The other day I received an email from Goodreads, telling me about my “year in books” — so far in 2016, I’ve read 7,834 pages, with my shortest book being 80 pages, and my longest being 672 pages. There is no way I would have been able to read this much if I didn’t respond to Goodreads’ “reading challenge” at the start of this year, which motivated me to set a goal of reading 40 books in the year. As of today, Dec. 15, I have read 36, with one about half way done, and another recently started, so hope still abides that I can reach my lofty ambition by Dec. 31.
I have been out of the country recently so I realize I’m late to the game on this, but I couldn’t let this contentious and unusual election season pass without some commentary from a pastoral perspective. Donald Trump has been elected to serve as president of the United States, which has left some Americans elated, and others despondent. What is unique about this election is that the divide that exists in the nation seems to exist within the church also. Secular media have been talking about “evangelical rifts,” “what is a Christian?” and “fractures” in the evangelical community — all because of different perspectives held on the new president.
It is curious to me that we are not hearing more about abortion in this election season, especially after Chris Wallace presented the issue to presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the candidates’ debate last month. Immigration, the economy, ISIS, gun control laws, lewd comments and private servers have been widely discussed, but not abortion so much. Has the culture become so complacent and hardened that abortion no longer gets our attention? Or has the issue simply taken a back seat to other issues that are rightfully getting attention, such as racism and sexism?
R.C. Sproul said we live in what “may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization.” J.P. Moreland said “the contemporary Christian mind is starved, and as a result we have small, impoverished souls.” C.S. Lewis said “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers.” (See “5 Theses on Anti-Intellectualism” here).
Ted Cruz had just spoken at the Republican National Convention, and I noticed a post on Facebook regarding the former presidential candidate’s speech. The post affirmed Cruz for not endorsing Donald Trump, but then went on to say that Cruz was still an “odious little (expletive).” After unfollowing this person, I immediately began to think that a blog on how to post on Facebook was in order.
As a pastor who has not been slow to speak up about homosexuality and transgenderism in the past, I want to be no less slow to speak up this week about the devastating shooting in Orlando this past weekend, when 49 people were gunned down by Omar Mateen at the Pulse nightclub. The first response of any Christian to such a tragedy should not be to get immediately tangled up in the tense debates about gun control, Islamic terrorism or the gay lifestyle. A Christian should simply follow Paul’s exhortation to weep with those who weep. (Rom. 12:15).
Something surprised me as I have been preaching through Romans 9 and 10 lately – not that the Calvinist understanding of election is so clearly taught there, but that objections to the Calvinist understanding of election are so clearly answered there.
Elvis Costello has always been one of my very favorite songwriters, mostly for his eclecticism (new wave, pop, country, classical, jazz) and lavish melodic inventiveness, but also because of his unusually clever lyrical wordplay, which is evident in almost all of his music. Allmusic.com says Elvis “emerged as one of the most innovative, influential and best songwriters since Bob Dylan.” So I guess it comes as no surprise that he’s actually a very good storyteller too.
This past Sunday I delivered a sermon on Rom. 8:18-25 titled “Heaven is a Place on Earth” in which we learned that the effects of the fall have extended further than just the souls and hearts of men and women, but even to the physical creation. As Gen. 3:17 and Is. 24:5-6 both declare, the earth has been cursed because of our sin.
This weekend is New Life’s annual missions conference. You might be aware that while the church seems to be on the decline in the United States, and certainly in Europe, it is actually growing rapidly in East Asia, particularly in China, which has been the scene of relentless persecution of the church in the past, particularly during the “Cultural Revolution” from 1966-1976.