Tag Archives: Discipleship

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.”

My Weekend Picks for 12-11-2015

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

This is a fascinating behind the scenes look at how the correspondence between Charles Schulz and one fan helped him make a difficult move…

Why Charles M. Schulz Gave Peanuts A Black Character
-Paul Sorene
Charles M Schulz Franklin letter civil rights“People I like can be divided into two groups: a) those who enjoy and get Charles M. Schulz’s wonderful Peanuts comic strip; b) those fools who don’t. All of human life is in the artist and writer’s 17,897 comic strips.

In 1968 Schulz noticed the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and read a letter from Los Angeles schoolteacher Harriet Glickman. She had a question for Schulz: would he include a black child in the Peanuts gang?”

The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability -David Murray
“There’s one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life: teachability.

Those who are teachable, and remain so, usually succeed. The unteachable usually fail. I’ve seen that in business, I’ve seen it in the ministry, I’ve seen it among students, and I’ve seen it in my children.

No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings, or our relationships.”

Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism? -Marty Duren
Short answer: They do.
[Image credit]
Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism? It’s a question we hear a lot after full scale terrorist attacks or individual killings. It isn’t surprising given the ongoing conflation of Islam, the major world religion, with extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda that represent a tiny fraction of the whole.

The fact is there are many, many condemnations following every terrorist act, or violent acts carried out by Muslims. Attacks that make the news are repudiated, usually swiftly. The repudiations are rarely noted.”

This next piece is somewhat lengthy, but it is very moving and worth your time. It is the story of how God is using one man in the midst of the refugee crisis. If you, like me, live in the shelter of American borders, this will help you get a feel for what is happening elsewhere. I love his quote at the end of the piece: “I understand why you’re afraid, but that fear is not from God,” he says. “You don’t have to be afraid. You have to show love. If we don’t, we’re giving the win to ISIS.”

Love and Loss in Syria’s Refugee Crisis -Cort Gatliff
“In the middle of this chaos, Ibrahim, a former Muslim who left behind his home in Syria, is serving refugees in Istanbul and taking advantage of every opportunity to tell them about his faith in Jesus. “This is the best time for the Muslim refugees to hear the message,” Ibrahim says. “Their hearts are so soft.” He spends his days ministering to those who’ve been caught amid this massive forced migration, but he’s also waiting to be granted immigrant status so he can reunite with his wife, whom he hasn’t seen since 2013, in the United States. Since becoming a follower of Jesus in 2004, Ibrahim felt God was calling him to serve among his Muslim neighbors.

He just never knew what that would look like, until now.”


My Picks for Monday 12-7-2015

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

Joseph’s Pregnant Advent-Tim Fall

“I didn’t get any sleep last night. I haven’t been sleeping well for a while, in fact. My friends say that’s normal for someone about to get married, but it’s not just that. It’s about my Mary.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s the sweetest and wisest woman I’ve ever met. But right now we’re merely betrothed and haven’t had our wedding night yet. That’s why when she came to me a while ago with her news it caught me by surprise. Complete surprise.”

FAQ: should I curtail grandparent gift-giving?-Jen Wilkin
“Minimalist parents everywhere, I salute your desire to shepherd your kids toward simplicity. Do your best to pair it with forbearance toward silver-haired, soft-hearted spenders with whom you share a physical resemblance, a last name, or, at bare minimum, a deep love for your kids. Should you find this difficult, eggnog will help.”

This in no way is meant to minimize the tragedies (as if that could even be done) but, I did find this interesting and noteworthy…

We’ve had a massive decline in gun violence in the United States. Here’s why.-Max Ehrenfreund

“According to the FBI’s data, the national rate of violent crime has decreased 49 percent since its apex in 1991. Even as a certain type of mass shooting is apparently becoming more frequent, America has become a much less violent place.”

When Difficulty Feels Discouraging, Remember This
-Donald Miller
“Each time I read the Bible I’m taken aback by how much we dilute the power of its stories with sentimentalism. The story of Noah and his ark has been reduced to a children’s story (a God-orchestrated massacre of all humanity) and the story of the Birth of Christ into a regal pageant complete with gifts and robed choirs of angels (A poor virgin and her new husband delivering a baby in a manger of a stable. Followed by an angry king slaughtering all children under two years old to try to kill off the Messiah.)…

One of the problems with sentimentalizing the text is that we begin to sentimentalize our actual lives. We begin to think the Christian life should be free of hardship.”

Click image for a larger version.

A Noble Quest

Don Quixote – by Andrey Zhelkovsky

I’m on a noble quest and I invite you to join me.

Every once in a while one of my Facebook friends will decide to leave Facebook for a time, or even permanently. There could be lots of reasons for this. I have taken time away from social media occasionally myself, and I believe it’s a valuable thing to do from time to time.

The ones I’m thinking of right now, though, make a pretty big deal out of it. They will put a strongly worded status up announcing their intention to leave. They may be leaving because of all the “negativity” they see in their newsfeed. They are astounded to discover that (gasp) there are people who don’t agree with them. Maybe it’s about politics. Maybe it’s about how best to live out their Christian faith. Maybe they feel as if they’re fighting an unbeatable foe.

I find myself wondering where they’re going to go. Do they not encounter negativity every day? Do they never have a conversation with a friend who disagrees with them?

Do they even have friends who disagree with them? Do they ever run where the brave dare not go?

It’s only natural that our closest friends are people who tend to see the world from a similar perspective. I love these friends because they know and understand me in ways that others cannot.

But, I also love the fact that I have good friends, for whom I care deeply, who disagree with me on a number of issues (you know who you are). Our friendship is not dependent upon being the same age, or sharing the same political views, or taste in music, or “style” of worship, or any number of things that seem to divide people from one another. It also doesn’t mean that we simply avoid those areas of conversation in order to keep our friendship intact. Those subjects do come up and sometimes the conversation is passionate. But we talk about the issue without demeaning the person.

I think we should all have friends like that, who look at life differently than we do. It keeps us honest. It makes us think about what we believe and why. We need that.

Now, I realize this is particularly difficult on social media. There’s no physical presence. You don’t hear the tone of voice. You can’t look them in the eye. It’s just you, your keyboard, and your screen. It takes some effort and intentionality to stop and realize that you’re addressing another human being. One whom God has created in His own image, and whom He loves as much as He loves you.

Here’s what I try to do: If I’m engaging with a person on social media whom I don’t know well, I find it helpful to stop for a moment and imagine that I’m sitting across a table from a fairly new acquaintance with a cup of coffee. That way I’m having a conversation. I’m more careful with what I say and how I say it. I may still say what I want to say, but I may also choose to wait. Either way, I try to build a bridge instead of a wall.

I think this is what Jesus wants me to do.

It’s what He wants you to do, too.

Rather than retreating from social media, or from those who may not agree with you, I encourage you to stick with them. Be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause. Don’t just argue to win points, build bridges to reach people.

I’m not saying I’m really good at this, but I’m trying. Jesus was great at it! We need to learn from His example.

I know it sounds Quixotic, but I believe if we do this one thing, remember that the people we talk to and the people we talk about are just that – people. People created and loved by God, just like us. If we do that, I believe we can change social media, and our nation.

And the world will be better for this.

I’m on a quest and I implore you to join me.



My Weekend Picks 12-4-2015

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

There has been a lot of conversation about prayer on social media recently, a lot of it negative. You’ve probably already seen the now famous “God Isn’t Fixing This” headline in the New York Daily News. I suppose we Christians should not be surprised that many of those who do not share our faith might go so far as to ridicule it as worthless. However, I would suggest that part of the problem is that those who would ridicule likely don’t really understand what we mean when we say we will pray. If we think prayer is like using a genie from a bottle then we have horribly misconstrued our relationship with God. He’s the Master, not us.

That is certainly not to imply that there is no power in prayer, there most certainly is. In fact, it is likely much more powerful than we will ever realize.

All of that is to introduce several excellent articles for your weekend reading that respond to some of the “prayer shaming” going on. My hope is that you find them helpful and encouraging…and that you keep praying.

