Thursday, January 31, 2008

Success!

Here's a great summation of a couple days worth of dialog from Greg Stier:

"...the gospel is a propositional message about a real Person who is offering a personal relationship through faith in Him that leads to transformed living."

(do you spell dialog like that or like dialogue?)

Awesome.

Sticking with the video theme, here's something I got from Michael.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Souper Bowl Promo

For our church this Sunday.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bring Me Love

video
Our Director of Multi-Media Ministries Michael Logsdon created this for our sermon series last Sunday. Michael is extremely gifted and captures the perspectives of St. Louisans with out a place to call home, careful, this might break your heart.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review>Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp


Just finished this wonderful book, recommended to me by my good buddy Mr. Caldwell.Clapp's thesis is the church needs to reclaim Christianity as a way of life, as it's own distinct culture. He asserts that the church doesn't need to
blend or mold to "culture" but rather, seek to form/be it's own culture.

Adam read this in seminary, and another close friend who is attending Asbury also has recommended the book. Clapp does a good job of being practical yet I also had to sound out several words, and look up even more on dictionary.com

Clapp points out that there really is no distinct "culture" in modern
America, and that any social analysis will instead yield a picture of
pluralism where there are many varieties of culture. So it's not so much
"the church vs. the culture" but rather the church BEING culture, as
the subtitle suggests. Excellent book. Very thoroughly footnoted and also written in good humor.

One "issue" I took with the book was Clapp's critique of what he called "foundationalism",being the
"pervasive Western philosophical doctrine that all rational belief must be builton the foundations of a-cultural and universally compelling beliefs or
realities, themselves in no need of support" (as made popular by Rene
Descartes).
He cites C.S. Lewis' "moral law" as a failing exercise in moral foundationalism. But then later the next page Clapp refers to "the human conditon". Isn't that a foundationalist assumption? That there is a universal, a-contextual condition thatevery human is in? I just really feel like people really haven't changed much since we've been around once you get down to the bottom of
things, and the way Lewis talks of the moral law makes a lot of sense
to me and I believe is a very compelling "argument" towards the existence of God.

I dunno, maybe a small point to pick on. But I would really recommend this book to any one interested in studying culture or how the church behaves as the body of Christ.

Great book, and it was written in 1996! Mr. Clapp was very prophetic, in that I've read books like Brian McLaren's "Secret Message of Jesus" that share topics and conclusions that Clapp wrote about over a decade before. Let's get peculiar baby! (oddly enough, I have been through Peculiar MO many times.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Spoken Gospel vs. the Living Gospel

Alrighty. So Greg Stier is founder of Dare2Share ministries. I frequent his blog and also frequently comment. I have huge respect for Greg even if I don't always line right up with his theology. After about my 5th comment of dissent on his blog, I decided to man up and lay out some of my own thoughts. Not to compete or try and one up him, I just thought it was lame of me to always be hatin' but never really put out any material myself, so awaaaaaaaaay we go:

The crux of my argument is this: the gospel cannot simply be a list of propositions. If a person agrees to a list of things procured from the Bible, it does not neccessarily mean a full induction into the way of Christ. In short: It is irresponsible for Christians to rely merely on information as opposed to relation.

My first encounter with this particular brand of Christianity was about 11 years ago. I remember being in 7th grade and going to an event called "Judgement House". It was a "haunted house alternative" held at a Baptist church around Halloween. We went through different rooms where the scenario of a high school boys basketball teams bus crashed, some of them went to hell some of them went to heaven. At the end of the program, they brought you into this little room and asked you if you knew where you were going when you died. They handed me a little card that had an acronym on it. A middle aged man who was a total stranger had sized me up and was asking me very probing questions. They were trying to make sure I was "saved".

Ever since then there has been an icky feeling in my stomach when I see/hear about events like this. This carries over into theological positions as well. What they were doing at "Judgement House" was actually pretty judgemental in itself, so maybe the name fit. They were making sure people understood "the gospel".

Ever since 7th grade, I couldn't quite formulate why I disagreed with this particular manifestion of evangelism; until I read "The Cost of Discipleship". Mr. Bonhoeffer says it best:
Cheap grace means sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares...Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principal, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.

Snap! So to Bonhoeffer, coming to the "intellectual assent" doesn't cut it. Instead of mere mental synthesis, Jesus takes hold of you, and transforms your life. You die to your old self, and put on Christ as I believe Paul says it. You're born again, as Jesus put it.

