In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Doug Ponder shared a post titled: “Giving Up Lent for Lent“. Doug writes:

I’d never heard of Lent until I was in college, and even then it was spoken of as “something Catholics do.” Over the past few years, however, I can’t spend more than a few minutes on social media in the month of February without seeing someone’s post about what they are “giving up for Lent” this year. It’s a trend that many evangelicals have now written about, including a recent Lifeway study. (See also here and here.)

 

I confess that the rising tides of Lenten observance once swept my wife and me along with the current. For a few years we joined the throngs of people who willingly ‘gave up’ something in preparation for Easter. We also prayed every day, and we read from a delightful Lenten devotional by one of my favorite scholars. It was a mostly positive experience.

 

But this year (like last year), I’m giving up Lent for Lent. Here are some reasons why.

 

Dr. Scott Hildreth posted at the Center for Great Commission Studies discussing what ants can teach us about evangelism.

Proverbs 6:6–11 challenges the reader to observe an ant to gain inspiration for daily life. Many have used these verses for business and personal management. This post considers the ant in relationship to the spiritual discipline of personal evangelism. Last week, I gave some simple solutions to common problems with personal evangelism. You can see that post by clicking here.

 

Today – let’s consider the ant!

 

At his personal blog, Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article discussing why we need radical Christian scholarship.

Please allow me to serve advance notice: if Christians in the United States are going to keep their moorings in the 21st century, they will need to return continually to their roots in Christian Scripture and the Great Tradition. This is true in every sphere of culture, including the arts and sciences, business and entrepreneurship, politics and economics, and scholarship and higher education.

 

Yet, it is this last sphere—scholarship and higher education—that is heavy on my mind. In general, this is because I have seen the way “secular” and pagan scholarship has corrupted higher education. In particular, however, it is on my mind because I am part of a group of scholars—the Transdisciplinary Group—who met this past week and who wish to encourage “radical Christian scholarship” among Christian scholars and institutions of higher education.

 

The plenary speakers included Peter Leithart, Kevin Vanhoozer, Craig Bartholomew, Eric Johnson, C. Stephen Evans, Mary Poplin, and Esther Meek, and the MC of the conference was yours truly. Although the speakers represented a diversity of denominations and schools of thought, we are unified around our belief that God’s revelation should shape our scholarship radically (at its roots) in at least four ways.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next Door discussing the primary reasons cities exist. Keelan writes:

“The strength that comes from human collaboration is the central truth behind civilization’s success and the primary reason why cities exist.”

The quote above is from a book by Edward Glaeser called The Triumph of the City. It is a simple idea. In fact, it is so simple our gut reaction is to disagree. Surely there has to be more to cities than this! But, I think he is correct.

The primary reason for cities must certainly be human collaboration. Some will argue it is for protection, looking back to the old fort cities of antiquity. Others argue that it is the purpose of government. After all the empire needs a headquarters. Still others point out the economic advantage of cities. After all, cities are where the world makes its money. But if you peel back the surface, all of these are a form of human collaboration. Whether it is coming together for mutual protection, governing a society, or creating an economy, human collaboration is the reason cities make all this possible.

 

In a guest post at Dr. Chuck Lawless’ blog, Trevor Forbis discussed 10 ways his mentor has changed his life.

One of the most influential people in my life today is my mentor. As a young man whose parents divorced at an early age, I have never had a man commit himself to walk alongside me as I sought to pursue Jesus. Now, in over a year of walking through life together, I have found 10 specific things my mentor has done that have changed my life.

 

Laura Thigpen shared an article at The Intersect Project discussing knowing Christ through our suffering and grief. Laura writes:

There once was a man who grieved so deeply he sweat drops of blood. A man who, despite his power to raise the dead to life, wept at the tomb of a friend. He was a man acquainted with sorrow and stricken with grief. A man whose greatest passion was suffering.

 

Grief is the unwanted guest every person will reluctantly host in this lifetime. Yet, many Christians assume Grief will stop by only briefly before leaving merrily on its way. And we’re surprised when it overstays its welcome.

 

Though we are a people characterized by joy and peace, who hope in a risen King and his eternal glory, we are also a people who identify with the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant. This seems most unnerving to some believers, which gives evidence to a poor theology of grief.

