“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.(HT)
The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.
Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.
None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.
I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that.
We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”
Friday, December 06, 2013
Darrin has a new blog. Subscribe here.We all want Christmas to be special, just like a scene from a movie. We want snow to be falling on Christmas Eve and we want to wake up to a warm, cozy house overflowing with gifts. More than that, we want our families to feel loved and cared for. We want what Clark Griswold wanted: for our families to grow closer over Christmas.
Some of us try to force the Christmas spirit on our families, like our boy Clark. Others of us secretly hate Christmas as evidenced by our lack of passion and planning for it. Many of us are in the middle. We want Christmas to be meaningful, but we aren’t quite sure how to make that happen. Perhaps these suggestions will help you as you try to be the true and better Clark Griswold.Read the Christmas story
A lot of dudes can get caught up in all the stuff surrounding Christmas. Even though the season is about Jesus, dudes struggle to be the spiritual leaders in their own homes. It can be hard to know where to begin or what exactly to do. Why don’t you just start with the Christmas story itself? Spend time reading the first chapters in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Do it right before or right after dinner. You can even find helpful daily devotionals, like this one here, which we gave out to all the families at The Journey.
Remember your presence, not just the presents
Don’t play on your phone when you should be watching your kids enjoying the stuff you bought them. If you are off from work, refuse to check email and texts from the office. Your family needs you to be all in and totally there.
Become the chief memory maker
Your wife is probably better at overseeing your family’s social calendar, but the holidays are your shot to exert some good leadership. Rather than checking the status of your fantasy football team, find out what’s going on in your community or city. You don’t need to have the best lights in town, but you and your family can certainly drive to see them. Or if you’d rather stay indoors, maybe its time to dust off that old board game. Cue up some good movies or funny YouTube clips with some blankets and popcorn.
Serve your wife
The Food Network and Pinterest might be giving her some great ideas for the house and food, but they’re likely burdening her with unrealistic expectations as well. Let her be creative. But don’t leave her by herself to create. You can help cook and clean. You can entertain and engage the kids. You can get out of the lazy boy and talk with your in-laws. The best leaders are the greatest servants.
Christianity is not simply attending a church service. Christianity is not only personal. Beyond having a personal relationship with God and attending a church service on Sundays, the Scriptures clearly show Christians having close relationships with each other. These relationships go beyond Sundays. Are you living out what God really has for you?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are you daily living life with?
- Who in your life truly knows your struggles?
- Who are you encouraging continuously?
- Who are you regularly praying with?
- Who is praying for you?
- Who are you partnering with to reach unbelievers that you know?
- Who can correct you?
- Who are you investing in?
- With whom do you meet with to discuss what God is teaching you?
- Who would be by your hospital bed to pray for you and encourage you?
- Who will not allow you to walk away from your marriage or from the faith?
- Are you faithfully participating in the life of a local church?
- Who would you meet with if your marriage was in trouble?
- Who have you counseled with the Word of God recently?God’s design for you is not to live out your Christian life personally. The clear pattern of the New Testament is that every Christian would have a network of close spiritual friendships. God wants so much more for us than we often realize. Consider going beyond the individualistic, event-driven, western Christianity that many of us are so familiar with. Instead, embrace God’s design for living the Christian life.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Good reflections here from Stephen Altrogge. He writes:
Before I hit “post” I need to ask myself: does this serve to build others up? Or are my words tearing and ripping and shredding a person? If I said these words directly to a person would they be built up or torn down? Would their affection for Christ be increased or decreased? God intends all of our words and posts and tweets to have a building up effect.Read the rest.
The Four Promises of Forgiveness (see Matt. 6:12; 1 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 4:32)
1. “I will not dwell on this incident.”
We haven’t forgiven if we can’t let it go. If we’re brooding on an injury or transgression after a confession then we’re holding the guilt over a person’s head. “I will forgive you but I will not forget” may in fact be unforgiveness. I love Corrie Ten Boom’s comment in reply to a former colleague asking if she remembered the colleague’s transgression from some years prior. Corrie said, “I distinctly remember forgetting.”
2. I will not bring this incident up and use it against you.
When we haven’t forgiven, we can store a transgression until that “right time” when we can attack with it, leverage some future outcome or gain some advantage. That’s not forgiveness; that’s manipulation. It’s old fashioned “pay back.” Then we’re in need of confessing our wrongdoing.
3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
If we forgive a person then the matter should not be spread to others. Apart from serious situations requiring counseling or the like, we never raise the matter with others.
4. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.
This is sometimes the most difficult part. And it’s this part that requires something akin to the seven A’s of confession. Full confessions enable full reconciliation. The aim is redemption and restoration of the relationship and a truly forgiving person seeks that.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Books by Michael Kelley
Maybe you’ve seen the hashtag as people post on social media about their vintage record player not playing, their coffee not containing the right amount of soy, or the cable going out at an inopportune moment. These are issues that we, in an affluent nation, have the luxury of having. People in other parts of the world don’t worry about stuff like that, and it’s because their concerns are of a more immediate and drastic nature. But here – where most people reading this blog don’t have to worry about whether or not their house is going to stand up for another night or whether there will be something – anything - to eat tonight, we have the luxury of other concerns. It strikes me that maybe this luxury goes beyond problems with our wifi service or cell phone reception; they also delve into the theological realm.
A close friend of mine recently made a statement that has been ringing in my mind for a couple of weeks:
“The reason we don’t believe in hell is because we didn’t grow up in a war torn country.”
