Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
- The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher, by Rob Stennett
- Playing for Pizza, by John Grisham
- Rooms, by James Rubart
- The Chopin Manuscript, and The Copper Bracelet, written by some of the top thriller writers today
Monday, December 27, 2010
This story took place almost four years ago, but I just heard about it today. Here's the synopsis:
On January 12, 2007, in a subway station in Washington, D.C., a musician took out his violin and began playing. It was almost 8:00 am, and during the next 43 minutes he played six classical pieces. 1097 people passed by during that time, most hurrying to get to work on time. Of those, only seven people stopped what they were doing and just listened. Twenty-seven people dropped money into his violin case, the grand total being $32.17 ($20 of that was given by one woman who recognized who the musician was). Three days before, this musician had played in Boston, where the cheapest seats were $100.
The musician was Joshua Bell, and this was a social experiment organized by The Washington Post. You can read the article here, and below is a video of the performance.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Retailers in Texas who celebrate Christmas better shout it from their garland-wrapped rooftops lest they incite the anger of local Christians. Conservative mega-church First Baptist Church in Dallas (FBCD) has just launched a web site with the expressed purpose of keeping Christmas “everywhere.” By logging ontowww.grinchalert.com, shoppers can place businesses on the “naughty” or “nice” list depending on whether or not a business acknowledges Christmas.
“When companies use misplaced political correctness to halt the celebration of Christmas, they belong on the ‘Naughty List,’” the website says. “We also want to know which companies are celebrating Christmas with excitement and meaning–especially those who keep Christ in Christmas where He belongs!”
Everyone recognizes, of course, that the holiday most people are celebrating this time of year is indeed called “Christmas.” According to Rasmussen, 92% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas. However, 58% of those who celebrate Christmas are more likely to wish a casual acquaintance “Happy Holidays.” FBCD Pastor Robert Jeffress claims he intends the website to combat such political correctness in a way that's “fun.” But some don’t seem to be enjoying it quite as much as he is.
Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis of Congregation Kol Ami said, “Rather than honoring Christmas, this kind of campaign feels meant to remind me and people like me we are second-best members of this society . . . I realize every movement needs an issue to rally around. How about ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’?”
The Rabbi makes a good point, but his call for a Christmas ceasefire will likely fall on deaf ears. At least as long as Christian culture warriors like Jeffress see Christmas not just as a sacred holiday, but also a critical battleground. In the "War on Christmas," lines must be drawn in the December sand to make sure that the famed greeting “Merry Christmas” isn’t replaced by its evil half-brother “Happy Holidays.”
Without fail, certain radio and television personalities devote a significant amount of time to this so-called “war” each year. A few years ago, Fox News' John Gibson released the book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Holiday is Worse than You Thought. About the same time, Focus on the Family began their “I Stand for Christmas” campaign, which included a site where consumers rate retailers based on how “Christmas-friendly” they are. Last year, I found a stack of “I Say Merry Christmas Bumper Stickers” in our church mail room. Beginning around Thanksgiving, you can hear the sounds of clips being loaded in churches and Christian homes across the country.
The more I watch this holiday holy war, however, the more convinced I am that many American Christians have not fully thought through the issues at play. For example, we claim that we want Jesus to remain “the reason for the season,” but our actions belie a different focus. As I wrote in The Huffington Post last Christmas:
Most of us spend a paltry amount of time reflecting on Jesus compared to the massive amount of time we spend shopping at the mall, attending parties, wrapping and opening gifts, and eating huge meals. We might spend an hour at church on Christmas Eve holding a candle and singing "Silent Night" but we likely spent four hours at the mall the day before. Sure, we may gather around grandpa for a stiff five minutes and listen to him read a chapter from the Gospel of Luke, but we hardly listen. We are licking our chops at the mountains of presents behind him. In reality, Christmas for Americans--and yes, even the Christian ones--is shaped more by Currier and Ives than Joseph and Mary.
I often wonder what Jesus would think if he returned to earth at Christmas and surveyed the way all of his followers were celebrating his birth. What would the one who "has no place to lay his head" think about our gaudy decorations and lavish presents totaling over $400 billion in America alone? Would Jesus be pleased to find us remembering his lowly birth with materialism and gluttony?
It is nothing short of hypocrisy for American Christians to force others to “keep Jesus in Christmas” when we helped kick him out of the holiday long ago.
[For ways to curb Christmas consumerism, see Advent Conspiracy.]
