Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm a Self-Knowing Self-Improving Health Nut

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz
and found out I'm a
Self-Knowing Self-Improving Health Nut

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where Are You In Your Spiritual Walk?

Ever notice that a lot of what we read in the Christian media is really about Christian subculture. We do need to know about the rift in the Episcopal church and how churches are using technology. On the other hand, these sorts of topics have replaced real thinking on how we apply the principles taught in the Scripture with dialog about religious trends. Have you noticed that some in the church are really talking about using software marketing style communication. While we should not be against things based on the style, it is often more about style and less about substance. We can be assured there are many blessed exceptions to this rule, but we should be wary of those who seek to tickle our ears for either to benefit their ego or their pocket book. Of course, anything truth discussed with actual substance should transcend style. Use any style of communication that does not alter the message or distract from the message. Where are all our blogs discussing the application of Romans 8:28? We would rather discuss the latest trend in the Christian ghetto.

When we talk about our walk with the Lord, we are touching upon the eternal touching the here and now. If we talk about the latest song on the CCM charts, we may be discussing on the mundane.

By the way, I am rethinking my life.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jealousy as a Good Thing? What Will They Think of Next?

Most of us has been jealous at one time or another. If you are reading this blog, that means you have been here on this sod long enough to experience it. A new insight for me from Romans 10:19,

"But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

'I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry'.” (ESV)

While jealousy is not a positive attitude, in fact it can be one of the most negative ones, God says he is using it to shape those who are his people. While the Christian must be careful not to sanctify his sin, here is an intriguing concept, God can use my most negative attitudes to draw me to godliness. I can see the godliness and success of others, let that make me jealous, and then I pursue God according to his program of grace and faith and leave my own system of merit on the floor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Star Wars Told Through an A Cappella Medley of John Williams Tunes

So here is a whole set of movies summarized in on four minutes of song. As I say humor is stating the obvious in surprise form. Here they tell you some really funny things such as Luke Skywalker is a whiner. Han Solo is sort of a loner. (Get it?) My favorite part is the Theme from Jurassic Park because I did not really get that sort of majestic sound from a cappella music. What is your favorite John Williams song from the medley?


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Keith L. Cooper - My new pick of fun music

Keith L. Cooper is a new musician I just discovered. Check out this fun video.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Should A Christian Musician Be a Music Ministery, Worship Leader, Music Teacher or CCM Superstar?

Linking to an article on Collide Magazine's website. The discussion is whether the Contemporary Christian Music industry will be viable in the future. It is a good discussion. I always wonder why our best musicians are not focusing on being worship leaders instead of performers. Well, maybe they are. There are a lot of different model of how to have a career in music. A minister of music is different than a worship leader in my book. The worship leader focuses on leading a band that leads the congregation in worship. The music minister coordinates music groups that perform at the church during worship. How do you do church music right? Is a successful music program at a church mean that everyone listens to the most popular music on Christian radio and then imitate those performers in various degrees of proficiency?

I'm quoting enough of Collide's article to get you started and a link to finish it out.

PREDICTIONS
Before we go much further, let’s establish what Charlie said. His complete essay, titled “The Future of Christian Music,” is currently available at www.ccmmagazine.com, but the five most important ideas Peacock put forward are:

* The major labels aren’t in danger of going under anytime soon, but they’ll be forced to depend on dwindling revenue from their song catalogs.
* The term CCM, or Christian Contemporary Music, will go away.
* Christian music that matters won’t have any affiliation with the Christian music industry but instead will be written, recorded, and released in the mainstream.
* Worship music serves a purpose within the Church, which guarantees its survival.
* The big names from CCM’s glory days (Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc.) will survive, but many artists from the last decade will be left looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find their place in this world.

Those predictions fall short of blasphemy, but they were certainly controversial for those inside Christian music.


Read the rest by clicking through...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goals for 2009: A Tad Bit Early

Here are some of my goals. While we are a ways from the new year, I'm already starting to think about my goals for 2009.

1. Public Speaking – Preaching, teaching, and performing
a. Reduce crutch words and sounds like "ah" and "umm".
b. Finish all sentences.
c. Introduce my points better.
d. Relate my points to each other better.
e. Build stronger logic and organization of my talks.
f. Make my points stick.
g. Support my points better.

2. Leadership –
a. Listen better for the Lord's leading.
b. Persuade with a winsome style.
c. Communicate confidence while remaining transparent.

3. Bible Knowledge –
a. Know an outline for each book of the Bible.
b. Know proof texts for all major Christian doctrines.
c. Know key Scriptures for counseling.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spiritual Walk; Finishing My Intership

My internship with the presbytery was completed last Saturday. The feeling is happiness. I don't see it as an achievement so much as I got through it. I'm free of the nagging thought that I need to get more done. I have learned about my own limitations, and some strengths that I did not know I had. Coming face to face with these has not been pleasant since my weaknesses loom larger than my strengths in my thoughts and feelings. Some of the information that I needed to hear, I think I was not ready to hear so it took time. That is why God waited to let me know. Perhaps he was telling me all a long but I just was not hearing it.

"But we know that God works all things for good to those who love God, to those called according to his purpose."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Problem of Evil

The problem of evil is not one that is easily solved by the Christian apologist. The blog post is intended to spur on further thinking but does not pretend to solve the problem. Posing the "problem of evil" is not mortal wound to Christian faith, but is a common element that contributes to individual Christians to lose their faith. Rather than hide our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, Christians should deal with the issue forthright. In some sense the question is really not about simply the "question of evil" but how does one define evil and describe suffering as it corresponds with our world.

What is Evil and What is the Nature of Suffering?

It is somewhat amusing that Christians from the suburbs who live a relatively safe and prosperous life are the same ones who are bothered the most by the "question of evil". There is an expectation that God of the Bible is also the one who should promise the good life. Christians from these suburban lifestyles expect attendance at school to produce a good career, health to follow eating the right foods and exercising, mental health to follow proper therapy and medication, financial success to follow climbing the corporate ladder properly and saving money for retirement, and relationships to be satisfying since these need no cultivation. Christians in Africa and Latin America associate more closely with the Biblical message that God heard his children crying out in their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:24), that God heals those who suffer ill health (Psalm 30:2) , gives strength to the weak(Psalm 10:7) , causes seasons of prosperity and seasons of drought (Genesis 41), and wants use to seek him with all our heart(Jeremiah 29:13). The gospel according to the suburbs is that we simply should not suffer. The world is right, except for these stupid problems that we should not be having. The goal is to understand the causes of suffering and eleminate them all through science and management. The Biblical world view says the world is messed up, broken and we are looking forward to restoration. God is not the author of the evil, but could end it all right now. He could have done it years ago, but has chosen in his wisdom to not do so. We do not know all the consequences of him stopping evil sooner or later, which takes us to the next point. Is this life short or long?

