Weekend Picks ~ 3-31-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

We are in a “strange place” indeed…

Pence and PrudenceJonah Goldberg
http://c8.nrostatic.com/sites/default/files/styles/original_image_with_cropping/public/uploaded/mike-pence-wife-marriage-practices.jpg?itok=mTYe6Xb2…it’s worth pointing out that infidelity needn’t be the issue. I doubt Pence would be a lothario save for those rules. Perhaps he followed them simply to reassure his wife? Or maybe this is none of our business? That would certainly be the attitude of many liberals if Pence were a Democrat and had actually cheated on his wife…

It’s a very strange place we’ve found ourselves in when elites say we have no right to judge adultery, but we have every right to judge couples who take steps to avoid it. But ultimately, I don’t think the important double standard is about marriage or adultery. It’s about traditional Christians. If the Pences were Muslims and followed similar rules, as devout Muslims indeed might, I doubt there’d be anything like this kind of liberal scorn. Of course, that’s unknowable. But liberals spend a lot of time and energy defending accommodations for religious Muslims — burqas, veils, gender segregation, etc. — that they would never make for committed Christians.


Why I’ve Stopped Reading All Those ’10 Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing’ ListsKarl Vaters
Why I've Stopped Reading All Those '10 Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing' Lists
…I talk to a lot of pastors who are also in your target audience. Like me, they want their churches to grow. And they’re looking for help.

But when an already-discouraged pastor reads a list telling them their church isn’t growing because they’re visionless, self-serving and petty, it doesn’t lift them up, it beats them down. Guilt doesn’t motivate, it discourages.

Besides, those petty attitudes aren’t true for us. Pastors who don’t care, don’t read church leadership blogs.

You know who is reading your blog? Good pastors. Hard-working pastors. Caring pastors. Discouraged pastors. Write with those pastors in mind.


Yes, there is another one. I find myself wearying of these, but I don’t want to succumb. I don’t think it’s a good idea to look away…

Five Takeaways from the New Undercover Video from Center for Medical ProgressTimothy Brahm
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/aeINzcwb3qU/maxresdefault.jpgDr. Taylor: Well the thing is, I mean the key is, you need to pay attention to who’s in the room, right? And like, you know, because the thing is the law states that you’re not supposed to do any maneuvers after the fact to try to cause [fetal] demise. So it’s really tricky. It’s really tricky so, most of the time we do dig, and it usually works. And then we don’t have to worry about that because Arizona state law says if any, if there’s signs of life, then we’re supposed to transport them. To the hospital.


‘One Anothers’ I Can’t Find in the New Testament
Ray Ortlund
coverjudgepeople-1The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another… Our relationships with one another reveal to us what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe, our convictions as opposed to our opinions.  …when the gospel grips us down in our convictions, we embrace its implications wholeheartedly. Therefore, when we mistreat one another, our problem is not a lack of surface niceness but a lack of gospel depth. What we need is not only better manners but, far more, true faith.


A sustainable plan…

https://safr.kingfeatures.com/idn/cnfeed/zone/js/content.php?file=aHR0cDovL3NhZnIua2luZ2ZlYXR1cmVzLmNvbS9aaXRzLzIwMTcvMDMvWml0cy4yMDE3MDMyN185MDAuZ2lm

Zits – Click image for a larger view.

Luke 13:1-9

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 13:1-9
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Those Africans who were victims of genocide, do you think they were worse sinners than other Africans?
Those travelers who were killed on a hijacked plane, do you think they were worse sinners than other travelers?
Those partiers who were shot at a night club, do you think they were worse sinners than other partiers?
Those addicts who die from overdoses, do you think they are worse sinners than you?
“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Luke 12:54-59

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:54-59
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
How do you “interpret the present time”?
Do you think it’s the same way I do?
Verses 57-59 seem appropriate for “the present time” in your country, don’t they?
Does this passage give any insight into how a Christian should conduct himself in “the present time”?
Are you willing to do follow through on those insights, should the need arise?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Singing In Church

Image may contain: 6 people, crowd and wedding
This is a picture of people singing in church. The church is in Sidlaghatta, India. The band was playing, the people were singing, the song was repetitious (even though I couldn’t understand the words) and the volume level was easily 120db. It was awesome!

Last summer there was one of those snarky “bash-modern-worship” posts making the rounds. I share the author’s concern about congregational singing and have some of my own thoughts about why it seems to be declining (I may share those in a future post), so, I read it. It made me mad. It just rubbed me the wrong way, so I just let it be.

