Engaging in Dialogue: A Response from a Former Marine, Police Officer, and Pastor on Kaepernick

When one person’s rights are violated, everyone’s rights are in jeopardy.

As I understand it, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem was birthed from a conversation between him and an Army Green Beret member during the time when Kaepernick was sitting in protest of what he viewed as unfair treatment of African Americans by the law enforcement community.

The Green Beret service member approached Kaepernick and they discussed how the service member viewed his act of sitting. Subsequently, Mr. Kaepernick agreed to kneel instead of sit. As I understand it, afterwards, they both left with a healthy respect for one another.

This demonstrates something important. When we choose to engage in dialogue as a means of education and enlightenment in regards to differences in perspective and culture, we can make strides to bridging the gap of understanding.

As a veteran of the Marine Corps, the notion of kneeling during the playing of our National Anthem in silent protest lends to an array of conflicting emotions for me personally. Part of this is simply the fact that during the Anthem, I am in deep reflection.

Having proudly served in the Marine Corps, my conviction concerning the National Anthem is that it’s great! It’s part of the cornerstone of our great nation. The men and women who have diligently served in any capacity of the Armed Forces are unified in their allegiance to protect and defend the United States.

To many, the Anthem signifies both the pride and the sacrifice of those who serve and have served, and those who’ve fought and will fight in defense of our nation. In the same vein and with the same proclivity in the interest of freedoms nationwide, it is vitally important that the rights and liberties that those in our branches of the …

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A Theology Lesson from Quantum Physics

What beaming a proton to space has to do with salvation.

When news broke this summer that Chinese scientists had engineered the successful “teleportation” of a photon over a distance greater than 300 miles, Star Trek fans around the globe rejoiced. It was, however, a belated celebration: Teleportation has been around as a serious theory for 25 years and has been a reality in the lab for 20.

On the other hand, one might argue the celebration was premature. If one defines teleportation as the transfer of an object from one place to another without crossing intervening space (what Scotty does when Jim Kirk is in trouble), then what the Chinese performed was not teleportation. The object, a photon, was not transferred, but information about the object—its quantum footprint, so to speak—was.

While Star Trek fans might be disappointed, scientists, technology companies, and the intelligence community are thrilled. Because teleportation, or “telephresis” as some scientists prefer to call it, happens instantaneously and without crossing intervening space, it may have the potential of providing hacker-proof communications security and next-generation cryptography.

This kind of teleportation is possible because of the strange interaction of subatomic particles, which physicists refer to as “entanglement.” According to Randy Isaac, a solid-state physicist and executive director emeritus of the American Scientific Affiliation, a particle can be entangled with another particle in such a way that their quantum properties, such as position, speed, and spin, are linked. An action performed on the first particle instantaneously affects its partner particle, regardless of the distance between them in space or, as Einstein taught us to say, spacetime.

Entanglement …

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Shalom, Amigos: The Changing Faces of Christian Zionism

How Hispanic evangelicals hope to become Israel’s best friends.

When Tony Suarez lost his wife to cancer last year, the Passover song he learned at his first Seder meal only months before became his anthem.

Just as the Jewish people sing dayenu—“it would have been enough”—about God saving them from the plagues and leading them out of Israel, the Virginia pastor proclaimed that God’s faithfulness was enough, even without the miracle he had prayed for.

“That song meant everything,” said Suarez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). “And we wouldn’t have known it if we hadn’t been in a synagogue.”

Suarez is helping to lead a movement among Latino evangelicals that aspires to change the face of Christian Zionism in America.

For the past few years, the NHCLC’s Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC) has brought Latino churches—some with blue-and-white Israeli flags in their sanctuaries and Hebrew songs in their worship sets—together with pro-Israel and Jewish groups.

The coalition has organized seminars, trips to the Holy Land, and sit-downs with Israeli politicians in order to make Hispanics “the most pro-Israel, pro-Jewish demographic.” With arms extended and flags waving, its members pray with their congregations for the peace of Jerusalem and the well-being of Israel.

In addition to events in places like New York, Florida, and Washington, DC, HILC leaders have also advocated across Latin America against anti-Semitism and for the Jewish state. For example, Orlando pastor Carlos Ortiz has joined advocates for Israel in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Nicaragua reestablished a diplomatic relationship with the Jewish state earlier this year after a seven-year …

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3 Ways Pastors and Church Leaders Undermine Themselves on Social Media

Church leaders need to be in social media spaces

Social media use is pervasive in American culture today. The various social media platforms we use are the 21st century version of the town square—they are modern-day spaces to exchange ideas, learn the news, and more.

