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: 8 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.

85262“John the Baptist Points to the Real Hope of Advent” – Fleming Rutledge reflects on how both Advent and John the Baptist are apparently out of touch with the cultural currents that surround Christmas. Connecting with the longing for Jesus to come as Judge, “John does not proclaim Jesus as a captivating infant smiling benevolently at groups of assorted rustics, potentates, and farm animals. Instead, he cries out, ‘He who is coming after me is mightier than I. . . . His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:11–12).” Her entire article is compelling. [Thanks to David Bier for sharing this with me.]

 

brunson22a“‘A living martyr’” – World Magazine names Andrew Brunson as their “Daniel of the year,” following accusations against him in Turkey and his recent release from imprisonment.  “Jailed in October 2016 and subsequently charged with espionage and terrorism, Andrew Brunson found himself catapulted to the center of global headlines and U.S.-Turkey relations. Norine, jailed briefly then released, never left Turkey, knowing she might not be allowed to return to support her husband. Now they were home to family and friends.”

 

Mar Mattai Monastery Iraq“The Vanishing: The plight of Christians in an age of intolerance” – Janine di Giovanni reports on something that many of us have been highlighting for the past few years: the excavation of a persecuted Christian minority from the Middle East. “The Christians here have endured invasions by Persians, Kurds, and Turks, but they have recovered after each persecution. This is, in part, their tradition: they believe in their sacred right to their land. . . . The persecution of Christians in Iraq began as early as the thirteenth century. But in recent years it has reached a tipping point, setting off a mass exodus. In 2002, when I was living in Baghdad, six months before the US invasion, there were nearly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Today there are between 250,000 and 300,000 left, according to Samuel Tadros, a fellow at the Hudson Institute.” You may also want to read this recent, similar statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury: “Christians on brink of extinction in Middle East, warns Archbishop of Canterbury.”

 

2013_9-16-The-Russian-Orthodox-Church“Israel expropriates almost 70 acres of Catholic Church property” – On a related topic, The Middle East Monitor reports: “Israel’s occupation authorities expropriated almost 70 acres of Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley and West Bank on Tuesday, Shehab news agency has reported. The land is owned by the Roman Catholic Church — the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — in the villages of Bardala and Tayaseer near the West Bank city of Tubas and in the Jordan Valley respectively.” Is it for security or settlements? Either way, the church just lot its property to the state.

 

A Uyghur woman walks pass a statue of Mao Zedong in the“The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam” – On a related topic, in The New York Times Review of Books, Ian Johnson offers an extended reflection on Islam in China, with particular attention to the Uighurs in northwest China. He also gives some helpful reflections on why China has struggled to accept Christianity, as well as other religions viewed as subversive.

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 11.36.26 AM“All the presidents at the Bush funeral service together recited this core prayer. Except one.” – There was a little kerfuffle in the Twitter-sphere when people noticed that President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump did not recite the Apostles Creed after the homily during George H. W. Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral. Michelle Boorstein offers an even-handed reflection on the history and significance of the Apostles Creed, and also why the Trumps did not recite it during the service. You can also read my article about why we now recite the Apostles Creed when taking communion at Eastbrook Church.

 

pexels-photo-684387“The Dominant Approach to Leadership in the Church and Why Jesus Means to Upend It”Kyuboem Lee over at Missio Alliance: “There’s a reason many pastors feel used and abused—they’ve been living as cogs in the wheels of the Church Industrial Complex (as my friends JR and Dan White say in their book, Church as Movement). What is the remedy? It’s certainly not trying harder to keep the machine going. Jesus said there is a different kingdom—and a different way of governing, or leading. A different theology of power for a different kingdom. And out of it, a different way of structuring ourselves as society or organization or community. The greatest in this society will be the servant of all.”

 

civil war“Battle Lines: Recovering the profound divisions that led to the Civil War” – Numerous people have recommended that I read Andrew Delbanco’s The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War. I haven’t had the chance to get there yet, but a tantalizing appetizer came this past week in Gordon Wood’s in-depth review of both Delbanco’s book and Sean Wilentz’s No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding. The review sends you deep into the history of slavery in our country to some profound wrestling with what was really going on.

 

3309“Unknown John Donne manuscript discovered in Suffolk” – This might just be the English-major in me, or it might be the poetry lover in me, but I found this article about a recently discovered manuscript of John Donne’s poetry fascinating. Donne is that well-known 17th-century love poet, who eventually became an Anglican priest and metaphysical poet. “A previously unrecorded handwritten manuscript of John Donne’s poetry has been found in a box at an English country house in Suffolk. Dating back 400 years, the bound collection was kept for at least the last two centuries at Melford Hall in Suffolk.”

[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.]

More than 300 Chinese Christian Leaders Sign Joint Statement Affirming Religious Freedom

WechatIMG77.jpegA friend recently shared with me that, in the midst of increasing pressure by the Chinese government on the Christian church in China, a group of pastors wrote a public statement affirming both their commitment to Christian faith in the midst of suffering and an international call to uphold religious freedom. This is noteworthy for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that religious leaders within the country are calling out the government for abuse of power. You can read the entire statement, as reported by The St. Charles Institute, below.

A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith

We are a group of Chinese Christians, chosen by the Most High God to be His humble servants, serving as pastors for Christian churches throughout various towns and cities.

We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the one true and living Triune God is the Creator of the universe, of the world, and of all people. All men should worship God and not any man or thing. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that all men, from national leaders to beggars and prisoners, have sinned. They will die once and then be judged in righteousness. Apart from the grace and redemption of God, all men would eternally perish. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the crucified and risen Jesus is the only Head of the global church, the sole Savior of all mankind, and the everlasting Ruler and supreme Judge of the universe. To all who repent and believe in Him, God will give eternal life and an eternal Kingdom.

In September, 2017, the State Council issued the new “Regulations on the Administration of Religious Affairs” and began implementing these regulations in February, 2018. Ever since then, Christian churches across China have suffered varying degrees of persecution, contempt, and misunderstanding from government departments during public worship and religious practices, including various administrative measures that attempt to alter and distort the Christian faith. Some of these violent actions are unprecedented since the end of the Cultural Revolution. These include demolishing crosses on church buildings, violently removing expressions of faith like crosses and couplets hanging on Christians’ homes, forcing and threatening churches to join religious organizations controlled by the government, forcing churches to hang the national flag or to sing secular songs praising the State and political parties, banning the children of Christians from entering churches and receiving religious education, and depriving churches and believers of the right to gather freely.

We believe that these unjust actions are an abuse of government power and have led to serious conflicts between political and religious parties in Chinese society. These actions infringe on the human freedoms of religion and conscience and violate the universal rule of law. We are obligated to announce bad news to the authorities and to all of society: God hates all attempts to suppress human souls and all acts of persecution against the Christian church, and he will condemn and judge them with righteous judgment.

But we are even more obligated to proclaim good news to the authorities and to all of society: Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the Savior and King of mankind, in order to save us sinners was killed, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God, destroying the power of sin and death. In His love and compassion God has prepared forgiveness and salvation for all who are willing to believe in Jesus, including Chinese people. At any time, anyone can repent from any sin, turn to Christ, fear God, obtain eternal life, and bring great blessing from God upon his family and country.

For the sake of faith and conscience, for the spiritual benefits of the authorities in China and of society as a whole, and ultimately for the glory, holiness, and righteousness of God, we make the following declaration to the Chinese government and to all of society:

Christian churches in China believe unconditionally that the Bible is the Word and Revelation of God. It is the source and final authority of all righteousness, ethics, and salvation. If the will of any political party, the laws of any government, or the commands of any man directly violate the teachings of the Bible, harming men’s souls and opposing the gospel proclaimed by the church, we are obligated to obey God rather than men, and we are obligated to teach all members of the church to do the same.

Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith. We are willing and obligated under any circumstance to face all government persecution, misunderstanding, and violence with peace, patience, and compassion. For when churches refuse to obey evil laws, it does not stem from any political agenda; it does not stem from resentment or hostility; it stems only from the demands of the gospel and from a love for Chinese society.

Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government’s authority to govern society and human conduct. We believe and are obligated to teach all believers in the church that the authority of the government is from God and that as long as the government does not overstep the boundaries of secular power laid out in the Bible and does not interfere with or violate anything related to faith or the soul, Christians are obligated to respect the authorities, to pray fervently for their benefit, and to pray earnestly for Chinese society. For the sake of the gospel, we are willing to suffer all external losses brought about by unfair law enforcement. Out of a love for our fellow citizens, we are willing to give up all of our earthly rights.

For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church. We declare that in matters of external conduct, churches are willing to accept lawful oversight by civil administration or other government departments as other social organizations do. But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation. We also will not accept any “ban” or “fine” imposed on our churches due to our faith. For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives.

Signatories of the Joint Statement can be found here.

April 16 Update on Pastor Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson 2.jpgAs a graduate of Wheaton College (IL), I received this email just moments ago related to Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is also an alumnus of the college. While this is a call to prayer for the Wheaton College campus and extended community, I encourage you to join in the spirit of this intercessory prayer wherever you may be.

As even mainstream news media have reported, Brunson is caught up as a pawn in the political machinations between the United States and Turkey. Even for those who are not Christians or religious at all, this should cause concern for religious freedom and tolerance in the public square. Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, who is observing the trial, said: “The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey. That relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”

Earlier today Rev. Andrew Brunson ’88 began to stand trial in a Turkish courtroom. We invite all Wheaton College alumni to join our campus community in praying for his acquittal and immediate release. For more information, read the call to prayer below from the Office of the Chaplain.

Philip Ryken
President


TO: Campus Community
FROM: The Office of the Chaplain
RE: Prayers for Alumnus Andrew Brunson

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, we have been praying for the release of ’88 alumnus and Protestant Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from the time of his arrest in Izmir, Turkey on October 7, 2016 to the present. Imprisoned and held on false charges of terrorism, it is widely believed that Andrew is being used as a political pawn by the Turkish government to leverage the extradition of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and is believed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to be behind an attempted rebellion to overthrow the government in July of 2016.

Prior to his arrest, Pastor Brunson had peacefully lived and ministered in Turkey for 23 years.

Rev. Brunson has been scheduled to appear in court this Monday, April 16 at 9:00 am (1:00 am on Monday our time). If the charges against him are upheld — claiming he supported both the secessionist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla movement, and the outlawed organization of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, Pastor Brunson could be sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Please pray for God’s peace to enfold Andrew, his wife Norine and their children. Pray that Andrew will know the reality of God’s presence with him and His love for him, and be able to trust Him with his life and future. Pray for the Lord to give Andrew words to say before the Turkish lawyers and government officials who are trying to trap and condemn him. Pray for the Lord to oversee all that happens in the courtroom.

Most importantly, pray for the glory and renown of the Name of the Lord in the country of Turkey, once the seat of power of the Christian ruler Constantine. Pray, as in Daniel’s day, the power of the Lord will be revealed and the fear of the Lord would spread, overtaking the government rulers and officials who seek to dismiss and destroy His own. Pray that many in the country of Turkey and in the world will believe in the Lord as an outcome of Andrew’s imprisonment.

If you would like to join others in prayer, students have planned a prayer vigil in Gold Star Chapel in the Beamer Center throughout the day and night on Sunday, with plans to sing his hymn at 8:00 pm.

Thank you for praying and seeking the Lord on Andrew’s behalf.

Chaplain’s Office

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Perpetua and Felicitas

This past weekend in my message, “The Final Move” from Luke 21:5-36, I shared the story of two early Christian martyrs, Perpetua and Felicitas. These women gave their lives for their faith in the city of Carthage at the turn of the 3rd century. You can read the entire account of their lives here, but I share some excerpts below.

Perpetua was a Christian noblewoman who, at the turn of the third century, lived with her husband, her son, and her slave, Felicitas, in Carthage (in modern Tunis). At this time, North Africa was the center of a vibrant Christian community. It is no surprise, then, that when Emperor Septimius Severus determined to cripple Christianity (he believed it undermined Roman patriotism), he focused his attention on North Africa. Among the first to be arrested were five new Christians taking classes to prepare for baptism, one of whom was Perpetua.

The day of the hearing arrived, Perpetua and her friends were marched before the governor, Hilarianus. Perpetua’s friends were questioned first, and each in turn admitted to being a Christian, and each in turn refused to make a sacrifice (an act of emperor worship). Then the governor turned to question Perpetua.

At that moment, her father, carrying Perpetua’s son in his arms, burst into the room. He grabbed Perpetua and pleaded, “Perform the sacrifice. Have pity on your baby!”

Hilarianus, probably wishing to avoid the unpleasantness of executing a mother who still suckled a child, added, “Have pity on your father’s gray head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperor.”

Perpetua replied simply: “I will not.”

“Are you a Christian then?” asked the governor.

“Yes I am,” Perpetua replied.

Perpetua, her friends, and her slave, Felicitas (who had subsequently been arrested), were dressed in belted tunics. When they entered the stadium, wild beasts and gladiators roamed the arena floor, and in the stands, crowds roared to see blood. They didn’t have to wait long.

Immediately a wild heifer charged the group. Perpetua was tossed into the air and onto her back. She sat up, adjusted her ripped tunic, and walked over to help Felicitas. Then a leopard was let loose, and it wasn’t long before the tunics of the Christians were stained with blood.

This was too deliberate for the impatient crowd, which began calling for death for the Christians. So Perpetua, Felicitas, and friends were lined up, and one by one, were slain by the sword.

[Read the entire account here.]

Occupied with Suffering (discussion questions)

Exiles Series Gfx_ThumbHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Occupied with Suffering,” which is part of our series “Exiles” on the book of 1 Peter. This study walks through 1 Peter 4:12-19.

  1. Have you ever personally experienced or heard about someone else suffering for their faith? What happened?
  1. “Exiles” continues as we look at 1 Peter 4:12-19. Begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak into your life, and then read that passage aloud.
  1. In this letter, Peter returns again and again to the theme of suffering as a Christian. In 1 Peter 4:12-13, what sort of attitude does Peter encourage his readers to have about their suffering?
  1. It may sound odd to encourage someone to rejoice in the midst of suffering. In verse 13, what reason does Peter give for the joy we can have in suffering now?
  1. With verses 14-16, Peter turns his attention to the practical reasons that we may suffer at the hands of others. If we are Christians, what does he say is the right reason for suffering and what is the wrong reason for suffering?
  1. In some ways, Peter is challenging believers to persevere for our faith, even in the midst of suffering. While most of us do not face threats of death for our faith, we still may suffer in some ways for our faith. What does it look like for you to persevere as a Christian in your everyday life?
  1. In verses 17-18, Peter unfolds an interesting idea that the judgment of God upon the world actually begins with God’s people. Comparing what you read in these verses with what he wrote earlier in 1 Peter 2:1-10, why do you think this might be the case?
  1. Peter suggests that the suffering to come upon “those who do not obey the gospel of God” (4:17) is worse than what the believers were experiencing presently. What does the Scripture say about this idea? What do you think Peter is talking about?
  1. 1 Peter 4:19 returns to some themes from throughout Peter’s letter: suffering, God’s faithfulness, and doing good. Why would Peter summarize this section on suffering for Christ in this way?
  1. What is one specific thing you sense God is speaking to you through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray about what you share together. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

Occupied with Suffering

Exiles Series Gfx_Web Header

What is a Christ-centered perspective on our suffering?

That question was the focus of my message, “Occupied with Suffering,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church as I continued our series, “Exiles: A Study of 1 Peter.” Suffering is a theme of Peter’s letter, but he brings it into sharp focus with 1 Peter 4:12-19 by exploring the significance and approach to suffering because of our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.

You can watch the message here or subscribe to our audio podcast, following along with the outline below. You can also view the entire series at our web-site.

If you’re interested in getting to know us more at Eastbrook, please take a moment to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Vimeo. You could also join our community by downloading the Eastbrook app.

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