Monthly Archives: January 2017

Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins • ChurchLeaders.com

Homosexuality is not the only sin mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s not the only sin mentioned, but it is different from all the rest, at least right now.

At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.

To be sure, the masses increasingly make no bones about sin in general. Innumerable people are idolaters, not to mention those who are sexually immoral, or who commit adultery, or who steal and are greedy and get wasted and revile neighbors and swindle others.

It happens all the time. And each of these unrepentant sins are the same in the sense of God’s judgment.

They all deserve his wrath. And we’re constantly reminded that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Concerning Popular Opinion

But as far as I know, none of those sins are applauded so aggressively by whole groups of people who advocate for their normalcy.

Sexual immorality is no longer the tip of the spear for the progressive push. Adultery is still frowned upon by many. Accusations of greed will still smear a candidate’s political campaign.

Thievery is still not openly embraced, and there are no official initiatives saying it’s OK to go steal things that don’t belong to you. There’s no such thing as a drunk agenda yet.

Most aren’t proud to choose a beverage over stability, and there aren’t any petitions that the government should abolish the driving restrictions of inebriated individuals. Reviling others still isn’t seen as the best way to win friends and influence people. Swindling, especially on a corporate level, usually gets someone thrown into jail. In fact, the infrastructure of the American economy depends upon, in some measure, our shared disdain for conniving scammers.

Perhaps excepting fornication, these sins are still seen in a pretty negative light.

But not homosexual practice, not by those who are now speaking loudest and holding positions of prominence.

According to the emerging consensus, homosexuality is different.

What to Be Against

As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God.

And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake.

This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians—or conservative evangelicals—are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be.

Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery—one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means—that Christians will speak out against it.

The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against.

And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.

Some would like to see this whole issue of homosexuality divided into two camps: those who celebrate it and those who hate it. Both of these groups exist in our society.

There are the growing numbers, under great societal pressure, who praise homosexuality. We might call them the left.

And there are people who hate homosexuality, with the most bigoted rationale and apart from any Christian concern. We might call them the right.

Those Glorious Words

The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support.

But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say.

Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure.

We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong,” and, “I love you.”

We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved.

We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross—the same words that God spoke to us—“You’re wrong, and you’re loved.”

God tells us we’re wrong, that the wages of sin is death, that unrepentant rebellion means judgment, that our rescue required the cursed death of his Son (Romans 3:23; John 3:36; Galatians 3:13).

And God tells us we’re loved, that even while we were sinners, Jesus died for us, that while we were unrighteous, Jesus suffered in our place, that though we were destined for wrath, Jesus welcomes us into glory (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:1–7).

You’re wrong and you’re loved—that’s the unique voice of the Christian. That’s what we say, speaking from our own experience.

As Tim Keller so well puts it, “We’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.”

That’s our message in this debate, when society’s elites despise us, when pop songs vilify us, when no one else has the resources to say anything outside of two extremes, we have this incomparable opportunity to let the gospel shine, to reach out in grace: You’re wrong and you’re loved. We get to say this.

That’s why homosexuality is not like other sins.

Source: Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins • ChurchLeaders.com

America’s Abortion Rate Hits All-Time Low | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com

America's Abortion Rate Hits All-Time LowGuttmacher Institute

The abortion rate in the United States declined to an all-time low, while the number of lethal procedures dropped below a million for the first time since 1975, according to a new report.

The Guttmacher Institute reported Tuesday (Jan. 17) the rate fell to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women 15 to 44 years old in 2014, which is a decline of 14 percent since its most recent survey in 2011.

In its census of all known abortion providers in the country, Guttmacher found abortions totaled 958,700 in 2013 and 926,190 in 2014.

The abortion rate reached its zenith at 29.3 in 1980 and 1981, and the total number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million in 1990, according to Guttmacher.

Guttmacher Institute

Pro-life advocates welcomed the report, and pointed to the work of pro-life citizens and legislators as a reason for the dramatic decline in abortions and their rate.

“The falling abortion number is due to the ceaseless advocacy and ministry of the pro-life community in neighborhoods all around this country,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “The pro-life movement advances by calling out to consciences with the truth of what unborn human life is and matching that call with real ministry to women in crisis.

“While a lower rate is undoubtedly good news, the violent taking of the life of even one unborn child ought to cause us to weep and redouble our efforts to protect every human life and contend against the predatory abortion industry,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.

Americans United for Life (AUL), the country’s leader in helping state legislators pass pro-life laws, cited such policies, as well as technology, in explaining the trend.

“Research has shown that life-affirming laws do have an impact on lowering the number of abortions, and with all the life-affirming laws passed since 2010, we have a reason to celebrate the number of lives saved and women protected as legislators worked to defend them from a predatory and rarely accountable abortion industry,” AUL Acting President Clark Forsythe said in a written statement.

“But another factor in lower[ing] the number of abortions is the power of beautiful pictures of life inside the womb, through ultrasound,” he said. “Such pictures are worth more than a thousand words when it comes to helping people understand whose lives are on the line.”

In 2016, 43 states considered more than 360 abortion-related measures, according to AUL’s annual report released Jan 10. The bills introduced included such measures as bans on government funding of abortion, restrictions on late-term abortions, ultrasound requirements, and prohibitions on abortions based on sex, race, or genetic abnormality.

The Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with the abortion rights movement, suggested the improved use of contraceptives attributed to the falling rate and total. But it also acknowledged state regulations and the declining number of abortion clinics may have contributed.

“Abortion restrictions and clinic closures mean that patients may need to travel greater distances to access services,” said Rachel Jones, lead author of the study, in a written release. “The majority of abortion patients—75%—are poor or low-income, and nearly two-thirds are already parents. It can be very difficult for them to arrange for time off from work, transportation and child care. While many find ways to access care despite these obstacles, some of the abortion rate decline is likely attributable to women who were prevented from accessing needed services.”

The good news for pro-lifers came only five days before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, decision that legalized abortion nationwide—and the observance of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the Southern Baptist Convention calendar.

It also arrived shortly before the second annual Evangelicals for Life conference Jan 26-28 in Washington, D.C. The conference—cohosted by the ERLC and Focus on the Family—features more than 50 speakers addressing not only abortion but such issues as adoption, end-of-life care, ministry to those with special needs, human trafficking, service to immigrants and refugees, and the development of a pro-life worldview. Conference attendees will be able to participate in the Jan. 27 March for Life.

The Guttmacher report also included the following information:

  • Nearly half—45 percent—of all abortions in the first nine weeks of gestation were performed using pills, and the percentage of such nonhospital abortions increased from 24 percent in 2011 to 31 percent in 2014.
  • The abortion rate declined between 2011 and 2014 in all but six states and the District of Columbia.
  • Ninety percent of all U.S. counties in 2014 contained no abortion clinic.
  • Five states—Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming—had only one abortion clinic apiece in 2014.
  • The number of abortion clinics fell by 17 percent from 2011 to 2014.
  • Abortion clinics made up 16 percent of all abortion facilities in 2014 but provided 59 percent of all abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute acknowledged its report has limitations. For instance, it reported only 58 percent of facilities it believes provided abortions in 2014 responded to the survey. Guttmacher used state health department information for 20 percent of facilities and made estimates on another 17 percent.

While the Guttmacher report is based partly on estimates, it covers all 50 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also reported a decline in abortions in its December announcement, does not require states to provide information on abortions. Three states—California, Maryland and New Hampshire—did not provide data to the CDC.

Forsythe said the country needs “a more complete picture of the impact of abortion on women, through verifiable tracking.”

In its annual report, AUL named these as the 10 best states for protecting life in 2016: (1) Oklahoma; (2) Kansas; (3) Louisiana; (4) Arkansas; (5) Arizona; (6) South Dakota; (7) Mississippi; (8) Georgia; (9) Michigan; (10) Pennsylvania.

The 10 least protective states were: (1) Washington, for the eighth straight year; (2) California; (3) Vermont; (4) New Jersey; (5) Oregon; (6) Nevada; (7) New York; (8) Connecticut; (9) Massachusetts; (10) Hawaii.

The ERLC has offered six pro-life priorities for action by President-elect Trump and Congress in 2017, including the nomination and confirmation of a pro-life successor to the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a permanent ban on all federal funding of abortion and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.

Source: America’s Abortion Rate Hits All-Time Low | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com

How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently

When it comes to spiritual formation and discipleship, African American Christians are in it together.

Black believers are more likely to position their growth in Christ in the context of community and fellowship, while white Christians take a more individualized approach, according to a study released this week from Barna Research.

The survey found that twice as many black Christians as whites were currently being mentored or discipled by a fellow believer (38% vs. 19%). Over a quarter of black Christians also served as mentors themselves, compared to 17 percent of white Christians.

The prevalence of such relationships relates to traditional models of leadership and lineage in African American churches. In an interview with CT about his book Reviving the Black Church, pastor Thabiti Anyabwile described how “most of our pastors were in some kind of apprenticeship in preparation for the ministry. They would sit under another pastor or have a ‘spiritual father’ who would pour himself into them.”

Black Christians also preferred group-based discipleship to one-on-one (32% vs. 22%), while white Christians favored being discipled on their own (39% vs. 31%), according to Barna. They are four times more likely than white Christians to list study groups as “very important” to their spiritual development.

Barna Group

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, a mentoring coach and author of Mentor for Life, numbers among the churchgoing African Americans who see group mentoring as essential.

“In a mentoring small group, your learning is going to be enhanced because you’re not just hearing the philosophy of one person; rather you are drawing near to God by sharing in the diverse experiences of the group,” she wrote. “When we mentor people and intentionally make disciples in this way, we also create safe places for people to learn and grow, to love and be loved well.”

Barna researchers pointed out that fellowship was a particularly strong component of mentorship for African Americans. “There are plenty of similarities in how both groups define the primary goals of discipleship,” the report stated, “but black Christian leaders are more likely to say ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship (85% compared to 71%).”

The group mindset among African Americans also stems from church history and current racial tensions. Black churches and denominations formed when their members were excluded from white fellowship. Given that Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation on Sunday morning segregation mostly still holds true, believers continue to view these congregations as “a necessary place of refuge and resistance” in the aftermath of racially motivated violence and systemic injustice, CT columnist Christena Cleveland wrote.

About a third of black Christians and more than a quarter of white Christians say getting through tough times motivates them to pursue spiritual growth.

Barna

These realities add significance to fellowship found in churches and small groups. While white Christians are more likely to label their spiritual lives as “entirely private,” African Americans see their spiritual lives as intertwined with the social and political situations they face. Almost half of black Christians (46%) believe their spiritual lives impact society at large, compared to 27 percent of white Christians.

“There’s something powerful about being together. It reminds me of a Henri Nouwen quote about the ministry of presence that suggests we underestimate just what being together means,” said Cleveland, discussing a retreat held for Christian women of color last year. “Often we want to preach eloquent sermons or produce some sort of amazing artistic expression to touch people’s hearts, and that’s great … but a lot of it is laughing and knowing that we’re not alone.”

Source: How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently

Man Escapes Fiery Car Crash When He Calls on the Name of the Lord

Bridges and Williams reunite for the first time after the car wreck.

Bridges and Williams reunite for the first time after the car wreck.

Join us on our podcast each weekday for an interesting story, well told, from Charisma News. Listen at charismapodcastnetwork.com. Michael Bridges was trapped in the fiery prison of his car. As flames licked closer, Bridges said the only thing he could think of: Jesus. “Usually when you’re hurt, you call your momma, like if you fall out of a tree or off your bike, but this time I called for Jesus Christ,” Bridges said. “I said ‘God, don’t let me die like this,’ and when I said that, this guy opened the door to the truck.” Meet Jason Williams, the man on the other side of the door. The truck driver saw Bridges’ truck blow a tire, catch on fire and careen across traffic and into the grass. “I stood there for a minute screaming ‘Is anybody in there?’ and I didn’t hear nothing, and then I heard, ‘Jesus, get me out of here,’ and that’s when I climbed up there and opened the door and helped him out or whatever happened up there. A miracle happened up there,” Williams said. According to Landmine magazine, Williams arrived at the vehicle to hear Bridges scream for help. As Williams attempted to extricate Bridges by the arms, the fire was too hot. Williams lost his grip as Bridges’ nearly melted skin slid away from Williams. Williams’ tenacity kicked in. He grabbed Bridges in a giant bear hug and successfully pulled the man to safety. “We got up and walked away from that. If that’s not God, then I don’t know what is,” Bridges said. The entire scene took place last year, but Bridges and Williams have now been reunited. Watch the video to see their emotional reunion.

Source: Man Escapes Fiery Car Crash When He Calls on the Name of the Lord — Charisma News