a little something in the meantime

I'm currently doing some travel to raise support for our future ministry in Auckland.  I'll be home in a few days and most likely won't put up any significant posts until then.  In the meantime I've provided some links to a few new music reviews over at Ransom Fellowship's site.  These four mini-reviews were originally published as one article in Critique.  If you're interested go and check them out, otherwise you'll here from me again sometime over the weekend.  Cheers.

The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
Kanye West - Graduation
The White Stripes - Icky Thump
The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible


patient revolutionaries

I have been slowly working my way through Lesslie Newbgin's book "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society" since August of last year.  Part of the reason it took me so long to complete was the presence of other things I needed to read and attend to.  However, the main reason it took so long is that it's just so dang good.  I would read through it slowly for a few weeks and then I would simply need time to process what I had read.  I finally finished the book last night and am completely humbled, convicted, challenged, encouraged and excited by what it has to say.  

While I don't agree with all of Newbigin's conclusions, particularly his inclusivism, this book has been one of the most beneficial I've read in quite some time.  The title for this post comes from his description of the Christian's calling in this world.  We are patient because we know that it is God who is bringing about a new world order, but we are revolutionary in our calling from Jesus to challenge the reigning powers, authorities and social structures that promote not just what might be called moral "wickedness" but also everything that propagates injustice and oppression. 

Newbigin raises the following question, "How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross?"  I think this is one of the most realistic and applicable questions of our time facing those people, like me, who believe that the gospel is indeed credible and the last word in human affairs.  Newbigin gives the following answer, "I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it."  What he is suggesting is that the gospel will only be seen for what it truly is when the people who say they trust in it actually embody it.  Christians actually living in a manner which is biblically consistent with that name will be the greatest witness for the power of Jesus as seen in the gospel.

Newbigin goes on to outline six characteristics that will need to be present in Christian communities seeking to do this.  As we think about planting a church in central Auckland all six of his characteristics are ones that I hope we embody and display but his third is the one I have been thinking about most lately.  I quote it here at length:

"... it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of its neighborhood.  It will be the church for the specific place where it lives, not the church for those who wish to be members of it - or, rather, it will be for them insofar as they are willing to be for the wider community.  It is, I think, very significant that in the consistent usage of the New Testament, the word ekklesia [church] is qualified in only two ways; it is 'the Church of God,' or 'of Christ,' and it is the church of a place.  A Christian congregation is defined by this twofold relation: it is God's embassy in a specific place.  Either of these vital relationships may be neglected.  The congregation may be so identified with the place that it ceases to be a vehicle of God's judgment and mercy for that place and becomes simply the focus of the self-image of the people of that place.  Or it may be so concerned about the relation of its members to God that it turns its back on the neighborhood and is perceived to be irrelevant to its concerns... The local congregation is the place where the proper relation is most easily and naturally kept." 

May our future congregation be filled with patient revolutionaries who strive to be just such a place.


when the heart beats the pulse quickens

This past week has been busy and eventful as Brooke and I adjust to living back in the city.  Last Tuesday we moved for the eighth time in under a year and a half.  With all of this nomadic living we are becoming much better at living simply and holding onto mostly only what we need.  It only took about two trips in a friends Blazer to get everything from one place to the next this time.  This move is different in two regards though.  First, we our house-sitting for some friends who are out of the country for four months which means we are living in a house by ourselves for the first time in quite awhile.  Second, since we have been back in the States we have lived in the West County suburbs of St. Louis, this move places us back into the city itself.  

Being alone in a home for the first time in a long time definitely has its upsides.  Brooke and I have a lot of alone time which is always nice and I can make my morning coffee in my boxers if I feel like it.  However, while being on our own again is nice I've discovered that out of the two differences in this move, I appreciate this one less.  We have greatly enjoyed the two families we've lived with over the past year and a half.  It has been wonderful to get to know them both more closely and intimately.  There is something to be said about living in close community with others and how it shapes your soul.  Love for one another is proven when you see their daily weaknesses, failures, and eccentricities; and they see yours just as clearly, yet at the end of the day you accept each other for who you are, blemishes and all.  We are grateful to these families not only for supporting and encouraging us, but also for tangibly loving us in their acceptance of us as weak and broken people.  The ministry we are planning to do will be one where these practical lessons on community living will be invaluable.   

I mentioned above that having our own place for awhile was the difference of this move that I appreciated less.  The fact is I value being back in the city much more.  The house  we are staying in and looking after is one block south of the Delmar Loop in University City.  Since moving to St. Louis almost six years ago this part of the city has always been one of our favorites and we now have the privilege of living here.  There's something more though.  It's not just that we get to live in a cool part of the city that has made this move great, it's that I feel like something inside of me has come back to life. The day I moved our stuff into the house, and even the night before when we had dinner with the owners for last minute instructions, I began to feel peculiar.  I even felt lighter in a sense.  This feeling of peculiarity hasn't stopped since.  As I was talking with Brooke about it several days ago I realized that moving back into the city has simply made me happy, and as some of you know simple happiness is something precious and amazing.  

There are practical reasons for this happiness.  I am within walking distance to almost anything I need.  The bank and post office are literally two blocks away.  Great restaurants abound in this area.  My favorite independent music store is a five minute walk away while a great coffee shop is a ten minute walk away along with a classic movie theatre.  In addition to this we are closer to some friends who we've already found it easier to connect with.  Beyond all of this though there are profound spiritual reasons for my happiness.  We are called to the city.  God has wired me in such a way that my heart stirs at the vibrancy and life that are found here.  He stirs up my compassion in profound ways when I see clearly the brokeness and fragmentation of the city.  My heart beats stronger when I live in the city and my pulse races at the excitement and opportunity for interaction and service which are easily found there.

My joy at being back in the city brings some sadness with it though.  The sadness is due to the fact that I long for another city.  While the Loop is an awesome place, and is much closer to in feel to where God is calling us, this is not the city to which my heart belongs.  Being here has accentuated the fact that we aren't where we want to be.  My heart longs to stroll through Ponsonby, to people watch on K-Road.  My legs long to ache after hiking up Queen St.  My face remembers and desires to feel again the sticky whip of salty air down at the harbour.  My eyes are eager to gaze out once more from the top of Mt. Eden over the city where my heart is.  Auckland awaits us with joy and sorrow, with triumph and trial, and we long to walk her streets and join in her life.


traveling conditions...

... were less than optimal yesterday.  With limited visibility, blowing, drifting snow, as well as strong and gusting wind, our normal 7 1/2 hour drive from Grand Rapids back to St. Louis became an 11 1/2 hour trip.  The most bizarre thing was that the farther south we went the colder it got with the lowest being 8 (that's about -13 for those of you reading in New Zealand and enjoying a warm summer).