Archives For Suffering

Monochrome reality

Artist Andy Rains shows Christ’s humble beauty in simple black and white.

In our self-centered era, many people think the humble are losers and only the proud win. The Suffering Servant disagrees.

These aren’t humble times. So far, 2016 has produced as much bluster and blow as any year in memory. Not the meteorological kind, rather the political kind.

It is increasingly evident that ours is a land that no longer appreciates the humble man. In most every news report in this election cycle, humility as a value is trounced by pride, promises, and vainglory. Not the videogame Vainglory produced by Super Evil Megacorp (really, that’s the actual name of a game manufacturer); but the inordinate pride in one’s self and one’s accomplishments condemned in the Elizabethan English of the King James Version of the Bible as “vainglory” (Galatians 5:26, Philippians 2:3).

Prior to the 2008 election, a book was published that proposed “Jesus for President.” In it, the authors took a familiar concept from Charles Sheldon’s famous 1896 book “In His Steps” that first asked the question “What would Jesus do” and applied it to American politics: What would Jesus do—if he ran for president?

Probably lose. At least that would appear to be the answer in 2016.

Let’s face it: the humility platform would not prove popular today. The humility platform is not high and lifted up, it doesn’t have room for boasting. Its candidate doesn’t make empty promises. He doesn’t exalt himself, even though in the case of Jesus he rightfully could. He does nothing at the expense of others. And he’s interested in only One endorsement.

How could he possibly win here in Braggadocio?

Still, there is much the Humble One can tell the candidates—and the electorate.

A better example

Four passages in the book of Isaiah have been identified as the Servant Songs. The Ethiopian eunuch reading Scripture while sitting in a royal vehicle asked Philip, “Who is the prophet talking about?” He was reading from Isaiah:

“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living…”  (Isa 53:7-8).

“Who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” the servant to a queen asked Philip (Acts 8:34).

Definitely someone else.

He was talking about the Lord’s servant, the Suffering Servant. Jewish interpreters say the passage refers to the nation Israel, since in most of the book God speaks to Israel. But the verses describing an utterly humble servant and his sacrificial and redemptive work cannot be about a proud and unrepentant nation. They are clearly about the Messiah.

The Suffering Servant is Jesus.

In the Gospels, we see his humility in living tableau. He touches the unclean—lepers, lame, and blind people—and heals them as Isaiah predicted he would. He shows willing descent as he assumes the place of the lowest slave in the house and kneels to wash the feet of his followers. Then he stands with the condemned on the killing hill.

In Philippians, Paul sings a little song of the early church that puts Jesus’ humility into theological perspective.

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Jesus’ humility was not only a matter of location but also of position. He let go of all the things God deserves in terms of dominion and stooped down to his own creation. He subjected himself to his own created beings, even though he knew beforehand they would murder him.

He never sought to justify his actions. He never came to his own defense. Neither did anyone else.

Was there ever a clearer picture of humility.

The mirror cracked

Today our concept of humility is corrupted. “Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way,” songwriter Mac Davis wrote. Even our contemporary examples become more idols than icons as our culture converts them into celebrities.

Mother Teresa is rushed to sainthood so her musky humility sharpened in Calcutta ghettos can be perfumed for the ages. Pope Francis, hailed for his (relatively) simple lifestyle chides a woman in a parade line. “Don’t be selfish!” he snapped when she pulled him away from a handicapped man he was praying over. Our selfish generation demands something more grand from those who willingly would be lowly. Humility is not fashionable; it’s barely tolerated.

Could it be that Billy Graham sitting in a rocker on the porch of his Blue Ridge mountain cabin out of the glare of the Crusade spotlight is the last example of humility in our egotistical age?

The times are louder. The boasts are prouder. And the rhetoric of its claimants is so overblown that their platforms cannot support it. If only our national leaders could learn a few lessons from the Humble One. If only our countrymen would accept from their icons true servant leadership.

