Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New books

This is a great time of year to be a bookseller—and a terrible time of year to be a bookseller, it is so busy with new books and conferences. Today the last of the European shipments came for AAR/SBL. Full of goodies :) Yesterday afternoon the Carta shipment arrived, with the Sacred Abridgment, as we are calling it. And, for the archaeologists out there, the latest Masada volume also arrived. Here are the details:

Carta's New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible

Carta's New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible
Abridgement of The Sacred Bridge
by Anson F. Rainey and R. Steven Notley
Carta, Jerusalem, 2007
280 pages + full color illustrations and maps, English
Cloth, 9 x 12 inches
ISBN: 9652207038
Your Price: $50.00

Masada VIII

Masada VIII
The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963-1965
Masada 7
Edited by Joseph Aviram, et al.
Israel Exploration Society, 2007
ix + 232 pages, 8 color plates, numerous photos and drawings, English
Cloth with dustjacket, 31 x 23.5 cm
ISBN: 9789652210678
Your Price: $74.00

Oh, I almost forgot, the latest Yardeni wall chart arrived, too:

Hebrew Scripts

Hebrew Scripts
A Carta Wall Chart
by Ada Yardeni
Carta, Jerusalem, 2007
Folds out to 70×100 cm (27½×39 in.); laminated; case: 27×35.5 cm (10½×14 in.), Hebrew
ISBN: 9652207047
Your Price: $19.95

We will have all of these at AAR/SBL, plus a bunch more!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


<idle musing>
I have been reading in the gospel according to Matthew lately. One thing that really hit me this morning was the thirsting after a miracle, not as a blessing, but as a seal of approval. Consider this in chapters 14 & 15, Jesus feeds 5000 people, throws a demon out of a Canaanite woman’s daughter, and feeds the 4000—I suppose I should also include walking on water, but that was more between him and his disciples.

After all this, what does chapter 16 start with? A round of applause? Hardly. The Pharisees and Sadducees hit him up for a miracle! A sign! Before you turn your nose up and sniff at the hardness of “those people,” consider yourself. How often has God done a wondrous thing in your life, only to have you thank him by doing your own thing; turn your back on Him and walk away? OK, maybe I’m the only one, but I doubt it.

Aside from the abiding presence of God via the Holy Spirit, that is exactly what all of us do—continually! The older I become, the more convinced I am of the truth of total depravity—and free grace! Grace abounding, freely flowing, surrounding and lifting us, if we will but allow it, delivering us from the necessity of a continual reminder via a miracle or sign. Renewing us daily in the image of God, sending us forth as a light in a darkened place.

All I can say is, “Wow! What a savior!”
</idle musing>

Friday, October 26, 2007

Instant dissertations

In case you hadn't noticed, Gorgias Press has a blog. One of their editors, Steve Wiggens, is the main contributor. I only visit it occasionally because their RSS feed doesn't work correctly. Well, the other day I looked at it, and they had come up with a novel idea: a pill that would produce dissertations, term papers, whatever, in 1/2 hour or less!

Imagine that. I wonder if they would sell it to Eisenbrauns at wholesale?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New book

This was just announced by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht:

Mysteries in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Mysteries in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Copenhagen Bonhoeffer Symposium
Forschungen zur systematischen und ökumenischen Theologie - FSOT 119
Edited by Kirsten Busch Nielsen, Ulrik Nissen, and Christiane Tietz
Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 2007
366 pages, German
ISBN: 9783525563472
Your Price: $75.00

We will be getting them in time to take to AAR/SBL; I can't wait to get a look at it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

a lot of not-so hot air

As I was walking to work yesterday and descending the stairs to the park, I heard a very loud hissing noise and saw all kinds of mist. Now, normally the irrigation makes quite a bit of noise and there is a visible spray, but this was different. It made me think of descending into the lair of Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit. I thought perhaps they had turned all the irrigation on at one time and turned up the water pressure. Since it was raining anyway, I figured I would walk down the sidewalk and defend myself with the umbrella I had in my hand—the irrigation normally does a very good job or irrigating the sidewalk anyway.

