Flotsam and jetsam (3/28)

at at oops

Good Reads

  • Hooray for “worthless” education! We live in one of the few cultures in the world that has the ideal of pursuing happiness – not industry, not wealth – built into its national character, and yet we increasingly treat the notion of educating ourselves in how to be well-rounded, sentient beings as a pointless expense. And learning for its own satisfaction is all but laughed at. (Salon)
  • The Friendless Pastor: It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. Our days and nights are filled with calls, meetings, and interactions with people. But despite lots of people contact, we have few trusted peers. We have too many relationships and too few friends. (Leadership)

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Flotsam and jetsam (3/26)

real books

Good Reads

  • Jesus Ate with Sinners: Jesus’s table fellowship with sinners looked suspicious from the outside, but those who were there knew that kingdom activity was going on. Those intent on purity and cleanness, who live with an us-versus-them mentality, should think that we are drunkards and gluttons! But the broken sinners should know that we are people of grace and compassion. (Andy Holt)
  • Get Ready for Generation X to Take the Reins: They’re more pragmatic than the boomers, and less idealistic overall. But unlike the millennials, they haven’t rejected either large institutions (political parties and organized religion) or capitalism. More than the “slacker” stereotype, many Gen Xers were aspiring “yuppies” who saw movies like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Wall Street” and thought about how they might make money and acquire power in a world that no longer promised each generation a better life. (US News)

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Why Do We Read Fiction?

I often hear people say that they struggle to appreciate fiction. Life is short, and they’d rather spend their time on books that are more informative or useful.

Escapism

In his famous An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis offered some powerful reflections on why we read fiction. For him, it ultimately comes down to the idea that fiction allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Although much of what he says applies to all kinds of reading–after all, any time I read someone else’s words I’m trying to see the world from their perspective–he argues that fiction does this in uniquely powerful ways. Fiction shows us a world, it doesn’t just tell us about one. And, as a result, fiction shapes us in ways that no other kinds of reading can. I wrestled with this a bit in 6 Reasons you Should Waste Your Time Reading Fiction. But Lewis does it so much better.

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The Effect the Internet Has on Memory

Flotsam and jetsam (3/24)

minute length

Good Reads

  • Pentecostalism’s Wesleyan Roots & Fruit:  The Wesleyan doctrinal tradition provides Pentecostals with an inclusive and expansive yet solid and substantive paradigm for doing theology in today’s world. It’s not the only model. However, we’re already at home with this theological tradition. And it offers, I think, a clear, consistent, and coherent trajectory. (Seedbed)
  • The New Monasticism Gets Older, But Will It Grow Up? God has been calling individual believers to the monastic life for nearly two thousand years—so why would we presume that he is not still doing so today, even among Protestant Evangelical Christians? If God is calling some to this life then the Church should provide them with the monasteries necessary to live out their calling. (First Things)
  • Don’t Quote Me on This: Emerson didn’t hate quotation, not really. What he hated was our impulse to shortcut actual thought. The Internet didn’t create that impulse, but it has made it far more tempting and easier to satisfy. (New York Times)

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Flotsam and jetsam (3/21)

weird grown ups

Good Reads

  • Focus and Food: A recent study explored the effect of multitasking on food flavor and consumption. The findings: taste perception is limited by our capacity to pay attention to multiple things at once. The result of this mindless eating is that food tastes blander, we crave stronger flavors (i.e. more salt and sugar), and we end up eating more. (Positive Prescription)
  • 3 Ways to Recognize Bad Stats: To discern if research is of good quality, it may help to understand some of the process. It’s not that complicated and it will keep you out of trouble. (Ed Stetzer)
  • 6 Things Every Extrovert Secretly Has To Deal With: I have no real problem with introverts and introversion, my issue is with the fact that people of the internet seem to have romanticized introversion in a way that turns any possible social impediments a person might have into desirable quirky traits. Not only this, but extroverts are suddenly the bad guys for not understanding introverts or mistreating introverts, etc, etc. (Thought Catalog)
  • The Most Influential Reformer You’ve Never Heard of: Hannah More was one of William Wilberforce’s most beloved friends and part of a small circle who worked most closely with him to abolish the British slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. She played so central a role in this and many other significant social reforms of the 19th century that she has been called “the first Victorian.” (Hermeneutics)

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The Most Important Question You Can Ask?

Question Mark Background BW

I hate plumbing. Dark spaces, pipes conveniently located just where they’re impossible to reach, and a body never intended to contort like that. But the worst part, the thing that makes me dread plumbing, is that sound. You know the one: the inevitable, excruciating, sanctification-challenging sound of water dripping from that just-fixed pipe. It doesn’t matter how minute the crack, water will find a way through. And its incessant dripping is impossible to ignore.

A good question functions much the same way. If I tell you something you don’t like, you can just dismiss it. We ignore inconvenient facts all the time, impervious behind our wall of preconceived beliefs. But powerful questions are like water, slowly working through the cracks and crevices before sending their incessant “drip, drip, drip” into the quite recesses of our minds. A good question is hard to ignore.

Jesus asked really good questions. Here are just a few:

That’s the beginning of my most recent post over at Pastors Today. Head over there and check it out.

3 Reasons We Should Stop Calling People Heretics…Unless They Are

toe-the-line

“You’re a heretic.”

That’s a powerful claim, one with the ability to destroy. And like all weapons of mass destruction, it should be used with extreme caution.

A recent blog post highlighted 7 Heresies Inside the Church. As I read through the post, I noticed two things. Yes, the author correctly identified seven dangerous ideas that the church needs to watch closely today. But there isn’t a single heresy among them.

I think that’s a problem. Calling something a heresy when it isn’t contributes to other serious problems for the church today. To see why, let’s first take a look at what a “heresy” is. Then we can consider some reasons why it’s dangerous to label something as a heresy when it’s not.

This is the beginning of my most recent post over at Christianity.com. Head over there and check it out.

Flotsam and jetsam (3/19)

adulthood

Good Reads

  • Coffee with Facepalm Jesus Calling: An earlier generation asked What Would Jesus Do? But these days, people are increasingly comfortable with skipping the hypothetical, shifting out of the subjunctive, and just telling us What Jesus Would Say, in their opinions. If he were really here, that is: if he were talking, if he were blogging, or meme-ing, or cartooning, or writing devotionals. (Fred Sanders)
  • The Accidental Complementarian: Jen is a complementarian, we nod. I am described by the convenience of a category. One word makes me a friend or foe. I am a complementarian. But as is also true for my egalitarian sisters in Christ, that isn’t all there is to know. (Jen Pollock Michael)
  • The Age of Individualism: In the future, it seems, there will be only one “ism” — Individualism — and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide — and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook. (Ross Douthat)

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Is God at Work in History?

In my church history classes, I often ask students why the early church grew so rapidly. And we discuss non-theological factors like the pax Romana, a shared language, established trade routes, and the charitable endeavors of the early church.

Then someone inevitably asks, “What about God?” Surely God wanted the church to grow and the gospel to spread. So we can look back on history and see God at work making sure those things happened in the first few centuries of the church.

History

After listening for a few minutes, I ask the students to consider the near elimination of the church in North Africa and Asia Minor after the rise of Islam. What do you do with that? If God wants the church to grow and the gospel to spread, why did that happen? How do you find God at work in those historical events?

What about the Crusades? The holocaust? The Rwandan genocide?

How do you discern God at work in history? That’s really the question. How can we speak so confidently about God at work in growing the early church and then just stammer awkwardly when asked about more tragic realities of the past?

What is the relationship between divine providence and the study of history?

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