Are We The Rich Man?

April 30, 2009 at 7:06 am

picture-11It has been some time since I’ve been stirred by a book like I have been by Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. No, it’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it’s refreshing and a bit startling to wrestle with someone who believes what the Bible says. I mean, really believes it and wants to see it lived.

In fact, that, in a sense, is the premise of the book itself: Jesus meant what He said and He not only deserves but demands our all, our whole lives, our loves, our thoughts, our actions, our desires, our money, our families, everything. I can’t get past the line in which Chan says that “Lukewarm” Christians “consider radical what Jesus expected of all His followers.” How flippantly we take the works of Jesus. We sigh about how hard our life is and that Jesus will understand when we offer Him leftovers instead of our firstfruits.

I have come to believe that one of the greatest enemies of the Christian faith is apathy. I have also come to believe that American prosperity breeds apathy like few cultures have. We expect comfort and we take it for granted when we have it. But we forget that the majority of the world does not live like we do. As Chan notes:

If one hundred people represented the world’s population, fifty-three of those would live on less than $2 a day. Do you realize that if you make $4,000 a month you automatically make one hundred times more than the average person on this planet? Simply by purchasing this book, you spent what a majority of people in the world will make in a week’s time.

And yet we are so quick to complain, so quick to compare ourselves, not to the rest of the world, but to the person down the street who has a bigger house and newer model car than do we. Chan puts this into perspective:

Which is more messed up — that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don’t think we’re rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves “broke” or “poor”? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich.

Our comfortable lives breed apathy, they trick us into thinking that we don’t need anything, particularly anything an ancient Jewish carpenter might have to offer. Apathy colors our thinking so deeply that we don’t even realize that some very pointed Scriptures apply directly to us. Consider, for example, Jesus’ conversation with the man known as the rich young ruler, found in Luke 18:18-24:

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

When nearly everyone in the world except average Americans hear the term “rich,” they think of average Americans. When the average American hears the phrase, they think of Donald Trump or Bill Gates. America’s false sense of religion only muddies the waters. The man interacting with Jesus seemed to really think that he was doing alright. After all, he kept most of the rules. But Jesus sense the idolatry of the heart that was bubbling under the surface and Jesus, went for the jugular, so to speak, going right at what gave this man comfort, security and identity: his money.

Compared to the rest of the world we are rich. Filthy rich. Jesus was talking to us. Are we listening? Do we believe that He’s valuable enough to forsake everything else? What if Jesus really meant what He said to the man? What if He requires everything from us? What would that look like in your life? What impact would it have to put things into perspective and realize that we are indeed filthy rich and that our lives of ease have blinded us to our very apathy?

Earn The Right To Be Heard

April 27, 2009 at 6:46 am

1038123_people_seriesMy good friend (and elder candidate at Church of the Cross) Wade and I had the chance to go to the Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago last week. Wade and I have been wading through the whole “missional” issue, wondering what it would look like for our Church of the Cross family to live as missionaries in the contexts in which God has already placed us. We’ve been talking a lot about evangelism.

Then, a man sat down next to the woman in front of us. He asked where she was traveling to and from and where she lived. In her answers, she let it slip that she had a boyfriend. That’s all this guy (who turned out to be a pastor) needed, telling her horribly alarming statistics about failed marriages and that unless she gave her life to Jesus, her boyfriend was likely to cheat on her, he would leave her and she would go to hell. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but not by much. He then proceeded to tell her about all the rental properties he owned, all the great financial decisions he has made and the three church buildings he built (I leaned to Wade and asked under my breath if he was actually out therewith the hammer and nails but that’s not the point). In other words, this guy just sat down and attacked this poor woman with a gospel presentation and then talked more about himself than Jesus. It did not go well and she was not receptive. I don’t know, but I wonder if this guy went back and on Sunday, talked about how faithful he was to share the gospel and about how hard-hearted and unreceptive his fellow passenger was.

Then Wade and I ate dinner in the Denver airport during our layover. We sat next to a single woman who, I could tell, watched us and listened to us pray over our meal. After a bit, she began to ask us about faith, admitting that she was terribly lonely. When we asked her how we could be praying for her, she became a little teary-eyed. Please understand, I don’t tell you this to pat ourselves on the back but the stark difference between the two sets of interactions has got me thinking quite a bit.

