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God Save Us From The Nasty Effect

God Save Us From The Nasty Effect

Quite a close-to-home article appeared in The NY Times the other day, “This Story Stinks”, in which Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele relay some findings from a report published last month in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (!) about the so-called “nasty effect” that afflicts online culture. Specifically, the comments...

Thoughts on the S—- Word and Left-Handed Power

Thoughts on the S—- Word and Left-Handed Power

You guessed it – secularization! There was that recent Pew survey release showing that 78% of Americans identified as Christians in 2007, but only 70% in 2014. DZ’s already covered that topic pretty well, and the stats are disheartening, but it’s worth thinking about some possible silver linings.

First, from a...

Gru?s nemesis, Vector (JASON SEGEL), shows off the shrink ray in Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment?s inaugural 3-D CGI feature, ?Despicable Me?.  The film tells the story of one the world?s greatest villains who meets his match in three little girls.

PZ’s Eight Easy Ways To Shrink Your Church

The strangest thing happened. The other day, just after penning his “Ten Ways to Grow Your Church”, PZ was looking through an old box of letters and found a sealed envelope he’d never seen before. The return address read only “Screwtape”. He was so surprised and bedazzled by its contents...

The Art of Getting Used to Justification

The Art of Getting Used to Justification

Perusing our archives the other day, I was surprised to discover that we’ve never quoted from Gerhard Forde’s crystal clear, absolute must-read essay on sanctification from the somewhat lazily titled Five Views of Sanctification. Well, today is the day we rectify that oversight:

Sanctification, if it is to spoken of as...

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

It turns out that Stephen Colbert has a sign on his computer that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” No joke. I tell you this by way of context for what comes next. GQ ran a profile of him this month entitled “The Late,...

The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

Up until a week ago, I would have told you that a website called Ashley Madison must be a name generator for preppy girls who like monograms. I know. Color me naïve. Suddenly, the website and its torrid details are everywhere.

People I have known for years are on the list....

Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

From our friend Jeff Dean, another Alabamian who knows a thing or two about procrastination. Zing!  

[Some spoilers below]

You probably shouldn’t read Harper Lee’s “new” novel, Go Set a Watchman.

If the book interests you as a “sequel” to her iconic To Kill a Mockingbird, you’re apt to be profoundly...

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September Playlist

Ever wonder what it’s like to get pummeled by power? -Pop then -ballads? Cause you’re about to find out:

Robert Jenson on the Unconditional Kingdom

From the Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson in his short book entitled Story and Promise:

41x-PVfnmzL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Jesus took away from his hearers the possibility of neutralizing God’s futurity, of mitigating its threat and challenge by cutting out a time of their autonomous own in which to plan and prepare for it, and getting it—even a little bit—into present control. He asserted God’s future as uncontrollable and free—as God’s and so as true future….

That is, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom unconditionally; he left no time to fulfill “if…” clauses. This is what got him into trouble, for it made his message socially and religiously revolutionary. If there are no conditions to be fulfilled for participation in humanity’s fulfillment, then in the end the righteous man has no advantage over the sinner, the respected man no advantage over the proletarian, the believer no advantage over the unbeliever….

Jesus did not merely proclaim to the poor, the publicans, and the sinners that in God’s future they would be new men, he treated them then and there as the new men they would be. His message had nothing in it of ‘pie in the sky by and by.’ This is the point of one of the most pervasive recollections about Jesus’ actions: that he ‘ate with publicans and sinners.’ In all cultures, eating together is an expression of fellowship; in oriental cultures, it creates permanent brotherhood; and in Israel, because of the table prayers, it creates brotherhood before God. Jesus’ chosen brothers before God were the outsiders.

We regulate our relations with our fellows by what they have been; if a teenager is hooked on dope, we do not encourage our children to make him a friend. Jesus did the opposite: he brought his fellows into his life not in terms of what they had been, but of what they would be. And not in terms of what it could be predicted they would be, on the basis of a ‘little bit of good in everyone’ or of what he planned to reform them to, but in terms of what they could be only by God’s miracle. He enacted God’s future as his brothers’ own present.

Relevant Irrelevance: Poetry and Grace in a Zeitgeist of ‘More’

Relevant Irrelevance: Poetry and Grace in a Zeitgeist of ‘More’

We have Connor Gwin to thank for the following reflection.

There is something happening in America. The pace of life has increased to an almost breakneck speed. New technology allows people to be working all the time – pardon me as I check my Apple Watch – while new social media networks allow people to connect in more ways to those around them.

Newspapers are filled with stories of death, dismemberment, suicide, and record profits for major corporations. Amazon is running modern-day sweat shops in the heartland of America, just so I can have that new book on my doorstep in two…

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Jordan Spieth: There’s No “I” in Golf…Huh?

Jordan Spieth: There’s No “I” in Golf…Huh?

I’ve always had respect for the players and coaches in any sport who use the first person plural when they’re interviewed after a win, and the first person singular when things went poorly for them or their team after a loss. Derek Jeter was like that, so were Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw and Buc’s Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy. That vantage point is counter-intuitive. To sit at your locker in front of a reporter after a loss and continually answer every question with “I…..” after a loss, but  “We…..” after a win, is a discipline that very few in…

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The Agony of Getting Everything You Want

The Agony of Getting Everything You Want

Newly minted billionaire Markus Persson of Minecraft fame (if you don’t know what Minecraft is, ask any boy aged 8-12) is not happy. A series of tweets from early Saturday morning went as follows:

4:48am: The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.

4:50am: Hanging out in ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I’ve never felt more isolated.

4:51am: In sweden, I will sit around and wait for my friends with jobs and families to have time to do shit,…

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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Fifteen Verses One Through Five

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Bonnie Poon Zahl. 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…(John 15:1-5, ESV)

The_Tree_Pruner_by_Eric_Oberhauser_Web_I_2012.341145054_stdWhen we think of being “pruned” by God, it’s easy to think of minor cuttings, small challenges that do us good, but perhaps harder to think of the severe changes that might drastically affect our lives in too painful a way.

To the gardener, however, pruning a plant looks like cutting off living branches—taking significant lengths off of a perfectly healthy branch to encourage new growth. This is true of what Jesus is saying, too: being pruned oftentimes feels very painful, as if some large part of you that was once deeply connected to life has been severed. It can feel as though one’s wounds have been left raw to face the elements. It can feel like God has deliberately disconnected Himself, and one’s protests are met only with silence.

We can take heart from Christ’s words: God prunes every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, so that it will be even more fruitful. Every saint who has been “fruitful” has dealt with the emotional loss of having been pruned. The Gardener is lovingly ruthless. He severs parts of our connection to the vine—even connections that do not appear in need of pruning—so that we can bear more. Because He abides in us and we in Him, we can be certain that even the most painful pruning experiences are for the sake of His great love.

Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All

Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All

1. This week, The NY Times made the astute observation that the new buzzword, “moment,” reflects something significant about the human condition. You need only glance at headlines to see how the word is being used—as far as media coverage goes, a “moment” is usually something trending, anything that garners fifteen minutes of fame. It could be a celebrity or a musical group; there are election moments and hurricane moments and Kanye moments. The article explains:

No nexus of events is too large or heterogeneous — no geopolitical weather too swirlingly turbulent — to avoid being reduced to the…

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Three Responses to the Law, from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (And Saints)

Three Responses to the Law, from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (And Saints)

Check out the “Interlude” from Mockingbird’s latest resource, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), available here!

The Law, on most every occasion, draws a line of distinction between the is of life and the ought. The Law is the demarcation of the life we should have—the life we long for—and our own obstructions preventing us from getting there. It is for this reason that our response to the Law is almost always counterproductive.[1]

Imagine you are twelve years old again, and you love baseball. All your heroes are baseball players, all your extracurricular time is spent either with a ballglove…

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The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

Up until a week ago, I would have told you that a website called Ashley Madison must be a name generator for preppy girls who like monograms. I know. Color me naïve. Suddenly, the website and its torrid details are everywhere.

People I have known for years are on the list. Lives are falling apart. Marriages feel like shams. The sins of the world are delivered up on your computer screen free of charge. And, based on the numerous opinions on social media, everyone wants a piece of the action.

It really is a fabulous opportunity for moral superiority. This is our…

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Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

Been a while since we checked in on the world of addiction. Back in January The Huffington Post ran an article with the transparently baiting title of “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think” that went viral. I think we mentioned it in a weekender. It was the work of Johann Hari, a controversial British journalist and author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. In June Hari gave a TED talk–embedded below–based on the same material, in which he stresses the social factors that…

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The Power of Love – Michel Quoist

A new find for me, but this will not be the last Michel Quoist post. Quoist was a French priest and activist who wrote prayer books in much the same way the psalmists did. That is to say, his prayers are short vignettes and poems about everyday life. They also are not complete prayers–they do not try to “see the whole picture”–which seems to me to be an authentic prayer. One thing seems clear in Quoist’s work: for him there is little distinction between church life and human life, religious and secular. God in Christ moves through suffering and love, and so Christ is everywhere. This one comes from a new collection, Keeping Hope: Favourite Prayers for Modern Living. 

quoist-prayers-480I was called recently to the bedside of a dying man. He was very old and his face was ravaged and distorted by illness and suffering. I watched his wife. She was leaning over him, caressing him and whispering to him such tender words: ‘How beautiful you are, my love, how fine you look!’ I was embarrassed and thought: ‘How can anyone be so blind? Love is blind!’

Then an extraordinary thing happened. As she caressed him, the old man half-opened his eyes and a hesitant smile appeared on his face. He look at his wife a long time and she looked at him. There was a mysterious communion between them. And his smile spread. It was like the sun after a storm. I saw it. I know that I saw what she saw! She was right–the old man, made ugly by suffering, was beautiful. Love is not blind–love lets us see what others do not see.

That woman was guided by love to go beyond the deep wrinkles of her husband’s suffering face and had joined someone who was beyond, far beyond, the body, someone who could not die even if his body were to crumble away in her sight and finally disappear.

Mockingbird: Bringing You The (Swedish Yacht-Funk) Gospel, Pt 43