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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Becky and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage today. We got married on our three year dating anniversary, so we’ve officially been a couple for 15 years.

Becky is the greatest blessing of my life, and I am thankful beyond words that God has given an amazing woman like her to a schmuck like me.

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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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Dare I Say It’s About Idolatry?

Well, I guess I just did.

On the same day the biggest baddest TR blog on the block basically says “missional” is an em-church emperor with no clothes, this post from Kingdom Grace knocks it out of the park.

It’s all good, but the punchy part addresses the dilemma (which I admit isn’t imaginary) raised by critics. Here it is:

The answer to whether an existing congregation can become missional is dependent on their willingness to change their central purpose.

By co-opting the term and changing its emphasis, churches who do not wish to make such fundamental shifts in their thinking can apply it to a program and say, essentially, “Yes, we’re a missional church.” – Brother Maynard

That isn’t missional. You can’t have it both ways.

What will it look like for an organization to shift its focus and purpose to mission instead of the organization and the Sunday service? Are congregations willing to make that degree of change, to pay the full price to become missional?

If not, be straight about what you are, and don’t claim to be what you are not. But for those who truly want to be missional, realize what you will have to let go of in order to become missional.

Look, I don’t know what the missional gurus are saying being missional really is. I’ve heard they haven’t exactly figured it out, and since definitions are about as numerous as definers, I won’t be jumping in to say who’s in and who’s out. I also …

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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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Five For Friday: Songs of the Moment

The last time I did a Five For Friday in this category it was April, so naturally my current song obsessions have changed. As then, this is not a list of my five favorite songs, nor are these songs necessarily new or in any way related to each other, aside from the fact that I have big crushes on all of them.

1. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The DarknessPopped up randomly on my iPod this morning. I was like, “Yes.”

2. “In Love with a Girl” by Gavin DeGrawThis song rocks. Plus, I am also in love with a girl who knows how to treat a fella right, so it’s relatable.

3. “Three More Days” by Ray LaMontagneOh. My. Goodness. Like buttah.

4. “Life in Technicolor” by ColdplayThis is the opening number on their new album Viva la Vida (which is phenomenal, by the way), and it’s just 2 minutes and 29 seconds of instrumental wonderment. I know this will make me sound like one of those artsy fartsy emerging types, but I hear this song, the way it builds, the way other notes and under-notes and complementary instruments come in (I’m not a musician, so I’m making up stuff here), and it makes me think of the kingdom of Jesus spreading over all the earth like the waters cover the sea. (Plug in your headphones, pop the earbuds in your earholes, crank it up, and see if you don’t agree.)

5. “4 Minutes” by Madonna (featuring Justin Timberlake and …

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So I floated a sort of crazy, impractical idea to Element’s board of directors this morning, something I believe God has been wanting me to put before them, and we have begun talking about it, and it appears do-able, and I’m being really vague because the notion is only a few hours out of my heart and not everyone on the board has had a chance to weigh in, and we still have to decide how it might work and then it has to be approved by the board and it’s amazing I didn’t get laughed at by anybody (not because our board is rude or derisive or in any way unsupportive, but because it really is a “You wanna do what?” kind of idea).I want to do something radical and ridiculous to show Jesus that Element really is passionate about the glory of God and the gospel of the kingdom.

Yesterday, I had lunch with Dr. Ray Ortlund, whose voice and vision I am so thankful to God for putting in my life. As I pulled into the parking lot at the restaurant, this compelling idea of mine* was heavy in my thoughts. During our conversation, not having mentioned anything about it or anything close to it, Ray is talking about the dangers of being “safe” in ministry and the benefits of being “scary” and then he said, “I wonder sometimes if God ever looks down at us and says, ‘Whoa. Now that was bold’.” The implication of course is …

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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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When You’re In a Less Than Happy Place

This recent message by John Piper on Spiritual Depression is magnificent. It covers Psalm 42 (“Why so downcast, o my soul?” . . .) and, seriously, it is beautiful.

You probably know if the concept of spiritual depression might in some way apply to you or someone you know, but even if not, I highly recommend it.

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Love is Never a Waste

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.– Galatians 6:9

We likely all recall the time Peter came up to Jesus and basically asked, “When I can I stop forgiving someone who keeps wronging me? After seven times?”(I can almost hear him hoping, “Please tell me after seven times.”)But Jesus responds to him, saying “No, not seven times. Seventy times seven times.”

For those of you doing the math, that comes to 490. The bad news (or good news, depending on which side of the forgiving you’re on is that this is a symbolic number that basically means “forever.”Jesus was saying to Peter, “No, you don’t give someone seven strikes. You just keep forgiving them . . . forever.”

Now, Jesus is a smart guy. In fact, if we believe he is who he said he was, we know he has all the omniscience of the God of the Universe. So he knows this is a tall order. He knows it doesn’t “make sense” in our world of abuse and betrayal and pettiness and vindictiveness and pride and arrogance and egotism.

So why does he do this? If he knows our capacity for love and forgiveness is finite, how can he call us to persevere in these things toward others? The short answer, I think, is because God Himself perseveres in them toward us.Jesus goes on to tell Peter a story about a servant who was forgiven …

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