Showing posts from June, 2010

Ukraine's President & the Wreath that must not be shown!

Since the recent election of Viktor Yanukovich to the Ukrainian presidency, he has shifted the direction of Ukraine's politics. First, he is turning Ukraine's foreign policy more toward Russia. Second, he is gradually trying to move away from a free market economy.

Third, he is clamping down on the media. He does not want opposing voices on the air. He seems to be following the Russian model for government control of the media.

Below is a clip where Yanukovich is laying a memorial wreath along with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev. When the wind blew the wreath on his head, he quickly moved to prevent news channels from showing the incident. One channel, however, refused. The incident is now on YouTube thanks to Ukrajinska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth).

Thankfully, journalists in Ukraine are organizing against Yanukovich's censorship. We take a free press for granted here in the US, but many people around the world don't enjoy that blessing.

Supreme Court Ruling May Affect Campus Works

Here's the Supreme Court ruling we were all waiting for. This ruling did not come out in favor of the Christian Legal Society. Because the CLS refused membership to openly gay members, the group was banned as an official group at Cal's Hastings School of Law. CLS asked all members to sign a statement of faith that committed them to avoiding immoral sexual behavior.

Here's how the New York Times reports it:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won't let gays join, with one justice saying that the First Amendment does not require a public university to validate or support the group's ''discriminatory practices.''

The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement o…

What Is the "Harvest" for a North American Church? (part 3)

In my previous posts on this subject (click here and here to read), I began to unpack the concept of "harvest" from a church perspective. I'll tie onto the closing comments of my last post.

Picture the following scenario. A person stands up in a crowd and shouts out, "We're expecting a great harvest!" Aside from the possibility that this person might be crazy, what other thoughts might go through your mind? What kind of harvest would you think about?

This is the dilemma I'm talking about in these posts. The Bible talks about a "harvest," but what do we mean when we talk about a harvest? Are we talking about the same thing as the Bible talks about? Do we even know what we mean?

As I said in my last post, the onset of "Constantinian Christianity" created a mindset that the harvest (if there was one) was in faraway, pagan lands. Since everyone in the Western world was theoretically Christian, the only possible harvest had to be understo…

Touching Story from Haiti

I thought this story was gut-wrenching. The LA Times journalist who pieced this together did a nice job of trying to frame the story for us. I can't imagine the difficult decisions parents like this have before them. It reframes decisions that seem hard for me.

The video is about 5 minutes long. Click this to view it.

Apple's Secret Product Development Plans

Perhaps you were surprised by Apple's new iPad. If you don't want to be surprised by their next products, I have some news for you. I came across a stash of top-secret photos that reveal Steve Jobs' plans for future developments of the iPod product line. Here's where we are so far: Here are the secret plans for future products: Here is how the beta version of the iPad looked. As you can see from this picture, printing is no problem with the iPad -- even though there is no USB port: And here is a chart comparing the features of iPads and watermelons:
And here's the video promo for the iPad that Apple trashed before they released it:

In Trouble for Wearing Orange Dresses to Dutch Soccer Match

An odd story out of South Africa. A group of Dutch women are in trouble with South African police. Why? Because they wore orange dresses to the Dutch game against Denmark. Mind you, orange is the national color for Dutch soccer.
Apparently, these women were all outfitted and sent to attend the match en masse by a beer company. This act constitutes the horrific crime of "ambush advertising." They were attempting to gain free publicity for a corporate enterprise without the rights to do so. You can read an article by clicking here or here or here (this last one has the most pictures). Never mind the fact that violent street crime is awful in parts of South Africa. The police had more important things to do. Namely, arrest these women who were out of line! In a sign of the true reason for this raucous, FIFA said that the women SHOULD be prosecuted. The offending beer company is NOT an official World Cup sponsor. In other words, FIFA is protecting their sponsors, and the South Afr…

Addendum to Comment on Willimon

Someone asked for clarification about my last post. I referenced William Willimon's comments made to the annual gathering of CofC youth ministers. Willimon is a United Methodist bishop. For many years, he was pastor of the Duke Chapel and taught at Duke University. Now, he serves in Alabama as bishop.

I wasn't present when he made those comments. My information comes second hand. I would love to hear from someone who was present.

As it was conveyed to me, he told them not to leave Churches of Christ because we have something special. By that, I think he was referencing the counter-cultural heritage from which we have sprung. He may have also been touched by the a cappella singing as happens with many speakers from outside who hear us sing. Thoughtful non-CofCers are almost always blown away by the depth of our worship because of the voices we raise.

