...thoughts expressed here are not necessarily final.

November 29, 2004

A new survey from The Barna Group describes what gives people their spiritual satisfaction and how they believe it could be further enhanced. Reflect on George Barna's comments that most adults have neither a plan nor a process designed to help them effectively deepen their faith. What does that mean in YOUR life?

I linked up with my old friend Greg over the holidays. Greg is quite something. His naval career has taken him to the ocean depths as a submariner, then into underwater salvage and demolitions. He has led excursions into Viertnam in search of MIA remains. Yet one can discern that he is a sensitive and kind type of individual. Most of all he is easily identifiable as a Christian. I really enjoyed picking up with him where we left off when I last saw him 20 or so years ago. Time has passed quickly, and our lives have diverged- but the bond Christians share transcend space and time.

One of the things we talked about is the war. He had some insights I will share here, as I have thought of them myself at previous junctures. A key to understanding what we are up against is that the Islamic worldview is not primarily centered around the ideas of good and evil as Judeo Christian traditions dictate. Rather the driving force behind Islamic thought and action are the key concepts of honor and shame.

Honor and shame; if you shame me, I will kill you. If you honor me I will honor you. It is the old Lex Talionis revisited and fundamentalized.

That is why Abu Grabe is a multilevel debacle- we not only shamed ourselves like a bunch of frat boys, but we shamed the enemy, and that will necessarily yield more shame. We reap what we sow , later than we sow, much more than we sow. That is a Biblical principle.

That brings me to a story I saw just recently.

Nigeria: Native Missionaries Preach Peace in Midst of Religious Violence


"In a country torn by fighting between Muslims and Christians, evangelical believers find themselves caught in the midst of the conflict, preaching a gospel of peace and not retaliation. The fighting has been ongoing for decades ever since some Christians, weary of persecution by militant Muslims, took up arms against Islamic tribes. Tension escalated in 2000 when several northern states adopted sharia (Islamic-derived law) as the official law of the land. Sharia, which often extends beyond judicial mandates to rules regarding clothing and circumcision, was adopted as certain Muslims began to fear a newly-elected Christian president would impose his beliefs on the country. Extremists stepped up persecution of Christians, and in retaliation some nominal Christians turned to violence, escalating the problem. The fighting spread to parts of central Nigeria. Thousands have been killed or displaced as militant Muslims and Christians clashed in recent years. This May alone, attacks and counter-attacks claimed over 500 lives. Evangelical Christians are concerned about this decidedly un-biblical approach to the problem of persecution. They strongly oppose inter-religious fighting and hold all-night prayer vigils in times of conflict, trying to spread the peace of Christ and end the cycle of violence. Native missionaries continue to preach Christ in these troubled times. "

First Looks at Narnia

I was just reminded of this site that I hadn't looked at for quite some time- checkitout to see the first views of the artwork for the upcoming The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

And Larry reminded me that November 29 was C. S. Lewis' 106th birthday.

Another response to a Brian MacLaren Book

This goes back a couple of weeks to the Christianity Today article on the Emergent church with Duane Litfin.

The problem with Brian MacLaren is that he tends to make general statements and intimate or allude to what we would hold as black and white truth claims but he hedges everything he says- so he might not admit to being against truth in practical terms the result is nearly the same. Fuzzy logic and fuzzy truth lead to a fuzzy life. I have decided that mitigation is not a place where warrior saints need to go. Now if I can live that consistently it will be dangerous life. You know me- staying focused on one thing when so many things interest me does not yield a great deal of satisfaction.

When I saw McLaren's latest :

"A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional+Evangelical+ Post/Protestant+ Liberal/Conservative +Mystical/ Poetic +Biblical+ Charismatic/Contemplative+ Fundamentalist/Calvinist+ anabaptist/ anglican + methodist+ catholic+green+ incarnational +depressed-yet-hopeful+ emergent+ unfinished CHRISTIAN" ,

I had a bad reaction. So like in most cases I need to read what he is actually saying. It strikes me as sort of a twist on "When everyone is special, no one is"

When one holds mutually exclusive concepts in each hand and sees no problem, there is a major disconnect occuring. This goes beyond a "big tent " Kingdom view in my humble opinion. It is the western meltingpot theology that claims unity in diversity and democracy as congruous with the Kingdom. Check here for the book.

This Food Can Make Men Aggressive

Men: Beware how much soy you consume. It could change your behavior.

It's long been known that soy is beneficial to women in a number of ways, but new research from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center indicates the same is not true for men. In fact, a diet rich in soy isoflavones, especially through the use of soy supplements, can have marked influences on patterns of aggression and social behavior in men, reports HealthDayNews. Isoflavones, which are found in soy protein, are a naturally occurring plant estrogen.

Beware the Fists of Pasta.

Plenty of Room at Inn for Mary and Joseph

Oddly Enough - ReutersLONDON (Reuters) - A British hotel chain is offering couples called Mary and Joseph a free night's stay over Christmas.

Woman 'blessed by the holy toast'

Now I find you can get a Passion of the Crust T-shirt and official Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich makers on ebay as well as a proliferation of grilled cheese wannabees.

