Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Fun: "Full House" Reunion on Jimmy Fallon

Slightly random but very nostalgic way of (re)announcing Jimmy Fallon's departure from his late night show and inheriting the historic "Tonight Show."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Coming Out Christian

An interesting and challenging perspective with something for everybody:

". . . most gay Christians who accept the historical teaching are accepting a lifetime of celibacy. We can’t plan on marriage or wait around for it. So we’ve had to be much more intentional about asking how we can give and receive love. To whom can we devote ourselves, and on whom can we rely?
"In order to help answer these urgent questions, some churches and individual Christians are rediscovering a broader understanding of 'kinship' that goes against a culture in which marriage is the only chosen form of adult kinship we recognize. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus promises that those who lose their homes or families for His sake will receive new homes and families, 'a hundred times more now.'"
You can read the rest here. Whereas I think one interviewee spoke a bit harshly, I think this article raises some hope and good questions on, among other things, how some churches can build kinship community around Christ through singles, without the assumption of pending marriage and families. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

7 Characteristics of the Ministry of Song

1. A Spirit-filled ministry
2. A mutual ministry
3. A diverse ministry
4. A God-focused ministry
5. An internal ministry
6. A responsive ministry 
7. A Christ-empowered ministry
Click over for the explanations. HT: Ron Man

Monday, January 27, 2014

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Before anyone gets too far along on an emotional tangent about last night's Grammy's, next week's Super Bowl, etc., let's remember that today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Arguably the most prominent example of inhumanity, we're still learning disturbing details of the genocide, seventy years later.

"Never before had there existed places with the express purpose of killing people en masse."

"The most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed is six million — around 78 percent of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe at the time. Additionally, the Nazis murdered approximately two to three million Soviet POWs, two million ethnic Poles, up to 1,500,000 Romani, 200,000 handicapped, political and religious dissenters, 15,000 homosexuals, and 5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, bringing the total genocide toll to around 11 million."

You can read more here, but I'd warn you, it's disturbing. I'd skip my eyes over from reading #6.

I think the posted image says it best. Never again. For anyone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Religion and Tolerance: An Overseas Perspective

There are some interesting thoughts here as a European Christian writes for a British political/cultural magazine. Issues of religious freedom and intolerance regarding Christianity and Islam are brought up, and the flaws in both religious and atheist movements are included in stories of history of which some may not be aware.
"Diversity means respecting conscientious objections and making reasonable accommodation to let subcultures survive. Erasing God from the public square, and turning religion into a secret activity between two consenting adults in the privacy of their home, leads to what the poet Seamus Heaney calls the hollowing-out of culture. A no-God area can only sustain a fragile and brittle civilisation, a setting worthy of a broken people.
"The roots of today’s intolerance, however, run deep. Decades of totalitarian regimes instilled suspicion of authority; while the birth of ethical relativism taught that everything goes – just not judging others. Religion took no account of these historical developments. It was authoritarian, judgemental, and hypocritical to boot."
You can read the full article here

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Opposite of Sanctity

Some brief thoughts.

I sat in during a convicting and disturbing seminar from Saving Innocence, an organization that works with local law enforcement and social services to rescue and restore victims of sex trafficking. Their stats and stories were quite difficult to process. The speaker concluded with a curious charge to the audience of charity and ministry leaders: beware the spread of dehumanization in our culture.

Dehumanization isn’t a word I had heard very often at that point, but something occurred to me. Defined as “the deprivation of human qualities,” dehumanization is a recurrent thread in most of the “sin” issues making the global news. Sexual and all forms of abuse, murder and rape are all forms of dehumanization, when human life is treated without any of the respect and sacredness God gave it. And if we were to take into account Jesus’s words on anger and lust (Matt. 5:21-30), we realize there are even more ways where dehumanization takes place internally and takes root: pornography, racism and social/economic bigotry. The list goes on.

Yesterday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, an annual day that Christians in America set aside to dwell on just that, ever since Roe v. Wade (1973), disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion (another example of dehumanization). Today, of course, is the day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his work against a culture of dehumanization. Perhaps a good way to think about sanctity and communicate the idea of sanctity is to notice what sanctity is not.  

As followers of the selfless and sacrificial Jesus Christ, Son of the loving Creator God, we should see human life as very sacred, and should speak out and work against its desacralization, like we always have. The early Church spoke against the Coliseum’s games. Abolitionists spoke and worked against slavery in the South. Dietrich Bonhoeffer helped German Jews escape to Switzerland during the Nazi regime. There are more examples. We’re to be selfless and gracious like the cloud of witnesses, speaking Truth and working for the care of all of God’s children.

After all, isn’t opposition to dehumanization something we can all gather around?

Below is the video we showed at my church yesterday.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Fun: Seahawks Host 49ers, But Not Their Fans

This is an interesting way to further home-field advantage. Is this the first time it's been done?

Will it have an effect on the outcome of the game?

HT: Snopes

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What It Means to Be Judgmental

Great analysis of the misused cliche by Kevin DeYoung:

Evangelical Christians are often told not to judge. If there is one verse non-Christians know (after, perhaps, some reference to the “least of these”) is that’s Jesus taught people, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). Of course, what the casual Christian critic misses is that Jesus was not calling for a moratorium on moral discernment or spiritual evaluation. After all, he assumes five verses later that his followers will have the wherewithal to tell what sort of people in the world are dogs and pigs (Matt. 7:6). Believing in the sinfulness of sin, the exclusivity of Christ, and moral absolutes does not make one judgmental. Just look at Jesus.
But this doesn’t mean Matthew 7:1 has nothing to teach conservative Christians. Like everyone else on the planet, we have a propensity to assume the worst about people, to happily pass on bad reports, and to size up individuals and situations without knowing all the facts (or even half the facts). I’m not talking about disciplining wayward church members, or having hard conversations about people caught in sin, or refusing to ever take someone’s past behavior into account, or being hopelessly naive about the way the world works, or refraining from the public exchange of ideas, or suspending all our powers of discernment until we understand something or someone with omniscience. I’m talking about the all too natural tendency to shoot first and ask questions later (or not at all).
You can read the rest here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Fun: Uncomfortable Prayer Moments

Group prayer is practiced differently across the globe. Like many here in the States, I grew up with "popcorn prayer" and "squeeze prayer," but I've worked with students from Asia who are used to more comfortable silence in group prayer context. It's good to have a solid theology of prayer, and not to stray from it.

There are some good and funny points about what's arguably our American "prayer etiquette."

1) Simultaneous starting.
2) Inserted potential gossip.
3) Inserted potential pride.
4) Homiletical prayer.
5) Forgetting requests.
6) Prayer requests with graphic medical info.
7) The quiet pray-er.
8) Prayers with pre-existing tiredness.

You can read the explanations here. I'd add the "announcement prayer," when leaders use prayer time to make announcement about events (e.g. "we ask You to make your presence known at our outreach fair, which is in the church parking lot this next Sunday at 7pm . . .").

Of course, Tim Hawkins has a few opinions on word choice, repetition and holding hands during prayer . . .

Any stories you want to add?

HT: Robyn Adams, Jon Acuff and Tim Hawkins

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Difficulty & Glory of Adoption

This is a powerful NYT story, later summarized well by Owen Strachan.

Not every family is called to adopt. This must be said. A good number cannot do so (though every family, per James 1:27, is called by Christ to support a culture of care for orphans and widows). Those who can do so will know two things in great supply: great self-sacrifice, and tremendous joy. One need only think of where Cory and Shon would be outside of their loving home. Yes, they know their struggles at present, but they are clearly full of life, happy, and loved by their parents.
This is difficulty the world will not want, and glory the world cannot give.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hello, My Name is Church

From the Huffington Post:

Hello, my name is church.
I miss you.
I love you.
I'm sorry.
Can't wait to see you.

You can read the rest here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kaylee the Middle-Child Zealot!

Today, my daughter Kaylee woke up to pink and purple streamers in her doorway and on her kitchen chair. We made her cinnamon rolls for her 4th birthday. Then gifts from family were opened. When I left for work, Kaylee and her sister were happily playing together. I’m hoping it takes them a bit longer this time to go from playing together with new toys to fighting over them. Her birthday party with her preschool friends is next Saturday.

Nonetheless, Happy Birthday to Kaylee, my spunky look-alike!  You’ve got a lot of energy and emotion, and I love your cute little giggle. It’s my hope and prayer that you don’t become the textbook “middle child,” shyly resigning away from intimacy with the family and your true potential in the shadows of your diva-like sister and ever-so-boyish little brother. You’re currently the most prolific singer in the family, and your memory potential is shockingly good. I’m very excited to see what God builds in you!

In any case, have a happy 4th birthday! And never lose your passion and joy in life! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Fun: Worship Leader New Year Resolutions

Wow. There are no words. Just wow.

1. Wear more scarves
2. Brightly label our iPads 
3. More of the 1980s
4. It’s time to re-tune the re-tuned hymns 
5. More retweets 
6. Incorporate holograms 
7. More catchphrases 
8. Bring back the hand motions 

9. Point the microphone to the congregation when you want them to sing
10. Move beyond the octave jump 
You can read the explanations here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Religious Liberty in the West

Major U.K. retailer Marks and Spencer has apologized after a company policy that allowed Muslim employees to refuse to serve customers buying pork or alcohol triggered a furious backlash. -Adam Shaw

I'm pointing to this since I think this is going to be an issue in the Western world. Can Muslims refuse to serve alcohol? Can Christians refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings? It's coming, and Christians will need to have a consistent answer that applies to not just Christians. Religious liberty is for all. -Ed Stetzer

Read more here.