Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Denominations: What Happened & What Now?

There are almost 7,000 languages currently spoken on earth.
  We started with one.  Then came the tower of Babel - when God confused our languages and sent us running to the ends of the earth, scattered into the small groups of people who could understand each other and get along together.
There are some 33,800 different Christian denominations around the world.
  We started with one.  Then came a host of historical events, which sent us running to the ends of the earth, scattered into the small groups of people who could understand each other and get along together.
What happened?  I feel like Rodney King, after the Los Angeles race riots, “People, I just want to say, can we all just get along?  Can we all just get along?”
  Apparently not.  No, we can’t just all get along.  
Today, we’re talking about denominations (교단) - all 33,800 of them, and we’re going to do this with a few different basic questions.
  • What happened?  
  • Why?  
  • What now?  

    What Happened?  The History.
     1. The Early Breaks -  The first major breaks within the Church - kind of like denominations - happened in the 5th century.  Both splits were about one issue: How is Jesus both divine and human?   In 431 the Assyrian Church of the East, centered in ancient Iraq, split away because they insisted on the separation and clear distinction of Jesus’ divine and human natures.  20 years later, the Oriental Orthodox Church, split away for the exact opposite reason.   
    Interestingly, in 1984, the Pope and the Syriac Patriarch issued a joint statement about these divisions: “The confusions and schisms that ... arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae ... express the same matter.  Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that ... arose between us ...”

    To continue reading this post, click here.


    Samson and the Pirate Monks - Review

    This is one of the most important books I've read in a long time.  I read it in two days, which is extremely rare.  I highly recommend it for all men who want to live faithfully, but struggle.
    The first half of the book tells the story of the author, Nate Larkin's, downward spiral with sexual addiction.  He starts out as a pastor's kid, with a dark secret, pornography.  Despite countless prayers and promises, his attachment to pornography deepens all the way through college, seminary, and his first few years of marriage.  After seminary (before he began pastoring), he was exposed to strip clubs, and that poured gasoline on his sex addiction.
    He stumbled into a role as a lead pastor and stayed clean under the weight of this new authority ... for a few months.  Then, it was back to the old problems again.  Eventually, he picked up a prostitute, and that brought him into a decade or more of that.  After a few years, he quit pastoring.
    But the addiction continued ... even though they continued going to church ... even though he prayed for deliverance many times ... even though he went to Promise Keepers ... even though he got an accountability partner ... even though it cost him lots and lots of money ... even though his job suffered ... even though he even received prayers to have the "demons of sexual temptation" removed ... even though he tried hard to maintain daily disciplines of prayer and Bible study ... even though he went to counseling ... even though he cried and prayed and tried really hard and tried to really, really believe this time ... even though he did everything that most people in the church say you're supposed to do ... his addiction continued.
    Finally, he bottomed out and went to a 12-step group called Sex Addicts Anonymous.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, he got help and started to recover.  There were two missing pieces in his life that SAA provided for him.
    First was the awareness that he was powerless to overcome his addiction.  He had to let God do it.  Up until this time, despite all the religious lingo, he was really trying to just screw up his courage and determination and beat this thing.  SAA helped him to rely on God everyday - sometimes every minute of every day, instead of just trying harder - which wasn't working anyway.
    Second, SAA provided him with a community of support.  He said that he learned how to trust Christ by trusting the body of Christ.  The deep, honest community of a 12 step group was a means of grace for him that was not available in any other way.  And it was just the grace that he needed.
    Well on the road of recovery, Nate and some men at his church, who had also been in and around various 12-step groups, decided to bring that kind of deep community into the church setting.  They formed the Samson Society, based on the Biblical character of Samson whose amazing strength was defeated by his isolation and sexual addiction.  The Samson Society is a brotherhood of mutual aid.  They meet once a week, and it is open to anyone who wants brotherhood and support - not just people with obvious addictions.  They have some of the same kind of steps and rituals as 12 step groups.  The basic premise is that we really, really, really need each other if we are going to live faithfully in God's grace.  The weekly meeting and the relationships formed out of it provide us a means of accessing that grace deep within our hearts.
    This is one of the best books for Christian men that I've seen in many years.  Our world desperately needs Samson Societies.  One of my friends is starting one here in Cheonan, currently scheduled to meet on Saturday mornings near Yawoori.  Contact me if you're interested.

    So obviously, the Josh rating on this book is the max: JJJJJ.  Read it.  Give it to people.  Start a brotherhood of mutual aid.

