Thursday, January 31, 2008
Yours truly had the privilege last night of attending one of the greatest basketball games in Kansas State history as the Wildcats beat the second ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 84-75.
The K-State win broke a 24 game home losing streak to the Jayhawks and 35 of the last 36 overall. As the game ended, the student section spilled out onto the floor and created a mayhem of jubilee.
The difference maker for K-State was its guard play. To my amazement, they outplayed Kansas with their outstanding ball control-- only 10 turnovers to Kansas' 16. Wildcat freshman guard Jacob Pullen had his biggest game off the bench with 20 points, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover. K-State star Bill Walker led the team early on and Michael Beasley made some critical shots in the second half to maintain the lead. After a back and forth first half, K-State never gave up the lead in the second half.
And the hoopla about Michael Beasley? That guy is the real deal-- a head and shoulders superstar. He was constantly doubled and tripled teamed, yet he scored 25 points and had 6 rebounds. And when bodies fell to the floor, and towels had to be brought out to wipe up the sweat, there was Beasley down on the ground, cleaning the floor-- twice. He's a class act. And first time head coach Frank Martin? Tip the hat to him. The Wildcats controlled the tempo the entire game.
All in all, definitely the greatest college basketball game I've ever witnessed.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel-- Senior Pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia-- was originally scheduled to be a clergy leader for Soulforce's national campaign this spring and summer. The campaign will target the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, and also a number of well known churches and pastors-- Rev. Joel Osteen, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Bishop Eddie Long, Rev. Bill Hybels, and Rev. Rick Warren.
In a January 11 Soulforce press release, Samuel said, "Homophobia and heterosexism directly contradict the principles of equality and justice for all God's children, and I think that the younger generation of evangelicals are beginning more and more to see this contradiction."
But four days later, Samuel told the Southern Voice that he's decided not to participate because, "pastors have the right to believe as they wish." In good conscience, he couldn't "violate another pastor's space" who happens to disagree with his own position.
Samuel's decision to back away from the Soulforce campaign was influenced by his own church's experience of getting picketed by Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church:
"I cannot in good faith do something similar," Samuel said. "The best way to combat bigotry is from the pulpit, to educate the members themselves. It’s rather intrusive for a pastor to come onto another pastor’s sacred space."Samuel will surely face criticism in the GLBT community. If homophobia is wrong, especially in the religious community that exerts moral influence over society, how can he stand idle on the sidelines? How can he allow other influential pastors and churches to continue spreading intolerant views? Would Samuel passively allow another pastor or church to espouse hatred toward blacks during the civil rights movement?
If Phelps had asked Samuel to sit down and talk, Samuel acknowledged he would have said no.
And while he supports Soulforce’s mission, Samuel said he believes "intruding" on another’s sacred space can be counter-productive. "I respect Soulforce for raising the issue. My prayer is the members take this message back to their pastors and tell them how their messages are impacting them," he said.
And yet, Samuel's decision is a tacit admission of two things:
First, Soulforce's methods to create "dialogue" are essentially bullying tactics. Their ways even resemble those of the loathsome Westboro Church. Notice that Samuel says he couldn't do something similar. Soulforce will deny this description of their methods, but Executive Director Jeff Lutes says his organization has already written "100 letters to these six [above mentioned] churches and several dozen to Bishop Eddie Long’s church," adding the group still plans to show up at Long's congregation on June 1. Samuel's choice to back away is a sign that he prefers the kind of dialogue that is more in line with the tradition of the United Church Christ-- where two parties willingly agree to gather around a common table, without undue coercion.
Second, religious people are legitimately entitled to believe that GLBT behavior is wrong and grieves the heart of God. No doubt, Samuel takes the other side of the issue, yet he believes a measure of tolerance is owed to those with whom he disagrees. At the least, disagreeing pastors and churches should not be intimated by those who show up to their sacred space uninvited, pushing an agenda. Again, Samuel's decision reflects in application the polity of the United Church of Christ-- which gives autonomy to individual congregation to decide their own beliefs.
The question of whether GLBT behavior is morally legitimate will continue indefinitely. In the meantime, Samuel's decision shows that dialogue about this sensitive issue is best when two parties meet willingly and without intimidation.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Albert Mohler and Peter Gomes illustrate the difference in perspective between the evangelical and mainline churches-- and so does this.
For those considering suicide. The post and the comments drove me to tears. There's a lot of hurt in the world.
Malaysia has banned Christian books that have the faces of Jesus, Moses, and Abraham. And this is a "moderate" Muslim country?
Go ahead. Wrestle with a paradox. The website of the great creativity teacher, Roger Von Oech.
What if Martin Luther were starting out in ministry today? Some interesting questions from Dan Kimball.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
On this particular night, the host was on-site at a crime scene, where a gruesome murder took place. The host was walking around the site interviewing the lead detective.
The host asked, "Was blood found here?" Then the host asked again, "And did the luminal test show blood?" And it went on and on. "Blood here?" "Blood there?"
After a few moments of this, I got to thinking, "Do I really need to be watching this?"
And then I thought, "Well, somebody sure needs to look at this. A terrible crime took place. The victim and the family need justice. Someone needs to examine the evidence. God sure sees it all."
Then I wondered: "But what about the dignity of the victim and the families? They are suffering badly. Why is it necessary for me to see this evidence?"
The TV show isn't sleazy. It's well respected. And I like the host. But the program left me feeling like I was looking at something that wasn't any of my business.
It was entertainment through other's misery.
I turned it off.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Josiah was King of Judah-- the southern portion of Israel after its civil war in 931 B.C. Josiah took over in 640 B.C. when he was only eight years old. He was the last good King of Judah during a time when the spiritual life of God's people was seriously declining.
At age 16, Josiah started seeking the Lord. Then at 20 years old, 2 Chronicles 34:3-7 tells us he "began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of its high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images."
Notice all the verbs that follow in 2 Chronicles-- that describe the removal of idols:
Tore down (2x)Do you think Josiah was serious about cleaning house and getting rid of idols?
Cut to pieces (2x)
Broke to pieces
Crushed to powder
How serious are you about getting rid of your idols?
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
When he was about to die, he told his wife, "Bury me with all my money." At his funeral, the wife dutifully complied.
Later, the new widow and a friend got together for coffee. The friend said, "You didn't really bury him with all his money." The widow replied, "How could I deny his final wish? When his casket was closed for the final time, I made sure all his money was with him."
The friend was quiet. She couldn't believe it. And the widow added: "Yes, I buried him with all his money. And I did it by writing him a check."
Sometimes, people try to hang onto things that can't help them. For the living, that often takes the form of idols-- things that rob the rightful place of God.
In Old Testament days, idols were obvious to spot. They were figured statues carved out of stone or wood. In our day, idols are tougher to detect, yet they're plentiful in number-- power, fame, money, sex. And things more benign-- kids, gardens, cars, etc.
One reason idols can be hard to detect is they often are things that God has rightly given us to enjoy. For example, everyone needs food. And good food, delightfully prepared, is fun to eat. But if I continually gorge on food to make me feel better when life gets too stressful, food becomes an idol.
When I cease to rely on God for my happiness, security, and provision and replace God with something or someone that isn't intended to take God's rightful place in my life, I create an idol.
Lately, I've seen the need to examine myself and clean house.
What's dwelling in your house? Anything need cleaning out?
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The two days have a lot in common, yet those who are passionate about life rarely come in contact with those passionate about civil rights. Rev. David Stokes at Townhall says that needs to change:
So, here we are again, in another January – decades after a killing and a ruling - still marching about Roe v. Wade and honoring Dr. King - but seldom in the same room. The two constituencies, both fierce about the importance of faith, seldom find, much less look for, ways to reach out to the other choir.May the two visions become one and win the hearts and minds of our country.
As churches get ready for this Sunday some will highlight “SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE SUNDAY.” Others will talk a lot about Dr. King and his dream. Usually it will be one or the other.
Some of us WILL try to do both – because there ought to be an affinity between the two.
When Martin Luther King talked about a dream he had for his four little children and how he longed for them to grow up in a nation “where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” – beyond the “amens” and applause of the crowd around the Lincoln Memorial far too many Americans ignored what he had to say. Or worse – they mobilized to polarize and oppose.
