Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday at the Movies: Chicken Little Returns?

A short but rather timely parable.  Walt Disney released this version during World War II.  This time, it's not the sky that's falling, but the debt ceiling.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: John Stott (1921-2011)

One of the great leaders of our time has died.  The first time I met John Stott was when I was living in London during my junior year in college.  My rector at the time, now the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, had recommended All Souls Langham Place as a place to go to church.  I met John Stott one Sunday evening on the steps of All Souls and had no idea at the time who he was, except that he was the vicar of a vibrant church in the heart of London that I began to attend regularly.  His preaching and teaching was both a challenge and an encouragement.  I never forgot him.  From here:
John Stott
World-renowned evangelist and Biblical scholar John Stott died Wednesday at 3.15 p.m. local time in London (10.15 a.m. EST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan.

Homan has reported that Stott’s death has come following a few weeks of discomfort, and that the death was simply related to complications related to old age.

Stott, who died at 90, retired from public ministry in 2007 when he was 86 years old. He spent his retirement in the College of St. Barnabas, Lingfield, which is a residence for retired Anglican clergy.

The English Anglican leader is revered for his ministry life. The world famous evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, described him as "the most respected clergyman in the world today."
Read it all here.

And here:
New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote (quoting Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center) that if evangelicals chose a pope, they would likely select John Stott. As a principal framer of the Lausanne Covenant (1974), a defining statement for evangelical Christians, Stott was at the heart of evangelical renewal in the U.K. for more than half a century. In 2005, he was honored by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” His many books and sermons have inspired and transformed millions throughout the world.

John Stott at his desk.
John Robert Walmsley Stott, CBE, was born April 27, 1921, in London to Sir Arnold Stott, a leading physician, and his wife, Emily. His father was an agnostic, while his mother was a Lutheran who attended church at All Souls, Langham Place. He converted to Christianity at Rugby School in 1938, and after finishing there he went on to study modern language at Trinity College, Cambridge. After earning double firsts in French and theology, he transferred to Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge, and was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1945. Stott became a curate at All Souls Church (1945–1950) and then rector (1950–1975). He resigned as rector in 1975, although he remained in the church and was appointed Rector Emeritus. In 1974 he founded Langham Partnership International (known as John Stott Ministries in the U.S.), a ministry that seeks to equip Majority World churches for mission and spiritual growth. Stott finally retired from public ministry in 2007 at the age of eighty-six.

Stott’s influence on evangelicalism throughout the world is extensive. He has written more than fifty books, including various Bible studies and Bible commentaries. As Stott’s main publisher in the U.S., InterVarsity Press enjoyed a wonderful partnership with the man they called “Uncle John.” IVP associate publisher for editorial Andy Le Peau said that Stott’s works were embraced for their “clear, balanced, sound perspective on Scripture and life. He was filled with a grace and strength that will be dearly missed in this era of extreme viewpoints and harsh rhetoric.”

Stott is best known for his many books, especially Basic Christianity (InterVarsity Press), a clear statement of the gospel of Jesus Christ that has been translated into over sixty-three languages; The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity Press), which former InterVarsity Press publisher James F. Nyquist says “demonstrates the depth of Stott’s understanding and lifetime commitment”; Christian Mission in the Modern World(InterVarsity Press), in which Stott makes the case that Christian outreach must encompass both evangelism and social action; Your Mind Matters (InterVarsity Press), a forceful appeal for Christian discipleship that engages the intellect as well as the heart; and The Birds, Our Teachers (Baker), a study on birds combined with biblical truths and personal anecdotes. InterVarsity Press has also published a biography of John Stott entitled, Basic Christian by Roger Steer. Stott was also the New Testament editor and a major contributor for the highly acclaimed Bible Speaks Today commentary series.

“We are deeply grateful for this long publishing partnership and friendship with one of the most influential and beloved evangelical leaders for the past half-century,” saidInterVarsity Press publisher Bob Fryling. “John Stott was not only revered; he was loved. He had a humble mind and a gracious spirit. He was a pastor-teacher whose books and preaching not only became the gold standard for expository teaching, but his Christian character was a model of truth and godliness. We will miss ‘Uncle John’ but we celebrate his life and writings as an extraordinary testimony of one who was abundantly faithful to his Lord Jesus Christ.”
Read it all here.

David Brooks on John Stott:
It could be that you have never heard of John Stott. I don't blame you. As far as I can tell, Stott has never appeared on an important American news program. A computer search suggests that Stott's name hasn't appeared in The New York Times since April 10, 1956, and it's never appeared in many other important publications.

