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Good Reading About Refugees

As the debate around refugees continues to grow, both in popularity and intensity of tone, here are some helpful articles to aid us in understanding these difficult and complex things.

First, here is Trevin Wax’s call in the Washington Post to not allow fear to drive out compassion. But be sure to read Kevin DeYoung’s more measured response, where he reminds us that wisdom and compassion don’t have to be competitive in the end. 

A Good Day to Die

A line from a book I recently read is sticking with me. It went something like this:

Wherever there is spiritual life, someone has died.

The point is powerful and important: in God’s economy, life is brought about through death. In the smallest sense, we find ourselves physically sustained through the death of other things in this world, whether plant or animal. Jesus told us it basically works the same way with the life we have in him:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24; see also 1 Cor. 15:36)

Even Though It’s Not A Game

Let’s try out a phrase: “spectator Christians.”

The trend toward spectatorship is a culture-wide phenomenon seeping into the church. Sports used to be something we did; now it’s something we watch. Music used to be a reason to get together with neighbors and have fun; now it’s something our headphones use to keep us separate from others. Christianity is, to my eyes, similarly and increasingly becoming a spectator event. 

No King Like Him

I’ve never written a blurb for the back of a book. There’s good reason for this: I am not famous enough to help anyone sell their books and I am not really an expert on anything in particular. My understanding is that authors and publishers want those blurbs to come from people more well known than the author, people who will make readers stand up and pay attention. If we see someone we trust and respect encourage us to read a certain book, we’re much more likely to pay attention.

Which is why we ought to pay attention to the way God singles out and commends a few people in Scripture. When the Creator of the Universe calls you greater than all those born of women, like Jesus did of John (Lk. 7:28), we should take a much closer look. 

Grateful Presbyterianism

When I became a pastor in the RPCNA, one of the vows I took went like this:

Do you believe it to be the teaching of Scripture…that the permanent form of church government is presbyterian?

So, yeah, I do. And I made a vow to that effect, so fat chance getting me to turn my back on it now. I’m presbyterian by conviction, because I really do believe it’s how Scripture shows the church ought to be led. Presbyterianism strengthens the church’s ability to submit to her leaders, trusting that when things go wrong (and they do), there is a higher authority ready to right the ship. As I’ve reminded my congregationalist friends, any church government works when everything’s going well. But presbyterianism works when nothing is going well.

But this past weekend, I was reminded in a few powerful ways that the greatest benefit of being presbyterian isn’t the structure of authority existing over individual sessions and the ability to work through discipline cases effectively. The greatest benefit of being presbyterian is being loved, pursuing Christ’s kingdom-on-earth together in a community of true and mutual care. 

Thoughtful Thinkers

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things.
~Philippians 4:8

Congratulations on being pro-choice! No…not like that. But by making a choice to click here and read this blog post, you made a choice to think about something. It’s a choice people seem to forget they have.

Fight Night!

A church without conflicts. The ecclesiastical unicorn. Looks great in pictures but doesn’t actually exist. The right question isn’t so much, “How do we create a church without conflict?” but “What do we do when conflict comes?”

Here the Philippian church helps us greatly, particularly two Christian sisters, Euodia and Syntyche. These poor women have had their fight inscribed into God’s Word, and for the rest of this age we will be able to benefit from their disastrous disagreement.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil. 4:2-3)