The Promise and Failure of Antibiotics

How the church can play a key role in better stewardship of antibacterial medicine and avert a global health crisis.

In 2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics began encouraging doctors to treat certain ear infections with what they called “watchful waiting,” an attempt to combat the skyrocketing incidence of antibacterial resistance that was due in part to the overuse of antibiotics.

For me, that meant when exhausted parents showed up in my ER halfway through a sleepless night with a child cradling a painful ear, I could explain to them that in 95 percent of cases the infection is viral and therefore not helped by antibiotics. We could talk about ways to make the symptoms better, how the infection would likely resolve itself in a matter of days. I could point out that starting antibiotics to treat a viral infection could, in fact, cause diarrhea, allergic reactions, and most importantly, antibacterial resistance that could reemerge as a severe and even life-threatening infection in their child in later years.

I could then give the parents a prescription for antibiotics and tell them that if the fever and pain weren’t gone in 48 hours—the point at which most viral infections would have resolved—they could fill the prescription and start the medication.

I have spent hours on these conversations: urging parents to be patient, reinforcing that antibiotic resistance is a real and dangerous side effect, and trying to convince them that waiting is in the best interest not only of their child but of their entire community. The drug-resistant bacteria that develop from unnecessary or inappropriately administered courses of antibiotics are a real risk to children and everyone children “share their cooties with.” I hand over my prescription, ask them again not to fill it for two days, and then call them back …

Continue reading…

The African Diaspora (Part 1): A Brief History and Lessons

Immigrant lessons from Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah

We live in a world where emigration is an option for many people. For some, persecution or famine in their own country causes them to flee their homeland. Many of us know people who have felt forced to emigrate. For others, the promise of a better life for their family is hard to resist. Still others move to another country for an education or a job opportunity and never return to their homeland. Many of us emigrate to Europe or America, but the African diaspora is worldwide. For instance, a large African community lives in Guangzhou, China.

Diaspora means the dispersion of people from their original homeland. There were two examples of a diaspora in the Old Testament—the voluntary immigration of the Israelites into Egypt and the forced immigration of the Jews to Assyria and Babylon.

The people of Africa have been dispersed throughout the world perhaps more than the people of any other continent.

Thirteen hundred years ago, Arabs took Africans from their homelands in East Africa to the Middle East to be slaves. Three hundred years ago, Europeans took Africans from West Africa to Europe and the Americas for the same purpose. Today, many Africans emigrate voluntarily. Do Africans living in other countries have to renounce their faith, their origins, or their culture? How can they have a positive influence on their new country? What are their responsibilities to their home country?

We can learn from stories in the Bible about those who have emigrated from their homeland. Most of these stories involved forced immigration (although Jacob immigrated to Egypt voluntarily), but they still show us how believers should or should not act in a new land.

Learning from Joseph

Sold to Ishmaelite traders by his jealous and bitter brothers, …

Continue reading…

Are Evangelicals Losing the Gospel in Our Day?

The Gospel itself never changes; the way we share the Gospel must.

When preaching the gospel, many preachers today are talking less about forgiveness and getting to heaven and more about bringing God’s kingdom to earth and changing and healing the world in the here and now.

Is this a good thing?

No and yes. Let me explain.

The gospel is always the gospel of grace, which is about what God has done, and therefore about what we can only receive and never earn. On top of that, in Colossians 4:4, Paul asks the church in Colossae to “pray that I may declare the Gospel clearly, as I should.” Clarity on the proclamation of the gospel is always paramount.

Paul expresses his desire to present the gospel clearly, but also acknowledges that it’s not always easy to do that. My guess is that we can all relate. We all want to be able to clearly explain the gospel, but we’ve also been in conversations where, despite our best efforts, there still seems to be a significant disconnect with those listening to us. How do we move past that?

Changing How We Understand Communicating the Gospel

How do we clearly communicate the gospel in a way that connects to those around us? How do we ensure we really ‘get’ the gospel clearly so we can communicate the gospel clearly?

Although the gospel itself never changes, our understanding of the gospel can change, and the way we communicate it must change with the shifting cultural tides if the world around us is to clearly hear and receive the good news.

For many years, sharing the good news of Jesus for evangelicals meant explaining how his death and resurrection provided for the forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven. Although forgiveness and heaven are just as true now as they have always been, how we communicate those truths is …

Continue reading…

A Punk Rock Rebel Returns to Church

I was parked between “spiritual but not religious” and “New Age dilettante” when depression threw me into God’s arms.

I have always been a person of gloom. Even as a small child, I suffered bouts of depression salted with anxiety before I even knew what the words meant. From toddlerhood on, insomnia overtook me as I tried rocking myself to sleep. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I wouldn’t brush my hair. I didn’t want to go to school.

But I did go to church. Until I didn’t.

