In Case You Missed It

Aaron Earls published an article at his personal blog earlier this week reminding us that it is okay to not have a “perfect Christmas.” Aaron writes:

Approaching Christmas, we have all these images of what our seasonal celebrations will look like.

We will find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We will bake the best cookies in our perpetually immaculate kitchen. Our house will have the perfect decorations that were placed perfectly around our home without any hint of disagreement from our spouse or complaining from our children.

Speaking of our children, they will be in perfect health the entire Christmas break and in perfect harmony as they sing carols at church without ever misbehaving during the multiple services.

They’ll be no traffic jams on the road or long lines at the mall. Every trip will be short, sweet and full of precious memories with our family and friends.

Of course, then we wake up to our sick kid in our messy house with our half finished shopping list starring us in our face. Despite imagining an idyllic scene every year, the reality never leaves up to those images. So why do we stress out trying to bring about those impossible recreation of a perfect Christmas card scene?

It’s not like the first Christmas was “perfect” from a worldly perspective, even though we even try to reimagine it that way.

At Desiring God, Phillip Holmes has written a blog discussing the traditional Christmas hymn: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing“.

When I was growing up, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley (revised by George Whitfield) was one of my favorite Christmas songs — but the point of the first line went completely over my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I understood lines like “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled” and “Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings / Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die.” However, there was that lead archaic imperative that escaped me for years: Hark! (Listen!).

Dr. Albert Mohler published an article earlier this week discussing the real meaning of Handel’s “Messiah.”

[Handel] began composing on August 22, 1741 and completed the entire massive work in just twenty-four days of breathtaking intensity. … Messiah is arranged into three great parts. The first presents the promise of salvation and focuses upon the birth of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah. The second part tells of the work of redemption and looks especially to the cross and resurrection of Christ. The third part looks to the final consummation of God’s purpose of salvation in the future.

Every word of the oratorio comes from the Bible and is based mainly in the King James Version. The power of Handel’s majestic composition is evident in the fact that most of us cannot hear many of these biblical texts without hearing also the refrains of Handel’s greatest oratorio.

At the Peoples Next Door blog, Keelan Cook reminds us that we may be home for Christmas, but many will not.

In just a few hours I will be hitting the road for Tennessee. This morning, the local news in Raleigh said the security line at the airport was so long it went outside the building and around the corner. It is Christmastime, and that means it is time to head home for the holidays.

Going home for the holidays is a tradition for so many. It is just what we do. We write songs about it. We make movies about it. I cannot count the number of movies that turn going home for Christmas into a comedy of errors. The whole idea is somewhat sacred and expected. As I hurriedly packed the last sweaters into my bag this morning, in a rather foul mood I might add, a thought crossed my mind.

I have a home to go to.

At the GC2 Summit, I heard startling statistics of Syrian displacement. Some 13 million people, mostly children, have been displaced in Syria. That is half of the country’s population. Half.

Finally all of us at Between the Times and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary would like to wish you a Merry Christmas!

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week Jason Duesing wrote an article about the most important word he learned in seminary. He writes:

When I went to seminary I had only been a Christian for 4 years. I knew what it meant to be saved but was still working out what all that meant. For example, I had come to learn and love the hymn:

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

But it was not yet clear to me how exactly did Jesus wash me white as snow? I knew that Jesus died for my sins, but I don’t think I could have told you what happened when he did or how he did it. That is when I discovered I had a philology problem–a problem with words.

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article at The Intersect Project website explaining how to engage culture like Abraham Kuyper.

Abraham Kuyper lived in the Netherlands in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was a pastor, a journalist, a newspaper founder, a professor, a university founder, a parliament member and a prime minister. From these many vantage points, Kuyper sought to work out the implications of the gospel. Both his writings and his life story show us a Christian who not only critiqued culture but made culture.

Kuyper is known for his teachings about Christianity and culture. Here are nine points that summarize some of his most important teachings.

Aaron Earls posted an article at his personal blog this week explaining why writing, even when no one will ever read it, is so important for the writer. Aaron writes:

Recently, I spent a significant amount of time working on a blog post only to hit delete instead of publish. That decision was difficult because of the investment and sacrifices I made to write it.

Having a wife, four kids, a full-time job, and church responsibilities means my spare time is limited, verging on the nonexistent. I want to make the most of every moment I have. So having that piece never see the light of day meant something was lost — but not everything.

As I tweeted about my decision, several other writers on Twitter shared their own experiences about constructing blog posts, articles, and even books, that no one else will ever read.

Reading their experiences and reflecting on my own, I realized the loss involved in deleting that post was not all that was involved. There were gains and benefits from the decision as well.

