Friday, July 29, 2011

Was he a "Christian"?

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So, I guess the question is "Was he a Christian?"  No Christian (or very few) want to claim him.  But it's not really our choice.

How many Muslims across the world claim Islamist extremists?  How many Latter Day Saints want to claim the Fundamentalist LDSers? 

Back to the original question:  "Was Anders Behring Breivik a Christian?"  Did he choose Jesus as his personal savior?  Was he baptized into water?  Did he acknowledge Jesus Christ was the son of God and came to die for our sins?

If he did, did he wipe it away with his horrendous acts?  Was he saved by grace alone?

Or is there something more to being a Christian?

I know plenty of people I don't want to claim as Christians. 

I know there are plenty of Jesus' teachings that people have distorted over hundreds of years and now use to justify their evil actions.  Were those who enforced slavery and oppression in the South Christians?  Are people who believe in violence as a means of destroying evildoers Christians? 

What makes Christians different from the world around us?  It used to be that Christians were known by their love, but so many people in politics claim to be Christians are are known by their hate.

Christians are called to give to the poor, be unselfish, forgive.  But many of the people I know are worried about their hard-earned money being given to lazy poor people. 

I think it's safe to say "Christian" doesn't mean what it used to.  "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  But when the rose starts to smell like sewage, it may not be a rose anymore.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I've noticed over the past few weeks that the majority of blogs on Blogger are about wedding planning, embroidering, cake-making, and general crafting. 

It's time to stop being an anomaly.  I'm going to start embroidering a wedding cake that is for the wedding of my hand-stitched little people.  It will be amazing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Work" by Toyohiko Kagawa

The troubled people
Should expect to be
Busy always.
Christ was so thronged
By multitudes
He had no time to eat.
He said,
"To him that hath
Shall be given;
And from him that hath not
Shall be taken away
Even that
He seems to have."
Which means
That if we do not use
All of our powers
We lose them. . . .
Then, too, the problem is
To do our work
With all our hearts;
We do not tire
Of doing what we love.
But most of all,
Our strength and comfort come
Only when God
Dwells in our souls
Working together with us.

From Quiet Moments with God Devotional: Kagawa was a noted Japanese poet and Christian social reformer. Although he suffered poor health, he lived among the needy in the slums and worked tirelessly to overcome social injustice.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Call to prayer for Matthew and Kara

Please visit this blog to show your support for my friends, Matthew and Kara Sikes.  Not enough can be said about how much my heart hurts for them while at the same time I experience so much joy for the faith each of them possesses and the great support from their church community.  This is what church is.

Also, I encourage you to consider donating to the James Camden Sikes Fund, which goes toward researching rhabdoid tumors.  As you can tell from the Wikipedia link, much is still unknown about this malignant, highly lethal tumor.

Twenty-eight days.  That's less than a month.  That's all it took.  On day one, Jamesie went to the hospital.  On day 28, Matthew and Kara laid his body in its final resting place. 

Matthew and Kara will be hurting a lot longer than that.  Please pray for them through this grieving process.  May God send his great Comforter to them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Subtle changes in understanding

Sunday morning at the Cheung Doi Church of Christ, Angela and I were trying to follow along as they studied in Matthew 5. As I read the Beatitudes in Angela's bible, it struck me that the New Living Translation was significantly different in its translation of the text in a few areas that I did not previously realize. Below are my disjointed, un-M.Div'ed thoughts.

3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.


The first thing is that "God blesses" is used instead of "Blessed are...," or in some translations "Happy are...." This is significant to me, because Jesus gives us an example of how God blesses us. It's certainly not with good jobs, fancy cars, big houses, or junk in this world.

The second thing that can clearly be seen (especially since I left in the footnote indicators) is the subtle differences in translation in verse 3 and verse 6 that have significant impact on how I have traditionally heard the Beatitudes taught or discussed. After studying the Sermon on the Mount at church in the spring, I remember being so frustrated each time somebody said, "Well, it's really about the heart," as if that excused them from action or wrong action. These translation differences, I think, go more toward the message of Jesus in showing that it is about your heart, but that's only a small part of it.

Verse 3

In verse 3, where "poor in spirit" is typically used, the translators opted for "those who are poor and realize their need for [God]." In Luke's version, often called the "Sermon on the Plain," he quotes the sermon as saying, "Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God" (6:20, ESV, NIV). But we either don't talk about Luke's reporting, or we add our own "in spirit." But Jesus, who was likely talking to mostly poor people, told them that they were blessed and loved by God and would inherit the Kingdom of God. The NLT chooses to say those who are poor and "realize their need for [God]." Doesn't that make so much more sense? Jesus is talking to a mass of poor people who are obviously looking for something like God. And Jesus delivers, like he always does.

Verse 6

In verse 6, we see the NLT use the word "justice" where usually we see "righteousness." (Sidenote: Luke just says "those who are hungry.") I have usually heard righteousness defined as right-living, meaning doing what is right. In other words, said more clearly, not sinning. The pressure on us is to not sin. I don't think that's wrong. But growing up in the church, I usually saw this practiced as a checklist in making sure we were doing what we were supposed to do (going to church) and not doing what we weren't supposed to (dancing, lying, being bad).

For those who have read The Good News About Injustice or Timothy Keller's Generous Justice, you know that the terms "righteousness" and "justice" are often used together or interchangeably in the biblical texts. Righteousness cannot be achieved without justice; justice only comes about through righteousness. Of course that's an oversimplification, but that's not the point.

What's the point?

The point is how we live our lives as a reflection of Jesus' teachings. When we view it as something that only matters in our heart, we sharply reduce the message of Jesus. If it's all about your heart, then why does Jesus make a specific comment about those who are "pure in heart"? Seeking peace just becomes about making sure you apologize to upset friends. As a result, something we are all called to do ("peacemakers" or "those who work for peace" in the NLT) that could change the world, becomes easy to excuse away when our country is at war and justify revenge killings.

The teachings of Jesus were and still are radical for all faiths and backgrounds. Sometimes it takes a subtle reframing to break free of the tired, old teachings and renew our understanding of the power of God. It's time for us to stop anesthetizing God in order to justify our lack of action.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Roach Guts Disgust me

I just posted on our Thailand blog.  Last night and this morning I killed a lot of cockroaches.  I wanted to confess that cockroaches and the guts inside them--whether spilled out on the floor or not--disgust me.

There.  I said it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back to School

Wednesday was the official starting day with the IJM Thailand Field Office.
I haven't started driving myself yet.  The 1992 Honda Civic is going to be a great commuter car, though.  And it will probably catch the eye of car aficionados as I drive by.

But back to work.  I've included a few pictures of the office I share with the IJM attorney, Rit.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday took me back to school.  For these first few weeks, I will devote myself to being a student of Thai, Thai law, and Thai coffee.

The IJM Thailand staff has been very gracious, including their spouses.  When I went to get in the car to go home on Friday, I opened the door on the right and almost sat on the driver, Pi Mim's husband.   Each person has taken the time to help me every step of the way -- whether work-related or life-related.

So far, I have immersed myself into a large document about the history and process of citizenship in Thailand, courtesy of UNESCO.  Next up are more documents and procedural outlines of citizenship law and then onto criminal law, as we prepare the Child Sexual Abuse pilot program.

When the internet went down on Friday, I was able to take a moment to look at this bull chomping on the grass outside our office.
I was reminded that I'm not here just to learn, but to make an impact on people's lives.  Learning new laws and procedures is a challenge I accept, but only because of lives who are in need of rescue from abuse and statelessness.

I look forward to telling you more about how this will be done in the coming weeks. For now, it's back to the books.

Church Planting Thoughts

I wrote this a few days ago, but forgot to publish.  Since it has to do with "Sunday" topics, it's appropriate for Sunday:

First off, let it be known, I'm no expert in the field.  These are just a few of the thoughts that have come to my mind lately.

I was talking with Angela this morning over our last breakfast at the Mountainview Guesthouse by the North Gate in Chiang Mai.  We were talking about where we would go to church this year, but the conversation shifted to my deeper thoughts (as happens on occasion). 

I started thinking about how the primary goal of many missionaries and church-planters has been to establish a system in order to make evangelism more sustainable.  To say it in a way that is less "church friendly," to convert and keep converts.  I began to wonder how this style could be effective at all when a foreigner comes in with the answers and tells others that what they thought they knew wasn't actually right at all.  Especially in a non-western culture where saving face is very important and arguments are not won by reason, it seems that this would be a big turnoff.  And, in fact, I think it was for many years here.

But one thing that translates across cultures is when a church truly becomes a church:  a body that is measured by its love for one another and for others.  A man here in Chiang Mai who was not a Christian but married a Christian woman expected the church to give up when a recent tragedy struck them.  It was the support and love that followed that revealed the character of Christ through the church.

Yet I still wonder how it is effective when church gatherings become just more learning rather than living. 

Churches out here -- just like in the States -- are focused primarily on evangelism and membership, almost to the exclusion of social concern.  Occasionally it will pop-up in the form of a one-time service project.  But that's not help; it's making ourselves feel better.

When the church allows itself to become a body of believers that reaches out for justice, the body catches a glimpse of "the age that is to come;" the age where our world will be made right again. We become God's ambassadors for representing that age in this present age.

If we view the purpose of planting churches as evangelism through preaching and logical arguments and the sharing of our spoken "testimony," we deny God's power to reveal himself through the body itself and its function as a community.  The body is there to love.  People will see that and then follow.  The testimony is the community.  Like St. Francis wrote, ". . . use words when necessary."

These are just a few more of my rambling thoughts.  I'll leave the conclusions to you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Ride

Almost a classic.

Our 1992 Honda Civic.  Play the video, which is just "Intro" by The XX, and then scroll down.

If it helps, picture hundreds of people on motorbikes (scooters, mopeds) gawking as they see me ride by.

(Safely planking)

Photos courtesy of Angela.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Great First Day

A great first day can always be capped off with a great song.  Tonight's is "Will Do" by TV on the Radio.