How People See Christians

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My daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We’re weird because we go to church.

This means—well, as she gets older there’ll be voices telling her what it means, getting louder and louder until by the time she’s a teenager they’ll be shouting right in her ear. It means that we believe in a load of bronze-age absurdities. It means that we don’t believe in dinosaurs. It means that we’re dogmatic. That we’re self-righteous. That we fetishize pain and suffering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That we promise the oppressed pie in the sky when they die. That we’re bleeding hearts who don’t understand the wealth-creating powers of the market. That we’re too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures, full of meaningless distinctions, on the marshmallow foundations of a fantasy. That we uphold the nuclear family, with all its micro-tyrannies and imprisoning stereotypes. That we’re the hairshirted enemies of the ordinary family pleasures of parenthood, shopping, sex and car ownership. That we’re savagely judgmental. That we’d free murderers to kill again. That we think everyone who disagrees with us is going to roast for all eternity. That we’re as bad as Muslims. That we’re worse than Muslims, because Muslims are primitives who can’t be expected to know any better. That we’re better than Muslims, but only because we’ve lost the courage of our convictions. That we’re infantile and can’t do without an illusory daddy in the sky. That we destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick mythology in your minds. That we oppose freedom, human rights, gay rights, individual moral autonomy, a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research, the use of condoms in fighting AIDS, the teaching of evolutionary biology. Modernity. Progress. That we think everyone should be cowering before authority. That we sanctify the idea of hierarchy. That we get all snooty and yuck-no-thanks about transsexuals, but think it’s perfectly normal for middle-aged men to wear purple dresses. That we cover up child abuse, because we care more about power than justice. That we’re the villains in history, on the wrong side of every struggle for human liberty. That if we sometimes seem to have been on the right side of one of said struggles, we weren’t really; or the struggle wasn’t about what it appeared to be about; or we didn’t really do the right thing for the reasons we said we did. That we’ve provided pious cover stories for racism, imperialism, wars of conquest, slavery, exploitation. That we’ve manufactured imaginary causes for real people to kill each other. That we’re stuck in the past. That we destroy tribal cultures. That we think the world’s going to end. That we want to help the world to end. That we teach people to hate their own natural selves. That we want people to be afraid. That we want people to be ashamed. That we have an imaginary friend; that we believe in a sky pixie; that we prostrate ourselves before a god who has the reality status of Santa Claus. That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, law to mercy, primary colors to shades, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life.

But hey, that’s not the bad news. Those are the objections of people who care enough about religion to object to it—or to rent a set of recreational objections from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. -Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense

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Christmas is Over, Now What?

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I don’t know about you, but I woke up this morning feeling really down. Just had a blah kind of a feeling. Unmotivated. Not depressed or sad, but kind of down.

My first thought as I finished breakfast was, “Is this the after Christmas blues?” Or, “Am I just getting old now?”

Maybe you feel like that. Maybe you don’t (if not, pass this blog onto a friend that needs it).

I shared this quote on Sunday in my sermon that encapsulates what a lot of people feel around Christmas (I can’t remember where I found it):

Christmas Eve. The perfect picture of anticipation: sleepless excitement for something we’ve been waiting for all year. Every year on December 24, my parents let us open a present. This was a teaser, a taste of things to come, and we kids relished it. Of course, it wasn’t much of a surprise – my mom always got us new pajamas, even when we didn’t need them. But still, it was a ritual of hope, one in which we celebrated the gift of giving and the joy of gratitude. Christmas morning. An unfortunate picture of disappointment. I am obviously only one person with his own set of experiences, but as I talk to others, I find similar feelings of frustration. As they get older, many people seem to develop a general distrust toward any day that promises to fill the emptiness they’ve felt all year long. This explains the rise in suicides during this season and why, for some, Christmas is a reminder of the inevitable letdown of life. The unfortunate answer to the question, “Did you get everything you wanted?” is, of course, no. And we feel terrible about this. Why can’t we be happy? Why can’t we be satisfied? Will we ever be content with what we have – with the gifts in our stockings, the toys under the tree? Why is there this constant thirst for more?

As I thought about it today (after I destroyed myself with Crossfit), I started to wonder if we set ourselves up for failure leading up to Christmas. Christmas in many ways can be like a wedding and the letdown after on the honeymoon, follow me for a second. All of this pressure, build up, energy, stress and thinking and money goes into Christmas and a wedding. Then it’s over. The parties, the gifts, family, friends, the tree, decorations, cards, Christmas specials, church services, meals, over. Then we sit around looking at our gifts, watching our kids play with them and get tired of them and play with them some more.

You wake up on December 27, 28 or 29 and wonder, what now?

Here are some things that came to mind as I prayed through this feeling for me that might be helpful for you:

  1. Stop and take a breath. Slow down. December is a mad sprint for most of us. You went to more parties than you can count, ate more calories than you care to remember. You are tired. Take a break. Maybe take a nap. Read a good book or your Bible. But give some time to slow down. Stop rushing.
  2. Get moving. For me, I went and worked out, listened to some good worship music, prayed and got moving. Maybe you need to get moving and do something active. Most Americans will join a gym this week, maybe you should. At least take a walk, a run or a hike.
  3. Say thanks. Be thankful for what you have. Remember, someone is grateful with less than what you have. You may not have as much as someone else, but you have what God has seen fit to give you right now. Also, you may not see the next Christmas or someone you just celebrated with may not see the next Christmas, so savor the moments. Take a little longer in those hugs or laughs or cries.
  4. Get out of your house. I love being at home, with my family and friends. But, sometimes it is good to get out of your house. Go see a movie, do something fun, go see some Christmas lights. Don’t just sit around (sometimes you should sit around), but get going.

What do you do to fight the after Christmas blues?

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • I love this time of year
  • The parties, gifts, spending time with family and friends and Christmas preaching
  • Love it
  • Starting to love Christmas music more and more
  • It helps when you listen to it non-stop from Thanksgiving to Christmas
  • If you’re looking for some good Christmas music, here is a list of our favorites
  • Yesterday, we had lunch with someone who has been to Revolution 5 times and they brought 4 first time guests with them
  • The first time guests were so excited about finding a church
  • Love it
  • Then, we had our staff and elder Christmas party last night
  • So much laughter
  • Can’t believe who I get to lead with
  • In the background I kept checking the Steelers score only to find out that apparently we still remember how to play football
  • A little late
  • Winning now only screws up our draft pick so we need to keep losing
  • We dedicated Judah at church yesterday
  • Christmas has taken on a new meaning for me as an adoptive dad as I think about the relationship of Jesus and Joseph
  • It was really special
  • I’m posting my “best of” lists this week
  • So hard to go through and make my favorite books and albums of the year
  • Stay tuned for some good stuff
  • Yesterday was a killer day at Revolution
  • I got to preach on the resurrection from John 20
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • One of the things I love about preaching theology like that is how it stretches me as a communicator
  • Things like the resurrection are true, beautiful, overwhelming and the answer to so many struggles and questions we have
  • Yet, so many sermons and books make it too academic and not life changing
  • You have to bring the logical and emotional arguments to theological preaching
  • Read a killer leadership book over the weekend called Catalyst Leader
  • Highly recommend it
  • So excited for this coming Sunday at Revolution
  • We’re wrapping up our series in John and I am preaching on one of my favorite passages in the entire bible: John 21
  • Then on December 29th we are kicking off what I think will be a life changing series for a lot of people called Breathing Room
  • Then, we are going to do something we’ve never done before: a woman series and a man series
  • Going to be killer
  • Time to get to it…

Communicating the Gospel to Your Kids Through Movies

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I love movies. As a family, it is the same. Every week, we have family movie night. The child who had their daddy date that week gets to pick family movie night. This past week, we watched The Rise of the Guardians. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a quick synopsis:

When the evil spirit Pitch launches an assault on Earth, the Immortal Guardians team up to protect the innocence of children all around the world.

One of the ways that we’ve learned to communicate the gospel to our kids is through cultural pieces like movies and stories. Every movie and story mirrors the story of God.

In the rise of the guardians, the character pitch was thrown out of the guardians. He came back to take over, to fight them. Pitch, played the character of Satan and evil. At one point, the character of Sandman was killed. At the end of the movie, Sandman rose from the dead, and defeated Pitch when it looked hopeless for the other guardians. Sandman, in that way, was similar to Jesus.

After watching the movie, over dinner we asked our kids and talked through:

  • Who was Pitch like?
  • Why was Pitch evil?
  • What was Pitch trying to do to the kids in the movie?
  • How does Satan tempt us to sin?
  • Who was Sandman like?
  • Did Jesus rise from the dead?
  • Because Jesus rose from the dead, what does that mean for us?
  • Can we conquer sin and death the way they did in the movie?

Communicating the gospel to your kids through movies and stories takes time and practice, but it isn’t as hard as you think. Every single kids movie from Pixar to anything else has this storyline. Just look and then talk about it with your kids. A great way to apply Deuteronomy 6.

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Links of the Week

  1. Michael Hyatt on How to handle people who abuse trust.
  2. Can’t wait for this book to come out.
  3. Tim Keller on Politics and Culture. So many good insights in this piece, but what else would you expect from Tim Keller.
  4. Why Christians go postal over facebook, Jay-Z, Yoga, Avatar and culture in general. I think most Christians go crazy online because they can do it from the comfort of their home.
  5. Ed Stetzer on Trends in church planting.
  6. Growing generosity in kids at Christmas. As a parent, this was a really helpful article.
  7. Mark Driscoll on 10 ways the doctrine of suffering is mistaught. Great insights into how we should handle and think about suffering from a biblical perspective.
  8. Ron Edmondson on 5 do’s and don’ts of how to deal with pastors during the christmas season.
  9. Two reasons church planters often avoid big cities.
  10. Tony Morgan on 10 keys to creating a staff strategy. Great insights.
  11. Here is a great video interview with D.A. Carson. Definitely worth the time, so much wisdom.
  12. Baptisms at an Acts 29 church in Alaska. It was 10 degrees and snowing. These pictures are a beautiful picture of the gospel.
  13. Mark Driscoll on What we tell our kids about Santa Claus. Helpful piece for parents.
  14. Is it disrespectful to Jesus to call it Xmas?