Links To Go (June 23, 2017)

Served or Serving: Curing the Sickness That’s Killing The Church

But what might happen if we thought of the church, not as a set of structures, programming, goods, and services, but as a meal? The question we have to answer together is whether this meal is more like going to a restaurant or sharing a potluck. If it’s a restaurant, our tastes matter. We can pick and choose from the menu and request our salad dressing be served “on the side.” We can rightly regard the pace, kindness, and delivery of service. Our needs and perceptions matter at a restaurant. If we like the “experience,” we can leave a tip.
A potluck is different. If church is a potluck, we know to arrive with an offering and prepared to serve and be served. We demonstrate gratitude to the others who have come equally prepared to provide a feast for all.


I Am the Center of the Universe

I can only come to one of two conclusions about my frustration over this inevitable fact of life: either I am the center of the universe and you all don’t know, or — I am not the center of the universe and I am upset that you all know.


Most Hispanic Christians Ambivalent Toward Israel

Among Hispanic Christians who support Israel’s right to exist, few cite the Bible (7 percent) or Bible prophecy (11 percent) as the reason for doing so. Instead, 55 percent say Israel has a right to exist because every nation has a right to exist.


Five Overcorrection Mistakes Churches Make

  1. A different kind of pastor.
  2. A different emphasis on evangelism or discipleship.
  3. A different emphasis on reaching newcomers versus taking care of the members.
  4. A different kind of leadership structure.
  5. A different kind of system to oversee financial controls.

Are Your Teachers VIPs?

Too often, however, our teachers receive no or few expressions of thanks. This shouldn’t be. In the strongest possible way, I want to encourage churches to do more to thank their teachers. Here are a few ideas.


Worth being afraid of

It turns out, though, that the one who usually lets us down is us.
Our unwillingness to leap, to commit, to trust our own abilities.
It’s the internal narrative that seeks disaster just as much as it craves reassurance.
That’s the one we ought to be vilifying, fortifying ourselves against and frightened of.


Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries

A new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data from fall 2016 finds that 53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation.


Gangs of aggressive killer whales are shaking down Alaska fishing boats for their fish

The orcas will wait all day for a fisher to accumulate a catch of halibut, and then deftly rob them blind. They will relentlessly stalk individual fishing boats, sometimes forcing them back into port.


The reason Manu Ginobili means so much to San Antonio

He’s commonly known as a man of the people. It’s not unusual to catch him in the middle of a conversation with a random fan. In a city where most residents literally speak his language, one could argue he’s more loved as a person than Tim Duncan, who is the godfather of the team, but an undisputedly distant one.


Upcoming speaking events

I’m looking forward to teaching at the Red River Family Encampment this coming weekend and next week. That said, I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing Lea Ellen Lawlis, the wife of the organizer of the encampment, Jerry Lawlis. Please lift him up in prayer during this hard time.

I’m leading three classes in Spanish on Saturday, using material from Church Inside Out. Then I’ll be presenting much of the same material in English on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Later next week, I’ll be making a quick trip to the Summer Celebration at Lipscomb University. Forces beyond my control will prevent me from being able to spend much time there, but I will be at the Hope For Life breakfast in the Shamblin Theater at 7 a.m. Friday morning and will teach a class in the Shamblin Theater at 8:10 a.m. The class will also be focused on Church Inside Out. (Are you detecting a theme?)

If any of you plan to be at these events, I very much hope to get to see you there.

Proof texts, women judges, and pushing our own agendas

The Old Testament character Deborah is a hero to many who want to expand the role of women in the church. In many ways, she has become to feminist groups what Nadab and Abihu are to legalists; each group uses these stories in ways that the Bible doesn’t, just to promote a certain agenda.

The Bible never points back to Deborah, neither for good nor for bad. When her time is remembered, she isn’t mentioned; Barak is. (1 Samuel 12:11; Hebrews 11:32) That’s really, really significant… and never mentioned by those using Deborah for their own means.

There is no evidence that anyone in Bible times saw Deborah as setting a precedent that should be followed. There don’t seem to have been any female judges after this. When the monarchy is established, the female rulers are not selected by God and are uniformly bad. There’s no clamoring in the book of Acts to name a woman to replace Judas. When there is a problem with food distribution regarding women in the church, men are named to oversee the effort; Acts 6 would be the logical time for the church to embrace the “obvious teachings” about women, but it doesn’t happen.

The book of Judges depicts a chaotic time in the history of Israel; the chief description of the atmosphere is “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges is full of stories where God works through this chaos, using unlikely people in unlikely ways.

I don’t believe that Balaam’s donkey presents a case for animals participating in our assemblies. I don’t think the witch of Endor appears to lead us to change the Bible’s stance on sorcery. I don’t believe Rahab’s story teaches anything about the acceptability of prostitution, nor does Samson’s frequenting a prostitute justify our doing the same.

If you want to pick out proof texts from the Bible to support a certain agenda, it’s easily done. But just because it’s easy doesn’t make it right.

image courtesy yoministry.com

Links To Go (June 20, 2017)

Is the ESV Literal and the NIV Gender Neutral?

The point of this blog is to encourage all of us to use exact language. The ESV is not “literal.” (Note that the ESV does not claim to be “literal” but rather “essentially literal.”) The NIV is not “gender neutral.” (The NIV claims to be gender accurate.) But people commenting on these translations are often not as nuanced.


Southern Baptists and the Alt-Right: On Being in the Room Where it Happened (by Nathan Finn)

At no point and in no way was the resolutions committee being “soft” on the Alt-Right or other forms of white supremacy. At no point were Southern Baptists debating whether or not we ought to denounce these demonic impulses. At no point did Steve Gaines or anyone else force Southern Baptists to do something they didn’t want to do. At no point were Southern Baptists wringing their hands over how we would look in the media if we didn’t do something. At no point were we trying not to offend Trump voters—or any other voters, for that matter. None of that happened, and folks who suggest it did are either speaking out of ignorance or out of malicious intent, period.


Your Short-Term Trips Have Not Prepared You For Long-Term Missions

One of the keys to adjusting to a new culture is holding loosely to your expectations. Unfortunately, STM trips can actually make that worse by creating a false picture of what your new life will look like. I still love short-term missions trips when they are done well, but it’s important to understand their limits in preparing you for long-term service. Don’t be surprised if you need to un-learn some of what they taught you.


The Number One Reason Missionaries Go Home

Toward the end of the 20th century the World Evangelical Alliance released a significant study that found “conflict with peers” the top reason North American missionaries leave the mission field.


The Uniqueness of Early Christian Baptism

What many Christians are unaware of is the fact that baptism, or a variation thereof, was a practice of most religions in antiquity. When in Hebrews 6:2 the author mentioned “baptisms,” notice that he used the plural form of the term. Later on in the writing, he also mentioned “washings” (Hebrews 9:10), again a plural usage. Jews participated in baptisms—often named as “washings,” “purifications,” “lustrations,” or “ablutions”—frequently and for a variety of reasons (e.g. Leviticus 15:5–6; Numbers 19:7–8).


 

The Simple Menu Innovations That Science Says Can Get People To Order Vegetarian Options He sees language and marketing as a way to help change how Americans think about healthy food. “We may not only choose vegetables more when we think of them this way, but we might actually enjoy the experience when we eat them, too,” he says. “There’s some evidence that shows that being in an indulgent mind-set while you’re eating is actually better physiologically than when you’re in a mind-set of restriction. And then there’s other research that shows that if you make a healthy decision but you feel deprived you may eat more later on anyway. So here we really want to start changing this restrictive messaging around healthy food.”

Chocolate milk is too confusing for nearly half of American adults, survey finds

A full 7 percent of American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows, Food & Wine reports. That figure comes from an Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy survey of more than 1,000 people conducted in April.
When extrapolated, it means approximately 16.4 million Americans — or roughly the population of Pennsylvania — are hopelessly misinformed about chocolate milk, according to the The Washington Post.
Overall, the survey found 48 percent of US adults aren’t sure where chocolate milk comes from (though 29 percent use their kids as cover to buy it for themselves).


Cuba has never been given a chance

I’ve been to Cuba 25 times. I’ve studied the country for the last ten years. And I’d be foolish to call myself an expert on Cuba. It’s a complex country that defies simple explanations.

That said, I want to share some historical details that might give you some insights into the situation there, especially in light of the tense relationship between the United States and Cuba.

Cuba was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1492. I put “discovered” in quotes because many knew of the islands existence before then; those that knew just weren’t Europeans.

Spain quickly made Cuba a base for its operations in the New World. And Cuba was one of the last American countries to free itself from Spanish rule, not gaining independence from that country until 1898.

At that time, the United States placed Cuba under its control. The U.S. would not recognize Cuban independence until the Cubans accepted the provisions of the Platt Amendment, provisions which granted the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuba when it was deemed necessary and also gave the U.S. control of Guantánamo Bay.

Cuba had “independence” but it was far from free. When opposition forces threatened the rule of Tomás Estrada Palma (who is famous for allowing the Platt Amendment to be imposed on the Cuban people), Estrada Palma appealed to the United States. U.S. troops invaded the country in 1906 and occupied Cuba until new elections were held in 1909. In 1912, the United States intervened in Cuba again, this time to put down an uprising by Cubans of African descent in an action known as the Negro Rebellion.

In 1916, American sugarcane plantation owners in Cuba appealed to the U.S. for protection from left-wing forces who opposed the elected Cuban government. Marines were sent to the island, especially because of fears that Germany might work with the insurgents to attack U.S. interests. U.S. troops remained on the island until 1922 (after that, forces remained at Guantánamo Bay, as they still do).

In 1933, elements of the Cuban military overthrew the government. The U.S. ambassador requested military intervention, and F.D.R. sent 29 warships in response. The Cuban president, Ramón Grau, cancelled the Platt amendment in protest. General Fulgencio Batista forced Grau out in 1934, becoming the de facto leader of Cuba, with the approval of F.D.R.

Batista was a brutal leader who ruled Cuba with an iron hand. He was friendly toward the U.S., however, so he enjoyed the full support of Washington. He served as elected president from 1940 until 1944, then as dictator from 1952-1959, until he was overthrown by Fidel Castro.

What’s the point? Cuba hasn’t known freedom. Not really. Politicians in Florida will try and convince the world that the Castro regime is the problem. They’re wrong. Castro is a symptom, part of a greater problem that goes back to the day that Columbus laid eyes on Cuba. Powerful people have seen Cuba as something to be used and controlled. Cuba is blessed with resources and an enviable geographic location; it’s cursed by the same factors, as these lead the powerful of the world to covet Cuba.

Whatever is announced by the U.S. government tomorrow, I pray that it will be for the good of the Cuban people. And whatever course Cuba takes when Raul Castro steps down in February, I pray that it will be for the good of the Cuban people.