Reflecting on the Fourth Week of Advent – The Peace Candle

On Sunday the 18th, we lit the fourth candle of the Advent Wreath – the Peace Candle.  I’ve been blogging through each week (I’ve included the links at the bottom).

We talk about peace quite a bit this time of year. Numerous Christmas wishes end with the desire for “peace on earth.” It’s not exactly the easiest thing to wrap a put under the tree and throughout the week I’ve been thinking about why peace is so elusive for us.

When we think of the idea of “peace”, we tend to think of words like tranquility, calm, contentment and serenity. All very good synonyms and all qualities that I could use more of but when I think of the peace of Christ, I think of something that I can’t really find in a yoga class or in a cup of green tea.
(Wouldn’t that be great if it could though? The United Nations could lower embargoes on all dictators and government officials who didn’t practice yoga and drink green tea. Hmm, if I work 10 more minutes on this, I may be awarded the second-easiest to achieve Nobel Peace Prize ever.)

I know I’m not drinking enough green tea and I know my yoga is not only inconsistent but quite ugly (insert mental picture of thirty something who is really good at imitating a geriatric gym class) but the peace of Christ is much deeper than arms treaties and personal tranquility.  As John Perkins says, “Peace is a world where nothing is broken and nothing is missing.”

Most of us consider ourselves to be peaceful in the non-violent sense but that is a very weak definition of peace (to not be at war with someone/something). The way we wage war in our social lives is not only by fighting but by breaking fellowship (Church, family, etc.). We break the peace every time we hurt, attack, ignore and abandon others.

Relational peace is more about being in harmony and in a connected goodness with someone. In the Christian tradition, “peace with God” is not about a clear conscience but about living in reconciliation and obedience with the God in the way of Jesus. And being at peace with ourselves is not about being content with our status of life and being (or conniving ourselves of being) “happy”, it’s much more about the identity we find in who we were created to be and what we are called to do. Peace is the result of a life of steadfast commitment to work things out, the result of letting God’s inner peace become God’s outer peace.

Biblical commentators have written extensively on what Jesus meant when he used the term “Shalom”. It generally meant the following: 1. Material prosperity 2. Moral goodness and integrity 3. Loving relationships with God, family, Israel, and all others.

A lot to be said there but I’d like to focus on the third point and point out that peace is rooted in love.  Living in peace with each other was more about holding and keeping a loving relationship with others and not just being content with not fighting. And being in peace with God is about living in the salvation that Jesus came into this world to give us all.

“Shalom I leave with you, my shalom I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Week 1 – The Hope Candle

Week 2 – The Grace Candle

Week 3 – The Joy Candle


The Condescending Angel’s Perspective – Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

Two Sundays ago, our senior pastor, Bryan Wilkerson gave his annual monologue. Each year, he gives this message completely in character from the vantage point of someone either in the Christmas story (like Zachariah) or in the 1st Century context (like Pontius Pilate). He writes it, memorizes it and delivers it. When I first heard of this annual “monologue”, I was a caught a little off-guard because from what I thought I knew of my new senior pastor, it seemed not him. I think those of of us raised in churches have seen these types of things go wrong so maybe you know what I mean. However everyone was really excited about it and kept asking, “He’s going to do give his monologue at the gc@nite service too, right?” I replied he indeed he was and found myself looking forward to this was well.

Well it didn’t certainly disappoint, in fact, it was incredible. Not just from a performance perspective but especially Bryan’s writing. This year Bryan became one of the angels in the heavenly host. It was a great character as he was able to avoid the cliche talk and be an angel that was in complete adoration of God but somewhat confused of His incredible love for mankind. The context was that this particular angel had returned to this world (he had visited the night that Jesus was born) and on this particular night, he was to appear to us, just this once, to tell us the back story from his vantage point.

The angel was sincere, he was condescending, kept referring to us “mortals”, reminded us of the order of creation humanity was beneath the angels, yet God’s redemption makes us heirs with his son Jesus, a concept that the angel could not fully fathom. You sensed the angel’s bewilderment and again, it was great message.

