Links To Go (May 30, 2016)

You Are Not Your Sexuality

We must respond to the secular narrative with a Christian one. This is the rationale behind LivingOut, and behind this video. The world needs to hear same-sex attracted Christians like me share their experiences of God’s goodness in this issue. The culture needs to know there is a different calculus for measuring human flourishing. There is another, better script available.
But the church needs to hear these stories too. We can so easily question whether God’s Word on this issue really is good. True? Sure. But good? That can be a harder question.

Oklahoma’s abortion, transgender bills called political ‘smokescreen’

But instead of addressing a burgeoning budget crisis that threatens public education and other critical state services, Oklahoma lawmakers have been busy debating proposals to criminalize abortion, police students’ access to public bathrooms and impeach President Obama.

We Are Not Entitled to the World’s Respect

Carson’s concern is that far too often we have let the surrounding culture define the rules and assumptions of our engagement. When shouted at, we are prone to respond with the natural human instinct to shout in return. We return shrillness with shrillness. But in our increasingly post-Christian society, we are in increasing need of being the kind of people who respond to a slap on one cheek by turning to the other and who respond to vitriol and venom with gentleness, perceptive questions, careful listening, and loving kindness.

The Surprising New Findings that Could Re-Shape the Pro-Life Movement

Countries where abortion is illegal don’t have lower abortion rates—but they don’t have higher ones, either. This information was easily the most broadcasted last week. But the legal status of abortion appears to be a relatively minor factor. Lancet researchers looked at the legal status of abortion and found that it didn’t correlate with lower abortion rates. Women were still terminating pregnancies despite the legal restrictions.

Don’t Dismiss Housework

Townsend goes on to make a fascinating argument for the deeper mode of thought and being embedded in housework. Feminism has told us that “Housework is something to be liberated from, and something to liberate others from in their turn. The house itself is an oppressive structure, from which we hope to be free.” Yet this contempt for domestic work, Townsend rightly notes, is “all too wicked-stepsisterly, considering the movement’s forgetfulness of the women among the poor and women of color … . While we middle-class women are off pursuing the various professions of lawyer, businesswoman, and so on, who picks up the household slack? Other human beings; usually other women; and, most likely, women of color.”

To the Women Who Wish Their Husbands Were Spiritual Leaders

Take a moment, dear Christian wife, and consider how many ways that you fail in your walk with Christ. Think about how often you have to repent, how many times you find yourself falling into the same old sin traps, how often you wish you had controlled your tongue. Think about how far you yourself are from perfect. And, then look at your husband through fresh eyes, with compassion for a fellow sinner, with admiration for all the things he does right, and with the kind of patience that you know God has for you.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Been Hurt By Church

There’s one thing that’s even more important than knowing what not to say to someone who has been hurt by church. And that is, to simply listen.

Majority of American Christians Do Not Find Bible Reading and Church Attendance Essential

Here are the stats plainly listed for you:

  • 42% of American Christians find “reading the Bible/religious materials” to be an essential part of what it means to be a Christian.
  • 35% of American Christians find “attending religious services” to be an essential part of what it means to be a Christian.
  • 28% of American Christians find “helping out in congregation” to be an essential part of being a Christian.

Now, if you’re like me, you may think what I thought at first, “Well, to be fair, the way the question is asked, maybe the respondents think ‘essential’ means “necessary for salvation.” That’s a fair point. Christians don’t need to be saying reading the Bible daily, attending church weekly, or teaching a Sunday school class is essential for salvation—so, in that way, these actions aren’t “essential.”
That may be the case. But these statistics are evidence of an epidemic Christian leaders have recognized for some time: American Christianity has been hijacked by the individual at the expense of the whole.

Church Renewal: Becoming The Gospel

Local churches want to engage their community, evangelizing and ministering to people outside the body of Christ, which is a good thing. But instead of focusing on that per se, which is the cart, focus on the horse. That is, the focus should be on the formation of disciples who learn how to follow Jesus and embody the gospel amongst themselves and within their local community.

Why Your Efforts At Conversion Are Failing

People need to know that they matter. Jesus excelled at this. He touched the untouchable, sat with the lowly, and cared for the downtrodden. Those who left Jesus’ presence left it feeling like they mattered, because to Him they did (and do). If we’re going to win people to Jesus we have to emulate our Savior and take the time and effort to show others that they matter.

Multi-Site Church Video Screen Utterly Fails At Pastoral Counseling

Going to the screen from which they get their weekly Sunday messages, the couple began pouring out their marital issues to the inanimate object, including Judy’s spending and Derrick’s untidiness. However, after a good half-hour with no response from the video screen, the couple’s discussion stalled, and they left discouraged.
“It was like talking to a wall,” explained a visibly frustrated Mrs. Markham. “Seriously, he’s so bright and electric on Sunday mornings; I thought he’d be the same one-on-one. I guess I was wrong.”

Dr. Heimlich Uses His Maneuver At Retirement Home, Saves 87-Year-Old Woman

Heimlich successfully dislodged the meat from 87-year-old Ris’ airway.
“It was very gratifying,” he told The Guardian on Friday. “That moment was very important to me. I knew about all the lives my manoeuvre has saved over the years and I have demonstrated it so many times but here, for the first time, was someone sitting right next to me who was about to die.”

Infographic of entire plot of Star Wars, Episode IV
Take a look at this graphic that depicts the story of “A New Hope”

Links To Go (May 25, 2016)

Undocumented Ph.D. Makes History at UC Merced

Yuriana Aguilar says she hopes to open her own medical research lab. She’s got faith that somehow she’ll find a path to citizenship. But even then, she won’t mind working in the fields sometimes — or even buying a lot of land to farm someday. You have to do every job with dignity, she says, and with your heart.

In defense of Trump (and Sanders and Clinton)

We may be called to disagree with someone, when we consider the core tenets of our faith. But let our disagreement be substantive and only chosen after a truly intentional desire to listen to what the candidate actually believes — not just the media’s picture of the candidate.

I Think We Have This Whole Christianity in America Thing Confused

It makes me angry that people are going out giving a bad name for Jesus’ church. This gives people the impression that Christianity is a hateful religion when it should be just the opposite. Instead of using energy to decide who we will not associate with or which business we are boycotting, why don’t we use that energy to think of new ways in reaching the lost, even if those lost are inside Target?
If want this country to change let me assure you that the change will not come from the top down. It is up to you and me. But the goal should not be restoring a “Christian Nation.” The goal always has been and should be to make Christians, to spread the love and grace of God as far as we can. We have to roll up our sleeves and get busy making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).

The Book of Revelation: A Different Kind of Apocalyptic Text

Oh, and one more thing. People often comment on the violence in Revelation. But it’s very important to note that it’s deferred, especially the vengeance to be meted out to the wicked; and believers have no role in executing that vengeance. Instead, it’s “the armies of heaven” (apparently angelic forces) that ride out in Revelation 19, not an army of believers. In that sense, Revelation is also different from texts such as the “War Scroll” from Qumran (1QM), which appears to portray “the sons of light” (the righteous of the Qumran community) joining in a final battle against “the sons of darkness” (the wicked). In short, Revelation actually provides no basis for believers themselves exacting vengeance or making war against others, even against those who persecute them. Instead, it’s all left in God’s hands and deferred to God’s own time. There again, Revelation actually reflects a striking kind of religious stance.

Pastors: The End of the World is Complicated

McConnell says it’s not a bad thing that pastors disagree on the details of the apocalypse. Most agree on the main teachings about the Second Coming. The rest of the details don’t affect the day-to-day life of most Christians.
“The big picture of Revelation is clear—Jesus returns, people must be ready, evil is defeated,” he says. “With the rest of the details, there is room for disagreement.”

