Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pay the debt

“Although the suet portions of a well-being offering constitute an ‏אשה “food gift” (Lev 3:9–11, 14–16), the suet of a purification offering does not. No purification offering is called an אשה.

“If the suet of a purification offering is food that is transferred to YHWH, but it is not a gift, what is its function? Milgrom comments on Lev 4:35: “The logic is clear: the Lord is surely pleased with the offering of the repentant wrongdoer (v 31), but it is not a gift; it is his humble expiation.” While a purification offering could be regarded as a gift in the broader sense that it is something given to YHWH, it is not a gift in the more common sense, because it is not voluntary. Rather, it is a mandatory payment of an obligation or “debt” to YHWH, whose order has been violated. This explains why a purification offering belonging to the same ritual complex as a burnt offering must be performed before the latter (see, e.g., Lev 9:7–16): a debt must be paid before a gift can be accepted.”—Cult and Character, pages 65-66

<idle musing>
I thought this thought was central: "a debt must be paid before a gift can be accepted." Take that to the New Testament and Hebrews (especially) for some profound Christology...

Have a happy and joyous new year!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I've been reading (actually just finished) Roy Gane's Cult and Character for the last few weeks. Fascinating book! I'm going to post a few excerpts over the next week, but this book isn't the kind that lends itself easily to small excerpts. If you are at all interested in the theoretical workings of sacrifice in the Bible, this is a must-read, although highly technical, book. Here's the first excerpt:

“Slaughtering an animal, putting its blood on various parts of a dwelling and its furniture, and then burning the suet and carcass (Lev 16:11–28) do not accomplish any kind of cleansing in physical terms. To the contrary, these activities create a mess and are impractical and wasteful, transforming a live, valuable animal into bloodstains, smoke, and ashes, none of which are put to practical use. Nevertheless, the text informs us that the goal of another transformation is achieved at a higher level: nonphysical pollution, consisting of ritual impurities and moral faults, is purged from the sanctuary of supramundane YHWH on behalf of the Israelites (vv. 16, 18–19, 33). While the activities themselves do not produce this goal through physical cause and effect, as they would be expected to in ordinary life, they serve as a vehicle for transformation that takes place on the level of symbolic meaning.”—Cult and Character, page 17

<idle musing>
This is a recurring theme in the book: ritual works on a different level from the visible. Gane argues that this is also true of pollution (moral and physical); I think he is correct.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The problem with people

“One of the most redemptive of all moves is that in which we make a real effort to see persons as persons — and not as our servants or masters or teachers or students or steppingstones for our own progress. The real world is the personal world, and this is where all of the major problems are to be found. It is not really very hard to deal with mere things — partly because they stay put, partly because they are not free, but chiefly because they do not sin. Things are not complicated by pride and struggle for power and the desire to impress, but persons are; and they are, regardless of skin pigmentation. The real world of our human experience is the complex world of salesmen, waiters, lawyers, doctors, newscasters, advertisers, writers, laborers, bus riders, all trying to get along, all trying to get ahead, and all concerned, by necessity, with one another, whether they like it that way or not. Each makes a difference to every other person in his orbit. In a sense, each is a physician to somebody; each is a salesman; each is a pastor and teacher. This complex world of human relations is the world in which the life of the Church is tested. If it does not win here, what it does anywhere else is of little significance.”—Company of the Committed, page 110

<idle musing>
But, things are so much easier! Do we really have to deal with people? It's easy to spin a theological web in the abstract, but put people in it and you find out what it is really made of.
</idle musing>

Monday, December 28, 2009

The social aspect of the gospel

“How far should a Church go in the direction of acceptance of mutual responsibility? Should a gifted youth of the Church, whose family is in poverty, be sent to college at the expense of his fellow members? Should the Church match modern business corporations in providing for old age when there is no other provision? Should a Christian couple be able to face the possibility of their sudden death with the calm assurance that the Church of which they are a part will support their orphaned children up to maturity? Unless we know answers to questions as specific as these we do not know very much about the quality of love which the Christian society is meant to exhibit in concrete practice. General statements about love are not adequate.”—Company of the Committed, page 107

<idle musing>
Those are questions that the early church answered in a way that made them stand out in contrast to the surrounding culture. Unfortunately, they are also answered in a way that makes the church stand out today: The government offers assistance while much of the church criticizes them for it :(
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 24, 2009

in a humble stable...

