QUOTABLES: When Moderation is the Enemy (C.S. Lewis)

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” -C.S. LEWIS

I think we can test our faith commitment by a similar test: Either we are completely disinterested and uninvolved, or we are completely invested in God’s church and mission. The one thing we dare not be is moderately committed church attenders. Of course, the reality is that the American church is by and large comprised of and producing moderately committed church goers. We will be called to account someday — church leaders and attenders alike. May we become fanatics for Jesus once again and “turn the world upside down” for his cause (Acts 17:6). Lord, help us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength — and forsake all others for your Kingdom’s sake. I believe MainStreet is calling people to a higher commitment to Christ and I’m proud to lead this beautiful, messy yet determined community of ragamuffins!  

Jacob and the Wardrobe

Here’s an old DI classic from the winter of ’06. Enjoy!

Most of us can remember sharing those childhood adventures exploring secret passages and hidden closets in the home of a friend or relative. It was always the closets tucked under the stairs that seemed the most mysterious to me. At five years of age, that six-foot crawl space seemed to go on for six miles!

It is no wonder, then, why author C. S. Lewis chose a wardrobe in the spare room of an old professor’s house to be the passageway into the magical land of Narnia. The Chronicles of Narnia have been captivating the imaginations of children and adults alike for a half-century now. With the recent movie release (December 2005) of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, millions more are being swept up into the closet adventures of the four British children—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

Yet, long before Lewis began writing his tales of a hidden passageway from our world into a world far greater, far more adventurous and heroic, God had already written it into His Book! You may remember the famous story. Continue reading Jacob and the Wardrobe

Life Verses 2: Phil 3:13-14

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

The first Scripture that made an impact on my life was Philippians 3:13-14.  The impact was not great, but it was the first time God’s Word would nudge itself off of my shelf and into my daily life. I don’t think I knew much about what it meant in context, but like many teenagers flirting with God there was something about the message that touched my life at that moment.

The moment I speak of was my senior year of high school. I was preparing to graduate, leave a significant part of my past behind, and set out into college life. I was growing in my faith, hanging with Christian friends, even helping start a Bible Study with the bar tender at a local Golf Club where I worked. My faith was real, but my understanding of Scripture extremely sparse. But this verse fit with this transitional moment, and so when it came time to write something of lasting significance under my yearbook photo, I chose to mark myself forever with a Bible verse by my senior photo. Here it is in all its glory. (Notice my smooth, silky blonde hair carefully combed in the style of the late 90s — I call it the “golden arches.”)

photo

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Phil 3:13-14 NLT). 

Now, I think I included this verse in my yearbook because I liked the bit about leaving the past behind and looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I was also big on working hard, pressing on in life goals, and trying to achieve things of value. And I knew by now that I wanted God to be one of those pursuits in my life. That’s about all I think this verse meant.

The irony of it all, looking back now, is that if I had read and understood the full context of this passage, I would have seen a young, zealous man named Paul who had achieved a lot in his early life and had a spiritual trophy case full of proof of hard work. Yet, he now looks back on that old life and all his achievements and declares them as worthless garbage (“shit” in the original Greek) in comparison to his new life in Christ.

Friends, what blows my mind is that about one year from when I put this Scripture in my yearbook, I was about to have my own “Damascus Road” encounter with Christ in college, and I was about to clean house of all my former idolatrous pursuits and declare all my high school achievements as dog dung compared to my new faith in Christ.

But my yearbook is evidence that I still was not there yet. How so? Humorously, if you look at the photo and caption again, you’ll notice that before you get to the Bible verse you have to read through my list of athletic honors at the top. Decoded it reads:

BASKETBALL 5 YEAR LETTER WINNER

#45, CAPTAIN

1,000 POINT SCORER, I DID IT!

Next I made a few comments about my group of friends in code and finally I’d tip my hat to God at the end. The truth is Basketball was my obsession, my number one pursuit, my “all in all” in high school. My identity and self-worth, as I would soon discover in college, was wrapped up in my basketball abilities and accomplishments.  Next in importance came my friends, and God was at least in third place in my life.

 Yet, what a blessing to see the Word of God beginning to join the conversation of my life in late high school.  Jesus was clearly pursuing me, and seeds had been faithfully planted by my parents, pastors, and other Christian influences.  This slight tip of the hat to God’s Word in my yearbook was like a strategically placed land mind by a covert operation of the Holy Spirit, and a year or so later at Bethel College a match would be lit and the full message of Philippians 3 would explode in my heart and change everything.
Stay tuned.

Continue reading Life Verses 2: Phil 3:13-14

Legacy (by Danny Evans)

We all come from a diverse background.
Some may be sound.
Others may be a roller coaster of lost and found. 
No matter where we originate, where we choose to navigate
despite this will say a lot about our future state.
Good or bad, your past is gone.
Let’s leave a legacy in which the light will dawn.
With work, friends, and family, let’s not just do good as a formality.
Let’s leave a legacy because Christ loved us first.
For He is who people really thirst.

