It is impossible for us to face Christ's cross with integrity and not feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior we urgently need. (85)
They also profile the Samson Society which is doing some very good work in providing authentic relationships for men in a group environment.
I'd say the statistics in the article are conservative and you might quibble over some of the explanations and solutions, but it's becoming increasingly impossible to sweep this under the rug in churches. So how do we handle this without making assumptions about people and how do we discuss something personal in a public forum?
Here's the new article for this week's Oconee Leader.
If you care about the upcoming referendum that would allow restaurants in Oconee County to serve beer and wine, then you should care deeply about Easter.
This Sunday, millions of Christians around the world will remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because the followers of Jesus have historically considered Easter to be the most important day of the year – yes, even more important than the beginning of March Madness – Easter and the days around it are filled with activity…dramatic presentations, Easter egg drops, foot washing and communion services. If activity is the measure of meaningfulness, then Easter in Watkinsville is the most meaningful time of the year.
But beyond the bare fact that Christians believe that an actual man named Jesus died only to come back to life more human than before, I think most of us struggle to see Easter as much more than a reason to buy candy and pick up a new outfit for us and the kids. We know that Jesus experienced resurrection, but do we know why that matters?
So that brings us back to the longstanding issue of beer and wine in local restaurants. There are county commissioners and citizens on both sides of the conversation and at times that conversation has become heated and pointed because both sides are convinced that their position on the issue is the best solution for the county. It’s actually a remarkable picture to take in as men and women with different convictions give themselves to the good of other people. And perhaps the tone of our dialogue might change if we could appreciate the desire of others to make life better for everyone, even if we don’t agree with how they propose we get there.
Now here’s where Easter and resurrection come in. It’s not enough for us to declare that Jesus is risen – we have to push deeper into that reality and discover what all the commotion is about. And my humble proposition is that Easter matters because God’s work of re-creation in Jesus on that first Easter is what he intends to do in all of creation. God’s mission in this world is to make everything sad untrue, to repair everything that’s been broken, to return everything that’s been lost – and a risen Jesus is the first note in God’s symphony of redemption and renewal.
This means that our desire for a better Oconee County that leads us to stand on different sides of this particular issue resonates deeply with the plans and purposes of God for his world. Because God cares about every person, every stray dog, every blade of grass in Oconee County, it makes sense that we’d care about the impact this proposal will have in the lives of all who call this place home.
But there’s more to Easter than just painting a picture of how life should be as we work to create an Oconee County where everything works together to create the good life where everything flourishes as every need is met and every good idea gets used and every ounce of talent finds its fullest potential. Only the reality of resurrection on that first Easter and the promise of resurrection for God’s world and God’s people provide the resources to live with the humility and confidence we need to get where God intends for this small part of his world to go.
Several months ago, I wrote that there is nothing in the Scriptures that allows anyone to categorically declare alcohol as evil, yet we would be profoundly foolish to ignore the volatility of alcohol. This means that the way forward calls for a humility that refuses to thump Bibles and resists the urge to only look at the economic bottom line. And lest we confuse humility with being spineless, we also need to say that the reality of resurrection creates an unbelievable confidence that what we’re after really matters in the big scheme of things.
And certainly there are plenty of humble people who don’t follow Jesus and confidence doesn’t only belong to those who walk in the name of Christ, but what we need in the days ahead is the melding together of humility and confidence that only the story of Easter and God’s intent to redeem and renew everything in and through Jesus can create.
Happy Easter – Jesus Christ is alive and well. Grace and peace and hope to all.
I grew up in church. For the first 15 years of my life or more, I was singing church tunes every Sunday and Wednesday. By the time I got to high school, I had learned all the songs and was playing along on the guitar. And it's clear to me that this intimate knowledge of church songs influenced what kind of a songwriter I am. When I first started realizing this fact I was paralyzed with horror and I wanted to hide all the stuff I was embarrassed by.
But I had to say to myself, 'Dude, you are who you are, and you have to be cool with it and own it.' I mean, until I was 14, I was only allowed to listen to Christian music. For me the purpose of music back then was much different than it is now. What I understood about music, from the culture I grew up in, was that its purpose was to tell people about religion, to 'spread the good news.' So it was pretty utilitarian. Officially, no music existed for its own sake. It existed for the sake of proselytizing. Part of the reason why my lyrics are so literal and concrete is because of this situation in my childhood.
As I was developing as a songwriter, I had a lot of conflict with this idea. Even in the early years of Pedro the Lion, I was struggling, trying to understand the purpose of music. But it's also the reason why I gravitated towards bands like Fugazi or U2, who - for lack of a better term - had something to say. That appealed to me because that's what I understood about music. Then, from there I slowly learned how to get excited about music for its own sake, and not as a tool for some other end.
I found this quote fascinating because I feel like some of this is bleeding through our conversations as a church, learning that the value of something like music can't be collapsed into its ability to serve the verbal declaration of the gospel. I'm not sure that music exists for the sake of music...maybe its just that we've made the gospel story so narrow that the sounds and words of redemption, restoration, renewal, and recreation sound foreign to us.
So about ten days ago I got some ideas about hope and Easter which led me to some literary rabbit-chasing. A few pages of reading and a week of no blog posts and I rolled out part of what I was working on this morning. Good to be back at the controls this week...
I read these notes from John MacArthur's opening address to this year's Shepherd's Conference and I simply don't understand how he can say the following:
Whether the gospel was preached to Jews or to
Gentiles, the message did not change. And all those whom God had
chosen, responded to that message in faith.
The apostles went out for absolute disdain for contextualization.
The modern drive for cultural contextualization is a curse, because
people are wasting their time trying to figure out clever ways to draw
in the elect. Contextualization is “zip-code
ministry.” The message of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is
transcendent. It goes beyond its immediate culture or sub-culture. It
crosses the world, and ignores the nuances of culture. It never
descends to clothing or musical style, as if that had anything to do
with the message of the Gospel.
Does your message ignore the trends and superficial
icons of culture, and bring heaven down in its transcendent reality?
Can you take your sermons and preach them anywhere?
I have some questions:
Was Paul's approach the same in Athens (Acts 17) and in Antioch Pisidia (Acts 13)?
Why are there four different versions of Jesus' life on earth?
Is there a difference between changing the message of Jesus and shaping the message of Jesus?
While the gospel is bigger than any one culture, do the particularities of every culture not create opportunities to display the multifaceted contours of the gospel?
I'm always intrigued when brothers wearing particular styles of clothing in churches using particular styles of music say that clothing and music have nothing to do with the gospel. So then why do they have a problem with what someone wears or the music they play...if neither has anything to do with the gospel.
Does anyone's sermons ignore the trends of culture? I read Edwards and hear 18th century America; I read Spurgeon and hear someone British; etc.
Can anyone take their sermon and preach it anywhere? Anywhere? Not just in places that are into the cultural presuppositions you bring to the table? What about places that don't speak English?
I sincerely don't intend any disrespect but in my estimation, Dr. MacArthur has spent more than a little time over the past year or so disrespecting friends of mine in ways that I would consider to be (surprisingly) unnuanced and irresponsible.