1. Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith: David French on the rise of "The demise of religion among American youth is greatly exaggerated. It turns out that America isn’t raising a new generation of unbelievers. Instead, rising in the heart of deep-blue America are the zealots of a new religious faith. They’re the intersectionals, they’re fully woke, and the heretics don’t stand a chance."
2. Why Mister Rogers Still Matters: If you're a New Lifer, you know Mister Rogers has a special place in my heart. Russell Moore agrees, "That’s the part of Fred Rogers’s work that is probably the easiest to misunderstand. One can listen to the songs he sang… “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive…” or “I like you just the way you are…” and assume that Rogers was a live-action version of a sappy self-esteem curriculum. Rogers, though, would talk to children about the darkest topics possible, addressing children’s fears directly, whether those fears were about being sucked down the drain in a bathtub or parents’ divorcing or the death of grandparents."
3. The Fundamentalism of Post-Evangelicalism: Rob Bell just released a new movie, 'The Heretic' which Owen Strachan explains that, "Bell actually operates and speaks as a “fundamentalist.” He does not exhibit an open mind toward conservative religious types; he censures them. He does not truly believe that everyone has an equal place in the Christian tradition; he believes that serious evangelicals are bad people. He does not show generosity in the film toward his disputants; over and over again, he drags them through the mud. He does not truly hold an open, flexible, free-thinking faith; he draws his own doctrinal lines precisely, and makes no bones about excluding conservatives... It’s the strangest thing: the heretic is actually the fundamentalist."
4. Retractable Fish Decal Now Available: It's funny because it's true: " 'Want to cut someone off, but worried you’ll be a bad witness? Now you can slap the red button on your dashboard and a small panel will rotate on your bumper, hiding the fish from view,' a company spokesperson said. 'Flip people off on the freeway, gun down the shoulder during a traffic jam, all without worrying about marring the good name of Christ.'"
5. Why You Can't Divide By Zero: I didn't expect this to be interesting. It drew me right in. Fascinating conundrum for a simple issue.
In the Song of Solomon 2:15, the bride pleads to her husband, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Little foxes cause big problems. Little sins, little heart issues can destroy marriages. Angel (whose words will be italicized) and I know that all too well.
The seeds of heart-issues of our childhood would, like foxes, cause big problems. For me, that seed was not understanding my identity as a child of God, but rather as a pastor.
For me, the seed was not understanding my identity as a child of God, but rather as a pastor’s wife.
These destructive seeds turned into seedlings in our seminary years. But it wasn’t until I took my first calling as a pastor that these seedlings quickly grew into saplings, and then destructive trees.
I still remember my first day at Westerly Road Church as a pastor. I was only 27, but for a young man who had felt called to vocational ministry at ten years old, it felt like I had been waiting a lifetime. Like a thoroughbred, I was released from the gate, and, with a kick of dirt, was off and running. In the weeks before I was hired the elders made a commitment to relocate the church to another property (where we would build a new church) and the responsibility of leading that charge was tasked to me. “Fun!” I thought (oh, the naïvete!). A few months after I began, our Care Pastor moved on to be a Senior Pastor. “No big deal,” I thought. His role wouldn’t be filled for several years.
Meanwhile, my ministry wheels were whirring…
1. What Works, and Doesn't Work in Raising Up Your Children in the Faith: Trevin Wax reflects on new Lifeway Research, "The biggest factor was Bible reading. Children who regularly read the Bible while they were growing up were more likely to have a vibrant spiritual life once they became adults... Two more factors follow close behind: prayer and service in church."
2. How Do You Talk to Your Child About Transgender Issues? Andrew Walker offers this practical and balanced guide. He concludes, "Don't run away from important questions about sexual and gender identity just because your pre-pubescent child, or pubescent teen, is asking hard and awkward questions... In the home, as much as in the church, we each bend toward harsh "truth" or untruthful "love"—and we need to be aware of this in our parenting...Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely."
3. Racism in America: What We Agree and Disagree On: Kevin DeYoung lays out eleven areas of agreement and disagreement. One of those areas is systemic injustice. He says, "We agree that sin is not just a matter of individual responsibility. It is possible for systems and structures to be unjust even when the people inhabiting those systems and structures may not have personal animus in their hearts. We do not agree on whether disparities themselves indicate systemic and structural injustice (see above). Likewise, we do not agree on the best remedies for institutional racism where it exists."