Are You Flexible For The Gospel?

The more a gap opens up between the culture of the church and the culture of the surrounding society, the more important it is to know how to bridge it. But the concern must never be to prove how cosmopolitan and sophisticated and flexible we are. The aim must be “to win as many as possible.”

Is Meek Weak?

Meek is not weak. The pastor who feels the need to power his church to greatness through the exercise of his own gifts underestimates the power of the gospel. The pastor convinced he must be the most insightful, the most incisive, the most forceful, or the most commanding has missed the most basic of spiritual truths: God delights to use the meekest of men because they are the most obviously dependent upon him. This does not mean a good pastor is quiet, reticent to lead, or skeptical of his own judgment. Not at all! Yet it does mean a pastor is “quick to hear, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger” (James 1:19).

Preacher, teacher, Sunday entertainer?

I am certainly guilty of expecting the Bible to be all religious and austere. So does your congregation. When we expect it to be boring and conservative, we don’t really notice when the Bible contains humour, irony and hyperbole. We won’t notice Paul including a bad joke about Cretans in Titus, or that the story in Judges about Micah’s idols is supposed to be a farce. We will only notice those things when we ask “Why?”
All this hard labour aims to clarify what God said, so that when you stand up in front of your audience, you can speak God’s words—the most important words in the world—instead of trying to make your generic theologisms more interesting by being a Sunday morning entertainer.

Avoiding Mistakes in the Application of Scripture

Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid when applying Scripture:

    li>Imagining a spiritual meaning in a narrative text that is not embedded in the text itself.
  1. Taking historical narratives as prescriptive rather than descriptive.
  2. Using an application that is not connected with the actual meaning of the text.
  3. Reading your own theology into the text.

It’s Okay To Say No

You are the parent now, and you make the rules. If you don’t want your child having an app on their phone (or having a phone in the first place!), it is your Godly duty as a parent to say no. Forget what “all the other parents” are doing. If you believe it’s right, and right for your child, tell them no.
It’s okay to say “no.”

The Backside Blessings of Blogging

  • Thoughts are clarified.
  • Camaraderie is developed.
  • Creativity is cultivated.
  • Discipline is encouraged.
  • A body of work is collected.

New poll finds 9 in 10 Native Americans aren’t offended by Redskins name

Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll that shows how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team’s moniker.
The survey of 504 people across every state and the District reveals that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the same result.

The legal mumbo jumbo on popular mobile apps can take over 24 hours to read

The Norwegian Consumer Council also has a grouse against these long and abstruse statements and to prove its point the consumer group has downloaded the terms of service and privacy policies for apps found on an “average” mobile, and are streaming live as guests read out the documents.
“Together they exceed the New Testament in length – and would take more than 24 hours to read out loud,” the group said on their website. They point out that few if any have the time to read when they click ‘ok’ when they sign up to use an app.

Links To Go (May 19, 2016)

Thoughts from other people that made me think… Tim

Empathy Isn’t Theology

“The struggle is real,” is not theology. It is many things–even positive things–but it does not change what is actually true. Empathy and experience become our enemy when they form a funnel or filter through which any truth must fit. Of course this all assumes we Christians really do care about the truth.

“Say Among the Nations” (Psalm 96:10)

Amidst the anxiety and angst of the political season as well as the distress that fills the world with terror, violence, and economic pain, we affirm the sovereignty of God, the stability of the earth, and the certainty that God will set things right when God comes to judge the earth.

