Sunday, April 30, 2006

News: Interrogation Officer Charged

BBC | US charges ex-Abu Ghraib officer

It's about time. The US military has a habit of scapegoating enlisted personnel and junior officers when it comes to war crimes. I hope that charging a lieutenant colonel will do two things: (1) hold responsible officers who give orders or implicit support to torture and (2) change the torture-is-sometimes-OK culture that has somehow infected the US military during the "War on Terror".

Article: What Can We Learn From The DaVinci Code?

I'll be doing the majority of my blogging this week on Just Pastors. We're starting series of series, and my series will be the first series. What that means is I'll have a different article on The DaVinci Code coming out every day this week. You can access them all from the following link.

What Can We Learn From The DaVinci Code?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stress Seminar

I attended a stress seminar with Cameron Johnston on Monday and Tuesday. It felt kind of strange since I had just returned from vacation, but I was on the organizing committee so I couldn't very well skip it. I suppose I did have a pretty stressful month before my vacation, and so I managed to learn a few things.
  • It's important to understand the physical warnings of excessive stress your body gives you.
  • Learning how to completely relax in under 10 minutes is a key skill.
  • Humor is vitally important for dealing with stress and losing your sense of it is a sign of burnout.
  • Regular exercise increases endorphins.
  • Assess your stress periodically.
I'd actually heard the seminar once before (hence the organizing committee), and was surprised that I got so much out of it the second time. I guess you never stop learning when it comes to wellness. I just wish I could be as committed to taking care of myself as I am to taking care of others.

If you want to learn more about stress, sign up for Cameron's free e-course, Enjoying the Stress of Your Life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Dishes?

Research by psychologist John Gottman has shown that men who do dishes have more sex. Apparently, “Inequities in housework and childcare have profound consequences for the marital satisfaction of women.” Who’d have thought that scrubbing the toilet could be so romantic?

Sometimes pastors get so wrapped up in our tasks that we neglict time with our spouses, but we’ve got to realize time in the laundry room is as important as time on a date. So, if I’m not blogging as frequently as I should, I have an excuse. And now, I’m off to do the dishes.

Thanks to my wife for pointing out this information. Is that what they call a hint?

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I guess that's one way to wear your witness; sex sells. So where do we draw the line? What defines the difference between contextualization and compromise?

By the way, no one actually sells these garments. It's a joke. If you haven't already, you can laugh now.

via intersections from Oh Me of Little Faith

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Road Trip

I'm heading south again, going to visit my parents in Oregon. This time we're going to make a road trip of it. The straight through drive (as I prefer it) would take sixteen about hours, but we're going to be making stops on the way down for minor things like ministerial meetings, my brother-in-law's wedding, etc., etc.

When you live in northern Canada you learn a new concept distance. I drive the distance of some states just to get to a major city; the conference office is six hours away. So I've got to drive at least sixteen hours for it to feel like a road trip.

I'm going to meet up with Josue in Bellingham, Washington; it's the first time I'll be meeting a fellow blogger in person. So I'll try to post a few pictures when I have internet access. So until the end of April, happy trails.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Adventist Blogs (Update)

The blogosphere is always in flux--people come and people go--so ones blogroll must be flexible too. Some folks like Faith are always posting, while others like Kevin and Paul need take lengthy sabbaticals. And Chris Webb where are you? Your posts were so entertaining; bring back the SLT!

Now that I've got that out of my system, here's some new Adventist blogs I'm diggin'.
  1. Be a Bree - advice for desperate housewives
  2. Everybody's Got A Story - tell yours - Vancouver, BC, Canada
  3. deserts of vast eternity - professor at Mission College - Thailand
  4. Faith in Context - Creative Ministries VP Monte Sahlin - Columbia, MD, USA
  5. intersections - Pastor Ryan Bell - Hollywood, CA, USA
  6. Jericho Road - Pastor Jan Mckenzie - Newport, Wales, UK
  7. My Journey - thoughts from the road - Tennessee, USA
  8. TruthInvestigate - as it is in Jesus - Kingsland, GA, USA
  9. What's up with Kev? - web/graphic designer - South Carolina, USA
There are also some good collaborative and institutional blogs out there, but until I hear of a few more, you'll have to find them yourself. If you're into Adventist blogging, you should also check out Spectrum's Blogosphere Roundups. And keep an eye out for soon.

If you haven't seen it, check out my lengthy list of Adventist Blogs.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sermon Summary 4.1.05: Babylonian Success Story

The greatest challenge for Christians in the Western world is the fact that the Christianity is no longer mainstream, and for the last fifty years churches have struggled to adapt to that cultural change. When I look to the Bible for guidance on how to deal with it, the closest parallel I can find is the story of Daniel and his three friends (Dan. 1). The book of Daniel contains a lot of visions about the end-time, but I believe that its stories are equally important as they give us models of how to live in the end-times.

Daniel and his three friends were brought to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. Daniel 1:1 tells us that he also brought the implements from God's temple in Jerusalem and put them in the house of his Babylonian gods. This verse establishes the two chief characteristics of Babylon: oppression of God's people and a mix-and-match style of religion. Modern Western culture anyone?

Nebuchadnezzar's goal was to strip the Israelite boys of their identity and rebuild them as Babylonian officials who would serve in his government. He likely had them castrate, a common practice at the time (the word "official" means "eunuch") but one the excluded a man from the Israelite assembly (Deut. 32:1); and had them study Babylonian mythology, astrology ("Chaldean" means "astrologer"), and culture. He also had them take names referring to Babylonian gods and eat food that was likely unclean and sacrificed to Babylonian idols. And you thought going to public school was bad?

"But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself..." (Dan 1:8); he and his three friends decided do draw the line at worship. They changed their names so they would not accurately reflect the names of Babylonian gods, and they refused to eat food that involved sacrifices to Babylonian gods, opting for a vegetarian diet instead. And because of their faithfulness "God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams" (Dan. 1:17).

Even though Daniel and his friends would not compromise their worship, they did not withdraw from the mainstream; you didn't think that the "literature" and "wisdom" that God gave them was Psalms and Proverbs did you? Listen to this: "As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. (Dan. 1:20)" By the end of their education they knew more about astrology than the astrologers; they became better Babylonians than the Babylonians themselves.

It seems to me that the church is struggling with the balance of being in but not of the world (John 17:15). Some groups compromise their worship to the place where they're indistinguishable from the mix-and-match religion of the world. Others, in order to avoid compromise, have pulled right out of the world and are no longer effective at reaching.

But I think we can restore the balance if we start to remember one fact: God loves Babylon and so much so that he died for its sins (John 3:16). You see, the story of Daniel 1-4 is not so much the story of Daniel and his three friends as is the story of how God reached the heart a pagan monarch named Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is simply a vessel through which God is able to communicate with him.

Do you love Babylon? Babylon is the city we love to hate; it's abused us in many ways. Yet we are called to learn to be better Babylonians than the Babylonians themselves, to serve it without serving its idols, so that those Babylonians can have a chance to become citizens of the New Jerusalem.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Precept Upon Precept?

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little...
(Isaiah 28:10, KJV)
Isaiah 28:10 is often used by Adventist evangelists to establish the principle that one should always compare scripture with scripture to discover what the Bible says on a subject. Usually this is presented in conjunction with the principle that one must always look at the context of a passage in scripture to determine its meaning. After an evangelist in my church presents this, my greatest fear is that someone will actually look up to context of Isaiah 28:10 (verse numbers included for later reference).
7But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. 8For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean. 9Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
(Isaiah 28:7-13, KJV)
The context of this passage is an oracle against drunken priests who are unable to teach even infants because they cannot even speak properly. Verse 13 makes it abundantly clear that "precept upon precept..." is something detrimental, not a principle of Biblical interpretation. Taken alone verse 12 might sound like a reasonable teaching, but in context we realize that it is the product of drunkenness.

This all becomes much more clear when the passage is read in the original language. In Hebrew, Isaiah 2:10 sounds like this: "Bi tsau latsau, tsau latsau, cau lacau, cau lacau, ze'er sham, ze'er sham". The sounds of Isaiah 28:10 mock the babble of a drunken priest, and in Hebrew they hardly even carry a translatable meaning.

I wish that instead of proof-texting from Isaiah 28:10, evangelists would just establish the principle of interpreting scripture with scripture from common sense—the same way they establish the principle the we must read scripture in context. They know the problems with their interpretation of Isaiah 28:10 as well as I do, but they bank on the fact very few people will actually look the passage up in their Bible and check its context. But in doing this they risk the credibility of their message with those who will do more than read the verse they put on their projection screen.