Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Christian Culture’

Did you hear the broadcast from Egypt on Sunday that told of Coptic Christians conducting mass in Tahrir Square?  What caught my attention was the report that Muslims surrounded the Christians in order to protect them while they worshipped. (Reuters, February 6 2011).

This action follows many reports of Egyptian Christians protecting Muslim men in the same square as they prayed last Friday. Coptic Christians make up approximately ten percent of the population of Egypt, perhaps the largest Christian community in the Arab world. (For background information, you might want to read this article from Foreign Policy.)

Have you heard about the big controversy among some Christians over whether Christian churches should rent church space to Muslims to conduct their prayer services. What do you think your church would do?

Recently, Christianity Today has featured several articles that raised questions about the relationship between Islam and Christianity as well as between Muslims and Christians.

Why We Opened Our Church to Muslims | A response to “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” (January 27, 2011)

Muslims in Evangelical Churches | Does loving your neighbor mean opening your doors to false worship? (January 3, 2011)

From Informant to Informer | The “son of Hamas” senses God in his life before coming to Christ. (June 8, 2010)

Dispute in Dearborn | Small ministry creates big waves at Arab festival. (August 18, 2010)

Out of Context | Debate over ‘Camel method’ probes limits of Muslim-focused evangelism. (March 31, 2010)

How Muslims See Christianity | Many Muslims don’t understand Christianity—especially the idea of salvation by grace through faith. (March 1, 2000)

The above list appears in a lengthy article discussing the use of the phrase “Son of God” in Bible translations used in Muslim countries. It is an excellent discussion of the difficulties inherent in cross-cultural evangelism (Christianity Today, February 4, 2011).

 

If you are having trouble even reading the word Muslim without thinking terrorist, then I think you are a pretty normal American Christian.  Unfortunately, I think the dominate word in that last phrase is American, not Christian. But it is very difficult for many of us to separate the flag from the cross, isn’t it!

I am encouraged that in the middle of the political tumult, Christians in Egypt have acted like Christians to those who sometimes even persecute them.  I’m equally thrilled to see Muslims responding favorably to the Christians.

It begins to sound like the early chapters of Acts, you know those verses that describe the good that the first followers of Jesus did among the people who had killed Jesus (2:47) and the “good favor” that ensued from the entire community.

We and LST have been involved in faith-sharing work with Muslims for many years now. Our first experiences were in western Europe–which is struggling with a mushrooming Muslim population. Then later we began work in places that were secular politically though Muslim culturally, both in Asia and Africa.   I have no personal experience in the fundamentalist Arab Muslim countries, but I do know people who have worked there.

So I have many more questions than I have answers, but I am more and more convicted that not only is vilification of Muslim people wrong, but that either intentionally or indifferently ignoring them is equally ungodly.

I am convicted—as you are, I believe—that God so loved the Muslim world as well as the Christian world that He sent His only Son to die for the whole world!  Isn’t that what you believe too?

So how does that change anything for you today?

 

About these ads

Read Full Post »

Clint Loveness, a friend and Let’s Start Talking participant has created a great story video that speaks about young people, video games, and missions. You probably want to share this with your teens and grandteens!  It’s just over four minutes, so click below and enjoy it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJGuAInoOlk

Read Full Post »

My task this weekend is to re-write what we have long called the Let’s Start Talking Guidelines. They are a list of non-negotiable behavior expectations that have grown up over the thirty years of our history.

For instance, we do not wish our workers to get involved with anyone romantically while on their mission project, so we have a No Romance policy.  I hope this seems reasonable enough to you, but because we work with many college students and because being away from home creates an exotic ambience even for adults, this is one problem area that seems to surface every year!

There are only sixteen such guidelines in their current form, so it is not cumbersome,  but over the years we have continued to revise them to the point that sometimes the primary expectation is no longer obvious.  For instance, our No Romance guideline now reads:

“Dating team members is a major distraction to the commitment you have made with LST. Spend that love, time, and attention on those who need it in order to find Jesus. Romantic relationships with Readers will block their ability to find Jesus. Involvement with church members will create undesired problems. From our years of experience, this area is one of the most sensitive. Keep your focus on spending all of your energy sharing Jesus.

See how mushy this is!  So let me tell you what my biggest problem is in this assignment. Maybe you can help!

I cannot find the right word!   Which word or phrase will describe this important document in a way that is neither offensive nor condescending to both our college and church workers? Which word might perhaps even motivate or inspire them to full ownership?  HELP!!!

Rules of Behavior is too authoritarian, but Guidelines sounds like The Ten Suggestions, which has no teeth.  Standards does not ask for commitment, but Commitments is a pretty strong word that makes people run for cover!  A Code sounds military (just think about A Few Good Men), Pledges makes me reach for my wallet, and Promises evokes strains of The Wedding March! Where is Shakespeare when you need him??

As we talked about this in our office common room today, it was interesting to notice which personalities went for which words!

Wait a minute! Therein lies a clue! Outside of gross criminal actions, we live in a society where no one really wants anyone to infringe on their own right to make their own decisions about their own behavior!!  Everybody wants to choose their own word!

How can we live in such a community? How can we live and work together?  How can two walk together unless they agree—on how to describe the mutual expectations to which they are willing submit?  I begin to think my semantic problem is a symptom of a spiritual problem!

After I finish my assignment, I’ll tell you some of the stories behind our guidelines, so you can consider them for your short-term mission project.

What word or phrase would you suggest I use?

Read Full Post »

A ten-hour plane ride is ten-hour block of time—a rare opportunity!  Many people sleep it away, but from London to Dallas, you fly during the European and US daylight hours, so sleeping just doesn’t make any sense to me.  Sometimes I read, but I almost always check out the movie offerings. For me, those ten hours are an opportunity to watch movies that I probably would never pay money to see.

 I’m not necessarily looking for entertainment. As most of you know, I taught film and used popular culture extensively in my classes as a professor at Oklahoma Christian. I’ve always been interested in what popular culture tells us about the world around us.  So here is what I watched on Thursday as I was flying back home from London—with just a few review-like or random thoughts about each piece.

 Glee: The Pilot and one early episode – I had seen all kinds of headlines about this TV show since it appeared on TV screens in 2009, but I had never watched it. Glee is about a high school glee club, its members, and the faculty and students of a mid-western high school.  Much is absolutely predictable: the jocks vs. everyone, the beauties vs. the nerds, you know the groupings from your own high school days—so how could it be any other way! The show is meant to be optimistic and fun while dealing with problems of relationships, of emerging identities, and a pretty sizable dose of teen sexuality.  That sounds like high school to me also.  Here are my questions about its portrayal of high school in 2010:  are today’s highschoolers really that open and casual about sex, and are the teachers in the high schools so much like the adolescents?  It’s not a show for young children, maybe not for your teens if you like them sheltered from all of the possibilities out there, but it might be educational to you parents if you are of the protected variety yourselves.

 Vampire Diaries: Pilot  The massive interest in vampire stories is pretty interesting to me. Vampire stories have always included lots of suspense, sexual tension, questions about immortality, and, of course, the choice of life or death.  Perhaps the “hooking up” generation needs something edgy to make relationship stories interesting to them.  I did not see anything in the pilot that was the slightest bit different from the Twilight Series movies—just a TV version of the same. Maybe it has grown from the beginning, but I’m probably not going to find out—unless next year they have the second season on the airplane menu.

 Winter’s Bone (2010) This was a very raw portrayal of rural life of the poorest in almost anywhere in the deep South. The language, the morals, the requirements for staying alive –well there is very little that is civilized portrayed in this film. It has the feel, sometimes even the music, of Deliverance. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a seventeen-year-old girl, trying to protect, and deliver her crazy mother and two younger siblings from losing their home because their father is running from the law for cooking meth.  The portrayal of the backwoods mafia families and codes of conduct is frightening. Ree’s determination and courage are the only redemptive values portrayed.  Not an easy film to watch, but not a bad film.

 Getting Low (2009)  I saw the trailer to this film at the theater years ago, but the trailer made it look like a goofy movie about an eccentric hermit who wants to throw his own funeral party.  The previews did this film no service; it was much better than the trailers portrayed.  Robert Duval just never stops being a great actor! And he has a special affinity for roles that are mildly moral, religious, even Christian—just think about Tender Mercies (1983) and The Apostle(1997). The story is really about a man who has jailed himself away in a cabin for forty years for a sin he committed in his youth. Now, in old age, he wants to confess his sin and be forgiven.  Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, and Lucas Black all do outstanding jobs as well in this fine little film.

Book of Eli (2010) Much has been written about this film, so I will be brief. Denzel Washington is and has always been one of the best. Most of this film is rather bleak and often violent, but the moments when Eli has his emotions called out are just as good as the unforgettable moments in Glory when the new, young actor Washington, steals the movie.  And The Bible gets good press in this movie; even the villain knows the power of the Words, and like all Satans, wants to use them for his own power and glory.  There is no doubt about the outcome.

 Airplane movies are usually cleaned up, so I have no idea what the theater version might contain that I did not see.  That’s my disclaimer in case you rent any of these and are shocked that I would watch it. I do, however, believe there is a difference in watching to learn and watching to be entertained—but that’s a topic for later.

 Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to you!

