Monthly Archives: January 2009

Tim Keller in Nashville: Parables, Problems, and Peoples

Went with a couple of buddies to hear Tim Keller speak at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville last night, and we were incredibly blessed and edified by his message.

Ostensibly a presentation on the meaning of the Prodigal Son parable, as tied to his latest book The Prodigal God, Dr. Keller spoke on a few other things, as well. I was so happy to have braved the cold and the traffic and the crowds to hear it in person.

Some reflections:

I was familiar with Keller’s expounding of the two brothers in the parable as the libertine and the self-righteous, and with his connection of this to gospel ministry among postmoderns and post-postmoderns, but there were two points of context he made that I had never realized before.The first is that of the “lost” triptych (sheep, coin, son), the story of the lost son is the only one that does not have a hero. It does not have anyone who goes to look for the lost son. This cliffhanger effect naturally bridges to Jesus’ self-referential place as the good older brother.The other point of context was how the “two ways” connects to the Sermon on the Mount, and how the “two ways to be” (house on sand or stone, etc) concludes a sermon that is not about either being a completely sinful disobedient person or not, but an indictment of two forms of self-worship: license and legalism. This is the older brother: he stays put, he obeys, he does the “right” thing, but …

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Fine Line Between Transparency and Vanity

At what point does regular vulnerability in the context of Christian community — being “open,” being transparent, revealing all problems and perils — stop being about humility and confession and start being self-indulgent vanity? Isn’t it possible that inordinately dwelling on our problems and pasts can turn us into martyr-complexed whiners?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, particularly as many of us — myself included — seem to push more often the revelation of our victimization rather than the revelation of our victimizing (confessing our “pasts,” as opposed to confessing our sins, in other words).

So it was timely to find my friend Bob Spencer’s post today, a reflection on some thoughts from Total Church‘s Steve Timmis on Creating Crises. It is not specifically on the issues I’ve been thinking through, but I think it runs parallel. I hope Bob doesn’t mind if I reprint it entirely:

Steve Timmis has a good post at the elephant in the room blog. Steve is touching on one of my old complaints about church people. Everybody wants to be your comforter. The whole idea of church life, they seem to think, is to find out what’s hurting and pray for that. Nothing makes them light up more than to hear that you’re feeling down, or you have some back pain, or your job is boring. It gives them something to “intercede” about!

I hope I’m not sounding too awfully cynical here. I certainly do appreciate prayer, but I think we’re training ourselves to …

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Mark Driscoll on "Nightline"

Just watched my DVR’d “Nightline” story on Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle. You can watch the piece at ABC News here. (It’s about 7 minutes long.)

Too short. Too narrow, yet too broad. (Don’t know if that makes sense.)

It hit all the places you’d expect: the sermons on sex, his yelling, his conservative doctrine, his Calvinism, the young hipsters that populate the church.

The two places I felt they were heading in some interesting directions were the brief times they showed Mark with his family and at home and the moment the interviewer began asking him about humility. More time spent in those two areas would have been fruitful for both those familiar with Mark and his ministry and those who are not.That’s my opinion, anyway.

I’ve reflected quite a few times in this space on Driscoll’s preaching, writing, and ministry, but here’s an older post that kinda sums up my appreciation of him: The Importance of Mark Driscoll

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Pastors, Take to Your Pulpit "Hot with Christ"

Some unique (but understandable) focus on John Updike this week brings us this great passage from Rabbit, Run, the accosting of a “newfangled” pastor:

Do you think this is your job, to meddle in these people’s lives? I know what they teach you at seminary now: this psychology and that. But I don’t agree with it. You think now your job is to be an unpaid doctor, to run around and plug up holes and make everything smooth. I don’t think that. I don’t think that’s your job…. I say you don’t know what your role is or you’d be home locked in prayer…. In running back and forth you run away from the duty given you by God, to make your faith powerful…. When on Sunday morning, then, when you go out before their faces, we must walk up not worn out with misery but full of Christ, hot with Christ, on fire: burn them with the force of our belief. This is why they come; why else would they pay us? Anything else we can do and say anyone can do and say. They have doctors and lawyers for that…. Make no mistake. Now I’m serious. Make no mistake. There is nothing but Christ for us. All the rest, all this decency and busyness, is nothing. It is Devil’s work.

Timely words in 1960 and prescient for today.

(HT: Reid Monaghan)

Related:Pastors, Don’t Waste Your PulpitCross-Centered Pastoring: The Burden and the PassionRead the Bible Like You Mean It

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Prognosis Negative

(That’s a Seinfeld reference, for those of you not in the know.)

According to a new Barna Group poll, 1 in 3 self-identified “Christians” says Jesus sinned.

Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

And it won’t occur to many pastors/churches that even though they have never said that Jesus sinned (and even though they don’t believe that themselves!), their preaching and mode of ministry has nonetheless produced the sort of thinking that arrives at that conclusion.

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. . . At Rest

One assumes.

In my former (and future) life, I was a novelist. I can only hope that one day I might write nearly as masterfully as my favorite contemporary novelist, Pulitzer Prize winning John Updike, who died today at age 76 from lung cancer.

Updike’s writing isn’t for everyone, and I am feeling a bit like worlds colliding mentioning him in this space, as I doubt he’d be of much interest to the majority of my readers here, if only for some the explicit content in his books. But he wrote unabashedly and frankly, and while this could belie his Protestant upbringing, this frankness in a weird way reflected it: Updike didn’t mind at all showing sin in all its sordid glory. That forbidden fruit probably did not look rotten, after all. Updike’s work is infused with a through-running quality of God-hauntedness.

This is from my tribute today at The Thinklings:

I was a late adopter to Updike’s writing, but I quickly became obsessed. He easily supplanted Paul Auster as my favorite contemporary novelist, and he might have been America’s greatest living novelist. Until today.

I remember reading Rabbit, Run, the first in Updike’s four Rabbit novels, and being blown away. I’ve been reading novels, including literary novels, since I was a kid, but in my late twenties I had no idea someone could write like that. And by “like that” I mean “apparently just for me.”

Since then I’ve rather quickly been making my way through the rest of his works. Updike’s stories …

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Brothers and Sisters

Almost every day I see the teenage brother and sister who live next door to us as they exit their bus after school. I leave the house to get my girls from the elementary school as their bus is dropping them at the corner, so just about every day I see them step off the bus and make the (about) 40 yard walk to their house.

They make this short walk on opposite sides of the street from each other.

A brother and sister, one year apart, maybe two. They get off the bus together. They go to the same door. But they don’t make that walk together.

Every time I see this, it makes me sad.

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More Things I Don’t Get

I continue not getting it.

Go here and read the post and comments.

What am I missing?

I understand this book cover is not “sexy” and probably won’t sell a bunch of books.Okay.

But seriously? Are we dogging this woman because she’s old and not “hot”?

This attitude kills me. I’m sick of not saying anything about it anymore.

God save us from being above it all and cool.

UPDATE:Turner has taken the blog post down. I’m assuming b/c he thought better of it, not b/c he just got tired of taking grief about it.

UPDATE 2:Received a nice email from Turner explaining/apologizing, which he didn’t have to do (as I wasn’t the old lady getting ridiculed in the comments). I’m just glad he took down the tasteless post.He has posted a notice, as well, and some of his readers are upset he “caved.” (sigh)

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Know Your Place

I have a love/hate relationship with Jesus’ disciples. I love ‘em because they’re just like me. I hate ‘em because they’re just like me.

All along they’re wanting the Romans physically overthrown and Jesus on a literal throne in Jerusalem, and all along Jesus is consistently telling them the kingdom of God isn’t like that. No swords and horses. Palm branches and donkeys. No ear chopping. Foot washing.

So he goes all the way to the cross, dies and is buried. He resurrects three days later. And as he’s ascending into heaven, they’re asking, “So, um, do we get that kingdom of Israel now?”

This is me. This is you.

“Gee, thanks for the cross and resurrection, Jesus, but do you think I could have a little more? Something for me?” It’s sort of a “What have you done for me lately?” kind of faith, and none of us is immune.

We naturally and sinfully lose perspective. We put ourselves at the center.

Prime example: The story of David and Goliath.Do you know where you and I are in that story?

Countless preachers, teachers, and inspirational writers have gone into 1 Samuel 17 with applicatory guns blazing. The story makes for some great applicational translation. Like so:The Christian is David. Goliath can be all manner of personal problems and anxieties, social issues, anything plaguing us personally or the Church corporately. And then the five smooth stones David picks up lend themselves so easily to five points, keys, or tips.

Let’s say Goliath is financial insecurity. The expositor …

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Please Keep Praying for David Wayne

My friend the Jollyblogger is still not wasting his cancer. And if you spend 5 minutes reading Drudge or something similar instead of reading his updates, you’re wasting your time.

It is my duty and calling to speak the gospel to myself and, to borrow a phrase from John Piper – to fight for joy, and not let the illness cause my soul to become downcast.

As he blogs his journey, he is pastoring all of us.

Keep praying for David, his wife and children, and his church.

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