In Case You Missed It

Dr. Ivan Spencer recently posted about Dante’s Divine Comedy at Jamie Dew’s blog. Dr. Spencer writes:

Through the halls of time, you will not find a more haunting, surreal, and exhilarating vision than Dante’s Divine Comedy. The poem’s eerie and dreamy account retells the epic journey of Dante Alighieri though hell, purgatory, and heaven. His after-worldview, written over 700 years ago, unceasingly intrigues and inspires readers and artists today. My favorite artistic renditions flow from the brush of Salvador Dali and William Blake. Each produced 100 paintings, one for each canto, a legacy of this enduring classic. The work merits reading and study from a variety of disciplines, including theology, philosophy, cultural history, literary criticism, and aesthetics.

 

Brad Hambrick shared a post on his blog discussing a new letter writing tradition for his boys.

With my boys at the ages of 11 and 9, I am realizing that the years of influence that I have with them in our home are coming to an end much sooner than I would like (sigh). This is not the introduction for a blog post of regret, but one of intentionality.

 

For several years I have made it a discipline to write my wife at least 3 letters per year. This is a time to regularly reflect over our marriage, my level of engagement, and how the hopes-dreams-fears of life have changed over the last few months.

 

Recently, wife said, “You should write the boys letters too.” She’s right. I guess I never realized they know how to read now. We have taken lots of trips together. If you look over the review of each trip, you will be able to tell I put thought into their spiritual and character development on each trip.

 

But I realized I was counting on their memories to carry the content of those conversations into the future. Let’s be honest, kids remember events (i.e., flying on an air plane, riding down a water fall, rock climbing, etc…) more than conversations. Letters help compensate for that memory difference.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared the top 25 (or so) books for a young theologian to own (and read). Dr. Ashford writes:

If ever in history there were a non-event, this is it: my top 25 (or so) books for a young theologian to own (and read). A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me his list of twenty-five books and it “got me to thinkin.” So here’s my list, but before I give the list, allow me to make several comments.

 

First, I’ve focused this list mainly on Christian doctrine and systematic theology, and certain other types of books that relate closely to those tasks. I’ve left out numerous wonderful books that fall in other categories (pastoral theology, biblical studies, etc.).

 

Second, this list includes quite a few books with which I disagree vigorously. A theologian’s library should contain more than a few books written by theologians outside of our “theological family,” so that he can come to the theological roundtable, listening and speaking in an informed and compelling manner.

 

Third, this list encourages the young theologian not to be a chronological snob (by limiting his reading to recent publications), but instead to read the old books, slowly, patiently, receptively.

 

Fourth, I’d like to hear your thoughts about what you would have included that I left out, and maybe what I included that you would have left out. I started out aiming to provide 25 recommendations, but ended up exceeding my own limit.

 

Ryan Higginbottom shared the following post on his blog earlier this week: “Read Like a Reader“.

Shortly after I became a Christian, wise friends put good books in my hands.

 

I was in college, and these volumes of theology and practical Christianity lived next to my textbooks. When reading for class, I paid attention to every detail, stuffing my brain to capacity. I read these new books the same way.

 

For me, reading was a way to learn and prepare. Books were an academic tool, nothing more.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Dr. David Jones reccommended 7 books on faith and economics. Dr. Jones writes:

Want to learn more about how faith intersects with everyday topics like money, wealth, poverty and economics? You can check out my new book Every Good Thing. In addition, you should add these seven books to your summer reading list.

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

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.