The Weekend Wanderer: 19 January 2019

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“In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture” – Lily Kuo writes this piece in The Guardian, highlighting the intensifying pressure on religious groups in China. While the crackdown involves religious minorities and ethnic minorities, Kuo focuses particularly upon Christians for this piece, which is well worth the read. One pastor quoted in this article says of the government persecution: “In this war, in Xinjiang, in Shanghai, in Beijing, in Chengdu, the rulers have chosen an enemy that can never be imprisoned – the soul of man. Therefore they are doomed to lose this war.”

 

egypt church“Militants kidnap Christian man in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula” – From The Washington Post: “Islamic militants on Thursday kidnapped a Christian man traveling in a communal taxi in the turbulent north of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, according to security officials, an incident that raises the specter of renewed attacks on minority Christians in the region after a two-year lull. The officials did not identify the man, but said police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident, killing one of them and wounding two others in a firefight, but could not free the hostage. Two policemen were also wounded in the firefight, said the officials.”

 

world watch list 2019Open Doors World Watch List 2019 – Every year, Open Doors publishes their “World Watch List,” which tracks persecution of Christians around the world. They released the 2019 World Watch List this past week, and it is interesting to find out more information about what is happening in the world related to challenges to religious freedom.

 

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Neighbors of the Dream” – I am happy to participate in The Milwaukee Declaration event this coming Monday night, January 21, entitled “Neighbors of the Dream.” This is a chance for churches around our great city of Milwaukee to stand together across racial divides in the name of Christ and for the glory of God in the unity of His church. Join us at 6:30 PM at Eastbrook for this city-wide event.

 

james macdonald“James MacDonald Takes ‘Indefinite Sabbatical’ from Harvest Bible Chapel” – Well, here is another chapter in the latest leadership challenges facing non-denominational, evangelical churches. I’ve posted about this challenge to James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel before at The Weekend Wanderer. While it’s not clear exactly what this means about MacDonald’s willingness to admit culpability, it is an expression that leadership of the family of churches sees it is time to make some change.

 

jacques_ellul“Ten Social Critics that Christians Should Be Reading” – The Englewood Review of Books offers some helpful reading suggestions, from Jacques Ellul to bell Hooks, Wendell Berry to Neil Postman, and more. “The work of social critics is vital for the health and flourishing of the church, because they remind us of the brokenness of the world and challenge us to imagine new and more healthy ways of sharing life together. Here are ten social critics whose work has been particularly helpful for me in trying to discern how to live faithfully in the twenty-first century. With each critic, I’ve included an excerpt that will serve as an introduction to that writer’s work.”

 

85847“When Great Writers Wrestle with Faith” – Speaking of reading, Jessica Hooten Wilson offers this review of Richard Harries’ new book, Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith, in which he explores modern writers as they wrestle with faith. “On the one hand, Christ is scary, unpursued, and ephemeral, haunting writers like a ghost. In the subtitle, though, the writers are active agents wrestling with an unknown entity, like Jacob with the angel, for the prize of faith. Harries explores both types of artists in his book, those who flee religion and those who chase it.”

 

Fort WildernessFort Wilderness Family Camps – Along with a great group of other pastors, I have the opportunity to speak at one of Fort Wilderness’ week-long family camps again this summer. Join me June 29-July 5, 2019, in the north woods of Wisconsin for a wonderful time in God’s good creation and God’s Word. If that week doesn’t work for you, check out the other family camps happening at Fort all summer long. There are still some spaces open at all of them.

 

office.jpeg“Office Devotions” – Let’s close out this edition of The Weekend Wanderer with a marvelous poem by Patrick Duddy over at First Things[Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this. in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 September 2018

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.

 

The head pastor of the Zion church in Beijing Jin Mingri poses for picures in the lobby of the unofficial Protestant "house" church in Beijing“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.

 

O6THYFTPZII6NGJ7OPDJHKEYEA“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.

 

girl-1192032_1280“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?”

 

religious-father-praying-with-children“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.”

 

virtues“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.”

 

24f547f8af102a02576ce0a9d5d7bda6“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.

 

perfect storm“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.]

 

power“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.

 

alan lee“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.

 

sub“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.]

Cities and Christ’s Mission with Jacques Ellul

milwaukee-skyline-2016-1492622665How are we to understand the tension within the Christian Scriptures related to cities?The Hebrew prophets are often critical of cities and many of the destructive promises within the Scripture are aimed at cities, not just groups of people. At the same time, we cannot escape the moving words of the prophet Jeremiah calling God’s exiled people to seek the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29) or the call of Jesus to his disciples to go to the cities to proclaim the gospel message (Luke 10).

Jacques Ellul addresses this tension in his book The Meaning of the City. Here is an excerpt from the end of chapter two, “Thunder Over the City.”

When we understand what the city represents, we understand better both the order Jesus gave his disciples to go into the cities, and this other curious reference to the city as the center of crisis: “Go to the cities . . . . Shake the dust from your feet against the cities . . . when you are persecuted in one city . . . .” It is in and because of the city that the critical point of preaching is reached. There are of course many valid critical explanations of these texts, but they are not exhaustive. To me it does not seem sufficient to limit Christ’s words to the twelve (or to the seventy in Luke) and to speak of a temporary and exceptional mission of the apostles….

The message of the cross must be carried to the center of man’s autonomy. It must be established where man is most clearly a wild beast. Its goal is less the total umber of men, than the entity man. Christ’s sending his disciples out into the cities of Israel is their most dangerous mission, for it is directed against the heart of the world’s power and betrayal….

It is only by seeing in these texts a shaft aimed at the city that we can bring the various meanings back to one. For undeniably Jesus was here showing what would be the Christian’s attitude and position concerning the city and his work there. It is not for nothing that Christ’s unsettled status is mentioned (“The Son of man has no place to lay his head”), and that immediately afterwards he sends his disciples into the place of man’s stubborn establishment (Luke 9:57 and 10:16). It is not for nothing that he asked his disciples to go through the cities of Israel, fleeing from one to another, putting each one of them in a position of choosing, in a position of responsibility (Matt. 10:23). It is not for nothing that he showed that the departure of the disciple was most serious, that their departure, by shaking the dust from their sandals, was decisive in the order of condemnation (Matt. 10:14-15). In fact, all that we found in the Old Testament texts is here in résumé. The situation of the people of God in Babylon is the exact situation of the disciples in the city. This dialectic between staying and leaving, preserving and judging, is centered in the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom. The entire doctrine which we have so far discovered and received is illuminated by these few brilliant words from Christ’s lips. Nothing has been changed, but what was announced is being fulfilled. What was described is being lived. And from this vantage point one can look back and understand the rest.

The disciples’ mission is outside the country, in the cities where God’s people, Israel, may be found living, in those cities where these people have entered into slavery, where they have shut themselves up in refusal and disobedience, where they have betrayed their vocation. God’s Israel has now become the church. Around her, the same battle is raging. She is bogged down in the same mud and must take up the same work, a work never finished because the city is the city. Go through all the cities of Israel, comes the command, brining judgment and forgiveness. Your work will not be done until the Son of Man returns. Even Nineveh converted is still Nineveh, and you, as ever in danger in her midst, can expect nothing other than the Lord’s lot (Matt. 10:24) – expulsion from the city.

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