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How does a lonely kid understand that she’s loved by God? An author’s childhood holds the answer.

Story, at its heart, is one of the primary modes in which God speaks to us, which means it’s one of the main vehicles for God’s truth. It’s also formative truth: The best, most ennobling stories have the power to shape our actions and play a vital role in moral and spiritual formation. “Rather than taking the child away from the real world,” wrote Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, “such stories are preparation for living in the real world with courage and expectancy.”

In other words, our faith is formed not just by propositional truths but also by the narratives of Scripture, the tales of Christian history, the great works of fiction, and other art forms. L’Engle’s own childhood was steeped in story and offers us a model for the power of moral imagination on the life of faith.

In writing about her growing up years, L’Engle claimed that “the greatest gift my mother gave me, besides her love, was story. She was a wonderful storyteller, especially about her childhood in the South. . . . ‘Tell me a story,’ I would beg, and my mother would take me in imagination back to her world so different from mine.”

Before leaving for the opera, her mother would pause at bedtime and give L’Engle a bit of herself, a memory to treasure. Those stories significantly shaped her sense of family identity and sometimes later resurfaced, fictionalized, in her novels. As a child, they helped her feel less alone.

At boarding school she was miserable and even “psychologically abused” by inept and cruel teachers, which is why, “possibly as a defense against the troubled, everyday world of my childhood, for nourishment I learned ...

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Social media is a place where we should first seek to be light and salt to a world that needs Jesus.

I don’t block a lot of people on Twitter.

But sometimes I do, and people ask me why.

First, I found Jonathan Merritt’s article on how he mutes some and not others to be helpful. Merritt explains,

“The biggest reason not to block is that it often makes matters worse by adding fuel to the fire. It gives the critic a reason to keep attacking you. They’ll tell all who will listen that you simply can’t take criticism, and you’ll end up looking like a petty child with your index fingers showed into your ear canal. And they will use it to perpetuate their own narrative of victimhood.”

Merritt hits a crucial point here: Some people see blocking as a vindication; that they bested you and as a result you fled the field of battle. While I have a combative instinct to not give in, we need to realize that these trolls will claim victory no matter what we do.

More importantly, I am hesitant to block because I remain committed to good and healthy dialogue. I have never blocked someone because he or she has disagreed with me. On the contrary, I find that on rare occasions my thinking can be sharpened and my blind spots uncovered by thoughtful responses from other viewpoints. This is one of the benefits of the medium and that continues to draw me back into conversation despite its flaws.

Social media is a place where, first, we seek to be light and salt to a world that needs Jesus, and second, where we are to allow others to share their own considerations as we ourselves speak into various events and conversations.

So, why do I block people?

To be honest, I actually don’t generally reply to that question on Twitter, because then the conversation becomes, “Well, prove that I did this or that…” ...

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Africa’s youngest head of state heals the wounds of one of its oldest churches.

Ending 27 years of schism, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in their homeland and in America reunited the two feuding branches of one of the world’s oldest churches.

Ironically, the push came from the Horn of Africa nation’s new evangelical prime minister.

“It is impossible to think of Ethiopia without taking note of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which is both great and sacred,” said Abiy Ahmed at the July 27 ceremony in Washington, reported the Fana state-run news agency.

A member of the World Council of Churches, the Tewahedo church split in 1991 due to political manipulations.

After the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) removed the Derg military junta from power, Patriarch Abune Merkorios was forced to abdicate.

He later fled to the United States, where dissidents and diaspora Ethiopians formed a rival patriarchate. According to church tradition, the position is held for life, they maintained.

Following the reconciliation, Patriarch Merkorios will return to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to serve alongside the incumbent Patriarch Mathias, who will maintain administrative authority.

Their honor will be equal, and the names of both will be lifted in prayer as long as both are alive, reported OCP News Service, an Orthodox media network.

All mutual excommunications will be lifted, and bishops appointed by the rival synods will continue in service.

Significantly, delegates unanimously requested forgiveness from the “heartbroken” children of the church.

“Division has no benefit,” Aba Efrem, head of Saint Marcos Church, told the Ethiopian Herald, a government-owned newspaper. “Unity can do more for the church to strengthen peace and love ...

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Despite the many severe challenges Christians face, the church is growing in India.

Ed: What are some of the challenges Christians are currently facing in India?

Archbishop D’Souza: Since the time of the apostles, Christians have faced persecution and social and political oppression because of their faith. In India, things are not unlike the early days of the church.

In the past few years, persecution against Christians in India has increased severely. In 2017, Open Doors ranked India as the 15th nation most dangerous to be a Christian. This year, India jumped to number 11 on the list.

