Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Social Media Lenten Observance

This is really clever.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent, a time for reflection and devotion. Christ Lutheran Church (LCMS) of Topeka, KS, has devised an ingenious online, social media observance, built around specific words for each day of Lent. The idea is to post a picture that captures each word, posting it on FaceBook, tagged with @christlcms, or Instagram, tagged with @christ_lutheran_topeka, and the hashtag #hearingthegospel.  Then people can contemplate all of the pictures that have contributed.

You can read the rest.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How Not To Spread Lies On Social Media

With the advent of social media and its collision with an incredibly acrimonious election season, it’s a fight to distinguish truth from slander on Facebook, Twitter, and online news sources. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who sends you online articles disparaging a particular politician or public figure. Maybe you follow folks on Twitter who retweet inflammatory messages. A man was arrested at a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., that one of my family members regularly visits, all because he believed incendiary messages that alleged the pizzeria was a front for a political child sex ring.
Closer to home, I too have friends and loved ones who share with me unsettling rumors from both sides of the political aisle. I’m regularly tempted on social media to believe things that sound true, especially if they fit my political preferences. Thankfully, despite the contrast between our modern age of social media and the flow of information during biblical times, we’re not left as orphans without instructions for separating facts from gossip. 
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (2/24/17)

Now this is truly a church that welcomes all.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

Kingdom Covenant Church

Last year in Chicago, hundreds of young black men took out their guns and shot each other.

The city saw 762 murders, more than New York City (334) and Los Angeles (294) combined, and far higher than its 2015 tally of 485. Much of the violence was driven by gang activity on the South and West sides of the city; three-quarters of the perpetrators—and victims—were young black men.

Some speculate the rising violence was caused in part by a police force weakened after a video of a white police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. In August, arrests were down by a third and stops were down by 80 percent from 2015, 60 Minutes reported.

Others point to longer-range reasons, including the unintended consequences of tearing down high-rise projects around 2011, which dispersed the gangs that gathered there. Even moving imprisoned gang leaders to out-of-state correctional institutions—a decision meant to cut off their communication with the street—backfired when street leadership became “chaotic and out of control.”

But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city.

One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Syrian Family That Found A Way Out

You might remember the story.  I told it just a few months ago, when I thought the world had peaked in it’s insanity. I was wrong.
The story was about a Syrian family that I met. They were pushed out of their ancestral home by war and violence. If you don’t remember Albert Sayegh specifically, you might remember the smiling son – Jack.
Finally, this is one Middle East refugee story with a happy ending.
When I met Albert in Jordan 18 months ago, he was pensive and struggling to make sense of it all.  He was just few months removed from leaving his career as a mechanical engineer, his shop and his home.  Aleppo, Syria was his home – his family’s heritage. But it had fallen to terrorism, war and strife.
There were no real prospects as a Christian refugee family. In Jordan he wasn’t allowed to work and he was living off their meager savings and the charity of loving family and friends. Europe and the United States had shut the door to Syrian refugees out of fear of ISIS cells. He was stuck.
“I had a good job as a mechanical engineer. I had my own shop with $50,000 in inventory,” he told me with wistful, look-away eyes. “Then they just took it.”
“More than 75 percent of my neighbors were Christians, but the terrorists came through and identified each of us by our faith. After that, we were targets,” he said.
The snipers would train their rifles on their street facing windows, so they couldn’t go near the front of the house.
“Two or three times a week, bombs would drop in our neighborhood,” he said, almost matter of factly.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Do We Really Have To Politicize Everything?

A couple weeks ago, I nearly tore my hair out when the news broke that Chili’s had an affiliate who wanted to help diners donate a portion of their meal’s proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Chili’s is where my family eats most often. (Yes, Chili’s — to the jeering of my foodie friends who like to mock!) Thankfully, within just a day or two, Chili’s issued a statement to assure their patrons that the restaurant was not supporting Planned Parenthood and that donations to the abortion giant would not be taking place.
But the news made me tired. For a moment, I thought, Will I no longer be able to enjoy a meal on Sunday afternoon with my family at Chili’s without thinking of the politics of abortion?
These days, the political realm has begun to infringe upon every other aspect of our common life together: sports, religion, retail, and art. We should resist this development, because this infringement flattens our ability to love our neighbors.
You can read the rest.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The True Meaning of Presidents Day

Happy Presidents’ Day.  What are we really celebrating today?
Originally, it was George Washington’s Birthday, honoring the Father of Our Country.  Then Abraham Lincoln, another great American, was thrown in.
Once the holiday was moved to Monday, to give federal workers a three-day weekend, Presidents’ Day became completely unmoored from the date of Washington’s birthday.  Now we use the day to celebrate ALL presidents.
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Embryo Adoption

A hallmark of the evangelical church in America is the backing of a pro-life worldview. As such, abortion clinics and the politics that govern them are primary areas of focus in this important cause. However, there’s another front that often gets overlooked in the fight for life: the state of the thousands of children who remain cryogenically frozen as human embryos following in-vitro fertilization cycles.
A growing Christian response to this issue is the life-affirming answer of embryo adoption.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Facebook's Workplace Secret: Trust

In a competitive world, keeping information close to the vest is viewed as a business imperative. Products, strategies and tactics fall under the tent of “Intellectual Property” and are closeted until just the right time.
For example, Apple is famous for secrecy. Prototypes, plans and ideas are carefully stove-piped so no one working on them has the whole picture until the product is ready for launch.
The recipes for Coca-Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies are carefully vaulted, ensuring a marketplace advantage.
There are good reasons – some of them are legal – to keep certain things under wraps. But too many workplaces are cloaked in secrecy over every detail, with all the knowledge and power held by a few.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The 5 Weightiest Words of Love

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.
“Till death do we part.”
We’re so familiar with the phrase that we forget how strange it sounds. What the man and woman are saying is: One of us will stand at the grave of the other. In other words: I’m with you until your last breath or you’re with me until mine, whichever comes first.
In the middle of this picturesque celebration of two becoming one, death suddenly crowds into the frame. Rightly understood, marriage is about both life and death. The wedding day is inextricably tied to the funeral service.
But those five weighty words—until death do we part—are losing their gravity these days.
You can read the rest.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Is Cedar Rapids, IA So Godless?

