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The Palestinian-Israel Debate Among Evangelicals and Why It Matters (Part One)

A growing divide between evangelical Christians, regarding the state of Israel and the Palestinian problem, has arisen in recent years. This debate, and the subsequent divide that grows out of it, is prompted by very passionate voices on both sides. Many conservative churches and leaders support Israel without equivocation. As I understand what has happened this support often comes without serious questions about whether or not injustice has taken place on the part of Israel. Others, often with a more progressive political agenda, support the Palestinian cause, sometimes in ways that reject the whole notion of Israel’s existence and future.

1237880_497673997002383_9782664491885697_nAn example of this growing divide recently came to my attention via a Christian political publication called Faith & Freedom (Fall 2014). Author Luke W. Moon, the co-director of the Philos Project on Christian engagement with Israel, contributed an article to this issue titled: “The Latest Threat to Evangelical Support for Israel.” By the title you can readily see the author’s intent. He argues, and it seems rightly, that only a small percentage of evangelical leaders actually challenge “support

Visions of Vocation

UnknownAuthor Steven Garber wrote one of those rare modern books that I have read twice. Some years ago I developed an answer that I cleverly gave to folks who, upon seeing my immense library (before I sold nearly 15,000 books over the last few years), would gasp at my floor-to-ceiling library shelves and ask me, “Have you read all of these?” I calmly answered, “I’ve read some of them twice.” This was true. Hoping I could read them all was only a pipe dream but unless pressed hard I did not admit to that until I gave up reading them all in my late 50s and realized I should break up the Armstrong collection sooner than later.

Steven Garber’s book, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP), was one of those books that I actually did read twice. It is a truly magnificent book. I recommend it to everyone who reads this blog.

Steven Garber taught for many years on Capitol Hill in the American Studies Program and then became scholar-in-residence for the Council of Christian

How and Why ACT3 Began

The ministry of ACT3 Network was legally incorporated in 1991. Four men joined me in our home in Carol Stream for the purpose of founding a non-profit teaching mission that would seek the renewal of the church through impacting the lives of pastors and leaders. At the time this ministry was incorporated it was called Reformation & Revival.

0But the real beginning of this ministry goes all the way back to 1981. A pastor from England had been in my pulpit and home for several days. He asked me about my influence upon area pastors and how I could use this to impact others. He suggested I begin a ministerial fellowship that would stress the intellectual, spiritual and doctrinal aspects of deep faith. The first such group met in 1981 in the basement of my church in Wheaton, Illinois. We called it the Whitefield Fellowship, naming it after the British evangelist of the eighteenth century. I picked this name because I loved George Whitefield for his heart, his incredible zeal for God and needy people, and his deep

Philip Schaff and The Unity of Christendom – Part One

Unknown-2In the year in which he died (1893), Philip Schaff wrote what I take to be an extremely important piece on ecumenism with the title “The Reunion of Christendom.” It begins by quoting John 17:20–21 and then states the difficulty of the ecumenical problem by saying that the answer to the question the disciples asked Jesus, when they said – “Who then can be saved?” – may well be applied to the question, “How shall the many sections of the Christian world be united?” Schaff answers this query by quoting Matthew 19:25-26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Make no mistake regarding Philip Schaff’s view of the subject of Christian unity. He believed that “in a manner far better than we can devise or hope, he [God] will, by the power of his Spirit, unite all his children into one flock under one Shepherd.” Schaff said that this reunion “presupposes an original union” which was marred and obstructed.

I concur with Schaff in this belief and passion. I also agree with him that

Waiting for Another MLK – What Can We Do As Christians?