Additionally, we need to think through what we’re asking for. By waging the war on Christmas, we are pressuring many people who don’t actually trust upon Christ to verbally acknowledge him. In so doing, we may be actually promoting a limp cultural religion that fails to promote radical gospel-centered living. How much true value is there in forcing those who aren’t Christians to use the name of Christ? As church historianSteve McKinion has pointed out, such things “may very well be at the heart of ‘using the Lord’s name in vain.’”
If we want to win the war on Christmas, we need to stop fighting it. Enjoy the season, reflect on Christ, break bread with those you love, and look for opportunities to meet the needs of others. Such things will seem more authentic to a skeptical world and scream “Merry Christmas” in ways a retailer never can.
Santa Claus and his elves are seeing more heartbreaking letters this year as children cite their parents' economic troubles in their wish lists.
U.S. Postal Service workers who handle letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole say more letters ask for basics — coats, socks and shoes — rather than Barbie dolls, video games and computers.
"The need is greater this year than I've ever seen it," he says. "One little girl didn't want anything for herself. She wanted a winter coat for her mother."
Cesar, 7, wrote for himself and his baby sister.
"This year my moom don't have much money to spend on Christmas gifts so I'm writing to you," Cesar told Santa. "It would make us very happy if you and your elves would bring us toys and clothes."
There are more letters from unemployed parents asking for kids' gifts they can't afford, says Darlene Reid of New York City's main post office.
One mom sent a turn-off notice from the electric company, Fontana says. A single mother of a girl, 8, and a boy, 2, wrote that she recently lost her job. "I am unable to buy my children toys and clothes," she said. "Santa may you help me with my family?"
Tough times are shrinking the number of Secret Santas, Fontana says. Meanwhile, "the percentage of people who need help has increased," says Mark Reynolds at the Postal Service's Chicago district, and about half the letters won't get answered.
Melanney, 9, asked Santa for a coat and boots. "I have been a very good girl this year," she wrote.
Monday, December 13, 2010
On Saturday The Commercial Appeal ran a great article on our family's involvement with Peabody Elementary School. It was written by David Waters. From the people I've talked with, as well as comments on their site, it seems that it's giving hope to many. One of the takeaways I've had from reading the article and the comments is that I am grateful for the community who is walking with us. These decisions can be difficult ones, but at every step of the way, it's has been easier knowing that we're not going it alone.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Over the past few months I’ve read a lot of articles on this subject. Here are some of the most helpful ones.
Women and Ministry, by Tim & Kathy Keller
Here’s what I like about this one. First, it’s Keller. I find it’s always a good idea to see what he says on a given issue. Second, though he’s a theologian and academic, he’s also a pastor, and this article is written from the perspective of a church wrestling through an issue. Third, I appreciate the fact that his wife, Kathy, writes with him. Finally, I think it’s quite balanced.
Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions on the Role of Women in the Home and in Christian Ministry, by Bruce Ware
Again, I appreciate this one because of its balance. He gives what each side believes, then gives objections from the other side to those beliefs. He deals with pretty much every Scripture passage there is on this issue. He packs a great deal into eleven pages.
Keeping Complementarians True to Scripture, by David Gushee
This is a very short but sweet article on the need for consistency in this issue.
Women and Ministry at IBC
This 24-page paper was written by the elders at Irving Bible Church after they spent over a year in study in conversation. Like Keller’s paper, it is written not for the sake of debate but because a church was wrestling through an important issue. I sensed a great deal of humility as I read it. In the end, they come to the same conclusion as Redeemer Pres did: all ministries are open to women except for the office of elder. The confusing part is that sometime after this they invited a female to be their lead pastor. I want to know more about that.
The Role of Women in Worship and Ministry: Some Hermeneutical Questions, by David Dockery
If you can get your hands on this one, it is well worth the read. As it says in the title, it deals with the many hermeneutical issues involved with this issue.
50 Crucial Questions about Manhood and Womanhood, by John Piper & Wayne Grudem
This article definitely takes the complentarian view, but it is extremely good. When I wrote a paper on this issue nine years ago, I read their book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Although it is very persuasive, even then the issue of consistency kept me from adopting this view completely.
For the egalitarian side, I would recommend reading Scot McKnight’s blog. Here is the link to his category “Women and Ministry.” Lots of great posts there.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
To survive in a hostile world, guys need to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers. Why it's time to reimagine masculinity at work and at home
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Trade as One founder Nathan George writes about our spending habits here. Great quote: "The gospel calls us to live simply, to give generously and to buy ethically. When the church begins to see the other 98% of its people's incomes as capable of being engaged in the gospel, things get really exciting."
Mark Batterson writes about the importance of job satisfaction for team morale. He writes, "If the job satisfaction number is high (on their annual survey), then just about everything else will take care of itself because the motivation is there. If you love what you do, then you're going to have a 95% better chance of doing it well. If your satisfaction level is low, then your performance will inevitably suffer."
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Monday, November 08, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
- Season with a little salt and pepper
- Let it sit out for awhile (15 minutes in my case)
- Let the grill get very hot
- Place the steaks on the grill
- Leave the grill open while cooking
- After 3 minutes, rotate 90 degrees
- Wait 3 minutes, then flip
- After another 3, rotate 90 degrees
- 3 more minutes, then off the grill
- Don't cut into it. Let it sit for another 3 minutes
Friday, October 08, 2010
Evangelical pastors have flipped in the last generation. 30-40 years ago what most incited excitement was a new book by the arch-pastor and expositor, John Stott, expositing a New Testament book or a J.I. Packer book on theology. Today's evangelicals pastors are enamored with the latest book on leadership, like that morsel of an idea in the book called Tribes, or the latest book on management, or the latest fad in creativity.
I guess part of this has to do with the fact that for the first time in my life I am reading John Stott. I'm one of those who, for the past decade or so, would choose books devoted to orthopraxy over orthodoxy. It wasn't so much that I was disinterested in theology but more that I wanted to flesh it out, to put it into action. However, lately I've been rethinking a lot of things. Though I've always known it in my head, today more than ever I believe that our orthopraxy must be shaped by our orthodoxy.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
To speak of sin by itself, to speak of it apart from the realities of creation and grace, is to forget the resolve of God. God wants shalom and will pay any price to get it back. Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way...To speak of sin without grace is to minimize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fruit of the spirit, and the hope of shalom.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves (Gen. 3:8).
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
He had no name, no family, no history, no future. His people lived far away, across the sea. The one who professed love for him took away his job and gave it to his brother--and then she killed every one of his friends.At forty-three he was trapped on an Island with the woman who killed his mother and the infantile mama's boy who doted on her. He shared nothing with his brother, not priorities or desires or diversions--not even hair colour. His thoughts lacked any point of reference other than his home, across the sea.His situation was infinitely worse than this, however. We have heard his story before. We know him from the holy text of every ancient religion. Mary Shelley wrote about him, and Edward Everett Hale fifty years after her. We have heard his story before, but every aspect of him is new. He is the Man in Black, Cerberus, the Smoke Monster, but he is so much more. He's not so different from you and me. In fact, we understand him best by looking at ourselves.Read more.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
...in order to appreciate the work which Jesus accomplished, we must understand who we are as well as who he was. His work was done for us. It was the work of a person for persons, a mission undertaken for needy persons by the only person competent to meet their need. His competence lies in his deity; our need lies in our sin. We have tested his competence; we must now expose our need. Only then, after we have clearly grasped what we are, shall we be in a position to perceive the wonder of what he has done for us and offers to us.
Friday, September 03, 2010
A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.
The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.
If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Friday, August 06, 2010
In order to be innovative, you have to create an environment of collaboration.
...the greatest impact on the world comes about by small, highly committed and disciplined communities of people focused on outward mission, inward transformation, and loving, accountable community.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Monday, August 02, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
[Can't remember where I found this, but it's great]
A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was beaten, robbed and left for dead. She described the situation in vivid detail so her students would catch the drama. Then, she asked the class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?" A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."
Monday, June 28, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Peabody Elementary has been in the heart of this neighborhood long before the community was called “Cooper-Young,” but is the school really in the hearts of CY residents? That’s the question school administrators would like its neighbors and local business owners to answer with a resounding ‘yes’… and some money, ideas, and elbow grease to back it up.
Monday, June 14, 2010
- Keep returning to the cross to see your sin cancelled and to draw near to God in full assurance of welcome.
- Keep looking to God instead of to sin for satisfaction, focusing on the four liberating truths of God's greatness, glory, goodness and grace.
- Cut off, throw off, put off, kill off everything that might strengthen or provoke sinful desires.
- Bring sin into the light through regular accountability to another Christian.
Friday, June 11, 2010
- Only God satisfies
- There is a lie behind every sin
- I am free to choose
- I have to choose
- God will continue to give me grace
The Reformers had a Latin phrase to capture this truth: semper peccator, semper iustus: "always a sinner, always justified." I still sin, but in Christ God declares me to be righteous here and now. So we needn't and shouldn't despair. If we think of ourselves only as failed sinners, then we may feel disqualified from Christian service and settle for a compromised life. You are a justified saint, equipped for battle, capable of adventurous, risky discipleship on the front line of God's kingdom.