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Messages from the Edge: Suicide Notes on Social Media

By Halee Gray Scott How Facebook turns the left-behind into horrified witnesses. They say she drove to a small, isolated chapel in the woods, shared her suicide note on Facebook, and then carried out a decision that was both final and fatal. Not too long after my friend posted the note, I watched in horror as the events unfolded. Each update came in real time on my newsfeed: the timid, then panicked inquiries about her welfare, the frantic attempts to pinpoint her location for the authorities, and then finally, the death knell blow: “She has been found. She has taken her life.” Over 40,000 Americans and more than a million people worldwide die by suicide each year. It’s the country’s tenth leading cause of death overall and one of the most common causes of death among young people and people in middle age. As social media becomes a mainstay in our day-to-day lives, recent research probes the relationship between our online activity and suicide. Studies indicate that social media can intensify depression and suicidal behavior, especially among girls. The more we submerge ourselves in the faux-reality of carefully crafted posts and curated photographs, the greater our risk of depression and suicide due to social …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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I Know Why the Government Went after Pro-Life Investigative Journalists

By Jim Daly For Americans determined to speak out according to our deeply held beliefs, the price tag is becoming increasingly steep. Last week, a Texas grand jury indicted activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt last week for allegedly using fake IDs and attempting to buy fetal tissue. Both of the Center for Medical Progress, the pair concealed their identities while attempting to frame/highlight the willingness of Planned Parenthood employees to sell fetal tissue, capturing their conversations on a series of videos first released last summer. Christianity Today reached out to Daniel K. Williams, a historian of the pro-life movement, and Focus on the Family president Jim Daly to provide their perspective on the ethics of the pairs’ actions. I watched in horror last year as undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) surfaced showing the alleged sale of baby body parts by executives at the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. A few months later, I’m shaking my head in disbelief over reports that a Texas grand jury has indicted CMP’s David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. The charges? Tampering with a government document—in other words, using a fake ID—and attempting to buy fetal tissue. The first offense is one for which minors around the country are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Ambassador to the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’

By C. Christopher Smith Why David Dark thinks it’s a mistake to reject the R-word. In the first half of the 17th century, Rene Descartes put forth a new method of philosophy, inaugurating what would come to be called the modern age. His philosophy was driven largely by skepticism about the reigning religious and philosophical traditions of his day, and his method was geared toward weakening their influence. Over the last four centuries, Decartes’s work has become deeply embedded in Western culture. As a result, we are increasingly alienated from the places, stories, and traditions through which our ancestors made sense of the world. Descartes’s philosophy has a surprisingly contemporary feel in the 21st century. A recent re-reading of his work gave me the sense that he might feel right at home with those who identify as “spiritual but not religious” (or simply, the “nones”). Like many nones today, Descartes likely saw the senseless devastation that was done in the name of religion. (He was, after all, born less than a century after the dawn of the Reformation and undoubtedly knew the religious violence that saturated Europe in the early 17th century.) Today, we still see our share of religious violence and inconsistent or abusive behavior …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dispatch from Berlinale—‘Alone in Berlin’

By Alissa Wilkinson A misfire that had great potential. About twenty minutes into Alone in Berlin, I began to worry for my health: I’ve been in Germany for three days, and I’m an experienced traveler, so I couldn’t figure out why the jetlag was still affecting me so badly. I blinked madly, willing myself to stay awake, chewing gum, rubbing a knot in my shoulder, annoying the guy sitting next to me. Thirty minutes in, I realized it wasn’t me. (Partly because the woman beside me started snoring loudly.) Alone in Berlin boasts a truly fascinating premise, based on the 1947 German novel Jeder stirbt für sich allein (which translates to something like “Every Man Dies Alone”). The story is based on a true one: a German husband and wife lose their son in World War II, then become part of the Resistance not by joining a cell but acting as their own small unit, writing cards with subversive messages about Hitler’s regime and leaving them all over town. Theoretically, the fact that Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson play the couple should be in its favor as well—two terrific actors. But in this case it’s the exact opposite. There is something profoundly strange about sitting …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Saturday is for Seminars—Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago

I’m looking forward to being back at TIU! Trinity International University Colloquium—Deerfield, IL As you may have noticed I write about evangelicals and evangelicalism. A lot. No, I mean a lot. March 22, at TIU Rick Richardson and I will look at the state of evangelicalism as a movement and it’s engagement in evangelism, in particular. The presentation will include statistics on the culture, the church, and its mission. The colloquium will look at barriers to mission and evangelistic engagement and ways churches and Christians are overcoming those barriers. If you’re a student at Trinity come say “hello.” It’s also open to the general public, so feel free to drop by if you are in Chicago. Coming Soon February 20-21, 2016Christ Fellowship Miami Miami, FL February 23, 2016National Religious Broadcasters Convention Nashville, TN March 1 & 3, 2016Talbot Faculty Forum (lectures and chapels) La Marida, CA March 2, 2016Ignite Church Planting Gilbert, AZ March 12-13, 2016Christ Fellowship Miami Miami, FL April 8-10, 2016Colson Center Wilberforce Weekend Washington, D.C. April 17, 2016The Moody Church Chicago, IL April 22, 2016 AWANA National Meeting Streamwood, IL April 23-24, 2016Christ Fellowship Miami Miami, FL April 26-28, 2016Exponential East Orlando, FL April 27, 2016Reformed …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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4 Pieces of Advice for My Younger Self

By Ed Stetzer What we learn along the way can help those who’ve yet to live it What advice would you give your younger self? Thinking through that question can allow a new generation to learn from the journey of those who have gone before and have the scars to show for it. Several years ago Episcopalian priest Peter Wallace published 52 things he would have told his younger self. Among those: It’s a good thing that we don’t know everything that’s going to happen to us. (2) Your hard work in school will be worth it. But come on, don’t kill yourself.​ (4) Engage in self-reflection, but don’t let it become self-deception. (30) You can’t pray too much. (38) “Things I would tell my younger self” is another way to say “here as some things I’ve learned along the way.” Those of us who are older need to remember how much we can teach younger people if we will do it humbly. If I could go back in time, here are the four things I would tell my younger self. First, be cautious with whom you choose to work—not everyone has your best interests at heart. Why would I mention this point as my …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Finding Dory

By Alissa Wilkinson Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish is back – in a quietly subversive tale. Pixar historically does well by their sequels, defying most of Hollywood: the Toy Story franchise actually got better as it went along, and Monsters University was a fun, imaginative romp as well. (Cars 2 had the misfortune of being a sequel to Cars.) And yet it was anyone’s guess if Finding Dory would be good—or even could be good. Its predecessor, released 13 years ago, told the story of a father on a journey across the ocean to find his lost son. But wouldn’t repeating that formula feel a bit . . . formulaic? Nope. Finding Dory, directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Toy Story) is flat-out terrific, even a little subversive. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that this movie is about how Dory was lost, and how she gets found, and by whom. It’s not even necessary to give the rest away, but it means we get some adorable scenes from Dory’s young fish-hood. (Side note: this movie has noted our collective obsession with cute baby animals and milks it for all it’s worth, to great effect.) Marlin and Nemo are back in a more minor role, as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Singled Out

By Cassie Curtis It’s time to lay aside our assumptions about singleness. Singlism: the stigmatization of uncoupled adults, whether divorced, widowed, or ever single. I picked up the vibe right away. We were standing in a hallway waiting for one or two people from a different department to join us for a casual lunch. As we circled up to make introductions, I noticed that one person quickly shifted his shoulders and denied eye contact. The man in question was probably in his late twenties. Moderately attractive. No wedding ring. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was just reserved. After observing his lively dialogue with other members of our group, I was forced to alter my assessment. Not reserved. What is his deal? Halfway through lunch, he had still not so much as looked in my direction when the words “my fiancée” drawled slowly from his mouth. I struggled to hold back a bemused chuckle. Of course! He was engaged! Acknowledging my existence was totally out of the question. As you know, if he had looked me in the eyes or started a conversation with me, I could not have helped myself from falling instantly in love with him. As humorous …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Across 198 Nations, Christians Face More Terrorism But Less Government Hostility

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew finds that terrorism threatens to surpass the traditional persecutors of the global church. From some angles, it looks like the beginning of a hopeful trend among the steady stream of persecution headlines. Both government and societal harassment of religion dropped worldwide in 2014, according to a Pew Research Center study released today. This is the second year in a row that researchers found such a drop. Overall, religious restrictions were high in 34 percent of the 198 countries and self-governing territories Pew examined in 2014, down from 39 percent in 2013 and 43 percent in 2012. About half of the countries (51%) saw decreases in government restrictions, while about a third (36%) saw increases. But the news was more mixed for Christians, which make up about 30 percent of the world’s population. Once again, Christians were the most harassed religious group, facing arrest, discrimination, and assault in 108 countries, up from 102 countries in 2013 (but falling short of the 110 countries in 2012). Pew has measured persecution both by governmental sources and societal pressure since 2009, when it launched its landmark analysis. In 2012, religious hostilities hit record levels. Overall, about a quarter of the world’s governments (24%) …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Q+A with Adam Grant: Does Our Calling Make Us More Creative?

By Interview by Kate Shellnutt The author of ‘Originals’ talks about how faith factors into our ideas and work. A psychology professor at Wharton Business School, Adam Grant probes motivations and inspirations to get at the heart of work. His research reveals unexpected glimpses of humanity and character, like how generosity can help leaders get ahead (his 2013 bestseller Give and Take) and how the rest of us are more like iconic innovators than we think (his latest book Originals). Packed with the stories behind the success and failure of memorable projects from Seinfeld to the Segway, Originals was the basis for Grant’s top-ranked TED talk on creativity and generated acclaim from figures like author Malcolm Gladwell and director JJ Abrams. It’s what inspired me to explore innovation among Christians for our July/August cover story, CT Makers. Grant offers up his expertise in organizational psychology—how individuals behave in groups and in the workplace—to discuss different ways evangelical faith may affect how we think and create. A lot of Christians express a sense of calling, the idea that they believe God has called them to work to solve a certain problem, help a certain group of people, or go into a certain field. How does this sense …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Creating for Good

By Richard Clark Our hope isn’t simply to solve a perceived problem, but to address deeper causes. There’s a certain entrepreneurial impulse I’ve always admired. To an entrepreneur, problems are opportunities. Read enough business books—or watch a few episodes of Shark Tank—and you’ll recognize the pattern. Someone experiences a problem and solves it with a new business model or product. It’s human nature to get tripped up by the problem itself, to assume it’s here to stay, or to cynically pass it on to someone else. These days we’re awash in business models that “work” for one group of people at the expense of another. Retailers sell cheap goods crafted by those who barely make a living wage. Media outlets produce content designed to court grievance and controversy rather than empathy. But God has called his people to seek justice, and Scripture focuses on root problems, not merely their outward effects. Our cover story (p. 40) showcases 20 Christians who have gone further than a surface-level treatment to address such problems. These producers, musicians, writers, and designers saw the world as it was and sought to make it better. We can all do that in our own spheres of influence. Even without a business model, it’s possible …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—July 15, 2016

By Ed Stetzer Race, Russia’s bad law, Church cookouts, church signs, and more! The Pastors Out to Save Millennials’ Souls—Amanda Abrams Great reminder of the need for planting churches in difficult areas. The Church at Its Racial Turning Point—Theon E. Hill Thankful for the churches that are stepping up and praying that more will do so. Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church—Kate Shellnut Russian seems to be heading back to USSR views on religious freedom. Reflections on Amplify 16: a Fantastic Week—Alvin Reid Thankful for my friend Alvin and appreciate these meaningful remarks. My Church Is Having A Cookout This Weekend—Jay Sanders This rural Georgia church isn’t waiting for the government to “do something about race relations.” Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Click here to listen to my interview with Mark Batterson. This Week on The Exchange Learning to Recognize the Shepherd’s Voice Two Statistics Every Church Planter Needs to Know Leadership Development According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer Di-ver-si-ty: Overcoming Homogeneity in Our Churches Alcohol Abuse, Perry Noble, and the Church’s Response—What Now? Church Signs Good thing the law has been fulfilled. “Lovelutionaries”? That’s not a word, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Feasting and Fellowship in the Age of Food Allergies

