Monthly Archives: December 2007


A Bowling Weekend

I have never seen Alabama play in a college fotball bowl game. My dream game would actually be a BCS bowl, or better yet a BCS national title game. I’ve seen some really big Alabama football games of historic magnitude for their tradition but never a Bama bowl game. Actually, no team in all of college football has played in more bowl games than Alabama, as we humble fans like to remind you. (By the way, I do not think a BCS game is out of the question in the very near future. Alabama has the number three ranked recruiting class in the country as of this moment.) But this season, after some urging from Anita, I decided to visit good friends in Louisiana and see the Independence Bowl in Shreveport on Sunday evening. If the weather allows me out of Chicago today (snow is fast approaching) I am off to Monroe, Louisiana, to visit my friend Steve Wilkins and to preach at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning. Then, following the morning service at AAPC I will drive the short distance to

By |December 28th, 2007|Categories: College Football|

The Religious Right is Still Alive and Well

Please do not try to convince me that the religious right is not still playing a major role in Republican politics. And definitely do not try to convince me that a very conservative, white, deeply religious viewpoint has not played a pivotal role in Governor Mike Huckabee’s rising poll numbers among prospective Republican voters.

Roughly four in ten white evangelical Christians have made a change in who they say they will vote for since November, similar to other Republicans who shifted candidates. But 56 percent of evangelicals who found another candidate flocked to Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, giving him 36 percent of the support of one of the GOP’s heavyweight voting blocs, well ahead of all his rivals.

The intensely religious were even more restless—and thus even more taken with Huckabee’s openly religious appeal. (He is running ads in select states that are all but evangelical sermons! He is using these in Iowa and South Carolina but not in New Hampshire, where his ads are quite different if there are run at all these days.) Among evangelicals who are

By |December 27th, 2007|Categories: Politics|

Six Days in June and America's Real Role in the Middle East

Six Days in June: The War That Redefined the Middle East is a new DVD release from Public Broadcast (PBS) via their Boston affiliate, WGBH. It is an excellent history lesson, well worth seeing, and vividly presents a time when the international political map was altered in a dramatic way that still impacts the entire world down to the present time.

The story is fairly well known. President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt decided, with the approval of the Soviet Union, to move against Israel with aggressive military action in early 1967. Virtually the entire Arab world openly supported him and even Jordan’s King Hussein, who had been more neutral up to that point, turned his army over to the Egyptians. While Egypt amassed tanks in the Sinai Peninsula Israel launched a preemptive air strike against the Egyptian air force and its bases and completely took them out of the military equation in one day. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, a man of peace, resisted the military buildup to war but when Defense Minister Moshe Dayan came to the fore to lead

By |December 27th, 2007|Categories: Israel|

Thirty-Seven Years of Marriage

Thirty-seven years ago on this evening of December 26th I took Anita Ruth Siml to be my wife in a lovely candlelight ceremony in a Wheaton church. I cannot say that we have never struggled during our life together. Couples with any personality between them will struggle I am certain. I can say that we have no regrets about taking those vows and that we deeply love one another today even more than ever. In fact, living with one another, with our two children and two grandchildren still in this area, is really life at its very best in so many ways. We enjoy hanging out with each other, we like to talk and do so frequently throughout the day, especially since I work at home. And we do not feel compelled to demand too much of one another in our domestic and emotional life. Anita is as good a partner as I could have hoped for when I was twenty-one years old and each year makes me more convinced of this fact.

Our lives are fairly uncomplicated. Anita cares for her

By |December 26th, 2007|Categories: Personal|

Denzel Washington on Film, Faith and Culture

Denzel Washington professes personal faith in Christ and gives us very good reason to believe that he understands what he professes. His work with Zondervan on “The Bible Experience” is sterling and his family and lifestyle stand in stark contrast to the common Hollywood experience. He plainly seeks to live his faith in a personal way. Washington, who turns 53 on Friday, says he lives what are sometimes called, by the modern media, “old-fashioned values.”

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP) released today, in conjunction with the release of his newest movie, he says, "You have to do what you gotta do in this life in order to do what you wanna do, or in order to get somewhere. Whatever your obstacles are. Pick one: Race, obesity, peer pressure … drugs. Whatever it is.”

