Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

There is a blog writer out there — we’ll call him Gary.*

Gary started out a recent post by stating that he had great reluctance to write it. It was about the shooting at Sandy Hook and lots of people had already written about it; for a while, he didn’t see value in adding his perspective. But eventually, he came up with some (IMHO) helpful and unique thoughts, and so he wrote them down.

One of the other reasons that he cited for his reluctance was that he was tiring of blogging. While he is a self-deprecating sort (which earns him points in my book), his tiredness was not so much that he did not feel that he was having impact, but more personal reasons and a shifting of priorities. Not surprisingly, several of the comments by his “fans” — and even a close friend — told him that he should not stop blogging.

What was frightening was the fact that — while briefly ascribing to him value in his writings — all such comments focused on the impact that his quitting would have on the reader.

What was disgusting was the fact that — without exception — every such comment used the word “ministry” to describe his blogging. Now, while I have no doubt that his writing ministers to others and could legitimately be called ministry, that word is not some magic talisman. Just because you do an activity that ministers to others does not obligate you to continue to do that activity in perpetuity.  Yet this was exactly how the word was employed every time.

I love my pastor and I hope that I have the opportunity to sit under his teaching and leadership for years to come. But if God told him tomorrow that he was supposed to go back into cabinet-making, and he rejected this idea because he is ministering to a lot of people as a pastor, I would be sorely disappointed in him.

Colossians 3:23-24 tells us:

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

While the context is addressing slaves, the applicability of this truth is universal. The bumper sticker may be a tad cheesy, but it’s true, nonetheless: my boss is a Jewish carpenter. The Christian’s obligation is to the Lord in all of his efforts, including ministry.


* That’s not actually his name, but my post is about an issue, not a person, and (unfortunately) many of Gary’s “fans” are not capable of the distinction. In the event that one of them stumbles across this, I’d prefer that the issue be weighed by its own merits.

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Over on his brilliant blog, Stuff Christians Like, Jon Acuff occasionally posts a re-run. From what I’ve observed, this happens more often on “Serious Wednesdays” (the one day a week when Jon puts down his humor and satire pens and reflects more seriously on what God’s showing him). And, seeing as how he isn’t Carlos Whitaker (who sees spiritual lessons in everything), re-runs are understandable.

Plus there’s the whole thing of the fact that we don’t always seem to get truth the first time that we hear it. Heck, apparently Paul felt like he even had to repeat himself in the same verse!

Well, this was one of the weeks where Serious Wednesday was a re-run of something that Jon had written a couple years ago. There were scores of comments thanking Jon for the article, many of which even acknowledged it’s re-run nature and stating that now is when they needed it.

But then some goof came along and started griping about the re-runs and related issues (e.g. Jon often gives his big platform to a lesser-known writer once a week), positing the theory that Jon was losing interest in his blog and stating that he (the goof) saw less and less reason to read it. Oh, and said goof posted all this anonymously.

Now, to be honest, no one’s going to even come close to the brilliance of Jon’s reply:

Did you just anonymously criticize me for not giving you enough of my personal time?

But even acknowledging that fact, it was all I could do not to fisk the anonymous comment, as it was dumb six ways from Sunday. Fortunately, others had already responded, so my desire to feed the troll was lessened and I was able to resist.

But the whole thing got me thinking about something. The anonymous goof was complaining about something that he got for free.

I’ve noticed a rise in this tendency of late. As the ‘net and digital delivery of information and entertainment grow, more stuff is free (or at least really cheap) that would have been expensive 5 years ago or — more likely — didn’t even exist. Yet kvetching has become such a common occurrence, it’s a wonder that we all don’t speak Yiddish.

And then I realized that excessive complaining about free stuff is older than dirt.

I woke up ridiculously early this morning* and couldn’t get back to sleep. Actually, I take that back. For a Saturday morning for a normal person, the hour was ridiculous — for me, it was obscene. I was off my game a large part of the day and would probably be in bed now if it wasn’t for a nap that didn’t really accomplish much this afternoon.

Then Jesus said, “You woke up.”

* (I wrote this Saturday evening)

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When I read how Rick Warren was misrepresented in the press I wondered how our old friends would react. I was not too surprised to see one of them twist the story (much like the original reporter did) into yet another opportunity to attack a brother.

On his blog, Wittenburg Church Door, Pastorboy takes Warren to task – again. What I found interesting was the headline – Rick Warren Retracts ‘Chrislam’ Statements made to OC Register.

I read several clarifications written by Rick Warren and none of them can be called a retraction. A retraction is a public statement, by the author of an earlier statement, that withdraws the original statement. This is not what Warren did. Warren did not say anything that needed to be withdrawn… and I believe Pastorboy knows this full well. Yet he posts a blog that implies that Warren promoted a synergism between Christianity and Islam.

