In the News: Abortion on the Supreme Court Docket, Russell Moore leaves the ERLC, God Bless the USA Bible, and updated CDC Guidance.

Modern-Cloister-NEW

In this episode of the Modern Cloister, we discuss some news from May, including the Supreme Court deciding to hear a Mississippi abortion law; Russell Moore steps down as president of the Ethics and Religious Life Commission; the upcoming ‘God Bless the USA’ Bible; and the updated CDC guidance on masks and gatherings (like church). 

It will be about a year before we hear anything else about the abortion case. It could be a more in the right direction, but I remain skeptical (I’ve written before about Trump and the Supreme Court). It has been a wild six or so years with Evangelicals in the news for politics. We (or at least 81%, though less in 2020) abandoned our morals (we went from most likely to say character matters in 2012, to least likely in 2016) and often the reason told was, ‘for the judges’. So, not is the chance, I suppose, to see if it was worth it. It is important to remember that this case would not ban abortion in America (nor would overturning Roe), which is one reason I’ve written that Evangelicals shouldn’t be single issue voters. I’m tired of writing about politics, and even more tired of talking about it. Hopefully, In the News next month won’t have any, though that seems unlikely. 

After we published, news also came out that roughly 15% of Americans believe in QAnon; though it looks like some, including 538, have issues with the polling. However, apparently, even asking different ways, at different times, surveys still finds support to be around this level (and up to 20%). Supporters are disproportionately Evangelical whites and Hispanics. Meaning it is a huge part of our church. So, while major denominations and famous pastors are obsessed with ‘wokeness’ and rooting out CRT (while denying the Trinity, as I’ve written about before), a huge proportion of our people in our pews believe things such as a global pedofile ring is in control of the media/Washington or that Biden is a body double. Meanwhile, 60% of people can’t tell you the Great Commission, and only 9% of people can name the 10 Commandments (a staggering 14% can name only 1). The disconnect is so great that the current hero for the SBC is an atheist, while Russell Moore no longer works for them (if you are curious as to why we brought up the SBC again). 

Also, and I can’t seem to find too many good sources on this, but we mentioned Zondervan was part of the Bless the USA Bible. It appears the content is published elsewhere, Zondervan was only involved as they are the copyright holder to the NIV. It appears that they have pulled their licensing and will not be involved. I’ll try to update as more comes out. I applaud them for their decision, but they still allowed the NIV in the ‘Patriot’s’ Bible, which similarly doesn’t have any commentary or notes, but a few articles interspersed throughout, that have incorrect historical notes about American from an amatuer ‘historian’ (looking at his bio, he has neither pastoral or history training from any accredited institutions.) Also, you can read a good article from the perspective a non-American, that I mentioned during the Pod.

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

In the News: Atlanta Spa Shootings, Beth Moore, Audrey Assad, and Evangelicals the Least Likely Group to Care for Others

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Today we are taking a break from our Community Series to kick off something we plan to post near the end of each month. In it we will discuss two or three major news stories as well as one other story from each of us. We aren’t just trying to report the news, but to discuss either why the story matters or how we should think/act in response to the events from a Christian viewpoint.  

In the first segment, we discuss the recent Asian Spa shooting that happened here in Atlanta, which now has its own Wikipedia page (which is actually quite good), in which eight people died, six of which were Asian. I should note that during the recording we wondered the ethnicity of the other two and assumed they were both women. However, it was actually a man and a woman, both of which were white. We also failed to note that there was another person shot, a hispanic man, who did survive. We try to touch on both the asian violence over the past year and the issues with ‘purity culture’, as well as our response to both issues as Christians. I mention Kevin DeYoung’s remarks, his podcast is called Life and Books and Everything does not appear to have a website, and our friend Steve Heimler, who’s video you can watch below the podcast feed. 

