Friday, April 30, 2010

An Image to Hide Behind

The latest Adbusters article addresses the question: "What is the happiness that has alluded our generation?" Here's part of the response:
Unlike people of my generation who are increasingly defined by their possessions, my grandfather never owned much. But he never complained about not having because he was too busy being. Perhaps I’m unhappy because my concerns are reversed – I’m too worried about having to focus on being. Human fulfillment is no longer equated with what I am, but with what I possess. [Guy] Debord says this is the second stage of modernization, “in which social life becomes so completely dominated by accumulated products that it causes a shift from having to appearing, wherein all ‘having’ must now derive its immediate prestige from appearances.” So all I need to do to fit modern society is to appear to be a possessor of a lot of stuff, but in reality I will be and have nothing. I need a personal image. Perhaps this is the visible sign of happiness Baudrillard was talking about. I have to create an image to hide behind, and this image seems to be the only thing I’m able to produce. Have I really been reduced to an image whose sole purpose is to mix and mingle with other seemingly compatible images? Is modern life really so complex?
Part of the author's answer to this question (found later in the article) is to be unique. In a sense, I completely agree with this. As a friend always reminds me, God has made us human beings not human doings. God desires us to first just be who we are. We were uniquely created to be a part of the larger story going on around us. We should stop trying to be like everyone else, desiring possessions to impress everyone else, and seek to live out of the unique expression of Christ in us.

Instead of hiding behind a self-made, propped up image of ourselves, we should remember this truth:
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." - 2 Cor. 3:18

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chesterton on Authority

G.K. Chesterton:
"The modern world will accept no dogmas upon any authority; but it will accept any dogmas on no authority. Say that a thing is so, according to the Pope or the Bible, and it will be dismissed as a superstition without examination. But preface your remark merely with “they say” or “don’t you know that?” or try (and fail) to remember the name of some professor mentioned in some newspaper; and the keen rationalism of the modern mind will accept every word you say."
(HT:Looking Closer)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jennifer Knapp & Homosexuality

You've probably heard by now that the one time Christian artist Jennifer Knapp has come out as being a homosexual. I imagine there aren't too many people feeling neutral about this news, whether you're upset that she has come out and seems to be okay with it, or you're angry at those condemning her for it.

She recently did an interview with Larry King to talk more openly about her decision. You can find a summary of the videos or the entire interview broken up into four parts here. I confess I have only watched the summary so far, but am anxious to see the whole thing.

After watching the interview, Trevin Wax makes some good observations here. I particularly liked what he had to say about framing the conversation when talking about the sin of homosexuality and knowing at the same time that everyone is a sinner. He points out that the key is repentance:
"Whenever the discussion centers on “homosexuality is a sin… but we’re all sinners,” the traditionalist inevitably comes across looking like he is singling out homosexuality as a worse sin than all the rest. His protests to the contrary always ring hollow.

But this is the wrong way to frame this debate. We are not saying that some of us are worse sinners than others or that homosexuality is a worse sin than pride, stealing, etc. We are not categorized before God as ” better sinners” or “worse sinners.” Instead, we are either unrepentant or repentant. True Christianity hinges on repentance. The pastor on Larry King Live eventually made this point later on in the broadcast, but the rhetorical damage had already been done.

If we are to reframe this discussion along biblical lines, then we must emphasize the necessity of repentance for the Christian faith. The point is not that the pastor and the Knapp are both sinners. It’s that the pastor agrees with God about his sin, while Knapp remains in her sin without repentance. That is why he is questioning her Christianity, for Christian teaching makes clear the necessity of repentance as the entryway into the Christian family."
He also makes an important distinction between homosexual attraction and homosexual behavior:
There is a difference between homosexual attraction and homosexual behavior. Whenever this discussion takes place in public, the homosexual advocate inevitably merges these two concepts together and then fashions an identity based upon this attraction. The traditionalist is then considered judgmental for telling the homosexual that she should not be true to herself.

But the assumption that we are defined by our sexual attractions is a modern one and should be questioned. If I lust after a woman other than my wife, and yet choose not to act on that sexual urge, am I not being true to myself? Is it not better to be true to someone else rather than true to one’s desires on certain occasions? Could it be that the suppression of an illicit sexual attraction can also be considered true to oneself?

This is where the whole idea of Christian virtue needs to be revisited. Our goal is not authenticity. It is to be true to the self that is redeemed, transformed by the gospel and the power of the Spirit, under the authority of God’s Word.
And I especially love his conclusion when he says that we Christians ought to have soft hearts towards those who struggle with same sex attraction. If we don't have soft hearts, we are not really believing the gospel. The gospel says that we are all God's enemies, dead in our sin, and in need of another's merit and propitiatory sacrifice to bring us back in to fellowship with our Creator. Christ is this Savior. He's is all we have to rely on. This should make us humble, loving, and a repentant people.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reformed Movements & the Enduring Church

I've really I've really grown to appreciate Michael Horton these last few months, mainly through reading his book People and Place in my ecclesiology class this semester. He has helped me increase in my appreciation for the church (as I've blogged about earlier) and the importance of being confessional.

He provides some interesting thoughts on what many have termed the "young, restless, and reformed" movement or the New Calvinism (which was highlighted by Time magazine last year). When comparing this movement with the historical Reformed tradition, he borrows an analogy from C.S. Lewis about the hallway and the rooms. The hallway is the place "where believers mix and mingle", but they can't live there. The rooms are analogous to the church where Christians are meant to live, to be fed and nourished.
Like wider evangelicalism, the “young, restless and Reformed” movement is a grassroots trend among people who are, generally speaking, not Reformed. I’m energized by this movement every day, as I interact with people from a variety of churches, backgrounds, and traditions who are drawn to the doctrines of grace. I spend a lot of my time in this hallway and am enriched by it.

Nevertheless, not even a “Reformed” hallway is anything more than a hallway. “Reformed” has a specific meaning. It’s not defined by movements, parachurch ministries, or powerful leaders, but by a confession that is lived out in concrete contexts across a variety of times and places. The Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort) define what it means to be Reformed. Like Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Anabaptism, Reformed Christianity is a particular tradition. It’s not defined by a few fundamentals, but by a whole system of faith and practice. If being Reformed can be reduced to believing in the sovereignty of God and election, then Thomas Aquinas is as Reformed as R. C. Sproul. However, the Reformed confession is a lot more than that. Even the way it talks about these doctrines is framed within a wider context of covenant theology.

It’s intriguing to me that people can call themselves Reformed today when they don’t embrace this covenant theology. This goes to the heart of how we read the Bible, not just a few doctrines here or there. Yet what was once recognized as essential to Reformed faith and practice is now treated merely as a sub-set (and a small one at that) of the broader “Reformed” big tent.
And I love how he closes:
Right now, though, the “young, restless and Reformed” movement is in danger of succumbing to the fate of all movements at their peak: splintering. Our confessions help us major on the majors, leaving secondary matters open. Yet the “New Calvinism” movement is already showing signs of stress over questions like the age of the earth. Churches have ways of dealing with questions of fraternal relations and cooperation, but leader-driven movements can’t handle the stress. Conferences operate as quasi-official church courts, with vigilante benedictions and excommunications determining who’s in or out. It’s like the wild west.

Christ promised to be with his church to the end, expanding his embassy to the ends of the earth. Christ pledged that the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church. The same promise can’t be invoked for a movement. May God swell the hallway with new visitors! And may we all have the charity to come out of our rooms every now and again to bless each other and bear witness together to God’s sovereign grace. But discipleship has to be formed in the rooms—in real churches, where the depth and breadth of God’s Word is explored and lived.
Read the whole thing

(HT: Challies)

Friday, April 23, 2010

For the Love of Money

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. - 1 Timothy 6:7-10
Living in a wealthy north Atlanta suburb, I am daily faced with the temptation to believe that having a newer car, nicer clothes, the ability to travel more, the ability to buy a nice home, etc. will make me happier. I'm even tempted to believe that more money in my wallet and in my bank account might even help me secure a more attractive and desirable wife.

Basically, it is a battle to believe that Christ is enough for me and not to let the love of money creep into my life. And that is what the writer of Hebrews is getting at when he says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have..." Why? What is the basis for not letting money capture my heart? Because "He has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'" In Christ, the promise of God's presence is secured for us. If we forsake that and live for temporal/monetary security, we will only find ruin and destruction.

The best modern day illustration of this truth comes from an article I read several months ago that was published by the Washington Post in 2005. It's the tragic story about how a West Virginia man named Jack Whittaker won the $314 million Powerball lottery in 2002, and how the money destroyed him, his family, and many of those in his path.

Still hoping to win the lottery?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Important Conversations About Social Justice and World Evangelization

The Lausanne Movement is hosting an event in Cape Town this summer "to confront the critical issues of our time – other world faiths, poverty, HIV/AIDS, persecution, among others - as they relate to the future of the Church and world evangelization."

In preparation for this event, the organization "is hosting free gatherings around the US to facilitate conversation among church leaders, thinkers, pastors, authors, musicians, advocates, artists, social entrepreneurs, and YOU."

It looks pretty interesting and apparently one of the upcoming cities will be in Atlanta. Here's a video that explains more:

12 Cities | 12 Conversations from ConversationGatherings on Vimeo.

(HT:DG blog)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cul-de-sac of Stupidity

This past Easter, Matt Chandler gave a sermon entitled From Alienation to Reconciliation. He was talking through Colossians 1:21-22. Near the beginning he talked about what alienation is and used the phrase "cul-de-sac of stupidity." Here's what he means:
"The Bible is going to teach us that everything that is created was not created so that our enjoyment of creation would terminate on creation, but rather that everything that exists, exists to point beyond itself to something greater than itself, namely its Creator.

The Bible teaches that you and I prefer creation to the Creator, therefore we get stuck in what I call the cul-de-sac of stupidity most of our lives, chasing things that do not satisfy us, have never satisfied us, and don't really have any hope of satisfying us, but we continue to pursue them anyway. So, although we've had gadgets, relationships, we've had all these things that the world says, "this is what satisfies you," we've had those things, we've tasted at least the first fruits of those things and they didn't satisfy us.

And Here's the lie. Here's the demonic, wicked, evil lie that most buy in to: that more of what we already possess that does not satisfy us is somehow going to bring us joy and happiness. Are you tracking with that? That's the cul-de-sac of stupidity. I have this. It doesn't work. More of what doesn't work might work. This is where a bulk of humanity is stuck--just driving around it over and over and over again...

...This is what alienation means. We are alienated from God. We just want His stuff. And we think that he's stuff will somehow fulfill us, when the Scriptures clearly say that His stuff was given to you so that you might worship Him."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Experience God

"Feed on the revealed promises of God rather than rely on an experience. Otherwise, life becomes one continual leap from one experiential lily pad to another."
To experience God. For those of us who are Christians, isn't that what we all want. Don't we want to feel God's presence and to know He is near. I believe this quote, coming from a very insightful post by Ed Welch, gets it right on. I know I often struggle in this area of knowing God's reality in my life. But it's because I'm looking to experience, or walking by sight, when God has given me all that I need in His Word.

Ed explains this concept a little more:
What we find in Scripture are the deeper ways of God with his people. “Sometimes God puts his children to bed in the dark” is one way to put it. Another way is this: in this era, our God has chosen to make walking by faith more fundamental, and more blessed, than walking by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). This means that there will be many times when we can see the goodness of the Lord with our very eyes. But there will be other times when our experience says “God is far away” and he counters “I am with you.” In those cases, his words win.

Just expand the word “sight” in “walking by sight” to include all things sensory, such as our emotions. Then we are back on track: God is speaking right to us. He is not far away. This teaching gets to the heart of Scripture. Scripture exists because we need revelation. We can’t see reality clearly with the naked eye. Scripture is God’s technology that allows us to see everything we need to see.

You don’t feel his presence? Here are God’s words to you.
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
There it is. Our senses say that we are destitute; God reveals that we have spiritual food that is profoundly satisfying. Our goal is to hear the word of the Lord in such a way that it drowns out our less-informed emotions.
And here's his conclusion:
How many times have I wanted Jesus’ audible voice and physical presence? I would even have settled for some handwriting in the sky or on the living room wall. But there is a better way… Believe. Believe in the one who has spoken promises and has backed up all those promises with his self-sacrificial actions.

So many followers of Jesus feel spiritually handicapped because they don’t feel the presence of God. They feel blind and numb. All they can do is trust in the God who has spoken to them and, because of him, put one foot in front of the other, care about others, and faithfully slog through the mire of life. Well, it’s time to track these people down and give them a big fat kiss because they are the ones who are knocking on the door of the abundant life. They are learning to believe what they don’t feel, and they are blessed. They are the heroes we can emulate.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Freeze Project

This Saturday, April 17, cities around the globe will be taking part in The Freeze Project. It is a day to bring awareness to the reality of the modern-day slavery known as human trafficking. You can check the site to what cities near you might be participating.

Here's the concept for what people will actually be doing on April 17 (from the site):
  • Gather groups of people (preferably 50+) to freeze on cue in or near a busy landmark/environment for 5 minutes to draw the attention of the bystanders.
  • After the 5 minutes are done, people un-freeze and pass out 1 flyer with links to organizations working to end slavery.
  • That’s it!
You can watch a couple of past events here and here.

