It’s a strange and beautiful thing to hear someone preaching your own thoughts in a sermon. That’s what happened for me last summer when I heard Pentecostal preacher Jonathan Martin‘s sermon series “The Songs of Ascent” about King David and the Psalms. My whole life, I have been on a journey of trying to understand the nature of worship. Growing up Baptist, I was instilled with a zeal for sincerity in worship. What is the difference between truly worshiping God and putting on a performance? In one sermon last summer, Jonathan said that King David’s worship was to delight in the discovery of God’s delight in him. This beautiful way of framing things is at the heart of Jonathan’s new book Prototype, which I would buy and ship to every Christian who has been wounded or disillusioned by the church if I had the money. Continue reading
August and September were busy months for my blog. There was the Chik-Fil-A drama and other culture war nonsense. Both political parties held their conventions. Then the Benghazi attack happened. In September, our church did a sermon series called “Jesus is My Candidate” that I tried and spectacularly failed to turn into some kind of bigger “movement.” The idea was to transcend partisanship and avoid saying and doing things that would dishonor Jesus’ name. So here are 10 posts on culture wars, morality, marriage, American Pelagianism, holy war, the fear of God, and other matters. Continue reading
I had a bit of a creative explosion this week while I was attending the Duke Divinity Convocation so I wanted to share the fruit. Basically I wrote two raps and one praise song from Sunday evening to Tuesday afternoon. Then I played hookey from several of the lectures at the Convocation to sit down at my favorite piano in the world in Goodson Chapel and record these three songs and seven others with my iPhone propped on the music stand. The sound quality is actually not too bad. Because of time constraints, I did almost everything on the first take, mistakes and all, unless I completely shut down. So almost all the songs have two or three mistakes. Anyway I’m sharing them below. Some of them might sting a little bit because God is giving me a prophetic word to call out some things about the American church right now. As there’s always a mix of flesh and spirit, some of my cynicism and arrogance may have found its way in. That’s where I depend on you to call me out so I can refine this and make it more glorifying to God. So please critique and offer suggestions!!! (And don’t laugh too hard at the goofy expressions on my face on this page.) Continue reading
About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about a phenomenon I’m witnessing among American evangelicals that seems like a massive reenactment of Jesus’ exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac in which he casts a bunch of demons from a man into a herd of pigs who storm off a cliff and drown. As the tinfoil hat types among us get more and more obviously ridiculous and start racing towards a cliff, many of us are turning back in disgust as Jesus exorcises our demons. So this song is the rap version of that blog post, basically mixing imagery from Mark 5 with the parable of talents. Continue reading
I’m going to be a little raw. I’ve been wrestling with God about this whole “Jesus Is My Candidate” campaign/idea/thing that hasn’t seemed to go anywhere at least in the grandiose large-scale sense that I hoped it might. I got called out yesterday for promoting myself after I sent out a mass facebook message about the campaign and this new Election Day Communion idea to an eclectic group of pastors , some of whom I have enough rapport with to humor me and bear my silliness with patience, but some of whom I apparently don’t. I’ve been reflecting on whether and to what degree this campaign is reducible to my narcissism. I’m grateful for getting called out as I told the person who did it; otherwise I would never learn. But to some degree, I don’t think you can be a preacher without being a self-aware narcissist. Otherwise how could you stand up in front of a group of people every week to speak on behalf of God with any authority? It is a constant brutal struggle with pride. I don’t know how to be a good steward of what God gives me to share with the world other than to kick and scream and bang on every door I can find. Please unfriend/unfollow me if you have a problem with that. So far I’ve had one famous Christian writer get on twitter to make fun of what I was trying to promote and another one say that she would block me if I tweeted directly to her about things like this since I was exploiting her platform. In any case, as I was feeling resentful, flustered, and confused this morning, I remembered a story in which Jesus showed that He wasn’t stingy with His platform.
One of the most dramatic exorcisms of Jesus’ ministry takes place in Mark 5 when Jesus casts a legion of demons out of a man chained to a graveyard in the region of the Gerasenes by sending them into a herd of pigs who run with fury to a cliff and throw themselves in a lake. For the last several years, as certain aspects of the evangelical corner of American Christianity that I inhabit have looked less and less Christlike, I have had a single prayer that I have written probably several hundred times in my journal: “Lord, let their fruit be made plain.” I’m not sure who the “they” in the prayer is — probably people who earnestly hunger after God no less than I do. But it’s hit me this week that God really is answering my prayer. I really think American Christianity in the age of the culture wars has been like that tortured Gerasene demoniac ranting and raving in the graveyard and finally that legion of demons is starting to reveal itself in a herd of pigs who are racing furiously for the water. Continue reading