Our second segment is on Beth Moore leaving the Southern Baptist Convention, for whom she has authoring numerous books over the past few decades. She is likely the most famous in a long line of people who have left the SBC, including whole congregations of black churches. This is notable in that there seems to be no issue of hersey, but rather a lack of will to support Trump that is causing such deep divisions. You can read what Russell Moore (no relation) has to say about Beth here.

Mrs. MMT discusses the news that one of her favorite singers, Audrey Assad, abandons Christianity. 

We wrap up with an article from David French about white evangelicals being the least likely group to say they will get vaccinated, and if that isn’t enough, they are also the least likely to say that the effects on the community are important. This is, of course, a complete disregard for love your neighbor and they will know you by the love you show.

We went far longer than intended, so the format may change. I hope you enjoy the discussion, please feel free to comment below.

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

Book Review: The Wisdom Pyramid

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read; short (< 200 pages)

Summary
Modeled on the old school (though not as old as I thought) ‘food pyramid’, McCracken seeks to give us guidelines for what to consume to gain wisdom. The book is broken into two parts. First, keeping with the food metaphor (eating too much, too fast, and unbalance) is the ‘source of our sickness’ which has three chapters: Information Gluttony, Perpetual Novelty, and ‘Look Within’ Autonomy. Part two lays out the pyramid in these chapters: Part Two Intro, The Bible, The Church, Nature, Books, Beauty, The Internet and Social Media, and What Wisdom Looks Like (which is part summary and part conclusion for the whole book). There is also an introduction (An Unwise Age) that does well to diagnoses many of our current issues.

My Thoughts
The first part of the book was unexpected. I thought the focus would be just the pyramid, but McCraken does a great and concise job of diagnosing the problem. That made the book stronger and I appreciate his continued use of the food metaphor. Overall, I agreed with most of his food groups, but not all. In his defense, he points out that the metaphor breaks down a bit, but the overall focus was balance. Starting with the Bible is a good choice, obviously you can’t really read it more than all other books combined, and his point isn’t that you should read other books.

The next two levels, the church and nature, were really well done. Considering these are all short chapters, everyone should read this the book, but these two chapters were probably the best. He does a great job of pointing to the communal aspect of church, and reading this now (hopefully with the end in sight) in the pandemic, is an important reminder of what we are missing. I was skeptical of nature at first. I enjoy the outdoors (fishing, hiking, camping, etc.), but I’m usually wary of Christians how push it as necessary (conflating the outdoor life with ‘manliness’), but that is not at all what he did. He writes of the value of nature for our brains, touching on neuroscience, and the enjoyment of God’s creations. He reaches back to Augustine and Calvin and the ‘two-book’ theory of general revelation. It is probably one of the best handlings of nature by a Christian author that I have read.

Books, of course, was great. He is a big book guy, I’m a big book guy. I remain skeptical that if you are not an avid reader, that you would agree with him. Most people aren’t going to read 30-50 books a year, but maybe he could have set a goal for people on the lower end, or people who don’t challenge themselves to read, preferring, instead, to live a life of functional illiteracy. I must point out, because it is so often incorrectly quoted, that C.S. Lewis said read ONE old book for every three NEW books. People often flip the quote.

The weakest chapter for me was beauty. I understand he was likely being vague so that it could encompass various arts, but I wonder if the point would be clearer/stronger, if he dove into one think (i.e. Music). Or at least encourage people to actively participate. This may not be what he actually believes, that we must create, but I find that to be a little closer to the truth. The final chapter is on social media/internet. He makes a compelling argument to not abandon them completely and offers strong guidance on how to cultivate use. I am not a heavy social media uses, so much of what he offered seemed simple, but I know it is more difficult for others.

I thought one thing that was missing, or maybe just not pointed out clearly enough, was TV. I could see how quality TV/Movies (he is a professional movie critic) could fit into beauty, but also (he points to bingeing on Netflix) social media/internet. Maybe I’m just old for thinking of TV as a separate category (don’t worry, I do stream shows, no cable at the MMT household), but on the other hand, I don’t know many things that waste as much of peoples time in mindless consumption as TV. Sure, you may mindlessly scroll for 30 minutes on Facebook, but people will eat dinner in front of the TV, then watch for another four hours, before going to bed.

