Friday, October 30, 2009

Reformation Heritage and Ecumenism for 2009

I have posted here before about my convictions in a broad circle of ecumenism among the body of Christ. I strongly admire the work of groups and individuals like Evangelicals and Catholics Together, Timothy George, Chuck Colson, and others. I saw this article this morning. I thought it fitting since tomorrow is Reformation Day for many, many protestants, particularly of the Reformed and/or Lutheran heritage. There are differences between Protestants and Catholics, let's be clear about that fact, but there is more that unites us than divides us. That being said I am alarmed at this article and what is going on within subgroups of the church among minor differences and distinctives. (I acknowledge that most of those who would have issues over these "minor" differences actually argue that these are major differences of doctrine, you can be the judge of that.) I really liked what Timothy George had to say in the article:

"The gaping divide between evangelicals and Catholics is ecclesiology and authority, not justification and salvation, as important as that debate remains," George said. "There is enough commonality that evangelicals and Catholics with a living faith can recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ with a common Lord and common grace that brought them together. The hard issues are questions related to the church, such as the Petrine office [the papacy] and the Eucharist. Those discussions will occupy us for the next 100 years."

Conscience will not let me dismiss my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, but I am thoroughly Protestant. I am ever grateful for the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, and others who realized that the core values of the reformation really were important enough to fight for. It is Luther's work that allows us to read the Bible in our native tongues all over the world. It is Calvin's renewal of systematic and organized theology that has influence every one who has attempted to do theology since then. This Reformation weekend I will be grateful to God for working throughout the years, from Christ to Augustine to Benedict to Aquinas to Luther to William Carey to Billy Graham to ????.

Happy Halloween!!

I know Halloween is tomorrow but for us it seems like it started four days ago with goodie bags from Claire's friends at school, a wonderful Fall Festival at FBC Statesboro, watching the Great Pumpkin and making fall themed sugar cookies with the girls. Today was Claire's class party, Grandmother coming to visit, and trick or treating tomorrow night with cousins! Whew! I briefly considered dressing up as Michael Jackson as an homage to the late "King of Pop" but I figured that doing that once in a lifetime is probably enough. It has been one crazy week, but so many great memories with family and friends (old and new). Whatever your plans for October 31st, I hope that you get scared just once, it does a body good!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yet Another Reason Why I Am a Baptist

You got to love being a Baptist, all apologies to others who read this if you aren't. My own summation of Baptists as a whole, is that we tend to take ourselves way to seriously. Perhaps we should remember that God does have a sense of humor, that's how Baptist's got their start to begin with...j/k. I know I've posted a lot from Internet Monk lately, but he really has a great perspective on many things even if I don't agree with him on everything.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Next Saturday is Halloween. One of my favorite times of the year...I know preachers aren't supposed to like Halloween because it's the devil's holiday. I think that's a lie straight from the devil, really manipulated by the kind of folks who held membership cards for the Moral Majority of the 1980s and 1990s. I used to love dressing up and going around the neighborhood to get candy. I think part of my affection stems from the love that my mother and grandmother have for this festive holiday.

I am obviously not alone in my outrage of Halloween being hijacked by other groups. Here is a post from Internet Monk that gave me a good laugh.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reading The Bible (Again and Again and Again)

I recently finished reading Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again For the First Time and then saw this information from the Barna Group on Bible reading. Admittedly these are two different voices within the Christian community. In fact, there are times when one questions whether or not Borg truly is a person of faith, I will decline from making my judgment call on that and allow God to sort that out with Borg directly. Borg is however a brilliant Biblical scholar, although he is definitely shaded by his own biases and preconcieved notions of faith, religion, and spirituality. He is the type of scholar that conservatives are scared of, liberals don't think he's liberal enough, and he seems to go either way with moderates depending on what side of the bed they woke up on that day. The book is a good read, mostly free of scholar jargon. Borg's intention is to help people who have dismissed the Bible reclaim it, at least on some level.

My biggest concern was the broad brush strokes he paints people and their view of the Bible. He argues that there are two groups, the fundamentalists and people like him. I however would propose a third group, which seems to include most people in ministry and academia that I know who profess faith in Jesus Christ, let's call them informed Christians. These are people who hold steadfastly to the Bible as the word of God, but also acknowledge that their are some things that the Bible has no intention of addressing, because after all it is a book about God's revelation of himself to his chosen people and the ups and downs of that relationship.

All that to say that, Borg's book offers some challenges for people on both sides of the theological debate about the Bible.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Word About Blogs

If you peruse the whole site you might notice that I list other blogs that I think are worthy to be checked out by people who read my blog. All of these are people who I know, friends, collegues, etc. who write about their corner of the world and who offer me encouragement, the occassional laugh, and extend grace to me through their own writing. There is no limit to the number of blogs I could list that I read from time to time or subscribe to, but as much as those are informative and helpful for me and my journey, I enjoy knowing about people that I actually know and what's going on with them. All that to say that Allison Stroud, a long time friend started a new blog that I added to the list. Check it out here.

Hopefully you enjoy what I have to say...even if you don't always agree and you might find some hope for the journey from some of my friends!

Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper is always an interesting topic for dialogue and discussion among brothers and sisters of different traditions. My own understanding and appreciation of the Table has been deeply enriched by learning from other perspectives than my own Baptist understanding of the Lord's Supper. I found this post from Internet Monk to be insightful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

I finally finished Three Cups of Tea this week! It's a great book, just one of those that I only got to read a little bit here and there so it took me a while. It is the first-hand account of Greg Mortenson's attempt to bring peace, literacy, and hope to an area of the world that has suffered turmoil, war, and poverty for too long. Mortenson's story shares the triumphs and the struggles of his journey, his passion. A couple of things struck me as I read through this book...
1. Mortenson's passion to help people. His parents were missionaries, but the story doesn't indicate that it is his faith that was the driving force for his efforts. There are accounts of sleepless nights worrying about how to make education a possibility for Pakistani children, especially young girls. Would missions be different if more Christians had sleepless nights and overwhelming burden for those who have yet to hear the revelation of God in Christ Jesus?
2. Mortenson's success largely depends on his willingness to learn and adopt and even cherish the customs and culture of the villages that he visits.

About half way through the book the story of Mortenson's realization of his necessity to meet the needs of the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has been walking around with his ledger book, his plumb line, and other tools trying to oversee things and make sure everything is happening on schedule and just as he wants it to, as a frenzied American. Haji Ali, the chief of Korphe, the first village where he establishes a school, takes all of his tools and looks them up-removing Mortenson from the task at hand, at least for a while. Haji Ali urges Mortenson to have some tea and sit down for a lesson of life that he hadn't yet learned.

"If you want to thrive in Baltisan, you must respect our ways," Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die," he said, laying his hand warmly on Mortenson's own. "Doctor Greg, you must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time."

"That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life," Mortenson says. "Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them" (50).

What would happen to the church in the 21st century if more believers took those words to heart. How quick we move from meeting to meeting, mission project to retreat, to evangelistic efforts...all filled with half-hearted people who are as concerned with what is going to be their next meal as they are the power of the gospel taking hold in their lives and the lives around them, thus transforming their community. Perhaps we would be better served to meet people where they are in their journey of life and learn from them, inviting them to follow The Way, The Truth, and The Life, not our church, denomination, or theological group. It's so easy to get wrapped up in evangelizing the "lost" that we forget that those people are PEOPLE! Let us learn to love people for who they are and meet them where they are and invite them to be moved by the only Mover that can change their lives.

Thanks for letting me borrow the book Sarah Mooney!!

You can check out more about Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thoughts on Prayer from Yancey

This quote was at the heading of chapter 7 in Philip Yancey's book on Prayer: Biblical Prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologues of the church. Walter Wink

Yancey also shared this story that I found convicting as a minister but more importantly as a believer.

The church I attend reserves a brief time in which people in the pews can voice aloud their prayers. Over the years I have heard hundreds of these prayers, and with very few exceptions the word polite indeed applies. One, however, stands out in my memory because of its raw emotion.

In a clear but wavering voice a young woman began with the words, "God, I hated you after the rape! How could you let this happen to me?" The congregation abruptly fell silent. No more rustling of papers or shifting in the seats. "And I hated the people in this church who tried to comfort me. I didn't want comfort. I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt back. I thank you, God, that you didn't give up on me, and neither did some of these people. You kept after me, and I come back to you now and ask that you heal the scars in my soul."

Of all the prayers I have heard in church, that one most resembles the style of prayers I find replete in the Bible, especially those from God's favorites such as Abraham and Moses.

What a powerful picture of redemption! What a powerful picture of the true nature of prayer, a soul sliced open before God...needing his touch and presence more than anything else.