Politics

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.

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?"

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Poll Shows that Americans Like the Idea of the Bible, but Don't Actually Read it: Lifeway reports, " About half of Americans (53 percent) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13 percent have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories."

2.      More Than a Quarter of the Deaths in Holland are Induced: This sobering report by John Burger finds that, "Fifteen years after the Netherlands decriminalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, more than 25 percent of all deaths in the nation are induced, rather than by illness or other natural causes."

3.      My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience: Dr. Wang Yi, Chinese pastor who was imprisoned in December, wrote this manifesto. Please read it. Among the many jewels in the letter, Yi writes, " As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world."

4.      The Importance of Clarity in Leadership: My friend and pastor Glen Elliott with a great post: " There’s too much noise and too many distractions in our world and anything short of being crystal clear won’t be heard. More than ever, folks want and need the clarity of a compelling vision, mission and purpose. And great leaders provide that."

5.      Hearing His Voice: Please watch this marvelous story of an unreached people group who are introduced to the Word of God. It's 25 minutes of encouragement.

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.      Thank you, God, for Failure: The author closes his brief reflection, " In my failure, I see an accurate picture of myself. No one fails at everything, but we hit the ground more often than the bullseye. Thank you for Jesus, who always hit the mark. Thank you for the gracious exchange of the gospel, in which he took my sin and gave me his righteousness. Thank you that every failure is a reminder of your patient mercy toward your children."

2.      Why 81% of Evangelicals Voted for Trump: Ed Stetzer and Andrew MacDonald dig into the research to draw nuanced conclusions around evangelical support of Trump. I found their discovery that the Supreme Court nominations and abortion weren't primary motivations surprising. It's too complicated a picture to summarize in one quick statement, but I thought this line of reasoning was illuminating: " Whether it is the Supreme Court or religious liberty, many evangelicals appeared willing to accept a presidential candidate who is able to secure policy initiatives they favor in the long term."

3.      How God Changes Our "Why Me" Questions in Suffering? Ed Welch speaks such loving truth to those who are struggling: "God’s story makes you just the right size. Everything counts, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better which can never be taken away."

4.      Should Married Couples Separate? I rarely recommend separation, but I agree with Steve Cornell's advice, "When I began ministry (35 years ago), I never would have imagined advising a married couple to separate. I would have understood such a need in cases involving danger, but I never thought much beyond this scenario. Gradually, I encountered individuals dealing with mates who were persistently behaving in ways that were destroying their marriages. These people typically felt hopeless because they think they have done everything possible to save their marriages. In some cases, however, marital separation becomes a needed step for sending the ultimate wake-up call to a complacent and selfish mate."

5.      Virtual Reality Church: It's painfully funny because it's so close to reality.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Most Women Who Had Abortions Were Pressured Into It: Every line of this brief article is important. The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Reports, "73.8% of women who had an abortion felt pressure to do so.  And that 58.3% got an abortion to make someone else happy, not themselves.  And that 30% were afraid that they would lose their partner if they didn’t."

2.      What do Americans Think About Abortion? The current state of what America believes about abortion is complicated, "The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, taken right before Kennedy announced his retirement, found most Americans don’t want to see Roe v. Wade changed. Two-thirds say the Supreme Court should not overturn the decision. Three in 10 (29 percent) say the court should overturn the decision. But a recent Gallup poll shows many Americans want to see at least some restrictions on abortions. Half say abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances. One in 5 (18 percent) says abortion should be illegal in all circumstances."

3.      America's Churches are Becoming More Diverse: We still have a long way to go, but Aaron Earls reports, "A Baylor University study found the percentage of multiracial congregations in the United States nearly doubled. From 1998 to 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, multiracial churches grew from 6 percent to 12 percent of all U.S. congregations. Multiracial congregations are places of worship in which less than 80 percent of the congregants are of the same race or ethnicity."

4.      How Not to Fight PornographyDavid Briones challenges us with this hard truth and then offers some helpful suggestions, "Many who “struggle” really just want to be assured of God’s love for them as they enjoy a love-hate relationship with pornography. Like so many spouses in abusive relationships, they hate pornography, but can’t imagine life without it. They hate what it does to them, but love what it provides: a short-lived moment of escape, a false sense of worth, an unsatisfying feeling of love. But after giving in, guilt sets in. They realize they’ve been dehumanized. Longing for pleasure, they run back to their lover again and again and again. Love never felt so wrong. If that describes you, then you first need to realize that your “struggle” is no struggle at all."

5.      National Geography's Photographer of the Year: Stunning, just stunning.

How Should a Christian Vote?

How Should a Christian Vote?

It’s election season and, yet again, the fervor is pitched.

I received this email from an acquaintance last week:

Dear Pastor,

We are in one of the most critical times of US history. The outcome of the mid-term elections will determine the path our country will follow. We are standing on a knife's edge. This is not a battle between Democrat and Republican, it is a spiritual battle between good and evil. The stakes are high. Our lives, our children's lives and our grandchildren's lives stand in the balance. We as a church need to stand in the gap and intercede…

The Lord uses His people to work His will. Now is not the time to be complacent.

