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Celebs from Michael Phelps to Kim Kardashian Want a Purpose-Driven Life

By Kate Shellnutt The bestseller’s buzz has not died down 15 years later. One of the 40 million copies sold of The Purpose Driven Life ended up in the large, paddle-like hands of Michael Phelps. In between winning Olympic golds, Phelps made headlines for very different reasons: repeated DUIs, parties and pot, weight gain and rehab. A couple of years ago, fellow athlete and friend Ray Lewis (aka “God’s linebacker”) gave the champion swimmer Rick Warren’s bestseller. “I basically told him, ‘Okay, everything has a purpose, and now, guess what? It’s time to wake up,’” the former Baltimore Raven said in The Washington Post. In an ESPN special, Phelps said the book “turned me into believing that there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet” and “helped me when I was in a place that I needed the most help.” It spurred him to reconcile with his dad. This summer, the media celebrated 31-year-old Phelps as stronger and more mature than ever; the record-crushing swimmer stayed sober throughout his training and brought along his fiancée and baby son to Olympic competition in Rio. This come-to-Jesus turnaround, as Lewis called it, began with a book that answers the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Grapes of Wrath: Refugees Face Steinbeck Scenario in Lebanon's Napa Valley

By Jeremy Weber While US debates resettling 10,000 Syrians, a country smaller than Connecticut struggles with hosting 1.5 million. Faysal stands amid the rolling fields of the Bekaa Valley. Just down the road are award-winning, decadent vineyards—a product of the fertile agricultural region’s 5,000-year head start on Napa Valley. The Romans even chose to build their temple to Bacchus here. Above loom the snow-covered slopes of Mt. Hermon, where many today place Jesus’ transfiguration. Surveying the sea of green plants rustling in a pleasant breeze, the 43-year-old describes what he feels: “A knife in my heart.” For Faysal, a Syrian refugee, the scene is not one of grandeur but of guilt; in the field before him are three of his children—his 15-year-old son and 13- and 11-year-old daughters—bent in half as they weed potatoes instead of attending school. “I have no choice,” says the father of six. In Aleppo, one of Syria’s most war-torn cities, his job as a truck driver once provided a four-room house and a middle-class, urban life. Now, having injured his back in his own efforts at day labor, he can’t pay the rent for their cobbled-together shelter on a farmer’s property. So he just stands and watches his children. And cries. “As …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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Mormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away

By Gerald McDermott What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling? For nearly 200 years, Mormons have both enraged and intrigued evangelicals. The rage has come from Mormon claims that the Book of Mormon contains new revelation superseding and correcting the Bible, and that Christians are apostates from the apostolic church. The intrigue has come from the fact that Latter-day Saints (LDS) are so similar and yet so different. TheBook of Mormon is remarkably Christ-focused, and presents a Godhead resembling the Trinity. Yet later teachings by Joseph Smith deny the Trinity and claim that God the Father has both a physical body and his own father. Evangelicals have always been fascinated by Mormon beliefs that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that the New Jerusalem will be located nearby, and that American Indians are descended from the ancient Israelites. Now the Internet buzzes with new debate over (emeritus president of Fuller Seminary) Richard Mouw’s pronouncement at First Things that Mormons are moving closer to historic Christian orthodoxy. LDS leaders, he proposes, are downplaying the Mormon teaching that God was once a man. A participant in Mormon-evangelical dialogue responded that, on the contrary, this teaching remains on the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Commentary: We’re So Unashamed We Wrote a Book on It. Three of Them, Actually

