A Baby, A Cross, and a Catharsis

    Don’t we all love the prayer scene from Talladega Nights?


    OK, maybe not all of us. But, I sure do. What strikes me is that today is the day when we all celebrate “sweet baby Jesus”. On Christmas Eve we watched a full slate of classic Christmas movies for kids and all of them dealt with skepticism regarding the existence of Santa. At the end of the day the point was always, “Christmas is about helping poor people” or some derivation.

    In my head though this wasn’t ringing true. I am becoming more and more convinced that Advent and Christmas cannot be separated from the Cross. The Magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all important for middle eastern burials. Jesus was most likely born near Passover (that’s a discussion for another time) and he died at Passover.

    The Lamb of God born at Passover, the Bread of Life born in the City of Bread.

    What is Christmas about? It’s simple, it’s about a Cross and a Resurrection.

    It had to start somewhere and it started in Bethlehem in a common cave used for the keeping of animals. To close I want to leave you an extended quote from Jonathan Edwards (this quote was taken from here):

    What an amazing act of grace was it when Christ took upon our human nature. In this act of great condescension, he who was God became man. The Word should be made flesh, and should take on him a nature infinitely below his original nature. We should appreciate the remarkably low circumstances of his incarnation: He was conceived in the womb of a poor young woman, whose poverty appeared in this, when she came to offer sacrifices for her purification, she brought what was allowed of in the Law only in the case of poverty, a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.

    Christ’s infinite condescension marvelously appeared in the manner of his birth. He was brought forth in a stable, because there was no room for them in the inn. The inn was taken up by others, that were looked upon as persons of greater account. The blessed Virgin, being poor and despised, was turned or shut out. Though she was in such need, yet those that counted themselves her better would not give place to them. Therefore, in her time of giving birth, she was forced to give birth to her son in a stable, and laid him in a feed trough.

    There Christ lay a little infant, and there he eminently appeared as a lamb. But yet this feeble infant, born this way in a stable, and laid in a feed trough, was born to conquer and triumph over Satan, that roaring lion (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). Jesus came to subdue the mighty powers of darkness, and make a show of them openly, and so to restore peace on earth, and to manifest God’s good-will towards men, and to bring glory to God in the highest!

    I Can See Clearly Now…

    …the rain is gone,
    I can see all obstacles in my way
    Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
    It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
    Sun-Shiny day.

    It’s funny how clarity can change things. After the first big winter storm the schools were all closed and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had just been released, so we packed into the car and headed to the show.

    The roads weren’t too bad but there was a constant spattering of stuff on my windshield. I hit the mister and nothing happened except for the mud and grime to smear. The realization of traveling on an expressway with no visibility was a little nerve racking. This got worse as I had to slowly make way around the exit ramp cloverleaf without falling off the side.

    I learned a timeless that day: Clarity IS important.

    In the previous post we talked about the importance of language. Here’s the thing though: language without clarity is useless.

    This hit home for me a few years ago as I was engaged in a conversation with some Mormon missionaries (it always strikes me as odd how many are named “Elder”). We were talking about Jesus, grace, faith, God, and Bible. It seemed as though things were moving along well but it turned out that we were going nowhere.

    I thought we were discussing the same things because we were using the same language. I could not have been more wrong.

    We did not have clarity.

    Our definitions were totally different. We were not even close to understanding one another and as a result our conversation slipped into mundane futility and frustration.

    In a conversation about anything, let alone Jesus, the conversants must have a clarified understanding of the words they are using or there will be constant confusion and frustration. For those of us who want other people to follow Jesus we must listen closely to hear where we can build a bridge and in so doing we bring clarity.

    Paul Tarsus was speaking at the Areopagus in Athens when he said these words, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23 ESV)”

    He wanted to bring clarity and that he did by redefining “the unknown god” to that of the revealed God, Jesus.

    May we take the time to clear the clouds and reveal the Son!


    Watch Your Language!

    Sa a se bagay ki pi enpòtan ke ou te ka janm li. Ou ka li li l ’? Si ou pa kapab alò ou pa pral kapab konprann. Ou dwe konprann! Frape, frape! Ki moun ki la a? Ou. Ki ou? Oh pa kriye, li jis yon blag!

    I think that I have heard the words, “Watch your language!” more than I could ever imagine. It turns out that when I was younger I did not have much of a filter. It also turns out that as an adult I do not have much of a filter. Every day my poor wife has to remind what not to say.

    Don’t you feel bad for her? I do.

    My issues are not the point of this post, however. The issue is language. Could you read the opening few sentences? Unless you are some sort of awesome linguist, then probably not.

    If you are a follower of Jesus you speak a secret language, a language that not everyone speaks. To he honest, most people don’t speak our language. It is comprised of big words, special words, insider words and most of them end in “-tion”.

    When I have conversations with people I am reminded that sometimes my Christian language is different from their language. I want them to understand what I am saying because when we are talking about Jesus, we are talking about the most important thing.

    What is the language of your neighbors? I am not taling about English. What are the metaphors and narratives that give their world meaning?

    I will almost guarantee it’s not the biblical narrative.

    Television, films, music, celebrities, and to a lesser extent books provide the narrative arc for the world around us.

    Can you speak their language?

    If we want to be able to invite them to know Jesus we must be able to speak the language.

    Oh, if you want to know what the opening paragraph says leave a comment!

    Destruction or Construction?

    I was 18 or 19, the room was jammed with more than 1,000 college students and we were enthralled by the man on the stage. He was thick necked and spoke with power and authority. When he got passionate the veins in his neck bulged. As a young man, I found in him the embodiment of all that I wanted to be: strong, intelligent, quick witted, and a command of philosophy and logic that left your head spinning.

    He shared story after story of destructing the worldviews of other people thereby creating a vacuum for the message of Jesus to fill.

    He didn’t share many stories of people becoming followers of Jesus.

    Fast forward nearly ten years.

    I am alone in my basement listening to a man with an English accent, whom I have never seen. He is sharing story after story of people responding to the story of Jesus.

    One man built bridges and the other created vacuums.

    One man started with humanity being created in the image of God and the other with human sinfulness.

    One man started with the mindset of a builder and the other with the mindset of destruction.

    If we respect people and understand what they believe we will necessarily find points from which to build bridges from their world to the glorious grace of God in the face of Jesus.

    Building is harder than demolition, but it is worth it. It’s worth it because regardless of response the conversation stays open.

    Can You Understand Me?

    One of the most powerful feelings I have ever had was the time that I landed in Germany and realized that I had no idea what the signs said. It was remarkably uncomfortable. I had no idea what he ads were saying, I had no idea what the people around me were saying, I could not understand a thing. I felt very lost and very confused and very much alone (which is weird because I was traveling with a group of six others).

    I felt these things because I knew I had no hope of being understood.

    I have found that as a Christ follower who intentionally seeks to introduce others to Jesus I unwittingly speak German to them.

    In my previous post I talked about respect. Well, if I respect someone then I can not caricature them. I need to honestly and authentically understand what they believe. This means that I must listen. Not only that it means that I must hear them.

    This is hard.

    It’s hard because the universe revolves around me and to really listen means that I need to set myself aside.

    When you engage in conversation with someone about belief systems it is incumbent on you to be able to communicate back to this person their belief system in such a way they say, “Yes, that’s what I believe”.

    Have you seen the movie White Men Can’t Jump? There’s a great scene where Woody and Wesley are listening to Jimi Hendrix and Wesley challenges him and says, “You can’t hear Jimi”. This is the point.

    Can you “hear” another? If not then you are not really listening and you don’t really respect them and you will never understand what they believe.

    I love the fact that Jesus took time to hear people and listen. John 8 is an incredible story where Jesus hears and understands and then responds in a way that changes lives.

    Will we?


    Aretha sang, “Find out what respect means to me”. Respect is a simple word. It is one which causes people to get into fights, feel good, or get loud. Respect is something that is intangible and yet is required.

    Today I interacted on a blog where some people were critiquing a friend’s book.

    They had not read the book.

