If following your dreams is making you a terrible human, destroying relationships, and hurting people in the wake of you chasing a dream, I beg you to reevaluate. #conversationoverbeer #bankruptperspective #somethingbiggerthandreams #sorrydisney #filterlessat41
More and more I'm quizzed by fellow Christians, pastors, and ministers regarding the nature of Reformation Brewery as "ministry to the culture." Often they come with notepads and are ready for my 5 Tips to Engaging the Culture. I usually begin by simply listening to their questions and trying to gain insight into their ministry and life perspective so that I can contextualize my answer to make sense. The more people I've met over the years, the more I've gained incredible respect for the many different perspectives that Christians and ministers have on life and the nature of ministry. It is truly a mosaic and there is great beauty in that.
However, there is one common thread that I've often found missing throughout these conversations when it comes to Christian living and the nature of ministry. It's this one issue that I go to when I'm trying to communicate the nature of my approach to life and ministry (and therefore business). Furthermore, I believe it's the one issue that connects all of faithful historical Christianity and serves to contrast Christianity from all other worldviews, philosophies, and other Christian distortions. When the thread is lost, forgotten, or suppressed the world suffers. When the thread is heralded, praised, and exalted the world transforms with peace, love, and joy. And it sounds very simple, yet in our day it is rarely recognized, much less exercised. Your Christianity is impotent without this one truth. There is no substitute for it. This one single truth is that all of life is to be lived OUT of salvation and not FOR salvation. Another way of saying it, all of ministry is to be exercised OUT of the gospel and not performed FOR the gospel. Add any "if's, and's, or but's" you will distort this truth and suppress its power.
Far too much ministry, far too many lives are lived attempting to gain and earn freedom (salvation) by performance. It's why we come with our notepads and crave the silver bullet method for life and ministry. We believe we have moved on from the gospel and that discipleship demands maturity. But the maturity we are gaining is too often self-righteousness rather than childlike faith in Christ. Any discipleship definition void of gospel centrality is bankrupt already. We never grow beyond the good news of Christ or past it, we simply grow deeper in love with it as it breaks us, heals us, and frees us over and over and over again. When we add things to the gospel we suppress the freedom of the gospel and therefore the attraction of the gospel. This suppression of the good news will always lead to new forms of moralism, to-do lists, and law. As a result, there is no freedom, there is no salvation, there is no peace, love, and joy.
This is where I begin to get into the conversation that is the very heart of Reformation. It's been central to reformation since the beginning of time. When the good news of the Messiah is recaptured and made the foundation, walls, doorway, windows, and roof of our message, reformation always happens. It matters not the context (culture, time or place). The gospel is truly universal good news.
There is a reformation of life and ministry in living OUT of salvation. Christian ministry, outreach, and cultural engagement become less project and more comprehensive lifestyle. When Christians are living OUT of salvation instead of FOR salvation they experience freedom. Freedom rooted in the very identity of Christ. This results in freedom to risk, freedom to engage, freedom to love, freedom to live as we are created to live. When there is nothing more to gain than the gospel itself, life becomes the gift that never stops giving. If you want to engage culture, or for that matter life and ministry, you've got to first stop you're "doing" for God and embrace the very goodness of God who has set you free. Life out of freedom will garner you plenty of critics and scorn from a world in bondage to its insecure self, but it might also fill up your church and your life with something that truly matters.
There is absolutely nothing more important or more central to my life and ministry. If I am more than five minutes away from thinking about the good news, I am lost. I need it over and over and over. I've tried growing beyond it and found nothing but bankrupt Christianity. Thankfully the gospel even came into that toxicity and rescued me again from such bondage. I never want to stray from it again. I want to be wise to discern the slick counterfeits and the sirens that call for anything else. I long to live out of its goodness and freedom regardless of who throws daggers. And I want to be so privileged to share it with anyone and everyone until all things are new.