By Hannah Anderson and Dan Darling Eating can be a source of fellowship—but in a fallen and allergy-ridden world, it can also present challenges. “I can’t eat that,” a friend said, passing by the staple of our church’s monthly potluck: the perfectly crafted homemade macaroni and cheese from the kitchen of a church matriarch. Eating Emma’s macaroni was a ritual in our church; to not eat it might signal to the longtime churchgoer that you really weren’t one of us. But this young woman wasn’t being either ignorant or pretentious. In fact, she had a rare stomach disorder that would not allow her to eat dairy products. Had she eaten Emma’s signature dish, she would have become violently sick. For most of us, eating is a joyful opportunity for Christian fellowship. For people like my friend, however, it can be a source of division and isolation. I (Dan) was a young pastor when this incident occurred, and it helped me realize how complicated church feasts— which serve as a visible symbol of Christian unity and identity—can be in a fallen world. Feasting together is good, but it can also get complicated. If we want to love our brothers and sisters in Christ well, then it’s worth our time …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Died: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy

By Jeremy Weber Jerry B. Jenkins: ‘Thrilled as I am that he is where he has always wanted to be, his departure leaves a void in my soul.’ Tim LaHaye, the best-selling author best known for the Left Behind series, “graduated to heaven” this morning after suffering a stroke at age 90. His family announced the news on his ministry Facebook page. On the eve of his death, ministry partners, fans, and friends urgently asked for prayer on social media this weekend, offering a wave of early tributes that spread through end-times prophecy circles and chapters of Concerned Women for America (CWA), the organization co-founded by LaHaye’s wife, Beverly. Some circulated a statement by LaHaye’s daughter Linda: “He will not recover from this, he will soon be graduated to heaven.” “Tim was one of the most godly men I have ever known,” said David Jeremiah, LaHaye’s successor at the San Diego church he led for 25 years (then named Scott Memorial Baptist Church, now named Shadow Mountain Community Church). “Almost every conversation I had with him ended with his praying with me and for me. He wrote me extended letters of appreciation for what God was doing in our church. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Developing a Missional Response to Seismic Shifts in the Church

By Daniel Im It’s time to stop holding on to yesteryear and start looking for ways to introduce Jesus to our dark world. There have been two seismic shifts in the church and culture in the English-speaking Western world over the past few decades. The first shift is predominantly a good one, while the second shift has mixed reactions. Seismic Shift #1: An Increased Focus on Church Planting Recently, I came across a tweet from my friend, Jeff Christopherson, who leads the North American Mission Board’s Send Network. I love this! In the Southern Baptist Convention, church plants baptize almost four times the number of people than existing established churches! I agree with the hashtag, #plantingworks. Statistics like this are one of the reasons that denominations are placing a greater emphasis on church planting. The dynamic long-term growth of many church plants has helped as well. Consider Life Church with Craig Groeschel, Saddleback with Rick Warren, and Redeemer Presbyterian with Tim Keller, among many others. Compare that to a few decades ago, when church planting was on the periphery and seen as a ‘suspicious activity’ to most. Seismic Shift #2: The Church Moving to the Periphery Over the past few decades another shift has occurred—the Church has moved from the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Celebrate Recovery Helped Evangelicals Open Up About Addiction

By Kate Shellnutt Over 25 years, the program has made churches a safer space for recovery. If you’ve heard a sermon, small-group discussion, Sunday school lesson, or testimony that addressed one of those once-taboo topics—alcoholism, drug abuse, anger issues, porn habits—you probably have Celebrate Recovery to thank. “It used to be if someone was an alcoholic or a drug addict or, heaven forbid, they had any kind of issue with anger, then it was hush-hush,” said Huston McComb, a licensed professional counselor who leads Celebrate Recovery at Houston’s First Baptist Church. “We’ve kind of taken that stigma away.” While some of the shame around addiction has faded over the decades, Celebrate Recovery has shifted how evangelicals in particular view “hurts, habits, and hang-ups.” The ministry hosts regular meetings at 29,000 churches and has trained more than 100,000 pastors in the recovery process. Its annual summit this weekend marks 25 years since John Baker founded the program at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, immediately following his own journey to sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous. Like many evangelicals at the time, he had reservations about the generic spirituality of AA, whose 12-step program refers to “a Power greater than ourselves” and “God as we understood him.” Baker saw a need to create …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Resources Changed My Mind

