Monday, June 25, 2007

Faith is Always Personal, Never Private

Had the opportunity to hear Jim Wallis today in person. He did a workshop and spoke at the evening session of a conference in town today. In case you're unfamiliar with Wallis, he is the founder of Soujourners/Call to Renewal, and lives in the inner city of Washington DC. I've been interested in him for some time. He hearkens back to another era in the history of our country, when Christians made a difference in the world. For instance, the lead that evangelicals took in the abolishment of slavery in our country. Little stuff like that.

Today, however, he's a controversial lightening rod. Partly because he highlights the hard truths of Scripture. He isn't afraid to take on the likes of Dobson et al and their "take" that there are only 2 key moral issues facing us today: abortion & homosexuality. Not that those aren't key issues, but come on, the only issues? What about the thousands of references in scripture about the poor? What about the epidemic of slavery in our world, which is a bigger problem today than in the history of the world? There are a plethora of other concerns that Wallis brings to the front, including the environment, the AIDS pandemic in Africa, the genocide that's happening in places like Darfur (go ahead...quiz the typical Christian - where's Darfur, and what's going on there, anyway?). Wallis isn't afraid to say "hey, the Bible has a lot to say about these things too...maybe even more than the couple of issues that we somehow weave into every major political campaign.

Here are a couple of quotes from the day...
  • Transformation is not just a turning from, but a turning to

  • What does it mean to be different from the world and still transform it?

  • Our evangelism often answers a question that nobody else is asking.

  • Does the way you and I live raise questions?

  • The Hebrew mindset - truth isn't really truth until it affects the way we live

  • For most of us, we have to LIVE our way to a new way of THINKING. We assume we can THINK our way to a new kind of LIVING, and that seldom works.
Jim's book spent some time on the New York Times Best-Seller list. It's entitled "God's Politics - Why The Right Gets It Wrong & The Left Doesn't Get It" I plan to read it before the summer is over (I need to slow down reading for a bit...need to digest a little first!)

He also spoke at the large evening session, which you can find here. Scroll through some of the preliminary stuff to get to his talk.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Few More Books Under My Belt

It's been a flurry of reading activity. In fact, maybe too much to digest in so little time. Demolished 3 more in the past two weeks. Here's a brief glimpse of the three. PLEASE NOTE: Just because I read them does NOT mean I recommend you or anyone else rush out and read it too. I like to read a lot of variety at times, and my author choices are not for everyone. So....

This was an interesting read...I couldn't put it down. What does an outsider, particularly in this case an athiest, think about "church" as we know it? We spend so much time & energy hoping non-believers will come to our churches & check us out. But what do they walk away with when they come? Here's the description from Books-A-Million:

Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?

Light shows, fog machines, worship bands, and offering plates - is this what Jesus intended?

Atheist Matt Casper wants to know.

In 2006, Jim Henderson, veteran Christian and director of Off The Map, hired Casper to join him in visiting twelve of Americas best- and least-known churches, including Rick Warrens Saddleback and Joel Osteens Lakewood. Week after week, this spiritual odd couple attended services at churches all over the country and documented their experiences at and reactions to each one. Along the way, they found the real value of their journey in the open and authentic friendship that developed as
they talked, questioned, joked, and most importantlylistened.

Follow along with Jim and Casper on their visits, and eavesdrop as they discuss what they found. Jim and Caspers articulate, sometimes humorous, and always
insightful dialogue offers Christians a new view of an environment in which weve
become overly comfortable: the church. And it models an important transition
from defending the faith to defending the space"relational" space for authentic,
respectful dialogue and friendship with nonbelievers.

Another author that I've read before is Anne Lamott. Her Traveling Mercies - Some Thoughts On Faith is a favorite of mine. She's known for her honest approach to life and faith. The book I read is called Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Anne is NOT for everyone. Her language is often salty, and that may very well keep many readers from catching the meaning of her articles. She also isn't a big fan of W, and she doesn't hide that at all. I don't like everything she says, but she has a unique perspective.

Lastly, I've been trying to get to Steve Saint's End of the Spear for some time. I finally dove in, and it was also very good. Steve's dad Nate was one of the 5 missionaries killed by Aucas in the Ecuadorean rain forest over 50 years ago. I heard Steve speak a couple of months ago, and got to speak with him briefly. Very much enjoyed the book, and if you're looking for a challenging book that really makes you think about the world, God's love for all of us, and our answer to God's call on our lives, this one is worth your time. I mentioned Steve in a post awhile back, and you can find it easily by scrolling back to April or May...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Books From Last Week

Spent the week at the beach last week (Emerald Isle, NC). Beautiful place. Managed to plow through a couple of books, all of which were good reads. All for very different reasons! Books I read include:
  1. In The Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham. Martin & Gracia Burnham were missionaries in the Philippines. They were abducted along with several others while enjoying their anniversary at a resort. Their captors were the Abu Sayef, a branch of Al Quieda that has training camps & wrecks havoc in the Philippine jungle. Gracia survived the one year of captivity; Martin was killed during the rescue attempt. Amazing story, highly recommendable!

  2. Holy Discontent by Bill Hybels. Actually heard this message a couple of years ago, and I think the audio message might be just as good if not better than the book (certainly shorter!) The whole notion of the book centers on the defining moment that spurs people to do something. We all have that Popeye moment - "I've had alls I can stands and I can't stands no more." But do we act? How do we identify our personal areas of holy discontent, feed it, fight it & follow it? Very good stuff. I think you can get the audio message, too. If you do, the following session with Rick Warren is sort of a follow-up to Hybels message, and a terrific one-two punch. You should be able to get these two sessions here. Good book, though!

  3. 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is # 37) by Bernard Goldberg. OK, so this is sort of off the charts for my usual reading. I remember looking at this when it came out, and thought it was funny. Was ordering something from Amazon a few weeks back, and needed a bargain book for a couple of bucks to get me over the threshhold for free shipping. This showed up, and it was kinda fun. Didn't know a lot of the names, but understand why they're listed. Here's a quote from the intro of the book: "And it won't take you long to notice that there are a lot of liberals on the list, which, of course, is just how it ought to be. If I were compining the list years ago, say, when I was in college, there'd be a lot of conservatives on it. But this isn't years ago, and besides, I'm smarter now than I was back then..." So you can see a little tongue in cheek, but it was interesting.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Minister's Death Hits Close To Home

I only met Mark Angel a couple of times. We bumped into each other at a couple of youth conference type events. We didn't know each other well, and I'm not sure he would have remembered my name. But I knew at least who he was. So when I heard of his tragic death, I was immediately saddened. For him, his family, and his church.

Mark was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on a mission trip, just south of Brownsville Texas in Mexico. He and two others got caught in an undertow, and Mark didn't make it. I can't imagine the heartache the church and family is experiencing. I think of all the many adventures, crazy stuff, et al that I've been involved in (not to mention the many things situations I've put many, many people in), and the good fortune we've had that little has gone wrong. Nothing more than a minor trip to the doc-in-the-box or the ER. Nothing serious. And nothing like Mark's group of college kids on a mission trip to Mexico.

What I do know of Mark, he was a tremendous servant of God, and he will be missed. A short article from the Ashland, KY newspaper can be read here.