Thursday, 31 January 2019

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.”


The Ring of Gyges and Deterrence

The Ring of Gyges is an ancient Greek thought experiment. In simple terms: The Ring of Gyges… is a mythicalmagical artifact mentioned by the philosopher Plato in Book 2 of his Republic (2:359a–2:360d).[1] It grants its owner the power to become invisible at will. Through the story of the ring, Republic considers whether an intelligent person would be just if they did not have to fear any bad reputation […]


Pew: Sunday Regulars Are Happier and Healthier

Across 25 countries, active religious participation is linked with habits like nonsmoking, community involvement, and voting.

During his sabbatical at the end of last year, Chance the Rapper quit smoking while studying Scripture. “I feel really good right now, thank u Father,” he wrote on Instagram, where he shared passages of Scripture and counted days gone by without another cigarette.

The Chicago native, who has become outspoken about his walk with Christ in his music and public life, is one example of a trend researchers found among the faithful: Believers who are active in their faith tend to make healthier choices and live happier lives.

Religious habits make a major difference for smoking status in particular, according to a Pew Research Center report released today on religion and well-being.

Among Americans who identify as Christian or another religious tradition and attend services at least once a month, 85 percent don’t smoke, compared to 74 percent of the religiously unaffiliated and 72 percent of those who attend services less often.

The trend holds up around the world, where regular worshipers are less likely to smoke by a significant margin in 16 of 19 countries surveyed. (In most of those places, the active religious also drank less, but not by as wide a margin.)

Smoking and drinking were among several measures of wellbeing analyzed in the new report, based on data from the World Values Survey (2010–2014), the International Social Survey Programme, and Pew surveys.

Religious attendance—rather than religious affiliation—consistently linked to higher levels of happiness than the growing population of people around the globe who claim no faith. The report said:

Whatever the explanation may be, more than one-third describe themselves as very happy, compared with just a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated ...

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Should Christians Quote Muhammad?

Asia Bibi’s acquittal may model how to persuade Muslims of religious freedom.

Christians breathed a sigh of relief last October when Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five on death row, of blasphemy charges against Islam. What many might not have noticed was the Islamic rationale.

Whether or not she spoke against Muhammad, Bibi was insulted first as a Christian, wrote the judge. And on this, the Qur‘an is clear: Do not insult those that invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge.

The verdict also quoted Islam’s prophet himself: “Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights … I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”

And finally, it referenced an ancient treaty that Muhammad signed with the monks of Mount Sinai: “Christians are my citizens, and by God, I hold out against anything that displeases them.… No one of the Muslims is to disobey this covenant till the Last Day.”

Today it can seem like Muslims violate this covenant the world over. But does the Bibi decision validate those who insist that Islam rightly practiced is a religion of peace? And should Christians join Muslims to share verses that comprise the Islamic case for religious freedom?

CT surveyed more than a dozen evangelical experts engaged with Muslims or scholarship on Islam who reflected on three key questions when considering interpretations of Islam that favor religious freedom.

Is It True?

Pakistan’s verdict relied on three sources that inform Islam: the Qur‘an, the Hadith, and covenants.

The Qur‘an is the foundational text, considered to be dictated by Allah. The traditions, or Hadith, were collected by men, are subject to critical review, and have become ...

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Move Over, Sex and Drugs. Ease Is the New Vice.

Do modern amenities make it tough for us to embody God’s love?

According to recent research, teens are starting their sex lives a lot later. Despite shifting cultural norms and new sexual freedoms, our youngest and most virile are apparently having less sex—at least for now. Sociologists and social commentators debate whether the trend is temporary and whether it marks a healthy or unhealthy societal shift. But it’s possible that the so-called sex recession offers evidence of a wide, disturbing trend that has nothing to do with sex—one that is particularly endemic to our cultural moment. The trend bears witness to the ways that we’re increasingly finding embodied life “tiresome.” (In Japan, that’s the word many younger Japanese people to describe intercourse: mendokusai.)

Our apparent fatigue with bodily living extends to other areas, as well. Two years ago, in response to declining cereal sales, market researchers went looking for answers to why younger people were opting out of the convenience food that had fed their parents and grandparents. According to The New York Times, researchers found the reason: Breakfast cereal—with the whole bother of bowl and spoon—involved far too much work. “Almost 40 percent of the millennials surveyed by Mintel for its 2015 report said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it.”

The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease. Of all the cautions we raise about technology—its distractions ...

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Next Steps for Ministry Leaders Following the GC2 Summit

Six next steps for ministry leaders who desire to humbly engage with questions surrounding sexual violence.

In Between Two Worlds, John Stott charges preachers to address controversial topics: “Christian people are crying out for guidance...Shall we abandon them to swim in these deep waters alone? This is the way of the coward.”

If the recent GC2 Summit Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence said anything, it was this: Church, we will no longer walk in the way of the coward. We will not abandon our people to navigate these waters alone.

Still, the church’s question in this season of lament is the same one the prophet Jeremiah asked of God in his: How?

