Monthly Archives: May 2012

What cities and social networks have in common

I recently spent seven days in New York City with my wife. We went through an entire week without having a real conversation with anyone, though we often tried. The subways of an urban sprawl are always particularly humorous to me—you are literally shoulder-to-shoulder, but no one looks up, no one speaks, and there is even an unspoken rule that making prolonged eye contact with anyone on a train is creepy. Even the social constructs keep us in isolation! The irony of a metropolitan city, it’s been said, is that you can be surrounded by millions of people, and still feel lonely. 

The same is true with social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and even blogs like this. The noticeable difference with social media, however, is the lack of face time. Your 600+ “friends” can fool you into feeling well connected, but without any real human contact, aren’t you just walking into the subway with your head down?

What do you think… does social media help our generation connect or further isolate us?

Grace at Work [sermon]

Book Review: The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, by Timothy Keller.

Tim Keller is a great writer, and an even better speaker. I still remember reading The Reason For God, and feeling more like I was being swept into a great movie than an academic book on apologetics and philosophy. He has an uncanny way of taking complex truths, deconstructing them so you can look at all the parts, and then putting it back together, yet in such a way, that you can watch him, and put the story back together yourself. This one is no different, though shorter than usual.

The theme of this book revolves around ego, and our fear of what others think about us. It is based on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 (where Paul upbraids the church for thinking too highly of him, other leaders, and themselves).

There are three sections to the book,

  1. the natural condition of the human ego
  2. the transformed view of self
  3. how to get that transformed view of self.

This follows the usual Keller-esque style, which is rephrased like this,

  1. here is how humanity sucks
  2. here is how humanity gets redeemed
  3. here is how we respond to that redemption

He spends considerable time analyzing the nuances between pride, self-esteem, and humility, dropping a bomb in the middle of them all: “The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less” (32). His main point is that true joy comes from the freedom of others opinions (including our own), and only the Gospel enables us to do this.

Tim Keller is a beast. But at 44 pages, this one is a gem that is digestible in less than an hour. If you ever struggle with what others think of you, eat this book.

Buy it on Amazon.

When passion becomes apathy: A plea to my fellow millennials

Religious sensory override: our generation’s quest for unusual experience

We Californians live in a culture of religious sensory override.

We are only content with our faith when the senses that we do have (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) are overridden by an otherworldly experience. We want to feel something. I have seen college students who were at their most passionate when the Lord was speaking to them in dreams, visions, and prophetic words, only to crash and burn during the seasons when God was not present to bless in that way. They seem to judge this disappearing act solely on whether he “reveals” himself to them, not in the usual manner, such as Scripture, community, or common prayer, but in out-of-the-ordinary manifestations that override their five senses. These types of divine encounters are wonderful when they happen, and I believe they do. But we are addicted to them.

Anthropologist, Tanya Luhrman, spent years researching this spiritual trend. In a fascinating project, entitled, When God Talks Back, she points out that “the God of this evangelical church illustrates the dominant shift in American spirituality of the last forty years, towards a more intimate, personal, and supernaturally present divine” (Random House, 12). Millennials are all over this type of relational spirituality, as seen in the darkened atmospheres of gathered worship (such as the college ministry I pastor), individualized forms of communion, Jeffrey Bethke’s famous call to trade “religion” for a person, the way we always gauge “worship” by what we experienced, and countless other forms of expression that flow from our generation’s explosive passion and love for interconnected relationships, including the divine. I think these are mostly good things, until they come at the cost of necessity.

The Bible is a necessity, the essential precondition of the Christian life.

Worshippers that feast on supernatural affections may consider the Bible too archaic. It follows that those who favor supernatural encounters in prayer and worship, will sometimes do so to the neglect of reading Scripture, finding it too dry and unromantic. This gets exacerbated by any moment of felt need; prophetic visions can offer a specific answer in real-time, which seems much more suited to our fast paced, twitter-pated generation than tediously searching a dusty Bible hoping to find something relevant.

My guess, is that the times we do open the Bible, we open it without much of a plan. This simply reflects our faithless approach to those sensory overrides we cherish so much—e.g., we don’t need to plan or think when God is speaking to us directly through a prophetic word! And we don’t plan when we open up the Bible either, because we don’t view the Scriptures with the same intensity as God. Or the Hebrew believers for that matter.

Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg bring us into the world of the ancient rabbis, who “thought that study, and not prayer, was the highest form of worship…they pointed out that when we pray, we speak to God, but that when we study the Scriptures, God speaks to us” (Zondervan, L.417, emphasis mine). Read the rest of this entry

Pastor G and Al versus Piñata

Pastor G and Pastor Al versus Piñata

The Trauma of Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9 – how grace changes us.

Chew the meat, spit out the bones

Listen to this fascinating Rabbinical parable,

There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the rabbis: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve. “The sponge,” which soaks up everything. “The funnel,” which takes in at this end and lets out at the other. “The strainer,” which lets out the wine and retains the dregs. “The sieve,” which removes the chaff and retains the fine flour. (Mishnah. Pirke Avot 5.15)

Let’s break this down…

The Sponge

The “sponge” is the person who listens and follows everything he/she hears uncritically. These are usually the ones you see on a CNN special joining some weird cult, or in less audacious circumstances, being governed by every “wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14, ESV).

The Funnel

The “funnel” is like your typical ADD high-schooler who nods while playing video games during your 20 minute speech, only to forget everything you said. It’s also me, if you’re talking to me while I’m texting. Don’t be that person.  Read the rest of this entry

A visual narrative of Reality Boston’s 1st prayer tour

I just got back from a prayer tour for Reality Boston. The tour was represented by Reality’s from L.A., Stockton, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, and Ventura. Below are the blog posts narrating the trip through words, videos, and imagery. Enjoy!

Boston Prayer Tour || Introduction

Boston Prayer Tour || Day 1 (Video)

Boston Prayer Tour || Tim Chaddick on prayer tours (video)

Boston Prayer Tour || Morsels

Boston Prayer Tour || Day 2 (Video)

Boston Prayer Tour || Day 3 (Video)

Boston Prayer Tour || Images

Breathe in the city; exhale in prayer.

Boston Prayer Tour 2012

For the rest of this week I will be breaking from the status quo, and blogging on site for Reality Boston during the prayer tour for the upcoming church plant.

Below is a video for why we do prayer tours.

If you want to catch all the social media content streaming from the Cradle of Liberty by the 150 people involved, point your guns to this hashtag: #Pray4Boston

Why Prayer Tours | Boston from Reality.

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