In Case You Missed It

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a post discussing how the genuine kindness of Fred rogers has made him a new unlikely hero in our current culture.

In 2005, sandwiched between the Iraq War and the Great Recession, the internet provided Americans a needed respite in the form of Chuck Norris facts. But our hyper-partisan culture has found a new unlikely hero—Mr. Rogers.

 

Earlier this week, Jason Duesing shared an article at Preaching Source highlighting the preacher’s role as missionary.

In recent years our family survived our “Angry Birds” season of life. For a period of time our kids could not get enough of this game, to the extent that we even had an Angry Birds birthday party along the way. If you have played this game, you know that the key to advancing is trajectory. How you aim the angry bird makes all the difference for achieving maximum effect. While hopefully not angry, the key for the preacher as missionary also is trajectory. In what direction the preacher points, the church follows.

 

That said, it isn’t enough for a preacher to herald the importance of missions. He must underscore its importance biblically and encourage his people to be world Christians just like him. So, more than merely pointing to the ends of the earth, the preacher should also go there and take others with him.

 

In short, the preacher as missionary is an exemplar of one who champions the end goal of the gospel and those called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet, this is not another hat he must wear but is the natural outgrowth of his dedication to the gospel and his desire to see the nations reached.

 

Inevitably, when the preacher is leading in the trajectory of missions, well-meaning church members will ask why it is that we need to emphasize and fund long-range global mission efforts when there are so many lost people right here at home. This is a question of stewardship and deserves a good answer, and the preacher as missionary should readily give it.

 

At The Intersect Project, Laura Thigpen shared four ways to walk with those who weep.

Silence accompanies Grief, as does Loneliness. These unwanted tenants take up residence in all our lives for a time. And each us will long for companions to come and sit with us while these unwanted guests are present. All of us may not be in seasons of deep grief, but we all know someone who is. The Christian life demands that we respond to others who grieve, but not in the way it has become so common.

 

For various reasons, I have experienced grief in my life that never truly leaves. I have come to realize that the pangs of grief may subside, but the cause of my grief will never go away. I will always be grieving, to some extent. And I’m not alone. For this reason, brothers and sisters in Christ must hold up one another’s arms, walk alongside and shoulder one another’s burdens as we grieve — for we all will grieve, and we all will desire someone to help us grieve.

 

I’m grateful to have such brothers and sisters in my life. Sometimes we sat in silence; other times we talked. Sometimes we wept together; other times we laughed. But what I have treasured most about the ways others have entered into grief with me is their resolve to grieve with me, to feel what I feel in a small way, to be burdenedby the destructive effects sin has in our world with me, to carry out the call to “weep with those who weep.” It is a blessing to have brothers and sisters so willing to follow this command, but it can be terribly burdensome when brothers and sisters do not.

 

Are you willing to “weep with those who weep” — to be there when someone is experiencing grief? Here are four practical steps to carry out this important call.

 

This week at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin wax looked at why C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity received bad reviews.

Mere Christianity is a strange book to become a modern Christian classic, partly because it wasn’t intended to be a book in the first place.

 

The work began as a series of radio addresses Lewis delivered during WWII. Next, these “broadcast talks” were printed as small pamphlets. A decade later, they were compiled into the book we know it as today. (What’s more, it wasn’t Mere Christianity that put Lewis on the map; The Screwtape Letters propelled Lewis forward in both the UK and the United States, eventually landing him on the cover of Time magazine.)

 

Still, few books in the 20th century have cast such a long shadow as Mere Christianity. I have multiple books on my shelf that give a nod to Lewis when making a case for Christianity in the 21st century: from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian to Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Today, Lewis’s book has its own biography–written by George Marsden–as one volume in a series on influential Christian books!

 

But despite the book’s influence today (more than 70 years after the talks were delivered and 65 years since it first showed up in print), early reviewers felt little fondness for Lewis’s work or his vision of Christianity. Some of the initial feedback was negative.

 

In a post at the Baptist Press, Paul Akin shared the number one reason missionaries leave the field.

The most common reason missionaries go home is not due to lack of money, illness, terrorism, homesickness, or even a lack of fruit or response to the Gospel.

 

Regretfully, the number one reason is due to conflict with other missionaries.

 

Yes, you read that correctly.

 

From my own personal experience on the field and after five years training, equipping, and sending missionaries, I have witnessed this truth firsthand. In all my travels around the world, I’ve spent countless days with missionary teams of all types, sizes, and makeups and one reality remains true: none of them are perfect.

 

Dr. Joe McKeever’s blog is always a treasure chest of information gathered over his many years of faithful service in ministry. This week, he shared two posts which were related in that they discussed his long-practiced habit of journaling.

In the first post, Dr. McKeever shared something he always tells students about writing.

