The Freedom of Operation

23 Dec

Phil Robertson has successfully exercised his freedom of speech in America. We should all cheer! Sure, GQ magazine probably wrote the interview in such a way as to add some extra duck fat to the fire, but, ultimately, Phil (of Duck Dynasty fame) got to speak his mind.

Many in the Christian online community are expressing indignation that A&E network has indefinitely suspended Robertson from their shows. I understand that we don’t like to be on the receiving end, as a community, of seeming intolerance, but maybe we can slow down for a moment.

A few months back, I was utterly concerned when the Attorney General of Washington State sued a florist when she declined to provide her services to a gay couple for their wedding, because it contravened her deeply held convictions. In New Mexico, similar meddlings are afoot. There are several things that bother me here:

  1. Flowers and photography and cakes are not inalienable human rights. Nor are they exclusive services. They can be purchased from other vendors, even online ones in many cases. For the government to weigh in and force people to provide services within settings that they find to be ethically objectionable is unnecessary and surely a sign of where our society could end up if this practice is not stopped. Nobody will be exempt in the end. Everyone has boundaries, and for every personal boundary there are people who want to cross it – and they won’t rest until you agree that that’s a good idea.
  2. Tolerance is no longer the peaceable dwelling together of people in spite of difference, but, instead, the militant sociopolitical march to make all people affirm all other people in all matters, whether they contradict one another or not. Unless, that is, you’re a Christian in opposition to something – then you should be ashamed of yourself. Tolerance is the new word for “unquestioning acceptance”, which is a deeply flawed re-definition. The ruling to allow marital cohabitation with non-married persons is just the start of the slippery slope. Lock up your children, folks, because the psychologists are coming for them next
  3. Underneath it all is the dismissal of any concept of freedom of religion, practice and operation. Whatever our beliefs are, they must be put to the side so that nobody else could be offended or have their commercial, educational, institutional or societal choices limited. Little boys who are pretending to be little girls must be allowed to use the girls’ bathroom in school. Conservative Christian florists, bakers and photographers must reject their concept of marriage, sexuality and ethics to embrace alternative lifestyles by providing services to themThe Government will intervene if you dare to refuse.

These are things that are dangerous steps on the path to a restrictive and oppressive society. We aren’t there yet, but we are well on our way. And when we cry “unfair” at A&E and demand they bring back Phil Robertson for reasons that are anything more than personal desire or preference, then we are possibly employing an ideology that we ourselves do not want to live with. By all means, ask A&E to reconsider. The network was making a lot of money, and many Christians were enjoying the programming. You might be one of them and it is your right to let your voice be heard. But it is not your right that Phil be brought back. It is not Phil’s right to be on a TV show on A&E. The network is a business, making business decisions (for good or for bad) and they must have the right to refuse further employment, if by the same breath we want to be able to refuse the offer of our services to those of lifestyles we do not agree with.

We have the freedom to speak, but we are not free from consequences.

Another Tongue

16 Dec

I just got back from England. Three weeks in my native land, and during that time I discovered I’m now a Northwestern man. Nampa, Idaho, is home. It felt like I had undergone a tongue transplant.

The Way We Speak

Over the last nine years, I have adapted to the culture around me. Given that one of my primary roles is communicating ideas through the spoken word, it has been important that I find out how to do so effectively and efficiently.

With that in mind, I have forsaken some of my more prominent Anglicisms and, though my accent is clearly not rooted in local people groups, I can now hold conversation with most people and not get stuck on how I am speaking. Instead, we get to focus on the actual ideas being expressed.

Losing Our Roots?

Some people are sad on my behalf. When something as basic as your accent gets changed, it is perceived as a loss. To some extent, I suppose this is true. But I don’t perceive the loss in my day-to-day life. In my normal routine I am blissfully unaware of how I sound. Until somebody points it out, I am clueless.

This phenomenon is what made the recent trip to the UK so bizarre. I sounded funny to me by virtue of context. With all these Brits around me, I became very alert to my acquiescence, and thus my “transplanted tongue” syndrome. Once I returned to the States, I was for the most part settled again, though words like “rubbish” have found their way back into my vernacular.

You Are Where You Are (somewhat)

My present experience shows me how impacted we are by our cultural environment. We may not even notice the change in ourselves until we are put, once more, in contrast. The important thing to note, whether the change is arbitrary or fundamental, is which things you should fight to retain and which are acceptable morph points. Hold fast to what matters, and let the rest be the root to your present life.

Abraham Curriculum from Logos

24 Apr

Logos Bible Software has been a staple part of my study diet for years now. Being multi-vocational, I have an appreciation for the efficiency of research that I can achieve with this power software, and given that it is now cross-platform, with full desktop features on Mac and Windows, and great basic access on mobile and web, I can truly study and prepare anywhere, anytime.

 

As the company has grown, they’ve begun to branch out. Whilst previously they were focused on digitizing and indexing existing publications, and providing tools to aid in study and research, the creation of the Lexham division offered a hint of the new direction. With Lexham, a literal translation of the Bible, assorted original language tools and a growing series of “High Definition” texts and commentaries have been released.

 

Next came the “Faithlife Study Bible” and its associated resources (photos, videos, the Lexham Bible Dictionary etc.) which provides a dynamic and growing study bible that works alongside your preferred translation of the Bible, links to other resources, and grows in content over time as scholars and pastors add more material to the commentary and dictionaries.

 

But Logos is not finished in its quest to assist the church in better and more study of the Bible. Having tackled academic and study Bible materials, they are now pursuing a new line of teaching and small group resources. These study sets will each follow one person of the Bible, and through their own narrative, provide a framework to know God better, to apply the Bible to our lives, and to do this in community.

