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  FROM THE APOSTLES DESK
FROM THE APOSTLES DESK
THE WHITE'S ITINERARY

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Lebanese evangelicals—like believers worldwide—often approach elections torn between hope and despair. But with a major vote looming, do they have a biblical mandate to participate?

Lebanon is a mess. A stalled revolution. The Beirut explosion. Economic collapse.

But now we have a chance to vote. On May 15, for the first time in four years, citizens can react officially to the disastrous failure of our ruling parties. Even if in limited fashion, ballot boxes can change the course of a country.

No matter your nation, elections offer hope.

But also uncertainty. In Lebanon, will we renew the mandate of leaders who have led us into this malaise? Will one side of the political spectrum ascend against the other? Will opposition movements and individuals manage to win seats?

These elections are of massive importance.

But what will happen afterwards, when the excitement of democratic involvement wears off? Lebanon teeters regularly between expectation of upheaval and disillusionment with the corrupt system. Some view this weekend’s vote as our best chance to hold leaders accountable. Others, in apathy or despair, doubt anything will change.

Amid these questions, evangelicals are debating their faithful response.

Last week, I was the guest of a weekly morning Christian radio show. Given our political season, the host asked me about the believer’s duty to participate in the elections. Sharing a zeal for political change, she offered a softball question inviting me to give a moving speech encouraging Christian listeners to make a difference.

I chose my words carefully.

I will vote, I replied, and I have a clear preference. The secular movements opposed to our sectarian system offer the best hope for justice and change. But—and it is a big “but”—I told her there is no biblical or theological obligation for Christians to take part in elections.

She pushed back, surprised by my answer. Knowing ...

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Meet a new generation of authors picking up where Lewis and Tolkien left off.

When COVID-19 seized the world, and our kids, wide-eyed, first voiced their fears, our family devotions helped assure them that nothing, not even a pandemic, could wrench them away from God’s love. And the quieter moments spent cuddled on the couch, steeped in the magic of Narnia and Middle Earth, reminded them of that truth.

In challenging times, stories that point children to the gospel are as vital as air. J. R. R. Tolkien argued that imaginative stories so thrill us because they echo the greatest story of all: our salvation through Christ. Great children’s literature with themes of sacrifice, redemption, love, and radical hope offers families tangible and memorable reminders of the truths they read in Scripture, truths that carry us safely through the storms of this broken, fallen world. Reading and discussing great books with your kids can be a ministry unto itself.

C. S. Lewis and Tolkien have offered families rich opportunities for reflection for nearly a century, but over the past two decades another generation of Christian authors has lavished our bookshelves with vibrant stories. These books, imaginative and infused with their authors’ convictions, promise to inspire young minds and nourish old souls for years to come. Peruse the following list, consider incorporating it into your own family routine, and marvel at the hope, the glory, and the happy ending embedded in these stories.

The Wingfeather Saga

Andrew Peterson

Christian musician and author Andrew Peterson wrote the Wingfeather Saga “to tell a story that would strike a little match of hope in a kid’s heart that the light is stronger than the darkness,” as he explained in an interview. His series more than delivers on that goal. ...

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Like the prophet Jeremiah, a biblical lament for abortion is neither apathetic nor triumphant.

Colloquially, English speakers often use two words to mean “indifference”: ambiguity and ambivalence. But if you consult a dictionary, neither of these words actually means a lack of feeling. Ambivalence means “having mixed feelings” while ambiguity signals a general “lack of clarity.”

Part of the confusion lies in how we often cope with both mixed feelings and uncertainty. In the first case, you can become indifferent as a way to resolve conflicting or paradoxical ideas. In the second, you can become indifferent because you can't identify your precise feeling about something. And when we feel overwhelmed or uncertain, it’s often easiest to simply ignore our feelings altogether.

It seems to me, however, that learning to live with the ambivalence of conflicting feelings and ideas is necessary for spiritual maturity—especially in an era when debates are raging and hot takes are abundant.

I recently reread the book of Lamentations and was struck by the prophet Jeremiah’s ambivalence. Recounting the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the entire book is awash with emotion, gut-wrenching realities, and seemingly disparate truths.

For years, the people of Israel had rebelled against Jehovah, disobeying his commandments and “crush[ing] underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny people their rights before the Most High, to deprive them of justice” (Lam. 3:34-36). Jerusalem finally succumbs to her enemies in judgment. The siege is so desperate that women are driven to consume their own children (Jer. 19:9) in an attempt to survive (Lam. 2:20).

Throughout the book, Jeremiah voices the agony of the people as well as his own.

He ...

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After Roe v. Wade is overturned, we must find new ways to turn our mourning into action.

For 15 years, my mother headed each week to the back room of a small office suite to sort baby clothes.

A stalwart volunteer at our community’s crisis pregnancy center, my mother processed thousands of donations over her years of service—clothes, car seats, cribs, maternity wear, even infant formula. She had watched in sorrow as Roe v. Wade passed in 1973 and viewed caring for expectant mothers as a way she could make a difference, to give her grief legs.

On visits home from college, I’d sometimes accompany my mother to the back room where she worked. I never met the new moms who arrived each week to gather supplies. I never sat and held the hand of a woman contemplating termination.

Nonetheless, I, too, grieved for all the lives lost to abortion. My faith had taught me that all life was precious from the cradle to the grave. Unlike my mother’s, however, mine was grief over an intangible loss—of babies I never held and would-be moms I never knew. My sadness, like that of many pro-life evangelicals, was an ambiguous grief, deeply felt but tragically unresolved.

For almost 50 years, pro-life evangelicals have grieved abortion statistics, procedures, and court documents. We’ve worked behind the scenes to support women choosing life for their unborn babies, and we’re more than ready for this grief to end.

And while the Supreme Court decision might present the illusion that our sad days are over, abortion will remain an ambiguous loss. Abortions past, present, and future will continue to provoke complex sorrow.

Like it or not, we’re here to grieve for the long haul. But how do we do it well?

Grief Without a Face

In the late 1970s, therapist and researcher Pauline ...

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Were rampant commercialism and plagiarism more harmful for Chinese Christians than government censorship?

The Chinese government’s latest crackdown on online evangelism has deleted or led to the closure of numerous Christian accounts after new measures took effect in March.

Among them are Jonah’s Home, which for years provided Bible study, evangelism, and discipleship resources for Chinese Christians. Jidian, a Christian apologist and influencer on Zhihu, a Q&A platform, lost nearly 300 Christianity and Bible-related questions he had answered on the website.

These restrictions have intensified since 2018 and have crushed hundreds of WeChat public accounts created by evangelical organizations and Christians. Those who attempted to reopen would find their “reincarnated” accounts quickly deleted.

WeChat is a powerful digital media outlet with more than 1.2 billion users worldwide and tens of millions of “public accounts.” Over the past decade, WeChat accounts have been an important platform for Chinese Christians to speak about their faith and communicate the gospel. Prior to 2018, these accounts offered discipleship materials, inspirational messages, and apologetics resources, attracting followings of millions of Christians and seekers.

In 2017, our Chinese team at ReFrame Ministries commissioned a professional company in China to analyze more than 5,000 WeChat public accounts and to study the content and influence of the Christian accounts. This report examined and calculated parameters such as the number of reads, likes, Christian-related keywords, and published articles.

Though many individual Christians and Christian media groups have left WeChat or lost their accounts recently, we hope that our study can still be a useful reference for believers, churches, and organizations interested in ...

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After Russia’s withdrawal from Kyiv suburbs, Irpin evangelical ministries emulate the scattered yet persevering church from Acts 8.

Ministry had been going so well in Irpin, Ukraine.

Over the past decade, the population of Kyiv’s northwest suburb swelled to 90,000, and Irpin Bible Church (IBC) grew with it. The Baptist congregation grew to include 700 adults, with an additional 300 children. And in 2019, 12 members launched a church plant in the “New Blocs” neighborhood, where 15,000 Ukrainians lived in multi-story apartment complexes with no church of any kind.

Meeting previously in a basement office, last December the church planters purchased a stand-alone building from a local bank, grateful to have their own location amid a shortage of rental space. With a ground-floor capacity of 200 people, the congregation’s 60 members anticipated additional growth.

Three months later, the Russians invaded.

Hostomel was the first suburb to fall, being home to the regional airport. The assault on Irpin and neighboring Bucha began February 27, attempting to encircle Kyiv.

IBC senior pastor Mykola Romanuk was in the US at the time, while his family relocated to western Ukraine. He returned on March 5, only to leave later that day when tanks first breached the suburb. The next day, a member of his congregation who had returned to Irpin to assist with evacuations was killed alongside a mother and her two young children—a tragedy witnessed and shared worldwide by The New York Times—as Russian forces shelled the humanitarian corridor.

By March 14, Russia occupied half the suburb, including the church plant’s quarter. IBC’s sanctuary remained secure, but 200 of its members fled to 20 nations across Europe, while another 500 scattered across western Ukraine. Romanuk was in Rivne, 200 miles west of Kyiv, with about 70 of his congregants. ...

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Baptism tallies, though, are beginning to recover from 2020’s pandemic plunge.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has lost over a million members in the past three years, with back-to-back years of the COVID-19 pandemic following a decade-plus of decline.

Reported SBC membership fell to 13.7 million in 2021, its lowest tally in more than 40 years, according to the latest Annual Church Profile released on Thursday.

Membership in America’s largest Protestant denomination has dropped from 14.8 million in 2018 and a peak of 16.3 million in 2006, and church attendance continued to dwindle during the pandemic.

One area of promise for Southern Baptists is their key metric: baptisms. After falling by half in 2020, reported baptisms were up by a quarter last year. SBC churches baptized 154,700 people in 2021, still significantly lower than 236,000 a year before the pandemic.

“The reasons that baptism numbers matter to us is because they represent conversion,” said Adam Blosser, pastor of Goshen Baptist Church in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

His congregation of about 100 people didn’t baptize any new believers in 2020, when they shut down for the first few months of the pandemic before spending most of the year gathering outside. In 2021, the church held some baptisms again—but Blosser says not at a level he’s satisfied with.

Like many churches in the US, Blosser’s congregation in Virginia saw steady, generous giving even when church rhythms were disrupted. Last year, Blosser estimated, could have been the biggest annual offering in the church’s history.

Across the SBC, giving levels have climbed even as membership has trended downward. Churches reported taking in $11.8 billion in 2021, even more than the year prior to the pandemic.

The Annual ...

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