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Three-Parent Babies? Let's Not Forget about Begetting

Every few months, a story pops up about a new frontier in reproductive medical technologies: so-called “three-parent IVF.” NPR recently reported on efforts in Britain to allow embryos created via this technique to be transferred into women’s uteruses, while a New York Times Magazine cover article last summer focused on whether the Federal  Drug Administration would approve human clinical trials.

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Honoring Complexity in Marilynne Robinson's Lila

While Robinson has never been one to shrink from writing about matters of faith, she is hesitant to describe herself as “a religious writer.” After reading the book, my understanding of Robinson as a “Christian writer” doesn’t hinge exclusively on what she writes about, but on the way she writes about Lila, the book’s leading lady. Lila is a woman who longs to feel loved, but who cannot stand the thought of feeling beholden. She is an outsider well acquainted with drifting and comforted, strangely, by her own loneliness.

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From Family Churches to Church Families

Churches love families. Churches ought to be a good place for families – a place to support families and strengthen them. In many of our churches, families are defined as the mid twentieth-century ideal: mom, dad, and two-and-a-half children. But where does this leave people who don’t fit into this nuclear family ideal? What does it mean to be a church family rather than a family church?

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Egg Freezing and the Facts of Life

Christians ought to be cautious about reproductive technology that assumes a reductionist view of the human person. Reproductive technology does this when it reduces bodies to mere matter to be manipulated in whatever way we see fit. But for Christians, we humans are not two things - raw matter and immaterial soul - but a single, body-soul unity. Thus, sperm and eggs are the specific part of a human person that has the potential to become another human person.

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Kingdom Enterprise Zone - Southeast Nebraska

The Southeast Nebraska Kingdom Enterprise Zone (or SENEKEZ since we love our acronyms) grew out of conversations between our RCA Pastor’s Network and the CRC Pastor’s Cluster.  Each group meets roughly once a month for support and education, and we decided to start having some of our meetings together.  It was a time to get to know one another, to see what God is doing through our various ministries, and begin to dream about how we could support each other.  Eventually these conversations led to an official KEZ proposal, and SENEKEZ was born...

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What Christians Lose If We Don't Have Net Neutrality

In truth, the neutrality of the Web has been a boon for innovation and alternative voices since its inception. Bloggers, developers, authors, ministries and nonprofits could very easily find themselves choked out of an effective Internet presence if the Comcasts of the world get their way. Once they own the highway you can bet they’ll put up tollbooths.

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Brittany Maynard and 9/11 Jumpers: An Analogy that Doesn't Work

Much has been written about Brittany Maynard’s Nov. 1 decision to end her own life rather than face an ongoing battle with terminal cancer. Yesterday, Benjamin Corey penned a striking piece at Patheos that compared Maynard with those who chose to jump out of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The piece is powerful and the analogy is provocative, yet I think Corey is wrong. Thomas Aquinas’ view of moral actions and free choice can help us see why...

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How the Anti-vaccination Movement Turns a Blind Eye Toward History

In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield published the results of a study claiming to prove a link between standard childhood vaccinations and autism. Follow-up studies failed to confirm, and Wakefield himself has been unable to reproduce his results. Yet based on this snowball of misinformation, growing numbers of parents balk. At this point, 10 percent of American parents refuse or delay vaccinations...

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Kingdom Ambassadors

Flipping through the news channels at 11:00 PM, all I see are wars, robberies, tragedies, pain and sorrow. I wonder, “What is going on with this world?” If we come across the news about fellow Americans being “beheaded” or a famous National Football League (NFL) player being charged with domestic violence, we point fingers, sigh, and go back on with our lives. Why is that? Do we as Christians have the responsibility to do more?

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A Church Customer Service Lesson in the Mobile Payment Wars

If you’re a techy person, you’ve seen the fight that’s brewing in the mobile payment sphere. Just as Apple launched their new Apple Pay system - where people can use their iPhone instead of a plastic card - stores began pulling the plug on the cash registers that can accept that type of payment.You may ask why is a church communications blog talking about retail payments? Here’s the lesson for churches: There is a difference between forcing people to do what you think is right instead of listening to them and serving their needs...

