Subscribe: ChristianityToday.com: Most-Read Articles
http://feeds.christianitytoday.com/christianitytoday/mostreads
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade A rated
Language: English
Tags:
christian  church  continue reading  continue  evangelical  ldquo  lecrae  life  luther  mdash  rdquo  reading  speaking  tongues 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: ChristianityToday.com: Most-Read Articles

Christianity Today Magazine



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



Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2017 04:35:01 PDT

Copyright: Copyright 2017, Christianity Today
 



I Never Became Straight. Perhaps That Was Never God’s Goal.

Why I embraced the Bible's sexual ethic before I understood it.

(image)

This is not a story of being gay and becoming straight.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning. My parents met at a gay nightclub in San Francisco. My mother just wanted a safe place to dance. My father was the security guard. He abandoned my mother and me after abusing both of us physically. I didn’t even know he existed until I was 10, by which time my mother had remarried.

Growing up, I had no bedtime I can remember. I was allowed to watch horror movies at a young age. When it came to sex, nothing was hidden. There were jokes and stories and, when I was 10, I helped my mother clip images from an adult magazine for a bachelorette party.

At 14, I met my first boyfriend. We laughed at each other’s jokes, watched similar shows, and got along easily. But before long he and I broke up, as teenagers do.

A year later, I met my first girlfriend in an AP European history class. She was a senior, beautiful and popular. Since I excelled in the class, she asked me to come over and help her study. When we met at her house, something was different. Conversation flowed easily, rapidly, unexpectedly. I was struck by her beauty. The attraction felt like what other girls described feeling for a boy.

Over the next week, I began wondering, “Is it okay to feel this way about a girl?” I was vaguely familiar with the notion that church folk condemned such things, but as I tried puzzling out why, I came up empty. Little could I imagine ever understanding the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, let alone submitting to it.

The First Kiss

I set myself a goal: Before this girl went to college, she would kiss me. I lied about my sexual history, placed myself strategically in her path, and ...

Continue reading...

(image)



Piper: My Hopeful Response to Lecrae Pulling Away from ‘White Evangelicalism’
Lecrae’s decision has roots. And it has fruit. Editor’s note: CT’s Quick to Listen podcast discussed the significance of Lecrae’s transition with theology professor Carl Ellis. Listen here or on iTunes. My response to Lecrae’s interview with the thoughtful women at Truth’s Table is mainly thankfulness and hope. Why would anyone care about my response? I don’t know that they would. But here’s why they might. This interview, along with the new album he just released (All Things Work Together), gives expression to Lecrae’s loosening his ties with “white evangelicalism.” There are echoes here of the same development recently chronicled about Jemar Tisby and the Reformed African American Network (RAAN). This loosening of these ties, considered by itself, is not the reason I am thankful and hopeful. But the loosening is not by itself. Invitation to Hope Lecrae’s loosening his ties with “white evangelicalism” has roots. And it has fruit. Part of that fruit is my response of thankfulness for Lecrae’s faith (and Jemar’s). As we will see, the roots have been painful. So their enduring faith, and my thanks for it, are not to be assumed. Since I’m the only supposed native of this “white evangelical” tribe that Lecrae mentioned in his interview, I thought it might be helpful to say publicly how I respond to this loosening of ties. I would even hope that others in the tribe might join me in feeling more thankful than frustrated, and more hopeful than disheartened. Roots of the Loosening Roots can be very deep things. For Lecrae the roots that reach back to his mother’s passionate blackness seemed, for a season, to be severed. “When I became a believer I was taught to lay ...Continue reading... [...]



The Significance of Lecrae Leaving White Evangelicalism
Why many align theologically with the movement but feel left out culturally. Several weeks after Lecrae dropped his latest album, the biggest name in Christian hip-hop joined the podcast Truth’s Table. The topic of conversation: the rapper’s musical and personal transformation since his last album, a three-year period during which Lecrae become increasingly vocal in speaking up about racial injustice. (Listen here.) In response to a question about whether he “divorced white evangelicalism,” he said: I spoke out very frequently throughout 2016 in many different ways and it affected me. I went from a show that may have had 3,000 there to 300 but that was the cost. But those 300 people were people who I knew loved Lecrae, the black man, the Christian, all of who Lecrae was, not the caricature that had been drawn up for them. Lecrae’s decision to distance himself from evangelicalism is personally familiar to Carl Ellis Jr., a senior fellow at the African American Leadership Institute and a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, who doesn’t consider himself reflected in the movement. “I cannot identify with much of what evangelicalism identifies with,” Ellis said. “Yes I believe Scripture to be the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God and all of that, but on the other hand, there’s so much baggage that goes along with it.” Like Lecrae, another obstacle for Ellis in connecting with the movement was its lack of emphasis on justice issues. “I was very active in the civil rights movement,” said Ellis, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. “But when I got saved, I somehow got the subliminal message that I had to leave all of that behind. I think Lecrae was picking up on the fact that there’s something wrong here.” ...Continue reading... [...]



