on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: February 1-7

Among the things that happened this past week in American Restoration Heritage history …

February 1

Feb. 1, 1763Thomas Campbell is born to Archibald & Alice (McNally) Campbell in County Down in northern Ireland. Thomas’ father, Archibald, is a Catholic who has converted to the Church of England. Archibald is by no means well-to-do, and so, when a Seceder of great means by the name of John Kinley befriends Archibald and takes a shine to obviously bright, young Thomas and offers to pay for Thomas’ college education, Archibald accepts. However, Kinley’s offer is not without strings: the proviso is that Thomas will receive training for ministry – as a Presbyterian. [A ‘Seceder’ is one who is a member of the Church of Secession; the Presbyterian Church.] Consequently, young Thomas will enter the prestigious University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1780 and will graduate from there in 1783, and through the course of five more years of study (1786-1791) at the Whitburn Seceder Seminary, Thomas will depart from his father’s church faith and will embrace the Anti-Burgher branch of the Presbyterian Church.

While at Whitburn, Thomas will study more than theology, for he will come to meet, and soon marry (1787), a young woman by the name of Jane Corneigle. They will waste little time in starting a family and will welcome the birth of their firstborn child, Alexander, just fourteen months later.

Nineteen years later, due to reasons of health, a doctor will suggest to Thomas to move to the United States, and Thomas does just that in 1807. Upon meeting with the Synod in Philadelphia, he is warmly embraced and encouraged to preach in Washington County, Pennsylvania. However, he finds the Presbyterian Church deeply fragmented there and Thomas’ experience with deeply entrenched mindsets that allow no room whatsoever for differing groups to even occasionally worship together greatly distresses him. He is thus motivated to set about all the more to strongly encourage oneness and togetherness between the splinter groups. For his efforts, he will be put on trial by the presbytery and will be rebuked. He will appeal to the Synod, and they will give him an acquittal – coupled with an additional word of chastisement.

Predictably, Thomas will soon quit the Presbyterian Church. He is now, so to speak, a man without a denomination.

We’ll revisit Thomas and his life in future posts. It is enough to say at this point that it is Thomas Campbell who will soon come to coin the phrase that will become the idealistic watchword among those of the Restoration Heritage:

“Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”

Oh, and for those who notice patterns in life connected with birth order, it is interesting to note that Thomas Campbell is a firtsborn child, as is his even far more influential son, Alexander.

February 2

Feb. 2, 1842 – On this day near Ozark (what is now Christian County), Missouri, James Harvey (‘J.H.’) Garrison is born to Baptist parents James Calvin & Diana (Kyle) Garrison. Along with several of his brothers, J.H. will grow up to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. Shortly after the Confederate Army’s victory in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek – fought in J.H.’s home county (Aug. 10, 1861) – he will enlist as a Private in Co. F of the U.S.A., 24th Missouri Infantry. Serving throughout the rest of the Civil War he will ultimately exit at the rank of Major in the U.S.A., 8th Missouri Cavalry. His transfer from infantry to cavalry service comes as a result of suffering a serious leg wound during the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862.

Following the war, J.H. will enter Abingdon College and will marry a classmate, Judith Elizabeth Garrett, within days after graduation in 1868. During his time at Abingdon he will leave the Baptist tradition and will embrace a Restoration perspective.

J.H.’s influence among those of a moderate mind in the Restoration Heritage is substantial, being felt most mightily through his multi-decade editorship of (and over sixty years of writing for) the Christian-Evangelist (CE). In the words of one of J.H.’s biographers, William E. Tucker, during J.H.’s involvement with the CE it is known as “… the pre-eminent journal in shaping religious opinion among Disciples.”

February 3

Feb. 3, 1886Marshall Clement (“M.C.”) Kurfees begins preaching with the Campbell Street Church of Christ in Louisville, Kentucky. He will preach there until his death in February 1931, the longest known ministry of the time of any one minister with a church in the Restoration Heritage.

While ministering at Campbell Street, Kurfees will also serve as one of Gospel Advocate’s editors (1908-1924) and will author a book against instrumental music entitled Instrumental Music in the Worship (published in 1911, the same year his wife, Sallie [Eddy] Kurfees, will die). He will also collect and publish in book form (1921) many of the questions answered by David Lipscomb and E.G. Sewell (Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell).

