Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What To Do When Incivility Grips A Civilization

More than a million women marched across the nation and world this weekend. They marched for issues like gender gaps in pay, abortion and gay rights. But call it what you want, these rallies were really just an opposition toward the election and now inauguration of Donald Trump.

That’s fine, when you have a nation that routinely votes about half and half, you’ll always have a side that stands in opposition. In a civilized world that values free speech this is a sign of a healthy society that allows dissension.

But I was shocked at the vulgarity and incivility that seemed to rule many of the speeches, signs and banners. I can’t even type some of the things I saw on TV and locally. They were crude, angry and disgusting. I don’t think I’m prudish, but to see such lewdness occur on a widespread basis was jarring.

Both sides are too blame. I saw much of the same during the last election cycle, as the high ground crumbled into the ground.

And here’s the rub. Our current President has only continued the volley with his own language, actions and crude behavior. So the opposition feels justified acting in kind.

Impropriety begets more impropriety. I don’t agree with it, but I get it from a human perspective.

You can read the rest.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How To Respond To The Refugee Crisis

The scope of today’s refugee crisis is truly unprecedented, affecting nearly 60 million people. Never before have so many been displaced, put in danger, and forced from their homes. In Syria alone, more than half of 22 million people have either been displaced or killed. More than 4 million have fled to neighboring countries. I share these numbers to remind us of the sheer enormity of this crisis.
Much of our response to the refugee crisis seems to come from a foundation of fear, not faith. Much of it seems to flow from a view of the world that is far more American than biblical, far more concerned with the preservation of our country than the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
You can read the rest.
Some tools for how you can help are available at wewelcomerefugees.com.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (1/27/17)

One of the most theologically compatible puns yet!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Are Christians Arrogant?

One of the most common objections made to the absolute claims of Christianity is that Christians are arrogant.  Christians are arrogant to claim that they are right; arrogant to claim others are wrong; arrogant to claim that truth can be known.
Unfortunately, in the midst of such accusations, no one bothers to ask which definition of humility is being used.
Over the years, the definition of humility has undergone a gradual but nonetheless profound change.  Especially in the intellectual community.  In the modern day, humility has basically become synonymous with another word: uncertainty.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Abortion Guilt

Tears filled her eyes as she told me her story: an older boyfriend, pressure to have sex, pregnant at fourteen, and an abortion to cover the shame. Even though she’d been raised in a Christian family, the weight of guilt that followed these early choices led to years of wandering.
She questioned, “Is there grace enough for me?”
The tide of abortion’s guilt rises high, threating to engulf a woman’s entire life with shame, regret, and feelings of unworthiness. Statistics report nearly three in ten women will have an abortion. These numbers speak to the reality that our churches are filled with women who have had abortions (and men who have encouraged abortions).
Maybe this is your story. And perhaps you wonder, “Is there grace enough for me?”
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sea World, Like Christianity, Is A Victim Of Its Own Success

What can the slow-motion death of Sea World teach us about the state of our culture? A lot, if you have an eye for key similarities. Let me tell you a whale of a tale.
The recent death of Tilikum the orca, the subject of the flashpoint documentary “Blackfish,” has the online animal rights community in a frenzy. Over at Salon, former trainer and “Blackfish” interviewee John Hargrove calls the bull killer whale’s death another “cry for help” from captive members of its species, which the producers of “Blackfish” and other activists insist are incompatible with captivity. The piece is as schmaltzy as it is devoid of substance, with laments for Tilikum’s separation from his “family” at age two, his “sterile confinement,” and the “suffering” he endured (as if wild orcas live carefree lives). Hargrove offers every anthropomorphism we’ve grown accustomed to, without giving any indication that he ever personally worked with Tilikum (I could find no evidence that he had).
You can read the rest.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Idol of No Pain

