I’ve been digitized

Cuba history book coverOK, it wasn’t actually me. It was Tony and me.

OK, it wasn’t actually Tony and me. It was the book that Tony Fernández and I wrote about Cuba.

We’ve got a Kindle edition out now. If you don’t need another paperback lying around, or if you don’t want to wait to receive a copy in the mail, or if you’d like to save a few dollars off the price of a physical copy, or if you just like e-books… you can get A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba in Kindle format.

Here’s the link: http://smile.amazon.com/A-History-Churches-Christ-Cuba-ebook/dp/B00XI0QFDK

(By the way, if you don’t have “Smile” set up on Amazon, it’s a program that donates a part of the proceeds from most sales to the non-profit of your choice. Go ahead and set it to Herald of Truth. You can support worldwide evangelism while doing your shopping)

Links To Go (May 22, 2015)

What Being Pro-Life Means in Light of the Death Penalty

When Americans were asked in a Barna poll if they believed Jesus would support the death penalty, only 8 percent of Protestants and 2 percent of Catholics said yes. Yet, despite these low numbers, 32–55 percent of Christians (range dependent upon generation) still support the ultimate punishment. It seems strange that so many Christians can live with the cognitive dissonance of ardently supporting something they believe Jesus would frown upon.

Evangelicals, Culture, and Post-Christian America

But for the most part, our churches are still poised for ministry in the old cultural mindset. They expect to be heard and respected. They expect to have the power. They expect culture to fall in line under the leadership of the church, but culture is just not listening.
Until American churches understand how to live and work in our specific version of an increasingly post-Christian culture, they will struggle with effectiveness for the gospel.

Evangelical Protestants Are The Biggest Winners When People Change Faiths

Why do evangelicals wind up ahead of other Christian sects in this model? They’re better at holding on to the people born into their tradition (65 percent retention compared to 59 percent for Catholics and 45 percent for Mainline Protestants), and they’re a stronger attractor for people leaving other faiths. According to Pew’s data on conversion rates, 10 percent of people raised Catholic wind up as evangelicals. Just 2 percent of people born as evangelicals wind up Catholic. The flow between mainline and evangelical Protestants is also tilted in evangelicals’ favor. Twelve percent of those raised evangelical wind up in mainline congregations, but 19 percent of mainline Protestants wind up becoming evangelical.

What Was Unique About Fourth Century Christianity

Did you catch that last bit? You may not know this, but Christians established the first hospitals ever known to man. Those of you who work at a hospital can thank the early Christians in part for your job. Did you also notice that the root of “hospital” is also the root of “hospitality,” as well as “hospice.” These all derived from the Latin hospes and was translated as “host,” “guest,” and/or “stranger.” The first hospital to receive substantial attention in Christian literature notes the bishop Basil of Caesarea as its founder in AD 370.

Why Are Christians So Serious about Everything?

Part of Jesus’ Good News to us is that His burden is easy and light. I have seldom met people who really live this out, but when I do, there is one thing they all have in common: They don’t take themselves too seriously. Actually, they’re kind of weird. They laugh a lot. It doesn’t take a lot to impress them, and they are completely in awe of the little stuff. They aren’t waiting for their big break in ministry or culture. They are not comparing themselves to others. They take God seriously, and because of that, they live freely.

God’s Google

It is so easy and so natural to go online to look for answers, that we may just pass over the most obvious means of help. It is here, in the local church, that we have people who are deeply invested in us and specifically called and gifted to assist us. Church first, Google later.

What Christians Can Learn from Secular Business Thinking

For the skeptics, it’s important to clarify: Learning from business thinking does not mean churches adopt everything done in the business world. (For example, I don’t agree with the “pastor as CEO” model.) Still, there remain certain universal principles that apply, namely because in both business and the church we are dealing with people.

Elephant snatches student’s camera, snaps an ‘elphie’

Christian LeBlanc, 22, a University of British Columbia student who shared the photo on Instagram this week, said the elephant on Thailand’s Koh Phangan island snatched his GoPro camera while it was in time lapse mode, so it continued to shoot photos from its vantage point at the end of the elephant’s trunk.

Assemblies that build us up, please God, and attract outsiders

Church AuditoriumI’ve been proposing several things about our church assemblies:

  • The main focus of our assemblies shouldn’t be worship. In the same way, God shouldn’t be the exclusive focus of our worship assembly. If we are people whose very lives are worship, then worship will naturally occur when we come together. If we are people who put loving God at the center of our lives, then we will seek to please God when we gather. But if we make focusing on God our exclusive goal, then we will fail at making the assemblies what they were meant to be.
  • Church services are primarily for the edification of the body. By doing so, we will please God. And as a body of worshipers, we will naturally worship when we are together. But what is done during the times we are together is done primarily for believers.
  • Our assemblies should be intelligible to outsiders. We don’t tailor the service for them. Instead, we invite them to come and see who we are and what we do. The assembly is not primarily about evangelism. It’s not about selling the church, either. As outsiders see us love and edify one another, they should want to know about the God that makes all that possible. Our hope is that what outsiders see in our assemblies will make them open to hearing the gospel message.

So, in short, we seek to build one another up in a way that is pleasing to God and makes sense to outsiders. We don’t expect non-believers to perfectly understand everything that goes on; we do hope that what they see will convey a message of love and mutual edification.

Church assemblies should be about us

encourageDoesn’t it sound strange to say that we should be focused on people when we come together? That’s not the way most of us learned Christianity.

Why did we put on our Sunday best? To present ourselves before God. It wasn’t about people.

Why did we speak in hushed tones before the assembly? We were supposed to show reverence to God.

Why did so many of us close our eyes or look down when taking the Lord’s Supper? Because it was a personal time with God.

None of these, of course, is in the Bible. The New Testament says to avoid showy clothes when coming together; we tend to misread the concept of modest dress in the Bible. It’s about avoiding ostentation.

The hushed tones? Not in there. I dare say that there’s more about shouting to God than whispering to God.

And the Lord’s Supper? Oh, that’s an old pet peeve of mine. Much of this comes to a real misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 11. Suffice it to say that the Corinthians’ problem was that they weren’t aware of one another when taking the Supper; the same problem exists in a lot of churches today.

I think Hebrews 10 is helpful as we consider all of this, especially verses 19-25:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19–25)

We draw near to God together, considering one another, looking how to spur one another on to love and good deeds, seeking to encourage one another through our meeting together.

We honor God in our assemblies, but we must never neglect the body of Christ. We come together, joining lives of worship together, in a build-one-another-up moment.

Links To Go (May 19, 2015)

Witness Accounts in Midtown Hammer Attack Show the Power of False Memory

Contrary to what Mr. O’Grady said, the man who was shot had not been trying to get away from the officers; he was actually chasing an officer from the sidewalk onto Eighth Avenue, swinging a hammer at her head. Behind both was the officer’s partner, who shot the man, David Baril.
And Ms. Khalsa did not see Mr. Baril being shot while in handcuffs; he is, as the video and still photographs show, freely swinging the hammer, then lying on the ground with his arms at his side. He was handcuffed a few moments later, well after he had been shot.
There is no evidence that the mistaken accounts of either person were malicious or intentionally false. Studies of memories of traumatic events consistently show how common it is for errors to creep into confidently recalled accounts, according to cognitive psychologists.

In a dramatic shift, the American church is more evangelical than ever

The numbers are even more telling when we isolate those who are Christians. Now, half of American Christians call themselves evangelical or born again. And those self-identification numbers are up across the board from 2007, even among non-evangelical faith traditions. Along with every other Christian subgroup, more Catholics and mainline Protestants now personally define their faith in evangelical terms.

God and Tony are doing work in Cuba

God, thanks for Tony and for your people in Cuba. Give them what they need to share the story of your Son in Cuba. And thank you for letting them inspire me to keep doing the same in my part of the world.

Hugh Jackman, meet Jesus.

How is it that our message of peace, hope and joy has been so contaminated? And how come the loudest voice in the church has been the boring-and-angry, God-hates-fags, only-vote-conservative, one?
We happy sons and daughters need to raise the volume! The time has come for arts and permission to be our sound, for smiles and hope to be our style, for freedom and love to be our beauty.
We’ve had enough of Christ being misrepresented by a few Christians. It’s time to love hard, sing louder, and preach Christ crucified (not the “Christ” who is crucifying everyone else!)

Mourners follow wrong hearse for nine miles

A group of relatives lost the right hearse, belonging to 71-year-old Mair Howard, after getting stuck in traffic at a roundabout and becoming separated from the rest of the cortege.
The convoy of cars, which left together after the church service, then managed to latch on to another hearse heading to another cemetery in a different direction.
The three cars, containing Mrs Howard’s nephews and pall-bearers, proceeded to trail the wrong coffin along the A50 in Wales for nine miles, only realising their mistake when family members waiting at the graveside called to ask where they were.