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Friday, January 29, 2010

Bishop Wright is Now Messing With Hell

Ur Video: NT Wright on Hell | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm Guessing This Might Be a Smidge Better Than a Newton

Apple - iPad - The best way to experience the web, email and photos

I admit it openly.  Apple comes out with a new gadget.  I want one.  They could come out with a new pencil and I'd want that too.  I watched some of Steve Jobs presentation online today.  I kept waiting for him to say,"Oh and one more thing ..." but he never did.  Overall, I love to watch them do business and see how they think.  They see the world, it's future, information and life paradigms in ways that most others do not.  They see possibilities.  They dream huge dreams.  Very inspiring.  Think different.

Let Them Choose When They Grow Up

Beth was the bookkeeper in the office I was in that day.  She knew I had been a pastor, so for whatever reason, she believed I was some religious authority and came to me for counsel.

"Steve, I was wondering about something.  These kids at Little League keep inviting my kids to Awana.  Do you know what that is?"  I said, "Yeah, it's a program for children that many churches run.  Many kids like it.  Did your kids go?" 

"Well, not yet.  I'm hesitant to let them go.  I grew up Catholic and had to go to CCD classes and hated them and never wanted to make my confirmation but my mother guilted me into doing it.  I promised myself way back when that I was never going to force some religion on my kids when I had them.  I'm going to let them choose their own religion.  I believe that's what's best for them."

I said, "Do you really? Do you want him to grow up to be a fundamentalist Christian who hates gays?" "Well, no." I knew she didn't want that. "Do want him to grow up Muslim and have 4 wives?  You would have 4 daughters-in-law all at once. Won't that make family gatherings interesting?"  She laughed and commented about how she might like having all those grandkids.  "How about one of the indigenous groups that smokes pot at their gatherings?"  I smirked.  Before she could answer I said, "What about the UFO cult? Santeria? I know, I know, those are a little far fetched. How about something more mainstream? How about Christian Science? Jehovah's Witness, going door-to-door with literature and religious sales pitch?  Are you good with any of those?"

She crossed her arms and contorted her face at me.  I knew what she meant and said so.  "I know what you mean.  You think I'm just playing with you."  "Exactly.", she said. 

"In truth I'm not. I just want you to see that you really don't want your kids to grow up and choose their religion when they are able to.  You really don't.  Maybe you never verbalized it before but you really don't.  For their safety and welfare and for the welfare of the community and human race, you really don't.  Does that make sense at all?"

"Yes, but I don't want to force mine or anyone else's religion on them."  I interrupted. "I understand.  You don't want them blindly following something they don't believe in.  You want them to participate not out of peer or parent pressure but because they genuinely believe."  "Right," she said, "And I want them to understand ... to be old enough to understand.  Who is to say one is right and the other is not?"

"But Beth, that was part of my point.  All religions aren't created equal.  There are literally hundreds of religions and variations within religions.  Some are bizarre yet benign.  Some are wicked, filled with hate.  Then there is the crown jewel of all religions -- yes, I'm biased -- Christianity, with a god who is the lover of all humanity.  But bottom line they are not all the same.

"Being a lunatic fringe Christian in the KKK, or an extremist Muslim or Hindu, or a follower of David Koresh, is not the same as being Anglican or Wesleyan  or Jewish. Some religions hurt people. Agreed?"  "Well, yeah sure. I mean, I don't really know what all those religions believe. But I don't want my kids believing it's OK to hurt someone."

"See Beth, the truth is that you have standards for what beliefs are good and not.  Even though you may not have known it, you do not believe all religions are equal.  And you really don't want your kids to grow up and choose whatever religion.  Some would scare you."  "I guess your right." she said. "I just want them to be happy."

"Awana won't kill them." I said, "But maybe it's time for you to start investigating what you believe."  She's going to give that some thought.

News of the Episcopal Weird Again

VirtueOnline - Wicca's Invitation  "Pagan practices are meeting with an increasingly receptive audience in the Episcopal Church. Is it the consequence of an unmet need?" --Jeff Walton is Communications Manager and Anglican Staffer for the Institute on Religion & Democracy.

