QUOTABLES: The Boldest Words Ever Uttered (Stopford Brooke)

“I am the LORD’s servant,” Mary answered. “Be it unto me as you will” (Luke 1:38).

“Nothing impresses us more than the calmness with which, after the first trouble was past, the virgin received the message of the angel. She was not dazzled nor excited by her glorious future. She was not touched by any vanity. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” In nothing more than in this is the simple greatness of her character displayed. What was the reason of this? It was that the thought of God’s presence with her destroyed all thought of self. She could not think of her greatness otherwise than as bestowed by God. ” He that is mighty hath magnified me.” She could not feel the flutter of vanity. It died in the thought of the glorious salvation which was coming to her country and the world. She was nothing; God was all.

Do you want a cure for that false humility, that mock modesty, which says, ” I am not worthy,” and trumpets its denial till all the maryworld knows that an honour has been offered; which, while it says with the lips, “It is too great for me,” feels all the time in the heart that self-consciousness of merit which betrays itself in the affected walk and the showy humility? Would you be free from this folly? Learn Mary’s secret.Feel that God is all; that, whether He makes you great, or leaves you unknown, it is the best for you, because it is His work.

Do you want a cure for that unhappy, restless vanity, ever afraid, yet ever seeking to push itself forward; ever shy, yet ever trembling on the verge of impertinence; which shows itself to inferiors in rank in a bustling assumption of superiority which suspects it is not superior, and to superiors in rank by an inquietude, an ignorance of when to speak and when to be silent, sometimes by a fawning submission, sometimes by an intrusive self-assertion? Learn Mary’s secret. Feel that you are the child of God, not the servant or the master of any man, but the servant of Christ, who was the servant of all.

Vain! What have any of us to be vain of? Rank? wealth? beauty? pomp of household? dress? splendour of appearance? A few years, and we are lying in the chill earth of the churchyard; our eye dead to admiration, our ear to praise; and the world — whose smile we forfeited eternal life to court — regrets us for an hour, and then forgets. And that is human life! No; it is the most miserable travesty of it. We stand in the presence of God.

What are all the adventitious advantages of rank or wealth to Him, or to us in Him? Only the tarnished spangles, the tinsel crowns, the false diamonds, which are the properties of this petty theatre which we call the world. Once be able to say in your heart, ” behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me as He will,” and vanity and all its foolish fluttering tribe of small victories over others, of pushing meannesses, of restless desires, of little ostentations, will abandon your heart for ever. The true greatness, wealth, nobility, is to be at one in character with the everlasting goodness, truth, and love of God; to be great with the magnanimity of Christ, to be rich in all the eternal virtues, to be noble among the aristocracy of the best men. He who possesses these can never be vain, and the way to possess them is the Virgin’s way — to be the servant of God, to do His will.”

-STOPFORD A. BROOKE (1832-1916)

QUOTABLES: The Subtle Power of Societal Idolatry

The Book of Wisdom and Romans remind us that the awesome power of idolatry is found above all in its ability to shape the structures of society so that they suppress the possibility of perceiving the world in any way other than idolatrously. It is idolatry when much of the world is constructed on the basis of economic and political systems that foster radical individualism, that make competition the supreme value in life, that reward greed, that enslave families to endless work without meaningful rest or spiritual growth, that camouflage such slavery by an endless round of entertainment diverting attention from the deadening boredom of a life dedicated exclusively to acquisition of meaningless things, and that, through its control of the media, progressively convinces all the enslaved that this pattern is “natural” and “good” and “free.”

-LUKE TIMOTHY JOHNSON, in The Creed

“With Care” by Danny Evans

“With Care” by Danny Evans
This Christmas season, let us not commit holiday treason by excluding anyone from celebrating the real reason.
It doesn’t matter how long someone has known God; give everyone the nod.
Some people will enter under a steeple for the first time this December, so give them Him to remember.
While we may all be different, we are all the same because we reside in Emmanuel’s name.
So, approach all with care as we share our peace that will only increase.

A Snowman Explains the Meaning of Life

Jeremy and Snowman (Ernest).1Here’s an old DI Classic from 2006 — I was so young and fun!

My newest friend, Ernest, was born on a cold, snowy day a couple weeks ago. Keri and I rolled him into existence out of our own Sunday afternoon boredom. He is tall like his parents.

