In Case You Missed It

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax posted an article discussing the blessing of weather that confounds the control-freak. Trevin writes:

One of the greatest temptations in a technological age is to imagine that human beings create truth rather than receive it. Through scientific inventions and social media re-inventions, we suffer under the illusion that reality is something we can determine rather than something we must discover.

 

As C. S. Lewis put it: in ancient times, “the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.” In a technological age, however, “the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique.” 

 

“Subduing reality to our wishes” is the promise of technology, right? And even if we do not put our faith in this technological solution to human problems, we live in ways that further the illusion that we are ultimately in control—from our social media personas, to the heating and cooling of our houses, to the tailoring of our phones to our own needs.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Scott Hildreth shared five reasons (with solutions) which might cause evangelism to not get the emphasis it should.

There is little doubt that God’s mission and mandate for his church centers on evangelism. This means that, no matter what churches are doing, the primary objective must be clearly and plainly communicating the gospel. Our message is good news – God loved our sinful humanity so much that he gave his only Son. Anyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

Carl F. H. Henry once wrote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” Most Christians know this is true; however, we are consumed with other activities and forget the importance of evangelism. Below give 5 reasons for this misplaced focus and then give some recommendations.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a helpful reminder that we as Christians should stop making ourselves the hero of Bible stories.

For most movies, the protagonist or main character is also the hero, the person you are meant to identify with and want to emulate. Why is that?

 

Well, you naturally feel sympathy toward the person at the center of the story. It’s very difficult to constantly see the world through one person’s eyes and not view their perspective as right or at least defensible.

 

This creates a perpetual temptation for the Christian. Inescapably, we see life through our own eyes. We are the protagonists of our story and we naturally want to make ourselves the hero as well.

 

When you read a Bible passage, with whom do you initially identify?

 

Joe McKeever shared a post at his personal blog discussing twenty things which pastors should not love too much. Dr. McKeever writes:

“Do not be excessively righteous or overly wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

Most of us would not include those excesses in a list of which to be wary.  But for most, I imagine the list might look more like this…

 

Chris Martin posted an article discussing how Americans feel better about most religions, but not Evangelicalism.

This week, the Pew Research Center released some data about how Americans feel about various religions, and how these feelings have changed from 2014 to 2017.

 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the data—and the focal point—is the comparison between how Americans felt about religious groups in 2014 versus 2017…every single religious group increased its reputation among Americans except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Yes. Americans warmed up to every religion over the course of the last three years except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Chuck Lawless posted at his blog sharing eight things which North American believers can learn from believers around the world.

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them.

 

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

At Christianity Today, Greg Thronbury published an article discussing what we can learn from the complicated legacy of David Bowie.

You have to hand it to David Bowie. He certainly knew how to be the party—and how to break up the party. On Sunday night, just as Hollywood celebrities were arriving at their post-Golden Globe awards events, the laughter reportedly died down and a hush fell across the revelers: Bowie was dead at 69 from cancer. David Bowie turned toasts into conversations about memento mori. His death stunned everybody. Just a month earlier, he had appeared at the opening of his off-Broadway show Lazarus, and, as always, he looked great. Three days earlier, he released his most ambitious record in recent memory—a progressive jazz tour de force. We had seen him in brand new music videos which bewildered us.

At the Intersect Project website, Amber Bowen published an article discussing Christians and the transgender narrative. Amber writes:

In his final public appearance before debuting Caitlyn into society, Bruce Jenner shared his experience as a transgender with the world in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer.

“Who is Bruce Jenner?” Sawyers asked. Jenner took a deep breath and said:

“I’ve tried to explain it this way: God is looking down making little Bruce…And then at the end, when he is just finishing, he says, “Wait a second; we’ve got to give him something. Everyone has stuff in their life they have to deal with. What are we going to give him?…Let’s give him the soul of a female, and lets see how he deals with that.” So here I am: stuck.[1]

“Stuck” is the word Jenner repeatedly used throughout the interview to describe his personal identity in relation to his physical body.

Upon hearing these statements, psychologists would immediately identify an obvious case of gender dysphoria. Philosophers, however, would recognize the basic tenants of Substance Dualism.

Aaron Earls posted at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, discussing Star Wars spoilers, cults and Christianity. Aaron writes:

Recently, I achieved the unthinkable. I avoid any and all spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens before seeing it Christmas Day. My wife, who saw it a couple weeks later, was not so lucky. A Facebook friend posted about hoping a pivotal moment would change the second time she saw it. There was no ill-intent, just random thoughtlessness.

We’ve all had someone accidentally spoil a movie or book (or we’ve been the unintentionally spoiler). But what about those who give away the plot twists and turns on purpose? What drives someone to plaster a spoiler of The Force Awakens on the back window of their car and drive around town?

Perhaps surprisingly, part of it may be the same mentality that drives someone to join a cult. That doesn’t mean your uncle who enjoys binge-watching Netflix and posting spoilers on Facebook is starting a doomsday group (though it seems those guys are almost always “odd uncles”). But it does mean that obtaining “secret knowledge” is enticing to us and we often want to let others know we have something they don’t.

The appearance of exclusivity is attractive. There’s a reason advertisers use phrases like “limited time” or “be the first to own.” If something is only around for a short amount of time, I don’t want to miss it. Spoilers and cults serve the same purpose just on opposite extremes of importance.

Having a spoiler to a movie grants you power through that exclusive knowledge. You can either share that with others, whether they are asking for it or not. Or you can keep it to yourself and revel in knowing more than everyone else. You feel like you have all the control, similar to a cult.

Joe McKeever wrote about an important topic at his blog this week. You’re a pastor and you’ve found the work tough? No sympathy here, friend.

It’s supposed to be tough.

Why do you think God has to call people into this work? If it were easy, they’d be lining up to volunteer.

The Christian life is tough to start with. “In this world you will have tribulations,” our Lord said. Then, He added, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Then, the Lord calls certain ones of the redeemed to stand apart from the flock and to become “point men.”  His undershepherds.  Overseers of the flock.  Examples to the rest.  And frequently, His spokesmen.

Targets. In the crosshairs of the enemy.

He does not sugarcoat the call.  When Jesus called Saul of Tarsus, He said to one, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).  Jesus told His disciples, “I send you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves…. Men will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake…. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10).

You see how they treated Jesus; you should expect nothing different.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

At Chuck Lawless’ blog, Brandon Conner discusses 8 questions discouraged leaders need to ask. Brandon writes:

As leaders, we all face times when things are not going as well as we would like.  In those seasons, it’s important to remember that before we can ever re-energize the church we lead, we have to first be energized ourselves.  Below are eight questions leaders should ask themselves during difficult seasons.