This video on the challenge of being a Christian in the secular workplace seems to feel more and more accurate with each passing day.
This is something the American church has largely forgotten to teach. Or maybe “forgotten” is the wrong word. “Neglected” might be more accurate, since pastors and church leaders can’t possibly have forgotten this truth. (Right?)
These Look Pretty
Retweeted on Twitter: “No text can be understood out of its entire context. The most ‘entire’ context is Jesus.”
Posted on Facebook: “God has a plan and purpose for each of us. Know that Jesus Christ died so that you could live.”
Someone had to go all the way back to 2015 to find a gem from Desiring God. (It’s been a bit dicey over there the past few years): “Don’t follow your heart. God did not design our hearts to be followed, but to be led.”
I Had Forgotten I’d Written It
Here’s what I accidentally stumbled upon from 2017:
This video from last month somehow escaped my notice until it was shared with me via Facebook today. It’s a video of political commentator David Brooks’ first ever “sermon”.
David Brooks has a measured style and delivery. I appreciate this about what he shared from the pulpit. He offers his studied perspective, challenges people to consider things differently than they might currently consider them, and he even tells a self-effacing joke. These are things I also appreciate about what he shared from the pulpit.
From a Christian worship perspective, I’m not sure this represents what the church should expect of its sermons, however. The first half of the message focuses primarily on the specific building within which Mr. Brooks happened to be speaking. The second half of his address focuses primarily on American politics. (At least he does mention the name of Jesus one time, at about the midway point of his talk. Until that point, I was beginning to wonder if he would ever mention the name of Jesus even once).
Mr. Brooks alludes to four different books of the Bible, but he quotes from none of them. He does, however, provide quotes from Plato, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Day, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Tim Keller, Russel Reno, Bill Milingon, Richard Niebuhr, and Reinhold Niebuhr. He also suggests that Christians in the USA probably do not now face a “Bonhoeffer moment”. I should hope not! Dietrich Bonhoeffer involved himself in a conspiracy to kill the leader of his own nation!
Mr. Brooks gave a fine speech. (Other than the sloppiness of his Bonhoeffer remarks). However, it simply does not meet the criteria of a sermon; at least not a sermon that churchgoers should expect (demand!) to be preached from their pulpits. Many Christians (me included) are fans of most of the people Mr. Brooks quoted. Many Christians (me included) appreciate beautiful church-building architecture and beautiful worship services. BUT, and it is a huge BUT, Christian sermons need to be about Jesus Christ. Christian sermons must bring the hearers of the sermon to the foot of the cross. Christian sermons have a duty to present the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (and do so from God’s Word, rather than merely the words of mere men and women).
David Brooks has provided us with an interesting speech. I am thankful for this. What he had to say would have made for a nice church lecture. Yet, my heart aches with sadness that it was delivered in place of a sermon to a gathering of God’s people needing to be reminded of the loving mercy and righteous rule of their Lord, Savior, and King.
Share Christ today.
The blog above was first published on the original version of this website. Since then the site has been completely reformatted and upgraded. With this change, the blogs needed to be re-uploaded to correct corruptions that occurred with the transition in 2023. While doing this, some additional information was added at the conclusion of many of the older blogs in a “postscript” section that might not have appeared in the first draft that was published on the first website. Think of this new content as “bonus material”.
Wow! On So Many Levels, Wow….
This news item highlights an Alabama school board member who wants to consider institutionalization for special education students. To this I sarcastically commented on social media:
Poverty negatively impacts academic performance; let’s institutionalize poor people. Lack of discipline negatively impacts academic performance; let’s institutionalize class clowns. Poor attendance negatively impacts academic performance; let’s institutionalize students who are tardy and/or delinquent. Oh, by the way, bad teachers negatively impact academic performance; let’s institutionalize bad teachers! And lastly, government run schools negatively impact academic performance (at least when compared to private schools); let’s toss out the entire institution of government run education.