"While the main contribution to the idea of the Church which Alcoholics Anonymous provides is that of the fellowship of mutual caring, this is not its only contribution. Another, of only slightly less importance, is the insistence on anonymity. Individual notoriety and fame are simply no part of the movement. Here the contrast with the existent Church is sharp and terrible, for almost every branch of the contemporary Church has its dignitaries. The Church in general sets great store by titles, and clergymen are perhaps more open to the dangers of egocentric pride than are members of other professions. Clergymen are one professional group in which the existence of the receiving line of complimentary fans is an accepted practice. One can hardly look at the church page of a metropolitan newspaper on any Saturday without embarrassment and shame, because one is forced to face the fact that the contemporary Church often exhibits the opposite of the true humility which is anonymity. In nearly every city the cult of personal leadership seems to be as blatant in Christian circles as in any others. We are like the worldly societies against which Christ warned specifically. "You know," He said, "that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20:25-26). These trenchant words can apply just as much to the authority of a local pastor concerned with his own prestige as to papal authority.”—Company of the Committed, pages 104-105

<idle musing>
That seems an appropriate post for Christmas eve. Reminds me of this:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philppians 2:6-8 TNIV

Have very blessed Christmas, remembering him who came to set us free!
</idle musing>

Great literature?

Many years ago, in an English Literature course, the teacher/professor told us that there were 3 themes in great literature: Man against man, man against nature, and man against himself (bear in mind that this was pre-inclusive language). I don't know if that is still considered the case, but I have found it helpful over the years.

Last night, on my bike ride home, I encountered all three. I'm not sure that qualifies my ride as great literature—I suspect not—but it does give it a narrative framework :)

We had freezing rain yesterday. I had to pick up some stuff after work, so I had my panniers (saddle bags) on my (new) bike. I ended up with about 14 pounds on one side and 7 on the other, so a bit unbalanced. That's not ideal in the best of situations, but with icy roads, it is even worse. Given the ice, I figured I wouldn't have much trouble with traffic. I was right, in fact, I only got passed by about 3 cars the whole way home.

So, here I am, riding along on slick, ice covered pavement with an unbalanced bicycle in the freezing rain around 6:00 PM, so it was dark. The studded snow tire in the front kept me steering well, but the rear doesn't have a studded tire (yet!) and it kept sliding out. I only actually fell about twice, but nearly fell uncountable times. It took 40 minutes to do a 20 minute trip. Man against nature, that's for sure.

Internally, I kept thinking I should just quit and either walk the bike home or call Debbie and have her come and get me. I decided against the latter because of the ice. I figured one person at risk beat two. So, man against himself; the stubbornness of going on won.

I figured that man against man was not likely to happen. There wasn't likely to be another bicyclist on the road to race against! And the traffic was non-existent; everybody else was too smart to be out :) But, I was wrong...about half way home, there is a corner where a lesser traveled road (250 South) joins a higher traffic road (Packerton). A car was traveling down 250 towards Packerton, a bit too quickly; the driver applied the brakes too hard and slid partially into the intersection. They saw me coming down the road and apparently decided it would be fun to scare me. Gunning the engine, they came towards me, fishtailing and clearly out of control. I don't think they realized how slippery the main road was. They missed me by about 2 feet. I think they were more shaken that I was, as they came to a stop, then started very slowly, watching to see that I was still upright. I suspect they won't try that again—or at least I hope they don't! Man against man...

I made it home without further incident, just going very slowly. When I got home, Debbie told me that God had grabbed her heart and had her praying for my safety. Who says God doesn't hear and answer prayer? So, is that God against evil? I don't recall that category.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The greatest is love

“Commitment, then, is not sufficient; we must be committed in a particular way. Our commitment is outside the spirit of Christ if it involves an effort to ride over other men, to use them for our cause, or to see anything else as more important than the individual welfare of individual persons. For the Christian faith, when it understands itself, there is only one absolute, and that absolute is the genuine caring which is expressed in the Greek word agape.”—Company of the Committed, page 98

“Part of our study of Christian history ought to be devoted not to doctrinal disputes, creedal formulations, heresies, and schisms, but to the finest examples of Christian love. By contemplating these we may be able to see what the standard from which we deviate really is, and we may have encouragement to go deeper.”—Company of the Committed, pages 102-103

<idle musing>
I love church history, but as I think about it, there are few histories that don't major on the disputes, heresies, etc. Anybody out there looking for a topic for a book? :)
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

double take

anybody else find this picture disconcerting?

More on the "true" church

Trueblood takes off the gloves in this section. He comes out with some hard-hitting observations...