Writing a journal is like taking a 30-minute slice of your today and sending it ahead into the future.  I’m big on journaling.  Journals, we are told, are not so much for our children–who presumably are living the same life we are and have little curiosity about how we view today–as for our grandchildren and theirs.  In time, my journal will be looked upon as something of a record of “the life of an ordinary Baptist preacher in the 1990s.”  I’ll not be around to know it, but in doing those journals–I’m through with journal-keeping except on this blog, something that I wouldn’t exactly call journaling–it has often been with a view toward the future.  There’s a strong witness for Christ throughout all 56 volumes.

In this next post, he shares more about journaling, and why (no matter what we are writing) we should record the good experiences along with the painful ones.

Recently, when a friend began telling of the rupture in his congregation that resulted in his sudden departure, astonishingly some six or eight years after the event, I could see the pain was still fresh, the wound yet open.  I told him, “Start writing.  You need to get this out and on paper.”

 

He protested, “I can’t.  Those people are still around and I don’t want to stir it up again.”

 

I said, “You don’t have to publish it.  Just write it for yourself.

In Case You Missed It

At The Gospel Coalition, Nathaniel Williams interviewed champion barista Kyle Ramage in a post titled: “Make People Wonder Why You’re Weird.”

When Kyle Ramage first stepped foot onto the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, he thought he was preparing for vocational ministry. Little did he know God was preparing him for a different path.

 

He would soon enter the mission field of the coffee industry.

 

Ramage, who hails from Mississippi, graduated from Southeastern Seminary in 2014 with an MA in Christian ministry. Yet his career has taken an unexpected turn. He worked at a local coffee shop, excelled at his craft, and now works for Mahlkonig USA, a coffee grinder manufacturer in Durham, North Carolina.

 

Given his skill and his passion for coffee, Ramage competed in the 2017 United States Barista Championship. To his great surprise, he won. Next he will compete for the World Championship in Seoul, South Korea. (Read a full account of Ramage’s victory.)

 

Recently we had the chance to chat with Ramage about coffee, faith, work, and his time in seminary. Here’s our conversation (edited for clarity).

At Christianity Today, Trillia Newbell posted and article discussing six ways men can support women’s discipleship.

When I first became a Christian at the age of 22, there were two things that I couldn’t wait to do: learn about the Lord and share about him with others. As I dreamed about my future, I determined that I wanted to become a biblical counselor. I told a pastor about this desire, knowing that it would require more education through a counseling program, most likely at a seminary. His response to me was, “Well, you are probably going to be a mom.”

 

He was right. I did become a mom, one of my greatest joys and gifts in my life. Still, his statement deterred me from pursuing a counseling degree. Although I don’t hold any grudge against that pastor—he was doing the best to counsel me at the time—nonetheless his initial response was ill-advised and unhelpful.

 

My experience reflects a larger, more widespread challenge inside the church: Male clergy and lay leaders have the power to impact and support women’s discipleship, but many of them (by their own account) fall short.

Bruce Ashford published an article at his personal website addressed to anyone who questions the compatibility of Christianity and science. Dr. Ashford writes:

There is no shortage of reasons a person might think Christianity and science are intrinsically opposed to one another. The Galileo ordeal. The Scopes trials. The global warming debate. Richard Dawkins. “Et,” as they say, “cetera.”

 

But none of those reasons are sufficient to demonstrate that Christianity and science are opposed. In fact, the opposite is true. Christianity gave birth to modern science; its theological enterprise overlaps with the sciences and should be viewed as a mutually beneficial conversation partner; the tensions it experiences with science are ad hoc rather than inherent, and can be resolved over time.

At his personal blog, Footnotes, Dr. Jason Duesing posted an article titled: “The Wittenburg Door of American Evangelical Missions.”

In the summer of 1806, several dedicated young men attending the Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, began to gather regularly to pray and read reports of the burgeoning work of Andrew Fuller, William Carey, and the new Baptist Missionary Society in England.

 

On one occasion, while meeting in a field adjacent to the college campus, the students, trapped by a thunderstorm, took shelter in a haystack. Haystacks in 1806 were not the manicured and tightly bound variety that are arranged neatly as viewed from the 21st century roadside.

 

Rather, these were the versions piled as high as a human could assemble with only a pitchfork and a sundown deadline. Thus, like a quickly assembled snow fort, the young men of Williams dove into and carved out a hay-lined shelter to continue their meeting. What they found, though, was far more rewarding than had they discovered a missing needle.

At First Things, Matthew Mullins posted an article discussing the passing of the voting rights act. Dr. Mullins writes:

In 1965, the U.S. Congress made a seismic decision. Faced with the disenfranchisement of black voters on the one hand, and a Constitutional mandate to maintain equal sovereignty among the states on the other, Congress decided that jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination at the polls should be compelled to seek “preclearance” from federal authorities any time they wished to change their voting procedures. The preclearance process required covered jurisdictions to prove that the proposed changes were not intended to discriminate against voters based on race. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law on August 6, 1965 and has been reauthorized four times. Each time, the Executive has approved it and the Supreme Court has upheld it against challenges.