A humble servant is silent

“There is a time to speak,” the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, “and a time to be silent.” The Suffering Servant is more often silent, so much so that silence has become one of his chief characteristics. When he speaks, it is to the glory of God and to the benefit of others; it is rarely if ever on his own behalf.

The word picture drawn by Isaiah is of a lamb about to be slaughtered. The lamb knows something is coming, from its perspective something bad. And yet he offers not a bleat in protest. If silence is consent, then the lamb is offering his tacit acceptance. Likewise, Christ before his accusers offers no defense of himself. His defense could rightly be that he is God and has done all to the glory of his Father. But he keeps his rebuttal to himself and leans in to his mission with the same humble spirit that has characterized his whole life on earth. The day of his exaltation will come, but there before Pilate, Herod, and the Jewish supreme court, it’s still about three days away.

Andrew Murray says, “Humility is perfect quietness of heart.” In this way, a humble servant stands in stark contrast to the leading figures of our time who exhibit little quietude.

In his little book Humility, Murray describes the inner working of this outward silence: “It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

Oh, how we need that room, that door, that peace.

He is not vain

Isaiah’s prophetic description of the Messiah says there was nothing particularly attractive about him. Even before he was “marred,” “pierced” and “crushed” at Golgotha, the Servant was a plain man with “no beauty” and a king with “no majesty.” He is not a pretty flaxen-haired Jesus as painted in Sallman’s Head of Christ over grandma’s mantelpiece.

Our generation has bought the Kardashian concept of beauty that requires everyone in the public eye to be “carved out of cream cheese.” By this standard, Abraham Lincoln couldn’t get elected to office today. He was tall enough, but homely people don’t win elections. Nor would Cleveland, Taft, or Teddy Roosevelt. Too fat, bald, or bespectacled.

Appearance is not only about outward beauty. There is the vanity of money, stature, power, and position. The desire for reputation is a form of the vanity of fame. The proud person is concerned about the opinion others have of him. “Pride must die in you,” Murray warned, “or nothing of heaven can live in you.”

This is the dying to self Jesus called for, the laying down of his life.

“Men sometimes speak as if humility and meekness would rob us of what is noble and bold and manlike,” Murray said. The humble are rarely exalted in our times, nor do they win elections. But a wise generation doesn’t judge on outward appearances. To the extent it is possible they follow God’s standard when he sent Samuel to anoint lowly shepherd boy David to replace the high but corrupted Saul: He looked on the heart.

And what does he see there?

As a “man of sorrows,” the Suffering Servant is serious about serious things. Oh, sure, he can be great fun, but he is also sober minded. Jesus enjoys a good time in good company (remember the wedding at Cana), but he handles serious subject matter with the gravity deserved. He is “acquainted with grief.” One charged with so great a task as carrying our sorrows to the cross surely feels them deeply.

The same must be true of those who claim him as Lord: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

“Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil,” Murray said.

For those who follow in the way of Christ, there is an inverse relationship between vanity and a quiet spirit. “Pride must die in you,” Murray warned, “or nothing of heaven can live in you.”

He serves needs over wants

The word “populist” has returned to the American vocabulary, driven largely by the large crowds showing up at campaign rallies. By definition, a populist candidate is concerned with the interests of common people. He seeks the involvement of ordinary folks in the political process and welcomes into the discourse issues drawn from ordinary lives. But by recent example, populism involves stirring up the desires of the people, then promising to fulfill them whether they are right (and righteous) or not.

A humble servant may be populist by its original definition. He is concerned about the people, but he doesn’t play to the crowd as is the current practice. At times the crowds were with Jesus; at times they were against him; but Jesus never played to the crowds. He never healed to curry favor. He did not feed the 5,000 to increase his poll numbers.

A humble servant doesn’t dispense treats to get public approval. Or health benefits or government subsidies or campaign promises. He accepts the hard job and does the hard work to its completion, even if that causes everyone to turn away.

The challenge for Americans today is to show some maturity by supporting a leader who will do what the nation needs, not necessarily what the people want. That may sound paternalistic, but isn’t God’s kingdom paternalistic? The Father is always doing what is best for his children, even when they don’t understand it or like it.

He lives with the end in mind 

A humble servant may live and work from a lower position, but that somehow gives him a higher perspective. Isaiah’s picture of the Suffering Servant is paradoxical: he is lowly but he will be exalted; he is oppressed, yet he is the strong arm of the Lord; he is wounded for the sake of our healing. And there’s this paradox concerning “the will of the Lord”—

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10).

It was the will of God that the Suffering Servant be crushed, yet the will of God only prospers when this is done. Crushing and prospering would seem to be opposites. One destroys while the other creates. One shrinks and the other grows. One is an ending, but the other is unending.

And in all of this the humble Servant knows there is a higher purpose than his momentary affliction. The purpose in his dying is to make possible our living—forever. His offering is our ransom. His ending is our beginning. In it all he does not object, because the Servant knows that his grief will become our source of joy and our salvation.

There, between the Lord’s will that the Servant be crushed and the prospering of the Lord’s will in the Servant’s hand is the great promise: this lowly Servant will have offspring. That’s us, his children, his followers, his redeemed.

Isaiah, 700 years before hand, describes the centerpoint of history, the cross, where the crushing intent of the Lord’s will is met by the prosperous outcome of the Lord’s will in the salvation and multiplication of his progeny. This is only possible because the lowly Servant is willing to submit to the Lord’s will that he die and that he rise again, that we believing may be born again to new life.

Rising from that moment in history is the way for all who will follow the Suffering Servant. “Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down!” Murray said. “Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.”

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist


Update: Saeed Abedini has returned to Boise, Idahio, and has seen his children. In developing news, Saeed’s wife Naghmeh has filed a domestic relations case against him today (Jan. 27).

Saeed Abedini was released last week after more than three years in an Iranian prison. Upon his release he was taken to a U.S. Air Force Base in Germany for debriefing and medical assessment, then to the Billy Graham Training Center (the Cove) in Asheville, NC,  for a period of rest and time with his parents. The pastor from Idaho next planned a reunion with his wife, Naghmeh, and their children.

His freedom, part of a prisoner exchange with Iran following that nation’s nuclear disarmament agreement with the U.S. was announced January 16.

In his first media interview since his release from an Iranian prison was announced Jan. 16, Abedini told FOX News’ Greta Van Susteren of the brutal physical and psychological torture he suffered in Iran for three and half years. Abedini prayed hours at times to survive years of abuse and unjust imprisonment in Iran for his Christian faith, and described his prayers as a “wonderful time with the Lord” which he enjoyed.

“I was beaten within to death kind of,” he told Van Susteren in broken English. “God saved me over there.” During a botched trial, the judge closed him in a room where guards beat him so badly with their fists that he suffered internal bleeding in his stomach. And at another time, he said, he was beaten on the face and body with a heavy metal chair.

Abedini’s wife Naghmeh has twice been delayed in seeing him since his prison release. She cancelled plans to visit him in Germany, where he was treated at a U.S. military hospital before his Jan. 21 arrival in the U.S., to give him more time to recover before reuniting with their children Rebekkah and Jacob. She told Baptist Press of plans to meet him Jan. 25 at the Cove, but according to news reports, that visit had also been delayed, Reuters News reported.

“We are ready to welcome him home,” Naghmeh said in a January 17 interview with FOX News, noting that the couple’s young children were making welcome home signs.

Leaders who have long called for the pastor’s release, including Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, were quick to respond to the news. “Praise God,” he posted.

“The prayers of the Body of Christ all over the world have been answered,” Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said later in a statement released by the ERLC. “This day of celebration should remind us to pray and work all the more for the multitudes still persecuted for their faith all over the world, including in Iran. We hope and long for the day when Iran, and nations like it, are free from those who wish to enslave the conscience at the point of a sword.”

Abedini was serving an eight-year sentence after being arrested in 2012. The pastor, who was raised in Iran and later became an American citizen, had organized Christian house churches in the Muslim country.

The ERLC gave Abedini a religious liberty award in 2014, which his wife accepted on his behalf at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore. Naghmeh returned to the SBC in 2015, where pastors prayed for her family and her husband’s release during the annual Pastors’ Conference.

During much of his imprisonment, Naghmeh advocated publicly for Saeed, organizing prayer vigils for him and sharing updates on social media. Late last year, though, she stepped back from the public campaign after e-mails she sent to supporters were leaked. The messages noted “physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography)” that had marked the couple’s marriage. After her husband’s release, Naghmeh confirmed to the Washington Post that the abuse had started early in their marriage and grew worse during Saeed’s imprisonment.

“When he gets home, we can address the serious issues that have happened and continued,” she said. Naghmeh also told Washington Post religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey that it’s unclear whether her husband will continue to be a pastor.

“I think he would have to deal with a lot of issues,” she said. “There will need to be a time of healing for him and his family.” Evangelist Franklin Graham is “coming alongside our family through the next steps of the difficult journey ahead,” Naghmeh posted on Facebook January 20.

The American Center for Law and Justice, who had lobbied extensively for Abedini’s release, credited God’s intervention for his freedom. “We want to rejoice that the Lord has set these individuals free,” said Chief Counsel Jordan Sekulow.

“At the end of the day, this was a move of God, because so many circumstances had to line up correctly for this to happen, and it did. And that’s not humans doing that; that is the Lord and we were just instruments to do our part.

Eric Reed with additional reporting from Baptist Press.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Baptists will hear from two presidential hopefuls at next week’s SEND North America Conference in Nashville, Tenn. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, will interview former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Aug. 4. The conference also will include a pre-recorded interview with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The_Briefing“Evangelicals are looking for leaders who not only understand their convictions about human dignity and family stability but have plans to address them,” Moore said in a press release, “and this event will provide the opportunity for precisely this kind of discussion with some of the leading presidential candidates, and I am greatly looking forward to it.”

The SEND Conference, which is hosted by the North American and International Mission Boards, is expected to see 13,000 attenders.

In its press release, the ERLC said the leading candidates from each major party were invited to participate, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Moore said in a July 22 blog post. The Aug. 4 conversations will be the first in a series of discussions with candidates, Moore added.

Pakistani woman’s execution temporarily stayed pending court review
The Pakistani Supreme Court said July 22 they will review the case of Aasiya Noreen, known in media reports as Asia Bibi. The mother of two (and stepmother of three other children) was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory comments about Muhammad. Read the full story from Morning Star News via Baptist Press.

San Diego’s landmark cross will stay
A veterans memorial in San Diego has been sold to a private group, effectively ending years of legal battles over its constitutionality. The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which includes a 43-foot cross, was purchased from the U.S. Defense Department by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association for slightly less than $1.4 million, The Christian Post reports. The group hopes to turn it into a tourist destination on par with the San Diego Zoo.

GuideStone appeals to Supreme Court
GuideStone Financial Resources has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court against a health care mandate that would require some companies it works with to provide abortion-inducing drugs. GuideStone, a Southern Baptist entity, and the churches it represents are exempt from the mandate, Baptist Press reports. But some other religious employers are at risk, they contend, even as the federal government argues it offers an accommodation for them.

Kenyan mall reopens almost two years after terrorist attack
Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi reopened July 18, 22 months after extremist group al-Shabab staged a multi-day attack that killed 67 people and wounded 175. Katherine Walton, an International Mission Board “missionary kid” now living in Kenya with her own family, was in the mall with her children during the attack, Baptist Press reports.

