Thursday, December 31, 2009

Not your normal New Year's Post

New Year’s offends me. How an ambiguous day of the year becomes such an enculturated part of our society is beyond my cognition. There are multiple reasons why I think we should abolish this celebration, the primary reason is religious.

Saying “happy New Year” is imposing a governmental religion on my personal view. The only reason this day is significant is the tax implications of it. Very few companies end their fiscal year Dec. 31. The biggest is the government. They try to convince you to have a happy New Year primarily because they are looking forward to the money you owe them from the old year. They choose Jan 1 as the day to make things right with their coffers. Sure you get an extra few months to pay it, but that’s the day it is no longer your own. Should all acquaintance be forgot . . .

Culturally, I find “happy New Year” to be another example of the American Government’s imperialism. They are trying to rob me of my identity. How dare you dragoon your New Year on me. I feel as though my resemblance to the asian persuasion, and my religious roots in Judaism are slowly being robbed by your governmental replacement.

At the same time, every weight room in the country is attempting to hijack your governmental holiday and make it a marketable one. If you choose to celebrate this day, it is your prerogative. But beware, the almighty dollar is out to get you.

Here I sit, another victim of America. I will not reflect on 2009 today, for I am morally obliged to be in constant reflection. My resolution is to . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ode to new life

Isn't it funny.
When the snow fades away.
The grass returns.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making God in our Image

If you’ve been following my facebook or tweets, you know that I have been viewing a small group curriculum called the Truth Project. This is a 12 session dvd-based curriculum to defend a “Christian worldview”. Like any curriculum, it has its ups and downs. Being published by Focus on the Family should tell you a lot about its agenda. Primarily, that only conservative (esp. politically) Christians have a true Christian worldview. If you aren’t with them, you are against them. Sadly, the curriculum does little to dialog with postmodernism in general, postmodern Christianity in particular. In fact, postmodernism is only referred to negatively by the primary speaker.

I could live with all of this. In fact, I expected as much when I opened the package. One major problem with the Truth Project, though, is that the speaker, Del Tackett, claims to be speaking un-assumptively. That is, he claims that debating with presuppositions is invalid (never mind that he himself does it the entire time). As a result, the program comes off as a group of Christians attacking the culture rather than critically engaging with the postmodern world with gentleness and respect.

So I thought it was ok. That is, until Dr. Del (whose doctorate is a D.M. [management] in Homeland Security) chose to remake the Trinity in his image to support his entire argument for a certain style of social systems.

You see, he uses this diagram to explain the relationship of the Trinity while allegedly maintaining the nicene position of each member being an ontological (in their essence) unity:

So what’s the big deal? Primarily, this diagram leads the reader to believe that God the Father is somehow the bossman over the other two. God the Son is the boss of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has nothing to contribute to the equation logistically. If we believe that somehow the individual persons of the Trinity are ontologically subordinate, we destroy the idea that each member is of one essence. In a modern relationship, can we claim that a worker is essentially equal to his boss (at his workplace) if we diagram the relationship thusly? no.

This diagram implies inequality.

It is true that the Trinity submits to itself, but that must also include the Father and Son submitting to the Spirit when necessary (think of Jesus’ miracles, he didn’t do them, the Spirit did). Further, the Godhead can choose to be functionally subordinate to each member (that is, in how they act they submit to each other’s will, which is one unified will), but functional submission is not the same as ontological inequality.

Del needs this view, though, because otherwise his whole view of social systems is ruined.

here’s his view of the family. Clearly he doesn’t expect the children to be equal with the husband and wife, as his only Scriptures relating to children are those that say children should obey. Should the Holy Spirit just obey? become the prisoner of the other two? This diagram also demonstrates the wife as subordinate to the husband. But what about the structure of the church (sorry for cutting off the image)?

Here it is. With this diagram, Dr. Del plays rhetorical pinball, bouncing from one verse to another to support his argument, completely denying any historical context (of course he did that with the above charts too, but this is the most blatant). He substitutes placeholder for placeholder misusing verses until it fits his paradigm. The only problem is that in so doing, his substitution tactic, when taken to its logical conclusion, makes every member of the church ontologically and functionally equal to the Godhead even though Del rejects the New Age notion of becoming God.

Now this could all be fixed by claiming that the first chart is one of functional subordination rather than ontological position. But then, children would have to be equal to their parents, the flock ontologically equal to Jesus, and the state and her leaders ontologically equal to each one of these positions (via substitution). And the very next lesson he argues that there can be no bleedover between spheres of influence.

On the other hand, The Shack, which is a fictional book (rife with its own errors, but fictional) and is incredibly controversial for evangelicals, is far more accurate in depicting the relational aspects of the Trinity in my opinion.

The Trinity is a perfectly equal set of relationships where each member lovingly submits to each other member. Sometimes this causes a functional subordination (i.e. Jesus gave up his divine attributes to become human, or pericoresis) for a specific task. There is not inequality, nor can there be, because

God is like Aquafresh.
One substance, three persons.
Though made of the same God stuff,
Individuals don’t bleed into one goo,
They each have their place.
White red and blue.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pogo nip

Thanks L.L. Barkat:

"On Belleview Avenue"

Serpentine tree,
Japanese, I suspect,
as in split maple, as in
it takes a hundred years to
snake these arms to such breadth;
anyway, it seems everything
must have been leading to this juncture—
droughts, floods, springs coming
too late and winters too early,
everything conspired towards this:
snow, like white butterflies, laid
over old curves, dead leaves, intersections,
now ready to soft wing the
empty night.

Here are some (bad quality phone) pictures of this morning's pogo nip. unfortunately, I didn't have my real camera handy. I love how nature invades our technological world in the winter months.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sanctity of life (continued)

Jesuscreed is having a discussion on stem cell research. Led by a Christian scientist, it is an interesting conversation. The big question I have always had on this topic:

how do identical twins factor as evidence for or against the beginning of life?

If we argue (either side) about the time of life beginning, we must recognize that having twins creates two lives out of the same raw material (genetically). They create complexity in the debate for several reasons:

1) They are the same genetic material as each other, yet entirely distinct. Even to the point of having different fingerprints, twins are more than just copies of each other. Clearly there is more to humanity than simple genetic material.

2) Identical twins are not formed until after the egg has been fertilized. Two separate lives are eventually created, but not until a few days into conception. Some pro-lifers argue for conception being the start of life, but I’m not sure that argument holds a lot of water given the exceptionality of twin studies. What do you think?

In fact, twins throw a major wrench into the gears of all philosophical discussion about the nature of humanity (especially discussions of how the physicality of humanity interacts with the non-physical attributes of humanity).

I believe that all life is sacred. It is clearly wrong to dispose of human life through abortion as a means of personal convenience. Some situations are stickier than that, though (danger to the mother, for example). I pray that I never have to make a sticky decision.

Stem cell research should be viewed as a completely different question in my opinion, with a different series of conversations about the different nuances to life. Any answers to these questions must deal with all the evidence.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book reviews (a long time coming, a short time reviewing)

About two months ago, Zondervan sent me some more books to review. Since I am addicted to reading books (no matter the quality as you soon will see), i accepted. Of course, there is a caveat. I am supposed to post my impressions of the books. Unfortunately, thus far, Zondervan has received more critical reviews than those celebrating the works from me. This last set of books is no different.

