Thursday, March 29, 2007

'...But I liked the story the folksinger told'.

I only ever got half way through the popular book called Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. It wasn't that I didn't like it. On the contrary, it is a very entertaining read. It was frustrating at points but genuinely funny at other times. And sometimes profound.

I never finished it because, on an flight from New York to Atlanta, I was talking with a Jewish person about Jesus, and the only literature that I had on me was the book I was reading. I hope that some things in Miller's book was helpful.

Anyway, read this expert from Blue Like Jazz and then I have a question, and a bit of a survey...

A long time ago I went to a concert with my friend Rebecca. Rebecca can sing better than anybody I've ever heard sing. I heard this folksinger was coming to town, and I thought she might like to see him because she was a singer too. The tickets were twenty bucks, which is a lot to pay if you're not on a date. Between songs, though, he told a story that helped me resolve some things about God. The story was about his friend who was a Navy SEAL. He told it like it was true, so I guess it was true, although it could have been a lie.

The folksinger said his friend was performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building in some dark part of the world. His friend's team flew in by helicopter, made their way to the compound and stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room, the folksinger said, was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified, When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them they were Americans, The SEALS asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn't. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. They were not of healthy mind and didn't believe their rescuers were really Americans.

The SEALs stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn't possibly carry everybody out. One of the SEALs, the folksinger's friend, got an idea. He put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages, getting so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them. He was trying to show them he was one of them. None of the prison guards would have done this. He stayed there for a little while until some of the hostages started to look at him, finally meeting his eyes. The Navy SEAL whispered that they were Americans and were there to rescue them. “Will you follow us?” he said. The hero stood to his feet and one of the hostages did the same, then another, until all of them were willing to go. The story ends with all the hostages safe on an American aircraft carrier.

I never liked it when the preachers said we had to follow Jesus. Sometimes they would make Him sound angry. But I liked the story the folksinger told.

Now... I liked the story too. Isn't it a TOP illustration? Doesn't it resonate? Almost every other sermon I wonder if I can squeeze it in somewhere. It's that kind of illustration. It fits in with the current desire to preach a 'beautiful' Jesus, and it works perfectly with our current language with regard to sin: we are 'broken and hurting' (rather than willful and rebellious).

But my question: Is it a true representation of Jesus' command to 'follow him'?

I don't want to buy it simply because it resonates with me. So I did a little work in the Gospels. Here are the results of my survey:

  • Take a read of THESE verses. They are far more aggressive than Miller's illustration may suggest. It is far more in line with Bonhoeffer's bold statement: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." There is no softened look. There is not question (will you follow me?), but a command. This is not the 'hero whispering', it is the Lord commanding.
  • I found THESE texts to be more neutral on the topic. There isn't the suggestion that these men have a sense of 'brokenness'. They are called to follow, and they simply do.
  • But THESE are verses of people who follow because they were healed, or cared for. They are Jesus getting down beside and with suffering people. Interestingly, he makes no command to follow him -- they just follow.
  • THIS verse from Luke comes very close. 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick': the captive whose very need means that he is invited to follow.
  • And the most interesting result: Miller's illustration has the strongest case in the Gospel John! THESE verses are all from John.

I'm aware that this is a lot of words for a Blog, but it may make a good Bible Study for some Home Group or something. Or...comment away...

Do you like the illustration? Is it exegetically or theologically accurate? Does it ring your bell?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Should voting be compulsory?

OK, we are knee deep here in the United States with a Presidential election that has 2 years to run its course. So it’s hard to get excited about a state election in NSW in Australia.

The truth is, wife and I forgot to let the Australian Electoral Commission know that we are out of the country. This means that as far as the AEC is concerned, we are not doing our civic duty by voting today. In Australia, my US readers might like to know (to their horror), voting is compulsory (with the threat of a fine). You heard it, compulsory. With a fine.

The idea that 24% (+/-) of potential voters elect the leader of the free world is unheard of in the Antipodes.

Now, to those who don't know, my wife is American. So she don’t have to vote in the country of her birth. But she married me, and she lived in Sydney for the requistite time. And so she became a (dual) citizen of Australia to the resounding sounds of Waltzing Matilda.

So today, in NSW, she is missing her first compulsory election.

She and I didn’t vote. We couldn't vote.

So here is my question: ought we to be fined (in principle)? Should voting be compulsory? Arguments for? Against? And I am very happy for American perspectives as well…

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Guest Post: Growing up Christian in Communist China.

Stella goes to my church. She is a great servant of Jesus. I wrote a post a few weeks ago called Why the CHINESE UNDERGROUND CHURCH grew. It was part of a WHOLE SERMON I gave a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for confirmation that what I said was a true and accurate statement of what happens in China. You know how these things can be exaggerated.

Stella wrote the following note for this Blog (She agreed that I could post this publicly):

A note from a Chinese who grew up in a Christian family in China: To be more precise, the 'underground' church in China is actually called 'house church', cos they are located in people's houses instead of public locations.

They are churches not registered in Communist government, but 'have not officially been outlawed'. Due to the 'fears of a center of popular mobilization outside the control of the Communist Party of China', Chinese government tries to control their numbers.

I’ve heard that when a house church goes beyond 30 people, government will interrupt with dismiss or fine or even persecution. But I can’t find the official proof for the specific number.

Actually the restriction varies in different provinces. For the open cities along the coast, there are no specific numbers to restrict the house church; while more severe restriction for inland cities.

My hometown is one of the open cities by the east coast of China, where the house church sometimes goes to over 100 people, but still without government interruption as long as they are not doing anything obviously threatening government, such as preaching something anti-government.

I do agree that the way house church splits might result in the faster growth, which is sort of like 'cell division' type of growth, the size might be small, but the growing is speedy. To quote a Chinese saying ---" a single spark can burn out the whole forest" :)
I then asked Stella if she felt unsafe in church in China. Here is her answer:
While I was growing up, I didn't feel anything unsafe because of my religion. But I was used to going to THREE SELF CHURCH mostly, sometimes going to house church as well. I just follow where my parents go.

My sister is currently in a house church, the one I mentioned in your blog which has over 100 people. I went with her to the Sunday service twice while I was in China last month. I didn't feel anything unsafe at all. It was in the pastor's house. Normally if you would like to open your own house for a public gathering, no matter for what purpose, you are supposed to register in the government. They did so, but government doesn't want them to register, instead they want them to go under the Three-Self church. They don't want to do so, cos they don't agree with the way how Three-Self operates. So the government just let it be without taking any action to interrupt. but I guess maybe they will keep an eye on it.
I guess if anyone wants to ask any questions, Stella may be able to answer! Pray for our brothers and sisters in China.

Thanks Stella.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jesus requires no more admirers (Sermon Help)

I'm speaking on Luke 19:28-42 this week at Church. What strikes me is that Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is both triumphant and tragic.
  • Triumphant in that here is Israel's King being hailed with Hosannas while coming into his city.
  • And yet Tragic that this same city that welcomed him as King then had him killed within the week.
Personally, I think that it is more un-triumphant than triumphant. More ironic than anything else. It tells me something about the fickle character of the human heart. It tells me something of the vapid world of pursuing the famous (See my previous post). It tells me once again that Jesus requires no more admirers. He's got plenty of them already.

So please, no more admirers of Jesus. Admirers admire; and Jesus wants something all together different from you.

Some questions so that you can help me with the sermon:
  • V29-34 appear to me to be redundant. They have always appeared to me to be redundant. [The text could easily skip it thus: "V28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. (...) V35 And they brought a colt to Jesus..."] However, I have a view of Holy Scripture that requires me to think otherwise. Can you help me? Why are these verses here? Is there any reason to slow up at this point? Why get so repetitive?

  • Why a colt? What is being communicated by a colt?

  • V36-38: Is the crowd spontaneous? Is this spontaneous joy? Like if we heard that BONO was turning up near your work during lunch hour and having the crowds pour out onto the streets?

  • What do they really think that Jesus is going to do?

  • V40-41: Why the change from joy in Jerusalem to weeping over Jerusalem?

  • Are we so fickle? In what sense are we fickle? Can THIS VERSE from Hosea 6:4 be applied to us? ---
"What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist,like the early dew that disappears."
Help me, breathren.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rob Bell and Al Gore and Stardom

I balked at posting this. But I've decided to post and see what comes...

I've been having more thoughts about the New Media and Rob Bell posting. I feel like I'm coming close to being able to express some of the things that concern me. And by that, I'm not meaning the things that concern me about Rob Bell's theology (although that would be worth discussing).

My concern is about us turning a local church pastor into some sort of superhero. (And especially when recognition of that person comes in a short space of time without some level of rigorous testing.)

Try this for comparison:

I read THIS ARTICLE last week in the Sydney Morning Herald. I think its from the New York Times. It is about Al Gore, who (with respect to the environment) really is in academic turf, and yet he is speaking people's language around the world, and being treated like a pop star. Read this bit:

Although Mr Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in An Inconvenient Truth. [...] While praising Mr Gore for "getting the message out", Dr Vranes questioned whether his presentations were "overselling our certainty about knowing the future". "He's a very polarising figure in the science community," said Dr Pielke, an environmental scientist and a colleague of Dr Vranes at the University of Colorado. "Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr Gore."
Now, try this exercise: Change 'Mr Gore' to 'Mr Bell'; 'scientist' to 'theologian'; 'science to theology'; 'An inconvenient Truth' to 'Velvet Elvis'; Dr Varnes to Ben Witherington (who generously and appropriately praises and yet still questions some things that are said by Bell), and 'future' to 'Talmud'.

I may be wrong, but do you see how we now mirroring society? Am I onto something? The key line is this: "Very quickly, these discussions turn from the issue to the person, and become a referendum on Mr Gore."

Something is not right. Something doesn't add up. And something has to be said or done before a culture of Corinthian Hoo-Haa becomes a problem for Christendom. Unless it has already happened.

I wonder if Tubeo is right when he commented on a previous post:

Can I drop another idea in here? A couple of years back there was a conference in Scotland (I'm pretty clueless about the details - maybe someone can fill me in here) where it was concluded that in western culture 'the famous' has overtaken 'the hero' (used in classical terms) for what we look to and marvel at.
Let me clarify: I am not arguing for an elite group of people who have the right to be heard. Not at all. Not at all. I am, however, nervous about having super-stars in Christendom. I think that it's too Corinthian.


Why I got stuck in Pittsburgh...

Made it back to NYC 10 minutes before Church. Nice.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Remember Planes, Trains and Automobiles? I haven't gone as far as John Candy and Steve Martin, but I have been tempted.

I've been stuck in Pittsburgh for two days because of a SNOW STORM in NYC (and Pittsburgh).

I came for one day to spend time with David Henry while Laurel and kiddos were having Spring-Break in Savannah. I was due to fly out of Pittsburgh on Friday morning to be back at La Guardia airport by 9am. Then came the Hoo-Haa. My flight was the first PIT-LGA flight to be cancelled. And then it was game-over.
"By late last night, US Airways said it had scrapped 1,217 of its scheduled 3,700 flights."
Mine was one of them.

Ahhhhh. John Candy. Where are you now?

I finally secured a seat on a flight tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 7:40am. The booking agent told me that I had an "Exit Row". I told him I'd take "Chicken Coup". If you are a praying person, pray that that flight takes off and lands in LGA on time. I really don't want to miss church- that is why I am in NYC. As it is, I'll be turning up in jeans and sneakers. Lucky I always overpack underwear and socks.

Did I just get too personal?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

(#7). Conclusion: A catalyst and a motivation

(This is conclusion of a sermon. So first, read Luke 13:1-9, and then the previous posts).

Why have you underlined those three words? Because the Gospel of Luke has a trajectory. Like every story, it has a plot. It is a narrative heading somewhere. And there are little hints in this text taking us there.

In Verse 1, what word did I ask you to remember?
  • Galilean.
Jesus was a Galilean from Nazareth.

In Verse 2-6, what word did I ask you to remember?
  • Perish.
And at the hands of Pilate, this Galilean perished on the Roman Cross while making a sacrifice, and for the sake of the whole groaning planet. He experienced judgment. He had his – I was going to say ‘mini-exile’ -- but that isn't right. That is not right. His death was the ultimate exile for humanity, of which the Babylonian exile was only a mere taste. For there on that cross was Jesus bearing the sins not just for Israel, but for Americans too.