Most of this persecution is happening at the hands of radicalized religious groups and nationalist extremists. These groups believe India should become a Hindu state, and label Christians and Muslims alike as anti-national. Even Hindus who do not subscribe to this ideology are attacked and accused of being against India’s national interest. The Dalits (or “untouchables”) and tribals, many who are Christians, are also facing severe violence. Violent mobs have rounded up innocent Dalits and Muslims and publicly beaten and executed them on the rumor that they have harmed a sacred cow.

In the swirl of these growing tensions, Christians must battle the false narrative that Christianity is a foreign religion imported from the West bent on converting people through force or fraudulent means. This misunderstanding might stem from lingering resentment from the time of the British Raj. Unfortunately, missiological language used by Western churches, such as “targeting unreached people groups,” has reaffirmed the belief — however false — that Christians use charity and humanitarian aid to convert people.

Several Indian states have anti-conversion laws which are weaponized against Christians ...

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A microbiologist reflects on the problem of evil in human diseases.

It’s been two years since Christian missionaries and aid workers in Zika-infested areas wrestled with whether to stay or go after the virus triggered an international public health emergency. Last week, the CDC released a new report indicating for the first time what happens as babies exposed to the Zika virus grow older—they may face problems when none presented at birth.

Seeing the most vulnerable in our society suffering so cruelly can raise questions about God’s goodness. Anjeanette “AJ” Roberts, a microbiologist and scholar at Reasons to Believe, began thinking about these issues in graduate school.

In the 30 years since, Roberts’s work at the National Institute of Health testing the SARS virus on older mice contributed to an understanding of the pathology of the disease and how it affects older humans. As a postdoctorate scholar at Yale University, Roberts worked on proof of concept vaccines that used the same vector now being used to manufacture the Ebola vaccine.

CT recently asked her to explain how her work affected her view of God and his creation.

What are viruses? Where do viruses come from?

The first virus was discovered in the late 1800s, and it was a virus that infected tobacco plants, the tobacco mosaic virus. The word virus basically referred to a poisonous entity.

Viruses aren’t really living. (Bacteria are actually living cells.) There’s a little bit of debate in the field about whether they’re alive or not, but living things can utilize nutrients for energy and produce waste. Viruses can’t do any of those things. All viruses share the characteristic that they cannot make more virus outside of a living cell.

Where did viruses originate? No one knows. ...

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The past two years have only strengthened my belief that tolerance, humility, and patience can help heal our fractious public life.

Two years ago, I published a book called Confident Pluralism. In it, I argue that living together across our differences in this country must begin by acknowledging the depth of those differences. And our differences are indeed deep: We lack agreement about the purpose of our country, the nature of the common good, and the meaning of human flourishing. These differences affect not only what we think but also how we think and how we see the world. Pluralism, the fact of our differences, is a fact of our world.

The past two years have affirmed, if not magnified, these claims. Many of us have experienced increased fracture, animosity, and distrust surrounding politics, religion, race, sexuality, and other important matters. The weakening of major institutions (in politics, education, the media, and religion) and the continued rise of social media have contributed to a crisis of authority. These developments pose significant obstacles to attaining the minimal amount of consensus and sense of belonging that we need in order to make confident pluralism possible. And these challenges are compounded by what political analyst Yuval Levin, in his book The Fractured Republic, diagnoses as misguided nostalgia and lack of imagination from both of our major political parties. But though the challenges have intensified, I am no less committed to confident pluralism. Finding a modest unity across deep differences is not only possible but necessary.

Between Chaos and Control

The premise of confident pluralism is that we can make room for our differences even as we maintain our own beliefs and practices. Doing so requires both legal and personal commitments. When it comes to the law, we must insist that those in power protect our ability to ...

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Characteristics of the Church Growth Movement itself present challenges to church multiplication.

The regrettable shortage of multiplying churches can be explained, at least in part, by the lingering implications of the wholesale adoption of business principles and pragmatic schemes that distinguished the church growth era. Today, we awaken to a church growth hangover that colors our thoughts on what we should do next.

While it’s easy to critique the outcomes of the Church Growth Movement, one need not diminish the hopeful aspirations of many of its courageous architects.

Driven by a zeal for Jesus and propelled by a deep evangelistic fervor, men and women sought to leverage their cultural ingenuity to create churches that appealed to the masses and made it possible for many to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. As with any culture-driven ecclesiology, the upcoming implications of these ideas were hard to predict, though we are now better able to appreciate the challenges that were created.

The Challenge of Faltering Methods

The reality is that many of the methods used during the church growth era are no longer producing the same results. As once responsive geographies become less susceptible to the skillful merchandizing toward Christian memory, we find our tools feeble, ineffective, and dull.

