Monday, September 30, 2013

Kevin DeYoung: A Word for Us All

What does Jesus want to say to the church in the West? To the church in North America? To the church in the South, or in New England, or in the Midwest? What does Jesus want to say to your church?

That all depends: what is your church like? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? We live in a big country with hundreds of thousands of churches. If you think the issue out there is too much law, you’d be right. If you think the issue is cheap grace, you’d be right about that too. Jesus wouldn’t say just one thing to the church in this country–let alone in the West or in the world–because the church in this country is diffuse and diverse.

If Jesus had seven different letters for the churches in Asia Minor, I imagine he’d have more than one thing to say to the churches in North America. Keep reading

Thom Rainer: Seven Responses to Prevent Pastor Burnout

In my blog post Saturday, I noted seven reasons pastors burn out. I was delighted to receive a full response to my post from Lee Haley, executive pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I offer his response in full below:

With over 40 years in the ministry, nearly 15 in an itinerant ministry, I have seen the challenges of many pastors who burn out. I offer the following seven responses for churches to consider.... Keep reading

Ed Stetzer: Saturday is for Seminars: Refuel 2013 in Lynchburg, VA

Join me October 9-10 in Lynchburg, VA.

In just a couple of weeks I will be headed to Lynchburg, VA to speak at Refuel 2013. Refuel is a conference held annually for pastors and other church leaders who need to take a couple of days to recharge, learn, and fellowship with other pastors and church leaders.

One of the greatest parts about this conference is that it is FREE for pastors and church leaders alike. 

Come join Pete Wilson, Jack Graham, Jonathan Falwell, Ronnie Floyd, me, and others on October 9-10 as we refuel with pastors and church leaders.

Here is a tentative schedule.... Keep reading

Christianity in danger of becoming extinct in its birthplace

Photo: Stephen Sizer
Respected UK historian Tom Holland told a briefing in London this week that the world is watching the effective extinction of Christianity from its birthplace.

In an apocalyptic appraisal of the worsening political situation in the region, a panel of experts provided a mass of evidence and statistics for the end of the region's nation states under the onslaught of militant Islam.

"In terms of the sheer scale of the hatreds and sectarian rivalries, we are witnessing something on the scale of horror of the European Thirty Years War," said Holland.

"It is the climax of a process grinding its way through the twentieth century – the effective extinction of Christianity from its birthplace." Keep reading

Also see
Christians are being thrown to the lions again
"If one part [of the Church] suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26)

Nigeria attack: Students shot dead as they slept

The BBC is reporting that suspected Islamist gunmen have attacked a college in north-eastern Nigeria, killing up to 50 students.

In this image taken with a mobile phone, rescue workers and family members gather to identify the bodies of students killed following an attack by Islamist extremist on an agricultural college in Gujba, Nigeria, on Sunday

The students were shot dead as they slept in their dormitory at the College of Agriculture in Yobe state. The college is in the rural Gujba district.

"North-eastern Nigeria is under a state of emergency amid an Islamist insurgency by the Boko Haram group," said the BBC story. "Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow Nigeria's government to create an Islamic state, and has launched a number of attacks on schools." Keep reading

Also see
Nigeria: Militants kill students in college attack

Updated: Kenya blasts US over updated travel warning

Kenya on Saturday sharply criticized a decision by the United States to reissue a travel advisory for the country in the wake of the deadly attack on an upscale mall in the capital Nairobi, highlighting fears that the assault could hurt the East African nation's lucrative tourism industry.

The U.S. State Department released the updated advisory on Friday that made specific reference to the September 21 terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 people dead, including several foreigners. Five Americans were injured in the attack, according to the State Dept.

The advisory, which contained similar wording to one issued in June, warned Americans to take caution in light of ongoing terrorist threats and the high rate of violent crime in some areas.

It noted that U.S. authorities continue to receive information about "potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including in the Nairobi area and in the coastal city of Mombasa." keep reading

Related news
U.S. Warns of More Terror Attacks in East Africa
Kenyan MPs Want Terror Warning Probed
Kenya says 'at war' with al Shabaab, faces security questions
Africa: Standing with Kenya and Somalia
Terrorists used new tactic to spare some Muslims
New: Smash 'n grab: Big looting during Kenya mall siege
Red Cross: 39 still missing after mall attack
Nairobi morgue's last victim from mall is ID'd
Briton freed without charge after Kenya mall attack
Kenya: Primate Condemns Violence, Thanks Kenya's Leaders

Update: Weapons experts arrive in Beirut on way to Syria

An advance group of weapons inspectors who will oversee Syria's destruction of its chemical arms arrived in Beirut Monday en route to Damascus, Lebanese airport and security officials said.

The inspectors from The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are to help Syria meet a Nov. 1 deadline to scrap its ability to manufacture such arms, and are scheduled to head into Syria on Tuesday. The destruction of Syria's existing stockpiles is to be completed by mid-2014.

