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Scarlet Hope

By Rachelle Starr Louisville-based ministry shares the love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry I had been loving and serving dancers in strip clubs for several years when my teammates and I decided to do something special. While we usually just did hair and makeup, on this particular night we decided we would give the dancers pedicures. We were given our usual greeting as we walked into the club and began setting up in our usual spot near the back of the stage. “The Church Ladies are here!” While we have never called ourselves “Church Ladies,” and, in fact, don’t come from one particular church, for nearly ten years our ministry of Jesus-loving women who go into more than a dozen strip clubs around Louisville every week have been dubbed “the Church Ladies.” “Is your mom feeling better? I’ve been praying for her this week.” “How did your husband’s interview go?” After catching up with the dancers, many of whom we’d grown very close to, we began setting up. We had heated up water in a kettle before we left the house so that when we poured it into our basin it was the perfect temperature for a relaxing foot soak. Then we set out …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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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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Pop Culture Gets Religion

By Alissa Wilkinson Introducing a series on what captivated us in 2014. The end of the year brings an avalanche of lists: best-of, worst-of, favorite, least favorite, most-tweeted-about, most-read, most-loved, least-hated, and more, and that’s not counting that inevitable list of resolutions. So let me add to the noise. For the next week or so, I’ll be running a series of short posts about the ideas and questions pop culture creators and audiences found interesting during 2014. (I’m coming up with these in a totally unscientific manner—which is to say that I just said, Self, what was pop culture interested in? and then wrote down what I replied.) My answers—perhaps obviously—are heavily weighted toward the religious questions and explorations on which our TV shows and movies and a few books and even a podcast took us this year, from memory and knowledge to the nature of evil to the supernatural, the apocalyptic, and more. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how deeply we’ve been looking for answers to religious questions in our stories, and how hard creators have worked to try to explore them thoroughly. Maybe this isn’t surprising, because every media outlet under the sun has run an article on how 2014 was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: What Was the Best News of 2014?

By Compiled by Ruth Moon Observers weigh in on the year’s events that will most shape evangelical life, thought, or mission. “Engagement between evangelicals and Catholics has gone to a whole new level. In June, I had a three-hour project meeting with Pope Francis—with no agenda. In my tenure, I have not seen that kind of openness. There’s a shift taking place under Francis. He seems clearly geared toward evangelicals.”~Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general, World Evangelical Alliance “The decision by World Vision to immediately and completely revoke a new policy allowing for the hiring of persons in same-sex marriages. This was Christianity at its best. In a difficult circumstance, our brothers and sisters lovingly held accountable those in error, leading to repentance and a course correction.”~Eric Teetsel, director, Manhattan Declaration “Missionaries working with Ebola patients in West Africa brought attention to the continual work of missionaries around the world. Similarly, the ‘We are N’ movement brought more attention to persecuted minorities and made religious freedom advocacy trendy in a social media context.”~Sarah Pulliam Bailey, national correspondent, Religion News Service “The news of persecution of believers overseas seems to finally be shaking the North American church out of our bargain-basement prosperity gospel. As churches pray and work for freedom and justice, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Babies Halt the Great Commission

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Christian researchers think population growth will stall the gospel’s spread. Over the past century, the Good News has taken off faster than at any other time in history.­­ It took nearly 2,000 years for the gospel to spread from the early church to nearly half the world’s population. In 1900, 45.7 percent of people everywhere were aware of the gospel, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More than 100 years later, that number has grown to more than 70 percent. Given that the number of mission organizations has grown from 2,200 in 1970 to 5,100 in 2015, the whole world should soon hear the Good News, right? Not so fast, said the CSGC. By 2050, it predicts only another 2 percent of the world’s population will be evangelized, totaling 72 percent. The root of the slowdown: babies, rival religions, and the painstaking work of building disciples. The evangelism boom of the 20th century came primarily from the work done among African tribal groups that had no ties to the world’s major religions. The number of Christians on the continent rose from 7 million in 1900 to 470 million in 2010, according to Pew Research Center. But …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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Commentary: 'Rectify' Shows Integrity in the Age of the Anti-Hero

By Wes Jakacki Why some critics are calling the Sundance TV series “true Christian art.” At the end of the TV anti-hero age, on-screen kindness and integrity aren’t in great supply. But that’s not so on the Sundance series Rectify, which recently concluded its third season. (The first two seasons are available on Netflix.) Set in Paulie, Georgia, Rectify is the story of the Holden family, whose son Daniel (tenderly played by Aiden Young) is released from death row after nineteen years when new DNA evidence vacates the original trial. One of the show’s central mysteries is whether Daniel did indeed commit the alleged rape and murder that landed him in prison as a teenager. But the show’s creators are far more concerned with how the Holdens deal with the aftermath, when Daniel returns home for a second chance at life. Showrunner Ray McKinnon grew up in a small town in Georgia similar to Paulie and is clearly familiar with honest depictions of faith, especially Southern Baptist faith. His characters are good, honest, and complex people trying their best to do right by each other and live out their faith. Scott Teems, a devout Christian who previously spoke with CT after his directorial debut That Evening Sun, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Adulterous Pastors Should Not Be Restored

By R. Kent Hughes and John H. Armstrong Repentance is not enough for returning fallen ministers to the pulpit. “Genuine forgiveness does not necessarily imply restoration to leadership,” former CT editor Kenneth Kantzer once wrote after the moral failure of several prominent evangelical leaders. Yet the impulse to link forgiveness with restoration to ministry remains strong. Here two pastor-theologians argue for the importance of keeping separate the restoration to the body of Christ and restoration to pastoral leadership. The North American church is seriously vexed by the question, “What shall we do with an adulterous pastor?” Over the past decade, the church has been repeatedly staggered by revelations of immoral conduct by some of its most respected leaders. How do we respond to those who have sexually fallen and disgraced themselves, shamed their families, and debased their office? The typical pattern goes like this: The pastor is accused and convicted of sexual sin. He confesses his sin, often with profound sorrow. His church or denominational superiors prescribe a few months, or often one year, in which time he is encouraged to obtain professional counsel. Then he is restored to his former office, sometimes in another location. He is commonly regarded as a “wounded healer,” one who now knows what it means …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: The Martian

By Alissa Wilkinson Matt Damon and the whole world take on the Martian elements. mpaa rating:PG-13 (For some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.) Genre:Action, Science Fiction Theatre Release:October 02, 2015 by Twentieth Century Fox Fall has arrived at last, and with it, our now-annual space blockbuster, destined to spark as many thinkpieces and “What This Movie Gets Wrong About Science Stuff” explainers as 2013’s installment (Gravity) and last year’s (Interstellar). The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott and based on the first self-published and now bestselling novel by Andy Weir, is probably the most enjoyable of the three, if not the most fantastical. This is the most practical and down-to-earth (haha) of the trio, without all the relentless visual metaphors of Gravity or the mind- and time-bending theoretical physics of Interstellar. Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, a member of a six-person mission to Mars helmed by Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) who gets left behind on Mars when the crew has to abandon the planet suddenly. Watney, the crew’s botanist, has to figure out how to communicate with earth and survive on a barren planet, while NASA and a herd of scientists scramble back on Earth to figure out how they might bring him …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Ponder Christian Soldiers

By Logan Isaac A new web series on the experience of Christian soldiers. This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experience in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT will host an online series on Christian soldiers. The following essay is from Centurions Guild founder Logan Isaac and introduces the series, called Ponder Christian Soldiers. What does it mean to be a Christian soldier? Some consider Christian and soldier to be nearly synonymous. Insofar as both the church and the military are engaged in bringing good news, justice, and democracy to the farthest reaches of the globe, the distinction between the two is permeable. To others, “Christian soldier” is an oxymoron. To be one is to violate the requirements of the other. To be a good Christian, I must cease being a soldier; to become a soldier is to betray my Christian faith. I came across both of these views repeatedly over several months in 2005, when, as a soldier on active duty, I prepared for my baptism. Those who identify as patriots told me that, since Israel was commanded to commit violence against her enemies, God clearly condones the use of violence …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Laughing At, Or Laughing With?

By Asher Gelzer-Govatos When is it okay to laugh at characters in a documentary – and when does that laughter cross a line? Of all the adjectives people might use to describe documentary films–important, artsy, difficult–one that does not spring immediately to mind is fun. But the new documentary Finders Keepers challenges this preconception of nonfiction films as hard work, offering a wild tale full of severed limbs, courtroom drama, and plenty of salty humor. In the midst of the many belly laughs the film offers, though, it also poses a key question for sensitive viewers of documentaries: when is it okay to laugh at the people onscreen? The story revolves around a legal dispute between two men over a preserved, amputated leg. When irrepressible showboat Shannon Whisnant finds the leg in a grill he purchases at auction, he sets out to do the American thing and make some money off the spectacle. John Wood, the leg’s original owner, demands its return. Whisnant refuses to budge. The two men trade words and eventually take each other to court. Filmmakers Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel keep their focus tight on the two characters, and Whisnant especially fills up the screen with his charisma and homebrewed witticisms. As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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From Tent City to Tiny Houses

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Churches try hip solution to aid the homeless. In Nashville, Tennessee, six brightly-colored, 60-square-foot homes dot the property of Green Street Church of Christ. But their occupants aren’t fashionable trend-setters. They’re homeless folks who have found shelter in tiny houses. In addition to four walls and a roof, the homes offer Murphy beds, laminate flooring, and a door that locks. Even better, they provide residents, some of whom used to live in tents, an address to put on job applications. Green Street Church began allowing the homeless to pitch tents on its property several years ago, but ran into trouble with Nashville zoning ordinances. While that matter hasn’t yet been legally solved, a privacy fence has settled things down with the neighbors. Having people move from tents to tiny houses, which are rent-free, should help even more. “ aren’t really made to be lived in,” Caleb Pickering, a deacon at Green Street Church, told CT. The homes were set up by a local nonprofit and the church keeps an eye on them. “We have the right to go in and make sure they’re being taken care of,” Pickering said. “It’s trickier with tents. Tiny houses also present a better face to your neighbors.” The tiny …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Border Crossing: Five Habits of Incarnational Giving

By Elizabeth Drury There are plenty of reasons we justify NOT giving, but there are just as many reason to give generously anyway. Ever felt excited about giving a gift to people in need, only to have your generous spirit squashed by a barrage of cautions? I have. Don’t just throw money at the problem. Don’t give without accountability or sustainability. Don’t create dependency. Don’t enable. Don’t patronize. Don’t be naive. The onslaught of don’ts can dampen anyone’s genuine desire to do—even at Christmas and despite overwhelming needs. It’s not that the cautions are unreasonable. In fact, when gift-giving crosses a cultural or socioeconomic border, you’re on unfamiliar ground. Values, rules, and realities out there may differ vastly from your own. Helping can hurt, and charity can be toxic. But which is better: to give imperfectly or not at all? Here’s good news. You can give with maximum impact in ways that dignify people in need. Consider these five habits of gift-giving exemplified by the babe in the manger. 1. Jesus crossed borders. Rather than staying close to the comfort of home, he became flesh and “moved into the neighborhood,” crossing a border from heaven to earth for the sake of extending love to people very unlike …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After 'Same God' Comment

By Bob Smietana Larycia Hawkins said she wanted to show Advent solidarity with Muslims. A tenured Wheaton College political science professor who pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbors has been placed on administrative leave. “Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” said a statement from the college’s media relations office. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith.” Larycia Alaine Hawkins, who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, announced last week that she’d don the traditional headscarf as a sign of human, theological, and embodied solidarity. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” Hawkins also sought approval for her actions from the Council on American Islamic Relations, a sometimes controversial Muslim advocacy group. Her comments made headlines but also led to criticism from other evangelicals. “This statement …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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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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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Join Us at the 2016 GC2 Summit on the Church and Refugees

By Ed Stetzer Learn how the Church can serve refugees at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL on January 20th for just $15. The refugee crisis has been exploding for quite some time and over the last few weeks and months it has captured attention across the country. While the crisis has been happening for a while, some are just now beginning to process the devastation. Over 200,000 Syrians have died in their 4.5 year conflict. That is roughly the equivalent of the Paris death toll every day since the start of their struggle. Approximately 25% of those killed have been women and children, and over 80,000 of those killed have been civilians. This has led to a mass exodus where over half the population of Syria, 12 million people, have now had to flee their home looking for safety. It’s not just a Syrian refugee crisis, but that’s become the news. That impacts the Middle East, and much of our efforts should be there—working for peace, serving the hurting, and helping people settle there. The vast majority of work is in the Middle East, but also conversations about refugees are also at work in the West. We believe that Christians need to respond …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Wheaton, Hawkins: Let Us Reason Together, Please

By Mark Galli How might a Christian college handle a controversy that threatens to undo it? The situation at Wheaton College continues to unravel. Political science professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins refuses to meet any longer with the administration, and the college is now initiating the process of firing her—many assume because she said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. (If you’re not aware of this controversy, check out our news coverage here and here and here.) Of course, a controversy of this magnitude—it’s been international news for weeks, with stories and comments in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, and now Time—is never actually “all because” of one thing. The media coverage has often needlessly inflamed the conversation, and yet you could hardly invent a case that would touch on a greater number of fundamental issues in Christian higher education: 1. The theological integrity of a Christian institution. Evangelical Christians want their institutions to have and maintain standards of belief and behavior. We’ve seen too many historical examples of Christian institutions that let their theological guard down, and the result has been the sabotaging of the institutions’ Christian identity. 2. Loving our Muslim neighbors. Islam …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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