Friday, August 01, 2014

THE DEVIL LIKES TO SING (Thomas J. Davis) -- A Review

THE DEVIL LIKES TO SING.  By Thomas J. Davis.  Eugene, OR:  Cascade Books, 2014.  138 pages.

                Do you believe in a personal devil? That is often a corollary to questions about whether you believe in Jesus and have accepted him your personal savior.  The assumption on the part of many is that the Devil or Satan is the evil counterpart to Jesus.  If you believe in one (and belief here doesn’t mean trust, but accept the existence of a being), you are expected to believe in the other.  Furthermore, if you believe in the existence of both entities, then you must decide who you will support in what is presumed to be a cosmic battle between good and evil.  It’s a bit like the Giants – Dodgers, Yankees-Red Sox rivalries.   Many liberal/progressive types reject this rather dualistic understanding of reality.  They likely accept the existence of Jesus and may commit themselves to be his follower, but as far as there being an alternative power known as the Devil or Satan that’s a different story.  They might affirm the presence of evil, even accepting its systemic presence, but they don’t necessarily want to personalize this power.    

                Those are, of course theological questions that have taken up the attention of many theologians (and preachers).  But much of that conversation is rather abstract.  Perhaps one of the reasons why we have tended to personalize evil is that it’s easier to understand the reality of evil.  Having something concrete to reflect on can help stir the imagination.  Surely that’s one of the benefits of the Harry Potter stories – they help us put a face on evil.    C.S. Lewis offered something like this with his Screwtape Letters, and now Thomas J. Davis offers us his take on the matter in The Devil Likes to Sing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Choosing a Partner -- Bible times and today

                How do you go about finding a mate?  How we answer that question may depend on our culture and our time in history.  In America it is assumed that a person will date a number of people, starting in high school or soon after, before making a decision.  It’s assumed that a person needs to get know different kinds of people so that they can figure out with whom they can find the best match.  Over the course of time, they might meet someone they feel comfortable with and wish to commit the rest of their lives.  Although some couples create pre-nuptial agreements protecting assets they bring into a marriage, that rarely happens the first time around.  For one thing they often bring very few assets into the relationship, and the romantic vision has yet to be tainted by broken relationships. 

The age at which marriage first occurs is getting later every year.  Over the past thirty years the median age at which couples get married has increased from 24.7 for males and 22.0 for women to 28.2 and 26.1 in 2010.  That might not seem like a lot at first glance, but a lot happens in four years time.  One of the differences between that earlier day and today is that there is a growing trend, especially among women, to first get established in the work force and then begin looking to settle down, get married, and perhaps have children.   

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GRACE against sex abuse -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

You have heard much information about sexual abuse by Catholic priests.  But they're not alone.  It's present in many places and forms.  This includes the evangelical community.  We don't hear much about it, but if Billy Graham's grandson Boz Tchividjian, is correct, it could be worse than what we've seen in the Roman Catholic Church.  In his last piece of the summer, Martin Marty examines this situation, highlights the leadership being taken by Tchividjian and his organization -- GRACE --  inviting us to do the same.  Take a read, and offer your thoughts.    

GRACE against sex abuse
Monday | July 28 2014
                                                                                                 Image Credit: Mikael Damkier / Shutterstock
GRACE acronates “Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.” Its story is well told in Kathryn Joyce’s “By Grace Alone,” an article in American Prospect (May/June; see “Sources,” below). Please read it, since it offers background and details vital to the questions of “abuse.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Hidden Abundance

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Toughest People to Love (Chuck DeGroat) -- Review

TOUGHEST PEOPLE TO LOVE: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life -- Including Yourself.  By Chuck DeGroat.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.  177 pages.

We have all encountered people whom we find difficult to love.  For a variety of reasons they cause us headaches and heartaches.  They can be family members, neighbors, people we work with, and as the title of this book suggests – we might even find it difficult to love ourselves.  All of this is especially true for those who have been called to pastoral ministry and leadership.  While we might called to serve all the people in the congregation, there will invariably be people we find it difficult to work with.  Yes, Jesus may call us to love our neighbors, but some neighbors are more difficult to love than others.

Chuck DeGroat, Associate Professor of Pastoral care and counseling at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI and former teaching pastor at City Church of San Francisco, has written a book designed to help those in leadership understand and even love those whom God and church has called one to serve.  It focuses on the dark side of the persons leaders are called to love, serve, and lead.  This darkness is present not only in the “them,” but in the “us” as well.  The reminder that leaders might need to love themselves emerges out of DeGroat’s reflections on Henri Nouwen’s idea of the wounded healer.  One’s own brokenness becomes the fountain for good leadership.