    Korea Tip 112: Restaurants near Cheonan Bus Terminal

    Sometimes, it's hard to find anything other than Korean food and chain restaurants like McDonalds and Outback.  (Not there's anything wrong with Korean.  Just sometimes it's nice to have a taste of home.)  For folks living in the Cheonan area, here are a few recommendations for good eats near the bus terminal (formerly known as - and still often called - Yawoori).

    For starters, don't miss the upper level of the Shinsege building. 
    • I was delighted to see that the former food court area near the movie theater is being remodeled to include a Bennigans and a W-Burger.   
    • The old (and not so good) coffee shop next to the ticket booth has been replaced with a top-notch coffee chain called A Twosome Place, which also has nice gourmet sandwiches.  
    • Also, one floor up from the cinema is Hong Kong - a pretty decent Chinese place, with individual servings for less than 10,000 a plate.    
    • On our last trip to the movies, a serendipitous wrong turn led us to the top floor of the right hand side of the Shinsege Department Store (formerly The Galleria), and we discovered a very interesting Italian place and a Thai/Vietnamese place.  We had already eaten, so we weren't able to try either though.  (Let me know how the food is if you get in there.)
    Next to the Shinsege Department Store, under the Arario Art Gallery (and the gargantuan man with his insides showing) is All That Barbecue.  This is a semi-western buffet.  For about 14,000 won, they have some pretty good mixed salads, various pastas and rice dishes, and a few meats. 
    Near Tom N Toms, is a relatively new place called Welcoming the Moon.  This is a good Italian place, and it's on the second floor with a great, open-window view of downtown.

    In the maze of backstreets on the other side of the street, there are a few can't miss places. 
    • Dono Marco, 3-4 blocks behind Dunkin' Donuts, is owned by the chef.  They make excellent Italian food, and the whole place only seats about 20 people, so it's a pretty intimate environment.  Make sure to try the salmon fettuccine.
    • Riposos is a basement pizza/pasta/bar not far from Dunkin Donuts.  The food is great (especially the Riposo Pizza, with ham, tomatoes, and spinach), but the service is notoriously bad.
    • A Bis has so-so food and a great atmosphere.  It is in a European style house that looks like it was carried over on a ship straight from Switzerland.  Go 1-2 blocks behind Dunkin' Donuts and turn left.
    • Pios has the best carbonara in Cheonan.  It is served in a huge bowl, and the noodles are literally swimming in sauce.  I'm not sure if the name is exactly right.  It has nothing in English, so my brain is blanking.  Turn right at Baskin Robbins, and look to your right after 3-4 blocks.  It has a white brick front and a little patio.
    • The Fry Pan is a heart-attack on a plate, but you'll die happy.  It is near the little park area.  It has the best chicken fingers and french fries in town.
    Enjoy.  If you know of any other can't-miss places, let me know. 

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    First and Last (Revelation 1:17-18)

    [This is a children's sermon for Galilee Methodist Church Promise Land next Sunday.  They are going to be partnering with us on Cheonan Migrant Shelter, so I said yes when they asked me to preach for their kids' program. They assigned this text.]

    Revelation 1:17-18 ... Jesus “said, ‘Don’t be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the living one.  I died, but look - I am alive forever and ever!’”

        Do I look fat?  Maybe not now, but when I was a kid, I was fat.  Some of the mean kids in my school sang a song about me when they passed me in the hall.  Have you ever heard the Batman song?  They changed it for me: “Fatman, na-na-na-na-na, Fat-man!” 
    For some strange reason, I decided to be on the track team.  One week I heard that our team didn’t have enough guys to run the 800 meter race.  (That’s 2 times all the way around the big track at Cheonan Stadium.)  I volunteered.  My coach looked at me ... looked at my stomach ... and said, “800 meters?  Have you even run that far before?” 
    I said, “Sure, sometimes I go jogging with my dad.”  I didn’t know that jogging with my 50 year old father is completely different from racing around a track with a bunch of fast, skinny kids. ...

