Home > Crossway Blog > Archive for May, 2011

Archive for May, 2011

You Might Be an Idolator If…

How do we know if we love something too much? Where is the line between a healthy enjoyment and an idol? Idolatry is often subtle. It can creep up on us in the form of good desires, like getting married or excelling in the work place. You may have created idols for yourself if:

  • You are crushed when you don’t get what you want. When that end of the year bonus you have been anticipating for months is taken from you, does it shatter your joy?
  • You stake your happiness on getting what you want. All of your friends are finding their soul mates and getting married, and you can’t even find a date. Do you resign to bitter hopelessness in your singleness?
  • You grumble and complain when you don’t have what you want. Are you angry with God for not creating you with the supposed external beauty that everyone around you seems to have?
  • You demand what you want. Have your humble prayers for healing from a physical ailment turned to angry demands of God? Do you feel you deserve to be healed?

When good gifts (like marriage, beauty, healing, or money) turn into idols, they become terrible and consuming masters. To destroy these idols, we must put them off by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us a deep love for God that drives out all lesser loves and gives us power over our idolatrous desires, in both our thoughts and actions. Through the Holy Spirit, we find contentment.

If we have made an idol out of something good that does not need to be driven from our lives entirely, such as a desire for children, repentance comes in the form of prayer. Stop demanding that God give you children, but rather pray humbly, offering your requests to God but submitting to his all-knowing plan for your life.

Excerpt modified from chapter 4 of The Greener Grass Conspiracy.

May 5, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 6:00 am | (4) Comments »

What Reviewers are Saying about “The Greener Grass Conspiracy”

It’s easy to get pulled in to the game of “if only.” If only I had a better job, a better car, a spouse, etc., my life would be better.” Through humor and honest experience, Stephen Altrogge reveals the emptiness that we find in our idols, our “if onlys.” He helps readers battle discontentment with the gospel.

Check out what reviewers are saying about The Greener Grass Conspiracy:

“This book is wonderful! Friend, buy it and read it right now! This book is written for Christians, but that isn’t to say non-Christians won’t benefit from this book. Everyone needs this book. Why? Because everyone suffers from and is part of the ‘Greener Grass Conspiracy.’” -The Unwasted Life

“In addition to author, Stephen can add soul surgeon to his list of accomplishments! What I found inside the pages of this work by Altrogge was truly convicting at times and found my sin being exposed a number of times.” -Books That Matter

“This isn’t some guru who’s got it all together talking down to the rest of us who still haven’t figured out how to quit sinning. Altrogge shares with great openness about his own struggles with contentment.” -Tie Ly Guh

“If you’re an American then you need to read this book.” -Random Reflections from Tom Seagraves

“It is not just the high quality of the content that Altrogge delivers, but it is also the easily readable style and method that make this book so appealing…I would not hesitate to give this book to anyone.” -Divine Imperative

“This book will reach everyone from educated theologians to the person that has just heard the Gospel for the first time today.” -The Bizarre Babblings of Bryan

“I was hooked from the first sentence, not wanting to put the book down. Altrogge uses humor, sarcasm, and wit to make this a fun book to read while at the same time guiding us back to the gospel to fight discontentment.” -Nathan Williams

“I’m content. The book taught me that. And if a 139 page book can help you shift from discontentment to contentment, it’s worth looking into.” -Missions Outlook

“This book will convict you. This book will make you realize that you are taking things for granted. Thinking too much about what could be, instead of what is right now, right here.” -Putting God First Place

“This book has been a great challenge to my life and walk with Christ and has helped and is helping me to see my life differently and to be more content in all that God has done for me…I would recommend this book to any person, no matter their state in life.” Kris Estep

Thank you to all our reviewers who participated in our giveaway! If you’re interested in reading more, download a free sample chapter here.

May 3, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News | Author: Crossway Staff @ 2:00 pm | (3) Comments »

Interview with Tim Chester: Eating with a Mission

How we eat and who we eat with can communicate quite a bit about what we believe. Something as simple as eating not only creates natural opportunities to be intentional, loving, and missional—but meals can also be a reflection of our theology.

