In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams shared about the beauty of a child’s enthusiasm for work.

“Dad, when I grow up, I want to drive a trash truck.”

 

My four-year-old told me this with a straight face. Upon further examination, I discovered that he didn’t want to drive just any trash truck. He wanted to drive a “flying purple trash truck.”

 

I love that his career aspirations are so broad; he hasn’t yet fallen prey to the lie that white-collar vocations are somehow better than blue-collar. But I also love that he’s so genuinely excited about work. On some days, he dreams of driving this elusive flying purple trash truck. Other days, he wants to be a teacher, or a choir director or a farmer. Just yesterday, he had papers, toys and craft materials strewn about a table. When I asked him to clean it up, he told me matter-of-factly, “Dad, this is my desk. I have to work here. My boss won’t want me to clean this up!”

 

There’s something beautiful about his childlike enthusiasm for work. To him, work is not an obligation. It’s not a chore. It’s not even about making money. To him, work is thrilling. The world is teeming with possibilities, and he can’t wait to get his hands on it.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Anna Daub shared some advice about engaging singles during the holidays.

When I was a child, my parents went to great lengths to ensure we had beautiful Christmas memories and fun family traditions. One tradition was that Christmas Eve was always an open invitation to people who had nowhere else to go. My mother would cook a Tex-Mex feast and invite the single professors from the university nearby, the elderly woman who lived alone, and the Muslim man who sold cell phones in the mall to join us. Most of the time, only one or two would come, but this tradition instilled in me a reminder to always look for those who had nowhere to go for the holidays.

 

In a post at the Intersect Project, Tami Gomez warned Christians about being cultural copycats.

“Engage the culture.”

 

It’s what Christians are continually being told we need to do more. We need to look to our culture and use it creatively to reach our lost friends, family members and society at large. After all, if we can make music as catchy as what’s on the radio or movies as spectacular as Hollywood’s, then we will have won the culture wars; people will come for the party, but stay for the substance. At least that’s been the theory. Unfortunately, this has only lead to “Christian culture” being a stuffy, retooled version of styles that used to be trendy. Christians need to stop thinking in terms of engaging an already-existing culture and start thinking in terms of creating culture.

 

In a post at his blog, Scott Slayton shared why we should live in the Psalms.

In our distracted and fast-paced world, many Christians struggle to gain depth in our spiritual lives. If our devotions happen, they are usually hurried, so we don’t often make the unhurried time that we need to soak in God’s word and linger before God in prayer that we so desperately need. The result is that we often evidence a weak and shallow Christianity. We may be able to fake depth for a while, but eventually, the hard times come and expose us for who we really are.

 

The Psalms provide a welcome antidote to our craving for shallowness. The Psalms, which seem so easy to understand on the surface, invite us to deep study and contemplation. They show the blessing of cultivating a deep and abiding trust in the Lord and beckon us to leave behind our life of distraction so we can know and love God more deeply.

 

Here five reasons that our hurried and forgetful hearts need to live in the Psalms for a while.

 

At the LifeWay Facts & Trends blog, Joe McKeever shared thirteen things a pastor should never say to a congregation.

In addition to the obvious no-no’s, such as profanity, heresy, racism, sexism, and the like, no pastor should ever be heard to utter any of the following from the pulpit.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared ten reflections of a formerly single pastor.

For the first ten years of my pastoral ministry (ages 20-30), I was unmarried. The Lord had called me to preach when I was 13 years old, and the first church called me as pastor at age 20. Here are my reflections on those years as a single pastor.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. David Jones published an article at The Intersect Project discussing how you should decide on matters of conscience.

One of the topics I explore in my new book Knowing and Doing the Will of God is the issue of Christian liberty. Christian liberty is the idea that there are certain practices in which believers are free to engage, or from which believers are free to abstain. These issues are sometimes referred to as morally indifferent practices. Examples of areas where Christian liberty has been invoked in the past include: worship practices, music styles, games of chance, military service, places of employment, matters of commerce, eating practices and the observance of special days, among many other issues.

