Links to Go (July 18, 2014)

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It’s More Complicated

Many of the questions today simply were not in play that long ago. For one, governmental regulations have a far wider reach than they did even 100 years ago. We work, play, worship, and live in spaces regulated by government. Just look around the next time you step foot in your local church. Some of the building was probably subsidized through state and federal tax exemptions. Any recent construction likely encountered local zoning ordinances. The certificate of occupancy, fire code compliance, and any food service permits all reflect government regulation. Today, the government, its money, and its laws are everywhere.


Downwardly mobile for Jesus

Miami University anthropologist James Bielo studies the reurbanization of evangelicals and says he’s seeing more of the younger ones leave the suburbs for the city. “It’s sort of a hot thing,” he says. Mark Mulder, a sociologist at evangelical Calvin College in Michigan, says some evangelicals subscribe to what he calls the “miracle motif” — the belief that racial justice depends on more people becoming Christian — and others say that’s not enough, believing systemic changes must also be made in society. “Perkins and the CCDA,” Mulder says, “get traction in speaking to both communities.”


Instead of Building Your Platform, Build Your Character

You build your character, and let God build your platform and influence.


5 Insights Into Idolatry

  1. An idol is anything that promises a life of security and joy apart from God
  2. Idols engage the deepest emotions in our hearts
  3. Idols need to be protected
  4. Idols demand sacrifices to keep them happy
  5. The gospel overcomes our idolatry

Booting Compliance

Many Christians are fooled by the way some preachers talk about the law. In just the same way that Premier Booting Services promises “compliance,” preachers claim that the application of the law to a situation will bring about obedience. A Premier sales pitch—say, to an office building manager—might go something like, “A contract with Premier Booting services will ensure that no one illegally parks in your lot ever again. Once someone is booted by us, they know better than to make that mistake again.” Sounds like a sermon, doesn’t it?
But remember, it’s not actually in Premier Booting Services’ best interest to provide compliance! A booting company doesn’t want compliance, it wants violation.


Why Church Members Don’t Invite Others to Church

  1. “I just don’t think about it.”
  2. “I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.”
  3. “The music isn’t that good.”
  4. “The preaching isn’t strong.”
  5. “We’ve got too many church problems right now.”
  6. “Our church is already too crowded.”
  7. “Nobody ever challenged me to invite anyone.”
  8. “I don’t know how to start the conversation.”
  9. “It’s the Spirit’s job—not mine—to bring people to church.”
  10. “It’s too far for people to come.”

I don’t have any good ideas

What they’re actually saying is, “I don’t have any ideas that are guaranteed to work, and not only that, are guaranteed to cause no criticism or moments when I’m sure the whole thing is going to fall apart.”
And that sentence is probably true.
But no good ideas? C’mon.


Links to Go (July 17, 2014)

The Facts About the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border

Today, the American Immigration Council releases Children in Danger: A Guide to the Humanitarian Challenge at the Border, which addresses the basics of the situation—who the unaccompanied children are, what happens once they’re here, and what the government has done so far. The guide also explains what the government’s current procedures are – what it means to process the unaccompanied children appropriately. The government’s response to the humanitarian challenge ignited a vigorous debate, and understanding the critical pieces of the situation will help move toward solutions.


God’s Immigrants

The great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king was an immigrant, and Matthew lists four immigrant women in the genealogy of Jesus. Because it is among a diaspora minority that the Messiah was born and he, himself, became an African refugee to Egypt before he was even old enough to know the land of his birth. The same Messiah sent his disciples among all the nations of the world as migrant minorities; and it was through a network of immigrants like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, and Apollos that the church spread through the dominant empire.


Sandy Hook dad on what you can do right now to help prevent violence

The person who killed his son, he said, was one of those kids who was often alone; the kind of kid who felt invisible. The kind of kid who maybe needed — among many other things — a friend like Daniel.
“Pick your eyes up from the sidewalk and look at people,” Mr. Barden pleaded, with tears in his eyes. Yes, we should call our representatives; yes, we should make our voices heard where laws are made. But we should also do what we can to foster empathy; to create a world where no one feels invisible and ignored — least of all those who disproportionately fall victim to our collective failure to care enough to act.
Look at people, he said. Take your eyes off your smartphone and say hello. Smile. Let no one around you feel invisible.


For Pastors Only — Stop Complaining

I worked very hard in the pastorate and it was burdensome at times. But just between us, it was no more so than my work as a salesman and definitely less so than my work as a teacher. Most pastors who complain about the especially burdensome nature of the pastorate have been out of touch with the secular, work world so long that they think others’ jobs are not tiring or stressful like theirs.


10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

I want to share the 10 things we as pastors don’t really want you to know about us. Now in doing so my aim is not to rat out my fellow pastors. Nor am I doing this so congregants sleep with one eye open regarding their leadership. My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this:

  • Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges.
  • Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations.
  • People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.

Therefore I give a glimpse into what we as pastors don’t like to admit about ourselves.


Church of England Votes to Accept Women as Bishops

The latest proposals, which were voted on at a meeting in the northern city of York, included concessions to traditionalists by allowing parishes that are unwilling to accept a woman as bishop to request a man. An ombudsman would be offered to arbitrate disputes.
“Women will be bishops like all other bishops with no distinction at all,” Archbishop Welby said before the vote, “but we will seek for the groups who disagree with the ordination of women as bishops on theological grounds to continue to flourish within the church.”


How Americans Feel About Religious Groups

Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).


Half the Country Lives in These Counties

Walter Hickey and Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider used Census data to determine that half the people in the United States live in these 146 shaded counties. Do you live in one of the blue areas? You can see a list of those counties on their original post.


Reporter stopped by TSA agent who didn’t know District of Columbia is in US

When Gray handed the man his driver’s license the agent demanded to see Gray’s passport.
Gray told the agent he wasn’t carrying his passport and asked why he needed it.
The agent said he didn’t recognize the license.
Gray said he asked the agent if he knew what the District of Columbia is, and after a brief conversation Gray realized the man did not know.


Two things I ask of you, O Lord

Today I don’t have any words of wisdom of my own to share. Thought I’d share some of my favorite wisdom from the book of Proverbs:

“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much
and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
(Proverbs 30:7-9)

Have a great day!

Links to Go (July 16, 2014)

Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Do Make It

“First-time marriages: probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average,” Feldhahn revealed. “Now, okay, that’s still too high, but it’s a whole lot better than what people think it is.”
Shaunti and Jeff point out the 50 percent figure came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become as they watched the divorce numbers rising in the 1970s and early 1980s when states around the nation were passing no-fault divorce laws.


7 Reasons Why Most Church Outreach Programs Fail

  1. They are seen as an end instead of a means
  2. Most outreach programs are not addressed in front-end membership classes
  3. Many outreach programs do not feel natural
  4. When a church has an outreach program, it can be perceived as a ministry for the few.
  5. Most outreach programs fail to explain that sharing the love of Christ is a vital part of spiritual growth
  6. Outreach programs can offer excuses for people not to be outwardly focused
  7. Outreach programs can put the responsibility of evangelism on institutions

The differences between evangelism and church growth

Evangelism may be accomplished by one individual while church growth requires the cooperation of every member with whom the new convert interacts. Without it, the workers may be wasting their time.


Sinners and Holy People

Yet Jesus wants to remind us that performing a series of religious acts doesn’t make us right with God. Our attitude matters. What the Bible calls “the heart.” While men look at the outside, God looks at the heart.


Scottish mayor steps down after getting banned from every pub in town

“Everybody is treated the same. People need to be treating licensees and staff with respect,” said GPW Chairman Phil Cox, Express reported. “But we don’t expect the mayor of Gosport, who represents our town, to be involved in incidents like this.”


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A Facebook group that I’m part of, called Compadres, is having a blog tour. The general theme is The Glory of The Son and each of us will pick a story, event or teaching of Jesus that reflects His glory. Here are the posts so far.
June 3: Jeremy Schopper: Leaving the Noise Behind
June 5: Danny Holman: Jesus Challenge
June 10: Carl Jenkins: Give A Man A Fish
June 17: Jonathan Dobbs: Why Me, God?
June 19: Scott Elliott:The Beauty of the Gospel
June 24: Chris Hodges: The Glory of the Son
June 26: David Smith: then they can see my glory, which you gave me
July 1: Jeremy Hoover: Matthew and Mission
July 3: Allen Carr: The Glory in the Welcome
July 10: Daniel Burns: Not So With You
July 15: Rex Butts: A Place For Lepers

The text says, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched our his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am will. Be clean!’” (v. 42). I suppose Jesus simply could have spoken and cured this leper of his disease but that’s not what Jesus did. Moved by compassion, Jesus treated this leper as a human being by touching him. He didn’t have to but he did because restoring a sense of value and dignity to this leper was that important. That’s because this is what it looks like when the kingdom of God is at hand.


Getting Ready for Cuba

16_Ne_03_01_RGI’ll be traveling to Cuba next week with a group from the University Church of Christ in Abilene. UCC is helping sponsor the national youth conference in Cuba this year, and we’ve got 8 of us going to participate in the event.

The general theme is “Let’s Build Together,” based on the book of Nehemiah.

I got to choose my topics, so I chose three building themes, even though only one of them comes directly from Nehemiah:

  • We Are Doing A Great Work (Nehemiah 6) — I’ll use the stories of how the opposition (external and internal) tried to stymie Nehemiah’s work and how he remained focused. We’ll talk about handling criticism and focusing on building the Kingdom of God.
  • Doing The Task God Has Assigned To Us (1 Corinthians 3:5-15) — This one isn’t related to Nehemiah, but it does talk about how the church is built by different people doing different tasks in different ways. We’ll talk about jealousy, rivalries, and staying focused on the task.
  • Some Wept While Others Shouted With Joy (Ezra 3:10-13) — This is the story of the ex-exiles relaying the foundation of the temple. The older generation wept, while the younger generation shouted for joy. We’ll talk about how one generation has built something, while another generation is wanting to build. One focused on what is and was; the other focuses on what can be. Both perspectives are needed in the church.

It’s not too late. Do you have any suggestions?

Illustration courtesy of Sweet Publishing