Chris Martin posted earlier this week at this personal blog sharing three limits of social media as a medium.

What is social media doing to our ability to communicate with kindness, clarity and depth?

 

Should social media be seen as a redeemable form of communication, or is it a medium that is not meant to hold the weight of discourse?

 

Can heavy matters of faith even be discussed on social media, or is the platform too temporary and cheap for the eternal riches of the gospel?

 

In 1985, Neil Postman published Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business to show how the advent of television caused much of American public discourse to be “dangerous nonsense.”

 

Oh, Mr. Postman, if you only knew.

In Case You Missed It

In a recent post at his personal blog, Bruce Ashford shared a theological syllabus for aspiring pastors and church planters. Dr. Ashford writes:

There is nothing more satisfying, more unsettling, more helpful, and more practical than systematic reflection on the word of God. Aspiring pastors and church planters should embrace the calling to be theologians. Although their ministry will involve more than theology, it will never involve less.

In light of the centrality of theology for ministry, therefore, I encourage aspiring pastors and church planters to develop a theology with the following five characteristics.

In a recent article at the N.C. Baptists website, Dr. Danny Akin shared why we go.

Last words are meant to be lasting words. They are meant to make an impact. They are meant to leave an impression. As Jesus was preparing to ascend back into heaven following His three-year sojourn on this earth as “heaven’s missionary,” there are any number of things He could have given as his final instructions. He could have told us to love one another, giving attention to our moral life. He could have urged us to obey the commands of God, giving attention to our ethical life. He could have warned us about false teaching, giving attention to our doctrinal life. All of these are important and worthy of our careful attention and devotion. And yet Jesus chose to focus on our missional life with His parting words: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). So, we go because our king has told us to go. We go and make disciples, devoted followers of Jesus, because our king told us to make disciples. And, we go and make disciples of all nations because all the nations, all the ethne, are to be the object of our evangelistic and missionary agenda.

At The Intersect Project, Dr. Spence Spencer discusses the question of should Christians have to pay taxes when governments fund injustice.

The only things that are certain are death and taxes.

 

At least, that’s how the old saying, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, goes.

 

As Christians, we are much less certain of death, since we expect that one generation will meet the returning Christ without first dying.

 

At times, some Christians argue that taxes should not be certain, either. Usually, the objection to paying taxes is framed as concern for an unjust practice that is funded by taxation. However, those objections do not stand up to the testimony of Scripture, particularly in the life of Christ. According to Christ, we are required to pay taxes, but we are also required to fight for justice.

 

In a recent post at the Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Alvin Reid discusses when freaking out is okay. Dr. Reid writes:

In October 2014, I visited San Francisco for the first time.  The first place I had to go was the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets. This street corner represents the epicenter of the hippie culture of the 1960s, and there was a hippie playing a guitar when I arrived, right on cue.

 

This is also where the earliest signs of what would be called the Jesus Movement began. A hippie named Ted Wise got saved, and then others joined him. Before long the movement went south, where a man named Chuck Smith and a church called Calvary Chapel exploded.

 

Thousands of youth came to Christ, while at the same time thousands of youth in established churches experienced a new zeal for Jesus. Churches filled with youth groups, and Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) organized an event called Explo ’72 where eighty thousand young people came to Dallas, Texas, to learn to share Christ. On the Saturday following the event, some 150,000–180,000 youth gathered for a massive festival featuring Billy Graham, among others.

 

I was saved in those days. I remember young people who did not have a church background, who didn’t have a lot of theological training—okay, they had none—but who had a passion to tell others about Jesus. We had a name for them:

 

Jesus Freaks.

 

At his personal website, Dr. Jason Duesing shared an article titled: “The Bell Grew Louder: Reading Narnia and Thinking of Andrew Fuller.”

One of the peculiar things about the human mind is how it can process multiple things at the same time. Some say multitasking is a myth, as one can really only accomplish one task at any given moment. However, I found that when reading books to my children, I can really multitask. As I scroll aloud through paragraphs, my mind will often solve all kinds of problems and make connections to things far from the content of the words entering through my eyes and out of my mouth. Am I the only one?

 

This happened on an occasion while reading aloud C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. The more I read the more I thought not of some distant Narnian land, but rather of eighteenth century England and the life and work of Andrew Fuller.

 

Todd Borger recently posted an article discussing how ordering our nights and days are an act of bearing God’s image. Dr. Borger writes:

My day, Lord, is yours. Creation gives us a daily sequence or alteration of evening and morning. The direction of that sequence is important and the opposite of what our language and culture dictate. We begin each day with the morning and end it at night. Genesis counts the days by evenings and morning, however, so we could say that the day begins with bedtime at night and ends in the light of day before the next sunset. Seen this way, we have a movement from darkness to light just as creation in Genesis moves from unadulterated darkness to a divided and ordered darkness and light. Revelation tells us that the darkness that permeated all things at the beginning will not be present in the eschaton.