In the blog post that precedes the one linked to above, Pastorboy makes blatantly false comments and accusations against Rick Warren, a brother in Christ. This shameful, it is deceptive and dishonest, but it is not unexpected.

The original article that began the controversy was wrong – either accidentally or otherwise. The same can be said of Pastorboy.

    UPDATE – May, 2012

In checking the links above I see the articles in question have been removed. It would have been better if Pastorboy posted an admission of the error and false treatments about a brother in Christ – but even his removing the false accusations and twisted gossip is better than I expected.

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Why does everything seem to be about numbers and lists and steps?*

I was taking a minute this morning to peruse some of the headlining blog posts and the Twitter feed at Churchleaders.com and here’s a sampling of what I found:

Twelve Reasons Why Church Membership Matters

Ten Reasons Twitter is like a marathon

Ten Ministry Principles I Wish I Knew When I Started

Nine Reasons why you shouldn’t give up

Eight Leadership quotes and lessons from Super 8

Five Ways to Protect the Heart of a Leader

Five Distortions of the Gospel in our Day

Four Ways to Show Outsiders You Care

Three Stumbling Blocks to Forward Progress

Three Theological Foundations Shaping 21st Century Youth Ministry Strategy

Two Rules for Transparency in the Pulpit**

There was also an advertisement: 25 Proven Outreach ideas for your church.

Really?

And if I had looked harder, I’m sure I would have found 6 & 7, and maybe 11. (And believe me when I say there were other 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12’s scrolling on the Twitter feed and on the news page.

I have to be honest with you: this bores me to tears. Does anyone really expect anyone to keep all those numbers or lists in their head? This is one thing I dislike about the generation of humanity now living: everything can be summed up in a bulleted list. Sometimes I think preachers or writers do these list things because Jesus isn’t interesting enough. That’s just my opinion.

I’d like to see someone write an article at Churchleaders.com titled: One Reason Jesus is Enough.

I just want to take a moment to express my angst. I hate PowerPoint. And I hate lists. And I hate 3, 4, 5, or any ‘point’ sermons. I’m sure they are helpful for someone, but I’m not interested. I have also decided that if I ever have the privilege of preaching weekly in a local church again, I will not ever use PowerPoint. This is only tangentially related to my point.

OK. That’s my technology rant. Here’s my real point: Do we really need 2 of this or 3 of that or 9 of these and 10 of those? Do we? Is this the point of how to be a ‘good leader’ or how to ‘do the job well’? Isn’t One thing enough? Or is that too simple for the church to comprehend? Or are leaders simply incapable to understanding anything apart from a bullet point, numbered list?

I’m reminded of a song by Rich Mullins: My One Thing.

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they
need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think
They’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You
More and more
You’re my one thing

Save me from those things
That might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for
The things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with

‘Cause who have I in Heaven but You Jesus?
And what better could I hope
To find down here on earth?
Well I could cross the most distant reaches
Of this world, but I’d just be wasting my time
‘Cause I’m certain already I’m sure I’d find

You’re my one thing (one thing)
You’re my one thing (one thing)
And the pure in heart shall see God***

I’m not putting down Churchleaders.com or the people who write there. I’m just asking a question: Is it too simple to say to the leader: Jesus is enough? Is it naïve to say only One Thing matters?

Frankly, I think too many people make it way too difficult to be a Jesus follower let alone a preacher in the church.

“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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

*Don’t read too much into this article. Mostly I found it amusing that so many articles began with the idea that “Here is a Definitive List of [some important topic]“. It seems about as creative as stacking rocks.

**I have written out the word for the numbers due to a formatting glitch. The articles themselves use the representative symbols (i.e., 12 or 2 or 3, etc.)

***That’s only a portion of the lyrics. There’s more. Mullins may not have been making my point, but I like the song and wanted to include it.

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From here.

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Over the last week, I’ve read a lot about Rob Bell’s new book. This post isn’t about that. This post, ultimately, isn’t about people’s responses to what they’ve read or seen about about the book, or even about my response to them. Reading comments on an article about the book, however, is the thing that got me thinking. One of the comments I read said the following:

With all due respect, what is the most loving thing one can do for another? The most loving thing we can do is tell another about the most loving thing anyone has ever done… Christ’s death on our behalf (plethora of Scriptural references follow.)

Now as I read that, I wasn’t really surprised. It’s something I’ve basically heard my entire life. I’ve probably said something very similar at different points in my life. But as I read it in that context, it made me stop dead in my tracks. Perhaps it was the writer’s use of the descriptor “most”. Is the act of telling another person the story of Jesus the most loving thing we can do. That is, is the act of sharing certain information with other people actually what constitutes love?

