Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Fun: Calvin & Hobbes Star Wars

Warning: Arguable spoilers are in these cartoons. And there are spoilers in the comments.

You can read the rest.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Christianity and Country Music

HT: Kelsey Dallas

Grady Smith wants modern country music artists to go to confession.

Raised on singers like Johnny Cash, who weren't afraid to express their salvation through God and their sinful slip-ups, he's had enough of contemporary songs that present Jesus as someone you only need to worry about on Sunday morning.

"Lately, mainstream country music's treatment of faith ignores any of the interesting tension of religious angst and replaces it with bland, self-assured, vaguely spiritual tokenism," wrote Smith, a country music columnist for The Guardian.

According to Smith, the country music genre no longer rewards singers for sharing authentic stories about their faith. It's now routine for the same song to contain lurid tales of drunken debauchery and casual references to prayer and church.

Other country fans are more forgiving, noting that the musical genre has had to adapt to an evolving fan base and industry. It's naive to think that country singers are going to shape their career around theologically sophisticated lyrics, so the impetus should be on listeners to find the music that will enrich their faith, they said.

"There was a seriousness about life, a gravitas in older country music that seems less apparent in the stuff on the radio today," said John Hayes, who studies Southern culture and religion. "But whether one style is more authentic than the other? That's a loaded question."

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hallelujah College

Paul M. Walsh/The Leader-Telegram, via Associated Press

American evangelicals have a venerable tradition of painting the ivory tower as the bastion of unbelief and leftist ideology. As mainstream culture becomes more diverse and moves further away from traditional Christian teachings on matters like sexuality, we might expect evangelical students on elite secular campuses to feel more embattled than ever. Yet that’s not what I found when I spoke to a range of students and recent graduates.

You can read the rest.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chicago, Prayer War, Race Relations, and Rev. James Meeks

Chicago is off to a horribly bloody start in 2016.
But now, there are two unique approaches to bringing peace to the city. One calls on more manpower, while the other calls on a higher power as thousands gather to pray for peace in every corner of Chicago.
“If there's anything Chicago needs and desires, it’s prayer,” said Reverend James Meeks.
Rev. Meeks, of Salem Baptist Church, was recently interviewed by FOX32 Chicago regarding the city's violent beginning to the year, and also by Willow Creek's Bill Hybels also regarding race relations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Maybe You're Unhappy Because You're Too Big And Bored

Joy suffers whenever we are too big and God is too small.
The fuel of joy is gratitude, and the fuel of gratitude is wonder. But wonder gets stifled by entitlement, and gratitude disappears when wonder dies.

One way for us to recapture a sense of the glory of God is through seeing the grandeur of His handiwork. This is one way we shrink ourselves and magnify God – through childlike faith, we are to become like children, fully dependent on God our Father and enthralled once again at the world He has given us.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Five Bible Verses About Fasting

HT: Jack Wellman

-Secret Fasting
-Fasting to Overcome Addictions
-Fasting to Be Seen
-Fasting for God's Intervention
-Fasting for Humility

You can read the verses and explanations.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Collection of MLK Tributes

Recent tributes from Urbana leaders, the chaplain of Wheaton College, Matt Maher and more.

If you’re following God, eventually you start loving the things He loves, and you care about the things He cares about. Moving to Nashville, the South, I encountered a greater understand that so much of the American tradition of music was born out of the slavery movement-rock'n'roll, gospel, country, R&B, hip-hop. It all goes back to a group of people who were enslaved and who desired freedom. I had been wanting to write a song based on the speech ‘We Shall Overcome’ by Dr. Martin Luther King. I had begun writing this song with Jason Ingram. I asked a buddy of mine-fellow worship leader and songwriter Ike Ndolo, who grew up in Columbia, Missouri-to write with me. I took what we had started, and asked Ike to, 'Draw from your experience as an African-American male living in the shadow of the civil rights movement still praying for all those things to bear their fruit.’ It’s really the job of the church  today to finished what was started in the '60s. Just because you can outlaw racial discrimination doesn’t mean you get rid of it. This heart behind this song was to inspire other people. I have to think that there are other leaders in the church right now who have a burden on their heart to help lead a movement like this. I think it’s the centerpiece of the whole record; it’s a really special moment. -Matt Maher

Friday, January 15, 2016

Why Writing About Culture Is Important

Whenever I write about the worldview of a cultural icon or a cultural artifact, I brace myself. The ensuing comment streams and Facebook conversations almost always devolve into debates over whether such cultural analysis should happen in the first place.

