In Case You Missed It

At his personal blog, Bruce Ashford recently shared 5 criteria he feels are important for choosing the next U.S. President. Dr. Ashford writes:

The 2016 election cycle has been a never-ending carnival of political wedgies. Nothing could have prepared us for the repetitive sequence of awkward and uncomfortable surprises we have experienced over the course of the past year.

 

At the beginning of the primary season, the two major political parties offered an unusually broad array of candidates that included liberals, conservatives, progressives, nationalists, socialists, and libertarians. In addition, they offered debates that were strikingly superficial and juvenile, more similar in character to a Saturday Night Live skit than to a serious debate about who should serve as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. On top of that, they revealed to us the deep fissures within the major parties and within the conservative and progressive movements; neither major party has a consensus candidate.

 

As the primary season comes to a close and the political parties narrow in on their nominees, many of us still have not decided for whom we will cast our vote. Which of the candidates would make the best President of the United States of America? As we the People consider our answer to this question, we should take into account the following criteria, each of which will significantly affect the way our next president will govern.

 

Tim Challies recently posted an article describing the transgender conversation you need to have with your family.

A friend of mine told me about her recent experience in an airport security line. She was dutifully passing through the metal detector when she heard a beep and was told she would need the pat-down procedure. It is the right of the traveler to have that procedure performed by someone of the same gender and so, as per protocol, the call went out for a female officer to assist. But as the pat-down began, my friend realized that the officer was undeniably biologically male though identifying as female. She did not know what to do or say, so simply allowed the pat-down to proceed. As she walked away, she realized that she was more surprised than offended. It had just never occurred to her that she might unexpectedly find herself being frisked by a man whom she had been told was a woman.

 

As you know, new laws are allowing transgender people to craft their own identity and then to have society treat them accordingly. A biological male who identifies as a woman is allowed to use the bathroom or locker room associated with his new identity. He is also granted the right to be considered female. In this way sex and gender are being deliberately disconnected so that words like “man” and “woman” have no necessary correlation to “male” and “female” or “masculine” and “feminine.” And, for that reason, we find ourselves facing new scenarios like the one my friend described. However, such situations are rare because transgenderism is rare.

 

But there is something that, to my mind, is of greater and wider concern. It is the fact that the same laws that allow transgender people to craft their own identity allow expansive rights to anyone else.

 

At the intersect project website, Carrie Kelly shared 5 lessons from the life of St. Patrick on trusting God without limits. Carrie writes:

During the 5th century, St. Patrick of Ireland bravely engaged a barbaric culture for the sake of Christ, and his legacy changed the course of history, not only for that society but arguably for the entire Western world.

 

Captured by Irish raiders at his father’s country villa at age 15, Patrick spent 6 years watching his master’s livestock for long isolated days on end, spending much of his time in prayer and communion with God. Finally escaping, he made his way back to his home in England only to have a dream of the Irish calling him back to the land of his captors to share the good news of a God who loved them. By the end of his life of ministry, numerous churches and monasteries had been set up all over Ireland and “countless number” had been baptized into the Church.

 

How could one man have had such an impact — and what can we gain from his example? Here are five lessons you can learn from St. Patrick of Ireland.

 

Marie McDonald posted an article at The Peoples Next Door showing that church community has an outward focus too.

Think for a moment about Christian community. Typically, the term conjures up ideas of potluck dinners, rallying around a struggling small group member, or other forms of internal church focus. While these are great, it is only the beginning of godly community.

 

If the church is primarily meant to be a worshipping community, it involves not only our gathering together but also the way we minister to the community around us.

 

In John 13, Jesus tells his followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” But we often miss the next part, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, Jesus is saying that the way we love one another will be our witness to the community.

 

However, how will the non-Christian community know of our love and unity if we focus all of our efforts inwards? Do we expect them to come banging on our doors, wanting to be a part?

 

Brad Hambrick posted an article at his blog discussing the Bible for over achievers. Brad writes:

The Bible can be a dangerous book for over achievers. When a God-loving, passionate, Type A person reads his or her Bible every command feels like a personal assignment. This is incredible, at least for a while. Personal growth, evangelism, and discipleship abound as the over achiever tries to capitalize on every opportunity.

 

Usually, several predictable things happen.

 

Earlier this week Barnabas Piper blogged about 4 things he learned about work from a peewee soccer team.

My first grade daughter just wrapped up her spring soccer season. If you’ve ever watched kids soccer you would not think there is much to learn about anything but the most rudimentary instructions.

 

“Wrong way!”

“Kick the Ball!”

“Run!”

