Monthly Archives: April 2010

Your Private Life Gives Public Witness

A word of warning for the thousands entering Louisville next week for the Together 4 the Gospel Conference: what you do in the privacy of your hotel room can be a witness against the gospel. Think this is unwarranted?

From Steve Farrar’s Finishing Strong:

A number of years ago a national conference for church youth directors was held at a major hotel in a city in the mid-west. Youth pastors by the hundreds flooded into that hotel and took nearly every room. At the conclusion of the conference, the hotel manager told the conference administrator that the number of guests who tuned into the adult movie channel broke the previous record, far and away outdoing any other convention in the history of the hotel.

My friend Justin Holcomb, who is a sociologist, an author, a pastor at Mars Hill Seattle, director of Mosaic Peace, and the academic dean of Re:Train helped me in looking into this phenomenon, recalling from his own research in an email to me:

I interviewed hotel managers about this when I was teaching in the sociology department at Univ of Virginia. All managers said that porn rates increase during conferences in general. That’s normal because they have more guests. A few admitted that it seems to be the same or a bit more when Christian conferences come to town. One manager was a Christian and he said a line I’ll never forget: “Unfortunately, ‘they know you are Christians by your…porn consumption’ is more truthful than ‘love’ when it …

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The Fantastic Remembrance and Anticipation of the Gospel

Sermon this Sunday is on Malachi 1:1-5. So much meat in just those 5 verses — stuff on election, God’s love, God’s wrath, his sovereignty over calamities, etc. — but the thing I see framing it all is a two-part power of the gospel proclamation that is there. Here is the passage, with the gospel proclamation(s) in bold:

1The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”

There is past tense and then future tense. There is “I have loved you” and there is “Your own eyes shall see . . .”

God through Malachi is addressing a half-hearted, spiritually corrupt covenant community. They have predicated their polluted religion on all that God is not presently doing. They are struggling financially and politically. They are muddling through while their enemies seem to prosper.

And God doesn’t say, …

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Rewarded: Michael Spencer

Our friend the Internet Monk passed away last night. This whole thing happened too fast.

Michael was a maddening, wonderful, special man. In a vast sea of bloggers, Michael was a writer.

I will write more later. Just don’t have the whatever to do it now.

Please pray for his wife Denise, son Clay and his wife, and daughter Noel and her husband.

We love you, Michael. I am glad for you that you are someplace realer.

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Literally, Bodily, Historically, Factually, Supernaturally, Gloriously

The late John Updike, perhaps the last truly great American novelist, wrote one of my favorite poems about the Easter event:


By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at allit was as His body;if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the moleculesreknit, the amino acids rekindle,the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,each soft Spring recurrent;it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddledeyes of the eleven apostles;it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,the same valved heartthat — pierced — died, withered, paused, and thenregathered out of enduring Mightnew strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,analogy, sidestepping transcendence;making of the event a parable, a sign painted in thefaded credulity of earlier ages:let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,not a stone in a story,but the vast rock of materiality that in the slowgrinding of time will eclipse for each of usthe wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,make it a real angel,weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linenspun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we areembarrassed by the miracle,and crushed by remonstrance.

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He Has Risen (Just as He Said)

Has any musician since had the anointing Keith Green did? I submit to you that they do not.

This song gives me goosebumps every time.

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7 Miles

From the incomparable Matt Chandler:

Pray for him, by the way.

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The Friday That is Good

Today is Good Friday. Good Friday. The day of Christ on the cross — we mark this day as good.In a day when alleged proclaimers of the Word define “life abundantly” as material goods and finite pleasures, a battered king nailed to a cross is still a stumbling block. And it is still a mandate.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.– 1 Peter 4:13

Rejoice in sufferings?

This is not possible except for those who see being like Christ, who see being in Christ as the greatest good, the highest value, the best pleasure of all pleasures.

Many things can and will make us happy.There is no joy but in Jesus Christ.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.– Hebrews 12:2

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A Matched Intensity

Most churchfolk are awash 7 days a week with appeals to their sense of fulfillment and excitement. We are constantly begged (excitedly!) to be excited and energized and over-the-top satisfied by the latest Hollywood blockbuster or the new gadget from Apple or even the newest fruit-extracted shampoo. The promises are more “promising” every year. Advertisers aren’t pitching their product so much as the orgasm their product will give you. (I’m sorry if “orgasm” offends you; it’s a real word, though, not a profanity — you can look it up in the dictionary.)

The response by the evangelical church, then, has been interesting. Disappointing. What we’ve done is not offer an alternative excitement, a true excitement. We offer the same excitement as the advertisers, because we want to appeal to desires already present and then we hope to piggyback off those into seeding desires for God. But it almost never works that way. The crowd that “loved” Jesus when he was miraculously feeding them disappeared when he said they needed to eat his flesh and blood.

The alternative the church must offer, then, is not a matched pitch — come to church for free stuff! slide down the wacky slide into our KidZone Theme Park! enjoy the fog and lasers! (and hopefully find Jesus) — but a matched intensity toward another offer altogether. As it is, we are mimicking advertisers’ intensity about stuff and soft-pedaling Jesus. Instead we should be talking, preaching, serving, worshiping hard as if the riches of Christ are riveting, …

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