Culture

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      How America Grew Bored with Love: This is a damning indictment by David Masciotra: " It has become the stuff of cliché to read “cutting edge” cultural critics deconstruct popular love stories like Pretty Woman and Say Anything, reimagining them as predatory tales of women surrendering to sexual harassment. Never mind that the largest audiences for these films were always and will likely remain women."

2.      Are you Middle Class? Helpful little chart.

3.      Confessions of a Glory Hoarder: Cassi Crowley talks about the painful sanctification of motherhood: " Not surprisingly, motherhood threw a wrench into my self-glorification. I haven’t received nearly as much glory as I’ve been accustomed to in previous seasons. In the academic world, you get grades and diplomas. In the professional world, you get performance reviews and promotions. In the social world, you get friends and influence. In motherhood, you get dirty diapers and sleep deprivation."

4.      A Hundred Year-Old Reflection on Self-Forgetfulness: BB Warfield concludes, "Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.” The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory."

5.      The Earth Below: Beautiful time lapse. Makes you want to pick up Genesis 1, doesn't it?

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Power of Hope and the Rising Suns

The Suns currently sit at dead last in the Western conference at 17-55. They are a full 12 games behind the next worst teams, the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, and 24.5 games (count ‘em!) out of playoff contention. They are in a fierce competition with the Knicks and Cavaliers to finish in last place. If they finished in last place in the entire league that would be their third year in a row finishing in last (four years ago, they finished second to last! Woo!). It’s not been a fun run as a Suns fan.

Between 2006-2010, the Suns appeared in the Western Conference finals three times, tantalizingly close to an elusive NBA championship. For the past nine seasons the team has slid further and further into the abyss with only one season where we won more games than we lost in that span. Our best players over that nine year stretch were such NBA legends as Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe (my tongue is firmly in cheek). We weren’t just bad; we were bad and our future was bleak.

But this year is different.

We’re every bit as bad as we’ve been the past three years, maybe worse, but this year we have hope. We have one of the best young players in the NBA: 22 year old Devin Booker[i], and the first pick of last year’s draft: 20 year old DeAndre Ayton, who has impressed in his first year.  We’ve actually gotten better as the year has gone on and we’ve even won 6 of our last 10 games (meaning a third of our victories have come in the last three weeks). And hey! We’re going to get yet another high draft pick!

You see, it’s not so bad to be awful if there is hope. You can endure a lot as a fan if you think that things are going to get better.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Most Americans Find Meaning in Family, Not Faith: I wrote on this topic and believe that this is a particularly entrenched issue for the American church. Helen Gibson reports, "Almost 7 in 10 Americans (69 percent) mentioned family when describing where they find a sense of meaning...[Meanwhile] 36 percent said religion provided them “a great deal” of meaning and fulfillment in the...survey."

2.     10 Critical Religious Liberty Cases coming in 2019: Joe Carter surveys the landscape of important cases forthcoming in 2019.

3.     Know That It’s Worth It: Melissa Edgington on raising true disciples, “When we pray that our children will have tender hearts toward the things of God, when we pray that they will be radically devoted to Him, we must also be prepared for what that really means. And we must remind each other, over and over again: it’s worth it. He is worth it. We can rely on Him to see our children through as they blaze a path of faithfulness through a world that has been dulled by complacency and hopelessness. This is what we have been praying for. God give us the faith and the perseverance to see it through, even when our hearts break. Following Christ isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.”

4.     Royal Museums Space Photography Competition: Amazing, amazing, amazing. A glimpse of heaven.

5.     Who Steals a Cheese Grater? Or soap? Things to ponder :).

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Almost Half of US Births Happen Outside of Marriage: Riley Griffin reports, " Forty percent of all births in the U.S. now occur outside of wedlock, up from 10 percent in 1970." In addition, " The average age an American woman has her first child is now 27, up from 22 in 1970."

2.      The Solution of Our Political Problems is Believing in Satan: Michael Bird has a surprising suggestion regarding our devolving political climate: believe in Satan. He says, " [U]nless you believe in demons, you will begin to demonize whatever political apparatus you find yourself opposing. You will treat your political and cultural opponents not as compatriots with wrong opinions, but as the ultimate enemy of the human race, and imagine that you are involved in a life or death struggle against them. And that, in turn, justifies whatever you think you need to say about them or do to them in order to stop them."

3.      5 Troubling Shifts that Mark Modern Culture: JP Moreland's list is insightful. He says, " The second shift is in the realm of guidance for living one’s life, and it goes from truth to the immediate satisfaction of desire."

4.      Don't Reap the Edge of Your Field Michael Kelley on Old Testament harvest laws and the application to our lives: "God did not want His people reaping to the edge. He wanted them to have some margin at the end of their rows. Now, before we disregard this verse as something inapplicable to us, consider why the Lord would make this command. It wasn’t just about preserving His own people. He didn’t tell them to create this kind of margin because doing so is personally healthy and psychologically balanced. He gave the command for the sake of other people who might wander into those fields."

5.      Baffling Illusionist: This is a really impressive act... a lot of fun to watch and slow down to try to figure out.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Are you Raising a Narcissist? Steve Cornell offers a helpful inventory. Among the many gems is this one: "Don’t be the parents who overindulged a child’s sense of personal beauty or talent. This will lead to self-deception, narcissism and social dysfunction. It’s also a sure path to marital misery!"

2.      5 Things Every Newly Wed Needs to Hear: Daryl Crouch with wisdom for couples. In reflecting on what the role of those witnessing the wedding is, he shares, "The purpose of this kind of public declaration of loyal love is more than grandstanding. When you mailed your wedding invitations, you were also asking these loved ones to stay involved in your life and your marriage. A wedding includes people who know you, love you, and care about your future success. They’re not only witnesses who observe the moment you exchange rings, they’re people who will pray for you, counsel you, and invest in you. They’re the people who will help you keep the vows they’ve heard you make."

3.      What do Evangelicals Believe? This survey of evangelicals by the Ligonier Ministries is disconcerting to say the least. Perhaps the most concerning response came to this statement: " God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." 51% of evangelicals agreed with that statement."God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." A majority of evangelicals agree that God can be worshiped by those who haven't put their trust n Jesus Christ. 

4.      5 Myths About Calvinism: This helpful article by Greg Forster debunks including "God saves us against our will," and "God does not love the lost." On the former, Forster explains, "The role of the Spirit is to remove the power of sin and instill new powers of belief and trust, which do inevitably result in saving faith–but this is done without violating the will’s freedom. In fact, the work of the Spirit enlarges our freedom."

5.      Greenland-Land of Ice: What a gift to be able to see remote places of the world in all their beauty.

Our Secular Age edited by Collin Hansen

Our Secular Age edited by Collin Hansen

The premise of Our Secular Age doesn’t have strong curb appeal: evangelical Christians grappling with the contribution of a contemporary philosopher’s nearly 900 page tome. Despite the fact that one of my favorite authors, James KA Smith has been significantly influenced by Charles Taylor, I still have yet to pick up Taylor’s A Secular Age.

Despite the less-than-enticing premise, Our Secular Age is a book that should be broadly read by Christian leaders. Even for the reader (like myself) who has no first-hand experience with Taylor, his theses are laid out clearly and the wide-ranging impact of his thought is explored and at times critiqued.

Taylor’s central thesis is that the secular world is a world that has turned its focus on the self and lost its sense of the transcendent. Collin Hansen says that Taylor traces the beginnings of this age to Martin Luther: “Taylor faults the Protestant Reformation and modern evangelical Christianity for disenchanting the world and turning the focus on the self rather than on God through and turning the focus on the self rather than on God through shared religious rituals.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      New Study Reveals That Millennials Prioritize Owning a Home over Marriage: In fact, it's worse than that. For Millennials, owning a home and travel both are more important priorities than getting married or having children. 

2.      Ancient People Lived Longer Than You Might Think: This is an interesting article that concludes that, for those who made it to adulthood, the average lifespan was about what it is today. Pretty surprising read.

3.      The Chocolate-ness of Chocolate and the Coffee-ness of Coffee: Jared Wilson reflects on the power of the gospel to enjoy things in the fullness of what they are, and not ask them to be something else, " If I don’t believe the gospel, I will miss out on the joy of the it-ness of things. I will be looking to these things as drugs, as appetite-fillers, as fulfillers, as powers, as gods, as worshipers of the god of myself."

4.      3 People Harmed by Misplaced Compassion: Eric Geiger reminds us that, " Under the banner of “kindness” or “patience,” leaders can fail to care for the overall health of their ministries or organizations."

5.      National Geographic Photography Contest: Scroll through all of the categories. You won't be disappointed.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What an Average Home Looks Like in Every State: Wow. This is amazing, both in terms of the disparity of cost for the average home across states as well as the type of home you can get for that cost.

2.       God is not Silent in Your DepressionEd Welch is a wonderful counselor and offers a wealth of wisdom. He begins by describing depression, "Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path. Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it."

3.       How to Raise Spiritually and Emotionally Healthy KidsAaron Earls on some really important research about the long-term impact of parenting practices: "Those who attended religious services with parents or prayed or meditated on their own had healthier lives and improved mental health. Those who attended church at least once a week as children or teens were 18 percent more likely to report being happy as 20-something adults than those who never attended services."

4.       Three Privileges of Intimacy with the FatherTim Chester begins, "Step back and think about it for a moment, and you’ll realize what an amazing miracle it is that any of us should call God ‘Father’. But we do so every time we pray, through the Spirit of the Son."

5.       Wrestling with the Violence of GodJeff Elkins concludes his examination of a difficult passage with this reflection: "My problem is, I want more. I want to know why God would do such a thing, but the scripture does not give it to me. In the absence of that information, I am forced to ask myself what I know about God."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What the World Says When We Lie to OurselvesStephen Kneale considers how the world responds to the lies we tell ourselves compared to how the Bible responds. For instance: 

"Lie: Everybody hates me
World: I’m sure that isn’t true. I like you.
Bible: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8); ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1Jo 3:1)"

2.       How Would Christ Celebrate Christmas? Erin Davis suggests that, “It's great to spend Christmas with the people we cherish, but I don't think Jesus' Christmas celebrations would only include the people He is most familiar with. I believe He would spend His birthday in service to others.”

3.       5 Pitfalls When Preaching or Teaching on the End Times: Please won't you read this brief but important article before you lead your next Sunday School class on Revelation? Marty Duren reminds us, "Pastors and theologians have long held the importance of accurately dividing eschatological words of truth. Too often though, we see dull knives forced again and again onto the sacred text, resulting in tortured interpretations (the UN Secretary General as the Antichrist) or unbiblical expectations (77 Reasons Jesus Will Return in 1977)."

4.       What Should I Do to Become a Pastor? Derek Heibert offers great advice for anyone who has considered whether they have a vocational calling to pastoral ministry. He reflects on how different that advice is compared to other vocations, "We all know the assumed logic in America for landing a career: 1. Decide what to do with your life. 2. Go to school to learn the skillset. 3. Graduate from said school. 4. Get hired for a job using that skillset. Now substitute “school” with “seminary,” and voilà! You have a career in pastoring … right? You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t the answer I texted back to the aspiring pastor..."

5.       Why Christians Have Always Done Healthcare DifferentlyJohan Tangelder begins by reflecting on the crossroads we currently stand at, "Within a short time span hospitals and medical care have greatly changed. In fact, today a man of seventy can justly claim that more medical progress has been made in his lifetime than in all of previous history. This medical progress forces us to cope with issues our forefathers never faced. The most common and most pervasive issue is how new medical science has transformed medicine: it used to be about caring for a person; now it is about curing a disease. According to this new philosophy, when someone is faced with a medical problem, everything that can be done ought to be done, no matter what – they are treated as an object to be fixed, rather than a person to be helped."

6.       What Would Happen if Every Human Being Suddenly Disappeared? This is an interesting thought experiment.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        How the West Became Self-ObsessedAn intriguing interview with William Storr, a book on the history of Western Individualism: "This tendency to focus on the self, on the individual, runs deep in our cultural history, and it’s not something we can easily escape."

2.       Americans Believe in God, Psychics, and CrystalsIn Pew Research's recent study, they found, "Four in 10 Americans (42 percent) believe spiritual powers rest in physical objects like mountains, trees, and crystals... A similar number (41 percent) believe in psychics. A third (33 percent) believe in reincarnation, while 29 percent believe in astrology."

3.       6 No-No's for Relating to Your Husband: The whole of Robert Lewis's list is good, but I particularly appreciate #6: "Never fall more in love with your kids than with your husband. That’s easy to do as the years go by. I call it “the great swap.” You get caught up in all the things the kids are doing, often seeing more of them than you do your husband. What you don’t notice is the growing distance developing between you and the man you vowed years ago to give your life to."

4.       6 No-No's for Relating to Your Wife: Mary May Larmoyeaux's list is also good, especially #2: "Don't tell your wife how to feel: ...please don’t say, “You shouldn’t be afraid or worried about that.” The fact is, we are afraid or worried about that. Just acknowledge our feelings. Tell us that you will pray for us. Ask us what you can do to help us not be afraid/worried, etc."

5.       Dealing with Your Anger: Ed Welch is my favorite writer on the topic of anger. He reflects, "Some counselors notice that people get tied up in knots when they hide or stuff their anger. They will tell you to deal with your anger by getting in touch with how you feel and then expressing it. “Get it off your chest. Say exactly what you think. Give ‘em a piece of your mind.” Other counselors have noticed how destructive people become when they express anger. They will counsel you to control your anger. Psychotherapy, medication, exercise, and meditation are just some of the different ways they recommend for defusing your anger and calming yourself down. So which is it, venting or calming? Actually, God has a different way for you to deal with your anger."