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Here is my endorsement for an important new book:

controversy of the ages cabalIf I had the power to require every Christian parent, pastor, and professor to read two books on creation and evolution—ideally alongside their mature children, parishioners, and students—it would be 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution (by Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker) along with the book you are now holding in your hands, Controversy of the Ages: Why Christians Should Not Divide Over the Age of the Earth.

Neither book intends to answer all of the questions definitively, but together they are like maps for Christians in the complex and confusing intersection of the Bible and science.

We cannot bury our head in the sand, or outsource study of these issues to others. Ted Cabal and Peter Rasor help us sort through the issues and the options, modeling for us how to use proportion and perspective in our rhetoric and strategies of disagreement within the body of Christ.

We live in perplexing days, but clear and clarifying books like this are a tremendous gift to the church. If the arguments and tone of this book are taken to heart, we will all be sharper, wiser, and kinder. I pray it is widely read.

Kenneth Keathley, co-author of the other go-to book I mentioned above, had this to say about the Cabal/Rasor book:

When people ask for a good book to read about the age of the earth, I have a new favorite to recommend: Cabal and Rasor’s Controversy of the Ages. With remarkable clarity, this book provides historical and theological context to the young-earth/old-earth controversy. But Cabal and Rasor move beyond mere description and prescribe the way to move forward—the Galileo approach. This is an important book, and it needs to be read by pastors, college and seminary students, and all who care about science and faith issues.

Here are the rest of the endorsements for this book:

“The time is long past when we have needed a very careful, thoroughly documented analysis and response to the claims of young earth creationists. But with this book, I am delighted to say that that time has come. I am very enthusiastic about the scholarship, careful treatment and irenic tone of this book and highly recommend it.”

J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology

“In addition to a well-informed history of evangelical moves for relating Genesis to geology and then to Darwinism, the authors have given us much more. They have provided trenchant evaluation of the argumentative strategies―theological, scientific, and philosophical. They show that of the various groups known to us today―the young earth creationists, the (non-Darwinian) old earth creationists, and the evolutionary creationists―none can be exempted from critique, and none deserves the place of exclusive privilege. This book deserves a wide readership, for it is informative, fair, and incisive. I rejoice that God spared Dr. Cabal from a terminal cancer to help write this!

C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

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by Timothy George

Editors’ note: Come celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with us at our 2017 National Conference, April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis. The theme is “No Other Gospel: Reformation 500 and Beyond.” Timothy George will be speaking on “Reformation Before the Reformers” and “Early Reformers: Why Didn’t They Unite?” in workshops. Space is filling up fast, so register soon. The following article originally appeared in First Things.

The preaching of the gospel as a sacramental event is at the heart of Reformation theology. Preaching is also at the heart of Reformation faith—preaching as an indispensable means of grace and a sure sign of the true church. Where is the church? According to Article VII of the Augsburg Confession (1530), the church is that place where the Word is purely preached and the sacraments are duly administered. The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) went even further when it declared that “the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

Of course, preaching—unlike the printing press—was not a new invention of the Reformation era. Far from it. Think of Augustine and Chrysostom in the early church, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Hus, and the many mendicant friars who fanned out across Europe in the Middle Ages.

St. Francis preached the gospel to a Muslim sultan, and Savonarola declared God’s judgment on the sinful leaders of Florence. Bernardino of Siena, the great Franciscan herald, preached to throngs in the 15th century, calling on his listeners to repent, confess their sins, and go to Mass. The Protestant reformers knew this tradition and built on it, but they also transformed it in two important respects.

Central Act of Worship

First, they made the sermon the centerpiece of the church’s regular worship. Prior to the Reformation, the sermon was mostly an ad hoc event reserved for special occasions or seasons of the liturgical cycle, especially Christmas and Eastertide. Most sermons were preached in town squares or open fields. The reformers brought the sermon back inside the church and gave it an honored place in the public worship of the gathered community. The central role of preaching in Protestant worship can be seen in the way pulpits were raised to a higher elevation as families gathered with their children to hear the Word proclaimed.

Second, the reformers introduced a new theology of preaching. They were concerned that the Bible take deep root in the lives of the people. The Word of God was meant not only to be read, studied, translated, memorized, and meditated on; it was also to be embodied in the life and worship of the church. What might be called the practicing of the Bible—its embodiment—was most clearly expressed in the ministry of preaching. Martin Luther believed that a call to the preaching office was a sacred trust and shouldn’t be used for selfish purposes. “Christ did not establish the ministry of proclamation to provide us with money, property, popularity, honor, or friendship,” he said.

Luther

Preachers should be wary of listeners who are too complimentary, for flattery can have a sinister outcome. Puffed-up preachers are likely to think, This you have done; this is your work; you are a first-rate man, the real master. Such conceit is not even worth throwing to the dogs, Luther said. Faithful preachers should teach only God’s Word and seek only his praise. “Likewise, the hearers should also say: ‘I do not believe in my pastor, but he tells me of another Lord whose name is Christ; him he shows me.’”

Zwingli

Preaching was no less important in the Reformed tradition. When one visits the Great Minster Church in Zurich today, the following inscription can be read over the portal: “The Reformation of Huldrych Zwingli began here on January 1, 1519.” That date, no less than October 31, 1517, can answer the question, “When did the Reformation begin?”

For on that first day of January, which happened to be Zwingli’s birthday, the new pastor began his pulpit ministry by announcing his intention to dispense with the prescribed texts of the traditional lectionary. He would follow a new paradigm: preaching expositional sermons, chapter by chapter, starting with the Gospel of Matthew. After completing Matthew, Zwingli resumed the same lectio continua method by taking up Acts, then the letters to Timothy, Galatians, 1 and 2 Peter, Hebrews, the Gospel of John, and the other Pauline letters. He then turned to the Old Testament, beginning with the Psalms, then the Pentateuch and the historical books.

Bullinger

Heinrich Bullinger, who succeeded Zwingli as the Reformation leader in Zurich, reported “a rush of all sorts of people, in particular the common man, to these evangelical sermons of Zwingli’s, in which he praised God the Father, and taught all people to place their trust in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as the single Savior.” One of those common people who rushed to hear Zwingli in the 1520s was a young student named Thomas Platter. He tells of hearing a sermon by Zwingli that was “expounded so powerfully that I felt as if someone was pulling me up by my hair.”

Calvin

From the pulpit of St. Pierre in Geneva, John Calvin followed the preaching pattern established by Zwingli. His pulpit work was marked by sequential, text-driven preaching. In the course of his ministry at Geneva, Calvin delivered more than 4,000 sermons, and many have survived for us to study.

What was the secret of Calvin’s preaching? Hughes Oliphant Old gave this answer:

Calvin drew out of the Scriptures aspects of Christian teaching which the church had not heard for centuries. This was above all the case for the doctrine of grace. The promise of salvation was presented to all who would believe it. Calvin preached justification by faith, as all the reformers did. More than some, perhaps, he also preached sanctification by faith. The lives of those who believed the Word of God would be transformed by that Word. Holiness was the fruit of faith. To believe the Word was to live by the Word, and that life lived according to the Word of God was blessed, both in this world and in the world to come.

Three Marks of Reformation Preaching

In an important essay published in Theology Today in 1961, Heiko A. Oberman set forth the distinctive marks of Reformation preaching in terms of three interrelated aspects.

1. The sermon is an apocalyptic event.

Not quite in the sense of Savonarola’s preaching of impending doom to the people of Florence, but in the sense that the sermon unveils and makes present the last judgment here and now. Without demythologizing Christ’s future coming, gospel preaching existentializes the final will of God for every hearer by calling for a decisive response here and now. “In the sermon,” Oberman observed, “Christ and the Devil are revealed, Creator and creature, love and wrath, essence and existence, ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’”

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Frederick-Douglass

Since Frederick Douglass is in the news these days—with President Trump calling him “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice”—I thought I’d share a haunting paragraph from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, written in 1845, sixteen years before the Civil War began.

It is a beautiful expression of the horrific hypocrisy of some antebellum churches:

I . . . hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land. . . . I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. . . .

I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.

We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members.

The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . .

The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master.

Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.

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by 

 Last year the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a committee of experts to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature regarding the health effects of marijuana use. The committee considered more than 10,700 studies for their relevance and arrived at nearly 100 different research conclusions related to marijuana (cannabis) or cannabinoid use and health. Their findings were recenty published in a 400-page report.

Here are nine things about the effects of marijuana you should know based on this report:

1. The terms marijuana and cannabis refer to all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., including the seeds, the resin extracted from any part of such plan, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin. The compounds that cause intoxication and may have medicinal uses are cannabinoids, a class of chemical compounds that acts on cannabinoid receptors in cells that represses neurotransmitter release in the brain. The marijuana plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids. Currently, the two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant that are of medical interest are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

2. There is substantial or conclusive scientific evidence for only three medical benefits of cannabis or cannabinoids: treating chronic pain in adults; treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and nausea after chemotherapy; and improving symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

3. There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.  Self-reported cannabis use or the presence of THC in blood, saliva, or urine, has been associated with 20 to 30 percent higher odds of a motor vehicle crash.

4. In states where cannabis use is legal, there is increased risk of unintentional cannabis overdose injuries among children. There is insufficient evidence to support or refute a statistical association between cannabis use by adults and death due to cannabis overdose.

5. Recent cannabis use (within the past 24 hours) impairs the performance in cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention. A limited number of studies also suggest there are impairments in cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention in individuals who have stopped smoking cannabis. Cannabis use during adolescence is related to impairments in subsequent academic achievement and education, employment and income, and social relationships and social roles

6. Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses—the higher the use the greater the risk. However, cannabis use does not appear to increase the likelihood of developing anxiety, depression, or posttraumatic stress disorder.

7. The evidence suggests that any cannabis use is related with increased suicidal ideation (i.e., suicidal thoughts or preoccupation with suicide), augmented suicide attempts, and greater risk of death by suicide. Studies reveal that heavy cannabis use (used 40 or more times) is associated with a higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts.

8. There is substantial evidence that initiating cannabis use at an earlier age is a risk factor for the development of problem cannabis use. There is moderate evidence that during adolescence the frequency of cannabis use, oppositional behaviors, a younger age of first alcohol use, nicotine use, parental substance use, poor school performance, antisocial behaviors, and childhood sexual abuse are risk factors for the development of problem cannabis use. Anxiety, personality disorders, and bipolar disorders are not risk factors for the development of problem cannabis use.

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by   / December 16, 2016

The recent struggle for control of the Syrian city of Aleppo has brought renewed attention to the ongoing war crimes that have devastated this Middle East nation. Here are nine things you should know about Aleppo and the Syrian crisis:

1. In 2011, during the Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, protesters in Syria demanded the end of Ba’ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in the country since 1971. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was sent to quell the protest, and soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion that has spread across the country. Although the conflict was originally between factions for and against President Assad, the civil war has broadened into a battle between the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s Shia Alawite sect. The conflict has drawn in neighboring countries and world powers and led to the rise of jihadist groups, including Islamic State (ISIS).

2. Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and contains the country’s largest population of Christians. Aleppo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world behind only Damascus (also in Syria) and Byblos (Lebanon). Prior to the Syrian civil war, Aleppo contained about 10 percent of Syria’s population (roughly 2.3 million people).

3. The battle for Aleppo began in mid-July 2012, when anti-government rebels gained control of several districts within the city. Since then the city has been divided between the government-held west and rebel-held east. Beginning at the end of 2013, the Syrian government began aerial bombing of the eastern sections of the city, a tactic that has caused a humanitarian crisis that has disproportionately affected the city’s children.

4. Syria has a young population (median age is 24.1). While about half of the nearly 5 million refugees who have fled Syria are children, Unicef estimates that about eight million children remain in the country. Save the Children also estimates about 40 percent of the besieged population in eastern Aleppo are children. As Save the Children spokeswoman Carol Anning told the BBC, in war you should expect to see a much higher population of adult males being killed in frontline action. “But what we have seen in Aleppo in the last couple of days is totally indiscriminate bombing from the air,” Anning says. “So children are impacted just as much or more than adults in those situations.”

5. A 2015 report by the UN’s Human Rights Council notes “the conduct of an ever-increasing number of actors is characterized by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law.” A prime example is the use of sexual violence against girls and women. The report says, “Women and girls were found to have been raped and sexually assaulted in government detention facilities, in particular in the investigation branches of the Military Intelligence Directorate and prisons administered by the General Security Directorate in Damascus. State officials have perpetrated rape, a crime against humanity.” Rebel groups have also committed similar atrocities, with girls and women kept as slaves and “subject to horrific and repeated sexual violence. Girls and women in ISIS-controlled areas live in fear of forced marriage to the fighters.”

