09
Jun
09

Incarnation: A much more radical and costly evangelism

I know I haven’t updated this space in months. I doubt any of the five people who read it still know it exists. But, I ran across this quote today from John Stott that captured my attention. Props to Michael Mckinley over at the 9 Marks blog who I totally stole this from. I’m assuming he won’t mind since he totally stole it from Stott.

In all evangelism there is… a cultural gulf to bridge. This is obvious when Christian people move as messengers of the gospel from one country or continent to another. But even if we remain in our own country, Christians and non-Christians are often widely separated from one another by social sub-cultures and lifestyles as well as by different values, beliefs, and moral standards. Only an incarnation can span these divides, for an incarnation means entering other people’s worlds, their thought-world, and the worlds of their alienation, loneliness, and pain. Moreover, the incarnation led to the cross. Jesus first took our flesh, then he bore our sin. This was a depth of penetration into our world in order to reach us, in comparison with which our little attempts to reach people seem amateur and shallow. The cross calls us to a much more radical and costly kind of evangelism than most churches have begun to consider, let alone experience.

-from John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ”

We are called to be a counter-culture, not a sub-culture. We are called to penetrate our communities (and into other communities, worldwide) as deeply as Jesus did. We are called to acquaint ourselves with the joys and pains of daily life. There is no doubt that death, or a kind of death is involved with that. It is there that Christ’s suffering and sacrifice becomes real to people who are far from Him.

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17
Mar
09

Chic-fil-A

It’s kind of a gloomy Tuesday morning here in northeastern South Carolina. If it’s gloomy where you are, too. This love song should drive the clouds away.

13
Mar
09

Everything is Amazing, Nobody is Happy…

What a great commentary on our generation.

I have never heard of comedian Louis C.K. until a couple of days ago. Apparently he appeared on Conan in February and went on this rant about how all the awesome stuff that exists now is wasted on the worst generation ever. Funny and poignant stuff.

13
Mar
09

When We’re Walled In…God’s Opportunity

I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for the next post from Extra Nos. The past two weeks have been pretty packed. What free time I had has been devoted to family and prepping for the two classes I’m teaching right now. I do have a couple of posts that I hope make in the next few days.

I ran across this quote from A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, on Tullian Tchividjian’s blog (Interesting side note: New City Church, the church Tullian pastors is merging with Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale with Tchividjian as the new pastor. Coral Ridge is the church founded by the late D. James Kennedy and has not had a pastor since his death in 2007.).

How did God bring about the miracle of the Red Sea? By shutting His people in on every side so that there was no way out but the divine way. The Egyptians were behind them, the sea was in front of them, the mountains were on both sides of them. There was no escape but from above. Someone has said that the devil can wall us in, but he cannot roof us over. We can always get out at the top. Our difficulties are but God’s challenges, and many times He makes them so hard that we must get above them or go under. In the Providence of God, such an hour furnishes us with the highest possibilities for faith. We are pushed by the very emergency into God’s best. Beloved, this is God’s hour.

When I read Simpson’s quote I couldn’t help but think about the worldwide economic crisis and the recent articles about the decline of faith and religion in America. The steady diet of bad news we have getting lately weighs heavy on my heart. Yet, the same time, I am excited as I see a great opportunity.  The easy times lulled American Christians into sleep or, at best, a daydream-like state where we were disconnected from reality. Well, reality is biting us in the _____. We are hemmed in. We are trapped.

God has always moved greatest when times were most desperate. “This is God’s hour!” We can’t roll over and try to hit the snooze button in order to catch a few more winks. Neither should we quake in fear as if our God was not the Sovereign of the universe. Our crisis is God’s opportunity. May He show Himself mighty in our day as He has in days past.

03
Mar
09

Stanley on Communication

Andy Stanley is a phenomenal communicator. I have heard him speak many times. I have never seen him throw an airball. At times I may disagree with his points or philosophy. But, as a minor league communicator I revel in the simple greatness of his gift and how he has refined it.

The beauty of his style is the simplicity. You always leave knowing what he wants you to leave knowing. That’s because he makes ONE point and he makes it well.

Here he is talking about how he views speaking on Sunday mornings:

So, it is simple. It is a journey. This morning I am going to start by making sure that I am going to leave the station and everybody knows where we are going. And they know why they need to go with me. And once I have built enough tension for someone to give a rip about what we are going to talk about, then I am going to take them to a passage of Scripture where somebody resolves or expresses that tension. And I am going to stay there long enough so hopefully they will go back that afternoon and they will say, “I understand this part of the Bible.” Then I am going to talk about what to do and what a wonderful world it would be like if we all just do this. It is really that simple.

…there is this myth that people say, “Sermons need to be short because people today have short attention spans.” That is totally irrelevant. People’s attention spans are as long as their engagement. If I’m engaged, I will sit and stay engaged until I have to go to the bathroom. The issue is: are people engaged, not how long is the sermon? Granted, there are things that determine how long worship services should be. But communicators need to figure out how well do they engage people, and they should not talk one word longer than people are engaged.

It’s just that simple. Huh?

If you are interested in communication on any level. I would recommend reading Ed Stetzer’s blog entry from this morning. It is part one in a series about how Andy views and prepares to teach. It was to be one chapter in a book about leadership that is no longer in the works. What a pity. I would have loved to read it!

02
Mar
09

Comradeship

Several summers ago a few friends and I started what we called “Man Night”. We met once a week through the summer. At these gatherings we would eat meat (preferably cooked over an open fire) and talk theology. It was a simple concept. But, to this day, it is one of the best things of which I have been a part. We all loved it. It was a forum to learn and enjoy what it meant to be a man.