Well, as I approached the first spigot, I noticed that it was just spouting out mist, not a stream of water. The second, third, fourth, actually all of them, were doing the same thing, spraying not water but mist. The horrendously loud hissing was because there wasn’t enough water in the pipes to silence the noise. I thought maybe the pump was broken and pumping air instead of water. But, as I neared the lake, I saw that it was intentional; they were bleeding the lines in preparation for winter.

I had heard all this noise, seen all this spray in the air and assumed that I was going to get drenched by water, but in actuality, there was nothing of substance behind the noise and mist. Sound familiar? I could go two directions with this, but the thing that struck me was the fear and trepidation I felt, versus the relief when I found out it was all a mist. Sort of like the lies that enemy throws at us on a daily basis about life in the Spirit. Sounds scary—what happens if I just trust God and don’t attempt to control everything? It is sure to go to pieces without my valuable input! But, it is just noise and a mist; God is more than capable of sustaining His people in life, directing their steps, keeping them safe from sin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Jon at The Theos Project has a nice l-o-n-g post about belonging and church.

Each church has an all-you-can-eat buffet of ministries and programs to get involved with, often listed in helpful summary format within your weekly bulletin.

How about that, right on the heals of the Willow Creek study that found out that programs are basically worthless...but he continues:

American Christianity has no belonging. Consequently the body has weakened and atrophied. We are attempting our tasks and striving to fulfill our function in an anemic state. How unfortunate. The body of Christ was meant to represent Christ. Yet, for all practical purposes Christ's body is still wheezing in the grave, too weak to emerge and make a difference in the world.

The most fundamental aspect of the body of Christ is true belonging. It is only when we truly belong that we can begin to make a real difference in the lives of the 21st century believer and demonstrate to the world that the body of Christ is, in fact, alive and no longer lying, weakened and cold, in the grave. But this cannot occur until each member belongs to all the others.

<idle musing>
Amen, brother! Preach it!

Oh, order to belong, we need to be willing to give up our independence, become vulnerable, trust the Holy Spirit, actually care about other people and not just ourselves. Nope! Cost is too high; back to the programs! At least we can control the intended outcomes—and bury those studies that show us we are wrong! Rewrite the scriptures to make God over in our image, since it is obvious that our models are more correct than God's! I mean, we know that business models are better than scriptural ones, right?

But, isn't that how we act? God, forgive us!
</idle musing>

Monday, October 22, 2007


Although the world has made giant strides in comprehending subjects like atomic energy and nuclear fusion, most of us still live with only the slightest understanding of the most ancient, dynamic source of power there is—the power that comes from prayer. In fact, we have not yet begun to experience the infinite power and possibility that decomes available when we call on the name of the Lord in prayer.—Jim Cymbala

Friday, October 19, 2007

Statute of limitations?

On one of the many e-lists I subscribe to, I recently found out about a fun little web comic concerning a library and its employees. One of them was an interesting take on forgiveness:

Then, yesterday, I read the following on Jesus Community, talking about loving one another:

This means forgiveness, ongoing forgiveness. Even covering over a multitude of sins, which love—as we love each other deeply—does. It sometimes means putting up with each other; there are certainly unlikeable characteristics or habits of us all. It certainly means holding nothing against a sister or brother. And if there is a problem, praying about it and going to the person to gently resolve it.

<idle musing>
Significant difference in viewpoint, isn’t it? If only the church would always live as the body of Christ, forgiving one another and bearing with one another in love. Of course, we can’t do that on our own power; it has to be the power of the Holy Spirit living and ruling in us. In our flesh, we want the statute of limitations to run out about 30 seconds after someone offends us, but Christ calls us to live in forgiveness—always! A high and holy calling, possible only because of grace operating every moment of every day in our lives.
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What was that?

