by Joe Carter

November 14, 2015

Islamic State claimed responsibility today for a series of attacks in Paris yesterday that killed 127 people. In a statement the group said the purpose of the killings was, “To teach France, and all nations following its path, that they will remain at the top of Islamic State’s list of targets, and that the smell of death won’t leave their noses as long as they partake in their crusader campaign.”

Here are nine things you should know about this Islamic terrorist group.

1. Islamic State is the current name of an Islamic militant group that was established in Iraq in 2004 and pledged allegiance to “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.” They later broke away from Al-Qaeda because of differences in doctrine and objectives and formed a distinct organization. From late 2006 to mid 2013, the group called itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). From 2013 to mid 2014, when they expanded into Syria, they called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). (Most Western media translate “Levant” as “Syria,” hence ISIS.) Since 2014, they have expanded their ambitions to be a global organization and today simply refer to themselves as “Islamic State.”

2. The stated long-term goal of Islamic State is to establish a “caliphate” to rule over the entire Muslim world, under a single leader and in line with Sharia (Islamic law). A caliphate is a form of Islamic government led by a caliph, a person considered a political and religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.

3. The religious-political ideology of Islamic State is Salafi-jihadism (sometimes referred to simply as “jihadism”), a distinct strand of militant Sunni Islamism. Salafi-jihadist groups like Islamic State emphasize the importance of returning to a “pure” Islam, that of the Salaf, the pious ancestors. Such groups also maintain that violent jihad is a personal religious duty of all Muslim believers. Former Islamic State leader Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi once emphasized the importance of “offensive jihad,” which he defined as “going after the apostate unbelievers by attacking [them] in their home territory, in order to make God’s word most high and until there is no persecution.” (Under their doctrine, “persecution” is understood to mean idolatry.)

4. The most prominent elements of Islamic State’s religious-political doctrine require that: all Muslims must associate exclusively with fellow “true” Muslims and dissociate from anyone not fitting this narrow definition; failure to rule in accordance with God’s law constitutes unbelief; fighting the Islamic State is tantamount to apostasy; all Shi‘a Muslims are apostates deserving of death; and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are traitors against Islam because they compromise with the non-caliphate political process (e.g., democracy).

5. The focus on personal jihad makes Salafi-jihadist groups like Islamic State considerably different than most terrorist groups throughout history. For example, in the 1970s most Marxist and pan-Arabic terrorist groups killed people or committed other acts of terrorism in order to bring attention to their cause. For Salafi-jihadists, though, killing large number of “apostates” is itself a worthy religious objective.

6. Islamic State enshrines a theology of rape that justifies the practice of sexual slavery. Islamic State publishes a glossy propaganda magazine called Dabiq. In the October 2014 issue, IS included an article titled “The Revival Of Slavery Before The Hour,” which explains the justification for sex slavery. In Islamic terminology the “hour” refers to the Day of Judgment, a time of reckoning either for an individual upon death or on mankind. According to the article, Islamic State asked its own sharia scholars to render a verdict on whether the Yazidis (a religious minority group in Iraq) could be enslaved. They determined that “enslavement of the apostate women” was not only justified by the Quran but was a sign prefiguring the Day of Judgment.

7. Islamic State condones the rape of young girls. Last fall the Research and Fatwa Department of the Islamic State (ISIS) released a pamphlet on the topic of female captives and slaves:

Question 13: Is it permissible to have intercourse with a female slave who has not reached puberty?

It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse.

8. Islamic State’s theology of rape also serves as a recruiting tool. As the New York Times has noted, the practice of slavery has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden. Capturing sex slaves has become nearly as important for Islamic State’s objectives as capturing territory.

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IMG_0327Grace. Some say it before meals. Some have it for a name. Grace-ful people have grace in abundance. It’s also theological concept, and that’s where I run into trouble.

When people learn that I’m not a theist, I’m sometimes told in a very knowing way that only theists have a theory of grace. The reason lies in the definition of grace that many use: “God’s unmerited favor, love, or help.”

