Sunday, December 28, 2008

Delayed Hiatus

One more thing...

I’ve been a Cowboys fan for almost 20 years. I HATED them growing up. I was a big fan of the STL Cardinals football team. When they left time after the 1988 season, my loyalty did not follow them. Instead my hatred was switched. I was left without a football team. I flirted with in-state KC Chiefs and nearby Chicago Bears, but, ehh…
I settled on the Dallas Cowboys (who were the first team to play the Phoenix Cardinals, as they were called then).
I moved to the DFW area at the end of the 1991 season on the Cowboy upswing. I was in full Cowboy frenzy in the 90s. The 92-93 teams were two of the greatest teams in the last 30 years. Then came the rift between Jerry and Jimmy. Jerry got more control and Jimmy got tired of it and left/was fired. The Barry Switzer teams were not easy to root for. The players would circumvent the authority of the coach and appeal to Jerry directly. Jerry made all of the personnel decisions. He would bring in risky guys with bad pasts and waning talent. He made one of the worst trades of the last 15 years: Two number one draft picks for Joey Galloway. If you want to read a great book on the 90s Cowboys, read Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys. Fascinating. One of the things about that book is that it made it tough to realize how I rooted for a bunch of really bad guys (there were some exceptions: Troy, Darryl, Darren Woodson; “We had some diamonds…”)
Cowboys’ fans were elated when Bill Parcells brought his talent evaluation skills to the team. But he got tired of Jerry as well so he left to go rebuild the Dolphins.
Reading Pearlman’s book made me realize how close the Cowboys are to those late 90s teams. Jerry is in full control of personnel, taking the side of loud mouth players instead of letting his coaches put their foot down. (Seriously, the week before the biggest game of the year the owner is siding with TO about another player needing the ball more. He pushes Tony Romo and Jason Garrett down the stairs as he takes TO’s side again).
He is making it very difficult to root for this team. It was with mixed emotions watching the last game of 08 season. I pull for some of the great guys on this team, but I am beginning to take more and more glee at seeing Jerry Jones embarrassed on a national stage.
He’ll continue to get the spot light, he’ll never sell the team and he will probably never give up personnel to another “football” man again. And it has been 12 years since the last playoff win…
Want to get some insight into this thing, read Pearlman's book. I finished it in two days.

I lied about hiatus. I feel like Kramer’s vow of silence… “Starting…Now!”

Hiatus Continues

Blogging has stopped over the holidays and looks to stay stopped down until after the 9th of January. Got a big trip coming up and may try to blog from the trip. If not, there will be a travelogue following.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Origen on Hebrews and Paul

Warning: This post probably only holds interests to me and maybe one or two other readers of this blog (and probably not even them). It came to my mind this morning and I wanted to look it up and post it.

Maybe of us who have studied the authorship of the various books of the Bible, whether in seminary or under a pastors teaching has probably discussed the dilemma of who wrote the Book of Hebrews. Nobody knows definitively who wrote Hebrews. There is no one’s name attached to the salutation or the benediction. Early Church theologian Origen is quoted most often saying to some effect, “God only knows who wrote the epistle.”
There aren’t too many serious scholars who believe that Paul wrote Hebrews. I do know one who thinks that Paul may in fact be the author: David Black of Southeastern Seminary. Dave is an accomplished author of Greek textbooks and a commentator who is a member of the Society for New Testament Studies. At dinner once he commented on his belief that Paul wrote Hebrews. He even referred to the quote by Origen, saying that if you read the entire context of the quote (that is found in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History), he believes that Paul’s thoughts lie underneath the epistle to the Hebrews. Here is a portion of Origen’s thoughts on Hebrews (from Eusebius' EH):

"If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the style and composition belong to someone who remembered the apostle's teachings and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this also. For it is not without reason that the men of old time have handed it down as Paul's. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. Yet the account that has reached us is twofold, some saying that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and others, that it was Luke, the one who wrote the Gospel and the Acts." But let this suffice on these matters."

Origen believes that the letter to the Hebrews probably contains Paul’s thoughts written down by an unknown writer writing from recall. Origen (ca. 185-254) then actually gave credence to the thought that maybe Paul did write Hebrews.

If you ever heard the quote from Origen ("God only knows" without its full context) post briefly in the comments that you've heard it. (That is if you've even read this far).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Creativity - Generosity - Simplicity

Some more from Albert Hsu's The Suburban Christian
The opposite of consumption is production. It takes far more time and energy to create something than to consume something. Creativity is the first dimension of God’s character revealed in Genesis. He then quotes Andy Crouch, who has noticed that we (as Christians) have critiqued culture, and we have also tended to copy culture in our Christian subculture. Mostly we consume culture. But all of this is a far cry from God’s intent, that we fulfill the creative mandate and exercise our energies to create culture. As we think of areas of interest to us where consuming can be replaced with creating, and God leads us to exercise our creative gifts, we may sense the joy he intended for us to experience in the midst of human creativity.
Generosity, at its most basic form, is giving things away, divesting oneself of possessions or money for the benefit of others. Richard Foster says that every once in a while, we should look through our belongings to see what objects we most cling to, what has us in its grip. And we should then give them away. Hsu then asks, what can you divest yourself of, for someone else’s benefit as well as your own?
There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less (G. K. Chesterton).
One rule of thumb is to try to live at a standard of living that is below others in your income bracket. As a Christian spiritual discipline of simplicity, we can try to live below and under what we can afford. The more we exercise self-discipline and voluntary simplicity, the more resources we will have available with which we can practice generosity. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve took and ate fruit that was not only forbidden, but unnecessary. One pathway to simplicity is to evaluate our consumer choices through the lens, “Is it necessary for me to own this item?”
Hsu closes this chapter by referencing 10 guidelines for practicing simplicity from Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Here are a few:
1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
4. Learn to enjoy things without owning them. (This is something that I am beginning to learn. Some small steps, even though I have an allowance for books, I have begun checking books out at the library and reading them).
5. Develop a deeper appreciation for God’s creation.
6. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
7. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

As you can see, so much of what Hsu writes does not necessary only target suburban Christians, but all believers who have more than enough.

Thoughts on Translations

This article almost captures my feelings on Bible translations. I have been intrigued (and almost put off) by all of the hype over the ESV. A lot of my friends have switched to the ESV and are putting it in their churches as their "pew Bible." I haven't switched. I think it has its place, but I really don't think it is that great. It is very similar to the NAS. I use the NIV still. It is comfortable to me. I know the problems with it and when I teach out of it, I point out the few problems that I have with their translation. (One issue is the translation of sarx to sinful nature. It should be best translated "flesh" in such passages as Galatians 5). But I still like it. I remember the look I got from one friend when he asked what translation I was using, I told him I use the NIV (he is an ESV user). He said kiddingly, "I have lost any respect I have had for you." (I think he was only half-kidding). I hope I am not clinging to the NIV out of some slavish quasi-KJV Only world view. I have even looked into the TNIV. The gender inclusive nature of it does not scare me (I know where I disagree with it there as well).
The blog post I reference comes from a NT scholar. He wrote his thoughts on translations. He acknowledges that he can be an iconoclast (just for the sake of being an iconoclast). I will admit to being somewhat of a contrarian at times too. But if your interested in some thoughts on translations (and his views on the ESV, which echo mine to some extent) visit this site. (Disclaimer: it is a site sponsored by Zondervan, "owner" of the NIV. But, in the interest in fairness, one of Zondervan's authors [Bill Mounce] is the ESV NT chairman.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Icing on the Cake

Parents wanted to have Wal-Mart put their child's name in icing on his birthday cake. They refused. You will understand this refusal when you see the child's name.
See the story here. From the AP

They're right, probably not too many kids in the world sharing this boy's name. But seriously, why would you do that to your son?

Suburban Christian - The Christian as Consumer

Material World – The Challenges of Consumer Culture
I am going to skip forward a few chapters. Hsu spent a couple of chapters discussing the rise of the suburbs and how American has developed into a commuter culture with the proliferation of the automobile.
Here he begins discussing the consumer culture of suburbia. As we have moved away from an agrarian society and then away from an industrial society, our present society seems to be built on consumption. If consumption is inescapable, are there ways to moderate or mitigate our consumption? Is there a way to consume more Christianly?
Today, production is so far removed from consumption that consumers make their purchases with no knowledge of the context or human cost of their consumption.

Conscientious Consumption
If we as consumers knew that our toys and sweatshirts were being created by a permanent underclass enslaved by industrial exploitation, we’d think twice about what we purchase. Also, in terms of impacting our local economy, shopping at national chains and big-box stores tends to take money out of a local community. Studies show that chains return an average of 13 to 14 percent of dollars spent in their stores to local economies, and much of the rest departs to the national office and suppliers. On the other hand, locally owned, independent stores recirculate 45 to 58 percent of their dollars to the local community.

Countering Consumerist Ideology
Consumer culture wants to create addicts. Instead we must “rein in desire…stay away from malls and upscale shops, knowing that such exposure inevitably creates desire.”
Children growing up in the suburbs may have a distorted sense of what the average family “needs” to own.

Hsu then lists 9 principles for countering consumerism that he has adapted from Juliet Schor (The Overspent American). Here are a few:
1. Control desire: avoid things that make you want more.
2. Control ourselves: Participate in community efforts to reduce consumption.
3. Learn to share: Both a borrower and a lender be (This is so hard, I have tried this with a lawn tool, making it available to my neighbor whenever he wanted, but he went out and bought his own).
4. Become an educated consumer.

These are a few of the more practical pieces of advice from the list. Hsu then reminds us to practice the discipline of fasting, not just from food, but as a rhythm of relinquishment that reminds us that our desires don’t always need to be sated.
To counteract suburban consumerism, Hsu offers three main alternatives. We need to reclaim the Christian spiritual practices of creativity, simplicity and generosity. I will devote a new post to these alternatives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Suburban Christian - Part 1

The Suburban Moment – Glimpses of a Suburban Future
By 1970, more Americans lived in suburbs than in either central cities or rural areas. By 2000, more Americans lived in suburbs than in central cities and rural areas combined. The United States had become a predominantly suburban nation (Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia).

Looking at this note, we see that suburbia is significant. Given suburbia’s new centrality, Christians, especially suburban Christians, must take the suburbs seriously.
Hsu discusses his life and his suburban journey. He sets out trying to define suburbia (which is very complex). He discusses the suburbanization of cities and the urbanization of suburbia. In summing up this section, he states that suburbia has become the context and center of millions of people’s lives, and decisions and innovations made in suburbia influence the rest of society. If Christians want to change the world, they may well do so by having a transformative Christian impact on suburbia and the people therein.

Called to Suburbia?
We have recently seen a renewed call to the urban areas of the country. Many church planters are looking at relocating to urban areas to plant in order to impact the culture, serve the poor and marginalize, and develop multicultural congregations. Unfortunately, a side effect of this renewed emphasis on the city has been the idea that living in the city is somehow preferable or morally superior to living in suburbia.
Hsu wonders, rather than contrasting cities against suburbs, it is more helpful to see cities and suburbs as part of a metropolitan whole. Our contemporary understanding of “the city” needs to include both city and suburb, and God needs Christians to have a presence throughout the entire metropolis.
Ultimately both are legitimate places of Christian discipleship. All of us would do well to consider whether God might use us strategically in a different context. But if we conclude that we are called to stay in suburbia, then we ought to do so intentionally, seeking out ways of participating in God’s work and mission in our immediate environment, loving our neighbors and caring for the poor, whether materially or spiritually impoverished.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Review Series: The Suburban Christian by Albert Hsu

I don’t know if people like these little book reviews or not, but it is a good way to help me think through what I’m reading and also have some kind of regular blog content. My next extended review is of Albert Hsu’s book, The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty. Whether you live in the suburbs or not, most of you live in the land of plenty and this book has some helpful tips on missional living in disconnected communities.

Introduction: Suburbia – Paradise or Wasteland?
There are a variety of reasons that lead people to the suburbs. Most come in search of affordable housing, good schools or safe communities. (I will admit, we bought where we did for basically two reasons, and they are connected: good school district and a neighborhood that would be easy to sell our home if we needed to move. This is our third community since 05, so it is good to be able to get out quick if you need to). In spite of people moving to communities that are “a good place to raise kids,” suburbia is often anonymous and isolated. (I know I can go weeks without a meaningful conversation with any of my neighbors, and I am actually looking for the opportunities). Sometimes we feel spiritually impoverished in the midst of this land of plenty. Can we truly experience God in the suburbs? Is it possible to live authentic Christian lives as suburban Christians? (On the other hand, it isn’t inherently Christian to live in the “cities.” As I have noted elsewhere, I lived in both, and one can be just as isolated in an urban area).

The Legitimacy of Suburban Living
In examining all of the criticism of Christian suburban life, Albert wonders if the critics are actually critiquing a particular kind of suburban life without being open to the possibility that true Christians could live faithfully in suburbia. Some of the comments include that suburban Christians are more shallow, vapid or materialistic than other Christians. Behind these comments is a tacit assumption that the Christian life simply can’t be lived in certain environments. Instead, Hsu advocates that Christians develop a thoroughly Christian approach to living in contemporary suburbia. We should thoughtfully assess and discern how Christians ought to live in this environment, without either capitulating to the culture or abandoning it by fleeing the suburbs and relocating to the country.

Hsu is going to look beyond the stereotypes of suburbia as either shallow wasteland or utopian paradise and instead reckon with both the opportunities and challenges facing suburban Christians.

By the way, if anyone is interested, I would be glad to give you my copy of The Blue Parakeet that I just finished reviewing. Let me know if you want it and I will give it to you the next time I see you (or might even be willing to mail it to you).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Did He Call LSD da Bomb?

I used to work on campus and would go home for lunch. There I would catch Dragnet. It would crack me up. About once a week we would get an episode of one of Sgt. Joe Friday's moral speeches. Here is one about drugs. At about :45 he calls LSD the bomb.

Great speech. Long live Joe Friday! Oh, wait...he's what?

Closing the Blue Parakeet

Blue parakeet passages are oddities in the Bible that we prefer to cage and silence rather than to permit into our sacred mental gardens. (In reality though, the term Blue Parakeet serves as a metaphor for women in ministry).
In light of all that has gone before, Scot wants to wrap things up here. So, how then do we read the Bible?
Instead of reading each passage in its storied context, we will zoom in on getting out of the Bible what we want. Scot wants us to read the Bible from front to back as Story (capital “A” on purpose). Scot recaps the Story (here). Then seeks to point us to living out the story today.
Some thoughts on the Bible:
• The Bible is more than laws, and each law is connected to its context
• The Bible is more than blessings and promises; there are some warnings and threats as well
• The Bible is something that comes to us from God and not something onto which we can impose our wishes and desires
• The Bible is a story to be read, not a divinely scattered puzzle to be pieced together into a system that makes sense of it all.
• The Bible is a collection of wiki-stories of the Story, and each author, each Maestro, is but one voice at the table.

Living out the story today
First, we need to be mastered by the Story by reading the Bible so deeply that its story becomes our story. It is not merely that the Story masters us, but the God of that story is the one who masters us.
Second, together as God’s people we are to so inhabit the Story that we can discern how to live in our world.

What now?
We cannot think that our task is complete once we’ve figured what Paul or Peter meant when they spoke the gospel in their world. Instead, we are given a pattern of discernment in the Bible, a pattern that flows directly out of the Story, to listen to what God said in that world so we can know what God is saying to us and through our world. So we can know what God wants us to say about that story to our world – in our world’s ways.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thoughts on Denominations

I pulled this from Ed Stetzer's blog. I want people to know that there are members of our state convention that are listening and doing some of the very things that Ed is promoting:
Ed Stetzer and David Putman's advice to denominations (from Breaking the Missional Code):

Cast a vision for a new tomorrow. Denominational agencies for the most part have a unique vantage point from which to see the world. Often, those of us who are in the church can be too close to the trees to see the forest. At other times, we are too close to the forest to see the trees. Denominational agencies can serve a vital role in keeping us informed of our progress in regard to reaching the many unreached people living in North America. Someone has to monitor the pulse if we are going to make a difference. Casting vision and informing that vision with real time research is essential to our future.

Lift up apostolic heroes. Denominational agencies can continue to tell the story of real apostolic heroes...

Conduct relevant research. Few churches are equipped to do the kind of research required to break the code. Sure, some of it is intuitive and other aspects are simply Holy Spirit-led. But how do we begin to see the need and develop a holistic strategy for discipling an entire city or region? Who and where are the hidden people? How do we reach them? If we do not know, where do we begin? What do we do with our new findings? How do we communicate with others coming behind us? Denominational agencies can come alongside these apostolic leaders and ministries and help provide good research.

Supplement the local church in equipping apostolic leaders...

Network learning communities and reporting results...

Provide financial resources for apostolic leaders...

Help leaders move beyond their own ethnic, economic model or other ghetto...
(pp. 176-79)

Denominations can help bridge the gaps, bringing different kinds of leaders together for kingdom impact.

Denominations are in a challenging time right now... and I believe things will get worse for denominations before they get better. However, I believe the best denominational partnerships are yet to come when denominations get re-focused on serving churches and helping them fulfill the Great Commission. Lyle Shaller explains that denominations will thrive when they ask churches, "How can we help you fulfill the Great Commission?" Schaller says that our ultimate goal is a "customized evangelistic strategy" for every church. (pg. 179)

The bottom line is that churches are pointing to a different future. Denominations need to serve churches to accomplish their mission. The "customers" of every denomination are its churches and church leaders. The mission of every denomination is to help churches accomplish what God has called them to do. Denominations matter because they don't have to amount to a splintering of the church, but can be a means of unifying churches around gospel and mission.

When denominations are focused on churches, churches will network with them and other partnerships for kingdom impact.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thoughts from Ed Sanders

As I have taught hermeneutics now for two online seminaries, I really resonated with this quote from E. P. Sanders as he reflects on teaching the New Testament:
I shall briefly explain two of my efforts to get people actually to learn what is on the pages of the New Testament. Perhaps it should go without saying that this is a difficult task, but I shall nevertheless say something about the problem. The more time students have spent in church the more they think that the text consists of morals that are immediately applicable to themselves and that all the words meant then what they mean now. In fact, the worldviews of the biblical authors are not our worldviews, and it is difficult for people to comprehend things that they cannot fit into their own mental universe. It is in some ways easier for people to learn about an unknown religion than about their own...

You can find the quote at Mark Goodacre's blog here.

Darwin Liturgy

If anyone is looking for any ideas for their special Darwin service in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the publishing of On the Origin of the Species, look at the link for some liturgy ideas for Darwin.

Look here

Sporty Blog Note: NFL Players and Guns

Most everyone is familiar with the Plaxico Burress situation (carrying a concealed weapon in a nightclub and accidentally shooting himself with it).

Roger Goodell’s reaction to NFL players and their need for guns due to safety precautions:
"The real issue to me, is when the players feel they're unsafe, they shouldn't be there," Goodell said. "So get out, don't be there. If you feel the need to have a firearm to be someplace, you're in the wrong place."

Goodell’s has a point, it seems when these guys go out they become targets. Look at a few of the NFL players shot (or killed) by gun attacks in the last few years: Joey Porter, Darrent Williams (killed) and Richard Collier (lost his leg).

Goodell’s response does not help Sean Taylor, who was killed in his home by intruders.
Dolphins’ linebacker Joey Porter was on ESPN 2’s First Take and defended Burress:
"Plaxico is like a brother to me. I take it real personal how he's being treated," Porter said. "Everybody has their mistakes, but that's exactly what they are ... Until you've been in that situation, when you've been robbed at gunpoint or you've had a gun waved in your face or had your house broken into before or been carjacked, you really don't know what it's like…For a person to carry a gun, I mean, you're not carrying a gun to show that 'I'm tough.' It's safety, it's nothing but safety."

Here is my take; in light of Sean Taylor (who had a checkered history with firearms) maybe Porter has a point. One Giant’s player was robbed at gunpoint outside of his home the weekend before Burress’ mess (here). Here is the flaw in Porter’s reasoning. Burress was EXTREMELY careless with his gun, he had it tucked in his pants and it went off in a nightclub. He was fortunate that it only struck him (in a non-threatening way) and did not strike (or even kill) an innocent bystander. Plus, if these players want to carry guns, then do it legally. Register your guns and become licensed to carry concealed weapons if you cannot stay out of situations that may get you killed. (Porter is licensed to carry a concealed weapon). Learn how to properly use the gun (so you don’t get shot or shoot someone else fumbling for the gun in your sweat pants). And stay out of NYC where they have a handgun ban which can get you a minimum of three years for carrying a concealed weapon.

Most of the quotes came from this page on

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sensus Plenior and Isaiah 7.14

This is from a lesson I taught on prophecy when I was a NT adjunct at a couple of schools in SW MO. My mind returns to this subject every year at Christmas.

Sensus Plenior
This is a practice of the New Testament writers in how they related to the Old Testament. The term refers to a deeper or fuller sense within the quoted material that might not have been understood by the original author, but is now detectable in the light of the new revelatory fulfillment. This view assumes a divinely intended correspondence between God’s saving activity at different times in the history of redemption. This was practiced by Jewish writers as well as NT interpreters. This view is tied to a belief in the sovereignty of God, the inspiration of the Scriptures and the unity of God’s saving purposes resulting in the interconnectedness of his redemptive acts. To the Christians was the conviction that Christ was the goal of what the OT promised. With these presuppositions, Christians such as Matthew saw correspondences between events of the past and the time of Jesus not as coincidental, but as divinely intended, with the earlier foreshadowing the latter.

The prophet in Isaiah 7 promises as a sign to King Ahaz and the House of David the birth of a son, during whose infancy the two kings feared by Ahaz would be ruined (Syria and Israel). Fulfillment of this passage is required in the immediate future.
Was Matthew wrong to use this verse as a fulfillment of the birth of Jesus? Even Jewish interpreters saw something fuller in this prophecy. The name given to the child, Immanuel, spoke of a later day when God’s presence would ultimately be fulfilled (Day of the Lord). This figure in 7.14 became identified in Judaism as that son of David who would bring the expected kingdom of security, righteousness, and justice. Accordingly, probably sometime in the third century BC, the Greek translators of the OT apparently regarded the passage as having a deeper meaning, yet unrealized. They chose to translate the Hebrew term in Isaiah 7.14 (almah or young woman who may or may not be a virgin), with the Greek term parthenos (more specifically virgin) instead of neanis (young woman) used by later Jewish translators of this passage. This was seen to be understood as a supernatural association brought to mind by the identity and work of this son.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Paul's Silencing of Women

Scot noticed that we already contextualize 1 Cor. 11.6 (For if a woman does not cover her head…). We discern that Paul was concerned about how the appearance of Corinthian women (who were letting their hair hang down perhaps in the manner of the Corinthian prostitutes) would impact the reputation of the gospel.

Context is everything. Knowing context permits deeper and wiser discernment. So what was the historical context to Paul’s words in 1 Tim. 2.9-15?

New Roman Women in Ephesus: Dress, Public Discourse, Anti-Marriage

McKnight claims that during Paul’s mission days there was a gender and sexual revolution observable in many of the major cities of the Roman Empire. This “new Roman woman” describes an aggressive, confrontational public presence on the part of women during the very time Paul was writing these letters. They were expressing their newfound freedoms in immodest, sexually provocative, and extravagant dress. They were even snatching the podium for public addresses and teaching.

In Ephesus this was combined with the Artemis religious fertility cult, where worshipers were surrounded by eunuch priests. Part of their worship was the elimination of normal sexual relations; these women despised marriage and childbearing and childrearing. Furthermore, this fertility cult extended their sexual and gender freedoms into open practices of abortion and contraception. This must be kept in mind as the new Roman woman began to jeopardize the holiness of the Church.

Scot points out that the big point Paul makes is not to “keep the women silent” but to “teach the women.” There were other problems at Ephesus that are sprinkled throughout the letter that impact the meaning and context of the original injunction. There was a problem with sensuality among the younger widows (1 Tim. 5.11-12) and there are busybody teachers (1 Tim. 5.13). If set into the new Roman woman context, we will see that 1 Timothy 5 is referring to young widow who, because they are not yet theologically formed, are being accused by Paul of idling and busy bodying. What they were saying and teaching was Paul’s concern.

Paul also point to the virtue of marriage in chapter 5, which harkens back to 1 Timothy 2.15 ("But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”) Scot doubts Paul is demanding all women everywhere marry, have children, and manage their homes (we only need to look at 1 Corinthians 7 for evidence that that is not the case). But if we factor in the new Roman woman’s desire to end marriage and childbearing and to pursue instead a sexually promiscuous life, Paul is countering those ideas with the virtue of marriage and managing a home. This is the context that gives rise to the silencing of women.

Paul’s focus in 1 Tim. 2.9-15 is not on what women cannot do, but on what these women must do: learn. He is not concerned with silence in general but silence in order to learn. Scot then concludes that the silence that Paul talks about in both 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy 2 is a temporary silence – temporary until these women have learned.

What about today?

Scot states that we can at least begin with two basic options: either we have a general prohibition of women teaching and leading with some exceptions or we have the possibility of women teaching and leading with some restrictions. There is no ground for total silencing of women in the church.

Scot then appeals to 1 Corinthians 9.19-23 and asks: Do you think Paul would have put women “behind the pulpit” if it would have been advantageous “for the sake of the gospel?”

