Monthly Archives: September 2011

Moneyball, Two Dramatic Loses and the End of the Line for My Team

As a fan of the great game of baseball the last 36 hours have been filled with great emotion, great joy and a huge sense of loss. Rarely will we ever see four regular-season games that mattered so much come down to the end in both leagues on one dramatic evening like Wednesday night. In the AL the Red Sox lost with two outs in the ninth to the lowly Orioles. They were leading 3-2 and had one of the best pitchers in baseball on the hill.  About three minutes later the Tampa Rays won on a walk-off home run by Longoria to win the AL Wild Card. Tampa has enough pitching to actually make a serious potential run at the AL Pennant.

In the senior circuit the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves, my life-long favorite team, suffered one of the greatest stretch-run collapses ever, blowing a 10 1/2 game lead from late August and an 8 1/2 game lead from September 5. First-year Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez has

By |September 30th, 2011|Categories: Baseball|

A Theology Professor’s Prayer for Her Students

I am particularly grateful that Wheaton College embraced the complete equality of women on their faculty many decades ago. (Wheaton was born in the time of anti-slavery and has always been an activist school in its robust evangelicalism.) I am even more grateful that this inclusion of women includes the Bible and Theology Department, a place where women are often rejected by conservative schools. Happily, women hold important teaching positions alongside their male peers at Wheaton. One such person is 978-0-19-530981-2 Dr. Beth Jones, author of The Marks of His Wounds: Gender Politics and Bodily Resurrection (Oxford University Press, 2007) and Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga (Multnomah Books, 2009).

Beth Felker Jones, who holds a Ph.D. from Duke University, is married and has four children. She is a busy mom besides being a teacher of Bible and theology at Wheaton. Her husband is a United Methodist minister. On the college web site Jones writes the following about her life and work: “John

By |September 29th, 2011|Categories: Theology|

Holy Sexuality

I continually seek to understand both the Scriptures and culture with regard to the very hot subject of human sexuality. I cannot think of a single issue that threatens to divide us and defeat us more than this one. We debate this in convoluted ways that are framed by paradigms never employed in previous debates void of modern notions about “rights” and true freedom. Some want to frame this entire debate entirely by a "civil rights” paradigm while others insist that homosexuality is an “abomination” that must end all further discussion. While the civil society debates this topic the church stands in the middle, so it seems, dividing one from another in ways almost beyond belief.

I am clear (in my mind) about several things in this debate.

1. The debate is hurting us on every side. Generations are divided, families are divided and churches are now divided. I see no end in sight.

2. The cultural debate is growing and will not stop. Everything will very likely change. There is very little that you or I can do to stop this even if we want to stop it. This is not

By |September 28th, 2011|Categories: Homosexuality, Sexuality|

Chronic Fatigue and the Challenge to Education

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal underscored the problems schools and parents face whose children suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Amy Marcus tells the sad story of increased conflicts between parents and school districts as they seek to educate children with CFS who cannot cope with the daily routines of class and study.

By federal law public schools are required to provide a “free appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” to children with special needs. But is CFS a “special need?” Most agree that it is. But it was not always this way. Until the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDPC) took CFS seriously this was not the case, perhaps for several decades at least. The CDCP estimates that one million Americans have CFS. As many of you know I am one of those Americans.

chronic-fatigue-syndrome-s4-four-defining-cfs-symptoms Amy Marcus correctly says CFS is a condition characterized by debilitating pain and severe fatigue, among a cluster of other related symptoms. These related symptoms include many

By |September 27th, 2011|Categories: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Personal|

God Is Looking for Man

I have always thought one of the more impressive and important things our Lord ever uttered is recorded in Luke 17:10. Here he says:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this

By |September 26th, 2011|Categories: Jesus, Scripture|

The Challenges of Unity in the Local Parish

I am regularly told that the biblical doctrine of unity is primarily about the unity of the local church, not the universal or global church. I reject this distinction as false. But I also want to challenge the notion that somehow evangelical churches are united in the way Jesus and the apostles taught.

