May 16th 2011

How to Act Like An MVP

A few years ago, one of my childhood heroes, Michael Jordan stood on a stage in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was giving a speech after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. I was expecting the usual words of acceptance, thanking parents and teachers and coaches. But instead, Michael shared a bitter rant against anyone who ever doubted his basketball ability. He was cruel and petty.

Jordan’s speech was so cringe-inducing I turned it off. But most commentators excused it because the greatest basketball player in the history of the world can, in their words, “say what he wants.” In other words, if you’re talented, it’s okay to be a jerk.

Contrast that with a press conference last week with the newest superstar on the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose. At 22 years old, he’s the youngest ever to win the MVP award. He’s got the entire world praising him for how humble, gifted, and poised he is as a team leader.

And yet when I watched him speak, he was still remarkably humble, even choking up to thank his mother who shaped him while growing up in the crime-ridden West side of Chicago. I pray Derrick Rose always stays so humble, so appreciative of his gifts.

Most of us will never reach the level of fame of Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose. But we each have a talent and if we’re not careful, we’ll adopt the worldly philosophy that says we’re entitled to treat people bad simply because we’re gifted. I like what bestelling author and popular blogger, Jon Acuff recently said about this on his blog: “Wild talent and a bad attitude eventually always loses to mild talent and a good attitude.”

Just because you’re gifted or have experienced some success, doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk. Especially if you’re a Christian. God call us to live humbly, confidently, and sacrificially. This is the heart of the Gospel, that Christ’s transformation within frees us from living for our selves.

 

May 13th 2011

Friday Five: Michael Kelley

If you’re involved with a small group, attend Sunday-School, or attend a Bible study in your area, it’s likely you are dependent on Bible study curriculum, produced by Lifeway, Group, or other evangelical organizations. Well, who write this stuff? Today, we peel back the curtain as my friend, Michael Kelley, editor of Lifeway’s adult curriculum line, stops by for today’s Friday Five:

What distinguishes Lifeway’s resources from the plethora of small-group/Bible study stuff out there?

Hopefully a few things. Lifeway has a reputation of being first and foremost biblically sound. That’s something we take very seriously and will, by God’s grace continue into the future. Threads are resources geared toward young adults and are built on a few foundational principles:

- Depth: We want depth to characterize the whole experience from the level of intimacy and sharing to the knowledge base.
- Community: These Bible studies assume a discussion built around them rather than a lecture form of teaching. They are built to force personal engagement and introspection that is then shared in a group setting.
- Responsibility: Young adults are, in many ways, leading the charge in the church to change the world. Issues of both evangelism and social justice are forefront in their minds and these studies assume a desire to bring the gospel to bear in the world.
- Connection: We also want to encourage cross-generational ministry; connecting with people outside your specific demographic rather than each age group being a church unto themselves.

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May 11th 2011

Christians and Conspiracy Theories

Most of Americans rejoiced at the swift justice we unexpectedly witnessed on Sunday with the capture of terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.  Many gave important cautions against too much celebrating about the eternal damnation of a soul once created in God’s image.

In the days since, as with any news story, there are conflicting accounts of what happened in the raid by our brave Navy SEALS, including how involved the President was, why they buried Osama at sea, etc. And as such, there are a raft of conspiracy theories emerging. I won’t get into these here, but I think it’s a good jumping off point to discuss something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

It’s the subject of Christians and conspiracy theories. Alternate theories of history have abounded since the beginning of time, because we live in a fallen world, infected by sin, sinful leaders, and anterior motives. But it seems that the proliferation of new media, the vast reach of the Internet, and general distrust of authority has given rise to even more conspiracy theories.

Almost every day I receive an email forwarded from someone who forwards information about a political figure, religious figure, or institutions with which they disagree.

The question for us is this. How should we approach these ideas? Here are a few guidelines I’ve found helpful to me as I process stuff like this:

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May 6th 2011

Friday Five – John Dyer

John DyerWhat is the effect of technology on our souls? And how do people of faith discern what is good and what is harmful? Today I’ve invited my friend John Dyer for a thoughtful discussion on the intersection of faith and technology.

John Dyer (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has been a web developer for more than ten years, building tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, and the Department of Defense. He currently serves as the Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary and lives near Dallas, Texas with his wife Amber and two children, Benjamin and Rebecca. He has written on technology and faith for Christianity Today and Collide MagazineFrom the Garden to the City is his first book.

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May 2nd 2011

A God in My Head but a Hole in My Heart

Twice the Psalms tells us, in identical language, “ a fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 53:1;Psalm 14:1). I have loved these passages most of my. They are a wonderful rebuke to atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

But the last time I read them, I realized they may not simply be written to expose the foolishness of those who rule out the presence of God. Perhaps they’re written for those who do believe in God.

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Apr 29th 2011

Friday Five – Alex Chediak

Alex Chediak

Today more kids go to college than ever before and yet many wonder if kids are truly ready. How do parents and pastors and influencers prepare young people for this important phase of their lives? Today I’m blessed to chat with Alex Chediak, author of the newly released book, Thriving at College. Alex is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Physics at California Baptist University.

I think Alex has written a powerful and much-needed book. What like about it is that it is so comprehensive. I’d highly recommend it to any high-school senior or college freshman (or their parents, for that matter!).

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Apr 28th 2011

Mini Book Reviews

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Here are two mini-reviews of two rather excellent books:

A God Sized Vision by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge.

I loved this book for many reasons. It’s a novel idea–to present a basic history of revival. Revival is a subject I had little knowledge of, other than being part of “revival meetings” at times. What Hansen and Woodbridge describe are historic movements of the Spirit upon a nation or group of people. What I love is that they don’t whitewash the warts of the leaders in each movement, they chronicle the excesses of movements, and they generally put forward the idea that revival in a country is something that God decides to do when He decides to do it. But, as people of God, it’s something we should pray for. This book really inspired me to pray harder and longer for revival in our midst. I’m challenged by the fact that revival isn’t for those people “out there” who we think need to change but it happens first among the people of God.  I highly recommend this book. It’s not too long, it’s wonderfully readable, and it will inspire you to greater depths of faith.

Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan

I received this book to review as part of my involvement in the Amazon Vine program. When I saw that it was available, I immediately snatched it up, even though I already had a stack of books in the que. I’ve always enjoyed the work of Buchanan, pastor of New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan, British Columbia. I’ve read other of his books, such as Your God is Too Safe and others. He’s a profound thinker and an amazing writer. He’s the rare pastor who can articulate good sound theology . . . and write well. Spiritual Rhythm explores the spiritual concept of seasons. Mark’s assertion is that if we are to be fruit-bearers, we must understand the concept of seasons of spirituality. He then mines Scripture and shares powerful truths for each season of life. He’s also painfully honest without being melodramatic. And as a master wordsmith, he doesn’t waste a word. I find myself soaking this book in a chapter or two at a time and then thinking deeply about each section. Mark talks biblically and with doctrinal precision about subjects such as sin, repentance, and the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and church involvement. I highly recommend this book. It was a terrific read and a boon to my spiritual life.

Apr 27th 2011

Can We Retire This Word?

I’ve only been preaching for three years, so technically I’m a “rookie pastor.” But already I’ve seen some tendencies I’m working to correct. One I find in myself and also see in other Christian communicators is an over- use of the word, “most.”

We arrive at a countercultural truth in our study, perhaps a doctrine nobody seems to want to hear and we easily transition to, “You won’t hear that in most churches.”

Or we say, “In most churches . . . .” or “many Christians . . . .” It’s an easy thing to do. I not only hear this crutch in preachers preaching, but read it in blog posts and in books.

But I wonder if it’s healthy. For one thing, do we know what “most churches” believe? Dictionary.com defines “most” as “in the majority of instances.”

Can a preacher like myself honestly say with any degree of honesty that I actually know what “most churches” believe? There are over 450,000 churches in the United States. To honestly say you know what goes on in “most churches”, you’d have to have visited at least 226,000—that would tip you from half to “most.” I’m guessing even the most widely travelled speakers haven’t frequented that many churches. So we really don’t know, do we?

We employ “most”, I suspect, for two reasons. 1) It’s an easy cheap shot to the “out there” problem we perceive. 2) It makes us “better than most” by default. 3) It’s a lazy way to provide some application.

I’m learning, the hard way, that for me, God isn’t as concerned with “most churches” as he is with my church. And God isn’t as concerned with “most Christians” as he is with this Christian. I’m also learning it’s easier to dwell on the “out there” problem in Christianity than to apply radical gospel surgery to my own heart.

So who is with me? Let’s try to retire the lazy assumption of “most” in our preaching, our writing, and our gospel living. It’s both dishonest and disingenuous.