Although World Series tickets would have been nice, you have given the city of Philadelphia a greater gift than that. (Sitting in the cold, wind and rain would have been miserable anyway). Congratulations. Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.
Growing up I remember reading a quote that has stuck with me. Satan's most powerful tool is not an active sinner, but in an inactive Christian.
But maybe that's not entirely true. Maybe one of Satan's greatest tools is not an inactive Christian, but an over-active Christian...or an active Christian involved solely in things that are in the Christian subculture. I call this Christian entrenchment.
It seems that the longer one is a follower of Jesus the more entrenched (maybe other ways to say it could be insulated or lulled to sleep) one is prone to be. The Christian Bubble can be very hard to identify in our own lives and even more difficult to burst. Christian entrenchment is not often talked about, but it does need to be addressed.
I realize I am stirring the pot of the age-old question of what it means to be in the world, but not of it. Though I am not wanting to get into that question directly right now, I figure its important enough for each of us (me included) to think about how we can assess ourselves as objectively as possible (as hard as that may be) regarding the level of our own entrenchment.
There are at least five indicators of Christian entrenchment - a spiritual/cultural litmus test of sorts - that might give us some things to chew on - me included.
(1) Our language: oftentimes conversations that are saturated with Christian cliches are a good indicator of Christian entrenchment. There are lots of good Christian cliches out there that may sound good to the faithful, but can create an "us/them" mentality. It also risks coming across distracting, inarticulate, confusing, narrow-minded or even arrogant to those who do not have a relationship with Jesus. (It is amazing how often we use the phrase "accepting Jesus into our hearts" and yet that language is never used in our Bibles).
[Q]: If a person who had no context of God or faith or church followed me around for a week would there be anything I say that they would not understand or would find distracting?
(2) Our social circles: Speaking of someone following us around for a week... Our oikos (a Greek word meaning "family," or household or even circle of influence) is extremely significant, but we don't often think intentionally about it. Think about the people you spend a lot of time with. Christian fellowship and community is important, but in healthy balance.
[Q]: Are those in my social network (work excluded) mostly/all followers of Jesus? [Q]: How do I spend my weekends/free evenings - and with whom? [Q]: Who are we inviting over to dinner? When was the last time I had someone in my home who did not talk like, look like, act like or believe what I do?
(3) Our mindset: our worldview is important. But we have to consider how we think about culture.
[Q]: Do I have a mindset that we are to retreat from the evil of the world or impact the world for the better? [Q]: Do I see culture as good, evil or both? Is it neutral?
(4) Our schedules: sometimes we can become so busy with our schedules that we have no time to even hang out with those outside of the Christian bubble (see story of the Good Samaritan). Nobody is intentionally shunning our neighbors or co-workers...no, we think our neighbors and co-workers are fine people. Its just that we're so dang busy with church on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights and Awana and the three bible studies and two small groups that we're involved in (whew!) that we're just so busy...and tired.
(5) How we spend our money (Entertainment): Oftentimes we can realize our entrenchment by looking at our credit card statements and our checkbooks.
[Q]: How much have I spent on Christian books, CDs, concerts or T-shirts in the past month? six months? year? [Q]: How much of that is spent with people who consider themselves followers of Jesus? [Q]: How much money is spent in an intentional effort to spend time with those who are not yet followers of Jesus?
After we're done with this test, we could take our answers and compare them with the life rhythms of Jesus that we read about in the gospels. Then we need to ask "Do my language, social circles, mindset, schedule and how I spend my money reflect the ways of Jesus?"
After reflecting on this I realize that I have a long way to go to be freed from this entrenchment in my own life...
This morning I've been reading Adopted Into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor by Trevor Burke (who teaches at Moody). It's a commentary on the metaphor of adoption that Paul speaks of five times in his letters.
