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.

5 Tips Everyone Should Follow When Reading the Bible

By Kelly Givens

The Bible isn’t the easiest book for the modern day reader to understand. Filled with dated words, strange metaphors, various styles of literature and written for a cultural very different from ours, it can be a bit perplexing to know how to correctly interpret what we’re reading. But the Word is meant to bless us, not perplex us—so if you’re struggling to read your Bible effectively, here are a few simple tips from Relevant Magazine writer Bronwyn Lea that will help. Read more...

Secularism Grows as More U.S. Christians Turn ‘Churchless’

By Cathy Lynn Grossman

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.
How does 38 percent sound?
That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.
He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”
If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.
Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.
The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, once called nominals — people attached by name only — “survey Christians.” They don’t want to cut ties with their parents or go all the way to atheism, Stetzer said, “so they just say ‘Christian’ since it is the default category from their heritage.”
Kinnaman now has the numbers to back that up.
“We are far from becoming an atheist nation,” he said. “There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship.”
How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview “is becoming its own social force.”
When political scientists burrow into election results, they may find that church attendance is less and less useful for predicting or evaluating political social and cultural attitudes. If you are not around people of strong belief, there’s not a lot of spillover impact. 
Stephen Mockabee, an associate professor of political science at University of Cincinnati, has compared church attendance to medication: “It’s not only the drug but also the dose that matters.”
The churchless come in several tribes, according to Kinnaman. 
About a third (32 percent) still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.”
That might include Katie West of Mount Sterling, Ky., or Mike Wilson of Webster City, Iowa.
West keeps the Christian label because, she said, “I follow or at least try to follow the teachings of Christ.” She avoids religious services “unless roped into a wedding or funeral,” but considers herself “a spiritual person without looking at a Bible.”
Wilson is the paid webmaster for a Lutheran church but he can’t recall the last time he attended a worship service or read the Bible. He checks the Chri Read more...

Halloween: Tips for Hosting a 'Fear-Not Party'

By Kim Wier & Pam McCune

The Fear-Not Halloween Party is just one creative way to help your elementary-aged children realize that our God is not the God of fear, and that no matter what comes, the "Lord will be [their] confidence."  It is a welcome message for those who belong to Christ – or for those who have never met Jesus Christ, making it a great outreach. Read more...

How Do We Know Which Old Testament Laws to Still Follow?

By Dr. Roger Barrier

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org. Read more...

5 Ways to Declare Your Life a Gossip-Free Zone

By Lisa Ross

There are few things I hate. However, snakes and gossip stand out as chief among the defiled and detestable. The two are synonymous, in my mind. Gossipers are indeed two-legged snakes: slimy, deliberate and out to inject you with venom. Experience has revealed that those who spend a lot of time talking viciously about other people, either have no other form of conversation, or get a significant rush when they criticize others. They often falsely think that by putting someone else down, they elevate themselves. Read more...

