Evangelism

Getting Ahead of Ourselves? (Rob Bell Blogalogue Part 7)

Light trails from fast-moving cars, ssguy / Shutterstock.com
Light trails from fast-moving cars, ssguy / Shutterstock.com

Nuanced or not, are Christians, especially evangelicals, perceived as being against things like peacemaking? Or is it that their version of peacemaking is backward looking toward some halcyon day of yore (or 1950s America)? At this point in the book, Rob spends a lot of time walking us through the development of justice in the Bible from “eye-for-an-eye” to “turn the other cheek.” I want you to read this chapter for yourself and make your own conclusions about what Rob sees and tell me if you see it, too.

Rob's thinking is that people are gradually cluing in to God's vision of a world without retributive violence. “Revenge always escalates,” he writes. Always.

Brazilian Evangelist Has Big Plans for U.S.

RNS photo by Andre Tartar
Apostle Valdemiro Santiago, founder of the Worldwide Church of God’s Power. RNS photo by Andre Tartar

NEW YORK — The apostle bellowed in Portuguese to a packed crowd in a rented Astoria, Queens, church.

“Get out, spirit of death. Now you are burnt, now you are plucked out by my God!”

A blood-curdling shriek rose from one of the front pews, but Apostle Valdemiro Santiago, founder of the Worldwide Church of God’s Power, didn’t flinch.

“Don’t be afraid, church, by these screams,” Santiago reassured the crowd. “They are the evil spirits being defeated.”

Fourteen years after he started out in the countryside outside Sao Paulo, Santiago sits at the helm of a booming Pentecostal church in Brazil, the world’s fastest-growing evangelical country. He now leads 4,000 churches, including 10 in the United States, where fiery worship and exorcisms form part of the appeal.

On Door Prizes, Pony Rides, and a Gazillion Eggs When the Gospel Ought To Be Enough

Tablet illustration, M.Stasy / Shutterstock.com
Tablet illustration, M.Stasy / Shutterstock.com

No doubt that Resurrection Sunday (or otherwise known to the masses as Easter) is one of the most significant events and Sundays for the Church. While it wouldn’t be wise to reduce the totality of God’s narrative to one event, the death and resurrection of Christ is undoubtedly, crucial. Our faith and the credibility of the Gospel hinges upon the historicity and veracity of the resurrection of Christ.

The Apostle Paul articulates this truth succinctly and powerfully:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14

For this reason, Easter is often referred to as the Super Bowl for Christian churches.

As expected, a great amount of time, energy, ideas, and resources are invested into this weekend. And I get it. And I agree with it – in part.

Saint Patrick, Druids, and the Snakes: The Truth is in the Middle

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. jordache / Shutterstock.com
St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. jordache / Shutterstock.com

I love St. Patrick’s Day.

The one day of the year when, for better or worse, Western culture allows me to claim my non-existent inner Irishman.

Kiss me, baby.

Okay. I’m done.

There are many stories and legends about the fascinating life of St. Patrick. One of the most famous legends recounts how this great 5th century saint banished all of the snakes from Ireland. Bad snakes. Bad.

My work at the Raven Foundation during the last few years has taught me to be suspicious of such legends. In fact, we might call them myths. Myths cover up scapegoating of human beings by telling the story in a more innocuous way. So, instead of saying we banish humans, we say we banished snakes.

Interestingly, the last glacial period (some 10,000-100,000 years ago, depending on whom you ask) beat St. Patrick to the snake banishing. But, Christian tradition has given Patrick all the credit. So, if there weren’t snakes around during Patrick’s day, what’s with the legend?

Spiritual But Not Religious: Oswald Chambers

Long before it became trendy, Oswald Chambers self-identified as “spiritual but not religious.” As Ronald Osborn reveals in “Faith to the Utmost,”  in Sojourners magazine (March 2013), Chambers—a well-known evangelical author—rejected narrow bands of devotion and was ahead of his time.

Here are a few passages from Chamber’s daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, which reveal just how contemporary his message remains:

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New & Noteworthy

The Whole Gospel
Ken Wytsma's Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things is a passionate evangelical argument for making justice central to a gospel-rooted life. For those who already embrace social justice in their faith, it is a spiritual refresher and resource for engaging with more wary Christians. Thomas Nelson

Their Future, Our Future
Girl Rising, a feature film on the power of education in the lives of nine girls from the developing world, releases March 7. It is at the center of a social action campaign for girls' education called 10x10, launched by former ABC News journalists. Learn more, advocate, or organize a screening. 10x10act.org

A Lifelong Quest
In Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African, Lamin Sanneh, a professor of world Christianity at Yale, tells of his journey from a Muslim childhood in Gambia to becoming a Christian academic in the West. An engaging personal story filled with professional insights on the global church, Christian-Muslim relations, and much more. Eerdmans

Distilled Wisdom
The booklet Old Monk gathers brief poems and short commentaries written by Benedictine sister Mary Lou Kownacki in response to Cold Mountain , a classic book by 9th century Chinese poet Han-shan. An unorthodox little devotional with wisdom for seekers and church pillars, artists and activists, monks and heretics. Benetvision

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Faith to the Utmost

THE NAME OF Oswald Chambers is well known to millions of Christians for a collection of notes gathered by his wife from his sermons and published as a devotional reader in 1927, 10 years after his death, under the title My Utmost for His Highest.

