Monthly Archives: March 2008

"Those People"

Bill at Thinklings offers a take on reverse pharisaism that is quite simply a homerun. Here is I’ve Identified the Problem and It’s You in its entirety:

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints . . .” – Colossians 1:3-4

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10

Hanging around the Christian blogosphere, as I’ve been doing, lo, these past five years – as a sometime writer for this here semi-known, partially famous, somewhat linked, gatorade-drinking, monkey-posting blog – can sometimes depress me. Two comments I saw recently on other blogs have helped solidify in my mind the reason why.

The first one started like this:

Just try telling someone your real problems when they ask and watch the glazed look of freeze-panic take over their face. The problem is most Christians don’t want to know . . .

The second went like this:

Wow. Isn’t it funny how “Christians” are always the first to pass judgement on people?

If I’ve seen this once I’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s what I call “I’ve Identified the Problem and it’s You” syndrome, or IITPAIY. Some blogs and comment threads are positively flooded with it.

Now, please hear me. What I’m not saying is that other Christians, or the church herself, are above criticism and correction. Some of the sites on the …

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The Gospel of Christ’s Church For the World

Ray Ortlund posts an important reminder/corrective:

Hence, though a man of sorrow, [Christ] was even on earth anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows [Psalm 45:7]. . . . Shall we wonder that there was divine gladness in the heart of him who came into the world not by constraint but willingly, not with a burning sense of wrong but with a grateful sense of high privilege . . . ?– A.B. Bruce

The ministry today can be motivated either by a burning sense of wrong or by a grateful sense of high privilege. It is possible to build a big church with the energy of a burning sense of what’s wrong. There are angry Christians who are ready to rally around someone who will validate their anger. But is that the gospel at work?

The apostles did not fuss and wring their hands and moan, “What’s the world coming to?” They gladly announced, “Look what’s come to the world!” And people were set free.

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Five For Friday: Christian Primers

A friend on the cusp of faith and/or exploring Christian doctrine wants a book to read. Here are five that would come to mind, although depending on the friend and his general position in the journey I may recommend one over another.

In no particular order:

1. Mere Christianity by C.S. LewisThis is the classic; accept no substitutes. Rumors of its irrelevance are greatly exaggerated. Originally written as radio addresses in war-torn Britain, it just as timely, just as relevant, just as poignant now as it was then. Lewis’s illustrations and analogies are iconic. And I actually think the “old fashioned” writing gives it a bit more gravity than some of the newer attempts at usurping its status.

2. Simply Christian by N.T. WrightIn terms of poetically and powerfully illuminating the basics of Christian faith, this one is the heir to Lewis’s throne. Written for a post-postmodern world, Wright is brilliant at applying “mere Christianity” to the wide array of issues and predicaments awaiting redemption in our broken world.

3. “Myth Became Fact” by C.S. LewisThis is an essay, actually, an entry in the Lewis collection published as God in the Dock, and it remains one of the most formative influences on my own apologetics. I’d recommend this to the lit-geek who’s into Eliot and what-not and wonders how those blokes got from classicism and modernism into the romance of the Church.

4. The Unknown God by Alister McGrathA great book that introduces and explores the Big Questions of the first …

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Calls to Student Ministry: A Conversation

Hopefully.

Here’s the situation, as I see it:Many, many, many ministers currently serving in student ministry positions are doing so as the first rung on the career ministry ladder.

I don’t mean to say they are opportunists or “using” student ministry. They just don’t have a choice, usually. I don’t knock those guys (and gals), because, frankly, where else do you start, unless you plant a church right out of college/seminary? Our churches just don’t tend to hire twenty-something pastors for congregational/adult ministry, and I don’t knock them either; most aren’t doing that for valid reasons.But if you’re called to vocational ministry, the entry level position is generally children’s or student ministry.

It can be a double edged sword. Churches are stocked with student ministers who aren’t particularly gifted or called to student ministry; student ministers have to pay their dues in positions they are neither called to nor gifted for.

I invite your thoughts on this subject.

But here’s who I’d really like to hear from: guys who have answered the call to career student ministry and have no plans to “graduate” to adult ministry.Give us a sense of your call, your feelings about the current culture of evangelical student ministry, the pros and cons of your place in it as you get older, etc.

I’m not trying to make a point in this post; I’d like to host a conversation.

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Tim Challies is Stealing From Me

It was bound to happen. You can’t commit to posting every single day and not run out of ideas. But, tsk tsk. Our neighbor to the north and king of the Godblogs has turned to idea theft.

Today Tim posts on the Bob Newhart “Just stop it!” video and he says it reminds him of the phone call story in Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

Did it, Tim, did it? Or did I connect the dots for you one month ago?