When I was eighteen and in the hospital with a serious bone infection, the doctor told me “the pain you’ve experienced is on par with the pain of giving birth.” I remembering feeling kind of proud of that. Brave. I felt a similar rush of bravery this past year, having survived the trauma of heartbreak. But in the past few months, that bravery has thawed and melted away. I see the potential for pain everywhere.
Of all the idols that have sprung up in my life since my divorce, one of the hardest to exterminate is the idol of no-pain. Because I now know the excruciating suffering the Christian life can hold, I sometimes fear the future. And when I do, I let that fear confuse my theology, viewing blessings as false-security, and good days as a tease. I dwell on future pain instead of present hope and brace myself for the next storm.
You can read the rest.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Theology Can Blind You to God

Jesus had enemies. As soon as he’s declared Son of God in the Gospel of Mark, he’s driven into the wilderness to face Satan, his first and greatest adversary (Mark 1:12).
Satan lurks behind all opposition to Jesus, and his demons show up repeatedly to entice and corrupt, but surprisingly, his henchmen are more often theologians than demons. Satan is mentioned only five times in Mark, and demons only thirteen times. But the scribes and Pharisees are mentioned 29 times, and in 27 of those verses, they are wielding their knowledge of the Scriptures in opposition to the Christ.
When Jesus told his disciples how he would die, he didn’t blame the evil ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), but the rulers of his own chosen people,
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” (Mark 10:33–34; also Mark 8:31)
It wasn’t the tax collectors plotting to put an end to Jesus (Mark 14:1). It wasn’t the drunks or the thieves shouting, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:11). It wasn’t the sexually immoral who executed him. It was the morally respectable and theologically refined who murdered the Author of life (Acts 3:13–15).
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nine Myths About Abortion Rights And Roe v. Wade

Very likely, abortion will always be a controversial topic in this country. Prudential half-way measures may be the best way forward in many circumstances. But with patient instruction, moral courage, generous hearts, care for women in crisis, and a little political resolve, the worst effects of Roe can be mitigated and the lives of many unborn Americans can be saved. Get informed and keep praying. The truth is a mighty ally.

You can read the rest, including links to the source material.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Upon the Death of a Grandson

It’s the natural order of things to attend the funerals of the generations before us: our grandparents, our parents, our uncles and our aunts. We come to expect that some of our own generation will die before us: our siblings and school friends, our colleagues and neighbours. We even discuss with our spouse which one of us will die first and what we will do without the love of our life.

But nothing prepares us for the death of our child; nothing prepares us to attend the funeral of our grandchild. That is not the natural order of things. That is not statistically normal in our modern society. That is not part of our plans or hopes; our aspirations or dreams. He was supposed to attend my funeral not me attend his. He was supposed to carry my coffin not me carry his.

You can read the rest.

Monday, January 16, 2017

How Martin Luther King Jr. Overcame "Christian" White Supremacy

One of my earliest memories is of a substitute Sunday school teacher chastening me for putting a coin in my mouth. “That’s filthy,” she said. “Why, you don’t know if a colored man might have held that.” It might just be my imagination playing tricks on me, but it seems as though she immediately followed this up with, “All right children, let’s sing ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World.’”

This lady probably didn’t consciously think of herself as a white supremacist. She almost certainly didn’t think of herself as subversive of the gospel itself. She never thought about the hypocrisy of holding the two contradictory worldviews together in her mind. She probably didn’t see how her dehumanizing of African Americans was a twisted form of Darwinism rather than biblical Christianity.

You can read the rest.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (1/13/17)

This is the church sign I mustard up to post this week. 

Didn't want to fall be-Heinz . . .

