Overheard in a seminary....LOL

We're not to go out and sin more so that God will have something to do.

Jesus is bad news for alot of people.

You can't just read the Gospels and get away with it.

You have to judge whether it's God talking or just indigestion.

What we don't know about Paul could fill many books.

These weren't Episopalians, these were real evangelists!

If I were grading Luther's exegesis papers, he wouldn't do very well.

Jesus never got where he was going on time.

I thank God for the rich, for they need rectors too.

Some of you may have found last year to be a constant LENT.

Some dead languages are more dead than others.

If having information about God means knowing God, then a computer can know God better than any human.

We can't think up a new heresy, that's why we study the past.

God is not an Episopalian.

Have sermon, will travel. How much are you paying?

There's a blessing on intelligent guessers.

The Spirit of God is not just any old spirit. It's not some anonymous dunamis.

The ten lost tribes of Israel were not just casually misplaced.

By the 7th time you've gone through the 3-year Lectionary cycle, a new idea is a blessing.

My Bible begins "Once upon a time..."

You can't go home in your kitchen and cook up enough sin to frighten anybody without some help.

Bad biology produces bad theology, but let's not go there right now.

God will sort that out, but let me give it a short try...

The Papal Trail of Benedict XVI...

His first homily in a private mass with the Cardinals who elected him on Tuesday....

Read it for yourself:


So much for 'reconciling..."

We shall see.

Cardinal Ratzinger..now Pope Benedict XVI

I'm not a Catholic, but I have many wonderful friends who exercise their relationship with the Lord in the "Catholic" tradition.

World history was made today: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of Munich, Germany has been elected/selected/crowned as the new Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He will be the new Bishop of Rome. He will be the supreme ruler of Vatican City--a small political entity of 107 acres...

Soft-spoken, mild-mannered and prolific. A lengthy paper trail....and some Catholics have labeled him "a hard liner..."

John Paul II trusted him for more than twenty years to run a very large part of the Vatican...and now 114 cardinals have trusted him to run the Roman Catholic Church...

I just wonder how he will "relate" to the rest of Christianity....

We shall see...

We shall see...

Pentecostals: A Challenge from Catholics in Africa?

Found this to be most interesting:
SOWETO, South Africa - Mass is so crowded at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church that the parishioners spill out into the courtyard, where they huddle close to the doors to hear and be heard.

Worship here is participatory and joyous, not a staid moral duty performed amid pomp and ritual beneath the stained glass of one of Europe's cavernous and magnificent cathedrals.
The Catholic Church seems young, active and relevant, growing at a rate so explosive — with nearly 140 million Roman Catholics in Africa — that it's a vital part of today's Christian expansion.

The next pope will inherit a vibrant African flock but will also face challenges in competing with Islam and Pentecostal Christian Churches, said Archbishop Pius Ncube.

The church is growing so quickly largely because it has sought to embrace what is good in African culture rather than trying to make Africans into Westerners, Ncube said.
"There is a vitality to the church in Africa. In Europe, a Mass is simply a duty you must go through," Ncube said. "Africans like to feel they are celebrating. They want to rejoice, ululate and dance."

At St. Joseph's the priest gives the homily in Zulu and draws boisterous laughter as his examples strike close to home. With no organ, hymns are sung a cappella while the congregation and choir sways and dances.

The number of Catholics in Africa has jumped about 150 percent since Pope John Paul II ascended to the throne of St. Peter in 1978. Churchmen and academics say the growth, the fastest in the long history of the church, promises in time to change the nature of the faith.
"The Church is based on Western traditions that will come under huge pressure after the African church comes of age," said Paul Germond, who teaches comparative religion at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg.

For decades Western Europe and North America have been seen as the financial base of the church even while the faithful slip from strict adherence to its teachings. Latin America, which is more than 90 percent Roman Catholic, has been viewed as a bedrock of the faith. But Africa has been seen as the growth market in the competition for souls.

St. Joseph's, parishioners say, is a model of what the Second Vatican Council had in mind when it replaced the Latin Mass with the local language and a testament to why the faith is growing so fast in Africa.

The red and tan ceramic floor tile at St. Joseph's is cracked and shattered, the white and orange walls are adorned with cheap modern prints depicting the passion of Christ and the windows are panes of white, yellow and green translucent glass in no discernible pattern.
But its parishioners appear passionately involved in the Mass.

"Since Vatican II, people can clap, dance and play the drums," said Alson Ntombela, 72, a member of the St. Joseph's congregation. "Africans are very spiritual. They like to glorify. The Catholic Church now reflects and accepts our culture."

Makhosonke Maseko, 30, a medical doctor, said he converted to Catholicism from the Presbyterian Church because Roman Catholics more than anyone else try to make religion relevant to Africans.

Ncube said when he became a Roman Catholic 45 years ago, he said there were only two or three African bishops. Now more than 80 percent of the bishops are African. Once most of the priests were Western missionaries, now Africa sends priests to Europe and America.
"Africa is a continent with a lot of troubles, with wars, strife, starvation, poverty and the AIDS crisis. That causes a lot of people to seek God," said Ncube.

He credits John Paul II with much of the success in Africa. The pope made 14 trips to Africa, more than to any other continent. "He was a pope of the people when so many had been prisoners of the Vatican," said Ncube. "He was a blessing."

