In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Doug Ponder shared a post titled: “Giving Up Lent for Lent“. Doug writes:

I’d never heard of Lent until I was in college, and even then it was spoken of as “something Catholics do.” Over the past few years, however, I can’t spend more than a few minutes on social media in the month of February without seeing someone’s post about what they are “giving up for Lent” this year. It’s a trend that many evangelicals have now written about, including a recent Lifeway study. (See also here and here.)

 

I confess that the rising tides of Lenten observance once swept my wife and me along with the current. For a few years we joined the throngs of people who willingly ‘gave up’ something in preparation for Easter. We also prayed every day, and we read from a delightful Lenten devotional by one of my favorite scholars. It was a mostly positive experience.

 

But this year (like last year), I’m giving up Lent for Lent. Here are some reasons why.

 

Dr. Scott Hildreth posted at the Center for Great Commission Studies discussing what ants can teach us about evangelism.

Proverbs 6:6–11 challenges the reader to observe an ant to gain inspiration for daily life. Many have used these verses for business and personal management. This post considers the ant in relationship to the spiritual discipline of personal evangelism. Last week, I gave some simple solutions to common problems with personal evangelism. You can see that post by clicking here.

 

Today – let’s consider the ant!

 

At his personal blog, Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article discussing why we need radical Christian scholarship.

Please allow me to serve advance notice: if Christians in the United States are going to keep their moorings in the 21st century, they will need to return continually to their roots in Christian Scripture and the Great Tradition. This is true in every sphere of culture, including the arts and sciences, business and entrepreneurship, politics and economics, and scholarship and higher education.

 

Yet, it is this last sphere—scholarship and higher education—that is heavy on my mind. In general, this is because I have seen the way “secular” and pagan scholarship has corrupted higher education. In particular, however, it is on my mind because I am part of a group of scholars—the Transdisciplinary Group—who met this past week and who wish to encourage “radical Christian scholarship” among Christian scholars and institutions of higher education.

 

The plenary speakers included Peter Leithart, Kevin Vanhoozer, Craig Bartholomew, Eric Johnson, C. Stephen Evans, Mary Poplin, and Esther Meek, and the MC of the conference was yours truly. Although the speakers represented a diversity of denominations and schools of thought, we are unified around our belief that God’s revelation should shape our scholarship radically (at its roots) in at least four ways.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next Door discussing the primary reasons cities exist. Keelan writes:

“The strength that comes from human collaboration is the central truth behind civilization’s success and the primary reason why cities exist.”

The quote above is from a book by Edward Glaeser called The Triumph of the City. It is a simple idea. In fact, it is so simple our gut reaction is to disagree. Surely there has to be more to cities than this! But, I think he is correct.

The primary reason for cities must certainly be human collaboration. Some will argue it is for protection, looking back to the old fort cities of antiquity. Others argue that it is the purpose of government. After all the empire needs a headquarters. Still others point out the economic advantage of cities. After all, cities are where the world makes its money. But if you peel back the surface, all of these are a form of human collaboration. Whether it is coming together for mutual protection, governing a society, or creating an economy, human collaboration is the reason cities make all this possible.

 

In a guest post at Dr. Chuck Lawless’ blog, Trevor Forbis discussed 10 ways his mentor has changed his life.

One of the most influential people in my life today is my mentor. As a young man whose parents divorced at an early age, I have never had a man commit himself to walk alongside me as I sought to pursue Jesus. Now, in over a year of walking through life together, I have found 10 specific things my mentor has done that have changed my life.

 

Laura Thigpen shared an article at The Intersect Project discussing knowing Christ through our suffering and grief. Laura writes:

There once was a man who grieved so deeply he sweat drops of blood. A man who, despite his power to raise the dead to life, wept at the tomb of a friend. He was a man acquainted with sorrow and stricken with grief. A man whose greatest passion was suffering.

 

Grief is the unwanted guest every person will reluctantly host in this lifetime. Yet, many Christians assume Grief will stop by only briefly before leaving merrily on its way. And we’re surprised when it overstays its welcome.

 

Though we are a people characterized by joy and peace, who hope in a risen King and his eternal glory, we are also a people who identify with the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant. This seems most unnerving to some believers, which gives evidence to a poor theology of grief.

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