COmmunity Congregations face many challenges today but none more difficult than that posed by the American phenomenon of individualism. In a culture where fewer and fewer people do fewer and fewer communal activities our faith in Christ still calls upon us to live and serve as one. Without liturgy churches are even more prone to abject, privatized individualism being the ubiquitous sea in which the church functions week-to-week. Most evangelical churches do not celebrate weekly communion, they rarely participate in actions and practices that unite their people in mission and they infrequently pray together as a church. What is left is a large gathering of individuals who come to be “fed” and “helped” by a preacher

By |September 25th, 2011|Categories: Unity of the Church|

“I’m Not Religious, but I Am Spiritual”

Naked%20Spirituality%209%201 Brian McLaren, in his new book  Naked Spirituality, raises this intriguing question: Why do so many people say “I’m not religious but I am spiritual . . .” And what do they mean when they say this to us or to others?

McLaren reasons that he began as a religious young man but he was plunged into spirituality one night under the stars where he countered the living God in an experience that he describes with great care and caution. He then says a lot of folks he meets feel a real tension between religion and spirituality. I have discovered the same thing in my conversations and experiences with people. Brian says he follows this comment with a question and I’ve done the same. “I’m curious. What do you mean by ‘spiritual’?”

Brian says that four answers come up again and again. As I read these I ticked off each one and said, “That is precisely what I’ve also discovered.”

First, people say “I’m spiritual” with reference to secular science, politics

By |September 24th, 2011|Categories: Spirituality|

Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Steps

I have read about half of Brian McLaren’s published books. Some have moved me and some have left me puzzled and have not proven entirely helpful. Brian is an eloquent man, a good thinker and a serious Christian. My personal relationship with Brian has included both private and public conversations. He has always proven to be vulnerable, gentle and receptive.

Generous When Brian’s well-known book, Generous Orthodoxy, was published I read it with great interest. I even required a grad class of mine to read it as one of our texts. There is much in it to like. There is some in it to question. I think Brian intends this, at least so far as I understand both his thinking and his writing style. Eventually, I decided to devote a serious group of review articles to this book that were published in our quarterly journals. (The journal is no longer published, sadly. It suffered the fate of most print journals during the last five years or so. If you

By |September 23rd, 2011|Categories: Books, Emergent Church, Spirituality|

Overregulation Cuts Across Both Parties: The Real Danger of Xenophobia

Republicans routinely criticize the Obama administration for overregulation. I believe this criticism is just in many instances. It is interesting to see this administration back away from a whole host of regulations in the present recession because they realize (pragmatically) they cannot defend these and be re-elected in this bad economy.

gopREPUBLICANS But the Republicans are sometimes guilty of the same problem, just in different ways. Consider the immigration issue. Recently the House Republicans have made noise about trying to counter the costs of their own version of restrictive policies. The House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith has routinely fought what he calls “cheap foreign labor.” One of Smith’s pet political projects is to harass American business into becoming the line of defense in keeping immigration laws in force. The Texas congressman recently introduced what is called the Legal Workforce Act, a bill that would require employees to run the names and Social Security numbers of all new hires through E-Verify, a federal database. Employees can use E-Verify voluntarily at

Why We Do Evangelism: What Does Hell Have to Do with It?

In the recent debates about hell, stirred by the book Love Wins and the various blogs, articles and books now written in response to Rob Bell, I have heard many rather ridiculous arguments and statements on every side of this debate. At some point I may say more but there is one argument I want to take up today that I’ve heard all my life and find completely lacking in biblical evidence.

hell The argument goes like this—if people are lost eternally without consciously knowing and hearing about Jesus then if we remove this doctrinal point, namely that they must “hear” or they will burn in hell forever, we destroy the/a primary motive for our doing evangelism. My point here is not to open Pandora’s Box about the destiny of the un-evangelized but rather to ask a simple question: “Is this motive about saving people from hell who have not heard really a necessary and biblically given motive for evangelism?” So far as I can tell it is not.

To

By |September 21st, 2011|Categories: Evangelism, Theology|
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