Thursday, 26 April 2018

When the Rohingya Came, This Christian Hospital Was Ready

After decades shut out of refugee camps, medical missionaries in Bangladesh offer victims expert care and spiritual resources.

It wasn’t that Memorial Christian Hospital (MCH) in southeastern Bangladesh had no warning.

Steve Kelley, a surgeon at the Baptist facility, got a call from Doctors Without Borders (DWB) on a Friday afternoon last August.

“He was stammering,” Kelley said of the German physician on the line. The DWB (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) aid facility was about 30 miles south of MCH, in a Rohingya refugee camp near the border of Myanmar.

“He described hundreds of dead and dying pouring across the border,” Kelley said. “It was a humanitarian nightmare. [DWB] was up to their eyeballs very quickly.”

The situation—which United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”—began the day Kelly got the phone call, Friday, August, 25, 2017, when Rohingya militants allegedly attacked 30 police stations in western Myanmar and killed 12 security force members.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority living under almost constant persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, lost their right to citizenship under national law in 1982—and with it, their access to health care, education, and police protection. Few have jobs, and many are banned from leaving their villages.

Their attack against Myanmar police involved handmade weapons. The Myanmar government was furious. In retaliation, soldiers spent weeks killing 6,700 Rohingya (including 730 children under five). They raped women and girls. They burned 288 villages. And along the nearby border with Bangladesh, where the refugees were fleeing, they laid landmines. (By some accounts, this “clearance operation” began before August 25.)

In ...

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Lord, Save Me from My Side Hustle

Hard work is a virtue. But Scripture warns of its vice.

If our era had a buzzword, hustle would be a fierce contender. In 2018, if you don’t have a side hustle, a fever, a pet project that you’re fanatically growing, optimizing, organizing, or creatively monetizing, we want to know: Are you even trying? Are you at all curious, thriving, or thinking globally, becoming braver, wiser, or helping your household become more chemical-free?

Hustle is the gospel of good momentum. Although the word used to simply mean hurry, now it’s a credo and cult, a secret handshake betwixt movers, shakers, and mom-prenuers. It’s also the stamp of sincerity, proof that you’re “turning pro,” as writer Stephen Pressfield calls it, leaving the realms of the dabblers to take your ideas (and yourself) more seriously.

Although Scripture encourages believers to be industrious and work cheerfully, with the whole of their hearts (Col. 3:23–24), it also tempers potential excesses with a reminder: that hard work and breathless work are not, in fact, the same thing. This might sound like splitting hairs, but the difference between wisdom and folly boils down to posture—to the way we go about our business. At what pace, with what kind of (white-knuckled) grip, and to what ends?

As someone who sympathizes with the urge to achieve, I’m still learning this the hard way. I read way too many books on efficiency and simplicity and self-betterment. Worse yet, my husband and I have taken on the project of self-contracting the build of our small farmhouse in the boonies. This means that I’m typing with a laminate floor sample serving as my coffee coaster and sawdust gumming my nose. Three half-built IKEA cabinets sit parked in my living room, and I’ll ...

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

80% of Americans Believe in God. Pew Found Out What They Mean.

Does God talk to you? Has God punished you? Here’s how denomination, gender, and political party relate to how we see the divine.

“We believe in God,” Amy Grant famously sang in the ’90s. Today, 4 out of 5 Americans still say the same.

But according to a new survey, what they mean by God varies a lot.

Pastors and theologians often warn Christians against ascribing to a “God of their own making,” knowing that not all who say they believe understand God as described in Scripture or in the traditional creeds of the church.

In the shifting spiritual landscape of the United States, Christians too can no longer assume that their friends and neighbors believe in the God of the Bible, if they believe in God at all.

Though God regularly gets evoked in prayer, platitudes, and phrases like “God bless America” and “in God we trust,” Americans—even within Christianity—have different conceptions of who God is and how he operates. Does God judge? Does God love all? Does God control what happens on Earth?

A survey released today from the Pew Research Center found that how people view God—and how they believe God interacts with them—shifts by religious affiliation, gender, and political party.

Even in an era where more of the nation doesn’t ascribe to a higher power at all (10%) or believes in some sort of higher power or spiritual force (33%), a slim majority of Americans (56%) still believe in God “as described in the Bible,” according to the Pew report.

What Protestants, Catholics, and Jews Believe About God

But even belief in a biblical God can lead to different conclusions.

Take two of the “People of the Book”: Christians and Jews. American Christians (80%) are most likely to believe in a biblical God, a minority position among Jews (33%). A majority of American ...

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Community Home Offers ‘Boot Camp’ for Pregnant Moms

How a residential program in Virginia goes beyond crisis pregnancy aid.

In the living room at Carried to Full Term (CTFT), a residential home for mothers in Haymarket, Virginia, seven-month-old Fabia crawls toward her mother, stretches out her arms, and whimpers. Her mother, Samrawit (Sam) Biru, obliges and picks her up. The two touch heads for a moment, like a mother lion and cub. This is their home—at least for now.

In October 2017, while pregnant with Fabia, Biru moved from Ethiopia to Virginia and was living in the US on asylum when she found herself homeless. She moved into CTFT before giving birth. (Her immigration case is still pending, and her husband—still overseas—hopes to join her when her status is approved.) Even if she’d been able to return to her native country, says Biru, she wouldn’t have gone. She wanted to stay in the US and build a new life. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing long-term residential support to pregnant mothers in crisis, CTFT has helped her do just that.

Unlike a pregnancy clinic that only offers medical care, CTFT focuses on the entire well-being of the women who stay, many for up to two years. What makes it unique is also what makes it a challenge for the women who live there: The home operates like a boot camp for moms.

“The Program,” as staff and residents call it, albeit half tongue-in-cheek, is a set of strict but often-personalized covenants that are put in place for the good of the residents, the resident coordinator, and the 32 volunteers who help implement them.

“The guidelines are there to facilitate change,” says Frances Robin, or “Franie,” the executive director of CTFT. At 5′10″, the Caribbean-born, Jesus-loving mother of four is a formidable presence in ...

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Five Decisions that Helped Turn Around My Small Town Church

I believe your small town church can grow; I believe this because I’m living it.

The small town church where I serve as Executive Pastor will turn 12 years old this year. In those 12 years we’ve experienced incredible growth in many different areas. We’ve seen hundreds of people experience salvation and take their next step through baptism. We’ve seen our giving increase tenfold. And we saw our average weekend attendance top 700 people, in a one stop light town with a population of 2,200.

I believe small town pastors have amazing opportunities to do big things in their communities. I believe your small town church can make a big impact, and I believe your small town church can grow; I believe this because I’m living it.

But, before I get you too excited, let me warn you that it wasn’t always this way.

When Strong Tower Church was launched in 2006, we only knew one method of doing church, the way everyone else in our community was doing it. We launched with 87 people in attendance at our first service, and at the end of 2006, we had grown to 86 people. Best-case scenario at this rate was closing our doors after 86 years. Not exactly what you dream of when you plant a church.

The Barna group said that in 2003, the average Protestant church size in America was 89 adults. So, after our first year of ministry, we had basically achieved average. It was at this point we knew we had to start making some changes if we wanted to see the church grow.

In the past 12 years, I can say almost everything about our church has changed. The one thing that has remained the same has been our passion to uplift the name of Jesus and our passion for loving people. I have no doubt that these two things have been the cornerstones of our success.

As far as the changes that have helped us grow, there are ...

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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Bethel Music and Bieber Sang It. But Do We Really Believe in ‘Reckless Love’?

Worship experts weigh in on the theology beneath Cory Asbury’s chart-topping hit.

Bethel Music’s Cory Asbury hit it big with his song about the “the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

“Reckless Love” reached No. 1 for Christian airplay last week, with more than 10 million listeners, according to Nielsen Music.

It’s also back at the top of Billboard’s hot Christian songs chart, thanks to a boost from none other than Justin Bieber, who recently posted a clip of himself singing the chorus on Instagram before performing the song as part of an impromptu worship set during the Coachella music festival in California. Earlier this year, Israel Houghton offered his gospel cover.

But when worship songs make it big, they also get subjected to a degree of theological scrutiny, and some have questioned whether the message of the hit song misrepresents the nature of God’s love.

“A lot of people have asked why I use the word ‘reckless’ to describe the love of God,” Asbury said in a Bethel Music promo. “I see the love of God as something wild, insane, crazy. The way that he pursues, chases us down, loves, I believe, is reckless. We were going after that really furious, violent language to speak of the nature of the love of God.”

Back in the ’90s, Rich Mullins sang about the “the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.” Similarly, in the worship song “Furious,” Jeremy Riddle, also of Bethel Music, describes God’s love as “furious,” “fierce,” and “wild.”

About a decade ago, Christians were debating John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves” over the line “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” More recently, concerns ...

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One-on-One with Sam Chan on Evangelism in a Skeptical World

The essence of evangelism is the gospel message—true for all peoples, all places, and all times.

Sam Chan, a practicing medical doctor and a public evangelist with City Bible Forum in Sydney, Australia, recently wrote Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable. Below, I talk with him about his new resource.

Ed: Why a book on evangelism?

Sam: Deep down, every Christian wants to tell his or her friends about Jesus. But we also know just how unbelievable the gospel—about a man called Jesus, who is both God and human, who died and rose again 2000 years ago—can often appear.

And we know that our world has changed so much in the last 10-20 years. Our world is so post-Christian, post-churched, and post-reached, that widely accepted methods of evangelism, though once effective, don’t seem to work so well anymore.

As a result, Christians are caught in a hard place. We feel guilty for not telling our friends about Jesus. But at the same time, we feel helpless to do anything about it.

Well-meaning Christian leaders might say to us, “Simply tell your friends about Jesus. Just do it!” But we know that it’s not as simple as that.

Ed: How does this book tackle the task of evangelism?

Sam: I figured that we are now so post-Christian, post-churched, and post-reached that we may as well treat our world as unreached. We’ve turned the full circle!

I wondered how missionaries would bring the gospel to our 21st-century Western world. So I borrowed from what I learnt in my missiology classes—contextualization, cultural analysis, storytelling—and applied it to evangelism in our contemporary world. And voila, out popped this book called Evangelism to a Skeptical World!

Ed: So what are some of the secrets to evangelism in today’s 21st-century ...

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