Links To Go (April 18, 2016)

Americans’ views of immigrants marked by widening partisan, generational divides

In our latest national political survey, released in March, 59% of the public say immigrants strengthen the country, while 33% describe them as a burden. In 1994, opinions were nearly the reverse: 63% said immigrants were a burden and 31% said they strengthened the country.


Tenn. Gov. Vetoes Bill to Make the Bible the State’s Official Book

In a letter to lawmakers, the governor spelled out his reasons for vetoing the measure, saying:
“In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text. If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance. If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book.”


What’s Your Conscience Worth?

Bruce Springsteen says he won’t perform for North Carolina, as long as the state upholds its recently passed law regarding gender and public restrooms. Springsteen is doing what millions of Americans are taught, in classrooms and in culture, to do: Standing up for his conscience, and drawing lines accordingly. But in our era, the question becomes: If this is counted to Springsteen as righteousness, why is it counted as sin to North Carolina?


Is God Dead? No, but belief has declined slightly

To be sure, the share of people in the United States who say they believe in the Almighty has dropped a bit recently, from 92% in 2007 (when the Center’s first Religious Landscape Study was released) to 89% in 2014. And among the youngest adults surveyed (born between 1990 and 1996), the share of believers is 80%.


Revenge and Privilege

It is easy to judge parenting choices and children’s behavior, so simple to say, “If I were you, this is what I would do…” But we are rarely able (or willing) to fully step outside, or even recognize, the experiences that have formed our perspectives.
I’m thankful my tutor was willing to help me understand the circumstances at school for her daughter. Now, when a woman I respect and know to be a good mother, makes a statement I don’t understand or makes a choice for her children that I might not make, I am much more likely to trust her instincts. I might ask questions but these come from an attitude of wanting to learn. Rather than make assumptions about her parenting or her relationship with her children, I’ll seek to understand their actual context.


Stott Bowdlerized

Anyone who picks up Basic Christianity today will do so because he wants something altogether different from the products available in his own age. He wants something from the past. What he gets instead sounds almost as if it were composed yesterday: chatty, choppy, bereft of much difficulty, with an improbable hint of political correctness.


BLESS Missional Practices as a Sideways Step into Evangelism

How are we doing that? We are pursuing five missional practices. We call them BLESS.
<

    li>Begin with prayer.

  • Listen.
  • Eat.
  • Serve.
  • Story.

We want every person to imagine evangelism as “blessing” others. So many people think of evangelism as pressuring people. So we don’t even use the word. We ask them to “bless” others in order to help them find their way back to God.


Do You Really Need Email on Your Phone?

Are you truly creating value with your emails? Or are you feeding a stream of worthless communication that only serves to limit the action of others in your absence?
Are you jumping at each and every message that comes across? Interrupting your work and life to the point that you don’t know which is which.
Most emails are worthless. Inane back-and-forth about silly and simple topics. Topics that would be better served with less action. Things that can wait.


A look at the second section of Church Inside Out

CIOI’ve been traveling this week and haven’t had much time to write. But it’s Friday, and I want to share some more information about Church Inside Out, the book and workbook I’ve written that 21st Century Christian will be publishing in the next few weeks. I wrote the book as part of my work with Hope For Life (Herald of Truth) and will be doing seminars based on this material in local churches around the U.S.

Let me tell you about the second section of the book. It’s titled “The World Outside” and has three chapters:

  • Diplomatic Mission
  • Who Is My Neighbor?
  • Eating With Sinners

The previous section was very introspective; this section turns the focus outward. There’s an emphasis on looking at the world around us and considering our interaction with that world. The “Diplomatic Mission” chapter stresses the need for us to be intentional in our dealings with the world, to recognize our role as ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven. The chapter on “Who Is My Neighbor?” is intended to be very practical, looking at how to do community analysis and how to use that analysis to tailor our ministries to the needs of our city. It also includes a brief section on multicultural ministry.

The final chapter in this section discusses the need for Christians to develop relationships with outsiders. If people mainly come to the church through the influence of friends and neighbors, then a growing church must have members that have significant relationships with non-Christians.

Like I’ve said, my desire is that this book be used practically and not as another intellectual exercise. It includes a workbook for that very reason. Between the book and the workbook, churches and individual Christians should find tools that will help them more effectively impact the people around them.

Links To Go (April 11, 2016)

Sharing others’ ideas that made me think…


I.O.U.

I walked down the street the other day, and as I passed people, I thought, “I owe you.” I am in debt to every person I meet, and so are you. It’s a debt that we owe vertically, but the payment is made horizontally as we share the gospel with others.


The Politics of Gay Marriage (Citizens of heaven)

American Christians are under the delusion that our savior is the government. Why would I say such a thing? Because we things go badly, we want to fix it via the government. We want to elect the right representatives and president. We want the right court decisions issued. And if we could just get a filibuster-proof Senate and our preferred presidential candidate, our problems would be solved. And this is pagan, godless thinking.


Is Your Church a Safe Place For People With Same Sex Attraction?

So, what would change if we assumed some of our members or guests experienced SSA? I believe one of the first things that would change is that our motivation to learn about homosexuality would change from polemical and political to pastoral and personal. We would want to be able to get to know a person more effectively rather than make a point more persuasively.


Keeping the Faith in A Faithless Age: the Church as a Moral Minority

Whatever the issue, the church must speak as the church-that is, as the community of fallen but redeemed, who stand under divine authority. The concern of the church is not to know its own mind, but to know and follow the mind of God. The church’s convictions must not emerge from the ashes of our own fallen wisdom, but from the authoritative Word of God which reveals the wisdom of God and His commands.


No, I Don’t Drink. Yes, I Know How To Have Fun.

Growing up in a generation that established binge drinking as a main weekend pastime, being sober has always made me the odd one out. My reasons not to drink are simple: The idea of drinking never appealed to me; I could never stand the taste of alcohol; and I never felt like I needed an extra boost to have fun — or make stupid decisions. Also, coming from someone who finds pleasure in having everything under control, the idea of not being 100 percent in control of myself is more my definition of a nightmare than having fun.


Illumination and the Study of Scripture

To put it succinctly: in inspiration God the Holy Spirit used the writers of Scripture in order to reveal God’s truth; in illumination God the Holy Spirit enlivens the minds of the readers of Scripture today to understand what God has put there.


Should Moms Make Time for a Sabbath?

Listed below are reasons why I think practicing a lifestyle that leaves room for a personal sabbath is good for the Christian wife and mom. These things have helped restore the peace in my heart and in my home when I set aside the guilt for needing rest that Satan kept me trapped in. I hope you find rest in these reasons as well.


Listen Well

So I don’t know if we’re just stubborn …
Or think we know more than God …
Or we’re at the mercy of the influence of sin in our hearts …
Or we’re just going to keep re-defining sin until it isn’t sin any longer…
Or we’re helpless in our pain and searching…
Or we just resist God even though we know we should yield.
Whatever it is that keeps us going down the paths that hurt … I think the only way back to God’s path is to listen well.


Sheep Tragi-Comedy #1,317: “The Draad Kruiper”

Here are a few ways that we might be like the Draad Kruiper:

  1. Professing Jesus Christ but failing to plug into a NT kind of local church.
  2. Irregular or infrequent participation in corporate worship.
  3. Resistance to meaningful local church membership.
  4. Unrepentant complaining about our local churches.
  5. Refusal to humbly serve in ways that the elders in the church have asked.

This Library Provides Social Services to Homeless Patrons

As recently reported by My Modern Met, the SFPL has been providing life-changing services to homeless people for the past seven years. In 2009, the library teamed up with the San Francisco Department of Public Health in an effort to better handle their homeless patrons, who make up 15 percent of their daily visitors. Since then, around 800 homeless people have taken advantage of the library’s social services and close to 150 have moved into stable living situations.


A look at the first section of Church Inside Out

CIOOK, I want to share some more information about Church Inside Out, the book and workbook I’ve prepared that will be published soon by 21st Century Christian. I wrote the book as part of my work with Hope For Life (Herald of Truth) and will be doing seminars based on this material in local churches around the U.S.

Let me tell you about the first section of the book. It’s titled “The Church Inside” and has four chapters:

  • Church Inside Out
  • The Inward-Focused Church
  • Members Only
  • Accentuating The Negative

It’s a section of self-examination, encouraging church members to look at attitudes and actions that hurt our outreach to the community around us. As I mention in the book, it’s a bit like a visit to the doctor; you want to hear good things, but you know that you really need to hear what could be improved to make you healthier. I want to affirm what’s right in each congregation while challenging them to improve in other areas.

This is one section where I think a church could benefit greatly from a group study of the workbook (and the book, of course). The workbook includes a lot of questions and charts that will aid in diagnosing the current strengths and weaknesses of a congregation; when member share their views on these subjects, they can come to greater understanding of what their church is doing well and what could be done better.

And that’s my goal in all of this. I don’t want to stop at informing or educating; the goal of this book is to help churches increase the positive impact they are having on their communities. It’s all about getting church members out to help bring outsiders in.

Studying the Bible until it hurts

bible studyWhen comparing ancient manuscripts of the Bible and trying to reconcile the differences between those manuscripts, one rule of thumb is that the hardest reading is often the original one. That is, one can see why a scribe would “correct” a text that says something difficult, but it’s less likely that they would take a simple statement and make it harder.

To some degree, I think the same applies to biblical interpretation. Not that we should seek obscure meanings or secret codes within the text. What I’m saying is that I trust someone’s conclusions more when I realize those conclusions aren’t necessarily what the person wants them to be.

It’s a bit like some news I heard the other day. A study found that a certain medication greatly reduces the risk of heart disease. The study was funded by the company that makes that medication. That makes me less likely to accept their findings as valid.

Years ago, when speaking about a now-defunct publication, one of my friends said, “It’s like they’re saying, ‘Yay, the Bible finally says what we always wanted it to say.'”

I often hear someone say, “Here’s a great study about this topic.” Usually what they mean is that the study agrees with their position. Rarely are they enamored of the methodology; they like the outcome.

We need to be willing to study the Bible until it hurts. We need to follow Jesus not because he makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, but because he challenges us to re-examine every aspect of our life. We need to dig into the Bible until what we read makes us think, “Surely it can’t mean that.”

I’m pointing the finger at everyone else, but especially at me. It’s time for some painful Bible study.