Category Archives: Culture

Children Open Our Eyes

Children Playing Leapfrog What I discussed in my last post is really a call for perspective change on the personhood of your child. As I look around me, I see parents (Christian and non-Christian) treating their children like pets, accessories, and inconveniences.

Parents have forgotten that they are a gift that we unwrap more and more everyday. They are packages of grace we get to find out more about through time and effort. Sure, we may get a paper cut or have trouble untying a knot, but the gift remains a gift–of gracious sanctification. Have you ever thought about the kind of soul work God is doing in your life through the daily frustrations you have because of your kids?

Here’s a challenge: Perhaps the anger and frustration is not because of your kids. Rather it is a deep-seated way of life you have grown accustomed to that is contrary to the ways of God. God has given you your children (not your neighbors’ children, not your siblings’ children) in order to dig deep into your heart and extract that sin you did not know was there when you were single or married without children.

Not only this, but they are reminders of our need to pause and live as children in God’s wonder-filled house. When your children play in the dirt and you have to wash their clothes, be reminded of the wonder and excitement of mud. The way it gushes in between your toes. When they scream, be reminded of our need to kill our penchant to please man rather than God. To be so free in your life that you can express yourself without feeling burdened, because you always have Mommy and Daddy who love you. When they are enraptured in play, remember that God’s world is a playground. Don’t let the fallenness of our world harden you to the declarations the heavens make and handiwork that is his creation. Remember that children keep you young and free in the grace and mercy and kindness of God…if you let them.

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture, Parenting

Abortion Has Got to Stop!

!!WARNING!! This video is explicit.

http://herestheblood.com/player-viral.swf

Does your stomach churn? Does your heart ache? Do something about it. Go to http://liveaction.org and http://abort73.com and get informed. I use to believe choice was more important than life. After seeing what that choice entailed, I began to realize that life is more important than convenience.

Do you want to help your friends see that life trumps choice? Bring the facts to the light. If they watch this video and go to the website, then they’ll be confronted with reality and scientific hypothesizing as to when a child *becomes* a human. A child always is a human.

Read this post which concludes:

In 2008, the latest year for which data are available, there were 89,469 abortions in New York City, while there were 127,680 live births. This means that 41 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion in New York, far beyond the national rate of about 23 percent. In the Bronx, a full 48 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion. With rates as high as these, any medical risks associated with abortion could amount to a public-health crisis, as the disturbing rise in the rate of pre-term birth may already indicate. Policymakers should be discussing what can possibly be done to lower the rate of abortion in New York. . . .

When the head of the city’s legislative body and local subsidiaries of some of the most powerful organizations in the country attack fewer than 20 shoestring operations in New York City that offer free abortion alternatives, while nearly 90,000 women procure an abortion every year in the city, it is clear that it’s not about choice. It’s about abortion.

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Fresh Approach to Witness-Evangelism

A helpful 17 minute talk by Becky Pippert on evangelism in our current context.

http://conversation.lausanne.org/uploads/networks/images/2/player.swf

1. We lack MOTIVATION
a. We have focused on techniques to the detriment of actually evagelizing.
b. Theology impacts our methodology
c. THEREFORE: We must begin with God
i. He is loving
ii. He is powerful
d. This is the deepest motivation
2. Do we have a MODEL?
a. We do: The doctrine of the Incarnation
b. Reflection on the Incarnation will motivate
c. “As the Father sent the Son, so he has sent us”
i. Birth
ii. Life & Ministry
1. The Kingdom of God is relational
2. Love God and Neighbor
a. The foundation of evangelism needs to be relationship because we reflect the Trinity to our world.
b. How do I maintain my identity and walk alongside unbelievers
3. Jesus was radically identified in:
a. Love
b. Holiness
c. Authenticity, credibility, and spiritual power
4. So much of or evangelism is “hit and run” rather than getting in the mix with people
a. We are surrounded (and pursue) Christian relationships, but do not get out of our salt shaker
iii. Death
iv. Resurrection
v. Ascension
3. We do need METHODS
a. This must reflect the theology we believe
b. How do you go from a natural conversation to a spiritual one?
i. By teaching people how to ASK QUESTIONS
ii. What is the passion of the person to whom you are speaking
iii. Ask them about general interests
iv. Then you move into specifics
v. Then the belief question

