Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How Urban Christians Failed President Obama

In my community, I hear Christians discussing their political and social values in a way that is distinct from the spirit of the day. Most other urban Christians I know tend to be more traditional than secular, more social activist than reactionary. We neither celebrate recent liberal gains nor internalize conservative losses. We stand apart, loathing both the lack of timeless conviction and the lack of compassion, respectively.

The Obama administration’s directive ordering transgender bathroom access in all public schools has called this urban Christian sociopolitical posture into question. While the bullying and dehumanization of transgender people is completely unacceptable, the stealth advance of this new ideology raises questions and should be subject to debate. By failing to assert our convictions, we have failed our president and our country.

You can read the rest.

Monday, May 30, 2016

What Bonhoeffer Preached on Memorial Day

As a young German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was asked to preach on National Memorial Day in Berlin, on February 21, 1932. These were tumultuous times for Germany. Hitler’s party was on the rise, and Bonhoeffer felt the need to equip the church for suffering in the days ahead.
What should a preacher communicate on a day that memorialized the Germans who died in the first world war? What words would be appropriate, or more importantly, Christian? 
You can read the rest.

Friday, May 27, 2016

This Week's Church Sign

Good to know it's been scheduled. And it's only two weeks long!

No relation to the X-Men movie coming to theaters today.

HT: Ed Stetzer

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We are Not Entitled to the World's Respect

Winning arguments is not the same as winning souls. Very few, if any, have lost a quarrel and found themselves converted. But we all know the impulse deep down, when engaging with unbelief, to lash out in an effort to show ourselves right rather than win the unbeliever.

If we genuinely are willing to take our cues from the New Testament, rather than instinct, we might be surprised to find the way the apostles would have us to engage with our society. Paul points to kindness, patience, and gentle correction (2 Timothy 2:24–26), and Peter lays out the way of “gentleness and respect” and compelling hope.

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

Will they ask about our hope if our rhetoric is full of fear and at fever pitch?

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dr. King's Definition of Extremism

World Telegram & Sun photo by Dick DeMarsico. 1964.
Library of Congress collections, public domain.

King wove together learned references to the likes of Socrates, Aquinas, Reinhold Niebuhr, T.S. Eliot, and Marin Buber, along with a mobilizing passion for his cause. Of course the whole letter [Letter from Birmingham Jail] is suffused with biblical concepts and references. Perhaps the most arresting historical passage of all is this one, where King combines a biblical, Reformed, and American view of “extremism.”

You can read the rest.

Monday, May 23, 2016

If We Have to Foreclose, Is God Still Good?

HT: Lore Wilbert

On Thursday we signed the contract for the sale of our house in Denver and on Monday, God willing, the buyers will sign it. For many of you who had your houses on the market for years+, the relief we’re feeling can sound hyperbolic, but I’m going to be uncomfortably honest about why we are relieved. (Uncomfortable for you, maybe, I have nothing left to protect here.)

You can read the rest.

Friday, May 20, 2016

This Week's Church Sign

What does this say about this church's sermons?

Maybe they're very succinct.

Maybe they're only five minutes long.

HT: Ed Stetzer

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Garrison Keillor on Christian Grace and Charity

HT: Garrison Keillor and Gene Veith
Every time Bob McDonnell talks about his corruption conviction in Virginia he mentions how Jesus Christ is sticking with him all the way, which surely is true. Jesus does not dump a guy just because he is sleazy.

The Lord has always been there for thieves and malefactors, but this is mercy. It doesn’t mean that Jesus approves of taking $175,000 in gifts from a man seeking official favors from a governor, as McDonnell seems to suggest. Jesus didn’t wear a Rolex. He did not hit up the Pharisees for thousands of shekels so the apostles could have rib-eye steak and a 35 B.C. Cabernet at the Last Supper.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Worship in the Midst of a Weary World

girl window
I feel weary when I read the news these days. There’s no one I want to vote for nationally. My state is in turmoil over House Bill 2 (AKA “the bathroom bill”).  I hear stories about life on college campuses, both academically and morally, and I’m deeply concerned. There’s so much brokenness in families, communities, and churches.  How can it not affect all of society?
I also find myself fearing what is to come. As recently as the 2008 election, every presidential nominee supported the traditional definition of marriage. Now that same opinion equates to bigotry. How long will it be before my husband and other pastors like him are arrested for hate speech, simply for teaching and preaching the truths of Scripture? Men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer once preached in Germany without fear. Within a small window of political change, that same teaching made him an enemy of the state. I wonder if we might face the same sort of cultural shifts in the next few years.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The "Little Sisters of the Poor" Case

The United States Supreme Court today handed down a unanimous ruling, remanding the case of Little Sisters of the Poor and other petitioners, back to the lower courts to pursue an accommodation. What this means is that the government cannot fine and penalize these groups for objecting to the Administration’s demand that they authorize contraceptive coverage for their ministry’s employees.