Benny Hinn Is My Uncle, but Prosperity Preaching Isn’t for Me

As part of the family empire, I lived a life of luxury. Then doubts began to surface.

(image)

Almost 15 years ago, on a shoreline outside of Athens, Greece, I stood confident in my relationship with the Lord and my ministry trajectory. I was traveling the world on a private Gulfstream jet doing “gospel” ministry and enjoying every luxury money could buy. After a comfortable flight and my favorite meal (lasagna) made by our personal chef, we prepared for a ministry trip by resting at The Grand Resort: Lagonissi. Boasting my very own ocean-view villa, complete with private pool and over 2,000 square feet of living space, I perched on the rocks above the water’s edge and rejoiced in the life I was living. After all, I was serving Jesus Christ and living the abundant life he promised.

Little did I know that this coastline was part of the Aegean Sea—the same body of water the apostle Paul sailed while spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was just one problem: We weren’t preaching the same gospel as Paul.

Lavish Lifestyle

Growing up in the Hinn family empire was like belonging to some hybrid of the royal family and the mafia. Our lifestyle was lavish, our loyalty was enforced, and our version of the gospel was big business. Though Jesus Christ was still a part of our gospel, he was more of a magic genie than the King of Kings. Rubbing him the right way—by giving money and having enough faith—would unlock your spiritual inheritance. God’s goal was not his glory but our gain. His grace was not to set us free from sin but to make us rich. The abundant life he offered wasn’t eternal, it was now. We lived the prosperity gospel.

My father pastored a small church in Vancouver, British Columbia. During my teenage years, he would travel nearly twice a month with my uncle, ...

Continue reading...

(image)



‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ Explores the Painful Origins of Winnie-the-Pooh
Fox’s new A. A. Milne biopic is more Eeyore than Tigger—but maybe that’s a good thing. “Surely this is the happiest young boy on earth,” chirps the narrator of a newsreel. He is speaking of Christopher Robin, the son of A. A. Milne, subject and first recipient of the stories of the Hundred Acre Wood. The newsreel narrator, like the adoring fans of Winnie the Pooh he describes, can perhaps be forgiven for not sensing the horrible cruelty in telling an unhappy child that he ought to be joyful. But then Christopher’s father, who knows all too well that the stories were forged as a desperate attempt to connect to his hurting, lonely child, drives the knife in just a little deeper: “You’re the luckiest boy in the world ...” Bitterness is not that hard to capture in film. Bittersweetness is a more difficult quality to embody. Doing so effectively, however, is one of several difficult things that Goodbye Christopher Robin accomplishes, even if it struggles at times to figure out what and who its story is about. Goodbye opens late in Milne’s life, after he has already written the Pooh books. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), receive a correspondence with some upsetting news. Distraught, he walks through the woods where the stories were born, but they provide no solace. The film then flashes back in time to one of Milne’s more traumatic memories of World War I. The first act of the film revolves around Milne’s brittle condition after his war experience. He wants to write a book against war, and nobody thinks that is a good idea. Daphne sarcastically dismisses her husband’s crusade by saying: “You know what a book against war is like? It’s like a book against Wednesdays.” You may not like wars or Wednesdays, she argues, ...Continue reading... [...]



Whatever Became of Repentance?

How we can change the angry cultural debates online and in church.

(image)

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have posted 95 theses, or “Disputation on the Power of Indulgences,” on the door of All Saints Church. The professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg was proposing an academic debate about indulgences—the practice of doing good works or offering money in order to remove punishment for sin.

Luther was disturbed by how indulgences encouraged people to pay for forgiveness rather than repent. Instead, Luther argued (as the first thesis notes): “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when he said ‘Repent,’ willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.”

That is as hard to swallow today as it was then. We are not the first to notice how absent the theme of repentance is today. Karl Menninger’s 1988 bestseller Whatever Became of Sin? could have easily included a sequel, Whatever Became of Repentance?

It only seems absent, however, because today we are quick to point out the failings, the foolishness, the prejudice, and the evil of others. When a leader or a group transgresses against the reigning political orthodoxy (whatever it might be at the moment), there are angry calls to retract or repudiate what has been said, along with demands for re-education or dismissal. We take some “sins” very seriously and insist the offenders “repent.” We just don’t use those words.

To honor the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we Christians might insist anew that the whole life of the Christian is indeed about repentance. Jesus began his ministry with such a call: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17), and repentance is the key note in the early church’s ...

Continue reading...

(image)



Cover Story: Inside the Popular, Controversial Bethel Church
Some visitors claim to be healed. Others claim to receive direct words from God. Is it 'real'--or dangerous? I have seen a man dance holding a translucent scarf, the fabric billowing around his spinning form like a garment made of stars. I have prayed for strangers’ healing from high-blood pressure and unspecified neurological disorders. I have wept with salt-faced abandon as four women prayed over me; I have walked through a “fire tunnel”; I have seen a woman bob in Hasidic fashion over the Bible app on her smartphone. I experienced all this at the increasingly famous (and, to some, infamous) Bethel Church, and I did so as an evangelical Christian of Reformed persuasion. My parents named me for the Welsh pastor-theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones. My father is a pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Jonathan Edwards is one of my guiding lights, Wheaton College is my alma mater, and I attend a Presbyterian church in Toronto where I have never heard anyone speak or pray in tongues. Yet Bethel has been on my mind since a friend prayed for my healing at a campground in Wisconsin in 2010. She introduced me to the teachings of Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, and gave me a few of his books. As Bethel grows, you might very well hear from a few people in your congregation who have traveled to Redding to find out if Bethel is “real”—and who come back proclaiming that revival is under way. When I set out for Bethel Church—a hub of a global revival movement—I half-expected to discover a rogue organization of hucksters intent on subverting the faith. And I half-expected to discover a community of believers more earnest and devoted to God than anyone I’d ever met. In the end, what I discovered in Redding, California, didn’t fit either narrative neatly. Bethel Church sits ...Continue reading... [...]



Lecrae’s ‘All Things Work Together’ Is a Grace-Filled Mic Drop
On his Columbia Records debut, the rapper answers his evangelical critics while staying close to his true roots. Late last month, Columbia Records released All Things Work Together, the latest offering from Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae. Popular among young evangelicals for putting theologically sound rhymes over catchy and well-composed beats, Lecrae has been working to move toward a more mainstream audience over the past few years. That work paid off when, in 2016, he signed a distribution deal with a major record label, Columbia Records. This is Lecrae’s first album on Columbia, and he makes the most of the new resources a major record label provides: All Things Work Together features slick production and catchy beats crafted by some of the top producers in hip-hop like Metro-Boomin’, Go Grizzly, and Boi-1da. Beyond providing access to some of the top producers in the game, however, Lecrae’s Columbia deal also provided another gift: freedom. It has given him the resources to walk away from the evangelical fanbase that made him a star, only to turn on him in the wake of his outspoken advocacy against police brutality and for racial justice after Ferguson. Lecrae has been around long enough to know that those who “rock the boat need a life raft.” It’s probably no coincidence that Lecrae waited until he was on “prime time” to speak without restraint about racial injustice and the ways the church has been complicit or actively contributed to inequality. There are hints, however, that this so-called “new” Lecrae is in some ways who he always was. In All Things Work Together, Lecrae talks about how his mother revealed to him the bias of his schoolbooks, which led to a different understanding of American history that included the Middle Passage—the route slaves took from Africa ...Continue reading... [...]



A Roman Catholic Appreciation of Justification by Faith
Both traditions can appreciate Luther’s famous dictum as a recovery, not a discovery. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, famously broke with the Roman Catholic Church, primarily over the doctrine of justification. Luther insisted salvation came through sola fide (faith alone), but Catholic leadership disagreed and excommunicated Luther for his views. So, it certainly would have surprised Luther to hear that his name would be mentioned with approval at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Good Friday in 2016. On this day, sacred to all Christians, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, gave the Good Friday sermon to an audience that included the pope, cardinals, bishops, and thousands of the Catholic faithful. He said, There is a danger that people can hear about the righteousness of God but not understand its meaning, so instead of being encouraged, they are frightened. Saint Augustine had already clearly explained its meaning centuries ago: “The ‘righteousness of God’ is that by which we are made righteous, just as ‘the salvation of God’ [see Ps 3:8] means the salvation by which he saves us.”… Luther deserves the credit for bringing this truth back when its meaning had been lost over the centuries, at least in Christian preaching, and it is this above all for which Christianity is indebted to the Reformation, whose fifth centenary occurs next year. [Emphasis mine] The reformer later wrote that when he discovered this, “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” Fr. Cantalamessa went on to quote immediately from Paul: “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, ...Continue reading... [...]



Bible Study Fellowship Rewrites the Rulebook
From denim to downloads, BSF is loosening up and adapting for millennials. Most Monday evenings for the past two years, Naomi Ruth Jackson has ridden her 22-speed bike uphill or caught a bus after work to Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. She meets there with around 450 women for a Bible Study Fellowship class. The 30-year-old is not the lay-focused ministry’s typical participant, having majored in Bible and theology in college. Her own church offers only unstructured Bible study, and her job as a medical records clerk grants her few occasions to re-engage her skills in scriptural interpretation. The class lasts two hours. It starts with a time of worship at 6:40 p.m., rolls into discussion and fellowship in small breakout groups, and ends with a 40-minute lecture. But rather than deterrents, the breadth and commitment to the 30-week program are draws for Jackson. “I think about Scripture a lot, but there isn’t always an opportunity to have an audience or be around people who want to discuss that,” she said. “So for me, personally, it meets that need.” After singing some hymns at a class on the Gospel of John earlier this year, Jackson and about 10 other women filtered into the church’s “cry room” and formed a cozy circle on rocking chairs and a stray pew. A group leader, in her mid-40s, encouraged everyone to share a few words based on questions relating to each chapter of the book. Jackson had a lot on her mind. She was worried about her younger sister, who had been in a car accident. “I was frustrated and angry and praying for her,” she said. “I thought to myself, I need to be an advocate for my sister,” as the group studied John 14 about the Holy Spirit’s role as advocate. “And just as that ...Continue reading... [...]



The Evangelical Case for Wealth Creation
Lausanne and BAM Global respond to Ron Sider. We, as leaders of Lausanne and BAM Global, representing the Wealth Creation Consultation, appreciate Ron Sider’s kind and affirmative words about the Wealth Creation Manifesto. He says that “virtually all that this manifesto says is true and important,” as well as “helpful, and much-needed.” On the other hand, we simply cannot agree with his assertion that it is “woefully one-sided” and “ultimately fails.” It fails, Sider argues, because it “fails to provide the balanced wisdom and guidance so urgently needed.” Now, whether any deed or statement fails or succeeds depends on what it initially sets out to do. What this statement set out to do is to reverse decades of negligence by the evangelical community on this important topic. The great omission has been the role of wealth creation—through business—for the holistic transformation of people and societies, to the greater glory of God. This was the focus of our consultation and its resultant manifesto. Additionally, Sider seems to expect more in a brief manifesto than it can deliver. He wants detailed attention to themes the manifesto only highlighted summarily. These themes are addressed thoroughly in the seven papers, which the manifesto’s authors also have produced. They deal with wealth creation and the poor, justice, creation care, cultural perspectives and more. Our findings will, we hope, help balance the debate that for far too long has been one-sided in favor of wealth distribution and material simplicity. The evangelical focus has centered more on the problems associated with wealth and its production than on its positive benefits and possibilities. Statements abound on its godlessness, ...Continue reading... [...]



A Theology Lesson from Quantum Physics
What beaming a proton to space has to do with salvation. When news broke this summer that Chinese scientists had engineered the successful “teleportation” of a photon over a distance greater than 300 miles, Star Trek fans around the globe rejoiced. It was, however, a belated celebration: Teleportation has been around as a serious theory for 25 years and has been a reality in the lab for 20. On the other hand, one might argue the celebration was premature. If one defines teleportation as the transfer of an object from one place to another without crossing intervening space (what Scotty does when Jim Kirk is in trouble), then what the Chinese performed was not teleportation. The object, a photon, was not transferred, but information about the object—its quantum footprint, so to speak—was. While Star Trek fans might be disappointed, scientists, technology companies, and the intelligence community are thrilled. Because teleportation, or “telephresis” as some scientists prefer to call it, happens instantaneously and without crossing intervening space, it may have the potential of providing hacker-proof communications security and next-generation cryptography. This kind of teleportation is possible because of the strange interaction of subatomic particles, which physicists refer to as “entanglement.” According to Randy Isaac, a solid-state physicist and executive director emeritus of the American Scientific Affiliation, a particle can be entangled with another particle in such a way that their quantum properties, such as position, speed, and spin, are linked. An action performed on the first particle instantaneously affects its partner particle, regardless of the distance between them in space or, as Einstein taught us to say, spacetime. Entanglement ...Continue reading... [...]



Directions: You're Divorced—Can You Remarry?
Q: The New Testament seems to support divorce for a narrow range of reasons, but does it support remarriage?—K.A.Miller, Wheaton, Illinois A: There are three New Testament passages that bear most directly on the subject of divorce and remarriage. I suggest that when they are carefully considered, they prove to be both more demanding and less restrictive on the question of divorce and remarriage than evangelicals have often acknowledged. Luke 16:18 is a very bold, straightforward saying that seems to settle the issue quickly: "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery" (all quotations from the NRSV). Both divorce and remarriage are just plain wrong—right? Almost all New Testament scholars agree that this saying is an abbreviation of a saying of Jesus that appears in its fuller form in Matthew 5:31–32 in the Sermon on the Mount. After discussing his views contrasted with those in Judaism, Jesus remarks, "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." It is noteworthy that Jesus clearly sees some circumstances that legitimize divorce. A marriage continues to be valid until one party dissolves the marriage through unfaithfulness. This so-called exception clause appears here in Matthew 5 and again in Matthew 19 but does not occur in either Mark or Luke. In a similar passage in Mark 10:11–12, Jesus widens the scope of the teaching to show that such dissolution may apply to the behavior ...Continue reading... [...]



The Mainliner Who Made Me More Evangelical
How Frederick Buechner changed the course of Russell Moore's life. Years ago, I found myself sitting at the dinner table of one of my literary heroes, Wendell Berry, on his farm in Henry County, Kentucky. At the end of the evening, Berry made it clear it was time for me to go by saying something along the lines of, “Well, it’s been good to have you.” I couldn’t leave, though, without telling the agrarian novelist and poet how much his writing had meant to me—while attempting to sound like a Christian academic rather than a giddy fanboy. His response was less a thank-you than a benediction. “Isn’t it something, how we get what we need at just the right time?” he said. “The right book comes along at just the right time. The right friend comes along at just the right time. The right conversation comes along at just the right time. It’s grace.” His words left me bursting with gratitude, but not only—or even primarily—for Berry. As I left his farm, I couldn’t help thinking of two authors who came along right when I needed them: C. S. Lewis and Frederick Buechner. Lewis won’t come as a surprise to most of my fellow conservative evangelicals (even though we occasionally disagree with some of his theological positions). Many of us have the same story—of walking through the old man’s wardrobe into mere Christianity and an intellectually defensible Christian theism. But Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner) is a little harder for some in my tribe to get. At first glance, he doesn’t seem like one of us. He came to embrace his Christian calling not at a Billy Graham crusade, but in the Sunday services of New York modernist George Buttrick. Buechner studied for ministry at Union Theological Seminary, haunt ...Continue reading... [...]



Should We All Speak in Tongues?
Some say speaking in tongues is proof of 'baptism in the Holy Spirit.' Are those who haven't spoken in tongues without the Holy Spirit?—Renea Chastain, Phoenix, Arizona One of the most influential and controversial events in the twentieth-century American church was the emergence of the charismatic movement. With its emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, the movement brought elements of Pentecostalism to non-Pentecostal churches. By the early 1960s, Catholics, mainline churches, and many non-Pentecostal evangelicals were experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit through prophecies, divine healings, speaking in tongues, and various physical phenomena. The movement generated much debate about the purpose of these gifts and experiences in the Christian life. Were they legitimate expressions of worship, or just frenzied spiritual emotionalism? Today, evangelicals seem to have made peace with the charismatic movement, embracing many of its practices and agreeing to disagree on others. Indeed, it's not strange these days to find people lifting their hands in the most conservative of evangelical functions. Despite this evolution, many questions remain about the meaning of speaking in tongues. The phenomenon of tongues (or glossolalia) is identified by many as the supernatural utterance of foreign human languages (Acts 2:4,6); others contend that it includes speaking an angelic language (1 Corinthians 13:1) or some other verbal expression requiring interpretation (1 Corinthians 14). For many years, speaking in tongues was seen as the distinguishing characteristic of the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions within the church. Some Pentecostal Christians, in particular, laid heavy emphasis on speaking in tongues as "initial evidence" of baptism in the Spirit. That there was some connection in the scriptural record between baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues is apparent from at least ...Continue reading... [...]