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Helping Rural America in Crisis

In a recent article Anthony Bradley, professor of religious studies at The King’s College in New York, drew attention to the “deadly crisis in rural America.” Citing analysis from The Washington Post and studies from the National Center for Health Statistics, Bradley noted the unusually high rate of suicides in rural areas. Such statistics, he believes, evidence the hopelessness, despair, and depression found in the same. Without giving any answers, he asks the provocative and necessary question: “Do conservative Protestants care? Have we traded off reaching hurt people with redemptive healing and hope for influence and power in places where Christians can have an ‘impact’ and ‘influence’ the culture? […] Why are evangelicals more excited about planting churches and missions in ‘alpha cities’ among artists, creatives, and professionals rather than the rural areas where people are suffering?”

As a pastor in rural America these questions resonate deeply with me. It is well documented that small town America rarely looks like Mayberry, and a lot like “Methland.” The crisis we witness in these areas is a crisis for the church. After all, hopelessness, despair, and depression can only be interpreted, mitigated, and worked through by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, it […]

Browse Worthy: Bathroom Battles

I never thought I’d have a blog post with this title.

With three children sharing a bathroom at home, we do sometimes have minor skirmishes in this area. Yet they are nothing like the battles going on in our culture. These conflicts cause us now to pause every time we are outside a public restroom door about what to do when we need to go.

Here are some perspectives to help.

Will You Use Target’s Transgender Bathroom?

John Piper packs some good theology into this article about not following the agenda of this world, but then does give his direct answer:

So, in answer to the last part of the question, Would you, John Piper, use a gender open restroom even if it says men on the door? My answer is, If I were there and if I had to, I would — just like I would stop on the highway if I had to. But I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. And the reason I wouldn’t is because I want there to be a small act of protest and life consistency that may have no impact at all on the powers that make such decisions, but that keep my conscience clear and acknowledge God in […]

Answering This Generation’s Question of Essential Identity

Each news cycle brings with it one more saga about sexual and gender identity. North Carolina establishing bathroom laws against transgender usage. The mayor of New York City restricting travel to the state of North Carolina to boycott this action. The Obama administration issuing a directive late last week mandating public schools and other institutions receiving certain federal grants to give transgender students access to bathrooms or face the risk of the loss of funds or even lawsuits. The lieutenant governor of Texas declaring they will forfeit the funds rather than comply. As Trevin Wax, Russell Moore, and other are pointing out, the ramifications of these actions on society and the church are great.

At the heart of this issue and related ones is the fundamental question of identity. Repeatedly, when proponents of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights speak, they use the terminology of self-identification. This generation is trying to discover itself and, in the spirit of this postmodern age, looks within to find the answer.

The most well-known example of this inward-turning search for identity is seen in Bruce Jenner. Not long ago he self-identified as a woman, began dressing then went through procedures to become such, and now calls himself Caitlyn. He appeared as […]

Touching Elisha’s Bones

Remember the story surrounding the death and burial of Elisha, the great prophet of Israel?  The one who possessed a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, and who directly opposed the wickedness and false worship of his day, had recently died and been laid to rest.  When some Israelites were in the process of burying another man, the funeral was interrupted by yet another attack, courtesy of their neighboring enemies the Moabites. In their haste to get away, the pall bearers quickly tossed the dead man into the still-opened tomb of Elisha.  The Scriptures say that as soon as this dead man “touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet” (see II Kings 13:20-21).

I do not recall who first told me to think this way, but similarly we in the modern church need to “touch the bones” of godly ones in whom the Spirit of God clearly manifested himself. We should study their lives, read their works, and be led by them into the Scriptures.  When this study leads us to come in contact with the same God they knew, we can be revived and stand on our feet ready to meet the issues that confront the church […]

Movies & Gratitude

[I’m writing this before the Indiana primary results are published; so this post has nothing to do with that. Sorry for any disappointment.]

During a recent vacation, I watched two movies. This is unremarkable as I watched movies at other times, too. But this time I watched films I’m not embarrassed to having enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay). Both movies were well done and both, uniquely, made me grateful. Misery loves company, so hopefully thankfulness does, too. 

What Are We To Do?

What are we to do? I suspect that’s a question many Christians have been asking lately. The rapid sexual descent of our culture either has or will force every Christian to seriously ask it–Christians who might otherwise be content to play the part of the ostrich with their head stuck firmly in the sand. It is remarkable to me that less than ten years ago a presidential candidate couldn’t run on a platform that endorsed same-sex marriage and today there is an all-out societal celebration of sexual immorality. Bob Dylan, who was not, according to my knowledge, a prophet or the son of a prophet was, nevertheless, quite right: “The times they are a-changin’.”

