Saturday, December 29, 2007


Comic Art


Josue Justiniano

Shawn McManus

Stuart Sayger

Alex Ross

Unknown, but Old School Cool

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Friday, December 28, 2007



"Unlikely" is the term used by the NYTimes to describe Jews studying megachurches to learn how to do synagogue.
One Sunday morning in 1995, Ron Wolfson and Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman braked to a halt in an oddly enlightening traffic jam. The line of cars was creeping toward Saddleback Church in Southern California, whose services were drawing thousands of worshipers. As two Jews, Mr. Wolfson and Rabbi Hoffman had crossed the sectarian divide to try to figure out how and why.

As they inched down the road, they spotted a sign marked “For First-Time Visitors.” It directed them to pull into a separate lane and put on emergency blinkers. Bypassing the backup, they soon reached a lot with spaces reserved for newcomers. When Mr. Wolfson and Rabbi Hoffman emerged from their car, an official Saddleback greeter led them into the church.

Those first moments on the perimeter of the church set into motion a dozen years of increasing interaction between a Jewish organization devoted to reinvigorating synagogues and one of the most successful evangelical megachurches in the nation, the Rev. Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

This has not been a studiously balanced bit of ecumenicism. Synagogue 3000, the group led by Mr. Wolfson, an education professor, and Rabbi Hoffman, a scholar of liturgy, went to the church to figure out what evangelical Christians were doing right that Jews were doing wrong or not at all.


“The biggest challenge we have in transforming synagogue life,” Mr. Wolfson said recently, recalling the workshop, “is transforming the basic relationship of most Jews to most synagogues.” He added: “It’s a fee-for-service model. I’m going to write you a check, and you’re going to give me what I need — a rabbi on call, High Holy Days seats, a Hebrew school for my kids. It’s not deep.”

Mr. Hoffman said the most obvious exception in the Jewish world was the Chabad movement of the Lubavitcher Hasidim. Its success at what is called “inreach,” meaning proselytizing unobservant Jews, has become a source of fascination, envy and enmity. In a strange way, it may have been less controversial for Synagogue 3000 to emulate Christians who are total outsiders rather than a Hasidic sect that competes for the same pool of Jewish souls.

“Jews need to be more quote-unquote evangelical,” Mr. Wolfson said. “We need to do a better job of presenting Judaism to our own people. The story doesn’t get across that Judaism is a way to find meaning and purpose in your life. And that’s another lesson I’ve learned from the evangelical model.”
The article ostensibly is about the wary relationship between Jews and Christians and how this initiative is overcoming that, but I read something very different in it, surrounding two basic issues.

First, why the traditional wariness between Jews and Christians - which leads naturally to the second, is what they are learning here the right thing to invigorate synagogues, or the church for that matter?

The traditional wariness comes from centuries of Christians calling Jews "Christ-Killers" and keep them around conveniently as bankers based on the prohibitions against money lending in the New Testament. What is worthy of note is that such are political problems, not faith problems. They are the label without the logic. They are suspicion of "the other."

It is also the label without the logic that would lead to a conclusion that two distinctively different faiths could learn from the worship lives of the other. Inherent in this presumption is that the form of worship matters more than the object. Inherent in this presumption is that the how of worship matters more than the why. Inherent in this approach is the desire to have people attach to the institution that bears the label of the religion instead of to the source of the religion itself.

Now for Jews, that makes some sense. Their scripture provides for institutions and priesthood, while ours eliminates those things. From my perspective, the only lesson these rabbis should be coming away with is that what is missing from their worship life is Jesus. And if that is not what they are walking away with, then I wonder what is missing in the worship life at Saddleback.

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Friday Humor

Many will recall that on July 8, 1947, witnesses claimed that an unidentified object with five aliens aboard crashed onto a sheep and cattle ranch just outside Roswell, New Mexico.

This is a well-known incident that many say has long been covered up by the U.S. Air Force and the federal government.

However, you may NOT know that in the month of March 1948, exactly nine months after that historic day, Albert Arnold Gore, Jr., Hillary Rodham, John F. Kerry, William Jefferson Clinton, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, Charles E. Schumer, and Barbara Boxer were born.

See what happens when aliens breed with sheep.