Then one of my friends sent it to me and was interested in hearing my response to the article. I don’t like the article, but I like my friend, so I decided to read it again and jot down a few quick responses and send it to him.

I came across that document today.

It seems many of these same complaints (along with the same condescending attitude) still persist, so I decided my response to my friend might make a worthwhile blog post.

What follows is a slightly edited version of what I wrote for my friend…


Some thoughts and responses to Jonathan Aigner’s article, “Why WOULD Anyone Sing in Church These Days?”

“We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church.”

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/files/2016/09/singing-in-church.jpgI admit that this has been a struggle throughout my career. Who do we plan Sunday morning for? Where I’ve always landed is that we plan the service as a time of worship for believers, but with the knowledge that unbelievers will always be there. Consequently, we do everything we can to help them understand what we’re doing and saying. We use new music, and modern art forms and references, not to appeal to unbelievers, but simply because we’re planning services for believers in the 21st century, not the 17th.

“…we’ve decided that the singing alone is the “worship,” followed by preaching or teaching time (NOT worship)…”

https://redeeminggod.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Singing-in-Church.jpgAgain, I admit that I’ve heard the music set referred to as “the worship time” (I’ve even caught myself doing that) and that’s a mistake. But it’s simply not true to say that we teach that “singing alone is worship.” Every week we participate in the Lord’s Supper, give material gifts in the offering, listen to scripture preached and taught, sing together, listen as others sing, watch a video, celebrate baptism and more. We teach that everything in the service is worship and try to explain how that’s true.

“So, while music was once simply a way to add dimension to our sacred storytelling, we began to exploit its emotional appeal, suggesting the feelings it could evoke to be authentic spiritual connection.”

Seriously? I would suggest that music has always been used for its “emotional appeal.” And, why not? Certainly, worship is far more than an emotional experience. But how can worship ever not involve your emotions?

“Our cultural ability to make music has decreased steadily since the dawn of commercial recorded music…Now, most churches have given in to the cultural decline of music appreciation. Instead of training many of our own, we hire a few to stand up and perform from the stage.”

I think I know what he means by “make music.” It’s the music he likes and approves of. Anything else doesn’t even deserve the term, in his opinion.

https://themondayheretic.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/worship.jpg?w=620Here’s the thing: We have a whole generation of young people who do know how to “make music.” Their notation style is not that of the classically trained musician. They may not be able to read notes on a musical staff, but they’ve learned to improvise from a lyric sheet and chord chart, and play by ear. Most classically trained musicians struggle with all these things. How is this not “making music”? The accusation he makes above about not training our own strikes me as absurd. Training our own is exactly what we do. And, in order to “make music” the way he describes, it would necessitate exactly what he decries: “hiring a few to stand up and perform from the stage.”

I suggest that the training of our own should also involve retraining some of our musicians to be able to hold their own with these young musicians who are improvising from a chord chart. Sadly, most of these folks are either unable, or unwilling to do this. In fact, many would consider it beneath them to do such a thing.

Most churches have trouble putting both types of musicians together in one team. I believe (in all modesty) that this has been one of my strengths. I have worked over the years to combine these people and train them to work together. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believe it has been worthwhile.

Also, as an aside: since when was the church’s mission to foster “music appreciation”?

Oh, and one more thing: he uses the word “perform” intentionally as a negative term. This really gets under my skin because it’s all performance. What we have to teach (and maybe don’t do well enough) is that the congregation is expected to “perform” as well. If the leaders (musicians, singers, preachers, tech crew, ushers, greeters, etc.) don’t “perform,” they’re not doing their job. We’re all there to perform worship.

“We have a rich history of hymns and songs dating back centuries, set to beautiful, singable melodies with a rich harmonic framework, a group to which each generation added their best. Then we decided we didn’t need these anymore.”

What about this generation? He can’t have it both ways. Either each generation gets to add their best or they don’t.

“So, we stopped empowering those among us who do read music to use those gifts. And we stopped expecting anyone else to learn.”

See my thoughts on reading music notation above.

“We used to have these majestic and beautiful instruments, with infinite musical palettes…”

“Majestic and beautiful instruments” that could only be played by a single, classically trained musician hired to perform.

“What’s more, few of these leaders it seems are capable of just plainly, accurately singing the melody. Some of them croon with a whiny, closed-mouthed tone, turning every vowel into an ee-ended diphthong.”

