases “could be painful in the short term, but in the long term it’s good for the health of the church, to make the church stronger. If you want to cover it over to maintain the peace on the surface, then you end up with a weak church,” said Yao. As an alternative, he recommends that church leaders “talk about what reconciliation means. Let’s talk about issues of social justice. What’s the Christian vision of a just and peaceful society?”

For now, these kinds of conversations are rare among North American Chinese churches. And while church leaders fear that speaking out about Hong Kong or other hot button topics could drive out members, silence could very well have the same effect.

Tse, for example, is part of a group of second-generation Chinese Americans and Chinese Canadians who left the evangelical church after its refusal to address the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong.

As the few churches and Chinese Christian leaders who have spoken out have discovered, there are risks to being vocal. Tse knows of several congregations that support the Hong Kong protests, including his own Eastern Catholic congregation in the suburbs of Vancouver, that have been visited by strangers who photographed all the attendees and posted their images on social media. Others, like Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace, and Justice, have been harassed by pro-China demonstrators.

It’s also common for Chinese churches in the diaspora to be connected to ministries and Christian leaders in Hong Kong and China through giving, missions work, and denominational ties. They fear that if they become known as outspoken pro-democracy advocates, their partners could face harassment and oppression by Chinese authorities.

And yet refusing to engage with current events, especially when it concerns human rights and social justice, comes with its own costs, according to Tenth Church senior pastor Ken Shigematsu. “There’s a danger in being politically partisan, but there’s also a danger in not speaking out prophetically and boldly on the issues of our day,” he told CT. “And I would say that’s an even greater danger.”

Despite the incident on one of his church’s five sites back in August, Shigematsu continues to encourage prayer and dialogue about the demonstrations in Hong Kong within his multiethnic congregation. He hopes that more pastors will do the same.

“I would say that it’s important to be informed on the issues, to be praying for wisdom and discernment. But when we see human rights violated, intimidation and violence, I believe that it’s important as pastors to speak out against those kinds of injustices,” he said. “There sometimes is an overlap between justice issues and political issues. When that happens, we’re not going to shy away from the issue. We’ll sometimes wade into controversy.”
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2019, 10:53:22 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/november/planned-parenthood-suit-undercover-pro-life-cmp-daleiden-lo.html






Planned Parenthood Wins $2.2M Suit Against Pro-Life Investigators




The jury said the pro-life activists who exposed the organization’s sale of fetal parts could not use journalism as a defense.


Pro-life advocates decried an award of more than $2.2 million to Planned Parenthood in a suit involving undercover investigations that provided evidence the country’s leading abortion provider traded in the sale of baby body parts.

A federal jury in San Francisco issued the penalties last Friday against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and, among others, two investigators who secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sale of fetal parts, as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt also clandestinely recorded conversations with officials of fetal tissue procurement businesses that worked with Planned Parenthood.

The jury agreed with Planned Parenthood that the defendants were guilty of fraud, trespassing, illegal recording, racketeering and breach of contract, according to The San Francisco Examiner. It awarded Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages, about $470,000 in compensatory damages and—under a federal anti-racketeering law—triple compensatory damages of more than $1.4 million, The Examiner reported. The total was $2.28 million.

“Regardless of what any court decides, the videos of Planned Parenthood speak for themselves,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics andn Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments for Baptist Press. “They reveal an organization whose profit structure is built on violence against women and their unborn children.

“Whatever questions some may have about the legality of the recordings, we should not forget what the recordings revealed: The cruelty, dishonesty and lawlessness of Planned Parenthood.”

The National Right to Life Committee called the judgment “chilling for anyone acting in good faith to reveal what they feel is criminal activity or behavior. This judgment is a miscarriage of justice and threatens [First Amendment] rights and investigative journalism.”

Planned Parenthood was “thrilled with today’s verdict,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). “The jury recognized today that those behind the campaign broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion” in the United States.

The legal organizations representing the pro-life investigators criticized the decision and said they would appeal.

