In Case You Missed It

Laura Thigpen posted an article at the Intersect Project discussing when grief is good.

Grief is an unwelcome guest that enters our lives unexpectedly and awkwardly overstays its welcome. But even this most awkward and unwelcome guest can open our eyes to the pain and suffering we have unwittingly been blinded to. It reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

When we read this short sentence, we may resonate with the words preceding the colon. In our pain, it can feel like God is shouting to us. Yet, don’t overlook the words that follow the colon. God uses our pain to rouse us, to stir our heart’s affections, to awaken our sensibilities.

 

This is precisely the point Lewis is making about our pain. The Lord uses our grief as a catalyst to bring about repentance, to achieve His purposes and to fulfill His plans.

 

Trevin Wax shared an article at The Gospel Coalition, titled: “Welcome Everyone, Affirm No One.” Trevin writes:

The most well-known hymn in America, “Amazing Grace,” by the former slaveholder John Newton, contains a line that many people stumble over.

 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!

 

The hymn may be popular, but the sentiment is not. Few Americans consider themselves “wretches” of moral repugnance and debasement. We like to think of ourselves as basically good, with a few flaws; not fundamentally bad, with few virtues to save us.

 

Some Christians believe it would be good to remove unnecessary offense by downplaying human sinfulness, but such a move severs the root of what makes grace so powerful. It is precisely because we’re bad, not good, that God’s love in sending his Son to die for our sins is so significant.

 

The trouble is, grace is unimaginable in a world where everyone believes grace is deserved. And when grace is transformed into entitlement, the definitions change, for both those inside and outside the church.

 

At Biblical Foundations,  Andreas Köstenberger published an article discussing the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection.

One of the most important historical questions related to Jesus is how a tiny offshoot of Judaism went on to change the world. One of the most outspoken detractors of Jesus’ deity and the truthfulness of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, writes, “But then something else happened. Some of [Jesus’ followers] began to say that God had intervened and brought [Jesus] back from the dead. The story caught on, and some (or all – we don’t know) of his closest followers came to think that in fact he had been raised” (Did Jesus Exist?, 233). So did the early Christians invent the resurrection of Jesus? For his part, Ehrman disputes that Jesus’ tomb was empty, in part because neither Joseph of Arimathea—the man who put Jesus in the tomb according to the Gospels—nor the tomb itself are mentioned in the earliest creed (1 Cor 15:3b-5aHow Jesus Became God, 129-69). Yet 1 Cor 15:4 does say, “He was buried,” and proceeds to affirm, “He was raised.” The obvious historical conclusion is that whatever Jesus was buried in, presumably a tomb, was now empty!

 

Art Rainer discussed our double-edged smartphones at The Baptist Press.  Art writes:

Your smartphone can impact your financial health beyond the monthly service bill.

 

Smartphones are everywhere. According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. This is more than double the 35 percent ownership in 2011.

 

Many of us cannot remember what life was like before our smartphone. Just the thought of losing or breaking our phone sends us into a state of panic.

 

Smartphones have been a double-edged sword for most of us. We find them useful and harmful at the same time. This can be true as it relates to our financial health. Sometimes they can help. But sometimes they can harm.

 

At the Intersect Project, Michael Guyer posted: “A Letter to a Transgender Student.”

Dear friend,

I am so thankful I know you. It is an honor that you would share this struggle with me. I know it was not easy, nor does sharing resolve everything. As you shared, I could not help but think of how deeply I desire to be truly known. God designed us for this—to know Him and be known by Him. He not only made us for Himself, but He also made us for community—to know others and be known by them. My heart groans with yours to be truly known as God intended from the beginning. But my heart also groans because I know the church has not always felt like a place you could talk about this struggle. As a result, you have felt disconnected and not truly known yourself. Along the way, you have been disappointed, hurt and isolated by the actions and words of Christians. I grieve over the pain and loneliness you have experienced. Before I say anything else, I want you to know that I am here for you and I love you.

 

Also this week, Bruce Ashford published a 5-part series of articles at his blog discussing the issue of transgenderism:

  1. Introduction
  2. A Brief Explanation of Significant Terms
  3. The Bible and Gender Identity
  4. Relating to Individuals with Gender Dysphoria
  5. Responding to It as an Ideology and Movement

In Case You Missed It

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a post discussing how the genuine kindness of Fred rogers has made him a new unlikely hero in our current culture.

In 2005, sandwiched between the Iraq War and the Great Recession, the internet provided Americans a needed respite in the form of Chuck Norris facts. But our hyper-partisan culture has found a new unlikely hero—Mr. Rogers.

 

Earlier this week, Jason Duesing shared an article at Preaching Source highlighting the preacher’s role as missionary.

