Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 218

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. “We May Have To Shoot Down This Aircraft” (Garrett Graff, Politico): “We can’t see the aircraft. We don’t know where it is because we don’t have any radars pointing into the U.S. Anything in the United States was considered friendly by definition.” A gripping account of the Flight 93 story.
  2. Active Learning Works But Students Don’t Like It (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution): “A carefully done study that held students and teachers constant shows that students learn more in active learning classes but they dislike this style of class and think they learn less. It’s no big surprise–active learning is hard and makes the students feel stupid. It’s much easier to sit back and be entertained by a great lecturer who makes everything seem simple.”
  3. How Evangelicals Invented Liberals’ Favorite Legal Doctrine (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Federalist): “…within the many ironies of history, the social and political instruments a perfectionist movement deploys may be easily co‐opted for ends and purposes never imagined in their development. That is, if late‐twentieth‐century evangelical activists sowed the wind, today’s activists have reaped the whirlwind.” I love articles that present a topic I think I know something about and proceed to show me something I had never known before.
  4. A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked (Bahar Gholipour, The Atlantic): “It would be quite an achievement for a brain signal 100 times smaller than major brain waves to solve the problem of free will. But the story of the Bereitschaftspotential has one more twist: It might be something else entirely.”
  5. Viktor Orban Among The Christians (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “Orban is what Trump’s biggest fans wish he was (but isn’t), and what Trump’s enemies think him to be (but isn’t). If Donald Trump had the smarts and skills of Viktor Orban, the political situation in the US would be much, much different — for better or for worse, depending on your point of view.” I don’t have much interest in Hungarian politics, but this fascinated me. 
  6. When the Culture War Comes for the Kids (George Packer, The Atlantic): “I asked myself if I was moving to the wrong side of a great moral cause because its tone was too loud, because it shook loose what I didn’t want to give up. It took me a long time to see that the new progressivism didn’t just carry my own politics further than I liked. It was actually hostile to principles without which I don’t believe democracy can survive.” This article came highly recommended, but it only got interesting to me about halfway through — and then wow.
  7. Conservatives Clash on the Goal of Government (Jonathan Leeman, Providence): “There is no neutrality. The public square is a battleground of gods. Our culture wars are wars of religion. For the time being, liberalism keeps us from picking up sixteenth‐century swords for those wars, which is no small achievement. But don’t assume it won’t control us with the subtler tools of a twenty‐first century legal totalitarianism.” Insightful reflections on how Christians should form their political positions.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Elisha and the She‐bears (Peter J Williams, Twitter): an insightful Twitter thread about a disturbing OT story. The author is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge. First shared in volume 179.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Celebration of Discipline: Celebration

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

I hope this summer has been a blessing to you! Today we come to the final discipline — the discipline of celebration (which is an inversion of the book’s title, and this does not seem to be accidental).

Celebration as Foster describes it is a joy‐filled approach to daily living that we share with others. He is not primarily referring to events like worship services or parties. He has in mind things like laughing with your friends in the cafeteria or turning chores into games. When we consistently and authentically live with joy, everything (including worship services and parties) get better. But when we do not live this way, even the spiritual disciplines we have been studying can become horrible things:

Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death‐breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 191

This is, no doubt, why Foster entitled his book Celebration of Discipline. The spiritual disciplines must themselves be both sources of joy and expressions of joy. This does not mean turn from fasting to feasting the moment we get hungry, or that when generosity is a challenge that we instead turn to greed. Of course the disciplines will be hard at times — that is why we call them disciplines!

But if our practice of the spiritual disciplines is nothing but duty without delight, we have badly missed the mark. In this regard the spiritual disciplines are no different than the physical disciplines — exercising is hard at times but people endure it because they enjoy what comes on the other side of the pain (and exercise itself is sometimes fun). And so our spiritual disciplines must be a celebration. But since the spiritual disciplines are woven into our everyday lives, they can only be marked by celebration if our everyday lives are marked by celebration.

Some people struggle to believe that God wants them to live this way. They have a hard time experiencing joy without guilt. Some pleasures, of course, are sinful. But there are people who are suspicious of even wholesome pleasures. If that’s you, I urge you to remember that enjoying life is not only pleasant but wise. Ecclesiastes makes this point repeatedly: “a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil” (Ecc 2:24–25), “there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live” (Ecc 3:12–13), “there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work” (Ecc 3:22), “when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil — this is a gift of God” (Ecc 5:18–20), “go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved of what you do” (Ecc 9:7–10), “you who are young be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth… banish anxiety from your heart” (Ecc 11:9–10).

Perhaps, on the other hand, you do believe this but have a hard time putting it into practice. Maybe you even feel guilty that you don’t enjoy life more. Foster has good advice:

God has established a created order full of excellent and good things, and it follows naturally that as we give our attention to those things we will be happy. That is God’s appointed way to joy. If we think we will have joy only by praying and singing psalms, we will be disillusioned. But if we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful, that is, full of joy. And what about our problems? When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems. The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life an act of the will. That is why celebration is a Discipline. It is not something that falls on our heads. It is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 195

If you struggle to live with joy, choose to fill your life with “simple good things” and thank God for them. Are you broke? Take walks in beautiful places. Watch funny videos online. Invite friends to come hang out at your place. Do you have some spare cash? Buy foods that you really enjoy eating. Buy the premium version of an app that you already like using. Purchase tickets to an event.

