1. a plan for the holidays to ensure his family is loved and memories are made. Dad, what’s your plan?
2. to check the local guides for what’s going on to make fun holiday plans for the family. In Seattle it’s here.
3. to carve out time for sacred events and experiences to build family traditions that are fun and point to Jesus. Dad, is your calendar ready for December?
4. to not let the stress of the holidays, including money, cause him to be grumpy with Mom or the kids. Dad, how’s your joy?
5. to give experiences and not just gifts. Dad, what special memories can you make this holiday season?
6. to manage the extended family and friends during the holidays. Dad, who or what do you need to say “no” to?
7. to ensure his family is giving generously during the holidays. Dad, who in need is your family going to adopt and bless?
8. to schedule a big Christmas daddy date with his daughter. Dad, what’s your big plan for the fancy daddy date?
9. to schedule guy time with his son. Dad, what are you and your son going to do that is active, outdoors, and fun?
10. to help Mom get the house decorated. Dad, are you really a big help to Mom with getting things ready?
11. to ensure some holiday smells and sounds. Dad, is Christmas music on the iPod, is the tree up, and can you smell cookies and cider in your house?
12. to snuggle up and watch some fun shows with the kids, especially the little ones. Dad, is the DVR set?
12. to take the family on a drive to see Christmas lights while listening to music and sipping cider. Dad, is it mapped out?
14. to help Mom get the kids’ rooms decorated. Dad, do the little kids get lights or a small tree in their room?
15. to read about Jesus and pray over his kids. Dad, how’s your pastoral work going with each of your kids?
16. to repent of being lazy, selfish, grumpy, or just dumping the holidays on Mom. Dad, are you a servant like Jesus to your family?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Mars Hill Church in Seattle has released a new Christmas album entitled Silent Night. The album is recorded by in-house musicians Ex Nihilo. The album covers several classic Christmas hymns, and has a bonus track "What Child is This?" as a free download, as well as free chord charts for all the songs on the album.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
You know these people. Most of you, when you are crawling along the highway in heavy traffic and see a sign telling you that the lane will end in one mile (or one kilometer if you’re up here in Canada), quickly bump over into the lane that will not end, glad that you’ve immediately sorted out that problem. Now you can be assured that you won’t find yourself squeezed onto the shoulder or parked endlessly with your light blinking, trying to squeeze your way out of that dying lane while everyone else tries to block your progress. Yet, as you sit there, content that you’ve done the right thing, you can’t help but notice all those people speeding by to your right, driving their cars to the edge, to the brink, to the very last car-length of the lane that is about to end. You grouch, your grumble, you remark on their complete lack of care for the other people on the road. And yet you have to admit that they will get where they are going before you will. They seem unaffected by your plight, content to further their own goals even at your expense.
Tim uses an example from Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt, to explain why he has switched from the conservative, early merger to the late merger. It is evident from the responses that this is an emotional issue for many people. I personally can not stand the late merger. It is as if he cannot be forced to wait in line like everyone else, and thinks it is his right to be in front of everyone else. I applaud the semi-trucks that drive side by side in these situations to prevent the late merger. Essentially I think the late merger is using the right lane to pass, and therefore illegal lane usage. I found one example of a driver ticketed for late-merging, and successfully had it overturned. I liken the situation to the person who uses the center turn lane as their personal merger lane in heavy traffic. The law on this issue may vary in different states. The one I found is for Michigan and it states:
It is unlawful to use the center left turn lane for a right turn or as a merge lane when entering the roadway.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I've often been irate when I've found examples of what appears to be a use of Christianity to make money. If you're like me you may get these feelings when you step inside a Christian bookstore. While these bookstores are usually filled with some good commentaries, bibles, and teaching resources, they are often flooded with what has been branded as "Jesus Junk." Jesus Junk may include anything from tacky t-shirts to Christian candy. I've even heard it said that if you have a mediocre product with no way to sell it, just slap a Bible verse on it, and sell it it Christian book stores.
This spring in my Philosophy and Theology of Outdoor Ministry class at Wheaton, we discussed the dichotomy of the ministry/business model. In the example we probed the idea of how a Christian institution should exist. Can it make profit? Should it charge for services? The paradigm is a beast of its own, but I think for the most part Christian institutions are seeking to serve Christ and his Kingdom, in a society that is consumer and money driven. Jesus Junk on the other hand is a completely different category for me. These items are often defended as a way for believers to share their faith, or give them a subtle reminder of it. I think we need neither, and these items do not serve this purpose anyway. I've yet to meet anyone who realized their sin, repented, and became a believer because they saw an Icthus fish on someone's bumper.
