Church planter (and colleague of mine at Orchard Group) Jordan Rice on preaching that connects:
I would define contextualization as using the gospel to answer the questions that people actually have—to approach a text first seeking Biblical truth and a commitment to what God has revealed to us in scripture; then, answering the questions that people actually are asking in this present time.
Take, for example, a text about Jesus and the leper. It’s a great theological truth that Jesus became unclean so that we can become clean, or that Jesus would touch the untouchable. Those are great theological truths. But no one is asking questions about leprosy because it’s a foreign concept to us. Contextualizing that passage is answering the question, “What makes you feel unclean? What would make you feel like you’re not touchable, like God doesn’t want to come near you?”
Before I got my driver’s license, my dad scratched out a hand-written contract (of sorts) that outlined what I committed to doing and not doing behind the wheel.
Writing and cutting/pasting ideas from several sources,1 I put together the same kind of thing for my kids, but this time for navigating the wonder and gravity of the technology that they are confronted with all the time.
Like the driving agreement, the real power of this is not because it’s a “contract,” but because it helps to spark good conversation about being purposeful with work and play in a screen-saturated age.
I, __________, understand that devices like phones, iPads, and computers are privileges. And, along with my parents, I commit to establishing structured limits: in quantity, frequency, and moral character.
Devices and the Internet are tools for learning and entertainment
Devices and the Internet are tools to communicate
Devices and the Internet are tools for work and play
My parents — and God, who is my heavenly parent — love me so much that there’s nothing that I can do online or offline to make them love me more or to make them love me less. This is so incredible that sometimes it’s hard to understand or believe! But it’s true.
This kind of love means that our family looks out for and wants the best for one another.
I chose not to put things in quotation marks with footnotes because it made for a less distracting document to talk through with my kids. But I want to acknowledge that a few lines are copied almost directly from Rule of Life and Ourpact. Covenant Eyes gave me the idea for “content, communication, and clock.” And The Tech-Wise Family provided the overall inspiration, although nothing is quoted directly from it (unless it was unintentional).↩
New York Magazine interviews Internet company founders and leaders in its Apology for the Internet — From the Architects Who Built It:
There have always been outsiders who criticized the tech industry — even if their concerns have been drowned out by the oohs and aahs of consumers, investors, and journalists. But today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being “weaponized.” Even Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he lamented recently.
To understand what went wrong — how the Silicon Valley dream of building a networked utopia turned into a globalized strip-mall casino overrun by pop-up ads and cyberbullies and Vladimir Putin — we spoke to more than a dozen architects of our digital present. If the tech industry likes to assume the trappings of a religion, complete with a quasi-messianic story of progress, the Church of Tech is now giving rise to a new sect of apostates, feverishly confessing their own sins. And the internet’s original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model.
The full article contains many insightful quotes from industry insiders.
The use of a rule of life — a set of practices to guard our habits and guide our lives — goes at least back to the Old Testament figure Daniel. As an exile, Daniel was in an unfamiliar cultural context that provided no support for the practice of his faith — and as a leadership trainee in the court of Babylon, he was exposed to powerful pressures for assimilation to Babylon’s dominant ethos. He and his companions committed themselves to a vegetarian diet instead of “the king’s rations” (Dan. 1) and developed the practice of praising and praying to God three times a day in front of an open window (Dan. 6:10).
The rule covers the areas of time, money, imagination, decision-making. power, and community. The rule in one page is especially helpful.
Praxis cites Daniel as an inspiration, but the idea also reminded me of Benedict.
Watching current events unfold, hardly a week goes by when I’m not reminded of this 500 year-old observation from Luther.
Five years ago, I shared the following at my grandmother’s funeral. I happened upon it again recently and thought it was fitting to post today: Mother’s Day.
My name is Luke; I’m the oldest of Glenna’s grandchildren. And so I’d like to talk about her today from the grandchild perspective. It’s interesting how today, in her grandchildren, you can see little traits and gifts that have been passed into the lives each of them.
My grandma was a great Scrabble player. I remember a couple of years ago, my family visited Grandma and Grandpa back when they were in Texas, and we played several Scrabble games everyday all weekend long. And all weekend long, I was soundly beaten by my Grandma. She was a formidable opponent. This knack for rearranging and playing letters is reflected today in her grandson Matthew’s fascination with writing and decoding codes.
