Monday, October 31, 2016

On Devils and a Party

HT: John Mark N. Reynolds

I lived between two Halloweens: the time when Christian kids dressed up and had fun and the time when Halloween celebrations could destroy a church. It was nice to have parents who understood reality: demonic powers exist and are not to be feared or trifled with and kids dressing in costumes saying “trick or treat” are not invoking demons. I have seen remarkable things in my time and so I do not doubt the existence of supernatural beings that are infernal, but this experience has also made me calm.

You can read the rest. Thoughts?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (10/28/16)

Dang it! So what do we do now?

Maybe these aren't the kind of signs you want at a decorative fountain.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What Happened to George Washington's Church

Stories about losing rarely reach the front page, but our countercultural faith is different. We believe to live is Christ and to die is gain. Daily news of victories—in sports, in politics—obscures this truth. That’s why we need more stories of gaining through loss. Such stories are bound to continue for the faithful in today’s America.
The Falls Church Anglican has lived through such a story. In 2012, this historic church in Northern Virginia took a stand for their faith and lost everything to the Episcopal Church. After crushing defeats in the courts, the church moved out of the property George Washington had graced centuries before. They walked away from their colonial building and history. They left the soaring sanctuary they built, one that had hosted hundreds (if not thousands) of weddings and baptisms. They left the prayer books, the sound equipment, and the $2.8 million in cash that members had donated to church accounts specifically designated not to go to the Episcopal Church.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mentoring: God is Bigger Than Any Generation

The Gospel of Luke starts with the seniors. You’ve got Elizabeth and Zechariah and Simeon and Anna, people who are well into the AARP benefits. But then Long points out that these older people pass off the gospel to the younger people and then trust God enough to trust them with it.

So the rest of Luke and Acts, is young people taking the gospel all over the world. It looked different than the senior saints could have ever imagined, but it was exactly what they had always hoped for.

And these senior saints could do that, because they trusted that God was bigger than any one generation.

I know I have hit the jackpot with having great mentors.  I’ve been extremely blessed to have some of the most talented people to be willing to invest time and wisdom in me. But I hear constantly from other young ministers and leaders who don’t have that. They are hungry for people who are willing to invest in them.

But I understand why we don’t want to mentor…
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ben Zobrist: Major League Believer

Zobrist is a key player on a team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. The young team won 103 regular season games, its most wins in 106 years and more than any other team in the Major Leagues. Most of the players are on multi-year contracts like Zobrist ($56 million over four years), igniting hopes among Cubs fans that they’ll be even better next year.

But for Zobrist, the utility player hired fresh off his World Series victory last year with the Kansas City Royals, it isn’t all about the win. It isn’t even all about the game.

“Ben gets it,” says his pastor of 10 years, Byron Yawn. He leads Community Bible Church in Nashville. 

“He understands redemption and has a great grasp on what’s important in life. His greatest joys are at home with his family or in the church in the purposes of God. He finds great satisfaction in what he does, but when he leaves baseball, he’s going to endeavor to use whatever celebrity that remains to place himself on a different mission field with the same agenda. It’s hard to overstate or make it clear—he really is the real deal.”

Zobrist’s dad is a pastor, and he’s been a believer since childhood. When he points to the sky while crossing the plate, there’s no doubt “he means it,” Yawn says. “There’s a lot of sincerity there.”

You can read the rest.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Witnessing in the Future

I recently had a lively conversation with a woman next to me on a flight. “Listen,” she said, “if I want to be a man on Monday and a woman on Wednesday—who cares? Gender identity is simply a matter of personal preference.”
She said she believes in the essential goodness of human nature, so I asked how she’d describe the state of the world: “The world is clearly falling apart. It’s a mess!” 
“But how is that possible if the world is filled with good people?” I asked.
She paused and then offered a uniquely American analysis: “I believe our problem stems from two sources. People either have addiction issues and need a recovery program, or they are psychologically wounded and need therapy. Don’t you agree?”
I replied, “Both of those solutions help people. But what if after recovery we discover our problem is deeper still? What if our ultimate addiction is to ourselves? What if, at the core, it’s a problem of the heart?” She then asked, “Yes, but who in the world has the power to heal the heart?”
I said, “Honestly, I can’t think of anyone or anything but God.”
How do we winsomely and effectively communicate that “Jesus is Lord” to people who believe preference trumps all? This woman’s comments reveal the witnessing challenge we face in today’s culture: The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most glorious news for our weary and worn planet. Yet so many Christians find it difficult and feel it’s impossible—or not a priority—to share the good news with people whose views differ radically from ours.
You can read the rest.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (10/21/16)

I really have to wonder about the purpose of this particular sign's placement.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Observant Jew Writes About the Berenstain Bears

As an observant Jew, I may not have particularly wanted to read to my son about attending Sunday school, but there was hardly anything to take offense at in the new Berenstain Bears adventures. Still, to be perfectly honest, its Bible-quoting characters unwound some of the lingering sentiment I’d felt for the Berenstain Bears, who appeared to me to have abandoned their universalist appeal. Their stories were no longer about milestones and stumbling blocks in every young child’s life but took a more narrowly targeted approach that left some out even as it pulled others in.