This piece of information should clear up a lot of things that have been happening in politics.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007


Thank Goodness Someboy Gets It

Four thousand members sounds like a mega-church to me, but this from MMI sounds like they are doing it right.
"If we catch you doing ministry, you may lose your job." That's what one pastor tells the paid church staff. I was stunned until I heard the reasoning behind such a warning. It's all about multiplying ministry. At a "Me to We" training at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, I met an incredible couple, Pastor Vernon Armitage and his wife, Charlene. Vernon and Charlene have been at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri, for 38 years. The church has grown from around 100 to more than 4,000, and it's one of the best examples of an equipping church in the country.

One of the fundamentals at Pleasant Valley is that paid staff members aren’t hired to “do” ministry; they’re hired to train and equip others to do ministry. While most churches are constantly on the prowl for ministry talent, Vernon and Charlene have come to realize that they don’t want adders; they want multipliers. That means they want to find people who understand a certain ministry but also have the skill set to develop teams and individuals, who are the frontline people. Prima donnas and superstars need not apply.
That sounds about right to me, with one exception - equipping IS DOING MINISTRY. I really do hate the fact that the language has been so co-opted that doing much the same thing Jesus did during His earthly ministry (prepare the tweleve) is not considered actually doing ministry. But the real revelation comes in the next paragraph in the piece:
Imagine getting fired because you were doing ministry. But if your job is to be developing others, than yes, it makes sense. When it comes to embracing the equipping value in churches, the strongest resistors are often staff members because the transition to equipping ministry requires them to revise their self-image. That’s because the traditional ministerial mindset is “I’m here to use my talent and to serve you.” But that’s adding ministry. No wonder so many churches feel stuck, so many staff members feel overworked, and it seems like you never have enough people to cover the bases. [emphasis added]
"Superstars," "primma donnas," "my talents" - anybody catching a theme here?

If the church has caught a cultural wave it is the worst most surface one possible. Think about the fact that Brittany Spears, who has not done anything entertaining in years is still the center of attention. Although on less perverse scale it seems that we build churches on a similar model - the focus of attention on superstars.

Now, that Joe Pewsitter has that tendency is a reality with which we must cope, but to do so by actually grabbing that center of attention, which is what happens in so many churches, is heinous almost beyond belief. We are called to be strikingly different. We are called to humility, which is funny stuff.
Phil 2:5-8 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
What are the marks of humility in that passage:

How many churches are lead in that fashion? Not many that I know. If you are in ministry are you willing to take a lesser form?

The bottom line is this - ministry is not about you or me. It is about someone else. Ministry is not where I work out my gifts and talents and find MY whatever. Ministry is where I focus on you and become God's tool to transform you, not serve but transform you, into what God has created you to be.

I am wondering if you, or me for that matter, is really called to that?

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


New Vision

Kruse Kronicle is one of the best blogs out there if you like to "go deep." He recently concluded a series on the image of family in scripture. I loved his conclusion:
The Household of God and the notion of fictive family were metaphors used by Jesus and the apostles to form alternative plausibility structures for the people of God. Identities were redefined and the nature of interaction with others was changed by these images. The metaphors created a sense of unity, solidarity, and belonging. They focused the mission of the group and gave their work eschatological meaning. It also generated a support network as each pursued their own walk with God. As people were in community with each other, the reality of the coming Kingdom took on a tangible quality.

It seems to me that we have lost our plausibility structures. We offer no compelling narrative that can reshape individual narratives in our present context. Our identities are left largely untouched, we do not experience unity, we are clueless about the mission of God in the world, and we wonder if anything we do has eternal significance. Through it all we frequently feel alone and without adequate support.
This brings up a striking thought. As society degrades, we are robbed of tools that we use to understand our relationship to God, creation, and each other. Can you think of a better justification to fight for the cultural relevance of our faith? The culture wars matter in a very real sense, not because we want society to function better, although it will, but because it is a part of spreading the gospel.

You know it is easy to disengage. The decisions are too hard, the failures too many, but there is much at stake. We must take our strength from the source - the source we wish to introduce other to.

Step one is to remember the goal. Our goal is not a society that works right, our goal is a society that we can bring God into. That might mean we have to do some less obvious things from time-to-time. Worth considering.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Christmas Greetings From The Blogotionals

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Monday, December 24, 2007


Christmas Eve Art

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Sunday, December 23, 2007


Sermons and Lessons

Biographical Note

Edward Increase Bosworth, Professor of New Testament language and literature, Oberlin Theological Seminary, Ohio, 1892- 1926; dean 1903-1924; born Dundee, Ill., January 10, 1861; graduated from Elgin Academy, Ill., 1877; student Oberlin College, 1879-81; graduated from Yale, 1883; Oberlin Theological Seminary, 1886; student at the University of Leipsic, 1890,1; Congregational clergyman; pastor, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, 1886,7; professor. of English Bible, 1887-90; author of “Studies in the Acts and Epistles,” “Studies in the Teaching of Jesus and His Apostles,” “Studies in the Life of Jesus Christ,” etc.


“If a son, then an heir." - Gal. 4 : 7.

There is one story that never fails to interest men. It is the story of the real experiences of a human life. If an old man should rise in any audience and describe with absolute frankness the most vitally important experiences of his life, he would hold the attention of his audience to the end. He would describe his earliest recollections of home, parents, brothers and sisters. He would tell of his first boy friend. He would describe the way in which he earned his first dollar. He would tell how he first met, learned to love and asked in marriage her who afterward became his wife. He would speak of the holy sensation of fatherhood that welled up in his heart as he held his first-born in his arms. He would speak of the dumb outcry of his heart as he held the same child in his arms and watched its breathing slowly cease. He would tell the story of the great loves and hates of his life. He would speak of the timid wonder or eager anticipation with which now, in his old age, he looks out upon a near eternity.

God is the supreme inventive genius of the universe. Men are possessed of wonderful inventive genius that has expressed itself in all the countless devices of modern civilization. We may say of them in homely phrase that in this particular they simply “take after” their Father, who is Himself the supreme inventive genius. So far as we know, the supreme product of His infinite inventive genius is the situation which we call plain, commonplace daily life. Nothing else is more wonderful than the daily relation of a man to his personal and physical environment, that we call plain daily life.

What is the meaning of this experience, the story of which never fails to interest men? What is the purpose of this situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God? What is life for? The answer is to be sought from the standpoint of the text - the Fatherhood of God: “If a son, then an heir.” God appears as a Father of sons whom He wishes to be His heirs. Human life is a situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God, in which to train sons for an inheritance of power by teaching them to use power in a friendly spirit.

There are certain things implied in this statement of the purpose of life. It is implied that God is a Father who has vast power to bequeath. The evidences of it are on every side. It is said that if one of the fiery whirlstorms on the sun should occur on the surface of the earth, it would be in the Gulf of Mexico thirty seconds after it had left the St. Lawrence, and everything in its track would be a hot vapor. The words that God left ringing in the ears of men, when He launched the race upon its career, were calculated to arouse expectation of power: “Subdue the earth,” “Have dominion.” The words which Jesus spoke to His fellow men at the close of His life of marvelous manifestation of power were also calculated to make them expect to exercise power. “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do.”

It is implied that God is an ambitious Father, ambitious to see His sons make the most of themselves. We sometimes think of God as a Sovereign whose plans are good for the world as a whole, but involve so much of hardship and limitation for the individual that a man may well wish to have the least possible personal connection with them. Such is not Paul’s thought. To him God is indeed a Sovereign, but a sovereign Father, ambitious to see His sons become His heirs.

It is implied also that God is a conscientious Father, too conscientious to allow His sons to become His heirs unless they are fit to possess that which He would bequeath. Heir-ship was once synonymous with license. The heir to the throne was allowed certain exemptions from ordinary obligations. He might gratify his appetites with a disregard of consequences unpardonable in the case of other men. But with advancing ideas of the responsibilities inseparable from the possession of power this idea is largely passing away. He who would inherit must be trained into fitness for the inheritance. It is said that one of the present European sovereigns gave little promise as a child of ever being fit for the inheritance that would naturally come to him. His father, however, was a conscientious man, and systematically set about the process of making his son fit for heirship. He provided for his physical development, gave him military training, educated him in the branches of learning most essential to statesmanship, and in every way so devoted himself to the preparation of his son for the responsibilities of heirship that, finally, when the prince inherited the kingdom, few rulers were better fitted than he for the responsibilities of power.

That human life is a situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God, in which to teach His sons to use power in a friendly spirit is evident from several considerations:

The nature of life as revealed in its two most characteristic features shows that it is intended to serve this purpose. It may seem difficult to determine what features of life ought to be selected as characteristic. We naturally look for something very generally present in life and of fundamental significance. Perhaps, nothing more exactly meets this requirement than the phenomenon of human suffering, and the family.

Suffering is a universal and vitally significant feature of human life. Who escapes it? It begins with the physical pains of infancy. How many thousands lie today suffering in hospitals! How many millions suffer pain outside the merciful ministrations of the hospital! But who is there who lives long without knowing something of the suffering that is keener than bodily pain, the suffering of the soul, in all the violent passion or steady, relentless oppression of sorrow in its manifold forms? We may be unable to form a complete philosophy of suffering, but this much is at once evident: It makes a powerful appeal for the friendly use of power. Especially is this seen to be the case in our day when easy combination and swift transmission of power make it possible for a large number of men, each of whom has a little power, quickly to apply that power in a friendly way to any remote point of need. It is possible for thousands of persons, each with a small amount of personal power represented in his single dollar, to accumulate a sum of money within a few hours in the hands of a reliable central agency that will cable it to the other side of the world and release it there in some form of personal activity that shall he the friendly relief of suffering.

By the side of the phenomenon of suffering stands the family as a great characteristic feature of human life. A large part of the significance of the family consists in the training it affords its members in the friendly use of power. A little child is born into the world, “an appetite and a cry.” Very soon an appeal is made to the little soul for love. It is the appeal of the mother’s eyes. The appeal of the father is soon made and felt to be different from that of the mother. In time a third appeal is made by the baby brother, and a fourth, different from the other three, by the baby sister. The child becomes a man and loves a woman. The appeal of the wife for love; that is, for the friendly use of power, differs from any that have preceded it. When a baby boy lies in the father’s arms a new appeal is made, and the appeal of the baby girl touches a new chord in the father’s heart. The seven-fold appeal of father, mother, brother, sister, wife, son, daughter, which is experienced in the fully developed family relationship, constitutes an appeal for the friendly use of power that can be matched by no creation of the imagination. When one looks, therefore, into the nature of human life as expressed in its two characteristic features, human suffering and the family, he is constrained to regard it as a situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God in which to teach His children to use power in a friendly spirit, and presumably with reference to giving them larger bequests of power.

The truth of this proposition also becomes evident when we recognize that this conception underlay Jesus’ theory of life. When the rich young senator came to Him as to an expert professional prophet, asking Him to specify something the doing of which would guarantee him the advantages of “eternal life,” Jesus simply directed him to begin at once to use the power he already possessed in a friendly spirit. He pointed out to him the suffering on every side and told him to begin to use his possessions in relieving it.

Jesus’ general teaching regarding the proper use of money is based on this theory of life. “Make to yourselves friends,” he said, “by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, so that when it shall fail they may receive you into eternal tabernacles” (Luke, 16:9). That is, a man’s money power is to be used in a friendly spirit that will lay the foundations for eternal friendships. When two men meet for the first time in the age to come, it will be discovered that one is there because of the friendly spirit in which the other once used his money to meet the great needs of those whom he did not then know personally, and who perhaps lived in other lands. Jesus regarded money as a comparatively low form of power put into a man‘s hands for a little time in order that he might learn to use it in a friendly way and so prepare himself to be trusted with higher forms of power. “If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” How can the Church expect God to trust it with any such large degree of prayer power as is described in the great promises of achievement through prayer, until it has first learned to use the lower money power in a friendly spirit? Jesus regarded money as something that really belongs to another. It often comes to us by inheritance from another, and is certain at death to pass from us to another. It remains in our hands a little while in order that by using it in a friendly way we may be prepared to inherit some higher form of power that we can carry out into the eternal future as our permanent possession. “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”

Jesus not only held this view of life as a theory, but He actually used human life as a situation in which to prepare men for an inheritance of power by teaching them to use power in a friendly way. The salvation which He brings to men is one which saves them to this kind of life. There is no more striking evidence of the seriousness of sin than the fact that the powerful appeal made by life itself is not sufficient to induce men to use power in a friendly way. There is still need that a great Savior should enter the situation and bring the persuasive power of His own friendly personality to bear upon men. But human life, as we have conceived it, is a situation big enough for, and suitable to, the operations of a great Savior. It affords Him the opportunity He needs to link men’s lives in with His own ever-present life, and to train them through personal association with Himself in the friendly use of power. He not only pointed out the suffering poor to the rich young man who came inquiring about eternal life, and directed him to use his money in their relief, but He said also, “Come, follow me.” He proposed to attach the man permanently to Himself and to the friendly enterprise into which He was leading His disciples. The disciples of Jesus were a company of men being personally trained by Him in the friendly use of power. They were to be specialists in friendship: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The Church of Jesus Christ is not a club which men and women join for what they can get out of it, but it is a company of men and women banded together to be trained by the living Lord in the friendly use of power. They keep the searchlight of their investigation playing all round the world’s horizon, and when it falls upon some point of special need, to that point some members of this Christly company hasten with power for its relief.

