Tag Archives: Culture

My Picks for Tuesday 1-5-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Why ‘the evangelical voter’ doesn’t mean anything
Trevin Wax
A "Vote Here" sign on display in front of Westwood City Hall on Nov. 4, 2014, in Westwood, Kan. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow
“So, what does this mean for predicting what evangelicals will do at the voting booth? That question needs further clarification. What kind of evangelical are we talking about? White evangelicals vote differently than black evangelicals. Older evangelicals have different worries and concerns than younger evangelicals.

When politicians or reporters treat the evangelical movement as a monolithic, reliable voting bloc, they are most likely taking one segment of evangelicals (usually, “white” and “older”) and defining the whole movement.

For example, Franklin Graham’s recent decision to leave the Republican Party and declare himself an independent does not mean “the evangelical vote” is somehow up for grabs this year.”

I’m Thinking It OverAlan Jacobs
“The internet is…a mugger, but what it demands is not my money but my attention and my reaction, and it wants them right now. And “I’m thinking it over” isn’t an acceptable response.

…a great many people are going off half-cocked on [the firing of Professor Larycia Hawkins from Wheaton College]; and what those emails I got remind me is that going off half-cocked is now widely perceived as a virtue, and the disinclination to do so as a vice. Moreover, that poorly informed and probably inflammatory statement of Your Incontrovertibly Correct Position must be on the internet — and according to my first protestor either directly on or accessible to Twitter — or it doesn’t count towards your treasury of merit.

I want to suggest some alternative ways of thinking about these matters, and related ones…”

We Are Getting CloserErik Raymond
“Think about this truth: with the turn of the calendar from 2015 to 2016 we are that much closer to dwelling in the everlasting kingdom of Christ!”

The Prophet Who Didn’t SeeMichael Kelly
download“Remarkably, though, the text does not say that Elisha also saw the army of the Lord. We assume he did because how else would he know about this massive force aligned against his enemies? Perhaps he did see those flaming chariots… but then again, perhaps he did not.

Perhaps the man of God did not need to. This is the essence of faith, is it not? To look into the most dire of circumstances and know the Lord still reigns? Even though every sense tells us the opposite is true?

Yes. Maybe he didn’t see. Because maybe he didn’t need to.”

Is this sign necessary?



My Picks for Wednesday 12-23-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

The Cost and Beauty of MarriageDarryl Dash

“There’s suffering in this thing called marriage, but there’s more joy than you can imagine. Somehow they exist together.”


As usual, even though we would prefer it otherwise, the answer to this question is too long for a bumper sticker. While you may or may not agree with everything he says in this article, John Piper does a good job of outlining several strands of thought on the question…

Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?
John Piper
Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?“The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends. There are significant situational ambiguities in the answer to that question. 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.

Here are nine considerations that lead me to this conclusion…”

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Albert Mohler
“Hard times come with hard questions, and our cultural context exerts enormous pressure on Christians to affirm common ground at the expense of theological differences. But the cost of getting this question wrong is the loss of the Gospel. Christians affirm the image of God in every single human being and we must obey Christ as we love all people everywhere as our neighbor. Love of neighbor also demands that we tell our neighbor the truth concerning Christ as the only way to truly know the Father.

We must also understand that the most basic issue is the one Jesus answered with absolute clarity. One cannot deny the Son and truly worship the Father. There is no question that the Muslim is our neighbor, but there is no way to remain faithful to Scripture and the gospel and then claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”

And now a little something fun to lighten the mood…

When Christmas Carols Lead us AstrayBarnabas Piper
Christmas decorations
“Just because it’s cold outside does not give a man the right to ply a woman with drinks and force her to stay longer.”


An Instagram miracle…
Source: Off the Mark

My Picks for Tuesday 12-22-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Dear God, I Don’t Want to Serve You This Way
Jeanne Harrison

“I imagined myself holding out a Christmas gift to God, only it wasn’t the present He wanted. It was the present I wanted to give Him, like buying your husband a weed wacker when he asked for golf clubs. Really, it was a gift for myself. Let me honor You by becoming a world-famous author! How about that? Let me do something big and impressive in my church. Let me put this college degree to use . . . You will be so glorified, I promise!