Even knowing Mike Berenstain’s reasoning — his faith, finding a bigger audience — it was hard not to see the Bears’ conversion as another means of escape from the changing world they had always sought to escape. In the 1960s, Bear Country was a refuge from tumult; basically, it was the suburbs. Now religion was the refuge, a cloak for the bears’ deliberate and unfashionable fustiness. But was there any need for such a justification?

Ultimately, bedtime stories serve twin purposes. To children, they’re entertainment; to parents, a soporific. “Show Some Respect” stayed in regular bedtime-reading rotation in our household, my discomfort with its Christian themes outweighed by its uncanny ability to speed the progress from bath to bed to blissful (parental) immersion in “Catastrophe.” My son, though, could not have cared less that the Berenstain Bears were quoting from the Bible, any more than he would have noticed references to the Quran or “The Communist Manifesto.” He was just glad that the Bears had found a place to have their picnic — and that they always would.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jesus Loves Rich People

Moving day would be the first glimpse that either of our daughters would have of our new home. When we arrived, our justice-driven, sensitive-to-global-poverty daughter exclaimed that the house was too much. Way too big. Enough room to fit four families comfortably. Why do we have so much space? This standard of living seems wrong. Although we didn’t say it out loud, in some ways Patti and I felt the same.
Two ironies soon emerged from this moment. The first is that our 3,650-square-foot house ended up costing us about half of what the 850-square-foot New York apartment did. Second, within weeks, we all noticed our big house was starting to feel small relative to some other homes we’d visited.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Some Surprising History of Christians in Politics

This isn't a partisan post, but a potentially surprising history lesson. Contrary to over-simplifying and divisive caricatures that are perpetuated today, here's an interesting but largely unknown fact. 

The "Christian Left" is a lot older than the "Christian Right," and they both make the same mistake of overemphasizing "this-worldly" concerns.

Whether it’s conservative politics or liberal politics, such this-worldly concerns can easily supplant the transcendent message that a church has to offer.

You can read the rest. Thoughts?

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Neighbor Ate My Dog

I’m not a sentimental person. I’ve felt a little perplexed when I’ve seen people mourn the loss of a pet. In my 33 years, I’ve had many pets: some I’ve given away, some have run away, and a few have died. Just since our family has been here in Cameroon, we’ve lost three adult cats, three kittens, a Western Tree Hyrax, and most recently a tortoise named Jack. I was sad to see them go, especially the ones that died. Sad because I knew this is the effect of sin in our world. Sad because I knew my wife would miss them. But as sad as I was, their death didn’t affect my life too much.
Until a Bakoum man came to my door.
You can read the rest.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (10/14/16)

That just HAS to be his last name . . .

What's next? We're going to a pastry fundraiser led by a Pastor Baker?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How Someone Found Freedom from Gender Confusion

Disclaimer: The link below leads to a story that is one of many stories of lives changed by Christ. The specific logistics of the change (e.g. the thought process) and the details of this man's lifestyle should not be used to make any type of unhelpful generalizations. The main point of the story is that Jesus Christ changes lives for the better. 
To mark the release of Transgender by Vaughan Roberts, one crossdresser shares his story of how meeting Jesus Christ changed everything. The author has chosen to remain anonymous.
I think I always had the desire to cross-dress. Some of my very earliest memories are of a dress-up box that my brother and I played with. It was probably filled with pirate outfits and funny hats, but there were also a couple of old dresses. I only dimly remember wearing them, but I more clearly remember the disappointment of finding that they’d been removed one day—presumably by my concerned parents.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Three Kinds of People Jesus Loves

I like to love people who are easy to love. I prefer to show love in ways where I can control what others think about me. Sometimes I wish to “tell it like it is” in the name of love, when really I’m being hurtful and unwise.

Jesus, however, blows all of these desires out of the water. He sinks them to the bottom of the ocean and leaves me with no hope that they will ever be salvaged. And that’s a good thing. As I watch Jesus on the last night of his life, I see him do the exact opposite of my natural desires: I see him love those who are not easy to love.

Jesus isn’t surrounded by a comforting and supportive gang right before he dies. His crew is infiltrated with personal agendas and self-centeredness. Yet he doesn’t address the obvious sin issues in the room. I can only imagine how I would have handled the disciples. My mouth would have laid it all out to show myself in the right, and them in the wrong.

John 13:1 makes it clear that at the forefront of Jesus’ mind is loving these men to the end. Jesus chose the opposite of controlling the situation for his own good; he leads his disciples with a love that doesn’t protect himself from shame, powerlessness, or hurt. Jesus loves lowly, through humiliating service. The God-Man washes the feet of the infuriating disciples in a loin cloth, like the most unworthy of slaves.

Jesus loves the deceitful.

Jesus loves the arrogant.

Jesus loves the overbearing.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Time Was Invented By Clocks

But wait a minute, you say, clocks didn’t create time, clock just keeps track of time, right? No. This is oversimplifying here, but before the clock we didn’t have what we think of today as time, instead we had something different.

Before there was time, we had seasons.

In the ancient world they used the term kairos to refer to those moments when something special happened. When the Bible talks about time, this is the the word that is used. Much of the time this word is translated in your English Bible as seasons, but it just means when something important happens at just the right time.

Because in that world, Life was based on the actual world we inhabited, harvest times and winter months and festivals. This is what Mumford means when he says that the invention of the clock disassociated time from “human events.”

Now time was something that stood on it’s own and could be segmented away from the relationships we had with the Created world and the people around us. Now time could become a commodity, measured in the smallest of slices and something you felt like you never had enough of.

Time is money, time is running out, there’s never enough time.

This is a new problem, and it’s one I think the Christian story is uniquely capable of speaking into.

You can read the rest.

Monday, October 10, 2016

How to Restore Civility in the Public Square


It could be argued that America has never really been a genuinely pluralistic, perspective-diverse, free society. We have never been a place where people who deeply differ, whose views offend and outrage one another, nonetheless treat each other with respect and hear each other out.. Those who have held the reins of cultural power—its greatest academic centers, its most powerful corporations, the media—have often excluded unpopular voices and minority views that fell on the wrong side of the public morality of the day. In the 1980s and 90s, many white evangelical Christians wanted to occupy those places of power, and showed little concern at the time to create a society that respected communities with sharply differing moral visions.

You can read the rest.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (10/7/16)

Ain't that the truth?!

Remember to change your church signs when necessary . . .

Have a great weekend! And go Cubs!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

What Jesus Do You Want?

When Pilate gave the crowd the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, they chose to free Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Why? Why would they choose to have a murderer and thief freed and the one who claimed to be the Son of God crucified? The answer is as simple as it is haunting—they chose the Jesus that met their strongest felt need.
Ironically, we learn in Matthew 27:17 (in the Greek New Testament as well as the NRSV) that Barabbas’ first name was actually Jesus. So very literally, Pilate gave the choice between which Jesus they wanted. In that moment, as they were stirred by the religious leaders, they chose the murderer over the messiah.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Recent Survey on God in America

Ligonier Ministries teamed up with LifeWay Research, the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, for The State of American Theology Study 2016, a poll which gets at the theological beliefs of Americans.
The poll asked numerous questions on six key doctrinal areas: God, goodness and sin, salvation and religious texts, Heaven and Hell, the church, and authority. The project was designed, notes the authors, with a large sample to allow for comparisons between groups within Christian churches and those outside the Christian faith.
You can read the results.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Take Hope and Do Something

The Great Depression could be greatly depressing or so my grandparents told me. One grandfather would still choke up a bit when he talked about finally finding a job (parking cars) for “wages.” When government relief (as it was called) came to West Virginia, my Nana knew a person who just went to bed and let the drapes rot in the windows.
Yet all four grandparents kept doing things and on the whole looked back on those years fondly. They were young, so were their kids, and they put down the foundations for happiness. They refused to get depressed and did something from building a church to having kids. If Papaw Earl and Nana built a house only to lose it to crooked shenanigans, he moved on. When Granny and Papaw Reynolds faced health problems in the family, they did what had to be done and moved on.
You can read the rest.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Three Mistakes We Can Make When Helping the Hurting

HT: Dave Furman of Redeemer Church of Dubai
No one wants to be like Job’s friends. We have hurting people in our lives, and we want to help them, but how do we manage to not make fools of ourselves? And how can we actually help hurting people without discouraging them even more?
Just like Job’s friends, we may think we have the right approach and goal in caring for our friend who lost his job, or for our sick elderly mother, or for our friends struggling through miscarriage. I’ve experienced many well-meaning individuals with good intentions who, at the end of the day, only exacerbated my hurt (I have a nerve disorder in my arms). And these experiences don’t make me immune to doing or saying the wrong thing—sometimes I’ve thought I was doing good when I was actually causing more pain. We need God’s help to care for our distressed friends.
Here are three mistakes we tend to make when we’re genuinely trying to help the hurting, and some suggestions for how to redirect our efforts.