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

Covenants and vows

wedding rings and bibleI’m taking some time to flesh out some affirmations about marriage that I made in a sermon last week. We’re up to the fourth affirmation:
Marriage is a covenant, with God as witness.

Covenants are not part of our everyday experience here in the West. We know contracts. We don’t know covenants very well. In the same way, we’re not nearly as familiar with vows as we are promises. Marriage, being an ancient institution, takes us back to ways of thinking that are very old. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, if marriage can seem a bit “old fashioned,” for it is.

We need to remember that there are two kinds of covenants in the Bible. One is the covenant imposed by a superior party on an inferior party, what is often known as the “suzerain covenant.” This was common in the Ancient Near East as a conquering king would bestow favor on a weaker ruler in exchange for loyalty and service. There are many parallels between this type of covenant and the Mosaic covenant we find in the Law.

Another covenant is that between two human parties, like the covenant between Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18:3–4). Such a covenant is no less binding (note David’s care for Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel), but it is a covenant between equals. The marriage covenant is more like this, though God at times compares his relationship with Israel to a marriage.

What needs to be seen is that this is a binding agreement, entered into with vows of loyalty. As such, it is a serious thing, much more serious than how much of the world views marriage. [When I was in high school, a teacher mentioned to us some modern wedding vows that she had heard: "I promise to love you until our love dies." I told my teacher that sounded like: "I promise to stay here until I leave." (And no, she didn't appreciate the comment) Such promises are not vows.]

When we think of weddings, we think of fancy clothes, flowers, music, and a reception. Much attention goes into the choice of place and participants. Little thought goes into the reality of the vows being taken.a

We stand before God and state our intention to form a union that will only be broken by death. I’m not denying the reality of divorce, but I am saying that we vow before God to live together for the rest of our lives. Breaking those vows is a serious thing.

When I talk about such with couples, I often read Ecclesiastes 5:

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2–5)

God expects us to fulfill vows. Marriage is a solemn covenant. God is our witness. “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.”

Affirmation #4: Marriage is a covenant, with God as witness.

Photo by Daniel Manolache

Marriage is more than a piece of paper

wedding ringI’m offering some in depth explanation of 10 affirmations about marriage that I posted the other day. Today I want to look at the third affirmation: Marriage is a spiritual act.

As we noted yesterday, marriage is common across cultures. It can seem to be a very human institution. But the Bible affirms, as we said, that God created marriage. More than that, the Bible says that God is involved every time a man and woman join their lives.

This is another part of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:

““Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”” (Matthew 19:4–6)

Jesus says that it is God who joins the two people. Malachi 2 says something similar. When two people come together in marriage, God is present. God is at work.

That’s why I react strongly when people say, “We don’t need a piece of paper to prove our love.” It’s not about a piece of paper. Just as baptism isn’t just “the removal of dirt from the body,” so a marriage is much more than a ceremony or license. A man and a woman come into the ceremony as two distinct individuals and come out as one being, joined by God.

As Jesus said, what God has joined together, let man not separate.

Affirmation #3: Marriage is a spiritual act.

Photo courtesy of Morgue File

Links To Go (October 10, 2014)

Pacifism and Holy Ingratitude

One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.
In short, the pacifism of the early Christians was experienced as shockingly ungrateful.


Why Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Seems Anti-Gospel

At this point, to many, opposing same sex marriage feels like opposing the gospel. In our culture the good news of Jesus is that God primarily exists to make me happy. God has a wonderful and prosperous plan for my life, every thing He does is aimed at accomplishing this goal.
When this “gospel” confronts homosexuality it is powerless.


Will Christians Be Secretly Raptured?

Ultimately we must assess doctrine not on the narrative of church history, but on the text of Scripture. That fact that the secret rapture, and dispensationalism, are the new kids on the eschatological block doesn’t necessarily mean they are false. Previous generations could have misinterpreted their Bibles. As Protestants we hold Scripture, not church tradition, to be authoritative.
But the secret rapture faces biblical challenges as well. There are no biblical texts that explicitly teach it or anything like a two-stage coming of Jesus. Passages that supposedly describe the secret rapture could just as easily be read as referring to the glorious second coming, and in fact have been read that way throughout the church’s history.


Border Crossing: Common Words Work Against the Multiethnic Message

Rather than explaining, I guide them inductively to consider what it might mean. What principles and practices might a border-crossing church embrace, and what evidence might scripture offer to guide such commitments? What missional and spiritual benefits could accompany border crossing? What challenges? How does the human condition affect it? Who is exempt?


The 10 Rules You Need to Communicate Effectively

  1. Simplicity: Use Small Words
  2. Brevity: Use Short Sentences
  3. Credibility Is As Important As Philosophy
  4. Consistency Matters
  5. Novelty: Offer Something New
  6. Sound and Texture Matter
  7. Speak Aspirationally
  8. Visualize
  9. Ask a Question
  10. Provide Context and Explain Relevance

Presentation Skills Considered Harmful

I’ve written and presented so much about focusing on different details of your presentation, these paragraphs smacked me so hard I almost regenerated. Inadvertently (and occasionally purposefully), I’ve advocated the idea that your presentation is about you.
But it’s not.
It’s about your audience.


Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest

If you’re prone to multitasking, this is not a habit you’ll want to indulge—it clearly slows you down and decreases the quality of your work. Even if it doesn’t cause brain damage, allowing yourself to multitask will fuel any existing difficulties you have with concentration, organization, and attention to detail.


How To Waste Time Properly

Schooler isn’t alone in his conclusion. In 2006, psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis at Radboud University in the Netherlands also found that people tasked with making a complex decision do better when they are allowed a brief period of distraction before deciding. He presented his study participants with a list of cars and their attributes, both positive and negative. Then he asked participants to assess the cars’ quality. One group had to think about the information they had learned for four minutes before making their assessments. The other group was asked to perform a “distractor task” during that four-minute interlude. The group that performed a “distractor task” demonstrated the best judgment.


Marriage is more than a human institution

weddingEarlier this week, I mentioned some of the affirmations about marriage that I presented in a sermon on Sunday. I started examining those affirmations yesterday, starting with the first one, the fact that God created humans to be male and female.

The second affirmation is God created marriage.

This probably doesn’t seem like a particularly significant statement. Yet many people around the world would disagree with it. Marriage exists in virtually every culture around the world. From a scientific point of view, it would be hard to argue with the idea that marriage is a human convention.

Yet Jesus looks back to Adam and Eve as the first marriage. God saw Adam alone and provided what he needed: a wife. In Genesis 2, it goes on to say,
“The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23–24)

The biblical text sees the creation of Eve as the creation of marriage. In Matthew 19, Jesus emphasizes that connection:

“Jesús les contestó: —¿No han leído ustedes en la Escritura que el que los creó en el principio, ‘hombre y mujer los creó’? Y dijo: ‘Por eso, el hombre dejará a su padre y a su madre para unirse a su esposa, y los dos serán como una sola persona.’ Así que ya no son dos, sino uno solo. De modo que el hombre no debe separar lo que Dios ha unido.” (Mateo 19:4–6)

So as we talk about marriage, it’s interesting to see how different cultures and different societies deal with marriage, both in the rituals that establish a marriage and the customs that surround the relationship itself. But we must never think that those trappings define what marriage is. Marriage was created by God and will be what he says it is.

Affirmation #2: God created marriage.

Photo courtesy of Morgue File