Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"The Cross is the Crux": A Sermon from 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1

In the introduction to their book Seeking the City, authors Dr. Chad Owen Brand and Tom Pratt write the following regarding how everything is a moral issue and how that affects political dialogue:
The American struggle over race became in the last third of the twentieth century a kind of "me-too" political game. It goes like this: If the race question is a moral/political battlefield what about gender discrimination? What about sexual orientation? What about disability? What about the homeless? And what about any number of other apparent injustices done to any other possible constituency?

To be sure, especially among Christians, but regularly among the general populace as well, the morality card is played to justify political action. But it is with a whole new meaning. For, in the previous eight years of the twenty-first century, events came to bear that produced a new sense of what was moral and what was not. in fact, it was the complete reversal of what existed at the close of World War II where this discussion began. Nowadays moral is not a term used to evaluate one's sexual proclivities or one's personal trustworthiness to tell the truth. No. Now moral is a litmus test for whether one stands on the correct side of certain political disputes. Morality was not involved in the sexual exploits of the president of the United States in the '90s, in the minds of some, for that was about private behavior, a matter of personal taste but not of morality. Yet according to a very vocal lineup of political pundits and office holders, morality was most certainly involved in such political issues as welfare reform, minimum wage legislation, tax cuts, "for the rich," health-care "reform," environmental damage, Medicare benefits, and Social Security (to name but a few). It would seem that morality is to what it used to be. (22-23)
The authors then turn to racism as an example of this. They write:
The moral distance that has grown between that earlier time and the present is illustrated int eh evolution of the use of terminology associated with the charge of racism. It is now common usage to charge with racism anyone who disagrees with a certain political philosophy. This philosophy is characterized by a conviction that all people of color are the victims of bias and discrimination, whether realized or subconscious, in the mind of the supposed victimizer. thus, not only is racism the province of the KKK and other obviously race-conscious practitioners of discrimination, but anyone who opposes the politics of a person of color is by default a racist. Strangest of all to many who have lived through the entire sequence of events, the very idea that "color-blindness" should inform our relations among the racial groups is no longer a moral way of settling disputes. Rather, it is the every reverse that is now championed. One must discriminate on the basis of race in order to avoid the charge of racism - that is, in certain political situations. In other situations, that may not be the case. But the rules are based on the determinations made by one or more groups that is allowed to cal the shots morally - the prior victims. And, the "victim" list has grown longer and broader decade by decade. Most bewildering of all, these prior victims cannot be charged with racism or sexism or hate crime, etc., even if they make such distinctions, because one must have "power" to be called a racist, and a victim by definition has no power. Dr. King's dram has become a nightmare. (23)
I completely agree with the authors. Most pundits in 2008 surmised that electing the first African-American president would put to bed racism in America, but the opposite has occurred. It seems that both Republican presidential candidates in 2008 (John McCain) and 2012 (Mitt Romney) were hesitant to "take on President Obama" in fears of appearing to be racist. The progressive left has used "the race card" has a means of avoiding criticism of President Obama's policies. Expect the same if America elects former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the first female President. Any criticism of her will be one of sexism. It seems that the only "groups" one can criticize without fear of being a "-ist" are Christians, Southerners, and the elderly.

One final point needs to be made. When morality is used as a weapon against political enemies, then it cannot be properly used as a defense against deviancy (a point the authors will make later). Furthermore, our nation has redefined morality as a public issue - taxation on the rich 1%, etc. - and not a private one. What one does in the privacy of their own homes is not a question of morality or ethics, but of lifestyle. This is all a recipe for disaster especially from a biblical perspective. The problem with sin is not just systemic but also, and I would say primarily, internally.

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around the Web - July 29, 2014

Russell MooreN Is for Nazareth
Christians around the world are changing their social media avatars to the arabic letter “n.” In so doing, these Christians are reminding others around them to pray, and to stand in solidarity with believers in Iraq who are being driven from their homes, and from their country, by Islamic militants. The Arabic letter comes from the mark the ISIS militants are placing on the homes of known Christians. “N” is for “Nazarene,” those who follow Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on why Nazareth matters, to all of us. The truth that our Lord is a Nazarene is a sign to us of both the rooted locality and the global solidarity of the church.