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No, I'm Not "Fine, Thanks"

HT: John Hindley

If you ask me at church over coffee how I am doing, I will probably tell you that I am “fine.”
If there is acute suffering, then I will tell you. If I have a toothache, I will tell you. If you had asked when my friend had just died, I would have told you I was not fine, and I would have told you why.
But otherwise… “I’m fine thanks”.
Except, what if I’m not? Nothing is “majorly wrong” but I’m just a bit, well… disappointed? How do I tell you that I am disappointed in my work, my family life, my church; in myself, and maybe even in God? You know the feeling. That creeping sense of dissatisfaction. A joyless weariness that colors each day. There are no words for it, no quick ones anyway. So, yeah, I’m fine.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

This is Our Time

HT: Trevin Wax

Our griping about the current moment gives voice to the resentment we feel because we are facing these challenges in these days. That complaint says to God: “You’ve put me in the wrong time and place. I don’t like the assignment you’ve given me.”

To which, I imagine, God says: My precious children, this is your time.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What If 2017 is Your Worst Year Ever?

A provocative and heartening piece.

When I was in middle and high school, CBS aired a show called Rescue 911 that dramatized the events surrounding actual 911 calls. While this never bothered me when I was younger, in adulthood I would see the show in syndication and started noticing that almost every reenactment began with the people walking through an ordinary day. They were going to work, school, or the store and then something terrible and life-altering happened to them.

There’s something about the beginning of a new year that makes us all unbridled optimists. We think the first day of 2018 will greet us with happier relationships, healthier bodies, and fatter bank accounts. We never enter a year thinking, “this could be the year that my life falls apart.” We don’t get a text message letting us know that some catastrophic event is going to hit us this year. The worst things that happen to seemingly come out of nowhere and often change our lives in a moment without warning.

You can read the rest.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How to Live in the Now

It is never just “now.”
Here we stand at the start of a new year: changed by the events of the previous year in ways we may never fully understand, and ready for the events in the coming year we cannot fully foresee.
But “now” is elusive. “This moment” is fleeting.
A year from now, we will most likely look back at January of this year and think, where has the time gone? We’ll chuckle at a few of this year’s memories, shudder at the tragedies, shake our heads at the surprises, and—hopefully—bend the knee in gratitude for the seconds, minutes, and hours God has granted.
Our “now” is next year’s “past” and last year’s “future.”
You can read the rest.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (1/6/17)

Keeping it simple and naming the church after the town it serves can actually be quite brave.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Simulated Relationships

Why do we often take celebrity deaths so hard?  According to Rev. Travis Berg, citing various experts, it’s because we form “simulated relationships.”  Our impulse to form friendships is displaced onto people we don’t really know, except from the characters they play or their personalities projected by the media.
In our high-tech, low-interaction culture, those kinds of “para-social relationships” are all some people have!  In contrast, God wants us to love actual people and to be part of actual communities in the family, church, and society.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Dangers of Expressive Individualism

As someone with a degree in a field that's all about individual expression and creativity, I can recommend this article. Without attempted holistic and objective education and experience, the "inner heart" is not the flourishing fountain of coded relative "life lessons" and individual creativity that many think it is. 

Kids today are growing up in a compulsively connected world. Information is incessant, smartphones are ubiquitous, and with a click or a tap young people have 24/7 access to a never-ending digital conversation.
Of course, such connectivity comes at a cost. Much of this information is pumped out by an agenda-driven media with a message of their own—a message that sounds good, nice even, but is inherently poisonous. It is becoming louder, stronger, and constant. And young people are drinking it in.
This is the message of expressive individualism—the belief, Tim Keller explains, that “identity comes through self-expression, through discovering one’s most authentic desires and being free to be one’s authentic self.”
This is the follow-your-heart, believe-in-yourself, chase-your-dreams, Disney-Hallmark-MTV gospel. It is the catechism of our culture. It is what our youth are learning. You are the creator of your identity. You are free—even obligated—to be whomever or whatever makes you feel good, no matter what anyone says.
You can read the rest.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Four Christian Principles for New Year's Resolutions

HT: Burk Parsons

Resolve sensibly.

Resolve dependently.

Resolve humbly.

Resolve for Christ's sake.

You can read the explanations.