Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thought for the day

George Barna did another survey; this time about the relative popularity of various well-known individuals. Here is a short excerpt from the survey results:

Barna also pointed out that born again adults seem capable of compartmentalizing their faith. "The perceptions that born again adults have of public figures is nearly identical to that of people who are not born again. That suggests that their faith in Christ has little influence upon their decision-making, which explains why surveys find few distinctives in their lifestyle and values. Not only are most born again adults surprisingly oblivious to national religious leaders, but they apparently have the same perceptual filter as people who have not turned to Jesus Christ. If nothing else, this suggests that most born again adults are a work in progress, and that there is a lot of growth yet to experience in the renewing of their minds."

<idle musing>
This is a disturbing trend. It seems that we too easily allow intellectual assent to the claims of Jesus and the gospel to be sufficient. We don’t allow the “radium of the Cross,” as an early 20th century author called it, to burn our self-life, self-love, and self-centeredness out. The cross has one purpose–to kill.

No one ever erected a cross in the ancient world for the sake of an ornament; it was designed for one purpose–to kill the person hanging on it. Scripture says we are crucified with Christ. Now, I haven’t been to a lot of funerals, but never once have I seen the dead body get up and talk about how great it was, after all, it’s dead! It looked very pretty in the casket, all made-up and dressed up, but that didn’t change the fact that it was dead. You could have said all kinds of wonderful, or terrible, things about it, but it wouldn’t have blushed, or moved, or writhed in discomfort. It’s dead! It doesn’t care who’s who in the top rankings.

All that is pretty obvious, even a first grader would probably know it. But, as Christians, do we remember it? Is Christ the life of our life (as Galatians 2:20 has it)?

Oh, the other thing about the cross is you can’t nail yourself there; God puts you there. Self-crucifixion doesn’t work. For that matter, when was the last time someone decided they didn’t want to hang on the cross (after they were put there), and then proceeded to pull out the spikes by themselves and climb down? Yet, that is what we sometimes do…pretty ludicrous picture, isn’t it?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Parasitic Christians

There was an excellent post by Scot McKnight late last week about Parasitic Christians. Here is a brief snippet, but please read the whole thing. It is worth it.

Parasitic Christians are those who “show their brilliance” by criticizing others, by showing how someone doesn’t measure up, by revealing how someone made a slight misstep, by making it clear that someone might be veering off the course. These parasitic Christians, instead of being known for positive and fresh insight into God, into Jesus, into what the Bible says and the simple practices of compassion and grace and love and justice, spread a cancer of we-are-holier-than-thou throughout many pockets in the Church. They make people think that either one is the devil of hell or a saint in glory. They feed off of the slips of other Christians. They seem to find the Church to be the problem. Instead of putting forward good ideas, new ideas, creative conclusions, their approach is attack.

What I find in most of the parasitic Christians is a self-congratulations about their own faithfulness. Put differently, what they are doing in criticizing another is finding a way to feel good about themselves. We learned in grade school that most people who criticize do so not to help others reform their ways but to feel good about themselves. Parasitic Christians, so it appears to me, feel very good about themselves. They have, to use the words of Jesus, their reward.

<idle musing>:
Ouch! A bit too close to home in some respects. We need to be modeling a life transformed by the power of God. That doesn’t mean dissing others; rather it means showing them, both verbally and by our actions, that there is a better way—the Jesus Way, the way of love.

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.—Romans 12:16-21 RSV

<idle musing>

Monday, February 26, 2007

Blogs I’ve seen of late

UPDATE: I fixed the link to the Ultimate Testament. Sorry about the bad link. James

Ok, there is way too much good stuff going on out there! A good problem, unless you want to digest it all... I’m going to mention a few good posts of late (actually quite late, last week), and hope you take the time to peruse them.

At The M blog there is a good post on the curse of knowledge. No, he is not saying knowledge is bad, just that it makes it hard for us to remember what it was like before we had the knowledge. Good food for thought.

He also has a post about the strength of a group of 2-3. He is quoting from a book by Neil Cole Organic Church. Good stuff.

Ted Gossard over at The Jesus Community has a wonderful post about real beauty—not the superficial kind, but real beauty. I praise God that I am married to a woman who reflects true beauty, as well as being beautiful.

On the House Church Blog there is a post about his experience at a recent conference in Asia. They put the people into small “house churches” so they could experience it. The results were encouraging, and hopefully life changing.