I am studying up on this because I've been asked to preach at Franconia Mennonite Church at their Sunday morning service on November 16. This church has a real, genuine heart for adoption and sees it as an important way to flesh out the gospel in the family. Each year for the past three years Franconia has hosted "Adoption Sunday," a day to highlight adoption by focusing on the heart of God and how he cares for the alien, the orphan and the widow. They have asked that we share Carter's story and then teach on God's heart for adopting us into his family.
I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to tell Carter's story in order to highlight God's story - the gospel message, Paul says, is about God adopting us into his family, calling us to be his kids.
Later that evening I am scheduled to preach at a church in Bethlehem - should make for a good, but very busy day.
Forgive us O Lord, for being divisive rather than working to build unity.
Forgive us O Lord, for striving to be right more than striving to be kind.
Forgive us O Lord, when we desire to be understood more than to understand.
Forgive us O Lord, for placing our hope in a person, a system, a government - rather than in you alone.
Forgive us O Lord, for complaining about politics rather than thanking you for our freedom.
Forgive us O Lord, when we use our mouths - and our email forwards - to tear down "the other."
Forgive us O Lord, for spending more time and energy thinking about the Empire than the kingdom.
Forgive us O Lord for speaking poorly and wishing ill will on another candidate.
Forgive us O Lord, when we are known more for following a party than for following the Risen Christ.
Forgive us O Lord, for claiming that God is only on "our side."
Forgive us O Lord, for claiming and proclaiming that one political party completely and accurately represents the politics of Jesus.
Forgive us O Lord, when we forget that the heart of the king is in your hands.
Forgive us O Lord, for being more excited to speak to others about our candidate than about our Savior.
Forgive us O Lord, when we think this prayer is for someone else we know and not for ourselves.
Give us grace to treat others with dignity and respect, even in the midst of our differences. Give us wisdom - not just with what we say and do, but how we say them and do them - so that we may not represent our political party, but that we may represent the one who has given us True Life.
Many of you who know us know what a joy it has been for us to experience the miracle of
adoption. It is hard to believe that we are approaching two years of
having Carter! Carter has been an absolute joy to have in the Briggs
family. As painful as our infertility was (and, at times, still is) we
have come to call it a gift - a gift because we cannot imagine life
John Piper has said that adoption is "the physical gospel" – a
fleshing out of what God has done for us – picked us, orphans without
much of a future, and invited us to be a part of his family. We have
understood the gospel in deeper ways because of Carter's adoption story.
We've said that when Carter is around two years old we wanted to
begin the adoption process again. and now our hearts are ready to adopt again –
and Carter really wants a sibling to play with! We have made contact
with an adoption agency and are bracing ourselves to fill out the reams
and reams of required paperwork again.
Adoptions can happen in various ways. The traditional adoption
process is where adoptive parents approach an adoption agency. The
agency works with many birth mothers until each birthmother chooses an
adoptive family. This process is very expensive and can take up to two
years. Another process, called an identified adoption process, was the
process of how we got Carter. It is where adoptive parents and birth
parents identify each other first and then approach the adoption agency
to take care of logistics, paperwork and legal matters. This can take
as little as a few months and is a fraction of the cost of a
Many adoptions occur through the identified adoption process. In
fact, adoption agencies recommend that prospective adoptive parents
contact friends and family from around the country who might know of a
birthmother who is pregnant and is unable to parent the child, but
desires for her child to be placed in a loving family.
So, this is where you come in. We could use your help in two ways:
Keep your eyes and ears open: If you happen to know of or hear of a birthmother
(or know someone who knows a birthmother) who is looking to place their
baby in a loving home please contact us. We would love to talk with
them. We know that God can work through the vast relational networks
that we all have (he did it in Carter's story - and we know he could do it again).
Pray for us: please keep us in your prayers as we enter into
the adoption process again in order to see the Briggs family grow in
Thank you! We're excited to see what God has in store for the Briggs family in the future!
On Tuesday morning several dudes got together for breakfast (as we do every Tuesday morning) to talk about what it means to be a free man. We've been discussing and working our way through the book of Galatians, the manifesto of freedom. (This is open to any dude who wants to join us. If you are interested, email me and I'll give you more information).
