Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Just a Guy at Going to has an interesting post entitled "Failing Seminary for the Glory of God." Provocative title, isn't it? Here's a brief excerpt:

After spending time in seminary, there is no doubt in my mind that the institution can not fully prepare a man or woman for the calling to vocational ministry.

I’m beginning to believe that if those who are in seminary follow the lead of the One who called them, bad grades are highly possible.

Why? Because, in general, seminary is incomplete. The seminary has become a place of information and not transformation. The focus has been shifted from who you are to what you know. Spiritual formation has changed from a life lived before the cross to a 2 hour class on Thursdays. Prayer is not the air we breath but a formality to start a lecture.

<idle musing>
He goes on to list seven suggestions. While I don't think you will fail if you follow them, he is probably right that getting an A won't be as important to you.

But, I'm not so sure that seminary ever was about more than information transfer. For example, Charles Finney was complaining about the sad state of seminaries back in the early 1800's; he was convinced they didn't equip people properly for ministry. Perhaps on-the-job training would be better? After all, it seemed to work for the early church...and it seems to be working in the 2/3 world, with house churches being planted all over the place and the church growing exponentially.

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

That $600 check

Out of Ur has an interesting take on the government economic stimulus checks:

“I thought that spending my check from the government was supposed to be the patriotic thing to do, but I’m not sure it’s the Kingdom thing to do.” That is how my friend Chuck began explaining his idea about what our congregation could do with the economic stimulus payments that begin arriving in the mail this week. After hearing so much about the sluggish economy and our responsibility to jumpstart it through consumption, he was wondering if there might be a better way to invest Uncle Sam’s rebate.

On Sunday, I invited Chuck to join me in front of our church. I asked him to explain why spending the money on himself was not the best thing he could do with it. “As I read about the government’s plan in the news, the more the idea of spending money on myself seemed to be at odds with the values of God’s kingdom,” he said. He told us he’d been reading Jesus’ words in Luke 12 and it appeared to be opposed to the message that we can spend our way to prosperity, security, and happiness.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear… Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted.

Chuck said that Kingdom investment doesn’t necessarily mean giving money to the church.

Read the rest for suggestions.

<idle musing>
Yes. A kingdom view is probably a good bit different than the official government view. It is encouraging to see people asking God what to do with the money instead of rushing out to spend it on themselves.
</idle musing>

Monday, April 28, 2008

Concordance or commentary?

I was visiting a competitor's website today and noticed an interesting thing. They have the "People who bought this also bought this" type thing. They also have a topic heading to go with it.

Always the curious type, I checked what they suggested for Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. They had a whole bunch of good items that were very relevant, but one subject heading had me confused. Why would there be a concordance link when I didn't see any concordances in the listings? So, I clicked on concordance and. low and behold, the listings were all for commentaries!

Hmmm...maybe people should consider actually checking things out with knowledgeable people? Another good reason to buy from Eisenbrauns :) We know the difference between a concordance and a commentary. We even use them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Where's the problem?

Out of Ur has a recent post which compares the "emerging/emergent church" to the movie Cloverfield.

So much energy has been devoted to discrediting the emergent movement, that it can also be disappointing to discover just how modest and meager their changes are. They may do church in the round. They may sit on sofas rather than pews. They may wear jeans rather than khakis, but basically, the emergent movement is a heartfelt gathering of Christians trying to follow Jesus together.

<idle musing>
And that is what the problem is? I just don't understand why the emerging church is a lightning rod for criticism...Oh, wait, here it is:

A struggling, insecure church has identified emergent Christians as the new enemy.

Yep! That's it. Trying to defend your version of "church" instead of rejoicing in the diversity that is in God...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Real Peace

Tödt, paraphrasing Bonheoffer's “peace sermon” on August 28. 1934:

“Brothers in Christ cannot take up arms against one another, for they know that in doing so they take up arms against Christ himself. In all secular endeavors, peace and security are confounded. There is no peace by way of security. For peace must be ventured. Who of us can say what it might mean for the world if a people would meet the agressor—not with weapon in hand, but—praying, defenseless, and precisely for that reason armed with the only true defense and weapon? Not the individual Christian, not the individual church, but only the one great ecumenical council of the holy church of Christ all over the world can with authority proclaim to the peoples of the world the commandment of peace, and take the weapons from their youth's hands. This must be done now. The trumpets of war can be blown tomorrow. Do we wish to get involved in guilt greater than ever before?”—Authentic Faith p. 134-135

<idle musing>
Those words are as true today as they were in 1934. What would happen if the church universal were to decide to embrace the peace of Christ as a lifestyle? Or, for that matter, what about the church here in the U.S.? Put away “defending our way of life” slogans and begin to work for true peace, which can only happen where justice is practiced (take a look at the Hebrew root $LM). Instead of spending trillions of dollars on war, why not spend it on peace and justice?

I know, pie in the sky thinking. Or is it? Isn't that what Jesus calls us to in the Sermon on the Mount? Aren't we supposed to be salt and light? How much light is there in the barrel of a gun (other than the flash of gunpowder)? It's a weapon of death, not a weapon of light!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How to measure success

The Heresy asks some good questions about how we measure success.

If the church were a business we would measure our profit and if we weren’t making enough we would change. If we were a hospital we would measure how many of the sick and injured become healthier. If we were a vocational training institute we would measure how many people get jobs and keep them in their area of training.

Now imagine a school that measured how much people enjoyed the classes, how great the day care was, how inspiring the teacher was, the levels of enrol[l]ment and the amount of funding they had but only passively cared about the success of their graduates in the workplace. That my friends describes most of the church in North America today.

He goes on to suggest some better questions to ask.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tödt for Monday

“When we question the commandment of God before obeying it, we have already denied God.”—Tödt, Authentic Faith, page 134

<idle musing>
Wow! That statement is worth the whole book.
</idle musing>

Friday, April 18, 2008

The latest on June bug

Joel and Renee have posted the latest update.

Good news: Joel and I did not go to Minneapolis to have a baby today! No signs of heart failure within our baby, so, thank you, Jesus!

Good news: June Bug has a new name! May we introduce Emily Grace Pike to you. Emily means 'to strive, to rival, to excel'. Emily (June Bug) has been striving to survive, striving for life but only with the empowering grace of our God. Joel and I have been striving to trust, to believe, but only by the empowering grace of God. We felt that this name fit perfectly.

<idle musing>
I like that; a good choice for a name.
</idle musing>
Now, the hard news:

The heart takes up 70-80% of the chest cavity. A normal heart of equal age would only take up 50%. Big difference! The concern is now of the lungs. The concern is NOT of the maturity of the lungs but if there is enough lung mass to support Emily. In other words, the lungs at 38 weeks will be mature, able to handle oxygen and be perfectly normal except for the amount of lung tissue. Since the heart is taking up so much space within the chest cavity, the lungs are forced at a standstill in reaching the desired size. There is no way of knowing how much lung mass is needed for Emily.
The doctor said, optimistically, there is a 50-50 chance that Emily's lungs will sustain her once that umbilical cord is cut. If the lungs DO sustain her, then we 'worry' about the heart. But if the lungs do NOT sustain her, then she goes home to be with Jesus.

Please continue to pray for complete healing for Emily Grace.

Friday dose of Bonhoeffer

Tödt in Authentic Faith, discussing Bonhoeffer's theological ethic of the state, especially in regard to the pograms against the Jews in 1932:

Bonhoeffer confronts the tendency that prevailed in German theology at that time to shift the Kingdom of God to the beyond, or to a final eschatological future, or to inwardness. In a 1932 memoir on the “social gospel,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “Taking the kingdom of God seriously as a kingdom on earth is biblical, and is in the right, whereas an otherworldly understanding of the kingdom is in the wrong.” So Bonhoeffer sees the state commissioned, as an order of preservation, to guarantee law and external order and to provide neither too little nor too much of both. There would be too much law and order if the state would develop into a Weltanschauung state, and let its matter-of-fact activity become ideologically heated up. There would be too little of them if the state would not protect the rights of all sections of its population.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Real Peace

Tödt, quoting from Bonhoeffer:
“Where a community of peace endangers or stifles truth and justice, the peace community must be broken, and struggle announced. When both sides then really struggle for truth and justice, the peace community, even if broken externally, is realized more deeply and strongly in the struggle for the same cause.”—Authentic Faith p. 125

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Authentic Faith

I recently finished Tödt's Authentic Faith. I will feature some quotes from the book for the next several days.

But, a little background might help. Tödt was a young soldier on the Eastern Front for Germany during WWII. After the war he spent 5 years in a prison camp in the Soviet Union. He went on to become the chief editor of Dietrich Bonhoeffers Werke, the German version of Bonhoeffer's Works that are currently appearing from Augsburg/Fortress Press.

Authentic Faith is a collection of essays from the 1970-1990 period. In some of the essays, Tödt reflects on why the German church was unable to see the direction the government was taking, and take steps to stand up against it, but that will appear in later excerpts. Meanwhile, enjoy today's:

How is a society to be assessed that is oriented toward economic individualism? John Maynard Keynes, the famous English political economist who died in 1946, judged that modern capitalism is completely nonreligious, without inner coherence, lacking in public spirit, not always, but often, a mere heap of “possessors and pursuers.” To put it differently, individualism in economy and society will unleash the individual's productive forces, but the public spirit, the solidarity among the citizens and of the citizens with the commonwealth, in short, the emotional bonds, will waste away. Where individualism rules alone, it will make society into a mechanical social apparatus in which all are fixed on their own interests, and face each other in competition, or at a cool distance.

What type of religion fits this society? Undoubtedly, a religious individualism that regards any decision as a matter of personal conscience of a individual who rejects interference...—Authentic Faith, page 60.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Whole again

Joel over at Grace Roots had a wonderful 2 part post on Trusting Jesus to make them whole. Here's a short excerpt (emphasis his), but read the whole thing:

First, I think we don't trust Jesus to make others whole. We look at their behavior and that's as far as we go. We begin and end with outward appearances, and we drop all hope right there. We don't want to get too close or too deeply involved with them until their behavior changes. Instead of reaching out to them with the love of Jesus, just as they are, we "wait" until their behavior is suitable enough, and then we'll accept them. Or we try to force their behavior to change by setting up rules, prohibitions, laws, boundaries, etc. In many cases Christians have gone to court, and gone to their lawmakers, and gone to rallies and marches, and held up signs, and protested the sick, evil, twisted, demented behavior of others, thinking this will get their nation on the right track. We somehow think the key to everything is rooted in controlling behavior!

In doing all these things, even in the "name of Jesus," it's very possible that we actually leave Jesus completely out of the picture. Jesus didn't say, "go into the world and get everyone to start behaving morally, and then bring them to Me." Jesus' word to us, I think, is more like, "Just as you, like sheep, had gone astray, and you were not righteous, no, not one of you, but I came looking for you just as you were... go and find others who were just as you were, meet them right where they're at, accept them and embrace them. Love them unconditionally." And then as with the words of the song, Jesus tells us, "Bring them unto Me. I will make them whole, I can set them free."

Your rules, your laws, your looks of disgust, your protests... will never make them whole and will never set them free! JESUS makes people whole and JESUS sets people free. He really does!

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! It is only Jesus who can change and transform. We can never, ever change people's inner attitudes; only God can. And just as God accepted us and changed and transformed us, he can and will do the same for anyone else, however vile and disgusting they might appear to us.
</idle musing>


<idle musing>
Over the weekend we planted some trees, 33 to be exact. Everywhere we live, we try to plant trees, or at least lilac bushes. I can't imagine living where there aren't trees. We planted 21 white pines as a windbreak on the north side of the house, 7 fruit trees, one red maple, two red bud trees, and two forsythia.

I am looking forward to the fruit trees bearing in a few years. There are 3 apple, two pear, and one each of plum and peach. Good jam, canned fruit, and apple sauce for the winter. Yum.

I read somewhere, years ago, a quote attributed to Martin Luther, although I never have found out from whence it came: “Even if I knew the world was going to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree.”

Sounds good to me!
</idle musing>

Monday, April 14, 2008

AAR and SBL back together?

Pat McCullough posts an e-mail he just received, and checking the AAR website confirms it...

The AAR board of directors has decided to schedule "concurrent, yet independent Annual Meetings with the Society of Biblical Literature as soon as is feasible." Which means from 2012 on, since the meetings are already scheduled through 2011 (and that one is already concurrent).

They go on to state "a single, jointly sponsored Book Exhibit." The sound you heard was all the booksellers rejoicing that they will not have to decide which one to display at, or at both.

HT: Jim West


Alan Knox has a good post on Discipleship by example. After pointing out that we have reduced discipleship to intellectual assent instead of a lifestyle, he makes the following observations:

Of course, in this idea of discipleship by example, there is a built in assumption: the people involved in the discipleship relationship must have access to one another's lives. Furthermore, this access can't be a surface level access. This type of discipleship requires sharing life together, both the good times and the bad times, both the high points and the low points, both the good examples and the bad examples.

I believe this last point is exactly why we have de-stressed discipleship by example and stressed discipleship by teaching only. In our individualistic and entertainment driven society, we are not willing to share our lives with other people. We want what we want, when we want it. We want to do things that are fun or pleasing to us. The idea of inviting someone else into our lives, to consider their needs, or yielding our will to theirs is completely foreign. In fact, in order to think about and live this type of discipleship by example it would take a new way of thinking - a renewed mind, in fact - a mind that is not conformed to the common ways of thinking. But, of course, this is exactly what Paul exhorts us toward - a renewed mind.

Exactly! The refrain of our society is “I want what I want when I want it in the way I want it.” That certainly doesn't make a good foundation for community, does it?

It is only as we begin to live who we are in Christ—a new creation—that a true community can develop. The natural outgrowth of that is the modeling of discipleship that Alan is talking about.

Today's quote

A book just came across my desk today, and my eyes fell on this paragraph:

In North America today, unfortunately, we are infatuated with models and methods. we travel the continent and spend great amounts of time and money looking for cutting-edge and innovative ways of how to do church. I agree with Neil Cole who said, “The answers are not found in our models, methods, and manmade systems but in the truth of God's Word and in being filled and led by the Spirit of God.” Missional House Churches, p. 4

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seeker services are dead!

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad! The number one reason—well maybe not the number one reason, but close to it— the church in the U.S. is lethargic is dying! This from Out of Ur's coverage of the "Shift" conference:

Today, Greg Hawkins, executive pastor at Willow, recapped the [REVEAL] study and then shared some changes that the church is now making in response to the research. He said they’re making the biggest changes to the church in over 30 years. For three decades Willow has been focused on making the church appealing to seekers. But the research shows that it’s the mature believers that drive everything in the church—including evangelism.

Hawkins says, “We used to think you can’t upset a seeker. But while focusing on that we’ve really upset the Christ-centered people.” He spoke about the high levels of dissatisfaction mature believer have with churches. Drawing from the 200 churches and the 57,000 people that have taken the survey, he said that most people are leaving the church because they’re not being challenged enough.

<idle musing>
It's about time that market research caught up with reality. Barna's survey's have been saying it for years: the ones leaving the churches are not the unbelievers, but the serious believers who wan a deeper walk with Christ. They are sick of being fed watered down and diluted baby food.

Now, of course the question is, what will they feed them? Will it be more works righteousness? Will it be more programs, just with a different focus? Or, will it be the crucified life that is the only true Christian life?

The answer to that will determine the success of the change.
</idle musing>

Junebug update

I keep forgetting to post an update on Junebug. Joel and Renee are very good about updating their blog, so I forget...