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6 Tips for Trust in Church Leadership

I was in a large group discussion recently with a bunch of church types. It was a good mix of pastors and elders (and a good balance of male and female leaders in both of those categories). The discussion eventually worked it’s way into a debate about whether or not a pastor should have forwarded on an email to the rest of the leadership. Debate ensued. And then it struck me. This is all about trust... 

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Nikes as Bridges

Aboriginal masks are made of Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes? A whale skeleton made of cut up plastic chairs? And can those totems really be off-the-rack baseball bats? Take a minute to peruse the work of Brian Jungen to see what I’m talking about. Jungen is an artist born in Fort St. John, BC to Dane-zaa First Nation and Swiss parents. He gained notoriety for an exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled Prototypes of New Understanding...

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Listening for the Gifts of Persons with Disabilities

All of us need each other and all the diversity of human life that comes with that. I need persons with disabilities, like my daughter, to make me more human, to make me whole, just as much as she needs me and others to make her whole. I need the gifts my daughter with disabilities brings. I need her to help me see God, to see others, to see the world and finally, to see myself in deeper and better ways...

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Parenting Is Not a Covenantal Relationship. Marriage Is

I don’t know if it was the provocative title - “How American parenting is killing the American marriage” - or the actual content, but something about a recent Quartz article caused 47 of my friends to share it on Facebook. Maybe it was the opening sentence: “Sometime between when we were children and when we had children of our own, parenthood became a religion in America.” While the cultural timeline might be accurate, I’d argue the underlying root of idolatry is not new at all... 

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Rediscovering the Call to Holiness within the Redeeming Love of God

Some of you readers out there might think a lot about holiness or have recently had a sermon series on the topic. But, by in large, holiness is not a popular topic in contemporary church life. This lack of discussion of holiness was the subject of an interesting Christianity Today article called “How We Forgot the Holiness of God” in which Drew Dyck, the author, argues that we have lost a theology of divine holiness by emphasizing God’s love...

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What We Lose by Choosing Death with Dignity

The kind of suffering Maynard’s cancer is expected to bring is incomprehensible to most. Even for Christians who believe in the sanctity of life, this case, in which both death and great suffering appear imminent, challenges deeply held convictions. Law, logic, medicine and even theology seem inadequate to address all the questions. None of us desire to suffer or to watch loved ones suffer. After all, we take...

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Enough

I work thirty hours a week at a job that certainly isn’t changing the world. After four and a half years of college I remain at least three years away from being an ordained pastor. I put a lot of work into being a good husband, but often I feel like I’m falling short. I seldom feel like I’m getting much accomplished. For all my work, for all my effort, I find myself plagued by four simple words that keep me feeling like a failure. Am I doing enough?

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Would Calvin Cap and Trade?

A world free of pollution. It’s hard to imagine isn’t it? We’ve treated so much of our Father’s world as a virtually inexhaustible dumping ground, that actually having to pay for the privilege might seem somehow radical. But for Christians, our church fathers would never have tolerated such an approach to God’s creation...

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Dave Trout Celebrates 20 Years in Radio!

Where were you in October 1994?  The OJ Simpson trial was in full swing.  The MLB Playoffs and World Series were cancelled.  The NHL was on strike.  The Rolling Stones were on the Voodoo Lounge tour.  ER had only been on the air for one month, and Pulp Fiction was the biggest movie at the box office. It was also 20 years ago this month that...

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Common Church Website Mistakes

Building and maintaining a website isn’t easy, especially when many churches are underfunded and understaffed. Yet a website is the first contact many new people will have with a church and it’s a place regulars go to find information. A communicator’s goal is to remove barriers from people getting the information they need. Below are some common website mistake you can tackle to make your church site better...

