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TGC Spotlight highlights TGC articles from earlier in the week, previews articles coming next week, and links to items around the web that you might have missed. 

Around the Web

President Obama Announces Changes in U.S.-Cuban Relations

Yesterday, President Obama announced that, “the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.” He instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since 1961. High-ranking officials will visit Cuba and the U.S. will reestablish an embassy in Havana. He also instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

The President also says the U.S. will take steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba. Americans who travel to Cuba will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island. U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions and exporters will be able to sell goods to the country.

Here are a few answer to questions about the policy change.

Can the President do all that?

Sort of. The president controls the State Department, but the Congress controls the money. Senator Rubio (R-FL) has said that he’ll do everything he can to block funding for a Cuban embassy and prevent an ambassador from being selected.

The trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba also cannot be lifted without congressional approval. The executive branch has the authority under current law merely to issue licenses that permit US citizens and corporations to do business with Cuba, travel there, and send money to family members there.

Why the change now, after 50 years?

President Obama has wanted to normalize relations with Cuba since he took office. But according to news reports, the surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis.

The United States sent back three imprisoned Cuban spies who were caught in 1998. They were traded for Rolando Sarraf Trujillo, a Cuban who had worked as an agent for American intelligence and had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years.

Why is there an embargo?

The U.S. began imposing sanctions against Cuba after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, nationalized the economy, and stole more than $1 billion in American assets on the island.

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba broke off in 1961 as tensions between the two nations increased after Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union. Even though the Cold War ended, not much has changed in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.

What does the embargo do?

The embargo prevents American companies from doing business in Cuba and prohibits most Americans from traveling directly there or spending money as tourists, 

Will this change have an impact on the U.S. economy?

Not really. Cuba’s economy is too small to have much impact (at an estimated GDP of $71 billion, it’s about half the state of Iowa’s economy).

Quick Takes

• In case you missed it, Collin Hansen outlined the TGC initiatives of the years and listed his 10 favorite resources from 2014.

• How would humanity feed itself if a super-volcanic eruption blocked out the sun for five years? Here's one answer: "We can convert existing fossil fuels to food by growing bacteria on top of it—then either eat the bacterial slime or feed it to rats and bugs and then eat them."

• Christianity Today released their book awards for 2014.  A lot of great books, many from friends of TGC.

• Think Xmas means Christ-less? No so. R.C. Sproul explains what the X in Xmas really means.

(For even more links, see the "Remainder Bin" at the end of this post.)

Featured TGC Articles

Eat the Law and Live | William Ross

Paul says the law brings death (Rom. 7:10). So why does Psalm 19:7 portray God's law as spiritually nourishing food? Could it be that God's law is the answer for much of our spiritual malnourishment?

TGC Staff Cite Best Books From 2014 | Matt Smethurst

Still Christmas shopping? TGC staff members cite their favorite books from 2014.

How To Ruin a Moses Movie | Joe Carter

Here are few lessons Scott can teach future generations of filmmakers about how to ruin a movie about Moses.

3 Christmas Pitfalls For Parents | Lindsey Carlson,

If you’re looking to make a change in your children’s hearts this year, start by examining and humbling your own.

The Sacred-Secular Divide is Pure Fiction | Bethany Jenkins

It is pure fiction to say that there is a sacred-secular divide in our vocations because we all have on baptism, one gospel, and one faith.

Featured TGC Contributor Articles

How to Use the Back of a Napkin to Prove to a Jehovah’s Witness That Jesus Is God | Justin Taylor

Years ago I read the following simple but effective illustration from Greg Koukl on how to use a napkin, a pen, and a Bible verse to show a Jehovah’s Witness that Scripture teaches (even in their own translation) that Jesus must be God.

Top Ten Books of 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

This list is not meant to assess the thousands of Christian books published each year, let alone every interesting book published in 2014. I read a lot of books, but there are plenty of worthy titles that I never touch (and never hear of).


My 10 Favorite Reads of 2014 | Trevin Wax

Every December, I select the ten books that I most enjoyed reading during the year. I am not claiming these are the most important books of 2014 (since many weren’t even published this year).


A Model of Charity, Clarity and Courage in Pastoral Care | Thabiti Anyabwile

We pastors often find ourselves speaking during troublesome and difficult times. We address biblical texts with thorny truths that offend people. We appear at bedsides to comfort the dying and the grieving. We sometimes get called upon to help the wider community navigate calamity and crisis. Pastors speak. And there are times when not speaking amounts to a dereliction of duty.


Jesus is the Fulfillment and the Fulfiller | Ray Ortlund

Old Testament prophecy . . . needed only the coming of the One in whom all the prophecies of the Old Testament would be fulfilled, in whom all those themes of hope in the Old Testament would be gathered up and realized, the Fulfillment and the Fulfiller. . .


An Advent Prayer: The Weakness, Paradox, and Glory of Jesus’ Birth | Scotty Smith

Dear Lord Jesus, I am so thankful you came to fulfill everything mentioned in these hope-saturated words from Isaiah; and I’m in awe, once again, as I reflect on your humble entrance into our world. The contrast between your birthing and calling is staggering.


A Hymn | Jared C. Wilson

The LORD our God is Lord of Hosts. He holds all time within his hand. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost From all eternity will stand.


Coming Next Week at TGC

Joy to the World: A Christmas Hymn Reconsidered | Alyssa Poblete

Alyssa Poblete invites readers to interpret the class Christmas hymn 'Joy to the World' as an ode to Christ's second coming, not his first.


Two Disgraced Women Who Changed the World | Rob Schwarzwalder

Rob Schwarzwalder on how Elizabeth and Mary changed the world.


Why You Should Read Bavinck | Derek Rishmawy

Derek Rishmawy offers six reasons you should read Herman Bavinck's 'Reformed Dogmatics.'


Upcoming Events

Albuquerque Regional Conference (March 20-22, 2015)

Assembled Under the Word: Preaching and Christ. Speakers include Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, and David Helm.

2015 National Conference (April 1-15, 2015)

Heading Home: A New Heaven and a New Earth. Speakers include Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Mark Dever, Voddie Baucham, Philip G. Ryken, Ligon Duncan, and many others.

Remainder Bin

American Culture

Why aren’t there more babies? Cable TV access reduces fertility rates
Siri Srinivas, The Guardian

The US fertility rate is dropping, threatening future economic growth. But economists can only guess at the reason.

Iowa developing driver’s licence app

The US state of Iowa is developing an application to put residents’ driver’s licences on mobile devices.

What happened to work in America?
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

The share of American men 25 to 54 years old who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s to 16%.

How modern art became trapped by its urge to shock
Roger Scruton, BBC

There are two kinds of untruth – lying and faking. The person who is lying says what he does not believe. The person who is faking says what he or she believes, though only for the time being and for the purpose in hand, writes Roger Scruton.


UK: Rules for babies ‘from three people’
James Gallagher, BBC

The rules for creating babies from three people – which state only two would be classed as parents – have been announced by the UK government.

If Fetal Surgery Can Save the Life of an Unborn Child, Why Do Some Oppose It?
Gabriella Morrongiello, The Daily Signal

Roughly three percent of babies born each year in the United States suffer from a complex birth defect, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Why the Abortion Rate Is the Lowest It’s Been Since 1973
Ryan T. Anderson , The Daily Signal

The abortion rate keeps dropping. The latest numbers from the CDC, released last week, show that the abortion rate is the lowest it’s been since 1973, the year the Supreme Court manufactured a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Justices Let Stand a Ruling Blocking an Arizona Abortion Law
Adam Liptak, New York Times

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a decision temporarily blocking an Arizona law that limits the availability of medicinal, nonsurgical abortions. As is its custom when it denies review, the court gave no reasons for its action.

Christianity and Culture

Racism Alone? – Reflections on the Current National Divide
Carl F. Ellis, Prophets of Culture

Some claim that these killings demonstrate the existence of racist structures that permeate our society. Others claim that these killings resulted from criminal behavior or “a lack of personal responsibility.” While both positions point to contributing factors, they both continue to ignore the elephant in the room, namely culture – a factor that dwarfs the previous two.

What Do Evangelical Professors Do, Anyway?
Owen Strachan, Patheos

I have a suggestion for a fun question you could throw out at your annual Christmas party. “Professors,” you could say vaguely. “What is it they do, anyway?”

