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Why God Is a Lousy Buddhist

buddhaHave you ever wondered if you’d be happier if only you didn’t care about things so much? I have.

Last year I led discussion groups as a teaching assistant. I felt horribly anxious before class and often felt disappointed in my performance afterward. I also had a hard time giving constructive criticism. The source of all these problems was my desperate desire to be liked. I wanted the students to think I was a great teacher, which, ironically, probably made me a worse teacher than I would have been otherwise.

My experience would seem to demonstrate the Buddhist claim that non-attachment is the way to avoid suffering. If I were less attached to my students’ opinions, I would not have suffered that anxiety.
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Eight Tips on Great Leadership

ThinkstockPhotos-482715532I was recently on a panel of business and ministry leaders in Charlotte, N.C., hosted by the Charlotte Christian Chamber of Commerce. The assignment of the panelists was to answer this question: “What is the best advice you ever got?” Here’s an edited transcript of my answer:

Learn to Tell Stories. Great leaders are great storytellers. Mark 4:34 says that “Jesus did not speak to them except in parables.” The songwriter and novelist Andrew Peterson is fond of saying, “If you want someone to hear the truth, tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.” The Greek philosopher Damon of Athens wrote thousands of years ago, “Give me the songs of a people and I care not who writes its laws.” We are wired to respond to story. Great leaders understand that and carefully pick and tell stories to reinforce their leadership messages.

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Makoto Fujimura Sheds New Light on a Classic Novel

9780830844593I have a confession to make: I have never read Shusako Endo's great 20th-century novel "Silence" (currently being made into a movie by Martin Scorcese). It isn't a case of just not having gotten around to it yet. I've actively avoided it.

The reason is, I've been afraid.

Set in 17th-century Japan and based on real historical figures, "Silence" tells the story of the Portuguese priest Sebastian Rodrigues. After word arrives that Ferreira, a fellow Jesuit who was serving as a missionary to Japan, has apostatized under torture, Rodrigues and two others travel to the country to learn more. But before long they too find themselves betrayed, imprisoned, and tortured. To save other Christians from a cruel fate, Rodrigues is forced to step on a fumi-e, a block on which an image of Jesus is carved.
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'Star Trek Beyond' Concentrates on What's Best about Humanity

b085a577b5df0f246658c439bdecb04114dee719f9a601571552e399d6bd0d24Star Trek Beyond” opens with an away mission as doomed as Captain James T. Kirk's yellow shirt, which—of course—gets ripped in the opening scene. The obligatory Captain-Kirk's-tissue-paper-shirts joke is not only an amusing callback, it’s actually a setup for one of the primary concerns of the film.

This is emblematic of the whole movie, which both lovingly pays tribute to its roots and offers a strong original story. The writing by Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) and director Justin Lin adds humor, thoughtfulness, and some interesting ideas about human purpose and virtues that make it worth watching, either for a fan of the original Star Trek series or for the average moviegoer.

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Turning Back the Clock Is Not the Answer

usa-flag-on-cracked-brick-wall-100228849This article originally ran at The Stream. Reprinted with permission.

So far in July, the U. S. State Department issued warnings to Americans traveling to Laos, Venezuela, South Sudan, Mali, Iraq and Bangladesh. We expect that the State Department would do this sort of thing to keep American citizens safe.

What we don’t expect is other countries issuing warnings about travel to the United States. Yet in light of the shootings of African Americans by police and the resulting protests and attacks on police, Bahrain, the Bahamas and the United Arab Emirates did exactly that. Be careful, they’re telling their citizens, avoid large crowds, “exercise extreme caution in . . . interactions with the police.” America is a dangerous place.

What’s the matter with us? John Stonestreet said it well in a recent BreakPoint broadcast: “These horrible events are not creating unrest; rather they are revealing it. Our society is weak in its middle -- at the ‘social glue’ level of local communities and civil society.”
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If Unprotesting Coexistence with Industrialized Murder Is the Symptom, What Is Our Disease?

ThinkstockPhotos-77734668“When we shrink from the sight of something, when we shroud it in euphemism, that is usually a sign of inner conflict, of unsettled hearts, a sign that something has gone wrong in our moral reasoning.”

* * *

The above is an astute observation, all the more impressive for describing in 50 words or less the chief reason we're still letting abortion flourish 40-plus years after Roe v. Wade: There's something terribly wrong with our moral reasoning.

But it came from a book titled “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.”
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'Genius' Paints an Unusual, Moving Portrait of a Quiet Man

genius-berlin-film-festivalWhen you hear the word "genius," what comes to mind? Perhaps an Einstein or a Beethoven, with wild eyes and wild hair, living in a constant fever of creative energy. With such an image, in general, comes a host of other images -- of someone who insists on living with unbounded freedom, free of restraints or burdens, able to act and create just as he or she sees fit. And with that are bound up a whole bundle of slightly less savory ideas: neglected families, overburdened friends, unpaid debts, unmet obligations . . . all the fallout from unlimited freedom that winds up making others less free.

Is this how it has to be? One movie, based on a true story, suggests otherwise.
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A Sermon in Response to Recent Events

[A note from John Stonestreet: I was privileged last Sunday, July 10, to hear Canon Williams deliver this outstanding sermon in response to the horrific events of last week. I have asked and received permission from Canon Williams to reprint the following excerpts.]

It’s been a breathtaking, deeply disturbing, tragic, and sorrowful week for our nation. No sooner had we finished our annual celebration of Independence Day than we began to awaken daily to a barrage of assaults on life and liberty in our own age. . . .

My home state of Iowa made national news because freedom of religious speech for Christians has come under a frontal assault by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which has added public worship services to their list of “public accommodations” included in their governmental anti-discrimination law.

[Then we saw] the grievous tragedies of the sniper murders of five Dallas police officers and wounding of seven others -- depriving wives and families of their husbands, fathers and providers -- by a deeply disturbed, angry, and deranged man; coupled with the controversial shootings of two black men by police in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, threatening to further enflame the already volatile climate between African-American and law enforcement communities.
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A Speech to the Western Conservative Summit

This speech was delivered July 3, 2016.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor to be back for a third time to the Western Conservative Summit. I’m calling my brief remarks today “The Political Illusion: Choosing Christianity Over Ideology.”

Let me begin by noting that the Western CONSERVATIVE Summit operates under the authority of Colorado CHRISTIAN University. That’s an authority we should take seriously. We move into dangerous territory when we allow any political ideology, even conservatism, to have authority over our Christian worldview. We should never forget that what we conservatives are conserving is a Christian understanding of the world, a Christian worldview.
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Finding the Spot Where We Belong

photo-40[Editor's Note: This article first ran at The Key Ministry website as "The Church (and the Floor) That Hold Up Max."]

Something happened at church. Or perhaps what you need to know is, what didn’t happen.

I pulled up to the church and Max bounced out of the car swinging his favorite vacuum. Several people were unsuspectingly milling around by the front door, exchanging greetings. “Watch out for the people!” I yelled behind Max as I watched his 8-pound Oreck swing like a ten ton wrecking ball. I fully expected to see the crowd part like the Red Sea, people diving into the bushes head first as Max and his vacuum bolted toward them. But instead, they extended their arms for a handshake, or a pat on his back.

Every time I walk through the doors of our church I remember the years we lived in isolation, and the five years of staying home on Sunday mornings when we could not find our place. Autism held us hostage. But it is not a bitter memory; it is the soil from which God grew a victory. When I cross that threshold now with Max, it feels like holy ground.
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Christian Responses from around the Web

We are gathering a few of the many Christian responses to the terrorist attack in Orlando that has so far claimed the lives of 50 people. We will be adding links throughout the week, so please check back.

Russell Moore
"After Orlando, Can We Still Weep Together?"
RussellMoore.com


"We woke up Sunday morning to news of the worst mass shooting in American history, as a terrorist murdered and injured over a hundred people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. In the aftermath, we’ve seen some of the best aspects of America: people lining up, for example, to give blood for the victims. We’ve also seen some of the worst—as the aftermath turned into an excuse for social media wars over everything from gun control to presidential politics. What I wonder is whether the country still has the capacity to grieve, together, in moments of national crisis."
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How to Fight the Spirit of the Age

ID-100130371“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” Kate DiCamillo, “The Tale of Despereaux

You could write another angry update and post it like a swinging sword, hoping to nick the ear (or better) of your Facebook frenemies. Or, you could do something that helps.

You could record a video of yourself in your car, eloquently ranting about the damage that some damnable government or business policy does. Or you could help build something.

You can grumble and moan, echoing the angry orators on TV and radio, and follow them in their campaign of impotent, self-satisfied rage. Or you could engage in the cleverest act of treason against the Spirit of the Age.
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Bathroom Wars and the Theology of Pious Retreat

ThinkstockPhotos-520618377(For part one of this article, go here.)

First of all, we should get this straight: Acquiescing to the demands of the LGBT lobby, particularly when those demands involve collectively pretending that reality is flexible, isn’t loving or dignified. It’s giving deluded people enough rope with which to hang themselves.

Proverbs 24:11 speaks of rescuing those “who are being led away to death,” and holding back those “who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Gibson and others beating a pious retreat conflate love for sinners with affirming and enabling self-deception and destruction. If it makes transgender folks happy, they reason, it must be loving! It isn’t our job to tell them otherwise, or refuse their demands that society play along with their delusions.

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Bathroom Wars and the Theology of Pious Retreat

ID-10018338Most of us have probably come across posts like this one on social media. Greg Gibson, creator of Veritas Press and lead planter for Veritas City Church in Washington, D.C., offers “eight reasons why [Christians] should not boycott Target, and why we should chill out a bit.” It’s characteristic of articles and posts I’ve seen from pastors, Christian friends, and hip millennial bloggers, all reacting to the transgender bathroom controversy with a resounding “meh.”

No doubt this outré attitude ingratiates these writers with their secular neighbors. It’s easy to accept pats on the back while looking down one’s nose at benighted culture warriors swinging the rusty cutlass of Jerry Falwell. But it’s a radical departure from how most Christians have always viewed our place in society—one reminiscent of another, very particular tradition. Knowing what I’m talking about could give you an insight on where we, as the church, are headed.

A piece in RELEVANT says it all: Christians Shouldn’t Be Culture’s Morality Police.”
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Max McLean Plays C. S. Lewis in 'The Most Reluctant Convert'

5744-rt-dc-1200x800-768x512One might say that Max McLean knows C. S. Lewis in ways that few other people do. Not only has he produced dramatizations of “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Great Divorce” (and starred in the former), but he’s now playing the man himself. His new show, “C. S. Lewis Onstage: The Most Reluctant Convert,” has just had its world premiere at the Lansburgh Theatre in Washington, D.C. In it, McLean takes us through Lewis’s journey from childhood faith, to atheism, back to faith again, using Lewis’ own words.

“’Surprised by Joy’ is the basic outline of the piece,” McLean told me in an interview. In particular, he and his team at Fellowship for Performing Arts relied heavily on an early, “much more raw” version of Lewis’s spiritual autobiography. Additional sources included “The Problem of Pain” and Lewis’s letters and essays (the latter were particularly useful for providing dialogue). They strove to capture the fighting spirit of Lewis, the side of him that loved the “ruthless dialectic” taught to him by his old tutor, W. T. Kirkpatrick. “This Lewis is not a laidback Lewis,” McLean promises.
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