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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2020  (Read 1838 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2020
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2020, 05:26:32 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/november/despite-covid-19-evangelicals-mobilize-for-mission-in-europ.html








Despite COVID-19, Evangelicals Mobilize for Mission in Europe




In challenging circumstances, European evangelicals share a message of hope.


As the coronavirus pandemic continues its relentless march across the world, Europe battles a frightening second wave. New lockdowns, overwhelmed hospitals, and social unrest are increasingly the norm across the continent.

But as a dark winter looms, European evangelicals can look back with gratitude and look ahead with expectation, thanks to a renewed rediscovery of fervent prayer, fresh creativity, and resilient hope in this trying year.

Fervent prayer

When churches were prevented from meeting in the spring, small communities scrambled to minister to people online while larger congregations grieved the loss of members who had weak links to the faith and attended church sporadically before the pandemic. “Not since the Second World War has something so profoundly affected the lives of all Europeans simultaneously,” explained Jim Memory, leader of the process team for Lausanne Europe 20/21.

The pandemic’s effects were also felt by continent-wide gatherings of evangelical leaders, such as Lausanne Europe 20/21 and the annual European Leadership Forum. “Not being able to come together was like not being with your family at Christmas,” explained Greg Pritchard, director of the European Leadership Forum.

But as the discouraging news mounted, intercession initiatives sprung up across the continent. Local churches launched virtual prayer rooms, Evangelical Alliances hosted National Days of Prayer, and student movements such as IFES hosted prayer meetings for people across the continent. “The pandemic brought the European church to our knees,” reports Sarah Breuel, director of Revive Europe. “We have never seen so many calls to prayer and fasting like this before.”

Fresh creativity

Out of such an environment, the European church was forced to make an opportunity out of a crisis. The Lausanne Movement, like many others, postponed its conference until 2021, but launched impact groups and conversations that multiplied interactions among leaders. “Despite initial disappointment when postponing the Gathering, we have a real sense of God opening new doors through this extended process,” declared Lars Dahle, chair of Lausanne Europe 20/21. “The Conversation started as a supplement to the Gathering. It has now become increasingly significant in its own right, with fresh missional material every month.”

Other conferences switched from physical to virtual gatherings, reaching a surprising number of people both in and beyond Europe. The 2020 European Leadership Forum was attended by 5,360 participants from 123 countries, a seven-fold increase in attendance from the previous year. Exponential, a movement of pastors and church planters, hosted 130 roundtables on the topic of multiplication in European cities in October.

A similar phenomenon took place among European students. Before the pandemic, the youth ministry Jesus House planned to host hundreds of events in German-speaking countries. “The lockdown came, and that dream became a nightmare. We had to cancel all our events, and we were so frustrated,” confessed Julia Garschagen, one of the ministry’s leaders. “But then we realized all those young people would now be at home in front of their computers watching Youtube.” Over half a million people watched live streams broadcasted by the ministry during the pandemic. “That far exceeded everything we would have ever dreamed of,” added Julia.

Lindsay Brown, founder of the FEUER network of university evangelists, affirmed that “The pandemic has shaken the foundations of many secularists. So many are seeking answers to existential questions.”

In addition to ministering online, evangelicals witnessed the power of unity across national and denominational barriers. In the UK, a group of churches recorded a blessing over the nation that inspired believers in numerous countries to do the same. Balkan student movements in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia came together for shared Zoom lectures, which helped a Serbian professor of mathematics embrace faith for the first time.

Resilient hope

European evangelicals have experienced their share of hardships this year. But many of them feel strengthened by God’s faithfulness during the coronavirus pandemic. Lars Dahle points to growing emphases on church planting and apologetics and the increasingly significant role of Majority World Christians in today’s Europe as encouraging signs for Christians in the continent.

“The lesson of history is that the church tends to thrive and be renewed when it is faced with crises. For that is when the church looks to the one who is above the storm,” commented Jim Memory. “And that, of course, is a lesson many of our sisters and brothers in the Global South know all too well.”

