Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solidarity of the past vs. Individualism of today

Brett McCracken recently wrote an interesting article entitled "Could Woodstock Happen Again?" In it he briefly analyzes the cultural environment of 1969, pointing out how 500,000 united for this epic event. If his analysis is right, it's pretty amazing how our culture today is so utterly different than it was just 40 years ago regarding community. The whole article is good, but his conclusion pretty much sums it up:
There was a lot going on, and, importantly, it was all coinciding with the heyday of mass culture. The news of the world was now everywhere, the trends proliferated, the horrors unshielded from the public eye. And it was all on a limited number of media channels. Everyone saw and experienced the same stuff. This made it possible for so many people of the same age to be on the same cultural and spiritual page. They’d all grown up in the same Campbell’s soup post-war America. They were all equally nervous about Vietnam.

These days, there is still a lot going on, but by now we are used to a constant barrage of shocking news and earth-shattering events. Nothing riles us up anymore. Plus, there are far too many channels with which to receive information. Everyone gets a different story. Our music and cultural tastes are infinitely more disparate than that of our parents’ generation. Everything about culture is personal and fragmented rather than public and cohesive. Aside from the YouTube viral video of the week, nothing is really shared anymore.

Something like Woodstock simply could not happen. 500,000 young people in this era would never be able to agree on a motivating cause, let alone a lineup of bands.

But that’s okay. It’s not like Woodstock changed much of anything anyway. Its lasting importance is mainly that of an American cultural artifact—a nostalgic celebration of a revolution that nearly happened but didn’t. That, and an amazing 4-hour concert DVD.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A good reminder for those who aren't married

A recent post by Arnold Barlow:
I think it's part of the human condition that many of us feel lonely, if not all the time then at least from time to time. And if you're single, it's easy to think the antidote for loneliness is matrimony. But according to Henri Nouwen, those who marry because of loneliness will likely end up as lonely spouses. Our condition is not changed by our circumstance.
"We ignore what we already know with a deep-seated, intuitive knowledge - that no love or friendship, no intimate embrace or tender kiss, no community, commune or collective, no man or woman, will ever be able to satisfy our desire to be released from our lonely condition. This truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with our fantasies than to face the truth of our existence. Thus we keep hoping that one day we will find the man who really understands our experiences, the woman who will bring peace to our restless life, the job where we can fulfill our potentials, the book which will explain everything, and the place where we can feel at home. Such false hope leads us to make exhausting demands and prepares us for bitterness and dangerous hostility when we start discovering that nobody, and nothing, can live up to our absolutistic expectations.

Many marriages are ruined because neither partner was able to fulfill the often hidden hope that the other would take his or her loneliness away. And many celibates live with the naive dream that in the intimacy of marriage their loneliness will be taken away."
- Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, pp. 84-85.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The redemption of creation/culture conversation

For the last six weeks or so, I have been inundated with information and conversation about the restoration and redemption of culture/creation. It began with my Church and the World class at RTS. Then came a series that my church, Perimeter Church, has done. And then it seemed like every other blog post I was reading and conversation I was having had to do with this topic.

I think a lot of the discussion is very healthy. I think it is very beneficial to understand the world in the creation/fall/redemption/consummation framework. And I do believe all of creation including our cities and our jobs and everything else is going to be completely restored when Jesus comes back. We should not view the world as a sinking ship where our role is just to save as many souls as possible before it all burns. So I do agree that it is helpful to have these conversations and understand these ideas.

However, the problem is when there is an over-emphasis on the restoration of creation to the neglect of the glory of God shown in the salvation of the elect through the work of Christ on the cross. I like what Greg Gilbert said in an article over at 9Marks.
"Time after time, in book after book coming off of Christian presses, the highest excitement and joy is being ignited by something other than the sin-bearing work of Christ on the cross, and the most fervent appeals are for people to join God in doing this or that, rather than to repent and believe. In the process, the story of the gospel is made to be (deliberately or not) rather cross-less. That's one dangerous problem.

Another problem is not so much the shunting of the cross out of the center, as the remaking of it into something other than the substitutionary, wrath-bearing death of the Savior in the place of sinners for their sins. Thus Jesus’ death is often said to be the result of human evil or greed or power-lust or culture-making or any number of other things coming to their lowest, worst, most concentrated point and killing Jesus, who then conquers that worst-of-all-evils through his resurrection.

Don Carson hit on this in a blog-post some time ago when he wrote that,
'In recent years it has become popular to sketch the Bible's story-line something like this: Ever since the fall, God has been active to reverse the effects of sin. He takes action to limit sin's damage; he calls out a new nation, the Israelites, to mediate his teaching and his grace to others; he promises that one day he will come as the promised Davidic king to overthrow sin and death and all their wretched effects. This is what Jesus does: he conquers death, inaugurates the kingdom of righteousness, and calls his followers to live out that righteousness now in prospect of the consummation still to come.'
Carson calls this presentation of the Bible’s narrative 'painfully reductionistic,' and he’s right. There is no understanding here (explicit understanding, anyway) that sin is an offense against God rather than just an unfortunate circumstance humans have brought on themselves. There’s no sense of Jesus standing in the place of sinners to take the punishment that rightly should fall upon them. And for that matter, there’s no sense that there’s any punishment involved at all---just consequences. No divine wrath, just bad results. In other words, such a presentation of the gospel essentially leaves out of the meaning of the cross exactly what the Bible makes central to it: A) that Jesus was dying in the place of his people, and B) that on the cross he endured punishment for their sin (not just the results of it—the punishment for it), meted out by God the Father in his righteous wrath."
Does anyone else feel like this is a topic being talked about a lot lately? What are your thoughts?