    To continue reading this post, click here.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    X-Men First Class - Review

    Sarah and I took full advantage of our Friday night babysitter (somewhat of a rarity these days) and saw X-Men First Class at the Yaoori-14 Cinema here in Cheonan.  We're not huge comic or fantasy fans, so we weren't excited like some of our aficionado friends.  However, we weren't disappointed.
    The basic story line is that this is a prequel to the X-Men series, explaining how Professor Xavier's school for mutant superheros developed.  This movie also lays the foundation for some of the other basic themes of the X-Men series primarily - how will normal humans treat mutants and how will the mutants engage a society which engages them with mixed hostility and deference.
    I appreciated a few basic things about this movie. 
    1. Xavier's relationship with the mutants is significant.  He is helping each of them harness their own personal power and fulfill their potential.  Sometimes he does this through encouragement, sometimes through technical development, and sometimes through deep empathy - helping them to tap into their own heart-level feelings.
    2. This is the classic story of people who don't fit social norms, only this the cause of the maladaptation is exaggerated into actual physical (or mental) mutations of super-human powers.  However, within this exaggerated story, we can see a depiction of very common social exclusion for very common reasons: appearance, finance, social awkwardness, mistakes, choices, preferences, diseases, etc.  As I see it, one of the basic undercurrents of the X-Men series is that all people are genuine human beings and worthy of love and affection - despite our various differences.

    At various times, the plot, directing, or dialog struggled.  January Jones' acting was pitifully subdued; she seemed almost robotic sometimes.  Some of the plot movements seemed forced and unnatural.  And on occasion, the comic book dialog shone through - and not in a good way. 

    Overall, unless your a big comic fan, it's worth a rental, but it's only worth full-ticket price if you don't have other good options (like us).  The Josh rating: JJJ.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Seung-An Im: Leading with Vision

    [Michael R. Palmer and I wrote this article for Holiness Today.]

    Just an hour south of Seoul and two hours south of the DMZ, Korea Nazarene University(KNU) is quietly changing the world. With almost 7,000 students, KNU is now the largest Nazarene university in the world. KNU’s president Seung-An (Abraham) Im has been named the Forbes Korea Global CEO for two years running. He regularly jokes about his small stature, but he has no shortage of vision.

    Q: What was your childhood like?
    A: I had a very difficult childhood. I was very poor, and at the age of seven I lost my mother. I often went without food or warm clothes.
    In the sixth grade my friend invited me to a small Nazarene church. I attended it only two or three times, and then went to my sister's house for the winter vacation. When I returned, I learned that the Sunday School teacher had been asking where I was and if I was okay. This touched my heart, and I started attending church regularly.
    Actually, I was really a trouble maker in the church youth group, but I began to pray that God would change me. ...

    To continue reading the article, click here.


    Children of a Lesser God - Movie Review

    Children of a Lesser God is a 1986 romantic drama, telling the story of James (a speech therapist at a deaf school) and Sarah (a former star student who is now the school's janitor).  Marlee Matlin, who is actually deaf, won a well-deserved Oscar for her role in the film.  She is both the youngest actress ever to win and the only deaf actress ever to win.
    James is a passionate, effective, innovative, nomadic speech teacher.  Some of the best scenes of the movie are when he is helping his students reach beyond their hearing deficits.  He helps them engage pop music through "feeling" the music in their bodies.  When one student curses at him, James corrects his pronunciation - which leads to repeated greetings with newly learned (but accurately pronounced) profanity.
    Sarah's fiery attitude and good looks draw James's attention, and he soon discovers that she is basically hiding from the world by serving as a janitor at the safe deaf school.  The hearing world represents mocking and danger and failure for her.  She persistently refuses to read lips or to speak as an intentional effort to isolate herself to people who are safe.  She rebuffs James' efforts to teach her to use her voice.
    Eventually, as one might expect, the two fall in love.  However, the path forward is complex as they each learn to accept each others' weaknesses and strengths.  They must both give the other person space to change or not to change. 
    This is a beautiful and poignant film.  The only major downside is the borderline (from behind) nudity, which does serve an artistic point, but nonetheless detracts from the film for me.  (Also, be warned.  For those who are sensitive to profanity, this film has a lot.)
    The Josh rating: JJJJ.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Nikki's Konglish with North Koreans

    [My friend Nikki recently wrote this article about her life in Korea and her volunteer work with North Korean refugees.  Check it out.]

    As I was on a plane traveling to Korea for the first time, I remember studying some “learn Hangeul” print-outs that I had with me, desperately trying to get some of this new writing system to stick in my mind. I had a list of “Konglish” words to sound out for practice, which I suppose was meant to build confidence, but did little to calm my nerves when I tediously sounded out a word like “pi-ja” and was still unable to connect it to the English word “pizza.”  
    What match would I be for the language barrier if I couldn’t even understand Koreanized words from my native language? How would I overcome linguistic and cultural obstacles, and learn not only to adapt but also to thrive in this foreign land?

