Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I don't have time to write this out now, as I'm at the conference and came to a computer to pick up my e-mails. I can tell you I am really, really thinking about what God spoke through J.P. It was, for me, a difference-making moment.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
(Me, ca. 1974)
If you are a follower of Jesus does this mean you have to spend money buying expensive and really nice-looking clothes so you can "dress up" for "church?" The answer is: No.
Dressing up for "church" is "a mindless custom. It is purely the result of nineteenth-century middle-class efforts to become like their wealthy aristocratic contemporaries, showing off their improved status by their clothing. It has nothing to do with the Bible, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit." (Barna and Viola, Pagan Christianity, 148)
Whew - I just saved a lot of money!
Michigan youths are more likely than the average American youth to commit suicide, according to a Detroit Free Press report. "In its last survey in 2007, 9% of Michigan youths surveyed admitted attempting suicide (compared to a national average of 7%) and 27% said they had been depressed."
Monday, June 22, 2009
John & Kate say: "Our kids are what matters." "Our kids are the most important thing to us." "John won't talk to me." (Kate is a control freak; John is passive-aggressive.) "We've been spending quality time alone with the kids." "I don't hate Kate..., but..." "I have to do what's best for me and my kids" (says John). "This is the hardest episode ever." "I was too passive - I just let her rule the roost." "I will do anything for my kids."
The composer Giuseppe Verdi (1812-1901), at age 18, wrote: "All my life as a musician, I have striven for perfection. It has always eluded me. I surely had an obligation to make one more try." At 18 Verdi was already an accomplished musician.
Peter Drucker writes that Verdi's words became his "lodestar" in life. Drucker says" "I resolved that if I ever reached an advanced age, I would not give up, but would keep on. In the meantime, I would strive for perfection even though, as I well knew, it would surely always elude me." (The Daily Drucker, 190)
Paul, in Philippians 3:12, writes: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
Paul here presents himself as a runner, straining towards the finish line. Gordon Fee says "Paul's point is not winning as such; rather, his focus is on the runner, who runs so as to win." (Fee, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, 347) "Christ is both the means and end of God's call; and "knowing him" is finally and fully the "prize" toward which Paul stretches every nerve. (Ib., 350)
This is not about "perfectionism." It is, for me, about a goal, a prize in life to be attained, which is Christ. Thinking of Verdi's words, even though I fall short, I owe it God and others to give it one more try. Paul's words, and Verdi's and Drucker's, are about escaping the illusion that the mountain of excellence in life has already been summitted.
Today is a new day. A day of pressing on and embracing the Perfect One, Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Friday, June 19, 2009
(Our house, ca. 1863)
I’m reflecting on the weekend we had with Shampa Rice of Iris Ministries. Shampa was with us Saturday evening, June 13, and then Sunday morning and evening, June 14.
On Saturday evening Shampa began by telling a miraculous story involving herself and her suitcase that had been lost upon her arrival in the U.S. The missing suitcase appeared after she asked God for help. It was quite a story that amazed the airline attendants. Shampa asked God who and what this story was for. Was it for herself? For the others who saw the thing happen? God clarified this, telling her He was giving her a word for the Church in America. That word was: do not be so enamored by the gifts and the miracles, signs, and wonders, so that you forget God, who is the Giver.
When I heard this I said “Yes! Shampa has it right!" We have so many Christians in America that are chasing after miracles, signs, and wonders instead of chasing after God first. Shampa took us back to basics when she said: “It’s all about the Great Commandment.” Which is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second commandment is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Do these things, Shampa told us, and miracles, signs, and wonders will follow after you. She did not present this to us as a formula. Actually, Shampa said that even if we do not experience a lot of the miraculous we still are to walk in the love of God.
On Sunday morning Shampa continued this theme, which is: Love God first. Chase after God. Receive God’s love. “Love is the greatest” (1 Corinthians 13). Shampa told us a story about a gong in a symphony concert that, during a three-hour concert, was only struck once. She wondered what was the purpose of this huge gong if it were only to be used once? She asked someone about this, who told her, “Shampa, this gong makes so much noise that it would overwhelm the orchestra if it were struck continuously.” The point being: if we do not major on the love of God, we’re nothing, as worthwhile as a clanging, noisy gong.
