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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

David Washington / Kingdom Covenant Church

BEING SALT AND LIGHT:

  • How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city. One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.”
  • A Two-Minute Clip on Homosexuality Every Christian Should Watch. Watch this short video from Sam Allberry—editor for The Gospel Coalition, speaker for RZIM, founding editor of Living Out, and author of Is God Anti-Gay?—addressing the Church of England General Synod in London recently.
  • Love is Not a Secondary Matter. Steven Lawson writes “It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of love. Nothing is more basic to true spirituality than this singular virtue. Nothing is more central to Christian living. At the very heart of authentic discipleship is love. Without love, we are nothing.”

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO CURRENT CULTURE:

  • Scandalized by the Substitute: A Response to Young and Gungor. Owen Strachan responds to musician Michael Gungor who called the atonement “evil” and “horrific” on Twitter and Paul Young, author of The Shack, who calls God a “cosmic abuser”.
  • A Teenage Girl’s Response to Teen Vogue’s “Post-Abortion Gift Guide”. Randy Alcorn writes “I encourage you to watch this powerful video response from 16-year-old Autumn Lindsey. She is part of the target demographic for Teen Vogue.”
  • As a Christian, I Favor National Security AND Refugee Care. Scott Sauls writes “Mr. President, we commend and support you for prioritizing our safety and protection in such volatile times. We can only imagine the burden that this must be, and you carry it in ways that nobody else does. And yet we similarly plead with you, sir—on behalf of the millions of souls who are most at risk—that we not turn away the vetted and vulnerable refugee. While charity may start at home, it must never end there, especially in this country of ours that we call the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s champion freedom, sir. And, for the love of God, let’s be brave.”
  • Flipping Sides on Roe v Wade: Norma McCorvey’s Repentance. Clint Archer writes “The dramatic 180 degree turn of attitudes and behavior provides an apt illustration of the nature of repentance. Biblical repentance is a change of mind and the necessary difference in behavior that accompanies it.”
  • Same-Sex Attraction. The White Horse Inn writes “What should we think about the issue of same-sex attraction? Is it essentially the same as being gay? How does the issue of sexual preference relate to our identity as Christians, and how are we to talk about our differences with others in a world that is increasingly accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Michael Horton discusses these issues and more with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay? on this episode of the White Horse Inn.”
  • What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church. Russell Moore writes “We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.”
  • Why the Transgender Debate Is About Redefining Reality. Joe Carter writes “If you want to change a society, you merely need to get the public to shift an idea from the category of “unthinkable” to “policy.” You’ll know you’ve been successful when the formerly unthinkable has become public school policy.”
  • The Two Things We Must Say About the Transgender Debate. Kevin DeYoung writes “The Christian response to the transgender debate depends on whether we are talking about the debate or about a transgender person. I understand the two cannot be completely divorced, but they are not the same thing either.”
  • David Platt’s Guide to Navigating Unprecedented Social Change. Collin Hansen writes “With the re-release of Counter Culture, and in our context of tremendous racial and political turmoil, Davd Platt joins him on The Gospel Coalition Podcast to discuss our era’s rapid pace of social change, churches that care as much about slavery as marriage, and the implications of our behavior for international missions.

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“One King at a Time”: An Approach to Completing Those Seemingly Overwhelming Tasks

staircase-take-the-first-stepWhen I returned to seminary ten years ago, my first class was in Old Testament History. I can still remember that we were at a church gathering at a friend’s home when my pastor asked me who my professor was; when I told him, he grimaced. He said “He’s pretty tough. In fact, his nickname is “The Smiling Assassin”.  Seriously? A seminary professor nicknamed “The Smiling Assassin”?
Taking seminary classes while working 50-plus hours a week was always a challenge for me. My wife can tell you that each time I opened up the syllabus, I immediately went into “I can’t do this. There is a class project, two papers, a mid-term and a final along with lots of books to read. How can they expect all of this?” She would always have to “talk me off the ledge”. But it was during this first class back at Covenant Seminary though that she instilled in me a concept that I still use today.
“The Smiling Assassin” told us from the beginning of the class that we would have to memorize the 39 kings of Judah and Israel in order for the final exam and whether they were good or bad. And these guys didn’t have names like Bill or Mike either. No, they had names like Jeroboam and Jehoshaphat. There was just no way I was going to be able to memorize all of these strange names and in order, too. I was overwhelmed.  My first class back and I had no confidence that I could handle the work.
It was then Tammy said, “You’re right. You can’t memorize 39 kings, in order, all at once. But you can start with one king, and then do another the next day, and then one more the next day. Eventually, you will get to 39”. In other words, while memorizing 39 strange names in order was completely overwhelming, her advice was to memorize “one king at a time”.  It’s a great concept that you can apply for yourself.
Do you have a major project that you’ve been assigned? You have a due date and its weighing on you, causing anxiety; you’re always thinking about it; it’s overwhelming you?! Maybe it’s even impacting your health and sleep. Don’t procrastinate – Get started today. I’ve found that I take away much of the anxiety of a task on my “To Do” list if I just get started – whether it’s writing a paper, studying for an exam or completing an assignment at work.  While some people tell me that they perform better under pressure by waiting until the last minute, that’s not for me. No, get started today. Take Tammy’s advice and do “one king at a time”.

What about you? How do you address those seemingly overwhelming tasks on your “To Do” list?


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Last week I had a great time in Atlanta with team members located there. We enjoyed the Escape Room as a team building exercise. Tammy and I worshipped at Passion City Church where Crowder led worship. We enjoyed the city and the people we met there, but definitely not the traffic.
  • Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban. Jeremy Weber writes “More than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement.”
  • Most Refugees Who Enter the U.S. as Religious Minorities are Christians. Katayoun Kishi writes “A little over a third of the refugees who were admitted into the United States in fiscal 2016 (37%) were religious minorities in their home countries. Of those, 61% were Christians, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.”
  • The Boy Scouts Succumb to Radical Gender Ideology. Denny Burk writes “I can’t help but grieve that the Boy Scouts are going along with this radical redefinition of what it means to be a boy. They are making a big mistake in this, and it will be one that hurts not only their organization but also the very boys they wish to serve.”
  • 7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World. Kevin DeYoung writes “Perhaps a look at the negative will point us in a positive direction. Let’s briefly consider seven ways to do political punditry wrong in a polarized world.”

CHRISTIAN AUTHORS & FILM:

  • Henri Nouwen’s Weakness Was His Strength. Wesley Hill writes “Before Brené Brown appeared on the TED stage, before spiritual counseling and small group ministry in evangelical parachurch ministries had encouraged believers to disclose more of their doubts and insecurities, before movements like the charismatic Cursillo and the contemplative Taizé and Renovaré had gone mainstream, Nouwen was already advocating a spirituality that took its cue from Christ’s nail-scarred risen body.”
  • C.S. Lewis’s View of Women, and How He’s Impacted My Thinking. Randy Alcorn writes “The following questions and answers are from my contribution to Women and C. S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture, edited by Carolyn Curtis and Mary Pomroy Key. I highly recommend this unique and well-reviewed book, which has excellent contributions by 26 others, including Alister McGrath and Kathy Keller.”
  • Trapped: A Short Film on Teen Unplanned Pregnancy. Randy Alcorn writes “Most prolife films are short clips or movie length, and unfortunately, the short ones don’t allow viewers much time to experience the emotions or to ponder. This one, on the other hand, has a large amount of silence, allowing for contemplation. The fact that the air doesn’t get filled with words helps listeners draw their own conclusions based on the obvious facts.” Watch the 20-minute film.
  • silenceOn Silence and More. Steven Garber writes “The best stories always tell the truth of the human condition, the truth about who we are, so the heart of a good story is that we can see ourselves, both the glory and the ruin of the human heart. And that is the main reason Silence is a story for all of us, if we have ears to hear.”

