Even during the most hectic periods of his life, he never abandoned his recreational breaks.

~ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Portrait (1970), xviii.

I like that!

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was able to work with concentration. He did whatever work had to be done without hesitation. Yet this ability was accompanied by a willingness to be interrupted, and even a craving for company when playing music. He loved chess, bridge, and guessing games, and demanded the same competiveness of his fellow players, but he always gave his opponents the benefit of the doubt. 

~ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Portrait (1970), xviii.

The apostle Paul in I Corinthians 9:27 mentions his concern that he “Should not be disqualified.” There are things leaders can do that would disqualify them and cause them to lose the ministry God has entrusted to them. We need to be “Watchful” as Peter exhorts us in I Peter 5:8.

Eric Geiger shares five ways that can happen!

Originally posted by Eric Geiger

It is deeply tragic when ministry leaders lose their ministry, when sin sidelines them for a season. Not only is it painful for the leader, but also it is painful for the people who have been impacted and influenced through their leadership. Because sin is always crouching at the door and because Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking to devour, we shouldn’t be surprised when great leaders implode. We should grieve, pray, and love, but we shouldn’t think ourselves better. In fact, here are five ways to lose our own ministries:

1.  Believe in yourself.

If you want to lose your ministry, believe in yourself. When someone stumbles, struggles, or falls and you think, “That will never happen to me,” you are placing your confidence in the wrong place. If you believe in your ability to stand strong, you are standing on shaky ground. Believing in yourself is a clear indication of pride that leads to destruction. If David, who penned many of the psalms, could crumble—any of us can. If Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, could end his ministry importing idols, surely we are susceptible to idolatry in our lives. If Peter, whom God used to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, could foolishly reject Gentile believers, then surely our lives can drift from our doctrine.

2.  Isolate yourself.

If you want to lose your ministry, isolate yourself. After all, “no one understands you or knows the pressure you face.” We should remember that before King David committed adultery and murder, he isolated himself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself,” and a leader can be alone in the midst of others if the leader is not seeking or receiving counsel and correction from wise leaders. If you only surround yourself with people who validate everything you think, you’re actually isolated with merely the impression of community.

3.  Place “the ministry” above your family.

If you want to lose your ministry, neglect your family. The most important gathering is the one that meets at your house. The most important group in your ministry is the one under your own roof. If you place “the ministry” above your family, your family will be hardened to the ministry and you won’t set a good and godly example. According to Jonathan Edwards, “Every Christian family ought to be a little church.” He stated:

For the rest of the post…

by

Bonhoeffer picDietrich Bonhoeffer is a modern day hero among evangelical Christians. Killed by the Nazis in 1945 for resisting the regime, Bonhoeffer’s fame among evangelicals increased after the publication of Eric Metaxas’ acclaimed biography of the Lutheran pastor. For many Christians who feel compelled to take a stand on principle, Bonhoeffer has become an inspiration and guiding light. On that point, perhaps the most repeated and celebrated quote attributed to Bonhoeffer is

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

These are bold words and together they have helped strengthen the conclusion of many persuasive appeals. Though they are powerful, they are not from Bonhoeffer. According to my research and the Bonhoeffer scholars I consulted, these sentences can’t be found in any of his writings or speeches.

This may come as a shock to countless (really, I stopped counting) Twitter and Facebook users who have posted a picture of Bonhoeffer with that quote attributed to him. The quote is on many lists of essential Bonhoeffer quotes (e.g., see Relevant Magazine’s list). Many politicians and authors have used it to make their many points.

I became interested in the quote while researching this May 22, 2016 tweet from Eric Metaxas:

As Bonhoeffer said “Not to cast a vote for the two majors IS to cast a vote for one of them.” – Ethics, pp. 265-6

Although it wasn’t obvious to me at first, this was a joke based on “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Metaxas posted this in response to a Twitter user who described people who plan not to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

At the time, his Twitter followers didn’t get the joke. Here are some of their tweets in response: “sounds like Bonhoeffer made a boo boo,” “Mr Bonhoeffer was right about many things but still a mere mortal!” and “Sorry, but I think the great Bonhoeffer whiffed on this one.” I couldn’t find anyone who questioned the authenticity of the modified quote.