God has given Shampa Rice and Heidi & Rolland Baker miraculous experiences, yes. But the center of their ministry is: love. The love of God. God is love. Love people. Love your enemies. There’s great power in the love of God. God’s love eventually conquers all hatred. God so loved the world. Love is the greatest.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
(Torrey Pines Park, Del Mar, California)
Obviously I've not much to do tonight since I'm power-surfing the Internet for whatever.
One site I visited is pandasthumb.org. I haven't been there in years. Not much seems to have changed. When a serious scientific post is made few people comment, since few people can understand enough to intelligently respond. (This usually excludes me, too.) But when the creation-bashing begins, and "creationism" is once again equated with Intelligent Design Theory, the ad hominems are unleashed. I find this boring, and at times funny. (Note: if some panda's thumb lover somehow happens to read this I and all my descendents will be labeled as the most ignorant persons ever to come out of Finland.)
I revisited William Dembski's uncommondescent.com. I'm glad I dropped in, since I got connected with yet two more books that I would love to read. (Note: the same ad hominen stuff happens here, too, esp. in the comments. My theory is this: character assassination is in inverse proportion to scientific knowledge.)
Book # 1 is: The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science, by Bruce Gordon and William Demski. Here's the book description:
" Unmatched in its breadth and scope, The Nature of Nature brings together some of the most influential scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals—including three Nobel laureates—across a wide spectrum of disciplines and schools of thought. Here they grapple with a perennial question that has been made all the more pressing by recent advances in the natural sciences: Is the fundamental explanatory principle of the universe, life, and self-conscious awareness to be found in inanimate matter or immaterial mind? The answers found in this book have profound implications for what it means to do science, what it means to be human, and what the future holds for all of us."
I am hugely interested in this question.
Book #2 - Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design , by Oxford Ph.D Stephen Meyer. A website for this book can be found here. Yes, I am still very interested in ID theory. And yes, I remain very interested in the things Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller et. al. are writing.
(I took this picture of a praying woman in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.)
Richard Wolin of CUNY has written a superb essay on today's resurgence of religion. Religion has, citing philosopher Jurgen Habermas, "remarkable staying power."
Wolin writes: "Today academe is rife with discussions of "political theology," a term popularized during the 1920s by the German jurist Carl Schmitt. Schmitt meant by it that all modern political concepts — sovereignty, natural rights, the social contract — are secularized versions of theological concepts."
Wolin deals extensively with Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, disagreeing substantially with it yet citing it as an example of the current, ongoing resacralization of the world.
Wolin critiques the neo-Darwinian atheists. He writes: "to reject belief in the name of science potentially aggravates the crisis of meaning, with its attendant upsets and dislocations: alienation, social disorientation, anomie."
"The return of the sacred is in large measure a response to modernity's failings. However, religion's neo-Darwinian detractors seem unable to fathom the correlation. Moreover, they are peculiarly tone deaf, or "unmusical," when it comes to comprehending the very real attractions of belief and spirituality for a great many denizens of our hyperrationalized, disenchanted cosmos. Thus, in The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins's portrayal of belief is so dismissive and simplistic that one wonders why anyone would embrace such demented and malicious ideals."
I especially value Wolin's insights that the scientific method may be intrinsically incapable of grasping the reality of the sacred. He asks: "Who would really want to inhabit a totally enlightened universe, denuded of mystery, plurality, and sublimity? What if ultimate reality weren't attainable by the prosaic methods of cognition or secular reason? What if, instead, the Absolute had more to do with the faculties of the imagination, intuition, or the unfathomable mysteries of the human unconscious?"
(Linda, my wonderful wife of nearly 36 years.)
I read books instead of watching TV. This is especially true after the Red Wings lost in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.I make this note to myself. For future reading:
Peter Berger's The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics.
Berger's Questions of Faith: A Skeptical Affirmation of Christianity (Religion and Spirituality in the Modern World).
Jurgen Habermas's Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays.
Years ago I read Berger's books, especially enjoying The Social Construction of Reality and The Sacred Canopy. He's a brilliant scholar and an excellent writer. I haven't read Berger in quite a while, and look forward to connecting with his thinking again.
Habermas, the brilliant political philosopher who most identify "as one of the most influential philosophers in the world," was until recently teaching in Northwestern University's philosophy department where I studied. When I was there Habermas wasn't there, but I was nevertheless excited when he joined NU's already-excellent department. In his new book Habermas "questions whether modern societies possess the moral resources to persevere without relying on their religious roots — the Judeo-Christian basis of secular ethics, for example."
Monday, June 15, 2009
(The Valley of Elah)
Today I began to read Pagan Christianity, by George Barna and Frank Viola. The book has been out for a while, a lot of people have read it and have discussed it. I'm liking what I'm reading so far.
I love the idea of the real church as organic, an organism, and not an institution. I remember teaching in Singapore in the late 1980s, eating a meal with Chinese pastor and leader Albert Kang. At one point in the meal, as Albert and I were discussing the meaning of "church," and noting that Albert's very powerful church met in a rented auditorium, Albert leaned towards me and said: "The church is a movement, not an institution!"
That has stuck with me.
Barna and Viola define "institutional church" as: "one that operates primarily as an organization that exists above, beyond, and independent of the members who populate it. It is constructed more on programs and rituals than on relationships." (PC, xxxi)
They write: "We believe that thge New Testament vision of church is organic. An organic church is a living, breathing, dynamic, mutually participatory, every-member-functioning, Christ-centered, communal expression of the body of Christ." (Ib.)
PC chapter two makes the point that "church" was never meant to be identified with a "building." "Church" is to be a revolutionary movement of people. That's what I have always wanted to be a part of, and what I see God growing, organically, in the people I move with.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
- I care about our relationship & I feel deeply about the issue at stake
- I want to hear your view & I want to clearly express mine
- I want to respect your insights & I want respect for mine
- I trust you to be able to handle my honest feelings & I want you to trust me with yours
- I promise to stay with the discussion until we reach an understanding & I want you to stay with me until we've reached an understanding
- I will not trick, pressure, manipulate, or distort the differences & I want your unpressured, clear, honest views of our differences
- I give you my loving, honest respect & I want your caring-confronting response
Thank you Dave, from me and Linda.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
(My back yard)This afternoon I'm reading Ben Witherington's The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Wesleyanism.
His chapter on Romans 7 is paradigm-shifting for me, since he argues that Paul is not here being autobiographical, and the chapter is not about the struggle of living one's life as a Christian. I'll be re-reading it... slowly.
On Dispensationalism (a few quotes):
"Of the three theological systems we are examining in this book , Dispensationalism is in fact the new kid on the block , only dating back to the nineteenth century , and it is clearly the most exegetically problematic as well." - Page 93.
"Unlike the case with Calvinism , the Dispensational approach to the Bible did not arise after profound study of the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures or detailed scholarly exegesis of the text . It was a system that apparently arose in response to a vision and as a result of a pastoral concern about unfulfilled biblical prophecy , and was promulgated by various ministers and evangelists and entrepreneurs in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." - Page 93.
"Many if not most Messianic Jews are Dispensationalists." - Page 94.
Re. the Dispensationalist "Left Behind" series, Witherington writes: "American Christians are looking for the theological equivalent of comfort food and escapist entertainment , and Dispensational theol- ogy is readily meeting these needs." Page 96.
And much, much more... I'm still reading.
