Monthly Archives: September 2006


Personal Stewardship

Some of you know that I have battled health issues for some years. Time and again these issues have proven to be a great means of grace to me. They have forced me to seek God on a daily basis to have the energy to live and work. They also have taught me the importance of things I once took for granted like daily strength and a good nights rest. They have regularly forced me to ask, "How important is this meeting, this work, this appointment to God’s calling upon my life?"

Having said this I have also tried to listen to two important people in my life—my wife and my physician. They do not always tell me what I want to hear but rather what I need to hear. This all played a role in my recent decision to stop the print version of our journal. It also played a role in my having a CT Scan of my heart in August. This scan showed the possibility of an issue related to heart disease. Upon medical counsel I then saw a cardiologist

By |September 30th, 2006|Categories: Personal|

Is Democracy a Universal Human Desire?

I am presently reading Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), by Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas E. Ricks. Any one who knows of a critical review of this best-selling book would help me by suggesting where I can find said review. The book is, to my mind at this moment, a powerful and fair-minded critique of much that has gone wrong in our Iraq military adventure. According to Ricks blame for our multiple failures, if we are to assign primary blame, lies with the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. This begins with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has called most of the shots in this war, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the neo-con genius who has been a principal architect of the philosophical thinking that led us into this conflict.

The question I would like to pose about the philosophy that is behind this war is quite simple. President Bush and his advisors have consistently argued (since 9/11) that democracy is an inherent desire that lies in the heart of people. By this argument the Iraqi

By |September 29th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

Telling the Old, Old Story in a New Way

Historical museums across America are regularly adjusting to the new cultural realities of our time. People no longer stand and read long texts like they once did. Their attention span is just too short and their reading level lower than in previous generations. Besides this sad fact, there is the simple reality that people have always learned in ways besides reading. And the way people process information is regularly changing. More recently it seems to have changed quite profoundly. (Many Christians of my generation do not acknowledge this at all.) For this reason the new Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, includes an actor who engages Abe’s holographic ghost during a tour of the Lincoln Presidential Library. And Mount Vernon is about to do the same for George Washington, making education and entertainment partners in the process.

I think about these new realities a great deal since my calling is to communicate effectively with people. I am committed to teaching core material that requires thought and serious learning. How can I do this without falling into a type of modern seduction? Newsweek writer Nathan

By |September 28th, 2006|Categories: Evangelism|

How Do You Explain Osama bin Laden?

Osama Bin Laden is not nearly as mysterious a person as many would have us believe. And his background does provide several lessons that reveal an intellectual and spiritual development which can be reasonably analyzed. To do so removes the idea that he is just an “evil” monster, thus somehow a non-human who is not like the rest of us in a fundamental way.

A recently published book, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf), written by journalist Lawrence Wright, tells the real bin Laden story with a graet deal of interesting detail. Wright informs us that Osama grew up in a large polygamist home, the 17th son of his father, Mohammed (who had 22 wives). Born in 1959 he was to be one of 54 children born to his father. His father Mohammed, who ran his home like a corporation, died in a plane crash in 1967. Mohammed had the habit of marrying off his ex-wives to employees within his business. This meant that Osama’s mother was later re-married to an employee of Mohammed bin Laden. This

By |September 27th, 2006|Categories: Islam|

Luke Timothy Johnson on The Creed: How Liberals and Conservatives Both Go Wrong

One of my very favorite recent books, written in 2003, is The Creed, written by Catholic biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson. Rarely have I read such a stimulating and faith building academic work on Christian theology and how the church should think about faith in the modern world.

A friend recently asked me for a list of the best books on the Apostle’s Creed. When I recommended this volume he began to read it with much interest. He later wrote to tell me how inspired he was by Johnson’s fresh and stimulating work. He even sent me a favorite quote. I noted the quote and then expanded it a bit. Read it and maybe you will also want to buy the book and read it for yourself.

Some groups within Christianity have remarkably clear boundaries. They know exactly who they are, how they are different from others, and what they demand of their members. They insist on the "literal" meaning of Scripture and on "classic Christian teaching." Even though they are often as individualistic in their piety as other forms

By |September 26th, 2006|Categories: The Church|

Jerry Falwell Speaks Again

The Associated Press reported today that Jerry Falwell believes that God will preserve a Republican majority in the Congress. I wonder who told him? I am sure of only one thing—it was not God. Where does he get this stuff? I wonder if the Republicans are grateful that he told the world these new revelations before the November mid-term elections. Nonsense is nonsense regardless of who utters it, including conservative preachers. Maybe it would be better to say, "especially Christian preachers." I am grateful for more and more Christians who are exercised to engage in public affairs but I am struck by the lack of wisdom that often reigns on the religious left and the religious right.

By |September 25th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

Keeping the Daily Hours

I have found a number of resources helpful for daily spiritual disciplines over the course of many years. I am currently using one of the most helpful, The Divine Hours: A Manual for Prayer, by Phyllis Tickle (New York: Doubleday, 2000). I even noted the other day that Scot McKnight had a blog based on this resource. I have found it to be a superb way to follow the discipline of the Benedictine hours throughout the day. I do not keep all the hours on many days but I am still working to make that a part of my pattern.

Today’s reading reminded me that September 29th is the day on the church calendar when we celebrate the role and presence of angels in God’s plan. I don’t know if I have ever celebrated the ministry of angels in my daily disciplines. Perhaps I have reacted against all the pop fascination with angels over the past decade or so. I know that I do not think about angels often on most days. From The Divine Hours I learned that there are only

By |September 25th, 2006|Categories: Spirituality|

Getting the Gospel Right

Very often we confuse the gospel itself, this wonderful and glorious good news about our salvation being totally and completely by grace alone, and in Christ alone, with various doctrines and arguments that properly surround the defense of the gospel itself. By this mistake we turn the knowing of certain doctrines into the gospel. Don’t misunderstand me. If doctrine is teaching, and biblically this is what the word doctrine means, then the gospel is a message that must be taught, and that message can be rightly or wrongly taught.

This is the very point Paul makes in Galatians. I was reminded of all of this Sunday evening while listening to several sermons from Galatians 1 given this month by my friend John Wood, pastor of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. (John is one of the finest preachers I know. You should check out his sermons at

My point here is actually not complex. What is important to know about the gospel, if we would defend it from serious error and misunderstandings, is

By |September 24th, 2006|Categories: Reformed Christianity|

Putting Mission in Perspective in the Emergent Discussion

There is a great deal of interest today in what is called, rightly or otherwise, "the emergent church." What is it, how should we respond to it, and what is its future? I am a student of revival and mission, having studied both for about forty years now. I am deeply interested in the emergent church phenomenon, whatever it is and whoever speaks for it. It shows promise of being a movement that might well be a precursor to real awakening. It also appears to be a misisonal model that could well be used to help the church in the West reach the emerging generation with the gospel.

The problem with the emergent church discussion is evident to all who seek to enter it. Those who promote it are zealous and usually ideologically nuanced in ways they do not always admit. Those who oppose it are much the same, thus there is a lot of heat and not enough light. Far too often the basis for praise or criticism is rooted in anecdote and fad. When this happens one person becomes the

By |September 23rd, 2006|Categories: Missional Church|

The Death of a Vision

In 1991 I had an idea. There should be a quarterly journal that had the style and respect of a seminary journal but a readership that would primarily be church leadership, both lay and pastoral. That idea became the Reformation & Revival Journal, renamed last year as the ACT 3 Review. That journal was the beginning of this mission ministry we call ACT 3, leading me to resign my pastorate in 1992 in order to advance this wider work of publishing, writing and teaching. That quarterly journal, a 224-page bound periodical that was widely respected and used by many colleges and seminaries across North America, will now cease print publication with the current issue, 15:2. This final issue should be mailed next week. Rarely have I had to make a decision that was this difficult to make. It felt like the painful death of a long friend and a treasured vision. I knew the day would come but I had always thought someone else would make it for me after my demise.

Based upon the wonderful input of about fifty trusted men

By |September 22nd, 2006|Categories: Personal|

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