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Opposition to Assisted Suicide Dies Out

By Bob Smietana – Facts & Trends Most Americans, including 4 in 10 evangelicals, want doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. The American Medical Association has described physician-assisted suicide as a serious risk to society and “fundamentally incompatible with a physician’s role as healer.” Millions of Americans disagree. Two-thirds say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. A similar number says doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die. Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says Americans want more say over how they die. That’s especially true if facing a painful, terminal illness, he says. “If they are facing a slow, painful death, Americans want options,” he says. “Many believe that asking for help in dying is a moral option. They don’t believe that suffering until they die of natural causes is the only way out.” Widespread support Physician-assisted suicide first became legal in the US in 1997 under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law. Since then, 991 patients in Oregon have ended their lives using medications prescribed by a doctor under the law, according to that state’s reports. Today six states allow physician-assisted suicide. The latest …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Forming a Society Worthy of Humans

By Interview by Joseph E. Gorra Robert Sirico says that in order to get economics right, we must first understand what it means to be human. Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest and co-founder of the Acton Institute, is perhaps one of the most economically literate clergymen you will find among America’s public intellectuals. While most seminaries do not train future pastors and lay leaders to think theologically about economics, Sirico says understanding questions about economics is necessary if Christian leaders want to rightly seek the good of society and train others to do the same. Joseph Gorra, founder and director of Veritas Life Center, talked Sirico about economic life and human flourishing. At this year’s Acton University conference, you spoke on how love is an indispensable basis for economic life. To some, that might seem odd if economic life is viewed as the maximization of utility and material well-being. We can’t enter the marketplace as something other than what we really are, and real human love demonstrates the impossibility of being merely homo economicus (“the economic man”), which is essentially a thesis that reduces human beings to their materiality. Humans are simultaneously material and transcendent, individual and social. We are not merely individual entities, though we are uniquely …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Quitting While Ahead

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Why some United Methodist evangelicals suggest a split, even though their side is winning. Every four years for the past four decades, America’s second-largest Protestant denomination officially debates homosexuality. And each time, the United Methodist Church (UMC) affirms the position that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Contrary to other mainline groups, the UMC’s stance is increasingly unlikely to change. Approximately 5 million UMC members are in Africa, compared to 7 million in the United States. The socially conservative African contingent gains 200,000 members each year as American churches lose 100,000. And attempts to let Americans set policies without African input were soundly defeated at the denomination’s two most recent conferences. Yet this year, 80 evangelical Methodist pastors and theologians proposed that traditionalists and progressives, like Paul and Barnabas in Acts, “part amicably.” Decades of fighting over the issue have been “emotionally draining” and “spiritually nullifying,” said Maxie Dunnam, a former Asbury Theological Seminary president who organized the public letter. A tipping point came when some bishops refused to discipline pastors who married gay couples. Dunnam believes ministry by both sides would be more effective without the distracting debate. Pastors have suggested multiple models for parting ways. Kansas megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Deadly, Healing Medicine

By J. Todd Billings I had to ingest poison if I hoped to live. Incurable cancer. I could hardly believe it when I heard the diagnosis. My wife and I had just celebrated our tenth anniversary, and our lives were spinning in joyful commotion with one- and three- year-olds at home. Initial testing brought back some worrying results. I had researched the possibilities, and I didn’t sound like a likely prospect for this cancer. The average diagnosis age is about 70; I had just turned 39. But here it was: an active cancer that had already been eroding the bones in my skull, arm, and hip. With the Psalmist I cried out, “Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Ps. 6:2b–4). What was this “healing” for my bones and soul? The cancer has no cure, but it can be fought with special treatment. This treatment to extend my lifespan was not going to come through a gentle pill. Ready or not, I was in the midst of a battle. I needed strong medicine for healing to come. Within a week I was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Using (and Abusing) Hell as a Political Motivation

By Thomas S. Kidd How the threat of eternal punishment stirred moral and spiritual urgency in early America. Hell mattered a lot before the Civil War. The prospect of eternal torment was cited to bolster the urgency of missions, campaigns against alcohol abuse, the abolition of slavery, and other moral crusades in our nation’s history. The sheer pervasiveness of the doctrine of hell struck me as I read Kathryn Gin Lum’s revealing and engaging Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction (Oxford University Press). Americans believed in and invoked hell regularly. But their polemical uses of the threat of damnation seemed, at times, to treat hell more as a tool of political motivation than a spiritual reality. Gin Lum, an assistant professor of religious studies at Stanford University, introduces a startling range of people who talked about hell in early-19th-century America. They included evangelical believers and critical skeptics, African American slaves and proslavery whites. Belief in hell helped to inspire the evangelistic efforts that came to define the Second Great Awakening and the “Great Century” of domestic and international missions. Charles Finney, the definitive evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, did not hesitate to speak about hell. He once told a dying Boston woman he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Making Room For Those With None

