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Category Archives: News stories

The intersection of faith & sports

I recently discovered the “Above & Beyond” podcast hosted by Brock Huard of 710 ESPN Seattle. Brock played quarterback for the UW Huskies and several NFL teams. He is now a radio talk show host and ESPN college football analyst. His first podcast was a conversation with Matt Hasselbeck, former NFL quarterback.

On the first episode of Above & Beyond, Brock sits down with friend and former Seahawks teammate QB Matt Hasselbeck. From growing up with Christian parents to spending time at Green Bay with Reggie White to running away from baptism, Matt shares some of the most important moments from his faith and sports journey.

I appreciated the sports stories, but especially how each one shared how their faith impacts their careers and family life. Brock will be doing the podcast every other week. I look forward to the next one.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Faith, News stories, NFL, Seattle, Sports

 

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Russia

During my recent trip to Russia March 12-26, there was a front page article in The Moscow Times about religious freedom. “Russia Calls for National Ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses” explained that

The Russian Justice Ministry has formally petitioned the country’s Supreme Court to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating within Russia.

Officials are calling for the religious group to be disbanded for being an “extremist organization.”

The move would see Russia’s 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses unable to legally meet or distribute literature.

After reading the article, I had a discussion with the missionary I was working with. John and I both agreed that this was not necessarily a bad thing because the Jehovah’s Witnesses did not proclaim the true gospel. However, we were concerned that if this group was outlawed, who might become the next target for persecution.

Yesterday, The Moscow Times reported, “Russia Outlaws Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

The Russian Supreme Court formally banned Jehovah’s Witnesses on Thursday, labeling the group an extremist organization. The religious group in Russia will now be forced to dissolve.

The decision equates Russia’s 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses to terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and makes it illegal for congregations to meet or distribute literature.

The court refused the group’s earlier appeals to recognize the organization as victims of political repression, and declined to hear testimony from witnesses who claimed that the Russian police have falsified evidence against regional religious groups.

In an article in Christianity Today, “Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses as Extremists,” the author states,

To human rights and religious freedom advocates around the world, the move comes as a major blow. While ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin have put ongoing scrutiny on all non-Orthodox faiths, this case represents the first time the country has banned a registered religious group.

“If Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted, then that means later ‘on the block’ will come other religious movements—for example, Protestant churches,” law professor Anatoly Pchelintcev told Portal-Credo, an Orthodox news site. “For the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Armageddon has arrived, and the faithful of other religions await the apocalypse.”

Still, some Russian evangelicals see the repression of Witnesses as reason to worry, according to William Yoder, spokesman for the Russia Evangelical Alliance. Some have brought up German pastor Martin Niemöller’s “First They Came For” poem and asked, “How soon will it hit us if we don’t protest?”

Is this the first domino to fall? Which ones are next in line? What impact will this have on evangelical churches? What impact will it have on evangelical missionaries?

Hmmm. Much to pray about.

To be continued …

 

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in News stories, Russia

 

What do we mean when we say, “Rest in Peace”?

This was originally published in July 2013. Since I have seen “R.I.P.” posted twice in the past week I thought it might be time to repost.

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I’ve noticed recently that several Christian friends on Facebook post “Rest in Peace” when a well-known actor, author, or celebrity dies. It caused me to ask the question, what exactly do we mean when we say, “Rest in Peace”?

In one sense, death is a time of rest, at least for our physical bodies. Scripture uses the metaphor of “going to sleep” to describe death. This picture is mentioned three times in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Dr. Luke uses the same concept in Acts 7 and the apostle Paul uses it again in 1 Corinthians 15 on two occasions. In Mark, chapter 5, the daughter of a religious leader had died and Jairus, her father, begged Jesus for help. Jesus said, “She’s not dead; she is asleep.” In this sense, death is a time of rest.

In another sense, death is a time when we rest from our labors and enjoy our inheritance. Hebrews 4 talks about the “Sabbath rest” for the people of God. It links the idea to God’s work of creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh day as well as Israel’s wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Tying them together, to rest means to cease from our labor of trying to earn God’s favor and enjoying the inheritance and blessings he has prepared for us.

This doesn’t mean, however, that eternity will be spent floating on clouds strumming a harp. Scripture pictures heaven as a place where we engage in meaningful activity. We will be engaged in worship (Revelation 22:1-3), praising Christ for providing our salvation. We will also be serving as we reign with Christ in eternity (Revelation 20:6).

However, these pictures of rest are only true of those who trusted Christ for salvation during their lifetime. Those who rejected Christ as savior will find themselves in hell enduring an eternity of suffering (Matthew 13:42, 50).

With this is mind, we need to be careful about whom we say “Rest in Peace” to. We don’t want to come across as closet universalists who believe all people go to heaven regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. Nor do we want to communicate that we secretly believe God grades on a curve and the more well-known you are, the more likely you will be in heaven. We also don’t want to act as if this life is all there is, and there is no afterlife. In addition, we don’t want to say “Rest in Peace” simply because we don’t know what else to say.

Eternal rest is only available to those who stopped working to earn their salvation. For the Christ follower, they can go to sleep and later wake up in the arms of Jesus. They can rest and fully enjoy the blessings of salvation and heaven.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Facebook, Funerals, Heaven, News stories, Theology

 

Disney is redefining the family

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Features Disney’s First Gay Character – While I am not surprised by the headline and the story, I am disappointed.

“Beauty and the Beast” to feature an “exclusively gay moment” – Professor Denny Burk of Boyce College offers his take on this issue.

Even though I’m not surprised by this, I am disappointed by it. My own children were delighted by the live-action Cinderella that came out in 2015. It was really well done. For that reason, we have been looking forward with great anticipation for another well-done production. But if these reports are true, we won’t be seeing this one.

The reason is very simple. I am not going to let a movie studio communicate to my children that sexual immorality is “normal and natural.” This movie will no doubt be packaged in a narrative and a production value designed to capture their imaginations, and it will do so in a way that conceals a false and destructive message. To let them see this material would go against everything that I am trying to teach them about the good, the beautiful, and the true. If these reports are accurate, this movie would powerfully subvert that effort.

We have to be constantly vigilant about what stories capture our children’s imaginations—even stories from places like Disney. In fact, I should stipulate, especially from sources like Disney. As one friend put it to me:

We don’t allow Disney into our house, except for the older stuff. They are wicked engineers of the imagination. The corruption of the best is the worst.

My friend’s point is a simple one. Our minds and our consciences are shaped more by the stories that frame our experience than by anything else. The story-tellers, therefore, are the “engineers of the imagination.” They can influence and shape us for the good or for ill. They can either reflect or deflect our moral imagination from the true story of the world—and there is but one true story. Virtue involves not only knowing that story but understanding all of life within its frame of reference.

This decision by Disney is one more example of what Tim Jack used to say, “Why be surprised when the world acts like the world?” I’m sad, but not surprised. It certainly colors my expectations for the movie and might influence my decision whether or not to see it in the theaters.

 

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Culture, Movies, News stories

 

Strange cargo

Our daughter in New Zealand sent us a link to a news article making the rounds in NZ. It seems Kiwi’s are rather inventive about moving. They strap swingsets, couches, and trampolines to the top of their cars. You can read the full article, Swingsets, couches and trampolines – more pictures emerge of Kiwis’ unorthodox transport options.

It reminded me of some pictures a friend in Russia sent me several years ago. It was the Russian version of a Ferrari – a car with a horse on/in it.

horse-in-car horse-in-car-2

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Fun, New Zealand, News stories, Russia

 

Moral Dilemmas

How can/should a Christ follower vote in the upcoming presidential election? Here are three recent news articles that make it difficult to support either candidate.

Speak Truth to Trump: Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump’s blatant immorality, by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today. While the title of the article aims at Donald Trump, the author also points out Hillary Clinton’s pursuit of “unaccountable power through secrecy.”

Dear Beth Moore: Thank You For Calling Out Male Church Leaders On Donald Trump and Sexual Assault, by Jenny Rapson in foreverymom.com

A friend posted the above article with this note, “Still… we speak. It pains me that our two presidential candidates actively engaged in the destruction of women by sexual assault. Trump by perpetrating it and Clinton by standing by while she knew it was happening and then covering it up. The sentiments in this article should apply to all people who disregard the conduct of the presidential candidates.”

WikiLeaks Dump: Top Clinton Aides Mock Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity

As Christ followers, we have a very difficult choice. Much to pray about.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Politics, Prayer

 

Are you outraged?

Two weeks ago (or several years in terms of news cycles) NFL San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the playing of the National Anthem. Since then, other sports stars such as NBA star Stephen Curry and soccer player Megan Rapinoe, and others verbally applaud and or sit/kneel along with Kaepernick. The NFL Seattle Seahawks are considering a team unity protest to show their solidarity with Kaepernick.

On the one hand, the response to the issue reminds me of Peter Finch’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” speech in the 1976 movie, Network. His character, Howard Beale, expresses his outrage on live TV and tells his viewers to stick their head out the window and shout along with him. The next scene shows a city block of apartment dwellers doing just that.

On the other hand, I find it both interesting and sad in how the focus of the issue has changed. Initially, Kaepernick was protesting what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States. The uproar had to do with whether or not people thought his actions were disrespectful to the flag. Now however, the issue is on free speech and whether or not an athlete or anyone else has the right to speak their mind.

Personally, I was put off by his actions. I agree that an athlete or anyone else has the right to speak their mind. The manner in which he did it was disrespectful, at least in my opinion. As Christ followers, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and season our words with grace (Ephesians 4:29).

What gets lost in the media haze is: (1) Is there a problem of injustice and inequality in America? and (2) How can we deal with and fix the problem? I believe the answer to the first question is, Yes, there is injustice and inequality in America. The answer to the second question, however, will not be found through donating the proceeds of jersey sales or roundtable discussions. The answer will only be found by coming to Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, it is not a simple matter of injustice and inequality. The root of the problem is sin in the heart of each and every person. True equality is only possible when the problem of sin is addressed. It is only through Jesus Christ that we become sons and daughters of God on equal footing. Neither a social protest nor a social program will fix the problem. Only the gospel can make a man or woman new from the inside out.

“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in News stories, NFL, Scripture, Videos