Read Full Post »

The city of Rothenburg ob der Taube was first settled in 960 A.D.  OK, stop and think about that for a moment. That is 532 years before Columbus discovered America.  I hardly know how to relate to dates like that.  But here is the date that really caused me to pause and think:  the first Christian church was built in Rothenburg in 968. 

Now I know that the 10th century is 900 years after Paul started churches in Turkey, Greece, and other places, but what that means is that people in this valley next to the Taube River have had some exposure to the name of Jesus and the story of Jesus for over one thousand years.

One thousand years is time enough for many things to happen, for instance:

  • the simple story of Jesus can morph into a complicated, unknowable story, one that only seminary-educated people are supposed to or expected to know.
  • the community of Christ can evolve into a state-organized community listed primarily on rolls for tax collection purposes.
  • the faith of those that would leave the civilized world to build a church in the middle of paganism can evolve into a kind of Christian paganism–a phrase that to me means simple disbelief of the real story but a disbelief described  in words that were formerly Christian words.
  • the buildings constructed on the backs of and at the expense of several generations of peasants, a sacrifice made because of very simple faith but devout faith, these buildings are now museums, some museums of culture and others museums of faith–not much difference really.
  • the values preached and practiced by those earliest Christians have had time to simply be absorbed into the culture–no longer recognized as Christian values, just good values.

All of these thoughts, rather than being reason for discouragement, can also be taken as a challenge for the Christian warrior–not an image we really use very much any more.  At the Euro-American Retreat in Rothenburg, there are about 135 people from twenty different countries, many of whom qualify as Christian warriors though.

There are American missionaries from Albania, from France, from Belgium, from Austria. There are national evangelists from Romania,  from Ukraine, from Italy, from Germany. Then there are the foot soldiers, not missionaries or preachers, but Christians who live in the middle of pagan, of secular, of formerly Christian and formerly Communistic societies, who are here to be encouraged and strengthened, so that they can go back and fight some more!

That’s one of the reasons we love being on mission fields with people who live in mission fields. They know they are in a battle, they know that they are fighting against immense odds. Nothing would suggest that they will win the battle–nothing except their absolute faith in the Victory of Jesus. 

Thanks to Phil Jackson from Missions Resource Network for keeping this retreat alive. It began as an American military retreat when Europe was full of American soldiers. Phil has developed a quality program for all Christians and a growing number now recognize the benefit of spending these 4-5 days together.  Let me recommend it to you!

Tomorrow, Sherrylee, Cassie, and I leave for home via an overnight in London. We are going to take Cassie to the Tower of London and to Phantom of the Opera.  She may remember London more in the future, but I believe she will be shaped more by the conversations with Bill Wilson, with the van Erps, with the Brazles–both couples–and with the workers in Hildesheim. I’m so glad she is with us in Rothenburg; I want her to be a true believer in the Victory for the rest of her life!!

Thanks for going with us on this journey.  We will talk again next week after we recover from Thanksgiving.

Read Full Post »

Twice in the last few days, I’ve heard star athletes described as humble. The Dallas Cowboys just signed Miles Austin to a six-year multi-million dollar contract, and when asked what made Austin—who has really only had a partial break-out year—special, the notorious Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Cowboys (and head coach), used the word humble over and over again.

Then this morning, I heard Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski ) talking about Kevin Durant, a third-year NBA player, and he used these very words: “he is pure; he’s humble.” Kevin Durant has just led the USA men’s basketball team to its first world championship since 1994 and was voted MVP for the tournament.

Is humble a trait that superstars  are supposed to have? Is humble something you can learn in the minor leagues or in college?  Is humble found in the gym or on the practice field?  What makes humble important enough for it to be an important description for outstanding athletes—or outstanding people, for that matter.

One of the strangest verses in the Old Testament raises for me the same question. In the context of a fairly mundane case of jealousy between Moses and his siblings Miriam and Aaron, the biblical writer makes a parenthetical statement: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3).  There it is again!

Don’t forget who Moses was and what he had done! He was raised as a prince of Egypt. As a young man, he killed an Egyptian overseer in defending his people. Later he drove off a whole group of bully shepherds from the well in Midian. Forty years later, he returns to Egypt, challenges Pharaoh over and over again to his face, then leads hundreds of thousands or more people out of Egypt.

In the face of certain destruction, he walks them through the Red Sea. Then days later, he explodes in fury at their whiny rebelliousness in the wilderness as well as their flagrant relapse into idolatry at Sinai. These same former slaves Moses leads into armed conflict.  This is no humble guy! This is Rambo!

In our culture that values and promotes assertiveness, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-promotion—SELF–what do we do with these New Testament exhortations to humbleness?

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 5:2)

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

And especially listen to the words from Jesus:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Here are just a few concrete suggestions for teaching ourselves and our children to be humble:

  • Learn to respect every person—every person—as equally important to God as you are! We do lip service to this, but, in fact, what about the people we disparage: foreigners, alternate lifestylers, athletes, nerds, tea party people, liberals!!, et al. When we disrespect someone, we are putting ourselves above them. God does not love you more than he does that person you disrespect—no matter who you are!
  • Learn to see yourself as the result of God’s work, not your own! Are you wealthy, are you smart, are you talented, are you kind, are you generous, are you a great athlete, are you spiritual?  Why?  If we answer with reasons that describe our work, then we are mistaken and showing our own conceit.  It is God’s work in you that makes you everything that you might be tempted to think sets you apart from others.
  • Learn to be about others, not yourself. Learn to praise others, serve others, allow others to go first, even to get the credit for what you did. I suspect this is why Moses needed to stay in Midian and herd sheep for forty years before he was ready to lead Israel. The prince of Egypt needed to learn to lead sheep, to serve sheep—without any glory—before he could be a true leader –a great leader–of people.
  • Learn that you not only can be, but SHOULD be great at what you attempt to do! Moses was a great leader and continues to be honored by all Israel today. Humility is not antithetical to excellence!

If we start with our kids and grandkids in T-ball or pee wee soccer, making humbleness a virtue to be learned and practiced, if we the parents and grandparents will continue to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand (I Peter 5:6), all the while striving for greatness—to God’s glory—then the promise of Scripture is that we will have all the glory we can stand—and much more than we deserve!

Read Full Post »

No, not the president—not either one of them—nor their good wives! I’m talking about Reggie Bush, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2005, the award given to the best player in college football.  For those who don’t follow college football, don’t worry. I want to talk about cheating, not football.

In June of this year, the NCAA (which regulates large college sports) found the University of Southern California—where Reggie Bush played football—guilty of major violations, so guilty that they banned their football team from participating in any bowl games for two years, put them on probation for four years, and stripped them of thirty scholarships—AND, USC had to forfeit all of their games for 2004, which was their national championship year.

The reason for these very severe penalties was that the institution knowingly allowed Reggie Bush to receive “improper benefits” from USC supporters, but continued to report him eligible to play.  Interestingly, both the NCAA and USC—and Bush–everyone agrees that Reggie Bush took money from supporters, which is a violation of his amateur status and would make him immediately ineligible.  Now the Heisman Trophy Trust appears to be on the verge of stripping Bush of his Heisman trophy—which he won in a year when he was playing illegally.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?

It’s the outcry about how wrong this action against Bush is that is so disturbing to me. The main arguments seem to sound like this:

  • He was a college kid playing college football, so what’s wrong with that? (Just pretend there is no rule—and there won’t be !)
  • “Improper benefits” are everywhere! He just got caught because he is so good!(Everybody is doing it! OR, they are just after him!)
  • Bad rule. We should make all college players professionals, then you don’t have to worry about it. (Take away the parking meter and you have no more parking violations! True, but do you then have parking problems—or city financial problems?)

Here’s what I think I hear in all of these responses though: cheating is just really not so bad.

When I was teaching college English at a Christian university where over 80% of the students were from Christian homes, integrity questions appeared every semester—with multiple students. I’m talking about

  • Students who purchased term papers and submitted them as their own.
  • Students who paid or cajoled other students to write their papers for them.
  • Students whose parents wrote their papers for them.
  • Students who stole journals and submitted them as their own.

And I have not even hinted at the infamous bane of all students plagiarism yet!  Plagiarism is using words or ideas that aren’t uniquely yours but claiming them as uniquely yours.  I don’t want to get into the gray areas that you might want to get into.  Let’s just stay with copying an entire chapter out of a reference book, or copying whole paragraphs out of research articles, stringing them together, adding an introduction and conclusion and turning it in as your own research paper.  These are blatant examples of plagiarism and were extraordinarily common among students.

If you cheat in English class, then it must be OK to cheat on the football field. If you cheat on the field, then it must be OK to cheat on your taxes—or vice versa. If you cheat on your taxes, what about  . . . ?  Where does it end?

The virtue of integrity borders on being indefinable in today’s culture. I’ve tried to think when respect for the idea of integrity started to fade.  It may have been Nixon’s lies about Watergate that suggested that nobody in power is really honest, so why should anyone else be?  What’s your theory?

All I know is that honesty and integrity should be not only respected, but expected! I know we live in an age of all kinds of cheating that we are half-truths, marketing, spin, business, and politics, ad nauseum.

What if you and I agree to always tell the truth and to never cheat? And what if you and I agree not to make excuses for those who do?  What if we Christians really become the people who love the truth?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,909 other followers

%d bloggers like this: