Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Moving is at the top of the list of things I hate to do. In the past three and a half years, we've moved three times. Two of those have been cross-country moves. As regular readers of this blog know, the first move was forced on us. Our granddaughter Allie was shaken and abused and nearly killed. This incident left her in a coma for 10 days and hospitalized in San Francisco for eight weeks. Allie is severely handicapped as a result.The Charming and Beautiful Susan and I decided to adopt this precious little one and since this occurred in California, we had to move there. We left family, friends, jobs and home, to make this happen.
After a year and a half, the adoption was finalized and we packed up and moved home to South Florida. But specialists and facilities that accommodate Allie, along with a good part of my work, are all located about fifty miles south of our West Palm Beach home down in Broward County. So we've rented a town house in Deerfield Beach, closer to where life has taken us.
We have incredible friends that have stuck with us through all of this. We are grateful for you all. You support my ministry to missionaries, you've helped us with Allie, you've ministered to our needs where ever we've lived, and you've helped us load and unload three moving trucks. We've had more deep friendships develop in this past three years than most people have in a lifetime. Like beauty for ashes, unbelievable blessing has come out of our devastating tragedy. Thank you for your friendship and prayers. Christ has made Himself visible through your love and acts of compassion toward my family.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
This time of year, when I'm just getting back into a regular running routine, I run when there's no sun. I go after Allie goes to bed three nights a week, and on Saturday mornings, I'm up at four for my weekly long run. This early in the season that's only seven miles. My other three runs consist of two three mile runs and a five mile run. In September, I'll beef up my Saturday long run with a couple of nines and an eleven.
For the past six years, I've used Hal Higdon's training schedule. It's always been a good plan for me. I've learned that if you don't have a plan, you won't train properly and either won't finish the race or will get injured trying. But if you work your plan with discipline, you'll achieve your goal of finishing a marathon in a reasonable amount of time. I'm not saying it will be easy, but if you work the plan, you'll set proper expectations.
Friday, August 20, 2010
It’s important to reflect on who and what has influenced you and made you the person you are today. Teachers, bosses, and friends have influenced you. Events and circumstances have shaped you. Are you who you want to be? Who gets the credit for the person you are? Who gets the blame?
Over the years I’ve written about the men and women you’ve influenced me. My heroes. They’re people you should know about.
Über Christ Followers I call them. One Über Christ Follower you need to know about is Dr. Bob Barnes. I’ve been influenced by his ministry at arm’s length through his books and his talks. Dr. Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries, a ministry that mentors young, marginalized people and turns them into productive parents and citizens. Family counseling programs at Sheridan House have revolutionized families across South Florida. He’s a sought after speaker and itinerant preacher and fellow contributor to the Good News of South Florida.
Barnes’ messages have challenged me deeply to become a man of strength, integrity, and wisdom, rather than a man who plays it safe by keeping rules. Men need to allow God to transform them into something they weren’t before. God transforms willing men into beings who naturally pause, listen, and follow the Lord. And they teach other men to do the same.
Here’s a practical step you can take that Barnes discusses in his talks. There are 31 Proverbs in the Book of Proverbs and up to 31 days in a month. Start each day by reading a Proverb. If you already have a quiet time as a part of your daily regimen, introduce this step. If you don’t have a time that you spend in God’s Word daily, start with this step. Don’t wait. Do it now.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
There is a thoughtful interview in Christianity Today with Anne Rice. Ever since she announced that she was leaving the church, she’s had my attention. Rice is a skillful communicator with a huge audience. It’s important that we tune in rather than marginalize, demonize or otherwise tune her out. What follows is my favorite excerpt. --Bryon
Are there any other religious authors you read?
I read theology and biblical scholarship all the time. I love the biblical scholarship of D.A. Carson. I very much love Craig S. Keener. His books on Matthew and John are right here on my desk all the time. I go to Craig Keener for answers because his commentary on Scripture is so thorough. I still read N.T. Wright. I love the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. I love his writing on Jesus Christ. It's very beautiful to me, and I study a little bit of it every day. Of course, I love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
You mentioned D.A. Carson, Craig Keener, and N.T. Wright. They are fairly conservative Protestants.
Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it's been interpreted. I don't go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It's the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I've read over the years, it's their work that I keep on my desk. They're all non-Catholics, but they're believers, they document their books well, they write well, they're scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don't have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn't rise from the dead, so there's no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked. --Read the rest of the article here.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
This is a couple of paragraphs from an excellent post about hospitality from Missions Catalyst. –Bryon
In her snappy little book, Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures, Sarah Lanier opens our eyes to a fascinating reality: People from “hot-climate cultures,” generally in the southern hemisphere, tend to value relationships over task, and in the process excel at hospitality. People from “cold-climate cultures,” generally in the northern hemisphere, tend to value task over relationship, and in the bargain struggle (to put it mildly) with loving strangers.
