This Week, Speak the Name of Andrew Brunson, A Persecuted Brother in Turkey

Please join us in standing with Brunson’s family and home church in lifting the name of Andrew Brunson to the God he serves.

On July 15, 2016, Christian pastor Andrew Brunson had no idea that a group of Turkish rebels were about to make a choice that would put his own life in serious danger.

On this day, a group within the Turkish armed forces attempted to overthrow their government. Over 300 were killed and more than 2,100 were injured before the rebellion was squashed by the State.

In the days and weeks that followed, the Turkish government began their campaign to hunt down and punish anyone who they believed might be disloyal to their regime. First and foremost, the administration blamed a Turkish Muslim cleric named Fethulla Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, for spreading teachings they believed inspired the rebellion. Since Gulen was out of reach in the United States, however, they began sweeping up anyone they suspected of being disloyal to the government—particularly religious leaders and Americans.

The New York Times described how this crackdown “swept up tens of thousands of Turks — military officials, police officers, judges, journalists and others — in prosecutions and purges that are wrenching Turkey back to darker eras it had appeared to have left behind.”

Among those taken prisoner were several Americans. They took a chemistry professor, a real estate agent, and a scientist into custody. And they arrested 48-year-old Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, who had peacefully lived and ministered in Turkey for 23 years.

As we work to support persecuted Christians in over 60 countries that are hostile to the Christian faith, Open Doors is incredibly concerned about this situation in Turkey—a country who is #31 on our World Watch List, which ranks regions where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Today, …

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An Iranian Refugee’s Terrible Journey to God

I survived snowy mountains, a filthy prison, and an abusive husband. Then I discovered who had protected me all along.

When Arif marched up to me in church, it was obvious that he was angry. With his eyes narrowed in hate and his long beard trembling with rage, he was incensed that I, a Christian woman, would be trying to convert Muslims. Within seconds Arif was flat on his back as if God had acted supernaturally to get his attention. (This is not an uncommon experience when I witness to Muslims.) It didn’t take long for Arif to break down and start crying, and once he’d opened up his heart to God like that, it was only a matter of time before he turned his back on Islam and gave his life to Jesus. All I had to do was stand to the side and pray.

But not everyone meets God this way. For some, the journey to seeing Jesus as Savior is sudden and dramatic like it was on the road to Damascus. But for others, the journey to faith looks more like the road to Emmaus: a gradual realization that Jesus is closer than the air we breathe.

I know, because that’s exactly how it was with me.

Robbed of Joy

I was born in Iran—beautiful, peaceful Iran. My life was good, and it got even better when I fell in love, got married, and gave birth to my son, Daniel. I was 18 years old with a husband who loved me and a newborn baby we both adored. Even the fact that my country was being overtaken by Islamic revolutionaries couldn’t dampen my joy. Like so many people whose lives feel perfect, I had little appetite for God. But all that was about to change.

Death came like a thief one morning soon after Daniel was born. My husband was killed in a traffic accident, and in an instant my life was robbed of joy. I was in shock. I was in denial. And for the first time in my life, my mind turned to God. I asked, What have I done to deserve this?

In …

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Farm Boy: How Billy Graham Became a Preacher

A boyhood in rural North Carolina shaped the evangelist his entire life.

If you go to Charlotte, North Carolina, you will find that the farmland where Billy Graham grew up has been transformed. The rolling fields of the early-20th-century agricultural South have morphed into the strip malls, office buildings, and subdivisions of the New South. But Charlotte of 1918, the year of Graham’s birth, was a sleepier town. Its first streetcars, creating new suburban residences, had just been built, and it wasn’t until Billy was three years old that one of the nation’s first radio stations graced Charlotte’s airwaves. A year later, Efird’s Department Store, which described itself as “the only store south of Philadelphia with escalators,” opened. It was in this Charlotte—straddling rural and urban, and experiencing the first pangs of transition into the world-class city people know today—that Graham was born.

Frank and Morrow Graham built, and reared their four children on, a thriving dairy farm. The children grew up in a colonial-style house with indoor plumbing. The family was close-knit. Indeed, Billy and two younger siblings, Catherine and Melvin, shared a bedroom until Catherine was 13. Jean Graham Ford—the youngest Graham sibling, born almost 14 years after Billy and his only surviving sibling today—recalls the special bond shared by Billy and his mother. Billy was always doing little things to please her, like going out into the fields and bringing her wildflowers. Jean also recalls that young Billy loved Morrow’s cooking and had a seemingly insatiable appetite: “When you walked in the back door during the spring and summer months, Mother would always have tomatoes on the shelf in the back porch. He would pick up the tomato and eat it …

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Bill Hybels Resigns from Willow Creek

Megachurch pastor “accelerates” October retirement weeks after former colleagues went public with misconduct allegations.

Bill Hybels has stepped down as senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, the Chicago-area megachurch he founded over 40 years ago, citing the controversy over recent allegations against him.

