Links to Go (August 25, 2014)

Review of Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank
Part 1

Part 2
Part 3

Over my forty-plus years of preaching and teaching I have slowly shifted from reading Scripture as a legal textbook designed to provide a specific pattern to reading Scripture as a story in we participate by imitating God. Rather than servile slaves whose obedience is rewarded and disobedience is punished based on keeping the technicalities of the law, we are God’s partners in the divine mission who are enabled by the power of God to participate in the unfolding story of God.

America in Black and White: Why Do So Many of Us Respond to Ferguson So Differently?

I do not know all of the answers. At times I don’t even know how to ask questions or attempt answers for fear of misunderstanding or being misunderstood. There is an enormously complex constellation of presuppositions, history, psychology, inclinations, suspicions at play here.
What I do know is that we all can learn from one another on this, and that interacting without understanding is counterproductive.

It’s Time to Listen: Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice?

In an interview Dr. King once said these words with respect to the civil rights movement:

… the most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid. I felt that white ministers would take our cause to the white power structures. I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned.

I am praying that here, now, this mistake will be rectified. I want to believe that you will rise to our aid, and that you would agree that a silent Christian who avoids applying the gospel to issues of injustice—though those issues may be uneasy, unclear or politicized—upholds the very structures that purport and perpetuate injustice.

Three Barriers Hijacking Christians’ Ability to Love Our ‘Enemies’

As I observe our corporate response to tragedy as a human family, and evaluate my own response in the midst of it, I have noticed something disturbing unfold. Rather than rally together as a family navigating a season of trauma, we have used this moment to divide, stir hatred and misunderstanding, point fingers, and more than anything, view those on the opposite side of an issue as less than human.
Watching political pundits bark the party line or news anchors posture themselves as authority figures rather than conduits of curiosity, I find myself asking the question, “What keeps us from seeing others as human?”

Of Ice Buckets, True Righteousness, and Our Neighbor

So…stand up to cancer or walk for pink ribbons or take a bucket of ice for the team. Have at it if you like. Just remember that your real goodness is the kind of goodness that caused Paul to boast in weakness and brought martyrdom (not celebration) to millions. And then love Him and love your neighbor in all the ways in which your faith leads you.

What the Bleep Does the Bible Say About Profanity?

In some ways, it’s understandable that we don’t want to be using this type of language in church. But, on the other hand, the Gospel is offensive. Grace is scandalous. And that’s the real point. The biblical prophets sometimes use offensive language, but not to produce shock for its own sake. Edginess was never the goal, and neither was some vague notion of Christian “freedom.” God’s messengers used vulgar images to shock their religious audience out of complacency. Because sometimes the goodness of God becomes lost in the fog of Christianese rhetoric and religious routine, and the only way to wake us up is to use provocative language.

From brother to enemy


Army basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C.

We’re at the 100 year anniversary of the War to End All Wars; somehow I don’t think that concept worked so well.

Yesterday, a Cuban friend posted on Facebook a picture of his younger brother, who is performing his compulsory military service. My friend asked for prayers for his brother.

I looked into the face of the young man that I knew from numerous youth conferences, and I was moved. Moved by the thought that, for many of my brothers in Christ, this young man’s status could change from “brother” to “enemy” at the stroke of a politician’s pen. From being one to be hugged and loved, he would become another target to be shot at. All because someone in Washington D.C declared war on another country.

I can’t wrap my mind around it. “At least he’d go to heaven if he were killed,” is the reply I’ve received. And it doesn’t ease my pain.

Fortunately, Cuban troops rarely see action. But we know these things can change. It’s been a mere three decades since U.S. troops last killed Cuban forces (on the island of Grenada). It only takes a few politicians (or just one, if he’s president) to decide it needs to be done.

Of course, we all have full faith in every decision made by our Congress and our President. Don’t we?

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Desiree N. Palacios

Links to Go (August 22, 2014)

The inside story of Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly’s decision to serve in Liberia

In his sermon, Kent Brantly told his church family that they played a vital role in his decision to become a medical missionary.
“You encouraged me to memorize Bible verses, supported me to go on my first mission trip,” he said. Many sacrificed their days off to teach at Vacation Bible School and a church-run camp. “I allowed your words and your actions to help guide me as I moved forward in my walk with God.
“Time and time again, God has used my life circumstances to remind me that he is sovereign, that he is in control.”

New York farmers ordered to host gay weddings

An administrative law judge in New York has found a couple guilty of discrimination because they refused to allow two lesbians to rent their farm for a wedding ceremony. The judge ordered the couple to pay $13,000 in fines and damages and undergo “anti-discrimination” re-education.

Dr. Seuss Draws Anti-Japanese Cartoons During WWII, Then Atones with Horton Hears a Who!

Geisel himself was vocally anti-Japanese during the war and had no trouble with rounding up an entire population of U.S. citizens and putting them in camps.

But right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seems like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: “Brothers!” It is a rather flabby battle cry. If we want to win, we’ve got to kill Japs, whether it depresses John Haynes Holmes or not. We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.

Geisel was hardly alone in such beliefs but it’s still disconcerting to see ugly cartoons like these drawn in the same hand that did The Cat in the Hat.

4 Reasons to Stop Judging Those who Lift Their Hands in Prayer

I want to make a confession to you, I have always been judgmental toward those who lift their hands during worship. It isn’t so much the practice itself that I have judged, but the motives behind the practice. I have thought to myself, “How selfish. That person is obviously just trying to draw attention to himself.” Or, when an entire congregation seems to participate, I’ve thought, “This group has gone off the deep end.” But I’m wrong on this, friends. I have absolutely no right to judge someone for the position of their hands; and neither do you.

Chris Pratt Dresses As Star-Lord, Entertains Patients At A Children’s Hospital

E! reports Chris Pratt co-ordinated with Marvel and Children’s Miracle Network Hospital to create a special screening of Guardians of the Galaxy for an audience who may have missed out on one of summer’s biggest hits. The critically heralded superhero movie played yesterday for the patients, families and staff of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. But as you can see from the pic up top, that’s not all. Pratt came to the event in full Star-Lord gear, and spent time with the kids afterwards.

Police: Man Gets Marijuana Delivery As Officers Question Him About Other Pot Package

Then, while police were still at Nunez Baez’s home, a FedEx delivery truck showed up with a package for him.
“The package had similar markings as the one delivered by the United States Postal Service, so a Manchester Police K-9 checked the package and gave a positive alert,” police said.
“Nunez Baez refused to consent to a search of this particular package, so detectives applied for and (were) granted a Search Warrant for the contents of the FedEx delivered package.”
Detectives were finally allowed to search the package Monday.
They say they found 17 pounds of marijuana inside.

Links to Go (August 21, 2014)

Kent Brantly: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Out

As soon as I heard the story of that decision, I had an immediate thought. I know that was a hard decision to make, to not take the medicine so that someone else could have it, but I’m pretty sure I knew how long it took him to make it.
You don’t make that kind of decision without years and years of practice, without years of watching the brothers and sisters around you make sacrifices, and without having the story of Jesus capture your imagination.
That’s why I believe so much in the local church, because every now and then a disciple breaks out, and a disciple still can capture the world’s imagination.

One hundred years ago today the dream of human progress died

The dream of lasting global peace lay tattered by this “Great War.”
It is a dream that despite all our best efforts since, few have seriously dared to hope for again.
And yet, WE do have a hope.
A time is coming, says the God of the Jews when,

. . .they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).

You Are More Than Your Resume

The Kingdom of God is not made up of people who can build giant spreadsheets, make expert stock picks or create the next big mobile app. The Kingdom of God is made up of people who are more than their resume, people who do not find their identity in their work (or their lack of it) but instead root their identity in Christ and the work of the Kingdom He calls all of us to in different ways.

Differences In How Americans Speak English Across The United States

Personally, I grew up in New Jersey, but I also lived in the Midwest for quite some time. Where language is concerned, I can attest to the vast differences within New Jersey, let alone the United States. While in the Midwest, people were surprised that I didn’t have a “New Jersey” accent.
Truth be told, Northern New Jerseyans do not have accents, but rather the Jersey accent is more commonly found in South Jersey. Currently, I reside in South Carolina, and over the years, I have adapted to the different dialects in each city I have resided in. However, this has not come without notice. I am cognizant that the way I speak the English language has changed. Some words have changed entirely, while others, I now pronounce differently than I did when I lived up North.

A Facebook group that I’m part of, called Compadres, is having a blog tour. The general theme is The Glory of The Son and each of us will pick a story, event or teaching of Jesus that reflects His glory. Here are the posts so far:
June 3: Jeremy Schopper: Leaving the Noise Behind
June 5: Danny Holman: Jesus Challenge
June 10: Carl Jenkins: Give A Man A Fish
June 17: Jonathan Dobbs: Why Me, God?
June 19: Scott Elliott:The Beauty of the Gospel
June 24: Chris Hodges: The Glory of the Son
June 26: David Smith: then they can see my glory, which you gave me
July 1: Jeremy Hoover: Matthew and Mission
July 3: Allen Carr: The Glory in the Welcome
July 10: Daniel Burns: Not So With You
July 15: Rex Butts: A Place For Lepers
July 22: Jennifer Rundlett: A Vision of Harmony
July 24: Don Middleton: Come To The Table
July 29: Tim Archer: Do Not Be Afraid
August 5: Paula Harrington: When Doubt Met Divine
August 7: Holly Barrett: He knows me inside and out
August 12: Patrick Barber: Nothing But Leaves
August 14: Wade Tannehill: We Have Seen His Glory
August 19: Pita Horne: Walking The Racial Tightrope For Jesus

The events of Ferguson and the ensuing barrage of related articles have served to remind me how ill equipped I am for this ministry context in which I find myself. Yes, I have relevant training and life experience, but the issues revealed in Ferguson run so deep. Any steps toward solutions or reconciliation that I might propose seem so inadequate. I’ve preached for this church for 6 years and yet at a moment of crisis like this I question my credibility to speak meaningfully into the lives of those most touched by the death of Michael Brown.
But before I drown in my doubt and self-deprecation, I find hope in 2 Corinthians 12:9. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When praying for someone is an act of aggression

pharisee and tax collector“I’ll be praying that God show you the error of your ways.”

It should be nice to have someone say that they’ll pray for you, right? Yet look at the above statement. There’s something about it that smacks of the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18, the pious superiority revealing itself in HolySpeak.

The “loving” statement above says that we have a difference of opinion, but my opinion is God’s opinion. It’s like the old joke about the two musicians arguing about how to perform a Bach concerto. Finally one says, “Listen, you keep playing it your way. I’ll keep playing it Bach’s way.”

Condescension. “Someday you’ll see how wrong you were.” Smug superiority. “Yes, I used to believe that way, until I really studied these passages.”

Here’s a news flash: You’re wrong.

Here’s another: I’m wrong.

Here’s a whole string of them: N.T. Wright is wrong. The Pope is wrong. Your preacher is wrong. That guy who is on every workshop is wrong.

We’re all wrong about something. And we need to act like we’re aware of that.


Image courtesy Sweet Publishing