Friday, October 30, 2015

Reformation Polka Music Video

Tomorrow will be the 498th anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a door in Wittenberg, starting a snowball that rolled into the Reformation. Sola Scriptura. Sola fide. Sola gratia.

I know I've posted about this song before. Twice. But I think you'll enjoy this animated music video of the Reformation Polka. Have a happy All Saints Eve!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween and All Saints Eve

In some parts of the world Christians go to graveyards to pray
and place flowers and candles on their loved one’s graves
on All Hallow’s Eve. This picture depicts
the holy day (holiday) in Sweden.

What does Halloween mean? It is “Hallowe’en”, which mean’s “All Hallows’ Eve”, or “All Saint’s Eve”. Analogous to Christmas Eve, it is the beginning of All Saints’ Day and starts at sundown on October 31st.
The old English “hallowed” means holy, sanctified, “set apart” (as for service).  Martin Luther’s 95 theses were meant for all Christians, or all “holy ones” – “saints”. He posted them in 1517 on “All Hallow’s Eve”, or “All Saint’s Eve”, at the All Saints’ Church (the University of Wittenberg campus church) in Wittenberg, Germany.
Martin Luther’s core message?: All Saints are saved by grace, through faith, revealed by God’s Word in Christ. Thesis 11 of his 95 theses read: “Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon” [i.e. “indulgences”].
So where did the day originally come from? In the first 300 years of the church, so many were martyred for their faith that throughout the church days were set aside to remember all Saints.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Four Myths About Religious Freedom

HT: Russell Moore

Myth #1: Religious freedom is about ending the separation of church and state.

Myth #2: Religious freedom is about discriminating against those with whom we disagree.

Myth #3: Religious freedom allows people to ignore the law.

Myth #4: Religious freedom is just about protecting Christians.

You can read the explanations. Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wanting to Have Been Born Disabled

I’ve blogged about the “transabled,” people who feel that they should have been born into a body that is disabled.  After the jump is a story about a woman who felt that the way she “was supposed to be born” was to be blind.  So the psychologist working with her blinded her.  He “gave her eye-numbing drops before sprinkling a few droplets of drain cleaner into each pupil.”

You can read the rest. Thoughts? It raises some serious questions.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Learning to Love Difference

It is ironic that in a culture obsessed with the quest for individual identity, the solution given to deal with the clash of difference is to ‘erase’ the difference that forms the very basis of identity. The church must be wise to this radical relativising of human identity in order to justify a particular conception of love.

You can read the rest.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Death Is Not 'Okay'

It was a Wednesday morning. I packed up the kids and headed to my mom’s house to pick up my niece, a sweet young girl in that preteen stage. She and I were going to spend the entire day together. When I arrived, I asked what she wanted to do. “Go to Applebee’s,” she said. I hadn’t been to Applebee’s in ages.
At the restaurant I asked how she was. She said she was great but was tired of one thing. “I’m just tired of people telling me it’s going to be okay. I just want to know what’s going to happen next.”
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Technology and Faith: 12 Precautions

HT: Ed Stetzer

. . . I put out a simple question on Facebook and Twitter asking "What is new to consider in the areas of faith and technology?" After sorting through nearly 125 responses, I started to see some trends developing.
As I stated yesterday, it was most interesting that there was as much negative feedback about faith and technology as positive. Yesterday I discussed 12 positive benefits of technology and faith. Today I turn to the 12 precautions I heard.
You can read the rest. It's an older article, but it still has wisdom. Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

C.S. Lewis on Worship

C. S. Lewis may seem like an odd subject for study when it comes to the theology and practice of worship. He was neither a clergyman nor a professional theologian. And though he wrote wisely and winsomely on a wide range of subjects related to the Christian life, he devoted relatively little attention to ecclesiology, liturgy, music, and corporate worship. Nevertheless, the broad outlines of his thinking on the subject of worship can be reconstructed from his occasional essays and private letters. In this post I will seek to demonstrate that Lewis is a valuable, if neglected, voice in discussions about worship and that coming to terms with his perspective will be instructive for all of us, even if we are not fully persuaded by all of his presuppositions and arguments. I will first explore Lewis’s understanding of praise, followed by a survey of his thoughts on the corporate nature of worship, including church music, liturgy, and the sacraments. I will then conclude with a brief analysis.
You can read the rest here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Viewing Vitality in Smaller Congregations

I spend my working days as a pastor trying to name reality for my congregation as we wind a precarious way between the heights of aspiration and the depths of self-criticism. We know that we are supposed to be the tree planted by streams of living water that brings forth fruit in due season (Psalms 1:3), but some days feel more like the tree given one last chance (Luke 13:8). We would sing the songs of hope but keep hitting sour notes like the loss of a critical mass of young adults or another expensive repair to our big old building.

We are not going to turn it around overnight. And we are not going to have to close in the morning. So where are we? And what are we going to do here?  I have found it helpful to describe a dynamic equilibrium for this congregation and other small to mid-sized congregations I have served, and then to hold that condition before them as a measure of vitality. Dynamic equilibrium suggests that the congregation is a complex organism with staying power, but an organism with certain key indicators of health or decline.

