Friday, October 31, 2008

Best Steak in NYC?

My New York readers are relatively silent. But a friend who is visiting town wanted to know where is the best place to get a NYC steak.


Pic on Flickr by DazeGoonBoy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sermon Audio- Psalm 89: WHY CHRISTIANS SING.

Read Psalm 89:1-4, 19-37, the text I was given for Sunday 10/26.

Then download Sermon Audio: Psalm 89: WHY CHRISTIANS SING. (20 min)

"We’ve done some singing tonight, and we’ve heard Nathan Tasker sing. And if you come here each week, you'll notice we sing, and then we sing some more: we are a singing community. At Christ Church NYC, we don’t overdo it; we may not be stylistically what you like; no one, of course, is compelled to sing; some of us – me included – know that we can’t really sing.

But singing is one of the things we do.

Here is what I want to do in the next 20 minutes: I want to explore why becoming a follower of Jesus is vital to living life and living. And I want to do it by looking at faith through the lens of song; through the eyes of singing community.

Let me ask two questions:
  1. Why do Christians sing?
  2. What do they have to sing about?
Our society rarely sings. I wonder if that’s because we do not have a whole lot to sing about. Or that singing is risky. Or perhaps even more seriously, that we have no one to sing to.

Where can you find people singing in New York City?
  • At the 7th Innings stretch of a baseball game: you are united in a love for sport.
  • At all events where they sing the National Anthems: you are united in a love for country.
  • At concerts and bands. I’ve sung myself horse at more than one U2 concert. We are united in a love for a band.
  • You can be found singing in choirs. Which is interesting – united in their love of singing.
But all across churches on this day in this city Christians are gathering to sing! Christians are singing people.

Let's discuss why.

Download (or right click, save as) HERE.

Pic on Flickr by Scherbis.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bring it on...


Monday, October 27, 2008

I wonder if I'll still have a job tomorrow.

This morning, at home, this exchange took place:
The Little Man: Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a sermon.
Me: Really? So what do you think a sermon actually is?
The Little Man: It's a person who tells people about Jesus.
Ah, too true. On so many levels.

But at Church, I did the kids spot up the front. I had some things in a bag: some things kids need, and some they don't. My point was that God gives us what we need. The Little Lady was the last to put her hand in the bag.
Me (in front of Church): What is it?
The Little Lady: It's a kid's Bible.
Me: Is that something a kid like you needs?
The Little Lady (clear into a microphone): Noooooooooooooooo.
Oh dear. I wonder if I'll still have a job tomorrow.

Guess which kid is getting supper tonight!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Looking forward to Nathan Tasker at our Church...

This Sunday Night at 6PM at 111 East 87th St, New York.

Our Music team will be playing, Nathan singing, and I will be preaching a short gospel message on why Christians have a lot to sing about from Psalm 89:1-4, 19-37.
I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
So -- question for you to help me with in the comments:

-- Why do Christians sing so much?


Friday, October 24, 2008

Sermon Audio on 2 Samuel 7: WHY JESUS?

CLICK HERE (or right click, 'save as') for Sermon Audio for a message on 2 Samuel 7:1-17.

In this sermon, I hope to give helpful answers to one question:

Why Jesus?

It’s a question we get regularly, here in NYC and everywhere: "I’m OK about God, but why does it always have to be about Jesus? Why can’t it just be about God?"

For spiritual people, religious types and theists, to say that Jesus is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' may seen very odd to them. We need as a church to acknowledge that for many, it feels discordant whenever that claim is made.

This question is not new. It happened in Jesus time: Jesus calls himself a ‘stumbling block’ to many. A 'Scandalon'. (Matthew 11:6); an offense; a stone -- in the way -- that people trip up on. People were attracted to Jesus, but only to a point. People in Jesus’ day wanted God and his Kingdom without Jesus and his Kingship. And he was killed for that very reason. In John 11:50-- the high priest basically says: “Lets save God and his nation … by getting rid of Jesus.”

