Friday, December 31, 2010

A virtual cafeteria of gods

I'm in a new book now, God in New Testament Theology by Larry Hurtado. Here's the first excerpt. I'm not sure how much I will be able to excerpt, though; so much of the stuff depends on more than a short excerpt.

“But in the ancient world of the first Christians (and in large parts of the current world as well), the words for god (e.g., the Greek word theos) designated one of many kinds of divine beings. There was neither one deity nor even one genus or definition of deity. Instead, there was a veritable cafeteria of divine beings of various orders, attributes, and functions. Not only the Roman Empire as a whole but also individual nations and peoples were rather richly supplied with deities. So, in that setting, when one spoke of a “god” it was not automatically clear who or what the referent was. It could be one of the numerous traditional deities of the many cities or various peoples, or it could be new or imported ones. Indeed, in a number of settings one could even refer to the ruler as a 'god'.

“Moreover, the common view was that all deities were entitled to receive appropriate worship. A city or a people might well have their particular patron-deity—and might well have thought of one deity as holding pre-eminence among the gods—to whom a city or people might give special reverence. But it was understood that other cities and peoples had their deities too and that they were just as worthy of worship. Indeed, when people traveled to another city or country, ordinarily they would freely participate in the worship of the local deities, if invited, with no sense of unfaithfulness to their own deities. To be sure, philosophers of the day sometimes urged the idea that there was really one deity behind or above all the particular traditional deities, the latter sometimes thought of as manifestations of the one deity. But even those proposing such a view (sometimes referred to by scholars today as a 'pagan monotheism') did not really question giving worship to all the many deities of the religious environment. That is, their philosophical musings in general had little impact on popular religious behavior, not even their own.”—God in New Testament Theology, pages 27-28

<idle musing>
I can't emphasize too much the importance of this for understanding the ancient world and the persecution of Christians. If you don't get this, it makes no sense. I guess the closest to it today is when some people (such as myself) believe that saying the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag is compromising their commitment to God. Heresy! I can hear you crying; but it is true, if you but stop and think about it. No? Then I have a question for you: does a fish know it is wet?
</idle musing>

Musings at the end of a year

Yesterday we had a 3.8 earthquake (downgraded from 4.2); today we had a thunderstorm and it is 50º F. What's going on?

Simple; I'm becoming a senior citizen tomorrow! Yep, in only 15 more years I can retire. Of course, by then they will have raised the retirement age to 80, but no worries. As long as I can ride my bike to work, I'm fine for another 30 years :)

Seriously, though. May you have a blessed and happy year in 2011. May God make the fullness of his glory known to you through Christ. And may you learn to rest more fully in his love.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The real issue

“'First,' Gordon [Cosby] says, 'a person must come to that place where he knows that the real issue is always an internal one.' this is a difficult lesson to learn. The temptation of the natural man is to focus on what is wrong 'out there.' Leaders want to blame circumstances and other people for struggles and failures, but it is crucial that leaders begin with the only person they have the authority to change or control: themselves.” Missional Small Groups, page 165

<idle musing>
Amen! This is a tough one to admit; it's so much easier to blame "somebody else" for everything. Hey, we've been doing it since Genesis 3, so why should it be a surprise?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How-to versus who

“...we often look for leadership training that focuses on skills development. The questions asked in such training always focuses on the how question. The reality, however, is that leading a missional group is more about the who question. I have written this book as an invitation to be and live differently. Being missional will not result from a list of how-tos we can follow; developing the skills to lead a missional group will not occur when a person simply abandons one set of leadership techniques and adopts another.

“Leading missional groups occurs as leaders are formed and shaped for mission. We have to think and lead differently when the purpose of the group moves from simply getting churched people to attend groups to moving our experience of community back into the neighborhoods. And this us especially true when we realize that those in our neighborhoods are not that interested in coming to church as it has traditionally been conceived.” Missional Small Groups, page 163

<idle musing>
This is very true. Leadership training will never be effective by itself; the who is far more important than the how.
</idle musing>

Join the flat-earth society

Robin Parry has a nice thought about cosmology today:

I want to say that God did not reveal himself in spite of the ancient cosmology but through the ancient cosmology. Whilst it is impossible for us to inhabit the cosmos in the way that we did (it is scientifically naive) we can still inhabit the cosmos in a way that is deeply informed by their cosmology.

Ancient cosmologies were very much to do with the meaning, purpose, and function of the cosmos. Their ways of thinking of the universe saw it as "enchanted" and meaning-full. I tentatively suggest that God is actually affirming the meanings embedded in their naive cosmology. Thus whilst we cannot affirm biblical cosmology at a scientific level we can affirm it at the level of meaning...

I am suggesting that our job as Bible readers is not to say what the apostles and prophets said (that would require us to join the flat earth society). Rather, echoing Barth, we must say what we must say in light of what the apostles and prophets said. We must not simply cast aside ther [sic] husk of biblical cosmologies but rather learn from them how to reenchant the cosmos and how to inhabit "our" cosmos biblically.

<idle musing>
It is nice to see people interacting with the biblical text on its terms instead of our terms. Would that more people did! It sure would eliminate a lot of the senseless arguments I hear.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We're back

We just got back from 2-plus weeks with our kids. The drive up was in the middle of the biggest snow storm in December's Minnesota history; some areas we drove through ended up with 23 inches. It was a blast!

We spent the first week with our son, Ryan, and his wife and child (Emily and Evelyn). Their basement had flooded in the rains that the Minneapolis area got earlier this fall; Ryan wanted to get rid of the damaged paneling and Styrofoam™ insulation as soon as possible to avoid mold growth. So, we spent the first few days tearing out old paneling and insulation. We found the spots where the wall had leaked and plugged them with Portland cement, then we painted the whole basement wall with Drylock™. Then we put up drywall and stuff. We also added a new room which will eventually become a bedroom. I'd say we got about half-done by the end of the week.

We spent the second week with our daughter, Renee, and her family (Joel, Joshua, Rachel, Madeline, and Beansprout, who is about to be born). We had a grand time playing, talking, cooking, singing, etc. We even got to go on a sleigh ride on Christmas day! Good times!

I sure enjoyed the snow while we were there, but it is good to be back home again—even though there isn't much snow here...

No easy answers

“The nature of injustice in neighborhoods varies from one place to the next. It is easy to make this about poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods, proclaiming that justice is about those classified as rich doing something nice for those classified as poor. As a result, justice becomes about being good deed doers. With this mind-set, groups might think they are following Jesus in righting wrongs by attending the church's monthly outreach night or doing a periodic service project for the community. But facing injustice is not something we can check off our monthly to-do list so that we can feel proud of our good deeds.

“Treating people as a project reinforces the injustice. Instead, we are called to engage people relationally to discover who they are as people. Jesus instructs his people to face injustice personally and to do so by treating those in need as equals.” Missional Small Groups, pages 154-155

<idle musing>
Treating people as people is the beginning of evangelism. Treating them as projects is demeaning and does no one any good.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Business is not missional

“After working with churches for nearly two decades, I have seen one consistent problem with people actually doing this practice. Some of the people who have the most to offer neighborhoods are also the busiest at keeping the organization of the church going All of their volunteer time is spent working in committees, singing in the choir, leading youth events for kids in the church, teaching Sunday school, and attending up to three services per week. Sometimes it seems like the more committed to God a person becomes, the less he or she is involved with the neighborhood. This seems especially true of those who are paid employees of local churches.

“To enter into Missional Engagement with the neighborhood is not synonymous with maintaining the organization of the church and all of its trappings.”— Missional Small Groups, page 140

<idle musing>
I've seen the same thing. Sad isn't it, that we have confused activities to keep the organization going with the heart of God for the world?
</idle musing>

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vacation

We are leaving today and won't be back until December 27. I don't know if I will have Internet access consistently enough to post or not. I suspect not. Besides, I'll be spending time with the kids and grandkids :) So, merry Christmas to all and check out this post from last year about Christmas.

The mission field

"Our mission field is ripe for God's people to live consistently with one another in a certain way and in a certain place. We no longer need a haphazard gospel sharing that is not supported by visible community. We need much more than good sermons, big buildings, and professional video presentations. We need a people committed to specific places who are called to bring redemption to those places."— Missional Small Groups, page 139

<idle musing>
Amen! The hard part, of course, is living it...and that can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, living within us and empowering us.
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The neighborhood

"When we practice presence in the neighborhood, we give people the opportunity to feel the life of the gospel and not just hear it. If we are not present in the neighborhood, we have no credibility to do some of the more proactive rhythms identified in the next few chapters. And if we are not present, we have no right to expect people to take the message of the gospel seriously. Presence establishes us as people who live in this world and as people who have a God who can do something about what is going on in this world."— Missional Small Groups, page 135

<idle musing>
The incarnation is a perfect example. As Roger Olson put it the other day: "For God so loved the world…that He couldn’t stay away. Yes, to academics and scholars it sounds simplistic and even smacks of folk religion. But if you strip from it any connotation of God being “lonely” or absent it’s an apt statement of the gospel itself."
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Interpreter's Dictionary on sale!

Here it is the 8th of December already, and I haven't mentioned the Eisenbrauns December sale! Good thing this isn't an official Eisenbrauns blog :)

This is a great sale, if I have to say so myself; it isn't every day you can get an $800.00 set for $240. Here's the BookNews announcement:

December brings many things for many people. If your inbox is anything like mine, you are being inundated by marketing e-mails screaming for attention. At Eisenbrauns, we like to be a bit more low key. As a company that was started (and still run and owned) by a scholar for the benefit of other scholars, we try to get you the tools you need every day of the year at a reasonable price. We are extremely grateful for your 35 years of support and hope that we can continue to serve you in the future.

While I was attending SBL, I received permission to run a sale on the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, with the CD-ROM. This is an unprecedented offer which I hope you take advantage of. To add to the dictionary, Eisenbrauns is offering a 40% savings on individual volumes of the New Interpreter's Bible commentary.

If you are looking for gift ideas, we encourage you to visit our gift page by clicking on Rex, the Eisenbrauns' Ibex on our home page--the one with the blinking nose, that is. We offer t-shirts, mugs, brass bookmarks, and gift certificates. You can also create a wish list for yourself, or search the wish list for others.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns will be permitted. Offer good only on orders placed at www.eisenbrauns.com through December 31, 2010.

To easily access all the sale items, please visit:
http://www.eisenbrauns.com/pages/SPECIAL
================================================================

"New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible,
all five volumes plus CD-ROM"
Edited by Pheme Perkins, et al.
New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible - NIDB
Abingdon, 2010. English.
List Price: $800.00 Your Price: $240.00

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 1: General and
Old Testament Articles; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus"
by Terence E. Fretheim, Walter Brueggemann, and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 1
Abingdon, 1994. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278145
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 2: Numbers, Deuteronomy,
Introduction to Narrative Literature, Joshua, Judges, Ruth,
1 and 2 Samuel"
by Thomas B. Dozeman, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 2
Abingdon, 1998. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278152
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 3: 1 and 2 Kings,
1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Additions to Esther,
Tobit, Judith"
by Choon-Leong Seow, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 3
Abingdon, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278169
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 4: 1 and 2 Macabees,
Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms"
by Robert Doran, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 4
Abingdon, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278176
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 5: Introduction to
Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles,
Book of Wisdom, Sirach"
by Richard J. Clifford, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 5
Abingdon, 1997. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278183
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 6: Introduction to
Prophetic Literature; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Baruch; Letter to
Jeremiah; Lamentations; Ezekiel"
by David L. Petersen, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 6
Abingdon, 2001. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278190
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 7: Introduction to
Apocalyptic Literature, Daniel, Twelve Prophets"
by Frederick J. Murphy, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, and Gale A. Yee
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 7
Abingdon, 1996. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278206
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 8: General Articles
on the New Testament, Matthew, Mark"
by M. Eugene Boring and Pheme Perkins
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 8
Abingdon, 1995. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278213
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 9: Luke; John"
by R. Alan Culpepper
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 9
Abingdon, 1995. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278220
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 10: Acts, Introduction to
Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians"
by Robert W. Wall, N. T. Wright, and J. Paul Sampley
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 10
Abingdon, 2002. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278237
List Price: $74.00 Your Price: $44.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 11: 2 Corinthians, Galatians,
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians"
by Richard B. Hays, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 11
Abingdon, 2000. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278244
List Price: $62.00 Your Price: $37.20

"The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 12: Hebrews, James,
1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation"
by Clifton Black, et al.
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB 12
Abingdon, 1998. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687278251
List Price: $64.00 Your Price: $38.40