    Yet, they trashed the book. They trashed him. They challenged his character. It was a personal attack.

    They claim to be Christians.

    Over the last couple of weeks I have been teaching a group of people about how to engage with those who don’t follow Jesus. We began with “respect.” Why? Because this is the place that Jesus starts. This is the place that Paul starts. They were respecters of people.

    Consider Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4.

    He respected her. He did not pull any punches but he dealt with her in love and did not demean her.

    Respect is a powerful form of love and it opens many doors that might not otherwise open. It is foundational for relationship.

    If the Church is going to be what it’s called to be it has to respect those who are far from God. This means that to caricature those who disagree with you is out. This means that you must take time to learn and actually hear what these people are saying.

    Back to my friend, he has a dynamic to atheists at a large state university. He has written a fiction novel that uses a genre that is attractive to those whom God has placed on his heart. I am probably not going to read the book, because it’s simply not a genre that I enjoy. But, I am quite certain that many people who are far from God will and as they do they will come face to face with the story and message of Jesus.

    Will that message look like the Four Spiritual Laws? Nope. But it will challenge the mind and will of those who read it.

    Interestingly, the Christians who have displayed such disrespect are probably never going to have the hearing that a man who has written something they detest will.




    Community and Christmas

    What is the meaning of Christmas? That was the question that NBC’s Community asked last week in an incredibly creative stop motion animation episode that left me laughing. The episode was full of hat tips to great Christmas specials of the past and a few nice shots at the Christian faith.

    Shots at Christianity in a Christmas special? Yes.

    Are you offended?

    The shots that they took weren’t the kinds that you might expect. The most crushing one came from Shirley, whose character is an outspoken Christian. She said, “I am a modern day Christian, I have learned sensitivity and so I say Happy Holidays not wanting anyone else’s religion to feel inferior to mine.”

    I laughed. Then, I cried.

    Not really. But, I have been thinking about this for the last few days.

    Christmas has lost something in the post-modern malaise of mutual worldview affirmations.

    Then I remembered last Friday, my son sang in a “Holiday Concert” at his school. They sang Happy Hannukah, Mud Slide, and Up on the Housetop.

    Silent Night was played on the piano, no singing.

    Something manifestly changed.

    A hush came over the crowded cafeteria. You could have heard a pin drop.

    Christmas, the moment when God split time one passover many years ago and entered into history. Even today with all of our sensitivity and complacency humanity still becomes silent before the reality that took place when God moved into the neighborhood.

    Everyone in that cafeteria experienced something different in that moment than all that had come before. That moment was thick with the holy.

    I wish I could sit down with Abed and over a peppermint mocha just talk about the meaning of Christmas.

    Maybe I can, maybe there are people all around me looking for the real meaning if I would just open my eyes to see and have ears to hear.

    What are you thankful for?

    What are you thankful for? This is the question that was posed by the boys at Professional One a “boutique of awesome” or also known as one of the best real estate firms in the country run by Mike and Todd.

    Ever since the question was asked I have been thinking about it.

    This is a question we ask around our kitchen table as opposed to the generic “God is good, God is great…”

    How can you answer such a question with any kind of authenticity and keep the post relatively brief?

    When I think about what I am thankful for I am amazed at all that I really ought to be thankful for, but I’m not. I am not thankful, at least not usually. I want to be one of those people that are constantly overwhelmed by gratitude.

    I really do. But, I’m not.

    Life is more complicated, it seems.

    What am I thankful for?

    I am thankful that there are people who are asking the question and forcing people like me to actually consider the question. I hear that question and the normal sorts of things that I ought to be thankful for pop into my head: friends, family, God, faith, love, relationships, provision, daily bread, grace, mercy, and the like.

    My head tells me I am thankful for these things. My life tells me otherwise.

    I don’t think I’m alone.

    To answer the question, I ask another: If our lives don’t reflect gratitude are we really thankful?

    The Paradox

    When you find out that most if not all of your preconceptions are misconceptions it leaves you reeling. The first time I woke up in Israel I struggled to believe all that I was seeing. I felt as though I had stepped foot out of the Matrix and into “The Real”. There was nothing that was what I expected. Not a single thing.

    We boarded our bus and met Yaniv, our guide and soon to be our good friend. He took us to Caesarea by the Sea. It was a confusing time as we left Tel Aviv and arrived at a place that was over 2,000 years old. This is the kind of confusion that leaves you scratching your head and unsure of what you are seeing.

    It turns out that Israel is a place of paradox. You never can quite get your mind around it. It is a living and breathing postmodern experience. What is new is old and what is oldest is often times new.

    The ruins of Caesarea were like nothing that I had ever experienced. They were almost unreal. I felt like I had stepped into one of those coffee table books that you find at your great aunt’s house and you start looking at because you can’t touch anything else.

    Only here you could touch.




    It was a round the winter of 1996 that I began to truly study the Scriptures with tenacity. I was particularly drawn to the person and writings of Paul. He was almost a mystical figure to me.

    Until now.

    I stood in the very place Paul did when he left for his journey to Rome. I saw the place where he was held prisoner prior to leaving.

    Paul has now become a very real person for me. He became very real in a place that is a living paradox of new and old.

    Preconceptions, Land Mines, and Explosions

    Any time you visit a new country there are always preconceived ideas that you have coming in. When I left for Israel I had a picture in mind of sand, mountains, and camels. Of course I also had the thought of one or two surface to air missiles and maybe a suicide bomber. I could tell that these were the same thoughts that some of my family had in mind too. I think that is part of the reason why I didn’t really get too excited about the trip, why it “slipped” my mind and why I did not talk about it much with those closest to me. My preconceived ideas had laid a foundation of fear.

    Then I arrived in Israel.

    I saw it.

    There was no filter, there were no reporters or editors choosing what to show me.

    I saw it with my own eyes.

    What did I see, you ask?

    I saw Tel Aviv and modern bustling city filled with people. There were kids on the beach singing and barbecuing. There were clubs thumping the bass so that you could feel it in your chest. There was graffiti. There were coffee shops and pubs. There were people jogging and riding bikes along the Mediterranean Sea. I saw a five star hotel that was had everything you could imagine.

    I didn’t see a single camel. The only sand I saw was on the beach of the Med. I didn’t see a gun or a missile or suicide bomber. There were some explosions later in the weekend, but it turns out that people like to shoot off fireworks after Shabbat is over!

    It’s a time to celebrate and party.

    That first night in Israel I saw my preconceptions explode like an old land mine in the Golan Heights…

    The Greatest Love Story

    Figuring It Out…

    [caption id=“attachment_1246” align=“alignleft” width=“300” caption=“It’s not good if the baby goes with…”]


    For the last few years I have been on a journey. It’s a journey that has cost me friendships. It’s a journey that has caused me to look pretty deep and it has caused me to evaluate my understanding of “church”. This week I had an epiphany. It’s both/and and not either/or.

    You’re thinking ,“That’s pretty cryptic.”

    You’re right. Let me clarify.

    The journey that I have been on has been the journey from thinking of church as primarily a “come and see” to that of “go and tell.” As per usual I have taken the pendulum of my life and swung it from one end of the spectrum to the other.

    I didn’t even notice.

    Passion does that.

    This week I met with a group of pastors from the area for a planning time. We were meeting to plan what our churches would do together as we participate in “E.A.C.H.”, a city-wide movement of churches that are seeking to give “everyone a chance to hear” during the first forty days after Easter. We prayed and it was amazing.

    Then we started talking.

    Fairly quickly the debate began: proclamation OR service. The battle lines were drawn. The combatants were unwilling to budge. Then an image I used for many years with Campus Crusade for Christ (and I had used in a recent worship service) popped into my mind:

    Now, what struck me was that I had forgotten something that had been drilled into me for ten years on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. A simple truth that brought clarity to my journey:

    There are three relational modes: Ministry, Body, Natural.

    I want to quote Keith Davy at length here:

    As God works through believers in seeking to save the lost, there are three different types of relationships, or relational modes. These modes of witness are delineated by the nature of the relationship between the believer(s) and the unbelievers. God always seeks to work through our witness as a body, through our natural relationships, and through the relationships that result from intentional ministry outreach. A ministry’s evangelistic impact is increased as it expands the influence of each relational mode. Evangelistic momentum is achieved as synergy is generated between all three modes. Understanding these modes will enable us to align our methods with God’s work more effectively and expand the impact of each mode more fully.

    We must have all three. I am not suggesting that we go back to a model of church that is driven by programs and that everything is done within the four spiritual walls of the building. What I am saying is that there must be strategic placement of all three modes in the life of any congregation and in the life of the church as a whole.

    It’s coming together. The journey is still long and I am sure there will be many twists and turns along the way, but this is a significant piece that has come together.

    Maybe I should take another look at some of those other models that I used to make fun of? I suppose I should.

    The Rest of the Story

    Psalm 136:1–9 — Creation, Worship, Mission

    Why Weren’t They There?

    “You keep saying you’ve got something for me.
    something you call love, but confess.
    You’ve been messin’ where you shouldn’t have been a messin’
    and now someone else is gettin’ all your best.

    These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
    one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

    In the 1920s the Christians walked away from education. In the 1930s and 40s we walked away from science and academia. In the 1960s we walked away from culture. In 2010 it appears we have, by and large, we are in danger walking away from our communities.

    Today I spent the day at a local hospital which was hosting an international taste festival and a world impact expo. The organizer sought to provide opportunity for ten congregations or organizations from each of the world’s three dominant faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to highlight their mission efforts around the world. Only four Christian churches committed to participating. One backed out and one was a no show the day of the event.

    The Jewish communities and Islamic communities had their full compliment and then some because the Christians were no shows.

    The Christians were no shows.

    Over the last few years I have read and heard a lot of rhetoric and polemic about Islam and its negative influence in the world. Christians have felt threatened. There has been a renewed zeal “evangelize” the “Muslim world”. There is great concern about Muslim extremists blowing things up.

    But, in their own backyard the Christians were no shows.

    We have to show up. When I worked with Campus Crusade for Christ we talked about how 90% of movement building was showing up.

    Boots on the ground.

    Being there.

    I love that I am part of a church community that showed up. A movement is building. God is at work. We got to see it because we showed up.

    I hope that our boots are made for walking and that we won’t walk out but we will walk in and show up.

    A Minute to Win It, or, How YouTube Changed Media

    A little over a week ago a group of high school students gathered at Grace Chapel, EPC in Farmington Hills, MI. They were there to play “A Minute to Win It”. They played a ton of different games, laughing, and trying to win, and then laughing some more. One of the volunteers in the crowd were recording the mayhem and a few of the videos were uploaded to YouTube.

    Then it happened. An email from an exec at NBC requesting the videos for use on an upcoming episode of A Minute to Win It! The media is now trolling the web to find media for itself to show to us as media.

    In this new world of HD cameras and YouTube one thing is now certain:

    The media creators have become the media consumers.

    Think about it. NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, etc…need us. They need us to keep themselves relevant, hip, and in the know. They need us to create for them. They are consuming our self-made media as much as we are consuming theirs.


    To Think or Not to Think

    What does it mean for a Christian to think? I don’t mean the kind of thinking where one tries to figure out a problem. I am talking about the kind of thinking where one struggles with their core beliefs and tries to determine what is real and true.

    We as Christians believe that the Bible is special revelation which shows us truth and points us to what is real. We believe that it is authoritative, that means we believe that we have a book that gives us real answers by which we ought to live.

    I believe that this is true.

    I repeat: I believe that this is true.

    However we must not take our faith and use it as a replacement for critical thought. The Apostle Paul commended the Berean believers because they searched the Scriptures for truth. If we are going to be like them then we must take our cues from them.

    I am coming to the thought that for the follower of Jesus to be a real and true thinker then he or she must truly believe that the Scriptures really do have authority. But that is not all. The belief must also extend to the necessity of a diligent study of the Scriptures. We must allow them to change our presuppositions and allow them to change what we believe about the core of our worldviews.

    This is what happened with the Bereans. They were a community that believed one way about God until they took a fresh look at their authoritative text and allowed it to change them and change the core foundations of their entire worldview.

    So, will we think? It takes work. It takes effort. It takes a willingness to hear the authoritative texts of our community, which are the very words of God, himself.

    Activity or Experience?

    Rick Devos asked a simple question during his presentation at TEDxDetroit: When you plan an event are you thinking about activity or experience? This is a profound question. One that I think those of who are in the church need to think deeply about. We must ask ourselves what we are calling one another too.

    I think that often times we are asking and calling people to activities.

    “Come and do…”

    “Bring your friend to…”

    What if this became…

    “Hey I am a part of…”

    “Do you want to join me in…”

    One set of phrases represents activities, the other an experience. Jesus is not something we do. Church is not something we do. Recently I have found myself saying, “We do church…” or “How do you do church…” These kinds of statements are meaningless. We can’t “do” church any more than I can “do” human being.

    It’s interesting this kind of language is typically reserved for those who are impersonators, like this:


    Man, Hartman “does” a good Sinatra! But, he’ not the real thing. He’s an impersonator. He’s faking it. He’s doing his best but it’s not real.

    I think that when we try to “do” church we are the same, simple impersonators who are doing best but not the real thing.

    We need to think about the experience. How can we invite people into an experience where they come face to face with the body of Christ and its head, Jesus? This question is imperative for us to answer. Is it through fog machines and video? Is it done through a high church liturgy? Maybe on both. Maybe not on both.

    It seems to me that it might be in the people. When we gather for worship are we looking at ourselves and our needs or are we looking to interact and engage with the God of the universe? Are we inviting people into his presence or to our building?

    I would love to know what you think it means to think about experience versus activity in this context. Comment like crazy and let’s discuss…

    Detroit, May You Be a Phoenix

    The Phoenix is a mythical beast which lives and dies by burning itself into a heap of ashes. From the ashes rises the next generation Phoenix. I look around at the Detroit Metropolitan area and realize that we have become a heap of ashes. 

    The fire began to blaze in 1968 with the riots. From that moment on the death spiral had begun. The fire is out. We are but a pile of ash. The question now becomes what will happen with this pile of ash? Will we be blown away by the wind never again to breathe the breath of life? Or, just maybe, will we rise like a Phoenix from the ashes?

    I have hope that we will rise.


    In the last 24 hours I have been a part of two significant events in our city. On Wednesday, September 29 I participated in TEDxDetroit and on Thursday, September 30 I participated in EACH. These two gatherings were very different and very much the same. Both of them are seeking to transform a city which has become an icon of failure.

    TEDxDetroit is a gathering of innovators, thinkers, doers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and catalysts. EACH is a gathering of pastors. TED is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything; EACH crossed racial, economic, urban, and suburban. TED made a call to the people of this city to act and do and be creative to transform this place. EACH made a call to the people of this city to act and do and be creative to transform this place.

    This may be a historic time that is coming to the city of Detroit.

    From both I left with the same question: Will anyone really act?

    I heard fine speeches and great visions and big dreams. I prayed. I worshipped. I thought. I reflected. I was challenged.

    But will I act?

    Will we?

    A Phoenix may rise but it will require us to act.

    Mini Me…

    One of the greatest characters in film is Mini Me from the Austin Powers series. Now, granted for many of you reading this blog you are already offended just with the mere mention of that film series, sorry, but keep reading it might come full circle (maybe). Have you ever wondered how Mini Me relates to Jesus? No? Hmm…

    This Sunday I was talking with a group of people about the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is a pretty cool thing. It was a fold up Temple that the people of God were able to take with them anywhere they went. It was a kind of holy Winnebago or something. Here’s a picture compliments of the ESV Study Bible:

    It was a pretty remarkable thing. It was over this tent that a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night hovered declaring that God was present in their midst. That’s pretty remarkable! Of course, it didn’t take long before this became totally ho-hum to the people of God (don’t believe me? Check out Numbers 25). Anyway, the Tabernacle became the Temple and then something happened, Jesus of Nazareth showed up and said that he was going to replace the Temple (read John, all of it).

