Wednesday, 20 June 2018

4 Ways to Share God’s Love in Summertime

The “Ordinary Time” of summer invites us to give the extraordinary Good News.

According to a recent Barna report, American Christians are less likely to share their faith with others than they were 25 years ago. In 1993, 9 out of 10 Christians agreed with the statement, “Every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith.” Today, only two-thirds agree—a 25-point drop. Conversely, 3 in 10 Christians say “evangelism is the local church’s responsibility” rather than an individual one, a nearly threefold increase from the early ’90s. Overall, believers today are less prone to share the gospel or talk about their faith.

Christianity from its inception has centered itself on sharing the Good News, but apparently, we’re not as comfortable as we once were with that commission, perhaps for understandable reasons. The American church is experiencing serious pain right now: Congregations across the country are shutting their doors due to low attendance. The political environment has us in knots. And the #ChurchToo movement is exposing injustice and sexism against women. While the church contends with these battles, what good news do we have to share?

We still have great news, in fact. Despite our current circumstances, at the center of our faith is still the person of Jesus Christ, the One who holds all things together.

In the Book of Acts, we read the account of how a fledgling faith rises up, and despite great hardship, direct ploys to silence the disciples, and tremendous persecution, the new believers would not be quiet. Today, 2000 years later, the Great Commission has not changed. Then, as now, Jesus commissions us to go and tell others about God’s great love. The apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that “we have this treasure in jars ...

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Stewarding a Gospel Movement in Chicago

We long to see the power of the Holy Spirit energizing the Church.

I am excited to be a part of a new event, making its debut in Chicago this October, The Gospel and Our Cities: Chicago 2018. This new conference will bring together thought leaders and practitioners on key topics around urban ministry: justice, mercy, faith and work, church planting, church renewal, and renewing Chicago. If you have a heart for the kingdom work happening in our cities today, you won’t want to miss this event. I’ll be presenting alongside several others and I hope you’ll join us.

Executive Director Walter Wood was kind enough to answer a few questions about the heart behind the conference, and the hopes of the planning committee. I think you’ll see the time is definitely right for an event like this.

Ed: First, tell us about the purpose of this conference.

Walter: Our vision is to accelerate and support gospel movements in cities throughout North America. By that we mean that we long to see the power of the Holy Spirit energizing the Church in repentance, faith, new obedience, dynamic prayer, church planting, works of justice and mercy, faith and work initiatives, and many people coming to Christ.

We are driven by a desire to see thousands of churches planted and revitalized through the good news of the gospel. We long to see our cities impacted and transformed. We hope this conference will contribute significantly to our vision.

Ed: So, why create another event? What do you hope to accomplish?

Walter: Our program will focus primarily on serving our cities, understanding the implications of the gospel for city ministry, and building gospel movements. We hope to inspire and encourage greater vision for reaching our cities. It’s our hope that pastors, marketplace leaders, ministry leaders ...

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Imagining a Virtuous Capitalism

Free-market ideas grew in a religious and moral soil. We need to replant them there.

Over the last 30 years, we have witnessed the most significant movement out of poverty in human history. If this trend continues, we will see extreme poverty almost completely eradicated in the 21st century, according to a 2008 report from the World Bank. This historic economic movement was not the result of government programs, the United Nations’ national debt forgiveness, or even Christian charity. It was brought about by the spread of economic freedom and capitalism.

Economic freedom is important because it affects nearly every aspect of an individual’s life. Living in a society with high levels of economic freedom leads to higher incomes, less poverty, less unemployment, longer life expectancies, lower infant mortality, higher literacy, cleaner environments, and a host of other benefits. More economic freedom equals improved well-being and a better quality of life. Economic freedom, then, is one measure of what the Bible calls “flourishing.”

Yet, today, free-market economics has come under fire. Social activist Michael Moore’s critique of capitalism is embraced by many:

Capitalism is an organized system to guarantee that greed becomes the primary force of our economic system and allows the few at the top to get very wealthy and has the rest of us riding around thinking we can be that way, too—if we just work hard enough, sell enough Tupperware and Amway products, we can get a pink Cadillac.

Almost everywhere we turn, we can see examples of greed and abuse, which has many asking, “Are the evils of capitalism worth the benefits?”

A Loss of Morals

Enter Kenneth J. Barnes, who dives headlong into this contentious debate in his new book, Redeeming Capitalism. He does not insist on ...

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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Nicaraguan Unrest Squashes Summer Missions

Church teams cancel trips as protests limit access and security.

Most summers, Corner of Love, a Christian nonprofit in northern Nicaragua, hosts 30 teams of volunteers to help with its school, medical services, and water improvement projects. But this year, no one’s coming.

Ministry leaders cancelled the summer programming last month since recent political unrest—the worst in the Central American country since the 1980s—could endanger visitors. Already an estimated 200 people have been killed this spring as Nicaraguans take to the streets to protest the current administration, led by President Daniel Ortega.

As the protests continue through the summer, Christian groups have begun postponing their mission trips or canceling them altogether, which leaves the communities they hoped to serve in even worse shape amid the national crisis.

“Everything is on the line: our finca (ranch), our clinic, our hospital, our school,” said Corner of Love CEO Tanya Mroczek-Amador, who recently traveled to the DC to lobby for support against the Nicaraguan government.

Summer is typically the busiest time for ministries in the region; a drop in missions trips during this season stands to hurt them for the rest of the year.

“Revenue from missions teams supports the work on the ground, including paying staff and taking care of facilities,” said Shawn Doss, whose organization Hope Missions recently had to cancel its July trip to Nicaragua. “They rely on revenue from teams coming down to help. They’re really struggling.”

In the case of Nicaragua, many short-term missions groups work in regions that aren’t directly affected by the protests and violence. The issue is getting there; most teams fly into major cities like Managua or Granada and then take ...

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One-on-One with Adam Mabry on ‘The Art of Rest’

Rest or Ruined: A conversation with a serial achiever on the importance of rest.

Ed: Adam, we’ve known each other for a while, so when I heard that you were writing a book on rest, I was surprised. You’re the embodiment of an East Coast, busy, constantly moving person. How did you end up writing this book?

Adam: Yeah, it made my wife laugh, too. So, here’s how it happened: In 2013, our church was exploding, we launched a new campus, we bought a new (but very old) home that I was remodeling, I was wrapping up a master’s degree, and we had the most sleep-resistant child ever.

After a few months of 60-hour work weeks followed by late night reno sessions, I broke down. My whole life I powered through difficulties by just achieving a bit more. But this time, that didn’t work, and I came close to achieving my own destruction. Depression hit hard, and it lasted for a long while. Learning to set my work down was big part of my recovery from that season.

Fast forward a year or two later, and I’m sitting with my staff. I pitch to them a great idea about a new, church-wide campaign to get our people sharing their faith and serving the city. Bleary-eyed, they informed me that everyone I was leading was pretty tired. It occurred to me that I was powering through again, we’d never studied sabbath as a church, and as it was summer, it was a good time.

So, I changed the plan: summer of sabbath. No big initiatives, no new programs. We were going to learn to rest, together, even though we were all bad at it.

As I researched, I found a lot of long books written by people much older than me, reflecting on sabbath in retirement. But, that’s not where my people (or most people) are. So, after that series, a publisher contacted me about putting my ideas into print. I set out writing ...

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Frank Tipler on the Star of Bethlehem…Refuted

Aaron Adair, who in the past has contributed widely to ATP, a few years ago wrote the “go-to book” about the Star of Bethlehem, looking critically at the phenomenon. The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View really is a very good book. Aaron, together with myself, has recently decided to produce a second, updated edition of the […]

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Monday, 18 June 2018

The Increase of Women’s Involvement in Violent Extremism

Christians must reach out to their Muslims neighbors and together prevent extremist abuse and violence.

While there is growing interest in the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements, and rightly so, we must not forget the women who are subjected to religious-based violence every day of their lives. Gender equality is not only defined by glass ceilings, pay raises, and workplace sexual harassment. No, there are millions of women subjugated to violent extremism all over the globe.

The women’s empowerment movement, including women of faith, must reach out to the toughest regions of the world with their message of freedom of belief and the sanctity of life.

In the last year a record-high 137 women carried out bombings in which 4,310 people were killed. In May 2018, a band of young sisters acted on their plan to bomb various locations throughout London after their fianc├ęs died fighting for ISIL in Syria. Earlier in the month, a family of suicide bombers attacked three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia, killing at least 13 and seriously wounding a dozen more.

I recently had the chance to collaborate with Camille Tucker, Director of the CELLULAR short film, which chronicles the journey of a young Arab woman in Los Angeles ensnared in a local terrorist plot. After receiving startling news, she begins her unexpected journey away from radicalism. I got excited about this project because Muslim and Christians partnered together to film the film, aiming to promote peace and security (Article 1325). To me, the counter-extremism film has an important sanctity of life theme that makes a case for why we must mobilize women for peace in the modern age.

Rather than being just mothers to future jihadists, women around the world are now radicalized and used as propagandists for ISIL. Women terrorists increase numbers, garner media attention, and ...

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