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Sibling Rivalry: From Childhood to the Church

By Hannah Anderson Will they—or will we—ever stop fighting? “Stop it! Don’t touch me!” “She started it.” “No, I didn—” “Yes! You! Did!” In our Christian subculture, the words “brother” and “sister” tend to conjure up feelings of kinship, intimacy, and loyalty. This made sense to me once. But then I became a parent. My children—aged 12, 10, and 7—are not unlike most siblings. They have their “We Are the World” moments: those times that melt a parent’s heart and reassure us that there is hope for the future of humanity. Unfortunately, these moments are interrupted by equally frequent moments of rage, selfishness, and aggression. At times, it feels like the majority of my parenting is devoted to brokering peace between warring parties. Psychology offers us myriad explanations for sibling behavior—everything from birth order to the need to differentiate oneself from the other members of the family. Sometimes this can create a dynamic that an older granny in my church calls “pick and pluck”: that kind of bickering and agitation that seems to exist for the sheer sake of existing. As frustrating as it can be, though, the task of parenting through sibling conflict has changed how I read the New Testament. It’s also changed what I expect as normal …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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Realizing My Addiction Had Chosen Me Began My Road to Recovery

By Timothy King Framing addiction as a chronic disease gives a broader framework for understanding. I can’t remember much about the day when everything went wrong. No obvious moment indicated that the standard outpatient procedure would lead to weeks in the ICU, months in the hospital, and almost a year out of work. Memories of a dark hospital room and slowly blinking lights come back in fevered fits. Dislocated voices from intrusive floating faces were saying that things would be alright. I had known pain before: crutches, casts, and stitches. But until this moment, pain had always been experienced as something outside of myself. Now it was all that was left of me. The day turned into night turned into day turned into night. I had given up on crying for the pain to subside. My soul had turned to the guttural moan of Job. Dear God, if this is my fate, may I never have been born at all. I remember hearing the words “acute respiratory distress” and being moved to the ICU. I remember how my IV stand became a tree that blossomed with multi-colored ornaments hanging from stainless steel branches with cascading ripples of wires and tubes falling to my nose, arms, and chest. Also hanging …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pastors, Your Sermons Do Matter If You Want To See People Come To Trust Jesus

By Paco Amador Every preacher at some point has experienced the painful vulnerability of baring their soul. For my wife and I, it’s a joy being Lucero’s pastor. A young, intelligent, and enjoyable mother of an exuberant boy, Lucero has recently abandoned herself fully into the arms of Jesus, a true testament of the gospel’s power to transform hearts from darkness to light. A few weeks ago she was telling me about her life before Jesus. “Tell me,” I asked, “what happened that finally made you trust your whole life into God’s hands?” (I never get enough of hearing the stories that flow in answer to that question.) Her response, however, took me aback. “It was you!” she promptly answered. Puzzled, I simply waited for her to continue. Surely, I must have heard wrong. I don’t recall ever having a deep conversation about spiritual matters with her before. She continued: Yeah. It was you. That Sunday you were preaching from Genesis about how when Jacob was returning to Canaan he had a choice to come back home with God or without God at the center of his life. Then you made a passionate call. You had tears in your eyes. You truly believed that this would …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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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News: Why Two Tombs Compete for Jesus’ Burial Place

By Gordon Govier Historic renovations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre won’t change some Protestants’ preference for the Garden Tomb. Beneath layers of ancient marble, renovators at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem say they have found what may be the limestone bench where the body of Jesus was laid after his crucifixion. For the first time in half a millennium, church officials have allowed access to a tomb even more famous than that of “King Tut,” the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. However, they can’t say for sure that it is the right tomb. The official purpose of the historic project is to rebuild the Edicule, the shrine in the middle of the church rotunda which encloses the tomb. Built in the early 19th century over previous constructions, the shrine was in danger of collapse and barely held together by iron girders added decades later. Beginning October 26 and working nonstop for 60 hours, a team from the National Technical University of Athens removed marble coverings and layers of fill and debris, before finally reaching the revered limestone level at the base of the tomb. They also discovered, surprisingly, that the limestone walls of the tomb were somewhat intact beneath the layer of marble. “We can’t say …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Why Two Tombs Compete for Jesus’ Burial

