The Weekend Wanderer: 27 April 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

sri lanka church bombings“Bombs tear through Sri Lankan churches and hotels” – On Easter Sunday, multiple bombs went off in churches around Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. The death toll continues to rise, with over 350 lives now taken as a result of the bombings. As reports come in, it appears that the bombings were carried out by educated, middle-class individuals, including two sons of a wealthy spice trader, and may be in response to the Christchurch mosque bombing in New Zealand.

 

90392“Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings”Ajith Fernando, a Sri Lankan theologian and resident of Colombo, offers insight into how we should consider our response to such an event as Christians. This is a must read by an insider to Sri Lanka for those of us trying to understand how we should think, feel, and respond to these terrible events.

 

Paul W Robinson“Wheaton College Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul W. Robinson Wins Fulbright” – After graduating from Wheaton College, my wife, Kelly, worked for the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program at Wheaton College, first with Dr. Bob Stickney, and then with Dr. Paul Robinson. Paul and his wife, Margie, became friends and a beloved uncle and aunt to us as newlyweds in those days. I have continued to connect with Paul over the years through mutual work with Congo Initiative, and I was thrilled to hear about this new opportunity for Paul.

 

30-days-adult-cover-201930 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World – For many years now, I have participated with others in praying for God to move powerfully in the Muslim world during Ramadan. One of the best resources for this is “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World,” with their informed and full daily prayer guide. “It calls the church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, pray for and reach out to our world’s Muslim neighbors. It coincides annually with the important Islamic month of religious observation — Ramadan, a time of the year when Muslims are much more deeply aware of spiritual matters.”

 

Denton-Program-Guatemala-2018“A Christian Case for Humanitarian Intervention” – “The United States has the power, like no other force on earth, to protect the innocent from great evil. It has the capacity to send a message to lawless regimes. The message: they cannot always evade the moral laws that govern civilized nations. It is a message that is consistent with America’s vital national interests—and with its most cherished political and religious ideals. Conservatives, and Christians, ought to know and care about these ideals, which have done so much to promote international peace and security. Remember the American Creed, those self-evident truths expressed by thinkers from John Locke to James Madison: a belief in the God-given worth and equality of every human being, in natural rights, in the right to live in freedom, in liberty of conscience, government by consent of the governed.”

 

Mike Pence

“Mike Pence Is Coming to Taylor’s Graduation. The Class of 2019 Is Ready.” – “Taylor University recently made national news with its announcement that Vice President Mike Pence will deliver this year’s commencement address—spurring backlash from students, alumni, parents, and faculty. This is not the only recent political clash to put the small evangelical college in the spotlight. Last year, an anonymous newspaper titled Excalibur was created and distributed by a group of Taylor faculty who wanted to take a stand against the increasing liberalization that they perceived on campus.”

 

28f88c326477495985ff467547450456-jumbo“Can Black Evangelicals Save the Whole Movement?” – Not in direct response to the situation at Taylor with Mike Pence, but somewhat related you can read Molly Worthen’s opinion piece in The New York Times on what might save the evangelical movement. “Yet a vanguard of Christian consultants and community activists focused on racial justice is gaining a wider hearing in white evangelical institutions than ever before. Many of them have studied history, sociology — and that academic boogeyman, critical race theory, a conceptual framework focused on the power structures that help maintain white supremacy. They combine these tools with biblical arguments to challenge white evangelical assumptions about the role of the church in the world.”

 

yosemite-taft-point_s

“Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic” – From Kathryn Miles at Outdoor Magazine: “Wu’s death, after all, is only the latest in a string of selfie-related fatalities. Termed ‘killfies’ by some social media researchers, these accidental deaths have involved social media personalities and, of course, adventurers. Canadian rapper Jon James McMurray perished last October after crawling out onto the wing of a Cessna while filming a music video….It can feel somehow reassuring to condemn deaths like these as foolish or self-absorbed, but that doesn’t seem entirely fair. And, frankly, emerging research doesn’t support that position.”

 

Music: The National, “Guilty Party”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Ajith Fernando, “Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings”

90392
Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2019-04-23 21:31:43Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com2l½cr·C¸

I first heard of Ajith Fernando when he was the morning Bible expositor at Urbana ’93, which I attended when I was a college student. Since that time, his writings have continued to be an influence in my life and ministry, whether his books The Supremacy of ChristReclaiming Friendship, or Jesus Driven Ministry.

When the bombings occurred this last Sunday in Sri Lanka, after reeling from the devastation of these events, I wondered to myself, “What does Ajith Fernando, as a native Sri Lankan, have to say about all of this?” Thankfully, it did not take long for Christianity Today to reach out to Fernando, whose important reflections are posted on their website under the title: “Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings.” I would encourage you to read the entire article, but here is a quick summary.

I have thought of at least six necessary responses from Christians to what has happened:

1) Lament Loss
Christians must join the nation in lamenting and mourning over our losses. Protestants have been somewhat lacking in espousing a theology of groaning (Rom. 8:23) that opens the door to lament (though that seems to be changing)….In addition to Easter time, April is New Year in Sri Lanka and most Christians have cancelled their usual festivities because of what has happened.

2) Condemn Evil
The Bible is loaded with condemnation over the wrong that takes place in a nation, and the ministries of the prophets are a good example of this. Where possible and appropriate, we need to strongly condemn—with no reserve—the barbaric acts that have happened. Like the prophets, we may also need to denounce the failure of our national leaders to take appropriate steps to protect the people in response to intelligence reports.

3) Alleviate Suffering
Part of the Christian answer to the problem of evil is action to alleviate suffering, as people made in the image of a God who works. The Bible is loaded with advice to care for those who are wounded and vulnerable. We must look for opportunities to help. Some of these are more formal projects done in an organized manner by groups—Christian or general community efforts….Visiting people in the hospital, donating blood, transporting the needy, providing meals, keeping people in our homes—these should be standard Christian practices which become part of the Christian lifestyle.

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord
In our hearts we must apply the principle of God’s “holy-love” as we think through the situation. The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]” is because we “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19)….We must let justice take its course. But even if it doesn’t take place on earth, we know that it will at the final judgment….

5) Don’t Bear False Witness
The Bible is severe in its condemnation of false accusation and harming the innocent. Racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice often comes from lumping large numbers of people alongside a few radical members of the group they belong to….in Sri Lanka, for centuries we have lived harmoniously with Muslims. I often feel that my Muslim neighbors are better neighbors to me than I am to them. If we lump all Muslims under the category of terrorist sympathizers, we do many of them a huge injustice which is abhorrent to God….

6) Pray
While it may seem foolish to spend time praying during a crisis when there is so much to do, this is the most powerful thing God’s people can do in a national crisis (1 Kings 19). We need to mobilize individual and corporate prayer among Christians. Leaders must take the lead in calling for prayer….

Freed from the Fear of Death

sri lanka church bombings.jpg

It was sadly ironic to read about the terrible church bombings yesterday morning even as I prepared as a pastor for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Recent times have seen not only church bombings but church buildings burning, whether in Louisiana or Paris. Every Christian knows that the word ‘church’ means people and not buildings.  Even so, it is beyond unsettling to see our houses of worship violated in such harsh ways. Still, the hope of the resurrection sets us free from fear, both in our physical circumstances and against the ultimate enemy, that is death. Here is an excerpt from my message at Eastbrook Church this weekend that reflected on the freedom Jesus brings us from the fear of death.


 

image 6 - Amphitheatre of El Djem.jpg

Some of the most striking stories of the early church after the time of the New Testament come from the persecution under the Roman Empire. In contemporary Tunisia, in North Africa, the church was strong, but suffered greatly. Perhaps the most famous story from the early 3rd century comes when a noblewoman, Perpetua, who was a Christian, and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor. That oath implied allegiance to the emperor over any other being, but also acknowledge him as a kind of god. Perpetua’s commitment to Jesus as Lord and God led her to a radical decision, which came at the price of her life. She and her household servant, Felicitas, ended up in the gladiatorial ring with wild animals, which rent them to pieces. They chose that fate rather than to forsake the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

How could these women be so unafraid of death? When we largely seem motivated by avoidance of death and suffering, what was it that could set them free from the fear of death?

I don’t believe it was because death was less scary to them, or that they were so much more courageous than the average person. Rather, there was a greater reality overpowering the all-consuming fear of death. And that overpowering reality is found in Jesus’ resurrection.

So many of us live our lives afraid of pain and the finality that is death. Others of us scurry through life knowing we won’t get another chance, feeling the urgency of our days. We all live under a universal death-sentence where the question is not “if” we’re going to die, but “when” will we die. Death tries to keep us in its grip, apart from God’s best for us as human beings.

But it is not the end of the story.

The resurrection of Jesus tells us that not only the power of evil and the prison of sin have been overcome, but also the sting of death has been destroyed by Jesus Christ at the Cross. Paul the Apostle, wrote about that in this way in a letter to an early church in the city of Corinth:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

The empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection tell us there is hope in the midst of death. We do not have to live in fear of death because Jesus could not be held back by death. It is not His Master, but rather He is the Master of all things.

Death is not the end of Jesus’ story. And death does not have to be the end of our story.