Archive for December 2015

Arctic tea toss photo becomes Internet sensation   6 comments

I tried to resist sharing this, but it’s just so cool. We do this from time to time ourselves. It’s what Fairbanksans do when they’re bored at minus-30, but this photo turned out lovely and …

Yeah — Happy New Year’s, everyone!

Arctic Newswire from Alaska Dispatch News

Source: Arctic tea toss photo becomes Internet sensation

Posted December 31, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Grateful for Gratitude   Leave a comment

www.oyegraphics.comI know that sounds weird, but as this is the last post we’re doing focused on Gratitude, I thought I would just say “thank you” to Patti Fiala for suggesting the topic and thank you to God for reminding me of all the things I have to be grateful for. It’s been a great if challenging exercise for me.

Next week we’ll turn our attention toward Courage.

Check out what my fellow bloggers are saying on this subject.

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5, 4, 3, 2, zzzzzz   1 comment

Source: 5, 4, 3, 2, zzzzzz

Posted December 31, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Lela Markham – The Independent Author Network   Leave a comment

Lela Markham is the author of The Willow Branch, Life As We Knew It, fantasy, Apocalyptic

Source: Lela Markham – The Independent Author Network

Posted December 29, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Why Writers Should Read Crap   Leave a comment

Source: Why Writers Should Read Crap

Posted December 29, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Context is Critical   3 comments

God Is Nowhere

God Is Now Here

Exact same letters written with a slight change, but the context changes the whole meaning.

We’re looking at Christianity in the context of culture and why it’s okay to allow culture to influence Christianity … to a point.

The scholar Paul Hiebert suggested there are four levels of contextualization.

The no contextualization approach understands the Christian faith as something that is not a part of human culture; it rejects the notion that culture shapes how one receives and practices Christianity.

The minimal contextualization approach acknowledges the differences existing between cultures, but it tries to limit cultural adaptation as much as possible. Under this model, missionaries might translate the Bible into a foreign language but will likely arrange new church plants in a fashion similar to the churches in their home country. This would be the example in the movie Hawaii where the pastor has learned to build a church that won’t fall down under the wind’s onslaught, but his converts now dress in heavy black suits and hoop skirts.

Uncritical contextualization tends to prioritize culture over the Gospel. It minimizes the eternal truths found in Scripture in order to emphasize cultural convictions and practices. These folks mean to bring European thoughts and society to native cultures and tend not to care if people know Christ so long so they give their money to the church and act like good “Christian” people.

Critical contextualization seeks a balanced approach. In the words of Hiebert, in critical contextualization the Bible is seen as divine revelation, not simply as humanly constructed beliefs. In contextualization the heart of the gospel must be kept as it is encoded in forms that are understood by the people, without making the gospel captive to the context. This is an ongoing process of embodying the gospel in an ever-changing world. Here cultures are seen as both good and evil, not simply as neutral vehicles for understanding the world. No culture is absolute or privileged. All cultures and their members need Christ’s redemptive message.

Out of all of these approaches, contemporary Christians should prefer critical contextualization. This approach preserves the truths found in the Gospel while also taking into account cultural differences.

There are many different ways to do this, but what I have seen working here in Alaska and on the short term mission trips I’ve taken is that when examining a culture, Christians must decide what parts to accept, what parts to reject, and what parts to redeem for Christ. That is a broad assessment tool that will allow Christians to contend for the faith as they contextualize the Gospel message.

The goal is to create gospel-centered churches filled with indigenous people who think of Jesus Christ as their God, not as a foreign deity. When they do things, they do them unto the Lord, meeting the needs of their culture, worshipping in patterns they understand, functioning as a body of believer in indigenous structures.

Contextualization is an important component of effective Gospel ministry.

Though this indigenized church might look radically different from a church in a different culture, it can be a faithful ambassador of the Gospel within its own cultural context.

And, yet, we must always be careful to not allow culture to overwhelm the gospel message.

This is part of a series. Check it out

Open Book Blog Hop – December 30th – Jan 6th 2016   2 comments

Stevie Turner

Open Book Blog Hop new banner 1This week on the Open Book Blog Hop we’re talking about what we like to do for New Year’s Eve.

I love the atmosphere down on the London Embankment on New Year’s Eve.  In years past, Sam and I have booked a hotel room along The Strand, and after dinner have wandered down to the riverside to wait for Big Ben to strike midnight.  A wonderful pyrotechnical display then erupts from The London Eye on the first of Big Ben’s twelve chimes, and Stevie gets all misty-eyed once again.

This year will be no exception, although as we get older our knees tell us that they don’t really want to wait about in the cold for the fireworks to start.  All roads down to the Embankment get blocked off after about 8pm, so as to limit the amount of people down there, and so it’s a long wait until midnight.  However, for the…

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Posted December 29, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Gospel in Obscurity   3 comments

This is part of a series. Check it out.

“I can’t go to your church, I’m not a Republican.”