Those opponents were wrong. No matter how much they went to church, read their Bibles, or professed the religion of Jesus. It was wrong for good, God-fearing, Americans NOT to see how important it was, from a faith-based point of view, that a nation truly walk the walk it had long talked about.
And, it is wrong for some people of faith today not to see the “pro-life” cause as very much a civil and human rights issue.
We should have a dream that welcomes all to the table.
We should have a dream that welcomes all to life itself.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
It's funny. On Colorado's roster are two celebrity names:
Whitney Houston and Brittany Spears.
Each one made a contribution. Spears started and had 16 points and 8 rebounds. Houston had 2 points off the bench.
How often do you see that on a sports team?
Friday, January 18, 2008
So I stopped what I was doing, went to school, and found a puny feeling kid eager to go home.
Once in the house, my feverish child put on pajamas and then asked, "Would you read me a story?"
So we found a familiar book, settled into a comfortable couch, and quickly falling asleep was...
I slept for a half hour.
The bug is going around.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
A stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.An artifact like this confirms (once again) the historical accuracy of Scripture. While it doesn't prove the theology of the Old Testament, it certainly increases the credibility of its message-- about a gracious God who saves people through faith in Himself.
The 2,500-year-old black stone seal, which has the name "Temech" engraved on it, was found earlier this week amid stratified debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.
According to (chapter 7 of) the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family were servants of the First Temple and were sent into exile to Babylon following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
The family was among those who later returned to Jerusalem, the Bible recounts.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Now the man who was hosting Jesus for dinner was a very religious man—a Pharisee. He was brim and proper. And I’m sure he was surprised when this down-and-out woman comes up to Jesus.
Back in the first century, when important people at a meal together, they often ate in the center of an open courtyard—and people would gather around—at the outer edges—to watch. So when this lady leaves the outer edges, breaks the social norms, and sits down by Jesus’ toes, at the celebrity table, he’s a bit offended. And he says to himself, “If this man Jesus were really a prophet know-it-all, he’d know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a low down sinner.”
The religious man is saying all this to himself, but Jesus knows what he’s thinking, and so he says to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have a story to tell you. Two men owed money to a lender. One owed 500. The other owed 50. Neither of them could repay the money, so the lender canceled the debt.” Then Jesus asked, “Which one will love him more?” Simon gets the point and replies, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” And Jesus says, “Yes, you got it.”
And then, Jesus does something bold. In fact, what Jesus does next is what makes him unique and worthy of our attention. Jesus takes Simon deeper. He reveals to Simon—a religious man—what true spiritual need looks like. He points to the woman at his feet and says, “Simon, this is what real spirituality looks like. It’s admitting your need.”
... Our greatest need is a Savior— someone who will forgive our sins— and restore us to a right relationship with God.
The lady who kneeled at Jesus’ feet— she found the right person. And when you admit your need and kneel at his feet— you too find the right person—for in Jesus, you find God himself.
And at the feet of Jesus, you too can hear these words: “Your sins are forgiven... Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Dear friend, the Bible declares that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Three days later, he rose again. In doing so, he showed the world that God indeed has forgiven us.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you have humbly confessed to Jesus your need—for His forgiveness—of your sins? If so, let this be a day of rejoicing. If you have not yet made this decision, the arms of Jesus are open. He welcomes anyone who will trust in Him. For God delights in forgiving the debt that none of us can repay. Amen.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Nader Talebzadeh is director of "Jesus, the Spirit of God," winner of an award at the 2007 Religion Today Film Festival in Italy. He says his film is the first to give an Islamic view of Jesus Christ. Iranian actor Ahmad Soleimani Nia plays the role of Jesus.
According to AFP:
Talebzadeh insists (the movie) aims to bridge differences between Christianity and Islam, despite the stark divergence from Christian doctrine about Christ's final hours on earth.
"It is fascinating for Christians to know that Islam gives such devotion to and has so much knowledge about Jesus," Talebzadeh told AFP.
"By making this film I wanted to make a bridge between Christianity and Islam, to open the door for dialogue since there is much common ground between Islam and Christianity," he said.
In these days, where religious conviction is fueling violence, dialogue between religions is a good thing. If people of different faiths can respectfully talk with one another, it humanizes each side, breaks down suspicions, and paves the way for living together in peace.