John Stott (1921-2011)
Yet, as Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center notes, if evangelicals could elect a pope, Stott is the person they would likely choose. He was the framer of the Lausanne Covenant, a crucial organizing document for modern evangelicalism. He is the author of more than 40 books, which have been translated into over 72 languages and have sold in the millions. Now rector emeritus at All Souls, Langham Place, in London, he has traveled the world preaching and teaching.

When you read Stott, you encounter first a tone of voice. Tom Wolfe once noticed that at a certain moment all airline pilots came to speak like Chuck Yeager. The parallel is inexact, but over the years I've heard hundreds of evangelicals who sound like Stott.

It is a voice that is friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic. Stott's mission is to pierce through all the encrustations and share direct contact with Jesus. Stott says that the central message of the Gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure. He is always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice.

There's been a lot of twaddle written recently about the supposed opposition between faith and reason.

To read Stott is to see someone practicing "thoughtful allegiance" to scripture. For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.

Stott is so embracing it's always a bit of a shock — especially if you're a Jew like me — when you come across something on which he will not compromise. It's like being in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, except he has a backbone of steel.
Read it all here.

Here is a teaching from John Stott from Keswick 2007 - a must-see:

The New York Times also has a very good summation of his life here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Today at the Cafe: My Redeemer Lives

Say what?

What in the world is this? 

Who would have thought it? Israel is now the "new" Sudan? 

If you do listen to the speeches of this "conference," take note of Rabbi Sperber as he refutes much of the premise of the conference, without poo-pooing the altruistic ideals of finding peaceful and prayerful solutions to the challenges facing all the people of Israel.  "Let us not think that is the complete picture," Rabbi Sperber said in his commentary of the speeches made earlier in the conference, "let us see a much broader picture of what has gone in the Holy Land since 1948 ..."  Listen to him carefully but not to the tepid applause following his presentation.  Do skip Rowan trying to reframe the Rabbi's talk afterwards, though. It's just plain sad.

NOTE: Now that Rowan's Media Geru has been tossed out into the bye and bye, would someone please, please encourage the Archbishop to stop playing political dress-up and go back to what he does best - teaching scripture.  When he steps into politics, he consistently steps into the doo doo, but when he teaches scripture he simply soars!  His teaching of scripture would probably do more for the cause of peace then all these over-wrought conferences and pontificating speeches put together.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Today at the Cafe

“Is there a point at which a change of heart no longer means anything to God?” -Rob Bell on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

Kim Lawton has posted her extended interview with Rob Bell - a very interesting and challenging and engaging interview:

Wall Street Journal: How Harry Potter saved reading

From here:
Step into my time-travel machine for a short journey back to the early summer of 1997. Bill Clinton is six months into his second term, Tony Blair has just become prime minister in Britain. Princess Diana is eyeing up an unsuitable lover. Apple is dying without Steve Jobs as CEO. Broadband is something people wear around their heads while playing tennis. All so long ago, a time before time.

On June 30 that year, a book was published that blew apart one of the iron rules of publishing. Children's books, a literary agent assured me around this time, when I submitted a proposal, did not sell. Kids had ceased reading, full stop. Only a television tie-in could make chain stores stock a children's book, and even that was unlikely.

Twelve London publishers turned down "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" before an independent, Bloomsbury, offered J.K. Rowling's agent, Christopher Little, a paltry advance of £2,500. The original edition appeared on June 30, 1997, in a run of 500 copies, most of which went to public libraries. That's how few children were expected to read.

Sales were sluggish until two awards—one from a confectionery brand, the other an industry award as Children's Book of the Year—put "Harry Potter" into reprint. An American publisher, Scholastic, pitched in with $105,000—a record advance for a children's book—and amended the title to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" when it brought it out in August 1998, by which time a second volume was out in the U.K.

It is difficult to date exactly when, in the following months, Harry Potter went "viral." My family experience traces the phenomenon to the school library. Our youngest daughter brought home a copy around year four, when she was 9. Her elder sisters commandeered it and insisted that the parents read as well. What Ms. Rowling achieved—long before Warner Bros. adapted her work into films, the last of which will be released next week—was a children-led read-in that crossed all age barriers, uniting families in a primal fireside act of sharing an unfolding story, page by page.

By the time the third volume was delivered to stores, in July 1999 in the U.K. and two months later in the United States, publication was a news-leading event, timed for midnight, with teams of journalists speed-reading until dawn to provide reviews for the final edition. On trains, in airport lounges, in parks and on beaches, everywhere one went, everybody seemed to be reading Harry Potter.

The seventh and final volume, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," published on July 21, 2007, was the fastest-selling book on record, moving 11 million copies in 24 hours, according to an estimate by the BBC. (The second-best-selling novel of that year, Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns," made headlines for selling a million copies in a week.) In all, Ms. Rowling is believed to have sold more than 450 million books. Her cycle has been published in 67 languages, more than any printed book apart from the Bible.

Read it all here - a must-read!

Archbishop of Canterbury challenges the "self indulgence" of the Church of England

Rowan Williams returns from his transformational visit to central Africa "wanting to be a Christian." From here:
The Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked "self indulgence" within the Church of England as he spoke of how his visit to the eastern Congo left him "wanting to be a Christian".

Dr Rowan Williams said hearing about the "transforming" work of the Anglican Church in the central African country had helped put into perspective "fashionable sneers" faced by the Church of England in this country.

He added that the dedication of Anglican workers in the eastern Congo has put into a "harsh light" the "self indulgence of so much of our church life" which gives people the excuse not to take God seriously.

Dr Williams said church members had risked their lives to rescue young men and women trapped in militias in the forests of eastern Congo.

The experience had highlighted how the church "mattered so intensely", he said, and how if it wasn't for the Church no-one would have cared for these young people.

"It left me wanting to be a Christian," he said, adding jokingly: "Never too late."

"It left me thinking that there is nothing on earth so transforming as a Church in love," he said.

The Archbishop was speaking after returning last month from a nine-day trip to Kenya and the Congo where he visited church projects helping traumatised people rebuild their lives after years of conflict.

In Kenya, he visited Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums, and home to 700,000 people.
Read it all here

It was almost a fierce sense, almost an angry feeling, this knowledge that the Church mattered so intensely. It put into perspective the fashionable sneers that the Church here lives with, the various excuses people make for not taking seriously the idea that God's incalculable love for every person is the only solid foundation for a human dignity that is beyond question. And it put into a harsh light the self-indulgence of so much of our church life which provides people with just the excuses they need for not taking God seriously. It left me wanting to be a Christian. Never too late.
-Rowan Williams, Presidential Address to the Church of England Synod

Here is more from the Archbishop's Presidential Address delivered this morning to the Church of England Synod now underway:
Two weeks ago in Eastern Congo, listening to the experiences of young men and women who had been forced into service with the militias in the civil wars, forced therefore into atrocities done and suffered that don’t bear thinking about, I discovered all over again why the Church mattered.  One after another, they kept saying, ‘The Church didn’t abandon us.’  Members of the Church went into the forests to look for them, risked their lives in making contacts, risked their reputations by bringing them back and working to reintegrate them into local communities.

And I thought, listening to them, ‘If it wasn’t for the Church, no-one, absolutely no-one, would have cared, and they would be lost still.’  It was almost a fierce sense, almost an angry feeling, this knowledge that the Church mattered so intensely.  It put into perspective the fashionable sneers that the Church here lives with, the various excuses people make for not taking seriously the idea that God’s incalculable love for every person is the only solid foundation for a human dignity that is beyond question.  And it put into a harsh light the self-indulgence of so much of our church life which provides people with just the excuses they need for not taking God seriously.  It left me wanting to be a Christian.  It left me thinking that there is nothing on earth so transforming as a Church in love.

Congo isn’t unique.  I’d just had a week in Kenya, where I saw ample evidence of how the Church stays at the forefront both of national reconciliation and of practical regeneration, and how its teaching programmes blend seamlessly together the new and grateful confidence that the gospel brings with the prosaic business of releasing skills and assets in a community so that food security is improved, soil replenished by better, simpler and more responsible farming techniques, co-operative schemes established and so on – always with the Scripture-reading congregation at the centre, learning what the new humanity means in practice, always with an unquestioning hospitality to the entire community.  No, Congo isn’t unique.  And today especially we will have particularly in our hearts another of our sister churches that has once again been the carrier of hope and endurance for a whole people in times of terrible suffering, as the new republic of Southern Sudan begins its independent life.  But what is special in places like Congo and Sudan is a Church with negligible administrative structures and no historic resources working with such prolific energy.  ‘Silver and gold have I none…’ But what they have is, somehow, the strength not to abandon, not to stigmatize, not to reject, but always to seek to rebuild even the most devastated lives.  What they have is the strength not to abandon.  I wish I had the words to express more clearly to you what that strength looks and feels like, but I can only give thanks for seeing it.
Read it all here.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Potter Watch: The London Premier

This is a ten-hanky video - so it is wise to get out the Super Deluxe Box of Kleenex before viewing:

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Something new for the next 30 Days?

Great short-talk from the TED People.  I've got an idea of what I am going to do - so stay tuned.  How about you?