An EXAMPLE
c. Pippert went to an agrarian community and asked these questions:
i. How are your crops?
ii. How are you dealing with the stress?
iii. Have you found a way of dealing with the stress that doesn’t make you worse, but better?
iv. Do you think there is a God who can help you deal with the stress?
d. We Need to STATE THE GOSPEL
i. Sin
ii. Redemption
iii. Transformation
e. We need to be relevant and speak about things that are eternal
f. We need to rediscover the irresistible Jesus?
i. The world hasn’t a clue what Jesus is like.
ii. We need to stun people with the fact that the religious hated Jesus and the outcasts loved him
iii. The chief complaint about the God-Man was that he wasn’t religious enough.
iv. Too many times people think our devotion to Christ means that he helps us with our devotions and keeps us from cussing.
v. We need to show them that Jesus never walks away from people who struggle with eating disorders, violence, brokenness. He wades into the mess.
g. We can do this through small group evangelism.
i. A Bible Study for non-Christians–seeker Bible studies

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Filed under Culture, Evangelism

Free Speech

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No matter whether you come at this as a Christian or as a non-Christian, the freedom to speak is what has made democracy possible for so long. Free speech entails free thinking. Sure it irks me when I see some vile t-shirts that declare stupid things (I am thinking here of the “Big Johnson” or any other sexually suggestive t-shirts that declare the wearer a lady’s man or a sex toy)…but I do not want to ban people’s freedom to say what they think. If they think foolish thoughts, I should also have the freedom to try to encourage them to think wisely.

Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal yesterday that is a 3 minute read on some of the latest the SCOTUS is going to be hearing on free speech. Take a look.

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Filed under Culture, Current Events, Politics

Connecting Church & Family

Southern Seminary had a conference on how and why it promotes what has been coined the “family-equipping” model of ministry. This video is of Dr. Mohler giving some broad strokes for the model and te current cultural crisis which has made it that much more vital that the Church be about equipping parents to shepherd their children.

Of particular importance is the fact that we assume too often that Christian parents are going to know how to parent in a biblical way. The problem is that the parents in our congregations have not had modeled for them how to parent in a way that honors Jesus. Underneath are my rough notes on the talk. The four implications he offers at the end are worth the time to think about. With all of the parenting literature that is out there, too often we have equated faithfulness to a certain method with the biblical method. Thus, we have camps of parenting affinity groups. There is something wrong when someone believes Baby Wise or Rosemond or Tripp are the Gospel–insofar that they bicker with those in “opposing” camps.

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NOTES:

In some ways it is a tragedy that we are having a conference to connect something that should have never gotten disconnected–namely, the family and the church.

  1. 1 Peter 5.1ff
    1. As Peter ends his letter, the tone becomes very sober. He turns his attention to the elders of the church.
    2. Peter has no specific context he is writing to. It is a general epistle; it is full of expectations that are normal and healthy for the church at-large. This is what “normal” in a church ought to look like.
  2. Younger are to give deference to the older people.
    1. There is a proper ordering in the church
    2. This is a sign of humility
  3. We have to remember that we do have an enemy
    1. Those who fail to recognize this are the most likely to be devoured
    2. “Normal” is that there will be a battle
    3. This battle is the background to our parenting and ministry
    4. Those things that are devoured
      1. Families
      2. Homes
      3. Congregations
      4. Leadership
    5. It is an act of great danger if we are not aware of this truth
    6. See Ephesians 5
      1. Paul’s discussion of spiritual warfare in chapter 6 is on the heels of chapter 5, which discusses the family.
    7. Since the family is on the frontlines, it is a primary target for Satan to devour and divide
  4. We have to admit something that is difficult to admit
    1. We have to be better parents than our parents
      1. This is not a denigrate what our parents have done.
      2. Rather, it draws attention to the fact that our contemporary culture is averse to the family unit.
        1. There used to be a a network of support for our parents in our culture.
        2. If Mom A did not know something, and Mom B knew, Mom B would call Mom A to tell her the wayward son’s actions
        3. Television hosted family-friendly shows (Leave It to Beaver, Dragnet, etc) instead of sexually explicit shows (Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, etc)
      3. Parents have to be more aware than parents in the past
      4. “The family has been stripped of all its functions” — Peter Berger
      5. Due to technology, children are not talking on the phone (in the plain hearing of their parents), but are sending covert text messages (with no parental supervision)
  5. Much of the research (from Soul Searching) has shown that a child’s spiritual growth requires parents