Relevant Magazine recently posted an article concerning the issue, containing an interview with Mark Bontempo, the founder of Testamints, a company that produces mints with scripture verses on the package. Check out the article to get his take on the issue.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I remember a few years ago hearing that Christian Hosoi, an infamous bad boy skateboarder from the 1980s had become a Christian while incarcerated for methamphetamines. I've been out of the skateboarding scene for a while, and had not heard much more about it. But the first of this month it finally got picked up by the New York Times. The Times ran an article about Hosoi, and Brian Deegan, a freestyle motocross rider, who are Christians who just recently competed in the X-games. The story of Deegan is equally stunning. Deegan is the owner of team Metal Mulisha, a freestyle motocross team known for wild antics and and highly tatted members. Metal Mulisha has often been called "the most bad-ass Freestyle Motocross team in the world" and is probably the most influential motocross team in the world as well.
After a near-fatal crash in 2005 while attempting a back flip during filming for a television show, he lost a kidney and four pints of blood, and found religion. When a surgeon told him he might not survive, Deegan, 34, who has won more freestyle motocross medals at the X Games than any other rider, made a pact with God. If he lived, he would mend his ways. When he finally pulled through, he sought a pastor, began reading the Bible and “gave his life to Christ,” he said.
Soon his fellow freestyle riders Jeremy Lusk, Ronnie Faisst and Jeremy Stenberg, who is known as Twitch, began attending Bible study with Deegan.
“All the heavy hitters of the Mulisha are born-again Christians,” Deegan said.
Deegan also mentions concern about how fans would react to the guys conversion. You see Christianity is not highly looked upon in the motocross world, especially for a team known for being badboys.
The story about Metal Mulisha is amazing because while in the mainstream, these guys may be anti-establishment, but in the world of freestyle motocross these guys are the establishment. Several of the guys mentioned in the article won medals at the X-Games this past year.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I feel that the quoted paints emergents with too broad a brush, and essentially presents a "were better than you" feel good atmosphere for those who aren't emergent (even if they should be.) I hope that the quote is old, and DeYoung has left such generalizations, and hopefully is not finding his identity in being the nonemergent-guy.
After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Today's post focuses on the construction of the windows for the prayer room. I wanted to create a feeling of sacredness in the room, while eliminating the outside distractions, and so I turned to the idea of stained glass windows. Real stained glass was obviously out of the question, so I began looking for a way to create a stained glass appearance on the windows in the room. My initial plan was to use cellophane behind cutouts in posterboard. I talked to one art major student from Wheaton who suggested the use of tissue paper or vellum paper over the cellophane for cost effectiveness. She informed me that the JPUSA use windows like these ate their worship space. So I headed down to the craft shop and found a massive stack of tissue paper. I designed and made the first two windows by myself, and then turned to two other people at camp for help, when I became afraid that all my designs would be too similar. Krista Pancone, a fellow GPA at HoneyRock, designed the Cross/sunrise window. Kimmy Tolbert, a recent graduate of Wheaton's Art program, designed most of the three piece window, that seeks to illustrate Christ at work in the scenery of HoneyRock.
Step 1: Designing the Windows
I needed a piece of posterboard at least 28x40 to fill the space of the window, and larger to be able to fasten them to the window frame. The largest posterboard I could find was 22x28 so I had to resort to gluing to pieces together. This meant I had to have a 2-3" section in the middle of each window that could not be cut out. This meant that some of my designs had to be altered to fit the new panes. I sketched a few designs in a sketchbook, and settled on two final designs to begin work on. Later Krista designed hers, and Kimmy and I put a few hours into designing the three piece window. All designs were then transferred to the posterboard. It is important in the design process to look at how Stained Glass widows are constructed, and how your piece will work structurally. Large sections of tissue paper will have little structural integrity, and may rip before even hung. If in doubt, add more lines.
Step 2: Cutting the Design Out
For this step I would suggest using an X-acto knife for cutting out the pieces. I did not have one, and used a utility knife. Be very careful, and approach this task slowly, as more can always be cut away, but you can never add more material back once its been cut. During this process I often added more lines in areas where there were large pieces of tissue paper. Its also wise to either have a reversible design, or draw a mirrored design on the back of the posterboard, so you can just flip it over after your done. Both designs I made with letters, were made on the front of the posterboard and later the lines had to be erased.
Step 3: Attaching the Tissue Paper
The method I found to work the best was to put the paper in the hole it was to fill, and lightly trace the outline. I would then cut around this leaving a quarter to half inch to glue. Then I would use Mod Podge to glue the paper to the posterboard. Designs with straight lines made this step much easier. Keep this in consideration when designing.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So one of the first ideas to be implemented in the prayer room was to build the prayer kneeler. I decided on a simple shaker or early American style for the design. The kneeler is a simple construction, and was based on a few pictures I found online. It is simply a large box for the base, two sides, a top, and a shelf. If one were to attempt this project I would suggest the use of 1x8s. The lumber we used was milled here on site, and added much time to the project. I would plan three days to tackle this project, but it may take more or less depending on skill level, amount of detail, and wood selected. Ours took three days, but the majority of the first day was spent preparing the rough cut lumber.
Step 1. Create a Design
Our kneeler design was simple to not be a distraction. It was also crafted from wood from the camp, pine, to fit with the aesthetic of a Northwoods cabin. We looked online and found a few designs, and decided on a basic design. We then went to our back to our prayer room, and measured the area so the kneeler would both fit and fill the space. We fist designed the kneeler to be longer, so it would fill the entire space from the wall to the fireplace. This was later cut down as the kneeler looked to fit about three people, and I thought that would fight against the intimate feeling we were trying to create. Depth was based on what felt comfortable for an average height college student. (We brought in a few to get feedback.) Height was based on the window directly above the kneeler where the stained glass would be installed.
Step 2. Material Selection and Preparation
We decided to use on site materials both for aesthetics and price. I had no budget for the room, and tried to use as many recycled or on-site items as possible. One resource I did have was a large amount of lumber we had milled in the winter, and some lefter over half logs from some cabins I had built. These milled pieces we used were actually the pieces we had thrown away when milling, because they were barked or too short. This added much more time to the project than I had anticipated, but there's no satisfaction like building a project from a tree you cut down and milled.
Step 3. Construction
The base was built first, and dry assembled. Then we cut the sides, and checked the height. It was at this time that we decided to cut down the width of the project. After feeling satisfactory about the dimensions of the kneeler, we began sanding and assembling. The we began on the two half logs which compose the top, and the art on which one rests their knees. The logs were planed to an agreeable thickness, and we ripped the bottom log. The the bottom box was notched with a band saw to accommodate the log. The top log was attached with screws toe-nailed through attached 2x4 scraps. I would suggest an L-bracket for this job, but gain we decided to use what we had on sight. Lastly a shelf was cut and screwed on, and the back fitted with 1/8" plywood. We disassembled the piece and finished sanding, and the stained it with a penetrating natural stain.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I decided to try and make the room as free as distractions as possible, while giving it a sense of sacredness, without other wordliness, all the while trying to make it a slow, relaxing atmosphere. I began by cleaning the room and rearranging the furniture, to make it less of a makeout spot, as I had heard the room had been lately. After cleaning out one corner with a solitary window, my friend Richard (who was visiting for the week)and I decided to build a prayer kneeler facing the window, and faux stain glass the windows. For the bench we decided to make a simple, but meaningful construction. The kneeler was constructed mainly of timber that I had milled here at he camp this past weekend, along with two logs that were left over from a newly constructed cabin at the camp. I will write a separate blog about the construction of the kneeler, for anyone interested in building their own.
The stain glass window idea, was to help minimize distractions outside the window, while adding to the overall aesthetic of the room, and helping to create a sense of sacredness to the windows. For three of the windows I created a more protestant use of Christian symbols, and the other three windows were a representation of Christ in the environment we are in at camp. I will also have a seprate post of the windows and pictures, and give details on how to create your own.
Finally the room was given a couple of candles, bible verses and historic prayers were hung on the walls, and some other visual elements were added.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Yeah, you read the title correctly. Tired of seeing the same graffiti covering lampposts, trains, and buildings, then check out the newest form of graffiti I know, yarn bombing. Yarn bombing, also known as "knit graffiti", or "guerrilla knitting", began appearing online a few years ago and is now going global. Sound to strange too be true? Well check out the follwoing blogs which chronicle the work of yarn bombers:
covered in knit
Knitta Please has the following on their "about" page
Knitta began in August 2005, when the soon-to-be-Knittas were discussing their frustration over unfinished knitting projects: half-knitted sweaters and balls of yarn gathering dust. That afternoon, they knit their first door handle. Then it dawned on them… a tag crew of knitters, bombing the inner city with vibrant, stitched works of art, wrapped around everything from beer bottles on easy nights to public monuments and utility poles on more ambitious outings. With a mix of clandestine moves and gangsta rap — Knitta was born! Today, Knitta is a group of ladies of all ages, nationalities, and… gender.
While Knitta does tag car antennas and light poles, they, like the Johnny Cash song, have been everywhere. Tags from MOntreal to Paris, Seattle to the Great Wall of China, these ladies are leaving a unique mark in the society the touch.
Same may see this as just another form of vandalism, but theres something much less hurtful about finding your car wrapped in a knitted yarn than covered in spray paint, after all all you need to do is take a pair of scissors to it if you want to get rid of it. What I'm mystified about is how they knit so quickly! Seriously, can you imagine a few female hipsters frantically spinning their web of yarn around a light pole?
Friday, February 27, 2009
Yesterday was Johnny Cash's Birthday. He would have been 77 years old. Johnny Cash was a man whom I never met, but shaped my life deeply. His autobiography Cash was definitely in the top three books I've ever read. I can't imagine any autobiography meaning more. I still remember the day he died, my freshman year of college. Yes, I wept that day. Even though I had never met John, I felt as I had lost a dear friend.
Cash's story has always touched me. He retells so much of his past in his book. He is not ashamed to say who he was and what he's been through, yet he would be the last to glorify his sin. Like Johnny, I came from a rural background with not much money, we may not have been cotton farmers, but I always felt connected to his stories. My father was a hard working blue collar man as well as Cash's father. And mine had no time for music, and always told me I would just grow out of wanting to play guitar. Much like Cash, I've always felt more at home with those who feel like outlaws and the downcast.
Mars Hill offers a video on the life of Johnny Cash
Cash's description of the Nickajack cave story is one that moves me to tears. Hear is a man the world saw as having everything, but he climbs into a whole to die because he feels so far from God. Yet God is not done with him, and loves him. He safefully brings Cash out of the cave, and begins to bring him back to him.
I hear so many stories of people who say they are saved and immediately change, giving up alcohol, drugs, sexual addictions, etc. These stories never do much for me. They seem so fake. My change has never been so easy, its been a long struggle of fighting against God, and Him bringing me back and showing me grace. Perhaps thats why I connect with Cash so much. He never says it was easy or instant. He fought God for a long time, and even when he surrendered it was a messy, bumpy road.
Russel Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a moving article about the life of Johnny Cash, and the infatuation of young people with cash's life and music. I encourage you to read the whole article, its quite short.
Johnny Cash is dead, and there will never be another. But all around us there are empires of dirt, and billions of self-styled emperors marching toward judgment.
Perhaps if Christian churches modeled themselves more after Johnny Cash, and less after perky Christian celebrities such as Kathy Lee Gifford, we might find ourselves resonating more with the MTV generation. Maybe if we stopped trying to be “cool,” and stopped hiring youth ministers who are little more than goateed game-show hosts, we might find a way to connect with a generation that understands pain and death more than we think.
Perhaps if we paid more attention to the dark side of life, a dark side addressed in divine revelation, we might find ourselves appealing to men and women in black. We might connect with men and women who know what it’s like to feel like fugitives from justice, even if they’ve never been to jail. We might offer them an authentic warning about what will happen when the Man comes around.
And, as we do this, we just might hear somewhere up in the cloud of witnesses a voice that once cried in the wilderness: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
Special thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing me toward the Moore article and Mars Hill video.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
You heard me right. You know you've been thinking about getting an ESV study Bible, and even if you've already sprung for one, you probably didn't get the genuine calfskin version. A Boomer in the Pew wants to give you a free Calfskin Study Bible. Make sure you check out his blog to see how you can win it.
By the way, speaking of free, I received my free copy of Tabletalk today that I won through Challies.com. So it is possible to win something cool through these blog giveaways. Check out Challies site as he often has free giveaways on Fridays.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I mean that. Don Carson, one of the most respected, faithful, competent, compelling, and understandable biblical scholars in the world will do what he has never done before and will probably never do again.
