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Christianity Today Magazine



News and analysis from the world's leading Christian magazine.



Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2017 12:06:46 PST

Copyright: Copyright 2017, Christianity Today
 



Interview: Stephen Mansfield: Why So Many Conservative Christians Wanted a ‘Pagan Brawler’ in the White House

And how their choice of Trump has affected the church since last year’s election.

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Election 2016 ended a year ago, but its effects on American culture, including the American church, persist. Many are still asking how Donald Trump became president, and what part evangelical Christians played in making that happen. Stephen Mansfield, author of bestselling books about the religious faith of recent American presidents, believes that faith matters in the story of President Trump as well. Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him describes Trump’s remarkable partnership with conservative evangelicals. Blogger Samuel D. James spoke with Mansfield about what the events of last year mean for Christians and how a divided American church can heal.

Is it fair to consider Donald Trump a prosperity-gospel Christian?

He’s definitely drawn to the side of Christianity that preaches personal power, prosperity, and success in this world. Part of that preconditioning comes from his years hearing sermons from Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale privately believed in “born again” Christianity, but Trump fed from the stream in Peale’s thought that was essentially secular motivational philosophy. Trump sees himself as a religious man and sees his own success as the result of living out certain religious principles—just not the ones at the heart of the gospel.

You describe how meeting with religious leaders during the campaign gave Trump something of an “education” he didn’t know he needed. Were his stances on religious liberty, abortion, and socially conservative issues a product of political ambitions?

A good illustration is his approach to the Johnson Amendment, which prevents pastors from endorsing ...

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The African Diaspora (Part 2): What We Can Learn and Biblical Principles

Immigrants can bless their home countries and their host countries

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In Part 1, we looked at the African diaspora and four biblical figures from which we can learn. Today, we seek to apply some biblical principles to the reality of the diaspora today.

Stay Close to God

Although Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah were far from their homeland, they were not far from God. They were people of prayer who made sure their relationship with God was fresh and current. Nehemiah and Daniel prayed regularly and before every important decision. Prior to interpreting the king’s dream, Daniel and his friends prayed.

His powerful prayer is recorded in Daniel 2:20-23. Daniel regularly prayed three times a day “giving thanks to his God” (Dan. 6:10). Before Nehemiah approached the king about returning to Jerusalem, he said, “For days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4).

Staying close to God through prayer is vital. When planning to leave your country of origin—whether for an opportunity or because you are forced to do so by circumstances—bathe your decision in prayer, asking for God’s wisdom and protection. The Lord can iron out obstacles and difficulties that could arise at any point of your journey.

One step that will help an immigrant stay close to God is to join a strong, Bible-believing church in the new country. Take the initiative because fellowship with other believers will be a great help. If you are able, connect with Christians of your host community to help you integrate into your new home.

Avoid taking illegal actions, no matter how expeditious or attractive they might be. If you emigrate through illegal means, you will continue to be confronted by situations to justify your residence in your new county that do not honor the ...

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Making the Unclean Clean

Seeing God’s redemption in a toilet bowl.

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With a flick of the wrist, your mess disappears. This isn’t a clever infomercial on late night television, but what often happens to feces in the United States when you flush your toilet.

I vividly remember visiting Nejapa, El Salvador, a community unconnected to a wastewater treatment plant, in 2008. Kids ran barefoot and jumped in the water—liquid household waste emptied into the street and mixed with garbage—splashing their friends. Exposure to waterborne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and worms can increase the likelihood of becoming ill.

Yet as a wastewater engineer, what I’ve learned is: God is in the business of redeeming things. Yes, even what we think is “unclean.” Rather than viewing wastewater as a waste to be discarded, a new paradigm for sanitation is recovering beneficial NEW resources from wastewater: nutrients, energy, and water.

As Christians, we know that our sin can have profoundly damaging effects—sometimes ones we don’t see or think about. So it goes with wastewater. In a working sewer system in the US, the effluent from our toilets, showers, sinks, and laundry, called wastewater, commonly leaves our homes through pipes and travels to a wastewater treatment plant. After a few treatment steps, the clean water is discharged to a river or ocean and the contaminants are often hauled to a landfill. In rural areas, septic tanks are often used to treat wastewater.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of wastewater in the world is not treated nor reused and 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. In some countries, the untreated wastewater released upstream may be someone’s source of drinking water downstream.

Furthermore, wastewater contains ...

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South Sudan: Famine, War, and Hope

The fields of South Sudan could feed the whole continent.

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Three years ago, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flew us from Uganda onto a dirt landing strip in Yei South Sudan, a wind-blown village bravely holding onto life. For four days, with 90 chiefs, elders, and government ministers, we endeavored to broker a peace. These weren’t enemies because of religion; instead, they were fighting and killing each other over cattle dowries. In a Dispatch then, I outlined the feud going on among the tribes.

Recently, I landed with Aiah Fouday-Khanenje, head of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, in Juba, capital of this newest of nations, South Sudan. Since its 2011 independence, warring factions within the government has left thousands dead and exasperated food shortages. Five years after independence it has what it wanted: nationhood. But it also got what it didn’t want: civil war.