Leighton Tebay has a wonderful quote about the scrap heap of history.

The Better Bibles Blog has had two very powerful posts of late. First Suzanne tells us why she cares so much about women in the church. Then, Wayne shares how he found freedom in Christ after 40 years. I weep when I hear these stories.

Claude Mariottini has a post on the Ultimate Testament. Seems there’s a book out there called The Secret that is tickling people’s ears with promises of wealth and fame, the true gods of our culture.

There are some other ones, but I would like to interact with them a bit more, so stay tuned over the next few days…

Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”

I finished Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses the other day. I’m not going to try and say a lot about it, since Chris Tilling is doing a good job in a multi-part series on his blog. I did notice that Kevin Edgecomb didn’t like it.

Personally, I enjoyed it, finding it a very viable theory, and a healthy corrective to the extreme skepticism of many scholars. The last chapter was, in my opinion, the best part of the book. Ostensibly the chapter is about Jesus and tradition, but really it is a full blown examination of historiography. If you deal with history in any way, whether Hebrew Bible, New Testament, ANE, or Classics, you should read this chapter. That’s all I’m going to say. Go ahead and read it, then tell me whether or not you agree [secret recipe for sales of the book :) Do you think it will work? I don't either!]

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What are we coming to?

The other day, as I was driving back from a meeting, I saw a sign on a pet shop: Weight control food for your cat or dog.

What? We have overweight pets, too? Not content to stuff ourselves, are we now stuffing our animals, too? Please, tell me this is just a marketing gimmick...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Quote for the day

"What else is the goal of theological education than to bring us closer to the Lord our God so that we may be more faithful to the great commandment to love him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37)? Seminaries and divinity schools must lead theology students into an ever-growing communion with God, with each other, and with their fellow human beings. Theological education is meant to form our whole person toward an increasing conformity with the mind of Christ so that our way of praying and our way of believing will be one.

"But is this what takes place? Often it seems that we who study or teach theology find ourselves entangled in such a complex network of discussions, debates, and arguments about God and “God-issues” that a simple conversation with God or a simple presence to God has become practically impossible. Our heightened verbal ability, which enables us to make many distinctions, has sometimes become a poor substitute to a single-minded commitment to the Word who is life. If there is a crisis in theological education, it is first and foremost a crisis of the word. This is not to say that critical intellectual work and the subtle distinctions it requires have no place in theological training. But when our words are no longer a reflection of the divine Word in and through whom the world has been created and redeemed, they lose their grounding and become as seductive and misleading as the words used to sell Geritol."—Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, pp. 39-40.

Friday, February 23, 2007

On this day

On this day, in about 155 AD, Polycarp was accused of atheism and ordered to renounce Christ. His response has become famous:

“Eighty and six years have I served him and he has done me no wrong. Can I revile my King that saved me?”

They burned him at the stake. The Martrydom of Polycarp says that the smell of his burning was as the baking of bread. Personally, I doubt it, but there is no doubt he was a godly man who died in his master’s service. We would do well to be as uncompromising in our faith as he was.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Quote for the day

“I have stressed in the past how a believer needs to grow in several respects. Let me reiterate them once again. First, after one is saved he should seek for proper knowledge of the Bible. Second, he should desire to make progress in the spiritual life, such as victory, holiness, perfect love, and so forth. This is very very important. Third, we should be fervent in winning souls. Fourth, we should trust in God with such singleness of faith that we may see God working miracles.

“There are many defects in the church today. Many believers are interested in nothing more than the expounding of the Scriptures. Their knowledge is excellent, yet they neither care for nor seek after growth in spiritual life. Or some may go a step further and search for the higher life and the deeper things of God, but they neglect the other three aspects. Still others have zeal but have no knowledge. All such lopsided strivings are unhealthy. Is it not surprising that in the church today those who seek to either literally or spiritually expound the Bible, or to pursue after deeper and richer life, or to be zealous in soul winning are not lacking in number, but few there be who trust God with a living faith so as to obtain something from Him?”—Watchman Nee in The Latent Power of the Soul

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Short little book

Yesterday afternoon a new book came in from Augsburg/Fortress Press in their Facets series. The book is only about 110 pages, but it is intriguing. I am going to have to read the whole thing. Here are the bibliographic details:

The Horrors We Bless

The Horrors We Bless
Rethinking the Just-War Legacy
by Daniel C. Maguire
Fortress Press, 2007
viii + 103 pages, English
Paper, 4.5 x 7
ISBN: 0800638972
List Price: $7.00
Your Price: $6.51

Anyway, I was looking through the book, and was struck by how insightful it was. He isn't a pacifist, although he acknowledges that the early church was overwhelmingly so. He isn't a just war theorist, saying it lacks sufficient Biblical backing. I'm not quite sure what he is proposing, since I was only able to look through about 15 pages or so. But, one thing he does say is, "War is stupid." (italics his).