By Sherry Woods, Guest Writer We all know there was no room for Christ at the inn. But is it the same in our own lives? A guest post by Sherry Woods From Peter: “While doing ministry in Washington D.C., it was my privilege and honor to partner at several moments with Sherry Woods, director of the Unique Learning Center (ULC). The Unique Learning Center has provided biblical mentoring and tutoring to at-risk children of the Shaw neighborhood since 1982, during some of the most violent years of that city’s history. I’m pleased to share a post from Sherry about another ministry that God has called her to. If you are looking to make an end of the year donation to a very worthy organization, please consider the ULC – details can be found here.” It is difficult to find room for all the Christmas events and end of the year activities that capture our attention during this season: church services and programs, wrapping presents and mailing greeting cards, and attending various parties of various sorts. We manage to find room for it all. Yet there is often little room to reflect on how the birth of one Child, sent down from our Father above and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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20 Truths from Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

By Ed Stetzer You need to check out this new resource from J.D. Greear on how your church can be a Great Commission church. 1. Jesus did not say come and grow, but come and die. (17) 2. We live by losing. We gain by giving away. What we achieve by building our personal platform will never be as great as what God achieves through what we give away in faith. (18) 3. Study after study shows that most Christians have never even shared their faith—most indicating that somewhere 90 percent of evangelicals have never shared their faith with anyone outside of their family. (22) 4. The church is now Jesus’ vehicle for the completion of his mission. Jesus finished the purchase of our salvation, paying the full price for our sin on the cross and shattering the powers of death in the resurrection, but the mission of salvation is not yet complete. (31) 5. Blessing the community might certainly include growing a big church, but it would also mean giving away some of our resources. (42) 6. A “sending” ministry always starts with a heart exam. Sending out people and giving away your resources, you see, will most often compete with your church’s “bottom line,” not benefit it. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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To Kill a Predator

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

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

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew asks Americans what constitutes a sin or socially acceptable behavior. Refusing to write a check to charity while living in luxury is a sin, according to almost half (48%) of white evangelicals who attend church weekly. That opinion is also shared by almost half (47%) of all Americans who attend worship services weekly. And 36 percent of all black Protestants (two-thirds of whom identify as evangelicals) feel the same way, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. In fact, being stingy with charitable giving draws more condemnation than divorce. Only 37 percent of white evangelicals who attend church weekly told Pew that divorce was a sin. So did a quarter (26%) of all black Protestants. (CT recently noted which reasons for divorce are sinful in the eyes of most Americans.) The more generous attitude toward divorce may stem from its frequency. The percentage of Americans who have divorced has almost doubled over the past 53 years, from 24 percent to 45 percent, according to University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright. Evangelical divorce rates were slightly higher than average (47%) from 2010-2014 and correlate with church attendance, Wright told CT. Only 38 percent of evangelicals who attend church …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Is Your Church a Level Five Multiplying Church?

By Ed Stetzer I’m thankful for Dave Ferguson and Todd Wilson’s new book. Here’s my foreword to it. It’s a strange thing seeing something of little importance become a major focus, yet that’s exactly my experience with church planting. I still remember the gatherings of church planters that took place when I first began in the late 80s. Church planting recently had emerged from obscurity, but just barely. National conferences would draw a few hundred people, who often could not get ministry or church jobs elsewhere. When I fast-forward a few decades and a few church plants later, I see church planting at the forefront of the thinking of missiologists and pastors, both nationally and globally. The rapid increase in church planting is evident across a wide variety of denominations and networks. Simply put, we see a greater number of people engaged in church planting. Furthermore, according to the latest research, the effectiveness of church planting has increased. Metric after metric is trending in the right direction. Those national conferences on church planting that used to struggle to fill out a hotel conference room, now pack large arenas in a way that seemed inconceivable only a few years earlier. Actually, the authors of this book co-founded Exponential, the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Crisis Averted: Christian Colleges Avoid Split over Same-Sex Marriage

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Eastern Mennonite U and Goshen College leave CCCU, rather than cause more dissension. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) escaped a predicament in September, when two Mennonite members voluntarily withdrew from the association. The schools—Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Virginia and Goshen College in Indiana—had decided earlier this year to permit faculty and staff to be in same-sex marriages. Before the withdrawals, two other schools—the Southern Baptist–affiliated Union University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU)—quit the CCCU in protest. “We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance,” said OKWU president Everett Piper. “The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.” The CCCU interviewed more than 120 member presidents, and found that about three-quarters of them favored demoting EMU and Goshen to “affiliate” status. That would mean they could not vote on association matters. But the Mennonite schools withdrew prior to a decision. “Both schools have been clear from the outset that they did not want to be the cause of significant division within the membership,” stated the CCCU board. The departure leaves the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Christians Can Flourish in a Same-Sex-Marriage World

By Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner By many accounts, orthodox Christians have lost the culture wars. How they can live well—not vanish—in a time of retreat. The Supreme Court’s decision that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage was a landmark moment in US history. The sweeping language of the majority opinion placed gay rights firmly within the moral tradition of the civil rights movement. And like a boulder thrown into a pond, it will have public consequences for decades. For many evangelicals, the psychological effects were immediate. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that Obergefell v. Hodges will be “the downfall of America.” Christian friends reported to us they felt incredulous and alienated from America’s legal and cultural order. Those who felt ambushed by the decision haven’t been paying enough attention. The ruling was the result of cultural trends that emerged in the context of heterosexual, not homosexual, relationships. During the 1960s and 1970s, America saw a concentrated cultural revolution: the triumph of radical individualism, particularly in sexual ethics. Since then, we have seen the outworking of this shift in attitudes, behavior, and laws: on divorce, abortion, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, gender roles, and now, decisively, same-sex marriage. Marriage was not redefined only by the Supreme …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Accelerating Accuracy: The Bible Translation Challenge

By Freddy Boswell, Samuel Chiang, Bob Creson, Carl Moeller, Michael Perreau and Roy Peterson A coalition of Bible agencies warns against overemphasizing speed. Every Tribe Every Nation, an alliance of philanthropic and Bible agencies, represents groups that have developed more than 85 percent of the Bible translations in the world. It includes the American Bible Society, Biblica, Seed Company, SIL, Wycliffe USA, and the United Bible Societies. After Christianity Todaypublished its article on Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) in its June issue, the alliance sent this statement. See also today’s CT report on the ongoing debate over MAST. Speed and accuracy. In many areas of life, we are challenged to balance speed and accuracy. An equestrian trying to finish a course in the quickest time with the fewest penalties. The typist who strives for the fastest speed with the fewest errors. Medical researchers searching for the quickest path to a cure with the fewest side effects. And when it comes to Bible translation, speed and meaningful accuracy are also fundamental principles that undergird the work. We have an incredible sense of urgency to ensure that all people can access the gospel message, but we take very seriously our spiritual responsibility to ensure that each new translation accurately relays the Scripture’s full meaning and spirit of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: John Danforth: I'm Not Absolutely Right, and You're Not Absolutely Wrong

By Interview by Jake Meador The former senator and United Nations ambassador says religious people should be the leading voices for political compromise. Americans are bitterly divided on a host of political and cultural issues. John Danforth regrets that religion has often been deployed to deepen our divisions rather than to seek the common good. In The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics (Random House), the former Episcopal priest, Republican senator, and United Nations ambassador argues that communities of faith can restore a spirit of civility to our longstanding disagreements. Jake Meador, the lead writer at Mere Orthodoxy, spoke with Danforth about the possibilities—and pitfalls—of faith-based activism. What do you mean when you talk about “the proper place” of politics? Politics is not the realm of, “I am absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong.” It’s the art of compromise. It depends on civility and a degree of interpersonal forbearance. People practicing politics have to show some degree of respect for their adversaries. Putting politics in its proper place means seeing that it’s not, to use the language of Paul Tillich, a matter of “ultimate concern.” You encourage religious believers in politics to work for the common good. But one lesson from recent debates …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Faith of the Candidates; An Interview With Marco Rubio (Part 1)