We're in chapter two. In verse 10 Paul says this:
"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I [Paul] was eager to do."
We had a great discussion about poverty and our role with the poor and how as Christians, for the most part, we really suck at doing our part (including me).
After I got home Megan asked me to print off several copies of a document so she had created so that she could distribute them throughout our neighborhood. A few others from our launch team are creating similar fliers and getting their neighborhoods involved. Here's the wording of the flier she created.
AREA FOOD CUPBOARDS RUNNING LOW
You may have noticed the article in The [Lansdale] Reporter on Monday October 13, 2008 about the need for donations at food pantries in Lansdale:
“Food cupboards in the area are bare and the scarcity of items for the needy is becoming a serious situation. Community Housing Services, on Broad Street in Lansdale, has slim pickings… Manna on Main Street in Lansdale had its food cupboard almost wiped out on one recent day when 27 families stopped in for help.”
Please help in any way you can by taking donations directly to Manna on Main [the main food pantry and soup kitchen in Lansdale] or Community Housing Services [a non-profit organization that works with women and children who are victims of domestic violence and abuse]. CHS also helps those in need of baby products, diapers, wipes, formula, etc.
You are welcome to drop any items off on our front porch and we’ll be happy to deliver your donations.
We understand this is a difficult time for many of us, but if each of us can give just a grocery bag full of food CHS and Manna on Main will be in much better shape to help the people who come through their doors.
Thank you for partnering with us to help those in need in our community,
J.R. and Megan Briggs
Ironically, a friend emailed me a few days ago about her desire to do this very thing in her neighborhood in Lansdale, too.
If you live in the region would you consider picking up an extra bag (or more) of groceries for Manna and CHS? You can drop it off at our house or at these agencies directly.
Or, better yet, create your own flier and getting your neighbors involved in this as well!
A few months ago I was asked to write an endorsement for a book that was coming out called Coffeehouse Theology. It was written by a friend of mine from college, Ed Cyzewski. The book came out a few weeks ago and I just got a finalized copy of the book from the publisher this week. It looks like my endorsement landed on the back cover.
It's a good read, helping bring theology (a word notorious for being dry, stale and unrelatable to everyday life) into our everyday lives.
In response to my conversation with Brian a few weeks ago he and I decided to plan a rock-dropping ceremony for him. I had never planned one of these things before and wasn't quite sure what to do, but thought that it didn't need to be intricate or long or overly planned - just meaningful and personal and full of gratitude.
I've been guest teaching at a church in Bethlehem on Sunday nights. This past Sunday I invited Brian to come along with me. He said he'd join me, but he also suggested that we go up a bit early and find a place in Bethlehem for his ceremony.
We headed up early and found a spot along the Lehigh River. It was a sunny and crisp late fall afternoon - just beautiful. We walked across some train trusses on a bridge and Brian stopped, looked over the edge of the bridge and held out his arm. After a few moments of silence, he dropped it, as we watched it fall and then...plop - the sound of forgiveness!
Brian then prayed and thanked God that He had forgiven him of his sins and given him so much hope and peace. He asked for strength to be able to do all he could to follow Jesus accurately with his life. It took everything in me to keep from crying like a baby!
I then prayed for Brian and thanked God for his friendship and that God would use him to bring his friends to know Jesus, just like he had and that Bria could lead and facilitate some rock-dropping-esque ceremonies in the future with those friends.
After we prayed we walked over to the banks of the river and I read Brian a passage that I had been praying for him since hearing his news of becoming a follower of Jesus.
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus...
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." - Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11
Then we took communion together on the banks of the river - the heel of a slice of white bread and grape juice, which we drank out of one of Carter's kiddy cups! - and talked about Jesus being our living water and what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
I can't think of a better way to spend a fall afternoon than dropping rocks and taking communion with a new believer.
Here's a picture of Brian shortly after he dropped his rock!