In Case You Missed It

At The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls posted an article discussing how recent arguments over crowd sizes are insignificant and pointless, but they reveal actual—not alternative—facts about our culture’s attitude toward truth in a post titled: “Reaping the Whirlwind of Alternative Facts.” Aaron writes:

Postmodernism declared there is no absolute truth or inherent meaning. Today, in a modern culture steeped in this way of thinking, truth is understood as relative. In literature and art, it doesn’t matter what the author or artist intended their work to say, it only matters how the individual received it. If I perceive something as offensive, that is all that matters. In religion, you cannot claim Jesus is the way, truth and life. Maybe he is just a way to reach God—one of many ways—because all religions are equally true.

 

In identity, gender is fluid and determined, not by biology, but by how a person feels. No one else has the right to tell them how they are to see themselves. In morality, unborn life is discardable and should not be regarded as a person—unless the mother wants it. Only then can we use language of “baby,” “child,” etc. The mother’s desires determine the reality of the baby.

 

For years, conservative Christians fought against the rejection of absolute truth, while many in culture scoffed. The mantra for years has been: “They may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”

 

Now, suddenly, culture has become concerned with truth and facts again.

 

In a recent article at The Intersect Project, Spence Spencer discussed how income inequality is not our biggest problem.

Is income inequality is one of the most significant threats to justice in our age? Some voices in the marketplace say so. They argue that the wealthy are becoming wealthier at the expense of the poor. If this were true, it would truly be one of the most significant justice issues of our day. However, this version of reality relies on the zero-sum myth of economics.

 

Anna Daub posted an article at The Center for Great Commission Studies discussing women’s marches and missions. Anna writes:

This weekend, the nation witnessed a momentous occasion. Hundreds of thousands of women gathered in cities all across the United States and the world to peacefully assemble and march for women’s rights.

 

I spent some time reading the signs women carried at the march. While I recognize that there are some signs that Christians cannot agree, there are others that we need to notice. A little African American girl’s sign said, “I am a woman….we are important. We are beautiful. We love children. We are queens, respect us, cherish us, value us.” Another states, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Yet another, in front of a gold Star of David, said, “My great-grandmother didn’t escape Warsaw for this!” Probably one of the most chilling signs I saw was this: an elderly Japanese woman carrying a sign that said, “Locked up by US Prez 1942-1946. Never again.”

 

From where I stand as a female missiologist (someone who studies the science of missions), this weekend was important. While I in no way want to minimize the big button issues present like abortion, I also believe that if we ever want to reach this generation, we need to pay attention to other things that were said and done.

 

This event, this march, is a window into our current culture.

 

At his personal blog, Jason Duesing posted an article discussing the most important doctrine he learned in seminary.

J. R. R. Tolkien loved words. More than that, he loved the study of words and delighted in philology or “the zone where history, linguistics, and literature meet.”[1] Therefore, when he had invented several languages he found he needed a world to house them. The result–the entirety of the fictional environs we know as Middle Earth and its inhabitants found their genesis in their creator’s love of words.

 

Words are something our Creator loves as well. He spoke the world into existence with words, sent his Son as the Word, and the Spirit breathed perfectly all the words we have in the Bible as Scripture. Thus, the Christian life is a life clothed and shaped by words even as some of those words require hard work to gain their full meaning.

 

When I went to seminary (in the latter part of the 20th century) I had only been a Christian for 4 years. I knew what it meant to be saved but was still working out what all that meant. For example, I had come to learn and love the hymn:

 

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

 

But it was not yet clear to me how exactly did Jesus wash me white as snow? I knew that Jesus died for my sins, but I don’t think I could have told you what happened when he did or how he did it. That is when I discovered I had a philology problem–a problem with words.

 

At The Intersect Project, Krystal Wilson discussed how Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is about more than abortion. Krystal writes:

As Christians, we believe in the sanctity of human life. We believe that all people are image bearers of a holy God and, as such, all human life is sacred and should be respected and protected. Many churches dedicate a whole Sunday in late January — Sanctity of Human Life Sunday — to enlighten its members about the sanctity of human life, particularly the issue of abortion.

 

But, as we will see, all life is sacred — even the lives we often neglect.

 

Chuck Lawless posted an article this week discussing 8 traits he sees in good worship leaders.

As I visit churches in my various roles, I’m privileged to worship with many different congregations. The styles aren’t always the same, but I can tell you some of the common traits I find in worship leaders who catch my attention. I know these thoughts are just my opinion, but here are some of those things.

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week at his personal blog, Dr. Bruce Ashford shared a glimpse into the life of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as a “Great Commission” Seminary. Dr. Ashford writes:

Southeastern possesses a clear identity, confession, and mission. The seminary is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention. Its faculty members confess the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and covenant to teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith & Message. They further affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Together with the Board of Trustees and the administration, faculty members share a mission in which “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Mt 28:1920).” In summary, Southeastern is a confessional seminary in the Southern Baptist stream of historic Christianity whose mission is to be a Great Commission seminary.

 

Karen Swallow Prior published an article on the challenge of entertainment at First Things: “Delight in the Good.”

I’m tempted to concur with the diagnosis of our current malaise offered by Carl Trueman: “[E]ntertainment is not simply a part of our world. It is arguably the dominant essence of our world. … [E]ntertainment is now ontology.”

 

I’ve been teaching college students for nearly thirty years, and I can affirm, with Neil Postman, that entertainment has been “the dominant essence” for students for at least that long. I’ve been a member of the body of Christ for even longer, and can attest to a similar attitude of careless consumption in too many pews (and a good number of podiums). Yet the problem, I think, is not that entertainment is ontology. Rather, it is that we don’t know what place to accord entertainment within our ontology. We should beware giving it too low a place, as well as too high.

 

Our human ability to delight in the world means that entertainment is part of human nature. Today, technology makes entertainment so ubiquitous that our only options may seem to be to consume it mindlessly or to reject it mindlessly.

 

Keelan Cook shared some tips on how to map your church members in Google for local outreach. Keelan writes:

We talk a lot about hospitality today. There is no end lately to the blog posts and articles circulating the internet concerning the importance of hospitality in outreach and missions. I have several on this site.

 

Hospitality is an important aspect of ministry that Western Christians often struggle to incorporate into their lives. Compared to other areas of the world, we love our privacy, and  our home easily becomes our fortress of solitude. While homes should be a place for rest, the Bible challenges us to view them as tools for ministry. Can we honestly say we are stewarding God’s gifts well when our single, biggest purchase is never used for outreach?

 

We should change this paradigm in our churches. Homes are not caves. They are not fortresses to protect us from the hectic world outside. They are gracious gifts from our Heavenly Father to be used, in turn, for his glory. This means opening your home up to others. Yes, it means having others from your church over, but it means even more than that. Use it as a staging ground for the Great Commission.

 

When was the last time you invited unbelieving neighbors into your home?

 

Krystal Wilson posted at The Intersect Project on Colin Kaepernick: Looking Past the Outrage.

Athletes: the only people who can go from “pent house to outhouse in seconds.”

 

As a former division one athlete, I’ve heard these words a thousand times, particularly from my father. He too was a former collegiate athlete, recruited by the likes of the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, and he had become all too familiar with the unique plight of an athlete.

 

Athletes know it is far too easy to fall from the high graces of fans. One moment people are singing your praises, and the next they’re burning your jersey. Knowing the fragileness of the pedestal upon which many athletes sit, it is genuinely surprising when they risk it all for something they believe in. To take such a risk, they must find that their belief or stance is worthy of the consequences of a loss of fan base and endorsements.

 

Which brings us to Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick (and several other NFL players) have decided to silently protest racial injustice in America by kneeling or raising a fist during the playing of the national anthem.

 

Kaepernick isn’t the first athlete to use his platform and take a form of silent protest on behalf of the voiceless. Kaepernick joins the likes of Muhammad Ali and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos who protested societal ills.

 

As we consider Kaepernick’s stance, let’s look past the distractions and consider some gospel implications and a way forward.

 

Sarah Rainer shared seven tips to address mental health issues in the church. Sarah writes:

One in five people in your church will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime.

 

You will have few people who have not been directly or indirectly impacted by mental health issues. With so many individuals impacted, church leaders need basic knowledge to handle these issues effectively.

 

Church leaders do not need to be experts in psychological functioning, but they do need some basic knowledge in order to offer support to individuals struggling in the church. Here are seven basic pointers that every church leader should consider when dealing with mental health issues.

 

In a recent roundtable discussion posted by The Gospel Coalition, Miguel Núñez, Danny Akin, and Bill Kynes got together to discuss their biggest fear in ministry.

 

In Case You Missed It

Earlier this week, Dr. Bruce Ashford posted on his blog discussing the question: “Should Evangelicals be pessimistic about American politics and public life?” Dr. Ashford writes:

Concerning the past ten years in American politics and public life, one thing is for sure: many conservative evangelicals feel like the cultural ground beneath us has shifted so rapidly and so decisively that we many never regain our footing.

 

We have lost ground democratically. We realize in very tangible ways that many and maybe most Americans differ significantly with our vision of the good life. They differ from us in our view of the origin and destiny of the universe, the nature and purpose of human life in this world. They reject our view of the givenness of gender and the purpose of sexuality, and of the value of human life in the womb. They are skeptical about the value and public significance of a robust view of religious liberty. And much more. So we find it difficult to believe that we can restore a Judeo-Christian vision of the good life through democratic means.

 

Dr. Jamie Dew continues his series of posts on the ideas of Anselm in this post: “God the Maker of All Things.

Such is the title of Anselm’s 5th chapter of the Proslogion, where Anselm offers us a quick and easy reminder of who God is. It’s a short little chapter in the Proslogion, but a chapter that is vital nonetheless. Here, Anselm captures several important ideas in the Christian understanding of God, such as what God is like, how God exists, and what God has done in creation. Let me highlight 3 important truths that he sets forth.

 

Art Rainer recently shared 9 steps for transitioning from parsonage-living to home-ownership.

Parsonages are homes provided for pastors by their churches. You often see them sitting right alongside the church building. They are a benefit some churches provide that help compensate for a lower salary.

 

On a flight to St. Louis, I sat next to a pastor from North Carolina. We had a great time getting to know one another.Toward the end of the flight, he told me what I should write about. “You need to write a post on how to transition from a parsonage to owning a home.” He had clearly been contemplating about the transition for himself.

So, for those pastors out there who may be contemplating something similar, let’s take a look at nine steps for transitioning from parsonage-living to homeownership.

 

At the Intersect project website, Owen Kelly shared some thoughts on cultural hermeneutics. Owen writes:

Christians are familiar with reading God’s word. We hear the Bible read and preached every Lord’s Day. This is the most obvious way that we hear God’s voice and learn God’s will. Down through the centuries, the Church has interpreted God’s word through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and passed on Christian orthodoxy. This process of reading and interpreting the Bible (hermeneutics) is a staple of Christian life. But what about reading God’sworld? Does the created order, with its multifaceted cultural institutions, also need to be interpreted? And is there a hermeneutical principle, a process of good interpretation, which can help us to read God’s world faithfully? To all of the above, yes.

 

As American culture seems to disintegrate before our eyes, let me suggest a rule of reading which might help guide our cultural interpretation: God intends earthly things to lead us into heavenly realities. God has a certain “grammar” which he intends for creation to proclaim: “The heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm 19:1). The silent voice of God speaks to all creatures, and especially those human creatures imprinted with his image. When we read God’s world, his creation, we should see glimmers of his glory. But God also intends culture to convey a certain “grammar.” The “text” of culture also needs to be read well.  This cultural script is often garbled and illegible, however, because of humanity’s commitment to sin. Reading God’s world is difficult because the characters in this story (we sinners) regularly deviate from the divine plotline. Still: God intends earthly things to lead us into heavenly realities.

 

Krystal Wilson also posted this week at the Intersect Project discussing how black lives and blue lives both matter, and we don’t have to choose.

It happens all too often. I turn on the evening news and cringe at another shooting involving a white officer and black male victim. Officer-involved shooting victims such as Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Philando Castile have become household names.

Unfortunately, our thinking about these victims and discussion about these tragedies is fraught with polarization and division. Some people are pro-officers; others are pro-black lives matters. And competing voices urge us to decide: Whose side are you on?

As the daughter of a retired police officer, a former officer myself and a black woman, I have a unique perspective on these events. Here are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind.