This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I began a new sermon series on the book of Daniel entitled “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.” This first weekend offered me the chance to introduce the book of Daniel, while also giving attention to the predicament of Daniel, as well as his friends in exile, as they navigate Babylonian culture while also striving to uphold their commitment to their faith.
“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.
“China outlaws large underground Protestant church in Beijing” – Those connected to the church in China are aware that the government has been putting increasing pressure on churches in China. This latest news is one more example of that. “Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated ‘illegal promotional materials’, amid a deepening crackdown on China’s ‘underground’ churches.” See Christianity Today‘s helpful write-up about this here.
“John MacArthur’s ‘Statement on Social Justice’ Is Aggravating Evangelicals” according to Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast. And they’re not alone, as is evidenced by a lot of mainstream attention to “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” authored by John MacArthur and others (see last week’s “Weekend Wanderer” for more info). In one of his columns this week at The Washington Post, Michael Gerson writes in response to the statement that “Christians are suffering from complete spiritual blindness.” Over at the Missio Alliance blog, Dennis Edwards posted a two-part response to the statement. I keep intending to write something on this, but have not had the time to get there this week. However, I did mention in my message last weekend at Eastbrook Church that the church should be a kingdom-oriented community that is so heavenly minded that we are more earthly good than anyone else.
“Gen Z’s Biggest Legacy: Has Social Media Hacked a Generation?” – Rachel Seo, a sophomore at UC San Diego, reflects on social media’s impact on her generation. “There is research now that, in addition to paralleling with my own experiences, reveals the darker effects of social media, most particularly its long-lasting impact on Gen Z. Did anyone predict the impact of how a few apps could lead my generation into a mental health crisis? Could anyone have predicted it? Or, perhaps more hauntingly, did some people know about the potential effects that it would have on others—and simply not care enough to share?”
“How parents act on their religious beliefs linked to the onset of atheism in their children” – A recent study at Religion, Brain & Behavior (“Predicting age of atheism: credibility enhancing displays and religious importance, choice, and conflict in family of upbringing“), highlights the fact that the credibility in the way parents live out their faith directly influences the way in which their children lean toward atheism. Eric Dolan writes of the study: “People tend to become atheists at a younger age when their religious parents talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, according to new research published in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. The study provides evidence that exposure to religiously-motivated actions plays an important role in the onset of atheism.”
“Why You Can’t Name the Virtues” – Speaking of credibility in our faith, Karen Swallow Prior writes about the moral vacuum, not just in terms of action, but in terms of character formation. This is basically an excerpt from her book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life in Great Books, which was just released. She writes: “For the past several decades, American evangelicalism has been concerned about morality—and for good reason. Sexual promiscuity, pornography, abortion, divorce, materialism, racism, and countless other ills so permeate our culture—even among the churched—that they seem to be the rule rather than the exception. But moral choices flow from moral character. Perhaps if we wish to reform morality, we should turn more attention to the formation of character.”
“When the Ship Has Sailed: Alan Jacobs on Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis” – Alan Jacobs’ new book, The Year of Our Lord 1943, explores the inheritance of the Christian intellectual tradition in the middle of the twentieth century, weaving together the life and thought of W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil.Whether you have or have not read the book, you will likely enjoy this interview with Jacobs by Robert L. Kehoe III at The Point in which they discuss various strands of Jacobs’ argument in the book, with a few loose ends in greater depth, including a few last words about Jacques Ellul.
“Leadership’s Perfect Storm” – Steve Smith of Potter’s Inn reflects on the leadership failures in the evangelical church, giving attention to four main forces that he finds most concerning in today’s realm of leadership: “a success intoxicated leadership culture; the cult of emphasizing leadership gifts and skills rather than integrity and character; unchecked power in positions of leadership; and the unchecked speed and busyness in the life of a leader.” This is definitely worth a read, and has wider application than simply in the church. [Thanks to Tom Keppeler for sharing this article.]
