Saturday, June 29, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: June 29, 2013

On this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Ed Stetzer: Reclaiming the Priesthood of All Believers

In the Sunday program, normally you would print the name of the church, phone number, and the obligatory: "Ed Stetzer, Pastor." Instead we listed everybody. I was listed as the pastor but we included the greeters, the children's ministry coordinator, and a host of other ministers—since all God's people are the ministers. What I learned was that was a nice thought, but it takes much more than an announcement. Read more

Demonization and the Christian Life: How the Devil Influences Believers

Scripture authenticates the reality of the spirit world, including angelic friends and demonic foes. But Western Christians, including evangelicals and Pentecostals, struggle to explain and address this transempirical dimension of reality. A misdiagnosis could prevent finding the cure for one who is struggling.

Some may question theologically1 and practically if spiritual warfare is real and relevant to their lives and ministries. Missionary to the Islamic world, Sobhi Malek, claims, “There is a relentless conflict between God’s kingdom and the temporary rule of Satan, the prince of this world, who is assisted by demonic forces under his command.”2

Psychologist Richard Dobbins states, “I believe in the realities of a spirit world as revealed in the Scripture.”3
Theologian Edgar Lee notes, “The Bible clearly teaches the existence of an unseen enemy devoted to the destruction of humanity.”4

Cultural anthropologist Charles Kraft asserts, “Scripture clearly portrays human life as lived in a context of continual warfare between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.”5

Immediately after the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus to begin His public ministry, Jesus experienced a personal confrontation with Satan (Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1–13). Later He declared, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:286). Peter summarized Jesus’ ministry stating, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Read more

Beware of Satan’s Thorns: Seven Ways the Enemy Weakens Pastors

Here are seven strategies Satan uses to distract, harass, weaken, and destroy pastors and how to avoid them.

Why do certain members of my church disagree with my position on this issue? After all, I am spiritually more advanced, I defensively thought. This led to an energy-sapping clash in the church. Looking back, I now realize I had allowed one of Satan’s thorns to jab me.

As Satan opposed Jesus’ work on earth, he and the “spiritual forces of evil” oppose our efforts for God (Ephesians 6:12). He especially targets pastors. For in weakening them, he weakens the Church. Read more

Christ-Centered Hermeneutics and Typology

This is the fourth installment in a series of posts examining Christ-Centered hermeneutics and their impact on preaching. I have asked several well-known leaders and thinkers to examine and discuss Christ-Centered preaching over the next few weeks. Read more

What Can New Testament Songs Teach Us Today?

The Bible contains more than 400 references to singing, and over 50 commands to sing. It teaches us to sing to God, and to each other (Ephesians 5:19). We’re to sing “of all his wondrous works” (1 Chronicles 16:9), and of “his salvation from day to day” (1 Chronicles 16:23). In this way, we are praising God directly while also “teaching and admonishing each other” (Col. 3:16).

Of course the Bible isn’t simply prescriptive when it comes to singing, but descriptive as well. God’s Word gives us hundreds of examples of songs, from many different writers in both testaments. These songs answered questions like.... Read more

When Christians Fire Christians

I feel like I’m walking on metaphorical eggshells with this blogpost. My challenge is that I am asked about this issue almost as much as any other. The question typically comes from a pastor or other church leader, but it could come from a leader of another Christian organization. Should we as Christians fire other Christians who work in our organization? Read more

The U.S..Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decisions and Their Implications for Christians (and Muslims)

Gay marriage rulings: 'new ministry situations on horizon,' seminary scholars project

Though the Supreme Court's ruling against traditional marriage was a "dark day in American history," it's time to accept the reality and move on to discussing how to minister in a new context, Jeff Iorg and other seminary leaders are saying.

"Challenging new ministry situations are on the horizon," Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary near the epicenter of the gay marriage movement, wrote in a blog post June 27.

"For example, a child comes to your Vacation Bible School and receives Jesus as Savior and Lord. His same-sex married parents come for the family night program. How will you react to their presence?" Iorg wrote. Read more

ERLC fact sheet addresses gay marriage rulings

The Southern Baptist Convention's ethics entity has produced a fact sheet in both English and Spanish to assist churches in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decisions.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission posted the fact sheet on its website June 26 to help provide guidance to congregations after the Supreme Court issued opinions the same day in two cases regarding gay marriage.

In one landmark ruling, the justices struck down part of a law that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman. The opinion means same-sex couples will have access to Social Security, tax and other benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples.

The ERLC fact sheet, which can be downloaded in bulletin insert form for distribution to those attending worship services, explains the Supreme Court's decisions and some ways churches should respond. Read more

Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage: Liberty or Bondage?