What is a helpful Christian response? Should we stop baking cakes and taking wedding pictures? Should we sign petitions and organize boycotts? Should we position ourselves on the nearest picket line and protest? Should we sit and reminisce about the good ole days? Should we board up the doors and windows of our church building and fearfully hide in our corners? Without deciding the merit of these responses it does seem, at least to me, that many ordinary Christians have found themselves completely unprepared for this cultural […]

Outsourcing memory and wired for distraction

If you are scanning this article—stop—you need to read it. Not because I am important, but because your mind matters!

Over the last few years I have had a minor, but growing, niggle about my ability to remember and make connections with clarity and sharpness. Was it simply growing older, or the impact of several general anaesthetics in a short space of time, or was it something else?

I began to suspect my use of the internet/computer/email/facebook was contributing to a disconnectedness and fragmentedness in my own thinking. I would be working at something at my desk, and after a few minutes reading, I’d look up and check my email, follow a link, and then return to reading.

I read a little (Tim Challies’ book, The Next Story) and found that we were indeed rewiring our minds for distraction—consider how often you check your phone—there has been no alert, but we check nonetheless—mid sentence or in the middle of another task.

But there is more to it than simply distraction. I found I was less able to remember what I had read, but was able to remember where to find it—eg. “I read about that recently in such and such a book. It was […]

Podcast Recommendation: Christopher Watkin on Jacques Derrida

Usually Austin does the podcast reviews around here. Also, philosophy is far from my strong suit. So I am not recommending the following to usurp Austin’s place or try to show you how smart I am. I just want to recommend a podcast outside my typical reading or listening disciplines that I recently enjoyed.

Reformed Forum conducted a three-part interview with Christopher Watkin on the influential French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who is one of the fathers of postmodernistic thought and is perhaps most known for formulating what became known as deconstruction. Dr. Watkin, a Reformed believer, was fascinating to listen to because of the depth of knowledge he has of Derrida and the way he was able to explain Derrida’s thought to those unfamiliar with his writings (all done with politeness and a beautiful accent, I might add!). But what really drew me was how Watkin critiqued Derrida in a gracious way that showed his brilliance yet also revealed his shortcomings under the light of Scripture. He was able to describe Derrida’s points of contact with truth and reality yet describe how they veered away from the revelation of the Triune God.  For me, it not only taught me lessons in philosophy but how to engage unbelief in a winsome […]

Of Burner Phones and Busy Lives: Making the Best Use of Time

A couple of weeks ago I walked into a cell phone store and said,  “I would like to trade in my iPhone 6 for a dumb phone.” Puzzled, the clerk asked why I would do such a thing. I told him I longed for the simplicity of the 2000s. The look of puzzlement continued as I described why I only wanted talk and text: I am tired of the media access on my phone. It’s a time vacuum.

He consulted with another employee and then informed me that they no longer sold dumb phones and said I would have to buy a “burner phone” to avoid media. I could try CVS or Target. All phone plans now carry a media charge; it cannot be avoided.

I went home disappointed, but as a small victory in the media-fatigue battle I deleted my Facebook app. I love you all, but you don’t need to join me on coffee dates with my wife and you don’t need to accompany me to the park with my children. I don’t need to see your vacation pics while I’m waiting for the light to change. There are better ways for me to use my time.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, gives a […]

Browse Worthy: Help for Living in this Digital Age

From the “Twitter Wars” between presidential candidates down to trying to talk with a family member looking at a screen, we all need help in processing the content, protecting our families, and being productive in this digital age. Here are a few links and resources to that end.

Can I Ask a Dumb Question?

Tim Challies offers wise counsel about not joining the latest Twitter mob when people are merely being dumb rather than malicious on social media. “Social media shaming is a new force for justice, a means of shaming an offender into silence or repentance…The problem is that the response we bring against the worst malevolence can also be the response we bring against those who say or do things that are merely dumb. We can mete out the same punishment as a response to two very different offenses.”

WTAE Fires Wendy Bell

As if to make Tim’s point above, an award-winning local journalist here in Pittsburgh created a firestorm over comments she made about African Americans following the horrific shootings that left six people dead. Though certainly dumb and insensitive at points, Bell did seem to be awkwardly trying to address a real problem and did apologize for her comments. However, it […]