My good friend Rev. Carlos Malave, the executive director of Christian Churches Together USA, shared a lovely meal with me in Louisville just a few weeks ago. Carlos was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist church but eventually became a Presbyterian minister. He was drawn to ecumenism while a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was influenced by another friend, Dr. Cecil (Mel) Robeck, Jr. Carlos says of this part of his journey: “What really clicked was a church history class taught by  Robeck, an Assembly of God pastor but a really strange Assembly of God pastor because he was a leading Pentecostal ecumenist. That was captivating to me, his call to work for the unity of the church.” Carlos finished his degree at Fuller and went on to serve as an associate for ecumenical relations in the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Unknown-3In a recent letter to leaders in CCT, titled “Waiting for Another MLK,” Carlos eloquently wrote this appeal:

Are we waiting for another Dr. King? As I collect

Glorifying God in Our Cultural Pursuits

3768Last week I asked a much-debated question raised by the patristic theologian Tertullian: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” I observed that Tertullian was primarily concerned about what role philosophy had in dealing with the Christian faith. The same question, as I showed previously, can be applied to popular culture. What place does Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue have with Christ?

I am persuaded that far too few Christians have a serious view of culture, especially of popular culture. From TV shows to modern fiction we range from the extreme of “total separation” all the way to “uncritical acceptance.” Without a carefully developed theology of culture it seems to me that wide pendulum swings will inevitably characterize the Christian’s engagement with popular culture. Reconciling one’s faith with art, for example, has troubled more than a few Christians that I have known over the years. In my early Christian experience I personally ranged from general confusion, into a brief period of separation and then toward a wide-scale (uncritical) acceptance. Because I did not dig into the content

A Modest Post-Denominational Proposal

georgebioRev. George Byron Koch (Coke) is my friend. In fact, he is my very good friend. As my lead blog post for this week I am publishing a document that George recently sent to me to get my feedback. I now share it with you to get your feedback and to show you how two missional-ecumenists think about the church in these challenging and exciting times.

Fr. George Koch has been the pastor of Resurrection Church, West Chicago (IL), since June of 1994. George received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics in 1968 from Elmhurst College. While in college he was active in the Civil Rights Movement, wrote a newspaper column, hosted a series of local radio programs and led a band called “The Establishment.” After a time in the recording and film industry George founded a venture-funded national software company which led, in 1990, to him becoming senior vice-president for the Oracle Corporation. But George was restless for radical service to God through the mission of the church as a called and trained minister of the gospel.

What Does Christ’s Victory Mean for Understanding His Death?

anastas1The New Testament is filled with material concerning the victory of Christ over the powers of evil, a victory finally accomplished, and announced, through his death and resurrection.

One of the seminal texts that comes to mind here is in Matthew’s Gospel.

22 Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. 23 All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” 25 He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if

How the Enlightenment Took the Church Away from Jesus & Him Crucified

The ancient church did not debate ideas about “appeasing the wrath of God through Christ’s death.” The Christ they worshiped, as we’ve seen, was the victor over the powers. They expressed this in their worship. This can also be discovered in their hymns, in baptism, in their preaching, at the eucharist, and in the recorded prayers of the earliest Christians. It runs like a scarlet thread throughout. If this were understood at all I believe the present evangelical wars about the atonement would be stopped almost instantly.

UnknownMany examples of my point about the early church can be offered but one that has helped me is found in the oldest prayer of thanksgiving we have that was said over the bread and wine in the eucharist. It is the prayer preserved for us by Hippolytus in The Apostolic Tradition, a work written around A.D. 215. This particular prayer points to the theme of Christ’s victory. Here is an important sample of this ancient faith congregational prayer:

Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people, he

The Missional Paradigm and Effective Seminary Education

371Last week I wrote several blogs on the state of theological education in North America. I suggested that seminaries need to adjust their mission to the rapidly changing context of the church in twenty-first century America. I further suggested that we need to teach theology and mission as integrated topics, not as separate or unrelated academic disciplines.

This story, told by Pastor Tim Ackley, demonstrates in a simple, compelling manner the value of getting a solid missional education. As you will readily see Tim received this kind of education at Biblical Theological Seminary in suburban Philadelphia. I have taught as an adjunct at Biblical Seminary and served on the seminary’s board. Biblical’s creative and effective educational experience is one that I wholeheartedly commend to anyone looking for a good missional model. You will get a strong, clear sense of the difference a clear vision of purpose can make on a pastor who is passionate about Christ’s kingdom and mission.

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