Can God Stoop Any Lower?


“How can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? Which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in his cottage.”—William Gurnall

The Almighty and the Helpless


“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” ~J.I. Packer

Manhood as Cheap, Grownup Adolescence

This YouTube clip disturbed me this morning.  It may be old news to you guys, but I just stumbled upon it.  I’m all for being a fan of certain things, or teams, or people, but this is excessive to the point that it alarms and frightens me more than entertains or informs how we should act as men.

When our love for a team eclipses our love for our children, or spouse, we have held our manhood cheap.  Instead of being a man, we are infantile boys with the rights to drink, drive, marry, vote and own a gun – none of which we are mature enough to handle.

I wish this Dad would man-up, love his family more than the Red Sox, repent to his younger son and honor his older son who was more of a man than the child nearly 10x his age on the other side of the counter.

Full link and story here:

God’s Work on My Heart This Morning

God’s working on my heart this morning, big time. These moments are not as frequent as I’d like them to be, so capturing them before they go away is helpful (even if it means putting aside other work that’s got a deadline).

I won’t get into the death of Osama thing for right now (that will come later). This morning I stepped into my favorite Monday morning spot, Starbucks, and was greeted by somebody.

Not the baristas. Not the middle-class friends sipping a latte before work. Not the would-be writer or computer programmer plotting how to spend his millions when he makes it big-time (of course he won’t log of facebook to get to it).

No. It was Mike. And Mike is a crazy homeless guy. I see him in here all the time. He sits by himself. And he talks to himself.

Very loudly. In off-the-wall conversations about conspiracy theories, religious debates and how he used to work for the CIA.

I’m not joking.

I see him in here almost every day. And I have successfully avoided him for a good 6 months now.

Until this morning.

He walks right up to me, and asks, “Hi, I’m Mike. Are you a bible teacher at Christ Church?”

Called out.

You see he came over to the church the other week and asked if he could play our piano for a few minutes. We let him, and he played beautifully. He asked for 10 minutes, and played for 10 minutes.

Then left.

He told me this morning how thankful he was that we would let him play, and that he was trying to make a demo tape to give to some booking agents around town to line up a gig or two.

He just came up to say “Thank you.”

Mike. The crazy conversation guy I’ve been avoiding without ever bothering to get to know him.

And then another homeless guy comes and sits down right in front of me. And he stinks. I mean really smells something awful.

But I look at him and see that he’s just trying to warm up a little before he goes back outside. He’s looking for some rest, and he gets it sitting at a small table in a Starbucks.

When I look at this guy, or when I hear Mike going off on how he can’t “wait to evaporate,” why do I think I’m better than either of these guys?

What makes me believe that I have it together and these guys don’t?

Why do I think I’m better just because I shower in the morning? Or observe public social conventions of not talking to myself except in hushed whispers?

In Jesus’ day, people like this guy in front of me, or Mike, would probably have been considered “unclean”.

People to avoid. To not get to know, or welcome into your life or home.

The reality is that I’m just as unclean, and worth-avoiding as these guys are. I just hide it on the inside whereas these guys let it all hang out. I dress it up with zip-neck sweaters and deoderant, or ear-phones and a laptop, but I am really no different, no better than these guys.

I am unclean – an untouchable – and I need someone to reach out to me just as much as these guys.

And that’s what Jesus does. Its what he did when he walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Its what he does now, by His Spirit.

He comes to the untouchables. He comes to the unclean. And he touches them. He makes them clean.

That’s the beauty of the gospel, that when Jesus comes to the mess of our lives and this world, He touches it, and makes it clean. He makes it beautiful. And how dare any of us call “unclean” that which Jesus makes “clean,” (Acts 11).

Thanks Mike for making my day today. You’ve reminded me of the gospel in a way I couldn’t have done without you.

Thoughts on Thursday – How do you share the gospel with someone who hates you?

Watch this to get an idea of how the gospel can transform the way we retaliate towards others.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader Johnny Lee Clary (Youtube – Watch this in its entirety)

How does the gospel transform the way we relate to those who would be our enemies?

This is enmity towards enmity at its best.