And always remember that the goal is to cultivate a truly joyful spirit. We’re not trying to live by hype; joy that lasts has a foundation. I appreciated Foster’s warning in this regard:

Often we try to pump up people with joy when in reality nothing has happened in their lives. God has not broken into the routine experiences of their daily existence. Celebration comes with the common ventures of life are redeemed. It is important to avoid the kind of celebrations that really celebrate nothing. Worse yet is to pretend to celebrate when the spirit of celebration is not in us.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 193

And with that, I close. We’re officially done with the book, but I’ll send one more summary email next week. Thanks for reading along!

In the meanwhile, I have a question for you: which chapter did you find most helpful? Reply and let me know — I’ll share the results anonymously with everyone!

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 217

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Study Guide For Human Society, Part 1 (Tanner Greer, The Scholar’s Stage): “…there are two methods [for finding good history books] in particular I have often have useful. The first is to Google syllabi. If you are interested in the history of the Roman Republic, Google ‘Roman Republic syllabus’ and see what pops up. Read a few courses and see what books are included. Alternatively, if you just read a book you thought was particularly good, put its title into Google and then the word ‘syllabus’ afterwards and see what other readings college professors have paired with that book in their courses.” I just found this blog and am loving it.
  2. When Faith Comes Up, Students Avert Their Eyes (Michael Roth, The Atlantic): “As a nonbeliever myself, I am not trying to convert any student to any religion. Yet how to discuss religious faith in class poses a major challenge for nonreligious colleges and universities. How can such an institution claim to educate students about ideas, culture, and ways of life if students, professors, or both are uncomfortable when talking about something that’s been central to humanity throughout recorded history?” Roth is a historian and the president of Wesleyan University. Recommended by an alumnus.
  3. The Pint‐Size Nation off the English Coast (Ian Urbina, The Atlantic): “Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.” Recommended by a student. Very entertaining.
  4. Elite Failure Has Brought Americans to the Edge of an Existential Crisis (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic): “What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.”
    • Usefully read alongside The End of the Roman Empire Wasn’t That Bad (James Fallows, The Atlantic): “Governmental ‘failure’ comes down to an inability to match a society’s resources to its biggest opportunities and needs. This is the clearest standard by which current U.S. national governance fails. In principle, almost nothing is beyond America’s capacities. In practice, almost every big task seems too hard. Yet for our own era’s counterparts to duchies and monasteries—for state and local governments, and for certain large private organizations, including universities and some companies—the country is still mainly functional, in exactly the areas where national governance has failed.”
    • Related: How Universities Have Been Part of the Problem (And Can Be Part of the Solution) for America’s Civic Crises (Musa al‐Gharbi, Heterodox Academy): “Students are taught to really hone their critical capacities at university – but what of their affirmative ones? Put another way, there is a big focus on identifying problems, criticizing, problematizing, deconstructing, highlighting differences, etc. – but much less on coming up with practical solutions, or explaining what works, what is good (and why), or acknowledging what the people we engage are right about, or building consensus through the things we share in common. These are not skills that are prioritized in higher education today.” The author is a sociologist at Columbia. Recommended by an alumnus. Also see his companion piece Academic and Political Elitism at Inside Higher Ed.
  5. Can Jesus Close the Wage Gap? Inside Hillsong’s Instagram‐Fueled Women’s Movement (Hayley Phelan, Elle): “This year’s theme, ‘Be Found in the New,’ is taken from the Book of Revelation. But if you didn’t know that, the pamphlet could be an Urban Outfitters catalog or an Everlane lookbook—a sign of both Hillsong’s cultural fluency and marketers’ awareness of consumer fatigue. A new sofa or cute leggings are just the window dressing in a life of purpose—a way to transcend exhaustion, loneliness, and low self‐esteem, and step into a world of our own making. Which, when you get right down to it, sounds a lot like religion.”
  6. Five Things They Don’t Tell You About Slavery (Rich Lowry, National Review): “None of the other societies tainted by slavery produced the Declaration of Independence, a Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton, the U.S. Constitution, or a tradition of liberty that inspired people around the world for centuries. If we don’t keep that in mind, as well as the broader context of slavery, we aren’t giving this country — or history — its due.” The title is not great but the article is quite interesting. 
  7. Homelessness and the high cost of living (Christos Makridis, The Hill): “…economists have reached a consensus that the primary driver behind increasing housing prices and rental rates is the presence of, and increase in, land use restrictions. Put simply, land use restrictions, or housing market regulations more generally, place restrictions on the types of structures that can be built — that either implicitly or explicitly raise the cost for developers.” Christos is an alumnus of our ministry.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have What Is It Like to Be a Man? (Phil Christman, The Hedgehog Review): “I live out my masculinity most often as a perverse avoidance of comfort: the refusal of good clothes, moisturizer, painkillers; hard physical training, pursued for its own sake and not because I enjoy it; a sense that there is a set amount of physical pain or self‐imposed discipline that I owe the universe.” Very well‐written. Everyone will likely find parts they resonate with and parts they reject. The author is a lecturer at the University of Michigan and based on his CV seems to be a fairly devoted Episcopalian. First shared in volume 178.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Celebration of Discipline: Guidance