    Thankfully, I encountered many friendly people to help me along the way. I have gradually learned more and more Korean. Sometimes I enjoy the convenience of English loan words if, for example, I want to take a “tek-shi” (taxi) to the “bus-seh tuh-mi-nuhl” (bus terminal). Sometimes I just get entertainment out of Korean pronunciation, like the lack of “r” in “ma-teh” (mart) or the “sh” in “shoo-puh” (super(market)).

    Other times I feel frustrated with loan words like these. For instance, my students may not understand my pronunciation of “suh-tuh-di room” (study room), or might laugh at my attempt to spell a word like “saen-deh-wi-chi” (sandwich) in Hangeul. 

    Sometimes life in Korea can give me so much “suh-tuh-rae-suh” (stress), yet I am grateful that our languages do overlap in some instances. Otherwise, how would I ever navigate the “in-tuh-net” (Internet) on my Korean “com-pyu-tuh” (computer)?

    With my blond hair and blue eyes, I never fool anyone into thinking that I am Korean, and this generally earns me the benefit of the doubt along with some extra help. I fit very well into Korea’s conception of a “way-gook-in” (that is, a foreigner). Yes, I am a foreigner, but I am not the only type of foreigner in this country.  ...

    Read the rest of this article, here.


    Monday, June 20, 2011


    I am a parched lake
    Baked in the sun
    Muddy banks exposed
    Cracks forming
    Like skin pulling away
    From itself.
    Low water islands
    Invite long-legged birds
    To forage in my wounds.
    I am a parched lake
    Baking in the sun,
    But rain is in the forecast.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Shaped by the Trinity

    It’s time to think.  This week we’re starting a six week series on tough theology topics.  This is not easy business.  We’ve chosen some of the most complex and most difficult theological issues of our era.  Each week, we’ll give you a handout as a guide to further research.  I encourage you to take this home and look up some of these articles and deepen your understanding.  So buckle up.  It’s time to think about some of the deepest stuff in Christianity. 

    Today is Trinity Sunday, so we starting our series with the heart of Christian theology - the Trinity.  To help us get started on the right foot, I want us to read one of the most important Biblical texts on the Trinity:
    Matthew 28:16-20.
     16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
     18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
     Thomas Oden says that all Christian theology is basically an extended commentary on our baptisms.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to understand and to live what that means.1
    To be honest, I have kind of a love-hate relationship with the theological concept of the Trinity.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the Trinity - God.  And on one hand, I love thinking about all of this deep stuff.  I love thinking about the inner workings of the Trinity, how the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Spirit, and how there are diversity and hospitality in the heart of God.  But, on the other hand, sometimes, I have a hard time with the doctrine of the Trinity.  I wish we had something easier.  I wish it was easier to explain God and to understand God.  As someone, whose job includes a lot of explaining God, something easier than the Trinity would be ... easier.
     For example, I remember studying a 900 year old symbol of the Trinity.  This symbol expresses two fundamental truths about the Trinity.  First, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, separate, not the same persons.  Second, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the same God, one, united, the same essence.  Now, on one hand, I say, “Oh, OK, that makes makes sense.”  But on the other hand, I kind of feel more confused the longer I look at this.  How does this all work?  Is ... Is not ... Is ... Is not.  I feel like I should be picking petals from a flower.  He love’s me.  He’s God.  He’s not the Spirit.  He’s God. ... Aaahhhh. ....

    To continue reading this post, click here.


    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Summer Goals

    As a pastoral staff, we set goals for each quarter.  Then, we use these goals to review our progress at the end of the quarter.  Each quarter in our quarterly review, we spend a lot of time revising the goals to make sure they are SMART (significant, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely).
    This quarter, I asked each staff member to highlight one ministry skill they especially want to develop this summer.  Each of us also highlights one goal as the single most important goal for the quarter.
    Also, in addition to the goals each staff member sets, I also give them a few of my own goals for them.  This summer, I'm asking every pastor to take a spiritual retreat of at least 24 hours.  To be fair, I also give the staff the chance to review my progress and to suggest some goals for me. 
    Here are my goals for the summer.

    This summer, I want to focus on regrouping and recouping.  I have been stressed and very busy for about 9 months.  I want to take extra time this summer to think, to reorganize, and to pray about the future of our church.  Toward this end, I'm limiting my goals to the bare basics.