In fact, let’s start with that…


Ignore the pundits and keep praying -Joel Miller
“So, yeah, let’s stop praying. Because that’s pointless—unless, of course, someone is shooting at you.

Despite its self-assurance, the New York Daily News was exactly wrong. (Probably not the first time.) How so? Later this month the church observes the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, that tragic moment in which King Herod responded to the gospel by trying to murder the messiah.

It’s a terrible though often overlooked side of the Christmas story. But the senseless killing, the unspeakable loss, the inconsolable tears connect us across centuries. And those tears have the potential to remind us of where our hope for justice ultimately rests.”

This post by Andy Crouch is thorough and powerful…

On ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ After the San Bernardino Shooting
-Andy Crouch
On ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ After the San Bernardino Shooting
“To offer prayer in the wake of tragedy is not, except in the most flattened and extreme versions of populist Christianity, to ask God to “fix” anything. It is to hold those who were harmed, and those who harmed, before the mercy of God. In many traditions, it is to recognize that the human person is more than a human body, so that even death itself is not the final word on our destiny—so prayers are appropriate even for the dead, whose lives are held by a Life that transcends death.”

Then there’s this timely reminder from Denny Burk…

Christmas means that God IS fixing this -Denny Burk

“The idea that we have to do what God has failed to do is at best out of step with Christmas and is at worst blasphemous. Christmas is the one time of year that is supposed to remind us that God is fixing this.”


When we resort to “prayer shaming” our society, not just Christian society, loses something important…

What we lose when we prayer shame politicians after a mass shooting -Russell Moore

“For religious people, of all sorts, prayer is doing something. We do believe that God can intervene, to comfort the hurting and even to energize ourselves and others for right action. For those who don’t believe in the power of prayer, the last thing any of us should want is social pressure to pretend to pray. What we can expect, though, is for neighbors to express in what ever ways they have, “We love one another, and we hurt for one another.”

When that becomes just another culture war battlefield, we’ve lost more than a set of policy proposals. We’ve lost the social cohesion we need to do anything. And social media outrage can’t fix that.”


My Picks for Tuesday 12-1-2015

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

This simple post resonated pretty deeply in me for some reason…

A Simple Rule That Can Make Life More Fun
John Richmond
Photo Credit: Loren Kerns, Creative Commons“Kids generally do not get in trouble for being silly—they get in trouble for being silly after an adult asked them to stop. It is often that last kid to stop that bears that brunt of the punishment.

This rule applies at every phase of life.

Knowing how to stop makes eating, drinking, investing, exercising, spending, skydiving, hang gliding, and everything else more enjoyable.

Interestingly, knowing how to stop is sometimes the best way to start.”

Following Rob Bell: The Edges of Faith and the Center of the Zeitgeist -Dustin Messer

“In a world where pastors wait with bended knees and clenched eyes for their heads to roll down the sandy slopes of a Libyan beach, the complacent, comfortable, Western church must reset her vision of bravery as it relates to the pastorate. There was a time—even in the West—where cultural capital was gained by being a Christian…

These days, the real adventurers are those who set sail for the risky land of Christian orthodoxy. The real brave men and women are those who consistently go to church, observe the sacraments, hear the word, and submit themselves to the discipline of the church. In an age of autonomy, it’s those who subject their thoughts, behaviors, and passions to an exclusive Sovereign that are the brave few. Those may not be the memoirs we’re interested in today, but they’ll be the ones that last tomorrow.”

Advocating for Life, After Colorado SpringsTrevin Wax

Colorado Springs Continues To Recover After Shooting“What does this do for “the cause?”

That is a question that presents itself to both pro-life and pro-choice people following last Friday’s rampage…

We should not be surprised to see pro-choice cheerleaders among the mainstream media and Planned Parenthood’s well-endowed politicians exploiting this tragedy, weaponizing the tragedy against the wider pro-life movement and painting all pro-life people as wild and zealous fanatics.

But our response should be different. We should grieve with those who grieve, mourn the loss of innocent life and consider the victims – the families who will pass through the weeks, months, and years ahead with a sense of loss and longing that will far surpass the volcano of words in our 24-hour news cycle.”

