Morning Roundup - May 9, 2012
My friend Eric Geiger shared a powerful caution about the dangers of moralism. Read this-- your children (and your church's children) will thank you.
[Leo] Tolstoy pursued perfection in his own strength and energy apart from the grace of God. He constantly lived under guilt and shame, and he died a miserable vagrant. He never enjoyed the Christian life because he missed the essence of Christianity. The essence of sin is our attempt to take the place of God. The essence of the Christian faith is God taking our place, not only on the cross but also as the One who daily sustains and satisfies us. Tolstoy, because he missed grace, lived the antithesis of the Christian faith.
Sadly, many churches teach as if they desire to produce children and students like Leo Tolstoy. Children's ministries can drift away from the grace of God and drift into morality training, burdening children and parents with virtues apart from the Vine. Similar to some moralistic messages common in children's ministry is the tendency to continually address the behavior of teenagers rather than their hearts. While children's ministry can drift toward teaching for behaviors people want to see in children, student ministry can drift toward teaching against behaviors people don't want to see in teenagers. The irony is painful in many churches: teach kids how to behave until they hit puberty and then teach them how not to behave until they graduate. Is it any wonder that researchers and consultants continually tell us that the majority of students leave the church after high school graduation? If they have grown up under the burden of attempting to live by a list of do's and don'ts apart from a changed heart, we send them out with a surplus of repressed behavior bottled up inside.
Children and students, indeed all of us, are incapable of living the Christian life in our own merit. We are utterly unable to transform ourselves. Because of this simple truth, transformation is not about trying; it is about dying. The apostle Paul knew that transformation occurs when we continually die to ourselves and trust the grace of Christ fully: "For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11).
You may have read about the jailed Iranian pastor. Now, it appears that you get arrested for defending people when they are arrested for changing religions. Even Newsweek now sees "The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World."
The attorney for a jailed Iranian pastor has been sentenced to nine years in jail. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah has been representing Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity. Dadkhah has also reportedly been banned from teaching at universities or practicing law for 10 years.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has been working to secure the release of Nadarkhani, fears the decision to jail Dadkhah puts the Christian pastor at greater risk. The ACLJ reported that Iran has recently begun to crack down on attorneys who represent clients like Pastor Youcef, who Iran dubs as enemies of the state for their beliefs.
Dadkhah, a world-renown Muslim human rights attorney in Iran, has defended numerous political prisoners, included recently 12 Christians who were tried on Easter Sunday for their faith in the same Iranian provincial court that sentenced Pastor Youcef to execution. Because he provides his legal services free of charge, the Iranian regime has asserted that he is "aiding and abetting" in the alleged crimes of his clients. Dadkhah was reportedly in court defending one of his clients when the judge announced his own nine-year sentence. He is expected to be jailed soon.
The ACLJ confirmed that Pastor Youcef was still alive as of Wednesday, but the imprisonment of his attorney places him in grave danger of execution without any further appeal. News of Dadkah's arrest came as international pressure grows calling for Pastor Youcef's release.
Interesting and important news from the recent United Methodist meeting.
Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying, United Methodists voted on May 2 to maintain their denomination's stance that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching."
Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla.
One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality...
With nearly 8 million members in the U.S., the UMC remains the country's largest mainline Protestant denomination. But United Methodism is shrinking in the U.S. and growing in Africa and Asia, shifting the balance of power to overseas conservatives. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates gathered in Tampa live outside the U.S.