History

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How 32 African Slaves Turned Into Millions: This year we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tragic start of the slave trade to the Americas. This powerful info-graphic rich article shows how 32 slaves ballooned into millions. 

2.       Why People Don't Think You Appreciate Them Even When You Do: Suzanne Vickberg with helpful advice for any leader. She begins by quoting Gladys Bronwyn Stern: "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

3.       Why Calvinists Should Be the Gentlest: John Newton, in his letter to fellow Christians exhorts gentleness and cautions a lack of gentleness, " If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable."

4.       Eternity and Mortality: Jennie Cesario with a beautiful reflection on how a scrape with death shaped her perspective about herself, God, and parenting.

5.       The Ugly History of Mass Incarceration: The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world. And with a disproportionate number of those inmates being black, it is an issue fraught with difficulty. As a former Detention Officer, the complicated history of and solution for our incarceration problem hits close to home. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Best Hike in Every State: Looks like my bucket list just grew. Tell me if you've gone on any of these hikes. They look great.

2.       When Grumbling Meets Gossip: Tim Challies helpfully clarifies the difference between grumbling, gossip, and disputing. He concludes, " There will be times when we disagree with others. There will be times when we need to confront other people for their sinful actions or attitudes or to dispute with others to contend for the truth and guard the gospel. But both must be handled with love and grace. Both must be seen as opportunities to further unity rather than further disrupt it. Both must be seen as threats to our calling to shine as lights in this dark and needy world."

3.       When Churches Can't Do Everything: I love when people enthusiastically bring their ideas and their willingness to serve to the church. But a church can't do everything. Kevin DeYoung gives excellent advice to congregants bringing their ideas to church leaders, explaining why they might receive a no, and how to receive that no.

4.       How Your Church Can Grow Young: Three of the foremost experts on Millennials and Gen Z in the church, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin offer helpful advice, " What really stood out was the way the churches made young people feel like family. In fact, the phrase like family surfaced as the most common term young people used to describe their church in our interviews and field visits."

5.       The Most Populous Cities in the World From 1500-2018: You'll want to watch this through a couple of times to track some intriguing information. For instance, watch trends in Europe, Asia, and the Americas over the centuries.

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.       9 Questions to Ask Yourself to Prepare for 2018: Scott Slayton with a thoughtful list. I like especially his questions: “What are my roles?” What two changes will make the biggest difference,” and “What two things do I need to stop doing?”

2.       How Your Husband Defines Romance: Thoughtful advice from Dennis and Barbara Rainey, "When a man is rejected often enough, he typically internalizes his anger, his hurt, and his disappointment until such time when the rejection drives him to one of several reactions—none of them are good." This ought not to be taken as license from men who feel rejected, but as good advice for wives who want to love their husbands well.

3.       Why Being Tough as a Leader Fails: Kerry Patterson is excellent on leadership and conflict. He reflects, "“I yell at my employees because it’s the only thing that works,” say a surprising number of leaders I’ve consulted with over the years. Parents often take a similar path with their kids. “They only respond to threats. So, I mostly threaten them.” Of course, when you interview the employees or the kids, they don’t subscribe to Hunter Thompson’s theory of leadership. That is, they don’t believe that the newest and hottest motivational tools are fear and loathing. They prefer respectful reasoning."

4.       Six Times It's Time to Quit Your Job: Jeff Gilmer at Vanderbloemen asks, " How do you discern whether this is just a season, or if it’s a bigger sign that you should be looking for your next opportunity?"

5.       Protecting Children from Abuse: Tim Challies interviews  Boz Tchividjian about his important new book, The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide. He begins the interview sharing this heartbreaking statistic, " Research has consistently found that approximately 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males will be sexually victimized before their 18th birthday. With 75 million children in the United States, this translates to almost 15 million children who will be sexually victimized over the next 18 years!"

6.       The Spread of Christianity: A shocking visual representation of the spread of Christianity around the globe.

Always Being Reformed

Always Being Reformed

Today we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. But unlike the work of Christ on the cross, this side of heaven, God’s work on his church will never be finished. We celebrate the Reformation, but, by the power of God, we are always being reformed.[i]

1500 years after Christ had called to the church to a radical resurrection-faith, the church had sold that cruciform grace for a religion that was more about moral conformity, more about earning your way into God’s favor, than it was about the transformative grace that flowed from a Savior who died and was resurrected that we might be multiplied into his children.[ii] We are always in danger of missing out on what God is doing with us. But reformation is always one open heart away.

