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The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

In the Gospel reading appointed for Good Friday, Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” He seems to really want to know. He seems to be searching for an answer to explain this bruised and beaten Jew standing before him and the chaotic scene outside in his courtyard. And the truth is what we come to church seeking each Good Friday. With Pilate we ask, “What is truth?” We show up before God on the day commemorating Christ’s death for us, asking such questions as, Why was this necessary? Why did God have to die for us? Why would God die for…

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Easter is God’s Great Yes to Earth

Easter is God’s Great Yes to Earth

This Easter Monday reflection comes to us from our friend Chad Bird.

This is the annual time of year some Christians roll their eyes as they tsk-tsk over eggs and bunnies smothering the real meaning of Easter.

I beg to differ. If anyone needs to roll his eyes, it’s God as he sees some of his followers more interested in heaven than he is.

Easter is God’s great affirmation of the earth and all it contains. The day when God says Yes to chocolate eggs and white bunnies, little girls’ pretty dresses and elaborate family dinners, trumpeting lilies and bodies of flesh and blood.

Easter…

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Sharks in the Water: In the Event of a Failure (on Good Friday)

Sharks in the Water: In the Event of a Failure (on Good Friday)

I come from a pretty competitive family, so it should have been no surprise to find them enjoying the latest season of Shark Tank. Of this show’s many seductions — the edge-of-your-seat deliberations, the outlandish pitches (looking at you, Pinot Meow) — the biggest hook may be the sense of judgment hovering throughout each episode: a trembling entrepreneur stands up and pitches his or her idea before a squad of potential investors — the sharks! — who decide whether or not the business is worth their money.

The show’s producer, Mark Burnett, made an appearance at Unpolished 2015, an entrepreneurship conference described by Mya Frazier in her recent Bloomberg article, “What Would Jesus Disrupt?”…

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The Word of the Cross: A Conference Breakout Preview

The Word of the Cross: A Conference Breakout Preview

This one from conference magician, Jim McNeely. 

The time for the most wondrous conference – the Mockingbird NYC spring conference – has rolled around again, and the powers-that-be have condescended to let me come and do a breakout session! I’m going to talk about a book I’ve been writing for 3 years now called “The Word of the Cross.” I’m very excited about this material!

The Cross is our Solution?

The Corinthian church was a mess. There were divisions and theological quarrels and pride about obscure knowledge. Gross sexual sins were being tolerated. Church members were suing one another. There was idolatry, overeating…

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After God’s Own Heart: Life, Death, and the Gospel in the Story of King David – A Conference Breakout Preview

It’s one of the most famous lives in the Bible. Chosen by God from seeming obscurity, faced immediately with an obstacle of gigantic proportions (wink wink), and—in the final analysis—a hero and sinner beyond compare, David’s story is a story that can sometimes be hard to relate to. It’s cinematic in its drama and packed with twists and turns…it would be easy to think that David’s life was one-of-a-kind. But it’s not. The stages (if not the gritty details) are lived out again and again by every person who has ever lived. In a powerful way, one of the most famous men in the history of the world is an everyman. David’s story is your story. It’s our story. It’s a story of God’s sovereignty, power, judgment, mercy, and grace.

At 2:30pm on Friday, April 28th at the 10th annual Mockingbird Conference, I’ll tell this story again. We’ll revisit David’s incredible life (focusing specifically on four watershed moments: his selection as future king, his duel with Goliath, his soap opera with Bathsheba and Uriah, and his final Song of Deliverance) and discuss how God’s interactions with David can help us understand his interactions with us. How does God make choices? How does he stand up for his people when they are in trouble? How does he deal with broken sinners? These questions and more find their answers in the life and rule of King David.

David was called something that we’d all like to be called: “a man after God’s own heart.” His story gives us better news: God is after us. Come hear the story in a fresh way later this month. I’m looking forward to being with you all in New York City!

Register for the 10th annual Mockingbird conference here!

Hopelessly Devoted: Ezekiel Thirty-Seven Verses Four Through Six

Hopelessly Devoted: Ezekiel Thirty-Seven Verses Four Through Six

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord’” (Ezekiel 37:4-6, NIV)

This is one of the most famous passages in Ezekiel, and what a wild scene! The throwback King James English calls this…

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Beauty and (the Mark of) the Beast

Beauty and (the Mark of) the Beast

This second reflection on the revived Disney classic is written by Dustin Messer. 