Her gift of hospitality is downright legendary in some parts. It’s a gift that formed the backbone of a pioneering youth ministry with this very congregation in a time when most had never heard the word “youth” used as an adjective to describe the noun “ministry.” Her hospitality gift that can easily be seen in her granddaughter Rachel who continues to bless by welcoming them into her home, both on this side of the globe and on the other.
My grandmother was also remarkably creative. Today, when I look at my cousin, Glenna’s granddaughter, Annalea playing with my daughters, I see some incredible imagination. Whether they’re imagining themselves as superheroes or fairies, or — I kid you not — “the mosquito busters” I see that creative streak passed from my Grandmother into the imagination of Annalea.
My grandma had an epic craft closet decades before HGTV or Pinterest. She made cards, she wrote notes, she scrapbooked, she handmade Christmas stockings. This creativity, can be seen in her grandson Logan’s continual stream of fun and ridiculous ideas that drive middle schoolers wild in the outreach ministry where he loves kids that few others even want to be around.
As for me, that’s easy. Being at the shallow end of the gene pool, I got my Grandma’s sarcasm. If you don’t know, she had a great sense of humor, and I always enjoyed the back and forth banter. She was the kindest smart aleck I ever knew.
Scrabble prowess, hospitality, creativity, humor. All gifts that today can be observed in her grandchildren. All interesting, but none are the most important thing that my Grandma passed on to the next generations.
There are a couple of letters in the Bible that I return to frequently. In Paul’s first and second letter to Timothy, Paul, the older, wiser, weathered, apostle wants to embolden his young colleague Timothy. Paul exhorts Timothy to stay the course, to continue to preach the Gospel message with clarity, passion, and boldness. He tells Timothy how to establish leaders in the church. He exhorts Timothy to remember the power and glory and goodness of God in these pages of encouragement and exhortation.
And then, Paul says something strange. He says, “Timothy, remember your grandmother.” Paul, the great apostle, speaking to Timothy, the young leader of one of the world’s first churches, summons all of his rhetorical ability to spur on his friend in the ministry, and says, “Remember your grandma.” Paul reminds Timothy of what has been passed on to him, the faith itself, the great message of what Christ accomplished. Paul says, “Remember where you’re from. Remember that you have been gifted with knowing God and his good work from childhood. Remember what has been given to you by your grandmother.” Why?
This gift, the good news gift, the gift of faith in the One who has done everything for us when we could do nothing for ourselves, that’s what Timothy’s grandmother passed on to him. That’s what Timothy’s mentor, Paul, did not want him to forget.
That’s what my grandma passed on to me, and to Rachel, and to Logan, and to Matthew, and to Annalea, and to her great grandkids. That’s the most important gift, or message, or trait passed from my grandmother to me. This one outstrips all the others.
It’s this gift that makes us able to be here today as we are: sad to see Grandma go, but happy to know where she went. And it makes us confident of our reunion with her in heaven. We’ll spend eternity together in God’s presence, the way it was meant to be. (And that’s a good thing, least of all because I’ll need eternity if I’m ever going to beat her in Scrabble.)
I’m asking for your [male church leaders] increased awareness of some of the skewed attitudes many of your sisters encounter. Many churches quick to teach submission are often slow to point out that women were also among the followers of Christ (Luke 8), that the first recorded word out of His resurrected mouth was “woman” (John 20:15) and that same woman was the first evangelist. Many churches wholly devoted to teaching the household codes are slow to also point out the numerous women with whom the Apostle Paul served and for whom he possessed obvious esteem. We are fully capable of grappling with the tension the two spectrums create and we must if we’re truly devoted to the whole counsel of God’s Word.
Update: An open letter and apology from Thabiti Anyabwile.
Maggie Combs for the TGC:
But moms tend to put their hopes in long (okay, short) naps, obedient children, clean homes, successful goals, and ever-elusive alone time. These transient hopes may encourage for a moment, but they crumble at the first sign of pressure. Motherhood is a physical, emotional, and spiritual battleground; unfortunately, it has become all too common in Christian communities to offer moms failing and finite hopes to fight their battles, instead of the steadfast hope of the gospel.
To live in a place and have your vision confined by it would be a mistake. But to live in a place and try to understand it as a standpoint from which to see, and to see from there as far as you can, is a proper challenge I think.
