Monthly Archives: November 2006

Who Can You Believe?

A noted person is quoted in today’s news saying he “considers it extremely unlikely that the American people consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from [their] treasury for this [Iraq] military misadventure.” The same man added: “You are witnessing daily that under the pretext of ‘the war on terror,’ civil liberties in the United States are being increasingly curtailed. Even the privacy of individuals is fast losing its meaning.” Sounds to me like someone from the liberal opinion makers from within the U.S. who sees Bush as evil and this Iraq war as ridiculous and immoral. These quotes seem pretty mainstream to me. The same leader further warned the new Democratic majority that “they control an important branch of the U. S. Government . . . [so you] will be held to account by the people and by history.” Yes, this does sound exactly like some of the solutions now on daily offer within the U.S.

There is one problem with such a conclusion. These words are not from the American far left, or even from our most liberal expressions

By |November 30th, 2006|Categories: Politics|

My Enemies and God's Enemies

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

This quote stopped me in my tracks! I have been guilty of this form of idolatry more often than I care to admit. I am praying that God will teach me to love more deeply so as not to turn the people that trouble me into my own private list of God’s enemies.

By |November 29th, 2006|Categories: Personal|

Getting the Facts Right and Correcting My Errors

On August 17 I posted a blog about two people who faced deeply personal trials that were life threatening. (One of the things I hoped to accomplish in that blog was to urge each of us to realize that we face death every single day!)  In that blog I referred to the passing of Carol Bugh on August 11. Carol battled cancer for about a year and left behind a wonderful husband, children and an active ministry. Carol was the beloved wife of my friend Dr. Rob Bugh, the senior pastor of Wheaton Bible Church. I wrote of Carol’s intense desire to live but noted her readiness to depart to be with Christ. This story was correct. But I made a big mistake with the rest of the story that day.

In seeking to draw a sharp contrast between Carol Bugh’s hope of life after death I also referred to a man named Ralph Russo. I compared Mr. Russo’s expressions about dealing with ALS with Carol’s comments about her own future beyond the grave. In so doing I made a huge mistake that

By |November 28th, 2006|Categories: Personal|

Benedict's Visit to Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to make a four-day visit to Turkey beginning this Tuesday. The personal risk is very high and the opposition to his coming to Istanbul is huge. Today more than 25,000 people have begun angry demonstrations, chanting "God is Great" in the streets and thus telling the pope to stay home. This has to be the largest anti-pope demonstration in modern history and he hasn’t even arrived in Turkey yet.

It comes as no great surprise that these protests have been organized by pro-Islamic political forces that were offended by Benedict’s remarks in September regarding the nature of Islam as a militant religion. I find it sadly consistent with my own reading of Islam that these Muslim groups that protested the pope’s comments in September, and thereby stirred up a response that has already resulted in deaths and senseless violence, now threaten the same again. Something about this kind of anger and hostility proves that the pope’s original citation of a ancient scholar’s view of Islam as violent was not all that wrong in the first place. While

By |November 26th, 2006|Categories: Roman Catholicism|

Further Reflections on Postmodernism and the Problem of Certainty

A friend wrote a private question about my references to certainty in recent posts. The concept of certainty is heavily philosophical. I am not praising doubt, or unbelief. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed my central point well when he wrote: “Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith.” What this means is that our various systems of faith are not the truth! They may help point us to the One who is the truth but when we invest the idea of final and absolute truth in these systems we create the very problems I am writing about. This leads to the idolatry of ideas, so prevalent in my generation. Young postmodern Christians are pushing back on this very point and I agree with them in their “push back.”

Further, there is “a vast ocean of what we do not know and do not understand,” wrote the late Lesslie Newbigin. This is major component of what I am arguing for in a positive way via my comments about how postmodernity can specifically help us. I have expressed strong reservations about postmodernity but then I also

By |November 25th, 2006|Categories: Postmodernity|

A Crisis of Faith

My friend Monte Wilson is one of the most insightful writers that I know. He often understands important things and writes with passion and clarity. He sends occasional thoughts to his friends. The one that follows came to me earlier this week. I share it with his permission. (I urge you to check out Monte’s mission and support it. Information is at the end of this blog.)