Grace Notes: by Philip Yancey
This book was decent. It is a collection of essays, readings, and excerpts of Yancey’s other books. I don’t have a big beef with any of the content I read, but the vast majority of the sections are de-contextualized. That is, some essays refer to previous chapters even though those chapters aren’t in the collection. For the Yancey fan, this is a decent buy, and I did greatly enjoy about 15% of the writings. About 70%% were mediochre to decent. 10% were so decontextualized as to remove all meaning from the reading, and the last 5% were wretched. All in all, this is a good toilet book/ devotional. And calling it a toilet book is not bad, just indicative of the amount of time it takes to read a section. 2.5 out of five stars

Learning my Name: by Peter Gall
This is one man’s personal story of encountering God and realizing God loves him, no matter how poorly Gall views himself. I understand the point, but thought the writing was pretty bad, overall. In attempting to be a poetic writer (and succeeding in being an apoetic writer), Gall ignores most every biblical basis for his thoughts/beliefs. Just one example: in describing God’s desire for intimacy with us, Gall writes that God desperately wants to run his little finger down our chest like a lover. Nevermind the fact the Bible never uses Erotic love to describe God’s love for us (unless you are one of those folks who believes Song of Solomon is only about us and God rather than a description of how our relationships with others ought to be). One out of five stars

The Best Idea in the World: by Mark Greene
This was the best of the books given to me. It was the only one that actually challenged me to think outside my preconceived notions of religion in general and Christianity in particular. The central premise is that relationships are the basis of meaningful life, especially life with God. Using the Jesus Creed: love God, love others, Greene argues that every decision we make in life, including which microwave to buy has profound influence on our relationships with others, which influences our relationship with God. It’s sort of a Christianized version of the butterfly effect. Great writing, excellent personal examples, and the first unique Christian literature I’ve read in some time. I strongly recommend this resource to those who realize there is something more to life than just following the rules, and are looking for a language to describe their internal predicament. Four stars.

The Return of the Prodigal Son: Henri Nouwen
This book was given to me as a gift by Shawna Smith, who first heard about it from her son, who needed it as required reading for a course. Henri Nouwen is a spiritual life guru, and a Catholic priest. Here is an example of just how much protestants can learn from our spiritual fore-runners. Like it our not, the Catholic church still has a corner on the market in spiritual formation imo. This book is a combination of reflections on the parable of the prodigal son, and Rembrandts depiction of said parable. Deeply personal (but not sexual like Gall’s book), incredibly insightful, and by far the most well-rounded approach to the prodigal son for the average reader. Another great book worthy of a read. Five stars.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bible reliability

Got to speak again this sunday about the Bible. Such an easy subject to talk about. This week we dealt primarily with the reliability (based on internal, external, archaeological, and manuscript evidence) of the Bible. Sound levels might be silly since I don't know how to hold a mic.

download it here:
Stream it:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Busy bees

Well I haven't posted because apparently October gets included into the "insanely busy months" portion of my calendar. Godcry conference, Night of Light, two sermons made it a madhouse up in here.

Yesterday I had the privilege on teaching in church about the history of the Bible. You can get the sermon by following this link:

Coming soon: a melieu of advanced reading copy book reviews of mediochre christian literature (one good one). Some more of my personal thoughts when I have time to type them. Another sermon next week about the reliability of the Bible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guts, Glory, and the sanctity of life

I've recently come to realize my distance.  Distance from God and others, perviously camouflaged by the business of school and work.  At some point, without careful observation, the complexities of life simply overcome our ability to remain quietly close to God.  And so I am brought back to sabbath.  Sabbath from school (though not learning).  Sabbath from major projects (only two biggies in the next month, not starting anything new).  Sabbath with my visitor.  I expect to ponder on the blog more often, especially since I have a pile of advanced reading books from Zondervan to review.

Thoughts on Genesis 18:  The three visitors.
Read this story in parallel with the beginning of Luke.  Perhaps Luke is ushering in a new covenant by referring back to this story (as well as Samuel and Exodus)?  This really deserves its own post, chapter, or book.  None of which will occur this morning.

At what point does Abe believe this is God?  Partway through the story, the reference simply changes from lord to LORD.  It must be after Abraham practices hospitality.  By honoring the visitors, valuing their life and need for rest, Abraham recognizes God in his presence.  When was the last time we viewed hospitality as a privilege rather than a chore?

Abraham gets gutsy near the end of the stay.  As he has built rapport with his visitors, he gets courage to stand up for the sanctity of life.  Sure he is to be commended for showing good ole fashioned chuzpah, but when we focus on his argument, we forget the point.  Abraham finds value in the lives of all those who live in the cities about to be destroyed.  That's why he barters with God.  He believes that all life is sacred.

This makes me wonder.  If life is so sacred, why do we justify protecting babies but neglect the lives of immigrants?  Why is it ever okay to condemn a person to death by injection?  Is there a such thing as just war?  The needs of the many may outweigh the needs of the few or the one, but if everything is sacred how can we draw a line?  50? 45? 40? 30? 20? 10?  That's the question Abraham asks.  And the answer is silence.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

free bibles

Check out the free Bible Promotion Logos is doing! If not, check out some of their Bible widgets for your mac or blog.
Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. TheBible giveaway is being held at and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sermon up on the website

This week's previous sermon is up on the yeringtonvcf website for download or live listening.  To listen live, click here.  To get to the download page, click here.  You really kind of need the powerpoint presentation to understand what was going on, though.  I can email it if requested.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Interesting article on Obama's evolution of "I". read it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Snow leopard (mac osx)

Hot dang! the new Mac osx is only 29 bones to upgrade with an instant 6 gb of space freed up. Hope my software works with it. Consequently, when was the last time Micro$oft sold any software for 30 dollars?

Friday, June 5, 2009

listen to this

Scot McKnight's take on the gospel.  Consequently, what I have been feeling more and more.  have a listen if you have time.

Obama's speech

A few undeveloped thoughts on Obama's speech in Cairo:

4.3 billion/year to Pakistan to develop infrastructure.  80 Billion a year would solve world hunger, water, and basic education and healthcare

Re:  Israel:  Obama has an accurate understanding of the motivations for both palestinians and Israelis "having claim" but who is he to talk when his nation is founded on the basis of pushing out native americans?  also historically ignorant (not uninformed, just ignoring) of the various attempts over the past forty years to bring peace and compromise.  What about the Jews who get rockets shot into their backyard?  

A two state solution has been tried and found wanting because ultimately the arab world does not want two states.  Simply because Barak Obama is asking for the palestinians to not be violent won't change their actions.  Clinton asked the same thing, as did both bush's and reagan.  Through the eyes of a palestinian, any compromise is a win for them.  If you doubt this, go visit israel and see the racism on both sides of the aisle that influences everything.  I agree that violence is not the answer, though.

If every people group gets their own nation simply because they have lived there, what happens to the soviet block?  Giving groups their own space does not solve the cycle of violence.  cf congo.  Instead, it promotes individualism, division, and racism.  Again, walk from the arab quarter to the jewish quarter to the christian quarter to the armenian quarter in Jerusalem.  

On indonesia and tolerance:  maybe as a boy Christians were allowed to worship freely.  Today indonesia is the home of one the most persecuted branches of the church.

Kudos on women's rights.

For saying that the west is a negative influence, he sure wants the middle east to become like us.

We need a distinction between tolerance and unitarianism.  differentiation is vital to a healthy freedom of religion.  There's a difference between not treading on someone, and forcing everyone to be the same.

Final point:  our hopes shouldn't, can't, and will not succeed if they are placed in a political power.  Pretty speeches and warm welcomes will not change the world.  Our only hope is through actual people denying themselves, taking up their cross, and choosing to love their enemies.  Not in a political sense, but in a way that allows us to eat at the same table, to touch lepers, to be invested in the lives of each other.  One by one, relationship by relationship.  The rest is just window dressing.  It begins with you.  It begins with me.  Representatives are not enough.

