Thursday, June 30, 2016

If the Church Were A Haven . . .

In the days following the Orlando shooting, many mourners observed that clubs like Pulse have been among the precious few places for the LGBTQ community throughout its history to find respite from ridicule (and worse). Craig Rodwell, founder of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in New York, spoke for many when he said years ago, “Bars have always been our only place, our haven in a sense.” Or as Jes Kast put it on Twitter in the aftermath of Orlando, “A night club is like a sanctuary when a sanctuary hasn’t welcomed you.” Some of the clubs have even borne that name—“Sanctuary”—in neon, like a lighthouse pointing the way to safety.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Too Focused on Religious Liberty?

In The Fractured RepublicYuval Levin urges social conservatives to cultivate communities where our distinctive moral vision can flourish.
But Levin also cautions against making religious liberty protections the sole or most important priority.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Importance of Everyone Loving Enemies

For the horror of Orlando Pulse,
There is a time for anger and activism.
There is a time for healing and hope.
Now is a time for mourning.
For remembrance. For honoring those innocently lost.
For sincere prayers that the Lord’s love and justice reigns in a world that creates infinite iterations of suffering.
Do not let your anger for what happened turn into their hate.
Because at that point, your hate is no better than their hate. It’s just hate. And there are no positive attributes to the dredge and expanse of hate.
The only way to stop their extremism is for us to stop making hate an acceptable response.
Since the massacre the majority of those on the internet are Christians blaming Muslims. LGBTs blaming Christians. Muslims blaming extremists. Atheists blaming religion.
Love cannot defeat hate when love is being used as the excuse to hate.
You can read the rest.

Monday, June 27, 2016

National Tragedy, Facebook and Communion

Have you noticed how the past few national tragedies have been more polarizing than bringing people together?
Tuesday of this past week, there was an article in the New York Times that lamented this fact. The article quoted Gary Mormino, a retired historian from the University of South Florida, who said:
"Past tragedies tended to unify Americans— some people will recall how, after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s calm but assertive radio talks bonded the country, elevating hopes. Many more will remember the feeling of shared grief as the television broadcaster Walter Cronkite wiped a tear while reporting the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But 2016 brings together the toxic elements of an election year, presidential candidates who polarize the electorate, voters who are afraid and angry, and a press eager to exploit the spectacle of division and disaster…Alas, we live in a balkanized state and nation."
Why is that? My hunch is because we live in a world with too much Facebook and not enough communion.
You can read the rest.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Church Sign 6/24/16

Not sure the analogy quite works.

But hey, you can get 10% off a manicure!

HT: Ed Stetzer

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Must I Join a Church to be a Christian?

HT: Jeff Robinson

I have heard many versions of this notion over the years, phrased as both a statement and a declaration. “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian—do I?”
More often than not, it’s been put this way: “I love Jesus and the Bible, but I don’t love the church.” Or those more inclined toward a na├»ve spiritualism have spun it as, “I can spend time with the Lord out in the woods. I don’t need the distraction of other people. Just me and nature and God.”
Yet, after years of hearing these pithy aphorisms and being asked this question (with the “no” answer often strongly implied), I remain unconvinced that one can be a Christian and intentionally remain outside the visible, local church. Granted, the grounds of a sinner’s salvation in Scripture are clear: Grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone. True, the Bible never adds “church membership” as a condition of salvation. But note the qualifier “intentionally” in my thesis—it is the key pillar in my argument. I am here assuming the individual making this query is intentionally seeking to avoid church membership and church attendance while claiming to be a follower of Christ.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

California's State Religion

From the OC Register and the Los Angeles Daily News . . .

In a state ruled by a former Jesuit, perhaps we should not be shocked to find ourselves in the grip of an incipient state religion. Of course, this religion is not actually Christianity, or even anything close to the dogma of Catholicism, but rather something that increasingly resembles something more akin to the former Soviet Union, or present-day Iran and Saudi Arabia, than the supposed world center of free, untrammeled expression.
Two pieces of legislation introduced in the last legislative session, but not yet enacted, show the power of the new religion.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Nine Things to Know About Physician-Assisted Suicide

Earlier this month a new law took effect that makes California the latest—and most populous—state to legalize physician assisted suicide. A similar law was passed last week by the Canadian parliament. Once approved, Canada will join Albania, Colombia, Japan, Switzerland, and the Netherlands in implementing nationwide laws allowing assisted suicide.
Here are nine things you should know about physician-assisted suicide.