“It has been and still is a difficult journey in recovery. The children have all dealt with their own issues, but on the whole have done remarkably well,” she told BP. “God has been really good to us, and we keep moving forward, learning more about ourselves and about God during recovery.”


THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

While 62% of American adults believed nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage was inevitable, slightly less than half (49%) are in favor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision in favor of it, Barna reports. 43% disagreed with the decision, and 7% were unsure how they felt about it, according to the researcher’s July 1 report.

When it comes to how Christians feel about the Court’s decision, Barna found, 28% of practicing Christians (defined as “those who say their faith is very important to their life and who have attended one or more church services during the past month”) approve of legalized same-sex marriage, compared to 43% of people who identify as Christians but don’t qualify as practicing.

Only 2% of evangelicals support the Court’s decision. Read the rest of Barna’s report at

U.S. Episcopal Church votes to approve same-sex marriage
Right after the Supreme Court made it legal nationwide, the U.S. Episcopal Church moved to approve same-sex marriage in the denomination, The Christian Post reports. Episcopal clergy are now authorized to perform same-sex marriages, but can opt out, according to two marriage-related resolutions passed in late June at the denomination’s General Convention.

The resolutions were opposed by 20 bishops who issued a minority report stating, “The nature, purpose, and meaning of marriage are linked to the relationship of man and woman,” and by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said the decision “will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.”

Church violence survivors share in Charleston grief
After nine people were killed in a South Carolina church last month, Southern Baptists who have experienced similar tragedies expressed their sympathy and grief over the June 17 shooting.

“I don’t know if you ever recover from something like that,” said Cindy Winters, whose husband, Fred, was killed in his Maryville, Ill., pulpit in 2009. “I think you learn how to get through it, but I don’t think you ever get over it this side of eternity,” Winters told Baptist Press. “I know one day I will when I’m with Jesus. Obviously only by the grace of God am I able to get up each day and go forward, and find beauty and meaning…and find goodness in living.”

Burned churches receive assistance from Baptist missions agency
African American churches in need of assistance after a recent spate of church fires can receive help from a fund established by the North American Mission Board, the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Southern Baptists should be the first to condemn acts of hatred toward African Americans,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said, according to Baptist Press. “Regardless of the causes of these fires, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to come alongside and offer whatever assistance we can.”

None of the fires have been deemed hate crimes, and only some are suspected arsons. However, one confirmed arson case is Charlotte’s Briar Creek Road Baptist, a predominantly black Southern Baptist church.

Barnabas Piper: Parents, ‘Don’t fight unbelief in your kids’
“At least don’t think of it as fighting,” Piper said in an interview about his new book “Help My Unbelief.” “Belief, ultimately, is a miracle, death made life by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can work in myriad ways, and questioning is a significant one,” Piper, son of preacher and author John Piper, told Ed Stetzer.

“As parents our job is to declare and display the work of the Spirit, our relationship with God, so that children can see where the answers to those questions truly lie. Don’t argue; answer. Don’t fight; exemplify. Don’t give up; pray.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Wheaton College has removed the name of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert from the school’s public policy center, following Hastert’s indictment on charges he paid $1.7 million to cover up past sexual misconduct, and then lied to the FBI about it. J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy opened in 2007.

Hastert resigned from the board of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy May 29, and college officials announced the name change two days later in a statement on its website:

“We commit ourselves to pray for all involved, including Speaker Hastert, his family, and those who may have been harmed by any inappropriate behavior, and to continue the work and mission of the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy.”

Gallup: Americans are thinking less traditionally on moral issues
American views on key moral issues continue to trend in a less conservative direction, Gallup reports. According to research from May, “gay or lesbian relations” is morally acceptable to 63% of people, up from 40% in 2001. Also on the rise: perceived acceptability of having a baby outside of marriage, sex between an unmarried man and woman, divorce, and embyronic stem cell research.

