Saturday, November 09, 2013


Comic Art

OK - I think I have discovered the first true miracle in comics. Continuity is the lifeblood of comics. Combing the archives, finding a villain from way back when and resurrecting him as the new world beater so the fans can claim they remembered the weirdo when kinda makes the whole collector world go around. Backstories, origins and details are all preserved so that future writers can look stuff up for precisely that reason. But then I ran across the Crumbler. And I quote:
History of character is unknown.
But we got pictures! And so, here you are a - bona fide comic miracle.

Friday, November 08, 2013


What You Hug

Jonathan Parnell @ DG:
God’s wisdom gives us another picture. Believers in Jesus don’t have an Achilles’ heel — we are an Achilles’ heel.

Here’s what I mean: Greek mythology shows us an invincible warrior with one weakness that when exploited leads to defeat; Christian reality shows us a dependent servant with thorough weakness that when exploited leads to triumph.


The context, of course, determines the specific meaning of weakness, but every use is connected back to the general idea of deficiency. If there were one broad explanation for weakness, it would be to lack. Weakness means we don’t have what it takes. It means we are neither sovereign nor omniscient, nor invincible. We are not in control, we don’t know everything, and we can be stopped. Weakness means that we desperately need God. And the plea for my own soul, and for yours, is that we would embrace weakness, not despise it.
I understand what Parnell is up to here, and I agree with him, particularly when he gets into the consequences of "embracing weakness." However, too often I have seen people embrace too much stuff with weakness. They embrace hopelessness; they embrace laziness; they embrace cheap grace. In other words, in coming to understand their dependence on God, they just stop trying. They "wait on the Lord" to the point of lethargy.

The problem with such an approach is that it is presumptive of God's grace. But grace is a gift - one God did not have to grant, nor continue to grant.

When we embrace weakness, we must also embrace gratitude. We must be wholly and eternally grateful for the gifts we are given to assist us in our weakness.


Friday Humor

Thursday, November 07, 2013


Church, Not Event

9Marks previews a book review:
“The culture has changed, therefore the church must change.” That refrain, whether expressed or assumed, is the dominant motif of much of today’s church literature. And almost always, I’m unconvinced. Too often evangelicals mistake superficial trends for tectonic shifts. And too often we simply mirror the culture, as if what the world really needed was for the church to be just like it.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ new book Everyday Church does highlight recent shifts in Western culture, and it calls for churches to change in response. Yet refreshingly, their analysis of culture and prescriptions for change hit the mark just about every time.


The main premise of Everyday Church is that churches in the United Kingdom, and increasingly in America, are facing a post-Christendom world yet relying on evangelistic methods left over from Christendom. For generations we have tended to subsist on capital generated by a church-saturated culture, but now that the culture has shifted underfoot we are overdrawing our account.

When church occupied a central place in the culture, we could expect people to come to us. So church growth proponents of various stripes focused on providing the best Sunday-service product as defined by the tastes of a targeted clientele. But now, increasing numbers of people simply have no background in church and no desire to go to church. We cannot entice them to come to us, which means that we have to go to them.

Click here to read the whole review.
There is a lot of wisdom there. We tend to think of "church" as a location or event, but it is not. Now even that statement is cliche' for many. But the cliche' stops there - no one goes on to say what church really is.

Certainly there is a place and a need for gathering, but church is more.

There is the old "body of Christ" thing, but this too seems to ill-defined.

Or is it? Quick - define a "cat." Did whatever you come up with adequately distinguish between a house cat and a mountain lion? I bet not. The point? Living things are hard to define and even harder to control, because you cannot control what you cannot define. And i think that is the heart of the problem. We want the church to be something well-defined and controllable. Yet, it is anything but. It is a living breathing organism, full of will (and ill-will.)

But, like most organisms one of its basic purposes is to grow and reproduce - if we will only let it.


Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Making The Important Trival

Jon Acuff:
Recently I spoke at an event where they did “traditional” worship music. What does that mean?

There aren’t lasers, and you don’t sing “Blessed be your name.” That’s about it. Cleared that up pretty quickly. You’re welcome.

But, during this classic worship, we did something I’ve missed for years in modern approaches. The echo.

Remember that?

When I was a kid, the best part of worship was when the guys and the girls would part ways. The men would sing a verse, and the women would echo or vice versa.

We used to always do this on the song “All in All.” Man, oh man, we echo chambered that song like a boss. Nowadays, though, the echo is considered as old-fashioned as the phrase “Sunday School.” (What are you, Amish?)