"The New Interpreter's Bible Index"
New Interpreter's Bible - NIB
Abingdon, 2004. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9780687039166
List Price: $44.00 Your Price: $26.40

Kids in small groups

"Oftentimes, group members see the children in a way that is counterproductive. Some of these ways include these false beliefs:

* Kids are a nuisance to group life.
* Small groups are for adults, and the kids are not group members until they can participate in the discussion.
* Bible study is the purpose of the meeting and it is an intellectual activity.
* Kids are not old enough to be used by the Spirit."
Missional Small Groups, page 124

<idle musing>
Wow! The last one floored me! I have seen God use kids in a way adults would never let him! To say that kids aren't old enough is just plain insane.

That being said, dealing with kids in a small group/house church setting isn't simple. He spends the better part of the next 2 pages expanding on it. I've also read chapters-long ideas on how to handle kids in a small group/house church setting. There really isn't an "easy" answer, but they are definitely not to be viewed as second-class citizens!
</idle musing>

This is rare

It is very rare that I agree with anything Al Mohler says. But, I do agree with him about yoga. Our of Ur has a nice post summarizing the mess. Read the whole thing, but here's a taste of it:

Many of the responses Al Mohler received to his original column were from people who do yoga stretches while forgoing any of yoga’s religious elements. Mohler took issue with this bifurcation. "My response to that would be simple and straightforward: You're just not doing yoga.”

Mohler received support for his view from a surprising source—a Hindu. Rajiv Malhotra wrote a column for The Huffington Post on the question of “Christian yoga.” He said:

While yoga is not a "religion" in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine" is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching.

With the popularity of yoga among all people, including Christians, getting a better understanding of the issue is important for pastors responsible for giving spiritual guidance. What Mohler, Driscoll, and even Malhotra agree on is that the philosophical/religious origins of yoga are incompatible with Christian belief, AND if those elements of yoga are stripped away what remains (the stretches and breathing practices) cannot be rightly called “yoga.”

<idle musing>
Yep. It isn't compatible with Christianity. I do take issue with Mohler's statement about reaching divinity; it seems incompatible with theosis, which I strongly believe in (just do a search on this blog for the term to see how much I believe in it!). But, that could just be a misuse of terminology.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

As the snow blows

Time for a garden update, as the snow flies and the temperature hovers around 20º F. Friday night I got home, after a cold, snowy ride, and walked into the greenhouse. It was dark (it gets dark at about 5:30 now), but still warm, so I picked some spinach, a head of romaine lettuce, and pulled two carrots. Oh, I grabbed some beet greens, too.

The outer leaves of the romaine were a bit frost bitten, but the rest were fine. I hadn't put a second layer of protection over them yet. The carrots were very nice and sweet—the cold converts the starches in carrots into sugar, and the spinach was excellent. I washed them, cut them up, added home made pickle relish and yogurt for a dressing, and enjoyed a wonderful salad. Not bad for December 3 in northern Indiana, is it?

Saturday, I put a second layer over the stuff in the greenhouse. The temperatures had gotten into the low teens, Fahrenheit, which is a bit cold for an unheated greenhouse. The second layer keeps the stuff from freezing. A few of my radishes, which are very small right now (I'm hoping for a January crop), had gotten frostbit. I put them under a cold frame to keep them warmer.

I pulled a couple of nice sized beets for supper. They went well with the potatoes that we have stored in the basement. I finished up the romaine lettuce, too. The rest of the spinach had been consumed on the pizza we made Friday night.

Yep. I can make pizza again. The bandage on my right hand is small enough I can knead the small amount of dough we need for a pizza. I still can't knead a regular loaf of bread, though :(

I do have a problem with the greenhouse door, though. I forgot that it is very humid inside; the wood on the frames swelled and now the door sticks at the bottom. I'll need to fix that come spring...I just hope I can continue to get inside to harvest the bounty!

Leisure time

“Leisure rest differs from Sabbath rest. In leisure rest we escape from the world into mindless numbness. We go to the theatre to escape the pressure cooker of this world. We watch TV or attend a football game in order to enter an alternative experience than the stresses of our everyday lives.

“In the Sabbath rest we set aside a day for two reasons. First, it is a day of not working or not producing goods or services for the sake of personal gain or sustenance. We have six days for production; this day is about trusting God for our sustenance. Second, it is a day for asking to see what God is up to in my life, the life of my community and in my neighborhood. On this day we look at what God is doing in our world and take in God's creation by reflecting on the previous week and offering the next week to God. Missional Small Groups, page 98

<idle musing>
OK. The first paragraph makes sense. But, the second one seems to perpetuate the idea of a dichotomy between secular and sacred. If God redeemed me and bought me, that means he owns me—and all of my time—not just Sundays! Sure, I agree we need to take a day off; it isn't good to work 7 days a week. But, the true rest of God as described in Hebrews 3-4 is allowing Christ to live in you all the time. Circumstances are irrelevant to whether you can rest in Christ or not.

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday's quotation

"It is okay to talk about spiritual things in the church. We can talk about prayer, living morally upright, 'getting saved,' God's love for us, and other topics that fit nicely into a sixty- to ninety-minute spiritual escape on Sunday morning. But it is not okay to talk about the spiritual implications of how we spend our money or our time. Those are private matters that should be left to individual choices.

“But the Bible actually speaks quite a lot about these very practical, mundane matters of life. Things like greed, anxiety, self-promotion, and priorities in life fill the pages of God's Word. To limit God to a box labeled 'Spiritual' is to miss the point of biblical spirituality. The way we do life in mundane things—like how we handle our money and manage our time—directly impacts our life with God. We often fail to realize how the little decisions we make every day about seemingly insignificant things can actually undermine the rhythms that God has called us to play in this world. Missional Small Groups, page 89

Friday, December 03, 2010

More thoughts on the gods

About 2 weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on the gods as represented in ancient literature. After discussing it further with Debbie (my wife), it became obvious to both of us that I didn't adequately express what I was trying to say. So, let's try it again...

First off, a confession: I believe in the gods (and goddesses). Yes, all of them, Ba`al, 'El, Zeus, Jupiter, Apollo, etc. OK, you can get up off the floor now and let me finish. I believe that they are divine beings, but that they are created ones, under the thumb, so to speak, of YHWH. I suspect I am in the minority in the Western world, bordering on insane, but in the 2/3 world, I would be considered sane and reasonable.

Further, I believe this is the worldview of the Bible and the Church Fathers, in fact most everyone up until the "enlightenment" happened. Now, there are some corollaries to this that have important ramifications. For our purposes here, only one is important:

If the gods are real, then spells have power. The ancients thought so. In fact, in the 2/3 world even today, they will cancel soccer matches because of supposed witchcraft by the opposing team. Why, unless they saw evidence that the spells were effective?

OK, I've probably been written off by most of you, but let's go a bit further here...Why is the biblical text so adamant about not consulting horoscopes? Our 21st century Western mind says, "Because they don't work." Wrong answer! It is because they are based on the belief that the stars are deities (see The Standard Babylonian Creation Myth for details). They are exalting someone other than YHWH as in charge.

Why is witchcraft condemned? Same reason. Why is divination wrong? Again, because only YHWH should be the holder of the future.

By now you are probably wondering where all this is going. Bottom line: I created a mug that has an incantation on it. That was wrong! It was a sin against YHWH because it gave glory to someone other than YHWH. Even if nobody who reads it believes it, that doesn't change that fact. If I could, I would destroy them. But, I can't, they aren't mine...

Quiet

"In many ways we live in a culture in which people are afraid to be truly alone, because in such an experience, we don't like what we see. We are afraid to be with ourselves, to sit and reflect, to listen to what is going on in our hearts. As a result, we cling to activity, to conversations, to noise, and ultimately to others. Often we cling to people in groups in order to survive life, but this can actually steal life from the community and suck it dry."— Missional Small Groups, page 80

<idle musing>
Bonhoeffer in Life Together says that if a person can't stand to be alone, they shouldn't be allowed to be in a group; it will simply disguise their need. Our society is terrified of aloneness and of quiet. And it is getting worse; the music in the stores is getting louder, people are carrying their MP3 players everywhere, they are continually on their cellphones, mobile Internet access never leaves us alone. But, we are bankrupt! Without alone time, our wells are shallow and we have nothing to offer each other. We can't hear God speaking to us unless we are listening; all the noise keeps us distracted from his call. He yearns for intimacy with us, and we settle for a catchy tune or a fleeting tweet or text message. He beckons and we answer our cell phone. How sad.
</idle musing>

Bookselling in perspective

I ran across this in my wanderings today:

According to Orwell, "the real reason why I should not like to be in the book trade for life is that while I was in it I lost my love of books. A bookseller has to tell lies about books, and that gives him a distaste for them."

He was wrong. A great bookseller doesn't have to tell lies about books. A great bookseller is an interpreter who sometimes lets the books speak for themselves.--Robert Gray in Shelf Awareness, an e-letter for booksellers.

<idle musing>
I agree with Robert Gray, not Orwell! I point people to the books that they are looking for; the books—especially Eisenbrauns books—sell themselves.
</idle musing>

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Which questions?

"There is a lot of talk about how to do small groups and little actual talk about the God who desires to show up at those small groups. How can we talk about spiritual gifts if our small group imagination is primarily shaped by sociological principles, small group structures, and Bible study questions. Through the Internet and published resources, we have more small group tools at our disposal today than during any other era in church history. I hope these resources are helpful. but if our imagination about small group life is primarily shaped by questions about sociological principles, small group structures, and small group study materials, then I wonder if we are asking the right questions."— Missional Small Groups, page 76

<idle musing>
Agreed. Not that the resources are bad, but if they cause us to ask the wrong questions, they are pointless. If the purpose of a small group is to encounter God, then everything should lead to that end. If the purpose of a small group is to have friends, then that is a different matter all together. Personally, I prefer the first option :)
</idle musing>

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters

The Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters has a blog.

Subscribe to the RSS feed, but be sure to check out Mike Bird's introductions—both of them! I like this one the best:

video

The presence of God

"When I read most books on small groups, little is said in them about God's presence. They contain a lot of tactical information and practical skill training. I read articles on group leadership and it is easy to find information on how to ask good questions, ideas for creative study materials, and instructions on what leaders do in order to be effective. I would rather be part of a group that gets all of the tactical stuff wrong but yet encounters Jesus on a regular basis than miss out on the presence of God while getting the technical steps to group leadership right."— Missional Small Groups, page 70

<idle musing>
Amen! Preach it brother! There is nothing wrong with the techniques in and of themselves, but unless they lead to an encounter with the living God, they are worthless.
</idle musing>

More links

I can type a bit better today, so watch for more posting (you were warned!). Meanwhile, a few more links.

Joel muses on whether or not we are all atheists. Sound like a familiar refrain? Here's a snippet:

I think that the notion of separating our faith into a private realm and forgoing any and all public expression of it in an effort not to offend anyone helps us to forget the immanent God. I think that for us, we have forgotten to live our faith, and instead shield it, suffocating it until it is gone all the while pretending we still have it.

<idle musing>
He's singing from the same hymnal I am. We have stripped the divine of all mystery; all that is left is a shadow not worth worshiping. But, God is bigger than that! We just need to open ourselves up to his proddings.
</idle musing>

On a somewhat related note, the newest Biblical Studies carnival is up. I don't know where he found the time to chase all those links; there is something there to make everyone mad, from fundamentalists to atheists and everywhere in between!

Shifting gears to bookselling, I just discovered this site today. It was started by the bookseller at 57th Street Books in Chicago—one of my favorite bookstores. When I was in graduate school, we would go there as a family and read the books in the kid's section. It is a part of the Seminary Coop Bookstore and I spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars there in the three years we were in the area. Great store! Anyway, give the site a read and bookmark or RSS it.

One of today's gems from the site is Books After Amazon. Please read the whole thing, but here is a short snippet:

For decades the publishing world has been anxious about the end of books. Industry consolidation has led to a much-lamented shift to a business-oriented ethos, particularly at some of the larger conglomerates. With corporate ownership came a demand for profit margins that the book-publishing world had never seen. Yet even if new management is nothing like that of the past—gentlemen with large fortunes who became gentlemen with small fortunes—publishing remains an intensely people-driven business, the kind where folks meet face-to-face. Even today most people involved in publishing are there because they love good books.

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You don't go into bookselling or publishing to get rich. Well, unless you are the founder of Amazon, that is.
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