The Weekly Town Crier

April 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm

niger-481061Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier, where I collect links and you click on them and we all smile and/or furrow our brows, depending on what’s on the other end of said links.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Subscribe to our occasional music/interview podcast The Habañero Hour in iTunes.

Follow the Habañero Hour on Twitter for regular music/arts news updates, podcast and Phoenix house show announcements.

Become a fan of The Habañero Hour on Facebook for even more goodies and to help spread the love and world domination.

Read about President Obama meeting with Billy Graham.

Read as Christianity today examines the paradox of two sold-out conferences, reformed theology and N.T. Wright.

Read about police raiding Gizmodo’s editor’s home in response to the leaked iPhone.

Read about N.T. Wright retiring (sort of).

Read about Craigslist’s revenue from sex ads.

Read about the UT church planter who was fired for drinking a beer in public. Any guess what denomination might do that?

Are you a Christian hipster?

See the dead man who, instead of being displayed in a casket for visitation, was placed atop his motorcycle.

Read about the Mississippi school that “purged” a top student from the yearbook for being a lesbian.

Read about the NJ principal asking parents to ban social media.

Browse Time magazine’s picks for the 100 most influential people. No, I didn’t make the list this year. I think I’m probably number 103 or something like that.

Check out the Exchange Conference. Looks interesting.

Read as Jared Wilson offers 10 reasons to under-program your church.

Page CXVI: Hymns I and II

April 27, 2010 at 8:29 am

page-cxvi-hymns-i-cover1Page CXVI, sometimes also known as The Autumn Film, is releasing a new collection of hymns. To celebrate, they are giving away their first hymns project from April 27-May 4. If you haven’t heard their modern take on classic hymns, I highly recommend it.

For those not familiar with Page CXVI, they introduce themselves by saying:

“Page CXVI is a project started with the idea of making hymns accessible and known again. They are some of the richest, most meaningful, and moving pieces of music ever written.

That is a lofty goal, but the band succeeds in spades. Their modern take on classic hymns is moody but accessible, passionate and powerful. The arrangements are tasteful yet modern.

I have been excited about the new hymns project for quite a while and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by introducing you to the first album of hymns. Download it now for free.

If you happen to live in the Phoenix area, The Habañero Hour will be hosting an all-ages house show with The Autumn Film on Saturday, May 08 (for more information and to RSVP, click here). Church of the Cross, where I pastor, is also pleased to host Page CXVI in our Gathered Worship, Sunday morning, May 09.

Hoarding The Void

April 26, 2010 at 8:37 am

hoarding-1I’ve long wrestled with the phrase “God-shaped hole in our hearts.” You know, people say that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. The phrase has often been used in ways that simply portray God as a means of self-fulfillment, like God is an accessory to make us happy. It’s often used as a rather man-centered approach to presenting truths about God.

But then again, there is a kernel of truth to this phrase, isn’t there? It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that we do what we want because we think something will fulfill us in some way. We sin because we think it will bring us some sort of fulfillment, strength, identity, peace, pleasure, recognition, etc. We have been created to pursue pleasure. After all, this is the basis behind the name’s-sake quote of this very blog. C.S. Lewis famously said in his essay The Weight of Glory:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The Fall has left us empty and wanting and our life is spent trying to find things that can only be found in God. But, of course, we look anywhere and everywhere except God. For example, my wife and I have watched a couple episodes of the TLC show Hoarding: Buried Alive. What’s been striking is that many of the hoarders have pretty openly admitted that they have tried to fill a void in their lives with stuff, so much so that, at some point, they develop an emotional attachment to the stuff and then can’t let it go. They have sought to fill their void with stuff.

While this seems odd to some of us, rather than pass judgment, we would do well to remember that we do the same things, just maybe in different ways. I live in a version of suburbia filled with mini-monster trucks, boats, off-road motorcycles, and jet skis. I may not be surrounded by hoarders, but I am surrounded by “weekend warrior,” “extreme sports,” pleasure junkies. There is an image to maintain because what other people think carries a lot of weight, and money and space go to the acquisition of toys. And then we argue about which brand of toy is best. It might look different in your neighborhood, but I’d be willing to bet you are surrounded by the same tendencies, just in different manifestations. After all, our hearts are idol factories and we church them out faster than we can bow down to them.

I mention all of this because, as a pastor, I spend a lot of time thinking about how people change. I encounter people all the time who intellectually know truths about God but still live pursuing sin. There is obviously a disconnect here, but it is not always so obvious to the people caught in the grips of sin. All of our actions are fueled by our beliefs, so part of the solution seems to be adjusting our beliefs. After all, the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). But, if we are really trying to fill a void in our life, if, as Tim Chester says in his fabulous book You Can Change:

Every longing in us is a version of our longing for God.

If these things are true, then the answer to change is lies not just in adjusting our thoughts but, as Jonathan Edwards so keenly asserted, our affections. You fight temptation, not with will-power, but with a greater pleasure, seeing, as Chester says, “God isn’t just good, He’s better.” Do we believe this? Do we believe that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)? If we are filling the void with anything other than God, we have not really tasted His goodness (Psalm 34:8). We have not heeded the command to delight ourselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4) or seek His kingdom above all else (Matthew 6:33).

Perhaps so many of the people in so many of our churches still struggle with the chains of sin because we have not shown them a greater pleasure because we have not experienced it ourselves? We are all looking for something. Just in the wrong places. As Chester reminds us:

Every longing in us is a version of our longing for God.

Music Saturday: It’s A Wrens Kind of Day

April 24, 2010 at 11:27 am

And because it’s a Wrens kind of day, here’s several song by said band whose kind of day it just so happens to be:

“Everyone Choose Sides”:


“She Sends Kisses”:


“Boys You Won’t”:


“Marked Up”:

  • Visit the Wrens’ official website

The Weekly Town Crier

April 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

chrisbrowntowncrier-endorseitindorset09-kaw03Welcome to The Weekly Town Crier. I cry and you console me. In the town. Or something like that. Or maybe not. Not at all.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Subscribe to our occasional music/interview podcast The Habañero Hour in iTunes.

Follow the Habañero Hour on Twitter for regular music/arts news updates, podcast and Phoenix house show announcements.

Become a fan of The Habañero Hour on Facebook for even more goodies and to help spread the love and world domination.

Watch this piece about a PA school district being charged with spying on students at their homes.

See the new iPhone and someone lose their job at Apple.

Read yet another call for Ergun Caner to repent and resign.

Browse as Time lists the top ten “religious relics.”

Read about Israel banning the iPad.

R.I.P. Guru.

Read about Obama being heckled from the left.

Read about Steve Jobs saying that those who want porn can go buy an Android.

R.I.P. Anathallo.

Get your very own “Who Would Jesus Whip? (WWJW) bracelet?

Read about Tom Schreiner taking John Piper’s place to debate N.T. Wright.

Do people have a hard time trusting you? Grow a beard.

Read about contextualization without compromise.

Music Friday

April 23, 2010 at 8:23 am

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: “Home” at the KCRW studios:

Francis Chan Gets Off The Balance Beam And Resigns To “Do Church Differently”

April 20, 2010 at 6:27 am

1603848largeYesterday I posted Catalyst’s interview with Francis Chan in which he announced his resignation from Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. I’m certainly no prophet, but I can’t say I was terribly surprised. Back in 2009, Christianity Today published an interview with Chan which gave some insightful details:

Chan finds himself at a new juncture. He is stepping aside as day-to-day leader of Cornerstone for several months to begin a new ministry. He will train pastors in nearby Los Angeles County who will in turn gather groups to meet in house churches.

“The main reason to step over to L.A. County is the sheer number of people who live there,” says Chan. “Simi Valley is a city of 100,000 people, but about 15 minutes away are millions of people. We are trying something different—a lot of people in Simi Valley are not ready for the changes we have planned.”

The piece goes on to say:

Chan’s long-term plan involves building the church without having a building. Associate pastor Matt Moore says the experiment is a way to find out how the church can grow without the limits of a building. Each satellite church will have an elder overseeing the local body, and that congregation can choose whether or not to go to the main campus in Simi Valley.

In the Catalyst interview, Chan speaks of “doing church in a different way” and then clarifies that this would be: “not necessarily the formal Sunday services.” This makes perfect sense when looking back on the 2009 interview when Soma Communities and Crowded House are mentioned as being influential in Chan’s ministry-mind-shift.

I won’t go too much into my own personal ministry-mind-shift other than to say that Tim Chester, Steve Timmis, Jeff Vanderstelt, and Caesar Kalinowski have been quite instrumental. What I do want to comment on, though is that Chan doesn’t seem to be alone in his desire to move beyond institutionalized American Christianity. He seems to simply be speaking for others many others who long to move beyond just the Sunday-morning, transfer of information approach to Christianity.

I think that’s part of the reason Chan’s book Crazy Love has struck such a chord with so many. Chan has vocalized a call for authentic, Christ-centered community living on mission together. Many people are no longer content simply growing big churches that don’t really matter. Butts in the seats do not necessarily equate with disciples in life. Many seem to be realizing this, convicted of it and Chan just seems to be a mouthpiece here.

I pray that the resignation of a “high profile pastor” from a “high profile church” may cause many to question what it is that could cause Chan to make such a “drastic” move and what some of us need to drastically change in our lives to better follow Jesus. The sad truth, is that, for some of us, “church” is probably getting in the way of following Jesus. Hopefully, Chan’s public move will wake some of us from our slumber. If anything, he is living what he preaches: