The Gospel, Millennials, Vocation, and How to Be a Real Christian

I was ill late last week with an annoying head cold, so I decided to take Saturday off and heal.

Lately, I’ve been listening to the weekly Phil Vischer Podcast, which talks from a Christian perspective on issues facing American culture and Christianity. Vischer, best known as the creator of VeggieTales, offers the comic relief and pushes the conversation forward, but his co-hosts, Christian Taylor and Skye Jethani, offer the more serious insights.

Jethani, in particular, gets me thinking. I was familiar with his writings at “Out of Ur” (now called Parse) and have read them occasionally, but he comes across better in recordings than in print. Also intriguing to me: He graduated from a college in my area and now lives in Wheaton, Ill., and routinely interacts with students from my alma mater and examines those interactions.

Anyway…

Jethani is a pastor and current editor for Leadership Journal, which is a satellite magazine of Christianity Today intended for Christian leaders. I watched several videos featuring Jethani on Saturday and was blown away by how good they are, not only in their spiritual content but in their conciseness in teaching. Jethani gets to the point and makes it live.

Below are three video links from Jethani that I think everyone should watch. I can’t stress enough how excellent they are. And again, he gets right to the point.

Jethani wrote a book called With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, and in the following video, unpacks the main points in 19 minutes. This video was so good, I sat down with my 13-year-old son to watch it together. He was touched by it in a way I’ve never seen.

This second video, about 50 minutes long, is aimed more at church leaders and talks about how ministry models must change to better present Jesus to people who are dissatisfied with current church programming and intent. It’s dead on and reflects many of the themes I’ve discussed here.

Finally, in 45 minutes, Jethani cuts through all the noise and confusion and gets to the heart of life: What is the Gospel? (Unfortunately, this video link can’t be embedded, so you’ll have to go to YouTube to watch it.)

Skye Jethani—What is the Gospel?

I hope you have an opportunity to watch these videos. I think you’ll be remarkably blessed.

Lastly, I want to recommend an exceptional book that is not by Jethani but further expands his thoughts on vocation in the second video above:

The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective by R. Paul Stevens.

It’s not only a fantastic look at how the modern Church has totally misunderstood genuine community but also how Christian ideals of community give meaning to people’s vocations, especially those careers that are NOT in “full-time Christian ministry.” This is one of the best Christian books I’ve read in the last five years. A little more academic, but it’s powerful nonetheless.

Have a blessed week.

by Dan EdelenComments (3)

Three Faith Films–And What They Fail to Say about Faith

They’ve been calling 2014 the Year of the Faith Film. I know that in the evangelical community I tend to find myself thrust into, people were pumped about that. Perhaps Hollywood was waking up from its superhero love fest and rediscovering that the Good Book has its own caped crusaders (well, toga-ed, or whatever it is that they wore—you get the point) that can teach us about life.

So far, I’m not sure the Year of the Faith Film is delivering on its promise. And I wonder what that says about our understanding of what faith really is.

Three of those films have hit the cineplexes in recent weeks. I haven’t seen any of them. I’m not sure I would ever want to.

Noah has been called by its director “the least biblical biblical film ever made,” and at achieving this he seems to have succeeded, pulling from just about any ancient text outside the Bible that even hints at a flood narrative. He then offers us a man of “faith” whose righteousness appears to derive from despising anything that isn’t a fuzzy bunny, himself included. Rather than the LSD Methuselah slipped into Noah’s tea, Prozac may have been a better choice. Some have wondered if the director culled more from the works of J.R.R Tolkien and Timothy Leary than from the Jews.

God’s Not Dead is evangelicalism’s answer to Noah, pitting its faithful-to-a-fault, Christian-American, teen apologist against the evil college professor in a battle of hermeneutics, which everyone knows is the most gripping plotline any moviegoer could possibly hope for. And yes, there are other subplots, but they all add up to what amounts to an evangelical snuff film, where the most anyone can long for in life is to get one’s “fire insurance” and avoid hell. Should have titled this God’s Not Dead, But You Will Be.

Son of God purports to be about the life of Jesus. I heard a rumor that Justin Beiber plays Jesus. Or is it Zach Efron? Being a wizened curmudgeon, I get my teen heartthrobs mixed up. I also hear they cut out the devil because he looked too much like our current president. Also purportedly, the filmmakers saved time and cash by filming this movie alongside the making of their made-for-TV pseudo-epic The Bible. I think from what I’ve written, you get an idea of how unchallenging this film is. That I can’t recall anyone from my church claiming to have seen it may be the most damning statement I can make about it.

What these three films tells us about the state of faith in America 2014 is that no one, especially Hollywood, has one lick of an idea what it means to be faithful in the every day. God exists at the periphery of life, relegated to weirdos or to the moment of death or to some milquetoast interpretation of “faith” that has nothing to do with the guy who wakes up in the morning and hopes to connect to God amid the daily commute, a pile of unpaid bills, and the American Dream. Perhaps the superhero love fest does have more say to us (heck, even God Is Not Dead features the actors who played Hercules and Superman).

The reality of faith in God that the Bible holds out to each one of us is that it IS relevant to the mundane day-to-day. No sacred/secular divide exists, and Christianity is filled to the brim with truth that suffuses every part of life, which is what makes it worth living. God isn’t just there in the flood. He’s not just there when we die. He’s not a cleverly marketed and filmed made-for-TV-but-shown-in-the-theaters side project. God intends to be there in everything we do and to give those activities meaning.

Henry David Thoreau said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. If these three “faith” movies were the only gauge to what faith in God is all about, I can understand that desperation.

Perhaps it’s not possible to encompass the richness of a life found in Christ and jam it into a two hours of screen time. Filmmakers will keep trying, though. And I suspect they will keep failing.

Perhaps we don’t know what a genuinely Christian life looks like in America 2014. Certainly, a lack of models is one reason. We’ve made strange alliances with worldliness and can no longer extricate that worldliness from truth. Sometimes, we even call evil good and good evil.

The God of the Bible offers abundant life. His word speaks to all parts of human existence. He is our God both when we are kneeling in church and when we’re sitting on the john. All of life, especially the middle we can’t seem to ascribe to Him, is filled with His Life.

How we make that true and real to most of us has yet to be filmed. Or in America 2014, lived.

by Dan EdelenComments (7)

Proving Jesus by Doing

'Sermon on the Mount' by Henrik OlrikSo Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
—John 7:16-17 ESV

The above passage has been stirring in me all weekend. It bothers me. A lot.

Jesus had a validity issue. When He tried to teach in the temple, the learned questioned how He knew what He knew. Jesus sought to tell them, but they weren’t responsive.

We live in an age that has made the mind the arbiter of all truth. We are rabid rationalists. Even when someone tries to stick a label of “emotional” on us, it peels off soon enough.

For many people, Christianity is all in their head or it is nowhere at all.

Clever arguments, a Ph.D. in biblical hermeneutics, and an iPod filled with Ravi Zacharias podcasts are the base material needed for being an apologist for Jesus today. The person who cannot tie together every last passage is seen as not qualified to talk Bible with anyone. An inability to look at Paul’s Letter to Philemon in light of the Hebrew captivity in Egypt or to spout every last occurrence of the concept of a hardened heart or to detail the finer points of New Testament infralapsarianism proves a person is not up to the task of living as a Christian and certainly cannot be trusted to be an evangelist or teacher.

But what does Jesus say will prove His words true in a person’s life?

Doing them. Not thinking. Doing.

Perhaps the reason we live in such a godless age is not because people don’t know the words of God but because so few do them. Jesus said that if people do the things God wills through His word, the validity will be self-evident.

Imagine if our evangelism of the lost and teaching to the found consisted more of telling people, “Here are the words of Jesus. Do them and you will know Him.” Imagine if our measure of the maturity of the believer was not how many Bible passages he or she had memorized but how many he or she actually practiced in real life.

We think we must construct systems of biblical logic to make a cage that cannot be escaped, a sort of ultra-secure fortress of rationalistic thought. But Jesus said that our proof is in doing what He says. That’s how the words are justified, because they are life and truth when lived.

All this teaching yet the proof is in the doing.

What if our Sunday Schools were more about doing the words of God? Would our understanding and retention of truth improve? Jesus says it will. Do we trust Him in this?

I don’t know when the Faith migrated from all parts of the whole person to reside solely in the head, with a trickle down into the heart when we’re really “feeling it.” But Jesus Himself says that’s not the way we should be. Instead, truth is in the living out of what He says.

That’s a paradigm shift of the highest order. I hope to see more of it in my lifetime.

by Dan EdelenComments (8)

  • From the Author...

    Thank you for supporting Cerulean Sanctum!

    Blessed by Cerulean Sanctum?

    Click here to see how you can help!



  • Feeds & Subscriptions


    Subscribe to Cerulean Sanctum post feedPostsBadge Image MapLink to My Twitter AccountLink to My Facebook ProfileLinked to My LinkedIn AccountAdd to Bloglines
    Subscribe to Cerulean Sanctum comment feedComments
    Feedburner badge
  • E-mail


  • For Your Consideration