“Winter turns to spring / Famine turns to feast / Nature points the way / Nothing left to say / Beauty and the Beast.” –Mrs. Potts

“Sleep is an image of death that is repeated every night. So the morning is the image of the resurrection. So the spring of the year is an image of the resurrection.” –Jonathan Edwards

How will the dark curse be broken? Sacrificial love. In the stunning new remake of Beauty and the Beast, Disney stayed true to this central theme. And why shouldn’t they?…

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Where Is God Without His Megaphone?

Where Is God Without His Megaphone?

This op-ed was written by Peter Wehner in the Sunday Review of the NYT. In it he talks about those suffering in the wake of “great pain,” not just for the deaths that have stirred their lives, but also for the seeming absence of God in those moments. His description of what Christianity offers–consolation–is so much better–so much realer–than the answers we’re often given (admittedly, also in Christian circles).

I’m no theologian. My professional life has been focused on politics and the ideas that inform politics. Yet I’m also a Christian trying to wrestle honestly with the complexities…

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The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

Well, Disney, you did it again. You brought yet another animated classic to life with stunning costumes and incredible effects, transporting every audience member back to her childhood.

I am referring, of course, to Beauty and the Beast. Although a more seasoned film critic might find fault with aspects of the movie—yes, parts are slightly hokey and some of the acting is off—I would advise against arguing about the quality of the movie with a 90s kid who grew up on this story and was thrilled at the idea of enjoying it again. I loved every minute of it. I laughed. I…

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Preaching and Needing Grace, Again and Again

Preaching and Needing Grace, Again and Again

After I became a Christian during my junior year of college, I found myself attending a church where I heard the gospel of grace at Church every Sunday morning, at small group gatherings every Sunday night, and while sitting around kitchen tables and coffee tables with my new Christian friends as our conversations about Jesus lingered into the late hours of many nights. I soaked up the solid teaching and theology that was handed to me every time I turned around. At first I wondered why everyone kept talking about the gospel and how we all needed to “remind each…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Three Verse Thirty-One

This morning’s devotion was written by Paul Zahl. 

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31, ESV)

Time and time again, Christian people stumble on this question of the Law.

The question I get, time and time (and time) again, is this one: How will I know to do right when grace and forgiveness are everything? Don’t we need a few tips, or pointers, say, from the Bible? Won’t people take advantage of grace?

That is the question you always get when you present the Gospel. You don’t get it from “non-believers,” who respond to the Gospel with incredible relief and assurance.

You get the question from “Christians,” believers for some time, who seem fearful of it, or maybe even jealous, I don’t know. “Christians” just can’t seem to understand that grace always ends up “upholding the Law” in practice. You don’t have to worry. The Holy Spirit automatically creates works of loving from prior love.

Even so, I don’t think the ministers of grace are ever going to “persuade” the Christian community that grace applies to Christians. I have failed utterly at this for well over 30 years. Outsiders love the message; insiders resist it, even hate it. Probably we just have to “let them go”—the “Christians” I mean. Something about the way the religious (sub-)culture works just makes it impossible to hear the grace word there. I’ll try to keep on going, and “I won’t… back… down” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). But have no illusions: You’ll never persuade the “religious.”

Better maybe just open up a hospital for these people when they crash (they always crash). Take ‘em in then, offer the Old, Old Story, and maybe then, after crashing and burning, they’ll hear it with new ears.

Blind Pilot’s Biblical Paradox

Blind Pilot’s Biblical Paradox

Half album review, half theological forage, this one comes to us from Madeline D’Elia. 

Panic in the first beat of the morning
Even what I’ve got isn’t worth offering
Even faces change—my heart stays the same.

After five years of waiting for their album release, I was hooked on And Then Like Lions in the first fifteen seconds. Once again, with trumpets, banjos, guitars, ukuleles, and mountain dulcimers, Blind Pilot poetically captured the experience of being a human. But this album was markedly different content-wise because it focused on tragedy from beginning to end. Called a “darker shade of folk” by the Wall Street…

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