Issue #84

Building Deep Community in a Lonely World, A Missing Component in Our Discussions about Doing Justice, 8 Ways We Normalize the Abnormal, and more...

Issue #84
Photo by Anthony Tran / Unsplash

Consider the Culture 🎨

Building Deep Community in a Lonely World | Jennie Allen and Collin Hansen 🎧 →

In her book, Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World, bestselling author Jennie Allen describes our problem today like this:
We fill a small, little crevice called home with everything we could possibly need, we keep our doors locked tight, and we feel all safe and sound. But we’ve completely cut ourselves off from people outside our little self-protective world.

The world has been experiencing a pandemic of loneliness for quite some time. Social media has pushed devices as the primary interaction method with other people. Jennie Allen walks through various difficulties in creating an authentic and good community, which is fundamental to the Christian life.

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Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

A Missing Component in Our Discussions about Doing Justice | Jonathan Noyes 📃 →

The sun, moon, and stars literally tell us about God. They display knowledge about who God is. However, God’s creation—like a painting—only tells us a part of who he is. We don’t participate with God in the creation of the heavens. However, that’s not the only way we know God.

Some common ways God reveals himself in a dynamic way are through prayer and Scripture reading, but there’s also a connection between our ethical actions (doing justice, for example) and our knowledge of God. We gain an even better understanding of God as we participate with him in his mission, a part of which is justice.

We go from knowing about God to knowing God. From static to dynamic. Just as Psalm 19 shows how we know God through his creation, Psalm 9:16 shows how we know God through his justice. The NIV says, “The Lord is known by his acts of justice.”

We can get to know God in a dynamic way by participating in justice with him. We are a part of God’s plan for mending a fractured and disjointed society. We work these things out with him.

It’s dynamic, and it requires us to live sacrificially for God and his purposes, including the pursuit of a more just society. This means we might have to break with political correctness or other comfortable political positions and parties if they conflict with biblical justice.

Noyes’ article is only five or six minutes long and should be read for yourself. His point is that going from knowing about God to knowing God—to a relationship—requires participation. And one of the primary ways that God works in the world is through doing justice.

Scripture is littered with descriptors of God as the one who brings justice for the oppressed. When we are Messiah Jesus’ hands and feet on earth, his body, we participate with God in bringing justice to the marginalized. Christians may have good faith debates about methods and means of effective justice, but we cannot abandon it. Doing so, as Noyes argues, is to abandon a crucial part of our relationship with our creator.

Listen and Learn 🎧

The Bible Had Editors? | Tim Mackie, Jon Collins, and Carissa Quinn 🎧 →

We don’t encounter the Hebrew Bible in the form of what Moses was writing in the wilderness or what Isaiah or Jeremiah were originally writing. What we have is a highly polished, interconnected museum exhibit created by a set of hands at the very end of the process, which created a polish or a glaze over the whole thing to make it unified. …It helps to think of these editors as also filled with the Spirit. It’s not just the original authors, but it’s the authors and editors that shaped the story later too that are part of this Spirit-filled community [that wrote the Bible].

In this fascinating podcast episode, the scholars behind the wonderful BibleProject resources talk about how the Hebrew Bible—also known as the Old Testament—came to be in its final form. They provide evidence that the scriptures were edited, talk about why that’s uncomfortable for many conservative American Christians, and talk about how we should face the challenges that may present (or even why they’re not challenges at all).

If you’ve struggled to understand how the Old Testament was written, this is the podcast episode for you. The BibleProject team always does a great job of asking and answering the questions that everyone is thinking, but it’s still going to be a little challenging for many. I would still mark it absolutely essential listening though.

If you want to go way deeper, Tim also has a free 15-hour classroom course 🖥 broken up into 29 sessions exploring the history of the Hebrew Bible. I’ve taken the course and it’s challenging, well-researched, and helpful.

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Read and Reflect 📖

An Unrelenting Cause of Teenage Depression | Clay Jones 📃 →

There’s an unrelenting cause of teenage depression that doesn’t get enough attention and only Christianity can solve: a sudden revelation that one day they will die. Now, I don’t mean the prospect of their death troubles all teens. Many teens view their deaths as so far off as to be able to ignore. But for some, the realization that they’re going to die is an unrelenting cause of depression. I’ll give three examples.

He cites Katy Perry, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and Sarah Silverman. In their quotes, they talk of the terror that struck or strikes them at the thought of death. Only Christianity, Jones argues, can truly answer their fear because at the heart of our faith is the God who became man to defeat death.

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.
— Hebrews 2:14–15 (CSB)

Christianity Is True ✝️

Theism vs. Naturalism: Which is a Better Account of Reality? | Jonathan McLatchie and Alex O’Connor 📽 →

This debate is long, well-researched, and well-argued by a well-known YouTube skeptic (who also has degrees in Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University, so he is no “mere” YouTube skeptic), and Christian Jonathan McLatchie, a professor of Biology in the United States.

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!

Consider Another Perspective 🤔

Build Trust for Better Race Relations | George Yancey 📃 →

At the heart of the divide over the race debate, argues George Yancey, is a lack of trust between the parties.

I hear progressives complaining about how critical race theory has been distorted in the current climate. I hear conservatives worried that their children will be indoctrinated into “wokeness” in the schools they pay taxes for. I hear from progressives who don’t understand how Christians could support President Trump when he disregarded the personhood of people of color. I hear from conservatives who don’t understand why they’re told they support white supremacy when they want to treat people of all races equally.

A lack of trust is one of the biggest barriers to healthy race relations. How is it poisoning our discourse? And how can Christians work against this trend?

Ultimately, neither progressives who champion antiracism nor conservatives who support colorblindness trust those who disagree with them on racial issues. And so it becomes easy to attribute the worst motivations to their political and racial foes: They’re not merely wrong. They’re evil. Thus, we don’t have to worry about addressing their concerns. This type of thinking distances us from those we disagree with and reinforces the racial and ideological silos we live in.

This is an area where unity in the body of Christ has been difficult over the past ten years. Yancey calls for us to seek unity in Christ and to seek to trust one another again. When we trust that the other is seeking the good, we can seek to learn from one another again.

Mistrust is a great tool for those who want to sow discord—because of our depravity, we’ll always find reasons not to trust the outgroup. As Christians, we must do better. We’re called to love others as we love ourselves. We must fight against automatically mistrusting those with whom we disagree. In the body of Christ, we need an atmosphere where we can admit our own shortcomings and forgive others for their mistakes.

Even if we never agree entirely, we are called to be people marked by our love.

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Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

8 Ways We Normalize the Abnormal | Paul David Tripp 📃 →

God has made it clear that the norm for his children should be love. It is the thing that the listening and watching world should know us for. We should be recognized not only for the purity of our theology but also for the consistency of our love. This love is the new commandment that Jesus left with his disciples in his final days with them: “that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). The standard for our responses to one another is not just some standard of cultural niceness or human love. The standard is nothing less than the generous, sacrificial, pure, forgiving, and faithful love that God has so graciously showered down on us in the person of his Son.

Now, I will speak for myself here: this kind of love is not natural for me. If I am going to live out what God has chosen to be the norm for his children, then I need to start by confessing how utterly foreign this kind of love is for me and cry out for his rescuing and transforming grace. You see, I don’t so much need to be delivered from the people around me who seem hard to love and be transported to some community populated by easier-to-love people. No, I need to be rescued from me, because until our Lord returns I will continue to be a flawed person, living near and relating to flawed people in a fallen world. In the world that I have just described, God’s norm is only ever the result of the powerful operation of his grace.

The headline grabs you and if you’re like me, you think this is an article about normalizing the abnormal in society. And those articles have their place. But this article is about how we normalize the abnormal in Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbor.

How have we normalized emotionally driven, anger-driven, and disrespectful responses to our neighbors? How have we normalized tribalism—finding an identity in an ideological group—rather than finding ourselves in the “communion of saints” as the Apostle’s Creed says?

How can we stop reacting and start breaking down the barriers between us as the body of Christ, and how can we start breaking down barriers to reach the lost? How can we show them the all-surpassing love of Jesus (Ephesians 3:14–19)?

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Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.
— Matthew 13:45–46 (CSB)

Joel Fischer

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