Four Implications:

1. Church must present a faithful and vibrant vision for parenting; and it must teach and equip them how to do this

a. Most of the parents in our congregations were not parented

b. The Church has to educate parents who did not have the proper, biblical model for parenthood

2. Church must overcome the zone of privacy and personal autonomy (held dear by our culture) that separates believers from accountability and fellowship

a. We have got to get in each other’s space

b. Our spheres belong to Christ and not us

c. When a marriage is not what it should be, the Church MUST step in and help

3. The Church has got to be a place where brokenness is overcome by the Gospel and the fellowship of the saints

a. We undermine the Gospel when we say that Christianity can only be experienced by non-brokenness

b. This brokenness demonstrates the glory of Christ

4. The Church has to be a place where the family (specifically) and Christians (generally) is rescued and armed for the combat to which we are called

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Filed under Church, Culture, Family | Parenting

Brit Hume’s Humility

I have been taken aback by the upheaval of responses to Brit Hume’s suggestion that Tiger Woods put his faith in Jesus. Peter Wehner has an excellent reflection on the culture’s response. I would encourage you to read the whole thing and compare the way Christianity is silenced. Imagine if another commentator were to suggest Woods try Taoism or Confucianism or Shintoism or any other -ism (save Christianity!) and there would be nothing but a ripple from people.

Here’s an excerpt from Wehner’s piece:

I should add that when Christopher Hitchens, whom I like and whose company I enjoy, appeared on television shows promoting his book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he was far more critical of Christianity than Hume was of Buddhism. Yet I don’t recall the Left saying that those criticisms were inappropriate for public debate. In fact, they weren’t — and neither are Hume’s words. Furthermore, those who are unnerved by Hume’s “sectarianism” were untroubled by the aggressive atheism of Hitchens.

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The Obama Slide

David Brooks open-ed in the NY Times:
“The result is the Obama slide, the most important feature of the current moment. The number of Americans who trust President Obama to make the right decisions has fallen by roughly 17 percentage points. Obama’s job approval is down to about 50 percent. All presidents fall from their honeymoon highs, but in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast.”

Fascinating article that mentions the rise in independent voters and the Administration’s need to stymy their downturn in popularity. Are the days of two party pleading over?

Full Article

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Filed under Culture, Current Events, Politics

Engaging Contemporary Culture

Series of four lectures by Jerram Barrs:

1)Friday Night Session I: Cooperating with God’s Testimony in the Lives of Unbelievers

2) Echoes of Eden in Literature, Legend and Myth

3) The Evangelism of Jesus: Parables for a Mixed Gathering

4) Acts 17: Paul and the Athenians

[HT: Living in Skin]

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Filed under Books & Media, Culture, Evangelism, Post-Modernity, Resources, World

A Note to the Purchaser

Neckless SalesmanRight now in life I am a salesman. Some people have myriad allergic reactions to the word “salesman.” Some of this is rightly deserved. But have you ever taken a moment to consider whether you are just as allergy-causing to the salesman.

This is by no means a gripe session. Rather, it is a call for Christians to be christianly in their purchasing habits. Day in day out I interact with people from so many backgrounds your head would spin. Some people come in my door thinking that I am wicked – this is before they have spoken a word. Their demeanor says everything. Others open up and tell me about how they are getting ready to divorce for infidelity.

To the one who hates the salesman: Consider that this salesman is performing a valid service to your community. In a world where cyberspace has crowded out human interaction. In a world where people are not challenged to buy something they thought they wanted. The salesman provides some kind of sanity in the consumer’s overly righteous, yet uninformed, way. The salesman provides flesh and blood instead of keys and buttons.

To the one who lays it out: even though it can be over the top, but perhaps this is society’s plea for humanity. Like the hemorrhaging woman who reached out in despair, so to the consumer who has had enough of automated prompts and pixelated faces reaches out to their closest friend – a human.

To the Christian: make sure you are purchasing in a way you would if your salesman was Jesus. Don’t say you’ll come back. Don’t ask for a card when you have no intention of calling the salesman. Have some backbone. Don’t be like the boy who wanted to bury his father, spouting lines to get any kind of decision on his part postponed. Realize that the person attempting to sell you a phone or a car or a television needs to feed his family. He is not a shark (always).

Enjoy interacting with humans. Pay the extra $20 in order to feed your neighbors kids. On-line is cheap, but so is the experience and the loving of neighbor. It requires no backbone on your part – read people-pleasing. It requires no sympathy, empathy, or any other emotion than just getting what you want.

Challenge yourself to buy as you would from Jesus. [Matt 25.40, 45; Heb 13.2)

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture, Ethics, Finances, Social Justice

Religious Lethargy #4

I case you didn’t catch it in my last post, the reason I used the adjective “lethargy” has to do with the relationship between knowledge and emotion. Religious experience that is founded upon the affections without content not only will result in lethargy, but it begins with lethargy. 

There is a fear of many that learning kills any kind of emotion. Jesus said that he delighted to do the will of the Father. His delight was contingent upon his knowing the will of the Father. How could he delight in something he did not know? We mustn’t be lax in our search for truth. We must dig deep as for a treasure. We mustn’t become naive ascetics who long for the spiritual slop of fervor. Rather we are to long for the pure spiritual milk of the word of God (= information about and from God). 

Such fervor leads to lethargy in that the congregation will merely wait for the next innovator to come to their conference or meeting to stir them up. Getting up in the morning and having their mind conformed will seem dry if the only kind of Christianity they experience is an experience.

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Religious Lethargy #3

We want to make Christianity relevant to our culture. We cannot continue to speak in the King’s English and expect people to understand and exegete their culture when no one speaks it. For example, if I told you to watch out for the poodle-klumps, you would look at me cross. But if I told you to watch out for the rebellious, you would understand. We need to contextualize our message in words people will understand. 

There are a few things wrong with this video (which is a symptom of a greater problem in modern Christianity):

1) We cannot merely tack the name of Jesus onto a popular concept and believe that we have sanctified it. We must also re-define what it means to “spin me right round.”

2) Mere emotionalism saves no one. Jonathan Edwards wrote an excellent work Religious Affections that I commend to all of you – especially this section

3) We implicitly teach folk that fervor is the goal of the conference. Emotional response is definitely necessary when the sinner is confronted with the truth of sin and grace. This emotional response is part and parcel of the content that is shared. Music can work people to tears and trembling, but it is the one who trembles at God’s word whom he will countenance.

4) When the folk return from the conference and the youth leader does not work them up in a similar frenzy, they will grow bored with the group and with Christ. 

5) Similar to #3 above, Christianity is starkly different than other religions in that it seeks to fill the person with transforming knowledge. Not mere knowledge, which is the heresy of gnosticism. It is knowledge that necessarily transforms. It is knowledge, nonetheless. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices through the non-conformation of our minds to this world’s worldview. Granted, I have not heard the speakers at the conference, and am not aware of the content of the messages. I venture to say that they revolved around confessing sin and encountering God in a powerful way. 

