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C.S. Lewis lecturer Brown to focus on martyred pastor

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This year’s C.S. Lewis Legacy Lecture will focus on the legacy of martyred German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Storyteller the Rev. Larry Brown, of Columbia, will deliver Westminster College’s eighth annual lecture at 11 a.m. Feb. 6. in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. Brown is famous for infiltrating and writing about racist, white nationalist groups throughout the United States. He frequently appears on PBS.

Bonhoeffer famously opposed Adolf Hitler and vehemently protested Nazi treatment of the Jews during World War II.

Brown’s lecture will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s death: He was executed April 9, 1945, at Flossenburg, a Nazi concentration camp in Flossenburg, Germany.

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By Jesse T. Jackson

kobe bryant death

During his 20 year career with the Lakers, Bryant won five NBA Championships and two Olympic gold medals for the United States. He wasn’t perfect on or off the court, but strived to be the best he could be no matter what obstacle was in his way. That drive later became known as the ‘Mamba Mentality.

Kobe Bryant’s Death Makes Us Reflect

When the world loses someone it looks up to, admires, and sometimes emulates, it is hard to accept why God would allow something so tragic to happen to someone so young. At these times it helps to hear from Christian leaders, pastors, musicians, athletes, and others who believe in the mighty savior Jesus, to guide us well into hearing the Holy Spirit during sobering times like this.

May this remind us that the entire world around us longs for someone to worship, but most don’t even realize this until we lose a hero. Brothers and sisters, we have that eternal hope and life we can offer them. We can’t make them take it, but we can tell, express, and plead they know it before it is too late. May we worship our King Jesus in a way that makes others long to worship as well.

Join us in praying for all of the families who were affected by the crash yesterday.

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

~. Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together19

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his classic book, “Life Together”, but most of us know that not everyone in the church will be happy or on board with the direction of the church. Thom Rainer offers wise words below. ~ Bryan

By Thom S. Rainer

In any organization of size, there are likely angry people.

They are unhappy with the organization. They don’t like change. They don’t like the leader.

But here’s the catch: In most organizations, they are a distinct minority. I use the quantifier of ten percent more anecdotally than not, but I would conjecture most organizations, including churches, would have a number close to that.

In churches, I see pastors, again and again, yield to the pressures and criticisms of the ten percent. I get it. I’ve been there and done that. May I suggest some perspectives on this issue? Perspectives are not solutions, but they can help us persevere when the ten percent get really loud.

  • Ten percent can seem like a lot of people. Indeed, if your church has 200 active members, 20 loud critics can seem really loud. Brad Waggoner calls it “the power of negativity.” He says the negative person has a tenfold voice in the organization compared to the neutral and positive people.
  • Realize that the ten percent will take advantage of any forum you give them. They love to speak up in business meetings. They love to be the big voice in listening sessions and surveys. In fact, listening sessions can make the rest of the organization demoralized as the more positive members think the negative people are the norm.
  • The ten percent want you to think there are more of them. They will use phrases like, “Everyone says . . .” or “People are saying . . .” They not only can be negative; they can be downright deceitful.
  • While you want to have open communications, the ten percent will often dominate the rest of the voices in the church. Such is the reason you need to be careful about giving them the platforms and opportunities to spread their negativity.

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“Scripture makes it clear through commands, promises, and examples that the Christian life was never intended to be lived alone. Those who have received are now wired through their new spiritual DNA to live in community. We must have a band of believers to walk alongside us, all pointed in the same direction—toward the Father. Only collectively are we the body of Christ. We need each to help us become like Jesus and consistently model his life.”

~ Randy Frazee, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus128.

Think, Act, Be Like Jesus: Becoming a New Person in Christ   -     By: Randy Frazee

President Donald Trump is often compared to Hitler. And American Evangelical Christians are compared to the German Christians who supported Hitler and saw him as a savior for the nation. Sad to say, it seems that many Christians in America are placing more faith in Trump than Jesus. Leaders come and go, but the worship of Jesus will last forever. As far as Trump’s faith, I don’t know! I am a Trump supporter. Is he a brother in the Lord? I don’t know.

~ Bryan

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Stephen Haynes is the Albert Bruce Curry Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.  He is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer scholar and author of The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship  in the Age of Trump (Eeerdmans, 2018). In this book, Haynes examines “populist” readings of Bonhoeffer, including court evangelical Eric Metaxas’s book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Today Eerdmans has published the postscript to The Battle for Bonhoeffer.  It is titled “An Open Letter to Christians Who Love Bonhoeffer but (Still) Support Trump.  Some of you may recall that Eric Metaxas recently published an op-ed at The Wall Street Journal under the title “The Christian Case for Trump.”

Here is a taste of Haynes’s piece:

Your embrace of Trump is eerily reminiscent of German Christians’ attachment to Hitler in the early 1930s. I make this point not to convince you that Trump is Hitler but to remind you of the troubling ways Christians have compromised themselves in endorsing political movements in which they perceived the hand of God. I developed a scholarly interest in the churches’ role during the Nazi era in part so I could help ensure that Christians would never repeat the mistakes they made under Hitler. Similarly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes in part because he was able to resist the wave of Hitler worship that swept up many German Protestants.

