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Reading Roundup (Also: Absence Makes the Heart Something Something.)

04 Jan
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Yeah. Just like that.

So, it’s been a while since I blogged.  Like, half a year or so.  But one of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more, so here I am.  I mean, I’ve got a couple of other ones I’m working on, but I’m going to keep those under wraps for the time being – that way, if I fail, then I don’t have to tell anyone.

Just kidding.

In fact, I’m part of a neat project called 30 Days of Hustle that’s providing a lot of encouragement and accountability to keep grinding on all the things I’d like to do this year.

That said, let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading this week:

Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony…
by Rachel Held Evans

So, if you can remember back to the few days before Christmas, you might recall a slight bit of Duck Dynasty-related unpleasantness on the usually calm, rational, and (always!) kind Interwebs.  It got downright ugly out there for a few days.  Anyway, this article is a good reminder that, as Christians, while there are certain sins we love to condemn, there are other sins that we seem to completely ignore.

We love to complain about sins we’re not involved with (or won’t admit we’re involved with).  When it comes to our personal favorite sins, though, we’re kind of quiet.  Or, worse, we pretend that we’re not doing anything wrong at all.

In the stereotypical Baptist church, you’ll figure out quickly that people are opposed to homosexuality, pornography, adultery, and abortion, to name a few.  However, you may have to attend for a few years (or longer) before you hear someone preach against materialism.  Or racism.  Or gluttony.

Seriously, how long has it been since you’ve heard a sermon about gluttony?  Let’s be honest, most of the pastors I know aren’t really in any shape to preach against overconsumption, if you catch my drift.  I’m most certainly not!  (Which leads to another of my resolutions, but that’s another blog…)

Think about this one:

Matthew 5:22 – But I say, if you are even angry with someone,you are subject to judgment!  If you call someone an idiot,you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Yeah, hop on Facebook and toss the name “Obama” out there, and you’ll see how many people apparently don’t interpret that command literally anymore.  Or just take a drive down the interstate, or go stand in line at Walmart, etc…

Anyway, Ms. Evans makes a great point – it’s time we stop cherry-picking what bits of the Bible we want to consider important.  We love to boast about God’s grace, after all.  We need to be messengers of that grace to the world around us.

(Note: I have three Duck Dynasty books, and my family exchanged multiple DD-related items over Christmas.  I am a fan of the show.  Please refrain from pelting my house with eggs.  It upsets the cat.  Assuming she’s awake.)

Briefly Noted: On Affirmative Action and “Wishing You Were Black”
by Bruce Ashford

Speaking of things that don’t get addressed much in churches these days…

If there’s a conversation happening regularly out there, in majority-white churches, concerning racism in majority-white churches, I’d be surprised.  Honestly, we seem pretty happy to ignore it – or, we take the even stranger route, and pretend that racism just doesn’t exist anymore.

Again, a quick visit to Facebook (where just today I saw Michelle Obama described as a “hoochie-mama” for, apparently, the sin of wearing jeans) will make it clear that’s inaccurate.

Here’s the basic premise of the article – we (and by “we” I mean “white people”) don’t get it.  We like to pretend we do.  We like to talk like we do.  But we just don’t get it, and we won’t until we start having some very honest, open conversations about the subject:

We misunderstand racism in many ways, but in no way more than when the scope of racism is restricted to individual offenses committed by one person against another person. Racism is certainly perpetuated by individuals, and sometimes by one person against another. But it is not limited to that. Racism also can be structural. Societies can organize themselves in ways that their cultural institutions exclude, marginalize, and otherwise handicap and denigrate those of a certain race.  Furthermore, the same structures that marginalize some simultaneously offer advantages and privileges to others in the same society.

The Socially Acceptable Sin
Jason Todd

Here’s another good article about gluttony.  Of course, when you ask someone, “What is gluttony?”, they’ll probably tell you that it’s overeating – and that’s fine, it’s certainly the literal definition of the word.  However, is it really all that the sin entails?

At its simplest, gluttony is the soul’s addiction to excess. It occurs when taste overrules hunger, when want outweighs need. And in America, where upsizing has always been part of the American dream, it’s often difficult to distinguish what is hard-earned achievement and what is indulgent excess. In this sense, even the most athletic and toned among us can be gluttons. Any of us can be.

That, I think, is an amazing way to look at it.  In fact, I think it’s the Biblical way.  Jesus tried to get people to understand that sin isn’t just about the specific action, it’s about the heart behind it.  For example, the Pharisees had all sorts of laws concerning adultery, some of them quite graphic in how they detailed exactly how far you could go with a woman before you’d actually sinned.  Then along comes Jesus, who says, “Hey, if you’ve even lusted after a woman in your heart, you’re guilty of adultery.”

Oooops.

Then, of course, he added that if you hated your brother in your heart, you were just as guilty as if you’d murdered him.  Ouch.  It stands to reason, then, that gluttony isn’t just about how much you can eat, but about having a desire in your heart to have too much.  To consume too much.

And especially in American society today, the last thing we want to preach about is the sin of consuming too much.

New Research: Naming a Baby “Messiah” is Fine with Most Americans
By Ed Stetzer

Basically, all I took from this is my Dad has the 386th most popular name in America for 2012:

“Messiah” was the 387th most popular boys name in the United States for 2012, just after “Scott” and right before “Jay,” according to the Social Security Administration. That’s up from 904th place in 2005.

So, I’m not going to ramble on about the rest of these, except to say I found them interesting to read, and I hope that you might, too:

Florida Law Mandating Drug Tests for Welfare Struck Down by Federal Judge

Eight Resolutions Every Pastor Should Have for 2014

The Aim of Preaching is Life Transformation (Amen!)

Has a Porn Backlash in Mainstream Culture Finally Begun?

Should Christians Care About Animal Welfare?

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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in Christian Life, Preaching, Religion

 

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