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Say It Again

The truth is, I’ve tried writing many posts. But nearly every time, I got a few sentences in, maybe a paragraph, and then stopped. I couldn’t seem to find anything to say that hasn’t already been said, usually by someone older and more qualified. It can begin to feel pointless. What I needed to be reminded of is that no one is saying anything new. Even the writer of Ecclesiastes, writing thousands of years ago, wrote...

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The Holy Sanctuary of Public Libraries

As a reference librarian at a suburban public library, I sit at the information desk, waiting to answer patrons’ many different questions. On Friday evenings, the foot traffic slows and a soothing silence descends on my area. Save the soft clattering of the keyboards in the computer lab, it is mercifully quiet. It’s in these moments I realize: I’m in a holy place. As civil institutions funded mostly by taxes from the people they serve, public libraries are strictly secular.

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Is Volunteerism Killing the Church?

We ask, “What church do you go to?” like it’s a Wal-Mart or Burger King. And we answer easily, without much thought. But there’s a problem with this question. I heard of a staff member in a church who, when referring to a church member not following through with a commitment, said, “Well, volunteers will do what volunteers do.” Something about this made my skin crawl. Where have we gone wrong with this? When have we started viewing the church as a place to volunteer?...

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In Defense of Christian Cultural Engagement

“Cultural engagement” is our bread and butter here at Think Christian. With limited resources, we do our best to engage with every square inch of God’s creation. So it was a bit disheartening to see some fellow sojourners in this task recently eye the phrase, if not the practice, with skepticism.

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From New York to Guatemala: Our God Reigns

Going into 2014, my church began to experience financial difficulties. We were without a senior pastor, and my church went through a lot of strife and conflict. There were vocal and physical arguments happening left and right about every little detail that you can think of in the church. In a few words, one can simply say it was “church politics.” I even had thoughts of resigning because of the tough environment. But that’s when God began to work in my heart and began to teach me what the words, “perseverance of the saints” really meant...

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Model Ministry

Often when we talk about how we do ministry, we focus on doing it “the right way”. It is important to be excellent in ministry–God deserves our best! But, at the same time, sometimes I think we focus more on the organizational model and having the right programs, rather than what kind of life and faith we are modeling in our daily walk. Sometimes the right way to do ministry has to do with proper organizational charts or well-written charters. Sometimes the right way to do ministry means picking up a Lysol wipe...

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Homegrown Terrorists and the Human Need to Belong

Often, when you read stories about homegrown terrorists, you see a photograph of when things were “normal” - a high school yearbook picture, a shot of the person sharing beers with friends, a family photo. Somewhere between those “good” times and now, things fell off the rails, work opportunities evaporated and life lost meaning. Enter a global gang like ISIS - a place to belong, fight back and find yourself again.

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14 Best Songs by Andrew Peterson

My re-discovery of Andrew Peterson's music in 2007 was a major factor in the creation of Under The Radar in 2008.  He has been a core artist of our's from the get-go, and over the last 6 years has been one of UTR's most requested artists.  We polled hundreds of UTR listeners and asked them: What is your all-time favorite Andrew Peterson song? We tallied the responses and now reveal the 14 Best AP Songs, as chosen by our listeners...

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America's Most Epic Churches?

In an Internet of endless clickbait, an article promising “Divine Photos of America’s Most Epic Churches” threatens to be just another BuzzFeed list of Worst Celebrity Facelifts, only more uplifting. But the piece, in Wired, features stunning photography by Christoph Morlinghaus, so it’s worth a look whether you care for the churches or not. Are they the most epic churches in America? Some, like the amazing First Presbyterian Church (Stamford, Conn., designed by Wallace K. Harrison), are without a doubt...

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Listening at the Margins

As people, we naturally gravitate toward those similar to ourselves. It’s simple, easy and it’s comfortable. We gain friendship, empathy and encouragement from such relationships but a problem ensues when we solely hang around those similar to us - we end up only listening to like-minded voices. We often don’t realize how enveloped we are in like-mindedness until our beliefs are challenged...

