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.

In Case You Missed It

Recently at For the Church, Steve Bezner shared his struggle with jealousy: “On Being Matt Chandler’s Roommate.” Steve writes:

This is a story about two young men who were friends, roommates, and pastors.

In other words, this is a story about jealousy.

In the mid-90s, I was a student at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. I was a successful student with a successful grade point average. I was leading a large college ministry. I was, simply put, on the fast track to success in the field of my choice—pastoral ministry.

My sophomore year a student transferred in who captured the attention and imagination of much of the student body.

His name was Matt Chandler.

At The Gospel Coalition, Matt Smethurst recently shared 7 ways Christian history benefits you.

Christianity is a history-anchored faith. We don’t teach a set of abstract principles or philosophical ideas; we teach the truth of a historical event. As Francis Schaeffer liked to say, if you were there 2,000 years ago you could have run your hand down the cross and gotten a splinter. How silly would it be for us to conclude, “Well, I believe Jesus lived and died and rose in historical time, and that without those historical events I’d be lost forever, but I don’t really care about history.”

Further, if you’re a Christian, then church history is your family history. Think about that. Studying church history is like opening a photo album and exploring your family heritage.

But Christian history isn’t just meaningful; it’s intensely practical, too. Here are seven ways that studying it benefits us.

Joe McKeever shared a story on his personal blog about how some often perceive pastors to be different in that they get special treatment from God. They think “You’re a pastor; you’re not like us.” Dr. McKeever writes:

Why is it, we wonder, that some people think if a preacher or a nun or priest is on board, God is somehow going to take extra care of an endangered flight?  As though He loved them more than the others.  “God is no respect of persons,” Scripture says somewhere.

No one gets by with anything with the Heavenly Father just because they are His favorite children.

Matt Capps recently shared an article discussing the beauty of congregational worship.

I have the privilege of pastoring a singing church. Week after week, when we gather for worship the sounds of God’s precious saints wash over me as I stand on the front row and prepare to preach. There have been several occasions when I have stopped singing in order to listen. On almost all of those occasions, the sound of our church family singing brought me to tears. Not because they are great polished individual singers, but because we sing corporately to a great God.

Dr. Albert Mohler recently published an article discussing why Thanksgiving is inescapably Theological. Dr. Mohler writes:

Thanksgiving is a deeply theological act, rightly understood. As a matter of fact, thankfulness is a theology in microcosm — a key to understanding what we really believe about God, ourselves, and the world we experience.

A haunting question is this:  How do atheists observe Thanksgiving? I can easily understand what an atheist or agnostic would think of fellow human beings and feel led to express thankfulness and gratitude to all those who, both directly and indirectly, have contributed to their lives. But what about the blessings that cannot be ascribed to human agency? Those are both more numerous and more significant, ranging from the universe we experience to the gift of life itself.

Can one really be thankful without being thankful to someone?

Finally, earlier this week Dr. Russell Moore gave a video tour of his personal study. Be sure to check out the video!

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Andreas Köstenberger recently published an article at his personal blog discussing Community and Mission. Dr. Köstenberger writes:

As we read at the beginning of the book of Acts, the early church was devoted to fellowship, koinonia (sharing things in common; koinon = common): “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42). The emphasis on fellowship is interesting, because Acts is a book about mission. So we see that in the early church, community was the foundation for the church’s mission.

Keelan Cook recently posted a blog discussing 3 things churches think they cannot do with Internationals (but really can). Keelan writes:

Not only do I work at a seminary, I am also a local church pastor. As our church gets serious about discovering and engaging internationals in our area, I am starting to see a pattern. There are several things well-intentioned church members feel they are not supposed to do when engaging internationals that are, in fact, really good things.

Of course, everyone exists inside a culture, and church members here in America are no exception to that rule. That means certain aspects of our culture and worldview give us “rules” to live by when interacting with other people. For instance, here in the States when we meet someone we typically shake hands. It happens so naturally that we do not even realize it is a culturally conditioned response. However, when we start engaging cross-culturally, some of these cultural responses cross wires and short out communication. In other words, there are “rules” in our culture that make no sense in other cultures.

The following are three such examples where our “rules” in American culture tell us not to do something that would actually benefit our relationship with people from many other cultures. These are things we think would be wrong to do, but are actually good.

Michael J Kruger shared his top ten favorite books on the authority of Scripture in a recent blog post:

One of the most enjoyable aspects of speaking to different groups on the reliability of the Bible is the Q&A time. It is an exciting (and risky) affair because you never know what you are going to get.

Then again, sometimes you do know what you are going to get. Over the years, one question has been asked more than all others combined: “What are the best books to read on the authority of the Bible?”

Due to the popularity of that question, I have compiled an annotated list of the 10 best books on this topic. It goes without saying that such a list is highly selective (and debatable). So many good books deserve to be included.

Dr. Joe McKeever recently posted an article discussing the things we do for a great story:

“And without parables (great stories!) Jesus did not teach” (Mark 4:34).

I once sat through a long session of a convention of realtors just to hear a motivational speaker.  The story with which he opened quickly became a mainstay in my arsenal of great illustrations and sermon-helpers.

Time well spent.

I’ve read entire books and come away with one paragraph that became a staple in my preaching thereafter.  It was time well used and money well spent.

SEBTS Student (and Library Assistant) Nathaniel Martin recently shared this short biographical sketch of A.T. Robertson.

A.T. Robertson was a faithful teacher, preacher, and denominational leader. Although he came be remembered for many things and in many ways there is little doubt he will be most remembered as the greatest scholar in the history of Southern Seminary.

Finally, be sure to check out this great short story shared by George (Chef) Trudeau, a student at the College at Southeastern: “Meditated Grace