Boko Haram kills 100s; military implicated

Boko Haram terrorists posing as soldiers and preachers have killed hundreds of civilians since kidnapping more than 200 Christian school girls in April, amid unsubstantiated reports that 15 Nigerian military officers have been court-martialed for aiding the terrorists.

My Concern For Health of Church Community

The local church is changing, just like everything else in this country.  The shift is seen all across our towns and cities.  It began with how we shop.  First, it was the local grocer in a small shop., It then it became the Supermarket which has given way to the Mega, Super-centers which have everything.  The days of the mom and pop local store are fading and they are closing up shop.  What the all in one stores didn’t destroy, the mega specialty chain franchises have causes major problems.  There are a handful of small shops where I live that I use constantly, they are so hard to find these days.  I support them all I can.  What the mega stores didn’t destroy, the internet is sure having a hay day with.  I wouldn’t want to try to have a book store and compete with Amazon, that’s for sure.

The super store was only the beginning.  In our community, the community school houses are going away, and the big monstrous schools are being built in their place.  Our little community school is closed down and the new mega-school opened.  They consolidated 3 schools into one, an getting in and out of the school parking lot is organized (or not so organized) chaos.  Classes are bigger, there are more teachers, it feels more like a middle or high school.  The school is huge, has lockers now which most little community schools never had.  It’s a nice building, but it’s mega, not community.

In the church world (you know where this is going) the small community church is going away, giving way to the mega church.  In some ways, this is practical.  Costs of land and buildings are utilities are going up, more people equal more giving to do more and afford the things the traditional church needs.  Building and parking space, paid staff.  In some ways, however, it has mirrored the culture and we have decided that bigger is better.  In some ways, bigger is better, but it has made community more difficult.  There has been a push for Sunday School and a bigger push for Small Groups to combat this problem.  It’s more difficult, however, to get people connected.  As the church grows, people begin to blend and disappear and we lose track of them.

Most churches have good intentions, they want to connect people.  There have been great attempts with the Small Group concept, trying to get people connected into small groups.  As the church grows, these groups are necessary to get people connected, and there are some who have succeeded.  I wish every church could get people involved in the small groups, but the reality is the percentages of many churches from Sunday morning Worship attendance and small group/ Sunday School is 50% or lower.

I don’t put the blame on the church, but more on the shifting of society and their propensity to withdraw from true community.  Social media, texting and instant messaging has created a false community.  Younger generations are trading real community for MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games).  Games like WoW (World of Warcaft) and Eve online have taken the place of community for so many younger adults.  Church has become optional, and creating a community becomes harder and harder.  If a young person doesn’t grow up as part of a faith community, the opportunity for church to become a primary community is very difficult.

The church has taken ways to try to turn the tide, but it seems that the move to mega has made it more difficult.  Perhaps we need to take initiative on our own to create community, and connect our community and our faith together in home bible studies, mission groups and fellowship communities.  Individual initiative will be required to recreate our missing community.

Judging Another Man’s Coffee

The State of Texas has done it again.

Highly credible internet sources (duh!) report that Texas resident Andrew Chifari ordered the most expensive Starbucks drink in history, a $54.75 monstrosity containing 60 shots of espresso, chocolate syrup, protein powder, and apparently gold leaf.

That’s right: the state that gave the nation Ross Perot, Gary Busey, and the Cadillac Ranch managed to produce someone with both the imagination and the cardiac fortitude to create and consume a 128-ounce caffeinated beverage, all on a free-drink coupon.  The teeming masses of our grateful and quite frankly stunned nation should have expected this development.  After all, this is Texas, a place where gun ownership, excessive highway speeds, and endemic artheriosclerosis exist more as social obligations than options.

Welcome to the state fair of Texas!  What fried food item can I get you?
Two fried pickles, a fried Twinkie and…let’s see.  Got any fried dung on a stick?
Sure!  Pork be alright?
I’m sorta partial to beef, if ya don’t mind.
No problem, hun.  Be out in a jiff.  You need ammo with that?
Just a box or two.

An armed man driving at high speeds while 60 chocolate-sweeted shots of espresso race through his plaque-narrowed arteries is simply part of the beauty and appeal of Texas’ unique culture.

I raise no objections; I am, after all, Texas-bred and Texas-raised.  My mother always transforms into a humiliated 6th-grader whose pants have fallen down while in front of the class when I mention being Texas-bred.  ”Ethan!  Those people don’t need to know where your father and I….well…where you were bred!  Some things are private, dontcha know.”  I defend myself by pointing out that I’ve never given out the address.

Back to our main story – irrational judgmentalism.

So what if Mr. Chifari has gone to such extremes that the National Tuning Fork Association signs him as their spokesman.  Provided the low-frequency vibrations from our protagonist’s skeletal frame avoid unsettling any tectonic plates, what does it matter if he elicits a response from a Geiger counter?  Are we his doctors, tasked with warning him that the 4,500 milligrams of caffeine in his glass exceed the Mayo Clinic’s daily recommended 400 milligram cap?

Who are we to judge that which is not truly wrong?

Paul takes us all to task on this very subject in Romans 14.  An apparent source of dissension had arisen among Christians, seemingly centered on rather mundane habits such as eating and drinking and celebrating certain holidays.  I say “apparent” because we have no solid evidence for why Paul chooses to address the matter; in the great human tradition, we’ll just assume our conclusions are correct.

Paul can get wordy, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

“In all matters that could conceivably be subject to debate, find a way to accept each other without using the fact of your disapproval as evidence of the other guy’s sin.  Pursue, eat, drink, believe, create what you will in all areas in which the authoritative commands of God are lacking.  Again, in all matters that can be disputed, accept one another’s choices as choices made for the glory of God, allowing Him to determine whether we’ve messed up.  After all, who are we to evaluate someone else’s servant?”

The key phrase in all of this is “…matters that can be disputed…”  In the US, everything can be discussed.  Freedom of speech and individual rights come together to breed a worldview that rejects absolutes.  As Dave recently penned, not all things have a rational, dissenting point of view.  There ARE absolutes.  However, once we get past those absolutes, the sky is the limit.

Use bongos in worship.  Follow a vegan diet.  Host a Bible study for unapologetic sinners.  Hire people who agree with your theology.  Hire people who don’t agree with your theology.  Use Toby Mac during worship.  Join a megachurch.  Be bivocational.  Profit from your books sales.  Don’t profit from your book sales.  Support the Affordable Care Act.  Oppose the Affordable Car Act.  Exercise a ton.  Don’t exercise at all.  Avoid problematic personalities.  Engage problematic personalities.  Create art that challenges theology.  Don’t create art at all.  Whatever.  Just understand: God determines the the morality of the choice, not you and certainly not me.

Unless we’re talking about coffee – coffee sweetened by anything at all is just gross.


A Bluster of Bloggers in Baltimore: A Real-Life Gathering

I know a group of cows is called a herd. If it’s lions, it’s a pride. Birds form a flock, but geese a gaggle. Fish never learn to read but together they are a school.

So, what do you call a group of Baptist Bloggers who get together? I can think of no better name than a “Bluster of Bloggers.”

So, I’m trying to organize a Bluster of Bloggers in Baltimore next week. I’ve talked to my local contact and he tells me that there is a Cheesecake Factory near the convention center. Alas, there is no Beignet-bearing Cafe Du Monde anywhere, but cheesecake might be a good consolation prize.

Now, here’s the deal – finding a time is really difficult. There’s something going on morning, noon and night. The best time to have this seems to be Monday night after the end of the pastor’s conference. Of course, I have been told that is also the 9 Marks gathering. I was hoping that Rick Patrick, Tim Rogers and David Worley might join us, but I know that they will all be at 9 Marks. So, I’m not sure what to do.

Anyway, this is an informal, no program, get-to-know-you gathering for anyone who would like to come. This is the only invitation you need. Bring a friend. Bring someone you don’t like. Just come.

But, what I need to know is what time works the best for you guys. We could:

A) Meet for supper somewhere on Monday between sessions. Maybe the Cheesecake Factory, maybe another place.

B) Meet for dessert at the Cheesecake Factory after the Monday session. This seems like the best time, but the conflict with other events may keep some of our folks away.

C) Is there a better time? Let me know suggestions. Sunday night is a possibility, but so many folks don’t get there until Monday. Breakfast hours are pretty well booked. Perhaps we could go back to Tuesday night but there is a conflict at almost every time.

So, let me know. I guess I’m leaning toward competing with 9 Marks on Monday night (hope we wouldn’t cut into their crowd too badly) but I want to hear from you.