The limits of a camera is that it’s always looking through a frame. There’s certain things that you can’t show, that living eyes can see. To determine where to set that lens, where it’s gonna look from, requires imagination.
Colin Smith writes about how either villifying or victimizing Judas Iscariot misses the point: you and I are more like him than we realize or would care to admit.
Judas went out into the darkness he had chosen. When you get close to Jesus, one of two things will happen: either you will become wholly his, or you will end up more alienated from him.
Among those who hate Christ the most, some once professed to trust him. His claims are so exclusive, and his demands so pervasive that, in the end, you must either give yourself to him completely or give him up altogether. There is no middle ground.
Only those who have never known him can remain indifferent to him. For those who get close, the only outcomes are full devotion or eventual antagonism; and every day, each of us is heading in one direction or the other.
– John Stott, in a sermon on Ephesians 2.1
Good to meditate on this Good Friday, remembering when he turned his “implacable antagonism to evil” away from us and toward himself.
Michael Gerson for The Atlantic:
How did something so important and admirable become so disgraced? For many people, including myself, this question involves both intellectual analysis and personal angst. The answer extends back some 150 years, and involves cultural and political shifts that long pre-date Donald Trump. It is the story of how an influential and culturally confident religious movement became a marginalized and anxious minority seeking political protection under the wing of a man such as Trump, the least traditionally Christian figure—in temperament, behavior, and evident belief—to assume the presidency in living memory.
Understanding that evolution requires understanding the values that once animated American evangelicalism. It is a movement that was damaged in the fall from a great height.
An important read.
I found myself highlighting nearly as much as I left unhighlighted.
Andrew Marantz for The New Yorker:
“More than anything, I want Reddit to heal, and I want our country to heal.” Implicit in his [Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit] apology was a set of questions, perhaps the central questions facing anyone who worries about the current state of civic discourse. Is it possible to facilitate a space for open dialogue without also facilitating hoaxes, harassment, and threats of violence? Where is the line between authenticity and toxicity? What if, after technology allows us to reveal our inner voices, what we learn is that many of us are authentically toxic?
Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine:
We look at this number and have become almost numb to it. But of all the many social indicators flashing red in contemporary America, this is surely the brightest. Most of the ways we come to terms with this wave of mass death — by casting the pharmaceutical companies as the villains, or doctors as enablers, or blaming the Obama or Trump administrations or our policies of drug prohibition or our own collapse in morality and self-control or the economic stress the country is enduring — miss a deeper American story. It is a story of pain and the search for an end to it. It is a story of how the most ancient painkiller known to humanity has emerged to numb the agonies of the world’s most highly evolved liberal democracy. Just as LSD helps explain the 1960s, cocaine the 1980s, and crack the 1990s, so opium defines this new era. I say era, because this trend will, in all probability, last a very long time. The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness. America, having pioneered the modern way of life, is now in the midst of trying to escape it.
One of 2018’s best, so far.
Ross Douthat for the NYT:
But we are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut.
One of Douthat’s fundamental arguments is that a lot of goods and services are regulated; why not pornography?
Reminded me also of a recent tweet from Sam Allberry:
If you’re committed to social justice, there’s at least one tangible thing you can do immediately: stop looking at porn, right now and forever, and persuade as many other people to stop as well.
Here’s a tidbit from Eric Metaxas (via a much-too-long email exchange with Jon Ward):
We will be complicit in the election of whoever is elected unless we vote for the only person who can defeat them.
Metaxas’s argument is reasonable in the short-term: if a nation only exists for the four years post-election. But if there also exists a long-term, then writing in candidates en masse could make a meaningful difference in political dialogue and the selection of future candidates.
Write-in candidates is a strategy not to win an election, but to effect change in a system that is so fundamentally broken that it produced — after more than 18 months of drama — the two least popular, least liked, least wanted people for the nation’s highest office. Numerous studies showed that Clinton and Trump were the least-liked candidates in modern presidential history. Most voters indicated that they were casting their vote not for a candidate, but against the other candidate.
Imagine if those millions of “against voters” were instead write-in voters. The write-ins wouldn’t win the election, of course. But these votes would help to win back the system that has produced such lowest-common-denominator candidates. The election would be “lost.” But given nothing but lousy candidates from the parties, the election was lost already. A significant percentage of the vote being cast for countless names not on the ticket would shock the system and would help to ensure that the same losing proposition doesn’t happen again the next cycle.