You can read the rest.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gumball-Machine Happiness or Lasting Joy?

If you give a young child the option between a 25¢ gumball-machine ring and a real diamond, it’s easy to imagine that she might be tempted by first option. I’ve witnessed many a young girl ooh and ahh over a large pink plastic ring and feel treacherously betrayed when another friend puts it on her finger. It’s bigger, shinier, and colorful. Who wouldn’t make the same choice?
Give any adult woman the same choice and by and large she will choose the real diamond. What makes the difference? Maturity. Over the course of her lifetime she has grown in her understanding of value, as well as her appreciation of beauty.
I fear that when it comes to the treasure found in Christ, I may often show the immaturity of a two year old. Some days I find myself oohing and aahing over the world’s trinkets, wondering if perhaps God loves someone else a bit more because they seem to enjoy a bigger piece of the proverbial pie. It’s not only possessions, but also the relationships, giftedness, ministry endeavors, awards, and experiences of others that can appear bigger, shinier, and more colorful.
When I become fixated on earthly trinkets, I miss the real treasure. And, by doing so, I exchange gumball-machine happiness for lasting joy.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Depression and the Church

Untitled. By Stefan Kunze. Via Unsplash.
HT: Cameron Lee

Recently, I did a memorial service for a man who took his own life after a long struggle with depression.  It was the second such service I’d done in about two years.  Both men were successful in their own way, competent at their professions.  Both had friends and family who cared. But in the end, each died alone.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Talking About (Mostly White Upper-Middle Class) Millennials

. . . to be honest, the diversity of Millennials goes far beyond their racial diversity, but that’s another blog post entirely. When we talk about Millennials, though, we’re usually talking about a small subset of people.

First of all, the sociological category of “Millennials” is an American invention. So whenever you make generalizations about “Millennials,” you’re only talking about Americans. But it gets even more specific than that.

When we make rather off-the-cuff remarks like, “Millennials are liberal,” or “Millennials love adventure,” or “Millennials are spoiled brats,” and likewise, we usually only have one subgroup of Millennials in mind: upper-middle class, white millennials.

You can read the rest.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Should Christians Honor Christopher Columbus?

Based on some accounts of his life, I don't think so. Thoughts?

As one of two federal holidays bearing the name of a specific person (the other is Martin Luther King Jr. Day), opposition to celebrating Columbus's achievements has been mounted by many human rights groups and Native American groups such as the American Indian Movement (AIM). They call into question the propriety of celebrating Columbus's arrival in the New World. Columbus may have been the world's most famous explorer, but, as they argue, he also ushered in genocide against indigenous peoples as well as the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. Columbus introduced imperial colonization, forced labor, torture, and the advent of European diseases formerly unknown to the Americas which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native peoples.

. . . and that's just a summary of his alleged wrongdoing. You can read the rest.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

School Shootings and Masculinity

Steve Dipaola/Reuters
Some new insights (psychological and socio-cultural) into the recent school shooting in Oregon (and others) from the Christian Science Monitor

Usually it’s “a toxic cocktail of factors,” says Christopher Kilmartin, a professor of psychological science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.
But there’s one topic that’s not getting enough discussion, he and some others say: masculinity. “The elephant in the room with ... mass shootings is that almost all of them are being done by men,” Professor Kilmartin says. Male shooters often “project their difficulties onto other people.... In this case, it sounds like he was blaming Christians for his problems, but the masculinity piece is what is really missing in the discussions about the equation.”
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thank God

HT: John Mark N. Reynolds

“Isn’t God narcissistic? If I don’t praise Him, I go to Hell.”
This is a profanity free summary of a discussion I had with an atheist. I get what he was saying and my Sunday School kid self had the same worry. That is when the holidays came to my rescue.
You can read the rest.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dr. Seuss and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

HT: Kathleen Housley

I am reading a biography of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged in 1945 for his role in the plot to kill Hitler.
Suddenly the door opens and my two-year-old grandson, Alex, bounces in. Seeing the book, he attempts to climb into my lap so I can read to him as well. I put down the biography, pick him up, and select Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, which is in the pile of books beside my chair along with Bonhoeffer’s Ethics and Letters and Papers from Prison, shifting instantly from the lead-weight of Nazism to the whimsy of Dr. Seuss.
You can read the rest.

Friday, October 2, 2015

U.S. Map of Puns

Who's ready to hear some puns?

I wish there was a way you could roll your eyes over the internet.

Here's more info and puns.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stephen Colbert on Being a Fool for Christ

I know everyone's talking about Justin Bieber's recent interview, and I'll read that later. Right now, I'm fascinated by this interview with Stephen Colbert.

Now, it’s rare to see performers of this stature speaking so openly (and positively) about faith – with no qualms or equivocations. Even more rare is the performer who displays so much knowledge of his church’s teaching and history. Colbert retells stories from the Gospels, references Thomas Aquinas, summarizes C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, and critiques Anselm of Canterbury. It’s remarkable to see a public figure speak not about “having faith” in general, but about a faith in particular.

You can read the rest.

HT: Trevin Wax