This is good. But when it comes to the music and what is communicated by vain repetition and the stirring up of frenzy is that the mind should not be engaged. This fellow is talented, no doubt about this. But what will this kind of fervor do in the longview? Perhaps you were present at this conference. Please comment and shed light on what else was done there. These posts are limited to this video that stirred so many emotions and reactions in me. 

Let’s continue to make Christianity relevant and fun and…real. So many youth at this conference will be contemplating suicide in the next year I am sure. I was there and almost did it. What we must give our people is teaching that is solid and will keep these kids from tottering in the sands of relativity in our culture.

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Religious Lethargy #2

I mentioned earlier that I was at first angry when I viewed this video. Perhaps the first emotion was disbelief. A friend of mine told me about this and pulled it up on youtube. I have been in seminary (or the equivalent of it) for about six years now and have been a little disconnected from pop Christianity. I quickly became angry (good thing I am reading and posting on this topic to keep me from acting out on it too much!). That anger quickly subsided to pity and fear. Pity because these youth do not know any more of the depth of the riches of Christ than some excited expectancy for the next fervent expression of devotion the clanging of cymbals. Fear because the depth of this kind of Christianity will evaporate when the heat of the sun of persecution or the cares of this life burn up its thin veil of religion.

I felt compassion for these folk because I know that their desire is to make Christianity relevant and fun. But will this kind of Christianity last for these youth? Mountains have geographical boundaries. You climb them and that is it. Our desire for youth (and every age) is to set them on a path. After all this is Jesus’ metaphor. His disciples went with him up the mountain. And was it this mountain of glory they longed for as they ran away from Gethsemane?

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Religious Lethargy

Some may see this video and think “lethargy” is the wrong word. You may see this and think fervor, ecstasy, ridiculousnous, stupidity, or hedonism is the correct word. About the end of this video I began crying in the middle of a Starbucks – nothing too crazy, but my anger turned to pity and fear.

I am so glad that there are people who desire to make encounters with God emotionally-charged. I wish there were more churches that sought to affect the emotions at least a little bit. So many congregations will view this video and have an allergic reaction so that they will never have any kind of excitement in their services. I will post later as to what are some problems with this, that I see. For now, just view it and leave your impressions in the comments section:

You Spin Me Right Round Jesus


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Training Pastors…in the Local Church!

I just finished attending The Gospel Coalition conference and have been more convinced than ever that church-based training for future elders MUST take place in the local church. Too long have we leaned on or altogether abdicated the responsibility of raising up men to lead the Church, from within the context of the church. With the desire to have men rightly trained (and rightly so), the Church has minimized the importance of the facility and gifts the Church has for the aspiring pastor.

 The conference was beautifully linked by having the text of 2Timothy exposited. This is the premier text (alongside 1Timothy) to go to in order to understand Paul’s vision of raising up men. I would argue that (even the men we look up to in evangelicalism) have depended on structures for their discipleship than the raw, earthiness of life on life mentoring. The apprenticeship model too often is equated with the classroom rather than the tool shed. Ministry becomes theoretical, arbitrary, and esoteric rather than shepherding the people of God.

I have re-committed myself to think through curriculum that would be transferrable to any church. It would not have to have Hebrew and Greek scholars. Rather, I am working on a church-based education model that would allow men of varied giftings to impart those gifts to younger men.

With that said, I would like to petition your suggestions for what would be essential characteristics for a pastor in our day and age (and yes, I am aware of Paul’s list of qualifications). What would be some practical characteristics for a pastor of any culture?

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Buildings and the Kingdom of God

A friend of mine just posted a thought-provoking article regarding buildings and reaching people with the Gospel. I remember this building he was speaking about on campus. A friend of mine told me that he thought our ministry would thrive if we had a location like that. I told him I would not want the building because of the very things John talks about in this article – not to mention becoming complacent, thinking we have arrived. What are your thoughts on buildings and the Kingdom? Should we scrap buildings? What are their place in ministry? How should we speak about them?

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