Syria's foreign minister, meanwhile, said the main Western-backed opposition group should not take part in a future peace conference because it had overwhelmingly supported a U.S. strike against Damascus over an attack last month in which chemical weapons were used. Keep reading

Related news
New: Weapons experts kick off complex Syria mission
New: Chemical arms inspectors gird for risky, dirty job
Chemical weapons inspectors outline Syria plan

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: September 28, 2013

On this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Fairy Dust

It was Arthur C. Clarke who posited this law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I disagree. The technology need not be advanced at all. The truth is that the sole reason we don’t see the world all around us as magic is that we are jaded, too cool for the school of wonder. A little fire, a little sand, a little care, a little gentle blowing, and presto chango, we have glass. That’s magic that we now watch at Founders’ Days fairs. A little water, a little sluice box, more fire, a hammer and some nuance, and abracadabra, we have a golden ring.

C.S. Lewis reminded us of the glory of dirt in his account of the creation of Narnia. As Aslan sings his creation song the ground itself begins to bubble up like a toasted cheese sandwich. Soon those bubbles burst and elephants, badgers, and platypi shook off their mantles and walked forth into the light. Having been just born they mistake the evil Uncle Andrew, with his wild shock of hair, for a plant. Believing that hair to be roots they plant him upside down, and the coins in his pocket (silver and gold—this was a bygone era) fall to the ground, and up sprouts trees of silver and gold. The fecundity of Eden, I suspect, would have been much the same. Keep reading

The Heart of the Gospel and The Gospel Project: The Atonement

In spring of next year, The Gospel Project team will release the seventh volume of our new curriculum. You may have heard that the Gospel Project recently passed half a million weekly users.
It's a crazy thing—God is using The Gospel Project around the world, in different denominations, to make a difference.

It's a bit intimidating, really, but so encouraging. Just last night, I worked through some edits of this upcoming release. I can't tell you how excited I am.

Well, the section we are editing now is focused on the atonement. The heart of the gospel—and, thus, the heart of The Gospel Project—is tied up in the atonement. The atonement has been in the news lately—see this Christianity Today story for more information.

As we work through the three-year cycle of The Gospel Project, we are going through a sequence to cover all the major theological areas in which Christians need to be grounded. We believe that such planned approaches are simply better for stewardship and provide more theological grounding than the hit-and-miss approach of following sermons or doing one-off studies.

Trevin Wax and I will also be taking off our editor caps and also writing some of the lessons for the first time. Needless to say, we think the topic of the atonement is pretty essential. Last week, we finalized our "opening letters" for the series and I thought I'd share them with you. If you'd like more information about The Gospel Project, click here.

Also, we are currently looking for a team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. We want to enlist someone who is passionate about raising up the next generation, someone who wants to see kids grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures and exhibit a personal, passionate trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. If you are interested or have recommendations, email Trevin and let him know. Keep reading

Also see
What Makes a Full Atonement Full?
The Emergent Pope: Francis and the Crisis of Catholicism (Pt. 1)

Temptation Is Not the Same as Sin

It’s one of those things we know to be true on an intellectual level, but we forget it easily in personal experience.

Temptation is not the same as sin.

This truth is obvious from the Scriptures. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray “forgive us our debts” and “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:12-13). Debts and trespasses require forgiveness; temptation needs deliverance. They are not the same. Just because you are struggling with temptation does not mean you are mired in sin. The spiritual progression in the human heart goes from desire to temptation to sin to death (James 1:14-15). We are told to flee temptation, not because we’ve already sinned, but because in the midst of temptation we desperately feel like we want to. If being tempted was in itself a mark of wickedness, we could not confess that Jesus Christ “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). It is possible to experience profound temptations to sin while still being blameless from that sin.

Why does this distinction matter? For at least two reasons. Keep reading

MinistryGrid: Under-appreciated Ways to Increase Church Health

Mac Lake, Tony Merida, David O. Dykes, Brian Mills, and Jim Baker take a look at techniques for effective pastoral and church leadership, ranging from big picture topics like creating a healthy church atmosphere to specifics like how to communicate with families:

Addicted to Addition
Images of a Faithful Teacher [Video]
It's about Church Health. Not Church Growth.
How to Communicate with Parents [Video]

Embracing My Less than Spectacular Church

Ministry doesn't have to be mega to matter.

Ultimately, ministry jealousy stems from a faulty view of God. During my time on staff at a large church, I mistakenly thought that God only worked through the most cutting edge, organized, streamlined ministries. It's the same misguided view I carried into my experience pastoring a small church.

But Scripture tells us something far different. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, God often works through the "foolish" and "weak" things of this world. Abraham was an impotent pagan whom God raised up to father the nation of Israel. David was the least likely to succeed in his family and yet became King of Israel. Gideon was trembling in fear when the angel of the Lord called him a "mighty warrior." Moses was well past his prime when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. The list goes on.

This is not to say we shouldn't pray for big things to happen in our small churches. But the question is this: what do we consider big? For instance, this year we baptized eight people. For some mega churches, that's the conversion rate of one small group in one weekend. But for these eight people in our congregation, it was a mighty work of God. Heaven's chorus is no less triumphant over one soul than it is over thousands. Keep reading

How to Stop Copying and Start Innovating

Everyone understands the value of innovation. Christian leaders are hearing the call to innovate to advance the gospel, and we recently shared 6 practical steps leaders can take to become more innovative. But unfortunately, many attempts to be innovative fail miserably. Why? Keep reading

How Should we use Intuition in Decision Making?