This may be one of the most significant lessons Christians in Europe will cherish in future years, when they will look back to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a continent with a long history and rich traditions, the next step forward may be born out of the most basic of Christian convictions: childlike faith and dependence on God.








René Breuel is the founding pastor of Hopera, a church in Rome, Italy, and author of The Paradox of Happiness.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2020
« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2020, 05:52:51 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/november/scotus-ruling-new-york-church-worship-block-barrett.html








Supreme Court Blocks New York’s Worship Service Restrictions




It’s the first time during the pandemic the high court has sided with churches and synagogues challenging the new rules on religious liberty grounds.


As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide the Supreme Court late Wednesday barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.

The justices split 5-4 with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority. It was the conservative’s first publicly discernible vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.

The move was a shift for the court. Earlier this year, when Barrett’s liberal predecessor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was still on the court, the justices divided 5-4 to leave in place pandemic-related capacity restrictions affecting churches in California and Nevada.

The court’s action Wednesday could push New York to reevaluate its restrictions on houses of worship in areas designated virus hot spots, though both groups who sued are no longer in zones subject to the strictest attendance restrictions.

The justices acted on an emergency basis, temporarily barring New York from enforcing the restrictions against the groups while their lawsuits continue. In an unsigned opinion the court said the restrictions “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”

“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” the opinion said.

Though the decision addresses the restrictions in New York in particular, religious liberty expert John Inazu said on Twitter, “I think the Court’s conclusion is correct and makes some important observations, including that these orders cause irreparable harm because they involve restrictions of First Amendment freedoms, and that virtual worship is not a constitutionally sufficient alternative.”

“In other words, worship is absolutely an ‘essential activity’ and to say otherwise is constitutionally incorrect and politically unwise,” he added. Inazu, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said it was the first time the high court had sided with houses of worship challenging COVID-19 regulations, but also that as the pandemic has gone on, Americans have learned more about the disproportionate risks of different activities.

The opinion noted that in red zones, while a synagogue or church cannot admit more than 10 people, businesses deemed “essential,” from grocery stores to pet shops, can remain open without capacity limits. And in orange zones, while synagogues and churches are capped at 25 people, “even non-essential businesses may decide for themselves how many persons to admit.”

Roberts, in dissent, wrote that there was “simply no need” for the court’s action. “None of the houses of worship identified in the applications is now subject to any fixed numerical restrictions,” he said, adding that New York’s 10 and 25 person caps “do seem unduly restrictive.”

“The Governor might reinstate the restrictions. But he also might not. And it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” he wrote.

Roberts and four other justices wrote separately to explain their views. Barrett did not.

The court’s action was a victory for the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues that had sued to challenge state restrictions announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on October 6.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, which covers Brooklyn and Queens, argued houses of worship were being unfairly singled out by the governor’s executive order. The diocese argued it had previously operated safely by capping attendance at 25 percent of a building’s capacity and taking other measures. Parts of Brooklyn and Queens are now in yellow zones where attendance at houses of worship is capped at 50 percent of a building’s capacity, but the church is keeping attendance lower.

“We are extremely grateful that the Supreme Court has acted so swiftly and decisively to protect one of our most fundamental constitutional rights—the free exercise of religion,” said Randy Mastro, an attorney for the diocese, in a statement.

Avi Schick, an attorney for Agudath Israel of America, wrote in an email: “This is an historic victory. This landmark decision will ensure that religious practices and religious institutions will be protected from government edicts that do not treat religion with the respect demanded by the Constitution.”

Two lower courts had sided with New York in allowing the restrictions to remain in place. New York had argued that religious gatherings were being treated less restrictively than secular gatherings that carried the same infection risk, like concerts and theatrical performances. An email sent early Thursday by The Associated Press to the governor’s office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

There are currently several areas in New York designated orange zones but no red zones, according to a state website that tracks areas designated as hot spots.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 05:58:04 pm by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2020
« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2020, 05:57:08 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/november/scotus-gets-it-right-religious-liberty-church-is-essential.html








SCOTUS Gets It Right on Religious Liberty: Church IS Essential





But the right outcome here doesn’t mean all restrictions are invalid or that churches should reopen.



Last night, the Supreme Court issued injunctive relief to houses of worship challenging New York City’s COVID-19 restrictions on in-person gatherings, the first time it has granted such relief during the pandemic. I have mixed views about the decision and early reactions to it.

First, I don’t think this decision is as momentous as commentators are suggesting. It is fairly fact-specific injunctive relief, and the nature and scope of pandemic orders vary greatly around the country. It’s hard to generalize much from this decision, and I’m concerned that public messaging about it will fuel a broader culture wars narrative from religious leaders like John MacArthur who insist “there is no pandemic” and continue to hold services for 7,000 unmasked people. An injunction against a 25-person cap is not a green light to return to regular worship. Given the current state of the pandemic, it’s not even a yellow light.

The dire rates of transmission we’re seeing all around the country, the Thanksgiving holiday travel, and our growing awareness that indoor, in-person gatherings are a major cause of transmission all increase the likelihood that even more restrictions may be coming. That’s another reason it’s best to view this order as limited and fact-specific.

That said, I think the Court’s decision is correct and offers some important observations. One of the most important is that these shutdown orders cause irreparable harm because they restrict First Amendment freedoms—and that virtual worship is not a constitutionally sufficient alternative. In other words, worship is absolutely an “essential activity” and to say otherwise is constitutionally incorrect and politically unwise. The New York City order and others like it should not be classifying worship as non-essential. Of course worship is essential.

That doesn’t mean worship may not be restricted. Earlier this year, the Court denied injunctive relief to a challenge against California’s restrictions affecting houses of worship. Chief Justice Robert’s concurrence supporting California’s restrictions seemed largely correct to me. In many cases, limitations on houses of worship will be constitutionally permissible policy decisions.

The New York City order is an example of policy overreaching. The constitutionality of other orders will depend upon local context and the degree to which restricted activities share comparable characteristics. Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence in last night’s decision gets too cute, comparing worship services to bike shops and liquor stores:

[T]he Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians.

Picking up a bottle of wine and attending a lengthy worship service are not comparable activities when we consider where people are located, how they’re moving, and what they’re doing. We would need to know a lot more before buying into Justice Gorsuch’s closer: “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?”

Justice Gorsuch rightly notes that we are past the pandemic’s early stages and we know much more about the virus today. But it’s not clear which way that cuts. On the one hand, many houses of worship are taking precautions that appear to be effective (as noted by the evidence presented in this case), and certainly better than activities like in-person dining. On the other hand, the pandemic is getting worse.

The elephant in the room is all of the latitude given restaurants and bars, whose gatherings seem far worse for the pandemic than limited-number, masked, indoor worship. As Amanda Mull observes in The Atlantic:

Why can’t a governor or mayor just be honest? There’s no help coming from the Trump administration, the local coffers are bare, and as a result, concessions are being made to business owners who want workers in restaurants and employees in offices in order to white-knuckle it for as long as possible and with as many jobs intact as possible, even if hospitals start to fill up again.

She’s right. That’s bad news for the pandemic, but it also weakens governmental responses to constitutional claims by houses of worship. Keeping Home Depot open while limiting houses of worship might make sense. Keeping restaurants and bars open while restricting houses of worship at the level of NYC’s order is much harder to defend.

Of course, questions of law and governmental policy speak only to what houses of worship may do, not what they should do. At a time when much of the country is sick and suffering and much of the country is partying and dining, many houses of worship continue to comply voluntarily even when orders have exempted them. That’s a tangible sign of loving one’s neighbor, even at great cost.








John Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly (Yale University Press, 2012) and Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and co-editor (with Tim Keller) of Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference (Thomas Nelson, 2020).
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 05:59:27 pm by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2020
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2020, 06:11:59 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/november/thanksgiving-like-none-other.html








A Thanksgiving Like None Other




The world may look different, but there is still plenty to be grateful for.


Thanksgiving looks a bit different this year. Whether you’re celebrating alone, with a few close family members, over Zoom, or maybe a combination of all three, I’m sure things don’t feel quite the same. I grieve this loss alongside you, and with millions of others. You are not alone.

In my family, and I assume in many of yours, at some point during usual Thanksgiving celebrations, every family member or friend present is invited to share what they are most grateful for on this special holiday. As LifeWay Research recently reported, Americans are most thankful to and for their family, even in this unique year. Of course, I want to assure readers that I too am thankful to and for my family. In this year, I am adding a new item to that standard list. And, this new addition begins with a descent.

What do I mean by descent? Well, if you’re like me, your version of descent might be a lost job, a lost relationship, or a lost graduation. It may be a lost loved one, or the death of a dream, like a small business. This year, we all had plenty to lose. Descent might not just mean the loss itself—it may be sleepless nights, or anxiety-ridden days. It might be a nose-dive straight into self-pity. Descent might be your mental state as a result of these losses.

I am not mature enough in my faith to say plainly and honestly that I am thankful for these losses, or the many sleepless nights that followed. I would love to report that I was a perfect imitation of Job this year, and that I faithfully turned to God after each loss, as Job does, saying:

Quote
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:20-21).

To be completely honest, I did nothing of the sort, though that is a dream I hope to someday realize. As I’ve been preparing my heart for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, I’m starting to see things in a new light.

I firmly believe that this could be the year that changes everything for you, and for me. And for that opportunity, I am determined to be grateful. In my everyday life as it was, back in The Before Times when I could go to the grocery store without a second thought or visit a friend without a mask, it wasn’t hard to tap into spirituality. When I am being blessed abundantly and obviously, praise simply pours out of me. However, when I am confused, isolated, and feeling lost in the world, I have to flex spiritual muscles that I don’t usually like to think about. This is part of what theologian Ron Rolheiser calls the “Spirituality of Descent.” It is the part of our faith that allows us to reckon with the complexity, the losses, and the uncomfortable reality of a world that eagerly awaits the return of Jesus.

In a world of social distancing, unprecedented political division, and a rich harvest to be grateful for. 2020 has forced us to see our failures, as individuals, as communities, and as a society in all kinds of ways. I’ve realized just how easy it is to get wrapped up in what’s going on in my own life, so much that I forget what is happening in the lives of those around me. As a society, this year has forced us to address the racial issues in our country. I would say both of these examples are incredibly good things that have come out of some very, very dark places. As I’ve continued to cling onto God during this present darkness, I’ve been sowing qualities of obedience, patience, empathy, and more. I eagerly await the day of harvest.

If we don’t grapple with the darkness in ourselves, and in the world around us, how can we ever expect to grow? Spiritual maturity doesn’t just happen. It is carefully forged through trials and faithful obedience. In 2020, we’ve all experienced the challenges of a lifetime. In a time where it feels like our opportunities are limited, we do have the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God as we reckon with the complexities of the world around us, and ourselves. As followers of Christ, we need not be afraid of the dark, because we already follow the Light of the World.

I look forward to one day sharing the story of the year that changed everything for me—the year 2020. In a year where so many doors have been closed, I urge you to accept an open invitation into a deeper relationship with Christ.

This year, just as in every other year, God remains faithful. Even more, God is present in our disappointment and failure. He does not shy away from our fear or doubt, but his perfect love does cast out fear. In dry and barren land, he is living water. How are we supposed to believe this testimony if we don’t experience the desert? Let us join in the Communion of the Saints in our trials and on this Thanksgiving as we express our gratefulness to God. We are not the first generation to go through hardships, whether that be political division or a global pandemic. God was faithful then, and he is faithful now. The Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were likely a subset of Puritanism and possibly prayed a prayer like this one from The Valley of Vision, which I encourage you to pray as well:

O My God, Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, for sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;

for the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures. Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.








Sitara Roden is a recent addition to The Exchange and serves as Managing Editor. Roden also serves as Promotions Strategist at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - November 2020
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2021, 05:39:11 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/november/thanksgiving-like-none-other.html








A Thanksgiving Like None Other




The world may look different, but there is still plenty to be grateful for.


Thanksgiving looks a bit different this year. Whether you’re celebrating alone, with a few close family members, over Zoom, or maybe a combination of all three, I’m sure things don’t feel quite the same. I grieve this loss alongside you, and with millions of others. You are not alone.

In my family, and I assume in many of yours, at some point during usual Thanksgiving celebrations, every family member or friend present is invited to share what they are most grateful for on this special holiday. As LifeWay Research recently reported, Americans are most thankful to and for their family, even in this unique year. Of course, I want to assure readers that I too am thankful to and for my family. In this year, I am adding a new item to that standard list. And, this new addition begins with a descent.

What do I mean by descent? Well, if you’re like me, your version of descent might be a lost job, a lost relationship, or a lost graduation. It may be a lost loved one, or the death of a dream, like a small business. This year, we all had plenty to lose. Descent might not just mean the loss itself—it may be sleepless nights, or anxiety-ridden days. It might be a nose-dive straight into self-pity. Descent might be your mental state as a result of these losses.

I am not mature enough in my faith to say plainly and honestly that I am thankful for these losses, or the many sleepless nights that followed. I would love to report that I was a perfect imitation of Job this year, and that I faithfully turned to God after each loss, as Job does, saying:

Quote
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:20-21).

To be completely honest, I did nothing of the sort, though that is a dream I hope to someday realize. As I’ve been preparing my heart for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, I’m starting to see things in a new light.

I firmly believe that this could be the year that changes everything for you, and for me. And for that opportunity, I am determined to be grateful. In my everyday life as it was, back in The Before Times when I could go to the grocery store without a second thought or visit a friend without a mask, it wasn’t hard to tap into spirituality. When I am being blessed abundantly and obviously, praise simply pours out of me. However, when I am confused, isolated, and feeling lost in the world, I have to flex spiritual muscles that I don’t usually like to think about. This is part of what theologian Ron Rolheiser calls the “Spirituality of Descent.” It is the part of our faith that allows us to reckon with the complexity, the losses, and the uncomfortable reality of a world that eagerly awaits the return of Jesus.

In a world of social distancing, unprecedented political division, and a rich harvest to be grateful for. 2020 has forced us to see our failures, as individuals, as communities, and as a society in all kinds of ways. I’ve realized just how easy it is to get wrapped up in what’s going on in my own life, so much that I forget what is happening in the lives of those around me. As a society, this year has forced us to address the racial issues in our country. I would say both of these examples are incredibly good things that have come out of some very, very dark places. As I’ve continued to cling onto God during this present darkness, I’ve been sowing qualities of obedience, patience, empathy, and more. I eagerly await the day of harvest.

If we don’t grapple with the darkness in ourselves, and in the world around us, how can we ever expect to grow? Spiritual maturity doesn’t just happen. It is carefully forged through trials and faithful obedience. In 2020, we’ve all experienced the challenges of a lifetime. In a time where it feels like our opportunities are limited, we do have the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God as we reckon with the complexities of the world around us, and ourselves. As followers of Christ, we need not be afraid of the dark, because we already follow the Light of the World.

I look forward to one day sharing the story of the year that changed everything for me—the year 2020. In a year where so many doors have been closed, I urge you to accept an open invitation into a deeper relationship with Christ.

This year, just as in every other year, God remains faithful. Even more, God is present in our disappointment and failure. He does not shy away from our fear or doubt, but his perfect love does cast out fear. In dry and barren land, he is living water. How are we supposed to believe this testimony if we don’t experience the desert? Let us join in the Communion of the Saints in our trials and on this Thanksgiving as we express our gratefulness to God. We are not the first generation to go through hardships, whether that be political division or a global pandemic. God was faithful then, and he is faithful now. The Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were likely a subset of Puritanism and possibly prayed a prayer like this one from The Valley of Vision, which I encourage you to pray as well:

O My God, Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, for sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;

for the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures. Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.








Sitara Roden is a recent addition to The Exchange and serves as Managing Editor. Roden also serves as Promotions Strategist at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center.
:'(
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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