The Manjui Bible Completed!

03 Sep
September 3, 2015

When I was a teenager my family spent a little over a year serving with the Manjui tribe in the Paraguayan desert during the time we were missionaries in South America. The Hunts are an incredible family who have spent the last forty years living with the Manjui, knowing them, learning the language, creating a written language and dictionary, teaching them the scriptures, planting and nurturing a church, and translating the entire Bible so that the Manjui can read God’s word in their own language. It took forty years to reach that last milestone – it’s so incredible to see the photos, the videos, to witness this precious tribe receiving something that will be a powerful tool for them.

It blows my mind to see that kind of commitment; very few have taken the kind of time that the Hunts have to see such a task come to completion. I’m not sure of the numbers now, but when we lived there just over twenty years ago, there were only a few hundred Manjui total – it was a small, isolated tribe with a language unique to only them. Many would say they’re not worth the effort, that resources could be better used elsewhere for a larger return. They would be wrong – God wants ALL of His children!

It’s also moving to see the physical differences in the tribe today compared to what I experienced in the 90’s. And what I experienced was a tremendous improvement over what the missionaries had originally found with this tribe. There is a greater sense of health, well being. Even things as simple as clothing have improved dramatically. It’s exciting to see how the tribe has changed spiritually and practically over the decades. What an exciting thought to know that some day the Manjui voice and language will be represented in the chorus of voices singing praises in heaven to God!

The Lost World of Genesis One

02 Sep
September 2, 2015

lost world

At  the recommendation of two of the former pastors from my church, Pastor Bo Matthews and Pastor Bill Parsons, I grabbed a copy of John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One.” Walton, an expert on the book of Genesis, attempts to propose an approach for reading and understanding chapter one of Genesis, one of the more fiercely debated portions of the Bible. He outlines eighteen propositions towards a literary and theological understanding of the passage. A large part of his approach centers on the idea that our best way of approaching the passage is NOT with our 21st century cultural and scientific leanings, but instead to understand how people in general understood and approached the cosmos 3500 years ago (approximately when Moses wrote Genesis), and how that would have shaped their understanding of Genesis one. Here are two of the key quotes that really resonated with me as I started reading it:

Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity. (page 20)

If God were intent on making his revelation correspond to science, we have to ask which science. We are well aware that science is dynamic rather than static. By its very nature science is in a constant state of flux. If we were to say that God’s revelation corresponds to “true science” we adopt an idea contrary to the very nature of science. What is accepted as true today, may not be accepted as true tomorrow, because what science provides is the best explanation of the data at the time. This “best explanation” is accepted by consensus, and often with a few detractors. Science moves forward as ideas are tested and new ones replace old ones. So if God aligned revelation with one particular science, it would have been unintelligible to people who lived prior to the time of that science, and it would be obsolete to those who live after that time. We gain nothing by bringing God’s revelation into accordance with today’s science. In contrast, it makes perfect sense that God communicated his revelation to his immediate audience in terms they understood. (page 18)

I was a history major in college. My approach to scripture has generally been shaped by that influence, which makes sense. And in reality, there are three types of writing that primarily shape scripture: poetry, history, and prophecy. Because of that, as our knowledge of history outside of scripture grows over the centuries, it tends to confirm what we read in scripture – of course. Scripture is in part history, so man’s historical discoveries should confirm the authoritative history that God inspired. But the debate about Genesis one in particular, and science in scripture in general, is a separate issue. It is looking at scripture as something that it was not intended to be. Does that mean all science in scripture disagrees with our scientific knowledge today? Of course not, but that does not mean it was intended to communicate what we sometimes try to read into it.

Ultimately, Walton makes the case that Genesis one is more about assigning functions than it is anything else. For example, the purpose behind labeling the light day was defining its role as a portion of time. This lines up with much of ancient thought that was more focused on role and function than material origin. Function defined existence and value.

Towards the end of the book I began to feel that Walton was dragging out the argument longer than he needed to. He made his most powerful statements when he focused on culture, understanding, limits of language, writing style, ancient culture and cosmology, etc. Some of his propositions later in the book seemed to focus more on the issue of whether or not science could address the issue of God and it seemed unnecessary to me. The historian in me loved the bulk of his propositions that focused on putting ourselves in the sandals of the original readers and how they would have understood Genesis one. Regardless of that, however, this is a must read. Walton has effectively proposed a thought provoking approach to understanding Genesis one that reconciles scripture and science in a powerful way.

 

The Student Ministry Retreat!

31 Aug
August 31, 2015

fire

The 2015 Student Ministry Retreat is a wrap! What a weekend! We had a great turnout, amazing weather, and an exciting kick off to the new school year. Our theme for the weekend was #Hashtag; essentially, we took popular hashtags from social media and used them as launching points for our three talks and two small group times. Over the weekend we worked our way through the basics of who Jesus is, a call to commit/recommit to Him, and a challenge to be a light for Him throughout the week in school, our neighborhoods, homes, and sports teams.

Of course, there was a LOT of fun involved with the weekend. I made another rules video (you can see it on the student ministry Facebook page), we tried out Human Hungry Hippo, had our annual candle lighting ceremony, played lazer tag in the woods, went water tubing, bounced on a jumping pillow, used the water slide, played with the canoes, and sent kids airborne off the blob. My son Caleb, an incoming sixth grader, tried it for the first time and got some great air – you can see a picture below!

I came into this weekend feeling nervous; the last half year has been kind of wild at our church. Our senior pastor retired after having first came to the church in 1975. Along with the other pastors, I was pulled in a lot of directions during the transition time. Between mission trips, the senior pastor search, mission trips. and more the summer flew by faster than usual. Even so, I came away from the retreat feeling like in spite of all the chaos going into it, our theme saturated the weekend better than we’ve seen in years. It was amazing how many kids came to me Saturday night and told me the ways they were being impacted by the retreat. Our goal is to see this continue in our student small groups – we took big steps to make sure kids were connecting with their small group leaders so that those critical conversations can continue in the weeks to come!

All in all, it was a great weekend! Now to catch up on some sleep …

caleb blob

Victimization in the Name of Protection

22 Aug
August 22, 2015

This video came out a couple weeks ago and has been tearing up the social media sites. Tens of millions of views, it is a bona fide viral hit. People are raving about how it is a must see, it is so good, etc.

I disagree.

It does make a good point, that kids are more likely to make unsafe decisions than we realize. That’s a reality I have been confronted with over and over as a youth worker; parents have no problem believing that adolescents will make unsafe decisions online, with friends, regarding drugs or alcohol, with strangers – the list goes on. What consistently catches parents off guard is that THEIR kids are the ones who will make unsafe decisions. As a nation, we’ve been educating minors about these kinds of dangers for decades, and the reality is that because of greater care we take in protecting children has resulted in those kinds of crime rates going down over the last few decades (while fear has gone up thanks to the introduction of 24 hour news media). Part of me feels like the usefulness of this video is more as a wake-up call for parents, not the kids living in their houses.

But baiting teens to come out and meet someone, only to be screamed at by their parents and posted online for everyone to see? Simulating a kidnapping, having people in masks grabbing and restraining a young girl, then yelling at her about what could have happened if they really had been bad guys? It feels more like an attempt to generate YouTube revenue and score views online than actual concern for the child. And then posting the video for all their friends and peers to see? It’s wrong. It’s a good message, but victimizing young kids to generate YouTube ad revenue is not the way to achieve it.

MK abuse, PK perfection, and BJU

31 Jul
July 31, 2015

revictimize

Victims of abuse in large religious institutions and organizations have really been on my heart in recent years, in part because of the stories of those close to me from my time in a boarding school for missionary kids, but even more so in reaction to the lengths of which organizations will go to hide the truth and protect themselves rather than the victims. Is this true of every religious organization and institution? No. Tragically, though, it is true of far more than many of us realize.

Similar stories have been coming out of Bob Jones University recently as the results from their abuse investigations have come to light. One victim wrote a powerful essay giving a glimpse into their experience, one that resonates strongly with so many of us and I think helps those outside better understand. The above cartoon, created by another victim, is what prompted the essay. You can read the full essay here; the quote below really jumped out at me – unfortunately, because it is so true of what I have witnessed in completely separate contexts than the author.

As for sexual offenders, I quickly learned that they were somehow seen with some strange sort of honor. It seemed that they were always very godly men, men that “God” wanted to use in his service. They had value, and their testimonies had to be protected. They had somehow passed that illusory threshold of being good enough for God.

It seemed that those victimized were treated as forever blackened, forever worthless, rejected and despised. We were used, broken, and useless. The preacher boys and missionary boys were to be protected from people like us as we were considered potentially destructive to ministries. We were ruined.

For many of us, counseling felt like it was driving the nails into our coffins. We now had names – They named us Bitter, Destroyer, Unforgiving, Impure, etc. Through their teaching, it became obvious that there were other names on the list: Worthless, Despised, Hated. We all were assumed to have deserved the abuse and worse, because we were abused by such godly men, we were responsible before a holy God for making one of his precious vessels stumble. We had one and only one possibility of value – our silence. IF we were to never tell and never show any struggles from our abuses, then we could remain on the fringes of the fold.

Read the rest here.

Kindle as a Tool

29 Jul
July 29, 2015

kindleWhen ebooks were first being discussed, I swore I would never make the switch from real books to some digital platform. There is something undeniably real about holding an actual book, the weight of it, the smell of the paper, the feel of turning the pages.

Anyway, that’s what I thought. But now it’s 2015 and I love my Kindle. I also love my Kindle app for iPad, Kindle for PC, Kindle in the cloud, the Kindle app on my iPhone … you get the idea. It’s been an incredible resource for me as a pastor and as a seminary student.

  • Cost. The books are generally cheaper. And with the Kindle Matchbook option now, it’s possible to get Kindle versions of physical books bought from Amazon for three dollars or less.
  • Research. I love being able to do keyword searches. My ability to find applicable information for both sermons or research papers far quicker than when I was a college student 15+ years ago.
  • Highlights. Highlighting has turned into one of my critical tools. It’s possible to see all my highlights for a book grouped together – great for having critical information quickly accessible. Even more important? I’m able to log on to the Kindle website, copy and paste my highlights, and/or print them. This has been GREAT for sermons, papers, or even just collecting information that I want to pass on to other leaders or my team.
  • Convenience. Whatever device I read on syncs up with all my other devices, which means whichever one I pick up knows exactly how far into the book I am. If I’m waiting somewhere, I can read from my phone. Later I can use my iPad. If I’m in the sun? Switch to my actual Kindle. In addition, I am able to have my entire library with me at all times – great for travel.
  • The Beach. I love my basic Kindle when we go to the beach. The screen is great in the sun, it fits in my pocket for when we’re walking around, and the battery lasts the whole trip. Next week when we’re on vacation? I’m going to fly through several books while parked under an umbrella sitting in the sand, sipping a Diet Mt. Dew. It’s going to be awesome.

All that to say, my Kindle has become an indispensable tool. The guy who once swore he’d never give up paper does almost all his reading digitally now!

Group Games Apps

28 Jul
July 28, 2015

groupdo

This summer I told both of my interns to download the following three apps, and they have both been VERY excited with how useful they are! It is challenging to come up with different and interesting games for student ministry week after week, and while there are a ton of resources out there, both in book form and online, these are particularly convenient as they are apps! Each of the apps has a variety of games, from simple to complex. And at a couple bucks each, it’s around a penny or two per game idea. Definitely great youth ministry resources:

Group Games: The first games app I purchased, it includes over 120 games with filters and categories, as well as the ability to highlight favorites for quick access later.

GroupDo: 250 games with filters to help narrow them down by what type of game you want. Includes instructions, illustrations and more!

Awana YM Games: Awana is in the name, but this is app is incredibly useful if you work with teens, regardless of what curriculum you use. It includes 95 games.

Bonus app recommendation:

IceBreaker Questions: Not a games app, but another great resource from the creator of the Group Games app mentioned above. Tons of great questions, with filters for age groups, it’s a fun way to get a group talking!

“The Death of ‘Superman Lives'; What Happened?” Review

25 Jul
July 25, 2015

A Superman movie directed by Tim Burton, starring Nicholas Cage? I’ve been making jokes about that killed project for years! It seemed a bizarre concept at best! But now a documentary, years in the making, has dropped giving the full story of the dropped film from Tim Burton, the producers, writers and more.

It is fascinating.

I thought I would just watch for a few minutes; the thing is as long as the movie would have been if it had been made! But the longer I watched, the more captivating the story. Hearing Tim Burton describe his ideas and direction, listening to the producer (he’s OUT THERE), watching Kevin Smith and the later writers talk about their process and scripts submitted, I found myself really wishing I could have seen this thing. The only voice missing was Nicholas Cage, the actor cast to play Superman (what?!?). Even there I could begin to see it watching some of the test footage with him. There’s certainly no denying his love for the character.

Playing into the narrative was the reaction to people when Tim Burton was originally chosen to direct and reinvent Batman, as well as the choice to cast Michael Keaton. It did seem ludicrous at the time, and yet he completely changed the way comic book movies were approached from then on. And Michael Keaton? He was amazing in both his turns as Batman. Hearing Burton describe how he saw the character of Superman, I really began to buy in to it.

And the whole thing was killed after years of development only days before they were to begin filming.

The documentary is great. For comic book fans and superhero movie buffs, it is a GREAT look at an abandoned project still talked about years later.

In the end, I couldn’t believe they chose to risk the money on “Wild, Wild West” instead. I mean, seriously. We lost Nicholas Cage as Superman so we could have Will Smith playing a cowboy in a sci-fi western that flopped. Argh.

Because Skateboards

17 Jul
July 17, 2015

Caleb

Caleb tried something out on his skateboard. Awesome is worth the risk. His brothers all think he’s ‘a real man now.’ Sheesh!

Life with four boys!

No, it’s not broken. It is sprained pretty bad, and the bruising is around his growth plate, so the doctor wanted him in a splint out of precaution. He should heal up pretty quickly.

And he was already out trying something on his bike within an hour of getting home from the ER.

The Latest on Noah

16 Jul
July 16, 2015

banner

It’s been a while since I have posted an update on Noah and his battle with Localized Scleroderma. You can read some of the past updates here. The short recap is that he originally began showing symptoms of Scleroderma attacking the skin on his face around two years old, but doctors were unable to discover the diagnosis until he was four years old. He is nine years old now, has had numerous surgical procedures, powerful medications, regular blood work, multiple biopsies, and more. He is a TOUGH kid who has gone through a lot!

This past week we had his latest appointment with his primary doctor. It was good news. Essentially, Localized Scleroderma tends to attack a region of the body for around eight years. He will have it for life – there is no cure, but it’s attacks, or flare-ups, will be unpredictable and sporadic. The one we have been fighting has been on his face, and the goal of the medications was simply to halt the progress and hold it at bay until it had run its course, which the doctor is hopeful is this year. It appears to have stopped its activity; perhaps because the medicine is doing really well, perhaps because the attack is wrapping up. Either way, around Christmas the goal is to begin easing him off the medication with the hope that it will continue to be inactive! This is GOOD news.

It doesn’t mean it’s over, however. Noah will continue to have regular doctor’s appointments – both to monitor where it has been active to make sure it is truly done attacking his face, as well as to monitor potential flare-ups elsewhere on his body, at which point another eight year struggle of medications, blood work, biopsies would begin again. When he is older, as well, he will be able to have plastic surgery to undo the scarring Scleroderma has left on his face.

Ultimately, though, this is exciting. When we were told so many years ago that this was going to be an eight year battle most likely, that felt so far off in the future. Pinning him down for his first round of blood work was a nightmare and I remember thinking with horror that this was going to be our lives every few weeks for endless years. Noah quickly learned to handle the challenges, often times doing far better than kids much older than him at the hospital. He is resilient! And like us, he is excited at the thought that we are only months away from perhaps ending the medication and blood work!