Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Question of the Week . . . Omission

I have been teaching a Sunday School class for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students. We have spent the past few weeks studying the prophets. This week we where in the book of Zechariah, specifically Zechariah 4:6. “He said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (NRSV). Like many other churches our classroom set of bibles is a bit thread bare, made up of a hog-pog of different translations. During class, much to our surprise we discovered that the Good News Bible has omitted verses 6 through 10a of chapter 4. We all found this very surprising and we wondered why it had been omitted.

How do you feel about the omission of certain text from the Bible? Are there times when this might be an appropriate action to take? How do you feel about Bibles that only include the New Testament and the Psalms?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday Lectionary Devotion

Mark 10:52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

I remember walking home late one night from a school friend's house and saw an old man weeping in a bus shelter. I went up to him and asked what was wrong. "I'm blind," he said. "I don't know where I am. Someone put me on the wrong bus and I ended up here."

My heart went out to the old man. How could someone be as cruel to put a blind man on the wrong bus, so that he would get lost? I just couldn't believe a person could be as heartless as that. I asked the old man where he lived and when he told me, I realized that he was fortunately standing at the right bus shelter and just as I was contemplating how to get him home, a double decker bus came around the corner.

I stopped the bus and quickly prepared a speech in my head about the old man's predicament that I would tell the bus driver. As the doors opened, all of a sudden the driver said, "Hello, Alec. What are you doing around here? Your miles from home!"

The old blind man seemed to recognize the driver. "Oh, Jimmy," he answered, "I am so glad to hear a friendly voice. This wee lad has been helping me to get home."

The driver took Alec on the bus and assured me that he would make sure the old man got home safely. I walked home thanking God for providing help at the perfect time with the perfect person.

We take many things for granted, especially our sight. The fact that you are reading this devotional means you can see, recognize and understand these words. Blind Bartimaeus was so grateful to Jesus for restoring his sight that he decided to follow Jesus there and then. When Christ opens our blinds spirits to His enlightened truth, are we ready to do the same?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You brought Your light into my world and saved me from the lightless despair of ignorance and sin. You restored me to God's favor and blessed me through Your love. May I continue to follow You and be guided by Your words and ways so that one day I may safely come home. In Your Holy Name, I pray. Amen

Stushie is the writer of the Heaven's Highway blog; the Sky Pilots site for Busy Pastors, and also the host of the radio pragam "Seven Days."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Friday Review . . . Biblical Equality and Kruse Kronicle

On October 1 Kruse Kronicle started a six-week disussion of the book, Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, by Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, General Editors.

He began with Prefatory Comments and an Index setting out each chapter of the book with links to the discussion of that chapter as it has been posted.

His comments on each chapter are lengthy and thorough. In fact, so lengthy that just reading through the blog entries will take a considerable amount of time. It is an impressive undertaking, and well worth following along. He has just finished Chapter 18 out of 29, and this should continue for another few weeks.

Do stop in and look around. Whether you agree with the book's position, which also appears to be Kruse Kronicle's position, this amount of work should not go unheralded.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Monday Question of the Week

People learn to become Christians by watching the effect of the Gospel on someone else's life. From whom did you learn the effects of the Gospel on your life? What does you life say about the Gospel to others?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dropping "J" bombs to stiffle the ecumenical terror attacks.

This past week I watched “Jesus Camp” twice. Both times I was alarmed at the language being used to describe and define the world to which Evangelical America exists. Phrases such as “are you with us or against us?” and “Muslims are our enemies” scared me and moved me to think about my faith and the physical manifestation it has on this world. Is this the seed of the final conflict desired by many to bring forth the rapture and the reign of Christ?

I am not to sure why this strikes fear in my heart. Is it that I am unsure of my faith and salvation? Could it be the terrible bloodshed that would transpire when the fundamental radical armies of Christendom and Islam meet in this battle? Is it that these evangelical Christians are openly using children as players in this ebb and flow of soul conversion and tallying them like one would tally a high score in a video game?

It looks very irresponsible to me to indoctrinate children into a demanding, guilt ridden sense of existence to appease a God that is ever watching, waiting for them to mess up. A God that will remove the blessings in their life if they do not walk the straight and narrow path. I am not condoning a life of sin and hedonism. I am asking, “What happened to grace?” I shout, “Is your salvation dependent upon your actions or the power in the blood of Christ?” The latter seems to be the message offered by this Christian perspective…yet they are not practicing it.

It breaks my heart to see hundreds of small children crying and begging God for forgiveness. They are weeping and hoping they are not lost in the despair of the “dead churches” or dashed away in the fallen avalanche of dance, joy, or playfulness. What desperation brings forth this understanding?

I can only relate to them with my experience of worshipping and living in an evangelical community for six years as a young man. I never felt safe. I never felt good enough. I always felt like God was keeping track of me and marking against my salvation. I was disappointed I did not and could not speak in tongues or hold the wisdom others held in the community. I wanted to be near God, yet I was so afraid to be.

It was two years after I left the evangelical community that I finally realized I did not have to be perfect to be near God. We were provided for in Christ to be safe in the arms of our Counselor, our Comforter, our Creator. It is by grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone that we are saved. I am not certain I am saved. I trust in, have faith in the promise of God to creation that in Christ Jesus we are saved. No action of mine brings me closer to this or further from this.

When will we move from the language of terror (ecumenical terrorism?) to the language of hope? Jesus came to love us, to bring us into the community of God, to offer us completion. Terror only begets more terror. Salvation, faith, comfort, hope, joy, peace…these things can never be brought to us in terror. Only in the still calm of a swaddling infant can salvation, faith, comfort, hope, joy, peace is brought be to the world. A mentor of mine told me, “You can build a church with seekers of truth. You can never build a church with possessors of the truth!”

I am not aware that any Christian perspective is better than any other. I find it beautiful that God speaks too many where they are at. Christ saves all regardless of their condition. We must radically love to combat this growing hate and fear. We must reach out to our neighbors. We must extend to those in conflict our honest and sincere hearts. We must be a place of healing, especially in midst of our difficulties. Even in “dead churches” God exists and can move and bring forth life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Friday Review . . . A little early

I am heading out of town for a long weekend, and there will be no internet, television or cell phones where I am going. Amazing, isn't it?

Anyway, I was going to post that there would be no review this week, but I just ran across a nice review of a book that has been getting some very good press lately, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark A. Noll. The review is on The Reformed Angler on Wednesday October 18, 2006.

Check it out.

Justice Seeker

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hump Day Prayer . . . Hawaiian Earthquake

Our brothers and sisters on the island of Hawaii experienced a 6.6-magnitude earthquake and a series of aftershocks this weekend. Though there was a loss of power and the collapse of bridges and roads, thankfully there have been no reports of major injuries or deaths.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in contact with representatives of the presbytery and synod, and it appears that the community has the capacity to respond to all needs related in this situation without external help. But we can keep the people of Hawaii in our prayers as they begin to recover rebuild and calming there nerves.

From the Common Book of Worship a Prayer for When There Is a Natural Disaster

God of earthquake, wind, and fire,
tame natural forces that defy control,
or shock us by their fury.
Keep us from calling disaster your justice;
and help us, in good times or in calamity,
to trust your mercy which never ends,
and your power,
which in Jesus Christ stilled storms,
raised the dead,
and put down demonic powers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday Question of the Week . . . Pascal & A Wager

Fifteenth century French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal posthumously published Pensees which deals not with matters of math or physics but with religion and the existence of God. One of Pascal’s curious arguments was known as the argument of the wager. God exists or God does not exist, and we must of necessity lay odds for or against God. And it basically goes like this:
  • If I wager for and God is -- infinite gain;
  • If I wager for and God is not -- no loss.
  • If I wager against and God is -- infinite loss;
  • If I wager against and God is not -- neither loss nor gain.

Does Pascal’s logic translate to the twenty first? If yes how and if no is there anything that the church today can learn from Pascal’s argument?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday Lectionary Devotion

Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin. (NIV)

I remember being in a teaching hospital where an eminent Jewish psychologist was interviewing a young girl. She was deeply troubled by the unholy thoughts that kept penetrating her peace of mind. She was restless and agitated, wounded and suffering. The psychologist started to talk to her about her faith, and even though he was Jewish, he talked to her about Jesus.