When the Supreme Court issued its two major decisions on same-sex unions, it meted out two defeats to proponents of biblical marriage, one substantive and one procedural. Make no mistake, however, that the one ruling (U.S. v. Windsor) that struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had defined marriage for federal law purposes as one man and one woman, has given us a two-fold warning: first, that the Court may be preparing soon, if given the right case, to grant homosexuals the highest constitutional protection available; and, second, that objectors like those Christians who take a responsible view of Scripture and who expound on it will likely find themselves disenfranchised on this issue and sadly mislabeled as persons who, in the words of the Court's decision, harbor a "desire to harm" the rights of homosexuals; as perpetrators of "discrimination of an unusual character;" and as persons whose actions impose a "stigma" on gay persons. Read more

Marriage and Imagination: After the Supreme Court

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, extending benefits to same-sex married couples.

What you've heard from the media, which isn't actually the case, is that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA altogether. It didn't. Other than Section 3, it still stands. So it could have been worse. Read more

Gay marriage: In states, a hodgepodge lies ahead

Across the country, this week's landmark Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage have energized activists and politicians on both sides of the debate. Efforts to impose bans — and to repeal them — have taken on new intensity, as have lawsuits by gays demanding the right to marry. Read more

Culture wars: Why gay marriage and abortion have been ‘decoupled’

The contrasting images on the news this week could not have been more stark: On the steps of the Supreme Court, supporters of gay marriage celebrated two victories – and a new sense of momentum.

But in Texas, abortion rights were under siege in the state legislature, as Gov. Rick Perry (R) sought to join the wave of states imposing sweeping restrictions on the procedure. The effort failed, with a dramatic filibuster, but he’ll try again Monday.

What’s going on? Read more

Russell Moore: How Should You Explain the Same-Sex Marriage Debate to Your Children?

With the recent Supreme Court decisions all over the news, some Christian parents wonder how they ought to explain all of this to their small children. I've faced the same question as my children have asked, "What is the Supreme Court doing that's keeping you so busy?" So how does one teach the controversy, without exposing one's children to more than they can handle?

First of all, you should, I think, talk to your children about this. No matter how you shelter your family, keeping your children from knowing about the contested questions about marriage would take a "Truman Show"-level choreography of their lives. That's not realistic, nor is it particularly Christian.

The Bible isn't nearly as antiseptic as Christians sometimes pretend to be, and it certainly doesn't shirk back from addressing all the complexities of human life. If we are discipling our children, let's apply the Scriptures to all of life. If we refuse to talk to our children about some issue that is clearly before them, our children will assume we are unequipped to speak to it, and they'll eventually search out a worldview that will. Read more

Marijuana's march toward mainstream confounds feds

Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service
It took 50 years for American attitudes about marijuana to zigzag from the paranoia of "Reefer Madness" to the excesses of Woodstock back to the hard line of "Just Say No."

The next 25 years took the nation from Bill Clinton, who famously "didn't inhale," to Barack Obama, who most emphatically did.

Now, in just a few short years, public opinion has moved so dramatically toward general acceptance that even those who champion legalization are surprised at how quickly attitudes are changing and states are moving to approve the drug — for medical use and just for fun.

It is a moment in America that is rife with contradictions.... Read more

Christianity in Vietnam

We arrived in Vietnam -- one of only five remaining socialistic dictatorships ruled by Communist ideology, circumscribed by its assumptions and demands. However my reading had not prepared me for what I saw and was to learn.

Vietnam is a country of surprising contradictions. Made infamous by wars with the French and Americans I was accustomed to the American’s view (remember I was a student in in the ‘60s/‘70s) that their strategy, called the “domino theory”, was to prevent Chinese and Vietnamese from extending communist rule throughout South East Asia. I also assumed it is a country where the Gospel is driven underground by a repressive Communist government. I found it is and isn’t.

My first stereotype was shattered when outside of Ho Chi Minh City -- still called by many “Saigon” – we were taken to the campus of the Biblical and Theological Institute of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam South (ECVN/S) -- a denomination still often called “C&MA” (Christian and Missionary Alliance). I looked around and saw to the left a multi story main building for classes and administration for 150 students. To the right a 7-story student residence with a second under construction. In front a 3,000-seat church also under construction. All in a Communist country which continues to enforce unpredictable and contradicting laws.

That’s one side of the story. The other is the control by government over all matters religious: this is a one party government shaped by a materialistic ideology. The prudent reminded me not to be lulled into thinking the government has gone soft on Christianity. They had many stories describing the quick and harsh reminders of who is boss. Read more

Syria Christians face 'ethno-religious cleansing'

Syrian Christians are caught in the middle of the conflict between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebel fighters.

What began as a peaceful protest against the Assad regime has progressed into a civil war between Assad's mostly Shiite government forces and mostly Sunni rebels, with each side supported by regional and global powers. According to the United Nations, 93,000 people have died and 1.6 million Syrians have fled the country.

Amid the upheaval: Syria's ancient Christian community is in danger, according to testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives. Read more

Algeria's Protestants want their churches back

The Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) has reaffirmed its desire to regain control of several former churches used today for other purposes.

Christians are the distinct minority in Algeria, representing less than 1% of Algeria's 38 million inhabitants, and often face restrictions when seeking to build new churches.

The presence of Protestant Christians in Algeria dates back to the French colonial era, when a number of churches were built.

However, after the country gained independence in 1962, many of these buildings were given to other purposes. Read more

Egyptian Christians Brace for (and Debate) New Round of Protests

Campaign aims to oust Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi and force early elections

Frustrated Egyptians will take to the streets on Sunday, the one year anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi's inauguration. Dubbed the "Rebellion Campaign," the grassroots movement announced the collection of 15 million signatures to depose the president and demand early elections.

"The situation in Egypt is very serious," wrote Anglican Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt and North Africa. "I do not know where this situation will take us. I feel that Egypt is at the verge of violent demonstrations, another revolution, or civil war."

"Rebellion" organizers pledged their demonstrations will be non-violent, and Muslim Brotherhood leaders warned that violence—perhaps organized by supporters of the former regime—would undo the successes of the Egyptian revolution. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood leaders scheduled counter-demonstrations to coincide with "Rebellion," setting the stage for clashes between the two sides. Read more

Also read
Press Statement from the Bishop of Egypt on the country's civil unrest>

Friday, June 28, 2013

Keep on Praying for All the Saints: Intercession and Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare is not won through conflict resolution or strategic planning. It is won by the foundational activity common to every victory in the unseen realm — prayer.

Samuel Chadwick claimed, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”

One great mystery of the relationship between Christ and His church is that He involves us in His purposes. He has chosen to work through us rather than around us. This is how we understand prayer. The release of His power comes as we partner with Him, around His will, in prayer and intercession.

Unfortunately, many spiritual leaders are more known for their external activity than their internal prayerfulness. We pray too little and work too much. Paul’s concern at the end of his letter to the Ephesians is the same daunting issue that faces today’s church — our capacity to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” to “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10,11). Paul asserts that our real enemy is not people who annoy us, oppose us, or even kill us. We transact our real war in unseen realms against sinister forces, “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (verse 12). Read more

Also read
Why I Pray Publicly for Other Churches

SBTS Press publishes evangelism guide - Free PDF

SBTS Press, a division of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has released a new book, "A Guide to Evangelism." The fourth volume in SBTS Press' guide book series debuted at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention in Houston.

According to a new release from the seminary: "The apostle Peter instructs Christians to be ready to give a defense for their hope (1 Peter 3:15), and today's cultural and religious landscape requires Christians to be ready to interact with a myriad of worldviews. A Guide to Evangelism prepares Christians for such a defense and interactions."

In the his introduction, editor Dan DeWitt writes that he hopes the book not only serves Christians as a resource for fruitful evangelism, but also to "cultivate [the] craving" for spreading the Gospel. Read more

Print Version  E-book (Coming Soon)
Download the free PDF

Don't Pack Too Much in Your Sermons

Recently my family of eight packed into our mini-van for an early spring vacation. When I say "packed in" you may be thinking in terms of seats. I mean we were packed in. The trunk was filled to the top; the floor had shoes, books, bags, and blankets. The front seat was full of distractions for the little kids as well as entertainment for the adults and big kids. But when we got closer to our destination (10 hours away), we went to Costco to buy food for the week. In this we were now officially, completely packed in. Kids balanced cartons of eggs, coffee, vegetables, and milk while we finished our course.

The vacation ended, and my normal responsibilities at the church resumed. I prepared a sermon and then delivered it on Sunday. After reflecting upon it and critiquing various elements of it, I was drawn back to our road-trip. We preachers tend to stuff our sermons so full of content that it can make for a rough trip. Consider the parallel. Early in the week I prepare an outline and structure (packing list). Soon I'm writing and building on the homiletical bones (initial packing). Through my zeal and love for the content the paper usually fills up pretty fast. The car is nearly packed. However, as I stew over the passage and think about illustrations and implications, I always add more. A paragraph here, an illustration there, and before you know it—the sermon's van is fully packed.

But this is not all. In the moment, fully engaged with delivering the sermon, I am firing fresh arrows out of my preaching quiver. This is like a stop at the outlet mall or gift shop. Of course we can fit in some new running shoes for dad, new jeans for mom, or sleds for the kids. The car and the sermon are packed.

As preachers or Bible study leaders, this is good and important reminder: We can't pack everything into every message. Let me give you a few reasons why and then how we can pack it more effectively. Read more

7 Questions for Discouraged Pastors to Ask Themselves

For months now, I have been occasionally blogging through Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans. In one of the closing chapters, Joel Beeke and Terry Slachter remind their fellow pastors of the reward of grace. “The hope of glory (Rom 5:2) and the promise of a reward for our toil is the final catalyst for encouraging us as pastors.”

Reflecting on this ministerial grace several rewards are mentioned, including spiritual children God gives through conversions that occur under our ministry, as well as spiritual legacies that are left behind because of God’s gracious and sovereign revival of dying churches. Read more

Mormons missionaries to do less door-to-door proselytizing and use social media instead

The common image of Mormon missionaries has long been two young men wearing white shirts and ties walking through neighborhoods, knocking door-to-door.

But in a few years, that image may be replaced by one of young Mormons sitting with an iPad, typing messages on Facebook.

Recognizing the world has changed, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders announced Sunday night that missionaries will do less door-to-door proselytizing, and instead, use the Internet to recruit new church members.

The strategy shift reflects the growing importance of social media and people’s preference to connect over sites such as Facebook rather than opening their homes to strangers, church leaders said. Read more

Obama, gay marriage advocates push for more

President Obama needed only a day after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage to call for its recognition by all states.

Meanwhile, advocates for gay marriage promised to continue their fight for its nationwide legalization, while its opponents pledged to continue to defend the traditional biblical definition of marriage.

In one of two opinions issued Wednesday (June 26) in cases involving same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court struck down part of a law that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman.

The justices upheld lower court decisions that struck down only Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That portion defines marriage as a heterosexual union for purposes of such matters as federal benefits and bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The high court did not rule on DOMA's Section 2, which was not challenged in the case. That section authorizes states to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in states where such unions are legal.

On Thursday (June 27), Obama appeared to call for revocation of that protection for the three-fourths of the states that have not legalized same-sex marriage. Read more

Also read
Russell Moore on the Supreme Court's DOMA Decision
SCOTUS Issues Mixed Decisions on Marriage
7 Points from Today's Same-Sex Marriage Rulings
Twitter carries Baptist leaders’ dismay with gay marriage ruling

Supreme Court Dismisses Arizona, Nevada Same-Sex Marriage Cases

After announcing its decision in two landmark same-sex marriage cases on Wednesday, the Supreme Court declined to take up two more cases relating to same-sex marriage, one involving the state of Arizona and the other involving Nevada.

Arizona's case, Brewer v. Diaz, involved state Gov. Jan Brewer asking the justices to reconsider an appeals ruling which struck down a state law denying health benefits to domestic partners of state employees; the justices' decision to decline hearing the case means the appeals ruling will stand.

Gov. Brewer sought a Supreme Court ruling for the appeals decision because she argued that the 2009 law was not intended to discriminate against same-sex couples but rather was implemented as a money-saving strategy for the state.

The Nevada case, Sevcik v. Sandoval, sought to have the justices recognize definitively that individual states have the right to legally limit marriage to heterosexual couples; this case will now be considered in a federal appeals court in San Francisco. Read more

Largest Episcopal Province Declares Support for South Carolina Diocese's Continuing Members

Bishops representing the largest Province of The Episcopal Church have written an open letter in which they showed support for those who refused to depart the denomination when the leadership of the South Carolina Diocese decided to leave.

"We commend you for your faith and courage during this trying season. We observed that you are meeting your present difficulties with good fellowship, good creativity and good cheer," stated the Province IV House of Bishops. "We pledge to you our prayers and the prayers of those we serve as we all go forward in faith. And we pledge our support and cooperation to our brother, your Bishop, Charlie von Rosenberg."

Last year, the Diocese of South Carolina decided to leave The Episcopal Church over a mixture of theological differences and the treatment of their bishop, Rev. Mark Lawrence. Read more

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Discipleship Is a Catch-and-Release Process

Jesus stopped a few fishermen one day in the Sea of Galilee and challenged them to turn the world upside down by issuing a simple call… “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19, NIV)

Many have taught about how the disciples left their careers behind to follow Jesus into full-time ministry that day, but they forget the other instances of the disciples fishing for fish later in the gospels. It wasn’t a career change or the sacrifice of a job to which Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John that day. He called them to fish for people, and to make people a superior priority to fish.

One of the mistakes we make in modern ministry leadership is to see people who walk through the doors of our churches on Sunday mornings as potential helpers, come to assist us in the fulfillment of our mission. If we’re not careful, we begin to assess the usefulness of people based on their appearance, their talent, or their apparent zeal and commitment to spending time doing churchy things.

