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 Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax posted an article discussing the blessing of weather that confounds the control-freak. Trevin writes:

One of the greatest temptations in a technological age is to imagine that human beings create truth rather than receive it. Through scientific inventions and social media re-inventions, we suffer under the illusion that reality is something we can determine rather than something we must discover.

 

As C. S. Lewis put it: in ancient times, “the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.” In a technological age, however, “the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique.” 

 

“Subduing reality to our wishes” is the promise of technology, right? And even if we do not put our faith in this technological solution to human problems, we live in ways that further the illusion that we are ultimately in control—from our social media personas, to the heating and cooling of our houses, to the tailoring of our phones to our own needs.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Scott Hildreth shared five reasons (with solutions) which might cause evangelism to not get the emphasis it should.

There is little doubt that God’s mission and mandate for his church centers on evangelism. This means that, no matter what churches are doing, the primary objective must be clearly and plainly communicating the gospel. Our message is good news – God loved our sinful humanity so much that he gave his only Son. Anyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

Carl F. H. Henry once wrote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” Most Christians know this is true; however, we are consumed with other activities and forget the importance of evangelism. Below give 5 reasons for this misplaced focus and then give some recommendations.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a helpful reminder that we as Christians should stop making ourselves the hero of Bible stories.

For most movies, the protagonist or main character is also the hero, the person you are meant to identify with and want to emulate. Why is that?

 

Well, you naturally feel sympathy toward the person at the center of the story. It’s very difficult to constantly see the world through one person’s eyes and not view their perspective as right or at least defensible.

 

This creates a perpetual temptation for the Christian. Inescapably, we see life through our own eyes. We are the protagonists of our story and we naturally want to make ourselves the hero as well.

 

When you read a Bible passage, with whom do you initially identify?

 

Joe McKeever shared a post at his personal blog discussing twenty things which pastors should not love too much. Dr. McKeever writes:

“Do not be excessively righteous or overly wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

Most of us would not include those excesses in a list of which to be wary.  But for most, I imagine the list might look more like this…

 

Chris Martin posted an article discussing how Americans feel better about most religions, but not Evangelicalism.

This week, the Pew Research Center released some data about how Americans feel about various religions, and how these feelings have changed from 2014 to 2017.

 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the data—and the focal point—is the comparison between how Americans felt about religious groups in 2014 versus 2017…every single religious group increased its reputation among Americans except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Yes. Americans warmed up to every religion over the course of the last three years except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Chuck Lawless posted at his blog sharing eight things which North American believers can learn from believers around the world.

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them.

 

In Case You Missed It

Over at the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams shared a great post titled: “John the Baptist Died believing Character Matters,” which reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is to a crucified Savior. Nathaniel writes:

A prominent child of privilege had glaring personal weaknesses. He was overly image conscious, and he constantly got in trouble for indulging his hedonistic sexual desires.

 

On paper, he followed God. In practice, he did nothing of the sort.

 

Many of the people ignored his personal transgressions. But a well-known preacher called him out, at great personal cost.

 

This story sounds like it’s ripped from the headlines. In fact, it’s ripped from the history books. This is the story of Herod Antipas and his chief critic, John the Baptist.

 

At the People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook asks: Does your church have  family tree?

We replicate what we celebrate.

 

Everyone knows, buried deep in our bones, is a desire to be more and do more of what we praise. Truthfully, the idea is at the heart of the gospel and our purpose as people created to worship. We become what we worship, and we replicate what we celebrate.

 

This past week, I happened to see a video by Pillar Church in Dumfries, VA. Pillar is a great church just outside of DC, and I consider them a model for others churches when it comes to multiplication.

 

Our church is five years old, and multiplication was a high goal from the beginning. As a church plant, our membership naturally sees the importance of church planting and rallies behind the idea that multiplication is a better success metric than addition. Growing more churches is more important that growing our own church. The idea gets back to our gospel footprint. As we start new congregations here in the States or send missionaries to start new congregations across the world, we can impact far more areas with missions and mercy. The goal is the spread of the gospel.

 

Scott Hildreth posted earlier this week at the Center for Great Commission Studies reminding us that our place is here, and our time is now. Dr. Hildreth writes:

We are living through a very difficult time in our country. Friendships are being strained. Children are being exposed to embarrassing information. Hostility is oozing (maybe even spewing) from every pore and crack in society. Old wounds are ripped open and old enemies seem to be mounting again.

 

It is frustrating.

It is frightening.

It is nauseating and exhausting

AND –

It is also tempting to wish we did not have to live here or, that we were not living here, now.

 

This temptation leads us to search for safe places to hide until the storm is passed. We want to protect our faith, our families, our way of life. These reactions are normal and to be expected; however, I want to suggest that they should not be the Christian’s response to our current cultural crisis. Rather than wishing for a different life in a different place and different time, let’s embrace these challenges as God’s mission field. Nothing we are enduring has voided God’s mission nor will it derail His plan. However, we are his body and his mission must advance through us. Rather than hunkering down until the storm passes, let’s step out into the wild weather and recognize that God’s place for us is here and God’s time for us is now.

 

How shall we live as missionaries in this current society?

 

Dr. Nathan Finn recently shared a post with an important reminder about neighbor love and the upcoming election.

This year’s presidential election is unique in that both major party candidates are remarkably unpopular as individuals. It really is remarkable that so many Republicans and Democrats have spent so much time more or less apologizing for their support of their respective candidates. No doubt political scientists and historians will be studying this phenomenon for many years to come.

 

Thom Rainer posted at his personal blog giving five ways to stop the decline in your church.

Is there any hope for our church? Are we doomed to close the doors of this church after over a century in this community?

 

Those questions were two among many I received recently.

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that explained why churches are dying and declining faster today than historical norms. The article was more clinical and descriptive than hopeful and prescriptive. I promised I would follow up with suggestions and advice. This article is that follow up.

 

You should read this next sentence very carefully. The solutions are not easy. In fact, they will be such a challenge that many church leaders and members will deem them impossible for their churches.

 

That will be a shame.

 

But if you are willing to make changes, to make sacrifices, and to get out of your comfort zones, there is real hope. Allow me to explain by repeating the five challenges in the form of questions followed by my answers.