Must Learn to Live As Missionary Citizens

Great thoughts by Timmy Brister over at Provocations and Paintings on Obama’s win and what it means for American evangelicals.  Read the whole thing here.  Here’s a quote:

On the other hand, I can’t help but think that the Obama presidency will help Christians who happen to be American to open our eyes to our syncretistic views of American Christianity.  While the fundamentalist impulse is to retreat into the ghetto, pull out the dispensationalism charts, and check the rapture ready index as a morning devotional, perhaps for the first time Christians will no longer seek to Christianize America but speak prophetically and live missionally in our growingly secular world.  Our greatest need is not to fight the battle against the culture but to fight against the battle against unbelief.  It is safe to live as functional atheists when we’ve got God in our constitution, on our coins, in the White House, but when the props are removed from us, how shall we then live?

We must learn to live as missionary citizens.

New Books: Church, Gospel, World, Reforming?

Well, yesterday I came home and had several new books waiting for me.  I thank the folks at Crossway who keep on sending me good and interesting reading material.  I want to highlight a couple of these and tell you all to be on the lookout over the next couple of months for some reviews.

The first book to mention is Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.  This book had been previously published only in the UK, but thanks to Crossway and the new publishing banner of Re:Lit, it is now available here.  I have only scanned through the book, but the first chapter is promising.  The gospel is word-centered and mission-centered, so our churches need to be based on the word and on mission – love it!  I actually first about this book from a friend of mine over in South Africa (cheers Stephen!)

Book #2 – Wordliness, by multiple authors, but edited by a pastor’s pastor, C.J. Mahaney.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this book when I first started seeing it pop up on the web, but knowing C.J.’s other books (Humility: True Greatness and Living the Gospel-Centered Life) and pastoral heart (if you need some exposure, go check out his blog), I’m confident that this book will be insightful and helpful in discerning where and how the gospel applies to our world in our cultural situation.

Book #3 – Reforming or Conforming edited by Gary W. Johnson and Ronald D. Gleason.  This book appears to be a collection of various scholars critiquing the emerging church movement.  I haven’t dove in at all, but I will be interested to see if they distinguish between emerging and emergent.  Some of the chapters do seem fascinating (like “It’s Wright, but is it Right? An Assessment and Engagement of the “Emerging” Retreading of the Ministry of Jesus.” Caveat: I find myself being hesitant to read books like this.  I have read some thoughts by some of these guys on the internet and find myself not agreeing with their conclusions.  That being said, I do find myself appreciating the concerns they bring up.  Reading this will hopefully bring the fundamental issues to the front with constructive critique and positive assessments instead of just the reactionary tendencies demonizing those who differ.

Book #4 – Death by Love: Letters From the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.  This book looks fascinating.  Its written as a series of letters addressing real live situations and people, with the full theological truth of the gospel.  I wasn’t expecting that, and I like it.  I honestly can’t wait to get into reading this one.  It seems to have a lot of potential of to help all pastors and lay leaders alike appreciate the depth of theological reflection, without losing sight of its pastoral implications.  This book also features some helpful answers to FAQ’s concluding each chapter (thank you Dr. Breshears for that!).  This is similar to their previous book, Vintage Jesus.

So, if you haven’t already done so, you should subscribe to my blog (button on the top right) and watch out for these forthcoming reviews.

Church planting & missions success? How would you define it!

We’ve been discussing some pretty interesting things in my class, God’s World Mission. One of the most profound is it evaluate the elitist mindset we can have as Western Christians that think “missions” happens when some Anglo-Christian folk waltz into a foreign community, begin to tell people about Jesus and claim that that is when God started working in said area.

It seems that the same could be said for N. American Church Planters at times. Now, as a whole I think that most missionaries, church planters and agencies that support them all, have very good intentions; we want to see people come to know Jesus Christ in real and transforming ways. But often times our methods and attitudes can be tainted more with elitism, than with humility and true, practical, Biblical theology. So, as a would-be church planter, its good to get some perspective check on these matters.

This thought comes from Ben over History in the Making:

“‘It just didn’t work out’ is a bad excuse by cultivators when God’s whole purpose for the plant was to tenderize a community. Likewise, when harvesters make headlines without acknowledging the yeeears of cultivating work that went-on before them in their cities… they strip God of credit.”

We neglect the reality that every corner of this world is His, and He has been working – sometimes ambiguously, sometimes quite clearly – much longer at redeeming His world and the people’s within it than we ever have.

So when it goes well with a church plant, and they are growing and engaging their community and the culture at large – lets praise God! And when it doesn’t seem to panning out, only a handful of people give their lives to the Lord, even though the pastors and leaders are sharing the gospel and teaching it faithfully – lets praise God for that too, that His word will not return void (ultimately, at least) and that He has begun a good work in that part of the world, that someday will be reaped. After all, “from Him, and to Him and through Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:36)

Thoughts, anyone? Agree? Disagree? Too naive? What do you think: How would you define success: as missionaries, as church planters, as commissioned members of Christ in extending the kingdom of God?

[Caveat and Disclaimer: This is not a post about the shortcomings of any particular agency, group, or even socio-political group of Christians (i.e. Western). This is about the presupositions that often times go unchecked, even amongst the most strategic, thoughtful and well intentioned people and groups. I for one am a big fan of many such agencies, like MTW, MNA, Acts 29, Redeemer Church Planting Network, the Sovereign Grace and 9Marks folks, etc., etc.. So, don’t hear what I’m not saying! Thanks for letting me clarify.]

Being God’s People in the Midst of the World – Dealing with Poverty

I recently read a very interesting article and critique of what I have been touting as a viable, long-term solution to the plight of poverty throughout the world.  The solution I had in mind was micro-finance – the concept behind Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank which provides small, entrepreneurial loans in impoverished communities with peer-reviewed acceptance and accountability programs.  This article was critiquing not the effectivness of such a strategy, but rather the long term effects such a strategy could have.  I think the writer brings up some good points to consider.  Here’s a quote:

While microfinance can play a role in development it is not a panacea for poverty, and the way it is practiced now can have serious unintended consequences that actually undermine development. If it is going to be successful it has to help people move away from borrowing and stop promoting collectivist notions and a zero sum mentality that only hinders development. Microfinance can be the first step on the ladder but macro-finance is needed too. For widespread and sustainable eradication of poverty, an attractive investment climate with secure property rights and rule of law are much more important in the long run.     

When I read critiques like this, it makes me feel that it is wrong to assume that there is a silver-bullet, one solution answer to this problem.  Such a complex problem requires a complex solution; and in essence, that is what the author was suggesting.  You can read the whole thing here.  But isn’t something better than nothing?  Maybe its well intentioned, but ultimately misguided – kind of like the One campaign (according to fellow blogger AB).  Still, does it mean we throw the short-term aide out for the sake of the long-term development?  I hate false dichotomies, so I lean in the direction of saying…do both!Why do I put this on my blog Intersection?  Because I believe that every area of life is one where life and faith converge, and that being a Christian – meaning, someone who trusts in God and lives in light of God’s kingdom breaking into our present reality (i.e. “on earth as it is in heaven”) – means that I am a co-conspirator in God’s restoration project.  That project is bringing the entire breadth of His world into a right relationship with Him – functioning as it was intended to.  Poverty is an effect of sin in the world, which is to simply say that it is not the way it’s supposed to be!I think and believe that these issues that the rest of the world faces (like poverty, like AIDS crisis, like Environmental conservatism, like child abduction and forced prostitution, etc…) are to be addressed aggressively and comprehensively by Christians, and if we’re not the ones taking the lead on such issues (instead of arm-chair quarterbacking it, or waiting on the government, or Bono, Brad, Angelina and George) then we’re really not doing our job.  Now I say that boldly out of conviction, but humbly, because I fail to live in light of it perfectly.  So, I’m open to suggestions of how to be a better thoughtful and willful believer.  You got any?

Great Question

Why do we give some of these guys (like Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll) such a hard time (and I am in Rob Bellthis boat), when they seem to be the only ones at least and trying and in some ways successfully “engaging the culture” we live in? The original question posed by Anthony was:

Question: how come people who claim to have the best theology to deal with transforming and reaching “the culture” seem the be the most ill-equipped, uncreative, and unsuccessful at actually speaking to “the culture?”

I would have to say that I think Driscoll stands outside of Anthony’s critique – at least to some degree.  I included him because he takes alot of hits (at least it seems) from some of his Reformed brothers and sisters.  Thoughts, comments, suggestions?Check out the original post over at Anthony Bradley’s blog.