For more about the ruling and its ramifications, read.

For more about the case itself, read.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Predicting the Future of Religion

Has anyone ever collected predictions of the future of religion, whether in a book or a website?
The most famous are those that predict the vast growth or decline of some faith, projections that prove to be hilariously inaccurate – eg Thomas Jefferson’s view from 1822 that Unitarians would become the dominant religion in the new United States.
You can read the rest.

Friday, May 13, 2016

This Week's Church Sign

Punctuation can save lives, people.

Have a happy Ascension Sunday!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Five Beliefs that Produce Hope

HT: Brandon Showalter

1. There is ALWAYS a solution (1 Cor. 10:13):
2. I always know what to do (James 1:5-8): 
3. I will always succeed at everything I do (Php 4:11-13)
4. I will always have the resources I need to do what needs to be done (Php 4:19):
5. My past is always turned to good (Romans 8:28)
Read the explanations. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Well, What Do We Know?

Last week my daughter came home with a question about her math homework. For some, math questions might be more dreaded than having The Talk, but for me these discussions are usually a delight. After years of being the mom who has no idea how to make crafty designs for elementary school projects, I’m finally in my comfort zone. I’ve been waiting and ready for this moment.
Unfortunately, as we opened her enormous geometry book and read the question, I realized to my chagrin that I had no idea how to solve the problem.
Swoosh…that was the sound of my excitement rushing out the door.
And, then I did what I have done for so many years of both studying and teaching math. I took a pencil into my hand, reread the question and said to my daughter, “Let’s write out everything we know to be true.”
As we went through this process of listing out the facts before us, slowly the light clicked on about how to solve the problem.  We checked her answer in the back of the book and high-fived when we realized we had gotten the answer correct.
As my daughter and I chatted, I told her: “One of the best (and worst) things about math is that you become accustomed to the feeling of not-knowing.  It’s not comfortable, but if you can work through the discomfort, you will usually figure out which way to go. The one thing to avoid is throwing your hands up in the air and not even trying because you think it’s too difficult.”
As I reflected upon our discussion I realized that studying math probably prepared me for ministry more than any other subject. Most of the time, I look at the struggles in my own life and the lives of those around me and I have no idea what to do or say. It’s tempting to just throw my hands up in the air, choosing to give up because I’m fearful of not knowing the right answer.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

When You Don't Know the Whole Story

HT: Megan Hill

Recently, I got an email from a casual acquaintance. Among other things, he mentioned that he had recently been terminated from his position with a Christian ministry. 

From such a distance—both location and relationship—it was impossible for me to understand the issues which contributed to his situation. Was he wrongly terminated? Or was he the guilty one? I simply could not know. 

And yet, our correspondence required me to reply, and I could hardly ignore what was obviously an important and life-changing matter for him. What could I say?  

Frequently, in Christian ministry, we are told about a situation and are invited to make a response. And often we know only one small part of the whole story. 

A person gives what seems to be an extended (and possibly biased) list of wrongs someone else has done. Another person only tells part of the story to avoid exposing someone else’s sin. 

Proverbs warns against making a quick judgment without information: 

"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him." (Prov. 18:17) 

"If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame." (Prov. 18:13)

You can read the rest

Monday, May 9, 2016

Muslim Women and 1 Corinthians 13


Recently, my husband and I visited friends in the Middle East and ministered at an international church. One friend suggested we visit a new women’s park in her neighborhood. At this walled park, Muslim women are free to remove their veils and interact with one another. 
It was a warm, beautiful night. As we walked past the security guards at the park entrance, I felt like a fish out of water. Perhaps 100 Muslim women, dressed in long black robes (called abiyahs), were there. Children ran freely.
The women, their faces uncovered, were mostly sitting in circles, sharing food and talking. As we walked in, it felt as if all eyes converged on my friend and me—and on her three blond-haired, blue-eyed kids. We were the only Western women in the entire park. The line from the kids’ song “one of these things is not like the other” began running through my head. It was a peculiar feeling. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel uncomfortable. 
You can read the rest.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday Fun: This Week's Church Sign

Please, people. Please be careful with potential acronyms.

Have a good Mothers Day/Ascension Sunday, everyone!

HT: Stephen Lake

Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Prayer for #NationalDayOfPrayer

Today is my country’s National Day of Prayer, and this is my prayer (when I say “we,” I’m referring to myself as well as many Americans):

Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of All Things,

Thank you for our country. As I strive to worship you, God, and serve the poor, I regularly am blessed by the fruit of our country’s founding vision of freedom, responsibility and humility. My children attend a very resourceful and culturally-diverse school and church, and there are many other ways my wife and I feel uniquely blessed by our community.

