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China Sees Red: Christian Protest Puts Hundreds of Crosses Back in Public

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Protestants and Catholics unite for ‘safe and legal non-violent disobedience.’ The government of “China’s Jerusalem” has torn down hundreds of giant red crosses from church buildings over the past two years. Now Chinese Protestants and Catholics are joining together to put red crosses—albeit much smaller ones—back in the public eye. In an online campaign, church leaders in the eastern province of Zhejiang have called on Christians to craft hundreds of small wooden crosses, paint them red, and display them at home or on their cars. “Each time they take a cross down, we will put more up,” one church leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, toldThe Guardian. “We are even considering making flags and clothes with cross patterns. We will make the cross flourish throughout China.” The removal campaign began in 2013, but hit Christians hardest last summer. Hundreds of crosses were removed, sometimes along with the demolition of entire churches. Christians protested, at times sitting in front of their building or cross to protect it. More than 100 people were detained or arrested in connection with cross removals in 2014, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported. Another 38 were beaten or injured during protests. Cross removals decreased last fall, and seemed …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Cognitive Dissonance with Life and Death: Thoughts on Planned Parenthood

By Kelly Rosati Kelly Rosati, Vice President at Focus on the Family, writes about our callousness to the life and death of the preborn. “Modern ultrasound technology produces a more-detailed image of an unborn baby’s features,” reads the photo caption in the July 17 Wall Street Journal story. The article explores whether too many ultrasound scans during pregnancy could be unhealthy for unborn children, noting that experts have begun advising women that frequent scans for low-risk pregnancies aren’t medically justified. “Routine scans do not seem to be associated with reductions in adverse outcomes for babies,” notes one study. Where has our logic gone? How can we have reasonable and compassionate concern for healthy “outcomes” for babies in the womb while at the same time, news of the atrocities committed by Planned Parenthood continues to unfold? How can beautiful in utero pictures fill the baby books and social media pages of parents across the nation at the same time preborn children are coolly destroyed—and the possible sale of their parts is negotiated over lunch? Medical professionals may debate whether frequent …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Finding the Right Church Plant Model: The Traditional Model (Part 2)

By Ed Stetzer Which church planting model is right for you? Is it the Traditional Model? In the introduction to this series, I listed the five primary models of church planting and outlined some considerations for church planters deciding between them. The challenge is that too many church planters fall in love with a model of church planting before falling in love with the people being reached. They end up disregarding some tools that might fit their context. In this post I want to provide some basic information regarding the traditional model and what reasons might compel someone to plant a church in this way. Prior to the mid 1990’s, before the church-planting boom, before church-planting became mainstream, there were unsung planters like Larry Lewis, author of Church Planter‘s Handbook, who simply embraced the mantra, “Go and tell.” In other words, they had a call to fulfill Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20; Acts 1:8). As a result, they would move to an area with an evangelistic passion to share the gospel with as many as they could. Over time, converts were made who then became the foundational base of the church. That church would start worship when they had four faith families (that was Larry’s stated plan), then would start …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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First Female Coach Enters the ‘Man’s World’ of the NFL

By Valerie Dunham, guest writer Welcome to the big leagues, Jen Welter. If you do a Google image search for Jen Welter, the pictures are striking. Beneath the bulky helmet and facemask, her bright red lips and expertly made-up eyes pop. She curls a muscled bicep just enough to indicate strength and power. The feminine tone of her face seems to war with her masculine set of muscles. This is the woman who made history last week when she became NFL’s female coach. Welter was picked up by the Arizona Cardinals as an assistant coaching intern, scheduled to work with the organization’s inside linebackers during training camp and the pre-season. As Welter puts it, “It’s exciting to show not only women and girls, but pretty much everyone that anything is possible.” For years, media, fans, and NFL insiders speculated whether or not a woman could ever join the ranks of an NFL coaching staff. Many were, and remain, skeptical. As Mike Francesa put it on his daily talk show, “I did not think, folks, that I would see a female coach in the NFL… It’s not that she can’t know the x’s and o’s—it’s not about the x’s and o’s. It’s about the idea …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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From the Lunch Table to the Dissection Table: The Latest Planned Parenthood Pricing Parts Video