When it’s put it that way, I suppose there’s no theory of grace for the rest of us. But leaving deity out of it for a moment, I for one receive “unmerited favor, love, and help” every day. Sure, I’m a lucky guy. But not unique. The people, the animals, and the planet around me offer this unmerited favor, love, and help. Right here, in this world.

Grace. Were I to have a heart attack today, there would be people to help. EMTs. Nurses. Doctors. Hospital personnel, from intake specialists to custodians. Many people would even pull over on the highway to let an ambulance go by. Grace. Merited only because I’m be a human being in need. That’s grace for the rest of us.

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer issued a reality check to Sunday Christians with a concept he called cheap grace: “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Repentance. Discipline. Confession. Bonhoeffer had very specific ideas and procedures in mind with these words.

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Source: Thanksgiving

by Justin Taylor

John Piper’s August 2002 paper on “Tolerance, Truth-Telling, Violence, and Law: Principles for How Christians Should Relate to Those of Other Faiths” did not get a great deal of attention at the time (so far as I recall), but it remains just as relevant now as it did in the months following 9/11.

It was originally prompted by the question of how Christians and Muslims should relate to each other. “This question,” Piper explains, “is part of the larger issue of how Christians are called to live in a pluralistic world. More specifically, how shall we as American Christians think and act with regard to freedom of religion in a pluralistic context defined by the ideals of representative democracy? In particular, how shall we bear witness to the supremacy of Christ in a world where powerful cultures and religions do not share the love of freedom or the ideals of democracy?”

I’ve reproduced the principles below.

1. Whether approved or disapproved by others, we should thankfully and joyfully hold firmly to the true biblical understanding of God and the way of salvation he has provided and the life of love and purity and justice Christ has modeled and taught.

(1 Corinthians 15:2; Hebrews 3:6;4:14; 6:18; 10:23; Revelation 2:13, 25; 3:11)

2. Both in the church and the world we should make clear and explicit the whole counsel of God revealed in his inspired word, the Bible—both the parts that non-Christians approve and the parts that they don’t. We should not conceal aspects of our faith in order to avoid criticism or disapproval.

(Matthew 10:27-28; Ephesians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 1:10)

3. It is loving to point out the error and harm of Christ-denying faiths. The harm consists not only in some temporal effects, but especially in the eternal pain caused by refusing the truth of Christ. This warning should be given with earnestness and longing for the good of those who are in danger of the consequences of not trusting Christ.

(Luke 6:31-32; Romans 13:10; 1 Timothy 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:20)

4. We Christians should acknowledge our sin and desperate need of salvation by a crucified and risen Savior, so that we do not posture ourselves as worthy of salvation as if we had superior intellect or wisdom or goodness. We are beggars who have, by grace, found the life-giving bread of truth, forgiveness, and joy. We desire to offer it to all, so that they join us in admiring and enjoying the greatness of Christ forever.

(1 Corinthians 1:26-30; 4:7; 1 Peter 5:6;James 4:8-10; Luke 18:13-14; Matthew 10:8b)

5. We should present Christ not as the triumph of an argument among religions but as the most trustworthy, beautiful, important, and precious person in history, and as our desperately needed and loved substitute in two senses: (1) He absorbed, by his suffering and death, the wrath of God in our place; and (2) he became our righteousness before the all-holy God by living a sinless life which was imputed as righteousness to us when we believed on Jesus.

(1 Corinthians 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 2:6-7; Romans 3:24-26; 5:18-19; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

6. We should make clear that Christian faith, which unites us to Christ and all his saving benefits, is a childlike, self-despairing trust in the worth and work of Christ, not a meritorious work of our own. Our call for others to be Christians is not a call to work for God or to earn his approval by doing deeds of righteousness or love. We are calling for people to renounce all self-reliance and rely entirely on the saving life and death of Jesus Christ.

(Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5;Romans 4:4-5; Romans 10:1-4; Philippians 3:9)

7. We believe it is a just and loving thing to publicly point out the errors of other faiths…

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By Rick Warren

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

People want to know God’s will for their lives, and when people ask about God’s will, they’re typically thinking about what they should do next in a particular area of their lives. Who should I marry? Where should I go to school? Which job should I accept? But these are all “number two’s” when it comes to God’s will. His will is, first and foremost, that we learn to give thanks.

Why is it always God’s will no matter what happens in my life that I am to give thanks, not for my circumstances but in my circumstances?

1. Gratitude honors God.

Gratitude honors God. Anytime you thank anyone you honor them. You need to learn to thank God not just for what he does but who he is.

“God, I thank you that you’re smarter than me… I thank you that your wisdom is greater… I thank you that you know what will make me happy more than I do… I thank you that you’re consistent when I’m inconsistent… I thank you for your love… I thank you for your mercy…” That’s thanking God for who he is, and it honors him to have this kind of attitude of thanks.

Doctors know that gratitude is the healthiest human emotion. The more grateful you are in life, the healthier you’ll be, physically. Every day sit on the side of your bed and think of ten things to thank God for before you get out of bed. It’ll change your attitude. It’ll change your day. The first five minutes of your day sets your mood for the rest of your day. If you start it with gratitude, you’ll be healthier, you’ll be happier; you’ll be closer to God.

God, let me just think of who you are, what you’ve done, how much you’ve done for me. I make a list and think of ten things. Then I think of ten more things. Give thanks. It honors God.

2. Gratitude creates fellowship.

Gratitude always builds deeper relationships between you and other people.

Do you want to rebuild your relationship with a friend, with a parent, with a spouse, with people in your small group? Whoever you want to get closer to, start spending more time expressing gratitude to them. Do you want to build your small group? Don’t just go to small group. During the week text them, email them, call them, write them.

I want to encourage you to be more intentional expressing gratitude to the people in your small group. This week, write some notes, send some text messages, emails. Just tell people how grateful you are. It brings you closer together.

3. Gratitude develops my faith.

Can you thank God when life stinks? That’s the test of whether you’re a shallow Christian or a deep one. Can you thank God even when life stinks? When everything is going wrong? If you’re going through tough times, don’t look at what’s lost. Look at what’s left. No matter how bad things are in my life, there is always, always, the fact that I can be thankful to God just for being God.

God has promised to see me through life’s most difficult situations – to help me out, to strengthen me, to care for me, to do miracles, to answer prayer. He’s always promised that even when things don’t go my way, he can work it out for good in my life. So ultimately, his plan is in action, and it takes a growing faith to recognize that.

4. Gratitude serves others.

Radical gratitude actually serves others. It becomes a ministry. We’re saved to serve others, and you can have a ministry of appreciation.

If you’ve ever bought a car you know the meaning of the word depreciation. The moment you drive it off the lot its worth less than you paid for it. Even if its brand new, if you take it back, it’s worth less. Depreciation means to decrease in value.

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Logos Bible Software

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of history’s most influential Christian martyrs, bequeathed to humanity a legacy of theological depth and influence that continues to inspire people from a variety of backgrounds, from broadly evangelical to confessionally reformed, from protestant to Catholic. The church continues to discover treasures from Bonhoeffer’s life and work. The T&T Clark Studies on Bonhoeffer collection presents some of this significant figure’s most recent gleanings. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906–1945, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen takes a lifetime of scholarship and presents a new standard in Bonhoeffer biography. Because of its definitive nature, comprehensive scope, and incorporation of never-before-available documents, letters, and photos, scholars are already praising it as “the best,” “without peer,” and “one of the most important resources for taking us forward in dialogue with Bonhoeffer.” In Who Am I?: Bonhoeffer’s Theology through His Poetry, Bernd Wannenwetsch and a team of international scholars present Bonheoffer’s prison poems, shedding light on his life and the development of his thought. Tom Greggs, in Theology against Religion, gives an analysis of Bonhoeffer and Barth, two of the most influential figures in modern Christianity, and argues that they had essentially the same trajectory in terms of their theological approaches to religion.