Blades of Grass

When the Bible talks about our length of days on the earth it says they are short. Even scientist who judge the age of the universe see that one or two life spans is really nothing in relationship to time. We tend to have a point of view centered on the normal human life span. The common complaint on the question of evil is the death of infants. This is indeed tragic, but from a Biblical point of view, 80 years is also pretty short. Some breeds of mayflies live their adult life cycle in less than a day. We may think 75 or 80 years is a long time, but in reality, it is just a passing breeze that we enjoy for but a moment.

When Evil Is Used For Good

One of the major themes in the Scripture is that suffering is a part of life. Just read all the stories in the Bible about suffering. Read all the prophets that describe suffering that is going to come upon the ancient Israelites as a consequence of not following God. Just read the Psalms. God used exodus from Egypt as a way of forming a nation with the shared experience of departing in triumph from their captors. When I was in the Army it was common for company commanders to be judged by their superiors on how they brought unit cohesion upon their command. So commanders would sponsor team building activities like cook outs and recreation days. However, a sense of bonding was not established by playing together, but by suffering together when we went on training exercises. Getting stuck in the mud produced a much better story to tell and retell than a good plate of hot dogs and hamburgers.

Suffering is something that is actually good when we...
  • Exercise to build stronger bodies
  • Show greater character
  • Achieve great accomplishments
  • Sacrifice for the good of the group
  • Express love to relatives and friends by suffering with or for them
  • Verify the truth via suffering
  • Give our life or health for the sake of our nation
  • Provide for our family
  • Share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-19)
Can you imagine the world as a good (or better) place where none of these activities were happening?

Disclaimer

I am not saying that children being the victums cancer is ultimately good. I am not saying that when that happens that somebody is directly at fault, though somebody may be. I am not saying the pain from mental illness is bearable. I am not saying that victums of violence do not have something to be angry about. I am saying God is not the author of evil.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wikipedia and Using It as an Academic Source

Wikipedia is often said to be a poor source for research by academic types. Not a few instructors and professors ban it as a source for writing term papers. It is time for the academic community to reconsider this position especially since citation of sources that is common in many articles. I would propose that pages that meet the criteria of citation of sources and objective writing style be used as sources for high school and beginning college term papers. The issue is the quality of the writing, not the title of the website. What do others think?

Another approach that might be helpful is to actually have student edit Wikipedia articles instead of write term papers. Instead of writing a new work, edit, especially find citations for facts in Wikipedia articles. Reactions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Twittering and Mentioning Commerical Products or Companies

Yesterday NPR had a story on Twitter and how some companies are using Twitter to improve customer service. What the company does is looks for Tweets mentioning their company or product. In the story a man posted a tweet about having a problem with his new HDTV working with Comcast. Comcast was notified of the Tweet and contacted the man. I posted a tweet mentioning the TV show The Closer. TNT shows up in my notifications on Twitter of who is following me. TNT's Twitter page is mostly about buzz surrounding their drama series but it was sort of cool to hear a story on the radio and see a lesser form of it all in the same 24-hour time frame.

At first I was not sure of the power of Twitter. However, now that I have connected my Twitter page with my Facebook status and with my blog, I do one Tweet post and get three for the price of one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) Inhibitors and The TV Show The Closer

The Closer: Season 4, Episode 10, Time Bomb, tonight had a scene that sort of seemed strange until my nursing student daughter explained it to me. Bad bomb making boy named John is taken into custody for suspicion that he is involved in making bombs. As he is being hauled out of his room by the detectives the camera pans to an empty bottle of pills, implying that he took an overdose. While in the interview room he eats a huge chocolate bar. He enjoys it a lot, drawing a lot of attention to the fact he is eating chocolate. He starts to pass out. The main character, Detective Brenda Lee "Thank You, Very Much" Johnson runs into the next room and asks bad bomb making boy's mother what sort of prescription drugs his is taking. The mother replies he is taking MAO inhibitors. So when we discuss this with our nursing student she says that MAO inhibitors are not to be taken with a high tyramine content and chocolate is one of those foods. This detail was not explained in the show to my knowledge but obviously one was supposed to pick it up if one knew the connection.

It sort of makes one think, how many things happen right before our eyes but we don't understand what just happened.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flesh and Spirit: Which is the Church Operating Within?

Some translations interpret the Greek work σαρκος as being the sin nature. However, my Greek professor Dr. Eager says this is the word just meaning "human effort". It really changes what is meant in Romans 8:1-8. Here is the ESV rightly just translates it as flesh, but simply think flesh as human effort.

Life in the Spirit
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
It is quite a bit different to say that someone can not please God if he walks according to the sin nature than to say he can not please God if he walks according to human effort.

I have been writing on the Christians hoping to reap heavenly rewards by sowing human effort. If I have this Scripture correct, if I try to simply "do church" through human effort, I really am not pleasing God. I need the Holy Spirit's indwelling and empowerment to be pleasing to God. I think this has been a failure of mine. I thought my actions outside the Spirit were neutral if I was not actually breaking one of the Ten Commandments. It seems I am dependent upon the indwelling power of the Spirit to sanctify my actions, even as I serve in the God's church.

My pastor has been preaching on the spirit world; angels, demons, etc... He mentioned the verse Matthew 12:27, 28.

27And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
The you mentioned in the verse is the Pharisees who were claiming that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul. This section in Scripture has always mystified me. A question in the back of my head for years has been how did those Pharisees cast out demons. Thinking about it from the lens of Romans 8:8 I have been thinking, perhaps the Pharisees did not cast out demons. Jesus was not saying that both of he and the Pharisees were on the same team doing the same things. The Pharisees practiced their faith through human effort and generally reaped human rewards. Can mere human effort cast out demons? I don't think so. So I am proposing that Jesus was pointing out that the Pharisees were unable to cast out demons.

Something that bothered me this summer was during my World Christianity and Future Church class. The story was told in two different ways about an African man who traveled to the West to obtain seminary training. When he returned to his village the family called upon the man to come cast out the demons from his aunt. His western seminary experince had not prepared him for this challenge because it had only taught him about human effort. He needed power from on high. I thought of myself in terms of self examination. I don't think I walk in the Spirit in a way that would be better than this African pastor. I need the Spirit of God in my walk, in my ministry and in life.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Disillusionment of Changed Wages in Church Burnout

Yesterday we talked about people sowing in an organizational church hoping for heavenly rewards. A common experience in life is expectations to be unmet. Because one expects something does not mean it is right, realistic or even agreed upon but all parties. A lot of relationships have unspoken expectations and it can be a source of conflict.

Jacob had his wages changed. He worked for seven years expecting to marry the love of his life only to be given her sister in marriage. He also had his wages changed several times after that.

Many people who are disillusioned with the organizational church are so because of expectations not being met. Their wages are changed. They expected peace, joy, hope, respect, love, or meaning. What they received was membership, responsibility, obligations, trials, and pain. Of course many experience both because of the earthly and heavenly natures of the church.

Disillusionment need not be the end story.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Earthly Sowing Does Not Reap Heavenly Harvest

Steve Brown mentioned on his podcast that his Christian parachurch organization will die some day but the church is eternal. He said that Intervarsity, Campus Crusade for Christ, and many fine Christian colleges will die, but the church will live eternally. I agree with him. The church will be around for eternity, but I don't think this inflatable church building will be eternal. Neither will the national cathedral. (By the way, the Darth Gargoyle is from the National Cathedral. ) Most of you will say yes the people are the church and not the building. I would have you consider, that yes the people are the church, but not the denomination. Not the denomination, but neither is the local church government as a human institution. The church is a spiritual corporate body. People who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God all share a common experience of getting what we do NOT deserve, we all share in being a part of the family of God, we all share the indwelling Holy Spirit. I would propose that the churches that we belong to have at least two natures; one earthly and one heavenly. When the Lord's beloved share in worship of the eternal, holy savior, that is a part of the heavenly nature. When we pass by laws and set up a schedule for mowing the lawn, it is part of the earthly nature. The earthly things can and must be done with heavenly motives and empowerment and the heavenly service should not be faked with completely wicked motivations, but that is a blog post for another time. I think one of the reasons that people become disenchanted with church is that they invest their time, talent and resources in earthly nature of the church while expect a heavenly reward. Prayerfully caring for children is heavenly. Volunteering in the nursery is earthly. It has to do with motive and what one's action is trying to achieve. Without the work of the Holy Spirit which empowers beyond what is humanly possible, the church is on par with a bowling league, Boy Scouts, VFW, softball league or volunteer fire department. All of these are good things but earthly things. If we sow earthly things we should only expect earthly harvest. To reap the heavenly we should sow heavenly.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Running With Hanna

I was just antsy, I did not want to just spend the day inside studying so I went for a run in the rain. Now I feel I can study. The edge of tropical storm Hanna is here so everybody practically is at home or safe weathering out the storm. The rain is warm, like rain I felt in Hawaii. The warmth of the rain has fogged up our windows.

Condensation on the Window




















The warm rain.....


To Read or Not To Read, That is the Question.

Reading is both a pleasure and a time consuming chore for me these days. I have much to read for seminary but that leaves less time to read what I want. I guess the next big book I am hearing about is The Shack. I read both good and bad reviews on it. On the warning away from the book there is this one in By Faith Online. Then Suburban Christian who is a Ph.D. student work veteran of the Christian publishing industry gives a positive review. Neither one feels the author is completely orthodox but the author may be dealing with other issue. I would love to hear other people's opinions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Children Interpreting the Bible


I remember when I was about 10 year old asking a Sunday School teacher if "Thou Shalt Not Kill" meant animals. She said she did not know. I also remember very clearly someone telling me about the veil between the main section of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies. The teacher said that people tried to break that veil using oxen and other animals so they could know God. The seperation between the God and man was broken when Jesus died on the cross; there was an earth quake that broke that curtain giving mankind access to God I also remember a Vacation Bible School lesson how each one of us is unique and we are not a number. I did not get it. I was being raised in a rural farm community and computers were a novelty, not a force for making the world impersonal to me.

Here are three clear communications from a good church with good teachers that simply missed the mark in Bible interpretation, missed the mark on the facts of the Bible and missed the mark on application of the Bible.

Why did these lessons go wrong? I think pure and simply that there was a lack of concerted effort to train the teachers.

When one gets the same message from two different places in a short amount of time, one should pay attention, perhaps God is trying to say something. The first time I got the message was reading my text book for class called "Creative Bible Teaching" by Lawrence O. Richards and Gary J. Bredfeldt. The authors have a whole chapter on how the church does a poor job of teaching Bible to children when the point of Cain and Able is that God gives us bodies. It is true that he does create our bodies, but I think the story of Cain and Able is about those who do not worship in faith hate those who do. The story of Noah is not about cute animals being gathered into the first zoo with a back drop of a beautiful rainbow. It is about God moving sovereignly to judge sin and you and I should not fall into the same type of sin. When Jesus feeds the 5,000 using a boy's lunch, it is not a story about sharing, even though sharing is a very good manners. (We all should have good manners, but good edict is nice but one does not need divine revelation to nice.) We spend years and years misteaching the Bible that is it any wonder that people who have been raised in the church miss the point of a simple story.

The second lesson comes from the Jollyblogger who also has an article on this same theme. He quotes John Walton who says that often children's lessons....

1. Promotion of the Trivial

2. Illegitimate extrapolation

3. Reading Between the Lines

4. Missing important nuance

5. Focus on people rather than God

You may need to go to follow the link to jump to Walton's expanded version to get all of that.

In one sense it is understandable that people who write lessons for children try to meet them where they are. That is a good thing however, we should not think of the Bible as a book that says what ever we would like it to say. It says what could not be known without revelation from God. It does not teach us good manners. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, and a host of other people are qualified to teach a child to be polite. (And again it is good to be polite.) But teaching children that their ultimate purpose is to worship God, that is not intuitive and must be learned from God revealing himself through his mighty deeds. The first commandment is that we are to worship God who defines himself and says how he desires to be worshiped. Are we teaching our children to break the first and most important commandment when we substitute new meanings to lessons from the Bible?

Comments are welcome.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Church Review: Reformed Church of Canberra


Another in my series on reviewing churches. The Reformed Church of Canberra is a gem. Perhaps in some ways one of the most friendly churches I have ever visited. I ask for the bus number that runs close to their church, they volunteer to have someone pick me up. I come as a visitor, they treat me like an honored guest. I come as a stranger not knowing anyone, I am celebrated as a brother in Christ from a far away land. After church meals are a big part of church life at the Reformed Church of Canberra, at least that is what it seemed to me. I was invited to the home of a warm couple in the church who also invited a family seven to their table. The conversation was lively and diverse. I can't say enough about the hospitality of the church, on a scale of 1 t0 10 with 10 being the best, they are a 10 on hospitality.

Pastor Peter led the worship service and preached in a compelling fashion. There was not a disconnect between the music and preaching, instead this was a worship service. While the service was quite formal, I also found it refreshingly, a spiritual time of meeting God instead of music set to re-enforce the preaching. There were responsive readings and prayers that felt appropriate to the worship atmosphere. There were a variety of passages read as the public reading of the Word of God, but the passages were not too long or short.

I was impressed with the way the Lord's Supper was conducted. Fencing the table was done before the worship service even officially began. An elder read an announcement about the seriousness of taking the sacrament and how one should not take it if he is not a believer. The pastor also explained their views on the subject to me before the worship service even began and made sure I knew that as a member of a sister denomination I was welcome. I think their up front fencing of the table actually made it easier to concentrate on the meaning of the Lord's Supper. I also enjoyed how those taking communion came forward to a table, sitting on both sides of it. There was more of a feel of a meal than something being done for us. We were participating there together. A Lord's Supper order of service was taken from a book used by the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia. I thought the use of the book helped guide the service.

The music of the worship service was hymns in style but metrical Psalms were a good number of the hymns we sang. I have not attended many churches which use metrical Psalms but the Reformed Church of Canberra does it well.

Over all, I was blessed by these brothers and sisters in the Lord.

A Short Reveiw of Gary Chapman's book on Anger


Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way by Gary Chapman is a must read for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, even though it comes at the issue from a Christian perspective. If you have ever hear some of the anger management type psychology stuff going on out there (or seen the movie Anger Management) you may not see the value in examining the topic. Chapman however does do a good job of talking about real situations, and is realistic about solutions. (He does not expect that rephrasing the problem in trendy psychological terms to abolish ones anger issues.) Probably the most two surprising things he says in the book is that anger by itself is not sin and that if someone does not apologize, one need not forgive the offender. Both he backs up as a Christian point of view. There is more to it than that, but I will allow your curiosity bother you a bit so you read the whole book. It is worth the read. The strength in the book is in the pragmatic explanations of what to do. The weakness of the book was the lack of cartoons.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Moving from Snail's Pace to a Turtle's Pace


I have been in seminary for over 12 years off and on. I have thought that going to seminary should be done with real ministry going on so that the education is connected to the real world. However, taking one class at a time most semesters has meant progress toward my degree has been at a snails pace. My boss at my day job mentioned last week his plans for my departure after I graduate from seminary. It sort of got me thinking, I certainly am not making the progress that I had envisioned. I am over half way to my degree but at the rate of one class per semester, I still five years from finishing. I have prayed about it and I am cutting back on ministry and diving into more studies. Okay, I still can not take but perhaps two to three classes per semester, but that will speed things up to twice the rate as before. That will move me from snail's pace to turtle's pace. I was praying about this and a brother at the church called to encourage me. I have had that happen very infrequently. I believe God providentially had him call. This phone call helped me with the decision.

Friday, July 25, 2008

adrianwarnock.com: DWELL - Should YOU be a Church Plant Leader? (20 Questions)

adrianwarnock.com: DWELL - Should YOU be a Church Plant Leader? (20 Questions)

This is an excellent self-assessment list. Thanks Adrian and Scott Thomas.

Series on Old Testament Messages Not Embraced by American Evangelicals


I am reading Nehemiah right now. A big theme is God's sovereign protection. Some of the ways this theme is portrayed in the book:

o - When Nehemiah is sad before the king, instead of getting punished he is rewarded. I heard in a Bible study years ago that being sad before the king at that time could be a capital crime.

o - When Nehemiah is traveling with much wealth, he and his party are protected without the king's guard.

o - When enemies came against Nehemiah to stop the work of rebuilding the wall, God gave the success to continue.

o - When the wall was complete the various people groups around them recognized the hand of God in helping the people of Jerusalem in rebuilding the wall.

I would say the American Evangelical church does not preach these themes. I have a couple of reasons why I think that is. One would be that we don't have much threat against us. Another would be that God's divine protection implies much more connection with a world that is not natural and mechanistic.

Any one agree or disagree? Does anyone think there may be other reasons for this theme to not be preached?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lee Irons at The Upper Register Blog has some interesting comments on those who claim to be Reformed but not Evangelical.

(2) The current disdain for “evangelicalism” in Reformed circles is also wrong because it places the accent on the distinctives of Reformed theology and practice instead of on what we have in common with evangelicalism. But what we have in common with evangelicals (being Christ-centered, cross-centered, and gospel-centered) is far, far more important than our distinctives (our Calvinistic soteriology, our covenant theology, our view of the church and the means of grace, etc.). The distinctives of Reformed theology and practice are useful only to the degree that they undergird and clarify the gospel, the evangel.


I'm not sure I get how Reformed distinctives are only useful in the way that he says. If they are true, they are true regardless if it helps to clarify the gospel or not. There are many truths that do not do that and are useful. Fortunately, the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith does this, but there is value to other doctrines say for instance the doctrine that there are angels. Perhaps you could think of a way that ties into the gospel, but I think you would have to stretch it to say that the doctrine of the existence of angels "undergirds and clarifies the gospel in a compelling way.

Having said that, I do agree with the premise that there is no need to reject Evangelical as a name for myself, though I also embrace many others such as Reformed, Protestant, World-Christian, and Christ Follower. I even go so far as to call myself a fundamentalist, but I don't mean 'narrow' nor do I mean that I want to establish a state based on religious law.

Old Testament Theology We Do Not Beleive

I finished reading the two books of Chronicles in the Bible. A major theme in the books is that God wants his people to seek his guidance and protection. In the Evangelical circles that I run in, this is not something we embrace since it has a subjective element of truth to it. But reading the books of Chronicles has me convinced that we should be seeking guidance and protection. I don't think I hear anyone talking about God's sovereign protection anymore. I believe that to be because it requires interpreting events in terms of what God intends to communicate through them. Another theme in these two books is the need for faithfulness in worshiping the one true God. These are basic ideas that the New Testament is built on. If you pull these ideas out, the New Testament faith is not cohesive as a system of thought.

Friday, July 18, 2008

How Applicable Is Internet Education to the World Church




I just finished my course on Future Church and Missions Trends. I did my research project on the use of Moodle for pastor training in the majority world church (formerly called the third world church). As I approach the subject I'm conflicted. I really don't know how people in other countries have access to the Internet. I have read about it but I don't know if it is a practical thing to think that a significant number of pastors or missionaries could get regular access to the Internet.

The following site shows where Moodle is currently being used, but this is without regard for wither the school has any religious affiliation or not. Some are, and some are not.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Losing Faith

So I finally began to read last month's Mission Frontiers magazine. I did not want to since it was about people walking away from Christianity, walking away from faith. It is not an article or two, but this is the second issue on the subject, there are multiple articles about it. To say the least, I did not want to hear it. But as I read the articles, they were more engaging than discouraging. It was not that the authors were presenting solutions. An article by Ruth Tucker called "Great is Thy Faithfulness: Some Reflections on the Loss of Faith" was particularly good. I think some people who walk away from the faith are simply those with more courage to state what they believe than those who simply want to fit in though they have adopted a secular world view. What do I mean by a secular world view? My informal definition would be that there is nothing supernatural. No miracles. No angels. No devil. No life in eternity. Simply what you see in the here and now. In a sense I think in some circles Evangelicalism has actually adopted a secular world view. No miracles in the present. No angelic visions today. No devil. In some circles, Christianity is about morality and association with others of the same Evangelical group. This is more acceptable in the secular workplace and secular education. It puts Christianity in terms that is palatable, but it lacks salt.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sermon Cloud: From Faith To Faith


Here is a link to the sermon I delivered today at Glen Burnie Evangelical Presbyterian Church. It is about how the story of David defeating Goliath is about how God works in our weaknesses.

Monday, June 23, 2008

NET Bible

The folks who do the NET Bible have updated their website. I have been doing a lot of reading on distance education for a term paper I have coming up. They have an interesting distance education program. Just add water and you have instant theological education program.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

4-Block World: Communication Paradox
















If you have not checked out 4-Block World, I think it may be worth your time. I now have dozens of blogs I read through Google Reader and I hit them four to six times per week. I always read Jollyblogger, D.J. Chang, Messy Christian 2.0, and always, always read 4-Block World. Rather than spend a lot of time with words, he does a diagram on some current event topic. It is always insightful and usually funny. It is all about comparisons. I highly recommend it.

What I especially liked about this one is that it ties into my 43-Things goal of making more small talk. If we want to talk to people, do we stay on the trivial or do we go for the meaningful. Do we go safe or make an impact. I personally like the impact but the communication always takes two. I want to learn and share. Even though that is my desire, the paradox remains.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Book of Job: Observations As It Passes By My Passenger Window















On my trek through the Bible, I'm in the book of Job once again. Most evangelicals feel that the message of Job is simply that there are unseen issues happening in heaven so we can not understand suffering. However, we have a lot of chapters in Job (41) for that simple message. That's right, people who wrestle with the idea of suffering know nothing. The thinking is that all these orators and thinkers in the book of Job got it wrong and God has it right. Could we not have done as well by a poignant proverb in the book of Proverbs if that is the long and short of it?

"Suffering is not understandable; quit trying to figure it out unless someone mistakenly think that you communicate with the transcendent one and understand the meaning of your life." III Evangel-Christian Chapter1, Verse 13

A part of our evangelical philosophy of life is mistaken by thinking that things like beauty, meaning, and righteousness are somehow less true than things that are provable via math or repeatable observation. It is a part of the curse of our modern existence. Post-modernism doesn't help either.

Job is considered by many to be the oldest book in the Bible. That's right, older than the books of Moses. However, some of the themes sound as if an anxious existential writer wanted us to question meaning, purpose and righteousness. Issues like the problem of evil are handled right there in that oldest book of the Bible. (See Job 21) Sounds sort of like God had a preemptive string on our false teaching to me. I'm sure some with think I am arrogant to think that little old me could understand suffering in my life, but I don't approach it that I get it, but that God give it to that understanding to the high and low alike. Instead of thinking each of these wise guys got it wrong, I tend to think that they got one aspect of it right, but not a complete story. When Zophar says that the wicked suffer, Job 20, he is correct too. Both Job and Zophar correct, but it is often difficult to reconcile the two truths.

Something else that I have thought about, if all the wise guys in Job are wrong, why does 1 Corinthians 3:19 quote Job 5:13 in a complementary way. Elephaz in this passage seems to say that those who are crafty are caught by God by their own designs. Elephaz seems to be affirmed by Paul. If he is all so wrong, why does Paul affirm him.

Some words about what I am not saying. I'm not saying if your read Job you will understand completely the meaning of your suffering; I'm am saying that you have a companion who has wrestled with the same issues. I'm not saying that the book of Job attempts to sum up everything nice and neat; instead I'm saying the evangelical readers who over summarize the book miss its benefits. I'm not saying that every opinion in the book is correct since God does dish out some rebukes toward the end of the book; but I am saying the complexity of life and suffering are dealt with in a realistic manner that honors those who suffer.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Free Loaders


I got this from Josh Harris. There was a man in Japan who suspected something funny was going on so he his a camera in his home and found out that a woman had taken up residence in an unused closet. Sources!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brigada Today

One of my oldest Internet activities is reading Brigada Today. It has changed a little over the years but not much. It is still an e-mail list. (No RSS feeds here baby! I hope it stays that way.) It is still interesting. Doug who runs/assembles/distributes this simple newsletter is still figuring out how to say interesting things. You might consider signing up. They say they don't want us to forward their newsletter but posting on my blog I don't think counts.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2008/04/11 -- Brigada Today
Compiled by Doug Lucas, Team Expansion, Louisville, KY
(See your subscription information at the end under "Closing Stuff.")
Click to http://www.brigada. org to read this issue & more on the web.
Click to http://www.brigada. org/brigade to give feedback on items.
---
In this issue...
1) OPEN LETTER TO BIBLE COLLEGES RE: ONLINE EVANGELISM
2) NEW DVD FOR OUTREACH TO ATHLETES
3) GET STRATEGY COORDINATOR TRAINING
4) THE UNENGAGED PEOPLES OF NAMIBIA
5) CHINA: UNREST RAISES FEARS OF EXECUTION OF CHRISTIAN
6) FIND WHAT YOU NEED AND SHARE WHAT YOU'VE FOUND
7) THE STATE OF THE GOSPEL DVD
8) RESOURCES FOR CHRISTIANS LIVING INTERCULTURALLY
9) THANKS FOR THOSE WHO HOLD BRIGADA'S ROPES
10) BECOME A STRATEGIC PARTNER WITH BRIGADA
11) THE BACKPAGE: WHO SAID VOLUNTEERISM IS DEAD?
12) CLOSING STUFF
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
1) OPEN LETTER TO BIBLE COLLEGES RE: ONLINE EVANGELISM -- Internet
Evangelism Day would love to see more bible colleges teaching online
evangelism as a module or full course. Their Open Letter encourages
colleges to consider this:

http://ied.gospelco m.net/bible- college.php (Thanks Tony!)

____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
2) NEW DVD FOR OUTREACH TO ATHLETES -- Athletes in Action, the sports
ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, has just released their newest
evangelistic DVD, "Struggle and Triumph," which has been designed for
use by individuals, churches, para-church ministries, and missionaries
around the world for outreach. This 26 minute film features the stories
and testimonies of 6 int'l Olympic athletes and comes in 36 languages on
a single DVD. To view a trailer of the film as well as to read the
stories of these athletes, browse to:

http://www.struggle andtriumph. com/

or call 1-888-244-9159 / 1-937-352-1000. As AIA's heart is to help
resource the body with this film leading up to the Summer Olympics in
Beijing (8/8/08), they would like to extend to a special ministry price
of $2 per DVD for orders of 100 or more to those who are interested in
using for outreach and distribution by contacting Shawn directly.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
3) GET STRATEGY COORDINATOR TRAINING -- It's not too late to register
for a 4-week Strategy Coordinator Training in Singapore from 1-25 July,
brought to you by Asia Pacific Mission (APM) together with Singapore
Centre for Evangelism and Missions (SCEM). The cost is US$600 per single
person or married couple. Accommodations can be arranged on request.
This year, all SC trainees will be registered for the Go4th National
Missions Conference. The course deals with People Group Research,
Network, Outreach, Platform, and Church-Planting Movement (CPM)
Development and writing a Master Plan to reach an Unreached People
Group/Region/ City. Included in this training is a workshop/seminar on
Partnership Development. Furthermore, those who successfully complete
this training are awarded 10 credits from Bethany International
University (Singapore). For more info: Contact Frank
strategycoordinator

(at)gmail(dot) com with Subject: SCT '08. [As a means of preventing spam
for our contributors, in the preceding email address(es), please replace
(at) with @ and (dot) with . then reassemble the address onto one line.]
Better act fast though. The registration deadline is 31 May.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
4) THE UNENGAGED PEOPLES OF NAMIBIA -- There is a local association of
Baptist churches in the United States that is sending a representative
to pray and investigate the possibility of sending people and resources
on a regular basis to spread the Gospel among one or two of the
unengaged peoples of Namibia. Pray that the Lord will direct the
specific peoples and places for this association to work among. Pray
for the Nama/Damara, the Herero, the Coloured of Namibia and the
Mbalantu. To adopt one of these people groups for prayer or for more
information, visit

http://www.forgotte npeoples. info or email

forgottenpeoples

(at)telkomsa( dot)net [As a means of preventing spam for our
contributors, in the preceding email address(es), please replace (at)
with @ and (dot) with . then reassemble the address back onto one line.]
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
5) CHINA: UNREST RAISES FEARS OF EXECUTION OF CHRISTIAN -- The Compass
Direct News is reporting that as China deals with the fallout of
protests in Tibet and alleged protests in neighboring Xinjiang province,
the family of a Uyghur Christian fears he may be sentenced to death this
month after officials accused him of endangering national security.
Friends said a verdict is expected any time. Track this issue with
Compass Direct and don't forget to pray:

http://www.compassd irect.org

____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
6) FIND WHAT YOU NEED AND SHARE WHAT YOU'VE FOUND -- Need some ideas for
your next sermon, Sunday School lesson or communion meditation? Download
whatever you need at

http://www.thechris tianwarehouse. com

Have you already written some Christian material and wish that others
could have access to it? Upload your sermons, lessons, and more.
Membership is free to this brand new site. With your help they will soon
have thousands of helpful articles, devotions, sermons, lessons and much
more.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
7) THE STATE OF THE GOSPEL DVD -- Now you can get the DVD of Operation
World author Jason Mandryk's striking presentation, "The State of the
Gospel", given at the 2006 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in
Malaysia. The DVD includes the 35-minute video of Jason's live
presentation, the audio version, his PowerPoint presentation, and the
related Momentum magazine article. Get the DVD for $2.95 plus shipping
from Global Mapping International: http://www.gmi. org/gospel Contact GMI
at

info

(at)gmi(dot) org for more information. [As a means of preventing spam for
our contributors, in the preceding email address(es), please replace
(at) with @ and (dot) with . then reassemble the address back onto one
line.]
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
8) RESOURCES FOR CHRISTIANS LIVING INTERCULTURALLY -- The Link Between:
Connecting Christians Living Between Cultures is a networking blog which
provides resources for Christians living interculturally through
marriage, adoption, career, or missions. Find hundreds of cross-
cultural resources and connections to other Christians living 'between
cultures'. Jody, the author, is also looking to build connections with
others in similar situations. Contact her to share your resources
through her blog at

http://thelinkbetwe en.wordpress. com

____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
9) THANKS FOR THOSE WHO HOLD BRIGADA'S ROPES -- You're willingness to
lower us into the goldmine of missions information is much appreciated!
Thanks to the friend who gave $10 from North Carolina, and another who
gave $25 from Texas. Thanks to others that have taken time to pass a
Brigada on to a friend, teammate, or missionary. You have the potential
to become our best marketing partners, simply by serving as "one beggar
telling another where to find bread." Thank you!!!
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
10) BECOME A STRATEGIC PARTNER WITH BRIGADA -- Want to become a
strategic partner? ... to undergird Brigada and its future? Just click
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____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
11) THE BACKPAGE: WHO SAID VOLUNTEERISM IS DEAD? -- Not I, that's for
sure. I read with interest the item on the US Peace Corps at
Northwestern University's website:

http://news. medill.northwest ern.edu/washingt on/news.aspx? id=65843

Check it out... Stats say the first decade of the 21st century is on
track for having the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers since the
decade following JFK's original speech to the University of Michigan,
launching the whole idea. Applications struggled in the '70s and '80s,
but are now roaring in like a new tide of interest in all things cross-
cultural.

What have we, churches and mission agencies of our modern day, to say
about the fact that Peace Corps applications can, in many cases, leave
our own programs in the dust? No longer can we hide behind accusations
that "today's generation cares little for others," or "the current crop
of young people are concerned only with video games." If our numbers
aren't rising in step with the Peace Corps, perhaps it's time we take an
honest look at what we're saying... How we're recruiting. I remember
hearing that, at one point, the Peace Corps was struggling for new
prospects. They tried exotic recruiting techniques, ... "Come see the
world," etc. No dice. In desperation, they began just telling it like it
is. "This will be the hardest thing you've ever done." Call it "reality-
shock recruiting." Phone networks jammed. Some 30,000 recruits per
*month* began filling out applications.

Maybe today's new generation isn't as "me-oriented" as some would have
us believe. Maybe they've paid attention to images of "9/11", Hurricane
Katrina, and the war in Iraq. Maybe they're ready to answer the call
after all. Added to this, maybe their future employers are giving
preference to potential hires that have cross-cultural experience.

Could this next decade become the biggest decade for mission recruits
since the 1960s? How will *your* church or mission help make that
happen?

Comments about this "BackPage" editorial? Just go to:

http://brigada. org/brigade/ ?p=71

then click on "Comment" under the item. Mark it up. Talk it through.
Give your two cents. Either way, let's make it happen.

Doug
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
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____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
2008/04/11 -- Brigada Today
------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Study on Psalm 100

Psalm 100 (ESV)
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

A Psalm for giving thanks.
1Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth A
2Serve the LORD with gladness! B
Come into his presence with singing! A

3Know that the LORD, he is God! A
It is he who made us, B
and we are his; {and not we ourselves} B
we are his people, B
and the sheep of his pasture. B

4Enter his gates with thanksgiving, A
and his courts with praise! A
Give thanks to him; B
bless his name! B

5For the LORD is good; A
his steadfast love endures forever, B
and his faithfulness to all generations. B



Pattern Analysis

Hebrew poetry rhymes ideas rather than words. Sometimes scholars describe the patterns with letter. For instance, the ABB pattern means that there is the first line with an idea. The second line relates a new idea, but the third line is a repeat of the second idea, perhaps with a new perspective. Pattern analysis helps to understand the structure so that the reader can lift the meaning of the poetry out.

Big Idea
“Praise God for he is our creator.” While this idea is easy to get from the Psalm, it is not found in a normal American or Western Civilization format. Instead of leading with the main ideas, the main emphasis is in the middle of the poem where the writer tells the reader why to give thanks, that is God is the creator and he owns us.
Modern Ideas About Who Made Whom
The modernistic idea is that man needed ways in times past to explain the unexplainable. If a storm came they needed to explain why it came. So they would say that a god did it as a judgment on their sins. When a moral issue needed to be backed, ancient man could tell his fellow man that the gods required honesty and fairness. This anthropological explanation of the origins of religion reduces God to merely an Bogeyman used to control those who are controllable. Of course this view takes ancient man to be a simpleton and does not reflect the realities of evil. People sense when someone is manipulating them, but at varying degrees are people able to discern it and it depends on the skill of the person who is doing the manipulation. But to reduce everyone prior to the modern age to a simpleton may be a bit simplistic. Remember that the Old Testament prophets were accused of prophesying as merely a political means of control. Jeremiah 26 tells us that people did not merely bend to the will of the one proclaiming a message but evaluated it, sometimes misjudging it.
There is debate about how the phrase “and we are his” or if it is better understood as “and not we ourselves”. Part of the logic that we supports “and we are his” is that it is a repeat of the idea that God made us. The idea that if you make something, then you own it. This idea is true from the text no matter how you translate the second phrase. But part of the logic behind translating the second phrase as “we are his” is that it does not make sense to say “and not we ourselves”. However, we find from modern, anthropological ideas, that many people believe that we made God and that a man in a certain sense choose who he is, he can change his persona to be as he/she desires. When we use the phrase, 'he is a self-made man' we mean that we determine who we are. It apparently is not that far fetched to say that many people would think of themselves as creating themselves.

Transcendent Among All Peoples
Christianity is unique among religions because it is translated into other cultures. Christianity is no less Christianity in Ethiopia as it is in Glen Burnie, Maryland. By the way the church in Ethiopia claims its origin with the Ethiopian official who came to faith in Acts 8, so it may be a tad bit older than the churches in Glen Burnie. The worship of the one true God is transcendent above national boundaries or language barriers. This is why the psalmist says “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.” This ties into the Great Commission where Jesus tells his disciples to make disciples in all of all people groups.

Matthew 28:19: (ESV)
19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Acts 1:8: (ESV)
8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Mark 16:15-17 (ESV)
15And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

Luke 24:44-48 (ESV)
44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

Transcendent Among All Generations
Not only is God transcendent among on nations, he transcends time and generations. He is not only the God of the people in Jesus' day, he is also my generation and your generation.

Public Worship
The response to God being our creator and being good is public worship. Often in our postmodern society we see religion as private, but there is a definite public nature to the praise and worship offered here in this passage.

Conclusion
God is good, he is our creator. He is worthy of our praise, let all the nations worship him. Let all generations worship him. Let us praise him in public.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Natural, Supernatural, and Providential

The Jollyblogger points to a post by Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost called Divine Demarcation: Why Christians Should Discard 'Supernatural'. For some time I have thought that the definition of a miracle commonly used, that is "something done outside the confines of laws of science"
is quite inadequate. God often uses means and controls and governs all things day in and day out. Then people place God's actions as supernatural and everything else is his grand wind up toy. That is not the picture we have in Scripture. God is guiding all things. Thanks Joe for your post.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How Do We Know Scripturally that Christ was Sinless?


A friend recently asked how do Christians know that Christ is sinless. Someone recently told this friend that Christ was fully God and fully man, so therefore Christ sinned since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Of course in this case, Jesus is the exception. Often times when we say “all” we exclude in a natural manner those not in the category, for instance no one naturally take it that this means all things in the universe sin. We don't take it that all rocks are sinful. This would be a category that would be excluded, even though a rock can be used for sinful purposes such as raw material for making an idol or it could be used as a murder weapon. In these cases, still we do not hold the rock as sinning but merely an object used for the purpose of sin. On the other end of the spectrum, we don't count the angels in heaven nor God himself as sinful. So the all excludes many things. The problem comes in since we would naturally count that the all in this since are all humans.

Since Jesus Christ is human, then should we not count him as a part of this category? Well looking at the category further, when we say that Adam was a sinner, we do not mean that he was a sinner prior to him eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Prior to that time, he was innocent. In reality, it is not the fact that someone is a sinner because he is human, but the fact that he or she is a child of Adam, the first man to sin and the one who passed sin down to all his children. Adam sinned and all those after him who were born from him are sinners. So it is slightly off to say that all humans are sinners, but it is more correct to say that all the offspring of Adam are sinners. While Jesus is human, he is not a son of Adam, but came to be in human form in a miraculous birth, pointing to whom is his true father, that is God the Father.


We can find many verses that show us the sinlessness of Jesus.

Hebrews 4:15:
15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 7:26:
26
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

Isaiah 53:9:
9
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

John 8:46:
46
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

II Corinthians 5:21:
21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I Peter 2:22:
22
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

I John 3:5:
5
You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Interfaith Dialog and Use of the Word "Cult"


The CBS Numb3rs episode which aired last Friday night, called “Atomic No. 33”*, made me start thinking about the use of the word “cult”. They used the word in Numb3rs to say that the FBI has a list of cults that they watch for violations of the law. I'm wondering if the FBI really does have such a list. If they do, should it really be called a cult list? It really does not matter if the organization claims if it is religious or not. It also does not matter if an organization is deemed by others to be religious or not. What does matter is if the group is breaking the law. However, if a law enforcement group such as the FBI does maintain a list of cults, then what is the criteria? I would suspect the criteria would be abnormal control of the members, abuse of members and/or illegal practices. What do I mean by abnormal control? I mean draconian methods of control such as pressuring members to giving up of all possession, requiring fasting and causing sleep deprivation. These are a common means of gaining control over members of a group.


For those who study ancient religions say the “cult” of Baal and do not really meant to be derogatory or that these groups were controlling or practicing something illegal at the time. Of course, the practices do not meet with my and probably my readers moral sense, but that is not the issue when an academic type is speaking of an ancient “cult”. It simply means the followers of a religion.


Sometimes in Christian contexts, the world “cult” is used to mean something entirely different than these two usages. I have used the word to mean that the group has left an essential doctrines of the faith such as the Apostles Creed, or Nicene Creed. These boil down to fairly basic points such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the deity of Christ, or the resurrection of Jesus. I am thinking in terms of interfaith dialog, the word “cult” may not carry the same message that I wish to convey since the other party may think I am merely insulting the group or misperceive the level of control the authorities in the church practice over the constituency. In thinking about terms that may be more descriptive, I considering the terms like “consciously embraced a creed that does not align with essentials of historic Christianity”. Wow, that is a mouth full so that probably will not work. But how do you describe the issue in such a way that gets to the point without insulting those who may think it is merely a jab at another group? Suggestions welcome in the comments.


* Note: The element in the periodic table with the atomic weight of 33 is arsenic. Arsenic was used in the church coffee pot which caused a mass poisoning.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design

Link to Evangelical Articles, well worth the reading.

10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design (Part 1)


10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design (Part 2)


Link to Tale of Two Pens



You might check out this article by Monty Galloway called a Tale of Two Pens about the value of being a bi-vocational pastor.

Interpetation of Galatians 5:12

Jungle Pop has a post about the strange passage Galatians 5:12. His solution to this problematic passage is to have Paul wish that the men cut themselves off from fellowship of the church rather than emasculate themselves. While this is a common solution to the problem, here is a repost of the comments I left on his blog.

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When I took Exegesis in seminary the teacher talked about this passage. Some factors we should remember that are different from our culture to the one in which Paul was speaking.

1. There were those who were eunuchs in the ancient cultures. As such, there was those who performed castration on themselves. There were those who were made eunuchs as babies. While this seems a remote and almost mythical practice to us, thinking of the harem guards of story books, it would not have been absurd in Paul’s day to have met a eunuch. I don’t believe I have ever met a eunuch, so that puts this category of thinking outside my normal system of thought.

2. Leviticus 21:20 forbids Aaron’s offspring to serve as a priest if he has injured testicles.

3. In Roman religions there were temples that had castrated priests.

There is a distinction between the Jewish practice of circumcision and the Roman religions that practiced castration of the priests. Paul’s statement is probably sarcastic but not in the way we would take it in our culture today.

Speaking to Aaron’s sons, Moses addresses the idea of being cut off from the presence of the Lord for uncleanness in Leviticus 22:3–

3Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.

The whole idea of cleanness or uncleanness is associated with the concept of circumcision. The question comes to mind, if these people who were advocating circumcision as a means of achieving cleanness and right standing before God, what if they had gone too far in their practice of circumcision and instead of in the act of circumcising themselves they actually injure themselves, then they are permanently in the unclean category (See Lev. 21:20). They then have to start to think about what really makes one clean or unclean, and of course they have to start thinking about faith alone. Which of course where Paul is going with this. I would take Paul’s statement of hyperbole, but with an actual point. What if someone does not a pristine body, what if he is not without blemish? Can he be saved? The answer is yes he can be saved, and it would be better to have some blemish that made him depend on grace rather than have the perfection of organs and depend on the flesh to save him.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sleepless As I Reassess My Strengths and Weaknesses

Insomniac's Blessing

I am sort of an odd ball when it comes to human relationships. My wife is very forgiving of my oddities, and for that I am exceptionally thankful. However, not everyone is as forgiving as my blessed wife and children. So I have to really watch myself at work and church to not disenfranchise people with my matter of fact assessments and challenges to their way of thinking. Thinking through how to continue to communicate on a deeper level and not disenfranchise people has been something that I have been rethinking quite a bit. It kept me up a lot of Friday night. Two things set me off on this anxious, sleepless thought. The first was I was asked to help to reform some of the organizational aspects of a ministry. The thing that struck me what that I could get into a lot of conflict over this. I feel quite a bit of rejection from people in general, so further disenfranchising people sounds painful. I am trying to build bridges that I have torn down in the past and further distancing myself from people does not sound appetizing. The second thing that gave me a sleepless night was being forced to bring order to our small group the other night. It really was not a big deal, but I do not wish to be seen as the heavy handed one who calls people to order all the time. I don't think I am in a popularity contest, but I don't like to be lonely either. I was the rule enforcer at work and at church for a while. I seem to do well at this role in my family, perhaps my kids will tell me later that it was unbearable, but it did not work for me in other groupings than my family. This sort of surprises me since in the past, I thought my leadership in my biological family was preparing me for leadership in God's family. The only thing is our churches are organized as businesses, not families.


Thinking It Through

My way of solving this issue is I think I need to be extraordinarily intentional when it comes to enforcing rules. I need to not be overly focused on me being the person who solves all the problems and confronts all those who are off doing their own thing instead of thinking of others. Realize that there is a difference between being a member of the church universal and the American organizational form of the church which I see more and more as an institution that brings business models into the church. The organizational models I see in Scripture are those of Shepherd with sheep. The shepherds of the ancient Middle East did not use fences as the primary means organizing the sheep but constant, personal care. I think our business model in the church is to use organizational charts and dictate policy. I believe neither of these is shepherding. For myself, I need to focus on shepherding as the model, not CEO. I definitely I don't want to be the hatchet man for somebody else either. I think that job is beyond my limitation.


"A man's got to know his limitations." --Quote from Dirty Harry

Monday, April 07, 2008

Muslim-Christian Dialog Regarding The Veil and Beyond

A Muslim writer, Al-Muhajabah, has an article The Veil in Christianity, I would assume it to be directed toward his fellow Muslims as a defense of Muslim practices and possibly as a way of showing of Christian practices do not line up with our own Scriptures. I may be wrong in assuming this because there is also indications of a desire for multi-faith dialog. It was also reprinted in the Pakistan News website Pakistan Daily. The Pakistan Daily edition is how I found it in my Google News daily news cruise.

1 Corinthians 10:3-10 is a highly problematic passage about head coverings for women during worship and the husband being the head of the wife. We Christians who regard the Bible as God's Word must deal with the passage by asking if the passage must be taken as a prescription for women and men in all cultures and all ages or is the passage dealing with a cultural situation that must be interpreted. Al-Muhajabah in interpreting 1 Corinthians 11:3-20 takes this as prescriptive which certainly many Christians have also. My interpretation would say this passage is not prescriptive in the same sense that the commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me." The first of the 10 Commandments is prescriptive for all time. According to the biblical commentator Anthony C. Thiselton (page 170) that in Roman society there was a custom that women wore their hair one of several ways to communicate whether they were single and available or married and respectable. The head covering would have communicated intent to be faithful to one's husband or not, as I understand it. So a young woman of marriageable age would not have worn this until she was married is how I read it. The idea of man being the head of the woman would mean within marriage where love for one another in a mutual respect reigns, not society in general as a harsh pecking order. The shaved head, again according to Thiselton, means communicates that the woman is of low reputation such as a slave. The woman at Corinth seem to have been experimenting with their new freedom in Christ but did not think through all the logical implications of that freedom and new found status. Clearly from Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:11 the relation between a husband and wife is one of mutual love, mutual respect and mutual interdependence. The application in the US would be a man or woman not wearing a wedding ring in order to say they are free in Christ but everyone around them interpreting it to mean that he or she is available for a sexual liaison. Clothes communicate many things. The head covering for the early church had a meaning that does not translate into modern western society. Even if a Christian woman wore a head covering like the Roman women did, it would not communicate the same thing. The head covering would be mistaken for communicating the woman was of a different religion than she is or it would be seen as an odd way of declaring that she was of an exclusive sect of Christianity. By the way, most of the sects that practice head coverings for women are exclusive sects.

I do welcome interfaith dialog. I'm not sure the parting shot at Christian women is in the spirit of interfaith dialog. But at the same time, I find when I am in dialog with those of another faith, my most common type of other religion with whom I am in dialog is the skeptic who believes there is no way to determine one religion over another, I think we often misunderstand each other. This is the hard part of interfaith dialog. When I say that the God of the Bible demands my exclusive loyalty and desires to be known as a Trinity, I am being narrow and perhaps a bigot to some. When the religious inclusive say they accept all religions including mine, I hear something different than what they may mean. I hear that God's command for exclusive, faithful worship is subsumed in modern attempts at peace. I hear the opposite of the command to worship God faithfully. I'm sure that is not what is meant, but I'm also sure how I see the issue. When I see the Jewish man worshiping God who is not the God of the Trinity, I think he is attempting to obey the Scripture. If he worships the Trinity without believing in the Trinity, he would be breaking the first commandment. In that sense, I respect him though I count his holding to the one God without a full understanding of nature of the one God.

Religious dialog is interesting, it helps to clarify issues and can help with peacemaking, even if we disagree on everything. Let us talk; skeptic, Jew, and Muslim. I'm listening.