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.”

In Case You Missed It

Recently at The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Bruce Ashford shared how Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch Prime Minister changed his life. Dr. Ashford writes:

Rarely will a reader be trampled by a herd of evangelicals stampeding toward the Abraham Kuyper section of the bookstore. Though there are a number of reasons (like the impediment caused by display stands full of Test-a-mints and Precious Moments figurines), perhaps no reason is more important than this: We Americans rarely read old books, and Kuyper’s books are old.

 

Kuyper lived in 19th-century Holland, served as a pastor, founded a Christian university, started a newspaper, served in Parliament and as the prime minister, and wrote influential books on theology, culture, and politics. His deepest convictions might be summed up in one sentence:Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and because of that fact, our allegiance to him should shape not only the private but also the public aspects of our lives. If Christ is Lord, he’s not just Lord over private spirituality and church attendance, but also Lord over public affairs like art, science, business, politics, economics, and education. Reading Kuyper got me started on the path toward viewing Christ’s lordship as directly relevant to public life.

 

Dayton Hartman recently posted an article at Acts29 titled: “Pastors and Culture.”

I had a brief stint as the manager of a Christian bookstore. One day, as I spoke with a customer about our music selection (while comparing Christian artists to their secular counterparts), it dawned on me that much of what we were selling wasn’t good. The issue was the derivative quality of the content. Many artists weren’t focused on creating good music; instead they sought to emulate the style of a certain secular artist.

 

The rest of the day, I noticed myself and associates making statements like, “If you like Youtube, you will love Godtube,” or, “If you like Stephen King, then you will feel right at home reading Frank Peretti’s latest novel.” It was jarring. I was suddenly confronted with the harsh reality that Christians spend far too much time consuming secular culture or cheap Christian subcultures instead of producing good culture. We parrot the culture around us. We look like they do and sound like they do, but we claim there’s something about us that makes everything different: Jesus. But where’s the difference?

 

At the Intersect Project website, Laura Thigpen shares five reasons why Christians should be more engaged about the environment.

As conversations increase about Christians’ engagement with culture, our scope of understanding what “culture” includes continues to broaden. Yet one cultural topic that we often neglect is the environment.

 

My conversations with my friend Carly Abney have helped me see this deficiency. Carly is an NC State student finishing her degree in Sustainable Materials and Technology. She is passionate about Christ and His Church, and she’s passionate about the environment and what it means for Christians to be good stewards of God’s creation.

 

In her degree path, Carly has seen environmentalists express apathy and skepticism toward Christ and the gospel because their experiences with Christians on the topic have been less than winsome. Even so, Carly sees the value and importance of the Christian voice in these conversations, particularly when Christians are willing to enter them with a high view of the gospel and a fundamental understanding of how God views creation.

 

In her own words, here’s some practical advice from Carly to help us think better about the environment.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The People’s Next door explaining why Christians need to get out more. Keelan writes:

Adult Americans have a real hard time making friends, at least that is what most recent research claims. There are reasons. Interpersonally speaking, our lifestyle choices have hemmed us in. The shift in America toward single-family housing, the total dependence on automobiles, and the seemingly endless amount of land we have to develop spreads us out and walls us in. While it all makes sense, it certainly has its downsides.

 

This walling off of people from each other has significant social consequences. It is most likely one reason our cultural and political views are increasingly atomized. Many people only participate in interpersonal relationships with people who are like them. If we choose not to, we no longer have to interact with people different than us. It also leaves people with a sense of loneliness, despite the fact that we are more connected than ever through a web of social media.

 

For Christians, we have an even more important reason to push against this state of existence. We have a gospel reason. Christian, if you are like me, you need to get out more.

 

Aaron Earls published an article earlier this week asking: “Who can cast a stone at Hillary Clinton’s selfie takers?

2016 has been a divisive year, but one photo brought virtually everyone together over the weekend. No, it was the adorable photos of Michelle Obama and President George W. Bush embracing. That image made at least one writer lose his mind.  It was this photo of young people with their backs all turned, taking a selfie with Hillary Clinton.

 

Upon seeing the photo the collective internet exploded in annoyance and rage at the self-absorbed millennials who could not be bothered to turn face the influential person in their midst.

 

Ligonier Ministries recently put up a brilliant website using data from a recent Lifeway Research project discussing the state of theology.

What do Americans believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible? Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research partnered to find out. These are the fundamental convictions that shape our society.

In Case You Missed It

At SBC Voices, Alan Cross interviewed out Seminary President, Dr. Danny Akin on the Great Commission, immigration, and rejecting fear.

The next When Heaven and Earth Collide podcast interview is up with Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Akin and I have a wide-ranging conversation about how loving and ministering to immigrants coming to America relates to Scriptural commands involving the Great Commission and loving our neighbor. Dr. Akin calls upon Christians to engage immigrants with the gospel, with service and sacrificial love, and to put aside fear of others and trust Christ in what God is doing in the people movements around the world.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Laura Thigpen posted a helpful article discussing how as Christians, our spiritual disciplines are on display on social media. Laura writes:

As a freshman at a secular college I took on the daunting task of writing a paper arguing a counter-cultural idea: That technology, in an effort to promote communication and human interaction, would in fact complicate it.

 

At that time, Facebook was exclusive to Harvard students, Myspace was the dominant social network and the first iPhone had not been released. Ten years later, the world is more connected than ever — and, yes, communication is more complicated than ever.

 

Here’s what I mean, fellow Christians: Much of our engagement on social media is guided by our ill-informed, uninstructed and unchallenged spiritual minds. We often cave to the temptation to use social media as a platform to spread spiritually malnourished thoughts, ideas and convictions. I often recall C. S. Lewis’ words inThe Weight of Glory:

 

Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

 

There is a severe lack of the spiritual disciplines in our approach to and engagement with social media that contributes to the elimination of critical thinking and genuine human interaction on this platform.

 

Dr. Jamie Dew continues his series of posts on Anselm’s Proslogion with a post titled “The God of Inaccessible Light.”

“Truly, Lord, this is the inaccessible light in which You dwell. For truly there is nothing else which can penetrate through it so that is might discover You there.”(Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, ch. 15)

 

Over the past few weeks I’ve highlighted a few nuggets from Anselm’s Proslogion. This first 7 chapters are probably the best known from the work, but here, before ending the series on Anselm, I want to highlight a few other parts of the work that are either helpful, interesting, or edifying for us. Throughout the remaining 19 chapters, Anselm reminds us of a few important things.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax interacts with 4 ways which Dr. Danny Akin feels that the world will pressure you to conform.

Many older evangelicals view the USA in ways that resemble Israel in the Old Testament: God has chosen to pour His blessing on this nation and to commission it for His purposes of extending freedom throughout the world. 

 

Many younger evangelicals view the USA in ways that resemble ancient Babylon: we live in a society that is increasingly hostile to God’s truth and God’s people.

 

Neither framing of our current situation fully captures the reality. The United States is neither Israel nor Babylon, and both frameworks face problems when applied too closely to today’s situation. Still, the metaphor of “exile” remains an apt description of Christians who are sojourners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

 

We are exiles in every age, in every country, but perhaps we sense that reality more powerfully in places where Christians are marginalized, with privileges stripped and penalties imposed as a way of pressuring us toward cultural compromise.

 

I recently edited several Gospel Project sessions from Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary. His sessions cover the book of Daniel, which describes the time when Jews who were exiled to Babylon showed incredible courage and faithfulness.

 

Akin lays out four ways in which the Babylonian empire sought to bring the Jewish exiles in line with their pagan ways. These strategies show us how the world, in every era, can pressure Christians to conform.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article at his personal blog sharing eight writers which have shaped him spiritually. Dr. Ashford writes:

Over the course of the past two years, I have had occasion to reflect on the various ways the Lord has discipled me and disciplined me since I came to saving faith during high school. The catalyst for those reflections was my 40th birthday and the recognition that, although God has graciously worked in my heart in many ways to conform me to his will, there is yet a lot of work to be done.

 

God has worked in my heart in many ways, using my parents, churches, friends, critics, students, bosses, and colleagues. He has taught me and challenged me through Scripture reading and memory. He has convicted me and comforted me in prayer.

 

But he has also fostered spiritual growth is through certain books I have read. Among the many authors whose books have shaped my walk with God, I have distilled the list down to eight. Now, this list of eight is not especially sophisticated. It is not a “balanced” list of “all the right authors” a person should read to help them in the course of their spiritual formation. It is not a list of people with whom I agree theologically on all of the particulars. It is not a list for snobs who find it beneath them to read the writings of authors not as highbrow as they might prefer. Instead, it is simply this list of some of the books the Lord has used most powerfully in my life over the course of the past several decades.

 

In case these books might be helpful in somebody else’s spiritual formation, I have listed them here in chronological order of when I discovered them in my own journey and provided a brief explanation of why you might want to read them also.