The Weekend Wanderer: 7 December 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.

candlelight“Advent begins in the dark” – Fleming Rutledge is one of the most astute preachers and pastoral theologians in America today. Her book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus, was not only one of the most celebrated books of 2017, but an insightful and accessible approach to the center of our faith. Here is Rutledge with a brief, poetic prayer for Advent.

 

burkina-faso2“Five boys and pastor among 14 Christians shot dead in Burkina Faso church massacre” – Nothing reminds us so much of how Advent begins in the dark and how God comes into our darkness than reading about the persecuted church. What sadness struck me this week when I read about this terrible tragedy in the beleaguered church in Burkina Faso. Read this and pray. Also, consider praying for other brothers and sisters in the countries where believers are most persecuted around the world.

 

Trump Holds Campaign Event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania“The Crisis of American Christianity, Viewed From Great Britain” – When you find the air so thick from charged political rhetoric that you can no longer tell what is really going on, it is sometimes helpful to get a perspective from outside the environment. Here is British theologian and New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, commenting on the current crisis in American Christianity within the charged political atmosphere of our days.

 

Wayne Grudem“Wayne Grudem Changes Mind About Divorce in Cases of Abuse” – To outsiders, this may seem like non-news, but for those within evangelicalism, this is at least somewhat noteworthy. Wayne Grudem is an acclaimed evangelical theologian, careful biblical scholar, and conservative complementarian through and through. He has wanted to avoid lax allowances for divorce in the past to the degree that his statements have supported spouses staying within abusive marriages. At the recent Evangelical Theological Society meetings, Grudem strongly reversed his views on divorce in cases of abuse. This is a welcome change, if not a little late in my mind, particularly in the era of #MeToo and #ChurchToo.

 

Potted "family-tree"“The New Kinship Engineering” – What are we to make of our newfound powers through scientific breakthroughs brought together with our newly asserted freedom from shared ethical frameworks? The questions and debates are nearly never-ending, but this article by Brendan Foht highlights what may seem like an extreme example to wake us up to the need for careful thinking. “The willingness of the fertility industry to use experimental technologies like three-parent IVF to satisfy the kinship desire of prospective parents, even when it means putting the health of children at risk, bodes ill for how they will use the even more powerful technologies of genetic engineering now on the horizon.”

 

Unrendered image of The Lord's Prayer. Taken with Canon Powershot G3“Seeing the Lord Behind the Lord’s Prayer” – Wesley Hill wrote a volume in Lexham Press’ recent series on Christian Essentials. The entire series looks excellent, although I have not had the chance to read them yet. Here is a review of Hill’s volume on the Lord’s Prayer by Tina Boesch. Of all the things you could give as a gift to family and friends this Christmas, Hill’s book looks to be a worthy option.

 

Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming,” from Songs for Christmas

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 March 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.

open Bible“Memorization and Repentance” – I have often called our church toward Bible memorization, believing that it is not only one of the best ways to call truth to mind, but also inherently formational. I was delighted, then, when I came across Hans Boersma‘s article in First Things, extolling the role of memorization within the journey of repentance during Lent. He writes: “Memorization is underrated. But it’s understandable that contemporary society puts it down: Why worry about mental storage when we have digital storage? One answer is that repentance depends on memory. Thus, memorization is a Lenten practice, a repentant turning back to the memory of God.”

 

90075“China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church” – “Another prominent unregistered church in China, Shouwang Church in Beijing, was raided by Chinese police over the weekend and officially banned from gathering to worship. Shouwang, which draws more than 1,000 attendees, is the fourth major underground congregation shut down by the Communist government over the past several months, as party leaders and heads of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement intensify efforts to rid religious groups of Western influence and exert control to make them more Chinese.”

 

gaza“Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house” – This past week CNN reported that “Israel has carried out strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, after a rocket attack on a house injured seven Israelis. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the office of Hamas’s political leader and the group’s military intelligence headquarters were among the targets.” In the midst of this, many innocent people on both sides continue to suffer. Too often, however, in conversations with westerners I have found that many people fail to realize that Palestinian Christians in Gaza are caught in the crossfire, some literally fleeing as their homes were demolished by rocket blasts this past week.

