In Case You Missed It

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook reminds us that we need to stop commiserating about sin. Keelan writes:

We have all been there. Someone in our small group asks to have coffee and we agree. Soon, we are sitting across a table before work one morning and see the expression on their face. We know the expression, we have had the expression. It is guilt and shame mixed with concern. As the conversation progresses, it turns to confession. Our friend is struggling with a particular sin and knows that confession is the right approach to dealing with it. They are seeking help, and they have come to us.

 

At his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls posted an article discussing how we as a society value entertainment and opinions more than we do information and truth.

Some back and forth between a football coach and a sports talk show host this week unintentionally illuminated one of our modern culture’s most dangerous condition. We value entertainment and opinions much more than we do information and truth…It’s more affirming when you read or hear something that simply dismisses everyone who disagrees with you as mentally or morally inferior. And it’s more infuriating to read someone who does that to you and your side. In both instances, our passions and emotions are inflamed (it is a hot take after all) and we are more likely to share or talk about it.

 

And when you share an article or video on social media, even if you talk about how horrible it is, you give the other person what they want—attention. So they serve up more takes and the cycle continues.

 

And that’s what hot takes do. They draw people in.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax writes that Christians must be myth busters.

MythBusters is one of The Discovery Channel’s most popular shows. It ran 15 seasons and still finds success in reruns.

 

Each episode focuses on a couple of popular beliefs or rumors, like “Can drinking Diet Coke and swallowing Mentos make your stomach explode?” or “Is running better than walking if you want to keep dry in the rain?” The hosts then test the beliefs through a number of experiments, to see if the idea holds up under scientific study.

 

MythBusters is a show that is comical and educational. It takes a common idea in society and shows how the myth gets “busted” from the scientific standpoint.

 

But you’ll never see a MythBusters episode about the purpose of life. You won’t find the hosts tackling the question, “What happens to us when we die?” Or “Is there a divine presence in the world?” These questions go beyond the stuff of scientific study. They are common and contested.

 

David Jones posted at the Intersect Project discussing the inauguration, Paula White, and the pitfalls of the prosperity gospel. Dr. Jones writes:

“To live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.”

Charles Spurgeon uttered these words over a century ago to the then-largest congregation in all Christendom. Over the years, however, the message preached in some of the largest churches in the world has dramatically changed. This new gospel has been ascribed many names, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “prosperity gospel” and “positive confession theology.”

No matter what name you use, though, the essence of this new gospel is the same: God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy and personally happy.

 

Also at the Intersect Project website, Laura Thigpen posted an article titled: “A Pro-Life Ethic: Caring for Aging Parents“.

Her frail hands, wrinkled with raised blue veins would meet my Granny’s hands as she held the cup to her thin lips. “Alright, now you have one more to take, Momma,” Granny would say, coaxing my great-grandmother to take the final sip to swallow the last of several pills.

 

As a child watching my Granny care for her nearly blind, hard-of-hearing elderly mother, I would try earnestly to imagine the woman before me as a young mother, up early preparing breakfast and organizing a household of seven children in the 1940’s. Sitting quietly, and contentedly, in her chair on the far side of the living room, I struggled then to see in her the once vibrant life she lived. But every now and then I would glimpse a small grin on her face, as if she weren’t so hard of hearing after all or perhaps she was remembering a pleasant memory.

 

Watching my Granny care for her mother in such a tender way, like caring for a young child, stirred an appreciation in my young heart for the beauty and delicacy of old age. Instead of seeing wrinkles I see stories of faith, adventure and hardships. Instead of gray hair I see the evidence of work, stress, grief and the wisdom of long-life. Instead of thin, easily bruised skin and oddly bent bones, I see a lifetime of very human vulnerability – such a soft shell to protect something so vital as the human heart.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared a visual tour of the History of Ideas in the form of some of his student’s timeline projects.

One of the great privileges of my life has been the opportunity to teach History of Ideas at The College at Southeastern. Under the leadership of noted author and philosopher James K. Dew, the college requires its undergraduate students to take four courses in the History of Ideas.

