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November 2004
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January 2005

How Important Are Biblical Artifacts?

Ossuary_1 JERUSALEM – Four Israeli antiquities collectors and dealers were indicted Wednesday on charges they ran a sophisticated forgery ring that spanned the globe and produced a treasure trove of fake Bible-era artifacts, including some that were hailed as major archaeological finds.

Police said the ring forged what were presented as perhaps the two biggest biblical discoveries in the Holy Land in recent years - the purported burial box of Jesus' brother James and a stone tablet with written instructions by King Yoash on maintenance work at the ancient Jewish Temple.   via

The above newspaper article goes on to list some of the more spectacular forgeries and "deals" people fell for:

The James ossuary, a burial box bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

The Yoash inscription, a tablet from about the ninth century B.C., inscribed with 15 lines of ancient Hebrew with instructions for maintaining the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The tablet was offered for sale for $4.5 million.

Shards of clay pots bearing inscriptions linking themto biblical sites and biblical temples. Some of them sold to private collectors for up to $100,000 each.

A stone menorah inscribed with depictions of plants and said to belong to the temple high priest, offered to private collectors for $100,000.

A gold and stone royal seal said to be that of Menashe, King of Judah, offered to a private collector for $1 million.

A quartz bowl, bearing an inscription in an ancient Egyptian script, claiming that Egyptian forces destroyed the ancient town of Megiddo, a subject of intense academic debate.

An ivory pomegranate purported to be that of the temple high priest. The Israel Museum bought the pomegranate from an anonymous collector for $550,000 in the 1980s, with the money deposited into a secret Swiss bank account.

An ancient clay vase with an inscription said to be part of an offering at the temple.

Numerous wax seals, said to belong to biblical figures, some selling for $90,000.

Scholars told reporters "the forgers were exploiting the deep emotional need of Jews and Christians to find physical evidence to reinforce their beliefs."  Do you agree?  Do Jews and Christians have such a deep emotional need?  And how might the breaking of this story impact the religious community at large?

The Spiritual Roots of American Arrogance


The pitifully small amount of US foreign aid being pledged in response to this week's tsunami disaster continues to heat up as an important issue.  In light of this, I offer the following post:

It is commonly known that around the globe, we Americans are regarded as rather arrogant.  In part, our subtle (or not so subtle) sense of superiority flows from the belief (espoused in our schools, churches, and service organizations, and reinforced by our politicians) that we are citizens of the best and most powerful nation on earth.  Most of the planet, however, doesn't quite see it that way.

In their recently released book, Terrorism and the War in Iraq: A Christian Word from Latin America (published by Kairos in Argentina), C. Rene Padilla and Lindy Scott present a disturbing yet compelling argument that behind the self-serving and oppressive policies of the U.S. government, lies the twin idolatries of materialism and ethnocentric patriotism.

The Church in America, rather than recognizing and condeming these idolatrous values, has in fact embraced them.  For example, Brazilian Assembly of God pastor Ricardo Gondim claims that "North American Christians have become worldly and have been molded into the image of their culture" -- for many evangelicals in the United States, "the 'American way of life' and the gospel are Siamese twins.  It is almost impossible to separate them" (Padilla, 108).

Evangelicals outside of the United States are not, however, the only ones drawing attention to the spiritual woes of the U.S.

Continue reading "The Spiritual Roots of American Arrogance" »

Thousands of Korean Collegians Have Me Wondering...

Vc05_1 Unbeknownst to me, the hotel I booked through Priceline for my bimonthly getaway was hosting a huge conference put on by Korean Campus Crusade for Christ. Nearly 3 thousand college students from campuses all over Southern California crammed into the four-star hotel to particpate in the 4-day event -- an event characterized by high-energy praise, intense general sessions and a wide variety of missions and deeper life related workshops. If you're interested in reading information about this conference, go here; and for information in English about KCCC in general, go here.

