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Archive for July, 2011

This week I’ve been preaching to teenagers at some nightly youth events.  I’ve never really seen myself as a “youth leader” and have avoided “youth work” for most of my ministry.  I wouldn’t go as far as Philip Larkin but I’ve always understood his line about childhood:  “Growing up I thought I hated everyone.  Now I realise, it’s just kids I hate.”

I’m not saying I’m completely with Larkin.  But I know exactly what he means.  I spent my childhood wishing I was a grown up.  And now every time I happen across Radio 1 I frown in stunned incomprehension – at the music, but even more at the DJs.  I have never worn a “hoodie”, still less one with a cool Christian slogan.  And I have a violent allergy to all those motivational pep talks you hear at youth events, encouraging teens to “step up their commitment to Christ” and “burn for Jesus.”

Thankfully these youth events weren’t like that.  And the kids just lapped up the Bible – obviously so.  That’s the cool thing about young people, if they’re bored they’ll let you know.  If they’re engaged they’ll jump up and down on their seat in wide-eyed glee.

There was a moment on Wednesday when I was talking about Isaac – about to be sacrificed as the beloved son on a mountain on the region of Jerusalem (see more here).  A girl in the front row turned to her neighbour and said loudly “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.  It’s totally Jesus!”

And that’s my favourite preaching feedback ever.

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jesus gun

Three pictures of manliness in the gospels:

ONE.  Jesus, pictured as the father in Luke 15, (seriously the father is Jesus.  Just straightforwardly and obviously Jesus.  There’s no question in my mind).  Where was I?  Oh yes, Jesus, pictured as the father, is turned in his stomach with compassion, hitches up his robes, runs to his good-for-nothing son, flings his arms around him, falls on his neck and smothers the boy in kisses.

Here is the most poignant picture of Jesus’ love for sinners.  And Jesus chooses a patriarch to show it.  We might think he looks pretty motherly and not fatherly.  We might question the masculinity of this scene.  We’d be dead wrong.  Here is a picture of total Jesus-shaped manliness.

TWO.  Jesus gets up from the evening meal, downs his drink in one, belches and then challenges Judas to a cage fight.  No wait.  That’s not John 13.  In John 13 He gets up from the table, takes off His robe, picks up a towel, and He gets down on His hands and knees to wash and pad dry the dirty, naked feet of His friends. 

Was this a detour from His otherwise robust masculinity?  No, it was the expression of it.  Here was Jesus showing the full extent of His love (v1) – the Bridegroom washing His bride in sacrificial service. 

THREE.  Gethsemane: Jesus, overwhelmed with sorrow, actually lets His friends in on His distress – inviting Peter, James and John to watch with Him.  The Passion of the Christ gets this wrong – Jesus does not say ‘I don’t want them to see me like this.’  The only reason we know about this episode is that Jesus must have told them all about it.  Desperate praying, sweating blood, heart poured out, never has Jesus looked weaker.

I’ve heard Driscoll repeatedly describe Gethsemane as a portrait of femininity – Jesus in submission to His Head, the Father.  Of course both men and women need to look to Christ as Model.  But frankly I think Driscoll is avoiding something that ought to challenge his macho-man masculinity. Here is Man in submission to God.  This is what man is made for.  The Ruler under God, in the garden, obeying submissively in total dependence and willing to die for His bride – here is the Last Adam, the true picture of manliness.   

Of course it doesn’t look very macho.  It isn’t.  But it’s what Jesus-shaped masculinity looks like.

To be a man like the Man doesn’t look manly to men.  A man must be man enough to reject men and follow the Man.

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Some more posts on gender here.

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Happy Friday

3D Street Art – see them all here.

 

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How does porn impact a young girl who discovers her father’s stash?  Michelle VanLoon writes about it in My Father The Porn Addict.  This sentence struck me more than any other:

Porn taught me that the single most important thing to grown-ups was this mysterious world of fantasy, pain, and animalistic impulses too powerful to ignore.

Porn peddles a lie that becomes “the single most important thing” for those who buy into it.  Actually it peddles many lies, but here’s a prominent one: Porn tells us that love, respect and mutual honour are window dressing.  Behind closed doors it’s “fantasy, pain and animalistic impulses.”