OK, I realize that Eisenbrauns sells titles that are a bit out of the ordinary; that is a given. After all, we are a niche publisher/bookseller in a highly specialized field. But, this one has me wondering. First, here is the correct information:

Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars

Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars
by Alasdair Livingstone
Eisenbrauns, 2007
ix + 270 pages + 7 plates, English
Cloth, 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 1575061333
List Price: $39.50
Your Price: $35.55

So, what does Amazon do with it:

Mystucal and Mytgological Explantory Works of Assyian and Babylonian Scholars (Hardcover)
by Alsadair Livingstone (Author)

Hmmm, 4 misspellings in one title! I will see if I can get it fixed :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


"Our embarrassment in reading the harsh expressions of divine wrath is also due to the general disposition of modern man. We have no sense for spiritual grandeur. Spiritual to us means ethereal, calm, moderate, slight, imperceptible. We respond to beauty; grandeur is unbearable. We are moved by a soft religiosity, and would like to think that God is lovely, tender, and familiar, as if faith were a source of comfort, but not readiness for martyrdom.

To our mind the terrible threat of castigation bespeaks a lack of moderation. Is it not because we are only dimly aware of the full gravity of human failure, of the sufferings inflicted by those who revile God's demand for justice? There is a cruelty that pardons, just as there is a pity which punishes. Severity must tame whom love cannot win." Heschel in The Prophets, 2.76

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Healthy snack?

I walked into the break room at work today to this:

Hmmm. Top Health news right next to cookies, donuts, and candy. Well, I read the health news while I was munching on a donut :)

Adam and Steve-not Eve

Jon, one of our copy editors, has a thought-provoking post on how poorly prepared to do actual ministry most churches are. Another blogger, Sam, presented the scenario of a married couple, with adopted kid, named Jack and John—that's correct, a gay married couple—where one of the men wants to become a Christian.

How would the average church handle it? Jon doesn't think the average church is equipped to:

My primary thought is that the American church has very little organizational capacity for correctly and compassionately engaging John and his family. For example, the current church model is that believers meet on Sunday morning and may or may not have other "ministries" or "programs" that they are a part of. So, basically, if you believe that homosexuality is wrong or perhaps not the best way to do things, then you have to ship the guy (in this scenario, John) off to "counseling" (or some other such ministry/program) or else you just kind of lay down the law (in a nice way) and say that we don't do things that way in these here parts so you can shape up or ship out.

So, we either have to issue an ultimatum or else send John to counseling. In the former situation I think we force a hasty decision on a new believer that he may not be entirely ready to deal with, in all of its many ramifications (i.e. the moral issue, issues of family/love, caring for a daughter, splitting a home, etc.). In the case of sending him to counseling right away this makes him feel freakish from the very beginning, and this is very unfair. The fact is that anyone who comes to Christ is going to have baggage, and they need a close-knit community and a group of individuals to share their faith with and to work through baggage that they bring in and baggage that they accumulate while being a believer. (The little-known secret, of course, is that most of us in nice churches have even more baggage that usually gets lost in the shuffle, and my experience is that you accumulate quite a bit of baggage in church circles because we often do not have the contexts for dealing real issues.)

The point thus far is simply to say that the current Sunday morning Christianity in America has no human or even biblical way to appropriately deal with Sam's scenario because we are an event-oriented institution. At our most fundamental level we are not relational. At our most fundamental level we are institutional and obsessed with "events."

Jon goes on to suggest his solution:

Ideally, all believers are not simply a hodge-podge group of people that meet once a week to sing and watch a sermon. Rather, the best scenario that I can see would be that when John enters into a fellowship of believers he is immediately plugged in with a group of believers with whom he can meet regularly and begin to share his life. In fact, in my mind's eye I imagine that it was probably through contact with this group of believers that he was able to come to faith, rather than on Sam's scenario where the guy happens across a Bible and starts reading.

Within this very small group of caring believers John can begin to explore who he is with people who are ready to care for his soul and impart grace into his life. These would be people who would be primarily interested in getting to know John, the person, and finding out what faith looks like for his situation. They would be interested in John, regardless of where they stood on the homo issue. If they believed that God stands against homosexuality, they would present their reasons and interact with various biblical passages. But then they would allow John the respect as a fellow believer to work through these issues himself. (This fulfills the Galatians 6 "bear each other's burdens" exhortation, as well as the Philippians 2 encouragement to "work out your salvation.") Furthermore, this caring yet insightful group of believers would suspend judgment and allow themselves to reexplore and reexamine an issue that needs to be reexamined.