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

This chapter has three emphases: Foster talks about communities of believers seeking the will of God together (should our congregation buy this building or not?), he talks about individuals turning to the gathered body for advice (like that couple who asked the congregation to assess their readiness for marriage), and he talks about individuals turning to other individuals for spiritual counsel (seeing a spiritual director).

I’m just going to talk about the first one — when an entire group (such as a life group or a worship team) seeks the will of God together. When a group like that needs to make a decision we almost always do one of two things: we vote or we just leave everything up to the leader. There are times when each of those is appropriate (for example, when it is a routine decision), but there are also times when this is an inferior solution (for example, when passions are high and a wrong decision can destroy the entire community).

Foster describes an alternative:

“As a people they had decided to live under the direct rulership of the Spirit. They had rejected both human totalitarianism and anarchy. They had even rejected democracy, that is, majority rule. They had dared to live on the basis of Spirit‐rule; no fifty‐one percent vote, no compromises, but Spirit‐directed unity.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Disciple, pages 178–179

And then a little later:

“[these groups] all operate on the basis on Spirit‐directed unity. Issues are approached with an assurance that the mind of the Spirit can be known. They gather in Christ’s name, believing that his will will be fleshed out in their midst. They do not seek compromise, but God‐given consensus.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 184

In other words, there are times when we realize that our community needs wisdom beyond human wisdom and that the issue is so important that we cannot leave it to one leader to seek the face of God for it. We must all do it together.

When we do that, Foster suggests, we must expect unity. I know several church leadership teams that follow this practice: if there is no unity then the team does not proceed. This means that even one voice can derail a plan that everyone else is in favor of. Whenever I’ve spoken to people about this practice, they can point to specific times one person vetoed a decision that enjoyed overwhelming support. At the time the rest of the team had been mildly to intensely annoyed, but it later became apparent that their friend’s refusal to express false consensus had saved the team much grief. In retrospect the entire team saw that God had protected them through the integrity of their friend and the integrity of their process.

Again, this should not be the way we usually make collective decisions. If a large community always does this they will inevitably find themselves held hostage by unstable people. Or if a church routinely does this they will find themselves in thrall to a handful of unbelievers who attend the church. And so for simple matters touching on everyone, take a quick vote. For decisions requiring an awareness of background knowledge or perhaps some special expertise, defer to the leaders.

But if doing this for every decision would be unwise, I would like to suggest that never doing it would be even less wise.

The next time you are part of a Christian group facing a significant decision, consider proposing this idea — “Let’s pray until we have unity on this issue and then do whatever God tells us.”

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 216

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. No, really. I mean them and they matter. I welcome your suggestions, so if you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Cops Who Abused Photoshop (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): this is outrageous. Difficult to excerpt, but well worth reading. Recommended by a student.
  2. How Pornography Makes Us Less Human and Less Humane (Matthew Lee Anderson, The Gospel Coalition): “Beneath pornography is the supposition that the mere fact of our desire for a woman makes us worthy of her. And so, not being bound by any kind of norm, desire must proceed endlessly. It is no surprise that the industrialized, cheap‐and‐easy sex of pornography has answered and evoked an almost unrestrained sexual greed, which allows us to be gods and goddesses within the safety of our own fantasies. It is for deep and important reasons that the Ten Commandments use the economic language of ‘coveting’ to describe the badness of errant sexual desires.” Many insights in this essay.
    1. Related: In the Face of Sexual Temptation, Repression Is a Sure‐Fire Failure (Rachel Gilson, Christianity Today): “Repression and avoidance are ultimately human‐centered responses. They stuff desire, suffocate it, banish it, and yet rarely succeed at engendering true purity. By contrast, Christian asceticism reminds us that we are not stronger than desire and then invites us to cast our gaze toward the One who is. It asks the Christian to follow the sight line of desire—like looking down the barrel of a gun—and train it on what all desire is ultimately satisfied by: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).”
    2. Related What Genetics Is Teaching Us About Sexuality (Steven M. Phelps and Robbee Wedow, New York Times): “…genetic differences account for roughly one‐third of the variation in same‐sex behavior.” The authors are professors (one of biology at UT Austin and the other of sociology at Harvard). They are also both gay men. They are reflecting on research published in the journal Science: Large‐scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same‐sex sexual behavior (which Wedow coauthored).
  3. What Majority‐World Missions Really Looks Like (Dorcas Cheng‐Tozun, Christianity Today): “In 2015, 9 of the top 20 sending countries—including Brazil, the Philippines, China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa—were in the majority world (also referred to as the developing world), with a total of 101,000 international missionaries.” For context, the combined total is close to the number sent from the USA.
  4. Why do Chinese people like their government? (Kaiser Kuo, SupChina): “It’s the rare person who can truly separate, at both an intellectual and an emotional level, criticism of his or her country from criticism of his or her country’s government — especially if that government is not, at present, terribly embattled and is delivering basic public goods in a reasonably competent manner.”
    1. Related: 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask (Jen Kirby, Vox): “”What began as a targeted protest against a controversial extradition bill in June has transformed into what feels like a battle for the future of Hong Kong. Protesters are not just fighting their local government. They’re challenging one of the most powerful countries on earth: China.
    2. Related: Hong Kong Democracy Activists Arrested Ahead Of Planned March (Emily Feng & Scott Neuman, NPR): “Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s most famous pro‐democracy leader, was arrested on Friday along with fellow activists and politicians in what appeared to be a coordinated sweep by the city’s police ahead of a mass anti‐government march that had been planned for the weekend.”
    3. Related: The One United Struggle For Freedom (David Brooks, New York Times): “Many suspect America will never step in to help. The American right no longer believes in spreading democracy to foreigners. The American left embraces a national narrative that emphasizes slavery and oppression, not that America is a beacon or an example. Neither party any longer sees America as a vanguard nation whose very mission is to advance universal democracy and human dignity.”
    4. Related: China’s Spies Are On The Offensive (Mike Giglio, The Atlantic): “Espionage and counterespionage have been essential tools of statecraft for centuries, of course, and U.S. and Chinese intelligence agencies have been battling one another for decades. But what these recent cases suggest is that the intelligence war is escalating—that China has increased both the scope and the sophistication of its efforts to steal secrets from the U.S.” Recommended by a student.
  5. Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It’s The ‘Lungs Of The World,’ Is Wrong (Michael Shellenberger, Forbes): “‘What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional,’ said Coutinho. ‘Take a look at Google web searches search for ‘Amazon’ and ‘Amazon Forest’ over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the ‘Amazon tragedy’ when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria.’ And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have.” I found this article quite informative.
  6. The Trump Administration Sides With Nurses Who Object to Abortion (Emma Green, The Atlantic): “Beyond its outcome, this case is a signal of the Trump administration’s priorities: It sees religious freedom and conscience protections as central parts of American civil rights, and officials plan to enforce those laws.”
    1. Related: By their tweets you will know them: The Democrats’ continuing God gap (Ryan Burge, Religion News Service): “While the Nones have grown dramatically over the last 20 years, it’s still important to realize that more than six in ten Americans identify as a Christian, according to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. If Democrats want to win back the White House, it would behoove them to reach out to those Christian voters. However, at least on social media, Democratic candidates fail to do so.”
    2. Related: Democratic Party embraces nonreligious voters, criticizes ‘religious liberty’ in new resolution (Caleb Parke, Fox News): “The Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution Saturday praising the values of ‘religiously unaffiliated’ Americans as the ‘largest religious group within the Democratic Party.’ The resolution, which was unanimously passed at the DNC’s summer meeting on Aug. 24 in San Francisco, Calif., was championed by the Secular Coalition of America, an organization that lobbies on behalf of atheists, agnostics, and humanists on public policy.”
    3. Related: Michael Wear’s commentary on Twitter: “I just want to be clear. This is both politically stupid, but also, just stupid on a fundamental level that transcends electoral politics.” (Wear was an Obama staffer)
  7. Let’s have open borders for people and closed borders for capital (Jeff Spross, The Week): “…human beings aren’t the only things that cross borders: goods, services, and financial capital do it all the time as well. A better response to Trump might not be to debate whether borders should be enforced, but rather enforced against what? Specifically, the left‐progressive position on borders should be something like: maximum enforcement against the movement of financial capital, moderate enforcement against goods and services, and minimal enforcement against people.”
    1. Related: Christianity and Capitalism Reconsidered (Alan Jacobs, personal blog): “[the claim] that capitalism makes us wealthier, lets us live longer, and improves our ethics — could be right and even so Christianity and capitalism might not be compatible. Maybe God doesn’t want us to be richer and longer‐lived, and maybe there are certain matters of faithfulness that transcend what most people call ‘ethics.’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Eat, Pray, Code: Rule of St. Benedict Becomes Tech Developer’s Community Guidelines (Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today): “SQLite—a database management engine used in most major browsers, smart phones, Adobe products, and Skype—adopted a code of ethics pulled directly from the biblical precepts set by the venerated sixth‐century monk.” This article blew my mind. First shared in volume 175.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Celebration of Discipline: Worship

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

This week we come to one of the most visible corporate disciplines in the Christian life: worship.

If I had to identify one challenging aspect of worship for Stanford students it would be this: worship feels like a waste of time. Time spent in worship is time not spent doing homework. More altruistically, time spent in worship is time not spent witnessing to someone. Foster nails this mentality on page 161:

“The divine priority is worship first, service second…. The primary function of the Levitical priests was to ‘come near to me to minister to me’ (Ezek. 44:15). For the Old Testament priesthood, ministry to God was to precede all other work. And that is no less true of the universal priesthood of the New Testament. One grave temptation we all face is to run around answering calls to service without ministering to the Lord himself.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 161

In Mark 3:14 we see Jesus selecting the disciples. What does it say? “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” They are first to be with him, then they are to serve him. God did not hire us, God adopted us. Worship must come first. In Deut 6:4 we are called to love Him with all our heart before we are called to love Him with all our strength.

While it is true that worship means far more than music, it is also true that the largest book in the Bible is a book of songs. Singing praise to God is an important part of our spiritual health, and often actions accompany the singing. If I had to pick a second challenging aspect of worship for Stanford students it would be this: such worship often feels undignified.

Throughout Scripture we find a variety of physical postures in connection with worship: lying prostrate, standing, kneeling, lifting the hands, clapping the hands, lifting the head, bowing the head, dancing, and wearing sackcloth and ashes. The point is that we are to offer God our bodies as well as all the rest of our being. Worship is appropriately physical. We are to present our bodies to God in a posture consistent with the inner spirit in worship. Standing, clapping, dancing, lifting the hands, lifting the head are postures consistent with the spirit of praise. To sit still looking dour is simply not appropriate for praise. Kneeling, bowing the head, lying prostrate are postures consistent with the spirit of adoration and humility. We are quick to object to this line of teaching. ‘People have different temperaments,’ we argue. ‘That may appeal to emotional types, but I’m naturally quiet and reserved. It isn’t the kind of worship that will meet my need.’ What we must see is that the real question in worship is not, ‘What will meet my need?’ The real question is, ‘What kind of worship does God call for?’ It is clear that God calls for wholehearted worship…. Often our ‘reserved temperament’ is little more than fear of what others will think of us, or perhaps unwillingness to humble ourselves before God and others. Of course people have different temperaments, but that must never keep us from worshiping with our whole being.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, pages 169–70.

Foster says it well, but King David says it even better. In 2 Samuel 6:22, the Psalmist tells a critic of his extravagant worship, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”

Here are some of the ways we see worship expressed in Scripture. If you struggle with expressiveness or self‐consciousness in worship, meditate on this list. Many more verses could be added along with much commentary — this is far from a comprehensive study. It is merely meant to open your eyes to the various expressions of worship we find in the Bible. Some are commanded while others are modeled, all of these expressions are appropriate at different times.

  • WE SING because in the Bible we read: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16)
  • WE PLAY INSTRUMENTS because in the Bible we read: “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.” (Psalm 150:3–5)
  • WE RAISE OUR HANDS because in the Bible we read: “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:4)
  • WE CLAP because in the Bible we read: “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” (Psalm 47:1)
  • WE TESTIFY PUBLICLY because in the Bible we read: “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1)
  • WE LAUGH AND REJOICE because in the Bible we read: “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’” (Psalm 126:2)
  • WE SHOUT because in the Bible we read: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.” (Psalm 98:4–6)
  • WE LAPSE INTO REVERENT SILENCE because in the Bible we read: “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)
  • WE STAND because in the Bible we read: “They [the Levites] were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening….” (1 Chronicles 23:30)
  • WE BOW AND KNEEL because in the Bible we read: “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6)
  • WE LIE PROSTRATE because in the Bible we read: “Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6)
  • WE LEAP because in the Bible we read: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Luke 6:23a)
  • WE DANCE because in the Bible we read: “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” (Psalm 149:3)
  • WE SPEAK IN TONGUES AND PROPHESY because in the Bible we read: “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
  • WE CREATE ART because in the Bible we read: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.… to make everything I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent— the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand— and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place.’ ” (Exodus 31:1–11)
  • WE PRAY SIMULTANEOUSLY because in the Bible we read: “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4:24a)
  • WE LISTEN TO A SERMON because in the Bible we read: “…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” (1 Tim 4:13)

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 215

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The 1619 Project (many authors, New York Times Magazine): “…[many believe] that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619? Though the exact date has been lost to history (it has come to be observed on Aug. 20), that was when a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s very origin.” The link is to a PDF of the entire issue.
    • A positive liberal reaction: A Brief History of the History Wars (Rebecca Onion, Slate): “For the sake of our collective cardiovascular health, we would do better to recognize these skirmishes over American history—in which conservatives demand that a positive vision of our nation’s past, studded with successes, inventions, and ‘great men,’ take pride of place in our public culture—as recurrent episodes in a particular decades‐old front of the culture wars. That way, we could stop wasting our good faith on old, dead‐end conversations.”
    • A negative liberal reaction: The New York Times surrenders to the left on race (Damon Linker, The Week): “Throughout the issue of the NYTM, headlines make, with just slight variations, the same rhetorical move over and over again: ‘Here is something unpleasant, unjust, or even downright evil about life in the present‐day United States. Bet you didn’t realize that slavery is ultimately to blame.’ Lack of universal access to health care? High rates of sugar consumption? Callous treatment of incarcerated prisoners? White recording artists ‘stealing’ black music? Harsh labor practices? That’s right — all of it, and far more, follows from slavery.”
    • A complicated conservative reaction: How slavery doomed limited government in America (Philip Klein, Washington Examiner): “A number of conservatives reacted to the project by branding it as anti‐American. But I don’t think that’s fair, at least based on the lead essay I read from Nikole Hannah‐Jones. In fact, her piece is quite the opposite. Sure, it chronicles the brutality of the institution of slavery and the century of oppression, institutionalized discrimination, and racist terrorism that followed. Yet the piece is ultimately about how she reconciles that history with her patriotism and comes to understand her own father’s love of a country that treated him so poorly.”
    • A negative conservative reaction: How To Delegitimize A Nation (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “But who we imagine ourselves to be today shapes who we will become tomorrow. If The 1619 Project were merely about expanding our common understanding of the American origins, who could object? It arrives, though, in the midst of an epic culture war over who we are, and who we are going to be.”
    • Related: Black American History Should Give Evangelicals a Sense of Perspective — and Hope (David French, National Review): “If men and women have the opportunity to speak and possess the courage to tell the truth, they have hope that they can transform a nation. What was true for black Americans (including the black American church) in the most dire of circumstances is still true for contemporary Christians in far less trying times”
    • In response: In Defense Of Evangelical Cultural Pessimism (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “This, I think, is a distinction that makes a big difference re: French’s argument. You can’t cease to be black; you can cease to be Christian, or at least meaningfully Christian.” This piece is way too long but makes some good points.
  2. Don’t Use These Free‐Speech Arguments Ever Again (Ken White, The Atlantic): “If you’ve read op‐eds about free speech in America, or listened to talking heads on the news, you’ve almost certainly encountered empty, misleading, or simply false tropes about the First Amendment. Those tired tropes are barriers to serious discussions about free speech. Any useful discussion of what the law should be must be informed by an accurate view of what the law is.” White is best known under his internet alias Popehat. Recommended to me by a student.
  3. The Real Problem at Yale Is Not Free Speech (Natalia Dashan, Palladium): “The campus ‘free speech’ debate is just a side‐effect. So are debates about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion.’ The real problems run much deeper. The real problems start with Marcus and me, and the masks we wear for each other…. In a world of masks and façades, it is hard to convey the truth. And this is how I ended up offering a sandwich to a man with hundreds of millions in a foreign bank account.” I liked this one a lot.
    • Related: ‘Luxury beliefs’ are the latest status symbol for rich Americans (Rob Henderson, New York Post): “…as trendy clothes and other products become more accessible and affordable, there is increasingly less status attached to luxury goods. The upper classes have found a clever solution to this problem: luxury beliefs. These are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.”
  4. How Life Became an Endless, Terrible Competition (Daniel Markovits, The Atlantic): “Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves.” The author is a Yale law professor. I found his diagnosis more persuasive than his prognosis.
  5. The Coming Migration out of Sub‐Saharan Africa (Christopher Caldwell, National Review): “The population pressures emanating from the Middle East in recent decades, already sufficient to drive the European political system into convulsions, are going to pale beside those from sub‐Saharan Africa in decades to come.” Fascinating.
  6. Why Niceness Weakens Our Witness (Sharon Hodde Miller, Christianity Today): “We exist in a world that swings between sweetness and outrage, two behaviors that seem to be at odds with one another. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin: a lack of spiritual formation. When our civility isn’t rooted in something sturdy and deep, when our good behavior isn’t springing from the core of who we are but is instead merely a mask we put on, it is only a matter of time before the façade crumbles away and our true state is revealed: an entire generation of people who are really good at looking good.” I agree with the substance of this article, but the title bothers me. 
  7. Fact‐Checking Satire — Is Snopes Serious? (Bill Zeiser, RealClearPolitics): “the Bee’s founder and minority owner, Adam Ford, took particular exception to the tone of the Snopes assessment. In a lengthy Twitter thread, he called Snopes’ handling of the piece on Thomas ‘particularly egregious’ and ‘disturbing.’ He pointed to a subtitle that castigated the Bee for ‘fanning the flames of controversy’ and ‘muddying the details of a news story’ to the point that it was unclear if the piece qualified as satire. Ford complained that throughout the Snopes story, supposedly an ‘objective fact check,’ the assessment ‘veered towards pronouncing a moral judgment,’ seemingly accusing the satirical site of willful deception. It is certainly understandable how Ford could feel this way: Snopes referred to the Bee’s ‘ruse’ and offered that ‘the Babylon Bee has managed to fool readers with its brand of satire in the past.’”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How the State Serves Both Salvation and Religious Freedom (Jonathan Leeman, 9 Marks): “Two basic kinds of governments, then, show up in the Bible: those that shelter God’s people, and those that destroy them. Abimelech sheltered; Pharoah destroyed. The Assyrians destroyed; the Babylonians and Persians, ultimately, sheltered. Pilate destroyed; Festus sheltered. And depending on how you read Revelation, the history of government will culminate in a beastly slaughter of saintly blood. Romans 13 calls governments servants; Psalm 2 calls them imposters. Most governments contain both. But some are better than others.” First shared in volume 165

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Celebration of Discipline: Confession

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

This week we’re talking about confessing our sins to other people. Biblically, we always confess our sins to the Lord in prayer and then we usually also confess directly to those we have wronged. Sometimes in addition we confess our sins to other believers for the sake of their or our spiritual health. As an example of confessing for the sake of someone else’s spiritual health, I might confess a sin while preaching about how growth comes in a certain area. As an example of confessing for my own spiritual health, I might confess a sin to a friend while requesting their counsel.

“Confession is a difficult Discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. We cannot bear to reveal our failures and shortcomings to others. We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped onto the high road to heaven. Therefore, we hide ourselves from one another in live in veiled lies and hypocrisy.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p 145 9

A few thoughts about confession:

  • Foster’s advice is spot‐on when he says, “…we must be prepared to deal with definite sins. A generalized confession may save us from humiliation and shame, but it will not ignite inner healing” (page 151). This related quote has often run through my mind, “We confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no large ones” (Rochefoucauld). If we confess in a way that makes us look good, there’s something amiss. When you confess, don’t merely confess that you are not perfect. Draw attention to one or more of your particular imperfections. Not simply “I can be greedy sometimes”; rather, “I have been so consumed with desiring that new iPhone that I almost stole money from my mom’s purse. I was shocked at my level of greed.”
  • I said we usually confess to the person we have wronged. That is not always the case, however. For example, if you’ve been staring lustfully at someone, it’s generally unwise to tell that to the person you’ve been lusting after. You are relieving your emotions by burdening theirs. It’s selfish.
  • To whom do you confess when you are not confessing directly to someone you have wronged? Foster’s counsel is wise: “The key qualifications are spiritual maturity, wisdom, compassion, good common sense, the ability to keep a confidence, and a wholesome sense of humor” (page 153).
  • In university ministry I sometimes observe two extremes: a community where no one confesses anything to anyone else (usually because of fear) or a community whose worship services sometimes become public confession ceremonies. I have thoughts about both:
    • A community where no one confesses anything to anyone else is held in bondage to sin. People convince themselves they struggle alone, and as result half of Satan’s work is done for him. He desires to isolate Christians as a prelude to destroying us, and yet we foolishly isolate ourselves.
    • A community where people regularly confess their sins in a public forum runs the risk of indirectly elevating sin. If you’ve never seen this done it is hard to describe, but I have seen it several times. Someone heads to the microphone and asks if they can share something that they feel like they have to get off their chest. And then they confess a sin. And then someone else wrestling with that same sin or a related sin makes a beeline for the microphone after this. And then the dam breaks and it takes over the entire service. This is sometimes a genuine response to the guiding of the Holy Spirit (we see an example of this in Acts 19:18–19), but sometimes it is an indicator that healthy interpersonal confession is not happening and so this substitute is emerging as a replacement. The dangers are (a) it can make sin seem more pervasive than it is (5% of the people spending 95% of the time talking about their biggest mistakes creates a distorted impression of the community), and (b) without wise pastoral leadership the normal emotions that accompany public confession can be mistaken for the working of the Holy Spirit.
    • That’s in a worship service. It’s usually a healthy thing when this happens in a small group (although here, too, it can sometimes normalize sin and minimize the transforming power of grace).

Here is my suggestion to you: today or tomorrow examine your conscience and identify a specific sin to confess. Meditate upon the sin until you clearly see its wrongness. Then this week find a fellow believer (perhaps in Chi Alpha, perhaps in your church) and confess the sin to them. Then ask them to pray for you that God will liberate you from the power of that sin. See what happens and iterate moving forward.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 214

