Chris Hall Re:Centered

Christianity + Culture + all things digitally Chris.

The writings of a
has-been football player
who loves serving Jesus and college
students. (@ the Univ. of Texas at Austin)

Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.

—Count Zinzendorf {1700 - 1760}

This is a message I spoke a few weeks ago @CSOC_UT’s Thursday Night Ministry Series on Abraham’s fight for Lot in Genesis 14.

The written word
Should be clean as bone,
Clear as light,
Firm as stone.
Two words are not
As good as one.

— Anonymous

This is why praising God is important. {N.T. Wright}

Weekendr. // Issue No. 5

6 articles you won’t regret spending time to read. Plus, they’ll engage your brain and make you not bored.

Thoughtful:

Donald Miller and the Culture of Contemporary Worship - “I think Miller needs to be challenged and corrected. But I also think his comments reveal the tragic lack of spiritual formation in many of our churches today. They remind us that many Christians have no meaningful vision for why the church gathers; for why we sing, preach, and pray.”

7 Lessons for Creatives from the Life of J.R.R. Tolkien - “Like many in my generation, I have spent countless hours following diminutive folks with hairy feet around the magical, yet familiar world of Middle Earth. As an artist, I’ve often wondered how anyone could create a world so immersive—complete with millennia of histories and language lexicons—and still so personal and spiritual.”

Interesting:

Dead Sea Scrolls Go Digital - “The Dead Sea scrolls will now be accessible for public viewing, and you don’t even need to leave your home to see them. … [W]ith support from Google, the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is a free, online archive comprised of thousands of high resolution fragments. History, now, is literally brought to the homes of people everywhere, accessible by computer and smart phone.”

New Study: Third-Hand Smoke Is as Dangerous as Actually Smoking - “[T]he University of California, Riverside finds that the third-hand smoke that has soaked into the surfaces, objects and environment around people becomes increasingly toxic over time.”

Helpful:

Coffee Brewing Guides - Step-by-step instructions for different coffee brewing methods. “The grinder you use, coffee you choose, and yes, even the water from your sink, can alter the taste in the cup. Every machine is different, so you’ll want to think of these parameters more as guidelines than law. Play around with your machine and brewing parameters to get each coffee to taste just how you like it.”

10 Horrible Blogging Tips - “There’s so much great blogging advice online. The interwebs are full of great tips, but what if you want to have a horrible blog? What if you want to alienate readers, make more enemies than friends and just have an awful go of it? Fear not friend, I am here for you.”

"Richard Sherman: Nonstop Coverage" // A 30 for 30 documentary presented by ESPN films.

An excellent piece by ESPN on all-pro cornerback Richard Sherman. It’s amazing how one interview can change everything—this is his story.

"So, what would you say you do exactly?"

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Often times when people ask me what I do, I respond one of two ways: “I’m in campus ministry at the University of Texas,” or “I’m on staff with Christian Students on Campus.” It’s amazing—sometimes after saying that people still have no idea what I do. You’d be surprised how many times this happens while I’m even at an event put on by Christian Students, and it’s a student who is asking the question.

The conversation goes like this.

Student: So what do you do?

Me: I’m on staff with Christian Students.

Student: Oh okay. … Wait, so what do you do?

Me: I’m a campus minister with Christian Students. I spend my time in Bible studies with students, preaching the gospel, one-on-one discipleship. I help coordinate and plan events like the one you’re at right now.

Student: Oh… So wait, do you like, get paid for that?

Me: Yeah. Believe it or not this is my full-time job. 

This may or may not seem funny to you. Don’t worry though, I don’t take much offense to it. Often times people just can’t imagine ministry to be something someone does with all of their time, as a job. Or if they do, they can’t understand why I’m on a college campus and not in a church office somewhere. It’s not that big a deal. People are either unaware or simply value things differently than I do. 

On the outside I’m just hanging out with college students, teaching them some Bible, hearing a lot about what’s going on in their lives. Many times though, I sincerely wish I could tell people what I’m actually doing.

Intrinsically, I’m searching for faithful and competent men to entrust with the gospel.

I use the word “entrust” on purpose. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 Paul writes he was “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” The gospel is no ordinary good news; hearing the good news of the gospel is not the same as hearing the good news of your burrito being ready at Taco Cabana. Any Joe Blow off the street can announce that your burrito is ready. That’s still good news, but not headline worthy to say the least.

The good news of the gospel is altogether different. It is the weightiest, highest, and most profound message that could ever be communicated to man. The incarnation of God, the redemption of all mankind, His resurrection from the dead, and enthronement as Lord of all is not something to be handled lightly. The gospel is to be treasured, cherished, taught, and passed on through the lives and words of those who receive it. 

2 Timothy is the last recorded words of the Apostle Paul that we have today. In it we find Paul’s direction for his spiritual son Timothy, what he should do as a minister once Paul is gone. It is a good and helpful for all those who would serve the Lord:

And the things which you have heard from me through many witnesses, these commit to faithful men, who will be competent to teach others also.

— 2 Timothy 2:2

One day, I will not be here. A time will come when I am no longer carrying the message of Jesus to this world. As a minister of Christ, the best thing I can do is make my 70-80 years on this earth effective. The best way to do that is to commit what I’ve received to faithful and competent men, who will teach others also.

  • Commit - because I’m giving them the most valuable thing I have. Like I said before, the gospel is the highest and weightiest message in existence. Life and death literally hinges upon its utterance and acceptance. It is the highest honor to receive the gospel, and it is the highest honor to communicate the gospel. It is something God entrusts to those whom He has mercifully chosen. 
  • Faithful - because God’s flock will be counting on them. Jesus describes the blessed slave in simple terms: one who is “faithful and prudent” to give His household “food at the proper time” (Matt. 24:45). How can one be entrusted if he can’t be relied upon to show up? God’s people need to be fed, and feeding comes at regular times. 
  • Competent - because he’ll be teaching others what he’s received. As useful as technology is, it has all but sucked away our ability to critically process and communicate information. 8 out of 10 American adults will read 0 books in the next year, while 1/3 of our internet usage will go to Netflix. The direction of the grace of God is not “to me, for me.” It is “to me, for you” (Eph. 3:2). To teach others requires competency.

It is not enough to be faithful. It’s wonderful if God can always count on someone to be there, whether it be a Bible study, small group, or church meeting; it’s not wonderful if God can’t count on them to bring anything to the table after they arrive. It’s also not enough to be competent. It’s nice if a person has the whole counsel of God and can share it in a clear, concise, and palatable way; that does no one any good if they can’t consistently love Jesus, reach out to others, and show up to meetings.

God is looking for some faithful and competent persons to entrust with the best news ever given to man. As a minister of Christ at the University of Texas, I’m a part of the search.

Mark Driscoll interviews 5 Christians from the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. // via theResurgence

"Jesus is better…than a Super Bowl." —Rocky Seto

What You Never Knew About Abraham

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We all know Abraham for his faith. Even if you’ve never read the book of Genesis you might know that. He left his home in Ur of Chaldea — not knowing where he was going — simply because God told him to. I’ve recently re-read the account of his calling in Genesis 12 several times; two things come to my mind:

  1. He just got up left. | Seriously, this is incredible. He was a heathen just like the rest of us before Christ. He was serving false gods; living in a land of idolatry. All of the sudden Jehovah appears (whom Abraham does not know or worship at the time). He tells Abraham, “You’re Mine. Follow Me.” Abraham packs up his stuff and leaves. … I’m speechless.
  2. This is not my experience. | I don’t know about you, but this is not what my testimony sounds like. I think my salvation experience was a lot more gradual. I didn’t drop my entire life to follow God’s instant leading the first time I heard the gospel. I’m not proud of that; I’m just bringing out the stark contrast between Abraham and I’s experience with God.

If the Bible remained silent on Abraham’s calling from this point on, we might walk away a little discouraged. Let’s be honest: who can match that kind of immediate obedience? If we play the comparison game in this instance we’re definitely going to end up losing. 

It’s good news Abraham’s story doesn’t begin in Genesis chapter 12; it begins in Acts chapter 7.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. The book of Acts does not come before the book of Genesis. But the fact is that Stephen reveals something about God’s calling of Abraham in Acts chapter 7 that is not recorded in Genesis.

“The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, … Then he came forth from the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, after his father died, He removed him into this land in which you now dwell.” 

— Acts 7:2-4

At first this passage means nothing to the 21st-century-American-gentile like myself. But, when compared with Abraham’s calling in Genesis 12, these few sentences are incredibly enlightening. The main point is this: when God appears to Abraham in Genesis he is in Haran (Gen. 11:31), not Mesopotamia. 

What does that mean? God appeared to Abraham multiple times.

Apart from God’s appearing, that fact is that we cannot and will not give ourselves to God. We’re too fallen, depraved, and for ourselves. Romans 3:11 tells us plainly “there is none who seeks God.” That means nobody. Even if we wanted to be for Jesus “it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16). That’s not all though, even when God does appear to us we tend to drag our feet:

  • God says “go from your land.” Abraham leaves at his father’s initiation. (Gen. 11:31)
  • God says “go from your relatives.” Abraham decides to bring them along—twice. (Acts 7:4; Gen. 12:4)
  • God says “go to Canaan.” Abraham settles in Haran while he’s on the way. (Gen. 11:31)

Is any of this sounding familiar? It’s basically the story of our lives. It’s somewhat comforting to know that the father of faith wasn’t necessarily a giant of faith. He was a lot like us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not praising Abraham’s struggle to obey God’s word. I’m not condoning any kind of half-hearted response. I’m not trying to find a cute way to excuse ourselves from following Christ.

What I am saying is this: apart from His merciful and multiplied appearing to us, we cannot be for God.

We need God Himself to come to us again and again. Through Scripture, messages, ministry, and fellowship, we need God’s multiplied merciful appearing to us. It is impossible to live a life in the will of God without the presence of God. Abraham was a sinner just like we are. If God had not continually called him, spoken to him, and reminded him of His promise, Abraham would never have made it. He would never have been a man living for God’s purpose on the earth. We’re no different.

What we can practically do is simple, not so profound, but very effective. We can consistently put ourselves in the best position to receive God’s appearing. Don’t worry; it’s not a complicated place to find. You don’t have to find a tall mountain, wear funny clothes, or live like a hermit. There’s a really good chance God will appear to you in the pages of Scripture, the meetings of the church, and the closet of prayer. That may not be new revelation, but it’s good to be reminded of where the rubber meets the road. We simply have to be diligent to put ourselves there.