Jesus is from somewhere. Yes, the eternal Son of God transcends time and space. He was with the Father and the Spirit in love and glory “before the world was” (Jn. 17:5). But in his Incarnation, Jesus identified with a tribe, with a genealogy, with a hometown.

He “went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). Some of Jesus’ contemporaries rejected him because of where he was from. Nathaniel infamously asked Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). His question is entirely sensible. Nazareth was a powerless backwater, not the sort of urban, elite center that we are told drives cultural change. Philip’s response wasn’t an argument about Nazareth; it was simply to say, “Come and see.”

Denny BurkWomen will be saved through childbirth?
The exegetical issues here are too complex to unpack in a single blog post, but I thought I’d share briefly what I understand this text to be saying.

The conflict over the meaning of this verse is reflected in the different English translations. The NASB renders it “women shall be preserved,” while the ESV says that “she shall be saved.” The dispute is over the meaning of the Greek term sozo. The NASB reflects the view that Paul is merely saying that faithful Christian women will be preserved physically when they give birth. But that doesn’t make sense here because we know that not all faithful Christian women live through childbirth. The ESV and NIV are nearer the mark on this one. This particular Greek word always refers to spiritual salvation elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles, and there’s no reason to think it means anything different in 1 Timothy 2:15. So this term is talking about spiritual salvation.

Thom Rainer - 11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member
  1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
  2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
  3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
  4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
  5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
  6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
  7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
  8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
  9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
  10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
  11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.

Trevin Wax - 12 Books that Showcase the Grand Narrative of Scripture
In my book for teachers and small group leaders, Gospel-Centered Teaching, I recommend asking a “big story” question during preparation: ”How does this topic or passage fit into the big picture story of the Bible?” It’s a question we always ask as we work on The Gospel Project curriculum.

A gospel-centered teacher wants to help people learn to read the Bible for themselves, to understand the flow of the narrative, how the different genres fit into that narrative, and how to apply the truths of the Bible with wisdom.

One of the best ways to get a feel for the Bible’s narrative is to read through the Bible chronologically. Another way is to read at least one or two Bible overview books a year.

Here are twelve books I recommend. Each provides an overview of the Bible, moving from easier to more difficult.

CNN - World's coolest bookstores
Someday there may be a generation of kids who think bookstores are fictional creations found only in novels that come in the mail.

Understandable, since many of the world's most beautiful independent bookstores have closed in recent years.

Not all of them are facing unhappy endings, however.

The brick-and-mortar survivors -- and brave newcomers -- have adapted to the Age of Amazon in their own ways, from opening 24 hours to undergoing spectacular design renovations or stocking books that aren't sold by the online giant.

Old or new, all with fascinating stories, the bookstores below serve as historic sites, sanctuaries, salons of culture and must-visit entries in any travel itinerary.

The LeBron James Redemption

Monday, July 28, 2014

Free eBook: "Replant" by Mark Devine and Darrin Patrick

One of the books I have been wanting to for sometime is Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Mark Devine and Darrin Patrick. Today, the good folks at David C. Cook are making the ebook available for free. Here is the description:
Today’s spiritual landscape is littered with churches on their last legs, forcing us to reconsider how we keep the Body of Christ alive and strong. The solution, according to visionary pastors Darrin Patrick and Mark DeVine, is to infuse new blood into the body and by seeking God’s presence and guidance. Avoiding cookie-cutter steps or how-to formulas, Replant describes the story of a church resurrection, a story that offers a multitude of divinely inspired, and practical possibilities for church planters. The result is a harvest of inspiring ideas on how to inspire new church growth. Discover a new openness to churches merging with other congregations, changing leadership, and harvesting fresh spiritual fruit—inviting us all to re-think how churches not only survive, but thrive.

You can download the Kindle version here.

For more free resources:

Free eBook: "Sinner's Creed" by Scott Stapp

Through August 2, the good folks at Tyndale are offering Creed front man, Scott Stapp's book Sinner's Creed as a digital download for free. Here is the book's description:
Sinner’s Creed is the uncensored memoir of Scott Stapp, Grammy Award–winning leader of the multiplatinum rock band CREED. During CREED’s decade of dominance and in the years following the band’s breakup, Scott struggled with drugs and alcohol, which led not only to a divorce, but also to a much-publicized suicide attempt in 2006. Now clean, sober, and in the midst of a highly successful solo career, Scott has finally come full circle—a turnaround he credits to his renewed faith in God.

In Sinner's Creed, Scott shares his story for the first time—from his fundamentalist upbringing, the rise and fall of CREED, and his ongoing battle with addiction, the rediscovery of his faith, and the launch of his solo career. The result is a gripping memoir that is proof positive that God is always present in our lives, despite the colossal mess we sometimes make of them.
In 2012, I read and reviewed this book (I couldn't put it down!). You can read that review here.

You can download the book onto your Kindle here.

For more free resources:

"The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review

About Nixon, this must be said: While his judgment on people was not infallible, when ti came to talent he wanted the best. And he was not put off if the best had not wanted him. Once elected, he would bring a Kennedy Democrat, Pat Moynihan, into the White House to head the domestic policy sop, Henry Kissinger of Harvard, Rockefeller's man for years, to head the NSC, and John Connally, LBJ's protege and the governor who delivered Texas for Humphrey in 1968, as Secretary of the Treasury. The selection of these men testifies to the truth that Nixon was no ideologue, no true believer. He had instincts one could call conservative, but reflexive reactions that were liberal. He wanted to leave his mark and become a man of history, and believed that, given the chance,  he could make his mark in foreign policy. He once told me about picking a national security adviser, "I don't want someone I have to teach. I want someone who can teach me." (115-116)

One thing I have learned in my own personal study of history is that one's legacy might be defined by a certain moment or decision, but that alone does not define the man. Take the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer for example. Though he is best known for an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler's life that eventually led to his own execution, this is not who Bonhoeffer was. Bonhoeffer was largely a pacifist who wanted to see a healthy church thrive and cheap grace abolished.

Or take former President Richard Nixon. Though most known for how he left office, it would be careless to allow his resignation, and the scandal that led up to it, to define who he was as a man. Flawed, yes. But he was more than Watergate.

In his book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority Pat Buchanan chronicles from a first-person perspective how the man best known for Watergate resurrected his political career when it seemed impossible. Those who know Presidential history will be be aware that former vice-President Richard M. Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in one of the closest Presidential elections in American history in 1960. After losing to Kennedy, Nixon ran for governor of California undoubtedly to sure up his resume for another run in 1964. Surprisingly, though, he lost the race and sealed his own political career when he famously announced to the media that he was leaving politics.

Yet somehow, a few years later, Nixon managed to win his parties nomination and become the 37th President of the United States. How did he do that? It is undoubtedly one of the greatest political comebacks in American history. In this book, Buchanan, a former Presidential candidate himself, tells the fascinating story.

How Nixon managed to win the Presidency when it seemed impossible is actually straightforward. After years in Congress, eight years in the White House, and then through a series of very public defeats, Nixon, personally obsessed with policy and politics, became a political genius. One example of this is seen after the 1966 midterm elections that benefited the Republicans immensely. Buchanan suggests that Nixon deserves most of the credit for the Republican gains. Shortly thereafter, the major news magazines highlighted the leading Republican Presidential contenders. The names included George Romney (father of the most recent GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney), Ronald Reagan, and Nelson Rockerfeller. Nixon was barely mentioned in the article.

And that is exactly the way Nixon wanted it.

Romney was the frontrunner going into the primaries and between 1966 and 1968, Nixon stayed out of the public's eye hoping that Romney would be pummeled by the media. Strangely enough, the man who hated the media for ruining his career (and they would do the same following Watergate), relied on the media to revive it.

The full story is chronicled here and it is a fascinating one. Anyone who enjoys politics, history, and Presidential history will want to read Buchanan's work. It is difficult to find a book on Nixon that is not solely about Watergate. I am grateful that Buchanan reminds us that, though flawed, the former President had a great political mind that performed one of the greatest comebacks in history.

The book ends with the election of President Nixon to his first term. In the epilogue, Buchanan highlights some of the great successes of Nixon's first term. If Nixon had left office after four years, he would be remembered as one of the great presidents of the 20th century. But then Watergate happen and Buchanan suggests that story will be chronicled in a future volume.

This book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of this review at no cost.

For more biographies on the Presidents
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review

American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

All Around the Web - July 28, 2014

National Review Online‘Stamp Them Out’: On Josh Barro and the New Sexual Moralism
Last night, New York Times reporter Josh Barro tweeted out a disturbing message: “Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”

This is rather shocking. Barro is no angry blogger writing manifestos in his basement. He is a respected reporter from a prestigious newspaper that prides itself on equanimity in the face of heated debate. Yet he seems, by any reasonable measure, to be fomenting a campaign to rout out all dissenters from the sexual revolution. Erick Erickson wrote a brief response to Barro’s tweet, to which Barro replied that he thinks that “we should make anti-LGBT views shameful like segregation. Not saying we should off people.”

Okay. But “stamp out,” intensified by the qualifier “ruthlessly,” means something quite a bit stronger than inviting your interlocutor to tea and crumpets to discuss differences.

Barro’s sexual fundamentalism wants any dissent marginalized and he’s not reluctant to admit that. This attitude, which is emblematic of the increasing intolerance in many sectors of culture towards those with traditional beliefs about sexuality, penalizes citizens for their beliefs. What we see playing out, once more, is that for liberalism to take root, it must take root by authoritarian impulse where the lies of the sexual revolution, to be cemented, must be enforced through acts of social and legal coercion.

John StonestreetYeah, We Messed Up, Too
While the legal battle is by no means over, I think it’s not wise to talk about “preserving traditional marriage” as we often do. Because there’s hardly anything left to preserve or defend. Our culture gave up any coherent understanding of marriage years ago—which is why, instead of defending marriage, we need to rebuild it from the ground up.

Long before same-sex “marriage,” our culture abandoned the understanding of marriage as the God-ordained institution whose purpose is producing the next generation. In its place was substituted a certificate awarded for extra strong feelings of attraction.

Under this new definition, why shouldn’t you have the right to marry someone of the same sex? What now makes or breaks a marriage—gay or straight—is the intensity of attraction. Marriage has, in many ways, become a government registry of sexual friendships.

Now this might seem like a recent definition foisted on society by the LGBT movement, but the seeds of traditional marriage’s demise in the popular imagination were sown before homosexual rights ever entered the picture. And in at least one case, they were sown by a conservative hero.

The Gospel Coalition - The FAQs: Persecution of Christians in Iraq
What is happening in Iraq?

Last Friday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert to Islam, leave the area, or die.

ISIS had seized a large section of the country’s northern region in June, including the city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Since the takeover, the militant group has been putting pressure on Christians and other religious minorities in the areas.

Most of the remaining Christians departed the city last week. According to CNN, a total of 52 Christian families left the city early Saturday morning, with an armed group prohibiting some of them from taking anything but the clothes on their backs.  But a few Christians were reported to have converted to Islam in order to save their families’ lives and their property.

All 30 churches and monasteries in the city are under ISIS control. AINA News reports that crosses have been removed from all of them, some have been burned, destroyed, and looted, while many other are been used as ISIS centers.

“ISIS seems intent on wiping out all traces of minority groups from areas it now controls in Iraq,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “No matter how hard its leaders and fighters try to justify these heinous acts as religious devotion, they amount to nothing less than a reign of terror.”

Along with the widespread religious persecution, ISIS is also embarking on a campaign that violates the human rights of Muslim women in the area. The UN reports ISIS has ordered all girls and women between the ages of 11 and 46 in and around the city to undergo female genital mutilationFemale genital mutilation—the partial or total removal of external female genitalia—is used as a means of suppressing a woman's sexual desire.

Facts and Trends - Lost Spurgeon Sermons to be Published
Nineteenth century legendary London pastor Charles Spurgeon was a publishing and preaching juggernaut.

He preached to more than 10 million people, baptized more than 14,000 converts, and sold more than 50 million copies of his sermons. Spurgeon’s fans nicknamed him “the Prince of Preachers” and flocked to hear him.

All told, more than 3,500 Spurgeon sermons were eventually published, but none date from his early ministry, said Spurgeon scholar Christian George.

That will change next year.

The Disney Blog - Marvel Sets Movie Schedule Through 2019
Below is the full slate of Marvel releases scheduled through 2019:

Aug 1: Guardians of the Galaxy

May 1: The Avengers: Age of Ultron
July 17: Ant-Man

May 6: Captain America 3
July 8: Doctor Strange (unannounced)

May 5: Untitled
July 27: Untitled
Nov. 3: Untitled

July 6: Untitled
Nov. 2: Untitled

May 3: Untitled