6 Aug 2009

Andrew Peterson said something interesting in his interview over at Between Two Worlds:

I think Facebook is our culture's answer to the disappearance of the close-knit, small town community. Finding out on Facebook that so-and-so has a cold, or stubbed their toe, or is reading a certain book is the 21st Century equivalent of strolling the town square or having pancakes in the diner. It's small talk. And small talk is okay. You wouldn’t necessarily call your friend to find out if his toe got stubbed; it's just nice to know. The thing is, even small towns have secrets. I know because I grew up in one. There were murders. Suicides. There was bigotry and alcoholism and despair. Beneath the surface is the same darkness you see on the news in big cities and war-torn countries. Small talk doesn't address that secret loneliness. Neither does marriage, for that matter. Only Christ can. Only he has the power to step in and throw back the curtains.

I never would have thought of it that way, but maybe he's on to something.

3 Aug 2009

Review: How People Change

Submitted by Paul Brown
Book Title: 
How People Change
Timothy Lane
Paul Tripp
New Growth Press

I picked up How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp to help me prepare for a message that I did for the 2009 Regeneration retreat entitled "Gospel Grace to Overcome Sin and Grow in Godliness". I think I originally heard of the book through some blog(s) in the Reformed stream that I read, and when I saw it recommended in Mars Hill Church-Seattle's Leader Training materials—a missional church not given to atta-boy every book from the Reformed camp—I guessed that it would be a great resource.

Book Reviews: 
29 Jul 2009

Health Care Overhaul?

Submitted by Paul Brown

President Obama is on the campaign trail stumping for health care reform. The cost of health insurance in the United States is relatively high, and it seems there is some serious discussion going on about how to bring those costs down.

While President Obama is pressing the dire need for health care (insurance) reform to the American people, Congress are working on figuring out how that might actually get done. From what I understand, there are at least three different health care bills being formulated. There is the House version, which seems to be hung up on how to recover the vast cost of their plan. There is the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee plan, which includes a public option (i.e. government-run insurance) to compete with traditional insurance carriers. Finally, there is the Senate Finance Committee plan, which is being worked out by Democrats and Republicans together and which it appears will not include a public option but which will address many of the other issues that everyone seems to agree are important (coverage of pre-existing conditions, coverage for those who cannot afford insurance).

For me, the most maddening aspect of this whole health care overhaul push is the massive amount of political pressure that Pres. Obama is asserting and the opacity of the various plans themselves. What in the world are they cooking up? I could not care less what nice things Obama has to say about what he wants to see on his desk; what are the Representatives and Senators actually drafting as legislation? Where is the thoughtful explanation, critique, and defense of the specific points of the plans?

The White House actually has a website set up specifically for Health Care Reform, but it adds nothing more than reinforcement to the administration's basic talking points: REFORM!! NOW!!

I came upon this informative interview of Regina Herzlinger, author of Who Killed Health Care: America's $2 Trillion Problem - and the Consumer-Driven Cure, on Minnesota Public Radio, and it seems to be quite informative. Moving from employer-based insurance to consumer-based insurance makes a lot of sense! It is only by historical fluke (wage controls during WWII) that employers are wrapped up in our health insurance in the first place....

These are interesting days that we live in, no doubt about that!

20 Jul 2009

Introverts and the Mission of God

Submitted by Paul Brown

One thing that I have struggled with for the last—well, for as long as I've been serious about following Jesus—has been how to engage in evangelism. With the new emphasis that I've tuned into over the last couple years on being "missional", I have set my sights on the first stepping stone: connecting with people so as to build new friendships. It seem to me that talking about my faith is relatively easy within the context of a significant friendship. Building that relationship, though, is what I find difficult.

As I was thinking about this a bit last night and this morning, I got to wondering if this is a common problem for "introverts" like me. We are committed to the idea of living in such a way as to display the gospel and open doors for the proclamation of Christ, but we have great difficulty putting that commitment into practice by meeting new people and building new relationships, falling well short of our objective of demonstrating the gospel in love and proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light.

