Links to Go (November 5, 2014)

Jesus in the Public Square

The church is a political institution, but one which is not of this world. Whether or not it involves itself in political issues is a secondary issue. Some may be more vocal, while others may more silent. What matters most is that every church seeks to carry on the mission of Jesus and the apostles by inculcating the values of Jesus’ kingdom. No church, however, should be partisan, since no one secular religious party captures or promotes the holistic and countercultural ethics of Jesus’ kingdom.


Brittany Maynard Didn’t Commit Suicide (What We Can Learn From 9-11′s “Falling Man”)

In all the years since 9-11, I’ve never once heard a Christian speak up in judgment and condemnation over the 9-11 jumpers. I’ve never heard someone say they sinned because they “hastened death instead of accepting God’s timing.” I’ve never heard anyone say that failing to condemn their choice is a “slippery slope that could send the message that suicide is okay.” All I’ve ever heard about the 9-11 jumpers is how difficult their choice must have been, and how sad it is that their lives were taken by terrorism.
Why then, should we say those things about Brittany– or those who choose to die more quickly and less painfully in response to a terminal disease– a death sentence that becomes their burning building? It’s not a choice to die (suicide). It’s just a choice to pick the most painless way to die.


The Myth of Hate

Furthermore, even though Christians agree with the biblical prohibition of homosexual sex, it doesn’t mean we hate people who violate it. This is an important and obvious distinction that seems forgotten. The Bible, for example, is opposed to gluttony, but we don’t hate gluttons. The Bible is against drunkenness, but we don’t hate people who drink too much. The Bible is against pre-marital sex, but we don’t hate people who have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The Bible is opposed to stealing, but we don’t hate thieves. Yes, the Bible is opposed to homosexual sex, but we don’t hate homosexuals.


Cracks in the atheist edifice

The paradox, as they all know, is that religious freedom, if it ever takes hold, might harm the Christian church in two ways. The church might become institutionalised, wealthy and hence corrupt, as happened in Rome in the high Middle Ages, and is already happening a little in the businessmen’s churches of Wenzhou. Alternatively the church, long strengthened by repression, may become a feebler part of society in a climate of toleration. As one Beijing house-church elder declared, with a nod to the erosion of Christian faith in western Europe: “If we get full religious freedom, then the church is finished.”


Singing as a Spiritual Discipline

Don’t believe me? Do you know anyone who left their church because of a change in “worship?” In truth, these changes are barely changes in worship. Most churches still celebrate the Eucharist, engage sermons, sing, pray, and – sadly – have announcements. What changes is the singing! And the reason people leave over “worship” is because they no longer “like” the singing… personally.


Links To Go (November 4, 2014)

Review of The Bible Tells Me So

In the end, The Bible Tells Me So is a book about contradictions. Enns intended it to be a book about contradictions in the Bible. But it becomes quickly apparent that the contradictions are really in Enns’s own worldview. He claims the Canaanite conquest is immoral, yet argues the Bible provides no clear guide for morality. He claims the Bible presents a diabolical genocidal God, yet insists we still “meet God in its pages”. He argues Scripture is filled with reworked stories, many of which are made up entirely, yet seems to know which ones really happened and which did not. He claims the Bible provides no clear moral instruction, yet says people are “disobedient” to God and in need of the cross. He claims he’s the one reading the Bible in an ancient manner when, in fact, people in the ancient world didn’t read it the way he does.


5 Reasons Why There Are No Millennials in Your Church

  1. There are no Millennials in your leadership.
  2. You reject the idea of contextualization as you wear 1980s clothes and sing 1880s songs.
  3. “Sunday School” literally feels like school on Sundays.
  4. Your political preferences are clearer than your gospel proclamations.
  5. Your idea of a “social media presence” is finally getting that Myspace page finished.

10 Values Of Millennials Shaping The Church

  1. Millennials give to causes not institutions
  2. They are relentless optimists
  3. Millennials will be the most educated generation in history
  4. They believe strongly in racial and socio-economic reconciliation
  5. Millennials believe in quality over convenience
  6. Millennials value Jesus over denominational ties
  7. Millennials see technology and social media as essential components of church evangelism and discipleship
  8. Millennials do not value titles and labels
  9. Millennials are the largest generation in the history of the world
  10. Millennials are counter-cultural, not anti-cultural

Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-time Guests

  1. Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service
  2. Unfriendly church members
  3. Unsafe and unclean children’s area
  4. No place to get information
  5. Bad church website
  6. Poor signage
  7. Insider church language
  8. Boring or bad service
  9. Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew
  10. Dirty facilities

You Can’t Understand the Bible by Yourself

Now, none of this should be disturbing, because God works through community. God worked through Luther and the Reformers to rightly correct, or at least realign, the church’s view of salvation by opening his eyes to Paul’s words in Romans and Galatians. To say we need the community to rightly understands the Bible only means that God works through community. He raises up gifted teachers who have the ability to study, synthesize, and articulate God’s truth better than others.


4 Ways Im/migration Impacts the Mission of the Church

  • First, Immigration Puts Faces on Lost People of Different Races and Contexts
  • Second, Immigration Impacts Evangelistic Willingness
  • Third, Migration Impacts Religious Participation
  • Fourth and Finally, Migration Opens Opportunities for the Gospel

In a Major Victory, District Court Rules That Secular Humanism, for Establishment Clause Purposes, is a Religion

Last Thursday, Federal District Judge Ancer Haggerty ruled on American Humanist Association v. United States. The case was brought by prisoner Jason Michael Holden, in conjunction with the American Humanist Association, because, as ThinkProgress reports, Holden “wanted Humanism… recognized as a religion so that his prison would allow for the creation of a Humanist study group.”


How to Debug Your Brain and Build Better Habits

Well, yes. But that part is event driven too, which is to say it’s not on all the time. It turns out our brains were optimized for energy efficiency, and they only turn on their CPU (Consciousness Processing Unit) when absolutely necessary. If you’ve ever realized you’ve been driving for an hour and hadn’t even noticed, that was your consciousness going into Standby Mode.
It’s your consciousness that tells you to exercise, even if you don’t want to, because it can see the long term benefits are greater than the short term pain. And when it’s in control, you do so. But consciousness demands a lot of power. When your mental battery is low, it’s easily overpowered out by higher priorities, like playing Hearthstone or checking Twitter.


Tom Magliozzi, Popular Co-Host Of NPR’s ‘Car Talk,’ Dies At 77

Tom Magliozzi, one of public radio’s most popular personalities, died on Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 77 years old.
Tom and his brother, Ray, became famous as “Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers” on the weekly NPR show Car Talk. They bantered, told jokes, laughed and sometimes even gave pretty good advice to listeners who called in with their car troubles.


Links To Go (October 17, 2014)

Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs

In short, if blood is the most sacred thing we know the church needs to have some blood in the game if she is to stand as a counter-cultural witness to the blood-soaked flag of a nation.


Social Justice and the Gospel: What is the Core Mission of the Church?

In summary, we should be clear that both gospel proclamation and deeds of mercy should be part of the life of the church. We are not forced to choose. But we must also be careful to distinguish between them. Deeds of mercy are not the gospel. They are the fruit of the gospel.


4 Ways Millennials Are Embracing Traditional Faith

There is no question that Millennials are different in articulating their faith experience than previous generations, but I believe what is fundamentally different has less to do with whether or not we care about faith, but what about faith we care about. What has changed is not our concern over questions of orthodoxy, but the kinds of questions of orthodoxy we ask.


Houston, We Have a Constitution

A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights.


The nurse who broke protocol

Why do I share this? To beg you to pray for us. Because when I held the bloody hand of that HIV+ patient, I was praying within my heart for protection. And after I settled her down, I did the scrub down and examined my hands for wounds and prayed again. We aren’t rogue caregivers or careless and we don’t have a death wish. What we have is some something, buried deep in our DNA that requires us to give ourselves to God in the service of those in need and to believe that even when the man-made precautions that should protect us fail (even when it’s because we didn’t use them,) He will honor our attempts to give care and compassion.


Behold Your Mother

First, we can preach the biblical texts on honoring parents and include the elderly in our preaching on the sanctity of human life. Second, we should be more intentional about fostering intergenerational relationships so the younger see the value of engagement with senior saints. Third, we need to be more intentional about challenging those tempted to abdicate their responsibility to their parents and affirm those who willingly take up the task. Lastly, the church can connect our people to helpful resources in the community that offer help and wise counsel.


What do Americans pray for? Themselves. And maybe a sports team

Some of LifeWay’s new survey’s main findings include:

  • 48 percent of Americans pray every day
  • 82 percent who pray typically pray about family or friends
  • 20 percent pray for people of other faiths or no faith
  • Equal numbers of Americans (7 percent) pray behind the wheel, either for a good parking space or not to get a speeding ticket
  • Smaller numbers of people, around 5 percent, pray for someone’s relationship to end, someone to get fired or for someone else to fail.

A Priest With a Death Sentence: Looking Closer at Calvary

I love that. “I don’t think it will be winning any awards from the Christian world. … It takes place in a universe very like ours.”
Then I saw it and enjoyed most of it very much, until…
…the end, when admiration grew into deep gratitude. The more I reflect on it, the more I’m certain that this will remain one of my favorite films of 2014.


Why We’re All Beta Testers Now

Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about traditional programs any differently. Maybe we should get rid of frozen, numbered editions, much as Adobe has done.
That wouldn’t eliminate the frustration of bugginess, but at least we would comprehend software’s true nature: a product that is never finished.


Spelling error identified on new Ernie Pyle sculpture

The word “correspondent,” as seen on a patch on the left shoulder of the bronze sculpture, is incorrectly spelled. It currently reads “U.S. War Corespondent.”


Links To Go (October 15, 2014)

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.


Gossip and Prayer Requests

It’s complicated. We want to encourage much intercessory prayer, so we create and maintain phone chains and email prayer lists and we take requests for others at small groups and prayer meetings. However, prayer requests come from sinners, are about sinners, and are passed on to other sinners, so there are plenty of opportunities for sinful gossip to make an entrance in the process (Proverbs 10:19).


A Refresher on Storytelling 101

  • Parachute in, don’t preamble.
  • Choose first and final words carefully.
  • Follow the “Goldilocks” theory of details.
  • Focus your delivery on “one person with one thought.”
  • Consider the power of poetry.
  • Use silence for impact and emphasis.
  • Know your AIM. (Audience, Intent, Message)

The Myth of the Midlife Crisis

Jeffrey Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., says his research indicates that the 40s, 50s and 60s are often a time of “re-evaluation and reassessment,” particularly for empty-nesters. But while “there is anxiety that goes along with that,” he says, many people also describe a feeling of “renewed freedom and possibility.”
Midlife, he adds, “is a surprisingly positive time of life.”


Angry Bird: Hawk knocks drone out of the sky

A hawk swooping in and attacking a drone while it was flying over a park in Massachusetts Wednesday was captured on video.


Fist Fight Between Great Grandmothers In Hospital Maternity Ward

The birth of a baby brought out the worst in two great-grandmothers after they came to blows in the maternity ward.
Police say first words were exchanged, and then fists, until the great-grandmothers were kicked out of the hospital.


Links To Go (October 14, 2014)

The Deadly Deception of Sexual Atheism in the Church

It is equally honest to say that nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists. In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least, anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct. It is the ultimate oxymoron. A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually. It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, NIV). There is a disconnect between identity and activity.


How Same-Sex Marriage Will Affect Friendships

So too, in the world that is rapidly embracing and recognizing homosexual relationships as normal and normative, the space for deep and meaningful male-male or female-female friendships among the young is rapidly shrinking to the vanishing point. “The stigma against sodomy,” Esolen rightly notes, “cleared away ample space for an emotionally powerful friendship that did not involve sexual intercourse, exactly as the stigma against incest allows for the physical and emotional freedom of a family.”
Add, then, the estrangement of boys from boys and girls from girls, in a world in which intimacy always raises the suspicion of sexual desire. This is a bleak horizon to contemplate: plenty of sex, mostly empty and unrewarding, with much less love and friendship.


When guys find out I’m a virgin

What really shook me about Boy Three, though, wasn’t his traditional values or strict religious beliefs. The thing that threw me was how much he pressured me sexually. Unlike Boy One, who had at least respected me enough to try to abstain, this guy — this man who repeatedly told me he’d chosen to dedicate his career and life to God — forced me into the most uncomfortable sexual situations and conversations I’ve ever endured, pushing and prodding me further and further outside my comfort zone.


The Future of Churches of Christ: Table & Baptism

In my opinion, if the (ecumenical) Churches of Christ want to maintain a distinctive and coherent identity going forward they should increasingly focus upon articulating a robust and distinctive theology as it pertains to two specific church practices which I believe, unlike with acapella worship, will continue to characterize the movement for the next few generations.
These two practices are the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper and a believer’s baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.


What is Contextualization? Presenting the Gospel in Culturally Relevant Ways

Contextualization is an important component of effective Gospel ministry. The Gospel is an eternal, transcultural reality, but it comes to us within the context of a human culture. Contemporary Christians should carefully seek to discern the difference between Gospel truth and cultural tradition. They should then present the Gospel in a manner that is culturally relevant, taking care to practice the cautions I outline here. By doing so, they can create effective, indigenous churches.


Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World

The gospel is not simply the best self-help news out there, nor the hottest parenting or marriage techniques to transform your kids and your communication. It is the message that God, through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, has made a way for sinners to be forgiven and transformed. We have been and being redeemed, day by day, situation by situation. Even our failures and ongoing battles with sin testify to this message. Asking forgiveness, admitting failure, honestly facing our weaknesses and temptations – these do not deny our message. Instead, they can testify to its truth. Jesus saved, is saving, and will save us – sinners though we remain!


Should Giving Always Be Kept Secret?

This verse cannot mean that we should—or even that we can—be unaware of our own giving, any more than we could be unaware of our praying, fasting, Bible reading or evangelism. To try to make it mean that would remove the discerning, thoughtful elements of giving, praying, fasting, and all spiritual disciplines.


Well-Made Movies Won’t Be… Left Behind

When the Left Behind producers and fans start implying that those who criticize the movie are anti-Christian… well, that flies in the face of clear evidence. The Good Lie, starring Reece Witherspoon, is only the latest example. Look at Of Gods and Men, which earned Oscar attention and earned a 93%… 93%!… positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.


What Books Do for the Human Soul: The Four Psychological Functions of Great Literature

Literature deserves its prestige for one reason above all others — because it’s a tool to help us live and die with a little bit more wisdom, goodness, and sanity.


Activism in the Social Media Age

Activism in the Social Media Age
By Andrew Wilson