What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Christianity: Hedonism, Rightly Lived

The C.S. Lewis quote from the previous post prepared me to think about my life of faith in completely different terms. Joy was the serious business of heaven. Obedience and moving into holiness was life. All sin was ultimately self-destruction. My desires were not too strong but too weak. I was far too easily pleased.

Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure, often without regard to consequence. God is the ultimate hedonist. He is so passionate about bringing forth his goodness and bringing us into His joy that He pursued it with reckless abandon: he died to make it happen.

Christianity is leaning into the glad hedonism of God. All the great saints write of their lives in deeply hedonistic terms: joy, peace, fulfillment, laughter, a self-forgetfulness that frees them to have relationships rightly. This is a life worth losing everything for.

The passage from Weight of Glory opened me up to thinking in this way. John Piper unpacked it for me Biblically. While there are many issues where I disagree with Piper, his fundamental understanding of the power of the promises of God and the joy in our obedience continues to be fundamental to how I think about the Christian life. Check out his article: Christian Hedonism, that unpacks the Biblical foundations for thinking about the Christian life as the gateway to the joy we were designed for.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Christianity and Reward

And so we come to the question of reward. Was Mother Teresa really just selfishly piling up (in Singer's mind) imaginary treasures in heaven by living in the slums of Calcutta with the poorest of the poor while billionaire atheists/agnostics Gates and Buffet give purely altruistically in between spa treatments at luxury resorts?

C.S. Lewis deals with this issue of "reward" exquisitely, so I'll let him speak with this (for me) life-changing excerpt from his work The Weight of Glory:

"The NewTestament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, 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.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it.

A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.

There is also a third case, which is more complicated. An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire.

His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that be becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.

The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward.

Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognized as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Giving Atheists Their Due

Several months ago I wrote a paper discussing various approaches to discussing the gospel with students at UNC. I noted that the campus is full of activists, so it was important for Christians to talk about issues of justice and mercy as central to the Christian understanding of making the world right. I noted that while we've done plenty that we need to apologize for throughout history (see Crusades, The) we've also got plenty to be proud of: Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, William Wilberforce. It's no coincidence that most of the greatest activists throughout history have been Christians.

One reader that I shared my paper with objected that this was a weak argument. She pointed me to an article by a man named Peter Singer who is a somewhat famous (and controversial) ethicist. His article is about charitable giving by rich folks like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and why they should give. Tucked in the middle of his article is this bit:

Interestingly, neither Gates nor Buffett seems motivated by the possibility of being rewarded in heaven for his good deeds on earth. Gates told a Time interviewer, “There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning” than going to church. Put them together with Andrew Carnegie, famous for his freethinking, and three of the four greatest American philanthropists have been atheists or agnostics. (The exception is John D. Rockefeller.) In a country in which 96 percent of the population say they believe in a supreme being, that’s a striking fact. It means that in one sense, Gates and Buffett are probably less self-interested in their charity than someone like Mother Teresa, who as a pious Roman Catholic believed in reward and punishment in the afterlife.

We'll talk some today about the generosity of atheists and tomorrow about the whole idea of reward--and the self-interest of Mother Teresa.

Singer, like most of us, is somewhat selective in his illustrations. By all means, Christians are not the only ones who give and give generously to any number of causes. Praise God that this is so. It is a mercy of God that he would use all types of people, even and especially those that do not believe in Him, to enact his redemptive purposes on earth.

However, it is certainly mis-leading to paint the portrait of the generous atheist/agnostic being disproportionately beneficial to the world. Carried to a logical but slightly over-stated position, the idea here would be if only more atheists had more money and power, they'd give generously without all this selfish reward-in-heaven stuff.

As the twentieth-century came to a close it was oft-repeated among historians that the twentieth century was (altogether now) "the bloodiest century in history." Let's talk about the wonders of atheism as a contribution to this turn of events. Stalin's devout atheism led to more deaths than Hitler's Germany did. Chairman Mao also did more than his fair share. Hitler, while he was baptized as a Christian, based his Nazi Germany on Nietzche's philosophy--certainly no friend of Christianity!

In fact, we can take Singer's argument and turn it on its' head. Atheists historically are barely a blip on the radar in terms of historical population. And yet they are single-handedly responsible for a vastly disproportionate amount of the most savage killings in all of history.