I think if we you were to take the time to listen to it, it would remind you of God’s great love for humanity from a heavenly, yet not divine perspective. It’s available here.

Reflecting on the Death of Osama Bin Laden – Part 2 – Seeking a Christian Response

What is a Christian response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden? I’ve been trying to process this myself and I know I am not alone. If you are like me, you have been all over Facebook (and Twitter) and have “Liked” certain updates and posts, rolled your eyes at some and maybe even thought, “Wow, this person is one of my friends? How do I “unfriend” someone here?” And it’s good if we realize that sometimes people are thinking that about you (and me).

Years ago as I was beginning my experience in social media, it was helpful to understand that not only should I expect great diversity among my Facebook friends, it was good. I’ll admit, having an appreciation for the concept of plurality made this easier for me than say, more “black/white” type of thinkers but I say this because I have heard a few people get really frustrated about the different reactions and I’d like to politely mention that simply, you shouldn’t. You cannot control other people’s thoughts and actions but you ought to express yourself, as politely as you can (maybe even start a blog) and contribute to the conversation.

Now, let me contradict myself. Though I didn’t mind the diversity of Facebook/Twitter statuses, I was thrown off by what I would describe – the jubilation of the killing of Osama. Now, can I also admit that I was also caught off-guard by the showings and demonstrations of mercy? I do not want to question anyone’s sincerity but only narrate my thoughts here. For some, I believed they were simply very godly and loving people and showing mercy was a reflection of their broken and generous hearts. For others (and not anyone specifically really, these are all broad strokes here), I wondered if it was easier to show mercy because perhaps they did not have as much invested in the killing of OBL.

I was moved by the scene of the NY Fire Fighters sitting outside their station Sunday night. I was appalled by the interview that I saw of college students from Pennsylvania who drove 2 hours, got drunk and partied like it was New Year’s. I understood the excitement shown by our troops (and their families) upon hearing the news but I am still slow to understand the partiers outside the White House or scenes like this one. And though I was initially caught off-guard upon hearing the chants of U-S-A at the Mets-Phillies game, what does a mass of 45000-50000 at a baseball game do upon hearing the news of the killing of the nation’s most wanted terrorist? Of course, in my pastor-fantasy world, I would have liked them to stop and pray and invite me to give a sermon from the pitcher’s mound, but even I will admit that what happened seemed like an honest, appropriate and natural response.  Now I’d like to say that regardless of what our initial response was, we are still responding in some way.  So, let us respond well and I am processing what does a Christian response look like?

Now I despise OBL’s actions and the darkness in his soul too (and he did have a very dark and evil soul) and I realize that some have reason to loathe him more than me (and my prayers are with you). I do not often mention it but as a family we had an aunt and a cousin in Tower 1 that September day and we thank the Lord over and over that they were able to get out safely and are with us today. And though we don’t often talk about it, I know I am not the only one who thinks in the worst-case scenarios. So when I think of that day, in addition to the countless other stories we are connected to, I still have strong feelings towards OBL and those that are similar to him. I would also add that I have a strong despisement towards people like Joseph Kony (Leader of the LRA), and in general, human traffickers, exploiters, and other murderers too.

I am reminded by what I heard in this last week’s sermon. Our pastor told a story of an editorial that appeared in a newspaper years ago. G.K. Chesterton wrote in, “In response to what is wrong with world today, sir, I have an answer: I am.”

Now I will not equate myself to OBL in the sense that anything I have done warrants the efforts of two highly trained SEAL teams to hunt me down in Pakistan but sadly, I can identify with what the Chesteron is saying. And so in this post, I think part of the Christian response of the killing of OBL is coming to the realization that we are all deeply flawed and have contributed to the pain of the world. It’s in acknowledging this that we can see the difference and the importance of a Christian response.

