“Stop feeling that way” doesn’t work

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Last night, Emily and I had an interesting discussion about a little booklet we’d been reading, Help! My Teen Struggles with Same Sex Attractions. Although the booklet had some good points throughout, and presents a solid (albeit extremely brief) rebuttal of common redefinitions of the so-called “hammer” verses on homosexuality, there was something just not quite right about it. In fact, if I had to sum it up in a couple of words, it would be this: naïvely simplistic.

Unless I’m completely misreading it (which I hope I’m not), the approach seems to be, more or less, “repent or you’ll keep being gay.” Keep contemplation and confession logs. Have Bible verses around the house to remind you of what God’s Word has to say on the issue. If your teen does these things, then they won’t succumb to temptation.1

Now, obviously, repentance is right when sin is committed either in the heart or in the body. If a Christian who deals with same-sex attraction entertains immoral thoughts, he or she should repent of that (just as a heterosexual Christian should). If he or she commits an act of sexual immorality with a member of the same sex, then repentance is required, just as it would be for Christian doing so with a member of the opposite sex. The response on the part of the one committing sexual sin, whether in the heart or in the body, is the same whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, absolutely. And likewise, those temptations can only be resisted with a new heart, one inclined toward Christ, and a new identity, that of being a child of God in Christ.

But the booklet does not seem to make a distinction between temptation and action itself. Based on some of its language, it seems to view the issue of inclination (which may or may not be welcomed by the one dealing with it) as an act of rebellion itself. But the reality may be more complicated than this.

We should not forget that sin wreaks havoc on every aspect of creation. This is why some of us are predisposed to be overweight, even when we have healthy eating habits, or why healthy people’s bodies suddenly turn on themselves as cancerous cells develop, or why hard working people live in poverty. It’s not that these people have necessarily done anything to cause these things: they simply are as a result of living in a fallen world.

Sin represents a disruption in God’s good creation that affects everything.

So, too, it is with our affections. We are naturally designed a certain way; and I believe God’s design is for men and women to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. But the fall disrupts even this aspect of God’s good design, in effect inverting our orientation for some of us. While this does not excuse acting upon these inclinations, it should serve as an important reminder: we should not treat a teenage or adult Christian as though they rebelling against God simply because of these inclinations. If we fail to recognize this, we may do far more damage to Christians—including our own children—than we realize.

This is not to say we should be soft on sin. Far from it. It is simply a recognition that we can’t expect “stop feeling that way” to work, no matter how many memory verses we post around the house.

Don’t seek what you’re not willing to lose

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There’s a real danger to platform building, as anyone who has paid the slightest amount of attention to the scandals that routinely rock churches in North America will tell you. And it almost always winds up being a variation on the same theme: someone starts believing his or her own press.

Despite building a platform for the sake of the gospel, the platform inevitably becomes more and more about us.

And the moment that happens, we’ve already lost it. We see this when celebrity pastors hire PR firms, sure, but none of us are immune. When blog stats are lower than we’d like, or we lose follower on social media, or people simply aren’t as into us as they used to be… When it’s about us, these things destroy us. When it’s about Jesus, it doesn’t matter quite so much.

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

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“Sexual preference is a human right.”

I read these words Sunday afternoon as CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi, best known as the host of Q, announced that he had been fired from theCanadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) because of his sexual preferences, and would be suing the taxpayer-funded broadcasting company for a hefty sum. Ghomeshi, as he revealed on his Facebook page, preferred to engage with ladies in BDSM, and a jilted ex had decided to take it public, saying he had abused her. (Note: use wisdom in determining whether or not to click the link. The language is fairly clean, but it’s a pretty frank discussion of all the events from his perspective.)

Now here’s the twist: though his employers agreed (based on evidence Ghomeshi provided) that his relationships were consensual, their problem was they believed “this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC.”

This, friends, is secular sexual ethic at work, in all of its inconsistent glory. Consider a couple of ways it plays out, both in this story and in a broader context:

1. Preferences are a right… unless they’re too icky for us. The CBC has long promoted socially and politically liberal ideologies. In fact, they’ve been tireless advocates of all sorts of non-traditional sexual behaviors, and spent a good amount of taxpayer money getting us all acclimated to them. (Exhibit A: The Survival of the Fabulous.) So it seems a bit odd that they’d have issues with Ghomeshi’s behavior—especially given how quickly it’s been normalized thanks to a whole lot of people reading 50 Shades of Creepy.

(And as an aside, nothing is more disturbing than your teenage niece telling you how “romantic” those books are. Barf.)

So the question becomes, who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

2. Sexual preference should be private… except when we think it shouldn’t. Pierre Trudeau, the father of the modern mess that is Canada, said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” This was often quoted to Christians who advocated against the legalization of same-sex marriage here in 2005 (which, ironically, was a push into the bedrooms of the nation). And yet, we continually see the media—and by proxy, the state—push into our minds and bedrooms as they attempt to acclimate us to certain ideas. Remember how only 20 years ago, it was shocking that a gay character would be featured on a sitcom? Now, if you don’t have one you’re considered out of touch or worse.

So which is it? The problem is, the secular sexual ethic generally want to have it both ways: If you disagree with us, fine, but keep it to yourself. But there’s an agenda to push and by golly, we’re going to push it.

In the end, as grieved as I am that Ghomeshi’s lost his show (while I disagreed with much of what he said, he was and is a skillful and winsome interviewer), and that he had to share details about his personal life he’d have preferred remain private (provided, of course, his version of events is accurate), these events reveal something very important: the secular sexual ethic, in all of its preposterous inconsistency, is like a snake eating its own tail. It will devour itself. It fails in practice because it doesn’t have a firm foundation. It just doesn’t make sense because we weren’t made to work that way.

And this is where Christians have the opportunity to show our non-believing neighbors something better: a sexual ethic that brings dignity, and builds up men and women. A way of looking at gender, marriage and sexuality that’s internally consistent. A tested and true ethic built upon an immovable foundation. One that, in the end, you can look at and realize “it just makes sense,” because it’s the way God made us.

What do the attacks in Ottawa mean for us?

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Yesterday, something most Canadians never imagined possible happened: a gunman shot and killed 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, as he served as part of the ceremonial honor guard at Canada’s National War Memorial. The gunman, identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau1, then moved toward Parliament itself, where he continued his attack where he injured at least two more people before he was killed.2

Wednesdays events mark the second such attack on Canadian soil in the last week. On Monday in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed by a young man, recently converted to Islam with strong ISIS sentiments.

Last night, my wife and I watched Prime Minister Stephen Harper address the nation and use a word many of us might have been thinking, but were still surprised to hear him say: Terrorist. 

“In the days to come, we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had,” Harper said. “But this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”

The idea of a terrorist attack in Canada probably seems bizarre. I mean, it’s Canada. We’re all nice and polite and we have criminals who plan massive maple syrup heists. We have incredibly complex gun laws that require people to apply for permission to think about buying a gun.

We don’t have terrorist attacks. Except, it seems, we do.

So, we need to consider how these events should affect our thinking and our living. At the very least, I need to consider this and I’m hoping you’ll do so with me. Here are three things I see as important takeaways:

1. We should not ignore this event. It’s helpful for American readers to understand that when events like this happen, Canadians don’t stop everything they’re doing and watch the news. In America, I’m guessing this would have shut everything down: everyone would be paying attention. That’s just not how it works here.In fact, there are a good number of people here who won’t have any idea that there even was an attack on Parliament. We tend to have a laissez-faire attitude about most things in Canada: politics, the economy, education, Jesus… arguably everything except hockey, coffee, and beer. So when the attack happened, most of us were doing our regular jobs. Some of us were paying attention, but for many, it was more or less business as usual. I would love to see this change in my fellow Canadians, and in me. This doesn’t mean we need to become overly paranoid, but should acknowledge we are not immune to terrorism, and we would be foolish to think otherwise.

2. We must not use it for our own interests. Thankfully, so far at least, no one has taken to the airwaves and touted the need for more stringent gun regulations, nor do we need anyone making up conspiracy theories about Harper government trying to force a police state upon us.3 Because we don’t know the full story of what happened yesterday—specifically the motivations behind the events, though it’s almost certainly retaliation for Canada’s involvement in the coalition against ISIS—we would be foolish to rush to any sort of conclusion or use it as a launch pad for personal or political agendas.

3. We need to pray. Ottawa is a city filled with lost people. Toronto is filled with lost people. London (where I live)  is filled with lost people. Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver… every major Canadian city and nearly every community is filled with lost people. But every Canadian community also has at least some faithful Christians. And every faithful Christian desperately needs to be praying right now. We need to pray for wisdom for our government and for the authorities investigating these events. We need to pray that any accomplices still at large would be brought to justice. That further plans would be thwarted. And most importantly, that there would be opportunities to be powerful witnesses to the family of Cpl. Cirillo, to those who were injured in Wednesday’s shootings, and to the millions upon millions of lost people in our nation.


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Why it’s good to disagree with your past self

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It never fails. You write something, you put publish it, share it, do all the stuff you usually do with a blog post… And then, a few years later, you come back to it for some reason, and realize “Wow, I’m not sure I agree with that anymore.”

When this happens, I actually get pretty happy. Though it might seem strange to say, I don’t want to agree with everything I’ve written over the last six years. Why? Three reasons:

1. I’m not the same person who wrote it. Someone told me you’re the same person you were five years ago except for the people you meet and the books you read. Which, is really a coy way of saying, you should be a very different person if you’re doing it right. A few years (or a few months) from now, we may no longer agree with a popular figure who once was a strong influence. We will meet people and have experience which will affect us in ways we may not even be consciously aware of. We will be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking through the books we read (at least, as long as we’re being appropriately diverse in our reading). These changes and influences may be conspicuous or subtle, but they will most definitely happen. And that is most definitely a good thing.

2. I’m a different kind of writer than I was then. A few years ago, I had no idea what kind of writer I wanted to be. Much of my old writing was (in my opinion) sloppy and filled with unnecessary filler (far too many thens and thats and such things). I wanted to be taken seriously, so I used more words instead of better ones. Today, I’m more looking to have fun with words than to present myself a certain way. I want to write in ways material that’s fun to read, and usually this means making things shorter.

3. I’m being refined by God. One of the ways I’ve seen God most at work in my life in this regard has been a slowly increasing concern with character over results. Results can be manufactured, as we all know. But no matter how hard we try, character can’t be. I want to have the kind of character that’s marked with the fruit of the Spirit, to be the kind of person who is self-controlled and considerate. I have a long way to go, but when I look back on things I wrote or said a few years ago, I have confidence that the Lord is at work.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

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This past week, the folks at Hillsong found themselves in a bit of a pickle as founder Brian Houston, when confronted on the question of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In attempting to provide a winsome answer, he said that it’s too important to reduce down to a “yes or no answer in a media outlet,” which many conservative evangelicals took to mean Houston and Hillsong are fudging on what the Bible says.

Fast forward a couple of days. Houston clarified, saying, “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Houston’s not alone in doing “the dance”—not wanting to deny the Bible, but wanting to keep entry to the faith as free from obstacles as possible. Tons of pastors (and “pastors”) have faced this. Even Joel Osteen (who has the most inoffensive to unbelievers personality on earth!) has been ambushed on the question. In the end, he said he didn’t believe it to be God’s best for people.

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

Now, I get it. Many people want to avoid putting up a stumbling block to unbelievers coming to faith. They don’t want to be seen as “those Christians”—the ones who are always fighting about this or that, or who are considered hateful or bigots. But dancing around the Bible isn’t the answer.

We don’t really need to do the dance. We don’t have to be backed into a corner where we begrudgingly accept what the Bible says. Not if we are viewing the Bible as we are meant to.

If the Bible is the word of Truth (James 1:18; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), shouldn’t we be more comfortable standing by it? Not with a begrudging acceptance, but with a heartfelt confidence?

Shouldn’t we be willing to treat God’s word as, well, God’s Word?

Five opportunities to glorify God in Mark Driscoll’s resignation

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So… Mark Driscoll resigned.

There’s a lot that could be said about this, and undoubtedly much will be. Some of it will be helpful, some of it will be… less so. Hopefully this will be the former, and not the latter.

In all honesty, I’m very glad that Driscoll is out of ministry. After years of controversy, and in recent months the unceasing barrage of issues coming to light—including plagiarism, financial mismanagement at Mars Hill and a pattern of abusive behavior—this needed to happen, for the good of the people who have been hurt, for the people at Mars Hill and for Driscoll himself.

