Thursday, March 31, 2011


We're using this video this week to encourage people to participate in our 24/7 Prayer week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Korea Tip 104: Articles about Korean Christianity

Red crosses dot the night sky in Korean cities.  In less than a century, Christianity moved from less than 1% of the Korean population to over 30%.  My friend Ron K. hooked me up with a series of articles describing the Korean church's growth and stagnation - and the respective causes of both.  If you're interested in understanding more about Korean Christianity, this is a good place to begin your research.

"Christianity in Modern Korea" - Donald N. Clark (5 pages).  This is Korean Christian History 101.  If you want a quick overview of how Christianity got started in Korea, how it grew, and where it is now, start here.

"The Puzzle of Korean Christianity" - Danielle Kane and Jung Mee Park (34 pages).  These authors analyze geopolitical and national issues to understand the growth of Christianity in Korea and the frustration of Christianity in China and Japan.  They try to set the micronetworks that typically lead to conversion into the macrocontext of international relations.

"Holy Spirit Movements in Korea" - Kirsteen Kim (22 pages).  This is a rather weighty historical review of major movements within Korean theology.  I found this article helpful in understanding Korean Christianity's connections to Confucianism and Shamanism. 

"'Serving Two Masters': Protestant Churches in Korea and Money" - Gil-Soo Han, Joy J. Han, Andrew Eungi Kim (22 pages).  This is a difficult criticism of some of the problems in contemporary protestantism in Korea - especially related to the ABC's of outward success (attendance, buildings, and cash).  On the up side, the authors highlight some Korean churches who are bucking the materialistic trends - including "The Tin Church" in JeonJu - earning its nickname through planting new churches with inexpensive building materials.

Korea Tip 103: A Statistical Day in the Life of Cheonan, South Korea

Hopefully, you can figure out the statistics with the pictures.  Obviously, we're a growing city, with lots of babies, marriages, new cars, and new apartments.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weaving with Peter - 1 Peter 2:11-25

    Sarah is learning how to knit.  When she found out she was pregnant, she got some yarn and knitting needles and started watching Youtube videos about how to knit.  So far, she’s finished enough to cover the baby’s left leg pretty securely.  Not bad for her first attempt!   But her goal is a beautiful striped blanket that looks something like this.  She still has about five months.

    During Lent, we’re preaching through 1 Peter, and I’ve learned something over the past few weeks.  1 Peter is a difficult book for preaching.  Peter takes these really, really dense theological topics and packs them all together into a few close verses - or even in the same sentence. 
    For example, listen to just one verse from Michael’s text last week: “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).  That’s about five sermons, right there!
    Peter packs in heavy words and complex theological topics.  Last week, Michael talked about picking out different grains of rice.  This week a better metaphor might be to see the different colors of yarn.  First, Peter puts all his yarn on the table.  He describes each color.  Then, at the end, he weaves it all together.  To help us see the individual colors of this text, we’ll just work our way through the text bit by bit.

    The first color in Peter’s cloth here is green - alien green.  And, I like alien because I myself am an alien.  In fact, Sarah is giving birth to an alien.  So aliens are near and dear to my heart.  ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Losing My Soul Patch; Gaining Some Soul

I'm not sure what to call it.  I'm not sure that matters.
Two Sundays ago, I shaved my soul patch, which I've had for years.  I shaved it on Sunday morning before the first worship service in Lent.  It was sort of a Lenten fast, getting rid of something I keep to make myself look good.  I like the soul patch even though I get some flack for it ... especially from older folks.  (My Mom used to call it a devil's beard.)
I thought that some people (like my wife) would comment with relief.  I thought that some might say I look younger - not necessarily a good thing for a young pastor.  Maybe a few might say I should grow it back.
But ...
No one said anything.
In fact, no one even noticed for days.
And then, only my daughter noticed when we were cuddling before bedtime, and she was touching my face.  (For the record, she wants me to grow it back so that I can use it to tickle her.)
By Wednesday night, I gave up and told my wife that I had shaved it.  She still hadn't noticed, and she doesn't even like the soul patch.  (For the record, I feel like I've earned a freebie the next time I don't notice when she cuts her hair ... which will be the next time she cuts her hair.)
Now, some 10 days later, not a single person over four feet tall has commented about it.
On one hand, I'm a bit disappointed.  I guess people just don't care all that much what I look like - or at least what my face looks like. 
On the other hand, I'm also hearing a spiritual lesson here.  I guess people just don't care all that much what I look like.  All of my concerns about style and coolness and being up to date (which - come on - we all have) are pretty much ... irrelevant.  Maybe I can relax a little about being cool and just be.
Maybe that's part of what Lent is all about anyway.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Today, as I read the Ashes to Fire text, John 3, I came to a new understanding of John 3:16, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." 
At first I was frustrated that the NLT used the word "perish."  I thought it was a concession to the familiarity of the verse in the older more traditional versions.  It feels a little archaic.
Then, I started to wonder if we ever use the word "perish" in our daily life.  Soon I thought of food drives requesting "imperishables" and other foods being "perishable."  I thought of fruit "perishing."  For food, "perishing" basically means going bad, rotting, becoming useless, spoiling.
Then, I realized that is not a bad description of hell or life without God.  Without God's healing grace, our bruises turn into bad spots, and our whole person slowly rots away.  With God's life we are imperishable.  We don't rot and whither.  We are renewed from within.
We are immortal in Christ, also, (as in we will live forever with him), but today I am most impressed with imperishability.  Thank you God for your constant flow of redeeming and healing grace, which restores our bad spots and keeps us living and fresh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Robinson Crusoe Review