It was a valid question in the early Church: Paul makes the point in 1 Corinthians that sophisticated people rarely receive Jesus. He just seems so foolish. So weak. So weird.

This, of course, puts them in stark conflict with the claims of the worldwide Christian church, which is 'Jesus this', and 'Jesus that'. and 'Jesus all day every day and twice on a Sunday'.

So in this sermon, I want to offer, especially from 2 Samuel 7: A reason for Jesus.

And the answer, ironically, is specifically and inextricable tied to Judaism.

For sermon, CLICK HERE.

Pic on Flickr by Midiman.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Transcending Borders

On a bus ride today, I read THIS New York Times article about friendships at the US-Mexico border at San Diego/Tijuana. It is a very interesting piece about friendships made at this border crossing:

I draw your attention to the following photograph: it is a minister's weekly communion, which he offers through the border fence. Technically, the minister is breaking the law by passing the bread through the fence, but the US border guard does nothing because "arresting a clergy person for passing a communion wafer through the fence would be a public relations nightmare".

I am moved by this picture. I am moved about how Jesus transcends man-made borders. The fence feels invisible (Although not, I'm sure, to those participating!)

I am reminded, even as through a glass darkly, of these verses in Ephesians 2:13-18:
For Christ Jesus himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Some other captivating pictures HERE.

Has anyone been to Border Field State Park?

Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lady Sydney Again...

I described New York City as a woman in THIS POST. Give it a go on your own Blog, or in the comments on mine. Describe your city as a woman. The third is from Dan Anderson, who lives in Sydney:
coool, an online poetry slam!
This might be a bit obscure :-)

Rainy Morning, A woman in the City

I can’t hear myself.
Clouds crowd the top of the buildings.
Red hair a flare down the grey street.
Beats, too many beaten, asyncopation.
"Your Journey Begins Here", Go!
around, around the block,
It ends.
Clouds shroud the New Jerusalem

Pic on Flickr by Eric K Veland.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Ecclesiology of the Cross

Ah. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis with a great insight. These guys don't just ask 'what is the gospel?', and not only 'what does it mean to preach the gospel?', but what does it mean to a a church that is 'consistent to the gospel of Christ crucified.' Here:
The church is always tempted towards a church of glory, whether that takes the form of grand buildings, political influence, global structures, charismatic personalities or mega-churches. But an approach to the church consistent with the gospel of Christ crucified and discipleship shaped by that gospel is an ecclesiology of the cross. That means power in weakness, wisdom in folly, and glory in shame. It means we must put our confidence in Christ’s little flock and the sovereign rule of God. It means we must put our energies into the church of the cross even if that means obscurity.

The problem is that ‘power made perfect in weakness’ is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural that we do not believe it. We believe that God will use the powerful and important and impressive. But he does not. We need a radical change of perspective. We need to ditch our worldly notions of success. We need to ditch our modernistic preoccupation with numbers and size. We need to turn our notions of success upside down so that we align them with God’s kingdom perspective.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church, p.194-5)
May it be so.

H/T Stephen Murray.

Pic on Flickr by echoesofstars.

How to Gain Power and Keep Control

Here is how to gain power: Lose it.
And here is how to keep control: Lose that too.

Of course, Jesus says the same thing here:
Mark 10:28-31 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

And here: Mark 8:34-35 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
But I've often pondered how this is true. How does the paradox work?

I realized today that we actually know from experience exactly how this works in normal domestic life. Here, I think, is how it works:

It is only when you have to have something that the having starts to own and control you. You have to have a successful life; you have to have a loving spouse; you have to have that status, that house, that car, or that promotion, and you have to have it now (or pretty soon at least).

But isn't it true that at that very moment, you have lost power? And, in that instant, you have lost control? For you are not free to have (or not to have) the successful life; you are not free to have (or not to have) a loving spouse; you are not free to have (or not to have) the house, the car or the promotion. It matters so much to you. And so it controls you.

Dr Laurel and I were talking about this over dinner.

It is only when you give up your controls that you gain them back. If you give up your desire to control outcomes, then you are free at that moment. That is, you cannot be controlled. If you give up your rights and your power, then at that moment, you become incredibly powerful, for you have nothing to lose.

So, with deep apologies to Messiah Jesus and his profound beatitudes, I offer you these domestic examples of how this paradox can be true:
  • Woe to you if you have to make influential friends and be seen in the right places, for you will burn out protecting your reputation.
  • Woe to you if you seek 'success' in ministry, for you will always be thinking about yourself.
  • Woe to you if you cannot be satisfied with what you have, for the moment the salesman sees the deep hunger of your heart, you will always be charged at a greater price.
  • Woe to you if you try to control your partner, for you will lose the one you love.
  • Blessed are you if you come to a job interview with a heart that is content whatever the outcome, for in your freedom, you will more than likely be offered the job.
  • Blessed are you if you love the 'unsuccessful', for the ones who can help your ministry to 'succeed' will take careful notice.
  • Blessed are you if you come to buy something without the uber-desire to gain said item, for you will not let your heart be driven to a higher price.
  • Blessed are you if approach relationships without a heart of control, for you will simply be a more pleasant, happy and joyful person to be around.
Any blessings that I missed? And any other curses worth mentioning?

Pic on Flickr by Bitzi.

Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain and Obama relieve the tension...

Very Funny...

(Recorded at the Al Smith dinner here in Manhattan.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CCNYC> Seriously Good Things...

I rarely tell you what we are doing at Christ Church New York City. Here are some seriously good things we are doing in the next few weeks.

1. NATHAN TASKER in Concert (on Sunday Evening October 26.)
Nathan Tasker will be a guest worship leader and performer at the Evening Service on Sunday November 26. Nathan is one of Australia’s premier Singer-Songwriters. He now lives in Nashville, TN. Nathan is a friend of Christ Church, and is looking forward to being with us. Nathan and our team are working to create an event that you can bring your friends too: good music with a good message. 6PM at 111 East 87th Street.

2. STUDENT TEACH-IN on the Book of Revelation (November 1)
Laurel and I invite students to a packed morning of teaching and discussion on the Revelation given to St John. We call it a ‘Teach In’. Its a group of studies called: ‘Revelation: The Revolution will not be Televised’. We’ll provide good food, and good discussion that touches life. Revelation is, on one hand, a mysterious book. But on the other hand (like many mysteries), it yield’s its treasure to the thirsty. 9AM-1PM. Email me for a personal invitation. Only the first 20 will be allowed.

3. ASHLEY NULL at 'Focus on Ministry' (Monday, November 10)
Christ Church NYC is launching a new conference for lay-leaders and clergy), called 'Focus on Ministry'. The first conference is to be held on Monday, 11/ 10 from 9:00AM to 3:00PM at the 111 East 87th Street. Dr Ashley Null, one of the world's leading authorities on Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation is the key-note speaker. He will give two talks: 'Essentials of Cranmer's Theology' and 'Cranmer's Approach to Liturgy'. He will also lead a workshop on 'Cranmer and the Lord's Supper'.

She made it to Japan (an answer to prayer)

Meet Megan Smith.


In February, I wrote this post about Megan Smith. It was called: 'Meet Megan Smith...then send her to Japan'. The New York based 'First Things' read the post, and also wrote about Megan, Japan and Jesus: Called: 'Navigating to Japan'.

Megan was then praying and seeking to be a missionary in Japan.

We know Megan from Christ Church NYC. She was one of only two university students serving when we arrived. It was just her and a student named Shelley. So Megan appears to be a person whom God uses to start new things. She was also one of only a few at the Navigators Group at NYU when Peter Trautmann began his ministry there too. If you will allow my metaphor, she is the 'raw material' that ministries are made of.