Jon then concludes:

Unfortunately, Sam's scenario cannot be answered in the existing church framework. One is hard pressed to find an American church that truly acts in unison as the body of Christ. We have many "churches" but no body. And the sad thing is that there is no reason for someone like John to ever have any interest in Jesus Christ, because the Body of Christ is completely impotent. We have nothing to call John to - no true community or real fellowship. So, as unfortunate as it is, I believe that Sam's scenario remains an impossible quandary. Until the power of Christ is displayed in authentic relationships and true community we should expect very little.

What do you think? Do you know of a church that is equipped to handle this scenario?

I think even most house churches wouldn't know how to handle it. And, I agree with Jon that "Until the power of Christ is displayed in authentic relationships and true community" we can expect no revival, no true transformation, no respect, and no power. In short, we need to die to self, that Christ might truly live.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Amusing ourselves

Christianity Today has posted an editorial from the October issue about the use of video in the church. They specifically mention a baptism video that they ran across on the web.

Which brings us back to that baptism video. It illustrates Postman's thesis that television has become the metaphor for all discourse, and, as Stefan Schoerghofer writes, that "off the screen, the same metaphor prevails. People no longer talk to each other they entertain each other."

As this metaphor has entered Christian worship, we use video clips to make the message more compelling. We can be seated just a few rows from the pulpit and be more likely to think about the quality of video than the preacher's words.

The baptism video, though it was posted on the internet, was clearly designed to be shown in a worship service. ("If you haven't signed up yet," says the pastor, "I'm sure that after this video you'll be really excited about it and want to sign up. So don't everybody rush to the information center at once after the service. Be careful. Please form a line.") The pastor cannot help using the ironic vocabulary of cheap comedy. And the video is subject to the temptations inherent in the medium: words that have to be bleeped out, pushing a baptismal candidate off the edge of the pool, showing a (thankfully) blurred image of what is supposed to be a naked candidate, and getting drenched when a candidate cannonballs into the pool. This is the vocabulary of Comedy Central, not the discourse of discipleship.

Is this the kind of offering that we make to a holy God?...No wonder the church is seen as an irrelevant country club by so many.

They conclude:

Postman pointed out two dangers that can destroy a culture. One is the Orwellian, in which culture becomes a prison. The other is the Huxleyan, in which culture becomes a comedy. You can see the Orwellian danger coming far in advance. It publishes books like Mein Kampf and goose-steps its way into our lives. But the Huxleyan danger sneaks up on us. As Postman wrote, "When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a comedy show, then a nation finds itself at risk."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Consumerism or contribution?

I am not a big fan—actually, I'm not a fan at all!—of Rick Warren, but this quote from Out of Ur is too good not to post:

The American church as a whole needs to move from selfish consumerism to unselfish contribution. Those are poles apart. To start with a woman who's most interested in how many diamonds she's got in her tennis bracelet, and move her to sit under a banyan tree holding an AIDS baby- that's a giant leap. People in this culture are trained to think about me, me, me; I've got to do what's best for me. Even when we go to church we have this consumer mentality.

<idle musing>
That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Only the grace of the living God can get people out of their curvatus in se mode. Only as they realize, and I mean beyond an intellectual assent, that they are not the center of the universe can they allow God to change them from the inside out.
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The fear of the LORD

<idle musing>
I was running through the occurrences of “worship” in the NIV the other day, comparing them to the Greek and Hebrew. I noticed that they consistently translate “fear of the Lord” or “God fearers” as worship or worshipers. I compared that with the RSV and NRSV and found that the RSV translates the phrases literally, but the NRSV follows the NIV.

That is all interesting, but what really struck me is in 2 Kings, about the people brought into the northern kingdom after it fell. In 2 Kings 17, the RSV says “So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods” and the Hebrew is—drat, I can't get the Hebrew to display correctly—but the important thing is the Hebrew verbs, in parentheses, "they were fearing (YR') YHWH, but they were serving (`BD) their gods."