So to have a dialogue-- via film-- between Muslims and Christians about Jesus is a positive development. In fact, Jesus welcomes the scrutiny, for he asks, "Who do people say that I am?"
In the spirit of dialogue, let's consider what the earliest accounts of Jesus say-- the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All of them were composed within 30-60 years after Jesus' earthly life. Here's what they testify:
Jesus was a Jew. This is an obvious fact, but it's significant to mention here because we're talking about a film financed by the state of Iran, led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who regularly espouses the destruction of Israel. Does anyone believe that Jesus desires the complete obliteration of the Jewish state? It just so happens, "Jesus, the Spirit of God" asserts a central belief of President Ahmadinejad-- that when Jesus returns to earth, he'll be accompanied by the Imam Mahdi.
Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised again on the third day. The AFP articles says the movie, "faithfully follows the traditional tale of Jesus as recounted in the New Testament Gospels, a narrative reproduced in the Koran and accepted by Muslims." But when it comes to the last few hours of Jesus' life-- particularly, his crucifixion, the film switches sources and goes to the Koran, where it is said that Jesus was never crucified, but taken up into heaven. Question: The film thinks the Gospels are a reliable source for Jesus' life. Why then, when it comes to the final hours of Jesus' life, does the film suddenly switch from a first century source (the Gospels) to a much later seventh century source (the Koran)? The earliest and best historical documents of Jesus' life-- the Gospels-- say Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised to life on the third day. The Gospels are so convinced of these facts that they each devote a significant portion of their book reporting these events! The final few hours of Jesus' life isn't a minor difference of division between Christians and Muslims. It's the major difference, for we believe the crucifixion of Jesus was necessary in order for God to forgive the sins of humanity-- again, another early Christian belief (see 1 Corinthians 15).
Jesus is God in human form. Again, this a major difference in belief between Christians and Muslims. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus claims the right to forgive sins, something only God can do. In Mark 14:57-65, Jesus says that he is the Son of Man who sits at God's right hand and comes on the clouds of heaven, something only God does. The religious leaders clearly understood Jesus' claim. They accused him of blasphemy and sentenced him to death. In John 8:58, Jesus says, "Before Abraham was born, I am." Jesus claims to be a prophet not on par with Abraham, but greater, for he always existed-- again, a characteristic of God. Christians do not worship three gods. We worship one God who has revealed Himself in three ways-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The movie, "Jesus: the Spirit of God" seeks to show what Christians and Muslims have in common about Jesus. However, the differences between the two religions are vast. Still, art that makes Jesus its subject-- particularly film making-- is a great way to start a dialogue and answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?"
Friday, January 11, 2008
Yesterday in the video, Moore said:
"We must not only come under the authority of Christ, we must learn to enjoy that authority over us."Her point is that believers must come to the place where we relish God's sovereignty and protection over our lives and in turn joyfully submit ourselves to the Lord again and again.
The remark reminded me of something a friend once told me. He said a lot of alcoholics resist drinking by "white knuckling" it. These folks are depending on their own strength. They don't seek the help and power of God. Consequently, they're clenching tight their fists-- desperately trying on their own to not drink.
I think Christians can believe they've given their life to Christ, but often "white knuckle" it because they don't enjoy or relish God's authority over them. The opposite I think is being "filled by the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)-- where you want to the Lord's strength and actively seek it.
How are your knuckles?
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
These books on pastoring say that being a minister is a special calling. God's call sets you apart. You're in the center of God's action. While our work in the pulpit is very public, most of our labors go unseen. We labor for results that are evident to all-- changed lives. But that requires focusing our energies on what is often unseen-- the human soul.
I have a lot of respect for the Christian plumber, farmer, teacher, etc. They're "out in the world" everyday, rubbing shoulders with all sorts of people. Like pastors, they too have their own special burdens, something veteran pastor, Warren Wiersbe demonstrates here:
"Caring for people in pastoral ministry is more than you deserve and more than you can handle."I'm especially feeling that burden lately. Pray for me. And pray for your pastor.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
I have over 50 lnks to blogs that I read and enjoy. Today, I'd like to share with you a couple of my favorites.
- UCCTruths-- Alternative news and opinion about the United Church of Christ denomination. I contribute articles here on an irregular basis.
- Denny Burk-- Professor at Criswell College in Dallas, I like the variety of subjects that Denny discusses-- theology, politics, sports, and more.
- Parchment and Pen-- The blog of Reclaiming the Mind ministries, founded by Michael Patton. RTM offers the best online theological education you can find, at a very reasonable price. The blog features thoughtful posts about theology and features weekly posts from Dr. Dan Wallace, a former profession of mine at Dallas Seminary. Dan has a sharp and fertile mind. I always like knowing what he's thinking about.
- Swerve-- This is the blog of Pastor Craig Groeschel and LifeChurch.tv, based in Edmund, Oklahoma. Craig's articles models outstanding simplicity. He packs more wisdom in less words than anyone I know. Often he writes on a theme for the week. Each entry ends with a question for reflection.
The ex Atlanta Falcon QB, who pled guilty in August to dog fighting charges, was transfered from a Virginia prison to a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas to enter a drug treatment program.
If he successfully completes his program, Vick could be released a year early, although he still faces state charges on dog fighting in Virginia.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Why does God give us burdens in the first place? Here's what I've learned:
- The Lord gives us longings to remind us our weakness. We are needy. We are not self-sufficient, try as we may.
- God uses our longings to remind us of our greater need for God himself. When we forget God, He sends problems our way to drive us back to Him.
- God uses our longings to show us His greatness and power. Through our struggle, God works, and in a very real way, we see that God is alive.
- Sometimes, our longings need revising. Either we want the wrong things, want it for the wrong reasons, or at the wrong time. Trusting God with our desires means that we're willing to let God reshape our wants.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Friday, January 04, 2008
That axiom got tested recently when Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison admitted having an affair-- while running for office and into his first term. Initially, he said he would remain in office. He could still "do his job." But quickly, political pressures forced him to resign.
So what was Morrison doing on the job? Today, Steve McIntosh of KNSS Radio-1330 Wichita reports:
Records show Morrison spent nearly eleven-thousand minutes on the phone with his mistress over the first ten months of this year. That’s 35 minutes a day talking to Linda Carter, his former employee. She’s the one who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Morrison. He resigned … admitting an affair but nothing more.Your private life? It matters. And it does affect your public work.
Paul Morrison spent 75 work hours on the phone with his girlfriend. That’s more time than many workers get for vacation in a year. Sure makes you wonder about the Attorney General’s productivity. Anyone who can spend that much time on personal phone calls must have a pretty laid-back appointment schedule.
35 minutes a day! I guess that means Ms Carter is “high maintenance”. Or maybe Morrison is a terrible time manager. Or maybe he simply lacked respect for his employers, the people of Kansas.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
As a Republican, I've read and listened to the views of Huckabee, McCain, Paul, Giuliani, and Romney. Here's how I've sorted them out:
- Paul is too libertarian for me. I don't support his foreign policy of total isolation.
- Giuliani is strong on defense and sensible spending, but too liberal on social policy, particularly on abortion.
- McCain is a war hero who has my deep respect, yet I won't overlook his role in limiting free speech in campaigns (McCain-Feinberg), nor his political maneuvers in the Senate that kept good judges from being confirmed.
- Huckabee is an evangelical Christian. For this, I am glad, but that in itself is not enough to garner my support. In particular, Huckabee has raised taxes too much in Arkansas, is ignorantly critical of Bush's foreign policy, and won't protect our borders, thus continuing the problem of illegal immigration.
In short, Romney is a fiscal and social conservative. He's strong on defense. He supports border patrol and legal immigration. He's presidential. He handles himself well. He's been a very successful business leader. While I don't share his Mormon faith (nor do I believe that Mormonism is Christian), it's evident from Scripture that God superintends the leaders He raises up to govern the nations.
Here then is my choice. You won't hear about it in my pulpit, just on this blog.
Let's see what happens.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I'm beginning the New Year thinking about music. Here's a profile of one of my favorite musicians, Adrian Belew.
What a guitarist! He's played with people and bands I really enjoy, plus he's a Cincinnati guy.
What he says at the end of this short documentary sums up the start of 2008, "I can't wait to see what happens next."