Friday, January 29, 2010

Music Review: Above The Golden State - The Golden Rule

Genre: Rock
Label: Sparrow
Release Date: January 26, 2010


Rating: 3/5

I was a modest fan of Above The Golden State’s self-titled debut album. Songs like “Sound of Your Name” and “I’ll Love You So” were solid. I think I described them at the time as what it would sound like if Switchfoot did a worship album. Hints of Switchfoot influence still show up occasionally on The Golden Rule, the band’s newest 6-song release, but the guys have tried to branch out a little more musically. Combined with an attempt to explore the statement of Jesus to love God and your neighbor as yourself, the results are a little mixed.

The title track, which leads off the collection, explicitly looks at Jesus’ teaching as frontman Michael Watson sings, “You can know everything, but your knowing won’t help/ So once again, love your Savior and your neighbor like yourself.” I get the warning against putting knowledge above love, and I hope I’m not being cynical or jaded, but I’m getting a little weary of this chorus, no pun intended. I know it’s dangerous to quibble over song lyrics, but the general feeling of the song is this: Just love Jesus and people and you’ll be fine. Are these things important? Obviously. Jesus said they were the greatest commandments. But you can’t love or follow a Jesus of your imagination, and true knowledge of God is what naturally flows out in love for others. I know I’m probably reading too much into this, but that’s my honest reaction to the song. Musically, I thoroughly enjoyed it, though.

The theme of love continues on “Chance To Love,” which questions how God could still love us and challenges listeners to fight to love others in the same way. The first single, “I Am Loved,” follows and explores our response to the love of God. It’s a great picture of the amazement we should have at God’s love. “Real You” utilizes some interesting baselines and handclaps while Watson sings us struggling with trying to “figure God out.” I thought I had You figured out/ Then You broke all my silly rules/ Oh my God, You’re just not what I thought I knew was true.

“Teach Us” is pretty forgettable before “Tragedy” picks things back up to close out the album. Driven by some catchy guitar riffs and melodies, the song explores suffering with lines like “What could I ever say for losing everything? / You anchor our souls with hope in tragedy.” This is probably my favorite song on the album. Great closer to this short album.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this short collection as much as the band’s debut. They branched out some musically, but there’s just nothing special here. Maybe it’s the short length that left me unsatisfied. Either way, fans of the band will likely enjoy the collection, but it’s really nothing to get too excited about.



*This album was provided for review by Sparrow Records.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dug Down Deep Promo Videos

I recently reviewed Joshua Harris' new book, Dug Down Deep. It's a fantastic book and I would highly recommend it. To help promote the book, they had a contest where groups were assigned portions of the book to incorporate into a short film. Some of them are really good.

Here are my favorites.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

10 Truths About Temptation

From Mark Driscoll's latest sermon at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. You can see more explanation of each point and watch or listen to the sermon as well.

1. Satan is a real Enemy;
2. Satan will H.I.T. you (Hungry, Isolated, or Tired);
3. Jesus is your victorious Warrior-King;
4. The Holy Spirit is your power;
5. Biblical truth is your counterpunch;
6. Christ is your identity;
7. Escape is always possible;
8. Satan eventually taps out;
9. Repent whenever you tap out and fight another round; and
10. Life is a battle with many rounds.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Music Review: Number One Gun - To The Secrets and Knowledge

Genre: Rock
Label: Tooth & Nail
Release Date: January 26, 2010


Rating: 4/5

So hang with me here...

In 2006, the members of Number One Gun decided to part ways. Singer Jeff Schneeweis started The North Pole Project while members Christopher Keene and Jeff Malory started Surrogate and Trevor Sellers joined Armed for Apocalypse. Schneeweis then later changed The North Pole Project’s name back to Number One Gun. Same band name; same singer; only 25% of the original members.

Schneeweis’ latest project with the band is To The Secrets and Knowledge, a pleasantly surprising alternative rock effort big on soaring melodies and just well-crafted tunes. Many different types of sounds are utilized through the record, from synthesized 80’s-ish keyboards of the opener “The Victory” to the a-cappella-like vocalizations on “Noises” and the trippy-percussion of “White Lies.” For the most part, it works, with just enough “experimentation” mixed in with the straight rock guitar riffs and driving baselines to keep things interesting while not going over the top.

