Monday, July 25, 2011

Christian Funda-terrorist?

I came across this well-written column on the recent terrorist attack and tragic shooting in Norway. It is certainly unfortunate that this criminal has referred to himself as "Christian." The article explores how "Christian" this sick individual really is. A great excerpt below, and the whole thing HERE. Emphasis below is mine.

Given initial suspicions that Friday's bombing and mass shooting in Norway were carried out by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda, the way police ended up describing the suspect behind the attacks came as a big surprise even to many security experts: The alleged attacker was called a "Christian fundamentalist."
But experts on European politics and religion say that the Christian fundamentalist label could overstate the extent to which the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik - who has told authorities that he carried out the attacks - was motivated by religion, and the extent to which he is tied to a broader religious movement.

"It is true that he sees himself as a crusader and some sort of Templar knight," said Marcus Buck, a political science professor at Norway's University of Tromso, referring to an online manifesto that Breivik appears to have authored and which draws inspiration from medieval Christian crusaders.

"But he doesn't seem to have any insight into Christian theology or any ideas of how the Christian faith should play any role in Norwegian or European society," Buck wrote in an email message. "His links to Christianity are much more based on being against Islam and what he perceives of as 'cultural Marxism.'"

From what the 1,500-page manifesto says, Breivik appears to have been motivated more by an extreme loathing of European multiculturalism that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world, and of the European Union's growing powers, than by Christianity.

"My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight," to his political views, said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. "It is a signifier of Western culture and values, which is what they pretend to defend."

"I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian," Romarheim said in reference to what appear to be Breivik's views.

Friday, July 22, 2011

On the balance of Ministry and Marriage...

At times, I've heard others (and wondered myself) about the balance and tension between loving my spouse/family vs. serving in ministry. The below story, taken from Gary Thomas' Sacred Marriage, helped paint a very insightful picture for me. Enjoy.

"A campus pastor named Brady Bobbink decided to take Scripture’s admonitions about love seriously. Brady married relatively late in life. He had become well known as a speaker on discipleship and single living, and he was in high demand, with plenty of opportunities to “serve God” through his gift of teaching.

When Brady asked Shirley to become his wife, life changed dramatically. Shirley had two children from a previous marriage, and it wasn’t long before Shirley and Brady began to pray about having a child of their own.

“What would it mean for me to love my wife in this situation?” Brady asked himself. In prayer, Brady made a pledge. If Shirley had another baby, for the first year he wouldn’t accept any outside speaking engagements other than the ones his current position required him to take. Shirley subsequently became pregnant and gave birth to their first boy, Micah. 

Months later, Brady received a lucrative opportunity to speak in Singapore. Brady is a student of history and loves to travel. The chance to go to the Far East was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, plus it would give him the chance to teach Christians from another culture.

He excitedly told Shirley about this great opportunity, then remembered his pledge midway through his conversation, and said out loud, “I can’t go.” 

Shirley tried to release Brady from his pledge. “Honey, I’ll be fine,” she said.

It would have been easy for Brady to play religious games here. “I certainly could have justified it on a noble idea,” he admitted, “preaching to another culture, but if that had really been my passion, I would have moved there and taken my wife and kids with me.” 

Some might think Brady was passing up an opportunity to please God by taking his gospel message to another nation, but Brady realized he could please God by loving his wife in a season in which she needed extra help and attention. To stay home and care for his wife in her need was every bit as much “Christian service” as leaving his hometown to go preach the gospel when he was single. 

“To fail to love my wife and kids rightly in the name of loving other people rightly is a sham,” Brady insists.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sanctifying Silence

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

One thing that we tend to lack today is silence. I had a great conversation over the weekend with a friend (who is also a high school teacher), and we were observing how today's teenagers are never just silent (This is true of adults as well). We, as I've written before, always have something to entertain us, always have somewhere to be, something to do, someone to see. This leaves very little silence in our lives, even though silence can be very productive. It allows us to think about deep issues, to pray through things that are troubling or exciting, and to connect with our God. I would go as far to say that a lack of silence in our lives inhibits us from knowing God deeply.

In the above, frequently-quoted verse, two things really stand out to me.

1. We often think of this verse as a "warm-fuzzy" verse. To "be still and know that I am God" conjures emotions mainly of warmth and safety. When we look at the rest of the Psalm, however, we see that we are called to know the God who "has brought desolations on the earth," "makes wars cease," "breaks the bow and shatters the spear," and "burns the chariots with fire." This same God is also "is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble," and "is our fortress" as well. So we see that we are to "know" God in his holy fullness.

2. Notice the order of the commands. "Be still and know..." God commands us to FIRST be still and silent, and then come to know him. I think that order is very critical in our pursuit of knowing Jesus. If we do not obey the first command- "be still"- we will have a hard time obeying the second command- "know that I am God."

Remember, Paul said that the most worthy goal in life is to know Christ (Phil. 3:7-10). And Psalm 46:10 seems to indicate that to know him properly, we must be still and silent. Let's make time in our lives this week for sanctifying silence.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Church Life

Your life in the church...
People over programs
Lives over locations
Relationships over ritual
Fellowship over formalism...

Content Consumption

If your life looks anything like mine (and most of America's), you are constantly being presented content to consume. We have genius-phones and iPads and walkmans and apps and a billion ways to read, view, discuss, and consume content. The most popular websites are dedicated to this task as well (think facebook, Google, YouTube). For example, one morning this week, I grabbed my phone (while still in bed), shot off a few witty facebook comments, viewed what my friends were up to, scanned through some headlines via twitter, turned on the British Open and watched a few holes of golf, and texted a few friends with weekend plans. All from the bathroom. We are constantly consuming content.

It has been said "You are what you eat." And I believe that we can tie that principle to the content that we consume as well. You are the data you consume. What you consume is what you worship.

If what we consume is of utmost importance, I need to ask myself is where God's word falls on my list of content that I consume. Is it at the top of the list, constantly receiving my first time, my most dedicated time? Is it in the middle, something I casually tune into when convenient for me? Or does it not even make the list?

You've likely been interacting with content, data, news, blogs, stories, video clips, highlights, messages, music, and "+1's" since you rolled out of bed this morning. Let's make sure that above all else, before all else, more urgently than all else, and more frequently than all else, we consume God's word.

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." 1 Peter 2:2-3.