(HT:Justin Taylor)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Heaven will solve all our problems

Wednesday night a week ago, my discipleship group met for the fourth time this summer to discuss Mere Christianity. At one point in our conversation, we started talking about heaven and what it would be like. Someone asked a question like, "Will all our questions about life be answered there?" We all threw around some thoughts and it made for some good conversation.

Then on Monday, I read Arnold's post about Jesus being the great Iconoclast. He quotes out of another Lewis book, A Grief Observed. Lewis answers our groups question brilliantly and is helpful for our humility as we learn more about who God is:
"Images of the Holy easily become holy images - sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are "offended" by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.

All reality is iconoclastic.
Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My ungrateful heart

I read this story in Luke 17 the other day. I don't believe I've ever noticed it before. It has really stuck with me the last couple of days.

Basically the story is this: Jesus meets ten lepers who beg for mercy. Jesus tells them to go to the priests. When they move in obedience toward the priests, they are all healed. Yet, only one of them (a Samaritan no less) turns back to praise God and to fall at Jesus' feet in thanksgiving. Jesus then asks, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

These verses struck me because I felt like one of the other nine. I have not felt grateful for God's grace in my life lately. Why is that? I know the wretchedness that God has saved me from. I know that I was dead in my sin and was rescued by God's grace and power. I know that He has rescued me from the power of sin, so that it is no longer my master. The problem is connecting that head knowledge to my heart.

The truth is, I know I can't be grateful without God in Christ working it into my cold heart. And that is the whole point...I need help and He provides help when I come to the end of myself.

Psalm 3:3 - "But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The High Cost of Friendship

I've thought about friendship a lot recently. I feel extremely blessed for the great community of guys that I have around me. But I also feel a bit of guilt and shame because I don't love them as well as I would like to. It's easier to stay on the surface rather than talking about heart issues. It's easier to avoid conflict rather than confessing and forgiving one another's sins. It's easier to merely talk about an issue than engaging in prayer for and with one another. There is a very high cost to my comfort in friendship.

Over at Relevant Magazine, Seth Hurd has written a good article about this high cost. He takes into account how this culture of social networking has played a large role in re-shaping what our friendships look like.

Here's an exerpt:
"Everything in life costs us something—in time, money, energy, love or emotion. Friends, real know-you-down-to-your-soul friends, come at a high cost. They guarantee a lifetime of broken hearts as we say goodbye, farewell and amen, again and again over the course of our lives.

Sadly, more and more people are finding that cost too high. Fifty years ago, the average person had three or more close friends and family members in which to confide. Today, that average has dropped to somewhere between two and one. The world-within-a-world of social networking has its benefits, but it’s also continually drawing us further into an “invent your own fantasy” identity and away from face-to-face relationships. This year, the average American will spend more time with their computer than with their spouse. As a study in the March 2009 International Business News so aptly put it, “Facebook, Twitter users among the loneliest in America.”

It’s easy to see why escaping to the social networking world is so inviting. On Facebook, you can hide behind a persona, be any version of yourself you can dream up. Online friends don’t borrow money and not pay it back, gossip or spill Gatorade in your car. They don’t show up at your house after just getting dumped and stay until 2 a.m. when you have to be at work in the morning. Online “friendships” are always efficient.

True friendship demands vulnerability. It requires that you rearrange your schedule, and intentionally plan time to spend with other people with no agenda. It demands choice, as sociologists agree that it’s only possible to have eight to 12 “real” friends, and attempting to manage more relationships than that only ends in a series of casual acquaintances. "

Monday, August 17, 2009

Christ to the Unreached

This is a powerful video about missions, particularly to unreached people. It's a great reminder of the work that God still wants to accomplish across the globe:

"...that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!" - Psalm 67:2-3

(HT:Justin Taylor)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pigeon Mountain adventures

I just got back from a camping weekend with a few really good buddies of mine. We went to Pigeon Mountain in northwest Georgia. We had a good time walking and hiking around the area. However, two of the guys didn't have the best sleep because they somehow forgot their sleeping bags. Looking back, I definitely should have offered my tent-mate Ethan a share of my bag. But at the time it was pretty funny to see him come into the tent around 4am the second night with a camping chair. He set it up in the middle of the tent and proceeded to try to sleep a couple of hours in it. Needless to say, he didn't get much sleep during the weekend.

The goal Saturday morning was to go find the Overlook nearby. Being the navigator with a map, I was finding it difficult to locate where this overlook might be. I directed us to a few different places and we ended up off the mountain and driving around for over an hour. We did get to see some beautiful countryside. But it turns out, the overlook was about 1/4 mile from our campsite. On the map it said "Hood Overlook." Not sure how I missed that one. Here's a picture from it: The highlight of the trip for me was being in a dark cave for close to four hours with these guys. We were making our way through Pettijohns Cave. We shimmied, crawled, and worked our way through all kinds of slippery mess. Having been in there three times before, I was most qualified (though not extremely confident) to lead us to the goal of seeing the waterfall several miles in. Thankfully, after going through the Z-bends (Scott and Dan were champs getting us through that) and getting turned around, we ran into a few locals who helped us get to the waterfall and back.

Here are a few pics from this trip and from years before after coming out of the cave:From January of 2002 with some old friends from youth group:
From late 2000 or early 2001 with some college friends my freshman year:

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Roy Keely:
“Egotism is pathological self obsession, a reaction to anxiety about whether one really does count. It is a form of acute self-consciousness and can be prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved. It is indeed, a desperate response to frustration of the need we all have to count for something and be held to be irreplaceable, without price.“

— Dallas Willard, pg15, The Divine Conspiracy