I’m a cradle Christian, raised on Sunday school classes with picture books of Moses bobbing in the basket in the reeds and Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the straw-dusted manger. Christmas Eve meant candlelight services, and the rest of the year was punctuated with youth group performances of schlocky Jesus-pop musicals. I attended Bible study after school, and in the summer our teacher toted us to rallies where I’d win scoops of candy for correctly reciting Scripture verses.

My sensory memories of church were always profound: the heady scent of stargazer lilies on the Easter altar, pine boughs and candle wax at Christmas. When “Do You Hear What I Hear?” played on the stereo, hearing “A star, a star, dancing in the night / With a tail as big as a kite” felt like having a hand wrap around my heart and give it a loving squeeze. I even liked the zing of fear I got from scary biblical lore. Watching The Ten Commandments every year, my favorite moment came when I’d superstitiously hold my breath as the spooky Angel of Death drew across the sky, bypassing houses that had lamb’s blood painted on the lintel. Whew, close one!

Depression, Sarcasm, and Cynicism

Meanwhile, the darkness within kept creeping. Way back in second grade, an upsetting session with a school psychologist had given me the impression …

Continue reading…

Evangelical Distinctives in the 21st Century

The first in a series on the meaning and place of a historic movement.

The evangelical faith is going through another of its spasms of critical self-reflection. Every week, it seems another prominent person claims that “evangelicalism is in crisis” or that they no longer want to be identified with the word evangelical.

This sort of thing happens when some evangelicals do something scandalous in the eyes of another part of the movement. In the recent past, many were disturbed by the televangelist scandals of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and others. Over the last year, many American evangelicals have been aghast at other evangelicals’ support for Donald Trump and their general political conservatism. Meanwhile, the movement has seen increased division over racial reconciliation and sexual ethics.

There is nothing new under the sun. I remember my days at evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary in the mid-1970s, deciding that evangelical had no real meaning other than a code word for some that meant “real Christian.” After 50 years in the movement, I’ve come to believe it really does mean something. But like many realities we can’t define with absolute precision (gender differences, happiness, time, consciousness), the reality exists.

This series of essays will try to describe the hard-to-pin-down reality that is evangelical faith as it has expressed itself throughout history and today across the globe. It has been and continues to be an extraordinary phenomenon of God, changing not only individual lives but the trajectory of nations. Like all great movements, it is subject to misunderstanding and mischaracterization. Because of the way the media covers it, the larger public today tends to think of it as primarily a political movement with a religious veneer. …

Continue reading…

What John Wesley Would Say to Bernie Sanders and Diane Feinstein

The post-Reformation theologian has suggestions for post-Christian America.

The United States is currently in uncharted waters, both political and religious. As Harvard comparative religion professor Diana L. Eck noted, “Historians tells us that America has always been a land of many religions, and that is true. … The immigrants of the last three decades, however, have expanded the diversity of our religious life dramatically, exponentially.” Eck connects the dramatic increase in religious diversity since the 1970s with the conscious removal of explicitly racist immigration policies from US law during the Johnson administration. The failure to assist Jews attempting to flee the horrors of Nazi Germany and the success of the civil rights movement both caused calls for less racially discriminating immigration laws, and subsequently, the United States saw the massive surge in religious diversity that Eck speaks of.

Religious diversity has always been an American value, but this idea has moved from diversity amongst different primarily Christian groups to a much broader and more visible diversity in the last few decades, due both to fairer immigration policies and the lessening of explicitly Christian influences over national power structures. In the midst of these changes, Americans have had to re-affirm our commitment to religious diversity in a society that is becoming religiously diverse in increasingly tangible ways. And, I would argue, we haven’t done this particularly well at the political level.

We saw this on display at the confirmation hearing for recently confirmed 7th circuit Court of Appeals judge Amy Coney Barrett, when she was asked by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) if she were an “orthodox Catholic,” and objecting that she did not have enough experience …

Continue reading…

The ‘Religious Affections’ of Billy Graham’s Evangelism

On the evangelist’s 99th birthday, we look at the role desire played in so many decisions for Christ.

Deciding for Christ

In the fall of 1958, Billy Graham returned to his hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina, for a five-week crusade. He was just thirty-nine years old, but he already had ten years’ experience preaching around the world to the largest crowds ever to hear an evangelist. By the time of the Charlotte crusade, he knew exactly what to do at the end of his half-hour sermon. With the organ softly playing the hymn “Just As I Am,” he closed with these words:

I’m going to ask all of you in this building to get up out of your seat right now. … And say tonight, “I want Christ. … I want him to fill my life. I want him to help solve my problems and forgive my sins and lift my burdens. I want him to come in and be closer than a brother. I want him to come in and help me and forgive me and cleanse me. …” I’m going to ask you to come right now. … Now you come, quickly.

