Meanwhile, in China: Pastor Wang Yi’s Declaration of Faithful Disobedience (Faithwire)
Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me.
Carey Nieuwhof: Sermon 2.0
Andrew Sullivan: America’s New Religions.
Church growth does not proceed from working harder or more diligently at what you are already doing. Growth means doing something new. And the first step toward doing something new is to quit kidding yourself about what you are doing now.
Infographic: How long does it take to read the Bible?
Is Jesus fully human, fully divine, or what? Scot McKnight on The Light of the World
Half of Americans plan to attend church at Christmas? Americans Say Religious Aspects of Christmas Are Declining in Public Life (Pew).
Who is Galileo, anyway? 43-year-old single now the most-streamed 20th century song on Apple Music and other platforms (9to5mac). See also this BBC interview with Brian May.
Food labeling laws used to prevent competition: Cato: No use crying over Spelt Milk.
I wonder how he fares on RateMyProfessors? Lund Professor freed student from Islamic State war zone. The campus security people sound pretty good too.
Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results. Nina Teicholz: Ketogenic Diet Myths vs. Facts.
Every additional human being born appears to make resources proportionally more plentiful. Human Progress: Introducing the Simon Abundance Index.
Tim Ferriss interviews Walmart CEO Doug McMillon
Sleep expert Matthew Walker at Google: “Why We Sleep: the New Science of Sleep and Dreams.”
It doesn’t seem like it. Mass killings happen randomly, yet rate has remained steady, study finds. However, other data support that conclusion: Kieran Healy: Assault Deaths to 2015
Point and Counterpoint: America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts (Vox.com), and I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise. (Leah Libresco, formerly with 538)
Christians don’t have to live in fear, but we do need to rethink what it means to be a church today: How Your Church Should Prepare for an Active Shooter
(Cross-posted at jlppastor.)
Church revitalization begins with knowing your why, your reason for existing, the irreducible minimum that everything else either supplements or, occasionally, is at odds with.
If you know your why, it’s easier to figure out what you must do, what you can do without if you have to, and (sometimes) what you need to stop doing. But it’s hard, because everyone in a church already has a why, a reason they attend church, support it financially, and participate in its community and ministries. Most if not all of those why‘s are good reasons, and most are roughly aligned with the why‘s of the other people in their church.
But most churches don’t do the hard work of figuring out their why. If it ain’t broke, why make waves, etc. What if you figure out your why and your best friends at church have a different one?
But it’s not just churches. Major League Baseball has the same problem. (And they charge a lot more for season tickets than churches do!)
I’ve enjoyed a lot of Bishop Barron’s postings inspired by things going on in pop culture. So I was intrigued when YouTube recommended this longer form interview between him and Dave Rubin. Barron is especially interesting here discussing gay marriage, since he’s talking to a married gay man.
Here’s part one of two:
The part about gay marriage is in part two, about 10 minutes in.
In the book of Malachi (Malachi 3:16) we read that “a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.”
What is the honor of God’s name? What does it mean to think about it?
I suspect that many of us have our own ideas about what would honor God’s name in different circumstances.
The first thing I noticed is that this is a continual rethinking: you can’t simply act as if you always know what brings glory to God’s name, as if it never changed in different circumstances.
The second thing is that our ideas are suspect, because we are the fallen people. The only trustworthy way to think about God’s name and what brings it honor, is by study of the Scriptures, and especially the example of Christ.
For example, we can honor God’s name by thinking what the name is. In the Hebrew Scriptures the name of God is YHWH, the Tetragrammaton. It means the living God: the God who is not a dead idol, but who acts.
In the New Testament the name is Jesus. Joseph is told to name the child Jesus … why? Because he will save his people from their sins. His name is the name of salvation. It is in his name that we are taught to pray—not our own name and our own merit, but his. It is his name that we are to gather in. It is his name that we are to baptize in. It is his name at which every knee shall bow, and which every tongue will confess. It is his name that is superior to the names of the angels.
In verses 12–13 of the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet affirms that God is sovereign. Israel’s troubles are not because God is unfaithful or weak. Rather, the Babylonians are tool God is using to punish Israel:
O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
The prophet poses this question:
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you are unable to look at disaster.
Why would you look at the treacherous
or keep silent when the wicked swallows one who is more righteous?
There’s an unstated assumption at the end, that Israel’s sin is less than Babylon’s. This is shaky ground. Who can say whether one sin is more offensive to God than another? Is religious pride and idolatry less offensive to God than violence and cruelty?
If we can find a way resolve that matter, however, there is a great question here: does the end justify the means? Is it right for God to use an evil tool to achieve a good result? That’s a great question even for us frail mortals, who work in a world where everything is tainted with evil. How much better a question is it for God? On the one hand, God can see everything clearly, and will not be overcome by the tools he uses. But for him not to stand off and watch, but to engage evil directly in order to use it: how can he do that?
Tony Morgan has a series of blog posts about declining attendance in Sunday worship services, and I found it interesting:
It’s well worth reading. Part three is tough, especially for people in church leadership, but part four is just plain thought-provoking.
If you’re familiar with 12 Step programs, you might remember that Step 4 is the Truth, i.e., “Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.”
There’s a reason they say *searching and fearless* — it’s hard to be honest about yourself. (Especially in writing.)
John Wesley and his Holy Club used to do that every day (not in writing). They had a list of questions to help them do it. Here are the first two:
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
I should mention that I hate those questions and rarely do this.
My friends from Seminary, many of them, are posting from #GA222 in Portland. Reading their posts, I feel like such a dog in the manger. “They’re happy. Why can’t you be happy for them?” I ask myself. The reason is the same reason I wouldn’t be happy if someone had cancer and they were treating it with homeopathic remedies. (“None of the side-effects of chemo!”) They may be happy, but they’re not addressing the problem.