He then proceeds to talk about rules of war, taking the medieval period as an example. There were certain rules of war: knights on horses, etc. Well, the English discovered the longbow and beat the crap out of the French. The French didn't learn, and tried the same tactic again–3 times. They finally learned, but it took Joan of Arc to teach them.

Fast forward several hundred years. The U.S. goes to Vietnam, fully equipped to fight a WWII type war. The VC use guerrilla war tactics and beat the crap out of the U.S. Fast forward 30 years. The U.S. goes to Iraq figuring to fight a WWII type war... OK, get the picture? Big tanks, lots of noise, obvious target. Enemy? The people who live there. Result? Genocide. You can't win without killing innocent people because you don't know who your enemy is. Conclusion: War is stupid, but also immoral.

I have got to read the rest of the book, its only 110 pages...


Alan Knox over at The Assembling of the Church has some good thoughts on Sunday Church meetings. Here are a few snippets, but do take the time to read it all:

“It is very important for believers to meet together. That is clear from Scripture. However, is it possible for us to put so much emphasis on one gathering of the church (say, Sunday morning, for instance) that we forget God's purpose for the church?

“…If we examine the money/time/effort/resources spent on preparing the location for the event, acquiring those who perform during the event, rehearsing for the event, and setting the schedule for the event, we might find that the event is much more important to us than we first thought. Is this what Jesus taught us? Is this what Jesus said was important?”

<idle musing>
Sunday is only one day of the week; there are 6 others which matter just as much to God as Sunday does. We need to move beyond the false dichotomy of secular and sacred which we inherited from our Graeco-Roman culture and re-adopt a more biblical world view that sees all things as sacred, since they are created by God.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said,
‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man.—Acts 17:24-29 RSV

<idle musing>

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Church planting

The M blog has an interesting post about church planting. There are 7 points. Here are the first and last, but the rest are just as good

FIRST, I would begin in the harvest and start small. Don't start with a team of already-saved Christians. We think that having a bigger and better team will accelerate the work, but it doesn't. In fact, has the opposite effect...churches birthed out of transformed lives are healthier, reproductive, and growing faster. It is about this: a life changed, not about the model.

SEVENTH and last, I would settle my ownership issues. Stop being concerned about whether "your" church plant will succeed or not. It isn't yours in the first place. Your reputation is not the one on the line; Jesus' is. He will do a good job if we let him. If we have our own identity and reputation at stake in the work, we will tend to take command. Big mistake. Let Jesus get the glory and put his reputation on the line; He can take care of Himself without your help.

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

Monday, February 19, 2007

The sights of winter

It was a beautiful weekend here. The temperatures were in the upper teens to mid-twenties F during the day—perfect for being outside. Here are a few scenes to enjoy. Maybe you'll see why I love winter so much :)

Geese, swans and ducks on the small unfrozen portion of Winona Lake. This morning this section was all frozen over.

Snowshoeing on Saturday. This is a view of the creek

Snowshoes drying at the back door. I was out for about 3 hours on Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday.

Plowing the snow on the sidewalks

Some kids had built a fort in the snowbank of a parking lot. This was their access tunnel, but the wind has drifted most of it shut.

Nap, anyone?

HT on the last one: Andy Kerr


Rachel is now 20 days old. For the benefit of those of you who were praying, here is a picture of Renee holding Rachel. Isn't she a wonderful answer to prayer?

And here is Joel holding her. Doesn't he look like the proud father?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Quote for the day

" The church is not a franchise of grace to hungry spiritual consumers, but a vehicle for Christians committed with one another to proclaim Christ and build His Kingdom."—Leighton Tebay at The Heresy

Friday, February 16, 2007


OK, this is at least a near first, if not a first. Today, when I got up and came to work, the temperature was about -8 F (-22 C). The wind chill was a bit colder. Now, even by Minnesota standards, that is getting cold.

Once I got to work, I thought I would check the temperature in Shakopee, where our son lives. Shakopee is a burb of Minneapolis. Here's what I saw:

Yes, Winona Lake is colder than Minneapolis, Minnesota. And what is even more interesting is that Grand Marais, on the north shore of Lake Superior, is 11 F! Makes me glad we moved! Now, where did I put my snowshoes...


Out of Ur has a good post on a talk given at the National Pastors Convention. Here's a part of it:

Drawing mainly from the Old Testament prophets Daniel and Isaiah, Labberton built a case for thinking differently about worship. “Worship reorders reality to help us see what is true,” he said. It should reorder our priorities and help us see the world differently. But quite often worship is simply a baptized version of our culture. In our worship we simply mirror what is all around us—worship of self. This, he says, is “illegitimate worship.”

“Fear of God is what matters most,” says Labberton. “The failure of our people to live this way is a failure of our worship.” The solution is not making our worship louder, faster, or more spectacular as many are in the habit of doing. Rather, we need to reevaluate what our worship is forming within our people. “Does our worship impact our view of our neighbor?”

<idle musing>
Worship in not a song, not even a fast song. Worship is about a life lived in subservience to God; in obedience to our creator. It is not about music; it is not about choirs, or good voices; no, it is not even a good sermon. It is about God, and it is a part of life Monday through Saturday even more than it is about Sunday. God commands us to love our neighbor—in practical ways. And what he commands us to do, he enables us to do via the power available in the Holy Spirit. It is not another thing I have to do; it is about surrendering my self to the cross and allowing Him to do it through me. Me dead, Christ alive (Galatians 2:20).
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quote for the day

Allegories are the natural mirrors of ideology. — Agnus Fletcher, Allegory

HT: John Cook

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wittenburg door image

Tyler at Codex has put up my favorite image from the Wittenburg door. Truly appealing! A must read.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It is finally winter here. It has been snowing continually since about 2:30 this morning and is supposed to continue for another 10-12 hours! Because of the wind, just about everything is closing down. Here's a picture of one of the doors to the warehouse

They had predicted 12-16 inches, and we might actually get somewhere in the 8-10 inch range. That would be a first for my 4 winters here in Indiana.

I think I'm starting to come down with a severe case of snowshoe-itis. The only known cure is a morning off of work walking in the woods on snowshoes...

Quote for the day

“Understand now what lying is. Any species of designed deception. If the deception be not designed, it is not lying. But if you design to make an impression contrary to the naked truth, you lie. Put down all those cases you can recollect. Do not call them by any soft name. God calls them LIES, and charges you with LYING, and you had better charge yourself correctly. How innumerable are the falsehoods perpetrated every day in business, and in social intercourse, by words, and looks, and actions, designed to make an impression on others, for selfish reasons that is contrary to the truth!”—Finney in Lectures on Revival, lecture 3

<idle musing>
Pretty stringent definition, isn't it? Finney doesn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room when he starts naming sins. All of lecture 3 is about what is sin. He lists over 15 different categories, of which this is but one. Too bad the book isn't in print anymore; of course, that might be why. It is too convicting for our middle-class comfortable christianity.
</idle musing>

Monday, February 12, 2007

BookNews subscribers tops 2000

BookNews, the Eisenbrauns bi-weekly e-letter is over 2000 strong! Andy tells me that sometime last Thursday afternoon, our 2,000th subscriber signed up.

How does that compare to other e-mail lists? Well, the Biblical Studies list is 606 strong; ANE-2 has 758 subscribers; Classics-L is over 1500 (not sure of the exact number); Crosstalk2 is over 500. I have no idea how many subscribe to B-Greek.

So, I guess we compare pretty favorably. Of course, who doesn't want to get books at a discount?

The American Dream

There is a nice post over at The Community of Jesus about the "haves and have-nots." You should definitely read the whole thing, but here is a snippet:

When we see wealthy nations doing whatever it takes to guarantee their continued lifestyle and "way of life", while other peoples are left (with many excuses for that) behind, like in Darfur. I find this as just one of the scandals of living in a fallen world.

Being a good Samaritan begins at home. What about in our neighborhood? Among those we know? In our church? City? This is where we need to begin. As well as giving to those who help the poor, such as World Vision.

And I write off political candidates who call themselves "pro-life", yet say nothing about addressing this problem.

