Monthly Archives: March 2009

Thumbs Up and Down

A poll from the Democracy Corp shows that 26% of Americans have a favorable view of Rush Limbaugh, 53% a negative view. I, of course, am part of the latter.

On the ideological flip side: 15% say they have a positive view of Keith Olberman, 20% have a negative view, and an impressive 65% say they never heard of the guy. That is very heartening.

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Book: The Fine Line

fineline.jpg“The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture,” by Kary Oberbrunner, is about how the Christian relates to our culture. There are separatists, who avoid the culture in order to remain pure. And there are conformists, who indulge in the culture. Most evangelicals I know would fall in the conformist camp. We like our TV shows, pop music, movies of whatever rating. We justify it by saying we need to relate to our secular culture. It’s a matter of relevance.

Oberbrunner says neither the separatists nor the conformists are relevant.

  • Separatists create their own insulated Christian subculture, and the world can’t relate to it (and doesn’t feel welcome there); they are out of touch.
  • Christian conformists are not much different from secular people. They try so hard to fit in with the world, that the world doesn’t see anything particularly spiritual about them.

Read more »

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Books: Roseanna, The Locked Room

LockedRoom_Roseanna.jpg Martin Beck is the central figure of this detective series by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. He’s a Swedish detective, and bears plenty of resemblance to Kurt Wallander, the detective in Henning Mankell’s books.

Both are team players, the lead investigators of police teams, not the individualistic, lone-wolf, man-against-the-system types common among American detective fiction. Both Beck and Wallander are pretty much anti-heroes. The Martin Beck books, I should mention, were written first (in the 1960s and 1970s).

I read “Roseanna” and “The Locked Room” back to back a couple weeks ago, having previously read two other Martin Beck books: “The Laughing Policeman” and “The Man Who Went Up in Smoke.” Of the four, I would say “The Locked Room” is probably the best, with some very interesting twists and resolutions that surprised me. Plus, Beck was almost an incidental figure through parts of the book, as two plots converged. “Roseanna” may have been the weakest. But all were good reads.

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Frodo in Peril

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This is good, another gem from GraphJam.com. I hadn’t thought about how often Frodo was on the verge. But we’ve got:

  • Almost gets caught by Nazgul beside that dock.
  • Stabbed on Weathertop by the Nazgul.
  • The wild ride with Arwyn to Rivendell.
  • Caught by lake monster outside Moria.
  • Stabbed by the cave troll.
  • Falls into the Dead Marshes.
  • Almost caught outside Minas Morgul (saved by magic cloak).
  • Faces down a Nazgul at Osgiliath.
  • Bitten by Shelob.
  • Attacked by Gollum outside Mount Doom.
  • The cliffhanger inside Mount Doom, after losing finger.
  • In danger from lava flows.

What am I missing?

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Future of Christian Eschatology

My pastor, on his blog, referred his dedicated readers to a blog by Scott McKnight, who has begun a series on “The Future of Christian Eschatology” (the End Times). It’s a five-part series which is going to run throughout this week.

I’m not usually one to read such stuff. Back in high school in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., I got all wrapped up in End Times hype (those were the days of Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth,”), and when I realized it was messing me up, I pretty much abandoned interest in the subject. 

I’ve always prided myself on doing my own thinking, reaching my own conclusions, and I trace a lot of it back to that time in high school, when I decided, “This is what my church leaders are preaching, but I’m not so sure.” I didn’t abandon a pre-trib view (then), but I did swear off End Times literature. I don’t think I’ve read an End Times book since then. 

Besides,  I envision the world being a whole lot more messed up than it is now before Christ crashes back into the picture (like some post-apocalyptic Mad Max or zombie movie). So I’m figuring (as if I know) that The Return won’t even happen in my lifetime. Saves a lot of fretting.

Anyway, I really enjoyed McKnight’s first installment, and will be going back to read the rest. He takes a post-trib viewpoint, contrary to Jenkins and Lahaye. Actually, it might be interesting if they wrote a new series based on a post-trib view, with Christians going through the tribulation. Think of the millions of additional dollars they could make? Though, as McKnight says, people don’t want to hear that view. They want to hear the “safe” scenario.

