Mentoring as Memory Making

father_child_fishingI can remember my grandmother showing me how to bait a hook, and my grandfather teaching me how to distinguish the tension in the line that is caused by a river’s current from the pull of a snagged trout.  I don’t mean I remember the idea.  I mean I can see in my head some clear pictures of them teaching me – of a silver fish in the bottom of a gray bucket, of a yellow kernel of corn in my hand next to the hook, of Granddad smoking his pipe on the bank.  That was almost 40 years ago.  40 years ago, I had thousands of experiences each day, but that one I can still picture.

I can remember my youth pastor teaching me how to read the Bible.  We were having a Bible study in a dusty upper room of a church, back when churches still had libraries, and we sat on the floor in a circle, and he showed me how to think through the biblical text.  We were reading Isaiah.  The carpet was green.  I can see us sitting there.

I can remember a leader in my college ministry at church teaching me how to articulate a rational defense of the Christian faith. We sat in the basement of his house watching VHS tapes of William Lane Craig debating other scholars.  We would pause the tape to debate the points that he made, and also to talk about our girlfriends and our desired careers and the news.  I can remember the very intense look my friend would get when he mulled over philosophical questions.  He’s now a philosophy professor who teaches at the same school as Craig.  I picked up a book in a theological library the other day because I saw my friend had written one of the chapters, and he had written about a subject I remember us arguing about one night.

Mentoring is not the act of an expert passing on a field of expertise.  It’s the moment that someone who is passionate about one of their interests stops to show why it matters to someone else.  What matters in that transaction is not that someone with a professional certification educates someone else.  What matters is that a memory is made when two hearts and minds gather around a topic of a similar interest.

Imagine what would happen if everyone who is passionate about Jesus took just a moment this week to talk with someone else about what Jesus has done for their marriage, their morals, the meaning of their lives, their parenting, their friendships, their prayer life, or their inner peace.  Imagine if all they did was share a question they wondered about concerning Jesus so that two people could wonder it together.  Mentoring is making memories that Jesus can use for the rest of someone’s life, and everyone who follows Jesus ought to be a mentor.

This week can pass by forgotten, or it can live on in someone’s memories for the next 40 years.

Cathedrals and Haunted Houses

sailI’ve spent a fair amount of time decrying the decline of the Church in America, particularly so much as it is a consequence of a lazy Christianity that just assumed lost neighbors would find their way to church without any effort from the converted. But if you asked me if I was afraid if the Church in the world was going to pass away, I would have to admit I’m not afraid of that at all. My reason for that confidence is not a strident declaration about the gates of hell never prevailing. It’s far more amusing than that.

It’s because we live in a haunted house.

By house, I mean the planet Earth, and by haunted, I mean haunted. The free-wheeling secularist cannot suppress the cathartic tears at sunset and at the symphony. She can’t muster up a plausible grounding for all of the passionate ethical positions for which she tirades and votes and argues. She will never sufficiently suppress nor rewrite a history that is filled with church-going grandmothers who find her life a shame. And to be honest, one out of every ten people I talk to has actually seen a ghost. The world is haunted, or to use Charles Taylor’s more pleasant term, enchanted. The hard-nosed laboratory researcher who claims to have dissected away the enchantment doesn’t come off as a genius. He comes off as one in denial, like a captain who keeps insisting the leak isn’t that bad.

I’m happy to say there will always be a Church, because the world will always be haunted. The intrusiveness of its ghosts can be dodged by denial no more than a bee sting can be avoided by closing your eyes. They will keep poking us. My worries for the Church in America have far less to do with anything about metaphysical reality and far more to do with the fact that my son and my daughter will likely marry and raise kids in this generation, and they will be surrounded by blind captains sailing sinking ships.

It’s Time to Talk About This

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Published on the ECO blog – it’s time to talk about why we’re changing denominations.

A friend of mine recently told me that he wanted his church to join ECO, but, he admitted, “We haven’t even started talking about it yet.”

I’m noticing how fast my life is going by. A day ago my daughter was born, and today she’s ten. She’s more than half way to being out of the house. I still remember how to change diapers. I remember the rubbery skin of a pacifier. I remember waking her to have breakfast with me, us both wearing large, flowery hats at the table and eating chocolate for breakfast, because Mom wasn’t up yet, and because that’s what French people do, I told her. Now she’s old enough to

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A Risky Faith

ImageToday my 7 year old son road the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, a tumultuous journey through fire, giant snakes, and piles of (plastic, but very realistic) skulls.  We praised him for being so brave.  His first words off the ride were, “What was it like?” That was because he covered his eyes the whole time.  I was proud of him for daring it all the same, and the day will come where he laughs his way through such things.  I still cover my eyes in the Haunted Mansion.

I wonder how many people live life with Jesus with their eyes covered.  They are brave enough to commit, but then once on the ride, the last thing they want to see is what it’s like to share their faith with someone, what it feels like to tithe, how hard it is to go to a developing nation and offer ministry, how painful it is to choose the road of humility over easy self-promotion.  All of that is pretty terrifying for me, and I’m sort of professionally wrapped up in this Jesus-following thing.  I suspect it’s scary for most people.  But how sad to finally see Jesus in the end, look him in the face, glance back over your shoulder to a life that was supposed to be lived in exciting, wild, risk-taking faith, and ask him, “What was it like?”

The ride is on.  The car has started rolling.  If you’ve chosen to ride with Jesus, don’t close your eyes – this is what life is all about.

Son of God Movie Review

Son of GodYesterday I was invited to Saddleback Church to preview the forthcoming movie Son of God, produced by the same people who created The Bible series for the History Channel last year, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who were both present for the screening.  I’d strongly recommend you put this on your list of movies to see when it releases on February 28th.

In terms of production value, it’s the best one of its genre.  The Jesus Film pales in comparison, looking almost like a homemade movie compared to Son of God.  The 1977 epic Jesus of Nazareth (over 6 hours long) was powerful for its time, but awfully hard to sit through.  The Passion of the Christ, which, coincidentally, released exactly 10 years ago on Feb. 25, 2004, did not tell the story of the life of Jesus, but really honed in on the pathos of his final week.  There really isn’t a modern day video retelling of the life of Jesus as good as Son of God.  More flamboyant retellings, like The Last Temptation and Jesus of Montreal, really fall outside the mainstream and look more like a sectarian reinterpretation of the story.

The movie doesn’t stray far from the biblical narrative, though it fleshes out some of the narrative behind the Roman occupation, and it emphasizes the way Jesus was an offense both to Romans and Pharisees.  Many of the lines are paraphrases of the words of Jesus and the biblical characters, but the movie isn’t indulgent in its adaptation.  It leaves a lot out, but after two and a half hours, it would have been hard to meaningfully include more and still accommodate the modern attention span.

For that reason, you need to see it.  Take your kids.  Take your unbelieving friends.  Take your small group and let it guide a discussion of which parts of the life of Jesus you tend to pay the most and least attention to.

The only criticism I have of the movie are just in the nature of the genre.  Many of the characters are white people with British accents and perfect teeth.  Of course, I don’t think American English would be any more authentic, and the only way around these cliches would be to do as The Passion and have the whole thing in Aramaic.  Some of the dialogue is oddly lilting, and the soundtrack is a bit melodramatic.  The costuming is a silly blend of immaculately clean robes in a rainbow of colors.  Still, the actor who plays Jesus, Diogo Morgado, is a nice variation on his predecessors.  Rather than pale and somber, he often appears amused.  You can’t help liking him from the beginning.  And to be honest, the cliches are at about the level of presentation that most Americans expect and even want from a story set in the ancient world.  We have the same caricatures when it comes to stories about ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

So take the movie for what it’s meant to be.  It’s not simply entertainment, and it’s not intended to offer a new slant on the biblical narrative.  It’s fundamentally an evangelical tool for retelling the gospel again in a modern language.  And anytime Christ and culture meet, it’s a good opportunity for Christians to enter into conversation with a world that has heard different representations of Christianity and still wants to see the real thing.

hardwired cover

 

Please check out my book!  – – – – – – ->

 

Everyone Knows God Is There

MMI knew there was a college guy out there somewhere settling into a dorm, scoping out the weekend nightlife, and generally not thinking about the fact that his flippant comment about church had brought his mother to my doorstep. She caught me on the patio after church almost in tears. She told me her son was in his first year at college and had given up on everything she had taught him about faith. Years of Sunday school instruction had amounted to firm agnosticism. So many childhood bedtime prayers had now resulted in an adulthood of sleeping in on the weekends. She described recent conversations and arguments and e-mails, which had concluded in a closed door.

“How do I convince him that there is a God?” she asked….

 

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Interviewed for Truth Matters

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Recently I was able to interview James Miller, author of the new apologetics book Hardwired.

Me: What moved you to write Hardwired?

James Miller: I have a real passion for students who grow up in the Church but who aren’t prepared to answer the tough questions that will come their way in college.  My prayer is that Hardwired will help engage some of their deepest quandaries.  I already have two agnostic friends who are reading it.

Me: You wrote, “No one has to convince you that you’re home”. I believe that this sums up Hardwired. Could you briefly explain this statement?

JM: There’s a feeling of resonance…

Read the rest here.

Advance Praise for Hardwired

I’m so thankful to the scholars and ministry leaders who have given my new book Hardwired a thumbs up.  After the investment of years of work, it’s nice to have someone else enjoy it.  And when you write, you’re never sure that it will happen….

JWHardwired is for all of us who live with doubt and uncertainty about the Christian faith. With wisdom, insight and clarity Jim points the way for anyone struggling with insecurity and disbelief to firmly grasp the idea that what they already know is the perfect place to realize a belief in God. This is a book I will recommend to every young adult wrestling with core and fundamental truth. It is a book I will recommend to every mature and older adult looking for a path forward through doubt, frustration and seasons of distress. It is a book I will recommend to anyone open to the idea that God exists and that He loves them and wants them to know Him. In fact I recommend Hardwired to you. I am certain it will open your understanding of God and deepen your belief in God.”

Jon Wallace, President of Azusa Pacific University

TS“I like Hardwired a lot. It’s smart, confident and quite funny. Miller drills to the core of detached claims to neutrality about God. I can’t wait to give this book to friends of mine.”

Tim Stafford, author of Miracles and Senior Writer for Christianity Today

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TC“A fascinating and highly readable argument for God. Miller avoids the complicated jargon of much contemporary apologetics, and argues in conversational style reminiscent of Lewis and Chesterton that many of our deepest held convictions about the world point unavoidably to a personal God. The book will be of great help to those struggling with doubt. I warmly recommend it.”

Thomas M. Crisp, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Biola University and Associate Director of Biola’s Center for Christian Thought

JS“Miller’s book is going to provide a map for readers who are yearning to understand how we know what we know to be true regarding faith and life.  There will be lots of insight for who cherish the line by Pascal – ‘The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.'”

Rev. Dr. Jim Singleton, Jr., Associate Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Evangelism, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

SD“Here is a fresh and original look at religious unbelief. In Hardwired, James Miller surprisingly argues that we all—atheists, agnostics, and believers alike—latently believe that God exists and that we depend on God. The book is clever, well-written, and convincing. I recommend it highly.”

Dr. Stephen T. Davis, Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College

DG“Rather than gathering evidence that demands a verdict, James Miller plumbs the depth of the human heart, showing us that the things we take for granted provide a sure foundation for deep, abiding faith. The whole approach is surprisingly fresh and compelling. Add to that Miller’s gift for just-the-right analogy and his clear, spare style, and you’ll know why I’m excited to recommend this book.”

Dr. Diana Pavlac Glyer, author of The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community

AM“…he [Miller] has the mind of a scholar, the heart of a pastor, and the ability to synthesize those features in a way that few leaders can. In this book Jim challenges many of the intellectual assumptions of traditional apologetics, which start with what we don’t know, and suggests that the most compelling and heartfelt case for the Christian faith starts with what we do know. Just like in his preaching, he takes apologetics out of the ivory tower and brings it to the streets where people live.”

Adam S. McHugh, author Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

PC“James Miller’s book is a very readable reinforcement of the fact that God has placed eternity in each of our hearts. It helpfully supplements various contemporary apologetical arguments by highlighting the personal, practical, and existential themes familiar to all humans—themes that can touch the heart and move it in a Godward direction.”

Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics Palm Beach Atlantic University, West Palm Beach, Florida

JRHardwired has flipped my traditional thinking of Christian apologetics upside down with sound and logical intellect, peppered with Jim’s quiet humor and personal vignettes. Our hearts are indeed “God’s Positioning System” – the case for Christ has been and is made, we just need to discover it!

Dr. John Reynolds, Executive Vice President – Azusa Pacific University, California and Chancellor, Azusa Pacific Online University

DC“In a world of debate and challenge to the Christian way of thinking, this book is a breath of fresh air in giving guidance and principles of understanding of how faith really works and pulsates in one’s life. Offbeat, different, creative, it’s a new way of looking at how faith is given, nurtured and survives.”

Rev. Dr. Dan Chun, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu, co-founder of Hawaiian Islands Ministries

CC“Jim Miller does an excellent job of turning our questions upside down and helping us know how much we didn’t know we knew.  He suggests a major shift from trying to prove things to people to helping them realize what they already know.  He helps us examine our assumptions and discover what has been missing in our thinking.  This is an engaging and thought-provoking book.  I highly recommend it.”

Rev. Dr. Clark Cowden

Explore the book in paperback or ebook here:hw

Hardwired (Amazon)

Hardwired (Barnes and Noble)