Yet this "if you only agree to THIS then you'll get to go to heaven" attitude permeates Christianity. It's as if the gospel were a commodity, something that worked like a ticket. Hhhhmmmm, where could we find such clear examples of this bad theology? No better place than Cokesbury my friends! (for those of you who aren't methodist, hopefully that's a lot of you, Cokesbury is a Christian Bookstore with particularly Methodist roots)

Let us consider EXHIBIT A:

Here is the front of one Christian t-shirt, taken with my camera phone. Now, this is a spoof of "Deal or No Deal". So the gospel is likened to Howie Mandel asking if you want eternal life if you agree with such and such list of statements, OR you can choose eternal suffering- take the deal! In the shape of a cross no less!

EXHIBIT B:

Now, here we have a spoof of the show COPS and hey, we even get an acronym! Christian sub-culture bonus for those oh so witty acronyms! Christians Obediently Preaching Salvation, and the verse referenced is Ephesians 5: 6 which reads "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient." So can't you just hear the COPS theme song playing (bad boys, bad boys...) as Jesus returns to lock up all those bad guys who didn't listen to him; brace yo'self whachu' gonna do!?!?!

and the worst one of them all, EXHIBIT C:

A Staples easy button spoof. The Jesus easy button. Seriously. I know Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light, but is this what he meant? YOU'VE GOT TO BE FREAKING KIDDING ME! EASY!?!?!??! One might even say...cheap! Just press the Jesus button, say the prayer, and you're good to go! IT'LL BE EASY! What could be further from the truth? Was suffering the entire weight of human sin easy? Was being constantly dissapointed and let down by your best friends easy? Was being despised by his own people easy? For Christians today, and in all times, picking up your cross and following him easy? Is praying for your neighbors, turning the other cheek, and loving your enemies easy? Is loving others easy? Didn't Jesus actually say the opposite? That when you love those who love you, it's easy, but it's only when you love those who hate you that it's really love? THIS SHIRT IS THE BIGGEST BUNCH OF CRAP, PERHAPS THE BIGGEST CROCK OF ALL TIME. *ahem* sorry, but that just sent me through the roof.

SO, lets recap according to our Cokesbury t-shirt theology shall we? Whacha' gonna do when we comes for you? So take the deal so you won't burn in hell, and best of all it'll be easy! Jesus, lifes easiest solution!

Whats wrong with simply a spoken, intellectual, propositional gospel is that it's too easy and it doesn't hold any existential weight. My parents divorced, I've had friends die, and I've seen people in my congregation suffering unimaginable pain- and that's just my experience the last couple years! I won't even get into AIDS or evil, or any of the other tough stuff. The easy button Jesus doesn't exist. The COPS Jesus and the Deal or No Deal Jesus are bankrupt. Why? Because all they're concerned with is you "making a choice", as Bonhoeffer says "an intellectual assent" to the truth, and then you can know the state of your soul and let the easy life begin.

Jesus said we can know the truth and the truth shall set us free. The truth is not a list. The truth is not a formula, the truth is a person. The spoken gospel works like a magic spell. The lived gospel works like a living, breathing, person because that's what we become when Christ makes his home in us (John 14).

So I won't deny the power of words, isn't that what I'm employing to make my point? But the gospel cannot be reduced to a forumla that is abstracted and presented to people on their doorstep and in the grocery aisle. That's mere information. If we start with the information, ok, whatever works. But if that's where we end- we get cheap grace. Christ calls us into relation with him, and with people.

I know this was horribly long, but I've said my piece. If I've offended folks, at least it will make for exciting conversation. I'm out!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Awesome Story

Last night Kelly and I were on our way home from downtown visiting some friends. Earlier she had made fun of me for listening to the top 40 radio station so much. She contends that it's not "research" about youth and culture like I say, but that I've grown to like it.

So we turn it off for the ride home. Randomly Kelly starts singing Fergie's "Clumsy" and I join in. I think to myself, "hey, that'd be great if it was on the radio"

AND IT WAS, AT THE EXACT PART WE WERE JUST SINGING.

it. was. awesome.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Prayer

I want so badly to be more like you.
I know that I am a sinful being,
But I also know that you have placed a light in me.
A light not only for me, but for everyone I encounter.

Please help me to change.
Please help me to be more urgent.
Please let me bear fruit for your sake.

Let me be honest and have a spirit of truth
Free me from guilt and pessimism
Always help me find my hope in you
As far as the east is from the west
So you remove my transgressions from me

Let my soul praise the Lord.
Amen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"talk" from worship last night

Here's a sermon/talk/devotion/whatever from last night. The Hebrew and Greek word studies were from Studylight.org, which I linked to from Biblegateway.com. Very cool!

Matthew 4: 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

Some thoughts on repentance…

Repent is not really a fun word. It sounds really old, and it kind of makes me feel guilty just thinking about it. You may be imagining some preacher on the street screaming it at the top of his lungs. Let’s look at the definition:

repent - [ri-pent]
–verb (used without object)
1. to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. He repented after his thoughtless act.
2. to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better; be penitent.

3. to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one's injustice to another.
4. to feel sorry for; regret: to repent an imprudent act.
Now, these definitions are from a modern English bible. Translated closely, when we see “repent” in our Old Testament it means more closely “to turn away from”. In the Greek form where Jesus says this in Matthew, the Greek word means “to change one's mind, i.e. to repent to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins.”

At this point I’d like to digress for a moment. How many of you guys have had a close friend or even a girl/boyfriend do something to make you mad or hurt your feelings? Have you ever gotten what I like to call a “halfway” apology? It all centers around one or two words. Check it out, note the difference:
“I’m sorry that I hurt you” vs. “I’m sorry if I hurt you”

The first acknowledges that your actions have hurt the other person directly; the second is really more a mere admission that the other person may have been hurt indirectly as an unintended result of your actions. See the difference? I’m sorry THAT I hurt you is an apology, I’m sorry IF I hurt you is not. We see this all the time with really bad celebrity statements. I actually run into this a lot with my soon to be wife Sarah- I give her the halfway stuff. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” is MUCH different from “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings”. Because regardless of intent, damage had been done.

Much in the same sense, repentance isn’t just about admission of guilt or wrongdoing, although that’s a big step one, repentance is about change. So often I find myself giving God a halfway apology. The Biblical understanding of sin and repentance should lead us to realize that repentance isn’t just a one shot deal, but rather a continual process. If you punch your sister and say you’re sorry, it doesn’t really matter to much the next time you punch her and say you’re sorry right? To feel sorry, to realize something as wrong, to regret an action or thought is meaningless, unless it then takes root and leads to change. 1 John 3: 4-6

See, at New Years we see all the headlines about resolutions and think “ok, this is it! I can do it”. Then two weeks later we’re right back where we started. This is tempting because as people we love quick results! But often if we expect to be drastically different people inside and out overnight, we’re going to end up very discouraged. I’ve brought an example to show you how the process of repentance works. My car has a hideous reputation for always being trashed. It has earned this reputation because it’s true! Here is all the trash that was in my car as it sat in the parking lot.

Now, has the ‘Bu ever been clean? Sure! Once while we were in Mexico Susan McIntyre cleaned the whole thing! Just a couple months ago I paid my sister to clean it up. But the catch is, even though my car had changed my habits had not. In order for my car to stay clean, I must become disciplined enough to take the Dr. Pepper bottles out when I get done drinking them! If I really cared about my car being gross, I would change my habits instead of letting the crap pile up and then getting my sister to clean it up.

So as we enter into 2008 we need to not give in to the tempting thought that we can change overnight. However we also need to know that if we’re not really seeking to change, we aren’t truly repenting. And so while you can’t change in 24 hours, maybe you can find small change in a week. Maybe a little more in a month. Maybe a little more in a year…you get the idea. We can’t just mentally acknowledge that we should be sorry and then keep on sinning. We can’t just become apathetic and comfortable because “at least we’re not doing __________”. No, our new years resolution will not be a glamorous renouncing of our old ways with a sudden dramatic transformation; but rather the Christian will repent and thus begin the painful, almost boring work of changing our habits of what we do, what we think, and even what helps us evaluate the choices we make. And then? You wake up and do it all again tomorrow! 1 John 1: 8-9
Psalm 103: 12

A Late Night Mustoe Beard Salute

Here's to you David Letterman. You endured Robin Williams mocking (which is ironic that he would make fun of someone's hairiness) and still proudly sported your silver beard. Well done. Conan Obrien also was sporting a beard, but I can't find a picture of that on Google yet. So this is really a first for the blog- a double beard salute!