Monthly Archives: February 2007

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Following Up on the UBF Conversation, Part I

On January 27, I wrote a blog titled: “The Korean Revival and the Ministry of UBF.” UBF is the University Bible Fellowship, an indigenous and international tent-making mission that was birthed through the impact of the Korean Revival some 75 years ago. UBF is a mission that has produced a dynamic movement of evangelism that follows the principles developed by people like John Nevius and other influential Asian missional thinkers who encouraged every-member ministry and tent-maker leadership. This approach is so different from North American forms of local church development that is has both incredible strengths and potential weaknesses, both of which I briefly cited before.

I knew when I posted this particular blog that I would engender the kind of response that appeared on my site over the next several weeks that followed. I have read the numerous responses, and kept an open mind through it all. I will continue to observe UBF, learn from them, and speak the truth in love to them as best I know how. And I assure all of the critics of UBF that I am

By |February 28th, 2007|Categories: Missional Church|

Breach: The Shocking Story of a Double-Agent

The wonderfully crafted docudrama Breach is both an entertaining and disturbing movie. It is the story of America’s most prominent double-agent spy, Robert Hanssen, who sold more priceless American secrets to the Soviets than any other agent ever convicted in U. S. history. Chris Cooper’s portrayal of Agent Hanssen is anything but humdrum. He chillingly takes the viewer into a deeply complex world of spying and national security. In the process he powerfully exposes how vulnerable our best intelligence really is when an agent is willing to sell his soul.

What is so disturbing about this movie is not just the depth to which Hanssen’s deception went but how deeply this deception was entertwined with his commitments to Christian faith, Hanssen was a deeply devoted member of Opus Dei, a renewal movement in the Roman Catholic Church. As everyone knows the Catholic Church has come under culture-wide suspicion, for well over a decade now, for sexual scandals related to some of its priests. This movie exposes a whole different kettle of fish—the nature to which a person can use religious faith to

By |February 27th, 2007|Categories: Film|

Free Speech & Blogging: Don't Take It For Granted

The world of blogging can be dangerous, especially if you live in Egypt and oppose Al-Azhar, the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam. Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year old former student at Egypt’s prominent university found this out last week when he was convicted of a crime for, among other things, calling the school “the university of terrorism.” He was sentenced last Thursday to four years in prison for his Internet comments and his “insults” to Islam. Nabil’s lawyer, in a vast understatement if there ever was one, said this conviction will “terrify other bloggers and have a negative impact on freedom of expression in Egypt.” You bet it will. Thankfully Egyptian and international human-rights groups have already unleashed major criticism. A New York committee to protect journalism and freedom notes that as of December there are 49 bloggers now behind bars for such expressions of free speech. Anyone want to guess what religious practice and faith fosters such a reaction to freedom of speech and vocal secularism?

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, had no comment on the Nabil case,

By |February 27th, 2007|Categories: Current Affairs|

The Power of Amazing Grace

Rarely have I seen a movie that moved me the way Amazing Grace did last evening. The new film, which opened across America on Friday, is the story of the life-long struggle of William Wilberforce to end slavery and reform British society in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The movie should compel Christians to understand how culture can be truly altered by incrementalism, deep faith, sheer perseverance, and quite often with great personal sacrifice.

When the anti-slavery movement began in earnest in the late 18th century almost every leader in the British Empire embraced the retention of slavery on economic and, in some cases, so-called “Christian” grounds. One of the chief influences against the horrible institution was John Newton, the evangelical Anglican clergyman who wrote the world best-known hymn, “Amazing Grace,” thus the title of this new movie. Newton had been a “slaver” himself and thus knew well what happened to the Africans who were sold into slavery. After his conversion Newton lived with the nightmare of 20,000 African souls perishing through his own complicity and consistently opposed the grim

By |February 26th, 2007|Categories: Film|

A Day at Grace

Grace Christian Fellowship, of Largo, Florida, is twelve years old, a young church as congregations go. It was begun by Pastor Randy Evans, and his wife Becky, after Randy had served in a much larger charismatic church in the Clearwater area as a youth pastor and associate minister. I was introduced to Randy when he came to several of our conferences in Chicago, about eight to ten years ago. When he invited me to visit, and told me that I could come in the spring, I noted that I should take him up on this invitation in March of 2005. I wrote and Randy kindly invited me to come to Largo that year. (I do like to be in Florida for spring training baseball games so why not speak at the same time, I reasoned with a measure of obvious calculation.)

Today marked my third consecutive annual visit to this growing missional church. Randy, and his associate Heath Watson, are doing a great job of pointing this church, now in its new building for a little over two years, toward advancing the kingdom

By |February 25th, 2007|Categories: Missional Church|

U.S. High Schools Learning Less: What's the Answer?

U. S. high school students are taking harder classes, receiving better grades, and from every indication in recent data, leaning much less than their counterparts fifteen years ago. Go figure. All the talk about spending more money and about improving testing and teacher standards and the end result is that two decades of educational reform may not have improved things overall.

The U. S. Department of Education released two studies Thursday that raised very tough questions. David Driscoll, the commissioner of education for Massachusetts, notes, "I think we are sleeping through a crisis." He called these two new studies "stunning." Two means were used for this study: (1) A standardized 12th grade test, and (2) An analysis of the transcripts of 2005 high school graduates.

The fascinating thing is that students in 1990 had a GPA of 2.68 and in 2005 it rose to 2.98, and this included students taking more college preparatory courses than ever before. 12th grade reading scores have been dropping steadily since 1992. So, what are students learning in college prep classes? As for math fewer

By |February 24th, 2007|Categories: Education|

The War in Iraq Has New Meaning for Me

All Americans have some interest in the present war in Iraq. Some have a deeper and more personal interest since they have members of their own family serving in this present struggle to establish an effective democracy in a far-away place. It is relatively easy for people to debate the merits, or demerits, of this conflict so long as they are not personally touched by the tragedy and the daily dangers of death.

Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend of mine, a Wheaton College classmate, and also member of my advisory team. His son took up duties in Iraq almost three weeks ago as the executive officer of a company of about 150 men in the Baghdad area. He is, in other words, part of the much debated “surge.” My friend thinks of his son every moment of every day. When we met for lunch yesterday we talked about Stephen, what news he has heard (very little) and how he is doing in this dangerous place. All parents live with the reality that their children could be taken from them at

By |February 23rd, 2007|Categories: Personal|

Ashes and Turning Away from Sin

Today is Ash Wednesday in the West. Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans, as well as some other groups, follow this tradition each year. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, which is the six-week period before Easter. It appears to have originated in the 8th century. It is a day to be characterized by a penitential service during which Christians receive ashes on their foreheads  with the exhortation: "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel." Another formula used in the application of the ash says, "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return." In the Catholic Church this is an obligatory fast day. In the Roman rite the day was chosen because Sundays were excluded from fasting so to make up for the six Sundays before Easter the day fell on Wednesday. Lent ends on the Thursday before Easter and was also a time for adult catechumens to prepare for baptism and their first Eucharist.

What does all of this have to do with evangelical faith and practice? I suppose it all depends on your perspective about

By |February 21st, 2007|Categories: Church Tradition|

The Prayer Appointed for the Week

As readers of this blog know I have used The Divine Hours:A Manual for Prayer (Phyllis Tickle) for many months now. I have repeatedly found it a fruitful guide to daily fixed-hours of prayer and devotion. I do not follow the prayers every hour, or half-hour, using the guide. I try, and still fail, to follow the four designated times each day, if possible. These are: The Morning Office (between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.), The Midday Office (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), The Vespers Office (between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and Compline (before retiring for bed in the evening). The word office came into modern English useage via the Latin word opus, which meant "work." When we think of the word office we think of the place where we work. But it also refers to an activity, such as running for "office" or holding an "office." Thus the word still carries the idea of an activity.

For St. Benedict the fixed-hours of prayer were "the work of God," or "the offices." The idea behind this was that the striking

By |February 20th, 2007|Categories: Spirituality|

Anglicanism and the Pope: Is Reunion About to Happen?

The Times of London reports in today’s edition (www.timesonline.co.uk) that proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church are to be published later this year. Senior bishops of both churches are involved in these proposals and have written a 42-page statement through an internal commission of both churches. The statement urges exploration. Catholic bishops, according to The Times, are preparing a formal response.

The issue that presently divides the worldwide Anglican communion is gay ordination. This issue reflects a long downhill slide in the Western church that has led toward radical rejection of both biblical and historical authority. There is a deep longing among many conservative Anglicans for some form of churchly authority that can stop this awful slide.

There are 78 million Anglicans worldwide and over one billion Catholics. The Anglican Church’s credibility is being undermined in a world that many believe, and I include myself, needs a strong witness to historical Christian unity. This new report comes from the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, begin in 2000 by Archbishop

By |February 19th, 2007|Categories: Roman Catholicism|
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