Thursday, December 31, 2009


I just read a great article about a new group called Help-Portrait. It is founded by some professional photographers who are also Christians and felt called to use their skills and passions to help others. Help-Portrait is calling all photographers (professions, hobbyists and amateurs) to put those cameras to good use by taking a special portrait shot of someone in need and then giving them a nice large printout of the photo as an encouraging reminder that they are special and valuable people.
It's not huge, but it's good. Some people will also give food, blankets, and friendship with the photos, and people will be changed in small ways.
The coolest part is that this is a group of people who are doing what they are already passionate about doing in a way that helps others. How can we help more people connect their passions with the world's needs?

Monday, December 28, 2009

GOD (a poem)

Like sand slipping through our fingers
or little grains stuck for days in our hair.
Like a cold mist we can't see up close
yet clouds our glasses as soon as we walk in the door.
Like a sunrise that won't fit in the frame
and is kind enough to follow us home.
Like diving into a crystal blue lake
then taking a drink for the hike.
Like that poignant moment we just can't explain
but still makes us smile and cry.
Like whale watching on the Alaskan coast
and the Alaskan snow globe collecting dust.
Like a forest fire, melting trucks, exploding trees
and a candle flame waving in the wind of my breath.
Like time that always gets away from us
but is with us every minute of every day.

(Josh Broward, 12.28.2009)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Messiah in the Margins (Micah 5:2-5a)

Micah 5:2-5a

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been in one of those conversations? “It sucks to be me.” “Oh, no, it really sucks to be me.” “Well, if you think that’s bad, let me tell you how much my life sucks.” This is normal life for us. My job sucks. My apartment stinks. My husband never helps around the house. My mom drives me crazy. My bosses keep changing everything. I have a cold. My back hurts.
What is this a contest or something? Do we really want to win this game? “Yeah, it really sucks to be you! Whew, you’re life is terrible!”
“See! I told you!”
But sometimes, we really do feel pretty terrible. This week, I sat at my computer pouting, with my bottom lip sticking out like a little kid who just dropped his ice cream. Sometimes, we just feel like joining the song, “It sucks to be me!”

Israel would understand. Israel was a small fish in a big sea with sharks all around. The biggest shark of all was Assyria. Assyria was pressing down upon Israel like a lion on a mouse. It seemed to be only a matter of time before Assyria would annex Israel like it had already done to all the other nations. They would lay siege Jerusalem, and if they won, they would make the king of Israel stand in the town square. The commander of the Assyrian army would take a rod and smack Israel’s king in the face with it, maybe knock a few teeth out. When Israel looked into the future, they saw defeat and public humiliation. So, yeah, they were singing, “It sucks to be me.”

But God answers Israel in a surprising way. ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Malachi's Christmas (Malachi 2:17 - 3:5)

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I loved the relaxed time, spending all day together with my family for several days in a row. For many of us Christmas means family time.

But food always goes together with family. In my house there was always more food than we could possibly eat: turkey, honey-baked ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (sometimes still shaped like the can), and best of all pumpkin pie with whipped cream and pecan pie with old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. (I know I’m making myself hungry, too!) Nothing says Christmas like the sin of gluttony!

And of course there are presents. My mom has two great spiritual gifts: giving and shopping. Christmas at our house overflowed with all of my mom’s bargain gifts. Christmas gift-giving is such an important image in American culture that economists gauge the health of the entire economy based on Christmas shopping.

And the presents have to go under a Christmas tree. Through some accident of history, green triangle shaped trees have become one of the world’s most recognizable symbols of the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus.

In Korea, Christmas is primarily a couples’ holiday – something like Valentines Day. It’s a time for young people to go to the movies and take long romantic walks in the cold night air.

Some people think mostly about the songs and the movies. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Charlie Brown Christmas.

For Christians, the primary images of Christmas are often a little different (at least when we’re thinking about church stuff). We usually think about Christmas carols and special Christmas Choir Cantatas. We think about the classic Christmas songs: “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and others. These songs are always full of joy and appreciation for God’s greatest gift to the world – Jesus.

And of course, the single greatest image of Christmas for Christians is the baby in the manger – or feeding trough. Most Sunday School kids can draw that baby in the wooden box with the X-shaped legs and hay. We might even add a nice yellow glow of light coming from the quiet little baby in the hay.

Our images of God’s coming into the world are overwhelmingly positive. We think of joy and peace, family and friends, comfort and abundance. Even when we think theologically, our thoughts are deeply positive: light and salvation and grace and peace for the world and good news for all humankind.

Many of the Bible’s texts do lead us in this direction. But not today’s text. Today’s text is from the prophet Malachi – the last prophet recorded in the Old Testament. Listen as Malachi explains God’s coming into the world. This is Malachi’s Christmas.

To continue reading this sermon, click here.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Family Groups

We're restarting a conversation in our church.
A few years ago, Adam, Elisa, Jackie, and a few others helped us start thinking about house churches. The basic idea was that once a month, we wouldn't have a regular worship service. Instead, we would have smaller groups meet in homes around town. There were two basic motivations: 1) To shake up the concept of "church" as a worship service or a place, and 2) To help people get to know each other more deeply.
But this idea seemed so difficult to get started logistically and conceptually, that it kind of faded away.
At our November pastors meeting, Matt, SuJin, and I resurrected this basic concept under a new heading: FAMILY GROUPS. We are thinking of a few little changes that might make it more workable. 1) We would actually meet in the Nazarene Building (the same building where we worship together every Sunday). We would just divide up into classrooms. 2) We would only do it every other month. 3) We would still meet in a big group to sing together. Then we would split into the different classrooms.
We still have to work out the logistics about how to divide people up into the different family groups, but we have some ideas on how to do that.
The basic structure would be that each family group would have a team of 4-6 hosts. Then we will add people to each group, trying to keep each group diverse in age, sex, and culture. The hosts will be responsible for preparing the food, leading the activities and discussions, making announcements, etc. Each family group will have a brunch-style meal together - something like breads, fruits, and drinks. They will spend some time just chatting. Then there will be a discussion about a Bible text and maybe a video on a connected theme. Then, they will share honest prayer requests with each other and pray for each other right then and there. And that's pretty much it. Hopefully, the hosts will do some follow-up care as well.
The basic goals would be:
1) Knowing and being known,
2) Praying for and with each other,
3) Mixing generations and cultures,
4) Increasing participation and ownership.

If anybody out there has any thoughts on this, I'd be happy to hear what you have to say. Also, if your church does something like this (or if you know of one that does), please post a comment.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adoption Standstill

Well, we have hit a concrete wall 10 feet thick in terms of adoption. It seems that international law is solidly against us - for now. Because we don't live in our country of citizenship, we are not eligible to adopt a child from any country!
This is very frustrating for us. We've spent almost two years working on this, and we've spent quite a bit of money as well. Sarah especially has invested a great deal of time in research, applications, and gathering documents.
However, for now, we are facing the reality that unless something changes - either the law or our location, we will not be able to adopt. Since we don't anticipate either of those changing in the next few years, we are going to stop trying until something does change.
That leads us to start pursuing other options. We still want to have more children, so maybe we'll have to make room in the womb for another guest.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Sexual Character - Marva Dawn. I didn't actually get to finish this one. Somehow I left it on the plane from DC to St. Louis in October. Here is one of the highlights from the first half. Our culture is trying to solve our pain of fragmentation and isolation (the break up of the community and family) through sexual intercourse. But this is the wrong medicine. It only makes it worse because sexual intimacy without commitment only makes us feel more fragmented and isolated in the end.

The Return of the Prodigal Son - Henri Nouwen. This is one of Nouwen's classics, but I've just gotten around to it. It is a beautiful meditation on Rembrandt's painting and Jesus parable. God loves us deeply whether we leave or whether we stay, whether we do wrong or do right for the wrong reasons. And eventually, he calls us to love others with the same open-hearted love. Very good. jjjj.

Jesus and the Undoing of Adam - C. Baxter Krueger. This is a outstanding little theology book on the Trinity and salvation. I often found myself nodding and reaching for my highlighter (but I couldn't highlight since Ron T. graciously loaned it!). I highly recommend this book for a fresh look at the Trinity and the Incarnation and salvation from the perspective that the Trinity is the center of everything. JJJJJ

Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri. This is a fabulous little book of short stories, mostly about Indian-American immigrants, but there are a few stories rooted in India as well. The stories are full of life and poingiancy. They read quickly, and I felt like I was getting to know people I really should have known all along. (Thanks for the loaner Dave.) jjjj

Spaces for Spirit: Adorning the Church - Nancy Chinn. This is by far the best book I have read in a long time. For some inexplicable reason, it is out of print. I happened to get it for free at a KNU used book give away, but I saw it listed on Amazon and other sites for $75-$150! Nancy Chinn is a professional church artist and a lay theologian. She writes with great profundity and insight about the role of art to enable the Spirit to sidestep our logic to reach the deeper parts of our hearts. Best of all, she gives advice on how to start a church arts council which will guide your church in implimenting more art in and around worship services. Our Worship Planning team loved the idea, and we are hoping to start something this winter! JJJJJ! (I would give six J's if I could.)

