Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christian Calling is a Journey Toward a Destination

Photo Credit: David McDermott
I recently finished reading the challenging book The Call by Os Guinness. In the last chapter, Guinness outlines how the calling that God has given us is a journey, but it is a journey on a path to a final destination.

Here is what he says:
"The truth of calling is as vital to our ending as to our beginning. It is an important key to finishing well because it helps us with three of the greatest challenges of our last years of life. First, calling is the spur that keeps us journeying purposefully— and thus growing and maturing—to the very end of our lives.  
People make two equal but opposite errors about life as a journey and faith as the Way. On one side, usually at the less educated level, are those who prematurely speak as if they have arrived. Such people properly emphasize the certainties and triumphs of faith but minimize the uncertainties, tragedies, and incompletenesses. Having come to faith, they speak and live as if they have nothing more to learn. All truths are clear-cut, all mysteries solved, all hopes materialized, all conclusion foregone—and all sense of journeying is reduced to the vanishing point. There are seemingly no risks, trials, dangers, setbacks, or disasters on the horizon. Or so they seem to talk.  
On the other side, usually at the more educated level, are those who are so conscious of the journey that journey without end becomes their passion and their way of life. To such people it is unthinkable ever to arrive, and the ultimate gaffe is the claim of finding a way or reaching a conclusion. Like the perennial seekers we met earlier, for them the journey itself is all. Questions, inquiry, searching, and conquering become an end in themselves. Ambiguity is everything.  
Yet the Christian faith has an extraordinary balance between these extremes. As those responding to God’s call, we are followers of Christ and followers of the Way. So we are on a journey and we are truly travelers, with all the attendant costs, risks, and dangers of the journey. Never in this life can we say we have arrived. But we know why we have lost our original home and, more importantly, we know the home to which we are going.  
So we who are followers of Christ are wayfarers, and though we have found the Way, we have not yet come to our destination. We may retire from our jobs, but there is no retiring from our individual callings. We may cut back from our public responsibilities, but there is no cutting back from our corporate calling as the people of God. Above all, we may reach the place where we can see the end of the road, but our eyes are then to be fixed more closely on the one at the end of the road who is Father and home. As Henri Nouwen wrote, “He who thinks that he has finished is finished. Those who think they have arrived have lost their way.”"
Guinness, Os. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (pp. 241-242). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Post-Election Web Roundup

Photo Credit: ThatMattWade
I may share my thoughts on the election at some point in the days ahead but, for now, here's a collection of interesting articles that I have read over this past week:

12 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting Something Online by Mark Dever (The Gospel Coalition)
"The privacy of a personal conversation limits misunderstanding. Some public posts will sound one way to those who know us and another to those who don’t. Negative assessments are often best shared privately, or not at all. How many of us have learned at our workplace that e-mail is a terrible way to share negative comments? When it comes to public postings, ask yourself: Are there reasons I may not be a good person to speak on certain matters?"
Legacy of Bloody Election Day Lingers in Florida Town by Andrew Maraniss (The Undefeated)
"As voters nationwide prepare to head to the polls Nov. 8, that terrible Election Day in 1920 can seem both near and far. There have been steps forward and backward here, the gains coming not so much because the people, attitudes and institutions of the old Ocoee have disappeared, but because the demographics surrounding them are shifting. And in that regard, this spot of central Florida has much to say about America itself."
To the 80% - My Fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ by Kimberly Gillespie (Things I Thought I'd Never)
"Hopefully you can see and understand some of the struggle. It’s not that we don’t want unity. We do. I do. We want to honor God. We can see Satan’s hand in this whole mess. But it takes both sides. Not just us “not talking”, but our sisters and brothers listening, understanding, asking helpful questions, not justifying, rebuking and telling us “not to be anxious”, but committing to stand with us if stuff hits the fan. To stand with those in our churches who may face deportation and whose families could be devastated because siblings, or parents or grandparents could be separated. To use your resources, your influences, your connections. To be family."
The Evangelical Reckoning Over Donald Trump by Emma Green (The Atlantic)
"The Republican candidate’s victory may seem like an affirmation of the old, long-standing coalition between evangelicals and the Republican party, and in many ways, it is. But vote counts conceal deep, painful fractures among the huge, diverse group of Americans who identify as evangelical Christians. Nothing makes this clearer than the unprecedented in-fighting among Christian leaders in the lead-up to the election. Many people in big, important positions staked their credibility on supporting or opposing Donald Trump; old allies turned against one another, and new upstarts gained fame."
Ernie Johnson's Incredible Perspective on the 2016 Election

In the wake of an election that caused so much division within our country, Ernie Johnson, studio host of "NBA on TNT", offered a remarkable perspective on how he has viewed this election and how he intends to try to bring healing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Christians & Justice in Society

Photo Credit: Cikd
As I process the results of the presidential election, the following words written by Tim Keller were brought to my mind. Keller points to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as admirable models who sought to bring about a just society in God-honoring ways, even to the point of death.