So, that's as much as I know. It would be interesting to hear more...

"Cutting-Edge" Worship

A friend who is a pastor in a Southern Baptist church shared this video with me. It's a bit of tongue-in-cheek self-ridicule produced by the video arts team at North Point church in Atlanta. That's Andy Stanley's church. They are satirizing the radical, cutting-edge worship that so many churches (including theirs) like to use. The question is, "If everyone is really doing it, is it actually so cutting edge?"

On a related note, I was recently reminded of Will Willimon's words to a gathering of CofC youth ministers. Invited to speak to their annual gathering in Colorado, Willimon told these youth ministers not to leave the Churches of Christ. He said that we have something worth preserving, that we practice a form of Christianity crucial in the days ahead. He bemoans churches who just want to be like everyone else. Willimon and many others suggest that diversity will be a crucial tool as we seek to reach a post-Christian world.

Pancakes better than Cracker Barrel? Try Fran's in Austin

It's the favorite breakfast place of my in-laws. Fran's in Austin looks like one of those neighborhood greasy-spoon establishments. They advertise themselves as "Hamurgers." They have no web site. No slick sign out front. It's in a declining part of town. Nothing about it looks all that remarkable.

Then there are the stories about the owners. It used to be Dan's until a divorce. I guess Dan lost the place and Fran now runs the show.
Kind of like the barbecue divorce in Abilene, Texas. One of the most famous barbecue dives there was a place called Joe Allen's. It was less than a hole in the wall. But it was famous. Ranchers would show up in the evenings to eat steak. People of all kinds would order their brisket, burgers, ribs, turkey -- you name it. All of it was smoked or grilled over mesquite. Great stuff. Until Joe's wife Sharon caught him cheating on her. After the divorce, Sharon opened up Sharon's in a new location. Joe built a new place and …

Sunday Thoughts

Things you wouldn't want to hear at the airport:

"Nick, where's my red bag?" (words spoken by a young woman at LAX)

A look of panic came across her face as her boyfriend paid for a big stack of magazines.  I'd guess they were boarding a long flight, and Nick had misplaced the aforementioned red bag.  Let's hope Nick found the bag.

Also seen on a flight from LAX to Austin: a very large (as in muscular) Armenian-looking guy with enormous, Popeye-like biceps.  He was beside a striking, olive-skinned, 40-year-old woman wearing an expensive-looking dress with a plunging neck line.  They were in business class and had a look about them that said: "Stay away."  At the baggage claim in Austin, he lugged at least 6 gigantic suitcases off the luggage belt to the cart.  I could see a tattoo on his arm with Armenian letters.  She was acting like she was helping, but he clearly knew it was his role to collect and assemble the luggage.  He was literally shoving p…

What Is the "Harvest" for a North American Church? (part 2)

In my previous post about "harvest," I suggested that we don't much know how to handle this concept in our contemporary churches.  Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth reapers into his harvest."  What exactly does this mean for a North American church?

I need to qualify this question.  This is a question primarily directed to people who are embarrassed by our old ways of evangelism.  Admittedly, some are not tired of the old ways.  I am one of the many who think change is needed.  But many who have left the old ways no longer know what way to go.

How are we to understand "harvest" in North American in 2010?  Here is the first of several thoughts on the subject.

(1) Blame our confusion on Constantine.  It's all Constantine's fault.

You know Constantine, right?  He was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.  Some doubt the authenticity of his conversion si…

Siphiwo Ntshebe

I was listening to "The World" produced by WPGH in Boston, PRI & the BBC.  It's a daily recap of the world's events.  One story that caught my attention was about Siphiwo Ntshebe.  I had never heard of him, but the story mentioned him as one of the most talented young tenors.

Nelson Mandela hand-picked him to perform at the opening ceremonies of the World Cup in just a few days.  You can hear him sing by going to this link.  This was to be his "coming out" party.  Everything he had ever worked for and dreamed about was near reality.

Ntshebe died suddenly last week at age 35.  He came down with acute meningitis and died in hospital in South Africa.  The following is written at his web site:

Siphiwo (known to many as Sip or Dez) had a giant personality and a giant voice. The voice, an unique and exceptional voice, profoundly touched everyone who heard it. With his voice Siphiwo brought inspiration and comfort to all who heard him. Siphiwo's voice has o…