Thursday Roundup (4/13/17)

Today’s video features a discussion with an atheist writer about how God’s sovereignty could coexist with human free will. The weekly podcast is my last on Your Best Life Now, considering Part 7, “Choose to be Happy,” as well as looking back over the book and drawing out some overall lessons. The links of the week discuss church and work, suffering and disappointment, Christianity as a spark for social reform, and more!

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“Mercy can never be earned. Its very necessity is evoked by unworthiness, else there would be no need for it. Because we have sinned, we need mercy, not because we have obeyed. The only qualification for mercy is affliction.”
~ Bob LaForge

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Many conversations with non-Christians end up at the question of how God’s sovereignty over all things can fit together with human free will and responsibility for our own actions. It can seem like Christians want to have our cake and eat it too if we claim both that God rules over all things and that humans make real, meaningful choices in our lives—yet, the Bible seems to clearly teach both ideas.

For this latest Across the Fence video, I invited atheist writer Dan from fizzingatoms.com to join me again to discuss the question of how God could be sovereign while humans are free. (For a more systematic presentation of how these two ideas can cohere in Christian philosophy, check out this 12-minute video.)

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Answers for Ambassadors Podcast

“Choose to be Happy” is the final section of Your Best Life Now. In this episode, we consider Joel Osteen’s exhortation to be people of happiness, excellence, and integrity, then step back to draw out some lessons from our survey of Osteen’s famous book.

Answers for Ambassadors is available via SoundCloud or by searching in iTunes and most other podcast players. You can also direct your podcast player to the podcast RSS feed.

Best Reads of the Week

This piece by David French is easily the best article I’ve read about the United 341 fiasco this week. Having the right doesn’t mean you’re right.

Aaron Denlinger is not a big fan of saying you love Jesus but not the church. “Professing love for Christ but little for the church makes about as much sense as saying you like me and want to spend time with me, but really can’t stand my wife and would prefer not to have her around.”

It’s easy to glibly speak of suffering as if it is nothing more than a stressful training session—just a bit of pain and struggle, then growth! Sanctification! Closer relationship with God! It is true that suffering does shape us and grow us, but in the moment (and the moment can be long), it may simply hurt. “Suffering Is Not Magic and Mountaintops” is a helpful meditation on what it’s like to be in a time of trouble and pain with no clear resolution or end in sight.

A good reminder from Zach Barnhart: “God loves us enough to disappoint us.”

Sometimes work is “the other woman,” Samuel James warns. “It’s sobering to think how many Christians might pat themselves on the back for not being the foolish young man whom Solomon sees going by the house of the forbidden woman, when the only reason why is that they are still at the office with the ‘other woman.'”

These ten wise observations about the so-called “Billy Graham Rule” would apply more broadly to any effort to create man-made, prudential rules that help us guard against temptation.

I’ve ranted here before about the awful “You might abort a future doctor or president” pro-life argument, but this response from Jordan Standridge is particularly good.

This compelling short video answers the question, “What good is Christianity?” It’s truly remarkable how much social reform has flowed out of Christian teachings.

Relatedly, Amy Hall looks at how Christianity ultimately doomed slavery.

This piece in The Atlantic provides helpful context for the recent ISIS church bombings in Egypt which left dozens of Coptic Christians dead or wounded. “For months, the Islamic State has been accelerating the import of Iraq-style sectarian tactics to Egypt. In doing so, the group hopes to destabilize the Middle East’s most populous country and expand the reach of its by now clearly genocidal project for the region’s minorities.” Pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

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