The Tipping Point - Malcom Gladwell. Beverly loaned me this book a long time ago, and it finally made it to the top of my stack. I loved it. I read it in about 2-3 days (spread over 2-3 weeks). The summation of the book is that small factors are often the difference in tipping an idea or trend or movement over the tipping point into an epidemic (something that becomes huge and sweeps through a culture or around the world). Reading this book together with Spaces for Spirit convinced me of the need for our church to become more deeply visual and artistic. We need to add "stickiness" to the message if we want it to have impact. Great read. Great thoughts. JJJJJ.

I Kissed Sex Goodbye

OK, well actually I just kissed talking about sex goodbye for now. Last Sunday, I finished my last sermon in our series on human sexuality. (Matt is preaching tomorrow on porn.) I have never been happier to finish a series! This was tough. Sexuality touches the core of who we are, and we have such divergent perspectives and experiences. I was always walking the line between stretching people without causing so much offense that they started throwing tomatoes or stones.

I think it has gone well so far. The feedback has been mostly good. Best of all, people are saying that lots of people are talking about sex. That was one of my biggest hopes - to decrease the secrecy and shame surrounding the topic of sex, to bring the topic into the light so that we can talk together about the best ways to be sexual.

In short, I'm glad we did this, but I don't want to do it again any time soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Homosexuality: Reframing the Discussion (Sex Series - Week 3)

Today we run the risk of misunderstanding each other. I want to begin by reading part of the statements on human sexuality in The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene and by our Board of General Superintendents:

The Church of the Nazarene views human sexuality as one expression of the holiness and beauty that God the Creator intended for His creation. It is one of the ways by which the covenant between a husband and a wife is sealed and expressed.

The Church of the Nazarene believes that every man or woman should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual orientation. However ... We stand firmly on the belief that the biblical concept of marriage, always between one man and one woman in a committed, lifelong relationship, is the only relationship within which the gift of sexual intimacy is properly expressed.

This month we are trying to understand our sexuality in all its God-given beauty. Today, we are continuing to teach the holy love for God and for people which the Church of the Nazarene has always upheld. I just want to make that clear at the beginning.

I have been preparing for this sermon for more than a year. Throughout this process of reading and studying and praying, I have also thought about my friends and family members who are gay.

Sarah’s uncle is gay and lives with his partner in a long-term, loving relationship. We have stayed in their home more than once, and they showed our family great kindness and hospitality.

My cousin is gay. Her “wife” experienced severe and sustained sexual abuse by men. Now, as an adult, she is physically unable to eat foods that remind her of sex with men. Pickles, hotdogs, and mayonnaise all make her vomit!

Throughout this year, I have been talking with “JiHye.” She dated guys most of her life, but while at our church, she “came out of the closet” as a gay woman and began dating other women. She finally felt so uncomfortable in our church that she stopped attending. When I asked JiHye what I should say today, she said that I should put a human face on homosexuality.

To help us think about real people, I want to stop and hear a story from “Michelle.” Michelle no longer attends our church, but she sent us a letter telling us her story.

To continue reading this sermon, click here.


Sex Myths: Marriage and Singleness (Sex Series - Week 2)

Kevin Leman is a Christian marriage counselor. He often travels around giving marriage seminars. One of his lectures is called, “What Every Parent Ought to Know about Sex.” He always begins this seminar by asking a very simple, straightforward question: “What do we call penises in our society?”

Silence … dead silence. Leman says once a lady on the front row elbowed her husband and asked, “Bill, is he talking about piano players or what?”

Leman keeps pushing: “Come on, what do we call penises in our society? Better yet, what did your mother call your penis, men?” You know when she was giving you a bath, and it was time to wash that part, what did she call it?

