Missions Sunday: The Missing Key to the Refugee Crisis: Christian Hospitality towards Muslims (Part One)

A biblical view of hospitality can offer a corrective to the current view of refugees.

We live in a rapidly changing world in which massive amounts of people move from one place to the next. Many people who have come from other places live on the margins of society as socially excluded international refugees or immigrants.

One out of every 122 people worldwide has left their home (Johnstone and Merrill 2016, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 195). Globally, this movement of migrants makes up 3.2% of the world’s population (Jackson 2016, 13). These refugees are often seen as marginal strangers and off limits to normal interaction within society.

More than one million refugees poured into Europe in 2015. According to the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM), “1,005,504 migrants… entered Europe during the year—more than quadruple the number of the year before” (Johnstone and Merrill, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 174-175). The panic and confusion caused many Europeans to lose sight of important political, social, and religious issues that come with this expansive migration (Legrain 2007, 298).

Unfortunately, this has also affected the attitude of many Christians who, due to fear and distrust, refuse to share their lives in any meaningful way with these refugees. The current reality means that “some people—including some Christians—have allowed fear to dominate the refugee conversation” (Bauman 2016, 179).

In our ministry in Spain, as we embrace refugees in our home and ministry, our lives daily become enriched by them. For example, on May 11, 2016, I had a knee replacement in Madrid. When I went into surgery, my wife sat alone in the hospital waiting room. Suddenly, some of the refugees we work with showed up to wait with her. When …

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Dealing with Rejection: How to Move Past the “No, Thanks” to Continue Sharing the Gospel

God tends to our hurting hearts.

I was recently on a long car ride with my husband and two kids from Illinois to the northern woods of Minnesota. Anyone who has traveled that kind of distance with younger children before knows it can be rather challenging to find fun ways to break up the ride, without extending the road time.

I had recently learned an idea from another mom that I was eager to try. I had wrapped some coloring books, crayons, sticker books, toys, and foam airplane kits, and handed them out to my two boys along the way. They quickly became newfound treasures.

As my 4-year-old graciously shared one of these treasures with his 2-year-old brother, I unfortunately (or not) had the opportunity to teach them about Ephesians 4:26 (“Be angry and do not sin”) and Ephesians 4:32 (“Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”) as his younger brother tore his treasured foam airplane in half right before his eyes.

Of course, my 2-year-old did not do this maliciously—it was an accident—but nevertheless, the tears welled up and overflowed as my eldest son took in the sight of his treasure being destroyed. My mommy heart broke for him. He had entrusted something he treasured with someone he loved, and instead of this treasured gift (and trust) returning to him in the same condition he had shared it in, it was destroyed.

I can’t help but think that God feels the same way when believers share our “treasured” truth of Jesus’ love with others, and sometimes it doesn’t return to us in the same way.

Sometimes it is accepted, and sometimes it is ripped up—like that foam airplane—with rejection from that person’s past hurts or broken trust. And just as my heart broke with my son’s, …

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Interview: After 50 Years in a Wheelchair, I Still Walk With Jesus

On the anniversary of her accident, Joni Eareckson Tada reflects on God’s faithfulness.

On July 30, 1967, a teenage girl went with her sister to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay and suffered a diving accident that rendered her quadriplegic. Today, Joni Eareckson Tada leads an international ministry, advocates for those with disabilities, and is a sought-after speaker, best-selling author, and radio host. This weekend marks the 50-year anniversary of the accident, and CT connected with Tada to discuss how God has worked in and through her life over the past five decades.

At the time of your diving accident, you were just 17 years old. If you could speak to the young woman you were at that age, what would you most want to say?

As a young girl I was so distracted, enamored, fascinated, infatuated. The world was before me and I had so many options. If I could go back, I’d take myself by the shoulders and shake them and say, “Look at me, Joni, listen: Love Jesus more, obey him more. Follow him more closely—not at a distance. Don’t second guess the Holy Spirit’s whispers and convictions in your heart. Don’t make your own decisions without checking in with God—follow him much more closely.”

How do you feel as you reflect back over the past 50 years?

Just the other day I was reading 1 Peter 5:10 [ESV], where Peter says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Honestly, I’m amazed that the last 50 years feel like only “a little while.” Maybe God does that when we finally do love Jesus more, when we finally do follow him more closely. Maybe he erases all the horror, all the despair, all the depression of the past when we learn how to trust God. He pushes …

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What’s Under the Microscope Can Lead to Worship

Finding beauty in the mundane: from our morning coffee to a nematode worm.

This year’s Wellcome Image Awards are truly awe-inspiring, and a reminder for me to look for moments of wonder and worship in my everyday routine. The online winners’ gallery includes a stunning map-like image of a mouse’s retina, a close-up of a human lens implant, and a teardrop-shaped bundle of DNA being pulled into a brand new cell. A non-scientist might not understand exactly what is being shown in these pictures, but with their bold colors, shapes, and textures, anyone can appreciate their beauty.