 

Throughout church history, issues of Christian liberty have caused no small amount of debate among believers. With a view toward helping those in the church navigate such topics in the Christian life, and fulfill the will of God, in my text I discuss several principles of Christian liberty, which are summarized below.

At The Gospel Coalition, Bruce Ashford shared four key ingredients in a devotional reading of Scripture. Dr. Ashford writes:

When the resurrected Lord rebuked the Ephesian church for leaving its first love, he was also serving notice to Christians of all times that they must labor to not lose the passionate commitment and joy that attended their conversion. This should remind us that the Christian life has many temptations, none of which is more insidious than leaving our “first love” (Rev. 2:4).

 

This temptation lurks around the corner for every Christian, but perhaps more so for “professional Christians” such as pastors, professors, and seminary students. It’s a unique temptation for us precisely because we study and teach the Bible for a living. Gradually, and without notice, we slip into the habit of viewing Scripture more as an object to be dissected than a living Word to be treasured.

 

As an antidote to this temptation, here is a fourfold pattern of Scripture intake to help us avoid treating Scripture as an object, so that we can receive it as the living Word of a living Lord. The pattern—read, reflect, pray, obey—adapts and modifies an early church practice.

 

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Keelan Cook shared a post discussing how recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

Harvey has moved on, and now we begin to pick up the pieces.

 

It’s been said that Harvey passing was only the end of the beginning, and that is right. For churches here in the Houston area, the race ahead is a marathon, not a sprint. Houston has months and months of recovery in store, and our local churches have an opportunity to serve and proclaim. It will not do for relief efforts to be faddish. In the immediacy of a moment such as this, with media pointing a spotlight, volunteering seems reasonable. Packing up donations is just what we are supposed to do. But soon, as it always does, the media’s gaze will turn away for this city so desperately trying to rebuild itself. This will happen long before the work is done. Something else will grab our national attention, and then the spotlight moves on.

 

In an article for the International Mission Board, Meredith Cook discussed what her experience with Hurricane Harvey taught her about missions.

#PrayforTexas. It’s the latest hashtag making its way around social media as the world watches Houston drown under Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters. Normally, I would be posting it as one watching from a distance. Now, I’m included in it. It’s devastating to see the roads we take to church every Sunday made invisible under flood waters; people just down the road from us pleading for rescue; and we ourselves the recipients of numerous texts from friends and family checking on us. It’s surreal.

 

By the Lord’s grace, our small area of Houston was spared most of the disastrous flooding going on around us. On Monday, I sat on my couch under the warm glow of lamplight, listening to the familiar hum of the air conditioner and tapping of rain on the window. I finished up a round of editing for my work-from-home job. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was a normal day.

 

The TV is quiet now, but for two days, my husband and I watched the one news channel we could pick up on our antenna. Hurricane Harvey ravaged towns in the Texas Gulf Coast three days prior, and then parked over our city and dumped more water into it than Houston has ever seen. Nine trillion gallons and counting. Our city is under water.

 

At The Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams shared five ways you can pray for Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

“This is the disaster of a century for our city.”

 

My friend and Texas resident Josh Hemphill wrote these words to describe the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Harvey on the city of Houston. And there’s no other term to describe it than catastrophic. One of America’s most populous cities is underwater, and other communities along the gulf face a situation that’s just as dire.

 

How can we help? In what ways can we pray? To answer these questions for myself, I reached out to friends in the area. Here are some of their suggestions.

In Case You Missed It

At  the International Mission Board, Phil Bartuska shared four ways missionaries can leave well for the field.

For those planning to go overseas as missionaries, there will come a day when they and their families board a plane with one-way tickets in hand. They’ll be nervous but confident that God is making a way for them to take the gospel to the unreached.

 

Every missionary has this experience in common. Whether single or married with children, this experience bonds all missionaries together. They have left behind family, friends, jobs, security, comfort, and normalcy for the sake of the gospel among the unreached. I have been thinking about that moment for years, and soon, my family and I will be stepping onto that plane.

 

Having said that, there is a lot to do here before we get to our destination. You see, we pray, plan, and prepare for the time when we land, but if we are only thinking of our future ministry, we may be missing some key opportunities to point our family and friends to Christ. The truth of the gospel should impact the way we leave home. Here are four things you can do to both leave well and prepare for your future ministry overseas.