A curious study of where I lived for six of my formative years.

Iowa defines the American heartland, with its staunch Midwestern values and rural American virtues.  Though its prairie populism sometimes elects Democrats, today its elected officials are most Republican.  The candidate favored by Christian conservatives usually wins the Iowa caucuses.
A recent study ranked Iowa as the 19th most religious state in the union.  Except for one mysterious outlier:  Cedar Rapids.
The second largest city in the state, with a population of only 130,000, is an island of secularism in an ocean of religion.  By virtually ever standard–Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance–Cedar Rapids scores closer to the big coastal cities than any of its midwestern neighbors.  Nearly half (47%) of its adults are “nones,” holding to no particular religion at all.  That’s the same percentage as Los Angeles county.
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (2/10/17)

This is an unfortunate pairing of signs.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

When Mockers Marvel

Can you believe she laughed?
She was pushing 100 years old and God made a specific promise to her. He told Sarah that within a year she was going to be a mom—even though she was barren and well beyond the normal age for motherhood. Upon hearing this, she laughed. Then after being confronted by God about her response she denied it; but God persisted, “No, but you did laugh.”
God made a great promise but Sarah couldn’t believe it. She laughed in the face of such an unbelievable promise.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Star Wars IV And Mentorship

God help us, but if you aren’t ready for Obi-Wan when he comes, then you will never find a mentor. Star Wars is a movie and one not so tiny moment of unreality  is when Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi and immediately is ready to be mentored.
The speeder driving, womp rat killing Luke Skywalker had not done anything to be ready to learn. He was undisciplined and unfocussed. He wasn’t brave enough to defy his Uncle and go to the Academy or loving enough to be patient knowing he would get there eventually.
Why would he be ready for the chance of a lifetime from an old man stuck in the desert?
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Church And Immigration In The 19th Century

Some things change, but a lot of things stay the same. Chicago gets a lot of mentions in this article.

The early weeks of the Trump presidency have been dominated by discussions of the ethics and propriety of his immigration policies. But Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries faced a flood of immigration that makes today’s issues look modest in comparison. Between 1877 and 1890 alone, a total of 6.3 million new arrivals entered the United States. Even more would arrive before the coming of World War I. The total American population in 1900 was a little more than 72 million, so the new immigrants were visibly and suddenly changing the American landscape.
The influx particularly shifted the demographics of American cities. By 1890, some 15 percent of the national population had not been born in the United States. Cities like Chicago and New York were utterly transformed. By 1900, four-fifths of those cities’ populations were foreign born, or at least had parents who were not born in the United States. Many of the newcomers were Catholic or Jewish, and were coming from previously uncommon places of origin in southern and eastern Europe. (America also stood on the cusp of the first great wave of immigration from Mexico, which saw hundreds of thousands flee north during the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s.)
You can read the rest.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread – often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes.
Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and they enjoy great success in doing so. They might be acknowledged missionaries, consciously pursuing evangelization, or else they are refugees and utopians seeking better conditions in which to pursue their faith. Think of the Puritans and their “New England.” In many instances, though, religions spread by non-intentional means, and these can be quite as successful as deliberate mission. Religions or denominations are carried along with larger migration movements. In other less studied cases, the people carrying religious traditions actually do so quite reluctantly, because they have no wish whatever to be in the countries in which they find themselves.
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (2/3/17)

Bad, very bad word placement.

Have a good Super Bowl weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Does God Care About The Super Bowl? Interesting Stats.

HT: Kimberly Winston

Does God have his eye on the gridiron? Will he cheer for either the Atlanta Falcons or the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5?
One-quarter (25 percent) of all Americans believe he does and he will, according to a new survey released today (Jan. 30) by the Public Religion Research Institute.
That’s slightly less than the number — 28 percent — who believe the Almighty had “a major role” in placing Donald Trump in the White House, the same study shows. Another 13 percent say God played a “minor role” — a backup quarterback, if you will — in the results of the 2016 presidential election.
You can read the rest.
Brings in some deep theological questions about God's involvement, but we ought to understand the difference between His will of decree and His will of desire.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Five Ways To Engage With News Media

HT: Paul Conner

Of all things to read, why read the news?
C. S. Lewis asked this question in both An Experiment in Criticism and Surprised by Joy. He described the person who reads only the news as “the most unliterary reader of all,” one step below the reader of the “lowest kinds of fiction.” As for news writers, Lewis deemed them unreliable because they tend to focus on stories of “vulgarity and sensationalism,” and rarely put facts in their proper context.
Lewis is onto something here. As a journalist, I hope you don’t cut the news entirely out of your reading diet. But Lewis’s words point to the fact that it’s wise for us to consider how we read the news.
Here are five biblically based principles for Christians to keep in mind when engaging with the media.