This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Proof that the Sexual Revolution Got Sexual Satisfaction All Wrong: David French reflects on surprising findings: " In a time when our nation has erased sexual taboos, cast off moral restraints, and become “more tolerant of sex in just about every permutation,” young Americans are having less sex. And one of the prime reasons is the “decline in couplehood among young people.” Married people have more sex than single people, yet fewer people get married, and the people who do marry “have been marrying later.”"

2.        Ergonomics Expert Explains How to Set Up Your Desk: Three worthwhile minutes for anyone who works at a desk.

3.       Against Open Doors: This is the second article I've posted pushing back the interpretation of interpreting God's will by interpreting open doors. Aaron Denlinger reminds us that Paul and Silas once had a prison door open in front of them and instead of seeing it as God's miraculous hand in freeing them, they saw it as an opportunity to save the jailer. Maybe we need to reconsider how we interpret open doors in our lives.

4.       5 Reasons to Treasure the Trinity: Each of Jerod Gilcher's five reasons opens up the fresh beauty of our Triune God. The first is: " The eternal relationship of the Trinity informs us that God is the happiest, most joyful Person in the universe. God has been infinitely happy because, within the context of the Trinity, He has been eternally enjoying, loving, and rejoicing in Himself. The fountain of our joy as believers is the joy that has always abounded within the Trinity."

5.       The Literal Translation of Every Country's Name: This is pretty fun. I like "Red Like An Ember," "Land of Burnt Faces," "I Go to the Beach," and "In the Naval of the Moon." What are your favorites?

Why You’re the Best Church in the World (for me)!

Why You’re the Best Church in the World (for me)!

The uber-mega church Willow Creek Church is currently hiring for their senior pastor opening. Willow Creek doesn’t require much of an introduction. 24,000 people meet at seven campuses in the Chicagoland area. It launched the Global Leadership Summit, which drew 118,000 people last year.

Last year, Mariners church in Southern California searched for their new Senior Pastor. Every weekend 17,000 crowd into its lush campus that could easily be mistaken for a resort.

And (not that if they would!) if they called me, I wouldn’t even pick up. Seriously.

New Life, you’re the best church in the world for me.

Our minds and hearts naturally wander. We ponder whether there is something better out there. Ingratitude makes our hearts grumble. Ambition turns our eyes green. “If only…” we think.

When my heart turns inward, when I allow my sin to go unchecked, I go to this place too.

But here is the reality: God has called us to Tucson. He’s called us to New Life Bible Fellowship. He’s decided to use my gifts in and for New Life. He’s given me the privilege of shepherding his flock, of caring for his sheep.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       In Stores, Secret Surveillance Tracks Your Every Move: Well, this NY Times article by Michael Kwet certainly is disconcerting. He explains Bluetooth beacons, " ...are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis."

2.        Armchair Quarterbacks and Armchair Leaders: Eric Geiger reflects on a missed kick by Chicago's field goal kicker and the danger of Monday morning quarterbacking: " Whenever we evaluate a quarterback or a kicker, we typically evaluate them without understanding the whole context. For example, fans roasted Parkey before they discovered the kick was actually tipped off course by a defender. People often judge a leader’s decisions or actions without full understanding of the context surrounding those decisions. If the context were known, the armchair leader would likely make the same call."

3.       You've Heard of Cultural Marxism, Here is a Better Word to Call it: Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer with a dense, but thoughtful and helpful article on critical theory. They say that "critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their “lived experience” of oppression. Such insight is unavailable to members of oppressor groups, who are blinded by their privilege."

4.       Are you Quarrelsome? The platform of social media seems to have unleashed a wave of quarrelsome people. Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful markers for us to consider. The first is " 1. You defend every conviction with the same degree of intensity. There are no secondary or tertiary issues. Everything is primary. You’ve never met a hill you wouldn’t die on."

5.       Stop Changing Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles: Edmunds on why you should be changing your oil closer to 7,500 to 10,000 miles.

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

You have access to the best pastors in America.

You have at your fingertips access to a trove of virtually endless content by some of the wisest and most powerful thinkers and speakers on the planet. As soon as you finish this post you can have them piped into your office, car, or living room and be impacted by their words. And I hope you do!