I’ve been wrestling with this idea the last few days. I genuinely do think that the act of telling, sharing is implicit in how the Gospel spreads. Humans are verbal creatures, and every human culture has storytellers. It’s in our DNA to share stories with each other. My question is, though, does the Gospel go beyond the act of simply transmitting information?

The conclusion I’ve come to is that, yes, it must. If we are simply telling people they are sinners in need of a savior, but refuse to engage in actual, tangible things that demonstrate love to people, do we love them? A number of years ago, the book The Five Love Languages was all the rage (I believe it still sells quite well). In the book, Gary Chapman lays out the simple proposition that there are five ways in which people give and receive love – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Now the book itself is geared more towards marriage relationships, but as I think of the relationships I have with friends in my life, and I realize that the same principles can apply in just about any relationship.

The thing that I notice about all of them is that they truly cost something for the one attempting to show love to the other person. It takes effort to encourage someone. It is difficult to spend quality time with someone when I have a busy schedule to worry about. The list goes on. Love isn’t the easy thing. A lot of the time it’s the thing I’d rather not do. I would rather stay at home and watch the game on Saturday rather than help a single mom move into a new apartment. I’d rather go to the pub with my friends rather than volunteer to tutor the kids for the single father.

So as far as what is the “most loving” thing to do, I guess I come down to the answer that there simply isn’t a simply answer. What is most loving to my neighbor depends on my neighbor’s needs, and it depends on me being open to pour myself out. I tend to think that simply sharing information about Jesus, as important as that is, is often seen by those we are trying to share with as the easy way out – drive-by evangelism in a drive-thru world. The Gospel becomes simply another sales pitch, and we become little more than the salesman at Best Buy trying to sell an extended warranty.

This, of course, isn’t a new problem. Saying one thing and doing another is part of the human condition. The truth that Christ brought when He came is that He didn’t simply say He loved humanity. He demonstrated through His miraculous works, His tender compassion, and ultimately through His death on the cross. The question is will we truly follow Christ. Are we willing to take up our crosses for the sake of those who need to be loved? Or will we be content to simply think that sharing information with people is enough.

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

1 John 3:18-20

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In the opening verses of Joshua 22 the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh are commissioned by Joshua and sent on their way.  They have chosen to live on the opposite side of the Jordon from the rest of Israel.  So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the LORD through Moses (v. 9).  When they returned to their land they built an imposing altar there by the Jordan (v.10).

This did not sit well with the remaining tribes.  In fact, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them (v. 12).  OK, they didn’t like this – but war?  Was this really offensive enough to kill a brother?  Apparently it was, since altars were used to worship pagan gods and any worship of the God of Israel must be done in the tabernacle (cf. Lev. 17).

But before attacking them and leveling out justice, some decided to question them.  They sent a guy named Phinehas and a few leaders and  asked them how could they could break faith with the God of Israel like this?  How could they turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? (v.13).  Legitimate questions – no doubt.

They responded quite definitively:

21Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the LORD, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the LORD and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD himself call us to account.

24 “No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? 25 The LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the LORD.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the LORD.

26 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ 27 On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’

28 “And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the LORD’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’

29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.”

When Phinehas and the leaders of the community heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased (v 30).  They were glad to hear the report and praised God.  And they talked no more about going to war against them.(v. 33).

Now, let us imagine what this would look like if Phinehas and the leaders each had a blog.  And let’s assume each were self-appointed watchman set on pointing out any way in which the tribes of Israel strayed from the fold – whether or not the straying violated God’s Law – or just their cultural preferences.

If that were the case, Phinehas may have indeed believed the Reuben, Gad and Manasseh and even reported this to the Israelites and praised God.  But the others were not so sure. They would blog and comment on each others blogs saying:

I do not believe they are being honest about their comments.

I do not deny they are still faithful, but I want to see fruit before I believe them.

I asked them about pagan altars, and they dodged my question with postmodern jargon like “For us it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow…” – Why can’t they give a straight answer?

Others would chide  and mock Phinehas for meeting with them… saying only those with something to hide meet with enemies of Israel.

And so, even after the answers were given and the truth proclaimed… even after the issue should have been settled… it would fester in their watchful minds.

Why?  Because it is always easier and certainly more self-rewarding to assume the worst about people.  To point at other and say “They are different, therefore they are inferior” or “I want proof… proof based on my criteria.”  Or maybe just to say: “I do not like them, therefore I do not believe they are being honest.”

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Just a bit of reflection… of something that I am just as guilty of as those that I see doing it.

A thought that often pops up in my mind as I read “Christian” blogs and comments when people call each other names (liar, heretic, emergent, whatever) and the response that follows – why do we care so much about our “good names”.

