In Case You Missed It

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article earlier this week giving seven reasons to put down your phone and pick up a book. Dr. Ashford writes:

This week, my family and I leave for a one-week vacation. In addition to relaxing at the beach with my family (if “relaxing” is what one does with children ages 6, 5, and 3) and keeping up with the Republican National Convention, I intend to do some reading. For starters, I will finish reading two fine books, Os Guinness’ Impossible People and Anthony Bradley’s Black and Tired.

 

While my mind is on vacation—and therefore on reading—I thought I’d write a brief post about the rewards of reading. In previous posts on reading, I gave 5 Tips for Determining Which Books to Read (and Which Not to Read) and 4 Tips on How to Get the Most from Your (Non-Fiction) Reading. But in this post, I want to focus on some of the benefits accrued from building a life-long habit of reading. Among the many rewards, here are seven.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Walter Strickland writes discussing that if you are living for the weekend, you are working for the wrong reasons.

The song “Livin’ for the Weekend” was made and remade because it resonated with the American workforce. Each Monday, laborers punch the clock with the thrill of the weekend behind them and the dread of another workweek ahead. For many, five of seven days each week are a necessary evil, endured to pay the bills arising from a weekend of leisure. Many workers dream of becoming wealthy enough to escape the rigors and monotony of the workplace. For them, work is a curse to be escaped.

 

Jonathan C. Edwards posted an insightful article at his blog titled: “Thanks to Seminary, I’m Dumber than I Was.” Jonathan writes:

8 years ago I found myself in my first seminary classroom. I was nervous. I was hesitant. I was skeptical.

 

I was a lot of things.

 

Among all those things, I was arrogant. I thought it was going to be such a joy ride over the next several years as I earned a degree that certified I knew more than the average Christian and could speak with authority on a variety of topics.

 

The professor walked in and addressed the aspiring pastor theologians and said something I will never forget. He spoke eloquently about the glory of God and the majesty that is the Resurrected Christ. He spoke humbly concerning the deep things of our Heavenly Father and how that had changed him, humbled him, and made him forever grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus. He then said these words:

 

When you graduate from this institution, the goal is not for you to be smarter than you are right now. The goal is that you have less knowledge and have a deeper awareness of all that you don’t know. The goal is humility, not arrogance. In a sense, you will graduate dumber than you are. That’s the goal.

 

At the Blazing Center, Matt Rogers writes of his fear of falling off of his own platform.

Another week passes, and another painful story about a prominent pastor surfaces. The details vary, but I’ve noticed one common theme. It seems that the very traits that cause a man to rise to prominence invariably lead to his demise. The personality traits that allowed him to climb the mountain of ministry, and do so with relative success, often push him off the mountain on the other side.

 

A new pastor longs to do something great for God, and he does—but then this drive causes him to base ministry success on how prominent he feels and how big of a platform he has created. Another pastor’s charisma allows him to engage a new culture with ease—but then this charm fosters an improper relationship with a woman in the church. Or, a pastor is a savvy leader, knowing how to put money and people in play in a way to maximizes strengths and minimizes weaknesses—but then this ingenuity leads to underhanded financial practices that disqualify him from ministry.

 

It seems that this trend does not merely apply to those who have achieved some national level of fame. It’s not just those who preach to big crowds, write bestselling books, or are sought-after conferences speakers. Countless other pastors and ministry leaders crash every day. We’ll likely never hear of them, but I’d guess the process is much the same in every case.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams gives four ways to pray for Baton Rouge.

Last Sunday, we awoke to yet another tragedy. Three law enforcement officers were killed and three more injured in Baton Rouge, mere weeks after the death of Alton Sterling.

 

As I saw the horrific news develop, I wanted to know how I could pray for this city reeling in pain and division. So I reached out to Katie Harris, a friend who serves in Baton Rouge with AmeriCorps. Since she lives and ministers within the city, I knew she’d be able to help me know how to pray.

 

She offered four ways I can pray for the city. I hope that these help you pray as well.

 

Chris Martin recently shared three ways the church can fight against worshiping work more than Jesus. Chris writes:

Everyone is always busy. We have so much to do all the time. We all have our reasons, right?

 

For some of us, we can’t learn to say “No” when others ask us to volunteer for projects or sit on boards. For others of us, it’s because of our kids, who “can’t drive themselves to band practice, you know.” Some of us, unfortunately, keep ourselves busy because it makes us feel important.