A breakthrough occurred when the doctor said to his young patient, "Don't you think that when Jesus was a teenager, he experienced similar temptations?" The young girl's face seemed to brighten as she realized this for the very first time in her life. Instead of being condemned by God, she at last understood how compassionate He was. Jesus had walked that path too. Jesus could sympathize with her weaknesses.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was fully human, because we concentrate too much on His divine side. It's comforting to know that Jesus was tested again and again, so that He can empathize with the struggles we face every day against temptation and sin.

And isn't it wonderful to have a Savior who knows us completely, and yet He is still willing to show us mercy and grace?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we owe You everything. You forgive us of all our faults. You grant us grace. You show us mercy. You understand the struggles that we encounter each day and sympathize with our weaknesses. Thank You for being our strength, our song, our salvation. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

Stushie is the writer of the Heaven’s Highway blog and the weekly radio host of Seven Days.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Crying World absent of Solitude.

I have been reading Nouwen’s book “The Way of the Heart…” I have become fascinated with the idea of solitude and retreat. I have read bits and pieces of Augustine, Aquinas, Basil the Great, Bonhoeffer, Chrysostom, Lewis, and Merton as they describe various aspects and disciplines of prayer, silence, and community. I envision myself as one of the Desert Fathers perched upon my pole with that ever so stoic look of content plastered across my face. To be fair, I once imagine myself as the Buddha only to be destroyed by the vision of Keanu Reeves in Little Buddha.

I wonder what it would have been like to be alone surrounded by the single task of prayer and devotion. There would be no news of Kim Jong, President Bush, the ravages of war and civil strife, murdered families on a highway, homosexual this or that, Palestinians, Israelis, terrorists, air travel, denominations, doctrinal differences, or celebrity comings and goings. I would be there before God and have not a care in the world. This would be lovely! This would be ideal. This would be boring. This would be an exiguous task for anyone to take up in this fast paced, high tech world that we occupy.

In my desires to go deeper and become relevant, emergent, or real with my faith I often want to check out and cease to be apart of the Body. I get tired, overworked, overcommitted, and over simulated by life. I find myself daydreaming for a place to be still, a place to relax, a place to recharge. I peek at the latest self help novels gleaning knowledge on how to quite my life and gain refugee status from the depraved and chaotic world to which I exist. What does it mean to be a spiritual refugee?

A refugee can be defined as one that has no other option as to leave their native land. The physical, environmental, and political stresses influence ones decision to flee and seek refuge in another context. Often refugees are battered, abused, or victimized when they are seeking sanctuary. This is often foreign to us in America as our understanding is compounded by the readily available choices when hold as citizens of this nation. I saw we are spiritual refugees.

A spiritual refugee is one that has no other option than to lethargically seek a set of rituals, traditions, and dogma absent of that life transforming power of Jesus Christ. In America we are faced with a polarized gospel. One with two options liberal or conservative. We are shackled to a separation of self in religious activity and state manners. We are bombarded with a systematic way of purpose, emergence, and orthodoxy. When in fact, we have the ability to be transformed.

There is no greater solitude than to be surrounded by a world crying out to be transformed and you seeking to escape it. In my quest to find solitude, silence, peace, and God I believe that in the midst of the chaos and doldrums of life we are called to be a still voice among the flood of impatience, entitlement, aggression, and lethargy.

In the face of Kim Jong, President Bush, the ravages of war and civil strife, murdered families on a highway, homosexual this or that, Palestinians, Israelis, terrorists, air travel, denominations, doctrinal differences, or celebrity comings and goings we are called to be the presence and voice of God. I am personally convinced that our actions and voice need to be one of calm, patience, and providence. This voice cannot be one of judgment, aptitude, exclusion, or possession. As these are attributes of Christ alone. We can participate in these attributes…never can we own these attribute. We can possess forgiveness and understanding, but only with Christ as our anchor. Without Christ as our anchor we sail a tumultuous sea seeking calm waters as we pilot the ship. When we need to trust that Christ is with us in these rough seas and walks calmly along, hand in hand, loving us and loving us.

In recent events we may see this principle in action with the Amish community which suffered a tragic loss in the last few weeks. They attend the funeral of the man that inflicted massive amounts of pain. They calmly answer questions to the “English” world as we seek to understand why they are not seeking justice, vengeance, revenge. In a place where it is abnormal not to display anger and judgment these brothers and sisters offer a transformed perspective of peace, forgiveness, and love. I think they have it right. We could learn a lot about transformation by this example. This is one way to be repatriated to the Kingdom and end our stay as spiritual refugees.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Review . . . 15 Biblical Archaology Finds

I had something completely different planned for this week, and then I was surfing through some ring blogs and ran across Blogotional's October 6 blog entry Stairway to Links. The first link is to an article called, The Top 15 Finds from Biblical Archaeology, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Ph.D. In all fairness, Blogotional links to another Blog entry. The article, itself, is found here.

Obviously, the Dead Sea Scrolls made the list; but not until no. 3. The #1 find I had never heard of, Ketef Hinnom Amulets -- only the oldest Old Testament text known to exist. Even though reading about them is intersting, you expect the oldest texts to make the list. Some of the other entries, though, were less obvious.

Of course, I have heard of the Gilgamesh Epic. I vaguely knew that it was recorded in cuneiform on tablets. I would not, however, have thought to classify it as a Biblical find. The author does so, however, because it is an alternative flood story. He highlights several similarities and differences between the Gilgamesh flood and Noah's, but I would never have thought of Gilgamesh as having anything to do with Biblical Archaology.

Most of the other entries on the list are a little more obvious than the Gilgamesh story. I found them all interesting, and a very different change from what I usually run across when surfing.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hump Day Prayer . . . Domestic Violence Awareness


ONE: O God of compassion, you feel our pain and cry with us in our passion.

ALL: God of justice, you rage with us against the injustice of our experiences of violence and abuse. Be with us today.

ONE: As sisters of faith and hope, gathered here today, we remember:

Left Side: Our mothers, who had few choices; who did what they had to; who resisted sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly; who carried the secrets of their abuse silently in their hearts.

Right Side: Our sisters, who were made the scapegoat; who said, "No!" but to no avail; who thought they were protecting us; who were given tranquilizers to quiet their rage; who carried the secrets of their abuse silently in their hearts.

Left Side: Our neighbors, whose cries we heard in the night, whose bruises we saw in the day, who fought back and paid the price, who carried the secret of their abuse silently in their hearts.

Right Side: Our girlfriends, who spent so much time at our house, not wanting to go home; whom everyone thought were just shy and quiet; who carried the secrets of their abuse silently in their hearts.

Left Side: Ourselves, who may have tried to tell but were ignored; who were not protected by anyone; who were not believed; who carry the secrets of our abuse silently in our hearts.

Right Side: We remember and mourn the loss of childhood; the loss of creativity; the loss of vocation; the loss of relationships; the loss of time; the cost of resources required for healing; the enormous waste of humanity caused by sexual and domestic violence.

All: We remember and mourn those who have not survived; whose lives were taken by someone's violence; who died in despair never knowing justice.
(From Striking Terror No More, pg. 96)

[Voice 1 picks up the basket of stones, stands up, puts the basket of stones on the chair and exits. Voices 2 and 3 follow.]

ONE: Eleanor Roosevelt said, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness!" I invite you to come forward and light a candle or bring a flower out of love for a woman you would remember. Call out her name as you light her candle. Let us hold these named sisters silently in our hearts.

Women, Violence, and the Church; A Service of Confession and Healing

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday Question of the Week . . . . . .

I started my CPE (clinical pastoral education) today and between releasing bodies from the morgue and when a baby becomes a baby my brain hurts. Though I have tried to think of something, I am all questioned out for the day. The Monday Question of the Week will return next week. Feel free to share with the group any questions you might have.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday Devotions

Psalm 8:3-4 When I consider your heavens,the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars,which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him,the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

When I was a boy, I couldn't get enough books on astronomy. I loved to look up at the sky at night, trying to count the stars. Then I realized that it couldn't be done, so I began finding out the names of the constellations - the Big Dipper (known as the Plow in Scotland), Leo, Cassiopeia, the Great Bear, Draco, Sirius, etc, etc, etc. I loved the names and the old Greek legends behind them, but the one that has attracted me most, throughout the years, has always been Orion the Hunter.

