"Gentleness is a divine trait; nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength"

- Ralph W Sockman
Parade Magazine, the Best Buy Circular, and the Bible

All coming to a newspaper near you. Is this a good idea?

A Christian ministry wants to deliver custom-designed New Testaments to newspaper subscribers around the country as part of an effort to find innovative ways to spread a Christian message . . .

International Bible Society-Send the Light is planning on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute Bibles with 11 newspapers during 2007 and 2008. New Testaments would be packaged in pouches on the outside of newspapers, much like soap or other sample products.


This caused some controversy, so the Fort Worth Star-Telegram told subscribers it could opt out of receiving the Bible. That move prompted this subscriber's inquiry. Apparently he thought opting out of advertising is a great idea:

"Please note on my account that I want to receive the New Testament and 'opt out' of all other forms of unwanted solicitation and advertising. I want no toxic hair cream, no aspartame-filled gum or any other form of unwanted advertising and solicitation," he wrote.


Fundraising is not going well at all:

In Fort Worth, the group faces an Oct. 31 deadline to raise $438,000; so far, only a little more than $13,000 has been collected through church offerings and other efforts.


One IBS spokesman was understandably miffed at the angry response the proposal has generated:

"It's disappointing that anyone would object to getting a Bible, which is the best read book in the whole world and has been for hundreds of years. They have the right to do with it what they want to," he said. "Do they object to getting a bag of Quaker oatmeal or Tide detergent or an AOL disc?"

Just a Hypothetical

Questions they should be asking the presidential candidates about terrorism and national security. My favorite:


Three criminals from Krypton, freed by a nuclear blast in outer space, have come to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man. Worse, Superman has disappeared. The criminals' leader, General Zod, orders you to kneel before him as a symbol of America's defeat. I'll start with you, Senator Brownback. If the act means saving millions of lives, and perhaps buying time until the Man of Steel returns, would you forsake your belief in Jesus Christ and bow before this evil alien?


HT: Bruce Schneier.

"Remember When We Used To Call It Emerging/Emergent?"

I've long thought that the terms "Emerging" and "Emergent" have a short shelf-life. And - full disclosure - I still don't know what the difference is between the participalish "Emerging" and the adjectiveish "Emergent". I hear that one is "good" and the other is "bad" but I keep getting them mixed up.

But I think that in about five years it won't matter. Don't get me wrong, I believe those movements will still be around, and will possibly have even gained steam, but I think that by then whatever it is that is "emerging" will have "emerged", and become established. And we'll look back on the terms with amused smiles.

What are your thoughts?

Also, for a chuckle, read Scot McKnight's Ten Reasons to Attend an Emerging Event.

Joy in Iraq

Iraq Wins!From the brave souls over at Iraq the Model comes this wonderful post about the joy being experienced in Iraq today (and joy has been a rare commodity in Iraq lately). It is a testament to the power of sport, and particularly to the sport of soccer, which is, everywhere but in the U.S., the greatest sport in the world.

Our team has just won the Asian cup for the first time in our soccer history. The win came through a magnificent goal by the head of our heroic forward Younis Mahmoud at the 71st minute of the match..
Our team ruled the game by all standards; in defense, midfield and attack our players proven that they are the best…they are now the masters of Asian soccer!

Today is definitely the happiest day for Iraqis in years. Tears of joy mixed with prayers for hope on the faces of millions of Iraqis…Words truly fail me and I can't describe the feeling so please pardon me if the post doesn't sound coherent; I hear the cheering and music outside although the bullets of celebration keep falling on the ground and roofs here and there. But no one seems to worry about that, the moment is so great that fear has no place in the hearts of the millions of fans, neither from bullets nor from crazy suicide bombers who tried to kill our joy last week.

Our players, tonight our heroes, learned that only with team work they had a chance to win.
May our politicians learn from the players and from the fans who are painting a glorious image of unity and national pride, and let the terrorists know that nothing can kill the spirit of the sons of the immortal Tigris and Euphrates.

The fear is gone, the curfew is ignored, tonight Iraq knows only joy...
You can read the story over at Fox News.

"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty ..."

We recited the Nicene Creed in church today. For some that might not be a big deal. But for me, it was a landmark event for two reason:

1) I've never recited the creed in church before, ever.

2) I attend a non-liturgical, evangelical, non-denominational church. Reciting creeds just isn't the norm around there.

Some might think that reciting the Nicene Creed is the epitome of lifeless "religion." But for me, today, it was completely life-giving. I literally got goosebumps at one point.

Amen.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Alito, Roberts & Bush "Hoodwink" Dems ... Huh?

Senator Schumer thinks the Dems should not confirm another Bush Supreme. I guess he's scared abortion rights could be in jeopardy.

Power, Sex, Country, and Jesus

The Boneman reacts to the "Freedom Alliance" concert in San Diego:


When we were walking to our seats we noticed that there were huge silhouetted woman decals decorating the stage. We later learned this was part of the Montgomery-Gentry country music act. Fair enough, but imagine the jarring disconnect of this backdrop while Michael W. Smith sang Gospel music. I'm sorry, but it was too big to miss. Add to that a bunch of ass-kicking "my town" song / talk, and you have yourself one heck of an interesting experience! Go America! (?)

Now here is my quandry. Is this the face of main-stream conservativism in America now? Power, sex, country, and... Jesus? Let me say it again - POWER, SEX, COUNTRY, and JESUS. Just to be clear - I like Sean Hannity and Oliver North for the most part. I understand their deep frustration with the radical liberal agenda that is eroding our freedoms. However, I wonder if these guys realize how a concert like this "presents" to the watching world. Again, they've raised a million dollars for scholarships and I haven't. I get that. I'm just struggling with the ethos of this thing. If this is what conservativism is now, we're in big trouble.


Sad but true-- the liberals aren't the only syncretists in town, nor even the best practitioners of the art.

What To Do With Tillman?

While reading the latest in the Pat Tillman saga, I had some conflicted feelings that brought back some feelings I had when Sports Illustrated did a feature on his death and the subsequent cover-up a year ago.

This whole thing is sad, from our government's attempt to make Tillman into some kind of folk hero (he gave up millions for the cause of the country and died bravely fighting the enemy) to the latest revelations that he may have been "fragged" by his own guy(s).

But perhaps the saddest thing of all to me is the fact that Tillman was such a strident non-believer and was so vocal about it (read the SI article to understand more).

According to the AP story, Tillman's last words may have been a slam against a guy who was praying during the firefight:

The chaplain said that O'Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman's side, ''crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ...''


Life's not some tidy, perfect tale where the hero is the upright, moral, God-fearing guy all the time is it?

UPDATE: According to this story from the AP, Tillman's comrade (the praying guy) disputes that Tillman was harsh with him at the end. Just FYI

Juxtapositions

Like many of you, I enjoy reading and, along with that, amassing books. I take special notice of the disparate subjects treated by the books people have in their library. I love to see unlikely pairs sitting together on a bookshelf.

I'll give you a few of mine. My bookshelves are especially random, since my books are completely unorganized, having been placed on the shelves straight out of the moving boxes and never alphabetized or categorized in any way. How about:

James Hastings Nichols, Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition, alongside J.P. Mauro, Al Franken is a Buck Toothed Moron, and Other Observations.

Canonical texts of pacifism and conservatism sit together: The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder with William F. Buckley's Up from Liberalism.

Alvin Plantinga's philosophical work, Warrant and Proper Function, holds its own next to a classic in its field, Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party.

Agrarian Wendell Berry's In the Presence of Fear: Three Essays for a Changed World, rests uneasily upon Ann Coulter's Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Berry's slim volume is a pointed critique of American culture in light of 9/11.

What odd juxtapositions can be found on your bookshelves?

On This Day In Christian History...

1603 - James VI of Scotland was crowned King James I of England. He then 'authorized' an English translation of the Scriptures, first published in 1611 and known since as the 'King James Version'of the Bible.

1741 - English revivalist George Whitefield wrote in a letter: 'Venture daily upon Christ, go out in His strength, and He will enable you to do wonders.'

1869 - In England, the Disestablishment Bill was passed, officially dissolving the Church of Ireland. (Organized opposition to this legislation coined one of longest words in the English language: antidisestablishmentarianism.)