The Logos Bible Software editions of these volumes are designed to streamline and enhance your study and understanding of the life and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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Costly Grace by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like (common) wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut (rate) prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian “conception” of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church, which holds the correct doctrine of grace, has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church, the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. “All for sin could not atone.” The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners “even in the best life” as Luther said. Well, then let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin. That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner, who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin, which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

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Source: An Assault Upon the Flesh

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 4.



11/17/2015 Jennifer LeClaire

    Charlie Sheen's HIV diagnosis announcement presents a golden opportunity for the church.
    Charlie Sheen’s HIV diagnosis announcement presents a golden opportunity for the church. (Reuters)

    Jennifer LeClaire is now sharing her reflections and revelations through Walking in the Spirit. Listen at

    When I was growing up, Charlie Sheen was one of those movie stars—along with Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruz—donning the pages of teenie bopper magazines such as Tiger Beat.

    Today, he made a shocking announcement that may not be so shocking at all given his lascivious lifestyle.

    “I am here to admit that I am in fact HIV positive,” the 50-year-old actor told The Today Show’s Matt Lauer, noting that some people in his inner circle were trying to extort money from him in exchange for hiding the news. “I have to put a stop to this barrage of attacks and sub-truths and very harmful and mercurial stories that are about me that threaten the health of so many others that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

    Charlie told Lauer he was diagnosed about four years ago, which puts the heartbreaking revelation in the 2011 time frame when he was having a public meltdown and was diagnosed as bipolar.

    “It started with what I thought was a series of crushing headaches,” he said, recalling he was drenched in sweat at night and hospitalized. “I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought it was over. After a battery of tests and spinal taps, all that crap, they walked in the room and said, ‘Boom. Here’s what’s going on.’ It’s a hard three letters to absorb. It’s a turning point in one’s life.”

    Charlie’s Porn Star Habits

    Charlie has had plenty of turning points, ups and downs—mostly downs. He rose to fame for movies such as Red DawnPlatoon and Wall Street before starring in the hit comedy series Two and a Half Men. He experienced a very public meltdown in 2011 when producers released him from the show after his third attempt at drug rehab in 12 months failed.

    Once the highest-paid actor on television, Charlie went up in flames. He filed a lawsuit against Two and a Half Men‘s producer Chuck Lorre and Warner Bros. During that season, he told the world he was a warlock with tiger blood and carried “Adonis DNA.” He posted YouTube videos of himself smoking through his nose and declared he was a rock star from Mars.

    Charlie’s personal life was overwhelmed with drama. He accidentally shot his fiancée Kelly Preston in the arm in 1990. She broke off the engagement, and he started dating porn stars such as Ginger Lynn and Heather Hunter before marrying his first wife, Donna Peele, in 1995. Peele divorced him a year later when news emerged that Charlie was a client of Heidi Fleiss, a high-profile escort agency.

    Charlie married actress Denise Richards in 2002 and had two daughters with her before she filed for divorce in 2005 with accusations he made violent threats against her. A custody dispute followed, but Charlie didn’t wait long before marrying Brooke Mueller in 2008 and having twin boys.

    By 2011, we find Charlie living with both porn star Bree Olson and a graphic designer Natalie Kenly, whom he dubbed goddesses. Both women left him that same year and Sheen said he was dating porn star Georgia Jones, a Penthouse magazine Pet of the Month. Most recently, he engaged former porn star Brett Ross in 2014 but they reportedly decided to call it quits.

    A Romans 6:23 Reality

    Charlie’s life demonstrates the reality of the first half of Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” There’s no arguing that he has lived an especially sinful life. He’s sown to the flesh and he is reaping corruption from the flesh, according to Galatians 6:8. We’re seeing the sin principle manifest in his physical body in extreme form. It’s difficult for me to watch.

    But there is redemption available for Charlie. Those who are tempted to say, “He’s getting what he deserves” need to remember that his sins, though more public, are no worse than anyone else’s. Christ paid for them all on when He hung on that tree.

    Indeed, there is another half to Romans 6:23 and Galatians 6:8 that Charlie can pursue. The other half of Romans 6:23 reads, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” and the other half of Galatians 6:23 reads, “But the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

    For the rest of the post…

    December 2015
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