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Archive for March, 2008

This Thursday the Big XII tourney comes to town.  I haven’t had cable television for about the past three years (which has done wonders for my reading habits), so I don’t watch as much NCAA and NBA action as I did at one time.  I’ve been thankful for ESPN’s addition of short highlight clips to the write ups for most all televised sporting events, so I’ve kept track of my favorite teams through the web.  Since I don’t watch the full games I also get the chance to read some sports reporting, and I still look at the complete box score in both basketball and baseball.  I’ve kept up with Baylor athletics (my alma mater (did you know that is Latin for “nourishing mother”?) through the internet.  Fortunately I can still catch those games for free.  Unfortunately the voice of the Bears is a guy named John Morris.  He has little idea how to describe the game of basketball.  Football isn’t much better.  Sorry John.

Yesterday on WHB810′s Between the Lines Kevin Kietzman put together a great list of reasons to be excited that the Big XII tourney is in KC this year.  Unfortunately they did not post that list on their website.  Among his reasons were the Sprint Center, the KC Power & Light district, the competitiveness of the Big XII this year, a number of extremely talented players (first among them Michael Beasley), and the fact that KU will have to win the tourney to have a shot at a #1 seed in the Big Dance.  You can check out the matchups for the weekend here.

I have tickets to Thursday’s Baylor vs. Colorado matchup.  Baylor handled Colorado in Boulder earlier this year 68-57, and should be in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years.  Winning this weekend will only solidify their bid.  The Bears went 21-9 this year and finished 9-7 in conference.  A victory Friday would put them up against Oklahoma on Friday, whom the Bears haven’t beaten in 20 years, or something like that.  Baylor lost an overtime heartbreaker to the Sooners back on February 19.

I also have tickets to the Championship game on Sunday.  A Kansas vs. Baylor matchup would be ideal, for me.  Weird stuff always happens in this tournament, so I’m looking forward to the weekend matchups, the fanfare surrounding the games, and the opportunity to take in the experience.  I’m praying for good weather this weekend!

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But must I needs want solidness, because
By metaphors I speak; was not God’s laws
His Gospel-laws in olden time held forth
By types, shadows and metaphors?  Yet loth
Will any sober man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault
The highest wisdom.  No, he rather stoops,
And seeks to find out what by pins and loops,
By calves, and sheep, by heifers, and by rams,
By birds and herbs, and by the blood of lambs
God speaketh to him: and happy is he
That finds the light, and grace that in them be.

John Bunyan begins his classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress  in verse.  He makes an apology of sorts for the form of this book, answering his critics up front.  He defends his allegorical method while extending an invitation to his reader to press on and join the journey.  A sample of his defense is above, as Bunyan defends his use of metaphor by pointing to Scripture.  He continues with these words:

Am I afraid to say that Holy Writ,
Which for its style and phrase puts down all wit,
Is everywhere so full of these things,
(Dark figures, allegories), yet there springs
From that same book that lustre and those rays
Of light that turns our darkest days into night.

Rediscovering the simplicity and brilliance with which Bunyan makes the case that for one to be a communicator of the gospel one must be a poet is quite refreshing.  As a child of the Enlightenment who stands at the crossroads of what some observers have deemed “post-modernity,” I am surprised by how easily Bunyan seems to step in to our time and speak in language that can be easily understood.  Through the telling of his story he employs rhyme and meter, he evokes beautiful imagery, and he excites the imagination.  We are invited to open our minds and think in the images reminiscent of the prophets, who described potential realities in poetic fashion.  He states plainly that:

This book will make a traveller of thee,
If by its counsel thou wilt ruled be;
It will direct thee to the Holy Land,
If thou wilt its directions understand:
Yea, it will make the slothful active be,
The blind also delightful things to see.

Bunyan’s final words in his opening apology are, “come hither, and lay my book, thy head and heart together.”  What a wonderful invitation.

For those that know me well, quoting Bunyan is a bit out of character for me.  This past weekend I was serving alongside three of my students at the Cross-Lines Thrift Store in Kansas City, Kansas.  The Thrift Store had a collection of books, and I ran my eyes across every spine.  Among their collection was The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Nearby was one of my students named Kayla.  I asked her if she had read it.  Her mom was nearby.  Both were not familiar with the work, so I gave them a slight overview of the story contained therein.  Inside the cover we find a man who we soon come to know as Christian, and follow him as he journeys through life.  Along the way Christian encounters a host of various other characters, “The Worldly Wiseman,” Mr. Money Love,” “Hopeful,” and others.  Upon leaving the store, Kayla took home the copy.  I saw that she brought it along with her to FirstLight this past Sunday.