In light of what you’ve read in the last few posts (What did women do in the OT, in the NT and the background to 1 Tim. 2.9-15), how would you answer Scot’s last question: In light of 1 Cor. 9.19-23, do you think Paul would have put women behind the pulpit if it would have been advantageous for the sake of the gospel?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Craig Blomberg on Wealth

One of my favorite NT commentators is Craig Blomberg. He recently wrote about James 5 and the dangers of storing up wealth. He asks himself some very hard questions about how close he comes to identifying with the rich people of the passage (5.1-6). Then this quote:
But then if we are honest, we have to say that, by global standards, we are the ones who have lived in luxury and self-indulgence, especially in what we spend on our homes and on our churches, in how much we eat and how much we throw away on recreation and entertainment. At some point presumably this disqualifies any profession of faith in Jesus we might otherwise make. I wish I knew where that line was.

But that would only tempt me to get as close to the line as possible. Since I don't know, I have to consistently ask myself how I can do more and more to move away from the danger of being anywhere close to such a line. After all, the earnings on the investments I didn't give away in the last ten years have all disappeared in the last few months due to the financial crisis. Will I ever learn the lesson?

Read the full post here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Agree with Darrell Bock...

About Bible translations. Here is a snippet of a recent blog post:
So my point is to be a little skeptical when someone hails one translation as far superior than another, or especially when they hype it as THE one. Relax, more than one version might be good for your Bible study now and again. Often the best rendering will depend on the verse or unit in question and will shift from version to version. Most do a pretty good job as a rule. Where translations differ on a verse, you can know that there is an interpretive or textual wording issue present, if the difference is not merely the choice between different synonyms.

Find it here

Blue Parakeet - What did women do in the New Testament?

Scot looks next at some prominent women mentioned in the NT and examines what they did.

Mary (the mother of Jesus)
Mary has made many protestants nervous because the Catholic over emphasis on her, but she is still an integral figure in the NT. Scot believes that her level of influence had to be at the level of teaching. If early tradition is correct, Mary was a widow. Thus, she had influence in the NT in three ways. Mary’s influence emerges in her training of Jesus and of his brother James and she was critical in the formation of our Gospels. He states that Mary taught and was involved in the spiritual formation of Jesus and James.
Scot examines Mary’s song in Luke 1.46-55. He sees these of justice for the poor and marginalized, judgment on the oppressors, holiness and God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises. James carries these same themes in his letter.
Scot also asks a very pertinent question: Where do you think Luke acquired the stories he tells us in Luke 1-2? These two chapters are the birth narrative from Mary’s perspective. It is not hard to believe since Luke does discuss gathering information from eyewitnesses. There is no reason to doubt that Luke would have interviewed Mary as Luke may have visited Jerusalem with Paul. (See Luke 1.1-4 for his statement on gathering details).
I agree with Scot about Mary’s importance as an eyewitness and the song put into her mouth in Luke’s gospel was impactful not only on James but in the way Luke fashions his gospel. But also, Scot overstates his case almost putting Mary up as THE teacher of Jesus and James. He gives lip service to Joseph’s potential, but it was Mary who was the primary teacher. We do not know when she was widowed, but Joseph was a righteous man and the primary duties of teaching in the household would have been the father’s. So, while Scot provides some good points, he overstates his case for his purposes.

Junia is mentioned along with her husband Andronicus in Romans 16.7 as “outstanding among the apostles.” Thus, the inference is that a woman was mentioned as an apostle. Her being a woman was not important, but Scot feels what is important are her intelligence, her giftedness and her calling. (Once again, how do we know anything solid about her intelligence, giftedness and her calling? Not a word about these characteristics are mentioned. Overstating again).
Junia was noted as coming to faith before Paul and they were imprisoned with Paul (no doubt because they were believers and leaders among the Christians). Junia was a woman and an apostle. Scot surmises that since she was an apostle (not one of the twelve, there is a distinction that I will write about someday) she and her husband were recognized as having gifts from God. Those gifts involved such things as evangelizing, teaching, preaching, establishing and leading churches. I think this mention is very important in Scot’s case, and I agree, but once again not only does he overemphasize some things, but here he under emphasizes something important. Junia is mentioned along with her husband. At the very least she is a partner with him in his ministry and is not this lone, female apostle, but this is important that she is mentioned as an apostle.

It is important to note that Priscilla’s name is almost always mentioned first when she is listed with her husband Aquila. That was unusual in the ancient world (not impossible, but unusual). She may have had more of a prominent role in the ministry, but she may have has a more prominent social standing in the Roman world. She, along with her husband, is called Paul’s “co-worker” in Romans 16.3. Once again like Junia, she is mentioned along with her husband. But I do think it is important that Paul feels both women deserve a mention. So, we have a woman who was an apostle and another who was a fellow worker and teacher (see Acts 18.28).

I have already written at length about Phoebe (here). It is interesting that Phoebe is not mentioned along with her husband. She was both mentioned as a “deacon” and a “benefactor/patron.” She was the courier for Paul’s letter to the Romans. It was customary for couriers to explain their letters to their recipients. Phoebe may have been reading and explaining (expounding) Paul’s letter to the various house churches in Rome.

Scot closes with the statement that to tie these four women into the story of the bible, each of these women exhibits the oneness theme that begins in creation, is threatened by the fall and begins to become more and more a reality in Christ. Now, if women did all of this, why does Paul speak of silencing women in public assemblies? How does such silencing fit within the theme of oneness – of God’s work of redemption, restoring men and women into unity in Christ? Scot believes it is time to read the Bible with tradition (not through tradition) and perhaps challenge not the Scriptures but the tradition. He will look at the problem passages that seem to silence women in Paul’s writings next.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Blue Parakeet - What did women do in the Old Testament?

What did women do in the Bible? If we want to be biblical, this question needs to be asked and answered. Scot appeals first to the creation story and states that God created male and female as mutuals. The fall distorted mutuality and oneness became otherness and rivalry for power (Gen. 3.16). The good news is that the fall eventually gives way to new creation, but the church has far too often perpetuated the fall as a permanent condition. If there is any place in the world where this mutuality should be restored, it should be in the church. Ironically, it can be the least redemptive place of the week.

Miriam, Deborah and Huldah
Miriam was one third of Israel’s triumvirate of leadership according to McKnight. He talks about her role as a prophetess who led the Israelites into worship with inspired words (Ex. 15.21). She is referred to by the prophet Micah as one of the leaders who brought the people out of Egypt (Micah 6.4). Scot sees in Miriam’s defiance strength, power and authority because she could call Moses into question.
I think Scot way over plays his hand here. Do I think Miriam is an important figure in OT history? Sure. Is she a part of a triumvirate (which implies co-leaders)? Hardly. God definitely places Moses ahead of Aaron and Miriam in this narrative and her selfishness and envy should not be seen as strength and authority.
Deborah was called by God to lead his people in the period of the Judges. The judges were both political and spiritual leaders rolled into one person. If we ask what did women do, when we look at Deborah we see a woman speak for God as a prophet, render decisions in a law court as a judge, exercise leadership over the entire spiritual-social Israel, and be a military commander who brought Israel to victory. Deborah is definitely the star of song of Deborah and Barak. I think she is an important figure in the history of Israel. I think she makes a strong case for what Scot is trying to accomplish here, in a patriarchal society, a woman led the people into deliverance. However, opponents will point out (complementarians) that this period of the Judges is hardly any time in Israel’s story to follow as example. The judges throughout this period were flawed (see Samson and Jephthah). Plus, when the writer of the letter to the Hebrews mentions the great judges who exemplified faith, he does not mention Deborah, but mentions Barak.
Scot calls Huldah a “Prophet above the Prophets.” In the days of Josiah, the Torah is discovered in the temple. When discerning who they should consult to see what they should do, they turn to Huldah, the female prophet. He could have consulted Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, or Habakkuk, but he chose the woman. She was chosen not because there were not men available; she is chosen because she is truly exceptional among the prophets. Once again, I think Scot is right, Huldah is a prime example of a woman who is important in the history of Israel. He is making his point, but I think he oversteps his bounds by calling her the Prophet above the Prophets. As far as we know, she has no school (disciples) and leaves no writings behind. She is important in this story and in The Story, but Scot overstates things.

From this brief sketch, we can repeat the question: What did women do? They spoke for God; they led the nation in every department; they sanctioned Scripture and they guided nations back to the path of righteousness.
I think Scot is right in pointing these things out, I just think he overstated things and made them appear greater than they actually were.
But, that was then, and this is now. What about in the New Testament? Did women’s roles decrease or increase? That is the next chapter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Test Case: Women in Ministry Intro

Scot begins part four by discussing his movement from a fundamentalist background, where there were few visible women in ministry, to his openness and acceptance to full acceptance of women in ministry in any role. He states that his view changed not by a world-view shift but in his actual study of the NT. He stated that we have to remember that the NT emerged from and therefore was shaped by first century Jewish and Greco-Roman culture, including what it said about women. As he was writing commentaries, he continually sketch how he thought we should read the Bible – as a culturally conditioned revelation of God’s Word that needs to be worked out in a modern context. Thus, we have to understand that Paul’s directions to his churches were culturally shaped.