A Black Church Wins the Hearts of Whites in Harlem
Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times

On a Sunday morning in September 2011, Eloise Louis stood on a street corner in Harlem, looking for a church. She was just hours off a plane from her native France, jet-lagged and buzzy with anticipation

CIA techniques report draws mixed reviews
Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist ethics commentators greeted a new report on interrogation of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency with mixed reviews, some criticizing the report’s approach while others either condemned or supported the government entity’s practices.

Pastors Who Podcast
Ruth Graham, Slate

Whatever your theology, your denomination, your interests, and your appetite for cursing, there’s a Christian podcast for you.


Google Has Tagged A Vast Database Of Child Porn Images — Making Them Impossible To See
Joshua Barrie, Business Insider

Google is going to start using a database of thousands of pornographic images and videos of children to block people from searching them.

Drugs and Alcohol

What Percentage of Teens Use Marijuana? The Answer Might Surprise You.
Kate Scanlon, The Daily Signal

Marijuana use is down among teens, according to a new study by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan.

Congress ends federal medical marijuana ban
Brook Hays, UPI

The federal spending bill passed last week is full of buried provisions, allocations and defunding in its more than 1,600 pages. One of the quieter add-ins was a measure that essentially ends the federal ban on medical marijuana.

 Family Issues

It’s (Not Just) The Economy, Stupid: Why Is the Working-Class Family Really Coming Apart?
W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies

Without access to work allowing them to be good providers, men have often fallen prey to a kind of toxic masculinity.

Half of All Kids Are Traumatized
Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

And nearly a quarter experience two or more stressful childhood events, setting them up for worse physical and mental health later in life.

How the American Family Has Changed Dramatically
Belinda Luscombe, Time

The difference between the haves and the have-nots have never been this steep.

The death of the American family dinner has been greatly exaggerated
Roberto A. Ferdman, Washington Post

Maybe you’ve heard somewhere that no one eats dinner together anymore. There’s even some pushing the idea that instead of scrambling to eat dinner together, families should aim for breakfast. And maybe you believed that family dinners were dead, based on your household’s experience.

Government and Politics

Judge declares Obama immigration action unconstitutional
Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

President Barack Obama’s new plan to ease the threat of deportation for 4.7 million undocumented immigrants violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge found on Tuesday, handing down the first legal ruling against the plan.

Health Issues

Wealth, power or lack thereof at heart of many mental disorders

Donald Trump’s ego may be the size of his financial empire, but that doesn’t mean he’s the picture of mental health. The same can be said about the self-esteem of people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, or unemployed.

International Issues

Taliban assault on Pakistani school ends, 130 dead, mostly children
Jibran Ahmad and Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Reuters

At least 130 people, most of them children, were killed on Tuesday after Taliban gunmen broke into a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years.

The 15 Most Powerful Militaries In The Middle East
Amanda Macias, Skye Gould, and Jeremy Bender, Business Insider

A mixture of transnational threats like ISIS and domestic insurgencies from local militant groups, along with larger regional rivalries, all force Middle Eastern countries to develop their armed forces.

Father Christmas Is Now Better Known Than Jesus In China
The Economist

In the first decades of Communist rule in China Christianity was banned, along with other religions. Now there are tens of millions of Christians in China and faiths of all kinds are blossoming.

Marriage Issues

A Response to the Cohabitation Epidemic
Arland K. Nichols, Crisis Magazine

The proliferation of research and literature about the sexual and marital habits of “Millennials” is staggering. Research indicates a casual or cavalier approach to sexual intimacy and of marriage.

Religious Liberty

A New Movement Against Religious Persecution
Jonathan Sacks, Wall Street Journal

My prayer on Hanukkah: For people of all faiths to work together for the freedom of all faiths.

Religious Freedom Requires Rights
Greg Forster, Hang Together

Last month I gave a talk at the Evangelical Theological Society in which I defended the idea of human rights – not sham Rawlsian rights but real rights, grounded in objective claims about truth, justice and the nature of the human person. That is, rights as correlative to duties – I have a right to religious freedom because (and only because) I have a duty to worship God sincerely rather than insincerely.

Gay Weddings and the Shopkeeper’s Dilemma
Russell Nieli, Public Discourse

One option for pro-marriage business owners: obey the law and serve gay weddings, but make it known publicly that you believe that the law forcing you to do this is unjust, needs to be changed, and is obeyed only out of your respect for law and the democratic process.

Sexuality Issues

Fayetteville, Ark., LGBT law repealed
Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Voters in a northwest Arkansas city have overturned a pro-homosexual/transgender ordinance that many claimed posed a threat to religious liberty.

Christian Colleges vs. Hookup Culture
Kimberly Thornbury, Christianity Today

The good intentions behind conservative campus rules.

Porn Industry Loses Free-Speech Fight In Federal Appeals Court
Erin Fuchs, Business Insider

Two porn companies and a couple of adult film actors faced an enormous setback Monday in their fight against a Los Angeles law that requires adult movie actors to wear condoms.

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Christian View of Sexuality
Glenn T. Stanton, On Faith

Why traditional Christians believe as they do regarding gender, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

My wife wondered what was wrong with me. I had spent a full day walking around the house with earphones in, occasionally muttering incoherently about cell phone records, pinged towers, or someone named Nisha. A few days later she did the same. I called her in the middle of that day and she answered the phone, “Jay’s a liar, that’s for certain.”

We, like a few million others, were hooked on Serial, a podcast that over 12 episodes explores one story. It’s a spinoff from This American Life, the award-winning National Public Radio program produced by Ira Glass. Sarah Koenig, who formerly produced stories for TAL, has spent the last year investigating the story of Adnan Syed. In 1999 (at the age of 17), Adnan was tried and convicted for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend, who disappeared on a January afternoon and was found weeks later, strangled and buried in a shallow grave at a municipal park.

Over the last two hours I’ve listened to the finale of season one—twice—and I have a few thoughts about what the show has revealed about Adnan Syed’s case, justice in America, and the darkness in all of us.

Longing for Justice

Several folks have already pointed this out, but it’s worth repeating: Serial’s compelling power lies in the way it taps into our innate sense of justice. It would take a seriously warped soul not to be moved by the tragedy of Hae Min Lee’s death. By all accounts she was a promising kid—smart, athletic, strong-willed, and likeable. Someone strangled her and dumped her body in a shallow grave. The natural response is anger at the horror and injustice.

What Serial introduces is the possibility of another injustice: What if they got the wrong guy? What if the sweet, smart ex-boyfriend was somehow framed and has spent 15 years doing hard time for a crime he didn’t commit?

Innately, as image bearers of God, we can’t help but care about injustice. In Hae’s case in particular, blood speaks. It spoke from the ground where Cain killed Abel, and it speaks from the ground in Leakin Park where Hae’s body was found. It cries out for justice.

Serial and The Wire

While listening to Serial, I couldn’t help but think about The Wire, HBO’s police drama from a few years back, and not just because both take place in Baltimore. Both also force us to ask hard questions about our criminal justice system.

There are anomalies in the case against Adnan. Prosecutor Kevin Urick arranged for an attorney to represent Jay—the star witness who led to Adnan’s arrest and conviction. This is extremely odd. During the trial, Adnan’s lawyer absolutely lost her mind over this fact. In the final episode, we learn that Don—Hae’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance—was berated by Urick after testifying at two different trials; Urick wanted Don to paint Adnan as intimidating and sinister, but Don had never experienced him in that way.

Hearing these stories, and hearing that Jay’s recorded testimony to the police started hours after they began interviewing him, and hearing how Jay’s account changed from interview to interview, from trial to trial, and (in this last episode) how it was different yet again when he told his friends, I can’t help but think about Bunk, McNulty, and Rawls in The Wire.

Early and often in The Wire, the homicide department is presented not as a place in search of the truth, but as a factory for closing cases. Unidentified bodies need to go from red to black on the board—from unsolved to solved. Rawls’s obscenity-laced ranting at McNulty makes this clear: close the cases as quickly as possible. Pin the murder on somebody and move the case on to the prosecutor’s department.

We hear similar things from Jim Trainum, whom Sarah Koenig brought into the Serial investigation to review the case. In Jay’s testimony, there are facts that don’t help investigators "build the case," and prosecutors avoid them. The prosecutors' case is built on facts that may or may not tell the truth but that they believe will lead to a conviction. Once you recognize that fact and introduce into the discussion ulterior motives for closing/convicting cases (getting “numbers” right: closed cases, convictions, and so on), things get a little scary.

Someone once told me that it’s important to know the difference between doing a good job and making your boss happy. In The Wire, the conflict between McNulty and Rawls is about exactly this point. McNulty wants to do a good job; he wants to bring down the leaders of a drug-dealing ring that is responsible for dozens of murders. Rawls wants only to close cases as quickly as possible. Pin the murder on somebody—anybody—and move on.

One might object that The Wire is fiction and Serial is real life, and that’s fair. But it’s also fair to mention that The Wire was based on the real life of Jay Landsman, a Baltimore homicide detective who also appeared in the show as Major Mello. It’s also fair to mention that David Simon, the show’s creator and writer, was an investigative journalist who wanted to produce a realistic show about the trouble with our justice system. Finally, it seems worth mentioning that William Ritz, the detective who led the investigation against Adnan, admitted to coercing a confession that led to a wrongful conviction in the case of a man named Ezra Mable.

All of this takes on a greater sense of urgency in my mind when seen in the light of recent events with Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Obviously these are highly contested cases, but I share Thabiti Anyabwile’s opinion that a miscarriage of justice took place in Ferguson. See, for instance, Shaun King’s argument that an oft-quoted witness in the Ferguson case colluded with the prosecution to destroy the case against the officer that shot Michael Brown. Here again, evidence is construction—something pieced together to make an argument, but not necessarily discover the truth.

In Serial, we can’t help but ask some difficult questions about the justice system. Did something get squirrely in order to provide a conviction? Or was justice served in spite of all the problems?

Whether you share my view or not, as Christians we should be able to agree that our justice system is flawed—not because it’s poorly conceived, and not necessarily because it’s biased one way or another (though that, too, may be true), but because it’s all too human. It depends upon the actions and judgments of fallen people like you and me.

Humanity of a (Maybe) Killer/Liar/Master Manipulator

And it’s on this point that Serial, like its predecessor This American Life, is so impressive. The structure of the show—its skilled narration, its lengthy form, and the ability to hear from the characters themselves (especially Adnan)—don’t just bring us the facts; they bring us into contact with the people themselves. We hear the emotion in their voices. We hear warmth and compassion in both Koenig and Adnan, as well as frustration and occasional anger. We hear how people react to Jay—people who mistrust him as well as people who love him and believe him, including Koenig herself.

And I think this point is really important. There’s no question, at a minimum, that either Jay or Adnan is a horrific liar. Perhaps both are. What Koenig has done masterfully with almost every personality involved in the case (including the often unlikeable Cristina Gutierrez) is to help us empathize with them. Adnan is the primary recipient of this charity, but it applies to how she speaks about Jay in “The Deal with Jay.” We can empathize with both, though again, they are likely liars, maybe murderers.

This may be the best takeaway from Serial. Adnan is a human being, made in the image of God, fallen and sinful as anyone else. Because he’s an image bearer, full of characteristics that you and I can identify with and appreciate; he’s charming and smart and likeable. But because he’s a sinner, he has murderous potential in his heart. He has the potential for compulsive lying. He has the potential to narcissistically construct his whole understanding of the world so that in spite of whatever crimes he may have done, he still sees himself as a victim.

And so do you and I. If he’s guilty (and to show all my cards, today, I am completely agnostic on the matter—though I don’t think there’s evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt”), then we see in his life the heights and depths of the human condition. His lovability and charm are remnants of the good that his life—like yours and mine—was meant for when God said, “Let us create man in our image.” His murderous darkness—again, like yours and mine—reminds us of how far we’ve fallen.

Last Sunday at thousands of churches across America, little children lisped, sang, and maybe occasionally shouted their way through a myriad of retellings and reinterpretations of the Christmas story. In our church’s rendition, my youngest nearly stole the whole show as the Shooting Star. Clad in a giant gold star costume, my 8-year-old sang, ran around the stage (and entire auditorium—barefoot), and generally threw herself into her role with all the enthusiasm an extroverted third grader could muster (which is to say, a lot). My heart was full as we returned home and I watched her make one last cookie- and adrenaline-fueled run down the hall to her bedroom. Naturally, I sat down at my laptop to share my maternal pride on social media. But as I uploaded the pictures of my daughter’s smiling, gold-starred self, headlines and pictures nearby brought a flood of tears to my eyes—tears that continue to flow even today. While my mother’s heart was bursting with maternal joy and pride, others were—and still are—breaking with bitter sorrow and unimaginable anguish. 

The date of the Christmas pageant was the second anniversary of the Newtown school massacre. Two precious children the same age as my daughter lost their lives; their mothers lost a lifetime of future Christmas pageant memories. As I read the news of anniversary remembrances and prayed for them, my Twitter feed began to fill with news of an ISIS sympathizer taking hostages inside a downtown Sydney cafe. For 16 terrifying hours he kept customers and workers captive with guns and threats of bombs, eventually killing the manager and a customer (a mother of three young children) before being killed by police. Later in the week I awoke to news that Pakistani Taliban invaded a school in Peshawar and slaughtered more than 130 children, ranging from ages 10 and 16. Meanwhile, residents of one of the wealthiest counties in America were hiding in their homes as police hunted for an armed man who shot and killed his ex-wife and her extended family, including his 14-year-old niece, in cold blood.

In urban metropolises and third world cities, wealthy enclaves and impoverished communities, anguish and grief are replacing tidings of comfort and joy. What is the world coming to, where mothers and children are being slaughtered in such a hellish manner? What kind of times are these?

The same kind experienced by the mothers of Jesus’s earliest days.

When King Herod realized that the wise men, gone to worship a long-prophesied and newly born king, would not be returning reveal the baby’s location, he poured out his jealous rage on the young infant and toddler boys of an entire city (Matt. 2:16–18). All across Bethlehem and the surrounding region, the cries of baby boys were replaced with the piercing lamentations of their moms. No doubt Mary, hidden away in Egypt, shed many tears of her own as she clutched her young son and recalled the words of joy and blessing she’d sung over him in her womb not long before (Luke 1:46–55). How could what was happening now be part of what she sang then?

With fewer ways to mark the days than we have now, the memory of the massacre at Bethlehem perhaps faded for many. But never for the mothers who saw an entire generation of sons and heirs wrenched from their arms and hearts that dark night. Nor would it fade from the memory of Mary, the mother of the one who survived, the son whose birth caused the others to perish. Thirty years later, how much heavier was the burden of her grief when she, too, watched her son die at the hands of a capricious ruler and angry mob with murder in their hearts (John 19:26). How could she bear such grief? How can we?

Remember the man whose life was defined not only by the grief he experienced himself but also by the grief he carried for us (Isa. 53:4). The grief of the mothers of Bethlehem and Newtown, of Pennsburg and Peshawar, is the grief Jesus bore on the cross. There, the righteous ruler of the universe poured his holy anger onto his own Son, who willingly took the weight of the sin and the sorrow of the world so that it could one day be taken from us. Today—this moment—he is alive and seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 8:1), hearing our cries of sorrow, interceding for us, and reminding us that no tribulation or distress or danger or sword or gun can ultimately separate us from his love (Rom. 8:34–35). Because he’s alive a day is coming when he will return to make everything right, as only he can. Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things will have passed away (Rev. 21:4).

In this Advent season, as in the first, we weep as the Bethlehem mothers wept, we pray as they prayed, we say Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and we wait with hope.

Editors' note: This article first appeared at The Gospel-Centered Woman.

Seemingly, the most repeated Bible passage in our house is either “honor your mother and father” (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:2) or “obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1).

But I don’t know anyone who is saying this back to me as a father with a father.

The first commandment with a promise attached is clearly made to children, and something changes when the child becomes an adult. Culture plays a role in when that change should occur and what exactly that looks like practically. In many Eastern cultures, the thought of not honoring one’s parents is completely alien. In the West, dishonoring one’s family is more acceptable, as we tend to value youth culture more than experience and wisdom. Before you begin to romanticize the honoring of parents in Eastern cultures, just know that it is often enslaving and moves from honor to servitude.