Pitched indeed. “One of the most critical times of US history?” “We are standing on a knife’s edge?” “This…is a spiritual battle between good and evil?” Oh my.

I was grateful that this email did not draw a direct line between which party was good and which was evil, but, based on my Facebook and Twitter feed, there are many who wouldn’t hesitate to go one step further and draw those lines.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      When Pot is Legal, What Do We Say?  Ben Tertin navigates this tricky issue that is on our doorstep. "When a pastor's advice on a moral issue fails, the usual culprit is oversimplification. I feel this keenly on the pot question, having fought on both sides."

2.      I Want My Child to be an Alien: The pressure is strong to raise children who are popular. Jen Wilkin pushes against that impulse, " Sweet child, study the way you are feeling today. Because I love you, I ask this of you: Lean into your “otherness”—learn the contours of its face, feel out the steady grip of its hand. Because I intend it to be your lifelong companion. It is a truer friend than those who surround you now. More than I want your comfort, I want you to be an alien and a stranger."

3.      Was Gnosticism Tolerant and Inclusive? Contrary to public perception, Michael Kruger responds with a resounding "No." "After all, it is argued, traditional Christianity was narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, elitist, and mean-spirited, whereas Gnosticism was open-minded, all-welcoming, tolerant and loving.  Given this choice, which would you choose?"

4.       The Consequences of GendercideFor years China and India have been aborting millions of baby girls. Gene Veith reports on the devastating consequences, "Today, China has 34 million more men than women, which is equivalent to the population of California.  India has 37 million more men than women... Both countries are experiencing an upsurge in sexual assaults, including rape, and human trafficking."  

5.      The Deepest Dive in the Antarctica Reveals a Sea Floor Teaming with Life: Wow. What a Creator.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What Americans Think About the Afterlife: Aaron Earlys reports that, "According to Pew Research’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 66 percent of American Christians say many religions can lead to eternal life." 

2.      Should Christians Arm Themselves? John Piper weighs in on the issue of nonviolence. His answer is similar to mine, “The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, ‘I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me’? My answer is, No.”

3.      Younger People Decidedly More Pro-Choice: Discouraging news for Pro-Lifers. Carol Pipes reports, "A new survey from Public Religion Research Institute shows a widening generational divide on reproductive health issues and abortion, with one-quarter of young people ages 18 to 29 saying they’ve grown more supportive of abortion rights over the past few years."

4.      Rediscovering the Lost Art of Lament: Stephen Um reflects, "The Bible is not ashamed of lament. In the Psalms, 60 of the 150 are categorized as lament psalms—40%. There is one book in the Bible that is devoted to laments, and it is aptly named Lamentations. Why does the Bible embrace a lament? Because it is honest about human experience. It doesn’t settle for some superficially shallow way of describing what’s going on, as if to pretend that suffering is not serious or that it is just an illusion. We, too, must learn to meaningfully and honestly express the anguish of our hearts, if we are to avoid superficiality or pretense."

5.      Heaven Would Be Hell Without God: Randy Alcorn reflects on a thread of some recent talk about heaven: God is absent. That is a significant omission. 

6.      Nutella: a Tasty Snack Created by the Necessity of War: Interesting History of a delicious treat. 

This Week's Recommendations: Independence Day

This Week's Recommendations: Independence Day

1.      Ranking the Least (and Most) Nutritious Meals for Your Dollar: This is fun. Unsurprising? Corn dogs, cheeseburgers, and kale salad. Some surprising entries on the list for me were falafel, fish tacos, chicken wings, and Cuban sandwiches. I'll let you find where they fell on the list. What surprised you?  

2.      America's Favorite Idol: Freedom: Jonathan Leeman reviews a new book by Patrick Deneen. He considers, "In short, liberalism aspires to free us as individuals from all the traditions, values, judgments, and relationships that burden us, but we’re left feeling lonely, empty, and unfree. And as Americans increasingly feel this gap between liberalism’s promises and real life, we will go looking for a strong man to fix our problems."

3.      What's Dividing America? This Public Religion Research Institute Poll says that religion isn't the most significant area of division: "Fewer young people felt the country was divided over religion than any of the other three factors listed—politics, race, or money. Only 38 percent say Americans are very divided by religion, 45 percent say we are somewhat divided over religion...By contrast, 97 percent of young Americans believe our nation is at least somewhat divided over politics, with more than three-quarters saying we are very divided over politics."

4.      The Real Down Syndrome Problem: George Will reflects on the very serious and reprehensible evil that the Western world has fanned into flames over the past few decades: the genocide of the down syndrome population. Will reports, "America, where 19 percent of all pregnancies are aborted, is playing catch-up in the Down syndrome-elimination sweepstakes (elimination rate of 67 percent, 1995–2011)."

5.      70 People Share How to Tell if Someone is From Their Country: This is kind of fun. I actually wish it was twice as long.