By Timothy C. Morgan $76 million in federal research funds drives demand. In late 2012, Holly O’Donnell began her new job at StemExpressLLC, based in Placerville, California. She expected the firm to use her skill in drawing blood from patients as a licensed phlebotomist. But her first day found her assigned to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Concord, California, being trained to sort through fetal tissue from an elective abortion. She recalled passing out after being told to pick up a fetal leg with tweezers. “I thought I was going to be just drawing blood, not procuring tissue from aborted fetuses,” O’Donnell said during an interview in the latest undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). “I was looking to help the public and make blood draws easy,” the 24-year-old said. She quit her job after six months. Human fetal tissue is in high demand from American biomedical research labs—whether for-profit, academic, or government. It’s a big business where scientists seek miracle cures to paralysis, Alzheimer’s, and other life-threatening diseases, in order to develop products for the commercial market. StemExpress describes itself as “a multi-million dollar company that supplies human blood, tissue products, primary cells and other clinical specimens to biomedical researchers,” according to the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Meet the Filmmaker Exposing Planned Parenthood

By Bob Smietana How a 26-year-old founded the undercover operation to take down the abortion giant. For years, a group of pro-life activists and politicians have waged a fierce political and brand war with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a billion-dollar nonprofit that has positioned itself as a champion for women’s health. Pro-life groups and other critics called the abortion giant—Planned Parenthood terminates more than 300,000 pregnancies per year—a rogue organization that misuses about $500 million a year in government funds to underwrite its lucrative abortion business. After a string of victories from 2011, the movement to defund Planned Parenthood largely stalled out. A month ago, the movement was dead in the water. Not anymore. A series of undercover videos, showing Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the price for donated fetal tissue and organs over lunch and during a dissection, have the abortion giant on the defensive. The videos, which claim Planned Parenthood profits from selling fetal tissue, caused public outrage and launched nationwide rallies. As many as seven states, including Texas, have planned hearings or investigations into Planned Parenthood’s tissue donation program. Pro-life members of the US Senate introduced a bill to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. All …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Melinda Gates: ‘I’m Living Out My Faith in Action’

By Interview by Timothy C. Morgan One of the wealthiest and most controversial women in the world believes that all lives have equal value. She’s willing to spend $3.6 billion a year to prove her point. Melinda Gates describes herself as an “impatient optimist,” something that was nurtured in her while attending Ursuline Academy, the leading Catholic all-girls school in Dallas. Since Melinda and husband Bill created the Gates Foundation in 2000, they have given away $33.5 billion of their massive wealth from Microsoft and from their close friend, billionaire Warren Buffett. The foundation started the same year as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the 15-year antipoverty campaign centered on 8 global objectives. The two programs share many priorities, such as fighting diseases, reducing extreme poverty, and improving maternal health. The foundation partners with a wide spectrum of organizations. Faith-based groups— including Catholic organizations, World Vision, Lutheran groups, and the Salvation Army—are key recipients of more than 125 foundation grants. This January, Melinda and Bill Gates announced they were “doubling down” on their poverty-fighting efforts. “The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history,” they said. But along with the foundation’s big bets and big …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Jinxed and Serialed

By Wade Bearden Why true-crime dramas are making a comeback. Last year’s Serial—a 12-episode NPR podcast investigating the 1999 murder of a Baltimore student—sparked a phenomenon. Each week, millions of listeners anxiously looked to their smartphones, tablets, and computers for new installments of the true-crime drama to appear. Serial set off a slew of social media chatter, think pieces, and more podcasts. “In the normally low-profile world of podcasting,” wrote Ellen Gamerman of The Wall Street Journal, “Serial is a certified sensation—a testament to the power of great storytelling.” Serial cocreator and narrator Sarah Koenig recounts the case of Adnan Syed, a man convicted of strangling his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, during their senior year of high school. Serial‘s first season ended ambiguously, refusing to definitively answer the basic question, “Did Syed kill Hae Min Lee?” But the show’s ambiguity only piqued listener interest. Serial quickly became one of the most popular podcasts in history, the fastest, according to Apple, to reach 5 million streams or downloads. Similarly, HBO’s documentary series The Jinx captivated audiences in early 2015. Sketching the life of enigmatic millionaire Robert Durst, The Jinx tried to prove that Durst murdered his first wife, his best friend, and a next-door neighbor. Arguably, The …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