What a ridiculous gift we have! If you were born five hundred and fifty years ago in Europe, in all likelihood not only could you not read the Bible, but it was likely that your parish priest didn’t own a whole copy of the Latin Bible and since he knew only a handful of Latin words, he couldn’t even read the Bible. Fast forward a few decades to the Reformation and now, for the first time, you would hear the Bible read in your own language and its words applied to your life.

Fast forward five centuries to today and not only do we (in the West) have unfettered access to the Bible, but we have almost limitless access to some of the very best Bible teaching. What a gift we have!

And yet, that begs a question: how is a normal pastor like myself supposed to compete? Why should you even bother with attending your local church? Why settle for the best I can offer when you can watch the best that Tim Keller and Albert Tate and (fill in your favorite preacher here) can offer?!

The truth is that I can’t compete. I’ll never be on an “America’s Best Preachers” list like this. And frankly, I have no aspirations for that.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Don't Let the Sexular Culture Leave Women as Also-Rans: Stephen McAlpine tells the story of a woman who was not awarded a prize in an Australian race despite being the first female finisher because of the organizer's attempt to be gender-blind. McAlpine reflects, " If it’s not bad enough that women are constantly the victims of testosterone-laden men off the sporting field, women are now becoming victims on the sporting field of testosterone laden men self-identifying as women.  There’s real anger, but it has to be muted by women, lest the culture warriors who promulgate the Sexular narrative hunt them down."

2.       Five Ways the Bible and Economic Principles are Connected: Shawn Ritenour makes the argument for why and how the Bible influences are understanding of economics.

3.      Why Are Calvinists So Mean?: As a Calvinist myself (although I typically prefer to describe myself with different language because of this very reality), I appreciate Jared Wilson's diagnosis. He concludes, " And if we are frequently charged with treating others in uncharitable ways, the humility necessary to the doctrine ought to produce a humility in its doctrinaires to ask if our lives actually contradict the doctrine we preach with our mouths."

4.      How You Have Been Training Artificial Intelligence for Free: Amazon and Google are two companies who have brilliantly (and perhaps mischievously) been using all sorts of ways to harness what we are already doing for their benefit.

5.      The Weird World of Recycling: Oh man, I've read a handful of articles recently on the realities of recycling that make me so disappointed. Here's to hoping someone can figure out a solution to this issue. 

Why Not to Floss Before You Go to Church

Why Not to Floss Before You Go to Church

“We’ve got just enough time. Let’s go!” My wife and I had run an errand on our day off and had a dentist appointment in 45 minutes. If we didn’t get caught in traffic we would just be able to get home, brush, floss, swish some Listerine, and then head to our afternoon dentist appointment. Why? Because in our world, you don’t show up to a dentist appointment without your teeth in their best condition.

Two days later I drop my car off at the shop. It has a strange squeak that has me nervous. I haven’t so much as popped the hood. The car isn’t washed and a fine powder of crumbs dusts the backseat.

When I go to the dentist I go hoping that I will get a good report. I don’t want any cavities, and I hope not to be scolded that I don’t floss enough. I have a strange desire to receive the dentist’s approval.

When I go to the car shop, I go messy. I go honest. I hope that they hear the squeak I keep hearing. I don’t know anything about cars and I hope that the mechanic can fix the problem. I know I sure can’t.

How do I go to church? Like I go to the dentist’s office or like I go to the car shop? Do we clean ourselves up or do we come messy?

Too many of us go to church like we go to the dentist’s office.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       When Life Gets Tough Self-Esteem Is Not the Answer: Shelby Abbott reminds us of a simple but important truth: " When we’re able to have a proper view of ourselves along with an honest view about the sinful state of the world, the solution to our rampant anxiety becomes more and more clear—it is not more self-esteem, self-trust, or self-love. The solution is God Almighty made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ."

2.      Surprisingly, Millennials are the Generation Most Likely to Attend Church: Aaron Earls reports on this surprising study: " A study commissioned by Dunham+Company found more than half of self-identified evangelicals say they attend church once a week or more. Among millennials, however, that number climbs to 61%—more than Gen Xers (44%) and Boomers (54%)."

3.      How we Can be Selfless without Being Needless: Caroline Saunders makes a helpful distinction in this article about the difference between being selfless and being needless. She suggests we ought to be the first but not the second. " Our neediness is also an instrument for God’s work through us. Our personal neediness can train us to see neediness in others. The surprising result? Selflessness!"

