Wednesday, January 31, 2007

America's Genocide

Over one week ago this nation commemorated the awful anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe vs. Wade. John Piper recently preached a message titled "Abortion and Racism". It is remarkable sermon that every believer in Jesus should read. And as you read it, wonder out loud how pro-choice, both Democrat and Republican's alike, minority advocates should respond to the reprehensible targeting of urban minorities who constitute the vast majority of abortions in this country.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


This past weekend the young adults in our church went on a retreat in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The thirty of us lodged in a quaint little cabin nestled on the front-porch of Dollywood. We had an amazing time of fellowship, and for once, the term "amazing" really isn't ovestating the joy found in our time together. It was a thoughtful, engaging, worshipful time of purposeful, meaning-filled conversation, laughter, singing and prayer.

The "theme" of our get-away was Christ and Culture we spent several hours corporately engaging God's Word, sitting underneath it, and receiving instruction about what culture is, how it relates to the establishment of God's Kingdom in the world, how culture shapes our own perception of reality as Jesus-confessing believers, and how to live radically committed, Kingdom-focused lives within a seductive, shallow culture such as ours. Honestly, our time probably created more questions than it provided answers, but I felt it was stimulating, thought-provoking, and challenging.

As I've been thinking about how to intentionally engage culture and what it means to bring the gospel into culture both a blantantly subversive and unapologetically confrontatational way, I experienced an encouraging providential meeting with an old friend. After the retreat I went to Birmingham, Alabama for a pre-marital counseling session for a wedding in May. During our lunch break I went to the church where I used to serve and ran into a friend who owns a business. While we were catching up he told me about how he has lead his company to adopt an orphanage in Ukraine. His company is building a transitional home for the children that move out of the orphanage when they turn 18. The purpose of the home is to provide shelter and nurture and cultivate skills that will help the individual assimilate into society. What a wonderful idea!

I was so encouraged to see an example of what we had been talking about this weekend. Here is a man who loves Jesus using his resources and means to impact the lives of people living in a culture hostile to God for the sake of the nations. What is even more amazing is that his company isn't a "Christian" company. Not all of his employees are "Christian", and yet he has found a creative way to involve even unbelievers in the mission of God the world. His efforts are exposing unbelievers in two cultures to the transforming power of the gospel. He is sowing Kingdom seeds in a tangible way.

I hope to see this more and more from the affluent church here in the West. May the Kingdom be of more value to us than our comfort, pleasures, material wealth and security.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


There is a lot of on-going conversation in pastoral circles about contextualizing the Gospel, particularly in light of the Emergent Village (think Brian McLauren); the Emerging Church (think Rob Bell & Dan Kimball) - and, no, the EV and EC aren't the same thing; the conservative, sympathetically emerging, theologically orthodox church (think Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church and Matt Chandler at Village Church); postmodern epistemology; the conservative, theologically orthodox, semi-traditional urban church (think Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City); and the drive towards a more missional approach to Western culture (think Leslie Newbigin).

Now, you may be asking: What is contextualization? To put it simply, contextualizing the Gospel is understanding that the Gospel is always being communicated within a particular context (i.e., culture) and thus it is the responsibility of the one communicating the Gospel, if he/she wants to be effective, to present it in a language that is discernable and understandable within that particular context. Missionaries contextualize all the time when they learn the language of their indigenous people, adopt the customs of the people that are not contrary to the teachings of Scripture, and move to live among those they are trying to reach.

But what about contextualization within Western culture? This is one of the issues that I am going to be speaking about on the young adult retreat next week at our church, so I don't want to give away too much here. But this is what we must realize about culture. Culture is never neutral. It is either promoting and embracing God or it exists in hostility to God and His glory. You see, the point of contextualization is to speak about Jesus, and through the supernatural work of the Spirit, be a means of bringing people into God's Kingdom - His culture if you will. But for many people, particularly for us in the West, this isn't the impetus behind contextualization. We contextualize because we love this Western culture just as much as unbelievers do. We love the comforts, pleasures, security, abundance, wealth and opportunities that Western culture secures for her citizens just as much as believers as those who live as enemies of Jesus in this culture do. And so we contextualize, not necessarily in hopes of moving the enemies of God into a glorious Kingdom that is better - because I am not convinced the Western church really believes Jesus' Kingdom is of more value than the benefits of Western culture - but in hopes of retaining and justifying the benefits we receive from Western culture for ourselves. Perhaps our contextualization is nothing more than idolatry cloaked in the pretense of the Gospel. Just a thought. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I don't have much time so this will be a rather brief post but something struck me as odd today in preparation tonight for bible study and worship with the students here at Concord. I was doing a quick Google image search for "worship" images and I came across hundreds of images that seemed out of place. Image after image represented worship to be that which naturally orbits around buildings with stained-glass, praise bands with guitars and hip-worship leaders, and crowded rooms full of people singing with an intermittedly mixed individual with hands raised high in the air. Admittedly, when I performed the search I was thinking of images such as these: a prostrate worshiper bowed with face to the ground; tear-stained faces gazing upward in adoration; packed rooms with hands raised high into the atmosphere. But what struck me is the notion that none of these images - even those I had in my head - represent a biblical notion of worship. Worship of God encompasses more than a gathering with God as its central focus. It represents more than a style or a posture in that gathering. Worship is what we do in all of life. Worship is how we work. We worship in how we rest, how we talk, how we love. And yet none of these images are represented in the images that represent our definitions of worship. I find that interesting, and also sad, that our view of what worship is has become so narrow and rigid. Now, this isn't to say that a Google search is an exhaustive, authoritative commentary on humanity or even the Church's understanding of worship. But I do think it says something about our definition of what worship is and isn't. And that is a thought worth examining.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


If I were Jack Bauer I could say the following and mean it:
"You probably don't think I can force this towel down your throat, but trust me, I can. All the way."
"I have killed two people since midnight. I haven't slept in over 24 hours. So maybe you should be a little more afraid of me than you are now."
"The only reason you're conscious right now is because I don't want to carry you."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Good Books

Mark Dever, Pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. has left us a rich legacy in his two books The Message of the Old Testament and The Message of the New Testament. This two volume masterpiece gives the reader a thorough biblical overview of every book of the Bible. I strongly recommend that every teacher and serious student of God's Word add these books to their library.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


For American soccer fans (aka, futbol for the rest of the world), the news that David Beckham is coming to Major League Soccer is huge. His presences will elevate the status ofa league struggling to gain respect on the world stage. Beckham is perhaps the most famous soccer player, and arguably the most famous athlete period, in the world. At 31 years of age, while not in his prime, soccer fans in Los Angeles will still be able to witness an incredibly talented player who has show-cased his skill on some of the most famous teams in the world (Manchester United and Real Madrid, not to mention his stint as captain on England's National Team).

But news of Beckham's contract tempers any excitement this fan might feel. Beckham has signed a 5-year contract worth $250 million dollars. He will earn approximately $1 million per week. And in the first week of his contract where he pockets $1 million dollars an estimated 203,000 young children will die all over the world from hunger and other preventable causes.

It is not David Beckham's fault that children are dying of hunger all over the world. And no one blames Beckham for capitalizing on his skills and maximizing his earning potential. But the very fact that any sports league would sanction the signing of one athlete for $250 million dollars with resources that could dramatically improve the quality of life for literally thousands of young children and adults in impoverished, famine-stricken, war-torn countries is sickening. This is a tragic commentary on how deeply rooted our self-serving, self-glorifying, self-satisfying desires really are.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Where Depraved Hearts Are Darkest

This is a provocative article on the political implications of our depravity.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Open Eyes

I read a very insightful article today by Tim Keller in preparation for The Retreat for young adults on my church at the end of this month about Christ & Culture. In the article Keller quotes Michael Wolfe from New York Magazine who provides what I think is an insightful perspective on Western American culture when he states his belief that America is fundamentally two nations. "There is the quicker-growing, economically vibrant, morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventurous, sexually polymorphist, and ethically diverse nation. Then there is the smaller-town, suburban, nuclear-family, religiously oriented, traditional values, white-centric other America with its diminished political and economic force." Wolfe social commentary is, I believe, correct, though I constantly live in denial of this reality because my abode is firmly established in the diminishing sector of American values and culture. My present perspective nutures an anti-body that makes me too often resistant to the pressing reality that the way the Church reached people with the Gospel of Jesus even 20 years ago is no longer effective in the first nation Wolfe describes.

Keller affirms this reality when he says, "...we are not presently forced to think about the post-everythings (people who comprise the ethically diverse nation Wolfe described) because there are so many traditional people that our churches can still grow, and thus, we feel we are doing a fine job." As I think about what it will take for Concord to really impact a mid-range size city like Chattanooga, I can't help but think that while we might be able to effectively reach the traditionally-minded individual whose heart still resonates with a gospel presentation that tells them that they should be good - and they are not good enough, and thus need Jesus to save them and forgiven them of sin - we will never reach the resident of Chattanooga who, when confronted with a presentation challenging their "goodness" and exposing their need for a Savior, would reply in return, "Who is to say what good is?"

In other words, the person reflected in Wolfe's first description of America - which is the description of the majority in the United States because most of these people live in urban areas and are attracted to big cities, universities and ethnically diverse communities - this person, when confronted with their need for goodness would challenge who defines what "good" is. And no amount of logic or reason or apologetic would penetrate their impervious worldview.

In the South, far too many churches are convinced that what people desperately desire are traditional values and the suburban life. We've adopted these values as if they are Scriptural mandates for the Christian life in themselves. Our traditional, mono-ethnic, culturally-safe, rational view of the world blinds us to the reality that most of the Western world isn't even asking the same questions we are in relation to faith, spirituality, and God. And yet we consistently respond to them as if they are.

And even if the church in the South can thrive in its present cultural environment, it will not survive well into the 21st century because the individuals who are the potential future of the church, the pluralistic, relativistic, ethnically-diverse, sexually polymorphist, culturally adventerous, are the future of Western society. The culture of the bible belt is not reflective of Western culture at-large, and churches full of traditional people must begin asking pertinent questions about how to effectively engage this other "nation" as Wolfe put it, or else the Gospel will continue to lose traction in the West. The reality is that the West is already a post-Christian mission field. The sooner we recognize this in the traditional church the more aware we will become of our need to contextualize the gospel in a way that effectively represents the message of Jesus Christ and winsomely draws all nations to Himself.


Found a great resource website titled juststopandthink that answers some basic questions about the Bible, Christianity and other religions. The site also includes a pretty good evangelistic movie featuring Francis Chan. Chan is the teaching pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California. I heard Chan over a year ago at Passion 07 and he did an excellent job expositing James 1:1-12 in a message about suffering. If you have friends that need some basic questions about faith, Jesus and Christianity answered, this site my be a helpful resource and place for them to spend some time. Like all resources, this site shouldn't take the place of the necessary relationship needed to forge with unbelievers as we seek to introduce them to Jesus Christ. But it may be a helpful place to explore in our absence.

P.S. - Really critical thinkers might find themselves in "evaluation" mode as they watch the movie presenting the gospel by Francis Chan. Check out this post for what I feel is a fair critique.

All Shall Be Well

I'd have to put hunting on the list of things that I thought I'd never do, thought I'd never enjoy, but have taken great pleasure in. I went on my first hunt about 7 years ago with David King, Todd Howard, Steve Barrett and Corky Traylor. The morning after our first hunt (an evening hunt), I went out and sat in a tree stand not far from the hunting cabin. It was a cold, wet morning and the stand wasn't particularly comfortable. Truth be told, I wasn't particularly comfortable. The night before was only the 2nd time I had ever shot a hunting rifle, and when I pulled the trigger, I landed a doe at about 200 yards. Not a bad shot for a beginner. So here I was, all alone, cold, in unfamiliar territory, waiting for a large buck that Corky said had been in the area.

After being in the stand for about 3 1/2 hours I was about to pack it in and head back to the cabin when I heard some rustling leaves behind me. Now, if you've ever been hunting, this isn't an unfamiliar sound. As a matter of fact, I had spent most of the morning contemplating blasting a couple of squirrels with a high-powered rifle who had kept me on pins and needles all morning as they played in the leaves behind my stand. Every time I thought I was hearing an approaching deer actually turned out to be those two little tormenting squirrels.

But after 3 1/2 hours I was finally able to discern the difference between a larger animal and those pesky little squirrels. The rustling I was hearing behind me was different. Unfortunately, the animal was coming up from behind me and I found it difficult to get a good look at the approaching beast without exposing my position. So I waited patiently. My heart rate began to accelarate. I was getting anxious. I could tell the beast was getting closer. I finally decided to peak over my left shoulder. As soon as I did the deer bolted off into the thick woods. I briefly had a shot at the bounding white-tail, but the best I could have done was injure the deer, so I relented. It was a big deer. And it lived to see another day. But don't feel too sorry for me. Later that night I shot a nice little 6-point buck. On three hunts I saw over 13 deer and shot a buck and a doe. Not bad for a first-timer.

I thought of this hunting experience this morning as I read Genesis 9. After God sends the wind to dry out the world He had flooded, He establishes a covenant with Noah. He promises to never again flood the earth, even though God is grievously aware that the condition of man's heart has not changed since the earth and heavens opened up and flooded this planet. Notice that God makes the covenant and promise never to curse the ground again because of man, even though "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth" (8:21). Nothing has changed within man as a result of God's judgment. As a matter of fact, even righteous Noah is later exposed as a drunk (9:21).

God blesses Noah and his sons and gives them specific instruction: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (9:1). And then we discover why my potential trophy deer ran away. "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into you hand they are delivered" (9:2). Sin ruined my hunt! Of course I am being facetious, but the reality is that the spooked deer that picked up my scent and scatted off into the forest is a reminder that all is not well in this world. The sin of man affected not only man, but all of creation. Creation has been subjected to futility (Rom 8:20) because of the intention of man's heart is evil.

But Jesus has come to set humanity free. And not only humanity, but all of creation. Creation has been waiting for the revealing of the sons of God with "eager longing" (Rom 8:19). Creation is "groaning in the pains of childbirth" (8:22). And we will both find fullness, in Jesus Christ, as the redemption of our bodies (8:23). It will be then that the Son of God, Jesus, will reign in the fullness of His righteousness over the earth and the heavens. And at that time, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; the young shall lie down together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall lay over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand into the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Friday, January 05, 2007


It has been many days since my last post and I hope that future days won't find so much distance between my thoughts. Strangely, vacation, though much needed, too often puts my mind on hiatus and is a deterent to critical thinking and meaningful engagement - at least it is for me. So, for my 8 loyal readers, please pardon my absence. I hope better days lie ahead in the future.

I don't typically make resolutions as many people do at the beginning of a new year, and I wouldn't consider these thoughts resolutionary. I simply thought it would be helpful to set before my heart some ambitions this coming year that I believe will aid the formation of Jesus' character to greater degrees in my life. Several of these thoughts have been prompted, I believe, directly by the Spirit within my heart, while others I found caught in the gravitational pull of thoughts expressed in Jonathan Edward's resolutions.

  1. I resolve to read godly works for personal application with as much earnestness as I do while reading for corporate or relational instruction. I find at work within my heart a desire to learn for the sake of pointing others to Jesus sometimes more than I do the sake of my own soul. I suppose, on some level, this is evidence of a pastoral heart for others, and while true, there is also a measure of pride in reading godly instruction and thinking only of others and not how truth impacts my own personal life as well. I felt this conviction just last evening as I was reading a portion of a book and found myself thinking of how helpful this would be to someone else when the Spirit reminded me that this truth would be equally significant in my own marriage.
  2. I resolve to redeem the time more deliberately. In a technological world of mass media, I am dumbfounded by how easily I allow my life to slip through my fingers by wasting time watching televison and movies, listening to music, surfing the internet, reading the newspaper, brousing the latest magazine pubication, and participating in leisurely activities. This isn't to say that any of these things are inherently evil. But the entitlement we feel regarding rest and leisure is a significant pitfall to our spiritual growth and investment in God's kingdom. We demand rest, and yet Scripture promises rest, not in this life, but in God's presence (Hebrews 4). I am never "off the clock". God is at work all around me and opportunities to speak of Jesus in a way that glorifies the Father abound on a daily basis. When I leave my office, my work hasn't ended; it has only begun because when I get home I have a wife to "wash with the Word" (Eph 5) and two daughter's hearts to shepherd and point to Jesus. And everywhere in between these two most important places in life where I invest most of my time there are opportunities to speak of Jesus and perform the good works I was created to do in Jesus. I waste time because I think I am entitled to leisure and rest. While not bad things, they should consume less time than they do.
  3. I resolve to live with no regrets in light of the reality that I will soon die. Soon may mean 40 years, and while 40 years seems like a long time, my life is but a vapor in light of eternity. I am becoming increasingly burdened that I want my life to count. I am troubled by the ease and comforts of the West and the great suffering around this world that so many of us have the resources to do something about. God, help me to live with no regrets this year. May I love better. May my family be more holy come this time next year. May people see Jesus formed more clearly in my life. May I have the opportunity to speak to friends about Jesus. Help me serve better.
  4. I resolve to eat better. I know this sounds like what so many other fat Americans resolve to do this time of the year, but I have a more spiritual thought in mind here. Over the past many months I have been saddened by how many influential Christian leaders are grossly overweight. Jim Eliot once said (and I am paraphrasing here) that the body was made for God and the reason he wanted to be physically fit was so that he could physically do whatever God demanded that he do. So many Christians who have no physical limitations or reasons not to be fit are not fit and are disqualified from potential areas of ministry because they are physically unable to perform. I don't want to be that person.
  5. I resolve to order my home financially. I want to be free to follow God's lead. One thing is certain though: financial debt hinders our ability to obey God's purposes.
  6. I resolve to spend more time in the Word. I want its study, application and transformation to be plainly evidenced in my life. I want to know God better through His Word and I want to be able to incorporate my knowledge of the Word into all areas of life.

May Jesus fill this year with His richest blessings and fullest measure of grace for us all.