Ok, crooning? Really? For that I just offer you 3 words: George Beverly Shea. Also, I think his musical arrogance and bias really comes through in this paragraph and I would just stop reading here…

Lloyd

 

Luke 12:49-53

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:49-53
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you find this passage troubling?
Haven’t you experienced its truth?
Consider:
Didn’t I teach to love your neighbor?
Didn’t I teach to love your enemy?
Didn’t I teach to forgive as many times as it takes?
Didn’t I teach to turn the other cheek and walk the second mile?
So, why am I so divisive?
Because it’s not about what I taught, it’s about who I AM.
Why do people think you can have one without the other?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Tuesday Picks ~ 3-28-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

There is something important here for Christian leaders in all fields to remember…

The Pagans Who Will Save Christian Publishing
Samuel James
http://blogs.mereorthodoxy.com/samuel/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/01/book-809887_640.jpgWe asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals.

And I will never forget his reply.

“Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic,” he said. “Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.”

“Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked us. “Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.”


Several typos in this article (which I always find annoying and distracting), but this is still a good point to remember…

God Does Not Answer “Selfie” Prayers!H.B. Charles
It is not wrong to bring your personal needs and wants to God in prayer. It is our privilege in Christ to come with confidence to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus commands his disciples to ask, seek, and knock in believing prayer. But remember that the priority of prayer is God and is glory, not you and your desires.


Google and Facebook Can’t Just Make Fake News DisappearDanah Boyd
Fake news is too big and messy to solve with algorithms or editors — because the problem is….us.

…I understand why folks want to do something now — there’s a lot of energy in this space, and the underlying issues at play have significant consequences for democracy and society. Yet what’s happening at this present moment is not actually new. It’s part of a long and complicated history, and it sheds light on a variety of social, economic, cultural, technological, and political dynamics that will not be addressed through simplistic solutions. Racing to implement Band-Aids may feel good, but I worry that such an approach creates a distraction while enabling the underlying issues to flourish.


Interesting insight…

Moral Relativism Is DeadTed Olsen
Moral Relativism Is DeadIt isn’t that conservatives and liberals have shrugged off transcendent ideas of right and wrong. Rather, they each appeal to a different transcendent moral foundation. We are not in an era of moral relativism but moral pluralism.

That’s not necessarily good news: It’s hard to build a unified society when we hold radically different moral visions. It’s even hard to have a conversation when we view each other as immoral.

But it does offer evangelistic opportunities. Our Great Commission was never to convince liberals that there are objective moral truths. Our neighbors already have a deep sense that something has gone terribly wrong in our world, that “all have sinned.” In our conversations with unbelievers, we owe them the respect to try to understand their moral commitments and frustrations. They very well may be motivated to look for answers, especially as they find their best moral efforts frustrated. The fields are ripe for the harvest.


Honesty is not always the best policy…
http://assets.amuniversal.com/36ac5ed0ea5101346b24005056a9545d
Dilbert – Click image for a larger view.

Luke 12:41-48

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:41-48
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant[i] whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Does this master seem fair to you?
Do you “know your Master’s will”? (v. 47)
Do you act accordingly?
Think about the “severe beating” and the “light beating.” (vs. 47&48)
Which beating would you prefer? (Right answer: neither.)
Have you been given much?
You know what that means, right?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Monday Picks ~ 3-27-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die
Thom Rainer
I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them…


Peter’s Message to Politically Panicked Christians: Talk About Something ElseTrevin Wax
Peter’s Message to Politically Panicked Christians: Talk About Something ElsePeter doesn’t say, “The war is on! Defend yourselves from the world!”

Instead he says, “Abstain from the desires of the flesh that are waging war on your soul.” In other words, “I’m less concerned about what unbelievers will do to your body than I am what sin will do to your soul.” To update that message for panicked Christians in the 21st century: “I’m less concerned about what the government may do with your church’s tax-exempt status than what compromise and complacency will do to your congregation.”


Redefining IntimacyEd Shaw
evening-walk-1959986_1280The world in which we live cannot cope with intimate relationships that aren’t sexual—it makes no sense; it’s just not possible. So I’ve had to pull back from deepening friendships with both men and women out of fear that they are being seen as inappropriate. None of them were—but the supposed impossibility of non-sexual intimacy meant we felt under pressure to close them down. That’s been very hard at times.


Phonetically Defined…
https://wronghands1.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/phonetically-defined-5.jpg
Wrong Hands

Luke 12:35-40

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 12:35-40
35 “Stay dressed for action[a] and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants[b] whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he[c] would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Are you awake?
Do you really think Jesus would serve you while you recline? (v. 37)
How would you feel about that?
Is that how you picture Jesus’ return?
How do you picture it?
Do you picture it?
Do you expect it?
Today?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.