Theology

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper

In Recapturing the Wonder, Mike Cosper has written a unique book that explores spiritual disciplines in our secular context. Cosper says that his book is “an attempt to sketch out the spiritual landscape of an age that has been called a ‘secular age,’ an ‘age of anxiety,’ and a ‘culture of narcissism,’ and an effort at finding a path into a different way of life.”

Cosper begins to explaining what it means that we live in a secular age. He explains that a secular world is a disenchanted world: “A disenchanted world has been drained of magic, of any supernatural presences, of spirits and God and transcendence. A disenchanted world is a material world, where what you see is what you get.”

The secular world responds to the religious world: “You can believe whatever you want so long as you don’t expect it to affect your everyday experience.”

In this world, spiritual disciplines are a counter-cultural act. They are not just formation: they are counter-formation. They shape us against the world we inhabit. It also means that these disciplines are going to be hard for us. “In a disenchanted world,” Cosper says, “solitude is terrifying.” As Christians, “We’re not called first to act but to cease.” Cosper continues, “As we take up ancient practices like prayer, Scripture reading, and fasting, we will see the way they confront our disenchanted way of knowing the world.”

Where the secular world creates religion of display, in Christ we can experience the reality of peace with God. “The alternative to the disenchanted religion of display--a life spent seeking affirmation in the mirror of the world—is to find rest in Jesus.” Cosper says we don’t need to manufacture spectacle, we need to experience the presence of God in daily disciplines.

What does your interior life look like? Who are you when you’re not displaying yourself?

Why We have a 37 Page Doctrinal Statement

Why We have a 37 Page Doctrinal Statement

In the world of non-denominationalism, the tendency is to scrape theology down to its bare minimum. I appreciate the spirit behind that move: to not create division where there shouldn’t be division. Why can’t we join together as a church in unity despite our minor disagreements?

New Life is swimming against that current. In a day and age many church’s doctrinal statements could be printed on written out on a napkin, we have a 37 page doctrinal statement.

I discovered New Life’s doctrinal statement when I began considering whether God might be calling apply to serve on staff. I was pretty surprised. I was also grateful. I’m even more grateful for the doctrinal statement today. Here are 7 reasons why:

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

One of my Christian heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I even asked my wife if we could name our son Dietrich. For some reason she didn’t like that idea. Go figure.

Bonhoeffer is a fascinating figure for all sorts of reasons, but one of those is that his ministry took place during the rise of Nazism in Germany. Born into an upper-middle class family in Germany and studying at some of finest schools, he ended up rejecting the German national church, which was controlled by the Nazi party. Instead he threw his energy behind the Confession Church, a church that resisted the Nazi party.

Ultimately Dietrich Bonhoeffer would do more than theologically resist the Nazi party; he would actively participate in helping Jews escape and would ultimately be party to an assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.[i]

Although, for obvious reasons, Bonhoeffer never discussed the plot nor his reasons for the decision, it is clear in his letters that he expended a lot of energy working through what his ethical responsibilities were throughout the war. Those who believe he participated in the assassination conspiracy point to his words in Ethics where he says, “the structure of responsible action includes both readiness to accept guilt and freedom.”[ii] Is Bonhoeffer saying that there are times where following Christ means that we might actually be called into guilt (and therefore to sin)?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why the Devil Didn't Think He Won When Jesus was on the Cross: I hadn't thought this through as clearly until I read this JA Medders post. His final reason is the strongest: " Fifth, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he is tempted to get himself down from the cross. Why? This would cease his substituting death for us—Satan wouldn’t be disarmed and defeated. But Jesus did the Father’s will, he died and rose again for us. Defeating Satan every step of the way."

2.      How to Mend a Relationship That has Been Broken for Years: Vital Signs delivers consistently difficult, but healthy advice on matters related to conflict: Joseph Grenny offers, " I have come to believe that my capacity for joy in life is a function of my capacity to love imperfect people. And the most aggressive calisthenics of that capacity is practicing vulnerability at times of the most acute emotional risk."

3.      Seeing the Individual's Face: Jennie Cesario with one of the most beautiful reflections I've read in a while: "[T]o grow in the love of God is to expand my heart and vision in this way. To, little by little, allow more faces to become particular to me, more faces to become dear — whether they’re next to me in a church pew or against me in the voting booth; whether they’re my kindred or my worst enemies."

4.      What Teens Value Most: Helen Gibson reports on Pew Research Center's latest poll on teens. In it, having a career they enjoy ranks first, then helping others who are in need, and third is having a lot of money. Getting married is fourth and having children is fifth with less than 40% of teens saying they desire to have children one day.

5.      Is God Anti-Gay? Sam Alberry reflects on this big question during a Gospel Coalition panel (this is a podcast).

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Who is God? Michael Reeves asserts that the essence of the fullest answer to that question is “a Trinity.” Reeves believes that while the Trinity is something many Christians shove to the back corners of their minds when it comes to relating to God, or perhaps explore with a sort of mechanical interest, with clumsy charts and worse analogies, reflecting on the Trinity is something that should stir delight in us.

Reeves quotes Karl Barth, who once said, “The triunity of God is the secret of His beauty.” Reeves contrasts the Triune God with a singular conception of God (like the Islamic understanding of God), who has a very different relationship with creation. Reeves says that “Absolutely singular supreme beings do not like creation.”

In contract, “Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is.” That is to say, the relationships within the Triune God are that which defines God himself. God is relational and loving in his very essence.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Let the Children Get Bored Again: Pamela Paul speaks wisdom to our age that runs from boredom, "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

2.      Survey Says That Evangelism is Far More Prayed For Than Practiced: Aaron Earls shares the results of a recent survey that ought to call us to boldly speak the gospel to our neighbor.

3.      Guard Your Heart From Adultery: Robert Wolgemuth reflects on how seriously we ought to take any hint of adultery in our marriages: "When you are hiding a secret from your wife, this qualifies as “for worse.” You feel this in your gut. It keeps you awake at night..What’s for certain, however, is that the situation you’re putting yourself in is going to have an impact on you. It’s inescapable. Keeping secrets is like standing chest-deep in water, trying to hold a beach ball down. It takes both hands and lots of energy. But eventually, physics will win out. You’ll run out of energy and the ball will explode through the surface. You will be found out.

4.      How Can We Know that the Bible Teaches that Jesus is God? Justin Taylor offers this tight argument: "Finally, it’s worth remember the helpful summary by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan: ...The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.” The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.” The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!” Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ."

5.      7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness: Great stuff, as always, by Sam Allberry: "Certain misconceptions never seem to go away: The Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), or shaving makes your hair grow back thicker (it doesn’t). A significant misconception that has been around for many years is that singleness is a bad thing. This is partly due to a confluence of our culture’s focus on romantic fulfillment as key to being whole with common Christian thinking that marriage itself is the goal of the Christian life."

In Defense of Modern Worship

In Defense of Modern Worship

It was during a family dance party to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” that our patriarch commented about the vapid lyrics. “They just don’t make them like they used to,” he concluded. I teased back: “Sure, because ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Duke of Earl’ were so profound!

Musical preferences are profoundly etched into us. One generation’s trash is another generation’s treasure.

Modern worship has a bullseye on it. It’s a fairly regular occurrence that I read a blog or a reflection in a book decrying the insipid lyrics we sing in our churches or hear a complaint from a congregant about modern worship.

Last week I defended the treasure of hymns for the church. This is my defense of modern worship.

A few disclaimers:

1)      I am not claiming that all modern worship is good: there is a plenty that isn’t good;

2)      I am not making an argument that modern worship is any better than any other era of music;

3)      I am not making an argument that your church should primarily sing modern worship; there’s nothing wrong with a church that chooses songs that are several decades or several centuries old.

With that said, here are four reasons that we should enjoy modern worship:

Holy Week Recommendations

Holy Week Recommendations

A blessed Maundy Thursday to you, friends. I have three Passion Week videos for you this week. May this Holy Week be a powerful re-centering week of reflection for you as you consider Christ’s atoning death for you.

1.      Sacrifice and Atonement: The Bible Project explains the reason why God has people

2.      The Last Week of Jesus’ Life: The Bible Project walks through the final week of Jesus’ life.

3.      All Hail King Jesus: Jeremy Riddle: “There on a cross they made for sinners; For every curse; His blood atoned One final breath and it was finished; But not the end we could have known.”

8 Ways Holy Week Shapes Our Lives

8 Ways Holy Week Shapes Our Lives

How is your life shaped by Easter week? I mean other than the obligatory 3 pounds that is about to be added to your waistline courtesy of honey baked ham, deviled eggs, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups (if you’re going to put on the weight, it might as well be good… not Peeps or generic jelly beans!)?

It has often been noted that the final week of Jesus’ life takes up a disproportionate amount of the gospel narratives. Approximately a third of the gospel accounts are devoted to the final week of Jesus’ life:

·        8 of 28 chapters in Matthew

·        6 of 16 chapters in Mark

·        5 of 24 chapters in Luke

·        9 of 21 chapters in John

Of the 52 weeks of our year, Holy Week is highlighted and underlined. On this week the other 51 weeks of our year hang, on this week, the other 51 are shaped.

How does the Holy Week shape our lives?