Author: Mildred Rhodes

What Went Wrong with Nadab and Abihu

The odd Old Testament episode is a sharp reminder of our need for Jesus.

It’s been a bad year for pastoral scandals in the church. Whether Roman Catholic cardinals or high-profile Protestant pastors, it’s been devastating and sobering to read about sins and abuses by those entrusted to preach the gospel and shepherd God’s people.

Besides the horror of the abuses themselves, the sharp contrast between an outwardly successful ministry and the apparent darkness within is deeply discouraging. If our spiritual leaders cannot be trusted, who can?

I’m reminded of the shocking deaths of Nadab and Abihu by divine fire in Leviticus 10. At this point in the Hebrews’ journey to the Promised Land, things are going swimmingly. The Tabernacle is built. Moses has the instructions for the sacrifices. Aaron and his sons are being consecrated for ministry. On cue, God’s glory appears, and fire consumes the burnt offering; the people are overjoyed (Lev. 9:24). But that joy suddenly turns to shock and sorrow when Aaron’s sons try to offer up fire to the Lord—and flames burst forth and consume them instead (10:1–2).

Most read this and naturally balk, asking, “Why is God so harsh? Isn’t this just another sign of an arbitrary, angry, erratic God?”

The natural question isn’t always the right one, especially when taking the whole narrative context into account. This is the merciful God who redeemed Israel from Egypt, met them at Sinai, gave the covenant Law, forgave their infidelity with the golden calf, and instituted the priesthood and sacrifices precisely so sinful Israel could enjoy his holy Presence. We should ponder instead, “What went wrong?”

Leviticus is light on explanation, but there are a few narrative clues. For one, the fire …

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Billy Graham Center Receives $1 Million Lilly Grant to Equip Leaders for Revitalization through Evangelism

Church revitalization is good. Church revitalization through evangelism is better (and our goal).

The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College has received a grant of $1 million to help establish the Church Evangelism Initiative. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative.

As Billy Graham stated at its opening, the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College is a world hub for evangelism and training, and is now becoming a major thought leader in church revitalization. The vision of its Church Evangelism Initiative is to see thousands of churches across the United States and beyond develop communities where people find their way to Christ and where every disciple of Christ is equipped and mobilized to reach and make new disciples.

In the past three years, the Church Evangelism Initiative led revitalization efforts among the senior leaders of 120 churches across 7 states. With support from Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry, the Church Evangelism Initiative’s fruitful efforts will considerably expand to gather pastors into pastor cohorts of 6-10 each for peer mentoring, problem solving and mutual support. The result is that pastors will thrive in their congregational leadership and thus enhance the vitality of the congregations they serve.

“We have piloted an approach to revitalization that has begun to work in many churches, and now, thanks to the Lilly Endowment grant, we can expand significantly in both the …

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Phoenix is No. 1 in the nation in this unwanted political category

The Phoenix market is nation’s most deluged with political ads this election season, national data shows. Viewers hate it, but they remember the ads.

      

 

 

The News Won’t Set You Free (Even If It’s ‘Christian’)

How round-the-clock headlines distort our focus on eternity.

These days, Christians may be tempted to join the 24/7 news cycle to push back against the ignorance, distortion, and bias they see emptied into the public square.

That’s what the Christian Broadcasting Network recently opted to do with its new CBN News Channel.

I understand the desire to offer even fuller coverage, but I can’t help thinking our impulse to join reveals an essential worldliness, marching to the beat of secular headlines and falling in with the fears of a fallen realm.

It means that we have not recognized that the larger enemy is precisely that 24/7 news cycle.

Christianity does not exist in some Absolute Present, as CNN and Fox News and Twitter do. Its home is in eternity. We don’t live within the world’s shifting judgments but in truths that are under no ultimate threat. Of course, we recognize that much of humanity does not acknowledge or even recognize these truths, and we do have a responsibility there.

Twenty years ago, in How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society, I tried to show how the sheer dailiness of the news product distorted everything: politics, science, religion, elections, values, worldviews, culture, and social relations. This dailiness was more damaging than any bias, since it went unrecognized, seeming only natural.

Now, the news cycle has grown even more ever-present, with constant updates pinging us around the clock on our phones, computers, watches, and other devices. But my concerns are still the same: We cannot counter the distortion of dailiness we see in the news by the same means of constant coverage that produced them in the first place.

