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Blogtastic!!

By Jeff Hardy

Uptown Church is starting a blog.  There are any numbers of questions this may raise:  Why?  Do I need to hear from these guys more than I do now? Will it be any good? I will try to answer the first question, and let you determine the answer to the second two.

1 Corinthians 9:22-23 I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

This is really the primary reason for starting this Uptown Pastors’ blog.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 is speaking of the ways that we need to be willing to personally contextualize the gospel to different kinds of people, and his primary example is his own ministry.  Paul is speaking of his rights as an apostle and how he has been willing to lay aside those rights and become all things to all people.  This is an essentially Christ-like method of gospel living and gospel sharing.  This isn’t merely asking “what would Jesus do?” because he would die for sin and I cannot do that.  However, it does mean that we pursue ministry in ways that follow him and his call on our lives.  We should always be looking to sacrifice ourselves, our desires, our needs and our comforts in order to pursue ministry in the lives of others.  We are free to sacrifice because his sacrifice has already secured for me every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3).  There is nothing more that can be added, and nothing of what has been secured for me by Christ can be lost.  This creates a kind of freedom that orients my focus towards others and away from myself as I am confident that I have already been given all I need for life and godliness by Christ (2 Peter 1:3).

So, what does that have to do with blogging, exactly?  We live in a culture that is increasingly web-oriented, as you know.  The question then is “how do we best engage that cultural trend in a way that honors God and ministers to people?”  For example, we aren’t going to have internet church at Uptown, encouraging you to stay at home in your robe and slippers (does anyone actually wear a robe and slippers these days?) and tune in from your personal abode.  We believe in the preaching of the Word by real people to real people.  That doesn’t mean you can’t find edification from online sermons—I listened to one today.  But we think we need to be together as a community to experience what God has for us in encouragement and sanctification.  We do believe that Christians are, at a very basic level, a people shaped by the Word.  Blogs are a way to speak about the Word and to discuss (via comments) the Word.  There are lots of great blogs already in existence, but there is something valuable (we hope) in hearing thoughts from people you can interact with each week, people who can pray with you and share a meal with you.  This is an experiment in contextualizing the timeless message to our internet culture.

We want this blog to be a source of encouragement, equipping, discussion, debate and a way to engage over the web.  Since this is the first time we have tried a pastor’s blog, we aren’t sure how often we will post or how this will go.  But we are hoping that the members of Uptown will enjoy the topics and post feedback, comments and questions.  As you find these posts interesting we hope that you direct friends here to read and interact as well.  Your reading and comments will help make this forum more useful for all of us.  Serious interaction happens on the web these days, and we see an opportunity to foster greater discussion in the Uptown family and beyond through this blog.

Thus begins the great Uptown blog experiment.  Better late than never, I suppose.

On behalf of the Uptown pastors,

Jeff Hardy

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By Jeff Hardy

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)

Manute Bol. If you don’t know the name, Bol was a spectacle of a basketball player in the 1980s in the NBA.  It wasn’t because he was so athletically skilled, but rather because of his exceptional height, somewhere between 7’ 6” and 7’ 7” tall. If you know the name you probably have a picture in your mind of his lanky frame and his large smile.

Bol died recently due to complications from a skin disease he contracted in Sudan and its interactions with some other health problems.  Bol is from Southern Sudan, a part of the world with exceptionally high humanitarian needs stemming from decades of destructive civil war.  As a Christian, Bol was committed to helping his people recover from the devastation, and he both gave away most of his NBA fortune and then continued the effort by fundraising and personally delivering aid to refugees. You can read a few more details in the WSJ article link below:

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity

What I did not know about was Bol’s commitment to Christ.  The author points out his willingness to be a fool for Christ in order to serve the hurting people in Sudan.  His compassion and his service was a major factor in his death.  It seems that he may have been able to recover from his illnesses if he had been willing to come back to the States earlier to seek medical treatment. 

This brings up several issues for us.  One, is that we need to seek to honor those who give themselves away for Christ.  The honor we give is not to give glory to the individual, but to point out the shining example of a sacrificial, Christian mindset.  Christ gave himself away, even unto death, and we are to be willing to do the same. Two, this does serve as a great contrast not only to the stories we tend to hear about NBA players, but as a contrast to how many of us in privileged situations tend to live. We all struggle to be willing to give up and lose ourselves for Christ and for others.  I need to have tangible examples that remind me that sacrifice is better than self-protection. 

Three, in the comment section on a CNN story about Bol several questioned whether he died needlessly.  Couldn’t he have come to the States for medical help and still be alive to continue his help for those in need?   I do think it is a fair question to wrestle with, but there isn’t a clear and easy answer to the question.  When the death of believers is related to their Christian commitment the world will ask whether it was a silly waste.  But even as believers we should be wise and wonder if there is a better way.  Some missiologists have legitimately questioned whether Jim Elliot and friends needed to die for the gospel or whether wiser methods would have allowed them to be true to Christ and preach the gospel effectively without an early death. However I think it is difficult, almost impossible, to be able to make such a judgment on someone else. The Jim Elliot story has produced exceptional motivation for believers to follow Christ, no matter the cost.  Bol felt that his people needed help at that moment and he could not bring himself to pursue his own good and leave.  His people could not simply get on a plane and get higher quality health care—and it seems that he could not bring himself to do it in enough time to save himself.  While the decision can be debated, the selfless example it is for us should not be.  Would that more of us were willing to suffer, even unto death, in reflection of the One who performed the ultimate and final sacrifice for his people.

Jeff Hardy

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