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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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Russell Moore Wants to Keep Christianity Weird

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey The public-policy leader for the largest US Protestant denomination isn’t worried over Christians’ loss of power. He says it might just be the best thing to happen to them. Moore didn’t expect to see female bodybuilders tanning naked across the street on a hot June day. So the eighth president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, took to one of his pulpits: Twitter. “These people told me we ought to keep all the neighbor kids inside while they are naked out here. Y’all have never seen me this mad,” tweeted Moore, a father to five boys. Moore chuckled recounting the story while holding his youngest during family dinner. The day after his neighbors agreed not to tan naked in their front yard, Moore tweeted, “So far today we still have our First Amendment religious freedom and everyone in my neighborhood has their clothes on outside. #winning” Compared with today’s myriad court battles in which Christian individuals and organizations worry that their religious freedoms will soon vanish, tanned bodybuilders seem like a minor threat. But the encounter epitomizes the way Moore is practicing patient pluralism—and helping a denomination of about 16 million do the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: A Walk In The Woods

By Kenneth R. Morefield Why are good books so hard to adapt to the big screen?. mpaa rating:R (For language and some sexual references.) Genre:Comedy, Drama Theatre Release:September 02, 2015 by TriStar Pictures It’s hard to adapt a beloved book to the screen, but it’s not impossible. For every high-profile success—think To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, or Lord of the Rings—the Hollywood roadside is littered with even more colossal misfires: The Scarlet Letter, Ender’s Game, The Hobbit, The Great Gatsby, Alice in Wonderland, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Unbroken, Dune. The worst adaptations are the ones that leave you asking in frustration, “What went wrong?” and insisting, “But that should have been a great movie!” Bill Bryson wrote the wonderfully comic A Walk in the Woods. But while this film keeps the bare outlines of Bryson’s story, it both misunderstands his comic voice and conveys it wrongly. The result is a drab road trip film, a cross between Grumpy Old Men and National Lampoon’s Vacation, as the aged Bryson (Robert Redford) and his crude former buddy Katz (Nick Nolte) set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. Ho hum. So the book was better. What else is new? The fascinating thing about A Walk in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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New Parents: Your Sex Lives Are Going to Change

By Courtney Reissig How healthier expectations for marriage might keep us away from Ashley Madison. I’ve followed the coverage of the Ashley Madison list, each scandalous revelation exposing yet another seemingly wholesome family man with a wandering eye. We know by now that many Christians, and our leaders, visited this site. Sadly, sin can be a great equalizer as we fall under our lust for attention, sexual satisfaction, and freedom. As a mother of a three-month-old and twin toddlers, I can’t help noticing the young husbands and fathers who sought affairs through Ashley Madison. Despite appearances of happy families, despite praising their wives for loving them and caring for their children, these men wanted more, and looked for it in the dark corners of the Internet. This reality hit close to home for me, and perhaps for many parents in the tiring early months and years after starting a family. Having a baby drains you physically, mentally, and emotionally; sometimes I feel too exhausted to carry a full conversation with my husband, let alone be intimate with him. We are both overwhelmed. As much as we love each other and our growing family, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this season isn’t grueling. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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My Small Group Looks Like Me

By Morgan Lee Why some multiethnic churches don’t mandate diversity at gatherings. On any given Sunday at New Life Fellowship, worshipers from more than 75 ethnic backgrounds gather at the church’s three services in Queens, New York City. But during the week, an increasing number of them go to small groups intentionally split along ethnic lines. Congregations like New Life face a challenge when it comes to small groups: the things that make small groups thrive—like common interests, backgrounds, and culture—often work against the church’s goal of building multiethnic community. Some church leaders believe homogenous small groups actually attract diversity. At New Life, ethnic fellowships function as a “great entry point into a multiethnic church,” said small group pastor Phil Varghese, the son of Indian immigrants. “It’s a cultural shock for newcomers to see so many people groups gathering,” he said. “We’re building Spanish-language and Filipino, South Asian, and Indonesian ethnic fellowships.” Such groups can make new immigrants feel at home. Knowing that they can find weekday fellowship in their own language, many “first-generation parents will sacrifice not hearing a Spanish-language message because their kids are loving what they are getting at our church,” said Jorge Molina, an El Salvador native who pastors small groups …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Moses and Jesus Didn’t Have Their Dream Jobs By 30, Either

By Liuan Huska Calling may look more like a wandering journey than a singular career path. People start asking the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” when kids are in preschool. I’ve had many responses along the way—a stock broker, a doctor, a journalist, to name a few. When I graduated high school ten years ago, I assumed that by now I would finally be living the answer to that question. Instead, I’ve given up on finding one. That question—and the belief that a singular career will become our identity as adults—holds less meaning for today’s job hoppers and career jugglers. Earlier generations choose their profession and, for the most part, stuck with it. They envisioned careers as linear paths up a company hierarchy or at least within the same field. Of course, there were workers who switched industries and took zigzag job routes, but they were exceptions. Now, they’re becoming the norm. A typical millennial career path may involve dabbling in different fields, getting multiple, unrelated graduate degrees, and working at Starbucks in the meantime. There are economic reasons for our seeming capriciousness. Many of us entered the job market in the depths of the Great Recession, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Maze Runner to God

By Samantha Blythe Wrong turns and dead ends punctuated by unexpected grace. We started to publish this delightful testimony as a serial, and then belatedly realized that the narrative flow was lost in breaking the story into parts every other day. Here now is the full version without even page breaks. The piece is much longer than our usual fare, so you may want to print it or save it to your favorite online reader after you’ve read for a bit. It is still organized by the phases that Samantha describes. Enjoy. –The Editors. The Formation Phase There was a life, phase after phase, Which oft felt like running a maze But no matter how odd, ‘twas all planned out by God, to Whom be all glory and praise. One of my earliest memories is of my five-year-old self, coming home from school a few months after my parents divorced. There was a goldfish in a bowl on the kitchen counter, with a note saying something like, “I thought you might like this. Love, Dad.” I hadn’t seen my dad for weeks, and I don’t think the slimy little guy or gal was much consolation. I remember having to flush it down the toilet a few weeks later. I …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Leading Lawyer Defending Crosses in ‘China’s Jerusalem’ Kidnapped Before Meeting US Ambassador

By Timothy C. Morgan Zhang Kai among 270 people detained or arrested. China has arrested the leader of “Lawyers for Protection of the Cross,” among more than 250 attorneys, pastors, and human rights activists detained or arrested since July in the latest state-sponsored suppression of religious freedom. On August 25, police in Wenzhou —a coastal city known as “China’s Jerusalem” where the government has been stripping the skyline of church crosses—jumped a wall at Xialing Church and arrested Zhang Kai and his intern, Liu Peng. The arrests occurred on the eve of a scheduled meeting with David Saperstein, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom who took office in January. “These detentions fit into the disturbing pattern of state intimidation of public interest lawyers, internet activists, journalists, religious leaders,” Saperstein said to news media. “Also other people that I have met, or tried to, have suffered harassment of some kind. demands the immediate release of these activists, who boldly underline the precariousness of religious life in China.” According to China Aid, Zhang and Liu are being held for six months in a so-called “black jail,” one of several detention facilities outside the established penal system. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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J.I. Packer: How I Learned to Live Joyfully

By J.I. Packer A wizened sage named Ecclesiastes tamed my youthful cynicism. Christians like to quiz each other about their favorite book in the Bible. Finding out how people experience Scripture—especially those who write books about the Bible—is a natural interest to us. When asked which Bible book is my favorite, I say Ecclesiastes. Should people raise their eyebrows and ask why, I give them two reasons. First, it is a special pleasure to read an author with whom one resonates. That is how the writer, who called himself Qohelet—Hebrew for “Gatherer,” a title that in Greek became Ecclesiastes, the “Assembly-man”—strikes me. I see him as a reflective senior citizen, a public teacher of wisdom, something of a stylist and wordsmith. As his official testimonial or third-person testimony (it might be either) in 12:10 shows, this man took his instructional task very seriously and labored to communicate memorably. Whether he was the Solomon of history or someone impersonating him—not to deceive but to make points in the most effective way—we do not know. All I am sure of is that each point has maximum strength if it comes from the real Solomon at the end of his life. Whoever he was, Qohelet was a realist …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Disney Icon Dean Jones Dies at 84

By Brandon Fibbs The star of family classics as ‘That Darn Cat’ and ‘The Love Bug’ had converted to Christianity after a drunk-driving accident. Update 9/2/2015: Dean Jones died yesterday at age 84. This interview originally appeared September 22, 2009. People assume Dean Jones has had the perfect life. He was a Disney icon, the beloved star of such films as That Darn Cat, Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Love Bug. He had more money than he knew what to do with and spent it on lavish homes, fast Italian sports cars, and exotic vacations. And women. Each night a different Hollywood starlet could be found on his arm—and just as often in his bed. Out of the spotlight, Jones’ life was far from perfect. In fact, he was living a lie. For years he had deceived himself into believing that the Hollywood lifestyle would satisfy him, but it had only left him depressed and suicidal. He addictively sought the comforting roar of audience approval, but such pursuits had only shattered his first marriage (which ended in divorce) and alienated him from his children. He began to see life as a pointless exercise in futility, to be managed by copious amounts of alcohol and a parade …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Community Matters: The Role of Transformational Groups in the Church

By Ed Stetzer Community plays a vital role in the health of the local church. How does the local church develop healthy, life-changing community? This is the first in a series of blog posts in which we are considering the relationship between the church’s practice of community and transformational small groups. In a world that is pushing against community, the church must pursue authentic community. Community matters. There are few things in which the church can be more counter-cultural than in the way it practices community. There are few things in which the church can manifest its missional nature more than in the way it pursues community. Community matters. It’s a biblical non-negotiable. Transformation is not an individual task. No Christian is an island. The model Jesus gave us for disciple making is one of shared experience and learning in community. Christ did life together with his disciples, and he expects us to undergo life transformation as a community. Community matters. Churches that are serious about developing and cultivating authentic community are going to have congregations that are involved in transformational small groups. There’s no getting around the fact that any church that wants to make an impact on its people and a difference in its neighborhood will pursue and cultivate …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Commentary: 'Rectify' Shows Integrity in the Age of the Anti-Hero

By Wes Jakacki Why some critics are calling the Sundance TV series “true Christian art.” At the end of the TV anti-hero age, on-screen kindness and integrity aren’t in great supply. But that’s not so on the Sundance series Rectify, which recently concluded its third season. (The first two seasons are available on Netflix.) Set in Paulie, Georgia, Rectify is the story of the Holden family, whose son Daniel (tenderly played by Aiden Young) is released from death row after nineteen years when new DNA evidence vacates the original trial. One of the show’s central mysteries is whether Daniel did indeed commit the alleged rape and murder that landed him in prison as a teenager. But the show’s creators are far more concerned with how the Holdens deal with the aftermath, when Daniel returns home for a second chance at life. Showrunner Ray McKinnon grew up in a small town in Georgia similar to Paulie and is clearly familiar with honest depictions of faith, especially Southern Baptist faith. His characters are good, honest, and complex people trying their best to do right by each other and live out their faith. Scott Teems, a devout Christian who previously spoke with CT after his directorial debut That Evening Sun, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Ashley Madison Exposes More Than Just Names

The fallout from the Ashley Madison leak shows us that there is a critical sexual disconnect between men and women. Most women are completely dumbfounded at the Ashley Madison scandal, asking, How could it be so easy for so many men – including godly, Christian men – to visit such a site? Most men are completely chilled at the Ashley Madison scandal: thinking, There but for the grace of God go I. There’s something more important here than the Ashley Madison issue itself: a vast disconnect between men and women on modern sex-related issues that affect nearly all men and boys every single day – but which many women aren’t even aware of. While actual infidelity affects only a small percentage of marriages, the factors creating online temptation impact everyone. And we women don’t always understand why. Our men are vulnerable in ways most of us never realized. Our sons have a target on their backs. They need our support, prayer and awareness as they stand against the temptations of this culture – or as they work to heal their lives and marriages from poor choices. After years of research and multiple nationally-representative surveys to investigate the inner lives of men and boys for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Above All Evil: God’s Purposes Through the Wild, Weird Arc of History

By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun The unlikely rescue of Jews in China points to a Power beyond our understanding. A global survey found that almost half of adults had never heard of the Holocaust. In Asia that number exceeds 75 percent, with the vast majority questioning the accuracy of historical accounts. Today, few in the East or West remember that the strategic port city of Shanghai, China, was actually the site of an important piece of World War II history: a ghetto of 23,000 Jewish refugees. While other countries closed their borders, it was the one place in the entire world where anyone could enter without passports, visas, or fees. Among the many World War II events being commemorated this year is the liberalization of the Shanghai Ghetto on September 3, 1945. This improbable cross-cultural intersection of world events reveals some profound truths about the arc of God’s redemption throughout human history. About 10,000 kilometers from Germany by land, or a three-week journey by sea, Shanghai would seem an unlikely place for Jewish refugees to flee. But as the Nazi regime stepped up its anti-Semitic persecution in the mid-1930s, German Jews were running out of options. Biochemist Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first president …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Faith Meets the Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Interview by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun Crowdfunding pioneer Jessica Jackley discusses the redemptive, poverty-fighting work of microfinance. In 2005, a year before Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for the pioneering microfinance work of Grameen Bank, Jessica Jackley co-founded a peer-to-peer microlending platform called Kiva. Instead of collecting donations, Kiva asked individuals to lend money, interest-free, to aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries. The approach upended conventional notions of charity, “the poor,” and global development. In the decade since, Kiva has facilitated more than $730 million in loans to entrepreneurs in 83 countries. Jackley went on to launch a crowdfunding platform in 2009, years before crowdfunding had entered the public lexicon. Though that company folded in 2012, citing restrictive government regulations, it helped pave the way for the passage of the Jumpstart Our Business (JOBS) Act, which eased the rules and allowed crowdfunding to become the ubiquitous fundraising tool it is today. Jackley is currently an independent consultant and investor with the Collaborative Fund. Her new book, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least, chronicles her journey from a young do-gooder in Sunday school to an internationally recognized leader in business and international development. The …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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Contextualize. Don’t Merely Evangelize.

Christians must be willing to pursue contextualization for reasons other than evangelism. As I waited for my plane, I was stumped by what I was looking at. If Chinese understood the English on the KFC sign, no one would want to eat there. It simply read, “finger lickin’ good.” For anyone who knows Chinese culture, this slogan would be like Colgate advertising that it will make our teeth “toilet bowl white.” Uh, maybe that’s true but no one will want to buy something that promises to give me a potty mouth. You see, Chinese people don’t like eating with their fingers. In fact, many Western burger restaurants offer gloves for people to eat their sandwiches. Why then is KFC so successful in China? At one level, it is a famous western restaurant and eating there shows you have a comfortable income. However, KFC’s real secret to success is found elsewhere. KFC knows how to contextualize its product. If you don’t want fries, you can order rice porridge, corn, or egg and tart congee. Instead of chicken, customers can buy fish and shrimp sandwiches. Fortunately for KFC, contextualization is about more than good marketing slogan. Creative communication attracts people to something novel, but in the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Conflicting Thoughts of Grace

By Samantha Blythe My Christian Life, Part 1: The Formative Phase There was a life, phase after phase,Which oft felt like running a mazeBut no matter how odd, twas all planned out by God,to Whom be all glory and praise. One of my earliest memories is of my five-year-old self, coming home from school a few months after my parents divorced. There was a goldfish in a bowl on the kitchen counter, with a note saying something like, “I thought you might like this. Love, Dad.” I hadn’t seen my dad for weeks, and I don’t think the slimy little guy or gal was much consolation. I remember having to flush it down the toilet a few weeks later. I watched the dead orange body spin in the whirlpool as it was consigned to its watery grave. I’m sure that must symbolize something deep, because I’m using it to begin this memoir. Within the next year or so, my dad remarried and moved to Florida, and so I was shipped off on a plane alone to spend summers with his new wife; my dad was a workaholic and I really only saw him on Sundays. Upon returning from one of these grand vacations, I was picked up at …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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