Once upon a time, it was trendy to think that social media was a trend—a cultural oddity of the new millennium that would pass as quickly as it burst onto the scene.

Social media is not going away anytime soon, for better or worse. According to Pew Research Center in 2016, about 79% of adults who use the internet use Facebook, 32% use Instagram, and 24% use Twitter. Of the 68% of all Americans who use Facebook, 76% of them use it daily.

Pastors and church leaders need to be in social media spaces. Here are three basic ways I see pastors and church leaders undermine themselves on social media, and some ideas about how to avoid these missteps:

1. Trying to Become Famous

It makes me sad when I see Christian leaders vying for the attention of people on social media when all they really want to do is make themselves look important. All of us can be guilty of this sort of prideful pursuit from time to time, but some pastors and church leaders do nothing on social media but try to make themselves look more influential than they actually are.

The most common way pastors and church leaders try to make themselves look more influential than they actually are is by purchasing Twitter followers or Facebook likes. Rather than spending the time to build a following of people who are interested in their content, they spend money to pad their stats and build hollow “influence.”

The ways in which trying to become famous on social media undermines the leadership of local church leaders are many.

Trying to become …

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John the Baptist and Baptism (Theology for Life)

Hosted by Drs Ed Stetzer and Lynn Cohick

In this episode of Theology for Life, Ed and Lynn talk about John the Baptist and different baptismal traditions. How should we view baptism, and what do we find in Scripture? What’s happening in baptism? And what’s the role of repentance in baptism?

Dr. Lynn Cohick is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.

Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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The California Fires Are Purifying My Priorities

The threat of disaster forces me to reckon with salvation—mine and others.

For a week now, I’ve been tracking live online maps of Northern California. The blue dot representing our house is in the “fire watch” zone. We are not in immediate danger but close enough to know many people who are—and close enough that I’ve been fielding messages all week: “I saw the fires on TV. Are you safe?”

A few weeks ago, I was starting a mental list of potential Christmas luxuries. Now I’m making a list of the most important “grab bag” necessities, which is exposing a much deeper set of priorities.

If we had ten minutes to evacuate, the “essential” list is surprisingly short: our kids. The dog. The folder with our passports, birth certificates, and green cards. Our wallets. Phones and chargers. Maybe our wedding photos. But the rest is replaceable.

The looming threat of fire—or any other disaster—distills down our core values not just in practical ways but also in spiritual ways, too. As thousands face devastating displacement and loss, Jesus’ words to clothe, visit, care for, and feed others in need (Matt. 25:35–36) sound out a clarion call to action. My family and I are thinking deeply over how to donate and give well in this crisis.

But there are other words from Jesus that strike an even deeper chord as I hear story after story of devastation.

In Luke 13, Jesus was asked to comment on a local tragedy: Pilate had killed Galilean Jews and mixed their blood with sacrifices—a horrific, bloody offense. Jesus’ response was stunning. He told them not to draw any conclusions about whether the Galileans were worse sinners simply because they’d suffered. That tragedy and others like it weren’t indicative …

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Chinese House Church Leaders and Toddler Arrested After Singing in Public Park

The Communist country proves that it is serious about its newest religious restrictions.

A Chinese house church pastor, her daughter, and her young grandson have been arrested, weeks after being accused of overstepping the country’s newly tightened religious restrictions.

Chinese officials warned Xu Shizhen in August that publicly sharing her faith puts her in violation of the government policy. It wasn’t her first run-in with authorities; five years before, her previous church was forcibly seized by officials and given to China’s official Three-Self Patriotic Movement church, according to ChinaAid.

After that, she started Zion Church. By singing, dancing, and preaching in the parks and public spaces of Xianning, Hubei province, Xu’s ministry broke the new law, which confines most faith activities to the walls of registered churches.

Last month, Xu, her daughter Xu Yuqing, and her three-year-old grandson Xu Shouwang were arrested; the two women were transferred to other facilities while the boy was held at the station. Christian advocates in China report that their exact whereabouts remain unknown.

Their detention came just two weeks after China toughened up its restrictions on religious activities.

“The new religion regulations are sweeping in scope and, if fully enforced, could mean major changes for China’s unregistered church, not only in its worship and meeting practices, but also engagement in areas such as Christian education, media, and interaction with the global church,” wrote ChinaSource president Brent Fulton.

“Yet the nature of these activities and, indeed, of much religious practice throughout China, makes enforcement extremely problematic.”

It appears enforcement, at least in Xu’s Xianan district of Xianning, is going to be strict. The regulations—which …

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The Most Dangerous Thing Luther Did

And other facts about Bible translation that transformed the world.

At the very beginning of the Reformation, the only Bible available was the Latin Vulgate, the Bible Jerome had produced in Latin in A.D. 380. It included both a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, plus Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, some additions to the Book of Daniel, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

This was not a book the general public was familiar with. It was not a book most individuals or families could own. There were pulpit Bibles usually chained to the pulpit; there were manuscripts of Bibles in monasteries; there were Bibles owned by kings and the socially elite. But the Bible was not a book possessed by many.

Furthermore, the Bible was not in the language of the people. Yes, the well-educated social elite could read Latin, but your average resident of England or France or Germany or Italy or Spain knew only snippets of Latin from the Mass. And indeed, often enough they garbled the snippets they knew. If you want to get a good feel for the poverty of biblical literacy in the general public in this era, read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written between 1387 and 1400 in Middle English. Confusion and misunderstandings of the Bible abound in Chaucer’s stories.

The Latin Vulgate may have been the Bible that gave Luther his revolutionary insights, but Luther quickly realized that if things were really going to change, it would not come just by debating theology with other learned souls. The Bible needed to be made available in the vernacular, in his case, German. In my view, the most dangerous thing Luther ever did was not nail the 95 Theses to a door. It was translating the Bible into ordinary German.

Luther’s ‘Heresy’

By 1522, Luther had translated …

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The Evangelical Case for Wealth Creation

Lausanne and BAM Global respond to Ron Sider.

We, as leaders of Lausanne and BAM Global, representing the Wealth Creation Consultation, appreciate Ron Sider’s kind and affirmative words about the Wealth Creation Manifesto. He says that “virtually all that this manifesto says is true and important,” as well as “helpful, and much-needed.”

On the other hand, we simply cannot agree with his assertion that it is “woefully one-sided” and “ultimately fails.” It fails, Sider argues, because it “fails to provide the balanced wisdom and guidance so urgently needed.”

Now, whether any deed or statement fails or succeeds depends on what it initially sets out to do. What this statement set out to do is to reverse decades of negligence by the evangelical community on this important topic. The great omission has been the role of wealth creation—through business—for the holistic transformation of people and societies, to the greater glory of God. This was the focus of our consultation and its resultant manifesto.

Additionally, Sider seems to expect more in a brief manifesto than it can deliver. He wants detailed attention to themes the manifesto only highlighted summarily. These themes are addressed thoroughly in the seven papers, which the manifesto’s authors also have produced. They deal with wealth creation and the poor, justice, creation care, cultural perspectives and more. Our findings will, we hope, help balance the debate that for far too long has been one-sided in favor of wealth distribution and material simplicity.

The evangelical focus has centered more on the problems associated with wealth and its production than on its positive benefits and possibilities. Statements abound on its godlessness, …

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20 Truths from “God’s Country”

Reclaiming God’s kingdom vision for the rural church

God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church

For many, rural brings a positive, sentimental vision of the untouched countryside populated by good-hearted people with a little dirt under their fingernails. Or maybe, in the other vision of rural, they’re local yokels who say crick when they mean creek and have a strange fondness for old pickup trucks and chewing tobacco. This all adds up to an easy dismissiveness of rural people and places. (11)

This book is about reclaiming God’s kingdom vision for the rural church. It’s about learning to praise, abide, watch, pray, grow, work the edges, die, befriend, and dream. Each of these disciplines is rooted in the biblical narrative and Christ’s enduring commitment to the rural church. (13)

In the end, rural and urban are human realities, and any distinctive of rural or urban mind-sets and lifestyle will always be limited by that fact. Regardless of what the country mouse and the city mouse might think of each other, in fundamental ways, the country soul is the city soul. We’re talking about people, and people have the same hurts and hungers wherever they happen to live. (23)

It turns out that rural identity can’t be chalked up to addresses. It can’t be measured solely by statistics. Rural identity has more to do with how rural people experience the world. What this means is that rural identity is more of a worldview, more like a culture—a distinct way of framing and knowing the world. (24)

All of this is to say that rural identity is complex and diverse. Rural is a kind of spiritual and psychological landscape populated by a relationship to the city, nearness of neighbors, agriculture, and a history of marginality …

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