What if instead of seeing people as a means to accomplishing our mission, we viewed people as the mission. The difference is subtle but important between “thanks for coming to help us grow” and “thanks for coming so that we may help you grow.” Does this mean we don’t expect believers to get involved, invest their lives, and serve others? Of course not. There is no real spiritual growth without serving others. It’s simply a matter of being sure we aren’t inadvertently using people for our purposes rather than helping people discover the purposes for which God wants to use them. Read more

5 Quick Reasons to Manuscript Your Sermons

Whether it is best to manuscript or to outline your sermon is an ongoing conversation. Everyone is different. Driscoll goes up with post-it notes, Piper takes a manuscript. Figuring out which is right for you takes time and experimentation. Read more

Let the Tone of Your Sermon Match the Tone of the Text

A good suggestion from Calvin Miller’s Preaching

A brief word about genre: it exists; honor it. Paul’s letters are different from the Psalms, from the minor prophets, from the Pentateuch. Preachers should not handle the Bible as though there is no difference between the various kinds and styles of biblical writing.

When preaching any passage, get in touch with the author. Read more

Reflecting on Bivocational Ministry

Introducing myself in this season of life has always felt a bit odd. Since age 16, I have looked at my career in only one light… serving the church as a pastor. For most of my adult life, it has been my work, my way of earning a living, and, for better or worse, a major portion of my identity. Meeting a new person, it has always gone something like, “Hi. My name is Philip and I serve as the pastor of…”

Then, about four years ago, my life switched and I began saying, “Hi. I’m Philip and I work at a publishing company.” My vocation changed from the pastoral to the business world. Today, I have a full-time job as a publishing director. I also serve as a part-time teaching pastor for a church.

For all of those who serve in a bivocational fashion – and there are many of us – I periodically find myself still leaning my introductions toward the ministry side of life. Depending on how my professional career went over the last few hours, my introduction can sound different. I occasionally find myself hurrying to a point where I can say, “…and I serve bivocationally on a church staff.”

To be plain, I love both of my jobs. I am in the envious position that not a lot of bivocational ministers enjoy. My full-time job is also a ministry to the church because I work for a Christian publishing company. Nevertheless, I have recently been reflecting more upon the life lived by the bivocational minister. Whether you serve as a pastor or a staff member, it is… different. For many, it is unexpected. In my own life, I thought that I would serve full-time on a church staff until a ripe-old age when they would have to force me into retirement.

For those who serve bivocationally or those who are shepherded by a bivocational pastor, here are some reflections I’ve had recently. Read more

Albert Mohler: “Waiting for the Other Shoe” — The Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex Marriage

In the last day of its term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today on two same-sex marriage cases. Both are important cases, and both will go far in redefining the most basic institution of human civilization. The Court knew it was making history. A majority of the justices clearly intended to make history, and future generations will indeed remember this day. But for what?

In the first decision handed down today, the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, is unconstitutional. Specifically, it found that the federal government’s refusal to recognize a same-sex marriage that is legal in a state to be unconstitutional. The Court left in place the DOMA provision that protects states from being required to recognize a same-sex union that is valid in another state. In the Proposition 8 case, the Court’s majority held that the plaintiffs in the case, representing the people of California, lacked legal standing to appeal the lower court’s decisions that found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. In 2008, a majority of voters in California passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage in that state as the union of a man and a woman, effectively overturning a California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in that case today means that the decision of the Federal District Court stands, presumably meaning that same-sex marriage will be legal again in California. This is presumably the case, but not necessarily, because of disputed provisions in California law. Courts in that state will have to sort out those issues.

Of the two decisions handed down today, the DOMA decision is, by far, the most important and wide reaching. In the Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court has ruled that Congress was motivated by a specific moral animus against homosexual marriage and homosexual citizens when it passed DOMA. As such, the Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional. Read more

Also read
Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings
Religious Liberty and the Gay Marriage Endgame
Chaplains Concerned About Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling
Implications of Prop. 8, DOMA Rulings Up for Debate
The Right Side of History Is Full of Rewrites
Sex Without Bodies
The preceding articles examine the implications of the Supreme Court's rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8.

In milestone, gay marriage prevails at Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a historic ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, but it stopped short of redefining marriage nationwide.

In one of two rulings regarding gay marriage, the high court struck down Wednesday (June 26) a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

In a breakthrough for homosexual couples, the court said in a 5-4 decision the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated "equal protection" under the Constitution by refusing to recognize gay marriages. The opinion means same-sex couples will have access to employee, Social Security, tax and other benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples.

In the other case about gay marriage, the justices appeared to provide a limited victory for same-sex marriage advocates. The court's 5-4 ruling on a procedural question apparently will have the effect of allowing to stand a federal judge's invalidation of a California amendment that limited marriage to heterosexual couples.

In its opinions, however, the Supreme Court did not legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country or rule that states cannot limit marriage to a man and a woman. Read more

Also read
TIMELINE: Gay marriage in the United States
Marriage defenders express disappointment
Conservative Christians 'Stunned,' 'Disappointed' by DOMA, Prop 8 Decisions
Pastors Hesitant to Comment on SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling

US Conference of Catholic denounce Supreme Court marriage decision

Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth.

These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance. Read more

Also read
Cardinal Dolan Decries Supreme Court Decisions as 'Tragic' for Marriage, Nation

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop welcomes Supreme Court marriage decision

The Episcopal Church is presently engaged in a period of study and dialogue about the nature of Christian marriage. This work is moving forward, with faithful people of many different perspectives seeking together to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit. However, our Church has taken the position that neither federal nor state governments should create constitutional prohibitions that deny full civil rights and protections to gay and lesbian persons, including those available to different-sex couples through the civic institution of marriage.  Read more

Also read
Washington National Cathedral Bells Peal Today in Celebration of Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Rulings

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ed Stetzer: Prop 8, DOMA, and the Christian Response

What Should We Do Now?

Last week, the largest Christian ministry devoted to helping homosexuals struggle against their attractions apologized to the gay community and announced it was shutting down.

Today the Supreme Court of the United States struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996. The Supreme Court also declined to rule on Proposition 8 from California (Christianity Today has the full story here).

In doing so, same-sex marriage recognition remains a state issue and (although this is not completely clear at this time) it appears to remain legal in California, as it is in 12 other states and the District of Columbia. Also, the United States government will recognize the legality of those marriages with respect to federal benefits. (I'll update this paragraph as the ruling is analyzed, but this is the first look.)

Needless to say, our culture is changing-- quickly and dramatically on this issue. But how should Christians respond?

Our typical response has been to post on blogs, write articles, and send tweets to shout about our opinion and speak out against those who differ. That's already happening. But, I'm not sure that is the best approach right now. Why? Because courts don't determine biblical morality, and regardless of what government does, churches shouldn't stop their mission. Read more

Trevin Wax: Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for the Church

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act serves as a boost to ongoing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation.

Christians believe marriage is defined by God and recognized by government. But many today believe marriage is defined by government and must be recognized by all.

For this reason, I’m not optimistic about the trends concerning marriage and family in the United States. Neither am I sure of what all this means for those who, in good conscience, stand against the tide.

But I am optimistic about the church of Jesus Christ. We’ve been through societal transformations before, and we’re sure to go through them again. Read more

Russell Moore: How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness?

The Supreme Court has now ruled on two monumental marriage cases, and the legal and cultural landscape has changed in this country. The court voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and remand the decision of the Ninth Circuit in the Proposition 8 case, holding that California’s Proposition 8 defenders didn’t have standing. The Defense of Marriage Act decision used rather sweeping language about equal protection and human dignity as they apply to the recognition of same-sex unions. But what has changed for us, for our churches, and our witness to the gospel?

In one sense, nothing. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is calling the cosmos toward his kingdom, and he will ultimately be Lord indeed. Regardless of what happens with marriage, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, it often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. That’s why the gospel rocketed out of the first-century from places such as Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome, which were hardly Mayberry.

In another sense, though, the marginalization of conjugal marriage in American culture has profound implications for our gospel witness. First of all, marriage isn’t incidental to gospel preaching. Read more

The Twelve Biggest Challenges Pastors and Church Staff Face

In my latest non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked the following question of pastors and church staff: What is your biggest challenge in ministry? Here are the top twelve responses with representative quotes. I’ve taken the liberty to expand most of the quotes from their abbreviated form in Twitter. Read more

Always Preach for a Specific Response

The Bible is clear that Christians must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only,” (James 1:22) so it’s clear that our responsibility as Pastors and preachers of the Word is to challenge people to do something in response to what we’ve said. In other words, the goal of preaching is life change.

How can you add more application into our message to make God’s Word more doable? Always aim for a specific response. Read more

The Nuts and Bolts of Small Group Ministry

Coming to a Living Room Near You!

When was the last time you watched a movie at home with your family and a few friends? Did you call the church office to decide whose house you would go to? Did you ask your pastor who to invite?

Probably not! Read more

Share the Load

First Corinthians 12:7 says that God gives every believer spiritual gifts for the common good of the body. But if your small group is like most, it's led by just one person—you. Not that you're probably complaining, but that's a huge burden. And it also keeps everyone else from growing in their gifts.

The load usually falls on one person because many leaders feel like the only way to get things done is to do it themselves. And it doesn't occur to group members to volunteer because they don't know that taking on responsibility is part of being a full member of God's family. This contributes to group members thinking they don't have any spiritual gifts because they've never had a chance to experiment. So how do you motivate people to step up to the plate and discover their gifts? Read more

Looking for a Few Small Group Leaders

For those living fast-paced, high-pressured, demand-filled lives, the Church stands as an oasis. The church allows us to connect to God and to each other, and at the heart of this connection is the small group community — a circle of friends that help you live your life on purpose. Read more

Make Summer Your Group's Ally

Everyone seems to look forward to the summer—except perhaps small-group leaders. They dread watching everything they've built over the course of the year quickly evaporate with the heat of summer. They throw up their arms to summer and launch into thoughts on how to rebuild or restart the whole group again in the fall. But summer doesn't necessarily signal the demise of your group.

What everyone likes about summer is the change of pace. The evenings are longer. Kids are out of school. Days are a little more relaxed. And vacations are on everyone's mind. Why not use this change of pace to build into your small group? Read more

Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, Court Says

Court also effectively allows same-sex marriage to resume in California.

he Supreme Court today issued two major decisions favoring same-sex marriage.

In its first move, the court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, saying it "violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government."

"DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court.

In the second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court essentially allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California. The court said that supporters of the state ban on same-sex marriages, 2008's Proposition 8, couldn't challenge a lower court's decision striking it down. Read more

Also read
Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision in Defense of Marriage Act
Supreme Court Dismisses Prop. 8 Appeal; Gay Marriage Moves Forward in California
Supreme Court strikes federal marriage provision

9 Things You Should Know About the Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Today the Supreme Court issued rulings on two historic and controversial cases which challenged the legal validity, at both the state and federal level, of the the traditional definition of marriage. Here are nine things you should know about the cases.... Read more

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What is Sanctification?

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is sanctification?” The Reformation Study Bible’s theological article on “Sanctification” provides a clear and concise answer.

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 35), sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues. It does not mean that sin is instantly eradicated, but it is also more than a counteraction, in which sin is merely restrained or repressed without being progressively destroyed. Sanctification is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one. Read more

13 Habits of Highly Friendly Churches

Father’s Day was very special. My family was planning to attend the 11:15 AM service with my wife’s parents at North Metro Church where they attend. However, located just six miles to the east of North Metro is Piedmont Church of Marietta, GA.

Led by the incomparable Ike Reighard, Piedmont is one of my favorite churches in America. Ike has been a dear friend for 15 years and is always a privilege to reconnect with.

On Saturday, Associate Pastor Marlon Longacre (another dear friend for 15 years) advertised an event called DadFest on his Facebook page. In response to churches traditionally beating up on dads on Father’s Day for all we are doing wrong, DadFest celebrated all the positive contributions we bring.
DadFest included a classic car show, inflatables for the children, health screenings, hamburgers and hot dogs, and they even gave away Green Egg b-b-q equipment.

My family attended Piedmont at 9:30 AM where we celebrated DadFest prior to arriving at North Metro in time for their 11:15 AM service. We called this our Church Road Trip.

That evening we reviewed our day and the consensus was that Piedmont was the friendliest church we had attended in a long time. As I began to unpack the reasons why, it became clear Piedmont Church taught me 13 Habits Of Highly Friendly Churches. Allow me to share my learnings with you. Read more

The Verge: How to Listen to Your Neighborhood - Michael Frost

In the video Frost says, “We need to adopt a posture of listening to the neighborhood, or community, or city to which we have been sent. And it is one of the least practiced skills…

We turn up with our pre-fabricated mode of church. We know exactly what ministries or programs we’re going to offer, and we place it in that neighborhood or city whether they want it or like it or not.

But what would be different if we moved closely into intimate relationship with a neighborhood or a city and we adopted a posture where we were listening – genuinely listening – wanting to know what it is that they want or need or in what ways we can in-flesh the Gospel right under their very noses?

We simply want to transplant what we did somewhere else and bring it to your neighborhood whether you like it or not. And those days must be over if we are serious about embracing a missional-incarnational stance.” View Video

14 Tips for Time Management

I make no claim to an expert at time management. What I am is a seminary dean, education consultant, church consultant, and local church pastor who has been forced to learn how to budget time. Here are some time management tips that have worked for me.... Read more

A vision for 21st century Anglicans — Church Society Conference audio

Church Society held a half-day conference on 1st June – the topic: Reformed Foundations, Reforming Future: A vision for 21st century Anglicans.

Audio files are now available – direct links to mp3 files.

Guest speaker was Peter Adam. His topic was Trusting our Saviour and Reforming the Church Today. Very encouraging talk.

“It is fatal to trust Christ for the invisible Church, and not to trust him for the visible Church… God has already appointed his Messiah – we need not apply for the job.”

Church Society Director Lee Gatiss also spoke, on
‘Confessional’ Anglicanism and the 39 Articles.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website

The Chat Room: Discipleship [VIDEO]

Phillip Jensen & Kel Richards discuss Discipleship on The Chat Room. View video

Also view
The Chat Room: Choosing a Minister [VIDEO]

Updated: Same-sex marriage rulings set Wednesday

The U.S. Supreme Court will announce two highly anticipated rulings on same-sex marriage Wednesday as part of its final day of the term.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced Tuesday (June 25) the high court would issue its remaining three opinions, which would include one regarding California's Proposition 8 and another on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Both measures defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

California voters approved Prop 8 as an amendment to the state constitution in 2008 after the state Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage earlier in the year. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, however, invalidated the amendment. Read more

Also read
New: Getting Ready for DOMA and Prop 8
New: The False Narrative of Gay Marriage: It Is Not Inevitable
Churches urged to prepare for marriage issues
Scholar assesses homosexuality & the Bible

Jamaican Pastors Rally in Support of Anti-Sodomy Law; Fear Homosexuality Acceptance

Church pastors in Jamaica rallied nearly 1,500 people on Sunday in Kingston in support of an anti-sodomy law which punishes those engaging in homosexual acts with 10 years in prison.

"We need our politicians to know that we need them to walk the path of righteousness," said one demonstrator, identified as Eleanor Johnson, according to The Associated Press.

Concerned that there is a growing acceptance of homosexuality in Jamaican society, the pastors met in support of the anti-sodomy law, which was established in 1864 but is being challenged by a gay rights activist. The "buggery law," as it is also known, makes sexual relationships between men illegal in the Caribbean state. Read more

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beware of Bible McNuggets: When Reading the Bible Can Be Spiritually Unhealthy

I've mentioned before on BreakPoint the cruel game I sometimes play when I speak to Christian students. I'll give a quiz on pop culture, with questions such as who sang this song, and who starred in this movie, and so on. As you might expect, the students get 100 percent on this quiz every time. But then, without breaking stride, I'll throw in a Bible question like "Who was the lead character in II Samuel?"-and you can just hear the crickets chirping.

Look, when Christians know far more about entertainment trivia than the Bible, we've got a problem. And it's ironic, given we have more access to the Bible than any other time in history.

According to the American Bible Society, the average household has 4.3 copies of the Bible. This doesn't even count the ones on our smart phones and iPads, or the pew pockets in every church. We've even personalized the Bible for every possible life situation: we've got the Teen Bible, the Women's Bible, the Dad's Bible, the Leadership name it. And yet Gallup has dubbed the United States "a nation of biblical illiterates." Read more

Why I Don't Hate the Word 'Inerrancy'

I hate a number of things. Some of them are rather silly: soap operas, egg mayonnaise, cats. Some of them are deadly serious: sex slavery, adultery, cancer, human trafficking, abortion, racism. In a handful of cases, I even hate words: "moist," "ogle," and "pamphlet" are among the most odious. But I don't hate the word "inerrancy." In fact, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.
Perhaps that's because I'm English. My limited experience in transatlantic dialogue suggests that the word "inerrancy" is divisive in America, up there with "Texas" and "Pelosi" in the list of words most likely to prompt expressions of luminescent ecstasy in some and enraged inarticulate spluttering in others. It seems to be a tribal marker, a password that clearly divides the teams into goodies and baddies, the mere mention of which can cause both sides to run scurrying to the barricades, whether they're faithful conservatives contending with woolly liberals, or reflective centrists contending with mindless fundies. In the UK, however, it's not such a contentious concept. Read more

9 Things You Should Know About the Bible

The primary thing everyone should know about the Bible is that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." (2 Timothy 3:16). But here are an additional 9 things that you should know about the best-selling book of all time:

1. The English word Bible is derived from the Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία (ta biblia - "the books"). While Christian use of the term can be traced to around A.D. 223, the late biblical scholar F.F. Bruce noted that Chrysostom in his Homilies on Matthew (between A.D. 386 and 388) appears to be the first writer to use the Greek phrase ta biblia to describe both the Old and New Testaments together. Read more

Books: 66 Books One Story

Paul Reynolds. 66 Books One Story: A Guide to Every Book in the Bible. Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013. 235 pp. $18.99.

What does discipleship look like for kids? What do they need? How do they learn? Three priorities should affect the way children’s ministry leaders answer these questions. Let’s take a look at these three priorities and see how Paul Reynolds’s new Bible guide for families, 66 Books One Story, addresses each. Read more