Convicted By The True And Better Story

August 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I have studied various aspects of Biblical Theology and the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic for about 12 years now. Though I don’t always do it well, as a pastor, I try to place every sermon series in the context of the bigger storyline of redemption; so much so that our Church of the Cross family is probably tired of going back to Genesis in almost every sermon series.

I love the dual emphasis on the unity of Scripture (through God’s progressive revelation of Himself) and the emphasis on the supremacy of Jesus (He is the point/key/fulfillment of all Scripture). But, as Michael Goheen recently reminded me, there is another, dramatic but overlooked implication to understanding the Bible as a story; there is an inescapable truth-claim woven throughout the biblical narrative: it claims to not only be a unified story but the true story of all creation (and by “story,” I don’t mean fiction but defining narrative).

I worry that many American Christians have undermined the absolute claims of the Bible by treating it, not only as a mere collection of unrelated stories but as simply one “religious book” among many. It is neither of those things; it is the story that gives all other stories their meaning and place.

How can this be relegated to only Sunday morning? How can this not capture and compel us? If the Bible’s claims are taken seriously then there is no place for “nominal” Christian living, there is no returning to “life as usual.” If we are truly swept into the world’s true story, then our lives are not our own.

I was tremendously convicted when Goheen related being questions by some Chinese scholars whether or not North American Christians really believed the truth claims of Scripture. So often, my life is lived on my terms, as if I’m writing my own story rather than being swept into something more challenging, rewarding, all-encompassing than I could have ever imagined.

We are God’s people, reconciled to Him, made ambassadors of reconciliation, deliverers of the good news that the One who is setting everything right has come and the new is bursting forth from the old; that there is hope, meaning, purpose, significance and belonging. That, no, things are not as they should be, but we have a guarantee that one day, they will be; that there s meaning and purpose.

When we understand the Bible as the world’s true story, nothing can stay the same.

And We All Smiled

August 23, 2011 at 10:37 am

New Tom Waits:



“The Minute the Church and Pastors Start Saying ‘What Do People Want, And Then Give It To Them, We Betray Our Calling”

August 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

Watch/listen as Eugene Peterson asks “how do you pay attention to the unheard, the unseen in a cluttered, noisy, distracted society?” Peterson also talks about dialogue in preaching, church size and the search for “truth”:


Watch the full episode. See more Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

N.T. Wright On “The Whole Sweep of Scripture”

August 17, 2011 at 10:07 am

N.T. Wright with some good thoughts on the story-formed emphasis of reading Scripture:



Revisiting Total Church

August 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

Re-routing many Christians towards a missional lifestyle is a slow, long, difficult process. For many people, we are asking them to reconsider everything they’ve experienced “in church.”

I’ve been revisiting many of these thoughts lately as we push forward with our Church of the Cross family.

As Tim Chester and Steve Timmis remind us in Total Church, as we orient our lives around the Gospel and Community, we might need to re-examine some of our preconceived notions of what “church” should look like. It might mean:

  • seeing church as an identity instead of a responsibility to be juggled alongside other commitments
  • celebrating ordinary life as the context in which the word of God is proclaimed with “God-talk” as a normal feature of everyday conversation
  • running fewer evangelistic events, youth clubs, and social projects and spending more time sharing our lives with unbelievers
  • starting new congregations instead of growing existing ones
  • preparing Bible talks with other people instead of just studying alone at a desk
  • adopting a 24-7 approach to mission and pastoral care instead of staring ministry programs
  • switching the emphasis from Bible teaching to Bible learning and action
  • spending more time with people on the margins of society
  • learning to disciple one another – and to be disciples – day by day
  • having churches that are messy instead of churches that pretend

Timmis and Chester push us even further to learn to redefine “success” and “failure” in the life of the local church:

If someone was being sent as a missionary to a hostile context overseas, our attitude would be something like this: We would expect to pray often for them. We would expect progress in building relationships and sharing the Gospel to be slow. We would be excited by small steps – a gospel conversation here, an opportunity to get to know someone there. We would thrive on regular updates from the front line. But the truth is that the lives of many Christians in work, and play, are just like the life of that far-flung missionary! They are lived out in tough environments where progress is often slow and many factors make evangelism extremely difficult. The challenge is to make news from the staff canteen as valued as news from the overseas mission field.

Making church life “simple,” is often much more difficult than we realize; especially if we’ve ever been part of a culture in which the “holier” people are the ones who are at the “church building” the most.

The Weekly Town Crier

August 12, 2011 at 9:25 am

Welcome to The Weekly Town Crier; where I collect, you click, we all benefit from the wealth of the interwebs. Yes, it’s been a while, but life sometimes gets in the way of blogging. Sorry about that.

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.

Register for October’s Together For Adoption conference here in Phoenix.

Read about the girl who wore a $25,000 dress to her high school prom.

Read an interview with Ramsay Midwood.

Read about Harold Camping adjusting dates for the end of the world.

Read as The Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons are both nominated for Americana emerging artist of the year.

See the evolution of the Apple apple.

Read about the parents who have refused to tell people what gender their newborn is.

Browse the Lollapalooza lineup.

R.I.P. Clarence Clemons.

R.I.P. Amy Winehouse.

Read about the FDA declaring walnuts to be drugs.

Read as Vanity Fair profiles Maurice Sendak.

Browse this list of the best children’s literature movies.

Read this interview with Sufjan Stevens.

Pre-Order The Smiths box set.

Read as the New Yorker ponders “hipster lit.”

Read as CNN considers the demise of Borders for “indie” bookstores.

Read as PopMatters profiles David Bazan.

Read an  interesting piece in The New York Times about “My Ex-Gay Friend.”

Read about the skerfuffle between TOMS Shoes and Focus on the Family.

Read as Skye Jethani asks: “Has The Bible Become An Idol?”

Read AZ Central’s piece on “non-traditional” churches.

Check out “Fever Year,” the upcoming Andrew Bird tour documentary.

Read this interview with Justin Townes Earle.

Read as Slate profiles “great” overrated books.

Read this interview with Henry Rollins.

Read this piece exploring the new role of benefactors in pop music.

Browse Amazon’s great $5.00 album selections for August.

Read as the Sacramento News & Review remembers Charles Bukowski.

Browse this collection of “essential” Pavement songs.

Read as The New York Times says that Philip Levine will be the next U.S. Poet Laureate.

Listen as NME suggests 25 artists you need to hear.

Read as The National Post considers the literary legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

House Show: Aaron Spiro

August 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm


We are so pleased to welcome Aaron Spiro for a very special house show. If you happen to be in town for the Together For Adoption conference in October, please consider making the trek to the other side of town to join us for this great night of live music.

Spiro leads music at Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA and is an accomplished recording artist.

Please join us at The Thomas Listening Room (the home of Brent and Kristi Thomas – 5236 W. Oraibi, Glendale, AZ 85308), Saturday, October 22 at 7:30pm.

Please RSVP here at the event’s Facebook page, by telephone: 623.412.0977 or by e-mail: mark[at]habanerohour[dot]c​om.

Children are welcome if they are old enough to listen respectfully. Otherwise, we kindly ask that you find childcare. Thank you for understanding. Please invite friends who will, in turn, invite their friends. The more the merrier. And don’t we all want to be merry?

There is a $5.00 suggested donation (all proceeds go to the artists). Please help us to be able to continue to host great live music by being generous.

Here is Spiro performing “Are You Coming?”



Here is “Pearl of Great Price”