“It is as though the jury completely disregarded every piece of evidence we produced,” said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. “Not only does Planned Parenthood engage in illegal and morally repugnant practices, but its agents never bothered to tell the defendants that the conversations about things like ‘crushing above and crushing below’ to get more desirable and salable body parts were confidential.”

Peter Breen, lawyer for the Thomas More Society, said the lawsuit “is payback for Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs. His investigation into criminal activity by America’s largest abortion provider utilized standard investigative journalism techniques, those applied regularly by news outlets across the country.”

(Editor’s note: In the wake of the video clips, Planned Parenthood ended its practice of accepting payment for fetal tissue and parts, and CMP called the move an admission of guilt: “If the money Planned Parenthood has been receiving for baby body parts were truly legitimate ‘reimbursement,’ why cancel it?”)

Following the 2015 release of the first undercover videos, Daleiden, CMP’s founder, spoke at the inaugural Evangelicals for Life conference in January 2016 in Washington, D.C. The ERLC sponsors the event.

At the time, Daleiden explained his ethical approach to the clandestine operation: “I think that undercover work is fundamentally different from lying, because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth and to bring the truth to greater clarity and to communicate the truth more strongly.”

Federal Judge William Orrick, who presided over the trial, ruled journalism could not be a defense in the face of Planned Parenthood’s claims, thereby dealing a blow to the defendants’ arguments. Testimony during the six-week trial appeared to affirm statements made by Planned Parenthood officials and others on CMP’s secret videos.

Those undercover videos included evidence of the dissection of live babies outside the womb to remove organs.

Planned Parenthood centers performed more than 332,000 abortions nationwide during the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA and its affiliates received $563.8 million in government grants and reimbursements in its latest financial year.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2019, 11:00:37 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november-web-only/prayer-holy-spirit-pastors-teachers-pray-gods-presence.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29






Pastors and Teachers: First Pray for God’s Presence




The effectiveness of our theological instruction depends ultimately on the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.


I have been a professor in the theology department at Whitworth University for the past sixteen years. Most of my students think I am a good teacher. I know that because they tell me so and because they write sweet things in their course evaluations. But with every year that passes, I become more acutely aware of my weaknesses, more in touch with the ways I fail them.

Anyone who claims to have mastered the art of teaching the Christian faith is a fool. No one possesses the necessary knowledge, wisdom, eloquence, or imagination. Anyone who doesn’t find it strange that he or she should be the one to stand in front of a group of people and talk about God is either deluded or hasn’t thought very deeply about what is happening. My guess is that many teachers recognize this. We know we’re not up to the challenge, and so we wonder, “Okay, well now what?”

We’ve been given an impossible task. We want students to know God—not merely to know about God, but to know God personally. We want them to engage with Scripture, doctrine, art, history, philosophy, and plenty of other things, but knowledge of those things is not our ultimate goal—or at least it shouldn’t be. In the midst of all this, we hope our classrooms become places where students encounter the living God—places where they become contemporaneous with Christ, to use Søren Kierkegaard’s way of speaking.

According to Kierkegaard, the goal of theological study is not merely to understand but “to exist in what one understands,” and that kind of knowledge is not something teachers can engineer in their students, nor can students realize it on their own. It depends ultimately on God himself.

But if teachers are incapable of accomplishing our most basic task, of achieving our most important goal, shouldn’t that shape the way we teach? And if so, how? If Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human, if he reveals God to us and us to ourselves, if “through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” (Col. 1:20), then how should that influence the way we think about teaching the Christian faith? In other words, how do we develop a specifically Christian approach to teaching Christian theology?

The task of teaching theology falls not only to folks like me who teach in universities or seminaries but also to the countless pastors, parents, Christian educators, and study group leaders who teach the Christian faith in a wide variety of contexts. By the grace of God, we sometimes participate in the spiritual movement of disturbance, awakening, and renewal through which people come to see and embrace who they are in Christ. But we are never in control of this process. If the truth is not something a teacher possesses, the truth is not something a teacher dispenses—no matter how gifted one happens to be. God alone reveals God.

Thankfully God chooses to do so through human witnesses, but the effectiveness of our teaching depends ultimately on the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. God is the primary teacher in our classrooms: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Thus our teaching will be successful, at least in the deepest sense of that word, only when the Spirit uses it to make God known to students.

Many of us who teach Christian theology are keenly aware of the poverty of our language in comparison to the reality of God. We try our best to speak truthfully and faithfully, but our words often seem thin and unreal, they taste like ashes on our tongues, and we wonder if our teaching will add up to anything more than wasted time. In extreme cases, this trajectory of thought and feeling can lead to a deadening acedia that takes root within us and leaves us hopeless or in despair.

But an awareness of our dependence on the Spirit moves us in the opposite direction. It eases the pressure by displacing the teacher from the center of the educational process. It relativizes our weaknesses. It does not eliminate them, and it certainly does not excuse them, but it assures us that God rises above them. And this awareness becomes an essential source of freedom and joy for those who believe and depend on it, whereas for those who do not, teaching can become a burden too heavy to bear—at least for teachers who want their students to know God personally.

Our confidence that God will reveal himself to students is grounded not in our own competence, character, or powers of persuasion, but in God’s desire to be known and in the eloquent presence of the risen Christ, who makes himself known in the power of the Spirit.

If this is true, if knowledge of God and the obedience of faith are gifts of divine grace, then prayer is the sine qua non of teaching Christian theology—the essential pedagogical practice. Augustine expressed this in a formulation that cannot be improved upon: “Let one be a pray-er before being a speaker.”

Teaching in a context that does not permit public prayer is certainly not an exception to this rule, since in that case one would simply pray in silence and outside of class. No matter the context, the effectiveness of our teaching depends ultimately on a movement of the Spirit of God. Kierkegaard’s observation about the Christian life in general certainly applies to teaching Christian theology: “To need God is our highest perfection.”

But we must also reckon with the fact that the Spirit does not have to move in our classes. While our need is absolute, God is under no obligation to make use of our teaching. To assume otherwise is to presume upon his grace, which is why prayer is so urgently necessary. And notice—the call is not merely to think about prayer, or to agree that prayer would be a good idea, but actually to spend time asking the Spirit to act in our classes.

Consider the pedagogical implications of this claim. The freedom of the Spirit of God implies that there are no fail-safe strategies capable of guaranteeing success in the classroom, no foolproof rhetorical methods for us to learn, and certainly no “instruments” for quantitatively assessing the effectiveness of our teaching that would appease the accreditors.

No matter how skilled or industrious we are, there is no guarantee that our teaching will amount to anything more than wasted time. What worked yesterday might not work today, and what works tomorrow might never work again. A Christian teacher, writes Karl Barth, “cannot continue to build today in any way on foundations that were laid yesterday by oneself, and one cannot live today in any way on the interest from a capital amassed yesterday. One’s only possible procedure every day, in fact, every hour, is to begin again at the beginning.”

To use this as a pretext for excusing pedagogical incompetence would be to miss the point entirely. Of course pedagogy matters; everyone knows that. But competence alone is not enough, since “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

It has become clear that the future of teaching Christian theology in this country is not in universities. Most universities have long since ceased to offer classes in Christian doctrine taught by Christian theologians in distinctly Christian ways. The number of universities in America where it is possible to take classes in Christian theology from a professor who openly confesses belief in the truth of God’s self-revelation in Christ, and who attempts to teach in a way that is faithful to that reality, is smaller than perhaps many Christians realize. (The lack of such institutions largely explains why so many excellent theologians have no prospect of a tenure-track university position.)

Meanwhile, the church sinks deeper into its educational crisis, one where most Christians have trouble articulating even the most basic Christian doctrines, and where they receive very little if any training to think creatively about the difference Christian theology makes for navigating ordinary life. And this at a time when Christians in the Western world are encountering more persuasive counter-narratives about the meaning of human existence than they have for a very long time.

But teaching the Christian faith has never been easy, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead defies despair. Yes, we face new and pressing challenges, but it would be a mistake to conclude that our task is more difficult today than it has always been. In one way or another, the church has always struggled to teach faithfully, creatively, and persuasively. And in any case, the Spirit alone has the power to awaken people to the love of God in Christ—to draw people into communion with the one in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Which is why progress in the art of teaching necessarily includes progress in the art of prayer.







Adam Neder is the Bruner-Welch Professor of Theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He has been voted Most Influential Professor by four senior classes.

His latest book is Theology as a Way of Life: On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith, from which this essay is adapted. Used by permission from Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group copyright 2019.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2019
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2019, 11:07:15 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november/james-ka-smith-road-saint-augustine.html








Is Life Unsatisfying? Augustine Says, ‘You Are Not Alone.’


James K. A. Smith accompanies the church father on a journey through the human heart.


Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is an American classic. It is easily (and often) parodied for its freewheeling style, but it is also full of magical sentences and encapsulations of life in postwar America. At its heart, the book is about longing: for transcendence, for love, for experience, for a sense of place and belonging. And, more deeply, for a sense of self.

In one revelatory scene, Kerouac writes, “I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was—I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”

That sense of hauntedness permeates Kerouac’s writing. For most of his life, he was a wanderer. A sometimes-Catholic, sometimes-Buddhist. A chronic alcoholic. A restless soul crisscrossing America in search of a sense of self. And that hauntedness makes him a kindred spirit with Augustine of Hippo, the early Christian theologian who penned that time-honored phrase, “Our heart is restless until it finds rest in thee.”

This affirmation is at the heart of James K.A. Smith’s new book, On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts. “In a way,” Smith writes, “it’s a book Augustine has written about you. It’s a journey with Augustine as a journey into oneself.” Later he adds, “If he jackhammers his way into the secret corners of our hearts, unearthing our hungers and fears, it’s only because it’s familiar territory: he’s seen it all in his own soul. Augustine isn’t a judge; he’s more like an AA sponsor.” But unlike Dean Moriarty, the thrill-seeking adventurer who leads Kerouac’s character out onto the road, Augustine has found his way home.

The Geography of Grace
Although Smith tells us much of Augustine’s story, On the Road with Saint Augustine isn’t a biography. Likewise, while we get to know a good deal about Augustine’s theology, the book isn’t quite a theological work either.

Smith, for his part, calls it “a travelogue of the heart.” He uses Augustine to survey the human heart and its multitude of longings, exploring themes like freedom, ambition, mothers and fathers, friendship, and death. The underlying message? You are not alone. Whatever you may feel—whether it’s conflict over ambition, complicated feelings towards your parents, or the desire to live a more meaningful life—your feelings are perfectly normal. Augustine and Smith (who shares candidly from his own story) make for wise and generous guides.

Smith’s books, most notably his three-volume Cultural Liturgies series, tend to lean heavily on his expertise as a philosopher. On the Road with Saint Augustine is no exception—readers can expect a good bit of Martin Heidigger, for instance—but the manner of writing is more personal and devotional. There are profound depths here, but there are also ladders that help you reach them with ease.

As his Kerouac-invoking title suggests, Smith uses “the road” as the book’s unifying theme: specifically, the road taken by the Prodigal Son. Augustine’s work, he argues, is deeply indebted to that story—a story Smith believes we desperately need to hear today. Given the many dead-ends and wrong turns in our world, it’s easy to conclude, as Kerouac seemingly did, that life is about the journey itself rather than the destination. To that, Augustine would issue a clear dissent. “Oh the twisted roads I walked!” he writes in his Confessions—before praising God for “freeing us from our unhappy wandering, setting us firmly on your track, comforting us and saying, ‘Run the race! I’ll carry you! I’ll carry you clear to the end, and even at the end, I’ll carry you!”

Commenting on this passage, Smith writes, “To map our roamings like that of the prodigal is not a cartography of despair or self-loathing and shame; to the contrary, it is a geography of grace that is meant to help us imagine being welcomed home.”

