Links To Go (December 6, 2016)

He Didn’t Choose The Lamb

The answer came in a off the cuff comment from the speaker at a ministers’ conference. He mentioned the Lord’s Supper and said in passing “He takes the bread because there would be no more sacrifice.” The scales fell from my eyes—maybe you had figured this out!—but I was so surprised by it and its wider implications I accidently let out a long loud whistle as I exhaled in surprise!
Think of it. He could have chosen the lamb, but he didn’t choose the lamb, because he wanted it to be clear to us that there was no more shedding of blood required. That this was a never-to-be-repeated sacrifice. This was a once-for-all sacrifice.


Scarlet Hope

It struck me in that moment that this small act of washing this woman’s feet represented something much bigger, for it wasn’t my own love that this woman was experiencing. For the first time in her life, this woman was experiencing the love of Jesus Christ, True Love. A completely selfless, sacrificial, all-encompassing love that brings us peace and hope. It’s a love that brings about change. It’s a love that compels us to share it with others.
I never got to finish this woman’s pedicure. That night, this veteran dancer of fifteen years cleaned out her locker and left the strip club, never to return.


Life as a Minority and a Christian after the Election

I fear that ignoring contexts continues to leave a huge segment of evangelicalism blind to human realities. For example, the Black Lives Movement, which has awakened and motivated many young people to issues of police brutality and the often unfair treatment that people of color face from those in civil authority, has been vastly oversimplified and minimized by many white evangelicals. Rarely do I see white evangelicals even attempt to see the world through the eyes of others.


CDC reports abortion rate at all-time low

The CDC report, which drew on data from 49 reporting areas, showed a decrease not only in total abortions, but also in the rate of abortions for every 1,000 females ages 15-44 (down 21 percent) as well as the ratio between abortion and every 1,000 live births (down 17 percent) since 2004. (California, Maryland, and New Hampshire did not provide data because the federal government does not require it.)
The report lists several factors behind the decrease in abortion: increased use of contraception, state regulation of abortion, mandatory waiting periods, parental involvement laws, and “increasing acceptance of nonmarital childbearing.”


Just the Right Gift

Listening: This is a gift everyone of us wants. We want others to hear what we say. I am not talking about the words, but the meaning behind what we say. When we talk about our lives, our families, our successes, and our failures, we want others to respect us enough to listen with compassion. We are not always wanting others to solve our problems or to pat us on the back, but we do want to disclose part of who we are to those we trust. Are you listening?


‘Fixer Upper’ star Chip Gaines calls for ‘respect,’ takes family to church

However, Chip Gaines took to Twitter this weekend to tell fans to be respectful of the Buzzfeed article’s author that many media experts and fans called “off base.”
Regardless of our decision to make a statement about all this craziness, or not, I ask that people please! respect [Buzzfeed reporter] @KateAurthur,” Chip Gaines wrote on Twitter.


Oh, Politico! We’re not laughing with you, but at you, after that ‘advance God’s Kingdom’ scoop

So my main advice for Politico, focused on the GetReligion angle, is pretty simple: When writing about a subject on which your knowledge is extremely lacking (say, Christian subculture lingo), be more careful with your laughable gotcha/scoop/exposé pieces based on 15-year-old quotes. Or something like that.


Soul Men: Coach Pop and Cornel West

A student asked, of course, whether the Spurs were going to win a title, and here was one of the emotional high points of the day. Coach Popovich responded:
“Win the championship? I don’t know, but it’s not a priority in my life. I’d be much happier if I knew that my players were going to make society better, who had good families and who took care of the people around them. I’d get more satisfaction out of that than a title. I would love to win another championship, and we’ll work our butts off to try and do that. But we have to want more than success in our jobs.”


The Christian calendar is growing on me

christian-calendarI’m getting more used to the Christian calendar. I’ve questioned the need for it in the past, but as someone pointed out, we’re going to follow some calendar; why not follow one structured around Christian events? Why is a calendar based on what the Romans did inherently better than one based on what early Christians did? Why is observing holidays promoted by Hallmark somehow holier than following the seasons marked for centuries by believers in Christ?

I’m not willing to name some days as holier than others. That doesn’t fit what I see in the New Testament. I still observe Sunday as the Lord’s day, and every other day as holy. But I’d rather spend this season focused on the need for a Messiah than spend it bowing to whatever days merchants want to create, be it Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Shop-Til-You-Drop Saturday.

I’m not lighting candles nor do I even know what the order of such is supposed to be. I have been using the Lectionary for my preaching for over a year now; I’m always in favor of text-based preaching that isn’t subject to the whims of what I perceive to be the most pressing need.

I’m still more aware of the sports seasons than I am the seasons of the Christian calendar. But it’s growing on me.

What do you think? What problems do you see with following the Christian calendar? What advantages do you see?

Can’t spread the Kingdom without the King

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

seeking

Kingdom values aren’t kingdom values without the King. Loving one another wasn’t new; loving as Jesus loved was new.

If we are going to proclaim the kingdom, we must proclaim the King. If we are going to “bring heaven to earth,” then we will necessarily bring the One whose very presence fills heaven.

So let me put it this way: if you’re feeding and building and digging and giving for the sake of the Kingdom, tell people about the King. Talk about Jesus, who he is, what he’s done for us, and the eternal life he wants to give to us.

Bonus: “Trying to have a Kingdom with no King is just -dom.” :-)

5 reasons why churches choose not to evangelize

seekingSo why are so many Christians today neglecting or denying the need to evangelize others? Here are some thoughts:

  1. There is a rejection of the “fire and brimstone” preaching of yesteryear. As I’ve said, this is a dangerous pendulum swing. Not unexpected, but dangerous. We don’t solve anything by going from one extreme to another. We’ve got to get back to a middle ground where our people (our leaders!) feel confident in sharing Jesus in a healthy way.
  2. An age of tolerance makes evangelism seem old-fashioned. Evangelism isn’t tolerant. It doesn’t say, “This is my idea, but yours is just as valid.” Evangelism makes claims of exclusivity. Evangelism calls for an embrace of one set of ideals and a rejection of all others. The spirit of tolerance and a zeal for evangelism don’t go together well.
  3. Evangelism creates conflict. It’s easy to hold forth kingdom values that society in general applauds. Few people openly advocate injustice. It’s rare that someone will argue against helping the needy. So many of the kingdom values that our church today wants to promote are values that society in general is in agreement with. It’s undeniably true that more churches began preaching gender justice when Western culture embraced women’s rights; many assume the same thing will happen with homosexuality.
    But evangelism is counter-cultural. If someone suggests that a Muslim needs Jesus, they’re criticized for their intolerance. If we tell our neighbor that they need to live a Christian lifestyle, we’re seen as judgmental. Evangelism creates conflict.
  4. Evangelistic results are hard to predict and hard to quantify. If it takes $100 to dig a water well, you know that $1000 will dig ten. Predictable. Quantifiable. Easy to fit into a budget. Easy to report on afterward.
    There are no formulas for predicting evangelistic success. Conversions can take years. We know that the more people we talk to, the more likely it will be that some will respond to Jesus. But for people who live by numbers and statistics, relief work is always going to be more attractive.
  5. Theological shifts have left church leaders without motivation to reach out. Here’s where we see a divide between many church leaders and your average church members. Many leaders no longer see the atonement as past generations did. Many choose an emphasis on “bringing heaven to earth” over “helping people get to heaven.” Others embrace a universalism that denies that any will be ultimately lost. These shifts and others have left many church leaders looking to spend their time, energy, and resources in other areas rather than evangelism.

We could name many more factors. Maybe you’ll help me. Why do you think so many church leaders today are hesitant to talk about evangelism and reaching out to the lost?

Links to Go (November 30, 2016)

Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds

The solution, they write, is to teach students — or, really, all Internet users — to read like fact checkers.
That means not just reading “vertically,” on a single page or source, but looking for other sources — as well as not taking “About” pages as evidence of neutrality, and not assuming Google ranks results by reliability.


Paradigm Shifts in Global Missions Every Christian Should Know

  • The center of gravity of Christianity has shifted from the West to the Global South.
  • Many nations are involved in the sending of missionaries.
  • The global population is becoming increasingly urban.
  • The world population is more connected than ever before
  • Unprecedented global migration has resulted in the scattering of people across the globe.

Increasing Evangelism in Church Planting

People love to be missional. People love to plant churches. But when we actually talk about sharing the good news of the gospel—calling men and women to trust and follow Jesus—the passion can falter. It appears that, in many cases, the value we place on being verbal witnesses of the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us is declining, while church planting and acts of service are increasing.


Trump voters want to build the wall, but are more divided on other immigration questions

Voters who supported Donald Trump in the presidential election view illegal immigration as a serious problem in the U.S. and strongly favor his proposal to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico. But they are more divided on other questions, including whether to deport some or all of the nation’s estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants.


Worship When the Feelings Aren’t There

The church today might be guilty of courtly love. In writing about this phenomenon, Scot McKnight has said, “Some folks love church, and what they mean by ‘loving church’ is that they love the experience they get when they go to church.”

  • They might like the experience and feelings they get from singing songs about adoration of God or the experience of loving Jesus.
  • They might like sermons that make them feel God’s power or tell stories that entertain or insights that seem brand new.
  • If the song isn’t in the right style or the sermon is more broccoli than dessert, then we might leave rating the time spent as a disappointment. Like the segment on American Bandstand where Dick Clark would have some teenagers “Rate a Record,” we rate what we call worship on the basis of its beat and how it made us feel.

But what if the worship of the church is not supposed to be rated on the flightiness of feelings? Instead, its design might be more about building the faithfulness of fidelity to Christ? More about a mature relationship than a courtly love.


U.S. Christians Brace For Brutal Onslaught Of ‘Happy Holidays’ Attacks

Open Doors, a watchdog group that monitors the global persecution of Christians, reports that “Happy Holidays” attacks are already up 400% this season. In response to this disturbing trend, Christians around the world have organized prayer vigils to support the victims.
One North Korean believer spoke to reporters from an underground church meeting, on the condition of anonymity, out of concern for government threats on his life for practicing Christianity. “We stand with our American brothers and sisters during this barbaric onslaught of persecution. We pray for God’s strength to endure the torture you will encounter during your shopping trips, winter festivals, and holiday parties.”