By Ed Stetzer The books we read and allow to influence us hold great importance, for good or bad. When I was a young teen, my mom (a new Christian) gave me a book called Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. She said it was a science fiction book written by a Christian. Being the sci-fi fan that I was, and intrigued by the idea of a Christian authoring those types of books, I finished it and the rest of Lewis’ Space Trilogy. At that time, I had no idea how much I would come to be influenced by their author. I later discovered C.S. Lewis as the man behind The Chronicles of Narnia and numerous other works influenced by his faith. His nonfiction writings built my passion for accessible theology. I read Mere Christianity and have since shared it with hundreds of different people as an apologetic defense of the gospel. As a young, recently converted believer, I was drawn to the writing of Lewis—an articulate and engaging Oxford professor who talked about Jesus. To me, Lewis made it OK to love Jesus and have a brain. Half a century after his death, we still read his works because of how he wrote …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Fearless Faith in a Time of Forgetting

By Brett McCracken Our culture can’t remember what makes Christianity good, but there’s no reason to freak out. The paradoxical pairing of nostalgia and forgetfulness are everywhere in today’s American culture: Trump supporters who want to “make America great again,” one shocking @realDonaldTrump tweet at a time; hipsters who want grandpa’s vintage manliness without his Eisenhower-era values; movie fans who love period films but can’t remember the best-picture winner from last year. Then there’s this particularly widespread memory lapse: We say we want a good society with morally upright citizens, but we forget the significant role Christians play, and have played for millennia, in the world’s flourishing. It’s something Christians themselves are forgetting. Many are increasingly embarrassed, self-loathing, and viciously infighting. At times, they’re more vocal on blogs and Twitter about the alleged good-for-nothing horribleness of Christians than the most ardent atheist. Today’s religious freedom debates exemplify this amnesia about Christianity’s contributions to the common good. In the balancing act between LGBT protections and free exercise protections for religious businesses and institutions, federal and state governments seem poised to dispense with the latter for the sake of the former. This summer California debated a controversial proposed law (SB 1146) that threatened to drastically narrow religious protections …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Phyllis Schlafly Defended Women Like Me

By Jen Pollock Michel Even with her flaws, the “first lady of the conservative movement” understood a fundamental human desire. Phyllis Schlafly, who labeled herself a housewife, called 1964 one of the most productive years of her life: “I was running the Illinois Federation of Republican Women; I wrote A Choice, Not an Echo; I self-published it; I went to the Republican convention; wrote a second book, The Gravediggers—now we’re in September—I was giving speeches for Barry Goldwater, and in November I had a baby.” When Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, announced the news of Schlafly’s death, I assumed he would interview an academic happy to expose (with feminist animus) the hypocrisy of a woman who benefited from women’s rights and also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Instead, Inskeep talked with Penny Young Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America. Nance described the legacy Schlafly has left for conservative women and, in her closing elegiac remarks, called Schlafly “kind and strong.” Somewhat ruefully, I admire the woman who championed the role of homemakers. In the current culture, however, it’s a lot easier to be embarrassed by her. Her grassroots activism prevented adoption of the ERA, which passed both houses of Congress and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Stop Snacking on ‘Scripture McNuggets’

By Interview by Drew Dyck A Bible expert diagnoses the bad habits that keep us from feasting on God’s Word. We use the Bible as a manual or answer book. We look to it as a talisman or horoscope. We proof-text, cherry-pick, and impose our own biases. The sins against Scripture are numerous and, according to Biblica vice president Glenn R. Paauw, endemic. And don’t get him started on what the Good Book has suffered at the hand of translators and publishers. Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well is Paauw’s jeremiad against our tendency to distort, misuse, and misrepresent the Bible. All this mistreatment, Paauw argues, has left us with stunted Scriptures. CTPastors.com senior editor Drew Dyck spoke with Paauw about his quest for a bigger Bible. Why does the Bible need saving? God took a risk with the Bible—he gave it to us. It’s in our hands, and we’re free to do with it what we will. We shape it culturally. We shape the actual look and feel of it as an artifact, and we form practices around it. We are capable of imprisoning the Bible, of diminishing its impact. And if we don’t do right by the Bible, the Bible …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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