Copyright 2017 - Marion First Friends Church

Christianity Today

  1. “A Christmas Sermon for Pagans” is quintessential Lewis at the height of his renown. “Cricketer’s Progress” is more of a mystery.

    Would you imagine that, with all of the cataloging technologies we have working around the clock, one could still discover unknown articles by a very well-known author? While doing research for my PhD, I discovered two such articles by C. S. Lewis. Although published in the 1940s, these articles have been overlooked ever since and don’t appear in the many lists of his works. The thrill of discovery has brought home a few points (of encouragement) in a time when it sometimes seems as though all the stones have been overturned.

    In 2013, I was spending my days pouring over old journals and forgotten newspapers from the early 20th century. I wanted to understand just why Lewis had become a household name in Britain during the height of the Second World War for his Christian writings, and why, in the decades since, it has been Americans, rather than the British, who have continued to relish Lewis’s defenses of Christian doctrine.

    On one particular, ordinary day, I made my way to the National Library of Scotland in the Edinburgh rain. I stored my dripping coat in a locker and settled myself among the industrious scholars. It was chilly underneath the fluorescent lights. Someone’s phone was chiming intermittently, disrupting the quiet and concentration. After a while, my back ached from hunching over the delicate pieces of paper spread across the table in front of me. I rose to stretch my legs and consult yet another index of British periodicals in the reference section. This small exertion set my blood moving a little freer through my veins. I took down an unfamiliar volume from a nearby shelf, an index to The Strand Magazine. From what was by then a reflex, I flipped to “Lewis, C. S.” To my surprise,...

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  2. Ligonier Ministries founder was a category 5 hurricane of declaration, persuasion, and instruction.

    It is singularly appropriate that R. C. Sproul would go home to be with the Lord in 2017, the year in which we are remembering Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg 500 years ago. Many thousands of people were introduced to the teaching ministry of R. C. Sproul through his book and teaching series “The Holiness of God.”

    I first listened to it on audio cassette tapes (which dates me), in which he tells the story of Luther at the Diet of Worms. The chapter and lecture are called “The Insanity of Luther.” It is classic R. C. You can listen to it on the Ligonier Ministries website, and you should if you have the chance.

    No figure in our generation has done more than R. C. to defend, proclaim, and expound Luther’s insights into the Bible’s teaching on justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I have met young people on every continent who readily confess their indebtedness to R. C. Sproul (though they have never met him or heard him in person), through the various media of Ligonier Ministries, books, articles, magazines, audio, video, app, and conferences. He is responsible for introducing a generation to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the glory of the Gospel of justification by faith, salvation by grace, in Christ alone.

    I started reading and listening to R. C. as a teenager. My father, a businessman and elder at our local church, served on a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) denominational study committee with him in the 1980s. Dad was somewhat in awe of him after that experience.

    My brother John later worked with him very closely as executive producer at Ligonier Ministries for a number of years. My...

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  3. Overtures by US evangelicals to Arab churches tested by Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

    American evangelicals rediscovered their brethren in the Middle East in recent years. The promise of the Arab Spring, followed by the threat of ISIS. Beheadings and other martyrdoms, followed by forgiveness.

    Many decided we must become better friends, and work harder for the persecuted church’s flourishing in the land of its birth.

    However, President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is putting that new friendship to the test, as Middle East Christian leaders have almost unanimously rallied against the decision.

    Trump’s decision would “increase hatred, conflict, violence and suffering,” said the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem in a statement in advance of his anticipated announcement.

    The Coptic Orthodox Church warned of “dangerous consequences.” The head of Egypt’s Protestant community said it was “against justice” and “not helpful.”

    But the strongest testimony may have come from Jordan, where the national evangelical council pleaded against “uncalculated risks” that “may well expose Christians in this region to uncontrollable dangers.”

    Despite these dire cries, many conservative US evangelicals rejoiced in Trump’s announcement. Support for Israel is a longstanding mark of much of the community.

    “Evangelicals in the US don’t spend enough time thinking about Arab Christians,” said Joel Rosenberg, a dual US-Israeli citizen who last month led a friendship-seeking delegation of evangelical leaders to Egypt and Jordan. Many were members of Trump’s unofficial faith advisory team.

    “People who love Jesus haven’t been talking to each other. But we should.”...

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  4. Working with other believers on common issues

    I consider myself an Evangelical ecumenist. Big ‘E’ for Evangelical, little ‘e’ for ecumenist, because I don’t follow the classic approach to ecumenism.

    To put it another way, I don’t believe in searching for the lowest common theological denominator in a general statement like “Jesus is Lord.” Actually, Jesus is much more than that. For example, he is “the Son of God,” “the One born of a virgin,” he suffered, died, was buried, and rose again, ascended into heaven, and is coming to judge the living and dead. He is the head of the church, which has pastor/elders and deacons, calls people into covenant membership, and baptizes believers.

    That’s too specific for many big ‘E’ Ecumenists.

    But I am more of an ecumenist than are many Evangelicals. I’ve spoken at the national meetings of 50 different denominations and I train pastors, evangelists, lay leaders, professionals, and church planters from all different denominations.

    Some don’t like my ecumenism. I was actually accused by one leader in my denomination of being an “Evangelical Ecumenist.” He explained I was “the most dangerous person” in the denomination because I was, well, an Evangelical ecumenist.

    I like that.

    I mean, the part about being dangerous.

    Because that’s the kind of danger that Jesus calls us to— acting like the body of Christ.

    When Together Is Better

    What my ecumenism means is that I avoid saying that all Christians are the same and believe the same— and I believe they can still have the gospel. Yet, I work with others (even more broadly) on common issues, such as the sanctity of life and issues of justice.

    What do the Anglican...

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  5. (UPDATED) Trump promise to let churches make political endorsements blocked by Senate rule.

    President Donald Trump’s biggest religious freedom policy promise to evangelicals—repealing the Johnson Amendment—will no longer take place via Republican tax reform.

    A Democratic senator announced Thursday night that the repeal included in the House version of the tax bill, which would allow churches and other nonprofits to endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status, was removed during the reconciliation process with the Senate version, which did not include a repeal.

    According to Senator Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, the Johnson Amendment repeal was blocked by the Senate parliamentarian. Because of a requirement called the Byrd Rule, reconciliation bills—which are passed through a simple Senate majority—cannot contain “extraneous” provisions that don’t primarily deal with fiscal policy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

    Trump made political speech by churches a major part of his president platform, and since taking office has repeatedly brought up his pledge to “totally destroy” the 1954 tax code provision named for Lyndon B. Johnson. Trump saw the Johnson Amendment as a restriction on religious groups’ free speech rights, since it prevents any nonprofit from opposing or endorsing a political candidate—therefore keeping political contributions from becoming tax-deductible.

    Democrats have opposed the measure, and Wyden said he was pleased they prevented the repeal and would “continue to fight all attempts to eliminate this critical provision.”

    Republican Senator James Lankford, a Southern Baptist and religious liberty advocate, criticized the move to block the measure.

    “The federal government...

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