On Being Nice

“I gave myself one big warning: if you become a professional Christian, you better not be nice. Niceness is not a biblical virtue; in fact, I consider it a vice. Nice Christians pretend things are fine when they’re not, say one thing and do another, and avoid difficult conversations. Niceness is rampant among Christians and it does damage. The real virtues of our faith such as honesty, love, discipleship, repentance and reconciliation require looking life full in the face and speaking truth as best we can.”

– Jennel Williams Paris

Cities of Refuge

In Joshua 20 and Deuteronomy we learn of a lesser  Old Testament idea: Cities of Refuge. Three cities where someone who has killed someone accidentally can go to avoid retribution.

On the surface this might seem odd: why set up a whole city to respond to this one issue? Were there other things you could escape from in a City of Refuge?

For one who found themselves in the predicament of accidentally killing a neighbor I am sure a City of Refuge was a beautiful symbol of grace and rescue.

On a deeper level, I think these cities served another purpose: the performance of alternative story.

Culture dictated vengeance and more violence. Refuge ended the cycle. These cities said: “you don’t have to live like that.”

May our churches, our community groups, our gatherings, our presence in neighborhoods be “cities of refuge.” Reminders that dictates of culture do not apply here…vengeance, hate, cycles of dysfunction…they can end.

Socially Constructed Knowledge, Bible Minded Cities, Memory, and Unfulfilled Dreams

  1. Tim Keller Being Awesome (on the plausibility of Christianity and social constructed knowledge)
  2. 2 great posts by Donald Miller: Unfulfilled Dreams and Contentment
  3. Least and Most “Bible-Minded” Cities (Boston, Providence, and the Bay Area [CA] don’t fare well)
  4. Boston Welcomes Panera Cares
  5. Why We Remember Young Adulthood So Well

Faith and Doubt

There is a sort of faith

That is too small to comprehend

How high and wide and deep and long are the mysteries

Of a love that surpasses our ability to know.

And there is a sort of doubt

That is too confident

To admit that there is more to the world

Than what we can see and touch and prove and measure.

Beyond faith

And doubt

There is wisdom.

(inspired by our community group’s convo on james 1)

To Remember

What do you do to remember?

Do you write stuff down, do you make something, do you take a picture (do you tweet that pic, do you instagram it, do you post it on facebook)?

In the book of Joshua, Joshua promises his people “the LORD will do amazing things among you” (3:5). As a leader, this is a bold statement. Joshua doesn’t say the LORD will do some cool things, or some interesting things…he says “amazing things“.

And He does. He stops a rushing river, allowing all His people to enter their promised land on dry ground.

Joshua immediately decides that they need to do something to remember this. So they make a pile of rocks.


Because we live in a world high on promises and low on delivery, and so it can become easy to be jaded or cynical when a leader says: expect something amazing.

Joshua doesn’t want them to forget.

You can’t argue with a pile of rocks.

“Most American …

“Most American teens do not, by and large, abandon their identification with religious faith during the first year out [first year in college]. Religious involvement drops, to be sure, but not teens’ self-identification as a religious person…

“Teens who deposit their religious identities in a lockbox during the first year out do so because they see everyday life and religious identification as separate and distinct entities. Teens view religious faith and practice as largely irrelevant tot his stage in their life cycle.

“The religious story of most teens is the story of a thousand missed opportunities…it is striking how haphazardly most congregations go about it…they gain only sketchy and frequently mistaken understandings of what their religion believes and practices…

“When all is said and done, what most teens gain from this haphazard religious socialization is reinforcement of the theistic and moral dimensions of popular American culture: ‘There is a God; God wants me to be a nice person; and he’ll help me out if I am.’ It is a simple faith, but a surprisingly enduring one, as it can withstand long stays in an identity lockbox.”

From “The First Year Out” by Tim Clysdale

Meditate On It

In Joshua 1 we discover a people in transition. The people of Israel mourn the loss of their fearless leader, Moses, and look to Joshua to take his place. All this before, finally, entering the land they had been promised hundreds of year prior. A land filled with enemies.

Joshua 1 is great for leaders in times of transitions. It’s a rah-rah speech, and the wonderful promise of God (“I will be with you”) is repeated at least three times.

Which is very encouraging for us at any time, but especially during times of challenge. Times when it feels like we are going into enemy land. This can feel like all the time in Boston.

The connecting thought, and really the central premise, of Joshua 1 is found in verse 8:

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Sometimes I read Joshua 1 and think I have to work up some amazing courage and fearlessness.

No. Meditate on the word.