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The Christian Case for Not Giving Up on the World's Most Fragile State

By Jeremy Weber in Juba, South Sudan Why World Vision and local Christian leaders remain hopeful about South Sudan. South Sudan is the kind of place where a sermon anecdote about gunfire draws hearty laughter. The sound of a firearm is such an everyday occurrence that South Sudanese only question whether it came from a pistol, an AK-47, or an M-16. “Many people right now are praying, ‘Thank you God for not making me South Sudanese,’ ” says the pastor. Listening near the back of the sanctuary in Juba is Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. He is visiting the world’s newest and most fragile state in his quest to revive the compassion American Christians had for Sudan years ago. The South gained independence from the Muslim-dominated North in 2011 with the solid backing of evangelicals. But two years later, a political power struggle engulfed the Christian-majority nation in bloody conflict. “It’s a hard sales pitch,” he told Christianity Today as he stood among 50 mothers with malnourished children at a clinic. He said South Sudan is a perfect example of how enormously difficult it is to fulfill both the Great Commission and Great Commandment amid chronic conflict and violence. CT joined Stearns as he toured World Vision projects in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: The Martian

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

By Mark Moring A feminist Civil War drama that mostly works – except for all the mumbling. mpaa rating:R (For strong violence including a sexual assault.) Genre:Drama, War Theatre Release:September 25, 2015 by Drafthouse Films There were a number of things I could have Googled after watching The Keeping Room, a Civil War-era drama now playing in limited release. Like, “How many females were widowed and/or orphaned by the war?” or “What was the condition of the South after General Sherman plowed through?” or “How many soldiers died?” And many more. But here’s what I Googled instead: “Why is there so much mumbling in modern movies?” I’m not talking about mumblecore, the sub-genre where you might expect some inaudible dialogue, given the often-low production values. I’m talking about mumbling, where the actors just don’t articulate their lines very well. And/or the director and sound team do a lousy job picking up those lines. Apparently this is really a thing too. Some of my search results: “Stop the mumbling! Why can’t we understand what people are saying in movies any more?” “The rising problem of inaudible dialogue.” “Why we can’t hear anything in the movies any longer?” There were more, but you get the point. It’s not …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Roseburg Pastors: ‘This Is Our 9/11’

By Bob Smietana Ministers ask for prayer as they counsel mourners, prepare for funerals. For Jerry Smart, the past 24 hours in Roseburg, Oregon, have been filled with tears, anger, and hours of anxious waiting. Smart, senior pastor of Foursquare Gospel Center in nearby Winston, spent most of Thursday afternoon at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, counseling students from Umpqua Community College, where the shooting took place. Some were grieving. Some were still in shock after escaping the attack that left nine people dead. Students were bussed to the fairgrounds, having left their cars, backgrounds, and cell phones behind. “One woman got off the bus and was crying uncontrollably,” Smart told CT. “She told me that 30 minutes earlier, her friend died in her arms.” It was there that Smart first heard that the gunman, whom police identified as Chris Harper Mercer, had asked students if they were Christians before shooting them. Other pastors whom CT spoke with recalled similar stories. “He would ask people, ‘Are you a Christian?’” Smart said. Those who answered yes, according to the woman Smart counseled, were shot in the head. The pastor later heard similar accounts on the news. Smart was one of about a dozen local pastors, many from the multi-denominational Douglas County Evangelical …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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History’s Biggest Heresies

By Compiled by Kevin P. Emmert False teachings condemned by the church. On the Trinity Modalism Who taught it? Sabellius (3rd century) What is it? God is only one divine being, who plays different roles at different times. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons of the same essence, but different modes or expressions of a single person. Modalism naturally leads to Patripassianism—the belief that the Father literally suffered on the cross. Key text? Philippians 2:6: “. . . being in the form of God . . .” Where does it show up today? Oneness Pentecostalism believes that God’s three modes of existence can act simultaneously, though God is still only one person. Subordinationism Who taught it? Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339) What is it? The Son and the Spirit are divine persons, distinct from the Father but inferior to him. All three persons are truly God, but they exist in a hierarchy of power and authority. Key text? Matthew 26:39: “. . . not as I will, but as you will.” Where does it show up today? According to a 2014 LifeWay Research study, 22 percent of evangelicals believe the Father is more divine than the Son. On Jesus Christ Arianism Who taught it? Arius (c. 256–336) What is it? The Son as Word (Logos, in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Faith In the Wibbly Wobbly Universe of Doctor Who