However, we have erred from what is right by Your commandments and what would continue to be deemed good stewardship and cultural flourishing in the land You have given us. 

We have sought self-fulfillment in the wrong places, storing up treasures on earth. Have mercy.

We have treasured our sub-culture and/or country more than your love and grace. Have mercy.

We have had the over-confidence to disregard the notion of intelligence other than our own, pridefully refusing to be teachable. Have mercy.

Under a guise of justice, we have sought vengeance and victory instead of reconciliation and the common good. Have mercy.

Wanting to create a culture that we thought was better, we have ignored facts and believed heinous lies about people. Have mercy.

We have selfishly sought our own trivial good and ignored the significant plight of others. Have mercy.

We have continually mocked leaders and those in authority that you have ordained, and not prayed for them as you commanded. Have mercy.

Unlike many of your children outside of our country, many of us continue to lack an adequate theology of suffering. Have mercy.

We ask, Lord, that you would give wisdom and strength to both President Obama and the next person who will be given the difficult task of leading and shepherding a diverse and polarized country. 

May we have the strength to continue to serve you, help others and work for the common good. 

May we, following your commands, in our relationships with one another, seek absolute grace and not relative justice. 

May we, following your commands, be elitist about ideas but egalitarian about fellow children of God.

May we never forget, Lord, that you are not surprised or intimidated by actions of men. You are our perfect example of humble servanthood. Give us the strength and courage to serve our country.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Three Signs that the American Polity is in Trouble

Interesting post. Thoughts?

No nation lasts forever. The United States of America nearly fell apart in the Civil War and faced stresses early in the Industrial Age that destroyed other nations (such as Russia), but which we survived.

We should not take our stability for granted. I have pointed out many times that the order created by the World War II generation is over . . . for good and bad. Global organizations built after the War have outlived their usefulness and in many cases impede peace and our national sovereignty.

1. The ruling class no longer believes the founding story.

2. The intellectual class is hostile to the traditional values of the nation.

3. The working class and middle class feel powerless. 

You can read the rest

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Seven Questions About Transgender Theories

This post echoes my honest questions about the phenomenon. If you're reading, please give an honest and informative (rather than an ad hominem) response. It'd be helpful for me as I continually strive, with my church, to find ways to serve others in the north Chicago metro. If you're interested more about the background of each question, you can read the explanations. (The post's conclusion is a call to Christians).

1. Do transgender theories undercut or contradict the idea that sexual orientation is unchangeable?

2. If gender identity is fixed and unchangeable, why do many children who experience gender dysphoria lose these feelings after puberty?

3. When a person feels a disjunction between one’s sex at birth and one’s gender identity, why is the only course of action to bring the body into closer conformity with the person’s psychological state, rather than vice versa?

4. Is the higher rate of suicide among transgender persons due primarily to the inner tensions of experiencing gender dysphoria as a disorder, or are these acts motivated primarily by societal rejection?

5. Why are the strongest critics of “gender binaries” the most likely to support gender stereotypes on display in transgender celebrities?

6. Why must one’s declared gender identity be accepted without question, while other forms of self-identification can be dismissed?

7. Without a settled definition in our legal system for transgender, how can we avoid all sorts of problems, including bathroom access?

Monday, May 2, 2016

We Can't Talk to Each Other Anymore

We can’t talk to each other anymore. It’s sad. It seems like civil and productive dialogue are impossible in this socio-politically charged country, left alone friendship across most differences. Presidential candidates are becoming more uncompromising and growing further apart on the ideological scale.

Objectivity is gone. Debates aren’t won by scholarship and execution, but by marketable cliches, fallacious witticisms and passionate tenacity. It’s okay to use ad hominem and over-simplification on certain people and ideas, but not others. All the issues are quite simple, right? I’ve seen people supposedly debunk and solve millennia-long debates in a Facebook meme. After all, it’s the 21st century. We don’t talk to each other anymore.

Of course it would be easier if we all believed the same things. But the truth is that we’re roommates in a diverse country, a country founded, in part, on the notion that people that think differently could live securely together. But it takes some selflessness and grace. That’s hard when all people care about is victory and/or vengeance. We can’t talk to each other anymore.

The previous three candidates for President of this country (both parties) were considered moderate. Now people are wondering why the two most likely candidates for president are so polarizing. It’s because we can’t talk to each other anymore.

As you lobby, vote, and serve your country in various ways, I encourage you to be elitist about ideas and egalitarian about people. Be selfless and have compassion for your supposed enemies. Make it less about winning and more about reconciliation. Otherwise, we’ll become more divided, and we can’t talk to each other anymore.