Overall I have supported the obama administration's foreign policy thus far.  This, however, is not a "new tone" because every president has used the same rhetoric more or less since these conflicts have arisen.  For some reason we simply assume Obama is different because we associate his name with hope and change.  In reality, this is very similar to what every other president has said.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quote of the day

"I think about it while I’m writing my book, for one thing. If there is any underlying reason why I’m writing the book, it’s that I think the church today needs to rediscover “mere Christianity” as opposed to “cool Christianity” or “jazzy Christianity” or “online Christianity” (or whatever other conflated, stylized “Christianity” you can think of). I think we’ve become obsessed with the form and presentation of the Gospel while forsaking its substance (or divorcing substance from form, which is equally problematic). And I think a good dose of “mere Christian” back-to-basics and unity-mindedness could do us some good."  From the search

My prayers go out for this book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sunday's teaching up and running

More a teaching than a sermon per se, but you can go listen or download it here

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Good quote from a mediocher book.

"For the mos tpart, Jesus poured his life, time, and resources into 12 people.  And over time, after much patience and persistence on his part, that small but mighty group grew to the robust size of . . . well, 11."

Barry Shafer.  Unleashing God's Word in Youth Ministry.  p 137  

Monday, May 18, 2009

Questioning, doubting, and a brief review (Genesis)

Abram doubts.  A lot.  Nearly every step of the way, he questions how the promises of God can be so.  Sometimes he appeals to external evidence, but not often.  Usually it is nothing more than questioning how the promises can be.  In chapter 15, God renews the covenant with Abram (actually, this is technically the beginning of the covenant, but God made promises earlier).  Here's how the conversation goes:

GOD:  Don't be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward

ABRAM:  how can this be?  i don't even have a child, the most basic blessing.

GOD:  I will give you a son.

ABRAM:  I believe.

GOD:  I will give you this land

ABRAM:  how can I know?  I don't want to get my hopes up

GOD:  I will meet you personally

Abram then gathers a sacrifice and prepares the offering for God.  He sits and waits, and waits, and waits, and waits for it to rain (Silverstein, "Lazy Jane", Where the Sidewalk Ends. [give credit where it is due]).  He chases away birds, which means the carcasses had been there for quite a while.  Sitting in the stench, waiting on God's promises, Abram falls asleep.  God speaks to him in his sleep, explaining that the land won't be immediate, in fact Israel will have to go through hell to get there.  Abram wakes up (assumedly), and sees a firepot and torch floating through camp.  Weird.  God then makes the covenant for land and children official.  

This is the promise Israel's hopes relied on throughout their history.  Every time they were in exile, they clung to this hope.  Every time they were feeling the consequence of their sin, they remembered that day.  Every time they questioned God's answer, he reminded them of when Abram questioned too.  When we doubt, question, and disbelieve, God wants us to remember his promises.

As far as a review goes, Eminem's new album is horrendous.  Not only is the music disinteresting and simplistic, the lyrical content is devoid of all substance.  There was a point at which Eminem rapped about his life, struggles, and hopes.  Now he has been reduced to a pile of hormones driven to find happiness by pursuing meaningless sex.  His honest hunger for truth, identity, and meaning has been temporarily fed at the worldly mcdonald's of sensuality rather than the satiating fountain that is the source of all Truth.  Pray for him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tall, Dark, and Handsome . . . or other mysterious characters (beginnings)

Moving on with the story of Genesis, there are a few key points.  First, Abram finally starts turning his life outward.  When conflict arises between he and his nephew, Abram, who has a right to pick since he is older, gives the choice to Lot.  He is blessed as a result of his faithfulness to God and his promises.  This episode has a back to the future appeal to it, as well.

First, Abram goes back to where he has already encountered God, and built an altar to remember the occasion.  He turns his life outward in seeking for God rather than his own interests.

Lot looks at his immediate surrounding, looking for what will be most helpful to him.  He turns his life inward.  The plain of the Jordan is reminiscent of Eden (and ironically, Egypt), so Lot, who has heard of the garden, chooses that direction. Of course, with this land comes the people who live there.  The men of Sodom and Gomorrah receive a negative report before we even get to know them.

On the other hand, after lot leaves, God rewards Abram for his faithfulness thus far.  He is given the promise of land and offspring (as before).  God reaffirms the previous blessing, though the evidence of that blessing is not yet realized, especially the part about children.  Abram builds an altar as a response.  It's almost as if by going back to the last time he heard God, Abram starts over from his last encounter.

Consequences:  Lot eventually gets captured, and Abram does the rescuing.  The story of the war itself is interesting, but I'm not going to focus on it.  Though consider that the word king might not mean a medieval king who had absolute rule, but the leader of a tribe since society was primarily tribal at that point.  After the rescue, Abram does not turn inward with the treasures, but gives what he already had away.  Here is one of the most perplexing and rich stories in Genesis.  The story of Melchizedek. 

We know nothing of Mel.  He is a priest (which was normal for that time, as every family would probably have had some form of priest).  He is also a king.  The two basically celebrate communion (or the communal meal according to Phyllis Tickle), and Melchizedek blesses Abram.  Abram responds by tithing to Melchizedek, even before the law of tithing has been written.  Here are the first ever described spiritual disciplines.  Mel is to some extent a theophany insofar as he represents the presence of God on earth.  Can you imagine a mysterious figure approaching you after a battle, and then feeling the need to give him your stuff?  Suddenly this encounter ends.

Jesus, of course, is later realized as having the same authority and even more as Melchizedek.  The weird thing about Jesus being a priest king is that Israel's expectation for a Messiah was generally either priestly (religious) or kingly (political), but not both (some believed in two messiahs though).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If He can use a schmuck like Abram . . . (beginnings)

Since my beloved fountain pen is back, and working in nearly tip top shape (still drying out quickly when not used), I have been writing out Genesis once again.  After working through the prologue/episode 1, we move on to the next story, God's selection of Abram.  The Bible never says anything about why Abram was chosen, other than that he was listening.  In fact, after his first success (going when God said to), Abram royally screws up, but gets a benefit out of it.

Living in the promised land, Abram sets up an altar to the Lord.  Pretty soon a drought comes along, and Abram relies on his own wits.  He moves to Egypt (where the adversity with Egypt starts).  Realize that this book, if recorded by Moses, was written shortly after the Exodus, probably in the middle of the desert.  Abram lies, Egypt gets a plague (foreshadowing much?), Egypt repents, and Abram leaves, wealthier than he came.  This passage messes with me.  Why was Abram blessed for turning his life inward, focusing on his own safety (both in the famine and in Egypt)?  

"God showers blessings on the righteous and the wicked . . . I only know that that covers, covers me".  - Stavesacre.

If God can use Abram, I have hope that he can use me, too.  

P.S.  sorry about the quality of this post, it is really kind of a segway post to the next one (probably tomorrow), that was interrupted by a staff meeting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Twitter survey

Though I can't stand twitter, I find it useful for my own needs.  I keep an eye on a few companies to catch deals through it.  So basically, it's a virtual coupon book for me. 

What do you use twitter for? 
Do you read others' tweets, or primarily send them?
Does it validate your need for social activity?
Is it a community?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

I was given the privilege of teaching at church again, this time on money (make the new guy take the hit ;) ). Actually, I asked to teach this particular topic in this particular series. Had a couple technical difficulties, like the computer making a word jumble out of the book of Exodus, and a few wrong citations, but overall it went well I thought. Here it is

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Unexpected Adventure (review)

Well, thanks to Zondervan, I wasable to once again pre-screen a book due out this month. This book is Lee Strobel's latest, a work co-authored by Mark Mittelberg. It comes out in May, 2009. The Unexpected Adventure is primarily about how to naturally, organically, and intentionally share your faith with others.

It is an evangelistic book, and a very entertaining one at that. Instead of simply giving strategies or analogies to use, Strobel and Mittelburg have a nuanced view of what it means to talk to others about Jesus. I am not much of an evangelist myself, so I found many of the chapters to be very challenging. Each chapter is brief (four or five pages), and is a principle hidden within an anecdote. The vast majority of the book is personal stories from the two authors, who take turns writing chapters, which are expounded on to demonstrate the principle within. It is a very engaging way to promote an idea, through personal testimony. As Tod Hunter said, "people observe their way into the Kingdom."

It is intended to be a six week long book, reading one chapter a day. After about week two, the book becomes repetitive. While I appreciate this approachable view of evangelism, The book simply became dull after a while, because there are three emphases that repeatedly come out: 1) evangelism should be natural, but needs to be practiced to become so. 2) evangelism must come from a base of relationship. 3) You will play one part in the long journey from disbelief to belief, so don't get worked up when someone doesn't commit to Christ then and there.

There are different ways of expressing these points, but they are the keys to the book, and are well-illustrated.

Does the book serve a purpose? Yes. Is the book "inspiring"? More less. Is the book the next hot thing? Maybe within traditional evangelical circles and megachurches, but it's no Shack (tic). If you are specifically looking for a story-based approach to sharing your faith and how to practically do so, it might be worth a look. 4 out of 5 stars simply because it is easily approachable and not dull (for the first half of the book).

I have a dream

I have a dream:

That one day young women will not be judged on the suppleness of their skin or curvaceousness of their bodies, but by the content of their character.

This whole miss USA pageant drives me mad. Why are we nitpicking about gay marriage when we have the women dress in the exact same swimsuit (thus anonymizing them) and flaunt their bodies for thirty seconds. You can't tell much about a girl by gawking at her for a few seconds. It does not promote differentiation of substance (only of the matter that makes up their bodies), nor does it promote creativity, strength, character, or any other "values" of the pageant. The swimsuit competition is purely a ratings grabber, because they couldn't hold men's attention otherwise. The poor girls' bodies are sold, plain and simple.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anyone need a dart board?

So a couple weeks ago I bought a lot of 5 dartboards on ebay. I did this because they were very cheap, and thought I could resell the four I didn't want no problem. But then I realized, it takes effort to sell stuff on ebay. So here I sit with five dart boards. Wanna buy one?

Overall they are good boards, the four available are all electronic dartboards with bristle coated buttons. Basically, this means that they are self healing, and can accept steal darts. They all work okay. Two have cabinets, and two do not. Some have the mounting hardware, others stick straight to a wall with screws. The cabinet ones are halex solstice 4.0 models, not sure on the others off the top of my head. Asking 15 dollars each (retail around 50) (and shipping if you are far away). Yes, I'm shameless.

On a completely unrelated note, I haven't been posting, nor writing out Genesis because my pen is still in the shop. I hope to post more once I get my pen back. Heck, I hope to write more once I do that. Until then, expect updates to be sporadic at best, shooting for one a week.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ichabod/Ebenezer. Where is the glory?

As I was doing my Wed. Bible study with will yesterday, we examined one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I had never noticed, before yesterday, the chocolate cookie stories betwixt which this one is smashed. My favorite story, of course, is the one of the Philistines and the ark. Basically, as a result of idolatry, the Israelites lose the ark (representing the presence of God). They end up making tumors and rats of gold, which is just plain awesome, and then send the ark on its way. The story has always captivated my bizarre, twisted sense of humor side . . . my biggest side.

Anyway, the story itself and the surrounding story all seek to contrast the evil high priest and his sons (Eli and Hophni and Phinehas). Here is a very basic chart demonstrating the parallels for what its worth.

Israel goes out to fight the Philistines, defeated (4.1-2)
Elders bring in the ark so "IT may save us" (4.3)
Eli and sons known for taking the best portion from the sacrifice (2.12-16)
Israel shouted when they saw the ark, scaring the Philistines (4.7)
In the second battle, Israel routed, losing 30,000 men (4.10)
Eli judged in comfort in his own town (4.12)
New name: Ichabod, "the glory has departed from Israel" (Phineas' son 4.21)
Gluttony (Eli and sons were fat and selfish)
Result: God favors the Philistines, shows mercy in how they handled the ark (ch. 5)

Philistines go out against Israel (7.7)
"Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that HE may rescue us (7.8)"
Samuel offered a whole lamb as a burnt offering, taking none (7.9)
God thundered against the Philistines, throwing them into a panic (7.10)
Samuel traveled and judged throughout Israel (7.16-17)
New name: Ebenezer, "Thus far has the Lord helped us."
Fasting (7.6)
Result: God's hand against the Philistines

Samuel also fulfills the role of redemptive judge, which is the pattern for judges. Not a single negative comment is made about his life as a judge, and he is known for standing up to leaders whether Eli, Saul, or David. One question to ask ourselves is whether or not the text was distorted for the sake of demonstrating this contrast. What do you think? Do you see other parallels I may have missed?

Friday, April 10, 2009


At what point did Christians start euphamizing the gospel? Is it still good news when it is wattered down and made socially acceptable?

I ask because honestly, the language throughout the Bible is far from the poetry in motion the King James makes it out to be. New translations are even worse (youtube pisseth against a wall while your at it). Jesus had harsh things to say. Paul had even harsher things to say, but we get so caught up in making the Bible palpable that we don't allow it to speak prophetically into our broken lives. The same man who said "let the children come" said "you brood of vipers". The man who wrote "if anything is praiseworthy, think of these things" wrote (in the same letter) "I consider everything Skubalon compared to knowing Christ. Skubalon is the greek word to describe the most socially unacceptable version of "feces". It's quite literally the S word in both languages. We translate such a descriptive, vile word to "garbage". Biblically, filthy rags of righteousness are menstrual cloths.

Thinking on these things begs to ask the question, are we ashamed of the gospel in all its vividness? Do we ride the human story through the highs and lows like a roller coaster traveling at breakneck speed?

Do we tell the truth, or make it attractive?

Can we tell truth without becoming sensational for the sake of shock value?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Episode 3.2 All fall down.

If we look at the Bible as a narrative, with definitive "episodes" or sub-chapters, here is what we have so far in the first Chapter (Genesis). 1) Adam and Eve with associated exploits. 2) Noah as an act of God's redemption. 3) The Babel Generation.

In the previous post, we saw the first mention of the city. This city is an archetypal city throughout the Bible as humans' attempts at becoming completely autonomous. That is, we build cities to become gods. The city is Babylon (or Babel), which is described throughout the Bible as a pagan city. Whether this Babylon, Babylon of the 6th century BCE, or the Babylon of revelation, Babylon is humans attempts at creating apart from God.

God steps in here (literally "coming down to the city"), and confuses the people. He actually directly causes division, which is odd considering that God designed us to be in communion with one another. What has happened through the lenses of grace, is that humans have substituted the God-human relationship with the human-human one. As a result, God redirects our attempts to fulfill ourselves back towards our need for Him. The city is abandoned and scattered.

Babel means confused . . . which has so many levels here. Simply meditate on why God chose to preserve the name of the city thusly. What comes to mind?

Next, another genealogy. Another "to be continued". Finally, an introduction to the next episode. Abram, the man. As the story goes on, "God's chosen family" becomes a smaller and smaller portion of society due to our own actions. Be prepared for this trend to be reversed throughout the New Testament (with Pentecost being Babel Part II, the reversing of the tide). The introduction here would be a montage set to music with either headlines or memories if it were a movie. Crude background information rushed in to shed light in later sub-plots.

P.S. Check out Holy Trinity, a remixed modernized version of Gregorian Chant.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Tower of Babel. This time it's personal (beginnings)

Actually, this is not a post directly about the tower incident, as I am not there yet. But Genesis 11 is mostly a genealogy. And it's like I always say, genealogies are an ancient text's awkward segway. ACtually that is the first time I have ever used that phrase, but it won't be the last. Just as a genealogy separated Adam from Noah, this genealogy distinguishes Noah through the Tower of Babel. A few key points based on the characters who stand out with descriptions other than "begatten":

1) Nimrod (vv8-12): Described as a hunter and civilization builder. He also built the city of Babylon, which would likely have been the site for the tower. Though he is portrayed as an impressive man, his legacy leaves much to be desired. One almost gains the sense that cities are frowned upon when you consider future episodes (tower is destroyed, shepherds are promoted, kings generally fail). In fact, that is the basis of one of Ellul's books (which I haven't read, but I did sleep at a La Quinta inn last week). All that to say, Nimrod is known for conquest and power. He creates the cities that become primary enemies to Jerusalem. He uses his God-given dominion to dominate humans (consequence of the Fall. Notice the perpendiculars? [opposite of parallels] between the garden: creation vs building, relationships vs society, human equality vs human ruler).

2) Peleg (v 25)): Named because of what happened in his lifetime, the division of the earth. Probably referring to the Babel incident, especially considering that this is the last generation named in the genealogy. It could also refer to other cultural divides, or even geological events (i.e. earthquake). Considering its position in the text, I think it's probably a transition from genealogy to event.

3) Jobab (v 29): Who said Joe Bob wasn't a biblical name? Of course, Jobab was originally from Chicago, hence the mispronunciation.

More twitter fun.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Must-See response to my previous post

Little did I know that Jacque Lellul had already responded to my post over 15 years ago. Please take the time to watch this episode of his interview. For the whole program, go here

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Technology and the Reformation

There were a few key points that kept coming up throughout last weekend's conference. At first sight, they seem like great ideas. Upon further ponderation, though, I began to question the validity of these arguments. The ideas go something like this:

1) The Great Reformation happened largely because of sacerdotalism (the priests were given/took all the power in the church). As a result, a few missionally minded folks including Luther, Calvin, and Zwingly, took true religion to the people. The idea that arose from this mindset was Luther's "priesthood of all believers". When people could access the religion, they took it and incarnated it into whatever context they lived.

2) Somehow today the leadership of the church (whether through professionalization of leadership or power struggles or apathy on the congregants' part) has once again come out on top. Church leaders today need to lead once again rather than delegate from the top. We should use any means necessary to redefine the church and her mission (including twitter, which apparently every church should be doing).

3) Form follows function. In other words, our structure of worship ought to reflect our values/beliefs/purpose of meeting.

While I see the connection between church leadership today and that of the medieval era, I cannot help but think that the cause of the rifts is far different than it once was. If the cause is different, cannot also the solution be?

The cause of the Reformation was due largely (though not entirely) to the availability of the Bible for everyday folk. Because of the printing press, pamphlets on theology as well as copies of the Bible were suddenly readily available. The written word led to a certain pattern of thinking. Let us not forget that the medium is the message. Written text reinforced linear thinking, which reinforced the modern worldview. The way they received Scripture influenced their worldview. Our conference was created under the assumption that media is neutral.

If we want to connect to our postmodern culture, we ought to use visual rather than linear media. This is obvious when a person sees the popularity of youtube versus blogger. Our MTV culture has created a different set of neural pathways through which information is filtered than that of the medieval era. Our minds are fundamentally altered.

Not only that, but TV watching is an incredibly passive activity. A person burns more calories sleeping than watching TV. The medium is the message. If we go with the cultural flow, perhaps we will only lead our congregations into a deeper mire of narcissistic self gratification than they are already in.

Should the church wholeheartedly accept technological advancement, including twitter?

Another astonishing development is the speed of technological advancement. Written word had centuries of influence. TV has had roughly 50 years of influence. The internet 20. Facebook, 7. Twitter, 2. How long until the next technology? How long until we sing this same song and dance the same dance with the next, greatest system of information distribution? We have no idea what effect the internet has in a longitudinal study, let alone social networking.

God grant us wisdom in understanding our times and technologies. And choosing wisely which avenues to pursue.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Here is an excellent article by John Stackhouse re: Obama's gaffes last week on Leno. Decide for yourselves.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

kingdom mission 1

here at the kingdom mission conference in sacramento, trying to figure out how to get twitter to connect with their address. Feeling incredibly technologically incompetent right about now. If I get twitter working in the next five minutes or so, great. otherwise, I might just give up.

Edit:  I hate twitter.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Believe with your...heart?

I was just thinking about atonement. You know, one of those random moments of pondering. Actually, my thinking was induced by an email I received about The Shack from James Neely. The email led to an interview which led to a response.

It seems atonement (the theory of what Jesus dying on the cross actually did) is a hot topic in evangelical theology today. The reaction on the interview was very afraid. Of what, I don't know. He kept explaining that if you don't believe in the penal substitutionary theory of atonement, you are a heretic. Not wrong, a heretic. I wonder if he recognizes that one of the first Trinitarian theologians was a condemned heretic? Because an author disagrees on one point you shouldn't read his book? What if the book does not even talk about the topic? It is an interesting question that would drastically reduce my reading list.

All this got me thinking about what the Bible says regarding becoming a Christian: confess with your mouth and believe with your heart. Isn't the head the main believing organ? could they be talking about something other than an assent to mental orthodoxy?

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Question and Answer (review)

This past week, I started and finished The Church in Emerging Culture (Sweet ed., 2001), which is a collection of 5 essays from various experts in their streams of faith. There is a Methodist, Reformed, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Emergent perspective on how the church should interact with culture. This book is definitely no Christ and Culture. Though it is interesting to read the perspectives of seven years ago and compare them with the church today. It seeks to answer whether we should change our methods and/or message for our culture, and to what degree.

The book is 60% lame, 30% okay, and 10% amazing. Ultimately, it is the perspective I have never heard that makes the 10% great, the orthodox. Frederica Methewes-Green writes this essay in question-answer format, and here are some excerpts (Questions bold, answers not):

"Why does life seem like great weariness, vanity, and striving after wind? Because although he knows us, we do not know him very well. We are lonely and empty because we do not know him very well. We are vacant inside, deafened by the continual wind of our emptiness, and only his presence can fill us. Yet we fail to know him well. Sometimes this is because we don't want to know him and sometimes because we don't know how.

Why do people continually want to revise the prevailing view of Jesus?To relieve the pain of this dilemma by changing Jesus into something we can understand.

What is Jesus' alternative plan?
To change us into something that can understand him.

Do we misunderstand him because our message or methods are outdated? Perhaps in part. But the main reason is that he is scary. Another factor is that he is deep." . . .

"What has the culture to do with this? Christ has compassion on those who are harassed and helpless because they do not know their shepherd. The culture is the ever-changing weather conditions that these sheep must endure, which they try to respond to as best they can, though they are confused and wounded. Protection and rescue of individual sheep is our primary goal. It is less worthwhile to try to change the weather. We may occasionally have isolated success, but it appears that every weather pattern will have both good and bad elements, and weather itself is bound to be a perennial phenomenon.

