Copyright 2017 - Marion First Friends Church

Christianity Today

  1. Why addiction ministry can include fellowship, the gospel and Narcan.

    The man in front of me is almost dead. His lips are blue. He isn’t breathing. His eyes are half open and still. His arms fall limply off the stretcher, and he doesn’t flinch as needles are threaded into his veins and his clothes are stripped away. His wife is wailing in the doorway.

    His pulse—a barely palpable flutter beneath my fingertips—is the only indication that something might be done. We have only a few seconds to act before the faint, fast rhythm slips away entirely and he is gone. Irreversibly. Irretrievably.

    We secure a syringe to his IV, we push the plunger, and we wait.

    He gasps.

    He coughs, he flails, then screams and kicks. He rips his IV out and tumbles to the floor: wild, naked, and incoherent. He is in agony. But he is alive.

    Resurrected.

    This is Narcan. This is the scene that plays out daily in my emergency department at a community hospital fighting for lives deep in the heart of opiate country. We have only a few tools to combat the overdoses that will take more lives this year than car accidents or guns, and Narcan—the opioid reversal medication also known as Naloxone—is the most effective. A spray up the nose, a shot in the thigh, or a push through an IV and within seconds: a miracle. The dead live. A sin is forgiven. The hopeless receive hope. For a Christian doctor, Narcan looks like grace in a syringe.

    As our country slips deeper into an epidemic that President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Thursday, the debate around Narcan for opioid overdoses has surfaced as a unique pro-life issue. While this medication has the power to prevent the majority of opioid deaths, its efficacy relies on it being administered quickly, within minutes, to an overdose victim....

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  2. Why I follow Jesus publicly, even when people warn that my career will suffer.

    On the small planet where elite chess players dwell, very few people worship Jesus Christ. If anyone discovers that you’re one of those “superstitious,” “narrow-minded idiots,” you’re likely to see nasty comments accumulate on your Facebook fan page. On a regular basis, I receive emails from strangers lecturing me about the dangers of following Jesus. Out of pity or disgust, they wonder how I, the world’s second-ranked chess player, can be so “weak-minded.”

    I have been assured that identifying openly as a Christian will interfere with sponsorship, support, and invitations to events. I have been told that spending time reading my Bible, praying, and going to church will inevitably weaken my performance. People plead with me to at least keep quiet. They say thanking God publicly makes me look ridiculous.

    So why did I make such a risky move?

    Playing it Safe

    The Philippines, where I grew up, is a country of God-seekers. People mention God all the time, in just about every context. Everyone believes he exists, even if they’re unwilling to claim much more than that.

    As a child, I was informed that you needed to be a good person so that God would give you certain blessings, like food and jobs—which are very important in such a poor country. But this confused me, because it seemed like the bad people received more than the good people. I knew of many famous crooks who went to church, wore religious symbols, and got tattoos of Jesus or a crucifix—and they were pretty rich.

    Clearly, many popular beliefs and practices were less a matter of worshiping God than of appeasing the god of luck. One legend had it that if you rubbed a particular part of a particular statue,...

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  3. We’re too quick to ignore one of Paul’s most persistent warnings.

    This is a good year to think about boasting. That’s true for at least three reasons. Trivially, because American public discourse involves an unusual amount of boasting. (We’ll fix health care for good, or crush ISIS, or “make America great again.”) Historically, because this is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which Martin Luther (among others) saw as a call for the church to boast not in works, but solely in the Cross of Christ. Theologically, because the contemporary church hardly ever mentions the concept—even though the apostle Paul mentioned it dozens of times in just a few short letters.

    The problem could be our fairly childish perspective on what counts as “boasting.” To modern ears, it sounds like a six-year-old saying, “My dad is bigger than your dad,” or a professional wrestler’s trash-talk, or perhaps a presidential Twitter feed. So when we hear Paul railing against boasting in anything other than Christ crucified, we might assume it doesn’t apply to us. Boasting? I haven’t done that since “I’m the king of the castle.”

    In the ancient world, however, boasting was not just child’s play; it was deadly serious. You would boast as you went into battle, reassuring yourself that victory was certain. Goliath did it to David: “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (1 Sam. 17:44, ESV throughout). Messengers from enemy nations did it to Jerusalem: One warning mocked “the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine” (Isa. 36:12). This sort of boasting has provided iconic moments in the history...

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  4. The goal isn't merely getting closer to God, but making a difference in everyday life.

    One crisp fall morning, I watched my son’s first-grade soccer team attempt to play soccer. Many of his teammates had not played the game before that season. Even a few weeks in, the young athletes were struggling.

    While watching, I thought back to their practice earlier in the week and found myself intrigued. During practice, they had executed drills without any problems. They had dribbled, taken shots, and even passed the ball to one another. They looked like they could play soccer—but their practice did not translate into the ability to play a real, live game.

    I began to wonder: Why was there such a disconnect between the practice and the game? Were their practices really preparing them to play the game of soccer?

    Then I began to think of our churches and ask similar questions. Like my son’s soccer team, don’t we sometimes experience a disconnect between real life and what we “practice” at church? Are Sunday school classes, small groups, and spiritual disciplines the equivalent of ineffectual soccer drills? Perhaps, even when Sunday school classes are full, small groups well attended, and spiritual disciplines regularly practiced, these practices are not helping us know how to love God and our neighbors in the nitty-gritty of real life.

    Vertical and Horizontal

    These are the kinds of questions Kyle David Bennett asks in Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World. Bennett, a professor of philosophy and director of The Spirituality and Leadership Institute for Young Leaders at Caldwell University, is eager to show believers what it looks like to follow Jesus on the ground. Bennett believes that spiritual disciplines are supposed to help us as we seek to follow Jesus,...

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  5. How the church can come to the aid of sufferers and their loved ones.

    In the era of modern medicine, a great many human afflictions can be treated, if not cured outright. Medicines easily defeat diseases that once would have killed us, while prosthetics and pain-relief drugs help us adapt to disabling symptoms and incurable illnesses. Dementia, unfortunately, remains neither curable nor especially treatable—and it is only getting more common as our population ages.

    Dementia is especially fearsome in a culture like ours, one that treats autonomy as essential to human flourishing. Losing the ability to think and make rational decisions is always a profound loss, but it is especially terrifying for people who value independence so highly. Thankfully, Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by physician John Dunlop is an excellent companion in thinking through the questions that dementia raises.

    The first half of the book covers some basic theological precepts about sin, illness, and the body, as well as medical and scientific details about dementia. Dunlop then describes the daily experience of those who suffer from dementia and the people who care for them. Plenty of books and resources contain this sort of information, but this book remains immensely useful for anyone—pastors, family members, or even people in the early stages of dementia themselves—seeking basic facts about the disease and subjects like in-home care or nursing homes. Having spent many years caring for demented people at every possible stage, Dunlop helps readers step into the non-slip socks of a person with dementia and understand his or her frustrations and sorrows.

    For the rest of the book, Dunlop asks whether we can find any grace in dementia. To do this, he first confronts the assumption that makes people...

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