DOCTRINE AND CHURCH LIFE:

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Courtesy of World Magazine

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CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Compassion for Refugees, Immigrants and Foreigners. Scotty Smith prays “We, who are Americans, pray for our government officials who have to make difficult decisions in the middle of a fresh and growing refugee crisis. May wisdom trump fear, generous welcome be more obvious than self-protection, and good policies prevail over partisan politics.”
  • The FAQ’s President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees. Joe Carter provides this helpful overview of President Trump’s controversial and misunderstood executive order.
  • Finding Donald Trump in the Story of Jesus. Scott Sauls writes “Whatever hope some might be placing in Mr. Trump to be the answer to the world’s problems, such hope is misdirected, as only Jesus has the power to change the world with all of its complexities and social problems and thorns and thistles. Conversely, whatever crippling despair others might be feeling over Mr. Trump fails to account for the fact that Jesus is still firmly seated on his throne, holding the hearts of all kings in his hands, including this one.”
  • Wise Women Build: The March to Real Dignity. Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle writes “Our nation is in a giant mess right now, ladies, and we need to roll up our sleeves and build this house.”
  • On Board with Waterboarding? Richard Phillips writes “Most alarming to me has been the support of waterboarding and other forms of torture among evangelical Christians. To my surprise and indignation, instead of applying the obvious implications of the Sixth Commandment, Christian leaders have lined up in support of waterboarding.
  • Abortion Over the Atlantic. Samuel James writes about concerns with Moira Weigel’s article in the Atlantic “How Ultrasound Became Political”.
  • Planned Parenthood’s Most Misleading Statistic. Joe Carter writes “Even if their claim was true and destroying human life in the womb only accounted for three percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities, it would still make them one of the greatest purveyors of injustice and evil in America. We shouldn’t quietly tolerate the abortion giant duping the public by using misleading statistics. But even more importantly, we must never remain silent about the moral horror Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics commit by killing our nation’s children.”

MOVIES AND TELEVISION:

  • The Quiet Message of Silence. Jared C. Wilson writes “Evangelicals like the idea that they can be Christians without the world knowing it. They tend to believe they can pray a prayer or walk an aisle or sign a card and have that equal assurance. Once “saved,” always “saved.” The idea that you can inwardly be a believer while outwardly living however you want, is very much in keeping with the theological spirit of American evangelicalism. In that regard, Scorsese made a great choice. And a terrible one.”
  • Oscar Nominations. The 2017 Oscar nominations were released on January 24. Christians will be interested in Mel Gibson and Andrew Garfield receiving nominations for Hacksaw Ridge, my #2 movie of 2016. In addition, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis received a nominations for Fences, my top movie of 2016.  Screen Actor Guild (SAG) Winners. I was pleased to see Denzel Washington and Viola Davis win for Fences, my top movie of 2016, and John Lithgow for his outstanding portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Crown.
  • This is Us Honors Marriage and Respects Fatherhood. Alysse Elhage writes “I agree that plot twists, uplifting messages, and strong family connections are part of what make This is Us so popular. But I think there’s another reason it’s one of the best shows on television today: it honors marriage and respects fathers in a culture that often fails to do so.”

NOW THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION!questions

  • Can Loved Ones in Heaven Look Down on Me? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper addresses the question “Can people who are in heaven look down and see us (their loved ones) on earth?” He states “So, the bottom line is that we should focus on the great, central realities of the New Testament, which are rock solid, absolutely certain, and full of hope for all who trust in Christ. And if you think about the great saints in heaven, take heart. If they see you at all, they are cheering you on to endure every hardship by encouraging you to focus on Christ.” Listen to or read his full response.
  • What Do We Mean When We Speak of the “Sanctity of Human Life”?C. Sproul writes “The Bible is consistently strong in its support for the exceedingly great value of all human life. The poor, the oppressed, the widowed, the orphaned, and the handicapped—all are highly valued in the Bible. Thus, any discussion of the abortion issue ultimately must wrestle with this key theme of Scripture. When the destruction or the disposal of even potential human life is done cheaply and easily, a shadow darkens the whole landscape of the sanctity of life and human dignity.”
  • Is Your Conscience Captive to God?C. Sproul writes “Today, we rarely hear any reference to the conscience. Yet throughout church history, the best Christian thinkers spoke about the conscience regularly.”
  • Do You Exercise for the Wrong Reasons? David Mathis writes “Have you seriously considered how physical exertion can be a means, among others, of your spiritual health and joy?”

