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Flotsam and jetsam (12/26)

Good Reads

  • 10 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Organization: In churches, there is so much focus on the Sunday service experience that we neglect the health of the ministry organization where relationships and discipleship really happen.
  • Amazon Is Ripe for Disruption: Whilst I don’t anticipate any sort of overnight coup d’état, there are start-ups with the potential to nibble away at Amazon’s dominance over the next 12 months.
  • Jesus, Death, and Zombies: We have dismissed the Jewish and Christian hope of eternal life as superstition offensive to reason, but instead, we find ourselves trapped in a recurring nightmare. We know that we will die, but (as Woody Allen said) we don’t want to be there when it happens

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The Most Popular Posts of 2012

You may already be done with “best of 2012″ lists. But this was a fun year on the blog, so I thought I’d offer a quick roundup of the most popular posts from the last year.

10. The Hardest Question in Theology

One of my favorite posts from the last year, this one takes a look at different ways of answering the “Why does God allow evil?” question by translating it into “Why does God allow cats?” Also a worthy question.

9. A Job That Matters: Taking the Image of God to Work

The first of two posts from our series on the image of God, here we look at what the image of God means for how we understand work and vocation.

8. What “Mainline” Does and Doesn’t Mean

Just a random post on what it means to call a church “mainline.”

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/24)

Good Reads

  • The Callous Theology of James Dobson: Some Christian conservatives seemingly cannot help themselves.  They have to try to find some deep theological explanation for the evil we witness in places like Newtown, Connecticut.  But often in doing so, they injure the very faith they seek to represent.
  • Does God Hate Westboro Baptist Church? Before Westboro Baptist Church shows up in Connecticut with signs that read “God hates you” – perhaps they should consider the possibility that God hates Westboro Baptist Church.  Before they go and preach for people to repent, perhaps they should practice what they preach.  Before they scream out to crowds of people to fear God’s coming judgment, perhaps they should fear God’s coming judgment.  Self righteousness is a powerful trap – and one that entraps many people.

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 Just for Fun   

  • Cat Bounce. The name says it all. And make sure you “make it rain” before you leave.

A Prayer for Sunday (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

David Martyn Lloyd JonesThe famous Welsh pastor, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, was a well known British evangelical leader in the 20th century. As pastors of Westminster Chapel in London for almost 30 years, Lloyd-Jones developed a reputation as a powerful preacher and staunch opponent of liberal theology.

Lloyd-Jones was born on December 20, 1899. So, in honor of his birthday, this morning’s prayer comes from him.

“O Lord our God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us especially; we pray thee again, for our folly – for our foolish talking about our century and the ‘modern man’, as if anything had changed.

Awaken us, we pray thee, and bring us to see that thy method is still the same, that the truth remains unchanged and unchanging, and that the power of the blessed Holy Spirit is in no sense diminished.

Lord, hear us. Revive thy work O Lord, thy mighty arm make bare. Speak with a voice that wakes the dead and make the people hear. And unto thee and unto thee alone, shall we give all the praise and the honor and the glory, both now and forever, amen.”

Saturday Morning Fun…Assumptions and Perspectives

Here’s a great video for illustrating that things aren’t always how they appear to be.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/21)

Good Reads

  • Did Jesus Have a Fallen Human Nature? We are not to imagine that Christ blissfully waltzed through life untrammeled by the suffering, sorrows, and pains of fallen human experience. The Gospels present Jesus as one who was hungry, tired, thirsty, grief-stricken, and even morally tempted and vulnerable to conflicting desires.
  • Why “Just Telling Your Story” Is NOT the Best Way to Share the Gospel: I understand why this method of what we used to call “witnessing” is popular. Well-meaning pastors realize that people are scared to tell people about Jesus, and they want to find an easy method that they can use to teach their congregation how to share their faith without actually having to ask them to do anything—at least anything hard. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t work—at all.
  • The Power of Church Programs?: for nearly two thousand years the chief activity of the church has not been programs but preaching. Somehow, in the last few decades, we have lost sight of the power of preaching and put our faith in programs, as though preaching is insufficient to bring about change.
  • Got a Ph.D. in Theology? Go Work for a Church: I’ve argued before that churches need more ministers who are deeply theologically trained–not so they can re-state the old theological positions so much as think creatively and contextually and help their congregations to do “local theology” together as they collectively respond to the impulses of the gospel in their lives. (Or, you could save some money and just do a Th.M. instead!)

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/19)

Good Reads

  • Are the Metro-Evangelicals Right? Andy Crouch (or his headline writer) coined the catchy term “metro-evangelicals” to describe the growing urban resurgence within American evangelicalism.
  • Looking Ahead to 2013: What Should the Church Expect? If you do not make assumptions about the future, then you are not leading. Good leaders constantly assess the cultural climate. In other words, they do research. Good leaders are also willing to change their assumptions. In other words, they are flexible.
  • We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders: Practicing anything mildly important, like say skiing or golf, without training is inadvisable. The fact that so many of your managers are practicing leadership without training should alarm you.
  •  Five Things You Should Know about Pastors’ Salaries: In many churches, the pastor’s salary is a quiet issue. There is a sense of discomfort from both the pastor and the members when the topic is broached. Such discomfort is unfortunate, however, because a number of churches will not seek every year to make certain the pastor is paid fairly.

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Grading Came Alive, and I Died

grading, teaching, education

People have long wrestled with the meaning of Romans 7. Is it talking about mature Christians, immature Christians, non-Christians, Jews under the Law, or someone else entirely? The options are legion.

Driving home today, with the end of the semester in the rearview mirror, and an imminent collision with tomorrow’s grade deadline looming in the windshield, I finally realized who Paul had in mind as he penned these famous verses. You just need to tweak the translation slightly.

This is for teachers everywhere.

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3 Reasons Barth Is a Problem (Evangelicals & Universalism, part 5)

Do evangelicals have anything to learn from universalists? That’s the question we’ve been exploring for a couple of weeks now. And we’ve been using Karl Barth as our conversation partner along the way. Although we’ve seen that he rejected the label “universalist,” there are good reasons for thinking that Barth’s theology leans pretty strongly in that direction. So that makes him a useful test case for whether evangelicals and universalists can hang out together and have interesting conversations.

In the last post, I argued that there are at least four lessons we can learn from how Barth approaches the question of universalism. And they are important lessons. In this post, however, we need to turn the page and ask where the problems are. A good conversation doesn’t mean that we have to just nod our heads politely at everything the other person has to say. That may be appropriate when the person next to you at the dinner party says something particularly stupid, and you decide that it just isn’t worth the time and effort it would take to explain why. So you let it pass. But a real conversation is one in which both the other person and the topic matter to you. And that kind of conversation requires a more meaningful kind of engagement.

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Forced to Wait: An Advent Reflection

Waiting. We’re not very good at that anymore. Maybe we never were. But in this instant-everything modern age, we get frustrated if we have to wait for any length of time. Just the other day, I complained to my wife about a package I’d ordered from Amazon that hadn’t arrived yet. After all, it had been three whole days. And, according to a recent New York Times article, “People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds.” That’s .25 seconds. Way too long for any sane person to wait.

Waiting feels like time wasted. And who can afford to waste time these days? We have too much to do. Every second counts.

boredom, boring, waiting, advent, anticipation

But the advent season is all about waiting. During advent, we’re reminded of all those centuries when God’s people awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises, the years of uncertainty, the time of doubt. This side of Christmas, it’s easy to think that this season is all about arrival, the birth of Jesus. And that’s partly true. The story does find its fitting climax in the coming of the Messiah. But let’s not forget the waiting that preceded Christ’s advent, the waiting that marked the time before Christmas, the waiting that God forced his people to endure.

Maybe a little waiting is a good thing. I know that’s a heretical thought for some of us, but bear with me. Here are five things that I think we can get from waiting. They probably won’t help much the next time that you’re stuck in a traffic jam on your way to an important event, but I still think they’re worth reflecting on.

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