It's not the first time we've heard of pagan and non-Christian rites and practices finding their way into the Episcopal Church but this article makes it sound slightly more widespread than even I thought.

That Same Experience as I Had When I Read A New Kind of Christian

So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore

What if there were no pastors, no worship services, no church committees, no professional ministry persons, no buildings, very few organized meetings -- not even structured home churches -- and everyone just did their best to follow Jesus? Would we still have the church?

I'm a little slow. Apparently many people have read this already but I got to it today. It was a similar experience for me as to when I read A New Kind of Christian by Brian Mclaren. It's a paradigm challenging book.

Essentially it's challenging whether the machinery of the local church really does cause us to grow closer to Jesus and become more like him. And, I think even more importantly, it's a challenge for us to think about whether Jesus really does lead us and our church.

It is also challenging whether or not our current programmatic model is producing disciples or even Biblical.

That said. I'm going to have to think about this one for a while. Have you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pick a New Browser

Should you stop using Internet Explorer? -- Telegraph.co.uk

Uh, YES! Right now preferably.

I have another blog that exists just as a toy.  I use it to sample blog skins or themes or other things to learn about XHTML or CSS:  Best Mac Browsers.  It hasn't been updated in over a year and doesn't have Chrome listed on it but even a year ago there were a slew of other great browser choices out there.  And even years ago, there were government intelligence departments claiming to move away from Explorer because of high security risks.  But IE continues being used by many despite numerous warnings through the years.

If you're using IE right now, just do yourself a favor and stop it.  It'll probably take you less than 15 minutes to switch and you'll be that much safer and probably even happier.  Maybe I'll update Best Mac Browsers later today and add Chrome but seriously pick one of these great browsers:  Firefox, Safari, Opera or Chrome. OR, if you want something smoking fast choose Camino.

I think they will all import your Favorites/Bookmarks from IE and are safer.  Download them all and try them out.  There are advantages to each.  Opera can handle your torrent requests AND you can use it as a server to serve up files for friends.  Firefox lets me synch bookmarks across computers though I also use Delicious.  They all do tabbed browsing which is important to me.  I usually have 3-4 windows open with multiple tabs in each.  Personally I use Firefox day-to-day but occasionally Camino.

Google Fixes "Isalm Is" Bug

Over a week ago, I read at VirtueOnline that if you type the words "Christianity is" or "Judaism is" or "Buddhism is" or some other "[religion] is", Google Suggests will make a number of suggestions such as  "... is bulls***" or "... is a false" or "... a lie, a cult, not a religion, dying, etc."  But if you typed in "Isalm is" it made absolutely no suggestions at all. None. Nunc. Nada. Not even good ones.

Google was getting just creamed on this across the blogosphere and eventually they came out with a statement that said it was "a bug" -- like it was a programming error of some sort. Seriously? We're supposed to believe that.

So I tried it last week.  Sure enough.  It's was true.  I did Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, satanism, etc. -- all gave me suggestions.  I typed "Islam is" and I got nothing.  I tried again today and it's been fixed.  Now you get the same nasty results as other religions.

It did make me wonder if Google was living in fear of radical Islam.  Were they scared they were going to be attacked if they suggested nasty things, so they fudged their search engine and just hoped no one would notice?  Maybe even Google can be intimidated.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Christian Radio in the Mohawk Valley & Worldwide


See, that's the beauty of having your own internet radio station.  You're local and worldwide.

For you veterans of Christian radio in the Mohawk Valley -- who listened before the K-LOVE monopoly -- you remember the great voice and personality of Bob Cain.  I had coffee with Bob this week at my new favorite coffeeshop in Rome, Spressos.com.  He and a friend are the catalyst behind this new online radio venture and they have big plans.  You'll be able to listen on your computer and other online media devices.

Certainly don't want to make a disparaging remarks about K-LOVE.  I occasionally enjoy them and my wife and kids enjoy them a lot.  But TheRiver.FM will have a much broader appeal.  K-LOVE has a queue of about 250 of the most popular songs that they play 80+% of every day. TheRiver.FM will have a greater variety.

Watch for their media launch in two weeks.  You're awesome Bob!

Stunning Predictions About Our Culture This Week

USAToday is saying that the kind of sexy TV that would even make it to HBO when I was teen is now going to be on regular TV.  All because sex sells.  And R. York Moore is predicting that slavery and human trafficking will eventually become normal.  A full repost of his Facebook post is below.

Sex on TV: It's increasingly uncut and unavoidable - USATODAY.com

The Coming Acceptance of the Modern-Day Slave Trade
by R. York Moore

I believe that within one or two generations, we could see an acceptance of the modern day slave trade. While I believe it may take longer to conceptually legitimize and commercialize formally, the process for acceptance is already underway. When I began speaking against the evolving human trafficking industry 10 years ago, audiences were horrified as I shared the degrading experiences and overwhelming statistics of victims of bonded labor, sexual exploitation, and human defilement. Over the years, however, I have seen such horror fade though the conviction that these realities are wrong has not yet dissipated. In the early years, I had people stand up during presentations, write me angry e-mails, or call me denying what I was sharing. After speaking in Los Angeles concerning sexual slavery, a woman in the porn industry and an active prostitute called me and yelled, “You are a liar. If what you are saying were true EVERYONE would know about it. This just can’t be true!” Such anger and disbelief has yielded these days to a general acceptance of the pervasiveness of modern day slavery. While this may seem like a good trend, the reality is that we have never been on the right track with regards to dealing with slavery because we have not gone beyond the inherent assumption that it is wrong. The fact that the commoditization of people is an inherent evil is a “felt fact,” not a demonstrated one. With regards to the normal slippery slope of socialized ethics, true, inherent evils are often conditionally accepted, legitimized and then institutionalized over time because we have not done the philosophic or theological work to establish them beyond their “felt fact” status.

A felt fact is one that people could not initially conceive of being any other way. Over time, felt facts are often challenged and regardless of whether they are objectively true or false, come to be softened or even rejected: Blacks are less evolved and therefore less capable and/or intelligent than other races; unborn embryos have the same rights as human beings; the earth is flat; the sun revolves around the earth; homosexuals are degenerates and thus disqualified from equal rights…all of these illustrations and many others at one time were felt facts for a variety of people. A felt fact may be objectively true or objectively false but often they begin and remain for a time as mere assumptions. With regards to the inherent evil and ethical wrong of the commoditization of people through the trafficking industry, who really is to say that this is anything more than a felt fact, one that for a time we react viscerally to but cannot fully articulate why because we have no philosophic or theological foundation to do so. While it may be difficult for most to conceive of a day when slavery would be accepted conditionally, conceptually legitimized, and then institutionalized commercially and politically, such a process has already occurred.

While the great global trans-Atlantic slave trade is the shining horrific illustration of such a process, this same evolution of legitimization is playing itself out all around the world today. The fact that modern day slavery is the fastest growing illegal enterprise, third only to the trafficking in arms and narcotics, demonstrates there is a hunger and demand for the product. The consumption of human beings as household slaves, as sexual play things or as workers for various industries is a growing assumption amongst many people groups. Before the disaster in the small country of Haiti, there were over 300,000 bonded or forced slaves, many of which were children who did not go to school but rather served as the family cook, household maid, and by night sexual play thing. In various parts of Thailand, forced prostitutes and the brothels in which they serve exist in plain site with the full knowledge of the government and police force. Throughout popular tourist destinations off the boarding docks of cruise ships and all inclusive resorts is a seedy underbelly not advertised on Orbitz or Priceline but nevertheless a strong selling point for Westerners seeking the ultimate in sexual gratification, all made possible by rape-for-pay message parlors, dance bars, and mobile brothels. If it is true that there are more slaves today than were trafficked during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, if it is true that this is a $32 billion dollar industry, if it is true that the average age of women forced into sexual slavery is 15 in many countries than it must also be true that there are an awful lot of people who, with our without guilt and shame, are engaged in and endorse through their spending the concept of the commoditization of peoples.

