Links To Go (December 9, 2014)

An Open CONFESSION to the Churches of Christ

But the real reason that this conversation is important to me now, and the reason that it is a CONFESSION and not an argument // apologetic // diatribe against those who disagree with me is because, no matter the place I was at the moment, I often failed to act and speak towards the “other” (meaning the person who interpreted Scripture differently) in a way that honored God, built up the church, and enhanced its witness to the watching world.
My hunch is that if all people on this issue (and any other issue for that matter) could start with a similar confession, our churches and our witness to the world would be radically transformed.

The Convenience and Dehumanizing Nature of Labels

Love and labels don’t play well together. It is hard to Love and Label at the same time because love recognizes the loveliness of the person-hood of the other person. Love has at its core a genuine desire for the well being of the other…labels do not. Labels are like a poor reflection in a mirror…once you put it between you and them you will never see them accurately again.

Divorce Rates Are Falling—But Marriage Is Still on the Rocks

One big reason that divorce rates began to fall after 1980 was that people, almost always those with less education and less income for the required accouterments of marriage, took the logic of the divorce revolution and ran with it. If marriage and childbearing were no longer tightly linked but rather discreet—even unrelated—life events, and if they were not earning enough to enjoy the middle class status objects enjoyed by their more educated peers, then why marry at all?

Leadership: Why Do Visitors Hate the Meet-and-Greet Time?

In an admittedly unscientific Twitter poll, Rainer asked what a church does (or doesn’t do) that drives off first time visitors. By far, the number one answer was the meet and greet.
This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

Pastors: Immigration reform should mix justice, mercy

Almost nine in ten of those surveyed (87%) said it is the responsibility of the government to stop people from entering the country illegally. LifeWay Research vice president Scott McConnell says while most pastors don’t approve of illegal immigration, the survey showed that 58 percent are in favor of a “path to citizenship” for those already in the country illegally.

No real good without the good news

idolOn Friday, I posted a link to Evil Spirits and Electricity Problems. In that article, missionary Amy Medina tells a story of political corruption in Tanzania. Medina points out that this case of corruption doesn’t just represent a personal failing on the part of a politician; it demonstrates the effects of an animistic worldview.

Here’s a quote:

In Africa, animism is the predominant worldview. Even among many who claim to be Christian or Muslim.

Animism is the belief system that the world is governed by capricious, irrational spirit beings. They are unpredictable and usually mean. There is no rhyme or reason to what they do. You cannot control them and there is very little point in trying.

Thus, many Africans believe:
We are poor and will always be poor.
Why try to change it?
There is nothing we can do.
We are trapped in poverty.

Those who are in power–the chiefs, the government officials, even many times the pastors–they are higher in the spiritual hierarchy. If you mess with them, you mess with the spirits. If you mess with them, you’re bringing a heck of a lot of trouble on yourself.

She then goes on to say something that needs to be heard, that needs to be repeated, that desperately needs to be understood as we think about missions:

This is why Africa does not need more government aid. This is why Africa does not simply need more wells or more shoes or more schools.

Until the underlying worldview is addressed, there will not be change in Africa. This is why Africa needs the gospel to penetrate its worldview.

Doing good doesn’t do longterm good unless it includes the gospel! Not the idea that all people need is some sort of “get out of hell free” card, but the idea that the good news of Jesus transforms lives, worldviews, and cultures. If we aren’t changing worldviews, we aren’t changing anything. We aren’t helping people, not really. We’re not doing lasting good.

Feed the hungry. House the homeless. Clothe the naked. But give them the good news they need to truly change their lives!

photo by Kevin Connors on

Links To Go (December 5, 2014)

Evil Spirits and Electricity Problems

This is why Africa does not need more government aid. This is why Africa does not simply need more wells or more shoes or more schools.
Until the underlying worldview is addressed, there will not be change in Africa. This is why Africa needs the gospel to penetrate its worldview.

Watching Their Flocks By Night: An Advent Meditation on Vigilance and Violence

The point in all this is that these shepherds were likely rough and violent men. They had to be. So it’s a bit shocking and strange to find the angels appearing to these men, of all people. Thugs might be standing around in our Nativity sets. That scene around the manger might be a bit more scandalous than we had ever imagined.

Misreading Scripture Alone

Let me suggest another: these heresies are finding a resurgence because too many Protestants misunderstand the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Too many Christians mistake “Scripture alone” as if it were a license for them to read the Bible alone—to read it apart from other people. You know the idea: “All I need is me and my Bible.” But that’s not what it means. It means that Scripture is alone authoritative, not that your personal (“alone”) interpretation of Scripture is authoritative.

When Bulletins Explode All Over Visitors

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you need to over-stuff your bulletin. That will scare people away. Welcome people with simple communication that doesn’t overwhelm them. It’s a service to your visitors and a service to your ministries.

You Can Own This (Potentially Haunted) Antique Sword

If you have $150 lying around, you could be the owner of this awesome antique sword, which dates back to the 1700s. I know what you’re thinking: Only $150? For a sword from the 1700s? What a bargain!
Oh, there’s one little catch: According to its 76-year-old owner, this sword is haunted.

Links To Go (December 3, 2014)

Inerrancy, A Parable

In fact, the whole argument about the absence of contradiction and inerrancy was invented to refute atheism — a philosophy that wasn’t invented until after the Protestant Reformation. I mean, Paul converted people from Judaism and Greco-Roman paganism, not atheism.
And he converted them by preaching the perfection of Jesus, as Messiah, not the perfection of the scriptures.

(Note: This the first of six articles on this subject)

Disarming Scripture from Cherry-Picking Liberals & Violence-Loving Conservatives

On both sides of this debate are people who deeply care about the welfare of others. On one side we see a desire to protect and defend, and on the other a concern to renounce the dead-end way of retribution and violence. What’s so painfully frustrating is that framing the debate in this way polarizes both sides, effectively bringing constructive discussion to a standstill. It’s a classic example of an “us vs. them” dynamic where each side regards the other as the bad guy.

Four Common But Misleading Themes in Ferguson-like Times

Whether discussing Ferguson-like events or abortion, conflating personal responsibility and public policy issues by insisting that only personal factors matter actually harms both personal and policy-level efforts at improvement. We force ourselves into a false binary, compelled to choose between two necessary levels of reflection and action. It’s a false choice, and in choosing to make one level of analysis the sole issue we afflict the afflicted.

Tragedy, Tradition, and Opportunity in the Homosexuality Debate

But two things are important about these arguments. First, Paul never argues that homosexual practice is wrong because it is pederastic or oppressive or wrong for a male to play the role of a woman. He simply says, in agreement with the unanimous Jewish tradition, that it is wrong. And second, there are in fact examples in ancient literature of long term (even life-long) homosexual partnerships. A number of ancient figures, including Plato’s Aristophanes in the Symposium, also talk about a life-long same-sex orientation.

What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell?

Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.

The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On

But here is the thing: It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.
Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

November 2014 Trip to Honduras

Preaching at BaxterThe weekend before Thanksgiving, Steve Ridgell and I traveled to Honduras for a Hope For Life/Herald of Truth campaign. I mentioned a few months ago the passing of Rigoberto Vargas, who was not only our Central American field representative, but was also in charge of our Honduras campaign. We missed Rigo in a lot of ways on this trip.

Leopoldo Villacorta stepped up and tried to handle the things that Rigoberto would have done. Not having worked with us on a campaign before, there were many things that he didn’t know about how we carry out a campaign. Yet God worked in the midst of our miscues; 14 people were baptized into Christ during the time we were there.

IMG_2700The Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa was a great help. Not only did they loan us their amphitheater for a combined service on Sunday, but dozens of their students canvassed the neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa, distributing literature and inviting people to the campaign. Local Christians did the same, inviting friends and neighbors to be a part. And the harvest came as a result of many people working together.

As often is the case during such events, I remembered Jesus’ words to his disciples:

“Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:36–38)

That’s how it is for all of us who do campaign work. We get to enjoy seeing a time of harvest, but that harvest comes after much labor by many different workers.