 

llifestyle6_1“Miracles in Munich” – “Two streets away, at the Freie Evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Church, or FEG), there were signs of another influx to Germany: refugees. As I walked upstairs, the bustle and aroma of coffee from the fellowship hour gave way to quiet in a room where Afghan refugees meet each week to study the Bible in Farsi. Welcoming 1.6 million asylum-seekers since 2015 has strained the German social system, but it has also been a God-delivered opportunity for FEG to reach part of the refugee population.”

 

webRNS-Volf-Book3-022819“How Christian theology lost its way” – Miroslav Volf has written a new book with Matthew Croasmun, For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference, which calls Christian theology back to its reason for existence. “Christian theology has lost its way because it has neglected its purpose. We believe the purpose of theology is to discern, articulate, and commend visions of flourishing life in light of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. The flourishing of human beings and all God’s creatures in the presence of God is God’s foremost concern for creation, and should therefore be the central purpose of theology. With this manifesto we aim to return theology to itself so it can better serve communities of Christian conviction and participate in truth-seeking cultural conversation about flourishing life for all.”

 

Francis Spufford“Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel” – Francis Spufford, author of the witty Unapologetic and other great works, has written a novel that falls within the Narnia stories. Originally written for his daughter, Spufford’s novel, The Stone Table, has received noteworthy praise: “one of the best works of fiction I have read in the past several years” (Alan Jacobs). Unfortunately, due both to copyright law and trademark law, the book will not see the light of day until after 2034, if we are lucky, or unless CS Lewis PTE grants special permission. If that’s confusing, you may want to read Alan Jacobs’ clarification on the matter here. Now, after all of that, don’t you just want to feast your eyes on this work?

 

Azusa Pacific“Azusa Pacific Drops Ban on Same-Sex Student Relationships, Again” – After dropping a ban on same-sex student relationships in September 2018, and then reversing course to restore the ban in October, Azusa Pacific University has just announced a shift to once again drop the ban on same-sex student relationships from its student conduct code. While Azusa does not allow students to have sex outside of marriage according to its student conduct code, this change allows ‘romantic’ same-sex relationships.

 

89954“ECFA Suspends Harvest Bible Chapel’s Accreditation” – In the ongoing saga of recently-fired pastor James MacDonald and his former church, Harvest Bible Chapel, the latest news highlights further concerns. Not only was MacDonald verbally abusive of staff members and authoritarian in his leadership, but the church also apparently mismanaged funds during his tenure. Because of these concerns, the ECFA has suspended Harvest’s accreditation until further investigation.

 

054_001A.TIF“The Books Briefing: As the Good Book Says” – The weekly books briefing from The Atlantic features a look at faith and writing with nods to Jemar Tisby, Graham Greene, Min Jin Lee, and more. “Faith, for many people, is a deeply personal thing: a set of spiritual beliefs that are inseparable from one’s identity. At the same time, especially in the context of organized religion, faith is defined by social customs—and this combination of private passion and public practice can sometimes be fraught.”

 

Music: Thomas Tallis, “Lamentations of Jeremiah,” sung by The Tallis Scholars directed by Peter Phillips.

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 December 2018

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.

iranian christians“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” – NPR reports on something that has been tracked by religious news agencies for awhile. “In Turkey and across the Middle East and Europe, evangelical Christians are converting Muslim refugees eager to emigrate to the West. The refugees in Turkey escaped Iran, where conversion to anything but Islam is illegal. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iran. Those considered part of the native Christian communities are permitted to practice their religion with restrictions, but a Muslim converting to Christianity is considered an apostate. The Iranian government jails converts, especially those who proselytize. The authorities see it as a Western plan to turn Iranians against Islam and the Islamic regime, according to converts in Turkey.”

 

iweslej001p1“Counsel for preachers (and other Christians)” – Over at his blog, Alan Jacobs shares some penetrating insight from John Wesley on how preachers should approach life and preaching. What’s his advice? Read more to shape your faith and skill as a preacher. “What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarcely ever knew a Preacher read so little. And, perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with daily meditation and daily prayer.”