By Sarah Bessey, guest writer How this sci-fi show won over a theology geek like me. I’m a bit surprised by how much I love the British TV series Doctor Who. After all, I’m more “period dramas” than “aliens and space stations.” But a few years ago, when I was quarantined with a houseful of sick children sleeping the days away, I decided to watch an episode or two to see what all the fuss was about. (I’m unapologetically an Anglophile when it comes to my television habits, so I’d begun to wonder if it was perhaps my duty to the Queen as a member of the Commonwealth.) Then I fell into the time vortex. I’ve since become that geek: the one with the TARDIS mug and the Fourth Doctor’s scarf, the one who writes a beginner’s guide to the series for newbies and can spiderweb the connections and storylines like a conspiracy theorist. If I ever get a dog, I’m determined to name her after the character Amy Pond so that I can repeat one of the show’s popular catchphrases, “Come along, Pond,” every day of my life. Everyone has some piece of pop culture they love without moderation or reason—I’m looking at you, Jen …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Do You Believe A False Teaching?

Answer these questions to find out. A 2014 survey conducted by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries reveals that many American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church. Nearly a quarter of participants believe false teachings about Jesus, and more than half about the Holy Spirit. Find out if you are among them by answering “true” or “false” to the following statements. 1. God the Father and Jesus Christ are equally divine. 2. Jesus is a hybrid, partially divine and partially human. 3. God the Son is uncreated. 4. The Holy Spirit is a force 5. The Holy Spirit is less divine than the Father and the Son. 6. “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” are three different names for one divine person. Answers 1. True. The Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed that the Father and the Son are of the same divine essence, and condemned Subordinationism, which teaches that Jesus is inferior to the Father. 2. False. Apollinarianism, condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381, taught that Jesus is not equally human and divine, but is one person with one nature. Jesus has a human body and soul, but a divine mind. 3. True. The Council of Nicaea affirmed that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Contextualization and Interaction Mapping

James Watson, a consultant for Salvation Army Canada, shares about how we might contextualize in culturally-mixed environments. It was a very memorable “pot luck” luncheon for House of Prayer for All Nations. The church planters had effectively built relationships with their neighbors and about half of the people who arrived through the long morning worship service (or perhaps just for the pot luck at the end) were newcomers to Canada. We were blessed at these worship services to have neighbors encounter the gospel for the very first time. We had to label the three different tables for the buffet: “vegetarian” (for friends from Hindu regions), “halal” (for friends from Islamic countries) and “we don’t know what’s in it” (the eat-at-your-own-risk table). The wide range of food options reflected the diversity of conversations as people ate together. Contextualization in the Midst of Diversity and Change How does contextualization of the gospel, discipleship and congregational life function in such a mixed environment? There are different countries of origin, languages and ethnic identities. Some people are becoming more entrenched in the cultural customs of their old country to avoid being overwhelmed by culture shock while others are adapting as much as possible for the relational and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Compassion International Sues Teen Mania

By Morgan Lee Arrest warrant issued for Ron Luce, reports World magazine. Last year, Compassion International paid Teen Mania to promote its child sponsorship ministry during Acquire the Fire events. But after the longstanding youth ministry canceled the events, the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit said that it never received a refund. In November, Compassion sued Teen Mania for more than $160,000. Teen Mania didn’t respond to the lawsuit, and a Colorado court awarded Compassion a default judgment of the full amount, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees. After Teen Mania founder Ron Luce failed to appear at a hearing last month, the court issued a warrant for his arrest. World magazine broke the news and reports more details. Citing the ongoing litigation, both Compassion and Luce declined to comment to CT. Compassion isn’t Teen Mania’s only creditor. On Acquire the Fire’s Facebook page, some would-be attendees have expressed frustration at the challenges of receiving refunds from canceled events. Since 2012, Charity Navigator has named Teen Mania one of the nation’s most insolvent charities, with a working capital of -$5.2 million. In 2014, the organization lost its accreditation with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and lost its headquarters to foreclosure. Last summer, Luce and World engaged in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Carly Fiorina Q+A: ‘Whom Shall I Fear?’

