Thursday, November 30, 2006


At our last Studio 215 Bible study meeting, we covered Ephesians 1, and I thought I'd share some thoughts on this great passage with you. (This is a slightly edited version of the post available at the Studio 215 MySpace.)

It can be awfully easy to miss the theological grandeur and epic historical sweep of the portrait Paul so breathlessly paints in the chapter. It's an inherent danger in all detailed Bible study, sort of a "forest for the trees" type of thing. But in this chapter, and in the chapters following, Paul paints with broad strokes, expressing a great dizzying sense of what it means to be a Spirit-sealed, Christ-worshiping child of the living God. As we mentioned, Ephesians parallels Colossians in a lot of ways, but Ephesians highlights the major notes and plays them more loudly. Colossians is like Paul as DaVinci; Ephesians is like Paul as Van Gogh. And if you don't know the difference, look up paintings by both of those artists and see for yourself.

The idea I see most prevalent in Ephesians 1 is this idea of inheritance. It is an idea that would have a lot of resonance for the letter's recipients. For one thing, inheritance features prominently in the ancient stories of the Israelite faith. And just culturally speaking, inheritance was a concern in many families. At the same time, inheritance conjured up plenty of applications to the culture Paul was writing to at the time. Ephesus, as a Roman provincial capital and a place of major business and trade, placed its Christians in the muck and mire of Roman commerce and even its interconnection with the paganism of the day. The world Paul was writing to loved money, and when you factored in the polytheism of the culture, in which one might "prosper" personally and professionally depending upon which god you honored or which god presided over your family or business, it's not a stretch to think plenty of Christians felt pressured from within and without to attribute their relative poverty to a lack of divine blessing.
Notice that many Bibles place a subtitle in Ephesians 1 that reads "Spiritual Blessings" or something similar.

So Paul is concerned first with declaring the sovereign control of the one true God, the God of Jacob, who not only guided and presided over the patriarchs of the Old Testament, but is alive and faithful and in control over the world of Jew and Gentile believers under Roman oppression. (Keep in mind that many Jews believed the arrival of the Messiah would free them from Roman governance, and so this was a major stumbling block in the culture for the acceptance of Jesus as the messiah. If he was the messiah, why was Caesar still king?)
Paul's not just talking out of his rear with all the stuff about God putting all the rulers and authorities under heaven, in this age and the age to come, under the feet of Jesus. He's assuring them that looks can be deceiving. (Remember, too, that he's writing this from house arrest, so if anyone knew about being subject to another authority other than Christ, it was him.)

Paul is assuring his readers -- then and today -- that despite how it looks, God is control. Before anything went haywire, he had a plan in place. And it was not a contingency plan. He decided to adopt us as His children before the world was even created. And because we are His children, the inheritance belongs to us.

Now, before you go translating the cattle on a thousand hills into contemporary currency, remember that "spiritual blessings" thing. That's not to say God never blesses anyone materially or financially -- obviously, he does -- but the inheritance promised is greater than an infinite amount of money or things. God does indeed want to "lavish riches" on us, but notice what those riches are (v.7).

So what is the inheritance? What are the riches of God's grace?
The answer according to Paul is God Himself. God the Giver gives the gift of Himself. So we see in Ephesians 1 that we get God as our Daddy, Christ as our everlasting King, and the Holy Spirit as our seal and guarantor.

And when do we get this inheritance? The answer delves a bit into the realm of what's called eschatology ("the last things," or "the end times"). A proper biblical eschatology maintains a tension between the "already" and the "not yet." It is the idea that in our salvation, we have a fulfillment of God's kingdom now, in our present lives. Yet we also await a final consummation at our Lord's glorious return. We await the fullness of our inheritance when the fullness of time comes, but in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, we have an advance, so to speak. Our salvation is secure and guaranteed; we experience eternal life right now. This is the underlying theme of the last section of Ephesians 1. That the mighty power we wait to save the world in the age to come, has been already been given us in our salvation. That the riches of God's grace, powerful to raise Christ from the dead, are accessible to us now. God is mighty to save, and that truth, born out of Christ's sovereign authority over the universe and his shed blood for our redemption, ought to give us a great hope. A great hope for the end times. And a great hope for the troubles of today.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints . . .
Ephesians 1:18

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


At Common Grounds Online, Meghan Gouldin writes about what true spirituality looks like. With the help of the late, great Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer, she decides "submission."
We have discussed what our response to the truth of the Christian faith should look like: our response is characterized by active submission and trust.