By Ed Stetzer I recently talked with Florida senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio about his faith journey. His Faith Journey Ed Stetzer: You have one of the more fascinating faith journeys. You kind of run the gamut of conservative American religious traditions but left one went to the other for different reasons. So tell me a little bit about that. I mean beyond what we know. We know you grew up Catholic. You kind of were engaged in the Mormon church and came back to Catholicism. Where are you now? Are you solely a Catholic? I know you’re theologically and doctrinally aligned. Are you an Evangelical Catholic? How do you define yourself? Senator Marco Rubio: I was born into the Catholic church. My family attended the Catholic church. I was eight years old so we followed my parents, primarily my mother into the LDS church for a number of years. And by the time—I was 11 or 12—we had returned to Catholicism. So as an adult—is what I can speak to. Certainly growing up after that I attended Catholic church, was confirmed, married in the church and I’ve never really left the church. There was a time when I became not as engaged in my …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Mystery of My Healing

By Amy Julia Becker Unexplainable relief is a reminder of God’s grace, wholeness, and incarnation. I can’t remember when it began, but for the past few years, a constant pain has hugged my lower back. It was enough to wake me up at night. I tried Advil. I tried stretching. I started a new workout regimen to strengthen my core. I told our children I couldn’t pick them up or let them sit on my lap. With each solution, the pain faded, only to come back in a few days or weeks. Eventually it crept down to my tailbone. I had to modify the way I stood up and could only sit on cushioned chairs. Still, the pain persisted. And then one morning, it went away, never to return. I wish I could say healing came because I called upon the Lord. But for whatever faulty reasoning or theological neglect on my part, reaching out to Jesus to heal my minor-but-persistent back pain didn’t cross my mind. I had, though, called on a physical therapist and yoga teacher for help. We sat cross-legged, facing each other, even though sitting like that hurt my back. Instead of stretching or moving through postures, we talked. I told her about the creeping …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Does Your Church’s Worship Need a Multicultural Makeover?

By Interview by Richard Clark Why local congregations should embrace the music and prayers of other church traditions. What’s the best way to foster unity across cultures in our churches? According to Sandra Maria Van Opstal, an experienced worship leader and trainer, the way we worship together sets the table for Christians to relate across ethnic and cultural boundaries. In The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World (InterVarsity Press), Van Opstal (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) explores how worship traditions from different cultures can further the connection between local congregations and believers worldwide. Richard Clark, managing editor of Leadership Journal, spoke with Van Opstal about enlarging the cultural and stylistic boundaries of worship. How did you develop a passion for multicultural worship? As a child, I attended a Catholic parish with my mom, my grandmother, and eventually my whole family. Then, when I was a teenager, my father moved us to a Baptist church. And when I went away to college, I ended up at an urban, African American church. Looking back, I can see how each experience gave me a different foundation. My time in the Catholic Church gave me an appreciation for liturgy. In the Baptist church, I learned about making a personal decision for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Patriotic Church Services Misunderstand the Military

By Todd Lovell They sing anthems that reverence God and country, but speak little of the lived experiences of veterans. This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the following installments on how a PTSD diagnosis can help and harm, the soldiers of church history, what Jesus said to a chaplain after a suicide bombing, why soldiers crave the extremes of active duty, why we need a better framework for ministering to military members, and why one member of the military is not a conscientious objector.) In what seemed like a fever dream, I found myself peddling hot dogs at a local rodeo one hot September night. I guess that’s what you get when you work as a pastoral intern for a rural congregation in eastern North Carolina. Townsfolk crowded into the bleachers as cowboys and cowgirls tested their strength and dexterity against mighty beasts of burden. After hours of competition, the lights suddenly lowered, and a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Gospel, Breaking Sinful Patterns, and Addiction

By Ed Stetzer How Steps can bring a new kind of recovery ministry to your church. I’m a big believer in recovery from addiction. I’ve seen the power of recovery among friends and family. Yet, I’m also a Christian, and an evangelical one, passionate about the gospel. So, as we talk about recovery and higher powers, I’m convinced that the power of the gospel is what matter most. Yet, many people in our culture claim to be Christians but have never heard a comprehensive gospel message. Therefore, discipleship—in general—and recovery ministry in our churches—more specifically—must begin by laying the foundation of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross for those who believe (gospel truths) and then bid people to live out the call to follow Christ (gospel imperatives). As disciples, part of the sanctification process is examining our hearts before the Lord. This process of personal assessment involves confession and prayer about the fruit of our lives and its roots. We bring all this before the Lord so that He can uproot our sinful patterns and heal our hearts, freeing us to act faithfully for His kingdom. People both inside and outside of our churches need help breaking sinful patterns in their lives. Our culture offers various ways to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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