Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hit a little too close to home?

"The ultimate concern of most church members is not the worship and service of Christ in evangelistic mission and social compassion, but rather survival and success in their secular vocation ."
(Dynamics of Spiritual Life p. 204)

Its all about the punctuation

HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/

Dad Life

This is pretty funny. 
HT: Larry Martin


Dad Life from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What is sin?

"The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it - both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal. Sin is disruption of created harmony and the resistance to divine restoration of that harmony. Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God, and it does all this disrupting and resisting in a number of intertwined ways."


Plantinga "The Way its not supposed to be" p. 5

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Redemption

I remember watching Manute Bol play for the Washington Bullets as a kid, i remember hearing that he was from Sudan and did relief work there.  What i did not know until today, fr4om this article in WSJ, was that he was a committed Christian.  Ive read at least three other obituaries on Bol this week and none have said anything about his faith.  Just another example of how the Christian faith is left out or marginalized by the media.  This article is refreshing. 

By JON A. SHIELDS



As any churchgoer who tuned in to watch the recent NBA finals contest between the Lakers and Celtics already knows, the term redemption is probably now heard more often in NBA sports broadcasts than in homilies. A Google search under "redemption" and "NBA" generates approximately 2 million hits—more hits than "redemption" and "Christianity." The term can also be found in more than 2,600 stories on ESPN.com.

What does redemption mean in the world of professional basketball and sports more broadly? It involves making up for—or, yes, "atoning"—for a poor performance. When the Lakers beat Boston, for instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the victory "redemption for the Celtics' 2008 Finals beating."


More often, though, sports journalists use the term to praise the individual performances of NBA superstars. Thus, the Associated Press reported that Kobe Bryant "found redemption" after he won a title in 2009 without the aid of his nemesis and former teammate Shaquille O'Neal.


Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.


Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: "God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back."


He was not blessed, however, with great athletic gifts. As a center for the Washington Bullets, Bol was more spectacle than superstar. At 7 feet, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds, he was both the tallest and thinnest player in the league. He averaged a mere 2.6 points per game over the course of his career, though he was a successful shot blocker given that he towered over most NBA players.


Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: "Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals."


When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William "the Refrigerator" Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?


Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.


During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.


Bol's life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior "humiliation" by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.


Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.


It is of little surprise, then, that the sort of radical Christianity exemplified by Bol is rarely understood by sports journalists. For all its interest in the intimate details of players' lives, the media has long been tone deaf to the way devout Christianity profoundly shapes some of them.


Obituary titles for Bol, for example, described him as a humanitarian rather than a Christian. The remarkable charity and personal character of other NBA players, including David Robinson, A. C. Green and Dwight Howard, are almost never explicitly connected to their own intense Christian faith. They are simply good guys.


Christian basketball players hope that their "little lights" shine in a league marked by rapacious consumption and marital infidelity. They could shine even brighter if sports journalists acknowledged that such players seek atonement and redemption in a far more profound way than mere athletic success.


Jon A. Shields is assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Toy Story 3

For Father's Day we all went out to see the new Pixar movie "Toy Story 3" As a huge fan of all of the Pixar movies I knew we were in for a treat but I was surprised by not only how funny & charming Toy Story 3 was but by how emotionally moving it was. The last 20 minutes of the movie I could hear several parents sniffing and see them wiping away some tears. I have to admit my eyes were a little wet as well. You must go out immediately and see this movie!



The remarkable thing is that every movie Pixar has done has been excellent. And this got me thinking of my favorite Pixar movies. So here is my list of my favorites in order from most to least. Tell me what you think:

1. Monster's Inc
2. Wall e
3. Toy Story 3
4. Incredibles
5. Toy Story 1
6. Ratatouille
7. Finding Nemo
8. Toy Story 2
9. Up
10. Bug's Life
                                                       11. Cars

Freedom from Porn

Something amazing is happing at Apple - Steve Jobs has made it clear that the iphone and ipad will not support any pornography applications! Some of his quotes in an e-mail exchange with an irate customer that turned out to be a reporter

" Ryan Tate, a writer for the Gawker website, sniped at Jobs about suppressing his customers’ “freedom,” prompting Jobs to respond, “Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.”
When Tate replied that he didn’t want “freedom from porn,” Jobs answered, “You might care more about porn when you have kids.” In a correspondence with a consumer, Jobs went even further, speaking of his company’s “moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.”

Check out the original article here:

http://gawker.com/5539717/steve-jobs-offers-world-freedom-from-porn

http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/14594

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/06/21/steve-jobs-bans-iphone-and-ipad-porn-becomes-christian-right-he/

Monday, June 21, 2010

Evil speaks with a British accent?

This week I was reading "Minority Report" a book by Carl Trueman who is a professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. It is a collection of his writings and essays over the years and is very informative and entertaining. On his chapter on "The Banality of Evil" he makes this point about evil people in the movies always speaking with a British accent (btw Trueman is British). I couldn't help but laugh as I was watching the BP CEO Hayward get racked over the coals by Congress.