    It gets better. Jesus, this God-man, right before he died told his followers that it would be better for them that he leaves and sends them the “Comforter”, popularly known as the Holy Spirit. Why was this better?

    It’s better because now we can all be Mini Mes. That’s right. The Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation and the agent of sanctification. That’s a ten dollar sentence to say that the Holy Spirit brings you to God and changes you to be more like God. Anyone who claims to follow Jesus is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he is at work in you. He is changing you. He is making you into a “Mini Me” of Jesus. Alan and Debra Hirsch talk about the reality that the Church is to be “Little Jesuses”.

    If we are Little Jesuses then we must take seriously the call of Jesus and the inner working of the Holy Spirit. It means that we must go where Jesus goes and love what Jesus loves.

    How do we know if we are taking these steps? How do we know if we are becoming like Jesus? Well Paul gives us some help in Galatians 5:

    But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard — things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22–23, The Message)

    So what kind of Mini Me are you?

    Hey, hey Hockeytown!

    The Lions are 0–3, the Tigers are out of the playoffs, U of M is undefeated but it looks like they probably won’t win a Big Ten game, that can only mean one thing: Hockey. That’s right we are ten days away from the start of the NHL and most importantly the Red Wings. Last season was frustrating. But, in the end it was great.

    It was great because…

    1. We found out that Jimmy Howard is the real deal.
    2. We found out that guys like Eaves, Miller, and Abdelkader can play with the big boys.
    3. We found out that Mike Babcock is a ridiculously good coach.
    4. We found out that the Swedes have heart.
    5. We found out that the leadership on this team will take them a long way.
    6. Hudler found out that he needed the Red Wings.
    7. Mike Modano didn’t win a Cup and will go for one here in Detroit.
    8. The Blackhawks won their championship and a real original six rivalry was reborn.
    9. The Penguins didn’t win the championship.
    10. It made us as fans thankful for the nearly 20 years of amazing hockey we have seen in the D.

    The boys from Grand Rapids grew into men last year. The Wings have FIVE NHL caliber offensive lines. They are deep. They are hungry. They are fast.

    The big questions I have:

    1. Can Franzen stay healthy?
    2. Will Kronwall become the defenseman everyone else know he can become?
    3. Will Datsyuk and Zetterberg each score 30+ goals?
    4. Will Modano set up the Happy Hudler for 20+ goals?

    If these things happen then there will be a parade in the D and it will be Mayor Bing’s turn to buy the Vernors and Coneys!

    Do You Hear What You Want To Hear?

    Pew Research posted a recent study looking at how people’s religion effects their understanding of various social issues. What I found interesting is that on many issues even though people hear their pastor speak on issues it does not effect the way they think about them.

    I think this study highlights a significant shift within the religious community. This shift points to the reality that people are looking elsewhere for wisdom. This is especially highlighted in issues where television political pundits have the loudest voices. The leaders of religious communities cannot compete with the 24 hour news cycle and the reruns of hour long editorial commentary that is played off as “fact”.

    Continually, pastor friends of mine, are finding that people hear what they want. They don’t take into account the full picture. The Bible or the pastor are minor voices in a large conversation. I think that in many ways we could say that our politics are shaping our theology.

    When this happens the faith community necessarily finds itself on shaky ground. The kingdom of God is a subversive kingdom which requires a radical reorientation of one’s view of the world. If the faith community is being transformed primarily through outside forces then it ceases to be the subversive community of Jesus but something else.

    Wednesdays are Wright (and sometimes Thursday): Authority

    As I read this text, I am writing and responding. You are getting my fresh thoughts, ones which are rather raw. So, hopefully, this means that we will end up in conversation where we can interact over them and flesh it out a bit. Up to this point I have been wrestling with how Wright was going to answer the Authority question.

