Culture

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why the Devil Didn't Think He Won When Jesus was on the Cross: I hadn't thought this through as clearly until I read this JA Medders post. His final reason is the strongest: " Fifth, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he is tempted to get himself down from the cross. Why? This would cease his substituting death for us—Satan wouldn’t be disarmed and defeated. But Jesus did the Father’s will, he died and rose again for us. Defeating Satan every step of the way."

2.      How to Mend a Relationship That has Been Broken for Years: Vital Signs delivers consistently difficult, but healthy advice on matters related to conflict: Joseph Grenny offers, " I have come to believe that my capacity for joy in life is a function of my capacity to love imperfect people. And the most aggressive calisthenics of that capacity is practicing vulnerability at times of the most acute emotional risk."

3.      Seeing the Individual's Face: Jennie Cesario with one of the most beautiful reflections I've read in a while: "[T]o grow in the love of God is to expand my heart and vision in this way. To, little by little, allow more faces to become particular to me, more faces to become dear — whether they’re next to me in a church pew or against me in the voting booth; whether they’re my kindred or my worst enemies."

4.      What Teens Value Most: Helen Gibson reports on Pew Research Center's latest poll on teens. In it, having a career they enjoy ranks first, then helping others who are in need, and third is having a lot of money. Getting married is fourth and having children is fifth with less than 40% of teens saying they desire to have children one day.

5.      Is God Anti-Gay? Sam Alberry reflects on this big question during a Gospel Coalition panel (this is a podcast).

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Secrets of the World's Greatest Art Thief: This is an interesting true story where almost every detail looks nothing like the movie version would, and maybe that is why he pulled it off for so long.

2.      3 Things That May Be True If People Are Constantly Complaining to You: Eric Geiger with an important post that we all should consider. " If people are always complaining to you, you should evaluate why. It may not be because you are trusted, but it may be because you are divisive."

3.      Why is it So Hard to Pray: Burk Parsons considers this important question at Tabletalk: " It’s hard to pray because humbling ourselves, getting over ourselves, and coming to the end of our stubborn and sinful selves is hard."

4.      Pastoral Ministry is an Ensemble, Not a Solo: Jay Sanders is so right: " Pastoral ministry is not the stage upon which we showcase our talents for a watching audience. When done right, pastoral ministry is an ensemble. Yes, we’ve been called upon to take the lead but we were never meant to perform by ourselves."

5.      Nothing Has Snuck Past God: In this brief clip, Trip Lee offers a powerful analogy for God and his sovereignty.

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.

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)."

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.      Few Churched Teens are Devout as Young Adults: Aaron Earls has been unfolding this important LifeWay Research study recently. He shares, " Those who stopped attending church for at least a year are more likely to say they believe in God, but are uncertain about Christianity (17 to 8 percent); say they consider themselves spiritual, but not religious (13 to 5 percent); say they’re uncertain about their belief in God (7 to 3 percent); and say they don’t believe in God (6 to 1 percent)."

2.      4 Ways to Avoid the Church Dropout Danger Zone: Aaron Earls responds to the findings about young adults dropping out of church with some helpful advice: "Most parents don’t realize the impact their words and actions have on their teenagers. They wrongly assume their children aren’t listening and wouldn’t care. If parents make church a priority for the family, students will pick up on that. If parents treat church as if it is simply another activity to take or leave, students will pick up on that as well."

3.      Faithful with a Few: Jen Oshman with an important question for each of us, "How will you respond to the few? Every Christian must confront these questions because every Christian has a ministry, from the senior pastor to the children’s minister to the lay mentor who disciples young adults over coffee."

4.      The Importance of the Bible's Best Description of Salvation: Julie Canlis shares, " Paul says something far more often: He uses the phrase “in Christ” 165 timesThe Bible’s favorite way of describing our salvation is one we rarely use. For Paul, salvation was simple: It was being joined to Jesus Christ."

