In Case You Missed It

In a recent post at Facts and Trends, Aaron Earls discussed the ten worst countries for Christians in 2017. Aaron writes:

For the 16th consecutive year, North Korea tops the list of the most oppressive nations toward Christians.

Open Doors, a Christian persecution awareness ministry, published its annual World Watch List, highlighting the plight of Christians around the world who are arrested, harassed, tortured, and killed for their faith.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article at his personal blog which shares twelve important books about intellectual history and the Western mind.

Here are twelve books I recommend to persons who wish to better understand the rise and development of Western thought. Together, the books form a sort of “starter” course. I will describe each book and then rank its level of difficulty on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult. Level 1 is the category for a book you could give to any friend or family member. Level 5 is the category for a book that might be required in a PhD seminar.

 

In a recent blog post, Eric Geiger shared three indicators you might love ministry more than God. Dr. Geiger writes:

Ministry is thrilling. Yes, there are deep and painful challenges, but we get to see the Lord change people’s lives. Ministry allows us to enjoy a front row seat to people grasping the gospel, to people being sent out on mission, and to the beauty of Christian community. Yes, there are plenty of people who throw stones and criticism, but there are also God’s people who offer encouragement and prayers and support to those who lead and serve. Because ministry is thrilling, it can be addictive. Because affirmations exist, we can long for more and more of them. We can, if we are not careful, love ministry more than the God who equipped us for it. If you love ministry more than God, these three things are true in your heart.

 

At The Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Scott Hildreth shared about the little things that make the biggest differences.

Over the years I have worked with missionaries, church staff, and students. These men and women have had passion in their hearts and a vision to changing the world for Christ. They launch into a ministry. Soon they are frustrated and ready to give up. They do not see the fruit or success they hoped for. They suffer from burnout or their family suffers because of an unhealthy work/ministry pace. The back half of this proverb quoted above contains some important tips for successful ministry/missionary life.

 

Trevin Wax posted at The Gospel Coalition discussing why Christians should care about ideas.

I can’t forget the shoes. Piles and piles of them filling the room. Of all the gruesome images I saw at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the room filled with shoes from Jewish victims is the one thing I can’t forget. I think about the people who once owned those shoes, and I mourn the human lives lost in a vortex of unspeakable evil.

The tragedy of the Holocaust reminds me of something I heard as a high school student—ideas have consequences. Adolf Hitler did not come out of nowhere. Before there was the Holocaust, there were decades of philosophical theories advocating superior races, nationalistic laws, and the use of eugenics to weed out inferior peoples. Throw in a dash of “survival of the fittest” from Darwinism and perhaps the pursuit of raw power from Nihilism and eventually we arrive in the concentration camp—a horrifying concoction of various falsehoods.

Ideas do indeed have consequences. But sometimes those consequences are beautiful, as in the early days of Christianity when plagues would sweep through cities in the Roman Empire. While many Roman citizens chose to abandon family and friends and flee the city to escape contamination, early Christians stayed behind to nurse the sick. Because of their belief in a Savior who sacrificed himself for others, they were content to give their lives as well.

 

In a post at his personal blog, Dr. Danny Akin shared six ways preaching aids discipleship in the church. Dr. Akin writes:

Discipleship lies at the heart of the Great Commission, so it should be at the heart of all our ministry as well, including our preaching. Many churches struggle to disciple their people, but I want to suggest that the preaching ministry of the church can and should be one of the main engines of discipleship for the entire body. Here are six ways I believe faithful biblical exposition can help Christians grow to look more like the Lord Jesus and live well before Him.

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.