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I am about to finish Ed Stetzer‘s wonderful and timely book, Christians in the Age of OutrageIt addresses how the followers of Jesus should behave in a world that is becoming more and more divisive and angrier. Often Christians are at their worst when confronted by the culture. The opposite should take place. The world, at times, may be at its worst, but Christians need to be at their very best, all the time.

On page 217, Stetzer writes how we must understand that all people bear the image of God. In making this point, he quotes Christopher Wright:

This (seeing others as image-bearers of God) forms the basis of the radical equality of all human beings, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or any form of social. economic, or political status…Christian mission must therefore treat all human beings with dignity, equality and respect. When we look at any other person, we do not see the label…but the image of God. We see someone created by God, addressed by God, accountable to God, loved by God, valued and evaluated by God.

Stetzer added:

The ending of Wright’s statement is particularly powerful because it illustrates why an image Dei-shaped love for the lost world is so winsome: Our Creator’s value for humanity is intensely relational. God engages with us, desires to be reconciled to us, and ultimately hold each of us accountable to himself alone.

We certainly cannot control how people treat us, but by the grace of God, we can respond in a Christ-like manner. We are to love God and love others!

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…

A lot of debate has swirled around the similarity (or dissimilarity) of Christianity and Islam lately. What do people think? |

Christianity and Islam: Evangelicals and Americans Are Not on the Same Page About the "Same God"

Just a few months ago, in October, LifeWay Research published a good amount of data on how Americans, pastors, self-identified evangelicals, and religious service attendees see Christianity and Islam. Today, I wanted to share just a bit of data with you regarding how similar or dissimilar these groups of people see the two most popular monotheistic faiths in the world.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the “Same God?”

In the last week or so, the debate about whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the “same god” has been stirred up due to a controversial situation at Wheaton College, about which I wrote last week. (Full disclosure, I’ve written on several occasions that Muslims and Christians do not pray to the same god and saying so is not helpful.)

Perhaps the reason for the controversy around such “same god” issues is that the country is split, though you would think that country overwhelmingly believes they do worship the same god based on the responses.

But, the nation is actually split down the middle.

Forty-six percent of Americans agree Christians and Muslims pray to the same God, 47% disagree, 8% are not sure.

Of course, we look for statistically different sub-groups of people who believe differently about this issue. Interestingly, they include:

  • Northeasterners (56%) are more likely to Agree than Southerners (40%) and Westerners (44%)
  • Those age 25-34 (56%) are more likely to Agree than those 35-44 (42%), 45-54 (40%), 55-64 (44%), and 65+ (41%)
  • Those age 18-24 (52%) are more likely to Agree than those 45-54 (40%).
  • Nonreligious (56%) are more likely to Agree than Christians (41%).
  • Catholics (52%) are more likely to Agree than Protestants (38%).
  • Self-identified evangelical Protestants are less likely to Agree (35% v 50%).
  • Those attending a religious service at least about once a week (34%) are the least likely to Agree.
Nov 13, 2015

How can we respond in a uniquely Christian way to the horror in Paris? |

We Are All Parisians: A Christian Response to Global Terror and Radical Islam
We are, it is hard to disagree, in what will be a decades long struggle with radical Islamists. Tonight, that stark reality is made clear again as the death toll continues to rise in Paris in what has been, if early reports are accurate, a series of multiple terror attacks. While no group has claimed responsibility thus far, this scenario is all too familiar, and France has previously experienced smaller attacks from radical groups. So while we wait for more details, we are beginning to process what we do know.

Others can opine on geopolitical realities, military strategies, and more. But I’m burdened to ask, how do we respond as Christians?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can and will share some suggestions in this painful time. I believe there are things Christians can and must do to respond to this, and so many other, terrorist attacks.

Pray for France, Pray for Muslims. And pray for those who are our enemies.

First, pray. #PrayforParis. Pray for France, Pray for Muslims. And pray for those who are our enemies. That’s a uniquely Christian thing to do– to pray for all, including our enemies. It’s not easy, but it is our calling.

Second, love the hurting. Though most of us are not in Paris tonight, we know that Christians are there, along with others, loving those who have lost so many. And,even from where we sit, we can love the French and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). It was the French newspaper LeMonde that said in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, “We are all Americans now.” Well, today, we are all Parisians.

Third, love our enemies. Again, that is what makes our faith unique. Most of us are watching this unfold from outside of France, but as the President of the United States said in his remarks, “this is an attack on all of humanity.” When we let that sink in, love isn’t our first natural feeling. But love is what we are called to anyway.

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. –Matthew 5:43-45

But in moments like this, that response can be hard to come by. We have to consider our own tendencies, and be ready to flee from temptation. Fresh memories from 14 years ago come back for Americans tonight, and strong feelings rise to the surface.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just give lip service to what we should be doing. We also have to commit to what we should be resisting. And on a night like this, there are at least three things we should NOT do as Christians.

First, we should not hate. That’s what our human nature wants to do. We feel pain for those on the other side of the ocean. We feel anger toward an evil that we cannot control. We remember what it feels like to live in a nation under attack. And some of us may even worry about people we know who live in France. All these emotions, especially together, can lead our souls to some troubling places. But the truth is, we are people who live with hope and who live with a mission. We cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time. As we pray, we must pray for our own hearts to be protected from hate.

Second, we should not take out anger on refugees.

For the rest of the post…

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