4.      10 Ways to Spoil an Apology: Emma Scrivener reminds us of just how easy it is to blow an apology. 

5.      The Problem With Banning Plastic Bags: Everyone knows plastic bags are bad for the environment. But what if banning them is worse?

“Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date? Isn’t it just a product of its time?”

“Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date? Isn’t it just a product of its time?”

A response from Barry Cooper in Can I Really Trust the Bible?

 

How can we believe the Bible is God’s word to us when it is so clearly out of step with cultural norms regarding what is good and just? To put it another way, how can we possibly trust the Bible to be God’s timeless word when it is so clearly backward ethically? Don’t we want to be on the right side of history? Barry Cooper thoughtfully examines these questions in an excurses found in his book Can I really trust the Bible? Cooper’s response is worth quoting in its entirety:

The past often embarrasses us. Looking at photos of myself growing up in the 1980s, it’s one fashion car-crash after another. It’s impossible to look away. Why didn’t people spend the entire decade pointing at each other and laughing? The reason, I suppose, is that more or less everyone was dressed the same. It seemed normal to us. We’d built up a plausibility structure of pastel t-shirts, neon socks and snow-washed jeans.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Funeral As We Know it is Becoming a Relic: Karen Heller reports that just as we are on the verge of a death boom, the rules of funerals are undergoing significant changes. She shares, " The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger. In 2030, people over 65 will outnumber children, and by 2037, 3.6 million people are projected to die in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, 1 million more than in 2015, which is projected to outpace the growth of the overall population."

2.      Be Slow to Assume: Being slow to anger begins with being slow to assume, Lara D'Entremont suggests: " Maybe this is what Peter meant by, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8). In my desire to assume the best of another, the small sins of another towards me are overlooked and covered, rather than racked up to be something greater than they were. Let’s toss poor assumptions, give some charity, stretch ourselves a little, and put grace on display."

3.      Why We Need to Stop Saying, "Sorry for Your Loss": This is written from a secular psychological perspective from Ed Preston. Preston is correct though, and I would suggest that the reasons as Christians are even stronger. He suggests, " Perhaps it’s because of our cultural death phobia, and the way it pathologizes everything related to sadness. If we’re not better at dealing with grief, then it’s because we’ve never been taught better. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of people with only one stock phrase in their repertoire, “I’m sorry for your loss.”" He also includes some practical advice for what you can say.

4.      How to Get Your Church to Engage Scripture More: JR Briggs offers seven great ideas including, " Read a passage, and then ask people to write out 10-to-15 questions about the passage on a piece of paper. Why did the woman ask that of Jesus? What was running through Abraham’s mind when he was walking up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac? Allow people to interact with the text by courageously wrestling with tough questions."

5.      1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left Church Over Abuse: Kate Shellnut reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey that contains sobering information. She concludes with practical changes churches can consider including, " Assess your church culture first and make needed changes: Do your current members experience safety and freedom in sharing their own stories of suffering?"

My Favorite Movie of 2019: The Peanut Butter Falcon

My Favorite Movie of 2019: The Peanut Butter Falcon

Welcome to my choice for the best movie of 2019. After hearing rave reviews from friends[i] and The World and Everything In It, we decided we wouldn’t wait for The Peanut Butter Falcon to leave the theaters and hit RedBox. Our decision was rewarded with one of our favorite movies we’ve seen in a long time.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a story about two broken young men. Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen) is a young man with Down syndrome, whose family has abandoned him. A ward of the state, he now lives in a nursing home and longs for family and becoming the professional wrestler he believes he was made to be (“The Peanut Butter Falcon” will eventually be his wrestling alter-ego).

Tyler (played by Shia LaBeouf) is a young man who at first blush seems to as different a human being from Zak as one could imagine. He’s a sullen fisherman who is thieving crab cages to make ends meet. Beneath the surface, though, is a young man struggling with grief and guilt over the death of his brother.

The world of the two young men collide as they both are on the lam and headed toward a murky future they only can hope is better than what lies behind them. The story riffs on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without being derivative. Chasing Zak down is his kindhearted caretaker Eleanor (played by the charming Dakota Johnson) from the nursing home. Chasing Tyler down are two thuggish fisherman who are after a pound of his flesh for his theft.

Along the way Tyler’s hard, self-loathing heart will be softened by Zak and Zak’s crushed spirit will be brought to life by Tyler.