In commenting on his film, The Great Debaters (see review above), in which he directs and plays a leading role both, he says, "I injected a line (into the movie) which my kids have grown up on, which is: `We do what we gotta do,

By |December 25th, 2007|Categories: Film|

The Great Debaters

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls the new film, The Great Debaters, a "Good story, well told." So it is. Featuring great stars like Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, this movie also introduces the audience to some new stars who should get recognition for playing great supporting roles as college students and debaters. Critic Michael Phillips also wonders, in his review in the Tribune, "if  people will go for it." I did. I loved it. It works and it inspires. I think most of you will go for it too. Let me try to tell you why.

The film is pure Hollywood, ending and all. It is full of cliches, simplistic and moving teaching moments and a great human story. But then what is wrong with all that, unless you are both a film critic and a cynic? This is the quintessential story of the underdog and it will likely sell to the public after it has what I think will be a brisk opening on Christmas day. (I saw it this afternoon and confess that I clapped, and shed a tear

By |December 25th, 2007|Categories: Film|

Christmas is About Hope for the Whole World

Political columnist and author E. J. Dionne, Jr., who writes for the Washington Post and The New Republic, is not a political writer I always agree with on a number of social issues, at least when it comes to the particular solutions he offers. At the same Dionne sometimes gets the big picture of things in an incredibly clear way. His editorial posting today, Christmas Day 2007, is titled: “The Radical Meaning of Christmas." (The word "radical" is often overused or misused but in this case Dionne is quite right.)

Like E. J. Dionne, Jr., I fear that we have lost “the radical meaning” of the Incarnation in the way we celebrate this season, with all its festivities and fun, and in the way the Church has gone about buying into all this fluff. Without a proper understanding of the birth of Christ the genuinely revolutionary aspect of hope that flooded the world on the day Christ as born is entirely lost on people.

Dionne writes:

Even more than faith and love, I think, hope is closest to the heart

By |December 25th, 2007|Categories: Christ/Christology|

"Peace to Those On Whom His Favor Rests"

The usual Christmas greeting we will hear today and tomorrow is the wish for "peace on earth." It has become the Hallmark theology of the left and the right in our time. It is even the greeting of many who are quite secular. After all, who could be against "peace on earth" anyway? There is only one problem with this popular greeting and oft quoted statement. It is not biblical.

The text comes from Luke 2:14 where the angel, speaking from the heavenly host who came to attend to Jesus’ birth, says, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." This brief hymn has been traditionally called "The Gloria in Excelsis Deo," because of the first words of the Latin Vulgate translation of the words: "Glory to God in the Highest." This text does not assure peace on earth to all people. It actually assures peace to all of those who are of his good pleasure (cf. Luke’s use of "pleased" and "good pleasure" in 3:22; 10:21; 12:32). The Roman world knew the

By |December 24th, 2007|Categories: The Church|

The Joys of Teaching Evangelism

One of my greatest joys is the students I get to teach in evangelism and apologetics. I taught twelve such students this past July with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. These were all full-time college workers who serve Christ on the campus of both small and large schools across North America. I think these are some of the best frontline evangelists for Jesus I know. They are bright and they are full of faith, hope and love. The work they do really and truly changes lives and shapes the future of the nation in the process.

One of my students this past summer was a very sensitive, serious and dedicated young woman named Annie Michaels. Annie seemed to "eat up" my class and interacted with me in extremely encouraging ways. She was there by "divine appointment" and knew she was to learn and grow because of my class. She made such an impression on me that I wanted to keep in contact with her and to support her.

Annie’s December prayer letter tells how she presented the gospel in the open in

By |December 22nd, 2007|Categories: Evangelism|

A Day in November I Shall Never Forget

Many of you prayed for me during the time surrounding my mom’s death on November 19th. I will never be able to thank you enough for your loving intercession. You may also know that I preached the weekend following mom’s death, which was the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day. This was her home church, Southwood Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Southwood has become one of my favorite churches in America. Dr. Michael Honeycutt, who is both a first-rate scholar and a real pastor, serves the people there as senior minister. He has become one of the truly excellent preachers I know. (You can hear Michael at the church’s Web site under the link that says "How to Connect.") He is also a man with a tender heart, an open mind and a genuinely teachable spirit. Mike and I can disagree and yet have never done so in a way that threatens a good friendship that grows with every visit we share. We agree on far more than we disagree on and where we disagree we do not make it an issue between us. I

By |December 22nd, 2007|Categories: Personal|

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