Anyway, they went to Minneapolis last week and got some good news:

-Surgery is no longer completely necessary. There is a medication that can be given to June Bug after she is born that will help and possibly eliminate the need for surgery. She will need to be closely monitored for a few weeks and the specialist will determine when she can be removed from the medication. So this is wonderful news!!

And then they went to Duluth this Tuesday and heard some more good news:

We were encouraged talking to our maternal fetal medicine doctor in Duluth. She was not concerned with Junebug's growth. Although it is slow (about 10% behind), it is not falling sharply away from the norm. So this means that the heart defect is not causing a serious development challenge. Also, Dr. O'Day suggested we cancel our trip to Abbott hospital in Minneapolis on May 2 because they can do the same tests in Duluth.

<idle musing>
I believe this is in answer to prayer. And, I still am praying and believing that Junebug will be born with a normal heart and aorta. I encourage you to believe and pray, too.
</idle musing>


Wonderful post on Out of Ur. This quote is worth its weight in gold:

"The hardest thing about this ministry is that we know how to grow a church big and fast, but we refuse to do it. We don't use church-growth strategies; we don't market ourselves. We could grow the ministry fast. But we'd rather grow it biblically."

<idle musing>
Wonderful! If only we were all as committed to doing things biblically!

Success does not always equal big numbers. I think the bible makes that quite clear. It always seems to be the underdog who, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, wins. Look at Gideon as an example: too many men, send some home. Still too many, send some more home. Why? Because otherwise the people will think it is their power and steal the glory from God. Still true. Watchman Nee used to say that you should never put a person in a position where they had natural ability; it would prevent them from relying on God.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Who are you?

Alan Knox has a good series going on “Sin and the Church.” In Thursday's post he talks about public confession to the church:

I've talk with many Christians who struggle with sin. Sometimes, these people struggle with "big" sins - that is, sins that the church considers to be unacceptable - not acceptable sins like pride or anger or selfishness or covetousness. No, I'm talking about sexual sins among others. Most of the time, these believers who are struggling with "big sins" are repentant. As I'm discipling them, I tell them that the best thing they can do is confess their sins to the church and ask the church to help them deal with their temptation.

What response do I get? Most of them say that they cannot even return to the group of believers with which they once met, much less confess their sin to them. Why? Because they know they will be condemned by these followers of Jesus. How do they know this? Because they have seen how the church has condemned other brothers and sisters who have committed "unacceptable sins" - that is, sins that are not acceptable to the church.

The church is more than happy to accept those who are proud, resentful, angry, selfish, covetous, etc, even when they are not repentant. But, if someone repents of an "unacceptable sin", that person is condemned and rejected. This is not the scriptural way to deal with sin.

<idle musing>
Yep; sad, but true, isn't it? Bonhoeffer in Life Together talks about the necessity of public confession. Not just a generic collect, either, but specific confession.

As I look at the journal of John Wesley, one thing that continually strikes me is the centrality of repentance and confession of sin. I think that is one of the reasons that the Wesleyan revival lasted 60 years. Wesley preached the ability of Christians to live without sin, and believed it was possible here and now. But, he didn't shy away from calling a sin a sin when he saw it. But, we seem to have lost that. Either we preach that christians are sinners—they aren't, they are saints—or we preach that they don't sin—they don't need to, but can—and so close our eyes to blatant sins, such as selfishness, pride, greed, materialism, etc.

God, redeem your church! Save us from such blindness!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Who are you?

Joel at Grace Roots did a couple of posts on our identity in Christ. Good stuff; go on, get over there and read it. What are you waiting for? I'm not going to extract it; you need to read the whole thing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

God and country

Out of Ur has a wonderful post about patriotism and Christianity:

A few months ago, while visiting a church out of state, I had a moment of crisis. Just before the sermon, the pastor stood to give the announcements. After wrapping up, he invited a young man in military uniform to stand. The young officer had grown up in this church and had just returned from his first tour in Iraq. The pastor thanked the congregation for their prayers for the soldier and his family. The congregation responded with enthusiastic applause. So far so good.

But then the pastor reminded the church of the dangerous and noble work America’s soldiers were doing in Iraq. He said they were protecting our American freedoms and that we should be grateful for their sacrifice. The congregation stood to their feet and began clapping…and clapping…and clapping. I have never experienced a more enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation on a Sunday morning in my life.

What would you have done?

<idle musing>
Good question. I have been in situations like that over the years; inside I want to stand up and scream that God is greater than our nationalism. Instead, I do what the author did, I sit quietly.

Cop out? Maybe. On the other hand, there have been times when I have confronted the idolatry that is too often american christianity. The results are predictable: I am unpatriotic, unappreciative of all that this country offers, etc.

NO! I don't think I am. Is it not possible to critique the country you live in without being accused of being a traitor? As Christians, our allegiance is supposed to be to God alone. Jesus goes so far as to say we should hate our family, let alone our country, for the sake of allegiance to HIM.

I just finished Tödt's Authentic Faith. In it he is wondering, 50 years later, why the church was unable to resist Hitler and National Socialism's evils. He concludes it was because they were unable to separate out their patriotism from their christianity. Scary thought, isn't it? Almost the entire German church held captive because in their mind God and country were synonymous.

OK, I will sit back down and be quiet until the next time...
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Eisenbrauns April sale

Whew! Next year I am definitely going to write the copy for the April first titles earlier. Of course, that is what I said last year...

Anyway, the April sale (the real one!) is now up:

The long-standing Swedish series Coniectanea Biblica New Testament and Coniectanea Biblica Old Testament have recently become series that Eisenbrauns will publish; watch for announcements about new books in the series soon. In the meantime, we have acquired all the back stock from the previous publisher. In celebration of this acquisition, we want to make available to you 55 of the titles at savings from 30-50% off retail. The quantities on some of these titles are limited, so don't delay.

Here is my favorite:
"The Riddle of Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in
the Ancient Near East"
by Tryggve N. D. Mettinger
Coniectanea Biblica Old Testament Series - CBOTS 50
Almqvist and Wiksell, 2001. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9122019456
List Price: $48.00 Your Price: $28.80

My dissertation, may it rest in peace (or pieces), was going to be on that very topic, with lots of Hittite, Ugaritic, Greek, and Latin citations. Instead I got to be an operations manager for 15 years before coming to Eisenbrauns :)

By the way, I loved what I did, but I love what I do now even more.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April 1 at Eisenbrauns

Yep, we did it again. We scoured the world for the best titles to advance the study of the ancient Near East. Don't believe me? Check them out for yourself:

Lost Graves Revealed

Lost Graves Revealed
The Exact Location of Famous Historical Figures
Edited by Seems Wright
Winged Bull Press, Forthcoming August, 2008
150 pages + pull out maps, plates, English
List Price: $1,000.00
Your Price: $900.00

Cuneiform type elements for the IBM Selectric

Cuneiform type elements for the IBM Selectric
by A.P. Ril
Winged Bull Press, 2008
Akkadian, Sumerian, and Babylonian
List Price: $600.00
Your Price: $540.00

Bite Your Tongue

Bite Your Tongue
A Practical Guide to Impractical Phonology
by Hatta Sayyit and Augusta Summer
Edited by Felix Languealchat
Winged Bull Press, 2008
xiv + 150 pages, English
Paper, 5 x 8
List Price: $75.00
Your Price: $67.50

Nuzi & the Hurrians

Nuzi & the Hurrians
Greatest Hits Collection
Winged Bull Press, 2008
List Price: $19.98
Your Price: $17.98

Hostess of Heaven

Hostess of Heaven
A Critical Reading with Recipes from the Book of Jeremiah
by T. Winke
Winged Bull Press, 2008
200 looseleaf pages + b/w photos, English
Cloth, 8.5 x 11 inches
List Price: $99.00
Your Price: $89.10

Be sure to visit the website for all the details!