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Here are some suggestions synthesized from this post which I found very instructive:

  1. Prayer. That has to be number one.
  2. Communication. When I go back to visit my church in August I’ll probably know about half or a third of the number of people I knew there when I left.  But still the blow can be softened by hearing a bit more of what’s going on in church. What’s the teaching on at the moment? What challenges are you facing, and what new stuff are you doing? Are there any projects starting? What’s going on?
  3. Challenge. Most of us are providing the teaching in our churches. If we get off track, our church gets off track. So we need some contradictory and thought-provoking stuff thrown at us to keep us real.
  4. Encouragement. Out of sight can mean out of mind; we know this, and so it’s not a huge problem. But that’s precisely why just the occasional note every so often to let us know that we’re still remembered and we haven’t dropped off the radar is a huge, huge encouragement. Replying to the prayer letters we send is a good one, even if it’s just a few words, it stops us thinking we’re talking into a vacuum.
  5. Participation. In these days of Skype and high-speed Internet access, I can “virtually” turn up at your events. You don’t actually need to make a big thing of me being there. I did a couple of Skype interviews with my church groups recently, but actually one of the nicest bits was just sitting there and listening to the service like everyone else. Give me an AV feed and I’ll be happy. It helps with the whole catching-up thing I mentioned above, and it keeps that connection between us going.
  6. Places to stay. Organising hospitality for me when I visit is one of the most practical and powerful ways you can show that you care. Nothing amazing, just a bed for the night; but someone on location is much better placed to ask around and find people who can offer than trying to do it from five thousand miles away, and it takes all the stress out of it.
  7. Care packages. I’m in two minds about this one. I love my life here in Japan, and I’m happy living like a Japanese. But I hope that even those who are into radical contextualization would be prepared to turn a blind eye to the odd jar of Marmite or Fray Bentos pie every six months or so, and of course it’s the thought that counts more than the pie.
  8. Briefing and debriefing. When we come back to our home countries, or set off again, we’re going to be in a whirl. Maybe those missionaries in troubled countries are going to have seen some disturbing stuff – now mostly the mission agencies will help them deal with that or put them in touch with professionals who can – but everyone will come back to reverse culture shock, disorientation and above all change. And as Marjory Foyle puts it, you can have stress without change but you can’t have change without stress. Getting us in for a debriefing will (a) help us adjust to what’s changed so we can expect it, and (b) show us that you are prepared to invest some time and organisation into helping us. (b) is probably more important than (a), when it comes down to it. Similarly for briefings when we go again. Having some sensible questions prepared to talk through with us can help identify any areas where you can help us more or we can help you more. (Oh yes, that reminds me: this isn’t a one-way thing, and it actually helps maintain that connection between us if it’s not one-way. If there is anything we can do to help serve you better, we want to know about it.)
  9. Money. It would be a bit insane to pretend that this isn’t a consideration but honestly, it’s got to appear at the bottom of the list because it’s often the least of our problems.  I would honestly much rather be supported a church which couldn’t offer me much money but which loved me than one which gave me all the cash I needed and just left me to get on with it.
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5 Points of Criticism

If you’re going to criticize, and I prefer the words “admonish” or “exhort”, then 9Marks offers the following points to follow:

1.  Directly, not indirectly.  If you’re anything like me, you might have a temptation to imply something, to presume something, to do anything to avoid a direct confrontation.  Be very careful, however, before adopting this pattern, especially in criticism.  If you’re not careful, you’ll have people regularly looking at your words and asking themselves what you “really mean.”

2.  Seriously, not humorously.  Again, I might want to give some piece of advice through a humorous aside, but I probably am giving criticism this way because of my own fear of man.  I want them to like me, and so I don’t want to directly confront them.  I want to be able to dismiss my own words if their cost proves higher to me than I had estimated.  And humor can appear to be a useful vehicle for this.  I can disown the words I’ve spoken, explaining them merely as humor if they’re not received well.  I should know better.  I should know that if something is worth correcting, I should show respect to the other person by taking it seriously.  I should never joke about something I’m really concerned about in someone else, without first having spoken seriously to them about it.

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Libronix Wishlist

This is in no means a ranking of the best Libronix resources, but just the ones I don’t have and would be particularly useful to sermon prep and studies, in order of importance to me:

  1. Grudem’s Systematic Theology – $40
  2. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – $40
  3. Libronix Scholar’s Gold Upgrade from Silver -$300
  4. Discipleship Journal -$85
  5. Holman NT Commentary – $120

I would also like the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT, but am waiting for it to be reasonable on Ebay. And there are also a few Jay Adams books for Libronix, but single titles sure do seem expensive in comparison to the bundles.

Being reasonable, maybe numbers 1-7 I can add within the next five years. Already I am blessed by the gift of such an extensive library, and spoiled by the fact that a majority of my exegetical work and commentary consultation can be done digitally.

Removed from the list (purchased):

  1. MacArthur NT Commentary Upgrade -$130
  2. Courson’s OT&NT Application Commentary (NT is good enough) – $30
  3. Bible Speaks Today NT – $70
  4. Hanegraaff Lifeworks Library – $50
  5. Ultimate Archaeology Collection (BAR is all I needed)- $400

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My Digital Library

Recently I had the blessing of picking up some of Phil Gons’ books to add to my Libronix library, bringing the total number of resources up to 3054.  Yes, that’s right, digitally I have nearly six times the number of books on my shelf.  Digital books are great because they are portable, searchable, and actually can cost quite a bit less.  With all the free public domain books that can be added, it is quite a useful tool.  Phil recently made a post to the same effect.

In any case, look for a list of resources after the break.  Be prepared – it’s long! (and sorted by author/series).  Maybe I’ll join LibraryThing and upload all the ISBNs one day:

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Christmas List

I know what I want for Christmas.

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Here’s something you may not have known or suspected. When I grew up my family went to a conservative Christian church and I subsequently went to a Swedish Baptist college in Minnesota.  I recently went back to my home town and was sickened by what became of the family church over the last 20 years.  The received view is that the conservative christians have taken over the Republican Party.  I think the reverse happened.  The right wing of the Republican Party has taken over the church.  Nothing could be more clear to me.  In a fit of revulsion, and with a nod to Marty Luther, I wrote up the following 95 theses on the relighous right:  Download ludlows_95_theses_on_the_religious_right.doc   In lieu of nailing it to the door  of the Wittenburg Church I’m sending it to you instead.  Not exactly the same thing, I realize. I’m not saying I’m a believer and I’m not saying I’m not, but I am saying that what has happened to the fundamentalist church is revolting.

Examples:

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Book Recommendations by CJ

Books: In time for the holiday shopping season, the Girl Talk blog has posted CJ Mahaney’s annual list of Christmas book ideas for the men in your life.

HT: Josh Harris

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