That is a scary thought to me. Is it possible to fear the LORD, but still serve other gods? Apparently it is, at least to the writer of Kings. What would that look like? Here is my reconstruction, and you tell me what you think:

On Sabbath and other important holy days, such as new moon, Passover, etc., the people make a point of appearing at the cult center and making the necessary sacrifice. After fulfilling their obligations, they return home and pour out a libation to the idol that is sitting just inside the door. As they make their meal, they are very careful to make sure the idols get their share. They might even gather around it for the meal. Remember, they probably have only one or two rooms in the house, so the idol sees everything. At night, at least if we can go by the Akkadian and Egyptian rituals, they are careful to put it to bed. In the morning, the first thing they do is take care of it, giving it food and drink, etc.

So, it is the first thing they think about in the morning, and the last thing they think about at night; throughout the day they are conscious of it and make sure to give it food and drink and care for it. They make sure that it is plugged in, and that the sound is loud enough to be heard in every room. It is turned on first thing in the morning, and is on all day. It has the place of honor in the living room, is in a prominent spot in every bedroom. All meals are eaten around it, and conversation is only about things that appear on it. When they go to work, the conversation is about the actions of the people who appeared on its screen the night before, or that morning. Nothing else is nearly as important, and huge sums of money are spent to insure that it is large enough, and that the satellite or cable connection is good enough. Of course, come Sunday, they need to attend church—after all, they are christians! But, as soon as the “service” is done, they rush home to turn the idol back on, especially if a sporting event is going to happen—what, you say that isn’t fair?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We interrupt this regularly scheduled...

We just bought a house!
Yep. we've been married over 29 years, rented for 23 of them, including the last 12, but yesterday we signed the papers and now own a house. The jokes at work included such things as, "I'm going to keep watching for signs of an alien takeover!" to looking out the front door and asking if anyone saw the four horses of the apocalypse standing there. :)

Anyway, it is a little brick house set on 1.99 acres and bordered on the south by Cherry Creek. Here's a picture of it:

We move in during November. That's right, the busiest time of the year, with AAR/SBL. I guess that will make it more fun, right? Anyway, we're excited—anybody got a goat to eat the grass for me?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


<idle musing>
We just took in our hummingbird feeder for the year. The hummers have been gone for about 2 weeks now, and all we were doing was feeding the bees. But, before we put it away, I noticed something interesting. There were always about 3-5 bees around the feeder, sometimes more, and watching their behavior was enlightening. Sometimes two bees would lock onto each other and fall the 3 feet to the porch, with an audible bump. They would be locked together, obviously fighting, for 2-3 seconds before one would pull free and fly back to the feeder. The other one would follow, and they would repeat the process. This happened at least 5-6 times before one of them would give up and fly away.

Then, about a minute later, the whole thing would be repeated by a different set of bees. This went on throughout the whole afternoon. I asked Debbie if she had noticed it, and she said that she had actually found a dead bee under the feeder. So, this wasn’t just good natured jousting for the best position; this was a life and death matter.

I don’t know a lot about bees, but my theory is that they were from different hives and each wanted to keep the source of sugar to themselves. Now, there was about 1/2 cup of sugar water in the feeder, which is probably enough to keep all the hives in a mile radius more that happy. Besides, if it disappeared, we could make more! But, in their narrow understanding, the bees were “protecting their rights” and “making sure they had enough” for their family. Sound familiar? It should, since that is the normal justification we humans use for our selfishness.

Who said the fall didn’t affect nature?
</idle musing>

Monday, October 08, 2007

Evangelism, part 2

Part 2 of David Fitch’s critique of evangelism, american style has been posted. Here’s a snippet:

Our churches are organized to meet the spiritual needs of individuals, and our salvation is incredibly individualistic. Calling Jesus “a personal Savior” sounds like Jesus is in the same category as my personal barber, personal trainer, or personal dental hygenist (BTW, I don't have a personal trainer). The danger is making salvation all about me.

I know it didn't start out this way in evangelicalism, but it was latent in the structure of our soteriology. And so we have almost romanticized our relationship with God; created a narcissistic experience of it. And churches become all about preserving, maintaining, and nurturing this experience in their parishioners.

But the gospel is not about getting something, it is about participating in something—God's work of reconciling the whole world to Himself. And yes, we do have a relationship with God which becomes personal but it is inseparable from His mission.

