Issue #80

What Spoils the Lord's Supper, Gaming and the Metaverse, Trans Gender, and more...

Issue #80
Photo by Edward Cisneros / Unsplash

Listen and Learn 🎧

Contemporary Christian Worship: Is it Biblical or just Contemporary? | Preston Sprinkle and Aaron Keyes 🎧 →

Aaron Keyes is a singer/songwriter, pastor, speaker, and has not only been a worship leader for over 20 years, but has discipled and trained hundreds (if not thousands) of other Christian worship leaders. What I love most about Aaron is that he’s incredibly thoughtful and meaningful, and has been trying to restore a more pure, rooted, and theologically rich form of worship in the contemporary church. In this second TITR conversation with Aaron, we talk about the contemporary scene of Christian worship–the pros, the cons, the good, and the goofy, with an aim to help the church get back to a more holistic rhythm of worship, one that celebrates the goodness of God and also laments and protests the evil in the world.

Family Focus 🏡

Help! I Messed Up with My Kids’ Technology | Julie Lowe 📃 →

This is an answer to this question:

If I’d known how bad social media was going to be for my kids, I would never have given them a phone. They’re older now—in their late teens and early 20s—and are wrestling with issues like eating disorders, addiction, and sexuality. I feel like I totally messed up. What can I do?

I don’t have any children old enough for a phone. But this is something that my wife and I still often talk about. Perhaps your children are, like mine, still young. Or perhaps they are at the age where they are asking for or have received phones. Or, like this parent, perhaps they are much older now.

In any case, I think this article by Julie Lowe will help you on the path to thinking wisely about this difficult but important issue. And remember:

God’s mercies are new every morning.

There is no condemnation if you wish that you could go back and change the past. We all do. What is important is moving forward resting in grace.

Are you enjoying this letter? You can subscribe via e-mail, RSS, and Twitter to be notified when new issues release.

Read and Reflect 📖

What Spoils the Lord’s Supper? How Not to Come to the Table | Joe Rigney 📃 →

For many years, I viewed Communion as mainly a time of deep introspection, somberness, heaviness, and self-examination. Somewhere along the way, I picked up that this was the right and proper way to approach. I subtly adopted a number of unwritten rules for receiving the Lord’s Supper:
1. Bow your head.2. Close your eyes (or look at the floor).3. Hunch your shoulders so that you feel the heaviness of this time better.4. Search your heart for unconfessed sin.5. Avoid eye contact with others.6. Try not to be distracted by the 6-year-old behind you who wants to know why he can’t have a snack like everyone else (or feel guilty because it’s your 6-year-old doing the distracting).7. Check your heart for sin again, just to be sure.8. Think deeply about your own wickedness.9. Try to think about the cross (but don’t forget your own wickedness).10. Seriously, don’t acknowledge, notice, or make eye contact with your neighbor; you don’t want to interrupt what God might be doing next to you.

I adopted many of the same rules, and I think Rigney’s article points to a mode of thought that many of us have adopted uncritically from 1 Corinthians 11:27. What was so unworthy about how the Corinthians were approaching the Lord’s Table? And what does that mean for us?

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Don’t Run for the School Board | Bonnie Kristian 📃 →

Back to school this election year will mean back to school-board battles. Back to viral clips of distraught parents reaming out officials; back to politicized debates about parental rights; back to enjoinders, both earnest and conniving, for evangelicals and political conservatives to take over their school districts because America’s future depends on it.

Whatever your politics, the core idea of joining or regularly lobbying the school board to improve our kids’ education has an obvious appeal. Who doesn’t want their child’s schooling to be virtuous, rigorous, and healthy? It may seem not only sensible but glaringly obvious to seize this power where available.

But what if culture war is the wrong approach entirely?

Kristian argues that, as Christians, we should not try to take over a school board in an effort to force Christianity into schools. She quotes C.S. Lewis:

You may frame the syllabus as you please. But when you have planned and reported ad nauseam, if we are skeptical we shall teach only skepticism to our pupils, if fools only folly, if vulgar only vulgarity, if saints sanctity, if heroes heroism.

Education is only the most fully conscious of the channels whereby each generation influences the next. It is not a closed system. Nothing which was not in the teachers can flow from them into the pupils. We shall all admit that a man who knows no Greek himself cannot teach Greek to his form: but it is equally certain that a man whose mind was formed in a period of cynicism and disillusion, cannot teach hope or fortitude.

A society that is predominantly Christian will propagate Christianity through its schools: while one which is not, will not. All the ministries of education in the world cannot alter this law.

In other words, controlling for enforcing the education that we want on all children isn’t going to change the culture. It’s just going to ensure greater “cynicism and disillusion” against Christianity.

This is not to say that we cannot join a school board and, as an act of love, seek the good of all people. But Kristian does argue that joining a school board as an act of political culture war is never going to work.

Instead, she calls for Christian parents to expend their energy in invigorated discipleship.

Discipling children toward a mature Christian faith goes well beyond our decisions about education. This isn’t something we can leave to chance or politics. Discipleship has to be deliberate, and you can’t do it by voting or campaigning or bickering on Twitter.

And in our context, attention to tech use must be an unusually big part of discipleship. You can review your child’s curricula and library books. You can’t review the hundreds of video clips they can watch in a single unsupervised hour on TikTok.

The answer to the culture’s effects on our kids is intentional, invigorated, and deep discipleship. Not just shallowly teaching them what to believe, but to teach them how to think and why to believe it.

If you've enjoyed reading this letter, please share it with others and help us grow. We exist to help Christians grow in their faith and to make the name of Jesus Messiah glorified in all the earth. We grow thanks to readers like you sharing what we do with others. Thank you!

Challenge Your Brain 🧠

Challenging the Documentary Hypothesis | Michael Jones 📽 →

I’m going to guess that the vast majority of readers don’t know what the documentary hypothesis is. And that’s totally fine! Most Christians don’t need to know what it is. It’s an academic hypothesis about how the Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy) was formed. The theory is quite complicated. It says that these early books were formed by an editor or editors who took several sources and smushed them together.

In this video, Jones doesn’t deny the possibility that these books were later edited from earlier sources—the end of Deuteronomy and other indications require some level of editing—but does challenge how the Documentary Hypothesis picks apart scripture. If you want a deep dive into a popular academic debate, this is for you.

Consider the Culture 🎨

Gaming and the Metaverse | Andrew Barber 📃 →

Barber is a high-school English teacher who also occasionally teaches a course on the history and ethics of video games.

Often, this course is the first time many students have thought conscientiously about the games they play and why they play them. The primary questions they have used to navigate life are the consumer-based ones: is it permissible? and is it pleasurable? In this realm, only a psychologist, medical doctor, or scientist has any real authority. If it doesn’t affect your mental or physical health too much, then eat and drink for tomorrow we die. But using the question “What can I get away with?” as your guiding star in modern America only ends in some level of addiction. Taking the virtue-ethicist tack – how is this activity forming me? – is a new one many of my students have never considered.

What are video games for, and how do they form us is the starter question. But the bigger question comes: what will virtual reality, artificial reality, and a connected online universe form us to be? If you think the answer is insignificant, look at the changes in our society in the last 15 years since the advent of social media. Technology changes things, and the “metaverse” has the potential to cause a massive change in how we live as humans.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Trans Gender | John Dickson 🎧 →

Is there a Christian way to think about and engage with people who identify as something other than their birth sex?

We’re wading into one of the biggest culture war topics of the last 10 years: Transgender.

One of the best podcasts on the subject that I’ve heard.

For More:

If this ministry helps you, please know that while we offer it for free, it is not free to run. If you are financially able and you would like to support us, you can purchase products through our store, join our membership program, or give a one-time donation. Visit the Supporting Us page to find out more about these options.

This is completely optional, and everything that is currently free will continue to be free. Thank you for reading The Garden Weekly.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.
— Matthew 13:31b–32 (CSB)

Joel Fischer