Archive for November, 2010

Black Friday and Advent

Friday, November 26th, 2010 by Diane Chandler

Last year on Black Friday, a person I know camped outside of a popular electronics store to purchase some big ticket items at sale prices.  His all-nighter was not a solo experience, as proven by the few hundred others who likewise waited in line in this unique communal American experience.

Affectionately termed “Black Friday” by U.S. consumer retailers and popularized by the media, the day after Thanksgiving is the official launch of the retail holiday season.  It is the day that retailers hope that sales will put their businesses in “the black,” rather than “the red” and is supposed to be an economic indicator of the entire holiday shopping season. 

Retailers know the allure of a sale, the ongoing state of the average American’s pocket book, and the inherent tendency of human nature to buy what we do not need but wished we had.  Black Friday has become a quintessential hallmark of American consumerism. 

Last December, I found myself almost entrapped with the same magnetic pull of a great sale for a flat screen television.  Only one problem…our very old TV still worked (although had/has its quirks).  We really did not need a new TV.  The barrage of sale advertisements did not make it easy to decline. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I like a sale just like anyone else and enjoy the pleasure of giving gifts to family and friends at Christmas.  However, I also recognize the seduction of “more,” “bigger,” “better,” and “quicker.” Entrapment to bigger and better is one of the most accepted forms of cultural bondage ~ inside and outside the American church. Read the rest of this entry »

The End of Marriage?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

A new PEW study reveals the decline of marriage. Time Magazine asks “what is marriage good for?” and Yahoo! unashamedly claims that 4 out of 10 Americans see marriage as obsolete. Now, it is a far cry from the data of the PEW study to the sensationalist writings of many online sites, but the trend is obvious that marriage is no longer dominating family life and social expectations. Even in Christian circles, marriage is discussed most often in the context of counceling and damage repair. Churches offer little preventive maintenance. Marriage needs renewal! Read the rest of this entry »

The Common English Bible

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

Recently I received a sample copy of a new bible translation, the Common English Bible – New Testament. At first glance I was very skeptical about the need for another translation, one that tends a tad toward the dynamic side at that, but I decided to give it a try. It didn’t hurt that the translation team is made up of some of the best biblical scholars in the world including Joel Green, Beverly Gaventa, Luke Timothy Johnson, Richard Hays, Loren Stuckenbruck, David deSilva, John Goldingay and a whole host more.

In this post I will simply highlight some of the translation choices that I found most interesting, but I hope to do a more thorough review in the future.

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The “Fleecing” of God

Monday, November 15th, 2010 by Marc Santom

Last week, I was speaking to a friend (whom I shall call “Keith”).  Now Keith is a man who’s been walking with God for over 40 years and is highly respected by many people within the church. During our conversation, he mentioned that he was quite displeased with the leadership of his church—and that he was considering leaving because his differences with the leadership are seemingly irreconcilable.

Keith’s reasons for potentially leaving the church seemed understandable to me. He then, however, proceeded to tell me something that I didn’t understand so well.

“I should know within the month whether I will leave the church or not,” he said.

“Why’s that?” I inquired.

Sighing, Keith answered, “I am doing what I always do. I put out a fleece for God to respond to. I told Him that I needed to see something specific happen. And if it happens, I’m leaving the church. If not, I’ll be staying put.”

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Hope, the Gospel, and Mission

Saturday, November 13th, 2010 by Diane Chandler

The scene is Mongolia, a nation of three million people situated to the north of China.  It is late evening, and five of us are worshipping the Lord in both the English and Mongolian languages.  One of the young Mongolian men present has been attending our Bible study and has made friends with other Christian Mongolian young adults.  He is spiritually hungry.  He is searching.  He has no hope. 

He is ready to entrust his life to Jesus.  The simple gospel of freedom from his past and freedom unto an eternal future coalesces into the reality of God’s love for him, Jesus’ sacrifice on his behalf, and sins forgiven.  In that instance, he becomes transformed through this blessed hope.  He is learning that Christ in him is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27), not some fanciful expectation or dreamy goal but rather a sure reality of a living God whose story he has not only internalized but whose life he now lives.  

This young Mongolian man saw the Gospel lived out in the lives of his believing friends.  As Stanley Hauerwas notes in his book A Community of Character, “The only way we learn of Jesus is through his story as we find it in the Gospel and as we see it lived in the lives of others” (p. 44).  This young man saw the change in his believing friends, as they reflected the deeper reality of inner transformation demonstrated in a changed sense of ethics and the new community of character to which they belong.  These other Mongolian believers demonstrated Hauerwas’ famous statement that the church is, rather than has, an ethic, meaning that the Church is the demonstration of this transformation and we are charged with both living and sharing this story (p. 11).

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People of Bread

Monday, November 8th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

Bread is a remarkable food. Growing up on bread in rural Germany, I often contemplated why the Church used paper-thin, tasteless substitutes to represent the bread at the celebration of the eucharist. As a child, I was a regular visitor at the local bakery, which belonged to a friend’s father. The aroma of the freshly baked loaves filled the entire building, and we couldn’t wait to eat the first slice. The corner piece was generally the most desired part of the bread, although we also enjoyed eating the entire loaf with our hands, starting from the center. In the 1980s, bread took on new forms to entice the community: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds were added to the dough and, when baked, created a nutty scent that was almost irresistible. Getting together was as simple as putting bread on the table. At church, little was found of that table fellowship. Read the rest of this entry »