Well -- and answer to your prayers:

She made it. Thank God.

You can follow her work on her Blog: Wandering and Wonderings.

(Oh, I'm pretty sure she could still do with you support).


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hello, Susan from Minnesota

Some time ago, I wrote some Bible Studies on Mark 11-16 and Deuteronomy 5-8. I posted them on this Blog. A person I don't know called 'Susan from Minnesota' contacted me recently via the Blog and said this:
Hi Justin,

I found your Mark study back in February when I did a web search for lent bible studies and your blog was one of the ones that came up. Your's was the only one that interested me so I took it to my bible study group unsure if they would like it our not as we had never done any study this in depth before. I can truly say that God 100% guided me to this study, and praises to Him as our group thoroughly enjoyed it and does not want to go back to the touching the surface type of a study any more.
Glad to hear it!

Here are PDF copies of the two studies:
They are not really edited or proof read. So they are not professional etc. But that's what you get online -- any old junk!

I also have some preliminary stuff on Revelation that I might try to get online.

Pic on Flickr by Alvhytann.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lady Sydney

The second is from Mark, who lives in Sydney:
Here's a haiku for Sydney (at least I think it is!):

Em'rald Oz city;
Spiritual, idolatrous;
That glittering tart.
Describe your city as a woman HERE or on your own Blog. Feel free to write something new about any city already taken (New York, Sydney, Edinburgh).

Edit by Mark: Em'rald, rather than Emerald.

Pic on Flickr by Nelson~blue.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lady Edinburgh

I described New York City as a woman in THIS POST. Give it a go on your own Blog, or in the comments on mine. Describe your city as a woman. I will post some of them up as separate posts. The first is from Byron, who lives in Edinburgh:
Edinburgh: the slightly-past-middle-aged lady who has given up smoking and managed to maintain something of her former beauty, but whose true personality is obscured through trying to be universally-liked.
Give it a go.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Vacationaries: Do we want them on the Mission Field?

In the Wall St Journal, of all places, comes THIS CRITIQUE of the 'Short Term Mission Trip'. The author, Evan Sparks, is an associate editor at the American Enterprise Institute, and 'has taken numerous short-term mission trips'.

I've got good friends who are, or who have been, on short term mission trips. I haven't made up my mind on this. But this is worth discussing. Read the whole article (he suggests alternatives to the mission trip), but he in it he says:
Short-term mission trips to Africa, South America and Southeast Asia have become very popular in the past few years. They are a keystone strategy of evangelical pastor Rick Warren's plans to help Rwanda. These trips, like Christian missionary endeavors overall, encompass a wide variety of activities, from evangelization and "church planting" to health care and economic development. The billion-dollar question, however, is whether they're worth the cost. Are short-term missions the best way to achieve the goals of Christians? Critics argue that sightseeing often takes up too much of the itinerary, leading some to call short-termers "vacationaries."

Pic on Flickr by Bemky.

Lady New York (A poem of sorts).

OK, so I promised. Only Byron said he may laugh. So a few things by way of disclaimer: First, I am neither a poet, nor the son of a poet. I basically wrote this in my head coming out of the Subway at 34th St and 3 walking blocks north on 6th Ave. You can see the amount of time I put into it by clicking HERE. You get what you walk for. Then I came home, and Dr Laurel, who's profession is words, suggested I make it prose, rather than poetry. What came about is this:
New York City: A Portrait.

She is smart, and will not be patronized; she is thoughtful, and will endure no easy answers. She is lonely, and wants 'connections', but she is busy, and will not make them. She is open-minded, needing to be part of 'the larger narrative'; but she is consumed, needing 'immediate relevance'.

She is blind, in need of sight; and she is sinful, in need of a Savior.
So, two things:
  • Have I missed anything about New York City?
  • If you were to describe your own city as a woman, what would you say about her?
Could this be a lame Meme?


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Uber-Urban Ministry (Some Random Thoughts).