“Confronting the Toxic Power in Me: High-profile stories of fallen pastors can distract us from ourselves or hold up a mirror to our souls” – This article pairs well with Steve Smith’s above, this time giving attention to our own selves. If you ever read articles about the failure of leaders and say, “I would never do that,” then you are deceiving yourself in some way. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel offer a very meaningful look at power and the ways in which we all can deceive ourselves. I remember the words of an older Christian who, in the midst of a discussion about temptation, said to me: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” May we let God’s grace into our lives in ever-more transforming ways.
“Making fantasy reality: Alan Lee, the man who redrew Middle-earth” – With the release of the latest posthumous collection of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories from Middle-Earth, The Guardian offered a nice interview with Alan Lee. Lee’s illustrations of Tolkien’s world are so closely linked with the works themselves that his vision of Middle Earth was one of the greatest inspirations for the film adaptations, aside from Tolkien’s own illustrations.
“Eerie photos show dilapidated relics of the Soviet era” – When I saw some of these photos, my mind spun around in all sorts of combinations of post-apocalyptic movies with some tinges of science fiction. If that’s your sort of thing, you should spend some time browsing through this unique photo collection. “Many of the areas where the photos were taken were inaccessible during the Soviet era, as they contained classified technology. They depict monuments, factories, military bases and various kinds of vehicles and technology, most in an advanced state of decay.”
[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]
This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a new sermon series entitled “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.”
What does it mean to live our faith out in the midst of a foreign land? How do we image what it means to be followers of God when the imagination of our culture is bent? Daniel models a life of faith as an exile in Babylon. He does this in large part through an imagination set ablaze by the Holy Spirit, enabling him to see himself and the world in light of God’s kingdom. He lives with faith under pressure, standing up to the culture without compromise, while also rising to a position of influence within society. He was a man of prayer and faith who heard from God. He was used by God powerfully within his generation for the good of others. How might we become people like Daniel in our own day and culture?
Join us at Eastbrook each weekend, or follow-along online here.
When I was a fairly new Christian, someone described the early church as a group that turned the world upside down. I don’t remember who that was or when I heard it, but the speaker’s point was that the early church really made things happen for God in the world. The idea enamored me, but it was only later that I discovered this phrase was drawn from Scripture. Specifically, it is found in Acts 17:6, where Paul and Silas are described by locals in Thessalonica in this way: “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also” (NRSV).
As time went on, and I read the book of Acts more closely, I realized it wasn’t that the disciples were so good that they were described as turning the world upside down, but rather that they were causing so much difficulty to be described in this way. The phrase was, in fact, applied to the church in a derogatory manner. The NIV translates the Greek along these lines when it says: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.”
The other day I read this passage again in my morning time in prayer, and something new caught my attention. It is something that ties in quite clearly with something I preached on this past weekend at Eastbrook Church in my message “The Multi-Everything Church: a Multi-Ethnic, Kingdom-Oriented Community.” Let’s look at that passage once more, this time in the ESV:
These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus. (Acts 17:6-7)
Notice the specific thing that bothers the locals in Thessalonica. While certainly they are upset that one of their own, Jason, has extended hospitality to these trouble-makers, Paul and Silas, the primary concern is that “they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar.” How are they doing that? By “saying that there is another king, Jesus.” This is a good reminder that the fundamental declaration of faith for the early Christians was “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3). This declaration of faith was counter-cultural in the face of the fundamental declaration of allegiance to Rome, which was “Caesar is Lord.”
For the early church, the primary allegiance to Jesus as king superseded all other calls of allegiance, including that to Rome and its emperor. Such an approach to life could be nothing but trouble for the empire and would, certainly in the ears of the hearers, eventually turn the world upside down. This echoes Paul’s resounding claims in Philippians when he writes “Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27, TNIV) and “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:20).
Disciples who turn the world upside down are so troublesome to the world order because the speak and live as if there is a new king in town, whose name is Jesus. His kingdom reigns over all kingdoms, and He graciously calls for the allegiance of all to Him and His new kingdom. The kingdoms of the earth feel the shaking of their foundations now before such a king, but one day “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:10-11).