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Diversity, Structure, and Scottish Independence

When was the last time you intentionally built a deep relationship with someone who doesn’t have the same racial/ethnic/cultural background as you? When was the last time you gave up a week’s vacation to participate in synod deliberations? If you’re lamenting the fact that denominational agencies seem “out of touch,” when was the last time you constructively communicated with an agency board or staff member with concrete ideas...

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A Life of Faith, Softly Spoken

When he was 6, my cousin, Timothy Isaiah Holmes, had a question. At The Learning Center for the Deaf , Tim's teacher handed out pieces of blank paper and told the students to draw a picture representing their question. Tim had pages and pages of a man on a cross. But he didn't have the language to help him understand who this man was. He didn't yet have a language for the hope that he would come to have and the Savior...

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Our Political Representatives are People Too

Our church invited the local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to come to a council meeting. I wasn't there, but I know the visit was appreciated by the member and by the council. I'm sure the issues of pro-life and equality in education came up, but the council also expressed thanks to the member for taking on a difficult job of trying to represent a diverse constituency and general appreciation for good governance in Ontario. Having a council discussion on issues of justice that are in the realm of authority for provincial politicians (eg.

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Is Buying an Experience the Way to Buy Happiness?

It turns out money can make you happy - if you spend it on the right things. Recent consumer research has shown that people feel happier spending their money on experiences rather than on material objects. This intuitively makes sense.

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UTR Needs Your... Teamwork!

In just a few days, UTR is going to launch a new volunteer program, and for the first time ever officially invite YOU "backstage" into the infrastructure of the program. This will be accessible to everyone - no matter your skill or commitment level. You might be willing to work hours on a special project... or you might only be willing to offer us 10 seconds of time. We can use your help either way...

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Me? A Champion?

Two years ago marked the first time I heard the acronym "CAMC." After responding to a posting for the need for camp counsellors to go to a First Nations reserve in Northern Ontario on the ServiceLink website, I became instantly connected to some amazing CRC staff that were passionate about social justice and had their sights set on developing and growing reconciled relationships with their Indigenous neighbours. When I returned from Northern Ontario, I reconnected with the CRC staff that I had heard about before I left and they explained the acronym CAMC--the Canadian Aboriginal Ministries

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"Soft Immortality" or Eternal Life?

“Why would someone immortal want to live? Where would his or her drive come from?” These are the questions Marcelo Gleiser asked in his recent NPR post, “Soft Immortality: Would You Do It?” Gleiser ponders if immortality would be a curse - a meaningless, boring existence. Without being bound to time, to an ending, would our actions and choices still be meaningful?...

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Remembering 9/11, and the Bible's Take on Fear

Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001? I had driven to my parents’ house that morning, eager for adult companionship while my husband was at work. I had just put my 1-year-old daughter down for a nap and joined my mother in her living room when she told me to look at the television. We both stared at the screen in shock. I was six months pregnant with my second child and I had no idea how that day’s events would change the world my children would grow up in...       

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Finding My Place in God's Family through Heart-Shaped Waffles

One blizzard-y afternoon, far from home and in need of a place to stay, I was hosted by family that customarily welcomed guests with waffles. Heart-shaped waffles. This was a family of curious, warm, lovely people who gave the gift of their presence, over the cutest little waffles you ever did see! Their tradition resonated so much with me that I determined to adopt it for myself one day…when I got married. It would live in the house with my future husband and I, and we’d welcome people in out of the cold to eat waffles...

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Emojis and "the face of our inmost being"

While a picture may be worth 1,000 words, emojis as a mode of communication present significant challenges for conveying basic information. Attempting to decipher strings of emojis tends to leave me frustrated rather than amused or entertained. Using emojis myself similarly leads to frustration - the quest for the perfect emoji almost always comes up empty-handed, leaving me feeling like I just wasted time...

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Should We Feel Guilty?

