Links To Go (December 16, 2014)

Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality

May I make two requests? Continue to love me, but remember that you cannot be more merciful than God. It isn’t mercy to affirm same-sex acts as good. Practice compassion according to the root meaning of “compassion”: Suffer with me. Don’t compromise truth; help me to live in harmony with it.

2 Reasons NOT to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’

  1. It doesn’t faithfully reflect the character of Jesus and the humility of his birth.
  2. Christmas is a significant date in the Church’s liturgical calendar, not society’s calendar.

Atheist’s Church Skipping Billboard

While we’re eager to celebrate Christmas and invite our neighbors to church this year, let’s remember that not everyone wants to celebrate Christmas. That’s OK. Someone wanting to skip Christmas or even saying “Happy Holidays” is not persecution.

Why are Working Women Starting to Unplug from Their Churches?

We have heard “If Mama Ain’t Happy, No One is Happy.” In fact, Barna Group indicates that 80% of the time, women make the decision on whether a family attends church.
This statistic is eerily familiar to the stat that makes this elusive consumer group so critical to product companies, too. She also controls 80% of the household spending, including charitable giving. If the woman doesn’t get up on Sunday morning and get out the door, the odds are they stay home. Once they stay home one week, it is easier to do so the next week.

Australians Just Showed the World Exactly How to Respond to Terrorism With #IllRideWithYou

This hashtag movement is powerful sign that Australians won’t get worked up into a Islamophobic rage because of the actions of a single madman. It’s also a lesson for countries like the U.S., where hate crimes against Muslims spike whenever there’s a criminal or terrorist incident involving Muslims, or even when something innocuous happens like debating the placement of a mosque in New York City. Australian social media users are showing Muslims they’re safe in their home and shouldn’t fear retaliation for an incident they’re not linked to.

Watch the 10 Most Popular YouTube Videos of the Year

Today the Google-owned video streaming service released its 2014 Rewind video, a mashup to showcase the YouTube videos that were given the most love this year. The top 10 trending videos by the site were also unveiled, and winners include soccer stars, bending iPhones, street harassment, and a dog dressed as a spider.

Links To Go (December 12, 2014)

Suggested reading for thought and discussion. No agreement nor endorsement implied. — Tim

You Cannot Be Christian and Support Torture

These evangelicals have reached a crisis of decision. They can choose security. They can choose to endorse torture in the name of security. But to do so is to renounce the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Torture-endorsing Christians either need to change their mind or they need to change their name.

Torture Is Wrong

Our Lord practices what he preaches and so, he teaches us over and over that torture is wrong, as powerfully with his ways as well as with his words. I ask you: just how many times did our Lord intervene on behalf of another whenever he encountered someone experiencing some – any – form of torture, be it verbal, mental, emotional, or physical?

What “American Exceptionalism” Means to Me

When we fail, we should expect someone to expose that failure and remind us of our high ideals. When we criticize them for doing so in the name of nationalism, “America is always right no matter what we do” or “ends justify means,” we fall from true American exceptionalism. True American exceptionalism is saying “We did wrong; we apologize and promise never to do it again.”

Why Sin Is Not A Moral Problem

This differs strikingly from the idea of sin as the breaking of moral rules. The breaking of a rule implies only an outward error, a merely legal or forensic infraction. Nothing of substance is changed. But the Scriptures treat sin far more profoundly – it is itself a change in substance, a decay of our very being.

The Gospel According to Peanuts

There was a standoff of sorts, but Schulz did not back down, and because of the tight production schedule and CBS’s prior promotion, the network executives aired the special as Schulz intended it. But they were certain they had a flop on their hands.
“They were freaking out about something so overtly religious in a Christmas special,” explained Melendez. “They basically wrote it off, like, hey, this is just isn’t going to be interesting to anyone, and it’s just going to be like a big tax write-off.”
Melendez himself was somewhat hesitant about the reading from Luke. “I was leery of the religion that came into it, and I was right away opposed to it. But Sparky just assumed what he had to say was important to somebody.”
Which is why Charles Schulz was Charles Schulz. He knew that the Luke reading by Linus was the heart and soul of the story.

Police officer buys eggs for woman caught shoplifting to feed her family

Stacy talked with Dollar General, and they said they wouldn’t prosecute. So Stacy made an offer.
“He said, ‘If I give you these eggs, will you promise that you won’t shoplift anymore?'” Reno said. “He knew that she was telling the truth and that’s the reason he went in and bought the eggs.”
Stacy bought the eggs and gave them to her, Reno said. The woman then asked if she could give him a hug.

Links To Go (December 10, 2014)

What to Do When You Don’t Know a Family’s Immigration Status

  1. There is no legal obligation to report someone you suspect is in the U.S. illegally
  2. It is best not to assume a person’s immigration status
  3. All children are required to attend school, whatever their immigration status
  4. Teachers and school authorities are not allowed to ask about the immigration status of children or their families
  5. It is not against the law to welcome a family into your home or help them, even if they are undocumented

Did Early Christians Disagree Widely on Which Books Made it into the Canon?