The year was 1516 and a 33 year old professor was teaching a class on the book of Romans[iii] at a small university in the small town of Wittenberg, Germany: population 2,000. He was pierced by these truths: that salvation was a gift of God, secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The shocking truth that we must be righteous to be saved, but that righteousness could only come from God rocked this monk’s world.[iv]

This Week's Recommendations (Reformation Day Edition)

This Week's Recommendations (Reformation Day Edition)

Next week we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. This event set off a series of events that would culminate in the Protestant Reformation and the church as we know it today. This week's recommendations point us to those events.

1.     How the Protestant Reformation Started: This is a great summary of the transformative events of 500 years ago in Germany, " You probably know at least one thing about Martin Luther: that he nailed the 95 theses to a church door and defied the Roman Catholic Church. This was Luther’s declaration of independence from Rome. The truth is, this is historically inaccurate. Yes, October 31, 1517, would turn out to be the first hint that the Western world was about to be turned upside down. But Luther’s act on October 31, 1517 was not an act of rebellion. It was, in fact, just the opposite. It was the act of a dutiful son of mother church."

2.     A Brief History of the Father of the Reformation: Vance Christie shares the beginning of Luther's story, "October, 2017, marks the 500thanniversary of the igniting of what became known as the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is generally considered the father of the Reformation. Luther’s nailing his “95 Theses” to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, is commonly cited as the event that sparked reformation fires. While there had been other reformers and reformation efforts before Luther, he certainly was the leading human instrument in the much fuller reformation movement that God brought about in Luther’s era."

3.      John Wycliffe: The Morning Star of the Reformation: Vance Christie shares the story of John Wycliffe, who lived a century before the Protestant Reformation began and who, in his life, paved the way for the work of the Reformation. Christie reports, “Wycliffe challenged a wide range of medieval beliefs and practices: pardons, indulgences, absolutions, pilgrimages, the worship of images, the adoration of the saints and the distinction between venial and mortal sins. He gained the greatest opposition by rejecting the doctrine of transubstantiation, the belief that in Christian Communion the bread and wine (or juice) become the actual body and blood of Christ. Wycliffe believed, rather, that the bread and wine are symbols of Christ’s body and blood, that Christ is present in the communion elements sacramentally but not materially.”

4.      The Reformation PiggyBackers: And now for a smile: Luther was having a splendid Reformation Day. Until those pesky other protestants start trying to improve his Reformation.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham

I have thumbed through this book many times before, skimmed chapters, and recommended it to many people. It's about time I finally dove in and worked through this masterpiece. And it really is a masterpiece. Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is jaw-dropping in its scope and the force of the argument Bauckham puts forth.

Bauckham's thesis is fairly simple: the four gospels represent a compilation of eyewitness testimony of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and as such need to be taken seriously as we consider the Jesus of history. To the conservative such a thesis might seem rudimentary while to a liberal such a thesis might seem untenable. Both audiences shouldn't dismiss Bauckham quickly, though.

Consuming Worship

Consuming Worship

Last week we took a more positive turn as we considered how our identity as consumers impacts our devotional lives. We continue in that positive direction as we consider our experience as corporate and individual worshipers in today’s consumeristic environment.

Throughout this series I have tried to provide a broader comparative historic context. The inclusion of songs in worship was present from the earliest days of the church. Paul incorporates what appear to be familiar songs in his writing, John shares songs in Revelation, and of course the Psalms provided a hymn book for the early church. The earliest house church discovered in Syria dates to the early 3rd century AD and is covered with beautiful frescoes. The church from the very beginning was worshiping artistically.

Consumers at Church, part II

Consumers at Church, part II

We’ve been discussing the impact of the water we swim in in 21st century America – consumerism—on our spiritual lives. Last week I took a look at how unique our situation is in the context of 2,000 years of church history. The notion that you have any decision to make on the church you attend would be a completely foreign idea to the experience of two millennia of Christians around the globe.

The point of such an observation isn’t to shame our current context or even lament the fragmentation of the church (those would be discussions for another day). Rather it helps us see the strangeness of the reality that, for most contemporary American Christians, there is a lengthy period of shopping for a church that happens when one moves or, for most, if anything happens within their church context that upsets or unsettles them. The days of being buried in the church where you were baptized and married are long gone for most.

Bad Religion by Ross Douthat

Bad Religion by Ross Douthat

I was really surprised by this book. I wasn't expecting something as thoughtful and constructive in tone, but should have known better given Douthat's strong portfolio.

The first half of the book is a post-WWII history of American Christendom. In dealing with such a broad scope (Douthat carefully divides the history into three camps: evangelical, mainline, and Catholic) in such a small space, Douthat has to make some choices in winnowing the story down. There are some that I took exception to, but overall, I he writes a compelling history and even in his editorializing, he usually hits the target.

In the second half of the book Douthat takes on various heresies that have crept into all three of the camps in various ways (the gnostic gospel, the prosperity gospel, the gospel of self, the politicized gospel, etc).