My biggest regret, though, is that as a kid I always thought it would be awesome to have someone echo the words I said. I wanted someone to travel with, me just quietly echoing everything I said. Can you imagine how great that would be?
I know, it's Acuff's schtick to be irreverent and funny and all that, but the cynicism there is dripping and I find it problematic. What he is doing here is reducing important questions to trivial questions with his "humorous" treatment of them. Ley me break this down a bit.

The difference between "contemporary" and "traditional" worship is about much more than simply music choice and technology. If that is all you change, where I come from that is called "blended" worship. Nay, the differences are in the order and structure of worship and the place of sacrament. These are things that establish a narrative, a tone, and a way of thinking for the participant in the service. Form matters.

His dismissal of "echoes" is extraordinary. It is a cousin of the responsive reading, also now considered the stuff of antiquity. Yet what these are really are not just forms of media - they are teaching tools. The echo is a way of teaching music when people cannot read words or music. The responsive reading is a technique for memorization. Even in this hyper-literate, media savvy age, those are worth something. Few people memorize scripture anymore. And when they do it is short phrases, sometimes less than a verse, not the extended passages of responsive readings.

I will not go on and on about this. Suffice it to say that we need to be careful about what we treat lightly. Sometimes there are reasons for things.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013



Chaplain Mike adds perspective to understanding church scandal:
We can pursue and abuse money, sex, and power in any number of ways and in a variety of contexts, including religious communities. In fact, religion often provides the perfect context in which the world, flesh, and devil may work, because those involved in the spiritual life are often trusting and devoted toward their leaders, and leaders learn quickly that there are many places and ways to hide in the world of the sacred.


and came together, only to find that the world, flesh, and devil tend to make their presence known even at the Communion table, in the person behind the pulpit, when leaders come together to make decisions, and among the members of the congregation when people who are different and have different ways want to join in and be part of the community.

Ananias and Sapphira threatened to bring a financial scandal upon the Church in its earliest days. The Corinthians brought a world of sexually immoral practices into the sanctuary. A host of people in and around the Church followed the path of Diotrephes, who “liked to put himself first” and have the power. Etc., etc., etc.


Surely, from the beginning of the Christian way, it has been necessary for every believer to pray the words of Nehemiah: “Both I and my family have sinned.”

If our hearts know anything of God’s love in Christ, we will advocate for those who “hunger and thirst for justice,” the poor and meek who mourn and suffer under the leadership of those who are not merciful nor pure of heart, who seek power not peace, and who cause suffering by playing the part of persecutors rather than following the way of the Cross.
When there is scandal int he church - even when it is that congregation over there - the scandal reflects on all of us. Sometimes it is easy to denounce and decry, but sometimes it is also necessary to confess. IF we are part of the church, then we own part of that church's sin. I cannot help but wonder if wee confessed more, and denounced less, might the church not be a much better place? Might not our confession place that problem before the Throne of Grace and bring a healing to the situation that we cannot?

I must examine my own heart for in such situations I often enjoy the condemnation just a little too much - which is a sin of itself.


Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, November 04, 2013


Ralphie and the Decoder Ring

Church Marketing Sucks writes all about branding your church design:
I’m grateful I get to be a part of the process for these churches in the area of design. I’m blessed by the conversations we have with these pastors and volunteers on how effective communication pieces (and everything is a communication piece) helps them reach their congregations and communities. Through those conversations, we end up exploring and creating in areas of branding and identity, sermon branding, and promotions and advertising.
I don't know, for some reason when I read this whole post this scene from the classic "A Christmas Story" came to mind -

Way too many time it seems like the brand gets promoted over the product. That's what happened to Ralphie here. It got stuck in a never ending promotional loop. He wanted product - that is to say he wanted the decoder ring to lead to something other than just more Ovaltine. I cannot help but contemplate how often church is like that - we make grandiose promises of what we will deliver and all we deliver is a different means of promoting the brand.

All the talk you hear these days about wanting authenticity and genuineness - I cannot help but wonder if much of that desire is rooted in this phenomena - churches promoting the brand, when they should be selling product. We create puffery when we hold in our hands the most solid and valuable product in the world.

Branding is a concept used in marketing to create the impression of added-value, when often the product is indistinct from so many other product. Why do we need to create the impression of added value? Why is our message viewed as one of many of equal value? Do we even really believe in its value?

I do not think the use of technique can make up for the fact that we do not understand the value of what it is we sell. If we did, we would not need the technique.

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