Father's Day Recommendations

Father's Day Recommendations

1.      5 Dangers of Being Deprived of an Involved Father: Eric Geiger condenses 55 findings of researchers. He begins with two physical impacts: "Children who suffer the loss of a father have, by the age of nine, a 14% reduction in telomere length – the most reliable predictors of life expectancy. The more frequently a father visits the hospital of an infant who is born prematurely, the more quickly the infant is released from the hospital."

2.      To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.

3.      Why to Take Your Vacation: Ben Healy reports on the positive benefits of taking vacation and the negative impact of viewing other people's vacations. I don't think that not sharing vacation photos is the solution to the envy issue, but it's worth considering. Two of the positive benefits are: "From 1974 to 2004, those men who took at least three weeks of vacation were 37 percent less likely to die than those who took fewer weeks off... Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus." 

4.      Teaching Our Daughters Positive Self-Talk: Tracy Lane considers how we ought to protect our daughters from the natural tendency of negative self-talk. She says, " I don’t want criticizing our looks or our bodies to be a natural inclination. Instead, I want the truth of who God made us to be, to become the natural overflow that we believe about ourselves."

5.      Foster Care and the Fear of "Getting Too Attached": Jason Johnson considers perhaps the biggest barrier to foster care, that it will be too hard because you will get too attached and concludes, "Yet despite all of that, over and over I've found the remarkable stories of those who also have this pain branded into their souls all consistently on some level sound the same - the goodbye was devastating and the grief is hard. Extremely hard. But so, so worth it. No question. These kids are worth it."

How and Why We Let Our Daughter Join Instagram

How and Why We Let Our Daughter Join Instagram

One of our favorite games as a family is called Oh Heck. You might know it as Up and Down the River. The reason this simple card game is so great is that while the rules of the game remain the same, every hand there is a different trump and a different number of cards. Throw in the fact that you can play the game with anywhere from two to seven players, and every game is different.

That feels a lot like parenting a child in 2019. The only thing that is the same is that everything is always changing.

In April our fifteen year old daughter asked if she could create an Instagram account. We said yes.

When is the right time to let your child engage in social media? More broadly, how do you parent children relating to technology?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Let the Children Get Bored Again: Pamela Paul speaks wisdom to our age that runs from boredom, "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

2.      Survey Says That Evangelism is Far More Prayed For Than Practiced: Aaron Earls shares the results of a recent survey that ought to call us to boldly speak the gospel to our neighbor.

3.      Guard Your Heart From Adultery: Robert Wolgemuth reflects on how seriously we ought to take any hint of adultery in our marriages: "When you are hiding a secret from your wife, this qualifies as “for worse.” You feel this in your gut. It keeps you awake at night..What’s for certain, however, is that the situation you’re putting yourself in is going to have an impact on you. It’s inescapable. Keeping secrets is like standing chest-deep in water, trying to hold a beach ball down. It takes both hands and lots of energy. But eventually, physics will win out. You’ll run out of energy and the ball will explode through the surface. You will be found out.

4.      How Can We Know that the Bible Teaches that Jesus is God? Justin Taylor offers this tight argument: "Finally, it’s worth remember the helpful summary by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan: ...The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.” The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.” The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!” Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ."

5.      7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness: Great stuff, as always, by Sam Allberry: "Certain misconceptions never seem to go away: The Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), or shaving makes your hair grow back thicker (it doesn’t). A significant misconception that has been around for many years is that singleness is a bad thing. This is partly due to a confluence of our culture’s focus on romantic fulfillment as key to being whole with common Christian thinking that marriage itself is the goal of the Christian life."

How to Know You’re Good

How to Know You’re Good

How good are you? That is a question we all wrestle with in different ways and at different times. But we almost all answer it with the same methodology: comparison. But if the age of social media has taught us anything, hasn’t it taught us how destructive comparison is? Hasn’t it shown us that comparison reveals the basest version of ourselves? Hasn’t social media taught us how fragile and finicky the rubric of comparison is?

How then can we know how good we really are? Maybe the answer lies in some time-tested standard outside of ourselves and outside of our neighbor? Maybe there is a standard outside ourselves to evaluate ourselves by.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Poll Finds "Dramatic and Sudden Shift" Toward a Pro-Life Position: Aaron Earls reports, " The latest Marist poll finds 47 percent of Americans identify as pro-life and 47 percent identify as pro-choice. Just one month ago, however, Americans were more likely to identify as pro-choice than pro-life by 17 percentage points—55 to 38 percent."

2.      How the Pro-Life Movement was Had: Andree Seu Peterson's pointed article begins, "They said who knows when life begins. So we said, OK, let’s talk about when life begins. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you,” we quoted from Jeremiah 1, verse 5. We’re not into religion, they replied. So we said fair enough, forget the Bible, let’s talk science, you like science, right? And if the science proves when life begins, then you’ll stop killing babies in the womb, agreed?"

3.      Seven Church Member Attitudes That Lead to the Death of Churches: We all want thriving churches. Thom Rainer has helpful thoughts in this podcast on ways that we as church members can help combat churches declining and dying.

4.      The Church Growth Gap: Aaron Earls reports, "Three in five (61%) pastors say their churches faced a decline in worship attendance or growth of 5 percent or less in the last three years. Almost half (46%) say their giving decreased or stayed the same from 2017 to 2018."

5.      How Men and Women Spend Their Days: Cool dynamic infograph from Flowing Data.

In Defense of Love Songs to God

In Defense of Love Songs to God

“God isn’t your boyfriend!” It doesn’t take much Googling to pick out an assortment of articles skewering intimate love songs inappropriately parading as worship. “He is the almighty God, not your lover,” the criticism goes. “Don’t trivialize our holy, incomprehensible God.”

Is it really appropriate to sing, “I could sing of your love forever” or reprise again and again, “your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me”? Or how about “Revelation Song” where we sing, “You are my everything and I will adore you”? And of course, the most obvious offender: please tell me we should nix the embarrassing “How He Loves Us,” where we belt out, “And I realize just how beautiful you are, and how great your affections are for me,” and then the cherry on the sundae, “And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.”

Let me stand up against the pitchforked crowd in defense of the modern worship love song. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of songs out there that are weak theologically or that our diet of worship should be comprised primarily of love songs to God, but I do believe there is a place for us to sing love songs to God.

You Don’t Get Your Own Personal Jesus by JD Greear

You Don’t Get Your Own Personal Jesus by JD Greear

If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, the phrase “your own personal Jesus” is heard channeled through the distinctive voice of Martin Gore of Depeche Mode whose massive 1989 hit democratizes the first century Jewish Messiah. Gore tells us to “reach out and touch faith” through whatever experience we can create that makes us feel as though someone hears our prayers and cares.

Martin Gore’s vision of a personalized Jesus is truer today, thirty years after his song hit the charts, than it has ever been. JD Greear wants to lovingly but firmly let us know that You Don’t Get Your Own Personal Jesus in his thin volume by the same name. “Sometimes I hear people talk about ‘my God’ or ‘my Jesus’ as if he were their possession,” Greear reflects. But strangely absent of our personalized visions of Jesus are Jesus’ own claims of who he is. Unhappily for those who like to shape Jesus in their likeness, Jesus tells us that he is, in fact our Lord.

It makes sense that we think we can remake Jesus in our own image. Why shouldn’t we? Our social media feeds cater to our desires, my Amazon webpage is distinctive to me, your Netflix suggestions reflect your tastes. Why shouldn’t we be able to craft a Jesus who suits what we would like in a Savior? Greear reflects, “Those of us who have grown up in a consumeristic Western culture envision an Americanized Jesus who is one part genie, one part fan club, one part financial advisor, one part American patriot, and several parts therapist. Our ‘God’ makes us more narcissistic and materialistic, not less.” In Voltaire’s words, “God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Hormones, Surgery, Regret: I was a Transgender Woman for 8 Years--Time I Can't Get Back: Surprising story to read in USA Today by Walt Heyer: "I lived as “Laura” for eight years, but, as I now know, transitioning doesn’t fix the underlying ailments. Studies show that most people who want to live as the opposite sex have other psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety."

2.      13 Ways We Justify, Rationalize, or Ignore Negative Feedback: One of the best articles I've read this year. Peter Bregman of Harvard Business Review says, " It doesn’t feel good to be told you missed the mark. And, since feedback often uncovers our blind spots, it’s especially jarring because, in many cases, we thought we were doing a good job. So we don’t immediately or intuitively agree with the validity of it (we tend not to believe things we can’t see ourselves)."

3.      The Danger of Drama: When we stir up drama, Heidi St. John says, we are sinning: " If you need to address something that should be handled in private, then do it privately. If you’ve been hurt, don’t put it on the internet. Season your speech with grace."

4.      Don't Put Your Hope in Date Night: Interesting perspective by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, "In our modern, Western, first-world culture, our margin for romantic love is a blessing. Many of us have the freedom to select a spouse who matches our preferences and makes us feel weak in the knees—particularly in those first few months of dating. This is a joy and a privilege. As those ideas carry into marriage, we tend to continue emphasizing the importance of romantic feelings. But are cultivating these feelings through date nights essential in God-honoring marriages?"

5.      Beware of Broken Wolves: I resonate with Joe Carter's advice here about protecting oneself from a certain type of leader: "But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.” These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15)."

In Defense of Modern Worship

In Defense of Modern Worship

It was during a family dance party to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” that our patriarch commented about the vapid lyrics. “They just don’t make them like they used to,” he concluded. I teased back: “Sure, because ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Duke of Earl’ were so profound!

Musical preferences are profoundly etched into us. One generation’s trash is another generation’s treasure.

Modern worship has a bullseye on it. It’s a fairly regular occurrence that I read a blog or a reflection in a book decrying the insipid lyrics we sing in our churches or hear a complaint from a congregant about modern worship.

Last week I defended the treasure of hymns for the church. This is my defense of modern worship.

A few disclaimers:

1)      I am not claiming that all modern worship is good: there is a plenty that isn’t good;

2)      I am not making an argument that modern worship is any better than any other era of music;

3)      I am not making an argument that your church should primarily sing modern worship; there’s nothing wrong with a church that chooses songs that are several decades or several centuries old.

With that said, here are four reasons that we should enjoy modern worship:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      How to Stop Hating Yourself: Emma Scrivener with ten suggestions on how to move out of self-hatred. She begins, "God hates your self hatred because He knows the truth about you; that He made you well. This truth is bigger than all the other ‘truths’ you’ve ever been told."

2.      Consolations for Your Burdens: Mike Emlet offers macro and micro consolations for the cares that weigh you down: "Life in a fallen world is hard, often excruciatingly painful. Christians don’t float above the mess of life, stoically relegating disappointments, trials, and tragedies to some back room of our lives. No, we sow in tears (Psalm 126:5). In the world we face tribulation... But where do we go when the inescapable cares of our lives are multiplying? We look for and embrace the consolations of God."

3.      Why Over-Quoting Your Leader Undermines Him or Her and Why We Do It: Wisdom from Eric Geiger: " The leader of the meeting name-dropped. You wonder why. Does the leader not feel confident to stand on his/her own credibility? Does the leader not agree with the conversation you did not even know about until now?"

4.      Tips for Communicating with Teens: Rachel Ehmke with sage advice: "Validate their feelings. It is often our tendency to try to solve problems for our kids, or downplay their disappointments. But saying something like “She wasn’t right for you anyway” after a romantic disappointment can feel dismissive."

5.      5 Myths About Abortion: Scott Klusendorf takes on four challenges to the pro-life movement, "Myth #4: Pro-life advocates must take on a broader 'whole life' agenda to legitimize their efforts. Why should anyone believe that because you oppose the intentional killing of an innocent human being, you must, therefore, take responsibility for all societal ills?"