It's made up of many stars, but there are seven prominent ones that appear to be the torso of a man, with three stars in a diagonal row that represent a sword belt. Each of the stars has a name, too, like Rigel and Betelgeuse and they fascinated me. Then, one clear autumn night, I discovered what looked like a faint or distant star below Orion's belt. I didn't know its name, and when I went to my books, I was staggered to learn that what I was looking at was not a star at all - it was a galaxy, with millions upon millions of stars. That really blew my mind.

God is infinite and dwells in eternity. Today's verse from the psalm tells us this, for how else could God determine the number of the stars and call them each by name? I have only learned a mere handful of stars by the names we call them on earth,.I cannot wait to get into eternity and discover the names that God has given to all the stars in the universe. And I guess if God personally knows the stars by name, then He must personally know each on of us by name, too. Imagine that! The Creator of the Universe knows you and I by name! Now that really blows my mind!

Prayer: Lord God, how wonderful You are and how marvelous are the works of creation! You astound me by determining the stars and knowing them by name, but You also comfort me in knowing my name and who I am. Thank You for such amazing love. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Poor Countries Need Is Less, but Smarter Aid

Every day we are bombarded with visions of poverty. We as Christians seek to alleviate this poverty. We want to hold that poor child and save them from the terrible atrocities that may befall them. We feel a sense of shame and guilt at the options we hold here in America. You may ever give up that trip to some said exotic tropical location to venture out to Africa, Asia or other developing nation to lend a helping hand to those mired in poverty.

I compare this response to one we get as we drive by a car wreck. We know it would not good for us to look. It will not help any one at the scene if we look. By God, we must look for ourselves. What does it say about our understanding of Christ’s call on our lives? How do we interpret scripture?

We dump billions in aid to developing nations. These nations grow deeper in debt. We are moved from one cause to another. Each successive movement attracts its favorite celebrity. We alleviate our responsibility by dropping a few coins into a special offering. We dare not change our lives in order that others may also live better.

We kid ourselves that the system of aid is working and that “they” are better off than before. We never think about the harm we cause in cleansing our hands of the blood and shame that is applied every time we purchase. We covet the shiny new best and better products right along side of the infomercials that ask us to fore go that cup of coffee to adopt a child. We are convinced that all it will take is the price of our daily coffee to heal the wounds of the developing world.

How insane would this reasoning be if applied to anything else? Our children’s education…Hey we don’t need to have that power drink, it could pay a teachers salary. Hey don’t eat that power bar; it could pay your salary. We consume power, we wield power, we super size and ultra size our lives. Imagine if we accepted our debt to our brothers and sisters in the developing world. Imagine a world where consumption and distribution of resources were fair. Imagine a world where our faith lived in our actions and any face time was used to return the thanks to Christ.

I want to share with you an article that helped me in forming my understanding of the aid and development arena it is titles "What Poor Countries Need Is Less, but Smarter Aid"

# The trillions we've invested haven't really done much.


By Thomas Dichter, Thomas Dichter has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer and country director, and as a consultant to USAID, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation and others. He is the author of "Despite Good Intentions: W

On Jan. 17, the United Nations issued a massive report calling for at least a doubling of aid to the developing countries by 2015 in an effort to drastically reduce poverty.

But giving twice as much money is actually a bad idea. The trillions we've invested in the last half-century haven't accomplished much, and more money will not make the aid industry work any better in the future.

Over a 40-year career, I've worked in practically every type of aid organization, and I've seen up close what gets spent and what gets accomplished. So I have a modest counterproposal: Cut aid by half, send most of the "experts" home, close or shrink most of the organizations in the aid business, and start over.

This time, instead of planning and funding what we think the Third World needs and what fuels the aid industry itself, we should base our efforts on what the Third World tells us it wants and what it can sustain.

The U.N. report calls for, among many interventions, more investment in primary education, gender equality programs and programs to slash preventable deaths among children and mothers. It singles out the need for "quick wins": for example, mass distribution of insecticide-impregnated bed nets to prevent malaria.

This push would increase aid to an annual world total of $195 billion per year in 2015, and officials predict that with it poverty would be cut by half by 2015 and eliminated altogether by 2025.