If you're in Atlanta, we'll be meeting at Piedmont Park around 10am. We'll be there during the annual Dogwood Festival that attracts tens of thousands of people every year. Check out the Facebook page for more specific info.

And finally, here's a video that helps explain more about The Freeze Project event happening in Atlanta:

Monday, April 12, 2010

True Masculinity

...act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. - 1 Corinthians 16:13
In case you missed it, this picture was from the Final Four semi-final between Duke and West Virginia that took place just over a week ago. It's Bob Huggins consoling Da'Sean Butler who had just hit the floor, writhing in pain from an injury to his knee. It was also Butler's senior season and he wanted desperately to help take his team to the championship game. If you haven't seen the video, I encourage you to check it out here.

I wanted to post this because it has replayed in my mind a lot this last week. It is such a beautiful picture of what true masculinity is, and it's not something we see often. Detached is an adjective that seem to describe most men today. But Bob Huggins was surely not detached. He engaged De'Sean Butler and didn't care what he looked like in front of millions of other people.

By wiping away his tears and speaking words of truth softly in his hear, he loved his young player well. I hope to represent this type of masculinity to those I encounter. And I know I can do so because Christ accomplished this for me and is the One engaging me tenderly with strength and love. And He has given me not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Our Motive For Mission

Ray Ortlund:
Henry Martyn (1781-1812), Anglican missionary, was told by a Muslim friend about a painting of Christ bowing down to Muhammad. Martyn tells what happened next:

“I was cut to the soul at this blasphemy. Mirza Seid Ali perceived that I was considerably disordered and asked what it was that was so offensive? I told him that ‘I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me if he were to be always thus dishonored.’ He was astonished and again asked ‘Why?’ ‘If anyone pluck out your eyes,’ I replied, ‘there is no saying why you feel pain; it is feeling. It is because I am one with Christ that I am thus dreadfully wounded.’”

(Constance E. Padwick, Henry Martyn (London, 1925), page 265, italics original.)

Martyn did not attack his Muslim friend. He let his own heart be broken because of his union with Christ, and he explained to his friend what Jesus meant to him.

Our motive for mission is not to help improve a Jesus-dishonoring world nor to attack it. Our motive is to see Jesus honored, though our own hearts will be broken.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Good Advice On God's Will For You

"What's really important for you in God's will is revealed in the Scriptures. If it's not revealed in the Scriptures, in and of itself, it's not that important." - Sandy Willson

(HT:Taylor Brooks)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Jonsi, Go

I can't stop listening to this:

It's the front man for Sigur Ros with his first solo album. And it's absolutely beautiful.

Check out Paste's review:

Check out the music video for the first track, Go do.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Importance of the Church

"He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother." - Cyprian (251 A.D.)
Read that again. Do you believe that? I would say most Christians today would not agree with that statement. The focus these days is around the walk and growth of the individual believer. The church is almost an afterthought. In People and Place, Michael Horton says it this way:
"In evangelical contexts, the church is often regarded chiefly as a resource for fellowship. For the uniquely individualized personal relationship with Jesus, the church is not only dispensable but perhaps also a hindrance to personal growth...(Horton, p.170)
In taking my class at RTS this spring, Ecclesiology and the Sacraments, I have been blown away at how low my view of the church really was. Mainly through reading Calvin's Institutes & the Reformed Confessions (which by the way are both deeply rooted in Scripture), I have come away amazed at how it seems God views the institution of the church.

The beauty of the church is not that it is merely a resource for friendships and our individual growth, but that it is the very place where God promises to meet His people. Instead of being self-absorbed, focused on how to grow as a individual Christians, we ought to embrace the institution that God ordained to proclaim Christ to us through the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, namely the church.

For a further explanation from Michael Horton, check out this video clip where he gives some advice to the Young Reformed of today. At the 4:00 minute mark, he explains more about his views of the church. I think his thoughts will shock many of you.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Love Lustres at Calvery

I thought I'd repost this from last year...because it's that good. It comes from the Valley of Vision:
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

cast off that I might be brought in,

trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,

surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,

stripped that I might be clothed,

wounded that I might be healed,

athirst that I might drink,

tormented that I might be comforted,

made a shame that I might inherit glory,

entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

groaned that I might have endless song,

endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

expired that I might for ever live.

O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me, All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished; Help me to adore thee by lips and life. O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise, my every step buoyant with delight...