Scot understands the injunctions from Scripture against women serving in leadership roles. In the world in which the NT was written, generally women were perceived as inferior. But, as we read the Bible, there were plenty of exceptions, exceptions that reveal an undercurrent that would eventually alter the current itself. We do find female heroes in the hard patriarchal world of the OT. We find mentions of women in “leadership” roles in the NT. Scot encourages us to understand that the biblical context is cultural and that even the biblical teachings reflect that culture. Scot then states instead of seeking to impose that culture and those culturally shaped teachings on women in a completely different world and culture, the mutuality view summons Christians to the Bible one more time. It knows the story of the Bible is one in which Jesus Christ makes men and women one again.

In the next post, Scot will begin to examine, What did women do in the Old Testament?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Airborne Deer?

This was a headline in yesterday's Columbia Tribune:
Airborne deer hits Hallsville man’s car
There’s more to this story. (see here)
But does it remind you that the Christmas season is coming up and that flying (rein)deer pose a driving hazard?

Obama's Faith

The following excerpts are from Cathleen Falsani’s 2004 interview with Barack Obama who was then running for a state senate seat in Illinois. It can be found in its fullness on the beliefnet website.

After discussing the influences that he has been around (eastern, Muslim, Judaism) Mr. Obama discussed his own faith,
“So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.”

While working with churches on community issues in Chicago, he discussed his movement from an intellectual approach to Christianity to a more “spiritual” faith:
“And the power of that culture to give people strength in very difficult circumstances, and the power of that church to give people courage against great odds. And it moved me deeply. So that, one of the churches I met, or one of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.”

He was asked if he responded to an altar call, he affirmed that he did. He was asked if he became born again:
Yeah, although I don't, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others. I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at its best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding…there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

He responsed to the question, who is Jesus:
“Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher. And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.”

His response to whether he had a “personal” relationship or connection to Jesus:
“Yeah. Yes. I think some of the things I talked about earlier are addressed through, are channeled through my Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Obama discusses his reticence about the Christian call to evangelize:
This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

When the interview tried to confirm that he does not believe in a “hell” for those who do not believe in Christ, he replied,
“I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That's just not part of my religious makeup.”

When asked if he believes in an afterlife (heaven), he replies,
“What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

He defined sin as being out of alignment with his values. When asked what happens when one has sin in one’s life,
“I think it's the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Chapter 10: Finding the Pattern of Discernment

This chapter moves to some practical examples of discernment. Scot asks: Why do we not follow the Bible sometimes?

Now that we’ve established that we do pick and choose from the Bible what we are going to apply to our lives, we have to ask, why do we choose what we choose? Why do I not do what this passage in the Bible teaches?
Scot identifies a pattern of discernment: as we read the Bible and locate each item in its place in the Story, we discern – through God’s Spirit and in the context of our community of faith – a pattern of how to live in our world.
Scot acknowledges the context and community impacts how we discern

Specific Examples
Divorce and Remarriage – Jesus was against divorce (Mark 10.11-12). Second, Jesus “discerned” there is an exception – sexual immorality (Matt. 5.32). Now we have clarity: divorce is wrong except in the case of sexual immorality. Third, Paul had to discern how the teachings of Jesus could be lived out when a non-Christian spouse deserted a Christian spouse (1 Cor. 7.15). Paul is not looking for exceptions, but situations arose in the early church that Jesus did not address (“I, not the Lord” [say this]). Fourth, churches are called to enact similar discernments today whether abuse and desertion and immaturities are permissible grounds for divorce even among Christians. This is the messy part. Here are the confidences we have: the guidance of the Spirit is promised us as we pray, as we study Scripture, and as we join in the conversation with church tradition. It would be much easier for God to have given rules and regulations for everything. But God, in his wisdom, has chosen not to do that. Discernment is an element of what it means to walk by faith.
Fifth, Scot believes our discernments should never become rules or laws. The moment we turn our discernments into rules or the moment we elevate them to the level of official positions, they are headed in the direction of fossilization, inflexibility, and the near impossibility of rethinking, renewing, and reforming.

Scot then goes through several case studies to find some patterns at work in our discernment. He discusses circumcision (Abraham was given this ritual to symbolize the covenant forever. Yet Paul discerned that true circumcision was circumcision of the heart); the styles of Christian women (praying with head covered); the death penalty and others. He accepts the reality that churches already disagree over discernments. He accepts that this process is difficult. Scot brings it back to divorce. What the NT trajectory teaches us about divorce and remarriage is the need to remain firmly committed to marriage while permitting divorce in cases where the marital covenant has been destroyed. The pattern is to discern the underlying reason for the fractured relationship and then to judge if that reason is acceptable.

McKnight shows us that from beginning to end there is a pattern of adopting and adapting within the Bible itself as well as in the churches through the centuries. It is the attempt to foist one person’s days and ways on everyone’s days and ways that quenches the Holy Spirit. Just as they were in the “Bible days” we need to be adaptable. Did things get messy (see the Jerusalem Council, Acts 15), yes. Do they still get messy? Absolutely. But all genuine biblical faith takes the gospel message and “incarnates” it in a context. Living out the Bible means living out the Bible in our day in our way by discerning together how God would have us live.
Scot says that this is not new. Most Christians and churches do operate with a pattern of discernment, but it is rarely openly admitted and even more rarely clarified. Discernment is how we have always read the Bible; it is even the way the biblical authors read the Bible themselves.

Scot will next move on to a five chapter test case: Women in Church Ministries Today. I even wonder if he wrote the first ten chapters to get to the test case.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where Could Someone Find That?

Lifeway Research looked at attributes of community that non-regular church attenders between 18 and 34 deemed important. They found that:
• 47% felt it important to build relationships with other young adults.
• 47% looked for hands-on service in local community.
• 46% wanted to explore a religious environment without pressure.
• 45% sought advice from people with similar life experience.
• 43% wanted to utilize talents and abilities.

Where in the world do you think non-regular church attenders could find these things that they find important? When you are thinking about reaching the next generation, think on such things.

Return to the Blue Parakeet (Chapter 9)

I've taken a few weeks off from my review of The Blue Parakeet. It is time to return.

To recap, Scot has divided this book into four parts. The first two parts were: Story: What is the Bible? Listening: What Do I Do with the Bible? This post is the first for the third section: Discerning: How Do I Benefit from the Bible?

The first chapter of section three (chapter 9) is The Year of Living Jesus-ly: What do we do and what do we not do in the Bible.

He begins with the question, “How do we apply the Bible to our lives?” It seems that we pick and choose what to believe (especially when it comes to the Old Testament and passages like the “Holiness Code” in Leviticus 19). For all of us who say we strive to apply the whole Bible to our lives, we have to admit that we do pick and choose what to follow and what not to follow. While looking at Leviticus 19, we have to admit that we don’t worry about wearing garments made of more than one substance. We don’t have moral issues in cutting our earlocks. We don’t stand up when older folks walk into the room. Before we dismiss this passage as from a bygone era, this chapter also has the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Either we are completely wrong in our dismissal of these commands or we have some categories in our Christian minds to help us know what to apply to our lives and what not to.
Essentially the church has always taught that the times have changed and we have learned from the NT patterns of discernment what to do and what not to do. Sometimes this is easy, at other times it is difficult.
The next section gets a little frustrating for me. He begins with a valid discussion on the prohibition of premarital sex. Someone asked him how do we deal with this now in our time. When this prohibition was given, people were married off not too long after puberty. There was not an idea of adolescence. There was no delay in marriage. Haven’t the times changed? Wasn’t the prohibition of premarital intercourse shaped exclusively for a culture in which young adults got married at the onset of puberty? These are valid questions and this is a valid debate. But McKnight drops it here. This is not the time for a test case. He will reserve that for a more hot button issue (women in ministry). I wish he would have dealt with it at least a little, but he dropped it immediately after he acknowledges that these questions are valid.
Let’s Stick to the Teachings of Jesus
Most of us would be willing to admit that we do what to follow Jesus. We even claim that we do apply Jesus’ teachings to everything we do (or at least strive to apply them). If we are honest, though, we acknowledge that we pick and choose even with Jesus and the NT. Scot wants to get behind the reasons we have for our adopting and adapting of the message of the NT.
This is the pattern of discernment. Another valid question “Once you acknowledge that we pick and choose from the Bible, doesn’t that destroy its credibility? Doesn’t’ that knock the legs out from under it? Why should we put stock in any of the Bible?” (These questions come from AJ Jacobs’ book, The Year of Living Biblically.)
Scot provides several instances where we may not live out Jesus’ words as literally as we think. One is the Lord’s Prayer. Scot believes that the best way to translate Jesus’ words, “When you pray, say…” is “Whenever you pray, recite this…” That is, Jesus is actually telling us to use those words that follow in the Lord’s Prayer. Many of us balk at that because that sounds like liturgy and we don’t believe in scripted prayers, so we apply the general principle of what Jesus said, not the literal words. He also does this with requirements to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. One of which is to abandon riches. We usually look to a greater principle of not loving wealth over God or being generous with our money, very few of us actually abandon riches.
What he hopes to accomplish here, before he moves on, is to get us to think harder about how we are reading the Bible, not necessarily resolve all of these issues. What we must discover for ourselves (and our community) is: What principles do we use to adopt and adapt the Bible? When we do, we will discover that we use various patterns of discernment.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Four Campuses Two Days

