Monthly Archives: January 2010

Gluttony: The Most Common Deadly Sin?

Gregory the Great, a sixth century pope whose piety and teaching on spiritual formation have had an enduring legacy in the church, seems to have been the first Christian teacher to create the taxonomy of the "seven deadly sins." One thing is certain. Following Gregory these seven sins stood out as prominent in Christian theology. The seven were: pride, anger, envy, impunity, gluttony, slothfulness and avarice. I doubt many Protestants could name these if their life depended on it.

But what is gluttony? And is gluttony simply synonymous with being overweight? And if it synonymous with being overweight who determines what constitutes being overweight? If it is the infamous insurance tables then the standard has shifted quite a bit in the last decade. If it is the physicians and researchers then the standard is shifting even as I write these words. The most recent medical evidence suggests that excess weight is harmful to your well-being but there are many other factors that contribute to health and longevity of life than weight. In reality, some of

By |January 31st, 2010|Categories: Personal, Spirituality|

Pam Chose Life: The Tim Tebow Pro-Life Story

The following letter appeared in my box this week. I think it implores those who value unborn life to respond. I did. I hope you will too.

Dear Friends,

Once again our values are under intense attack from radical liberal feminists. Only this time they are venturing where they never should have gone.

Football. And not just any football game. The Super Bowl.

This week, the liberal feminist organization, National Organization for Women (NOW), launched an all-out effort attacking a pro-life ad that will be in the Super Bowl commercial line-up. The ad, produced by our good friends at Focus on the Family, tells the story of Pam Tebow's decision to continue with her pregnancy against her doctor's advice and give birth to the Heisman trophy winning Florida Gator Quarterback, Tim Tebow.

Tebow NOW's call to take this advertisement off the air is their attempt at shutting down

By |January 30th, 2010|Categories: Abortion|

The Ongoing Struggle of Church and State is a Real Threat to Mission

A French court has ruled that the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Nice, built with funding from the Russian Tsar Nicholas II and completed in 1912, just prior to the country's revolution, belongs to the government of Russia and must be handed over. The victory is Russia's latest in a series of battles for church property around the world, which represent attempts by the Russian government and Russian Orthodox Church to reassert control over a widespread diaspora. A Russian émigré group has run St. Nicholas Cathedral under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul-based Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople since the 1920s.

If you do not follow such news this may strike you as quite unimportant. It strikes me as both sad and dangerous. By danger I am not reworking the old themes of the cold war, not at all. I am reminding Christians of the danger the church faces when it gets too comfortable with the state. From 1917 until the fall of the U.S.S.R. the church and state were very separated in Russia. In fact,

A Day in the Life of John H. Armstrong

Regular readers of this blog might actually wonder what I do from day-to-day. Do I sit in front of a screen and write articles, blogs and books? Well, yes and no. I do a lot of writing for sure. But I do even more work with people. I follow the "rule of thumb" I heard not too long ago from Bishop N. T. Wright who said that if he did blog he would spend one hour with real people for every hour he spent online. I spend far more hours with real people than with virtual realities and blogging. Do not misunderstand, I believe the Internet revolution is not only real but I believe it has the most amazing potential to stir the church unlike anything that has happened since the invention of movable type. I also believe that social sites like Facebook have immense value. I have reconnected with so many friends, and built so many relationships with new friends, that I have become a huge fan of this tool. But again, this all has to

By |January 28th, 2010|Categories: ACT 3, Personal|

When and How Should We Speak Out About the Persecution of Other Christians?

The Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) recently expressed its dismay (January 14 post) at the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)’s for having ignored religious persecution in China during its recent visit. Instead, says Faith McDonnell of the IRD, the WEA spoke only of cooperation with the government-registered church while disregarding restrictions by the communist regime on unofficial churches. The vast majority of Chinese Christians, conservatively estimated at 80 million in number, worship in unregistered congregations that meet in homes and other settings.

The IRD post adds that: “In the past week alone, leaders of the Chinese House Church Alliance were detained by the authorities in Hebei province according to China Aid. House churches in both Beijing and Shanghai have also been closed recently by the police. In Shanxi province, authorities demolished the Fushan House Church’s building, giving church leaders long prison sentences. In December, a Ugyhur Christian convert from Islam was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for his faith.”

There is no question, to my mind, that this report from the IRD is accurate. Having served

By |January 27th, 2010|Categories: The Persecuted Church|

How Meeting Real Christians from Different Traditions Makes a Real Difference

A regular reader of this blog, who is Roman Catholic in his faith and practice, told me that he was recently at an A.A. men's retreat conducted at a Jesuit-run retreat center.  This retreat was specifically geared toward men involved in A.A. but it incorporated the Spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.IGNAT002 Because of this Catholic connection the retreat included Catholic prayers such as the angelus, the rosary, the daily and Sunday mass, morning prayers, as well as evening eucharistic adoration and benediction. In such settings no one is forced to participate in these spiritual practices that are specifically Catholic but all are invited to participate to whatever degree they choose to do so. What follows is an account by the writer (edited by me) of the letter, a Catholic friend, that was sent to me a few days ago.

“There was a man at the retreat from out-of-state who had traveled some distance to be there. He is a Baptist and,

Pope Benedict XVI on Knowing Christ, Witness and Unity

Pope_benedict_xvi On January 20 Pope Benedict XVI said, “Being a witness to Christ presupposes knowing him firsthand, not just being told of him by others.” The Pope made this comment during a general audience in Pope Paul VI Hall. He took up the theme of ecumenism, during what is called internationally a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This year's theme for the prayer week is "You are witnesses of these things," taken from the Gospel of Luke. Pope Benedict XVI noted in his homily the following points based upon the biblical text:

If we look at the context of the chapter [of Luke], “these things” means above all the cross and resurrection. The disciples have seen the Lord's crucifixion, they see the Risen One and thus begin to understand all the Scriptures that speak of the mystery of the passion and of the gift of the resurrection. “These things,” therefore, is the mystery of Christ, of the Son of God made man.

By |January 25th, 2010|Categories: Missional-Ecumenism|

Please Stop the Interpretations of Divine (Secret) Providence

Patrobertson If there is anything the most elemental study of the Bible, theology and church history will reveal it is the simple, but profound, truth that we have no business trying to explain divine providence in terms of what God is saying or doing in a catastrophe or tragedy. American history is, however, littered with preachers telling us what God was specifically saying to the world, or to some person or group of people, when a particular event took place. The greatest illustration of this problem occurred during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was once asked, "Whose side is God on in the war?" He said he was not concerned with that question but rather with the question of whether or not he, that is Abraham Lincoln, was on God's side. That is the point!

Lincoln, not even a member of a Christian church, understood better than many ministers when to speak about providence, and how, and when to be quiet. But the problem persists.

The Blessing of Abraham and the Nations of the Earth

The following reflection came to me this week via a post written by my son, Matthew Armstrong. Matt is a passionate church-planter, a faithful evangelist and a young man who teaches me a great deal about faith and obedience, probably much more than even he realizes. When I read this I decided to share it. Enjoy his insights gleaned from a "fresh" reading of Genesis.

On January 1, I started a new Bible reading plan. Actually, it's an old plan that I have done several times, but I had stopped doing it last year. In any case, I have been reading in Genesis about Abraham. It's cool how you can read God's Word many times and continue to see new things in it. It is a rich treasure trove for us as Christ-followers.

What I have been thinking about is how God called Abram, changed his name to Abraham, and blessed him abundantly. He gave him (for the most part) peace with his neighbors, a beautiful and loving wife, two sons (including Isaac, the child of promise), and great wealth.

By |January 23rd, 2010|Categories: Biblical Theology, Missional Church|

Skye Jethani and Dan Kimball on the Emergent Church

I attended a dialog on the emergent church Wednesday afternoon at Wheaton College (January 20). Authors Dan Kimball (photo at left) and Skye Jethani (photo at right) made presentations (Dan’s was given the evening before) and answered questions. Dan Kimball SKye The event was hosted by Dr. Vince Bacote and the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College. I tried to restrain myself but ended up making several comments at the end of the hour-plus meeting. I likely said more than I should have, given the time constraints. (Time flies when you are thinking, listening, reacting in your mind and wanting to speak while sensing you should say something or maybe you shouldn’t.) I find such events encouraging and just a tad frustrating. The encouraging part is that these two guys were humble, gracious and insightful. I loved listening to them both. The frustrating part is that

By |January 22nd, 2010|Categories: Emergent Church|
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