Yet the command to honor is never rescinded, even when the child becomes an adult. At the time when children transition to adulthood we feel the tension as kids begin to explore their independence. When I worked more directly with teenagers, they would often wonder about the will of God for their life. I would always tell them the same thing: honor your mom and dad. 

But somewhere in the time when a child leaves home the application of this passage gets muddled. We come out from under our parent’s authority to stand on our own two feet. So how are adult children supposed to honor mom and dad? My parents and my wife’s parents do not share our evangelical faith. What does honor look like then? What if the parents are just unwise? What if there is tension in the relationship?

Honoring generally means showing esteem or respect for a person. It also means “to weigh” or “make heavy.” In Proverbs, honor is tied to humility (15:33, 18:12) and kindness (21:21). Scripture teaches us not just to honor our parents, but all those in authority (Rom. 13:1) as well as all people (1 Pet. 2:17). Double honor goes to the elders of a local church (1 Tim. 5:17). Honor is even tied to love (Rom. 12:10).

Honoring your parents does not mean ignoring how you have been treated in the past or by placing yourself in harm's way. Parents treating children poorly is not new. Just read the Old Testament. A generation ago, C. S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves that he was “far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents.” It was not lost on him that sometimes parents are difficult.

Parents have a unique place in a child’s life. Generally speaking, to honor them means that their opinion matters more. If you are seeking out counsel, your parents are to be shown greater deference. It means seeking them out, even if they are abdicating their responsibility. I have tried to think through ways of honoring my adult parents as I teach my children to honor me. As you head home for Christmas this year, here are four considerations.

1. Try to understand who they are. 

Somewhere in a person’s transition to adulthood we try to understand why we are the way we are. Yes, we are all of Adam’s sinful race, but there are peculiar things about each of us that are instilled by our parents—good, bad, or neutral. This includes communication styles, expectations in relationships, living standards, generosity, rules for fighting, and much more. In these self-reflections we see how our parents have affected these areas. But have you ever considered how their parents affected them?

Might you be more patient and a better listener if you can finally understand how your grandparents treated your mom and dad? Have you ever asked about their upbringing beyond the simple questions? I know many parents with broken relationships with their adult children who wish their children would just listen to them and show that they care. Even if your parents have a hard time talking at all, consider ways to learn about who they are and where they come from.

2. Thank them. 

Do you think your parents messed up your childhood? My wife and I shared our testimonies in our wedding, and both sets of parents heard us as repudiating how they had raised us. Looking back, while our intentions were good, there was a better way to deliver the message without making our parents feel like we hated them. Consider verbally thanking them. Look them in the eyes this Christmas and offer specific reasons you are thankful for them. A quick survey of the Bible will find that not being thankful is tied to unbelief.

3. Involve them in decisions.

I don’t feel required to ask my parents about decisions I need to make about my family, but I would be foolish not to seek their counsel. We all feel honored when someone comes to us for advice. As a way of honoring and even deepening your relationship with your parents, consider bringing them into family decisions (with your spouse’s permission if married). I am not suggesting doing this for every decision, but certainly important ones.

4. Spend time with them.

Everyone will be busy this Christmas, but consider spending focused one-on-one time with your parents. If you have kids, have someone watch them. Speak to your parents face-to-face. Take them out to dinner. Your parents will probably enjoy the gift of spending time with you. If you have not talked about anything important in a long time, consider choosing one thing to talk about or just asking questions.

There are so many scenarios, rules like this can never account for every situation. I know some families that are wonderfully at peace and love each other. Others are at war with no end in sight. But for both, the command to honor your parents is not rescinded, not even if you think they have abdicated their role. Might this be a way to consider others before yourself, as Christ did, making himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in the likeness of man (Phil. 2:7)?

The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage.

Not the sort of advice you’ll find on a bestseller rack near you.

In their new book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Francis and Lisa Chan set out to reframe the entire way we think about relationships, marriage, and parenting. The marriage union is great, they observe, but it’s not forever. Therefore, we must approach this sacred relationship from the zoomed-out vantage point of eternity. And when we do, it changes everything.

I recently corresponded with the Chans about the chief problem in Christian marriages, must-have conversations, their message to singles, the kid factor, and more. (By the way, 100 percent of the net proceeds from the book will go to support various ministries, including those that help provide shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of children and exploited women around the world. More information here.)

What’s the greatest problem you perceive in typical Christian marriages?

Forgetting the whole point of their existence. We’ve witnessed many singles fervently serve God until their marriage day, at which point one of two things happens: (1) they enjoy each other so much that they spend almost all their free time entertaining each other rather than serving God; or (2) they struggle in their relationship and spend their days arguing, going to counseling, and feeling disqualified from serving God. In either case, the couple no longer spend their time furthering the kingdom, but instead fixate on one another.

We must remember we weren’t created to merely enjoy ourselves. Colossians 1:16 declares that we were created by Christ and for Christ. Paul also warned that if we are not careful, marriage will keep us from securing “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). Too many couples make decisions based on the pursuit of pleasure rather than the pursuit of the kingdom. We too often don’t surrender and ask God what would be most effective. Instead, we live where we want, drive what we want, have as many kids as we want. And we somehow convince ourselves this isn’t selfishness because there are two of us involved now. 

It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be happy. In fact, surrendering to a kingdom-first mindset actually brings us greater fulfillment. When we seek his mission together, greater union with each other becomes the byproduct. Jesus came that we could have life to the full (John 10:10). But we need to remember that the goal of marriage isn’t mere happiness. It’s very possible to have a happy and worthless marriage. It’s possible to waste your life merely enjoying your spouse and children, then stand before God realizing you didn’t give yourself to his Great Commission.

What conversations are essential to have prior to engagement and/or marriage?

Every couple needs to have a gospel conversation. We must ask: Are we both surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ? Have we both decided to follow him? Many people call themselves “Christian,” but that can mean virtually anything nowadays. Are we both willing to sacrifice anything? Will we make our life choices based on what will most benefit God’s kingdom? Will we center our lives around making disciples?

Before I asked Lisa to marry me, we had a long discussion about serving the Lord with our lives. I had to know she would encourage rather than restrain me from serving him. As much as I loved her, I was willing to break up with her if she was going to keep me from accomplishing what I was created to do. I’d seen too many of my friends in misery because they married someone who hindered their ministry.

One of your chapters is titled “Marriage Isn’t That Great.” What in the world do you mean?

Marriage is a brilliant creation, but it’s not God. Let’s be careful not to reduce Christianity to a belief system that helps us build good families. The biblical narrative centers on a marriage with Jesus; earthly marriage is just a shadow. 

Sometimes, the sheer number of struggling marriages in the church causes us to overfocus on the family. This overemphasis causes some to believe that just because they get along, they’re accomplishing his will for their lives. So let’s address marriage, yes, but let’s not overdo it. Marriage problems are rarely marriage problems anyway. We fight because we’re needy—and needy people haven’t found fulfillment in Christ. They don’t grasp “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” They want too much, and so get frustrated by their spouse because he or she isn’t meeting all their needs.

It’s not that we should neglect our marriage or cease finding enjoyment in our relationship. God created marriage, and it can be amazing. Our house is filled with laughter. Not a day goes by without spontaneous outbursts of it. We can and should enjoy each other. We just have to remember that we’re here as his ambassadors, to represent him and bring him glory. People should see Christ in the way we selflessly and humbly love each other and in the way we work together to love the world.

How has parenting seven kids affected your marriage? What’s your biggest piece of advice for fellow parents with respect to their marriages?

Children change everything. I am convinced God uses our children to cleanse us from self-centeredness. Babies demand that you move your focus off yourself and onto them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only bad when they’re 13 and still believe everyone should drop whatever they’re doing to tend to their needs. It’s hard enough to fight self-centeredness in ourselves, but parents are given the task of training their children to live God-centered lives as well (Deut. 6:4–9).

Our biggest piece of advice would be to view your kids as assets rather than burdens. It used to be that people envied couples with many kids. It meant they had more help on the farm, with the business, around the home, and so on. When people hear we have seven kids now, though, they feel sorry for us! Why is it that for thousands of years children were a blessing, yet in the past few decades we’ve come to view them as burdens? Poor parenting. We raise them to either be burdens or assets. Good parenting involves teaching them to love and serve others rather than expecting to be constantly served. While we will always serve our kids to some degree, we also expect them to serve each other and those around us. Our children have been our biggest assets in ministry. Rather than distracting from kingdom work, they multiply it. Nine servants are better than two.

One additional piece of advice is that there’s no substitute for authenticity. If you don’t have a deep and genuine love for Christ, it will become obvious. Your kids will eventually see what’s really going on. They can tell if you cherish them more than Christ. They can tell if you idolize them, just as they can tell if you neglect them. Love Jesus and his mission most. Teach them to do the same. Give them an eternal perspective by what you say and by how you spend your money and time. 

What’s your primary message to single Christians?

Take advantage of this time! We miss out when we focus too much on our next phase of life. When we’re single, we can’t wait till marriage, then we can’t wait to have kids, then we can’t wait till they talk, then we can’t till they’re in school, then we can’t wait till they’re out of adolescence, and so on. We can get in a habit of longing for the next step rather than enjoying today to the full. As a single person you have an opportunity to dive deeply into your most significant relationship without as many distractions. If you do get married and have kids, life will get so much busier, and you’ll look back and regret any wasting of your single years. 

There’s nothing wrong with telling the Lord that you desire to be married, but fight for contentment. Don’t beat yourself up if there are times of loneliness. He created you for fellowship. Try to find it in Christ and in the body of Christ. Find fulfillment in the mission. You can bring tremendous glory to God by resisting temptation and bitterness, and by showing the world there is something much bigger than earthly marriage.

I was once told, “Those who are most ready for marriage are those who need it the least.” The point is that those who find everything they need in Christ are least likely to suffocate their spouses through their neediness. The world needs more individuals who are content in Christ and who organize their lives around his kingdom. We pray that when those people get married, it will only lead to greater fruitfulness. That has been our experience, and we pray it will be yours.

The following excerpt is taken from An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility by Martin Luther. Although it is directed toward the Church in Rome circa 1520, its truth applies to any church at any time that advocates for a sacred-secular vocational divide. 

It is pure invention [fiction] that pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the "spiritual estate" while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the "temporal estate." This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the "spiritual estate," and there is no difference among them except that of office. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 that we are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves the others. This is because we all have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, gospel, and faith alone make us spiritual and a Christian people.

The pope or bishop anoints, shaves heads, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb different from that of the laity, but he can never make a man into a Christian or into a spiritual man by so doing. He might well make a man into a hypocrite or a humbug and blockhead, but never a Christian or a spiritual man. As far as that goes, we are all consecrated priests through baptism, as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm.” The Apocalypse says, “Thou hast made us to be priests and kings by thy blood” (Rev. 5:9-10). . . . 

Priest as Officeholder

Since those who exercise secular authority have been baptized with the same baptism, and have the same faith and the same gospel as the rest of us, we must admit that they are priests and bishops and we must regard their office as one that has a proper and useful place in the Christian community. For whoever comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already a consecrated priest, bishop, and pope, although of course it is not seemly that just anybody should exercise such office.

Because we are all priests of equal standing, no one must push himself forward and take it upon himself, without our consent and election, to do that for which we all have equal authority. For no one dare take upon himself what is common to all without the authority and consent of the community. And should it happen that a person chosen for such office were deposed for abuse of trust, he would then be exactly what he was before. Therefore, a priest in Christendom is nothing else but an officeholder. As long as he holds office, he takes precedence; where he is deposed, he is a peasant or a townsman like anybody else. . . .

No Distinction in Status

It follows from this argument that there is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status. They are all of the spiritual estate, all are truly priests, bishops, and popes, but they do not all have the same work to do. Just as all priests and monks do not have the same work. This is the teaching of St. Paul in Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12 and in 1 Peter 2:9, as I have said above, namely, that we are all one body of Christ the Head, and all members one of another. Christ does not have two different bodies, one temporal, the other spiritual. There is but one Head and one body. 

Therefore, just as those who are now called “spiritual,” that is, priests, bishops, or popes, are neither different from other Christians nor superior to them, except that they are charged with the administration of the Word of God and the sacraments, which is their work and office, so it is with the temporal authorities. They bear the sword and the rod in their hand to punish the wicked and protect the good. A cobbler, a smith, a peasant—each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops. Further, everyone must benefit and serve every other by means of his own work or office so that, in this way, many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, just as all the members of the body serve one another (1 Cor. 12:14-26).

This excerpt is adapted from Three Treatises: From the American Edition of Luther's Works by Martin Luther. Copyright © 1970. Used by permission of Fortress Press, No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of the publisher.

Editors' note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have discovered yet and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.

Being the oldest child in a foster family is not always easy. Actually, it can sometimes be extremely difficult. But then you remember that God did not call you to an easy life, but to a life that would bring glory to him. You remember that what your family does is not just your parents’ responsibility, but yours as well. It is something that an entire family must feel called by the Lord to do, because without his strength, some days seem impossible. 

There are days when you want it to be just “your” family again—even though you know that those “extras” are truly your brothers and sisters, and they have as much of your heart as if they were your biological siblings.

Sometimes you just want a break from the craziness that comes from being the oldest of a family of six children.

Sometimes you get tired of hearing your little sister scream “I hate you!” and then kick, hit, and bite you because you had to do something she didn’t like.

Sometimes it is so loud that you can hardly think, much less sit down and study or write a paper with any degree of concentration.

Occasionally, you get tired of being a “mom,” tired of watching kids more often than your peers do.

Sometimes, you get tired when your foster sister wakes up twice a night, every night, screaming, “Mommy, stop! You can’t do this to me. It hurts. Stop it!” or “Daddy, no. I said no. You’re hurting me!” But even though you are physically exhausted, you know the little girl needs someone to hold her, cry with her, and tell her it is okay now—to make sure she understands that she is safe and no longer has to worry about being hurt by her parents. It does not matter that it is 2:37 or 4:22 in the morning; what matters is that you show that little girl that she is safe and loved.

Then there are times when they come to you and say: “I love you. You are the best big sister ever. Can I stay as a part of your forever-family sister?” Those are the times that make it worth it.

Even though being the oldest biological child in a foster family can sometimes be hard, the Lord is continually using it to teach me lessons. God has used fostering to give me a little glimpse of what his grace must be like. When I am getting yelled at and told that I am hated by a younger foster sibling, I am struck by how much worse Christ—perfect in every single way—was treated. Yet he still chose to extend grace and die to atone for our sins. How beautiful is the grace that God bestows upon us, not because of what we have done, but because of who he is! I am reminded often of that perfect picture of grace when I selfishly want to retaliate, or when I'm rude and bossy.

God is also teaching me the importance of selflessly giving my love just as he does with us. Like any foster child that has come through my family’s home, we all have baggage. It may be different. Maybe we don’t have abusive or neglectful parents, or parents with drug problems; maybe we have critical spirits or gossipy natures. Whatever our sins and suffering, only Christ can mend a broken heart in the way that permanently heals.

Fostering consumes every aspect of your life, and it is impossible to imagine your life without children who hurt for the love of God and a family. God has a way of working like that: taking hard things and using them to instill desires to serve regardless of the struggle. I can say with entire confidence that God has used fostering to teach me countless lessons and reveal more about himself to me. Regardless of the struggles, the blessings that come from fostering far outnumber the hardships.

One message rang clear from a two-hour dialogue of Christian leaders gathered Tuesday night in Memphis at the historic Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum: American evangelicals have far to go in race relations, but the gospel is enough to bring about genuine reconciliation.  

Two different panels devoted one hour each to discussing issues of church and race. The first included Thabiti Anyabwile, Voddie Baucham, Matt Chandler, and Darrin Patrick, and the second featured Derwin Gray, Eric Mason, Trillia Newbell, John Piper, and Albert Tate. Bryan Loritts, lead pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a multi-ethnic megachurch launched in 2003, and leader of Kainos, organized the event and served on both panels. Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, moderated the dicussion, which can be viewed here.

Called “A Time to Speak” and sponsored by The Gospel Coalition, the event was held at the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was slain on April 4, 1968. Loritts said he hopes the panel will provoke discussion among evangelicals and help them to see that they should be leading gospel-driven transformation in how ethnic groups relate to each other. 

“I am deeply indebted to the civil rights movement—Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young—because of them I can sit in any seat on any bus I like, drink out of any water fountain,” Loritts said. “While the civil rights movement changed laws, it couldn’t change hearts. That’s where God working through his people and already/not-yet kingdom of God called the church, that’s where we can offer some help. So my hope is that we would be able to point the way forward and not so much dwell on the forensics of the case, but speak to the injustice and offer the world the true hope that comes through the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  

TGC Council members Thabiti Anyabwile and Voddie Baucham debated the key points of Baucham’s recent article, viewed more than 1 million times in the wake of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed a grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson after he shot and killed Michael Brown in August. Baucham spotlighted absentee fathers and the proliferation of intraracial violence among African Americans in his analysis. Anyabwile disagreed with Baucham’s characterization of Brown as reaping what he sowed in his confrontation with Wilson. 

Baucham said he was attempting to say something important that other writers were not. 

“For me, when I look at this, regardless of all the other issues surrounding it and the facts that are being debated and disputed, one of the things that we have to keep in mind is the fact that Eric Garner and Mike Brown were not Martin Luther King Jr," Baucham said. "There is a difference. There is a distinction between individuals who are living lives that represent what we are fighting for and individuals who are living lives that represent what we are trying to rise above. For me, that was the note that was important to hit that wasn’t being hit.”

While Baucham says America’s justice system is not perfect, he rejects the category of systemic injustice in America against any particular race. An increase in minorities holding high offices such as the presidency offers evidence against it, he said. Anyabwile countered that it is naive to argue against the presence of systemic injustice.

“I think it’s ahistorical and is very close to willfully ignorant to argue that there are no systemic injustices in this country, either in its history or in its present,” Anyabwile said. “To argue that because we have some high-profile exemplars like the president, the attorney general, and so on, I think we rob ourselves of the sanctifying power of the gospel when the Spirit confronts us about this sin. Racism is just a species of alienation from the fall. It is a particular kind of alienation that operates systematically along the lines of ethnicity, skin color, and so on.”  

TGC Council member Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, said he has addressed race issues from the pulpit because Jesus addresses them in the Gospels. Given the tumult in America over race relations due to the Ferguson, Missouri, case and the July death of Eric Garner while being arrested in New York City, Patrick said the time has never been better for local churches to bring biblical light to the issue.

“It’s going to be polarizing, it’s going to be difficult, people are going to disagree,” Patrick said, “but if we can’t have those conversations in the church, how can we possibly expect the world to have them? It’s our chance to have that conversation.”

Albert Tate, lead pastor of Fellowship Monrovia, pointed out that every person, regardless of ethnic background, struggles with racism, because every person is a sinner.

“We are here at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated not because we got it right, but because we got it wrong,” Tate said. “We have to build churches where we push disciples toward one another. There is a vertical push, but there has to be a horizontal push. . . . We’ve got to push to make an intentional step to understand one another, a step in one another’s story. . . . I’m a racist—I’m a recovering racist because of God’s grace—all of us, we’re all recovering racists.”

John Piper urged pastors not to be cowards in the pulpit on social issues such as abortion and race, exhorting them to “pre-empt issues biblically” by teaching on them from Scripture long before they hit the news cycle. Pastors should not think of racism as a temporary crisis that will eventually fade away, but as a sinful reality that will remain until Jesus returns. As to the state of racial reconciliation and the church, Piper sees the present situation as a mixture of positive and negative. 

“There’s discouraging things to see and there’s encouraging things to see (on racial issues and the church)," Piper said. “This is encouraging: the number of young, black, theologically rich, socially aware men feels fresh to me. You didn’t see that a generation ago. That feels really hopeful.” 

Joe Schmidt is the co-founder of Canvas on Demand, a company that puts your personal photos on canvas. Taking it from a startup in 2003 to being one of the fastest-growing companies in America in 2008 earned him a finalist spot in Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2010, Joe sold the company to, where he continued his role as its chief marketing officer until 2013. Today, he serves as the founder of the Audacity Factory, a think tank/incubator focused on applying internet marketing and technology to underserved humanitarian needs. His first project out of the organization is, an innovative approach to funding the fight against human trafficking.

How would you describe the origin of Audacity Factory?

The creation of Audacity Factory came from a question I was asked while I was at “When was the last time you did something truly extravagant for God?” I ran through everything that came to mind regarding my family, my local church, and my friends—but were these things truly extravagant? This question rattled around in my mind as I considered the blessings God had placed on my life at the age of 42, not just business success but everything he had given me—all of my “talents.” The best response I could think of was that I needed to transition my life to chasing truly audacious dreams for God. I then quit my job and started the Audacity Factory to focus my “talents” on things I believe break his heart.

How does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

Christ’s message tells us to love God and love others. He speaks very clearly of this point, and it’s what I believe he expects of us. Since we are his hands and feet to the world, working on humanitarian needs is a key element for us as Christians—to work with the same God-honoring intensity on those needs as we would do for anything else in our lives.

Human trafficking is a heart-breaking example of the brokenness of this world. How does your work with ENDcrowd offer a solution? is our first project out of Audacity Factory, and it is 100 percent focused on ending human trafficking. As we studied the topic, we found a couple of key elements we felt we could attack using the internet. First, there is a major lack of funding for this battle, and that must be resolved. Second, the topic itself is not clear and does not define a clear enemy upon which to build a movement. We believe all great movements need an identifiable enemy. Finally, through a crowdfunding platform on ENDcrowd’s site, we invite people to get involved in lots of specific projects focused on this issue.

How does your work provide an opportunity for you to love and serve others—and equally important, how does your work invite others to do the same?

We focus on serving non-profit organizations that have some of the most amazing and courageous people I’ve ever met. We also serve those currently being held in bondage all over the world through our daily efforts to raise money for this cause. The coolest part about our work, however, is that we get to serve others by activating them in the fight with us. It’s pretty amazing when you see someone’s eyes opened for the first time on an atrocity that breaks the heart of God—and their response is, “I’m in!”

Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed. Below is a short film for, which was produced and directed by author and filmmaker Carolyn McCulley.

Gene Edward Veith Jr. and Matthew P. Ristuccia. Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 176 pp. $16.99.

Scripture constantly prompts us to use our imaginations, and this is not accidental. As the wonderful new book Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind shows, imagination is central to the whole project of Scripture—and therefore to living as Christians. But the role of imagination has been neglected and, in many cases, misunderstood. Gene Veith (professor of literature at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia) and Matthew Ristuccia (pastor of Stone Hill Church in Princeton, New Jersey) show with beautiful simplicity why imagination matters so much, and how God uses our imaginations to draw us ever closer to himself and to one another.

Today, if we hear Christian discussions of imagination at all, they are usually talking about specialized professionals like artists, writers, and entertainers. Imagination Redeemed is about something much more fundamental:                                                                     

We ordinary folks are exhorted to “be creative!” and to “use your imagination!” But, failing to measure up to the great poets and inventors, we might reasonably conclude, “I don’t really have much imagination.” But you do! If I say, “think of a tree,” and you can do that, you have imagination. (14)

Once we realize we are all constantly using our imaginations, all day every day, we see that our imaginations absolutely must be taken captive to Christ. This is not some special activity for the master class; this is essential to everyone’s daily walk with God.

Imagination Redeemed is written with an innovative structure that blends theoretical insight with practical guidance. Readers will be richly blessed by this unique approach. Each chapter consists of three parts: first Veith unfolds a vision of the role of imagination in Christian life; then Ristuccia demonstrates these lessons in action by exegeting one of Ezekiel’s visions; then, in a “colloquy,” the two authors provide specific advice the reader can put to use in his or her own life.

How Imagination Glorifies God

Imagination was given to us so we could love God. He is invisible, but his qualities are made known to us by that which is visible (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:20). Through the imagination we retain these visible things in our memories and recall them to our minds. Likewise, we come to know God by seeing his image in Christ (Col. 1:15). So we cannot love God in a sustained or rightly ordered way without constantly using our imaginations rightly.

Imagination was given to us so we could love each other. Imagination Redeemed showed me something I had never realized: practically every aspect of neighbor love involves imagination. We cannot do to others what we would have them do to us without first imagining what we would have them do to us. Or if we wish to obey God’s command to respect the “image of God” in all human beings, we must have a well-developed and disciplined power of grasping images. What is that but imagination? Paul commands us to bear one another’s burdens and consider the interests of others; how do we know what others’ burdens and interests are, except by using imagination to place ourselves in their shoes?