Or maybe the moral of the story is this: give atheists plenty of money, just don't give them military or political power.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Wide-Awake Real

As I was thinking more about yesterday's post, I came across this passage from George MacDonald that really captures the essence of this idea that we've got to fight to be alert and awake to what is real, what is most true. MacDonald's olde [sic] English can take some work to really get through, but this one's worth it:

"To believe in the wide-awake real, through all the stupefying, enervating, distorting dream: to will to wake, when the very being seems athirst for Godless repose: --these are the broken steps up to the high fields where repose is but a form of strength, strength but a form of joy, joy but a form of love."

In other words our senses are dulled. What we call "our lives" or "reality" is really mostly a distorting dream. We have to fight to wake up. We have to fight to know and connect with "the wise-awake real" in the midst of all of the stuff that wars against it. Even and especially our own internal world would rather slouch towards "Godless repose" and slumber and dull distraction than search eagerly for reality, for life, for hope, for joy.

But the fight to move in that direction, whatever small steps we might take, these are the broken steps towards the High Countries. Life in the Land of the Trinity beckons us to come on. To not stop or linger or quit or give up until we've come to the end of our journey and all shall be well. All our deepest desires filled, for we have met the Source of them. All our cravings for life satiated, for we know the One who is Life.

This is the walk of faith, the fight to connect with the wide-awake real energy and Person who stands over everything past, present and future.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Holy Present of 4:50 a.m.

So far, Emma Kate has been a fantastic sleeper. But one morning last week after Kelly nursed her, she just wasn't going back to sleep. So at 4:50 a.m. I took her downstairs to let Kelly get a little rest and see if I could get Emma Kate to sleep some more.

As I walked my little girl around downstairs, I wondered what I could do to make this time a little less bleary-eyed. Get my Ipod? Watch t.v? Come down to the office and take a look at e-mail or check the sports scores on-line? Try to read a book?

It hit me as I considered these options that media (including books) is an odd thing. What media allows us to do is create our own reality, at least temporarily. We watch a movie, read a book or listen to music and suddenly things that aren't really there become foremost in our mind. We cease to become present to the things immediately present and become more attentive to things that are far away.

What is crucial for the Christian to consider in all of this is that the present is most often the place where the Holy Spirit is at work and inviting us to enter into that work. There is a "holy now" that we are constantly being invited to enter into. Sometimes (not always) our constant clamoring to escape that now and to plug into some other temporary reality distracts us from what God would have us to do at this very moment--the driver to be courteous to, the neighbor to build a relationship with, the student sitting next to us in class, the co-worker to invite to lunch.

At the very least, our culture's obsession with entertainment and need for constant stimulation (and the Christian's buy-in to all of this) handicaps us in our ability to be tuned into the Holy Present where God is at work.

This does not mean that media or escape is always bad. It just means that we must be thoughtful, intentional, obedient, as we consider our use of and engagement with media and entertainment. It is a blessing (I enjoyed several hours of football this weekend!) that can easily turn into a curse.

So I passed on the Ipod, the morning news, e-mail, and the like at 4:50 a.m. And instead, I walked with my new little girl. I prayed over her. I asked God to bless our family and our home. I went on to pray for the retreat this past weekend and other things that were on my heart. And before long she was asleep. I laid her down in her bouncy seat, I laid down on the couch, and I entered into a very different type of holy present.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Student Retreat

We're heading off to Sunset Beach today with a ton of new students and some great upper-classmen.

Please pray for the Lord to do his work of molding this new group of students into a people who are a missional community of grace living out Jesus' invitation to raw, intentional, and transformational relationships in order to bless every corner of campus!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


One of the most consistent conversations that I have with students in their walk with God is about prayer. Particularly, the question of trusting God when he doesn't answer or move in such a way that it seems plain a good God would want to move (i.e. the healing of a sick parent or deliverance from a sin pattern).