I was a panelist at Doubt Day at Longview Community College in Lee Summit, MO on Wednesday (with Jason Allen, pastor of Life Connection Church in Independence). I always start off these days with a tremendous amount of anxiety, trying to imagine all of the questions that might come up as well as the fear of angry, hostile students disrupting things. Disruptions haven't happened yet. Good questions and I hope that we genuinely did some good. We answered questions from some Christian students as well as questions from seekers and at least one agnostic who was angry at conservative Christians (from what I hear, I gave a good humble answer to his question about Christian opposition to gay marriage).
Spent some time at the worship gathering of Impact at UMKC. Great time with some neat guys and heard a good message (that reminded me of my impact on campus) from a campus missionary there as well as a seminary student.
Moved on to University of Central MO and spent time with some of the staff at their BSU. Wonderful time of conversation about mission, engaging culture and being able to discuss the mission of God and how we can invite nonbelievers on the journey even if they have not assented to the truth of the gospel.
Ended up at Mizzou where I gathered to pray and study the book of Acts with a couple of students and alumni and discussed how we could serve the campus and invite student to be on the mission with us.
Great time - community college, urban (mostly commuter) 4 year school, smaller residential college and the largest college in the state.

Question for a future post - can a person be a Christian while believing that Christianity is only one way to a pleasant afterlife? I recently read the thoughts of a soon to be world leader that made me raise my eyebrows.

Monday, November 10, 2008

City versus Suburbs

I have been thinking about the difference between living in the suburbs versus living in the city. I have done both in my life. I do agree with Tim Keller and others that the major urban centers not only of the US but of the world are important places to be planting churches. But is there a fascination with urban centers at the expense of the suburbs? There seems to be a stigma attached to suburbanites by the urbanites. My question, what comprises an urban center and what is a suburb?
I have lived in city limits (STL and Fort Worth, TX) and in a suburb (Garland, TX). I don’t really know how to qualify the town I live in presently. I live in Columbia, MO in an area that some in this community would consider a suburb of Columbia. I live 8 miles from downtown. When I lived in the city in STL, I lived 6 miles from downtown. Not that much of a difference, but I definitely lived in the city in STL, but may live in the suburbs here in Columbia.
Another question, is Columbia an urban center? The District definitely has that feel, but Columbia only has about 100,000 residents. I lived in the suburbs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in a town that had almost 2.5 times more people there than Columbia. In fact, in the DFW metroplex, there are more than 10 cities of equal or greater population than Columbia.

I think that the same issues that plague suburbanites, plagues many urban dwellers and that is consumerism. I don’t think that it is the location that makes a place inherently good or bad, but it is the attitude of the dwellers. I see urbanites afflicted with consumerism just as I see suburbanites (that is the need to acquire things to make one satisfied). It may be easier to connect with your community due to the proximity of your neighbors, but it is possible just as well to live missionally in the suburbs. It all depends on your heart and your outlook.
I want to recommend a book that explains the rise and importance of the suburbs and gives believers practical advice on how to live missionally in the suburbs: The Suburban Christian by Albert Hsu. Check it out and learn how to live missionally in communities where we are isolated, selfish and unconnected, be it the suburbs or the city.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Unintentional Comedy

Tell me the two elements of unintentional comedy in this clip. You only have to watch about 30 seconds. It wasn't funny in 1976, but probably pretty funny now.

Not Pretty, but Pretty Great

This is a clip from one of my favorite shows of the 70s, The Midnight Special, every Friday night on NBC.

I don't know how to quantify this, but this band has to be the ugliest band who made the best music. Check out this great classic rock song by Steely Dan (some really torn up dudes).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last Political Note

I heard a political commentator this morning say something that I thought was right on. He said that no matter what political persuasion you are, don't you have to root for Obama to be a good president? Don't we need that right now? I agree. I hope that will be the case but I don't hold out much hope. It wasn't the case the last 8 years and it wasn't the case the previous 8 year prior to that. I remember talking to a Democrat before the 2004 election. She was secretly hoping things go wrong in Iraq so that it would prompt people to vote Bush out.
Now, will Obama keep his promise to reach across party lines and seek agreement and work together? I can't imagine that he will. Why would he? He has a super majority in Congress and he does not have to work across party lines. Bush said the same thing in 2000, he was a "uniter not a divider." How'd that work out for him? Clinton said the same thing. What was great, was in the first mid-term election, the Dems lost the House and Senate and he HAD to work across party lines. (And might I add, his middle four years went pretty well because of this).

Anyway, we do need Obama to be a good president, so we need to pray for him and support him as our president (don't we?)

Two Visions of the Future

I watched the Obama victory speech and I was struck by the images. I do not want to ignore the obvious historical implications of this nation electing an African-American as president. As I looked at the people, they watched him with such hope in their eyes. I was watching their faces as he spoke and they nodded in agreement at his points and that is when it hit me. It looked like a church gathering when you are listening to a good preacher proclaiming the gospel. The nodded yeses were the "amens" of a congregation of faith. And that is what that crowd was last night: a congregation of faith. Their leader (our leader now) is proclaiming a vision of hope for the future the same way a gospel preacher proclaims a vision of hope for the faithful who are seeking to be about bringing the kingdom of God. Here is where the two images diverge. The people last night were putting their hopes in a human being who is seeking to bring about a prosperous nation with political ideologies. Hopefully the Christians rely on a greater power to allow them to accomplish the agenda of our heavenly king, Jesus.
As I watched, I was reminded of how futile trusting in humans and their agendas are. Every four (or two) years, the party that is not in power claims that they have all of the answers for real change. This year, there will be change yes (the mere election results alone are change), but until politicians can teach us how to deal with evil in the hearts of human beings, there will never be any real lasting change. It inspired me, more than ever, to prompt my church, my family, my tribe to be about affecting the only real change that can come about by proclaiming the gospel message of Jesus and praying (and working toward) God's kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

Please hear me, this post is not anti-Obama, but it does contain my realistic view that the agendas of humans will never affect the real change that the agenda of Christ can accomplish, and that can't be done without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Check out Mark Driscoll's blog post yesterday that also contains some words of wisdom during this era of "change."

See also my post on the futility of "evolutionary optimism" with a quote from NT Wright.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


In honor of our election day, I saw something that made me giggle today. You have undoubtedly have seen the Obama posters/t-shirts "Hope" (see below). I have to admit they are pretty cool.

But have you seen this:

What about this one:

Monday, November 3, 2008

More Intolerance and a Weird (Christian) Artist

It’s interesting to me how Christians are not the only intolerant people in the world. I saw a documentary about a man named Daniel Smith. He is the leader of the band The Danielson Famile and tours also as Brother Danielson. As Brother Danielson he sings in a 9 foot tall “fruit tree” that represents the fruit of the Spirit. In this documentary, Smith is interviewed, does not hide his Christian faith, and discusses the spirituality of his music. The funny thing is, many young people are connecting with his music even though they are not believers. Reviewers begin critiques of his works by stating that “although I don’t agree with his faith…” and give genrally good reviews. A point is made in the documentary that no one begins a reggae review by stating, “I don’t agree with the artist’s Rastafarian views, but…” Anyway, a few people are interviewed in the movie and they discuss that some of them change their opinion of the artist when they find out he is a serious Christian. Below is an excerpt of some comments on a youtube clip of one of his videos:

danielson's music is so gooooooodddddd, im still upset about the christian thing though. oh well.
me too. he sounds smarter than that

Once again, it points out to me that we are all hypocrites and intolerant and it is not just conservative evangelicals.

Below here is a clip from one of his songs. They are definitely odd, but for some reason he is connecting with young people who care nothing about his Christian world-view but like his art.

Or you can check out this promo of the documentary which contains some people reacting to the "art."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chapter 8 of The Blue Parakeet

Chapter 8 – The Boring Chapter (on Missional Listening): What Does God Want to Happen to Listeners?

Scot begins this chapter by referring to Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine which is compared to the ancient church’s equivalent of our How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. Augustine’s book makes the claim that if the Bible leads the reader to be more loving, then the Bible has accomplished its mission. Thus the Bible’s main mission is to help us become people who love God and love others. If our reading of the Bible leads to this, the mission is accomplished. Any method of Bible study that doesn’t lead to transformation abandons the missional path of God and leaves us stranded.

The Relational Approach Is Missional
The relational approach to the Bible goes beyond normal methods to take us to the heart of what reading the Bible is all about. We examine 2 Tim. 3.14-17 and it tells us that God speaks to us so we will be the kind of people he wants and will live the way he wants us to live. When we read up until verse 17, we find that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, SO THAT all God’s people may be equipped for good works. This focuses on the outcome of the usefulness of Scripture. To get to the outcomes we have to go through a sequence of thoughts for Paul, unmasking the four stages for missional listening as he writes to Timothy – but remember that everything is aimed at that “so that.” EVERYTHING! Any reading of any passage in the Bible that doesn’t end up with the “so that” of 2 Timothy 3.17 is not done.

Missional Listening
Begins with the Wisdom of the Ages
Timothy had been formed by those who knew the gospel (2 Tim. 3.14-15). Education for the community that Timothy was raised in was not simply information; it was also formation. Education was training in righteousness and in good works.
Is Empowered by Inspiration
Too many of us spend too much time arguing about the meaning of “inspiration” and not enough on the point of it all. The Spirit who guided the author through a history and a community to the moment when he put quill to papyrus is the same Spirit at work when you and I sit down with our Bible.
It is a Process
God designs all biblical study to be a “useful” process that leads us to the Bible in such a way that it creates a person who loves God and loves others. Anything less fails to achieve why God speaks to us in the Bible. God’s got a mission in giving us the Bible, and that mission is “useful.”
Missional listeners discover we are in a process of being transformed from what we are into what God wants us to be. Here’s the process:
We become informed;
We get rebuked;
We are restored; and
We become instructed in righteousness.
The outcome of our learning process is righteousness. To be “righteous” means our minds, our wills and our behaviors will be conformed to God’s will. It means holiness, goodness, love, justice, and good works. It takes time, but missional listening leads to righteousness.
Blossoms into a Life of Good Works
The divine outcome, the divine “so that,” of missional listening to the God of the Bible is good works. Any reading and any interpretation that does not lead to good works aborts what the Bible is designed to produce.
What are good works? Peter urged the Christians in Asia Minor to be benevolent in their cities; Paul exhorted Roman Christians to love their neighbors as themselves; John urged his readers to walk in the light and to love one anther; James reminded followers of Jesus to care for widows and orphans, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked. Good works are concrete responses to the needs we see in our neighbors

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Somebody, Please!

Tell me what you are going to do when you get elected. Tell me how you are going to accomplish your lofty goals. Do not tell me about how bad your opponent is. Almost every candidate tells me what is wrong with their opponent, and almost no candidates actually tell me what they are going to do for their electorate. I am seriously not looking forward to punching the ballot for any candidate.
Can anyone tell me how career politicians (on local, state and national levels) are really going to effect change?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life Lessons from Joe Poz

Joe Posnanski was discussing some lessons he learned from a seasoned, creative reporter when he was younger. Here is a brief recap of some of the things he learned.
Lesson 1: NEVER assume anything.
Lesson 2: NEVER just wait around and hope.
Lesson 3: The “work harder than other people” concept is bigger than words, whether it involves reporting, sports, and life. Chiefs’ tight end Tony Gonzalez has made this point to me numerous times — after every practice he catches 100 or 200 extra passes. On the sideline, while others sit and wait, he is constantly asking someone to throw him more passes. Why? He says it’s because if you are NOT catching those extra passes, then you are doing what everybody else doing. “EVERYBODY practices hard,” he says. “That’s the part people don’t realize. When I hear someone say they’re working hard, I think, ‘No you’re not. You just practice like everyone else. You’re just doing what you’re supposed to do. What you do after practice tells me how hard you’re working.’”

Those last words struck me. I have been inspired by Jim Collins from Catalyst (author of Good to Great). Great organizations have a culture of discipline. I am seeking to foster in my own culture of discipline in my own little work station and seeking that example from Tony Gonzalez is further inspiration that greatness is fostered from working hard. We all have the Spirit of God and incredible power at our disposal, but how many of us are willing to do the hard work that unleashes this power?

Here is my question to you: What do you think the hard work is that unleashes the power of God in our lives?

Chapter 7 of The Blue Parakeet

Chapter 7 – God Speaks, We Listen: What Is Our relationship to the God Who Speaks to Us in the Bible?

Scot discusses some of his student’s questions over the issue of inerrancy. I resonated with this somewhat as I was trained in a denomination that fought the battle of inerrancy and one’s views on inerrancy were often a litmus test for their orthodoxy. Scot lists one student’s question (and it’s a good question): What good is “inerrancy” if you don’t do what God says? Too many of us know our doctrine about the Bible but don’t do what the God of the Bible says? Having the right view isn’t the point of the Bible, but having a relationship with the God of the Bible. Our relationship to the God of the Bible is to listen to God so we can love him more deeply and love others more completely. Reading the Bible is an act of listening. Listening is an act of love.

Listening in the Bible
Scot reminds us that the word “listen” or “hear” is found more than 1500 times in the Bible. After examining this, Klyne Snodgrass reached the conclusion: “The greatest command is to love God; the prior command [to loving God] is the command to hear,” (as evidenced in the Shema, Deut. 6.4-5). The word “hear” or “listen” in the Bible operates on at least three levels: attention, absorption, and action. Attention opens our ears. Absorption allows what we have heard to fill our being. Action puts legs on the ears, as Jesus says: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…” (Matt. 7.24).
When we read the Bible as Story and develop a relationship with the God of the Bible,
• We learn to listen to and for God in the Bible as we read it;
• We are attentive enough to recognize God’s voice and let it in;
• We absorb what God says so that it floods our inner being; and
• We act on what we have heard from God.

Love Listens
Good reading is an act of love and therefore an act of listening. But good listening, good attentive listening, good loving listening, is more than gathering information. It is more than just sitting around the back porch with God as we sip tea while God tells us his story. God speaks to us for a reason – McKnight calls this “missional” listening. In brief, God tells his story so we can enter into a relationship with him, listen to him, and live out his Word in our day and in our way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rabbinic Pattern of Discipleship

I have been reading a little book, The Origins of the Gospel Traditions by Birger Gerhardsson (95 pages). It is a distillation of two of his earlier works Memory and Manuscript: Oral Traditions and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity and Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity. In them he discusses how rabbis would have passed down their teachings to their students and how faithful these students were to commit them to memory. As I was reading, I noticed how the process of discipleship has been passed down from the rabbis through Jesus and Paul and what we can learn from this process. I have excerpted a few chapters that point us to proper discipleship techniques.

To learn Torah one must go to a teacher. Students would then flock around teachers. And such a group formation – teachers and students – become something of an extended family. The teacher is the spiritual father, the students his spiritual children. They spend their time with him, they follow him, and they serve him.
Students learn much of the Torah tradition by listening: by listening to their teacher and his more advanced students as well as by posing questions and making contributions of their own within the bounds prescribed by modesty and etiquette. But they also learn a great deal by simply observing: with attentive eyes they observe all that the teacher does and then proceed to imitate him. Torah is above all a holy, authoritative attitude toward life. Because this is true, much can be learned by simply watching and imitating those who are educated.
We see in the Talmud that it was not only the teachings of the great rabbis that were preserved but their actions as well: “I saw rabbi so-and-so do thus and so.” The rabbinical tradition preserves examples of how bright and eager students followed their teachers’ actions even in the most private situations, motivated by the belief that “This has to do with Torah, and I want to learn!” (This includes a humorous story of students hiding in a rabbi’s bedroom because they wanted to learn the Torah in that “situation.”)

In seeking to preserve their teachings on the Torah, the rabbi’s were not so much only interested in the “cramming and mechanical recitation” of their teaching. They were very conscious of the importance of comprehending and personally applying that which had been impressed upon one’s mind. For this reason they carried on an energetic struggle against lifeless knowledge. According to the rabbis a disciple ought not be a dead receptacle for the received tradition. He should rather enter into it so that he understands it and is in agreement with it. Only thus can he actually live according to it, be a faithful steward of it, and pass it on to others in an infectious way. A living bearer of the tradition is to be like a torch which has been lit by an older torch, in order that it might itself light others.

Paul picks up this mantle of a “rabbi” as he looks upon himself as a spiritual father to those who have been won for the gospel (1 Cor. 4.17; Philemon 10). He encourages his congregations to be imitators of him in all respects, even as he himself is an imitator of Christ (1 Cor. 4.16; 11.1; 1 Thess. 1.6; 2 Thess. 3.7).
Paul thinks of the life of imitation which comes into being when obedient disciples receive (and pattern their lives according to) the instruction of their teacher. After his admonishment to “Be imitators of me,” he follows with the statement: “For this reason I am sending to you Timothy…He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4.17).
When Paul speaks of “my ways” he is referring to patterns of his life and teachings. Imitating Paul means the same as to receive and live according to the teaching which Paul proclaimed in all of his congregations. Thus Paul is not only passing down tradition as oral or written teaching but also how he lives. We see this fleshed out even more in Phil. 4.9: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.” The Philippians were even told to look in their own community for imitators of Paul, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3.17).

As I read this, I see that Paul is passing down a tradition of rabbinic discipleship. Just as the rabbis gathered students to themselves and passed on to them not only instruction in the Torah but also a lifestyle that exemplifies the Torah, Paul exhorts his followers to not only hold fast to his teaching but to imitate his lifestyle as well. We see that for the rabbis and Paul, discipleship is not a program or a book study to take someone through, but an opportunity to live out their teaching (in Paul’s case the gospel) in front of students and encouraging them to follow along. It seems deeply personal and time consuming but it is the model that we have been given.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Concert Review: The Old 97s

Saw the Old 97s last night at the Blue Note here in Columbia. I don’t own any of their cds (although I do have several of their songs on my iTunes). They are from Dallas so I’ve been hearing about them for years. They have a Ticket (Sports Radio 1310) connection, so that made me even more familiar with them. It would be hard to describe the style of music they play. They are described as “alt-country” but I bet they are tired of that label by now. I hear elements of The Replacements (power pop), Dick Dale (surf rock guitarist) and Johnny Cash (country-rock). They’re the kind of band that makes me miss living in Texas.
They are a fun band to see live. High energy throughout the show, sometimes cruising along at a break neck pace. Both Rhett Miller (lead vocals) and Murry Hammond (bass and vocals) are capable song writers with Murry’s contributions more on the country side. (He also looks like Stephen King from afar). They are a tight outfit with Ken Bethea (lead guitar) and Phil Peeples (drums) rounding out the combo.
At one time, they were on the verge of a breakthrough with the power pop tinged cd “Satellite Rides” but they never made that move. One of the songs you might have heard from The Old 97s would be “The Question.” I am not a romantic, love song kind of guy, but this song is a great, sentimental song about a guy proposing to his girl ("Someday somebody's gonna ask you/the question that you should say yes to..." heard on “Scrubs”). Two of my favorite songs did not make the set list (King of the World and Murder (or a Heart Attack)).
Highlights of the evening for me were “I Will Remain”, “Doreen”, “Victoria, aka Victoria Lee” and “Bel Air.” Another highlight was the slow, sad Hammond number “Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue” off their new cd. They played most of their new release “Blame It on Gravity.” A lot of good numbers on that cd. Perfect show closer was “Timebomb” which fast paced, energetic and left the crowd in a frenzy wanting another encore. Here is the set list for the show.

1. The Fool *
2. Lonely Holiday *
3. Melt Snow *
4. No Baby I *
5. Crash on the Barrelhead *
6. Designs on You *
7. I Will Remain *
8. The New Kid *
9. Doreen *
10. Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue *
11. Question *
12. Niteclub *
13. Indefinitely *
14. Victoria *
15. Smoker *
16. My Two Feet *
17. Bel Air
18. Barrier Reef *
19. Rollerskate Skinny *
20. The Easy Way *
21. Stoned *
22. Won’t Be Home *
23. Dance with Me *
24. Time Bomb *

The opening band was The Spring Standards, a pop-Americana type band with a few blues tinged notes. A trio with tight harmonies. An odd stage layout, imagine the drum kit scattered across the front of the stage with each member playing a bit of the kit as well as their own instrument. Acoustic guitar player was tapping along on the pedal of the cymbals. The keyboard player had a snare drum in front of her as well as a melodica. The bass player was pedaling the bass drum as well. Pleasant group whose country roots got the crowd ready for the 97s.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dave Kinnaman on the Perception of the Church in the US

Dave Kinnaman (along with Gabe Lyons) wrote the book UnChristian which examines our society's attitude toward evangelicals. He was interviewed in Rev! magazine and had this to say about looking at the church from an outsider's perspective.
One of the conclusions that I came to in looking at all of these negative perceptions - hypocritical, judgmental, sheltered, too political - is that they seem to be reflections of an American church that's had dominance for several centuries. The very early church would not be thought of as hypocritical, judgmental, anti-sinner, and too political. They would've been thought of as a fringe group, a cult, fanatics, and revolutionaries, and so there's something about the reflection that young people are providing to us about the culture today that ought to wake us up...Maybe we haven't looked at the heart of transforming people's ways of living and haven't though about how we can serve the culture rather than demanding our rights as American Christians.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Blue Parakeet – Part 2 Listening: What do we do with the Bible?

Chapter 6 – From Paper to Person – How do we read God’s words?

McKnight wonders aloud if we forget what we are reading when we read the Bible. We are reading God’s story. So, how do we read a story that we claim is God’s story? We need to ask, “What is my relationship to the Bible?” This really leads to the question, “What is my relationship to the God of the Bible?”

Deep Inside
A closer look at Psalm 119 reveals David’s heart for God’s laws. Instead of saying that: Your words are authoritative, and I am called to submit to them,” he was saying: “Your words are delightful, and I love to do what you ask.” The difference: one is a relationship to the Bible; the other is a relationship with God. Most of us have grown up within the authority approach to the Bible. (I personally remember a pastor leading his congregation through the pledge: “I believe the Bible. It is the Word of God. Where my life deviates from what the Bible says, I will change). This approach is not personal enough or relational enough. It does not express enough of why it is that God gave us the Bible. Scot next takes some time to build a relational approach to the Bible, one that finds resonance with the delightful obedience of the psalmist. He focuses on five ideas that will fill out what we mean by reading the Bible as Story so we can learn to live it out.

The Relational Approach to the Bible
God and the Bible
The relational approach distinguishes God from the Bible. God existed before the Bible existed; he exists independently of the Bible now. God is a person; the Bible is paper. God gave us this papered Bible to lead us to love his person. But the person and the paper are not the same.
Missing the difference between God and the Bible is like the person who reads Jonah and spends hours and hours figuring out if a human can live inside a whale, but never encounters God. Our first step in a proper relationship with the Bible is that we must distinguish God from the Bible.
Bible as God’s Written Communication
A relational approach also focuses on the Bible as God’s written communication with us. The Bible is like a spoken message or a letter from God addressed to his people. The Bible is God’s communication – in the form of words – with us. For the papered book to be what it is intended to be, God’s communication with us, we need to receive those words as God’s words addressed to God’s people.
A relational approach invites us to listen to God (the person) speak in the Bible and to engage God as we listen. The relational approach knows the Bible is filled with timely, divinely inspired stories of the Story by human authors. We are summoned to stand in front of the Bible as those listening to God’s story.
Bible and Big Conversation
One of McKnight’s favorite discoveries about the relational approach is that we enter into the Bible’s own conversation and the conversation the church has had about the Bible. Just as the biblical authors converse with one another, so Christians in the history of the church have conversed with one another – about the Bible’s own conversation. Our challenge today is to learn to read the Bible with tradition – compared to sitting down at a table with three of four generation in our family at Christmas – we can enter into this big conversation in which we can learn from the wisdom of the past.
Relationship with God
This relational approach believes our relationship to the Bible is transformed into a relationship with the God who speaks to us in and through the Bible. Our relationship to the Bible is actually a relationship with the God of the Bible. Scot emphasizes that we don’t ask what the Bible says, we ask what God says to us in that Bible. God gave the Bible not so we can know it but so we can know and love God through it.

Interesting and final point of the chapter – Without denying the legitimacy of the various terms in the authority approach to the Bible, those who have a proper relationship to the Bible never need to speak of the Bible as their authority nor do they speak of their submission to the Bible. They are so in tune with God, so in love with him, that the word “authority” is swallowed up in loving God. Submission becomes listening to God speak through the Bible and doing what God calls us to do.