Monday, July 8, 2013

All Around the Web - July 8, 2013

Christianity Today - Americans Are Giving More Money to Almost All Charities—Except Churches |

Religious organizations may have received the largest proportion (as usual) of the more than $316 billion donated by Americans last year. But they're also one of the only giving sector not bouncing back post-recession, according to an annual assessment of American philanthropy.

In its annual report, the Giving USA Foundation calculates that charitable giving to houses of worship and religious organizations fell 2.2 percent in 2012 (when adjusted for inflation) over the previous year. Meanwhile, every other giving sector except foundations saw donations grow in 2012.

“These findings are very troubling for houses of worship and religious nonprofits that depend on the gifts of members and supporters to accomplish their missions,” said Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham and Company, in a news release. “While religious organizations continue to receive the largest share of total U.S. charitable giving (32 percent in 2012), the fact that religion is the only subsector of U.S. giving that did not show growth indicates a significant shift in giving – a shift religious nonprofits must understand as they develop donor acquisition and cultivation strategies.”


Denny Burk - Back to Egypt for Exodus International? |

For me, this expresses the underlying problem with Chambers’ leadership. I understand the skepticism about reparative therapy. In fact, there is nothing necessarily Christian about reparative therapy, and I am quite skeptical about some of its claims myself. Having said that, Chambers apologizes not simply for promoting reparative therapy but also for promoting “sexual orientation change efforts” altogether. Chambers seems to be saying that Spirit’s work of conversion does not address sexual orientation. I don’t know how else to take this except as a denial of what the Bible teaches about sanctification (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:23).

Christians have no moral obligation to subscribe to the specific tenets of reparative therapy, but we do have an obligation to believe that the Christian gospel can save and sanctify sinners. Thus Christians must insist that sexual orientation/behavior is alterable. We believe that not on the basis of any particular study—although there are studies that support the claim—but on the basis of what the Bible teaches.


Justin Taylor - “The Least of These”: An Example of the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text |  This is extremely helpful. Craig Blomberg explains what Jesus really means in Matthew 25:35-40:

The majority perspective has understand Jesus’ ‘brothers’ in verse 40 to refer to spiritual kin, as the term (adelphoi) does elsewhere in Matthew in every instance in which biological siblings are not in view (see 5:22-24, 47; 7:3-5; 12:48-50; 18:15 twice, 21, 35; 23:8; 28:10).  

The term ‘little ones’, of which ‘the least’ (25:40, 45) is the superlative form, also without exception in Matthew refers to disciples (10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; cf. also 5:19 and 11:11).  

This makes the point of Jesus’ teaching closely parallel to Matthew 10:42: Jesus’ itinerant followers (today we might call them Christian missionaries) must be cared for by those to whom they minister. Affording material help to those who preach in the name of Jesus demonstrates acceptance of the missionaries’ message at the spiritual level . . . This view is almost certainly correct.

Today, however, the prevailing interpretation is that Jesus is teaching about the need to help the dispossessed whether or not they are Christian. . . .

This is obviously an important biblical theme, but is far less likely to be the focus of this particular passage, given the consistent meaning of the terms and the larger context of parables focusing on the disciples (24:43-25:46).


Christianity Today - More Than 4 in 10 LGBT Adults Identify as Christians |

While the vast majority of LGBT adults view religious denominations as unfriendly toward them, only 6 percent report feeling unwelcome in a place of worship last year.

Here's what else a substantial survey by the Pew Research Center discovered about LGBT adults and religion:

Less than 1 in 3 LGBT adults report having ever felt unwelcome in a place of worship (but only 6 percent within the past year). 

Most LGBT adults with a religious affiliation are Christians (53% Protestant, 26% Catholic).


Biblemesh - Why Were People Healed from Touching Jesus’ Clothes? |

Some commentators gloss over these accounts, explaining them as God’s “accommodation” of the superstitious mindset of the age. Indeed, many fine scholars adopt this interpretation, and there is much to commend it. Still, in light of the Old Testament, there seems to be a better interpretation.

In the Mosaic Law, God instructed His people regarding the corners, or fringes, of their garments. Jews were to “make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner” as a reminder that they were God’s people called to keep His commandments (Numbers 15:37-41). It seems like a strange instruction until we learn that in the Ancient Near East, the corner of a person’s garment represented his identity; it was a symbol of who he was and what he stood for. That’s why Ruth, when she was seeking marriage to Boaz, asked him to spread the corner of his garment over her (Ruth 3:9). It was a request for him to identify with her. (The same Hebrew word means “wing” or “corner of a garment.” Thus, many translations render Ruth’s request as, “Spread your wings over your servant.” The double meaning here seems intentional
.)


Reminds me of the introduction to the DC Talk "What if I Stumble?": The greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

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