This is a pretty complicated question, but here are a couple preliminary thoughts:
  1. We always want prayer to work like a vending machine. But it doesn’t. We don’t always get what we want, and that’s a good thing. The purpose of prayer is to cultivate a relationship with God. In the midst of that, we submit requests. And I mean that seriously: we “submit” our requests—we submit our desires to God and trust that He’s good. In his goodness he says one of three things: yes, no, or wait. To get the last two answers often makes us mad, but that’s what the walk of faith is at least partly about: will I trust God to be good to me, even when I don’t get what I want when I want it?
  2. Some of the hardest questions about prayer revolve around stuff that it seems obvious that God would want to say yes to: a sick parent, breaking free of something in our own lives that’s keeping us down, etc. But if God’s saying no or wait on those things, the challenge and the opportunity is to consider and ask what he might want to do with this in the mean time. I had a hard break-up sophomore year of college. I wanted to be free of my feelings for her right away, but God didn’t grant me that request. Instead, I learned how to develop guy friendships that walked me through that hard time in my life. So instead of God magically waving a wand to heal me, he taught me another valuable lesson—about community and really experiencing it in places where I felt vulnerable—and that lesson has stuck with me for the rest of my life. This is a small issue compared to what many others go through, but the principle applies to many, much harder situations. Sometimes God says no to something in order to say yes to something much greater that we cannot yet see.
Fortunately throughout the Scriptures we've got plenty of folks who wrestled with unanswered prayers--David in the Psalms and most poignantly, Jesus in the Garden. He submits his final request and it is denied. In the end he goes the way of the cross, fully submitted to the will of the Father.

My own prayer is that I might be able to likewise be fully submitted to the will of the Father.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Marking the Spirit

In the midst of a brawl over whether or not newly converted Christians had to be circumcised in the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul plays an interesting card: "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?"

I find this interesting because I don't think that most evangelical Christians have any idea when or if they've received the Holy Spirit at all. Paul assumes and knows that these believers have an experiential data-point that they (and he) can point to that involved an experience of receiving the Holy Spirit.

I think that most of us who are not in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles don't have a clue as to what to do about the Holy Spirit...and some of us frankly aren't sure that it matters all that much.

Jesus had a very different approach. He said that it was better for him to leave so that his followers could receive the Holy Spirit. If we've got a gift that good coming to us, we better take it.

So what to do about our lack of experience with the Holy Spirit? A professor I took last summer argued that the current evangelical church had steam-rolled over symbols and icons and markers that were important in a believer's life.

Certainly baptism, for example, is not in and of itself what "saves" you. But it is not something to be blown off or taken lightly. Jesus both did it and commanded it. Why would we dismiss something so quickly that our Lord took so seriously? He argued that a person who was unwilling to undergo the ritual of baptism was somewhat akin to someone who gets married and then is unwilling to wear a wedding ring.

He also argued for a separate ceremony after the baptism for the reception of the Holy Spirit. Laying on of hands, prayer, perhaps anointing with oil if your comfortable with cooking accessories being used as part of worship. He argued that most of us have no way of identifying with Paul's argument in Galatians because we've grown up in churches that did not afford opportunity to mark the reception of the Holy Spirit.

Again, this is not the actual event of receiving the Spirit. But it acts as a sign, a marker. And so I was most appreciative this past Sunday as my church confirmed two children who had gone through the process of confirmation. The first portion of the ceremony marked their belief in the Lord Jesus. The second part of the ceremony marked their reception of the Holy Spirit.

Plenty of people get confirmed or baptized or have some sort of experience with God and it never develops beyond that. Jesus told the parable of the seed and the sower to help us to understand that phenomenon and not be shocked. But it seems to me that incorporating a ceremony marking the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life (what a tremendous gift! what power to transform and be a transforming agent!) would be a step in the right direction for many of us.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Doing a Great Work

I'm taking my paternity leave this week. After dropping Kelly's dad and step-mom off at the airport today, it's official: we've gone from man-to-man to zone defense.

A number of years ago this would have driven me crazy: a week not on campus with so much to do? So many students to meet with? At such a critical time of the year?

But it is evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in my life that I know (most days) that these three little people and my wife are my most important work. I love students and I love working with students. But the students come and go. My kids, my wife, these are the relationships that are most valuable.

So this week as I'm zipping around town dropping Davis off at pre-school or hitting up the park or putting together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I'm tempted to feel anxious about other things that need to be done, I will remember this little passage from Nehemiah: "I am doing a very great work, and I cannot come down."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Family of 5(!?!)

Yeah, so a couple days ago I walked into the playroom and looked at all three of my kids and I was like, "where did you people come from? When did all this happen?"

