- Lifehacker discusses how the “hive mind” can cause you to do almost anything.
We generally like to think of ourselves as individuals and appreciate our unique qualities, but when thrown into a group we can become very different people. Ideas and actions can spread like viruses until your individuality is completely wiped away. This is called deindividuation and here’s how it works.
- Ed Stetzer summarizes his series on the 7 Top Issues Church Planters Face.
If you are a planter, let me encourage you to think long-term. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the 7 for a few months and then dropping them. Most of these issues have no quick fix-solution and will have impact on your influence as long as you are planting.
- iMonk reflects on the art of doing nothing.
Lazy? Who has time to be lazy? Of course, there are the verses that speak to laziness. By my count, there are fourteen such verses in Proverbs alone, starting with “Go to the ant, you sluggard!” So, can it actually be right to think that laziness is a way to the Lord?
- Michael Hyatt comments on The Number One Way Leaders Get Derailed.
Recently, I wrote about how leaders must learn to handle criticism and overlook offenses. I think this is the number one way that leaders can get derailed and rendered ineffective.
- The Spectator argues for the value of studying Latin in school. (HT) (Here’s a similar post from First Things on the value of studying biblical languages.)
Hard as it may be to believe, one of the things that gives privately-educated children the edge is their knowledge of Latin….I mean there is actually a substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary, as well as higher order thinking such as computation, concepts and problem solving.
- Christianity Today discusses 2010 movies that echo the theme of hope.
- Justin Taylor offers a crash course on “union with Christ.”
- Stuart notes an interesting post answering the question, How Much Information Is There in the World?
- LifeWay is dropping its controversial “Read with Discernment” program, in which it placed warning labels on books it considered theologically questionable (e.g. The Shack).
- Two burglars fleeing police in in Columbia were caught when they accidentally broke into a jail.
[For those of you not interested in the upcoming football game, or those interested but looking for something to do until it begins, here’s what I’m thinking about using as the introduction to the chapter of my Gospel book on the coming of Christ and how that relates to God’s OT promises. And yes, I realize it’s the wrong time of year for a post about Santa Claus. Oh well.]
My daughters don’t believe in Santa Claus. They never have. That’s mostly because my wife and I are evil parents and we told them from the very beginning that Santa Claus was not real. (If this is news to you, then please accept my apologies for breaking the news in such a heartless way.) We’ve always been careful to point out that there’s nothing wrong with pretending that Santa is real; it can even be kind of fun. So, sometimes at Christmas we’ll go ahead and pretend that Santa Claus is coming, even though we all know he isn’t. And, we’ve also warned them not to say anything to other kids about Santa. We really don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of angry parents who want to know why our kids just ruined their Christmas fun.
Although I like how we’ve handled our Christmas traditions and I wouldn’t want to do it differently, it’s hard not to notice that my daughters never approached Christmas with the same kind of anxious anticipation as other children. There were no eager questions about “When will Santa be here?”, whispers of “I think I hear him”, or little footsteps as they slipped quietly over to the window to see if that was the shadow of a sleigh they just glimpsed in the sky. There’s an element of expectation that comes with the story of Santa Claus that has a nearly irresistible sense of childish delight. And, in the morning, all of that pent up expectation, all the anxious hours of waiting, all the uncertainties and anxieties, they all explode in the delighted yell, “He came!”
Somehow we need to recapture that same sense of eager expectation if we’re going to appreciate what it was like to live on the verge of the New Testament. In the last chapter, we focused on the amazing promises that God offered his people throughout the Old Testament: a new king, a new sacrifice, a new spirit, a new heart, a new creation, and more. For centuries, God’s people had fed on a steady diet of God’s promises, knowing that he had not abandoned them, fearing that he had done just that.
Is the promised one really coming?
Yes, he’s coming.
He’ll be here soon!
Is that him?
No, not yet.
Where is he?
No, that’s definitely not him.
He’ll never come.
Yes, he will. I know it. He’s coming.