Imagination was given to us so we could live through a Christian worldview. It is a fatal mistake to think that a worldview can be reduced to a set of explicit cognitive propositions, or that worldviews are constructed mainly through formal, cerebral reasoning. Even the current Christian vogue for “narrative” isn’t enough; there is more to a worldview than a story. Worldviews “are mental models, creatively assembled to make sense of life. . . . Worldviews are generally communicated and transmitted by works of the imagination” (92).

Imagination was given to us so we could practice hope. We walk by faith, not by sight; we value what is unseen more than what is seen. How can we firmly and consistently look beyond the world we see, if not through active and well-trained imagination?

When Imagination Malfunctions

Alas, the fall has comprehensively distorted our imaginations. All sin is at some level an attempt to live in an imaginary world rather than the real one (where God is in charge). Wrong use of imagination, then, is as essential to sin as right use is essential to godliness (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 13:10; Rom. 1:21). Hence the importance of idolatry—worshiping images—in Scripture’s understanding of sin. I especially appreciated the connection Veith draws between the role of imagination in sin and Reformation theology—our sin problem is not just particular sinful acts, it is “the twisted proclivity of our inner lives” (62).

Profoundly, the authors point out that sin not only damages our imaginations as well as our reason and will, but it also disconnects these three things from one another. They were made to work in perfect harmony and interdependence, as they do in God. Now, however, they work against one another more often than not, with many evil and painful consequences.

Renewing Our Imaginations

Our only hope to reorient the bulk of our daily lives toward God is the restoration of our imaginations by the Holy Spirit. He has many means, such as Christian community and edifying cultural products. But his primary means is Scripture, and this is the focus of Imagination Redeemed.

That Scripture prompts us to use our imaginations is obvious in some places, such as when we read historical accounts of great events or prophetic visions. But we tend to assume our mental images aren’t important; what really matters is the information and exhortations in the text. And when we’re not reading these great historical or prophetic passages, we probably aren’t aware we’re using our imaginations at all.

But Imagination Redeemed transforms our perspective by showing that every page of Scripture prompts us to use our imaginations, and this is one essential way the Spirit uses Scripture to form us as Christ followers. We don’t passively sit under Scripture. We are being trained to use our imaginations actively in right ways. Veith and Ristuccia contrast the reading or hearing of Scripture with the viewing of images on a screen; when the images are supplied to us, rather than constructed in our minds responsively, we are passive and don’t learn to use our imaginations actively.

Imagining Exile

As Veith and Ristuccia show, great theologians have always given an important place to imagination. Yet Imagination Redeemed also shows how and why a renewed use of imagination is essential to our cultural moment. This is where Ristuccia’s contribution to the book especially shines.

To understand God’s calling for our time, the church today must use its imagination to recapture the experience of God’s people during the Babylonian exile. Then we must learn to present our faith with appeals to our neighbors’ imaginations, for the moral and intellectual decline of our culture has left too many people deaf to rational argument. Most profoundly, however, the church must recapture a profound vision of God. As Ristuccia emphasizes, Ezekiel’s visions of political, sociological, and artistic restoration among God’s people are preceded and comprehensively shaped by a vision of God as he is in himself.

Between Rationalism and Relativism

The authors do go wrong in one important respect. In several places, they talk as though imagination were not just coordinate with reason and will, but superior to them:

[Imagination] runs deeper than logic and reason—you could almost say it runs behind them—connecting our rational powers to the emotional and volitional centers of our souls. If you capture someone’s imagination, you capture his mind, heart, and will. (29)

This is a bridge too far. If reason is subordinate to imagination rather than coordinate with it, there can be no valid reason to insist it’s right to follow a vision of the true God and wrong to follow a vision of false gods, or none. Veith and Ristuccia back up their claim by pointing out that companies spend millions on advertising that appeals to the imagination, but those same companies also spend millions on lawyers, lobbyists, spokespeople, and others whose job is to appeal to reason. We don’t want to jump out of the frying pan of Cartesian rationalism into the fire of Nietzschean relativism.

But this is a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding book. In every age, godly imagination is as important to Christlikeness as godly reason and godly will. In our age, when we are surrounded by informative resources but famished for edifying images, the hunger for redeemed imagination is especially acute. Imagination Redeemed is a timely help for an urgent need.

Ed Stetzer - Lifeway 

Pat Hood explains what it is like to pastor a "sending church."

Tell me about some unique things your church is doing in outreach.

I don't know if we do anything that's really "unique." I would describe our outreach as "simple." I think Jesus' was too. He simply told his disciples, to "Go, make disciples." That's what we teach our people. We challenge them to live sent lives in every domain of their life. We tell our people that we have no marketing campaign. We don't blanket the community with fliers. We don't rent billboards. We tell our people they are the outreach plan.

How did LifePoint transition from a traditional First Baptist to an international, multi-ethnic "sending church?"

In 2004, I felt a clear direction from the Lord to lead our church to a time of prayer, fasting and worship. We would fast for three days and then meet together at night for a time of intense worship: no preaching, just fasting and meeting together to pray and worship.

We had already begun to transition some external things like our music style and dress, and, as a result, had seen lots growth. As a result, we were in the middle of a building program to build a new auditorium. We thought this time of prayer and fasting was to prepare us for what God was going to do when we opened our new auditorium. However, during those three days of prayer & fasting, we realized that God had called us together because He wanted to open our eyes to His heart for the nation. So, our focus changed from bringing more people in to sending more people out.

How did you measure success in the past?

I've always been a pastor who loved people and love seeing their lives transformed by Jesus. But, admittedly, there was a time when I was more ...

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A Conflict of Christian Visions; An Open Letter to Church Planters; Anti-Psychotic Overmedication

If you are not reading Anthony Bradley, you really should be. In this article, he pushes a bit about our view of the creation narrative. Interesting stuff…

A Conflict of Christian Visions: Gen. 1-2 vs. Gen. 3 ChristianityAnthony Bradley

Christine was recently on The Exchange (along with my friend Kathy Ferguson Litton), for an interview regarding her new book, The Church Planting Wife. Here is a related letter that's worth a read.

An Open Letter to Church Planting PastorsChristine Hoover

We've talked a lot about mental illness lately. I've written for CNN, and at my own blog. The Huffington Post, the Blaze, CNN (here and here), and lots of others have reported on our data. In my most recent article, I wrote about the danger of overmedication. Being an evangelical, one of the biggest challenges is to encourage Christians to see mental illness as an actual illness. We have a long way to go, based on our recent research. However, the other extreme is that of overmedication, as this article explains.

Doctors: Anti-psychotic meds overused for dementia, kidsKim Painter

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with evangelist Luis Palau on The Exchange. What regrets does he have in his experience as an international evangelist? Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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Large and fast-growing churches make sacrifices for the kingdom of God.

Outreach Magazine just released their Outreach 100 issue for 2013. LifeWay Research does the research for this issue. I was particularly encouraged to see the list focus especially on fastest growing churches. You can subscribe to the magazine here. Here is my article with a bit of analysis of some of the fastest-growing churches in America.


Each year at LifeWay Research, we work together with Outreach Magazine to create the Outreach 100 listings of the country's Fastest-Growing and Largest Churches. On one hand, these lists are one of the most anticipated things we do each year. People seem to eagerly await the lists so they can learn from these churches about what God is doing to build his kingdom across the United States. On the other hand, there are those who complain about the lists. They seem to think this is a way of exalting "big churches" in an effort to make them look better than the churches that are not on the list, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Remember folks: facts are our friends.

I love to learn. I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in the classroom, either as a student or as a professor. These lists feed our hunger to learn as we evaluate the temperature of the churches we study in an effort to learn more about the ways God is working. I hope these lists encourage you and challenge you. I hope, like me, you read them and celebrate the ways God is working. I hope they challenge you to think through your own strategy to reach your community with the gospel.

On this year's lists, we noticed many of the same trends we've seen in the past. Among the recent trends, we continue to see multisite churches becoming more and ...

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Evangelicals Wrong on Mental Illness; 4 Public Invitation Tips; Stop Copying

Amy Simpson responds to our research on mental health that has been reported at CNN (here and here), The Huffington Post, the Blaze, and lots of other places.

