Monthly Archives: January 2009


Being the Family of God

Last week the Roman Catholic Church celebrated ecumenism and Christian unity. I listened to a number of Catholics reflect on this vital theme on Catholic radio as I drove to speak last Sunday, January 25th. I then read a number of things on the Vatican Website as well. I reflected on how unlikely, or humanly impossible, this all would have been before Vatican II. There can never be too much emphasis placed upon how fundamentally Vatican II changed this whole context. In many ways it is now up to Protestants to respond in the right way. And that response is improving with every passing year.

One priest I heard last Sunday noted that we are in the same family. He served a small parish in Kentucky, in and among a predominantly Southern Baptist context for decades. He observed that you can't be the family of God and remain isolated from one another. But how can this happen, given our real and serious differences that still

By |January 31st, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

The Illinois Senate Gets It Right, Now What?

The Illinois Senate did the obvious ye44771588-29134627sterday in unanimously voting to remove Governor Rod Blagojevich, our 40th governor. His impeachment and quick conviction was almost unprecedented in modern political history. There was no party partisanship in the matter and no one to defend the governor but himself. His helpless effort to go to the people of the nation via television, earlier this week, was truly one of the most pitiful and amazing acts of hubris in recent political history. He will now face a court trial that will send him to prison, thus making him the fourth Illinois governor to go to prison in my lifetime. No wonder this state has a bad reputation politically!

Like many of you I asked myself again and again: "Does this man believe what he is saying?" My honest guess is that he is so out of touch with reality that there is a sense in which he does. President Clinton believed his lies until he was forced

By |January 30th, 2009|Categories: Politics|

A Bold Decision Regarding the Mac

My cell phone contract was up on Tuesday. (I had used T Mobile for two years and found out it did not give me the coverage and service I wanted.) I knew I wanted a new provider, and chose AT & T, so it was time to consider the two really superior Smart-phones that are on the market: The Blackberry Bold and the Apple iPhone. I have to tell you I have never put much time into making a rather simple decision like this. I generally seek a little advice, check a few phones at the store and buy one. This time I did about four hours of online research (alone) and then about two hours of conversations with sales people at three different retail stores.

First, both of these products are excellent phones. If you really like to have a load of applications, a truly neat screen and some very cool Internet stuff then the iPhone is what you want. If you

By |January 29th, 2009|Categories: Personal|

The Wrestler

The Wrestler Poster
David Aronofsky's much heralded movie, The Wrestler, is a true gem. Understand though, the point of the film is not about wrestling, not at all. Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is a washed-up professional wrestler whose personal life is now truly in the tank. He is searching for some way to find love and to be loved. His girl friend is a stripper played by Marisa Tomei, who has her own issues and trials in dealing with her child as a single parent. Then there is Randy's homosexual daughter, a child he never loved and now wants to connect with in his dark moments. There is a stark sense in which what you see in The Wrestler is human life in the hard track, life in the give-and-take of America, life where faith is missing and hope is all but gone. The ending of the movie is appropriately chilling and powerful. (I will not give it away.)

The realism of this movie is

By |January 28th, 2009|Categories: Film|

The Problem of Systematic Theology, Part Two

Serious academic theology has a rightful place in the church. Make no mistake about this fact. Ministers need to be trained to be good students of the Word and of theology. This is mandated by a number of statements we find in the Pastoral Epistles. But this biblical requirement has been met, or supposedly met, by a form of training that has become deeply flawed in many ways.

I am not advocating that we destroy our seminaries. Nor am I advocating that we oppose them or close them. Many have an excellent and well-deserved respect. What I am advocating is a serious renewal in the way we equip ministers and how ministers then serve the church.

Systematic theology has become an end in itself for too many schools and ministers. Because Christians believe God is the ultimate author of the Scripture, which is of course true, they then deduce that humans can build a systematic theological framework that is a reflection

By |January 27th, 2009|Categories: The Church|

Obama's Approval Ratings?

In a culture where we want "instant" everything even I was amazed to read today that there is already a poll out on President Obama's approval rating. "You have to be kidding me," you respond. No, I am dead serious. John F. Kennedy had the highest rating after his first three days in office, at 72%. Obama is tied with Dwight Eisenhower's rating, who enjoyed 68% approval after his first few days in office. Thus Obama has the second highest approval rating since World War II, about the time all this tracking of opinion began.

How can anyone have a "serious" opinion about the president's job approval by now? How can any thinking person even bother respond to such a question/survey. If they surveyed me I would tell them to leave me alone. I am dead serious. This is about the most insane stuff I have read since last Tuesday and the inauguration.

It is this same endless taking of the pulse that harms the church. A pastor can't be on the job for a few

By |January 26th, 2009|Categories: Culture|

The Problem of Systematic Theology, Part One

Serious theology is generally done by academicians. This is good and bad. I thank God for humble, well-trained, competent academics who use their gifts in service of Christ's kingdom and the church. But there are immense problems with this approach. And make no mistake about it this is not how it always was done. In fact, this is not how it is still done in many places and parts of the world today.

Academic institutions train pastors and leaders to be junior academics, or at least something like an academic. Academics love debate and theological warfare. They can savage those who disagree with them. The smallest details become "hobby horses." But people who are not trained in formal academic ways do the same, following the spirit of the academic but without the training. (They adopt this by reading books and by listening to academics and by becoming "wanna be" academics.) As a rule academics guard turf and ideas. They write and teach about

By |January 26th, 2009|Categories: The Church|

Being Missional Is Not Limited to Church

We sometimes get the idea that being missional is only about a particular form or style of church life; e.g. emerging, etc. This is a mistake. Being missional is much more about adopting the attitude and message of the kingdom of Christ, both personally and in the life of a church congregation. This story of a Texas high school football team underscores my point beautifully. See if you don't agree. I loved it.

By |January 25th, 2009|Categories: Missional Church|

How Christians Can Make a Difference in Politics

Some readers might think that I believe all Christians should avoid politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I do oppose is the way the Christian Right has engaged the subject of politics since 1976. This was the year that began the turn of events that resulted in the last eight years of Republican leadership, which many came to assume represents the views of most white evangelical Christians. While my own political views are more conservative than those of President Obama I think the continual attacks upon him by the Christian Right are quite harmful to the mission of the church in America. We are driving a deeper wedge between "us" and "them" and the result is making mission much more difficult in so many places and contexts that I cannot begin to explain the damage this creates for those of us who believe the church's first, and primary, task is to make disciples of Jesus in the wider culture.In making real disciples we will,

By |January 24th, 2009|Categories: Politics|

Praying for Revival in Our Cities

One of the numerous opportunities that I am afforded for missional impact and input is in prayer movements for revival and city transformation. Most of you already know that the first Thursday of May is the National Day of Prayer. This year a group of my friends are staging an important event in suburban Dallas two days before the National Day of Prayer, on May 5. I have taken a particular interest in this effort as a friend and supporter. God of the City is the project. There are many such events around the country and I urge you to support them in your own area and pray for revival in the churches of our land. The great need of the hour is not going to be met in Washington, D.C., but in your town and mine, in your church and mine, when the Holy Spirit is poured out in mercy and power upon large numbers of our people. Come Lord, refresh us from on high!

By |January 23rd, 2009|Categories: Renewal|

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