// saturday round-up (12/02)

Right. Another crazy busy weekend ahead, so I’ll cut straight to the chase today.

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THOUGHT-PROVOKING:

// why God hates divorce: a big life change for me – A really heartfelt post from Anne Jackson announcing that, after some time struggling to make her 8-year marriage work, she and her husband Chris are divorcing. Her story is tragic, but also well worth reading – written with integrity and out of real pain, it sheds a light into some of the circumstances that drive people apart and is an invitation to grace and forgiveness. The “comments” are worth a look too. Read it here.

// love month: justin davies – Matt at The Church of No People is blogging about love for a whole month. There’s some great stuff up there already, but his interview with Justin Davies, marriage coach at Cross Point Church in Nashville, is absolutely unmissable, and an interesting contrast to Anne Jackson’s story. Go here.

// why do Christians give so much power to the negative Christian few? (and update) – Another amazing story of grace from Jesus Needs New PR, with a thought-provoking essay on listening to angry minorities here and then an incredible update here. Brilliant. Another reason why I love this site.

// Granger Church: 2016 vision – This is a very cool church vision statement, don’t you think?

 

CREATIVE:

// new “What’s in the Bible?” DVD – The fourth of Phil Vischer’s “What’s in the Bible?” DVDs, tackling Joshua, Judges and Ruth with the aid of puppets, are now here. And they’re going to be epic. Praise the Lord. Watch a clip here.

// the new craftsmanship – I’m very late to the party on Seth Godin’s marketing blog, but it’s full of thought-provoking insights, and none so much as here.

 

YOUTH WORK:

// how to do more in youth ministry in less amount of time – Another great selection of tips for anyone involved withyouth ministry courtesy of REyouth pastor, here. There’s some awesome stuff here – and it’s not just for youth workers.

// what difference does youth group make? – Fascinating sociological study (courtesy of Group Magazine) on the effects of youth group, both positive and negative. I can identify with a lot of what this has to say – how about you? Check it out here.

// 5 youth ministry blogs you should be reading – Work with youth? Need even more blogs to read? Then go here, to Rethinking Youth Ministry!

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And that’s it for today’s saturday round-up!

I’ll see you tomorrow for a special Valentine’s Day-themed sunday music.

Thanks for reading.

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// kicking Christ in the chest

My housemate Rachael likes to joke that my temper works in binary – that it only has two settings, “normal” and “furious”. Apparently I display the same level of anger at discovering that, say, we have run out of milk, as I do at discovering that my house has been burned to the ground.

Lately, though, we’ve both been discovering that she’s wrong.

Because it turns out that beneath the surface, beneath the entertaining, socially-acceptable level of anger that you can shrug off, there is a whole different current in me. One that is buried so deep that it almost feels part of who you are, that can’t be easily articulated but that is forged in pain and perceived injustice and remains searing and white-hot even months (or years) from the events that gave it birth. The kind of anger that makes your hands physically shake just at the sight of someone.

That kind of anger is a problem.

And I know what the answer is. It’s forgiveness – resolving to let it go time and time again and accepting that it is done, it is over, you have forgiven them whether you feel it or not. Continuing to choose to forgive rather than to hold onto bitterness and hurt, even when that seems like the easier option. Jesus said that.

But that sounds like a long, hard slog, and not one that has much glory attached to it. There won’t be any Hollywood moments where there is a dramatic, visible reconciliation. Instead it will be a decision of the will, my choosing to keep letting it go, my struggle.

One author I read on this subject this week even suggested that this is what true courage looks like; being willing to persevere in the exhausting, grinding situations where it doesn’t look like anything will ever change or get any better. Maybe so. But that still doesn’t make it any easier.

What keeps me doing it is the cross.

Because whenever that white-hot rage rises in my chest I remember that the same anger was poured out upon Christ’s body in every blow, every lash, every nail. It was my anger that killed him, my anger that he carried, and my anger that died with him. It is finished, and the visible end consequence of the state of my heart is the man hanging dead and bloodied on that cross.

In the broken, beaten body of Jesus Christ I see the apparently lost hope of a people who had desperately cried out for a saviour only to see him fail. The teacher whose teachings promised a new way of life but instead left him naked, bleeding and dying, nailed to a piece of wood. In him I see all those desperate cries for salvation that failed in that bleak hour of darkness.

I believe that he is risen. That everything has changed, and I am no longer the same. That the darkness that lies within me can be buried with him and is being buried with him even now, as hard as that may be while it is taking place.

I remember that even when things seemed hopeless, hope triumphed.

But I also remember that it is because of this:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our sins;
Upon him was the punishment that brought us peace;
And by his stripes we are healed.”

// sunday music: the civil wars

No real surprises here, especially given the hype that’s been generated around Portland’s The Civil Wars, but having played their album on repeat for the past week (listen to it here) I can tell you it’s worth all the buzz that’s been flying around. Even if their guitarist does look like Johnny Depp. And Jack White.

Pick number one is Poison and Wine, easily one of my favourite songs from the past year:

Next up, a superb live cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean:

And finally, latest single Barton Hollow, a nicely bluesy slice of American Gothic.

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And that’s your lot!

I’ll see you on Friday.

// saturday round-up (05/02)

The usual mix of the profound, the hilarious and the thought-provoking this week. I’ve tried to divide it into sections to make it a little easier to read through…

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ARTICLE OF THE WEEK: Ministry by Teenagers by Jonathan McKee – Another brilliant article courtesy of Jonathan McKee, who wrote an article about bullying that was article of the week about a month ago. Here he’s posted an excerpt from his upcoming book over at Doug Fields’ Simply Youth Ministry, and his thoughts on youth work are wise and worth taking to heart, whatever your relationship to youth ministry is. It’s also brilliantly written. Read the article here.

THE PROFOUND:

// a beautiful moment in Egypt – This picture has been reposted repeatedly over the past week, but it is an impressive sight; a bunch of Christians protecting Muslims from attack as they kneel to pray and even making provision for them to do so. It’s a rare sight of grace in the midst of a scary situation and it’s not often reported on, either because the media don’t see the point or because it just doesn’t happen all that much. If you’ve not seen it yet, one link is here.

// the soft ‘x’ – This was Jon Acuff‘s most-read post of 2010, and I don’t think I fully took it in when I read it first time round. This time it had me choking back tears in a Caffe Nero, so consider yourself warned. It’s here.

// why church hurts – It’s been a while since I last posted anything by Matt at The Church of No People but this was a post that really stuck out this week. Fact is, church is hard work, no matter where you go. Matt’s thoughts on why are wise and insightful. Read it here.

// the problem with religious people – This is another video that everybody seems to have reposted this week, but it’s Mark Driscoll on good form, talking about the Pharisees:

// amazed and confused – Not a link to a post, this, just a link to 24-7 regular Carla Harding‘s blog, which is terrific and which I just started following this past week. I recommend that you give it a look too.

THE CREATIVE:

// counting on your name – The folks at Kingsway put up one of Tim Hughes’ new songs, taken from his forthcoming album, on Youtube this week. It’s good – definitely one that grows on you and very much an old-school Tim Hughes song, but it builds to an excellent climax:

// free desktop wallpaper – Tim Challies has been giving away free desktop wallpapers this past week, designed by some graphic designer friends of his. I don’t love them all, but some of them are pretty good, and you can see them here.

// Hillsong covers Passion – Hillsong United have a new album out soon, called (for some reason) Aftermath. Here they cover the title track from Passion‘s last album, a bold move even by Hillsong standards, and it turns out to be pretty good. You’ll have to watch it on Youtube (it won’t embed) and it’s here.

THE HILARIOUS:

// marriage myths – It is “love month” at The Church of No People, and despite the fact that I’m not married to verify it, this post on marriage sounds like it makes a lot of sense. It’s also hilarious. Go here.

// the force – This is a pretty cool Volkswagen commercial, but I can’t work out what the Unique Selling Point on the car is supposed to be. What, it has remote door control? Hasn’t every car for about the past decade?