6. Since 2012, the Syrian government has used aerial “barrel bombs” (aka “flying IEDs”)—often dropping them on civilian populations. According to the Weapons Law Encyclopedia, a barrel bomb refers to an improvised container (e.g. an oil drum or gas cylinder) dropped from an aircraft and filled with explosive, incendiary, or other substances and often includes additional materials to increase fragment projection. The UN claims the Assad regime has dropped barrel bombs containing chemical agents, likely chlorine, on “crowded areas, such as bakery lines, transportation hubs, apartment buildings, and markets.” The use of such weapons against civilian populations or containing chemical weapons clearly violates international laws.

7. Throughout the conflict, anti-government forces have relied on a variety of terrorist tactics against civilians. The groups have kidnapped women and children—sometimes holding them hostage for years—to use them for ransom or prisoner exchanges. They have also used suicide and car bombs attacks against civilian and government targets. Rebel groups associated with ISIS have executed civilians who refuse to recognize their self-proclaimed rule, publicly amputated limbs as punishment for theft, and whipped residents for smoking and trading during prayer times.

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 by / November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro, the former dictator of Cuba, has died at the age of 90. Here are nine things you should know about the long-ruling Marxist leader.

1. Fidel Castro was born Fidel Ruz in 1926 near Birán, Cuba. His father, Ángel, was a Spanish migrant who moved to Cuba and became a wealthy sugar plantation owner. His mother was a household servant and Ángel’s mistress. When Fidel was age 17 his father married his mother and formally changed his son’s last name from Ruz to Castro.

2. Castro was baptized a Catholic at the age of 8 and attended several Jesuit-run boarding schools. After graduation in the mid-1940s Castro began studying law at the Havana University, where he became politically active in socialist and nationalist causes, in particular opposition to U.S. involvement in the Caribbean. By the end of the decade he became interested in the writings of Marx and Lenin and the cause of revolutionary socialism.

3. During his law school days Castro began to adopt the practice of revolutionary political violence. In 1947 he journeyed to the Dominican Republic to participate in a failed attempt to overthrow of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. That same year Castro was also accused of instigating an assassination attempt on Cuba’s president, Ramón Grau. When in 1952 General Fulgencio Batista seized power, Castro began making plans to overthrow him too. Castro’s use of political violence continued even after he seized power. The Cuba Archive project has documented almost 10,000 victims of Castro between 1952 and today, including 5,600 men, women, and children who died in front of firing squads and another 1,200 in “extrajudicial assassinations.” Thousands more Cubans also died trying to flee his repressive regime.

4. In 1955, Castro traveled with his brother Raul to Mexico, where he met up with other revolutionaries in exile, including an Argentine doctor named Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The next year the group returned to Cuba to instigate an overthrow the Batista government. Castro’s insurgency succeeded in 1959, and he was installed as prime minister of Cuba. A few months later he implemented “socialist” policies that were similar to those of communist countries.

5. In 1962, while still declaring his country to be merely a socialist state, Castro worked with Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, on a plan to install Soviet nuclear weapons on Cuban soil. When aerial reconnaissance detected them it sparked the 13-day (October 16 to 28) confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro wanted Khrushchev to threaten to use nuclear weapons if the United States attacked Cuba, but the Soviet leader refused and ultimately conceded to U.S. demands to remove all the missiles from the island nation.

6. In 1965, Castro merged Cuba’s Communist Party with his own Integrated Revolutionary Organizations and installed himself as head of the party. This move officially made Cuba the first Communist country in the Western Hemisphere. Over the next few years Castro founded several organizations to promote revolution and communism throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Castro also allowed several violent revolutionary groups from across the world, including America’s Black Panthers and the Vietnam’s Viet Cong, to train in Cuba.

7. During the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, the U.S. government had a policy to overthrow Castro (which included the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, led by U.S.-backed Cuban exiles). The CIA also made several attempts to assassinate Castro. The Cuban government claimed that 638 attempts had been made on Castro’s life, but the 1975 Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (the “Church Committee”) substantiated eight assassination attempts that had been made between 1960 and 1965. Some of the attempts reportedly included the use of exploding cigars, cigars poisoned with botulinum toxin, and a fountain pen with a hidden needle capable of injecting lethal toxin into a victim without his knowledge.