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Book: “This Beautiful Mess”

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To me, the most interesting chapter of “This Beautiful Mess,” by Rick McKinley, was chapter 11, “We Must Go Through Hardships.” He talks about strategic suffering, suffering as a choice in order to accomplish something for Christ.

He says Christians in the West don’t understand what it means to suffer for Christ. And when somebody does actually suffer–get kidnapped in another country, for instance–they come home with a book deal. “The American church doesn’t produce martyrs; we produce celebrities.” Very interesting thought.

But in other parts of the world, suffering for Christ is a way of life, and they identify with what Paul endured in Acts.

He tells a great story about being with other Christians and talking about Cuba. Someone in the group heard that the Cuban church was led mostly by women, and they desperately needed medical supplies. But how could they get supplies into a mostly closed country?

“Celestin, our friend from Rwanda, spoke up. ‘What wold happen if you took medical supplies to Cuba to your sisters there?’

“‘You would get arrested,’ I said. Someone else began to explain to Celestin the embargo and other legal roadblocks. But Celestin interrupted….

“‘Wouldn’t that preach?….Wouldn’t that preach to the world if you got arrested while taking medical supplies into Cuba for your sisters?’

“At that moment I felt like I had taken a baseball bat in the ribs. I’d been hit with the dangerous side of the kingdom….Clearly my creativity for the gospel ended at the point of suffering.”

We have it so doggone safe in America. We have our freedoms, our Constitutional protections. If persecuted for our faith, we can sue for damages. None of us suffer for Christ, not really. We endure some slights, maybe, but it’s not worthy to be called suffering.

Paul suffered, and he did it strategically. He intentionally went to places where he might very likely get beaten or stoned–and often he was. For Paul, and for many Christians around the world, it’s not safe to be a Christian. It’s a dangerous calling.

Here are a few more thoughts from McKinley’s chapter:

  • “In Celestin’s life I see so much beauty and a willingness to suffer in the mess for the sake of his King. I, on the other hand, am the guy who doesn’t want to go to India because I could get an upset stomach.”
  • “I have felt superior to those who suffer. It’s an ugly truth. I have subconsciously assumed that their suffering is due to their inferiority—that they have pulled a sort of second-class seating assignment in God’s big, blue kingdom bus.”
  • “We are brothers and sisters, not Western CEOs and Third World employees.”
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Pam and Molly Going At It

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Book: This Beautiful Mess

mess.JPG“This Beautiful Mess” was written by Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei church in Portland, Ore. That’s one of those creative, postmodern-ish churches that traditional evangelicals aren’t sure what to do with. They’re doing innovative things, more interested in relationships and empathy than in institution-building. And they have some great things to tell us about what Christianity is really all about. We need to listen and learn. I try to do both.

McKinley’s book talks about “the Kingdom.” Not Saudi Arabia, but the Kingdom of God. Parts are good, parts not so good. But I enjoyed it. Most chapters end with some free verse by poets I’ve never heard of, and some are excellent.

Here is a good quote:

“Pastors and lay leaders love to talk about advancing the kingdom, about building the kingdom. It’s as if Jesus said, “My kingdom is a pile of lumber on the truck in heaven, and I need you boys and girls to get a hammer and help me nail this thing together.”…When Jesus talked about the kingdom, he never talked about us building it or advancing it….The kingdom IS. That’s it. Jesus does not need you or me to nail it together.”

He says we’re not building something, but merely living in something that already exists. We embrace the kingdom. God is sovereign in this kingdom, and he’s got everything under control. Our inadequacies won’t cause it to crumble.

“I don’t see my life now as one in which I advance the kingdom of God. It is advancing all by itself….The kingdom is a dimension I acknowledge, I live in, I participate in….It is a lot less like building the business of Christianity and a lot more like slipping into the matrix of Jesus.”

These were some very interesting thoughts for me.

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AWKWARD!

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A Perspective on Solving the Money Crisis

I found a quote by Will Rogers which gives me hope:

“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?”

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