Nearly a half-century later, an eighty-seven-year-old Graham was in Baltimore where he gave one of his last public sermons. With the piano softly playing “Just As I Am,” he ended by saying,

I’m going to ask you to do something that we’ve seen thousands of people do in different parts of the world. I’m going to ask you to say, “I do want my life to change. I want to be certain that if I die I’ll go to heaven.” I’m going to ask you to come and make this decision. Make certain that you know Christ as your Lord and Savior. You may want to rededicate your life. You come.

Thus, Billy Graham concluded his sermons with more or less the same words for more than sixty years. He invited his listeners to get out of their seats and come forward to show that …

Continue reading…

A Small Rural Church Is Hard to Kill

A Texas Baptist pastor on the risk and resilience of America’s smallest congregations.

By any measure, Sunday’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, breaks records we’d rather not see broken. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott characterized it as the worst mass shooting in the history of our state and among the worst in the country’s recent history. It is the deadliest church shooting on record.

Superlatives abound as our society scrambles to understand what these things mean. Framed in an overarching narrative of the decline of American civility or debates over gun-politics or increasing hostility toward people of faith, the shooting serves as a data point for the more cerebral and an exclamation point for the more passionate.

When you remove the framework and look at the story of a small church in a rural town, this event defies ranking or evaluation.

For the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, it is an extinction-level event. The church’s lay leadership have all been murdered. The preponderance of the church’s surviving membership lies in the hospital. Eight of the slain come from a single family.

The worship center lies smothered in the carnage and riddled with bullet holes. Who’s going to clean it? Who’s going to pay to have it cleaned? The people who have taken care of those needs in the past were carried out of the meeting house on stretchers and gurneys.

The death of 26 members would traumatize any church, but for a church this size, it threatens the church’s very existence. It threatens that small church; it frightens every small church. Most of the pastors of small churches across the nation know someone whom they could imagine committing a similar crime.

The definition of the family and the nature of childhood in America is …

Continue reading…

Shooting at Southern Baptist Texas Church Kills 26 Worshipers

Tragedy at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs is deadliest US church attack since 1963.

During its 11 a.m. worship service, a Southern Baptist church in rural Texas suffered not only America’s latest mass shooting but the deadliest at a US church in more than 50 years.

At least 26 worshipers, ranging in ages from 5 to 72, have died from First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, according to Texas authorities. YouTube videos of the church’s weekly service indicate that recent Sundays have drawn about 50 to 75 attendees.

Among the victims, 23 died inside the rural church’s small sanctuary, 2 outside the church, and one later while receiving treatment. Another 20 worshipers were injured. The shooter was identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, of New Braunsfels, Texas, about 35 miles away.

The Texas tragedy is only the 14th mass murder at an American house of worship since 1963, according to statistics compiled by church security expert Carl Chinn. It is also the deadliest shooting in the Lone Star State, taking place on the anniversary of the Fort Hood shooting that killed 13 people on an Army base in 2009.

Texas governor Greg Abbott said, “The tragedy of course is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship, where these people were innocently gunned down.”

“The death toll will mark this as the worst [church shooting] in US history,” Chinn told CT. Fewer than 40 percent of church attacks happen during Sunday worship or other official church events; however, Chinn said the ones that occur during services tend to be worse.

Kelley entered the church shortly after the service began. According to reports, he wore black ballistic gear and carried a Ruger military-style rifle.

A pastor of a neighboring church told TV reporters that he knows most of the church’s …

Continue reading…

The Martyr’s Oath, an Interview with Johnnie Moore on the Persecuted Church

The persecuted church calls the free church to live for the Jesus they are willing to die for

Ed: What is The Martyr’s Oath, and why did you write it?

Johnnie Moore: I’ll never forget meeting a nun on a visit to Iraq just after Mosul fell to ISIS. She said to me, “I love America. Such beautiful people. Such a wonderful place. I have a PhD from an American university. You care for your pets so well. So, when will you care for us? Why are you so silent in the face of our genocide? We feel forgotten.”

Since that moment, I have felt a call to be a voice for the persecuted church, and to call the church to care more, pray more, and do more. I’ve come to realize this is actually my primary call. I’m committed to telling the stories of the suffering church to the free church. This is my latest and most comprehensive effort to do so.

The Martyr’s Oath is the result of months of travel documenting the actual experiences of persecuted Christians. It’s a book of firsthand accounts from more than a dozen different countries. Some of the stories we found are very powerful.

We met one newly-converted Syrian family who welcomed a threat of martyrdom from a family member but refused a threat of crucifixion because they said, “We felt so unworthy to die the same death as our Jesus.”

We found supernatural stories like one of a judge awakening in the middle of the night from a dream where he was told not to touch the Christian pastor he was planning on ruling against the next morning. We found another pastor whose ministry led him to a spy for Osama Bin Laden who became a believer and is now a Christian pastor himself.

We met one woman who told us that after her family got out of prison in China they became so courageous that they stopped meeting in a basement but instead chose …

Continue reading…