In Case You Missed It

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook discussed where the Kingdom of God is in disasters. Keelan writes:

The kingdom of God is already here, but not yet here fully.

 

By no means is this concept new. You have heard it mentioned in a sermon, a Bible study, or in a classroom somewhere. One of the mysteries of the kingdom is the fact that it is both here and now and not yet fully established. It is inaugurated but not yet consummated. In other words, we already see the effects of this kingdom come to earth in the life of the church, but the total rule and reign of the kingdom is clearly not fulfilled. Evil still lurks around every corner, even the dark corners of our own hearts. The kingdom awaits its final consummation, that moment when Christ himself comes back to fully establish his reign. Then and only then will all wrongs be made right.

 

That the kingdom is not yet fully established is painfully obvious in the weeks after a disaster like the one here on the Gulf Coast.

 

Christy Britton shared a post at the Intersect Project discussing what it’s like to come back from a hurricane.

Friendly warnings from meteorologists progress into evacuation orders from government officials. Clear, calm skies become dark. Gentle breezes transform into harsh winds. Dry air morphs into torrential downpours. Houses become quiet as the electricity goes out.

 

Those of us who live in coastal areas are familiar with hurricane season and its signs. We watch our television and refresh our Twitter feeds to track a storm’s progress. The words “contraflow” and “displaced” are a part of our vocabulary. We know why families keep axes in their attics.

 

My husband, my kids and I were living on the north shore of New Orleans the summer of 2005. In August of that year, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast and more than one million people were suddenly homeless — including my family.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Greg Mathias shared a missiological reflection on 9/11.

I still remember where I was and what I was doing on that morning 16 years ago today. As my co-workers and I gathered around a television to see what was going on, we watched with a mix of confusion and horror as the second tower of the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground. The moments after that were a fog of bewilderment as we tried to make sense of what we were seeing. May we not forget that there are many today still trying to make sense of the events surrounding 9/11.

 

No matter the tragedy, trying to make sense of tragedy is elusive. Even though difficult, we are called to love God and love neighbor everyday, even on tragic days.

 

Here are a four thoughts on dealing with tragedy from a missiological perspective.

 

Dr. Amanda Aucoin posted at the Intersect Project about five Christian women who have shaped culture.

Culture is a word we hear a lot in Christian circles these days. We hear of a “cultural malaise,” ponder “culture wars,” talk about how America has ceased to be a “Christian culture” and are encouraged to be “culture makers.” All of these uses of the term are helpful for thinking about how Christians can cultivate and contribute to the world we are called to serve.

 

Because we as men and women are created in the image of a creative God, we will be forming culture in our own world, however big or small its impact may seem at the time. And sometimes that’s the problem. We feel discouraged because our world does seem so small. What contributions could we possibly make? Do we really think the small culture we create could make a difference now, influence the larger culture, or (even more of a long shot) affect culture in the future?

 

Thankfully, we don’t need to look far for inspiration. Key women throughout history, some who held positions of influence during their own lifetime and many who did not, have impacted culture in ways they did not think likely or even possible at the time. What could a barbarian woman, runaway nun, a slave, a handicapped woman and the women in your life have in common? They have shaped culture, in big and small ways, to the glory of God.

 

In a guest post at Thom Rainer’s blog, Jonathan Howe discussed when it’s time to redesign your church website.

Depending on who and what you read, you can find different opinions on how often you should redesign or refresh your website. If it’s a website design company, the answer is probably “six months ago.” They like the business, after all.

 

I don’t think you should have a timeframe for website redesigns, though. It’s an as needed event and also one that should be carried out with much planning and intentionality.

 

Website redesigns should be carried out strategically and to meet a need. So if your church has one of these needs, then it may be time to refresh your site.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared eight reasons why spiritual disciplines matter. Dr. Lawless writes:

I know it sounds like a basic, simplistic matter in our Christian walk, but I’m writing this post to encourage all of us to do spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, fasting, and solitude. Here’s why.

