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The Real Cost (and Power) of Seeking Justice

The murder of Willie Kimani can rally the global Body of Christ for an end to impunity.

Earlier this month I spent two weeks in Kenya, where international attention has focused on the abduction and murder of three men: my colleague Willie Kimani, a human rights lawyer and investigator for IJM, our client Josephat Mwenda, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. Willie and the IJM team were pursuing a case against a Kenyan police officer for shooting Josephat, and the two went missing with their trusted taxi driver while heading for their homes following a court hearing in Nairobi.

Tragically, eight days after they went missing, despite an extensive search led by Kenyan police and IJM staff, their bodies were found in the Ol-Donyo Sabuk River to the northeast of Nairobi on July 1, 2016. On Monday, July 18, four police officers were charged in their murder.

While we are encouraged by the investigation and arrest, our hearts are still devastated. And even as we deeply mourn these obscene murders, we are profoundly grateful to every government agency, nonprofit, church, and individual who used their voice to rally an urgent response to their disappearance. Now we need continued action to help us bring those responsible for their murder to justice—and fuel a massive movement to finally end impunity for abusive police in Kenya.

As we follow Jesus in his work of justice in a fallen and violent world, our staff willingly put themselves at risk every day. Seeking justice requires confrontation with evil. And evil fights back, with violence. But when Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world,” he is calling us to take that light into even the darkest corners.

As a human rights lawyer and an investigator for IJM, Willie was following hard after the God of justice. He was willing to place his ...

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Pro-Life Democrats Struggle with Clinton Challenging Status Quo

The Hyde Amendment joins Johnson Amendment in no longer being sacrosanct.

Not much about the 2016 presidential campaign has been business as usual. In addition to nominating two divisive candidates, both parties are challenging major political measures that have long been off the table.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump promises to repeal the Johnson Amendment—the 60-year-old tax code statute that bans churches and other tax-exempt nonprofits from endorsing political candidates.

On the Democratic side, it’s the Hyde Amendment—the legislative provision that prevents the federal government from directly funding abortions.

Hillary Clinton has taken up Hyde on the campaign trail, saying it keeps low-income women on Medicaid from affording the procedure, particularly with stricter regulations from states and tighter funding for Planned Parenthood. It’s an unusual move, even for pro-choice politicians, who typically accept Hyde’s restrictions as a compromise with pro-life counterparts.

Her challenge shakes things up for Democrats who lean pro-life or support certain restrictions on abortions—including her Catholic running mate Tim Kaine. The Virginia senator reversed his support of the amendment once he joined the Clinton campaign.

Former Obama White House faith director Michael Wear and Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore criticized the position in a USA Today op-ed:

… for the past 25 years, the Democratic Party, at least rhetorically, acknowledged that compelling taxpayers to fund abortions was a step too far in the culture wars. If the call to repeal the Hyde Amendment remains in the Democratic platform, that era is officially over. A party that calls for government funding of abortion does not merely disagree with ...

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Q+A: Why Letting the Dishes Go Can Save Your Soul

In her latest book, Shauna Niequist trades competition, comparison, and exhaustion for meaning, connection, and unconditional love."

Almost ten years ago, Shauna Niequist published Cold Tangerines, a tender, transparent book about “the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives.” In her latest book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living (Zondervan), Niequist finds herself wiped out, overworked, and fighting to regain long-lost tranquility. “This book is an account of my winding, messy journey from exhaustion to peace, from isolation to connection, from hustling and multitasking to sacred presence,” writes Niequist.

I talked recently with Niequist about “fake resting,” practicing the Sabbath (for real), and how as a teenager her parents freed her from being “the perfect pastor’s kid.” Half an hour into the phone interview, Niequist’s son came running through the door crying after a hard day at school, and she respectfully bowed out of our conversation to tend to his needs. Which is to say, she puts the people in her life before her public image.

This book is her invitation “into that same journey” of reprioritization. “It has been the greatest, most rewarding change of my adult life,” says Niequist.

What was going on in your life when you realized something was wrong?

I was in my mid-30s, and doing a lot of traveling and speaking. I was sprinting through my days. I was exhausted all the time. I was sick and not paying attention to the fact that I was sick. I just kept going and the quality of my life began to diminish pretty dramatically. And it felt like all those things that I had wanted originally—connection, creativity, play, depth—I couldn’t find anymore in my life. I found that multitasking, efficiency, ...

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God in Our Midst

There is a pervasive consumerism in the church today.

Although a large majority of evangelical Christians agree that they should share their faith, most report that, actually, they don’t. That’s not really all that surprising given today’s pluralistic cultural setting. Research shows that a pervasive spiritual consumerism has led to a buffet approach to religion. People simply pick and choose from an eclectic assortment of beliefs, practices, and rituals. Longing for transcendence or a connection to “the god within,” postmoderns feel free to construct their own god—one that they can feel at home with and connect with on their own terms. Admittedly, it’s hard to know how to go about sharing the good news of Jesus in this context.

But maybe the stubborn longings for transcendence, connection, and a place to call home point to a backstory that makes sense of it all. If such a narrative exists, it deserves a hearing, and those who know and live this story have both the responsibility and privilege of sharing its message of hope.

The narrative of the Bible tells just such a story where God’s purpose from the beginning has been to dwell—or tabernacle—in the midst of the people he has created. Even a brief survey of the Bible reveals that the presence of God with his people is a major theme that threads throughout Scripture. The biblical story opens with God’s creation of a people who reflect his glory and a place where he dwells in communion with them. The Lord blesses the first couple, giving them access to his unmediated presence and a global commission to fill the earth with worshipers. Tragically, their subsequent rebellion results in a broken world and eviction from God’s presence in the garden-sanctuary. ...

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A quiet and compelling film about the ethical murkwood of high finance.

Last January, I was in a room full of movie lovers who were discussing the movies they'd seen the previous day at the Sundance Film Festival, and one of them had seen Equity. He recounted how he'd liked the movie, but had been thrown off by the mostly-female cast, finding himself wondering why most of the main characters were women: the high-powered investment banker, her ambitious VP, the lawyer investigating them, the hacker.

I wondered, why did they have to be women? he said. And then I thought: oh, this is how women feel watching these movies.

Indeed. In Equity, investment banker Naomi Bishop (Anna Gunn) specializes in taking companies public, but her last IPO tanked after the owner complained that she “rubbed them the wrong way.” Now she's vying to land another: a security-conscious social networking company whom she helped find their initial venture capital investors. She and her VP Erin Manning (Sarah Megan Thomas) land the deal and start lining up investors.

Meanwhile, at a networking event, Naomi bumps into her old friend Samantha (Alysia Reiner), a lawyer who investigates securities fraud. But maybe the happenstance meeting wasn't accidental; Naomi's ongoing liaison with her colleague Michael Connor (James Purefoy) is cause for suspicion.

Equity is an intelligent film for smart people, or at least those who aren’t afraid of some finance wonk talk and terms like “end-to-end encryption.” Instead of succumbing to the trope-y sleek glamour of many of its Wall Street predecessors, the movie gets that finance is a grueling matter conducted largely by tired, determined people under fluorescent lights who mostly just like the adrenaline and satisfaction of the work. And the ...

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99 Essential Doctrines Christians Should Know

Christianity wouldn't have its framework without these essential doctrines.

Inspiration of Scripture

Most Christians realize the inspiration of God’s word is an essential doctrine. J. Gresham Machen, pastor, professor and author of “Christianity and Liberalism,” expressed scripture as

a “true account” of divine revelation whose entire text is ensured by the Holy Spirit.

From the days of the Old Testament through today, the historic view of God’s people is that “God has spoken.” Not only has He spoken, but He has done so in a way that is without mistakes.

He did this through “inspiration,” most clearly stated by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness. (HSCB)

The doctrine of inspiration is what gives us assurance God has given us His Word, and that it absolutely trustworthy for every aspect of our lives. (Inspiration does not guarantee infallible interpretation, but that’s a topic for another day.)

God Is Holy

Scripture speaks of God’s holiness many times. At its core, holiness means to be set apart for a special purpose. When speaking of God, holiness is an attribute. That is, holiness isn’t something God does—it’s part of His being. He hasn’t been set apart; He sets apart. Without holiness He would cease to be the God revealed in scripture.

From holy ground to holy days to holy people to holy places to be in relationship with God was to be set apart for His glory: to be holy. God’s holiness was reflected in the various things set apart for His use. His people were instructed to be holy for the very reason that God Himself is holy. Even the word we translate church means “called-out ones.” ...

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Why You Should Use Stats in Ministry

Facts are our friends, and so are stats.

Those of you who know me know my tentative relationship with all things sports. But, with our move to Wheaton I wanted to approach our new home missionally, so, I took in a Chicago Cubs game.

It isn’t that I know nothing of sports; I just haven’t kept up much. Going to the see the Cubs play, I’m learning the players, balls, strikes, touchdowns, and the like.

Even though I haven’t been that guy as a sports fan, Donna and I went to see Moneyball while it was in theaters. Now, almost everyone thought it was a movie about baseball—or about Brad Pitt—but it wasn’t. At least not at the core.

Moneyball was all about statistics—analyzing players’ performance, then selecting and playing those players based upon advanced stats. Home runs, hits, runs scored, and RBIs were recreated in aggregate, often using cast-off players, rather than one superstar player. It was a revolutionary approach to the game, and it was based on a statistical foundation.

Statistics, of course, aren’t limited to sports. What about those of you who are investors? Do you research the performance of a company that you are thinking about investing your money in? Sure you do.

What about those who have an important and possibly dangerous surgery coming up, do you want to know the odds of a successful surgery and recovery? Of course. Very few people want to go into it with no idea of the possible outcomes.

Numbers and statistics are part of our daily lives. Pastors and church leaders should embrace them as part of ministry.

How then do we use them?

Before I share how we should use statistics, let me share why some uses fail. Statistics shouldn’t be used to change a priori assumptions. For instance, we should ...

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How 'Stranger Things' Re-Enchants the World

The Netflix show, along with 'Midnight Special,' Frank Peretti's novels, and even Pokemon Go are trying to fill a void.


O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!


And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

The Netflix series Stranger Things revels in the strangest things conjured by pop culture: monsters, like those that spring from the twisted imagination of Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth); government conspiracies, straight out of The X-Files; horror-thriller hybrids lifted from Stephen King; plot points that depend on Dungeons & Dragons for context.

By contrast, the eight-episode series' debt to Steven Spielberg, and especially 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, seems sweetly natural. Mothers and fathers, resolutely going to hell and back to save their children. Teenagers who make immature decisions, and then wise ones. Courageous children whose steadfast friendships strengthen them to face both bullies and monsters.

I was born in 1983 and didn't grow up watching popular films and TV shows, so my hook into Stranger Things had little to do with the nostalgia most people seem to experience watching the show, with its myriad references to films, TV shows, and music of the era. (I first saw E.T. in February. This February.) I was hooked purely by Stranger Things' plot, which melds monster horror, conspiracy thriller, and plain, old-fashioned suspense: Will Byers, about age 10, disappears one night, which sends his single mom Joyce (Winona Ryder, in the show's most obvious nod to the 1980s), his brother, and his friends and their families into a tailspin as they try to find him.

Eventually they realize something paranormal is going on—especially when the ...

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Christians to Science: Leave Our Bodies How God Made Them

Pew examines how US religious groups feel about the ways that biomedicine can enhance human abilities.

Gene editing, brain chip implants, and synthetic blood may reduce the risk of disease, sharpen minds, and improve body strength. But messing around with nature in order to enhance humans isn’t something many Americans are excited about.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center asked approximately 4,700 adults what they thought of three potential medical procedures that could improve human life. For each, adults were more worried than enthusiastic.

Religious Americans were especially concerned—in fact, the more religious they are, the more concerned they were.

“All of the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—share the belief that men and women have been created, to some extent, in God’s image,” wrote David Masci in an accompanying essay. “According to many theologians, the idea that human beings in certain ways mirror God make some, but not all, religious denominations within this broad set of connected traditions wary of using new technologies to enhance or change people, rather than heal or restore them.”

Evangelicals—especially those who say religion is very important in their life, attend church weekly, and pray daily—were the most wary. Those who seldom or never attend church or pray—in other words, those with a low commitment level to their faith—are the least concerned. Those with medium levels of commitment fall in between.

Two-thirds of white evangelicals said gene editing for babies—which could reduce their risk of disease—crosses a line (63%). Half of black Protestants (two-thirds of whom identify as evangelicals, according to Pew) said the same (50%).

While about the same percentage of black Protestants (15%) and white ...

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After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didnt learn to.

My first day watching porn was also my last. I was nine when an adult neighbor took me to a house where several of her friends were gathered. The men and women came knowing the agenda—to watch hours of pornographic videos. I was placed on a man’s lap, and the tapes were played. At one point, my neighbor asked if I “felt” anything. I said no, and the group laughed.

I remember the day now as the end of something immeasurably precious—the gift of being innocent and unashamed. I’ve often mourned for my nine-year-old self, her soul plundered and her naiveté stripped. I grieve for her and fear for my two small daughters. What images (and God forbid, touches) might be lurking, waiting to take their innocence? God help us.

We live in a country where kids’ online exposure to pornography is on the rise. Most children ages 10-17 have viewed porn one way or another; about a quarter report seeing unwanted pornography images in search results, emails, and pop-up ads. One in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before age 18. An abuser isn’t always the sinister stranger luring children from a slow-moving car. In most cases, perpetrators aren’t strangers at all, like the neighbor who exposed me to graphic videos before I even understood the nature of sex.

Ninety-three percent of child abuse victims know their abusers: 34 percent are victimized by family members (uncles, cousins, even siblings), 58 percent by acquaintances (neighbors, coaches, even pastors), and 7 percent by the stereotypical stranger.

While men are considerably more likely to sexually assault a child, abuse by women happens too. A study in 2000 found female child molesters make up 12 percent of offenders ...

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