Jay Pathak on “Speaking of Jesus”Steve Cuss
Jay-_twitter“I’m amazed at the great lengths we go to to make people weird in the way they share their life with Jesus.” Jay talked about being a waiter at a restaurant when someone left him a ‘tract’ as a tip. “Why would you do this?” he asked the customer. The customer replied, “I don’t know, our pastor gave it to us….we have 20 of these and we have to get rid of them!” Clearly the people were in some version of an “evangelism class.” The goal of the class is getting people to share their belief in Jesus, but it actually pushed people away from following God because of how weird and unnatural this makes us.

But following Jesus is supposed to make us more human, more empathetic, so why do we do weird things when we’re representing Jesus, rather than be more human toward people?

So here are the 4 things I do:
1. Share the life you actually have with Jesus, not a bunch of facts about Jesus.
2. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, argue with someone.
3. When you love someone, you sacrifice money and time for them.
4. When you talk about life with God, just talk about Jesus.

Read the article for more explanation on each point.

Don’t just make your guests at church feel welcome. Surprise them!

Nine Surprises in Worship Services That Made Guests Return
Thom Rainer
Nine-Surprises-in-Worship-Services-That-Made-Guests-Return“In a recent Twitter survey, I asked respondents to share with me a singular event that impressed them in a church worship service. In fact, most of the respondents said they were “delighted” or “surprised,” and that the one event made them desire to return to the church. I am appreciative for all the responses. A pattern developed around nine factors. Here are some representative quotes around each of the issues…”

The NextSeth Godin
“Two hundred years ago, we had great-great-greats who lived in the dark, without much in the way of healthcare, commerce or opportunity.

Today, we complain that the MRI was chilly, or that the wifi on the transatlantic plane wasn’t fast enough or that there’s nothing new going on at the mall.

It’s human nature to recalibrate. But maybe it’s worth fighting that off, for an hour or even a day.

The world around us is uneven, unfair and yes, absolutely, over-the-top amazing.

Boring is an attitude, not the truth.

Possibility is where you decide it is.”

Holidays with loved ones…
Click image for larger version.

My Picks for Monday 12-21-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

You may have already seen this piece about Eric Metaxas. It has been filling up my Twitter feed the past few days, and with good reason. If you haven’t read it, you really should…

The Death of God Is Greatly ExaggeratedKate Bachelder
“Part of my life’s thesis is that we live in a culture that has bought into the patently silly idea that there is a divide between the secular world and the faith world,” he says, the idea that religion can be walled off exclusively into private life or pitched altogether, particularly when 70% or so of U.S. residents identify as Christian. “Culture presents us with this false choice between channels that are exclusively faith-based” versus those that are “exclusively secular.” Yet “that’s not how most Americans process the world.”


The Word Became FleshMichael Kelly
DT709“In the days past, long ago, God spoke to us in different times and in different ways. But no longer. Now He has spoken to us by His Son.”

If you’re concerned about refugees coming to the U.S., perhaps you’ll find this infographic helpful…

Who is a refugee and what do they go through to get to the U.S.?

Source: Wrong Hands

My Weekend Picks 12-18-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

This piece on Hillsong NYC in GQ Magazine is fascinating on so many levels. It’s somewhat lengthy but I couldn’t stop reading. HIGHLY recommended…

What Would Cool Jesus Do?Taffy Brodesser-Akner
hilllsong-gq-0116-1.jpg“The book on Hillsong, however—the other book, lowercase b—is that they’re the real article: the world’s first genuinely cool church. “The music! The lights! The crowds!” begins an incredulous woman narrating a CNN segment on Hillsong NYC in smarmy CNNese. “It looks like a rock concert. And the lines around the block are enough to make any nightclub envious.” The chyron reads “Hipster preacher smashes stereotypes.” They call Pastor Carl a hipster—ABC actually said “hipster heartthrob”—and Carl says he doesn’t know what that means, and he wears a motorcycle jacket when he says this.

