A La Carte (January 15)

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(Yesterday on the blog: Where Did All This Pentecostalism Come From?)

In China They’re Closing Churches, Jailing Pastors–And Even Rewriting Scripture

The Guardian covers the increasingly difficult situation for Christians in China. “Researchers say the current drive, fuelled by government unease over the growing number of Christians and their potential links to the west, is aimed not so much at destroying Christianity but bringing it to heel. ‘The government has orchestrated a campaign to ‘sinicise’ Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party’.”

Awe in the Ordinary

Here’s a sweet reflection on awe. “This world is beautiful. The rolling green hills, the soft golden sunset, the human ingenuity to produce fireworks. But they’re not an end in themselves. The wonder of these sights is meant to point us to something higher. Our awe in creation ignites our awe in the Creator. C.S. Lewis once wrote of adoration: ‘One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.'”

Take Them To the Tower

How can you pray for someone when you don’t know how to pray? Take them to the Tower. “This is God’s name. It’s His character. It’s who He is. Don’t know what to pray? Take them to the tower; show them God’s name. As one of my Pastors often says, ‘Plagiarize your Bible.’ Open its pages and dwell on God, his mercy and grace.”

Bitter Peel, Sweet Fruit: Social Media and Anxiety

Lara d’Entremont reflects on the connection between social media and anxiety. It’s something I’ve been thinking about as well! “In a perfect world, social media would be a source of smiles as we connect with friends and share memories. But we don’t live in a perfect world—we live in a world tangled in the thorns and thistles of sin. And in this world, social media can be a place where anxiety flourishes through comparison, knowledge of the turmoil and terror that surrounds us, envy as we worry why God hasn’t given us what He has given someone else, and anxiously checking stats and ‘like’ counts.”

The Art of Delay

Scott Watkins, whose wife has a severe, debilitating illness, writes an honest article about one of his great struggles. “If I had been asked what I was taking refuge in during this time, I probably would not have said, ‘busyness’. Though I may have blamed busyness for some of my troubles, I did not see it as a problem. I had been hiding in my refuge of busyness for so long, I no longer recognized it for what it was – a reality cleverly co-opted into a delay tactic. It was only when my refuge began crumbling that I began to see it.”

What Should We Call Them?

As the world shrinks, we probably need to rethink some of the language we use to refer to the objects of our missionary endeavors. “I tend to talk about the church in Africa, Asia and Latin America, rather than trying to find one catch-all phrase. The thing is these churches each have their own distinctive and, in many ways, they are as different from each other as they are from the Church in the UK. Even using continent-wide terms may be painting with brush strokes that are too broad.”

Accepting “No” As God’s Will

R.C. Sproul: “I am astonished that, in the light of the clear biblical record, anyone would have the audacity to suggest that it is wrong for the afflicted in body or soul to couch their prayers for deliverance in terms of ‘If it be thy will….’ We are told that when affliction comes, God always wills healing, that He has nothing to do with suffering, and that all we must do is claim the answer we seek by faith. We are exhorted to claim God’s yes before He speaks it. Away with such distortions of biblical faith!”

Flashback: The Easiest Sin to Justify

When it comes to the sin of anger, we can always find an explanation that exists outside of us. We can always dump this sin in the lap of a husband or wife, a child or stranger. Failing that, we can plead fatigue or hormones or waking up on the wrong side of the bed or something—anything!—else.

The path of temptation is gradual and intelligent, not as sudden and random as it seems. —Russell Moore