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At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared an article discussing when churches should address current events.

When does a current cultural event necessitate a change of plans in your Sunday morning church service?

 

That’s a question that I’ve been pondering in the aftermath of the Charlottesville protests a few weeks ago. The event took place on a Friday night, escalated on a Saturday, and culminated with a terrorist attack.

 

On social media, multiple people counseled churches on how to respond the next morning. Some called for condemning white supremacy and Neo-Nazis by name. Others offered prayer for pastors who were revising their sermons or penning statements to read before the church. This sentiment popped up a few times: If your church doesn’t address this tomorrow, find another congregation. The social media fever implied that failing to speak on the issue indicated you were taking the side of white supremacists.

 

I am the primary teaching pastor in my congregation. On that Saturday night, I spoke with two other pastors on staff. We decided that one of the pastors would speak from Ephesians 3 before the Lord’s Supper, emphasizing reconciliation at the table of the Lord, who has broken down the wall between Jew and Gentile. Since I was already in the middle of a sermon series on Exodus, I found a few places in my sermon where a condemnation of racist ideology fit well.

 

In other churches, pastors took different approaches. Some posted thoughts on Facebook. Others made a statement during the service. Others incorporated the events into a time of prayer.

 

But the bigger question remains: when should a church change its program in order to address a current event?

 

Here are some principles I’ve considered for future occasions. These are my initial thoughts, and I welcome counsel from others in the comments.

 

In a post at Southeastern Seminary’s Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Alvin Reid discussed how life is a mission trip.

When our daughter and son were 15, each respectively left the country on a mission trip, Josh to Costa Rica, and then Hannah to Thailand a few years later. They have since been on many, and Josh has led more than one as a student pastor.

 

Have you ever been on a mission trip? If so, did you ever take such a trip to another country? Imagine for a moment your church gathered this coming Lord’s Day as usual, but this day would be anything but normal. Today the entire congregation is loading buses following the final morning service. Passports in hand, you head to the airport and board as a group. Why? Your entire congregation is heading to a city in Asia where the gospel has never been proclaimed. You have decided as a congregation to do something adventurous, something quite revolutionary for your church.

 

At the For the Church blog, Micah Fries posted an article showing how your sanctification depends on loving the church.

We live in a culture that prizes materialism and autonomy. And, while we love to speak about how Christianity is counter cultural, the truth is our churches often reflect these cultural realities more than we care to admit or even recognize. When materialism is controlling our behavior, we treat the church kind of like we treat shopping for blue jeans. When we shop, we look for the best looking store, that offers us the most comfortable fit and asks of us the smallest price.

 

So, too, when it comes to the church.

 

At the Intersect Project, Michael Guyer shared a letter to an indecisive teenager.

Congratulations. With each passing day, you get one step closer to your high school graduation. This will be a big moment in your life. I hope you will be able to enjoy this accomplishment. I would encourage you to take some time to reflect on all that God has done over this season of your life. Take time to thank those who have played a pivotal part of it—I know I wish I would have done more of this myself.

 

You are about to make some big decisions that will have major implications for your life. You are probably all too aware of this every time someone asks: “What are your plans after graduation?” I remember getting that question myself. For a while I didn’t have an answer. And there are only so many ways you can say, “I don’t know.” I know you’ve been struggling with this because you are unsure of what is best for you. Will you go the traditional college route? Or will you pursuing training to enter the workforce? On the one hand, a college degree is seen by many as the new high school diploma. Everyone assumes that you will go to college and get an undergraduate degree. Yet, there are also great careers available to those who pursue associates degrees, vocational training or apprenticeships. I know you have heard from a number of different people on this issue, but I wanted to share a few thoughts with you that I hope will be helpful to you.

 

Recently Dr. Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern, addressed the Defense Intelligence Agency as a guest lecturer in Washington, D.C. with a lecture entitled, “The Greatest Military Leadership Challenge of Our Day: Cultivating the Warrior Sustaining Military Power.” You can read more about his talk in this story from Lauren Pratt.

