In Case You Missed It

At Christianity Today, Greg Thronbury published an article discussing what we can learn from the complicated legacy of David Bowie.

You have to hand it to David Bowie. He certainly knew how to be the party—and how to break up the party. On Sunday night, just as Hollywood celebrities were arriving at their post-Golden Globe awards events, the laughter reportedly died down and a hush fell across the revelers: Bowie was dead at 69 from cancer. David Bowie turned toasts into conversations about memento mori. His death stunned everybody. Just a month earlier, he had appeared at the opening of his off-Broadway show Lazarus, and, as always, he looked great. Three days earlier, he released his most ambitious record in recent memory—a progressive jazz tour de force. We had seen him in brand new music videos which bewildered us.

At the Intersect Project website, Amber Bowen published an article discussing Christians and the transgender narrative. Amber writes:

In his final public appearance before debuting Caitlyn into society, Bruce Jenner shared his experience as a transgender with the world in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer.

“Who is Bruce Jenner?” Sawyers asked. Jenner took a deep breath and said:

“I’ve tried to explain it this way: God is looking down making little Bruce…And then at the end, when he is just finishing, he says, “Wait a second; we’ve got to give him something. Everyone has stuff in their life they have to deal with. What are we going to give him?…Let’s give him the soul of a female, and lets see how he deals with that.” So here I am: stuck.[1]

“Stuck” is the word Jenner repeatedly used throughout the interview to describe his personal identity in relation to his physical body.

Upon hearing these statements, psychologists would immediately identify an obvious case of gender dysphoria. Philosophers, however, would recognize the basic tenants of Substance Dualism.

Aaron Earls posted at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, discussing Star Wars spoilers, cults and Christianity. Aaron writes:

Recently, I achieved the unthinkable. I avoid any and all spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens before seeing it Christmas Day. My wife, who saw it a couple weeks later, was not so lucky. A Facebook friend posted about hoping a pivotal moment would change the second time she saw it. There was no ill-intent, just random thoughtlessness.

We’ve all had someone accidentally spoil a movie or book (or we’ve been the unintentionally spoiler). But what about those who give away the plot twists and turns on purpose? What drives someone to plaster a spoiler of The Force Awakens on the back window of their car and drive around town?

Perhaps surprisingly, part of it may be the same mentality that drives someone to join a cult. That doesn’t mean your uncle who enjoys binge-watching Netflix and posting spoilers on Facebook is starting a doomsday group (though it seems those guys are almost always “odd uncles”). But it does mean that obtaining “secret knowledge” is enticing to us and we often want to let others know we have something they don’t.

The appearance of exclusivity is attractive. There’s a reason advertisers use phrases like “limited time” or “be the first to own.” If something is only around for a short amount of time, I don’t want to miss it. Spoilers and cults serve the same purpose just on opposite extremes of importance.

Having a spoiler to a movie grants you power through that exclusive knowledge. You can either share that with others, whether they are asking for it or not. Or you can keep it to yourself and revel in knowing more than everyone else. You feel like you have all the control, similar to a cult.

Joe McKeever wrote about an important topic at his blog this week. You’re a pastor and you’ve found the work tough? No sympathy here, friend.

It’s supposed to be tough.

Why do you think God has to call people into this work? If it were easy, they’d be lining up to volunteer.

The Christian life is tough to start with. “In this world you will have tribulations,” our Lord said. Then, He added, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Then, the Lord calls certain ones of the redeemed to stand apart from the flock and to become “point men.”  His undershepherds.  Overseers of the flock.  Examples to the rest.  And frequently, His spokesmen.

Targets. In the crosshairs of the enemy.

He does not sugarcoat the call.  When Jesus called Saul of Tarsus, He said to one, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).  Jesus told His disciples, “I send you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves…. Men will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake…. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10).

You see how they treated Jesus; you should expect nothing different.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

At Chuck Lawless’ blog, Brandon Conner discusses 8 questions discouraged leaders need to ask. Brandon writes:

As leaders, we all face times when things are not going as well as we would like.  In those seasons, it’s important to remember that before we can ever re-energize the church we lead, we have to first be energized ourselves.  Below are eight questions leaders should ask themselves during difficult seasons.

In Case You Missed It

Aaron Earls published an article this week discussing the idolatry of outrage, and how much of social media exists to answer the question: “What are we outraged about today?” Aaron writes:

If I open Facebook, I can find the cultural flashpoint that is angering at least half the nation. Perusing Twitter, I see the political issue that supposedly warrants not simply my attention, but all my emotion as well. I must be offended and I must be outraged.

The invasive outrage culture has been relentless. From coffee cups to Donald Trump (all of him), 2015 was the year of perpetual outrage and the new year seems to be more of the same.

But why is that? Why are we so consumed with feeling indignation or claiming offense? In a sense, outrage is cultural super glue, binding together individuals quickly and strongly over shared dislike and disgust. It is a shortcut to developing community and finding purpose.

At the Peoples Next Door blog, Meredith Cooper shared a post discussing how to survive the Church as an introvert.

If you register “I” on the spectrum of “HANG OUT WITH ALL THE PEOPLE” to “give me solitude or give me death”, then you, like me, probably struggle with community in the church. As an introvert, the balance between needing alone time to recharge and not neglecting others is hard. It is easy to value that time so much you neglect what is a necessary and biblical part of the Christian life — the church. I am guilty of, and I have witnessed others, using my so-called introversion as an excuse to neglect the church.

While I think there is some validity to the extrovert/introvert spectrum and how we relate to people, it is also largely a Western concept bred out of individualism and our desire to dictate who/what/when/where we spend time with people. However, this is not how we see believers relating to each other in the Bible. Christian community is illustrated throughout the Bible and rarely, if ever, do we see an individual forsaking people to get their alone time.

Ray Van Neste recently shared his review of Go Set a Watchman at his personal blog. Dr. Van Neste writes:

My first completed book of the year is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Despite all the criticism of the book, I thought it was superb. They say it was a draft. May I be so blessed as to write such drafts! If Lee announced she had a forthcoming volume of scrap stories about Jean Louise’s childhood, I would pre-order it today (or at least I’d start looking for a sale!). I love the way she writes, and the childhood stories are a favorite part of her books for me. So, even if such a collection had no great moral tale, I’d enjoy reading it.

At The Gospel Coalition, Garrett Kell shared an important article on finding forgiveness after an abortion.

When I was 20 years old, I loved my life. It was carefree and full of good times. School, sports, parties, and girlfriends filled my mind most days.

Until one day that changed my life forever.

A girlfriend and I discovered we were pregnant. We hadn’t planned to get pregnant, but we were. When she broke the news to me, I was a little nervous, but reassured her we’d figure out a way to make it. My empty assurance was followed by a question that would push me to a place I’d never been before. With fearful eyes, she looked at me and asked, “Are you going to be with me? Are you going to marry me?”

I was young. I had hopes and dreams and plans. I had my whole life in front of me; I wasn’t ready to be married or to raise a child. But I’m not sure I would’ve thought about it exactly like that in those days. I didn’t know how to think about serious realities. I only operated in the moment.

I told my girlfriend I wasn’t ready to get married. She knew that, but my words confirmed it. A friend gave her the $400 we needed to have “the procedure,” as they called it. I was there when she took the pill. I was there when we flushed our child down the toilet. I was there when we cried, even though we didn’t know why. And some days I’m still there.
God Intervened

Trevin Wax recently earned his PhD from Southeastern and shared some reflections this week on how no matter where he goes or whatever else he does now that his formal education is complete, he is going to write.

It was just moments before I would walk up the stairs and through the doors of Binkley Chapel, where I would then be “hooded” as a doctor of philosophy. Lined up outside with fellow graduates, all of us decked out in our regalia, I was handed a sign that said “I am going to” with a line underneath left blank.

The “I Am Going” sign is one of Southeastern Seminary’s trademarks. Southeastern faculty and staff love to ask people to answer that question with a marker and then hold the sign up for a picture. You can either write down where you are about to go or what you plan to do.

Jittery with emotions at the time, my mind drew a blank about that blank! Where am I going? What am I going to do? I’ve completed this PhD process and my formal education has come to an end. What next?

The only word that came to mind was “write.” No matter where I go or whatever else I do, I am going to write.

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!