The only other issue I had, and to stick with his food metaphor, was this was really just a sampling. Again in his defense, I believe this was by design. I will likely pull more books from his end notes than I typically do. I’ve read most of the tech ones (his big omission was Irresistible, about the way tech has been made to be ‘addictive’. I had not read many of the books from the nature chapter, that seem like they integrate theology and nature well or on a psychology and nature level.

Overall, I think everyone needs to read this book. It is relatively short and can give you great guidance on your consumption. Extra points to him and the publishers for adding discussion questions. I already know a guy who is doing this book with his men’s group. This book would be a great discussion starter on how you are spending time and ways you can reorder your intake, especially on tech and books. It isn’t perfect, and many people will disagree with the levels (outside of the top and the bottom, hopefully), but it is a compelling starting point and a must read.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Some Post Election Thoughts

Even though I shouldn’t, because I’m getting really burned out on politics. Some of your are lucky and political ad season is over, but for me, I can’t watch the weather without every add be about the two Senate run-off elections.

I don’t really have much in the way of politics, but there are some Biblical issues I want to get down, as well as a sprinkling of Covid thoughts, mostly because Covid has clearly affected the political climate. It seems to me that Trump would have won again (probably handly) were it not for his epic failure in leadership during this crisis. If you make it to the end, I have an update/tease on where this blog is going (if it continues) in the future).

I don’t typically listen to ‘Christian’ radio channels. Lazy pop rock isn’t really my style (and I get enough bad theology masquerading as ‘experiential worship’ from wannabe rock bands at church), and like old men in the generation before us that switch from music to talk radio or NPR, I mostly listen to podcasts when I drive. However, Mrs. MMT is a big Christmas music fan, on the local station here is only playing that right now, so on our way to church Sunday, that is what we were listening to. As I mentioned above, I’m still forced to hear political ads right now, but one stuck out to me. It was endorsing any candidate, just encouraging people to go vote (seriously it was pretty neutral, no save America/democracy hyperbole). However, the guy in the ad stated that we needed to exercise our ‘God given right to vote’. This is clearly unbiblical.

Now, I think Christians should vote. Just as I think everyone should vote. I wish we had mandatory voting and a national holiday to vote (check out Australia for example). Part of my job is to get people involved in local politics. However, there is literally nothing in the Bible about voting. There is nothing in the Bible about modern governmental or economic systems. We have no ‘God given right to vote’. In His blessing, I was born in a democracy (ish, conservatives are quick to point out right now that we don’t actually live in a democracy and seem to be doing everything they can to prove it) and have the right to vote for various leaders and policies. Yet to think God gave us this specific right is to conflate basic politics. I happen to see the other day, but I didn’t save it, and the guy just teased the data (hopefully a full survey/report) will come out later, but somewhere around 60% of Evangelicals (oddly, I don’t remember him narrowing it to the political category of ‘white’) believe the Constitution is divinely inspired. Think about that for a moment. That would mean that revelations did not end with the Bible, but instead ended with Deist to set up a new form of government. This is straight heresy, y’all, and even more concerning it is about the same percent of Evangelicals (according to Ligoner’s state of theology 2020) that believe Christ is the only way to the Father. Our Biblical literacy is dangerously poor.

A quick digression, radio related, before going back to bad theology and political idolatry. Dave Ramsey was in the news for his $10,000 a plate dinner reception at his estate. Apparently, he told the catering staff that they were not allowed to wear masks to protect themselves. He isn’t a pastor, but he is an influential figure in the Christian community. His Covid denial (we are over 300,000 deaths at this point) and political worship, as well as his disdain for neighbor/others is a sad, seemingly unending confluence right now. I guess a millionaire telling the working class to risk their health to serve them food is a pretty solid way to ‘act your wage’ in America currently.

