A Yoke Around My Neck

tiesThey say that neckties are making a comeback. Too bad, I say. I’m not a fan.

I especially don’t like the way ties have been used in churches in developing nations. In many countries, the tie is seen as a symbol of Christianity. Schools of preaching require their students to wear ties, some of whom return to their home congregation, trying to impose the fashion there. In countries where neckties are virtually unknown, you see preachers wearing ties (often in garish colors that in no way match the clothes they wear). In Argentina, if you saw someone wearing a tie walking down the street on Sunday, you had almost certainly found an evangelical.

On Islamic websites, posters ask if the tie is meant to be a symbol of the cross, or if the imposition of ties in business settings isn’t an attempt to proselytize. One reporter who was held captive by the Taliban told of being questioned on several occasions as to what magic Christians saw in neckties.

Wear your ties, if you like. Just don’t mix fashions and faith… neither here nor overseas.

Finally, during some Bible study yesterday, I discovered that neckties are criticized in the New Testament! Note this from the book of Acts:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

There you have it. Why put on the necks of the disciples a yoke that others have not been able to bear? That settles it. No neckties.

(OK, maybe I’m not totally serious on that one…)

Photo by Jane M. Sawyer via MorgueFile.com

Links to Go (August 27, 2014)

From peyote to sex: Religious liberty fight recast

“Things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years,” said Michael Moreland, vice dean and professor at Villanova University Law School. “Back then, the Catholic Church wasn’t very often in the position of needing exemptions.”


Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson

Overall, the social networks of whites are a remarkable 91 percent white.* White American social networks are only one percent black, one percent Hispanic, one percent Asian or Pacific Islander, one percent mixed race, and one percent other race. In fact, fully three-quarters (75 percent) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence. This level of social-network racial homogeneity among whites is significantly higher than among black Americans (65 percent) or Hispanic Americans (46 percent).


The Importance of Perspective

Unless both African-Americans and police officers acknowledge that they both share the blame in the wrong perspectives that has been created, we are destined to have tragic results. It is not the responsibility of law enforcement to change the way African-Americans view police officers. This is a job for the African-American community.
Similarly, the African-American community won’t change the way white police officers view African-American males. Police departments have to do that. Until both are willing to share some of the blame, they won’t be willing to share the necessary responsibility to bring about necessary change.


Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’

An informed citizenry depends on people’s exposure to information on important political issues and on their willingness to discuss these issues with those around them. The rise of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, has introduced new spaces where political discussion and debate can take place. This report explores the degree to which social media affects a long-established human attribute—that those who think they hold minority opinions often self-censor, failing to speak out for fear of ostracism or ridicule. It is called the “spiral of silence.”


The Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and You

The distance between me and God’s revelation is the distance between me and my Bible. I should prayerfully ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in my biblical study, but not ask Him for new revelation independent of it.
Don’t misunderstand. I believe that the Holy Spirit leads me and illuminates me every day. All I am saying is that I must weigh my subjective sense of what the Spirit is saying against the teachings of the Book which He inspired.


The best lesson from Fantasy Football’s success

In neither case is the fan on the field, getting concussed or making the big decisions. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that our feeling of ownership, of us-ness, is shifting. We want celebrities and brands and teams that do more than merely put on a show. In addition to the show, people want to believe that they own part of it.


Those Free AOL CDs Were a Campaign for Web Domination. It Worked.

Jan Brandt is a legend in the world of marketing. She singlehandedly led the famous AOL “carpet-bombing” campaign that put millions of AOL trial discs and CDs in everything from magazines to popcorn boxes to banks. In the most recent episode of the Internet History Podcast, I spoke to Jan about this famous campaign, how the strategy developed and the analytics and data that went into it. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of portions of our conversation.


British diplomats apologize for tweets marking 1814 burning of White House with BBQ, cake

The apologies were prompted after the British Embassy posted a picture Sunday of Patrick Davis, deputy British ambassador to the United States, with a caption saying he was participating in “the anniversary of burning of the White House with a BBQ.”
The picture was followed by another, about an hour later, that showed a White House replica atop a sheet cake, flanked by sparklers. The caption said: “Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!”


Ice Bucket Challenge Video on Facebook Leads Police to Wanted Man

In addition to the charge of parole violation, Morris will also face new charges that include resisting arrest, assault of an officer, criminal mischief, and suspicion of criminal impersonation. Morris is currently being held in the Douglas County jail on a $40,000 bond. Of course, if Morris had simply donated $100 to the ALS Association, he may have evaded police custody for a longer period of time.


Matthew 5:38–48

You have heard that it used to be said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, but I tell you, don’t resist the man who wants to harm you. If a man hits your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

If a man wants to sue you for your coat, let him have it and your overcoat as well. If anybody forces you to go a mile with him, do more—go two miles with him. Give to the man who asks anything from you, and don’t turn away from the man who wants to borrow.”

You have heard that it used to be said, ‘You shall love your neighbour’, and ‘hate your enemy’, but I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.