February 4

Feb. 4, 1831 – In Merton, Ohio, Thomas Campbell writes a letter to Sidney Rigdon, a preacher who, though once associated with the Restoration Heritage, has gone over to following Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka: Mormons). Part of Campbell’s letter reads:

“It may seem strange, that instead of a confidential and friendly visit, after so long an absence, I should thus address, by letter one whom for many years I have considered not only as a courteous and benevolent friend, but as a beloved brother and fellow-laborer in the gospel; but, alas! how changed and fallen! … you … the professed disciple and public teacher of the infernal Book of Mormon …

“I, therefore, as in duty bound … shall hold myself in readiness, if the Lord permit, to meet you publicly, in any place … and defend against Mormonism and every other ism that has been assumed since the Christian era … we have no more need for … Mormonism, or any other ism, than we have for three eyes, three ears, three hands, or three feet, in order to see, hear, work, or walk.”

It is reported that when Rigdon received Campbell’s letter that after reading a few sentences he “hastily committed it to the flames.”

February 5

Feb. 5, 1942 – Persistent through the years within the Restoration Heritage is the myth that Abraham Lincoln was baptized by Restoration Heritage minister, John O’Kane. This myth has its roots in a letter by G. M. Wiemer that first appeared on this day in 1942 in the Christian-Evangelist (CE). The letter reads:

“I met Brother John O’Kane who was state evangelist in Illinois. It was at a convention. We were together about all the time. The Lincoln matter as to whether he [Lincoln] had ever been baptized came up. Brother O’Kane told me one day, ‘Yes, Brother Weimer, I know all about the affair. On the night before Lincoln was to be baptized his wife cried all night. So the matter was deferred, as she thought. But soon after Lincoln and I took extra clothing and took a buggy ride. I baptized him in a creek near Springfield, Illinois. We changed to dry clothing and returned to the city. And by his request, I placed his name on the church book. He lived and died a member of the church of Christ.'”

Concerning this account, and after careful research, Jim Martin has concluded: “It appears then, that in spite of legends, speculations, and wishful thinking, Abraham Lincoln was not extraordinarily close to the Restoration Movement. In the only public document in which Lincoln ever gave personal testimony about his religious views, he said simply, ‘That I am not a member of any Christian church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.’ It is perhaps fitting that his handbill published in 1846 to refute the charge of ‘infidelity’ also refutes overzealous churchmen eager to bring Lincoln into the fold.” (Restoration Quarterly 38.2)

February 6

Feb. 6, 1846Austin McGary is born to Methodist parents, Isaac & Elizabeth McGary in Huntsville, Texas. His father is a Texas hero, and Austin’s life will also drip with difficulty and drama. His mother will die when he is only seven. His father will die before Austin turns twenty. Austin will join the military and serve in Confederate cavalry (6th Texas Cavalry Battalion [Gould’s] and the 35th Texas Cavalry Regiment [Brown’s]), but will never see combat. Following the Civil War he will marry three times, outliving his first two wives (Cyrene Jenkins [dying in 1873] and Lucie Kitrell [passing in 1897]). He will father at least eleven children, but several of them will die before adulthood. He will be employed for two years, at about the age of thirty, as the sheriff of Madison County, TX and will then go on to be employed by the state of Texas to transport prisoners to the prison in Huntsville, a job that will continue to expose him to constant danger. Prior to becoming a sheriff he had killed a man in Midway, TX (1869) and once while sheriff he killed again (1787) for the same reason, self-defense.

In his mid-thirties (1881) McGary will take up, for the first time in his life, a serious inquiry into faith. Part of his research leads him to reading the Campbell-Owen debate (Owen being a famous skeptic). While reading this book, McGary will go to hear a series of sermons in Madisonville, Texas by Restoration Heritage preacher Harry Hamilton and will submit to baptism by Hamilton on Christmas Eve, 1881. However, within a couple of years McGary will come to question his baptism’s validity due to his awareness that he and Hamilton disagree on some matters. As a result, he will seek “rebaptism” at the hands of another Restoration Heritage minister, W.H.D. Carrington. However, quite quickly (by 1884), McGary will seriously question whether his baptism by Carrington is valid. Still, there is no record of McGary being baptized again by any other.

He will take up preaching in 1883 and will begin (September 1, 1884) editing and publishing a weekly paper entitled the Firm Foundation (FF). His stated objective, through the FF and otherwise, is:

“… to oppose everything in the work and worship of the church, for which there was not a command or an apostolic example or a necessary scriptural inference.”

The FF‘s readership will grow rapidly and will become the dominant (and most strident) written voice in the Texas Restoration Heritage. It will vary some in content and tone through the years as editorships change, but the FF will continue in publication until 2010, a 126 year run.

In his preaching and writing, McGary earns a reputation as a firebrand, rabble-rouser, and something like an angry man … and a great many people in the Texas Restoration Heritage at the time love it so. While he is, in the words of one historian, “rabid” in his opposition to missionary societies and the use of instrumental music, McGary’s objections regarding the subjects of baptism are equally full of wrath. He will viciously, verbally attack those who do not agree with him on this matter, David Lipscomb and the Gospel Advocate (GA) in particular (understand, the GA has a large circulation in Texas). As an example, he will refer “with charity” (McGary’s choice of words) to Lipscomb as “a religious reprobate of the most hypocritical cast,” inhabited by a “demoniacal spirit.”

How is that? Understand that Lipscomb, and most Restoration Heritage churches, believe it is totally unnecessary for those who have already been immersed in water when coming to faith in Christ, though it took place within another tribe (e.g. – the Baptist Church), to be immersed again when coming to a Restoration Heritage church family. Most churches and preachers actively discourage such “rebaptisms.” However, McGary considers rebaptism essential; to not rebaptize is to simply “shake in the Baptists” and is therefore, heresy and hypocrisy.

Ironically, though great numbers of Tennesseans influenced by Lipscomb and the GA will migrate to Texas during this time and will either start or join Restoration Heritage churches in the state, it is McGary’s perspective that will win the field and become the new, dominant view regarding baptism not only within the vast majority of Texas congregations, but, in time, within the majority of churches of the branch of the Restoration Heritage that will become known as southern Churches of Christ. To be sure, this battle continues to be fought in some quarters today, but the consensus view has radically shifted due to McGary’s efforts.

It is through an invitation made by McGary and J.W. Jackson that J.D. Tant will arrive in Austin, Texas in 1887 and will conduct a meeting, the result of which is the sealing of division between those of a Restoration Heritage perspective in the state capital. The group that leaves an existing congregation is led by McGary and Jackson and it is this group who make up the core of people who begin the University Avenue Church of Christ. The group left behind will be known as the Central Christian Church.

However, McGary’s slash-and-burn ways will catch up with him and in 1900 he will be forced to resign, due to his harshness, as editor of the paper he began, the FF. And yet, especially in McGary’s last years of life, the 1920’s, he will largely change his views and tone and will actively seek reconciliation with some of those he had editorially crucified for many years. In 1923, six years after Lipscomb’s death, he will have published in the GA, an open apology for how he dealt with brethren through the years. To seal his repentance, and in a remarkable display of reconciliation, he will spend some of his last few years of life writing for the paper he had long despised and vilified, the GA. However, his change has little effect on the brotherhood’s understanding of baptism; rather brethren will continue to cling to McGary’s original view of baptism and will view those who differ on the matter with a strong eye of suspicion.

[Sidebar: * Austin McGary’s father, Isaac, had fought in the Battle of San Jacinto (8th Company [Kimbro’s], 2nd Regiment). The 2nd Regiment led the Texan’s attack on the Mexican Army and first offered up that day’s battle cry, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” Upon his sudden death in 1866, Isaac was buried in Galveston and his grave was one of those washed away by the hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1900. * We must realize just how close these matters are to us in terms of the span of a lifetime. McGary’s third wife (Lillian Otey, whom he married in 1897), died in 1959 in Huntsville, TX (where she and Austin are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, also the resting place of Sam Houston’s body).]

February 7

Feb. 7, 1825 – In his publication known as the Christian Baptist (CB), Alexander Campbell, Sr. will begin a long series of articles which will prove to become highly influential, and truly pivotal, to a great many. The series is entitled “A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.” As a part of this first article Campbell will write:

“It is obvious to the most superficial observer, who is at all acquainted with the state of christianity and of the church of the New Testament, that much, very much is wanting … In what this deficiency consists, and how it is to be remedied, or whether it can be remedied at all, are the points to be discovered and determined. … We know very well that nothing can be done right which is not done according to the gospel, or done effectually which is not done by the authority, and accompanied by the blessing of God. …

“Human systems, whether of philosophy or religion, are proper subjects of reformation; but christianity cannot be reformed. Every attempt to reform christianity is like an attempt to create a new sun, or to change the revolutions of the heavenly bodies – unprofitable and vain. In a word we have had reformations enough. The very name has become as offensive as the term ‘Revolution’ in France.

“A RESTORATION of the ancient order of things is all that is necessary to the happiness and usefulness of christians. No attempt ‘to reform the doctrine, discipline, and government of the church,’ (a phrase too long in use,) can promise a better result … the thing proposed, is to bring the christianity and the church of the present day up to the standard of the New Testament. This is in substance, though in other terms, what we contend for. To bring the societies of christians up to the New Testament, is just to bring the disciples, individually and collectively, to walk in the faith, and in the commandments of the Lord and Saviour, as presented in that blessed volume; and this is to restore the ancient order of things.” (CB, vol. II, p. 136)

links: this went thru my mind

Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, veterans & war: The Truth About the Wars

“If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.”

Church, expectations, inclusion, mission, perceptions & welcome: 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

“Churches — like individuals — are called to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and discern a clear and specific mission to where Jesus is calling them to act. Many times churches actually do have in mind a particular subset of people with whom they’d like repopulate their congregation. Many times this particular subset looks an awful lot like the current membership of the church, albeit 20-30 years ago. Often, though, neighborhoods and needs have changed. And a vital ministry — perhaps to immigrant workers, to retired folks, to single adults — is forgotten in light of chasing the ever-elusive ‘young families.'”

Corporate worship, hymns, music & singing: My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music

“I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past.”

Economics, income inequality & politics: A Change That Isn’t Coming

“…  until the two parties put forward lasting and structural fixes for these problems the pain and outrage are only going to intensify. And as the pain grows the American electorate will continue to lash out blindly and schizophrenically, alternately punishing the party in power and hoping for a change that isn’t coming.”

Joseph Smith, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons & polygamy: It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

“The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Children & parenting: How to Raise a Kid Who Isn’t Whiny and Annoying

“I’m raising children in a privileged world. We have food. Money to save for an education. At 2, my daughter has a room that is bigger than any room I’ve ever occupied in my life. We can afford the fancy Easter dress. When we have a bad day, we can afford to get a special treat. I’m glad I’m raising a child in this environment. … But now that we are here, I wonder if we really are doing things the right way … I do know that as a parent, it begins with me. I set the limits. …

“This is where we begin. My refusal to compare myself with the other mother I see on the Internet and to build a life that embraces the important and repels the petty. And I only hope that lesson extends. If not, I am building a backlog of ‘Oh, you want to see not fair?’ lectures. Just in case.”

Christianity, church, class, race & social distinctions: The Race Card of the Early Christians – What They Can Teach Us Today [essential reading]

“For the first two hundred years, the Christians only addressed each other by their first names. The reason? Because their last names indicated their social position in society.

“Here was a classless, raceless society where all social distinctions were erased.

“To their minds, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor no longer existed. The early believers saw themselves as part of the same family . They were a new race . . . a colony from another realm, not of or from this earth. Yet for this earth.”

Church, discipleship, ministry, & success: Maybe Our Churches Need Less of ‘More’ [essential reading]

“… what if God’s metric for “good” has very little to do with ‘more?’ … Instead, I’m talking about all of the insidious ways we succumb to the pressure to do and have more.”

Doubt, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, & Mormons: Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt

“A survey of more than 3,300 Mormon disbelievers, released last year, found that more than half of the men and four in 10 of the women had served in leadership positions in the church.”

Poverty & upward mobility: In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters [consider the map, even if you don’t read the article]

“A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities … The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas. … ‘Where you grow up matters. … There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.'”

this went thru my mind

 

God & natural disasters: * What Jesus Might Say About Sandy by Mark Galli; * 5 God Excuses to Avoid After a Natural Disaster by Kent Annan [required reading]

* “”Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

* “‘We might not understand, but it’s all part of God’s plan.’ Or ‘It was meant to be.’ … do we want the kind of God that the logic of our straw-patched statements creates?”

Millenials: The Care and Keeping of 20somethings by Nicole Unice

“…  how does a leader of any age work with 20somethings? What do they offer us, and what can we offer them? In my own practice of counseling and ministry, I’ve found there are four essentials to understanding the next generation.”

Latter Day Saints/Mormons: Ministering to Mormons

“If we are going to be effective in reaching this culture, we can’t simply try to change people’s doctrine. While doctrine is important, reaching Mormons is not primarily a doctrinal issue. Mormonism affects a person’s entire worldview. So we have had to think deeply about how we address their culture, not just attack their beliefs.”

Muslims & world population: The Future of the Global Muslim Population

“The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years … Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades.”

Sharing the good news: Evangelism with the Never-Churched by Jack Jackson

“When evangelism is seen as a journey lived in relationships, never-churched persons can address their questions, hear the gospel articulated, and then respond to the invitation to take the next step in faith.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church & young adults: The Church’s Doomed Pursuit of the Elusive Young Adult by Bruce Reyes-Chow

“… before we journey too far down the path of our young adults expedition, I would offer three faulty assumptions that many of us make when thinking about young adults and the future of the church.”

Church decline: The Perfect Storm That is Resulting in Declining Churches by Matt Dabbs

“Those seven things combine to make the perfect storm for church decline. So what are we going to do about it?”

Culture, fear, history, morality & the United States: “America is Going Downhill Fast” . . . and Other Stupid Statements by C. Michael Patton

“… nostalgia is a common condition among us politically conservative Christians. ‘If we could only get back to the way things used to be.’ If we could only see how America is going downhill fast. … Am I missing something about the glory days?”

Mormonism: Why Mormonism is not Christianity– the Issue of Christology by Ben Witherington

“I would encourage you to read carefully through the statement at the link below by a practicing Mormon scholar, presented at Harvard Divinity School a few years ago. … Please note that these views, as expressed by Mr. Millet are not unusual or eccentric, rather they are typical.”

Neil Armstrong: Another Look: Walking On The Moon by Jeff Dunn

“Here is where I separate myself from the moonwalkers. I do not have to travel away from this planet in order to have my otherworldly experience.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church: * Confidence in U.S. Churches Hits All-Time Low by Allison J. Althoff; * Online Church: The Pros and Cons by Url Scaramanga

* “Confidence in U.S. churches hits all-time low. But organized religion still ranks higher than U.S. citizens’ confidence in public schools, banks, and television news.”

* “Why go to a church service when you can watch online?”

Cliches: Cliches Christians Should Avoid by Christian Pitt (parts 1, 2 & 3)

“These are not intended to tell you to believe or not believe a certain set of things. Christians have a Public Relations problem; that much is self-evident. So in as much as I can respond to that, I want to offer these as advice on how to change the way we approach people about our faith.”

Elites & meritocracy: Why Our Elites Stink by David Brooks

“Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.”

Exceptionalism: On American Exceptionalism

“Here’s a good collection by Uri Friedman of major statements in the history of the USA on it’s exceptionalism.”

Illustration: Never Run Out of Altitude, Airspeed and Options at the Same Time by Paul Smith

“… this is real stuff, not just theory. I still have a little altitude, my airspeed is not critical at this point, and I have at least a couple of options. I hope that if you are struggling right now you are blessed with the same good fortune.”

Medicaid: Texas Governor Rejects Medicaid Expansion by Larry James

“Poor people don’t do very well in Texas in any category.”

Medicine: Medicine in the Ancient World by Sarah K. Yeomans

“… entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world. So what exactly did ancient cultures do to combat disease and injury, and did these methods have any real basis in science as we know it today? The answers may surprise you.”

Mormons: How the Mormons Make Money by Caroline Winter

“Mormons make up only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population, but the church’s holdings are vast.”

Packing & travel: How to Pack Your Suitcase to Avoid Wrinkles

“One word: Plastic. If you remember only one word in your packing efforts, this is the one. And here’s why: friction causes wrinkling, plastic reduces friction. It’s that easy. The best way to utilize this basic plastic physics is with dry-cleaner bags. All hanger items should be packed in individual bags (one outfit per dry-cleaner bag).”

Parenting: 11 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Children by Trey Morgan

“#4. Never discipline your children just threaten them with it. Discipline is overrated. Just always threaten to punish them without ever following through.”

Rome: 6 Christian Sites in Rome You Should Know About by Wayne Stiles

“Rome is famous for the standard sites tourists see. The Trevi Fountain, the Forum, Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, the Pantheon—and innumerable other historic places lay alongside modern streets and buildings. But I’d like to show you 6 Christian sites, those sites relevant to believers, including one place that isn’t even on the map.”

Prayer: Praying that Makes a Difference by Gordon MacDonald

“… do you believe that prayer changes things?”

Small groups: Five Characteristics of Transformative Small Groups by Ed Stetzer

“Though Christians experience the need for authentic community, they often need nudging to acknowledge and live in the reality of that need – not unlike many of us who understand our need for exercise, but require encouragement to participate and, thus, enjoy the benefits! In the church setting, small groups provide an opportunity to encourage people into life-changing community. However, the significance of small groups goes beyond the benefits of personal life change and becomes crucial for the transformational church.”

this went thru my mind

 

Andy Griffith: * Andy Griffith: A Life Remembered; * Sheriff Who Gave Stature to Small-Town Smarts; * ‘Andy Griffith’ Theme Song Also; * What Faith, Family Meant to Andy Griffith; * Andy Griffith: Celebrity Profile

Archaeology: Temple Mount Time Bomb

“… ordinary cement was used in the repairs of walls and pavements. Large areas of new pavement have been laid in the southern part of the Temple Mount, again with ordinary cement in between the joints. This causes a greater flow toward the outer walls, which simply cannot absorb so much water. … It is only a matter of time when large sections of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount will collapse. When that happens, the Muslims will predictably incriminate the Israelis, when, in fact, they only have themselves to blame.”

Calvinism: Why are Young People So Drawn to Calvinism? by Matt Dabbs

“Calvinism is all over the place. Many of the best known young preachers are Calvinists. Many of the most well read blogs are from a Calvinist perspective. … What is the story?”

Change & the United States: Things I Would Change About America If I Could by Ben Witherington

“I could easily come up with another top twenty, but let’s fix these things first.”

Counseling: How Pastor-Counselors Differ from Secular Counselors by Justin Taylor

“Every counselor brings a ‘message’: an interpretation of problems, a theory that weighs causalities and context, a proposal for cure, a goal that defines thriving humanness.”

Dreams: Are Your Big Dreams as Big as Your God? by Wayne Stiles

“As Christians, we have more to do than get up, work hard, and come home for a few hours of television … only to rise and begin again.”

Fireworks: * How Fireworks Work ; * The U.S. Spends $600 Million on Fireworks [infographic]

Flags, patriotism & worship: * If You Love That Flag, Don’t Put It in the Sanctuary by Robert A. Ratcliff; * Just Jesus & Unjust July 4th: Why I Don’t Celebrate Independence Day (Annual Unpopular Post) by Kurt Willems

“… placing the flag in the sanctuary presents us with two untenable options: either ignore the flag, and treat your country with disrespect; or honor the flag and commit an act of idolatry. I’m sorry, but this is not one of those times when we can have it both ways. The only good option is the third one: leave the flag out of the sanctuary. If we love that flag, we won’t make people choose between it and God.”

* “Even if one holds to the possibility of a ‘just war,’ historically, the victory we celebrate as Americans every 4th of July, does not count. May we quit appealing to pseudo ‘just war’ theories and start appealing to just Jesus, because the only Independence Day worth celebrating is Easter – which reminds us that violence doesn’t win because the tomb is empty!”

Hospital visitation & introverts: How to Hack Your Introversion and Warmly Visit Someone in the Hospital (Even If You’ve Never Met) by Eric McKiddie

“Jesus went out of his comfort zone for you. Go out of your comfort zone …”

Humor: The Percontation Point: A Desperately Needed New Form of Punctuation by Marc Cortez

“Finally, a punctuation mark for those of us who think sarcasm is the highest form of communication but are afraid that other people will miss the point.”

Ministry: An Example to Follow by Jeff Anderle

“What if I burned up all my exit strategies and climbed up on the altar and said my life is not my own, but it belongs truly to the sheep to which you’ve called me, Lord. What if …”

Mormons: I’m a Mormon, Not a Christian by David Mason

“I want to be on record about this. I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.”

Online habits: Are People Sharing Too Much Online?

“… 78% of ex-cons believe that social media is one of the essentials steps to identify the next target.”

Prayer: A Prayer for America

Preaching: Preaching the Good News as GOOD News by John McClure

“… the heart and soul of preaching is the good news of God’s redemptive grace and mercy.”

Salvation & Southern Baptists: Thoughts about “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” by Roger Olson

“Recently a group of non-Calvinist Southern Baptists wrote and signed ‘A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation. I certainly have no objection to a group of non-Calvinists pushing back against the tidal wave of Calvinism surging over contemporary evangelical and Baptist life in the U.S. (and other places). … I have thought, upon reading some of their writings … that they are Arminians who just don’t want to wear that label. Now, however, I’m not so sure. Here is their statement about original sin and depravity …”

Social media: 15 Social Media Scams

“From Facebook phishing lures to Twitter and Tumblr hoaxes, here are 15 scams to watch out for on social networking sites.”