Great first week of Emma Kate's life, thanks in no small part to Nanny and Grampy being here. We've got Poppy and Grandma here now (Kelly's Dad and Stepmom) for the weekend. Next weekend, my parents come up for a visit.

So this coming week between the visits, the family of 5 begins for real. I'll be taking my "paternity leave" next week in order to help with that transition. It's kind of like the patch. Having grandparents around this week for my two oldest kids is like smoking 18 cigarettes a day. Having me around next week is like smoking nine-ish cigarettes a day. And then after that, we go to cold turkey...and we pray!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Real-Time Gospel Articulation

I was talking with a student some time ago. He had just been summarily dumped by his girlfriend and was trying to figure out what it meant to trust the Lord, to recover and heal.

In the mean time, he had been talking with a hallmate about his faith. His hallmate was talking with him about the recent dumping--nothing too intense, just talking about dating and break-ups and how bad they stink. And the student very wisely and gently said, "And you know, I'm just trying to figure out what it means to trust God with something that I care so deeply about."

Last week I posted on the challenge and the call to live out the gospel in real-time. To actually apply the gospel to getting cut-off in traffic or snubbed by a co-worker or be passed over for a position that you wanted. This is the Christ-follower's call to a life of discipleship.

And what this student did--his real-time articulation of his faith-struggles in light of his break-up--that's real-time gospel articulation. That's the work of evangelism.

For too long evangelism has been seen as the work of experts or of presenting an abstract set of principles. What we're seeing in lots of parts of evangelicalism is an over-correction to an evangelism that serves and cares for people (which is clearly vital and has not always been as front-and-center as it should be) but never actually gets around to doing the articulation: this is what is real, this is the life that I'm living, this is why I'm doing what I do.

What must happen in our communities is that we begin to take Jesus seriously. He's invited us to a life that's recklessly different than our culture offers. It's a life of taking up the cross, dying to ourselves, loving others, living as children of God, not caring what the world thinks about us.

And as we do that in real-time, we must also learn this skill of articulation in real-time. We've got to learn how to articulate our faith as it's being worked out in our lives right now. That's our story. It's the one that God in His gracious sovereignty is working out right now. And in His sovereignty, He's put people in our lives to share that story with. This is our privilege and our joy: that we might tell of His work in our lives, even when we're not sure what it looks like yet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why We Don't Tell

Kelly and I picked up a little tip from some folks in Richmond when it comes to revealing baby's names: we don't tell until the baby is born. Here's why:

1. The freedom to change our minds. This is Kelly's main concern. This is particular dicey if you're thinking about using a family name, which we did with Emma Kate (Kelly's grandmother and mom). Imagine trying to have this conversation: "Mom, we were thinking about naming her after you, but Kelly Clarkson is just so much more cool!"

2. Don't want too much feedback. This is my main thing. Say I'm going to name my little girl "Clarkson." If I shop the name around before she's born, people feel tons of freedom to give me their un-edited comments. Comments which I may or may not care to hear: "Clarkson!?!?!? That's a terrible name!"

But if baby girl Clarkson is born and I present that little bundle of wrinkled cuteness and say, "And here's baby Clarkson!" ain't nobody going to say a thing at that point. They all melt immediately at the sight of her royal cuteness, even if the name's ridiculous.

3. The joy of a surprise. It's just fun to have something stashed away on the big day.

Just a little tip for all of you out there who might have kids some day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Time-Line of a Birth

Thursday, Sept. 6:
10:00 p.m. Arrive home from a large group meeting on campus. No indication of baby on the way.

11:00 p.m. Go to bed. I fall asleep, Kelly can't. She's having contractions. She stays up reading, wondering if she's going to have a baby soon.

Friday, Sept. 7:
2:00 a.m. Kelly comes back to bed and snoozes a little bit.

4:20 a.m. Kelly wakes me up with the news that she thinks she's in labor.

4:45 a.m. Kelly calls our midwife on call and tells her that she's having contractions and might need to come in. Kelly sounds pretty controlled at the time, so the mid-wife is a bit skeptical but she agrees to meet us at the Birth Center.

4:50 a.m. We call our dear friends on stand-by, Mike and Michelle McClure, to come over for when the kids wake-up.

