Archive by Author

Saturday Morning Fun…The European Union Explained

If you’ve ever wondered precisely what the European Union is or why the UK has its own money even though it’s part of the EU, here’s a great explanation.

Flotsam and jetsam (6/5)

Good Reads

  • 10 Things Every Christian Should Know about Islam: Islam is a fast-growing religion, especially in the Western world. Christians increasingly need to be aware of Islam and, most importantly, how to engage its adherents with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are 10 things I learned about Islam during my 20 years as a missionary in a Muslim-majority country.
  • Church Thieves: Her last day on the job should not have involved handcuffs, but that’s the way it played out.  The church secretary for a tall steeple church a small town was put in the backseat of the police car and taken away.  Her crime? Stealing from the church.
  • It’s too early to write off the lecture:  For as long as the lecture is regarded as better than internet-based learning, it will survive on a substantial scale. And wherein lies its superiority? An interesting question. It is live. It is real. It is put on with you in mind, even if you are one of a large crowd. You experience it with other people. And, perhaps the clincher: it takes place in a university, bursting with life and interesting people who will inspire you in unexpected ways.

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Women Who Gave Their Lives for the Church

perpetua and felicity martyr martyrdomThe Fourth of July is a great day for celebrating heroes. But this year I thought we should celebrate heroes of a slightly different kind.

In her book Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History, Diana Lynn Severance points out that 170 of the known martyrs in the early church were women. And, although all of the martyrs served as testimonies to Christian faithfulness and caused many non-Christians to ask serious questions about a religion that could inspire this kind of commitment, it seems that the martyrdom of Christian women had a particularly large impact on both Christians and non-Christians alike. So some of the most famous stories of the early church involved the martyrdom of women like Perpetua and Felicity (pictured on the right), Blandina, and Agnes.

Although we have little information on many of these amazing women, we know enough to celebrate the tremendous faith and perseverance they displayed in the church’s earliest days. Here is a list of some of the more famous martyrs, taken from a table of martyrs Severance provides in Feminine Threads (pp. 48-50).

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Flotsam and jetsam (7/3)

Good Reads

  • Beware of Beauty Overload: The Adaptive Eye of the Beholder: The harmful side effect for guys … is this: Real women … do not look as attractive once the mind has been calibrated to assume the centerfolds are normal. And for guys in relationships, exposure to beautiful photos undermines their feelings about the real flesh-and-blood women with whom their lives are actually intertwined.
  • The New Theist: How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy’s boldest apostle.

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7 Concerns about How Technology Shapes “Modern” Life

People often worry that modern technology has made life worse, not better. And I have to admit that every time my computer locks up in the middle of an important project or my cell phone buzzes distractingly when I’m in the middle of a good book, I wonder the same thing. But it’s worth realizing that concerns about technology and quality of life are nothing new. Here are seven surprisingly ”modern” concerns about technology from over 100 years ago.

1. We’re inundated by too many short messages.

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June’s Top Posts

The blogging has been lighter than normal around here as we spent most of June finalizing details on our move to Wheaton. But I did manage to post a few things. So here are the top five posts from the last month.

Flotsam and jetsam (7/1)

Good Reads

  • How to make a baby with 3 people’s DNA: The U.K. is slowly winding its way toward approving a controversial in vitro fertilization technique that combines three people’s DNA in one embryo — making what some journalists are calling a “three-parent baby.”
  • The Gospel According to ‘Me‘: The booming self-help industry, not to mention the cash cow of New Age spirituality, has one message: be authentic! Charming as American optimism may be, its 21st-century incarnation as the search for authenticity deserves pause.
  • How Not to Help Someone Who Is Hurting: We are in a cultural moment that is obsessed with FIXING. With magic diet and lifestyle changes that promise, when implemented, to make us a whole new, better person.

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A Prayer for Sunday (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Elizabeth Barrett BrowningOne of the most prominent poets of Victorian England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was well known for her incredible literary output and the influence she had on later writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson. Keenly interested in biblical studies (apparently she could read Hebrew) and theology, Barrett Browning’s writings were notable for their overt religious and theological themes. And she was also an active member of several Bible and missionary societies.

After 55 influential years, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on June 29, 1861. In honor of her amazing life, this Sunday’s prayer comes from her.

NOW, by the verdure on thy thousand hills,
Beloved England, doth the earth appear
Quite good enough for men to overbear
The will of God in, with rebellious wills !
We cannot say the morning-sun fulfils
Ingloriously its course, nor that the clear
Strong stars without significance insphere
Our habitation: we, meantime, our ills
Heap up against this good and lift a cry
Against this work-day world, this ill-spread feast,
As if ourselves were better certainly
Than what we come to. Maker and High Priest,
I ask thee not my joys to multiply,–
Only to make me worthier of the least.

Flotsam and jetsam (6/28)

Good Reads

  • Christians Are Not Called to Have Amazing Sex: The fact that sexual compatibility does not matter to Christians when choosing a spouse makes the shocking and countercultural statement that sex is not our God. It indicates that we are willing to make a commitment to someone with whom we may be sexually incompatible, with whom we may never have good sex, because the purpose of marriage is not pleasure, but formation.
  • Sex Without Bodies: Christians cannot simply accept or reject “same-sex marriage” and think we have settled our sexual ethics. The LGBTQIA coalition has other challenges for the church.
  • Why the Biblical Languages Matter—Even if You Forget Them: Many students assume that the study of the languages is useless if the specifics are forgotten at a later point.   Indeed, this may be the biggest assumption in the mind of today’s seminary students. This assumption, however, is profoundly mistaken.

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The Church Is Not a Democracy

democracy democratic vote congregational church congregationalist congregationalism church covernanceIn this quote, Scottish theologian P.T. Forsyth warns against viewing the church as a democracy, which he sees as a fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of the church. His concern wasn’t with congregationalism or the idea of churches voting on major decision (Forsyth himself pastored a congregational church), but with the fact that understanding the church as a democracy makes us think of the church as being all about the people (democracy literally means “rule of the people”), whereas we must always remember that the church belongs to God and owes him, and him only, absolute obedience. Essentially, he fears that the democratic impulse stems from a desire to shirk that responsibility and be our own highest authority.

Although I have a hard time believing that congregational churches are the only ones who tend to forget that God is the one in control, having attended a congregational church all my life, I think this is a warning that we all need to hear. As much as I value congregational participation in church governance, it can, and often does, contribute to an atmosphere that is people-centered (everyone needs to have their say and we must keep everyone happy) rather than God-centered, a democracy rather than a church.

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