“Look To Pass” is a 3:20 instrumental rock jaunt that would have served as an amazing intro for an epic rock song, but never really goes where I was hoping (I still enjoyed the song - just would have liked more based on where it was going). Finally, the album is topped off by a cover of what’s becoming the anthem for a younger generation, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” And pulled off pretty well, I might add. It’ll probably leave you wanting more, though, as the album clocks in at just under 33 minutes.

The songs here are fantastic melodically, with many refusing to leave your mind for a while after listening. I really enjoy Schneeweis' voice as well. The album has grown on me with each listen as well. I’m not completely sure about the staying power since there’s nothing really new here, but the songs are just so consistently solid throughout that I can see myself still listening to this a few months from now. There aren’t any throwaway songs here, and there’s enough diversity of style to keep your interest.



*This album was provided for review by Tooth & Nail Records.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mark Driscoll's Interview with R.C. Sproul

Here are 2 men who have been very instrumental in my theological development over the past few years, Mark Driscoll and R.C. Sproul. They couldn't be any different in many areas, but they both love Christ and have served his Church faithfully.

Recently, Sproul sat down with Driscoll for an interview. The Resurgence put these out in short clips, and just posted the full interview and a summary of all of the clips. Enjoy! Some really great stuff here.

Music Video of the Week - Needtobreathe

Needtobreathe - "Stones Under Rushing Water (Live Acoustic)"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Speak With Conviction

This is just...like...awesome. You know?

As I heard John Piper say at the New Attitude (now NEXT) Conference, my generation is "flabby" when it comes to language.



HT: JT

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mark Driscoll/James McDonald Updates from Haiti


Pastor Mark Driscoll went down to Haiti with Pastor James McDonald and a team of people to serve the people there and document the suffering to raise awareness of how people can help. From The Gospel Coalition website:

Two of our Council members, James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll, have been in Haiti surveying the crisis in the wake of the earthquake of last week. Many of you have joined us in praying for them — that God would use this trip to raise awareness of how we can be serving the churches in Haiti.

I have no doubt Mark and James will be indelibly marked by their time in Haiti. And I have no doubt that their churches will be more energized for the spread of the gospel and ministries of mercy as a result of their going.

Please join us in praying for their safe return today (the picture below is before their departure) and that God would use their trip in powerful ways for the sake of His name among not only the Haitians, but all peoples.

For more information on their trip and continuing updates, please go to churcheshelpingchurches.com.
Yesterday, Mark's reports were compiled on the blog. Here's a sampling (these are updates he's posted on Facebook and Twitter):

- Pray for those who can’t get in with supplies but need to. We got in which is a miracle but it’s hit and miss. Franklin Graham and others need to get in and if what we heard is true it’s getting harder to land.

- Just bought ice cream for a hundred kids sleeping outside. Heard gunshot behind me a teenage boy got shot in head and died immediately.

- Just prayed for a 24 yr old xn man digging the body of his 26 yr old brothers body from a rubble heap – he was the worship leader.

- Just saw ruins of largest evangelical church in PaP. Pastor is in his 60s many of his people are dead & his radio station no longer exists.

- Are u in your church choir? Just visited a church that was over 1000 that fell in the quake. Many choir member bodies are still trapped.

- Haitians are literally walking around stunned, not crying and just shell shocked.

- It’s a war zone here in Haiti. There are no supplies, roads are closed etc.

- Warning Graphic Content. Yesterday we heard a gunshot behind us and a teenage boy had gotten shot in head and died immediately. He was just feet from the seminary property and next to a makeshift clinic where 5000 people are there sleeping outside. Warning this link contains graphic content http://bit.ly/4vNibL

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UPDATE: Driscoll was interviewed by USA Today about the trip. He elaborated on one of his updates while discussing the increase in sex trafficking in Haiti now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: Joshua Harris - Dug Down Deep

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Publication Date: January 19, 2010


What comes to your mind when you hear the word “theology”? Do you picture a pastor? A PhD locked away in a sea of 1,000 page books? Does the word excite you or fill you with a sense of dryness? Do you think of vibrant, living faith or an academic, intellectual faith that fails to connect to “real life”? Do you just want Jesus without the baggage? Do you even care about theology?

If you’re answers to those types of questions are negative, Pastor Joshua Harris has written a book for you. Honestly, Dug Down Deep is for everyone, but especially for those Christians either new to the faith or those who’ve never really considered their beliefs carefully to see what they believe and why they believe it. Throughout his accessible yet theologically stout book, Harris combines biography with systematic theology to show readers why theology matters and examines some of the basic theological tenants of the Christian faith in energetic and poignant ways. Through Harris' conversational yet authoritative tone, theology is truly removed from the “ivory towers” and brought to the street, where these eternally-significant doctrines intersect with time through the medium of our lives.

What makes this book so powerful is the way in which Harris is able to illustrate the ways his blossoming love for theology affected his life. The writing is lively and engaging. There is absolutely no staleness to these doctrines. They come alive through his stories. For example, his story of his father’s Christian conversion forcefully demonstrates how Christians are saved by faith. In discussing the atonement, Harris shares a story of a dream he had that moved my emotions to love that doctrine more. And my favorite chapter, on sanctification (how we become more like Christ over time), removes the jargon from the doctrine as Harris uses cartoons (yep) to literally illustrate things.

Additionally, the last chapter on "Humble Orthodoxy" is stellar. Simultaneously fantastically convicting and powerfully motivating.

I recognized so many similarities between Harris' "discovery" of theology and my own. I am thankful God has given me a love for theology, a love of knowing Him. My generation is one that seems in large part to be slowly discovering the beauty of theology. We love God, but realize we need to know Him first. After all, everyone is a theologian. As Harris says, “The question is whether what we know about God is true.”

You cannot love a God you don’t know. You cannot follow a Christ of your imagination. You can praise both of them until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t know anything about them, you might not be praising someone who’s actually real. I can laud my wife’s brown hair and green eyes all I want, but she’ll be pretty upset because she’s blonde with bluish eyes. The same thing applies when dealing with God, and he’s given us descriptions of Himself and His Son in the Bible. This is the God you will meet in Harris’ book.

Maybe you are someone who values theology already. Maybe you still need convincing it’s utterly and completely relevant to your life. Maybe you're not even a Christian and are curious what we actually believe and why. Regardless of your situation, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Harris states the book isn’t intended to be a systematic theology, and it’s not. But it very well may cause you to want to read one and learn more about the God he loves.



Author Bio:

Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. A passionate speaker with a gift for making theological truth easy to understand, Joshua is perhaps best known for his runaway bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which he wrote at the age of twenty-one. His later books include Boy Meets Girl, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), and Stop Dating the Church. The founder of the NEXT conferences for young adults, Joshua is committed to seeing the gospel transferred to a new generation of Christians. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.

*This book was provided for review by Waterbrook Multnomah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr.


"I Have a Dream"

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!...

...And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
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Thank God for this man of courage, wisdom, strength, and faith.



Watch the greatest speech in American history and be thankful today. You can read the whole text of the speech as well.

Music Video of the Week - Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor - "Laughing With"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti - Pray and Give


The devastation in Haiti is heart-breaking. Death tolls are constantly rising, and no one knows for sure when it will stop. The country needs to be bathed in prayer. They also need us to be generous with our vast resources in America.

Abraham Piper over at Desiring God compiled a good list of ways to give to the cause. Here's his list. I went through Compassion, where you can help an entire family for a whole week for only $35.
  1. Compassion International
  2. Feed My Starving Children
  3. Food for the Hungry
  4. World Vision
  5. World Relief
  6. Samaritan's Purse
  7. Love a Child
  8. Northwest Haiti Christian Mission
  9. Compassion Weavers
  10. Mennonite Central Committee
  11. Water Missions International
And if you haven't seen this, here's a collection of photos documenting the devastation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Giveaway: Ted Dekker & Carl Medearis - Tea with Hezbollah

NOTE: This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered through commenting or through Twitter!

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It's giveaway time again! Thanks to the great people at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, I have a copy of Tea with Hezbollah, by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis to giveaway. This looks to be a very interesting read. I'll be posting a review in a couple weeks.

Here's the official publisher's summary for the book, which comes out January 26th.

Tea with Hezbollah combines nail-biting narrative with the texture of rich historical background, as readers join novelist Ted Dekker and his co-author and Middle East expert, Carl Medearis, on a hair-raising journey. They are with them in every rocky cab ride, late-night border crossing, and back-room conversation as they sit down one-on-one with some of the most notorious leaders of the Arab world. These candid discussions with leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, with muftis, sheikhs, and ayatollahs, with Osama bin Laden’s brothers, reveal these men to be real people with emotions, fears, and hopes of their own. Along the way, Dekker and Medearis discover surprising answers and even more surprising questions that they could not have anticipated—questions that lead straight to the heart of Middle Eastern conflict.

Through powerful narrative, Tea With Hezbollah, will draw the West into a completely fresh understanding of those we call our enemies and the teaching that dares us to love them. A must read for all who see the looming threat rising in the Middle East.

To enter this contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. I'd love to hear some opinions on the book's premise given the above summary, but I won't require it to be entered. All you have to do is comment and leave some way for me to get in contact with you should you win. To increase your chances, you can re-tweet this post on Twitter as well.

The contest will run until next Wednesday, the 20th, when I'll pick a winner. Sorry, only U.S. entries allowed.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Joshua Harris - "The Room" (and the Gospel)

I'm reading through Joshua Harris' fantastic new book that comes out next week, Dug Down Deep. I'll have a full review up next week, but one chapter in particular has already stood out to me. As he discusses the redemption we have because of Jesus Christ's death on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins, Joshua mentioned a story he wrote many years back called "The Room." Many of you may have heard the story at some point online or in an email forward.

I hadn't.

The story moved me in the context of Joshua's discussion of redemption, and I thought I'd share it.

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In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings.As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I have Liked”. I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room, with its small files, was a catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brother.” Others I couldn’t laugh at “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”.

I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 17 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each card signed with my own signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”; I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. Rage and embarrassment broke within me. One thought dominated my mind “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!”

In a frenzy, I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t mattered now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it out and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With”. The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out from the overwhelming shame. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. After a long while I knew I must look at His face, and I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Why ever one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over, kneeled down, and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, and one by one, He began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!”I shouted rushing to Him. All I could say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards, this was my life, my sins…. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

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In Dug Down Deep, Joshua concludes the discussion of the story with this: "Think of the worst card in your room full of files and consider this: Jesus died so your worst moment could be covered. He took the blame so you could stand before God forgiven and accepted" (p. 15).

Here's the video put together to tell the story of "The Room."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our Response to Grace

My Bible study is going through Romans right now. Last week, while discussing Romans 4, we got into some great discussion about the relationship between faith and works. We looked at James 2 where he explicitly states that Abraham was not justified by faith alone versus Romans 4 that says he was justified by faith. It was a great dialogue about the nature of saving faith and how our works fit into that.

It got me thinking some more recently. Grace is free. No doubt. That's inherent in the definition. Otherwise it isn't grace. Our works don't save us, but clearly one can't have faith and remain unchanged (this is basically the argument James is making). As the Reformers stated, "We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone." True, living faith will change us. It just will.

As I was thinking through this, I came across a post by Zach Nielsen where he quotes a passage from Tim Keller's book, The Prodigal God. I read this book last year and would highly recommend it (as I would all of Keller's books).

I thought the quote Zach used was very powerful in light of my recent thoughts about faith and works.

"Some years ago I met a woman who began coming to Redeemer, the church where I am a minister. She said that she had gone to church growing up and she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are sufficiently good and ethical. She had never heard the message she was now hearing, that we can be accepted by God by sheer grace through the work of Christ regardless of anything we do or have done. She said, 'That's a scary idea! Oh, it's a good scary, but still scary.'

I was intrigued. I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace? She replied something like this: 'If I was saved by my good works - then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace - at God's infinite cost - then there's nothing He cannot ask of me.'

She could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had two edges to it. On the one hand it cut away slavish fear. God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures. Yet, she also knew that if Jesus really had done this for her - she was not her own. She was bought with a price."

I thought this was a fantastic way of explaining the relationship. We are saved by grace, freely. This gift, however, will inevitably result in a complete surrendering of our lives to God. We will serve Him unreservedly. We aren't saved by this response. It's the natural outpouring that comes with living faith. What other response could we have to such an amazing gift?

HT: Zach Nielsen

Music Video of the Week - One Republic

One Republic - "All The Right Moves"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Colt McCoy

Colt McCoy after getting injured on Texas' first possession of the National Championship game last night. Extremely gracious and God-honoring after his team lost the biggest game of his career and he couldn't play.



And earlier this year...This was completely validated by his response to the circumstances last night.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who's On First? (Kinetic Typography)

Abott and Costello's "Who's On First?" has got to be one of the greatest comedic routines ever (if not THE best). It's genious, hilarious, and delivered perfectly. If you've never see the whole version, go here and check it out.

I found this shortened version yesterday made using kinetic typography, a kind of animated text set to the audio that creates some interesting visuals. These techniques have been used in all kinds of videos. Cool stuff.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Best Card Trick Ever

My father-in-law posted this on facebook and I thought it was pretty cool. Not sure how in the world this guy does this, but it's pretty funny in addition to being amazing. The actual card trick doesn't start until 1:50 (first, he makes the audience feel silly for not being double-jointed).

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Review: Jim Belcher - Deep Church

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: IVP
Publication Date: September 30, 2009


I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the Emerging Church since I first heard about it a few years ago. Not sure if “fascinated” is the right word, as I’ve disagreed with the vast majority of the theology and practices coming out of the movement (although it's clearly not a homogeneous thing), but I’ve been intrigued for reasons I couldn’t quite place. After reading Jim Belcher’s book, Deep Church, I think I’ve figured out why I was interested in the movement. While I disagree with much of the theology and many of the methods the Emerging Church has produced, I share many of the same critiques and frustrations with the Traditional Church. If you always find yourself discouraged by false dichotomies between solid beliefs and culturally accessible designs, you will appreciate this book.

Belcher describes himself as one “caught in between” the Emerging and Traditional Churches. Orthodox in belief yet progressive in methods, Belcher’s California church has been his attempt to capture these traditional beliefs within a church context that appeals to and reaches our current era. As such, he clearly resonates with many in the Emerging movement as far the areas they find the Traditional Church lacking. In the book, Belcher essentially examines seven aspects of the church (truth, evangelism, gospel, worship, preaching, ecclesiology, and culture) and then details the critiques from the Emerging leaders. Then, he describes how the Traditional Church has pushed back and why. Finally, he presents his “third way,” an attempt to learn from Emerging without abandoning Traditional.

The strength of this book is clearly Belcher’s ability to fairly represent both sides on these divisive issues. In fact, I routinely found myself reading the Emerging critique, agreeing with people I never thought I would. Belcher takes great care to paint the pictures carefully, often visiting Emerging leaders and describing the heart behind the new ways of doing things. Then, he’s able to turn around and crank up the orthodoxy and point out problems when they exist. I didn’t always agree with his “third way,” but in most cases, it truly involved both sides.

With so many rifts existing within Christianity, and Evangelicalism in particular, I enjoyed this book as a way to guide the discourse towards civility, pointing out problems with a gentle spirit, but nevertheless calling a spade a spade. He also gives some very helpful framework to discuss the issues. Terms like foundationalism, centered-set, bounded-set, and relational-set beliefs were all new to me, but allowed me to understand more of where those in the Emerging Church are coming from. I don’t agree with where they’ve gone, but I can understand better.

As I said, the “third way” Belcher proposes to each issue will not satisfy everyone. How could it, really? I don’t believe it’s possible to design a church that will appeal to every person out there. It’s a helpful model to use, however, with whatever modifications are necessary for your context.

Deep Church is a challenging book written by a pastor with a clear heart for the church and for the truth about Jesus Christ. It has been a welcomed addition to my library, and I think many in the church would benefit greatly from it.



*This book was provided for review by IVP.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Resolutions for Mental Health in 2010

I wasn't going to post anything else this week, and I don't normally do New Year's Resolutions, but I thought John Piper's post on his teacher's 10 Resolutions was pretty good. You can read the whole post at the Desiring God Blog, but here are the 10 Resolutions. May they be helpful to you.

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities.

I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.
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