For the rest of the post..

Usain Bolt Reveals How God Blessed Him With Speed To Spread The Word Of Jesus Christ

Mainstream media tries to force the secular agenda on us during the Olympics, but Usain Bolt is one of the Christian competitors taking a stand for Jesus Christ in the most inspiring way.

Labeled as the “The Fastest Man Alive,” Jamaican runner Usain Bolt is the superstar of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Bolt won the hearts of every American at the 2012 Summer Olympics when he paused in mid-interview to honor the U.S. national anthem as it was being played. Bolt politely interrupted the reporter interviewing him and stood at attention, reminding the world what a class act looks like.

The Olympic legend is an inspiration to millions around the world, but it’s what mainstream media is hiding about Usain Bolt that’s touching hearts even more.

Jamaican Usain Bolt prays after winning the men's 4x100-meter relay final at the Olympic Stadium in London on Aug. 11, 2012. Jamaica team set a new world record of 36.84 seconds. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Usain Bolt is known for his extraordinary speed and joyous facial expressions while competing, and you don’t have to look too hard to discover where that joy comes from: Bolt is outspoken about his faith in Jesus Christ.

When I learned how mainstream media was hiding Usain Bolt’s devout Christian faith, I knew the world deserved to know the TRUTH about the fastest man alive.

For the rest of the post…

Imagine getting this newsletter from one of your overseas workers. The newsletter says this:

Our brother, whom we love, has been arrested in Egypt and is in prison. Family whom he loved and trusted sold him into slavery and betrayed him to the authorities. We know that he has remained faithful to God, and has refused to pay bribes that would help him escape from prison. Because of his faith, he has been transferred to the dreaded central prison with the rest of the nation’s worst enemies.

How would we respond as the church? What actions would we take? Typically, the Western church would rush in to rescue Joseph. It’s a good impulse.

  • We would write and forward emails.
  • We would flood social media with appeals.
  • We would contact our political representatives.
  • We would highlight Joseph’s plight on radio and television.

The goal of our activity would be the release of Joseph from his unjust imprisonment. And we would feel justified in almost any action — perhaps even military intervention — to have Joseph set free.

The High Cost of Extraction

And maybe Joseph would be released. Followers and friends of Jesus would rejoice! We would thank God that our Joseph has been saved from prison. And we would even be satisfied that one of the conditions of his release would include Joseph’s relocation to another country where he would be safe because he’s no longer a thorn in the nation’s side.

Imagine then, years later, that a great famine hits Egypt and the surrounding countries. Because of his rescue, Joseph is not in prison when Pharaoh has strange dreams. Joseph is not there to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams concerning seven years of plenty followed by seven years of terrible drought. As a result of Joseph’s absence, Egypt squanders the food harvested in the seven good years. As a result of Joseph’s absence, Egypt is completely unprepared for seven years of famine.

The famine is so devastating, in fact, that Egypt does not survive.

And because Egypt does not survive . . . the Jews in Egypt do not survive, either.

And that is the end of the story.

A Better Plan for Freedom

Of course, the real story ends differently. Evidently, God knows when to leave Joseph in prison. God has a larger agenda in mind. God knows exactly what is necessary for the salvation of both Egyptians and Jews.

Do we?

Do our churches, our sending agencies, and our organizations that study persecution know when to leave Joseph in Egypt? Despite our affection for Joseph, do we understand that ultimately Joseph belongs to God, and that God can do with him whatever he desires? Is it possible for us to become emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually strong enough to know when to leave “our Joseph” with God in a seemingly dangerous place?

Advance or Extract?

Believers in persecution had much to teach my wife and me as we traveled among them for more than fifteen years. We listened to their stories. We learned that when Western workers become personally and emotionally connected to believers in persecution, extraction of these believers often becomes the main objective. In almost every case, we are desperate to get Joseph out of the hostile place, and away from persecution.

The apparent explanation for this is more than anecdotal, and less than statistical. It appears that Western workers who become emotionally attached to believers in persecution will attempt to extract about fifty percent of those believers to a safe country. This observation seems to apply to situations of persecution all around the world. In the Islamic world, the frequency of extraction seems even higher, approaching seventy percent. Imagine trying to start a church, even in the Bible Belt of America, if seventy percent of the believers were pulled out and taken to another country.

For God, conquering through persecution, rather than extracting from persecution, is the norm. The Western church typically takes the opposite approach. For us, extraction is the norm. Rescuing believers from persecution feels good. Significant funds can be raised to extract a family from persecution and resettle them in a safe country.

But if we gave as much energy and attention to spreading the gospel in hostile places as we have to extracting persecuted believers from them, the Great Commission may have already been finished by now.

The End of Extraction

Why is our view so different than God’s view? Here are some possible answers to that question:

  1. We don’t want fellow believers to suffer for Jesus in ways we are unwilling to or can’t relate to.
  2. We can’t imagine that prolonged suffering might be part of God’s plan.
  3. We do not truly believe that Jesus is worth suffering for.

And because those truths drive our actions and attitudes, we replace a biblical theology of suffering with something less challenging. As a result,

  1. We demand that persecution of followers of Jesus stop.
  2. We demand that those persecuting followers of Jesus be punished.
  3. We strive to install Western forms of democracy, human rights, and civil rights in foreign lands, believing these will usher in the kingdom of God. (Though, much to our surprise, there is no historical correlation between these Western forms and the kingdom of God!)
  4. We make emotional appeals to raise huge sums of money to rescue more believers from persecution.

What is outcome of all of our seemingly good efforts? Critical masses of believers are removed from the environments where God has planted them.

In some places, the birth of the church is halted; in other places, the multiplication of the body of Christ is hindered. New followers of Jesus (perhaps people from Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Communist backgrounds) come to believe that living in a safe, Christian country is necessary in order to live for Christ.

After long days of interviewing, we often asked followers of Jesus in persecution what they learned from Western workers. They typically looked at one another and refused to respond.

When we pressed them for an answer, they would reply, “Western workers teach us to be afraid. Western workers teach us that it’s possible to follow Jesus only in safe places.”

This is not simply a mistake. This is sin.

Not My Will, but Yours, Be Done

Before Jesus was betrayed, he prayed a prayer made up of two parts (Matthew 26:39). First, he asked his Father for the cup to pass. He prayed for the suffering to be relieved. He asked if there was a way to avoid the crucifixion. He wanted to avoid the pain and public humiliation. But then, he prayed something else. He asked that the will of the Father take precedent over his desire to avoid suffering.

Following Jesus’s example, we must pray both parts of his prayer. It’s only natural to pray for suffering to be avoided — for ourselves or for others. But it is then essential to pray that God’s will to be done, whatever the cost to us.

For the rest of the post…

Why Christians Need to Stop Endorsing ALL Candidates

For many, this election year has already been one of the most difficult to bear in recent history. But the significant question is why it has been so difficult. It is a question of considerable theological and pastoral consequence, so Christian leaders need to be able to speak to this.

The reason most people would give for their frustration thus far usually has something to do with either disbelief that Donald Trump is actually the Republican nominee, or anything from distrust to disgust regarding all things Hillary Clinton. For these folks, though, there is probably another candidate that they would like to have as president, and the election of this candidate would leave them at least somewhat satisfied.

This has led a large number of voters to simply settle for whatever they judge to be the less disliked candidate of the two. Presumably, this would explain why a surprising number of evangelical Christians seem to still be willing to back Trump. The biggest frustration for me as a Christian, however, has come not so much with evangelicals who support Trump, but more so with the way that Christians everywhere seem to be so caught up in the business of endorsing and evaluating candidates in general — because “this election is different,” or because “stopping Trump (or Hillary) is so important.”