A sort of fraternity or cohort (for my emergent friends) has grown up out those summer evening gatherings where we would eat, discuss, debate, laugh, talk video games and sports,  and pray. We are scattered all across the state and the country now. But, we keep up with each other online. We gather a couple of times a year in a sort of reunion. (We are talking about a summer camping trip now.) There is a kind of lasting bond between us that is uniquely male. It challenges, encourages, and sharpens me.

G.K. Chesterton uses the term comradeship. It is a word that has fallen out of use. Yet, it describes a type of relationship between guys that is different than simply friendship. It is defined as “affording easy familiarity and sociability”. The way Chesterton uses it, the term is singularly masculine. When I read the following quotes from his essay What’s Wrong with the World I thought they summed up what Man Night was and why it worked so well.

If you choose to call every human attachment comradeship, if you include under that name the respect of a youth for a venerable prophetess, the interest of a man in a beautiful woman who baffles him, the pleasure of a philosophical old fogy in a girl who is impudent and innocent, the end of the meanest quarrel or the beginning of the most mountainous love; if you are going to call all these comradeship, you will gain nothing, you will only lose a word. Daisies are obvious and universal and open; but they are only one kind of flower. Comradeship is obvious and universal and open; but it is only one kind of affection; it has characteristics that would destroy any other kind. Anyone who has known true comradeship in a club or in a regiment, knows that it is impersonal. There is a pedantic phrase used in debating clubs which is strictly true to the masculine emotion; they call it “speaking to the question.” Women speak to each other; men speak to the subject they are speaking about. Many an honest man has sat in a ring of his five best friends under heaven and forgotten who was in the room while he explained some system. This is not peculiar to intellectual men; men are all theoretical, whether they are talking about God or about golf. Men are all impersonal; that is to say, republican. No one remembers after a really good talk who has said the good things. Every man speaks to a visionary multitude; a mystical cloud, that is called the club.

Male relationships are curious things to those who view them from the outside. You cannot judge them from the exterior. You cannot understand them unless you have known the comradery of a band of brothers. (Sorry for the cliche. I can’t think af another phrase right now.)

No one has even begun to understand comradeship who does not accept with it a certain hearty eagerness in eating, drinking, or smoking, an uproarious materialism which to many women appears only hoggish. You may call the thing an orgy or a sacrament; it is certainly an essential. It is at root a resistance to the superciliousness of the individual. Nay, its very swaggering and howling are humble. In the heart of its rowdiness there is a sort of mad modesty; a desire to melt the separate soul into the mass of unpretentious masculinity. It is a clamorous confession of the weakness of all flesh. No man must be superior to the things that are common to men. This sort of equality must be bodily and gross and comic. Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.

It is obvious that this cool and careless quality which is essential to the collective affection of males involves disadvantages and dangers. It leads to spitting; it leads to coarse speech; it must lead to these things so long as it is honorable; comradeship must be in some degree ugly. The moment beauty is mentioned in male friendship, the nostrils are stopped with the smell of abominable things. Friendship must be physically dirty if it is to be morally clean. It must be in its shirt sleeves. The chaos of habits that always goes with males when left entirely to themselves has only one honorable cure; and that is the strict discipline of a monastery. Anyone who has seen our unhappy young idealists in East End Settlements losing their collars in the wash and living on tinned salmon will fully understand why it was decided by the wisdom of St. Bernard or St. Benedict, that if men were to live without women, they must not live without rules. Something of the same sort of artificial exactitude, of course, is obtained in an army; and an army also has to be in many ways monastic; only that it has celibacy without chastity. But these things do not apply to normal married men. These have a quite sufficient restraint on their instinctive anarchy in the savage common-sense of the other sex. There is only one very timid sort of man that is not afraid of women.

If there are any locals in the Myrtle Beach area reading this. Would you be interested in some  Man Nights throughout the spring and summer?

02
Mar
09

Lewis on the Sublime

An example of the wonder of the interwebs: This morning I found I had been followed by Mark Traphagen on Twitter. In checking out his profile I found his blog League of Inveterent Poets. It seems like a pretty cool place. You should check it out.

The following quote from C.S. Lewis caught my eye on his context page. In it Lewis is talking about how one man can look at the sky and see stars and the other stands in awe of the mind-numbing majesty of the universe.

We are inveterate poets. Our imaginations awake.

Instead of mere quantity, we now have a quality–the sublime. Unless this were so, the merely arithmetical greatness of the galaxy would be no more impressive than the figures in a telephone directory. It is thus, in a sense, from ourselves that the material universe derives its power to over-awe us. To a mind which did not share our emotions, and lacked our imaginative energies, the argument from size would be sheerly meaningless. Men look on the starry heavens with reverence: monkeys do not.

The silence of the eternal spaces terrified Pascal, but it was the greatness of Pascal that enabled them to do so. When we are frightened by the greatness of the universe, we are (almost literally) frightened by our own shadows: for these light years and billions of centuries are mere arithmetic until the shadow of man, the poet, the maker of myth, falls upon them. I do not say we are wrong to tremble at his shadow; it is a shadow of an image of God. But if ever the vastness of matter threatens to overcross our spirits, one must remember that it is matter spiritualized which does so. To puny man, the great nebula in Andromeda owes in a sense its greatness. – C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock

I have noticed that when I have been most in tune with God’s heart, the trees seem taller, lightning more terrifying, the ocean vaster, and the most ordinary leaf worthy of hours of study. I find in those times that I am more thankful for every bite of food. More conscious of the fact that one breathe does not follow the other except by the provision of a being who is the maker and sustainer of all things.

In a way, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I start this work week, I pray that God will so move in my hear that I will see what is always there for those that have the eyes to see: His beauty, majesty, character, and love displayed in what I often view as mundane as a phone book.

(You should also check out the poetry on Mark’s context page. It really got me thinking this morning.)