Many Christians think of cultural artifacts (such as a pop song) in categories of “good” or “bad.” Naturally, some readers assume that my choice to comment on a song or interact with its spiritual dimensions serves as an implicit endorsement. Or they think that comparing or contrasting something as banal as a pop culture phenomenon with the good news of Christianity cheapens the gospel.

On the other side are readers who assume that my critique of a song means I think it is “bad” and should therefore be “banned.” If the song is deficient in the worldview it promotes, it is “dangerous.” These readers then assume that the blog post is an overreaction, a futile exercise in “overanalyzing.” They jump to the artist’s defense.

What both sides have in common is that they miss the point of cultural commentary. Examining a cultural artifact is not a statement on the spiritual state of an artist; neither is it a blanket endorsement or condemnation of a product.

Instead, cultural commentaries are an exercise in cultural literacy, what Kevin Vanhoozer describes as “discerning the meaning of cultural texts and trends in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Spiritual vs. Righteous

When I first became a Christian I was introduced to the priorities of the Christian community. I learned quickly that it was expected of me that I have a daily devotion time, a time reserved for Bible reading and prayer. I was expected to go to church. I was expected to have a kind of piety that was evident by not cursing, not drinking, not smoking, and the like. I had no idea that biblical righteousness went far beyond these things. However, like most new Christians, I learned to emphasize such things. My personal letters took on a new pattern of language. They began to sound like pages from New Testament epistles. I soon learned to use Christian jargon in my everyday speech. I didn’t “tell” anybody anything, I “shared” it with them. Every good fortune was a “blessing,” and I found I could hardly speak without sprinkling my sentences with spiritual platitudes.

Soon, however, I found that there was more to the Christian life than daily devotions and sanctified words. I realized that God wanted more. He wanted me to grow in my faith and obedience, to go beyond milk to the meat. I also discovered that Christian jargon was an almost meaningless form of communication, both to non-Christians and Christians alike. I found myself more interested in echoing a subculture’s lingo than in finding true godliness.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie and Religion

BR/Dana Press/PA

Last week, Jimi Hendrix reigned in the number two spot on the Billboard 200 and this week that position is filled by David Bowie’s new album The Next Day. It is only fitting that one of Bowie’s songs on the new album (“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”) contains the line,”Stars are never sleeping/ Dead ones and the living,” in light of this surprising takeover of the charts by two classic rockers, one dead and one living. Unlike Hendrix who saw his music as religion, Bowie has explored a pantheon of religious beliefs as he noted in a 2004 Ellen interview: “I was young, fancy free and Tibetan Buddhism appealed to me at that time. I thought, ‘There’s salvation.’ It didn’t really work. Then I went through Nietzsche, Satanism, Christianity… pottery, and ended up singing. It’s been a long road.”

You can read the rest.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Former NFL Player Leads Mega Multi-Ethnic Church

HT: Preston Sprinkle and Derwin Gray

derwingrayI’m very excited to interview my friend Derwin Gray! Derwin is a pastor, writer, ex-
NFL football player, and the founder of Transformation Church—a multiethinic mega-church in North and South Carolina. Derwin is also the author of the recently released The High-Definition Leaderwhich challenges pastors and leaders to see the importance of multiethnic communities.

Derwin, thanks for letting me ask you some questions on my blog!
You can read the interview.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Very Old Church Management

Another instance where some type of separation (maybe even a separate sign?) might have helped.

Otherwise, props to Pastor Christy for 2000 years of leadership.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Seven Verses for the New Year

As the calendar turns over to another year, most people start thinking about what they did or didn’t do the past year, and what they would like for the new year to bring. Some people make resolutions or goals, others might just spend some time in prayerful mediation. Whatever your personal new year habits might be, the Bible is the best source for guidance and wisdom. Here are some verses that can help you get started with the new year – or with any new beginning in your life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Do You "Virtue-Signal" Online?

Very provocative article with some interesting points. How can followers of Jesus Christ advocate for the poor and the helpless, serve others and strive for civil dialogue without temptation to boastfulness, slacktivism or other ways to pray in public like a long-winded Pharisee?


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Force Awakens: Imperfect, But a New Hope

I loved the Star Wars in junior high. Before Episodes I-III were released. Up until the past year, expressing your liking of Star Wars was not nearly as cool as it has become this past year. When I was a kid, we had to search in the corners of department and hobby stores to find Star Wars toys. Now, most of the models I built and toys I collected have been given away, right before they might be worth something. (Dang it!).

In any case, I didn’t enjoy the prequels. They were good storylines with much better special effects and light saber fights, but the bad dialogue couldn’t get saved by the good actors they had on the set. Also, if they would have made a couple better casting choices, omitted Jar-Jar, and made the Gungans and Trade Federation leaders a bit less fulfilling of respective stereotypes, I think the prequels could have been a lot better. But I digress.

I was always a fan of J.J. Abrams’s work. I’ve enjoyed Lost, the new Star Trek movies, and the new additions to the Mission: Impossible series. Just knowing the presence of Abrams’s fingerprints, I was comfortable watching a few DVD’s of Felicity with my wife several years ago. So I’ve always known that Abrams would take Star Wars seriously and not let it turn into a third-rate popcorn flick.

Social media has been amazingly good about not spoiling. So see the movie when you can, because spoiler-free cyberspace may not last much longer. Spoilers ahead here, by the way.

It was surreal to see the same opening title. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. They did a good job of setting the stage for the new plot-line. The Resistance, led by ol’ Rebels and their descendants, is looking for the vanished Luke Skywalker while on the run from the First Order, a new power-hungry empire. One storm trooper develops a conscience and frees a member of the Resistance, while the droid that contains the map to Luke Skywalker randomly finds its way into the hands of a scrappy commoner on a sandy planet named Rey. Does the story sound familiar yet?

There’s a Facebook meme going around stating that Episode 7 is a copy of Episode 4, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not. Here’s a list:
  • The First Order is the new Empire.
  • The Resistance is the new Rebellion.
  • Rey is the new Luke Skywalker.
  • Jakku is the new Tatooine.
  • BB-8 is the new R2-D2.
  • Finn is the new Han Solo.
  • Han Solo is the new Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Kylo Ren is the new Darth Vader.
  • General Hux is the new Grand Moff Tarkin.
  • Snoke is the new Palpatine.
  • The Starkiller Base is the new Death Star.
And there’s also the sheer coincidence of the one droid with the digital information to save the galaxy meeting someone with midi-chlorians in their blood. Did I miss anything?

The Facebook meme also states that nobody cares that it’s a copy. Which I understand. It’s a well-executed film with great acting, a good storyline, and a few twists and turns you didn’t expect. (Just like Abrams blew up Vulcan, he killed Han Solo).

I think the one thing that was a bit disappointing was Rey’s quick learning ability. It took Luke years of training, humbling experiences and convergence to face Darth Vader and finally defeat him, and he wanted to be a Jedi. Rey, on the other hand, had much more opportunity and invitation into Jedi-hood and, after closing her eyes for a few seconds, she was able to defeat a Sith leader the first time she used a light saber. Huh? And I thought Sith couldn’t use the Force to throw around Jedi like rag dolls (and vice-versa).

Nonetheless, I’m happy that Abrams is at the helm. The Force Awakens was an entertaining, well-written and well-executed movie, and I’m sure the rest of the series will be, too. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Prayer to Love Well in 2016

HT: Scotty Smith

Dear heavenly Father, we praise you for being so extraordinarily kind, gentle, and patient with us. You don’t love us to the degree we love others; you love us to the degree you’ve hidden our lives in Christ, which is completely. This good news is our peace, hope, and joy, as we begin the New Year. It’s also the basis and rocket fuel of our repentance, and the motivation and means for our obedience.

You can read the rest.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolutions, According to Google

HT: Time Magazine and Relevant Magazine

1. how to get rid of stress
2. how to make kale chips
3. how much water should i drink to lose weight
4. how to write a resignation letter
5. how to cook lentils
6. how to cook cabbage
7. how to write a letter of recommendation
8. how to cook collard greens
9. how to steam broccoli
10. how to crochet a beanie
You can read the rest.