Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Amazon Shipment

I got my new Amazon shipment, which makes for a good day. Let me share my summer reading with you:

The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education 
by Craig M. Mullaney 
This was a recommendation from Al Mohler. It has received some remarkable reviews and should expose me to some topics I otherwise know nothing about. It's the memoir of a Craig Mullaney...a recent West Point graduate, turned Rhodes Scholar, turned foot soldier in Afghanistan. Mullaney is barely thirty years old so a memoir is a bit premature, but by all accounts he is an extraordinary human being.

Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective 
by Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler 
These two guys are actually contributing editors to this collection of essays on the Trinity. This should be good. Bruce Ware wrote one of the essays, and it comes by recommendation of Darrell Bock. My only fear is it may be too introductory. We'll see. This is a topic that's always good to visit. There is so much error in regards to the dual nature of Christ and how that relates to his place in the Godhead. Lovers of The Shack beware.

Missions in the 21st Century 
by Andrew Walls and Cathy Ross
I had Dr. Walls for my favorite course in seminary--Understanding the Western Missionary Movement. He hasn't written many books. Most of his published work is comprised of collections of articles he has written. This is what Cathy Ross has done for this volume. I believe Dr. Walls is the most important church historian of the last 50 years, and I look forward to reading his insights.

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whir
by ND Wilson  
This book comes as an interruption to a series of acclaimed children's books that Wilson has been writing. The publisher describes the book as "an aesthetic examination of the ways in which humanity has tried to make sense of this overwhelming carnival ride of a world. Wilson takes a whimsical, thought-provoking look at everything from the "magic" of quantum physics, to nature's absurdities, to the problem of evil, evolution and hell. These frequently humorous, and uniquely beautiful portraits express reality unknown to many Christians-the reality of God's story unfolding around and among us." Perfect summer reading.

Theology in the Context of World Christianity 
by Timothy Tennent 
This is another missions book. I am looking at some D.Miss programs so I'm trying to bone up on the current thinking in Missiology as best I can. Tennent, Phillip Jenkins, and Mark Noll have recently been catching on to what Andrew Walls has been teaching for years--that the global expression of the Christian faith is upon us, and it is not primarily Western. I've never read Tennent...should be good.

Forgive my formatting blunders. I still don't understand blogspot.

What are you reading???

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Make My Life A Miracle

"Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision.

Lord, make my life a miracle!"

Raymond C. Ortlund, Lord, Make My Life A Miracle, page 151.

Friday, June 12, 2009

False Creek

Last night was very surreal for me. For the first time in eight years I set foot on the grounds of everybody's favorite baptist megacamp: FALLS CREEK. I had taken students to Falls Creek from 1997 to 2000, and then took a group of just seventh graders in 2002, but I had not entered its gates since that time. 

A youth pastor called me a month or so ago and asked me if I'd come speak to his Falls Creek campers. I'm not sure why, but I agreed to go. I think secretly I was intrigued about how Falls Creek had matured in the last eight years. It was developing new infrastructure. It had completed a 35 million dollar tabernacle to house its 7000 weekly attendees. It had changed its programming model...a model it had been using for at least 50 years, and was beginning a new era in its storied history. Well, having now returned from the nations largest youth encampment here are my impressions of the NEW Falls Creek.

1 - The New Tabernacle is nice, very nice. Not to mention freaking huge. I know it was expensive, but to get kids out of 95 degree heat and into a climate controlled environment where they can remain attentive was a good move. The massive screens help the speaker tremendously. This building is unlike any I have ever seen: tons of seats...hug stage...expansive aisles...very state of the art. It's a completely out of place building, considering most of the infrastructure at Falls Creek looks like a third world country.

2 - The worship band was good, but it was interesting that the song that garnered the highest level of participation was a traditionally arranged version of Horatio Spafford's It is Well With My Soul. Last time I was at Falls Creek there was a giant youth choir, an orchestra and an old man who led the students in worship songs and hymns. The new model may be the most significant difference in the programming. Not sure if it was better or worse. We'll call it a wash.

3 - The Youth Evangelist was decent. He didn't say anything bad. He just tried a little too hard to use cool words, catch phrases and the like. Decent message...if you are into evangelistic preaching with a distinctively Arminian bent. They used to use different pastors from churches in the state. I think I preferred the old way. Lower expectations, and fewer uses of the word "dude."

4 - Shorts at night was a huge development. Up until the early 90's campers were not allowed to wear shorts at any time. In the mid nineties they allowed for shorts during the day time, but they maintained that jeans, pants and dresses were the appropriate night time attire. Now it's all shorts, all the time. Probably a good move, but I used to like seeing students dress up to go to the tabernacle. Now they just show up. Not a big deal, but it's ironic that they went lax on the shorts rule after getting an indoor, air conditioned tabernacle. They needed to allow shorts when they met outside in the sweatbox that was the old tabernacle, but they also needed to allow shorts to diminish an already legalistic ethos at the camp.

