Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Emotionally Raw Day

Yesterday was a very weird day for me. It seemed as though I was wearing my emotions on my sleeve - good ones and bad ones. All day long my heart was heavy with decisions I have made that are good, but are potentially hurtful. No matter what I was doing, that was on my mind and several times yesterday I had to fight back tears.

At the same time, talking with a friend and recounting a blessing from over the weekend nearly brought me to tears as well. Then I went home and realizing how much I'm loved by my wife and kids was an overwhelming feeling. Luke, our two year old, gave me a huge hug and a full on the mouth wet kiss. Again, nearly crying in front of my boys (hard to explain to them).

Life is weird, isn't it. A day can be filled with such ups and downs. I'm amazingly unstable (I think we all are). I'm learning more and more how to really be in those moments - how to really feel grief and sorrow when its appropriate. I'm glad, in a way, that the hard decisions I am working through are hard. I'm glad they effect me and that my heart is open to the hurt I could cause. I don't enjoy it, but I'm glad for it. I'm also glad that opening myself up to the hurt and grief also opens me up to greater experiences of joy and comfort. And I'm really glad God sends a mixture of both into our lives.

Yesterday was one of the most prayerful and worshipful days I've had in a while, and it was also exhausting. I wanted to write about it last night, but I was too tired. I fell asleep on the couch and finally moved up to bed with my wife around 1am. I woke up this morning more ready for a the day, more excited for the day, and more rested than I have in months. Life really is weird.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Favorite Music, Christian and Otherwise

I'm feeling bad that I slammed Christian music tonight. Fist, let me clarify I wasn't slamming Christian contemporary worship music. I actually enjoy much of that. I had in mind the Christian pop/rock genre. I dislike it because I hate it when groups mimic popular secular groups sound, but there are a few Christian artists I like and think are original:
1. Jars of Clay
2. Dave Crowder
3. Caedmons Call
4. Waterdeep
5. Delirious
6. Derek Webb


Now I completely understand that this might just reflect my musical tastes. These tastes are, however, incredibly diverse. On the secular side I really enjoy hard rock (Linkin Park, Metallica, Papa Roach, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Live, Alice in Chains, Audioslave, Smashing Pumpkins, Velvet Revolver, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, even Rob Zombie and NIN).

Recently, I've mellowed and have turned to Coldplay, Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Ryan Adams (not Bryan Adams), John Mellencamp, Five for Fighting, John Mayer, and James Blunt.

When I'm in a more funky mood, Beck, Moby, Stone Roses, Rusted Root, U2.

And then there are the bands I"m embarrassed to admit I listen to still: Bon Jovi, Journey, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffet and a few more.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pastor Injured During Sunday Morning Sermon

You can file this under 'things you'll never see Dan do'.

KOKOMO, Ind. — A pastor brought out a dirt bike during a church service to demonstrate the concept of unity. Now he's demonstrating the concept of healing.

Jeff Harlow, the senior pastor at Crossroads Community Church, broke his wrist when he lost control of the motorcycle at the start of Sunday's second service, driving off a 5-foot platform and into the vacant first row of seats. He underwent surgery on the wrist Monday.

"Jeff has already laughed a lot, so he's OK. I think his pride was bruised," said his wife, Becky.

Becky Harlow said her husband had recently attended a motorcycle race in Buchanan, Mich.

"He had this idea that he would bring this bike out onstage and show people how the rider would become one with the bike," she told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was going to just sit on it and drive it out. He was just walking the dirt bike out onstage and somehow it got away from him. It was not intended."

No one else was hurt.

Jeff Harlow had performed the demonstration at earlier services Saturday night and Sunday morning without incident.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summary and Review of Above All Earthly Pow'rs, Part 2

It has been a long time since I posted part one of this summary and review, but I want to finish what I started, so here is part two and part three will soon follow.

Wells does a great job chronicling the effects of immigration on the American religious scene. For the first century and half of our nations existence, most immigrants came from Europe and shared a common Judeo-Christian heritage. However, in the second half of the 20th century this trend changed and America became a more pluralistic nation.

Alongside the multiplication of religions available on the buffet, a 'new spirituality' has developed. This new spirituality is individualistic, non institutional, therapeutic at its core. This personalized and customizable spritualities have had a tremendous and unfortunate impact on the evangelical church in the last decades. This is especially the case in seeker churches which have exploited this heightened spirituality in our culture. Wells observes, "[The spiritual climate] makes it easy to gain a hearing for what is spiritual but hard to maintain a genuinely biblical posture because that is what becomes a part of 'religion'" (119).

While the new spiritual openness of our culture is an opportunity of immense proportions, it would be a mistake to think the new spirituality is a friend of evangelical faith. Again, Wells correctly asserts, "It is this spirituality that threatens to rumble through evangelical faith in a way more detrimental to it than any Christian engagement with no Christian religions" (126). This new spirituality is in fact, as Wells aptly demonstrates, not that new, but a combination of ancient paganism and ancient gnosticism. This new spirituality is to be confronted, not courted.

Chapter Five of Wells' book is one of the most helpful I've read recently, helpful knowing how to engage with those who have adopted the postmodern understanding of truth (that there is no universal absolute truth) and are left with a meaningless world. So many I have read on this topic give me the impression that everyone in the postmodern world is morose and depressed, wallowing in meaningless and aimlessness. Wells explains the difference between how postmodern nihilism has expressed itself in Europeans, who he sees as more given to melancholy, and Americans, who he explains are more optomistic, cheerful and upbeat. Instead of brooding, Americans have become banal. We have lost the ability (or willingness) to be serious about anything and do everyting with a smirk and a 'shallow snicker' (188). This I see, this I recognize, but not until now did I see it as a defense mechanism - a way of avioding the true meaningless of a wordl without truth.

The next post, part three of this series, I'll share and evaluate Wells' thoughts about how Christ and his church meet the challenges of our postmodern world.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What kinda Evangelical are you?





What Kind of Evangelical Are You
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Evangelical Presbyterian

You're an Evangelical Presbyterian, probably a member of a PCA church. Sound theology and reverent worship are important to you, but so are outreach and ministry to the community. You are likely to be from the deep South, and perhaps at one time you were Southern Baptist.


Evangelical Presbyterian


95%

Reformed Baptist


95%

High Church Nomad


70%

Presby - Old School


60%

Baptist


50%

Fightin' Fundy


40%

Moderate Evangelical


30%

Conservative Evangelical


25%





Wow, pretty accurate. Of course, I took the quiz twice because the first time it said I was a Reformed Baptist even though I said I'd baptize infants - which would rule me out of membership in any Baptist Church I know of. I did live in the south, was a member of many baptist churches, though most were independent. My dad, who was my pastor for 20 years or so) is an evangelist at heart, more than me, but cares less about doctrinal precision than I do. I thought about pursuing ordination in the PCA at one time, but get hung up on one point of the Westminster Confession - avoiding worldly leisure on the Sabbath. Seemed a little Pharisaical to me. I am, on the other hand, attending a PCA seminary. Well, I just wasted 15 minutes of a work day finding out what I already knew - and you just wasted five minutes finding out things about me that I bet you already knew to!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great Post by Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund, former Trinity professor and now pastor in Nashville posted this recently on his blog (I first saw it on Justin Taylors blog)
I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism...

...My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.


Read the entire post

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Funny Political Video

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Fourth of July picture in the paper

We have not done a good job about taking pictures this summer. On vacation, we took 6 pictures and they are all blury (the lens was steamed up in the pool area). I even forgot to take the camera to the Indians game with Caleb and Jacob. All I got were these pictures from my phone.





They are not great pictures, but it does give you sense of how high up we were. Better seats next year boys!

A photographer for the Ellettsville journal took this picture and someone clipped it out from the paper for us. Thanks.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Summary and Review of Above All Earthly Pow'rs, Part 1

In Above all Earthly Pow'rs author David Wells provides an informative explanation of our current cultural situation as well as an informative and devastating (yet also instructive and hopeful) evaluation of the current state of the evangelical church. The solution, both to the ills of our culture and the malaise of the church (which has been swallowed by its culture), is the rediscovering of a fully biblically, fully Christ centered view of the world. This is Well's task - to show the necessity of and build the scaffolding of a Christian world view that is not beholden to Enlightenment philosophy nor accepting of the postmodern reaction to it.

The first two chapters of this book are a description of our modernized Western world, both in its now faded Enlightenment intellectual clothing and in the newly donned postmodern attire. More importantly, Wells invites us to think about how this external world has changed us internally, calling the reader to see just what our world is: "delicious and dangerous". This is true because the norms of our external world "so easily and unknowingly become our own internalized norms" (pg 23). Wells highlights how the ideology of the Enlightenment worked hand and hand with the modernization of our society to shape the world as we have come to know it. He asserts that the freedom established itself as the centerpiece of Enlightenment ideology - freedom from tradition, freedom from God, freedom from all authority. The rational/reasoning self became entirely autonomous and the only trusted source of meaning and morality. These ideological steps were supported by the modernization process which "created a public environment in which commonplace assumptions about life came to parallel what the Enlightenment thought." This led to a culture in which God, along with human nature, disappeared and man was thought of as being 'omnicompetent'. The consequence was a world in which religion was/is a private affair that is entirely therapeutic and anthropocentric, ethics are based on efficiency, rampant is hedonism, there is a pervasive sense of 'aloneness', 'virtue' has been replaced by 'values', an self is autonomous, we have a "bloated estimation of human potential" that has enlarged our governments, and the self help industry is booming.

The confidence so characteristic of the Enlightenment has largely eroded by postmodern thought. Wells makes a very helpful distinction between postmodernism and postmodernity. Postmodernism is an intellectual movement consciously in opposition to Enlightenment thought. It is expressed in academia, art, architecture, etc. Postmodernity is the popular expression of postmodern ideas but without the conscious attack on modernity. At the popular level, postmodern/non-Enlightenment ways of thinking are assumed.

While postmodernism is opposed to Enlightenment rationality, it is, in some ways, the natural conclusion to the Enlightenment project. Wells points out that the autonomous self which was the hallmark of modernism has, in postmodernism, refused “to be fettered by any objective reality outside of itself." This has inevitably lead to the dead end of nihilism. If there is no objective reality beyond oneself, then there can be no purpose, no meaning unless it is self made. Moreover, the confidence in human progress has equally been shaken. With our technological advances new horrors have emerged, and social ills such as poverty and injustice have endured. With the death of hope of finding anything which is objectively and universally true, metanarratives have also withered and died and all one is left with is one’s own 'petite' narrative. What is left when truth has evaporated is preference and taste, which have given rise to an insatiable consumerism. While postmodern philosophers were right in rejecting the humanistic rationality of the Enlightenment, they certainly have pushed this rejection far beyond what is necessary by rejecting reason itself (as if reason were the child of the Enlightenment).

At one level, Christians may applaud the efforts of those philosophers who brought down the Enlightenment system. For one, postmodern philosophers have rightly understood that no one stands outside their context as in impartial observer who can see all things. In one sense this is good because it highlights the need for revelation. If our individual reasons our at least partially bound to our cultural contexts (and biblically speaking, bound by sin), then God’s knowledge of his world and communication of that knowledge are indispensible. Wells writes, “if God’s knowledge of life is exhaustive and true, and if he inspired the biblical Word in order to communicate that truth, then the ‘totalizing’ stories which arise from that Word are not themselves the false absolutes of fallen reason” (83).

Unfortnately, the void left by removing rationality from the center of humanities abiblity to define its world and very existence has not been filled with God's revelation. So what you are left with is a world that is seen to be moving but have no destination; a world of natural cause and effect, but no purpose; a world that can be descibred with statements about 'what is' but not 'what ought to be' (88).

In an odd irony, postmodernist society is deeply spiritual, though not religious per se. In part two of this review, I’ll summarize Well’s description of this ‘new spirituality’ and begin with Wells to think about what this means for the Church (though more of that will come in part three).