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