Easter and Cold Kids

Here is a quick little update....Remember, you can click on "continue reading" to see the rest of the pictures and post.

-Kim is judging an English Olympics for the teachers in Erdenet right now where she has to listen to the teachers give speeches in English and grade essays that they write.  The Mongolians love competitions and medals and nearly everything leads to those ends.  Seriously.  

-My classes told me that they wanted to sing - Mongolians love to sing too - and that they wanted to learn "She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain"...which made my stomach turn so I thought I'd be bold and teach them the Jackson 5's "ABC".  Well, that was only slightly a failure.  They got the choruses down.  My goal is to get it on video.  

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Watching Television in Jerusalem

And here I thought it was going to be so easy.

I just went to Israel, and I fully expected to go on a 10-day tv fast while I was there. I mean, after all, I was going to be in the land of Abraham, David, and Jesus—how in the world would I find time to watch tv?

I started off well enough. We were staying at a kibbutz in northern Israel the first part of the trip, and the tv in our room was broken. Thank you, kibbutz! No tv—not a problem.

Then we went to Jerusalem, where our tv did work. Alas! And yes, I did turn it on. But in my defense, it was after a day of traipsing through the ruins at Qumran, hiking up to the waterfalls at En Gedi, and journeying to Masada. By the time I got to my hotel room that evening, I was completely exhausted and rather sunburned.

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Resurrection Psalm

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is so many things: a time/space event that altered the cosmos; the ultimate proof of God's power over sin and death; the thin yet consumately powerful thread that gives the Christian faith its meaning and hope. The resurrection is all of these and more: so massive, so magnificent, so utterly marvelous. Yet is is also very personal, something that we can all embrace with wonder and thanksgiving.

I've been participating in a study of the Psalms over the last couple of months, and this week I came across Psalm 16, appropriately classified as a Resurrection Psalm. I was drawn in by the majesty of the opening line: "Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge." As the Psalm progressed, I found myself moved by the intimacy of its final four verses--

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Happy Good Friday

"Happy Good Friday" is not really something we say to each other.
Good Friday is appropriately celebrated with solemnity and reverence,
with churches draped in black cloths and filled with the hushed tones
of contemplation.

While listening to sermon yesterday a passage hit me with a whole new
appreciation of not only Good Friday but the cross itself.

"1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of
witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that
so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked
out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of
our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning
its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart."
--Hebrews 12

The author of Hebrews spent chapter 11 laying out case after case of
Old Testament examples of God's faithfulness.  Men acted in faith and
God proved Himself faithful time after time.  And so here in chapter
12 the author asks us, "Why, in full view of God's providence and
faithfulness throughout the Bible, throughout Church history, and
throughout our own lives do we allow not only sin to entangle us, but
why do we allow anything to hinder us from fully trusting Him and
running towards (and with) Him?"  I don't know about you but that's a
very convicting question for me.

What is the writer's answer?  To fix our eyes on Jesus, who in full
view of all of those same things, who being the author and fulfillment
of all of those promises, and for the JOY set before Him endured the
cross.

It's hard to imagine Jesus' steps towards calvary being steeped in joy.
"This step is for joy."
"This step is for joy."
"This nail is for joy."

We've been studying the fruits of the Spirit out here in Mongolia and
something I learned while studying them is that we need to see all of
those things when we look at the cross.  When we look at the cross we
have to see God's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It is the culmination of
all of the promises He made to man from the beginning of time and it
is a promise and assurance to all of us.

So on Good Friday we have to ask ourselves, what was that joy that
drove Jesus to the cross?

As some would say, was it to give us health, wealth, prosperity, and
comfort?  Was it so we could deem it not entirely sufficient and add
to it works or not accept all of it and cling to shame?

Joy is never a solitary affair.  You have joy IN something.  You have
joy WITH someone.

I believe Jesus' joy in heading to and enduring the cross was knowing
that He was reconciling sinners who could not save themselves to a
holy God who loves them.  His joy was knowing that His death would
allow us, through His righteousness to know and enjoy God forever.
His joy was being the end and means of God's plan and purpose for
mankind; proving God faithful, loving, and sovereign so that in our
own lives we could fix our eyes on Jesus and not grow weary and lose
heart.


Happy Good Friday from Mongolia.

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Good Friday Poetry: John Donne

Donne's poetry is well-known, especially his poem that begins "Batter my heart, three-personed God".  He was born in 1572 and died in 1631, and his work deals with everything from love to royalty to faith and mystery.

Here's an excerpt from La Corona (sections V-VII):

CRUCIFYING.
By miracles exceeding power of man,
He faith in some, envy in some begat,
For, what weak spirits admire, ambitious hate :
In both affections many to Him ran.
But O ! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas ! and do, unto th' Immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a fate,
Measuring self-life's infinity to span,
Nay to an inch.   Lo ! where condemned He

Of Rob Bell, Tapestries, and the Offense of the Gospel

I recently found myself in a discussion with a friend about the theology of popular writer, Rob Bell. I was enthusing over the creativity of his Nooma videos and how effectively they present aspects of the Christian faith to the cynical and skeptical among us. My friend’s tightening smile let me know that he did not share my excitement about Bell or his message. When I asked why, he said he was frustrated with Bell’s unwillingness to share “the whole gospel.” He was concerned that sin and wrath and judgment were being short-changed in Bell’s attempt to emphasize God’s love and acceptance.

His concern got me to thinking about the ways we present the gospel. Some of us emphasize the love of God as the starting point, and others focus on sin and repentance. My limited personal (and granted, anecdotal) experience has led me to see that the vast majority of non-believers in our culture don’t really resonate or identify with a presentation that begins with the realization our sinful state and are much more likely to pay attention and be moved by a message that emphasizes grace. Maybe that is just a quirk of our time and culture, but it seems to be a reality, especially among the young.

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Relativism and the Emerging Church

Tony Jones and I write a regular column together for The Journal of Student Ministries. In this column, we discuss whether relativism is really an issue the church should be concerned about today.  I hope you enjoy this article on relativism and the emerging church.  

 

Tony says:

As you know, Sean, a “straw man argument” is one that’s constructed by people simply so that they can tear it down. For instance, an atheist might mischaracterize the Bible’s external documentation and then say that proves how unreliable the Bible is.

 

Well, I think that a lot of Christians do that with the concept of relativism. They moan and wail that relativism is a dark danger, the worst thing that’s happened to culture and the church since Satan tempted Jesus. They say once you become a relativist, you’re on the slippery slope to hell. And, I don’t mind pointing out that some leaders raise lots of money and pack arenas with students with this fear-based rhetoric.

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OBAMA: A MORE PERFECT UNION

After attempting to remain on the high road, Senator Barack Obama was finally forced by his frontrunner status to address America’s race problem. Whether traced to Hillary Clinton’s camp or John McCain’s supporters, race was injected into the campaign by the profusion of video clips highlighting Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s most incendiary sermons. Perhaps Obama was too naive to think that he would be allowed not to speak on the inescapable issue of race.

But when baited by mudslinging old-style party politics, Obama managed to deliver the most inspiring and important speech on race in America since the Civil Rights era. At a time when he was expected to disown his loquacious pastor, Obama managed to distance himself from divisive talk and yet embrace the person who inspired his vibrant Christian faith. It was a remarkable balancing act, addressing the complex legacy of race, slavery and civil rights. He recounted the tangled history and yet called upon us all to move on up, to build a more perfect union.

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The Politics of Holy Week: Embracing the LI-AMB

Holy Week. If you're a pastor, your congregants will want to make certain that they're given the chance to sing the right songs on Good Friday and Easter. We'll go to great trouble to make certain that the cross is properly draped in some colored cloth. We'll buy lilies and hams. There'll be eggs and talk of eternal life in Christ, a bizarre mixture of truth and fertility rites. But here's the deal: all of this is meaningless if it displaces the mysterious power and calling of the LI-AMB!

This week, if it is to meaningful at all, is when we recall the betrayal, arrest, trial, conviction, torture, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The thing about this that's so weird is the juxtaposition of Jesus as both a lion and a lamb.
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McCain: Go All New Media, All the Time!

If John McCain is the luckiest man since Ringo Starr, then his lack of money may prevent him from making a big mistake that both the Obama and Clinton campaigns are making.

McCain should ignore, or nearly ignore, old media. He should make ads (as he is doing at the moment) that tell stories. Basically, political campaigns must make edutainment and not adverts.

When Romney lost, I argued that one reason was his reliance on expensive old media ad buys. I have surveyed audience after audience (of all age ranges) and almost none of them watch commercials of any kind, but especially campaign commercials. The DVR is here now and the very Americans most likely to vote are embracing this technology in record numbers.

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