Saturday, June 12, 2010


Comic Art


Peter Laird

Joe Madueira and Tim Townsend

Scottie Young

Eastman and Laird (the originals)

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Friday, June 11, 2010


Making God Real

Michael Spencer, as his cancer slowly took his life, wrote:
We need to remember that each day dying people are waiting for the word of death and RESURRECTION.

The are a lot of different kinds of Good News, but there is little good news in “My argument scored more points than you argument.” But the news that “Christ is risen!” really is Good News for one kind of person: The person who is dying.

If Christianity is not a dying word to dying men, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now.
Those are intense words when you consider the situation - intense indeed. God is real and Christianity matters - not in a "That's a great idea!" sense, but in the sense that it changes how we, individually live and how we individually die.

If we do not spread that gospel, it;s because we do not hold that gospel, so we have to start with ourselves. If you were in Micheal's shoes would you have the joy of Christ's resurrection, or would you be asking "Why me?"

We need to find ways, short of our impending death to experience the reality of the gospel. And I don;t think it needs to be the outstandlingly miraculous as our Pentecostal siblings would have us believe. There are thousands of miracles in our lives everyday if we are but open to them.

But not only do we need to see them as miracles - we need to thank God for them for He alone is their origination and source.

So many times we let our thoughts of these things get in the way of the reality of them. We need to stop thinking about being a Christian and just be one.

And praise God for Michale's ministry in his final days.

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Friday Humor

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Thursday, June 10, 2010


Self Deception

Milt Stanley
links to Jeff Weddle on reasons to love:
Christians often define love as “self-sacrifice for the benefit of another with no desire for personal gain.” In general I don’t think this is bad, probably not heretical. At the same time, it might be wrong.

1 Corinthians 13 says things like “I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

The implication is that only by loving others do we actually gain a profit! In other words, love is actually the only way your self can gain!

Does this not make love self-serving? If we love someone so we profit, isn’t this more like capitalism than selfless sacrifice?
Jeff concludes:
A person who thinks they are loving someone else with no thought of personal gain is closer to being a Pharisee than being like Christ.
There is a difference between "thoughts" of personal gain and actual personal gain. Indeed the self-sacrificial love modeled by Christ and to which we aspire is the only means by which we can come into Christ's image and that is indeed the ultimate personal gain. But we should do so without thought of that personal gain. Weddle contends:
Even Christ Himself did not sacrifice Himself on the Cross with no thought of personal gain. He endured the cross for the “joy set before Him!” It was because He was cast down at the cross that He was exalted on high for eternity.
In the first place - Christ is God, His exaltation was secure with or without the cross - He died to restore His creation and He indeed derived joy from that, but He is God and therefore by definition the ultimate ego.

However, He had gotten along just fine prior to the cross, and could continue to do so for eternity. His joy was not for His sake, but for ours. His joy was in the love that we received.

When one mines a precious metal, say gold. One usually also derives other metals, typically silver, sometimes others. But it remains the gold that you are after. If you start to focus on silver recovery, you leave money in the ore because you have not optimized the process for the true value - gold.

So it is with our own self-sacrifice. We derive great benefit from it, but such benefit is by-product. However, if we focus on that benefit, we leave much behind.

The idea is indeed to be without thought of self. Then and only then can we experience the ultimate benefit.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Membership and Committment

Skye Jethani quotes Rick Warren for a conference on the Out of Ur blog:
Warren shot down the notion that membership isn’t important as long as people attend the church. “The difference between an attender and a member is the difference between living together and getting married. A lot of people want to date the church, but they don’t want to get married. That is spiritual adultery.”

Radical membership is an act of commitment, not conformity. It’s about belonging to God’s family and being a contributor and not just a consumer. “if you’re going to build a healthy, mature church you are going to have to understand the meaning of radical membership.”
I love the living together/marriage analogy there - that's powerful stuff. And what many people do not think about is that there is very practical implications to this stuff. One such implication is that attenders donate a little, members donate a lot. Among the other commitments one makes when joining a church, financial ones are a biggie.

Forget the people mill mega churches for a minute and look at the average mid-sized church 200-400 people. The vast majority of the income comes from older people that have been members for decades. And this is where the marriage analogy comes back into play.

Think about the couple you know that did not get divorced because they'd both end up poor. Most such couple I know end up reconciling somehow. They do not stay estranged but married, they find a way to make the relationship work.

Church membership, and the financial entanglements it implies creates much the same situation. Obstacles to leaving the church also serve as pathways to reconciliation.

When you think about it, this analogy extends much further. In general, Evangelicalism seems to be content with "living together" with God. We are satisfied when we get people to acknowledge that Jesus is their significant other.

But we are to be the bride of Christ. Are we calling people to faith that radical?

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Not The Whole Story

Al Mohler cannot seem to resist taking shots at us Presbyterians lately. One of his latest salvos came in light of the recent survey about what most Presbyterians believe, or in this case do not believe. I am not going to disagree that the results are disheartening - even grossly so. But I will argue with Mohler's diagnosis of the root of the problem:
Make no mistake — in the end, vanishing theological boundaries will amount to vanishing Christianity. This report makes that point with devastating clarity.
Mohler here tries to uncircularize the proverbial chicken-and-egg dilemma by picking up his pet peeve - theology. You see, long before belief started to slip in the Presbyterian church, behavioral standards did.

It used to be verbotten to ordain the divorced - we used to not perform marriages for couples that had lived together - we used to strictly enforce tithing standards for those in leadership. Now you try and do those things, and well, ostracization is putting it kindly.

So which came first, theological liberalization or behavioral? I would submit they came hand in hand. I know when I last argued about ordination of practicing homosexuals, the ordination of the divorced was brought up as justification - no theological argument - just "We already ordain those whose sexual practice in compromised, why start drawing 'artificial' lines?"

At approximately the same time, Timothy McConnell at CGO listed "Five Principles for Mainline Resurgence":
One: Gospel Preaching.

Two: Culture Making.

Three: Reclaiming History.

Four: Ancient/Future Faith.

Five: Reunification.
Good points all, but regarding point two McConnell says:
The downtown church is well-positioned to make something of the world in which we live; to hear the needs of the town or city and respond creatively. The church that's been there for one hundred years still has a voice on the town planning committee, the parade committee, or the commission to address need. Mainline churches have forgotten that they have gifts for this work, which is ironic.
Fair enough, but the church has to first remake its internal culture - a culture that upholds what is pure and right.

We can preach until we are blue in the face, but unless the church becomes demonstrable different from the greater culture, the slide will only continue.

This is a harsh word and it means things will get worse before they get better. Simply reinstituting divorce standards for the offices of the church will result in a severe labor and leader shortage. So be it - we are guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, He will sustain us.

This does not mean we "hate" divorced people - it means that divorced people have other issues they have to get straightened out before they are suitable for leadership. Let's face it - if they break their vows to their spouses, what assurance do we have they will abide by the vow they make to the church? We should comfort and console them - offer them our love and help them grow to maturity. There is hope for the divorced as their is hope for all of us sinners - but we cannot pretend like it is not sin.

Let's make that first principle "gospel preaching and internal cultural restoration" - then we'll be getting somewhere.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, June 07, 2010


When We Think We Know...

Whatever notoriety this blog may claim to possess, which isn't much, came largely in the overwhelming expression of public sentiment in the the last days of Terri Schiavo. One of the great sadnesses of my life is how quickly that has faded. I think the essential insolubility of the problem makes people very emotional, but very unwilling to do the hard work. And yet, data about the issue continues to roll in.

Joe Carter reports at First Things about a new study:
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that five of fifty-four patients thought to be in a persistent vegetative state showed brain activity indicating awareness, intent and, in at least one case, a wish to communicate.
I think the rapidness with which the Schiavo mania faded is reflective of the same underlying emotional stuff that makes us so rapidly "write-off" those of diminished capacity in all its forms.

I note it in the varied reactions of many to my mother as she increasingly fades into the nothingness of senile dementia. Those around her can be be pretty easily divided into two schools - those that see only the remaining physical hull and those that still see my mother. I am of the later school. My mother is ever harder to access in that fading vessel, but she remains there. Yes, I have to work harder and harder to access what remains, but it does remain.

Those less willing to work as hard do so out of a complex mix of personal and emotional reasoning. They know of the very sacrificial nature of my parents and their lack of desire to ever burden anyone so they justify their willingness to leave her behind as "honoring her wishes." They are busy people with problems all their own and they feel overwhelmed by the hard work necessary to access what is left of my mother. Each encounter with my mother requires a bit of mourning as she inches, every so slowly, to her death - many simply want to avoid that unpleasantness. And finally many do not want to be confronted with their own inevitable fates. I can describe these feeling because I know them intimately and experience them daily.

And then I reflect on my Lord - a Lord confronted with a people perfectly happy in their fallen state - a people that did not wish to be wish to be saved, and yet he died in precisely that effort. I think of a Lord, covered in sweat and blood through the intensity of His desire to be saved from the great sacrifice that awaited Him, begging His heavenly Father not to have to do it. I think of Him carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem and allowing those without the power to do so, to nail Him to it.

I see Him, from that cross, reaching out to the tiny, inaccessible shred of life that dwells deep inside each of the dead and dying sinners of the world and pulling that life forward.

When a Lord will do that, how can I stand by and not make the very minor sacrifices necessary to access what life remains in my mother or a Terri Schiavo? Joe Carter is correct when he writes:
Last November I wrote that when future generations judge our era, one of the areas where they’ll likely be aghast is our treatment of those who we regard as lacking consciousness.
Though I think "aghast" is too gentle a word - "appalled" works much better.

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