(Shared by Wouter Droppers, President of CBMC Europe/Europartners) November 24-28
Together with David Martin and Henk Vennis we visited Kiev to get connected to young professionals, the former CBMC group and to give a seminar about work, business, economy and finances from a biblical perspective.
It was a great trip. We connected to Mission in profession, leaders impact in Ukraine and the young leaders from the Central Baptist Church. We also gave a teaching for the latter group on Sunday in their church. On Friday we visited a CBMC team and some entrepreneurs to discover and explore what is going on in Kiev and the Ukraine. That evening we started our seminar which lasted through late Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile David was preaching in a church in Kiev and on Sunday I preached in the Central Baptist Church about crisis and hope according to Romans 8:18-39. Afterwards we talked with the young leaders of the church. We felt blessed and privileged to be there. We also made appointments to return and start our Young Professionals program in Kiev. We will give the seminair again for more people. This was our last mission trip for 2016. We felt grateful.
December 30, 2016 – John Stonestreet Can Christians agree to disagree on our culture’s most controversial topics? Well, when it comes to certain issues, the answer is no.
For years, a steady drumbeat of Christian pastors, musicians, and authors have announced they’ve “evolved” on the issue of homosexuality. Authors like Matthew Vines and more recently, Jen Hatmaker, musician Nicole Nordeman and Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff argue that the Bible doesn’t actually condemn same-sex “marriage.” Christians, they say, should bless such unions as “holy.”
Many of them have said that even if we don’t agree, we shouldn’t make it a big deal. We can “agree to disagree,” they say. Typically, they offer one of three reasons.
First, this issue, they say, is like the mode of baptism, or worship styles, or wine versus grape juice in the Lord’s Supper. In other words, homosexuality is a matter of preference, an area where believers can respect one another’s differences.
But this doesn’t make sense for either side. Advocates of same-sex “marriage” say it’s a human right. If that’s true, the traditional view is not just mistaken, it’s dangerous! Opponents say that acts of homosexuality are sinful. If that’s true, then Christians can’t agree to disagree either.
Second, we often hear that the Church is evolving on this issue, especially every time a Christian celebrity changes their minds. But the vast majority of evangelicals still hold to the traditional view, and they’re not changing their minds anytime soon. As my “BreakPoint This Week” cohost, Ed Stetzer, points out in Christianity Today, “Evangelical organizations across the spectrum are making clear where they stand on marriage.” Groups like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Christianity Today, and even more progressive social-justice-minded organizations like World Vision and Fuller Seminary, have all unambiguously committed to hold the line on this issue.
As have denominations. Virtually every evangelical communion has reaffirmed God’s design for sex and marriage. Even in the United Methodist Church, long considered a stronghold of liberal theology, and in the worldwide Anglican communion, the marriage debate has taken a conservative turn as traditional members in Africa and elsewhere exert their influence.
But, some will reply, “If Christians don’t all agree on what marriage is, you can’t say there’s such a thing as ‘the Christian position.’” But Christian truth isn’t made of what people who call themselves Christians say. It’s revealed truth, made known through creation, through Scripture, ultimately through Christ—each of which are quite clear about what makes us male and female, what marriage is, and about sexual morality.
Which is why Christians never questioned marriage until culturally yesterday. A post-sexual revolution claim just a few years old does nothing to negate the consistent Christian witness about marriage throughout all of history.
Which brings up the final argument, “If marriage is a core part of Christian teaching,” we hear, “why isn’t it in the creeds or the councils? Why did no one talk about it until now?” The answer is, because no one questioned what marriage is until now—anywhere, much less in the Church.
Throughout history, the need to clarify certain Christian doctrines has almost always arisen because of challenges. No one thought we needed a canon, until Marcion suggested some books weren’t Scripture. No one thought we needed to clarify Jesus’ place in the Godhead, until the Arian heresy. In each case, what was upheld wasn’t a theological innovation, but a clarification of the consistent Christian teaching.
So next time someone says, let’s just agree to disagree about this issue, say, “No. Instead, let’s agree to love each other and to pursue the truth together.” That’s a much better way forward.
December 16, 2016 – Eric Metaxas One of the best summations of God’s promises to Israel and mankind is as close as your nearest hymnal.
I want you to imagine yourself in a monastery in the eighth century. It is December 17th and you’ve gathered with your brothers for Vespers, the sunset prayer service.
As with all Vespers, at the heart of the service is the chanting of select psalms, each of them preceded and followed by what is known as an antiphon, a sung or recited response.
What sets apart December 17th, and the six nights that follow it, are the seven antiphons used only on these nights. Each one is a name of Christ—specifically, they are Messianic titles from the book of Isaiah: Sapienta (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root of Jesse), Clavis (Key of David), Oriens (Dayspring), Rex (King of the Nations), and Emmanuel.
Because each of these titles is preceded by the word “O” they are known as the “O Antiphons.”
If this sounds familiar, it should. I have just given you a glimpse into the origins of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”—the greatest Advent, or should I say Christian, hymn of all time.
While I asked you to imagine an eighth century monastery, the O Antiphons predate the eighth century. The Roman philosopher Boethius, who lived in the late fifth and early sixth centuries, alludes to them in his writings. It’s reasonable to suppose, as one scholar put it, that “in some fashion the O Antiphons have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.”
But it’s what they teach us, and not just their antiquity, that gives them their power. The composer and musicologist Robert Greenberg has noted that if you take the first letter of each of the Messianic titles in reverse order, by December 23rd you will have the Latin phrase Ero Cras, “tomorrow I will come.”
Whether this was intentional or an instance of perceiving a pattern where none was intended, there is no denying that the message of the antiphons and the resulting hymn is the literally awe-inspiring faithfulness of God. All of God’s promises to His people are fulfilled in the One whose coming we sing about.
He is Sapienta, the Wisdom of God, upon whom the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, and knowledge and fear of the Lord rested (Isaiah 11). He is Adonai, the Lord our lawgiver and judge, who will save us (Isaiah 33). He is the root of Jesse’s stem, whom the Gentiles will seek out and whose dwelling will be glorious (Isaiah 11). He is Oriens, the Radiant Dawn, the light that has shined upon the people who dwelt in darkness (Isaiah 9).
He is all these things and so much more.
To sing all seven verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and ponder their meaning is to join Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter morning and have our eyes opened to us. Starting with Moses and the prophets, theentirety of scripture is ultimately about Jesus.
Every time we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” during this Advent season, we are participating in one of the most venerable expressions of the faith itself.
The setting may have changed, but the truth expressed remains the same: God’s awe-inspiring faithfulness.
Frans van Santen, Coordinator, Young Professionals from Europartners (CBMC Europe) shares highlights of the second weekend retreat. With 13 participants from seven different nations, we enjoyed a great weekend in the woods of Doorn, The Netherlands.
We learned about the God who calls each one, about our personal calling and leadership style, and heard testimonies of God’s work. As one participant put it: “I loved the great atmosphere that everybody created of confidence, respect and love.”
Apart from the prayer time, teachings and personal worktime, we enjoyed volleyball and some of us took a tour to the city of Amsterdam. Everybody left the weekend with a sense of greater purpose and refreshment. We are grateful!
For more information on the young professionals ministry in Europe, please visit: https://www.europartners.org/young-professionals
Julio Acuna, Director of CBMC Latin America shares his insight:
It is a pleasure to share with you that the 4th Latin American Convention “Transformational Connections” held November 3-5 in Valencia, Venezuela was a success, even in the midst of difficulties across the country. We had the wonderful opportunity to hold such an important event to bring hope to the professional and business community not only in Venezuela but in Latin America in general.
The opening session was attended by 130 people, including a special representation of important guilds and living forces of the city of Valencia: Chamber of Industry, Chamber of Commerce, Fedecamaras, among others. We also had the valuable participation of speakers, workshops and participants from different countries that gave a truly continental tone to the event. These included: Araya from Chile, Edgar Medina from Mexico, Julio Cesar Acuña from Ecuador, Christyan Perez from Paraguay, José de Dios representing Generosity Path from the United States, and a special representation of Venezuela with Jesus Sampedro, Arnoldo Arana and Abraham Figuera. Likewise, we had the assistance of active members and eight newly incorporated cities in the CBMC family, including Valencia the host city of the Convention.
We had the opportunity to hear testimonies from businessman whose lives have been transformed resulting in the success of both their companies and their families. Among them was Javier Barcia, president of EcoPacific, a family business leader in the innovative elaboration and distribution of natural juices in Ecuador.
We also heard the story of Verlo Araya, an icon of the Government of Chile for the national promotion of entrepreneurship based on the success of its company CFruit, which distributes 50% of the fruits in northern Chile. In addition the conference was a point of connection and networking. Young Professionals and businessmen had the opportunity to attend as scholarship holders and rethink their future.
During the two days we had the opportunity to participate in the Generosity Path Workshop hosted by José de Dios, the representative for this ministry in Latin America.
Young professionals from Venezuela and Ecuador met for a relaunch of Young CBMC of Latin America.
Before the Convention, the Latin Board met with representatives from Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela, accompanied by online participation from other countries.
Each of the convention participants have committed to open a new committee in the next 12 months and to disciple two people. “One will become thousand” Isaiah 60:22.