 

Marty Duren posted an article at the Lifeway Pastors blog discussing mentoring relationships that make sense.

Over the last decade or so the concept of mentoring has taken a deep hold in leadership theory, including the church. The idea is leaders need someone with more experience than they to provide insight and counsel. In a perfect world, one’s mentor would prepare you for each and every eventuality you could face. We all know this is not probable.

 

As an older-teen and young man, my primary mentor was a truck-driver and deacon named Al Autry. When Al died, his funeral was attended by dozens of men my age and younger, all of whom counted Al as a primary mentor—if not the primary mentor—in their younger days. Al mentored me spiritually during a time when my own father was not yet a follower of Jesus.

 

In my early ministry, I didn’t need to talk to Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, or John Piper. But I did need to talk to someone who had more pastoral experience than I did. Two of my former pastors, an denominational employee, and a couple of pastors in my new locale fit that bill. While only one of them would I consider a mentor in the traditional sense, all of them filled the role in the aggregate.

 

When I moved to serve on a church staff, all the other staff members had more experience that I did, and at churches requiring greater responsibility. Every staff meeting was a mentoring session as was ministry together.

 

As I’ve grown older in ministry, younger pastors sometimes ask if I can mentor them, even if for a limited period of time. These relationships are always a blessing. But, there are mistakes pastors make when seeking a mentor. Three such mistakes are 1) thinking your mentor has to be a celebrity pastor, 2) that mentoring is always one person teaching the other, and 3) that only young pastors need mentors.

 

Not. True.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams discussed embracing a smartphone-free life.

I sat around a table with a group of fellow pastors, many of whom were older than me. As our meeting concluded, one of the men planned how he would follow up with us.

 

“Does everyone have a smartphone?” he asked. The others nodded in agreement; some of them had been taking notes on their phones as he spoke.

 

I sheepishly shook my head no. I pulled out my circa-2007 basic phone and waved it in the air.

 

“How is it that the youngest person here doesn’t have a smartphone?” he asked. I laughed, admitted that I was behind the times and shared my email address instead.

 

I am used to these surprised reactions. I get them all the time. I am one of a dying breed — a millennial without a smartphone. Since more than 97 percent of my peers use a smartphone, people like me are almost extinct.

 

To be clear, my reasons for not having a smartphone aren’t remarkable. I’m not engaged in some anti-technology crusade. (I manage a website.) Nor am I interested in getting off the grid. (I still use my basic cell phone for calls and texts.) My tardiness in adopting a smartphone involves a combination of budget, stubbornness and the fact that I get along fine without one.

 

In this piece, I won’t try to convince you to become a smartphone curmudgeon. I simply want to offer a portrait of what it’s like to carry a technological relic in my pocket. To be 10 years behind the trend. To be a millennial without a smartphone.

 

At his personal blog, Southeastern President, Dr. Danny Akin shared why we need to stop and listen when it comes to Kingdom Diversity in the SBC.

I’ve been a Southern Baptist for as long as I have been a Christian. I came to know Jesus in a Southern Baptist church. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church. I was called to ministry in a Southern Baptist church. I was educated at Southern Baptist institutions, and I have given my life to helping others on their path to ministry. In good times and bad, I love the SBC and I thank our Lord for its investment in my life.

 

When I read Lawrence Ware’s New York Times article after the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting, I was grieved. I don’t know Mr. Ware, and he and I don’t see eye to eye on every issue, particularly some of the parallels that he drew in his argument. But that didn’t change my reaction. When someone suggests that the experience of African Americans in my denomination is such that the best option may be to leave, I only feel sadness. I wish with all my heart this was not the case.

 

Chuck Lawless shared a post at his blog listing ten reasons Satan attacks families.

It’s no secret that Satan aims his arrows at families. In the Garden of Eden, he disrupted the marriage of Adam and Eve. In the very next chapter of the Bible, his influence was so great that a brother killed a brother. From that time, our homes have been in his sights. Here’s why.