By Tish Harrison Warren Christians still need a better understanding of the complexity of shame. Our age is characterized by what psychotherapist Joseph Burgo called an “anti-shame zeitgeist.” The beloved researcher Brené Brown wrote two No. 1 New York Times bestsellers decrying shame, and her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” has been watched more than 26 million times. This year, the anti-shame revolution is front and center in Christian publishing, with three new Christian books all titled Unashamed. Go to your local Christian bookstore and ask for a copy of Unashamed, and you may hear, “Which one? Lecrae, Heather Davis Nelson, or Christine Caine? Take your pick.” There is no shame in sharing a title, but this coincidence points to a marketing reality: becoming proudly unashamed is all the rage now. Lecrae’s Unashamed is a memoir, and as a fan of his music, I couldn’t put it down. (My six-year-old’s most requested musical artists are Elsa and Lecrae.) Lecrae’s story is compelling and deals with different facets of shame. As a young boy, he confronted deep shame over his father’s abandonment; he also faced sexual abuse. Throughout the book, he returns to the theme of not quite fitting in—whether it be because he was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Portrait of America’s First Atheists

By Timothy Larsen What life was like for unbelievers long before Christopher Hitchens and company arrived on the scene. There was a time in our nation’s history when “village atheist” was a term of endearment. It introduced a note of affection for the vocal unbelievers in our midst. In 1943, Time magazine referred to the journalist H. L. Mencken, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, as America’s “outstanding village atheist.” Still, the term quietly conceded that flat-out unbelievers have historically been a rare breed in the United States—so rare that you were likely to find only one in any given community. In America, it takes a village to raise just one atheist. Even today, just 3.1 percent of Americans identify as such, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. When a village did manage to raise an atheist, it was almost always a boy. In his lively, informative study, Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation (Princeton University Press), historian Leigh Eric Schmidt includes a chapter on Elmina Drake Slenker, a 19th-century woman from Upstate New York. Many readers today disapprove of books solely about men, but organized atheism hasn’t always been terribly concerned with gender parity. Slenker confessed that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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88 Minutes of Film That Could Save a Life

By Jeffrey Overstreet That’s the power of ‘The Station Agent.’ You try walking across Seattle alone. At night. Barefoot. My college roommate did all the time. I didn’t understand it, just as I didn’t understand his quiet demeanor, his watchfulness from the edges, or his aversion to typical college-life distractions. His after-dark disappearances intrigued me. So I took to walking with him. I wore hiking boots, and still I struggled to match his incredible stride. As I did, my own pace—in walking and in living—permanently changed. I came to value the rewards of adventures off the beaten path, of being quiet in good company. And I found a compassionate friend. I think of Michael when I watch Tom McCarthy’s large-hearted 2003 comedy The Station Agent. And I watch it frequently. I see myself in Joe: the talkative food-truck barista (Bobby Cannavale) who sets up shop next to an obsolete train depot in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Jersey. I think of Michael when I watch Fin (Peter Dinklage): a soft-spoken loner who moves into that depot for the solitude, and who eventually surrenders, accepting Joe’s gregarious, uninvited companionship. It’s remarkable: Watch how Joe and Fin, like an oversized puppy playing with Grumpy Cat, become complementary. Watch how they transform one …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Americans Think of What Evangelicals Think of Religious Liberty

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra How both sides of the debates over same-sex marriage, transgender bathroom access, and employer-provided contraception feel about each other. On two of three contentious issues at the intersection of religious liberty and nondiscrimination concerns, Americans remain evenly divided. Though most Americans believe employers should be required to supply birth control in their health insurance plans, they are split down the middle on whether businesses should be required to provide wedding services for same-sex couples, as well as on whether transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of their choice, says a study released this week by the Pew Research Center. As expected, most evangelicals take a strong stance against making businesses provide wedding services to same-sex couples or allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. They’re more comfortable with requiring employers to offer birth control to employees. Pew also asked whether Americans sympathized with one side or the other—or both—in each debate. In order to facilitate that, researchers asked the questions in an unusual way. Instead of the normal phone survey, Pew asked respondents to read the questions. The purpose was both to make people feel more comfortable answering sensitive questions and to allow them see all of the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: "Jill Stein is my imperfect candidate."

By Stephen Waldron Evangelical millenial minority chooses the Green Party My political viewpoint is shaped by both my Evangelical faith and my personal experiences. My faith has been shaped mainly by the Pentecostal and Anabaptist traditions. From my Pentecostal heritage, I draw the belief that the Holy Spirit is actively working among lowly and marginalized people. From the Anabaptist tradition, I have learned that peacemakers who follow the teachings and example of Jesus will be ignored at best and martyred at worst. Coming from that perspective, I am going to vote for Jill Stein, not because she is any sort of savior or perfect politician. I only hope to send a small signal that things are not going well at the far corners of the empire. The other major candidates do not have policies that cohere with a biblical approach to justice, as I understand it. Immigration The Jesus I know is one who immigrated to our planet and was rejected by its citizens. The last thing Christians should support is the rejection of human beings who are made in God’s image simply because they are not light-skinned and English-speaking. Evangelicals sometimes talk about “welcoming the stranger,” citing Bible verses like Leviticus 19:33-34. For many Evangelicals, this issue directly …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Misogyny Has Its Moment

Things we’re reading and discussing this week. According to Susan Dominus in the New York Times, Donald Trump has been the catalyst this week for a “culture-wide shift in how we think of and talk about sexual assault.” Evangelical men are speaking up. In response to the leaked tape of Trump boasting about his sexual exploits, theologian Wayne Grudem rescinded his support of Trump. Our own Andy Crouch wrote a strongly worded opinion piece that was quoted in the New York Times. And Marvin Olasky of World also came out against Trump. Meanwhile, evangelical women have been rallying to voice their concern. According to the Daily Beast, “Christian women are speaking out about Trump’s brand of misogyny and divisiveness.” Beth Moore has made particularly bold statements: “I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to,” she tweeted. “Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it.” Our own Katelyn Beaty went on CNN to talk about the subject, and a group of women has signed a formal statement saying that, As Christian women we are appalled by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recorded remarks that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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1,180 Churches Help World Relief Resettle Refugees at Record Rate

By Timothy C. Morgan Highest total since 1999 comes as federal judges rule against state attempts to ban Syrian refugees. Last month, World Relief nearly doubled the number of refugees it resettles in the United States in a typical month. In the past 12 months, the evangelical agency handled a caseload of 9,759 refugees—its largest total since 1999. “The task set before us last month was nothing short of monumental,” stated president Scott Arbeiter. “But the work our dedicated staff and volunteers have accomplished has been equally impressive.” The milestone comes at the same time as major setbacks to the effort to ban Syrian refugee resettlement in Indiana and Texas. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court found the Syrian refugee ban by Indiana governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was based on a “nightmare scenario” of Syrian terrorists posing as refugees to gain US entry. “No evidence of this belief has been presented,” wrote judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Four days later, Texas’s attorney general dropped the state’s appeal of a federal court decision, preventing Texas from banning resettlement of refugees from Syria inside state borders. Through its 26 offices and its local church networks, World Relief resettled 1,400 refugees in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview with Kent Shaw, Executive Director of Harvest Bible Fellowship

By Ed Stetzer “We want to plant 1,000 churches in our lifetime.” Kent, how would you describe what you’re doing? What’s the Harvest Bible Fellowship “way” of church planting? We want to plant vertical churches. A vertical church is, as you know, based on James’s book. We’re looking to plant churches that have the same DNA distinctives that we do. Basically those are the four pillars of: proclaiming the authority of God’s word without apology, lifting high the name of the Lord Jesus in worship, sharing the good news of Jesus with boldness, and a firm belief in the power of prayer. We’re looking to plant churches wherever God opens doors for us. First we thought around the country, but now around the world. How many churches have been planted through the movement, and how many are in the network? We have planted 150 churches, we probably have about 170 churches that would be included in the network that have affiliated with us. We have about 100 in the States and about 50 internationally. We’re at Harvest University today, you have 40 residents training here, so tell me about the residency, and then tell me about Harvest University. How do those two relate? Our residency program is our beginning, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Fighting with My Husband and the Work of Shalom

