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

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

In Case You Missed It

At The People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook shared a warning concerning religious categories. Keelan writes:

Americans love our categories. We love our boxes and labels. Even today, with the postmodern push away from classification, we Western thinkers still organize information by placing “like items” together in taxonomies. Categories can be helpful to understand certain generalizations about a set of items, ideas, or people. However, categories also obscure information. Every time we lump two like things together, we focus on the similarities and overlook the differences. This is particularly true when we view something as an outsider.

 

We need to recognize this tendency to generalize in missions and evangelism. Our world is full of cultures, beliefs, religions, and worldviews. The sheer number of options when it comes to a belief system are dizzying. In the past, however, your average church-going Christian in the US would only run across one of two different belief systems. A generation ago, there were Protestants, Catholics, and not-so-religious people. Those in the Protestant camp tended to be either committed, confessional Christians or nominal Christians (in name only) and part of a larger Christian cultural ethos. When it came to sharing the gospel, these were the predominant categories of thought.

 

Spence Spencer published an article at The Intersect Project discussing and the psychological consequences of a well-intended idea: universal basic income.

We don’t know what the future holds, but some in the tech industry are predicting a massive displacement of workers in the future.State jobs reports tend to confirm this expectation, as automation is thought to be increasing and threatening to displace low-skill workers.

 

Some see the downward shift in employment rates as an overall positive, arguing that taking people out of so-called menial jobs will free more people up to be creative and more effectively human. To support the displaced workers, there are a number of people calling for universal basic income.

 

Universal basic income proposals come in several forms and variations, but a simplified version is this: Everyone will be guaranteed at least a certain amount of income per year. Essentially, the government will write everyone a check for an amount deemed appropriate to support basic living expenses. Wages from compensated employment would either add to that basic income or displace it, depending on the proposal.

 

At his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a post about Chip and Joanna Gaines, Buzzfeed, and fixing up the social media cycle of shame.

Buzzfeed published a lazy story on Chip and Joanna Gaines, the happy home renovating couple from Fixer Upper, using sermons preached by their pastor in opposition to same sex marriage.

 

The obvious intention of the piece was to gin up controversy and unleash an internet mob to pressure the hosts of the popular show to voice an opinion on the culturally controversial issue. After obtaining that information, only then could socially liberal viewers feel comfortable (or not) watching the Gaineses remodel homes.

 

Thankfully, unlike many previous instances, most readers critiqued Buzzfeed’s story instead of their subjects. Many who support same sex marriage and even many who are gay themselves called the piece “bad journalism and bad advocacy.”

 

After the backlash, Buzzfeed’s editor insisted the piece was about whether HGTV discriminated against same sex couples on the show. (Despite the fact that, as they reported in the story, multiple shows on HGTV regularly feature same sex couples.)

 

In a snark filled follow-up, the writer of the original piece quoted from an HGTV spokesperson that the network does not discriminate against anyone. Seemingly, this will end the latest version of Heresy Hunters, the new favorite reality show of some cultural progressives.

 

But as a Christian, I am much more concerned about our reaction to such situations. How we handle them matters because they will be more and more frequent.

 

At the Around Southeastern blog, Harper McKay shared about the Biblical Women’s Institute titled “Helping Us Get There“.

My husband and I met while serving overseas as singles in Southeast Asia. When we returned home from our two-year terms and talked about getting married, we thought we would slow down, stay in America for a while, and have a “normal” life, whatever that means. We both knew that God had called us to serve overseas long term, but we did not want to move to go to seminary. We thought it would be better to take online classes and work full time near our families.

 

As we searched for jobs, nothing seemed to open up to either one of us. The wedding date drew nearer and nearer and we still lived with our parents with no idea what to do after we got married. Still we said we just didn’t want to go to seminary.

 

Finally after my husband (then my fiancé) was turned down from two jobs in the same week, I admitted to something that had been creeping up in my mind.

 

“I think we have not been open to everything God might want us to do,” I said as we took a walk in the park.

 

Trevin Wax recently shared his 10 favorite reads of 2016Trevin writes:

For more than ten years now, I’ve been blogging regularly. And every year, I like to pick the ten books I most enjoyed reading.

Feel free to peruse this list and some of previous years’ selections (20152014201320122011, 2010,2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, as well as my Hubworthy page of “Essential” recommendations). You’ll find some great titles to add to your Christmas wish list.