I talked to N. today. O my, is he going through a crisis of faith. I hadn’t talked with him in a very long time and had no idea he was struggling so.

I think doubt is a normal and natural part of the Christian journey. When you reflect on the demands of Christ for a changed heart, mind and life-style, and how much these changes are at odds with those aspects of our psyche that are still drawn by the false-gold, “fun,” and flattery the (fallen) world has to offer, and the fact that spiritual change does not occur at the push of a button or a nod of the head, but only

By |November 24th, 2006|Categories: Spirituality|

Good Church Humor

Sometimes you just need to laugh. Readers Digest often provides the material for some good ones, like these:

"He must not be very good at his job" was the first thing that came to mind as I left church. The reason? This notice on the bulletin board: "There will be no healing service this Sunday due to the pastor’s illness."

If you drive a lot, you’re used to seeing those "My Child Is an Honor Student at . . . " bumper stickers. At this point, I ignore them. But one stuck out, mostly becuase of its somewhat conflicted message: "My Son Is an Honor Student at Our Lady of Humility School."

By |November 24th, 2006|Categories: Humor|

Lincoln, Tom Brokaw and Radical Islam

Tom Brokaw gave the Remembrance Day address at the Gettysburg Cemetery last Sunday, November 19. I was pleased to hear him in person. He is truly a master speaker and quite frankly a very real presence. He is a tall man, handsome still, and genuinely gracious to all who approached him personally, offering thanks much like a minister at the rear door after a service. Of all the network news anchors in my lifetime Brokaw is still my favorite.

Mr. Brokaw spoke about Lincoln’s time and ours since the occasion called for this comparison on the day that President Lincoln delivered The Gettysburg Address in 1863. He spoke of our “ideological zealots” who are willing to advance their narrow interests at the expense of the larger good of a just and good society. He referred to some politicians, in Lincoln’s time and our own, who are really “money changers in the Capital.” He then argued that it was “the common will to advance our common interests” that had always sustained America in dark times such as the Civil War. Consistent with his

By |November 23rd, 2006|Categories: Islam|

Giving Thanks

I am incredibly self-conscious about writing this but my wife asked me to consider it. I try to listen to her wise advice so here goes.

What she said to me was, “Ask your readers at Thanksgiving to share one thing they are thankful for with regard to the ministry of ACT 3.” It sounds way too self-serving, as if I am fishing for positive comments. I also admit it feels good to know that someone believes that we are doing something valuable, something that has brought some small blessing into their corner of the world through teaching, preaching, writing or encouragement.

I will begin with this comment:

“I am thankful that ACT 3 allows me to meet so many incredibly interesting and courageous people who are so willing to follow Christ with radical faith and love.”

And further:

“I am grateful for the 25-30 local churches that I ministered in during 2006. Most all of these congregations opened their heart to me and allowed great blessing to flow both ways while I was

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

Some Questions About My Openness to Postmodernity

In a comment placed on my blog of November 15 on "How Postmodernity Serves Faith" a respondent (Martin Downes) asked me three specific questions that I wish to answer in the form of a new blog. I do this because the answer, I sincerely hope, is worthy of others reading it and responding to it as they wish. You can find the three questions on the comments section posted on the November 15 entry. Here are my answers:

1. My understanding of the deadliness and seriousness of heresy has actually deepened over the last ten years. What has changed even more profoundly is my unwillingness to apply the term to anyone who holds a view that differs from the conservative Reformed tradition, which is only four plus centuries old confessionally. (By the way I remain a Reformed thinker and I am comfortable with the tradition, being a Reformed minister. At the same time I am willing to question the system since it is human. I have challenged it at several points and come to new views about how to embrace the whole Christian

By |November 22nd, 2006|Categories: Postmodernity|
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