Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Sometimes I learn a lot from conversations I was never intended to hear.

This happened once as I was stopping by my local community bookstore. It’s a small, quiet store, so it was impossible not to eavesdrop as I heard a young man tell his friend how much he hated Christmas. To be honest, the more he talked, the more I understood his point. This man wasn’t talking about the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or about the stresses of family meals or all the things people tend to complain about. What he hated was the music.

This guy started by lampooning one pop singer’s Christmas album, and I found myself smiling in agreement on how awful it is. But then he went on to say that he hated Christmas music across the board. That’s when I started to feel as though I might be in the presence of the Grinch. But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Truth or Post-Truth?

Anyone who spends time in the world of teenagers and student ministry knows that their “language” changes over time. Words and phrases come in and out of vogue. New phrases get coined and then quickly fall out of favor. (Can I get an amen from anyone who said a word only to find out it “was so last year?”) For example, will we still be calling things “dumpsterfires” in 2020?

Another term that has popped onto the radar recently is “post-truth.” You may have seen the news that Oxford Dictionaries announced “post-truth” as 2016’s Word of the Year. You may also be thinking – what the heck does this word even mean? And while your own kids or students may not be using it, you might want to. “Post” doesn’t mean like the fence, or the old basketball position – it means “after,” like “after the truth mattered or was relevant.”

As Oxford defined it, “post-truth” means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, whether we think or feel or want something to be “true” now matters more than whether it is true … in objective reality. You can easily relate it to the fake news phenomenon, or wishful thinking, or the echo chambers we gravitate toward online.

You can read the rest.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Some History of Advent

The earliest dating of Advent is impossible to determine. The start of Easter in Christian history is far more obviously tied to Passover (albeit with different methods for dating), and Christmas came to be associated with the birth of Christ as a result of it falling during the December Solstice, the darkest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. The coming of the Light of the World made a lot of sense in so much darkness. Within a few centuries of church history, both Easter and Christmas took on special meaning due to their use in commemorating the life of Jesus.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Not All Turkey and Football

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony weren’t the first Europeans to settle in North America, nor were they the first permanent English colonists. But because of our annual celebration of Thanksgiving, and our hazy images of their 1621 meal with Native Americans, the Pilgrims have become the emblematic colonists in America’s national memory. Although modern Thanksgiving has become largely non-religious — focused more on food, family, and football than explicitly thanking God — the Pilgrims’ experience reveals a compelling religious aspect of our country’s roots.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Case for Christian Magnanimity

In case you hadn’t heard, Mike Pence went to see Hamilton last week, and it turns out that the people who star in Hamilton and buy tickets for Hamilton are not a natural constituency for Donald Trump. What this says about Broadway and Main Street, or Red States and Blue States I’ll leave for others to dissect. And whether lecturing the Vice President-Elect was an act of courageous resistance or blinkered rudeness is not what this post is about.
Instead, I want to talk about an old fashioned word: magnanimity.
What is magnanimity? Merriam-Webster defines it as “loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity.”
You can read the rest.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Love Your Enemies: Thanksgiving for "Those People"

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will become children of your Father in heaven, because he makes his sun rise on both evil and good people, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your relatives, that’s no great thing you’re doing, is it? Even the unbelievers do the same, don’t they? So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

This saying is hard enough that we tend to leave “love” as a gaseous feeling of not-hating when it comes to our enemies. When I see bad people around the world, I studiously avoid hating them. This is not loving them, but it is good enough, I hope.

But it is not nearly good enough, because loving is more than not hating.

You can read the rest.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Two Reminders About Prayer From The Church In South Korea

Earlier this week, I posted a few pictures from our trip to South Korea, where we launched The Gospel Project in Korean. As I’ve been processing the events during our brief sojourn in this beautiful land, I’ve kept returning to a couple of Korean prayer practices that challenge me.
Here are two areas in which the Korean church has something to teach us in the West.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

When Churches Fail

In Eastcheap, near Fenchurch St. in London, stands the medieval church of St. Margaret Pattens. Founded in 1067 and rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666, it slowly lost its congregation. It was closed as a parish church in 1952—more than 900 years after opening its doors. St. Margaret Pattens still offers some weekday services to those working around its urban location. It also remains open to passerbys like me, interested in canopied pews and an 18th-century organ.  It is a peaceful space: quiet, beautiful, calm. It is also is an empty space.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

No, the Majority of Evangelicals Did Not Vote For Trump

HT: Joe Carter

How did American evangelicals vote in the 2016 election?
Based on polling data and news sources, you might be under the impression that an overwhelming number of evangelicals—more than 80 percent—voted for Donald Trump. But this isn’t quite accurate. There isn’t any way to truly know what percentage of evangelicals voted for our president-elect. But using a more nuanced analysis we can reasonably estimate that somewhere between 35 percent and 45 percent of all evangelicals in America voted for Trump.
Why are the media reports so off the mark? Here are four reasons.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Questions to Ask in Conflict

HT: Caitlin Williams

1. Is this truly conflict or an issue of conscience?

2. Could this be resolved if my pride was not involved?

3. Am I pursuing restoration or justification?

You can read the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Church Sign of the Week (11/11/16)

Sometimes just one letter can change so much.