For if you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even tax-collectors do that! And if you exchange greetings only with your own circle, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do that much. No, you are to be perfect, like your Heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:38–48,
J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”
1962 edition by HarperCollins

Links to Go (August 26, 2014)

Don’t Let Your Comfort Zone Kill Your Church

My question is this: are we willfully blind in our churches? As the body of Christ, do we intentionally turn a blind eye to problems in the Church as a whole, or more specifically, in our local congregations? Why do we ignore problems that persist in our churches? Are we like the rest of the world, afraid of being labeled as some sort of pharisaical whistleblower in our church?
What if your church would be better off if you had the courage to speak up and help solve problems that may plague your congregation? Can you think of a persistent issue in your church that needs to be dealt with? Why aren’t you dealing with it?


Well To Start With, Your Last Theologian Was A Idiot

And that’s where it starts reminding me of theology, especially the kind of theology geared for public teaching. Some theologians adopt the same rhetorical tone when disagreeing with other theologians or traditions. They don’t say, “well, there are several opinions about that, and what you’re describing is A, while I’m persuaded by C.” They don’t attempt to get inside the mind of the other view, or try to explain sympathetically what previous teachers must have been thinking. Instead they trash the other view, and then assure listeners that NOW they’re getting the real story.


How We Can Learn From One Another

Our cities contain a diversity of persons with different perspectives, communication patterns, and presuppositions about the world in which we live. We desire to be heard and we desire to be understood. In order for this to occur, we must do the hard work of knowing and intently hearing from other ethnic groups.
When we pursue the hard work of knowing and hearing intently what life as an African American or Caucasian American resembles, embrace becomes possible. It is in the work of creating this new fellowship with each other that we have the opportunity to also demonstrate God’s embrace of a diverse humanity in Jesus Christ.


Viral Evangelism

One of the things the IBC [Ice Bucket Challenge] did for me was to see that somebody behind this went public with it. They filmed it. That’s all. No billboards. No TV ads. Filmed by amateurs on phones. That’s it!
What if we filmed baptisms the same way? What if we moved these sacred events through the media for others to see how it’s done and what it’s for? Additionally, what if we helped novices to baptize their friends and their friends baptize their friends?


A guide to four types of Bible study learners

Here are four types of adult learners that I’ve found in church small groups:

  • “Go deeper.” These are the folks for whom the Bible can never be complicated enough.
  • “Whatever. If the doors are open, I’ll be there.” At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who don’t care what the lesson is about or who the teacher is.
  • “Let’s talk about that.” Lectures were once the dominant form of adult teaching in most churches, but today many people prefer a discussion format.
  • “Make it fun.” A friend of mine once observed that a successful pastor we knew was not much of a preacher, “but he is a great after-dinner speaker.” The same can be true of small-group Bible study leaders.

Illiterate People of the Book

69% of adult Americans consider themselves Biblically literate according to a study conducted in 2013 by the Barna Group. But the same study found that 58% of American Christians are not interested in Biblical insight on how to live their lives.
Instead, the survey found that the highest-ranking topic about which we look to the Bible for wisdom was death. This disconnect between reading God’s Word and believing that God’s Word applies directly to our lives is troubling.


A Look at Labels

The following links are posts on labels and why they often do more harm than good.


Doctors Say We Should Let Students Sleep in Longer

This is exactly why doctors are now urging schools to delay their start time until after 8:00 am to accommodate kids’ natural sleep cycles. Right now, only about 15% of all high schools start after 8, but a handful are heeding the doctors’ advice, and it’s paying off. Research published earlier this year from the University of Minnesota in St Paul showed that later start times improve grades, test scores, and lower teen car accidents by a dumbfounding 65 to 70 percent.


64 People and Their Famous Last Words

Poignant, funny, sad, weird or mean—last words can make quite the impact as we shuffle off the stage of life. Here are 64 notable examples.


Salt, Light, Peacemakers

crayonsYesterday I only preached to part of the group that meets in the chapel at University Church of Christ. I let the rest of the group listen in, but my message was really addressed to our public school students.

School was on their mind. Today is the first day of classes here. As they thought about the upcoming year, I told them to think of themselves as missionaries. We had sent out groups this summer to Africa and Latin America. Now we’re sending out a group to the public schools of Abilene.

I told them that their mission was to change their school. To make it a better place. And that they would do that in three ways:

  1. By being salt. I reminded them of how salt changes the flavor of food. (Unfortunately, the young boy I called on prefers unsalted mashed potatoes; I told him he’d ruined my point!) And we read Matthew 5:13:

    You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

    They were reminded that the only way to be salty was to be different from those around them.

  2. By being light. We talked about how darkness can’t project itself, it can only occupy the places where there is no light. By being light at their school, they would naturally push back the darkness. And we read Matthew 5:16:

    In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

    They were reminded that they needed to let other people see good in them, not evil.

  3. By being peacemakers. We talked about the unrest in the world, but more specifically the unrest that occurs in schools. We talked about racial tensions, social tensions, gangs, bullies. We talked about how one voice speaking up for peace can often defuse a tense situation. We read Romans 12:17-18:

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

    They were reminded that they were to be agents of God’s presence, bringing peace to a tense world.

And after each point, I had everyone who would be involved in school (including college students, teachers, and others) to raise their hands and repeat after me:

“I will be salt.”
“I will be light.”
“I will be a peacemaker.”

Image by Amanda Petty via Creation Swap