Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Kingdom is For Those Who Know How to Die

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”– Luke 14:12-14

Blessed are the Type-A personalities,for theirs is the corner office.Blessed are those who remain unfazed,for they will be self-confident.Blessed are the powerful,for they will inherit the promotion.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for success,for they will be rewarded.Blessed are the religious,for they will be the envy of many.Blessed are the pushy,for they will have much to be proud of.Blessed are the cool,for they will be called gurus.Blessed are those who are recognized because of their achievements,for theirs is the renown among men.

Can we say that those beatitudes aren’t the prevailing wisdom today?

This is from a pastor’s blog (I kid you not):

It’s the elite, the excellers, the achievers, the succeeders, and those who raise their game to a level of “must” who end up with the money, power, and satisfaction. It will cause you tension, aggravation, and sleepless nights. It will wear you out and push you down the road. But that’s what you were made for.

For what? Money, power, and satisfaction?

This is why the real beatitudes are today the …

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Faith, Hope, and Love is About Proximity to Jesus

How do we get to that other side of our struggle, how do we see God’s method in the madness, God’s providence in our pain, before we get there?

To be honest with you, I’m not sure . . . I am generally reluctant to hand out a patented set of Several Steps to Whatevertheheck , especially when the steps we are taking are taken under the heavy weight of real life struggles — illnesses and injuries, betrayals and infidelities, distances and deaths. The Christian life, despite what so many of our preachers often tell us, really isn’t “How to Succeed at Work”-type stuff.

Do you know the story of the invalid at the Sheep Gate pool? Here’s a portion of it from John’s Gospel, a little something to further whet your appetite for redemption:

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once …

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The Power of a Peacemaking Church

Thabiti Anyabwile is one of my new favorites. Here he is in a short clip preaching on the importance of not leaving the work of forgiveness and reconciliation undone.

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The Commodity Culture

Began Skye Jethani’s The Divine Commodity yesterday, and I’m already more than halfway through it. Full review and my part in Jethani’s “blog tour” for the book to come. But I wanted to share this passage that concisely describes our commodity culture and how it affects the worship cultures of our churches.

In our modern world the rain that falls freely from the heavens and the molecular building blocks of life have become commodities.

Like so many elements of our consumer culture, commodification is not the problem but rather its pervasiveness. In a commodity culture we have been conditioned to believe nothing carries intrinsic value. Instead, value is found only in a thing’s usefulness to us, and tragically this belief has been applied to people as well. Divorce rates have skyrocketed as we’ve come to see marriage as disposable. When a spouse is no longer useful he or she can be abandoned or traded. Abortion, the termination of an “unwanted” pregnancy, is believed to be morally justifiable because an unborn child is not a person. Personhood is a legal status reserved for those who are deemed useful. Pornography, prostitution, and child sex trafficking are the result of sexuality being commodified. Modern people may express outrage at the horrors of the African slave trade or the Holocaust, but in truth the commodification of human begins that made those atrocities possible is more prevalent today than ever before.

The reduction of even sacred things into commodities also explains why we exhibit so little reverence for …

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Why Gospel Wakefulness is So Important

“It is the unhurried meditation on gospel truths and the exposing of our minds to these truths that yields the fruit of sanctified character.”

– Maurice Roberts, The Thought of God

This is so true.

This is the thing so few get, because it sounds so ethereal, intangible. And aside from the facts that Jesus Christ is material and tangible and that what he did was physical and historical, the process of gospel wakefulness is kinda ethereal and intangible. It’s supernatural. It happens in the regenerate heart and overflows into the sanctified life.

But it results from gospel proclamation and transformation (Rom. 1:16; 10:14). And this is why all the practical tips in the world won’t save a dang soul.

Lazarus didn’t need 7 steps. He needed Jesus’ resurrecting word.

(HT for Roberts quote: Of First Importance)

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Sign O’ the Times

Got an email yesterday from a guy starting a phone counseling business in which seminary students (and others) pretend to be Jesus for people who call in. The idea is that you’re getting personally counseled by Jesus himself, I guess. This entrepreneurial fellow wanted to know if I wanted “in” on the venture.

Um, no.

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The Trouble with "Impact!": The Vision of the VeggieTales Visionary

Shaun Groves has an excellent post today called Phil Vischer’s Jesus, sharing excerpts from Skye Jethani’s book The Divine Commodity (which is on my must-get list). I hope Shaun won’t mind if I reprint pretty much the whole thing.

“The Christians my grandparents admired – D.L. Moody, R.G. LeTourneau, Bill Bright – were fantastically enterprising. The Rockefellers of the Christian world. Occasionally I would read about different sorts of Christians that would confuse me, like, say, Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa seemed like a great woman, but her approach struck me as highly inefficient. I mean, she was literally feeding the poor. One at a time. Didn’t she see that her impact would be much greater if she developed some sort of system for feeding the poor that could be franchised around the world? She could be the Ray Kroc of world hunger! Wouldn’t that be better?”

After the financial collapse of Phil’s company Big Idea Entertainment, makers of Veggie Tales, Phil explained the belief system that had driven him to make the motion picture that caused it all:

“God would never call us from greater impact to lesser impact! Impact is everything! How many kids did you invite to Sunday school? How many souls have you won? How big is your church? How many videos/record/books have you sold? How many people will be in heaven because of your efforts? Impact, man!”

He began questioning this belief system:

“The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had …

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Loving the Provision More than the Provider

The big fat elephant in the room of evangelicalism’s preaching against sin is gluttony.

I gave it a shot at Element last night, as part of our current series Seven Daily Sins.

A recap of sorts can be found here.

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Love is Not Easier

Many of us have this weird idea that Jesus loosened things up. Some of us think that for centuries emerging from the Old Testament Law, everything was rigid and difficult, and then Jesus showed up with his peace, love, and good vibes and just told everyone to love everybody.

Why do we think it’s easier to love people than it is to just be religious?

I’m not sure people who think and speak that way really even know what love is.

Maybe the reason we don’t all, in the spirit of unity and rainbows, just set aside our differences and love each other is because it’s really freaking hard to do that.

Just as an example, Jesus said that if you lust after somebody, it’s the same as sleeping with them, and if you hate somebody, it’s the same as murdering them. Where in the world would we get the idea this makes things easier? It’s a lot easier to not kill somebody than it is to not hate them. It’s a lot more difficult to not lust than it is to not have sex.

And it’s a lot easier to follow some rules everyone can see me keep than it is to truly, actually love people.

Anybody can be on their best behavior. But to love someone who hates you? That takes Jesus and his cross.

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Pharisees with Fauxhawks

Last night on the way home from small group I listened to the guy on the local Christian radio station give a ten-minute presentation of what he learned in church the previous day. It boiled down to an appeal to make Jesus our “role model.” (Yes, using those words.)

There is no better role model than Jesus. You won’t find me arguing against that to anyone. And wanting Jesus for his benefits but not for his cross is a serious problem in Christianity.But there was zero gospel content in this presentation. It could’ve been delivered by the Dalai Lama. Richard Gere thinks Jesus is an awesome role model. The world thinks Jesus is a good role model, and in fact, most of them wish Christians acted more like Jesus (or at least, more like their perception of Jesus).

“Jesus as role model” is not the gospel. At one point in his spiel, the radio dude hat-tipped self-help books and advice columns, saying “We read all those things, but we never think to go to the Bible for God’s advice!”As if the alternative to advice from the world is more advice, albeit from the Bible.

The gospel is not advice.

This is yet another example of something I’ve been harping on in my last two years of writing: just because you dress casual, play rock music, and talk a lot about grace, doesn’t mean you aren’t a legalist. And in fact, the self-professed “culturally relevant” churches today are the chief proponents of legalism …

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