Links To Go (October 17, 2014)

Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs

In short, if blood is the most sacred thing we know the church needs to have some blood in the game if she is to stand as a counter-cultural witness to the blood-soaked flag of a nation.


Social Justice and the Gospel: What is the Core Mission of the Church?

In summary, we should be clear that both gospel proclamation and deeds of mercy should be part of the life of the church. We are not forced to choose. But we must also be careful to distinguish between them. Deeds of mercy are not the gospel. They are the fruit of the gospel.


4 Ways Millennials Are Embracing Traditional Faith

There is no question that Millennials are different in articulating their faith experience than previous generations, but I believe what is fundamentally different has less to do with whether or not we care about faith, but what about faith we care about. What has changed is not our concern over questions of orthodoxy, but the kinds of questions of orthodoxy we ask.


Houston, We Have a Constitution

A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights.


The nurse who broke protocol

Why do I share this? To beg you to pray for us. Because when I held the bloody hand of that HIV+ patient, I was praying within my heart for protection. And after I settled her down, I did the scrub down and examined my hands for wounds and prayed again. We aren’t rogue caregivers or careless and we don’t have a death wish. What we have is some something, buried deep in our DNA that requires us to give ourselves to God in the service of those in need and to believe that even when the man-made precautions that should protect us fail (even when it’s because we didn’t use them,) He will honor our attempts to give care and compassion.


Behold Your Mother

First, we can preach the biblical texts on honoring parents and include the elderly in our preaching on the sanctity of human life. Second, we should be more intentional about fostering intergenerational relationships so the younger see the value of engagement with senior saints. Third, we need to be more intentional about challenging those tempted to abdicate their responsibility to their parents and affirm those who willingly take up the task. Lastly, the church can connect our people to helpful resources in the community that offer help and wise counsel.


What do Americans pray for? Themselves. And maybe a sports team

Some of LifeWay’s new survey’s main findings include:

  • 48 percent of Americans pray every day
  • 82 percent who pray typically pray about family or friends
  • 20 percent pray for people of other faiths or no faith
  • Equal numbers of Americans (7 percent) pray behind the wheel, either for a good parking space or not to get a speeding ticket
  • Smaller numbers of people, around 5 percent, pray for someone’s relationship to end, someone to get fired or for someone else to fail.

A Priest With a Death Sentence: Looking Closer at Calvary

I love that. “I don’t think it will be winning any awards from the Christian world. … It takes place in a universe very like ours.”
Then I saw it and enjoyed most of it very much, until…
…the end, when admiration grew into deep gratitude. The more I reflect on it, the more I’m certain that this will remain one of my favorite films of 2014.


Why We’re All Beta Testers Now

Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about traditional programs any differently. Maybe we should get rid of frozen, numbered editions, much as Adobe has done.
That wouldn’t eliminate the frustration of bugginess, but at least we would comprehend software’s true nature: a product that is never finished.


Spelling error identified on new Ernie Pyle sculpture

The word “correspondent,” as seen on a patch on the left shoulder of the bronze sculpture, is incorrectly spelled. It currently reads “U.S. War Corespondent.”


Commitment and covenant in marriage

marriage licenseIn this series on affirmations about marriage, the sixth affirmation is:

Living together without marriage is outside of God’s plan.

Here we have an area where society has definitely changed. Marriage has become optional for many. It’s something to be done “somewhere down the road” or not at all. Many feel that the commitments that come with marriage actually stifle true love.

To the surprise of some, the Bible says little about how you get married. For Adam and Eve, it was a natural consequence of them being the only two people around. For Isaac, it was a matter of taking Rebekah into his mother’s tent. Over time, the Jews developed a series of traditions around marriage; weddings were a community event, with the celebration going on for days.

Here’s what all weddings had in common: the man and the woman presented themselves as not being married before it happened and as being married afterward. There was a spoken or unspoken statement of permanence and commitment. Society recognized the change in status from single to married.

What’s lacking in cohabitation without marriage is not the ceremony nor the license. It’s the commitment. It’s the statement to each other, to God, and to the world in general that a man and a woman will be together until death.

I believe that a couple should obey local customs and local laws when getting married. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this woman and this man have pledged to be together for the rest of their lives, that they have decided to let God make one inseparable being out of the two. They are to make a covenant, with God as chief witness. Living together doesn’t meet up to this standard.

Affirmation #6: Living together without marriage is outside of God’s plan.

Photo from MorgueFile.com

Links To Go (October 15, 2014)

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.


Gossip and Prayer Requests

It’s complicated. We want to encourage much intercessory prayer, so we create and maintain phone chains and email prayer lists and we take requests for others at small groups and prayer meetings. However, prayer requests come from sinners, are about sinners, and are passed on to other sinners, so there are plenty of opportunities for sinful gossip to make an entrance in the process (Proverbs 10:19).


A Refresher on Storytelling 101

  • Parachute in, don’t preamble.
  • Choose first and final words carefully.
  • Follow the “Goldilocks” theory of details.
  • Focus your delivery on “one person with one thought.”
  • Consider the power of poetry.
  • Use silence for impact and emphasis.
  • Know your AIM. (Audience, Intent, Message)

The Myth of the Midlife Crisis

Jeffrey Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., says his research indicates that the 40s, 50s and 60s are often a time of “re-evaluation and reassessment,” particularly for empty-nesters. But while “there is anxiety that goes along with that,” he says, many people also describe a feeling of “renewed freedom and possibility.”
Midlife, he adds, “is a surprisingly positive time of life.”


Angry Bird: Hawk knocks drone out of the sky

A hawk swooping in and attacking a drone while it was flying over a park in Massachusetts Wednesday was captured on video.


Fist Fight Between Great Grandmothers In Hospital Maternity Ward

The birth of a baby brought out the worst in two great-grandmothers after they came to blows in the maternity ward.
Police say first words were exchanged, and then fists, until the great-grandmothers were kicked out of the hospital.


Separating church from state in marriage

statue of justiceLast week I listed which I had given in a sermon. Since then, I’ve been taking a look at each affirmation, one by one. We’re up to the fifth:

Christian marriage and civil marriage are not the same

This is a concept that I’ve discussed before. I’ve also discussed what it would be like if the church had more control over divorce.

I just think we need to keep in mind that just because the government determines that a marriage has begun or ended, that doesn’t mean that the church has to agree. We don’t depend on judges and politicians to define for us what is and what isn’t marriage.

As I stated last week:

Christian marriage and civil marriage are not the same. They often occur at the same time in this country, but they aren’t the same. That’s why the government doesn’t involve the church in divorces. Much of the political wrangling about marriage has to do with property rights, not spiritual realities. No judge can tell the church what is and what isn’t marriage.

Personally, I’d love to see us use a system that is in place in many countries around the world, where the civil ceremony and the religious ceremony are completely separate one from the other. Until then, it’s just a matter of us remembering this affirmation.

Affirmation #5: Christian marriage and civil marriage are not the same

photo courtesy of Morgue File

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