Tim Chester’s newest book, A Meal with Jesus considers how Jesus used meals not only for physical nourishment, but to enact grace. How can we learn from and emulate that part of his ministry? Check out our recent interview with Tim Chester:

  1. What does food have to do with grace, church, and mission?
    Everything! Just think about how often food figures in the Bible story or how much of church life involves meals. I don’t think this is incidental. Food expresses our dependence on God and on other people. Meals embody friendship and welcome. So food is a powerful way of doing mission and community. The Son of Man, Jesus says in Luke 7, came eating and drinking – this was the way Jesus did mission.
  2. What do you mean when you say the way Jesus did meals was “radically subversive?”
    Meals in Jesus’ day were highly stratified. Roman meals expressed the social order Jewish meals were similar (think of the jockeying for position in Luke 14) with the added twist that Levitical food laws made it all but impossible for Jews to eat with Gentiles. So meals expressed who were the insiders and who were the outsiders. Jesus turns all of this upside down or, perhaps I should say, inside out! Outsiders become insiders around the table with Jesus.
  3. How do the meals of Jesus image the gospel?
    Let’s take one example. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Tax collectors were collaborators with the Romans, the people who were occupying God’s promised land. This meant they were not only betraying the nation, but they were enemies of God. God sits and eats with his enemies. That’s what happening in the meals of Jesus. It’s an amazing expression of gospel grace. You would not believe it if it were not in the Scriptures. The Pharisees certainly could not believe it. And that is without considering how the feeding of the 5,000 points to the messianic banquet of the future or how the last supper points to the cross.
  4. How would you practically encourage readers to begin associating with the marginalized?
    No doubt there are lots of ways to begin, but in the book I highlight the importance of eating with people. There is a danger that if we only ‘do’ things ‘for’ people then we communicate by our actions ‘I am able and you are unable’. Then the message we convey is not the welcome of God, but the message ‘become like me’. We may talk of grace with our words, but our actions communicate the need for social or moral improvement. But when we sit and eat with one another then we are together round the table. Then we can speak of grace as fellow sinners.
  5. You say that our meals actually express our doctrine of justification. Can you explain that?
    Paul’s great exposition of the doctrine of justification in the letter to the Galatians is sparked by a meal, by Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles. This is where a false doctrine of justification led: to broken table fellowship. Why? Because meals are such a central and powerful expression of community (and the withdrawal of community). It was the same with the meals of the Pharisees. Their sense of how we are made right with God was reflected in their meals; their meals expressed who were insiders and outsiders on the basis of moral and religious respectability. The ladder of self-righteousness was represented in the positions of honour around the table. But Jesus freely eats with tax collectors and sinners. He expresses God’s grace through his willingness to eat with everyone – even self-righteous Pharisees! I’m not saying justification is merely about who we eat with. It is about how we are made right with God through faith in the finished work of Christ. But this will then be reflected who we associate with and on what basis. Our meals will mirror our doctrine.
  6. How do your “missional communities” work?
    That’s a big question! Our meetings always involve a meal. Plus we encourage people to share lives throughout the week as well as involving unbelievers in that shared life – and that often involves sharing food. But meals don’t make community. They embody or express it . . . and I can’t imagine doing community without meals. But it’s the gospel that creates community. This is what makes communities “work”. So in fact we called our missional communities “gospel communities”. (But then you can’t talk about the gospel story for long without bumping into a meal!)
  7. Do you have practical steps readers can take to encourage them to grow in initiating missional meals?
    The great thing about using meals to do community and mission is that it doesn’t add anything to your busy schedule. We already have 21 ready-made opportunities each week. Nor do you have some kind to special missiological training. You just need to love Jesus, love people and enjoy eating! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Sometimes you may want to make a special effort and celebrate the goodness of creation in a fancy meal. But most of the time it is just a question of sharing an ordinary meal with people. Invite members of your Christian community for your evening meal. Meet up for breakfast with someone on the way yo work. Use lunch in the canteen to get to know your colleagues. If you’re single then entertaining families might be difficult, but invite them for dessert or cake. Try to invite unbelievers together with believers so your unbelieving friends are introduced to the Christian community and get to see how Christians relate.
  8. How can meals express a vision of the kingdom of God?
    Once you start looking for it, it’s amazing how often food is used to express both judgment and salvation. A meal in the presence of God is the goal of salvation. The first thing God does for Adam and Eve in the garden is given them a menu, the fruit of every tree (except one). The climax of the exodus (an act of salvation commemorated in a meal) is when the elders of Israel eat with God on the mountain in Exodus 24. Isaiah promises a messianic banquet of rich foods that will never end in Isaiah 25 and Jesus anticipates this perpetual meal with God in the feeding of the 5,000, a meal with more food at the end than at the beginning. The last supper looks forward to the time when Jesus will eat with his disciples in the kingdom of God. And the Bible story ends with a meal as we celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. Every time we eat together as Christians we are anticipating this hope.

Tim Chester is co-director of The Porterbrook Network, which equips individuals and churches to rediscover mission, and director of The Porterbrook Institute, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is co-leader of the Crowded House, a group of church-planting networks. Chester has also authored You Can Change and co-authored Total Church (Re:Lit). Learn more about A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table.

Video: Theology Behind the Fiction

Author Bryan Litfin shares a glimpse of the deeper theological themes woven into The Gift:

Learn more about The Chiveis Trilogy.

May 2, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,News,Video | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 9:41 am | (2) Comments »