Sunday, December 28, 2008
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!”
Friday, December 19, 2008
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
Great speech. Long live Joe Friday! Oh, wait...he's what?
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.
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
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...
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
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.
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 ESPN.com.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
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
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
McKnight claims that during Paul’s mission days there was a gender and sexual revolution observable in many of the major cities of the
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
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?