 

I was given the opportunity to review the first of these releases, Abraham: Following God’s Promise. The full curriculum kit adds three resources to your Logos library, and can be accessed through Logos or Faithlife. There is the Personal Study Guide, the Leader’s Guide and the video collection.

 

The Personal Study Guide is available separately and provides a chapter for each module, with associated graphics and study questions. Through the course of eight weeks, the student encounters matters of faith, promise and God’s faithfulness. Each chapter spends time introducing the topic and narrative of Abraham’s life, dives into the Bible for further instruction on the theme, and then goes “Beyond the Bible” to bring insights from extra-Biblical historical sources. Each week ends with application and Further Reading suggestions. It’s a solid pattern of exposition and hermeneutic that not only serves to walk us through the life of a patriarch and draw out principles that are instructive and illuminating for us today, but also trains us to apply this same study method to our other readings of the Scriptures.

 

But wait, there’s more…

 

In line with the heart to support pastors, scholars, teachers and students, Logos has developed teaching material that is packaged in the Leader’s Guide which splits the material into two formats – Small Group Resources and Sermon Resources.

 

As the names suggest, the first provides a framework for the 8 chapters that is designed for teaching and discussion groups. There are high-quality slides, and introductory videos for each chapter. Teaching points, discussion sections and media resources offer a great base from which leaders can operate to contextualize the content. The guides are not designed to be read aloud with your head buried in the book, but instead do the legwork and leave you, the leader, to prayerfully consider the way to engage your own people with the content.

 

Personally, I prefer the Small Group Resource format and would be unlikely to use the Sermon Resource structure (which takes the same 8 chapters and offers ways to teach the material in a sermon setting instead). It’s not that the material isn’t good, or useful, but I prefer the work of preparing a sermon from a text myself. But for those who find their life situation doesn’t provide them the opportunity this week to adequately prepare, or if a last-minute substitute is needed, this could be a helpful resource.

 

Overall, the quality is high, the options for usage are varied and things are looking good as Logos moves forward innovating in the field of Bible study and technology.

Authority by Jamie Munson

12 Feb

Authority is a brand new release from Jamie Munson. Having rebranded Money, first released on Re:Lit during his time pastoring at Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Authority is the second in the series of three books coming out. Releasing exclusively as an ebook, Munson has packed a lot of thought and life into the short book. 33 pages might sound like a mere chapter to many people, but Munson wrote the book for people like himself (those who don’t like long books) and hasn’t wasted his words.

This results in dense ideas crafted with accessibility to provide the most punch and greatest value. Gold doesn’t need to be in vast quantities to be valuable and to shine.

The subject matter is pertinent for today’s society, where the individual rules, the societal structures are always questioned, and the word ‘submission’ is equivalent to a cuss word. Beginning with the theological grounds, Munson shows how authority and submission are built into the relational nature of the trinity, what this means for us made in his image, how we should and shouldn’t wield authority, and the ways we submit to authority. He also does a great job of showing the inherent goodness of authority/submission when practiced correctly.

“Authority equals responsibility. Those of us who are leaders have responsibility, which means we have the opportunity to respond faithfully and steward what we are given for God’s glory. We are entrusted with the blessing of authority in order to be a blessing to our people.”

Get that? Authority is means of blessing for the people we lead in serving.

Since almost everyone is both in authority and under authority, this book isn’t just for people who lead churches or organizations. There is a lot of work done in understanding the various types of authority and how we should relate to people in authority.

“Understanding the authority framework someone is operating from allows you to speak their language and know where they are coming from.”

I think Authority is a great resource for individuals and teams to work through, finding both correction and encouragement within its pages.

I received a copy of the Authority ebook in pdf for review. No effort was made to coerce a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Faithmapping

10 Feb

Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper are both founding pastors of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. They just released Faithmapping through Crossway as “a gospel atlas for your spiritual journey.” Now, I think many people are becoming a touch skeptical of the amount of “gospel” books hitting the market, and a “gospel atlas” might sound too hipster for many people. But passing over this book could be a huge loss for you, the community you live and work in, and the church you lead (if you’re a pastor). The book exists because of the felt need of the pastors who wrote it – there are too many niche “gospel” books that try to present one facet of the Christian faith as being the important one we must focus on, when the reality is a much deeper and wider existence. Faithmapping is a book of old ways rediscovered, and the stories of how these areas work out in the life of a fast-growing church and church network.

The book is broken into three main sections (Whole Gospel, Whole Church, Whole World) and works from theological foundation, through ecclesiological community, and out into mission and world presence. The book crackles with lively prose, cultural awareness, and a faithfulness to Scripture, Jesus and his church. Each chapter is a contained idea, much like the cities on a map exist in their own right, but also have relation to the surrounding areas. So each section can be read as a guide depending on your current need or interest (the gospel of the cross, or our identity as worshipers, or the reality that we are servants), or it can be read cover to cover to provide a full banquet of foundation, implementation and practice. The chapters all end with a “map it” section to help you review the material covered and begin processing it within your local context.

Finally, since this is like a big overview road map of the various parts of our journey as the church and as Christians, the authors have supplemented the already solid footnotes and references with a recommended reading section. Each chapter has between three and five other books that focus on the particular area, offering more opportunities to consider the riches of Christ, his work, his bride and her mission.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a remarkably well written work, useful and encouraging, and will serve leaders and teams very well as they either survey their current “map” or get their bearings if they have found themselves turned around and upside down.

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher at no charge for participation in their blog review program. No effort was made to coerce a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.