Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Top Ten Lists: Books

Here are the best books I read this year:

1. You Can Change, by Tim Chester - I won't repeat my praise of this book since I've written 16 posts about it this year. Definitely the most shaping book of the year for me.

2. The TK Primer, by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay - Our community groups went through this in the spring, and I think it was helpful and encouraging to all of us. It's my recommendation for any new church core group.

3. The Gospel of the Kingdom, by George Eldon Ladd - I read this one as preparation of a series of talks I gave on the Kingdom of God. It was written in the late 1950's, and I quickly discovered that it was formative to a lot of the other authors I've read on the Kingdom.

4. And, by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay - Not as good as their first book, but still very helpful. Lots of great stories, and written to a wider audience than the first one.

5. Radical, by David Platt - This will give you an idea of the impact this book has made on my life. It was while listening to an interview with David Platt that I felt compelled to challenge our church to build a well this year.

6. Love and War, by John and Stasi Eldredge - This one was very different from the other marriage books I've read. Mandy read a friend's copy in one weekend, and then told me we needed a copy so I could read it as well. We're now going through the devotional together.

7. Rework, by Jason Fried - Easy read that challenges the way we lead and do business. I liked that the chapters were so short.

8. How I Changed My Mind about Women in Ministry, edited by Alan Johnson - This book is a compilation of chapters by men and women who have moved from a complementarian position to an egalitarian one. The authors include Bill & Lynn Hybels, John & Nancy Ortberg, I. Howard Marshall, Cornelius Plantinga, and Ron Sider.

9. The Letter to the Ephesians, by Peter O'Brien, and The Message of Ephesians, by John Stott - These are the two commentaries I most turned to during our series on Ephesians.

10. Finally, a little fiction:

One last thought, of the fifteen books mentioned in this post, eight of them were Kindle books. Wonder if that number will go up this year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Slow Down and Enjoy

That's a good New Year's Resolution for all of us. How often do we find ourselves so rushed that we miss out on the really important things? As a father of a 5-yr old and 2-yr old, I'm faced with this on a daily basis. I don't want to miss those moments that will never happen again.

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.

I received an email this morning with this story, and here's the question it ended with:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Social Network Christmas

Here is the video that was shown on Sunday night.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CA Article Getting Around

My pastor from our Nashville days just emailed me to say that our story is featured in a post at

And this might make you mad

From Jonathan Merritt at QIdeas:

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, 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.

This will break your heart

From USA Today

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

Commercial Appeal Article

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

Men and Women 2

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

Men and Women 1

Below are two of the articles I referenced on Sunday night at NC's worship gathering. All of these are from the last six months.

"The End of Men", from The Atlantic
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

Communication 101...for Toddlers

Last Friday night I was putting Micah to bed, and had gone through the normal bedtime routine (pajamas on, teeth brushed, water, sing, snug as a bug). He apparently didn't think I had nailed it as I normally do, and he began saying, "cold water." My response, "there's ice in that cup little man. It's cold." The two year old didn't like that, and began yelling "cold water" over and over again. I went to the kitchen and poured it out, then filled the cup with more ice (therefore it would be even colder). It didn't work. So finally, and I hope you don't think I'm a bad parent for this, I told him goodnight and shut the door. The yelling ended after a few minutes and he went to sleep.

Two days later Mandy told me that she knew what cold water was. After first congratulating her on this academic feat, I realized what she was talking about. She opened the refrigerator door and explained that to Micah, milk is cold water. Well that explains it. So I've spent some time this week getting Micah to say the word milk. He's doing much better now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas, Consumerism and Ideas for Gift-Giving

Hello. My name is Robert and I'm a consumer.

Black Friday is tomorrow, so here are some thoughts I have on the topics of Christmas and spending money. I've never gotten up early to go shopping on Black Friday. In the past, it was because I didn't like traffic jams, long lines, and overly caffeinated and energetic people crowding all around me. Now, though, as my community has been taking part in Advent Conspiracy, I've learned that not only is consumerism bad for me, it's bad for others, plus this alternative story (worship fully, spend less, give more, love all) is so much better.