For shame, Challies! If you’d just asked nicely, I would have sent you some of my unused post ideas. I got a shoebox full of rants about cool pastors.

(And yes, readers, in case you’re wondering, this is a joke. I’m not mad; just having fun. Tim Challies could snap his fingers and legions of Internet Calvinists would descend on my home like a crack-zonked swat team. I ain’t messing with power like that.

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In Fashion

Stuff Christians Like, #24: Church Names that Sound Like Clothing Stores

Just read this and I think it’s hilarious, because just a few hours ago my cell rang and the caller ID indicated it was an Element-related call. This is what happened:

Me: Element, this is Jared.

Female Caller: Can I speak to your buyer, please?

Me: Buyer?

Caller: Uh huh.

Me: We don’t have a buyer.

Caller: Is this not a clothing store? (Yes, that’s exactly what she said, I promise!)

Me: Nope, we’re a young adult ministry.

Caller: Oh, sorry!

Maybe she was looking for this.

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Not So Fast, Part Deux

First the Vatican reneges on that whole Luther Not in Hell thing.

Now Mikhail Gorbachev says the rumors of his discipleship to Christ have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, he’s re-confirmed his atheism.

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What the Kingdom Does

Randy* is a tall, intimidating mechanic from up north with a shaved head, grease under his fingernails, and a blunt Michigan accent. He and I are so different it’s funny. Although I bet I’m more athletic, he mocks me for sitting at home all day in a chair and typing on a computer (which, admittedly isn’t far off from the truth), and as his job is working on big machines like bulldozers and cranes and such, I imagine he could kill me with one of the special torches he’s always talking about if he wanted to.One time Randy wore a shiny short-sleeved shirt that looked liked it was made of snake skin. I ridiculed him mercilessly (“Solid Gold Dancers called, they want their shirt back” — that kind of thing), and I didn’t fear for my life. Why?

Jesus.

Randy and I have virtually nothing in common. He’s the kind of guy I’d see in the grocery store and immediately steer clear of.But I’ve seen Randy raise his hands in worship, and Randy has seen me cry (and he didn’t call me a gaywad or anything!).

And these sorts of differences coming together in unity is the great compelling brilliance of the Church of Jesus Christ.

This is what Jesus’ kingdom does. It reconciles. In Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. There is no grease monkey or Mister Mom.

When I hear people balk at Bible study or group meetings because “I have nothing in common with …

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The Kingdom in Public

From N.T. Wright’s great Maundy Thursday sermon:

And the events of Good Friday tells us something we urgently need to know about doing God in public. If it is the true God we are talking about – the God we see and know in Jesus Christ and him crucified – then we should expect that following him, speaking for him, and living out the life of his spirit, will sometimes make the crowds shout ‘Hosanna!’ and sometimes make them shout ‘Crucify!’

We are not in this business to court either popularity or martyrdom. When they come, like Kipling’s triumph and disaster, we should treat them, imposters as they are, just the same. Speaking and living for God in the public world will sometimes dovetail exactly with what the world inarticulately knows it wants and needs; sometimes it will cut straight across what everyone else is saying.

But those who have sat at table with their Lord, and have known him in the strange privacy of the breaking of the bread, will not waver the next day when they need to stand as a sign of contradiction in the market place, in the council chamber, or in the courtroom. This is a lesson, my friends, we are going to have to learn more and more in the days to come. Work hard, you who stand up to be counted as the Lord’s publicly recognised servants, work hard at the private disciplines, so that you will know where to stand and how …

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Curious Stats (and Hope)

There is a group under Facebook Causes for Blood:Water Mission, an awesome charity based right here in Middle Tennessee that seeks to reduce the impact of the AIDS pandemic by building wells and bringing clean water to Africa.

Here’s what’s weird:This Facebook group currently has 13,507 members and has received $4,401 in donations.Does that seem a little off to anyone else?

Now, we can’t say for sure that some of those members aren’t donating through other avenues, maybe sending their contributions directly by mail or via the B:WM website or something.But 13,507 members and $4,401 comes out to about 33 cents per person.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is curious; a guy named Patrick Lynch asks “How come there are more than 13,000 supporters on this Facebook group, and yet only like $4000’s been raised?” in the discussion forum.

I’d hate to think this is evidence of the illusion of compassion.I am heartened whenever we ask our small group to give to a cause or mission like this, because they always respond very generously. The night we committed every dollar of our offering to Blood:Water Mission about 20 people gave over $1,000. I’m heartened whenever Shaun Groves returns from a trip to talk about Compassion with college students and blogs that they sponsored x amount of kids.

There is life out there yet, and hope.

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