(Remember, the news comes to us daily, hourly, minute by minute, only because the industry’s …

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Died: Focus on the Family’s H. B. London, Who Inspired Pastor Appreciation

The popular “Pastor to Pastors” host passed away at 81 due to cancer.

Over more than 60 years of serving pastors and serving as a pastor himself, former Focus on the Family vice president H. B. London Jr. built up better spiritual supports for clergy and popularized the annual pastor appreciation month held each October.

London dedicated his final years in ministry to pastoring a church in a retirement community in Southern California, where he preached his final sermon, aptly titled, “Pastors Are People Too,” on October 7. He died last week at age 81.

“It seems ironically appropriate that H. B.’s homegoing takes place in October, as this is Clergy Appreciation Month­­—a movement which he tirelessly championed for many years,” said Focus on the Family president Jim Daly in a tribute.

During London’s two decades at Focus, he built up new ministries to reach church leaders and their families, “cultivating an unprecedented role as ‘pastor to pastors’ which he has tirelessly filled ever since, even amidst his recent health struggles,” Daly said, referencing London’s interview series with pastors.

The ministry began promoting Clergy Appreciation Month as a national observance in 1994, just a few years after the former Church of the Nazarene pastor joined Focus at the request of founder James Dobson, his cousin.

“I’ve never known anyone who worked harder than H. B., that was the indefatigable energy that he had because he loved his work and he loved pastors,” said Dobson in a statement reported by CBN. “H. B. wanted to do everything that he could to help them cope with the trials and struggles that were coming their way.”

As the vice president for church and clergy, a division he founded, London, …

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Scottsdale International Film Festival returns with its 'ultimate opener'

Find out info, prices and more about the Scottsdale International Film Festival, which is in its 18th season.

      

 

 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich demands clean-energy group take down ads opposing him

Attorneys representing Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich threaten to sue if ads attacking him aren’t pulled from the airwaves.

      

 

 

Eugene Peterson Has Completed His Long Obedience

Family says Message author joyfully looked toward heaven as he neared death, saying, “Let’s go.”

Eugene Peterson has completed his “long obedience in the same direction.”

The Presbyterian pastor, best known for authoring The Message Bible, died today at age 85, a week after entering hospice care for complications related to heart failure and dementia.

Author Winn Collier first shared the news on Twitter. “My dear friend and pastor Eugene Peterson has died this morning,” he wrote. “The lantern is out, but the joy he carried with him to his final breaths endures. Eugene is now with the Triune God he has loved his entire life. Memory eternal.”

NavPress, publishers of The Message, confirmed Peterson’s death. His family released a statement on his final, joyful days earthside.

“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” they stated. “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.

“Among his final words were, ‘Let’s go.’ And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’”

Eric Peterson had shared an update about his father’s health status a week before, describing the author’s “sudden and dramatic turn” and the family’s decision to offer palliative care for his remaining days.

“It feels fitting that his death came on a Monday, the day of the week he always honored as a Sabbath during his years as …

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The One Thing Worse Than Being Spiritually Lost

But what could possibly be worse than being lost?

Is there anything worse than being lost? If your answer is a hasty, reflexive, theologically pre-prescribed “no,” then perhaps it has been awhile since you felt the full, visceral desperation of being utterly without hope.

But what could possibly be worse than being lost?

When we are talking about spiritual lostness, we are describing the reality of an eternal separation from the sheltering presence of a holy and loving God—a terrible state so horrifying that few want to ponder it for long. And knowing that the very same holy and loving God went to heroic lengths to personally pay the price for our sin and separation makes the continued persistence in lostness all the more lamentable.

So then, what could be worse than being lost? What is worse than the unnecessary ache and hopelessness of being disconnected from a pursuing Creator who lovingly fashioned us incomplete without him?

This: being lost when no one on earth is looking for you.

The despair of lostness is always intensified when someone believes that there is no remedy, no hope, and no lifeline on its way. The terrible throbbing of aloneness is accentuated knowing it will likely never end. Lostness leaves us derelict, disoriented, and despairing.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being physically lost, the knowledge of possible searchers has a buoying affect—it inspires hope and heightens our expectation for help. This glimmer of light allows you to continue to dream of home and emotionally prepare yourself for rescue. The probability of a search party, of heroic people doing heroic things to return you to safety, will rouse your own desire to seek out your courageous rescuers.

Being lost and yet valued enough to be sought after tends to …

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After building a handful of houses, Canadian couple come home

Kim and Dominic Farrell have built their modern dream house in north Scottsdale, complete with a luxury backyard.