At the same time, I am often a sucker for a bargain, and I love the challenge of stretching my dollar (a positive way of saying I'm cheap). I'm a little torn. So I will probably buy some Christmas presents over the next few days, though it will most likely involve sitting in front of my laptop rather than going anywhere. What I've learned I have to watch out for is spending too much time trying to save money. It's really not worth hunting through online stores trying to save $5 on a Wii game for Adam. So I shall cease from doing as much research this year.

If you're new to this story, or perhaps just coming to the conclusion that consumerism does not equal happiness, then here are a few ideas to help you bring some change to your life/family/spending this Christmas.

One of our community groups put together a great gift-giving guide with lots of links and ideas.

Check out Trade as One's website, as well as the video I posted yesterday. They have a lot of great gifts you can buy for your loved ones that have multiple bottom lines.

The Simple Dollar has a 10-part series on great homemade Christmas gifts, including cookies, personalized cards & stationery, and meals in a jar. A lot of these ideas are very kid-friendly as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trade as One

This is one of the videos we showed last Sunday night at NC.

Some Links

Here are some good articles and blog posts I've read over the last few weeks.

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."

There is a 20-part series going on at The Simple Dollar on David Allen's latest book, Making It All Work. In the 14th entry he deals with the need to determine primary areas of focus. These could deal with work, family, hobbies, spirituality, health, etc. These are the things that are most important to you. At the end of the week, then, you can see how you've spent your time (and I would add money), and you will quickly determine what areas are being neglected and where balance is needed.

Seth Godin on where ideas come from. My favorite: "Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them."

New Series on Men and Women

On Sunday night, December 5, our church is going to begin a two-week study on the role of men and women, both in the home and in the church. This is a very controversial issue, and one that continues to divide well meaning people to this day. So just as we have done in the past with other controversial issues, we want to base our understanding primarily on the Scriptures. There is nothing like a community being empowered to come to the Scriptures with both humility and confidence, and thereby determining how to live out what is read. It always excites me.

On our website I've compiled the primary passages that deal with this issue, plus a question for each passage for you to think about. You can download that document here. Over the next several weeks I'll be posting some of the more influential articles that have shaped me on this issue.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clean Water Challenge

This marks the fourth year that our church has taken part in Advent Conspiracy. This year I wanted to take things up a level. It hit me a few weeks ago that our church has never really had to take a huge risk, be it financial or otherwise. We've never set any goals which seemed impossible by human standards. So, through a series of several conversations and a lot of thinking, praying and dreaming, I decided to the issue a challenge this past Sunday night for our church to dig a well.

The past two years we, along with friends we've invited to our annual Clean Water Party, have raised $500 for clean water. This year the goal is $5000, and rather than just sending in checks to Living Water International, we are partnering with them to build a well for a specific village in Northern Peru.

For more details, as well as how you can get involved, click here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Peabody in the News

There's a great article in today's Commercial Appeal about Peabody Elementary School, and specifically about yesterday's ThinkShow! Check it out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

1898 Manila

My first "flip" is on the market. Check it out here, and if you know of anyone who wants to move into Cooper-Young, let me know!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Education Forum Tonight

Tonight we're having another education discussion for parents thinking about sending their children to Peabody next year. Some of us from this year's class will be sharing about our experience. Peabody's principal and a couple of teachers will be on hand to answer questions as well.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Andrew Ripp

Mandy and I saw this fella open for Dave Barnes last night. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Grill a Good Steak

I won't go as far as to say that a sign of manhood is being able to grill a good steak, but I will say that every man I know wants to be able to grill a good steak.

Last Spring I ordered some steaks from Omaha Steaks. Mandy and I are trying to have a date night at least every other week after we put the kids to bed. So last night I decided to grill the last of my steaks, this time filet mignon. Steaks intimidate me, in part because they are so darn expensive but also because I've had my share of poorly grilled steak. Oh yeah...and it was date night. So I made the wise choice to consult the pros.

The good news is that it turned out to be the best steak I've ever grilled. Here's the basics:
  • 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
  • Enjoy!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Scot McKnight on the Books Pastors Like to Read

About a year ago I came across a post from Scot McKnight that grabbed my attention, and that I've continued to think about. Here's the opening paragraph

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.

Today was Union Avenue Baptist Church's annual rummage sale to raise funds for mission trips, so I went down to check things out. I came away with 17 books, with all but two written pre-1980. Oh, and six of them are by John Stott.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

CNET's New Guide to Internet TV

In years past, you had three basic choices when considering TV reception: cable, satellite, or the good old-fashioned over-the-air antenna. But a fourth option is now coming on strong. It goes by a wide variety of names--IP TV, streaming video, online TV, even "over the top" (OTT) TV--but we're calling it Internet TV for lack of a better name.

This guide is intended as a straightforward overview of this new entertainment medium. We compare the available services and hardware, and help you choose which ones are right for you.

More here

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why We Talk About Sin 5

Because sin is a communal thing. Now by that I don't mean that we swap spouses at NC, nor that we have a supply closet full of scarlet letters to pass out.

What I mean is that we were never meant to deal with our sin alone. First, we have God. God's desire is not that we run away from Him after we sin, but that we run towards Him, or more specifically, that we run towards the Cross. But we also have other people.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy...He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone."

As I wrote yesterday, we are not meant live our lives with a mask on, pretending to have our acts together. This is true both with God and with others. I am very thankful to have a hand full of people in my life who are ok with the real me. They are a safe place for me to share not only the good but also the bad and the ugly. I hope that we all find this kind of community.

Rather than write anymore on this, I'd like to direct your attention here, to one of my posts on Tim Chester's book, You Can Change. He says it all so well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why We Talk About Sin 4

Because we're as messed up as you!

Understanding our sin should not lead to fear or condemnation but to humility and gratitude. It should not lead to hiding behind a mask but to being more fully human than you've ever been before. I love this quote by Brennan Manning, from The Ragamuffin Gospel:

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.

It is so easy for me to put that mask on and pretend (to myself and to others) that I am ok. But understanding my brokenness leads to a freedom that does not exist any other way. James (Jesus' brother) said that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. As I recognize my brokenness more and more, it should create in me an awareness of my true dependency. This then humbles me because I know that I am loved and accepted by my Father. I know that He has chosen me and pursues me.

And here's what else it does. It prevents me from having a posture that says, "I have everything together. I have no problems or worries. My life is awesome." Instead, I can be honest and say that I don't have a clue what I'm doing many days, but I trust my Father to guide my steps. I'm ok with that answer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sin and Grace

Here's a great quote from Cornelius Plantinga that goes with the post from earlier this morning.

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.

Why We Talk About Sin 3

Because before we can understand how bad things were, we need to understand how really good they were when it all started.

Now I realize that may sound like a contradiction in light of yesterday's post, but hear me out. We often think of "sin" as doing bad things, of breaking rules. But Cornelius Plantinga, author of Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, defines sin as a violation of shalom.

Before we can understand how bad sin is, we need to first understand the way God intended things to be (which is a good way of explaining the word "shalom"). We normally begin the "sin" discussion with Genesis 3, which is the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience. But we need to go back to Genesis 1 and 2, which is the story of God creating everything. After each day, God said, "It is good." God took great delight in everything that He created, including man and woman. Actually, after the creation of man and woman, He said, "It is very good."

God's design was for man and woman to be in relationship not only with one another but also with Himself. And that relationship was meant to be one built on trust. Man and woman were created to trust God for everything they needed, and through that to give thanks to Him for that provision and love. That trust was then to spill over to their relationship with each other. The Bible indicates this to be the case when it says that they were naked and not ashamed. Things were very good! Yet we know what happened. They chose not to trust God. They believed a lie that they no longer needed Him, that they could be like Him. The irony is that they were actually more like Him before they sinned than they ever would be again.

A few years ago I remember reading this story and being stopped in my tracks by the following verse:

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).

I started thinking, "I wonder if this walking together in the cool of the day was a part of their evening routine?" It's as if God was doing what He did every evening. But on this particular evening, something was different. His children did not join Him. This is a great picture of intimacy to me, and the sad thing is that after sin entered the picture, the intimacy they had with their Father and Creator was broken. It doesn't appear that they ever took these walks again. But it didn't stop there. It was also broken between the man and the woman (remember, it was at the point of sin entering the picture that they first felt shame). And this brokenness continues to affect all of us.

So that's how things started. The Bible also tells us how things will end. Revelation 21 says that there will come a day when God will once again walk with His people. He will make His dwelling place with them, and get this: He will come near to wipe away every tear from the eyes of His children. Intimacy will once again be fully restored.

So we see how it began and we see how it ends. For now we have the Gospel. Yes, it's a time of tension, but it's a time of God doing His work of redeeming and restoring that which was lost and broken. God's work involved sending His Son to earth to make right what was wrong. And He did it through His death on the Cross. Through Christ's death we can once again be reconciled to God. We can truly know God, our Father and Creator.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why We Talk About Sin 2

First, a more theological response...Before we can really appreciate why the gospel is "good news", we should first seek to understand how bad the bad news really is. And that's why we talk about sin.

The Bible says in many places that God's desire has been to save/rescue/set free His people. The question that must be asked is, "From what do we need to be saved/rescued/set free?" There are lots of things that could be mentioned here, but I'll let Paul do the talking, from Ephesians 2.

Paul begins this chapter by saying that at one time we were all dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1). In other words, we were unresponsive to God. The reason for this was that we were slaves. First, we were following the ways of the world. When Paul speaks of "the world" here, he is referring to the earthly system that opposes God's reign. Think about the The Matrix here. It wasn't until you were outside the Matrix that you realized the truth, that everyone in the Matrix was a slave. And the crazy thing was that they didn't even know it. That's how we were.

Next, Paul brings up Satan. The Bible says (and Bob Dylan later echoes it) that we all "Gotta Serve Somebody." If our allegiance is not to God, then it's to somebody else. And the Bible says that Satan is "the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). So when we were dead in our sins, our allegiance was to Satan instead of to God.

Now I know that most people don't consider themselves to be loyal to Satan. So if you're not buying that one, hang in there for this last one. Paul says that the third thing we were captive to were the passions of our flesh. All that means is this: we're in charge, and we do what we want to do when we want to do it. But this is also why the things that we fill ourselves with in hopes of bringing satisfaction or meaning often leave us unsatisfied or even empty. St. Augustine said it this way: "You (God) have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You." To be held captive by the passions of your flesh means that your heart is restless, and nothing other than God will fully satisfy.

So before God stepped in, sin held us in such a way that there was no way that we could be who were created to be. And that's bad news. However, Paul doesn't end with bad news. The rest of Ephesians 2 contains words such as mercy, love, grace and kindness. This is who God is, and this is where good news comes. The Gospel says that God, because of His great love for us, came and redeemed dead slaves (that's us). However, this redemption cost something: His Son, Jesus. Jesus' death brought our freedom, and that is extremely good news!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why We Talk About Sin 1

Last night I began a three week series on the topic of sin. Sin is not a popular subject by any means. Some of us grew up hearing about sin way too much. It was never coupled with grace and love, but more with fear and legalism. Many of us also heard about only specific types of sins, while other sins went overlooked. We saw this as hypocrisy (think racism in the south). However, today as we look around our culture we discover that we've almost lost the notion that sin even exists. It's rarely talked about, and when it is, it's not done so in the way it once was (check out for more - don't worry, it's not a porn site).

So over the next four or five posts I want to give some reasons as to why we as a church are talking about sin. And if you're interested, the sermon and notes from last night can be downloaded here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Man in Black

I know that we're several months removed from Lost, but I just read an interesting article on the Man in Black. Remember him? As I've said before, I'm getting ready to start teaching on the subject of sin, so for the past month or so I've been watching and reading things in light of the brokenness of our world. I think this article is a great example of brokenness. Here's how it begins:

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.

CYPN Article in Commercial Appeal

Heather Caron wrote a great article about the Light the Way race and the Parent's Network. There's even something about Neighborhood Church in there. Here's the article:

The cooler weather has begun to lure neighbors out of their homes and children back into the daylight. Runners and walkers alike are dotting neighborhoods in preparation of the upcoming Cooper-Young Festival 4 Miler race on Friday. In addition, many community members are preparing for the "Light the Way" parties to cheer on the runners as they blaze past the neighborhood homes and businesses in Midtown's Cooper-Young.

Longtime area residents know that those with the best parties win prizes and enjoy the accolades throughout the year. The 4 Miler "Light the Way" parties have not only been fun, but for some residents, they are the initial connection to lasting friendships, educational forums, seasonal parties, running groups and endless play dates.

One such group can credit many memberships to the Cooper-Young 4 Miler race and the infamous "Light the Way" parties. The Cooper-Young Parents Network, representing 80 adult members and 150 children, has given Midtown families a support group for their most important commodity -- their children. This forum has provided parents information on available educational and extracurricular options for their kids. It has given Cooper-Young families a safe and welcoming place to celebrate holidays and community events. It is a clearinghouse for gently used items that families no longer need and a resource for cooperative and reputable child care. You may just be able to find the right doctor or cleaning service, if you so desire.

Newly relocated family Joe and Susan Currier were walking home from a 2006 "Light the Way" party and bumped into another new Cooper-Young family, Jason and Barb Elder.

"As we talked, I discovered I knew Jason from years past," said Susan Currier. "Jason and I grew up in the same town, but I did not know he had moved to Memphis.

"As we strolled past the cleanup crews, the Elders told us about a church they were helping to plant in Cooper-Young, which eventually became Neighborhood Church. They invited us to visit the church when it started meeting in homes a few months later, and that's how we met future Parents Network founder and new Cooper-Young resident, Mandy Grisham. Barb and Mandy became some of my closest friends, as have our children," Currier said.

Susan has since introduced several other families to the network and has hosted a few LTW parties. "It's my family's favorite part of the festival weekend," Currier said.

"The CY 4 Miler's 'Light the Way' party is the network's birthday. We are celebrating our second birthday this year," said Grisham. "Our network's first kickoff party won one of the prizes from the race committee."

Grisham fashioned the Parents' Network after the Berkley Parent's network. "Memphis did not have anything like this. I wanted to create a local network for the parents in the CY community," Grisham said.

Members Josh and Ginger Spickler and Debbie Sowell have also contributed to the success of this group's membership, hosting parties and spreading the word to other community members.

Heather Caron is a volunteer for the Cooper-Young Friday 4 Miler.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Juggling Plates/Spinning Balls

Or something like that. I must confess that things are busier for the Grisham family than they have ever been before. I shared a few weeks ago that we have had some major changes in our lives, and it's been tricky navigating those changes. My office time now consists of the hours between 8:30 and 2:00, and then again from 3:30-5:00. And that's sometimes just four days a week. The rest of my work happens whenever and wherever I can squeeze it in.

My real estate is going well - hoping to have at least three closings in the next month. But it's definitely been keeping me busy. And then there's my normal church work. It has been great that I've had the last three Sundays off from teaching at NC, but I've been using the time as prep for a new series I'm starting this Sunday.

Adam has transitioned into kindergarten so well. I am so proud of him, and we're very happy with Peabody. Micah, on the other hand, has had a more difficult time. He's finally taking naps at daycare, but he's also just hit "the terrible twos." Though he's still a sweet boy most of the time, he definitely has his moments! And when he doesn't get enough sleep, well...the sweet boy kind of vanishes.

I hope it doesn't seem like I'm complaining too much. I'm just trying to keep these balls/plates from dropping/crashing. Mandy and I have been in tough places like this before, and it just means that we have to be extra intentional about keeping margin for our family.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Talk about Sin?

This coming Sunday night I'm going to begin a series on sin. We're in the middle of a larger series on the book of Ephesians, and chapter two gives a beautiful picture of what God has done for us through Christ. But in order for us to appreciate what He has done, we need to understand our position without His work. The following quote is from John Stott, Basic Christianity, and I think he describes this very well. 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

On Glenn Beck & the Rally

Over the past week I've heard or read a number of opinions on the rally last Saturday in Washington DC. And they've been varied, from the one lady I spoke to who was so hopeful after watching it (even though he's a Mormon), to very angry editorials that are all over the internet. So when I read this piece by Russell Moore, I was very encouraged. Here are the opening paragraphs:

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.

And then Moore writes,

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.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sentimental Guy

I'm a big Ben Folds fan, but somehow I had never heard this song...until today, while listening to Pandora. All I can say is that it made me very happy, and I've listened to it about five times in the last hour. Now I realize that my non-musician friends may tune out at this point, but for those still know how your head moves ever so slightly when you hear a luscious chord (as one of my piano teachers used to say)? Well, the chords in the vamp do exactly that to me. Enjoy

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Ninth Day of Kindergarten

On Wednesday (aka, the 9th day of Kindergarten), I went to pick up Adam and Walt, as I had the previous eight days. When I got there, Ms. Malland, his teacher, came up to me and said, "We had an incident today at recess." Apparently a boy named Ethan and Adam's friend Maddux were having some sort of confrontation, and so Adam got involved and punched Ethan. Ms. Malland didn't see it happen but heard from another teacher. She said that the rule at recess is No Touching. Adam had to go to timeout, but everything was fine after that.

Adam told Mandy and I that he didn't hit Ethan, but we figured that he probably did, especially since I had just watched part of Karate Kid with him a few nights earlier (dad of the year). He also said that Ethan was being mean to Maddux. The good news is that it gave Adam and I a chance to talk about sin and forgiveness.

The other good news was that no punches were thrown yesterday. However, last night at dinner Mandy revealed more of the story. Maddux's mom emailed her yesterday and explained that Maddux is a hugger - a hugger who doesn't like to let go. So he was hugging Ethan on Wednesday and Ethan didn't really like it. Ethan was trying to get out of the hug. Adam saw this and interpreted it as his buddy Maddux being in trouble. And Adam stepped in.

So...poor Ethan got it on both ends - from the hugger and the puncher. We explained this all to Adam, which he thought was rather humorous. We also told him that no more punches need to be thrown at recess, but especially not until all the facts are known (alright, I didn't say that part).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Community Groups to Missional Communities

Phase 3 of Community Groups at Neighborhood Church gets underway tonight. We began our first community group 14 months ago. It was a large one. Last fall we then went to two groups. We set before each group five values: Sharing life, sharing stories, sharing Scripture, sharing prayer, and sharing mission. Most weeks these groups discussed the previous Sunday's message, but we also wanted to begin developing true community. I believe that we were very successful in reaching that goal. One of the things I was most excited about was the way the kids were loved on and cared for by everyone in the group. I think we got a real taste of what community can be.

So that brings us to today. As much as I loved our community groups, I felt that they were too large. They left me wanting more, especially when it comes to the three journeys (upward, inward and outward). Many nights, just as we were beginning to go deep as a community, 7:30 would roll around and one of the kids would automatically go into meltdown mode. (In case you don't have children, that means the show is over and it's time to go home). Much of this was due to having so many in one group. The other issue centered around mission. It's great that almost everyone at NC is involved in a mission of some sort. Those folks are of course passionate about their missions, but this meant that it was often difficult to decide on a common mission.

Over the summer I've had conversations with several friends about where we're heading. One of the more helpful conversations was with Michael Stewart. He said that at Austin Stone they've helped their folks come to understand the difference between a team of missionaries and a missionary team. A team of missionaries is a group of people who all have a different mission but who come together for encouragement and prayer. On the other hand, a missionary team is a group of people who have a shared, or common, mission. That I believe has been the missing piece for me.

So in phase 3 we are centering around mission, believing that the best community we can have will be discovered through the context of mission. If you ask a person about their best experience of community, chances are that you'll hear a story about a mission trip. In order to do this we're having groups of 6-8 people.

Three couples from NC, including Mandy and I, have kindergarteners at Peabody Elementary School this year. For the next nine months we are all going to be investing a lot of hours into Peabody. This is our common mission, which makes us a missional community. And this is where I first starting putting this together. In February we had several families over who at the time were considering sending their kids to Peabody. As we were sitting around talking about our hopes and dreams, it all of a sudden hit me that this was my missional community. It didn't matter that only three of us were a part of NC. We had a common mission (public education through our neighborhood school), and the common mission was drawing us together like nothing else could.

I am very excited by what I see God doing in the lives of NC'ers. I think we're on the verge of seeing God do what only God can do, and I'm so glad that I'm on board for the ride!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Small Teams Rock

Alright, it's Friday. Sorry I couldn't think of a better title for this blog post. Hopefully the content will make up for it :)

The highlight of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit for me was Terri Kelly of W.L. Gore & Associates. She talked about the culture of this organization. Her first statement drew me in:

In order to be innovative, you have to create an environment of collaboration.
For them, this environment features small teams. The associates (they're not called employees) are connected and accountable not to a boss but to one another, and those connections are the foundation for their success.

As I listened to her, I thought back to a book I read a number of years ago by Harvey Seifter about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, a.k.a. the "conductor-less orchestra." I am all about leadership, but more than that, I'm all about team. When people feel that they are truly a part of a team, that they are able to contribute out of their passions and strengths, then the entire organization is better.

I also thought back to a quote I read many years ago by Gordon Cosby:

...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.

To me this is a great definition of church, and it's a great lead in to some changes we're making at Neighborhood Church. I am as excited about these changes as I've been in a long time. And in the words of Ryan Seacrest, you will all find out about those changes "after the break" (and by "break" I mean the weekend). Have a nice one!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Leadership Summit

I'm headed to Willow Creek's Leadership Summit in about an hour. Mandy and I first attended this conference in 2000, about a week after we had moved to Mill Valley, CA. It was a great way to begin our new adventure there. Six years later we went again. This time it was seven months into another new adventure: Memphis. Unfortunately Mandy can't join me this year, so I'm flying solo. I have discovered that avenues for learning such as this one are key to me staying full, so I can say with confidence that I am ready to drink from the hydrant of some great leaders.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A Whirlwind of Change

The last few weeks have been full of change for the Grisham family. I began my real estate classes at the beginning of July, and passed my exam a little over a week ago. Some have asked why I'm going into real estate. The answer is that I've actually been in real estate for a few years now. A year after moving to Memphis I started working in the mortgage industry. Unfortunately, just as I was getting going the housing industry was falling apart, so I got out of it. Through that, though, I caught the real estate bug, and I've been dabbling in it since that time. So it just made sense to make it a little more official and go ahead and get licensed. I hope to help my friends (and friends of my friends) buy or sell their homes, but I also plan to get more involved in the investment side of real estate. As soon as all of the paperwork goes through (a week or so), I'll begin working with Revid Realty here in Midtown.

As if that were not enough to write about, here are a few more changes. First, Mandy has gone back to teaching. We were planning on her taking one more year away from the classroom, but a job opened up at Vollentine Elementary School, which is located in the northern part of Midtown. My friend Matthew Watson is helping his church, Living Hope, plant a church in that neighborhood, and they are already official adopters of this school. God has opened several doors that have led us to take this step.

This meant that we had to find a place for Micah. Adam is starting Kindergarten next week (another BIG change), but we now needed daycare for Micah. My mom will be with him one day a week, I'll be with him another, and three days a week he'll be at Union Avenue's daycare, which, if you didn't know, is located one floor down from my office. They gave us an amazing discount, which is the only way we would have been able to enroll him there. Yet another door opened by God.

These are the stories we mustn't forget. We have to tell them to our children. We have to remind them that God is active in our lives, that He has plans for us, and when we are faithful to take them, He guides and directs our steps. After all, He is quite good at opening doors that seem to be closed!

This is a difficult transition for Mandy. She is going to miss being at home with the boys. We know that they are going to do great in school, but it's going to be hard for her. She has also been doing so much with NC and with the Peabody movement. Many of those roles are going to transition to others.

I am definitely a glass half-full kind of guy, but I know that this is going to be tricky in a lot of ways. I know that God is going to help us, and I believe that our times together as a family will be even richer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Budding Entrepreneur

Quote from Adam this morning:
Dad, do you think you could give me fifty dollars if I make my bed?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Nice Surprise

As of 10:00 this morning, I had a total of 20 hours left in my real estate class. Lou, our beloved professor, decided to give us Friday off. Down to 13 hours. Then, at 10:00, he called three of us into his office. Since the three of us have our tests scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, he thought we should go home...and not come back. Oh yeah, and study. I had this stupid grin on my face the whole time he was sharing this great news.

So...I have officially completed my 90 hours of real estate class. Now just gotta pass that test!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


On Saturday night we went to Collierville to eat BBQ and watch the fireworks show with Dad & Co. As soon as the first rocket was launched, Adam was ready to leave. It was too loud for him, and he immediately began crying. Mandy ended up taking him farther away from the action. Micah wasn't too sure what to think, but as soon as it started he wanted out of his stroller and into my lap.