Here's an invitation to the event from the Director of KCCC in Los Angeles, Dong Whan Kim:

Continue reading "Thousands of Korean Collegians Have Me Wondering..." »

A Christmas Prayer from Walter Brueggemann

Brueggemann_1 In violence and travail

We give you thanks for the babe born in violence.

We give you thanks for the miracle of Bethlehem, born into the Jerusalem heritage.

We do not understand why the innocents must be slaughtered; we know that your kingdom comes in violence and travail.  Our time would be a good time for your kingdom to come, because we have had enough of violence and travail.

So we wait with eager longing, and with enourmous fear, because your promises do not coincide with our favorite injustices.

We pray for the coming of your kingdom on earth as it is around your heavenly throne.

We are a people grown weary of waiting.

We dwell in the midst of cynical people, and we have settled for what we can control.

We do know that you hold the initiative for our lives, that your love planned our salvation before we saw the light of day.

And so we wait for your coming, in your vulnerable baby in whom all things are made new.


Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003, p. 149.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Christ is born!

Painful Blessing

Truck_1 Tragedy struck our community last Tuesday, when a father accidentally ran over his 3 yr. old son while pulling into the family driveway.  The boy died immediately, after leaving his 5 yr. old sibling and playfully diving under the truck as it moved foward.

As news of this horrible tragedy spread, numerous people began calling me, asking if I was willing to meet with this family in hopes of helping them somehow -- since I had gone through the horror of something very similar nearly 15 years ago.  I volunteered, of course, and the following day I was introduced to the family.

Over the past week, I've had the honor of spending a good deal of time with this couple, and especially the father.  It's been a blessing being able to help them, filling them in on what they can expect over the weeks and months and years to come.  But this is a painful blessing -- a paradoxical situation I would have never chosen to be qualified for.

Grieving1 Have you ever been in a situation like that?  Have you ever been able to help someone at a terrific and painful price to you personally?  Life can be funny that way sometimes.  I think it's one of the ways God follows through and "works good" out of the painful tragedies we experience in life (cf. Rom.8:28).

I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on this, AND... would especially covet your prayers for this family.

The Sin of Home Improvement?

Handyman Jack and Katy have been absent from our worship gatherings for the past four months.  They aren't mad, they aren't bored, and they haven't given up their faith.  They're simply preoccupied with the fixing up of their home.  They readily admit missing their church family, but it seems that home improvement is just more important right now.

This is a scenario that's becoming more and more commonplace:  worship within one's faith-community is taking a backseat to remodeled kitchens, replaced flooring, and reorganized garages. In the past five years, I've been amazed at the numbers of people who have chosen to miss our worship gatherings because of home improvement projects, including those considered leaders!

It just might be that home improvement is becoming a sin for some people.  Should our homes be more important than our active participation in the body of Christ?  The question seems ludicrous.  But the "actions" of more and more people betray the fact that they must believe this is so.  Our actions do speak louder than our words, and a person's (real) priorities are evidenced by what they do.

20030726drywall_1If the basic concept behind the New Testament's understanding of sin is "missing the mark", then it seems to me that home improvement is causing many people to sin.  Maybe it's not the remodeling and such that is itself the sin, but rather that such things contribute/lead to a sin of omission: choosing not to gather with fellow believers for worship. Either way, I see a problem here.

But what is it exactly that compels people to spend so much time, money and energy on their homes?  Do you see a problem here as well? Or is something else going on that I'm missing?

Whew! It's Finished!

It probably seems like I dropped off the face of the earth these past few weeks -- and I kinda did!  I've been working like a dog, trying to finish my final two courses for the completion of my M.Div.   And finally...


And before I move on to what's next, I'm TAKING A BREAK!

(but NOT a break from blogging -- Oh no!  I've got a lot of catching up to do, and you'll start seeing the change within the next few days)

Anyway, an "update" on what's been going on with me has been long overdue.