<idle musing>
I have seen a good deal of the romantic view of our relationship with God; it tends to make one chase more “experiences” and spiritual highs. If the “manifest presence of God” isn’t felt, then something must be wrong. A good healthy dose of some of the mystics would be a good cure for that. How about a chapter or two from St. John of the Cross on the “dark night of the soul?” I think he goes too far, but it sure is a healthy corrective to the false highs of “worship” that are common in some circles.

By the way, what is “worship?” Is it just singing? Or, is it much more than that? Pull out your handy-dandy concordance and do a quick scan of worship. . .
</idle musing>

Friday, October 05, 2007


The latest Barna Group study is out:

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity.

One of the groups hit hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture. However, those negative views are crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. The new study shows that only 3% of 16 - to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals. This means that today’s young non-Christians are eight times less likely to experience positive associations toward evangelicals than were non-Christians of the Boomer generation (25%). . .

When young people were asked to identify their impressions of Christianity, one of the common themes was "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus." These comments were the most frequent unprompted images that young people called to mind, mentioned by one-quarter of both young non-Christians (23%) and born again Christians (22%).

Kinnaman explained, "That’s where the term 'unChristian' came from. Young people are very candid. In our interviews, we kept encountering young people - both those inside the church and outside of it - who said that something was broken in the present-day expression of Christianity. Their perceptions about Christianity were not always accurate, but what surprised me was not only the severity of their frustration with Christians, but also how frequently young born again Christians expressed some of the very same comments as young non-Christians."

<idle musing>
What else should we expect when we claim to have the answer and then proceed to live as if we don’t? The unchristian acts by christians should bring a rebuke. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35, RSV), but we have put the emphasis on other things. We deserve the negative perceptions unless our lives radiate the love of Jesus—and that can only happen by total reliance on the empowering presence of God in the form of the Holy Spirit, in other words, grace. We can’t conjure it up, work it up, or in any way make it happen; it has to be God.
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A tale of two offices

John, who abandoned us this fall to teach at Asbury Seminary, sent us this picture of his office today

I decided I would send him a picture of me in my second office.

Granted, he has the fancier shelves, but I think I have more books, by a few aisles worth. And don't fail to note the cuneiform t-shirt and, of course, I have the bigger tea cup :)


“Philology is that venerable art which demands of its votaries one thing above all: to go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow — it is a goldsmith’s art and connoisseurship of the word which has nothing but delicate cautious work to do and achieves nothing if it does not achieve it lento. But for precisely this reason it is more necessary than ever today; by precisely this means does it entice and enchant us the most, in the midst of an age of “work” that is to say, of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to “get everything done” at once, including every old or new book: — this art does not easily get anything done, it teaches to read well, that is to say, to read slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and aft, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate fingers and eyes.” — Nietzsche, Daybreak 1881

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An immigrant's story

<idle musing>
The subject of immigration is a political hot potato right now. You have opinions ranging from, “Throw them all out!” to “Open our arms to everyone.” Everyone seems to have an opinion, always right, of course, since it is theirs! The one thing I don’t hear, and really wish I did, is a Christian take on it. Sure, I have heard christians expounding on it, but I haven’t heard a Christian message in their exposition. It seems to be more of a protection of the status quo, or a political statement. Where is the heart of Christ in all this?

Well, over the weekend I ran across a post on Out of Ur that addresses the issue from what I think is the heart of God. It is written by a second generation immigrant with a Harvard degree, Isaac Canales (which, as an aside, makes me ask, how many generations removed are most of us from being immigrants? My grandfather’s parents had him only 3 years after immigrating). Here is a snippet, but please read the whole thing
</idle musing>

Throughout our history there have been times when non-Christians see through our hypocrisy. They recognize that not everyone is truly welcome in our churches. These are times when we’ve worried about being politically right when we should be focused on being biblically correct.

The root of American evangelical hypocrisy is smugness; a historical inability to understand God’s unfailing mercies for the immigrant, his unfailing love for the poor among us. If our sense of worth is measured by privatized religion and political culture—from our color, to our work ethic, to the neighborhoods we live and worship in—we remain independent of God and self-sufficiently smug. Christ cannot help us. We are not being his church.

