Article Find – To judge or not to judge

In Is it Ever Right to Judge? posted on Christianity.ca Stan Fowler, professor of Theology at Heritage Theological Seminary talks about an argument sometimes used against Christians who speak against homosexuality and presents a rebuttal to that argument. The argument is drawn from Matthew 7:1,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

and assumes that those who speak negatively of the actions of Homosexuals are contradicting the teachings of Christ. Without re-stating what Stan already pointed out I merely want to draw attention to his conclusion – which I think is right on. He says,

Wherever the Church of Jesus Christ exists in the world, it faces unique pressures from the surrounding culture. In contemporary Canada, one of our greatest challenges is the assumption by much of our society that tolerance is the greatest virtue. But to adopt this common definition of tolerance would be to fail to follow Christ in His commitment to truth and goodness. If we are going to express negative judgments, we must first judge ourselves, and if we judge others it must be with kindness and respect. Nevertheless, we must not bow to the argument that Jesus taught His followers that they should never judge others. He said no such thing.

Once again, this demonstrates the importance of interpreting scripture through scripture. When looking at a particular verse in the Bible the context surrounding that verse, and throughout other texts in scripture must be considered before drawing any complete conclusions in interpretation. This is something that Stan has done.

Also – although Stan is using the issue of homosexuality as the touch-point for his article, the conclusions he draws are applicable to any case in the church where “judgement” must be considered.

Finally, one thing I might add that might have been outside of the scope of Stan’s article is the truth that in cases where judgement must be used there should also be in place a path of reconciliation. Yes, it is important that we understand the reality that some things in this world must be judged (albeit after judging ourselves, and then with others in kindness and respect) but the judgment should not be devoid of opportunity for reconciliation and ultimately healing. Certainly this is at the core of the gospel message where we are made aware of the God’s judgement on those with sin (which includes all of us [Romans 3:23]!) along with the opportunity for forgiveness through the grace and mercy of God (Romans 6:23). The judgement is there but so is forgiveness if one will receive it. I believe the church should not downplay, or be “tolerant” of things that the Bible teaches are sin but in the same vein the church must present love, hope, healing, and a reconciliation for those en-trapped in the very sins condemned.

Upcoming Service: stikkit – hmm interesting!

Stikkit Website ScreenshotI’ve come across this new Web 2.0 service currently in beta that looks like it will be a very promising service! What is it? The short version is that it is yet another online calendar, to-do list, address book organizer. Where it differs from others is in the unique method of entering in your data. It promises to function kind of like a personal assistant in that all you do is type the info (or cut and paste, or email?) into a “stikkit” interface (kind of like those stick-it notes we can’t seem to get rid of!) and as you are typing the service will work in the background automatically adding the information to the correct places (events to calendars, to-do’s to your to-do list, people to your address book etc.). Then you get your standard different ways of displaying the information.

Well I signed up for the beta and took a quick peek. Looks good but I won’t be using it much until they implement the live update (via .rss/subscriptions) and/or export features. They’ve currently got import and export but it requires user prompting before it’ll do it. Once that gets integrated I’ll probably give it a whirl…unless I forget about it before then :lol:!

Article Review – The Blessing of Pain

I must admit I never quite looked at pain the way that Paul Brand and Philip Yancey record in the article Putting Pain to Work which is posted on BuildingChurchLeaders.com. Illustrating from his experience working with people suffering from leprosy, Paul highlights the importance of pain in healthy bodies. This correlates directly with the healthiness of the body of Christ as well. He says, Continue reading Article Review – The Blessing of Pain

Book Review- Chasing Francis

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale

Rating: 3 out of 5

Author: Ian Morgan Cron

Year: 2006

Publisher: Navpress

ISBN: 1576838129

“Chasing Francis” is the story of a pastor in a large church struggling with his faith in the light of different personal tragedies encountered in the first few pages of the book. After being forced to take time away from being a pastor Chase Falson embarks on a pilgrimage led by his Uncle (a friar in the Franciscan order) in which he learns about Saint Francis. In the course of this pilgrimage, Chase is forced to rethink some of his faith-positions in the past and his relationship with God. If you think I’m going to tell you everything that happens think again :lol:!

Ian Morgan Cron introduces in the preface of this book that the reasons for writing this book arose out of a discussion he was having with NavPress about how Francis’s,

…unique spin on ministry and the spiritual life might add something to the conversation about church in these postmodern days.

In the course of their discussion they came to the conclusion that such a analysis would best be told in story form rather than adding to the already prolific amount of biographical work on Saint Francis.

The result is what Cron terms, “wisdom literature” – a balance of fiction and nonfiction as he wrote a fictional story (Chase Falson and Putnam Hill Community church) pulling from the non-fictional history (Saint Francis). In the synthesis of the two Cron is adding his understanding of how looking at the life of Saint Francis has much to reveal about the way church is done as it transitions from a modern world to a post-modern world (catching up so to speak).

I thought the story was a good read, not spectacular but good nevertheless. It would definitely have more relevance to those involved in any form of ministry in the church but certainly others will appreciate the freshness in learning about Saint Francis. I must admit I didn’t know too much about Saint Francis prior to reading this book and his life is intriguing. However, in light of the fact that this is not a full biography of his life but rather a synopsis (which Cron readily admits) I’d be best to read more about him before drawing any firm conclusions.

With that said, however, through this book there are some interesting parallels made between the way the world and the church was in the time of Francis (transitioning from medieval to industrial) and what the church (western church specifically) and the world are going through right now as we transition from modern to post-modern. I especially identified with the exposing of the rampant consumerism the church has bought into that results in the church losing the ability to make an impact in culture.

Even though I enjoyed reading this book there were a couple things that bothered me.

1. Much emphasis was spent on the character and life of Francis to the detriment of emphasis on the life of Christ.
Of course Cron is quite clear that this book is an attempt at sharing about Saint Francis in story form but I find it ironic that Chase Falson finds his way back to God primarily through the influence of studying the life of Saint Francis without any supplementation through scripture and study of the life of Christ. I couldn’t help shaking the feeling as I was reading that in the course of his pilgrimage Chase Falson is being “converted” to the ways of Saint Francis rather than the ways of Christ.

Now, I’m not saying that Francis has nothing to teach us – far from it. But I do believe that somehow Cron could have weaven into his story a bit more by way of example in what Christ did that inspired Francis so much (or even shared specific scriptures or two). Even in Falson’s impassioned plea to his congregation at the end of the story, very little (too little IMHO) is mentioned about Jesus Christ.

Note that the accompanying study that the author included in the end of the book also carries little reference to scripture or the life of Christ. It would have been of more benefit to me if some time had been taken to highlight the influence the life of Christ had on Francis (paying attention to any particular scripture texts etc.)

2. The conclusion felt rushed.
I’m sure this had more to do with limits imposed by publishers rather than the will of the author but it seemed that the conclusion of the book was put together rather quickly.

I guess the major concern for me in reading this book is simply the fact that taken alone it seems to suggest that if we live as Saint Francis did we’ll be better (or at least more authentic) followers of Christ. But therein is the oxymoron. Would we really be followers of Christ – or followers of Francis?

The key to blogging for the long haul…

Even though I’m still relatively new to the blogosphere (I’ve been blogging since May 2006 – see my first post!) I have been journaling off and on for quite a few years and blogging and journaling share some similarities in terms of what gives lasting power. Of course, there are pretty significant differences between the two (the primary one being the “public” and journalistic feel of a blog vs. the private and diary feel of a personal journal) but for the purpose of this article I think I can write out of some modicum of experience! Another reason that contributes to a measure of insight found in this article is the fact that even though I haven’t blogged myself until recently, I’ve been an avid reader of other peoples blogs for quite a while – there’s certain things that are common among bloggers with lasting power that stick out to me.
Anyway, the purpose of this article is to answer the question, “What are characteristics that keep someone blogging for the long haul?” According to David Sifry’s, “State of the Blogosphere Report” for August 2006 Technorati tracked it’s 50 millionth blog! Now that’s a lot of writer’s out there – however according to a comment David made in response to Glenn Fannick’s article, “Technorati’s Active Blogs — Perhaps 1.4 Million?“,

55% of all the blogs we track have had at least one post in the last 3 months.

Just over 11% have posted in the last week.

That means that 27.5 million blogs have made a post in the last 3 months and a little over 5 million have made a post in the past week. Now regardless of the debate over how many actual active blogs there are (which also depends on what criteria you use for measuring active!) the point I want to make is that there is a huge number of people who enter the blogosphere who simply create a blog and then never visit it again. So what gives – for the percentage of people who contribute regularly and maintain an “active” blog? The following is my “short-list” of indicators that suggest that a person who blogs will be still blogging 5 years from now:

First on the list is they like writing

It goes without saying that if you don’t like writing (or creating any other sort of content – ergo pictures/audio/video etc. – that have become an increasing new medium for bloggers) then your blog probably won’t last that long.

A pretty important component of this indicator that can’t be overlooked is the subtext, “do they have something to say?” If you start a blog simply to say, “I have a blog” but don’t really have a reason for creating the blog then more than likely you won’t be blogging very long!

Second, they like tweaking their blog

What tweaking am I talking about? Everything from simple things like changing a few colors to the type-face all the way to the more complex which involves getting your hands dirty in the actual code. Now the amount and complexity of tweaking may vary between individual “long-haul” bloggers but nevertheless a common characteristic is that all of them have had some involvement in tweaking their blog to their own liking. How many active bloggers you know have not changed their blog layout/structure/colors in some way in the past 3 months (let alone years…)?

Third, their initial experience with blog-ware

Currently there are a plethora of varying blogging tools available to choose from. Everything from Google’s Blogger, to the much hyped MySpace, and my personal favorite WordPress (both the hosted and self-hosting versions). A bloggers initial experience with the blog-ware he/she chooses will have bearing on whether they become an active blogger. Is the tool easy to use? Does it let them do what they want? Is it a pain to maintain (enter in spam)? Does it “break down” a lot? All of these are examples of some of the factors that play into the initial experience of a baby blogger. I remember my first foray into blogging came in the form of creating a Blogger.com account over a year ago. It looked like a great service but at the time I just didn’t like the restrictions placed on what I could do in terms of overall design (because I’m a heavy “tweaker” personality…and don’t twist that into something else :lol:!) I think I posted one article and then I quit. I didn’t even think about blogging again until I came across WordPress…but that’s another story 😉

Fourth, do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow?

This contribution can come in the form of commenting on other people’s blogs, creating themes and/or plugins for others to use, or providing content that other’s benefit from. Although, personal journaling has it’s benefits and I know some long-haul bloggers often write about things that happen in their lives but people who have long-lasting activity in the blog-world are folks who also contribute in someway to the blogosphere (other than only keeping a daily journal that just themselves and a few family members might enjoy).

Fifth, they don’t worry about posting every single day or sticking to a routine schedule

That’s not to say that having a routine schedule for posting is bad but simply that long-haul bloggers don’t worry if they miss a few days or have a lapse in their schedule for posting. There’s nothing that kills a bloggers enthusiasm more than feeling they just have to post every day to their blog! Of course there are some that enjoy doing that but that’s the point – long-haul bloggers post regularly to their blog but don’t do so out of obligation but because they have something to say!

That’s why nailing down a definition of an active blogger can be so difficult because does someone have to post every day to be considered active? In my opinion, no.

Sixth, they don’t worry about writing “mongo-size” posts everytime they post to their blog!

If a blogger is trying to come up with a change-the-world kind of article every time they post they’ll quickly run out of juice and lose enthusiasm. Not only that but blog-readers, for the most part, have an upper limit of about 5 minutes for tolerance in reading an article. In terms of blogging longevity (from the standpoint of the blogger) it’s better to make frequent small posts interspersed with the odd monster rather than trying to maintain a book writing attitude with every blog entry.

As a side-note – a lot of long-haul bloggers I read write series which is a good way of keeping short posts but at the same time tackling a subject that requires more than a few lines. As a plus, writing something as a series contributes to keeping you blogging!

Finally, the seventh indicator is they aren’t obsessed with whether the world reads their blog or not

At first, this indicator may appear to conflict with what I wrote for the fourth indicator (do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow) but it really doesn’t because the point I’m making here is more about that inane behaviour people have of wanting to be liked by others. On the blogosphere this can be a blog-killer. Long-haul bloggers aren’t consumed with building up the biggest following of readers (not to say that doesn’t interest them – of course it does – but it’s not the driving force behind them blogging) but are more interested in the content they post.

The truth is, the majority of bloggers will not build up any significant following of readers and if the only reason you are blogging is to see how many comments you’ve got that day, or for statistics junkies – seeing how many “hits” you’ve got – then blogging will quickly become boring and at best you’ll abandon your block and at worst you’ll become the anathema of the blogosphere – a splogger – stealing content from other popular blogs to drive your page rank up and satisfy your appetite for recognition (and the spin-off ad money of course you hope to get). Of course this isn’t to say all sploggers start out this way but for people who are obsessed with counting hits (as a primary motivator for blogging) splogging is certainly a real possibility.

There you have it – my short list (ha!) of indicators that I believe point towards someone becoming (or the reason they are) a long-haul blogger. To summarize:

  1. They like writing (and have something to write about!)
  2. They like tweaking their blog.
  3. What their initial experience with blog-ware is like.
  4. Do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow?
  5. They don’t worry about posting every day or sticking to a routine schedule.
  6. They don’t worry about writing mongo-size posts every time they write to their blog.
  7. They aren’t obsessed with whether everyone in the world reads their blog or not.

As usual, I look forward to any feedback you might have to offer!

A wordpress plugin I’d scramble to get…

Okay, I wasn’t going to post about the recent interview Matt Mullenweg did with Blogging Pro but there was an intriguing response to one of the questions asked that led me to leave a comment on Photomatt where Matt posted about his interview. The purpose of my comment was to try and tickle out more information – alas my comment was deleted for some reason and so I find myself writing this little blurb in my blog hoping (I’m not quite at begging yet hehe) that someone might have more information 😉

UPDATE: Mysteriously my comment reappeared on Matt’s site…dunno what happened there hehe 😉

Anyway, in the interview, Matt was asked,

What?s Automattic?s next move? I know you have been focusing on the next versions of WordPress, and your great Anti-spam service Akismet, but with the people in the Automattic now and your great eye for filling a gap in the marketplace, could you give out any hints on what we can expect next?

Tucked in his response was this reply…

We?ve got a few plugins and services we?ve cooked up internally that we?re going to provide to open source, including a little todo/project management app.

“todo/project management app.” plugin for wordpress? Now that would be nice. I’ve searched all over for a nice plugin that would do this in wordpress and have come up short. I’ve even contemplated writing my own code but unfortunately my coding skills are rather limited and I’m short on time for the moment. If the team at Automattic was to come out with this anytime soon it would make my day!

I don’t know why my comment got deleted on Matt’s site but I hope more news will be forthcoming – that teaser in his interview was just cruel! (from my point of view anyway hehe) 😉

UPDATE: Thanks to opa (see comments below)? I’m now trying out a “To-Do” plugin by Abstract Dimension.? It’s much better than what I’ve been using and so far it’s pretty neat.? Only thing it’s missing in my eyes is the ability to group the to-do’s into different lists.? Nevertheless, I appreciate the find!? Thanks opa!

Another UPDATE (July 15, 2007): Thanks to PaintChip (see comment below) I’ve discovered that the To-Do plugin by Abstract Dimension seems to be no longer available (the site is down).  I did some digging and found “Our To-Do plugin” at the site,  “WordPress by Examples“.   It is based on the original To-Do plugin is an improved version of it.  I haven’t tried it yet but it looks nifty.