Finding the holy in everyday life

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Finding Holy in the Suburbs

IVP – October 2018 – $16.00

How can we be holy when our lives are a mess?

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I doubt that any of us is today precisely where we thought we’d be when we were, say, eighteen. Our lives play out in ways we never thought they would.

Those who journey through life without succumbing to the vices that are so easy to cultivate, do so because they have paid at least some attention to the ways that Jesus stepped into a less-than-ideal situation and in so doing redeemed.

Regardless of where you live or whether you’re a man or a woman, what kind of car (or minivan you drive) Ashley Hales’s book can re-orient you in the midst of the less-than-ideal or, sometimes more dangerous, when you think you’re living the dream.

It’s availably for pre-order now and comes out in October

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Where have you been?

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Posts have been slow here over the last year as our family has been weighing and working toward a relocation and a change in ministry direction.

In November, Anna was named as Associate Editor for InterVarsity Press. We knew we needed to move to Chicagoland and so we began to pray about the possibilities for my next job. IVP graciously allowed Anna a long transition time that included working remotely part-time before beginning on-site in April.

I pursued several opportunities and, in the end, God pleasantly surprised us in providing the opportunity to join the marketing team at InterVarsity Press.

Next week I will begin a new position as Academic Marketing Manager. In that capacity I will develop and execute marketing plans for the fifty-some titles IVP Academic publishes annually. I will also represent marketing on the Academic Publication Committee, the team that decides which proposals will be contracted and published. There are other fun elements as well: working on titles, attending academic conferences to represent IVP, and working with a really wonderful team of marketing managers and publicists who love God and love books.

The IVP statement of values communicates clearly why this is a wonderful place where Anna and I hope to spend a great deal of the rest of our lives:

Our identity is rooted in our affections for and allegiance to God, whom we seek to worship in spirit and in truth. According to our Faith Commitments and Doctrinal Basis, we wholeheartedly affirm the authority and teachings of the Bible as foundational for our lives and for our publishing decisions. We love the church, respect, and feed on its rich heritage, and desire to serve it with grace and truth. We seek to influence, engage, and shape the university world and our contemporary culture for the sake of Jesus Christ and his kingdom in the world. Aiming for thoughtful integration of the whole person and placing emphasis on the dignity of people and relationships, IVP practices beauty and stewardship in our work.

 

 

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Jesus is the blueprint for a new humanity

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As Christians living in a sin-tainted world, we’re engaged in a struggle–a resistance if you will–against powers that are rebellious and estranged from their true King, Jesus. In Jesus we participate in his project of regaining mastery of the created order and moving it towards re-creation, a new creation that mirrors the values of God’s kingdom.

Jesus is doing this by the creation of a new humanity—the church.

When I refer to the church, I’m thinking of –in the words of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”—“elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth, her charter of salvation one faith, one life, one birth…”[1] In other words: the waters of baptism are thicker than the blood ties of ethnicity and nationality:

With Jesus’ resurrection, the new age has dawned. The new man has emerged from among the old humanity, whose life he had shared, whose pain and sin he had borne. For Paul, as throughout the Bible, sin and death were inextricably linked, so that Christ’s victory over the latter signaled his defeat over the former.[2] – N T Wright

[See also: Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:12-28]

Here is where we fit into the story.

As Christians, as part of this new humanity, we are God’s agents working to subvert the rule of sin and death in the empires of the present age. This vocation is an active one, especially if we consider Paul’s description of his apostolic mission in 2 Corinthians 10:4ff. as a paradigm for engagement in the world:

Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Notice again the comprehensiveness of this vision: between Colossians 1 and 2 Corinthians 10 we see the interplay of spirit and flesh, heaven and earth, dominions and opinions; and through both, powers that are at work.

The hope of Colossians 1—our hope—is that Jesus is not one power amongst a pantheon of competing powers. Instead, he is above, beyond, before, and over these powers—they have no existence independent of him.

This Jesus has given himself to the world in love in order to make reconciliation possible—a returning of prodigal creation to its father that results in a new humanity, the church.

This passage demands our acknowledgement that there is no sphere of existence over which Jesus is not sovereign.[3] God’s rules, God’s values, aren’t legitimate in some places and illegitimate in other places—no, they are over all. As C. S. Lewis puts it, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”[4]

 

 

[1] “The Church’s One Foundation” available online at: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/833? Accessed February 18, 2017.

[2] N. T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon, 74.

[3] Ibid., 79.

[4] See C. S. Lewis, “Christianity and Culture” in Christian Reflections, ed. W. Hooper (1967): 33.

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What's your daily routine?

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I love reading biographies. It’s a virtue and a vice–one third intellectual curiosity, one third gossip, and one third comfort that there are people out there weirder than me. Anna gave me a fascinating book for Christmas, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Written by Mason Curry, the book is an anthology of vignettes about how creatives have ordered their lives for work.

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It’s a quick and enjoyable read, especially if you’re interested in how other writers and artists managed to be productive in the midst of the other things that occupied their lives–work, family, chores, and cooking. Writers and other creatives have always had a reputation for some degree of eccentricity. Mason’s book demonstrates that this stereotype is rooted in reality. Not all eccentricities are created equal. For example, Thomas Wolfe’s penchant for standing nude in front of his window while fondling his genitals (eccentric in a rather perverse sort of way) is rather more extreme than Ben Franklin’s rather pedantic attempt to account for every minute of the day by creating a rigorous daily routine.

Patricia Highsmith basically ate breakfast (bacon and eggs) for a every meal. Voltaire wrote from bed most of the day. Kierkegaard tools his coffee in a way that would set your teeth on edge. He took a cup and saucer and then proceeded to fill the cup to it’s top with sugar. Adding the coffee, he then stirred and drank.

The accounts are widely varied yet the thing that holds them together is that highly creative and accomplished people create a routine that works for them and then stick to it.

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Five family trends that will blow your mind

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The New York Times features a piece on the changing face of the American family. The best way to summarize the article would be to quote a paragraph:

The typical American family, if it ever lived anywhere but on Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving canvas, has become as multilayered and full of surprises as a holiday turducken — the all-American seasonal portmanteau of deboned turkey, duck and chicken.

The complexity of today’s family will blow your mind. Virtually all of the assumptions I grew up with in respect to family are being challenged.

Moreover, it requires that the church actively consider what these trends mean for the continued effective ministry in our contexts. For example, if we consider the decoupling of marriage and childbirth it becomes obvious that many traditional church children’s programs are designed for a reality that now only exists among the well-educated, affluent middle class.

Five trends discussed in the article caught me by surprise and I think pose particular challenges for evangelical Christianity. Each of them is related to the size and/or composition of the family.

  1. Today’s birthrate is half what it was in 1960.
  2. By 2050 only 21% of the US population will be under 21.
  3. The average mother has two children down from three in 1970.
  4. 41% of children are born out of wedlock.
  5. 1 out of 37 ( or 3%) children under the age of 18 lives with same-sex parents.

Do any of these surprise you?

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