<idle musing>
I was reading in Finney's Lectures on Revival yesterday. In it he asks how we can consider ourselves a Christian and not care for the poor both among us and in foreign lands. The evangelical movement, starting with the Wesley's, was very concerned with social justice. It continued with abolitionists in the U.S.; the Salvation Army began as an outreach to the poor and homeless.

What happened? Now all Evangelicals talk about is abortion and gay marriage. Those are important, but not the only things that are. We need to move beyond those and address other problems as well.

We need to understand that abortion and gay marriage are but symptoms of a deeper problem—the sinful self. As long as we only address those two issues, and not the other ones, we can feel good about ourselves; unless we happen to fall into those two categories... But, God is calling us to examine our own lives and see where the sinful self rules in our decisions, from the most minor decision of what to eat, to the major decision of where we live. Can we cut down on consumption and take that extra few dollars and give to someone?
</idle musing>

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jeremiah 17, slightly revised

Jim West has decided that Jeremiah 17 is too harsh in the original, so he revised it a bit for the modern reader. Here's a bit of it:

5Thus says the Lord: Coddled are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6They shall be like a giant shrubbery in the well watered desert, and shall not see when trouble of any kind comes because God would never allow anything bad to happen to anyone...10I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. And that means he will just make everyone as happy as they want to be, because, after all, God is here for us- and we aren’t here for him.

Definitely modified! But, it is what we want to hear, isn't it?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sight reading in Ezekiel

As I have mentioned before, we are sight reading in Hebrew and Greek each Thursday. We are still slogging through Mark in the GNT, but in the HB, we are now in Ezekiel. We made our way through Ruth, then voyaged through Jonah, landing on the banks of the Chebar river in Ezekiel. John assured us that it was readable.

Right! It might be readable, but is it understandable? Between convoluted syntax and changing genders on the pronouns, I'm not sure I understood a word we translated. Of course, you have to add all of the interesting comments Zimmerli (the BHS editor of Ezekiel) makes, deleting every duplicate, rearranging other ones, emending the text (when it doesn't agree with him!), and you have the perfect setting for a laugh fest. And that is exactly what happened yesterday. We were all laughing at our feeble attempts to understand a description of a supernatural vision in a dead foreign language 2500 years old. Now I understand why there is a Jewish tradition that you should never read the visions in Ezekiel until you are over 40!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quote for a Thursday

Continuing on in the same chapter of Lectures on Revival:

A revival of religion is the only possible thing that can wipe away the reproach which covers the Church, and restore religion to the place it ought to have in the estimation of the public. Without a revival, this reproach will cover the Church more and more, until it is overwhelmed with universal contempt. You may do anything else you please, and you
may change the aspects of society in some respects, but you will do no real good; you only make it worse without a revival of religion. You may go and build a splendid new house of worship, and line your seats with damask, put up a costly pulpit, and get a magnificent organ, and everything of that kind, to make a show and dash, and in that way you may procure a sort of respect for religion among the wicked, but it does no good in reality. It rather does hurt. It misleads them as to the real nature of religion; and so far from converting them, it carries them farther away from salvation. Look wherever they have surrounded the altar of Christianity with splendor, and you will find that the impression produced is contrary to the true nature of religion.

<idle musing>
How much closer to the mark could he get? He was writing in the 1840’s, but it sure sounds like a description of the church in 2007. We have people working diligently to change society; we have people building huge church buildings; the church has scorn heaped on it by society. And the whole time we “do no real good” rather we “only make it worse” because we are trying to do it our way instead of God’s way.

The first place a revival has an effect is the church. How many of us are willing to admit that we have been cherishing “little” sins in our heart? How many of us are willing to admit that we have been comparing ourselves to those around us, assuming that God grades on a curve? We forget that we serve a holy God who demands (and imparts) holiness of heart, not just behavior according to a set of rules on a checklist.

There is a reason that II Chronicles 7:14 starts with “my people who are called by my name” are called to “humble themselves…turn from their wicked ways.” This was addressed to God’s people then, and it is still addressed to God’s people today. Romans 2:24 says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” It was true in Paul’s day, it is only too true today. But, it doesn’t have to be! Romans goes on to say in chapter 8 that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” It is available to us by faith; we need only believe it and live in it.