// uh… – And the best line in this has to be, “Jesus Christ: gotta save em all!”

You have to see it to believe it. Thanks, Jesus Needs New PR.

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Right, that’s quite enough for today.

See you tomorrow for sunday music.

// much of what i know about Christian Ministry, i learned from playing Doodle Jump

I believe in progressive revelation, the idea that God chooses to reveal ideas and concepts to His people progressively throughout history, according to the necessity of the time. And so it’s for that reason that I am glad that I am living in 2011, because I feel as though God has lately done a great work among His people, something that will change the dynamics of Christian ministry forever.

I am of course referring to wildly popular iphone app Doodle Jump, which may be the single most important teaching aid available to Christians in the world. Ever.

Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. But I’ll stand by it. It’s that significant. Even more influential than the free version of Accordance that the app store is giving away.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of the valuable life lessons I’ve learned from Doodle Jump:

1. Always be jumping.

From the first moment you begin Doodle Jump, you are always climbing higher. And let’s face it. We’ve all been there. It’s a parallel for man’s sinful ambition and lack of peace outside of God. Doodle is incapable of standing still or resting in the peace of the Lord, his life a continuing series of escalating risks and time spent staring into the void.

It’s a haunting reminder of how things could be. Or it’s a rebuke, commanding you to be still and know God. But whatever the case, it definitely means something.

2. The higher you get, the fewer the platforms.

In the higher levels of Doodle World, there is no stability. Those platforms that seem to promise greater success or riches beyond your wildest dreams end up being perpetually in motion, unstable or even prone to disappearing underneath your feet. It’s a story that’s all too true for many of us.

You think you want a speaking spot on the New Wine circuit? Be warned. That platform might just turn red under your feet, just as soon as you realise there’s a giant three-eyed flying monster above your head. I’m just saying.

3. Beware easy solutions.

There are any number of quick-fix solutions on offer for Doodle, ranging from hats with helicopter blades on top to springs, trampolines, and jetpacks. But let’s face it, you’ve never seen the neo-Calvinists wearing them, have you, and if not, then there must be a reason. Driscoll never wore a helicopter hat. You can’t imagine John Piper on a pair of pogo stilts, can you? Because that’s not Christian Hedonism, that’s just a risk assessment nightmare.

If your power-ups promise rapid ascent but undermine the consistency of that ascent, be warned. They may just have been sent by the devil.

4. Why does Doodle Jump?

Many people take it for granted that Doodle jumps, never stopping to ask the question, “why?” But that’s is a question that bears investigation, for evangelistic purposes alone.

We understand that Doodle jumps. We can see Doodle jump. But why, Doodle, why? Did you ever stop and ask the question?

5. If you’ve made it to 30,000, you’ve been playing this game for a long time.

A score like that doesn’t just happen. It takes skill, investment and hours of work time that could have been spent elsewhere. If you’re going to be in this game and you want to get to the high scores, you’re going to have to put the hours in. I mean, we’re talking maybe even to the detriment of family, friends and fitness. This isn’t a mission for the faint-hearted.

6. Playing Doodle Jump with David Crowder’s “How He Loves” in the background makes for a whole different game.

As does anything by Jesus Culture, in fact.

7. Sooner or later, everybody drops off the end of the world.

No matter how high you jump, no matter how long you jump for or how many monsters you slay, sooner or later we all end up facing into the void. Some people react to it with calm acceptance, others reach immediately for the “play again” button in a desperate attempt to rewrite the life they have lived.

Which are you?

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So that, my friends, is why Doodle Jump is the greatest ministry aid since the printing press was invented.

But don’t take my word for it. What lessons have you learned from Doodle Jump?

// sunday music: the decemberists

Stirring stuff from the Decemberists this week, whose new album The King is Dead came out a few weeks back. If it sounds to you a little bit like mid-90s R.E.M, don’t be surprised – it’s got R.E.M’s guitarist Peter Buck playing on it.

First pick is opening track Don’t Carry it All, with harmonica pieces sounding convincingly Springsteen and managing to convey youthful romanticism, wistful longing and anthemic campfire sing-a-longs all at the same time. It’s superb. It’s not on Grooveshark yet so listen to it on Youtube here:

From the classic album The Crane Wife, pick number two is Sons and Daughters, and yes, I think that’s an accordion in the background. It sounds a lot like a sea shanty, covered by Death Cab for Cutie. Grooveshark it here and listen to it on Youtube here:

And this, from Picaresque, deserves a mention purely for the magnificent effort put into the video. The song is The Mariner’s Revenge Song. Grooveshark it here or watch the video below and let yourself be carried to a different world:

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So ends a sunday music filled with rakes, giant whales and amateur theatre. I hope it made you happy.

I’ll see you on Friday!

// saturday round-up (29/01)

Sorry about the lack of the Saturday round-up last week – things got really crazy and there just wasn’t space in my timetable to fit it in. Anyway, hopefully this week’s selection should make up for it, with a whole lot of controversy from a whole lot of sources:

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ARTICLE OF THE WEEK: Russell D. Moore: “Is facebook (and your church) making you sad?” – A fascinating article linked to by Tim Challies, coming at the question of whether social media is making us depressed from a different (and welcome) angle. The article itself is here and I like Russell Moore’s call to integrity, to not wearing a shiny, happy mask at church even if you feel constrained to do so online…

// what happens when you get what you want? – Controversial philosopher Peter Rollins has started blogging regularly again over the past few weeks, and his reflections on desire, the topic of his next book, are thought-provoking reading. Most of what he’s written over the past couple of weeks is worth looking at, but this article in particular tied into a lot of the themes that I liked in his book How (not) to Speak of God. Check it out here – it even has a clip from Family Guy in it.

// for a creator, there’s no benefit to romantic preoccupations – Don Miller also started writing more regularly on his blog again this week, reflecting on the nature of the creative mind and what it means to be created in this way. Two articles that are well worth looking at – the first is here and the second, entitled “the creator must believe he has authority to create”, is here. If you’re a long-term Don Miller fan, it should get you excited about the prospect of a new book in the works…

// the Osteen moment – This week Piers Morgan repeatedly pressed Joel Osteen (the much-debated pastor who seems to preach an updated prosperity gospel, complete with sharp suit and shiny white teeth) about his beliefs on homosexuality, something that Osteen has been notably elusive about in the past. Remarkably, Osteen gave him a straight answer (no pun intended), and the debate has been raging across the internet for the past week or so. I don’t love the tone of Al Mohler‘s article, but I do think he makes some good points on this. Check it out here.

Incidentally, if you want to follow up on this issue further, Jesus Needs New PR has had an absolutely fascinating thread going this week, starting here and with two updates here and here, with MPT getting really (justifiably?) angry about an edited video of Sean McDowell that was sent out by a particular youth organisation this week and that came across as hateful, hurtful and ignorant. MPT is pretty vocal about this debate, and I’m not sure I agree with his conclusions, but he is right to point out the language used by the Christians in all of this is, for the most part, just plain damaging.

A few people, including Matt at the Church of No People have talked lately about how the issue of how the church handles homosexuality is going to become massive in the next few years. For my part, I think they’re right, and these debates (as well as what’s currently going on in Uganda) are arguably just the first of many to come – so the church really needs to develop a better vocabulary on these things, and fast.

// not finishing what we started – A brilliant, brilliant post by Jon Acuff. Personal and heartfelt, it’s essential reading.

// Jesus hates Obama – This is from last week, but fortunately Fox outlawed it being shown during the Superbowl. That said, you have to laugh:

// Michael Scott vs David Brent – When I saw this clip this week, I nearly fell off my chair. My brain just couldn’t accept it.

// the Saturday Sessions – Dermot O’Leary Presents the Saturday Sessions is £5 on Amazon MP3 until Thursday. It’s here, and if you love acoustic, stripped-back covers of pop songs that were once upbeat, then you can’t really go wrong!

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And that’s it for this week’s saturday round-up. As ever, I’d love to hear your comments. Some controversial stuff today.

See you tomorrow for sunday music!