They [those who judge the validity for a “true” church of Christ by ceremonial aspects] are still pre-Christian in their assumption that membership in Christ's true Church is limited by external performance.—Company of the Committed, page 95

Not content with that observation, he twists the knife when he observes:

It is paradoxical, indeed, that each of the criteria which is popularly supported is concerned with something which Christ did not propose, while the criterion which He did propose seems not to have become the battle cry of any organized group. His own piercing words are: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). This sentence must not be taken alone, for Christ gave other commandments, such as the injunction to witness, but no sincere Christian can fail to take it seriously. It may not indicate the sufficiency of love, but it at least indicates the necessity of love. We know, then, whatever else we know, that the unloving fellowship is an heretical fellowship, so far as Christianity is concerned. How strange, in the light of the Biblical insistence on love as the principal thing, that we have emphasized it so little in comparison with other elements.—Company of the Committed, page 96

<idle musing>
But it is a hard command! It is easier to make rules and regulations, gates and fences. How are we supposed to know who is in and who is out? No, we want our own version of christianity, but thank you for the offer, God. And then we wonder why there is no power, no love, no transformation...
</idle musing>

They just keep following me home

They leap off the shelf into my cart a few times a year. Once they do that, you just have to buy them and bring them home. And, once they are home, you just have to use them. There's just no way around it.

And, it happened again last weekend. I was minding my own business when this cookbook just jumped off the shelf and into my hands. It even had the gall to open up to a herb cheese bread! What could I do? I had to buy it! And, once purchased, I had to try it. Not content to tempt me with the cheese bread, it also contained a recipe for soft pretzels. How could I resist? So, Sunday evening, our house had the fragrant aroma of baking bread. The pretzels were good, but the herb cheese bread was phenomenal. I substituted oregano for the rosemary they called for; Debbie doesn't like rosemary. It will become a common bread around our house...

What cookbook is it, you ask? Why, The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Cookbook, of course. I'm sure Debbie and I will be trying more recipes from it soon :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

A true church...

“A third test [of the validity for a “true” church of Christ] is that of Biblical literalism, according to which acceptance of every word of our present Bible is seen as the criterion of a true Church. We can see the falsity of this test at once when we realize that it was not even a possible one in the early Church because many of the books, to which adherence is now required, had not yet been written. Absolute Biblical literalism, while upheld as a dogma by some, is in fact impossible and is never seen in practice. Subjective interpretations are always added to force consistency. Even an appearance of consistency is not possible except by virtue of ingenious dodging, which some denominations have made into an art.”—Company of the Committed, page 93

<idle musing>
What more can I add? He says it all—sadly :(
</idle musing>

Today's thought

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
Psalm 112:6-8 (TNIV)

<idle musing>
It just seems like a good Advent verse...
</idle musing>

Friday, December 18, 2009

Truly Missional

“If we who care about the Church and its farflung ministry were boldly wise, perhaps we should give much greater incentive to work with youth than we give to the management of a big ecclesiastical organization. But we cannot do this, or anything remotely similar, unless we have a revolutionary change in our own vocational values.

“Once we begin to alter our conception of what the Church is, viewing it as intrinsically missionary — not merely in Africa, but in every part of the life of the West as well — we realize that we have hardly begun to see what our major task is.”—Company of the Committed, page 89

<idle musing>
If he saw this as a problem in 1960, I wonder what he would think of megachurches! This goes nicely with the Out of Ur post from yesterday: "It is our consumer-mentality that causes us to think we need buildings."
</idle musing>

idle musing about commuting

<idle musing>
As I mentioned, I have a new bike—and I'm loving it. But, I got to thinking about the economics of it. I commute 11 miles per day, about 48 weeks of the year—3 weeks of vacation and about 1 week of holidays brings it to 52 weeks. That comes to about 2600 miles per year. For round numbers, I'll say 2500. Gas currently costs about $2.50, but for argument's sake, let's use $2.75. That means, if I were to drive, I would use about 50 gallons of gas per year; total cost of gas per year would be $137.50.

So what, you say? That means it will take me over 2 years to save enough in gas to pay for the bicycle! Now, granted, we have a Prius, so the numbers are probably skewed. But, it just reminds me that I don't ride to work just for the economics of it...
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 17, 2009


“The tragedy of many religious audiences is that they have become immunized by much listening to speeches. Wise Christian leaders will not give their precious time to saving the saved when they have alternative opportunities in life outside the purview of the Church.”—Company of the Committed, pages 80-81

<idle musing>
Hey! That sounds "missional," doesn't it? I wonder what they called it back in the 1960s? :)
</idle musing>

Stressed out?

Some nice thoughts about Christmas stress over at A Place for the God_Hungry. Here's a snippet:

Could it be that many of us are under so much stress during this time of the year because we are trying to achieve so much? Perhaps some of the stress is due to our efforts to achieve something perfect instead of simply receiving graciously all that we are given. Ultimately, it is only what we receive from God that will satisfy. Our efforts to create and achieve something to satisfy will always be lacking and will have its limits. After all, the Bible presents God himself as the ultimate achiever.

<idle musing>
Isn't that the truth? We struggle and strive, when all we need to do is rest and abide. Too simple...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A church wrapped up in itself makes a very small bundle

OK, it usually reads a man wrapped up in himself, but it is equally relevant to the church, as this excerpt points out:

The Church is never true to itself when it is living for itself, for if it is chiefly concerned with saving its own life, it will lose it. The nature of the Church is such that it must always be engaged in finding new ways by which to transcend itself. Its main responsibility is always outside its own walls in the redemption of common life. That is why we call it a redemptive society. There are many kinds of religion, but redemptive religion, from the Christian point of view, is always that in which we are spent on those areas of existence which are located beyond ourselves and our own borders.—Company of the Committed, page 69

and, a bit later, he makes an interesting observation that is probably even truer today than it was 50 years ago:

In many contemporary Christian congregations the entire church operation points to a climax on Sunday morning, a conception which would have seemed very strange indeed to the early Christians. Often the major effort during the week is promotion of Sunday, the printed church paper plugging constantly for a bigger attendance. Sunday morning, then, when it finally comes, has something of the mood of a much advertised athletic contest, for which the team has prepared and to which it has been pointed all week. Finally, at twelve o'clock on Sunday, the whistle blows, the climactic event is over for another week, and the spectators go home to relax. If any reader imagines that this is a caricature, he ought to study the promotional material put out by countless churches — material which gives the undeniable impression that, for the Christian, the week is a preparation for Sunday. This is a complete reversal of the Christian pattern and something which finds no support whatever in the New Testament. The Christian pattern, if taken seriously, means exactly the opposite — namely, that what happens on Sunday is defensible only as a preparation for the daily ministry of the week which follows.

Worship is important, but it tends to be overemphasized in the contemporary church. It is very easy for the emphasis on worship to become a throwback to the Temple rather than a pushing forward to the strategy of Christ as represented in the Valiant Seventy.—Company of the Committed, pages 71-72

<idle musing>
Can you say prophetic? This is especially relevant in the time period leading up to Christmas. Christmas, the time we are supposed to celebrate the birth of the one who frees us from bondage! And what do we do? We get ourselves all tied up in knots of bondage trying to celebrate it!?? What a sad commentary that is. We cry, "Lord! Set us free!" little realizing he already has, but we walked back into bondage. If only we would walk in the freedom we already have!
</idle musing>

A little Greek is good for the soul

In this case, a lot of Greek. There has been an interesting kerfuffle in the biblioblogdom world this week. It all started when Bill Mounce, of Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar fame published a post on emphatic pronouns. Hardly a topic to excite most people. But, it did excite a few, well at least two :)

Steve Runge responded, followed quickly by Mike Aubrey. Both are linguists and make very good points. I personally believe they demolish Mounce's arguments.

But, lest this urban legend spring to life again, Steve took up the challenge of educating us all about pronouns today. If you read Greek, or even if you don't but are interested in how pronouns work, read it! Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Quality pronoun, you like, you buy!

I have a number of pronouns lying around, so I have decided to sell them to earn some cash for vacation this next summer. Took this picture last summer when we took the pronouns to the beach for exercise. As you can see, they are fine specimens.

All of the pronouns come with a basic morphology: case number and gender. For a little extra, I will throw in a “demonstrative” add-on kit that enables deictic reference to near and far things.

Besides the morph and potential deictics, the use of the pronouns is almost limitless, but you begin with an empty bucket. It has no reference until you assign it to something. My pronouns are suitable for bi-directional usage, either pointing back to an antecedent, or forward to something that you want to highlight and draw attention to...

...But if you want a little free advice, I would not suggest trying to make something emphatic that isn’t, it will only end in heartbreak. Invest the time and energy to learn about what brings about emphasis, and beware of those trying to sell you something that ain’t real. Emphatic pronouns cannot be bought, they are made using a combination of reference and context.

<idle musing>
Great use of humor to illustrate a basic linguistic truth :)
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Apologetics in perspective

“The evidence of the gospel is not primarily in some document but in the lives of Christ's followers. It is the modest persons who have heard Christ's call to involvement and who try, imaginatively, to respond, who constitute the proof that the gospel is true.”—Company of the Committed, page 66

<idle musing>
I have often heard it said that the best witness for Christianity is the lives of Christians—and the worst witness for Christianity is the life of Christians.

Bear in mind that if you are trying to live a Christian life, you will fail—miserably and continually. But, if you allow the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life through you, it will happen.
</idle musing>

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take Christ OUT of Christmas

What? Yep! Robin Parry has a marvelous post about taking Christ out of Christmas:

Let me explain. For the majority of people in Britain Christmas is a time for families to get together, exchange presents, eat good food, watch TV (, and argue).

I have nothing against this.
I like presents.
I like good food.
I like worthwhile TV.
I like families.
(but which is best? There's only one way to find out ... [that parochial allusion will make no sense ot Americans])

But this is not Christmas. It is a secular Winter Festival. So here is my inclination - Let's take the 'Christ' out of 'Christmas' and call it for what it is - Wintermas.

<idle musing>
Take the time to read it all. I agree with him. Let's take Christ out of Christmas!
</idle musing>

Lay ministry

“The only kind of lay ministry which is worth encouraging is that which makes a radical difference in the entire Christian enterprise. To be truly effective it must erase any difference in kind between the lay and the clerical Christian. The way to erase the distinction, which is almost wholly harmful, is not by the exclusion of professionals from the ministry, as anticlerical movements have tended to do, but rather by the inclusion of all in the ministry. The expanded dictum is that in the ministry of Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, neither layman nor cleric, but all are one in Christ Jesus.”—Company of the Committed, page 62

“The older idea was that the lay members were the pastor's helpers, but the new and vital idea is that the pastor is the helper of the ordinary lay members in the performance of their daily ministry in the midst of secular life. And always, the problem with which the members need the help of wise and compassionate pastors or teachers is that of how daily witness is to be made. Insofar as we really understand the strategy of the Christian revolution, we shall train our pastors for this highly specialized and imaginative task. It cannot be pointed out too clearly, therefore, that emphasis on the vocation of universal Christian witness, far from lowering the vision of the function of the pastorate, immensely heightens it...

“The universal ministry is a great idea, one of the major ideas of the New Testament, but the hard truth is that it does not come to flower except as it is nourished deliberately. Indeed the paradox is that the nourishment of the lay or universal ministry is the chief reason for the development of a special or partially separated and professionalized ministry. We cannot have an effective universal ministry of housewives and farmers and merchants simply by announcing it. It is necessary to produce it.”—Company of the Committed, page 63

<idle musing>
Would that the 50 years since he wrote this had seen a fruition of these ideas!
<idle musing>

New bike

Well, new to me anyway. Last year, when the snow began to fall, Andy generously gave me a mountain bike to ride through the winter. It was a bit too small for me, but it served me well for almost 1000 miles. But, after my spill last Monday, I decided I needed to get at least one studded snow tire. Well, I wasn't sure the bike was worth the cost of a tire, so I asked the bike shop if they had anything used. They didn't have anything on site, but they told me to call back the next day to remind them to look at their other location. I did and they told me they would call me back if they found something.

Midway through last Thursday afternoon, they called me and told me to stop by on my way home. I did, and what they had was a beautiful Specialized cross bike—a cross bike is one that is part mountain bike, part road bike; it is a great commuter bike. The best part is that it was essentially new. They had rented it out for 2 years and needed to retire it for a new model. Because they had already gotten most of their money out of it through rentals, they could offer it to me very cheaply. I took them up on it! "But," I asked, "do you have a studded snow tire for it?" They thought they did, but would have to look.

I stopped by Friday night to pick it up and pay for it. Sure enough, they had found a studded snow tire for the front. I road it home, with the studs singing against the pavement. The bike cut right through the ice on the path without a slip or slide!

This weekend, Debbie and I went to REI in Chicago to pick up a pair of boots for me. While we were there, I also grabbed a very nice rain jacket. My old one had started leaking—too many falls and years had done it in.

So, I feel spoiled: new bike, studded snow tire, new jacket, new boots. What more could I want?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can you say TV Preacher?

“It must be admitted that a few clergymen glory in the contrast between their status and that of ordinary Christians. They accept obeisance as a natural right; they monopolize public praying; they learn how to keep themselves in the limelight. There is something about the pastoral office which makes the temptation to egocentricity especially powerful. This is partly because the successful preacher is regularly praised to his face. His mood seems a far cry from that of Christ when He girded Himself with a towel and washed the feet of His followers. Of course, there is a little pro forma foot washing today, but it becomes a mere ceremony, and it loses its virtue by being reported in the press. Because some pastors love the limelight and prestige, which is in such contrast to the very meaning of servant or minister, they fear the emergence of the lay ministry. Some pastors see gifted lay leaders as threats to their own eminence.”—Company of the Committed, pages 59-60

<idle musing>
OK, not just TV preachers, but they seem to dominate. It must be stressed, though that Trueblood says "a few"—and I agree. Most clergy feel called to what they are doing and genuinely care for the flock. But, the few are the ones who give the rest a bad rap. Heaven knows most clergy will never get rich; some barely make enough to live on. And some spend it all on books...

Mind you, I am not saying that I think the pastorate as currently done is a biblical office, but that is another story all together.
</idle musing>

Eisenbrauns Deal of the Day

We're trying something a bit different for the next two weeks with the DOTD. Here's the text of an e-mail I sent to several e-lists today:

From now through December 27, Eisenbrauns is offering a deal of the day at only $5.00. Retails run from $42.50 to $65.00, but you pay only $5.00.

Today's deal is Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel

To see what is being offered, you may check each day, follow us on Twitter, fan us on Facebook, or subscribe to our RSS feeds.

Our holiday gift to you, from Hanukkah through Christmas weekend.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Letting your light shine

“If we take seriously Christ's first group order, the command to let our light shine, we dare not let the witness be limited to a small group of the professionally religious. Therefore the ministry of Christ must be universal. It must be universal in three specific ways. It must involve all places; it must involve all times; it must involve all Christian persons, male and female, lay and clerical, old and young.”—Company of the Committed, pages 56-57

<idle musing>
That was the battle cry of the Reformation: The priesthood of all believers. How the mighty have fallen; we accept and expect paid staff to do it all. Then we have the nerve to claim we are heirs to the Reformation?!
</idle musing>

Beautiful day for a bike ride

At least compared to yesterday, which was freezing rain in the morning. There is nothing worse to ride in than freezing rain. You get wet, but much worse is that the road is extremely slippery. So, today was beautiful: crisp, mostly clear, with a stiff wind to keep me from overheating.

It is a bit warmer now, 13 F, with a 20 mph wind. It will be nice getting blown home tonight :)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Marketing at Christmas

On Monday I sent out an unusual BookNews. It took me, with extensive assistance from Andy, over an hour to draft it. I was struggling with sending out what I had written; Andy asked why. I told him that I felt Christmas was already over-commercialized and I was just adding to the mess. He suggested I say as much in the e-mail.

Novel idea, eh? Bare my soul to over 2,000 people. Well, he helped me craft it Monday evening and it went out. I figured if I sent it to BookNews, I might as well share it with the 15 people who frequent this blog, as well :)

So, here is the relevant part:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

Any other time of the year I enjoy making things available, but this season seems to flood my Inbox with gift suggestions; I'm sure it does yours, as well. I dislike the feeling of being perceived as a part of the consumerism that seems to be inherent in December. I like the things that Eisenbrauns sells; I enjoy creating the mugs (with a lot of help from others!). I like that people enjoy and use what we sell. But, I don't want to be one of those who is fighting for your holiday dollar (or Euro).

So, with that in mind, feel free to delete this message and get that final term paper done, or study for that exam, or grade those papers. Or, perhaps the best option, spend some time enjoying those you love and enjoying the lights that are everywhere this time of year.

If you did decide to read on, here's a table of contents for what ignited that soul-searching:
1. SBL sale
2. Weekly sale
3. Monthly sale

1. EAP
2. Scholar's Source
3. ANE

Gift stuff:
1. Gift certificates & wish list
2. T-shirts
3. Mugs
4. Brass bookmarks

<idle musing>
It's not perfect, but it sums up how I feel quite well. I hope you enjoy a peaceful—in the שלומ sense of the word—Christmas season.
</idle musing>

The rush of time

“One of the areas of experience in which the acceptance of discipline is most important for modern man is that of the right use of time. Our relation to time is highly paradoxical in that, though we live in an age marked by time-saving devices, we seem to be ever more hectic in running from appointment to appointment. Because we do not have to use precious time, as all of our ancestors did, in carrying water, grinding flour, and weaving cloth, we should, theoretically, have more free time available, but we do not. The trouble seems to be that we presume on the advantage of our inventions by deliberately adding to the number of our engagements until our lives are fragmented.”—Company of the Committed, pages 40-41

<idle musing>
Especially this time of year, right? As I said in BookNews on Monday: spend the time with those you love. Don't give in the the pull of the culture to rush around; take the time to enjoy the snow and the lights—and especially to enjoy God!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I forgot again

It happens every year. Last year I bruised my hip and bent the handlebars. This year, I scraped my cheek and twisted my handlebars. At least I didn't break an arm like Bev's daughter did last year (Bev is one of our editors—a very good one, too!).

What am I talking about? The first snow of the year around here always melts and then forms a thin film of ice over the roads. Not a problem, really; the cars melt it down very quickly. Except on the bike trails! I ride on the bike trail about 3/4 mile through an area called Boy's City or Boy's Club. It is a beautiful ride, full of trees with mountain bike trails criss-crossing it, going up and down the hills. Wonderful area to ride and nice to ride through.

But, at the end of the trail is a hill that has a sharp curve at the bottom. Of course, all the melt runs downhill to the corner... Every year, I forget that and the first snow results in a first crash. My shoulder hurts a bit and there is a bit (OK, lots) of blood on my cheek, but the real problem is my handlebars came loose. I rode the last 1.5 mile to work with handlebars that seemed to move on their own accord—a rather interesting experience.

So, does anybody have a 6 mm Allen wrench I can use before I go home tonight?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Bought with a price

“One of the most surprising facts about the early Church was its fundamental similarity to a military band. This is hard for us to recognize today because the ordinary successful church of the twentieth century is about as different from an army as anything we can imagine. Instead of being under anything resembling military discipline we pride ourselves on our "freedom." We go and come as we like, as no soldier can do; we give or withhold giving as we like; we serve when we get around to it. Obedience is considered an irrelevant notion, and the theme of "Onward Christian Soldiers" is so alien to our experience that some churches avoid the hymn entirely.”—Company of the Committed, page 30

<idle musing>
Freedom is the watchword of our society. But, freedom as we use it is actually just another word for bondage to self—certainly not compatible with Christianity!
</idle musing>

It's snowing

Well, not anymore. But, it was while I rode my bicycle to work today. Almost time to get out the mountain bike, but I haven't repacked the bottom bracket (crank). I guess I had better do that :)

Anyway, the snow made me want to celebrate, so I am posting my favorite description of snow. I post it ever couple of years, but I think it is worth reading again. I used to have outside my office; I might just do that again...

When rain turns to ice and snow I declare a holiday. I could as easily resist as stay at a desk with a parade going by in the street below. I cannot hide the delight that then possesses my heart. Only God could have surprised rain with such a change of dress as ice and cold...

Most people love rain, water. Snow charms all young hearts. Only when you get older and bones begin to feel dampnesss, when snow becomes a traffic problem and a burden in the driveway, when wet means dirt--then the poetry takes flight and God's love play is not noted.

But I am still a child and have no desire to take on the ways of death. I shall continue to heed water's invitation, the call of the rain. We are in love and lovers are a little mad.

From Space for God. Looks like there are some cheap used copies for sale...Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful snow!

I can't believe someone actually said this

Excerpt from They Said What?, page 174:
David Frum, White House speechwriter in 2003: "The sooner the fighting begins in Iraq, the nearer we are to its imminent end. Which means, in other words, this 'rush to war' should really be seen as the ultimate 'rush to peace.'"

<idle musing>
Almost 7 years later, I wonder if he still believes it? Or, if he ever really believed it. It certainly isn't scriptural!
</idle musing>

Friday, December 04, 2009

To go forward, we go back

“We go back to the New Testament, therefore, not as antiquarians and not as mere historians, but in the hope of finding hints of vitality of which our time is relatively unaware. We ought not, for example, to speak of recovering the lost provinces, if this means an attempt to return to the pattern of an earlier day, partly because this is an effort which never succeeds. We should speak, instead, of occupying the lost provinces in new and creative ways and of making spiritual strides which no previous generation has known or even imagined. Commitment is never real unless it leads to mission, and the mission of Christians is always one which points forward. If we are to go forward we must rid our minds of accepted ideas of what a true Church is, or ought to be, much as the research scientists of great industries, when they seek to make radical improvements, find it necessary to free their minds of current conceptions of what manufactured products ought to be like.”—Company of the Committed, page 26

<idle musing>
Contrary to what some may believe about me, I am not a restorationist; I don't believe we can "get back to the New Testament." I agree with the sentiment expressed above; I believe that we have lost some/most of the vitality that the Church had in the New Testament. I also believe that a good part of that vitality was from meeting in smaller groups and meeting frequently—both in homes and elsewhere. Of course, the major vitality always must come from the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of each person!
</idle musing>

To what end fear?

A good Advent sermon was posted last Sunday at Faith and Theology titled "Be very Afraid?" In it, Kim Fabricus discusses our culture of fear. After noting that we are safer today than we have ever been, he comments

You want fear? Take a look at the ancient Middle East and the period of over a thousand years covered by the Bible. Read the stories. Floods, famines, and plagues; war, scorched earth, and exile: life, applying the memorable words of the seventeenth philosopher Thomas Hobbes, life was “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” And you didn’t have to exaggerate, manipulate, or manufacture anxiety in the face of the ever-present threats to human well-being: they were in your face...

And yet what is the refrain that you hear again and again throughout the Bible? “Be afraid, be very afraid”? On the contrary! Without even a hint of denial of the daily struggle for survival, the Lord says to his people, “Do not be afraid.” In the very midst of big trouble, the Lord says, “Do not be anxious.” In the face of death itself, the Lord says, “Peace be with you.” On what grounds? Not because there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be anxious about, nothing to make our stomachs sink and our knees knock. No, no whistling in the dark, not a bit of it. What then? “I am with you,” says the Lord, “I am with you!”

It is that simple. Life is hard, but faith is that simple. “Be afraid, be very afraid”? Don’t be silly! The Lord is with me! The seas roar – the Lord is with me! The mountains tumble – the Lord is with me! The troops are breaching the city walls – the Lord is with me! The angel of death pounds at the door – the Lord is with me! Or: I’ve just been told I have cancer, my husband – it’s the Alzheimer’s – doesn’t recognise me anymore, we’ve missed our mortgage payments again – fill in the blank: at one time or another we’re all going to have a pack of troubles, and we’ll have two chances to get out of them – slim or none. “Do not be afraid,” says the Lord, “I am with you!”

<idle musing>
The Bible is full of the refrain "Be not afraid." Our western culture is full of the opposite, so much so that we have created a three letter acronym for it: FUD. It has become a standard marketing tool: "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" and it is used all the time. Keep your eyes open for it, and then laugh. Be not afraid!
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Billboards and churches

“The tragedy of the [church advertising] billboards lies less in what they say than in their revelation of a suppressed premise concerning the central nature of Christ's cause. Many betray the same unargued assumption when they describe themselves by announcing which church they go to. The trouble with this response is that a church, in its very nature, is not really something to which men and women can go. Rather, it is something which they may be in. The difference is fundamental and far-reaching. We can go to a railroad station or to a motion picture theater or to a ball game; but a church is something which demands a wholly different human relationship, the relationship of belonging. If a man is really in — really belongs to — a church, he is just as much a member of it when he sits at his desk in his business or house as when he sits in a pew at his meetinghouse. The point is that the relationship, if real, is continuous, regardless of time and place and performance.”—Company of the Committed, page 19

<idle musing>
I have to continually remind myself that this book was written almost 50 years ago! Not a whole lot has changed, unfortunately.
</idle musing>

Scary statistic

I ran across this at the heresy:

Of the nation’s 12 largest churches, she [Kate Bowler, a doctoral candidate at Duke University] says, three are prosperity—Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s, in Phoenix; and T. D. Jakes’s, in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel dominates. Overall, Bowler classifies 50 of the largest 260 churches in the U.S. as prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful.

<idle musing>
This is a perversion of the gospel, pure and simple. Jesus calls us to die to self, not to live for material gain—I Timothy 6:5 comes to mind: διαπαρατριβαὶ διεφθαρμένων ἀνθρώπων τὸν νοῦν καὶ ἀπεστερημένων τῆς ἀληθείας, νομιζόντων πορισμὸν εἶναι τὴν εὐσέβειαν.
and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (NRSV)

I think that's pretty accurate, depraved in mind and bereft of the truth.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Aslan isn't a tame lion

“Some indication of the mildness of our religious conviction is illustrated by the fact that we spend more on dog food than we spend on foreign missions. Another indication is the fact that we expect the inaugural address to be more inspiring than the prayers which precede and follow it. In short, we welcome religion, but we expect it to be innocuous and, above all, unfanatical. We are willing to accept it, provided that it involves no zeal.”—Company of the Committed, page 17

<idle musing>
Again, this was written in 1961. If he wrote it now, he would probably note that we spend more on coloring hair than we do on missions. Or, he might mention that we spend more on cosmetics than many countries GDP. Or...well, you get the idea.
</idle musing>

New sale at Eisenbrauns

It's December, so that means it's time for Eisenbrauns annual Used Book Sale! 20% off on all used books the entire month. I'll bet you find something you can't live without. Yes, even you Nick—we do sell New Testament stuff, you know :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I started blogging 1471 posts ago, back in October 2005, but on December 1, 2005 is the first post in which I used <idle musing>.

Just an <idle musing>

Youth programs

“A number of churches claim to have highly successful youth programs, but not all of these will bear close examination. What we discover is that the youth program in many local churches is almost entirely one of entertainment, not really different in kind from the secular entertainment which is provided in such abundance by those modern parents who strive pathetically to keep their children happy.”—Company of the Committed, page 13

<idle musing>
Sound like it was written yesterday? This book was written in about 1961! Not a whole lot has changed, has it? :(
</idle musing>