It is further evident that human life is a situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God in which to prepare sons for an inheritance of power by teaching them to use power in a friendly spirit, because human life has actually been serving this purpose. When we look back over the long history of human life in the world, it is evident that God has fairly been crowding more power into the hands of men, as fast as they have learned to use what they already had with even an imperfect degree of friendliness. This is seen, for instance, in the case of explosives. Men in the brutal first century of our era could not be trusted to use the power of modern explosives. We see evidences enough of brutality still, but if some new explosive should be discovered that would destroy the lives of a million men in an instant, there is now a friendly sentiment in the hearts of men that would instantly demand the elimination of this explosive from modern warfare.

In the industrial development of our day, increasing power is being put into the hands of employers and employed, as men are able to use it with increasing, though imperfect, friendliness. Once neither employers nor employed could have been safely trusted with the power that organization has given to both parties, but now the growing sense of responsibility for the general welfare makes it safe to give larger power to both. It seems probable that vast industrial enterprises conducive to human welfare lie just ahead of us, which can be undertaken only when men have been trained to use power with a friendliness that will make it safe to trust them with the great increase of power that these enterprises will demand.

Human life, then, by its very nature, by Jesus’ theory and use of it, by what it has already accomplished through the centuries, is seen to be a situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God, in which to train sons for an inheritance of power by teaching them to use power in a friendly spirit.

It is in the light of this conception of the meaning of life that the peril of living appears. The danger is that men will refuse to learn the friendly use of power, and therefore be unable to inherit the bequests of power that would naturally await them. Such failure means unspeakable loss. He who throws himself athwart the deep trend of the long evolution of life inevitably suffers indescribable disaster. It is of him that the most ominous words of Jesus are spoken. The power that he has will be taken from him and be given to him that has shown himself fit to be trusted with large and growing grants of power - ”Take away the talent from him and give it to him that bath ten talents.” From the farmer who refuses to sow his seed the seed shall be taken and given to him who has it in abundance and is willing to sow it, for seed must he sown that God’s children may have bread- “He will be cast out into the outer darkness,” eliminated from Jesus’ civilization of friendly workmen. Over against these busy friendly workmen, to whom, as they work together, God gives growing grants of power, the persistently selfish man putters away ever more feebly and painfully in his little Only self-made hell. The peril is that men will not see the significance of plain daily life, with its commonplace and constantly recurring opportunity to learn to use power in a friendly spirit. The men that stood for judgment before the Son of Man cried out in surprised chagrin, “When saw we thee hungry and thirsty?” They had not noticed the significance of daily life. It is those with the least power, one-talent people, who are in greatest danger. They are too proud to do the little they can do because it will appear to others to be so little - “Others can do it so much better than I.” Or the little power they- possess is not sufficiently impressive to overcome the wicked lethargy of their anemic good will - "It is too much trouble.” So they merit the descriptive words of Jesus, “wicked and slothful,” proud and lazy, and pass out into the sphere of self-wrecked personalities.

But, on the other hand, this view of the meaning of life gives birth to a great hope. The man who has only a little power, and who faithfully uses it in the friendly spirit of a son of God, is certain to inherit vastly increased power. He lives in a generous economy in which he who is “faithful over a few things” will surely be “set over many things.’’ It is this conception of the future life as one of achievement that appeals to the strong men of our age. We do not like to think of the future life as one of endless rest. We do not care to sing:

There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of endless rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.

Tennyson rather has struck the chord to which our age responds, when he says of his departed friend:

And doubtless unto thee is given
A life that bears immortal fruit
In those great offices that suit
The full-grown energies of heaven.

The thought of “the full-grown energies of heaven” and the opportunity for their exercise that “heaven” must afford, makes immortality seem worth while. The sons of God are to inherit a career. Men may walk the shores of the “silent sea” not shivering and cowering with fear of death, but feeling rather as Columbus did when he finally got his three ships, and sailed away expecting to find opportunity for great achievements beyond. They may walk the shore like spiritual Vikings, ready to start out on a beneficent career of high adventure. They may feel an enthusiasm for eternity which will

Greet the unseen with a cheer!

But all this future outlook is for him who has present insight into the meaning of daily life and who puts himself under the daily discipline of Jesus. The homespun language of Sam Foss expresses his deep desire.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by -
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in a scorner ‘s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Human life is a situation devised by the infinite ingenuity of God, in which to prepare sons for an inheritance of power by teaching them to use power in a friendly spirit. “If a son, then an heir.”

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