4. How Podcasting Hurts Preaching: Mercer Schuchardt's take here is bold and certainly could be called Luddite (and he's not even addressing newer technologies like live-streaming). I still think that it is worth us utilizing technologies as much as possible for the cause of the gospel, but his cautions ring very true. What do you think? He says, "Sermon podcasting reveals a utilitarian misunderstanding of how our messages create a sense of meaning. The sermon is not an interchangeable part that can be removed from the context of worship while still maintaining its power, its authority, and its efficacy. It retains at most one of these, diluting or eliminating the other two... For churchgoers to perceive value, churches have to maintain the scarcity of the once-a-week, in-real-life sermon experience. When pastors push their sermons far and wide via podcast, they unintentionally devalue the message they have worked hard to create and communicate. They remove the sermon from the time, context, and body of the liturgy where it belongs."
5. 12 Year Old Boy Solves 3 Rubik's Cubes While Juggling Them: This is delightfully absurd. In other news of the fantastic: I've been known to grind coffee while I make scrambled eggs.
There is a strange dissonance today. In a time where we embrace conversations about developing our leadership and influence, we are allergic to power. Andy Crouch wants us to have an honest conversation about power and recognize that it is a gift given by God and “rooted in creation… intimately tied to image bearing.”
The oft-quoted Lord Acton quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” shows our distrust of power (the fact that we usually drop the “tends to” in the quote shows our hand even more. We are cynical about power. But we typically define power too narrowly, in ways that exempts us from possessing it. But that is false.
What is power? “Power is simply (and not so simply) the ability to participate in that stuff-making sense-making process that is the most distinctive thing that human beings do.” We ought not flinch, then, from owning up to the fact that we all have power. In fact, if we did not have power, even our purest impulses for love and justice would be impotent (the word itself meaning “without power”).
And we serve a God who we worship, in part, because he is all-powerful. If God was not omnipotent, he would “not be a God worth worshiping,” unable to bring justice. The question, then, is how to we steward our God-reflecting power well? How are we leveraging our power for justice? How are we creating margins in our power in Sabbath? And how are we leaning into institutions which utilize power in holy ways and chasten our desire to play god?
If you want to see just how entrenched our political ideologies are to our identity, meander over to the reviews of JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy over at Goodreads. If you prefer to retain your sanity, stay with me here. Vance’s book was timely. Released in 2016, for many it became a window into understanding the Rust Belt that propelled Donald Trump to victory. Vance, while a Republican himself, doesn’t write the book as a defense of conservative Rust Belt politics (he’s quite critical at times) and certainly it is not written with Donald Trump in mind. And yet, in our politically overheated climate, this is certainly how many have read Vance’s book.
Vance’s book was about something much smaller and much bigger than explaining the 2016 election. He writes the book to provide a window into an area of the country that, while large, is largely anonymous to many Americans, myself included. “Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash,” Vance says, “I call them neighbors, friends and family.”
Vance, who hails from Middletown, Ohio, and has roots in Eastern Kentucky invites us into his Appalachian world. These are the descendants of the Scotch-Irish, who dug America’s coal, forged America’s steel and built America’s automobiles. They were faithful churchgoers and fiercely patriotic. But with the shuttering of coal mines and the decline of industrial America, it’s a people who have struggled to enter the 21st century and whose self-perception as hard working and devout Christians has been hollowed out. The data shows a people who are, despite how they project themselves, deeply reliant on government assistance, and AWOL from the church. As opportunity has vanished, so has church attendance and belief in the American Dream. It has been replaced by broken families, liquor, painkillers, and heroin.
What a unique (and desperately needed) book! In Washed and Waiting, Hill is earnest, honest, and incisive. The book is part autobiography, part practical theology, part self-help: and all of this in 150 pages.
Chapter 1 alone is worth the price of the book. After the Prelude, where Hill, sets up the book on an autobiographical level, he digs into the practical theology as it relates to homosexual practice. This book isn't the place to look for a robust defense of the orthodox theology on homosexual practice (which Hill holds to). There are plenty of other places to look for that (I would recommend Sam Alberry's Is God Anti-Gay? and Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?).
What Hill does do in this section is confront head-on what to do with the fact that for those with homosexual inclinations, if they are committed to following a biblical Christianity, there will always (on this side of eternity) be an unsatisfied longing. What do we make of this? How could God not want his children to be happy and to experience love?
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