And while, undoubtedly, there are going to be some who will read his resignation and point out some of the troubling aspects (including his not being found disqualified despite being disqualified by his “domineering style of leadership,” [1 Peter 5:3]), I would love to focus on five opportunities to glorify God arising from this:

The opportunity for Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill’s at a crossroads: if the church is all about Jesus, now’s the time to prove it. The best place to start? Honestly evaluating their structure.

The model they’ve been running on—with an outside board of accountability—simply doesn’t work, nor is it biblical. If they’re serious about getting healthy, they need to put in place a model of governance where every leader really is one vote at the table, and are held to account. They need to become autonomous churches with elders who are biblically qualified and capable of preaching the Word.

They need to not be what they’ve been for the better part of the last decade if they’re serious about getting healthy and continuing on with Jesus’ mission to make disciples of all the nations. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

If not, then it’s time to turn off the lights and shut the doors.

The opportunity for Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is also at a crossroads. The pattern of public behavior we’ve all witnessed over the last several months have shown us what can happen when a man with natural ability but lacking in spiritual maturity puts himself in a position of great authority. One cannot escape from such a scenario unscathed.

While he says he was not disqualified by the investigation (and really, did anyone expect him to be), one thing is unquestionably clear in all of this: he desperately needs help. Driscoll desperately needs to do some real soul searching and ask himself hard, honest questions: How did things get this bad? Is he seeing his own role in this drama correctly? What would God have him do going forward.

And although, I’m glad he says in his resignation that he and Grace will be receiving support and counsel from men and women across the country, he needs something else: to be a member in a local church. He needs to be under the authority of someone (or rather, multiple someones) for the first time in his adult life.

To be perfectly honest, my hope for Mark Driscoll is that he stays far away from the spotlight and far away from ministry for a long, long time. He’s got serious issues that need to be worked out. The best place for him to do that is as a member of a local church, not as a leader in one. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those injured

For those who have been injured over the years at Mars Hill, I’m not certain the news offers much comfort. Some, understandably, had hoped to see him disqualified and fired. Instead, he’s resigned of his own accord.

Regardless, he’s gone. Whether the church stands or falls remains to be seen. This is an opportunity to be at peace and heal, even if the way the end came about isn’t the way they’d hoped. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those on the sidelines

Finally, those of us on the sidelines have a number of choices to make. Some have made their reputations blogging about these sorts of controversies (to varying degrees of helpfulness). For these bloggers, their work is more or less done, at least as far as the negative side of these events is concerned. My hope for them is they’ll be able to focus on what is good and pure and true, and celebrate what God inevitably does out of this situation.

Some bloggers have chosen to be silent about these sorts of issues in general and this one in particular. Sometimes it’s for good reasons, such as not having anything to say or not wanting to be accused of chasing controversies. I don’t really have an issue with that. But my hope for all of us— particularly those of us who claim to be “gospel-centered”— would be an increased willingness to confront evil, especially when it appears in our own houses. We should be willing to decisively condemn such practices. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The final opportunity

Finally, we all have one final opportunity to glorify God in this, and that is to pray. We need to pray for God’s will to continue to be done in the lives of all who have been affected by the drama at Mars Hill Church over the last several months and years.

  • That those who have been injured would find peace.
  • That humility would reign in the hearts of the remaining leaders at Mars Hill as they choose how to move forward.
  • That God would truly break Mark Driscoll’s heart in a new way so he can be closer to God as he says he desires to be.
  • That we wouldn’t just wait for the next rockstar megachurch pastor to implode, but would pray that God would cut through the garbage they’ve surrounded themselves with.
  • That we would put our houses in order and not sacrifice people and mission on the altar of celebrity.

If we can pray for those things, I believe God will be glorified.

Cancel your Halloween plans if…

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My latest article at Christianity.com:

“Do you let your kids do Halloween?” My coworkers and I discussed this recently as we decompressed from our Monday morning meeting. It’s an interesting discussion to have with fellow believers because we’re so split on the issue.

Although rarely does anyone declare you a gospel-compromising heretic if you allow your kids to go trick-or-treating, it’s not uncommon to get a sideways glance. So how are we to navigate Halloween? Should we avoid it entirely or embrace it unquestioningly? Or is there a way for us to engage it appropriately, in a way that honors Christ?

I believe this final option is possible, provided we take the following things into consideration.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Cancel Halloween (Unless You Can Do These 5 Things)


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Five things I’m thankful for

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Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. Like in America, Thanksgiving weekend is accompanied by (arguably) excessive amounts of food, lots of family get-togethers, and a post-turkey coma. The major difference, aside from our Thanksgiving being on a Monday, is that the biggest shopping day of the year doesn’t immediately follow.

This past Sunday, we drove to Orangeville, Ontario, and enjoyed the day with our extended family on my wife’s side (specifically, my in-laws and my sister-in-law’s in-laws), with lots of great food and conversation. Thinking about the festivities on the way home and into the evening after putting the kids to bed made me consider what I’m thankful for this year. Here are five things:

1. My church: yesterday was the first time I’d actually sat in our weekend services in about a month. Prior to that, I’ve been preaching at another church, teaching in our children’s ministry, and (last week) teaching our baptism class in preparation for October 24th’s event. It was nice to just be there, for a change (even if the sleepy-time lighting makes it challenging to stay awake). Every time I hear them preach, I am grateful for our pastors’ commitment to the Word and desire to see people grow in their affection for Jesus. This is such a great gift.

2. My wife: She’s been working extra hard over the last few weeks, particularly as we’ve transitioned into homeschooling. What I’m really excited about for her is seeing how she’s taking to the task (which is to say, well). She especially gets little thrills when the kids randomly bring up things she’s taught them. For example, a couple of weeks ago, while doing a geography lesson, Abigail saw the word peninsula, and said, “Hey, I know what that means—’pen,’ is ‘almost,’ and ‘insula’ is ‘island.’ So, peninsula means ‘almost an island.'” You can understand why this was encouraging for her, I’m sure.

3. My kids: So far, my kids are thriving in homeschooling (as noted above). But school aside, these kids are just plain fun. I love being able to come home and have Hudson try to beat me up (he loves rough-housing so much). Making my girls squeal at a pitch only dogs can hear is also pretty amazing. And really, how can you not enjoy this:

My little Red Lantern

4. My work: I don’t talk about my day job very much here, mostly because I don’t have much to say about it that would be relevant for you to know. But lately, we’ve been having a pretty good season in our team. One of the things I’m most grateful for is a newfound willingness to take risks. Not foolish ones, but calculated risks where we can fail and learn or succeed and celebrate. One of the risks we took recently paid off, at the very least from a creative perspective, which to me is worth celebrating. I’ll share a bit more about that once the campaign it’s tied to officially launches.

5. My news: Friday, I learned something very cool—I got into school. Look for more details to come in the near future.

These are a few of the things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. What about you?


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Why is it so tempting to toss the Bible?

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out where to start with a review of God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. Like I seriously don’t even know where to start. It’s the same problem I have with trying to read and thoughtfully critique anything by Rachel Held Evans or the folks involved with Christianity21… all of whom claim to take the Bible seriously, yet routinely reimagine what it says.

(This is not the beginning of a book review, by the way.)

Believe it or not, I actually get where they’re coming from. I remember some early conversations I had as a new believer where I would say some pretty stupid and arrogant things—more than once the phrase, “Well, that was just Paul’s opinion” came out of my mouth. This wasn’t because I didn’t believe the Bible, I just didn’t understand it.

Over time, I got a better sense of what was going on in the Bible, but challenging passages still present themselves. How do we deal with the Bible’s contention that Christians should not intentionally become romantically involved with non-believers? Or that marriage is strictly to be kept between one man and one woman? Or that we’re to forsake all—even our families—in order to follow Jesus?

Honestly, there are times when I can see why it’s tempting to adopt a more novel reading of some of these passages (or abandon them altogether). I mean, who really wants to tell the Christian woman with a non-believing boyfriend that they shouldn’t be dating? Who really enjoys the scorn that comes from being against every “reasonable” person in the West (in the eyes of the media, at least) on the issue of same-sex marriage? Who looks forward to the awkward moments at get-togethers when family members’ eyes glaze over when you talk about what’s going on in your life?

And so the temptation comes to light. And far too many of us—whether willingly or out of sheer exhaustion—give in. We reinvent ourselves as “doubt-filled believers,” which too often seems like choosing to be blown about aimlessly by the wind. We try to maintain our identity as evangelicals, even as we saw off the branch upon which we sit. We try to do what we can to get along with everyone, but in the end please no one.

We’re too Christian for some, but not enough for others. You can’t win playing that game.

Which takes us back to the question: why is it so tempting to toss the Bible? Because it’s easier. The Bible is dangerous and obeying is it costly.

When “fighting the good fight,” it’s often us who take a beating. When running to “finish the race,” we hit a wall that’s almost impossible to push through as every muscle in our bodies screams for us to stop.

But even then, we don’t give up. Tossing the Bible might seems like the easy solution in our moments of weakness, but it’s a losing proposition. We may not want to be on the wrong side of anything, but if I had to choose, I’d rather not be on the wrong side of Jesus. I’d rather, in as much as the Lord strengthens me, to say with Paul:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

What about you?

The courage to take a risk

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I spent the bulk of last week in Chicago for Story, a conference for those who are engaged in the creative world—storytellers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers, among others. I went to this event a couple years ago and found it… weird, but interesting, and a bit scattered in its message. This time around, it had its elements of pretension—the standard “You are creative and the world needs you!” type stuff—but it wasn’t all rah-rah this time. Instead, I noticed a pretty consistent theme come through all the speakers’ addresses: this idea of courageous creativity.

What do I mean by that? Being willing to take risks—real risks. Being willing to try something and fail.

This is something few of us are good at. In fact, it’s not something I’m entirely sure I know how to do. Working in the non-profit world, where we deal with money entrusted to us by donors, it sometimes feels as though we can’t afford to try something and have it fail. We can’t really take risks, which means we can’t really innovate.

Or so we think.

I wonder, though, how much would change for us if someone just said these five words: “You are free to fail”?

Would we be more willing to take risks? To experiment?

To maybe even have a little fun with our work?

And moving beyond creative work, consider how these words affect our relationship with God. Just as many of us who work in the non-profit world believe failure isn’t an option, many of us believe the same thing about following Jesus? That if we’re not “all-rise” in our approach to the Christian faith—always more baptisms, more bums in seats, more services—we’re blowing it?

Why do we keep forgetting that, although we will always progress on our march to holiness, it’s going to be of a stumbling, faltering sort? That there is a sense in which we are told in the gospel, we are free to fail? Not in a way that minimizes or blesses sin, but in the sense that it’s our failures more than our successes that we see our need for Christ—and God uses to shape us into the image of Christ?

This, too, requires courage. A kind of courage we too easily set aside for the sake of appearances. We want to be seen as godly, without actually wanting to take the risks associated with becoming godly. Confessing sin is a risk. Repenting of sin requires courage. But the reward—while it may never be fully seen in this world—makes the risk worth it, doesn’t it?

So what’s up with getting an education?

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Some time ago, I shared how I’ve been considering getting a formal education. This hasn’t been an easy road to consider since:

  • I’m in my mid-thirties and therefore can’t do full-time school; and
  • it costs a lot of money to do this (money which, at the moment at least, I do not have a lot of).

So… what have I been doing since I last shared about this and asked you all to pray with me?

In mid-August, I applied to a Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies program at a very reputable seminary. The program allows me the flexibility I need to maintain a healthy-ish schedule while getting a quality education. As of this week, the only thing that remains is for them to receive a copy of my transcript from the college I attended here in London. Once they have that, they will be able to make a decision on whether or not to accept me as a student. If so, I’ll potentially be starting school as early as January, 2015, which is kind of exciting.

There are other questions beyond acceptance that remain as I start planning for the possibility of becoming a student again:

  • How will I manage my time effectively?
  • What impact will this have on my blogging schedule?
  • How am I going to pay for my tuition?

There are a few options we’re considering, but I wanted to share a conviction that’s arisen about school: this is not something to which I’m willing to add another cent in debt. As you can imagine, this brings up more challenges. So I’m considering a few ideas that I’ll tell you more about should my application be accepted.

While there’s clearly not a lot to report, probably the best thing in the entire process to this point was taking the first step on the application—taking action on something I’d been hesitating on for a good long while. Whether I am accepted or rejected, I will at least know an answer. It won’t be another one of those “What if” things. And that is liberating.

So we’ll see what happens. I look forward to sharing more soon—and you wouldn’t mind praying for my acceptance, I’d certainly appreciate it.


Photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals for you:

What not to get your pastor for pastor’s appreciation month

Eric Geiger:

…I am grateful for the few folks in every church who remember Pastor Appreciation Month, likely because the Christian radio station they listen to reminds them. Because I am no longer a “pastor” as my full-time job, I feel some freedom to speak a bit bluntly about some of the gifts our pastors, your pastors, may be in jeopardy of receiving this year. If you have given your pastor some of these gifts before, don’t feel bad. There is no condemnation here. Only grace. And your pastor really did know you cared, was honored you remembered him, and likely thought, “It is the thought that counts.” But I want to be helpful and encourage you NOT to get your pastor the following this year.

The Hound of Heaven (trailer)

This short film written and directed by N.D. Wilson looks fantastic:

How the News Makes Us Dumb

Kevin DeYoung:

Of course, not all news is pointless. There are long form essays, insightful commentaries, skilled journalistic exposes, striking documentaries–all of these can come under the category of “news” and all of them, when done excellently, can point people to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Sommerville’s not even against the here-today-gone-tomorrow bits of news. Neither am I. The Lord knows–and so does the internet–that I’ve written blog posts on current events before, and every Monday I post two or three minutes of silliness, for no reason except to laugh a little. The news doesn’t have to make us dumb, but if we don’t take the necessary mental and habitual precautions it almost certainly will.

Repenting of Our Lack of Sleep

Scott Slayton:

We often fail to think about what our daily habits say about our view of ourselves and our view of God. When we push ourselves morning to night seven days a week for days on end we demonstrate that we have a Messiah complex. We think the world will fall apart if we are not constantly doing something. We face a major dilemma though. We cannot keep going day in and day out without feeling terrible and lashing out at the people around us. We were not made to function on a lack of sleep. The Psalmist says in 121:4, “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Only God does not need sleep. He is the one who made the world and who sustains the world. The world would fall apart if he took only a moment off, but we are not him.  Much to our chagrin, we find that the world continues to function quite well while we sleep. Sleep reminds us that God is God and we are not. John Piper said this as only he can, “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day.”

Does Apologetics Convert People?

Clint Roberts:

If we ask the question, “How many people became Christians because they heard a good defense of something like the existence of God, the historicity of the Gospels, or the archeological verifications of biblical narratives?” the answer is probably “very few”.

But the question, “Does apologetics convert anyone?” is a poor question to begin with.

Social Media and the Sensation of Missing Out

Joey Cochran:

Social media is both a blessing and curse as we all know and have experienced. One curse is that it facilitates the sensation of missing out.

For example, have you ever gotten onto Instagram to see pictures from all your friends who are at the same event together? But you didn’t go. Your immediate response of dismay, envy, and justification for why you didn’t go or why you weren’t invited is how you manage that sensation of missing out. Or have you ever gotten on Twitter and discovered an unreal conversation that went on for swipe after swipe of your forefinger? Did you not feel those twinges of dismay and envy again? Did you feel a tractor-force beam pull to exhaust fifteen to thirty catching up on the conversation and then add a triumphal tweet of your own? This sensation of missing out is a beast to tame. It will own you until you own it. Here’s two things to remember about your sensation of missing out.

Five ways to help the poor (that really do help!)

homeless

My latest article at Christianity.com:

Caring for the poor isn’t easy—but it also doesn’t need to be overwhelming, at least when we recognize poverty from a biblical point of view. I explained in an earlier article that when we begin to see poverty the way the Bible does, we begin to see it as offering a number of practical opportunities to worship Jesus.

But how we will worship—how our concern will be expressed—will differ from one person to another. The expression of our concern neither reflects nor establishes our holiness before God. Our responsibility is only to serve in the way in which we feel compelled. With that in mind, here are five things you can do to help the poor that really do help.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Five ways to help the poor (that really do help!)