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  • Knowing God’s Love is Impossible
    by Derek Rishmawy on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    At least for us. But for God, nothing is impossible. Knowing God is maybe the most central thing in the Christian life. Also, possibly the hardest. The other day I was talking to a student, relatively new to a life of discipleship, who confided just how frustrating it is that he’s taking so much time to grow. He lamented how much he struggles to trust God when others seem to do so with ease. As I struggled to think of how to encourage him, I remembered one of the most curious prayer requests in all of Scripture, found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which I had just been working through. Towards the end of chapter three, Paul asks “out of his glorious riches may [God] strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all God’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19). We’re tempted to glance over this and think, “Okay, great, Paul prays that they understand God’s love. Typical Paul prayer. What’s the big deal?” I was stopped short, though, when I realized Paul is asking that they be strengthened, that they have “power” to be able to know this love that surpasses all knowledge. Now perhaps it’s because I’m a grad student who happens to study the doctrine of God, but if I were writing Ephesians, I might have rendered the relationship differently. I might have said that coming to know God takes weakness (and not just because you spend all your time in the library and not ...Continue reading... […]

  • 'Religion Poisons Everything'
    by Natasha Moore on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Three things not to say when responding to severe criticisms of Christianity A commenter going enigmatically by “notme” once responded to my rundown of a controversy over Scripture classes in schools: What has religion got to offer but War, Intolerance/hatred (of other religions and minority groups),and poverty? religion should not only be banned from classrooms but from the whole planet I faithfully reproduce the comment as is, grammatical warts and all, keyed in, I imagine, in the first flush of a righteous indignation. They’re common accusations, straight out of the New Atheist playbook. Religious belief is irrational, snarling, psychologically and socially stunting. In the enduring formulation of Christopher Hitchens in God Is Not Great (2007): “Religion poisons everything.” But underneath the cynicism, the absolutism, sometimes the smugness, I wonder if what I’m really hearing, often, is: pain. The pain of someone who sought grace in a church community and instead found judgment and guilt. The pain, perhaps, of someone who invested their trust in a Christian group or friend only to meet with hypocrisy or cruelty. If I listened with more imagination and humility, what I might hear is the lashing out of the wounded. Both have a terrible legitimacy. Christians have, after all, tortured heretics, burned witches, hoarded wealth, propped up slavery, rubber-stamped colonialism, expelled or massacred entire Jewish communities, silenced women, persecuted gay people, and moved known child molesters from parish to parish. These are not accusations; they are history. And not only history. You don’t have to look far – probably not much further than the murky corners of our own hearts – to see the same old uglinesses cropping up today: the self-righteousness, ...Continue reading... […]

  • In the French Riviera, Both Arab Immigrants and Their Secular Neighbors Need Jesus
    by Dale Hanson Bourke on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A missionary couple shares the fragrance of Christ in the perfume capital of the world. When Nicole Derieux committed her life to Christ as a teenager, she imagined leaving her Scottish home to become a missionary in some far off land. Today, sitting on her terrace overlooking the French Riviera, Nicole laughs. “This isn’t what I could have ever imagined,” she says, “but it’s exactly where God wants me to be.” Nicole and her husband, Vincent, head a ministry called Parfums de Vie (“fragrance of life” in French) in Grasse, a picturesque French city known as the perfume capital of the world. Located a few miles up the hillside from Cannes, the region attracts billionaires, movie stars, and royalty. But behind all the glitz and glamour are vulnerable foreign workers, most from North Africa, who struggle to survive while doing the menial work for the rich. The Derieuxs minister to that population. “Many of the workers only speak Arabic, live with their families in terrible conditions, and struggle to have a decent life,” says Nicole. “Some have work visas but others are undocumented, making them even more vulnerable.” When the Derieuxs first moved to the region they asked, “Who would Jesus befriend?” Instead of the rich and famous, they sought out those who are largely invisible: the workers who clean the hotel rooms, haul the garbage, and sweep the streets. “Jesus spent his life living among the marginalized and the poor,” says Vincent, whose own grandparents were evangelized by American missionaries who came to France after World War II. As the Derieuxs began to learn more about the lives of the mostly Muslim workers, they sensed a great need among their children, in particular. “Although they attend French schools, ...Continue reading... […]

  • Global Sikh Consultation: Calling Sikhs To Christ
    by Sadiri Joy Tira on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The Global Sikh Consultation objectives were to pray, share research, share resources, and to mobilize Recently, I had the privilege of convening the Global Sikh Consultation (GSC), the first Lausanne Movement consultation on Sikhism. The organizers of this event were all Edmontonians, mostly Filipinos, passionately involved in global missions and local evangelism. The vision to gather mission enthusiasts began over prayer meetings at Starbucks and McDonalds. These friends include five Filipinos, two Indians, and one Chinese person. They also worked closely with a German researcher conducting Sikh research in Europe. After preliminary meetings in March, this team set the purpose, objectives, and desired outcomes of this event, eight months before the consultation. A well-respected and influential people, Sikh individuals are woven into the communities they of which they are part. There are close to 27 million Sikhs around the world. Outside of India, particularly Punjab, Diaspora Sikhs, on the waves of colonial British movements, have migrated around the world. Many live in Canada, French Guiana, the United Kingdom, Fiji, and Africa, while many have also settled in former British colonies in Asia, and there is a sizeable population in the United States. To date, no concerted global effort has been made to reach out to them. While Sikhism is the fifth largest religious group, missiologists have often placed strong emphasis on Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and have overlooked Sikhism, leaving its adherents unengaged. The GSC was convened to address this opportunity and need. The consultation objectives were to pray, share research, share resources, and to mobilize (see more about the GSC objectives at Dr. Ed Stetzer, Lausanne North American Director and Director of The Billy Graham Center, ...Continue reading... […]

  • Do I, or Anyone I Know, Have a Mental Illness?
    by Barrett McRay on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    My hope is that we in the church can understand wounds of the soul well enough that we move beyond the stigma we have associated with “mental” illness. “I have a mental illness.” This statement is at the same time true and misleading, helpful and unhelpful. It is a statement that evokes feelings of discomfort for those who say it and for those who hear it. And it is a statement that often raises many questions that are not easy to ask, and sometimes very difficult to answer. I am a college professor, a clinical psychologist, and I have served as a minister in the church; and “I struggle with mental illness.” As you may have just noticed, I changed the words I used from “have” to “struggle with.” The reason is that words matter. They matter because they reveal how we understand extremely complex realities like the ones we call “mental illness.” To say “I have” suggests that I possess something or that something that wasn’t mine is now mine. This is a helpful word to use when we think of many medical conditions that involve an invasion of the body by something foreign. For example, I might say “I have the flu” in which case I mean that my body has been invaded by a virus that wasn’t there and is now there—something I “caught” from someone else. This is not the case with the conditions we call mental illness. I cannot “catch” them from someone else, and they do not describe a virus or bacteria that has invaded my body. Rather, mental illnesses are names we give to clusters of symptoms that seem common to people in certain circumstances. Some of those circumstances are linked more to a person’s genetic inheritance and some to their environment and life story; however, most often they involve a combination of multiple factors. That is why it is much more ...Continue reading... […]

  • The Democratic Candidates’ Favorite Bible Verses
    by Daniel Silliman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Cory Booker are quoting a lot of Scripture on the campaign trail. Democratic primary candidates have quoted the Bible more than usual on the campaign trail in 2019. Eight of the top 12 candidates brought up Bible passages while talking about economic reform, welfare policy, and LGBT rights. Senator Elizabeth Warren often speaks about her time teaching fifth grade Sunday school in a Methodist church, and then launches into an explanation of Matthew 25:40. “This is the one where the shepherd is dividing the world into the sheep and the goats,” she said at a CNN townhall. “As we all know, sheep are going to heaven and the goats—they’re not!” Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also quotes Scripture regularly. In the first Democratic debate, in July, he referenced Proverbs 14:31: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker.” Searches for the verse on Bible Gateway tripled after Buttigieg’s remarks. On the campaign trail, he has also referenced Matthew 6:5, where Jesus condemns the prayers of hypocrites. Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, told Religion News Service that connecting to people of faith is an important part of his campaign strategy. That comes with risks, though. Buttigieg received a lot of backlash, for example, when he said “there’s plenty of scriptural basis” to support abortion rights. Senator Cory Booker faced similar negative reactions from people who said he didn’t understand the Bible when he quoted Micah 6:8—which says the Lord wants people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God—in answer to a question about LGBT rights. Critics said Booker was “twisting Scripture.” Booker’s explanation was that his faith and that verse motivated him to fight against ...Continue reading... […]

  • Love Thy Extraterrestrial Neighbor
    by Douglas Estes on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The burgeoning field of astrobiology and what it tells us about the meaning of life. Every week that somber gatekeeper of human knowledge and wisdom—the internet—is abuzz with UFO sightings and strange alien encounters, all in an effort to bring the truth that is out there to the rest of us. Although these world-changing images are often more fizzle than flash, they serve as a testament to the fascination people have for the possibility of life that is out of this world. Popular speculations like these, coupled with pronouncements every few years that scientists have found new evidence of alien life, lead us to believe that we are on the cusp of great discovery. One of the recent advances making the news and fueling our interest in alien life is the recent discovery of exoplanets in the “Goldilocks,” or habitable, zone. As of this month, out of the 4,118 exoplanets now confirmed, 55 exist in the habitable zone. As new astronomical technology comes online in the next decade, this number is expected to rapidly increase. As our focus on these extrasolar worlds become sharper, finding life—of any sort—on any one of them becomes more credible with each passing year. As a result, there has been an explosion of interest in a new field of research, astrobiology, the study of alien life and its origins and occurrences in our universe. But there’s one thing you need to know about astrobiology: it is the only science that has no subject for study. Internet aside, we have no aliens. This fact hasn’t dissuaded astrobiologists in the least. Instead, what makes astrobiology one of the most interesting fields of study is that it is in some ways a new kind of science—one that links physics with ethics, astronomy with philosophy, and biology with theology in a unique new way. ...Continue reading... […]

  • Does Socialism Have to Be ‘Godless’?
    by Heath W. Carter on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    How an earlier generation of believers stretched the boundaries of faith-based political imagination. Socialist” has more than double the letters of the average expletive and, for generations now, has packed a corresponding punch in American public life. To hurl the word at someone has been to mark that person not just outside the mainstream but dangerously so. What reasonable person could espouse such a “godless” political philosophy, not to mention one so prone to nightmarish consequences on this side of the veil? For many Americans, the very mention of socialism evokes dystopian visions of totalitarian rule and endless breadlines, whether in the old USSR or in contemporary Venezuela. Certainly such associations lurked behind Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore’s June declaration on Twitter, “I hate socialism. I’ve seen its wreckage up close. It’s based on a faulty view of human nature. Plus, it doesn’t work.” Just last month, Prestonwood Baptist pastor Jack Graham put an even finer point on the matter, tweeting, “No serious Christian can support socialism.” And yet many serious Christians have, as Vaneesa Cook underscores in her thought-provoking new book, Spiritual Socialists: Religion and the American Left. Cook finds in the past ample evidence that the intersection of Christianity and radicalism in the modern United States has in fact been quite bustling. The heart of her story lies in the half-century between World War I and the Civil Rights movement, a time when “spiritual socialists,” as she calls them, stretched the boundaries of Christian social and political imagination, even as they helped reorient the American Left away from doctrinaire Marxism. As that latter point suggests, for Cook, as for her characters, socialism is a far more ...Continue reading... […]

  • Is November Too Early for Christmas Music?
    by Megan Fowler on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    While most Christian radio stations still wait until after Thanksgiving, Spotify proves that most listeners are busting out their jingle bells earlier than that. Weary of Christmas tunes freezing out fall celebrations? You’re not just imagining the jingle bells and carols coming earlier each year. According to Spotify plays tracked by EveryNoise, most places started their surge in seasonal listening November 1. But some countries started the party far earlier. The Philippines, heavily Catholic and among the most devotedly Christian nations on earth, is the first to start playing Christmas music, with a spike on September 1. The country streams classics as well as local favorites like Jose Mari Chan’s “Christmas In Our Hearts.” By October 28, the festive Philippines had competition from some largely secular but spirited countries: Iceland and the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Iceland currently leads the world in Christmas listening, with holiday tunes making up more than 8 percent of all streamed music, over triple the global average. The United States crossed into the Christmas music threshold—playing at least 2 percent Christmas songs—within the past week. In recent years, many countries make the switch before December (in 2017, 31 countries had passed the Christmas music threshold by then). But South American countries like Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil don’t start their Christmas music in earnest until Christmas Eve of Christmas Day, while little Liechtenstein ends on a high note: In the days leading up to Christmas 70 percent of music streamed in the country is holiday music, triple the global average. Once the holiday music begins, listeners can expect one song to dominate: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is the most-streamed Christmas song on the planet. (You have to ...Continue reading... […]

  • Half of Pastors Say the Opioid Epidemic Has Hit Their Church
    by Aaron Earls – LifeWay Research on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The demands of addiction can go beyond typical spiritual and physical help offered by congregations. Like most US pastors, Robby Gallaty knows someone who has been affected by opioid abuse. But unlike most pastors, Gallaty has personally suffered through addiction. Twenty years ago this month, Gallaty endured a near-fatal car accident. When he left the hospital, the club-bouncer-turned-church-leader took with him several prescriptions for painkillers. “My descent into full-scale drug abuse was amazingly rapid,” he writes in his new book, Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, and Addiction Led Me to God. “In November of 1999, before the accident, I was selling cars, training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and thinking about business opportunities. By early the next year, I was looking for faster and better drug connections.” After stealing $15,000 from his parents to feed his addiction, Gallaty found himself at his lowest point—kicked out of his parents’ home and told not to come back. “It was the hardest three months of their lives, and they’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it was the best thing for me. I knew that I couldn’t fix myself.” This led Gallaty, now pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to what he calls a “radical, Paul-like conversion” on November 12, 2002. Most pastors don’t have the intimate knowledge of addiction Gallaty has, but most say they’ve seen it face to face through people connected to their church and among members of their congregation. Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked 1,000 Protestant pastors about their personal connections to the opioid epidemic and how their churches are looking to address the issue. Two-thirds of pastors (66%) say a family member of someone in ...Continue reading... […]