Thursday, December 30, 2010

I am Second

"No, the team is not going to be the most important thing to me."

I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Romans 11:4
HT: Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology

Monday, December 27, 2010

Women Worthy of Praise

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Proverbs 31:30
Lisa Chan (wife of Francis Chan):

Lauren Chandler (wife of Matt Chandler):

Blair Linne (wife of Shai Linne):

I'm so greatly encouraged by these wives.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

But God...

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God...
Ephesians 2:1-4
After watching this powerfully moving testimony to the rebel-pursuing, sin-conquering, irresistible grace of God, I'm really looking forward to reading the book (to be released in May 2011):

Note: If you want to watch the video testimony, just a couple of things to note: 1) It's long (about an hour I think). And it's worth it. 2) It doesn't start off in English and you have to wait a while before it gets to the English. And it's worth it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It Was Not A Silent Night...

Labor of Love
by Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Friday, December 24, 2010

Immanuel (God With Us): Past, Present, Future

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (emphasis added)
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20 (emphasis added)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God."...And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Revelation 21:3, 22-23 (emphasis added)

A very merry Christmas to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wide-Eyed With Wonder in God's Spoken World

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
Hebrews 1:3
Tree, I say, and you know what I mean. You see one in your mind, or glance out your window and remember the much-needed pruning. Tree, God says, and there is one. But He doesn't say the word tree; He says the tree itself. He needs no shortcut. He's not merely calling one into existence, though His voice creates. His voice is its existence. That thing in your yard, that mangy apple or towering spruce, that thing is not the referent of His word. It is His word and its referent. If He were to stop talking, it wouldn't be there. Or do you think that its molecules and atoms and quarks are made of some mysterious, self-sustaining matter that has always been and always will be, some infinite Play-Doh or hydrogen, holy be its name? Maybe there was an Adam Up Quark and Eve Lepton? Maybe God found a bit of infinite matter and blew it up like a balloon, and now its sputters and spits while it swirls, sustaining itself? Maybe the balloon found itself and did its own huffing and puffing. Place your faith in the infinitude of matter if you like, and Chance will write your story. He'll shuffle together pages, words, scribbles from different languages, other people's noses, and small bits of string, run it all through a mulcher, and spray it into your yard. Enjoy your novel.

Imagine a poem written with such enormous three-dimensional words that we had to invent a smaller word to reference each of the big ones; that we had to rewrite the whole thing in shorthand, smashing it into two dimensions, just to talk about it. Or don't imagine it. Look outside. Human language is our attempt at navigating God's language; it is us running between the lines of His epic, climbing on the vowels and building houses out of the consonants.

See that thing?

What thing?

That huge pile of stones that climbs to where the air gets thin?

Yes. It has a lot of syllables.

Let's call it a mountain, okay? When I say mountain, that's what I mean. It'll be easier than building one every time.

It's supposed to blow up?

Let's call it a volcano.

--N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World, p. 43-44
Wow! I think the subtitle of this book is accomplishing its intended effect in my life.

Oh how much there is to see and marvel at! Oh how blind I am! Oh Lord, widen my eyes with wonder!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

To Pursue Unity Itself Will Eventually Destroy It

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-13, 15-16
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

--A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 80
Here is a picture of the only unity that endures:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (emphasis added)
HT: Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wasting Your Life By Asking The Wrong Questions

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:17
[M]y sense is that in the prosperous West, the danger in the church is not that there are too many overly zealous people who care too deeply about the lost, and invest hazardously in the cause of the Gospel, and ruin their lives with excessive mercy to the poor. For every careless saint who burns himself out and breaks up his family with misdirected zeal, I venture, there are a thousand who coast with the world, treating Jesus like a helpful add-on, but not as an all-satisfying, all-authoritative King in the cause of love.

One of the marks of this peacetime mind-set is what I call an avoidance ethic. In wartime we ask different questions about what to do with our lives than we do in peacetime. We ask: What can I do to advance the cause? What can I do to bring the victory? What sacrifice can I make or what risk can I take to insure the joy of triumph? In peacetime we tend to ask, What can I do to be more comfortable? To have more fun? To avoid trouble and, possibly, avoid sin?

If we are going to pay the price and take the risks it will cost to make people glad in God, we move beyond the avoidance ethic. This way of life is utterly inadequate to waken people to the beauty of Christ. Avoiding fearful trouble and forbidden behaviors impresses almost no one. The avoidance ethic by itself is not Christ-commending or God-glorifying. There are many disciplined unbelievers who avoid the same behaviors Christians do. Jesus calls us to something far more radical than that.

People who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior. They ask, What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with this movie? Or this music? Or this game? Or these companions? Or this way of relaxing? Or this investment? Or this restaurant? Or shopping at this store? What’s wrong with going to the cabin every weekend? Or having a cabin? This kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commends Christ as all-satisfying and makes people glad in God. It simply results in a list of don’ts. It feeds the avoidance ethic.

The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ? The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). So the question is mainly positive, not negative. How can I portray God as glorious in this action? How can I enjoy making much of him in this behavior?

Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud—just lots of hard work during the day, and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time), and lots of fun stuff on the weekend—woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more.

--John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life, p.118-120

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Culture Makin' That's Bangin'!

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

This song is from FLAME's last released album, Our World Redeemed (this album is my new top two favorite! Grab a copy for yourself!).

Then watch/listen to FLAME talk about his latest culture making efforts:

And here's a peek at the new album that's gonna drop at the end of this month, Lord willing:

Captured is an album that was derived from a personal burden on FLAME's heart. When reflecting upon the state of the world and the church, FLAME noticed that people fell into two categories:

1. being captured by sin and still under its grip and control; or
2. having been captured by God and under His rule and sway.

Yet, he saw something similar in both groups: the need to be recaptured. The non-Christian needs to be captured by God for the first time, while the Christian needs to constantly be captured by God's beauty, His holiness, and His grace. As the psalmist says in Psalm 42, "As a deer pants for flowing streams so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God..." This is the language of one who is captured and is being captured by a holy God and a sweet Savior.

FLAME takes you on a journey from what its like to be captured from birth to childhood to adulthood and then throughout your Christian journey. FLAME shares many personal stories of how God captured him and is continuing to capture him. He also gives a glimpse of how he and all the saints will eventually be captured once and for all in the presence of God. This album is a plea and a call for God's created people and His children to follow hard after God and to cling to Him. Who or what has captured you?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Culture Making: Bringing Grace and Cross to Every Nook and Cranny of Culture

Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it spring up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
Mark 4:3-8
The religious or secular nature of our cultural creativity is simply the wrong question. The right question is whether, when we undertake the work we believe to be our vocation, we experience the joy and humility that come only when God multiplies our work so that it bears thirty, sixty and a hundredfold beyond what we could expect from our feeble inputs. Vocation--calling--becomes another word for a continual process of discernment, examining the fruits of our work to see whether they are producing that kind of fruit, and doing all we can to scatter the next round of seed in the most fruitful places.


So where are we called to create culture? At the intersection of grace and cross. Where do we find our work and play bearing awe-inspiring fruit--and at the same time find ourselves able to identify with Christ on the cross? That intersection is where we are called to dig into the dirt, cultivate and create.

We are marvelously different enough from one another that the simple quest for each one's intersection of grace and cross will take us to every nook and cranny of culture.


Frederick Buechner writes that your calling is found "where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

--Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, p.256, 262, 263

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Jesus Is Building His Church...

...and I'm almost positive it doesn't look like what we think it should.

I highly recommend you read that blog post, which talks about The Line, a church plant in Chicago that one of my best friends has been helping to plant over the past year and a half.