By Kenneth R. Morefield Saving the world—and a dark and bloated summer movie season—at the last possible second. mpaa rating:PG-13 (For sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity.) Genre:Action Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg Theatre Release:July 31, 2015 by Paramount Pictures I suspect that by the time the next Mission: Impossible film rolls around I won’t remember a thing about Rogue Nation‘s plot—or much else, except maybe Tom Cruise hanging on to an airplane door. (Or was that the one where he was hanging from a glass skyscraper?) It’s surprisingly pleasurable, a romp through a series a snazzy set pieces that are linked by familiar themes. What’s fun about it comes from how it’s executed, rather than any innovation. And execute, it does. The latest installment in the long-running franchise somehow manages to find the shrinking sweet spot between pretense and camp. The movie never winks at the audience, but it also refuses to take itself too seriously. After its prologue–one of several echoes of the Bond franchise that seem deliberate–we see Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) adrift. He’s learned that the secrecy and integrity of the IMF force has been compromised, and then he watches a colleague’s execution. Hunt himself …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Pixels

By Jessica Gibson An insidious version of a “family friendly” movie that is a shameful artifact of nerd culture – and some recommendations for better ones. mpaa rating:PG-13 (For some language and suggestive comments.) Genre:Action, Comedy Directed By: Chris Columbus Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage Theatre Release:July 24, 2015 by Columbia Pictures Most of the time, I’m an unashamed nerd. I’m an unironic, overenthusiastic, equal-opportunity lover of “the miracle of human consciousness.” I enjoy a lot of things with a lot of energy and I don’t easily calm down or back off from a cultural product I’m excited about. I say all this so you can understand how serious this is: seeing Pixels has made me want to go into nerd hibernation until this horrible storm blows over. The movie can stuff in as many beloved arcade game characters as it wants, but it will never compensate for its lazy storytelling, awful characters, blatant misogyny, and deeply unsettling moral code. It’s the worst kind of bad joke dressed up to look like a generationally inclusive nostalgia-fest. The most disappointing thing about it is in the hands of a different filmmaking team its concept maybe could have made …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: The End of the Tour

By Jackson Cuidon In the David Foster Wallace biopic, the author’s own words are the best part. mpaa rating:R (For some language, including sexual references.) Genre:Drama Directed By: James Ponsoldt Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes Cast: Anna Chlumsky, Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Mamie Gummer Theatre Release:July 31, 2015 by A24 The End of the Tour—based on the hybrid transcript/non-fiction Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky—shows that author David Foster Wallace is easy to represent in the abstract. In the wake of his suicide, Wallace left behind thousands of pages of fiction and non-fiction, as well as at least three collections of interviews (based on the contents of my bookshelves alone), from which to glean a rough impression of the depressive, genius author. The film maybe hopes to reflect the mind of Wallace, and director James Ponsoldt decides that the best way to go about this is to have Jason Segel read quotes from Lipsky’s transcript. The result is simultaneously accurate and unremarkable. Segel portrays Wallace as schlubby, attention-shy, and a combination of externally friendly and closed-off; Jesse Eisenberg, playing Lipsky, plays Jesse Eisenberg. The plot is both pretty bare and kind of structurally cringe-worthy. Lipsky—himself a struggling NYC-based author—decides to interview Wallace for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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To Kill a Predator

By Caryn Rivadeneira What is it about this lion’s death that has us so outraged? Even though the story of Dr. Walter J. Palmer and Cecil the Lion was an unusual one—a Minnesota dentist who illegally lured, tortured, and killed a famous lion in Zimbabwe— it was easy to predict how people would react: Palmer would become a public enemy, criticized and declared evil. He would have to hide. His news would be read in comparison to the other social justice stories in our feeds. So, those expressing outrage over the lion’s death would get shamed for caring more about the slain animal than the unborn or Sandra Bland. I knew the first the because I’ve been around the Internet long enough. People’s lives and careers have been trampled by tweets, shares, and likes for “less” than illegally shooting a beloved lion. And I knew the second because I’ve been around Christians long enough. From the time as a kid I began applying Scripture about justice to protecting animals to my current outspoken advocacy for pit bulls, I’ve heard people try to redirect my outrage. Why do I care more about homeless dogs than homeless people? Why do I care more about overcrowded …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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To Kill a Predator

By Caryn Rivadeneira What is it about this lion’s death that has us so outraged? Even though the story of Dr. Walter J. Palmer and Cecil the Lion was an unusual one—a Minnesota dentist who illegally lured, tortured, and killed a famous lion in Zimbabwe— it was easy to predict how people would react: 1. Palmer would become a public enemy, criticized and declared evil. He would have to hide. 2. His news would be read in comparison to the other social justice stories in our feeds. So, those expressing outrage over the lion’s death would get shamed for caring more about the slain animal than the unborn or Sandra Bland. I knew the first the because I’ve been around the Internet long enough. People’s lives and careers have been trampled by tweets, shares, and likes for “less” than illegally shooting a beloved lion. And I knew the second because I’ve been around Christians long enough. From the time as a kid I began applying Scripture about justice to protecting animals to my current outspoken advocacy for pit bulls, I’ve heard people try to redirect my outrage. Why do I care more about homeless dogs than homeless people? Why do I care more …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Tullian Tchividjian Resigns after Admitting 'Inappropriate Relationship'

By Bob Smietana and Morgan Lee (UPDATED): Billy Graham’s grandson says hiding from public eye would “undermine the very message that I claim to believe.” Update (July 30): Less than six weeks after resigning as the senior pastor of a prominent Orlando-based church because of an affair, Tullian Tchividjian says he has no plans to withdraw from the public eye. “One of the big questions I’ve wrestled with is, how do I properly steward this glorious ruin?” wrote Tchividjian on his Facebook page Tuesday. While Billy Graham’s grandson wanted to crawl “into a hole and be anonymous for a long, long time,” Tchividjian said he feared that his message of grace—the topic of many of his previous books—might be undermined if he stayed quiet. “If I only let you see me when I’m ‘good’ and ‘strong’ and polished and ‘at the top’, I undermine the very message that I claim to believe,” wrote Tchividjian. “…But if I run away because I don’t want you to see me broken and weak and sad and angry and struggling with fear and guilt and shame, then I fail to practice what I preach—and one of the many things I’ve learned from this is that failing to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Having Millions of Followers Taught Me About Christian Dialogue

By Candace Cameron Bure Full House actress: Let’s stop attacking each other with Bible verses. Editor’s Note: It can be challenging for Christians to balance conviction and grace when they face online criticism over their faith. It doesn’t get any easier when you’re an actress with a national following. Candace Cameron Bure is all grown up and back in Hollywood—appearing in Hallmark Channel movies, competing on Dancing with the Stars, and gearing up for the new Full House spinoff series coming to Netflix. The 39-year-old actress brings her evangelical faith into her public life, and that often means bracing for controversy and negative feedback. During a recent appearance on The View, Bure sided with the Christian bakers who refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. While promoting her book last year, the wife and mom of three explained and defended biblical submission. In the post below, Bure—sister to fellow child-star-turned-Christian-celeb Kirk Cameron—shares the biblical lessons that inform how she approaches debates among her followers, fans, and haters. – Kate Dancing with the Stars provided an opportunity for me to live out my faith on a bigger stage than ever before. While I knew I would face critics, I …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Contextualize. Don’t Merely Evangelize.

Christians must be willing to pursue contextualization for reasons other than evangelism. As I waited for my plane, I was stumped by what I was looking at. If Chinese understood the English on the KFC sign, no one would want to eat there. It simply read, “finger lickin’ good.” For anyone who knows Chinese culture, this slogan would be like Colgate advertising that it will make our teeth “toilet bowl white.” Uh, maybe that’s true but no one will want to buy something that promises to give me a potty mouth. You see, Chinese people don’t like eating with their fingers. In fact, many Western burger restaurants offer gloves for people to eat their sandwiches. Why then is KFC so successful in China? At one level, it is a famous western restaurant and eating there shows you have a comfortable income. However, KFC’s real secret to success is found elsewhere. KFC knows how to contextualize its product. If you don’t want fries, you can order rice porridge, corn, or egg and tart congee. Instead of chicken, customers can buy fish and shrimp sandwiches. Fortunately for KFC, contextualization is about more than good marketing slogan. Creative communication attracts people to something novel, but in the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Exercise Called Temptation

Will you let temptation devour you, or will you use it to grow in righteousness? If you ever want to read Christian material that is spicy, dramatic, and packed full of truth, just read sermons from seventeenth-century English preachers. Picture them passionately preaching to women in their funny bonnets and men in their strange black ties, who tremble with awe on those old wooden benches as they listen. John Owen was one of those ministers, and what he had to say about temptation is profound. He said, “Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.” In short, Temptation can kill you or make you stronger. I’m sure we have all thought of temptation as being our poison or destruction—but have we ever thought of it as being food or exercise? Now, I think it’s fairly obvious to us that temptation can kill the soul. What is less apparent, however, is how it can become an opportunity for growth. Understanding this is a bit trickier to comprehend. But doing so can be life changing. The reasons we would miss this are if our view …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Conflicting Thoughts of Grace

By Samantha Blythe My Christian Life, Part 1: The Formative Phase There was a life, phase after phase,Which oft felt like running a mazeBut no matter how odd, twas all planned out by God,to Whom be all glory and praise. One of my earliest memories is of my five-year-old self, coming home from school a few months after my parents divorced. There was a goldfish in a bowl on the kitchen counter, with a note saying something like, “I thought you might like this. Love, Dad.” I hadn’t seen my dad for weeks, and I don’t think the slimy little guy or gal was much consolation. I remember having to flush it down the toilet a few weeks later. I watched the dead orange body spin in the whirlpool as it was consigned to its watery grave. I’m sure that must symbolize something deep, because I’m using it to begin this memoir. Within the next year or so, my dad remarried and moved to Florida, and so I was shipped off on a plane alone to spend summers with his new wife; my dad was a workaholic and I really only saw him on Sundays. Upon returning from one of these grand vacations, I was picked up at …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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'I'm Born Again': Sudan Frees Pastors Facing Death Penalty

By Morgan Lee and Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra The good news behind judge’s guilty verdict. Two jailed South Sudanese pastors have been set free after a judge found them guilty, but ruled that they already served their sentences. Yat Michael and Peter Yen were convicted respectively of breaching the peace and managing a criminal or terrorist organization. Michael and Yen together faced six charges, but were not convicted of four of them, including undermining the constitutional system and espionage—charges which carry punishments of the death penalty or life imprisonment. “I am feeling free because I was in jail for many months. I have become like I’m born again,” Michael told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement. Last December, Michael was imprisoned after preaching at a local church while taking his child to Khartoum. In January, Yen was arrested after inquiring about Michael’s disappearance. Both men worked with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, which is entangled in a land dispute with private parties supported by the government, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. CT noted the pastors’ plight after an American attempt to visit “the least of these” in jail possibly did more harm than good. CT’s past coverage of Sudan including its redesignation as a country of particular concern …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dozens of Assyrian Christians Kidnapped or Detained By ISIS

By Bob Smietana In May, ISIS demanded $23 million in ransom for previous group of captives. Dozens of Syrian Christian families have been abducted by fighters from ISIS, according to a new report from Reuters. About 230 people, “some of who were taken from a church,” were kidnapped or detained by ISIS when the terrorist group captured the Syrian town of Qaryatain on Friday. Prior to the start of the civil war, about 18,000 people lived in Qaryatain, about 2,000 of them Syriac Catholics and Orthodox Christians, reportsThe Telegraph. Following the fighting between ISIS and the Syrian army, at least 1,400 families fled the town to safer areas or took shelter in the government-controlled city of Homs, reports the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights. In May, two priests who ran monasteries in the area, went missing from the town. Earlier this year, ISIS launched surprise attacks on 35 villages in northeast Syria and took more than 200 Christians captive. Some captives were released in March. ISIS reportedly demanded a $23 million ransom for the release of 240 Christians, according to World Watch Monitor (WWM). “This is an amount beyond the capacity of a tiny church and community,” an Assyrian Christian leader told WWM. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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