Category Archives: Culture and Society

How do we interact with our culture and society as followers of Jesus?

Mission of the Month: Luther’s Impact on Missions

By Dietrich Gruen

This month marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed “95 Theses” to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany to protest the selling of indulgences for the forgiveness of sin. “Selling indulgences” is the widespread practice of doing good works or offering money to avoid punishment for sin. For this protest, Luther was declared a heretic and outlaw by Pope and Emperor alike in 1521. By 1529, his many followers were dubbed “protestants.” I visited Wittenberg last year; now, as the 500th anniversary of that seminal event is upon us, I explore the legacy of Luther on world missions.

95-theses-620x324

Continue reading Mission of the Month: Luther’s Impact on Missions

Brain-Hacking and True Virtue

In the article, The Strange Way Being “Good” Hurts Your Willpower featured on the blog Nir & Far, Paulette Perhach offers a brain-hacking solution to the human problem that the apostle Paul describes in Romans:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:14-19

Here is the gist of Perhach’s argument (also listed in her article):

  • Moralizing your choices as good or bad opens you up to the risk of moral licensing (moral leniency).
  • Berating yourself for being bad when you make the wrong choices only increases your chances of messing up again.
  • Labeling your behavior as getting you either closer or further away from your ultimate goals is a powerful way to get around moral licensing.
  • Congratulating yourself on your progress induces the effect of moral licensing. Using your progress instead to remind yourself how committed you are to your goal will re-up your willpower to achieve it.
  • Catching the inner voice berating your past behavior and turning it toward planning a different outcome for the next day will make you less likely to repeat that undesirable behavior and get what you really want in the long run.

jon-tyson-232630

Sounds convenient, right? However, this current cult of brain-hacking, which is the focus of myriad recently published books, is opposed to the old paths of wisdom. Parts of these old paths are mapped out in many human traditions, but they have their full expression in the Scriptures, where they flow out of salvation by grace through faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

Continue reading Brain-Hacking and True Virtue

Mission of the Month: Spring into Action

By Dietrich Gruen

In glad response to God’s grace and the opportunities set before us, continue to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13 NIV). With hearts and minds transformed by the power of the gospel, let us seize opportunities to make a difference in God’s kingdom. You may be looking for ways and places close at hand to express you deep gladness in meeting the needs of others. As theologian Frederick Buechner puts it: “Your vocation [the place God calls you] is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” In the run up to Easter, April in Madison holds a plethora of such mission opportunity. With God-given passion and purpose, let’s find our place and be creative in the stewardship of the time, resources and relationships that God has given us.

Art and Entertainment

Movies: The Shack, Facing Darkness and The Case for Christ

The movie adaption of the surprise runaway 2007 best-seller The Shack, by first-time novelist Paul Young, has been playing in theaters all March, so perhaps you have seen it already. If not, go and bring someone questioning God’s goodness in the face of suffering and judgment, tragedy and evil. The movie will raise honest questions such as, “Where was God when…?” and “What kind of God allows…?”). Then, go to the Bible for God’s honest truth in response to the questions that arise. Bring your friends, questions and Kleenex, and have an honest-to-God dialogue after seeing this provocative, tear-jerker of a movie.

A second Christian movie is coming out April 7, also based on a true story—this one of a journalist who makes The Case for Christ. Based on the bestseller by Christian apologist Lee Strobel, this movie feels like a legal thriller as the lead character tries to prove the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection, with life-altering results. As with The Shack, this movie is most profitable if accompanied with a group discussion, even a Bible study, to compare answers. To help you in this regard, check out outreach.com for products and church campaign kits to use with each movie.

A third film this Easter season, released just in time for viewing with your friends and family, is Facing Darkness. An encore presentation is showing on one night only, Monday April 10. Get more information and find showings near you here. This movie represents the true story of how God saved the lives of Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol from the deadly Ebola virus. At the end of the film, Franklin Graham shares the gospel.

elijah-flores-99207.jpg

TV series: Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery

This CNN special investigative report first aired last year, and the series is back on the air now. Archeologists investigate several artifacts crucial to, and scholars debate the claims supportive of, Jesus’ death and resurrection. This opportunity to explore faith may be more for your roommates or family who would rather not come to church, but would watch an interesting academic take on faith with you.

Faith and Culture

Home court advantage: Holy Week services at High Point Church

With the timing of Good Friday on April 14, Easter Sunday on April 16, and an earlier spring break (meaning most people are back in town), you have time and opportunity—now—to invite any new friends and neighbors to High Point Church. Remember your commitment to pray for two people in your life who need Jesus, but most importantly, that God is the one who changes hearts, transforms lives, and brings people to repentance and salvation. Good Friday service at High Point Church begins at 1pm and Easter Sunday services begin at 9am and 10:45am. Find more details on services and activities for kids at highpointchurch.org/Easter.

Away game: Lamb roast on April 8

You may have heard through the HPC Global Missions Team of a special event involving roasted lamb on April 8. Roasting a lamb is culturally common to Muslim-majority and other countries. This particular lamb roast is called Eid al-Easter, where they celebrate Abraham’s faith for being willing to sacrifice his son, while others get to state the case for Easter and Jesus as the Lamb of God. We cannot give you details in this public blog, but feel free to contact Dean at waldenmaier@gmail.com for more details and to volunteer. Dean is an elder at High Point Church who works with Bridges International, a branch of Cru.

dawid-zawila-223727.jpg

Financial Resources

The Benevolence Fund

The Benevolence Fund exists first to benefit High Point Church members and attenders in the family of faith, but also serve the city. As it turns out, 95% of the recipients of the Benevolence Fund are from outside our church. Another purpose of this fund is to connect with people of different social, economic, faith or racial groups. We help people residing on the west side who need short-term financial aid to bridge a gap created by an unexpected event; for example, the loss of employment, illness, injury or accident. Also, with the winter moratorium on utility cut-offs lifting on April 15, this means some neighbors will face imminent cut-off of heat and light unless they get help with their MGE or Alliant Energy bill. “Like a good neighbor…” our Benevolent Fund program is there, with your support, to help. To give to the benevolence fund, use the yellow Benevolence envelope during the offering on a Sunday morning, or designate your giving online at highpointchurch.org/give.

As we spring into action to live out our faith this month, I hope to see you in church, at the movies, or at the park. Carpé Diem! That is, “seize the day,” for in God’s providence, he has set “a certain day called Today” (Hebrews 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7).

Living On-Script In The Modern World

I have talked with many people over the years that were uneasy about the script they felt was associated with Christian faith. It looks to them like some kind of script in which Christians are expected to follow every line—leaving no room for free improvisation in the romance of living itself.

And yet I’ve also run into quite a lot of people who quickly tire of making up everything as they go along. This is especially the case when large groups of people are working together spontaneously in profoundly complex sets of relationships. What if one person wants to get married, but it’s the furthest thing from the mind of another? Is getting a job negotiable? What if a parent wants to write a script that includes their child leaving the house, but their child wishes to read a script of them staying in the basement rent-free?

Is there a script?

Most actors know that there are various relationships that films and productions can have to scripts. Some stick exactly to every word of the script, and others leave some freedom to the actors. But according to this metaphor, following Christ is a little bit more like being in the writing room. Continue reading Living On-Script In The Modern World

What Do We Do After No-Win Elections?

The problem with a no-win election is, of course, that there is no circumstance in which everyone wins. But the more that is at stake, the more the winner wins and the more the loser loses. We have many no-win decisions in our life that don’t bother us. I can’t tell you how many highway exits I’ve taken and all the times I’ve had to choose between fried fast food and Subway. I don’t much care for either, but I don’t lose much in that situation. It’s just a meal.

When much is to be won or lost

That’s not the case in federal politics. As the size and scope of government has dramatically increased since the second half of the 20th century, much more is now gained and lost at the federal level. Originally, the intention of increasing the size of federal government was to provide more things for people in need and to coordinate large and audacious goals among a vast people. Although this may be a noble ideal, Christians should be shrewd through realism about human nature. Wherever more is to be gained, more attention is paid. The more there is to be won and lost in Washington, the more Washington attracts people looking for a special deal, an angle to cheat, or a way to get a once and for all win for themselves or their ideology. So increasingly, very much against the intention of the American founders, the federal government has become the most intense battle in our society. It has become a winner take all war, and war terrorizes everyone.

Continue reading What Do We Do After No-Win Elections?

Clinton or Trump? A Christian Perspective on Each Candidate (Part 1)

In Voting in a No-Win Election, I presented some ways to think through the decision of which presidential candidate to vote for in the election on Tuesday. My goal with this two-part series is to present a Christian’s perspective on why to vote for each candidate.

Below, I’ve shared My Obligatory (Unoriginal) Donald Trump Post written by my brother, Stanford Gibson, in which he shares his reasoning for voting for Hillary Clinton. Part two will be a Christian perspective on voting for Donald Trump. My hope in offering two perspectives is to provide you with further knowledge to help you prudently and conscientiously make your decision on November 8.

Continue reading Clinton or Trump? A Christian Perspective on Each Candidate (Part 1)