It was an event marked by the valuable effort and support, affection and dedication of directors, staff and members of CBMC; motivated by the desire to continue to spread the work of CBMC and to speak hope in Jesus Christ to all in their marketplace. We hope to continue working together to build a transformed Venezuela and Latin America.
The Joy Of Anticipation – December 7, 2016 – Eric Metaxas
Advent has been buried under a pile of twinkle lights, plastic reindeer, and the Grinch. Here’s why.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted it to be Christmas every day of the year. A fairy granted her wish: every day, for a whole year, it would be Christmas Day.
And what that little girl learned in this funny story by William Dean Howells, is that you really can have too much of a good thing—way too much.
The little girl had a wonderful Christmas, filled with presents and turkey and plum pudding. And the next day, it was Christmas again! After a few months, the little girl, seeing “those great ugly lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents . . . burst out crying.”
By then, writes Howells, “people didn’t carry presents around nicely any more. They flung them over the fence, or through the window.”
Joseph Bottum relates this amusing tale in his book, “The Christmas Plains,” drawing a parallel between the story and the way we celebrate Christmas today.
Before the end of November, Christmas songs blare from our radios; catalogs arrive even earlier. After weeks of carols and cookies and parties, Bottum notes, Christmas “arrives as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long yule season…”
In effect, we are celebrating Christmas every day, just like the little girl in the story. And many of us get just as sick of this daily “Christmas” as she did.
Now how on earth did this happen? Well, as Bottum notes, “every secularized holiday tends to lose, in public contexts, the meaning it holds in the religious calendar.”
Advent—the traditional lead-up to Christmas—has vanished, culturally speaking. Its disappearance has left “a hole that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas,” Bottum writes.
Sadly, he’s right. If we want to celebrate Christmas properly—with “disciplined anticipation” as Bottum puts it–perhaps we need to cut back on all the secular celebrations, and make the observance of the days of Advent front and center in our celebrations.
Advent “proclaims an advent—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas” at the end of it, Bottum explains. Christmas, “in turn, lacks meaning without the penitential season of advent to go before it.”
This is why Advent celebrations, both at home and in churches, focus on scriptures that anticipate the coming of Christ.
In Micah, we read, “But you, O Bethlehem . . . from you SHALL come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel…”
And in Matthew, Joseph is told that Mary “WILL bear a son, and you SHALL call his name Jesus . . .”
Things like Advent calendars and crèches that remain empty until Christmas Eve “give a shape to the anticipation of the season,” says Bottum. And “a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives.”
Why not try an Advent devotional to guide you? Make an Advent wreath with your children. And take time every evening to gather the family around, light the Advent candles, read the scriptures, pray, and sing some Christmas hymns that anticipate the coming of Christ.
And then when Christmas Day does arrive, we can greet it, not with a sense of relief that the Christmas “season” is almost over, but with joy for the great gift of Christ.
November 22, 2016 – John Stonestreet Is our culture losing touch with reality? The folks who pick the official “word of the year” think so.
The Christian satire website, Babylon Bee, has had a lot of great headlines. One of my favorites so far: “Progressive Evangelical Leaders Meet to Affirm Doctrine of ‘Sola Feels.’” Adherents to this imaginary creed believe that “things that make us feel bad…are wrong. The things that give us all the happy feels…are true, right, and good.” Now of course, the scary part about satire is how closely it often mirrors reality.
On a related note, Oxford Dictionaries has released its 2016 word of the year: “post-truth,” which they define as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
I can hardly think of a better description of where we are right now as a culture. In fact, for those of us who’ve spent years calling out what Pope Benedict called “the dictatorship of relativism,” it’s tempting to say, “welcome to the party, guys!”
But the concept of “post-truth” is a bit different from garden variety relativism. It doesn’t discount the existence of truth. Rather, a post-truth society is one in which truth takes a back seat to emotion—where feelings effectively replace facts.
For example, the melt-down among what many are calling the “snowflakes” on college campuses over President-elect Trump is the most obvious example. Despite exit polls showing that a huge percentage of eligible millennial voters stayed home on Election Day, many of these students just can’t handle the outcome. Faced with a reality that contradicts what they feel should have happened, many just can’t cope.
A post-truth culture also leads us to equate disagreement with hatred. Loving me means agreeing with me. And as many conservative speakers who’ve been chased from university campuses by angry students can tell you, when feelings are equated with a person’s identity and even reality, contradicting those feelings is the same as attacking the person.
The post-truth culture can also lead us to ignore reality altogether. In this post-truth, post-fact, post-reality environment, many have hijacked legitimate concerns in order to play the victim.