To the election and idolatry. I’ve been torn on what I wanted to say, if anything, after Biden officially won the electoral college on Monday (the outcome was clear over a month ago, but the Kraken needed to go 1-58 in legal cases first, I guess). Biden in is the president elect of the US. More on what I think that means in a minute, but for now, the denialism that has been taken to a new level. Eric Metexas (famous for writing a poor historical biography of Bonhoeffer and I guess a radio host) state that he would die for Trump and overturning the election. Again, think about that for a minute. Who is he worshiping that he would die for a failed politician? I thought things couldn’t get worse than the FBC Dallas choir writing a song called ‘Make America Great Again’ and then signing during a Sunday service (which was broadcast on Fox News).

Of all people, Beth Moore called out Metexas for his idolatry. She was roundly attacked, including people ‘cursing her womb’ (she helpfully pointed out she previously had a hysterectomy, so people could save themselves some time). The lead person attacking her appears to be a self proclaimed atheist who thinks she is married to Dr. (according to some conservatives right now, he can’t say this) Russell Moore (president of the ERLC, the SBC lobbying/political arm) and Southern Seminary grad, whom he says is corrupt and liberal. This is who evangelicals are following right now. Again, think about this.

Metexas and others also held a bizarre rally blowing red, white, and blue shofars, calling themselves a Jericho March. As I was working on this Michael Horton wrote a piece in TGC which says better than I would, read it here, but these are a few highlights:

On Saturday, December 12, a bizarre rally was held on the Washington Mall. Shofars were blown. A flyover from Marine One was cheered by shouts of praise to the Messiah (evidently distinguished from Jesus). My Pillow founder Mike Lindell shared prophetic visions of Donald Trump.

Beth Moore sounded the alarm, and David French offered wise analysis. Rod Dreher, who just published a book decrying left-wing totalitarianism, wrote that he “began to think that all of this is the right-wing Christian version of Critical Race Theory, and various doctrines held by the woke Left.” Dreher was struck by how enthusiastically evangelicals seemed to participate in the inter-religious festivities. An American-born Israeli man received permission from his Orthodox rabbi to break Shabbat to blow his shofar and another, red-white-and-blue-decorated “Trump Shofar.” Roman Catholic representatives invoked the Virgin Mary and the saints.

He points out Moore, that link has a good summary of the issue, and French (who I believe is not Evangelical, but a conservative Christian who writes on conservative politics for a living) and Rod Dreher; both pieces are worth reading. Dreher is interesting, I think (and hopefully, I’m correct) that he is overblowing a concern of the coming Totalitarian from the left. Oddly, I first heard him promote his new book on the subject, Live Not By Lies, on Albert Mohler’s podcast (you can read my thoughts on Mohler’s turn here). At the time (as of yet, I don’t know if he has changed his opinion) Mohler was denying Biden won the election and supported Trump sending in troops to ‘swing’ states to overturn the election. The irony was apparently lost on him, which isn’t surprising considering his recent article on the cult of celebrity (which made good points, but was written by a man who supported a reality TV star for president).

Read Horton’s article, I think that is all I want to say on that. I do pray for those who worship Trump, that they will repent and turn back to the church. Their insularity is becoming worse and many are project. A popular talking point now is that if you attack a politician, you must be worshiping politics.

As I said above, we have no ‘God given right to vote’, but we do have a God given mandate to pray for our leaders, even if we don’t like them. So, I intend to pray for President Biden. Just as I prayed for Trump, that he would buffet the far end of his party (something God has chosen not to grant us), I will pray Biden hold the center and not give in to promoting some of the radical nonsense of the far end of the Democratic party and some of their supporters. I am interested to see how he will handle the pandemic and what he deems ‘essential’. It is somewhat moot, related to churches, as the Supreme Court has stated we cannot be closed down. I hope that he will take a more reasonable approach than other ‘blue’ state governors, those who nonsensically deemed bars, strips clubs, and casinos essential, but closed churches and elementary schools despite the latter two’s importance (I’m obviously biased for church) and ability to open safely (far more safely than the former three).