At the north campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church, over the next two weekends, starting at 6:30 P. M. Friday, February 20, Dr. Carson will lead a free 12 hour seminar that takes you through the whole Bible and puts the whole great story together.
If you are in or near the Twin Cities I encourage you to come. I promise you, you will never read the Bible the same after seeing how it all fits together with Dr. Carson’s help.
Ask your non-Christian friends if they would like to hear one of the world’s most renowned biblical scholars give them an overview of the bible and what Christianity really is. They are really welcome to come. Dr. Carson will speak at a level they can understand.
What an amazing gift this is to the Twin Cities and to any who would come. Pray for Dr. Carson. This is a huge undertaking. And we reap the work of decades. You can read more details.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Mark Driscoll, while being hammered by Baptists Press for his use of "Vulgarity" was shown on CNN with DL Hughley. The segment is short, and Mark doesn't get to share as much about Christ as I'm sure he would have liked. but he is able to
1. Share the importance of sex within marriage
2. Tell DL that pornography is not God honoring
3. Explain how and why he discusses sex with his congregants
4. Use scripture to answer Hughley's question
5. Get the chance to respond to Ingrid's comment on Driscoll
6. Begin to explain the Gopsel to DL
While Mark's response to DL's last question could have been expounded more than "Dig Jesus" I think that is because of time constraints. I do wonder how much CNN edited the video for time, and what else Mark shared with DL. I cant help but think at the end of the day DL walked away with a new respect for Driscoll and his church.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Some of what Ed says:
Southeastern has commented because Mark spoke at Southeastern last week. The usual folks have complained about his presence, but I agree with Johnny Hunt, our SBC President on the issue. Johnny and I discussed this on Tuesday-- and he was a bit surprised (and concerned) of the complaints leveled at Southeastern. To quote Johnny, "It's a seminary! We often bring in people even when we disagree with some things."
And, yes, some people won't like frank talk about sexuality (or they will think it is too frank). And for them, that in itself is sinful. And that is a fair conversation.
However, I think frank talk on sexuality is essential. I am not going to defend everything Mark says about it, or how he says it, but I definitely believe most of our churches need to teach more on the subject.
Mark Driscoll is a friend who labors for the glory of God, the health of the church, and the redemption of the world. I am grateful for my brother, and am praying for his continued usefulness for the Kingdom of God today.
One post script:
A LifeWay employee is mentioned in one of the articles. I work at LifeWay, I think it is important to note that Bret Robbe (quoted in the one article) was commenting on handling delicate subjects. He was not commenting on Mark Driscoll. And, his comments are right on. Thanks, Bret.
SouthEastern have written about there view on the article here.
Alvin Reid weighs in on the matter.
And Baptist 21 gives thoughts on the generational gap within the SBC.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Acts 29 has responded, and have shown maturity and humility by trying to move past the article. Pastor Scott Thomas, Director of Acts 29 Network, responded on the Acts 29 blog with this comment.
"But, I am calling for all of us to ignore the innocuous criticisms and get back on the front lines of presenting the gospel faithfully to those who are desperately in need of redemption. The sniping of one publication has hindered our focus on the real enemy: Sin, Satan and the effects of a fallen humanity.
A movement does not stop to address every critic. It moves on in spite of critics and in expectation of critics. I'm bored with it all and my neighbor needs Jesus."
Timmy Brister also responds to the article and offers this viewpoint.
"There are two competing visions for the SBC going on right now: the Great Commission Resurgence under the direction of Danny Akin and David Dockery headquartered at SEBTS, and the Baptist Identity Movement under the direction of Paige Patterson and Malcolm Yarnell headquartered at Southwestern Seminary. Prior to the Annual Meeting in Indy last year, the Baptist Identity boys were blazing the Internet with series of blogposts talking about Baptist distinctives and in particular “ecumenical compromise.” From the Annual Meeting forward, however, the Great Commission Resurgence has won the day, leaving the Baptist Identity crowd in the wake full of a separatistic, landmarkist agenda. Having Driscoll (and Mahaney) who do not share the same ecclesiology and distinctives lead Patterson and his camp to consider the actions of Akin and SEBTS as Baptist compromisers. The BP article on Driscoll is an indication, in my mind, of an attempt to discredit the leadership of Akin and undermine the Great Commission Resurgence movement in the SBC. Fortunately, most Southern Baptists are not buying it."