"….there are subtle ways in which this fascination with the sophistication of evil manifests itself. For example, American movies and television programs contain a highly disproportionate number of screen villains who have English accents. Indeed in any whodunit where one of the characters is English, it is relatively easy to guess who committed the murder from the moment the character opens his or her mouth. In a recent series of 24, even the Russian villain spoke with an impeccable English Accent. The accent betrays the moral depravity, the sophisticated moral depravity, that lurks beneath the superficially polite fa├žade."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Church is a Family

We just started a preaching series on the book of I John and one of the first things the reader is struck with is the primary importance John places on fellowship within the body of Christ. We are so wired for an individual, a personal faith that the idea of expressing and growing in our faith in community is totally foreign to us. John could not empathize fellowship more - it is at the core of I John. Look at the first 7 verses (& notice all the plural pronouns)

       "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
       This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

I thought this preaching clip from Mark Driscoll drove this point home

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Business Ethics Today"

Last week I was able to attend the excellent conference in Philadelphia put on by Westminster Theological Seminary and the Center for Christian Business Ethics, tilted "Business Ethics Today" There were several excellent speakers, but what was especially unique and powerful was the format; where a business leader and a theologian were teamed up to tackle a certain topic together. It was very insightful. Topics like: "Business as Calling" "Church support for doing business in God's world" "What is at risk for business if we lose a Christian worldview" and many others. See their website for more information http://www.cfcbe.com But what really blew me away was the sessions Friday night with Economist Dr. Barry Asmus. I checked him out on youtube today and saw a ton of video resources that are excellent. Here are two:





 

Self-Esteem out of control

I read this today in the book "Thinking against the Grain" by N. Allan Mosely

"The focus on good feelings about self-esteem has had a major impact on public schools, and therefore our children. Teachers spend class time doing exercises that communicate to students how wonderful and important they are. For example when Loren Miller elementary school in Los Angeles decided to take action to improve test scores, they spent part of each day in "I love Me" lessons. Students completed the phrase, "I am…" with words such as "beautiful, lovable, respectable, kind, or gifted." They memorized the sentences instead of memorizing their school work. What was the result of such an approach? As one might expect, students feel better about themselves, even when they have poor academic performance. A 1989 study of math skills compared students in eight countries. Korean students ranked the highest in math performance and the United States students ranked the lowest. The researchers also asked students to rate how good they were at mathematics. The U.S. students ranked highest in their valuation of their own math skills, whereas the Koreans ranked themselves the lowest. " "Thinking against the Grain" p.132

So what happens when we present the Gospel to people with Super Self-Esteem and say things like "God loves you" Is that the truth we need to start with? How about "God is Holy" for a starting point in sharing the Gospel?


In the Words of Isaac Watts "Alas and did my Savior bleed! And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred Head for such a worm as I?" I find it telling that my 'modern' hymnal changes worm to 'sinner such as I"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The lack of genuine community in American churches

I read this article "A Family Affair" by Joseph Hellerman in Christianity Today and i could not agree more!
Read the whole thing here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/may/29.43.html


"Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. Persons who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding. And they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the messy process of interpersonal conflict. Long-term relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay grow.

People who leave do not grow. We all know persons consumed with spiritual wanderlust. We never get to know them well because they cannot seem to stay put. They move from church to church, avoiding conflict or ever searching for a congregation that will better satisfy their felt needs. Like trees repeatedly transplanted from soil to soil, these spiritual nomads fail to put down roots, and they seldom experience lasting, fruitful growth in their Christian lives.

Despite what we know about spiritual growth, nearly all churches in America are characterized by an unwillingness of members to commit themselves deeply to their respective church. For some, it means church hopping; for most, it means keeping the church at arm's length—that is, living as if the individual's life is primary and that of the church is secondary.


Social scientists have intensively studied the particularly pervasive loss of social capital and lack of genuine community that characterize life in America and its churches. They have concluded that we are a radically individualistic society, oriented toward personal fulfillment in ways profoundly more "me-centered" than any other culture or people-group in world history. It is our individualism—our insistence that the rights and satisfaction of the individual must take priority over any group to which one belongs—that has seriously compromised our ability to stay in relationship and grow with one another as God intends."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Irony

From a BP gas station

Monday, June 7, 2010

Political food for thought from Marvin Olsaky

I read this on Townhall.com today
from Marvin Olsaky

"As Christians, we want to defend our religious liberty. Parents should be able to home school their children or send them to Christian schools. Christian professors and social workers, when asked what animates them, should be able to talk about Christ. Adoption agencies based on biblical understandings should be able to place children with father-mother rather than same-sex couples.

But we should also, as citizens, be involved with issues such as healthcare. Nothing in the Bible explicitly says we can't have government-controlled healthcare. Nothing in the Bible says we can't have monarchy, for that matter. So we get into trouble when we band together as Christians and speak dogmatically on issues that aren't clearly connected to our faith. On extra-biblical policy matters we should speak as citizens and join with other citizens in seeking a redress of grievances.


We can gain wisdom here by studying Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Look at the phrases he uses: "Now as a concession, not a command, I say this... I say (I, not the Lord). . . . I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment . . . in my judgment." If Paul, an apostle who wrote under God's inspiration, is this cautious, how much more careful should the rest of us be?


The same goes in the classroom and the public square. Long-time readers of WORLD (news magazine Olasky writes for) are familiar with the whitewater rapids metaphor we use in approaching news coverage. Class 1 and Class 2 rapids are easy to navigate, so Class 1 issues are those on which the Bible explicitly takes a position (for example, murder and adultery are wrong). Class 2 issues involve an implicit Biblical position (for example, parents should give their children a Bible-based education).


About such issues, how to think and what to think are tightly connected. To put it another way, the "how to think" procedure should always be to go first to the Bible. If we read a command from the Lord, that should be sufficient for us: It's not our task to second-guess the Creator of heaven and earth. But God, for His purposes, has given us in most of the Bible not a detailed instruction manual but a narrative history of particular actions at particular times…….


…..we may not always know how to apply God's clear commands, maybe because of our own sin but also because the rules for living in Israel do not always apply to life within modern American pluralism. After all, those rules didn't always apply even in Babylon 2,600 years ago: God commanded the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:9-13 not to tolerate enchanters, sorcerers, or wizards, but Daniel had to hang out with them."

read the whole thing here: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/MarvinOlasky/2010/06/05/the_faithful_in_america_should_defend_liberty,_but_not_under_a_christian_banner

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bonhoeffer

"Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" is an amazing book. One of the best I have read in a long time. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed April 9th 1945 just a month before WWII was over. His story is one of great courage and faith. He choose to stay in Germany and face prison and death even though he could have (and did for a time) escape to America. What I did nto know about his life was how involved he was during the war as a spy (really a double agent) who worked to protect the true church, and a conspirator in the assassination attempt on Hitler. This is a GREAT book - one that must be read!



His last words spoken to his friends before he faced death was, "This is the end….for me the beginning of life."

Kill the Ump!?

Detroit Tigers' pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game when the first base umpire Jim Joyce totally blew the call. (see video below) But what amazes me is the reaction from Galarraga and his manager and the Detroit fans.



From Tiger's General Manager:
"I got texts from some people from ESPN that said [it was] disgraceful and it made me sick. I just can't feel that way. I know most people feel I'm an old grumpy [person], but I'm not. But I just can't feel that way. I feel bad for him. But I feel bad for Galarraga, too. Don't get me wrong, that's history. This is not a light thing. This is history. I'm not trying to downplay it. But what's the saying, 'Cast the first stone.'


'"We just aren't the type of society that beats people up. We are a very forgiving society. What the heck? The guy felt worse than anybody in this room. I'm just not going to get into it. I'm not going to do it. Do I feel bad? Did he miss the call? Yes. But this is a very forgiving country. When you are dealing with the human elements, just like a manager making a mistake, or a writer writing a bad story or a player making a mistake, that's just the way it is."


And listen to the ESPN interview below where Galarraga says that HE feels sorry for Joyce and gave him a hug, and felt bad for HIM!!
What a picture of forgiveness!!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=musio3_9Jsc

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life

I thought this was good
HT: http://mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com/

Fair and Balanced

Most days as I troll through the blogs and news sites on the web I usually check foxnews.com as well as msn.com, slate.com, salon.com, etc. I try and get a broad view from both conservative and liberal news outlets. One thing that always perplexed me was how many sexually explicit articles and ads there were on foxnews.com (I counted 5 today!) I guess Doug Wilson thinks the same way I do and he wrote about it in the Washington Post



Here is an excerpt:

"Fast forward to the present. A number of evangelicals are up in arms about President Obama himself, and Obamacare, and Obama-other-things, and Obama-anything-else, and are warning us in dire tones about the impending slavery that is involved in all this "socialism." And--full disclosure here--I am economically pretty conservative myself, just slightly to the left of King Arthur, so I am not pointing out this part of it to differ with any of it. But what I am noticing in this discussion is a striking public tolerance for right-wing skankyness. When I am cruising around for my Internet news, I am far more likely to run into Moabite women at Fox News than anywhere else.


I was recently was scrolling down a related "conservative" web site (Fox Nation), and near the bottom came upon a photo that plainly notified us all that Pamela Anderson is a member of a race, the human race, that is indeed mammalian. One of my initial thoughts was that it must be really nice to be able to go through life with absolutely no fear of drowning. The Fox News site is not quite as bad as that, but is pretty clearly keeping Balaam on retainer as well. While writing this, I conducted a brief, unscientific survey, and the Fox News site was busy displaying six large breasts with one naked Kardashian thrown in, MSNBC, that noted liberal outlet, had nothing objectionable at all, CNN, bane of the republic, also had none. Surely it should be possible to access fair and balanced news without running into women who think they are supposed to be a sale at Macy's--with 40 percent off"

Read the whole thing at http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/05/foxy_news.html