I suppose that is it for now. As always this was longer than I anticipated. I’ll try to do better next time. Though, to give you some insight on the future of this blog, there may be no next time. Almost certainly this is my last ‘political’ or current event post. I intend to post one more book review and then a reading challenge or year in review type post. Then it may be the end of MMT. I’ve spent over six years meandering through topics, listlessly posting with various frequency, I believe it may be coming to an end. I am working on another project that will likely launch early next year. With that, I don’t know what this may become. Perhaps just book reviews and long form thoughts on theological or Biblical studies, or perhaps shuttered entirely. Stay tuned for more, as I (as always) don’t even know what I’m doing yet. As always, thanks for playing along.

Stuff from last week

I haven’t been posting much recently, partly due to time and partly due to disinclination, but last week a came across a few things I found interesting, that I thought I’d share. The plan was for it to go up on Friday, but the Monday Morning Wife and I had our 10th Anniversary and I got distracted.

Russell Moore spoke on The Gospel Coalition Podcast about the obstacles of religious liberty. Depending on your perspective, it’s not what you think. I thought the points he makes about us looking too much for the government to help us and enforce our view of morality were really good; though he does fail to note the painful irony that some of the biggest pushers for ‘religious liberty’ and government enforced morality are often the most ardent anti-government.

Somewhat related, Theocast talks about losing a generation at church. I’m less concerned than most people, though probably not concerned enough, because I think it is inevitable. We were never a ‘Christian Nation’, whatever that means, but for the most of our history, we’ve been a solidly Christian culture, but we aren’t any more. This means we are shedding some of the cultural only hanger’s on. I guess I should care more, but I don’t.

The other thing that stuck out to me about this particular episode was the lack of political honesty. There is one quick mention/jab about not agree with ‘they younger people’ and their politics, but no real discussion about the impact politics has played on losing more and more young people. When I was growing up, Monica Lewinsky was the worst thing ever, a national moral tragedy. Many of the same people publicly deriding Clinton are now, 20 years later, some of the most vocal supporters of Trump. A democrat being immoral is cause for massive public outcry, but these people really don’t seem to give a shit how many hookers and pornstars a republican bangs. All these leaders have traded in the Gospel of Christ of the promise of power from Christian Nationalism, and we are the lost generation?

I could go on and on about this, because it pisses me off so, but if the ‘church’ keeps acting like questioning the Moral Majority or St. Ronnie is blasphemy, and cannot have adult conversations about political issues such as healthcare, minimum wage, income inequality, etc. without resorting to beating up tired old strawmen or just screaming ‘socialism’, we are going hemorrhage anyone under 65 faster than we can imagine.

Speaking of being somewhat bad with economics, I started a new book – Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give
It seems really good so far, except they seem to think per capita GDP is useful measure, confuse mean for median, don’t accurately represent inflation, and ignore income inequality. I guess this isn’t surprising, because those things tend to get political, and they state at the beginning, they don’t want to do that, for, you know…reasons. Anyway from a Biblical prospective, it is pretty interesting so far, especially the focus on community.

I haven’t written many reviews lately because I’m still trying to power through this – 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology I’m a big fan of theology, and the part where he gets rolling are really good, but it is slow going as it is a bit repetitive, a little redundant, and well, over 400 pages.

Lastly for books, I read Notes From the Underground, which is really interesting, but I have this copy – Notes From Underground And The Grand Inquisitor. I recommend against this as the second half of the books is an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov (Everyman’s Library), which I already own.

Finally, you may have seen that we moved our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There is plenty written out there about the political consequences of this, but I found this article from a Catholic viewpoint to be interesting. If you didn’t grow up in the dispensational work, or studied your way out, Christian Zionism can seem really odd, so I appreciate the view from someone else.

That’s all for now, hopefully, I’ll have some reviews up soon.

Book Review: Real Love in an Angry World

Real Love in an Angry World: How to Stick to Your Convictions without Alienating People

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read; short book

Summary
A good, quick summary of this book is somewhat hard to do. Bezet’s main idea is that there are unhappy people out there who are mad and/or judgmental towards Christianity. Additionally, these people come from both ends – those opposed to Christianity, and Christians (or at least those who would call themselves as such, like Westboro Baptist) themselves who think your Christianity isn’t good enough. He spends a little time on Christian who have drifted away from historic Christianity, i.e. denying the validity of the Scriptures, miracles, etc. However, most of the time is spent on the two more angry sides, the non-believers and judgmental believers (for instance, he relates a story of taking his wife to see a Celine Dion in Vegas, and losing a few church members once they found out he was in Vegas).

The book is broken into nine chapters that kind of bounce around on different topics. Everything from picking our battles to loving your neighbor (and just who is your neighbor) to then loving you enemy, to a little bit of history on the Bible. He touches on politics a number of times, but not necessarily specific topics or policy points, mainly just that Christians can disagree with each other while still be Christians, and Christians can disagree with non-Christians while still showing love and understanding. I don’t know how long he has been working on the book, but as it was published near the end of 2017, I assume it is at least partially motivated by the rise and election of Trump.

My Thoughts
Overall, it is a good book. Bezet is a good writer, very personal, and I thought, very humorous. I struggle with exactly who should read this book. For most Christians, it is probably worth your time to read, especially because it is so short. It reads quickly and is funny, his points on how to listen to people and how important it is to really listen, and his continual emphasis on the need to truly love others, are great reminders and points weakness for most of us. I especially like his point about loving others being the second great commandment. He points out that on the liberal Christian and non-Christian side, there is often the comment that we just need to love each other because that is what Jesus said and that is all we need. Bezet rightly points out, this is the second great command, this first is to love God. Part of that love means being faithful to God and His Word.

While all is helpful, I think the best use could be for those Christians on the extreme end of the non-loving judgmental side. Those who are the most angry and often express hate. The problem is, of course, I don’t think the people who need it the most would actually read it, and if they did they’d likely just disagree. I guess you never know how the Spirit will move some people, but I remain skeptical. Either way, it might be helpful for you to recognize some issues in your life, and if you see some of these issues in others, it might help you in reaching out to them and helping them to show the love of Christ, while retaining the love for God.

*I received a free copy of this book for an honest review

Payday Lending and the Church

A week or so ago, the small group I lead watched this video at the suggestion of some of the pastors at my church. I had planned to write a little more about it, but haven’t really found the time. This is an industry that preys on people’s poverty and need, and there is a lot of hesitancy to do things to regulate it, mostly because so many politicians have been bought off by the industry.

I especially appreciate the irony of the one Texas city councilmen who said he wished the Federal government would do something (as his excuse for doing nothing).  I figured saying the Federals should tell local cities how to run things would get you kicked out of the Republican Party in Texas.

Another difficulty seems to be that there aren’t great solutions. There are many other issues associated with poverty and emergencies and other reasons people may need more or lack access to traditional credit. I like the attempt here, to cap how much you can take from people and to require more transparency.

I was very happy to see some churches taking the lead in helping to care for the poor. For one, we are literally told to do this in the Bible. Not just the ‘love your neighbor’ type Gospel message, but there is much in the Old Testament, especially the Prophets about fair treatment and wages for the poor. Also, this issue of high interest rates has been something the church has been against for at least 500 years. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote about the problems of high interest rates. Luther called people who take advantage of those in need through high rates as bad as the worst people on earth. Calvin considered the maximum allowable rate to be around 6% (while debatable, the 400% or so payday and title lenders charge now is clearly wrong.)

Check out the video (just over 30 minutes and pretty well done) and go look into rule in your state. See if there is something you can do to curb the abuse.