In sum, there is impressive evidence for widespread agreement over the core canonical books from a very early time. Most of the disagreements dealt with only a handful of books—2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, Revelation. But even these disagreements should not be overplayed. We should not be too quick to assume that disagreements over a book are due to the fact that its canonical status is undecided. On the contrary, sometimes disagreements are not so much over what should be included in the canon, but are over which books are already in the canon. As David Trobisch observes, “The critical remarks of the church fathers can be better interpreted as a historical critical reaction to an existing publication.”

Kingdom: A Proposal

My proposal in Kingdom Conspiracy is that kingdom in the Bible has five core ideas and kingdom can be defined this way: a kingdom is a people ruled by a king. I break that definition into five elements:

  1. A kingdom has a king.
  2. A kingdom has a king who rules or who exercises redemptive power.
  3. A kingdom has a king who rules a people.
  4. Kings rule by way of a law.
  5. Kings establish their rule in a place (land).

Five questions follow:

  1. Who is the king?
  2. How is this redemptive power or rule exercised?
  3. Who is the king’s people?
  4. What is this king’s will?
  5. Where is the kingdom today?

The Centrality of the Word in Discipleship

I’ve recognized this in my own life lately. Over the last year, I have received formal therapy from a licensed counselor, informal counsel from my pastor, and much counsel from wise godly friends over meals or coffee. They have pointed me to books that have offered wise counsel as well. While all of those things have been deeply helpful, they help best as periphery support to the essential infrastructure of personal Bible reading. When I pursue those things without reading the Bible myself, there is a gulf in my heart they can not make up by themselves.

How a Teen from New Jersey Invented the Viral Video

In December 2004, Gary Brolsma, then 19 years old, posted a video of himself lip-syncing to a Romanian pop song called “Dragostea Din Tei,” just for the heck of it. What began as a lark turned into one of the most watched Internet videos of all time.
Even more remarkable, Brolsma’s video, titled “Numa Numa” after a line from the O-Zone tune, went viral without the help of YouTube, which didn’t debut until Feb. 14, 2005.

Links To Go (December 9, 2014)

An Open CONFESSION to the Churches of Christ

But the real reason that this conversation is important to me now, and the reason that it is a CONFESSION and not an argument // apologetic // diatribe against those who disagree with me is because, no matter the place I was at the moment, I often failed to act and speak towards the “other” (meaning the person who interpreted Scripture differently) in a way that honored God, built up the church, and enhanced its witness to the watching world.
My hunch is that if all people on this issue (and any other issue for that matter) could start with a similar confession, our churches and our witness to the world would be radically transformed.

The Convenience and Dehumanizing Nature of Labels

Love and labels don’t play well together. It is hard to Love and Label at the same time because love recognizes the loveliness of the person-hood of the other person. Love has at its core a genuine desire for the well being of the other…labels do not. Labels are like a poor reflection in a mirror…once you put it between you and them you will never see them accurately again.

Divorce Rates Are Falling—But Marriage Is Still on the Rocks

One big reason that divorce rates began to fall after 1980 was that people, almost always those with less education and less income for the required accouterments of marriage, took the logic of the divorce revolution and ran with it. If marriage and childbearing were no longer tightly linked but rather discreet—even unrelated—life events, and if they were not earning enough to enjoy the middle class status objects enjoyed by their more educated peers, then why marry at all?

Leadership: Why Do Visitors Hate the Meet-and-Greet Time?

In an admittedly unscientific Twitter poll, Rainer asked what a church does (or doesn’t do) that drives off first time visitors. By far, the number one answer was the meet and greet.
This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

Pastors: Immigration reform should mix justice, mercy

Almost nine in ten of those surveyed (87%) said it is the responsibility of the government to stop people from entering the country illegally. LifeWay Research vice president Scott McConnell says while most pastors don’t approve of illegal immigration, the survey showed that 58 percent are in favor of a “path to citizenship” for those already in the country illegally.

Links To Go (December 5, 2014)

Evil Spirits and Electricity Problems

This is why Africa does not need more government aid. This is why Africa does not simply need more wells or more shoes or more schools.
Until the underlying worldview is addressed, there will not be change in Africa. This is why Africa needs the gospel to penetrate its worldview.

Watching Their Flocks By Night: An Advent Meditation on Vigilance and Violence

The point in all this is that these shepherds were likely rough and violent men. They had to be. So it’s a bit shocking and strange to find the angels appearing to these men, of all people. Thugs might be standing around in our Nativity sets. That scene around the manger might be a bit more scandalous than we had ever imagined.

Misreading Scripture Alone

Let me suggest another: these heresies are finding a resurgence because too many Protestants misunderstand the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Too many Christians mistake “Scripture alone” as if it were a license for them to read the Bible alone—to read it apart from other people. You know the idea: “All I need is me and my Bible.” But that’s not what it means. It means that Scripture is alone authoritative, not that your personal (“alone”) interpretation of Scripture is authoritative.

When Bulletins Explode All Over Visitors

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you need to over-stuff your bulletin. That will scare people away. Welcome people with simple communication that doesn’t overwhelm them. It’s a service to your visitors and a service to your ministries.

You Can Own This (Potentially Haunted) Antique Sword

If you have $150 lying around, you could be the owner of this awesome antique sword, which dates back to the 1700s. I know what you’re thinking: Only $150? For a sword from the 1700s? What a bargain!
Oh, there’s one little catch: According to its 76-year-old owner, this sword is haunted.