I make a lot of decisions using intuition, which researchers are beginning to understand as more reliable, and less mystical than previously thought. Intuition is really about pattern recognition, about subconsciously picking up on conflicting patterns in a situation. One of the more discussed examples of intuitive decision making has to do with a fire chief who, shortly after entering a burning house, commanded all his men leave the house immediately without really understanding why. He said the decision came from his gut, that “something wasn’t right” and he wanted his men out of the house. Keep reading

Learning The Importance of Saying No

The word “no” is a hard word for many people. But I have learned that it is one of the most important words we can learn to say if we want to excel in ministry and leadership.

At the same time, hearing no can be really demoralizing.

How can we create healthy boundaries using the word no, while still excelling in grace and likeability? If we are going to increase our influence and become the best versions of ourselves we must learn embrace and navigate this tension well.

So here are three thoughts I have about learning to be better with “no.” Keep reading

Seven Reasons Pastors Burn Out

I heard the story again last week. A pastor I know announced his resignation. No moral failure. No severe crisis at the church. No major family problems. No sickness. He was simply burned out. That’s how he described it. He said he had gotten to the point that he was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.

So he quit. Without another job. His church family was stunned.

I admit I haven’t seen recent statistics on pastoral burnout but, at least anecdotally, it’s high. It seems that hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear another story of a burnout victim in pastoral ministry.


What is unique to this vocation that causes such a dramatic dropout rate? May I suggest seven reasons from the hundreds of cases I’ve known through the years? Keep reading

10 Things Pastors Like Most and Least about Being a Pastor — Rainer on Leadership #024 [Podcast]

This week on the podcast, Jonathan and I discuss my findings from a pair of recent Twitter polls I conducted. While not scientific, these anecdotal results describe the areas pastors love about pastoring—and the areas they do not. Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 24:48 — 22.7MB)

Pastoring a Sending Church: An Interview with Pat Hood

Pat Hood is the Senior Pastor at LifePoint Church located at various campuses throughout the Nashville area, and is the author of The Sending Church, which is due out in October. The Sending Church is made up of examples from his own congregation, showing how a church isn't really a church until it leaves the building and expands God's Kingdom in the local neighborhood and around the world.

I had the opportunity to ask Pat a little bit more about his church and how they have transformed into a "sending church" over time. Keep reading

Conversations about the craft of sermon preparation [Podcast]

Jonathan Dodson played the role of both host and interviewee as we held our first live interview in his soothing home office. He describes his weekly rhythms for sermon prep alongside the relational work of a pastor, talks about the value of reading fiction, and even parses some Greek on the fly. Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

How to Develop a Short-Term Missions Program for Students

When I first began my role in youth ministry, I didn't understand why our church wasn't following the traditional mission trip model. Instead of one large trip for the entire youth group each summer, kids could choose from several trips based on their age and experience. At first I advocated strongly for a single trip that would bring everyone together for a joint experience. Four years later, I'm eating my words. I've seen the tremendous value of the system I initially wanted to scrap.

Offering trips to several locations allows us to maximize ministry and learning for all students. It also reduces the average price per student, as many trips are close to home. Here are six things I've learned as we've developed our program. Keep reading

5 reasons why our small groups stopped doing "book studies," and I'm glad

For the last couple of years our small groups went through various books. We’ve been through Crazy Love, Radical, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, and a few other books. I believe that people have benefited from these books. It also has helped to create a reading culture in our church.

But we’ve stopped…. Keep reading

The Rise of the @Pastor

It seems not a month goes by without a social media brouhaha involving a high-profile Christian leader.

Such was the case when a prominent pastor tweeted about the recent Oklahoma tornado in a manner that seemed to connect the deadly storm to an act of God’s judgment. In between such controversies, insightful blog posts or “retweetable” phrases also go viral. Social media is creating a new class of religious influencers. If you want to watch the modern Christian conversation unfold, just log onto Twitter or check your Facebook feed. The Christian community’s voice has become a substantial one in the social, digital space.

A new Barna study shows that, in the last two years, there has been a significant leap in the number of pastors and churches engaging social media. More than one in five American pastors (21%) say their churches use Twitter, up from only 14% in 2011. Facebook usage in churches has likewise jumped from just over half (57%) to a full seven in 10. Pastors themselves are also engaged in online communication, with nearly one-quarter (23%) who use Twitter, well over six in 10 (66%) who are on Facebook, and over one in five (22%) who have a personal blog. Keep reading

Scripture Twisting: 20 ways the cults misread the Bible

When James W. Sire read Archie Matson’s book, Afterlife: Reports from the Threshold of Death, he became motivated to write the book under review, and he first listed the ways Matson misunderstood the Bible. Sire listed that Matson:

1. Set-up straw men, like the literal view of interpreting Scripture
2. Used innuendo
3. Argued in a circle
4. Failed to take into account other relevant biblical texts
5. Engaged in name calling
6. Misrepresented Biblical data
7. Charged that contradictions were in the Bible that clearly
8. Draw wild and speculative conclusions

From this list Sire began to research the question, “How do people in various religious movements, especially those involved with the occult or cults, interpret Scripture? What he noticed was that many cults twist Scripture to fit their teaching, yet they claim the Bible as their own source of authority. The way this twisting was done, he found, was through the violation of the principles of sound literary interpretation, which then caused a misreading of the Biblical text. Keep reading

Also read
Scripture Twisting Methods of the Cults

The Gospel Call and True Conversion

The Gospel Call and True Conversion. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013. 200 pp. $20.00.

Many millennials have fallen victim to easy believism. I served in summer camp ministries listening to easy believism gospel presentations for a decade. These presentations often skipped over a theology of sin and left out repentance altogether. Many would walk the aisle. After doing so, the first matter discussed was how to keep the spiritual high going. For many, however, this was impossible. The spiritual high could not continue because spiritual regeneration never took place.

The Gospel Call and True Conversion is the second of three volumes in Reformation Heritage’s series on Recovering the Gospel, adapted from Paul Washer’s preaching ministry. Washer is best known for the “Shocking Youth Message” that has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube. Former missionary to Peru for 10 years and founder of HeartCry Missionary Society, Washer has helped to shape the discussion on repentance versus easy believism, arguing that American evangelicalism has surreptitiously diluted the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much like the Galatian believers, people are turning to a different gospel because of the widespread effort to distort the true gospel (cf. Gal. 1:6-7). Keep reading

50 'Hand-Picked' Christians Trained To Convince Churches To Re-Interpret Scripture's Gay Boundaries

Fifty hand-picked Christians were part of a seminal conference last week planned by Matthew Vines, a 23-year-old gay Christian who believes Scripture allows for monogamous homosexual activity, in an effort to spread the idea in the American church over the next decade.

Vines says he has had success in convincing lay members of churches over the last year that monogamous homosexual activity is allowed by Scripture, but is encountering resistance from Scriptural scholars. He is likely to encounter much more, say theologians.

More than 100 people applied to participate in the four-day conference, though only 50 were accepted, and the chosen were required to rigorously study throughout the summer before the conference even began. Vines sent them 1,100 pages of dense, academic reading material, for example, to make sure they understood both sides of the issue before the event began last Wednesday. Keep reading

A Global Slaughter of Christians, but America’s Churches Stay Silent

Christians are being singled out and massacred from Pakistan to Syria to the Nairobi shopping mall. Kirsten Powers on the deafening silence from U.S. pews and pulpits.

Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening.

As Egypt’s Copts have battled the worst attacks on the Christian minority since the 14th century, the bad news for Christians in the region keeps coming. On Sunday, Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 85 worshippers at All Saints’ church, which has stood since 1883 in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Christians were also the target of Islamic fanatics in the attack on a shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, this week that killed more than 70 people. The Associated Press reported that the Somali Islamic militant group al-Shabab “confirmed witness accounts that gunmen separated Muslims from other people and let the Muslims go free.” The captives were asked questions about Islam. If they couldn’t answer, they were shot.

In Syria, Christians are under attack by Islamist rebels and fear extinction if Bashar al-Assad falls. This month, rebels overran the historic Christian town of Maalula, where many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The AFP reported that a resident of Maalula called her fiancĂ©’s cell and was told by member of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused. So they slit his throat. Keep reading

Evangelicals Now Have More Competition for Hispanic Catholic Converts

A new survey sheds more light on the ongoing trend of many Hispanic Catholics becoming evangelicals in America. Seems the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated are now an equal destination.

Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) recently surveyed more than 1,500 Hispanic American adults on their political and religious affiliations and values. One conclusion.... Keep reading

Congregation sells building to help church plant

What Crossroads Church in Hinesville, Ga., is doing to obey God and penetrate lostness in Toronto seems crazy. They are, you might say, at a bit of a crossroads and have decided to take the path less traveled.

Crossroads Church is selling their church building and its 16 acres, setting aside more than $1 million and -- with no solid prospects of where they'll meet -- continuing to call themselves a church and make plans for future ministry. They have hopes a local school will let them use their space.

The church has designated the funds from the building and property sale for church planting work locally, throughout North America and globally -- and has no plans yet to start building anything new. To top it all off they're sending their pastor, Danny Eason, to another country to start a church just as things were getting good. Keep reading
What sacrifices is your congregation making to advance the cause of the gospel?

Scotland: Nominal religion is swiftly becoming 'no religion', says Church leader

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has said that churches need to change if they are to reverse the decline in religious affiliation in Scotland.

Bishop David Chillingworth was responding to the latest figures from the 2011 Census, which revealed that in Scotland, 54% of people identify themselves as Christian, a decrease of 11% since 2001.

At the same time, the number identifying themselves as atheist has risen by 9% over the last 10 years to 37% today. Keep reading

Survey: Majority of Americans Believe in the Existence of Satan and Demon Possession

The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness
The Story: A new survey finds that a majority of Americans personally believe in the existence of the devil and believe that demons can possess humans.