Because of the lack of the perceived value of human life in many places, this process doesn’t always take long. Nevertheless, as Americans emerge from an assumed era of Judeo-Christian ethics and education, we can expect this process to play itself out over and over again with many moral issues. Felt facts will give way to an initial phase of conditional acceptance, then eventually conceptual legitimization, and finally commercial and political institutionalization. What is needed know is for the philosopher and theologian to rise up and begin to lay again the rationale, not necessarily against slavery, but for the a priori value and right for human life. A simple definition of “a priori” knowledge is “knowledge that exists in the mind independent of experience.” A less technical way of saying what we need is a strong, compelling rationale as to why people matter, why they shouldn’t be aborted, bought, sold, raped, butchered, allowed to suffer the evils of dehumanization and all the other ways in which we see and experience the commoditization of people. To be sure, continuing to hear and see the stories of people who suffer at the hands of their powerful oppressors will be needed but this can only go so far. An inherent value must be established, a bulwark conceived in the mind of the philosopher and theologian, birthed in the expression of the arts which can mature in popular culture. This is what we need.

For the philosopher and theologian, it is imperative that their work not be done in a vacuum, some dark room or amidst the dust of irrelevant books whose time has come and gone. The work of theology and philosophy must always be done with the painter, the dancer, with the musician, with the poet-these must be the friends of the philosopher and the theologian. So seamless should this friendship be that to the outside audience there is little to distinguish where the work of theology and philosophy end and the work of the artist begin. Philosopher and prophet, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, understood this relationship-it drove him to envision the transformative community of L’Abri and much of his works on culture. Dr. Scheaffer made the case for the line of influence on culture beginning with the philosopher and theologian to the artist and musician before being enfolded into our cultural understandings and expressions. This process of influence, even in our postmodern milieu, is so undeniable, so tried and true that when it comes to the horrific evils of modern day slavery, any serious treatment of the issue must always extend through all of these levels, beginning with the establishment of a prior truths from the philosopher and theologian in partnership with the artists and exported to society.

I believe that the heroes of our time represent a strange hybrid, a striving for political and academic engagement and way-making for the arts, on the ground involvement with victims and engagement with policy makers and police forces around the world. A lawyer like Gary Haugen, a scholar like David Batstone, and a visionary leader like Richard Sterns are the kind of philosopher/theologians we need in our time. Such men have taken up the philosophic and theological work of establishing the inherent value of life in the fight against the commoditization of people but have done so through working alongside the activist, the artist, the politician, business leader, medical and social work community-every sector of society has been engaged through these and other heroes in the fight against modern day slavery. This is what is needed. The greatest accomplishment of organizations like the International Justice Mission, the Not for Sale Campaign, and World Vision I believe is not merely the actual successes they have in law, academia, and philanthropic execution but in the philosophic and theological work their leaders have provided for the rest of us. This, in the end, can endure and produce the long-term needed energy to raise up a new generation of heroes who seek to the stem the tide of the wickedness of human commoditization so that humans can flourish to the glory of their Creator.  

Friday, January 22, 2010

NEXT WEEK: Watch Craig Groeschel, John Ortberg, Lon Allison LIVE

Midwinter Services to Be Broadcast Live Via Internet - Evangelical Covenant Church

I haven't been to the Covenant Pastor's Midwinter Conference in 8 years since I left Willoughby Hills.  I miss it some.  The will be broadcasting live next week the plenary sessions, which is awesome.  Kudos to the Cov.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You've Just Been Kissed

Are you planning a Valentine's Day outreach at your church? Try a servant evangelism project and kiss your city with some of God's love. Everybody likes kissing.

Serve! with Steve Sjogren - The online ezine about outward focused living: You've Just Been Kissed

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Perspectives on China, The Church and Persecution: Communist Bible Distributions

Last week I met with Jonathan Brooks, President and Wendell Rovenstine, Exec. VP from Voice of China-Asia (VOCA) and heard amazing stories and a whole new picture of the church in China and the Chinese government.  All I have ever heard is about the Chinese communist government suppressing Christianity, they tell a very different story, much more positive.  I am also reading The Chinese Puzzle by Mike Falkenstine, which is giving me a similar picture.

Jonathan spoke of a revival that many of us have heard about with an estimated 20,000 people a day becoming followers of Christ.  Many of these are rural poor in China living on less than $100 annually and having no access to a whole Bible.

I was under the impression that the only real believers in China were part of the underground church and not part of the communist state recognized Three Self Church.  Apparently this is not true.  VOCA has partnered with some of the leaders of the Three Self Church for Bible distribution projects amongst the poor -- there is no need to smuggle Bibles into China.  VOCA and the Three Self Church buy them from the communist printing press -- and yes, Jonathan did assure me that these are indeed full Bibles and accurate translations.  These distributions happen through the Three Self Church and have the full support of China's communist government.

There is still some persecution of Christians but not all that is reported to be persecution is such.  For example, a ministry reported to it's constituents that the Chinese government had destroyed a church.  What they did not report was this was what we Americans would call an instance of eminent domain and that the Chinese built them a new church elsewhere.  Sadly, this ministry was using this story as fodder for their donor base to raise funds -- even after it was pointed out to them that it wasn't a story of persecution.

In the US, if a pastor left the ranch and started flouting the IRS laws and was thrown in jail for it, we wouldn't call it persecution.  We might even call it stupidity.  But when some Chinese flout the laws of their government and they are thrown in jail, some ministries report these instances as persecution.  Not sure what to make of that.

No doubt China is not paradise and there are real instances of persecution and they do not have the religious freedoms we have here in the US.  But there are also real instances of Christian believers working in the Three Self Church, doing Christian ministry with the full support of the communist government.  It is also interesting to see the growth of the church there and with our freedom, the decline of the church here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Challenge to Pastors and Church Leaders

As a general rule apologetics are not in vogue at the moment.  That said.  You really need to find a way to help every last person in your church -- from teens to your elder saints -- to be able to confidently answer in their own words:

How did we get the Bible?  Where did it come from really?  Sure we know about the authors but how come these books are in the Bible and others are not?  Were there really just a bunch of political councils that decided who was in and who was out?  How do we know these are the books God has for us?  And how do we understand these books to be authoritative? 

And along with answering these questions debunk every myth out there from the one that says that Shakespere wrote the Bible to DaVinci Code heresies to "Aren't there a bunch of errors in the Scriptures?"

We need to do two things here: one we need to give solid answers but we also need to help people to digest the information, process it and be able to confidently express answers to those questions in their own words.  A sermon series isn't going to cut it.  More is needed.

What is more?  I'm not sure.  But imagine for a moment that you were evangelizing your current congregation.  You want as many people as possible to be able to confidently answer questions about the formation of the canon and the Bible's authority using their own words.  At the end we want people who could teach about it, not just know it.  How could you make that happen? 

Train 12 leaders who train 12 others?

I honestly believe those are some fundamental questions that people want answers to and if they have them, it will catalyze their spiritual growth and abilities as personal evangelists.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Being A Spiritual Self Feeder + More FREE mp3's at Missional Learning Commons

So I've had to counsel with a number of ministry professionals and mature Christians lately, who are bored out of their ever loving skulls at church.  The sermons, small groups and discipleship experiences aren't scratching where they're itching.  So they think about moving on to another church hoping for something better.

That's the presenting problem.  But I don't think it's the real issue.  I think the real issue is, for whatever reason, they aren't experiencing God at their church.

A couple years ago I attended church as a lay person, though I am an ordained, ministry professional.  The sermons weren't always helpful for me but generally they were good.  For the average person there, they were really working.  I wasn't the average person and I knew that.  But what really helped me was experiencing God's presence week after week after week.  I felt like I met with God there and as I saw others go forward to pray at the altar I could see God meeting and ministering to them too.  Some weeks I was moved to tears in joy or comfort or awe of God and His presence at church.  It wasn't some emotional arm-twisting done by the pastor, I think it was a sovereign move of God.  That made up for what wasn't there for me.

I've learned that experiencing the presence of God can make up poor music or liturgy, preaching that is lacking and a host of other issues in church on Sunday morning.

BEYOND THAT -- at some point as a Christian and especially if you are a seminary or theology school graduate, you need to become a self feeder and not expect the sermon to feed you week after week.  As you mature in the faith, you need to be taking in books, listening to lectures and seminars that are a little more challenging than the average Christian.

That is why I continue to post links to lectures on-line.  There is just so much stuff to supplement the sermons you get from your fabulous and not so fabulous pastor.  Here's another link with: Book Discussion: The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah, who is from my beloved North Park as well as some other lectures.

Missional Learning Commons

Don't put the whole of your spiritual life into a sermon on Sunday and a devotional guide.  Dig deep.  Consider these words from Proverbs 2:
1  My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2  making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3  yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4  if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5  then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Psalm 119:63-64

I was reading the Bible in church on Sunday and spent some time reading Psalm 119. These verses stood out to me:

Psalm 119:63-64
63 I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!

Verse 63 is a favorite in part because of it's importance to those early leaders in the Evangelical Covenant Church. Though I remember it being quoted as, "I am a friend of all who fear Thee". I love the generous spirit expressed there. It's bi-partisan and ecumenical.

The second verse troubles and warms me: "The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love". I am troubled as I wonder where is that love in the midst of such poverty, strife and pain? Why isn't it doing more to transform the world? Yet I am comforted in my own trials as I know His love will never leave or forsake me. It also speaks to His pervasive presence. Though I may feel alone and abandoned He is no doubt there and loves me.

More Random Links & Posts

I'm down to 146 draft blog posts saved.  I see stuff all the time that I save and want to comment on regarding important trends in life and the church.

Ireland Catholic Church | Pope Benedict | Bishops -- It appears that the scandals that have rocked the US Roman Catholic Church are now taking their toll on the church in Ireland. 

SC priest wins $100,000 for church in poker game | AP | 12/22/2009 -- So last month we heard from the Anglican priest who advocated for stealing.  This time we hear from a poker playing priest, using his winnings for God's work and his participation as PR for the church.

29% of Americans say religion ‘out of date’ | Raw Story -- People need to give up on religion and get on with a relationship with a living God.

Multi-site churches mean pastors reach thousands - USATODAY.com -- This article is getting a lot of press time in the blogosphere and elsewhere.  Multicampusing hasn't taken off here in CNY yet.  I know of only one multi-site church here in Syracuse:  The Vineyard with it's main site in the Lakeland area on the west side of Syracuse and a campus in Auburn.  They started in Sept and now 4 months later have a weekly attendance over near 120.  I wonder if that would have happened if they would have tried the traditional church plant route.  Great church.

The Order of St. Luke the Physician, a Christian Healing Ministry, welcomes you!  --  I admit it. I have a thing for religious communities that have Catholic and charismatic leanings.

Archaeologists find home in Nazareth from Jesus' time - thestar.com

Shane Claiborne - Letter to Non-Believers by Shane Claibourne - Esquire

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Three Good Reasons to go to Church Today

Churchgoers Live Longer | LiveScience

Church Attendance Boosts Student GPAs | LiveScience

Spiritual Women Have More Sex | LiveScience

Friday, January 08, 2010


Long Live Organic Church! | Christianity Today:
"Our God appears not to be particularly taken with efficiency, effectiveness, or our changing his world. He is mostly interested in our obedience. What he longs for is not people who make a difference in the world, but people who listen for his call and lovingly respond—no matter how absurd or impossible the command."
Our primary calling is not to change or reach the world. It's obedience to Christ.

Get Your Free Theological Education Online

Theological Lectures -- Text, Community and Mission  --  A huge link farm to a host of theological resources: lectures, articles, mp3's, etc.  Thanks to Scott.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Churches Seeking Staff - Evangelical Covenant Church

This might be an all-time low in the years that I've been tracking this but the Evangelical Covenant Church only has 20 full time senior pastor positions listed open on the denomination's Churches Seeking Staff.

Mental Illness or A Spiritual Problem

Church Pastors Dismiss Mental Illness | LiveScience [from 2008]

Researchers at Baylor Univ. have discovered that (a) most people when dealing with mental illness symptoms consult a pastor first; and (b) that most pastors tell them they have a spiritual problem and don't need to be treated by a doctor or medication.

I ran in to this not long ago with a medical professional friend whose patient was "a threat to herself" and been dealing with depression. She was hospitalized and demoralized because her pastor and church were not supportive of her getting treatment.  She didn't go to some extreme faith healing cult, but to your basic fundamentalist Baptist church in upstate New York.

This is always a tough one. Sometimes people do have a problem that resembles mental illness and it is a spiritual problem. Take for example the demonically influenced man that Jesus encountered near a graveyard in Gerasenes. Compare his symptoms to the DSM IV characteristics for schizophrenia. But does that mean all persons with those symptoms have a spiritual problem and not a mental illness?  Absolutely not.  Too many pastors are telling people dealing with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other disorders/illnesses that all they need to do is pray more, read their Bible and trust God.  That's not helpful.

However, some medical professionals would attribute all medical illness as organic and not spiritual, and think any pastor suggesting otherwise is from the dark ages.  That's not helpful either.

People need help from both their pastor and medical professionals. It's not an 'either-or' situation, it's 'both-and'.  We need pastors ready to administer freedom from oppression and bondage working alongside praying doctors who prescribe medicine.

Here's the story about Jesus and the demon possessed man:
Mark 5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Here is the Wikipedia entry with DSM IV characteristics of schizophrenia.  Read and compare.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

"Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." -- St. Francis? Nope.

Speaking the Gospel | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
"I've heard the quote once too often. It's time to set the record straight—about the quote, and about the gospel.

Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."

This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.

The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age.Read the rest of the article ...

Monday, January 04, 2010


People sneeze in our presence. We say, "God bless you." It's customary and expected. Generally we don't mean much by it or if we do, it's just a way of saying, "I care for you and hope you are OK."

Sometimes we say "God bless you." as a cordial way of saying good-bye when we are getting off the phone or are departing from someone. "God bless" or "Blessings" is the closure of an email or ending paragraph of a letter. We use the phrase as a polite ending to a communication.

But for many of us, I don't think we really expect anything of substance to happen because we said those words. It's just a way of communicating well wishes or deep affection for someone or to let them know they we have positive thoughts about them.

What if when we said those words, we spoke them to God and not the person we are directing them at, beseeching the Almighty to rain down a torrent of goodness, affection and active intervention to that person? What if there was power in the blessing that when we spoke it, there unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit in some tangible way? I read this quote and it has me thinking,
"There is great power in blessing in general. I believe that there is a Holy Spirit anointing released when blessings are spoken or pronounced over a person. Those blessings have a tangible effect on the person, because you are inviting the Holy Spirit to touch them in a positive way. Blessing seems to break the yoke of enemy oppression. In fact, some sicknesses are caused by curses, and general blessing prayers sometimes seem to counteract curses that have been spoken over someone. ... When in doubt of how to pray, speak a blessing over the person. You will never go wrong that way." (source)
When I read in the Old Testament about blessings and how they were spoken and used, it seems to be they actually believed in something greater than well wishes when they pronounced a blessing. In some cases it seems more like a decree or declaration. In the New Testament we see several examples where we are to give a blessing or that a blessing is something that can be obtained.

When I served in the Episcopal church I loved to watch Fr. Turner pronounce a blessing over the congregation, at the communion rail upon a child, at the table over the communion elements, or upon the Eucharistic ministers and elsewhere. I'm not sure I can really identify why, but there was something in the way that he did it that he expected God's empowerment or anointing or comfort or His riches, generosity and kindness to come upon the person or thing that was blessed. He expected something tangible to happen because he did it.

Try it this week. Be intentional. Call down God's blessings upon people and property. Stand with the confidence that all heaven is behind you and something great will happen when you bless.

God bless you.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Bouguereau Mancrush

La Vierge aux Anges

Translated title: The Virgin with Angels (1881)
By William Bourguereau (1825-1905)

Oil on canvas (152.4 x 213.4 cm)
Museum at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park (Glendale, California, United States)
Click image for high resolution image at ArtRenewal.org.

My Christmas present from my wife and children was a gorgeous print of this painting by William Bouguereau.  I am a huge Bouguereau fan and absolutely love it.  You'll notice a couple others in the left column.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, ” which means “God is with us.” (Mathew 1:23)

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:13-14)