Have a good Veterans Day!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

True Leadership is Sacrifice, Not Privilege

It is one of the filthiest lies Satan whispers in the ear of our comfortable and entitled generation.
From before we can even remember, we have been indoctrinated, at nearly every turn, with the idea that being “a leader” means getting the gold star. Leadership is a form of recognition, a kind of accomplishment, the path to privilege. Being declared a leader is like winning an award or being identified among the gifted.
Leadership is a form of success. And since you can do whatever you dream, and can achieve whatever you set your mind to, you too can be a leader — at home, at work, in the community, in the church. Why would you settle for anything less? Leadership means privilege, and no generation has considered itself more entitled to privilege than ours.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Election Is Over, Church. Now What?

So Donald Trump won. (I can’t believe I just typed that.) Maybe you voted one way. Maybe the other. What now, Christian?
To you who voted Republican, I would say, make good on your commitment to life. Fight for the unborn. Fight for the minority. Fight for all who are oppressed and abused. Fight for whatever is true, right, and admirable.
To you who voted Democratic or third party, your fear is understandable. No one but God knows what the next four years hold. While believers trust that authorities have been instituted by God, we must hold those authorities accountable to do justice for all. Remember your Christian brothers and sisters around the world, under better and worse administrations, and know that God is on his throne no less today than yesterday for them or for you.
One thing, I think, is probably clear to everyone after yesterday’s unexpected results: America is a divided country. Even more regrettably, some of that division characterizes our churches. Do you understand why some of your fellow saints are feeling numb right now? I pray so.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Lord's (Election Day) Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven
Father, it’s good to remember this day where you dwell.  Heaven is your throne and the earth is your footstool.  You reign over all. You are mighty, sovereign, and just. And, you are loving, kind, and good. You are our gracious Father and we can come to you with all our earthly requests.

Hallowed be thy name
Whatever happens today, may your name be declared holy. May you be glorified and honored. May your people honor you with their hearts, words, and actions this day whether they speak in the public sphere or in the privacy of their own homes.

Thy kingdom come
Overwhelm our hearts with a greater desire for the advancement of your kingdom. Help us to not place our trust in earthly governments or political powers, but to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

You can read the rest.

Monday, November 7, 2016

C.S. Lewis and Election 2016

In C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, the demon Screwtape advises his protege and nephew Wormwood to convince his human target that politics are a key part of his faith. “Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part,” Screwtape said. That way, faith would become a mere pretext for politics.

You can read the rest.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Two Articles on How the Cubs' Win Gave Us Hope

Photo from
Neither of them are from Chicagoans.

One from a famous sportswriter.

Another from someone in ministry in Tennessee.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubs Win the World Series!

Ben Zobrist is a kid from Eureka, IL who, already a World Series Champion with the Kansas City Royals, joined the Cubs and batted in the Game-7-winning hit, clinching the World Series and breaking the curse for the Chicago Cubs last night. He also was awarded (again) the World Series MVP award and given a Chevy Camaro.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Increasing Difficulty of Clarity on Same-Sex Relationships

My intention is to stand up for the increasing middle ground and advocate that a loving, grace-filled, and gospel posture toward the LGBT community, while sincerely holding to historic and traditional ethics on sexuality and gender is possible. In fact, I am convinced it is the right space to be. I categorically reject the idea that non-affirming theology in and of itself fuels violence or harm to LGBT people. In all the years I lived as a gay man, non-affirming theology was not the problem; it was a Christian community that thought they had to keep me at arm’s length or away altogether because of their beliefs.

You can read the rest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Three Truths for Christians, No Matter How You Vote

HT: Trevin Wax

1. The church is a political people who bear witness to the rule of King Jesus.

2. The church strengthens what is good, challenges what is lacking, and denounces what is bad in our political parties.

3. The church speaks truth to power because we believe the final reckoning has begun in King Jesus and will be completed when he returns.

You can read the explanations.