The power given to the electorate to write in any candidate for the office of the presidency is not something that is afforded in every democracy, and it is regrettably a power that too few voters employ, I believe, because of reasons like Metaxas’s.
Voters are playing the short game when they could be playing the long game. Accordingly, we’ll continue to have national elections as outrageous as the last one.
Andy Crouch on Mark 12:13-17 and its application to the U.S. Constitution’s three-fifths compromise:
Jesus asks for a coin and asks the seemingly innocent question: “Whose image [Greek, eikōn] is this? Whose title?” But the question is not innocent. Caesar has made the coin, imprinting his image upon it — so it is fine to give it back to him. But, then, who bears the image of God and thus belongs to Him? Human beings. Jesus’ answer not only evades His opponent’s trap — it raises the profound question of whether they, and we, are rendering all human beings to God with the dignity they deserve as His image bearers — or whether we are turning them into property and the currency of power and taxation.
I hadn’t really stopped to think about how Jesus’ teaching here doesn’t only ask his listeners what belongs to Caesar, but also, implicitly, what belongs to God. What bears his image?
Tim Keller, citing Christopher Lasch and others on the inherent limitations of secular progressivism:
“Progressive ideology weakens the spirit of sacrifice,” Lasch writes. It cannot provide any effective antidote to despair, because the immediate pleasures are the whole point of history.1
From “Making Sense of God,” p 157, where Keller is quoting Lasch and paraphrasing Robert Bellah.↩
Excellent insight from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “the futility of humanism:”
Here’s my challenge to humanism: What does humanism to give to a man that’s made a wreck of his life?
You see, they say that a man can save himself; all he needs is knowledge and understanding, but I know highly intelligent men who’ve made wrecks of their own lives. I know men who’ve passed through the best universities of this country, [yet] who are slaves to particular sins. And they’d do anything if they could only stop. They can’t stop.
What does all this clever talk and teaching offer to an ordinary man or woman in this world at the present time, who… makes any kind of effort and strives to save himself? What have [the humanists] got to give him? They’ve got nothing to give him nothing whatsoever. They say, “Well of course if you don’t accept our teaching, if you don’t pull yourself together and join the ethics of the humanistic society… well then we’ve got nothing to say to you.” And they haven’t anything to say, either.
They can only exhort you to do what they can’t do for themselves. This is the final failure of all humanism: that it leaves us helpless and hopeless in bondage… But advice is useless in bondage and serfdom…
No, no, the trouble is they don’t realize man’s complete helplessness. And he’s completely helpless because his very mind is darkened. His will is in a state of bondage. You see, these people, they don’t seem to have read the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the profoundest bit of psychology ever written in this respect. There it is for you, set out by the Apostle Paul: “The will is present with me, but how to perform it, I know not.” The humanist can tell me what to do, but how am I to do it? [The humanist] tells himself what to do. Can he do it? Of course he can’t. “With my mind… I agree that the law of God is good. But I find another law in my members dragging me, tying me down to the law of sin and death. The evil that I would not want, I do. And the good that I want, I do not! Wretched man that I am!”
[The humanists] have never seen that. They’ve never seen that because their thinking is so utterly superficial. They’ve never realized the depth of the problem. They’re always talking outside themselves in some theoretical manner and have never faced the problem of their own lives and their own failure. Man in sin is completely helpless. Can’t do it, try as he will. This is the story of the best men that the world as ever known… This struggle, this endeavor, the futile endeavor to try to understand, to get some magical formula, to get some strength from somewhere, [to get something] that will enable them to rise up out of themselves to something bigger and higher and nobler. But they’ve all failed… “Without strength,” that’s the condition of every individual, and of the whole of the human race…
And here, you see, the whole thing changes. Why? Well not because of anything man has thought of or said or done, but because God. This is the message of Christianity: the only hope for an individual or for the world is in the intervention of God… And this is the message. This is Christianity. Not good advice. Not exhortation. But a proclamation and announcement that God has visited and redeemed his people. It is entirely God’s work. It is altogether from His side. It is unexpected. But as Paul puts it, there in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans in the sixth verse, “While we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” My dear friend, what amazes me is that the whole world doesn’t rise up onto its feet and shout out, “Hallelujah! Praise God!”
So much more in full sermon, including humanism’s tendency to “solve” all of society’s problems, yet have nothing to offer to the individual in crisis.
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