READING THE BIBLE AS (8): Signposts to Christ & the Gospel

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#8 – READING THE BIBLE AS SIGNPOSTS TO CHRIST & THE GOSPEL

I used to read the Bible as a long, strange book of OT stories (e.g., David & Goliath, Noah and the Flood, Daniel in the Lion’s Den) that taught moral lessons but had little to do with the New Testament’s focus on Christ and the Gospel. Yet, we are very mistaken if we believe Christ and the Gospel only enters the story of the Bible in the New Testament. In fact, the entire Old Testament — Law and Prophets — serve as sign posts pointing us forward to the Christ who would come.  The OT is but “types and shadows” (Heb 10:1; 8:5) of the reality that came in Christ “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4). 

Jesus himself is the proof of this point.  Jesus said to the religious Bible teachers who knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). This is a radically bold claim by Jesus!  Yes, according to Christ himself, all the OT Scriptures have himself as their ultimate goal.  And, as this incident seems to suggest, some people will read the Bible again and again and somehow miss Jesus who is found penetrating every page. 

Again, Luke tells us the story of the couple on the road who encountered the risen Christ and had their eyes opened to see Jesus penetrating the entire OT:  “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Yes, Jesus showed them how the entire Book was pointing them to himself.   Continue reading READING THE BIBLE AS (8): Signposts to Christ & the Gospel

READING THE BIBLE (7): As Confrontation & Summons

 

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#7 – READING THE BIBLE AS CONFRONTATION & SUMMONS

There is a brand of preaching and Bible reading in vogue today that fosters a “positive thinking” or Reader’s Digest approach to God’s Word.  Basically, many people just want to hear heart-warming sermons that make us feel good about ourselves.  Many read the Bible looking for an inspiring story and a warm fuzzy.  This shouldn’t surprise us in the least.  The Bible itself warns us that “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3).  Well, the likes of Joel Osteen and other “prosperity preachers” have stadium-sized churches packed each week with people getting their ears tickled.

Yet, God’s Word to us doesn’t always have shiny wrapping and a big red bow attached.  God’s Word isn’t always warm and fuzzy. God’s Word sometimes needs to hit us like a ton of bricks.  Sometimes we need a wake up call or a holy confrontation.  When we open our Bibles we are faced with a library full of holy confrontations and summons — stories that confront a person with God’s command and summons people to new tasks. Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (7): As Confrontation & Summons

CNN: “Is Monogamy Realistic?”

purity-ringOriginally posted October 2009. -JB

The following paragraphs are taken from CNN.com.  This issue is not going away and the slide toward the normativity of sexual promiscuity is only growing steeper by the day.  How can Christ-followers show the world the beauty of God’s design for monogamous sexual fidelity?  

Here’s the message the pop culture and even social scientists doing university research are feeding the emerging generation:

In the age of hookups, friends with benefits and online dating, and as human life expectancy grows, is it still reasonable to expect people to pair up and stay monogamous until death do them part?

“It’s realistic that some people can mate for life in the same sense that some people can play the Beethoven violin concerto or other people can ice-skate beautifully or learn a new language,” said psychiatrist Judith Eve Lipton.

Added evolutionary biologist David Barash, “It’s within the realm of human potential, but it’s not easy.”Lipton and Barash, who have been married 32 years and are the co-authors of “Strange Bedfellows” and “The Myth of Monogamy,” said serial monogamy may be more realistic — a model in which people move from one committed long-term relationship to another and choose partners for different reasons at different stages of their life.

What do you think about people pairing up and staying monogamous until death do them part?  Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed asks us: What can we do to show, teach, and pass on marriage as permanent and the significance of fidelity? Continue reading CNN: “Is Monogamy Realistic?”

READING THE BIBLE (6): As God’s (Crazy) Family Album

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#6 – READING THE BIBLE AS OUR FAMILY ALBUM

Ever look back at your parents’ year books and laugh and gag at how ridiculous they appear? Ever read the embarrassing notes your friends scribbled in the margins of your year book? Acne covered faces, scrawny legs and awful hairdos. Many of us would like to bury or burn ours. Yet they are a part of us. That is our past and those are the people who shared our journey.

The Bible is our family album, the diary of our ancestors, the carefully preserved yearbook of all of our long-lost relatives in the faith. These are the men and women who have gone before us, paving the way, testing the waters, making mistakes that we will hopefully learn from and, most importantly, providing examples of imperfect yet real faith in God. I am so grateful that God didn’t sugarcoat the Bible and airbrush all the players. We find ordinary people — warts and all.

Let’s see: There’s David the murderous adulterer “after God’s own heart.” The dishonest schemer named Jacob. Abraham sends his wife Sarah into Pharaoh’s harem to save his own neck. Moses has a speech problem. Solomon, the “wisest man who ever lived”, had a womanizing problem and lifestyle that would make Hugh Hefner blush. Yet God still used him to pen a lot of wise proverbs.