Being familiar with this history, I have been struck by how reminiscent many of your responses to Trump are of the way Christians in Germany embraced a strong leader they were convinced would restore the country’s moral order. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, many Christians in Germany let themselves be persuaded that Hitler was a deeply pious man, placed in power by God through a graceful act of intervention in German history. Hitler encouraged these ideas not by claiming any allegiance to Christ but by employing vague religious language, promising a return to the “good old days,” and posing for photographs as he left church, prayed, and entertained ecclesiastical leaders.

Here are a few examples of how Protestant Christian leaders in Germany spoke about God’s role in Hitler’s accession to power:

• “With National Socialism an epoch in German history has begun that is at least as decisive for the German people, as for example the epoch of Martin Luther.”
• “No one could welcome January 30, 1933 more profoundly or more joyfully than the German Christian leadership.”
• “Adolf Hitler, with his faith in Germany, as the instrument of our God became the framer of German destiny and the liberator of our people from their spiritual misery and division.”
• “[Hitler is] the best man imaginable, a man shaped in a mold made of unity, piety, energy and strength of character.”

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I purchased this copy at the Bethel College Bookstore around 1978.

January 10, 2020

American evangelicalism

“One of the dilemmas that pop American evangelicalism is having,” said Jethani, “is a lot of especially younger people…are looking at the leaders they’ve put on these pedestals, and they’re recognizing they have really rotten fruit…And then what ends up happening is you meet someone from another tradition, whether Christian or otherwise, who holds very different theology, and you go, ‘Oh my goodness. They have more compassion and love and grace and maturity and fruit of the Spirit than I’ve found in my evangelical tradition, so I’m going to jump ship from that one to this one.’”

Deconstructing from American Evangelicalism

It’s helpful to note that people use the term “deconstruction” in different ways. Some, like Joshua Harris, have used the word “deconstruction” to mean leaving Christianity. Another author defines it this way: “Deconstruction is a careful and deliberate examination of one’s beliefs from the inside. It’s about coming to terms with what you believe outside of your inherited beliefs. It’s about growing INTO your faith, not out of it.”

So at its most simple definition, deconstruction is a modern way to describe doubting or questioning. Whether or not it means leaving a belief system entirely seems to depend on the person using it.

American Evangelicalism, the Marketplace and the Medieval Roman Catholic Church

Jethani believes the word “evangelicalism” “has been problematic for a while because it’s become associated with a certain cultural expression of Christianity that is not solely gospel-centered.” In the same way that social media reveals the negativity that has always existed in human nature, evangelicalism has always had what Jethani calls “ungodly undercurrents.” Now, certain events in culture have revealed evangelicalism’s unhealthiness.

According to Jethani, the evangelical church in the U.S. has somewhat ironically fallen into some of the same errors as the medieval Roman Catholic Church. “The abuse of power, the exaltation of leadership, the financial shenanigans that went on, the selling of indulgences,” he said, are all abuses of which we can see parallels today.

One example of what he is talking about is the celebrity pastor. During the Reformation, the Protestant church got rid of the Catholic priesthood and replaced it with the priesthood of all believers. But, said Jethani, “We have completely abandoned the idea of a priesthood of all believers, and so many American evangelicals now live their faith vicariously through their celebrity pastor.” So when a leader like that dramatically fails, as many have, the consequences are devastating.

We can see an unhealthy focus on money and power, says Jethani, because American evangelicalism tends to value pastors for their charisma, influence and giftedness, instead of their spiritual maturity or their strength of character. Jethani said that when he was involved in Christian publishing a little over 10 years ago, an executive once told him, “In today’s Christian publishing environment, Eugene Peterson never gets a publishing contract.” The reason was that, while he might be doing good work as a pastor, Peterson did not have the kind of influence modern evangelicalism values, such as a megachurch or a lot of followers online.

Complicating this problem is the instability that pluralism has introduced to our society. It is healthy to question assumptions and to allow for diverse points of view. But the fewer common, assumed values people in a society have, the more choices they have to make about what they believe and, therefore, the more anxiety this introduces into their lives.

Eventually, people can get to the point where it’s easier to choose fundamentalism (whether on the liberal or conservative extremes) instead of thinking through their doubts and questions well. So some of the problems we’re seeing in evangelicalism simply arise from a desire for stability.

Help When Deconstructing

Jethani was careful to point out that all traditions have their own “unique problems.” Sometimes leaving a tradition is the right choice, but, “It isn’t just like, white American evangelicalism is toxic, and everything else is ok. We just have to diagnose the toxicity in each of these traditions and recognize and disciple accordingly.”

A couple of days ago, I went to the gym and the place was packed with many unfamiliar faces. It happens every year at this time. The gym is filled with new members who have made a New Year’s resolution to either exercise more or to start exercising in the New Year. They possess an eagerness to be healthier and to perhaps transform their bodies. To do so, one must be patient and take things slow. But many will start out too fast and their bodies will pay a price. I have seen over the years a couple of things with the New Year’s Resolutioners:

  1. They often exercise too hard, lift too much weight and run too fast. I witnessed a guy tear a muscle when he attempted a bench press a few years ago during the first week of January.
  2. Most of them will not stay committed. Sadly, by March, many of the new members will rarely be seen.

Physical fitness is achieved through slow and steady exercise. The heavier weights and faster sprints will come over time–but in the beginning, it is best to be slow and steady.

Spiritual growth is like that–slow and steady will lead to spiritual strength and maturity.

~ Bryan

January 2020
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