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Christian

Tarantino's Incarnational Aesthetic

By Brett McCracken Quentin Tarantino is an unlikely contributor to the theology of Incarnation. This article is adapted from a chapter in the newly published book Tarantino And Theology. The Hateful Eight will be the second Quentin Tarantino film in a row to be released on Christmas Day (following 2012’s Django Unchained), a fact that probably has more to do with the lucrative holiday market than anything related to the significance of Christmas. But what if Tarantino’s films actually do have something theological to say in this season of celebrating Christ’s Incarnation? Tarantino is admittedly an unlikely contributor to the theology of Incarnation. But in their fixation on bodies (both fierce and frail), curious interest in food and drink, and focus on the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the material world, Tarantino’s films represent an aesthetic that is distinctively “incarnational.” They help the viewer re-sensitize to the physical, fleshy world in which Christ lived, breathed, died and rose. By paying attention to the incarnational aesthetics of Tarantino’s films, we push against the increasing disembodiment of our digital world, as well as our western Christian tendency to etherealize our faith, divorcing it from a material and embodied context. Flying Limbs, Exploding Hearts, and The Centrality of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Refugees on the Roma Road

By Melody J. Wachsmuth in Osijek, Croatia In Europe, Christian ‘gypsies’ best understand those fleeing Syria and Iraq. Months before he encountered the refugees, Aleksandar Subotin had a dream. The 31-year-old Roma pastor saw a large group of people walking through a train station. He had never seen them before, but he knew he was there to help them. He remembered this dream when he first brought 500 packages of food to a refugee processing camp in Kanjiza, Serbia, last fall. “Then I started to pray for God to open doors so we could work with them,” said Subotin, who leads two Roma churches and 15 home groups in northwest Serbia. Like many Christian Roma along Eastern Europe’s “refugee highway,” which stretches from Greece to Croatia, Subotin feels for the families fleeing Syria, Iraq, and other troubled nations. His empathy stems from belonging to a group stigmatized for generations in Europe as “gypsies.” Today, Europe has about 11 million Roma, a collection of related ethnic groups that compose one of the world’s largest people groups without its own nation state, as well as the seat of a massive Christian revival . More so than most European Christians, Roma believers—most of whom are Pentecostals—understand displacement …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Give Us a King!: Leadership Theory for Election Season

By Halee Gray Scott Historic trends bring context to Trump’s confounding popularity. Thousands of political pundits, commentators, writers, and bloggers have attempted to understand and explain Donald Trump’s appeal. As a registered Independent, I’ve struggled alongside them. What would make people—and 37 percent of evangelical Christians especially—overlook such bad behavior? Judging by the dismissive attacks toward Trump supporters, one common explanation is to question their sanity or their character. While some share his fringe views, and some simply enjoy the Trump circus, I suspect Trump’s Christian backing—enough to earn him a spot among the top candidates in yesterday’s Iowa caucus—has less to do with contemptible biases and more to do with leadership theory. “Leadership is like beauty,” wrote leadership expert Warren Bennis. “It’s hard to define but you know it when you see it.” Part of the reason leadership is so difficult to define is because, contrary to popular notions, what we look for in a leader changes and evolves. Since the early 20th century, scholars have marked several different approaches to leadership—each corresponding to people’s values and needs in a particular time. … Over the past century, we moved from looking for “Great Man,” commanding leaders like Winston Churchill …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Better Way to Be Evangelical

By Anthony L. Blair “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” As the president of an institution with evangelical in its name, I’ve had many opportunities to reflect on the mixed legacy that comes with that word. If you don’t explain what you mean, others will fill in the meaning for you—and today, all too often, they will treat it as a synonym for “narrow-minded,” “fundamentalist,” “intolerant,” or even “hatemonger.” The hard truth is that those of us who have borne the label “evangelical” have not always put our best foot—or our best gospel—forward. We may have held to orthodoxy, but it has not necessarily been beautiful or full of grace. What should we do? We could abandon the word altogether and leave it to its narrowest, most reactive partisans. Or we can reclaim it with fresh descriptions of what evangelical faith really can and does mean. To paraphrase Charles Dickens just a bit, we have a far, far better gospel and a far, far better Savior to offer this world than what they have heard from us at times. It is time to embrace the call to be boldly, broadly, and beautifully evangelical. Being Evangelical The word “evangelical” today …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