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/ November 22, 2016

 Today is the 53th anniversary of the death of Clive Staples Lewis, one of the most well known, widely read, and often-quoted Christian authors of modern times. Here are nine things you should know about the author and apologist who has been called “The Apostle to the Skeptics.”

1. Lewis is best known for his seven children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia. But he wrote more than 60 books in various genres, including poetry, allegorical novel, popular theology, educational philosophy, science-fiction, children’s fairy tale, retold myth, literary criticism, correspondence, and autobiography.

2. Lewis’s close friend Owen Barfield, to whom he dedicated his book The Allegory of Love, was also his lawyer. Lewis asked Barfield to establish a charitable trust (“The Agape Fund”) with his book earnings. It’s estimated that 90 percent of Lewis’s income went to charity.

3. Lewis had a fondness for nicknames. He and his brother, Warnie, called each other “Smallpigiebotham” (SPB) and “Archpigiebotham” (APB), inspired by their childhood nurse’s threat to smack their “piggybottoms.” Even after Lewis’s death, Warnie still referred to him as “my beloved SPB.”

4. In 1917, Lewis left his studies to volunteer for the British Army. During the First World War, he was commissioned into the Third Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. Lewis arrived at the front line in the Somme Valley in France on his 19th birthday and experienced trench warfare. On April 15, 1918, he was wounded, and two of his colleagues were killed by a British shell falling short of its target. Lewis suffered from depression and homesickness during his convalescence.

5. Lewis was raised in a church-going family in the Church of Ireland. He became an atheist at 15, though he later described his young self as being paradoxically “very angry with God for not existing.”

6. Lewis’s return to the Christian faith was influenced by the works of George MacDonald, arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien, and G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.

7. Although Lewis considered himself to an entirely orthodox Anglican, his work has been extremely popular among evangelicals and Catholics. Billy Graham, who Lewis met in 1955, said he “found him to be not only intelligent and witty but also gentle and gracious.” And the late Pope John Paul II said Lewis’s The Four Loves was one of his favorite books.

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We might suppose that overstuffed American bellies would hardly need any instruction on feasting. So many of us have grown so accustomed to having so much to eat. Then here comes Thanksgiving. Just put it on autopilot. Fasting is the discipline today that is grossly under-served; no need to consider feasting.

Not so fast. It’s true that fasting is sadly overlooked, and too often forgotten. And yet, perhaps counterintuitively, true feasting is also in decline through familiarity and lack of spiritual purpose. Most of us have never given any serious thought to what it might mean to feast with Christ-honoring intentionality.

We’ve grown dull to the wonder of ample food and drink through constant use, and overuse. When every day is a virtual feast, we lose the blessing of a real one. When every meal is a pathway to indulgence, not only is fasting lost, but true feasting is as well.

Feasting as a Spiritual Joy

The Bible is replete with the goodness of food and the holiness of feasting. God in his goodness made his creation edible. He made trees “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9), and created us to eat his world: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29). Then after the flood, he extended the gift to eating animals: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9:3). But distinct from the kindness of God in everyday food is the special grace of a feast.

In the Old Testament, God structured the seasons and years of his chosen people with fast days and feast days. Then he sent his Son as the great culmination of his nation’s feasts. Now those who make up God’s multinational people through Christ are no longer under obligation to practice Israel’s ancient feasts and rituals (Colossians 2:16). They were “a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17). Christians are free to feast — or not to feast:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5–6)

But what we’re not free to do is feast in a way that dishonors God. And forgetting him altogether is profoundly dishonoring. As Christians, we want to learn to feast in such a way that we’re tasting God’s supernatural goodness as we enjoy natural tastes.

Not the Same as Indulging

Feasting is not first about the food. It is foremost about the Godward celebration of some specific occasion together. Good food and drink, in abundance, come in alongside our corporate focus to accentuate the appreciation and enjoyment of God and his kindness. The heart of feasting is not the food itself, but the heart of the feasters. A true feast is bigger than the food — infinitely bigger. The center is God and his greatness and grace toward us in Christ.

For Christians, feasting is not the same as mere indulgence. There is nothing particularly Christian about eating and drinking more than usual. What makes feasting a means of God’s grace for nourishing our souls is explicitly celebrating Christ together in faith. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Easter, a birthday or anniversary, when we feast as Christians, we celebrate the bounty and kindness of our Creator and Redeemer. Feasting in Christ is no mere physical event, but deeply spiritual.

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Justin Taylor

Cliff Barrows (1923-2016)

November 15, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 4.07.41 PM

Cliff Barrows has gone to be with the Lord to whom he so often sang. A longtime associate of Billy Graham as his evangelistic choir director, Mr. Barrows was 93.

Here is a biographical overview from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

Mr. Barrows first met Mr. Graham while on his honeymoon with his first wife, Billie (deceased), near Asheville, N.C., in 1945. Music played a significant role in the programming of Billy Graham Crusades, for which Mr. Barrows was responsible since they formally began in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1947. Together, he and Mr. Graham shared the Gospel around the globe.

From the beginning of Mr. Graham’s Crusade ministry, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows were the nucleus of the Crusade musical team. They were joined in 1950 by pianist Tedd Smith, and through the years, organists Don Hustad and John Innes provided additional accompaniment.

“I’ve had no greater joy than encouraging people to sing,” said Mr. Barrows. “Every great moving of the Spirit of God has been accompanied by great singing. I believe it will always be so!”

Mr. Barrows remained active in his later years in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He served as host of the Hour of Decision radio program for more than 60 years and continued that position for a time through the Hour of Decision Online Internet radio program, which posts weekly on BillyGraham.org. He also served on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Board of Directors, beginning in 1950.

In addition to singing at Franklin Graham Festivals and Will Graham Celebrations, Mr. Barrows regularly hosted SeniorCelebrations and Christmas at The Cove, three-day events geared toward senior citizens at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C. He also helped with BGEA’s Schools of Evangelism ministry for more than 40 years.

For significant contributions to Gospel music, Mr. Barrows was inducted into the Nashville Gospel Music Hall of Fame in April 1988, and into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996. Mr. Barrows was also inducted, along with Billy Graham and soloist George Beverly Shea, into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ “Hall of Faith” in 2008.

“His uncanny ability to lead a Crusade choir of thousands of voices or an audience of a hundred thousand voices in a great hymn or Gospel chorus is absolutely unparalleled,” writes Billy Graham in his autobiography, Just As I Am. “But all of that talent is not the secret of Cliff’s effectiveness,” he writes later. “It is his humility and his willingness to be a servant, which spring from his devotional life and his daily walk with Christ.”

Mr. Barrows was born and reared in Ceres, Calif. He was married to his first wife, Billie, for nearly 50 years. Then God brought Mr. Barrows and his second wife, Ann, together following the death of both of their spouses to cancer. He and Ann made their home together in Marvin, N.C.

Mr. Barrows, who passed away on Nov. 15, 2016, at the age of 93, had five children: Bonnie, 1948; Robert, 1950; Betty Ruth, 1953; Clifford (Bud), 1955; and William Burton, 1962.

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by

The Story: While preaching his way through the Gospel of Mark, Mark Dever came to the section where Jesus is questioned about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13–17).

Despite standing in a pulpit five blocks from the Capitol, Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., doesn’t often plunge into politics from the pulpit. He doesn’t believe that to be his calling. The text that September 2010 morning, however, demanded reflection on how believers should think about and relate to the political realm.

Collin Hansen, who attended the service, later wrote that it was “the best sermon I know on Christianity and government.” Likewise, Thabiti Anyabwile described it as “a biblical theology of Christians and the state, at once full of unction, intellectually challenging, and affecting the heart. I’ve heard a lot of Mark’s preaching, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him better.”

Dever offered three simple points. First, Christians are good citizens. Second, no earthly kingdom can be identified with God’s people. Third, Christians are finally accountable to God.

Why It Matters: With election day upon us, Dever’s message bears fresh relevance. By listening to the sermon and reading Hansen’s copious summary, you will be well served.

As Americans, it’s often helpful to be reminded that the epicenter of Christ’s kingdom is not located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And the purposes of God have never been thwarted at the hands of men—a streak that’s not about to end on November 8. Such a recognition isn’t quietism or escapism—just biblical Christianity.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are, like you and me, feeble creatures of dust. They’re worthy of our honor (Eccl. 10:20; 1 Pet. 2:17), but never our hope.

So pay your taxes, pick your candidate, and cast your vote (politics does matter, after all), but do so as one whose trust is anchored in another world.

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