29 December 2006

X-mas Photos

I read an essay (via link from Dan and Angi's blog) on "being poor" One statement that struck me was: "Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner." Our friend, Ralph, picks up John and Brittney (pictured above) and brings them to church with us. Smart kids! One time they came over afterwards and had pizza with us. They loved it and we played a couple of card games with them, one of which was "Memory", and we walked down by the creek. John thinks salamanders are the coolest creatures. Unfortunately, we didn't see any salamanders, but we had a great time anyway. I think Ralph and John are coming over for lunch tomorrow.

This other photo is of my sister, Melissa, after she and Mom and Dad and brother, Stephen, went to the National Civil Rights Museum. It is built into the Lorraine Motel, where MLK Jr. was shot April 4, 1968. This was my fourth trip, I think. I could go several more times if you'd like to go with me. :-) I think it's free on Mondays and closed on Tuesdays. There is a booth next to the Museum (seen in the background to the right) where a black woman will tell you how the museum exploits the civil rights movement or something like that, I haven't actually spoken to her. (I think that is a run-on sentence.) I plan on speaking to the woman the next time I am in that area of downtown Memphis. Wanna' go with me?

X-mas Photo

The "X" in "X-mas" stands for the Greek letter "chi" which stands for "christos" which means "anointed one" and of course "the Messiah" and refers to the baby Jesus' birthday in this case. But of course this photo doesn't seem to have any direct relationship to Xristos. Still, I think the lighting and the snowman is a reminder of the seasons created and sustained by the Father of the Christ child. So I will call it a X-mas photo. Stay tuned for more X-mas photos . . .

19 December 2006

Song Sun

Last night (Monday) our friend, Song, died. He had lived 44 years and committed his life to Christ since 1996. When his daughter, Stacy, came home from school yesterday she saw him through the bedroom window. She broke a window to get in, called 911, and attempted CPR. Stacy's 6th grade brother, Jeffrey, and their mother, Tonya came home when they heard the news.

Stacy had called Honey Rogers who then left a message on our answering machine. Honey was sobbing. Later, when Nicole and I got there we were greeted by about 20 people. Tonya came out the door and hugged Nicole and was crying. We went in and Stacy and Jeffrey came and hugged us and Stacy was sobbing. I think we were there for a couple of hours. We were struck by how articulate Stacy and Jeffrey were about their grief. Jeffrey said he had been crying a lot and he cried several times while we were there. He said, "I usually spend Christmas with Ms. Anita . . . It's going to be a sad Christmas." Stacy showed us a picture and we asked if we could try to enlarge it and frame it for her. She said she would appreciate that. She cried on Nicole's shoulder and said, "I didn't get to say goodbye."

Eventually, the patriarch of the family (on Tonya's side) and his wife came (and their other children, Sokha, Sokhom, and Sop'ol). He is 97 years old! I had been looking forward to meeting him for a long time because I had heard his daughter, Sokha, and also Song talk about him. Song periodically sought wisdom from this man (I still don't know his name). He and his wife embraced Nicole and I as well as most everyone else in the house, especially Stacy and Jeffrey.

Mostly Nicole and I sat on the floor with the children. (Kun and her six-year-old, Jonathan, were there, too.) We cried. We laughed some. We talked about what they would do this week. Stacy has final exams this week. (She's 15.) Her three best friends since diapers were with her for most of the time while we were there. Jeffrey helped Jonathon with his homework.

I know that my own grief is very little compared with Stacy and Jeffrey. Still, I loved Song. Nicole did, too. He was my friend, especially for the past year and a half. Last year I often went to Song's house and we would talk for over an hour. He came to Bible class and church services every week. Miss Honey picked him up because he was legally blind due to diabetes. Still, he would bring his large print Bible and magnifying glass. I have so many good memories of talking with Song. He loved hearing Jesus' parables and I think he understood them better than I did. He had already heard many of them before, but sometimes there would be a new one. One time we were reading Luke 6:17-49 in Bible class. This was before he got a big print Bible so he took the paper home that had the verses on it and later that week asked Stacy to read those verses again. Song always rejoiced when he heard Jesus' teachings, even the hard ones like this one:

"Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your friend's eye, but you don't see the big piece of wood that is in your own eye? You say to your friend, 'Let me get that little piece of dust out of your eye.' Why do you say this? Can't you see that big piece of wood in your own eye? You are a hypocrite. First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to get the dust out of your friend's eye."

There were people in Song's life who made it difficult to forgive. I asked Song, "How can you forgive them?" He said, "I had a lot of sins in my life. God forgave me. So I have to forgive others." He took Jesus' teaching about "the plank in your own eye" seriously and knew that it didn't come naturally for him to obey God.

I have another memory I want to share. Last year just before Thanksgiving I took Song to the emergency room. He had severe pain and his blood sugar level was super high. I sat in his room while they waited (I guess for his bsl to decrease). I mostly just listened to him talk. He had so much to say even though every once in a while he would wince from the pain. Eventually they took him to a room in ICU. That was more comfortable, but we couldn't spend as much time with him. He had quite a few visitors, though. At the time, one family member was worried about money, if Song would die. Song told her, "Why do you worry about those things? Money can't make you happy." When we were alone I asked Song, "Are you happy?" I don't know why I asked it. I've never really known what to do to comfort people. But Song said, "Yes, I am happy." Before I said anything else Song told me at least five things he was thankful for. He said he was thankful for me. I can't remember the rest, but I'm sure his children were on that list. I can't tell you how much encouragement Song gave me.

Last night (Monday), Sokha wanted us to pray before we left. She is the only Christian left in the family now that Song is gone. There were about ten of us in a circle. I know some people couldn't understand what I was saying, but we all held hands. I don't remember all of the prayer, but one part I felt compelled to say was something I had been thinking about since as soon as I heard the news of his death:

"I know that Song is right with you, God. And I believe that you will send your Son on the last day and that Song and all the dead will be raised. Then, Song will live forever because he believed in you and followed your Son." My hope for Song isn't based on wishful thinking. It's based on Truth. I have read Scripture all my life. I know what a disciple of Christ is and what obedience from a pure heart looks like. I also knew Song well. So I have confidence in God's will to raise Song to eternal life on the last day.

15 December 2006

Not much time left

Sunday Nicole said, "Not much time left," as she took a picture of the setting sun and then went to talk to some friends about coming over for some pumkin pie later. It just struck me again that I am mortal. I've heard people say, "The soul is immortal." I don't have a good reason to believe that. I think that without God's breath of life, my "soul", whatever that is, will perish with the rest of me. On the other hand, I think that since I have God's breath of life, I can expect eternal renewal. I don't have my Bible with me at the moment, but I recall some words from 2 Corinthians 4: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day." A verse just prior to this one makes it clear that one day we will be outwardly what we are with the gift of the Holy Spirit inwardly. It is only because of God. We have no eternal breath of our own to make our "material" or "immaterial" existence exist. We are completely dependent on God for life now and forever. I don't know if I would appreciate the reminder of our vulnerability and the brevity of the seasons of our lives except for this greater hope given by God.

On a completely other level, I must say that we haven't had internet access from home lately--bad router--until now. It seems as though we are back in business, so even though I ought to be writing or studying, I'm blogging. Here are some pictures of late:

10 December 2006

Niccum's Top 25

I took this post from Kurt Niccum's blog from a year ago. It makes me laugh.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thursday’s Top 25

This semester has proved to be the second most productive in my teaching career. Having sufficiently scared a large number of students, I walked away with over eight pounds of chocolate (actually about 6.5 after I finish eating lunch). My record still remains 10 lbs.

As you will see, the weight of the sweets does not nearly compensate for the amount of poorly written and poorly conceived material I must slog through. I love to teach, and I often mention that I would teach for free. I am not paid enough, however, to grade.

Of course my students, to a person, argue that I have created my own monster. If I would just choose not to make assignments and give tests, my life would be so much better. I would have to agree. On the other hand, I do prefer having hard evidence of the failings of the American educational system.

Still, this proves fascinatingly ironic. Of the 250 million surfers of the net in America, only 2% will be able to identify errors in the snippets below; even less will appreciate the humor. This number still exceeds the number of those who attempt to read my blog; so perhaps I should give up measuring student capabilities and composing blog entries. Until I decide… welcome to my blog all you foreigners! I hope you enjoy my tribute to America’s future.

We begin with what I lovingly call the “duh” files. Students, afraid that I might not catch the fine nuances in their writing, often leave me explanatory notes. Here are just a few:

“Now we must examine who these people were. They were real people who came from somewhere and were going somewhere and most definitely were on a mission.” (Always remember: wherever you go, there you are.)
Second Peter 2:17 is in a portion of Peter’s second letter.
Peter is the last of the apostles, and with this in mind, we can come to the obvious conclusion that after Peter’s death, there will be no more letters from the apostles. (Excellent logic. Unfortunately, faulty premises and untrue “facts” are the bane of all excellent logic.)
This is the reason I do not seek to be an elder in a church, because I don’t care for or like a lot of people. (Sounds like he needs to be a Bible professor instead.)
Kids are just like people, only littler. (It’s not the size that endears kids to me; it’s that they don’t write bad papers.)
The structure of Romans 12:9-13 is a structure itself, within the whole structure of Romans.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is obviously in the form of a letter.
Service is a great way to serve God and other people.

And now for my top 25 student errors:

25) “The lesson I have learned that teaches me in Matthew is that you should not let kids suffer in school.” (Could we change that to “should not let professors suffer in school”? Please???)
24) “She is an outdoors woman that has fun hailing hay with guys.” (I just want to know if the hay ever responds.)
23) “She asked me what I was studying and I told her Psychology and I lighted up.” (Ditto. Or is that Zippo?)
22) “The floor and the ceiling cannot take your stamen and falling.” (It’s such a stigma to be caught bringing a pistil into Horticulture 101.)
21) “Like these women one needs to step up even if they are in the right and end this corral before the whole church ends up in hell.” (Women should never be allowed near rodeos.)
20) “Without God doing this we would not be able to have entrails life.” (It took a lot of guts to write that.)
19) “I went to him shortly after in an attempt to make immense with the person who had been offended.” (Proof that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.)
18) “If the other person dose not fully understand what you are saying then it was not an affective discourse.” (Obviously doctors with really thick accents and overly exaggerated gesticulations make for better communicators.)
17) “One should not presuppose that he foresaw the intuitional church.” (So, will the real clairvoyant please stand up?)
16) “In the NIV it says ‘witch is no gospel at all.’” (Perhaps the NIV should start translating for the third grade reading level)
15) We have a three way tie for biblical sports fans: a) “A phrase worth studying more in the Letter to Laodicea is ‘golf refined by fire,’” b) “The religious claims being made are ‘the Lord is God’ and ‘Ball is God,’” and c) “They were to take a pure white lamb without any sports or blemishes.”
14) “If people really followed it, the quality of our community would improve incomprehensively.” (It’s true! The same thing occurs with my student papers.)
13) “All of God’s profits were being killed.” (Talk about huge overhead – those heavenly hosts are expensive to keep up, and the Pension plan is humongous.)
12) “Misplacement does not mineralize its importance.” (I think this was about the prophet Mica. He was always taken for granite.)
11) “In the Greek manuscripts the periscope does not appear until after A.D. 900.” (So now we know which came first – the periscope came before the submarine.)
10) We have a two-way tie for reading oneself into the text: a) “Jess’s dying on the cross was so important,” and b) “The Children of Israel were promised an Inheritance in the land of Canaan just as Christina is promised a home with God in Heaven.”
9) “I saw my friend there helping the student with her reading and spelling and since I am pretty good at English so I asked if a boy could do some heavy lifting while I help with what I’m good at.” (I couldn’t have said it better myself, at least while heavily sedated.)
8) “What would stop someone from saying, ‘Hey everyone, Thor now indwells my rubber ducky!’” (Apparently from Bert and Ernie’s Big Note Song Book of Germanic Mythology)
7) “So God had Moses have the children of God wander around in the dessert until every fighting man of that generation had died.” (What a way to go! I personally hope to die in a bathtub filled with chocolate.)
6) “Jesus identified the beard with his body and the cup with the new covenant.” (Maybe that’s why the denominational world call’s the Lord’s Supper the Whischarist.)
5) Another two way tie; this one for cannibals: a) “We are individualistic and survival-minded people, who carve and starve for respect,” and b) “She told of eating pizza in an Italian Chicago family.”
4) “As much as making money and martial possessions for your family is important….“ (Nothing says I love you like a pair of handmade nunchucks.)
3) “I expected to see all the people being rude or depressed, but, to my surprise, they were actually contempt.” (There’s nothing like actually exceeding one’s expectations.)
2) “Every one in this story, living and not, was excited about the birth.” (It’s the first time Uncle John, bless his soul, has shown any excitement since the funeral!)
and 1) “I went to install hurricane clamps to the raptors.” (That must have been particularly dangerous. Without training I’m sure the result would be a lot of Tyrannosaurus wrecks.)

I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! (And if you are a student of mine, I look forward to you retaking my classes.)

23 November 2006

Town of Allopath

I would like to hear how my friends and family react to this provocative "Town of Allopath" video at: http://mercola.com/

I don't think all of the intended analogies are exactly correct, but generally I think it is a good allegory. I think Americans tend to value the drugs that numb discomfort to the disciplines that maintain health. I would guess this might be provocative and my readers might wonder whether I am angry at doctors. I admire and respect many doctors. Our country's emergency care, I think, is excellent. However, the doctors and drugs cannot make us well. They might make us more comfortable in our over-consumptive lifestyles, but they cannot make us well. Wellness is a gift from God that we can either preserve or refuse. I realize that I have done more refusing than preserving, but I look forward to future positive change.

19 November 2006

More Fellowship Memories

A couple of years ago we had some good fellowship at Jan & Arthur's in Brisbane. It's always nice to be the center of attention. Is it possible for God to be the center of attention, so to speak, in the midst of fellowship?

15 November 2006

Fellowship, evangelism

We had some interesting conversations that night over dinner. We talked chopsticks, God, and worship, if I can remember right. We took a train from Circular Quay (pronounced 'key') to meet our friends there. Binh had organized dinner for us (Nicole and I and the Griffiths) near Cabramatta in Sydney, Australia in July 2005. This is a picture from after dinner in the Vietnamese restaurant. In the picture is, from left to right: Nicole (my beautiful bride of almost five years), Binh (a Christian friend from when I lived in Sydney, '98-'02. she used to have young adults into her apartment every Sunday for informal fellowship, bible study, and conversation). Next to Binh is her boyfriend at the time (an atheist), and his roommate at the time (a Muslim). Next to them is Andrew, a Christian friend of ours who continues to teach scripture and involve himself in the life of the church in Campbelltown. Then, I'm the goofy looking guy next to Andrew. Binh said to me that night: "Jason, you dress well now that you're married." Ha!

Here's a question: When does a fellowship meal become communion? Can you just add a little sermon about God, a loaf, and a cup? Or is there more to it?

08 November 2006


Thinking back, I wish we had remembered Christ during the meal, the salvation we received through Christ. That would have made it perfect. It probably would have generated some good discussion and promoted the sense of unity and kindness and equality that was already there.

Thanks, Binh, for inviting your Christian siblings and your friends and hosting this fellowship meal.

30 October 2006

Team Partners

The advice us men got was, "Your wife is your first team. You love her almost as much as Jesus. Your next team is your kids (if you have 'em). Then, you've got your team-team."

So I'm trying to understand my wife better and letting her express herself more before I try to correct her thinking or solve problems or simply talk over her. I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Let me get psychological . . . there's a man I know who doesn't have much control in his life. Let's call him A. He is a man who has throat cancer. His wife makes him come to the church building while she teaches English and phonics to Vietnamese immigrants (after I get through with them--I've almost taught them North, South, East, West, Oklahoma). She is a sincere woman who is passionate about learning more about Jesus (though she is a nominal churchgoer). Let's call her B. She is a woman who has multiple schlerosis.

Well, A doesn't have much control in his life. He has been known to snap at people when they ask him how he's doing. "Terrible!" he says, "Tell them to stop asking me how I'm doing." In bible class he's been asked, "Would you like a bible?" "NO!" he says.

Honestly, I've observed, perhaps correctly, that Mr. A is a lot like me. I don't like it when other people take control away from me. For example, in bible class someone occasionally says, "Pray for [A] and his cancer." A says, "Don't pray for me! I don't believe in that kind of prayer!" If I were him I would want people to give me some control. If I want a bible I'll ask. (A has actually been seen looking over to read in someone else's bible.) If I want to request prayers, let me make the request. And why don't you tell me about your problems instead asking me about mine.

I don't know what makes me unique. I've heard that there are only seven or eight basic personalities. I don't know if "passive-aggressive" is one of them, but I tend to be that way. I am praying that I will be aware of my tendencies especially in our team dynamics.

Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about. It's like this. You want to help me with something. I say, "No, thank you." You say, "Are you sure?" I'm thinking, "Yes, even more sure. Let's talk about something else." If my wife comes to me and says, "Jason, let's go see a movie!" I get a this-is-the-first-I've-heard-of-this look on my face. I want to be the one who starts something (because I believe I can do it well and better than you), but since other people always beat me to it, I unintentionally resent them for taking the lead. However, basically, you can get me to do anything within your power, but I won't like it. I'm sorry. I'm working on dying to myself. I reckon I will make a better teammate then.

27 October 2006


I needed to post this picture for Diamond and Anna-Pearl. :-) It's the lizard that I actually touched after this picture was taken. I am amazed by the vastness and diversity of God's creation displayed in the existence of lizards . . . If you'll click on it it you can see a bigger image.

Dean and Reba and Diamond and Anna-Pearl and Buddy and the cats (Tiger and ???) showed us super-Christian hospitality! I wish Nicole could have spent more time with us. Almost all of the Christians I have met have been hospitable people by nature, but this family seems to have been given the gift of hospitality. I think even Nicole, who was only in Jonesboro part of the time, felt more connected to God through the new relationships we found in Jonesboro because they were based on the cross and on our mutual passion to see the Gospel spread far and wide.

Our mission team worked together in Jonesboro, Arkansas since Monday morning. We participated in a Strategy Lab in which we dug deep into the core and distinctive Christian beliefs that guide our strategies and the core values that define us and determine how we limit our plans. It was good to focus on the vision God has given us through wrestling with scripture and thinking about the people of Wollongong, Australia. We also had some awesome worship breaks in our group of about 12 men and women. After this week I believe that God has provided our team with energy and direction that will keep us moving on the right path of preparation. I believe we will "slowly by slowly" over the next several months and years realize the vision, which is a small part of God's grand vision for the liberation from decay and transformation of the whole world. Church-planting will not be easy, but we will participate in it based on who God is and on who he has called us and the people of Wollongong, Australia to be.

Throughout the week, Dean and Reba's family took super care of our needs (took us in, gave us beds and a bathroom, woke us up, fed breakfast, shared conversion stories, laughed with us, and on and on). Jon and "Buddy" had us laughing really hard. Buddy is an Australian Retriever. It just so happens that their family lived in Stillwater for a significant amount of time and have maintained many relationships formed there. (They remembered my family, too, especially Melissa.) Reba reads stories of missionaries to the girls. I will post more on this family as well as the strategy lab later. For now, here are some pictures:

22 October 2006

Aren't I Great?

I wonder how much of the world's population took a six-day vacation in a practical paradise like some Jamaican resort.

If there were only 100 people in the world, I would be the third richest one. (Click on the blog title to learn where you'd be.)

It makes me reflect on whether what I am doing with my life is pleasing to God.

Last Wednesday night I was teaching the teens from Daniel 4. The king oppressed people (indirectly) and thought nothing of God being in charge. But God gave him a disturbing dream. Daniel interpreted the dream from the king. The king was cut to the heart about the consequences promised because had not done what was pleasing to God with the great God-given resources he had. Daniel told him to repent from his oppression (no specifics were given). The king was humbled for a while, but then one day he was walking on the roof thinking, "Aren't I great and worthy!" Then, God turned him into something like an animal for "seven times". This did the trick to humble him. (There's actually extra-biblical evidence that validates this story somewhat . . . a King Nabonidus who was the father of Belshazzar of Daniel chapter 5 actually "went crazy" for seven years. At the end, a Jewish person performed a successful exorcism on the king who then went back to work being king . . .)

As a Christian, when I realize my "position" in the world I am not tempted to say, "Aren't I great and worthy!" but rather, "You must have given me this wealth for a reason? God, what do you want me to do with it? I can't just give it all away?"

In my dark side, however, I ask, "Will I really be held responsible for my actions in this age when Christ comes in the next?"

16 October 2006

Jamaica Story

We had lots of pictures taken with the beautiful water and sunsets. The best part of my time in Jamaica was walking along the beach with my wife for hours at a time.
We snorkeled twice; this was the second time, when we swam through a couple of caves. Nicole and I were the only ones daring enough to hold our breaths and swim under rock to come up into an air pocket. It was actually quite easy, but no one else in our group was interested. Nic saw a medium-size stingray, but it had buried itself by the time she got my attention. We never did find Nemo. I think he must have found his way to Sydney.
Lots of geckos. It was awesome. On the last morning I was watching from above a large brown gecko, which had a dinosaur-like fin along its head, back, and tail. It left the scene temporarily and two smaller geckos, one brown with a white stripe down its back, and a second sand-colored one, scurried across the large leaves near the top of a large tropical plant. Suddenly the large gecko flew from out of nowhere and when I finally realized what had happened--the sandy lizards neck was in the mouth of the dinosaur-looking one! That was cool! I would have gotten this on video if the stupid phone hadn't been ringing in the middle of all this because we we're supposed to check out of our room.
A cliff diver standing with Nic. Are we stupid for paying him two dollars to jump off this tree like 90 feet above the water? After he jumped I decided I wanted to jump off the little chicken dive. I'm not sure how high I was, but I hit well except for the fact that I forgot to hold my nose.

05 October 2006

Ivy League

Mom, it was good to be with you last weekend! Thanks for sitting with us on McAlister's deck for three hours. We won't forget it! I enjoy how you disagree with me openly. You never do it in a way that makes me feel like an enemy or like I am beneath you. I feel empowered when you challenge me . . . and sometimes I learn something. :-) We're looking forward to seeing the rest of the family next month!

We been busy lately. I've got too much stuff to do and because Nicole's travel consultant privileges will soon come to an end we're going to Jamaica next week for "study week". Probably not wise in some ways, but in others this is a very good thing and I'm hoping my poison ivy will clear up by then. Noel, remember when I got infected just before I came to visit you back in '98? Man, we popped that blister! Well, today I got a shot of some kind of steroid or somethin' in my butt and I took a diluted clorox bath before that. I like to be pretty "natural" about seeking a homeostatic existence, but I was desperately willing to do just about anything to recover from this "plague" of sorts. I haven't been able to touch my wife for days and the puss oozes out of my boils in a disgusting way. My advice to people is don't inhale, touch, or go gambolling through any kind of poison plants. And don't wreck your bike in it. And don't scratch it--even two weeks later!

To Poison Ivy:

I hope that I can escape your devlish wiles
on the forest floor
You don't deserve anyone's smiles
as you have heyday in the moors.

For you I wish no Irish blessing,
but the future harmless new creation
But if that's not possible, I hope you wither.

27 September 2006

Wisdom Yields, Reaps Peace

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
- James 3:17-18

I'm going to try and add a few more words to this without getting struck by lightning.
Wisdom isn't polluted, first of all. Second of all, it's peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. What is the result? Answer: A harvest of righteousness/justice is sown in peace. Who is this for? Answer: It's for those who make peace.

Personal reflection: I struggle with having wisdom even though really there's nothing that would prevent me from being gentle or full of mercy, for example, except yielding to temptations. I may have many dark sides of which I am unaware, but one item on this list--"willing to yield"--I've noticed is extremely difficult. Well, that's not the right way to put it. It is tempting for me not to yield.

Let me give an example. Dale and Luke wanted to buy my lunch. We were standing in line ordering our sandwiches and, though I agreed to let Dale take the lead . . . after I went through the line and got my sandwich, I just went ahead and paid for it. Then, it was like judgment when Dale realized that I didn't let him lead, that I didn't "yield". It was sort of like I heard God saying, "Submit to one another, Jason." I took a seat and started thinking about how I don't like for other people to take the lead unless I want them to take the lead. That's the thing with wisdom . . . is to know, for example, what is right in a given situation. Then again, if I have this wisdom from above, if it just *is* that way in my inner being, then I wouldn't even have to *choose* what to do. My purity in that case would have boiled the situation down to one choice. I pray that next time I will submit to being boiled down to one choice. At some point I look forward to reaping peace that is not merely inward, but entirely whole with respect to all creation.

25 September 2006

Yung Luv

On Sunday mornings for about four weeks now I've been teaching three or four non-native English speakers during the bible class time. George, the facilitator of another class on the Gospel of John, has been picking these four visitors up and bringing them to "church". "My" students are all from Vietnam. One of them probably can't learn English though he is about 13 years old--he has had some kind of brain damage from seizures, I think. His name (I learned from a translator about a month ago) is Dung, pronounced, Yüng, thankfully. :-)

I didn't know about the seizures or the brain damage for the first two weeks I taught them. I kept trying to make him try to speak English (he seemed like he was listening intently; he ought to be able to say something by now). Since he would refuse to speak, I thought he must just be a belligerent teenager who begrudged coming to our country. When I found out that I was wrong I decided to give him a ball last week as a gift. Then, yesterday, when he saw me, he smiled really big. That was a first! Apparently he loves "church" even though he understands not a single word.

Words have meaning, don't they . . . when I say "ball" you almost know what I mean without any context. But I've noticed that "love" has meaning, too, maybe even more meaning. Isn't that true?

I remember a scene in the Forest Gump movie. Forest says to Jenny, something like, "I may not be a smart man, Jenny, but I know what love is."

I have to think that maybe knowledge, just like it doesn't necessarily make us wise, doesn't make us more loving either. I try to communicate love by exhausting my teaching abilities; Yüng just smiles really big. . . . I won on knowledge, but I think he won the love game.

18 September 2006

Kingdom of God

I am so looking forward to Nicole getting back home from Florida in the morning. This is the last trip she'll take for Carlson Wagonlit Travel. I'll let her write about that on our other blog. Meanwhile, I'm posting more on the Kingdom of God, but more broadly than just from the book of Acts. It's more from Jesus' perspective as witnessed in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

My premise is that: To understand what Jesus meant by “Kingdom of God” we need to understand to at least some extent the audience that Jesus addressed.

Different Jewish people interpreted their scriptures differently with regard to what it meant for God to be Sovereign/King. They tended to see differently how Israel would be God's Elect people for the sake of the world (“light to the nations”). For Jews there were three clear faith-based “Kingdom” options in Jesus’ day:

Option 1, “Quietists”: Separate yourselves from the wicked world and wait for God to do whatever it is he is going to do. Say your prayers and keep holy. Write letters to people still serving in the contaminated religious body in Jerusalem trying to persuade them to come out to the desert. (e.g., Qumran, where the “Dead Sea Scroll community” lived)

Option 2, “Compromisers”: Play the world’s games in the world’s own way. Go with the flow; compromise so that things will work out best for you. Build fortresses for your rulers. You scratch their back and they’ll scratch yours. Hope that God will work something out as you practice friendship with the Empire. Build a military fort, Masada, for the Roman army, your peacekeepers. (The Herods, the chief priests, etc.)

Option 3, “Zealots, Freedom Fighters”: Say your prayers; keep holy; but also sharpen your swords. Make yourselves holy to fight a holy war. Then God will give you the military victory, which will also be the theological victory of good over evil. Take over Masada from the Romans in the Roman-Jewish War A.D. 66-70. (Maccabees brothers; maybe Simon Peter?)


What happens when you put Jesus into the midst of those three “Kingdom” options?


He was not a quietist.

He was not a compromiser.

He was not a freedom fighter.

Rather, out of his deep awareness through loving faith and prayer to whom he called “Abba, Father” . . . Jesus went back to Israel’s scriptures and found there a different “Kingdom” model. “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” he said. Essentially, he said, “God is unveiling his age-old plan. He is bringing his sovereignty to bear on Israel and the world as he had always intended. He is bringing justice and mercy to Israel and the world. And he’s doing it, apparently, through me. But it doesn’t look like what people have been expecting.”

I got most of the above phrasing from a recorded lecture by "Tom Wright". I personally have seen evidence from primary sources (including the Bible, inscriptions, and Qumran writings) that support what Wright says about “Kingdom” expectations in Jesus’ day. But he knows this stuff a lot better than me. You should listen to this lecture and put your comments on here. Or just comment without listening. It's your option. ;-)

Soccer things

Gave blood today about noon.

"Don't play soccer today!"

"I think I'm going to play anyway."

"Well, if you do play, drink a lot of gatorade before, while and after you play. Make sure your friends keep an eye on you and if you feel faint just sit down right there on the field so you don't pass out."

Ate meatball and salad sandwich from scraps after the fellowship lunch.

Drank plenty of water.

20-minute nap.

Soccer by myself in the pouring rain. It was getting fun. Where was everyone else?

Justin eventually came out (fifteen minutes later). We kicked around in the pouring rain for about 20 minutes more. Saw two bolts of lightning and heard lots of thunder so we quit. Danny was about to join us.

I dried off, then got a call from Phuong. He was here with two of his brothers. "There's a bunch of Mexicans on the field playing."

I went outside and there were about eight Latinos and two Spanish-speaking Gringos scrimmaging under a partly cloudy sky, which sprinkled slightly. Phuong and his brothers joined them. I stayed in my dry clothes.

I think God created soccer for humankind. So I ask, Who was faithful? The ones who waited in the rain, but then gave up or the ones who waited until the right time and then played the game? I don't know who was faithful, but I sure missed out on playing soccer with those guys. I missed out on them playing with Justin and I, too. I'm starting to see that the soccer universe revolves around me.

Man that's deep. I just wanted to justify my preoccupation with soccer. I hope you realize that I'm laughing at myself. By the way, I never passed out or even came close during those thirty minutes of playing. I thought about drinking the gatorade that was left on the side of the field from yesterday, but there were a lot of floaties in it.

15 September 2006

Give-Receive Law

I got this in an email from someone:



It's a universal law: You have to give before you get.
You must plant your seeds before you reap the harvest.
The more you sow, the more you will reap.
In giving to others, you will find yourself blessed.

The law works to give you back more than you have sown.
The giver's harvest is always full.
Those that obtain have little.
Those who scatter have much.

Nature does not give to those who will not spend.


What do you think? It makes sense to me, but it's an easier law to comprehend than to trust. Maybe it's not true, or maybe it needs a balance.

"In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

"For you know the generous act [grace] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich." 2 Cor 8:9

"The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed." Exod 16:17-18

13 September 2006

The Homeless Guy

Subjects Kevin will be writing about in the near future:

The Definition Of "Homeless"

The Types Of Homeless People


Gift Bags For The Homeless

Volunteering To Help The Homeless

How A Homeless Person Gets A Home

The Homeless And God


Click on the title to this post to see Kevin's blog. I can't wait to read these and I'm sure many elementary students can't either.

Kingdom of God in Acts

Proclaiming the Kingdom of God and Teaching about the Messiah’s Enthronement according to the Book of Acts

What did the early church preach according to Acts? In particular, what did the apostles preach, whether of the Twelve or of other witnesses (e.g., Peter, Phillip, Paul, Barnabas)?

In my research paper I want to focus on the messages proclaimed by the various witnesses in Acts. The text seems to emphasize the kingdom of God and the Messiah’s enthronement, so I will seek to understand what the message is, not necessarily being concerned with how the witnesses adapt their message to various audiences (e.g., Jerusalem, Lystra, or Athens).

I believe research in this area will benefit the people of God today who want to understand what message we should proclaim.

I intend to read various essays in Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts in addition to appropriate sections of major commentaries including F. F. Bruce’s. I will browse the footnotes in these sources for other material in which scholars have examined the preaching in Acts, especially where they have focused on the content of the message (not that the method of delivery is less important or separate). Also, I will read the text of Acts, especially the sermons delivered and the summaries of what the witnesses were proclaiming.

I'm excited about working on this paper (though overwhelmed), because I want to be able to empower other people to be proclaimers of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ. I want them to be able to use Scripture responsibly so that even when I'm gone they will continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God and teach about the testimony regarding Jesus whom God has raised from the dead.

10 September 2006

Tagged for Book Survey

The following was difficult because I haven't read very many books in my life until recently.

Seven books that changed my life besides the Bible:
_The Last Battle_ by C. S. Lewis. Reading it right after I graduated from University affected my faith positively and still does.

_A Grief Observed_ and _The Case for Christianity_ (both also by Lewis) right before I graduated from High School affected my thinking and faith a great deal as well.

I read at least one of Tolstoy's books while in first year of Uni. It was based on Matt 25 and what it means to give Jesus a cup of water.

_Competency-Based Counseling_ by Thomas and Cockburn

_The Dead Sea Scrolls Today_ by Vanderkam

_Backgrounds of Early Christianity_ by Everett Ferguson

A book I’ve read more than once:
_The Last Battle_. As soon as I finished it the first time, I started reading it again.

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island:
_The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV w/ Apocrypha_ (leatherbound of course in order to last and I would probably start calling it "Wilson" at some point)

A book that made me laugh:
_Sex Begins in the Kitchen_ I guess . . . I can't remember who wrote it. It's the same guy who wrote _The Birth Order Book_ and _Sheet Music_. _Jonah_ has good humor in it, too.

A book that I wish I had written:
_Ecclesiastes_ or _Gospel according to Mark_

A book that I wish had never been written:
I would say most books should never have been written, but my opinion doesn't count for much.

A book I’ve been *dying* to read:
_Paul: In Fresh Perspective_ by N. T. (Tom) Wright. If you don't like to read, you should listen to some of his stuff. See Wright's unofficial website: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/

I’m currently reading (in school):
_New Testament Theology_ by I. Howard Marshall
_Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership_ by McIntosh and Rima
_The Drama of Doctrine_ by Vanhoozer
_Come to the Table_ by J. M. Hicks
_Shaping of Things to Come_ by Frost and Hirsch

Outside school:
The Book of Daniel

Next on the list:
I don't know, but hopefully something light or from the Bible!

I'd love to know what my Dad and brother are reading!

06 September 2006

Origins and Proclamations of Israel Restored

People like myself commonly understand that the "christian" church as we know it today originated back in the first century when the Jews rejected Christ. We act as if the church began from scratch by a bunch of pork eaters like us. But what really happened was that Christ restored the kingdom of God to Israel. Thankfully, it was done in a way that opened a wide door to both the related, but hated, Samaritans and the unrelated and hated Gentiles. Praise God for his faithfulness to Israel and his mission to us Gentiles! The church didn't originate as something new, but a people restored and expanded. It was expanded from East to West.

The book of Acts is also commonly read with the assumption that Christianity ought to have a place in the empire, kingdom, or nation. We also assume that any good Roman official or American politician would support such a harmless religion as the way of Christ. We assume the message of Christians wouldn't offend well-meaning people in power.

Well, I'm here today to tell you that I believe these assumptions are false. I'll admit, though, that I might be taking Luke's letter too personally, especially in chapter 17. Acts 17:5b-9, "While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason's house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city authorities (politarchs), shouting, "THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN HAVE COME HERE ALSO, AND JASON HAS ENTERTAINED THEM AS GUESTS. THEY ARE ALL ACTING CONTRARY TO THE DECREES OF THE EMPEROR, SAYING THAT THERE IS ANOTHER KING NAMED JESUS." The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go."

I don't think the way of Christ is supposed to sound favorable to people in power, whether religious or political leaders. But, ironically, it is a way revealed first to the religious/political nation of Israel through the law and prophets and the psalms (Luke 24:44), and then, in the last days, fulfilled in Jesus (Luke 24:45ff), who is the heir to David's throne. My new assumption is that Acts should remind us of at least four things:

1) This is no "new" religion; it is continuous from the faith of Abraham and David, but the promises from the Hebrew Scriptures are now being fulfilled in Christ and in the people who have, just like always, the Holy Spirit.

2) This "way" doesn't fit easily into even the best of human empires. The Way disturbs people who love their empire and its emperor, their religion and its controllers.

3) The apostles' purpose was to proclaim and testify to the Kingdom of God and

4) to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of impending persecution.

I haven't gotten these four things from any particular list. It's just from a memory of the book of Acts and a recent observation of how kingdoms collide--God's kingdom with the kingdoms of men.

I'm planning to write a paper on what the early witnesses of Christ proclaimed according to Acts: 1) the Kingdom of God and 2) Jesus Christ, the davidic king raised from the dead.

I'm excited about working on this paper (though overwhelmed), because I want to be able to empower other people to be proclaimers of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ. I want them to be able to use Scripture responsibly so that even when I'm gone they will continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God and teach about the testimony regarding Jesus whom God has raised from the dead. If this message is true (and I believe it is) then I am convinced that those who proclaim and teach it are in danger of persecution from religious authorities and imprisonment from well-meaning governments.

05 September 2006

Melissa's Recovery

Several people have been asking me about my sister, Melissa, because you heard that she was in the hospital. So I thought I would give a brief report on here and hope you'll give thanks for her continued recovery.

Melissa felt a sharp pain in her abdomen and couldn't digest food. Eventually, she got a CAT scan and experts realized that there was something very wrong. Surgeons sewed up the hole in her colon, took out some destroyed intestinal tissue, and got to work on ridding her body of infection. The first three days were critical. We didn't know what would happen.

We were in Brisbane, Australia at the time. We were very concerned about Melissa and wanted to be with her in the difficult time. She got lots of visitors, though. Men and women came and prayed over her, sang for her, and talked to her. Dad, Mom, and Stephen sat with her. She got gifts.

Eventually, this past weekend, I flew down to visit the family. They had kept in touch with me over the phone during the tough times as well as during Melissa's recovery (more rapid than expected). She has another surgery to anticipate within a couple of months, but she is able to walk around and to be sociable. She introduced me to a record number of people on Sunday after a public worship ceremony. No one has as many friends and loves them as much as she. She is a gift to a shy person like me. ;-)

We are so thankful that Melissa is recovering well in her body. And we are so thankful that we are able to participate in my loving family and meet the people whose lives Melissa has touched. . . . the Lord gives and he takes away . . . I'm thankful we got my sister back this time! Blessed be his name!

03 September 2006

Abilene family

I leave in the morning to go back to Memphis. I've been playing around with my parents and sister and brother in Abilene, Texas since last Thursday afternoon.

I met Shaitaisha W. who is mom's colleage and the family's friend. She made me feel welcome--like I was her long lost brother! I studied and read in mom's office during part of Friday and met other colleages as well. It is interesting that their just renovated building has brand new false thermostats on the walls. If they are real thermostats, then why does 85 degrees feel like a meat locker?

I conversed with my good friend, Damien. Man, that was refreshing. He and his wife, Miranda, came over here this afternoon. It's remarkable how similar Miranda is to my sawsome wife, Nicole, but they've never met. Hopefully, the time will come.

Excursus--I was reminded of the time Nicole was finally going to watch "The Matrix" with me before we were married. SHE FELL ASLEEP BEFORE TRINITY EVEN STARTED KICKING! --

Damien introduced me to Noam Chomsky. I'm going to have to start reading Chomsky when I finish my ministry of study responsiblities. ;-) Miranda is rushing a club this semester. I am looking forward to hearing how it goes and I'm sure Nicole is as well.

I had a great time talking with my parents Friday night. And in the car on Saturday, they conversed with me for several hours. Melissa listened. I felt like I preached three sermons that have been burning on my heart. I'm so lucky to have people like this in my life who think for themselves but still respect my thoughts. My parents have passed on some valuable things to me. They challenge me, but at the same time listen to my challenges. Mom read Scripture in the car for part of the time while I was driving. Dad helped drive and was navigator on getting out of Round Rock.

We were in Round Rock (Austin area) for a few hours visiting extended relatives. My cousin, Brian, and his wife, Heather, have a boy, Cade, who is walking around now and babbling on in baby talk quite fluently. I presented pictures from our survey trip to Wollongong in July. We shared lots of hugs--Grandma S., Aunt Regina, Jerry and Cindy, Allie, Brian and Heather and Cade. We missed Chris because some van was burning on the highway blocking traffic from Waco.

I worked out with my brother, Stephen, Saturday night. That is always fun. I learn a lot from him about exercise and fitness and draw a lot of motivation in that important area of my life. We went to a bible class with our parents this morning. Now the image of Frodo standing up in the council of Elrond will remind me of Ephesians 4:1ff and vice versa. And you know you're in a decent group of believers when someone says in a prayer to God, "You give and take away." We had lunch at Copper Creek. I had my salmon rare (which I now realize is the only way to have it unless they offer it raw). Tonight, we watched an old video of Stephen playing basketball in 1995 and played WHOONU. (Don't tell Nicole I had apple pie and ice cream twice today.) I forgot to mention Rusty the dusty dingo. He's still a good friend, but he is having trouble facing his fears of storms. Yes, it actually rained while I was in Abilene, Texas!

We had some really good times together this weekend. Now I am looking forward to hugging and kissing my sawsome wife when I fly back to Memphis tomorrow!

21 August 2006

Revenge, Apathy, or Care?

"Some Righteous Foster Care"

Using legitimate military force to privilege the interests of our good country . . .


Using a foster care opportunity to love someone unprivileged in our country's system . . .

Can you find an even better way for us . . .

There are usually three ways . . . right? Did someone strike your innocent friend? There are two options: 1) strike back with equal or greater effort, 2) cowardly run away.

I guess if there are only two options, I have to choose 1). Is there a third? Somebody tell me what it would be. If there are only two options, I have a lot of striking to do. In fact, I think I'll begin with you because you are the most different from me.

But I think there are three options (at least). I think the above case of foster care is an example of a third way. I don't know much about foster care. But, it seems like a ripe opportunity for a third way. Rather than complaining about stereotypical characteristics of people who are different from me . . . Rather than ignoring people who are different from me (I think this might even be more destructive) . . . Entering the lives of people who are different from me while carrying the love of God in my body would be the third way. Is that true? Is there a clearer way to say that?

If there are only two ways . . . MLK jr. took the first way. He and many other men and women of peace and righteousness jammed a stick into the spoke of the wheel of racism. The former fools of racism have gone extinct. Unfortunately, there are new fools in a greater age of fools. How do we determine who they are? And How do we jam their wheel?

14 August 2006

Israeli Irony

Here are two of my favorite excerpts from "Paint Lebanon Red":

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. ~ Mohandas Gandhi


"In my alternative universe, where Israel paints Lebanon red, the action would have captured the attention of the world and it would have shone a spotlight on the naked aggression of Hezbollah . . . Martin Luther King’s nonviolence required publicity to be effective. He and his followers were happy when violent men couldn’t bear to act reasonable even when the cameras were rolling . . . I think that Hezbollah would have responded to the painting of Lebanon with continued rocket launches."

You'll have to read this article. It reminds me of a true story I heard just yesterday. Several Jewish men in some law firm or corporation (I can't remember) came to a professional conflict resolution guy, Randy Lowry. Randy recommended that if one of them had an issue with someone else in their network or knew that someone else had a problem with one of them. The person should try to make things right with that person before expressing dislike or waiting for dislike to spread behind the person's back. Finally, if the offending or offended person cannot be reconciled, the responsible person will take one person with him/her to attempt reconciliation. If that doesn't work, he/she should get the whole rest of the group to try and reconcile the offending or offended person. If that doesn't work, you should still treat the person with utmost kindness.

Well, after these highly intelligent and professional men heard these ways of conflict resolution, they said, "Wow! This is unbelievably amazing! Where does this come from?"

Randy said, "Actually, Jesus said it."

The Jews said to one another, "Let's do this the Jesus way!"

Imagine if the people with the power to drop bombs decided to start doing things the Jesus way.

Randy also pointed out that Jesus' way indicated that after we went through the attempt-to-reconcile stages and the person still won't reconcile, "treat them like a non-Jew and a tax collector (Matthew 18)." (We might say, "treat them like a foreigner and a lawyer," in our day and time.) The funny thing, as Randy pointed out, is to consider how Jesus himself treated non-Jews and tax collectors! Immediately I recall the Syrophoenician woman whom Jesus helped, though he did, in a way, refer to her as a dog. (Still, the fact that he was in her neighborhood demonstrates an act of peace many of us wouldn't even consider today. For example, if you are a white middle-class male, would you go hang out in a ghetto where *you* are the minority?) I also recall the impromptu sermon Jesus gave in the synagogue (Luke 4). He refers to God sending prophets to bless and be blessed by *foreigners* . . . Naaman was from Syria. I believe Jesus, in that sermon and in other actions and lessons, is laying the precedent for his own people to accept Gentiles into his way. It seems to me that when we read the book of Acts from chapters 8 through the end, we see how the early church accepted the Gentiles, albeit slowly and conditionally (Acts 15). Jesus, the Jew, successfully converted the spiritual nation of Israel to his way, the way of peace, and to reconciliation extended to non-Jews. (Although it wasn't exactly easy, as seen in Acts 15 and in the food wars evident in Romans between Jew and non-Jew meal customs.)

The next time I'm tempted to retaliate, I will be as creative and imaginative as I can to do what Jesus would do. It is a more successful way of converting enemies than any method involving use of bombs.

13 August 2006

The Good News I Speak of

This is kind of an intro to "The God Who Sends: Who is He?"

I believe the Good News is this: Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

I believe we respond appropriately by accepting the truth of that. How? We begin with the confession that his lordship and salvation are true and absolute. In our confession, essentially, we renounce all rulers and false gods. We are baptized into that name with the intention of loving and honoring that Lord and accepting the effects of his salvation on us and around us. We continue in this truth by letting our lifestyles become congruent with his goodness and telling the news through both words and actions that Jesus Christ is our Master and Redeemer, our King and Deliverer. He is the only Ruler who actually brings eternal peace and declares victory over death.

Why do I say this is the Good News? Besides Scripture . . . I was reading some inscriptions found in the first half of the first century in places like Ephesus. They also mention "Good News" in relationship to Caesar Augustus. I think it gives us a clue to what the New Testament writers meant when they used the term "Good News". Here is a quotation from a decree dated 9 B.C.:

"Whereas the Providence which has regulated our whole existence, and which has shown such care and liberality, has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us [the emperor] Augustus, whome it [Providence] filled with virtue for the welfare of men, and who, being sent to us and our descendants as a Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and [whereas,] having become manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times . . . , not only in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him but also in leaving to his successors no hope of surpassing him; and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news [euaggelion] concerning him [therefore, let a new era begin from his birth, and let his birthday mark the beginning of the new year]." {Translation in _Ancient Roman Religion_, 174.}

Compare with Mark 1:1, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

I should probably also mention the tradition on which the Good News is based: God created the universe. He made humans in his own image and they ruled over the animals, but they broke their relationship with him by sinning. Jesus was spiritually anointed by God to bring good news to the poor and enslaved, the blind and the oppressed. They followed him and put their faith in him. He suffered shame and died for the world's sake. He came back to life and was clothed with an immortal body. He ascended into Heaven to sit on the throne until he will return like a thief in the night. Then, everything will be burned up, but he will create a new universe. Righteousness will be at home and humans will exercise proper dominion over the animals in this new age which as actually already begun in part because Jesus Christ conquered death.

In brief, I guess I should have said that the good news of Jesus Christ is set in the context of the tradition of the eternal history to which the Bible testifies.

What do you understand the Good News to be?

10 August 2006

Old Saints vs. New Saints

What about struggles we “missionary types” have with already-Christians, who are not as excited about new Christians being so different?

Well they aren’t new struggles, anyway. Consider Acts 11-15 to see how the Good News spread so naturally. But, eventually the “official” church felt the need (appropriately) to check them out. They sent “sent ones” to Antioch. (“sent ones” is the translation for “apostles”.) The “sent ones” came back and reported “all is well,” but the report wasn’t accepted at face value. There was a lot of struggle, as chapter 15 reveals, between the “stay-at-home” leaders in Jerusalem and Paul and Barnabas and even Peter’s “fresh” theology that included new, different people in God’s grace.

I’m hoping to interact in the next few posts with Acts 11-15. Conveniently, I’m preaching Sunday night on “The Sending God”. I’m preaching Sunday morning, too, but I’ll probably post on that later. I hope I get some feedback, questions, and even corrections from family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

07 August 2006

Riddles © 1995

Dark by day
And by night just the same,
Yet harder to find then,
And strangely arranged.

Noel made up a riddle around that time, too, while we were in Australia. Want to hear it?

Gambling and poker you may not play,
But you use this first. wager.

If you don't already know the answers . . . guess!

03 August 2006

Bad Breath Confession, 1/∞

I went to bed and deliberately stayed there this past Friday night (really it was 3am Saturday) . . . .
. . . . even after having realized that I hadn't brushed and flossed my teeth. This hasn't happened since . . . I don't know . . . it's been years . . . unless you count being on airplanes for 24 hours straight, but I don't count those anymore. I eat vegan on them and my mouth doesn't *feel* as polluted that way (though it most certainly is as my breath can knock over even the burliest of flight attendants).

But there was that one time when I was between the ages of 6 and 10 . . . As I was heading to bed on a Saturday night, Mom and Dad said, "Jason, did you brush your teeth?" Arggg!

"No. I'm going to bed," I said.

"Oh, no you're not," said Mom, but I went into our bedroom anyway with a particularly ugly scowl that unfortunately only God could see (Stephen was asleep in the bottom bunk and lights were out). Mom said, "JASON! GET IN THERE and BRUSH YOUR TEETH!" Mom didn't get my point. I needed just this one time to be freed from obedience; it was very important to my growing independence and maturation. "JASON!"

"MOM!" said I.

"BRUSH. Your. TEETH! Now!"

"Grrr!" said I. I took the six to eight steps between bedroom and bathroom, stood up on the stool ("This little stool of mine, I use it all the time, to . . .), and oh was my tear smeared face ugly in that bathroom mirror. I watched myself say the words "YOU'RE AS MEAN AS THE DEVIL!" (I was mad but, fortunately, I thought about it carefully for 0.008 seconds so that I was careful not to say, "You're *meaner than* the devil.")

As soon as I screamed those words outloud my face instantly became sorrowful. I said, "I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY!" though too late, because quickly I saw Mom's reflection as she whipped around behind me with the flyswatter! (She was quite agile in those days.) I kept apologizing sincerely as she swatted me and swatted me and swatted me. (I think it was more than three times, but this was loving discipline for sure.)

In fact, I was almost glad that Mom had swatted me and done so so vehemently. I knew that I deserved it. I had been unreasonable, disobedient, and rebellious. (Though nothing compared to sins I've committed since.) And I brushed my teeth really well that night and for every night since . . . until this past Friday night.

Why can't I be that sorrowful and repentant and obedient now, especially about *big* things besides personal dental care? Maybe I can be more repentant. I want to learn what it takes to be so. Maybe it would help for me to think of God as a person--even a mother--who really does know what's best for us . . . even if it means having to take swats.

31 July 2006

Dong-Soo Ham

Went to a worship hour at Berclair CoC. Shawn’s prayer at the beginning of the service really served to prepare my mind for worship. I wish I had written it down. I did write down a phrase from Dong Soo’s prayer led toward the end of the sermon he gave:

“Take us far beyond what we can imagine.”

*Love* that! His prayer was just after he quoted Ephesians 3:20-21: “ . . . to [God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. To him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Then, Dong Soo said, “Whatever it is, it can be done . . . through the power and skill that God provides. If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Earlier in his sermon he commented regarding his love for the churches of Christ. Apparently he was once contemplating whether to participate in the Presbytarian denomination, which is very common in S. Korea, or the churches of Christ, which make up like 0.5% of Christian claimants. He said something like:

"I love the simplicity . . . the restoration plea . . . the openness to unity . . . the leaders' passion in the early days of the movement . . ."

I also took note that he said, "I am weak . . . and short in many ways."

This was his farewell address to the Berclair CoC since he and Myung-Hee, Joon, and Jimina are all moving to Texas for six months and then re-entering S. Korea. So he told them: "You treated my family as brothers and sisters . . . You put up with my clumsy speaking . . . And you gave my family a pounding! a baby shower! and many gifts and cards!"

He also said, just before the Ephesians 3 quotation above, "I'm going back to Korea . . . I have tried to hide from the voice that says, "You should go back to Korea," but I will listen now . . . I can't be a coward anymore. I need to be courageous."

And then, of course, he prayed, "Take us far beyond what we can imagine."

29 July 2006

Questing is Perplexing, but Good

Have you ever heard of this Dr. Collins guy? It looks like he believes in God, creation, evolution, and the joy of studying it all. When I read his responses on PBS I thought, "He says what I wish I could say, but I don't have his credentials," and I also thought, "Yeah! I experience science as worship, too."

I've always thought science is kind of like wisdom. Wisdom can't figure everything out and neither can science, right? But I think both are gifts from God as ways to enjoy being perplexed by Him (see Ecclesiastes, written by "The Questor").

I'm not all that bright, but I've just always thought about (supposed) conflicts between science and Christian faith . . . since eighth grade at least. Lane B. turned around after Mr. Stone had filled the chalkboard with all this evolution mumbo-jumbo to, as he put it, "elaborate briefly" on some scientific points. I was sort of a believer at that point of my life--had observed in churches of Christ a lot of things both positive and negative on my life and made no plans of escaping--but I had yet to take the big plunge and admit I was a sinner in front of anyone who knew me. I knew other kids at school assumed that since I went to church more than twice a year, I must be a Christian, so I felt a little nervous with Mr. Stone's brief elaborations even though I was quite comfortable in my faith in God. (My parents provided a good context for me to reflect for myself on what Genesis 1 and 2 mean/t.) But class was silent that day. Few students turned around to talk or make faces or pass notes.

Everyone wanted to talk about what we had heard from Mr. Stone, but only Lane spoke up: "Man, is this stuff true? I thought God created everything?" Several students said, "I don't know," and quickly left for their next class. Then one girl pointing to me said, "Ask him. He goes to church." I swallowed in the face of the pressure. Lane said, "Well . . . what do you believe?" I think I kind of knew what I believed, but, afraid of being looked down on by other "church people" in the room, I mumbled, "Huh?" as if I wasn't even really thinking about it, and then, "I don't know." Lane just stood there (all 77 inches of him--he hadn't even grown much since 4th grade when I . . . don't like to brag, but I tagged him out at home plate when he had nearly hit the third home run off me). He just stood there in the classroom still perplexed. In recent years though, Lane's sister got married to my good friend from third grade, Chad S., and Lane was in the wedding which took place at MetroChurch in Stillwater. I used to drive past that building everyday. It was between my house and almost every school I went to until University. Lane's perplexion still allowed him to go on and live life. I assume his perplexion didn't prevent God from being pleased with him.

It's perplexing to me that the most perplexing things in life can wait on answers (actually, they have to wait). No one has to understand God, or even the human genome for that matter, before they can go to a wedding and participate in everyday relationships.

To me, whether I believe God exists or not doesn't affect me very much. But the path I've chosen behind the Christ of our Scriptures affects my life and all my relationships a great deal. This may not make much sense to anyone else . . . but I'm just processing some things so please bear with me. I think God considers me his child even if I only have 0.001% faith (mustard seed size?) in Him. But if I have 100% faith in Him and yet deny His rule in my life and relationships . . .

Ironically, I've just been puttin off the everyday(night) activity of sleep in order to reflect on these perplexing things. What a fool I am! But my conclusion: Questing is better than too much sleep. Ha!

28 July 2006

blue whale

I thought this was an impressive image. I'm terrified of sharks because I expect that if I was near one it would tear my body apart. If I was near a blue whale I would definitely be afraid, but in a different way. Somehow, even though I think they are peaceful animals, I'm sure my heart would be pounding from fear.

On another note . . . It's amazing what whales can do to communicate without human technology:

"The loudest sound ever recorded from an animal was produced by a blue whale, and some scientists have speculated that they may be able to remain in touch with each other over hundreds of miles." whale info

27 July 2006

To Mom and Dad

An Odd End, A Crest on Waters

I tend to think more of myself than I think of God's world. I'm really just an odd end. I'm only a nook. Simply a cranny. But I tend to show off my bells and whistles. So it made me feel good when the residents assistant of C dormitory, who was Hulk-size, used to call me "big JW". I was finally noticed! It was about that time I started playing my songs for people. I don't know what purpose my songs and stories serve except to make people feel bigger. Ideally, that's great; but apparently, according to my habits, making people feel bigger isn't always priority. What's usually considered priority is what makes *me* feel bigger.

I always wanted to be a big person to whom people would say, "Hey, we need you to help us pick up this piano [or cow] and put it in the back of this truck because you're big and strong!" But when I was a little student an innocent teacher told me, "Jason, you're skinny!" In effect, I realized I wasn't considered *big*. Despite my teacher's innocence, I've been stained by the *skinny* statement. So, you might see me doing and writing things to *look* *big* in your- ç ∂,∂ -eyes even though I really just want to present life the way it is and me the way I am.

I intend to think outloud on this blog, not as much about myself as about God's world. You'll get a sense of the everyday people I've got my eye on and what their hands and their heads are doing and thinking. You'll see some of the crooked things I notice, and some of the generosities touched. You'll get some of my family things and signs of things that I love and things that bug me, too. I intend to present things as they are, so correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not as big as I am.

I hope you see the Truth,
At work within it all.
Bigger and more generous than me or you.
We're crests on the waters,
Some big, mostly small,
And he's the entire ocean,
All in all.