 

Over the course of the season, though, I began to notice a few things that consistently occurred that turned the outcome of every game. Each of them is directly applicable to your work and mine.

 

In Case You Missed It

Chris Martin published an interesting article at his blog discussing some statistics showing that many American Christians do not find Bible reading or church attendance to be essential. Chris writes:

That Instagrammed photo of your girlfriend with her Bible and coffee the other morning was probably staged…so kinda like every other perfectly groomed post upholding our never-ending pursuit of social acceptance and apparent perfection.

 

When you imagine “a week in the life of a Christian” you might imagine a church visit, an occasional Bible reading before bed, and some community involvement after school or work. However, this is not likely the case, if American Christians act in accordance with what they find essential to their faith.

 

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center published some data on what American Christians value in everyday life. The data is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read the summary here or the full report here. Today, I want to look at just one of the graphs they provide.

 

Bruce Ashford posted earlier this week arguing that the “G.O.(W.)P. should reject “Colorblind” politics. Dr. Ashford explains:

Early in the 2016 election cycle, GOP chairman Reince Priebus declared that the GOP was “likely to have the most diverse presidential primary field in history—of either party.” If diversity is considered in terms of the varied ethnic heritages of the presidential primary candidates, he was right. And yet, 90% of the voters in GOP primaries this year have been white.

 

Reflecting on this reality, Stanford sociologist Corey D. Fields recently argued in the New York Times that “the image of black Republicans that the G.O.P. disseminates may actually dampen enthusiasm for the party–not only among the black electorate in general, but also among black Republicans themselves.”

 

Brooke Davidson recently posted a great article at the SEBTS Women’s Life blog titled: “Beauty in the Wait.” Brooke writes:

Question: Have you ever felt like you were the living version of the game Jenga? One piece is pulled from you at a time, and you never know which piece will be the one that sends you crashing down. Watching and waiting. With that being said, please never forget who is pulling out those “Jenga” pieces. He’s not only pulling them out, but holding them, (your feelings, hopes, and dreams) in the midst of it all. Thank goodness we don’t have to do this all alone, right?  A verse that I’ve held close to my heart for the last ten years is Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.” That verse has helped me through many situations, but has never meant as much to me as it has in the past few months. There were times when everything seemed to be falling apart all around me, but the Lord was so constant and clear. If you are reading this and you feel like your life is falling apart, let me encourage you to wait on the Lord. Put your hope in Him, because He will sustain you!

 

Aaron Earls shared recently how the miscarriage of his child made him more pro-life.

I’ve never not been opposed to abortion. As a kid, I remember my grandmother being arrested for praying and protesting outside of an abortion clinic. As a student of philosophy, I found the pro-life arguments to be much more sound, coherent and persuasive. The arguments in favor of abortion always seemed too reliant on unfounded assumptions.

 

As a Christian, the Bible spoke clearly and frequently about the value of life and the need for those in power to speak for the voiceless. Biblical justice seemed to demand a pro-life stance. As a father, I could not imagine choosing to end the life of one of my children before they were born. I loved them from the moment I knew they were growing inside of my wife.

 

But my pro-life stance deepened more than I thought possible when I became the father of a child who never made it out of the womb. At this point, abortion advocates likely would point to two differences they believe to be relevant. I’ve encountered both of these arguments in discussions about abortion, so I want to address each.

 

At his personal blog, Art Rainer recently shared 11 Bible verses for the anxious leader.

You’re going to announce an organization-shaking decision that won’t be popular with everyone. You’re about to have that conversation you’ve been avoiding for months. You aren’t sure if you are going to have a job this time next week. From performance to personnel issues, the reasons for a leader’s anxiety are innumerable. Like many leaders today, you may find yourself feeling immersed in anxiety. And you desperately desire to come up for air.

 

You want to breathe again. God knew that anxiety would find its way into our lives. So He talks to us about it in the Bible. So if you find yourself immersed in anxiety, take the next few moments and consider what God is saying to you about it and the situation you are facing.

 

Here are 11 Bible verses for the anxious leader.

 

At The People’s Next Door blog earlier this week, Trevor King shared 7 reasons for covenant church membership. Trevor writes:

In Ephesians, Paul writes, “So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, andmembers of God’s household, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone,” (Ephesians 2:19-20). In the next chapter he goes on: “This is so that God’s multifaceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens,” (Ephesians 3:10). We’re not foreigners, but family. We’re not united around demographics, but around Christ Himself. We’re not idle, but making known the Wisdom of God to the world.

 

So, who are the members of God’s household? Who is this church that makes the Wisdom of God known? Who are the former strangers who are now citizens?