In other words, the questioning of the existence of hell is a first world problem because most of us have never come face to face, at least knowingly, with the kind of evil that is readily apparent. We’ve not been slapped in the face with the great propensity of human wickedness. But if we had, then believing in hell would not be a question of theoretical speculation; it would be an absolute necessity.Read the rest.
Books by Michael Kelley
So now I come to the fairly recent and certainly very moving book by Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? This frank and appealing book surveys worldwide poverty and argues that the American failure to take up God’s mandate to address poverty is “the hole in our gospel.” Without wanting to diminish the obligation Christians have to help the poor, and with nothing but admiration for Mr Stearns’s personal pilgrimage, his argument would have been far more helpful and compelling had he observed three things:
First, “what God expects of us” (his subtitle) is, by definition, not the gospel. This is not the great news of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Had Mr Stearns cast his treatment of poverty as one of the things to be addressed by the second greatest commandment, or as one of several entailments of the gospel, I could have recommended his book with much greater confidence. As it is, the book will contribute to declining clarity as to what the gospel is.
Second, even while acknowledging—indeed, insisting on the importance of highlighting—the genuine needs that Mr Stearns depicts in his book, it is disturbing not to hear similar anguish over human alienation from God. The focus of his book is so narrowly poverty that the sweep of what the gospel addresses is lost to view. Men and women stand under God’s judgment, and this God of love mandates that by the means of heralding the gospel they will be saved not only in this life but in the life to come. Where is the anguish that contemplates a Christ-less eternity, that cries, “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses. . . . Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone” (Ezek 18:30–32). The analysis of the problem is too small, and the gospel is correspondingly reduced.
Third, some studies have shown that Christians spend about five times more mission dollars on issues related to poverty than they do on evangelism and church planting. At one time, “holistic ministry” was an expression intended to move Christians beyond proclamation to include deeds of mercy. Increasingly, however, “holistic ministry” refers to deeds of mercy without any proclamation of the gospel—and that is not holistic. It is not even halfistic, since the deeds of mercy are not the gospel: they are entailments of the gospel. Although I know many Christians who happily combine fidelity to the gospel, evangelism, church planting, and energetic service to the needy, and although I know some who call themselves Christians who formally espouse the gospel but who live out few of its entailments, I also know Christians who, in the name of a “holistic” gospel, focus all their energy on presence, wells in the Sahel, fighting disease, and distributing food to the poor, but who never, or only very rarely, articulate the gospel, preach the gospel, announce the gospel, to anyone. Judging by the distribution of American mission dollars, the biggest hole in our gospel is the gospel itself.
(HT: Dan Cruver)
(RSS, click through to view video.)
Thom Rainer reflects:
- Throw away the box. Most of the time we use the well-worn phrase “Think outside the box.” The problem with that type of thinking is that the box is still our point of reference. We need to be asking how we can do things well beyond our existing and traditional systems. It’s a difficult but necessary exercise. Amazon is Amazon because they refused to use current paradigms as their starting point.
- Hard work is strategy. I’ve never known a successful leader who did not expend years working hard. Sometimes we tend to think that there is a lot of luck in success. While there may be fortuitous circumstances, great leaders work hard to take advantage of them. Just eighteen years ago, Bezos was taking Amazon packages to the post office himself.
- “Complaining is not a strategy”. A lot of energy has been expended complaining about Amazon. Many have said they have unfair competitive practices. Others object to the way they acquire companies. Great leaders don’t waste time complaining about others. They use the precious resource of time to look to the future. The reason I have the sentence above in quotation marks is because it came directly from Bezos in the interview. It was my favorite quote of the segment.
- Constantly take incremental steps to do everything better. Even if Amazon is not making dramatic changes or causing disruptive innovation, the company is constantly seeking to improve its existing systems. If you decide to watch the segment, see how they are improving their fulfillment centers incrementally but constantly. Continuous small improvements lead to major improvements.
- Create your own disruptive innovation. It is better for an organization to innovate, even if hurts your existing services, products, or even ministries. If you don’t innovate, some other organization will, and the lifespan of your organization will be reduced.
Books by Thom Rainer:
Books by J.D. Greear:
I am often asked how much Christians should give. Some who ask this are looking for wisdom, but many are looking for an out. They want to know how much is enough to get God off their backs, to fulfill their duty. And that attitude is miles away from the gospel.
Gospel giving is about love, not law. It’s not about percentages, but about a person. Zacchaeus throws out some numbers, but not because Jesus gives him the benchmark first. He does it out of sheer joy, as a love offering to God.
A lot of people who ask, “How much do I have to give?” labor under the delusion that God needs their money. In their minds, God is like the government, endlessly low on funds and constantly seeking more funding. But God doesn’t need our cash.
That’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that God loves a cheerful giver. If God had needs, he wouldn’t care why you gave; he would only care that you gave. I’ve never gotten a letter from the IRS saying, “Yes, you paid the legal amount, but we sense that it wasn’t joyful giving. We’re concerned about your motives.” No, the IRS needs money, so that’s their bottom line.
But (thankfully) God isn’t like the IRS. God loves cheerful giving because gospel giving is primarily about worship and joy, not meeting needs. I have heard it said that God measures our generosity not by the size of our gifts, but by the size of our sacrifice, because sacrifice expresses the affections of our heart to God.
And if we find ourselves growing stingy and fearful once again, the answer is not to try harder. The answer is to look back at the cross, where God was lavishly generous with us. Because those people who truly experience the gospel become like the gospel—overflowing with grace.Read the rest.
Books by J.D. Greear: