This Week’s Good Reads

morning-paper2Check out this list of interesting articles from around the web, there’s bound to be something here that interests you:

1. “Does Islam Inevitably Lead to Violence?” by Caleb Greggsen

Greggsen modifies the initial question a bit to ask, “Is there a legitimate place for violence in Islam,” and he answers in the affirmative. He compares and contrasts the religion with our own Christian faith, and while he is quick to point out that there are different types of Muslims, and many are non-violent, he recognizes the place the violence might have in the expression of Islamic faith. If many Americans can be extremely naïve about the diversity within Islam, we should not be naïve about the ways in which this faith opens itself up to the extremist expressions.

2. “Martin Luther Rocked Compassion! Who Knew?” by Bob Kelleman

I heard Dr. Kelleman make this presentation at last year’s ACBC conference. It is a fascinating to see the ways in which good Biblical counseling has been going on since long before Jay Adams. In this piece Kelleman explores several examples of Martin Luther’s compassionate care for the mentally ill in his own day. This is worth a read, friends.

3. “True Myth: A Conversation with Sufjan Stevens” by Ryan Dombal

In light of his forthcoming new release Pitchfork sat down with Sufjan Stevens and this interview gives readers a real insightful look at the man behind the music. Here he talks at length about his relationship with his mom, the main focus of his new album. He also shares his convictions about God and Christianity. He remains one of my favorite artists and as intriguing an enigma as ever, yet this piece puts some aspects of his life and personality into focus.

4. “Every Small Group Needs a Vision” by Marshall Segal

A great reminder that aimless and purposeless small groups won’t thrive or probably even endure. Segal walks us through some basic components of small group life, and then the value of communicating a clear vision for a small group. He even grants us some help in developing one. At CBC we talk about our vision as Applying Sunday’s Sermon to our Everyday Lives with Help from One Another. We evaluate our effectiveness by means of the four C’s: Christlike character, Biblical content, Christian community, and Discipleship Competency. For all my small group leaders and participants, let this article spur you on to embrace this vision.

5. “A Puritan Prayer of Continual Repentance” by Jason Kovacs

This is a much-needed reminder: The Christian life is not one of repenting once and then moving on from there, rather, it is a life of continual, daily repentance. In this piece Jason shares with us a beautiful prayer from the Puritans that expresses this idea clearly and compellingly.

6. “The Caligulan Thrill” by Ross Douthat

This is a brilliant piece by the NYT columnist. It is not a direct critique of 50 Shades so much as a critique of the culture that has embraced it. Douthat points to the tension existing within our cultural sexual revolution. The desire is that this revolution will produce an egalitarian society, the result is that the powerful are given a hall pass to prey on the weak and vulnerable. He writes:

But viewed from another angle, that same revolution looks more like a permission slip for the strong and privileged to prey upon the weak and easily exploited. This is the sexual revolution of Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt and Joe Francis and roughly 98 percent of the online pornography consumed by young men. It’s the revolution that’s been better for fraternity brothers than their female guests, better for the rich than the poor, better for the beautiful than the plain, better for liberated adults than fatherless children … and so on down a long, depressing list. At times, as the French writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry recently suggested, this side of sexual revolution looks more like “sexual reaction,” a step way back toward a libertinism more like that of pre-Christian Rome — anti-egalitarian and hierarchical, privileging men over women, adults over children, the upper class over the lower orders.

50 Shades of Grey is an attempt to reconcile that tension, by giving the oppressed and victimized some sense of power and control, romanticizing their victimization. Douthat exposes the foolishness of such attempts, and the culture that keeps attempting to promote them.

7. “Is The Church Failing Gay Christians?” by Steve Chalke and Sean Doherty

This is good question and the answer at one level is an obvious “yes.” Yet, the full answer requires more careful articulation of how we are failing and what we can do to address it. I appreciate so much of Steve Chalke’s concern and compassion, I disagree fully with his answer. I am thankful for brothers like Sean and the team at Living Out, who are calling the church to a more welcoming response in the midst of their commitment to the historical tradition of Christian sexual purity. The church ought to accept this challenge to love better, and I believe we ought to follow Sean’s advice.

8. “Pink Champagne, Tequila Eyes, and Drunk on Love: The Romance of Us and Our Daughters” by Dave Dunham

It was a joy to review one of my favorite musical duos: Us and Our Daughters. Their sophomore release tells the rest of a moving story about the fight for love. In this piece for Christ and Pop Culture I compare the first album with the second and describe the story of their marriage across those two bodies of work, then I discuss the nature of true Biblical love. Read the article and listen to their music.

9. “The Embrace That Never Lets Go: Praying on Behalf of Those too Weak to Pray” by Marie Notcheva

A beautiful reminder on the power, importance, and sanctifying nature of intercessory prayer. I needed this reminder today. Praying for those who can’t pray for themselves, or who won’t pray for themselves, is an important ministry one that neither counselors nor Christians can overlook. Read and be encouraged and spurred on to greater prayer.

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