 

Then there are those of us who are too busy because we worship our work, no matter how much we enjoy it or hate it, because we worship the provision and security it provides.

In Case You Missed It

Dave Miller posted a helpful article recently at SBC Voices about how not everything is a “gospel” issue—but race is!

I’m not a fan of buzzwords. If a word becomes such you can pretty much bank on it that I’m not likely to use it. I’ve used the word missions a handful of times in recent years but I avoid it because it’s both nebulous and omnipresent.

 

Unfortunately, the word “gospel” has become such a word in some circles. I have come to the point where I almost never use the word unless I am specifically referring to the gospel story of Christ’s salvation. If I enumerated my specific complaints it would be counter-productive and we would most certainly find ourselves on several tangents. But chief among those complaints is the tendency to make every issue a gospel issue. “This touches on the gospel.” “This is at the heart of the gospel.” There are many issues on which we can disagree and the gospel isn’t touched.

 

But race, racial reconciliation, and the combating of racism in any form in the church is a gospel issue.

 

Aaron Earls posted an article at his blog, The Wardrobe Door titled: “I’m Right Here With You.” Aaron writes:

As I sat down to write about Alton Sterling and the response of white conservative Christians, I had to stop and weep. Another video of another police shooting began trending on social media.

 

Honestly, I need to do more listening than talking during moments like this, but I also need to write to process. And I can’t help but feel my silence would be louder and more hurtful than any stumbling attempt to work through it. Philando Castile was shot in his car, in front of his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter. He died later at the hospital.

 

There are still numerous facts and information that will come out over the next few days that will hopefully provide greater clarity to the events surrounding these now two shootings involving police officers and black men. I don’t know those facts and neither do most others, but I don’t have to wait for facts to grieve with those who are grieving and seek to share their burden with them.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared 4 tips for getting the most from your non-fiction reading.

Recently, I wrote a post on 5 Tips for Determining Which  Books to Read (and Not to Read). As a follow up to that post, and in answer to a number of questions I received, here are four tips on how to get the most from your (non-fiction) reading.

 

Micah Fries posted an article at The Gospel Coalition website about how your missiology can miss the gospel. Micah writes:

What do you think of when you consider a church that contextualizes the gospel?

 

Maybe you think of some uber-contemporary worship service with a pastor arrayed in trendy fashions and a band with just the right blend of tattoos, skinny jeans, and facial hair. “Contextualization” equals “cool.” Or so we seem to think.

 

But what if that perception misses the point completely? What if equating contextualization with the coolest version of ourselves actually contradicts biblical contextualization altogether?

 

Perhaps our poor assumptions about contextualization are why many view the concept as a perversion of the gospel. But this view fails to see that contextualization is found all across Scripture. Even the traditionalist pastor who preaches against contextualization while leading a congregation of formally dressed hymn-singers contextualizes the gospel.

 

In light of this observation, I’d like to commend an understanding of contextualization shaped by God’s Word.

 

Here is a helpful post from Dr. Jamie Dew titled: “Handy Dad, Handy Sons.

I’m a dad and I love it. I do the same kinds of projects that my dad did with me, but I often fail to include my boys the way he did with me. As I reflect on this, I realize that neglecting this prevents my boys from learning how to do things and prevents them from having the same fond memories with me that I now have of time with my dad. I can do better and fortunately, my boys are now old enough that they want to learn. I look forward to the years ahead of us!

Join us in praying for our country. We are indeed a land of, “Liberty and justice for all,” regardless of the color of one’s skin or the uniform one wears.

More than a Flag

By: Dr. Brent Aucoin

In the wake of the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent resolution urging Christians to refrain from displaying the Confederate Battle Flag, Southern Baptists have been censured and ridiculed for taking this step by some in the broader Christian community.  In reading through many of these criticisms I have noticed that they oftentimes demonstrate a flawed understanding of American history and culture.  For instance, in Douglas Wilson’s initial attack on the SBC’s resolution, he brings his most substantive argument to a climax by asking: “If the Confederate flag ‘stands for’ slavery, in what way does the American flag not ‘stand for’ abortion?”

For the moment, let’s simply answer the question as posed.  If it can be said that the Confederate flag “stands for” slavery it is because the Confederate States of America was created primarily for the purpose of preserving the institution of racial slavery in North America.  In contrast, the American flag does NOT “stand for” abortion because the United States was NOT created primarily for the purpose of murdering the unborn.

However, the problem with the Confederate Battle Flag is not so much its association with slavery as it is with the movement to maintain white supremacy in the American South.

Wilson and other critics of the SBC’s resolution seem to ignore the fact that in the eyes of modern-day Americans, the symbolism of the Confederate Battle Flag was shaped primarily by its use after the end of the Civil War.  The Confederate Battle Flag had all but disappeared from the public scene until 1894 when the Mississippi legislature incorporated it into the state flag (where it still remains today).  It’s placement in the state flag was not mere nostalgia, it was designed to send a message.  That message was that racist white southerners were in charge of the state once again and that the state’s leaders intended to promote and protect white supremacy.  Democratic leaders had already imposed racial segregation on the state and in 1890 they had started the process of disfranchising Mississippi blacks.  They were succeeding in relegating blacks to second class citizenship, and changing the flag was one way of proclaiming that message.  But the Confederate Battle Flag did not serve merely as symbol for the Mississippi white supremacy movement, it came to symbolize that movement throughout the South.  This occurred primarily in the 1940s when white Southern Democrats who opposed President Harry S. Truman’s advocacy of black civil rights and the Democrat Party’s insertion of a civil rights plank in its party platform formed the so-called Dixiecrat Party.  This party, formed primarily in opposition to the notion of equal civil rights for blacks, adopted the Confederate Battle Flag as its primary symbol.  The Dixiecrats nominated Strom Thurmond for President and actually won the electoral votes of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina in 1948.  When the Supreme Court handed down its Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954 and the civil rights movement began the next year with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was Thurmond and his fellow Dixiecrats who led the opposition to the movement, and who continued to use the Confederate Battle Flag as the primary symbol of their anti-civil rights campaign.  In fact, the Dixiecrat leaders in Alabama and South Carolina ordered the Confederate Battle Flag to be flown over their state capitols.  Georgia Dixiecrats incorporated the Confederate Battle Flag into their state flag.  As with Mississippi in the 1890s, the use of the imagery of the Confederate Battle Flag was no accident.  It was the emblem of southerners and states who were hostile to the quest by blacks to obtain equal civil rights in America.

Not only did black Southerners come to see the battle flag as representing white supremacy, but so did rank-and-file white Southerners.  Photographs of whites protesting the civil rights movement are replete with images of the Confederate Battle Flag being displayed as the symbol of their effort to keep blacks relegated to a status of second class citizens.  Whatever the Confederate Battle Flag “stood for” before the 1940s, it is a historical fact that after the 1940s it came to stand for the maintenance of white supremacy in the South.  And this was not the work of some small fringe group.  This was the result of the efforts of the South’s governors, legislatures, and representatives in the US Congress.

In light of this history of the Confederate Battle Flag, is it not unreasonable for African Americans in the 21st century to sense hostility towards them as a race when they see it being displayed?

It is true that the person displaying the flag may not intend to convey the message of racial hostility.  But that does not change the fact such a message is nevertheless communicated to others.  To deny this is relativism of the worst sort.  It is an embracing of the notion that we are all free to define truth as we please: “I declare that this flag means ‘x’ while you assert it means ‘y.’ You have your truth and I have mine.”

Whether one likes it or not, symbols get loaded with meaning, and it is folly to ignore the reality of such a situation.  For instance, it would be folly on my part to proudly display a rainbow flag because I contend that the rainbow is a symbol of one of God’s promises.  The vast majority of the people who saw my rainbow flag would immediately conclude that I am showing support for the LGBT movement, not reminding people of a promise of God.  In the same way, it is folly to deny the historically-based fact that the Confederate Battle Flag shows support for the white supremacy movement – a movement that Christians have no business being associated with.

If you wish to show your Southern pride, or honor your Confederate ancestors, or demonstrate your support for states’ rights, then there are other flags for you to fly.  But if you insist on continuing to fly the Confederate Battle Flag then no matter what message you think you are communicating you are actually expressing your allegiance to the failed movement to deny blacks basic civil rights.

Dr. Brent Aucoin is a Professor of History and Associate Dean of The College at Southeastern.