Dreams, visions, and healings spur new disciples among the 10-12 million Roma in Europe.
A shivering 15-year-old, Biljana Nikolić, stood shielding her one-month-old on a street corner in Serbia as a fierce thunderstorm whipped through town.
Biljana leaned against a house to steady herself against the wind. She was fleeing her abusive second husband, and this, less than a year after running away from her first husband, a man her mother forced her to marry. She watched her baby struggle to breathe, and remembered a song her aunt taught her when she was 9: I have a phone that goes up into the sky, when I have problems I can call Jesus.
"God, I know you are here and that you gave me this child," she muttered, "but I don't know what to do with him. If you want, take him."
Just then, a Serbian woman opened the door of the house Biljana was leaning against. She urged Biljana to come inside. It was the first of a long string of answers to prayer that would change her life.
Eventually, her first husband, Đeno, asked her to return to Croatia for the sake of their son. Yet the couple struggled for years. Grinding poverty compelled Biljana to beg on the streets, and forced to sift through trash for scrap metal to sell for cash. They had no legal documents in Croatia, so they were denied assistance from agencies. Mutual growing bitterness resulted in violent arguments. There seemed to be no end to their suffering until 2004. While Biljana was begging on the streets, a local Christian woman befriended her—an encounter that eventually led to Biljana to give her life to Christ.
The change in Biljana's life moved Đeno. "I would wake up in the night and could see she was in tears praying for me," he says. "I thought that she had surely cracked, but my conscience began ...
Reconciling original sin and death of the innocent.
The greatest miracle of the Incarnation is not that God visited us—as Creator, he has every right to enter his creation. All through the Hebrew Bible, we find God intervening in the affairs of our planet.
The greatest miracle of the Incarnation is that this Creator chose to come to us as a baby. The One who holds the universe in the palm of his hand (Isa. 40:12) reduced his omnipotence into a miniscule fetus and was born as a helpless baby. Hands that held the universe were sheltered in a mother's arms. Christmas shows us what God thinks of babies.
As I write, our nation is grieving the horrific deaths of 10 children in a freak storm in Oklahoma. Seven were pulled from the wreckage of an elementary school. Watching the news coverage of the tornado, many of us are asking faith's hardest questions: Why did God allow such a tragedy? Why didn't he prevent it, or at least shelter these innocent, helpless children? What do we do now?
And the question we'll address here: What happened to the children when they died?
In my 35 years of ministry, I have stood beside parents as they gave doctors permission to withdraw life support from their babies. I have stood beside tiny coffins as parents placed their children's bodies in the ground. I am the father of two grown sons; every day since they were born, I have prayed for God to keep them safe.
When a child dies, part of us dies as well. And we ask: What happens to them? Assuming they were not old enough to understand the gospel and trust Christ as Lord and Savior, what is their eternal state now?
What does God think of children?
One day Jesus' disciples asked him, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt. 18:1). They ...
Chris Anderson, longtime editor of Wired magazine, makes the jump from high-tech to physical objects. Why we should follow him.
In a storefront in Manhattan's NoHo neighborhood, a row of matte-black, LED-lit machines are tracing out the future from spools of colored filament. The machines are 3-D printing what appear to be plastic bracelets, but which could be anything you can dream up or download, as long as it's small and plastic. This is the Makerbot Store, one part temple, one part learning center. It's designed to sell people the idea that the promise of the computer and Internet revolutions lies in physical goods as much as digital ones. On the wall, an enlarged cover from Wired magazine shows Makerbot co-founder Bre Pettis. He's proudly holding the just-announced Replicator 2, under the headline, "This Machine Will Change the World."
The October 2012 cover story of Wired magazine—dedicated to tech and digital culture—was the final one written by the magazine's longtime editor Chris Anderson. On November 2, Anderson announced that he was quitting his job to pursue a longstanding business venture—or, as the press release put it, "to spend more time with his robots." His company, 3D Robotics, makes low-cost computerized autopilots for aircraft hobbyists. It grew out of Anderson's passion for weekend family projects and years of overseeing coverage of the intersections of technology, culture, and commerce.
At its surface, Anderson's move seemed like a surprising step away from a position of influence and tech-world glamour. It also seemingly ran counter to a major theme of Anderson's work at Wired: charting the ways in which the Internet has empowered a freeing disconnection of ideas from the constraints of physical reality.
This gender revolution gained attention after the 2010 U.S. Census found that women outnumbered men in their possession of bachelor's degrees, and a study published by The Chronicle of Higher Education announced that women outnumber men at every degree level of higher education.
Despite the influx of women into the American academy, some fields have resisted the trend. Most notably, women continue to be a minority in math and science fields, constituting only 20 percent of graduates with bachelor's degrees in science and engineering. The second field that defies the shifting gender ratio, one that has received much less attention, is theological education.
According to the Association of Theological Schools, during the 2012-2013 school year women accounted for approximately 37 percent of Protestant seminary students. However this statistic is somewhat misleading, as it includes fields of study outside of the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, such as a master's in counseling, in which women outnumber men. Among M.Div. students, women represented about 1 in 3 enrolled. At evangelical seminaries, they make up just 1 in 5.
Due to the dearth of research on the topic, we are left to hypothesize why so few women enroll in seminary. Perhaps the lack of job prospects is a deterrent: Why pay the tuition if you are not guaranteed a job afterwards? Or perhaps it is a matter of theology since some traditions discourage women from the pastorate on biblical grounds. Still, other churches support the idea of female ...
How marriages can survive deployment—with some help from the church.
We military wives are proud people, with our camo-print purses, yellow ribbon bumper stickers, and a deep love for our husbands and country. We bristle when warned how military life can deplete a marriage. We'll tell you that our marriages are only strengthened by the moves, distance, and unpredictability of military life.
During the first decade of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though, the military divorce rate climbed gradually every year, from 2.6 percent to 3.7 percent. Not until 2012, as troops began to withdraw, did the divorce rate slip for the first time, down to 3.5 percent. Army officials attribute the decrease to better marriage counseling and support programs.
In Army terms, "Healthy relationships contribute to the maintenance of a healthy Army and a secure future force. With increasing demands placed on soldiers and families, to include both frequent deployments and duty relocations, intimate relationships are fully tested." Sir, yes, sir!
Soldiers train and travel away from home beyond the typical 9 to 5 schedule, gone for up to a year at a time when deployed to the Middle East or on cruise overseas. While apart, their spouses carry the load of household responsibilities and, oftentimes, full childcare duties, along with an additional load of worry, loneliness, and stress.
But a less-discussed challenge—one that churches need to know about—is how deployment can test a couple's faith. While a husband and wife may start off on the same spiritual page, they can't support one another in the same ways during deployment. Many spouses are forced to journey with God alone. And like any challenge, a deployment can either draw military spouses into a closer relationship ...
Shannon Polson sought healing from her father's death by retracing his fatal journey into the Alaskan wilderness.
Before we begin, grab a map. Preferably the paper kind; the old atlas that's been on your shelf for years or the AAA guidebooks your grandmother gave to you. Google Maps will do, in a pinch.
Flip to Alaska. Now look up—up, up, higher up. Do you see Barter Island? Between Barrow (the farthest North American City) and the Canadian border, it sits near the mouth of the several meandering rivers. That is where we are headed.
The journey begins in Kaktovik, Alaska. Perched at the northeastern tip of the state, Kaktovik is the jumping-off point for adventurers rafting down the Hulahula River. It is well within the Arctic Circle, a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for a June river trip, perfect for spotting Dall Sheep and musk ox against the Brooks Range Mountains.
Shannon Huffman Polson is in Kaktovik with her adopted brother Ned and his colleague Sally, preparing to retrace the trip taken a year earlier by her father and stepmother. It will be both tribute and quest: Richard and Kathy Huffman were killed by a grizzly bear before they could finish their expedition.
Polson has returned for "a journey over the jagged edge of loss." Her maps, like ours, can only get her so far. The rest of the way will require courage and commitment over rocky terrain.
"I lived for his attention," Polson writes about her father in North of Hope: A Daughter's Arctic Journey. Polson's parents divorced when she was twelve years old, a move that shattered her life and those of her two brothers. Her father remarried several years later and Polson fought Kathy for his time and attention. Above all else, this is a book about fathers and daughters: the trappings of that relationship, the desperate wanting for ...
Examining the lies that sex is worth nothing or sex is worth everything.
Turns out, college isn't as hard to pay for as I previously thought. At least, not if you're a woman and willing to get, shall we say, "creative." According to CNBC, there are plenty of rich dirty old men ("Sugar Daddies") willing to put broke young women ("Sugar Babies") through college in return for what SeekingArrangements.com calls—and trademarks!—"Mutually Beneficial Relationships® & Mutually Beneficial Arrangements™."
I should be aghast that there are Sugar Daddies who advertise for this role ("Will educate for sex!) and that there are Sugar Babies willing to take them up on it ("Will **** for education!"). And yes, I'm troubled by the terminology. I'm horrified by prostitution's continual morphing and the never-ending supply of men willing to prey on desperate women. Yet, there's a part of me that wonders if this disgusting trade actually does something meaningful to counter our prevailing views on the worth of sex.
Bear with me.
In a society polarized over sex, we get fed lies from both sides. We either get told that sex means nothing—that it can be tossed around and given away anonymously because sex itself has no value—or that it means everything—that it is the worst sin, that ill-gotten sex means you or your life has no value.
Consider what Elizabeth Smart recently said in a talk at Johns Hopkins University. Smart, who was raised Mormon, told the panel she "felt so worthless after being raped that she felt unfit to return to her society, which had communicated some hard and fast rules about premarital sexual contact."
Or was it his inaugural address? There's a difference.
The Sunday after President Obama delivered his second inaugural address, my pastor preached on Luke 4:14–21, the story of Jesus' reading from the Isaiah scroll in his hometown synagogue. After reading about God anointing a prophet to preach good news to the poor, bring release to the captives, and sight to the blind, Jesus applies the text to himself: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
This, my pastor said, was "Jesus' inaugural address"; framing it that way seemed natural. Just as the President had used his inaugural to outline the ways he would work over the next four years to make America better, Jesus used Isaiah 61 to outline his kingdom agenda.
I was relieved when my pastor didn't launch into a sermon on civil religion, the subject of his postinaugural Facebook posts. Instead, he focused on how Jesus' agenda dovetailed with our congregation's mission statement. When I mentioned "Jesus' inaugural" to a coworker, he said that his pastor had labeled Jesus' use of Isaiah 61 differently. The passage was, he said, Jesus' elevator speech.
Elevator speech is a term from the 1990s. In the early days of Web development, aspiring innovators prepared themselves for brief encounters with venture capitalists. If they could present their vision in the short span of an elevator ride, they might get the capital needed to bring vision to reality.
At first, I reacted negatively to labeling Jesus' announcement an "elevator speech." Because of the term's marketing overtones, it called to mind one of the worst books ever written about Jesus. In his 1925 bestsellerThe Man Nobody Knows, advertising pioneer Bruce Barton cast Jesus in ...
Two new books locate Christians' presence in cities, but only one of them actually engages the city.
"The city," says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, "is humanity's greatest invention."
Not everybody agrees with Glaeser's glowing assessment, but judging by recent population trends, most do. Every day 180,000 people move into cities, and in 2011, for the first time in world history, the majority of the world's population became urban. It's estimated that in 2050, 86.2 percent of the population of developed countries will reside in cities. As magnets for talent, engines of innovation, and centers of culture, cities have eclipsed the nation-state as the primary sculptors of modern life.
Following tightly on the heels of urbanologists like Edward Glaeser, Richard Florida, and Joel Kotkin, evangelicals have recognized a golden opportunity. Two new books—Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard's Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church (Crossway) and Jon M. Dennis's Christ and City: Why the Greatest Need of the City Is the Greatest News of All (Crossway)—herald both the unprecedented importance and unmistakable biblical significance of the city. But only Why Cities Matter strikes the right balance between social analysis and ministry focus, encouraging readers not just to live in the city but also to engage its people and culture with the gospel.
An Unlikely Duo
Um and Buzzard are an unlikely duo. Though both are pastors, one (Um) is an academic from Boston, the other (Buzzard) a church planter from Silicon Valley. Um is Asian, in his 40s, and wears suits; Buzzard is white, in his 30s, and wears T-shirts. But perhaps it is just such a diverse relationship—a theme they explore in the book under the heading "connective diversity"—that ...
In college, my philosophy professor used to talk with affection about how his wife "schooled" him when they were first married. After hearing a Christian speaker on campus, he came home inspired and shared with his wife the speaker's message: that life was all about big moments, and all the in-between stuff was just leading up to those climactic, world-changing events.
After he finished downloading, she looked at him with an eyebrow raised and said, "Sounds like a man. Men love to talk about 'quality time' and 'high moments,' but when you get up at 2 a.m. to change the sheets because our daughter threw up in bed, that's living. When you have to change diapers for the 1,000th time, that's living. All our time is 'living.'"
I have the same response to the New Radical movement, led by David Platt and other pastors, which rallies western Christians to leave behind the ease of 21st-century living and return to the iconoclast vision of the early church. (See Christianity Today's Here Come the Radicals). The New Radicals mean no harm. In fact, they mean great good. They want justice. They want change. They want complacent Christians pushed out of their comfort zones and into the slums of a suffering world. What's wrong with that?
Here's what: Their vision has the potential to leave suburban moms looking like lazy Christians. It's driven by a stereotypically male way of thinking that often values the dramatic over the mundane and loses sight of people who engage the greater good through the invisible monotony of home-making, childrearing, and other unseen acts of service. Men and women alike pine to make an impact—it's human nature at its ...