Thursday, May 29, 2008
So, what is happening?
We have the kids and are staying with Ryan's future in-laws, Clyde and Pat. They have a large enough house and a 3 acre yard, so we aren't cramped. They have been great, and the kids are doing well. Joel and Renee come every day to see them after their morning doctor's appointment. Renee has been having contractions off and on, but nothing to really get things moving. Right now, as I write this, they are having an ultrasound, which may tell more, but I doubt it.
Yesterday afternoon, Joel, Clyde, and I went for a nice hike in the nature preserve near their house. They have about 7-8 miles of trails and we did about 5 miles of them. Saw 3-4 deer, 1 wild turkey, and numerous birds.
Last night I helped Ryan pick up their new bed and put it together. They got a nice one bedroom apartment in Bloomington (a near 'burb of Minneapolis) with a nice big yard. Very quiet and peaceful. Ryan has been living there for about a week; Emily is still living at Bethany. They believe in sexual abstinence until marriage—would that others would also!
The only drawback about staying where we are is that they have no high speed Internet and no network for me to attach my computer to even for dial-up. Right now I am sitting in a Panera Bread and typing this, trying to get caught up on e-mails, and do some other stuff.
We left in such a hurry, that I copied the wrong files to my computer, so I am going to try and get those so I can get the Biblical Studies catalog done while I am here.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
And they're off!
They stopped the labor in Duluth while they airlifted her to Minneapolis and decided not to restart it. But, they won't let them leave Minneapolis. So, Joel and Renee are in a hotel about 2 blocks from the hospital, and Joshua and Rachel are still in Grand Marais. So, we are off to Minneapolis to take care of Joshua and Rachel.
I will post as I can, but please pray!
Thanks to all who have been praying; God is in control and will get glory for himself.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Humor for a Friday
I don't know if the image came through well enough to read, but the blow dryer on the right is entitle "Anleitung," and contains rows of instructions. The one on the left simply says "Press." Too funny...
Thursday, May 22, 2008
What a waste
All of that to say, this list is about a week old now, but still very good. He lists 45 ways to waste your time in seminary. I would add that some/most of them are good ways to waste your life in general, not just a seminary education. Here's a selection:
4. Nurture an attitude of superiority, competition, and condesension toward fellow seminary students. Secrectly speak ill of them with friends and with your spouse.
6. Neglect personal worship, Bible reading and prayer.
8. Practice misquoting and misrepresenting positions and ideas you don’t agree with. Be lazy and don’t attempt to understand opposing views; instead, nurse your prejudices and exalt your opinions by superficial reading and listening.
9. Give your opinion as often as possible - especially in class. Ask questions that show off your knowledge instead of questions that demonstrate a genuine inquiry.
12. Fill your life with questionable movies, television, internet, and music.
13. Set aside fellowship and accountability with fellow brothers in Christ.
14. Let your study of divine things become dull, boring, lifeless, and mundane.
15. Chip away at your integrity by signing your school’s covenant and then breaking it under the delusion that, “Those rules are legalistic anyway.”
16. Don’t read to learn; read only to refute what you believe is wrong.
17. Convince yourself that you already know all this stuff.
32. Gain knowledge in order to merely teach others. Don’t expend the effort it takes to deal with your own heart.
35. Comfort yourself with the delusion that you will start seriously dealing with sin as soon as you become a pastor; right now it’s not really that big a deal.
41. Love books and theology and ministry more than the Lord Jesus Christ.
45. Don’t really try to learn the languages - let Bible Works do all the work for you.
Read the whole thing, some good insights there, especially number 41! Now, back to the catalog, which will go out to those who just might be victims of number 41.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Information or transformation?
In conventional ministry the life blood of ministry is information. The underlying assumption is that knowledge changes people so find the right people who will present the right information to everyone else and they will change. It isn’t working out so well now.
If sacrificial love is as important as Jesus, Paul and John make it out to be why doesn’t this value shape what we do? If love is more important than knowledge than why do we spend so much time absorbing information and so little time interacting with people we care about? In as much as I believe in a simpler approach to church organization the size isn’t the pivotal factor. It really isn’t about how many people are meeting where. It goes deeper than that. It is about the Spirit having an opportunity to work through the body and that a Christlike genuine sacrificial love be evident in the lives of those who are committed to each other. If we organize ourselves in such a way that we prevent real genuine caring relationships to form and we put curbs and barriers up to manage people we are squeezing off the life blood of Christ’s body.
He goes on to say that knowledge is essential to prevent weird directions, but is secondary. Read the whole thing.
The structure of our meetings and church bodies is not a secondary consideration; how we are organized has a huge effect on the results. In the May Christianity Today there was an article that said we are not “brains on a stick” (which just got posted today), yet we organize everything around information transfer (i.e., the sermon). That needs to change in order for God to get our whole lives under His control! And just changing it from emphasis on the sermon to emphasis on the liturgy doesn't reslt in more interaction! A responsive reading or collect prayer isn't any more interactive than silently absorbing a sermon! We need real community, not just a Sunday morning “worship hour” in order to become the body of Christ on the earth.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Most of all, however, Radosh’s hopeful outlook arises from his confidence in consumerism itself. Concluding the book, he suggests that the problems in evangelical pop culture – its tendency towards intolerance, for example – will be resolved as Christian pop culture is more fully assimilated into the mainstream market. The weirdness and bigotry that characterises some aspects of evangelical culture will thus eventually be smoothed out – not so much through dialogue, discussion and reflection, but merely through the levelling operation of market forces. The result will be a more liberal and more tolerant Christian culture – in short, a more precise mirror of the values of mainstream culture.
By and large, this analysis is probably correct: in the setting of late capitalism, the creation of a vibrant and distinctive niche market goes hand in hand with the emergence of mass homogeneity. But I’m not so sure this is a comforting prospect. Instead, it ought to raise some disturbing questions about the nature of evangelical culture. It seems to me that the only flaw in Radosh’s analysis is his assumption that evangelical consumerism can be neatly distinguished from evangelical identity – as though the modification of evangelicalism’s consumer culture would not also be a modification of its religious identity.
The issues involved here are, to my mind, far more urgent than Radosh’s concerns about helping evangelicals to become nicer and more tolerant. We should perhaps ask what it means for religious believers to identify themselves by the merchandise they consume; what it means when we allow ourselves to become not a community, but a sub-culture, and thus one more market niche alongside others.
As Slavoj Žižek has observed, the logic of late capitalism presses towards the
commodification of a niche identity for its own sake; the Christian merchandise I buy is not itself the desired commodity, but it is merely an ephemeral signifier of the real commodity, which is my identity as a particular sort of Christian. In this case, the product I am really purchasing is radically non-material, wholly spiritual; I am purchasing religious meaning and belonging, religious “community” (since the merchandise allows me to participate in a specific market niche). Here, any neat separation between my “faith” and my “consumer culture” is simply fictitious. To change the latter simply is to change the former.
So what we need today, I believe, is a sustained theological critique of this commodification of Christian identity, and a recognition that the spiritual identity provided by a consumer sub-culture is a seductive simulacrum, an obstacle to the risky venture of Christian faith. If we are to find authentic Christian identity, it will arise not from the benevolent operations of the market, but in a community which creates a new economic space within the world, with its own practices and its own ways of belonging.
Amen! True Christian community, with a true following of God's kingdom principles is a necessity.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
A publishing parable
The key personnel gathered. “Listen,” said the publisher. “A publisher went out to publish. And as he published, some books fell on deaf ears. And the remaindering houses came and snatched up the excess stock at a fraction of its cost. Other books fell on hard-headed readers where the ideas were not able to root deeply in their minds. So as soon as the readers’ preconceived notions arose, the ideas from the book withered away. Other books fell among a huge glut of other new books and choked out the shelf-space, so the books were not seen. Other books fell into fertile minds and grew there, making a difference in the readers who in turn touched the lives of thirty, sixty or even a hundred other people.”
He then goes on to interpret it. Go read the whole thing.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Where's the focus?
I spent so much of my early ministry years living in fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be a good enough pastor. Fear that I wouldn’t be a good enough parent. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to financially support my family adequately. And all of that energy that I invested in fear (and a fair amount of corresponding inner anger and depression) was so unnecessary. If only I had listened to my own sermons on God’s grace and faithfulness...
So what wisdom would I give to a new pastor if were asked the question, “What should I focus on?” Focus on God’s grace and faithfulness — for your people, but especially for yourself!
Wonderful wisdom! So often I can give the answer to a problem in someone else's life, but ignore the answer for my own life! Isn't there something in Matthew about the speck in your brother's eye, but not seeing the log in your own...
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Have we arrived?
My point here is that I did have some sort of a sense that I had "arrived" at some sort of definition of what the Lord wanted to do with my life, and He would build this "vision" in due time, even if the "vision" wasn't perfectly clear at the time. But over the months and years, I discovered that my life in Christ isn't about some ministry "brand." Even if/when I write a book, my life in Him is still not defined by it. I am in Him and He is in me, and I usually don't have a clue where I'm going!
Years ago, while I was mowing the lawn one day, I heard a teaching tape from Keith Green's Last Days Ministries (that tells you how long ago!). The message was on how every time the Lord puts us in a new place, we think we have finally “arrived.” His point was that each place is simply a way station on the journey of life. God may allow us to stay there for a short or long time, but it isn't the end of the journey.
I like to say that God gives us milestones along the way, to mark major points in our life. The problem is, instead of seeing them as milestones, we treat them as altars, set up a temple, and worship them. God wants us to celebrate them, and then move on, sort of like the Israelites after the crossing of Yam Suph (Red Sea). They rejoiced, had a good old gospel celebration, and then pressed on to Mt Sinai.
A truly interesting book
From Student to Scholar
A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor
by Steven M. Cahn
Columbia University Press, Forthcoming September 2008
112 pages, English
Your Price: $14.95
Steven M. Cahn's advice on the professorial life covers an extensive range of critical issues: how to plan, complete, and defend a dissertation; how to navigate a job interview; how to improve teaching performance; how to prepare and publish research; how to develop a professional network; and how to garner support for tenure. He deals with such hurdles as a difficult dissertation advisor, problematic colleagues, and the pressures of the tenure clock. Cahn's witty insights are invaluable to traversing the thickets of academia.
Monday, May 12, 2008
What I am wondering about, is how do we avoid patterns of the past when the church jumps strongly in the realm of focusing on the gospel's impact for this earth and in this life - but slowly neglects teaching and reminding people of the gospel's impact about the reality of eternal heaven and eternal hell in the life to come after we die?
Ron Sider wrote a book called "Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel" which impacted my thinking on this. I read that at exactly the time I was beginning to realize how much I was personally focusing on "the gospel is all about going to heaven when we die". So the timing was great. He raises how the pattern seems to be where churches will focus on what he calls a "one-sided gospel". What he means by that, is that he has seen churches who only focus on evangelism with little or no passion for the poor and liberation for the oppressed. But then he makes the important point that it also goes the other way. That he also sees churches who focus on peace and justice, but do not have any focus on evangelism. He goes on to say how we can "put so much emphasis on social action that they almost entirely forget to tell dying sinners about our wonderful Savior" (page 17). He even called that "ghastly."
Coming from Ron, this is important to listen to. Ron's life and ministry is all about social justice. He leads the Evangelicals for Social Action network. But here we have someone voicing the need to never forget the need for personal evangelism in the midst of focusing on social action.
Take that! those of you who claim that emerging is all about relevancy :)
Thursday, May 08, 2008
But, it is always fun the first Spring in a place. You get to see all these flowers and plants come up that others have planted. We had daffodils, which I love, in front of the house. They finished blooming late last week. There was a lone tulip that is still in bloom. We also have two nice lilacs with purple blossoms that are opening up. The fragrance from them comes in the windows and flows through the house.
But, my favorite discovery was the redbud in the back yard. One day, Debbie looked out the back window and saw that there was a tree with a mass of purple on it. We had no idea that there was a redbud on the property, but it is now in full bloom and very beautiful. If I ever remember, I'll take a picture of it and post it.
Last night, we dodged raindrops and bought flowers and vegetables. We ended up with 8 tomato plants, 4 cherry tomato plants, 4 bell peppers, 16 impatiens (red), and 42 begonias (also red). Now we get to plant them! Hopefully this weekend will be nice enough for that to happen. Meantime, I still have to till a small spot for our herb garden.
Oh, I almost forgot, we have a wren couple that has taken up residence in one of our wren houses. It is fun to watch the male sit on top of the house and scold anything that comes near. It was also fun watching them build the nest; they have a lot more patience than I would. The male would bring a long straw and try to get it in the small opening. It would fall to the ground, and he would try again, and again, and again, and...you get the idea. They finally got it built.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Do you suspect we’ll see Christians picketing Game Stop and Wal-Mart for selling a game that celebrates violence, drunkenness, theft, prostitution, and heaven knows what else? Will we write books and Bible studies to refute the game’s poor theology? I doubt it. I suspect we’ll buy it. And play it...
I understand the temptation myself. It didn’t take me long to overcome the queasiness I felt during my first exposure to Vice City. Sure, I have qualms about murder and carjacking, but only in real life. It turns out it’s quite a lot of fun to pull someone out of their car and drive it around a while when there are no consequences (and no one really gets hurt). It’s also great fun to run down pedestrians and take their pocket money or shoot a cop to instigate a high-speed chase. I had no problem preaching on Sunday morning (in real life, of course) and selling drugs from the back of an ice cream truck (in Vice City, of course) on Sunday afternoon.
But, he doesn't stop there...
...if you can kill a man in your heart (as Jesus seemed to think you could), then why should we expect God to excuse us for offing someone on a video game? We evangelicals are pretty sure we can commit adultery in our hearts, and we seem to agree that viewing pornography makes us guilty of that heart kind of adultery. If viewing pornography (which isn’t a real affair, after all) makes us adulterers, then doesn’t killing someone in a video game (which isn’t a real crime, after all) make us murderers?
No, you’ll object. It’s different. Porn involves real people; video games don’t. You have a point there. But then again, the deep tragedy of pornography is that it objectifies and dehumanizes women (and men). It completely ignores all the things beneath the skin that makes a human a human—the spirit and personality and whatever else. It presents us with a facsimile of a person. A video game starts with the facsimile and then adds spirit and personality to make it more human so that we find more satisfaction in killing it.
Yep. Face it, evangelicals are down on sexual sins, but let just about anything else slip by. I noticed it the other day at a Bible study; there were two parts to a verse. The first part dealt with loving the world, the second with adultery (which from the context seemed to be figurative—being unfaithful to God), but the only part that got mentioned was the second half. Loving the world was totally glossed over.
I have noticed it before. When there is a text that talks about death to self, it gets glossed over, or just plain ignored. But, turn a preacher loose on Romans 1, and watch out! Why is this? Maybe because death to self is addressed to christians, and is therefore too convicting? What do you think? Am I not seeing something, or seeing something that isn't there?
Monday, May 05, 2008
A nice discussion is going on over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry. John posted this morning on what is going on in Genesis 1. He takes John Walton to task for his functional views. The resulting comments were interesting, but what is even more interesting is that John Walton has responded.
This is going to prove to be an interesting exchange, I'm sure. As John notes, he has a book in the works with us. I just wish it were ready now :) But, fear not, brave reader, it will appear. Personally, I am looking forward to it. Maybe I can convince Jim to give me a copy of the manuscript...
Friday, May 02, 2008
Eisenbrauns' May sales
We are running a clearance on some pretty neat items, like Child's Exodus, or Bovon's Studies in Early Christianity. Quantities are limited, so you need to hurry...here's the direct link
Our regular May sale is here. I kinda like my blurb, even though it is tacky:
Taking a cue from nature, with its variety of Spring flora, Eisenbrauns has selected a wide variety of titles, hopefully with something for everyone, to put on sale. Enjoy a bouquet of Eisenbrauns titles this May, with the sweet smell of savings from 40-70%.
I'm not a poet, and not even poetic, so what can I say? :)