And when our tried-and-true methods stop producing, many are propelled toward greater pragmatism—thinking that a procedural change is all that’s needed to get the old machine revving again. A sacred silver-toned bullet.

Change is difficult, particularly among churches that have internalized corporate pragmatism to such a degree that their foundations are the unspoken and unquestioned basis for most metrics of success. Pragmatism tends to skip the messy grind of disciple-making for a more untroublesome operation of ...

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Misguided loyalty harmed this historic congregation. True loyalty can redeem it.

In light of the resignation of its pastoral staff and elder board, it’s time to rally around Willow Creek Community Church with support and prayers. With those resignations, and the repentance they suggest, Willow has an opportunity to enter into a new fruitful season of ministry.

Let’s ponder what has happened in the last few months and why, because a simplistic reading of the events will only tempt Willow—and any Christian institution in a similar crisis—to react in such a way that the fruitful season will wither away all too quickly. Many women have come forward and said Bill Hybels has abused his power and sexually harassed female colleagues. The current leadership, pastors and elder board, have failed early to take seriously the accusations being brought forth. We are wise to try our best to grasp the moral and psychological complexities of what has taken place, so deep redemption can take place.

Rediscovering True Loyalty

Given the number of troubling testimonies about Hybels’s behavior, it’s easy to forget we’re still dealing with allegations and not proven fact. Many are of the opinion—me included—that he is guilty. Hybels, however, continues to deny many of the most serious allegations. It’s not merely an American thing but is also required of Christian charity: The accused are entitled to their day in court. For independent churches in Willow’s situation, that court is the sort of independent investigation that Willow has at long last commissioned. An independent investigation will hopefully be able to bring to light the full truth of the matter. The choice of the organization to investigate, as well as its work, are certainly matters to keep in prayer. ...

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What place does social media have in our worship services?

When was the last time you bought a mattress? Did you walk around a showroom and awkwardly lie down on several of them? Did you close your eyes, try to get comfortable, and imagine what it would be like to sleep on it day after day? Did you then pay too much, and wait too long for it to be delivered to your house?

No wonder the mattress industry was ripe for disruption. In the same way that Amazon disrupted brick and mortar retail, Uber disrupted the Taxi industry, and smart phones disrupted camera, calculator, and flashlight sales, Casper has done the same for mattresses.

Casper, an online mattress retailer, has been so effective at upending a $29 Billion industry that other companies have quickly followed suit. And just last month, they took things to the next level by building their first brick and mortar store—except, at this one, you can’t buy a mattress.

You buy a nap instead.

Instead of designing their store like other mattress retailers, such as Mattress Firm, The Brick, or Ikea, they decided to create an experience where the mattress was secondary. It’s called the Dreamery in New York City. Here’s how they describe it on their website: “At Casper, we want everyone to sleep better and live better. So we created The Dreamery, a magical place in NYC where you can rest and recharge whenever you want. Because when you snooze, you win.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Book a nap session: Choose a 45-minute time slot whenever you could use a boost. Walk-ins are welcome, too.
  2. Get some rest: Wind down in the lounge, change into pajamas, and lie down in your own Casper Nook—a perfectly private, quiet pod with an outrageously comfortable bed.
  3. Feel recharged: Embrace your post-nap pep. Freshen up and enjoy a coffee before taking on the rest of your day (or night).

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Two of Netflix’s Marvel heroes arise out of their respective Christian cultures.

Blind lawyer Matthew Murdock (Charlie Cox) sits in the confession booth at a New York City Roman Catholic church describing his family history—that is, his and his boxer father’s violent natures, where they “let the devil in” and people get hurt. But instead of confessing past sins, Matt says, “I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done. I’m asking forgiveness for what I’m about to do.”

Later that night, dressed in black and a ski mask completely covering his eyes, he attacks criminals engaged in human trafficking, the first of many bloody (though non-lethal) encounters to follow.

With Marvel Studio’s incredible box office success now having earned over $3 billion for 2018 alone for three films—Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp—it might be possible to overlook the presence of more grounded superhero series in the same Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), on Netflix. Superhero mythologies tend toward outright fantasies, with often cosmic levels of power providing conflict for the stories (see Infinity War). But some of these Netflix series—in particular, Daredevil and Luke Cage—take a different path, getting their down-to-earth dilemmas and moral themes from another place: their protagonists’ faith backgrounds.

Just as Phil Vischer promised we’d never see a VeggieTales installment featuring Jesus as a vegetable—it would violate the essential conceit of the stories to feature the Son of God in an animated vegetable world—it’s hard to include Christian themes when a genre tends to work by displacing real-world conflict and psychology into fantastic scenarios featuring super soldiers, ...

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