Many in the wider Christian community have been confused by those allegations, he said, and the controversy has distracted his church’s leaders from their mission and has hurt the church’s ministries. “They can’t flourish to their fullest potential when the valuable time of our leaders is divided.”

Hybels, who previously planned to retire in October, revealed the news Tuesday evening at a “family meeting” where about 1,000 Willow Creek members gathered at the multisite church’s flagship South Barrington, Illinois, campus.

The crowd listened in silence as their longtime pastor began to read a 12-minute-long prepared statement, then groaned in disappointment when he confirmed what so many of them had feared. Several voices shouted, “No!” across the 7,000-seat auditorium.

Hybels will also leave the board of the Willow Creek Association (WCA), a network of thousands of churches around the world, and will no longer host Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in August. “This too was my decision and mine alone,” he said.

Hybels has strongly denied the pattern of misconduct that former Willow Creek staff members recounted in an investigation published three weeks ago by the Chicago Tribune and covered by Christianity Today. At the family meeting, he repeated his denial.

“I’ve been accused of many things I simply did not do,” he said. “But let me acknowledge things I have done. I confess to anger at the accusations. … I sincerely …

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Is the Body That ‘Betrayed’ Me Still ‘Very Good’?

What the incarnation affirms about the reality of God’s creation.

I tend to sympathize with the Gnostics most in the morning. It’s currently common to deride these early heretics for despising our physicality and rejecting the goodness of creation. But when I wake up and tenderly place my feet on the ground, breathing slowly as I sense which sore muscles and joints I need to stretch with care, I get it—my body does not greet me as my friend.

Truth be told, my body and I have had something of a strained relationship since I was 24 when, at the peak of my physical health, I developed severe tendonitis in both knees. Since that time, a series of related muscle and joint conditions have led me from one physical therapist to the next. I often joke that my body is one of those carpets with a perennial bump in it—smooth it out in one place and it pops up across the room. And every new bump hurts.

It’s taken me a while to realize how this alienation from my body impacts my walk with God.

In his recent work Embodied Hope, Kelly Kapic insightfully calls attention to the way pain—especially chronic pain—can cause sufferers to “think hard thoughts of God” (to use John Owen’s phrase). We wonder if God loves us, or if he’s punishing us. In the face of suffering, we even question the goodness of God’s gifts, like our bodies, when every inch of flesh can hold a thorn used by Satan to torment us (2 Cor. 12:7).

At some point, all of us will suffer or watch our loved ones suffer pain such that it leads us to question, “Is God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, really for us when our own cells seem to be against us?”

At moments like these, we must recall the gospel of Jesus Christ incarnate, crucified, and risen has a word to speak …

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What I Would Have Done Differently

Billy Graham’s regrets, in his own words.

For all of Billy Graham’s remarkable accomplishments, he made his share of mistakes. These mistakes might have harmed his ministry if not for Graham’s willingness to confess them and learn from them.

“I’ve had to admit errors in judgment, and I’ve found Christian people more than generous in understanding my faults,” he told Christianity Today during the throes of Watergate in 1974. “It’s better to show humility, and it’s better to say ‘I’m wrong’ or ‘I’m sorry’ when you’ve made a mistake. … However, some of the criticism hurled at evangelical theology lands on me, and I suppose when I make a mistake it hurts the evangelical cause. I sometimes put my foot in my mouth. I’ve made many statements I wish I could recall. I am an erring, fallible disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ and am subject to all the temptations, human frailties, and errors of other disciples of the Lord.”

Kneeling on the White House Lawn

Graham would never again repeat his first big public mistake, which followed a 1950 meeting with Harry Truman, Graham’s first opportunity to meet a president.

“When we arrived at the side gate of the White House, we passed through the security guards and checkpoints easily enough,” Graham remembered in the opening of his autobiography, Just As I Am. “The President’s secretary then took us in hand, informing us that our visit would last exactly 20 minutes. Promptly at noon, we were ushered into the Oval Office. From the look on President Truman’s face, the chief executive of our nation must have thought he was receiving a traveling vaudeville team.

“When we stepped outside the White House, reporters …

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One-on-One with Michael Moynagh on “Church in Life”

Finding simple ways to follow Jesus alongside other Christians.

Ed: Why a book on Church in Life?

Michael: We hear much today about disciples making disciples and about Christians living out their faith in everyday life. But gather-and-scatter church makes this difficult.

We gather for worship and scatter as individuals for the rest of the week. Having worshipped, we practice our faith largely on our own—at work, in our hobbies and interests, and among friends who don’t attend church. And it is not always easy to be a Christian witness on your own.

A large company made a substantial number of people redundant. A group of Christians paid for a consultant to give free advice to each person losing their job. (Colleagues said, “These Christians are better than our HR department!”). This would have been very difficult for a Christian to arrange alone.

Time and again, missional discipleship requires that Christians be organised. Church in Life is about innovative ways for Christians to get organised to change their worlds.

Ed: So what’s the secret?

Michael: A new missional movement is emerging in the U.K., elsewhere in Europe, in parts of the United States and Canada, in Australia, and now Africa.

Christians get together in small groups, listen to people who don’t go to church, find simple ways to love and serve them, build relationships with them, share the gospel sensitively, help them to become a Christian community right where they are, and then encourage them to repeat the process in their own way.

A growing number of these communities are emerging in gyms and cafes around interests ranging from surfing to making cards, in old apartment blocks and new neighborhoods, among young and older people, and among poor people and the more affluent.

What’s fascinating …

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God’s Joy, Our Joy: How Sharing Our Faith Changes Everything

Here is Jesus’ promise: Come harvest time, the vine and the branches will both share in fullness of joy.

I have never interviewed a cow. In fact, thank God, I did not grow up anywhere near a farm. But if I was to guess as to the most joyful moment for any milking cow… I would say that it might be when the farmer stands in front of her and with great delight tastes a glass of her delicious milk.

I have never interviewed a vine either. But if I was to guess as to the moment of her greatest joy and satisfaction… I would point to the instant when someone, having pulled a bunch of her grapes, delights in their juicy taste!

But I have interviewed people who have launched out into a commitment to share their faith in Jesus with others.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says that we, his disciples, are like branches and he is the vine. And he promises that if we remain in him, like a healthy branch well connected to a vine, we will bear much fruit. Imagine that–branches overflowing with clusters of grapes. What an image!

But that’s not all. “And my joy will be in you,” he explains, and “your joy will be made complete.”

Here is Jesus’ promise: Come harvest time, the vine and the branches will both share in fullness of joy.

Joy, the pure delight of life, the steady stream of satisfaction that we all dream of having… seems to be in short supply, doesn’t it?

A while ago, I was training a group of friends in how to share their faith. We had been trying to hear Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Luke 10.

Everything in those instructions seems pretty bleak. Jesus tells them:

  • They should see their mission as sheep hanging out with wolves. Huh?
  • They are to go without enough supplies for their travels. Ouch!
  • What’s more, from the very beginning he assures them that in many places people would reject them. What?

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Level Ground at the Cross

Billy Graham drew people together his whole life. In a segregated South, he wrestled with what that should mean.

Among Billy Graham’s greatest contributions to evangelicalism was the way he defused prejudice to bring people together. Perhaps more than any other high-profile American figure in the 20th century, Graham challenged Christians to look beyond worldly divisions and remember their call to the ministry of reconciliation.

In the early 1950s, a few years before Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement garnered the national spotlight, Graham was talking about the church’s obligation to overcome the race problem in America. “The ground at the foot of the cross is level,” he said, “and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”

Decades later, in a 1993 Christianity Today article, Graham was still on message. He wrote, “Of all people, Christians should be the most active in reaching out to those of other races.”

To be sure, Graham was never at risk of being mistaken for a civil rights activist. His proclivity for caution and incremental steps on controversial matters was another one of his legacies to the evangelical movement. Still, for a white evangelical of his stature to put the issue of race relations on his ministry’s agenda was quite remarkable.

The Evangelist’s Evolution

Graham did not, of course, arrive on the scene 60 years ago with a fully developed theology of inclusion. It took him years to finally shake off the rituals of American apartheid that defined the era of his national emergence. For instance, during the early years of Graham’s ministry, he freely accepted the custom of segregated seating at his Southern crusades.

Soon, Graham’s every move drew media attention. Reporters inquired about the negligible …

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John Perkins Has Hope for Racial Reconciliation. Do We?

The civil rights hero delivers his “final manifesto” on race and the church’s call to unity.

In this 50th year since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., some argue that our nation is more racially divided than it has been in decades. Others are quick to suggest the divisions are merely being exposed: They were always there, like fault lines hidden beneath a manicured landscape, visible only to those with eyes to see. The church is hardly exempt from these racial rumblings; indeed, to our shame, it has proven to be the cause of some of them. There are encouraging signs of racial repentance in the church; there are also signs that younger Christians of color, wearied by the fight for belonging, are beginning to make an exodus from “evangelical” churches. The fault lines run through our pews, too.

John Perkins—the civil rights activist, herald of biblical justice and reconciliation, famed author, and founder of numerous organizations, including the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)—addresses this situation in his latest book, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race. “We’re at a unique moment in our history,” he writes. “We’ve come through—and in many ways are still in the midst of—great upheaval. The soul of our nation has been laid bare. When I talk to people all over the country it seems like everyone is looking for an answer.”

With this book, Perkins seeks not only to provide some answers but also to pass the torch to a new generation of Christian leaders who are ready to take up the mantle of reconciliation. At 87 years old, Perkins offers One Blood as his “last words” to the church. He describes it as his final “manifesto,” by which he means “my most earnest attempt to put down in …

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