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...

War & Peace: Welcome to the Future

By on Dec 1, 2014

 A Confession So this morning we come to the end of our series on War & Peace and instead of starting with a recap I’d like to start with a confession: I really, really did not want to do this series, because I was quite aware of how delicate and difficult matters of war and peace and violence and conflict and hostility and justice and forgiveness can be. I was well aware that nothing stirs up a good fight like talking about peace. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s people who follow Jesus picking stupid fights with each other. Amen? In fact, that’s one of the things I love most about Vista: we don’t pick stupid fights. We don’t fight over the music—we just have awesome music and it’s loud and if you want to pick a fight about it, we just turn it up so we can’t hear you. We don’t fight over the color of the carpet—we don’t even have carpet. We’re too busy engaging lost and...

War & Peace: A Community Called Forgiveness

By on Nov 24, 2014

Recap For a quick recap, we’re in the third week of our series called War & Peace, a series where we’re trying to figure out what the Bible has to say about matters of violence and conflict and hostility and justice and forgiveness. And what we’ve learned so far is this. The very first and last thing the Bible has to say about war and peace is peace. Violence was not in the beginning and it won’t be in the end, because while we find violence fascinating, God doesn’t, and while we find peace naïve and boring, God doesn’t. That said, we live in a world filled with war and violence and faced with such a world, God’s peace moves forward by forgiveness instead of vengeance because God’s goal is not revenge but reconciliation. And it’s almost impossible to properly emphasize just how radical a thing this is—that Christians believe in a God who would rather die for his enemies than give...

War & Peace: The Problem with Nuremburg

By on Nov 11, 2014

So we’re in the second week of our series called “War & Peace” and the question that is driving the whole series, the question that we’re all wrestling with for the next month, is this: when it comes to war and peace—to conflict and violence and hostility and justice and forgiveness—what sort of story does Christianity tell? Over and against everything the world has to say, what does the Bible have to say about war and peace?   And so last week we started that conversation with this: the very first and last thing the Bible has to say about war and peace, is peace. Period. Violence was not in the beginning and it will not be in the end. We find violence fascinating, but God doesn’t. We find peace boring and naïve, but God doesn’t. The universe has always, does always, and will always revolve around the wild and unpredictable peace of God.   That said, we live in a world...

War & Peace: The Oldest Story of All?

By on Nov 4, 2014

Here’s the first sermon in our new series, “War & Peace”   Light Versus Dark Perhaps the best new TV series to come out last year was True Detective; a brooding, dark drama starring Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson as Rust and Marty, two detectives working a particularly sinister and perplexing murder case. And in the very last scene of the very last episode, Rust and Marty gaze up at the night sky. They’ve solved the case, but they’ve seen some terrible things. They’ve had to do some terrible things. And as they stare up at the sky, at a vast sea of dark speckled by small islands of light, Rust makes a simple but profound observation: when it really comes down to it, all of life is just one story…the oldest story of all—light versus dark. Now to be sure, life can be unpredictable—constantly changing, constantly moving, never at rest. And yet it seems...

Of Stars and Starvation

By on Oct 9, 2014

Here’s a sermon from a couple of weeks ago, addressing the why of Christian worship.     Of Stars and Starvation Why do we bother with astronomy when people are starving in the world?   Guy lies in bed unable to sleep. He is thirty years old with a Ph.D. in planetary science. He’s done post-graduate work at MIT and Harvard. He’s taught at MIT and Harvard. He’s a rising star in the world of astronomy. Every day he sees things that few other eyes will ever see: comets hurling through solar systems, supernova explosions, black holes.   He loves it, all of it, and yet there he lies, unable able to sleep, thinking about leaving his career as an astronomer because he can’t answer this question: why am I doing astronomy when people are starving in the world? Isn’t looking at stars a massive waste of time when matters of life and death press in on us from all sides at...