Today marks nineteen years of marriage. Due to rainouts, we will spend it at a ball field watching our son run, jump, catch, throw and enjoy a game he has grown to love. But before we get there tonight I want you to know I’ve never been more thankful for you, my bride. This one carries a little more meaning. Not because of the number but because of what we’ve experienced in our marriage over these last five months.
For eighteen years and seven months our marriage has thrived under the pressures of pursuing and existing in vocational ministry. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. We’ve grown up together, we’ve shared many struggles together, we’ve suffered through incredible losses together and we’ve also experienced life’s greatest joys together. Being together through these years has been a beautiful part of our lives.
But, as you know, five months ago we made the difficult decision for our marriage and our family to step away from vocational pastoral ministry so I could invest my entire focus on leading a small and growing business. What has occurred since then has been quite unexpected in our marriage. As you helped me process through the wounds and scars that came with pastoring a small community of believers that I loved so deeply, so too came a renewed passion for you. I have fallen even deeper in love with you. As the process has played out I’ve experienced a new freedom and happiness in our marriage. We have laughed, sung and danced like never before. We have cherished and enjoyed our children like never before. You helped me see that the privileged burden of pastoring for ten years had taken a toil on me that I didn’t fully comprehend until the burden was no longer mine to carry. And as the burden passed with our decision to move on, so too came a new joy, a new blessing of being married to you. I believe our marriage has always been Grade A solid. But now it has reached a new height at nineteen years. It didn’t take reading a book on the topic or attending a conference, it didn’t even take new actions on our parts. It just took a new chapter of life. It’s hard to talk about my love and our marriage without the cliches, but five months into this chapter and I’m so truly grateful and happy that our relationship has been set free to keep reaching for new levels. See you tonight at the ball field. I love you.
P.S. I tried to make this less “cheesy” than an Ed Sheeran song.
Redemption doesn't mean scrapping what's there and starting again from a clean slate but rather liberating what has come to be enslaved. Redemption is not simply making creation a bit better. It is the remaking of creation, having dealt with the evil that is defacing and distorting it. -N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
I'm not sure who is more upset this morning, me or my 6 year old son. I have passed down the blessing/curse of being an Atlanta fan. We cheer for all things Atlanta- be it Georgia Tech, Braves, Falcons, Hawks and yes even that soccer team that will be starting soon. I'm a believer in the value of team sports and of being a fan and supporting your city, your people, your community. So much to learn about living and about our faith. There isn't a better, more safe way to teach about sorrow and loss than dealing with the dashed hopes of your team. So I thought I'd share my teaching moment with my family and really just as much to myself.
Epic losses always lead to sorrows, whether in daily life or your hometown NFL team in the Super Bowl. So many things we put our hope in are at best shaky and fleeting. Yet the pain of sorrows, regardless of their nature, is truly real. In some ways it might seem easier to just shuffle your hope from one shaky place to the next. To just avoid the pain of loss by putting your hope in the next thing. But what if the sorrow is truly healthy?
Never waste your sorrow. Curl up next to your mom and dad, cry if you need to, read a sorrowful book or take a walk to some sorrowful songs. Embrace it, feel it. You'll learn that sorrow won't kill you. And in turn and time something about hope will come around. The kind of hope that is sure, because it's not temporal or movable but rather a completed, finished hope that puts our temporal hopes into proper perspective. It's embracing the final, ultimate hope that God has accomplished through the good news of Jesus that makes living with the smaller hopes and failure truly meaningful. God does not fail. He has declared His work finished and the completion of that declaration is ongoing and will come to fruition. He wins and therefore, because of your faith in Him and His work, you win. We win. It's settled, the victory is ours and we get to celebrate and live in light of it today and everyday.
I certainly would've rather taught on glory this morning, but I'll take the loss, the sorrow and the struggle to point us to a future and sure hope that is greater still. Now let's hit the "Sorrowful Songs" playlist, Ghosts That We Knew seems like a good one to start with.
Today I read a great word from Michael Vick on the power of a moment and the power of family. I'm so proud of Vick and his story, it gave me all the feels. I've been an Atlanta homer my entire life and have experienced a majority of the professional sports history of this town. This Falcons Moment has me sentimental and thankful for our city and our larger struggles.
It's not easy being an Atlanta sports fan. But in some ways I think our sports struggles relate to our bigger struggles as a city and a people. And I'm not going to pretend that a long history of problems are going to be solved by a professional sports moment. But this Falcons Moment is meaningful and bigger than just sports. I've been out doing Reformation beer promos during this Falcons run and have experienced it firsthand. The timing has been awesome. It has been a great distraction from the political noise and it has brought us together as a city and people.
So yeah, "Rise Up!" means a little more to me this year. I'm proud to be an Atlanta fan. You might not understand it but that's okay. I'm going to enjoy this Super Bowl moment with our city, our family, and our shared struggles. Let's win this last one for Tommy Nobis, Leeman Bennett, Billy "Whiteshoes" Johnson, William Andrews, Gerald Riggs, Lynn Cain, Steve Bartkowski, Mick Luckhurst, Bill Fralic, Mike Kenn, Jeff Van Note, Jessie Tuggle, Michael Vick, and the entire city of Atlanta! Let's keep uniting to celebrate. Whether its a victory parade the likes this city has never experienced or over the next Union we have at the local pub. Cheers to Atlanta, let's enjoy this Falcons Moment.
Every four years.
"Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."-Thomas Jefferson
Jared Wilson does a great job identifying and giving the good news antidote to our confirmation bias.
Looking forward to David Murray's new release RESET: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. Let me know if you'd like to join me in reading and grabbing beers to converse about it.
Word is beginning to spread and messages are filling up the inbox. I appreciate all the sentiments, thoughts, and prayers. Instead of responding individually I would like to give an update publicly.
Yes, I’ve resigned from the pastorate of Isaac’s Keep. No, I’ve not resigned from the faith.
I’ve been privileged to plant and pastor The Church of Isaac’s Keep in historic downtown Canton for ten years. God blessed our church in unexpected ways and I am so proud (the kind like your momma has and not the kind in the Bible that makes you bad, thanks Avett Bros) of the fruit it produced over those years. I look at the lives we served and the fruits of those lives and I have nothing but deep deep gratitude. God blessed us with an enormity of harmony and joy in our church community and we kept the gospel central to it all. No, we never peaked beyond 100 attendees but it was through that struggle (Is God Enough?) that what mattered most became cherished and moved us beyond ourselves and our own stuff. The relationships, marriages, families, businesses, ministries, arts, and culture that came out of this little church in Canton, GA, of all places, was simply God given.
Isaac’s Keep plowed, planted, watered and/or fertilized into lives that would produce fruit like The Waterproof Bible, Hide and Seek Day Camp, Sykes Marketing and Design, Grace to the Nations, Redeem Haiti, Them Two Birds, J.Becker Electric, Jarvis Street, the music and art of Evan Redwine, Reformation Brewery and the lives of individuals who work ferociously everyday in family life, government life, hospital life, corporate life to push back the darkness in our world with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We’ve given sacrificially to missionaries from Papua New Guinea to China to Clarkston, GA. We’ve seen prodigals come home and elder brothers changed by the love of the Father. God accomplished all of this in ten years, that’s right, in just ten years with a church under 100 folks. We never had a youth program or Sunday School or a worship stage set design or much of a web presence. But we had the gospel and we had real community. Honestly, I believe more than ever it’s a messy picture of what is needed for the future of the church in America.
Am I sad it’s coming to end? Of course. Parts of me would love to recapture and replant and do it all over again. Parts of me say no way in hell do I want to go through it again. Such is the gospel life. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. It plows deep and leaves scars. I have failed many times. But here at the end of this field I look back and I see a garden of beauty and delight. I am so thankful to have served my part in this body and all I can say is I will always love every single human who has played their part in this body. Thank you Isaac’s Keep for restoring in me my first joy and love. Thank you Lord for working in us and through us in ways that made us marvel at you. You have given and taken away, praise be the name of the Lord forever and ever, amen.
Now let’s celebrate with the time we have left in Isaac’s Keep fashion. If you’ve been a part of The Keep be on the lookout for a day of celebration and please consider joining us.
A saint is capable of loving created things and enjoying the use of them and dealing with them in a perfectly simple, natural manner, making no formal references to God, drawing no attention to his own piety, and acting without any artificial rigidity at all. His gentleness and his sweetness are not pressed through his pores by the crushing restraint of a spiritual strait-jacket- Thomas Merton
Thank you for the honor and privilege of speaking before you. The gravitas of these moments, while perhaps a routine part of the day for you as you do the work of the people of Georgia, I am humbled by God for this opportunity. And if I might be so bold this morning I want to encourage you with truth from God’s Word. Dr. Luke writes in Acts 4:29, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,”
I am here today as pastor of Isaac’s Keep, a small church in Cherokee county. And as a pastor I can surely relate to the expectations of those we serve. I’m not sure which vocation is more ridiculed and critiqued in our society today, a pastor or a politician? Standing up for truth and a desire to serve others in a pluralistic culture will always bring with it tough and often unfair criticism. But I want to encourage each and every one of you to continue to stand, to serve, and to speak truth with all boldness.
One of my heroes was a man named Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was a journalist, a founder of a university, a prime minister, a pastor, a theologian; truly a servant and reformer for the common good. His life has inspired me personally as a bi-vocational pastor and CEO of Reformation Brewery in Woodstock, GA.
Foundational to Kuyper’s life and ministry was the belief that Christ is Lord, and not just the Lord over private spirituality or obviously “religious” things, but also Lord over public things like art, science, business, politics, economics, and education. Kuyper believed, as many of you believe, that a robust faith in Christ offers precisely the healing solutions to modernity’s many problems. Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL things. “Jesus is Lord” was the very first confession of the early church and we’ve perhaps heard it our entire lives and seen it plastered on billboards and church signs all over this state. But what does it mean that Jesus is Lord? It means that ultimately, God remains in charge and provides for those who seek God’s will. I can think of no greater charge, no greater encouragement, no greater truth to speak boldly this day, Jesus is Lord.
This confession and truth is the foundation of all freedom. Every great movement of progress and every reformation in Western civilization finds it roots in the confession that Jesus is Lord. The very fact that I am able to speak this confession in this esteemed house is a testament to Jesus as Lord and the freedom this brings to all of us. Because Jesus is Lord, we are freed from the weight of creating glory for ourselves. We are freed from the clamor of a thousand clanging cymbals. We are freed to create laws that makes sense to common people and not just those with power. We are freed to protect our republic which keeps us free from those who desire us harm and ill will. We are freed to fight for justice for all of mankind because Jesus is Lord of All. As the great hymn sings and Martin Luther King, Jr. said so beautifully, because Jesus is Lord we fight and we stand so that all shall be “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” But freedom must be stood for, fought for, protected, and anchored in our wills as servants of God.
So I implore you and encourage you to humble yourselves and search your heart, your desires, your motivations. Are you serving for the higher good? Is your service a spiritual act of worship? Truly only God knows your heart and God does not despise a broken and repentant heart. It is out of this place of humility that we are free to stand and speak truth boldly. From humility we can stand in the storms of threats and continue to speak truth with all boldness. When the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther was facing the full threat of the institutional powers and was given the choice to either recant or face the severe consequences, He looked the threat directly in the face and said “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.” My prayer for this historic house is that it would be a place of standing in truth for the sake of righteousness and justice. May God help you and His grace be with each of you now and forevermore. Let us pray.
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle that heats my coffee each morning,
in the godhead of the table that I set my silver, plate, cup upon each morning.
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
by Anne Sexton, "Complete Poems", 455
Every reformation has its mistakes and nonsense. But when the nonsense is left to grow, it chokes and strangles healthy, organic change. It is time today to expose some of this nonsense that has accompanied the politics behind the Georgia Beer Jobs Bill, SB 63. I am both a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a partner of an independent and locally owned brewery seeking to redeem beer culture.
What is currently happening with the politics behind SB 63 is morally reprehensible due to the leadership of the opposition hiding behind piety and moralism. By that I mean false piety and moralism that uses religious language to manipulate and bind both people and policy.
I respect politicians who disagree with me, who are honest enough to stand for an opposing argument. But few things are more disgusting than using false piety to manipulate and justify one’s own immorality and conflicts of interest. Yet this is what is happening with the leadership in Georgia politics today.
What will SB63 do?
Prepare yourself, this is really radical stuff- you will actually be able to purchase the beer you drink while at a brewery. You could also buy a whopping 12 pack of packaged beer to take home from the brewery. This would allow you an introduction to the brewery and allow the brewery to expand its brand to potential customers. What a concept! A small business actually allowed to sell some of its product to consumers! Yes, it’s free market legislation and it evidently scares Republican leadership.
So, how did it get so messed up? Moralism, fear, and shame. We have this system because the failed experiment with Prohibition, rooted in moralism, fear, and shame, has left a long and tragic trail of tears upon our state. Legislate morality and you not only squash freedom by shaming and scaring people, you create monsters who profit and hide behind moralism and false piety. The monsters are now attempting to crush SB 63 and keep it from ever seeing the light of day.
Crony Capitalism hiding behind moralism
If you follow the money you will find an oligarchy at work. Millions of dollars in campaign donations from every organization associated with macro beer (macro breweries- Bud/Miller/Coors, distributors, distributor lobbyists, families who own, operate, profit from Georgia beer distribution). Let me be clear, some of these organizations and families are partners of mine. I consider my distribution partners to be good people who honestly want to see my business thrive. If I were in their position as a family and business man, I wouldn’t be advocating for change either, they are simply protecting what is theirs. I don't blame them for wanting to keep the laws unchanged. They are also not elected to represent the people, the politicians are, and our politicians don’t seem to want to listen. Rather they seem to prefer obstruction and manipulation.
Our Lt. Gov, Casey Cagle, is firmly in the pocket of the oligarchs. Or should I say, he has received $130,756.57 from their pockets. But beyond that, he is also a chief offender of hiding behind moralism. Just a quick glance on his Facebook page and you will find Scripture verses scattered between his own political agenda. As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ I find this reprehensible both to God and the people he has been elected to serve. It shows disregard to both. On his page he quotes a passage of Scripture regarding the power of the Holy Spirit. Is he honestly seeking the power of the Holy Spirit, or is he protecting his cronies and the oligarchs who fund his campaigns? That is disgusting and Christians should not be manipulated, they should be outraged. Shame on you Casey Cagle. If you want to take money from oligarchs, fine, fess up. But don’t hide behind a false piety and drag God’s good word and name into your agenda. Ironically, Cagle also quotes 2 Tim. 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I would encourage the Lt. Gov. to stop the politics of fear, shame, and guilt and get onboard with sound common sense legislation that is overwhelming supported by the good people he represents.
here we stand
Let’s put SB 63 aside for a moment and let’s be outraged by this behavior. It must end. Not just for the sake of a bill I support, but for the sake of God and his people. We can’t allow this hypocrisy to continue. Stand up to the bullies, tell them to stop manipulating you and stop trying to manipulate God. We the people must stand and end this corruption. Call your leaders and demand honesty and accountability.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
My grandmother, we call her GiGi because she is also a great grandmother of four, is dying. She is not “fighting to get better” or “waiting on a miracle.” Her death is coming, her physical life is now a medical measurement of weeks. She knows this, she is sobered by it. But she isn’t shocked, she isn’t only trying to think positive happy thoughts, nor is she overly anxious about the reality of death. In a culture that doesn’t really know how to think about death, Gigi is more than clear and is embracing what death has to teach her and us. She has not and will not stop being a teacher, a servant, or a lover.
Gigi and I share a special relationship. She is my grandmother and only living grandparent. That alone is an awesome gift I’ve been given for 38 years. To enjoy and share so much of my life with her in it is simply remarkable and I couldn’t be more thankful. She is one of the few people in my life who has first hand experience of my whole story with its many chapters. Some chapters that I don’t even remember. She is also one of the few who has loved me outrageously and showed me grace upon grace throughout every chapter. Gigi has never left me to figure it out alone, she has been one my life’s greatest teachers and greatest allies.
She is not only my beloved grandmother, but she is also a congregant and views me as her pastor. It gets a little messy, but I came to terms with it years ago and now I’m so thankful for all we’ve shared together on this level of relationship as well. I have had the privilege of discussing with her life’s deepest issues and questions.
Today I visited her and we got to spend some time alone. Not really knowing what to expect when I arrived nor having much of an agenda, grace seemed to take over and strike its familiar chord. We enjoyed conversation as natural as if it were five or ten years ago; discussing the joys of children, fried steak, and life. We talked about relationships and we talked about death openly and freely, even smiling and finding joy in its coming liberation.
Gigi has many last words which she gives with much excitement. In some ways, you can’t shut her up, she just wants you to know how much she loves you and how much you mean to her. She loves telling stories and her perspective on them is wonderful. I believe she sees her final days as an opportunity to further reconcile any loose ends to past relationships as well as to seek repentance even now. Gigi is also actively spiritually preparing herself for death. She wants to honor her Lord in her departure from this life. Gigi seems to have a very clear perspective of what is most sacred and meaningful. She knows her family and friends will grieve but she wants even this to be about learning how to do so with faith, hope, and joy. She really wants to serve others even in her dying. She wants to complete the race with faithfulness that will serve as hope for others. She simply wants to reflect the hope that is in her, for it to be real, not simply a coping mechanism for others to dismiss.
I am so proud of her as her pastor. Her expressions of faith in the gospel she so dearly loves are refreshing. Her perspective of the reality she is in, is inspiring. As her grandson, I am so incredibly grateful for her life and humbled by her perspective at this hour.
Others often ask “What can I do?” Honestly, just be present. She would love a personal visit but she understands if that’s not possible or comfortable for you. Send her a note on Facebook or a text. She really is okay. She is not in denial. She isn’t looking for platitudes. She just wants to share life with you while she still has it to share. Every moment is now so valuable, just as every moment should be. There is really little awkwardness about the obvious. In fact she might have a clearer perspective than any of us. And for that reason, being in her presence, simply listening and loving her is a gracious gift that ends up serving you. She would love nothing more.
Gigi is dying. I’m dying too. There really is no despair in that reality. Only peace and hope, and yes even joy. Embracing that is freeing. The gifts of life have never been more precious.
Here is a piece of satire, one of my favorite genres, from a friend (Chuck) who is about as exhausted with evangelical egotism and the whole evangelical celebrity complex as I am. He shared it with me and gave me permission to share it with you.
Chuck's Disclaimer: I've just finally had all I can stand of famous preachers thinking they have to speak on every possible thing as though somehow they are an authority or that anyone actually gives two hoots what they think. So here's my rant...er satire!
The Evangelical community has been all a-buzz lately over the subject of Pool Playing and the Christian life. Recently a number of Evangelical scholars have written a symposium on the subject entitled, Is Pool Playing Christian?
The book is published by Crossway and carries with it a number of endorsements from members of the Gospel Coalition. The volume begins with an introduction by John Piper titled, "The Supremacy of God in Pool Playing: Finding Joy in God on the Green Baize!" In Chapter One of the volume, Biblical & Theological Foundations of Pool, Wayne Grudem attempts to answer the questions, is there a biblical way pool should be played and is there one game that fits within a Biblical Worldview better than others? Grudem concludes that eight ball should not be allowed in a Christian's pool playing experience because the chaos it inherently holds is an affront to God's ordered sovereignty. Grudem maintains that straight pool is too autonomous and antinomian because the shooter may attempt to pocket any ball he chooses. He says that one pocket would be God's choice of games due to it's restricting the players to only one pocket, thus setting stringent standards reflecting God's Law, but that such a game actually entails too much legalism and thus should be rejected. Lastly, Grudem seeks to prove that nine ball is the superior game Biblically speaking because it has specific rules, governed by ordered rotation, but is free enough in that a player can pocket the nine at any time by combination play, thus allowing for Gospel freedom.
A number of ethical questions relating to pool are dealt with in subsequent chapters. Kevin Swanson decides that pool is completely unfit as a game for the Christian in that it promotes a homosexual agenda due to its obvious fixation upon men playing with sticks, balls, and dark holes respectively. Douglas Wilson writes that while possibly ok for men, women should not play pool due to it's being inherently a "man's game" as well as the possibility that it could cause sexual licentiousness due to the fixation on clear representations of the mail anatomy. Thabiti Anyabwile discusses the unbiblical racism inherent within pool by pointing out the supremacy of the WHITE CUE BALL dominating the other COLORED BALLS by driving them off the table. He claims that this is most egregious in eight ball where the ultimate goal is to drive the BLACK EIGHT BALL off the table after eliminating all the other colored balls, revealing that eight ball pool is particularly racist against people of African descent. John MacArthur writes on the evils of pool by pointing out its association with clearly Biblically prohibited activities such as the consumption of Alcohol and wagering. Ted and Paul Tripp collaborate on a chapter that seeks to show that pool is a form of "idolatry in the heart" due to it being a competition in which men seek the vain-glory and pride of victory and human accomplishment in the sight of others. E. Calvin Beisner writes an essay attempting to show how pool is inherently sinful due to the problem of making mistakes in cue ball position and ball pocketing. He illustrates this by referencing his other written works wherein he shows how making mathematical mistakes are sins. Ken Ham's essay is a critique of pool on the basis of the historical narrative found in Genesis. Ham concludes that pool was devised by the fallen descendants of Adam and that it was actually a prime element within the corruption of ante-deluvian culture that ultimately led to the flood. Kevin DeYoung writes that pool is a great detriment to the church due to it contributing to the growing threat of prolonged adolescence, particularly in men. Carl Trueman writes that while pool may not be necessarily sinful, it is an inferior game for Christians due to its strictly American origins. Trueman offers an alternative by extolling the greatness and superiority of English Snooker.
Not all the articles in this volume are negative however. John Frame, peace making champion of the "third way" writes that by using a tri-perspectivalist paradigm, middle ground can be achieved in the debate over pool. Frame suggests finding this middle way by promoting Three Cushion Billiards as a compromise between the two poles. Vern Poythress takes the same approach in his own very short chapter titled, Me Too John. In an even more positive chapter Bill Hybels and Rick Warren write that pool should be embraced by the church by putting in full service billiard parlors in each church location in an effort to reach the unchurched pool playing community. They do however say that it would be better to replace the beer with coffee and the secular music with CCM. Another positive chapter is by Tim Keller and Darrin Patrick who endorse pool as a great opportunity for doing "Missional" ministry, especially in cities by starting Bible studies and other outreach programs in the pool rooms rather than using pool as an attractional approach within the church as promoted my Hybels and Warren.
Mark Dever contributed both the forward and conclusion to this volume. His reaction to the book and concluding recommendations are that churches should heed the warnings about pool in this book and seriously consider adding the game to the restricted activities listed in a church's membership covenant requiring members to refrain from pool playing under threat of church discipline, just as he has lead the elders of Capitol Hill Baptist to do.
The response to the book has been mixed in the Christian community to say the least. For example, Theonomists Gary North and Joel McDurmond complain that none of the authors of the book ever point out the simple fact that pool must be a clear affront to God due to it's not being directly mentioned in the bible, especially in reference to Old Testament Law. They also point out that pool is a sinful waste of time because it takes away time and energy from Christians taking dominion. However, North may be distancing himself from these previous claims in that unconfirmed reports say he has commissioned a number of scholars within Theonomic circles to write a ten volume series of books called Biblical Blueprints for Pocket Billiards. Kinist Harry Seabrook, in a recent blog post, claimed that the book was a waste of time. Seabrook remarked that all anyone needs to realize is that white men should not go to pool rooms due to the threat of miscegenation because so many blacks and Hispanics frequent these places. Mark Driscoll, while not commenting directly on the book himself, has made his views on the controversy quite clear in a recent controversial sermon. He declared, "Pool isn't sinful, it's just stupid. Pool players are wasting their time trying to win victories that don’t count!" Driscoll then went on to deride and berate men in his congregation who left their wives at home to go play pool by screaming, "How dare you!?!?!? Who in the hell do you think you are?!?!?!?"
The controversy has grown in recent weeks when revelations about one of the book's contributors brought some discredit upon it. Douglas Wilson has been embroiled in scandal since the discovery that numerous young male members of both Christ Church and the New Saint Andrews student body have been running an illegal pool gambling ring called the Morton Street Billiard Hall. To further inflame the matter Wilson has also been exposed for using church funds to pay off debts accrued by this notorious pool gambling ring. The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches recently discussed the evils of pool during a Q&A panel at their recent conference. Geoffrey Botkin used the opportunity to chastise all Christian pool players for being "disobedient cowards, serving their own flesh and following the world because pool is a picture of weakness and surrender." Joe Morecraft went so far as to say that "pool is the death rattle in the throat of a dying culture." D.G. Hart spent a month writing blog posts at Old Life Theological wherein he suggests that this may be the most asinine controversy in Christian history. Hart blamed the rise of revivalism and transformationist Neo-Calvinism as the cause of all the hoopla. Hart concluded his posts on the subject by promoting a return to confessionalism as the solution to the controversy. Lastly, Joshua Harris has just released his newest book: I Kissed Pool Playing Goodbye.
Pagan worship focuses on corporate and individual cultic efforts seeking to mollify the gods and secure their blessing. Today many Christians' understanding of worship differs little from that of pagans, except perhaps that God is singular and the forms of worship come from traditions more or less rooted in Scriptures. Largely divorced from life, such worship represents a pattern of religious activities driven by a deep-seated sense of obligation to God and a concern to win his favor. But this understanding is unbiblical; it separates worship from daily life and compartmentalizes human existence into the sacred and the secular. -For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, Block, 23.
We are certainly a people who want one dimensional definition for multidimensional truth. Nowhere is that more dangerous than when we attempt to define the complexity of worship into one compartment. I love Block's humility in admitting we can't describe the phenomena of worship, we can characterize parts of it, "but to define biblical worship is to confine it."
I'm taking intentional time to read more holistically during this sabbatical month. I may add a book list and/or reviews later but I'm also catching up on things via this modern creation called the internet. From the hypersensitive evangelical culture to the hyper-obsessed craft beer movement to the hyper-hyped commentary of preseason college football analysis to the hyper-pretentious art + music + culture bubble to the hyper-obsessed business + tech news, there is an unending stream of distractions for me. Speaking of, how does the internet expect me to keep up with all this silliness? What if I become contextually out of touch? Mr. Internet and his nefarious son The Incursive Dr. Facebook sure seem to think I'm doomed to a meaningless existence. But of course this is all from a padawan Cynical Dreamer. So I've been told.
Here are some links (some videos) if you'd like to come along. I'll be updating as I go. Feel free to comment, but 'mystery science theater' type commentary will earn extra credit.
Seven years into full time planting and now my first sabbatical. Here are my seven sabbatical goals as I repent of the idol of busyness.
- Situate and position reformation calling for next chapters
- Start something new, explore more adventures
- Stimulate and incubate ideas with others into action
- Stay longer
- Side splitting laughter
- Sublime living
- Substantial love
If you would like to contribute to any of these goals, I'm making time.