 

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Dr. David Jones published an article at The Intersect Project discussing how you should decide on matters of conscience.

One of the topics I explore in my new book Knowing and Doing the Will of God is the issue of Christian liberty. Christian liberty is the idea that there are certain practices in which believers are free to engage, or from which believers are free to abstain. These issues are sometimes referred to as morally indifferent practices. Examples of areas where Christian liberty has been invoked in the past include: worship practices, music styles, games of chance, military service, places of employment, matters of commerce, eating practices and the observance of special days, among many other issues.

 

Throughout church history, issues of Christian liberty have caused no small amount of debate among believers. With a view toward helping those in the church navigate such topics in the Christian life, and fulfill the will of God, in my text I discuss several principles of Christian liberty, which are summarized below.

At The Gospel Coalition, Bruce Ashford shared four key ingredients in a devotional reading of Scripture. Dr. Ashford writes:

When the resurrected Lord rebuked the Ephesian church for leaving its first love, he was also serving notice to Christians of all times that they must labor to not lose the passionate commitment and joy that attended their conversion. This should remind us that the Christian life has many temptations, none of which is more insidious than leaving our “first love” (Rev. 2:4).

 

This temptation lurks around the corner for every Christian, but perhaps more so for “professional Christians” such as pastors, professors, and seminary students. It’s a unique temptation for us precisely because we study and teach the Bible for a living. Gradually, and without notice, we slip into the habit of viewing Scripture more as an object to be dissected than a living Word to be treasured.

 

As an antidote to this temptation, here is a fourfold pattern of Scripture intake to help us avoid treating Scripture as an object, so that we can receive it as the living Word of a living Lord. The pattern—read, reflect, pray, obey—adapts and modifies an early church practice.

 

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Keelan Cook shared a post discussing how recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

Harvey has moved on, and now we begin to pick up the pieces.

 

It’s been said that Harvey passing was only the end of the beginning, and that is right. For churches here in the Houston area, the race ahead is a marathon, not a sprint. Houston has months and months of recovery in store, and our local churches have an opportunity to serve and proclaim. It will not do for relief efforts to be faddish. In the immediacy of a moment such as this, with media pointing a spotlight, volunteering seems reasonable. Packing up donations is just what we are supposed to do. But soon, as it always does, the media’s gaze will turn away for this city so desperately trying to rebuild itself. This will happen long before the work is done. Something else will grab our national attention, and then the spotlight moves on.

 

In an article for the International Mission Board, Meredith Cook discussed what her experience with Hurricane Harvey taught her about missions.

#PrayforTexas. It’s the latest hashtag making its way around social media as the world watches Houston drown under Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters. Normally, I would be posting it as one watching from a distance. Now, I’m included in it. It’s devastating to see the roads we take to church every Sunday made invisible under flood waters; people just down the road from us pleading for rescue; and we ourselves the recipients of numerous texts from friends and family checking on us. It’s surreal.

 

By the Lord’s grace, our small area of Houston was spared most of the disastrous flooding going on around us. On Monday, I sat on my couch under the warm glow of lamplight, listening to the familiar hum of the air conditioner and tapping of rain on the window. I finished up a round of editing for my work-from-home job. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was a normal day.

 

The TV is quiet now, but for two days, my husband and I watched the one news channel we could pick up on our antenna. Hurricane Harvey ravaged towns in the Texas Gulf Coast three days prior, and then parked over our city and dumped more water into it than Houston has ever seen. Nine trillion gallons and counting. Our city is under water.

 

At The Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams shared five ways you can pray for Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

“This is the disaster of a century for our city.”

 

My friend and Texas resident Josh Hemphill wrote these words to describe the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Harvey on the city of Houston. And there’s no other term to describe it than catastrophic. One of America’s most populous cities is underwater, and other communities along the gulf face a situation that’s just as dire.

 

How can we help? In what ways can we pray? To answer these questions for myself, I reached out to friends in the area. Here are some of their suggestions.