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Revolt of the Feminist Law Profs (Wesley Yang, Chronicle of Higher Education): “The sex bureaucracy, in other words, pivoted from punishing sexual violence to imposing a normative vision of ideal sex, to which students are held administratively accountable.” This is a very good piece.
  2. Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders (George Brahm, Cogent Christianity: “I’ve been saying for 20 years (and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.”
  3. Jeffrey Epstein and When to Take Conspiracies Seriously (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “Most conspiracy theories are false. But often some of the things they’re trying to explain are real.” Refreshing sanity.
  4. Deportation of a Chaldean Christian to Iraq, and where he died, gets some decent coverage (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “The more you look into this story, the more disturbing it gets. Mindy Belz, reporting for World, wrote that a third country had offered to take Aldaoud but that U.S. immigration authorities refused. Putting him on a plane to Najaf was an intentional twist of cruelty. Apparently, it was not an accident that he was sent there instead of Baghdad.”
  5. The Last Days of John Allen Chau (Alex Perry, Outside Magazine): “.…to those who know the tribes best, John’s mission did not spell the end of the Sentinelese. To them, he represented a possible means of survival.“ Chi Alpha makes an appearance in this article. Related links back in volumes 179 and 180.
  6. Jeff Bezos is quietly letting his charities do something radical — whatever they want (Theodore Schleifer, Vox Recode): “Giving $100 million to nonprofits based on little provided information and then letting them run with it sounds, on its face, like a recipe for disaster. It conjures the image of fat‐and‐happy charity leaders milking extravagant salaries from others’ generosity, or profligate spending on extraneous overhead — or even outright fraud…. Well, here’s the surprise: Multiple experts told Recode this strategy actually makes a lot of sense. They think philanthropies should give nonprofits substantially more leeway.”
    1. Related(ish): Missional Misconception #1 (Support Figures) (Seth Callahan, personal blog): “If the [Post Office] were a non‐profit, faith‐based organization, with all of their employees being responsible to cover their own operating costs… then each employee would need to have a monthly support level of $11,837.69. That figure does not represent what your mailman gets PAID, mind you. It is how much it COSTS for your mailman to perform the services that are required of him: transportation and storage of goods, packing supplies, vehicle maintenance, healthcare, retirement, social security…etc. His take‐home pay (what he lives off of) is a small percentage of those operating costs.”
  7. The Religious Hunger of the Radical Right (Tara Isabella Burton, New York Times): “Unlike Islamist jihadists, the online communities of incels, white supremacists and anti‐Semitic conspiracy theorists make no metaphysical truth claims, do not focus on God and offer no promise of an afterlife or reward. But they fulfill the functions that sociologists generally attribute to a religion: They give their members a meaningful account of why the world is the way it is.” 

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Planet of Cops (Freddie de Boer, personal blog): “The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7…. I don’t know how people can simultaneously talk about prison abolition and restoring the idea of forgiveness to literal criminal justice and at the same time turn the entire social world into a kangaroo court system.” First shared in volume 161.

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Celebration of Discipline: Service

book cover - Celebration Of Discipline

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer‐reading‐project‐2019. The schedule is online.

This week we come to the discipline of service — the habit of “quietly and unpretentiously… caring for the needs of others.” (page 130).

This is a solid chapter and full of insights.

“Of all the classical Spiritual Disciplines, service is the most conducive to the growth of humility. When we set out on a consciously chosen course of action that accents the good of others and is, for the most part, a hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirits.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 130

As I sometimes remark, “God’s plan A for your life is humility. Plan B is humiliation. Choose wisely.” Pursuing humility through service is countercultural at an ambitious place like Stanford, and so we need to constantly remind ourselves of the model of our Lord. Jesus showed us that leaders are examples and not exceptions. A position of leadership does not exempt us from service — it gives us an opportunity to serve more people.

How can we tell if we are using a position as a platform for service? Robert Greenleaf, who was an executive at AT&T, wrote

“The best test [of your servant leadership], and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader

The passage I found most helpful, though, is Foster’s insight on the difference between serving and being a servant:

“When we choose to serve, we are still in charge. We decide whom we will serve and when we will serve. And if we are in charge, we will worry a great deal about anyone stepping on us, that is, taking charge over us. But when we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.”

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, page 132

Years ago someone told me that one of the truest tests of your servanthood is how you react when you are treated like a servant. It stuck with me, probably because I had recently felt the sting of being taken for granted. I had been treated like a servant and it bothered me, which meant that I did not yet see myself as a servant. In Philippians 2:7 we are taught that Jesus took “the very nature of a servant” (NIV). I came to see that if my goal was to have the very nature of a servant, then being treated like a servant was actually a marker of success.

What prevents this from becoming destructive is recognizing that although we are servants we are not serving the whims of people. Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” He gets at the same idea in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. ”

In other words, our ultimate service is to the Lord. This limits the way we serve any specific person. I must not serve others in a way that undermines my ability to fulfill God’s purposes in my life.

  • I will help you move but not on my son’s birthday. I owe service to you but I also owe service to my son, and I owe him greater priority in service than I do to you. God has made me my son’s father and so my obligations in that regard will sometimes trump my obligations to serve you.
  • You don’t need to give your friend a ride to the airport when you are supposed to be taking an exam. Christ brought you to Stanford and you need to honor that part of His call upon your life.
  • And seeing yourself as servant doesn’t imply that you should only apply for minimum wage service jobs. If God is calling you to become a professor or an entrepreneur or a doctor or whatever, pursue that wholeheartedly and do what you need to do to prepare for that — and serve people at every step along the way.

Applying this principle requires wisdom, because if you are sufficiently clever you can justify forgoing almost any act of service or expression of humility. That’s really the clue, though. If you’re constantly seeking a way to avoid serving then you don’t have the heart of a servant, so stop rationalizing and start serving. If your heart, however, does not first say “must I?” but “can I?” when you see an opportunity to serve, then you are in little danger of using this principle to indulge your selfishness.

Next week we come to the corporate disciplines — the way that we live life together in the Kingdom.