Christ at the Checkpoint in the Age of Trump

As Christian Zionism influences US policy in Israel, Palestinian evangelicals seek greater acceptance from the American church.

Fares Abraham grew up in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour, where tradition says the angels sang “Peace on Earth” to the startled shepherds. But his clearest memory is of his mother shot in the back by an Israeli soldier as she shuffled him and the neighborhood kids into her house during the first intifada (“uprising”).

Now in his mid-30s, the Liberty University graduate created Levant Ministries five years ago to mobilize Arab youth to fulfill the Great Commission.

And when he comes back home, he is at peace with his upbringing.

“When I was young, I asked myself if I should join the resistance or be a bystander,” he said to the 500 attendees—including 150 local Palestinian Christians—gathered in Bethlehem from 24 countries at the fourth biennial Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference in 2016.

“But now I can go up to a checkpoint, look a soldier in the eye, and say, ‘I forgive you and love you in the name of Jesus.’”

Working also with global partners, Abraham believes the younger generations are pro-peace, becoming increasingly pro-justice the more their lives are transformed by the gospel.

It is a message communicated at CATC, though its anti-Christian Zionism is often criticized as being anti-Israel.

“We as Palestinian Christians, victims of the occupation, want the worldwide evangelical church to stand with us,” said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and a conference organizer.

“But after six years, I am hearing less and less of this focus. Before we allowed the political agenda to lead our theology. Now we ask how our gospel theology should drive us within the conflict and politics.”

But that was two years …

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Memorial Day: For What Shall We Live?

Whether we wear a uniform or not, we all have sacrificial service to offer.

Memorial Day likely conjures up memories for all of us. Mine start from when I was too young to know what the day meant. When I was a young boy, it was a family time, a holiday from school or other obligations, and a time for picnics, multi-generational baseball games in an open field, and reunions with seldom-seen relatives.

Over the years I have gained a much greater appreciation for this day and what it means. From my first assignment in Vietnam to my last in Germany, I was continually reminded of the extraordinary sense of commitment and service in the young men and women with whom I was privileged to serve.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

During my last assignment, as 33rd commander of the US Air Forces in Europe, I routinely received invitations to speak at memorial events at one or more of the many cemeteries in Europe where young Americans are interred. I was particularly moved by an event in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe.

The heavy traffic that normally circles that beautiful edifice at a frantic pace had been stopped, and a crowd had gathered to remember and honor French and American men and women who had given their lives in the horrible wars of the 20th century. Many living veterans of those conflicts wore the uniform they had first donned at a much earlier age, and some of them still bore the scars of war. It was humbling to be in their company that day.

For four decades, I was honored to serve with thousands of dedicated young men and women. Some of them would die in service to their country. We were extremely sad at their loss as we comforted their loved ones and each other. They gave their very best, and we were reminded that we must do the same. They died serving something bigger than themselves—the transcendent …

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20 Truths from Faith Among the Faithless

The life the Bible offers is not one that is safe from the tragedies of the world, but one in which God suffers with us and accompanies us through our hardships.

1. Secularism denies real transcendence. It might allow for the possibility of the experience of transcendence, but it must explain it via these material causes: What we call transcendence or religious experience is actually some combination of good hormones and happy neurons in the brain. It has some evolutionary cause— some root in the need to advance and preserve our species that has been written into our DNA. (pg. 13)

2. Secularists can tolerate religion as long as it doesn’t make claims on anyone else’s happiness or welfare— that is, as long as it doesn’t purport to be an all- inclusive picture of the good life. (pg. 14)

3. This is how most of our desires work: Through cultural stories, we’re offered images of the good life: pathways to love, romance, sexual fulfillment, power, money, and happiness. These stories grab hold of our hearts, and they shape what we think we want. (pg. 19, referring to James Smith, You Are Wheat You Love, 11-12)

4. When God’s people face opposition, including the cultural opposition Christians face today from a post- Christian world, the path of least resistance is the path of compromise. It’s a foot in both worlds. I’ll give you an ethical compromise here so long as you let me speak of faith in public. But if history teaches anything, these compromises always end in weakening the church’s prophetic witness. (pg. 39)

5. Rather than an ethnically and culturally bonded community, the church’s bond is to be around the gospel, which creates a new family, one in which people are radically committed to one another’s inclusion and well- being. This new family is to be marked by generosity, diversity, and love. (pg. 42)

6. Just as …

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Interview: Q&A: Jackie Hill Perry on ‘Bending Myself to Jesus’

A rap artist reflects on her latest album and what it means to walk away from the “vultures of culture.”

Jackie Hill Perry describes herself as a “rapper, writer, teacher, and poet.” On May 11, just days before the birth of her second child, she released her newest album, Crescendo (Humble Beast Records), a follow up to The Art of Joy. The 14-track hip-hop record reflects her deep evangelical commitment to sharing the gospel through music.

“My love for God and my experience of him gives me a desire for other people to know and experience that,” says Perry. “I do what Jesus did: I keep preaching. I keep teaching. God usually works in the places that we don’t see, so I’m planting seeds.”

CT spoke with Hill Perry right before her due date to discuss the motivation for her latest musical project, why affection for God is key to her faith, and how she responds to critics who disagree with her views on human sexuality.

How do those four aspects of your identity—rapper, writer, teacher, and poet—work together to define who you are?

Ultimately, all of those four things are forms of communication. They’re extensions of the same thing, since everything I do involves language. Whether it’s poetry, rapping, teaching, or writing, it all comes down to, “How can I use the gift that God has given me as a communicator? How can I use that for his glory?” God has allowed me to understand and communicate things uniquely.

Every time you get on stage, you’re proclaiming the gospel. What drives you, exactly; where does the fire come from?

Affection. I have a great affection for the Lord. I want to know him and love him and experience him and continue to grow in him through the church, through Scripture, and through prayer. I see how satisfactory he is and how good …

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Why So Many Christians Sound the Jewish Shofar in Israel

Huckabee is far from the only Christian Zionist to appropriate the ancient ritual horn.

Mike Huckabee, one of several American Christians in Jerusalem for the opening of the US embassy last week, announced that he planned to commemorate the occasion on live TV with a Hebrew greeting and by blowing a shofar.

The shofar, an obscure instrument made of a ram’s horn and traditionally blown during the Jewish High Holidays, has made its way into evangelical hands in recent decades. Some Christian Zionists, Holy Land pilgrims, and even worshipers at charismatic churches in the United States use the curled horn to call out in celebration and identify with the ancient heritage of their faith.

Crowds of evangelicals at pro-Israel parades, conferences, and worship services turn up with Israeli flags, prayer shawls, and their own shofars. More than a dozen options for the spiraled instrument are for sale at online Christian bookstores.

Sounding the shofar often accompanies the opening prayer or worship set at events held by groups like Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Christian Zionist organization founded by John Hagee (who also attended the embassy opening last week).

Christian use of the shofar has grown in certain traditions over the past 25 years, along with interest in the Holy Land and dispensationalist understanding of the end times. Believers who incorporate the shofar often echo biblical references to sounding a trumpet, such as its use in warfare by Gideon’s army (Judg. 7:15–22) or the battle of Jericho (Josh. 6), as a call for repentance (Is. 58:1, Hos. 8:1), as a way to gather an assembly (Num. 10:3, Joel 2:15), or for other occasions of praise and proclamation (Psalms and Revelation).

For Christians, blowing the shofar “seems to have an eschatological aspect,” said messianic …

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Three Ways to Successfully Navigate Failure in Evangelism

Learning how to navigate through failure is a crucial element of success.

Learning how to navigate through failure is a crucial element of success. We know this to be true in the business world, in ministry, in our family relationships, and in pretty much every arena of our lives.

This same principle is also true about evangelism.

Despite the important role it plays in cultivating success, a conversation about how to navigate failure is typically absent from our training in sharing the gospel. Evangelism training tools often equip us in how to start conversations and initiate new relationships. We also grow in our ability to share our testimonies and communicate the gospel.

While all of these are important components of evangelism, if we do not prepare and equip people to navigate failure well, our efforts to grow in evangelism will likely be short-lived.

So how do we address that gap? How do we equip others to navigate failure well, and how do we learn from failure ourselves? Let me offer three ways to begin navigating failure well in the context of evangelism.

First, allow God to redefine both success and failure.

When it comes to having spiritual conversations with people who don’t yet trust Jesus as their Savior, it is easy to define success as having the great answers for people’s tough questions and clearly communicating the different aspects of the gospel.
While both of those things are good and necessary, it is possible to do them and still miss the point of evangelism. First Corinthians 13:1-3 tells us that without love, even the greatest spiritual gifts don’t ultimately matter. This is also true about evangelism, which is both a spiritual gift and a spiritual discipline. If we have all the right answers and can clearly explain the gospel, but don’t have love, we’re …

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Jesus Showed Up in My Anatomy Lab

What dissecting bodies taught me about the passion story and life after death.

I sigh and look at the remains on the table in front of me: a pile of bones, muscles, ligaments, and organs. They are signs of dissecting, learning, and integrating knowledge. At the end of the semester, the cadaver still looks like a human being, but it takes more effort to see it. The teaching it has provided is finished. It waits to be returned to the body donation program to be cremated. If the family chooses, the remains will be returned to them.

I have for decades traveled this journey: beginning with an untouched cadaver, working through successive dissections to identify the structures making up the body, and then reaching the end. As much as I love this journey, I still wonder what it all means. What is the sum total of these parts? The cadaver seems less and less a human being as we progressively move toward deeper and deeper structures. We lose something along the way. What do we gain?

Ironically, this time in the semester often falls around Easter. For all of the parts of the Passion story that inspire so many people, I find myself thinking most about the burial, the empty tomb, and the first realization that Jesus’ body was gone.

When the students are not here, the anatomy lab is completely quiet. It is just me and the cadavers and the soft background noise of the airflow system in the lab. I wonder about these cadavers and the lives they led before their journey brought them here. I wonder who waits for their remains, and I silently thank them for allowing us to learn a little more from these lives.

In the biblical story, I wonder about the stillness that followed the beatings, the Crucifixion, and Jesus’ death. What was that time like for the women who cared for Jesus’ body? For the disciples? …

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Al Mohler: The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention

Evangelicals, we can no longer say sexual misconduct is just a Roman Catholic problem.

The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.

America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.

At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel.

But the issues are far deeper and wider.

Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries.

We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority.

When people said that evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible—even to me. I have been president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 25 years. I did not see this coming.

I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.

Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation …

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On the Removal of Patterson and Next Steps for the SBC

Hard times require honest conversations.

Three weeks ago, I published a post that called on Paige Patterson to do the right thing for the Southern Baptist Convention and retire.

Between that article, and last night’s events, much has happened.

Beth Moore wrote in response about how she has been treated. Then, a group of SBC women spoke up. A group of men followed.

My Agenda

I’ve not written much more on this, because my focus is not on Paige Patterson; my focus was on the message that was beint sent to women, and what was best for the SBC.

In my article, I wrote, “If Patterson preaches at the SBC, he will, because of his past work, get a standing ovation. Every news story will point to that moment, tie it together with the accusations against Paul Pressler, and say that Southern Baptists don’t take abuse seriously. And it’s not just a public relations crisis. It’s a message to women that we must not send.”

We have not even reached the SBC annual meeting, but since I wrote that article, Paige Patterson’s response has already done incalculable damage. When he stated that he “[had] nothing to apologize for,” the future I feared became the present we watched unfold.

The SBC sent a message to women we did not want to send, showing that for many it was not just a message, but it was reality. The damage has been stunning.

But, thankfully, SBC women spoke up. They said, “Enough.”

Trustees

SBC entities (like Southwestern) are governed by trustees, who volunteer their time for an often thankless job. When people came to me after my article with stories to tell, every time I sent them to the trustees, because that is the process. In recent days, recovering accountability has become more important than ever.

While …

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Fuller Seminary to Leave Pasadena Campus

A challenging new landscape for Christian graduate education forces major moves.

Fuller Theological Seminary announced plans this week to sell its 70-year-old Pasadena, California, campus and move to a new location designed to facilitate its expanded online education offerings in the wake of shifting enrollment.

The decision to leave its main campus for a site in Pomona, California (about 30 miles away), follows downsizing efforts at the country’s largest multidenominational seminary, which last summer announced plans to close three of its eight satellite campuses and to cut degree options at two more.

“In the last few years we have been through meticulous financial excavation, budget scrutiny, and painful cuts as we’ve navigated an increasingly challenging and disrupted higher education landscape,” wrote Fuller president Mark Labberton in a letter released Tuesday.

“Trustees, senior leadership, faculty, staff, students, and friends of Fuller spent months in due diligence and fasting and prayer, convinced that theological education is just as necessary for this new era as ever, but knowing we must take bold risks and have a bold vision in order to transform.”

While the number of full-time students at Fuller’s main and regional locations has dropped, enrollment in online classes rose by 50 percent over four years and began outnumbering all other campuses in fall 2016, provost Joel Green noted last year.

Fuller has watched the popularity of its online classes grow by 16 percent a year. The seminary has already doubled-down on online, hybrid, and nontraditional programs and promises that the upcoming transition will continue to expand options for “traditional degree education, formation experiences, professional certificates, and resources.”

It’s the …

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