But we did a big push in the 1950s and '60s, when the U.N. declared "Freedom From Hunger" as a major theme and established "the Decade of Development." Close to $2 trillion has been spent over the last 60 years on such familiar problems as malaria, illiteracy, women's rights, primary education, soil improvement and legal reform.

We distributed billions of shovels and seeds, computers and condoms and, yes, even insecticide-impregnated bed nets. But not once has there been a "quick win," not to mention any serious reduction in world poverty (or at least any that can be attributed to our work).

Why then spend more money now? Why accept proposals we have heard and tried before? Has something changed? Have we learned something new?

The argument for more aid has several prongs.

First, the U.N. would have us believe that developing countries have a greater willingness now to deal with corruption and a greater capacity for economic growth. In 1998, the World Bank did a study that showed that a 1% increase in aid to countries with "good" policies (those with effective property rights laws and land titling, functioning banks, little inflation) correlated with a 0.5 % increase in annual growth and a 1% reduction in poverty. But historical evidence suggests that such countries will grow their economies and reduce their poverty even without the aid. In short, once a country gets its act together, it doesn't really need much aid. And when it's in chaos, it cannot make effective use of aid anyway. Either way, more money won't help.

A second argument for a big new aid push says a better grasp of the complexity of the challenge has finally taught us how to create a comprehensive approach that can move countries from the undeveloped category to the developed. But aid agencies since the 1950s have thought that they had that formula, only to find that conquering problems in undeveloped countries is like squeezing a balloon — push it in here and a bulge pops out there.

History should teach us that it took advanced industrial nations hundreds of years to "develop," and even though we now live in a faster world, it is not reasonable to expect the aid business to finish the job in the Third World by 2025 with any amount of money.

History also should show us why the aid bureaucracy cannot work miracles. What we do is supply-driven. Development agencies often go to the recipient countries and suggest possible projects. But because development is so complex and cannot be easily parsed into "projects," we end up making damaging compromises. We put money into projects before they're ready, make partners out of those with little management capacity and create dependency when we wanted self-reliance.

There used to be a saying among Africans who dealt with aid experts: "The white man has a big watch, but never any time." The aid industry always wants to act and to spend — now. A $100-million Phase II project is often approved before the results of Phase I are in. Lessons learned are rarely absorbed or applied. Mistakes are repeated. I worked on a project to improve chicken production in North Africa in 1965 that failed. In 2004, almost the same project failed again, this time in Mauritania.

We are in a hurry because we need to get the money spent; otherwise we cannot ask for more the next time. And of course the hundreds of thousands of us who work in this business need to keep our jobs.

Instead of another big push, we need to stop the action and think. How many aid agencies, workers and programs are really needed? How much bureaucracy and staff can be productively cut? What would happen if we made aid contingent on recipient countries' meeting mutually agreed upon specific goals?

Unfortunately, the call to double the money available to help the needy — and prop up the aid business — isn't likely to spur reform. It just means more money will be paid, and not enough will be accomplished. And come 2015, more calls for more money will surely arise.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Reviews. . . Emerging Model on Christian Century

In the time that I have been reading Presbyterian blogs, I do not recall ever seeing a half dozen bloggers or more all referencing the same magazine article, book or topic (unless of course, it had something to do with General Assembly or the Layman) within the same general time frame.

I have to assume, therefore, that the article in Christian Century entitled Emerging Model: A visit to Jacob's Well by Jason Byassee has hit a real cord with a lot of bloggers. I am sure that I have missed a few, but I first saw it mentioned on Pomomusings on September 25, then on Kruse Kronical on September 26, Advat on September 30, Religion on a Stick and Church Geek on or just before October 3, and at least one other blog I can't recall. I won't try to summarize these bloggers comments. I will say that they cover a lot of spectrums and range from young, liberal and idealistic to older and -- well, let's just say more experienced.

The article describes this church called Jacob's Well in Kansas City, and asks whether the use of the term, "authentic" has become just another trendy label. Along the way it paints a picture of a church attracting Willow Creek or Purpose-Driven levels of attention without appearing to be trying to.

The article is quite short. A lot of this blogring's members have already had something to say about it. At least one person who has chimed in has been to Jacob's Well.

So, is this different?
Is it real?
Can it be copied, and perhaps more importantly, should it be?

Justice Seeker

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hump Day Prayer . . . HIV/AIDS Awareness

Call to Confession

Last night 8,000 people died of AIDS.

Forgive us for our complacency.

Last night 5,760 children were orphaned because of AIDS.

Forgive us for our apathy.

Every 9 seconds someone new is infected with HIV.

Forgive us for not having the time to raise awareness.

Every day people with AIDS starve to death, too poor to afford food and too sick to work.

Forgive us for turning a blind eye to your children.
About 20% (1 in 5) of your population is infected with HIV.

God, help us to see how to help them.
As Americans, many of our domestic and foreign policies think only of the bottom line; we lose sight of your children living with AIDS by supporting these policies.

Let us not be partners of greed, but of good will.

As leaders of faith, we fail your children with HIV/AIDS.

Forgive us for being too busy to visit those who are sick in the hospital.

As leaders of faith, we fail your children with HIV/AIDS.

Forgive us when we preach words of harm, rather than of love.

As leaders of faith, we fail your children with HIV/AIDS.

Forgive us when we put those with AIDS on the back of our agenda in worship, meetings, and assemblies.

As leaders of faith, we fail your children with HIV/AIDS.

Forgive us when we, as your pastors, refuse to conduct funerals for people who have died of AIDS.
We stereotype your children with AIDS, we shun them, we hurt them and we disregard them.

Help us to see with the eyes of our heart, God. Help us to welcome those who are suffering into our Churches, our communities, our houses and into our hearts.

AIDS has devastated your children. Millions are dying, millions are orphaned, millions are sick. Yet, we do nothing and keep “those” people at arm’s length.

Dear God in Heaven, help us.

We are far from powerless in this fight against HIV/AIDS. With hearts full of love and souls full of grace we can make a difference.

Dear God in Heaven, help us to stand in solidarity with the suffering and have the courage to help those in need.

Let us be comforted in the sure faith through Jesus Christ that God indeed forgives those who repent. Let us be reassured by the words of St. Augustine when he replied that love “has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear sighs and sorrows.” That, my friends, is what love looks like.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday Question of the Week . . . Who Would You Be

Sorry for the late post it has been a busy day. Currently at my church our head of staff is in the middle of sermon series. To accompany the series he created a study guide for our small groups as well as for personal study. The past weeks text was Mark 14:3-9. One of the questions for reflection was this: using Mark’s account, where would you position yourself in this story? So I really started to think about it. Who would I be in this story? If I got to choose who I was I of course would be Mary but in all honestly I really don’t think that’s who I would. I unfortunately think that I would be the women in the corner wishing I was Mary because I was too afraid to make such a bold statement.
So here is the question of the week, who would you be in this story?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Righteous Men & Unholy Women

James 5: 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Today, two young women are being held in prison in Iran, where they have been sentenced to death. Malak Choubray faces a savage and brutal death by stoning for adultery; the other, Kobra Rahmanpour faces the hangman’s noose for killing in self-defense. Both women have been sentenced under the Sharia laws. Malak Choubray contends that she was raped and that her sentencing is unfair. Kobra’s father is vigorously advocating on his daughter’s behalf. Both women have been condemned to death by all male courts, all "righteous men" in their own eyes, powerful and effective when it comes to meting out justice to "unholy women".

It’s about time we all started to pray for these women and others like them in the Islamic world. They have no rights, no equal representation, and no access to justice. They are treated as being subhuman and as outcasts. Without some sort of outcry by the civilized world and the prayers of righteous people, they will be savagely, inhumanely, and brutally killed.

Perhaps when most people are watching “Desperate Housewives” tonight, they should be informed about the real plight of these desperate women in Iran. After all, if we were living under Sharia, the whole cast of many popular TV shows would be stoned to death, hung in public squares, or beheaded in parking lots.

If you want to read about the plight of these young Iranian women, visit the following website

But let me warn you, the video links on this page are horrific and the details of the methods of execution are graphic.

Stushie is the writer of the Heaven's Highway blog and the host of a weekly radio show called "Seven Days"