Active submission sounds like an oxymoron and submission of any kind sounds like punishment in 21st century western culture where submission is associated with weakness. However, when glimpsed through the Christian worldview, submission becomes more lovely and freeing than otherwise imaginable. We are creatures made in the image of the Creator with the ability and privilege to be in relationship with the one who created us for Himself, to love one another, to think, to live responsibly, and to act as stewards over the earth. No part of submission is passive for a creature with a will and his/her own desires.

Trust must accompany the active submission, knowing that in this world we must walk by faith and not by sight. I know in my case that some days the walk is more pleasing to Him than other days. But we are fortunate, for it is not on our own strength or psychological motivation that we must depend for this journey. Schaeffer writes:
"When God tells us to live as though we had died, gone to heaven, seen the truth there, and come back to this world, he is not asking us merely to act on some psychological motivation, but on what really is."

This is what is true. The reality is Christ came, Christ died, Christ rose, and he left the Holy Spirit to work as an agent of change among us and through us. Psychological motivation is neither deep enough nor sufficient enough for creatures in search of meaning in a messy and broken world.

This is my prayer and my praise this week: that as I rise each morning to greet 12+ hours at a demanding job, that I may know the truth, and the truth will set me free – free to listen and respond to Him with joyful obedience and trust.

Good stuff.
It reminds me a bit of one of my favorite descriptions of what it really means to "get saved." Scholar and writer N.T. Wright says salvation is about "embracing the yoke of God's sovereignty." The "yoke of God's sovereignty" connotes submission to God's control, while "embracing" indicates an active, willing, and even joyful acceptance of that control.

Vision Night

BCC's next quarterly Vision Night is next Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 6:30. Our new elders will be introduced, and we'll be filled in on the lead pastor search and get a financial update.
We will also have a great time of worship and celebrate communion.
Childrens programs will be available.

Lead Pastor Candidate

Don't Forget!

Our first lead pastor candidate will be guest speaking in the services this coming weekend (Dec. 2-3).

Don't say you ain't heard! :-)

Staff Opening

The church has an immediate opening for a Staff Accountant. This person will be responsible for all general accounting activities related to BCC. They prefer someone with 3 years experience with a 501c3. Detailed job descriptions are available at the
Info Table. If you know someone who may be a great fit, have them contact the church office and fill out an application. Applicants can email resumes to


Please forgive the absence of late. I didn't intend to take all of last week off from blogging, but I'll be honest in saying I didn't mind it. We had a fun, busy week. Beck had the whole week off from work, so we just maximized the time spending time with each other and the girls. Did a little Christmas shopping. Had company over for Thanksgiving. It was a good week.

I hope you had a good holiday week too. Christmas is only twenty-some days away, and while for a lot of us this season evokes only feelings of sweetness and light, for a not insignificant number of folks it can be very difficult. People close to us are dealing with all kinds of pain and grief and loss, and the holiday season can be a very lonely time.

Take time to reach out in the coming weeks. Be mindful of those around you, those you encounter on a regular basis who may be aching for a kind word or a friendly chat or an invitation to dinner. BCC has many service opportunities coming up, so take advantage of those ways to help the less fortunate. But remember to keep your light shining in the "off" moments -- in the checkout line and in the waiting room, in a meeting with a client or at breakfast with your kids, in the traffic on the interstate or in the traffic of the housewares aisle at Target, in the boardroom and even in the bedroom. Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation, that glorious event when God became man. Let's remember that to be a Christian is to be a "little Christ" and so to treat each moment with the quality of eternity, with a deliberate grace that authenticates our citizenship in the kingdom of God.

They won't know we are Christians by the plastic nativity in our yards; they will know by our love.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Gospel Doesn't Need Help

Here's a good, but challenging, article by Matt Conner for Christianity Today.
An excerpt:
The problem is that we, as Christians, are falling for the belief that the gospel needs our help in some way. While we may not say that is true, our actions speak differently. We spend countless hours and dollars developing ways to be a unique and creative voice within the media landscape. Sometimes we even go the crazy route, all in an effort to attract attention to ourselves in the hope that our voice can be heard.

When we do this, we are attempting to add to the gospel. What we are saying is that the gospel is not enough to change lives—that it needs our help in some way to make it more acceptable or palatable. Our actions state, "Maybe if I present the gospel in a slick enough way, maybe someone will accept it."

It's quite a provocative piece, especially as it runs counter to standard approach in contemporary Christian culture.
From my own perspective, without denigrating the values of connecting to our culture and carrying out everything we do with excellence and authenticity, I would offer a couple of thoughts I personally believe quite firmly:
1. We can't make the Bible relevant. The Bible is already relevant.
2. We have to get to a point where, in our communication and presentation, we are not trusting ourselves for the salvation of others. We should do what we are called to do as well as we can, because we are really doing it for God, but we should trust the Holy Spirit for the results. Faithfulness always trumps cultural relevancy. Always.

(Hat tip: Common Grounds Online)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spirituality with a Capital "S"

I have a post up at the Studio 215 MySpace on the Holy Spirit. Thought maybe readers here might be interested in it.

Or maybe not, what do I know? In any event, it's there. :-)

Making it Harder Than it Really Is

The other evening in a brain-straining philosophical/theological conversation with a couple of friends, one of the guys brought up a verse of Scripture scrutinized in a Bible study he once attended. The verse in question was Genesis 3:22, which reads:
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever--"

Apparently the folks at this study were getting their beltloops hooked on the first clause: "the man has become like one of us." The point was that (the argument goes) the Fall of mankind was about Adam and Eve actually becoming "like God." Naturally this leads to two rather non-traditional interpretative consequences: the serpent wasn't lying when he told his prey they'd be like God and God's punishment of them was out of jealousy.

The way the tricky verse was brought up pretty much directed the way we ended looking at the text. I basically went into Genesis 3:22 trying to solve "the riddle." As a result, I ended up not really reading what it said.
It is like those optical illusions, in which, depending on how you're looking at it, you see a pretty young woman or a ragged old crone. It can take a while, some minute adjustment, to stop seeing the one you're presently seeing and make yourself see the other.

The plain reading of Genesis 3:22, in my estimation, is that when God says man has become "like us," He means "in knowing about good and evil." Because before the Fall, man had no knowledge of sin. So the Fall was not an actual elevation, but, well, just what the traditional understanding says -- a fall.

This reminds me of a time I spoke to a family member about a Bible passage that had intrigued him. He was studying in 2 Chronicles and came across the following verse:
[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I emphasize the phrase “then will I hear from heaven,” because that’s the phrase my relative was hitting on, thinking it was saying something peculiar.
He asked me, “What do you think that means, ‘I’ll hear from heaven’?” The implication was that God was saying He would heal their land, but first He’d have to hear from someone in heaven. To get permission? Counsel? I don’t know.

I explained that I thought that was definitely reading too much into the text. I think it just means “God in heaven will hear the cries of His children below.” He’s not saying He’s going to hear from another in heaven. A more earth-bound analogical example would be if I told my neighbor, “Hey, if you need anything, just yell from your house, and I’ll hear from my house.”
My family member said he was still going to look it up.

The Bible says plenty of hard things on the surface. I’m not sure why we have this need to invent more hard things between the lines. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I've spent plenty of time looking into things like whether or not hell actually has fire in it, whether people's names are really written in the Book of Life to begin with, whether Jesus was saying non-Jews were dogs, whether Jesus was saying the kingdom of God comes with physical violence, etc. And all of these textual inquisitions were based on two things: a) reading too much into the biblical text, and b) coming to the text like it is a puzzle to be solved. Ever treat the Bible like a literary X-Files and yourself as an exegetical Mulder? (Or Scully? :-)

How easy it is to forget that the Bible is not just a book to be read, but a Book that reads us. (More on that in an upcoming blog post.)
Sometimes I get so busy reading between the lines, trying to fill in gaps I've imagined, that I miss what the lines actually say. And the gap is not some crypto-theological riddle to be unraveled, but the deficiency in my spirit that causes me to think of the Bible less as Spurgeon's wild lion uncaged than I do myself as its lion tamer.

You know, sometimes it just says what it says.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Toward a Healthy Marriage, In More Ways Than One

Ever heard the oft-repeated statistic that Christian marriages suffer the same divorce rate as those of non-believers? Thanks to pastor David Wayne, The Jollyblogger, we know that stat is missing some crucial data:
Most of us who are neck deep in the evangelical subculture have heard the alarming statistics that the divorce rate among "born again Christians" is as high or higher than the divorce rate among the more secular.

In an interview on women and marriage in Christianity Today, sociologist Brad Wilcox says this:
This idea that Christians are just as likely to divorce as secular folks is not correct if we factor church attendance into our thinking. Churchgoing evangelical Protestants, churchgoing Catholics, and churchgoing mainline Protestants are all significantly less likely to divorce.

When asked how much less likely these people are to divorce, Wilcox says:
I estimate between 35 and 50 percent less likely than Americans who attend church just nominally, just once or twice a year, or who don't attend church at all. It is true that people who say they've had a born-again experience are about as likely to divorce as people who are completely secular. But if you look at this through the lens of church attendance, you see a very different story.

The bottom line for Wilcox is that, statistically speaking, church-going evangelicals tend to have far more stable marriages than the more alarmist figures indicate. Of course, this doesn't negate the troubles of divorce when it does happen, but it does show that the marriage picture among church-goers is a little more rosy than we might think.

My only comment to add is that a vital faith seems to be the sine qua non of stable Christian marriages. The most stable marriages aren't necessarily those where the couple has read all of the Christian books on marriage, gone to all of the marriage seminars and retreats and learned all the techniques. It's where Jesus Christ is the dominating factor of their lives and where His grace permeates the relationship. Because of that, I think technique-based marital counseling (i.e. the typical stuff that comes across in most books and seminars on communication, understanding, sex, etc.) is only of limited usefulness. Jesus has to be the dominating factor of all of life for the parties to be able to practice the self-denial and show the grace that makes a marriage work.

Of course one of the marks of a Jesus-led life is the active participation in a community of Jesus followers -- a.k.a. the church.

In semi-related news, the latest Men's Health magazine reports:
Kissing may reduce allergic reactions and help fight infection. In a recent Japanese study, researchers measured blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), antibody that can start an allergic reaction. They checked people with pollen, dust-mite, and latex allergies before and after the participants kissed someone for 30 minutes. At the end of the make-out session, the study subjects' levels of IgE had dropped 40 percent. Researchers think that kissing reduces the allergic response by increasing the production of Th1 cytokines, white blood cells that have been shown to halt IgE production.
To make the most of a lip-lock, turn on soft music; the participants were serenaded throughout the study, which has previously been shown to improve immune function.

So for a marriage that is spiritually and physically healthy, you should obviously divide your time between BCC and Inspiration Point. :-)

Not married but eager to get started? BCC has a pre-marriage mentoring program. If you're engaged or about to be engaged, do check it out.

This has been a public service announcement from your friendly neighborhood churchblogger. :-)

Studio 215

Did you know there is a weekly Bible study for college, twentysomethings, and young professionals? Do you fall in that generational gap (18-35) or know someone who does?

Check out our page on the BCC website or the Studio 215 ministry MySpace page (also accessible from the right sidebar menu under Connect) for more information.

We meet every Monday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 to hang out, snack, do a Bible study, and have a great discussion. And we'd love to have you. Check out one of the above links for contact info or directions, or e-mail leadership team director Chris Thomas at cthomas [AT] hopepark [DOT] com.

The group is ongoing, so you don't have to worry about getting in late on a study or anything like that. We are growing fast and having a great time doing it, so if you'd like to jump in, we'd love to have you. Or if you know someone who'd like to get connected, let 'em know we're saving a seat just for them!

A Toast to Spiritual Health

From Dirk Plantinga's post on BCC's new Happy Hour:
Happy Hour is working. Last week I didn't hang around very long. But as I was walking through the concourse about 10:15, I noticed that there was quite a bit of fellowship taking place! That's just what we had in mind I thought.

This week, our Conexus group finished up at 10 and I was invited to take advantage of the buy one get one free coffee deal. Much of our group reconvened in the atrium and spent the next hour visiting. Happy hour is like attending a church health club. But it's strengthening your relationships, not your muscles . . .

I was asked during this time how I thought BCC was doing. And it turns out I'm not the only one that thinks BCC is better than ever despite the challenges we face. We're finding out what it means to be a church family; how family members lean on each other when times get tough and those relationships grow stronger.

Around the BCC Happy Hour table, The Jesus Creed comes to life. Here's how Scot McKnight expresses it:
"A spiritually formed person loves God by following Jesus and loving others.
As an expression of loving God and loving others, a spiritually formed person embraces the stories of others who love Jesus."
(The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight)

From my viewpoint, BCC is better than ever. We need to share it now more than ever.

New Children's Ministry Director!

From a letter to parents by Bill West:
I am excited to tell you that after several months of searching and praying, God has led us to hire Rachel Zook as our Children's Ministry Director to lead and oversee the area of birth through 4th grade.

Rachel has been a part of the BCC family for over nine years. She graduated cum laude from Lipscomb University with a B.A. in Teaching K-8 and has been teaching kindergarten in the Metro School District for over two years.

She has volunteered in the Children and Student Ministries here for several years and has a strong commitment to the mission and vision of BCC. Rachel has a passion for children to learn about God and come to know Christ at an early age. She is committed to recruit, train, and develop a strong team of volunteers who are equipped to meet the needs of children. She is also committed to partnering with [parents] in the spiritual growth and development of [their] children.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Reading for Transformation

Over a year ago at Shizuka Blog, I wrote a piece called Wielding the Word, Living the Word that was about the difference between "using" the Bible and having ourselves changed by it. It may sound like a subtle difference, but it really is not. Too many of us, when we bother to read Scripture, read it for information or with some end result or answer predetermined, rather than read it so that God may be revealed to us in and through it.
A bit from that post:
[We] use Scripture as a tool (if we use it at all), rather than as the motivating muse for and lifeblood of what we are trying to say.
The early church, though –- those put-upon, persecuted, finding-their-way through the heresies and the apostasy and the violence and the prejudice early Christians -– wrote God’s Word in such a way as they lived it. The authors of the early church wove the Bible into the fabric of their writings, because the Bible was inextricably woven into the fabric of their lives.

I may be alone, but such knowledge convicts me. I am a toolbox biblicist, not a lifeblood one.

Feel free to go read the whole thing.

I am currently reading a book by Eugene Peterson (author of The Message translational paraphrase of the Bible) titled Eat This Book. Peterson's primary aim in the book is emphasizing the Christian's need to not merely read the Bible for inforation, but to feed on it for transformation. Here's a good excerpt:
The blunt reality is that for all our sophistication, learning, and self-study we don’t know enough to run our lives. The sorry state of the lives of the many who have taken their own experience as the text for their lives is a damning refutation of the pretensions of the sovereignty of the self. We require a text that reveals what we cannot know by simply pooling the acquired knowledge of the ages. The book, the Bible, reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are. We need to know the lay of the land that we are living in. We need to know what is involved in this Country of the Trinity, the world of God’s creation and salvation and blessing.

God and his ways are not what most of us think. Most of what we are told about God and his ways by our friends on the street, or read about him in the papers, or view on television, or think up on our own, is simply wrong. Maybe not dead wrong, but wrong enough to mess up the way we live. And this book is, precisely, revelation, a revealing of what we could never figure out on our own.

Without this text, firmly established at the authoritative center of our communal and personal lives, we will founder. We will sink into a swamp of well-meaning but ineffectual men and women who are mired unmercifully in our needs and wants and feelings.


Here's my question for today: When was the last time you read your Bible?
Not just opened it to look for something, but really read it?


Monday, November 06, 2006

The Parable of the Raising of Lazarus

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.

"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

-- John 11:38-43

No, this is not a parable. The raising of Lazarus actually happened.

But I see in this true life tale a parable of our own salvation. We are dead in sin until Jesus brings us to life.
I imagine it might have been a tad difficult for Lazarus to find his way out of the tomb. You know what it's like when you've watched a dark movie in a dark theatre for two hours and then suddenly walk out into the glaring afternoon sun? It's quite a shock to the ol' optics. Lazarus had been dead for four days, so I imagine coming out of such sleep was hard on the vision. I'm sure the grave garments he was wrapped in didn't help.

I imagine his body was sore and achey. I suppose he might've gotten turned around once or twice on his way out of the dark tomb. Maybe he bumped into the walls, tripped on a loose stone, stubbed his toe.
Are you making the connection? Lazarus was once dead but now alive; finding His way out of the tomb to the "glory of God" (v.40) could have been a messy, confusing, frustrating process. It was likely a short journey, but I'm guessing not a perfect one (from the tired, sore, disoriented, constricted Lazarus' perspective).

Are not our lives like that? We've been raised to walk in the newness of life ever since Jesus saved us, but we find ourselves stumbling and bumbling and getting turned around. This journey of sanctification, which from God's perspective is gradually purifying us, seems from ours very messy and confusing. For now we see very dimly. But someday, we will find ourselves completely removed from the place of sorrow and stumble into the bright, blinding glory of the Son.

Here is an encouragement for me and you straight from Lazarus: We might be sore and hurting, confounded and confused, in the dark and in the depths. Heck, we might completely stink. But thanks to Jesus we are alive.

Odds 'n' Ends

I'm a little late in mentioning it, but the final FOCUS service of this year was outstanding. Did you miss it? If you did, you really missed out on the foundational hallmarks of the life of any church. Chris Wilcoxson and Guy Kaminski led us in a great time of reverent, awestruck worship. Then we dedicated BCC's latest baby boom. We watched our children recite a passage from Romans 8 in sign language (our Macy was the littlest one :-). We baptized a few folks. And we celebrated communion. This, folks, is the life of the church, from generation to generation and from covenant to confession -- all in one place at one time. More than a few eyes were misty that night.
In all, and as a conclusion to this portion of our corporate midweek study of Romans, I think it was a great service -- monumental even in its simplicity -- and a great, understated way of marking the transition of healing and growth in our church.

Dedicating babies and baptizing grown-ups. That is the testimony of a growing, healthy church.
I especially liked the testimonies read for each person baptized. Getting to hear some very dramatic stories -- for instance, the married couple getting baptized together and the young man with a painful past whose conversion was as incredible a tale of repentance as I've heard in a long, long time -- in such a dramatic moment was an awesome way of shouting the redemption of Jesus as His death, burial, and resurrection is re-created in the passing through the baptismal waters.

Let me just say that every week I am increasingly proud of being a part of Bellevue Community Church, and last Wednesday was one of BCC's proudest moments. The glory of God and the power of Jesus to save were all over that service.

Also last Wednesday, the last of the initial interviews with the nominees for elder were conducted. The next step will, I think, be follow-up interviews with the elder board, and I am told the three incoming members will likely be voted on before the end of this month.

I am seeing new faces all the time. Let us not forget that BCC will continue to receive guests and visitors who have no idea about our "past." And let us remember that we have an exciting mission and privilege to bring the grace of God to folks who are attracted to our church simply because it seems like a safe place to bring your hurts. Maybe one of the good things to come out of this transition will be our increasing ability to faciliate the healing of those with troubled pasts of their own. That might be one practical way to "count it all joy."

Dirk Plantinga has changed the name of his BCC blog.

Some other links you might find click-worthy:

Dan Edelen concludes his "Being the Body" series today. All the installments are linked in the final post.

At Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight uses the recent Ted Haggard scandal to talk about the need in our church culture today for an "environment of honesty".

Les Newsom on "the worst sin in the Bible".

Mark Driscoll talks about church attire. The key question, I think, is "If God is our Father and the church is our family, should we view going to church services as a formal event or a family event?" But he asks some other good ones too.

Yesterday morning in our Conexus group, we continued telling our "Jesus stories" (what you might call our "testimonies"). This has been the most profound and powerful experience of our short time together.
I am convinced that every believer has a story. Or, if you don't have one, you will have one eventually. It is remarkable, but not surprising, how much pain, grief, suffering, doubt, depression, and trouble every single person in our not-exactly-small group has gone through in their journey to and with Jesus Christ. And as I sit in with the Studio 215 crowd on Monday nights, I see that the younger generation is not lacking for these sorts of stories either. The experience of pain and grief and fear is universal.

Here's the incarnational connection I want to make. God, in the messiest and bloodiest way necessary, conformed to the image of man in giving us Jesus Christ. He emptied Himself of His full divine rights to share in our pain, grief, and trouble, that we might share in His Sonship. He conformed to the experience of our anguish that we might be conformed to the image of His glory. And that is what our troubled lives ought to really work in us. Why do we suffer? I am not so arrogant as to assume I really know, but I do know the Bible says our pain and our grief are ways God conforms us to His will and to the image of Jesus. He shared our pain so that our pain might bring us closer to Him.

So the trick here is not to be stingy with our stories. We should not be ashamed of them. But provided there is, as Professor McKnight is urging, an environment of honesty -- provided our churches can somehow approximate a redemptive community that brings grace and mercy -- we should be free to share our sins and struggles. The real glory is not merely that Jesus helps us in our stories, but that our stories are part of His Story, the great big story of redemption God is telling in the world throughout history. That is part of what makes all of our separate Christian testimonies into the living testimony of the Church, the Body of Christ.