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How “casting all my cares upon him” got this Karen girl from Burma to America.

I walked for nine days in my slippers in the deep forest. My father carried all the food. My mom carried my one-year-old brother. My other younger siblings had to walk by themselves. I carried all the cookware, some blankets, and clothes for them.

After seven days, we reached the Tenasserim River and crossed on a big boat. We were climbing the mountain quickly, and I heard the gunfire again. I climbed up the mountain as fast as I could. When I reached the top, I put down all my things and went back to my parents and picked up my younger brother. I carried him piggyback; he held my neck tightly when I had to pull myself up the mountain.

Since I was a little girl, my favorite Bible verse has been 1 Peter 5:7–9:

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (NIV).

When we suffer as God’s children, we know we are not alone. He is with us, and our brothers and sisters around the world are with us in prayer and solidarity. We testify to share that truth.

I was very tired carrying my brother while climbing the mountain, so I spoke to myself, “Sunday, you cannot die here. You must finish your high school, go to college, speak for your people, and tell the world what you have been through and who you are.”

This is who I am. This is what God has done for me.

I was born in Burma, but I am not Burmese. I am an ethnic Karen, one of more than 10 ethnic minority groups in Burma. The Karen are one of the largest groups among the two million ...

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Update: The memorial is a Christian symbol—but also more than that.

Update (June 20): On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of allowing a memorial cross to remain on a state-owned median in Bladensburg, Maryland, and declared that government efforts to maintain the landmark do not violate the religion clause of the Constitution.

“The fact that the cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol should not blind one to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent: a symbolic resting place for ancestors who never returned home, a place for the community to gather and honor all veterans and their sacrifices for this Nation, and a historical landmark,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito, in the majority opinion.

“For many, destroying or defacing the Cross would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.”

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel with the religious liberty firm Becket Law, said while this decision represents a victory for the Bladensberg cross, “it will take careful reading and digesting of the opinion to sort through exactly what it means for future cases.”

Original post (February 28):During yesterday’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court suggested it would allow a 40-foot memorial cross to stay on public land, despite a challenge from an atheist group concerned that the 83-year-old World War I monument represented a government endorsement of religion.

The hour-long debate in the case of American Legion v. American Humanist Association didn’t just raise the question of whether the “Peace Cross” memorial was constitutional, but also whether it was a secular symbol.

The lawyer for the Maryland parks agency that now maintains the cross—which ...

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Demonic lies hide as truth. They also lurk close to home.

I stood before the dazed librarian as she scanned each questionable title: The Death of Satan, I See Satan Fall Like Lighting, By Authors Possessed, the books about demons piling up before her. I remember my discomfort and lame apologies about what appeared to be a sinful attraction to evil. This was a Christian university library, after all, and I had a stack of demonic literature rising to evil proportions at the checkout counter.

A similar discomfort confronts me now when I sign the author’s page of my book Giving the Devil His Due—its cover depicting a half-naked demon donning a red cape. Or when a radio personality invites me on his show in the hopes that I will denounce America’s absorption with that “demonic” holiday Halloween. Extended family members often confess their demonic encounters to me, trying to convince me that The Screwtape Letters is no mere caricature but the accurate epistolary adventures of an ancient monster.

Most discomfiting of all, I have stood before an audience of nonbelievers numbering in the hundreds and begged, “Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not listen to any little voice inside you; it may be the devil’s.” I can hear everyone thinking, What’s a nice girl like you doing reading and writing books like this? Instead of comfort, I have chosen to prize truth, in imitation of the two writers I admire most—Fyodor Dostoevsky and Flannery O’Connor. Both of them give the devil his due in order to save us from losing our souls.

The demonic has been a literary trope for centuries—think Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, Mephistopheles from Faust, or somewhat recently I, Lucifer. So, when I began writing a book about ...

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There are two methods I have found to be the most effective forms of leadership.

Being a leader is challenging—I think few would dispute that. Along the journey, all leaders will experience many great successes and failures; you can’t have one without the other.

As someone who’s had the privilege of watching many leaders grow over time, it’s been helpful to think through the support process.

Whenever I’ve had somebody working under me struggle or fail as a leader, I like to walk them through what might have gone wrong along the way. I might sit down with them and say, “Let’s talk about how I can help you succeed better.”

That might look like putting a new system around the individual to help him or her work more efficiently. It might look like giving the person more support. The solutions are likely to vary from person to person.

Having these conversations is important because most of the time, when new leaders fail early on, it’s not because they aren’t going to be great leaders one day. Most of the time, if you see potential in a person, there are other external factors that can be adjusted to help him or her succeed. I’d always say that when in doubt, you blame the system, not the person.

So, there are two ways I’ve found to be the most effective methods of leading. The first is engaging those I lead. The second is directing those I lead to engage with other resources.

At the moment, I’m gearing up some of these where I currently serve, hiring some staff to free up more time for leadership development. But, let me share my past practice and my future plan.

Ongoing Relationship

For starters, to engage those I lead would be to establish some sort of ongoing connection between the two of us. This could look like a weekly meeting. ...