By Gordon Govier Historic renovations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre won’t change some Protestants’ preference for the Garden Tomb. Beneath layers of ancient marble, renovators at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem say they have found what may be the limestone bench where the body of Jesus was laid after his crucifixion. For the first time in half a millennium, church officials have allowed access to a tomb even more famous than that of “King Tut,” the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. However, they can’t say for sure that it is the right tomb. The official purpose of the historic project is to rebuild the Edicule, the shrine in the middle of the church rotunda which encloses the tomb. Built in the early 19th century over previous constructions, the shrine was in danger of collapse and barely held together by iron girders added decades later. Beginning October 26 and working nonstop for 60 hours, a team from the National Technical University of Athens removed marble coverings and layers of fill and debris, before finally reaching the revered limestone level at the base of the tomb. They also discovered, surprisingly, that the limestone walls of the tomb were somewhat intact beneath the layer of marble. “We can’t say …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Why Many Colombian Protestants Opposed Peace with FARC Fighters

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Three seminary leaders explain how believers balanced justice vs. grace. The longest-running conflict in the Western Hemisphere finally came to an end yesterday, after Colombia’s congress approved a peace deal with its largest guerrilla group. However, in order to do so, lawmakers skipped over Colombian voters, who last month narrowly rejected a similar peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The government has been battling the FARC since 1964, when a group of poor farmers and workers took up arms to resist inequality. Half a century later, voters in October rejected the measure by the smallest of margins: 49.78 percent voted Yes to peace, while 50.21 percent voted No. Faced with the choice of peace or justice, many Colombians objected to the government’s willingness to let most FARC soldiers walk free or reduce their sentences. And some evangelical leaders, sensitive to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage, spoke out against the deal’s “gender theory” language. While not all evangelicals voted against the measure, they were widely credited with turning the vote. The strength of the evangelical vote was surprising in the Latin American country, where 80 percent of the population is still …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Incredible Indian Christianity: A Special Report on the World’s Most Vibrant Christward Movement

By Jeremy Weber Why it’s the best and worst of times for India’s burgeoning churches. The world’s most unexpected megachurch pastor might be an illiterate, barefoot father of five. Bhagwana Lal grows maize and raises goats on a hilltop in Rajasthan, India’s largest state, famous for its supply of marble that graces the Taj Mahal. He belongs to the tribals: the cultural group below the Dalits, whose members are literally outcasts from India’s caste system (and often called “thumb signers” because of how they vote). Yet every Sunday, his one-room church, with cheerful blue windows and ceiling fans barely six feet off the ground, pulls in 2,000 people. His indigenous congregation draws from local farmers, whose families’ members take turns attending so that someone is tending the family’s animals. The cracks in the church’s white outer walls are a source of pride: They mark the three times the building has been expanded. Thousands of colorful flags stream down the sanctuary along the blue beams that support the corrugated metal roof. Their rustling approaches a roar. When asked the reason for the flags, Lal responds, “For joy!” laughing heartily. The decorations are normally used at weddings. “The same feeling should be inside the church. People should feel this is …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Fidel Castro’s Death Will Affect Cuba’s Christian Revival

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra It won’t. And that’s (mostly) a good thing. The remains of Fidel Castro are being displayed in Havana as part of Cuba’s nine days of official mourning for the deceased dictator. Many world leaders will not attend the funeral next week for the man who raised literacy rates but kept a rigid grasp on civil rights. For Cuban Christians, his death isn’t likely to be a sea change in how the island nation’s Communist government approaches religion. Like most Cubans, Castro himself was raised Catholic, educated by Jesuit priests as a child. He rejected his faith during the 1959 revolution, after the church rejected his movement toward atheism and socialism. Priests were killed and deported, while Catholics (and other Christians) were discriminated against and banned from joining the Communist Party. But Castro—and his brother, current ruler Raúl—softened with time. Some credit the Catholic Church and its popes with influencing Cuba’s slow turn from Marxism. They were also good for religious holidays. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1998; the next day, Castro reinstated Christmas. In 2012, Pope Benedict visited; soon after, the government allowed Good Friday observances. This year, Cuba was the site of a historic step toward religious reconciliation: …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Four Consistent Conversations We Must Have with Ourselves

