Earlier today I took some time to listen to/watch an interview between John Piper and Rick Warren. I appreciated so many things about this interview: the chance to see two well-known pastors interact and seem to enjoy each other’s company, the theological clarity, and more.
These two men represent two “evangelical subcultures” that, when stereotyped, are often pitted against each other. But this interview is conducted (by design) in a way that is respectful, seeking-to-learn-and-listen, and clarifying. And this is what I appreciate most about this interview, and why I’d encourage you to take 90 minutes of time over this long Memorial Day weekend (or whenever you run across this) and follow the link below and give it a-listen or a-watch. May we see more of this respectful dialogue, while at the same time pursuing and clarifying truth, in the future.
A few weeks ago after a church service in which the sermon referenced Ephesians 1, I was asked the following question (this is a paraphrase): “How are we to understand the biblical doctrine of election?” (Most simply stated, the New Testament doctrine of election states that God has specially chosen certain people to salvation.) This is a great question, because “the question behind the question” so often deals with other important issues, such as God’s character (“Is an electing God fair?”) and motivation for evangelism (“Why should I share the Gospel if the individual may not be one of the elect?”).
I lobbed out an answer and had some good discussion with the individual who asked the question in our church lobby, but later that week I was reading through Ephesians 1 in my own time with God and journaled some additional thoughts related to this question. These journaled thoughts, with some additional editing, have morphed into this blog:
Lent, the 40 day period leading up to Easter, snuck up on me this year. Maybe it’s because Easter comes so late in 2011. Or maybe I’ve been so busy with preparing to teach in Zambia that I’ve not thought about much else, period. Or maybe it’s because my church tradition has historically not made as much of the church calendar and special seasons. Or maybe it’s just because I’ve still got a ways to go in allowing Easter (and everything to which it points) to become an anchor that I never get too far away from. (On this last point, my prayer for myself is that I continue to grow in this “Easter-awareness” every day for the rest of my life.)
Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until I was driving around Omaha earlier this week that I realized Lent starts today (March 9), when I saw some church billboards mentioning the Lenten season and the Friday evening fish fry.
Let’s face it, one of the first tasks of reading is deciding which books to read amidst the barrage of literature at any bookstore – local or online. For all of us bibliophiles out there, there’s a tension that pops up every time we choose one book over another with our limited money and/or time, and so this makes it important to make sure that the books we decide to spend our money and/or time on are actually worthwhile.
And that’s why I’m grateful for Christianity Today’s annual book award list – a list that (1) points us toward some great reads in (2) some important categories that (3) helps us achieve some balance/rounding in our reading.
The season of Advent is officially over – the advent candles were all lit and have perhaps now been put away, the presents are opened, visiting family has returned home, and the Christmas songs are off the radio. All of these signs tempt us to think that “appreciating advent” can now be off our radar screens for another 11 months or so…until we reflect on the truth that appreciating Advent doesn’t only have to do with ANTICIPATION (everything that leads up to December 25) but also with APPLICATION (all the implications that flow out of December 25).
Last week, I posted a blog introducing Advent and pointing you to places where you can follow along with some Advent readings as we anticipate (and then celebrate) the coming of Jesus at Christmas. As I was writing, I had every expectation of implementing a daily reading with my family (my wife and four boys, ages 5, 3, and twin 2-year olds), following the lists I made available.
The visions of “Advent Launch: 2010″ that were dancing around in my head went something like this: Our usually-hectic Sunday morning pace would instead be one of hushed contemplation. Carrie and I would awake to find our four young boys having already fed and dressed themselves (which has never happened yet, but I was hoping it would self-start on Sunday). Carrie’s trip to church with the boys (since I generally need to arrive earlier) would be full of singing theologically-rich Christmas carols, and then after church our usually-exhausted 2-year old twins would dip into their energy reserves (without the help of sugar) and our family would have our usual “what’d you learn at church?” conversation at lunch followed by our Advent readings. During these readings, our boys would be unusually attentive and eagerly ask follow-up questions to gain better understanding.
Wanna take a guess at how well these “visions” became reality?
The word Advent means “coming” and is a season set aside at the end of our calendar year for reflecting on the coming of Jesus Christ to earth as a baby. In the face of all the cultural chaos that often surrounds Christmas, observing Advent can be a powerful way to sustain a focus on and worship of Christ individually, as a family, and in your LIFEgroups.
One of the best ways to reflect on Christ’s coming to earth as a baby is to read Scriptures that help us appreciate everything Jesus’ first coming meant. Below you’ll find links that connect you to a couple of Advent reading plans; though the Advent calendar began last Sunday (Nov 28), I encourage you to jump in at whatever point you’re able and pick up the reading plan then.
Click here to find an Advent reading plan that will help you “appreciate advent” by providing a daily reading plan that covers (1) a short passage from the Old Testament (often Isaiah), (2) a short passage from one of the New Testament letters, and (3) a passage from one of the Gospels.
Click here for a reading plan and other creative ideas to help you “appreciate advent” with your children.