Then, on Saturday, I was painting one of the rooms in our new (to us) house, trying to catch up on listening to some podcasts. I listened to This American Life #378, “This I Used To Believe.” You can listen for yourself, I won’t try to recap the entire scenario, but one of the segments featured a woman leaning towards agnosticism who found herself in dialog with a Christian. This woman had just lost a dear friend to cancer and was looking for answers, or at least for comfort. Yet, the Christian simply responded with argument after argument for the existence of God. Eventually, she stopped listening because he wasn’t listening.

These three scenarios have made me deeply consider the idea of evangelism. As a pastor planting a church, I desperately want our church to grow, so reaching people is something I think about a lot. Much of the modern, American approach to evangelism is get as quickly as we can to telling someone that they’re going to hell and need Jesus. We rightfully go to the Law, show them their guilt, then rush to Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in speaking the Gospel, after all, “faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). But I worry that we often forget that, even with something (or should that be especially with something) as important as The Gospel, we need to earn the right to be heard.

Just because it’s true, we don’t have the right to bulldoze people over. Jesus listened to people. He identified with them. He ate and drank with them. He laughed with them and cried with them. He went to parties and funerals. He served people. He spoke and demonstrated genuine love. People trusted Jesus. They respected Him and because of that, many wanted to listen when He spoke. They wanted to hear what He had to say. Yes, Jesus speaks of Hell more than anyone else in the Bible, but He did so within the context of relationship and conversation.

We don’t just show people how important the Gospel is by ramming it into a conversation, we show them by living the Gospel. We show people we truly care by showing them we truly care. There is a place for going right to the Gospel, for street-preaching and the like, but I’m not so sure going straight for the Gospel should be our default mode. What do you think?

The Weekly Town Crier

April 24, 2009 at 1:56 pm

town_crier_470_470x352This is not as a complete posting as I would like, but it’s been a little while so I wanted to go ahead and get it up. Life has been very busy lately (I know, when is it not, right), so please forgive my lack of posts lately. I’ve got several “in the hopper,” I just need to get to them. In the meantime, enjoy this mini Town Crier.

Read about the recent study finding that 1 in 9 homes in America is vacant.

Read this piece arguing that self-control is not natural.

Read this study about churches and social networking.

Read Sam Rainer’s findings about what people think of when they hear “Southern Baptist,” topped, unsurprisingly by legalism.

Are we “starving Jesus?

Read Barna’s latest study, finding that: “Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist.”

What do you think of Mars Hill global?

Read as “Relevant” wonders what Twitter is doing to us.

Read about video game makers EA making an offer that must legally be refused.

Read about the athiest wanting to become “unbaptized.”

Wow.

Read as Slate wonders why there is no iTunes for movies.

Read as Matt Chandler provides practical tips for missional living.

Read as Ed Stetzer interacts with every church planting book known to man.

Music Friday

April 24, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Wow. Here’s Bruce Springsteen with Social Distortion’s Mike Ness performing “Bad Luck” at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles (04/16/09):



A Gospel Reminder From Susan Boyle

April 20, 2009 at 1:03 pm

susan-boyle-pic-itv-image-1-368817678Susan Boyle has become an internet phenomenon. Her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent has been viewed millions of times and been e-mailed, twittered band blogged about ad nauseum. So much so that I’m not even going to bother posting the video of her appearance. But why write another blog about this internet superstar? I can’t get it out of my mind. The whole scenario actually troubles me quite a bit to be honest.

I love the fact that a “regular person” can be shown to have talent. I love the fact that the barrier between “normal” and “celebrity” are becoming increasingly blurred. However, I do not love why we love Susan Boyle. What I mean is this: we love Susan Boyle because the “underdog” came through unexpectedly victorious. The judges themselves said that her performance was a surprise and that everyone had been against her before she sang. But why was she the underdog to begin with? Why didn’t anyone expect anything impressive from her? This is what troubles me.

Susan Boyle reminds me just how radical the Gospel is. Susan Boyle convicts me that I tend to think the worst of people rather than the best. Susan Boyle reminds me that, unlike love, I rarely hope or believe all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). Susan Boyle reminds me that, like the judges, I have to be wowed into respecting someone instead of defaulting to love and appreciation for others. Susan Boyle reminds me of just how shallow I can be when it comes to other people.

I don’t know Susan Boyle. I don’t know her motives for even going on the show. She said that she just wants to be a professional singer. Maybe that’s all there is to it or maybe there’s the thirst for fame and recognition that drives so many of us. Whatever Susan Boyle’s motives, her 15 minutes in the spotlight (maybe there will be more, maybe not) has prodded me once again to see life through the lens of the Gospel rather than, as we so often do, judging people until they prove worthy of our respect.

The Weekly Town Crier

April 10, 2009 at 6:38 am

towncrier_philipwilliamsWelcome once again. Welcome one. Welcome all. Welcome to The Weekly Town Crier. Where I collect, you browse, we all think deeply and prepare to change the world. Or at least the Internet. Or at least our position on the couch. And remember kids, just because I link doesn’t necessarily mean I endorse.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

And while you’re out there scouring the world-wide-web, you’ll need some good music. Join eMusic, we both get free music and everyone wins.

Read about Radiohead testifying against the RIAA.

Read as Seth Godin offers several suggestions to improve your “social networking brand” with your picture.

Read this piece noting that YouTube spends $1 million a day on bandwidth.

Read this introduction to to scotch from The Art of Manliness.

Read as Newsweek claims we’re reaching the end of a “Christian” era.

Read this piece saying that Facebook friends helped avert a suicide from 3,000 miles away.

Twitter take too long to write and/or read? Try Flutter.

Read as Books and Culture considers Richard Neuhaus’ last book American Babylon.

Read about Vermont becoming the fourth state to legalize gay marriage.

Read about PopMatters comparing Wilco’s new live DVD, Ashes of American Flags, with the Band’s The Last Waltz.

Read Stereogum’s interview with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.

Read as the New York Review of Books examines the parables present in Flannery O’Connor’s fiction.

Read as PopMatters revisits Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album.

Read The Irish Independent’s interview with U2 frontman Bono, which they describe as being “like taking an Alaskan husky for a walk — you can only suggest a general direction, and then hold on for dear life.”

Read The Guardian’s review of Neil Young’s latest album, Fork In The Road, an ode to his electric car.

Read Kevin Rose’s suggestions about how to increase your Twitter followers.

Read this piece reminding us that the consumer has the final say over iTunes’ new pricing structure.

Browse this list of all the things caused by global warming.

Read as Christianity Today inteviews Sarah Watkins, of Nickel Creek, which is on hiatus.

Browse these real science fair projects. Slightly more than an erupting paper mache volcano.

Read about the Jayhawks reuniting for two shows this summer.

Read Rolling Stone‘s review of the latest from Neil Young.

Read Rolling Stone‘s review of Bat For Lashes’ newest.

Read Paste’s review.

Read about the new “mocumentary,” “Jesus People.”

Read about NPR’s John Goldstein’s new book Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!

Read “Relevant’s” interview with Gomez.

Want to be in U2′s Spiderman musical?

Read about GM and Segway announcing that they’re working together to develop a two-wheeled, two-seat electric vehicle.

Read about claims that Robert Mugabe has stolen the Ark of the Covenant.

Read about the activist being charged with inciting a “Twitter Revolution.”

Habañero Hour Episode 05

April 10, 2009 at 6:37 am

hh-show-5-iconFeatured artist: David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower and Woven Hand. Music from Soul-Junk, Sarah MacIntosh, Joe Pug, Blind Willie Johnson and more and more. Welcome to Episode 05!

Episode 05 features interview segments from an interview with David Eugene Edwards (read the entire interview here). Episode 05 also features some great music. Check it out:

 

 

 

 

The Habañero Hour Episode 05 setlist:

  1. Can Hop by Soul-Junk
  2. Did You Know by Sarah MacIntosh
  3. The Beautiful Axe by Woven Hand
  4. Golden Rope by 16 Horsepower
  5. Mr. Turner by Ruth
  6. Marvelous Light by The Wellington Orphans of Sierra Leone
  7. Hymn #101 by Joe Pug
  8. Rest by Nevertheless
  9. Come Thou Fount by Page CXVI
  10. Planet Round by The Red Airplanes
  11. To Make A Ring by Woven Hand
  12. Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground by Blind Willie Johnson