How the Magic of Being Ordinary Transforms Us

CS. Lewis says, “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” I’ve found as a writer and editor that’s a hard rule to follow, but I’ve made it my goal this year to have my readings weighted towards time tested books.

One that I had owned, but had neglected was G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. One theme that winds throughout is wonder at the ordinary. He reminds us that fairy tales often take the ordinary person and set him on an adventure.  This happens because only an ordinary person is startled at “a mad world” (Orthodoxy [Moody Classics] [pp. 29-30]. Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.) Think of some of the most popular fairy stories of this last century.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s adventures in middle-earth—the hero is an ordinary hobbit who is swallowed by a larger than life adventure. C. S. Lewis’s Narnia—ordinary children transported to an extraordinary world. J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter—an ordinary boy living in a cupboard in Privet Dr. finds out he is a wizard.

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4 Essentials for Cultivating Disciples

For many years the Church has been conversing about what discipleship should look like. These conversations only buttress the truth that proper discipleship strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. Without proper discipleship, our faith is deformed. It turns into a circus, social club, dead “orthodoxy,” or worse. In my estimation, the church has overcomplicated matters. We must return to the ancient, tested, and biblical forms and enjoy liberty in the cultural expressions of these forms. Here are four essential forms for cultivating disciples.

1. Retell the Story

Storytelling has always been foundational to the Christian faith. In the Old Testament, God rescues Israel from Egypt in dramatic fashion. He could’ve entered Egypt day one and rescued His people in a variety of ways, but He didn’t. He chose to do it with plagues. He chose an angel of death. He chose to part the Red Sea. He chose the desert. Then after these chapters in His grand story of redemption, God gives His people a gracious law and as He gives it he keeps using phrases like “Do this because I redeemed you from slavery” or “When you teach your children, remind them of how I brought you out of Egypt.” Story was essential for the faith of His people. When they rejected God as their God, it was because they forgot where they came from.

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5 Basic Postures Toward Culture

I recently returned from The Gospel Coalition Conference in Orlando, FL. I enjoyed hearing the preaching and fellowshipping with friends old and new. One of my favorite events was the Christ and Pop Culture panel with Alan Noble, Richard Clark, Mike Cosper, and Derek Rishmawy. This panel discussion started a conversation on the ride home with my travel companion and good friend Chad McKinnon. We talked a lot about engaging with culture and how to know when to reject certain cultural artifacts. It made me think that these conversations might be helpful for my readers.

In his book Culture Making, Crouch says,

“I wonder what we Christians are known for in the world outside our churches. Are we known as critics, consumers, copiers, condemners of culture? I’m afraid so. Why aren’t we known as cultivators—people who tend and nourish what is best in human culture, who do the hard and painstaking work to preserve the best of what people before us have done? Why aren’t we known as creators—people who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful?”

So how should we posture ourselves toward culture?

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How to Change What Children Worship

A few weeks back one of my friends interacting with Tim Keller on Twitter. Keller made the statement that we change behavior by changing what we worship. Chris asks a question I’ve asked and most parents are asking. How can we change what children worship? Now not every parents parses it just like that, but at the heart of the issue that’s what they want to know.

Putting Out the Fires

We’ve all been in the restaurant eating with our families. Our kids are engaged with the task of eating. There are a few bumps. And in the middle of one of those bumps, you hear what sounds like the cry of war. A child going full out Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. Screaming. Crying. Stomping feet. Demands are made. Parents embarrassingly give in. It’s over. Phew.

In many situations like that, I’ve leaned back to let my food digest and think, “At least my child is not like them.” Parents care about behavior. And it’s not that behavior is unimportant. We want to raise well-rounded people who function in society and love their neighbor.

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Our Earthy Future Home

During the Arian controversy of the early church, Arius’ heresy spread through song. The heterodox presbyters wrote songs that the common man could easily learn, so while the Church determined Arianism was heresy, the popular vote went for the heresy. It’s not a stretch to say that what the church sings it will confess.

Many in the church today have a wrong view of end times and that has a lot to do with the songs she has been singing. In the tradition I grew up in we often sang,

This world is not my I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

A song meant to steel our nerve as we sojourn through this dark and perilous world. It’s a song that sets the Christian apart from her culture, neighbors, and the world. We do not engage and create anything in this world worth relishing, rather we are waiting to be called to Gloryland by angels where we will meet friend Jesus and shake hands with our loving family.

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Distorted Narrative Syndrome

We all live in a story. A loving, Triune God created the entire universe. He gave it function, purpose. He built a temple on earth and formed humanity in his image to be his priests. These humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed this loving God and so He cast them out of the original garden-temple. Ever since then we have been fighting against and rebelling against God.

We, however, are not without hope. While casting Adam and Even out of the garden-temple, God promised to send Someone to crush our enemy the serpent. Thus snake-crusher would rule the world with mercy, grace, justice, and righteousness—and most importantly love. The story we all live is his story. How he came as a human and how that’s changed everything after he came.

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4 Benefits of Stories for Discipleship

Not everyone values a good story. Sometimes Christians can be the worst of all afraid of being of the world. What we must remember is that everything we do is part of a liturgy we live in. If we are not intentionally discipling ourselves and others creating liturgies around the acts and words of God then we are being discipled by someone or something else. Everything you hear, see, taste, and touch is telling you a story. Reading good stories is crucial to combating these destructive stories. Christians must wisely choose stories that will help them mature as disciples.

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Advancing a Christian Work Ethic

A lot of hot air has been flooding the atmosphere since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Two common complaints I’ve heard are “Business are people? Ha!” snide remarks and “Christian businesses? How can a business be Christian?” I dislike the adjectival use of the word Christian in front of nouns ad nausea as much as the next guy. Christian bookstores. Christian gift stores. Christian pinterest (this is a thing Christian movies. To the Christianizing of normal things there is no end.

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