Friday, March 13, 2009

Expectations

My friends bought a used mattress from Craigslist. For the un-initiated, Craiglist is kind of like Ebay, but it’s less polished and you have to go pick up whatever you buy. Expectations were high—they were confident of a good deal.

But expectations collided with reality when they went to get the mattress. The way they tell the story, I can only imagine that Chewbacca opened the door—a really sweaty Chewbacca who chain-smoked. They bought the mattress anyway.

The aroma of disappointment filled the van—that and the smell of a wet, chain-smoking wookie. My friend looked at his wife and said, “You want to take it straight to the dump?” She thanked him with a simple “yes.” So they drove to the dump and paid to unburden the mattress they had just driven thirty minutes to buy!

The deal they made was so bad, they were relieved to be able to end it with a little extra cash. In Ephesians 2:1-3, we’re facing a lousy deal and it’s all our fault. That’s what makes 2:4-5 such a relief—God doesn’t stick us with the stinky mattress. But that just scratches the surface.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thinking

I was just reading from a book written in 1877. I know, but I do that kind of thing. The quote was from a man named Phillips Brooks--he was the kind of guy who was introduced by people like Billy Sunday. Anyway, here's what he said:
...and the only sure and lasting way to make men believe in one's devotion and purity is to be what one wishes to be believed to be.
Two weeks ago, I heard Andy Stanley say the same thing in reference to moral authority, and the necessity of our deed and creed aligning.

So, today I've been thinking a lot about where we're headed in ministry. For the past year, I've been helping to lead an effort by our church to reach young adults. It started out okay, but we've veered from our task. We replaced the slow growth of a solid leadership team with a weekly event, and now the event is hollow.

Somewhere along the way toward credibility, we took a short-cut to build something. But we've caught ourselves. For the next two months, we're circling the wagons and dropping the event. The leaders are re-grouping, and we're being joined by a new handful of young people who are determined to carve time and opportunity to serve our lost friends and the world we live in. It's the right decision--we need time to pray and dream again. And we need to move forward in ways that address those dreams--in ways that truly serve our disconnected friends.

In the midst of this renewal and refocusing, I find myself uneasy. In the words of a friend, "It's difficult to pause in a culture that values measurement." Somewhere along the way, I've become a performer. Slowing down is hard to do, but here we are. I'm haunted sometimes by the ministry of Jonathan Edwards (I know, more old stuff). At one point in his ministry, he paused and looked around. Then he began to visit the home of each person in his church, one by one. He both encouraged and challenged them--in their own homes. That church became the seed of the Great Awakening.

It's worth it to take time to pause, to sharpen the axe, to get your bearings. I think that's why we started The Clearing in the first place, right?


You can read the whole book by Phillips Brooks here and now.

Link

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tattoo

I know it's been awhile, but now that I'm done with five semesters of Greek, I'm hoping to return to the blogosphere! Right now, I'm sitting at the beach watching Miami Ink. I've heard about it, but we don't have cable at home.

I'm really struck by the show. I'm hoping this is the last episode tonight, because if it isn't I'm going to be up awhile. The same thought keeps running through my head--If we really want to reach out to this generation, we need to set up some tattoo shops....

If that seems kind of silly, then watch an episode and listen to the stories. And while we're at it, what if we could find a way to offer pre-marital counseling to non-christians?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Suffering

Here are some great thoughts on suffering and American theology from a dear old friend (Natey K anyone?). I got to touch on some similar themes preaching at Bent Tree a couple of weeks ago.

Link

AND, here are two other great links:
1. A 4-hour debate/conversation at Saddleback between Rick Warren [wiki] and Sam Harris [wiki] on the existence of God. It was Newsweek's idea. Link.
2. Time Magazine article on teaching the Bible in the public school system. Link.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What the Church may Become. I hope.

Read this first.

This is the buzz. Scott McKnight also hints of "post-evangelicalism." I don't think the fallout can be homogeneous, but I think the blending is well under way. It has been for some time, but it wasn't identified as a pattern. Early on, there were Bible churches dealing with charismatics and the birth of Emmaus/Tres Dias communities in the mainlines. Then there were Alpha classes among the Episcopals. All of these were a re-centering among their own ilk.

Seven years ago (or so), a lot was being written about evangelical college students using Gregorian chant and ancient rituals. People thought that was the next big thing and started chasing it as an end. What wasn't clear was how many other believers were also becoming unsettled.

The thing she hints at but doesn't address is globalization. This time, not only can we speak to each other, but we can ALL speak. Look at the idea in your head that separates the South African Episcopals from the US Episcopals now that they've wrestled with homosexual clergy. And take a glance backward at how much your view of Roman Catholics has shifted in the last decade. For those wrestling with definitions of Orthodoxy (like Doug Paggit), this is exciting and may seem like a move toward ecumenism. For some evangelicals, it's terrifying and a slippery path to liberalism (many liberals are paying attention).

I think it will continue to blend for awhile, but there will also come a reassertion of the oldest creeds. This will expel some, but energize others. Seriously, isn't it at least a little exciting to see things like Lent and Advent being reclaimed and cleansed of their baggage--the presence of ritual and the sacred again in the midst of all the postmodern chaos? I believe the same will continue to happen and more and more new believers will be reaching back to our foundations for answers. That's why Rob Bell's podcast has 40,000 downloads a week--he's teaching the Old. Same thing for John Piper.

Okay--a lot more than I meant to write.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Jesus Tomb

This is a duplicate of my post on a blog dedicated to our junior high staff:

Thanks to Erik for pointing this out! As it happens, one of my professors was supposed to be at the press conference and couldn't make it, but he's already seen the documentary and has some excellent comments here. Watch for more from him here. Seminary comes in handy!