My field of biology has always been a very visual subject, and today that visual element can be expressed in stunning high-resolution color photographs. Wafer-thin sections of tissue can be stained with specialist dyes, showing where cell division might be going out of control in the first stages of cancer. Living cells are labeled with fluorescent tags, highlighting where a certain type of molecule is needed. Even in whole organisms, these natural fluorescent dyes can be used to track the development of a specific organ.

For some scientists, these experiences of awe and wonder point to something beyond science. The cell biologist Ursula Goodenough has written, “the remarkable beauty of the cell, of everything that is … continues to draw me to spiritual issues.”

Jeff Hardin, chair of the zoology department at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is a distinguished scholar who is humble enough to let the experience of beauty in the tiny worms he studies direct his attention to the God who is ultimately responsible for them. Hardin sees this beauty as “a pointer to God himself, the author of things that are beautiful and true.” He is fond of quoting C. S. Lewis, calling these …

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Young, Female, and Pro-Trump

How white evangelical millennials are defying political predictions.

2017 ushered in a political wakeup call for American women.

For women on the left, it was the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Nearly two-thirds of Democratic women—more than men or Republicans—say they are paying closer attention to politics with Trump in office, Pew Research Center recently reported.

For some women on the right, it was another landmark that took place around the same time: the Women’s March, which drew controversy for not including pro-life groups among its official partners. According to Pew, 40 percent of American women oppose abortion in all or most circumstances.

“Since the Women’s March, Christian conservative women are realizing their voice isn’t being heard,” said Kelsey Gold, a recent Liberty University grad who remembers first hearing about the event on her way home from Trump’s inauguration. “The voices that claim to speak for all women really didn’t.”

Support for Trump among white evangelicals tends to exacerbate the trends among Americans overall, with regular churchgoers, men, and older demographics more likely to skew Republican.

Yet, Gold’s generation represents one exception to the pattern; unlike any other age group, millennial evangelical women were more likely than their male counterparts to vote for Trump, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) provided to CT by Ryan Burge, politics researcher and blogger for the site Religion in Public.

In last year’s election, 73 percent of white evangelical women under 35 voted for Trump compared to 60 percent of white evangelical men of the same age.

“That is a really interesting statistic that kind of defies the national trend,” said …

The other issue drawing in Christian millennial women could be national security, according to Waller at Biola.

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Interview: From Jonathan Edwards to Jerry Falwell

Pulitzer Prize–winner Frances FitzGerald looks at the long history behind evangelical political activism.

There’s a familiar story about evangelical political activism that begins with the 1960s. The country’s mores were changing rapidly, and evangelicals, alarmed by a retreat from traditional values, awoke from decades of political slumber and charged back into the arena, launching the Christian Right movement that rippled through American society. Or so the story goes.

But for Frances FitzGerald—a journalist, historian, and author of books on the Vietnam War, the Reagan era, and other major chapters of American history—the real story begins at least a century earlier. Her latest book, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster) hearkens back to the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries to find the reforming impulse that drew conservative Christians (and their progressive brethren) into the public square. Heath W. Carter, author of Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago and the coeditor of Turning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism, spoke with FitzGerald about her observations on evangelicals and American politics.

How did you become interested in evangelicalism?

It was partly by accident. I was teaching in Lynchburg, Virginia, when a professor pointed me toward Jerry Falwell’s church. He was, at that time, starting the Moral Majority, so I stayed and wrote a piece about him for The New Yorker. I’ve been writing about evangelicals, off and on, ever since—to a greater extent during the administration of George W. Bush, when they came to the fore.

After all that reporting, I felt there was no way for non-evangelicals or secular people to understand evangelicals without understanding their history and without …

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Died: Haddon Robinson, Champion of Biblical Preaching

The seminarian who taught and inspired decades of expositors ‘goes home to God.’

Haddon Robinson, the respected author and seminary president who set the standard for expositional preaching, died Saturday. He was 86.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Robinson served as an interim president and professor of preaching, broke the news of his passing and posted a tribute this weekend. Robinson also taught at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and was president of Denver Seminary.

In his books, classes, and radio instruction, Robinson taught that sermons should be guided by the biblical text and focus on one idea or theme.

Christianity Today featured Robinson—formerly the senior editor of a fellow CT site, PreachingToday.com—in a 2002 article on the neglected craft of expository preaching:

Robinson has been teaching students about expository preaching for decades. His classic (and recently updated) tome Biblical Preaching, which is used in more than 150 seminaries and Bible colleges, has become the go-to text for aspiring expositors.

“The number of preachers who really begin with the text and let it govern the sermon is relatively small,” laments Robinson. “Today, the danger is that some preachers will read the latest psychology book into the text. They’re not driven by a great theology but, instead, by the social sciences.”

In addition to Biblical Preaching, Robinson wrote more than a dozen books on the topic and regularly taught through radio ministries Discover the Word and Our Daily Bread. He warned preachers about veering into heresy with biblical application; distracting the congregation with sermon illustrations; or ostracizing parts of the audience with tone.

Among many striking quotes about preaching, Robinson had said, “There are no great preachers, …

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Cultural Self-Awareness: A Missing Element in Intercultural Service?

Professor uses Dr. Seuss as a case study.

There are a lot of books and articles that help prepare God’s people for working in other cultures. Most of the material provides insights into cultural difference and for understanding how to adapt to, interact with, and share the gospel with those from another culture. The perspective is usually that of understanding the cultural other. In this article, I am turning the reflection back on self and one’s own culture.

For years, a major company promoted its products with the tagline, “Don’t leave home without it.” The goal of the propaganda was to convince the consumer that the best way to deal with money while traveling was by using their products, originally traveler’s checks and then a credit card.

With their products you could go anywhere. I am paraphrasing their tagline to “Culture: You can’t leave home without!” The lesson that I want you to remember is that no matter where you go, your culture goes with you—for good or bad. The goal is to enable you—whether as a short-term or career missionary or as a church member connecting with a different culture at work or across the street—to use culture for good rather than having culture become a barrier in God’s service.

The starting point is to recognize that we all have a culture. One common tendency is to think that others have culture (usually seen as exotic) and we don’t. Another perception is that culture refers to particular aspects of life, usually the arts. I recently drove by a sign for a city’s “cultural district” probably referring to aspects of art, music, museums, and theater. In this mindset, a cultured person is focused on the arts of say NYC, or better yet, …

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Rural Matters: Placing Rural Church Planting Back on the Map

Small town pastors are doing big things for God’s Kingdom.

I recently introduced my daughter to the 2006 Pixar movie Cars. Sorry, if I’m ruining the movie for anyone, but it has been out since 2006, so tough. The movie follows a race car named Lightning McQueen who ends up stranded in a small town off Route 66 called Radiator Springs. It wasn’t until I was watching the movie, for what seemed like the thousandth time, that I noticed the great work Pixar put into showing how society sees these towns and how special these rural towns once were and can still be today.

The town of Radiator Springs represents the state of many rural towns today – on the verge of being a forgotten ghost town. Once a booming stop along a famous highway that connected the east to the west, now very little traffic drives through these towns due to new interstates that bypass the town or big industries moving out to larger, more central, cities.

The main character in the movie, while stuck in the small town performing community service, spends half the movie complaining about his talents being wasted working in the town, while neglecting to see the importance of doing anything to transform or restore the small, rural community.

I believe this has been the attitude of many pursuing vocational ministry. We treat rural areas like a place to get gas as we drive through, rather than a place to call home. Growing up outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, I spent most of my life church planting in smaller rural communities with my family. I can remember driving the old Route 66 highway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, passing through run-down forgotten downtowns where people use to gather, seeing collapsing houses that once brought life into the community, and stopping at the few remaining gas stations that have survived …

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How God Sent His Word to An Iraqi Interpreter

I saw an American soldier reading his Bible, and I wanted to know more.

I grew up in Iraq as the third oldest of eight siblings. My family was untraditional. My mom was Muslim, and my dad was Catholic. They didn’t force any religion on their children, in part because they didn’t take religion very seriously themselves. My father was a wealthy businessman, so we lived comfortably in a large house, blessed with several vehicles, a housekeeper, and more than 250 sheep.

When I was around eight years old, my father’s business began to struggle. The stress from his work made it unpleasant to be around him. He started drinking and hanging out with people who were a bad influence. About a year later, he was getting into trouble with the police on a regular basis. He would end up going to jail roughly 20 times.

His final stint in prison came after the government found out he hadn’t completed his three years of required service in the Iraqi army. He had joined the army for a year during the Iran-Iraq War, but then he ran away.

As punishment, he was sentenced to one year in an underground prison, where he endured complete darkness, except for two minutes above ground each day. There was no shower, and food and water were scarce. Broken from suffering, he grew desperate and cried out to God.

And sure enough, God began profoundly changing my father’s heart. My family noticed a huge difference when he returned from prison. He became a hard worker, less selfish and an overall happier man who always had a smile on his face. As an example, one week after his release, my father and I went shopping for clothes. We ran into a man wearing tattered clothing who was obviously homeless. My father had compassion for this man and, stripping down to his underwear, gave away the clothes he was …

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