A response from SEBTS can be found here.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
In the last few days we've covered the Beatitudes. Here Jesus moves to his next point built off what he said in the previous twelve verses. In the beatitudes, or the norms of the kingdom as D.A. carson refers to them, Jesus explains the marks of a godly life. Here he moves a step forward. You see it is impossible to live the norms in a purely private way. The righteousness of the Christian life will attract attention, which will largely take the form of opposition. Jesus addresses this issue in the last beatitude and expounds upon with the illustration of salt and light.
Verse 13:"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet."
In the ancient world salt was used as a preservative. Jesus is saying apart from the presence of his disciples the world turns ever more rotten. So as the followers of Jesus become more like him and gain the attributes described in the beatitudes, they will become the salt which stops the deterioration of the world they live in.
As for losing saltiness, the purpose of salt is to stop deterioration, therefore it must not itself deteriorate. If it does so, it no longer has a purpose, and it good only to be trampled on under foot.
Verses 14-16: 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Heres Jesus reiterates his point with another illustration. Because we live in a world constantly connected to electricity, it is hard for most Americans to imagine true darkness. Unless you live in a secluded rural setting or have been camping far from civilization, you may never have experienced total darkness before. If you've ever been camping out hundreds of miles from civilization you will understand complete darkness. A city even a hundred miles away can alleviate the darkness. Its light bounces off clouds and water, and can bring at least some light to the area. This is how light works. A good light does not have to make everything like day, but it can shed enough light that darkness does not completely take over.
The listeners to Jesus sermon would have instantly known the sheer terror that can accompany complete darkness, and the value of light. Light was so important, they could not have imagined someone wanting to extinguish even a small flickering oil lamp.
Many have used these verses to justify wearing Christian T-shirts and putting "Are you following Jesus this close?" bumper stickers on their car. I think they miss the point of this passage by not reading it in context. Jesus is not saying, "If you do not go out and hand out tracts then your light has been hidden." No, rather he is expounding on the beatitudes. The Christian whose life shows the fruit described in the previous twelve verses is salt and light to a dark and decaying world. Look at what Jesus says in verse 16; In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.
In a world filled with tracts and street evangelism, it is interesting that Jesus says our righteousness, meekness, pureness, etc are what will be our witness to God. Again I think Jesus is putting emphasis on righteousness. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, is to hunger and thirst for God himself. To hunger for God is to be blessed by him, and to be blessed by him is to be a blessing to this world. When we no longer are hungering for God, and turn our attention to the world, we no longer point to God and his glory and grace; that is when we lose our saltiness and hide our light. We then are no longer a blessing to this world.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Verse Seven: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Some try to use this verse legalistically, to say that the only way to receive mercy from God, is to show mercy to others. Of course, showing mercy to others, in order to receive it yourself, is not showing mercy at all. Rather this verse explains the relationship between the two backwards to that interpretation. The one who receives mercy from God, will show mercy to others. The one who is not merciful, is so unaware of his own sin problem, that he does not realize that he himself needs mercy. The man who thinks he has conquered sin, and no longer sees his own need for the mercy of God, fails to show mercy to other sinners.
Verse Eight: Blessed are the pure in heart
One could never exhaust the magnitude of this verse. We are told elsewhere in Matthew that out of the natural heart “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.” Matt. 15:19
Our heart naturally wants to do evil, and only through regenerative faith in Jesus Christ may the very core of our being be changed. He slowly changes to no longer want the evil desires of the world, but to be transformed into his heart-state.
Pureness of heart must never be confused with outward conformity to rules, for that can be done by anyone. A true heart change can only be done through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We cannot ignore the reward of this blessing either, for it is seeing God himself.
Verse 9:Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"The final beatitude does not say "Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are objectionable, or because they rave like wild-eyed fanatics, or because they pursue some religio-polical cause.' The blessing is restricted to those who suffer persecution because of righteousness."
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
“Beatitude” is a transliteration of the Greek word beatus, it is best translated blessed. So in essence we should call these "The Blessings" rather than "The Beatitudes."
This idea of being poor in spirit develops from the OT when God’s people were known as “The poor of the Lord.” Some of the various Hebrew words translated as poor can also mean “lowly” or “humble”. This gives us a glimpse into what “poor in spirit” is actually referring to.
Verse 4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
This idea of being blessed for mourning seems strange. This however does not mean those who are always upset are blessed, nor does it mean to enter the
Verse Five: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Poverty of spirit has to do with ones personal assessment of himself, where meekness has to do with a relationship with God and men.
Martyn Lloyd Jones says meekness does not mean indolence, flabbiness, niceness or easy to get along with. Those are natural qualities; a dog can be nicer than another dog. Meekness is not something that is naturally attainable; it is only available through the spirit. We may think someone is meek because they are nice to others, but there inner desire may be for selfish gain. Meekness is not weakness. A meek man will die for the truth if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were by no means weak. A weak pushover cannot be meek, for meekness involves control over ones self.
Verse Six: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Many in our current Christian world do not hunger and thirst for righteousness. They may want to know how to live a purpose driven life or how to live their best life now. Many want to know the most effective way to evangelize or what worship style is best. And many more jump from church to church, conference to conference wanting to experience some kind of spiritual high, but few thirst for righteousness. The man who is marked by poverty of spirit, who grieves over personal sin, and who lives in meekness, must also hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is not that the man, is looking for the next step for becoming a better Christian, but the change in his life from living like Christ has produced a hunger for righteousness, that he cannot imagine living without. This is the man who is not just sorry he got caught sinning, but whose sin utterly breaks his heart, and is begging God to help him conquer his sin.
Monday, January 26, 2009
As part of that unique position, I've been looking into how to have meaningful worship services for the 100 plus staff for the summer. Most of the staff will be here 4 months with no chance to go to church. So for many the weekly worship service will be the only worship service they attend all summer. So I'm pondering how to I create authentic and Biblical worship services for this group of young Christians in this unique situation? I've talked with the camp director about some of the ways they've previously addressed this problem, and am stuck. Should a temporary community of Believer's, worship in the same way as an established church? In particular, can the share in communion?
I've read arguments on both sides, and have been convinced by neither. I've heard that Acts 27:35 is Paul having communion outside the confines of the local church. I've also heard arguments from those who think only a priest can offer the Eucharist.
Obviously if we were to have communion it would be in the Open Communion ideology. Anyone with an opinion based in scripture is welcome to respond.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Only time will tell if this trend will continue. Will Obama continue his internet presence, or will the time requirements of the Oval Office slowly strangle them out? Lets hope it will continue, and change will really take place. Now if we could get churches to follow his lead, and get into the 21st century. Wake up and pay attention pastors; younger congregants want transparency and new ways to connect with their leaders.
John Cade has more on this subject at threeparts.com
Thursday, January 8, 2009
America is a nation transformed by demographics. Flash back just over a century and a majority of Americans live on farms and in rural settings. Today, a clear majority of Americans live in metropolitan settings. Cities are now surrounded by vast rings of settlements and clusters known as suburbs -- and Hollywood doesn't like it.My question is what do you think about how churches and cities have changed. I think most of what Mohler said is a clear analysis of how many churches have responded to the suburbanization of America. But is it best? Should churches continually be moving outward with their middle-class white congregations. Calvary Baptist Church in Hannibal, MO comes to mind for me. This church in which I interned while a student at Hannibal LaGrange College, made its start on Hope Street in Hannibal, MO. Then the booming river town was expanding outward, and the new building was built as the congregation poured new blocks after work and on weekends. In the 70's the church moved outward to the new expansion of Hannibal, leaving Hope street which had become known as a rough, black neighborhood. The church has continued to thrive in its new location, but at what cost. What was the understatement to the people of Hope Street?
Something significant is represented in Hollywood's depiction of the suburbs as soul-killing enclaves of those unwilling to brave the "authentic" culture of the city itself. A current example of Hollywood's antipathy to the suburbs is "Revolutionary Road," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. As Lee Siegel commented in The Wall Street Journal, the film "is the latest entry in a long stream of art that portrays the American suburbs as the physical correlative to spiritual and mental death."
Siegel is right to point to Hollywood's hatred of the suburbs and wonder why it came to become so predictable. In one key paragraph he gets to the heart of the ideological factors in play:
The cultural chasm between liberals and conservatives that first appeared in the '60s was largely one between the city and the suburbs. The liberal "idealism" that had created the catastrophe in Vietnam now got blamed, unfairly or not, for failing economic and social policies. For marginalized conservatives, the suburbs were living refutation of the crumbling ethos that had guided the crime-ridden, decaying urban centers. For embattled liberals, people leaving the cities for safer and cleaner outlying towns were racists and cowards who had no respect for shared public space.
