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How to Honor God With Your Family This Thanksgiving

By Gwen Ellis

There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you (Deuteronomy 12:7, NIV). Read more...

Is IVF an Ethical Choice for Pro-Life Parents?

By Will Honeycutt

The Centers for Disease Control reports that there are an estimated 6.7 million women of childbearing age who are unable to have children. 10 to 16 percent of all couples cannot conceive. To overcome the pain and despair of infertility, science and medicine have collaborated to develop an array of Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ARTs). The most common and effective ART is In-vitro Fertilization (IVF), developed in 1978 in the UK. Read more...

You Just Married into a Load of Debt. Here's the Bright Side...

By Kevin East

Many new marriages begin with it. Everyone has their reasons behind how they got it – and how it made sense at the time to go into it – but don’t necessarily know what to do to get rid of it. I’m talking about debt, and how there is a positive aspect of bringing it into a new marriage. Read more...

Why You Should Give up Tithing

By John UpChurch

Tithing and I have a sordid past. My irresponsible (read: dumb) college days left me with a mountain of student loans and credit card debt. Each paycheck felt something like a gasp of breath barely making its way down to my lungs. That was until the next round of bills asphyxiated my meager bank account. Read more...

3 Reasons to Let Go of Your Best Laid Plans

By Cortni Marrazzo

I am a planner by nature and I tend to want things in my life to happen how I plan and expect them to happen, but I’ve found this isn’t how things usually end up. That can be hard to swallow at times. Over the years in my walk with God I’ve had multiple circumstances in my life not go according to my plan, and I feel like I’m finally learning that it really is best for me (and my sanity) to simply let go of my plans and my expectations and embrace what God has planned for my life instead. In other words, I’ve learned to embrace Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Read more...

Did the Pope Endorse Evolution?

By Jim Denison

Pope Francis spoke last week to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gathered at the Vatican to discuss "Evolving Concepts of Nature."  He stated, "Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
 
Newspapers the world over were quick to claim that the pope had just endorsed evolution.  But there's more to the story.  The pope also claimed that God "created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment."  He added: "The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love.  The Big Bang, that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God; on the contrary, it requires it."
 
If by "evolution" the pope means what many call "progressive creationism," he's merely noting that beings created by God have adapted to their environment over time.  Horses today are larger than their dog-sized ancestors (known as Hyracotherium).  Dark-colored moths predominated during the Industrial Revolution as soot in the air made it harder for light-colored moths to hide from predators.  But Francis is not saying that life adapted apart from the God who designed us so that we could adapt.
 
And that's a good thing, because both Scripture and science point to such a Creator.  Many in our culture believe our universe resulted from chaos and chance, and view humans as no more or less valuable than anything else in our random world.  I wish they'd read God Is Amazing, the latest of 50 books (with three million copies in print) by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz.  The authors describe God's remarkable attributes in great detail, focusing especially on his creative genius and work.  Citing Hugh Ross (Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Toronto), they note that "the odds of getting all the necessary factors for the existence of life on a single planet are one trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of 1 percent."
 
And they quote Albert Einstein's powerful metaphor: "The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe.  We are like a little child entering a huge library.  The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues.  The child knows that someone must have written these books.  It does not know who or how.  It does not understand the languages in which they were written.  But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects."
 
Thanks to Jesus, we can do more than "dimly suspect" the mystery of creation: we can know the Creator himself.  In a universe filled with wonders we cannot begin to understand, the greatest miracle is you.
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Am I the Only Pastor of a Small, Declining Church?

By Brian Croft

I know there are many discouraged pastors of small congregations out there who feel very alone. But it is essential that you know there are many faithful brothers plugging away in the trenches just like you. Here is one example. This is an email I received the day after a recent blog post that asked, Should a pastor be discouraged about his small church? Read more...

Southern Baptists Change Their Tone But Not Their Substance on Homosexuality

By Jacob Lupfer

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrapped up a conference in Nashville this week outlining the denomination’s posture toward cultural changes and challenges on issues of marriage and sexuality.
 
In a brief, 48-hour span, dozens of speakers led 1,300 attendees and 10,000 live-stream viewers through ethical, theological and pastoral considerations of evangelical teaching on sexual ethics.
 
And while Southern Baptists seem to be moving past same-sex marriage as a culture war issue, they’re not moving past their opposition to homosexuality. Among the various speakers, there were certainly mixed messages.
 
Yet the conference was remarkable for two notable shifts: a change in tone — call it a kinder, gentler opposition to homosexuality — and a pragmatic concession that the fight over gay marriage is largely lost.
 
Though they do not believe civil law should recognize gay or lesbian unions as marriage, the conference acknowledged that there are many, graver threats to marriage and family life in America than same-sex marriage.
 
They clearly reiterated their belief that gays and lesbians must abstain from engaging in sexual expression if they seek to live as faithful Christians, yet speakers emphasized that everyone — straight and gay — experiences sexual temptation. Though sin is universal, they proclaimed that God can help all believers resist sexual activity outside of marriage.
 
The tone at the conference was more gracious than seen in previous generations. While stopping well short of affirmation, most speakers tried to be as conciliatory as their worldviews allow. Most deliberately avoided the crude language of figures like Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. At an April summit, leaders pledged to avoid the “redneck theology” of “Adam-and-Steve” jokes. In general, that lesson seems to have sunk in. Also, there was surprisingly little talk of hellfire-and-brimstone.
 
Two emerging voices merit attention. Rosaria Butterfield, a former leftist lesbian professor who converted to Christianity, shared her experience and insights about the LGBT community, where she learned much about kindness and hospitality. While researching a book on the religious right, Butterfield met a pastor who helped her realize that the greatest sin in her life was unbelief, not homosexuality. Once she believed, “everything else would get worked out in the wash,” she said.
 
The Rev. Sam Allberry shared his experience as a gay (celibate) priest in the Church of England. Allberry embodies the view that, while lonely at times, life as a celibate gay Christian offers unique opportunities for compassion and friendship. For his witness, this Anglican cleric has won effusive praise from American neo-Calvinist evangelicals.
 
The ERLC Conference is noteworthy for the approach it sought to model for evangelicals and other traditionalist Christians who aim to hold the line on homosexuality. ERLC President Russell Moore spoke of “people who are gay and lesbian” — a nod to reality that few might have imagined just a few years ago — and he denounced reparative therapy as “severely counterproductive,” even as some commentators and ex-gay advocates recoiled.
 
The Rev. J.D. Greear, a North Carolina megachurch pastor, concluded the conference with a sermon in which he stated, “There are people whose sexual orientation God heals, like Rosaria Butterfield.” Yet he acknowledged that “the center of Christianity is not sexual ethics; the center of Christianity is the cross.”
 

6 Costs of Real Friendships

By Jen Thorn

While doing a study on accountability I came across a few articles about the seriousness of friendship, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Read more...

Idaho Christians Who Refused to Officiate Gay Marriages at Wedding Chapel May Avoid Fines, Jail

By Amanda Casanova

The city of Coeur d’Alene in Idaho is now saying that a wedding chapel operated by Christian ministers  Donald and Evelyn Knapp can refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
 
Earlier, the city had said that the for-profit wedding chapel, Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, was violating non-discrimination laws by refusing to perform same-sex marriages. The Knapps faced high fines and possible jail time for violating the laws. 
 
Under an initial understanding of the city ordinance, the chapel needed to be a not-for-profit to be exempt from the non-discrimination laws.
 
However, Coeur d'Alene city attorney Mike Gridley now says the ordinance does not specify non-profit or for-profit, according to Boise State Public Radio.
 
"After we've looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation," Gridley said.
 
Earlier this month, the Hitching Post reclassified as a “religious corporation.”
 
ADF attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit and a motion to temporarily keep Coeur d'Alene city officials from forcing the chapel to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
 
The city is "unconstitutionally coercing" the Knapps to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies "in violation of their religious beliefs, their ordination vows, and their consciences," the lawsuit says.
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