Like many Christians, I first read this devotional guide while still in college and harbored the suspicion that this man must have been a somber if not puritanical pillar of the faith. The gaunt, almost cadaverous portrait of him included in many editions of his most famous work contributed much to these impressions of mine. It turns out, though, that I did not know the human being who was Oswald Chambers.

I recently stumbled upon a crumbling book in the library stacks of a local university that greatly altered my perceptions of him. It was an out-of-print collection of tributes by those who knew him best, along with his personal diaries from his travels abroad as an itinerant preacher and as a YMCA chaplain in World War I until his sudden death from complications following an emergency appendectomy at the age of 43. As I read through these documents, I found myself strongly attracted to Chambers as a person and captivated by his vision of what it means to be a believer in the modern world.

AS A STUDENT of art at the University of Edinburgh, Chambers was not known among his peers for his religious devotion, which he had received from devout Scottish Baptist parents. He was better known, rather, for his outgoing personality and his knowledge and love of poetry, art, and music. He was gifted not only with a keen aesthetic sensitivity and outgoing temperament, but also with a rigorous mind. After completing his studies he became a tutor at Dunoon College in Scotland in 1898, where he taught logic, moral philosophy, and psychology for several years.

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To Comfort the Afflicted

ONCE UPON A TIME, long before there were birth certificates or Social Security numbers, there were immigrants. If you are or have been an immigrant without documents, you may think life must have been easier then, that you would never be afraid of getting found out and deported.

But life was not easier—at least not in the first century C.E., in the five mostly rural Roman provinces in what is now Turkey. Especially if you were a follower of Jesus.

As an immigrant, you are called by one of two names in Greek, the trade language of the time. You are a paroikos if you had fled or been forced from your native community for any personal, economic, or political reason and were trying to eke out a living in a foreign land. Oikos refers to "house" or the economic structure of the extended household in which native people lived. Para means "alongside of." In other words, you are "away from home," a resident alien on the edges of ordinary life.

Consequently, you have fewer rights than full citizens. Never able to own land, you are a sharecropper, a craftsperson, or perhaps a small trader or shopkeeper. You may have been driven off your land by high taxes you could not pay, or perhaps you are a second son and will not inherit your father's land. You may be the wife or daughter of such a man, or a widow driven to support yourself and your children. You have legal restrictions regarding intermarriage, commerce, and succession of property. You have no political rights, such as voting in public assemblies or joining in guilds. Unlike citizens, if you are charged with a crime, you can be tortured.

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Evangelicals' Answer to Newtown Should Be Evangelism

Photo: Cross, © Roman Tsubin / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Cross, © Roman Tsubin / Shutterstock.com

Facebook is breaking my heart.

As I survey the reactions of my fellow evangelicals to the Newtown tragedy, I have seen three strains of thought, each of which absolve us of any responsibility: (1) It would have been different if the principal or a teacher was armed; (2) If Americans care about the slaughter of innocent children, why don't they care more about abortion?; and (3) The secularization of school and society plays a role in these shootings. A few stray comments about mental illness have also floated around vaguely.

Absent from all of this analysis is any consideration of our own failure to do exactly what evangelicals should be all about: Evangelism, in the form of reaching out and giving meaning to lost souls like the loner kid who became the 20-year-old who committed these murders. If a relationship with God is what gives a young life a connection to community, a sense of humility and service, and a devotion to what is good, that is exactly what Adam Lanza needed.

BREAKING NEWS: Pastor Nadarkhani Acquitted of Apostasy Charges in Iran, Released from Prison

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

According to a report late Friday from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an international organization devoted to issues of religious freedom, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who has been imprisoned by the Iranian government since 2009 on apostasy charges, has been acquitted and released from prison.

Nadarkhani, 35, previously had faced a possible death sentence for the charges against him, a result of his prostelytizing Muslims to convert to Christianity. He also refused to deny his Christian faith to save himself from execution.

Since his detainment three years ago, the U.S. State Department, the British government, the Vatican, Amnesty International, and a host of Christian organizations and leaders — including South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu — have called on the Iranian government to release the young pastor.

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