Whatever the justification, I believe Christians are taking these candidates much too seriously. The mistake we make is that we are meeting them on their own terms rather than our own. Let me explain.

The Failure of Christian Witness through both Endorsement and Denouncement

Yes, Wayne Grudem’s moral argument in favor of voting for Trump is bewildering, and Eric Metaxas’s defense of Trump is even more troubling. The latter should confirm, if there was ever any doubt, that Metaxas is no authority on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

But what about the many Christians who are making the case for Hillary? The Rev. Dr. William Barber gave what was maybe the most powerful speech (sermon?) at the Democratic National Convention this year. And yet, he was still endorsing Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, Rachel Held Evans, for example — a good writer and a voice I appreciate — she too has called for support of Clinton. She even described her as an “extremely qualified but unpopular” candidate. Evans is well aware that there are problems with voting for Hillary Clinton. Nonetheless, I find this tacit approval of Clinton’s political record cringe-worthy, for reasons I will outline in “part 2” of this post. (Evans’ post was mainly about abortion, actually, and how she believes Clinton is in fact the better candidate for pro-life voters like herself to support).

What these examples reveal, I think, is that the political theology of most Christians continues to be such that public advocacy for as well as denouncement of a major party candidate of a global super power is seen as both faithful and necessary. This has nothing to do with being progressive or conservative. And I include denouncement because, insofar as it remains a speech act on the same plane as an endorsement, the level of discourse isn’t changed by it. It just tries to move in the opposite direction.

It reminds me of how, when asked why he would not support reform within the German state church, Bonhoeffer replied, “If a train is on the wrong track, it does no good to get on board and run the other way.” Not that the United States and Germany are equal by comparison, but I believe the analogy stands. (And keep in mind that Bonhoeffer went on to get his hands dirty and made the ultimate sacrifice for his plot against Hitler).

The point is this: There is nothing inherently Christian about supporting or denouncing either of the candidates this year or any candidate in U.S. politics. Yet ostensibly Christian endorsements and denouncements persist on both sides.

A Web of Systemic Sin

It’s important to stress, therefore, that as Christians, we do not necessarily object to the endorsement of a candidate like Hillary Clinton because we think she is so terrible, or because we think Christians absolutely mustn’t vote for her. Whether she is immoral, dishonest or beholden to the status quo is somewhat irrelevant. The president is still limited by an imperfect web of systemic sin and moral gridlock, even if he or she is the most influential person in that web. It’s what Reinhold Niebuhr called the dilemma of Moral Man and Immoral Society. This will continue regardless of who is elected. And so actually, I agree with Evans that Clinton is indeed very “qualified” — qualified to lead the web of systemic sin that is the U.S. government.

To be clear, this is not to say that as Christians we shouldn’t vote. But I’m also not saying that we must! The point is, there’s a difference between voting for a candidate, one the one hand—perhaps reluctantly—and using one’s Christian platform to fervently ask people to vote for him or her, on the other hand. The latter betrays the emptiness of a Christendom political imagination. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about mainline liberals or evangelicals. Both have this problem.

For the rest of the post…

I suppose you’ve noticed all the gallows humor going on regarding the presidential election. And for good reason.

John Stonestreet

So, have you heard this one? Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are stranded at sea on a life boat. Who survives? Ha! America does!

Ok, now that I’ve offended everyone: What a bizarre election year this has been. As my BreakPoint this Week co-host Ed Stetzer has said quite a few times, “When political historians look back on the early 21st century, the phrase we’ll hear the most is, ‘except for 2016’.”

Now, despite the dire warnings from both candidates about the consequences of electing their opponent, the most important thing about this election is not who becomes president. The most important thing about this election is what it reveals about us as a society.

Nearly 40 years ago, in a famous speech at Harvard University, the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen.”

Talk about prophetic!

Folks, I might as well just say it: I am convinced that this election is an indication that God is judging America.

Now claiming to know God’s mind both for what and with what He is bringing judgment is theologically indefensible and only makes us look silly. (You may recall a few notable Christians who stuck their foot in their mouths after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina). And yet, as Stephen Keillor argued in his book “God’s Judgments,” it is also theologically indefensible to not acknowledge God’s working in history, including through acts of judgment.

And in this case, I am ready to say, God is judging our country. Why? As my colleague Roberto Rivera often says, “The five scariest words in the Bible are, ‘…and God gave them over’.”

The most common way God judges is with the natural consequences of our choices and behavior. This is especially true in politics, which is mostly downstream from – and a reflection of – the broader culture. In other words, especially in our country, we tend to get the leaders we deserve. Which is why this November we should cast our vote with fear, trembling, weeping, praying for mercy, and maybe even while wearing sackcloth and ashes.

Whenever I think of stepping into the voting booth on November 8, I somewhat melodramatically think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas letter:  “One may ask,” he wrote, “whether there have ever before in human history been people  . . . to whom every available alternative seemed equally intolerable, repugnant, and futile…”daily_commentary_08_09_16

Look, I realize that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have found a level of clarity about the upcoming presidential vote that I have not–perhaps out of resignation or from some political calculations. Perhaps I will too, but until then, I hope there are some things on which we Christians can agree.

First, our deepest problems aren’t political ones, and the state is not able to address them. Looking to the state for hope is always misguided, but every four years we seem to fall for it.

Second, although the presidential race is the only one being talked about, the most important political decisions we will make this year, I’m convinced, will be the local ones. The only thing to mitigate the chaos created by an ever-encroaching federal government convinced of its own indispensability is a stronger local, civil society.

Third, as Eric said recently on BreakPoint, the Church must be the Church. Look, the Church is not reliant one bit on the state to do the life-giving, Gospel-proclaiming, brokenness-restoring work God has called it to do. The Church is the most effective institution of social change, period.

For the rest of the post…

Hilliary Clinton Is an Enemy of Religious Liberty, Bonhoeffer Author says…

Eric Metaxas (Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)

Eric Metaxas speaking at the In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit, Washington, D.C, Sept. 11, 2014.

Bestselling author Eric Metaxas has responded to Hillary Clinton’s recent claim that she has worked for years to defend religious liberty by saying that if ever there was an enemy to religious liberty, the former Secretary of State would be it.

Metaxas, who authored a number of books including one on the “forgotten promise of American liberty” and one on prominent religious freedom advocate Dietrich Bonhoeffer, appeared on Fox News Thursday to comment on the Democratic presidential nominee’s recent op-ed in a Mormon-operated newspaper in which she claimed that she is the best candidate for religious freedom voters in the 2016 election.

“I’ve been fighting to defend religious freedom for years,” Clinton wrote for the Utah-based Deseret News this week. “As secretary of state, I made it a cornerstone of our foreign policy to protect the rights of religious minorities around the world — from Coptic Christians in Egypt to Buddhists in Tibet.”

Clinton went on to suggest that Donald Trump — who has previously called for a ban on Muslim immigration — would “undo centuries of American tradition and values.”

In response to Clinton’s claim that she is more prepared to defend religious liberties, Metaxas proclaimed that Clinton’s assertion is nothing more than a “cynical joke.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/eric-metaxas-hillary-clinton-career-goal-work-against-christians-enemy-religious-liberty-167878/#im5uRmlorSDwXHco.99

They (the Bonhoeffer family) had a very strong sense of what was proper; they also had the quality, often ascribed to the British, of treating daily routines of life very seriously, whereas the really disturbing matters, where all was at stake, were treated as if they were quite ordinary. The stronger the emotions, the more necessary it was to dress them in insignificant words and gestures.

~ Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Revised Edition); Portrait (1970), xviii.

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