Revive your church, O Lord! Forgive our complacency; renew our love; fire our passion for you; may we experientially know the truth that we are dead to the world, but alive in Christ.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Over at deinde Danny Zacharias has a post about publishers accepting unicode in submissions. Since it is directed against publishers, Eisenbrauns (in the person of Jim Eisenbraun) chose to respond. I quote:

Your comments on the virtues of Unicode and OpenType are well placed. However, your comments on publishers being unwilling to move forward are not. Almost all publishers in this field would love to move directly to Unicode and OpenType. The problem is not that publishers are slow to embrace these standards: the problem is that publishing software lags behind. Yes, InDesign handles Unicode quite well. However, Adobe created InDesign first of all to serve the general (consumer) magazine market, not the academic publishing market. In academic publishing, much more is required than getting the font/glyphs right. One has to index; create cross-references; generate tables of contents; include footnotes. Until the latest version of InDesign (CS 2), it could not do footnotes! Now, in the CS 2 revision, it will do footnotes. But it still cannot do cross-references. It cannot do more than one index (without doing so manually; suppose you want more than a Scripture index? or an author index?). (Plug-ins are available from third-party commercial companies to do these things, but they are expensive and very very slow. In fact, InDesign suffers from what I would call software piggishness: it's very fat. An example: the same file in the older publishing software that Eisenbrauns has used for 15+ years if recreated in InDesign will require a file size that is roughly 10-20x the disk space. That by itself is not much of an issue any longer, but the fact that the software is very slow and unwieldy (in comparison) simply raises costs signficantly. The list of things that InDesign will do is long.

In short, biblical studies publishers would very rapidly embrace OpenType/Unicode--and we all will. We believe that it is the future (at least I do). But the creation of true professional publishing software lags the development of this encoding standard. We're quite frustrated with this fact. But I would remind us all that academic publishing is less than 1% of the general publishing market. We feed on the scraps that fall from the table of big business. -- Jim Eisenbraun, Eisenbrauns

I encourage you to read the whole post.

Quote for today

From Finney’s Lectures on Revival, chapter 2, When a Revival Is to Be Expected:

“When there is a worldly spirit in the Church. It is manifest that the Church has sunk down into a low and backslidden state, when you see Christians conform to the world in dress, equipage, and “parties,” in seeking worldly amusements, and reading novels, and other books such as the world reads. It shows that they are far from God, and that there is great need of a revival of religion.

“When the Church finds its members falling into gross and scandalous sins, then it is time to awake and cry to God for a revival of religion. When such things are taking place as give the enemies of religion an occasion for reproach, it is time to ask of God: ‘What will become of Thy great Name?’”

<idle musing>
Seems like that would be now, doesn’t it? Even so, come Lord Jesus! Awake your slumbering church! Give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf that your great name may be lifted high above the earth.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Unity of what spirit?

Over at Milk Fusion there is a very perceptive post on the unity of the body of Christ. Here are a few snippets:

…in our desperation to create community, to succeed in our efforts and carve out a "space" where we can find shared life and unity, the temptation is always before us to cultivate a sense of it through other things; shared interests in sports, shared hobbies, social service experiences, shared cultural backgrounds (high school experience, tv shows, movies, etc), shared meals, musical tastes, demographic-specific needs or any one of thousands of peripheral things that tempt us to 'major' our unity in while 'minoring' unity in Christ: where awaits the tangible power of endless life. We do lots of stuff and always try to mix in a little Jesus somewhere.

And then there is the mother of all shortcuts to unity: the party. We might not use that term exactly, but its [sic] what we end up creating. Unity in "good times" for the sake of "good times" modeled after sanitized patterns defined for us by the world. It is somewhat intoxicating, almost universally appealing and easy. A short cut. An age-old version of joy without all that bothersome ownership of other people's pain and ugliness. All we wanna do is have some fun and we all know we are not the only ones. Unity lite: low in sodium. Savor free. Ready to be trampled.

…So what might this path look like? First of all, answering "what-does-it-look-like" questions is sometimes dangerous because giving the answer tempts people to start imitating the fruit without developing the root…

We talk too much. We have too much knowledge and not enough substance. Partying with our knowledge is dangerous. A true spiritual unity will not be what the world would label a "party" by outward appearances. The apostles may have been mocked on the day of Pentecost as being "drunk with wine" but even such a label could not encompass the flood of thousands of souls rushing into the Kingdom because of their searing words that burned into hearts like hot metal on flesh.

In our day of digital self-service and sensory self-indulgence we are not in need of raising a pint of Guinness together and declaring "God is good." Rather, we are in need of beholding God as he is, being shaken by that vision to collapse on our faces and cry "Woe is me! He is Holy!"

Repentant lives, being washed clean of our tolerated sins that suddenly appear terrifying by the searing light of His countenance, are shown how to pay the price to enter in that fellowship that discovers and partakes of the unspeakable union found only between the Father, Son and Spirit. We err in our concocted "unity" based on our human devices. How quickly we exit the spirit that leads us into the purity that abides the presence of a God that is a consuming fire.

HT: Alan Knox

Monday, February 05, 2007

New wine

I recently ran across this post on the M Blog about a conference he just got back from. Much wisdom here.

All the speakers and workshops were great but will share just a bit of what Wolfgang [Simson] had to say. He spoke about the fact that we are in a new phase of Christian history where a new OS (computer operating system) of TRUST IN GOD will replace the old OS of knowledge. Listening to God as He leads step by step will become more and more the basis for ministry replacing plans, programs, strategies, etc.

When we feel that nothing is happening it is when God is most active. What is happening in these "silences" is that God is in the process of replacing our old operating systems for the new one that will carry us into the greatest harvest the world has ever seen.

How does one implement this new OS? Wolfgang shared that we must slow down and do less. We need to detox and allow God to replace the old OS with his new one. It's not about speeding up and trying to do more; rather get in tune with what God is wanting to do and follow Him step by step--listening carefully and trusting that He will bring about His Kingdom here on earth.

Much more. Read it all here

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Media in the sanctuary

Interesting post over at Out of Ur

My childhood church had a silver cross suspended in the sanctuary. It was the visual focus of our worship. I recently returned to the church and the cross was still there, but few people notice it anymore. A large screen now hangs in front of it.

Read the rest, especially the comments section. This comment especially:

When the associate pastor of my former church (Mennonite Brethren) became the senior pastor a number of years ago, he had an 'old-rugged cross' constructed and placed in the middle of the stage. The base upon which it stood was large and during his sermon he would often stumble over it. At first we thought it was an accident, but then he began speaking of how in every aspect of life we need to 'stumble' over the cross. It is a reminder to keep us on the straight and narrow way. The congregation hated it and in less than two years he was gone. We did not like to be constantly reminded of our sin nature and the price that had to be paid for it; nor did we want to be reminded of the need for true Christians to be obedient to God's written laws.

It keeps going. Quite perceptive, eh?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Just arrived!

I walked over to the warehouse just now, looking for a book. As I entered, I looked at the stack of boxes that came in today and saw two from Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Hmmm...what could that be? Usually shipments from Italy take 3 months. Well, I opened the boxes up, and sure enough—there it was, Muraoka's new version of Jouon's Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, and in cloth, too. I thought it was going to be a paperback and didn't expect it for at least another month. I haven't had a chance to look it over thoroughly yet, after all I've only had it for about 1/2 hour, but one nice feature is an index of modern authors and a bibliography through 2003. Here are the details:

A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew
2006 one volume edition
Subsidia Biblica - SB 27
by Paul Jouon and Takamitsu Muraoka
Pontifical Biblical Institute, 2006
xlvi + 772 pages, English
ISBN: 8876536299
Your Price: $78.00

Quote for the day

In the time of our first perplexity and helplessness we prayed much to God, and God answered and God blessed, and our organization became perfected, and our band of workers became large; but gradually the organization and the work and the rush have so taken possession of us that the power of the Spirit, in which we began when we were a small company, has almost been lost.—Andrew Murray in Absolute Surrender

<idle musing>
I have seen this happen repeatedly. When I start something big (or small), I know I can't handle it, so I depend on God. But, once I have it figured out, I rush in and take over. Basically treating God like a master with me as an apprentice. The difference is that I decide the length of the apprenticeship, its terms, and once I "figure it out" I dump the master. I sign my own papers on my own authority. Then, of course, when things go wrong, it is God's fault!

Hmmm, count the number of times the first person pronoun occurs in the preceding paragraph. Kinda scary, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I'm a grandma!

Well, actually, I'm still a grandpa :) But, Renee and Joel had a baby girl last night at 6:43 Central time. She was two weeks early by the doctor's calculations, but right on time by God's. Everyone is doing fine.