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

Earlier this week at The Center for Great Commission Studies website, Greg Mathias shares a reminder that missionaries need the Bible. Dr. Mathias writes:

At the risk of being labeled Captain Obvious, let me begin with a simplistic yet important statement: Missionaries need the Bible. Ministry is fulfilling, but it is also hazardous. Language, culture, and new experiences of spiritual warfare compound these hazards for the missionary. In the midst of long days and nights of ministry, missionaries often struggle with spiritual exhaustion and long seasons of spiritual dryness. One of the key ingredients behind this exhaustion and dryness is a lack of rich and nourishing time in the Word of God.

 

6 ways to hold onto the Word in seasons of fruitful ministry or in seasons of exhaustion and dryness.

 

Alan Cross posted at SBC Voices with eight ways to appreciate your pastor for pastor appreciation month.

October is pastor appreciation month. Let me tell you how to let your pastor know you appreciate him. Gifts are fine and a vacation or money is always helpful, especially if the pastor has a family he is trying to provide for. But, he didn’t become a pastor for the money. He wanted to impact lives for God’s Kingdom. That is what he gave his life to years ago. Every pastor is different, I know, but many pastors that I’ve talked to feel most appreciated when the following happens. I thank God for every instance of this that I experienced.

 

At The Blazing Center, Matt Rogers shares why peace is a terrible basis for decision making.

It’s become a go-to answer to justify our actions.

Sarah is a high-school senior who is trying to determine where she will go to college. After four college tours, she tells her parents that she “just feels a peace” about going to a certain school. Or a businessman considering a new career venture might quip, “I know it is risky but I just feel a peace that this is what I should do.”

 

Our internal sense of peace serves as the ultimate rationale for decision-making and, the great thing is, no one can question us. It’s the ultimate mic-drop—akin to saying that God told you to do something.

 

Who’s gonna say that God didn’t tell you this or that your sense of peace is wrong?

 

This might not be such a big deal in morally neutral decisions like where we go to college or what entrepreneurial venture we are going to undertake next. But it’s a massive issue when it bleeds over to our choices in other areas of life—which it almost always does.

 

Dr. Brent Aucoin published a two-part article at Canon and Culture arguing that the Founding Fathers would not have barred pastors from holding public office. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Dr. Aucoin writes:

Did the Founding Fathers of America want to prohibit ministers from holding public office? One of the most prolific and respected Christian historians in America thinks so and wants you to do the same. John Fea, who is chair of the History Department at Messiah College, the author of four renowned books, and a popular blogger, made this argument in an essay entitled “Why the Founding Fathers wanted to keep ministers from public office” that appeared on the Religious News Service (RNS) website on August 15, 2016.

 

The question of whether pastors should be able to hold elective office does not seem to be a pressing issue, as relatively few ministers ever throw their hat into the political ring. But in a society where the growing hostility of the cultural and political elites towards Christianity is matched by their questioning of the guarantees of freedom of religion, this matter suddenly takes on greater significance. One can’t help but wonder if the attempt to prohibit pastors from running for political office may follow the previously unimaginable attempts by governments in America to collect and analyze sermons, or to effectively prevent professors in Christian colleges from teaching from a Christian perspective. If one could demonstrate that the Founders wished to bar ministers from public office, it would certainly help facilitate the ongoing quest to further secularize the public square and marginalize Christians.

 

At the Intersect Project, Laura Thigpen shares three ways Christians can be engaged about the environment.

In a recent article, my friend Carly Abney explained why Christians should care about the environment. Now that we’ve established that Christians should care about the environment, the next question is how. Often times people choose not to enter conversations on topics like science or the environment for two reasons:

  • Genuine Intellectual Insecurity: They feel inadequate, lacking enough knowledge to speak on the issues.
  • Superficial Intellectual Security: They believe they have the right answers and are unwilling to enter conversations where disagreement is almost certain.

Carly gave us several reasons why these avoidances actually hinder sharing gospel truths in the environmental movement. Now, Carly gives three practical ways we can work to overcome our perceived barriers and be engaged, ordered in increasing difficulty

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article at Fox News sharing the one thing that could tip the balance in the next presidential debate.

There is one thing that could tip the balance in an increasingly tight race for the presidency, and it is the one thing that probably will not be mentioned—much less emphasized—during Monday night’s presidential debate. Here’s to hope.

 

There are a number of things I’d like to see happen during the second presidential debate and then there’s one thing I’d like to see happen more than anything else. Let’s start with a brief enumeration of the “number of things” before we conclude with the “one thing.”