Hospitality and Proclamation: A Lesson from My Middle Eastern Friends

Our Arab brother and leader would roll down his window and simply inquire of the man we felt led to ask. He said, “I have Americans. Would you like coffee?” Eight times he inquired and eight times an invitation was immediately accepted. Middle Eastern Arabs have hospitality in their DNA. Every household is ready at any time to welcome guests. So 12 Americans and an Arab missionary would have Arabic coffee, olives, pita bread, and spices and talk for hours.
In that time, we learned of each other’s cultures, our love of family and our fears and hopes. It was the linking of widely diverse cultures that are unified in hopes and fears. God even allowed us to gently and lovingly speak of our love for Isa (Arabic for Jesus). We planted seeds that the Arab missionaries will now water and someday, harvest. The dream is a house church of Muslim background believers in Jesus in all 124 villages.

Obama chides Rutgers students for pressuring Condoleezza Rice to back out of commencement speech

“I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagree with many of the policies of Dr. Rice and the previous administration. But the notion that this community or this country would be better served by not hearing a former secretary of state or not hearing what she had to say — I believe that’s misguided,” Obama said. “I don’t think that’s how democracy works best, when we’re not even willing to listen to each other.”
He added:

If you disagree with somebody, bring them in and ask them tough questions. Hold their feet to the fire, make them defend their positions. … Don’t be scared to take somebody on. Don’t feel like you got to shut your ears off because you’re too fragile and somebody might offend your sensibilities. Go at them if they’re not making any sense.

Tim Duncan is a true champion and NBA’s ultimate franchise player for his Spurs-first approach

That’s what made him so refreshingly unique. In a world where the AAU culture encourages players to think of themselves as a brand and where NBA superstars wield enough power to get coaches fired and teammates traded, Duncan was the quintessential franchise player.
He sacrificed money, minutes and shots to keep the Spurs a legitimate contender for two decades. That’s a real superstar.
If this was indeed Duncan’s last game — and several friends of his I spoke with believe Duncan will retire this summer — he leaves on his terms. Kobe Bryant embraced his over-the-top farewell tour while Duncan departed quietly.

‘An amazing way to go’: Jane Little, world’s longest-serving orchestra musician, collapses and dies performing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’

The symphony was performing a pops concert called “Broadway’s Golden Age,” according to its schedule. A spokeswoman said the players were about 30 seconds from the last measures of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” the encore to the concert when Little collapsed and was carried backstage by her fellow bassists. She never regained consciousness.

Links To Go (May 16, 2016)

Israeli Christians Think and Do Almost the Opposite of American Evangelicals

In 1949, the state of Israel was formed to be a haven for the world’s decimated and traumatized Jewish population after World War II. Ever since, American Christians have largely supported the modern-day Zion; in 2013, 82 percent of white evangelicals believed that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews.
In contrast, only 19 percent of Christians actually born, raised, and living in Israel believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Significantly more than half (66%) believe this is not literally true, while another 9 percent don’t know what to think.

Seven things I’m learning about transgender persons

I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn — in part because I want to understand the way God has made us. For me, this is a theological quest as much as a biological inquiry or a political cause. How about you?

Gender Identity vs. Personal Identity— What is It and who Decides?

Leaving aside altogether the issue of people who are sadly born with deformities, such as being born with both male and female genitalia, it ought to seem axiomatic to all of us, as it is to many many scientists, notably biologists (and my wife is one), that while many factors go into making up personal identity, when one discusses gender identity, at the most fundamental level it has something to do with how gender in part determines one’s identity. One isn’t a man merely because ‘that’s how I feel about myself or think of myself’, one is a man in part because that’s what my sexual nature, my chromosomes etc. tell me.

7 Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church

Such is the case with the Church and marriage. I am grateful for the foundation the Church gave me in regard to marriage. It was a good study guide. But there some things on the test I did not learn until marriage began. So I am going to give you some answers to the test that some of you might not expect to see. Here are a few truths about marriage I never heard in church.

The Family Idols

All of us must examine our hearts to see whether we give more time and affection to our spouse or children than we do to Christ. If we get angry that we are being asked to examine this aspect of our lives in this way then it is probably a mark that we have more family idolatry in our hearts than we would like to admit.