How can I fault someone who is more sincere about this one thing than I have ever been about anything in my life? But on the other hand, if there’s one thing that’s true about Christianity, it’s that no matter what couture it’s wearing, no matter what Selena Gomez hymnal it’s singing, it’s still afraid for your soul, it still thinks you’re in for a reckoning. It’s still Christianity. Christianity’s whole jam is remaining Christian.”

I’ve been enjoying this series of devotional thoughts based on some well known Christmas carols by John Fischer…

A Thrill of HopeJohn Fischer
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new glorious morn

“That’s why Hope is so thrilling. It’s unprecedented; unexplainable. There is no logical explanation for it. Why did God let things get so bad? I can’t answer that, but I can say that, for whatever reason He did, He broke in on it with something good. And that one event brought a hope nothing can conquer.”

I LOVE this:
“Sin is always an incomplete statement. Grace is the period at the end of the sentence.”

Let’s Stop Adding ‘Yeah, But’ to Simple Declarations of Grace
Karl Vaters
Let's Stop Adding ‘Yeah, But’ to Simple Declarations of Grace“I’m not naïve. I’m fully aware of the large and growing movement to normalize and excuse sin in our culture. But I refuse to let that stop me from living and speaking about grace in audacious, Christ-like ways.

Besides, every culture has tried to normalize sins. Different sins at different times. That was certainly the case in both the Jewish and Roman cultures of Jesus’ day.

That’s why Jesus preached a ‘yeah, but’ message too. But his message wasn’t ‘Yeah, there’s grace, but don’t forget sin.’ Jesus message was ‘Yeah, there’s sin, but grace is greater.’”

This seems timely…
Source: Off the Mark

My Picks for Wednesday 12-16-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Still Proceeding -John Fischerth
“Christmas carols have always been a mysterious phenomenon to me. They contain clear, sometimes deep and complicated expressions of the Christian faith that are nonetheless a part of secular society because they are … well … Christmas carols. They are a part of the Christmas tradition everyone seems to accept. There’s more theology crammed into just one of these carols than in most sermons, and yet you can hear them in supermarkets, restaurants, Christmas shows, and from carolers on your front lawn…

And as this song plays on in shopping malls and supermarkets, listen for it. Find it out in the world, just where we find Christ, today. Worship in the world where many are still seeking Him — still proceeding.”

You Don’t Need a Date NightTim Challies
You Do Not Need a Date Night“Marriage is made up of date nights and romantic weekends. But far more it is made up of those million mundane little moments. More than it is dancing and candlelight and bed and breakfasts, it is doing chores together, driving to church together, watching a miniseries together, eating meals together. It has been my experience that the more we enjoy those ordinary moments and the more we find satisfaction and significance in them, the less we need or even desire those extraordinary occasions.”

“The View” On “Being Good” vs. The GospelTrevin Wax
Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.19.50 PM“A remarkable conversation took place on ABC’s The View last week.

It began with an American Atheists billboard featuring a picture of Santa Claus that says, “Go ahead and skip church. Be good for goodness’ sake.” One of the hosts, Joy Behar, wondered if religious people would take offense at such a statement.

In the conversation that followed, we catch a glimpse of how people view the role and place of religion in society, as well as the counter-intuitive nature of the gospel of God’s grace.”

I think Thom Rainer is right on most of these trends,
and on his conclusion…

16 Trends in American Churches in 2016Thom Rainer
Trends 1 to 8                 Trends 9-16
16-Trends-in-American-Churches-in-2016“I have been writing on trends in churches for two decades. I certainly don’t have a perfect record with my predictions, but my overall record is pretty good.

My methodology is simple: I observe emerging issues in some churches and extrapolate them into major trends.

In many ways, I see 2016 as a pivotal year for thousands of congregations. Unfortunately, many church leaders and church members will elect not to change anything. Those congregations will be among the 100,000 rapidly declining churches.

