Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

New Fantastic Four trailer

I know purists haven’t been keen on the news they’ve heard about this film, but the trailer looks interesting. Thoughts?

Baptizing “Masculinity”: The Real Reason Men are Leaving the Church

Luke Harrington:

I wonder, if we are serious about attracting men to church, if the solution is less to infantilize them by waving steaks and guns in front of their noses and more to challenge them by teaching the rich ideas and contentious debates from the Christian tradition. Clearly there’s no shortage of important questions to be debated. Is human nature as corrupt as Calvin claimed? Is the will as free as Wesley taught? Is God as transcendent as Aquinas believed? Are the Law and the Gospel as separate as Luther wanted them to be? Is Christ as fully present in the Eucharist as Iranaeus argued?

My Baby’s Heart Stopped Beating

Jasmine Holmes:

As soon as the thought came to my head, I felt horribly guilty. I know you’re not supposed to think those things, and when you do, it’s certainly not nice to admit them. But there it was, clear as day: I was jealous.

13 Ways You Waste Your Money

Good stuff here from Tim Challies.

Addressing Cultural Issues in the Pulpit

Daniel Darling:

How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I’ve also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I’ve seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new Kindle deals for you today:

Two years of no lies

I didn’t realize how often I lied until I stopped lying completely.

It wasn’t an intentional decision. Two summers ago I did my first ten-day silent meditation retreat, and we were required to sign five vows to join the program, including a vow of honesty. I didn’t know this until I arrived. But when you’re about to begin ten days in silence, signing your name on a vow not to lie does not feel like a bold step. At the end of the retreat, however, we were told the vows, which also include no killing and no stealing, now apply to the rest of our lives.

We Are Gomer

Brandon Smith:

Throughout the Book of Hosea, we see both the loving-kindness and frustration of God with his people. Like Gomer, they refuse his repeated attempts at reconciliation and continue to ignore his love. But we must remember that God did not leave Israel to continually wallow in her own desires. At least not entirely and not forever.

God, Science and the Big Questions

Be sure to register for the livestream of this webcast if you can’t attend personally. Looks to be excellent.

Shut up and Shut Out: Pursuing Wisdom by Saying Less

Kyle Worley:

To know when to speak with wisdom and when to stay silent in wisdom, we must draw near in silence to the One who is wisdom.Everyone has something to say. Now, more than ever before, they have the tools to say it to the world. ISIS beheads another innocent aid worker? TV channels will cover the pictures in “Breaking News” graphics. Post a Facebook comment about the heartbreaking death of an aunt suffering from disease? People you haven’t talked to in years will Like your post. In a day of live-tweeted tragedies and executions broadcast online, I fear that we have lost the sense that there are times when the wisest thing to do is refrain from commenting. Sometimes, there is nothing to say. I fear that we have forgotten that silence can be the loudest and wisest word spoken.

Your next Bible might be a hologram

I sure hope not. But this is interesting stuff from Stephen Smith.

Ethan Hawke, C.S. Lewis and What It Means to be Human

Aaron Earls:

In a somewhat surprisingly insightful interview (though with corse language) on the Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick spoke with actor Ethan Hawke about his role in the critically acclaimed Boyhood, the time travel flick Predestination, and, oddly enough, Hawke’s philosophical musings on life.

The conversation turned to the self-destruction of numerous individuals in Hollywood with both Hardwick and Hawke discussing the dual pull humans face. “You vacillate a lot,” Hawke said. Then, mimicking the internal dialogue of so many, he continued, “I hate myself. I’m a genius, I was wrong to hate myself.”

So how do we manage to swim in between those two whirlpools? How do we find the balance between hating oneself and over-inflating oneself?

When Your Church is In Trouble: Tell the Truth, Face the Future

Good stuff here from Trevin Wax.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A new level of archery

This is amazing:

Josh Harris resigns from Covenant Life Church

Really impressed with the way Harris handled this announcement (and his reason for resigning, too).

7 Thoughts on Sacred Time

Nick Batzig:

Among the diverse and manifold truths revealed in the Genesis account of Creation, we discover that God set apart two spheres of worship–sacred time and sacred space. Since all that God created was created in time and space, it should stand out to us as a matter of supreme importance that He then set apart a certain portion of that time and space in which man might worship Him. While the idea of sacred space surfaces in the account of God’s planting of the Garden of Eden–the prototypical Temple from which all the other sacred spaces from Creation to New Creation in Scripture take form–sacred time is first discovered when God set aside one day in seven for His image bearers to come together to worship Him. As Iain D. Campbell has so helpfully pointed out, “As God gave man sacred space in Paradise, and sacred time in his weekly cycle, he gave him a constant reminder of what he had made him for.” The idea of sacred time is one of the most significant–and yet, one of the least understood and embraced–needs of our lives as creatures. The teaching of Scripture as to the usefulness and purpose of the Sabbath Day helps us better joyfully embrace our need for sacred time in our relationship with the Lord. Here are 7 things to remember when approaching this subject.

The Techniques of a Sexual Predator

Tim Challies shares an important quote from On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju.

The strangely competitive world of sci-fi writing workshops

But a workshop isn’t all fun and games. Receiving critiques can be painful, especially for writers who are insecure. People may lash out, attempting to tear down their toughest critics or perceived rivals, and the experience of writing on a deadline is too much for many students, some of whom burn out and never write again, though this too can provide a valuable lesson.

All Paths Lead to God

Kevin DeYoung:

All paths lead to God, but only one path will present you before God without fault and with great joy.

Pick a path, any path–it will take you to God. Trust me: you will stand before Him one day. You will meet your Maker. You will see the face of Christ.

There are many ways up the mountain, but only one will result in life instead of destruction.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Mummy mask may reveal oldest known gospel

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.

At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200).

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.

Be sure to also check out Denny Burk’s commentary on this story.

Only Two Religions: An Interview with Peter Jones

R.C. Sproul and Lee Webb interview Peter Jones to discuss the theme of his teaching series Only Two Religions. Together they discuss the fundamental religious convictions that drive modern culture, demonstrating that in the final analysis there can be only two religions—worship of the Creator or worship of creation.

The goodness of biblical manhood and womanhood

If you live in the Calgary area, be sure to register for this conference featuring Owen Strachan and Jodi Ware.

Why the Battle for Traditional Marriage Will Be Different than Fighting Roe v. Wade

Mike Leake:

Since 1973 the church has been fighting to end abortion. And though we don’t seem to be winning court or legal battles on this topic it does appear that our nation is becoming more pro-life than pro-choice.

Will the same thing happen with same-sex marriage? Will we be talking in 2057 about a decline in same-sex marriages? Will the cultural tide turn at that point?

I don’t have those answers, but I do know that our hope for traditional marriage will be a much different battle than our discussion over abortion.

A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids

Stephen Altrogge:

Worldview is important, but it’s only one part of the equation. A biblical worldview helps a person think correctly. But we are not purely intellectual beings. We don’t operate solely based on ideas and thoughts. We are flesh and blood, with passions, desires, and longings. We feel things deeply and desire things strongly. Our intellects and desires are intricately interwoven, interacting with and informing each other.

What kids think of Teddy Ruxpin

Ouch:

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put several volumes in the Preaching the Word commentary series on sale for $5.99 each:

Also, be sure to pick up Jesus on Every Page by David Murray ($1.99), I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That by Steve Timmis ($1.99), and The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias ($2.99) while they’re still on sale.

Hate mail

Deepak Reju:

If you’re a pastor, you most certainly have detractors, people who for one reason or another don’t like you. Maybe it’s a person who criticizes you to your face or writes you a nasty-gram—a sour text, email, or, worse, Facebook post.… How should you, as a pastor, think about receiving criticism?

Every X-Man ever

This is impressive:

Lecrae Confesses Abortion, Invites Others into the Light

This was powerful.

Peter Pan’s Shadow And the Promises of God

Derek Rishmawy:

In some recent discussions regarding issues like atonement or the doctrine of God, I have seen some more progressive theological types refer to the metaphor of types and shadows in order to justify a particular kind of overturning or undermining of the Old Testament revelation. Alongside what we’ve called the Jesus-Tea-strainer hermeneutic, some have argued that now that Christ has come he has revealed the true, hidden nature of these types and shadows. Instead of coming as their more straightforward fulfillment, though, he comes as their abolishment. Or, he comes to reveal how screwed up our understanding has truly been up until this point.

23 insane ways to cook with cauliflower

I love to cook, and am always looking for new and interesting things to try. There are at least three on this list that look like a lot of fun.

Imagining the Image of God

Nick Batzig:

Of course, Shakespeare knew his Bible well. The Genesis account of creation is so full of theological riches that it seem impossible to mine them all. The Holy Spirit teaches us that man, as God’s image bearer, was both distinguished, dignified and dependent–differentiated and dust–in his original state. At creation, man was both a finite creature and the “lord of the lower world.” God created man out of the same place and from the same materials from which he made the animals and He invested man with faculties that other creatures do not enjoy; He gave man responsibilities to which other creatures will never attain. Here are some observations about the nature of man drawn out of Genesis 1 and 2.

Links I like

Kindle deals

In addition to yesterday’s big list, here are a few other deals very much worth your consideration, including one of the best leadership books I’ve read (which is quite the compliment since I hate leadership books), The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler for $2.99.

Zondervan’s Counterpoints series is on sale for $2.99 each, including:

Be sure to also check out The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens for $2.99. It’s a great read.

Honest Christian Book Titles

This was fun.

8 Responses to Friendly Fire

Jim Stitzinger:

When Christians default to sinful assaults on other believers, the glory of Christ is diminished, the gospel message is muted and fellowship is destroyed. Hugh Hewitt recently challenged a room full of leaders to “expect to get hit from behind.” Anticipate that your most scathing, personal assaults will often come from those you partner with in ministry. Those you learn from, recruit, hire, mentor, lead, and serve. It’s not the attacks from unbelievers in the community or even from believers on the periphery of the ministry. It is assaults from those who have direct access to your heart, who for whatever reason, use their access and knowledge to launch accusations, spread gossip and advance slander. Similar to the volley of war, it is anything but friendly.

Hubble returns to visit “old friends”

Still stunning:

Watching Naked People

Lore Ferguson:

In recent months I’ve been convicted about the little foxes that ruin the vineyard of my heart. I have a bit of a tender constitution to some things I see on media, or hear about from others, but I realized my propensity to mindlessly watch popular shows containing nudity was growing in the past year. I wasn’t watching them for the nudity, but I was still complicit in their popularity. I like smart writing and good character development and there are a few movies I enjoyed this year that contained brief scenes that would be better left out of both the film and and my heart.

Three reasons (some) pastors don’t equip

Eric Geiger:

Some pastors are like the occasional church sound-guy that doesn’t want anyone else fiddling with the soundboard. If you have encountered this sound-guy, you likely first concluded that he probably knows best. After all, he is able to find that buzz, has saved the day multiple times, and uses words you don’t understand. You reason that you are an idiot and “that you should not concern yourself with things too marvelous for you” (Psalm 131:1). But as time passes, you wonder if the system has been intentionally designed so no one else can possibly run it. The sound-guy has built the sound-system around himself, for himself. In the same way, some pastors build ministry around themselves, for themselves, for at least three reasons.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

14 Pop Culture Events from 2014 You Already Forgot

Aaron Earls shares 14 events “that took over social media for a few days only to be forgotten the next week.”

Erwin Lutzer announces to transition to Pastor Emeritus

Big changes coming to The Moody Church in Chicago:

On Sunday January 4, 2014, Pastor Lutzer announced an upcoming change in the leadership of The Moody Church. Speaking with his wife Rebecca by his side, he informed the congregation that a search would begin for a new Senior Pastor.

The Lutzers have given this transition much thought and prayer, and have concluded that God is leading them to take this step at this time. They, along with the Elders, have agreed that Dr. Lutzer will remain in the role of Senior Pastor until a new Pastor is found. When that transition occurs, Pastor Lutzer will step into a new role of ministry, that of Pastor Emeritus of The Moody Church.

Essential Texting Acronyms Parents Must Know

If you’ve got kids with a cellphone, you’re going to want to know these.

What would Jesus say to someone like Leelah Alcorn?

Garret Kell:

It is heart-wrenching to know that a young person was so overwhelmed with pain that their only response was to stop living. That should mean something. Whether you’re LBGT, Christian, liberal, conservative, religious or otherwise—we are humans and a tragedy like this should lead us to stop, weep, pray, and take notice.

7 Truths We Have Forgotten

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Every generation has not just its blind spots, but its amnesiac moments—truths once held, even honored, that the rising generation let go of. One might call these things “Slipping Off the Shoulders of Giants.” Here are seven truths our fathers in the faith grasped that we have forgotten.

Location in Worship

Check out this new poem by John Piper.

Christmas specials and me

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I have a confession: I’m not a big fan of Christmas specials, movies or very special episodes of our favorite sitcoms. It’s rare for me to enjoy a Christmas special in general. Every once in a while, I hear about a special or movie I should check out… but I never do. Here are a couple:

1. Elf

This came out when I was still trying to figure out if I actually enjoyed Will Ferrell or not. Sometimes I’m still trying to figure that out, actually. But when I saw the trailers for it years ago, it just didn’t look all that interesting. Am I wrong?

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

Yeah, I know. This is one of those “how could you not have seen it??” films. But here I am, having never seen it. Nor do I plan to.

And then there are the “classics” I’ve seen and really, really hate. Here are two of those:

1. Home Alone

Seriously. This movie is everything that is wrong with an entire generation.

2. Jingle All the Way

No… just, no.

However, lest you think I am a complete Scrooge, there are a few I genuinely enjoy. Here are two:

1. A Muppet Christmas Carol

This is one of my favorite takes on Dickens’ classic story. Michael Caine is wonderful in this.

2. Die Hard

Second-most violent Christmas movie ever made (behind Home Alone):

 

Honorable mention: Community—“Regional Holiday Music”

Glee parodies + Jehovah’s Witnesses + Christmas = the greatest espionage story ever rapped.


Photo credit: katiescrapbooklady via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And over at Westminster Bookstore, Joe Rigney’s new book, The Things of Earth, is on sale for $12 each or $8 when buying three or more copies.

How to Ruin a Moses Movie

Joe Carter:

In the future, this movie should be taught in film schools to show all the ways a movie based on a Bible story can go wrong. Here are a few of the lessons Scott’s film can teach future generations of filmmakers about how to ruin a movie about Moses.

Cultural References I Can’t Use In Sermons Anymore

Mike Leake:

I’ve been preaching to teenagers for about twelve years now. When I first started I was barely older than they were. In those good old days I could make a reference to something from my childhood and the kids would track with me. Now I just get blank stares when I try to use some of these.

Should Christians listen to the Serial podcast?

Russell Moore and Dan Darling discuss.

Jane Austen, Tim Keller, and the Happiness of Holiness

Derek Rishmawy:

After many long, inexcusable years, I finally sat down to read a Jane Austen novel; Pride and Prejudice, to be exact. I suppose I had avoided them in my youth because they were the type of thing my sister–a girl, mind you–read. Also, I’d been subjected to the film Sense and Sensibility as a young boy and I’m still not sure what effect that’s had on my disposition ever since. In any case, inspired by my English acquaintances and a sense of nostalgia for literature, I picked up the copy off the shelf last week and got to work.

Faithful Gardening

Travis Allen:

Though today there’s widespread disillusionment with the fields of weeds, many continue to engage in pragmatism. It’s distorting the gospel as it’s contextualized to other cultures and subcultures. And it’s turning the Sunday worship service into a staged event, with all the requisite accoutrements—rock band, “attractional” preaching, and support groups.

Links I like

The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church

Rob Smith:

Christianity is a singing faith. It’s one of the chief things followers of Jesus are renowned for, both down through the ages and now all around the world. While the proportion of singing has varied from time to time and from place to place, most churches today devote about a third of their gathering time to congregational singing and invest a considerable amount of time, money, effort, and energy into the musical side of church life.

But why do we sing? What does our singing accomplish? What purposes does it fulfill? According to Scripture, God has both created and called us to sing for three principle reasons: to help us praise, to help us pray, and to help us proclaim. Let’s look at each of these reasons in turn.

90 facts about the 90s

An (Anti) Guide to Writing

Amber Van Schooneveld:

We act as if “writer” is an exclusive club and only a select few may proudly wear that badge. But talent can be found in the most aggravating places. I often encounter people who, upon hearing I am a writer, tell me that they want to write a book someday. That’s great. Writing books has always been one of my life goals too. But further into the conversation, I find that the last time they wrote was 10th grade.

It can be annoying when people bandy about your dreams so easily, like if I went up to an engineer and said I hoped to build a bridge someday, though I have no intention of devoting any time to the study of bridges. But the aggravating thing is that people who never write can, and in fact sometimes do, sit down and write something brilliant. Writing is not an exclusive talent and some (the best, in my opinion), do it naturally with no study. Writing is not an exclusive club, as much as some of us would like to make it.

The End of the World As We Know It

R.C. Sproul Jr:

I have long argued that Genesis 3 sets the stage for our lives, the Bible, and all of history. We live in a context of battle, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. I have argued in turn that that over-arching battle will be determined based on two other battles. First there is the battle inside the seed of the woman, between our new man and our old man. The more sanctified we become, the better things will go in the great battle. The other battle is within the seed of the serpent. There the battle is between the remnants of the image of God and their own fallen nature.

While it is Still Called Today

Lore Ferguson:

In the morning, when the sky is still blushed pink and the babes have just scattered to their lives, I sit in the corner chair and read, drink my coffee slowly and breathe. All of this month it has been the book of Isaiah and I can’t stop the tears when they come. The promise is overwhelming and I wonder what it was like to be the people who dwelt in darkness, deep darkness, waiting for their light to come.

The Church on the Fringes

Jonathan Parnell:

This vision for gospel witness goes deeper than a few “decisions” made or baptisms recorded. Paul’s ambition for the gospel’s advance is mature disciples of Jesus — disciples warned and taught and made wise in the knowledge of God. Any church’s mission that doesn’t include this is, bluntly, sub-Christian. Put more bluntly, any church’s mission that doesn’t dream of making mature disciples of Jesus actually defies the gospel itself. Jesus died to make new creaturesto make a new world. Any discipleship vision that has standards lower than this is short-circuiting the gospel’s power, and therefore, the power of God (Romans 1:16).

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Sheep Aren’t Stupid

Joe Thorn:

Pastors sometimes say stupid things. Sometimes those stupid things are catchy and wind up being repeated by many other pastors. One of the more preposterous pithy statements I have heard many preachers say is, “Sheep are dumb.” They say this as shepherds and are referring to the sheep of the church—the congregation. The idea is that sheep are dumb, and must be led well. We shouldn’t be surprised when they do stupid things.

My problem with this statement is that it disrespects people made in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son. It is a mocking of the church and an exaltation of self. The church isn’t stupid. Sinful, yes. Stupid, no. Speaking of the church in this way will get a chuckle from some leaders (who aren’t already bored by the worn-out expression), but will create distance between leadership and those pastors are called to lead.

The Ferguson Grand Jury Has Given Us Our Marching Orders

Thabiti Anyabwile:

We saw an American prosecutor fail the principle of “blind justice” by handling court procedure in a way most legal experts found a dereliction of duty. Over and over again we heard that the grand jury bar for an indictment is so low all it takes is a ham sandwich. Prosecutors who want to prosecute don’t “present all the evidence;” apparently, they present only that evidence that gets them the indictment and commences the trial. If that’s true, and I have to trust the majority opinion of legal experts since I’m not one, then Ferguson’s prosecutor failed to even live up to the low-bar ideals of his profession, much less America.

“You just went and made a new dinosaur…? Probably not a good idea.”

Is it possible that the Jurassic Park reboot could actually be… good?

I’m Bored With Blogs

Mike Leake:

It feels like the same people saying the same things in the same way. And those of us that are also curators (having features like Today in Blogworld) are guilty of perpetuating this. I confess that I’ve shared articles from known commodities without really reading through the article and considering all the implications. I like the title. I trust the author. So I link to it. That isn’t helpful. And I’m sorry.

Prayer in the Facebook Age

Mark Bauerlein:

We are in danger of losing these replenishing, corrective moments of solitary faith. Silence and seclusion are harder to find, and fewer people seek them out. You find a lone bench in the park on a fall afternoon, gaze up at the sky through the branches, and begin the Rosary only to have a power walker march by barking into an invisible mic. It’s not just the noise, it’s his connection to absent persons, as if to say that being in one place alone with the Lord is insufficient.

Contingency

Mike Wittmer:

Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian, you must concede that whatever happens goes all the way back to God’s will. God may have directly decreed it, or decreed to allow it, but ultimately the buck stops with him. Because it is God’s will, it is contingent. It didn’t have to be this way. This is true for the really bad stuff, and it’s also true for God’s decision to bless us with all good things.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

There are a ton of Kindle deals this week. Here’s a look at the latest:

99¢ or less

$2.99 or less

$3.99 and up

Ferguson response

Good thoughts here from Darrin Patrick.

How Guardians of the Galaxy should have ended

I loved the movie, but this is pretty fantastic:

Why Is Church So Boring? R C Sproul’s Answer

David Murray:

Two quotes from The Holiness of God by R C Sproul, the first identifying boredom as the main reason people stop going to church, and the second identifying awe as the antidote to boredom.

Summary: More awe in church services = less boredom in church = less people leave church.

If Sproul is right, and I believe he is, how do we create more awe in our church services. Is this something only God can give, so we have to just wait for it to happen? Or is it something for which we are also responsible?

How Board Games Conquered Cafes

This is pretty cool.

HT: Tim

Gratitude Is Hard to Do

Joseph Rhea:

We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.

I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find.

4 Ways a Christian Leader Should Know “What Time It Is”

Trevin Wax:

To think of leadership in terms of timeless principles is easy, but we do well to remember that the tasks of exercising leadership and exerting influence do not take place in a vacuum. They are by nature contextual; that is, they require the use of wisdom in applying principles to various and often-changing contexts.

In this sense, then, Christian leadership is never timeless. Instead, it is a timely application of God-given wisdom regarding specific decisions that must be made in particular moments in time.

Check out the latest Logos pre-pub titles

For those not familiar, Logos’ Pre-Publication program is how the newest titles get into Logos. This program gives users special low prices, as well as a say in what gets added to the Logos library (read more on that here). Here are a few standout titles (note, all prices are in USD):

The opportunity to influence through entertainment

Bere Gratis live performance

If the Internet had been as popular in 1994 as it is today, Roseanne would have broke it.

For those old enough to remember, Roseanne was a sitcom about fairly dysfunctional working class family that often tackled some pretty heavy topics including substance abuse, domestic violence and single parenthood. But one episode in particular stood out because it featured something completely shocking on television at the time: two women kissing as Roseanne (in an effort to prove she was still with it and/or hip, went to the local gay bar). It was one of the infamous “lesbian kiss episodes”, a  phenomenon found among a number of different television shows across genres over the last 25 years (the first was, apparently, an episode of L.A. Law in 1991).

The purpose of such episodes was simple:  normalize the behaviour. The more we are exposed to certain things, whether homosexual behaviour, promiscuity or shocking levels of violence, the more we become accustomed to them.

Pop culture has the power to normalize behaviours we might otherwise find unacceptable and leave us expecting them. This is why, in many television shows, we’ve moved from homosexuality being “shocking” to being normal, for example. Entertainment—books, movies, music—shape people’s views of the world (and anyone who denies it is deluded).

Often, the entertainment industry sells us a worldview based on the great Lie—one that fails to honor and give thanks to its Creator, or what Peter Jones describes as Oneism. And it truly is everywhere. To name but three:

  • Star Wars with its ideology based on multiple Eastern religious concepts, including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • Star Trek with its utopian atheistic naturalism.
  • Avatar with its worship of the Tree of Souls and strong environmentalist message.

But there’s so much more. Sitcoms like The New Normal and Modern Family normalize the same-sex family. Friends normalized modern promiscuity (and friends who actually kind of hate each other). The new My Little Pony show (one of my girls’ favorite cartoons) consistently reinforces the “all you need is to believe in yourself (and your friends)” message…

I think you get the point.

While there’s a lot that makes it tempting to throw out the TV, we should also be encouraged: the good news is just as entertainment can be used to influence people with the Lie, it can be used influence with the Truth.

This is what was attempted to do with Veggie Tales back in the day (although by the creator’s own admission, they wound up teaching kids to be good rather than know the One who is good). It’s what many of the men and women who make explicitly Christian-themed movies and music are also attempting to do (again, to varying results).

But it’s also why I’m grateful for musicians like Dustin Kensrue (best known as the lead singer of Thrice). Although post-Thrice, he’s begun recording music that’s more explicitly Christian in its themes and lyrics, such as his album The Water and the Blood, Kensrue also understand the opportunity he has to influence non-Christians among his audience by making great music. This is why you can see the fingerprints of his faith all his former band’s songs, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly as in the case of this song:

This is something I’m grateful many Christians have, in recent years, really started to get. And it’s the kind of mindset I want to see more Christians embrace: whether we’re being explicit or subtle, producing entertainment that gets people thinking. That engages their hearts and minds with biblical concepts and truths. It may not be controversial enough to break the Internet, but it might begin to break a hardened heart.


photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc

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Why I Repented from Twitter Following Everyone

Joey Cochran:

One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom, and see who waves back.”

The Case for Face to Face Meetings

Erik Raymond:

Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call, or Skype. While this makes meeting easier it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.

In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion then a face to face meeting is nearly essential.

Is Open Theism Still an Issue?

Jeff Robinson:

Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.

“You are cured of MS!”

David Murray shares the testimony of Gary Timmer, whose son Trent was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

It’s a dance-off!

Imagine if this had been the ending to Guardians of the Galaxy:

HT: Aaron