29 June 2008

Japanese Potty Training

Japanese-Potty-training My wife found this on line. It is a video for potty training children. It is in Japanese, with English subtitles. 
I think it is hilarious.
I swear, this is for real, I am NOT making it up.

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24 June 2008

Pew Forum Report

Religion_dm_500 The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has recently released a report, U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. The report is worth a read for the info that it supplies about the American religious landscape. A lot of it is surprising, and as the report states,

...The Landscape Survey confirms the close link between Americans' religious affiliation, beliefs and practices, on the one hand, and their social and political attitudes, on the other. Indeed, the survey demonstrates that the social and political fault lines in American society run through, as well as alongside, religious traditions.

One section is worth pulling out for consideration:

Most Americans agree with the statement that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Among those who are affiliated with a religious tradition, seven-in-ten say many religions can lead to eternal life. This view is shared by a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including more than half of members of evangelical Protestant churches (57%). Only among Mormons (57%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%) do majorities say that their own religion is the one true faith leading to eternal life.

Most Americans also have a non-dogmatic approach when it comes to interpreting the tenets of their own religion. For instance, more than two-thirds of adults affiliated with a religious tradition agree that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their faith, a pattern that occurs in nearly all traditions. The exceptions are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, 54% and 77% of whom, respectively, say there is only one true way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

I can imagine evangelicals and Christians of all stripes bending over this report, concerned about the direction and focus of religion in American (which is basically dropping dogma for spirituality).

There will undoubtedly be many initiatives to stave off and reverse this trend of faith in this country. Lack of faith on one side, and apathy and weak theology on the other is destroying our country, culture, ...(fill in the blank).

The problem is, of course that we see it as our battle, our problem, and probably our fault because Christianity is losing ground. If we can be more faithful, preach and witness more, proclaim the word, people will hear and turn and be saved.

Unfortunately, the problem is that all of this is simply getting in the way of the the work of the Spirit. I see more and more that Christianity in the US is more "Jesus lite."

The battle is not ours, it belongs to the Lord. We do not fight against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12).

What we have is managerialism imposed on the church, enthralled by systems thinking and programs that do not rest on faith, but reason and intentionality.

Image source:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/images/200708/20070828BizReligion_dm_500.jpg

22 June 2008

The Myth of Belonging

sheep-belonging-to-tenant I'm a fan of REVEAL, the initiative started by Willow Creek. I think their findings concerning the reality of spiritual growth in the church are significant, and point to an issue that I have been harping preaching about for years.

The sources of the problem are largely the result of the descent of managerialism on the church. However, that is an issue for another post.

One of the five "key findings" of REVEAL is that there is not necessarily a correlation between commitment and church attendance, or community. This is what REVEAL reports:

We found that those who were the most active in the church did not necessarily report higher levels of spiritual attitudes (“love for God and others”) and spiritual behaviors (evangelism, tithing, etc.) than those who were less active.
This led us to discovering a Spiritual Continuum centered on a relationship with Jesus Christ, which was much more predictive of spiritual growth (Chart 3).

image

What I find interesting is that I missed the conversation going on in other quarters. I have a book I purchased a few years ago, long before REVEAL hit the stands, written by Joseph R. Myers, The Search to Belong.

In a chapter entitled "the myths of belonging (p9)," Myer writes:

More commitment = more belonging. People often believe that there is a significant relationship between commitment and community. That is, however, a romantic view. When we search to belong, we aren't really looking for commitment. We simply want to connect (p12).

I'm not saying that Willow Creek borrowed the idea, quite the contrary. When an organization as large as Willow Creek picks up on an issue that has been surfacing throughout the church,to say we are sensing a moving of the Spirit is a bit of an understatement.

This sentiment is also found in Rick Richardson's writings, such as Evangelism Outside the Box, as well as in the the halls of the emerging church.

So, what's next? That is the question that faces my colleagues and I in France. I'll get back to you.

10 June 2008

“People just don’t touch eternity when they are around us...”