(From the 'Almanac of the Christian Church by William D. Blake)

Skip to My Lou

Here's a couple of questions for you peeps out there who know how to read:

When you read a book, do you EVER skip any pages or whole sections?

If you do skip pages/sections, and you get to the end of the book, do you count the book as "read"?


I used to be a hardliner about this, even after reading about how Lewis thought skipping was no big deal. These days, I tend to skip sparingly and if I've read roughly 85 percent of a book I'll count it as something I've read.

Check Out Artlady

She's new to the blogosphere. Check her blog out here.

She even gives props to our venerable Gatorade post.

Darn Illegal Aliens

Americans in Mexico.

Which is the Worst?

The NBA's mafia-entangled referee scandal, Barry "Roid Rage" Bonds closing in on Hank Aaron's home run record, or Michael Vick's not-ready-for-Westminster dog hobby?

A Question for Trekkies

Did they ever set the phasers to something other than stun?

The New Legalism: Dissatisfied with Christ

We are studying Paul's letter to the Galatians in our weekly college/young adult Bible study, and last night, as we were discussing Paul's frustration with his Gentile readers over trading in the Gospel he preached to them for the Judaizers' "Jesus plus" false gospel, we saw it as illustrative of everyone's bizarre compulsion to add to the completed work of Christ.

One guy at the study said he grew up in a very legalistic independent Baptist background and went to a very legalistic Bible college. His personal church history was one in which it was very much ingrained in him to "do stuff" (and to not do stuff) to keep God from zapping him. He asked what the modern equivalent of this is, as more churches seemed less that way and more, as he put it, "normal."

My response was that most churches today still deal in legalism. We just don't think of it that way because it is happy, it speaks of grace, and it is not explicitly condemning. But in my mind, every time churches focus primarily on How To ________ or Six Steps to a Successful _________, they are dealing in legalism, because what is legalism but a gospel of works?

This new focus on our works distorts the pure joy to be found in the true Gospel. What it does, in message format for instance, is spend the majority of its time giving us stuff to do to achieve whatever, and then tacks on at the end a brief message about choosing Christ's free gift of salvation. In my estimation, this is bass ackwards. A Gospel-driven message focuses on Christ's work, on God's work on our behalf, and then moves to an exhortation or application. In most sermons in evangelical churches, the focus breaks down to 90% Helpful Tips and 10% Jesus Did it For You (if that much). But I think the reverse should be the standard.

The result in our present gospel misfocus is a practical legalism. It's just legalism with a better marketing plan. It's legalism that sells better than the old kind, because it promises practical, worldly benefits. It promises results.

And that's the real demon in this false gospel. Even as the new legalism pays lip service to grace, as it plays up the need to do this, this, and this to achieve success or victory in your work/marriage/life, it sets up success and happiness as the goal of the Christian life. Those are not bad goals, but they are not specifically Christian goals. The problem with focusing on our work with the promise that it will produce results is that we end up working for results, rather than for Christ. And when results are slow (or nonexistent), it only breeds dissatisfaction, and ultimately, despair.

An illustration: Whenever ministers cover the touchy subject of wifely submission, they inevitably try to soften Paul's instruction here by saying to husbands, "If you will love your wife as Christ loved the church, then she will be more inclined to submit to you." This makes the call to wifely submission somehow more palatable because it now hinges on a husband worthy of being submitted to.
This is true as far as it goes. Meaning, it is (usually) true that a husband who is loving, sacrificial, servant-hearted, tender, and safe will be easier for a wife to submit to than one who isn't. But what happens when a husband is not perfect? Does the wife get to opt out?
What happens when a wife is not perfectly submissive? Does the husband get to opt out of laying down his life for her?

The new legalistic approach to this situation, and others akin to it, cannot adequately answer this problem. Because it does not address sin. It is focused on results, on what "works," and therefore sets up a person to person dynamic that is, again, a distortion of the Gospel call to righteous living.

The real Gospel of grace, however, calls us to submit to each other out of reverence to God. A wife should submit to her husband not because her husband is deserving of being submitted to (because no husband really is), but because it honors God. A husband should sacrifice and serve his wife not because she deserves it, but because it is a reflection of how Christ loved us. The difference is that we do these good works -- all good works -- not because they will get us stuff or make us happy, but because they are done for and by and unto God Himself. They aren't steps to __________; they are done out of reverence for Christ.