Evangelicals, You're Wrong about Mental IllnessAmy Simpson

I appreciated Ronnie Floyd's words here. At our church, we don't do a "come forward" invitation-- that does not work in a movie theater-- but we always invite people to Christ at the end of every message. I found his comments helpful.

4 Words to Keep in Mind When You Give a Public InvitationRonnie Floyd

Helpful article on innovation from Justin and Matt.

How to Stop Copying and Start InnovatingJustin Blaney and Matt Carter

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with evangelist Luis Palau on The Exchange. Listen to the advice he had for others who share the Gospel. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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How church partnerships can help foster multiplication.

Denominations and networks of churches were and still are created for the purpose of partnership in mission. At times, these organizations have successfully unified churches around their common goals and accomplished much. But sometimes the very institutions meant to unify and encourage the mission have inadvertently hindered their own ability to multiply efforts through partnership.

Without a clear avenue to foster partnership for multiplication, the need for these organizations becomes less clear. If denominations and networks do not exist-- at least in part-- to multiply churches, then they have lost a big part of their purpose.

Denominations, networks, and other such partnerships (referred to occasionally as simply "partnerships" for sake of space), when functioning correctly, should help foster multiplication.

I regularly work with a variety of denominational leaders to help them chart a course toward unified missional engagement. There are several points of weakness common to many of the organizations I have seen.

Since these blind spots seem to be somewhat universal, it makes sense to give broad consideration to the ways of overcoming them. So, I have taken a talk I gave to the Evangelical Free Church leadership and modified it a bit to share here.

Hopefully this information can serve other groups as well. Here are six key steps toward creating the type of unity among churches in denominations/networks that leads to sustainable multiplication of a movement.

1. Recognize that Multiplication is Part of Health.

First, your partnership must understand that multiplication is a sign of health.

Healthy churches multiply disciples, groups, ministries, and churches-- and healthy partnerships cultivate ...

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Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 
<p><span class="caps">NASHVILLE</span> Tenn., Dec. 11, 2014—The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, will host its second annual Leadership Summit March 26-27 in Nashville, Tenn. </p> <p>The Summit’s theme is “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation.” It will seek to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches.</p> <p>In light of the national conversation about race in America surrounding the <a href="">Ferguson, Mo.</a> and <a href="">Eric Garner</a> cases, the <span class="caps">ERLC</span> will integrate its original Summit plans on the pro-life theme of “The Gospel for Life” into a large-scale 2016 pro-life conference in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the March for Life.</p> <p>The 2015 Leadership Summit will take place 20 years after the SBC’s historic resolution on racial reconciliation and on the week of the 50th anniversary of The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. </p> <p>Confirmed Summit speakers include:</p> <p><a href="">Russell Moore</a>, <span class="caps">ERLC</span> President<br /> <a href="">John Perkins</a>, President of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Miss.<br /> <a href="">Fred Luter</a>, First African-American President of the Southern Baptist Convention and Pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.<br /> <a href="">H.B. Charles Jr.</a>, Pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fl. <br /> <a href="">Robert P. George</a>, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. <br /> <a href="">Daniel L. Akin</a>, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.<br /> <a href="">D.A. Horton</a>, National Coordinator for Urban Student Missions at the North American Mission Board<br /> <a href="">Trillia Newbell</a>, ERLC’s Consultant for Women’s Initiatives</p> <p>Keynote addresses, panels and breakout sessions will focus on how churches can reflect the united kingdom of Christ and be a beacon of hope, clarity and restoration to a culture navigating complex questions about race.</p> <p>“The New Testament is clear that the gospel reconciles us not only to God but also to each other,” Moore said. “Racism and injustice are not just social ills; they are sins against God. Racial reconciliation is a matter of what gospel we believe and to what mission we&#8217;ve been called. This summit will help equip us to tear down carnal divisions, to bring about peace, so that churches reflect the kingdom of God.”</p> <p>The main sessions will be live-streamed on Follow the conversation on Twitter by following <code>ERLC, </code>ERLCPress and #erlcsummit.</p> <p>More information can be found <a href="">online.</a> </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_OSqDeZpXhd='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_OSqDeZpXhd'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span> D.C., Dec. 3, 2014—A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, who died after a confrontation with the officer involving an apparent choke hold caught on video. </p> <p><span class="caps">ERLC</span> President, Russell Moore, responds to this case.</p> <p>“I’m stunned speechless by this news. We hear a lot about the rule of law—and rightly so. But a government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice. We may not agree in this country on every particular case and situation, but it’s high time we start listening to our African American brothers and sisters in this country when they tell us they are experiencing a problem. </p> <p>“For those of us in Christ, we need to recognize that when one part of the Body of Christ hurts, the whole Body of Christ hurts. It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another.” </p> <p>Dr. Moore also responded on his podcast, which can be heard <a href="">here</a>. The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_nOKUtgFkWO='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_nOKUtgFkWO'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span> D.C., Dec. 2, 2014—The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention filed an <a href="">amicus brief</a> petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination in the case, Young v. <span class="caps">UPS</span>, set for oral arguments by the Supreme Court Dec. 3. </p> <p>The brief, filed Sept. 11, called for the justices to uphold employment safeguards in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (<span class="caps">PDA</span>). </p> <p><span class="caps">ERLC</span> President Russell Moore, commented on the brief: </p> <p>“Being pro-life means standing both with unborn children and with their mothers. We must speak for the rights of children and unborn children, but we must also stand for the protections of mothers also. Pregnant women should not have to decide between loving their babies, caring for their health and making a living. ” </p> <p>The <span class="caps">ERLC</span> joined other pro-life organizations in filing the brief such as the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Bethany Christian Services, Christian Legal Society, Concerned Women for America, Democrats for Life of America, March for Life Education and Defense Fund and Susan B. Anthony List. </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_uGqsjywkDD='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_uGqsjywkDD'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

<p><span class="caps">NASHVILLE</span>. Tenn., November 24, 2014—Russell Moore, president of the Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responds to the decision by the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. to not indict officer Darren Wilson:</p> <p>&#8220;We haven&#8217;t as of yet sorted through all the evidence the grand jury saw and we don’t know precisely what happened in this nightmarish incident. What we do know is that the Ferguson situation is one of several in just the past couple of years where white and black Americans have viewed a situation in starkly different terms&#8230;. In the public arena, we ought to recognize that it is empirically true that African-American men are more likely, by virtually every measure, to be arrested, sentenced, executed, or murdered than their white peers. We cannot shrug that off with apathy. Working toward justice in this arena will mean consciences that are sensitive to the problem. But how can we get there when white people do not face the same experiences as do black people?</p> <p>“In order to get there, we will need churches that are not divided up along carnal patterns of division—by skin color or ethnicity or economic status. We will need churches that reflect the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10) in the joining together of those who may have nothing else in common but the image of God, the blood of Christ, and the unity of the Spirit. When we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to stand up and speak up for one another.”</p> <p>To read Russell Moore’s entire comments on the grand jury decision, click <a href="">here</a>. </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy entity with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_sGwaEDxsqX='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_sGwaEDxsqX'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span> D.C., Nov. 20, 2014—Russell Moore, president of The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responds to President Barack Obama’s forthcoming decision to use executive action on immigration reform in his op-ed today for <span class="caps">TIME</span> Ideas:</p> <p>“I disagree with President Barack Obama&#8217;s decision to act unilaterally on immigration policy. I am for immigration reform, for all sorts of reasons that I have outlined elsewhere. The system we have is incoherent and unjust. I have worked hard to try to see the system changed, and will continue to do so. It&#8217;s because of my support for immigrants and for immigration reform that I think President Obama&#8217;s executive actions are the wrong thing to do.</p> <p>“On more than one occasion, I asked President Obama not to turn immigration reform into a red state/blue state issue. I also asked him not to act unilaterally, but to work for consensus through the legislative process. Acting unilaterally threatens that consensus, and is the wrong thing to do. </p> <p>“My hope is that the Republicans in Congress will not allow the President&#8217;s actions here as a pretext for keeping in the rut of the status quo. More importantly, I pray that our churches will transcend all of this posing and maneuvering that we see in Washington. Whatever our agreements and disagreements on immigration policy, we as the Body of Christ are those who see every human life as reflecting the image of God.”</p> <p>Moore’s full response can be found <a href="">online.</a> </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_mmPNJJArJA='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_mmPNJJArJA'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/


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