Young people key in Ireland’s marriage vote
After a majority of Irish citizens voted to legalize same-sex marriage, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the vote is indicative of the Catholic Church’s relationship with young people. “I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years,” Martin told national Irish broadcaster RTE. “I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the church.”

A new Gallup poll of American adults found 60% support same-sex marriage, an all-time high.

Coach withdraws from fundraiser amid controversy over group’s marriage stance
Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney was to be honored by South Carolina’s Palmetto Family Council today along with “defenders of religious liberty” in the state. But after Swinney’s appearance at the conservative group’s fundraiser raised objections from Clemson students, GLAAD, and others, he withdrew from the event.

“I appreciate the recognition of my and the foundation’s efforts,” Swinney said, according to this ESPN report. “However, after much thought, in order to avoid a distraction for the team and the entire football program, I’ve decided it is in the best interests of all involved that I not attend the event on June 2.”

Subsidiary wins bid to purchase bankrupt Family Christian Stores
Family Christian Stores, the country’s largest Christian bookstore chain in number of locations, has avoided closure for now, Christianity Today reports. A bid to purchase the bankrupt company by FC Acquisitions, a subsidiary of Family Christian’s parent company, was awarded last week and must be approved by a bankruptcy court this month. The chain filed for bankruptcy in February.

Black Hawk Down vet graduates from Baptist seminary
Jeff Strueker, a hero of the Somalian conflict portrayed in the 2001 movie “Black Hawk Down,” recently received his Ph.D. in Christian leadership from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Baptist Press reports.

Church’s photo project restores Joplin
After a massive tornado barreled through Joplin, Mo., five years ago, First Baptist Church in nearby Carthage started a ministry to help restore and return lost family photos. The “Lost Photos of Joplin” project, begun by Minister of Music Thad Beeler, has returned more than 17,500 photos to people through reunification events.

“Why God landed [this ministry] here, I don’t know,” Beeler told The Pathway newspaper in Missouri. “But I do know that we chose to follow His lead, and we’re going to keep doing that until He shuts the door.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said last week that the organization should end its ban on gay leaders, a move that some Baptist leaders said was inevitable following the Scouts’ decision two years ago to allow gay-identifying youth to join.

The_Briefing“Back when they changed their thinking regarding the boys themselves, I knew that within a year or so they would reverse their stand with the leadership,” Georgia pastor Ernest Easley, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee in 2013, told Baptist Press. That year, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution affirming “the right of all families and churches prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA,” and urging the removal of leadership who sought the policy change “without seeking input from the full range of the Scouting family.”

Gates said May 21 that “Between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later.”

Mentioning councils already operating in defiance of the policy on gay leaders and the Supreme Court’s expected decision on same-sex marriage this year, Gates said, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it would be.” The councils’ charters could be revoked, he said, but “such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.”

Gates’ remarks reflect “an attitude that has infected many faith-based and religious organizations—and even entire Christian denominations,” blogged Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Like Gates, many religious leaders simply lack the courage to stand up to internally destructive dissidents for fear of losing the broader organization.”

LA Governor signs executive order for religious liberty
After legislators in his state struck down a religious freedom bill May 21, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order designed to protect “people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

“We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty,” Jindal said in the order. “These two values can be upheld at the same time.”

Gallup: Support for same-sex marriage at all-time high
60% of Americans support same-sex marriage, Gallup reported last week, up from 55% in 2014. The pollster also found Americans continue to overestimate the number of people who are gay or lesbian.

Theology debate among Arizona churches goes public
A group of churches in Arizona are working across denominational lines against the “progressive Christianity” they see evidenced at a sister church, Bob Smietana reports at The campaign, which includes a sermon series delivered at eight churches and advertised in the local paper, opposes the theology of The Fountains, a United Methodist church in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Pastor David Felten’s views include support for LBGT rights and rejection of the Virgin Birth, according to CT.

IMB missionary remembered in Malawi
An International Mission Board missionary who died of malaria last week is being remembered as “a mother to all.” Susan Sanson, 67, had been serving in Malawi with her husband, Billy, since 2000. The couple had no children, “but she didn’t feel the gap because we were all [her] children,” posted one student who knew her from her ministry at Chancellor College in Zomba, Malawi.

Illinois pastor details journey through anxiety
In an interview on, Joe Thorn, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, shares about what he calls “the most difficult season in my personal life,” when anxiety got so bad he considered leaving ministry.

Millennials slightly less tuned in to TV
Barna’s report on what we watch on TV is fun and full of interesting facts, like the number of hours of television Millennials watch compared to older adults. (It’s two hours a day versus five for people 69 and over.) Other findings: Procedural shows scored big among Boomers and Elders, and almost everyone likes “The Big Bang Theory.”

Courtney_Veasey_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Courtney Veasey

The Gulf Coast of the United States is a geographical magnet for tropical storms. Yet in August of 2005, the people of New Orleans were taken by surprise when Hurricane Katrina came inland and ravaged their city. People incurred innumerable losses, but most weren’t the result of the hurricane itself. Instead, much of the damage resulted from a lack of preparation before the storm came.

Levees were not up to code, little to no systematic evacuation plans were in place, and food supplies had been used more for celebrating a storm’s coming, rather than surviving its wrath.

Aware of the reality of hurricanes, yet grossly underestimating their true potential, the people of New Orleans were caught off guard and found themselves drowning in the waters of their own unpreparedness.

I moved to New Orleans to go to seminary just three weeks before Katrina’s arrival. My earthly belongings were lost in the flood and I found myself unable to return to school in the city for nearly a year. Ten years later, I’m still proud to call New Orleans my place of residence, but the unnecessary losses experienced during Katrina have caused me and others to do life there a bit differently than before.

Leaders have developed city-wide evacuation plans. We keep “hurricane kits” in our homes and cars, with bottled water and non-perishable food. It’s sad but true: It took experiencing such tremendous disaster to awaken this sense of urgency and preparedness in us.

How does this example of real-life crisis relate to how we should live as Christians? Consider for a moment the subject of persecution. Christianity in its many forms, the largest and most widely practiced faith in the world, is met with limitations and hostility in at least 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries discriminating or harassing the second largest faith, Islam.

We commonly hear of the torture and killing of Christians in places like North Korea, Syria, and other middle- to far-eastern countries. Here in America, the seemingly distant reality of such experiences has contributed to a lack of urgency towards preparing to face the same here.

But Jesus, in both the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:11-12) and in his words to the disciples just before his death (John 15:18-27), predicted an infallible forecast of persecution as the future reality for his followers. The word for “persecution” in the Greek is dioko, meaning “to chase down,” or “pursue.” This act can take shape in many forms, but regardless of how it comes, the real question is, will you be ready when it does?

What if we as Christians, while trusting in God’s providence and sovereignty, prepared for the inevitable crises of life, and also for persecution? What tools would we need in our spiritual hurricane kit? Let me suggest three:

1. Memorize Scripture. Put to memory passages that are both encouraging and that clearly communicate the gospel. Places to start are Psalm 27:1-3, Ephesians 6:10-20, and Romans 5:6-11.

2. Have a persecution song. Choose and memorize a go-to song that you can start singing the moment trouble begins, one that will encourage you to remain faithful. Songs to consider are “No Turning Back,” and “Blessed Assurance.”

3. Practice praise in pain. When you experience pain, whether it comes by way of getting shots, stumping a toe, physical illness, etc., practice going immediately to the throne of God in praise. You may get some funny looks, but this will serve as great conditioning for those times when it really counts.

Prepare for crisis; as a human being, you’re bound to experience it. Prepare for persecution; it’s promised for believers. And do so not only that you may stand, but also that others, even the persecutors themselves, may come to know Christ through your witness.

Courtney Veasey is a Ph.D. student and director of women’s academic programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.