The stereotypical liberal view of the suburbs, formed by intellectuals who saw the city as the engine of social progress, is that the suburbs were artificial enclaves for those who sought refuge from the reality of "authentic" life in the city. The political reality is that the suburbs came to represent a conservative belt around the city, where home ownership and middle-class values served as a check on the more liberal energies of the cities.
But the stereotypes were not always matched by reality. Inner city crime and chaos did push many families into the suburbs, but not all of these were white or wealthy. Increasingly, the suburbs and the cities have come to resemble each other. Many established suburbs have now changed ethnic and racial profiles two or three times since the 1960s.
According to the concentric zone theory of urban development, suburbs will keep pushing outward from the city centers. In the nation's major metropolises, freeways snake for hundreds of cumulative miles. Against the utopian fantasies of many mid-century urban planners, the cities grew out, rather than up. It turned out that most Americans prefer to raise their families in houses rather than in skyscrapers.
The suburbs' rise to dominance also led to big changes in church life. During the last half of the twentieth century, vast inner city church buildings grew empty. The tabernacles of inner city church life became sparsely populated oases in the midst of increasing secularization. Meanwhile, the new phenomenon of the suburban mega-church arose in rings around the city. Massive congregations with expansive facilities came to dot the suburban landscape, along with giant high schools, shopping malls, and other institutions of suburban life.
Now, many of these mega-churches are located in areas experiencing change every bit as radical as what previously characterized the city centers. The shape of suburban America is changing -- and so is the challenge of reaching the millions and millions of Americans who live there.
Interestingly, the cities and the suburbs may be growing more alike in terms of challenges faced by both. The Christian church is responsible for ministry to both the city and the suburbs. For most of the last half-century, evangelicals have been far more successful in reaching suburbanites and less successful in the cities. But the suburbs now face urban issues, and urban areas are dotted with stores and restaurants that once thrived only in suburbia.
Hollywood has to reach back to a 1961 novel to find inspiration for "Revolutionary Road." Evangelical Christians cannot afford to ignore either cities or suburbs -- nor to enter into ideological debates about the virtues of either social setting.
Our task is to bring an authentic Gospel and faithful church life to both suburbs and cities. Our view of both city and suburb may change -- indeed must change -- if we are to be faithful to the call of the Gospel.
We could just as easily look at churches like Willow Creek, which have set the standard for suburban, mega-churches. I believe just this past year, Willow Creek themselves released information revealing their anonymous, seeker-sensitive model was not resulting in strong, growing Christians. There are obvious differences in city and suburban church strategies, and which create the strongest, biblical congregations. Later this month I am planning a retreat for a church located in downtown Chicago, which draws its congestion from a multitude of suburban areas. The church said the struggle mainly with their congregation only seeing each other on Sunday mornings.
Honestly, I am not a suburban person. I don't want to live at the end of a culdesac, and I hate how all houses in subdivisions work. While I'm not a city person either, I think I'd rather live in a city than in a subdivision. The suburban life to me is the epitome of the sterilization of our culture. We want a house and land, but we don't want the responsibilities of living in the country. Who wants an acre of land when you have to have a septic tank? Of course I work at a camp which sole purpose is to get suburban kids out into nature, sometimes for the first time in their life, so I may be a bit biased, but I just don't buy into the suburban lifestyle. I will continue to support churches that plant into the cities, where other churches have uprooted and made the great, white flight.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
DA Carson - Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Phillipians
DA Carson - Exegetical Fallacies
Charles Colson - The Body
Mark Dever - What is a Healthy Church
John Glynn - Commentary and Reference Survey
Wayne Grudem - Systematic Theology
Timothy Keller - Prodigal God
Timothy Keller - Reason for God
Martyn Loyd-Jones - Life in God
John MacArthur - Our Sufficiency in Christ
John MacArthur - The Gospel of Jesus
Calvin Miller - Life is Mostly Edges
Dave Peterson - Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship
John Piper - Spectacular Sins
John Piper - This Momentary Marriage
Robert B. Selph - Southern Baptists and the Doctrine of Election
RC Sproul - Holiness of God
Alexander Strauch - Biblical Eldership
AW Tozer - That Incredible Christian
Roy B. Zuch - Vital Christology Issues