Monthly Archives: December 2006

Death of a Dictator

What is the Christian response to the death of an earthly tyrant? Surely we are not to delight in the death, any death, of another human being – one who bears the image of God. And yet, it seems that at least a measure of justice has been carried out. We acknowledge (with a mixture of sadness and relief)  that one responsible for so much death and terror has been punished.

Some may question the purpose of an execution, especially a public one. Corina and I were discussing the event this morning, recalling the overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the final days of 1989. The images of the Romanian dictator and his wife being shot to death in a courtyard were seared into the consciousness of my wife, who was only 9 at the time.

But those images, haunting and gruesome as they were, had to be released. Otherwise, rumors would have continued to persist that maybe Ceausescu had escaped. Perhaps he was planning to take over the government again. Maybe he was secretly watching to see who was supporting the revolution, and then plotting the moment he could pounce on those who had desired freedom. The people were gripped by the widespread fear that Ceausescu would soon restore his reign and mete out his “justice.”

For a people who have lived in terror and oppression under a dictator’s thumb, only the death – the public death - of the leader will suffice. Any other solution simply creates the ghastly ghost …

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Hodge on the Gospel

The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.

- Charles Hodge

See other Quotes of the Week

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My Thoughts on "Bruchko"

Bruchko is a fascinating glimpse of a missionary’s firsthand account of contextualizing the Gospel message for a primitive culture. Bruce Olson’s years of ministry experience provide an intriguing story peppered with nail-biting suspense. His book is meant to be an autobiographical account of his life, and to this extent, it succeeds.

Olson gracefully takes the reader through the twists and turns of his missionary adventures. He does not shy away from the unpleasant or unflattering moments, recounting his bouts with severe diarrhea, hepatitis, and parasites. He is also remarkably honest about his impulsive attitude and his often irresponsible actions. Though Olson is the hero of his book, he does not paint a perfect portrait of himself. His self-effacing honesty is refreshing and helps the reader avoid seeing Olson as a super-spiritual saint.

At the same time, Olson does not shy away from relating his strengths in ministry. He describes forthright his talent for mastering different languages and his ability to assimilate into foreign cultures that often required him to associate with people who held opposing viewpoints. He also writes of his ability to overcome his initial distaste for certain Motilone practices.

Olson’s book raises several thought-provoking questions regarding missionary proclamation of the gospel. First, I was left wondering how much time is necessary for assimilation into a culture before gospel proclamation can or should begin. Olson spends years with the Motilone Indians (two-thirds of the book) before he ever begins to witness. Of course, these years are not wasted. Olson is …

Posted in Missions / Evangelism | 16 Comments

Bruchko: The Story of Bruce Olson

Bruce Olson’s autobiography Bruchko contains much more than his life story. Olson’s work with the primitive Motilone Indian tribe of South America brings up missiological questions of utmost importance.

- What does the Gospel look like in a culture that is radically different from ours?
- What traditions and customs can a culture preserve while maintaining a Christian identity?
- How much do missionaries need to be immersed in a culture before they can effectively share the gospel? 

Today I will summarize Olson’s story, and then tomorrow, I will lay out some of my thoughts on Olson’s contextualization of the Gospel. 

 Bruchko tells the story of Bruce Olson’s difficult journey to the dangerous Motilone Indian tribe of South America, his assimilation into Motilone culture, and his role in the entire tribe’s conversion to Christianity. The book begins with Olson’s conversion experience. Raised in a legalistic Lutheran church with parents who were cold and indifferent to the Gospel, Olson embarked on a quest for genuine Christianity. He studied Greek and Hebrew and began reading the Bible in the original languages. Olson feared the judgment of God and was eventually driven to his knees in repentance and faith. His Lutheran church offered no support for Olson’s newfound personal faith, so he began to attend an interdenominational church.

Touched by missionary reports, Olson felt God’s call to minister to Indians in South America. When he was nineteen, Olson embarked on the journey that would change his life forever. He headed to South America with little more than the clothes on …

Posted in Missions / Evangelism | 12 Comments

My Favorite Reads of 2006: Top Ten Books

Here they are! Out of the 86 books I managed to read (and finish) this year, I have chosen ten that stand out as my favorite reads of 2006. This list differs somewhat from previous years. In 2004, several of the books were either New Testament studies or about developing a Christian worldview. In 2005, three of the books dealt with the Emerging Church. This year, I read more fiction and also began reading some literary classics. That explains the reason for three works of classic fiction on the list.

10. Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity
- Dave Shiflett

Dave Shiflett’s book is a thoroughly engaging look at the dynamic of Christian churches in North America, and why conservative churches are growing while the liberal denominations continue in their state of perpetual hemorrhage. I was so engrossed by this book that I read it in one day.

9. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
-
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book against slavery is deeply moving. Upon its release, it challenged the apathy of slave-owners and those who supported slavery by their reluctance to take a stand against it. Would that Christian writers today learn from Stowe’s example and write such a heartfelt book against the great moral evil of our day: abortion!

8. Why Men Hate Going to Church
-
David Murrow

David Murrow gets to the root of the problem of why men hate going to church. His pointing out how Christian services have been “feminized” is …

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Rejoice!

“Rejoice, you who feel that you are lost; you Savior comes to seek and save you!
Be of good cheer, you who are in prison, for he comes to set you free!
You who are famished and ready to die, rejoice that he has consecrated for you a Bethlehem, a house of bread, and he has come to be the Bread of Life to your souls.
Rejoice, O sinners everywhere, for the restorer of the castaways, the Savior of the fallen, is born!”
- C.H. Spurgeon, “Joy Born at Bethlehem”

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Our Anniversary

Four years ago today, Corina and I were married in Oradea, Romania. La multi ani, iubito! I am blessed.

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Original Ending of Mark Found! (sort of)

 What happened to the original ending of Mark? Did one exist? If so, what happened to it? Where did the  the ending that we have in our Bibles today come from?

Last semester, I took a class on the Gospel of Mark. When we arrived at Mark 16:9-20, we began asking the question:  What do we do as preachers who preach whole books of the Bible? Do we stop at verse 8? Are verses 9-20 inspired… even if they were not found in the original manuscripts? And how do we handle such the technical issue of text criticism from the pulpit, without denying the authority and inerrancy of Scripture?

After reading dozens of books and commentaries that address this subject, I have come to the conclusion that there was an original ending to Mark’s Gospel. (This means that Mark was not trying to be a literary genius by leaving us with a clever cliffhanger. It also excludes the possibility that he was dragged to his martyrdom as he was finishing the Gospel.) For some reason, in God’s providence, the original ending was lost.

The two endings found in our Bibles today assuredly did not come from Mark’s pen. This is not a surprise. This was common knowledge from as early as the second century. The Church Fathers addressed the issue too.

So what was Mark’s ending like? I believe that we actually have the original ending to Mark, or at least its substance, if not its exact words. And it’s been in our Bibles all along. Since Matthew follows Mark …

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5 Tips for Faster Reading

I didn’t quite make my goal of reading 100 books this year, but I got close enough. The more you are in school, the more you have to read.  Here are some tips that have helped me read faster.

1. Use a bookmark or your finger.
    Studies show that the split seconds it takes for your eye to find the next line on the page add up and eventually slow you down. By reading with a bookmark going line by line, or with your finger at the start of each line, you can increase your speed.

2. Read the Introduction and Conclusion first.
   
This doesn’t work for novels and works of fiction, but it is very helpful if you are tackling an academic book. By knowing where the author is going, you can fly through the material at a much quicker pace.

3. Read blocks, not words.
   
Most people who read slowly are still reading word-for-word like a child who learns to read in elementary school. Faster readers are able to take in whole lines at one time. This is easier on the eyes, and it also helps one hurry down a page and still retain all the information.

4. Concentrate.
     Don’t try to do two or three things at once. Turn off the stereo. Turn off the TV. Shut out the noise, and focus on what you are reading. The faster you are able to read, the more you can concentrate. And the more you concentrate, the faster you can read.

5. …

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Forever and Ever, Amen.

This is the final post in a series on the Lord’s Prayer. To see all the posts in this series, click here.

“For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.”
- Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13)

The final phrase of The Lord’s Prayer resembles the last notes of a symphony, reviewing the musical movements that have come before. After praying for deliverance from evil, we, as followers of Christ, are called to remember that the Kingdom, power and glory belong to God alone.

 The Kingdom is not the United States or any other nation. The Kingdom does not belong to any one certain Christian denomination. It doesn’t belong to you or me! It doesn’t belong to the countries with the biggest military might, just like God’s Kingdom wasn’t Rome, Greece, Persia or any of the other world empires. Keeping in mind the prayer for God’s Kingdom to come, we state with certainty, “Yours is the Kingdom, Lord!”

Spiritual power comes not from our personal Bible reading, our prayer life, our knowledge, or our church attendance. Our own power is not what brings salvation. Deliverance from evil does not come due to our own strength. Remembering the weakness that we recognized when we prayed for deliverance, and our neediness when we asked for daily bread, we cry out, “Yours is the power Lord!”

The glory does not reside in the church that has implemented the latest church-growth scheme. The glory belongs not to the nation that can “shock and awe” win …

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