In Case You Missed It

Barnabas Piper shared a post at his personal blog earlier this week reminding us that life is not lived online. Barnabas writes:

I live my life online. So do you, probably. We share everything – every event and crisis and first day of school and pretty plate of food and new place we visit. We are compelled to comment on everything, or at least to like it so the poster knows we are engaged. We share intimate family moments and difficult personal ones. We are authentic in the least vulnerable way possible. The online way.

 

Because life is not lived online. In fact, online is not a place or a thing. It is real but is an alternate reality. No matter how “real” we seek to be online it is never really life. Because life is lived here and now with people in places thinking thoughts and saying words and doping actions. That is life.

 

Life is not actually a public affair. It is not for the consumption of others. Yet we seek to shove our lives into the public alternate reality of social media for all to see. We are confused. The term “friend” no longer means friend. We calculate the significance of our moments by likes never considering if we liked the moment. We take the vulnerable moments of grief, pain, struggle, anger, and confusion – moments to be tended with as much care as an infant in the NICU – and expose them to the elements of that other universe, the online one.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared a post discussing foggy words that can sidetrack the mission.

In order for us to engage people in outreach we need to do life with them and be intentional about loving on them.

You may have actually heard that statement come off some pastor’s lips in a sermon. But think about it, what does it actually mean? You filled in all kinds of meaning behind those phrases. Your meaning may have been absolutely biblical, or perhaps it was way off base. Often, our goal in crafting this language for our mission is noble. We want to find a way to articulate aspects of what it is we are all called to do. Unfortunately, because so many of these words are vague, they get used in all kinds of ways.

 

“In recent years the foggy word ‘work’ has become popular. This least common denominator includes all kinds of activities. Preaching, teaching, healing, theological training, broadcasting, building, and chicken raising-all are work. Ardent church planters like the Southern Baptists, addicted to the idiom, even when they begin a church in some town in Mexico are likely to say, “We have opened a work there.” Wherever used, the word hides what is being done.”

 

That is an excerpt from a book written in, wait for it… 1970.

 

In fact, the author goes on to say, “Similarly the words friendly interest, response, outreach, encounter, and the like are so vague and cover so many activities that they tell little about the increase of congregations.”

 

The author was Donald McGavran*, and he hit the nail on the head. In the church and missions, we love using foggy words to describe our “work.” We have been doing it for at least 47 years now, and I bet we have been doing it a lot longer. McGavran’s warning about our vocabulary is as salient today as it was back then. It is easy for us to cloud our own understanding of our mission when we apply vague terms uncritically and imprecisely.

 

At the North American Mission Board website, Dr. Danny Akin shared a post reminding us that last words are lasting words. Dr. Akin writes:

Last words are meant to be lasting words. They are meant to make an impact and leave an impression. As the Lord Jesus prepared to ascend back to heaven, He called His disciples to Himself and said these words: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20, HCSB). These well-known words of our King are often referred to as the Great Commission. Their greatness is found both in their content and in the one who spoke them. These words are nothing less than a strategic mandate for the Church of the Lord Jesus to passionately obey until He returns again to consummate all things. So, we are told to make disciples. You would think this would be an easy assignment, but my 35 plus years in ministry have convinced me that this is an area where the Church has stumbled about in confusion. Too often we have settled for cheap substitutes that have produces anemic followers of the crucified Galilean. How few there are in our churches who truly deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).

 

Dr. Nathan Finn posted an article at The Gospel Coalition explaining why we should consider living near our churches.

I love the universal church, which includes all believers everywhere. But over the years I’ve become firmly convinced that the local church is ground zero for worship, formation, witness, and service. Local churches are contextual expressions of the one body of Christ. The church is the people, not the building. To use old-fashioned Baptist language, the church building is the meetinghouse. Wherever the people are, there the church is. On the Lord’s Day, and perhaps other times, we’re the church gathered. When we leave the meetinghouse and head out into the world as individual disciples, we’re the church scattered.

 

For most of us, it’s easier to be a meaningful part of the church gathered—and to partner with the rest of the church scattered—when we live in the same community where our church’s building is located. I believe it’s ideal to live near your church’s gathering place for the kingdom’s sake.

 

At The Intersect Project, Doug Ponder published an article titled: “Fear Not, Little Flock“. Doug writes:

Fear and worry and anxiety run deep in us all. We’re afraid of being alone, of being unloved, of being abandoned. We’re afraid of looking dumb. Some are afraid of losing; others are afraid of success. We’re afraid of taking chances, but we’re also afraid of missing that “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Most are afraid of economic hardship — and the fear never seems to go away no matter how high the dollars stack. We’re afraid of hurting others, and we’re afraid of being hurt. Singles are afraid they will never marry; married couples are afraid their spouse won’t stay forever. We’re afraid of growing older; we’re afraid of dying young.

 

No one really likes fear, but it’s the air we all keep breathing. It is as if the world is fueled by fear. Indeed, not a few industries profit from our fears. Insurance salesmen come to mind, but so do politicians, who practically depend on fear to run their campaigns. The candidate who taps into our deepest fears almost always wins the election.

