Monthly Archives: June 2008

 

Jun

30

2008

Jared C. Wilson|6:08 pm CT

The Christian Market For Idols

A huge religious marketplace has been set up in North America to meet the needs and fantasies of people just like us. There are conferences and gatherings custom-designed to give us the lift we need. Books and videos and seminars promise to let us in on the Christian “secret” of whatever we feel is lacking in our life: financial security, well-behaved children, weight-loss, exotic sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers. The people who promote these goods and services all smile a lot and are good-looking. They are obviously not bored.

It isn’t long before we are standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we had hoped for, or at least not for long, we are soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addictive. We have become consumers of packaged spiritualities.

This also is idolatry. We never think of using this term for it since everything we are buying or paying for is defined by the adjective “Christian.” But idolatry it is nevertheless: God packaged as product; God de-personalized and made available as a technique or program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative.

– from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
– 1 John 5:21

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Jun

29

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:42 pm CT

12th

Becky and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage today. We got married on our three year dating anniversary, so we’ve officially been a couple for 15 years.

Becky is the greatest blessing of my life, and I am thankful beyond words that God has given an amazing woman like her to a schmuck like me.

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Jun

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|7:15 pm CT

The Precious Privilege of "Abba Father!"

I think I’ve posted this before, but I don’t care. It’s wonderful.

C.J. Mahaney on God the Father.

This is a dude, by the way, who feels Scripture.

May our Father soften our hearts to be a fraction as sensitive to His word and His will revealed within it.

Have a good weekend, blogosphere.

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Jun

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|6:55 pm CT

Dare I Say It’s About Idolatry?

Well, I guess I just did.

On the same day the biggest baddest TR blog on the block basically says “missional” is an em-church emperor with no clothes, this post from Kingdom Grace knocks it out of the park.

It’s all good, but the punchy part addresses the dilemma (which I admit isn’t imaginary) raised by critics. Here it is:

The answer to whether an existing congregation can become missional is dependent on their willingness to change their central purpose.

By co-opting the term and changing its emphasis, churches who do not wish to make such fundamental shifts in their thinking can apply it to a program and say, essentially, “Yes, we’re a missional church.”
Brother Maynard

That isn’t missional. You can’t have it both ways.

What will it look like for an organization to shift its focus and purpose to mission instead of the organization and the Sunday service? Are congregations willing to make that degree of change, to pay the full price to become missional?

If not, be straight about what you are, and don’t claim to be what you are not.
But for those who truly want to be missional, realize what you will have to let go of in order to become missional.

Look, I don’t know what the missional gurus are saying being missional really is. I’ve heard they haven’t exactly figured it out, and since definitions are about as numerous as definers, I won’t be jumping in to say who’s in and who’s out. I also know that making the shift can be difficult and painstaking, and I have nothing but respect for pastors and churches trying to do a 180 in a cruise ship (to borrow a phrase from a pastor I met with this week), because that’s not an instant maneuver.

But I do know this: If missional is to mean anything, if it’s to get close to being what we are, deeper and more characteristic than what we do, it will necessarily involve a deep, perhaps painful reformation. A total renovation of how evangelical culture “does church” and who it exists for. The “central purpose” mentioned in the Kingdom Grace piece.

What is at the center? Who is at the center? And whatever your answer, does your local church look like that answer is true?

This stuff is directly related to my unexplained excitement from yesterday.

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Jun

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:11 pm CT

Jesus is Depth

Last week I posted on Depth, and I said Jesus is real depth. I want to say it again, because just a few days later I am committing to answer every query about what spiritual depth is or what deeper teaching looks like with “It is Jesus; it looks like Jesus.”

That doesn’t sound deep, I know. We think deep is systematic theology or detailed doctrinal study or digging into Hebrew and Greek etymology or whatever. And all that stuff is cool. But it’s not deep. It’s not going deep. It’s for smart people and for people who want to be smart, sure. But the kingdom is for all kinds of people, not just intellectuals, and everybody gets to press on to maturity, and maturity is going further and further into and closer and closer toward Jesus.

These words from Calvin (posted today by my friend Ray) gave me goosebumps:

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

Oh my goodness, yes. Let us drink our fill(!) from him and from no other.

And let those of us charged with feeding the sheep offer only the living water and no other.

Related:
Jesus Plus Nothing

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Jun

27

2008

Jared C. Wilson|2:57 pm CT

Five For Friday: Songs of the Moment

The last time I did a Five For Friday in this category it was April, so naturally my current song obsessions have changed. As then, this is not a list of my five favorite songs, nor are these songs necessarily new or in any way related to each other, aside from the fact that I have big crushes on all of them.

1. “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness
Popped up randomly on my iPod this morning. I was like, “Yes.”

2. “In Love with a Girl” by Gavin DeGraw
This song rocks. Plus, I am also in love with a girl who knows how to treat a fella right, so it’s relatable.

3. “Three More Days” by Ray LaMontagne
Oh. My. Goodness. Like buttah.

4. “Life in Technicolor” by Coldplay
This is the opening number on their new album Viva la Vida (which is phenomenal, by the way), and it’s just 2 minutes and 29 seconds of instrumental wonderment. I know this will make me sound like one of those artsy fartsy emerging types, but I hear this song, the way it builds, the way other notes and under-notes and complementary instruments come in (I’m not a musician, so I’m making up stuff here), and it makes me think of the kingdom of Jesus spreading over all the earth like the waters cover the sea. (Plug in your headphones, pop the earbuds in your earholes, crank it up, and see if you don’t agree.)

5. “4 Minutes” by Madonna (featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland)
Okay, I know I’m gonna take heat for this one. But man, I am so geeked out over this song. I love the marching band brass and drumline thing. I seriously need a support group to get over how cool I think this song is.

What songs are you crushing on right now?

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Jun

26

2008

Jared C. Wilson|9:21 pm CT

Excited

So I floated a sort of crazy, impractical idea to Element’s board of directors this morning, something I believe God has been wanting me to put before them, and we have begun talking about it, and it appears do-able, and I’m being really vague because the notion is only a few hours out of my heart and not everyone on the board has had a chance to weigh in, and we still have to decide how it might work and then it has to be approved by the board and it’s amazing I didn’t get laughed at by anybody (not because our board is rude or derisive or in any way unsupportive, but because it really is a “You wanna do what?” kind of idea).
I want to do something radical and ridiculous to show Jesus that Element really is passionate about the glory of God and the gospel of the kingdom.

Yesterday, I had lunch with Dr. Ray Ortlund, whose voice and vision I am so thankful to God for putting in my life. As I pulled into the parking lot at the restaurant, this compelling idea of mine* was heavy in my thoughts. During our conversation, not having mentioned anything about it or anything close to it, Ray is talking about the dangers of being “safe” in ministry and the benefits of being “scary” and then he said, “I wonder sometimes if God ever looks down at us and says, ‘Whoa. Now that was bold’.” The implication of course is that God doesn’t do that (all that often) about us because we aren’t really doing bold things. We’re doing provocative things, we’re doing effective things perhaps, and we’re doing attractive things. But what about bold?

I heard that as a word from God to go for it.

So it looks like we will be going for it. I’m excited.
I’ll share the details in this space soon enough (but maybe not for another few weeks), but I am excited and anxious and overjoyed about the unhesitating willingness of those I get to do ministry with to understand that “missional” can’t just be a buzzword, that it means being incarnational and that being incarnational means emptying ourselves.

* I say “idea of mine,” but it’s not in any way original to me. We won’t be the first church to have done this. If we do it, I hope to learn from those who’ve done it, just how they’re pulling it off.

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Jun

26

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:23 pm CT

Strong to Save

The very first CD I ever owned, one I bought before I even owned a CD player to play it on, was Russ Taff’s Under Their Influence: Volume 1. (I’m not sure he ever made a Volume 2.) I played the heck out of that thing.
I still have it and pulled it out of my collection recently. I hadn’t listened to it in ages. One song that really ministered to me is “God Don’t Ever Change.”

I’ve changed a lot in the seventeen years since I first heard that song. Seventeen years is not a long time, but I’ve gone from no facial hair to a few sprigs of gray in my brow, from having no luck with all the girls I liked to being blessed for twelve years (this Sunday!) with the woman of my dreams, from stuttering like a fool to speaking to large groups, from never having babysitted a baby to being a stay-at-home dad for going on 7 years, from skinny to fat to working my way back, from sinning like crazy to . . . Well, I guess some things haven’t changed.

But in my highs and lows and successes and setbacks, in my delights and — yes, I’m sad to say — in my depressions, I believe God has been faithful. My heart and soul are as firm as the shifting sand, but God has ever held me.

Two years ago, my good friend Bill’s wrote something at Out of the Bloo that rocks my socks off:

He’s always good, in the good times and the bad. He was so good during some of the hardest times we’ve ever faced back a year ago, and he’s so good now, having completely redeemed that situation.

Struggles will come and go, situations will arise, “happenings” will challenge our happiness, but there is a deep joy in knowing the Lord and knowing that He has it all under control. And that he really goes beyond my feeble expectations and thoughts and imaginings.

If you are facing an impossible situation, know that nothing is too hard for him. He can redeem that situation, and the next one, and the next one . . . none of us are ever “out of the woods” this side of glory. But he is the Lord of the woods, and the mountains, and the valleys, and even in the deepest, darkest pits his arm remains very strong to save.

To him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen!

Amen.

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Jun

25

2008

Jared C. Wilson|3:29 pm CT

When You’re In a Less Than Happy Place

This recent message by John Piper on Spiritual Depression is magnificent. It covers Psalm 42 (“Why so downcast, o my soul?” . . .) and, seriously, it is beautiful.

You probably know if the concept of spiritual depression might in some way apply to you or someone you know, but even if not, I highly recommend it.

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Jun

25

2008

Jared C. Wilson|2:08 pm CT

Love is Never a Waste

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
– Galatians 6:9

We likely all recall the time Peter came up to Jesus and basically asked, “When I can I stop forgiving someone who keeps wronging me? After seven times?”
(I can almost hear him hoping, “Please tell me after seven times.”)
But Jesus responds to him, saying “No, not seven times. Seventy times seven times.”

For those of you doing the math, that comes to 490. The bad news (or good news, depending on which side of the forgiving you’re on :-) is that this is a symbolic number that basically means “forever.”
Jesus was saying to Peter, “No, you don’t give someone seven strikes. You just keep forgiving them . . . forever.”

Now, Jesus is a smart guy. In fact, if we believe he is who he said he was, we know he has all the omniscience of the God of the Universe. So he knows this is a tall order. He knows it doesn’t “make sense” in our world of abuse and betrayal and pettiness and vindictiveness and pride and arrogance and egotism.

So why does he do this? If he knows our capacity for love and forgiveness is finite, how can he call us to persevere in these things toward others? The short answer, I think, is because God Himself perseveres in them toward us.
Jesus goes on to tell Peter a story about a servant who was forgiven a huge debt by his master. The servant goes on then to punish a third party who owes the servant much less. When the master finds out, he has the debt-pardoned servant thrown in jail and tortured. And Jesus says – this is the scary part – that’s what will happen to us if, spurning the grace given us by God, we withhold grace from others.

Because God’s love toward us is a) despite sin worthy of eternal punishment, and b) relentlessly patient in its eternal perseverance, we have no Christian right to say to someone who has wronged us, even if they continue to wrong us, “You have reached your limit with me. My love for you stops now.” Doing so fails to truly see the depths of our sin in the light of God’s holiness. And if God, who is perfect and holy, will forgive and love we who are most certainly not, on what basis do we have to be unforgiving and unloving to others?

I am guessing most of us agree with this in theory. There’s not too many Christians who will say, despite Jesus’ instructions, that it’s okay to hate your enemies and curse those who persecute you.

I think the place where we really have trouble with this stuff is when it comes to people who are hurting us that we actually do really want to love. We really do want to keep forgiving them. But we are weary. They are wearing us out. We don’t know how much longer we can go on. We want to know if we can give up, but we’re scared what that might mean. Surely God does not want to us to keep enduring this pain. Surely he will understand if we just . . . give up. Things aren’t working. The results aren’t being seen. Efforts are not bearing fruit. I’ve changed, but he or she hasn’t.

Most of us know 1 Corinthians 13 really well, but let’s revisit a piece of it again:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres . . . Love never fails.

That’s some scary stuff right there. For we who are used to thinking of love as romance or warm-and-fuzzies or butterflies or sex, Paul has Jesus in mind as the model of love when he tells us, “Love is about sacrifice and service. And it keeps going. It never fails.”

How can this be? We think of those who have tried to love someone back from the brink only to see the person eventually go over. Certainly love fails in these circumstances, right?

I don’t think so. I think that’s true only if we are thinking of our love in terms of a results-based value. But that is not what Jesus is telling Peter. And that’s not what Paul is telling us.

Jesus does not offer Peter a loophole. There is no Forgiveness Contingency Plan. There’s no limited time warranty. Whether the person you’re loving embraces your forgiveness or not, you keep forgiving. Whether the person you love is changed by your love or not, you keep on loving.

In this sense, I don’t think “Love never fails” means “Love always gets the result the lover wants.” I think it means what it says: Love is not a failure.
Love is not a failure regardless of the results.

This is why: Because God is not a failure, and God is love. When we are loving someone with a persevering, sacrificial love, we are reflecting the eternal goodness and grace of God Himself. We are glorifying God, and there is no higher calling than that. None.
We love – not because it will “change the world” (although it may) – but because God loves us (1 John 4:19).

You would think this might incline us toward a begrudging love, then. “Oh, well, if it’s just for God, maybe I should stop hoping for change in the person I’m loving.” But Paul says love “always trusts, always hopes.”

Always trust that God is not content to honor your sacrificial love with a sympathetic pat on the head. Always hope that God is using your sacrificial love to change hearts and minds. (Maybe yours.)

Love always perseveres. Love never fails. So don’t give up.

Whoever you are, wherever you are: Don’t give up.
To the parents trying to love a wayward child back from the world, to the husband trying to love his wife back from drug addiction, to the wife trying to love her husband back from pornography or adultery, to the girl trying to love her friend back from bitterness, to the guy trying to love his friend back from despair – Don’t Give Up.
Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up.

Whatever happens, whenever it happens, your love is not in vain. You are not alone, for God loves you and has approved your love through the sacrifice of his Son. Cast off despair; cast all your cares on Him.
Love never fails. Love is never a waste.

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