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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CURRENT EVENTS: 

  • The Origin and Function of Government Under God. R.C. Sproul writes “If you don’t like the president of the United States, remember that the One who cast the deciding ballot in his election was almighty God.”
  • How to Live Under an Unqualified President. John Piper writes “Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there. This is important to say just now because not to see it and feel it will add to the collapsing vision of leadership that enabled him to be nominated and elected.”
  • Mike Pence Did Not Sign a Law Allowing Businesses to Refuse Service to Gay People. Denny Burk writes “I can hardly believe that these religious freedom stories are so inaccurately portrayed in the press. It’s no wonder activists are showing up in Pence’s neighborhood protesting his “anti-gay” views. But I wonder if these protestors really understand what his views are. If they are reading inaccurate reports like the one in The Washington Post, they may not know very much.”
  • Did President Trump Just Eliminate the Contraceptive Mandate on the First Day? Denny Burk writes “President Trump signed an executive order that effectively overturns the contraceptive mandate. The order authorizes the HHS Secretary to eliminate administrative rules related to Obamacare.”
  • 10 Reasons Taxpayers Should Defund Planned Parenthood. Joe Carter writes “On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that as part of the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republican congressional leaders would include a provision that would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. Here are ten reasons why every taxpayer should support congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.” Sadly, not all people of faith agree. Here’s a story in which “faith leaders” got together to “bless” a new Planned Parenthood facility in Washington D.C. Shameful.
  • 9 Myths About Abortion Rights and Roe v. Wade. Kevin DeYoung shares these myths from Clark Forsythe’s book Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade that led to the ruling in Roe—myths that, unfortunately, continue to be believed today.
  • Why I Pray for an End to Sanctity of Life Day. Russell Moore writes “We’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But pray that someday soon, we won’t need Sanctity of Life Sunday.”
  • Not So Golden Globes. Of the recent Golden Globe awards program, Cal Thomas writes “The arrogance, superiority and hypocrisy of these overrated people is astounding.”
  • Convict’s Release Raises Questions of Pro-LGBT Bias. David Roach writes “The commutation of a former U.S. soldier’s espionage sentence has caused some to ask whether the reduced prison term is related to the inmate’s transgender identity.”
Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”                                                                                 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

this.n.that-smallIN THE NEWS:

  • Christians are the Most Persecuted Group in the World for Second Year. Perry Chiaramonte writes “The upcoming report from Italian-based Center for Studies on New Religions, determined that 90,000 Christians were killed for their beliefs worldwide last year and nearly a third were at the hands of Islamic extremists like ISIS. Others were killed by state and non-state persecution, including in places like North Korea.
  • Faith on the Hill. Aleksandra Sandstrom writes “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.”
  • Here’s Who Will Pray at Trump Inauguration. Kate Shellnutt writes “Donald Trump has enlisted a larger, more diverse lineup of clergy than usual to pray him into office at his upcoming inauguration ceremony.”
  • Supporters Rally to Russell Moore after Trump Criticism. J.C. Derrick writes “A reported backlash against Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has turned into an outpouring of support for one of President-elect Donald Trump’s leading evangelical critics.”
  • Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Asks What It Really Costs to Follow Jesus. Brett McCracken writes about Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence, starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield from Hacksaw Ridge, stating “In stark contrast to the response of the Catholic church to Last Temptation, Scorsese was recently invited to the Vatican to screen Silence and meet Pope Francis.” Check out this related article Meeting Marty Scorsese from Mako Fujimura.
  • Good TV Viewing. After hearing about The Crown from several people, we decided to check it out, enjoying some binge-watching over the New Year’s weekend along with the long-awaited new season of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Luther on Trial. Max McLean joins The Eric Metaxas Show to talk about his new off- Broadway play Luther on Trial.
  • Golfstat Founder Mark Laesch Stays Positive as Time Runs Out. Mark Laesch was two years ahead of me in high school. I remember watching the lefty point guard direct the varsity basketball team. I was recently saddened to read that he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Despite that, he maintains a strong faith.

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Thinking About Our Goals for 2017

2017-goals

For years, I have written an article stating that the beginning of a new year is a great time for us to focus on those areas where we want to improve. But how do you decide what you want to focus on? This is not just about New Year’s Resolutions. No, it’s much more important than that. I would suggest going back to your Personal Mission Statement to assure your goals are in alignment with your core purpose, principles and beliefs.

Here’s a few suggestions for areas you may want to set goals for 2017:

  • Relationships.  Which relationships in your life – family, friends, work colleagues, etc. need mending or strengthening? Why don’t you take the initiative to do the mending and strengthening? Don’t wait until it’s too late. We lost a dear member of our family in 2016, and I know many others have as well. Pick up the phone or send an email, text or nice handwritten note to set up a time to visit, or to ask them how you can pray for them.
  • Finances.  Perhaps you have debt – credit card bills, medical bills, college loans, etc. Or perhaps you are building wealth. I have been helped a great deal by the ministry of Dave Ramsey. As a result, several years ago we brought his Financial Peace University to our church, a course I would highly recommend. He’ll walk you through the baby steps to financial freedom. Or are you planning for retirement?  Use Chris Hogan’s handy online retirement tool.
  • Physical well-being.
    • Exercise.  Health clubs are traditionally very busy in January as people are motivated to get in shape and lose those pounds they put on during the holidays. The challenge is to stay with it. Develop an exercise routine that will fit into your schedule and stick with it – maybe do it with a friend to keep each other on track. Or perhaps just start by walking or riding your bike whenever possible instead of driving.
    • Diet.  Most of us, including me, do not eat a very healthy diet. We can all probably eat a little less and make healthier choices. What plans do you have for moving toward a healthier diet in 2017?
    • Sleep.  Experts generally recommend seven to nine hours of sleep a night for healthy adults.This is an area I could certainly improve in. How about you? Do you get enough sleep? Try going to bed a half an hour earlier and see if you feel more refreshed.
  • Spiritual Health.
    • Read the Bible. The beginning of a new year is a great time to start a Bible reading plan. I tend to read through the Bible book by book (I’m currently in John), with a goal of a chapter or more each day. But there are many reading plans available that might fit you better. As an example, Ligonier Ministries has a daily reading plan in their excellent Tabletalk .  They offer carefully selected daily readings to take you through the entire Bible in a year. Ligonier has compiled a humongous list of FREE bible reading plans for you to choose from.  Some in our church use Professor Horner’s Reading System, which is a unique and challenging system where you read 10 chapters a day.  Read Tim Challies’ article “Ten Chapters a Day” about this reading plan. If this sounds a bit overwhelming, here’s a link to his favorite reading plan along with some other great options.  And if you are looking for a good “Daily Devotional” book to supplement your Bible reading, I would recommend Tim and Kathy Keller’s helpful book The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.
    • Read Good Books. I often tell my wife Tammy, “Too many books, too little time”. I enjoy books in a number of different genres – theology, biography, professional growth, leadership and sports. I also enjoy reading some of my favorite books a second time. Now I understand that some people just don’t like to read, but why not try an audiobook? I have a monthly subscription to Audible. Christianaudio is another excellent resource for audiobooks, or you can get them for free at your local library.
    • Your Prayer Life. This is another area that most of us can improve in. There are many approaches you can take – ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), a prayer list, prayer cards, a prayer journal, designated time and place, etc. You can also find great value in reading printed prayers such as can be found in The Valley of Vision, Scotty Smith’s Every Season Prayers, or his daily Heavenward prayers which you can sign up to receive daily.

Are you a goal setter? If so, what personal goals do you have for 2017? How are you going to make 2017 a better year than 2016? Please share your thoughts.  Thanks!