Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Christian Market For Idols

A huge religious marketplace has been set up in North America to meet the needs and fantasies of people just like us. There are conferences and gatherings custom-designed to give us the lift we need. Books and videos and seminars promise to let us in on the Christian “secret” of whatever we feel is lacking in our life: financial security, well-behaved children, weight-loss, exotic sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers. The people who promote these goods and services all smile a lot and are good-looking. They are obviously not bored.

It isn’t long before we are standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we had hoped for, or at least not for long, we are soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addictive. We have become consumers of packaged spiritualities.

This also is idolatry. We never think of using this term for it since everything we are buying or paying for is defined by the adjective “Christian.” But idolatry it is nevertheless: God packaged as product; God de-personalized and made available as a technique or program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative.

– from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.– 1 John 5:21

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The Precious Privilege of "Abba Father!"

I think I’ve posted this before, but I don’t care. It’s wonderful.

C.J. Mahaney on God the Father.

This is a dude, by the way, who feels Scripture.

May our Father soften our hearts to be a fraction as sensitive to His word and His will revealed within it.

Have a good weekend, blogosphere.

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Jesus is Depth

Last week I posted on Depth, and I said Jesus is real depth. I want to say it again, because just a few days later I am committing to answer every query about what spiritual depth is or what deeper teaching looks like with “It is Jesus; it looks like Jesus.”

That doesn’t sound deep, I know. We think deep is systematic theology or detailed doctrinal study or digging into Hebrew and Greek etymology or whatever. And all that stuff is cool. But it’s not deep. It’s not going deep. It’s for smart people and for people who want to be smart, sure. But the kingdom is for all kinds of people, not just intellectuals, and everybody gets to press on to maturity, and maturity is going further and further into and closer and closer toward Jesus.

These words from Calvin (posted today by my friend Ray) gave me goosebumps:

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn …

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Strong to Save

The very first CD I ever owned, one I bought before I even owned a CD player to play it on, was Russ Taff’s Under Their Influence: Volume 1. (I’m not sure he ever made a Volume 2.) I played the heck out of that thing.I still have it and pulled it out of my collection recently. I hadn’t listened to it in ages. One song that really ministered to me is “God Don’t Ever Change.”

I’ve changed a lot in the seventeen years since I first heard that song. Seventeen years is not a long time, but I’ve gone from no facial hair to a few sprigs of gray in my brow, from having no luck with all the girls I liked to being blessed for twelve years (this Sunday!) with the woman of my dreams, from stuttering like a fool to speaking to large groups, from never having babysitted a baby to being a stay-at-home dad for going on 7 years, from skinny to fat to working my way back, from sinning like crazy to . . . Well, I guess some things haven’t changed.

But in my highs and lows and successes and setbacks, in my delights and — yes, I’m sad to say — in my depressions, I believe God has been faithful. My heart and soul are as firm as the shifting sand, but God has ever held me.

Two years ago, my good friend Bill’s wrote something at Out of the Bloo that rocks my socks …

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The Radiant Church

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.– Matthew 5:14

In my Scripture reading yesterday I spent some quality time in Psalm 48, which I love love love. It is about the splendor and influence of Zion, the City of God. I read it as a forecast not just of the consummated kingdom but as a blueprint for the Church, God’s living witness to the kingdom on earth.

I test drove that proposition at Element’s PRAXIS last night, asking our folks essentially, “What does Psalm 48 tells us the Church should do and be like?” Here are the things we came up with (read the psalm yourself and see if you don’t agree) . . .

1. The Church should bring joy to the world. (vv.1-2)

2. The Church’s message is that God is a fortress, a refuge in times of trouble. (v.3)

3. The Church makes it clear that Jesus is Lord over and above all lords, and she leads with the radical call to a revolutionary kingdom that challenges and usurps worldly authorities and systems. (vv.4-5)

4. The Church is forthright about God’s holiness and righteousness, which provokes repentance and the fear of the Lord. (vv.4-8)

5. The Church is known for the love of God. They meditate on God’s love, even. (v.9)

6. The Church’s zeal for the glory of God, for the proclamation of His fame, for the spread of His praise spills outside the city walls and flows to the end of the earth. …

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Element began as a ministry of Bellevue Community Church, and at that time it was somewhat positioned as being for young adults in the church who wanted to “go deeper.” At one of our meetings with church leadership, someone on the team described the teaching philosophy of Element as “deep.” Someone else wisely asked, “What does that even mean?”

It’s a very helpful question, because what I think some people consider “going deeper” is not necessarily what we/I would consider going deeper. I think for some people who’d never visited one of our services, the assumption is that we were doing verse-by-verse expository sermons, dealing with the roots of roots (I confess that Hebrew is Greek to me! :-), piling up the theological jargon, etc.

But while it’s true that we avoid prooftexting Scripture and that we frequently deal with theological concepts, I think Element’s teaching actually stays quite simple. Simply focused, if you will.A couple of weeks ago I taught on the end times and the rapture. This week I’ll be teaching on angels, demons, and spiritual warfare, and the week after that I’ll be tackling the whole Calvinism/Arminianism thing. I’ve never done that before, and I’m only doing it now because we are in a series that called for submitted questions and let people vote, and those were top vote getters. I think some people have the impression that we are dealing with that kind of thing all the time at Element, but we’re not. In fact, every week, no …

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Pastors Pastor

If you’re a writer, you have likely heard numerous times the cardinal rule: “Writers write.”Talking about writing, trying to write, thinking about writing, reading about writing, and aspiring to write do not make one a writer. Only writing does. You don’t even have to be published or successful (whatever that means). If you actually write, you’re a writer.

Perhaps we should begin campaigning for the ecclesiological corollary: “Pastors pastor.”Talking about pastoring, blogging about pastoring, thinking about pastoring, strategizing about pastoring, and speaking at conferences about pastoring is not pastoring. Only pastoring is pastoring.

This post from Brant Hansen resonated strongly with me this week. Nothing I’ve read online this week has touched me more and made me think harder.A taste:

A new friend of mine, “Rick”, describes himself as “too alone”, and I can understand why. He’s a single dad. A smart, kind guy who’s raising a sweet, happy, eight-year old daughter. Rick was raised Catholic, but “wanted something more”, and found an evangelical church down the street. He tried, but never made close friends. But, wow, he was inspired by The Pastor, who’s a famous Man of God.

Rick was a little naive about how church can operate, and asked if he could meet The Pastor to talk. The staff eventually sent him a letter, saying yes, at such-and-such date, Pastor would be available, in the hallway, but for no longer than five minutes. Rick was disappointed. He wanted 20, maybe 30.

Rick thought …

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Linky Wheel Gets the Greasing

Hope you had a great Father’s Day weekend.The chickadees woke me up with breakfast in bed yesterday morning. We had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and in the evening I got the great privilege of preaching the gospel at Element. (Afterwards our offering handlers handed me an anonymous comment card from the bucket that thanked me for presenting a “clear picture of Christ” every week. So that was a great bonus.) Then this morning I got a call from an editor who published some of my stuff a while back telling me he’s about to re-run one of my short stories. So that was a good start to the week.

Here are some quality links to start yours off right . . .

The Jollyblogger highlights a challenging quote from D.A. Carson on “redeeming the culture”.

Ray Ortlund highlights John Piper, with a dash of A.W. Tozer, on emotional blackmail in church.

Congrats to Trevin Wax and family!

Mark Dever answers a challenge about his practice of “separation.”

Bill Kinnon further explores the question “What is missional?”.

If like me you’re attempting young adult ministry, this post on millennials from Shaun Groves may be of interest.

Chanda Canup on believing.

Happy surfing!

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Questions for McChurch

Ed Stetzer’s piece Questions for McChurch, on the multi-site movement and phenomenon, is really good, and it’s replete with Stetzer’s characteristic humility and irenic tone.

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The Leadership Thing

The Rules of Awesomely Bold Leadership series at Letters from Kamp Krusty is one of the funniest things Brant runs over there, but as Homer Simpson would say, “It’s funny because it’s true.”

Chris Blumhofer of wrote an interesting piece for CT’s “Out of Ur” blog recently called Jesus is Not a CEO. Some excerpts:

Beware of any literature that starts with these words: “Jesus was the greatest leader of all time.” The sentiment behind those words may be true, but the point they make is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if Jesus was the greatest leader of all time. Jesus is our leader (and, in a holy sense, we’re stuck with him).

The issue at hand is far from nit-picky. Evangelicals have long been accused of domesticating Jesus—making him one of “us” (often white, middle-class, socially respectable, and politically conservative). The glut of Jesus-as-leader books runs a tremendous risk as it attempts to introduce Jesus into the economy that surrounds 21st century leadership.

Jesus the leader endangers our view of Jesus the savior. Frankly, Jesus the leader is less threatening. He’s an organizational director that would fit in wearing business casual and sitting in a conference room. I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus wants to control how I behave, think, and lead in when I’m in the conference room, but I don’t have much confidence in Jesus as the teacher of strategic leadership lessons.

I want to stop right there, because I do think that, as Dallas Willard helpfully points out in …

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