I really wish that every person who has been inclined to comment on this thread had the opportunity to actually visit The Line. As one who has been there recently and experienced the grace of God there firsthand, I can say without any hesitation that the Holy Spirit is working in powerful ways in and through The Line for the exaltation of King Jesus. It's undeniable. I was so tremendously encouraged AND challenged by The Line's commitment to both contend for AND contextualize the gospel. To do both well isn't easy. Quite honestly, I don't think most evangelicals do both well (myself included). I would argue that the majority of churches/organizations are better at and/or focus on one more than the other (for me, I'm definitely better at and probably more focused on contending). Not The Line. The Line does both, very well.

Just a couple of things that stick out in my mind most:
  1. I had the privilege of being in Chicago the weekend when Milano (the band mentioned in the article) dropped their latest release with a concert on a Saturday night. It was a unique experience. Being an outsider, I didn't know anyone who was there. I have no clue what percentage of the audience was professing believers. But honestly, the best part was that it didn't really matter. My guess is that the majority of the audience was Christian, but even if that was the case it was an environment that seemed like an atmosphere that a non-Christian would totally enjoy and feel at home in (like the tax collectors and prostitutes did around Jesus). There came a point during the concert when Jon (the band leader) had his opportunity to "preach." And preach he did. Even though it probably wouldn't be what alot of evangelicals define as preaching. He pointed to sin by talking about the brokenness of the world that we can all identify with, Christian or non-Christian. And he pointed to the Savior by talking about the hope that we are all in need of, Christian or non-Christian. But he did so with what clearly appeared to me as carefully chosen words that wouldn't immediately alienate the non-Christians but rather invite them in to look past all the stereotypes (and we all know there are many) and take a closer peak at the gospel and the Christ who it's about. And my favorite part was when he said that the celebration that Saturday night was going to continue the next morning at a particular theater (which is where The Line gathers for their Sunday morning worship) and invited everyone at the concert to come and be a part of the celebration.

  2. I just finished reading a book called Culture Making by Andy Crouch. I can say confidently that this is one of the best books I have ever read. And definitely the best book I read in 2010. It's oozing with insight, commanding in its biblical theology, and it's just simply beautiful in its rhetoric. It opened my eyes to see the entire Bible through the lens of culture in a way that I've never before considered, but which has clearly been there all along. I'm still working out the implications for my life. I was challenged to the core. One of the main premises of the book revolves around this concept of gestures and postures. A gesture is a movement our body makes in response to something. A posture is a position our body assumes over time. Crouch argues compellingly that, as the church, there are four different gestures that we can make in response to culture: condemn culture, criticize culture, copy culture, or consume culture. And each of these is necessary at some point. But one of our biggest problems is that at one point or another in church history or in certain wings of the church, we have turned these gestures into postures that we assume by default. And even though these gestures are necessary and good at the appropriate time, embracing any one of them as postures will end up bearing no fruit in the long run. Because the main posture that God has called us to embrace is none of these four (they're meant to be gestures only!) but instead that of being cultivators and creators of culture. Why do I mention this book and bother giving you this short little synopsis? Because The Line and Milano are doing exactly that. The Line and Milano aren't mainly condemning (like me!), criticizing, copying, or consuming culture. They are mainly cultivating and creating culture, showing Chicago what a culture that is submitted to the one true God looks like. And they are offering a legitimate and similar yet altogether different alternative to all the other cultures that people in Chicago can choose to embrace.
I'll be honest. It was hard for me to enter into musical worship at The Line. It's so remotely different from anything that I'm used to. But that's evidence that they are contextualizing for a Chicago culture that I'm an alien to (as would be the case if I were in a church in Japan). And so by the end of the service, when we were singing the last truth-filled song celebrating the hope of Jesus coming to make everything right, I was jamming because the gospel that secures that hope for us is powerfully at work in Chicago through The Line and that fills me with hope for the church here and now.

Thank you The Line. Thank you Milano. You're a gift and an example to us. Keep doing what you do. Thanks D. I praise Jesus you followed Him to Chicago.

Thank You King Jesus that You are building Your church. And that neither the gates of Hades nor our folly will prevail against it.