 

Griswold-The-Other-Evangelicals“Evangelicals of Color Fight Back Against the Religious Right” – Evangelicalism is changing in more ways than one. In The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold reports on one of the most significant changes. “In the United States, evangelicalism has long been allied with political conservatism. But under Trump’s Presidency right-wing political rhetoric has become more openly racist and xenophobic. In evangelical circles, hostility toward people of color is often couched in nostalgia for the simpler days of nineteen-fifties America….The growing number of evangelicals of color have begun pushing in earnest for more of a political voice in the church.”

 

persectued church 2018“The 10 Most-Read Stories of the Persecuted Church” – Christianity Today gathers together their 10 most-read stories related to the persecuted church in 2018. Ranging from Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey to Indonesian churches blasted by a family of suicide bombers, from North Korea’s decision to free American Christians and Leah Sharibu’s inspiration of Nigerian believers, and so much more. If you aren’t familiar with these stories, you should be.

 

hang christians“Jeremy Hunt orders global review into persecution of Christians” – On a related note, UK Foreign Secretary is calling for a global review of persecution of Christians. “The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has ordered an independent, global review into the persecution of Christians of all nationalities amid claims that not enough is being done to defend the rights of nearly 200 million Christians at risk of persecution today. The unprecedented Foreign Office review will be led by the Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, and will make recommendations on the practical steps the government can take to better support those under threat.”

 

baby feet.jpeg“The Case Against CRISPR Babies” – Nicanor Austriaco at First Things: “A few days after Thanksgiving, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui shocked the global community by announcing that he had created the world’s first gene-edited, designer babies—twin girls named Lulu and Nana. The two ‘CRISPR babies’ had been born a few weeks earlier to their HIV-positive father Mark and his wife, Grace. Many scientists expressed anger and frustration at the announcement. U.S. National Institutes of Health Director, Francis Collins, described Jiankui’s work as a ‘profoundly unfortunate,’ ‘ill-considered,’ ‘unethical,’ ‘scientific misadventure’ that ‘flout[ed] international ethical norms.'”

[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.]

Prayer for Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey

brunson2-prayer-turkeyI mentioned Pastor Andrew Brunson in my pastoral prayer this weekend. Please join me in praying for him. Here is background on his situation via Open Doors’ web-site.

Arrested in October 2016 on false charges of being involved in an Islamic terrorist organization, Pastor Andrew Brunson remains in Turkey in an Izmir prison—persecuted for his Christian faith and held as a political hostage. For 23 years, he and his family lived in Turkey, where they led a church. In late March 2018, Turkish prosecutors filed official charges and called for a life sentence of 35 years.

His trial is scheduled to begin Monday, April 16, 2018–around 10 pm EST in the United States.

In prison, Pastor Brunson has written powerful notes and letters sharing his heart and faith.

Let it be clear, I am in prison, not for anything I have done wrong, but because of who I am—a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet, I believe this to be true—it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me.”

As the trial approaches, we invite you to stand in prayer with Pastor Brunson, his wife Norine, and their family. Let them know they are not alone… We will post updates about Pastor Brunson and the trial on this page as soon as we have them.

UPDATES

April 11, 2018: A recent visit with Pastor Brunson reveals that his physical health has declined during his imprisonment. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis spent time with Pastor Brunson inside Buca Prison in Izmir. “Pastor Brunson is strengthened by his love for his family and his faith in God, but his health has deteriorated,” Tillis said in a statement following his visit. “He has lost 50 pounds and spends 24 hours a day in a cell with limited human contact.” For the full report, click here.

April 14, 2018: On their Facebook page, Norine Brunson posted that “the Lord clearly told me and another believer to pray for Andrew three times a day–morning, noon and evening.” And to pray specifically, “that the cord around Andrew would be loosened/untied.”

“Although I don’t understand this completely, the Lord gave this very clearly so I am praying it by faith,” she wrote. “Please join by faith that what we loose on earth is loosed in heaven.”