 

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared ten Bible verses to start off our 2017.

For some, a new year means a new start. It’s a natural point in our lives when we consider what we desire to see happen over the next twelve months. Maybe you desire to be a better leader. And this is the year. Maybe you desire to get your finances headed in the right direction. And this is the year. Or maybe you desire to spend more time with God. And this is the year.

 

I am sure that you have high hopes for 2017. You are setting goals and making plans. And this is good. But there is no better place to start this fresh year than in Scripture.

 

So, here are 10 verses to start your 2017

In Case You Missed It

Recently at his personal blog, Dr. Jamie Dew shared 10 reasons why a family mealtime is vital. Dr. Dew writes:

I grew up in a home that was broken. My parents split up when I was 7 and it had a devastating blow on me as a young boy. In particular, one result was that it significantly decreased the amount of time that I had together with my family. We had our moments when we would all be together, but I remember far more occasions when we were off in our own directions. Looking back, I realize that it could have been far worse than it was. But still, it wasn’t ideal. There simply wasn’t enough time that we sat together as a family to enjoy and benefit from the offerings of a healthy family.

 

Now that I’m married with four kids of our own, we strive to make the time where we as a family can sit and just be together. The place this happens most is around our kitchen table. Like most families, we have our evenings along the way where we must eat out or apart from each other. But we do try to avoid that as much as possible.

 

Statistically, it is easy to find support for a family mealtime. But those of us who grew up without it honestly don’t need statistics. In my opinion, there are several obvious reasons why a family mealtime should be a high priority for our families.

 

Aaron Earls recently posted an article at his blog, The Wardrobe Door, discussing the value of potential lives.

Potential is notoriously difficult to quantify. By it’s very definition it is not yet realized. Despite it not being readily availably, it has value and factors in to decisions like the player a sports team drafts or the neighborhood in which you live.

 

Investments are built on potential. We ask, “Can this become something much more than it is right now?”

 

Recently, two examples of potential dominated the news cycle, but many handled them in diametrically opposite manners.

 

Earlier this week, Barnabas Piper wrote this post discussing 7 lies parents often tell their children. Barnabas writes:

We all lie to our kids. Sometimes it’s on purpose and for what we deem a good purpose. Sometimes it’s because we so want them to believe something, to feel better, to overcome a challenge, or to work through pain that we will say anything to try to help. Sometimes it’s because we’re idiots and just don’t realize what we’re doing. Here are seven of the most common lies parents tell kids.

 

Greg Mathias posted an article for the Center for Great Commission Studies discussing feeble prayers in our chaotic world.

Living in a new normal doesn’t feel so normal. The word tragedy is too much a part of my vocabulary these days. I have searched for other words, but tragedy describes best the world events constantly swirling around us. Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, Boston…the list could go on. We live in a chaotic and fallen world. In a world where the new normal is one tragedy followed by another tragedy followed by yet another. It can be overwhelming. Strike that, it IS overwhelming.

 

For Christians, this normal is not surprising, but that does not minimize the fact that we are constantly faced with new tragedies. Each and every tragedy evokes a response. No matter the tragedy, the most immediate response ought to be prayer. Often, though, prayer feels small compared to the massive tragedy in front of us. Even so, we should pray. We need to pray.

 

The question is, how are we supposed to pray in the midst of chaos when our prayers seem so feeble? Here are my thoughts on how to pray in the midst of our new and tragic normal.

 

J.D. Greear posted recently about 3 truths Christians must fight to remember. J.D. writes:

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are told to remember. This may seem odd if you look closely at when God says it. For instance, all throughout the book of Deuteronomy—Moses’ farewell sermon to Israel—God tells his people to remember what just happened. If you had been in slavery for 400 years, were miraculously rescued by walking through the dry floor of an ocean, and had seen bread fall out of heaven and water flowing out of rocks, do you think you’d forget it?

 

Apparently, yes. Israel’s times of spiritual wandering were always marked byspiritual amnesia. Not that they literally couldn’t recall what God had done, but that his mighty works weren’t prominent in their minds. The same is true of us.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article at this blog titled: “Make America Happy Again (Or, How the Beatitudes Slay the 7 Deadly Sins)“.

Recent surveys have confirmed what we already know: Americans are not happy. Anger, anxiety, and depression are on the rise in our country. An NBC News survey revealed that half of Americans are more angry than they were last year, and a significant percentage of Americans become angry at least once a day because of something they saw on the news. And the anger is bipartisan: both Republicans and Democrats both feel this way.

 

Other surveys reveal that Americans are also depressed, as indicated by a rise in suicides and in prescriptions for depression medications, and anxious because of stagnant wages, deteriorating 401(k) retirement plans, lost wars, racial unrest, terror acts, an increasingly polarized society, and the toxic nature of our public discourse.

 

In the midst of our anger, depression, and anxiety, Jesus offers the Beatitudes. “Beatitude” is the blessedness, the deep happiness, of being in right relationship with him and allowing him to work in and through us, even in the midst of the worst of circumstances.

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.