Perhaps God created us for a similar reason. While the Father, Son and Holy Spirit always shared a perfect fellowship of love and creativity, they still took great joy in fashioning human beings in their image and inviting us to join in their joyful dance of living, loving and creating for the glory of the Lord.

Did you know that we were made to share in God’s work of creation and caring for his world? How cool is that?! After creating the first human beings, God didn’t give them a list of commands, tell them to be good and go to church every Sunday! Not at all! God blessed them, saying: “Live it up! Create! Fill the Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth” (Gen 1:28). They were endowed with divine creativity and invited to join in the creational work of the Creator God.

Once this truth sinks in, we can start rethinking what being “spiritual” is all about. We discover that being truly spiritual means living in tune with God’s purpose for our lives. Looking back, I now realize that building, creating, fashioning that snowman out of that sticky white stuff God so generously showered from the sky was about the most spiritual thing Keri and I could have done that day. It was a divine activity!

So, how spiritual are you—really? In what ways are you living out your purpose of creating, shaping, restoring, growing, improving, and enjoying the beautiful gifts God has given you? If you’re an artist, are you drawing, painting and sculpting with all your being? If you’re an athlete, are you disciplining yourself, strengthening your body, and maximizing your God-given potential? If you’re an engineer, are you designing, building and producing with all of your might? Musicians, are you composing and singing, dancing and playing for the Lord, letting your song join the angels’ chorus in heaven? Go write a novel, learn a language, play an instrument, run a marathon, love your friends, laugh, cry, and tell jokes! Climb mountains, snowboard, ski, juggle, or fall in love. As Bible says:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

So, next time the snow flies and you find yourself feeling bored, go do something truly spiritual: Go build a snowman!

Glee by Danny Evans

“Glee” by Danny Evans
This time comes but once a year, but let me make it clear that everyday we should hold the real meaning dear.

This is the time of Jesus’ birth, who would give us worth here on this earth.

It’s okay to give gifts, but let us not drift from what it really means to give. That is to always love and forgive.
Let us spend time with the ones we adore. What else could we really ask for?
So, decorate the tree, but when done, get down on your knees to thank Him for filling your heart with glee.

The Dangers of Celebrity Pastors & Runaway Megachurch Cultures

Below is an excerpt from one of the most spot-on, timely and utterly devastating articles I’ve read in years about church leadership. I wish it never needed to be written, but now that it has I hope all pastors, leaders and Christians enamored with the intoxicating excitement associated with being part of a booming, explosive church will take it to heart. I certainly am.

Here is just one excerpt from this must-read article The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill: What can we learn from the collapse of Mark Driscoll’s church? by Ben Tertin

By their results you shall know them

How can King Jesus’s leadership characteristics ever make center stage if churches reserve that space for a growing church’s bolder, sexier, more exciting qualities?

For the person or community bent on “going big” or “making a huge impact,” the desire for popularity might be unavoidable. Simple, faithful, Jesus qualities and Christian fruits of the Spirit simply do not make headlines. Yet, even if such virtues don’t feed rapid church expansion, at least a real church with real roots will stand—whether it be a bonsai or a mighty oak.

At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he says, “Beware of false prophets; by their fruit you will know them.” We quote our Teacher. So why don’t we apply his words? “So often Christians approach that as if it says, ‘by their gifts you shall know them’ or ‘by their results or charisma you shall know them,'” Schlaepfer says.

“In context, Jesus is saying the exact opposite. He is talking about the fruit of the Spirit. By their spirit, their love, their joy, their peace, their gentleness—that is how you will know them.”

New Testament professor and scholar Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed, The King Jesus Gospel, The Kingdom Conspiracy) says, “Leaders matter, period. Leaders matter because they become embodied in the culture they lead, and the bigger the culture, the more significant the leader.

“I’ve been in a megachurch in Pennsylvania,” says McKnight, “where the pastor was a gentle, loving, caring, godly leader. It was a big church that was healthy as it could be—because that pastor knew what he was doing in creating a culture of grace.

“And I’ve been in other churches, of course, where it was a controlling pastor with a controlling church culture. I do not think that it is at all taking a cheap shot to say that this is what happened with Mark Driscoll. I think he had elements of toxicity in his character that were amplified as the system grew bigger.

“This is going to be a great lesson for church leadership during the next 20 to 30 years.”

The celebrity collapse

Part of the problem is the “free-wheeling” attitude that many young, evangelical church planters take on. They see the booming “success” of men like Driscoll and want to emulate.

“You get a free-wheeling evangelist who plants a church, and all of the sudden you’ve got a person who is responsible for everything that’s happened,” says McKnight.

Western Seminary’s Dr. Gerry Breshears, a past friend and co-author with Driscoll, says many churches today have a problem with “giving lip service to ‘co-laborers,’ while depending on a single superstar.” And if it is all about the superstar, he says, then what if things go wrong with him or her?

“You might not have a church anymore.”

“Let’s face it,” agrees McKnight, “in some of these megachurches, the celebrity factor is so powerful that without them the place collapses.”

“Paul describes bad leaders in the church as lovers of themselves, boastful, proud, abusive, unforgiving, without self-control, brutal, rash, conceited,” says Schlaepfer. “I think a lot of times people who are interested in achieving results—thinking big—are willing to compromise on those character qualities.”

A compromising church culture dominated by a celebrity leader leads to corrosive chemistry. “Every church has its own culture,” continues Breshears, “and every church culture can go toxic.”

“The elders at [Mars Hill] knew the problems they were facing with their celebrity pastor, but it got out of control,” McKnight says. “Speaking into that situation did not lead to the kinds of virtues and characters they wanted, and so it crumbled.”

“If I hear one more person at a church conference tell me that they finished Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs and picked up lots of great ideas on how to lead their church, I’m going to scream,” says Schlaepfer.

“The whole corporate model for managing a church has infiltrated and affected the church more than anybody realizes.”

“I looked upon it, and received instruction.”

The Mars Hill empire has collapsed, under the weight of business principles gone wrong and the lie of celebrity ministry. But the key rot in the Mars Hill roots wasn’t just the structure; it was the source of dependence.

“When it is dependent upon one charismatic leader,” says McKnight, “it is not dependent on Jesus.”

Read full article here.

I (Jeremy) have watched the demise of Mark Driscoll and the collapse of Mars Hill Church with much sadness. It is tragic, and yet, sadly, not all too surprising to me. When are we going to wake up and learn the dangerous snares of celebrity and church cultures driven by bottom line business marketing strategies where numerical expansion and efficiency are the key values? Were those the core values of Jesus’ ministry?

Read the New Testament and study Jesus’ ministry, the leadership of the apostles, and the growth of the early church. Sure, you may find explosive numerical growth at key isolated evangelistic “events” (e.g., 3,000 new converts at Pentecost). But let’s be clear: Pentecost is describing individual responses to one momentous evangelistic message, and has nothing to do with offering a model or justification for the establishment of any kind of numbers-driven organized mega church!

I am convinced that the ministry of Jesus and the early apostolic church was anything but efficient. It was messy — annoyingly messy. It was slow — frustratingly slow. Leaders were humble servants washing the feet of lepers, embracing the outcast, visiting people in prison, hosting late night prayer meetings, taking in orphans and widows, breaking bread in their homes, helping others follow the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and “enjoying the favor of all people.” Today many churches want the moral teachings of Jesus to be our message but we’ll let the church’s organizational culture be shaped by corporate business structures and strategies. The church’s community life and the way leaders lead IS a big part of our message to the world. We must model our leadership and organizational life after the pattern of Jesus, too.

I don’t mean to stand in judgment over celebrity pastors as if I’m immune to all the lures of church success.  My passion around this issue stems from my own awareness that I, too, daily feel the temptations common to all young, driven church planters who want to use whatever means to make a big impact for the kingdom and reach more people for Christ. The truth is I am just as prone to fall as Driscoll, and if I were just a more gifted and dynamic leader, my own character deficiencies might be more thoroughly tested in the fiery flames of temptation that come with success, celebrity, influence, and growing popularity. I have plenty of pride to confess and daily guard against in my small, humble ministry context. “There but the grace of God, go I.”

However, if I’m honest, I think I am much more willing to forgive the individual fallen pastor for a moral failure than I am to forgive the well-intentioned “healthy” leaders (who may never “fall”) who keep feeding and fostering these kinds of corporate, efficiency and growth-driven church cultures. It’s time we place Jesus as CEO over his church again….oops, there I did it again…

The Tale of the Three Trees

Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, “Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty.” Continue reading The Tale of the Three Trees

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). 

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.

Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life.

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