THE PERSECUTED CHURCH: The American Center for Law and Justice seems to have the most up-to-date information on the status of Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian pastor who could be executed as early today for apostasy from Islam. Please keep Pastor Nadarkhani and his family in your prayers.
POPE BENEDICT XVI ON LUTHER AND PENTECOSTALISM: “Meeting with the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany.” On Luther:
“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make a deep impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. And insofar as people believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. The question no longer troubles us. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – Luther’s burning question must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too, not an academic question, but a real one. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.
The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon – that bishops from all over the world are constantly telling me about – poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.
The Pope’s comment on Pentecostalism is harsh, but I think he’s certainly pegged Pentecostal weaknesses: “little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.”
UNETHICAL CHURCH BEHAVIOR: “Church Drops Mortgage for Expansion.”
Facing a dramatic decline in its property values, The Church at South Las Vegas stopped paying its mortgage in May and filed for Chapter 11 protection in July after its lender filed suit. The church owes approximately $7.6 million on property now worth only $2.4 million.
Pastor Benny Perez told media that the default was a strategic move in order to preserve member donations—totaling almost $650,000 according to court filings—given to expand church facilities. The church has the money to make its monthly payments (it has about $1 million in reserve funds) but believes it is bad stewardship to have tithes keep going into a “black hole.”
“People give to vision,” Perez told CBS 8 News. “They don’t give to debt.”
But others doubt the wisdom of a church taking such action.
Count me among the doubters. Jesus said, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’: anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). I’m pretty sure that applies to mortgage obligations, especially when you have the money to pay them, and despite the decline in property values.
HOW NOT TO RESOLVE A CONFLICT: “The Methodist Billboard War Over Homosexuality.”
Homosexuality has, for better or worse, become ground zero in theological fights over sex and the Bible’s authority.
GOD AND GOVERNMENT: “10 questions worth asking about a candidate’s faith.” From a professor at an Assemblies of God university, no less!
OH, THE HORA! THE HORA! “Rick Perry dances with the rabbis.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
ONE CERTAINLY HOPES SO: “Can You Take the ‘Southern’ out of the Southern Baptist?”
However rooted the SBC is in the South, its heritage and influence have always been broader, and that is best illustrated today in the SBC’s International Mission Board, which has almost 5000 missionaries serving around the world, and which reported 360,000 baptisms in its international churches in 2010. Along with believer’s baptism, missions work and evangelism have always been key priorities of the SBC, and that has made it impossible for Southern Baptists to remain exclusively southern.
NOT FUNNY: “Perdue jokes about suspending Congressional elections for two years.” Related, Obama’s former budget director argues, “we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” Have you ever noticed that politicos’ like or dislike of democracy tends to track with whether they’re getting their way?
NEWS YOU CAN USE: “Why Churches Don’t Grow.”
- The pastor lacks priority for evangelism, vision, and/or knowledge
- The church members have no priority for reaching the lost, have a self-serving attitude, and/or fear that new people will destroy their fellowship
- Perceived irrelevance
- Using the wrong methods
- No plan for assimilation
SUNLIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT: “Congress to Investigate Planned Parenthood.” Related, “Promised Objectivity: Americans Receive Planned Parenthood Ideology.”
FROM MY MAGAZINE: “Carrying Guns on Church Property” by Richard R. Hammar.