Interesting post found on Dr. Jim West's blog that I think is worth noting.
The Truth About the SBC (10 06 2008)

According to former President Jimmy Draper, who said Monday “We have reached a place that our spiritual forefathers feared.” “We need to admit that the problem with America today is not the government or the politicians,” Draper said. “It is not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John McCain. It’s not the senators or representatives.


The problem is not the educational system or the economy. It’s not the liberals or the abortionists. The problem lies with us.” “We conservatives claim to have the truth and we think we are rich in spiritual position and power, but yet we are cold, complacent, impotent and unattractive, and irrelevant to the world,” Draper said. “I hate to say it, but we are not plateaued. We’re not even just declining. We’re in a free fall.” “You know why we don’t win the lost?” Draper asked. “Because we don’t like them. They are different from us. We don’t care for them. We have no real love for them.” “People just don’t touch eternity when they are around us,” Draper said. “We’re too self-absorbed.”


I wish there was something I could say to prove him wrong, but unfortunately, it is all too true. We have a faith that is compromised at best, apathetic at the least.

But the point of this is "How do we make a difference?"

My take is a flavor taken from the title of one of Schleiermacher's books: On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers


We try very hard to present a religion that is culturally acceptable to people who do not accept Christianity as a viable alternative to life. As a result, we have what we paid for, a mutation that has nothing to offer, it is safe, and completely unthreatening.

Long way from the scandal of the Cross that Luther discovered...

03 June 2008

Snakeskin Boots

vogon-lg My friend Marcus is his own brand of Renaissance Man. One of his many talents is his turn of a phrase to compose some very interesting poetry. His work ranges from some that are very good to some that are akin to Vogon poetry.

But on a more serious note, Brother Marcus sent us his latest work, which I think is worth a look. Here it is:

De-cursed, Rehearsed, Well-Versed : Snakeskin Boots


I've had some thoughts about this snake
who came and stole our birthday cake;
he spoke the truth, Eve did assume,
he came in light and left in doom.


He seemed so lovely, wholesome, pure,
but was a fake, that is for sure;
by God's command he bit the dust,
to crawl, not walk: this is a must.


Inherited by all who come:
a conscience broke and mostly numb;
a spirit dimmed with shadowed sight,
the truth forlorn midst shadowed night.


God cursed that snake, it was to be,
still cursed through all eternity;
a lake of fire: it waits ahead,
for snake of sin amidst the dead.


But Christ became a curse for me
by hanging there upon that tree;
I stare, I gaze with wonder filled,
this spirit soars, my heart is thrilled.


For cursed no more: that is my state,
redeemed and sealed: this is my fate;


the lamb was slain, the snake was stomped,
we praise the King's deliverance prompt.


O join with those whose snake is gone,
in praise of heart, yea praise in song;
for boots of snakeskin we will wear,
upon those streets with golden glare.


MWA; June 2, 2008

Picture Credit: http://hitchhikermovie.free.fr/images/vogon3b.jpg

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Psalm 107

praise In the process of doing my preparatory study for a sermon on Psalm 107, I discovered a structure that runs throughout the entire Psalm. It looks like this:



Psalm 107

Situation

Cry to God

God’s Response

Summons to Give Thanks for Hesed

Result

I. Deliverance
4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.


7 He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.


8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!


9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

II. Freeing the Prisoner
10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.

13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.


14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.



15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

III. Healing and Forgiveness
17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.

21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!



IV. Salvation from the Storm
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits' end.

28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!

32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
I find the structure interesting. What I plan to do is explore the structure at two levels. The first level is the original setting. Most commentaries see this as post-exilic, which it could be, but that could also reflect the presuppositions of the commentator. It seems, at first blush, that it is a reflection of God's interaction with his people, from the Exodus to the Exile.
The second level I would explore is the significance of this structure. Is it meant to be a reminder and a call for people to thank God with praise and thanks giving?
A reminder for people to call out to God for help, and then to acknowledge his help?
Or is it just a formula, similar to the cycles in Judges, to recount God faithfulness, based on his covenant love?
Anyone have any ideas?
I'll let you know what I come up with.