As my dog and I enjoyed the weather today (around 70 degrees and sunny) I took along my copy of this book and read aloud the opening verse, and was blessed.  I hope you too have friends like John Bunyan who are able to bless you with poetry and prose.

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Beware the Gnomes

GnomeCheck out this article.  FoxNews, your “fair and balanced” news source, found this information printed in the Sun of vital importance.

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03.06.08

I took this photo a couple of days ago here in De Soto.  I thought it was quite cool.

Rails on Fire

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LikeJesus

Last week I picked up Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus But Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations.  You can find Dan Kimball’s blog here.  Dan Kimball is a pastor in Santa Cruz, California at Vintage Faith Church, and has published The Emerging Church and Emerging Worship.  He is also one of the contributors to Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.  Another contributor to Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches is Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in Seattle.   Driscoll mentioned this book in a talk I was listening to on-line, and among the many things he said when talking about Kimball was that he is “a Christian.”  In context it was funny.  Anyway, I felt compelled to provide you with these links to Kimball’s corpus partly because I did not buy the book–I picked it up at the public library and read it in a couple days.  Sorry Dan.  Perhaps one of my readers will help you out and purchase a copy.  In my opinion, any church leader would be wise to pick up this book and listen to what Dan Kimball has to say.

There are three important emphases threaded throughout this book.  First, Kimball encourages his reader to be present in spaces where they can meet non-church people–to be in a position outside the church office where they can befriend non-Christians, develop relationships with them, and know what is going on in their lives so that they can be prayed for.  For example, Kimball has found ways to escape the “Christian bubble” by spending a couple of days during the week preparing his sermons at a local coffee shop.  Over time he has befriended other regulars and the employees there.  He doesn’t see these new friends as evangelistic targets, but human beings who need the ministry of the church.  Through developing relationships with people outside the church, he has found that emerging generations are extremely open to talking about Jesus and what Christians believe.  Most people Kimball spoke to dislike the church based on  their perceptions gained from news media presentations, street preachers, and televangelists.  Their impressions are from afar.  Kimball is challenging church leaders to present a compelling alternative within local contexts–many of the people Kimball spoke with couldn’t name Christian people they knew personally.

Second, Kimball identifies the following perceptions which emerging generations have of the church:

  • The church is an organized religion with a political agenda.
  • The church is judgmental and negative.
  • The church is dominated by males and oppresses females.
  • The church is homophobic.
  • The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.
  • The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.

Kimball is talking about perceptions that non-Christian people have of the church.  He is listening.  Kimball carefully explains the reasons why people outside the church have these perceptions.  In regard to homosexuality and women in pastoral leadership, Kimball challenges his readers (both liberal and conservative) to know the reasons behind their theological positions.  This portion of his work is incredibly helpful for Christian people who are trying to better understand the cultural landscape and engage as an effective witness for Jesus and his Kingdom.  This is an invaluable dialogue that could be recreated in any city.  Which brings me to Kimball’s final important contribution in this book.

In what could be a revolutionary idea, Kimball challenges us to listen to people in our city and respond in how we be the church.  Sounds like common sense.  He doesn’t recommend that we compromise our integrity as the people of God in responding to what we hear.  For example, one critique of the church that Kimball had heard is that it can become personality-driven–centered more on the pastor than on Jesus.  As a response, Kimball’s church has made the cross the centerpiece of their worship space, with the worship leaders and the pastor addressing the audience from a lower stage slightly off to the side of the cross.  Kimball challenges leaders to give a carefully thought out, biblical response to what is heard from those outside the church.

Kimball has reasons for hope in the future of the church.  I tend to agree with him.  He sees the emerging generation’s interest in Jesus as a great opportunity for Christian people to engage, share the gospel about Jesus, and invite people into a life of discipleship.  I think this is on point.

Pick up this book.  Read it.  Write in the margins (unless you pick it up from a library).  Agree.  Disagree.  This book will sharpen your thinking, broaden your understanding of the world we live in today, and challenge you to invite other people to follow Jesus.  It is a valuable contribution to the church that I pray more people will come to not only like, but love.

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Luther

LutherThis weekend I took the time to watch the 2003 film, Luther.  It was much better than I had anticipated.  During my undergraduate studies I read Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand as part of a church history course, have revisited that work since then, have read other items from this period in the past few years, and had a classmate at KU who focused on Luther for a course called, “Theories of Religious Experience.”

I’ll pass along the recommendation.  If you haven’t seen this film and have an interest in church history, check it out.

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