By Interview by Kate Shellnutt The candidate on her faith, abortion, and why women make good investment risks. Ever since Carly Fiorina’s forceful criticism of Planned Parenthood during CNN’s Republican debate, Americans have been paying more attention to the former Hewlett-Packard CEO. Fiorina saw her numbers rise in the polls over the past three weeks, as media continue to parse her remarks about watching a “fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating” against footage released by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress. The 61-year-old has gone from being viewed as the Republican foil to Democrat Hillary Clinton to a serious contender on her own. Like several other Republican candidates, Fiorina never held public office, having lost a 2010 Senate campaign to California’s Barbara Boxer. The sharp-spoken former executive has offered voters glimpses of her personal life, including her battle with breast cancer in 2009 and her stepdaughter’s tragic death after struggling with drug addiction. It was her Christian faith that sustained her through the pain, and continues to strengthen her as she sets her eyes on the White House, she said in an interview with CT. Fiorina spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2007, two years after being ousted from HP. Through …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are You Worshiping a Fake Jesus?

By Will Willimon Daniel Darling catalogues the impostors vying for your devotion. You know the old saw: God created humans in his own image, and we have spent ages returning the favor. How ironic that Jesus, who came to transform us, has so many followers intent on remaking him into a more congenial idol. At first we dressed him in a royal robe and placed a crown upon his head—before nailing him to a cross. Today we continue to downgrade the original Jesus into someone less threatening and demanding. In The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is (Baker), Daniel Darling takes aim at a score of popular but fake saviors: “Guru Jesus,” “Red-Letter Jesus,” “Braveheart Jesus,” “Dr. Phil Jesus,” “Prosperity Jesus,” and more. No matter how confidently you proclaim fidelity to biblical teaching, this book will snag you with at least one of its pseudo-Christs. In his usually gentle, sometimes funny, always astute skewering of trendy myths about our Lord, Darling (vice president of communications for the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) vindicates a key insight of one of his theological heroes, John Calvin. The Genevan Reformer said that idolatry is our root sin and that the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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20 Truths from Sticking Points by Haydn Shaw

By Ed Stetzer Relating across generational lines can be difficult. How do people of varying ages understand each other better? 1. In previous eras, there were only three generations. The oldest generation had the money and made the decisions, and the younger generation of adults raised the children and did what the older generation asked them to until their parents died, and then their turn came to be in control. Changes in families and churches came slowly and naturally, with little disruption. (13) 2. But today, for the first time in history, we have five generations in our families, churches, and communities. (13) 3. Generational intelligence doesn’t make the key teaching of Jesus to “love one another” easy, but it does make it easier. (19) 4. Each generation has spiritual strengths and temptations that were shaped by the ideas and images of the times in which they grew up. (30) 5. We’ve been telling young people for twenty years that their generation could be the difference makers, that their lives could be big and they are dreaming too small. It’s time to tell their grandparents the same thing. (39) 6. Individualism brought God close, hyper-individualism applied a consumer’s attitude toward churches, and it has stunted Boomers spiritual growth. (55) 7. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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'The Leftovers' Observes a Grief and Moves On

By Alissa Wilkinson The second season of the post-Rapture HBO drama tries to start over in a new place, but grief chases them down, with echoes of C.S. Lewis. “Is anything more certain than that in in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?” These sentences—written in the aftermath of the death of Joy Davidson, C.S. Lewis’s wife—might just as easily have come from most characters in The Leftovers, the HBO drama (co-created by Lost creator Damon Lindelof) which premieres its second season on October 4. But their loss, it turns out, is only the beginning of the story. The show’s first season told the story of a group of characters in Mapleton, New York several years after “the disappearance,” a still-unexplained Rapture-like event in which about two percent of the world’s population suddenly just vanished—children and adults, religious and atheist, sinful and saintly. But because the event corresponded to no set of beliefs belonging to an organized religion (some of the most believing and righteous were, well, left behind), the world was left without an …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Adulterous Pastors Should Not Be Restored

By R. Kent Hughes and John H. Armstrong Repentance is not enough for returning fallen ministers to the pulpit. “Genuine forgiveness does not necessarily imply restoration to leadership,” former CT editor Kenneth Kantzer once wrote after the moral failure of several prominent evangelical leaders. Yet the impulse to link forgiveness with restoration to ministry remains strong. Here two pastor-theologians argue for the importance of keeping separate the restoration to the body of Christ and restoration to pastoral leadership. The North American church is seriously vexed by the question, “What shall we do with an adulterous pastor?” Over the past decade, the church has been repeatedly staggered by revelations of immoral conduct by some of its most respected leaders. How do we respond to those who have sexually fallen and disgraced themselves, shamed their families, and debased their office? The typical pattern goes like this: The pastor is accused and convicted of sexual sin. He confesses his sin, often with profound sorrow. His church or denominational superiors prescribe a few months, or often one year, in which time he is encouraged to obtain professional counsel. Then he is restored to his former office, sometimes in another location. He is commonly regarded as a “wounded healer,” one who now knows what it means …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Long Tail: No Man Is An Island

By Kenneth R. Morefield Films (and one television show) about community you can watch at home. Alissa’s note: Ken Morefield, a longtime contributor to Christianity Today Movies and a cinephile and critic for whom I have great respect, writes a post we call “The Long Tail.” Each month, he looks at a few films that are being primarily distributed to American audiences through DVDs or Internet streaming and tries to surface some movies that might otherwise fly under the radar. If you’re worn out on on comic-book films and bubble gum blockbusters, you may be ready to scan the lists of DVD and streaming releases for less flashy fare. September offers some great options, unified by a common theme: individuals who are both shaped by their communities and trying to influence them. Francesco: St. Francis of Assisi Film Movement kicks off the month of September with a Blu-ray reissue of Liliana Cavani’s powerful and affecting Francesco—a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. On paper Cavani, best known for the controversial sadomasochism-themed The Night Porter, would seem an odd choice for this project. And Mickey Rourke, coming off of Nine ½ Weeks, Angel Heart, and Barfly, would not have been among the first fifty actors I would have imagined playing …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Drifters

By Photographs by Christian Sardet; introduction by Mark Ohman Plankton planet: Meet the creatures who make up 98 percent of the oceans’ biomass. Even when God makes a little thing, it is great because of the wisdom displayed in making it. The microscope has taught us the greatness of God in creating tiny creatures of wondrous beauty, yet so small as not to be perceptible to the naked eye. “The works of the Lord are great.”—Charles Spurgeon, Exposition of Psalm 111 Take two breaths. For one of them, you can thank the plankton, in particular the single-celled photosynthetic drifters that compose the phytoplankton of the world ocean. Remarkably, these elegant, microscopic cells perform nearly half of the photosynthesis and consequent oxygen production on Earth—equivalent to the total amount of photosynthetic activity of land plants combined. These tiny single cells have transformed the ocean, atmosphere, and terrestrial environment and helped make the planet habitable for a broad spectrum of other organisms, including ourselves. In many cases, blooms of phytoplankton reach such densities that they change the color of ocean surface waters and are even visible from satellites orbiting Earth. Every schoolchild knows that baleen whales, the biggest animals in the sea, subsist on huge quantities of krill, which are small zooplankton. But ocean …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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Should Adulterous Pastors Be Restored?

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

By Jen Wilkin, guest writer Don’t let power plays manipulate young friendships. Growing up the only girl among four brothers, when I pictured myself as a mother, I never saw myself having daughters. In my mind, girls meant girl drama. Despite my lack of imagination, God still graciously gave me two daughters, and over the past 18 years, I’ve learned over and over again how wrong I was to believe the negative hype around raising girls. Girl drama is definitely a thing, and a well-documented one at that. Queen Bees & Wanna Bees (the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls) examines the unique tensions of adolescent girls, specifically stemming from their relationships with each other, and countless teen movies, books, and TV shows rely on these-all-too-common tropes. Anyone who has spent time around tweens or teens has probably noticed these kinds of power plays: pouting, shunning, hyper-sensitivity, clinginess, playing favorites, spreading gossip. Though girl drama is nothing new, today’s technology makes it even more pervasive. Drama no longer pauses when the school bell rings, it follows our daughters around in their pockets wherever they go. It does not sleep, and it never takes a summer break. But don’t panic: drama doesn’t have to plague our daughters. We …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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