If you’re a hot-culture person, can I ask you a favor? Teach the rest of us how. After I’d spoken on hospitality to my church recently, a mysterious Russian man named Alex came up to me and said, “What you ask them to do, they won’t do. Tell them to go to the Arabs. Watch them. Copy them. Then they can do what you ask them to.” Many of us need to be schooled in hospitality.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Christianity Today posted this article with these thoughtful, biblical responses. Give these a good read and allow these ideas to percolate rather than cause you to boil over no matter where you stand on the issue. –Bryon
- Matthew Lee Anderson, author of the forthcoming Earthen Vessels: Breathing New Life into a Broken Faith and blogger at Mere Orthodoxy:
Within the happy confident hope we have in Christ (Jesus is still Lord, and nothing can undo that), evangelicals need to expand their intellectual horizons. While this is a landmark decision, it comes amid a long shift in culture and philosophy. We need to look backward to discern what's at the root of that trend, look inward to see the ways that we have been co-opted by it, and look a long ways forward to determine how we can work to reverse it.
Practically, I think we have relied too heavily on the will of the majority as our foundation for our legal actions. While political orders must on some level be representative of the people to be legitimate, our founding fathers set up a representative democracy for a reason. Without rejecting efforts like Proposition 8, politically conservative evangelicals should shift their focus toward equipping the next generation of leaders with the philosophical and theological training they need to affect society and government from the "top-down." Majorities are unstable, and while traditional marriage has the upper hand now, it may not in 20 years.
- Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International:
I believe that God is calling his church to a place far above the arguments surrounding what is sin and what isn't. We cannot avoid the glaring scriptural truth that there is, and will always be, a right way and a wrong way concerning just about everything we can imagine. And, yet, I believe that our attitudes towards people (internal and external) are just as important as our positions on the issues at hand. So, when I first saw the news that Prop. 8 had been overturned, my very first thought was, "Dear Lord, please let the Christians who speak in response to this share your heart and not their judgment."
We should respond with 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth. As Christians, we must constantly be sharing God's best for people. He created us for a lot more than we, as humans, tend to settle for—in every area of our lives. Because gay marriage is less than God's best for relationship, we need to equip ourselves to minister to those who will choose it and later realize it might not have been the best decision. I firmly believe that if we had spent as much money, time, and energy battling for people's hearts as we did fighting against their agendas, the gay rights battle would look very different today.
- Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University:
Proposition 8 was passed in California with the strong support of the Christian community, including Catholics, evangelicals, and (especially) the African American churches. The decision of Judge Walker could lead to a Supreme Court ruling as charged as Roe v. Wade. Christians who thought they would be able to just sleep through this issue will not be allowed to. At stake in the debate is the very nature of marriage itself. Thinking biblically does not allow us to regard marriage as merely prudential or preferential (I like strawberry, you like pistachio), but as a covenantal union of one man and one woman established by God for a purpose that transcends itself. Marriage is not a "right" to be defended or exploited but rather a union of one man and one woman offering their lives to one another in service to the human community. A gospel response to this judicial decision and the public battles it will generate requires humility, repentance, love, and forbearance. In other words, grace and truth, lots of both.
- Andreas J. Köstenberger, author of God, Marriage, and Family and professor of New Testament and biblical theology and director of Ph.D. studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:
The ruling shows that as Christians, we should not look for a political solution to the crisis surrounding marriage and the family in our culture. The only true and lasting solution is found in a return to our spiritual foundations. The Bible makes clear that marriage is God's idea rather than a social contract that we are free to renegotiate based on changing social trends. But we can't expect the unbelieving world or any government or judicial system to understand or reinforce that. For this reason we should focus our efforts not on swaying political opinion but on teaching people what the Bible says about God's plan for marriage and the family.
- Dale S. Kuehne, Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and author of Sex and the iWorld:
There are several questions about the legal logic of this decision and where it might lead, yet it appears many outside observers have been left with a clear sense of what Christians are against, instead of what we're for. Little wonder the world openly questions how the orthodox Christian belief that sexual relations should be confined to a marriage between one man and one woman could possibly benefit everyone. Too often we respond with anger, outrage, or a disillusioned silence instead of pointing out the wonder and fulfillment of the different relational path of gospel.
We can continue to politically fight a drawn-out battle with a government that is not governed through an evangelical worldview, producing more casualties for Christ. Or we can learn right now what it means to live in relation to, and relationship with LGBT people as gay marriage is legalized—continuing to actively show Christ's compelling nature regardless of state or national policy. The choice is ours.
- Gerald R. McDermott, professor of religion at Roanoke College:
Christians should be concerned about the common good, and this is not for the common good. Social science has shown that children do best in a home with two parents of the opposite sex in a low-conflict marriage, and gay marriages make that impossible for their children and less likely for society generally. More children will be created by artificial sperm donation, which in many cases forever cuts the children off from knowing both their biological parents. Gay marriage will also encourage teens who are unsure of their sexuality to embrace a lifestyle that suffers high rates of suicide, depression, HIV, drug abuse, STDs, and other pathogens.
- Scot McKnight, professor in religious studies at North Park University:
I wish Christians would cease using so much money and time to establish our Christian ethic through legal processes. Instead we need to witness by word and deed to an alternative reality in our churches. We need to tell a better story through our families. Whether our laws change or not, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
- Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute:
"Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female? (Matt. 19:4)" "In his image, he created them. Male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)" Our culture cannot understand the point of gendered marriage, without an understanding of gender itself. Male and female are two different and complementary ways of imaging God and of being human. We must teach with conviction the goodness of God's creation of male and female.
- Jenell Williams Paris, professor of anthropology at Messiah College and author of the forthcoming The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are:
The gospel invites believers to support marriages and families, including in their legal and institutional dimensions, an effort that will surely last beyond our lifetimes. Whether believers accept legal gay marriage or work to preserve marriage as a heterosexual institution, they should work with civility and with concern for the public good. An even more immediate challenge for those who believe marriage is properly between a man and a woman is to live with genuine love and concern for homosexual individuals and families in our local contexts.
- Glenn T. Stanton, director of global family formation studies and global strategic development at Focus on the Family:
The gospel is deeply serious while Judge Walker's decision is a jumbled mess of sloppy thinking and accusation. He asserts religion is the cause of violence against gays. Jesus, when asked a tough legal question about marriage, explained, "God created them male and female." This dual identity of humanity is no small thing for us nor our Lord because male and female image the invisible God, creating a full human communion. But Judge Walker says, "Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage." The Christian's allegiance is clear.
- Sarah Sumner, dean of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary:
In a democracy, Christians can love others best by voting for laws that uphold the truth as revealed by God. When a law lies by saying something forbidden by God is permissible in society, people are set up for long-term hurt. God's universal laws are for the benefit and welfare of all people, not just Christians. It's just as harmful for an unbeliever to be involved in same-sex sin as it is a Christ follower.
- Mark Yarhouse, professor of psychology and endowed chair at Regent University:
I don't know that there is one response to the Proposition 8 decision that will reflect the depth and breadth of the gospel in the life of believers today. A gospel response is shaped by many factors, including how one views Christ and culture. Some Christians will see appealing the decision as part of the gospel response, drawing upon legal avenues and hoping it will be overturned upon appeal. Other Christians will prayerfully consider alternatives to legal means to be a witness to a rapidly changing culture. I think younger Christians, in particular, are more likely to explore such alternatives.
Saturday, August 07, 2010
"Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians."
- The truth is that this sentence should be structured the other way around: “Gay and lesbian harm or undermine religious beliefs and treat those that hold them sacred and true as inferior, uninformed, uneducated, and irrational.” This makes a statement against those with religious. It radically discounts the successful, productive, community nourishing lives of religious people. In one sweeping statement, religious people have been denigrated; legally classified as rubes.
"Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted."
- This statement does not examine the lives of “well-adjusted” children. It basically says that anyone can produce mal-adjusted children. It’s a legal decision based on uninformed opinion, not social science.
"The gender of a child's parent is not a factor in the child's adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent."
- In the context of current culture, there is truth in this statement. Modern child-rearing has been abdicated by parents and relegated to the public school system for education, discipline, and moral formation.
- If sexual orientation is vital to naturally becoming a parent, then it follows that natural parenting takes a male and a female nurturing and providing for children together. Again, Judge Walker didn’t examine good examples, but bad examples. Bad examples take no effort to produce.
"Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions."
- This is simply a ludicrously constructed sentence. “Same” is not identical to “opposite”.
"Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals."
- This is not marriage legally interpreted. It is marriage legally re-defined.
- Marriage in every culture in human history has always been religious first. The legal aspects of marriage have flowed from religious tradition, not the other way around.
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
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I was happy, a few years ago, to learn that Anne Rice had made a profession of Christ. The famous writer is the creator of Interview with a Vampire. The book became a pop culture phenomenon once it hit the silver screen starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in the early nineties.
Once Rice made her profession of Christ, she said that she was no longer the pessimistic atheist that penned the Vampire Chronicles. “I found what the characters in the vampire novels were looking for. They were groping in the darkness; they lived in a world without God,” Rice told NPR’s Michelle Norris in an interview yesterday. Her new-found faith was reflected in her Christian-themed books like Christ the Lord: the Road to Cana.
I usually enjoy NPR’s interviews, especially the work of Michelle Norris. It’s professional, insightful, though-provoking. But I had a sense in yesterday’s interview that Norris was a little cynical in her questioning. Sort of like now that you’re done with this religious faze, are you going to go back to writing what the public really wants? I know it’s not the press’ job to be compassionate or sympathetic to people in crisis, but is the cynicism really necessary?
I feel like the Christian community is just as guilty, though. When a celebrity makes a profession of faith in Christ, high-profile preachers love to march converted celebrities onto their studio sets before faith even begins to take root. Before faith is real, the celebrity turned Christian is indoctrinated into what agendas to promote and whose politics are most sanctified. What is needed is real, nurturing discipleship.
I don’t know that Rice didn’t get discipleship. I assume she got ritual and catechism. And it is evident that the worship of celebrities doesn’t occur outside the church only. No one deserves that spotlight. Nor can they live up to the expectations that come with remaining in the spotlight.
What thinks you?