    Improvement Focus Goals:
    • Finish at least one long term task each week.  (I've been avoiding lots of important but not urgent things.)
    • Resist new projects and new ideas that take a lot of time. (In order to recoup and regroup, this is my single most important goal for the summer.  If I fail here, I won't be able to do the recouping and regrouping.)
    • Spend extra time in prayer and reflection (especially Monday Think/Pray days).

    Other Goals:
    • Volunteer in children’s church once.
    • Go to a teen social activity.
    • Take one long retreat 3-4 days in July.  (Plan it by June 17.)
    • Meet with 2-3 Korean leaders outside our church to discuss an important cultural issue.
    • Priority Long-term goals (See #1 above.)
      1. Clean and reorganize office.
      2. Read a book about multiple staff congregations, size change in congregations, and/or staff evaluations.
      3. Help Cheonan Migrant Shelter find more funders/partners.
      4. Work with Christian Education and Worship Planning teams to plan strengths quest - for at least AC.
      5. Read about Nazarene organic church network.

    Goals from Staff Pastors:
    • Call each staff member once a week to see how they are doing. 
    • Give extra care to x, x, x, x, x (people in our church, but I won't publish their names).
    • Talk with leaders about possibly adding a children’s group for small children.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Korea Tip 111: Take Off (국가대표) - Review

    국가 대표 (Korean for "National Team") goes by the English name "Take Off."  Both are reasonable titles, since it is about Korea's first Ski Jump National Team.
    The basic storyline is that Korea is making a bid to host the winter Olympics.  However, on their previous bid, one of the disqualifying factors was Koreans' lack of interest in winter sports.  This time around, they try to remedy that problem in part by building a national ski jump team.  However, the sport is so dangerous and so new that they can only gather various misfits and screw-ups.  The basic story of the movie is how this group of young men (and their over-the-hill coach) learn the art of ski jumping and - in the process - come into their manhood.
    Although I'm not a big fan of the movie overall, I did appreciate a few parts.
    First, hosting the winter Olympics is a longstanding unfulfilled dream for Korea.  PyoungChan still ramps up their Olympic hopes every few years, only to be dashed again and again.  This movie touches on how far Korea will go to host that major event.
    Second, the father-son relationship of one of the team members gives a good look into the tension Korea has between traditional success and alternative personal expressions (like sports and arts).  For many parents there is only one path to success: academics and making money and business.  However, Koreans also have a deep national pride and a corresponding desire for international fame and recognition.  These two conflicting desires naturally lead to conflict at home for many would-be athletes or artists.
    Third, despite all the cheesy-ness and downsides, the team basically succeeds.  They become successful ski jumpers, earn a place in the national pride, and get a second chance at manhood.

    However, two glaring plot weaknesses basically ruined the movie for me.  Both of these are total spoilers, so be forewarned.
    First, the lead character joined the national ski team to claim his moment of fame and find his birth mother (who gave him up for adoption at around age 6).  His plan is to earn enough money ski jumping to buy her an apartment.  The first part of his plan succeeds; he finds his mother.  However, shockingly, he walks away from her because he is not able to provide an apartment for her.  Maybe this is a cultural thing.  I know Koreans really like melodramatic story lines.  But this seemed completely pointless and gave me a sour taste for the whole movie.  (On the other hand, perhaps this is also a bit of cultural insight into Korean culture regarding the deep importance of providing for the material needs of the family.)
    Second, the national team's substitute ski jumper is one team member's mentally challenged little brother.  They rationalize this ridiculous proposition by saying that he'll never have to jump.  However, when one team member (the older brother) is injured, they talk the little brother into jumping for the sake of national pride.  This gave me a sick feeling inside.  I want to give the movie a little grace as they created an unrealistic scenario to develop the plot, but this was blatant reckless endangerment, and I couldn't get past it.

    So, unfortunately, we didn't really enjoy the movie.  On the other hand, I would say it could still be worth a watch for the cultural content.  The Josh rating: JJ.
    (Sorry W.)

    Pentecost - Fire, Wind, Water

    Today is Pentecost Sunday. In Korean it is SoungNyoung GangNim Jeol - the commemoration of the Holy Spiritʼs coming. Today, we are going to take some time and talk about some of the symbols of the Holy Spirit which were active on Pentecost Sunday. With each symbol, weʼll read some of the most important texts for that image of God.

    First is fire. Fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  [We lit a fire in a barbecue pit.  Unfortunately, the wind was against us, so I had to move the pit way off to the side to keep the smoke out of people's eyes.  Ah, the plans of mice and men.]

    Malachi 3
    1 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
     2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal ...

    To continue reading this post, click here.


    Ashes to Fire - Review

    On Patrick's suggestion, we started up a new small group working through the Ashes to Fire devotional guide produced by Nazarene Publishing House.  The basic concept is that the whole church moves on a collective spiritual journey from Ash Wednesday (through Lent and Easter) all the way to Pentecost.  To compliment the devo guide, there are lots of other resources: a 14 week worship service guide, a DVD with lots of digital support tools, 16 original songs, and resources for children.
    Our church got into Ashes to Fire a little late, so we just had one small group working through the curriculum.  But we're probably going to try to do the whole thing as a church next year.
    Here are some of the things I liked most.
    • Far and away, my favorite part was the daily devotional.  Each day there were morning and evening prayer and Bible guides.  When I was busy, I would just read the prayers and summary verses.  But when I had time, I would read through all the Bible selections.  I appreciated using a guide for the Bible reading, and I liked having it relate to the church season.
    • Still related to the devotional, I enjoyed the prayers from John Wesley or the Book of Common Prayer.  I often felt like they put words to my actual desires for that day.
    • Each devotional also included a quote - often from a church father (or mother).  It was great to live in historic community with those who have gone before us.
    • I liked the small group discussions.  In fact, our group has already chosen another book and plans to continue meeting.  I'm hoping that next time around, we'll be able to use the momentum from Ashes to Fire to start several new small groups.
    • I really liked some of the songs on the CD - especially the ones for the Lenten season.
    However, the book/system could stand some improvements for next time.
    • Once a week there is a 2-3 page devotional on the gospel text.  Some of these were good.  Others were pretty weak.  For our somewhat skeptical book, the cheese-factor here lessened their resolve to participate in the daily prayer guides as well.
    • The daily quotes from church history could stand some improvement, (a) More women, (b) include the approximate date of the quote  (Most people have no clue when Gregory the Great lived.), (c) Make the quotes more connected with the readings (Sometimes, they seemed kind of random.), (d) Stay with the ancient writers for these quotes.  (It adds to the flavor.)
    • Provide the lyrics for the CD.  I couldn't even find out who wrote or performed the various songs.  (Also, sheet music would be very important for incorporating some of these into our worship services.)
    • Improve the promo videos.  We'll need something better to help us promote this within our church.
    With that being said, overall, this was a good experience for us, and I think we'll be coming back to it next year with our whole church.  So the Josh rating here is: JJJJ.  (Missing one J because of some of the essays.)

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Korea Tip 110: Doctors in Cheonan

    Finding a good doctor can be intimidating.  Add to that the stress of trying to communicate in English while living in a foreign country, and some people just choose to tough it out at home.
    Also, some hakwon bosses have shady deals with doctors.  Amazingly the doctors always prescribe a coctail of medicine and say that you're still OK to work.  Never mind that you've got it coming out both ends.  But finding an independent point of view can be difficult if you don't know where to start.
    Here are some tips for the Cheonanites out there.

    No need to be a cowboy (or cowgirl as the case may be).  Make your way to SsangYong Medical to speak to Dr. Ko.  She is kind and speaks English very well.  A word to the wise.  Unless you request something different, in typical Korean fashion, she will prescribe you three days of a rainbowed cocktail of pills in little packets.  However, if you ask, she will: (a) give you a prescription for a week or two (or longer for standard medications, like my allergy stuff), and (b) explain each pill she is prescribing - even to the point of showing you a picture of it on her computer.  SsangYong Medical is near the SsangYong McDonalds (between Korea Nazarene University and Lotte Mart).  From the McDonalds, walk toward Lotte Mart.  Take the stairs after Paris Baguette to the second floor.

    Also, if you have a more intense issue and need a specialist, SsangYong Medical is still the place to start.  Just go in and explain your issues to Dr. Ko.  She will write up a referral and help you make your appointment with the specialist.  This is hugely helpful in getting past the secretary's desk - especially because many of the specialists tend to be in large amoeba-like university hospitals.

    Put those pliers away, and go see a dentist.  Nero Dentistry (just above SsangYong Medical) is a fully bilingual dentist office.  The head dentist studied in the USA.  The place is kind, clean, and totally legit.  When I took my daughter in for a check up, he looked us both over, and since we didn't need any work, he sent us home for free.  They'll also send you a reminder text for your follow-up appointment.