Monday, June 20, 2016

History of the American Flag in Church

As we stand between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, it is a good time to reflect on the fraught relationship between Christian churches and American civil religion. One of the most contentious issues is whether churches should have an American flag in their worship space.
The place of the flag in church has always been controversial in American history. For instance, as Timothy Wesley tells the story in his book The Politics of Faith During the Civil Wara wartime Methodist church in border state Missouri was being used by both Northern and Southern Methodist congregations. The Southern Methodists arrived one Sunday morning to find an American flag hanging from the pulpit, left over from the Unionists’ meeting. Some Unionists were attending the Southern Methodist meeting that day, and after the sermon, they took down the flag and held it over the door, trying to force the Southern Methodist minister to walk under it.
You can read the rest.

Friday, June 17, 2016

(Kinda) Church Sign of the Week

Didn't know the economy and church attendance had gotten this bad.

Have a good Fathers Day weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Study of American Morals

HT: Gene Veith

Gallup has released a new study of Americans’ moral beliefs, and it’s full of surprises and good-news/bad-news.  Acceptance of abortion (43%), same sex relations (60%), stem-cell research on human embryos (60%), and physician assisted suicide (53%) is actually down from last year. Though a majority still narrowly support suicide by doctor, only 18% consider suicide in general to be a moral option.  While 67% believe that sex between unmarried men and women is moral, only 37% think it’s OK for teenagers to have sex, and only 10% believe marital affairs are acceptable. And only 34% believe in the morality of pornography.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When Medicine Fails Missionaries

Powerful testimony from Kenya.

His bottom lip trembled as I leaned in with my stethoscope. Although his eyes shimmered with a thin sheen of tears, he did not recoil. As had his toddler sister, he waited, straight, silent, and obedient, and he studied me. I crouched to his level, and we connected for a heartbeat or two. I listened to the cadence of his breath; he searched my face.

Searched for what? Understanding? Hope? The missionary leading our team often 
remarked, “You are the face, and hands, and feet of Christ.” As this child scanned my face, I felt the sweat snake down my neck, glimpsed the elongating line of villagers through the paneless window, heard the howls from the procedure room — and I realized the profundity of my failure.

I wore no face of Christ. I wore a grimy white coat, a stethoscope, and other flashy trappings incongruous with the dirt floor and dilapidated benches of the clinic. I considered the hundreds of people piling onto the grass into lopsided queues, stumbling over each other in the hope that we mzungu — white skins — would cure their cataracts, their diabetes, their oozing wounds and arthritic hips. I met person after person for whom I could prescribe only vitamins, and I watched their hopes crumble.

You can read the rest.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Two Important Perspectives on the Tragedy in Orlando

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

From a former Muslim:

None of us can think entirely objectively, especially at the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia?
As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: “Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen’s actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam,” or “Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats.”
How can we understand this dilemma? How do we not react against all Muslims despite the fact that Islam has always taught such violence? My answer is simple: truth and love. This may sound trite or fanciful, but I am not advocating a whimsical or baseless love, which would never stand in the face of Jihad. I think we must respond with a love grounded in truth and self-sacrifice, reflecting the person and heart of Jesus Christ. After all, he died not slaughtering his enemies, but forgiving them. And Christians are to follow in our Savior’s steps.

You can read the rest.

And from a celibate homosexual man:

Hopefully, today has awakened within every believer’s heart, the reality that every LGBTQ person is our neighbor and even more significantly, fellow image bearers and heirs to the common grace of God in this life!
The news that 50 people were shot and killed and 53 more injured in a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, is a sobering reminder of many terrible realities. It is too easy to give into hate, too easy to target vulnerable populations, too easy to abuse the freedom to own guns, and tragically, way too easy to devalue human life.
The tragedy in Orlando is also a reminder to Christ’s church that our LGBTQ neighbors are vulnerable, and too often radical elements of our religious world devalue their humanity. To be clear, any attempt to link this tragedy with sincere disagreements over theology is opportunistic and a sad distraction from the larger reality of lives lost here. The Orlando tragedy is the outworking of a broken heart, which harbored hate and a view of God that would allow for such actions.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ann Voskamp on the Stanford Rape Case

Dear Sons,

When you’re the mother of four sons, the Stanford rape case — it’s not about somebody else… it’s about us.