You Were Never Made to Be 'Productive'

By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun Why rest is at the center of God’s design. Compared to people in other industrialized nations, Americans work longer hours, take fewer vacation days, and retire later in life. Busyness, once seen as the curse of the disadvantaged, has become equated with status and importance. Our work increasingly defines who we are. On the surface, John Koessler’sThe Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap (InterVarsity Press) seems ideally suited to this particular moment in cultural history. Interestingly, though, one of the first things Koessler does is decouple the concept of rest from work. “Rest is an end in itself,” he writes in the introduction. “We do not work in order to justify the fact that we rest. We do not rest in order to work. Rest as the Bible describes it is our destiny. It is what we were made to do.” According to Koessler, this type of godly rest (distinct from play, relaxation, or sleep) is inextricably tied to our identity as children of God. Jesus is our ultimate rest, which we can only find when we release the worldly anxieties, ambitions, and expectations that pull us toward greater productivity. For an overachieving people-pleaser like me, thinking of rest as an …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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On Dying and Reckoning with the Prosperity Gospel

By Interview by Morgan Lee How church historian Kate Bowler’s cancer diagnosis brought her face-to-face with the beauty and terror of the popular movement. Kate Bowler is a Canadian professor at Duke Divinity School who researches the prosperity gospel movement. She’s also 35, a wife and mother, and critically ill with cancer. In a widely shared New York Times piece “Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me,” the author of Blessed reflected on her research and how it informed her convictions on suffering and faith. (Read CT’s book review.) “I’m never very theologically declarative,” said Bowler. “I’ve really tried to hold off on doing that in order to make enough space for people to make up their own minds. But in this case, it was just a lot more personal. I don’t have a lot of pretention anymore.” Bowler recently spoke with Christianity Today‘s assistant editor Morgan Lee about how Americans define suffering, what she would embrace from prosperity gospel theology, and how she copes with the loss of control that suffering brings. “It’s very bizarre to be eclipsed by a disease you barely knew existed a couple months ago,” she said. “It’s been a really intense year.” In what ways have your feelings changed towards the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

It Starts With "Shukran"

By Bekah Stoneking Perhaps learning a new language is your next discipleship move. “I’d like a green tea, please.” The cashier swiped my card as her co-worker put the ingredients into my cup, snapped on the lid, and handed it over the counter without much eye contact; she had already turned to tend to the next customer. “Shukran!” She turned back to my direction and I repeated myself—in English this time. “Thank you.” As my tea steeped, I began to panic. Did her nametag really say she was from Egypt? Did I use the correct form of “thank you” for her as an Egyptian woman? Did I use someone else’s “thank you” and offend her? Did I even say “thank you”?! Oh no. Here she comes… When she asked if I spoke Arabic, I told her I was learning to read the Qur’an but had been practicing conversational phrases for about a week. She seemed delighted and told me how important she thought it was for people to learn Arabic since many Middle Easterners were moving to the city. We went back in forth with basic phrases and she even taught me some new ones “Allah mahaba. Allah is love,” she said. She opened the door; all I had to do …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Weekend Edition—June 3, 2016

By Ed Stetzer British Evangelicalism, A Confession, Military chaplains, church signs and more! British Christianity isn’t dying. It’s sleeping. Evangelism can awaken it—Tim Stanley Great analysis from a British historian. A Confession of Liberal Intolerance—Nicholas Kristof Self-examination is essential for any movement. The Crisis in Flint Isn’t Over. It’s Everywhere.—Ben Paynter Leaving aside politics for a moment, there are a lot of people suffering in this debacle. What happens when the military chaplain is shaken by war—Michelle Boorstein The cost of war to soldiers is great, as is the cost paid by those who care for them. 3 Shortcuts Leaders Should Never Take—Eric Geiger Eric brings his ongoing great insight into leadership. Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today’s Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups direct to your inbox. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Earlier this week on The Exchange The Ministries of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism Trends in Church Staffing: Executive and Campus Pastors Amplifying Evangelism—Helping Non-Christian Friends Hear God’s Voice How Events Help People Share the Mission Church Signs Bring Your Own Bolt …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Saturday is for Seminars—and Preaching in Chicago Area Churches

By Ed Stetzer Here are four churches I’ll be preaching at soon. Now that we are Chicago bound, it means a new weekend preaching routine. I will be an occasional guest speaker at Grace Church when I am in Nashville. (I just preached there this week, and the Tennessean had a brief article about my comments concerning #Orlando.) I will remain as teaching pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, and will be preaching there several times this summer, and once a month in general. (Yes, I’m hoping a lot of that preaching is in the winter! Then, here are some places I will be in the Chicago area in in the next few weeks. Compass Church, July 3rd, 2016—Naperville and Wheaton, IL Christ Community Church, Aug 6-7, 2016—St. Charles (and all over), IL Moody Church, Sept. 11, 18, 25, 2016—Chicago, IL Chinese Union Church, Oct 2, 2016—Chicago, IL And, don’t forget to register for Amplify, coming soon, June 28-30 at Wheaton. Coming Soon June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference Wheaton, IL July 18, 2016 Church of God General Assembly Nashville, TN August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference Toronto, Ontario, CA September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gospel-Centered Evangelism for a Multiethnic World

By Derwin Gray So what does high-definition evangelism look like? The vast majority of local churches in America are not growing. This should break our hearts. This statistic means that more and more people in America don’t know the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. This fact will increase divorce, addiction, injustice, greed, sexual immorality, idolatry, oppression, and a multitude of other sins that destroy people’s lives. We need evangelistic local churches, fueled by Christ-followers who see themselves as missionaries. We need “good news” local churches filled with “good news” people. So what does high-definition evangelism look like? Here are three characteristics of gospel-centered evangelism for a multiethnic world: 1) Evangelism must be rooted in a gospel-centered vision. What is the good news? It’s the announcement that Israel’s Messiah has accomplished what He came to do. Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His sinless life, atoning death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of His father, where He is now our high priest. Jesus now rules His kingdom at the right hand of God the papa. By grace alone, through the Holy Spirit’s power, people who trust in Jesus are swept up into his glorious kingdom. This redeemed, multicolored people become a “chosen …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Over 25,000 Ebola Orphans at Risk

By Timothy C. Morgan Churches join effort to care for vulnerable children who have lost one or both parents in West Africa. “My mama is dead in my house and we don’t know what to do.” In Sierra Leone, an 8-year-old boy called the national hotline by dialing 1-1-7 earlier this month. The father had already died, presumably from Ebola, and this boy was now head of the household with five younger siblings. He had decided to call for a burial team to pick up his mother’s remains. In West Africa, the death of parents from the Ebola epidemic has caused a surge in orphans. They are mostly young children age 5 and under. Government officials estimate 25,900 or more of them are in urgent need of comprehensive care in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. A very high percentage of these children have lost both parents to the virus. Many of the children are under quarantine. Fearful relatives are shunning or abandoning them as possible carriers of the virus. But there is something worse for these orphans than abandonment: becoming infected with Ebola. “What I’m seeing on the ground is quite disturbing,” said Susan Hillis, a senior staff adviser in global health with the US Centers for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Two Statistics Every Church Planter Needs to Know

By Ed Stetzer You can’t plant a church without partners. You can’t plant a church without partners and you can’t grow a healthy church without evangelism. But those will look different for different planters in different contexts. It has become fairly common to send a large (30+) group of people somewhere to plant a church. Others seek to build a group exclusively from the harvest in their new community. The churches I’ve planted never began with a core group. I have always parachuted in—that’s really the best description. While I have never begun with a core group, at the same time, I’ve never begun without a team. Once on site, I set about building a team. Biblical kingdom growth is evangelism that results in new churches. Though I’ve never seen a church planted with 100% new believers or lost people, it is certainly biblical to expect a large number of the members and attenders to come from the harvest. It is concerning to see an increasing number of church plants where the vast majority of the people are dissatisfied, disgruntled or re-energized Christians. Sadly, strategies that lend themselves to transfer growth have become the norm. In an issue of Mission Frontiers, Mike Breen laments …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Stockpiling Treasures in My Junk Closet