Smith is willing to argue with Augustine at times, as he does in his chapter on sex. But the debate reads like a charitable conversation between friends. “At times,” Smith writes, “the vision of healthy sexuality that Augustine extols—prioritizing celibacy—simply looks like the inversion of promiscuity and suggests his failure to imagine a sexual hunger that runs with the good grain of creation.” (This, I suspect, could be said of much early Christian writing on sexuality, not to mention a good deal of evangelical teaching on “purity.”) Yet he credits Augustine with helping him appreciate “the gift of chastity,” which “trains us not to need; it grants us an integrity and independence and agency in the face of various drives and hungers.”

This points to another of the book’s prominent themes: that life after the Fall has a certain amount of dissatisfaction baked in. Our hearts are restless because there is nothing in creation or experience—apart from communion with God—that can make us feel whole. I’m reminded of a scene from Midnight in Paris where Gil, the time-traveling protagonist, warns his love interest Adriana that she can’t inhabit the golden age she longs for without it coming to seem as dull and unsatisfying as her present circumstances. “That’s what the present is,” he says. “It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.”

So much of On the Road with Saint Augustine echoes this insight. Sex, achievement, and justice cannot offer enough satisfaction to cure our restlessness. Smith’s chapters on mothers and fathers are especially poignant in this regard. So many of us bear wounds because of the failures, absences, unrealistic expectations, or apathy of our parents. We long for an all-accepting embrace that we can never get—that is, until we go home, where a Father awaits us and will come running down the road to meet us.

In many ways, the book reads like Ecclesiastes. Smith turns over a variety of ideas and asks, “Is there meaning here?” And there is meaning, but it is limited. Augustine chimes in either to expose those limits or deconstruct the very impulses that lead us to ask the question.

For example, in a chapter titled “Enlightenment,” there’s a wonderful section on the way Augustine debated the Manicheans. Their trust in the power of reason calls to mind many of our celebrated thinkers today. (Smith cites Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker as two examples.) Augustine saw the foolishness of enthroning reason, recognizing that it was just a case of swapping out idols on the shrines where we worship. In keeping with his previous book, You Are What You Love, Smith reminds us that “everyone believes. Everyone submits to some authority. And all these people priding themselves on enlightenment have decided to simply trade belief in one set of authorities with belief in another.” He later concludes, “If anything is irrational, it’s the notion that we are our own best hope.” The question then isn’t whether we’ll believe in something but “who to entrust yourself to.”

Observations like this help reveal how a book ostensibly about Augustine is really about God the Father, who chases down prodigals and welcomes them home. With each idea Smith explores, we see—in ways that are never trite—that our restlessness is meant to lead us back to God, that the answer to our soul’s aches is the divine embrace, and that grace is our only sure hope.

‘Am I Crazy?’
One of my favorite Jack Kerouac quotes comes from a different book, The Vanity of Duluoz, which recalls his college years. He went to Columbia and played football. He discovered his vocation as a writer. He had his first twinges of longing for the road. And perhaps most importantly, he began to suspect that the rest of the world didn’t see things the way he did: “I realized either I was crazy or the world was crazy; and I picked on the world. And of course I was right.”

At some point in our lives, we have to look at the world around us and decide, “Am I crazy, or is the world crazy?” It’s a strange thing to worship a crucified God. It is strange to eat his body and drink his blood.

Augustine picked on the world, embarking on a journey that led him, finally, to his home. For the remainder of his life, his work was geared toward pointing the way home for the rest of us. Smith has made that work wonderfully accessible. His exploration of the various beats of Augustine’s life and thought makes a grace-saturated faith plausible for those who, like me, still wonder if we’re crazy from time to time. The gap of 16 centuries separating Augustine’s era from ours only goes to show how human desires, ambitions, and anxieties remain stubbornly similar across worlds and ages. Indeed, you are not alone.

We need the testimonies of saints like Augustine to help remind us that we’re never alone because we’re never apart from the God who wants to bring us home. As Smith puts it, “Grace isn’t high-speed transport all the way to the end but the gift of his presence the rest of the way.”







Mike Cosper is the founder of Harbor Media and the host of Cultivated: A Podcast About Faith and Work. He is the author of Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World (InterVarsity Press).
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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