This is a beautiful little tribute to 20 years of Pixar animation…

Grandkid pic of the day:
Me and Oliver Lloyd work the HUB at WOCC Colerain

Weekend Picks 11-20-2015

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

Eight Words from Jesus in a World with Refugees -D. Glenn
Eight Words from Jesus in a World with Refugees“Jesus calls us to follow him. Sometimes it is clear how we do this, and often it is not. In trying to grapple with what it means to follow Jesus as it relates to the current refugee crisis, it is worth rehearsing at least eight things Jesus expects from those who follow him. May he give us all wisdom in how best to apply them…”

This post by Richard Ostling (aka The Religion Guy) is from last February, but it is timely and informative…

Is Islam a “religion of peace”? -Richard Ostling
Capture“In this tangled discussion one point is obvious: This great world religion is embroiled in an increasingly dangerous internal conflict as an expanding faction of militant ‘Islamists’ or ‘jihadis’ works to abolish Muslim thinkers’ consensus across centuries about justifications for violence, the proper conduct of warfare, and who has the authority to decide such matters. John Esposito, a Georgetown University expert, calls it a ‘struggle for the soul of Islam.'”

It’s good to be reminded that when we’re talking about refugees we’re not just talking about an “issue” but about people’s lives. Take some time to read their stories…

Humans of New York Refugee Stories -Brandon Stanton
“For ten days in September, I travelled to Greece, Hungary, Croatia, and Austria to learn the stories of refugees traveling across Europe. These are some of the stories I learned…”

You may need to free yourself from other distractions for a few minutes while you are challenged by this next piece…

The Illusion of Respectability -Allen Guelzo
The Illusion of Respectability“In every example where the courts, the celebrities or the culture-makers have trampled heedlessly on biblical norms, there are some initially robust outbursts of resistance, then a nervous glancing around to see whether anyone has joined the resistance. When it develops that the resistance is unpopular, the objections trail away so that a respectable place in society can somehow be retained…

The real measure of the integrity of the Christian scholar is distance, not proximity, to respectability.”

How to Be a Christian in the Era of Cable News Fights
-Victoria Le Sweatman
“How many times have you heard or read any of the following words in the past few months? “Refuglican,” “libtard,” “teabagger,” “gun nut,” “fascidiot,” “feminazi.” How many times have you heard somebody refer to liberals, conservatives or some other group as being in general “stupid”? How many memes have you seen that address the opposite political faction in a way that belittles them?

And how many of the people you’ve observed using this kind of language called themselves Christians?”

Happy Holidays!

Source: Wrong Hands

My Picks for Thursday 11-19-2015

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

Before You Debate, You Have to Agree -Trevin Wax
“…in a world of constantly-flowing, often-contradictory information, we rarely get to have a satisfying debate because we don’t agree on what the situation is. You can’t debate a “good” interpretation or discuss the “best way forward” if there’s no common ground of agreement…

The temptation for conservatives and liberals alike is to sideline the truth in advance of the cause. As Christians, we must resist such a practice. We are a people of truth. We should care about getting the facts right. We should be the least gullible people online and the first to challenge viral posts or Facebook videos that reinforce certain narratives with inaccurate information.”

What Refugees in Your Neighborhood Need from You
-Heather Evans
What Refugees in Your Neighborhood Need from You“Sitting in a bare apartment with people who speak a different language and come from a different culture is unglamorous and often awkward. It lacks the adventure and experience of traveling to a foreign land. It requires far more staying power than a two-week trip. But this presents Christians with a call to practice hospitality. God has called us to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19), and this is the mission field coming to us. It is here in our midst and accessible.”

It would un-Jesus him -Ray Ortlund
Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå Gallerix.ru“I tell you again that he cannot reject you.  That would be to alter his whole character and un-Christ himself.  To spurn a coming sinner would un-Jesus him and make him to be somebody else and not himself any longer.  ‘He cannot deny himself.’  Go and try him; go and try him.”  -Charles Spurgeon

Source: Wrong Hands