That last line wasn’t meant to be sarcastic, actually. A friend noticed this point, and commented: “The last sentence says it all Troy.”
No, That’s Not Why
I’ve been mining old social media commentary to see what’s worth culling for this blog. There were a great many thoughtful and lengthy (and instructional) exchanges that I can still vividly recall from years ago. However, when going to retrieve them I found that they were inaccessible due to hurt feelings. In other words, my consistently biblical worldview framework offended my associates on The Left to the point of having me blocked/muted/unfriended. Too bad; what I had to say was earth-shatteringly brilliant (just take my word for it!). But seriously, I would have liked to review those exchanges to see how my approach would be different today. Oh well.
Here’s one tiny reflection that I did uncover from August 2017:
There is a remnant of faithful preachers, praise God! However, it is difficult to keep from feeling melancholy when realizing that we see not only a post-Christian America but also a post-Christian American church.
Left Hangin’ in The Shack
When I publicized years ago that I’d be teaching on the book and movie “The Shack”, I posted this paragraph:
There’s a theological civil war being waged in the American church right now, and the book/ movie “The Shack” finds itself in the center of it. We all find ourselves in the center of it, whether we know it or not. On Sunday, I’ll be standing in the center of it… standing upon the Word of God, in the center of the crossfire. As I write this I don’t know exactly what I’ll say. Some people are concerned that the “universal church” has drifted into becoming the “universalist church”. The current poster child for these concerns is “The Shack”. In response to the people who voice these concerns, others say “Nonsense; there’s a lot of good in the book and movie!”
Amazingly, there are important things that the Apostle John had to say about “The Shack” even hundreds of years ago. When I share these important things on Sunday I will definitely cause upset. While I don’t yet know precisely what I will say, I am convinced it will offend you. If you like the book/movie or if you dislike the book/movie, either way, I fear that I will unnecessarily offend you. Every time in the past that I’ve written the midweek newsletter note, as I am at this very moment, I had already finished my manuscript for the upcoming sermon, knowing what I intended to say. Not this time. This time I merely know that we’ll examine the final verses of Third John and look at “The Shack” as a case study. Of course, because John’s letters consistently emphasize the truth and how this needs to affect the believer’s life, we will definitely stress the importance of remaining committed to “the truth in love”. This is what John teaches us, and this is what the bride of Christ really, really needs to relearn. Oh, how I pray that God brings me the right words, the right tone, and the right attitude to share His truth in His love. Please… pray for me. Pray for Christ’s church.
I had a longtime friend remark, “I’ll be interested in what you have to say about this.” I responded:
“This two-part series is one of the few times that I’ve preached a sermon that wasn’t a specific exposition of Scripture. Still unsure that I made the right call in making such an exception, but I do know that the issues raised by “The Shack” are rather significant for today’s American church. I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts on the message.”
In her follow up she said, “I will let you know”.
She never did. I wonder if maybe she was a huge fan of the book/movie. I might never know.
Old Man Randomness
My understanding is that the Antifa movement has roots connected to skinheads and is a movement populated by anarchists. Further, my understanding is that the group is known for being an instigator of violence and destroyers of property (which the group does not consider to be a form of violence).
If my understanding is correct, would it be okay for someone to say that both the neo-Nazi group and the Antifa group are evil without being accused of attempting to “let the white supremacists of the hook” by some charge of moral equivalency? Can Joseph Stalin be condemned without being an apologist for Adolf Hitler? Can Pol Pot be condemned without being an apologist for Idi Amin?
Was Don Henley wrong when he wrote these song lyrics: “These days the buck stops nowhere; no one takes the blame; but evil is still evil; in anybody’s name”?
Last thought for the day
Today’s older generation can tell their grandchildren, “When I was a kid we still had pay phones.”
Today’s younger generation can tell their grandchildren, “When I was a kid we still had cell phones!”
Many blessings to you,
Pastor Troy Skinner