Singing Is A Sacrament

Wright’s observation is perceptive. He reminds us of a great truth: when we are fully engaged in singing, when we are expending our breath (spirit, wind) in honor of God, the Divine Breath is within us. The Apostle Paul makes this point in Ephesians when he links the Holy Spirit with singing. “Be filled with the Spirit,” he says (5:19). Being filled with the Spirit and singing to God are necessarily related. In a word, hymn singing is—or ought to be—sacramental.

Gender gap in religious service attendance has narrowed in U.S.

While affiliated women are less likely to attend services weekly in recent years (33%) than they were in the mid-1980s (40%), affiliated men’s attendance patterns have been much more stable over time. If anything, affiliated men have recently become more likely to say they attend services weekly; 24% of affiliated men said this in the mid-1990s compared with 28% in the current decade.

Using Video Well

The web was built on words.
And words, of course, are available to anyone who can type. They’re cheap, easy to edit and incredibly powerful when used well.
Today’s internet, though, is built on video. Much more difficult to create well, far more impactful when it works.

24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing

Ten years ago, my first novel Prep came out. Three novels later, here’s what I’ve learned about the publishing industry and writing since then.

’70s High School Art Project Mistakenly Valued At $50K On ‘Antiques Roadshow’

The Antiques Roadshow episode aired in January, and PBS released a correction note in February. (The story comes to our attention now thanks to The Washington Post and the CBC.)
A viewer recognized the jug as the work of one of her friends — Betsy Soule. Soule verified that, indeed, it was her student handiwork.

Links To Go (May 13, 2016)

Not my words. Not my thoughts. Not necessarily my opinion. But these are articles that others have written that made me think or made me laugh.

How the CIA Took Down a Democratically Elected Leader For the Good of Bananas

The root causes of the civil war are plenty: The feudal caste system inherited from the Spanish way back in the 1800s. The lack of education for a vast majority of the population (well at least the mestizo and native populations). And, of course, the CIA backed coup that overthrew the democratically leader of the county back in 1954. As I stressed in my article, “Why DO they hate us? Here are 7 Pretty Good Reasons,” the United States is NOT the sole reason for the ills of this world. Far from it. However, just like in the Muslim world, we certainly had a hand in creating said ills. A pretty big hand.

What It’s Like to Live On Less Than Two Dollars a Day

“Many Americans have spent more than that before they get to work or school in the morning,” write sociologist Kathryn Edin and her co-author, H. Luke Shaefer, in $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. “Yet in 2011, more than 4 percent of all households with children in the world’s wealthiest nation were living in a poverty so deep that most Americans don’t believe it exists in this country.”

Has the Obama administration learned anything from last deportation raids?

Advocacy groups on Thursday urged officials to abandon the practice, fighting the tone and tenor of the raids, which involves immigration agents going into the homes of immigrant women and children and carting them away. Mass deportations are seldom carried out on this scale, let alone targeted at a vulnerable population that has grounds for asylum.
“Instead of addressing the terror and civil rights violations the New Year’s raids caused, DHS is spreading them,” Tania Unzueta, legal and policy director for the advocacy group Mijente said in a statement. “The raids show how much of what Donald Trump promises is already occurring under this administration.”

Stop using God as an excuse to marry someone else

I know sometimes being faithful to God and trying to save your marriage is not enough. Marriage is hard and sometimes Christians break their promises to God and to their mate. Divorce happens and God hates it. After all, it takes two committed to Jesus. Not just one. And I am sorry for those of you who never wanted to end your marriage but your mate did. But that is on them. It was not what God wanted.
So stop using God as your excuse to get out of a marriage you no longer want to be in.
Repent. Be faithful to God’s call.

