Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”


Searching for Gorsuch: For Many Evangelicals "It's the Supreme Court, Stupid”

Many Evangelicals Voted for Trump to Get Neil Gorsuch, So Let's Stop Painting Them with Every Other Brush

Today, President Trump nominated a new Supreme Court Justice and Neil Gorsuch is as the President promised: in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

That’s what many Evangelicals were hoping—and why many voted the way they did. During the announcement, President Trump indicated that he knew this was the most important issue for many people, and he’s right— it was for Evangelicals.

James Carville famously said during the Bill Clinton campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.” For many Trump-voting Evangelicals, it’s the Supreme Court.

Dana Bash, moments ago on CNN, explained:

A lot of times during the campaign we would ask why on earth would conservatives— really hard core conservatives— back someone like Donald Trump and work so hard for him. This is why. Because that is not the person that Hillary Clinton—if she were president—would be putting on the bench. Not even close… so much of this election… [was] about this.

Yes, this is one of the key reasons that many Evangelicals voted for Trump.

In fact, in a Christianity Today article, 70% of white Evangelical voters said the Supreme Court appointment was a top election concern, listing among others terrorism, the economy, immigration, foreign policy, gun control, and health care. The Supreme Court nomination is a critical position to fill in light of the changing political and societal changes we have been facing.

And this is why many Evangelicals voted for Trump: issues—in many cases, this particular issue. In fact, as Christianity Today explained before the election:

More than three-quarters of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in the fall (78%). But they aren’t happy ...

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Trump’s Supreme Court Pick: Religious Freedom Defender Neil Gorsuch

Scholarly Denver judge who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby would fill Scalia’s seat.

President Donald Trump named Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, Ivy League-educated federal judge known for his way with words and defenses of religious freedom, as his Supreme Court nominee during a live broadcast Tuesday night.

A favorite pick among Christian conservatives, Gorsuch fulfills Trump’s promise to select a judge that evangelicals will “love” and who also stands a solid chance of scoring Senate approval. (Gorsuch’s federal appointment by President George W. Bush in 2006 was uncontroversial.)

“Judge Gorsuch’s combination of intellectual horsepower and work ethic has enabled him to excel academically at the world’s best universities, become a first-rate lawyer and judge, and develop remarkable verbal abilities,” said Robert Pushaw, a constitutional law expert and professor at Pepperdine University School of Law.

Hours before the president’s announcement, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore tweeted that he hoped Trump would select the Denver judge, calling him “brilliant and sound.”

Though Gorsuch has not ruled on Roe v. Wade, he calls for a consistent pro-life ethic surrounding end-of-life issues in his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, and is expected to side against abortion.

“As a family ministry concerned with the sanctity of life, marriage, and religious freedom, we are optimistic that Judge Gorsuch will continue to protect our cherished liberties, and earn the entire country’s respect as a member of our nation’s highest court,” said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, in a statement. “It’s our hope that he will follow in the late Justice Scalia’s ...

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Henri Nouwen’s Weakness Was His Strength

How a gifted, high-achieving spiritual guide learned to share his wounds with others.

Over 30 years ago, a Catholic priest and sought-after spiritual guide wrote the following in a letter to an inquirer: “I have been increasingly aware that true healing mostly takes place through the sharing of weakness.” Pressing beyond generalities, he made his reply personal: “[I]n the sharing of my weakness with others, the real depths of my human brokenness and weakness and sinfulness started to reveal itself to me, not as a source of despair but as a source of hope.”

For us today, in the era of self-help gurus, the priest’s words may sound like a truism whose luster has grown dull with over-familiarity. Or—worse—they might be misconstrued as an encouragement to wallow in our wounds, to valorize our frailty as somehow redemptive in and of itself. Is there any reason, then, to treat this letter as an instance of spiritual insight?

Inner Wounds

The priest who wrote it was named Henri Nouwen, and almost a decade before, in 1972, as a newly minted instructor at Yale Divinity School, he had published a book titled The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. It was to become, according to most of his ecumenical readership, Nouwen’s signature title. Before Brené Brown appeared on the TED stage, before spiritual counseling and small group ministry in evangelical parachurch ministries had encouraged believers to disclose more of their doubts and insecurities, before movements like the charismatic Cursillo and the contemplative Taizé and Renovaré had gone mainstream, Nouwen was already advocating a spirituality that took its cue from Christ’s nail-scarred risen body. Any spirituality and ministry we might hope to cultivate should be one that’s ...

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Should America’s Refugee Policy Put Persecuted Christians First?

Four evangelical experts offer their take on Trump’s controversial plan.

Under President Donald Trump’s new executive order, religious minorities claiming persecution will take priority over other applicants once the refugee program resumes.

Last weekend on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Trump indicated that the policy will particularly advantage persecuted Christians from the Middle East:

They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.

Since 2011, between 1 and 3 percent of Syrian refugees admitted to the US were Christians, while the proportion of Christian refugees from the country is estimated to be much larger. (CT previously looked at explanations for the disparity.) Overall, 1 in 4 refugees resettled from the seven Muslim-majority nations now restricted under Trump’s order were Christians.

While some evangelicals agree with Trump’s efforts to course-correct on behalf of persecuted brothers and sisters, many others worry about the ramifications of privileging Christians above other faiths. Arab Christian leaders in the Middle East told CT they appreciate Trump’s sentiment, but disagree with his strategy. CT asked four evangelical experts in international affairs, religious persecution, and refugee resettlement to weigh in below.

America’s Christian Preference Can Hurt Religious Freedom Elsewhere

David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors ...

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Management or Multiplication?

Plan time to work ON the ministry, not just IN the ministry.

As a leader, the gravitational pull is always toward the tyranny of the urgent. It’s like a tractor beam pulling us in. Too many leaders get so focused on “What now?” that we can’t focus on what’s next! We fall into the rut of putting out fires and managing the ministry machine, rather than focusing on what could come next for our ministry.

There’s a big difference between ministry management and ministry multiplication. Ministry management is important; just not at the neglect of ministry multiplication! New approaches to ministry, starting new groups, new ministries, new campuses, new sites, and new churches is where the real Kingdom and church growth will come! Multiplication is the real key to Kingdom and church growth! So how can we get our ministries focused more on multiplication and less on management? Here are a few:

Focus on the IMPORTANT not the URGENT

Are you familiar with the Urgent Important Matrix? In the figure above, you can probably tell where we tend to spend the majority of our time: Urgent things that are NOT the most Important things: the world wide web, our email inbox, social media, and meetings where nothing really gets done that will bring increase to our ministries! What’s often neglected? The important but not urgent things: daily time alone with God, exercise, personal growth, reading, studying, etc. No one comes knocking on our door because they’ve noticed we’re neglecting these things. However, they are the most important things! Every week requires some management of things and people. However, the tail doesn’t have to wag the dog. Plan time to work ON the ministry, not just IN the ministry. Schedule it! Plan time to work and think strategically ...

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Monday, 30 January 2017

Psalm 86:5

“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.”


News: What Arab Church Leaders Think of Trump Prioritizing Persecuted Christian Refugees

Middle East believers appreciate the sentiment of the new president's executive order. But not its strategy.

Married in December to a Syrian woman with American citizenship, Fadi Hallisso went to Beirut to apply for a green card.

A Syrian Christian, Hallisso has worked with refugees in Lebanon since 2012. Funded by different American agencies, he was no stranger to the US government. He even testified about the situation in Syria to the US State Department and to Harvard Divinity School.

But this week, Hallisso was told he was no longer welcome to apply. The new Trump administration said so.

“It is very humiliating to be put in the category of potential terrorist,” said Hallisso. “Just because I carry a certain passport.”

As the details of President Donald Trump’s new policies emerge—including a pending promise to prioritize Christian refugees for resettlement in America—much appears lost in translation.

“This executive order has created a new atmosphere very hostile to people in the region,” said Chawkat Moucarry, World Vision’s director for interfaith relations—and Hallisso’s uncle. “Unwritten rules seem to be implemented as a result.”

Is Trump’s executive order on refugees a “Muslim ban”? Is it not? Is it prudent? As American Christians debate these questions from the small towns of Middle America to the nation’s major airports, so also Arab Christians are trying to figure out what is going on.

“I read the executive order,” said Adeeb Awad, chief editor of al-Nashra, the monthly magazine of the Presbyterian Synod of Syria and Lebanon. He remarked upon its temporary nature and—in his estimation—reasonable restrictions and actual improvement upon the upper limits of refugee acceptance. He particularly appreciated ...

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Does There Need To Be A Space For “Just Atheism”?

The discussion over the divide among movement atheists is a common one, and one that I’m no stranger to. Because many atheists including myself have gone over these topics thoroughly, I have no interest in offering my diagnosis and ways to fix the problem in this piece. But I think it’s fairly relevant that there [Read More...]


‘Paterson’ Richly Rewards the Watchful

So much depends upon a bus driver, carefully attentive, writing poetry in Paterson, NJ.

To tell you about this movie, I need to tell you about my wife.

Sometimes, lying awake at night, side by side, Anne and I listen to our neighborhood. Traffic becomes the ocean, waves breaking on a beach. Wind in the evergreens is the roar of a crowd. Fire trucks: trumpeting elephants that charge from the circus tent of the fire station next door. Anne’s favorite is the rush of the midnight street sweeper. She has written poems about the driver’s rumbling reverie, out there “tracing the bones of the city.”

Anne’s attentiveness to poetry is what drew us together in the first place. I strive to learn from her compulsion. Like the angels in Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire, she carries empty journals with her into her days and fills them with glimpses of the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her patient watchfulness quiets my fears and helps me hear the still, small voice of the Spirit.

That’s why Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s meditative new comedy, feels so necessary, essential—even medicinal for me.

Movies about poets are a hard sell. Perhaps I can get moviegoers’ attention by telling them that the movie’s lanky leading man, Adam Driver, is the same guy who threw spectacular tantrums as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (He’s also onscreen this month as a brave and emaciated missionary in Martin Scorsese’s masterful Silence.) But here, Driver’s a driver, steering a bus around Paterson, New Jersey, the town that shares his name and wins his heart. His bus in non-articulated, but he’s as articulate as they come.

The movie’s heartbeat is our driver’s creative process—his line-by-line composition as he makes his introspective ...

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