The prophets are like our crazy, embarrassing uncles from down south who we’re ashamed to claim. You know: Isaiah runs around naked for a couple years. Jeremiah is on prozac in his constant battle with debilitating depression. Ezekiel was cooking up food over a fire of human excrement. Jonah gave God the finger and ended up getting in a big fishing accident… Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (6): As God’s (Crazy) Family Album

READING THE BIBLE (5): As Practical Guidebook for Life

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In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#5 – THE BIBLE AS GOD’S PRACTICAL GUIDEBOOK FOR LIFE

The most popular approach to Scripture in modern-day America is to search it for practical principles for daily living. The Bible is God’s “Handbook for Life”, “Survival Manual”, “Guidebook for Living” or, even more basic, the acronym “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”. Well, the Bible certainly does serve this purpose.  Consider the Proverbs for starters:

“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young” (Prov 1:2-4).

Here we have an entire collection of inspired God-fearing nuggets of practical wisdom to apply to our lives. As we examine the culture around us few would argue with the claim that good old-fashioned wisdom, discipline, and insight are a rare commodity. And who wouldn’t benefit from some fresh pointers on how to “live disciplined and successful lives” and do “what is right, just and fair”?  Such Scriptures speak marvelously to the nitty-gritty details of life — money management, parenting advice, healthy conflict management skills, work ethic and a storehouse of moral guidance and sexual warnings.  As a youth pastor I believe the emerging generation is overstuffed with knowledge and information but lacking the wisdom to rightly filter and apply it to their lives.

Besides the so-called wisdom literature (e.g., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job) we find much practical teaching and personal exhortation within the Letters to the churches.  The power of Scripture to be one’s guidebook for righteous living is clear in the pastoral epistles: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Tim 3:16).  In this way the Bible provides us with a moral compass, a standard of right and wrong to measure things by. Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (5): As Practical Guidebook for Life

READING THE BIBLE (4): As God’s Grand Story

Lifechurchindy-YourLifeGodsStory119In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#4 – THE BIBLE AS GOD’S GRAND STORY

The Bible is God’s Grand Story of his dealings within history — the grand metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. We are all characters within God’s unfolding plot, playing supporting roles that either further the divine Author’s purposes or rebel against them. As I have often said, our primary posture toward God is one of humble submission to the His goals for his story and an eagerness to find our role within its pages.

Many, however, have disregarded the basic “narrative structure” of the Bible, refusing to read it as story. Clark Pinnock says it well:

“Even though the Bible is basically a storybook, theology has not bothered to orient itself in that way. It has preferred to play intellectual games and to adopt a rational order for itself, with the result that the story remains in the background as a presupposition that does not call the shots. Theology has been enamored by the rationalist ideal on the (dubious) assumption that people are basically rational beings who need to be appealed to with abstract arguments. This is not only untrue in relation to people, it refuses to take seriously the plain fact that in Christianity truth is in the story.”

Not only does this deny the narrative form of the Scriptures, it fails to see that humans all tell ourselves a particular story in order to make sense of our lives and interpret reality.  N. T. Wright argues that stories are a “fundamental characteristic of worldviews”, which he broadly defines as “the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are.”

As John Eldredge notes in his small book Epic,

“Life doesn’t come to us like a math problem. It comes to us the way a story does, scene by scene… Each day has a beginning and an end. There are all sorts of characters, all sorts of settings. A year goes by like a chapter from a novel. Sometimes it feels like a tragedy. Sometimes like a comedy. Most of it feels like a soap opera. Whatever happens, it’s a story through and through.”

Yes, we are all living our lives within some controlling story — whether we are conscious of it or not.   Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (4): As God’s Grand Story

READING THE BIBLE (3): As the Revelation of God’s Majesty

Isaiah in the Temple (Isaiah 6) 

Isaiah in the Temple (Isaiah 6)

In this series of posts we’re exploring the different ways the Bible confronts the reader and the appropriate response to each.

#3 – THE BIBLE AS REVELATION OF GOD’S MAJESTY

Christians often take the mind-blowing fact of God’s self-revelation for granted. Our faith stands or falls on the foundational belief that God has stooped to reveal himself to his creatures through the limited mode of human language and speech. The Scriptures are the very Word of the God who spoke and the entire cosmos came into being.

How can this stunning belief not continuously leave us with jaws dropped and hearts gripped? And the more we read what God has revealed in Holy Scripture, the more we realize that God does not desire to be hidden from his creatures. His majesty and glory are intended to be beheld by those who are “pure in heart.” His divine attributes are on display in lofty psalms of praise, vivid theophanies that shake the earth and strike people dead, poetic descriptions of God’s creative handiwork, God’s mighty power and mercy revealed in his salvation acts on behalf of his people.

When the reader encounters the Holy God at Sinai, coming down in thick cloud accompanied by fire and thunder, the reader should be struck with holy, paralyzing fear and awe. Likewise, when we read of Isaiah’s encounter with God in the temple (Isaiah 6) the appropriate response is to, like Isaiah himself, stand speechless and overwhelmed by our own sin in the presence of such a holy God. When Scripture paints a picture of God’s train filling the temple, high and lifted up, we ought to join the Angels in crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Continue reading READING THE BIBLE (3): As the Revelation of God’s Majesty

Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life.

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