In justice advocacy we encounter many gut-wrenching repercussions of the Fall of humanity. My colleague Shannon Jammal-Hollemans recently made a powerful statement, saying Christians tend to focus on the Fall at the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, rather than focusing on the Tree of Life. I believe this cuts to the core of the “burden” of injustice, shedding light on the frustrating, paradoxical occurrence of disempowered Jesus followers...

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Jim Gaffigan and the Food Purity Movement

Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians. His book Dad is Fat spent 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Both his Comedy Central special, Obsessed, and book, Food: A Love Story, revolve mostly around food. Mary Eberstadt has argued that our culture is experiencing a “transvaluation of values,” where food is the new sex...As Eberstadt puts it, “The all-you-can-eat buffet is stigmatized; the sexual smorgasbord is not.”

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UTR & GMA Partner for Dove Week Showcase

Is this true?  Is Under The Radar, a predominantly non-CCM radio show, partnering with the flag-bearers for the Christian music industry, the Gospel Music Association?  Yes!  The short explanation is that GMA is "under new management," and today they want to be inclusive of all facets of Christian music, including the growing independent music scene.  We began talks with GMA last fall about small ways they can build bridges between them, indie artists, and listeners who are hungry for more than what's served on CCM radio...

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As Students Head Back to Church

This is one of the greatest times of year if you live in a college town as new students and returning students return to liven up their campuses. For many, it means finding a new church home for the forseeable future, which can be a daunting task. For many churches, it means stepping up their outreach to young adults. We asked three pastors of churches with large college-aged segments to talk about the importance of finding a church...

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Michael Gungor and Amish Shunning

Earlier this year, Christian singer-songwriter Michael Gungor shared a brief manifesto of his theological convictions. In the blog post, “What do we believe?,” Gungor penned the following warning: “So be careful of labels, be careful who you judge as ‘in’ or ‘out’ of your camp. It’s a destructive way of seeing the world.” Little did he know that by August, his simple post would be part of a firestorm of controversy within the evangelical world...

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"It's All In God's Plan"

If you’ve been in a church very long, you’ve probably heard this phrase at one point or another. Typically it is spoken in the midst of loss or grief. If you’ve lost someone or something, well-meaning and kind-hearted people might offer you these words as a comfort, as something to hold onto in the confusing and disorienting time of loss. “It’s all in God’s plan.” I never thought much about this phrase until recently, when I came to a time in my life when these words rang hollow...

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Free-range Kids and Resurrection Parenting

Earlier this summer, Kim Brooks chronicled her arrest and prosecution. Her crime? Leaving her 4-year-old son in a locked, ventilated car on a mild day while she ran into a store for five minutes. The last few months have seen similar stories. As a parent of four kids under 5years-old, I sympathize with Brooks. The sheer effort of wrangling kids in and out of the car and through a store often doesn’t seem worth it. Yet as parents in the digital age...

We Are Iraqi, We Are Christian

The WeareN movement is a reference to the Arabic letter ‘N’ that the Islamic State is using to mark houses in Mosul owned by Christians. As the Islamic State takes over more territory in Iraq, Christians are left with three options: convert, pay a hefty tax, or leave. Before the US invasion in 2003, there were approximately 1 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are about 450,000. This is a call to the West to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering greatly.

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Calvary's Portrait of a Priest

“That’s nonsense.” Not the sort of words you’d expect to hear from a priest, yet this is the most common phrase uttered by Calvary’s Father James. Calvary opens in a confessional booth, where Father James hears what he himself describes as a “startling opening line.” A parishioner reveals the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of another priest as a child, then tells Father James that he plans to kill him in a week’s time in order to punish the church. The rest of the film follows Father James making...

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You Should Care What People Think About You

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted a list on Facebook. It offered the top ten things that people who love their lives are doing differently. My first reaction: This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read! It wasn’t that the whole article was worthless, but I couldn’t get past his first item on the list: (people who love their lives)… don’t bother trying to make others like them — mainly because they don’t care if they’re liked. I got hung up on that line.  It stirred something inside me that just wasn’t sitting well...

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