As we turn the page from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we pass through the time of anxious waiting, arriving at the moment when hope becomes reality, when promise becomes present, when not yet becomes now.
“I’ll be back.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger uttered this famous line many times in his various movies. As the hero of Terminator 2, though, he offered it as a promise to John and Sarah Connor—a promise that though he’s going to be gone for a while, he will return and rescue them from their predicament. Believing the promise, John and Sarah hunker down in a smoke-filled elevator, waiting for the hero to return with the promised salvation.
Isn’t that how it always works with heroes? Somebody’s in danger, the situation is dire, and the hero needs to be gone for a while. But don’t worry, he’ll be right back. And when he comes, everything will be just fine.
But, what if he doesn’t make it back?
Imagine that you’re Sarah Connor and Arnold has just stepped out of the elevator. “Oh, you’ll be back soon? That’s good because those guys with the guns look pretty unhappy. We’ll just hang out here and wait for you to get back.”
Now, suppose that thirty minutes have gone by and he still hasn’t returned. There was a lot of shooting at first, but everything’s been quiet for a while. You’re starting to get a little nervous. What’s taking him so long? If those guys with the guns come back, this could get messy.
Three hours later. Now you’re just angry. Where’s that stupid robot? The elevator is hot, uncomfortable, and John is really starting to get on your nerves.
After just one day, I’m guessing that you’d have lost all hope. He’s not coming back. Now you’re hungry, you smell, you still have angry guys with guns chasing you, and still no hero.
It’s easy to lose faith when the promised one doesn’t return.
Just one day and your hope is gone. How would you do after several centuries? That’s how long God’s people have been waiting by the time we reach the beginning of the New Testament. Hundreds of years with nothing but promises to hold onto.
When he comes, everything will be fine. When he comes, God’s promises will be fulfilled. When he comes, shalom will be restored. When he comes….
But, what if he doesn’t come?
[Read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel Book page.]
I grew up on stories about King Arthur. Great stories. Every time you turn the page Arthur and his knights are feasting, celebrating, jousting, slaying monsters, and just having an all-around good time. It sounds like a great place to be, with peace, justice, and plenty for everyone (except the monsters, of course). And, at the center of it all, the king—leading, ruling, judging, and partying. It all works because the king is there ruling over his kingdom, making sure that everything is as it should be, striking out at anything that threatens the peace.
But, what’s a kingdom without a king? The depressing part about the Arthur stories is that you know it won’t last. By the end of the story, Arthur will be dead and his kingdom will lie in ruins. (If you didn’t know how the story ended, I’m terribly sorry for giving it away. And, by the way, the Titanic sinks.) Without Arthur, everything falls apart.
It’s quite a simple principle really: no king, no kingdom. Until he comes back, nothing is going to be the way that it should be.
The same idea shapes the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. From one perspective, this is a story about a bunch of men who spend all their time camping, drinking, wrestling, singing, and annoying rich people. To me, it always sounded like Peter Pan for adults.
At the heart of the Robin Hood story, however, rests something much more significant. The kingdom is broken. Richard the Lionhearted, England’s king, has been gone for many years. In his absence, Prince John, the king’s brother, and all of John’s cronies have taken over the kingdom, oppressing the people and pillaging the land. The land is now ruled by greed, power, violence, and hatred.
Robin Hood and his merry men have a very different vision of how things should be. They see a kingdom ruled by grace and peace, a kingdom where the rich help the poor, the strong serve the weak, and everything is as it should be. They see a kingdom where the king rules again.
In many ways, these are stories about faith and hope. Despite all of the problems the kingdom faces, all the enemies they encounter, and all the evil they see, Robin Hood and his men press on toward their vision of the kingdom. The king has been gone for so long, many begin to wonder if he will ever return. But, Robin Hood’s men continue to long for what could be, what should be.
However, it all rests on the coming of the king. Robin Hood and his men can trick Prince John day long, and it won’t change anything. They can steal from the rich, give to the poor, and have all the forest parties their hearts desire. But, without the king, the kingdom will still be broken, evil powers will still control the way things go, people will still be oppressed, the vision will remain unrealized.
When the king comes, however, it will all be different. That’s the hope at the center of the story. That’s what makes Robin and his men work so hard toward this future vision. That’s what makes them “merry”. In the face of all the injustice and oppression, they have their vision of the kingdom and they live out that vision to the best of their ability in the forest – their little outpost of how things should be. And they have hope.
When he comes, it will all be better. When he comes, the kingdom will be restored and things will be as they should be.
When he comes….
[This is the second part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the first part here.]
You counted days by their cold silences.
…………At night, wolves and men with bleeding hands
colonized your dreams. The last time I visited,
…………you said you trapped a dead woman in your room
who told you to starve yourself to make room for God,
…………so I let them give your body enough electricity
to calm it. Don’t be afraid. The future is not disguised
…………as sleep. It is a tango. It is a waterfall between
two countries, the river that tried to drown you.
…………It is a city where men speak a language
you can fake if you must. It’s the hands of children
…………thieving your empty pockets. It’s bicycles
with bells ringing through the streets at midnight.
…………Come up from the basement. It’s not over.
Before the sun rises, moonlight on the trees.
…………Before they tear the asylum down, joy.
(You can see the original post and listen to the author read her poem here.)
John Mark Reynolds has a very interesting reflection today on the summer that he spent learning to appreciate J. D. Salinger. He confesses that he never really learned to enjoy Salinger as a young man (I’ve had a similar experience), but that things were different this time around.
Why? Partly it was because my childhood was too happy for me to enjoy the books. It is an unfortunate truth of my life that I loved my parents, my country, my school, most of my teachers, and enjoyed almost every minute of childhood. Seeing the troubles of the world and shouldering some well-earned shame, brought on by my own grievous fault, has cured me of that inability.
So, basically he’s learned to appreciate Salinger because he’s now seen enough of the world to understand the sorrow and longing that lie at the heart of Salinger’s writing.
There is a longing at the heart of all Salinger. The young men and women at the center of the book want to be good. They wish to save children from danger, the meaning of the “catcher in the rye” image, by snatching them from a decayed culture. But Salinger never, so far as I can see, tells us to what they will be saved.
Thus, Salinger exemplified a writer frustrated with life, desiring hope and meaning but unable to find it.
The whole post is well worth reading.
Okay, Stephen King would never talk about the “exponential depravity of human nature.” But I thought that was a good summary for the dominant theme running through his book Under the Dome. This is one of the books that I took with me on vacation, and I really enjoyed it. Like most of King’s books, it gets more graphic than I would prefer in places. But he always tells an interesting story. And this one is no different.
The dominant motif in Under the Dome is mob behavior – the way that people do things they would not normally do when they come under the influence of mob psychology. And, King explains this to some degree by showing that we are all flawed beings, and that these flaws tend to multiply exponentially when they begin to feed off of each other in the mob. We normally control this process through a variety of constraints, but in unusual circumstances where the constraints are lost or temporarily ignored, watch out.
King doesn’t directly engage the question of sin – he rarely does – but it fits his narrative very well. In this story you don’t just see a bunch of fallen people doing sinful things; you see a mob, an exponential increase of sin feeding on sin. Even his best characters come across as flawed beings capable of succumbing to the pressure of mob behavior.
And sadly, the novel really ends on that note. There is no transcendent reality to offer any hope that there might be something beyond our fallenness. There is only an affirmation that we must wear our little lives like an ugly brown sweater that covers the nakedness and shame beneath. Under the Dome calls on us to face the evil that we are capable of, even the evil that we often enjoy, find some way of forgiving ourselves, and then just move on. It’s a powerful story, but one that demonstrates the despair inherent in a narrative with nowhere to go – no beyond, no hope, no gospel, no God.
Faith tells us only that God is. Love tells us that God is good. But hope tells us that God will work God’s will. And hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage. Anger so that what cannot be, may not be. And courage, so that what must be will be.
St. Augustine (cited by David Kelsey in Eccentric Existence, vol. 1, p. 501)