In recent years our family survived our “Angry Birds” season of life. For a period of time our kids could not get enough of this game, to the extent that we even had an Angry Birds birthday party along the way. If you have played this game, you know that the key to advancing is trajectory. How you aim the angry bird makes all the difference for achieving maximum effect. While hopefully not angry, the key for the preacher as missionary also is trajectory. In what direction the preacher points, the church follows.

 

That said, it isn’t enough for a preacher to herald the importance of missions. He must underscore its importance biblically and encourage his people to be world Christians just like him. So, more than merely pointing to the ends of the earth, the preacher should also go there and take others with him.

 

In short, the preacher as missionary is an exemplar of one who champions the end goal of the gospel and those called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet, this is not another hat he must wear but is the natural outgrowth of his dedication to the gospel and his desire to see the nations reached.

 

Inevitably, when the preacher is leading in the trajectory of missions, well-meaning church members will ask why it is that we need to emphasize and fund long-range global mission efforts when there are so many lost people right here at home. This is a question of stewardship and deserves a good answer, and the preacher as missionary should readily give it.

 

At The Intersect Project, Laura Thigpen shared four ways to walk with those who weep.

Silence accompanies Grief, as does Loneliness. These unwanted tenants take up residence in all our lives for a time. And each us will long for companions to come and sit with us while these unwanted guests are present. All of us may not be in seasons of deep grief, but we all know someone who is. The Christian life demands that we respond to others who grieve, but not in the way it has become so common.

 

For various reasons, I have experienced grief in my life that never truly leaves. I have come to realize that the pangs of grief may subside, but the cause of my grief will never go away. I will always be grieving, to some extent. And I’m not alone. For this reason, brothers and sisters in Christ must hold up one another’s arms, walk alongside and shoulder one another’s burdens as we grieve — for we all will grieve, and we all will desire someone to help us grieve.

 

I’m grateful to have such brothers and sisters in my life. Sometimes we sat in silence; other times we talked. Sometimes we wept together; other times we laughed. But what I have treasured most about the ways others have entered into grief with me is their resolve to grieve with me, to feel what I feel in a small way, to be burdenedby the destructive effects sin has in our world with me, to carry out the call to “weep with those who weep.” It is a blessing to have brothers and sisters so willing to follow this command, but it can be terribly burdensome when brothers and sisters do not.

 

Are you willing to “weep with those who weep” — to be there when someone is experiencing grief? Here are four practical steps to carry out this important call.

 

This week at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin wax looked at why C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity received bad reviews.

Mere Christianity is a strange book to become a modern Christian classic, partly because it wasn’t intended to be a book in the first place.

 

The work began as a series of radio addresses Lewis delivered during WWII. Next, these “broadcast talks” were printed as small pamphlets. A decade later, they were compiled into the book we know it as today. (What’s more, it wasn’t Mere Christianity that put Lewis on the map; The Screwtape Letters propelled Lewis forward in both the UK and the United States, eventually landing him on the cover of Time magazine.)

 

Still, few books in the 20th century have cast such a long shadow as Mere Christianity. I have multiple books on my shelf that give a nod to Lewis when making a case for Christianity in the 21st century: from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian to Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Today, Lewis’s book has its own biography–written by George Marsden–as one volume in a series on influential Christian books!

 

But despite the book’s influence today (more than 70 years after the talks were delivered and 65 years since it first showed up in print), early reviewers felt little fondness for Lewis’s work or his vision of Christianity. Some of the initial feedback was negative.

 

In a post at the Baptist Press, Paul Akin shared the number one reason missionaries leave the field.

The most common reason missionaries go home is not due to lack of money, illness, terrorism, homesickness, or even a lack of fruit or response to the Gospel.

 

Regretfully, the number one reason is due to conflict with other missionaries.

 

Yes, you read that correctly.

 

From my own personal experience on the field and after five years training, equipping, and sending missionaries, I have witnessed this truth firsthand. In all my travels around the world, I’ve spent countless days with missionary teams of all types, sizes, and makeups and one reality remains true: none of them are perfect.

 

Dr. Joe McKeever’s blog is always a treasure chest of information gathered over his many years of faithful service in ministry. This week, he shared two posts which were related in that they discussed his long-practiced habit of journaling.

In the first post, Dr. McKeever shared something he always tells students about writing.

Writing a journal is like taking a 30-minute slice of your today and sending it ahead into the future.  I’m big on journaling.  Journals, we are told, are not so much for our children–who presumably are living the same life we are and have little curiosity about how we view today–as for our grandchildren and theirs.  In time, my journal will be looked upon as something of a record of “the life of an ordinary Baptist preacher in the 1990s.”  I’ll not be around to know it, but in doing those journals–I’m through with journal-keeping except on this blog, something that I wouldn’t exactly call journaling–it has often been with a view toward the future.  There’s a strong witness for Christ throughout all 56 volumes.

In this next post, he shares more about journaling, and why (no matter what we are writing) we should record the good experiences along with the painful ones.

