Is the Church Ready to Engage the World for Christ?

The Mission of the Church The church is called to engage the world for Christ. Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; . . .” Many churches and Christian organizations are doing a wonderful job in fulfilling this call. However, it appears that the majority of the church has responded in one of two ways. First, some churches have chosen to retreat from the world by secluding themselves in their own isolated communities. We see huddles of Christian communities with their own sports leagues, schools, clubs, etc. There is nothing wrong with Christian programs, but if it is created with an isolationist mentality, we create a church that is withdrawn, irrelevant, and unable to relate to the unbelieving world. I saw a display of this at a funeral once. As an invited guest not knowing anyone, I sat with the non-believers in the audience and observed how the Christians at the funeral interacted with the non-believers. The pastor preached a message using terminology foreign to the non-Christian. After the funeral, at the lunch reception, I saw the Christians huddled together speaking “Christianese,” — a language that sounded totally foreign.

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Yoga and Christianity: Are they Compatible?

What is Yoga? What is yoga? For many in the West, yoga is simply a system of physical exercise, a means of strengthening the body, improving flexibility, and even healing or preventing a variety of bodily ailments. But if we inquire into the history and philosophy of yoga we discover that “much more than a system of physical exercise for health, Yoga is . . . [an] ancient path to spiritual growth.” It is a path enshrined in much of the sacred literature of India.{1} Thus, if we truly want a better understanding of yoga, we must dig beneath the surface and examine the historical roots of the subject. Before we begin digging, however, we must first understand what the term “yoga” actually means. “According to tradition, ‘yoga’ means ‘union,’ the union…of the finite ‘jiva’ (transitory self) with the infinite’…Brahman’ (eternal Self).”{2} “Brahman” is a term often used for the Hindu concept of “God,” or Ultimate Reality. It is an impersonal, divine substance that “pervades, envelops, and underlies everything.”{3} With this in mind, let’s briefly look at three key texts that will help us chart the origin and development of yoga within India. It appears that one can trace both the practice and goal of yoga all the way back to the Upanishads, probably written between 1000-500 B.C.{4} One Upanishad

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Christian Environmentalism

Is There An Environmental Problem? The news media are full of stories concerning environmental disasters of one kind or another, from global warming to endangered species to destruction of the rain forests to nuclear accidents. Some are real and some are imaginary, but it’s not hard to notice that the environmental issue receives very little attention in Christian circles. There are so many other significant issues that occupy our attention that we seem to think of the environment as somebody else’s issue. Many Christians are openly skeptical of the reality of any environmental crisis. It’s viewed as a liberal issue, or New Age propaganda, or just plain unimportant since this earth will be destroyed after the millennium. What we fail to realize is that Christians have a sacred responsibility to the earth and the creatures within it. The earth is being affected by humans in an unprecedented manner, and we do not know what the short or long term effects will be. Calvin DeWitt, in his book The Environment and the Christian,{1} lists seven degradations of the earth. First, land is being converted from wilderness to agricultural use and from agricultural use to urban areas at an ever-increasing rate. Some of these lands cannot be reclaimed at all, at least not in the near future. Second, as many as three

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Alternative Medicine

The Rise of Alternative Medicine Alternative medicine has blazed its way into the mainstream of American culture while also making significant gains in the medical community. Nearly half of all U.S. adults now participate in some kind of alternative therapy.1 A recent study showed that Americans spend almost $30 billion a year on alternative treatments.2 Alternative medicine remains a controversial issue. Do these medicines actually work? Do these alternative therapies embrace an Eastern religious system? Should Christians be involved with alternative treatments? How do we evaluate a particular practice that is unconventional? The sudden rise of alternative medicine can be attributed to a growing dissatisfaction with conventional medical practices. Modern methods have mainly focused on the physical symptoms. However, we are spiritual, social and emotional creatures as well. Healing improves when all of these components are addressed. Conventional medicine has also been criticized for its impersonal approach. Overworked doctors may spend only a few minutes diagnosing the problem without much follow-up. The main reason people may be flocking to alternative medicine is that it offers hope when conventional medicine has failed. The frightened and discouraged look there as a last resort. Many therapists profess to heal cancer or know the secret to prolonged youth. For example, Hollywood guru Deepak Chopra writes that his therapies can take us to “. .

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The Kingdom Is Revealed Through We Not Me

Last week, an insightful reader shared some relevant and sobering insight into the state of our culture and the church here in America. She wrote: I have never been more discouraged with both the church and with the state of man. I am overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness and the feeling that the tidal wave of cultural deception is ready to break over the landscape in a way that we have never seen before. Then I go to church and see how inept the body of Christ has become and leave feeling alone and hopeless about the state of God’s Kingdom on earth. There is no question that such is the state of things. Even the most cursory examination of our culture reveals the fact that critical milestones on the road to every civilization’s decline have come and gone. Our civilization appears to be racing toward self-destruction and the church—in almost every measurable category—appears indistinguishable and either ill-equipped or indifferent to arresting the demise of the very civilization it helped create. Whether or not this will be the case, only God knows. What I am prepared to suggest is that a century or more of Christians being conditioned and committed to nothing more than proclaiming a truncated gospel, rather than making disciples joined in the body of Christ and

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Movies and Morals

The movie industry is spending billions of dollars to grab the undivided attention of the movie going public. The majority of the film makers work very hard at increasing the technical quality of their movies so that you and your family will keep coming back for more. There is no doubt, statistically speaking, that these efforts have been very successful. Movie theaters are doing better than ever. Oh, they are not the grandiose movie houses with giant chandeliers and ostentatious splendor that some of us can remember. The new movie theaters are big, unappealing buildings containing many small, very plain looking theater rooms. But, attendance is not a problem. In fact, we live in a country filled with the magic screen. Television, which we thought would bring down the movie theaters, has become an extension of the phenomenon through the vast market of video movies. Statistics tell us that the average child spends many hours viewing movies, either in theaters or on video. Is it not reasonable to conclude that such media can affect his or her view of the world? In particular, can their understanding of ethical guidelines be affected? As is true with all media, movies contain someone’s ideas about life. What do the producers, writers, and directors want to convey? Do their ethical perspectives align with those

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The Principles of Dating

What Is Love? We were made to love and be loved. God is love (1 John 4:16), and beings made in His image need to experience love. Among the spiritual virtues found in the Bible, love stands preeminent. It is no wonder the devil has worked hard to distort its meaning. Today, the word love has been misconstrued in several ways. One misconception is, love is sex. Hollywood has bombarded the media with this definition. When two people are “in love” in the movies, they immediately get sexually involved. Biblically, however, the proper place for sex is in marriage. There are at least two commitments involved in the institution of marriage. First, there is the commitment each partner makes to honor, protect, and be faithful to the other for life. Second, true marriage involves a commitment to the larger society to abide by these principles. Thus, in a healthy society, the individual’s failure to keep these commitments is recognized as social irresponsibility and the violation of a covenant. Seen from this vantage point, sex outside the context of marriage is not only selfish indulgence and exploitation, but also social anarchy on a small scale because it threatens the stability of society which is based on the bedrock of marriage. Remember that Hollywood portrays a distorted view of reality. But we

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Martial Arts

The Origins and Popularity of the Martial Arts Gliding across the Pacific, the Asian martial arts have become part of the mainstream of American culture. Today there are an estimated two to three million practitioners in the United States, 40 percent of which are children between the ages of 7 and 14.1 The martial arts industry generates annual revenue topping the $1 billion mark. Why this rise in popularity? For one thing, people today are interested in and more willing to accept Eastern ideas. What was once considered “foreign” is now embraced as old, and thus “tried and true.” Advocates extol the physical benefits and self-discipline that result from its practices. Movies further popularize martial arts with films such as Enter the Dragon, Rush Hour, and the Oscar winning Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon. Increased crime also has people seeking to learn ways to protect themselves and their loved ones. There are few written records regarding the origin of martial arts. The ones that do exist are interwoven with myths or verbal traditions that make it difficult to accurately trace the record. However, archaeological evidence indicates that the martial arts may have begun as early as 2000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent.2 From there, it traveled eastward to India and China. The father of the Asian martial arts, according to the most

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Staying Christian in College

Staying Christian in College John was the leader of the Christian fellowship during my junior and senior years of high school. Our local church and high school recognized him as a model Christian student. I ran into John in the summer of my third year in college at a graduation party for a mutual friend. He coldly acknowledged my presence and then began drinking his fourth bottle of Corona beer. The girl next to him was obviously his girlfriend and I introduced myself to her. I eventually found out they were now living together and John was no longer attending a church or showing any interest in spiritual things. The high school student of great faith he once was now seemed a very distant memory. I was presently talking to a stranger I did not recognize. A former student in my youth group named Jeffrey returned home from college and we enjoyed a nice reunion over a dinner at a sports café. He told me about his college experience and his high school friends he had kept in touch with. One in particular seemed to haunt him. While attending a Catholic High School, he and another young man, Drew were the only Christians in his class willing to stand up for their faith in Christ. Drew won several academic scholarships

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