Archive for April, 2008

The Coolest Thing

Posted: April 30, 2008 in family, Rochelle, speaking

I’m doing the coolest thing right now, I’m hearing my wife speak at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. She’s great!

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National Props

Posted: April 25, 2008 in race relations, sports

An e-mail I sent concerning Barry Bonds and race to the Jim Rome Show, has been posted as today’s “Huge E-mail of the Day.” Please pardon the type-o’s. But of course, you’re all used to that by now. See the e-mail here.

A Better Game

Posted: April 24, 2008 in church, ministry, missional, prayer

So, what do you think? Do Christians talk about their “spiritual practices” in grander terms than they actually practice?

Here’s what I mean.

1. Do Christians really read their Bibles? I hear a lot of talk about Bible reading, but am frequently dumbfounded by how little of it people know and how seldom they respond to life as it encourages. Plus, whenever I’ve asked church people to read something in an accountable way — like Dwelling in the Word for a year — the Christians I know balk and complain. So, do we read scripture or just like to say we do?

2. Do we give sacrificially? Sacrificial giving is at the heart of the Christian life — think Jesus on the cross — but whenever there’s a need in the church or around the world, folks tend to look to the rich people in a church. Isn’t it interesting that when giving comes up, and folks give lots of money, we think them rich rather than generous. How many of us are willing to give up something we want, or even think we need, for the sake of something or someone else?

3. Do Christians pray for each other? I’ve frequently had the experience of someone telling me they were praying for me only in later conversations to mention something about the prayer request and have them look at me quizzically. I think, “Come on!” So are those people praying, or do they think it’s more spiritual just to say their praying.

Now, I must say that I know many, many people whose lives demonstrate that the practices they speak about are internalized and lived out for the sake of the world, so some of us (or them) are the real deal, but knowing what I know from a lifetime spent around Christian people, I have to ask: Are we talking a better game?

Go Spurs Go!

Posted: April 22, 2008 in sports, spurs

Let’s do it again in game two, Spurs.

I keep questioning when (or where) is the right time and place for questions. Just recently I saw an interview by Tony Jones (of Emergent Village fame) with John Chisham (of criticizing Emergent Village fame). When asked what his “beef” with Emergent was, Chisham said that people like him don’t like Emergent because they “don’t get it.” He went on to say that he thought doctrine was “nailed down.” He even went on to say that God was “bound” by certain things — which was shocking news to me. After Jones gently dismantled Chisham’s “American court room” analogy, Chisham remained un-changed. Chisham also felt that Emergent (and other religious organizations, I suppose) should have a statement of faith. When Jones said, “What about the Bible?” Chisham suggested that wasn’t good enough. (Again, a Restorationist like me and my friends have trouble with needing something more than scripture.)

Now, I’m not fully on board with all things Emergent Village — and no one is, even the people most intimately involved in it, it seems — but I find it curious that some people have such difficulty with “open questions” about God. Some folks want it all “nailed down,” and when other people allow for, what I would consider, legitimate questions and doubts, the response is vitriol and criticism.

Is there no place for open questions in faith? Or asking questions? No place for challenging beliefs that seem not to ring true? If not, why do we call it faith? We should call it certainty, then, shouldn’t we? But scripture (and I guess here Chisham might refer to his Statement of Faith instead) doesn’t call it certainty. The Bible calls it faith.

I have to confess — and I hope this doesn’t disturb too many folks at my church — everyday I have to make a decision about whether or not I believe God. Note, I did not say “believe in God” which connotes mere intellectual assent, which is no help to me in decision making and spiritual formation. Lots of folks believe in God. My questions center around whether or not I believe God is who He says He is and life is about what He says it is about. As Jones says in the interview, it is an intellectually honest way to live.

God is not provable, and from my read of scripture, doesn’t really like people telling Him what He must or must not do. Are there people really prepared to make that proclamation, that God “must do?”

But I guess at this point I’ve asked you too many questions.

The Noise

Posted: April 21, 2008 in books, missional, poverty, prayer

I recently picked up Walter Brueggemann’s book, Prayers for a Privileged People. Great prayers, poems really! This morning, one particular prayer caught me eye. This is especially pertinent given this political time and the upcoming election. It’ called, The Noise of Politics.

We watch as the jets fly in

            with the power people and

            the money people,

            the suits, the budgets, the billions

 

We wonder about monetary policy

            because we are among the haves,

And about generosity

            because we care about the have-nots.

 

By slower modes we notice

            Lazarus and the poor arriving from Africa

            and the beggars from Central Europe, and

            the throng of environmentalists

               with their visions of butterflies and oil

                                    of flowers and tanks

                                    of growing things and

                                                killing fields.

 

We wonder about peace and war,

            about ecology and development,

            about hope and entitlement.

 

We listen beyond jeering protesters and

               soaring jets and

            faintly we hear the mumbling of the crucified one,  

            something about

               feeding the hungry

               and giving drink to the thirsty

               about clothing the naked,

               and noticing the prisoners,

               more about the least and about holiness among them.

 

We are moved by the numbers of the gospel,

            even while we are tenured in our privilege

 

We are half ready to join the choir of hope,

                        half afraid things might change

                           and in a third half of our faith

                                    turning to you,

                           and your outpouring love

                           that works justice and

                           that binds us each and all to one another.

 

So we pray amid jeering protesters

               and soaring jets.

Come by here and make new,

               even at some risk to our entitlements. 

It would be fairly safe to say I’m a church geek. This past weekend I oversaw — though did not plan — our annual men’s retreat. Larry James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries was our presenter and was both thoughtful and inspirational as he walked us through Jesus’ teachings regarding the poor from the gospel of Luke. I am not, and I don’t think Larry is, a liberation theologian, but I am a liberation theology sympathizer. I think there’s much good work there, though — like all contextual and systematic theologies — there are some gaps. However, I had not noticed how frequently Jesus’ use of “The Kingdom of God” is connected to issues of poverty and marginalization. It was evident that the men present began to imagine our role as a community of faith a little differently and more boldly than some had before. My prayer is, as my good friend Bill Ward put it, that our concern about the issues that create poverty be more than academic.

I had to leave the retreat early to preach one of my favorite text Sunday morning, 2 Corinthians 4.7-5.10. Though many people have not seen this text partitioned this way, it’s the right way to do it, I think. The problem with 2 Corinthians is that few folks understand it and there are enough pithy sayings in it that it has been given over to a kind of “bumper-sticker” theology. This text in particular has several phrases that folks traditionally have taken out of context and forced to mean things they don’t mean. Going into church Sunday I was fairly confident I was in possession of one of the worst sermons I’ve ever written. Alas, God is good, and, as this text reminds us: God works His treasure through clay jars.

I capped off the weekend with a 2 hour seminar at Houston Mennonite Church. The Mennonites in Houston are attempting to re-engage their mission and identity, so they are hosting a series of lectures on Anabaptist history and theology. I enjoyed the seminar, and, being the only non-Mennonite in the room, the church welcomed me warmly. (They were glad their ad in the newspaper paid off). The Anabaptist tradition (modern descendants include Brethren Mennonites, Amish, and others) have a rich heritage with began in controversy and blood. Sadly, there are only about 350,000 Mennonites in America today. Men like Conrad Grebel, Balthasar Hubmaier,and Felix Manz paid for their deeply held belief that infant baptism was wrong, separation of church and state, and a call to strict Holy living with their lives. Historically they have believed in three baptism: Baptism of th Spirit, Baptism of Water, and Baptism of Blood. And historically, they’ve had rich, deep experience in all three!