At home in Canada, a friend winced when he heard of the places I visit. He asked, “How can you do it?”

I heard myself say, “I love being there.” There are more convenient and comfortable places to visit; yet it is here, in a county hanging on by its fingernails, that one experiences the joy of faith. The opportunity to make a difference sounds its call.

A Great African Nation

As a country, before its separation into the north and south, Sudan was Africa’s largest. It was critical to the spread of the Christian message. One of the largest missionary agencies in the world, SIM, had its name by way of this country: Sudan Interior Mission. Catastrophe after calamity, this area and its people are still at the forefront of the church. What they do and become matters, and this is made more urgent by the steady crawl southward of Islamic influence.

Historically, Sudan has had ...

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Zimbabwe Can Be Born Again: Church Leaders Explain Mugabe-Military Crisis
As politicians and media debate coup, evangelicals see ‘opportunity for the birth of a new nation.’ This week, church leaders in Zimbabwe called for prayer—and a transitional government—after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest by the military. “We see the current situation not just as a crisis in which we are helpless,” wrote eight evangelical, Catholic, charismatic, and ecumenical Protestant leaders. “We see the current arrangement as an opportunity for the birth of a new nation.” Political tensions began last month, flaring up between Mugabe’s two potential successors: his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Grace. The next presidential election is in 2018. Mugabe took Grace’s side, firing Mnangagwa for “disloyalty.” But then the army took Mnangagwa’s side, placing Mugabe under house arrest and arresting the leaders of Grace’s faction. The takeover has been peaceful so far, perhaps because Mugabe’s tight-fisted, often cruel 37-year reign was anything but democratic. The country loses at least $1 billion to corruption annually. One of those calling for Mugabe to step down has been Evan Mawarire, an evangelical pastor who has been arrested twice for his viral online protest of Mugabe’s corruption. This week, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe joined other church leaders in releasing a joint statement explaining how the current crisis is actually a kairos (opportunity). CT has reproduced their letter in full below: 1. The Moment of TruthMany Zimbabweans are confused and anxious about what has transpired and continues to unfold in our nation. While the changes have been rapid in the last few days, the real deterioration has been visible for everyone to see for a long time, especially during the public ...Continue reading... [...]



Politics & Religion: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Dr. Amy Black is Professor of Political Science at Wheaton College.

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Politics & Religion: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In this episode of Theology for Life, Lynn and Ed talk with Dr. Amy Black about political civility and religion and her book Honoring God in Red or Blue. Is it too late to have humility, grace, and reason as we engage in politics? How do we look at the last presidential campaign season and recover from what was incredibly divisive? What do evangelicals do now to move forward in a helpful matter?

According to Professor Black, politics is about compromise and getting along with people involves compromise. There is no way around this. We need to be able to have meaningful discussions even when we disagree.

Is power zero-sum? Maybe, but it need not be. What does it look like to share power for the flourishing of all? And how can our character impact the discussions around politics that we do have?

Dr. Amy Black is professor of Political Science at Wheaton College.

Dr. Lynn Cohick is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.

Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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China Tells Christians to Replace Images of Jesus with Communist President
Propaganda effort in poor province latest sign of Xi Jinping consolidating control. Thousands of Christian villagers in China have been told to take down displays of Jesus, crosses, and gospel passages from their homes as part of a government propaganda effort to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.” The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that Communist Party of China (CPC) officials visited believers’ homes in Yugan county of Jiangxi province—where about 10 percent of the population is Christian. They urged residents to replace personal religious displays with posters of President Xi Jinping; more than 600 removed Christian symbols from their living rooms, and 453 hung portraits of the Communist leader, according to SCMP. The efforts were part of a government campaign to alleviate poverty in the region, since some CPC members believe families’ faith is to blame for their financial woes, according to SCMP. The poster swaps in villagers’ homes represent the party’s desire to have residents look to their leaders, rather than their Savior, for assistance. “Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses,” the head of the government campaign told SCMP. “But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing, and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi.” Though the party denies the claim, some Christians in Yugan county say they were told they would not be eligible for government assistance unless their posters were removed. The news comes weeks after the CPC held its national congress, where Xi continued to consolidate party power and passed a historic measure to write ...Continue reading... [...]



American Family Values Increasingly Focus on Finances

Study of Trump and Clinton voters finds the economy spilling more into home life.

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When asked to name the biggest challenges faced by American families, adults have become more likely to think of financial issues and less likely to bring up social ones—expanding the traditional notion of “family values” to include factors like stress over work and the state of the economy.

This growing affiliation between family and finances, reported in the 2017 American Family Survey, reflects President Donald Trump’s own messaging around family values, which emphasizes hard work and economic security.

Yet the new research, entitled “Marriage and Family in the Age of Trump,” found that evangelicals and conservatives largely remain concerned about cultural issues like single-parent homes, sexual permissiveness, and declining religious affiliation over economic ones impacting their families.

Over the past two years, the proportion of Americans sharing those cultural concerns has decreased by 17 percentage points, while Americans focusing on economic factors has increased by 11 percentage points.

“More people believe that the most serious problems facing marriages and families are economic, and fewer believe that the challenges are primarily cultural,” according to researchers at The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University and Deseret News, which fielded the survey.

More than three-quarters of Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton ranked financial concerns among the most important challenges for American families, compared to less than half of Trump voters and just 43 percent of evangelicals. On the other hand, nearly 70 percent of Trump voters and 72 percent of evangelicals cited cultural issues, while less than 40 percent of Clinton voters ...

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The Sweatiest Bible Class in America

Revelation Wellness puts Scripture at the center of its group fitness program.

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After attending a few aerobics classes as a teenager, Alisa Keeton knew she needed one of those pink leotards. She begged her mom to outfit her newfound passion and never looked back. Fitness became her life’s work and her ministry.

Keeton, 46, founded Revelation Wellness ten years ago in Phoenix, just as CrossFit and other high-intensity exercise programs were taking off nationwide. But Keeton and her instructors saw that physical activity could go beyond weight loss or strength training. They maintain that holistic health focused on God, not self, enables God’s people to serve him better.

The ministry uses fitness as a pathway to freedom, encouraging participants to ditch what weighs them down physically and spiritually. Prayers and pushups go together. Scripture is preached as reps are counted. Together, healing happens. For Keeton’s team, physical fitness is not the end goal — it is merely a tool to proclaim Christ.

Wellness revealed

The landscape for group fitness classes looks a lot different than the shiny Spandex that filled Keeton’s first aerobics class in the 1980s. She has spent the last 25 years working as a fitness professional, watching workout culture grow simultaneously more intense (think “extreme” fitness challenges and races) and mainstream (Zumba at the YMCA and P90X videos at home).

Keeton’s launch of Revelation Wellness corresponds with a swelling interest in faith-based wellness nationwide.

Pastors led their congregations to collectively shed thousands of pounds, and leaders such as Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, launched programs incorporating the Bible, exercise, and diet. In 2015, the American Council on Exercise predicted an “increase in ...

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How to Help Someone Make the Best Decision of His or Her Life

All Christians are called to share their faith.

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Most Christians are not preachers or teachers, and fewer still are evangelists, but all Christians are called to proclaim, to instruct, and to share their faith.

In Ephesians 4, we learn that the Holy Spirit gives preachers, teachers, and evangelists as a gift to the Church. These women and men are given to the body to help all believers be ‘mature’ and active in their ministry of proclamation, teaching, and evangelism. All Christians, then, should be growing and active in sharing their faith, instructing others about Scripture, and proclaiming good news in Christ. This includes helping non-Christians cross the line of faith.

So often, Christians assume that people’s decision to follow Jesus should best be made with a pastor or ‘professional evangelist.’ So often, Christians do the hard relational work of walking with a non-Christian for weeks, months, or even years, but never experience the joyful moment of his or her new birth.

Thinking that somehow/someway the person will eventually get it, many Christians think of evangelism as nothing more than a constant witnessing opportunity. I hear things like “I’m just planting the seed” or “I’m trying to be a good witness” but often we never have any intention of calling for a decision. There is one important thing that you can and should do in your witness—ask for a decision.

Asking for a decision can be terrifying no matter what the response is!

When we ask for a decision, we are putting everything on the table; we are opening the door (or closing the door) to a new normal in the relationship. There is a weight to asking for a decision for Jesus, make no mistake about it.

Asking, however, is just as much a part ...

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Reliving the Reformation, As It Happened

Craig Harline portrays the suspense-filled early years of Martin Luther’s movement, when the outcome was anything but certain.

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In this 500th anniversary year of the beginning of the Reformation, publications about the movement, and especially about its prime initiator Martin Luther, abound. Some books will treat him as an iconic figure whose bold declarations shaped Protestantism from its beginnings. Others may present the enormous impact the Reformation had on European history and culture, with Luther as the imposing force that got it all going. No one can deny that the Augustinian friar from Wittenberg University has exercised profound influence in the five centuries that have followed his 95 Theses. But it is altogether too easy to lose Luther the human being as we look back from historical distance. He can become a monumental figure, a bronze statue standing boldly against the background of our contemporary world.

Thankfully, that is not the Luther readers will find in Craig Harline’s book A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation. Harline set out to write a treatment of Luther that would be accessible to the general reader, not primarily the fellow academic reveling in the intricacies of scholarly argument. For those who know the relevant primary and secondary sources, it is clear that Harline has done his research: He moves deftly among competing scholarly views and manifests thorough familiarity with the original sources. But he does so without the heavy weight of ponderous footnoting and citation. What he offers here is a winsome introduction to Luther as the movement that would eventually become the Protestant Reformation gets going with him.

But Harline writes in a way that does not assume the ultimate outcome. He writes “in the moment,” taking pains to present Luther as he moved, lurched ...

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