Recently, when a friend began telling of the rupture in his congregation that resulted in his sudden departure, astonishingly some six or eight years after the event, I could see the pain was still fresh, the wound yet open.  I told him, “Start writing.  You need to get this out and on paper.”

 

He protested, “I can’t.  Those people are still around and I don’t want to stir it up again.”

 

I said, “You don’t have to publish it.  Just write it for yourself.

In Case You Missed It

At his personal website, Tate Cockrell shared how pain can be good for you. Dr. Cockrell writes:

The day was February 22, 2014. I thought my life was over. The picture below was taken just 3 days earlier in a small village 13,000 feet above sea level where we had been dropped off by helicopter . Notice the smile on all of our faces? We were so happy to be in the Himalayas. It was day one of a six day trek through the Himalayas where we would hike 90 miles in just six short days. Amidst the beauty of those wonderful mountains, I saw some of the worst poverty and suffering I had ever seen in my life.

 

February 22 marked the third and longest day of our journey. We hiked for 10 hours that day. As night was falling and the trails were getting harder to see, my body began to break down, and I was reaching the point of surrender. At one point, I thought I might die. Every part of my body hurt. Even parts of my body that I didn’t know could hurt, did hurt. Then I went from thinking I might die, to hoping I would die. I remember telling one of our guides, “just tell my family I love them. I can’t take another step.”

 

Thankfully, we had incredible guides with us who were able to keep me moving, and eventually we reached our destination for the night. Three days later we reached the end of the trek, and I had lost 16 lbs. in 6 days. It was one of the single best/worst days of my life. I learned several lessons about pain on that excursion. Here are a few of them you might find helpful.

 

At The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission website, Laura Thigpen shared an article titled: “The Barren Woman’s True Identity.”

We had intentionally shown up a few minutes late. As we made our way to the auditorium door, I noticed the celebratory handout on the table: carnations.

 

“Just breathe,” I thought to myself.

 

I had quickened my steps in hopes to slip through the door unnoticed when I was suddenly halted by a single carnation held out to me. When my eyes shifted from the flower to the man who held it I began to shake my head “no,” but he insisted by nodding “yes!” This was a friend, a brother in Christ who had just learned from his wife our recent news.

 

I took the carnation with my head hanging low to hide the tears of gratitude. In that moment, this brother had honored the life of my baby, the baby I never met. I was grateful. In a single moment my maternal grief had been validated. As I crossed the threshold of the auditorium door a sense of shame quickly rushed over me. I felt a need to hide the carnation because I was not like other mothers.To some, I was not a mother at all, and to others, this was just a regular Sunday morning worship service.

 

Brianna Copeland shared a post at The Intersect Project explaining how recycling is a sustainable way to live a sustainable life.

Have you ever read an article titled something like “50 Tips to Sustainable Living” or “12 Ways to Go Green”? Even when you read the “quick tips,” it seems like they are asking you to walk everywhere, cook by fire, live without air conditioning and grow all your own food! These articles make you feel like you will need to make some drastic life changes to achieve any of these “sustainable ideas.”

 

Sometimes the tips for a sustainable life do not feel so sustainable after all. Adding the weight of caring for the earth to our already long lists of responsibilities can seem daunting.

 

Here at Intersect, we’ve talked before about the importance of caring for the earth as part of our Christian stewardship. Laura Thigpen explained both why and how Christians should be engaged in the environment, and David W. Jones offered reasons Christians care for creation.

 

How, then, can you practically live out your care for creation — without getting bogged down in an impractical list of overwhelming do’s and don’t?

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Thomas S. Kidd shared the story of the North Korean revival of 1907.

Today as tensions between North Korea reach heights not seen since the 1950s, it is easy to forget that northern Korea used to be one of the Asian strongholds of Protestant Christianity. As Atlas Obscura recently explained, the city of Pyongyang became known to missionaries as the “Jerusalem of the East.” The city had great institutional strength for Protestantism, including Union Christian Hospital, Union Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Union Christian College, the first four-year college anywhere in Korea.

 

One hundred ten years ago, Pyongyang saw the outbreak of a massive revival, the high point of the season of evangelical strength in northern Korea. Presbyterian missionary William Blair preached to thousands of Korean men, focusing on their need to turn away from their traditional hatred of the Japanese people, with whom Korea had a long history of conflict. The missionaries and Korean Christians had been praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for revival and repentance, and it came on that Saturday night in January 1907. Many at the meeting began praying out loud, and soon the signs of awakening began to appear.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared ten practical ways to read the Bible more. Dr. Lawless writes:

Do you struggle with reading the Bible? One reason we wrestle with this spiritual discipline is that we think we must be reading extensively every day or reading not at all; we don’t give ourselves much room for growth in this task. If you want to read more, try one of these simple ideas to get started.