A friend wrote me:
I was wondering whether you could crystallize your experiences and reflections of what it is to be a Christian, a minister, and/ or a church in NYC: or what are the implications or challenges that the raw experience and facts of NYC issue to Christians. I know you love thinking in enumerated propositions, and that would be great!
In the spirit of 'enumerated propositions', I offer three challenges to building a church in New York City. This is not about simply being a Christian in NYC, which I will write about in another post. And I will offer some positive things in coming posts. But here are three challenges:
  • Cities are transient. One of the biggest challenges you face in Uber-Urban is that people are transient -- here for two years, then gone. So healthy community and functioning discipline are hard because people are coming and going. It takes a while to know someone and have them trust you. It reminds me of para-church student ministry (but without the value of being on campus for a balk of the day). I remarked in our staff meeting recently that our church is really a different church to what it was 3 years ago, simply because of the turnover of new people.
  • Cities are busy. So many people work *very* hard, and so many want to go to church where the work is done for them. They get what they need quickly, and leave it at that. Now, that is not true of many people -- and I think that our church is pretty good with using gifts etc. But most people have very little 'margin' left in their life, and they feel it. And so do we. (It must be said that people here are often very generous with their money, which is really great.)
  • Cities are full of options. So many options: educational options; social options; sporting options; cultural options. And also - there are many options for church here, which is great. Not all options for church are good with the Scriptures. But we've found that when people get scared that they will be 'known', and when people start having tough relationships in a church, and when we as pastors begin to work on godliness, they can just as easily go elsewhere. Why not go to a church where you can get a good sermon and good worship, and then be left alone? That, again, is not true of many. But it is a factor in city life.
I wrote a little poem about New York City a few months back. I'm a little embarrassed by it. In it, I describe NYC as a woman.

If you promise not to laugh, I'll post it.

Pic on Flickr by Joannou.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On the 1662 Book of Extraordinary Prayer (#3)

How serious are you about God? Especially if you know that you are going to receive Holy Communion this Sunday? How committed are you to reconciling with your neighbor? How ruthless are you at rooting out evil and injustice in your life? How passionate are you about being 'open to grief' and about receiving 'the benefit of absolution'.

In other words, how 'hard-core' are you?

Let me explain where this is coming from. G.K. Chesterton said of tradition in Orthodoxy:
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
So, in resistance to the arrogant oligarchy of the living, I'm going to keep my series going on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. As I've said, I am not used to this Prayer Book, but I am very used to the Protestant and Reformed theology of the 1662 edition. So it has been a delight to be to rediscover this book as I read it through.

I said recently that the students in my Bible Study group called the Prayer Book truly 'hard core'. Let me give you an example. Take a look at what you are required to do in the lead up to receiving The Communion. Please, I beg you to take a moment to read this:
When the Minister giveth warning for the celebration of the holy Communion, (which he shall always do upon the Sunday, or some Holy-day, immediately preceding,) after the Sermon or Homily ended, he shall read this Exhortation following.

DEARLY beloved, on [October 7] next I purpose, through God's assistance, to administer to all such as shall be religiously and devoutly disposed the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; to be by them received in remembrance of his meritorious Cross and Passion; whereby alone we obtain remission of our sins, and are make partakers of the Kingdom of heaven. Wherefore it is our duty to render most humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God our heavenly Father, for that he hath given his Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, not only to die for us, but also to be our spiritual food and sustenance in that holy Sacrament. Which being so divine and comfortable a thing to them who receive it worthily, and so dangerous to them that will presume to receive it unworthily; my duty is to exhort you in the mean season to consider the dignity of that holy mystery, and the great peril of the unworthy receiving thereof; and so to search and examine your own consciences, (and that nor lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with God; but so) that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table.

The way and means thereto is; First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life. And if ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction, according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other; and being likewise ready to forgive others that have offended you, as ye would have forgiveness of your offences at God's hand: for otherwise the receiving of the holy Communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation. Therefore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of his Word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table; lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.

And because it is requisite, that no man should come to the holy Communion, but with a full trust in God's mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore if there be any of you, who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requireth further comfort or counsel, let him come to me, or to some other discreet and learned Minister of God's Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God's holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.
Read that second paragraph again! Go ahead. It'll take a minute.
  • Is this something you'd like to be reminded of before communion?
  • Would that scare you, if that was read to you the Sunday before communion?
  • Is this approach to God true to the gospel?
  • Are we tough enough in the way we discipline believers?
  • Is this over the top? (And we've got it right?)
  • Or are we underwhelming (And they got it right?)
Discuss. Or pray. Whichever seems more fitting.


Make your predictions here re the US Dollar

Lets get the pundits pontificating:

How do you know which way the US Dollar will go, especially in relation to the $A? Will it keep going up, or down? How do you know? I'm keen for a clue here. Markets 101.

Pic on Flickr by THomas Hawk.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Kid's Ministry this morning

I'm taking the Pre-Kindergarten class this morning in Church. I'm looking forward to it. I do it, in part, because Jesus commands us; in part, so the other teachers know that someone on staff knows what its like in the Children's program; and in part, because I'm a parent, and we want all parents to be involved.

I've got The Little Man and The Little Lady in class today.

Hope they behave!


Pic by SChlauder.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Unplugged: Throw out your Landline

It occurred to me just now that Dr Laurel and I have been without a home telephone for almost 3 years now. We just use two cell phones that move about the house in random ways.

We thought about getting a landline, but we just didn't want to incur the cost. Its been OK: Limiting in some ways, but liberating in others. It's no fun when the mobile falls behind the couch when you know that it is turned off. It's also no good when Dr Laurel leaves her phone on silent all day!

But it is cheaper. We use Skype for long distance, and the cell for local calls. Plus, I don't know what it is about the psychology of mobile phones, but one can turn them off without feeling like you are betraying some basic law of humanity.
  • Do you live unplugged?
  • Could you or would you live without a Landline?
Pic on Flickr by Splityarn.

E.B. Reames: "One of my favorite Southern painters"

I was touched by this post on Beth Reames' art: On Rise Children, Rise. Peter says:
This woman is slowly becoming one of my favorite Southern painters.
Mine too.

Tell her by clicking HERE.


Friday, October 03, 2008

E.B. Reames: Art on Friday (#9)

This is E.B. Reames Art on Friday Number 9, for your viewing pleasure.

This one is called: "Sky Pallette."

Email Beth if you wish to ask any questions, or buy her art: HERE.
See all the other posts HERE.
Or visit the E.B.Reames website: HERE.

Prepare yourself: Eight Things to do with Evil

This it H/T Justin Taylor:

From Piper's new book, Spectacular Sins, pp. 50-51:

Eight Things to Do with Evil

On the one hand:
  1. Expect evil. “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).
  2. Endure evil. “Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7; cf. Mark 13:13).
  3. Give thanks for the refining effect of evil that comes against you. “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20; cf. 1 Thess. 5:18). “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance . . .” (Rom. 5:3–5).
  4. Hate evil. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).
  5. Pray for escape from evil. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).
  6. Expose evil. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:11).
  7. Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
  8. Resist evil. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
Four Things Never to Do with Evil

But on the other hand:
  1. Never despair that this evil world is out of God’s control. “[He] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
  2. Never give in to the sense that because of seemingly random evil, life is absurd and meaningless. “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! . . . For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:33, 36).
  3. Never yield to the thought that God sins or is ever unjust or unrighteous in the way he governs the universe. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways” (Ps. 145:17).
  4. Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. If you trust him with your life, you are in Christ. Never doubt that all the evil that befalls you—even if it takes your life—is God’s loving, purifying, saving, fatherly discipline. It is not an expression of his punishment in wrath. That wrath fell on Jesus Christ our substitute (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 8:3). Only mercy comes to us from God, not wrath, if we are his children through faith in Jesus. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).
Great thoughts, huh?
  • Has he missed anything?
  • Is any of this practical in your life?
  • Is there a good way to memorize this, in order to prepare for times of evil? Suggestions welcome.
Pic on Flickr by Claudecf.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In Defense of Tall Poppy Syndrome.

One of Driscoll's 18 Points of criticism was that Sydney suffers from a sin called 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', so that the churches can't seem to grow to more than 1000.

For my American readers, Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the crude way in which a society levels the social playing field. Put simply, if someone rises above the pack - socially, economically or politically - then you can count on Aussies to cut them down to size. They try to thwart, destroy and make foolish the successful. Success, therefore equals criticism. (The exception being sports heroes).

It is a phrase used in the UK as well, among other places. Kellahan speaks about it here. Interestingly, according to this reporter, the Syndrome is actually on its way out in Australia.

I agree with Mark. I really do. Tall Poppy Syndrome is crude and rude. It is a sin. But I want to push against Mark's comment for a moment, just so we can capture the nuance of Scripture.

Here is a thought.

I can't help get the feeling that God has his own pure form of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. Not a sinful one. Not an evil one. Not one born out of pride. Nor envy. Nor cultural blindness. But, instead, one born out of his passionate desire to be glorified as the one and only God. He will tolerate no other rival. And more often than not, the language used in the Bible of those whom he cuts down are those who are built upward. That is, God appears to cut down Tall Poppys!

Without understanding this, people may never know the true and living God, for he is a jealous God.

What after all, is the lesson in the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9?
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. ...

7 "Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
What does Mary say when she hears that she is going to be the vessel for the humble birth of the Messiah in Luke 1:50-55?
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
The simplest may be in 1 Peter 5:5:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
But the one that links this pattern of God's with the humble downward action of Christ on the Cross is, of course, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. It is at Christ's lowest point that he wins over man's highest success. He does this so that no one will boast. Consider:
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (...)

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
OK. Some thoughts:

I do think that Tall Poppy Syndrome, as it is expressed in Australia, is a sin. I have no doubt about that. And I know it in my own heart. May God spare us from such an ugly sin. And may the humble Gospel grow everywhere in the world, like the growth of the mustard seed, that God may be honored in all the earth. If the Spirit determines that this means larger churches, then may it be so. If it means more believers and more churches, then Tall Poppy Syndrome must be confronted as a sin. I'm with the Dris.

But at the same time, it is worth pausing on what successes ought to be held up. For not all success is good success, as God so powerfully declares in Scripture. Surely success is where Christ is honored and God's kingdom grows. But don't let your triumphalism and capitalist culture run ahead of you.

This kind of success can be present in a humble stable; or in a woman who simply submits herself to her God, as in Mary's case. Or in the person who goes to the toughest place to evangelize and stand for Jesus and promote Christ's honor, even if that person is considered one of the 'weak ministers' in what will naturally be called a 'weaker church'. Surely, success is in the care of the poor, among others who are downtrodden and suffering. Surely success is to 'love the loveless'? Surely 'when I am weak, then I am strong'.

Is this not the message of the cross? The message of the cross is not just a declaration of what God has achieved on the cross, but also a call to a specific kind of downward action of non-worldly love? It's not just success, but a specific kind if success.

May all God's servants be lifted up in due season -- all of them -- no matter what their success looks like in this crude and rude, broken and fallen world.


Pic on Flickr by Steely Man.

On Lay Presidency at The Lord's Supper

A gentleman at my church asked me for something good to read re Lay Presidency? Arguments for and against. Can anyone suggest the best thing to read if a young man wanted to weigh these issues up? Particularly from an Anglican perspective? Perhaps an online document? Or a book.

Don't get smart on me and suggest the Bible! (I know what you are thinking...)

Something that takes into account the Bible as well as history, Anglican practice, unity etc etc.

Pic on Flickr by 96dpi.