 

The first History of Ideas course is a lecture-style grand tour of the rise and development of “thought,” of the way certain ideas have shaped our world, especially in the West. I teach this course and I lead the students to evaluate various ideas and ideologies in light of their logical coherence, empirical adequacy, and existential viability. But we also evaluate them from a distinctly Christian perspective, in light of Scripture and the Christian tradition.

 

During the course, I require my students—almost all of them freshmen—to create a “History of Ideas Timeline,” a sort of visual tour of the history of ideas. This year, several of those students did such a good job that I decided to post their timelines here on my website.

 

Steven Madsen shared a post at his personal blog discussing the difference between just knowing about Jesus and truly knowing Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him.

Have you ever thought about the massive claims of Christianity?  “There is One God who created all things”, “God became man & dwelled among us”, “Jesus was crucified, buried, & resurrected, becoming the atonement for sin”. Even more so, “the God of the universe wants to know you, personally”, and “He loves you deeply”.  And what about the words of Jesus Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The weight of these statements cannot be overstated.  In fact, if true, these assertions are of eternal importance! All of history & every existing thing hinges on the claims of Christianity.  That’s big.

 

Its 2.2 billion, big.  Christianity is the largest religion in the world, making up nearly one-third of the world’s population. Or so the statistics say.

 

And there lies my question.  If one-third of the world claims Christianity why isn’t it more…noticeable?

 

For years I asked this question of myself.

 

Earlier this week, Chuck Lawless shared eleven reasons to love the senior adults in your church. Dr. Lawless writes:

Occasionally, I speak in a church that is predominantly senior adults. Each time I do, I think about how a church like that is going to survive – but I also remember why senior adults matter. Remembering these things reminds me to love them even as we make changes to grow the church.

 

Art Rainer posted an article this week discussing if pastors should give to their church.

God has designed us, not to be hoarders, but conduits through which His generosity flows.

When we give to our local church, we get to participate in all the amazing ministry God is doing through the church. It is a place of significant impact. He uses your generosity to your church to make a difference in the lives of those in the church, in your community, and around the world.

 

But what about the pastor of a church? Should he give to the church he pastors? It is a question many ask. His salary is derived from gifts given to the church. So if he gives back to the church, isn’t it just creating an unnecessary giving loop?

 

The quick answer is yes, the pastor should give to his church. Here are a few reasons why.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax recently shared some things to consider before going for a Ph.D.

In December of 2015, I graduated from Southeastern Seminary with a Ph.D. in theology (with a focus on North American missiology). I’ve written before that the Ph.D. experience was one of the most demanding and rewarding of my life. It stretched me in ways that escape easy description.

 

The stamina that is required to persevere through the dissertation phase is enough to sidetrack a number of great scholars, and I now understand why I have friends and colleagues who have done everything necessary for their doctorate except finish their final dissertation. Just imagine. You come to the end of seminars and papers and comprehensive exams, only then to begin work on something that will require 100,000 words of writing and literally millions of words of reading. It’s enough to send shivers down the spine of the most committed student.

 

Earlier this week, a friend who is about to enter a Ph.D. program asked me a few questions about how I managed that season of life.

 

I hesitate to answer because, first, I’m not sure that I always managed it well or in an exemplary way. And secondly, because we are all different, we have different gifts and responsibilities. To say “here’s what you should do” seems woefully ill informed if not designed for someone’s unique situation. It would be much better to work with the people who know you and your situation best—your wife, your family, your church—to get specific answers on most questions.

 

But what I can do is offer some counsel based on what worked well for me.

 

In Case You Missed It

At The People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook shared a warning concerning religious categories. Keelan writes:

Americans love our categories. We love our boxes and labels. Even today, with the postmodern push away from classification, we Western thinkers still organize information by placing “like items” together in taxonomies. Categories can be helpful to understand certain generalizations about a set of items, ideas, or people. However, categories also obscure information. Every time we lump two like things together, we focus on the similarities and overlook the differences. This is particularly true when we view something as an outsider.

 

We need to recognize this tendency to generalize in missions and evangelism. Our world is full of cultures, beliefs, religions, and worldviews. The sheer number of options when it comes to a belief system are dizzying. In the past, however, your average church-going Christian in the US would only run across one of two different belief systems. A generation ago, there were Protestants, Catholics, and not-so-religious people. Those in the Protestant camp tended to be either committed, confessional Christians or nominal Christians (in name only) and part of a larger Christian cultural ethos. When it came to sharing the gospel, these were the predominant categories of thought.

 

Spence Spencer published an article at The Intersect Project discussing and the psychological consequences of a well-intended idea: universal basic income.

We don’t know what the future holds, but some in the tech industry are predicting a massive displacement of workers in the future.State jobs reports tend to confirm this expectation, as automation is thought to be increasing and threatening to displace low-skill workers.

 

Some see the downward shift in employment rates as an overall positive, arguing that taking people out of so-called menial jobs will free more people up to be creative and more effectively human. To support the displaced workers, there are a number of people calling for universal basic income.

 

Universal basic income proposals come in several forms and variations, but a simplified version is this: Everyone will be guaranteed at least a certain amount of income per year. Essentially, the government will write everyone a check for an amount deemed appropriate to support basic living expenses. Wages from compensated employment would either add to that basic income or displace it, depending on the proposal.

 

At his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a post about Chip and Joanna Gaines, Buzzfeed, and fixing up the social media cycle of shame.

Buzzfeed published a lazy story on Chip and Joanna Gaines, the happy home renovating couple from Fixer Upper, using sermons preached by their pastor in opposition to same sex marriage.

 

The obvious intention of the piece was to gin up controversy and unleash an internet mob to pressure the hosts of the popular show to voice an opinion on the culturally controversial issue. After obtaining that information, only then could socially liberal viewers feel comfortable (or not) watching the Gaineses remodel homes.

 

Thankfully, unlike many previous instances, most readers critiqued Buzzfeed’s story instead of their subjects. Many who support same sex marriage and even many who are gay themselves called the piece “bad journalism and bad advocacy.”

 

After the backlash, Buzzfeed’s editor insisted the piece was about whether HGTV discriminated against same sex couples on the show. (Despite the fact that, as they reported in the story, multiple shows on HGTV regularly feature same sex couples.)

 

In a snark filled follow-up, the writer of the original piece quoted from an HGTV spokesperson that the network does not discriminate against anyone. Seemingly, this will end the latest version of Heresy Hunters, the new favorite reality show of some cultural progressives.

 

But as a Christian, I am much more concerned about our reaction to such situations. How we handle them matters because they will be more and more frequent.

 

At the Around Southeastern blog, Harper McKay shared about the Biblical Women’s Institute titled “Helping Us Get There“.

My husband and I met while serving overseas as singles in Southeast Asia. When we returned home from our two-year terms and talked about getting married, we thought we would slow down, stay in America for a while, and have a “normal” life, whatever that means. We both knew that God had called us to serve overseas long term, but we did not want to move to go to seminary. We thought it would be better to take online classes and work full time near our families.

 

As we searched for jobs, nothing seemed to open up to either one of us. The wedding date drew nearer and nearer and we still lived with our parents with no idea what to do after we got married. Still we said we just didn’t want to go to seminary.

 

Finally after my husband (then my fiancé) was turned down from two jobs in the same week, I admitted to something that had been creeping up in my mind.

 

“I think we have not been open to everything God might want us to do,” I said as we took a walk in the park.

 

Trevin Wax recently shared his 10 favorite reads of 2016Trevin writes:

For more than ten years now, I’ve been blogging regularly. And every year, I like to pick the ten books I most enjoyed reading.

Feel free to peruse this list and some of previous years’ selections (20152014201320122011, 2010,2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, as well as my Hubworthy page of “Essential” recommendations). You’ll find some great titles to add to your Christmas wish list.