But for other churches, new opportunities abound. For decades, churches could choose a path of modest to no change and do okay. That is not the case today. For those congregations that are eager and willing to face the culture in God’s power and strength, they will likely see incredible opportunities for ministry and growth.

It is becoming that simple.

Change or die.”

Source: Bizarro

My Picks for Tuesday 12-15-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

I Am the Elder BrotherSam Guthrie
“For the waywards and sinners, the story is a jubilant celebration of embrace. For the Pharisees, it’s a furious realization that they’re accepted in the same breath as the sinners. But the story isn’t ultimately about them—it’s about the father and the grace given equally, fully, and prodigally to both. With tears of joy in his eyes, the father hugs his young son, for he has returned home. And with tears gathering in the same eyes and longing in his voice, he reminds his elder son, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours. Come in, my son.”

The grace is the same; it is extreme, absurd, beyond all we can ever imagine.
For those of us who resonate with the elder brother, we have a Father who hasn’t stopped inviting us into his arms—despite all the résumés and trophies we hold up to prove our worth. He is our worth. Christ is the one who overtakes us with the free and easy rhythms of grace made possible through the cross. He is the one who enables a life of grace—a life seeking to trust ever more fully in the Father who summons both sons home.”

This made me sad. I still really like that song. Do you think this means we should not use it, or others with Ed Cash involved in the writing?

‘I Am Called a Cult Leader. I Really Don’t Care.’
Bob Smietana
‘I Am Called a Cult Leader. I Really Don’t Care.’
“For the past decade, “How Great Is Our God” has been one of the most popular worship songs in the United States.

The song’s success helped to make Chris Tomlin the world’s top worship leader, and turned his co-writer Ed Cash into one of the most sought-after Christian music producers in Nashville.

It also helped launch what former members are calling a cult.

Cash is a leading member of The Gathering International, a small group of followers devoted to Wayne “Pops” Jolley, a prosperity gospel preacher with a history of alleged spiritual and sexual abuse.”

 3 Warning Signs You’re Drifting From Faith into Superstition
Michael Kelly
“How can we know, then, if we are drifting from faith into superstition? Here are 3 warning signs:
1. You think in formulaic ways.
2. You are focused primarily on results.
3. You are constantly disappointed.”

Follow the link for more…

Badly Explained Film Plots

Church & Government: Don’t Get Them Confused

I am dismayed that this whole immigration/refugee issue has become another in a long line of divisive issues among people of faith. Opinions range from one extreme to the other. I am not naive enough to think that another blog post on the subject will bring us all together, but I am hopeful that some who read will consider what I say and find it helpful.

Maybe I’m slow, and everyone else already realized this, but it finally dawned on me that many of us have been blurring the lines between the responsibilities of our government and those of the church. Now, just so we’re clear, when I say “church” I’m not referring to some hierarchical institution. I’m referring to individual people who claim Jesus as their Lord.

Among the main responsibilities of our elected government officials here in the United States, is to do what they can to keep our borders secure and our citizens safe. We citizens have a wide variety of opinions on how best to do that. We’re amazingly blessed to live in a nation where we have the right, and even the obligation, to debate the different approaches and to make sure that our elected representatives hear and understand our thoughts.


But Jesus laid out a whole different area of responsibility for his church, and it is pretty clear and unambiguous. It’s not really up for debate or discussion. It involves loving our enemies. It involves walking the second mile with an oppressor. It involves building bridges of compassion to the hurting, grieving and exiled. It involves reaching out to those who don’t know the grace of God and extending that grace on behalf of our Lord. In short, it involves going into all the world and making disciples. He says nothing about protecting our personal safety. In fact, what he says is exactly the opposite of that.

Jesus wasn’t talking to the government.

Church, he was talking to you and me.

So the real question that we, the church, should consider is this: How will we treat the immigrants and refugees who are coming and who are already among us?

Have you considered how the gospel spread throughout the world in the book of Acts? It spread because of persecution. I sometimes wish God would find an easier way, but that seems to be his standard operating procedure. When the church becomes too focused on itself and begins to stray from its mission, it’s not unusual for God to shake things up. I think maybe He’s doing that again.

Also, consider this: There are many countries in the world which have historically been closed to Christian missionaries. Jesus told us to go into all the world, but how are we to carry out our mission when we can’t get where we need to go? Well, now many of the very countries that are closed to the gospel are the ones from which so many refugees are fleeing. We couldn’t go to them, but now they are coming to us! What an opportunity!

The church has nothing to fear!

God is on the move!

It grieves me to see how much suspicion, fear and hatred I see being expressed by so many of my fellow Christ-followers.

Dear brothers and sisters, this ought not be.

Instead, let’s embrace our role as a beacon of hope.


PS – I have posted a “Special Edition” of My Picks containing links to 3 articles which I have found extremely helpful and enlightening. Please consider taking the time to read through them.


Special Edition: My Picks for Tuesday 12-15-2015

Today’s Picks all center around one theme…

The combined issues of immigration, refugees, and terrorism seem to be on everyone’s mind to one degree or another. There seems to be a deep divide among us between the “open up our borders to all” people and the “ban all Muslims” people. I suppose this is another manifestation of the deep divide we already have on so many issues, and as usual, the extremes on either side don’t really listen, or even consider, the thinking of the other, preferring instead to simply shout slogans and demean the character of those who disagree.

I suggest we all take a moment to stop talking and try to understand.

In my own effort to do this I’ve come across several articles that I have found very helpful in my understanding of some things that, honestly, I’d never spent any time really thinking about.

I’m sharing these articles below in the hope that you find them as enlightening as I did. They will require some thought, and a willingness to understand another’s perspective.

Please understand that my focus here is not political. I have my thoughts on this, but on this blog I am not crusading for any particular governmental approach to these things. As I have said in my previous post on the subject, my main concern here is how we Christians respond and behave.

The first is an article I shared on Facebook a while back. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve read on the subject.

What ISIS Really WantsGraeme Wood
http://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/2015/02/17/ISIS_Web_feature2/1920.jpg?1440086852“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.”

This next is an excellent article by someone in a position to understand how the radical Islamist thinks. He draws the distinction between “Islamism” and Islam. As a Christian I understand that all Christians are not the same. In fact, there are some who are so far removed from the actual teaching of Jesus and the New Testament that I would like not even use the term “Christian” to refer to them.

It seems we have trouble understanding that Islam is just as fragmented as Christianity, and that what is true of the most extreme sects is not in any way true for all Muslims.

How to Beat Islamic StateMaajid Nawaz

“As a young Muslim growing up in the U.K., I spent more than a decade as one of the leaders of a global Islamist group that advocated the return of a caliphate, though not through terrorism. My activities eventually led me to Egypt, where at 24 I was jailed as a political prisoner and sentenced to five years in Mazra Tora prison.

Only in jail, after Amnesty International adopted my case, did I dedicate myself to rereading, reviewing and reappraising my every thought. As I deradicalized myself over the next five years, I eventually concluded that Islam, my faith, was being exploited for a totalitarian political project and must be reclaimed from the theocrats. I have spent the past eight years doing just that through a counterextremism organization that I co-founded.”

Finally, I offer this very personal piece from the perspective of a Christian pastor who is the son of a Muslim immigrant to the United States.

My Muslim ProblemOmar Rikabi
Mosque of Omar“I get the fear of terrorism. Part of my family’s story includes those living as refugees in foreign countries, mourning the memory of a loved one shot to death because of religious and ethnic extremism.

And I have fears, too. I fear what the rhetoric of “track and ban” could lead to, because history’s darkest ethnic atrocities started with this kind of talk. And I’m afraid, because of our current climate, that someone will hurt my wife or my girls because our name sounds like those terrorist names.

Yes, there are Muslims who commit horrible acts of violence. But violence is not unique to Islam. It is common to all humanity. In our fallen depravity, all of us are radicalized by sin.

This is not a Muslim problem.

This is a human problem.”