An online casino has won the eBay bidding for a decade-old cheese sandwich bearing what some people consider a likeness of the Virgin Mary and immediately began hawking Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese T-shirts.

GoldenPalace.com’s bid of $28,000 (15,000 pounds) was the highest offer for the sandwich when bidding closed late on Monday, the Internet casino’s website said.

The seller, Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident Diana Duyser, says she made the cheese sandwich 10 years ago and after taking a bite, saw "the Virgin Mary staring back at me."

She says that in ten years, not one mold spore has shown up.

Another story.

Anthony's Hypothesis of Creative flow

I have a theory that creative flow and concentration is impeded by focusing ones attentions on one's peculiar lusts- whatever they may be. The admonition to think on good things is found in Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

The enemy wants you to think about other things- to be double minded. The things that ae most detrimental are the one s that are contrary to the law of love. Christ told us that to think it is to do it in God's economy, Whatever we want badly enough and consisently enough will shape what we become. This is a great hidden danger of lust that cuts more deeply in its trenches than the obvious problems of covetousness and a pornographoic mind, as hideous as they are. Lust is pathological- if you entertain it, it gets worse.

Now I 'd better get about testing the hypothesis- wonder if there are any stats out there to back this? I sure don't want to be in THAT control group.

Yes, it is true? Derrida is reportedly dead, though he would dispute the viability of that truth claim too.

Don't know how I missed blogging this- I certainly knoew about it. Sort of a Forest/Trees thing going on I suppose- at any rate, this is old news (October 10) but worth mentioning.

"Over a 40-year career, the flamboyant doyen of Parisian intellectuals became one of the best-known and controversial philosophers in the world - loathed, adored and seldom fully comprehended."

He died of pancreativc cancer- something I wouldn't wish on anybody. My Grandmother and Uncle both died of that stuff.

He was a product of his times in many ways- his writings were absurdist according to his critics, and that was the point.

Objective attempts to place Derridia's life in a finite context are, in and of themselves, subject to epistemic relativism, the idea that all such scientific concepts (death included) are mere ³narrations² or social constructions.

Derrida is dead and he is in no postition to disagree. That is a more sure fact than his own questioning of existence. The newswires are called him a philosopher- I think they are missing his point.

The Paradox of Honoring Humility (Luke 14:1-15)

The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. --Phillips Brooks

In Romans 12:1-2 humility is primary. An essential idea is that holiness is a product of grace and that God only gives grace to the humble. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (metamorphosthe te anakainosei) "Mind" here is equivalent to the "heart". Romans 12: 3 goes on to order us not to think more highly than we ought of ourselves.

Humility is the essence of all virtues. Walk humbly and love mercy and justice says the Lord in Micah 6. Conversely, Pride is the agent of stasis. The prideful see no need for change.

We all have heard the fable of Narcissus- who fell in love with his reflection in a pool. A pool gives a most distorted view of all it reflects. We are all marked by self love- in one way or another we have all been affected by the all consuming search for self.We commit early on to fulfilling self, and we lose more of ourself in the process than we find.Like Narcissus, we meet our undoing when we become too enamored of ourselves.

Reflections and Applications- Lesson on Luke 14 is to follow later in the week...

Christopher Lasch- The Culture of Narcissism -American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations in 1979...asks these questions-

Have we fallen in love with ourselves?
Have we bargained away our future for self gratification now?
Have we lost intimacy, joy, insight and shared love in a frantic search for ourselves?

This book describes a culture of competitive individualism, which in its decadence has carried the logic of individualism to the extreme of a war against all, the pursuit of happiness to the dead end of a narcissistic preoccuation with the self....

He goes on to say...

"The ethic of self preservation and psychic survival is rooted, then , not merely in objective conditions of economic warfare, rising rates of crime, and social chaos but in the subjective experience of emptiness and isolation. It reflects the conviction- as much a projection of inner anxieties as a perception of the way things are- that envy and exploitation dominate even the most intimate relations... the ideology of personal growth, superficially optimistic, radiates a profound despair and resignation. It is the faith of those without faith..."

This ideology of personal growthis ubiquitous. We live in a day characterized by blind faith in abstract concepts that have no contact with reality, no context of faithfulness.
Do you know people like that? People who are afraid to knock on the door of their soul for fear of finding no one home? They go through life with the faith of those without a faith. - convincing themselves that everything will turn out in the end, but having no basis for this belief. So they turn to improving themselves - self help, self fulfillment, self realization-to appease the nagging sense that there may in fact be some kind of accountability in the universe. They seek the benefits of God without God Himself. I am afraid that rather than learning from the mistakes of the world, we sometimes pursue in the church the same search for significance- in all the wrong places...

Today we are going to return to the theme of The foolishness of God and what it demands- Humility. We are going to look from a different aspect of the life of Christ- not the crisis of the cross, but the meaning of the manger...

Remember we asked the question - how can we avoid or help others avoid the trap of becoming trapped in the cult of self. The Bible exhorts us to examine ourselves- but we all know people who are so consumed with analyzing and examining self that they fixate on the self’s state and not on God.

The answer to this is found when we understand the meaning of the manger- when we grasp this we begin to grasp the meaning of our own lives- the source of what it is to be a person- to be true, whole and complete. We have been so indoctrinated by the world that we think that success and mental capacities are to be enhanced by schools, universities, seminaries- yet these do not produce the brilliance that seeks to serve-

Sometimes I wish for relationships that would carry me into the lives of others, my relationship with Earnie not withstanding. I need to know that I am encouraging and supporting them and I get the same in return! Paul says if we understand the meaning of the manger we will be committed to that kind of relationship as the number one object of our life.

I am convinced that Lasch's words are just a mild approximation of what is going on around us daily. There are longings, loneliness and pain in our society that cannot be described. There are silent screams that arise daily around us out of spirits and souls that live with emotional struggle- and WE have what people are searching for. but they will only know it if they see it in our lives.

Remember the Dr. Suess story of Horton Hears a Who? Horton the elephant hears a cry for help from a tiny civilization of Whos. No other jungle animals seem to hear the Whos, but Horton sets out to rescue them from danger. Despite ridicule, Horton perseveres. Christians should be alert to the cries of people like the Whos, escpecially when they are overlooked by a narcissistic society.

This lowliness of mind(KJ) or humility (NIV) is not some abstract concept, so high and lofty theory we are to attain to - the next verses tell us of the source, example and mystery of humility-

What do you think of when you hear the word humility?

When I think of humility I think of REALITY. To have a true estimation of ourselves...
What I am suggesting is not WORM THEOLOGY. But neither is it the theology of one who writes" The most serious sin is the one that causes me to say'I am unworthy'"Look at Luke 18:9-14. the paradox of the cross is that the only way to walk worthy is to walk in humility! While the Pharisee was affirming himself with uplifting "self talk" the tax collector was committing Robert Schuller's cardinal sin- calling himself unworthy!

There is a great danger that has probably slipped into everyone's thinking here, because it sounds so right! To believe in grace, one must be convinced that there is nothing in himself or herself that merits or deserves God's favor or makes a person worthy of God's care.

2 Corinthians 8:9- for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...

We want our rights, our space, but Christ did not sieze the power that was rightfully his. Instead he emptied himself, not of deity, He cannot cease being God, but of status. He set aside his prerogatives as God. He was willing to be treated beneath the level of his dignity- are we? I have said before, we really do not understand where we are in our quest to develop a servant spirit until we are treated like a servant...then it becomes clear .
Jesus rewrote the definition of submission and of authority as well.

Everything the spirit of the age knows of submission is wrong, and we are seduced by that spirit- The MIND of CHRIST- let this mind be in you... is submission and humility- He modelled for us the desire to become one of the order of the pierced ear-

Let this mind be in you - another translation says attitude- this is more than getting an attitude adjustment- this is God of all eternity who is humbling Himself- the Bible says sin alone is the cause of death- Jesus never sinned- so it was impossible for Him to die unless HE willed it! "no man can take my life from me- I will lay it down and take it up again!" Now he orders all things according to the counsel of his will! The time will come when all will confess him whether they want to or not!

Let's refer to James 4:6-10

JAM 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
JAM 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
JAM 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
JAM 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
JAM 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

We will find more in enslavement to Christ than in all the freedom the world has to offer. I want to be his slave- in Galatians he states that he bears the scars likening them to the brand of a slave.

The real characteristics of the MIND of Christ are these- humility, obedience, self renunciation-- RADICAL SUBMISSION first to CHRIST then to one another Ephesians 5:21

EPH 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

As I said before, this is not some abstract, idealistic ethic- we have an absolute example IN CHRIST. Pleasing the ruler of the universe means adhering to different values than the world's. When we proclaim the gospel , we have to challenge people's autonomy, pride, and self sufficiency-No one comes to Christ without humbling himself before Him.

HUPOTASSO- to get in order, alignment- does not carry command force, it is a voluntary act of the will. This is not a question of value or worth.

How do we get humility? If we seek it or claim that we have it is a sure sign that we do not have it. It is true, however, that service is a spiritual discipline that can unconciously produce humility.

Mothers know the meaning of the manger- the restrictions, limitations- the world says- you could have honor and you choose to be the wipers of noses and other body parts, the changers of diapers...

I want to refer us back to 2 Chronicles 7:14. We find again another If...then statement. There is a requirement of us and a response from God.

If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land...

1. IF... the requirement is not a one time deal- "My people...Called by my name" implies a permanent identification of God with us.

humble themselves= submission
pray= talking to God and perceiving His response= hearing from God
seek God’s face= perceiving God’s mind with the intent to obey
turn- to change one’s mind to Christ’s mind

I believe this demands more than a one time humbling, praying, seeking and turning on our part- it is more a voluntary, yet perpetual commitment- much like the piercing of the slave’s ear.

2. Then... God’s part- " I will hear, Iwill forgive, I will heal" the next two verses also say that God will remain...perpetually. If we allow out ears to be opened in humility, God promises to hear- and when God hears, He acts.

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From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/