So, he starts asking for a show of hands: “How many people called it a ding dong when you were growing up? A pecker? A wiener?”

Eventually the awkwardness starts wearing off and people start shouting out words: peter, pokey, the thing, ying-yang, dork, dink, pee-wee, boy part, private part, schlong, junk, piece, unit, rod, pee-pee, tee-tee, thing-a-majig. If he were in Korea, somebody would say 고추 (or pepper).

By this time, people are laughing so hard they are crying. And then, Leman reads a quote from another psychologist. “There is no reason ‘that a male [child], who points to various parts of his body and ears his parents say, “nose,” “eye,” “hand,” “toe,” should suddenly hear strange [evasive words] when he points to his genital area and hears “pee-pee,” “pee-wee,” “wienie,” “teapot,” … to cite only a few. Then he soon discovers that he is never to use the word around anyone outside the home.’”

All of these cute, funny names for a penis (and let’s not even get started with talking about the names we give to the “girl-parts”) – all of this sends a message to our children and to us that sex is dirty or secret or shameful. Sex is not something we can talk about. We can’t say the real names of our body parts, much less talk about what they do.[1]

Today, we are continuing our series on sex by talking about marriage and singleness. I want to do some myth busting today. We are going to talk about the top 10 sex myths in today’s world and what the real truth is.

Sex Myth #1: We can’t talk about sex. After last week’s sermon, we got two main comments: (1) That was interesting, and (2) That was really awkward. Honestly, I felt a little awkward, too. I pretty much never get nervous preaching anymore, but I was really nervous last week. It seems that we are basically out of practice when it come to talking about sex.

Truth: We need to talk about sex. . . . .

To continue reading this sermon, click here.


Repenting of My Suit

I wrote this for The House Studio's Changed Minds project.

My Dad fed me Dress for Success with my morning cereal. Barely out of pee-wee football, I could tell when someone was underdressed for an event.

Just when I was beginning to get pimples, I was also mastering which ties were classics and acceptable (diagonal stripes, dots, and paisleys), which were fashionable but unwise (plaids, abstract shapes, and stripes in any direction other than diagonal), and which were downright poor taste (pictures of any kind).

By Driver’s Ed, I could tell the difference between a 100% cotton shirt and “synthetics,” and I could tie my own tie at the right length.

In university, when I began to preach, I was a model “disciple” of my father’s rabbinical teaching of John Malloy’s Dress for Success philosophy. When I carried my Bible to the pulpit, I was never lacking my conservative tie, perfect suit, over-the-calf black socks, and wingtips.

After graduating from seminary, I landed in Cheonan, South Korea, as the bivocational pastor of a small international church on the campus of Korea Nazarene University. In addition to pastoring this family-sized church of 50, I taught conversational English at KNU.

Korea is deeply conservative in professional men’s dress. Suits are the expected norm for most office workers and for every leader. Pastors, above all, are expected to dress formally.

Throughout my first several years here, I donned a suit and tie with almost daily regularity. I repeated to myself some of my Dad’s maxims: You only get one chance to make a first impression. What you wear determines whether people will trust what you say. It may not be fair, but this is how it is. You can work with reality or break yourself against it.

But slowly, I began to chafe under the formality. Why am I doing this? What are we trying to say with these suits and ties? Why do we put on a coat in the middle of the summer?

I read Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees and saw startling parallels between their “extra long tassels” and my own neckties. The only purpose of a necktie (year round) and a suit coat (in warm weather) is to give the impression of a certain level of power and importance. The exact purpose of these clothes is to separate the powerful and important people from those without power or social significance. I couldn’t help judging myself and my peers as hypocrites who were trying to show off our status of power.

I also began to question the immense cost of this formal attire. Although I got most of my clothes on the cheap, I knew that many of my peers and our leaders spend thousands of dollars a year on these symbols of power. A sense of injustice grew in me. I was participating in a system of waste, excess, and self-promotion, which sucks millions of dollars from some of our most generous pockets.

I was particularly haunted by an experience from my university years. I invited my working-class cousins to go to church with me. After several requests, they reluctantly joined me in attending a conservative megachurch in an upper-middle class neighborhood. They felt woefully out of place in their T-shirts and blue jeans among suits and fancy dresses. The experience was such a disaster, that I didn’t even discuss church or God with them for a very long time. Years later, when I was attending a more relaxed church, I thought they might have a better chance of fitting in enough to actually hear the message. However, they rebuffed my offer with the claim that they had nothing to wear. They only consented to join me when I promised to wear blue-jeans as well.

I read biographies of Mother Theresa and was struck by her intentional decision to don the simple cotton clothing of the poor in her city. For a time, I seriously considered forming an “order neveaux” that chose to wear only blue shirts and khakis, as a form of public dissent against both the formal and high-fashion cultures.

I prayed. I read. I sought advice from others. My parents were predictably against the idea. My wife wisely stood on the sidelines and let me process all my conflicting thoughts and desires and fears. On more than one occasion I stood in front of my closet with the resolution to throw out every suit and tie I owned.

When our church decided to make several changes at once, changing our location and meeting time all in one move, I decided to add a wardrobe change for myself. When I walked into the new place, I left the suit and tie behind.

For another year or so, I continued to wear suits into my English classrooms at KNU. I reasoned that while I am in an official university role, I should go along with the formal Korean culture. So it was suits on class days and semi-casual wear on church days.

However, I began to feel dichotomous – like I was presenting two selves to the world. Also, my decision not to wear suits to church still did not resolve my participation in the “suit-system” during the week. I still felt like I was participating in a social system built on hypocrisy and contributing to global injustice.

About 4 years after taking my first pastorate and committing to the daily “uniform” of pastors and professors, I purged my closet of all but two suits and a handful of ties. My wife finally voiced her opinion and talked me into wearing suits for weddings and funerals. I am still not sure how this jives with my desire to be consistent at all times. For now, I agree with her advice that some special occasions seem to call for special clothing, and further that I should avoid giving offense if at all possible.

I may not be finished making adjustments in my clothing ethics, but for me, this process of intentional dress is a key component in my discipleship of Jesus. I want everything I do to help me follow him more, to be closer to his example. I want to be as simple and honest as I can manage. At the same time, I want to create as few barriers between myself as others as possible.

I don’t want to impose my clothing ethic on others, and I don’t want to judge all suit-wearers as Pharisaical hypocrites. But I do believe that questioning our motives and even our cultures is a healthy practice for all of us – especially those of us who long to follow our countercultural Messiah.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Theology of Sexuality (Sex Series: Week 1)

Sometimes people ask me why we are doing a sermon series on sex. One of my pastor friends was completely shocked when I told him. It’s dangerous and difficult to talk about sex so publicly. People might get offended. I might say something wrong. This is a hard topic to talk about, so why are we doing it.

Well, sexuality is an essential part of our humanity. We might avoid talking about our sexuality, but we can’t avoid our sexuality. It is always with us because it is part of our humanness.

Also, sex has deep spiritual and theological implications. We’ll talk about that more today.

And, we’re talking about sex simply because it is dangerous and difficult to talk about. We shouldn’t take the easy way out. We should run into the most difficult, most dangerous topics and address them directly. We should live in the storm of life because it doesn’t stop storming just because we talk about nice things.

To be honest, it was kind of hard to get this series started. I couldn’t find any jokes that wouldn’t get me fired. I didn’t even try to find any videos that were … appropriate. And Sarah made me promise not tell any personal stories.

The way some Christians talk about sex, one wonders how Christians ever have children. Sometimes, Christians have said some pretty bad things about sex. So we’ll start by talking about some of the negative views on sex that Christians have held or taught. ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Going to St. Louis

We'll be going to St. Louis tomorrow. Sarah's sister, Elizabeth, is marrying a great guy named Michael on Saturday. We'll head out tomorrow morning, and we'll be back 7 days later. We'll have a grand total of 5 days in the USA. Two of those days Emma and I will be driving down to Little Rock to visit my grandparents.

Emotional Baggage (Personal Health Series - Week 4)

We’re starting today with something we haven’t done in a while: audience participation time. I’m tired of doing all the talking, so I want you folks to get more involved. Here’s your question: What did you pack when you came to Cheonan? (If you happen to be one of the few people here born in Cheonan, then maybe you can answer: “What did you pack on your last big trip?”) First, turn to someone nearby and tell them a few things you packed.


OK. Now shout out some of your answers. What did you pack when you came to Cheonan?


We all packed the normal stuff: clothes, shoes, books, a toothbrush, maybe a computer. But we may have been packing more than we realized.