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, James Cameron (director of Titanic) is hosting a documentary on the Discovery Channel this Sunday. The promo asks, "If the bones of Jesus were found in Jerusalem, would that destroy the Christian faith?" They believe they have indeed found them, and those of his wife and son. Yes, that would pose quite a problem, since we believe in a BODILY resurrection and all!

Relax. They didn't find what they think they found. But there will be quite a bit of media attention on this in the next couple of days and you may even get some difficult questions from students. Remind them that we never need to fear a real search for truth.

Dr. Bock said this morning in class, "It's like a 21 slide PowerPoint presentation and each slide is contested. For the claim to be true, every slide must build from the one before." Take a peek at his blog or feel free to direct students there to read along with you. If you'd prefer a quick overview, here's a sampling of highlights:
1-It is almost untenable that a Jewish family from Galilee would purchase a family tomb in Jerusalem.
2-The names being used are not agreed upon--there are some significant difficulties with the equating of Mariamne with Mary Magdalene.
3-There is no agreement that this is actually a family tomb.
4-You'll have to see his post the rest, including some truth about DNA evidence. Be sure and go to the main blog as well for his updates. You'll hear him quoted quite a bit this week.

SO, since we're looking at Jesus and comparing him to who the culture thinks He is on Sundays, we're going to hit this head on in class on Sunday. I'll play some video from either CNN or Discovery and we'll let the kids try to help find solutions. As always, you're welcome to come (especially if you're on the Sunday Team)!

[staff meeting reminder removed]

UPDATE: There's a good article here, including an observation by a prominent Jewish scholar. AND, this blog (Ben Witherington, PhD.) is also full of excellent material for dealing with the claims. Be sure and look through the many comments and responses (Dr. Witherington is a friend of Dr. Bock).

FURTHER UPDATES: see www.crosstie.org

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Emerging Article

There's an excellent article on the emerging church here. These are the Christians our students are becoming (and maybe us too). I think the challenge it brings to the mainstream is exciting, and though some have found dangerous theology, others are finding ways around it--or should I say--others are reaching similar conclusions about practice and worship and mission with theology that is clearly orthodox, and yet humbly so.

I'll probably post the article on Crosstie.org in a couple of days.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Experiment

Sorry I've been out for so long! This semester got a bit overwhelming. And then there's a little experiment I've been working on.

I've often noticed how easy it is to find Christian resources through Google searches and the like, but I've rarely had a way to find reliable Christian resources. AND, I've found many useful things online over the years that I wish I could share with folks. Add to that a desire for pay off school debt, and there you have it: CROSSTIE.ORG. Please VISIT!

Ok, it's really just another blog that looks like a website, but I'm trying to index and evaluate many good online tools with room for the opinions of other folks (it's unmoderated for now). I plan to add at least one a week and label them so you can easily find things through the contents (or the search at the top of the page). I hope to keep the list down to a workable number of good sources and do not plan to evaluate things I don't find useful.Nor do I plan on sticking with evangelical or even Christian material. If I find it helpful for ministry, I'll try to stick it in (for example).

Anyway, take a peek and share your thoughts. I'll be adding book links through Amazon at a later date.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

11:45. First car-sick of the trip, but what a difference a year makes. She used a barf bag!
-steve

8:45 (our time) -- leaving Bryant, AR (Arkansas).
-steve

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

8:00 leaving West Memphis. Lots of coughing last night. We didn't sleep well, but we're excited.
-steve

Friday, November 17, 2006

3:00. We're pulling out. Madison's play was great. We're tense but it's getting better.
-steve

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pumpkins Three

Sometimes it's difficult to recognize just how fast they grow, and to see how the little ones go even faster. Megan cut her own pumpkin when she was six. Madison did it last year at five. Now Mackenzie this year at four. But we sure do have a good time doing it!

They pick the pumpkins and draw their faces. I copy them to the pumpkins and make a lid. Then they do the rest with tools like dull jigsaw blades (ok, I did the mouths for Megan and Mackenzie, but it was just because Kenzie got tired and Megan was worried about the tongue). At the end, I clean them up so the edges are good and the light works well.

You can buy pretty cool designs now, but nothing beats seeing their personalities shine through ;-)

Can you guess?


2006 (above, clockwise from left): Madison's pirate, Mackenzie's scary face and Megan's hillbilly.

2005 (clockwise from left): Madison, Mackenzie, Megan.

2004 (clockwise from left): Madison's self-drawn, Megan's self-cut and Mackenzie's dad-did-it special.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Anatomy

I'm not going to admit to watching the show because some of my readers are also our students, but it does intrigue me ;-)

I am struck by the way they have chosen lives that completely disregard the plan of God and that they so clearly suffer the consequences of life outside His provision. Repeatedly. They speak frequently about the pain they bring, yet they remain dedicated to these same afflicted behaviors. It is a beautifully disturbing view of original sin and the fallen state of man. They continue in the same pattern of sin and disregard for God because they are unable to do otherwise. The unregenerate, un-redeemed human is unable to climb out of the pattern. They see the pain. They recognize the consequences. They fail to change. They are trapped. Non posse non peccare. Not able not to sin.

But the writer adds an incredible irony--these same fallen and pitiful creatures devote their lives to the removal of physical pain and affliction. They are doctors, but more importantly they are surgeons and save human life on a daily basis. In a physical sense, they bring salvation, redemption to human bodies. Yet they themselves remain condemned, unregenerate, unable to lift themselves from spiritual bondage as they deliver others from physical bondage. There is one exception, and I wonder at the coincidence that her faith was established in early episodes. She is as frail and subject to failure as the others. But unlike them, she learns. Posse non peccare. Able not to sin.