In Case You Missed It

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook reminds us that we need to stop commiserating about sin. Keelan writes:

We have all been there. Someone in our small group asks to have coffee and we agree. Soon, we are sitting across a table before work one morning and see the expression on their face. We know the expression, we have had the expression. It is guilt and shame mixed with concern. As the conversation progresses, it turns to confession. Our friend is struggling with a particular sin and knows that confession is the right approach to dealing with it. They are seeking help, and they have come to us.

 

At his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls posted an article discussing how we as a society value entertainment and opinions more than we do information and truth.

Some back and forth between a football coach and a sports talk show host this week unintentionally illuminated one of our modern culture’s most dangerous condition. We value entertainment and opinions much more than we do information and truth…It’s more affirming when you read or hear something that simply dismisses everyone who disagrees with you as mentally or morally inferior. And it’s more infuriating to read someone who does that to you and your side. In both instances, our passions and emotions are inflamed (it is a hot take after all) and we are more likely to share or talk about it.

 

And when you share an article or video on social media, even if you talk about how horrible it is, you give the other person what they want—attention. So they serve up more takes and the cycle continues.

 

And that’s what hot takes do. They draw people in.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax writes that Christians must be myth busters.

MythBusters is one of The Discovery Channel’s most popular shows. It ran 15 seasons and still finds success in reruns.

 

Each episode focuses on a couple of popular beliefs or rumors, like “Can drinking Diet Coke and swallowing Mentos make your stomach explode?” or “Is running better than walking if you want to keep dry in the rain?” The hosts then test the beliefs through a number of experiments, to see if the idea holds up under scientific study.

 

MythBusters is a show that is comical and educational. It takes a common idea in society and shows how the myth gets “busted” from the scientific standpoint.

 

But you’ll never see a MythBusters episode about the purpose of life. You won’t find the hosts tackling the question, “What happens to us when we die?” Or “Is there a divine presence in the world?” These questions go beyond the stuff of scientific study. They are common and contested.

 

David Jones posted at the Intersect Project discussing the inauguration, Paula White, and the pitfalls of the prosperity gospel. Dr. Jones writes:

“To live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.”

Charles Spurgeon uttered these words over a century ago to the then-largest congregation in all Christendom. Over the years, however, the message preached in some of the largest churches in the world has dramatically changed. This new gospel has been ascribed many names, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “prosperity gospel” and “positive confession theology.”

No matter what name you use, though, the essence of this new gospel is the same: God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy and personally happy.

 

Also at the Intersect Project website, Laura Thigpen posted an article titled: “A Pro-Life Ethic: Caring for Aging Parents“.

Her frail hands, wrinkled with raised blue veins would meet my Granny’s hands as she held the cup to her thin lips. “Alright, now you have one more to take, Momma,” Granny would say, coaxing my great-grandmother to take the final sip to swallow the last of several pills.

 

As a child watching my Granny care for her nearly blind, hard-of-hearing elderly mother, I would try earnestly to imagine the woman before me as a young mother, up early preparing breakfast and organizing a household of seven children in the 1940’s. Sitting quietly, and contentedly, in her chair on the far side of the living room, I struggled then to see in her the once vibrant life she lived. But every now and then I would glimpse a small grin on her face, as if she weren’t so hard of hearing after all or perhaps she was remembering a pleasant memory.

 

Watching my Granny care for her mother in such a tender way, like caring for a young child, stirred an appreciation in my young heart for the beauty and delicacy of old age. Instead of seeing wrinkles I see stories of faith, adventure and hardships. Instead of gray hair I see the evidence of work, stress, grief and the wisdom of long-life. Instead of thin, easily bruised skin and oddly bent bones, I see a lifetime of very human vulnerability – such a soft shell to protect something so vital as the human heart.

In Case You Missed It

David Jones recently published an article at the Intersect Project website titled: “Jesus, Paul and Beyond: Work Is Everywhere in the Bible.” Dr. Jones writes:

Work: Few of us are fond of the concept. The terms “work” and “labor” don’t usually prompt us to smile. Conversely, everyone likes the weekend. TGIF, right? So why do we like the weekend? Because we don’t have to go to work! And when the alarm goes off on Monday morning, we wish it were still the weekend. But is this perspective biblical? Is it inherently satisfying? Might there be some redeeming quality to work? Let’s take a closer look.

