Theology

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."

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:

Holy Week Recommendations

Holy Week Recommendations

A blessed Maundy Thursday to you, friends. I have three Passion Week videos for you this week. May this Holy Week be a powerful re-centering week of reflection for you as you consider Christ’s atoning death for you.

1.      Sacrifice and Atonement: The Bible Project explains the reason why God has people

2.      The Last Week of Jesus’ Life: The Bible Project walks through the final week of Jesus’ life.

3.      All Hail King Jesus: Jeremy Riddle: “There on a cross they made for sinners; For every curse; His blood atoned One final breath and it was finished; But not the end we could have known.”

8 Ways Holy Week Shapes Our Lives

8 Ways Holy Week Shapes Our Lives

How is your life shaped by Easter week? I mean other than the obligatory 3 pounds that is about to be added to your waistline courtesy of honey baked ham, deviled eggs, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups (if you’re going to put on the weight, it might as well be good… not Peeps or generic jelly beans!)?

It has often been noted that the final week of Jesus’ life takes up a disproportionate amount of the gospel narratives. Approximately a third of the gospel accounts are devoted to the final week of Jesus’ life:

·        8 of 28 chapters in Matthew

·        6 of 16 chapters in Mark

·        5 of 24 chapters in Luke

·        9 of 21 chapters in John

Of the 52 weeks of our year, Holy Week is highlighted and underlined. On this week the other 51 weeks of our year hang, on this week, the other 51 are shaped.

How does the Holy Week shape our lives?

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by DA Carson

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by DA Carson

DA Carson is one of the clearest and deepest thinkers in the Reformed evangelical world. In The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God Carson tackles what is perhaps the most difficult issue for Reformed thinkers to grapple with: if the God of the Bible is sovereign, can he really be loving?

Before making his case for what the love of God looks like, Carson grapples with the distortion of the love of God. In Carson’s words, “The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized.”

Carson spends the first two chapters parceling out the love of God. First, Carson lays out what is his most significant contribution in the book: a layered understanding of the love of God. In doing so, Carson comes to grips with the multitude of ways God is talked about scripturally. For instance, how does one reconcile God’s love of the world with his love of the elect? It is a surprisingly difficult task that Carson has an elegant solution for.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      8 Reasons Young Adults Leave Your Church (And 8 Reasons They Stay): Ben Trueblood reflects, "There simply isn’t an understanding of what the church is, how it functions in their life, and how they are meant to be function as part of it.”

2.      May She Be My Delight: Greg Morse reflects on Christ's love for the church and our call to love our wives with that same delight, "God does not tolerate his church. He does not ignore her. He does not wake up in the morning thinking he married the wrong girl. Familiarity does not dampen his passion."

3.      Behind Every Good Woman Stands a Good Man: Courtney Reissig concludes, " Our gifts both in the marketplace and in the church are not for ourselves, but for others. So when I free him to work and serve, I’m part of that work, too. And vice versa. Behind every good man, stands a good woman. And behind every good woman, a good man stands, too."

4.      Secularism is Boring: Nicholas T McDonald's long and dense post is well worth the read. He dissects the layers of problems of our secularist world, "'Irony tyrannizes us.'...Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: ‘How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.’”...Because we are a plotless people. We’re banging our heads on the nothing wall." 

5.      Belief in Hell and Psychological Health: David Briggs Arda compiles some interesting studies on belief in hell. He shares,"The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included: The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety. Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Most Teens Drop Out of Church When They Become Young Adults: There is a lot of important stuff in this recent study by Lifeway. Among the information uncovered is that, " Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22." "The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent)."

2.      When Money Gets Between Family Members: This is perhaps one of the most pastoral responses I've ever read, and it's not only not written by a pastor, it's written in a secular forum. What an incredible model of speaking the truth in love.

3.      I Grew Up Hearing My Grandfather was a War Hero. Army Records Say Otherwise. Dan Chrisinger tells about his search to understand his cantankerous grandfather that ends with surprising insight: " The only truth I can feel certain of now is that Hod had once been a young man who went to war, and that he died an old man who never found a way to make peace with what he had experienced... he remained trapped alone in his cover story. In discovering this about my grandfather, I encountered the man on a more human level: a man who was damaged and hurting — and ultimately, I now feel more closeness and connection with that man than I could possibly have felt for an untarnished hero of the battle for Kakazu Ridge."

4.      Awe in the Ordinary: I love this invitation from Cassie Watson, "Over my holiday, I wanted the feeling of wonder to keep going on and on. The good news is that it can—and I don’t have to wait until my next holiday to experience it. The true object of my awe is with me all the time. I don’t need to recreate the circumstances of that sunset, but instead run back up those beams to the one who is truly worthy of adoration."

5.      Higher/Wiser: I like this song both musically and lyrically that is from a band that is new to me, The Silver Pages.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     The Way We Prepare For Marriages is All WrongAaron Earls considers cultural trends that undermine marriage and the data that undoes those trends: "In recent decades, however, new advice began to take root. It argued you will be most ready for marriage if you delay marriage into the 30s or later, “sow wild oats” before you’re ready to settle down, find someone with whom you share “sexual chemistry,” and live together with potential spouses to determine if the relationship is ready for the marital commitment. At the Institute for Family Studies, professor and researcher Jason Carroll analyzed data that confronts each of these points of accepted cultural wisdom."

2.     6 Ways Watching Pornography Affects Your Mental Health: Among those issues, Brad Hambrick points out is, "Mindfulness – the ability to willfully focus one’s attention during adverse circumstances – is a significant contributor to mental health. Pornography is nearly the complete opposite of mindfulness. Pornography uses sound, site, and tactile sensation to pull an individual from their actual world into an artificial, fantasy world. Combining multiple senses with an enticing narrative makes it increasingly difficult for less stimulating activities (which is most of life) to hold an individual’s attention."

3.     The Sabbath as a Radical ActThis is as good an article as I've read in some time. William Black argues that, "There was a reason the fourth commandment came where it did, bridging the commandments on how humans should relate to God with the commandments on how humans should relate to one another. As the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann points out in his book Sabbath as Resistance (2014), a pharaonic economy driven by anxiety begets violence, dishonesty, jealousy, theft, the commodification of sex and familial alienation. None of these had a place in the Torahic economy, which was driven not by anxiety but by wholeness, enoughness."

4.     Watching Rain: Need a stress reliever? Click on this simple and relaxing website and play around a little.

5.     The Science Behind Why Walking on Legos Hurts More Than Walking on Fire or Glass: Parents everywhere will feel validated reading this article from Smithsonian. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Do You Treat Church Like a Cruise Ship? Or a Restaurant? Trevin Wax considers just how powerful the consumerist mindset is among American Christians: " The problem with viewing the church as a restaurant is that it amplifies the cruise liner mentality in that the service is all directed one-way. The attender pays with time or money and expects a religious service. This is consumerist, not missional. But the bigger challenge is that the person isn’t even committed to the cruise."

2.     Breaking Down the Living Organisms By Weight: Among the fascinating factoids here are that there are three times more viruses by weight! than human beings.

3.     What is the Rapture? David Chapman concludes that the best interpretation of the "rapture" passage is, " This would imply that, at Christ’s appearance, Paul expects the dead in Christ to be raised, followed by the lifting up of the living believers to welcome Jesus in the air, before Jesus descends to earth with his people in order to judge the world and establish fully his kingdom on earth."

4.     The Seven Bitter Fruits of SinColin Smith considers what happens when we live a life in rejection of God, "What you believe about sin will shape your convictions about missions and evangelism. How we engage in this work, and what we think needs to be done, will in large measure be shaped by what we believe the human problem really is."

5.     Aerial Tucson: I love our city and I love these videos.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Just How Big is the US Economy? This visual chart is a reminder of just how big the economies of the US and China are. Wow.

2.     5 Misconceptions About Heaven and the Afterlife: This is quite the read, with a lot loaded in here, but if you enjoyed my series on heaven last year, I think you will enjoy this more academic version. J. Richard Middleton's has several pointed moments including this one: "For many decades now I have been asking my students—whether in Bible studies, Sunday School, or in my college and seminary courses—to find even one biblical passage that clearly says that Christians will live in heaven forever (or that heaven is the eternal destiny of the believer). I have even offered a reward for success. So far no one has ever found such a passage."

3.     Why God Delights to Forgive: Scott Hubbard shares this wonderful news with us, "[D]eep down, where roots sink into soil, we wonder if God is really that happy forgiving us. Our suspicions easily replace the Bridegroom’s pleasure with pursed lips, the Shepherd’s song with a lecture, and the Father’s robe with the elder brother’s hand-me-downs. If we are going to feel and not just confess that God delights to forgive those who come to him through Jesus, we will need to grasp why he forgives."

4.     Don't Downplay Your Suffering: Regan Rose with a counter-intuitive admonition: " One of the biggest mistakes believers can make when facing a tragedy is to minimize it. I think so many of us do it because we are lacking a robust theology of suffering. So, our first reaction to a tragedy is to try and explain it away. “Hey, it could be worse!” “Everything will be okay.” “This is just a season.” Like a doctor slapping a smiley face sticker over a cancerous tumor, all some Christians know to do in the face of true calamity is to pave it over with platitudes."

5.     Crowder's Happy Day: How can you not smile when you watch this?