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It seems odd to me to be writing about a series that I suspect, as I have not counted, I started reading 20 or more years ago.

The first book of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson that I can remember is The Wounded Land and my memory of it may put me a bit younger than I remember as it appears to be published around 1981. Being somewhat dogged about how I read books I know I read the first series then later purchased The Wounded Land. And I had to wait and wait for the subsequent sequels.

And now we wait again. Stephen Donaldson has said he will take 3 years for the next novel and another 3 after that. So I have to ask myself is Fatal Revenant the second volume in the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant worth it?

I hate to say it but the answer is yes!

The questions left hanging at the end of the first Volume The Runes of the Earth are starting to be answered in this volume. Just not as quickly as you’d like and as easily.

I was pleased to see some old characters appear and some new ones turn up at unexpected times.

I think I know what will happen next – maybe or what will happen.

I look forward to it.

I have reads lots of books now term is at an end so next week will be book week.

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We finalised everyone’s marks today.  This is a milestone that is good to achieve.

We gave grace to many people where possible.  Unfortunately some people will have to go through the purgatory of supplemental assessment before they get to the heaven of complete work and marks assigned.

The problem for many people is that in general they leave things too late.  Now as someone taught and trained in the evangelical tradition as well as Pentecostalism we talk about people leaving it too late for salvation.   Assignments are the same, left too late we die before the benefits of them are able to be felt or received.  Unlike eternity we have the chance redo classes and assignments.

We were gracious to some people today but I must be honest and say that I am glad Jesus’ grace extends further than mine.

I was pleased to see the following in a Christianity Today article:

“Whereas postmillennialists were habitually optimistic about the course of events, believing that the Almighty was overruling human affairs to establish his kingdom on earth, premillennialists were characteristically pessimistic, supposing that the only remedy for the evils of the day was the return of the king,” historian David Bebbington wrote in The Dominance of Evangelicalism. “Despite their confidence in the power of the gospel to save souls, they put no faith in the secular world around them. The newer school of opinion dropped the earlier evangelical confidence in the steady advance of civilization, replacing it with belief that the present was bad and the future was worse.”

These days many evangelicals talk like premillennialists but act like postmillennialists. They expect the world to get worse and worse but preach the gospel, lobby politicians, and fight for social justice in order to make it a better place. Jim Wallis laments poverty and Jim Dobson worries about homosexuality, but they combat these problems nonetheless. Theology often shapes the way Christians engage their world, but sometimes the world shapes how Christians form their theology. If the trends identified by Wehner and Levin continue, it’s possible evangelicals will see another paradigm shift in their eschatology.

We are living Christian lives that can not decide what the deal is with the future.  Pentecostals are particularly adept at “[talk ing] like premillennialists but [acting] like postmillennialists”.  We believe the church will be victorious but we believe we must make the world a better place.  At some level we can not have it both ways with our current theology.

The recent election shows that our dependence must be on God not on the politicians we like.  Ultimately both the left and the right hold issues that Christians think should be important.  Jim Wallis supports the left (not in an unthinking way).  Jim Dobson supports the right (I am not sure to what degree) as both believe the party they support supports certain Christian values.  As Christians at election times the issue is not between bad and good but either bad and bad or good and good depending on how cynical you are about politicians.

Will the world come to an end because a certain politician gets into power?  The answer is obviously no but we sometimes live our lives as if that is the truth.  Will the devil have a great victory because a certain politician gets into power?  In my years of watching politicians in Australia, USA and UK all sides make a mess somewhere and show the devil victorious either in private lives or public decisions.  This means no party is better than another we are just choosing between politicians.

In the end we are called to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”  God shows up at unexpected times, and Jesus will return at an unexpected time. We need to be faithful, ready and obedient in the interim.

Over breakfast today my son told us that “Jesus told him to make a sandwich” from his bread and butter.  His mother asked “What else does Jesus tell you to do?”.  My son replied “To turn the tap on outside”.

Now we are in a drought and turning the tap on outside is a definite no-no. Yet my son at three has grasped the idea that if Jesus tells us to do something we should do it and who cares about the consequences.  Now for my son the consequences are bad, relatively.

Yet as adults we face the same issues.  I know people who feel God has called them into a relationship with non-Christians and then they start to walk away from God and wonder why God is so far away?  I know people who have decided they are called to a ministry that for safety and integrity requires others around them and then when they go it alone everything goes wrong.  I’ve known people to say “God calls us to …” and then they do something that completely undermines what the group has been called to.

So is it true that Jesus told my son to make a sandwich?  I think there are times when the answer is yes.  Is it true that Jesus told my son to turn the tap on outside?  Again I think there are times when the answer is yes but the midst of a drought is not one of them.  The real answer is we need discernment and as Pentecostals and modern churches we have lost the thought of understanding the times, the moods and the seasons we live in.  We accept consumerism, fads and victories as if they are normal and reject simplicity, tradition and failure as from the past and not of God.  We need more discernment.

Oh and by the way can someone tell my son not to turn the tap on at kindergarten today?

Before I start this new book a couple of comments about the weekend.

In America they had Thanksgiving. My favourite comment about this for this year is here.

In Australia we had an election. My favourite comment about this is here.

Marking almost over – 1 or 2 papers to go.

And now to the book MaryEllen Weimer’s Learner Centred Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice

Weimer’s Preface gives us a feel for the book as a whole and identifies the structure of the book, as well as giving us insight into her own journey.  I found this very helpful as she tells me up front what the changes she proposes are and that in the first chapter why she has decided on these.

Chapter One is the journey.  There is  a great line on page 3, “I had redesigned my course; afterward, I attempted to redesign the teacher.  Getting the course reshaped turned out to be much easier than fixing my very teacher-centered instruction.”  I think this is where I am at presently.  I have been asked to propose a unit to teach at a Masters level in another Bible College.  I want more of a sense from the students as to what they want.  I realise I want to call the course “Priesthood and Prophethood, Clergy and Laity, Structure and Spirit, Church and World: Practices for Pentecostals”.  The problem is that is toooooo long a title.  I will solve this by clarifying to myself what I want the students to know and learn but I will want some feedback.

The chapter ends with Weimer giving further discussion as to what it means to change in five practices.

The first practice discussed in chapter 2 is the Balance of Power.  The idea is to let students decide what they want to learn, how they want to learn when they want to learn. I tried some of this in one of my classes this year.  It helped somewhat but not enough for my liking.   The flexibility of what was proposed is also a sticking point for me as we are stuck with pro-forma as to our teaching and creative teaching in what is skills based seems important to me but possibly not to the bureaucracy which accredits us.  What is nice is a comment that Weimer makes having considered a points system like I have in the past.  “The assignments are not mastery based, in the sense that those who complete them get the credit.  Each assignment is graded against specific criteria, and to have any assignment count, the student must earn at least 50 percent of the points.”  I need to develop criteria that help do this so I can do this in future.  Mind you as I only read the Introduction to Rubrics book recently I have come a long way this year.

Finally what does this mean for me?  My hermeneutics unit will be undergoing lots of changes again.  I am now happy with the material and the textbook just not the order or mode of presentation.  I will have the students select the New Testament book we study in class (except Ephesians).  The assessment will need lots of changes but I think I know how I want to go.

Pray for me.

David Kowalski’s Company of the Dead is a new Australian novel about an alternate US history.

I am wary of this genre as I have seen it done in ways I like (Harry Turtledove’s World War series) and ways I do not.  This book fell into the “I like it” category.

The basic plot is what if the events on the Titanic really affected all of Western Civilisation and what if someone time travelled back to change them? There is more to it than that though.  Though I won’t give away some of the plot points that make this a good novel.

While the characters are not always well drawn and some are little more than red shirts on Star Trek the basic interactions and ideas are interesting.

So why do I like this novel in the end?  The majesty of travelling on the Titanic, good science-fiction, good history and its written by an Australian.  I know there will not be a sequel but I do look forward to Kowalski’s next book.

At the end of my class in Theology I read aloud the Theology of Chocolate by David Augsburger.

The next day one of my students from last year asked if I knew what the theology of fish was.  I joked “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and his wife will never see him.”

Why are so many church activities devised to separate families and yet churches espouse that families are the building block of society.

I could easily argue the problem is one of maintenance.  If the people are not at meeting then the church is not maintained in its work in the world.  At the same time if there is no family life then what are we witnessing to? busyness?  Churchiness?

I think my missional friends would argue that it is more important to be with non-Christians and sharing the gospel than fellowshipping with Christians.  But if we do not have support we will not survive.

This is why these reflections are under a theology of fish.  Fish need air to survive as well as water to swim in.  We need to live in the world and need the church to survive us being in it. One without the other will kill us.  Too much water and a fish will die, too much air and the same thing happens.

In my blogroll I have the Kruse Kronicle by Michael Kruse.

I do not read Michael’s work because I always like it.  Many times I do not.  I read it because he makes me think. He is very different to me, far more pro capitalism than I am. Then I come across articles like yesterday’s Economic Fallacies: “New Creation Now”

That sort of article makes it all worthwhile.

So do you just read those that you like or those that differ from you?

I am marking again. Or is that still?

Anyway one of my students has a quotation with a typo in it. As one of the co-authors of the book the quotation is very indirectly connected to the college this is even more amusing as I do not know where the mistake is.

The quote – “anyone burdened in conscience should come to some discrete and learned Minister of God’s word, and open his grief”.

I think that should not be a minister made of many parts “discrete” but one who is judicious in ones speech.

Of course it could be the old English but I am just not sure.

What do you think?

Amazon has released an electronic book reader. This does not seem to be a theological statement. At the same time a new novel Out of Print by John Frye is out. The theological issues both raise the issue in different ways is how we understand the “Word” of God.

We need to discern again what it means to be people of the book – are we really obedient and in love with its giver or with the words themselves or the idea of the words?

Amazon will move us to a more ephemeral form of word – something that is present then gone as we replace one book in our reader with another. Out of Print I suspect, as I have not read it yet, will move us to value the word giver.

Pentecostals have usually placed a premium on an experience of the Spirit which the church has understood to be in alignment with the word of the God in the Bible.  The problem is that in much of Mega-Pentecostalism, the large scale churches, the Bible is receeding as we try and reach out with a message that the world can accept.  What used to be reserved for Bible Studies and teaching believers is now watered down and then given to non-Christians.  Jesus did not come to make my marriage great, he came to redeem all of creation which changes my marriage.  Yet our preaching seems to focus on the effects and not the redemption.

Yesterday someone started a discussion about gradualism and how we come to accept what we should not accept if we are exposed to it enough.  I wonder if our lack of exposure to the Word of God will cause us to remove its importance so it is as ephemeral as a book in the new Amazon reader.

So it is a choice we need to make sure we are faithful to the Word of God and not let it be ephemeral in our lives.
What choices are you making?