Here are four positive takeaways when my writing ends up on the cutting room floor. When we write for an “audience of none,” here’s what you and I can gain, as well as questions we should ask to determine whether a piece should be read by others.

Sam Storms, while looking at the account of Jesus’s cleansing of the temple, addresses the question: Who is this man, Jesus?

So who is this Jesus? Is he still the humble servant, riding on a donkey, offering himself to Israel as their Messianic King and savior from sin? Is he still the holy judge who is enraged with the unrighteous ways of the religious leaders? Is he at the same time the Good Shepherd of the sheep, tender and meek? At one moment his eyes flashed like fire! No one dared make eye contact with him. A split second later his eyes are filled with tears of love and compassion.

Finally, in this blog post, J.D. Greear discusses the new book One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics with the authors: Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo. J.D. writes:

I’ve often said that for Christian leaders, politics is like a skunk: touch it and that’s all anyone will notice about you for a long while. As Christians, our political convictions—no matter how passionately held or biblically based—should always be secondary to the gospel. I may be wrong about my economic views, but I know I’m not wrong about the gospel; and I never want my opinion on the former to prevent people from hearing the latter.

But just because politics is secondary doesn’t mean its irrelevant. There comes a time when the Church needs to actively equip itself to engage in politics. I believe this is one of those times.

The prospect of diving into politics scares a lot of Christians, especially in the younger generation. Many of us are tired of the “culture wars” and all of the poisonous rhetoric that so often accompanies political activism. And years of Christian over-dependence on politics has left most Christians timid to engage in the political process at all. That’s precisely why now, more than ever, we need a positive, proactive vision for how to live out the gospel in the public square.

Bruce Ashford (Provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Chris Pappalardo (Lead Researcher and Writer here at the Summit) have given the Church a masterfully constructed blueprint for doing just that. They’ve just released a book called One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics, and I asked them to respond to a few questions about evangelicals and politics today

In Case You Missed It

This week at the Peoples Next Door blog, Keelan Cook posted about how our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult.

David Roberts, a blogger at Vox.com recently wrote an article titled, “How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult.” For a secular piece, Roberts is rather prophetic in his tone about the shape of society and its relationship with relationships.

Now, I want to be clear that this is a secular work. I am not recommending it wholesale. Roberts uses evolutionary theory and other things to ground his conclusions, and I am not there with him on some of that. However, I point out this article because it provides an excellent look into the culture around us. Pastors, church planters, and even local church members can benefit from reading this, as they try to engage the community around them.

Aaron Earls responded to the Starbucks “red cup” controversy in this post: “We All Got What We Wanted from the Red Cup.”

Yes, we’re all tired of talking about it. The color of coffee cups has dominated social media feeds and water cooler discussions for the past few days. But whether we care to admit it or not, everybody involved got what they wanted out of the Starbucks red cup controversy. While you may have lost track of who exactly is outraged at whom, the winners in this latest cultural kerfuffle are obvious.

At Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer writes about overcoming the discipleship deficit.

The topic of discipleship is one of increasing importance among many believers, and rightfully so. This topic deserves our attention even more today as church leaders realize there is a “discipleship deficit.”… This appears to be a trend across the spectrum of churches. Believers were failing to engage in taking the next step of their spiritual journey, and with regards to the steps that they were actually taking, there was somewhat a sense of dissatisfaction. Converts were being made. Churches are securing “decisions.” But far too few are growing into mature disciples of Christ.

At the Southeastern Literary and Art Magazine (SLAM), Ashley Burchett discusses editing style and mechanics.

“Imaginative writing has its source in dream, risk, mystery, and play. But if you are to be a

good—and perhaps a professional writer, you will need discipline, care, and ultimately even an obsessive perfectionism. As poet Paul Engle famously said, “Writing is rewriting what you have written.”

—Janet Burroway, Imaginative Writing

This quotation from the seventh chapter of Janet Burroway’s book Imaginative Writing is one of my favorite insights Burroway offers. If, as poet Engle notes, “writing is rewriting what you have rewritten,” then editing exists as a vital stage in the writing process, a stage to be revisited again and again and again. The following editing checklist includes the steps I take to edit style and mechanics in my academic and creative writing.

And finally, be sure to check out this interview with SEBTS Vice President of Student Services, Dean of Students and Professor of Theology, Ethics & Culture Mark Liederbach.

Mark Liederbach is the vice president for student services and dean of students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as professor of theology, ethics and culture. Liederbach shares about growing up in a Catholic family, how he ended up teaching at a Baptist seminary and what projects he is currently working on.