When I look at the Lord’s Prayer this part stands in contrast to how we react to people calling our name or character into question:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,

If we live for the honor of God’s name we cannot simultaneously live for the honor of our own name. It’s like trying to serve two gods – it’s a conflict of interests.

I cannot find one scripture where Jesus reacted to anyone who attacked his character. Whenever someone said something bad about Him, He always pointed them to the character of his Father. One example that stands out for me is the one in Luke 15 where Jesus is accused of associating Himself with sinners. He could have reacted in anger, telling them about how they where hypocrites being sinners themselves while He is holy and never sins. But instead He tells three stories demonstrating his Father’s heart for sinners.

If we confess that we have died with Christ and are raised in a new life with Him, living for His cause and not our own, our name and reputation shouldn’t be of concern. This protecting of our reputation on blogs and in comments shouldn’t be.

Now, I know this is process we grow in – laying down our lives. That is why we should also have grace for one another in this respect.

May we live for the honor of His Name alone!

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…their fingers are typing.

This brilliant turn of a biblical phrase sums up the sympathy Dan Kimball expressed for Chris Rosebrough.  Why?  Because Chris had the nerve to spend time with Dan Kimball and as a result declared him a brother in Christ.  Apparently this brought a slew of accusations against Chris Rosebrough on his Facebook wall.   Not being a friend of Chris’s on Facebook, I did not see any of the attacks, but the excerpts make the point.

In response Chris Rosebrough dedicated his show on November 15th to an interview with Dan.  I urge that you follow this link and listen to it: Fighting for the Faith, November 15, Dan Kimball Interview.  I was excited to hear someone we have addressed as an ODM take the time to read Kimball and research his beliefs – and come to the conclusion that Kimball is a Bible-believing Christian who holds to the uniqueness of Christ, the existence of Hell, the authority of Scripture, a denial of universalism… etc.  And even though Chris and Dan disagree on methodology… they look at each other as brothers in Christ.

Of course this does not settle the issue.  As Kimball has said, some still accuse him even after being giving all the nescessary evidence to the contrary.  And although in the interview Kimball affirmed that his theology has always been conservative and that he wished he had made more clear distinctions in the earlier years of the Emerging Church conversation, one site responds to the interview by posting;

Regardless of where he may, or may not, be now it’s simply beyond question that one of those involved with the [Emerging Church], right from very early on, would be Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church; no amount of attempts at obfuscation on anyone’s part can obscure that.

‘Tis true – out of the overflow of the heart the fingers type blogs, and the hearts of some still overflow with bile.  But this is not the case for Chris Rosebrough.  I am sure that there will be many things Chris says in the future that will make me cringe… yet at the risk of sounding condescending… I am thrilled and pleased to see Chris take discernment seriously.

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On the trip with my son this summer, a circuit from Vegas to the California coast, up to Canada, and down the Cascades back to Vegas (4,300 miles total – on a rented car :) ), we had a good deal of time to talk and also time to catch up on a number of podcasts (since I’d stopped listening to sermon podcasts in March to try and go through the Bible).

As we were headed north, we caught up on about 6 months of Mars Hill Bible Church sermons – with a number of good discussions along the way (particularly in regards to the series on Jonah).  Then, in Seattle (as chance would have it), we switched to Mars Hill Church (Seattle), and caught up on most of the 2010 sermons (Driscoll’s a little long-winded, so we didn’t make it as far as we did with MHBC), which are all in Luke (and will probably still be in Luke for the next two years).

[Side note: A past PPP writer and I were discussing this a couple of weeks ago, and his comment - which made me laugh a little - was "I can't imagine either one of those churches would be all that pleased with your ultimate listening choices..."]

When we got home, Zan asked my son what he thought of the different churches’ teaching (she prefers Driscoll’s more blunt expositional style).  He said that, while he learned a good deal from both (and from my interludes, explaining what “systematic theology” is, and a two-hour-long foray through the history of the church from 33 A.D. to the present, with a modern focus on the Restoration Movement churches), he thought that MHBC’s challenged him to think and reconsider how to live, based on what he believed.   However, he also thought, though, that MHC did a better job of getting across the basics of what Christians believe. (Which then brought about a discussion about how you can’t really know the character of a church community unless you’re part of it, since a community worship/teaching time is only one hour out of the week.)

I will say, though, that – podcasts aside – 4300 miles of driving and 19 days of camping allow time for a lot of learning, a lot of laughing, and a lot of discussion.  And – in a big thank-you to the PPP community – I can honestly say that if I’d never started writing here and interacting with the other writers and commenters, I would have been so much incredibly poorer in both understanding what I believe, and in knowing how to talk about it.

Thank you all…

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