And of course, post-truth culture dominates Facebook and Twitter feeds. Just look at the epidemic of fake news that marred the election. Even Christians too often fall for completely fabricated headlines and hoaxes, largely because they validate our feelings.
So where does all this leave us? Well, the Bible has plenty to say on the subject of truth. In fact, we follow the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Who came into the world to testify to the truth, a truth which—He told His disciples—would set them free. Truth must govern our emotions, not the other way around.
The 2016 word of the year doesn’t bode well for our culture. We must insist on prioritizing facts before emotions.
November 25, 2016 – John Stonestreet It is time to prepare for Christmas.
Last Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the time historically “set aside by the Church to help believers prepare to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.”
And the word “coming” refers both to His Incarnation and “His return as the ‘Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” who will “send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens’ (Mark 13:26-27).”
Today I want to explore the relationship between the observance of Advent and our worldview.
When most Christians think about worldview, what comes to mind are ideas. Now worldview isn’t less than ideas, of course, but it is more.
Bill Brown, Gary Phillips and I define worldview as the framework of basic beliefs we have that give us a view of and for the world. That framework includes ideas, but also our imagination, our habits, and the basic stories—both cultural and personal—that shape our lives.
We live out of these stories—they give us, as N. T. Wright puts it, “a way-of-being-in-the-world.” It’s this “way-of-being in the world” that I want to talk more about today.
Twelve years ago, the historian Robert Louis Wilken wrote in the journal First Things that “The Church is a culture in its own right.Christ does not simply infiltrate a culture; Christ creates culture by forming another city, another sovereignty with its own social and political life.”
What distinguishes this culture from the non-Christian world is not some kind of physical separation, or even a spiritual withdrawal, but, to borrow Wright’s phrase, a “way-of-being-in-the-world” that’s different.
According to Wilken, three hallmarks of this “way” were the distinctive Christian uses of space, time, and language. Time today does not permit me to discuss the uses of space and language, so I’ll settle for urging you to read Wilken’s essay.
But that does leaves time to talk about, well, time. As Wilken writes, “We should not underestimate the cultural significance of the calendar and its indispensability for a mature spiritual life. Religious rituals carry a resonance of human feeling accumulated over the centuries.”
He continues “The season of Advent . . . is a predictable reminder that the Church lives by another time, marked in the home by a simple ritual, the lighting of a violet Advent candle set in an evergreen wreath on a dark evening in early December.”
“Sacred seasons” like Advent, “run at right angles to the conventional calendar [and] they offer a regular and fixed cessation of activity.” They become “times of reflection and contemplation that open us to mystery and transcendence.”
What’s more, they provide the “gift of leisure,” a much-needed respite from “the world of work and money and minding our p’s and q’s.”
Only if we truly understand those cultural forces that shape our worldview can we intentionally open ourselves to the possibility that there is a way of being in the world that is both countercultural and transformative.
One of our friends in Europartners (CBMC Europe) reaching the industrials and oligarchs in Moscow at a golf club:
I just barely took the third place in the Mulligan Cup at a Moscow Golf Club. The victory did qualify me for delivering a speech at the prize-giving ceremony, though. I put my clerical collar shirt and pectoral crucifix on, climbed the pedestal, requested a mic, and said – loud and clear – to all the members of the club in attendance: “I want you all to know that the concept of mulligan originated in the Bible!
A ‘mulligan’ in golf is a second chance to make a shot after the first one went wrong through bad luck or a blunder, and so with no penalty. Two conditions must be met for the mulligan to happen, though: First, you cannot take a mulligan yourself. It has to be offered to you. Second, you have to admit you hit a poor shot, made a mistake, to humble yourself and accept the mulligan. But then – your score card is but a blank slate!
The Gospel is that way. The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Just as it is the case with the mulligan, you cannot obtain salvation yourself; God offers salvation to you. Then you have to admit that you made mistakes in your life for which you are sorry and accept this salvation. But when the two conditions are met, you start your life all from scratch! Thus, God gave us the greatest mulligan of all times in Jesus Christ. Accept it!”
The club went silent. And I said, “More on the Mulligan – in the Bible of which I am willing to give a copy to anyone who asks!” (My stack of Bibles disappeared before I reached my table.)
Four out of five people killed for religious reasons are Christians, according to Hungary’s minister for human resources. In response, Hungary’s government is the world’s first to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe. The move comes after Viktor Orban, Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, drew criticism within the European Union for saying that Europe should focus on helping Christian refugees before Muslims. The office will have a budget of $3.5 million (USD) with which to raise international awareness and coordinate humanitarian efforts. In March 2016, Canada shuttered its office of international religious freedom after three years.
(Christianity Today, November 2016)