I really like Witherington's views on "prophets" and "prophecy." He writes:
"I have found it important to distinguish between the prophetic experience , the prophetic expression , the prophetic tradition , and the prophetic corpus , all of which are part of the social phenomenon that falls under the heading of prophecy... To share a few of the conclusions of my earlier study , a prophet was an oracle , a mouthpiece for some divine being , and as such he or she did not speak for himself but for another . A prophet might also be many other things ( teacher , priest , sage ), but the role of prophet could be distinguished from these other roles and functions . Prophecy , whether from Mari or Jerusalem or Delphi or Rome , was spoken in known languages , usually in poetic form , and so was an intel- ligible , even if often puzzling , kind of discourse . It might involve spon- taneous utterances or a reading of omens or signs of various sorts , but in either case it was not a matter of deciphering ancient texts , which was the task of scribes and sages and exegetes of various sorts . Furthermore , consulting a prophet was an attempt to obtain a late word from one or another deity about some pressing or impending matter . In sociological terms the prophet must be seen as a mediatory figure , which therefore makes him very important but also subjects him to being pushed to the margins of society if the divine words involve curse rather than blessing , judgment rather than redemption. At least in the setting of Israel and early Christianity the prophet also is one who deliberately stands at the boundary of the community - the boundary between God and the community , but also the boundary between the community and those outside it . It is the task of the prophet to call God's people to account and to reinforce the prescribed boundaries of the community while reestablishing or reinforcing the divine-human relationship." - Pp. 98-99
"One of the main ways that Dispensationalism repeatedly has violated the character of biblical prophecy is by taking poetry as prose , figurative as literal . There is in addition the problem of mistaking material that was fulfilled long ago in Israel or in general in biblical times as material awaiting a literal fulfillment as the Christian era nears an end." - Page 100.
Witherington goes on in more detail about prophets and prophecy. I think what he says just about this is worth the price of the book.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
I awoke this morning to good news: GQs Alan Richman rates Detroit as the third-best pizza city in America. The Free Press quotes Richman: ""No city has more consistently satisfying pies than Detroit. No city executes its particular style" -- also called Sicilian or pan pizza -- "as flawlessly as Detroit," Richman wrote in his blog, an online companion to his article and his list of 25 best pizzas."
So who is this Richman person? He "won two James Beard awards this year for magazine food reporting." And who is James Beard? Trust me - JB knew food.
Whoa - I did not know this! Having lived for years in Chicago (pizza mecca) I thought I existed in a pizza wasteland here in Detroit. Richman has given me a new hope. He rates 4 local pies among the nation's best. They are:
• The Gourmet Veggie at Luigi's Original in Harrison Township was No. 13. Richman called it the best vegetable pizza he tasted anywhere.
• Buddy's cheese pizza was 15th. Praising the company's crusts as "one of the best in America," Richman said they were "a little better than the competition's, and almost every pizzeria I tried in Detroit did them well."
• The pepperoni pizza at Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills was No. 21. "The non-Sicilian crust was soft, slightly charred, and entirely appealing," he said, and he applauded the many thin slices of pepperoni allowed "to curl and crisp up in the oven." (He despised the common local practice of hiding the slices under sauce.)• The cheese pizza with feta at Niki's in Greektown was 24th. It was that pie that convinced him of the excellence of feta as a topping, he wrote.
The Free Press links us to Richman's article - "GQ's June issue will be on newsstands Tuesday; read the article and blog at www.gq.com."
These past two weeks have been extremely busy for me as I've been helping Linda with her annual piano/vocal recital that took place last Sunday evening, wrapping up Redeemer Ministry School year #1 (commencement this Sunday evening!), after-glowing about the 5-day Bethel School of Supernatural Evangelism at our church, studying/prepping/pondering for each Sunday's Real Jesus message (this Sunday we begin the Olivet Discourse - fun!), meeting with people, and so on.
I'm looking forward to summer reading and some good, long alone-times with God. And, because "church" is a movement of people and not an institution, my life following Jesus remains as adventurous as ever. This week I was invited to speak (fall 2010) at a pastor's conference in Kenya that involves 80 churches. More imminently, our church has been invited to have a prayer & counseling tent at Monroe County's Relay for Life this weekend, and I'll speak at 6 AM at the worship service there. Shampa Rice from Iris Ministries comes to Redeemer June 13-14. I do a wedding the following weekend. Then to our annual summer conference in Green Lake Wisconsin with J.P. Moreland and Chris Overstreet (June 27 - July 2). Linda and I fly out of Milwaukee to Philadelphia July 3 where I'll speak at a conference at Villanova University (July 3-5 - "Evangelism & the Kingdom of God"). Then we fly back to Milwaukee where we'll take 3-4 days to meander back to Monroe, have some pure vacation time.
As for today: the sun is shining, I'm living in God's beautiful kingdom, I get to do sermon work on the Olivet Discourse for several hours today, a few meetings with some Redeemer people, talking briefly tonight with our church's children, and the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!