5.      5 Lessons Jordan Peterson Has Taught the Church: Esther O'Reilly has read Peterson deeply and has great insights on what the polarizing sociologist can teach us: "1. The Church must authentically meet men’s emotional needs… Peterson speaks with a voice that is at once authoritative and encouraging to men. He offers tough love that tells men they aren’t living up to their potential, without swinging to the other extreme and shaming them for it. He praises and exemplifies distinctively masculine virtues. And crucially, these virtues do not exclude emotion."

6. How PreachersNSneakers Exposes All Christians: Brady Shearer takes a look into the popular Instagram account that calls megachurch pastors out on their expensive shoe tastes. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Sunday Regulars are Happier and Healthier: Kate Shellnut shares the findings of a recent Pew Research Center report, " Whatever the explanation may be, more than one-third describe themselves as very happy, compared with just a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated Americans."

2.      Move Over Sex and Drugs, Ease is the New Vice: Jen Pollock Michel with a sharp insight, "The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease."

3.      Why Are you Hiding? This is written specifically for pastors, but it applies to many of us. Chuck DeGroat asks us why we keep our real selves hidden and why that might be our destruction: "The 17th-century Presbyterian clergyman John Flavel wrote in Keeping the Heart, 'There are some men and women who have lived forty or fifty years in the world and have had scarcely one hour’s discourse with their hearts all the while.' I’ve found this to be true of many people in ministry... They’re lost pastors, lonely and busy and empty and radically disconnected from any kind of inner conversation with their hearts and with the God who is more near to them than their very breath."

4.      They Really Did Come From Nothing: Lucia Tai, the daughter of immigrants reports on her journey back to her parents' birth home in Vietnam and how that reshaped her perception of them and undermined her ingratitude. She says, " I’ve come to see that my parents have spent the majority of their lives trying to assimilate into a new culture and to fit a mould that they were not born into...The experience also helped me to further reject internalised racism and to appreciate my heritage more. After experiencing my family’s truth, all the values that had been drilled into me from young started to make sense: the undying work ethic, the need to save every penny, the call to be grateful and to make sacrifices for the family."

5.      4 Traits of a Good Small Group Question: Lynn Pryor with great advice for leading any discussion group. Her four traits of a good question are:"1. They don’t call for a single right answer; 2. They don’t have an obvious answer; 3. They don’t call for a short answer; 4. They call for a personal response or answer."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What A Ten Year Study on Self-Centeredness Revealed: John Cacioppo concluded, "that focusing on yourself causes you to feel more isolated which causes you to focus even more on yourself. A vicious cycle of self-centeredness and loneliness ensues. To put it plainly — a focus on ourselves grows when we are continually by ourselves." 

2.      Half of Millennial Christians Say It's Wrong to Evangelize: Kate Shellnutt reports on new research from Barna, "Younger folks are tempted to believe instead, “if we just live good enough lives, we can forgo the conversation entirely, and people around us will almost magically come to know Jesus through our good actions and selfless character,” she said. “This style of evangelism is becoming more and more prevalent in a culture constantly looking for the fast track and simple fix.”

3.      What God Does for Us in Suffering: Randy Alcorn offers important wisdom, " There’s no nearness to God without dependence on God. And nothing makes us more dependent on Him than when the bottom drops out."

4.      How to Read the Book of Revelation Well: Great advice by Ian Paul. Every point packs a great punch and is well worth the read. He shares, " This is not an exercise in being ‘academic’ in our reading. It is just the normal discipline of recognising that the Bible was speaking in the language of its context and culture, and this decisively shapes its meaning."

5.      Confronting Defensive People: Jim Van Yperen with seven pieces of advice that we can all use, "A simple rule is this: never confront power with power, confront power with loving truth."

6. Making Faith Your Own or Making Up Your Own Faith? Benjamin Vrbicek reflects on stunning statements from a seminary President.