 

Enter covenant church membership. The idea of the church is wrapped up in the idea of covenant and, as the church, we must be able to articulate the whatand why of membership.

 

One of the best explanations of covenant membership comes from Pastor Sam Storms: “Covenant membership is simply the way in which an individual is known to be committed to all others in a local body of believers and how all others are known to be committed to that individual. Covenant membership is simply the way in which an individual makes known his/her covenant commitment to the Elders as spiritual leaders and how the Elders make known and fulfill their responsibility to shepherd and lead and protect the flock.”

While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are 7 reasons why we need covenant church membership

In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook poses the question: “If a lady in a hijab walked into your church, how would you respond?” Keelan writes:

I fear this post has the potential to ruffle feathers, but that is not my intent. Instead, my hope is that you will take the question in earnest in order to search your heart. I have been doing the same.

 

A while back, I ran across an article, in which a lady wore a Muslim head covering in order to gauge the response of a Christian church. She was a Christian, but she was curious what kind of response a Muslim, who may be interested in Christianity, would receive. The article was posted on the website for the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies. The Zwemer Center is an academic center at Columbia International University, a fine Christian university, that exists to provide research and training concerning Christian witness to Muslims.  It is a good resource for the church.

 

According to the article, the experiment did not go well. To be fair, the article only mentions the incident briefly, and there is no way to know the details. I have no desire to beat this church up in a post, but it made me think about how most churches would respond in this instance. I would hope that most churches welcome strangers, even ones who are different than them. Unfortunately, I see the rhetoric swirling around in the United States today about immigration and refugees, and I fear the worst. I am afraid Christ’s church, scattered across the country in local congregations, may often be more influenced by this rhetoric than by the Scriptures on these issues.

 

In a recent post at his blog, Bruce Ashford lists 8 reasons why abortion is detrimental to society.

In the midst of the carnival-like atmosphere of the 2016 election cycle, evangelicals run the risk of allowing one thing to slip their attention: Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic acceptance of Planned Parenthood’s endorsement and Planned Parenthood’s heightened efforts to expand its abortive territory.

 

In light of Planned Parenthood’s aspirations to recruit and train “tens of thousands” of persons to further its mission, how should evangelicals respond? In short, we should continue to seek both legal reform and cultural renewal, and should do so not only by articulating the Bible’s teaching about human dignity but also by enumerating the ways abortion corrupts society.

 

Brad Hambrick posted a helpful article about how he talked to his boys after the transgender talk at their public school. Brad writes:

My boys attend a local public elementary school. With the current debates that are occurring in North Carolina regarding legislation around transgenderism and public restrooms, the school’s CNN Kids news program did a story on the debate (May 10th edition). I read the video transcript and found the discussion on the role of public restrooms in modern politics to be interesting and informative.

 

Knowing that many other families will be having conversations around this subject, it seemed as though it would be beneficial to reflect on the conversation I had with my boys; not as a prototype to follow, but as a sample to vet.

 

Here are a few preliminary thoughts that I won’t go into in as much detail, but I believe are relevant.

 

In a recent article at the Intersect project, Nathaniel Williams discusses a homeless Gospel in a partisan world.

I’m accustomed to seeing Donald Trump Twitter tirades. I’m not, however, accustomed to seeing Southern Baptist theologians as the object of those tirades.

 

Opinions of Donald Trump aside, when was the last time a Republican Presidential nominee publicly went after an influential Evangelical leader? I can’t think of an example. Republicans used to actively court Evangelicals, not crucify them.

 

And the cordial feelings tended to be mutual. Though the Republican Party has never aligned perfectly with Christian teaching, conservative Evangelicals could generally rely on the party to produce candidates who valued life, character and religious freedom.

 

Yet that assumption has been slowly eroding, and Trump’s tweet seems to be the nail in the coffin. The gospel no longer fits neatly into a political party (if it ever did at all).

 

At his blog, Thom Rainer recently listed five questions prospective pastors rarely ask search committees (but should).

“This church is nothing like the search committee described. They said they were ready for change. They are, as long as it doesn’t affect them!”

 

The sentence is a direct quote from a pastor commenting on my blog. And many other pastors have expressed similar sentiments to me.

 

Of course, not all prospective pastors deal with pastor search committees. Still, the pastors inevitably have someone who interviews them, such as elders or judicatory bodies.

 

It is critical that prospective pastors ask questions about the church. There are five questions, however, which are rarely asked. These questions could be key toward avoiding some of the unpleasant surprises many pastors encounter.