Thursday, February 21, 2008

"It's up to each one to determine what God wants."

This is aggressive clip from ER, but it has a power. Quote:
"I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell ... I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness".
Take a watch. It's 2 minutes. H/T Sam Lago.

Megan Smith Reflects...

I'll get a report of the weekend soon. But in the meantime: Read Megan on Paradise Lost, liberalism and time. This has some serious insight. I kind of wish that NYC was in her sights, rather than Japan! But for now, Christ wants her in Japan.

Why not send her there?


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

First Things Blog on Megan Smith

I have spent the weekend in the Pacific Northwest at a wedding in Portland, Oregon. I'll get a picture or two and let you know about it. It was a fun to be out there with Andy Edmundson and his bride, Megan.

But in the meantime, it was a delight to read the First Things Blog last week. 'First Things' is journal of religion, culture and public life based here in NYC. First Things picked up on Megan Smith's plan and desire to proclaim the gospel in Japan. Anthony Sacramone has a gift with words and insight. CLICK HERE for the First Things post on Megan. Anthony writes:
Megan and a group of other Navigators are in the process of raising money to fund a mission to Japan to share their faith there. Christianity has but an infinitesimally small presence in Japan, but through the dedication of young Christians such as Megan, and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Land of the Rising Sun may soon see another Son on the horizon, offering escape from a “futile way of life” (1 Pet. 1:18).
Have you yet to get in contact with Megan?

The PDF had a small mistake in the giving details, by the way. And it has now been fixed. Click HERE.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Meet Megan Smith... and then send her to Japan.

Meet Megan Smith.

Megan is from Boulder, Colorado. But my wife and I will always consider her a New Yorker. Megan is godly, gifted and has a servant heart. God has given her a great mind, and an crazy ability to learn languages. She just recently graduated with a linguistics major from New York University, and she can speak Japanese like no one I know (except for that Japanese guy I know who makes Sushi on 14th St).

We know Megan from our Church. She was one of only two university students serving at Christ Church NYC when I arrived to begin a student ministry. It was just her and a student named Shelley. So Megan appears to be a person whom God uses to start new things. She was also one of only a few at the Navigators Group at NYU when Peter Trautmann began his ministry there too. If you will allow my metaphor, she is the 'raw material' that ministries are made of.

She's got a Blog too.

You've met her, now I want you to support her. (Even from Australia).

Megan spent a year in Japan when she was 17 years old. And she fell in love with the country and the people. She came to NYU and developed her love for Jesus and the gospel. Now God has given her the chance to bring Japan and Jesus together.

She is right now raising financial support to for mission work in Japan. She will work among student with the Navigators. If she can raise the support, here is what she will be doing:
  • She will be joining the Ogawas, the Japanese staff couple who works with college students at Tohoku Gakuin University, in Sendai.
  • Her job will be to build friendships with students involved in the GUYS Club at Tohoku Gakuin, and through these friendships to build a bridge for the gospel.
  • She will be leading investigative Bible discussion groups and discipling new believers.
  • We hope that the work of the gospel will not end with these students in whose lives we are investing, but that it will spill out from their lives into homes and work places, and ultimately throughout the nation.

Want to read more? You can open her PDF letter by clicking HERE. That will give you reasons to pray.

Megan will need gifts of all sizes, including several ongoing gifts in the $50 to $250 per month range. She also need anchor gifts in the $1000 to $2500 range. Can you be a part of it? You can send a check to Navigators as per the letter above.

But let me make it easier. Click HERE for an online support page. Make a one off donation, or set up reoccurring payments.

A worthy use of your money.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super-Duper-Tsunami-Whatever Tuesday

I'll be watching tonight. LOVE the Span. I've organized to have a night off to watch the whole show. Super Bowl on Sunday; Super Tuesday today. Does it get any better?

I have no predictions about Super Tuesday (save maybe a McCain win for GOP). What I have for you is who I think will win the Presidency in November if the following are nominated as their party's candidate. These are not endorsements either way. They are just guess-work for fun. Here we go:

>> McCain V Clinton = McCain becomes President.
Why? Except Ann Coulter, Clinton can't draw in any Republicans.

>> McCain V Obama = Obama.
Why? Anyone remember 1996? (Clinton V Dole?)

>> Romney V Clinton = Romney.
Why? ABC "Anyone but Clinton". Or is it ABH?

>> Romney V Obama = Obama.
Why? "Who would you have a beer with?" (See Gore/Kerry V Bush)

>> Huckabee V Clinton = Clinton.
Why? The 'Machine' will swallow him up. (See The Terminator?)

>> Huckabee V Obamo = Obama.
Why? In the Battle of Charm, Obama comes out one smile ahead.

>> Ron Paul V Anyone = Now, thats a whole new ballgame!
Ron Paul runs as an independent = Democrat win in November.

So... A Challenge:

Take my template and give us your predictions for November. No need to endorse anyone, just guess. If you come closer than me, and you live anywhere near NYC, I'll take you out for lunch on January 20th.

Or vice versa.

Pic on Flickr by Musely.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Google and the Acts 2 Community (A Reprise)

Try Googling "Acts 2 Community".

If you do, my post dated June 27, 2006 is the first post. I don't know how or why. But twice a day (according to my stats), some soul in the world Googles 'Acts 2 Community' - no doubt looking for how to make their church just like Acts 2 - and all they get is my reflection on why the Acts 2 Community was incomplete in at least three areas. I have new friends, and new readers since Summer '06. So as a reprise, and for new discussion, here is my 2006 post:

"I’ve been pondering the widely-held belief that the “Acts 2 Community” is the ideal Christian community: the one to which we should aspire. Here is what that community was like:
  • They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching; fellowship; to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
  • Everyone was filled with awe.
  • Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
  • All the believers were together and had everything in common, and they gave to anyone as he had need. etc.

George Barna in his latest [odd] book Revolution basically uses Acts 2 by which to measure all other churches, past and present, saying: "Who wouldn't want to be a part of this?"

And the challenge, of course is that if the Church could get herself back to that, we’d be better off: we’d be more God honoring; less institutional etc. We need real community. And the 'Acts 2 community' is real community we need.

There is no doubt that the text here is describing a situation that is wonderful. That is clear. It’s also clear in Acts 4:32-35. The truth is -- I do want this kind of community. And I think that Acts 2 functions as a wake up call for our often lazy-consumer-driven church experiences.

But I'm not sure that God wants us to go back to this.

I am wondering whether the 'Acts 2 community' is an adequate model for us. I think it’s not enough. Here are my three reasons why we need to go beyond the Acts 2 Community.

1. They have yet to include a single non-Jewish person.

The Gentile question doesn’t get hammered out properly until Acts 15. God has to give Peter a bizarre dream to get him to move beyond racial boundaries. The Acts 2 community is a racially Jewish community only. It is yet to be inclusive.

Don’t we want the Jew-Gentile community that gets hammered out after Act 15? With all the difficulties that come with reaching out beyond racial comfort zones? I'm glad, as a Gentile, that the community did not remain the way they were.

2. They have yet to be tested under the fire of persecution.

That doesn’t happen until Acts 4 [a 'nibble'], Acts 5 [a flogging], Acts 6 [Stephen arrested], Acts 7 [Stephen murdered], Acts 8 [A full-scale persecution breaks out]. Up until that point, everyone loves ’em.

Don’t we want a Church refined by the fire? One where ‘convenient faith’ is shown for what it really is? Isn’t the persecution and the testing [post Acts 2] one of the most powerful aspects of Acts?

3. They have yet to feel - and work through - disillusionment.

The first ‘problem’ with the community doesn’t happen until Acts 5:1-11. And a major shock to the system it was.

Don’t we want a community that can deal with disappointment in a gospel way? The Acts 2 community had yet to experience the disappointment. Don't we want to be able to cope, without replacing the gospel with inappropriate idealism? I want a Church that reflects Bonhoeffer’s words:

  • "Thus, the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably productive, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by the one Word and Deed which really binds us together--the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship."

I think that I’d prefer the Acts 2 community together with what God does in that community after the ideal is described. God had more blessing for them. And we are the inheritors of that blessing.

There is no going back. Only forward."

Any thoughts?

Pic in Flickr by Stuck in Customs.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Does Church Shopping have an Upside?