I pulled my student ministry out of Falls Creek because it provided a truly awful camp experience. That's not to say Falls Creek is awful. It's just not a camp. It's a literal city of teenagers. It need not deceive itself. It's primary attraction to teenagers is other teenagers. If the job of a church camp is to retreat, and to be challenged spiritually, intellectually, relationally and physically then Falls Creek just wasn't going to get it done. It was too big. It was too Arminian. It was too...Southern Baptist. Because of the structure of the camp a kid could go to Falls Creek, attend the sessions, take part in his cabin programming, but basically do nothing for a week. Nothing, besides look for cute girls and take afternoon naps. This and a host of other things didn't work for me, so I stopped taking kids. For a relatively young (and stupid) youth pastor that was a really wise move.

All that to say, I learned several things about myself last night. Primarily, that I am not a Southern Baptist.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What's In a Name?

I said in my first ever blog post that in my second ever blog post I would explain the name of the blog. Well, this is my sixth post, and I am now getting around to it. My bad.

On a basic level the name "Battling Unbelief" explains my life. Before I came to place my trust in Jesus Christ I battled with unbelief by fully agreeing with it. This doesn't sound like much of a battle, but lostness is an unrelenting battle. Depravity has a way of not only putting you at odds with others, but putting you at odds with yourself. Ironically, you're so self-centered that you hate yourself, you punish yourself, you're sick of yourself. My unfettered unbelief gave me reason to battle a host of things, most of which had to do with my selfishness. I battled fear, pride, loss of influence, lack of significance, the inability to impose my will on others, lust, insecurity. All of this generated a visible anger at the God shaped void I had in my heart. All of life was a battle, because in conjunction with being at odds with myself I was at odds with the ONE who actually makes all of reality come into agreement. I was in submission to the tyranny of self, rather than in submission to the authority of a Holy and Loving God. God dispels fear, provides significance and offers a will that is higher and more glorious than my own. As I suppressed the truth in unbelief, my battle wasn't so much with the truth, but with my inward desire to remain in unbelief in light of that truth. Romans 1 tells us this is the plight of every unbeliever, proving that if unbelievers are anything, it's exhausted.

After coming to faith in Christ, my battle with unbelief changed. The Spirit of Christ has reoriented my heart. My bent is now to run to God, not away from Him. I am now able to have less concern about my own significance, or about imposing my will onto others, by having a greater concern about His will and His glory. I have given myself away to His mercies and come into submission to His good care. I have believed the truth of the gospel, and no longer have to battle with the weight Truth imposed upon me. However, I still battle unbelief. Every sin and every pattern of sin in my life is a sin or pattern of unbelief. When I lie, even in the smallest of ways, it's because self-preservation is more important to me than what I believe about the truth of the gospel. When I lust it's not because I slipped, it's because carnal thoughts displaced what I believe about the beauty and grace of Jesus. Lust declares that you believe in the worth of the flesh above the worth of the Savior. Ouch.

This clearly explains that belief in the gospel is not a one time event that marked the beginning of my relationship with God. Belief in the gospel marks every step of my life. The gospel doesn't constitute the ABC's of my Christian life, but the A to Z. Believing the gospel is not something I graduated from after a few years of being a Christian, it is the continuum of my existence. Knowing these things, the overriding confession of my heart on a daily basis must be, "LORD, I BELIEVE." But I also must confess with equal vigor, "HELP MY UNBELIEF." Therein lies the battle...therein lies the name.

The third way this title explains my life is that it's tied to my vocation. I'm a pastor, which is to say I work with people, specifically dealing with how they will confront the unbelief in their own life, or how we can together confront the unbelief in our church and the world. I don't see the pastorate as some magical vocation. All vocations come under the Lordship of Jesus, and all work can be done with his glory in view. We all have a calling, and because I am not good at anything else, God called me to teach and work with people. This is no more important than the calling to be a lawyer or a's just not. As long as these callings are being engaged in faith they please God. Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin so even pastoring people can be done in a sinful way. Thus my battle rages.

So given the name, this blog is an exercise in how I confront unbelief with the truth about who God is and what he has done in the person and work of His Son, Jesus. This applies to my life as a pastor, a husband, father and friend. This applies to how I work with people and how I engage the world. It's a battle. Peter referred to it as a war of the soul. Paul called it a struggle. He told Timothy it was a fight. My prayer is you fight with me.

Oh My Goo...

If you like DA Carson, which you should, avail yourself to this bibliography:

A lot of what's here is downloadable for that's helpful and generous.

And yes, you need to look at that list and feel the weight of your own unproductivity.