This is because the new legalism, for all its talk of grace and love and tolerance and anti-condemnation, is just like the old legalism in that it tells us not to be satisfied with Jesus. Don't be satisfied with Jesus' work on your behalf, it suggests. That's not enough. Do more, be more, become more. Because the real goal is not satisfaction with Christ, but success in life. I can't think of anything more "anti" the testimony of the New Testament. Health, wealth, prosperity, conquering dysfunction -- the Bible just isn't really concerned with this stuff. At least, not in the ways the modern church is.

The Bible is concerned, however, with our finding joy and peace and satisfaction in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is about living being Christ and dying being gain. The new legalism says living is gain and Christ is for after death. The real Gospel just isn't sexy.

Now They're Trying to Take My Coke Zero!

On March 12th I poured my last two-liter Coca Cola down the kitchen drain. I haven't had a drop since.

I have, on the other hand, become quite the diet beverage lover. But now the "experts" are trying to tell me that drinking diet sodas is linked to heart risks.

Can I not have any pleasures in this life?

zero

Ahh ... doesn't that look good?

Interweb Go Fast

Swedish Woman Gets Superfast Internet

She is a latecomer to the information superhighway, but 75-year-old Sigbritt Lothberg is now cruising the Internet with a dizzying speed. Lothberg's 40 gigabits-per-second fiber-optic connection in Karlstad is believed to be the fastest residential uplink in the world, Karlstad city officials said.

In less than 2 seconds, Lothberg can download a full-length movie on her home computer - many thousand times faster than most residential connections, said Hafsteinn Jonsson, head of the Karlstad city network unit.

Jonsson and Lothberg's son, Peter, worked together to install the connection.

The speed is reached using a new modulation technique that allows the sending of data between two routers placed up to 1,240 miles apart, without any transponders in between, Jonsson said.

"We wanted to show that that there are no limitations to Internet speed," he said.

Peter Lothberg, who is a networking expert, said he wanted to demonstrate the new technology while providing a computer link for his mother.

"She's a brand-new Internet user," Lothberg said by phone from California, where he lives. "She didn't even have a computer before."

His mother isn't exactly making the most of her high-speed connection. She only uses it to read Web-based newspapers.

The iMonk on the Lord's Supper in the SBC

The iMonk has done some research into why SBC churches only celebrate the Lord's Supper once a quarter on average.

The top three reasons?

1. “We don’t want to be too catholic.”

2. “If we do it more often, it won’t be as special.”

3. “I don’t want to give up the sermon time.”

His post is a hilarious skewering of these three reasons. And I find myself more and more agreeing with what he writes at the end of his post, excerpted below (and, for full disclosure, I am a Southern Baptist who thinks the Bride is beautiful).

Southern Baptists know they are wrong on this issue. They know the Bible isn’t describing Quakerism in the books of Acts and I Corinthians. They know Spurgeon wasn’t crazy. They know they’ve erred and they need to make it right. Pastors who will never admit there’s no mention of Mother’s Day in the Bible know that communion once every 12 weeks is ridiculous.

We don’t need anyone to write a big book and we don’t need to have a big cry. We need to schedule communion once a month and design our corporate worship to emphasize and explain it as the New Covenant passover.

It’s a small thing with a huge potential impact. If someone objects, ignore them. They’re wrong. You won’t go catholic, it won’t lose its “specialness,” (as if any more could be done than we’ve already done to demean it) and pastors will survive with 15 minutes less preaching each month.

The whole flock will be fed, strengthened and reaffirmed. The scripture will be obeyed. Jesus Christ will be remembered and we will fellowship in his death and life.

Get started.

Have a Seat

chess table

I'm looking to recruit new members for our little chess community here at Thinklings. If you're a friend of the Thinklings -- or, heck, even a troll -- and you know how to move the pieces, and you'd like to play correspondence style chess, then leave a comment and I'll tell you all about the initiation process. :gbird:

Oh, one more thing. For all of you former Thinklings Chess players who have petered out over the past few months, consider this your altar call.

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