Edging Toward Enchantment: Miracle Stories

“Basically,” I said, “our church tends toward disenchantment. Because of our education and wealth. Beyond a literary analysis, we don’t know what to do with a miracle story like this. But my experience out at the prison and with Freedom is very different, much more enchanted. I don’t know what to do with that disjoint. I just want to make the observation that the disjoint exists. It’s my opinion that this is one of the least discussed fractures in the church, the fracture between the enchanted church and the disenchanted church, which is often correlated with education and socioeconomic status. Is it possible to overcome this divide?”

Baptism Is Not the Goal!

In the church, we often garner the mentality of baptize them now, ask questions later. We don’t focus enough on the disciple-making process. We focus on the 5 steps of salvation, but not so much on what it means to be a runner. We view the finish line as the baptistery. When, in truth, that’s just the starting line. What happens, all too often, is that we end up with a lot of baptized individuals who drop out of the race because they were never properly trained. If we think that making a disciple is only about baptism, then we have failed miserably in our approach.

Postmodernism and Historical Continuity

Postmodernism is self-absorbed. Modernism was too. No matter what your worldview is we will find a way to be self absorbed. Modernism was self-absorbed in the sense that we thought we had the ability in ourselves to figure out things outside ourselves in an absolute sense. Postmodernism is self absorbed in that it assumes what is going on inside me and about me is absolutely all that matters and that what is external to self really doesn’t matter a whole lot if at all. This attitude expresses itself in moral relativism, that there are no moral absolutes…that I am my own ultimate authority. It assumes that what I experience and how I see things is how it has always been.

Motherhood is Missional

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” That is an old Tamil proverb that means children keep mothers from doing what they want to do. I can sympathize with the feet-tied feeling when my four kids join forces to do away with the interruption-free moments that I envision for myself.
I was first introduced to this saying through Amy Carmichael. Amy was not the biological mother for any of the hundreds of children she nurtured. She was their mother, however, because Jesus caused her to be fruitful and multiply spiritually as she discipled the orphans and children she rescued from slavery and death. Amy saw her feet-tiedness as opportunity for the gospel because she understood what was really going on. God wasn’t tying her feet with all of those children, he was opening doors for the gospel to be proclaimed in India.

Gender Specific Blessings: Bolstering a Biblical Theology of Gender Roles

The Lord does not eradicate gender distinctions in his work of redemption; he empowers men and women to live as God intended. Therefore, as we read the Bible we should be aware of the gender-consciousness that parallels the contours of redemptive history. At the same time, as we join in the Lord’s work we should submit our personal narratives to his macro-narrative; our private desires should be conformed to his design. With regards to complementarity this includes pursuing God’s blessing in ways that fit our unique calling as men and women. While the rest of the world (and many Christians) may find this odd, this is the way of our Creator. And as he said of the day when he made mankind male and female: “It is very good.”

Take the Lid off of Your Church

Here are a few questions I am constantly going through:

  1. For Revolution to become twice the size we are now, what do I need to start doing? What do I need to stop doing? What things will keep us from getting there?
  2. If we were twice the size we are now, what things would we do differently?
  3. What things are we doing right now that need to be tweaked? What things need to go to a new level?
  4. What new leaders do we need to raise up?
  5. What leaders need to be challenged to go to a new level?

My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked

But the old-school media’s slow evolution has helped to create a culture of impunity and silence. Amazon paid millions to work with Woody Allen, bankrolling a new series and film. Actors, including some I admire greatly, continue to line up to star in his movies. “It’s not personal,” one once told me. But it hurts my sister every time one of her heroes like Louis C.K., or a star her age, like Miley Cyrus, works with Woody Allen. Personal is exactly what it is — for my sister, and for women everywhere with allegations of sexual assault that have never been vindicated by a conviction.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” In Emojis Is Absolutely Cute

Early last year, Twitter proudly introduced emojis that celebrated the coming of the newest installation to the Star Wars Saga — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Thanks to Disney, we can all now enjoy the excitement, action, and wonder of this movie — courtesy of cute little emojis! (I don’t know where to get these custom pictographs, but I want them in my phone, stat!)