As always feel free to push back, comment, or passionately (but politely) express yourself.

Reading Your Bible in a Year? Some Advice From a Guy Who Has Started It 189 Times and Read Through It …

… 5 times.
Is that why you clicked – to see how many times I have read through the Bible? Well, I’m glad you did, now keep reading.

Blessings to those who have resolved to read their Bible in a year. You are in for a beautiful and difficult 2011. There will be times when you are reading that you think to yourself, “This is amazing. God you are so good.” Then there will be other moments that you think, “This is terrible. Is this really what I believe?” “I have never even heard this before.” “This is why my pastor never preaches out of the Old Testament – Wait this is the New Testament???”

Let me be honest, I’m not sure reading the Bible in a year is always the best idea if you want to learn Scripture. You have heard the expression, “Drinking out of a firehouse.”? It’s hard to appreciate the Scripture’s riches in our 10-20 minute daily readings. However, what everyday plans are good for is the discipline of reading Scripture and that has its own virtues.

So here are a couple of thoughts I’ve picked up over the years. Feel free to add your own.

Quick note here – I have never been one to read the Bible in the morning. For one, I’m not really a morning person. Two, I hate the idea of looking at a clock and thinking I need to get going (“Sorry God, I gotta get the donuts”). I begin my morning in prayer and I feel later in the day allows for more time for study and reflection. So the following suggestions assume that. But do what works for you.

First Time Readers
1. Don’t worry about the days that you miss. I used to use my day off to catch up but I’d like to encourage you to keep moving forward.
2. Don’t worry about creating the ideal conditions. I used to have a whole ritual for my prayer/Scripture times. Coffee/Tea, proper conditions, optimal lighting, and worshipful mood – I never made it through those years.
As odd as it may sound, I used to avoid my readings after a difficult or an anger-filled day. I found it hypocritical if my thoughts and actions were unChristian throughout the day and then sat down to pray and read. Further, I felt bad that I wasn’t in the mood to “be spiritual”. Later I realized, that there would be few days that I felt at my spiritual optimum and that simply beginning my time with confession and a request for an open heart was an appropriate start (and maybe all that God wanted from me).
3. Consider switching translations as you go along. It’s ok, God won’t mind. You may find the new voice to be helpful, especially during the days you are struggling. Even better, consider using a Bible without the chapter-verse breaks like from the Books of the Bible Series. Also take advantage of the digital Bibles like YouVersion (they have their own reading plan that you can read on your computer, iPhone, etc.
4. Enjoy the silence. It’s tempting to finish the required reading and jump up to brush your teeth but one of the best disciplines of spiritual formation is to simply sit in silence. Mind you I didn’t say prayer, but silence. Sometimes the Lord speaks to us in these times.
5. Spend some time in prayer (and do so throughout your day).  Whether it be after the time of silence or whenever, spend adequate time in prayer. Among many blessings, it opens the Scriptures and allows for communion with the Lord.

Second, Third, Several Time Readers
1. See above. Did you skip the first time reader part? What because you have already read through once, you got it all figured out. It’s a good thing you’ve resolved to read the Bible again, your pride is out of control :)
2. Realize the importance that Scripture-reading is an important aspect of discipleship, not the only. So, spend adequate time in prayer, meditation, fasting, etc.
3. Consider NOT reading the books in order from front to back. I’m telling you Genesis looks different in June than in January.
4. Read along with a commentary or some other type of resource – there are more than 189 to pick from.
5. Use the cross-reference features.
6. Use a notebook to highlight what you’re thinking, what’s new to you and the helpful thoughts form the commentaries, as well as your own insights (some of them will be heretical, some of them will be brilliant).
7. Consider reading with a group. Shouldn’t be too hard to round up some people. Anyone want to read with me?

Advent Conspiracy 101

Primary Audience – Our local evangelical congregation, especially those who have lost the joy of gift buying.
Secondary Audience – Compassionate people ;-)

I mentioned the Advent Conspiracy in my sermon this past week, posted a link on Facebook and have received a decent response (and one or two confused ones) so I thought I would elaborate further.

Here’s the 101 – So many of us have a heightened anxiety during the Christmas Holiday season. From the gift-buying, the traffic, the coming credit card bill, parties and the complexities brought upon by family dynamics. Clearly, this is not what God had in mind when He decided to dwell among us.

A couple pastors, Rick Mickinley and Chris Seay, got together and asked what if we could get our churches to conspire to celebrate Christmas the way we as Christ-followers should? What would that look like? And as they ask on their website, “What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?” (You can read a fuller story at Collide Magazine).

Taken from their website, here are their “four simple ideas”:
Worship Fully.
Christmas is about Jesus. Full worship isn’t about more church services. It’s about everything, everywhere.
Spend Less.
Christmas is about turning love into a human, not a thing. Americans spend $400 billion on Christmas—we think a better party is possible.
Give More.
Christmas is about God giving himself away to the people he loves. Why don’t we do the same?
Love All.
Christmas is about love without borders or boundaries. We’re here to help your love be the same.

I echoed in Sunday’s message that we will spend $400 billion on Christmas gifts this year. And according to the World Bank, it would take between $10-30 billion to provide clean water and adequate sanitation to people (The $20 billion dollar difference is a measure of quality). AC has partnered with Living Water International to help bring clean water to people.

Why water and what does it have to do with Christmas? Because 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. “At Living Water International, we are addressing this most basic of needs by helping deprived communities acquire safe, clean water. Our goal is to substantially ease the global water crisis while addressing root causes such as injustice, oppression, and abject poverty. As this happens, communities and worldviews are transformed—both among those in desperate physical need, and among those who have been blessed with much.” read more on the water crisis on their website.

Some of my friends and our youth group have been participating in the Advent Conspiracy for a few years now. Along with a couple other practices, this has changed the way we celebrate Christmas, including gift-buying. For those we love and don’t know what to get, we’ve decided to give fair-trade items (such as coffee from places like One Village) or shirts/dvds of worthy causes like Invisible Children and use the money that we save from buying say a $20 gift instead of a $40 and donate the difference. As you can see, it adds up. Further, it creates conversation with our loved ones about why we choose to give them a dvd about human trafficking. Last year, one recipient said, “This is good because I don’t need another action movie.”

Every so often someone will ask me “But what does this have to do with Jesus?”. In all honesty, I think a lot and frankly a lot more than giving a tie or a Applebee’s Gift Certificate. But watch this video and hear from the gift recipients themselves.

Christmas [is] changing the world from Living Water International on Vimeo.

Why Believers Should Observe Advent

Primary Audience – Our local evangelical congregation
Secondary Audience – Evangelicals everywhere

As you probably know, Sunday was the first day of Advent. As I joked in a post last year, Advent is not a new thing. If you are among those who see it as a “trendy thing the kids are doing”, among your New Year’s Resolutions should be to stop underestimating X’ers and Millennials ;-).  Many younger evangelicals are trying to connect back to the ancient church and observing the church calendar is among the many practices that many evangelicals were not raised with. I am grateful that our church dedicates a portion of each service to light the candle(s) of the Advent Wreath but I fear that some worshippers may not see its significance and even worse, see it as something novel or cute.

Advent means “arrival” or “coming” as my friend Evan explains in his Advent Booklet (you should download it because it gives an excellent and easy overview) and it invites the Christian community “to enter into the story of Jesus Christ. During this season one meditates on the coming birth of the Christ but also on His future Second Coming …”. For those who have been raised observing the liturgical calendar, you have come to realize that everyone observes it a little differently. Further, as you click around and do your own research, you will see a lot of disparity regarding practices, meanings, interpretations, etc. As a fan of plurality, this makes this observance less legalistic and also exciting for me.

They key piece for why Advent became so necessary was celebrating it allowed me to reclaim the beauty and wonder of Christmas. I remember one Christmas in particular after aimless gift-buying, an underwhelming cantata/musical/singing Christmas tree and nearly overdosing on Christmas music, the first time I paused to meditate on the holiday’s significance was Christmas Eve night. There were feelings of unpreparedness and “missing out” stung my soul. Preparing my heart before Christmas was key and I became so thankful for the historical church’s practice.

Here are some links for you to check out but I’d like to encourage you to commit to observing this beautiful season of expectation of our Savior’s birth.

Everyday Liturgy, Thomas Turner has some excellent links and introductions for the longtime observer and for the newbie.
Evan Curry’s Advent Booklet
Jr Briggs (a church planter in Doylestown) is posting daily advent readings for his congregation on his blog.
The mobile Bible App YouVersion has an advent reading plan as well.

Reviewing The 7 Minute Difference by Allyson Lewis

I was provided with a free copy of this book and planner so that I could review it and am not oblgated to write a positive review.

So here is my honest review of the The 7 Minute Difference by Allyson Lewis

About once or twice a year, I read a time-management type of book (usually at a Barnes and Noble). For whatever reason, I have always had a skepticism towards self-help books, including a particular type of leadership/management books. Over the years, I have softened a little bit and have usually found an idea or two that I tried to work into my life. I still use some of Stephen Covey’s ideas (like “Important and Urgent”, “Not Important but Urgent”, etc.) but since getting my Palm Pilot turned Treo turned iPhone days, I have never made used his stuff digitally and have never been compelled to examine what his system offers.

Which brings me to The 7 Minute Difference – I read the book, looked through the workbook, and have been slowly applying some of the practices.

What I liked about The 7 Minute Difference

I must say that I felt very validated with some of Allyson’s suggestions because I am “sorta-kinda” doing some of them. As one who has the habit of creating numerous to-do lists while I am driving, I often space out on my tasks and plan when i finally get to my desk or get online or whatever the case may be. My iPhone has been helpful in recording some of my thoughts too but have never been consistent with it.

What has helped me is writing things the tasks for the next day whether on paper or on my phone. I tend to do this at night and then again before lunch. I even break them up into sub-categories of “Office”, “Home”, “Online” and “WO (“While I am Out”). Allyson’s system is better organized and I appreciated the intentionality.

I really liked the idea of “micro-actions”. Yep, it’s what you guessed – little things. Though I came across that idea and others before, some of them might as well be new again because I found myself motivated by the concept. The idea is to do smaller things regularly with defined time limits as in “Do a little every day …” type of thing. There were many social/professional micro-actions like reading body-language, expressing notes of gratitude for clients, etc.

Like Allyson, I am prone to cluttering my workspace. She was very adamant in making sure at least one of your work-spaces is always de-cluttered. To insure this, she recommended some micro-actions like spending 15 minutes each day clearing out one drawer, 20 minutes of your weekend sorting through shelves in a closet and schedule 10 minutes three times a week to work on your office files.

There are many other elements that I’ll mention. Like there is an entire thread dedicated to client relationships that to put it simply, in ministry I do things a bit differently but still, many of her suggestions were helpful. Another helpful theme is devoted to the importance of reading a minimum of 10 pages a day, preferably non-fiction.

Further this is not a Christian self-help book but Allyson repeatedly mentions her faith and practices. I appreciated that she did that without sounding cheesy. Further, she repeatedly her values of having a strong marriage, healthy relationships with her children, and quality of life aspects. I admit, every so often, I found myself wrestling with some of the “success” language but throughout the book, Allyson undermines materialism, the pursuit of wealth, etc. Having the life “you want” is a complicated discussion for me and this is not the book to discuss it over but I did appreciate the spiritual tone of the book.

If you are looking for a resource to help you be more productive and need some motivation to de-clutter and take a bit more control of your life, I recommend you check this out at

The Last Word Post 2 – The Bible is not just for Daily Devotions

A memory I hope my mind will never forget was a reoccurring scene growing up in my home where I would walk into the kitchen and see my mom read her Bible with a cup of tea next to her. I would go downstairs to watch television and on my way would peak in my dad’s home office study and see him reading his Bible. I grew up in a home where we did family devotions and where Scripture and prayer were emphasized. I didn’t like it, I mean really, who wants to hang out with their parents and if they must, do we have to read the Bible of all things? Still, I remember my parents’ devotion to have some type of impact on me.

So when I write this post with this title, it is not against the idea of daily devotions. If you reading this for the first time, my goal is to get you to read some of NT Wright’s books and this particular set of posts is on his book The Last Word and it’s about Scripture.  One thing Wright continues to do is take a fairly good thing and point out that it’s not enough. So it’s with enthusiasm that I say Amen and Amen when he writes that the Bible is more than just a “devotional manual” (p.32). As a pastor who hears constantly how hard it is to find time to read the Bible (and I know this personally as well), I know the last thing I want to do is allow any further possibility of guilt and risk the possibility of the Bible becoming even more intimidating for people. So critiquing the Bible as not just a mere “devotional manual” is a risky thing.

That said, the flip side is for those who do read their Bibles consistently but only treat it as a devotional manual miss out on so much beauty and power contained in the Scriptures. The problem that I found is when I use the Bible merely for personal devotions, I “hunt” only for what applies specifically to me and what I would consider to be useful that day. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing but I liken it to signing up for an expensive gym membership and only using it for the treadmill – there’s a lot more in there to take advantage of.

And this is where I find Wright as a scholar and as a pastor to be so helpful because he is among those that writes with the normal church worshippers in mind. Wright offers these strategies to gain more than just a devotional reading from Scripture.

First he says that we must employ a “totally contextual” reading of it (p. 128).
He writes:
All Scripture is “cultural conditioned.” It is naïve to pretend that some parts are not, and can therefore be treated as in some sense “primary” or “univeral”, while other parts are, and can therefore safely be set aside. The doctrine of Jesus’ divinity is culturally conditioned … the doctrine of justification by faith is culturally conditioned: only within a world already accustomed to notions fo God’s justice, of the Jewish law, and of the promise to Abraham could such a thing be conceived. We must read the Bible with as full and clear an understanding of these contexts as we can. To do so is an enormous, though exhilarating task.

He goes on to say that to understand the Bible’s context, we must also understand and appreciate our own. We read into the text our own biases and presuppositions and while we can “check” them, we cannot entirely divorce ourselves from our personal contextual lenses … and so simply, we should be aware of that because it alters our reading and applying of Scripture.

Second he suggests that there be a Liturgically grounded reading of Scripture. Similar to the public readings of the Old Testament, we should emphasize the reading of Scripture in our corporate spaces of worship. In a world of an hour long worship service that is scared to death from boring their congregations, this becomes quite the task. For some, it seems the reading of Scripture in between worship songs is just filler but for others, they are moments of power and inspiration. After all, why is that we sing and who we are truly singing for?

Third, there must be a privately studied reading of Scripture. I can hear some of you thinking, “Hey, this sounds like daily devotions!” Umm, yeah, but it’s a bit more too. Wright states that it is vital for Christians to read, encounter and study the scripture for themselves. And although Western individualism tends to highlight individual reading as the primary mode, he suggests that churches find ways to hear and share the worshippers’ private readings whether it be in small groups or other means.

Fourth Wright states that a reading of Scripture refreshed by appropriate scholarship is needed. He says, biblical scholarship is a gift to the church and we should find ways to incorporate the academy into our local churches (and vice versa – the local church into the academy). So what does this mean? Read Don Miller and Richard Hays. Do a Beth Moore study and have a Bible dictionary hand. Just as we profit from the work of other brilliant minds in our medicine and technology, we as believers would be wise to include biblical scholarship too.

Lastly Wright advocates that the Scriptures be taught by the church’s accredited leaders. How convenient for a recent seminary graduate to include this huh? Not only is he stating that churches need to guard the teaching but also reminding everyone that church leaders need to do more than organize and manage the affairs of the church but to put into practice what it means to live by the “authority of Scripture”. I was moved and convicted of this last point and while I know applying this relies on a congregation to allow its leaders to pursue this, it also means that church leaders must be on the ball with this responsibility as well. So may it be so with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Again, if you have a love for Scripture and mission, I hope you consider reading The Last Word – it’s an excellent book and provides a brilliant perspective on the Word of God.

Review of Economy of Love DVD with Shane Claiborne and Isaac Anderson

As part of the Ooze Viral Blogger program, I was given a copy of the “Economy of Love” dvd. Please know that just like all review programs that I know of, the blogger does not have to give a positive review. So this is my honest opinion. So the truth is that I liked it, but I was not amazed by it like I was say, The Irresistible Revolution – Shane set the bar pretty high with that one.  (But Jesus for President was absolutely fantastic).

Like most people, I’m a fan of aesthetics and it’s beautifully packaged and very well-produced. It’s professional and consistent with its theme. I especially loved the fantastic accompanying workbook. It provides a written commentary on what Shane said and a few notes like passage citations and sidebar comments.

F80B2CA3-FB62-4EB6-A354-F93EA6FF5C14.jpgAs always, Claiborne is excellent but those who have been following him for a while may be disappointed that they are not going to hear anything “new”.  I know he is more a practitioner and not a innovator but I’m just speaking as a reviewer who likes Claiborne but wasn’t particularly moved by the work. Know that it pains me to write that. If I can unpackage that a bit, I mean I’d like to understand more of perhaps the meditations and actions after The Irresistible Revolution as opposed to new ways and methods to think about the poor. I think we have become bored by the impovered, it’s probably due to the lack of ministering to them. However, more on the relational tithe would have been cool too. Maybe for future projects on a deeper look at the practices, “programs”, reflections of the Simple Way/Potter Street and how they can be adapted in different settings, rural, suburban, etc. As the risk of sounding overly critical, this would have been more helpful shortly after the release of Irresistible Revolution

However, if you are new to Shane’s work and ideas and if you are not going to read IR, there is no better place to start. But you should consider reading Irresistible Revolution.

Initially I was not sure what I would do with this work. At 3-5 minutes, the clips are very short which are nice in a sense because they leave time for discussion (if you have a group geared for that but they are short). There are 5 clips and the chapters are “Tension”, “Enough”, “Vulnerable”, “Filled”, & “Practice”. I’ve watched the series a few times now over the last week and a half and have thought of a few things. They make great sermon clips in traditional churches. I may may use the “Enough” chapter next time I preach to our suburban congregation. The clip being short will allow me to provide commentary around it.

Perhaps to consider a possible place for this work is in an Adult Sunday School setting or small group setting. I also wondered about our Ministry Commission Meetings (just brainstorming but I imagined one of our elders’ meetings. We have great elders, I think they would be moved by clips like “Vulnerable”). In addition to using them as a back-drop, they could simply be used as a home study group curriculum but I think the facilitator would have to bring some work to the table after the second week’s worth of dialogue dries up. Still, I’ll probably use it in our youth ministry, wished it was released last year (doh!). We’ve talked a great deal about generosity, stewardship, and the gospel that seeks to meet the local, global, personal, social, physical, emotional, spiritual needs of others. We’ve done Advent Conspiracy for a few years too.

All that said, the content cannot be better said in a such a concise amount of time. Shane’s words are very appropriate and as always, his presence comes across well – I think most audiences will find him very likable.

It’s definitely worth the $9.35 (from Amazon!)

Judge for yourself here’s a clip.

Economy of Love: Trailer from The House Studio on Vimeo.

What The Church Can Learn From FIFA

I am not a soccer fan. Obviously not, because I refer to it by its American name, instead of its nickname given by its loyal fans. To be honest, I think I would like soccer and every so often I consider keeping up with it. I like the international feel of soccer, its simplicity, and besides baseball, I would prefer my boys to play soccer than football (unless they grow to be Christian Goliath types, than football it is).

I was all set for the World Cup, even filled out a bracket – US beating Spain 27-21, whoops, I mean 2-1. I even watched Bend It Like Beckham. Yeah it was a girls night that Susan was hosting 3 years ago but I remember the movie (Ok, I watched 15 mins, ate some chips, and left but again, this all counts as evidence of building an appreciation for soccer). But everything changed for me with this World Cup with the poor officiating and the terrible leadership of this all-world grand event. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to not have some type of instant reply or utilize technology in professional sports. The simple reason is that the fan should not know more than the official. This is a problem for all major sports (beloved baseball included, but with such a long season, many mistakes can be accounted for. That said, tennis is probably the best sport at using technology to account for human error).

If you saw my Facebook status update the other day, I compared the President of FIFA, Blatter to a deadbeat dad who promises to get his kids real Christmas gifts … next year. I said that in light of his recent comments that said he would look into bringing the technology debate back to FIFA … after the WC is over. Then, yesterday I read on the ESPN ticker that the officials who made poor calls during the WC would not be officiating the next round. Now unless there is evidence that they were bribed and not simply mistaken, I find this incredulous. They decide not to use technology to get the call right and then banish the official for getting the call wrong – he’s human, of course they are going to miss calls!

It really bothers me to willingly withhold a solution (or at the very least, attempt to begin to solve a problem). Further, it especially bothers me when it pertains to something with truly enormous life-altering (and eternal) importance. As someone outside of the soccer world, FIFA looks quite idiotic. Similarly, it’s a worthy exercise to imagine what those outside the Church think of it. What do they believe is idiotic? Certainly they may be wrong on some points. From outside the soccer world it may seem, it may be hard to truly appreciate the reason that the goalie gets to use his hands (seems inconsistent). If you have played the game or ever been a goalie, you probably see it as a rather obvious solution. Those outside the Church may not see the need or the significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death and the centrality of the resurrection. If you understand evil and redemption or have experienced forgiveness, you probably see its necessity.

At this point, some of you are thinking, “Ok, so what?”. Others are thinking, “Did you just compare the resurrection to a goalie using his hands”. Yeah sorry about that but keep reading, I’ll try to upset you further.

What are some issues that the Church today needs to rethink, consider and discuss? Let’s discuss consumerism. Let’s begin with women in ministry. Already decided on that, what about colonialism? What about a retelling of the Gospel that answers global and local crises (yes Jesus is the hope for all. That is the foundation, but there is an entire tower to be built on Jesus’ mission, His Kingdom, His Hope …)?

Usually when you mention these examples, conservatives accuse you of being liberal. Please hear what I am saying, as one who believes in the orthodox doctrines of the Church (Jesus is Lord, Scripture is infallible, etc.), words like rethinking, reframing, even redefining are not bad words. Words, concepts, ideologies are fluid, they need to be adapted to be understood in culture. We as evangelicals do this with international missions and children’s ministry. It’s part of contextualization and in a post-Christian Western society, the problem is we don’t do it enough.

Though I wish it was only a matter of technology that could help the Church rethink some issues, I do believe that unlike sports organizations, the Church does not have to wait for meetings. We can have these discussions in our living rooms tomorrow, in the car with our family, in Sunday Schools, online, in coffee shops, and wherever else conversations happen.

I gave up on FIFA and the World Cup, nobody cares (nor should they). But we as a Church should care when people give up on the Christian faith. In fact, we mock the work of Jesus to not be grieved for people. It’s not about being “relevant” but it is about caring enough to reframe conversations so it is understandable, it is about loving people enough to care for them in order to share about a Savior who cares even more. It is about listening, sharing loving and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us.