By Margot Starbuck, guest writer How I got rid of 1,000 things and finally found shalom. Show me a Real Simple magazine article on “decluttering your home” and all I see is a stack of shiny pages to decoupage Christmas ornaments over the long Thanksgiving weekend. That’s how I roll: for years I’ve squirreled away craft supplies (aka stuff to make other stuff), torn backpacks (aka stuff to carry other stuff), matchless socks, rusty baking trays, extra linens, and shelves of books no one will ever open again. I certainly wasn’t the kind of person you’d think would be captured by a movement as horrible-sounding as “minimalism.” Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker describes it as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” The movement sounds radical to the North American ear—perhaps, even, easily discounted as the neuroses of extremists working out childhood deprivation issues. But this philosophy can be traced throughout Jesus’ life and teachings: take one outfit and a single pair of sandals for the journey, ask our Father for enough food for this day, and, for the love of God, please reconsider that reno on your double-wide storage pods.. Some adherents of simple living—Francis of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pop Francis: Why Everyone Loves the Pope

By R. R. Reno From secular journalists to charismatic Christians, millions are taken with the Jesuit from Argentina. If you want to measure the global acclaim of the current pope, ask 100 random people about the Roman Catholic Church. While you will see a few thumbs up, most will express ambivalence bordering on dislike or distrust. Some will be hostile. Ask them about Pope Francis I, however, and the responses will be overwhelmingly positive. The Jesuit from Buenos Aires pleases many and brings smiles to their faces. He even made Luca Baratto smile. Baratto, a pastor in the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, heard Pope Francis apologize for the Catholic Church’s complicity in the Italian government’s persecution of Pentecostals and evangelicals during the 1920s and ’30s. Baratto was surprised too: Francis’s apology was unscripted and unannounced beforehand. That is his style, at once unpredictable and committed to breaking down the often-bitter rivalry between evangelicals and Catholics. The Jesuits carry the reputation of clerical commandos. In the US Army, a Green Beret can’t rise above the rank of colonel. That’s because men trained to freelance as fighters aren’t likely to fit well in the command-and-control system of the Army. The Catholic Church has drawn a similar conclusion …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Have Yourself a Merry Kitschy Christmas

By Sarah Arthur What weird Nativity sets get right about the story of Jesus. I’m not a collector, but I love the Nativity sets that begin appearing this time of year. Whether ornate, simple, ethnic, crafty, plush, porcelain, enormous, or fit-in-eggshell teeny—show me a crèche, and I’m a kid on Christmas Eve again. But even I admit there’s a point at which crèches cross into the realm of weird. Nativities starring chickens, for instance. Or trolls. Or zombies. Or any of the bizarre kitsch that youth ministry veteran Mark Oestreicher has found for his ongoing list of “the worst and weirdest nativity sets,” including the Meat Nativity—made of bacon and sausages on a bed of hash browns. Discerning Christians in the West often protest the mishandling of Christmas: the tacky, irreverent, quaint, and theologically-problematic distortions that pass as the gospel, not to mention as art. While I find the Meat Nativity hilarious, I realize a hotdog Jesus takes the carne of the Incarnation a little too far. But I wonder if, in our hurry to correct such spiritual shallowness, we miss a vital opportunity to engage the broader culture at a moment when our neighbors are actually focused on the right thing: the story …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Conversation with Nate Parker about 'The Birth of a Nation'

By Alissa Wilkinson CT talks to the writer, director, and star of the highly-anticipated film about his faith and race in America. On January 25, I settled into the balcony of the Eccles Theater at the Sundance Film Festival, next to another critic. We’d already seen two movies that day and were getting ready for the third, but before the film even began the crowd gave it a standing ovation. By the time it was over, most of the audience was in tears, and the film received another standing ovation after the credits rolled. We all had a sense that something historic had happened that afternoon. The film was The Birth of a Nation (read my Sundance review), the story of slave preacher Nat Turner and the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia. In the film, Turner is (illegally) taught to read the Bible as a child by the mistress of the plantation on which he lived as a slave; as an adult, he becomes a preacher, and his study of Scripture as well as his observation of cruelty on the plantations he visits as a preacher leads him toward violent action. (The film has a great deal, thematically, in common with Braveheart.) Nate Parker, who …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Flooded by a Storm, Then by Grace

By Jeannine Seery The superstorm almost destroyed our home. What happened afterward shocked me. My husband and I stood at the front door and paused. We knew that we’d reached a watershed moment—literally. With one turn of the key, nothing in our lives would stay the same. And although there was nothing we could do but step inside, we stopped, as if doing so would keep our nightmare from becoming a reality. The storm surge of Hurricane Sandy dumped more than 4 feet of water into the first floor of our home. Our living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom had absorbed a mix of ocean water, diesel fuel, raw sewage, and whatever else the Atlantic Ocean had to offer on October 29, 2012. We knew that the water had receded, but we had no idea what our lives looked like on the other side of that door. Nothing could prepare us for what we saw. Only a thick layer of wet sludge remained on the floor, and the water hadn’t reached our second floor. But the force of the ocean had taken all of our furniture and moved it around the first floor. The refrigerator had capsized, spilling out its contents. Our sofa was now …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Call Out Locker Room Talk for the Sin That It Is

By Karen Swallow Prior We can’t excuse inconsistent principles in our politicians or in each other. “It’s just locker room talk.” With these five words, Donald Trump and many of his supporters have tried to brush away the presidential candidate’s sexually predatory comments recorded in a 2005 conversation between the GOP presidential candidate and NBC host Billy Bush. Presumably, the same defense covers Trump’s conversations with Howard Stern about threesomes, anal sex, and his own daughter’s derriere. Putting aside the more serious question of whether Trump’s words in his conversation with Bush accurately describe real actions he has committed (something he denied when pressed by Anderson Cooper in Sunday night’s debate), let’s consider the notion that all this is “just locker room talk.” The locker room, with its shiny little lockers and their built-in locks, lulls us into the illusion that compartmentalization of our lives is possible. The locker room offers the appearance of privacy, but at the same time elicits public performance (as every awkward middle school student knows too well). A liminal space, the locker room requires people to be at their most vulnerable—naked—in front of other people and therefore elicits the most bravado, whether feigned or genuine. Thus the locker room is emblematic of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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I Used to Think Abuse Was Love

By Angie Hong I’m learning that true healing requires facing the past The concert ran late and I knew I was breaking curfew, which spoiled any of the fun I had in the previous hours that night. I carefully tiptoed up to my room hoping that, for a change, my mother had already gone to sleep so my punishment would come in the morning. This wasn’t the best move to make right before leaving for college. But I wasn’t running too late; maybe there was a chance that she would forget about it. Maybe not. I quietly turned the corner to enter my room, and my jaw dropped in horror as I found all my belongings in a big pile in the middle of the floor. Everything, from pencils to underwear to my computer, was built into a giant mountain. She was wild-eyed and furious, waiting for me to arrive, and like a lion pouncing on its prey, she proceeded to yell and scream, reiterating her analysis that I was inherently bad. This sort of dramatic reaction to my disobedience was not unusual, each time leaving me in a state of confusion and shame. But something about the way she said it this day was different. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Lovekindness: A Post-Election Path for Christians in America

By Barry H. Corey Democracy sees the value of dialogue for the common good. Where do we go from here? It is November 9, and after an exhaustingly long, divisive election that has at times felt apocalyptic, America now has a new President-elect, Donald Trump. But while there has been resolution to the long-contested question of who will occupy the White House come February, the problems that gave rise to (and were exacerbated by) this horrific election will not be gone from America. We are a nation divided. And the wedges were driven deeper by the vitriol of this campaign. We state our intractable views on everything from race to religion to class to sexuality to culture to Colin Kaepernick. Facebook used to be a place where friends shared updates and photos. Now, it’s a forum for overheated ranting among strangers. Sadly, Christian communities have been complicit in this culture of divisiveness. Whether the topic is Trump, transgenderism, or refugees, on any given day the Christian Twitterverse is barely distinguishable from any other angry subculture. American Christians, like all Americans, are being conditioned by the rhetoric of division. It’s the air we breathe on 24-hour cable news, on social media, and in the click-bait articles that favor unnuanced and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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