Churchmen and academics in Africa said they believe it's unlikely that the College of Cardinals, which begins voting in conclave on Monday, will choose an African pope. But Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, of Nigeria is considered a possible contender, having risen to the No. 4 position in the Vatican at a time when fundamentalist Islamic and Protestant sects replaced communism as the biggest challenge to Catholic proselytizing.

Germond, the professor, believes the explosion of Christianity in Africa has come partly because the religion is how Africans accepted and made sense of the modern world. When missionaries brought Christianity, they also brought education and health care. About 60 percent of the hospital beds in Congo now are in Roman Catholic facilities, he said.

"Christianity was entrenched by the education system. Many of Africa's leaders were educated in church schools and universities," said Germond.

But while the growth has been massive, Germond said it is difficult to produce precise figures.
"Africans are very pluralistic in religious beliefs. They can be Catholic and still attend Pentecostal services or go to traditional healers," said Germond.

Adapting the church to African culture is changing the nature of the faith, said Germond. For now the changes in how the faith is practiced are within Africa. But as the church's center of gravity slides south, Western traditions will come under increasing pressure.

"The church is the oldest institution in history. It manages change in a gradual way over generations," said Germond.
Kind of interesting to me, since I'm a follower of Christ, who practices my relationship in the Pentecostal tradition.

Does the "Church" make a difference?

Does the "evangelical Church" make a noticeable difference in the fabric of our society?

Dr Bradford Wilcox, Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia seems to think so.

Read all about it:

"Purpose-Driven" or "Activity-Driven"?

I've been a Christian since I was 6 years old. I just turned 43 a couple of weeks ago. I have seen just about everything that can be seen in a local congregation, I do believe. I've been blest and privileged to be part of very small congregations (numbering less than 40 people) and very large congregations that numbered in the thousands (usually more than 8,000).

But numbers aren't everything, are they?

Of course not. We look at the New Testament Church, and read about it's empowering in the Book of Acts (following the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ), and we see a wonderful church, often separated by localities...and folk who are just as human as we are, some twenty-one centuries later.

I do have a few questions though....

1) Can we equate "activity" with "spiritual growth"?

This particularly concerns me, because so many congregations measure their "spiritual life" by how many activities they are sponsoring--and how exhausted their membership can be with participating in all of those "activities."

I contend we are called "human beings" not "human doings." We see the pattern of the New Church (which was by no means flawless, but nevertheless accomplished the mission of glorifying God) as one of evangelism, fellowship, community, and discipleship. The "witnessing" aspect of the New Testament Church was to the "wonderful works of God" (Acts 1, 2, 3, 4ff) in the life of this newly empowered community of believers. We do see "works"--but those works flowed out of the community, not in spite of it. We are called to be the "community of God"--reflecting the community of the Holy Trinity, even though imperfectly.

In my secular employment, my supervisor has a certain amount of goals that are set before me to attain. Yet, in my progress along the pathway of accomplishment, this same supervisor cares about me as a person. My health (physical, spiritual, and mental) are always considered. My successes are applauded, and my failures are never final.

Why can't the local church be the same way?

If we carefully read the Scriptures, we will discover that God is a "relational" God. He is not just a propositional Deity, unconcerned about His creation.

If we want to emulate Jesus Christ in the local church, then we all need to discover our "relational" purposes---not just our propositional theories.

Sound doctrine and biblical theological positions are important. We must, as A W Tozer (and many others before and after him) once said, "We must think rightly about God our Father."

And if we are to think "rightly" about what the Church should look like, we must think relationally, not just propositionally.

And when we think "relationally" we then discover our purpose. The Westminster Catechism states, "The chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

We best glorify Him in relationship with His, and in relationship with other Christians. These relationships are edifying in the "being"--not just the doing.

I have a friend--I consider him a friend--and the only time I hear from this friend is when he needs me to "do something." I rarely ever hear from him otherwise. I'm profoundly saddened by this. But that's the way it seems to be. Of course my perceptions could be wrong.

Unfortunately, from my perspective "our friendship" is strictly "activity-driven." I have no usefulness to this brother, other than the fact that I can "do something." It seems as though once my "utilitarian value" has been exhausted, that I am a throw-away.

That's not the way Christ has designed our "community" to be lived out.

2) How do we become a "community of saints" instead of a "collection of individuals"?

Again, I have to appeal to the New Testament models of the what "community" looks like. We see an intensity of fellowship and "togetherness" in the newly empowered Church (Acts 2, 3, 4). These believers could face anything because they faced these situations together.

Fast-forward some twenty-one centuries later.

How do we become this "community"?

I believe it is done slowly, methodically, and carefully. We come to a place of trust and confidence, first in God Himself, and then in each other, where we feel a sense of belonging and caring. Knowing that we have something important to contribute to this body of believers we call "our church."

Lanny Wolfe, a great songwriter from the 1970s/80s penned some powerful words that have profoundly shaped my view of the "community of saints." Here's what he said:

"When a brother meets sorrow
We all feel his grief.
And when he's passed through the valley
We all feel relieved.
Together in sunshine,
Together in rain.
Together in victory,
Through His precious name."

And yes, we are together in victory. A victory is shallow if it is not "shared."

So what do you think?