  • Did anyone pack along some bitterness?
  • How about some old wounds that just haven’t healed?
  • Has anyone discovered deep feelings of unworthiness hiding in your suitcase?
  • You might be like me and have a strong hunger for approval in your carry-on.
  • Maybe you take resentment with you everywhere you go.

Today is our fourth week in our series on personal health, and we’re talking about emotional baggage. Emotional baggage is all deep down hidden stuff that we rarely see but really affects our lives. It’s like an American Express card. We “don’t leave home without it.” ...

To continue this post, click here.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Firsts Following Firsts (Annual Report 2009)

This fall we are 15 years old. (So how old are we in Korean years?) To get a feeling for how much we've grown, I thought it might be fun for us to look at some of our previous “firsts.”

  • The first baby born in our church (Jenny Mitchel's daughter 2001). (The next baby was Esther Kim in 2006.)

  • The first Advisory Council was elected in 2003. For our first 8 years before that, we were just a hodge-podge group that worshiped together.

  • Our first mission trip (Indonesia, 2004). We are now planning our fourth, and we're hoping to do one every year.

  • Our first year with regular heat in the winter (2005). That may not seem like such a big deal, but it's easier to worship when you don't have to wear gloves and a hat just to stay warm!

  • Our first store room – a tiny janitors closet, which we were forced to get because we bought a drum set (2005).

  • Our first assistant pastor - Hoom Jeong (2005)

  • Our first big attendance day: 79 (2005). We were really excited about 79 people back then!

  • More than 50% of our regular attenders from outside the KNU community (2005)

  • First after church snack time – started just once a month (2005). I remember our fellowship team feeling really concerned about trying to do it every week.

  • First website – a free blog that Susan Kim set up for us (2005)

  • First church members to get married (Mark and Naomi, 2005)

  • First baptisms (2006)

  • First time to have organized children and youth activities (2006)

  • First time worshiping in Patch Hall and at a “normal” time (2006). Before this, our worship services began bright and early at 9 a.m.

  • First time to have more than one Korean on the Advisory Council (2006)

  • First time to have more than one returning Advisory Council member (2007)

  • First time to take in members and to be an official Church of the Nazarene (2007)

  • First church soccer team (2007) ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Culture Shock (Personal Health Series: Week 3)

<<Culture Shock Video>>

Everyone gets culture shock. It's normal. It's healthy. It's unavoidable. It's also funny and annoying and depressing and depleting and confusing and sneaky. (Sometimes you are having culture shock even when you don't realize it.) Here in this church, we are blessed or cursed with more culture shock than the average community.

The Bible often deals with themes of culture shock. When the Israelites left Egypt, they complained, “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” (Numbers 11:5-6). One of my friends is an engineering executive at a Korean company here in Cheonan. He told me when he sends his Korean engineers to England for training, they pack one suitcase with clothes and one suitcase with ramyeon! Food has always been part of culture shock.

When the leaders of Israel were captured and taken into exile in Babylon, they wrested with culture shock, and they were tempted toward isolation. But God sent them a message through Jeremiah: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. ... Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).

But culture shock isn't always pretty. ...

To continue reading this sermon, click here.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Healthy Habits (Personal Health - Week 1)

It was generally not a good idea to get sick in ancient times. Doctors had some pretty crazy ideas about how to cure diseases.

For example, in cultures around the world, one of the most common methods of treating insanity has been trepanation. The basic theory is that people go insane because there are demons or evil spirits trapped in their heads. How do you get the demons out? Well, you drill a nice little hole as an escape route. Unfortunately, the people tend to loose a lot of blood and maybe some brains along with the “demons.”

And, you all know Charles Darwin, the guy who made the theory of evolution famous. Well, his grandfather believed that sleep could cure all kinds of diseases. Not able to get to sleep? No problem, the cure for insomnia is simple: spinning, lots of spinning. Apparently, Grandpa Darwin would put people on a chair on wheels or something and just spin them round and round until they passed out. Unfortunately, it didn’t cure any diseases, but on the upside, it might have given birth to some great carnival rides.

One of the oldest medical remedies is bloodletting. The theory was that, sometimes, we just have too much blood or too much blood in the wrong places. For the body to regain balance, we have to let that blood get out. So the doctor would cut you and let you bleed out all that bad blood. It turns out that we actually need our blood, so letting it bleed out is generally a bad thing.

Here’s my favorite. 3-4,000 years ago Egypt had the best medicine of anyone around. They really knew their stuff, but even they came up with some crazy ideas. Here is their cure for skin sores or lesions: “After the scab has fallen off, put on it scribe’s excrement, mix in fresh milk and apply as a poultice.” Let’s see: scribe poo + milk = skin cream. Any takers? Maybe we could sell the idea to Skin Food or Bath and Body. It makes you soft as a baby’s bottom!

So the old doctors didn’t always know how to help us get better if we got sick. However, they did know how to stay healthy.

In the 13th century, a group of doctors in West Wales recorded the best medical wisdom in their tradition. Here is what they said about the basics of health:

Whosoever shall eat or drink more or less than he should, or shall sleep more or less, or shall labour more or less from idleness or from hardship … without a doubt he will not escape sickness.

An ancient Chinese proverb advises:

He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors. ...

To continue reading this sermon, click here.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vision Month (Week 4): Global Change through Local Action

According to Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the wisest and most cunning human who ever lived. Unfortunately for him, this all led to some conflict with the gods. He stuck his nose into a love triangle involving Jupiter, and he fooled the gods of death two separate times, adding years to his life.

Finally, however, the gods won out. They sentenced Sisyphus to one of the most famous punishments in the history of the world. Every day, he pushed a huge round stone to the top of a high hill. After struggling all day to reach the top, the stone rolled back down to the bottom of the hill. Sisyphus punishment was meaningless work, forever. He was cursed with an unsolvable problem that he just had to fix.

When we hear the statistics of global poverty, we can feel a lot like Sisyphus. 3 billion people living on less than 2,500 won a day. 25,000 children die every day because of poverty. 2.6 billion people lack decent toilets or clean water. 1.8 million children die every year diarrhea.

When we talk in millions and billions, the problem of global poverty seems like an impossible mountain. We look at the pictures of the starving children, and our heart knows that we must do something. But our brain reminds us that we can’t feed billions. If we give 1 or 1,000 or even 100,000 kids enough medicine to prevent diarrhea, there will still be 1.7 million who die from it this year.

After a while, it all feels like rolling that stone up the hill, day after day. We can work hard. We can give our lives to helping others. Yet, it can still feel meaningless because of the millions and billions we didn’t help. Sometimes, it seems as if the whole world has the curse of Sisyphus. Sometimes, it feels like we’re cursed with an unsolvable problem we just have to fix.

So what do we do? Well, some of us keep pushing that stone up the hill. But others of us, give up on that all together. We just quit trying. Some of us even quote Jesus as support for giving up on the fight against poverty, “The poor will always be among you.” We forget that he also said, “Whatever you do to the least of these you to do to me.” But when there are 1 billion “least of these” who need our help, the problem just seems too large.

But we have special powers that Sisyphus didn’t have. In fact, we have three special powers that completely change the game. ...

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Vision Month (Week 3): Multicultural Community

Our world is fractured, separated, segregated, split, divided. And this cuts to the core of our hearts, for deep down our souls know our world and our hearts are designed for wholeness and harmony.

Globalization pushes us together and forces the essential fragmentation of humanity into eyes. We see this theme emerge again and again in our movies and stories. Consider just a few examples:

· Shakespeare's classic story of Romeo and Juliet. The tragic lovers from two divided families shine a light on the brokenness of their world.

· The Lord of the Rings series is asking the question of whether we can overcome our differences to make the world safe and whole.

· Remember the Titans tells the story of a championship football team when the black high school suddenly merges with the white high school. The fundamental question is whether we really can get along.

· Beauty and the Beast challenges the cultural fragmentation that happens when we place too high a value on external beauty.

· The Little Mermaid – amid all its cuteness and fun songs – deals with the serious theme of cross-cultural marriages.

In his book, Sex God, Rob Bell argues that our world is designed to be whole, one … diverse – yes! - but sharing a fundamental unity, soaked with loving relationships. But Bell says, “our world isn't [whole]. It isn't one. It's broken, shattered, fractured, with pieces laying all over the floor.”

So when we see people who come together out of brokenness and find wholeness and peace, it touches something deep in our souls. It connects with our deepest longings and our deepest hopes. We need peace. We need wholeness. We need community amid our diversity. It is a deep, deep craving of our soul, and without it we will forever be malnourished. ...