Let’s be real clear, boys — I’m never writing you a letter like the father of Brock Turner, defending any sexual assault of a horrifically traumatized young woman as merely as “20 minutes of action.”

Rape is not “20 minutes of action” — it’s a violent act with lifetime consequences and it’s time for parents to take far less than 20 minutes of action and stand up right now and say hard things to our sons right now before it’s too late.

The Stanford rape case is about having a conversation with sons about hard things and asking sons to do holy things.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Overlooked Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Gentleness is overlooked. Harshness becomes more common. But meek is not weak.
I always thought I was gentle. When reading through lists of virtues in the New Testament, gentleness never caught my attention. As a young man I prayed regularly against lust. I fought pride. I strove to ward off sloth. These deadly sins comprised a three-headed monster I knew I must oppose. But somewhere along the way, while I engaged in a frontal assault against my Cerberus, a sneaky little sin slipped out of my heart and attacked me from the rear. He goes by many names: harshness, brashness, and domineering are some of them. He’s neither meek nor gentle.
So how did this sneaky little sin catch my attention? A dear friend did something brave; he told me I could be harsh and intimidating. So harsh, in fact, he wasn’t sure he could serve with me on our church’s elder team. His words stunned me. I couldn’t believe it. Yet I couldn’t not believe it. This brother is wise, godly, and I knew he wanted the best for me and for the church we both love.
You can read the rest.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Traditional Sexual Ethic Inherently Harmful?

It’s easy to say that one’s ethical views are causing harm, yet it’s much harder to prove it, of course. It takes a good deal of psychological and sociological work to pin-point the exact cause of such harm. Life is much more complicated than my “harm” theorists would have it. What I find most odd about the “harm” argument is that it doesn’t match the myriad of testimonies I’ve heard from LGBTQ people themselves.

You can read the rest.

Friday, June 3, 2016

This Week's Church Sign

The "everyone welcome" message is fine. Just add a "closed" sign when you need to. Or at least remove the arrow.

Otherwise, it sends a confusing message.

HT: Ed Stetzer

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Virtue of Indifference

This sort of indifference is something largely alien to most evangelicals. One of the lessons that can be learned from many of the memoirs being written currently by millennial evangelicals is that we are piercingly aware of ourselves as individual brands and are deeply concerned with cultivating the right sort of public image. This is, to be fair, something our parents taught us, for one of the consequences of the seeker-sensitive movement of the 1980s is that churches and their members learned to think of themselves as products that must be marketed correctly in order to gain new customers.

To be indifferent is, in the sense we are speaking of today, to be confident in the goodness of a certain way of life. It is to be immune to the appeals of popularity and relevance, committed instead to the work we have been given to do. It is to be convinced enough of your vocation that you don’t need to be bothered by many of the things that consume the attention of your peers. It is to say that you are not concerned with finding your next promotion, accumulating life experiences (which you use to build your brand on social media as well as your CV), looking for your next big house, or seeking out the right school to advance your child’s career prospects. It is to be content with the life you have been given and to work in one’s home place for its improvement rather than seeking a better place somewhere else. It is, to borrow a phrase from Berry, to acquire the joy of sales resistance.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Weirdness of Christians

Christianity is so much more ridiculous than most people give us credit for.  Oh, there are a lot of stereotypes:  we’re narrow-minded or we’re stuffy, we’re anti-intellectual or we’re honorable.  It depends who you ask.  But the truth?

We believe in miracles, and beauty.  We sing — a lot.  We give away a chunk of everything we earn, value children, turn the other cheek.  We give up sex outside of marriage and persevere in marriages that are hard.  We spend a lot of time reading really, really old books.  We expect to be insulted and pray for our enemies.  That is to say, some of us do some of these things some of the time.  But our hero did all of them all of the time.

You can read the rest.