Cuba Day

IMG_1764I made a trip to Huntsville, Alabama, on behalf of Hope For Life (Herald of Truth). I attended the Cuba Day meeting at the Mayfair Church of Christ in that city, along with 45 other people. IMG_1776The guest of honor was Ammiel Perez, a preacher from Havana who acts as the liaison between the government and the churches of Christ (“president” of the association of churches of Christ in Cuba). [That's a picture of the two of us at the conference]

I got to speak twice, once talking about the youth conference that Herald of Truth supported for many years, then again, telling about Herald of Truth’s current ministry in Cuba.

IMG_1755Then on Sunday, I was invited to preach for the Mayfair church. Mayfair is a very mission-minded church, and this past Sunday was their Service Day, where members carry out service projects throughout the city. It was a great weekend.

Links To Go (April 14, 2014)

Statue Of A Homeless Jesus Startles A Wealthy Community

The sculpture is intended as a visual translation of the passage in the Book of Matthew, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.” Moreover, Buck says, it’s a good Bible lesson for those used to seeing Jesus depicted in traditional religious art as the Christ of glory, enthroned in finery.

5 Overlooked Cultural Sins Threatening the Church

  1. Competition
  2. Celebrity
  3. Patriotism
  4. Fear
  5. Individuality

What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (Communion, Part 4)

Personally, if I had my way (and I don’t), I’d encourage the church to take the Lord’s Supper on Sunday or Saturday night (I’m sure God isn’t worried about whether we follow the Jewish or Roman calendar) in small groups, meeting in homes, as part of a meal — at least some of the time. That would be very Acts 2.

Aged Out of Church

When we in the church ape (awkwardly!) our culture’s obsession with all things young and cool, when we focus our energies on creating ministries targeted at the same desirable demographic groups targeted by savvy advertisers, we communicate to those who don’t fit those specs that they are less desirable to us than the ones we really want in our church family.

The great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons panic

In an era of potent concern over internet pornography, cyber-bullying, and drugs, it is hard to imagine a game being controversial. But 30 years ago Dungeons & Dragons was the subject of a full-on moral panic, writes Peter Ray Allison.

John the Baptist

waterAn appropriate place to begin a study of baptism is with the person of John the Baptist. John burst on the scene as the one preparing the way for the Messiah. As part of this, he issued a radical call for repentance, with baptism being a sign of that repentance.

I’ve neglected a bit the importance of John’s baptism. His baptism was unusual enough that it brought the religious authorities out from Jerusalem to investigate. John wasn’t just baptizing converts; he was baptizing Jewish believers.

After Jesus’ baptism, John’s disciples became jealous. Why? Jesus’ disciples were baptizing more people than John’s disciples were. After John’s death, his followers continued the practice of baptizing those who were coming to God. They continued for decades, according to the book of Acts.

What I hadn’t really thought about before was the importance baptism played in the Messiah’s movement. We’re living a time when many in our fellowship are seeking to de-emphasize the role of baptism, even as many in the broader Christian world are focusing on it even more. We need to explore the functions and meaning of baptism, but we have no need to be embarrassed about presenting baptism as an essential part of the Christian faith. It’s been that way since the start.

Links To Go (April 10, 2014)

Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think it Is)

Sadly, this false gospel is particularly attractive to those who believe themselves to be evangelicals motivated by a biblical impulse. Far too many believers and their churches succumb to the logic of moralism and reduce the Gospel to a message of moral improvement. In other words, we communicate to lost persons the message that what God desires for them and demands of them is to get their lives straight.

State of the Bible 2014

This trend is even more pronounced among the Millennial generation (who range in age from 18-29). According to the State of the Bible report, Millennials are

  • Less likely to view the Bible as sacred literature (64 percent in comparison to 79 percent of adults),
  • Less likely to believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to lead a meaningful life (35 percent in comparison to 50 percent of adults), and
  • More likely to never read the Bible (39 percent compared in comparison to 26 percent of adults).

6 Reasons Millennial Christians Will Change Everything

The bottom line is that, in many ways, Millennials are very different than the generation that preceded them, and some folks might be a little nervous about that. But we can lay those concerns to rest, because, as Christians, there is a lot to be excited about in the generation that’s poised to inherit the future.

Jesus’ Baptism and Ours: I should be baptized by you

So, it is not surprising to see Jesus come to John for baptism. First, he is aligning himself with a movement that anticipates the coming Kingdom of God. Second, the very nature and shape of that movement is based on those who are great becoming the least. The baptism of Jesus echoes throughout the rest of the gospel story. “If you want to find your life, you must lose it… The greatest will be the least, the servant of all…the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve… not my will, but yours be done.”
When we are baptized, hopefully we are saying the same things. We are aligning our lives with the good news of God’s coming kingdom and are recognizing that power in this kingdom is expressed as submission and service.

Bringing the Church Back to Life

All churches have to be careful not to pull away from the true source of life. It can be easy to make the focus about having great events or drawing crowds or even connecting people—none of these are bad, but if they become the primary goal, the church can lose its focus on God.
And when the focus shifts off of Christ, the church loses its vibrancy, its life. What makes a body living or dead? The determinate factor for life is the spirit. Just like zombies have a body, but are missing a spirit, churches become lifeless when they are missing the Holy Spirit.

One Thing That Taught Me How To Be More Present With My Family

I run through the dinosaurs all the time, and I don’t even realize it till later. I lay in bed and realize I missed the most important things, the things that really matter to me, because I was caught up in my own head, running circles, having imaginary conversations, forecasting imaginary disasters.

Grumbling & Complaining

I’m challenged by all those words today. Challenged to shut my mouth, even if it means awkward silence around others. Challenged to guide my heart, even if it means I don’t get to entertain or indulge my thoughts toward another person or situation.
Let’s hold fast to the word of life—Christ’s words and what they offer—for they far outweigh our momentary grumbling or complaining.

Fall In Love Again

The message of the Bible is that God has moved toward me in love when I really deserved His condemnation. He’s wrapped His arms of love around me and He’s in the process of changing me at the level of my heart.
If you remove this fundamental love relationship, all you’re left with is theology and rules. Those five common answers to Christianity suddenly become dangerous and damaging when you forget that their foundation is built upon love.

100-Year-Old Message In A Bottle Plucked From Baltic Sea

On a nature hike along Germany’s Baltic Coast in 1913, 20-year-old Richard Platz scrawled a note on a postcard, shoved it into a brown beer bottle, corked it and tossed it into the sea.
Where it traveled, no one knows for sure, but it was pulled out of the Baltic Sea by a fisherman last month not far from where Platz first pitched it.

Links To Go (April 9, 2014)

Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

The other day, someone gave me a note with Nahum 1:7 printed at the top: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”For some reason, they neglected to include the next line, which continues the thought from verse 7: “But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of Nineveh.”
Okay, so maybe the fuller version doesn’t deliver quite the same Hallmark moment. And maybe that’s the problem with how many Christians use the Bible.

An Open Letter To the Left and Right of the United Methodist Church

So this is my plea: don’t take the easy way out. Don’t pack up your toys and go home. Don’t give up on the chasm. Build a bigger bridge.
The headlines keep saying you are “Church Leaders”- so be that. Step up and invite leaders from the opposite side to the table.
Find a way. Don’t break up my family. Because it is not okay with me and I can’t do anything about it.

Into the Great Unknown

Some things that God reveals to us are as clear as day, but others are mysterious and not easily understood. God is full of infinite wisdom and we barely scratch the surface of this wisdom with our finite minds. The ways of God are far above us. It is an honorable pursuit to seek to know all there is to know about God, but knowing everything is impossible. All we can know is what has been revealed to us through Scripture and creation and some of that is mysterious. It is important for Christians to embrace this mystery, but we are often afraid because mystery is the great unknown.

Philip Jenkins– The Way to Translate– Part One

And here’s Jesus sending out the disciples on their mission: “And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse.” That’s the KJV. Here’s the NIV: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” Unless you refer to the Greek, both versions miss the central point that Jesus actually tells his followers to take nothing for their Hodos. They aren’t on a journey, they’re on the Way.

Don’t Blame Evangelicals for the Cult of the Virgin

Christians, of course, are commanded to live chaste lives before and during marriage. But when we decontextualize the purpose and meaning of virginity or attempt to promote it through guilt or gimmicks, the church reflects ancient myths and modern fetishes more than biblical principles.

The American Girl: Princess to Promiscuous… Why Our Daughters Are Having Sex

Friends, we are the ones who have set this ball in motion. We have sent the message that boyfriends are cute. We have delighted in their first kiss. We have trained our daughters that their sexual purity is for sale to the first boy who says “I love you.” Our daughters have traded their priceless virginity for nothing more than a cheap compliment from a horny teenage boy.

The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research

Curious, I dug around and found some answers for the ideal lengths of tweets and titles and everything in between. Many of these could have been answered with “it depends,” but where’s the fun in that? Solid research exists to show the value of writing, tweeting, and posting at certain lengths. We can learn a lot from scientific social media guidelines like these. Here’s the best of what I found.

Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. Sure, there might be pictures mixed in with the text, but there didn’t tend to be many distractions. Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout, researchers said. We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.
The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.

Theater Cancels ‘Noah’ Showing Because of a Flood

Moviegoers in Exeter, England had their best-laid plans foiled after an ice machine broke down at the Vue Cinema, flooding the theater—which happened to be showing Noah.

Habanero peppers cause school evacuation

The K-12 Colorado school remained closed on Tuesday as investigators tried to figure out what “toxic irritant” had been released on the playground.
They quickly figured out that it wasn’t fertilizer or pepper spray, KUSA reports.
Six habanero chili peppers caused this hot mess.

Evelyn Hamilton Allegedly Calls Cops To Complain About Weed Quality

Lufkin police Sgt. David Casper said Monday that an officer went to the home of 37-year-old Evelyn Hamilton to hear her complaint that the dealer refused to return her money after she objected that the drug was substandard.
Casper says she pulled the small amount of marijuana from her bra when the officer asked if she still had it.