In Defense of Worship as a Concert

By on Jul 2, 2015

“Worship should not be a concert.” It’s a common sentiment in many of the circles I run in, and in many ways I couldn’t agree more. The loud music, the blinding lights, the seamless transitions, and, God help us, the smoke machines. It can be a bit ridiculous, and not just as a matter of good taste, but as a matter of good theology. It feeds the ideology of the market and the religion of the consumer. It can condition people to be observers of a show instead of participants in worship of the triune God. None of this is good. Many churches that were once on the cutting edge of modern church worship have realized this and are moving back toward more measured and intentionally liturgical expressions of worship. And to all of this I say, Amen! However…I would like to speak a few words in defense of worship as a concert. A few days ago I went to see U2 in...

Nepal and the Eyes of Easter

By on May 6, 2015

A month ago I was in Nepal. Here is something I wrote the day of the earthquake. ————————————————————————————————— “Another earthquake will probably happen soon.”   I didn’t think too much about it when he said it to me. I was exhausted after a hike to Shivapuri—a beautiful peak in the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley—and could barely keep my eyes open on the bumpy journey back into town.   I was fond of our guide. He was quiet but friendly and we chatted for a good portion of our 15-mile hike. It started when I asked if he’d ever seen a tiger in the wild. He had. I barraged him with questions about Nepali wildlife and the Himalayas for the next few hours.   Kathmandu is...

The Shadow of Uriah

By on Apr 6, 2015

Our staff is reading through the Psalms together. This week, I was assigned Psalm 17, and as usual (as our youth pastor likes to point out), David is telling God what to do.   He starts out with his typical chutzpah: “Hear a just cause, O Lord, give heed to my cry.”   David is confident his cause is just, his lips are truthful, and his way is peaceful (17:1-5). And he’s confident Yahweh knows it. So because his cause is just and Yahweh knows it, he’s confident Yahweh will grant his request.   It’s not terribly surprising that David’s request is that Yahweh will deliver him from his enemies with Yahweh’s sword (17:13). David is, after all, a man of a different age. Save me and kill my enemies—this is what ancient people tended to ask of their gods. Clearly there are still many ancients among us.   Despite my uneasiness toward...

He Hangs There

By on Mar 31, 2015

A Holy Week Reflection ————————————   What does he think as he hangs there?   What memories fill his mind? What emotions flood his soul?   A strange thing—divinity crucified. An impossible thing—one would think. But there he hangs.   Not a very divine thing to do.   Does he perceive the absurdity? Does his blood boil? What does he think as he hangs there?   It’s no easy task trying to glimpse the thing from behind his eyes and feel it from inside his heart. But his words beckon us to follow them back into the abyss from which they sprang.   He speaks to God, a scoundrel to his left, his mother, his friend, and his tormentors.   He forgives, he promises, he agonizes, he thirsts, and he gives up. What does he think as he hangs there?   The question bursts with infinity....

Holier than the Himalayas

By on Mar 26, 2015

  One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:28-34   According to rabbinic tradition, the OT contained 613 commandments. 248 of them were positive commandments, meaning “do this, do this, do this.” And 365 were negative commandments, meaning “don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this.” That’s a lot of things to remember to do and that’s a lot of things to remember not to do.   And so from...

The Rich Young Ruler, Money, and Downward Mobility

By on Feb 4, 2015

*Here’s an editorialized version of a sermon on Mark 10 and the rich young ruler. You can watch it here* Mark Twain once said: “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.” And if you’re like me, you tend to agree with Mark Twain.[1] For example, I don’t understand a lot of the book of Revelation and that bothers me a little bit, but it doesn’t bother me near as much as the Golden Rule…because I do understand it. I’d rather take my chances with the lake of fire than I would treat other people the way I’d want them to treat me. It ain’t those parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts I do understand that bother me. Amen, Mark Twain. And as we continue our series called “Conversations: A Look at Some Run-ins With Jesus”, we’re going to listen in on a conversation that isn’t very hard to...

Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed a Year Later: Calvinism Still Isn’t Beautiful

By on Feb 2, 2015

  “They’re not going to embrace your theology unless it makes their hearts sing.”[1] -John Piper   One of the more persistent myths regarding art (broadly defined) is that the artist understands what he or she is creating. It is, as it were, a half-truth. You understand parts of it, catch glimpses of its deeper meaning, shape it toward certain ends. But you certainly do not understand all of it. As Madeline L’Engle says, “The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver…each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’”[2]   Two years ago, I started writing. I didn’t intend to write a book so much as document a journey I had taken in and out of Calvinism, with the hopes it could help people in my own church who were treading similar paths. It ended up becoming a...

Charlie Hebdo and the Beauty and Brutality of Religion

By on Jan 15, 2015

The recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo are a sobering reminder of the brutality of religion. Religion has killed lots of people (and there’s no need to pick on Islam here…Christianity has plenty of blood on its hands). Religion is capable of arousing the ugliest passions and cruelest actions. It boils the blood of some, causing them to do things that make the blood of others run cold.   Maybe the new atheists are right. Maybe religion poisons everything. Maybe it is a crude, savage myth we’ve outgrown, best relegated to the caves of ignorance we stood up and walked out of long ago.   But I have my doubts.   And in the wake of a worldwide display of religion’s brutality, those with ears to hear detect whispers of its beauty.   Most of the world has sense enough to lament the tragedy of Charlie Hebdo. And yet, to my ears at least, the lament of those steeped in secular...