    For women's needs, the easiest place to find is Ehwa Hospital - also in SsangYong Dong.  It's between SsangYong Subway Station and E-Mart.  They have a few OBGYN's who speak English well.  Doing a cold-call might be intimidating, so you might want to have a Korean call first and help you figure out exactly when and where to go.

    One more tip, most Korean doctors offices (with the exception of very busy specialists) don't work on an appointment basis.  Everything is just walk in.  Just bring a book, show up, and be prepared to wait anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

    Happy Healing.

    12 Angry Men - Review (Greatest Movies of All Time #87)

    Over the weekend, Sarah and I watched 12 Angry Men, #87 on the American Film Institute's list of Greatest Movies of All Time.  It did not disappoint.
    12 Angry Men tells the story of a jury in a murder trial.  Except for the a total of 3 minutes (at beginning and end), the entire movie takes place in the jury's deliberation room (and the attached bathroom).
    At the opening of the movie, the judge - with great boredom in his voice - gives the jury their instructions.  A. They must be unanimous.  B. If they render a guilty verdict, by state law, the defendant will be given the death penalty.
    Within the first few minutes, the group takes an opening vote.  On the surface, it is an open-and-shut case, so the results are 11 for guilty and 1 for not guilty.  Only one person, for reasons he can't exactly name himself, believes that they should carefully weigh all the evidence before giving a guilty verdict.  His resistance to a quick decision leads the jury on an odyssey of discovery - both in terms of the evidence and in terms of their own group dynamics.
    The rest of the movie is a case study in group process, consensus building, team dynamics, group synergy, and individual psychology.  The group wrestles with the meaning of the American judicial system, how to weigh conflicting or insufficient evidence, prejudice, inner psychological pains, and how to overcome divided opinions.
    If I were teaching a class on church leadership, I would have my students watch this movie and write a paper about what it teaches us about church board meetings.  Some of the most beautiful lessons I saw are:
    (a) Minority voices are extremely important, so we need to give dissenters the opportunity to speak and to be heard.  One of the most important supporting characters makes the valuable contribution of demanding that the minority voice be heard.
    (b) Our collective intellect can be either disastrous (as when group think leads us toward a hasty and misguided decision) or helpful (as when we each bring our insights and experience to bear on the discussion and come up with a more helpful solution than any of us could have imagined on our own).
    (c) Sometimes the most passionate defenders of a position hold that passion for reasons independent of the facts (prejudice or personal pain).

    I highly recommend this movie.  It's a bit slow and heady, but it ekes into the full 5 Js.  The Josh rating: JJJJJ.

    (Thanks for the loaner Michael.)

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Giving Up our Snakes - Numbers 21

    This week, I'm preaching at the monthly pastors' meeting for the Nazarene pastors in Cheonan.  Here's my sermon.

    4 Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea[a] to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, 5 and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”

    6 So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. 7 Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people.

    8 Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!

    [I want to say this first part in Korean.]
    I have lived in Korea for seven years, so I guess I’m about 7% Korean. I am sorry that I cannot preach in Korean yet.  I am studying Korean, but I still have a long way to go.  I hope that I will not need a translator in a few years.  However, for today, I can only say about 7% in Korean.

                 Next, I want to thank you for welcoming me as one of your own.  I know that our church is the first English speaking Nazarene church in Korea, and I know that it is sometimes difficult to include me in your discussions and groups.  So I want to thank you – especially those who have gone out of their way to include me and to make sure I understand what is happening.  In many ways, this monthly zone pastors meeting is one of the most important ways I am learning about the Korean church.  So thank you for the opportunity to be involved here.

                 Now, I guess I better stop chatting and start preaching.
    The snake in the desert is a story of powerful and creative ministry.  It was both Spirit-led and practical.  The snake in the desert led to spiritual revival and physical healing. ...

    To continue reading this post, click here.


    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Blind Love - 1 Corinthians 13

        Just before she died in 1964, Flannery O’Connor wrote a brilliant short story called, “Revelation.”  O’Connor seemed to like symbolic names.  The lead character Mrs. Turpin - bringing to mind Turpentine, that cleaning chemical which is poisonous and stinky, and the other key character is an “ugly girl” named Mary Grace, who doesn’t like Mrs. Turpin and keeps giving her mean looking stares.  In an ironic way Mary Grace represents the disruptive grace of God. 

    The Doctor’s waiting room, which was very small, was almost full when the Turpins entered and Mrs. Turpin, who was very large, made it look even smaller by her presence.  She stood looming at the head of the magazine table set in the center of it, a living demonstration that the room was inadequate and ridiculous.  Her little bright black eyes took in all the patients as she sized up the seating situation.  There was one vacant chair and a place on the sofa occupied by a blond child in a dirty blue romper who should have been told to move over and make room for the lady.  He was five or six, but Mrs. Turpin saw at once that no one was going to tell him to move over.  He was slumped down in the seat ... his nose ran unchecked. ... if that child belonged to me, he would have some manners and move over-there's plenty of room there for you and him too. ...
    Next to her was a fat girl of eighteen or nineteen, scowling into a thick blue book which Mrs. Turpin saw was entitled Human Development. The girl raised her head and directed her scowl at Mrs. Turpin as if she did not like her looks. She appeared annoyed that anyone should speak while she tried to read. The poor girl's face was blue with acne and Mrs. Turpin thought how pitiful it was to have a face like that at that age. She gave the girl a friendly smile, but the girl only scowled the harder. Mrs. Turpin herself was fat, but she had always had good skin, and, though she was forty-seven years old, there was not a wrinkle in her face - except around her eyes from laughing too much.
    Next to the ugly girl was the child, still in exactly the same position, and next to him was a thin leathery old woman in a cotton print dress. She and Claud had three sacks of chicken feed in their pump house that was in the same print. She had seen from the first that the child belonged with the old woman. She could tell by the way they sat- kind of vacant and white-trashy, as if they would sit there until Doomsday if nobody called and told them to get up. And at right angles but next to the well-dressed pleasant lady was a lank-faced woman who was certainly the child's mother. She had on a yellow sweatshirt and wine-colored slacks, both gritty-looking, and the rims of her lips were stained with snuff. Her dirty yellow hair was tied behind with a little piece of red paper ribbon. Worse than [black folk] any day, Mrs. Turpin thought.
    The gospel hymn playing [on the radio] was "When I looked up and He looked down," and Mrs. Turpin, who knew it, supplied the last line mentally, "And wona these days I know I'll we-eara crown.  ...

    To continue reading, click here.


    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    "Book 'em" - Will Willimon on Preaching

    -- I don't usually do reposts, but this is one of the most exceptional essays on preaching I've ever read.  Preaching is not easy.  This is why. --

    In Flannery O’Connor’s short story "Revelation," Ruby Turpin is sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, evaluating each person around her. Ruby judges herself to be superior, by more than a grade or two, to everyone there, especially to a poor, unkempt, teenaged wretch seated across from her who is reading a book. Ruby thinks it sad that the girl’s parents did not groom her more attractively. Perish the thought of having a child as scowling as this one.
    As for the "ugly" child, Mary Grace, she listens for a while as Ruby chatters outloud about the superiority of poor blacks over "white trash." Then, without warning, Mary Grace fixes her steely eyes on Ruby and hurls her book across the room. The book hits Ruby in the head and she falls to the floor with Mary Grace on top of her hissing into her ear; "Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog!"
    This, says O’Connor, is the violent, shocked beginning of Ruby’s redemption, the catalyst for her repentance and her heavenly vision. Revelation often begins when a large book hits you on the head.
    Now, the Bible is a violent book. That’s good, because we are very violent people. Something about our system of government makes an average of 2,000 New Yorkers want to kill one another. This is the system that we graciously offer to the people of Iraq.
    But in Luke 4, in Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth, the violence is different. Here the violence is due not to the aspirations of American democracy or lust for national security, but rather to Jesus. All the Gospels agree that from the moment Jesus sets foot in the pulpit, things get nasty.
    A friend of mine returned from an audience with His Holiness the Dali Lama. "When his Holiness speaks," my friend said, "everyone in the room becomes quiet, serene and peaceful." Not so with Jesus. Things were fine in Nazareth until Jesus opened his mouth and all hell broke lose.
    And this was only his first sermon! One might have thought that Jesus would have used a more effective rhetorical strategy, would have saved inflammatory speech until he had taken the time to build trust, to win people’s affection, to contextualize his message -- as we are urged to do in homiletics classes.
    No, instead he threw the book at them, hit them right between the eyes with Isaiah, and jabbed them with First Kings, right to the jaw, left hook. Beaten, but not bowed, the congregation struggled to its feet, regrouped and attempted to throw the preacher off a cliff. And Jesus "went on his way."  ...

    To continue reading this essay, click here.