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Let Deuteronomy Awaken Your Inner Child

By Myrto Theocharous The Israelites needed a little less grown-up good sense, and a little more childlike wonder. So do we. W hen I am around children, I enjoy asking what they want to be when they grow up. This exercise fascinates me. It offers a rare opportunity in life: the freedom to spell out whatever the imagination dares to dream, uninhibited by other people’s expectations or fears. Usual replies include, “I want to become a ballerina,” “I want to be an astronaut,” and my favorite, “I want to be a princess!” The purity of these moments has the brevity of the morning dew, before “reality” rises with its harsh interrogating light to dry up each trace of these jewel-like droplets. “Let’s get serious now,” says reality, clearing her throat like a strict governess with no time for silly games that deliver no tangible returns. I remember my shock a few years ago when I put this question to a ten-year-old boy, and he declared boldly: “an actuarial analyst.” I had no idea what that was, and I doubted whether he did either. Now, I have nothing against actuarial analysts, and I am sure they perform an important service, but it requires little effort to see this …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

By Sarah Thebarge, guest writer The church can model a more inclusive community, one that doesn’t divide over marital status. Here’s a new wedding tradition I recently heard about: Instead of tossing their bouquets, Christian brides give each single woman at their reception a flower from the bunch and pray individually for them to find a husband. Compared to the ritual of competing to catch the bouquet, this approach was “sweet,” “thoughtful,” and “selfless” according to the women I saw discussing the idea on Facebook—plus a unique addition for brides eager to do something new and memorable at their weddings. As a single woman, I immediately thought, No way. I tried to imagine attending a wedding where the bride tried to do that to me. I can only picture myself declining the flower and leaving the event altogether. It’s a well-intentioned but condescending gesture. It’s pretty presumptive to assume that all the single women you know would want a husband right now. Just because you did doesn’t mean I do. This new ritual got me thinking about what it means to be single, specifically a single Christian woman, during wedding season. Never am I more aware of my singleness than in the summertime, when my calendar is dotted with …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Bill Gothard, 'The Fits,' and Me

By Alissa Wilkinson Sometimes a movie can give you a kinder way to remember difficult things about yourself. This week, Bryan Smith wrote in Chicago magazine about the scandals surrounding Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles. (We have covered these same scandals, as have other outlets, including The Washington Post.) Gothard grounded his popular ministry in a stripe of fundamentalist Christianity and on a set of “principles for successful living” he said he’d drawn from the Bible, ranging from how to relate to your family to what to wear, eat, and listen to. It was all particularly attractive to families in the 1960s and 70s looking for a faith-filled, foolproof way to shield their children from the hippie counterculture—and from there into the nihilistic, hedonistic 1980s and 90s. Gothard’s ministry grew into an enormously successful organization that included a homeschool program called the Advanced Training Institute of America (ATIA). It counts among its allies the now scandal-ridden Duggars, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and others. But the ministry has shrunk over the past decade, and the legal action brought against Gothard allege emotional and sexual abuse of underage women. To most young people familiar with Gothard’s orbit, the allegations were a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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As UK Votes 'In' or 'Out' on EU, Christians Have Two Tasks

By Daniel Webster Today, the United Kingdom decides on its European Union membership. Tomorrow, the most important role of Christians begins. Editor’s note: Last week, the EAUK’s Daniel Webster explored why Christians must show that disagreement without division is possible in both UK and US politics. Today, he explores the two roles that Christians must play during and after closely divided votes, whether “Brexit” today or Trump v. Clinton in November. Today the United Kingdom finally votes on whether to remain in the European Union (EU), or to leave it. After a couple days of respite after the shocking murder of politician Jo Cox, campaigning resumed at a frenzied pace. Having led in the polls since the start of the campaign, the #Bremain camp slipped behind the #Brexit camp over the last couple of weeks. But the trend may have shifted direction once again in the final few days. The tight finish suits both campaigns. It energizes activists, and it gives voters a reason to get out and vote. It’s always heartening to hear people want to talk politics. It’s encouraging that churches provide space to debate vital issues, and it’s crucial that Christian leaders speak into the public sphere. There is a lot of good in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Across 198 Nations, Christians Face More Terrorism But Less Government Hostility

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew finds that terrorism threatens to surpass the traditional persecutors of the global church. From some angles, it looks like the beginning of a hopeful trend among the steady stream of persecution headlines. Both government and societal harassment of religion dropped worldwide in 2014, according to a Pew Research Center study released today. This is the second year in a row that researchers found such a drop. Overall, religious restrictions were high in 34 percent of the 198 countries and self-governing territories Pew examined in 2014, down from 39 percent in 2013 and 43 percent in 2012. About half of the countries (51%) saw decreases in government restrictions, while about a third (36%) saw increases. But the news was more mixed for Christians, which make up about 30 percent of the world’s population. Once again, Christians were the most harassed religious group, facing arrest, discrimination, and assault in 108 countries, up from 102 countries in 2013 (but falling short of the 110 countries in 2012). Pew has measured persecution both by governmental sources and societal pressure since 2009, when it launched its landmark analysis. In 2012, religious hostilities hit record levels. Overall, about a quarter of the world’s governments (24%) …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian Witness in an Anxious Age

By John D. Inazu and Timothy Keller Our confidence in the gospel only spurs us to serve our communities, not to shrink bank when they decide they no longer need us. As the Catholic writer Joseph Bottum has observed, we live in an anxious age. In an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing culture, some people are anxious about shifting cultural norms, civil rights, and religious liberty. The past decade has seen a rapid transformation in public opinion and legal norms around sexuality, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and religion in the public square—changes that have caused anxiety for a great number of traditional religious believers, including Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews. Socioeconomic disparities create other anxieties. Some people have been left jobless or underemployed by the global economy. Others confront inadequacies in housing, education, and health care in impoverished and often segregated neighborhoods and communities. And people wonder why those with greater means are indifferent to the financial burdens of the lower and middle classes. There is, of course, an even more dire anxiety that emerges when some people prove incapable of living with our differences. In the past few years, violent men have taken innocent lives in places including a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the apartment of a Muslim family in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What I Learned About Faith from Watching My Father Die

By David Briggs Researchers keep discovering more about humility. My dad’s life already taught me plenty. The three of us—two other visitors and myself—sat in silence in an upper floor waiting room of the Veterans Administration Hospital, a brick fortress atop a hill looking over tightly packed homes in a working class Connecticut suburb. Fifty feet away, my father was dying, barely conscious. The hurried attention of teams of doctors and nurses in the well-lit corridors of Yale-New Haven Hospital had given way to the drab hallways and institutional care of veterans whose limited private insurance had run out. Across from me, a young man and woman introduced themselves and began to share the story of their father. He had been very sick many years earlier, at a time when he was raising a young family on his own. He asked God to spare him until his youngest child was through high school. The father recovered, and now, shortly after the last child was an adult, he had fallen ill again and was nearing death. It was a story biblical in nature: The idea that you could enter into a bargain with God, who would allow you to guide your children to the cusp of adulthood, but deny you the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—June 17, 2016

By Ed Stetzer The SBC and Refugees, Ministering in Disaster, Pastor Mistakes, Church Signs, and more! Southern Baptists Split With Donald Trump On Refugee Resettlement —Sarah McCammon Tips for helping a loved one after a tragedy, from a Christian disaster expert—Jamie Aten My Marriage to an Undocumented Immigrant—Sarah Quezada Let’s Love First—Marty Duren 4 Ways Pastors Enable Dysfunction in their Churches—Joel Rainey Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today’s Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups direct to your inbox. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Click here to listen to my interview with Dr. Bruce Ashford. Earlier this week on The Exchange Singled Out The Dangerous Divide Between Theology and Practicality 3 Ways Suffering Produces Sanctification The Future of Southern Baptist Evangelism: A New (Closing) Series Saturday is for Seminars—Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting More Church Planting—Not Less—Is Needed Church Signs There are a couple of “uh, no” levels in this one. I like truth in advertising as much as the next guy, but really? Then there are the ones that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Future of Southern Baptist Evangelism: A New (Closing) Series

By Ed Stetzer The math doesn’t lie: Southern Baptists need new evangelistic momentum. Cultural challenges A negative view of engaging culture, and being negatively viewed by culture, remains a thorn to SBC effectiveness. And, to be honest, some leaders have exacerbated this problem. Many think being on the front line of the culture wars for decades is “fighting for the faith.” There are things worth a fight, but we’ve sure found a lot of fights to wage. For many of our neighbors, our warring is interpreted as being against them. You can’t reach a people and war with a people at the same time. As of yet, we’ve not made it to the point where we have, as SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page has suggested, become known for what we are for rather than what we are against. Yet, we simply cannot continue building walls between ourselves and the culture, then castigate people on the other side for not climbing over. That means our churches need to change, and part of that change has to be a renewed emphasis on evangelism. Effective evangelism The fact is, we seem to have lost our …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Dangerous Divide Between Theology and Practicality

By Ed Stetzer An unnecessary divide between theology and methodology is unwise. In many corners of the church today, there’s an unhelpful and unhealthy division between theology and practical ministry. This division is damaging to both the discipline of theology and the practice of ministry because one without the other causes an imbalance. Part of the cause of this division is the large number of theologically-minded people who spurn practicality as pragmatism. This can be seen as an overreaction to the Church Growth Movement of the 1980s. Such critics rigorously decried a methodological mania as devoid of theological foundation. They took aim at folks like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and John Maxwell, accusing them of having only a modicum of theology accompanied by mountains of methodology. Unfortunately, those theologically-minded people concerned with too much practicality, strategy, and leadership, threw the baby out with the bath water. Rather than looking for the proper place of practicality, strategy, and leadership, they found no place for it. There are theologically-minded people who are producing large bodies of literature attempting rebuff any emphasis on the practical. They are teaching a whole world of people—a whole generation of pastors—that practical ministry, leadership strategies, and coaching don’t matter. I feel like some think practicality …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Southern Baptists Repudiate the Confederate Flag

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (UPDATED) SBC is first of three evangelical groups seeking racial unity after Ferguson and Charleston. Update: Southern Baptists have voted to repudiate the Confederate flag. “We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters,” states Resolution 7, passed today by an overwhelming majority of messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). “It’s not often that I find myself wiping away tears in a denominational meeting, but I just did,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. In a statement, Moore noted: The Southern Baptist Convention made history today and made history in the right way. This denomination was founded by people who wrongly defended the sin of human slavery. Today, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination voted to repudiate the Confederate battle flag and it’s time and well past time. The Confederate flag is a symbol of horrific injustices against our African American brothers and sisters in Christ and has been used as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Singled Out

By Cassie Curtis It’s time to lay aside our assumptions about singleness. Singlism: the stigmatization of uncoupled adults, whether divorced, widowed, or ever single. I picked up the vibe right away. We were standing in a hallway waiting for one or two people from a different department to join us for a casual lunch. As we circled up to make introductions, I noticed that one person quickly shifted his shoulders and denied eye contact. The man in question was probably in his late twenties. Moderately attractive. No wedding ring. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was just reserved. After observing his lively dialogue with other members of our group, I was forced to alter my assessment. Not reserved. What is his deal? Halfway through lunch, he had still not so much as looked in my direction when the words “my fiancée” drawled slowly from his mouth. I struggled to hold back a bemused chuckle. Of course! He was engaged! Acknowledging my existence was totally out of the question. As you know, if he had looked me in the eyes or started a conversation with me, I could not have helped myself from falling instantly in love with him. As humorous …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Saturday is for Seminars—and Preaching in Chicago Area Churches

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

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Patriarchs disagree over solving centuries of disputes in 10 days. The last time the 14 separate branches of the Orthodox church met, in 787, they hadn’t yet split with the Roman Catholic church. So pulling together a Holy and Great Council meeting of the global representatives of 300 million Orthodox Christians for next week hasn’t been easy—even with the event being discussed since 1961. A number of issues have cropped up in the last 1,000-plus years. The short list includes: the Archbishop of Constantinople’s historical position as “first among equals” despite the Moscow Patriarchate’s superior numbers and wealth; Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s meeting with Pope Francis that angered Orthodox who consider Catholics heretics; and the struggle between the Jerusalem and Antioch Patriarchates over who has jurisdiction over Qatar. The initial list of issues to discuss topped 100 items; Orthodox leaders managed to whittle it down to 6. The goal of council organizer Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I: not to settle centuries of disagreement, but to find consensus by starting small. “Bartholomew is not making this event an end in itself, but the start of a long process for Orthodox renewal,” AsiaNews translated from La Croix, a French newspaper. “This is why he has …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Missional Hymns—An Interview with Keith Getty

By Ed Stetzer Keith and Kristen Getty drive hymnody for the missionary work. Ed Stetzer: Tell us a little bit about how you put together the album in the first place. It’s very diverse. Keith Getty: It all comes out of the Facing a Task Unfinished hymn, written by Frank Houghton, 1931, in the context of mass persecution in China. He writes this hymn as a call to 200 people to come preach. China, the context, was very anti-Christian, the minimizing of Christian rights, the murdering of Christians and indeed worldwide global recession. A lot of things actually quite similar to our own times, but serious persecution. So, he writes this hymn, sends it round as a call to missionary commitment. He gets a response of 204 people to go. ES: Response to go as missionaries? KG: That’s right. He understood—foundationally—that what we sing affects profoundly how we think and how we live. So deep Christian songs, sung by real believers to each other, breeds and helps contribute to breeding deep believers. ES: A lot of church have gone with simpler choruses, rather than hymns, with streamlined music, simple tunes, and a more concert-driven sort of worship. Are they wrong? KG: We have to remember that all of us as individuals are at …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Grieving Together: How Orlando's Hispanic Evangelicals Are Reaching Out

By Interview by Kate Shellnutt A local pastor shares on-the-ground efforts to pray for, comfort, and serve their LGBT neighbors. For a Latino, Pentecostal megachurch just 10 minutes south of the Orlando nightclub Pulse, the scriptural call to “mourn with those who mourn” has become their heartbreaking reality in the wake of Sunday’s deadly rampage. This week, Iglesia El Calvario prepares to host funerals for victims, offer grief counseling, and conduct ongoing outreach for their city and its LGBT community. The nearly 4,000-person Assemblies of God church prayed, gave blood, and passed out water on Sunday, while death counts climbed from 20 to 30 to 40 to 50. That evening, they heard from Governor Rick Scott and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera in a citywide vigil held in their sanctuary to remember the lives lost—many of them Hispanic and gay, at the club for Saturday’s Latin night. Gabriel Salguero, a pastor at Iglesia El Calvario and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, joined his LGBT neighbors in relief efforts. He offered prayers in Spanish and English at an 8,000-person event hosted this week by Equality Florida, a gay advocacy group. When local reporters inevitably asked about the tension between evangelicals and the gay community, he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

By Erin Wyble Newcomb, guest writer This Father’s Day, I celebrate my parents’ choice to move close to my kids. “We’re playing huckle-buckle-beanstalk!” My six-year-old beamed at me, bouncing on the balls of her feet. My younger daughter skipped around the living room. In the kitchen, my mother pulled a small, plastic princess doll out of the sugar canister and dusted off the toy. “I found her!” she called out, laughing. I stood in the doorway smiling, even though I’d never heard of the game before. My mother walked over to greet me, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s a silly game my sisters and I used to play,” she said. “I don’t remember why we named it that.” My parents recently bought a house in our neighborhood to be close to me, my husband, and our two daughters, their only grandchildren. No longer serving in the “sandwich generation” role of caring for their own aging parents, my parents are exercising their freedom by spending their golden years close to my girls. They’re part of a growing trend. As Harriet Edleson writes in The New York Times, geographic distance is a major factor in family relationships these days. “With families increasingly far-flung,” she writes, “those who want to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gordon Lewis: Irenic Apologist

By Douglas Groothuis Remembering one of the great early evangelical philosophers. In the mid-1960s, many evangelicals looked askance at higher education and the field of apologetics. The secular world at the time thought evangelicals had nothing to offer. In recent decades, however, apologetics and Christian philosophy have found a footing not only in the church but also the academy. Many pioneers contributed to this advance of God’s kingdom, and one of them was my colleague, Gordon R. Lewis, who entered paradise on June 11, 2016 at the age of 89. Lewis converted when he was 8 years old and remained committed to Christ for 80 years. He studied at Baptist Bible Seminary, Gordon College, Faith Theological Seminary, and Cornell University, and received his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Syracuse, and this at a time when few evangelicals dared enter the secular academy. His dissertation concerned Augustine’s view on faith and reason in The City of God. He began his service at Denver Seminary (then Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, the fledgling theological flagship for the newly-formed Conservative Baptist denomination) in 1958, having been recruited by the president, Vernon Grounds (1914–2010), who was another groundbreaking evangelical intellectual. He remained faithful to one institution for nearly his …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gender and the Trinity: From Proxy War to Civil War

By Caleb Lindgren The latest complementarian debate isn’t over women’s subordination—but Christ’s. Last week, a group of evangelical theologians who normally agree on many controversial issues began a heated debate, prompting claims that scholars are getting God’s nature so wrong that they should quit their jobs. The topic: the Trinity. The group: Reformed complementarians, i.e. Christian thinkers who affirm a broadly Calvinist view of theology and are also committed to the view that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, and religious leadership. Debates about the Trinity and how to understand it are not exactly new in the history of Christian theology. But in recent years, such disagreements among evangelicals have usually been divided along the lines of other hot-button theological issues—namely gender roles in the church. So what makes this latest discussion significant—beyond the increasingly fiery rhetoric on blogs and Twitter—is the surprise of seeing theologians who agree on so much (including gender roles) breaking ranks with each other around such a core component of Christian belief. What’s more, the opposing sides are calling into question each other’s commitment to historic Christianity. Accusations of “constructing a new diety” and “reinventing the doctrine of God,” are flying fast and thick, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Cox Killing Shows Why Brexit and Trump-Clinton Need 'Civil' Religion

By Daniel Webster Disagreement without division must be possible in UK and US politics. Christians can get us there. I have been involved in British politics for more than a decade. Suddenly, everything has changed. One week before the United Kingdom votes whether to continue its membership in the European Union (EU), Jo Cox, a Labor member of Parliament (MP) representing a constituency in Northern England, died after being stabbed and shot in the street in Birstall, West Yorkshire. I’ve worked in parliament, been a lobbyist, and now help evangelical Christians engage in politics. I’ve never known anything like these past few months as the UK prepares to vote in the EU referendum, popularly called “Brexit.” The wrangling of recent weeks pales into insignificance in the wake of the death of a public servant who was doing what MPs regularly do: meeting with constituents to hear their concerns. These one-on-one meetings, which take place up and down the country in offices, town halls, and local libraries, are the front line of politics. Political systems where a single person represents a constituency foster this sort of connection. But alongside the value, it brings incredible vulnerability. Michael Deacon, paid to write political sketches for the Daily Telegraph, gave one …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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