Sarah and I just finished reading Daniel Defoe's classic adventure novel, Robinson Crusoe.  This is considered the first full-length novel to be written in the English language, and its story has captured the imagination of the world for almost 300 years. 
The basic story line is well known.  However, a few details significantly enrich the plot.  Crusoe's father encouraged him to settle down for a quiet but satisfying middle-class life.  However, Crusoe's hunger for adventure sent him sailing the seas.  He was captured by Moroccan pirates and made into a slave.  He managed to escape by boat, lost his bearings, and became adrift at sea.  A Portuguese vessel rescued him and took him to Brazil, where he settled and began developing a prosperous plantation.  However, greed pushed him to make an illegal slave trading mission to Africa.  On the way, his boat was shipwrecked and he was the lone survivor on an uninhabited island near Trinidad.
At this point the more familiar story begins.  Crusoe must learn to survive alone and without most of the technology he knows.  Slowly and falteringly, which much labor and struggle and trial and error, he becomes master of his island.  Also, with only the Bible to read, he has a deep spiritual awakening.  His one great complaint is loneliness.
Eventually, he discovers that South American cannibals occasionally visit his island for feasts of the meat of prisoners of war.  From this point forward, he lives in constant fear of his life.  However, he eventually manages to rescue one prisoner of war, whom he names Friday.  Friday immediately commits himself body and soul to Crusoe. 
Later, Friday and Crusoe are able to rescue others from certain death, and these rescues combine to provide a way off the island and back to Europe for Crusoe.  After almost 30 years of being "lost," Crusoe discovers that his Brazilian plantation, which he left in trust with his partners has prospered and he is now a man of some wealth. 
Through it all, he gives persistent credit to God for his provision and miraculous protection and mercy.  We were both surprised at the spiritual elements of this story.  However, we were also put off by Crusoe's open prejudice against the South American natives and willing acceptance of slavery.  It was strange to read of spiritual awakenings on one page and desires to slaughter savages (because of their cannibalism) on the next page.  However, I guess that's often how our life goes.  Even as we get light in one area of our lives, we remain blind in another.
This is a thrilling and intriguing story.  However, the details of his struggles for technological innovation and his long stay on the island grew monotonous in the middle section of the book.  The introduction warned us of this, though, so we pushed through and the pace picked up quite a bit once Crusoe saw the first footprint of another human on his island.
This is a great read, and it only looses one J because of its slow pace in the middle: JJJJ.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All About Eve - #28 Greatest Movie of All Time

We are loving that Itunes is carrying more of the old classics.  Last week, we watched All About Eve, #28 on AFI's greatest movies of all time list.  I was surprised to learn that this movie shares (with Titanic) the record for most Oscar nominees, and it is the only movie in history to have four women nominated for Oscars (two each for lead actress and supporting actress).  Marylin Monroe also has a small part, which was cool to watch.
This movie is fun, enjoyable, well-scripted, and painful.  The characters are believable, vulnerable, and easy to connect with.  The story line, even while including a few key twists and turns, also makes sense. 
In the end, this is a story about people who make their careers their lives and then find the emptiness of that choice.  A few characters seem to make a turn at the end toward relationship and valuing others.  One in particular (with a beautiful twist) enters into her own traps. 
It has been a while since Sarah and I have genuinely liked a movie on the top 100 list.  We usually appreciate their artistic quality, but often don't find them matching our personal taste.  However, this one hit the mark.  I give it a strong: JJJJ.  (Not 5, only because it lacked some of the moral punch I'd like to see.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stories of the Kingdom

I believe in stories.  We are narrative people in an intensely narrative time.  Stories shape and guide us.  As we retell the story of the Kingdom of God, we are drawn into that story and propelled forward into its ending. 
Every once in a while, one of my sermons is completely narrative - modern parables.   I have made a new blog collecting these stories together in one place:
Check it out. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Not Nada

For some reason, I went to sleep last night thinking about Ernest Hemmingway's refrain in The Sun Also Rises, which I read in high school.  Then, I wrote this when I woke up.

Nada, nada, y mas nada.
I won't tolerate any of that sentimental B.S.
These are the words of one who has exhausted pleasure.
These are the words of one who has become lost in his own recesses and can't see past the fog of his own being.
These are the words of one who has turned away from our hurting, singing, bleeding, laughing, loving world.
These are the worlds of one who has become lost in the rot of war, lost in the endless train of adventure, lost in the rejection of morals for personal pleasure, lost and without hope of ever finding one's way again.
These are the words of one who does not know God or experience his True North or feel his arms of love or see his flow of grace through us and to another and back again.
These are the words of one who has no hope of final justice and goodness.

No, not: nada, nada, y mas nada.

But beauty and joy and pain and healing.
   Justice and redemption and restoration.
   Peace and grace and mercy.
   Amor, amor, y mas amor.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chopsticks, Factories, and Hospitality

(This story is also featured at Engage Magazine.)
They come for the 3-D jobs Dangerous, Dirty, and Difficult.  People from all over South-East and Central Asia are flocking to South Koreas factories and manual labor jobs. 
However, when they arrive, they have more adjustments than using chopsticks and eating kimchi (Koreas spicy fermented cabbage).  Korea is one of the most homogeneous nations on earth.  With 98% of the population being ethnically Korean and a strong emphasis on homogeneity, being an outsider can be difficult.
Korea Nazarene University is reaching out to the growing multicultural community of Cheonan, South Korea.  Last year, the Social Welfare department of KNU hosted a seminar on multiculturalism and ministry to people of different cultures living in Korea.
KNU International English Church, with people from 10 different countries, is a gathering place for international students, English teachers, international professors, migrant workers, and globally minded Koreans.  They offer annual workshops on culture shock and support international students and teachers. 
Cheonan Migrant Shelter, sponsored by KNU International English Church, serves the migrant workers and families of the Cheonan area.  Because Moon-Shik Park, director of CMS, lived in Indonesia for several years, he knows firsthand the difficulties of living in a foreign culture, and because of his fluency in Bahasa Indonesian, CMS has developed a strong reputation for helpfulness among Koreas Indonesian community.  Moon-Shiks wife, Jenny, works for the Indonesian Embassy in Korea and helps at CMS on the weekends. 
CMS aims to help immigrants adjust to life in Korea and to share Gods love through simple acts of kindness and hospitality.  CMS provides translation, cultural assistance, banking and postal services, Korean and English lessons, employment mediation, and Bible studies.  Immigrants can even find a taste of home at CMSs Asian food market, which stocks hard to find items like mutton, coconut milk, and peanut sauce.
In our globalizing world, the nature of missions is also changing.  We still need people to cross oceans and national lines, but we can also reach formerly hard-to-reach people simply by crossing the street.
To find out more about how to study or to teach at KNU, go to:  To find out about KNU International English Church, check out:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Doing It - Matthew 7:15-28

Read Matthew 7:15-28.

    Every preacher has stories of sermons gone wrong or heard wrong.  I have my share.  “Ooh, didn’t mean it to come out that way” or “I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that” or the occasional sermon that just bombs.  But as far as I know, I’ve only had someone walk out on me once, and that was when I was preaching from today’s text. 
    It’s a hard passage.  Jesus says three really hard things.  1) Some people will be thrown into the fire.  2) Some people who think they deserve heaven will get locked out, and 3) Some people will find their whole lives come crashing down around them.
    Three years ago, on Easter Sunday, I was going to preach from this text, and I introduced myself to a new person during the greeting time.  I reached out my hand to her and she held up the sermon copy and said, “Haven’t you ever read the verse: ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’?!” 
    I said, “Umm ... yes ... actually I preached on that text last week.”
    She had angry tears in her eyes, and she said, “Well that is certainly not reflected in this sermon!” 
    I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I do remember that I got out my pen and made some quick edits to the sermon during the song time.  I also remember that this lady was gone before it was time for me to speak.
    Obviously, I’ve thought a lot about this experience this week.  Why didn’t I ask Matt to preach this one?  So in honor of Ms. Walker-outer, I want to make sure we all see the connections between the beginning of chapter 7 “Do not judge others and you will not be judged” and the end of chapter 7 with burning branches, closing doors, and collapsing houses.

To continue reading this post, click here.


Judging Judging - Matthew 7:1-5

(I preached this sermon February 27, 2011.)

Matthew 7:1-5    
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

One of my favorite podcasts tells of a fictional small town in the northern USA called “Lake Wobegon.”  At the end of every podcast, Garrison Keillor, the story teller, says, “And that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”
    Think about that.  How can ALL the children be above average?  We have an almost unstoppable tendency to overrate ourselves and our children.  This is called the Lake Wobegon Effect or Illusory Superiority.   Most of us think we are better than most other people.  For example ...

  • 68% of the professors at the University of Nebraska (in the USA) said that they are in the top 25% of professors at University of Nebraska.
  • 87% of the MBA students at Stanford University said they were in the top half of MBA students at Stanford.

To continue reading this post, click here.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Like the Sea

How can it be
That problems and trouble
Roll like the sea?
Now they surge and double;
Now they wane and flee.
With or without my failure,
They rise with fearsome froth.
With or without my succor,
They sink with silky sloth.
Why do I fear the waves
When I know I'll see them go?
Why fear the critics and knaves
When they too will ebb and flow?
Maker, Master, Captain of the Sea,
If waves must roar, at least calm me.

Trading Up

The gold of all the hills,
The flower on every stem,
The view from countless sills,
The splendor of every gem,
I would trade for thee
And still the richer be.


(By the way, this is my own picture from Siquijor, Philippines.)