By Shawn Lovejoy As it turns out, talking to ourselves may not be so crazy. Here’s a confession for you. I talk to myself. A lot. Yes, I do mean out loud. I have regular conversations with myself: at work, at home, in the car … everywhere! Sometimes my family overhears me and it solidifies their belief that I’m just a little bit crazy. Do you ever talk to yourself? Some experts say that the smartest people talk to themselves. If that is the case, I must be brilliant! How about you? As it turns out, talking to ourselves may not be so crazy. In fact, I would actually suggest that all of us need to have consistent conversations with ourselves regarding certain areas of our lives. As we prepare for the New Year, there are things we need to be thinking about and conversations we need to be having. Self-assessment, self-awareness, and repentance are all necessary in becoming who God wants us to be. Some of the most important conversations we can have are with ourselves. These conversations allow God to examine our hearts, motives, and actions. Here are four consistent conversations we need to have with ourselves: “Me” Conversations The most difficult person I will …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christians Win Nepal's First Anti-Evangelism Case

By Vishal Arora – World Watch Monitor Court frees grief counselors charged under former Hindu kingdom’s new constitution. A court in Nepal has dropped a case against eight Christians, the first religious freedom dispute since the country’s new constitution was implemented last year. The seven men and one woman had been charged with proselytizing after giving out a pamphlet about Jesus in a Christian school while helping children through the trauma following the 2015 earthquake. Anything perceived as evangelism is outlawed under the new constitution. Five are staff of the Christian teacher-training program Teach Nepal, while two others are school principals. They were arrested in June, and the pastor of Charikot Christian Church, Shakti Pakhrin, was detained a few days later. Nepali Christian leaders have welcomed their acquittal. Barnabas Shrestha, chairman of Teach Nepal, says they were “invited by a pastor to do the counseling in the school.” While it is a Christian school, not all pupils are Christians. Shrestha denies the counselors were trying to convert children. The police making the arrests “wanted our people to say yes, they have preached the gospel… which is not true.” The freedom of Nepal’s Christians is increasingly under threat. Last week, according to one missionary, the government announced to leaders of Christian orphanages …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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British Government Affirms Christmas at Work

By Kate Shellnutt New report details when workers’ faith expression is protected and when it can get them fired. British officials are encouraging the country to put Christ back in Christmas—even in their workplaces. “There are a lot of myths out there when it comes to dealing with religion at work. I want to put the record straight: It is OK to hold a party and send Christmas cards,” said David Isaac, chairman of the national Equality and Human Rights Commission. This week, Christians and politicians alike welcomed Isaac’s assurance following the growing prevalence of more generic terminology in public and office celebrations, such as “season’s greetings” and “Winterval.” “We have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of,” Prime Minister Theresa May responded. “We all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith and also feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas.” The equality commission also released Friday a new report on anti-discrimination law for British workplaces. The report assessed current government policies, finding mostly reasonable, balanced guidelines for religious expression in the workplace—though employers don’t …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Arrival’s Terrifying Vision of a Global “Unfriending”

By Jeffrey Overstreet Although caused by aliens, the breakdown in communication in Arrival feels all too familiar. Reader, I confess: I clicked “unfriend” last month. Several times. Understand, I wasn’t ending friendships. I was respecting them—by refusing to let Facebook’s limitations do them further harm. It troubled me to see conversations we might have enjoyed in person go so horribly awry on social media. And anyway, our heated arguments attracted other angry voices, voices that overwhelmed our debate with snark, hostility, bullying, even hatred. I had to shut things down. Nevertheless, I lose sleep at night over that “unfriending.” It feels like unforgiveness. It feels like despair. So Arrival, the new science-fiction feature from director Denis Villeneuve, kicked me where I already hurt. Arrival, based on Ted Chang’s novella The Story of Your Life, is the kind of mind-bending science fiction that cannot be discussed very thoroughly without revealing the movie’s huge surprises. But I promise to proceed with caution here, so that you can discover its challenging, rewarding, and—for some—confounding revelations for yourself. Louise (played by Amy Adams) is a linguist who previously worked for the US government. In a time of crisis, she is called upon to help translate strange messages from alien visitors. Twelve spaceships—they look …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Journey as Old as Humanity Itself

By A. J. Swoboda What’s behind our timeless fascination with religious pilgrimage? Years ago, Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree contrasted two ways of being in the evolving Western world. One, epitomized by the “olive tree,” is rooted, in place, stable, stationary. The other, the “Lexus,” was the emerging vision of the modern individual: a life distinguished by movement, displacement, and “being on the road.” The first was being. The second was going. The Lexus, Friedman argued, was quickly replacing the olive tree. At the time I read Friedman’s book, I felt freed, the way you feel freed when someone puts into words what you hadn’t found yet. Friedman was describing the church I saw in America—olive-tree Christians were being replaced by Lexus Christians. Less and less, I was discovering, were people content simply being where they were, settling down, rooting themselves, and embracing mundane Christianity. Ours was becoming a church addicted to movement. Everything had to be radical. Why? We’ve grown bored of our freedom. Truth is, Christians are “pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11). This isn’t our home. We’re simply passing through. Thus the theme of James Harpur’s latest book, The Pilgrim’s Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World, a lucid and expansive study …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker

By Kate Shellnutt The benefits and challenges of women’s ministry in the age of bestsellers, viral blog posts, and inspirational conferences. The most influential women’s leader at your church may be someone who has never stepped inside its sanctuary. It may be someone your pastor has never even heard of. “If you had to ask, ‘Who’s Jen Hatmaker?’ it’s time to be more directly invested in the spiritual nurture of half your church,” tweeted Jen Wilkin last month. The women’s ministry leader was responding to the wave of Christian reactions to news that LifeWay Christian Stores had stopped selling books by Hatmaker—one of the biggest writers and speakers among today’s generation of evangelical women—after she spoke out in support of same-sex marriage. Hatmaker’s popularity underscores how women’s ministry has transformed in the 21st century. Christian women increasingly look to nationally known figures for spiritual formation and inspiration—especially when they don’t see leaders who look like them stepping up in their own churches. While various evangelical subcultures may find different female teachers filling their social media feeds and Amazon recommendations (Austin-based Hatmaker seems especially popular among white women in the South and Midwest), the numbers show that the top names in women’s ministry rival or even …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker

By Kate Shellnutt The benefits and challenges of women’s ministry in the age of bestsellers, viral blog posts, and inspirational conferences. The most influential women’s leader at your church may be someone who has never stepped inside its sanctuary. It may be someone your pastor has never even heard of. “If you had to ask, ‘Who’s Jen Hatmaker?’ it’s time to be more directly invested in the spiritual nurture of half your church,” tweeted Jen Wilkin last month. The women’s ministry leader was responding to the wave of Christian reactions to news that LifeWay Christian Stores had stopped selling books by Hatmaker—one of the biggest writers and speakers among today’s generation of evangelical women—after she spoke out in support of same-sex marriage. Hatmaker’s popularity underscores how women’s ministry has transformed in the 21st century. Christian women increasingly look to nationally known figures for spiritual formation and inspiration—especially when they don’t see leaders who look like them stepping up in their own churches. While various evangelical subcultures may find different female teachers filling their social media feeds and Amazon recommendations (Austin-based Hatmaker seems especially popular among white women in the South and Midwest), the numbers show that the top names in women’s ministry rival or even …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker

By Kate Shellnutt The benefits and challenges of women’s ministry in the age of bestsellers, viral blog posts, and inspirational conferences. The most influential women’s leader at your church may be someone who has never stepped inside its sanctuary. It may be someone your pastor has never even heard of. “If you had to ask, ‘Who’s Jen Hatmaker?’ it’s time to be more directly invested in the spiritual nurture of half your church,” tweeted Jen Wilkin last month. The women’s ministry leader was responding to the wave of Christian reactions to news that LifeWay Christian Stores had stopped selling books by Hatmaker—one of the biggest writers and speakers among today’s generation of evangelical women—after she spoke out in support of same-sex marriage. Hatmaker’s popularity underscores how women’s ministry has transformed in the 21st century. Christian women increasingly look to nationally known figures for spiritual formation and inspiration—especially when they don’t see leaders who look like them stepping up in their own churches. While various evangelical subcultures may find different female teachers filling their social media feeds and Amazon recommendations (Austin-based Hatmaker seems especially popular among white women in the South and Midwest), the numbers show that the top names in women’s ministry rival or even …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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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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