Coming Home to Elfland

Some of us are turned off by the word magic and anything related to it. Our minds are drawn to witchcraft, games of poor repute in the Christian community such as Dungeons and Dragons, or books at which some Christians snub their noses, such as the Harry Potter series. It is ironic, then, that at least one classic Christian author, G.K. Chesterton, wrote fondly of magic in a chapter from his book Orthodoxy (1908). His argument is quite different than one that a modern-day witch might use, and his point is sound: mankind needs to get itself back to the magic of Christ, the mystery of God and his supernatural power, and in doing so, recover the joy of being of Christian.

Chesterton begins with our lives in the world. He talks about the businessman who rebukes the idealism of his office-boy, saying “Ah, yes, when one is young, one has these ideals in the abstract and these castles in the air; but in middle age they all break up like clouds, and one comes down to a belief in practical politics, to using the machinery one has and getting on with the world as it is.” With this statement, Chesterton sets one of the central themes of the chapter. When we are young, we are full of mystery, be it the young philanthropist who thinks he can save the world, or the child who looks for the elves who keep taking their binkies. To the young, the world is full of wonder, possibility, and ideals. There is nothing that cannot be fixed, nothing that cannot be overcome. Even death to my three year old is “going to see God.” What could be better than that?

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We Need Your Help!

This website was created three months ago.

Is UBFriends having an impact? You bet it is.

One way to measure impact is to examine the traffic flow. Our webmaster, Mary J., installed a nifty counter that records the number of times each page has been viewed. Each of our articles has read by hundreds of people. One of them has been viewed nearly 800 times.

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Midweek Question: Resolving Conflict

Last week, the thoughtful Christian blogger Mark D. Roberts began a series of articles titled “What to Do if Someone Sins Against You?” He contends that:

  • Sooner or later, fellow Christians are going to hurt one another. Often it is unintentional, but sometimes it is intentional.
  • Jesus gives us very clear instructions on what to do when a brother or sister in Christ — someone who is truly close to us — sins against us.
  • Christians routinely disobey Jesus’ instructions. In fact, these commands that Jesus gave are among the most frequently ignored commands in all of Scripture.

The primary text to which he refers is Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

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Here at UBFriends, we are willing to publish any kind of creative writing and artistic work that honors God. A while back, we received an audio recording of a song named Siloam, written and performed by Augustine and John Dang of Milwaukee. We weren’t quite sure how to post it, because this website is not set set up for audio streaming. Eventually we turned it into a video file (adding a single frame still photo) and uploaded it to YouTube. So here it is. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: This song is the property of Augustine Dang and John Dang, recorded July 2010. We would be thrilled if others used this song in personal and/or corporate worship. However, the song may not be performed for profit or sold in recorded form without the permission of Augustine Dang or John Dang.

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

A while back, I was in a long car ride with some UBF friends. As I lay back and try to make the best of the situation, I asked a younger friend of mine in a half joking manner, “Do dogs go to heaven?” His response was, “Hmm, I am not sure. Never really thought about it.” I joked back, “Maybe they go to some kind of dog heaven or maybe something like limbo or purgatory.” He responded, “Yeah maybe, never really thought about purgatory.” As the trip went on, and I started asking more serious questions, I realized that many of the younger UBF members do not hold to an authoritative system of doctrine on many issues. As my friend put it, “That stuff is just not important to people at UBF. We are all about missionary work.”

Of course, many of the students I have spoken to believe the straightforward doctrine that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that we are saved by placing our faith in him. But if I probe a little further, I have noticed a very common response from younger UBF members: “That stuff isn’t important to us.” Here I am talking about nontrivial questions such as, “Can we lose our salvation? Is there such a thing as purgatory? What happens to people who die but never know Jesus — will they be saved?”

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Rebirth in Eau Claire

In the summer of the year 2000, God led my family to the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where we are currently carrying out our mission work. Eau Claire is a small city of 60,000 people, and the university has about 10,500 students. The campus is like the Garden of Eden, with a river surrounded by trees flowing through the middle. Many of the students are filled with spiritual desire, and there are several very active and fruitful Christian ministries on campus.

We worked hard in serving students with a vision to build a fruitful house-church ministry that would please God. After doing this for about eight years, the ministry grew to the point where we had five couples faithfully attending the worship service, along with a few American and international students.

But rather than taking pride in outward success, the Lord wanted to purify and sanctify our hearts.

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Writer's Block

When I told someone recently that I studied Creative Writing in college, he responded, “Oh man, I can’t write at all.” That’s what I typically get when I talk to people about writing, especially in our ministry, which is weird when you think about it. If any ministry promotes writing, as a means of personal growth and even in discipleship, it’s UBF. Testimonies — they’re what we do.

I used to think a testimony was what it says it is: to testify about the work of God in my life. That made a testimony a pretty stressful thing. On a weekly basis, I tried to find what God was saying in a passage, apply it to my life, make a decision based on application and then, because it’s a “testimony,” testify to the fruit of that application. Doing that every week, I found, was stressful, counterproductive and just impossible.

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Idolizing Mission?

Reading through the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament has always been a frustrating experience for me. Here’s the reason: The #1 sin that appears in every chapter of Israel’s history is the sin of idolatry. My spontaneous thoughts were: “It’s as simple as this: ‘You shall not have other gods before me!’ Why on earth didn’t they get it? Couldn’t they just NOT bow down before golden calves and Baals and Asherahs? How could they be so ludicrously dim-witted?!?” It took me a long time to appreciate the repetitiveness of the tragic history of God’s chosen people. By dismissing their idolatry as plain stupidity — a stupidity that was beyond the reach of any help — I missed a crucial point that the OT seems to convey.

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