How, God, can we right these wrongs? How can we do better?

As a woman in church leadership and a survivor of sexual assault, I’d like to suggest six next steps for ministry leaders who desire to humbly engage with these questions. These are by no means comprehensive—others will have crucial expertise and wisdom to offer.

Nonetheless, may these steps encourage us all as we seek to answer our hows.

1 – Learn from women—purposefully.

After hearing complaints about their male-dominated structures and strategies, the elders at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City spent time meeting with groups of female church members, asking questions like: What has been hurtful? Where have we overlooked you? What do you long for?

Sarah Davidson, one of the women involved, described the experience as safe and powerful: “The elders didn’t counsel or coddle. They humbly listened, affirmed, and apologized.”

As a result, the church strategically hired more female staff, launched a women’s ministry, changed female titles from “directors” to “ministers,” and invited women to lead on stage.

To Leaders: with a posture ...

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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Psalm 86:5

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


Advocate for the Unborn by Caring for the Living

Caring for women and protecting babies don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

Last Tuesday, the state of New York passed the Reproductive Health Act signing into law a bill that will allow women to receive an abortion up until the baby’s due date. It is, as of now, the most expansive law of its kind in the country but perhaps not for long—pro-abortion advocates are already gearing up for other states to follow New York’s lead.

This development comes at a peculiar time when the American populace has actually been becoming more and more pro-life in recent years. In fact, according to Gallup poll data, 56 percent of Americans in 1995 would have self-described as pro-choice; this number, by 2018, has decreased to 48 percent. Likewise, the number of Americans identifying themselves as pro-life has climbed an enormous fifteen percentage points over that same time frame.

Beyond that, a vast majority (75 percent) of Americans support significant abortion restrictions. Even 60 percent of Democrats support restricting abortion after a woman reaches three months of pregnancy.

While New York’s passing of this law does little to reflect the ideals of the American populace as whole, it nevertheless will have great effect on the lives of thousands of women and children throughout the state.

When laws like this change, people can and should voice their opposition. As we’ve seen over the course of the past week, many continue to rise in defense of the unborn children whose voices have been stifled and human worth called into question. In fact, several states have proposed the passing of ‘heartbeat bills’ making an abortion illegal after a heartbeat has been detected in the baby.

But while legal recourse can be effective, it’s not always possible. In cases when convincing ...

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Abolitionism at the Tipping Point

Slavery has been around since before Moses, but International Justice Mission’s president thinks its demise is only decades away.

During International Justice Mission’s earliest days, founder Gary Haugen was parked in front of a Safeway grocery store one evening crying, worried that his fledgling nonprofit would not make payroll for its half-dozen employees. “This is how the dream dies,” he told himself, before phoning some friends for extra gifts that helped IJM through.

Two decades later, the $74 million organization has a lot of friends. Consider: A small group of donors paid to fly nearly 1,000 staff from around the globe to a conference in Dallas last September, where they joined 4,000 supporters to celebrate IJM’s 20th anniversary. Hundreds of international employees were welcomed with $50 Target gift cards and sent on chartered buses to spend them.

Donors “believed in what we were doing, believed that it was right to pause to thank and worship God for all that he’s done in the last 20 years,” said Sean Litton, IJM’s president.

Litton has witnessed nearly all of IJM’s rapid growth to become what it calls the “largest international anti-slavery organization in the world.” Litton’s time at IJM has taken him from the Philippines to Thailand and eventually to overseeing the organization’s day-to-day operations from its Washington, DC, offices. CT managing editor Andy Olsen, who himself formerly worked with IJM, sat down with the youth-pastor-turned-lawyer to talk about the evolution of IJM and the modern abolitionist movement.

You joined IJM in 2000. The organization was just a couple of years old, and combating modern-day slavery was only emerging as a Christian cause célèbre. What’s changed since then?

The world has clearly woken up to the problem. It’s ...

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Reaching International Students in Our Own Backyards

An interview with key evangelical leaders.

Ed: Tell us a little bit about the initiative.

Denis LaClare: The Every International Initiative is a collaborative effort from international student ministries around North America. We're coming together to provide a platform where anyone can come to the website and discover how to launch and lead an international student ministry where they are.

Ed: How does prayer fit into that?

Marc Papai: Prayer is essential to anything in God's kingdom. We think it's particularly strategic with this initiative with Every International. We are forming prayer circles around North America of students, staff, and church people to pray at least on a monthly basis for international student work in their local area and around the globe.

Ed: I don't think people always understand just how big the international student pool is. Why should this be on the radar of North American churches, or churches reading this around the world?

Beau Miller: According to the Institute of International Education, there are over one million international students in the United States. We have a pretty good estimate within the ISM (international student ministries) movement of how many of these students are hearing the gospel or being befriended by an evangelical Christian.

The bottom line is there's a tremendous gap between how many international students there are and how many international students we are reaching. Most of them are not being reached. We think Every International is a platform where we can engage the broader church—those outside of the ISM movement—to reach out to nearby internationals, not just students, but even immigrants or refugees.

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