Book Review: Seeking Refuge

Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis – by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, Issam Dr. Smeir

This is my second review of an advanced copy, so that’s pretty cool. I received this about a month ago through NetGalley, but didn’t get a chance to read it until about two weeks ago.

This book comes out next Tuesday. Go buy it, or pre-order it today. Right now, Amazon has it for less than $9. With all the good info you get at that price, it made me almost upgrade my rating.

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – short, easy. A quick read, but I’m also going to add compelling, especially as you read the personal stories.

My Thoughts/Summary Mix
This is an important and timely book. I think two overarching themes of the refugee crisis often go overlooked. First, the authors make a great case (because they use the Bible) that we should accept refugees. If you are unaware, there are a great many verses related to refugees, strangers and foreigners. Most come from the OT, but, of course, the issue can be fairly easily summed up with – Love your neighbor. Second, the missionary opportunity. You have the opportunity to have people from all over the world, right in your neighborhood, or at least a short drive away. Even more inspiring, many of the refugees would like to go back home. There is no shortage of stories in this book about refugees who became Christians and then went back to spread the Gospel. Continue reading

SBC Calls for Discontinued Use of ‘Confederate’ Flag

Last week at their annual meeting, the SBC did something fairly amazing. They passed a resolution against the confederate battle flag. This is a big deal, as Russel Moore points out that the Southern in SBC isn’t about just geography, or its history. The SBC started due to slavery and whether or not slave owners could be missionaries. Especially as we just passed the one year anniversary of the horrific shooting in the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, you’ll hear a lot of ‘heritage not hate’ arguments and wonder, “who are these people?”

Well, I used to be one. When I was in high school, there was movement to change the Georgia flag. The reasoning being, of course, to remove the symbol of hate. I don’t know if the ‘heritage not hate’ argument came about then, or if it had been in use for a while, but it was the first I had heard it. The thing is, I really believed it. Whether this was mostly due to marketing from companies that sold shirts and other items with the flag on it or the PR campaign certain groups pursued, I’m not sure. It was probably both, plus a big dose of ignorance.

Now, I never owned a shirt or anything with the flag, though I’m sure I have worn one. I wasn’t opposed, though, it just wasn’t my style. When they wanted to change the flag, it bugged me. That had been Georgia’s flag for almost 150 years, or so I thought. I was wildly ignorant about the flag and its history. I guess we felt connected to it the way other people do to the Irish or Italian flags or heritage. Like most adolescents, we dealt with the existential crisis of “who am I?” Part of the answer we found was that flag. Continue reading

Orlando Shooting

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the book How Would Jesus Vote?: Do Your Political Views Really Align With The Bible?

One of the chapters he covers in the book relates to gun control. I think this is an important issue that many Christians don’t adequately consider. Many people hold the second amendment (well, parts of it) sacrosanct, almost to level (or often above) that of the Bible itself. We really need to consider how far we want to take this. Even now after over 100 people were shot, barely six months after 14 people were shot, and of course not too long since 20 first graders were shot, among other shootings, we can still barely even debate the value of semi-automatic weapons.

I’ve seen numerous politicians and talk-radio personalities say that just because someone is on a terrorist watch list, is being investigated by the FBI, or is on a no-fly list, does not mean that person should have their right to high-powered, high-capacity firearms curtailed, even a little bit. This is terrifying to me. In about 10 minutes one man over the weekend was able to kill 50 people and shoot another 50 or so more. How can we be alright with this? About three and a half years ago 20 first graders were killed plus six adults. Let me repeat that, 20 first graders. Children in first grade. Gun laws have only gotten looser since then.

Obviously, the Bible say nothing about guns. Ask yourself, though, if you reading of the Bible, if your understanding of Jesus and his teachings, really mean you are will to live with the tragedies. We will accept this as a way of life? As a nation we are will to sit through the news every six months or so and watch another story about another mass shooting? Are we really willing to continue to live with 20 dead first graders, or 100 shot, 50 dead in one night, just so people like this guy have the right to do whatever it was he had originally planned to do here?: