Monday, November 30, 2009

In the air and water

Christians, are we one in Christ or in coffee?

Quiet down

Jeff Weddle takes a sharp look at Christians and dealing with problems. Here's how his essay begins:
Everyone has problems and they are always happy to share. Christians, being people, are no different.

The primary difference between Christians talking about their problems and other people is that Christians will end their whine session with a short, out of context verse that makes both sides smile and say “have a nice day.”

Ouch. What's Jeff's conclusion? Though not literally the bottom line, it's really this:
People with serious problems that they want solved get quiet and listen. Then they do what they were told.
I recommend Jeff's whole article.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lighten up

Dan Edelen offers advice to Christians in the U.S. on lightening the load.

Sign of spiritual health

"The single most revealing measurement of a congregation’s health and spiritual vitality? Attendance at worship."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A note for preachers:

More on the missional God

"The Bible does not align us to God’s purposes by giving us a book of answers and instructions. Rather, as we soak up the Scriptures, the Spirit works in our lives to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and to change our way of thinking. Because of this, we need to remember that the Bible is first of all about God, not about mankind."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Asking questions, finding answers

This is a brief, helpful article on interpreting the Bible through asking good questions.

Building and planting

Keith Brenton has noticed something about the language Christians use to describe building the church:
I'm a little uncomfortable with the term "church planting."

I understand that it's trying to describe something more organic than building and filling church facilities; something that communicates growth and change, and that the alternative term "church-building" would have attached to it all of the baggage of "church buildings." But "church planting" isn't really a scriptural term.
True. I recommend Keith's whole article.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Revolutionizing our view of God

Glen Scrivener explains, succinctly and poignantly, why it really matters that "Jesus is God-sized and God is Jesus-shaped."

On being translated

"As Christ came to the world, so his people spread out across the globe spreading the Good News of a God who translated himself so that we could understand him. The centre of this Good News is the creation of indigenous redeemed communities expressing the Gospel manifold cultures and all adding together to create a symphony of praise to our God. The translation of the Scriptures lies at the very heart of this. Translation is not simply a way to convey the message: translation is the message."

Seeking first

Dan Edelen writes trenchantly about the failure of Christianity in the United States:

Our problem as Christians in America 2009 is not simply that we are more wealthy than 95 percent of the world’s population, but that every single aspect of how we live, work, love, commune, and bleed  MUST be “sold” to follow Jesus.

And we are simply unwilling to take that step.
Dan goes on to offer solutions at the link.

Meanwhile, another Dan (Horwedel) offers related thoughts on American civil religion: "too much of who we are as the church is wrapped up in preserving our country and/or way of life, and not near enough is about loving God and others."

I recommend the writings of both Dans.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Distinctive ignorance'

Story of the missionary God

"We are often rather suspicious of narrative; with a slight suspicion that it is less authoritative than propositional logic. We would like the Bible to be a book of systematic theology rather than a narrative. But God gave us the Bible he wants us to have and we should be wary of regarding it otherwise." - Eddie Arthur

On making peace

These have got to be some of the best words I've read in a long time on peace:
We are called to be peacemakers. So, what is a peacemaker? A peacemaker is someone who brings righteousness (Jesus) into a situation. You actually make peace by sowing righteousness. For instance, if you don’t have peace in your marriage, don’t avoid the conflict. Rather, bring your marital relationship into right standing with God. Bring righteousness into the relationship and peace will follow.

If there is an area of conflict in your life, then examine to see if it is in right standing with God. Bring righteousness into that area of your life. Make it completely right before God. Totally surrender it to Him. Give it to Jesus! Righteousness will bring peace!
That's Eric Jones, and I recommend his whole article.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two must-haves in preaching

"It is my opinion that in biblical preaching God is most interested in two things: faithfulness and humility."

'Obeying God by doing nothing'

Roycle Ogle writes a good reminder to overworked Christians:
God in his infinite wisdom declared that man should rest every seventh day to show that he was set apart for God. This day of rest (Sabbath) was a covenant between God and man and God said rest and he meant it. . . .

So, I’m officially off 52 days a year. I’m taking a nap on the back porch on my day off and my neighbor stops by. “What are you doing sleeping in the middle of the day?” I answer, “Oh, I’m just honoring and obeying God.” “I’m just following instructions.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The real Jesus?

Jeff Weddle: "Many believe in Jesus; few believe in the Jesus of Scripture."

Ministry and depression

Kinney Mabry is hoping to start a dialogue on ministers dealing with depression:
Ministers have a harder time dealing with depression and anxiety because of their positions. They often feel as if they can't tell anyone how they are feeling. In doing so can sometimes even cost them their ministry positions in the churches that they pastor. Where do they turn? If they share their thoughts with members, elders, or others in their church it can cost them. If they share their thoughts and feelings online it could cost them if someone reads what they feel . . . .
A good bit of discussion has already begun in the comments section of Kinney's blog post.

Along similar lines, Darryl Dash shares insights on a related ailment: a low-grade sense of ministerial failure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Speaking well

This looks helpful: Ten things good ministers say.

Theology of social media

Scot McKnight: "So, let me ask pastors who tweet and who update their status a few simple questions: What do your updates tell us about what you are doing? About what is uppermost on your mind? About what is most important to you? It is time to take stock."

On competence addiction

"The perfectionistic, driven, and competent person, capable of leading others well is no better off than an addict who tries to get her needs met through alcohol - if she's operating out of sheer need for approval or drivenness to 'git it done.' Whether our flesh is a little like the Pharisee or more like the woman at the well, getting our needs met apart from trusting in Christ is a dead-end."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Translating church-hopper lingo

This may be a little cynical, but probably more true than we'd like: Top ten things church hoppers say (via).

Go deeper

One-note Gospel preaching

"The critic of the one-note Johnnyism of gospel-centrality just doesn't get it. But the gospel is versatile enough for those who do and don't. And there's the awesomeness of gospel-centered preaching! It's a wonderful Catch-22. Those who haven't yet experienced gospel wakefulness can only do so by hearing the gospel, and those who have experienced gospel wakefulness don't tire of hearing it!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The strength of my heart

Victoria Gaines: "We can stop worrying and feeling condemned over our flesh when we realize that God doesn't intend to "fix" it. God puts no hope in the flesh, neither should we!"

On being still

Jared Wilson writes succinctly and insightfully on Sabbathless Christianity:
This is often our invitation: "Come to Jesus and get to work."

This is Jesus' invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Good point.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'I don't know anything about that'

This one's simply too rich to summarize, so I urge you simply to follow the link and read Mark Olson's writing of cross and culture.

Working on a pure heart

Eric Jones shares some thoughts on keeping the heart pure:

Let me start out by emphatically stating that the only way we can ever have a pure heart is to
invite Jesus to reside, rule, and reign inside our hearts. He alone is the essence of purity and holiness. So, there’s no hope for a pure heart without God.

But know that in Christ, we now have the ability and responsibility to actively pursue this progressive work of developing a pure heart. “I can do all things through Christ…” My heart can be purified. I am called to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” I am called to work on my heart.
There's more in Eric's article.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Serving with joy

Victoria Gaines shares a reminder about guilt, grace, and religious labor:
When a baby is born, we're happy and rejoice! When my three children were born, I certainly cooed over them lovingly, thanking God for such precious life. I didn't look at them and say, "Hmm...I wonder what awful sinful past this baby had?

If we belong to God, He isn't saying that either.

Yet many of us, after being born into Christ, still kick ourselves and drag around a heap of guilt and shame. We worry we haven't pleaded enough for forgiveness, served God enough, disciplined ourselves enough, or think ourselves unworthy because of shame. Listen, none of us were worthy before He saved us! And religious works won't ever cleanse our conscience! But because God loves us, He provided a means for healthy guilt-free living; we just need to receive His provision. Only then will we serve Him with joy and out of this amazing grace in which we now stand.
Thanks, Vicki; those words really hit home.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Credit where credit is due

Plus, no football was ever elected to the Hall of Fame.

Not twittering

I'm glad to see someone else feels the same way: Skye Jethani gives a number of reasons why he doesn't tweet. Here's sample:

I don’t need another commitment in my life. To quote Bilbo Baggins, I fee like “too little butter spread over too much bread.” I already check email, Facebook, SkyeBox, Out of Ur, voicemail, snail mail, and a number of other websites with obsessive regularity. Frankly, I don’t want another one filling my mind or time.


I’m tired of obeying marketers. No offense to those in the marketing profession, but I’d like to know when we collectively decided to make marketers the high priests of our culture? We listen to them like prophets and obey their instructions like slaves. Every marketer seems to be singing the praises of Twitter and social media. I’m sure they have a legitimate point, but if I did everything a marketer told me…well, it would be a sad existence.
Mr. Jethani's final reason, by the way, is the best of all. And thanks to David Fitch for the link.

Friday, November 06, 2009


On Jesus and expectations

John Frye, in his ongoing series on Jesus and expectations, makes a good and painful point about Christian perceptions of our Lord:
Christians are expected to be nice apparently because they think Jesus was nice. To imagine Jesus as a hotly controversial, cultural rebel turns him, in their thinking, into a disobedient child of God. We just can’t have that. We can’t bring ourselves to follow a leader who was labeled crazy, a demoniac, a huckster, a fraud and a danger to society. He was labeled these things not by the secular, atheistic media, but by the honorable theologians of the the day. Godly people, mind you. Yet, we assume that our sweet Jesus was just not any of those things. Jesus was not called those things because he brought pies to the church bake sale. He was called those things because he was an intentional and regular law-breaker.

When we turn to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), we discover some packaged episodes titled “controversy” and “Sabbath controversy.” Because we are so used to reading “nice church” into the life of Jesus, we do not connect with the shocking enormity of his lawlessness. For religious conservative leaders who idolized the Temple in Jerusalem because that’s where God lived and where forgiveness was granted to hear a scraggy little Galilean Jewish carpenter say publicly, “Son, your sins are forgiven” almost put those leaders into cardiac arrest. Then to their utterly sputtering amazement the little Jewish nobody healed the man to prove that he, indeed, had authority to forgive sins on the spot. No Temple, no priest, no sacrifice. Just a word. To the religious ones, Jesus had to be demonic. Too much of what they stood for was riding on Jesus’ being who he said and acted like he actually was.
You might quibble with a few of John's word choices in this passage, but his central observation is valid: too often Christians try to reshape Jesus into the image we prefer. But as the Pevensies learned, Aslan is not a tame lion.

And here, by the way, is John's conclusion:
A Christian life without controversy is not the Christian life…if Jesus has anything to do with it. I wonder if we’ve lost a generation of youth because the church and parents thought the aim of discipleship was to make “nice little boys and girls”?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Gospel alone

Glen Scrivener reminds Christians that the Gospel is not a good idea. Here's a (rather lengthy) sample:
We all love the phrase: ‘The Gospel is not good advice, it’s good news.’ Or at least, we should love it. It’s an essential reminder that we don’t preach a moral ladder to Jesus. Instead we announce that He has come down.

But I am worried about a similar error in our evangelism. It’s thinking that the Gospel is a good idea - even the best idea. The crowning ‘world view’ among ‘world views’.

In reality this is precisely the ‘good advice’ problem transposed to epistemology. Where ‘good advice’ preaching proclaims a moral ladder to Jesus, ‘good idea’ preaching proclaims a reasoned ladder to Jesus.

Both approaches are just as opposed to the good news as each other. One is moral pelagianism, the other is intellectual pelagianism.
Good point.

Update: John Schroeder offers related thoughts here.

The virtues of preaching bad sermons

This advice from Russell Moore's to young preachers is sound:
Your first few sermons are always terrible, no matter who you are.

If you think your first few sermons are great, you’re probably self-deceived. If the folks in your home church think your first few sermons are great, it’s probably because they love you and they’re proud of you. If it’s a good, supportive church there’s as much objectivity there as a grandparent evaluating the “I Love You Grandma” artwork handed to them by the five year-old in their family. . . .

Great preachers are the ones who preach really bad sermons. The difference is that they preach really bad sermons when they’re young, and are sharpened for life by critique.
Amen. Thanks to both Justin Taylor and Paul Lamey for the link.

Related: Are you growing in your preaching?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Of tribes and translations

John Frye: "Welcome to USAmerican evangelicalism. Show me your version of the Bible and I’ll tell you what you think about the role of women in ministry. Can you believe it has come to this?"

'We have no rights'

Adrian Warnock reflects on human 'rights' and grace:
The truth is we have no rights. We deserve nothing except the wrath and punishment of God. The only reason we were even born is that God was gracious to our forefathers and did not strike them down with a great and holy and fully justified fury. And its not as if you and I have done anything to improve our situation. No, we have added to the weight of sin and condemnation we were born already carrying.
Amen (HT: Blogotional).

It's a fundamental shift in outlook, especially on this side of the pond, for Christians to give up the concept of rights. In case you doubt that the entire concept of rights is fundamentally at odds with a Christian worldview, I recommend Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Simultaneity and community

Monday, November 02, 2009

On touching scars

Short but pithy: the stories of Kirsten & Jill.

God and his glory

"Glory is not a something that God gets. Glory is the display of who God is."