Loving commitment and kindness are like mating calls.  The real business is mating.  People might talk about relationships and fidelity, actually it’s about glands and groans.  On the surface it’s love and trust, underneath it’s power and gratification.  And that’s what’s basic, primal, bubbling away.

To believe the lie is to feed it, to participate in it, to grow connected to it and then to see the world through its lens.  Porn sacramentally reinforces the worshipper in that creed and the cycle spirals down.

When a Christian is embroiled in this other religion, what happens when they are told to ‘clean up their private world’?  It will likely be heard as the demand to ‘put a lid on what’s real.’  Renouncing porn will be like agreeing to deny the truth, simply because the truth is too dangerous or shameful or powerful to acknowledge or indulge.  And so the determined porn-denier will commit to living in the unreality of kindness, mutual service and self-control.  All the while power and gratification throb away in heart and mind.

Combatting the lie will take more than a resolve to label pornography as ‘harmful’ or ‘bad.’  We need to know that it’s also ‘untrue.’  And why is it untrue?  Let’s cut to the chase:  God is as He is towards us.  God is not different ‘behind closed doors.’  He does not display sacrificial love as window dressing.  The Lamb is at the centre of the throne (Revelation 7:17).    Push through to the deepest depths of God and you will find a faithful marital love that gives itself for the other.  His gracious gospel offers are not mating calls to woo us while back at home He’s all about power and gratification.  No!  He is love ‘all the way down.’

Not every god will help you to conquer porn.  There are many gods who are power and gratification pure and simple.  And there are many Christian doctrines of God that offer a split-personality God – sacrificial in public, selfish in private.

But just imagine… what if, actually, the primeval passions that determine us are intimate, committed, self-denying deferrals to the other?  What if it’s respect and mutual love that are really bubbling away underneath?  What if it’s serving the other that drives this world, not using.  What if giving and not getting is ultimate?

And I don’t just mean, Let’s escape mystically into some godly sphere where that love stuff is true.  I don’t mean, Let’s affirm these religious truths (all the while knowing that ‘the real world aint like that.’)  No, let’s fling wide those doors that we’re always closing because we imagine that darkness rules the roost.  Let’s declare that Jesus really is Lord.  This really is Christ’s universe.  Light really is this world’s driving force, not darkness.   And all that other stuff is parasitic, corrupted, ugly, unnatural, ephemeral and passing away.

The lie of pornography will be unmasked and the bedrooms of Christians, both single and married, will be revolutionized when we see God aright.  Behind closed doors there’s not a throbbing, coercive power too dangerous to name.  The primal urge is not grunting but grace.

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Discuss!

 

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Emma’s got a great post up contrasting Amy Winehouse and Anders Breivik:

One person couldn’t cope with fame.  The other couldn’t cope with ignominy.  One person’s life was out of control.  The other was extremely disciplined.  One was full of self-doubt.  The other was certain he was right.  One revealed her problems to the world (“I told you I was trouble!”).  The other kept it all inside.  One took it out on herself.  The other took it out on everyone else.

Is it too far to suggest that these two (obviously extreme cases) represent the apogee of female and male anger?

And if not, what kind of pathologies develop when an angry man (i.e. a man) marries an angry woman (i.e. a woman)?

 

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I’ve been asked to give some talks to teenagers on Christ’s “mission impossible” – that’s the name of the camp they’re on.  They suggested I do it from the OT.

I thought at some point in each talk I’ll address a sneaking suspicion that Christians have deep down that eats away at our faith.  So, something like:

Jesus and Adam (Genesis 3) – “Jesus can’t be that important.”

Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the world’s only hope.

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Jesus and Abraham (Genesis 22) – “The bible’s weird and sometimes shocking.”

The bible is not a rule-book, but with Christ at the centre it makes sense.

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Jesus and Moses (Exodus 3) – “I can’t believe in God in a suffering world.”

The LORD meets us in suffering to lead us out.

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Jesus and David (1 Samuel 17) – “I’m too weak for Jesus.”

The gospel is not, do it for Jesus, it’s: Jesus did it for you.

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Jesus and Isaiah (Isaiah 53) – “I’m too sinful for Jesus.”

Jesus’ mission is for sinners – He’s for you!

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Anyone have any ideas for good youth-friendly video clips or jazzy stuff.  I’m not the youthiest, jazziest speaker ever!

 

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