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Vision Month (Week 2): Renewed by Love

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward
September 6, 2009

Drama: Table is set at center stage with: large bowl (preferably glass); two large spoons; tongs; medium size glass bowl; pitcher of water; hand towel; 50,000 won bill; large variety of strange ingredients (mustard, kimchi, corn flakes, peanut butter, dirt, old bugs, chocolate syrup, fish, etc.). Next to table is a large trash can with liner.
Person A:
1)Pick up 50,000 won bill and slowly, carefully shows it to audience.
2)Put 50,000 won bill into large glass bowl.
3)Slowly and dramatically add all “ingredients” to large glass bowl.
4)Mix thoroughly.
5)Smell and attempt to taste.
6)Dump bowl into garbage can.
7)Exit stage.
Person B:
1)Enter with Person A. Sit in chair at stage left.
2)Watch A do everything; smile at 50,000 won bill; look disgusted as A adds and mixes ingredients.
3)When A goes to dump bowl into trash, B says: “NO!” [This is the only spoken word in the drama.]
4)Go to table. Get tongs. Remove 50,000 won bill from trash. Hold it up slowly to show audience.
5)Pour water into clean bowl.
6)Put 50,000 won bill into clean bowl. Clean 50,000 won bill.
7)Dry 50,000 won bill with towel.
8)Slowly and dramatically show 50,000 won bill to audience. Kiss it; hold it to your heart; and exit stage.
(This drama and it's application were taken from a story in the footnotes of Rob Bell's Sex God.)

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. …
“Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.'
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them” (Genesis 1:1, 24-27).
We are created in the image of God. We are God's representatives on earth. We have something of the heart of God deep inside of us. We are infinitely and inherently valuable.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You Are God's Masterpiece

Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Reviews

I've finished a few books over the summer. Here are some brief reviews.

The Firm by John Grisham
This is a typical John Grisham book. A lawyer gets mixed up in a conspiracy that is bigger than he expected. The drama and suspense build to a massive climax that works out exactly like you would hope - almost. It's a little creepy, but that also makes it intriguing. I like John Grisham for a good fun read, but on my 6th or so Grisham book, his style is becoming fairly predictable. Only 3j's this time: jjj.

Ten Thousand Sorrows by Elizabeth Kim
This autobiography, by a Korean-American adoptee, is alternatingly haunting and informative. I am enjoying reading books about Korea these days, and the beginning of this book gives us a good look into Korean village life in the 60s. After a brief early childhood with a loving single mother, Elizabeth Kim is launched into one hellish situation after another. This is the story of her hells and her recovery process as a young adult who again lives as a single mom. It is terrible and beautiful. I highly recommend it: JJJJJ.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck
This is my second book by Steinbeck. I also read Of Mice and Men. I'm starting to think that, although Steinbeck is an excellent writer, he's not my kind of writer. Both books were very well written, but very sad. The Pearl is about how a young family's fortunes are deeply changed when the man finds a huge and perfect pearl. It is a story of poverty and injustice and fatalism. I am such an optimist that this story left a bitter taste in my mouth. But, alas, perhaps that was the intent. All in all: jjj.

The Long Season of Rain by Helen Kim
This is a short (fictional?) memoir by Korean-American Helen Kim, of a few months of her family history. Her family became the foster home for an orphan who lost his family in a mudslide. The drama that unfolds reveals much about traditional Korean marriages, traditional Korean families, and traditional prejudices toward orphans in Korea. I think it is intended as a youth novel, but I didn't find it childish. I really enjoyed it, but it lacks the sophistication for a full 5 J's: jjjj.

Sex God by Rob Bell
Rob Bell's second book is good, but not phenomenal. Here he is exploring the connections between sexuality and spirituality. He takes the questionable stand that everything is sexual because everything that involves connecting with others is inherently sexual. I think this is stretching the point a bit too far, but I really appreciate his wonderful explanation of the sexual/marriage based images that permeate the Bible's description of God's relationship with humanity. I'm sure I will use this book when I'm working on a theology of sexuality for the fall sermon series on sex. All in all, very good: jjjj.

Love Wins

These videos are a description of Love Wins, a ministry to people at strip clubs, led by some of my friends at Trinity Family Church of the Nazarene in Gardner, Kansas, USA. Check them out.

Also, check out the Love Wins posts on Donnie Miller's blog. He's the pastor.