The Background: The latest YouGov research has found that more than half of all Americans (57%) believe in the existence of the devil and a slight majority (51%) believe in possession by evil spirits. Regardless of religious identity levels of belief top 50%, except for Jews, who theologically reject the idea of a sentient Satan. "Born-again" Christians are the most likely to both believe in the devil (86%) and possession (72%). Keep reading

Brain activity found after 'brain death'

Maybe cats have nine lives, or maybe brain dead people aren’t so dead.

Parts of the brain may still be active after a commonly used brain activity reading goes to a flat line, according to a study on cat brains published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One.

The study came after Romanian doctors noticed odd electroencephalogram (EEG) activity in a patient who had lapsed into a coma while under the influence of anti-seizure medication. Keep reading

Our endangered foundations

In Psalm 11:3, King David asked the question: "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Whenever a structure's foundation is destroyed, its eventual collapse is inevitable. It is not a question of "if" it will fall, but only a question of "when."

When the foundations of nations are destroyed, the eventual demise of those nations is inevitable. It doesn't matter if it's ancient Israel or modern-day America, destroyed foundations always are forerunners of a nation's inevitable downfall.

As the legalization of same-sex marriage looms, it threatens to destroy America's three God-ordained foundations. Keep reading

Also see
Religious Freedom Under Attack
10-Year-Old Banned From Writing About God By Memphis Teacher, Told to Remove Paper From School Property
Pledge's 'under God' phrase faces Mass. court scrutiny

Marriage bill would guard religious liberty

New legislation designed to protect freedom of conscience regarding the definition of marriage should receive support even from legislators who favor same-sex unions, says Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore.

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, H.R. 3133, would bar the federal government from denying tax exemption to, or withdrawing it from, individuals and institutions that define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called for "all members of Congress, whatever their views on marriage, to vote for religious liberty" by supporting the bill.

"Skirmishes all over the country demonstrate that this bill is needed," Moore told Baptist Press. "As Americans, we may disagree about sexual morality or even about the definition of marriage, but we have a First Amendment that guarantees freedom of conscience and the free exercise of religion to everyone. We cannot allow the culture war to extinguish the natural right of religious liberty, a right for which our forebears fought so hard."

While the proposal affects only federal tax law, recent events in various states have demonstrated religious freedom rights are under threat in the face of the expanding legalization of same-sex marriage. For instance.... Keep reading

Also see
Bill Seeks to Protect Religious Freedom for Those That Affirm Traditional Marriage

Gay rights activists push agenda with boycott calls, cash, lawsuits, protests, and even violence

gay pride flag
U.S. rights groups urge boycott of Barilla pasta after anti-gay remarks

U.S. and international gay rights supporters called on Friday for a boycott of Italian pasta maker Barilla, whose chairman said he would never feature a gay family in its advertising.

The comments sparked a firestorm of protest on social media and resulted in online petitions in English, German and Italian, including one by Italian playwright and Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo. Keep reading

Also see
New: Italian Pasta Firm Barilla Faces Boycott Over Gay Remarks
Italian pasta baron's anti-gay comment prompts boycott call

Serbia bans gay pride march again; EU criticizes decision

Serbia's government banned a weekend gay pride march for the third consecutive year on Friday, citing the threat of violence from right-wing hooligans, in a move that sparked protests by gay activists and criticism from the European Union.

Denying that the government had given in to right-wing threats, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said on state television that the ban on Saturday's event was a public safety matter. The last gay pride march in 2010 triggered a day of rioting and arson by nationalists in the capital Belgrade. Keep reading

In big shift, Exxon to provide same-sex marriage benefits

Exxon Mobil Corp said on Friday it will extend benefits to spouses of its U.S. workers in same-sex marriages, a sweeping reversal by one of the world's top companies following a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June.

Though many U.S. corporations, especially progressive ones like Apple Inc, have long offered domestic partner benefits to gay couples, the step at Exxon - the biggest publicly traded oil company - was heralded as especially significant for a company that has resisted repeated calls for change. Keep reading

Money for town with anti-discrimination ordinance

Eight months after this tiny Appalachian town took a stand against gay-based discrimination, it's basking in a flurry of attention and even an infusion of much-needed cash. All that hoopla has its openly gay mayor dreaming of reviving a place that had long seemed past its prime. Out-of-towners occasionally venture well off the interstate to make the trek to Vicco, a fading coal town of about 330 residents where an aging row of buildings lines one side of the block-long downtown. Railroad tracks run along the other side, though trains rarely pass by anymore. Keep reading

Judge allows challenges to Illinois gay marriage ban to proceed

An Illinois judge on Friday allowed two lawsuits challenging the state's ban on gay marriage to proceed, possibly setting the stage for state courts rather than the legislature to decide whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Illinois.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall ruled that lawsuits brought by same-sex couples have a chance of succeeding with the argument that the state's ban on gay marriage discriminates against them. Keep reading

Woman asks Miss. to recognize her gay marriage

A woman is asking the conservative state of Mississippi to recognize her out-of-state gay marriage so that she can get a divorce.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham (Chick AH' luh-CHAT' um) married her wife, Dana Ann Melancon, in California, but the couple lived together in Southaven, Miss., until they separated in 2010. Keep reading

New Jersey judge allows same-sex marriage; state plans appeal

A New Jersey judge ordered state officials on Friday to allow same-sex couples to marry starting on October 21, saying the current civil union system unfairly deprived them of federal benefits available to married couples.

A spokesman for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie indicated the state would appeal, but did not say whether it would seek a stay to stop the ruling from taking effect. Keep reading

Also see
NJ legal battle over gay marriage will continue

Congregation Fires Pastor for Marrying Gay Couple With Controversial Marriage License in State College, Pa.

A defiant Pennsylvania pastor who fought with his church over gay marriage has been fired by his congregation for officiating the wedding of a same-sex couple at the home of a local mayor last month.

The Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer, the former pastor of a Church of the Brethren parish, told the that he was fired for marrying a same-sex couple at the home of State College, Pa., Mayor Elizabeth Goreham in August. Keep reading

25-year sentence given FRC shooter

The man who planned mass shootings at several conservative organizations in the nation's capital has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for the thwarted plot.

In August 2012, Floyd Corkins II walked into the lobby of the Family Research Council with a backpack full of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, a gun and 100 rounds of ammunition. FRC security guard Leo Johnson tackled and subdued Corkins, but not before the attacker fired three shots, hitting the guard in the arm. Keep reading

Also see
Gay Rights Activist Receives 25 Year Sentence

Updated: World News Roundup: China's child trafficking crackdown and other stories

China police rescue 92 abducted children

Police in China have rescued 92 abducted children following a series of raids against an organised kidnapping gang operating across the country, state media reported Saturday. Keep reading

China welcomes UN Syria chemical arms resolution

China welcomed a United Nations resolution aimed at destroying Syria's chemical arms, and urged the major powers to ensure their decisions "can stand the test of history", state media reported Saturday. Keep reading

New: Former Muslim Brotherhood Leader Claims Political Party Provides Cover, Support to Extremists

Khaled El-Zaafarani, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, has revealed that the political party provides cover and support to extremist sympathysers, adding that they have no business in the country. Keep reading

New: Egypt: A country in confusion

"The king is dead, long live the king!" It must be difficult for those outside Egypt to put into logical perspective the developments of the last two-and-a-half years. Egypt's "Arab Spring" revolution was followed by political instability that led to another revolution on 30 June 2013. The results of these revolutions are a frightening state of instability that bodes ill for the future of Egypt. Keep reading

Egypt's Nour Party rejects move against religious parties

Egypt's second biggest Islamist party, Nour, on Friday rejected proposed changes to the constitution that would outlaw parties founded on religious grounds, and called the move a "sword drawn" against Islamists. Keep reading

Dozens still missing after boat sinks in Indonesia

Rescuers battled strong currents and high waves Saturday while searching for dozens of people missing and feared dead one day after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off the coast of Indonesia's main island of Java, killing at least 21 people. Keep reading

Miss Philippines crowned Miss World amid Muslim anger

Miss Philippines was crowned Miss World 2013 in a glittering finale Saturday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, amid tight security following weeks of hardline Muslim protests. Keep reading

Also see
Security tight at Miss World final in Indonesia

Kenya vows to keep up war against Shebab in Somalia

Kenya's interior minister said Friday the country would not bow to Shebab demands to pull troops out of Somalia following a devastating mall attack in Nairobi by the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents. Keep reading

Also see
Kenya vows no Somalia pullout after Shebab attack

Pressure mounts on government over Nairobi attack

Pressure mounted on the Kenyan authorities a week after the Nairobi mall carnage, amid questions over the fate of the missing and accusations Saturday that top brass failed to heed security warnings. Keep reading

Kenyan anti-tank rocket ended Westgate siege: soldiers

The final stand of Islamist fighters who laid siege to Kenya's Westgate mall ended when Kenyan soldiers fired an anti-tank shell that sparked a fierce fire, soldiers who fought in the battle told AFP. Keep reading

Official: Car used by Kenya mall attackers found

Investigators have recovered a vehicle believed to have been used by the terrorists who led the attack at a Nairobi mall that killed at least 67 people, a top Kenyan government official said Friday. Keep reading

New: Trapped missionaries tell Kenya mall ordeal

IMB missionaries Chris and Jamie Suel, along with their five children, had walked into the mall shortly before the terrorists, who burst in and began firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. When the Suels arrived, they decided to go their separate ways -- Chris with one child and Jamie with four. It was only after five harrowing hours that they were reunited.

For three hours Jamie and the four children hid behind stacks of packaged flour in a storage area. Keep reading

From children's cooking contest to Nairobi massacre

The second round of the children's cooking contest she was hosting had just started, the sun was out and she had just felt her baby kicking when she heard what sounded like firecrackers.

Just seconds before the Nairobi mall attackers started their rampage, Ruhila Adatia-Sood was in the prime of her life and enjoying a typical family weekend three months before the arrival of a baby. Keep reading

Kenyan Hero's Harrowing Tale of Rescues in Mall Massacre

In one of the most memorable images to emerge from inside the Nairobi mall attacked last weekend by Islamic extremists, a 4-year-old girl is seen running toward a man who is reaching out a hand to pull her to safety.

The man was Abdul Haji, a 39-year-old real estate executive who rushed to the mall as the attack got underway. He managed to evacuate scores of people to safety, including that young American girl, Portia Walker, and is being hailed in Kenya as a hero. Keep reading

US mom, 5 kids survive Kenya mall attack

A blast. Gunfire. American Katherine Walton grabbed her three young daughters and dove to the mall's tiled floor. Later, a terrorist gunman — skinny, small, with a huge gun — looked into Walton's eyes but didn't shoot. She and the girls, as Walton put it, were hiding in plain view, yet they weren't seen. Keep reading

Near stricken Kenya mall, humanity and unity shine

The volunteers kept bringing food, boxes upon boxes of cookies and bottled water. After shoppers and workers were mowed down by al-Qaida-linked militants at a mall in Kenya's capital, a Hindu religious center 600 meters (yards) away became a place where responding soldiers, police and others could get tea, food and rest. Keep reading

Nigeria Islamists release video of French hostage

Nigerian Islamist group Ansaru released a video of a French national kidnapped in December, the SITE jihadi tracking website said. Keep reading

Also see
French hostage of Nigerian Islamists pleads for help in video -SITE

New major earthquake rocks southwest Pakistan

A major earthquake rocked Pakistan's southwest Saturday, sending people running into the street in panic just days after another quake in the same region killed 359 people, officials said. Keep reading

Quake-hit Pakistani villages still wait for aid

Vital relief aid destined for a remote, earthquake stricken region in Pakistan reached desperate villagers only slowly on Friday, as insurgents attacked troops distributing it for a third day. Keep reading

Philippines says military campaign in key city over

A military campaign against Muslim gunmen opposed to peace talks ended Saturday with close to 500 rebels killed or captured and nearly 200 hostages freed in a key southern city, the army said. Keep reading

Fresh protests erupt in Sudan after Friday prayers

Sudanese flooded the streets after Friday prayers in a fifth day of protests against fuel price hikes that have seen dozens killed, hundreds arrested and calls for the government's ouster. Keep reading

Sudanese police fire teargas as crowd demands Bashir resign

Police fired teargas on Friday to disperse thousands of Sudanese demanding that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir step down, a day after clashes in which rights groups accused security forces of shooting dead at least 50 people. Keep reading

Chemical weapons watchdog to begin Syria inspections next week

Experts from the world's chemical weapons watchdog will begin inspecting Syria's stockpile of toxic munitions by Tuesday, according to an agreement passed in The Hague on Friday. Keep reading

U.N. Security Council demands elimination of Syria chemical arms

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Friday that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons but does not threaten automatic punitive action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government if it does not comply. Keep reading

Kerry warns Syria, comply or face 'consequences'

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Friday that Syria would face punishment if it does not comply with a UN Security Council resolution on its chemical weapons. Keep reading

UN Syria resolution 'fails to ensure justice': HRW

Human Rights Watch on Saturday criticised a hard-won UN Security Council resolution ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal for failing to deliver justice for the conflict's victims. Keep reading

Syria rebels struggle to rally practical backing on U.N. stage

International opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reaffirmed support for the country's opposition coalition at the U.N. General Assembly this week, but with rebel forces splitting and delivery of weapons slow, the coalition looks increasingly marginalized. Keep reading

More rebel groups reject Syrian opposition coalition - statement

More than 30 rebel factions have broken with the Western-backed Syrian opposition organization and its military wing, according to a video statement posted on the Internet. Keep reading

Rebels seize military post on Syria's southern border

Rebel fighters including foreign Islamists took control of a military post on Syria's southern border with Jordan on Saturday after four days of heavy fighting with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, activists said. Keep reading

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Syrian rebels capture post near Jordan border

Tunisa's ruling Islamists to step down after talks

Tunisia's ruling Islamist party has agreed to step down following negotiations with opposition parties that begin next week. Keep reading

UAE recalls Tunisia envoy amid Egypt row

The United Arab Emirates has recalled its ambassador from Tunisia to protest calls by the Tunisian president for the liberation of Egypt's deposed head of state, reports said Saturday. Keep reading

Friday, September 27, 2013

Christ Cannot Be One of Many Gods

"Who do you say I am?"
Every religion in the world can only be truly understood in the reflection of Jesus Christ. Either Jesus is God, or He isn't. He claimed to forgive sins. Only God can do that. So they killed Him because they thought He wasn't God.

If Jesus is God, then every other religion must by their own definitions be false. If Jesus is God, then you can only be forgiven through faith in Him. And you can only get to paradise through Him. After all, that is what He taught. (see John 14:6)

It is impossible that Christ is just one of many Gods. There is only One God. And Jesus is either that One, along with His Father and the Holy Spirit, or He isn't. He never claimed to be one of many Gods. Only Satan would make such a claim about Christ. Satan doesn't want people to know that Jesus is God.

Only Jesus offers eternal life as a free gift through faith. The religions of the world, other than Christianity, generally teach that a person must earn his way into paradise. Christianity teaches that it is impossible to earn your way to heaven. This is why Jesus came to redeem us. We couldn't do it ourselves. Keep reading

The Blood That Satisfies

The Bible is full of epochal events, those grand, earth-altering instances that stand out as high points of redemptive history. In the Old Testament, no event is so dramatic and game-changing as Israel’s redemption from Egypt.

In redeeming Israel, God pulled out all the stops. He turned the Nile River to blood. He darkened the sun so that the land was engulfed in perpetual night. He sent an infestation of frogs. If the Egyptians thought that was tolerable, He sent an infestation of gnats (that would have gotten my attention). For those who thought the gnats were not that bad, He sent an infestation of flies (okay, I give up). In all, God sent ten devastating, debilitating, and deathly plagues.

The last plague was the most horrific. God swore to kill the firstborn of every creature in Egypt, including the house of Pharaoh (Ex. 11:4 ff.). So awesome would be the judgment that even the firstborn of Israel would perish unless the Israelites obeyed the commands of God.

To avert the judgment, God commanded every household of Israel to select a male lamb without blemish, kill it, and smear the blood on the doorposts of the house. Then God said: “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13). Keep reading

An excerpt from Blood Work by Anthony Carter. Download the digital edition free through September 30, 2013.

What Are the Essentials of the Christian Faith?

I am reposting Kevin DeYoung's article, "What Are the Essentials of the Christian Faith" as a companion article to the two previous articles.

Almost every Christian makes some distinction between essentials of the faith and non-essentials. The distinction itself is fairly uncontroversial. But what exactly are the essentials? That’s a bit tougher.

There are a number of ways to answer that question. We could look at church history and what God’s people have always believed. We could look at the ancient creeds and confessions of the church. We could look at the biggest themes of Scripture (e.g., covenant, love, glory, atonement) and the most important passages (e.g., Genesis 1, Exodus 20, Matthew 5-7, John 3, Romans 8). I want to take a little different route and consider what are the behaviors and beliefs without which Scripture say we are not saved. These are not requirement we must meet in order to save ourselves and earn God’s favor. Rather these are the essential beliefs and behaviors that will be manifest in the true Christian.

I don’t pretend that this is anywhere close to a comprehensive list from the Bible. But a list like this may be helpful in guarding against false teaching and examining our own lives. Keep reading

Daily Offices from An American Prayer Book (2009)

For those who may be interested in using An American Prayer Book (2009) in their daily devotions, I have posted links to the components of the Daily Offices. The components may be accessed from your laptop, smart phone, tablet, or other portable electronic device:

Morning Prayer
Evening Prayer
Quicunque Vult (Commonly Known as the Athanasian Creed)
The Canticles
Alternative Forms of Morning and Evening Worship
Prayer at the End of the Day
Prayers for Various Occasions
Collects and Readings at Holy Communion

Sudan: New protests demanding regime fall

Security forces opened fire on Sudanese protesters Friday, witnesses said, as thousands marched through the streets of the capital in an opposition push to turn a wave of popular anger over fuel price hikes into an outright uprising against the 24-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir.

At least 50 people have been killed so far this week in the security forces' crackdown on a startling burst of protests, sparked by cuts on fuel and gas subsidies. The marches are turning into the heaviest domestic challenge yet faced by al-Bashir, who has so far been spared the sort of anti-authoritarian popular revolts seen around the Arab world in the past two years.

Though he has kept his grip on the regime, al-Bashir has been increasingly beleaguered. The economy has been worsening, especially after South Sudan broke off and became an independent state in 2011, taking Sudan's main oil-producing territory. Armed secessionist groups operate in several parts of the country. And al-Bashir himself, who came to power as head of a military-Islamist regime after a 1989 coup, is wanted by the International Criminal Court over alleged crimes in Sudan's western region of Darfur. Keep reading

Good News for Pakistan's Christians After Deadliest Church Attack Ever

No more victims like Asia Bibi? Unexpected proposal could greatly reduce false accusations of blasphemy

As Christians throughout Pakistan demand more protection in the wake of a church suicide bombing that killed more than 80 worshipers, some good news has surfaced on the other main challenge facing the beleaguered community: false accusations of blasphemy against Islam.

Days after a Muslim gold scavenger slit a Christian competitor's throat for alleged blasphemy, an influential Islamic group has told Pakistan to change its laws to protect its citizens against rampant false accusations that afflict Muslims as well as Christians.

Boota Masih, a 58-year-old scavenger in Karachi, was killed by Muhammad Asif in the marketplace as spectators and police watched, reported Morning Star News. "Asif kept shouting that my father was an infidel and had spoken derogatory words against Muhammad [Islam's prophet] as he mercilessly stabbed him," said George Masih, the scavenger's son. Keep reading

Also see
Deadliest Attack on Christians Ever in Pakistan: USCIRF Says Words Not Enough
Pakistan Christians Targeted Specifically for 'Their Faith in Jesus Christ,' Says Global Anglican Leader
Pakistan aid chopper targeted; 355 dead in quake
Christianity Today may be premature in characterizing this proposal as "good news" for Pakistan's beleaguered Christian community. Even if Pakistan adopted such a law, witnesses for the prosecution would be intimidated or otherwise pressured not to testify as happened in the case of the imam who planted religious texts in Rimsha Masih's bag . Pakistani Muslims are notorious for taking the law into their own hands and lynching those accused of blasphemy before they have been tried and found guilty. Those who have been exonerated at their trial have also been killed.