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Officials say undergrad enrollment in the program is dropping as students take a more holistic approach to ministry.

Thanks to its pioneering online education platform, Liberty University offers the largest theological studies program in the country—by far. Its Rawlings School of Divinity enrolls several times as many students as longstanding seminaries, which have only recently begun to transition their degree programs online.

And Liberty’s divinity school, housed in a tower erected in the center of the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus, is also on its way to accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the gold standard for seminaries in the US and Canada.

But a new report this week in Inside Higher Ed describes the decision to cut a dozen divinity school faculty, its falling enrollment, and a new strategy to combat what it refers to as Liberty’s broader “struggles online and a shrinking applicant pool.”

Top officials at the school dispute claims that the university is on a trajectory of decline, especially one stemming from its ties to President Donald Trump.

Instead, they told Christianity Today that the layoffs and other hits taken by the divinity school stem from the evolving ministry landscape, the same kind of challenges faced by fellow Christian universities, missions organizations, ministries, and churches across the country—and that the Trump affiliation has actually been a boon to the school.

“Really, it’s a sign of the times,” said David Nassar, senior vice president for spiritual development and campus chaplain at Liberty. “The landscape of the way churches are staffing is changing, the landscape of the way mission organizations are staffing is changing, and I think that’s why we’ve seen some decline in the school of divinity in that sense.” ...

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America is on track to admit 82 percent fewer religious minorities from the countries where they face the most danger.

In just a few years, the United States has gone from a world leader in refugee resettlement to only admitting a fraction as many as it once did—a shift that has allowed fewer persecuted Christians and other religious minorities into the country.

On Thursday, World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees declared a record-high 70.8 million people were displaced last year. Despite pleas from evangelicals, the Trump Administration continued to restrict the number of refugees admitted in the country to fewer than half of what it had been for decades.

The drop raised concerns over the fate of asylum seekers from countries where religious liberty is under attack, especially those deemed Tier 1 “countries of particular concern” (CPC) by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Among refugees from USCIRF’s countries of concern, “the data shows a projected decline of 82 percent in the total number of refugees resettled to the US between 2016 and 2019,” according to a press release citing data collected and analyzed by Matthew Soerens, the US director of church mobilization at World Relief.

The number of Christians welcomed to the US from countries with the worst records of religious persecution has dropped by 70 percent, and the number of Muslims coming from such countries is down 90.7 percent.

To put that in perspective, in 2016 the US resettled almost 47,000 refugees from USCIRF’s countries of concern, including 14,551 Christians. At the current rate, fewer than 9,500 refugees from the same countries will resettle in America this year, and only 5,103 Christians.

According to Soerens, “the most significant factor is the refugee ceiling, the maximum ...

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Christ's message of love, forgiveness, peace and justice is too compelling to resist.

When Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet assembled on May 30 to take their oath of office, nobody expected that a relatively unknown minister sworn in at the end of the ceremony would steal the show.

Applause broke from the audience when Pratap Sarangi walked onto the stage. Earlier that day, a picture of him leaving the austere hut where he lives went viral, drawing praise for his modest lifestyle.

But Sarangi’s spot in the limelight also resurfaced a controversial issue in India: religious conversions.

Sarangi was the leader of Bajrang Dal, an extremist Hindu militant organization that was accused of the 1999 murders of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Odisha.

An official investigation didn’t cast blame on any particular group, and although over a dozen people were convicted and given life sentences, all but one were eventually released. Dara Singh, who presumably led the mob who attacked the Staines, was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life in prison.

Sarangi has denied involvement in the crime and distanced himself from Singh, whom he says was not part of Bajrang Dal. But he has not shied from accusing Christians of converting Indians by force or fraudulent methods, most recently characterizing conversions as asking for sex in exchange for a favor.

Since 1999, attacks against Christians in India have sharply increased, particularly in the north. Last year, Open Doors, which ranks global levels of persecution, included India for the first time ever in the top 10 nations where Christians are persecuted.

As was the case with the murder of the Staines, much of the violence is incited by extremists who, for decades, have spread the propaganda preached by Sarangi that Christians ...

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Paul on “good works”—and my replies to initial critiques of this series.

Let me begin this essay by responding to some critiques of the series up to this point, and especially about last week’s essay, “The Church Does Not Exist for the Sake of the World.” While most readers seem appreciative, I expected pushback for the counterintuitive emphasis I’m trying to bring to bear in the series.

Note that word—emphasis. The careful reader sees that I’m not saying that we should forget about loving our neighbor and that I’m not arguing that in glorifying God the church should not reach out in mission. Thus the charges of “binary thinking” or of offering a “false dichotomy” are a failure to read what I’ve actually written.

More to the point: I’m arguing that the evangelical movement in particular has made an idol of activity for God, to the point that God has been increasingly eclipsed from our hearts and minds (though he is still on our lips, to be sure). To call us back to our first love does not mean that I deny the importance of our second love—the neighbor. And to question our idolatry is not binary nor a false dichotomy any more than it was for Jesus when he cleared the moneychangers from the Temple.

Let me be absolutely clear here: I am not like Jesus; I am very much a moneychanger, caught in the nexus of daily life and worship of the horizontal at the expense of a deep and abiding love for my Lord.

One critique I agree with: I failed to note that many missional thinkers are not first and foremost talking about the church’s mission but God’s. That is, it is God’s mission to bring the world to himself, and we just participate in his mission. Fair enough. I will say, however, that I wonder if this picture ...

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In 1946, a man named Ernst Lohmeyer disappeared from East Germany. It took me three decades to piece together his story.

I had never heard of Ernst Lohmeyer until I was in my late 20s. I came across his name in the same way I came across many names at the time—as another scholar whom I needed to consult in doctoral research.

In the mid-1970s, I was writing my dissertation on the Gospel of Mark in the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. A premier commentary on Mark at the time was Ernst Lohmeyer’s Evangelium des Markus (Gospel of Mark), published in the acclaimed Meyer Commentary Series in Germany. Lohmeyer first published the commentary in 1936 when he was professor of New Testament at the University of Greifswald in Germany. The edition I was using, however, was published in 1967 and accompanied by a supplementary booklet. It carried the name Gerhard Sass, was dated 1950, and mentioned “how continuously [Lohmeyer had] labored to improve and expand his book, until a higher power carried him off to a still-unresolved fate.”

The melancholy of Sass’s preface haunted me. Why, after all these years, was the mystery still unsolved? The note about Lohmeyer’s mysterious disappearance stayed with me by the sheer power of its intrigue. But I did not pursue it. I was married at the time. My wife, Jane, and I had two young children, and my work as youth minister at First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs was a full-time-plus call. In addition, my PhD work at Fuller entailed flying to Pasadena three times a year to research assiduously in the library for two weeks. I had no leisure to pursue the lead.

In June 1979, however, his name came up again. I was translating for a Berlin Fellowship team in Greifswald, East Germany. We were in our final meeting, enjoying Kaffee und Kuchen—coffee ...

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When our church offered therapy to traumatized migrants, we witnessed the healing power of Scripture.

Traffickers had trapped Mayra, a Honduran woman, and her three children in a southern Mexican house alongside a crowd of other migrants. The traffickers had stolen her money and her phone.

Her wide-eyed six-year old son was slurring his speech. Her two-year-old daughter was throwing tantrums and retreating into a shell. Her slender preteen daughter was being groomed for sex, and Mayra’s own pregnant belly continued to swell. She had come this far to save her children from the horrors of her hometown, where three of her siblings and her husband had been murdered. But she found herself paralyzed in a place full of drug use, sexual violence, and noise.

What Mayra felt she could do was pray and sing the praise songs she learned in church, which she converted into whispered lullabies. Huddled on a dirty mattress in a corner, she prayed the “full armor of God” over her children each day for weeks. She tried to shield them with her pregnant body and transform the commanding passage of Ephesians 6 into a blessing: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

Normally it takes a month for a family to get from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador to the southern border of the United States. Immigrants ride freight trains and buses and walk for miles through cities and wilderness. Along the way, they are targeted for robbery, kidnapping, and sexual exploitation.

Despite these dangers, asylum seekers from these countries have been coming to the US in increasing numbers. Most turn themselves in at the southern border and, after initial immigration screenings for fear and credibility, many are taken to detention centers while they coordinate with US-based family or sponsors who will provide plane or bus tickets ...

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There’s more that matters than just the numbers.

Are denominations dying?

Are local churches increasingly ineffective?

Is the church losing?

Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention released their Annual Church Profile (APC), reporting on key metrics for the SBC, including church attendance, number of baptisms, number of churches, and giving. Overall, the numbers weren’t good. Membership is down to its lowest point since 1987, baptisms are down to 1940s levels, attendance dipped by about half a percent, and the total number of churches dropped by 88.

The only statistical bright spot is that giving is up slightly.

As a man who loves the church and believes numbers are our friends, this report is concerning. All of us would like to see a different trajectory for the SBC, and other Evangelical denominations, but sadly, that isn’t our reality.

I’m not a part of the SBC. I’m Assemblies of God. And the AG releases its numbers every year as well. We’ve enjoyed being one of, if not the only, growing major evangelical denominations of late. We’ve shouted those numbers from the rooftops, and rightly so.

When I’m with friends from other denominations, they often ask for the AG’s secret to growth when all the other denominations’ numbers are declining. While there are some very legitimate reasons why the AG has seen sustained growth in the U.S. and globally (95 percent of the AG resides outside the U.S.), there’s a concerning statistical development on the horizon for us, too.

Our latest U.S. numbers reveal that the AG is growing in churches and average attendance, but only barely. Our total number of adherents slipped slightly after 27 years of consecutive growth. Our number of churches classified as plateaued and declining is ...

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    CHURCH MISSION

    The mission of the Colossian Baptist Church; in obedience to God, as a Christ-centered body of believers, we commit to disciple, enable and encourage one another to love, worship and serve our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

    Furthermore, we commit to share the Good News and ourselves with our neighbors in Colossian Baptist Church in the surrounding communities, and throughout the world.

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