How can we convert the culture? Culture cannot be converted. Only individuals can be converted. God knows how to reach each individual; every conversion is an inside job. We cooperate by listening attentively for God's directions and speaking the right words at the right moment, doing a kind deed, bearing Christ's light and being his fragrance on the lifes of people we know."

"Is the goal to develop spotless doctrine? No. the goal is to know Christ."

My personal favorite: "Humility, in fact, is the single most important exercise. How does humility change us? When we see ourselves as teh chief of sinners, we no longer take offense at wrongs done to us. We forgive others as we ourselves are fogiven. We love even our enemies. We no longer judge"

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Waxing and Waning of Process Theology

Okay, you got me. I don't "actually know what waxing and waning is". But thanks to the folks over at the Transforming Theology Bloggers Consortium do. I was sent some materials with which to interact, and they emphasize a (reasonably) new phenomenon called Process Theology. Today I am going to interact with the presuppositions behind said Process Theology and in other posts will discuss in more depth the actual theological articulations given me. I am working from Process Theology: an Introductory introduction by John B. Cobb Jr.

Let me first direct you to, which is where this conversation is being had.

Here is the key to process theology: "Process theology is a philosophical theology . . . [it] claims to facilitate the recovery of biblical ways of thinking over against their distortion or veiling by the excessive influence of Greek modes of though--and modern ones as well (p7)." In other words, one of the primary goals of process theology is to rid itself of theology's cultural assumptions which distort the search for truth.

My primary question for process theologians is: At what point does tearing through greek presuppositions start tearing through the meaning of the thought? In other words, how far can we divorce greek thought from Jewish thought?

I have no doubt that this goal is an admirable one. In fact, postmodernity's best contribution to the world in my opinion is the attempt to recognize presuppositions and be as objective as possible (while realizing it is impossible to remain entirely neutral). As a result, Process Theology seeks to understand God through a more semitic lense.

The obvious problem here is that by viewing God through a semitic lense, we subject ourselves to semitic biases as well. But there is a bigger problem than even this in my estimation. Process theology neglects to recognize that it is impossible to separate first century ancient near east culture from the greek heritage imposed upon it through the conquest of Alexander the Great. While certain sects of Judaism sought to rid themselves of the greek worldview, by and large the culture of the time was hellenistic.

We must also recognize that greek philosophy had as many variations as any other thought process. What Cobb is really driving at (and I wish he were intellectually honest in this point) is that process theology seeks to take theology out of a platonic duality. In seeking to remove a false binary (recovering a holistic view of theology rather than a dualistic one), Cobb effectively creates a new one (attempting to separate 1st cent. ANE thought from its greek heritage). The idea is nice and clean, in the trenches it's not so much.

Kind of like a home improvement project, ones plans, however elaborate, do not necessarily correspond with reality. To put it another way, if you are working on plumbing on a sunday, you may have to call up Joe and ask him to open Ace Hardware especially for you to finish the job.

Unfortunately, ripping the greek out of theology is as far as process theology goes in its philosophical foundation. If the only purpose is to dissect (or deconstruct) a worldview that is impossible to ascertain in the first place, theology cannot travel far. Process theology is found on many deeper principles, but they are not explicitly mentioned in this little piece. After this point, Cobb demonstrates how process theologians do this, which is a subject for another post.

Things I appreciate thus far about process theology: the attempt at finding truth in the midst of obscurity (clarity with regard to how much our worldviews have influenced us), the practicality of theology (if theology doesn't change our actions, what good is it?), and openness to conversation and tension.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Scariest two words I know

I try to refrain from political banter on this site, since so many people are so much better prepared. Why say something if someone else says it better? Of course, I say a lot about biblical studies, and people say better things all the time . . . I do feel like I'm a little more in my league in that area, though.

President Obama has been using a phrase that scares me to death. "Only Government" this was his excuse for spending a trillion dollars, as if Americans aren't able to spend that much. If Americans stopped eating Ice Cream for a year and instead gave that money to feed the hungry, there would be no hungry people left. Full disclosure: I have a carton of ice cream in my freezer right now.

Now it's only government that can decide the ethics of research. For whatever reason, only government can decide that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or, embryos can be sacrificed to the gods of progress. Wherever you fall on the issue (I simply don't like my money being spent on something that has not shown significant progress, let alone the ethical ramifications . . . which is why I buy stocks of well run companies, not fanciful idealistic ones), the fact is that only the people can decide on what the government does.

Ultimately, we should be chanting, "only the people" rather than "only government". Or have I lost my way?

Full disclosure: I am also an american who is generally proud of his country and the self-balancing system originally intended by the founding fathers, even though the electoral college is a mess.

Hit the Reset Button (Genesis)

Continuing in Genesis, the next major narrative is that of Noah. Again Noah is described as another Adam. He walks with God. However, the earth is shown to be devastated. Not just humanity, but the earth (humanity itself is later mentioned).

The earth is again described, essentially, as formless and void. Chaotic. Tohu va vohu (the hebrew translation, which is probably more aptly translated as chaos). After humans are set to their own devices, the result is a chaotic mess. "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. (v11). God wants a redo.

Chaos permeates all the earth. God covers the earth once again with water. Instead of God's Spirit hovering over the water (and this may be a stretch), God's image floats on top of it.

God brings shalom/peace/order out of the Tohu va vohu, but we bring the order back to chaos. God literally covers the earth with water once again in his do-over, but preserves a remnant (described as His faithful people) who does their job of dominion (by protecting and providing for the animals). The remnant will be mentioned in future books as well, and will always include those who are two things: 1) God's chosen people. 2) God's faithful people. Some claim only one of these things, and are then excluded (think 1st century pharisees).

Though i'd like to consider the sons of God/nephilim debate, very little of substance comes from the issue. My guess is that the sons of God describe the lineage of Adam, whereas the women they marry are not (of course I assume that Adam and Eve were not the only creation of humans).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Biblical Vegetables. (Genesis)

I won't lie to you, I haven't chopped down a cherry tree. Nor was I looking forward to recording genealogies from Genesis today. However, i noticed something I hadn't noticed before, and it must be read in light of Gen 1-4.

The organization of this genealogy goes like this: When (person 1) lived (age) years, he became the father of (person 2). And after he became the father of (person 2) he lived (age) years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, (person 1) lived (age) years, and then he died.

The first entry is significant. It begins, once again, with the image of God. Adam was created in the likeness of God. However, Seth was made in the image of Adam, which is the same image of God. This begs the question, as generations procreate, is the image of God more and more distorted like a xerox machine loses quality when copying copies of copies? Probably not.

In the middle entries, notice two aspects: procreation and death. Procreation was God's command for his people. This command becomes a promise a little further down the road (Abraham). The consequence of sin (death) is always mentioned for each person, too.

The other unusual entry is that of Enoch, the man who did not die. In fact, in the midst of this genealogy of people we know little about, God begins reversing the fall. Enoch walked with God (like Adam and Eve), rather than just lived. Enoch went back to the garden (and pre-cain for that matter). The consequence: no death. God takes Enoch away, restoring the us -> God relationship from the Fall

And then the genealogy continues in normal format until Noah, who will also be used to help reverse the consequences of the Fall: toiling. "He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed". Restoring the us -> earth relationship of the Fall.

Friday, March 6, 2009

When was the last time you read Cain and Abel? (Genesis)

I realized as I was transcribing today that I haven't heard this story as often as I thought. At least not the whole story. It is remarkably like the sin of Adam and Eve.

God asks the same questions (Where are you?/Where is your brother?), opening up the avenue for honesty. God is in relationship with Cain all along (how is it diff. than adam/eve in the garden).

The answer of the question is a diversion from the topic (I"m naked/ I'm not his keeper)

The consequences are similar (weeds, sweat of brow/Land will not give its fruit)

Enter the theme of land and either entering or being driven from it. For A&E it was the garden. . . exiled. For Cain it was wherever he went after that. . . exiled. Noah's next and the whole world will be. . . exiled. How can we only focus on heaven when land is over every page of the Bible? (cf. Wright, Surprised by Hope; NT and the People of God) For Cain, to wander is to lose his anchor, lifestyle, and in an ancient near east world, one's local god.

All of life is wrapped up in the consequences of our actions. Our relationships with God, others, and the world are all affected (cf McKnight, Embracing Grace).

Interesting, the idea of city comes in after this. Where was the city before? Were Adam and Eve unique after all, or were there other humans? When and where did this city arise from? There is an interesting discussion of origins over at Jesus Creed. Look for posts by RJS.

The picture painted by Genesis is less straightforward than we make it look sometimes. Do we embrace these tensions or try to solve them?

-P.s. coming soon: a theoblogger consortium post . . . kind of an online discussion of a thing called process theology.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Adam and his wife

As a result of the youthspecialties oneday conference I attended this past weekend, I have decided to write a transcript of the book of Genesis. Writing it out by hand causes me to slow down and think about the story more than my speed reading does. Instead of trying to cover as much ground as possible, I am trying to get the story right.

As I was writing gen 3 today, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before, at least I hadn't thought of. Adam was named long before Eve was. In fact, Adam was named at his inception, while Eve was not named until after the fall. Here are my two theories on why:

1) Adam and eve were considered one before the fall. Adam's namesake implied all humanity wrapped up in him and his relationship with Eve. They were so inseparably close that calling them different organisms would simply be inadequate.

2) Giving a name to something implies a form of control over that thing. Before the fall, Adam and eve were perfectly complementary. There was no need for Adam to name her, because they were equal. The consequence of the fall was a propensity for desiring dominion over each other. As a result, Adam begins this practice by naming Eve. While it appears harmless, even this act was the beginning of sinful separation between man and wife.

3) Adam was a procrastinator.

What do you think?

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Historical Jesus (seriously)

Here is a new documentary on recent evangelical scholarship regarding the histrical Jesus. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is ash wednesday, when older traditions generally choose to mark themselves with ashes to represent the dust from whence they came and to which they are going. In other words, to prepare for Easter, the Christian calendar focuses on our sinfulness for 40 days through prayer and fasting.

Some Christians are opposed to such a morose view of the world and humanity. But many of us just don't get it.

We reflect on our sinfulness so that we can accept God's grace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Megachurch vs minichurch

The world today is seeing an interesting phenomena amongst Christianity. On the one hand, megachurches are expanding their influence, becoming the dominant players in American Christianity. As a result, Christianity becomes less localized and more glocalized. This is fine if the entire world has the same problems, and the messages hit the hearts of the people who listen. But there are major problems with satelite churches. See this article for a very interesting perspective.

On the other hand, the crazy haired hippies are now forming a house church movement, which has even affected our congregation. People do "real church" the way it originally was. What if our situation is different than the situation 2000 years ago? Surely we can emphasize the proximity of house churches over and against the anonymity of megachurches. But it is easier to paint yourself into a corner this way, too. Remove ourselves from the greater body of Christ.

Both megachurches and minichurches (as I have officially now named house churches) seem to be thriving at the moment. You can choose anonymity, hype, and momentum (plus ability to change the world with huge amounts of recources) or sincerity, fallibility (unacountability), and intimacy (and a major emphasis on true community).

The group hurting through this time is that group who is in the middle. Like our economic situation, the middle class gets hit hardest. Losing members to both mini and megachurches, the local congregation as a cultural center is no more.

Good, bad, or indifferent?

Monday, February 23, 2009


Bible Study Magazine and Mars Hill are giving away 20 copies of Mark Driscoll’s new book, Vintage Church. Not only that, but they are also giving away five subscriptions to Bible Study Magazine and a copy of their Bible Study Library software! Enter to win on the Bible Study Magazine Mark Driscoll page, then take a look at all the cool tools they have to take your Bible study to the next level!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Podcast

Sunday's sermon is up on

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Downtime (review)

This has been a long time coming, but is here at last. YS (through Zondervan) sent me a new book by one of my favorite authors of youth ministry stuff, Mark Yaconelli, son of Mike Yaconelli who used to be the CEO of youthspecialties.

A little caveat, if you do not work with youth (which you really ought to), you might find this post boring.

This book is a description of how to help teens pray. Young Yac wrote an excellent book on contemplative youth ministry, which in my opinion is a must read for youth pastors. His whole bent is not entertaining, but rather helping teens find God in the quiet places. In other words, being still so we can know that He is God. While the first book described youth ministry philosophy, this book is really an intro to prayer. I found it helpful in my own prayer life, as well as full of ideas regarding how to lead teens in prayer.

Note: teens are always seen as peers on a journey to God in this book rather than underlings.

The first part of the book is a philosophy of prayer, and the main portion is a description of many different ways to actually do it. Basicaly, the premise of the book is that prayer should be the foundation of youth ministry, not just regulated to brief popcorn prayers for the last five minutes of the class. Prayer is formative (it changes who we are), rather than our informative (only effecting part of our lives)teachings.

The proof that this is an effective work is in the result. I know a book is worth buying if I actually use it in the ministries I lead. I have used this book in nearly every youth meeting I have led since reading it. Definitely worth the investment. I cannot recommend this book enough to fellow youth workers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The new scottish coffee place

That's right, McDonald's has done it right once again. I am talking about their new gourmet coffee line. I have been the beneficiary of 3 free cups of their coffee (two capps and a latte). I must say that I am impressed with this foray into an elitist genre of imbibements.

Here's what they get right, and why it works: Primarily, they make coffee accessible. No need to be intimidated by all the options and slang used in a regular coffee place. Confused about the difference between a cappuccino and a latte? Look on their handy (and well written) bookmarks they give out. In fact, let's start there.

Inside the store, there is a bookmark that isn't tacky. Sure it's not the nicest bookmark ever, but it is high quality, not ugly, and useable. They have a scale from sweet to bold, showing that an iced mocha is much sweeter than a cappuccino. THis makes coffee buying a snap. Had a capp and want to try something sweeter, but not super sweet? How bout a nice latte? The novice to coffee can understand the basics of the business. And they are all explicitly described on the signage.

The back of the bookmark shows what the actual difference in mixture is between the different beverages.

Secondly, they have regular sizes. not tall or grande, but large medium and small. Enough said.

Thirdly, they use nice coffee. It isn't the best coffee I've had, but it's far superior to St. Arbuck's. The roast is a nice medium to light roast, and incredibly smooth. While not my favorite (I prefer a boisterous dark roast), anybody can enjoy it. Their machines roast it well, and you can count on every cup being the same because the only thing the employee does is stir the syrup into it.

Their syrups are a very nice version too, not too sweet.

Finally, the price is unbeatable. Instead of paying 3.50-4.00 for a small drink, try 2.50

McDonald's is definitely onto something here, I applaud them for their efforts in both marketing and bringing a quality product at a cheap price. Now if they could just work on the rest of their menu.

Now go out and buy what shall hereafter be described as "the usual", a small nonfat capp. with sugar-free vanilla.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Prayer (Thomas Merton)

Here is a prayer that I stumbled across on another's blog today. It resonated with me in the same way watching The Dark Knight through the eyes of free will did (which really deserves its own post).

“My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

The quest for the historical Jesus

This is one of my favorite series of videos. Done by a church that did a 4 week series on how we misperceive Jesus.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ventilation/ Jesus Brand Spirituality

I want you all to pretend like you see me in my office, sipping at a can of V8. That's a morning routine for me. V8 now has those ventilated cans, where the fluid bursts forth, making it possible to chug tomato juice in one toss of the hand. If I am in a hurry, I down a can in one try. If not, I try to sip.

But there is something else I must vent about today. It's the new book I am reading, Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson.

Just finished it actually. This isn't a review. It's a vent. This book has really gotten my BVD's in a bunch as my dad says. The last time I remember a book making me so maddeningly frustrated was when I read McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy. I knew right away that that book would, though. McLaren as much says so in his introduction. The problem with these two books, for me, is the perspective of the authors. Both authors have a different epistemology than I do

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. I am a critical realist. That basically means that I believe it is possible to know absolute truth, though it requires a continual reanalysis of our own thoughts (see NT Wright's New Testament and the People of God). I find this view most likely because it makes God knowable, and allows us to have faith based on evidence rather than simply experience.

Reading Wilson's book frustrated me to no end throughout. It had a few excellent chapters. It was built on an excellent premise. It had incredible discussion questions after each section. It was rife with logical contradictions, simply uninformed in many areas (particularly church history and different types of prayer), did not actually talk very much about the person of Jesus (outside the perception a person has of him, which isn't clear because different people have different perceptions), and I couldn't put it down. Every chapter had one or two points that were incredibly thought provoking.

My biggest issue is that Wilson is a big wig in the Vineyard movement. Honestly, if this is the way the leadership is headed, it will be difficult to follow. When experience and emotions have the same authority the person of Jesus revealed through the Scriptures has (because we alledgedly can't know anything for certain, only what we perceive we know), I think we are pointed in the wrong direction. In other words, in spite of his assurance that Christianity is community focused, Wilson can only understand God through his own personal set of data. This is far more myopic than a critical realist view of Scripture/God/Jesus.

It was postmodern in the best and worst sense. That is, in fact, a value judgment of postmodernity.

So I guess I'll have to read it again.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Looking forward

Things coming up on this blog:

-Most excellent Jesus videos from vintage faith (with commentary)
-Review of "Downtime" by Mark Yaconelli (excellent book)
-Review of "you are not alone" (haven't started it yet)
-podcast of my sermon coming on Feb 15 (part of a celebrate recovery series)
-I'm taking requests for content.

Foto Friday Finale (garden tomb and the old city)

Well, here it is, my last picture post from Israel. It only took about 9 months or so, so that's not bad for 12 days of trip or whatever it was. Hope you have enjoyed them, sorry about the length of this post.

First we went to the field at which David slew Goliath. These are wheat fields, where Karen and I enjoyed some freshly picked heads of wheat.

This could be my favorite picture of the whole trip. i'm not sure why:

The creek from which David found 5 smooth stones. Also the creek where they truck in loads of smooth stones so tourists can take an authentic stone home. I know i have one rolling around somewhere.

Next we traveled to the valley where Samson tied foxes together, lit their tales on fire, and watched them go. This is probably the ruins of that city, though I forget its name.

The next series of pictures is the garden tomb, traditional (though probably not actual) site of Jesus' burial. It is now cared for by a group of franciscan(?) monks, and beautifully landscaped

The place of the skull? This could have been the hill atop which Jesus was crucified, but the church of the holy sepulcher is a more likely site.

We celebrated communion while there.

The tomb itself. You can't see it very well, but there is a track in front of the tomb where the stone would have been rolled.

Jesus was laid in Joseph of Aramathea's tomb. The legend (unprovable, but plausible) has it that Jesus was taller than Joseph, so they had to make a slight modification. This picture shows a place where the foot of the tomb is carved out deeper than originally planned.

Here is an ancient (over 1000 years old) baptismal site in the garden.

How many pilgrim's can fit inside a tomb? It was busy, but the line moved pretty quickly.

Bill and Sara

Karen took over the camera, and created some awesome shots.

After visiting the tomb, we went to the temple mount. This is the site of the old Jewish temple(s), and currently the site of the dome of the rock, yet another holy place currently occupied by muslims. You can see pictures of the wailing wall, the only spot Jews were allowed to visit (part of the original mount as well) when the Holy Land was under muslim control. Considered one of the holiest sites for the jewish religion because it is authentically from the second temple period.

In these pictures, you will see Jews praying at the western wall, the place where they can be physically closest to God's presence. In the cracks of the wall, people leave written prayers. I was amazed by the unity amongst the jewish sects in this place.

The Dome of the Rock, with a solid gold roof. A mosque.

Here is a picture of one of the gates of the old city, walled off by muslims in order to prevent God's chosen one from entering through it.

The only spot on the temple mount where you can see the actual mountain it is built upon. Traditionally the site of the threshing floor where David offered to buy the building to sacrifice to YHWH. I'm not sure of the muslim significance here.

We also got to go under the old city. It is an eery feeling to be below all the ruins, worried that any earthquake will collapse all Jerusalem. This is also the quarry from which many of the temple Mount stones were mined during Herod's reconstruction.

This is the roof of the quarry, you can see the square stones have been cut out.

Another of my favorite pictures, showing the unity of the Jewish people at the Temple Mount. No discrimination based on sect, occupation, age, or ability (Just gender).

Prayers in the wall

There is a side room where one can borrow a copy of Jewish writings to pray with or study.

We took a cool tour under(ish) the temple mount where they are excavating some of the original road. This is a model of what the temple used to look like and what the mount looks like with the Dome of the Rock. It's huge.

A model of the temple during the second temple period.

Some of the original stones that make up the Temple Mount. This one is the biggest one. It goes past where all the people are. and ways hundreds of tons (I think).

The other end of the big stone, looking the opposite direction.

Excavation of what the site at its earliest (around the time of Jesus)

This is the floor of the walkway, it goes all the way down to first century paving stones (about 50 ft. below if I were to guess)

When you are married to someone, you tend to rub off on them. Thankfully, me receiving Karen's attributes is beneficial to me. I'm not sure me rubbing off on her is quite as charming.

Remember that cistern from the last post? Here is the other end of it. The wall divides the two halves.

An authentic, first century paving stone. OOOO aaaahhhh (actually, it's pretty amazing to have an artifact in this condition. I almost stole it but realized I need to work out before being able to lift it. Get the pun??

Overall, the trip to Israel was absolutely amazing, and I am blessed to have been able to go. Thank you John and Susan for making it possible for us. Some common themes that kept coming up:

These sites might or might not have been the original place of the happenings they are associated with. Does that make it okay to commemorate them? Is it possible that our faith is more important than the facts? How do we balance tradition with history/archeology? I felt very conflicted as I was trying to sense the authenticity of some of the tourist traps that were less likely the place of the actual happening.

It is sad to see the division of those who live in Israel. Three religions claim priority to all of the sites, and it is awkward to go into a mosque to celebrate a Christian event.

Holy sites (i.e. the wailing wall). Some sense a spiritual high in these places. Are the places themselves holy? Do we bring our expecations that makes our awareness heightened? Or are they just special because they have been seasoned with the prayers of saints for centuries? I tend to think the latter is the most likely. Maybe they are quite ordinary places that have been transformed by the willingness of attendees to tune into God's presence.

This is definitely a trip worth taking if you ever have the opportunity. Hopefully I will soon be able to start another series of pictures from Turkey/Greece, God willing.