Last week, Richard Mouw, President of the Fuller Theological Seminary in CA, wrote a piece in Christianity Today called "Spiritual Consumerism's Upside: Why church shopping may not be all bad." His idea is that 'church shopping' has an upside: that if we 'shop around', we might find our vocation -- a place God wants us to be -- not unlike the Catholics finding their calling within the RC Church. Read the article HERE.

The article bothered me for one simple reason: He seems to fail to realize how a metaphor works! I posted the following response on CT. But there isn't really space for dialogue over there. So we could have it here. Here is what I posted:
Help me to understand. With great respect (writing to Dr Mouw), it appears that you misunderstood the nature of a metaphor.

'Shopping' is almost always about me and what I want right now: I need a TV, I choose the one for me, and pay the lowest price. I need shoes, I shop around. I need a car, I haggle for the price. Precisely because its about me. That's why the metaphor 'church shopping' has been used so negatively for so long. That's why the word 'shop' and the word 'church' ought never be placed together!

What you are describing here is (in your own words) vocation. Vocation is not shopping. It's about finding God's plan and place so that a person may serve him and his world. What you are describing here as vocation is exactly right. We need to pray and seek to find the right place to promote the Kingdom. We need discernment in churches and discernment in theologies. Yes!

But surely a metaphor (like shopping) has to actually *mean* what it implies. That's how English works, does it?
(And this is worth a read too: Anthony Sacramone wrote a post on 'First Things' HERE. Anthony is an acquaintance of mine, and begins his critique: "With all due respect to Dr. Mouw, his thesis is just daft." and concludes: "But a day at the mall it [Church] ain’t." I might say that everything else in between is pure gold.)

  • Have you ever gone looking for a church? (That is, you weren't called out to serve in another church. For whatever reason, you were in a position where you had to go looking.)
  • If you were honest with yourself, would you have liken it to 'shopping'? In what way?
  • How would you spot consumerist tendencies in yourself (if you had them) and what can you do about it?

Abraham Lincoln didn't have tantrums.

Wife (not pictured) and The Little Man (pictured) walked past a statue of Abraham Lincoln here on Manhattan this morning. This conversation took place:
The Little Man: Mommy, who's that? [pointing at statue]
Wife: That's a statue of Abraham Lincoln.
The Little Man: Who's he?
Wife: He was a good man. He was self-controlled and didn't have tantrums; he freed slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation and he gave the Gettysburg Address. And, he was a President of the United States.
The Little Man: That's GENIUS, Mommy!
Later in the day, The Little Man was having a Little Tantrum, and naturally, this conversation took place:
Wife: Now, Little Man, would Abraham Lincoln have a tantrum?
The Little Man: Of course not, Mommy. He's just a statue.
Can't fight the logic. huh?

Pic of JM and The Little Man taken at Sunday School by Clara P, I think. Or Mira L?
Pic of Lincoln on Flickr by Wallyg.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Nathan Tasker: Demonstrating Integrity and Truth.

Nathan is an old friend of mine. And now, he and Cassie have become good friends of wife and I.

Nathan is also an accomplished musician singing songs that honor and present Jesus to a cynical and hurting world. He was a 21 year old leader in the Youth Group that I began to pastor in the 90s. In our first major conversation, Nathan asked me to disciple him. He is a bold man. I'm not really sure I did what he asked. But we eventually become friends. And friendship, in our case, may be better.

I opened up a newspaper today, and he features in an article exploring contemporary Christian music. Click HERE. Including these remarks:
Dr Evans's criticism does not apply to some of the edgier musicians, such as Nathan Tasker who, said his former promoter Wes Jay from Woodlands Media, is one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters in Australian Christian music. [...]

Wearing black T-shirt, jeans and thongs and strumming an acoustic guitar, Tasker is a psalmist for the modern times. He says he works as hard on the message as he does on the music. "I want the message of the song, whatever it might be, to demonstrate integrity and truth and to show I've thought about what I wanted to say," Tasker said.

His recent album, the self-released Must Be More, has set him on a career in Nashville, the hub of Christian music in the United States. "I want it to be me looking at the best and worst of the world, not just the good," he said.

Buy his albums on his online store.

Pic by Peter Morris from the SMH.