As I watched the spectacle, I couldn't help but think back to what our 4th of July fireworks celebrations commemorate: Real rockets. Real bombs. Real fire. Real war. I then started thinking about Francis Scott Key and the events that inspired the composition of "The Star Spangled Banner." Remember that? And while I was extremely grateful for the sacrifices that have been made whereby we are a free nation, it also hit me that perhaps my son's reaction to what was going on was the most authentic. Go figure.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Where's the Love for the Grizzlies?

Yesterday the Grizzlies signed Rudy Gay to a 5-year deal worth $80 million. The critics are all over that move. The funny thing is that those same critics would have been just as upset had the Grizzlies let him sign with another team. They would have been claiming that the Grizzlies continue to show that they don't want to spend money (remember the Pau Gasol deal?).

Just a couple of days ago the experts at ESPN made their predictions as to where the top free agents would end up. Guess what they thought about Rudy Gay and the Grizzlies? None of them thought he would end up staying in Memphis. That shows the lack of respect people have for the Grizzlies (or Memphis). So the Grizzlies stepped up and paid Rudy Gay. And, yes, they probably paid too much. But I think they had to do it. They had to keep Rudy Gay as a Grizzlies.

So just remember. The Grizzlies were the surprise team this season. They exceeded everyone's expectations. And I think they'll continue to do so.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Good Samaritan - A Child's Perspective

[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

Happy Birthday Micah!

Micah turned two today. He is such a joy to our lives, and we are so blessed to have him as a son!

Best Free Online Applications

Gizmo's Freeware site is the best place to find reviews on free software. He recently added a new category of reviews for online apps. I discovered several apps that will be very helpful to me. Check the list out here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Update on Peabody Elementary School

This Lamplighter article was written by Lurene Kelley, who is a part of our little community of CY residents sending their kids to Peabody Elementary School next year.

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.

According to the school’s principal, Kongsouly Jones, because Peabody is a desirable optional school, approximately 50 percent of the student body comes from open enrollment. This means that nearly half of the children at Peabody live outside its designated boundaries.

Mandy Grisham, a member of the Peabody Leadership Board, says the first step in giving the school a more neighborhood feel is obvious – have more children who live in and around Cooper-Young enrolled at Peabody. This fall, approximately 10 children from the Cooper-Young Parents Network (CYPN), parents who live in or near the neighborhood, will be enrolled in this year’s kindergarten class (In fact, my own child will be among these kindergartners.)

Read more here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

You Can Change 16

This is my last post on Tim Chester's wonderful book You Can Change. At this point in my life it is definitely a Top-1o book, one that has both encouraged me and challenged me a great deal. I feel like I need to read it again soon, as I so want these truths to be internalized in my heart. I want to end this series with four summary statements that Chester gives:

  1. Keep returning to the cross to see your sin cancelled and to draw near to God in full assurance of welcome.
  2. Keep looking to God instead of to sin for satisfaction, focusing on the four liberating truths of God's greatness, glory, goodness and grace.
  3. Cut off, throw off, put off, kill off everything that might strengthen or provoke sinful desires.
  4. Bring sin into the light through regular accountability to another Christian.

Friday, June 11, 2010

You Can Change 15

The last chapter of Tim Chester's book asks the question, "Are you ready for a lifetime of daily change?" This question is an appropriate way to end this book. He begins by explaining that without Christ we are slaves to sin. We are not free to make the right choice. That doesn't mean that we never make the right choice, but it does mean that we're not truly free. However, Jesus set us free. We are no longer under the bondage of sin.

We are now free to choose, free to either sow to the Spirit or sow to the flesh. As great as that is, though, it is a huge responsibility. It would be great if we could make that decision once in our life, and the battle would be done. But unfortunately, walking with God is a daily thing. Everyday we choose. To know that we have to choose is the first step. The second thing we need to understand is that we are in a battle. Paul says in Galatians 5:17 that "the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other." Peter says that the passions of the flesh wage war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11).

The good news again is that we are able to choose. We are able, because of the hope we have in Christ and His work on the Cross (Galatians 2:20), to become more and more like Him every day. This is what the Bible calls sanctification. It requires daily effort, and it's hard work. Many days I don't want to be conformed to the image of Christ. I want what I want. And so in those moments I remind myself of what I know:
  • 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
I want to leave you with one one quote from Tim Chester:

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.