Pastors Face Jail Time, Fines for Refusing Gay Weddings

By Jim Denison

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in more states than ever, will pastors be forced to perform gay weddings? Supporters of "marriage equality" have assured us that will not happen. But now it has.
Donald and Evelyn Knapp are ordained Christian pastors who operate a wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. City officials say their non-discrimination ordinance requires the Knapps to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. If they decline, they face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they refuse. In other words, if they refuse a same-sex wedding ceremony for a week, they could go to jail for over three years and face $7,000 in fines. 
There was a day when the Church was considered central to the culture. Stores were closed on Sundays; church attendance was assumed. In the 60's, moral relativism led many to view the Bible as a diary and Christianity as just one spiritual option, relegating the church to the cultural sidelines. Now we are seen not just as irrelevant but as dangerous. Scriptural stands on moral issues such as marriage are castigated as bigoted and harmful.
How is our culture's dismissal of biblical truth working for us?
New York Times columnist Roger Cohen recently called our times "the great unraveling." From ISIS beheadings to Russian aggression to European unraveling to anti-Semitic hatred to American retreat, the world is a very different place than it was even 15 years ago. Meanwhile, animosity against Christianity is epidemic: the World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that more than 45 million believers were martyred during the 20th century. Recent studies put the number at between 160,000 and 171,000 per year, more than 400 per day who die for following Jesus.
I've seen a rise in antagonism against Christianity in my own work. A skeptic recently responded to one of my Tweets, "Why Twitter lets you post this [expletive deleted] is beyond me." Another replied, "Keep preying on the gullible." It's tempting to respond in kind. But there's a better way.
William Barclay was one of the best-known biblical scholars of the 20th century. In A Spiritual Autobiography, he tells of his 20-year-old daughter's death in a boating accident. An anonymous letter came to him: "Dear Dr. Barclay, I know now why God killed your daughter; it was to save her from being corrupted by your heresies." Barclay recounts: "If I had had that writer's address, I would have written back, not in anger—the inevitable blaze of anger was over in a flash—but in pity." And he would have pointed to the sorrow and grace in the heart of God.
More people are coming to Christ than ever before in Christian history. Movement Day in New York City is convening today, gathering thousands of Christians from around the world for prayer, worship, and collaboration. The Spirit is empowering similar movements around the world. Shouldn't we expect the enemy to figh Read more...

Missions & Motives

By Carrie Dedrick

Are you planning a mission trip? Mission trips can be incredible experiences, both for the Christians that go on them and for those that are reached through missions. But before you board your flight to a third world country, there are several questions you need to ask to make sure that this is the right opportunity for you. Read more...

29-Year-Old Brittany Maynard and 'Death with Dignity'

By Jim Denison

Brittany Maynard learned on New Year's Day that she had brain cancer.  She had been married for just over a year.  In April, she was given six months to live.
Facing weeks or months of suffering for herself and her family, she decided to move from California to Oregon, where she could choose euthanasia, an option supporters call "death with dignity."  She has filled a prescription she can take to end her life.  After her husband's birthday on October 26, unless her condition improves dramatically, she says "I will look to pass soon thereafter."
Brittany is now telling her story to advocate for euthanasia or "access for death with dignity" nationwide.  The resulting media coverage has sparked a significant discussion about death and life.  I have written a paper dealing with types of euthanasia, ways to choose it, medical issues, and Scripture.  For today, let's focus on biblical options.  Then we'll hear from someone who is dying but has found amazing courage in the love of Jesus.
Here's my theological position on this very difficult subject.  Humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:28; 9:6: 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9).  So long as we have the ability or potential to relate to ourselves, others, our environment, and God, we retain this "image."  We should not choose medical approaches that are intended to cause or hasten death, believing that it is God who gives us life (Job 33:4), numbers our days (Job 14:5), and appoints our time to die (Hebrews 9:27).  However, we can choose to die naturally, and even choose medical treatments that enhance our quality of life while shortening it, so long as death is not our intention.
Now to someone who has far more right to speak on this issue than I do.  Kara Tippetts is dying of breast cancer that has metastasized.  She and her family had moved to Colorado Springs to plant a church when she was first diagnosed.  She tells her story in The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard.  In a letter to Brittany Maynard, Kara writes, "Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known."
Kara notes that doctors who prescribe medications which cause death violate their Hippocratic oath to "first, do no harm."  She tells Brittany, "That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters—but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed."  In words that brought tears to my eyes when I read them, she testifies: "Knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying.  My heart longs for you to know Him in your dying.  Because in His dying, He protected my living.  My living beyond this place" (her italics).
Brittany says, "When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, 'I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever's next.'"  Kara wants Brittany to know "whatever's next" for those who trust in Jesus: "He overcame the death you and I are facing in our cancer.  He longs to know you, to shepherd you in your dying, and to give you life abundant—eternal life."
I'm praying for Brittany and Kara to be healed miraculously.  I'm praying for Kara's amazing ministry as she shares God's grace Read more...