    He does so by arguing for the necessity of theology in understanding the New Testament (and really any historical work) due to theology’s central role in world view. This then leads him into the question of authority which he answers this way:

    “I am proposing a notion of ‘authority’…vested…in the creator god himself, and this god’s story with the world, seen as focused on the story of Israel and thence on the story of Jesus, as told and retold in the Old and New Testaments, and as still requiring completion. (143)”

    Now that is a statement. I am not sure if I am yet fully grasping the huge paradigmatic shift that Wright is arguing for here. Typically authority is based on the ontological reality that the bible contains the words of God and therefore is authoritative. However, because Wright is not starting with the assumption that the Christian ‘god’ is THE ‘god’ (it is this fact that Wright is seeking to prove) so he cannot begin with an ontological basis for authority. He must get there in another way. This he does by arguing that the story being told is authoritative because of the fact that it is indeed TOLD!

    This seems to me to be a very interesting approach as it opens the door to conversation with those for whom the idea of a ‘god’ is ridiculous and certainly an authoritative text about this ‘god’ is even more silly. However, if we begin with the reality that worldviews actually connect to reality and that the story held within the confines of the Old and New Testaments actually seeks to relate reality then we can engage on issues of veracity, or as Wright puts it, validation.

    To be sure this feels like a leap to me. However, I wonder is this really a semantic game? What I mean is this: Is there actually any difference in Wright’s formulation of authority versus that of, say, the Westminster Confession? What say you?

    Wednesdays are Wright: Narrative, Story, History

    As I continue to work through The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright, I was struck by this statement: “history…is rather the meaningful narrative of events and intentions.(82)” Wright is arguing that history is not simply the subjective interpretation of events and ideas. It is however, connected to a reality outside itself and is a process by which those events are placed within a grander meta-narrative. He argues against the postmodern emphasis and focus on the centrality of the reader that disconnects texts from their historical setting.

    This I think is very helpful. Primarily because he draws out the fundamental flaw in our current cultural milieu. Which is this disconnect from the fact that things do actually happen apart from someone writing them down.

    The other thing that I think is key in his definition is that it points to “intentions”. The intention of an author is something that many in our world today argue against being a possible end. However, it seems that Wright wants to argue that we have access to intent. If this is the case then we can begin to grapple with the statements of the text that seek to subvert us.

    In my previous post I asked the question, “where do we find authority?” I think that if we can find intent then we can have grounds for building authority. Apart from this, it will be difficult to do so.

    So, do you think we have access to intent? Or is all this a bunch of hot air?

    Lead, lead, lead…

    Yesterday I committed myself to watching The NINES leadership conference. I set up the laptop with the projector and big screen and kicked back in our youth room. I was impressed with the variety of speakers and the depth of insight that was being presented. I was less than surprised by some of the poor exegesis. I was able to invest in about half the conference.

    For those of you who don’t know how the The NINES works it’s a single day web conference where speakers discuss a single topic. This year they got 6 minutes. So, over the course of the nine hours there were over 100 videos. The pace is fast and a couple fo hours disappear before you know it. This year’s topic was “Game Changers”.

    There were two highlights for me as a developing leader that I am going to continue chewing on. The first was from Mike Slaughter. He discussed the centrality of discipleship in his ministry. What really caught me was when he said, “Programs and services do not produce disciples, disciples do.” Now, this is not new information. But, it was one of those reminders that as a pastor/shepherd my calling is to disciple making. It is not to entertaining or building a social club. The ramifications of this are still swirling in my head.

    The second talk that has stuck was from Eric Geiger. He discussed the role of the pastor. He argued that the typical church structure is:

    [Pastor] — ->Minister — –>[People]

    He then turned to Ephesians 4:11–12 and made the case that the biblical model is:

    [Pastor] — –>Prepare — –[People] — –>Minister

    This ties directly into the discipleship issue. While I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ I think I was a pretty effective discipler. The movements that I served developed high student ownership and our staff teams were diligent about preparing people to do ministry. There was a clear DNA that we sought to replicate within each student. I think that this has been the hardest part of the transition into the local church. Our DNA is not as clear, the folks who have been entrusted to us are not as available, the expectations on the role of pastor is very different because the people have expectations!

    This morning as I process I am wondering how do we effectively disciple in the modern world?

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