Someone said that to Brad recently. For the record, we are not Republicans. We’re registered non-partisans with conservative-libertarian views who edge toward voluntaryism and anarchy.

But, the person who said this to Brad is probably correct that many of the people in our church are probably Republicans. Since Alaska’s voters are 58% registered undeclared/non-partisan, I won’t say that the majority of our church members are Republicans, but most probably agree with the Republican Party more than they do the Democratic Party.

Statistically, the more you go to church, the more likely you are to be a Republican and the less you go to church, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. There are exceptions, of course, but this is what the media refer to as “The God Gap.” It’s the math of the situation. There is a strong correlation between church attendance and political party.

There are Christian observers who believe it is best to just shut up on political social issues rather than risk alienating potential converts to Christ … and to a certain extent, I agree with them.  I think we need to be more careful in how we address people of differing opinions. They are not our enemies. The false premises on which their opinions are based are the enemy. I try to concentrate on that rather than on the fact that some politicians who espouse those opinions and advance those false premises are simply odious.

I have a busy mind that can’t just concentrate on one subject, so it’s likely I won’t just turn to posting about salvation and not speak political, social or economic truth when I think it needs to be spoken.
But, hey, from the very beginning my blog has been about principles and not politics. I am not nor have I ever been a member of a political party. If the Democratic Party begins to espouse a platform I can agree with, I’ll vote for Democratic candidates again. In the meantime, I’m wading mostly in the teaparty, libertarian end of “conservativism”. The Republican mainstreamers are not, by and large, in agreement with me. They call me the radical fringe. I call them progressive moderates who really can’t see how far the country as drifted to the leftist socialist tyrannical side of the spectrum.
So my Christmas posts probably made it pretty clear that I believe Christianity exists in the context of the culture in which it resides. I hope in this series to touch on some of the examples and issues arising from that.
My mother was a great admirer of James Michener’s writing. Michener was a Pulitzer prize-winning American author known for writing books based on deep and intensive research into historical and cultural information. His book Hawaii recounted the history of the islands in vivid detail. Included in Michener’s retelling of the islands’ history is the evangelization of the native people by missionaries.

We could debate Michener’s historical accuracy, but the book illustrates a problem Christians have had for a long time. Missionaries and lay-people have wandered around the idea of contextualization, which is translating the never-changing gospel into an ever-changing, dynamic culture. Michener rightfully points out that missionaries of that era were not terribly savvy about the myriad issues of cultural context. The movie made from a portion of the book plays up that reality to the point of stereotype.

Male missionaries preached the gospel from their big black Bibles in their black suits under the shade of their wide-brimmed black hats. The women with them walked the shores of Hawaii spreading the good news in hoop skirts and bonnets while the native women listened intently in their grass skirts and other traditional attire. Converts were made, but a scene later in the movie shows the new Hawaiian believers gathering for worship wearing hoop skirts and bonnets and black suits and black hats while carrying big black Bibles. The book makes it clearer that the church had not penetrated very deeply into the island.

When we share the gospel, we must be careful not to obscure the critical points for the sake of an idea or truth that is less important.

 According to the movie, people incorrectly understood what it meant to become a Christian. To become a Christian was to literally change their clothes. Other Hawaiians were less open to the gospel, because they didn’t understand it as an internal work of grace that affected people on a spiritual level. They saw it simply as an outward physical change that was more American culture than it was Christian.
Cultural expressions that accompany the gospel, for good or bad, can actually obscure the gospel.

Obscurantism is when someone confuses the gospel with some idea or expression external to the gospel.

Just as the people in the movie confused dressing a certain way with following Jesus, many modern Americans equate Christianity with the Religious Right. We  need to be aware that there are many opportunities for unbelievers to misunderstand the gospel because of our words or actions.

In an obscured version of Christianity, it appears as though you have to do particular things that are not actually the gospel in order to follow Christ, because all the Christians you know do them.

Clothing, hairstyle, musical tastes, and politics all can be associated with Christianity, but seeing these things as the gospel actually creates a false gospel.

Our society is asking huge questions about our faith and how it fits into our culture. We need to take those seriously and consider whether what we are presenting is really the gospel or the culture that has become associated with the gospel. Are we obscuring the gospel by allowing some cultural aspects into our churches that hinder the gospel.

And, if we find that to be the case, what do we do about it? What might it cost us to let go of the cultural things that obscure the gospel in order to reach the unbelievers around us?

Posted December 29, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Cultural Dance   16 comments

My discussion of Christmas got me thinking about how Christianity works itself out in a cultural context.

Contextualization is sometimes a controversial topic, but it remains a critical component in communicating the gospel effectively. The New Testament and the history of Christian missions display the need for healthy contextualization.

Contextualization involves an attempt to present the Gospel in a culturally relevant way. For this reason, any discussions about contextualization are connected to discussions about the nature of human culture.

Culture is the common ideas, feelings and values that guide community and personal behavior, that organize and regulate what a group thinks, feels and does about God, the world and humanity. It explains why the Sawi people of Irian Jaya regard betrayal as a virtue, which Americans see it as a vice. …The closest New Testament approximately to culture is kosmos (world), but only when it refers to language-bound, organized human life (I Corinthians 14:10) or the sin-contaminated system of values, traditions, and social structures of which we are a part (John 17:11) – The Evangelical Dictionary of Missions

There is nothing inherently evil about culture. Like most human inventions, it is a composite of good and evil values, customs, beliefs, creations, vocations, and behaviors that characterize a particular people in a particular place. Some cultures are more brutal than others, but might still have redeeming qualities while other cultures are more praiseworthy except for where they are not.

Unfortunately, not all evangelicals understand culture in this manner. Some evangelicals mistakenly believe that Scripture’s warnings against the world, the kosmos, are warnings against culture itself. This isn’t true. All people are fashioned in the image of God and are recipients of common grace. This means that we should expect to find some positive features present in every culture, even non-Christian cultures. At the same time, every person has sinned, and we should expect to find some negative features present in every culture. Instead of shunning culture completely, we should instead engage culture with care and discernment. We should also hit pause for a moment and realize that evangelical American Christians live within the context of their own culture that is also a human-defined construct.

We cannot avoid discussions about culture because all people live in a culture of some sort. There is no neutral position. None of us stand in a cultural vacuum where we can make objective pronouncements on the cultures of others. All people, whether they realize it or not, are shaped by the culture in which they live.

I had a recent discussion with someone on social media about culture. His contention was that we should reject our culture and stand outside of it. He defined culture along the lines of bacteria. I think this fellow does not understand that his rejection of the concept of a culture is itself an influence from his culture. For about 40 years, since the Hippy era, Americans have been told that our culture is banal and worthless and that we will find much more significance in the cultures of other countries. That is a message born in American culture and is therefore a cultural message. Culture shapes everything we do and believe, often without our direct knowledge.

Culture even shapes a person’s reception of the Christian faith. Andrew Walls has written well on this issue:

No one ever meets universal Christianity in itself: we only ever meet Christianity in a local form and that means a historically, culturally conditioned form. We need not fear this; when God became man he became historically, cultural conditioned man in a particular time and place. What he became, we need not fear to be. There is nothing wrong in having local forms of Christianity–provided that we remember that they are local.

Walls does not suggest that the Christian Gospel is merely the product of a particular culture or that it is only “true” in particular cultures. The teachings of Christianity remain objectively true in all times and in all places. Walls merely argues that we receive the truths of Christianity wrapped in the baggage of a particular cultural context. We humans are not eternal, timeless and a-cultural. Some of the ways we worship, how we present eternal truths, and how we live in and relate to society must be considered because we live in a culture.

A failure to understand this point can actually lead to a form of cultural arrogance where a person might begin to believe that his culture’s way of practicing Christianity is the only way to practice Christianity. This attitude would be unhelpful to the gospel because it tries to force a distant culture onto potential converts as if it were the gospel.

The process of contextualization takes these facts about culture into account by presenting the unchanging truths of the gospel within the unique and changing contexts of cultures and worldviews.

Contextualization works as a tool to enable an understanding of what it means that Jesus Christ is authentically experienced in each and every human situation. While the human condition and the gospel remain the same, people have different worldviews which in turn impact how they interpret themselves and the world.

Scripture supports for this concept of contextualization. Jesus lived His earthly life in Palestine as a first-century Jew. He entered the culture of His day and “was so thoroughly a part of His culture that, when being betrayed by Judas, He had to be identified by a kiss. His captors could not tell Him from other Jewish males hanging around in the first century gardens. Jesus’ ministry operated within a specific cultural context.

Paul’s ministry also reveals the need for contextualization. Paul intentionally addressed his Jewish listeners one way but addressed pagan philosophers differently. When he addressed Jews, Paul began with Scripture. When he addressed Gentiles, he began with general revelation. The focus of Paul’s sermons remained the same—the Gospel, but he shifted his presentation of the Gospel to fit the worldviews of his listeners.

Contextualization is simply about sharing the Gospel well. Those who deliberately practice the process of contextualization desire to share the Gospel in ways that is most relevant to the culture they are addressing.

 Watch for the series

Cultural Dance (this article)

Gospel in Obscurity

Context is Critical

How Then Should We Live?

Jerusalem Council

Instructional Letter

Building Bridges

Culture of Evangelism

Look out for Black Ice

 Make a Choice

Recognizing the World

All That is In the World

Illustrated Man

How Do You Know the Difference?

Paradox

Sent

Messiness

The great human benefit of fossil fuels | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper   Leave a comment

The Paris summit on global warming ended with a triumphant, hands-holding, chipper vow to vastly reduce the world’s use of fossil fuels.

Source: The great human benefit of fossil fuels | Juneau Empire – Alaska’s Capital City Online Newspaper

Posted December 28, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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