Ouch! Blunt, to the point, and correct. We need to repent of our self-righteous smugness and become the church of God.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


There has been a nice series about grace and what it means on Grace Roots. Here is a short snippet from Friday’s

A branch on the vine doesn't simply figure out what kind of plant it is and then look at the vine for instructions on how to bear fruit and then simply go about producing fruit. The branch "rests" (remains, abides) in the vine and draws all life and sustenance from the vine, and eventually (not immediately nor forcibly nor due to compulsion) the branch bears the fruit that the vine itself produces. It's a natural process, and if the branch tries to "help" the vine (such as when Abraham and Sarah tried to help God fulfill His promise that they would bear a son), the fruit that is produced is not God's natural fruit, no matter how lovely it might appear.

The rich young ruler was perhaps thinking that his "fruit" (keeping the commandments) was more than adequate to justify himself in front of a holy God. Jesus, by pointing out just how far short this man fell, caused him sadness as he realized he wasn't nearly as close to the kingdom of heaven as he thought. He went away sad, because just a few moments before he had considered himself close to the kingdom, but he now realized he was a lifetime away, because he hadn't realized that in order to come to God, he must give his entire life away.

IF ONLY he'd received the revelation that the Apostle Paul would eventually receive. (And perhaps one day he did receive this revelation). You not only have to give your life away, you have to die. But this death, of course, is not a death in which you physically give your body or your possessions away. It's a spiritual death, in which you give up any and all notions that anything you do - any of your law keeping or giving away of your possessions - will bring you even one step closer to God. You must die and be born again.

<idle musing>
Yes! We can never do enough to earn it; we can never produce fruit; we can’t do anything except sin—apart from the empowering presence of almighty God in the form of the Holy Spirit (my favorite definition of grace)! But, when we rest in that power, we experience the love of God flowing through us and doing righteousness.
</idle musing>

Monday, October 01, 2007


Out of Ur, the Christianity Today website has a very good post on evangelism as frequently practiced by evangelicals. You can read the whole thing here; it is actually part one, but the second part hasn’t appeared yet. Here is a short snippet:

I believe one weakness in evangelicalism the emerging church is responding to is evangelicalism's excessively rationalist approach to truth and salvation that birthed a stubborn "we're in/you're out" mentality. There has been an impulse in evangelical fundamentalism towards a.) an intolerant judgmental exclusivism, b.) an arrogant, even violent, certainty about what we do know, and c.) an overly-rationalized hyper-cognitive gospel that takes the mystery out of everything.

Many of us grew up with this. This was most obvious in the way we made hell the selling point of the gospel. We said if you do A and B you’ll be pardoned from sin and escape hell. Those who do not do A or B are going to hell. We built an apologetic that defended this to prove to people outside the church they were doomed. It came off arrogant, coercive, unloving, and indeed antithetical to the very nature of the gospel.

He continues, a little later:

If you ask me whether I believe there is a hell I will tell you yes. To me the reality of hell is evident in the evil and destruction of souls I see here on earth all the time. If you ask me whether I believe that the salvation God has worked through the person and work of Jesus Christ has direct consequences on our eternal destiny as persons, again I will tell you yes. But if you ask me whether this singularly defines what it means to be saved, here is where I would say no. For our eternal life is the end of a life lived in His salvation (Rom 6:22), not the goal in and of itself. And so let's not put the cart before the horse.

<idle musing>
Yes! Salvation is more than “getting to heaven;” actually, heaven has little to do with salvation. Salvation is salvation from sin—not just individual sins, but SIN. Systemic sins, personal sins, all have to go for the kingdom of God to become reality. The grace of God delivers us from personal sins, and by the grace of God we work to eliminate systemic sins. It is no accident that John Wesley started schools for the miners’ kids. It is no accident that Christians were on the front lines in the abolitionist movement. It is no accident that William and Catherine Booth worked in the inner city. But, somewhere along the line evangelicals lost that cutting edge and became comfortable with the status quo.

I suspect that one reason we don’t see real revival is because christians don’t want to repent and change. Revival always starts with the house of God; if we won’t repent and turn from our wicked ways, how can we expect the world to turn from its wicked ways? And, the truth be told, far too frequently the wicked ways of the christians are more wicked than the wicked ways of the world. That is a travesty!
</idle musing>