Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Korean Missionaries

A few months ago, Korean missionaries to Afghanistan were taken hostage by the Taliban. A few were killed, the rest ransomed, and the Taliban was able to reap a political and religious windfall from the world media.

These missionaries and their sending church received a LOT of criticism over their being sent to such a "dangerous" and "volatile" situation. Even a few churches and missionary groups joined in the chorus.

I found it incredulous that many Christians were blaming the missionaries for what happened. As if they wanted the Taliban to kidnap and murder them. I'm sure it had nothing to do with sharing the love of Christ in action (medicine) and word (Bibles and sharing the message of Christ). Apparently, sharing the love of God is now a worse crime than being a Taliban murderer.

I pondered the concept that suddenly it's taboo to be a missionary to "dangerous" situations. Wow. How fast we slide into complacency. As someone arrested for passing about Bibles, I can relate to this only a bit; however, I remember being scared. I remember wondering, "What have I gotten myself into...Wait! No, what have YOU gotten me into God!?!"

At that moment, it came into focus for me: God did get me in a Turkish military barracks held at gunpoint, but then again, God made the Universe. It was one of those moments when the immensity of God became a shield, a rock on which to cling. We sang Amazing Grace, and it never sounded so beautiful...as if a thousand angels sang with us.

Yet, here is the miracle. After dumping out 600 Turkish Bibles on the ground, the officers yelled at us telling us to never come back or give out Bibles again. Yet, behind the officers, one of the enlisted men, grabbed one, put his finger to his mouth (insinuating being sneaky), and put the Bible inside his shirt...smiling, he offered us a wink.

A whole day in a barracks at gunpoint, 599 Bibles "wasted", and my suffering from eating that raw peach the night before (oi veh! Never eat raw fruit in Istanbul)! For what? For one soldier to read the Word of God? Who knows, perhaps for one Turkish soldier to come to Christ?

Can we put a value to the risk of sharing the Gospel of Christ?

My point: If God called these missionaries to Afghanistan, they were martyrs, literally witnesses, to Christ. From the beginning, the people of faith have been beaten, flogged, abused, threatened, and murdered in the name of Jesus. All of a sudden, now it's wrong? That's [insert explicative here]. Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." If I'm not mistaken, a cross is a death sentence, and following Jesus means we must be willing to go even to Afghanistan.

Their blood cries out, and God will have justice....And my guess is, someone's life was changed by seeing a Christian executed for sharing the passionate love of God.

For more thoughts on this, read this excellent article from Relevant.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Speed Linking

Here are some gems I've discovered in the lately...

The blogosphere is growing...beware!

An artfully, beautiful picture. Btw, this is a great blog to subscribe to...wonderful pics!

Annoying, wrong, and part of the problem: Emerging Church misnomer?

My first ponderings on if Seth Godin were actually mistaken. LOL!!!

Creative worship ideas shared.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The desktop at the office has Windows Vista.

I was very skeptical at first. I tend to like Microsoft, and unlike many, I don't think there is a need to punish them for being the number 1 software producer in the world. They got there through innovation and remaining solid through all these years. My skepticism lie in the fact that 2000 and ME were utter failures. XP was a good upgrade, but what would Vista be?

Well, after a week, here are my thoughts:

  1. I like the softer, trendier look. It really does make a difference in interacting more naturally. In short, the concept of Windows took another step forward; however, as in the past, Microsoft is playing catch up to Mac.

  2. Things are handy. I'm not one for having the computer organize stuff for me. I like to arrange things myself, but I will say this everytime I open a window...the information I want/need is right there.

  3. I am using Office 03'. No glitches so far!

  4. My printer is an HP 810c, and it is so old that no drivers exist for it in Vista. I can no longer print more complex documents...so far that includes color!

  5. For the first few days, the system kept asking me questions about whether I wanted to allow this or that to happen (after I had told it do the task). Now, those questions are getting fewer and fewer. I have the sense to believe it is learning my preferences. If so, that's really cool. Otherwise, there's bugs :)

Overall, I like it, and I'd recommend Vista IF you're going to have a PC. Now if you want to be cool and creative, you'll get a Mac...but that's for a different day

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shiphrah and Puah

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8
Scripture Lesson: Exodus 1:8-22
Sermon: Shiphrah & Puah

Shiphrah and Puah. Two rarely discussed let alone honorary names within the Biblical text...yet, the text lifts them up high, very high.

Shiphrah and Puah were the two Hebrew midwives that defied Pharaoh. He told them to kill the baby boys as soon as they were born, but Shiphrah and Puah let them live. Their tongue in cheek response to Pharaoh is classic: "The Hebrew women aren't like Egyptian women. They are vigorous and give birth before we arrive." So, the text memorializes Shiphrah and Puah by remembering their names and telling of God's blessings for their obedience.

These two ladies demonstrate for us a vital truth: Our actions define us.

If I ask you now, "Who are Shiphrah and Puah?" You'll likely respond, "They saved the Hebrew baby boys." Who are they? They saved the baby boys! Shiphrah and Puah are defined by their actions. That's how we know them...and that's how people know you.

Who are you? What actions define you? What inactions define you?

Shiphrah and Puah stood up and did what was good and right and true. Even though the babies they were saving were not their own, they risked their lives and lively hoods to save others' babies. This brings out another vital truth: We're in this together.

John Donne, famous pastor, poet, and parliamentarian, wrote one of my favorite poems:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

When one person is oppressed, beaten down, even murdered, we all are. When they die, a part of us dies, too.

This is expressed beautifully in the true story of Rocky O'Daniel. Rocky was crossing the bridge over Bad River near Fort Pierre, SD, when he saw a boy running up to him. 11 yr. old Tony Nye flagged down Rocky and explained between panicked breathes that his friend had fallen through the ice and was trapped under the ice-sheet. Rocky ran to the hole in the ice, jumped in the freezing water, and looked for the boy under the water. To his horror, he found the boy...and it was his own son. Rocky pulled him to the surface where others had gathered. They pulled father and son out together, alive.

If Rocky had not done what was right, his own son would have died. Yet, he had no clue. Whether his son or not, if Rocky had not jumped in the water, parents somewhere would have been grieving. Had Shiphrah and Puah not acted, parents would have been grieving, Moses would not have survived, and the Hebrews would have been exterminated in the genocide. John Donne was right. When the bell tolls, it tolls for us all.

Let us never forget the Hebrew midwives. Let us never forget teh importance of standing up and doing what is right.

Shiphrah and Puah, are you here? We need you more than ever!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The "X" Church/Movement/Thing

There are critical discussions happening all over the blogosphere regarding the "Emerging Church."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Gen X intellectuals are notorious for hating the fad, and guess what the Emerging Church became a fad. The anti-institution, anti-Boomer, post-Modern church finally grew up, found itself at home, and hated it.

Gen-X'ers are also notorious for whining, and I just can't help myself from thinking, "This is what we wanted! An enormous discussion of what it means to follow Jesus...to be the Church...to have faith in God!" Now that it's here, we (and I use "we" as a proponent of the Emerging discussions and as a young Gen-Xer) want to chuck it. We started the discussion, and now others have engaged...well, now, apparently, it's too big. There are so many voices engaged that there has come...[gasp] disagreement [insert sinister music here]!

We can't use Emerging because it sounds like Emergent, which we DEFINITELY can't use because those crazy liberal Evangelicals might burn the Church right to Hell. Missional doesn't sound as cool, but it's OK because it sounds like something a Christian should do. "Organic" is passe, and besided organic products are usually more unhealthy than the rest.

Most discussions I've read are about renaming one group so that another group of Christians won't be confused with them.

I thought boxing people and ideas in were the very things we were fighting so hard to avoid? I thought that engaging the world and the Church were our goals. Now all of a sudden we want to switch names and identities because someone has a different idea that we don't share? How absolutely dogmatic and Modern (could I have insulted post-Moderns anymore?).

I know that some have said they don't want to defend others' beliefs due to the broadening of the Emerging concept. Well, I don't like defending the Crusades, the Reformation, D.A. Carson, fundamentalists, John Spong, or even myself most days...but that's life.

We are what we are. Names are irrelevant. A football called a squiggie is still a football, the name is merely a symbol of the reality present. No matter the new name we try to present, there will always be those that disagree, misrepresent, or misunderstand.

Changing the name in this case sounds too much like, "It's my ball. It's my rules, and if you don't like them, I'm going home."

Perhaps we need to be discussing the real issue: Why isn't the Church effectively ministering to the culture and people around her?

More Important Things...

Saturday was a great day for college football in the state of Indiana.

Purdue beat CMU.
ND lost to MSU.
IU lost to BSU.

However, an incident in the IU-BSU game brought home the point that all of this stuff is just a game and pretty insignificant. BSU WR Love suffered a cervical fracture and sustained some spinal cord injury.

After a few hours of surgery on Sunday morning, he was using his extremities again.

I wish Love the best, and I hope that football fans across the nation lift up this young man in their thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Last year, I remember listening to a leading Harvard economist speak of our economy and how it works. The show was on NPR, and the gentleman went on to explain that our economy largely works on the concept of speculation. People invest money in what they believe will be the next big moneymaker. From stocks to commodities to properties, investors place their money where they believe it will grow.

Confirming something that I had been thinking for a while, he went to explain that essentially we have left our traditional power economy of production and innovation. While he did not advocate moving back the clock, he did advocate for some extreme maneuvers by our government and economic sector to regain some of our industry and especially the investment in innovation. He cited India as a country balancing their economy very well as they are growing manufacturing, technology, service, and financial sectors within their economy.

His greatest condemnation of our economy came toward the middle of his talk: He said, "We essentially have a gambling economy." We gamble our money on stocks and "investments" in hopes that they will go up. Yet, as we are seeing this week, they don't always go up.

I wonder why so many Christians and Christian institutions are so adamant against gambling, yet they are very pro-stock market? Isn't gambling, gambling? Or is white-collar gambling different from blue-collar gambling? What makes a very sophisticated approach toward Texas Hold-'Em (in which the professionals make lots of money...and have been proven to not lose money) different from playing the stock market?

Some might say that there is always a "loser" in gambling. Well, there's always a loser in stock markets, too. Never does every stock go up, and often as some stocks go up, it causes a selling in different stock sectors causing them to fall.

To be honest, I get a little tired of Christian hypocrisy when it comes to gambling...it's something we do all the time in many facets of our lives. There are so many different issues we need to address beyond gambling. If it were gambling as an addiction and we addressed the other addictions as well, I'd be all for it. Let's address overeating, drugs, alcohol, pornography, overspending, overindulging, etc. Rather, I feel it is another cheap shot by "the righteous" who don't do those sorts of things, yet are obese and living beyond their income. Do I think gambling is good? Not really. My issue is how hard we often come down on sins that are "below us" while not listening to God condemn the sins "within us."

Well, here's to gambling the stock market and the billions that have been lost in two days...let alone for the year. Perhaps, we should have played Poker...at least it's governed by statistics and laws of mathematics.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

V for Vendetta

Wow.  Excellent movie!

Stephanie and I watched it last night, and we loved it.  So much so that half way through the TV 
version, we stopped it and rented it from the movie place.

The movie brings up many different issues.  The concept is that 
England is controlled by an despot played by John Hurt (who played the main character of Orson Well's 1984 movie).  Due to national and worldwide events people have given up power and authority to this dictator for "security."  The writers and producers were the same guys who brought the Matrix trilogy (the Wachowski brothers), and it combines 1984, Nazi Germany, and modern culture in a very compelling world.

I couldn't believe it did poorly at the box office, yet after more thought I know why it did.  The language and word choice was excellent.  Vississitudes, loquacious, and vector are just a sampling of the vocabulary.  Along with quotes from Shakespeare, Faust, and many other literary icons, "V" blends action with brains.

The Wachowski brothers in usual form blend religious imagery into the main story plot.  Toward the end, Natalie Portman's character "Evie" dies to herself, and finds herself reborn, baptized in the rain.  I would also add the very concept of freedom and liberty and individual human worth are basic tenets of Western Christianity.  Yet, they are juxtaposed with the church's failings:  "Strength through unity.  Unity through faith."

Bringing out the dark and terrible side of both government and religion this film casts a shadow into the viewer's heart:  What am I willing to give up?  What am I willing to stand up for?  Am I willing to die for something I believe in?  Who controls me?

The movie was a great follow-up to Sunday's Youth Group.  The person who did the lesson spoke of having self-control.  I didn't out of respect, but I so badly wanted to shout out:  If you don't take some control over your life, someone else will.  THAT'S self-control.  Something will rule over us...the question is what will it be?  Who will it be?

What controls me?  Am I willing to die to be truly free?  Am I willing to crucify my inner-self, that I might truly live?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Come Thirsty Series

Well, I finished my first sermon series. It takes a lot of time and effort to get a good series together. I was surprised at the effort it took to stay within the bounds of a theme while not saying the same thing every week.

Of course, some things need to be said every day. Namely, that God loves us. Through bad and through good, God loves us.

Today's sermon was about knowing God's love is there even when we don't feel it...Namely in the storms of life. The Woman at the Well had lots of storms in her life, and when she encountered Christ, her life was changed...so much so that she even went out telling her story to others.

That is what I think the life of the Christian, or Christ follower, is.  We come thirsty.  We encounter Jesus.  Our lives overflow with that grace offering that love and healing to others.

May God quench your thirst and may you find your deepest hurts healed by the Living Waters of Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Love of God the Father.