5:10 a.m. Head over to the Women's Birth and Wellness Center.

Sidebar/unpaid endorsement for your local birthing center: they're great, but not for everyone. The focus is on low-intervention, natural births. So no drugs, that's part of the deal--no pain meds, nothing. It tends to be fairly granola-feeling. But the beauty of it is that they don't immediately hook you up to a bunch of stuff and treat you like you're sick. You're having a baby, not going through chemo. And they get you out quick (as you'll see) which is great if you've got good help waiting for you back home.

5:30 a.m. Arrive at birth center ahead of midwife. Kelly at this point is still chatty, we pray on the way over in the car, laugh, are deeply grateful for our friends home caring for our kids.

5:35 a.m. Midwife arrives, we open the center up and upon brief examination the midwife confirms that Kelly's definitely giving birth to this baby today. We unpack our bag, put some music on, Kelly walks around the facility and we chat about various things and fill out some paperwork.

6:20 a.m. Midwife asks if we're hungry. I am, granola bars not withstanding. Midwife is too. Kelly kind of is.

Midwife asks if we're vegetarians or vegans. I shudder at the thought and shake my head. "Good," she says, "so you can go and get us all a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen." I'm shocked. Aren't you supposed to be some sort of vegan, shade-grown, organically orchestrated, fair-traded-person only? " C'mon man," she says, "it's locally owned." I heartily agree and get everyone's order and make my first ever, long-awaited trip to Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen on Franklin Street.

6:45 a.m. I return triumphant with grease and cholesterol-laden biscuit goodness.

7:00 a.m. Kelly can no longer walk around and talk through contractions. It's getting serious.

7:15 a.m. Kelly starts pushing.

I'm her coach, which means I hold her hand and tell her that she can do it when she's not sure that she can. I'm pretty good at it. Except that during one set of contractions, Kelly squeezes my hand so hard that I'm afraid she's going to break my pinkie. Being the liberated male that I am, I realize that at this particular point in global history, I'm not exactly going to get much sympathy from my wife-in-labor, the midwife and the nurse for my little finger. I subtly shift my hand position and my finger manages to emerge without any permanent damage.

7:45 a.m. Emma Kate arrives, much to the delight of her parents.

8:00 a.m. Kelly and I have both already called her "Zoe" at least once. Emma Kate goes through a couple of tests, we play and hang out and hold her and take pictures.

Noon: Nurse gives us final okay to leave.

12:30 p.m. We pull through Wendy's drive-through. Drive-through lady looks sweetly at our daughter and asks how old she is. "Five hours," we say. She's shocked, not entirely sure what to do with that information.

1:00 p.m. Arrive home to Nanny and two sweet older siblings eager to meet their new little sister.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Welcome, Baby Emma Kate!

Proudly Announcing

Emma Kathleen Kirk was born at 7:47 this morning. "Emma Kate" (we'll call
her by both names) was a healthy 8 pounds 7 ounces and is sweet as she can
be. Mama was a trooper through a fairly quick labor--at the birth center at
5:30, serious labor started a little after 7:00, baby born at 7:47.

We're thrilled, pictures to follow. Thanks for celebrating with us!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Living out the Gospel in Real Time

The gospel changes everything. This is the strong conviction of all the New Testament writers. That the living God giving us life in his name is the Big Story that gives fullness of life to all of our stories.

And so you get these passages where we're exhorted to "take every thought captive" and "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord." The point here is not an abstract dogma that we assent to conceptually. It is not a series of rituals or religious exercises that we do occasionally then leave on the shelf.

The work of discipleship is living out this new reality in real-time. That is, everything about our lives and how we interact with the world is understood through the lens of the Christ-with-us reality: driving a car, taking astronomy, raising kids, going to the grocery store, working in cube world.

This is spelled out in a number of different ways in the New Testament:

1. "Jesus is Lord" is not an one of many "lordship" options being offered in the world. When the apostles made this claim in Acts it was in direct opposition to "Caesar is Lord." For the apostles, saying "Jesus is Lord" was roughly the same thing as saying "Bush is president." It is a statement of fact, not opinion. Of course it may be disagreed with, but it cannot be brushed off as merely what works for one person. Either Bush is president or he is not. Either Jesus is Lord or he is not.

This Lordship over all things is the story that we are invited to lean into, celebrate, live out as we think about living out the gospel in real-time. Unfortunately this is often only understood as a "cosmic police officer.". But nothing could be further from the truth. That Jesus is Lord and not Caesar or success or money or popularity or my own desires frees me from the tyranny of all those things so that I might be freed to live as I was made to live--including in healthy relationship with government, success, money, relationships, and my own desires.

2. Not only is Jesus called Lord, we are called sons and daughters of the most high God. We're saints, even when we don't feel very saintly. Our identity is no longer slaves to sin, no longer lost, no longer enemies of God, no longer orphans. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. We have been adopted as God's children. And so we are invited to live out of that in real-time as we are marginalized at work or overlooked for a position we wanted or as things don't quite go our way in a relationship. Our identity is not rooted in those things. "Our life roots are hid with Christ in God" (George MacDonald).

3. The Spirit is always at work around us to invite us to participate in His activity. There is joy in the co-working with the God of the universe. There is life in participating in this perfect story as it unfolds and brings redemption, restoration, healing and life everywhere.

And so we must begin to wake up to the God of the universe inviting us to live out of this Big Story in Real-Time. Not just slumbering from Sunday to Sunday without transformation or change. Jesus is Lord. You are his child. The Spirit is at work all around. That's our story. Let's dig in.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday Grab-Bag

*I must celebrate the kick-off of the football season. College football is not my first love, but football is football. And of course all of us here in North Carolina are suddenly life-long Appalachian State fans after their huge upset of Michigan over the weekend.

*Also worth noting (at least for me) that the Butch Davis era began well with a thrashing of James Madison University--with apologies to my peeps back in Virginia who love the Dukes.

*No baby yet, but perhaps some early signs of labor. We'll keep you updated.

*There's a video floating around out there that should be titled: southern beauty-pagent contestant shatters no stereotypes. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to check it out. As my friend Mike said, the young lady brings up some compelling points.

*Way back on June 17th, I posted that the company that makes Thomas the Tank Engine had announced a recall of several trains due to lead in the paint. Davis loves Thomas engines and one of his favorites, James, had to go. After two and a half months of pining away and eagerly checking the mailbox I'm happy to report that James came in the mail today. I'm not sure if we should celebrate our son's perseverance and tenacity or if we should be concerned that something so commercial captures his heart so easily!

*Last Friday the UNC school newspaper published a couple of articles on the same day regarding Christians recruiting for new students on campus. One article was general, basic, and I got a couple of quotes in. This editorial certainly gives a less-than-complimentary picture of Christian activity on campus...and probably represents how much of the campus thinks about us. Any coincidence that these two articles appeared on the same day in the same paper just pages away from one another? Probably not...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Casting Vision II: The Elephant in the Room

Thursday I posted about our big-picture, capital V, Vision: to be a missional community of grace bringing the hope of the gospel to every corner of campus.

As we talked about this big-picture vision, we realized we needed to break it down into some initial steps for this year. Keeping that capital V Vision in mind, what is the problem that we want to tackle this semester?

We started talking about the status of our community and realized that we've got an elephant in the room: if you press people about the status of their community, most everyone's actually deeply lonely. And we realized that this isn't just a problem in our chapter but all over campus. It's a campus full of beautiful people with plenty of social life. But push beyond the outward appearances and you discover that there's this deeper ache of alone-ness.

So here's the problem we're tackling this semester: A pandemic (lit: all people) of loneliness on campus that leaves people created for community disoriented in the most important areas of life: identity, spirituality, and purpose.

We believe that we were created for community. So when we don't have it, we're lost about these most important areas of life: identity--who am I?--spirituality--who is God?-- and purpose--what the heck am I doing with my life?

So based on that, we crafted our vision statement for this year: "A missional community of grace living out Jesus' invitation to raw, intentional, transformational relationships in order to bless the campus."

We believe that Jesus invites us to live a different type of community that is both more risky and more attractive than standard UNC-relationships. And so we're pressing into that, praying that God would use our community to change us and then to change the campus.

We've only just begun to really engage this vision this fall, but a couple of things are for sure: 1. it's got a lot of our students dealing with the elephant in the room and 2. I don't think that this is solely a UNC-student phenomenon. Perhaps many of my readers who are no longer in college know a thing or two about this elephant as well.