Oct 04 2011
A Brief Reading List to Make You a Raging Nutball Like Brant

Believe it or not, people ask for this.  Some, because they're genuinely wanting something to read, and others, likely, because they want to know how one human's brain can be so fouled.  Who's to blame for this?
 
Well, here you go.  Just a starter list.  Blame these books, and these authors.  More to come, if you want.
 
A Scandalous Freedom -- Steve Brown
Steve Brown is a good, solid, Reformed, theologically-sound, upstanding, pastoring, college-teaching, doctorate-holding, mild-mannered, wise, older gentleman.... who completely ticks off all the “Good Christians” with this book.
 
He tries to get Christians to believe the Gospel, and, my friends, let me tell you... that ain’t easy.
 
In other words:  Hero.
 
 
Orthodoxy -- G.K. Chesterton
G.K. Chesterton is one of my favorite people ever.  He’s absent-minded, he’s self-deprecating, he’s happily fat, he loves life, and he disagrees with just about everybody, all the time.  And he’s also so right, so often.
 
Plus, he’s hilarious.  And he skewers modernity, just so. 
 
He shows how beauty, art, and life are found within the bounds of lasting, Biblical faith in Jesus, not in the avant-garde.  Faith in Jesus “fits the lock” for life’s troubling questions.
 
 
Pagan Christianity and From Eternity to Here -- Frank Viola
They won’t stock Pagan Christianity in many church bookstores, even though it sold mega-copies.  I can understand why.  Frank Viola (and George Barna) show that a lot of what we think of as making up Biblical “church” life actually has no basis in scripture. 
 
Hold on to your churchgoin' hat.
 
-- and then read Viola’s follow-up, From Eternity to Here, to see just how beautiful God’s vision for the church really is.   It’s an incredibly romantic book.  Read them both.  Healthy deconstruction, then reconstruction, and it’s a beautiful thing.
 
 
Prodigal God -- Timothy Keller
I wish I could buy this one for everyone who’s been in a church more than two years.  Tim Keller captures the story, and how it re-defines, for its listeners, God, sin, and forgiveness.
 
The mis-named “Prodigal Son” is the best story I’ve ever heard.  Read this book, and then thank God. 
 
 
Messy Christianity -- Mike Yaconelli
Mike Yaconelli died in a car accident after writing this.  I always admired him for his youth ministry, and for his leadership of “America’s slowest-growing church”. 
 
Funny, and easy to read, and so true.  We’re all messed-up, and stuff happens, and thank God for all of it.
 
 
The Last of the Mohicans -- James Fenimore Cooper
Just kidding.  I actually hate this book.  "The Coop" was, I’m sure, an awesome guy, but... zzzzz.
 
 
The Great Divorce -- C.S. Lewis
I could pick practically anything by Lewis.  But Heaven and Hell are big right now.
 
In Love Wins, a book of the moment, Rob Bell recommends this book “for further reading”, along with Keller’s Prodigal God.  On this, I agree with Bell wholeheartedly.
 
 
What’s So Amazing About Grace -- Philip Yancey
The world pines for grace.  It aches for it.  Yancey is a fair-minded, thoughtful, journalist-type who grew up in legalism.  He tells stories, and helps us all breathe the fresh air of Amazing Grace.
 
 
The Ragamuffin Gospel -- Brennan Manning
This book confirms what I thought:  If a single book is loved by both Rich Mullins and Bono, I’ll love it, too.
 
Here's the upshot:  Losers, misfits, and benchwarmers... welcome to the table of God.  Let's dance.

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Sep 25 2011
Here's Some Stuff You Can Do Before Going to Hell

If you're looking for some religious stuff to do, while still being totally lost, here's a little starter list with some neat ideas.

And yes, don't worry:  If you're determined to avoid God, and don't want to give Him what He's after, you can still do all this stuff.  In fact, doing this stuff has been known to HELP some to avoid the dread and risk and messiness of really knowing God. You can do it all without giving Him your heart.

None of these things will save you.  Plus, they'll keep you busy!  (By the way, FunFact: I totally did the accompanying graphic by myself.  I avoid possible copyright issues in this manner. Thanks!)

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Be a scripture memorizer

Go to church camp

Teach Sunday School

Tithe

Be a brilliant theologian

Lead the Cookies-for-Newcomers Ministry

Think you're one of the Elect

Listen to Christian radio

Work in Christian radio

Lead "powerful worship"

Preach the Word for an hour-and-a-half every Sunday

Be a missionary in Africa

Host a small group from your church

Stand for Justice and Peace

Vote pro-life

Go to seminary

Feel guilty every day

Pray for the President

Have a brilliant, theologically astute understanding of Grace

Talk to people about Christ

Say the "sinner's prayer" 

Speak in tongues

Wear a WWJD? bracelet

Start an award-winning ministry to people with AIDS

Be an elder in your church

Argue with your teacher about evolution

Lead family devotions

Keep trying not to sin

Argue theology on your blog

Argue theology on this blog

"Take a stand" for prayer in school

Start a hip, organic church

Use Christian-y cusswords, instead of the real darn thing

"Take" or "receive" communion every week, month, quarter, or year, without fail

Come forward at church camp

"Take a stand" for Truth and combat the lies of Rob Bell

Place a sticker of a fish, preferably eating a Darwin fish, on your car

Pray two hours a day

Confidently trace your church's lineage back to Peter

Confidently trace your church's lineage back to Calvin

Read Max Lucado

Actually want to read Max Lucado

Read the Bible every day

Argue that drinking alcohol would ruin your "witness"

Say "under God" really loud while you pledge your allegiance to a flag

Rue those new choruses that lack deep theology

Be transparent about your shortcomings on your own radio show and your blog

Personally baptize people

Personally lead people in singing Chris Tomlin songs

Personally baptize Chris Tomlin

Sponsor a child through Compassion International 

Steer clear of R-rated movies

Homeschool your children

Mail only REAL Christmas cards, ones with pictures of Jesus and scripture

Be a member of the Tea Party

Be amember of Sojourners and consider yourself enlightened beyond the Tea Party

Be a "prophetic voice"

Be a counselor at a Graham crusade

MAKE YOUR OWN AWESOME GRAPHICS FOR YOUR BLOG!!!!

Wear a Christian shirt that looks kinda like a known-product T-shirt, but says a Christian-y thing on it

Organize VBS

Wear Tebow jersey to Raiders game

Weep openly at small group

Work at Focus on the Family

Tsk tsk Harry Potter

Have a model marriage

Know who Priscilla and Aquilla are

Know who DeGarmo and Key are

Watch, repeatedly, "Fireproof"

Force your kids to watch, repeatedly, "Fireproof"

Go to confession

Eschew the banalities of commercial Christian culture and listen to Sufjan Stevens

Be a key member of a church that offers solid, Biblical teaching -- none of that namby-pamby stuff

Be a pastor who offers solid, Biblical teaching -- none of that namby-pamby stuff

Listen to Rush Limbaugh

Believe people who listen to Rush Limbaugh lack your insight

Give the neighborhood kids "Cross-Pops" (TM) candy for Halloween, plus a tract

Lead your neighbors to Christ

Be correct about every. single. thing.

"Know", theologically, that this post is correct, but live as if it isn't

 

Sep 14 2011
Going Where God Lives

Shaun Groves Third World Symphony iTunes-banner-125x1

I hope you've heard Shaun Groves

I don't mean that you've heard his music, though it's outstanding, and has landed him on the cover of the old CCM Magazine and blah blah blah. Or even his incredible new, indie stuff, from "Third World Symphony."  When I say I hope you've heard him, I mean, I hope you've HEARD Shaun Groves.  Really heard him. 

What he has to say, particularly with regard to God's heart for the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the vulnerable, is wonderful news: for them, and for us.  As Shaun is fond of saying, we are not merely saved "from", we are saved "for", and that's to do the work of the Kingdom.  We GET to do this.  It's way more exciting than a teaching.  It's a mission.

So I hope you've heard Shaun, loud and clear, even if you didn't know he was a big-shot Christian pop star-feller.  Or is.  I don't know, or care.  I'm not sure he does, either. 

He asked some blogger-types to host a "blog-tour" with the release of "Third World Symphony", and to write about a bit of our own engagement with the "third world", and how we saw Jesus at work.  I've written much about this theme, over time, and as I say, what I've seen in developing nations hasn't just changed my mind on things, or how we spend our money, or my mindset on this or that.  It's done much more. 

It's helped me fall in love with God.

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Where God Lives

WRITTEN FROM NAIROBI, KENYA, 2008

(First, before today's blog entry, let me note that I'm typing to the strains of a tuxedo-clad young Kenyan on the piano in our hotel.  I'm sitting in the lobby, and he's regally playing -- of course -- "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille", by Kenny Rogers.  Many things don't translate cross-culturally, but -- make no mistake -- Kenny translates.  Kenny crosses all boundaries)
 
Susan leaned over, from her seat in the van.
 
"Notice where the children are playing -- look out the left window," she said.  Susan knows this area well, she's worked for Compassion for years.
 
They were playing next to a pile of trash that's well over their heads, and seems to stretch for miles.  The stench hit us immediately.
 
"They put all these schools next to the dump.  All of Nairobi dumps its trash here," she said.  Children of Dandora -- another sprawling, Where-the-Streets-Have-No-Name-type slum -- scavenge through the refuse, looking for food, or something to sell.  Anything.
 
We stopped, and
walked in a Dandora Baptist Church, where children at a Compassion project were singing.  Their voices bounced off the walls, singing praises to God.  Then we met about dozen people in the church who are suffering from AIDS.  The whole community is suffering -- every family, one way or the other -- from AIDS. 
 
A young man -- they called him "Timothy" -- stood up to introduce himself to us.
 
We could look out the windows to the right and left as he spoke, and see children in the filth.  We could see dozens of vultures flying directly overhead, over the trash, over the dirt, over the disease-riddled, dark cardboard homes.  Welcome to Dandora.
 
"Welcome to Dandora, where God lives."
 
Where God lives?
 
Circling vultures.  Men, women and children crying out with disease, children searching through stinking trash for anything...where God lives.
 
Timothy has lived his whole life here.  Someone sponsored him through Compassion International, when he was four.  He's now in his twenties.  He's now has a degree in Computer Science.  He now teaches kids in the program about computers.
 
He knows where God lives.  He knows God does not run away from suffering.  He moves closer.  Dandora is suffering, and God gets His mail here.
 
He also teaches the children -- who are where he once was --about the love of God.
 
"I understand the love of God.  I understand how a God, whom I have not seen, can love me.  This is because someone, whom I have not seen, loved me enough to sponsor me.  I understand the love of God."
 
Where God lives.