Keller says this:
"When Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted racism in the white church in the South, he did not call on Southern churches to become more secular. Read his sermons and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and see how he argued. He invoked God's moral law and the Scripture. He called white Christians to be more true to their own beliefs and to realize what the Bible really teaches. He did not say "Truth is relative and everyone is free to determine what is right or wrong for them." If everything is relative, there would have been no incentive for white people in the South to give up their power. Rather, Dr. King invoked the prophet Amos, who said, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24). The greatest champion of justice in our era knew the antidote to racism was not less Christianity but a deeper and truer Christianity
The famous Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer was pastoring two German-speaking churches in London when Hitler came to power. He refused to stay at a safe distance and returned to his country to head an illegal seminary for the Confessing Church, the Christian congregations that refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Nazis. 
Bonhoeffer wrote the classic The Cost of Discipleship, in which he critiqued the religion and church of his day. In echoes of Jesus and the prophets, Bonhoeffer revealed the spiritual deadness and self-satisfied complacency that made it possible for so many to cooperate with Hitler and turn a blind eye to those being systematically marginalized and destroyed by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and hanged. 
In his last letters from prison, Bonhoeffer reveals how his Christian faith gave him the resources to give up everything for the sake of others. Marx argued that if you believe in a life after this one you won't be concerned about making this world a better place. You can also argue the opposite. If this world is all there is, and if the goods of this world are the only love, comfort, and wealth I will ever have, why should I sacrifice them for others? Bonhoeffer, however, had a joy and hope in God that made it possible for him to do what he did."
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Weekly Web Roundup (11/5/16)

Photo Credit: barbasboth
Here are some interesting stories that I have noticed from around the web this past week:

3 Growing Needs in Missionary Education by Ed Stetzer (Christianity Today)
"Thinking about educational needs for missionaries inevitably leads to questions about the role of traditional institutions in their training. As we begin to develop new pathways for “limitless” sending, we open the doors of missions not only to seminarians, but also business people and students and artists and . . . We will no longer be sending only people who have completed years of formal theological preparation. We will be sending people who have asked for international transfers within the workplace. They will have new jobs in brand new cultures, which will most likely make much formal training within an institution prohibitive. Obviously, creativity is needed. Some institutions have already begun to develop programs to meet the minimum requirements of mission organizations, and that’s good. Yet, more needs to be done to get to the kind of limitless sending we desire."
The New Evangelical Moral Minority by Kelefa Sanneh (The New Yorker)

Here's a lengthy profile from The New Yorker on Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Dr. Moore is a leading evangelical voice and, like me, a member of Generation X. I find his approach on how to engage our culture a welcome departure from some of the more combative postures that many Christian leaders of recent generations have demonstrated.

TV's making progress on diversity, but it's motivated by money by Gary Levin (USA Today)
"“People have begun to recognize how much money they can make by targeting underserved audiences,” says Courtney A. Kemp, the creator and executive producer of Power, a popular Starz series about a black nightclub owner. “The color that’s relevant here is green.  It’s not about any kind of altruism, or a sea change in how people are feeling about diversity.” Instead, it reflects demographic shifts, and TV executives' need to chase viewers as Hollywood faces radical shifts in how and where they find their entertainment.  U.S. Census data projects the percentage of blacks, Hispanics and Asians will continue to grow in coming decades, while the percentage of whites declines.  And amid steadily declining ratings, blacks are among the most loyal viewers, watching nearly 50% more TV each week than the general population, Nielsen says."
Lux in Tenebris: How God Is Moving on Secular Campuses by Owen Strachan (Patheos)
"It can feel to the church today like the darkness is closing in. If you close your eyes, all can seem lost. But if you open your eyes, you see points of light. You see gospel advancement. You see strategic initiative. You see local churches leading ministries to students while also calling them to meaningful membership in the local church. This is the model I believe we need moving ahead. Parachurch ministries can do great good, but I believe they will do most good when partnering closely with local churches. This is especially true as campus access grows dicey in places."
No, Most Black People Don’t Live in Poverty - or Inner Cities by Alana Semuels (The Atlantic)
"There might have been a time when conflating inner cities and African Americans was appropriate shorthand, but it’s just not accurate anymore. The majority of African Americans are living both above the poverty line and outside of the inner cities, rendering Trump’s comments misleading and factually inaccurate."
Fan Reactions to the 2016 Cubs World Series Win

As you're probably aware, the Chicago Cubs ended over a century of futility by winning their first World Series championship in 108 years. As a Detroit Tigers fan, I am not personally invested in the Cubs winning. But as a baseball fan, I am happy to see lifelong fans of the Cub finally enjoy a title.

This video compilation shows reactions from a number of Cubs fans after their win in Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians. For sports fans, it doesn't get much better than experiencing the pure exuberance of a long-awaited title.