A little searching on Google this morning revealed that I am not alone in dealing with this issue. One of the first pages I came across was "Are Introverts The Sugar In the Kingdom's Missional Gas Tank?" by Anthony Bradley. I don't know Anthony and only happened upon his blog because of the results that Google threw at me, so I don't know if his post is as condescending as it would seem to be on the face of it or if he is intentionally kicking up some dust to provoke thought and discussion. To be generous, let's assume the latter. :)

Here is Bradley's key statement: "Introverts do not typically live missional lives because they would rather read theology books than talk to non-Christians about the gospel or engage local culture with the Kingdom...."

This, I think, is both true and untrue. It is certainly true that I would rather read than talk to non-Christians in certain circumstances, but I don't have a problem with talking to a non-Christian per se. I have a few good friends who are not believers, and we get along great and are able to talk about all sorts of things, including Jesus and faith. Nonetheless, when it comes to cold-calling on my neighbors or walking around downtown and talking to random people, I will probably not do it of my own initiative, and if I do it at all, it's probably because I couldn't think of any other idea for how to connect to these people.

If those of us who can generally be described as introverted yield to our natural inclinations, I think we do end up staying within our comfortable circle of existing friends (Christians in most cases) and sticking to social situations that feel safe. And that safe, insular behavior would, indeed, be the metaphorical "sugar in the kingdom's missional gas tank". However—and this is a big however—if we are able through the gospel to both embrace who we are as the image of God with our own unique personality and its attendant strengths and weaknesses and embrace the mission to which God has called us as ministers of reconciliation, then I think we can play a significant part in God's kingdom work.

Where does that leave me? That leaves me keenly aware of my need for grace to cover my many sins of omission and desparately needy for the power of the Holy Spirit to work in my weakness, using who he has made me to be in Christ (not in the sinful nature!) to pursue God's mission and his glory.

Additional Reading:
Introverted Church (Soon to publish a book)
What can God do with an Introvert?
Can Introverts Plant Churches? (Part 1, Part 2)
Introverts: You Can Evangelize
Does Mission have an Extroverted Bias?
An Introvert at Church
Top 10 Ways to Market to Introverts

18 Jul 2009

Holy Dissatisfaction

Submitted by Paul Brown

I've been reading through How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp in preparation for our Regeneration retreat next weekend, and the book is full of quotable paragraphs. I read a passage in the book this morning that particularly encouraged me, and so I share it here. From the chapter entitled "Thorns 1: What Entangles You?" (p. 119 of the second edition):

God calls you to be dissatisfied. You should be discontent, restless, and hungry! The Christian life is a state of thankful discontent or joyful dissatisfaction. That is, I live every day thankful for the grace that has changed my life, but I am not satisfied. Why not? Because, when I look at myself honestly, I have to admit that I am not all I can be in Christ. I am thankful for the many things in my life that would not be there without his grace, but I will not settle for a partial inheritance!

In this sense, it is right for me to be discontent. It is right for me to want nothing less than all that is mine in Christ. He does not want us to enjoy only a small portion of the riches he has given us. He calls us to wrestle, meditate, watch, examine, fight, run, persevere, confess, resist, submit, follow, and pray until we have been transformed into his likeness.

This life of self-examination and joyful discontent should not be confused with a life of paralyzing self-condemnation. God does not call us to self-loathing, but to a willingness to examine our lives in light of our hope as new creatures in Christ. That hope is not only based on the promise of forgiveness, but on his promise of personal deliverance and restoration as well. The same grace that has forgiven me is now in the process of radically changing me. I should not be satisfied until that transformation is complete. (Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp How People Change)

This brought to mind a couple of other quotes:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." (C.S Lewis, The Weight of Glory—I think)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (The Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:10-14


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