 

Bible scholars tell us the concept of work is mentioned, explicitly or implicitly, more than 800 times in Scripture. I have not attempted to track down and catalog all of these references, but this statistic seems reasonable to me. Consider just a few of the examples and general teachings on work that stand out as you read through the Bible.

 

Bruce Ashford recently shared a post at his personal blog discussing why Christians should freely participate in Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Each year, any number of Christian writers and preachers extol the virtues of the Thanksgiving holiday, while lamenting the vices of its Black Friday successor. They equate Thanksgiving with gratitude and Black Friday with greed. They encourage Americans to participate in Thanksgiving and boycott Black Friday.

 

But that is not quite right. Christian should freely participate in both Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

 

Nathaniel Williams posted at the Intersect Project website asking: “After 2016, can we even be thankful anymore?” Nathaniel writes:

In a few weeks, 2016 will mercifully end.

 

This year’s been a doozy. Terror attacks. Zika. Police shootings. Racial tension. Syria. Floods. Fires. The deaths of David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard, Muhammed Ali, Harper Lee, Gene Wilder, Elie Wiesel, Leonard Cohen, Gwen Ifill and countless other talented men and women. Even Hollywood produced a disappointing crop of summer films.

 

And then there was the most outlandish Presidential election in our lifetimes — a contest between a man accused of bullying and a woman investigated by the FBI. The candidates’ embarrassing rhetoric was only eclipsed by that of their followers, who filled public spaces with anger, name-calling and vitriol.

 

This year has been so bad that Richard Clark of Christianity Today dubbed it “the year of living hopelessly.” Chris Rock famously Tweeted (in June, no less), “I wish this year would stop already it’s just [too] much.”

 

Nevertheless, we will all soon gather around Thanksgiving tables. We’ll be prompted to share what we’re grateful for. So we have to ask the question: After 2016, can we even be thankful anymore?

 

Dr. Joe McKeever recently shared some advice for those who are planning to go into the ministry.

You say the Lord has called you into His work. You’re still young and you’re excited, although with a proper amount of fear and uncertainty on what all this means.

 

You’re normal.  Been there, felt that.

 

We might have cause to worry if the living God touched your life and redirected it into His service and you picked yourself up and went on as though nothing had happened.  Amos said, “I was gathering sycamore fruit, and the Lord God called me.”  He said, “The lion roars and you will fear. God calls and you will prophesy.”

 

The call of God is almost as life-changing as the original salvation experience itself. So, give thanks.  And give this a lot of prayerful thought.

 

Here are some thoughts for you as you go forward.  The list is not complete or exhaustive, but just to get you started.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless recently shared 8 miscalculations of many church leaders. Dr. Lawless writes:

My church consulting team and I often work with unhealthy churches; in fact, most churches who contact us have reached a significant level of disease before seeking help. Here are some of the miscalculations we see among leaders of these churches.

In Case You Missed It

Alan Cross recently interviewed Dr. Bruce Ashford for his podcast When Heaven and Earth Collide. At SBC Voices, Alan writes about what they discussed.

In this interview, we start by talking about what God might be doing in regard to immigrants and the worldwide refugee crisis – a question that I asked everyone that I interviewed at the Southern Baptists Convention in St. Louis. However, Bruce immediately took us down some unexpected roads into a fascinating discussion involving the worship of God, mission, and the glorious light that God was committed to shine upon Himself through the nations of the world. There are things that I heard in this interview that I had not thought about before – or, at least I had not put it together the way that Bruce did. In seeking to develop a biblical perspective on immigrant and refugee ministry, this type of discussion is exactly what is needed.

 

We talked about Revelation 5, 21, and 22, Isaiah 60, and about what his local church, Summit, in Raleigh-Durham, is doing to engage and serve the nations that have come to them. Bruce serves there as an elder. We went on to talk about the witness of the church in our nation, the need for immigration reform and what it might look like, what justice drenched in mercy would be in this situation and why we need it. We also talked briefly about the incredibly unproductive nature of the current political discussions on immigration. You’ll be interested in what Dr. Ashford had to say about that.

 

At the Intersect Project’s website, Amber Bowen writes on how contemporary art can be the Christian’s unlikely tutor.

And there I was: in the “Citta’ Eterna.” Not to see the glories of ancient Rome or the works of the Renaissance masters. Instead, I was headed to the MaXXI — a famous contemporary art museum.

 

I lived in Italy for four years, immersed in its culture and masterpieces. I then moved back to the states and began to study contemporary philosophy. My studies sent me back desirous of exploring an Italy I hadn’t experienced before through contemporary art. And everyone pointed me to the MaXXI.

 

My best Italian friend is an expert in contemporary art criticism and preservation. We met in Rome for the day and she accompanied me through a breathtaking gallery of 21st century art and architecture, explaining background information, particularities, techniques and perspectives. Most of all, she showed me why she loves contemporary art as a Christian. Through our conversation that afternoon, I gained a greater appreciation for contemporary art. More importantly, I discovered that we Christians can learn important lessons from this art.

 

Keelan Cook shared a post at The Peoples Next Door discussing the dangers of hyper-connectivity for the missionary.

I have the unique fortune of training a good number of missionaries in my role at the seminary and through the church I pastor. It is a real blessing to be a part of equipping young families and singles to uproot their lives and move for the sake of the gospel. A regular component of this training is the use of media in the life of the missionary. Our generation (and all following) are now digital natives. The internet is an assumed part of life for all of us, and most of us are connected every hour of the day and night.

 

The internet has changed missions. Think back to the beginning of the modern missions movement. A move to the mission field virtually severed ties with anyone at home. Certainly, the missionaries maintained as much connection as possible, but that came in the form of letters that took months to deliver and then months more for response. The missionary calling was one of intense separation from church and family, and most often intense isolation from other believers or people from your culture. It was total immersion in a land where no one spoke like you, looked like you, acted like you, or believed like you. This is simply how missions worked all the way up to the middle of the 20th century. Eventually telegraphs and then telephones made more immediate communication possible, but this was extremely limited by location. With air travel, short term teams allowed a physical connection back to church and family in a way that was not possible before.

 

The Baptist Press published an article by Nathan Finn discussing the importance of those who are faithful in pastoral ministry whose work might be unrecognized outside of their communities. Dr. Finn writes:

Kentucky farmer-writer Wendell Berry once gave a lecture wherein he distinguished the “boomers” from the “stickers.” Boomers are the restless, ambitious types who believe the path to prosperity is leaving home and embracing a world of innovation and big cities. Stickers, on the other hand, aspire to maintain their roots in the small towns and country places that nurtured them.

 

Berry was thinking about the future of rural farming and rural America, but his ideas cause me to think about the future of the church and pastoral ministry.

 

As Southern Baptists, we have our own version of pastoral boomers and stickers. The boomers leave their small-town or rural churches, are educated in college and probably seminary, and then head off to serve churches located in the suburbs or the city center. Their prayerful desire is to make a significant Gospel impact in these places of dense populations and cultural influence….While I’m grateful for pastoral boomers, over the past few years I’ve found myself thinking more and more about the stickers. They also normally attend college, though seminary may or may not be in the offing. Many of them are solo pastors, perhaps even bivocational. Instead of heading to more “strategic” settings, pastoral stickers invest themselves in small-town churches and rural congregations — often close to where they were raised.

 

Were early Christians communist? Read as Dr. David Jones discusses in this article at the Intersect Project.

Were early Christians communists?

 

That’s what some Christians conclude when the read about the early Christian converts in the book of Acts who practiced a type of voluntary communal sharing. Acts 2:44–45 reads,

 

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

 

Additional details are recorded in Acts 4:32–35:

 

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

 

Some contemporary believers have suggested that this instance of communal sharing in the early church presents a model for all Christians to follow. Christians should be communists, they say.

 

Indeed, the communal sharing in Acts reflects the biblical ideal of provision for believers (see Psalm 37:25–26) and embodies the principle of lending to those in need (see Deuteronomy 15:7–8; Luke 6:34). Yet the example of communal sharing in the early church is not a viable model for contemporary Christians. Here are a few reasons.