By Tish Harrison Warren Do I proclaim radical love for the world even as I neglect to care for those closest to me? Jonathan stopped by at midday to pick something up at the house, and we had a fight. I would call it an argument, but that sounds too reasonable, like we were coolly debating opposing sides of an issue. Logical. Rational. Collected. The stuff to make marriage therapists proud. This was hardly that. Because most often what we’re arguing about—in this case a decision about our daughter’s schooling—isn’t really what we’re arguing about. What we are actually arguing about is our fears, anxieties, identities, and hopes. We were really arguing about how we love our daughter and feel a chasm—a terrifying chasm—between our responsibility for her and our ability to bear it well. We were grieving the reality of our limitedness and our inability to rescue our daughter from suffering in our broken world—and even in our broken family. And we were arguing about the sharpness in our voices, and who interrupts whom, and how often, and about a passing comment he made yesterday and a look I gave this morning. These are the patterns in family life that make it hard to be patient and gentle …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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No, Evangelical Does not Mean "White Republican Who Supports Trump"

By Ed Stetzer Labels matter. So do definitions. Evangelicals are best defined by their beliefs. Having worked in church and culture research for over a decade, I can tell you that one of the most-asked questions is about the category of Evangelicals. It has been this way for a long time, but this election has brought it to the top of everyone’s list. With 4 of 5 white Evangelicals voting for Donald Trump, everyone both inside and outside of Christianity is trying to understand just who this group is. And among those self-identifying Evangelicals who did not support Donald Trump, many are wondering how they can share the same label. This is the moment when more people than ever are asking, what exactly is an “Evangelical” Christian? And, Evangelical does not mean “White Republican Who Supports Trump.” Evangelical? Some have said they don’t want to use the label anymore, embaressed because of its identification with Donald Trump. But, that’s backwards. It’s not the label that supported Trump, it’s people—white Evangelicals, primarily. But, it’s not politics that unite all Evangelicals, it’s the gospel. You see, most Evangelicals did not support Donald Trump; it was white Evangelicals that did. Yes, researches say “Evangelical,” and that’s a demographic catagorty, but usually they mean “White …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Do White Evangelicals Owe People of Color in Trump’s America They Helped Create?

By Ed Stetzer We carry each other’s burdens now so we can cry out with one voice for eternity. In 2010, visual artist Gene Schmidt embarked on a journey using Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, as his canvas. Schmidt used panels of scrap wood to recreate 1 Corinthians 13 and laid it out against buildings and along sidewalks throughout the city. His work of art is now displayed throughout Wheaton College’s campus. Every day, as I walk into the Billy Graham Center, I see a section of these scrap pieces. Here is the portion I see: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Without love we have nothing as the Body of Christ. The past 48 hours I’ve done interviews with reporters asking, “Where do we go from here? Where does the Church go from here?” I’ve gotten tweets and emails and seen endless posts that have one common thread, which I believe is critical for us if we are truly to walk together as one in the coming days. This thread is the need for authentic repentance and reconciliation. A Deep Divide What was once perhaps in the background …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Recommended Church Planting Books: New and Old

By Daniel Im “Read two old books for every new one.” Today, more than ever, we have an abundance of digital resources, webinars, training videos, and templates for church planting. However, as you might already know, not all resources are created equal. (That’s why Ed Stetzer and I created and lead NewChurches.com together—an online hub for church multiplication.) Having said that, there really is nothing that replaces a good book! I love what the great theologian J.I. Packer says about books, “Read two old books for every new one.” Or how about this quote from Francis Bacon, “Some books are to be tested, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” While less books on church planting are being published today than in years past, there is still a steady stream of new books coming out on a regular basis. The purpose of today’s article is not to create some sort of bestseller list or rank some church planting books higher than others, but rather to give you perspective on five new and five old church planting books you should be aware of. Five Old Church Planting Books Moore, Ralph. How to Multiply Your Church: The Most Effective Way to Grow. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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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