In verse 6-9, what phrase did I ask you to remember?
  • One more year.
See, for three years (?), Jesus looked for fruit on the Fig Tree of Israel. But he did not find it, and what happened within one year of this moment? Jesus himself was dead. A Galilean, Perishing within one year as a sacrifice at the (clean) hands of Pilate.

This passage, then, is a catalyst for repentance and as well as long term motivation.
When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.
Jesus has therefore sat on that stool with you and for you.

That kind of love; that kind of suffering; that kind of God-immersed-the-real-world-of-Sin-and-Pain; may well be the motivation that you and I need to turn to him.


Offer your thoughts and criticisms...

(#6). Point 3: Don’t ever WAIT.

(This is part of a sermon. So first, read Luke 13:1-9, and then the previous posts).

Where are we? Don't WANT it, don't WASTE it and lastly, don’t WAIT on Suffering (to act, I mean).

The parable in V6-9 is saying one thing: God graciously gives us a little extra time to sort things out with God. But do it. Do it now. Do it tonight. Do it in front of your computer. Because you have a limited time: in this text, maybe only a year.

The old language of Christians used to talk about Jesus as 'Prophet, Priest and King'. But we mostly speak of Jesus as just Priest and King now. That is, he is my "Savior and Lord." We like Jesus as Priest: He died to take away my sins. We are used to Jesus as King: We need to submit every area of our life to him.

But we rarely talk about him as Prophet.

Prophets railed against sin and injustice and moved people to act and act now. And that’s what Jesus is doing in the parable in V6-9. He's bugging you.

V6: A man had a fig tree in a vineyard that bore no fruit on it. And V7: he had looked for fruit for three years and so V7: “Why should it not be cut down"?

A fig tree is a symbol for Israel. Much like the Bald Eagle is a symbol for America. And fruit is a symbol of Israel acting righteously. And no fruit is Israel gone off. Gone bad. So Jesus is a Prophet here saying: "Israel – You are the problem. Not Rome. Not the 'Galileans' and so the fig tree of your hopes and dreams will be cut down."

But the Gardener in V8 says: Just be gracious to the tree for one year.

Please. One year.

This is grace. This is mercy. And the point for you and me is this: This word of Jesus "Unless you too repent" is not just interesting. It has a deadline. You all know this at work: When you get a project, you also get a deadline. And the deadline prompts you to get the project done. That is part of the deadline.

Brothers and sisters, a day will come when God will call you to account, and it could be soon. Do not wait – even if confronted by suffering. And when we suffer, or see suffering, we tend not to act in that moment. And Jesus is saying: "Maybe this is exactly the moment to act."

Can you lock away or underline the words: "One more year"?

Why have I been asking you to underline three things?

The conclusion, soon...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

(#5). Point 2: Don’t ever WASTE your (even innocent) suffering.

(This is part of a sermon. So first, read Luke 13:1-9, and then the previous posts).

Even "Innocent Suffering" is a moment not to waste. Even innocent suffering speaks to us. It speaks to us not of specific guilt, but of the general groaning of the planet.

Jesus is a Jew. And like all Jews he has knowledge of this: There is a intimate relationship between general sin and the groaning of this present world. So he goes beyond the Pilate massacre and talks about an accident V4:

Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.
A tower comes down, and 18 are dead. A tsunami moves toward millions. And hundreds of thousands die. All deaths: 18 deaths, or 300 000 deaths, or 1 death – each one is horrible. And each death, and each tragedy, speaks of the tragic human experience before God. And each and every moment of pain – even if not experienced directly by you – is a 'megaphone to rouse deaf ears', saying something like this:

Your mortality is real. Turn to God now.
GK Chesterton was asked by Time Magazine: "What is the problem with the world?" He sent in his answer: "Dear Sir, I am".

I am the problem in the world.

John Piper – the Baptist minister from Minneapolis – wrote an article on the eve of prostate surgery called 'Don't WASTE your cancer'. God has given you an opportunity, he claims. A door. He offers 10 ways not to waste your cancer. His ninth point is this:

Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).
Don’t waste these precious moments, friends. They are a door.

Before I go on to my third point, can I ask you to underline or lock in your minds one word from verse 2-5: The Word Perish. I’ll explain in a soon.

(#4). Point 2: Don’t ever WASTE your suffering.

(This is part of a sermon. So first, read Luke 13:1-9, and then the previous posts).

Don’t ever waste the opportunity that suffering brings. This is a counter-intuitive. But Jesus hears the news of Pilate's massacre and offers a very surprising response to grieving people. Some would say insensitive. I would say insightful.

He says to this news in effect (my reflection from V2):
You think, don’t you, deep down, deep deep down, that those people were worse sinners than you are because they died in this way? Well, if you think this way, then you’ve wasted a significant God-opportunity. You have squandered a redemptive-moment. You’ve closed a door, not opened one.
You might think that this is odd to think the way Isrealites thought. But good Israelites had good precedent to link a moment like Pilate's massacre to sin. A third of your Bible – one whole third – is taken up by the Prophets: Like Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and Amos, and Hosea.

And what was their message? Their message was this: Look – God created you, Israel, and he loves you and saved you from Egypt. He gave you this land. And he asked only asked one thing: That you love him back and do what he says. And so God has said all along – That if you disobey me, I’ll throw you out of the Land. If you reject me, I’ll send an oppressive power to shed your blood. And that’s what happened: A foreign power, Babylon, shed the blood of Israelites in 587BC. It’s called simply the Exile.

And so you can see why they might have thought that these people who died were guilty. Here is a foreign power inflicting damage. It is a mini-exile. It’s mini-judgment.

But Jesus turns it all around. He puts the heat on the very people who raised the issue. V2
Do you think that they were worse sinners? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.
What’s Jesus saying? At least two things:

1. That suffering not metered out in most cases for a specific sin. You can never say: because they suffered, they must have been especially guilty. That can never be said anymore without revelation. Jesus frees us from that way of thinking.

2. But secondly he doesn’t then let anyone off the hook. Suffering itself still speaks to us and shouts to us: There is something dreadfully wrong with the world in general. There are things in this world that are not right. And all of it – all of it -- shouts to you and to me:

I, too, am a part of the problem.

Its not just bad Pilate that’s the problem. Rome is not the problem. I’m the problem. And its not the 'freedom fighters' who are the problem. I'm the problem. All evil and all suffering is a God-given moment to look in the mirror of your soul.

Soon... Don't ever waste even "Innocent suffering"...

Monday, March 12, 2007

(#3) Point 1. Don’t WANT suffering (The people's pain)

(First, read Luke 13:1-9, and the previous posts).

Notice that there is no question in sight in V1 or V2 from the people who bring this news to Jesus. They just told Jesus the story of what happened. There is no "well how do you explain that?" There is no "Give us your opinion, now."

There is no trap question. This may have been a trap. They could be baiting Jesus to enter a political storm: Either he condemns Pilate (Not a good idea at this point) or emboldens the Galileans to fight (Jesus is trying to get people to pick up their cross, not their swords!) But there is no indication in the text that it’s a trap.

See, they do what you do when something horrific happens. You just pass the news and they let the tragedy speak for itself.

You know this experience: You heard, didn’t you, that fire in the Bronx claimed its 10th victim Friday night? Its 9th child?
You know about the 30 dead in the latest car bomb in Baghdad?

This is not just "interesting" news.

Its something we don’t want.
And we’ve never wanted.
We are not OK about it.
And we’ve never been OK about it.

That itself is worth saying to yourself. Followers of Jesus put it like this: We live in a fallen and sinful and divided world and we don’t like it, and we’ve never liked it.

Don't want suffering. But don’t deny it either. Own it. Don't slame the door shut, for Jesus opens for us a door out.

Before I go on to my second point, can I ask you to underline or lock in your minds one word from verse 1: The Word ‘Galilean’.

TBC soon...

(#2) Point 1: Don’t WANT suffering (Pilate's atrocities)

(First, read Luke 13:1-9, and the previous post).

First thing I'd like to draw out of the text: Don’t want suffering. Don’t desire it. Don’t chase it down. You don't need to chase it down. (It will chase you down).

I know that this goes without saying. (But I find that when something ‘goes without saying’, then that’s the reason to say it again): There is nothing inherently desirable about suffering by itself. Look at V1:
At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

A slaughter has taken place, presumably in Jerusalem. It is a nationally disturbing and unholy massacre at the hands of a Roman oppressor. The slaughter happened during the Galilean's sacrificing to their God. And the word about this tragedy has gone out. There are whispers on the road from Jerusalem (which is in the south) to Galilee (in the north). And anger and frustration are no doubt welling up within. The Blogosphere has gone wild with people angry about the Government. And maybe others are angry with the freedom fighters who stir up the trouble. And Jesus is journeying south from Galilee to Jerusalem, and meeting him on the road is this breaking news.

We don’t know the size of this evil act. We don’t know if people felt as strongly about this as they did, say, about 9/11. But I think that there is something of that kind of pain here.

We have no record of this event outside of the gospels. But we know it is consistent with the Roman oppression in Ancient Palestine at that time. The Jewish historian Josephus writing in c75AD speaks about Pilate slaughtering Jews. The context of the following quote is this: Pilate has gained wind of a Jewish disturbance, and he positioned his soldiers deep within a crowd of Jews, and they are in civilian clothing and carrying concealed weapons:

He [Pilate] then gave the signal from his tribunal [to do as he had bidden them]. Now the Jews were so sadly beaten, that many of them perished by the stripes they received, and many of them perished as trodden to death by themselves; by which means the multitude was astonished at the calamity of those that were slain, and held their peace.

Many Jews were killed. Others trodden to death in the stampede to save themselves. So that the Jews "Held their peace". It is atrocitious. And so was this act in V1.

It all sounds as little like Tiananmen Square?

(Point #1 is to be continued tommorrow.)

(#1) An Introduction

What did CS Lewis say about Pain?

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: Pain he says is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
My question, how did Lewis know this? Was it intuition? Inspiration? Experience? Maybe. Or maybe he leant it from Jesus in Luke 13:1-9? For Luke 13 is a word on suffering and pain. And what to do, in fact, beyond suffering. Please read the text.

A Nigerian poet once said:

When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.

Once suffering has sat down on his own stool in your household, what you what will you then do? How will you handle it? How are you handling it right now?

See, whether in the Book of Job or in the Psalms, the cause and reason for individual suffering is rarely given. That information is usually never present. But what to do in the face of suffering is strongly prescribed and usually simply stated. That is because it is wisdom, (rather than mere information) present in these texts.

Luke 13 is a similar text, but with fewer words, and many layers. I ask you to please ponder and reflect on this text this week, alongside maybe Job, the Psalms, Hebrews and the Book of Revelation depending on your time and thirst levels.

Three things to do in the face of suffering from this text:

1. Don’t ever Want suffering. V1
2. Don’t ever Waste the opportunities presented in suffering. V2-5
3. Don’t ever Wait to act in the face of suffering. V6-9

Point 1 tomorrow.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Help me... #2

OK. I'm preparing for a sermon on Sunday. And again, I'm looking for help. So I'm not quite in the same desparate position I was three weeks ago. But I have another remarkable text: Click on Luke 13:1-9 which includes these potentially offensive words:

1 There were some present at that very time who told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
So you can help me by answering any one of the following questions (or making any other comment you desire):
  • Does this text speak to your soul? Your heart? Your life? Tell us about that.
  • Is Jesus being insensitive? Should he go an re-read Job (You know, just sit with people in their innocent suffering, rather than speak up.)
  • Would Jesus be 'roasted' by today's media for making even the smallest link between a tower falling and the need to turn to God?
  • What do you think his hearers were expecting Jesus to actually say?
  • Is there a relationship between Suffering and Repentance? Does the modern church make that link? Why or why not?
  • Is the 'perishing' an eschatological word about Hell? Or is it about the Fall of Jerusalem? Would it make a difference?
  • Is there a relationship between V1-5 and V6-9?
  • Is this good news, or bad news?
  • How would you structure a sermon?
Help me, brethen.

The Wall St Journal on The Cricket World Cup

Click HERE .

The article includes these words:

For too long now has cricket been dominated by Australia's unyielding and highly tactical aggression. It does not play an ugly game, but its methods and mien are seldom beautiful. Australia's cricketers care not whether they are loved, except by their own fans, who, having drunk deeply of the same cultural cup as their
cricketers, celebrate hardnosed methods. But if there's one good thing that might come out of an Aussie victory, it would be this: Americans might understand, at long last, that cricket isn't played by a bunch of petunias.
Would any American care to comment on this spectacular game? Do you like it? Why? Why not? Do you get it? What don't you get? And would you like to donate some $199:95 to the "Justin Misses His Cricket Fund"? ":)

And would any subject of her Majesty care to comment on why this game is so good?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Raw Insight 2

I've linked to HER WORK before: HERE. Brilliant.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is James Cameron's 15 Minutes of Fame the Coffin of your Dreams?

OK -- I know that this is so last week: But James Cameron hauled out a coffin claiming it to be the coffin of Jesus. If you don’t know about it, I’m glad. The whole thing reeks of a publicity stunt that guaranteed Cameron’s desired 15 minutes. You can read about it HERE.

And the coffin of Jesus is the coffin of my faith, right? – we’ve said this forever.

So I have a question. It’s a question that you can respond to only if you believe that Jesus came out of that tomb alive; that he was raised as Messiah. You can only answer this question if you believe that by rising from the dead, Jesus has conquered death; has vindicated his people; was raised as the Second Adam; will return to judge the world; gives you reason to risk your life for the cause of Christ; rendering your life not meaningless; and only if you believe that at his appearing, he will restore and redeem all things to their good, stunning, gorgeous, God-honoring rightful place.

Put simply: You can only respond to this post if you’ve made the link between the ‘Resurrection of Jesus’ and the ‘Answer to every Question, Hope and Dream that the Universe has ever had’.

What if James Cameron is right? What if Jesus stayed in that tomb (or any other tomb)? What if Cameron’s stunt could actually be proved to be true? Like really and conclusively true!

My question for your comments:

What will you do about it tomorrow morning? (Monday in Australia/Sunday in the US)

And if you think that it’s inappropriate to ask this question, bear in mind that our Apostle unapologetically raised this very question in his Blog to the Corinthians.

S0 – answer, my friends.

(Because this is so important, I will probably delete anonymous comments. Sorry.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

New Media and Rob Bell in the 00s.

I know its two weeks ago, but I want to write a point of clarification re the Bell v Packer post .

My aim was not to compare a previous generation (that had 'higher reading') to the current generation (that has 'dumbed down'). Not at all. Anyone who knows me knows that I have never been a particularly great reader, nor am I a thinker, and I'm certainly no academic. I had to marry one to feel better about that deficiency in my development. :)

And I also know plenty of students here in the US and in Australia who are profoundly careful and wise about who they learn from and who they read, as the comments pointed out.

I am asking, though, if there have been any significant shift in the last 20 years.

I guess I just wondered how and why it is that we place a good man like Rob Bell in center stage on academic issues. Why are we now turning to Mark Driscoll for 'Christology'? And Rob Bell for 'Jesus in his Jewish Context'? And Brian McLaren to tell us about 'Major Cultural Shifting'? I'm sure they all have good thoughts, and good popular ways of teaching those thoughts. But have we put these guys in over their own heads? I hope not. That would be no fun for them.

Maybe nothing has changed. But if it has, what has changed? I think that the answer is, in part, New Media.

Sam R wrote asks some questions about New Media HERE.

(I'm not out to criticize New Media. If anything, we need to get the guys who still use typewriters to start using their 'puters.)

I guess my point is not that we ought to be reading 'higher' (which could be simply elitism), but it is this: That local regular pastors are now being treated as though they are ground-breaking global scholars. And we are looking to these guys to 'repaint the faith' (to use Bell's terms), or to give us a 'new kind of Christianity' (to use McLaren's term). Of course, I have no problem with Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll et al doing what they do as a pastor in their local communities. They ought to pastor their churches by speaking the truth in love. And their communities can debate and speak personally with them about any new and fresh thoughts.

That’s how community works.

But with the iPod, its global. Anyone and everyone can 'choose' Bell while joggin' or catchin' the train. Heck, you can listen to Bell on your way to and from church on the same text that your own pastor just bumbled his way through! :)

But then do we leave behind the books and reflections of the people who, over decades of work, debate and study, have been proven and tested to 'know their stuff'?

Does that still sound elitist? I sincerely hope not, and I apologize in advance if it does...