Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What uncertainty should do

Despite winning the last two games in a row (I guess that's as good a winning streak as we hoped to see this year), Buccaneers football coach Raheem Morris has had to field questions about his job security. There are many rumors suggesting the Bucs are interested in bringing in Bill Cowher, former Super Bowl winning coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Raheem has repeatedly confessed he is simply going to work as usual and will coach as though he'll be around longer.

This is really the same kind of attitude Christians are to have in regards to the Return of the King (Jesus). In regards to when Christ will return, since we'll know neither the day or the hour (Matt 25:13), we're to be busy discipling others (25:15-ff) and working hard in our jobs.

Uncertainty of the future shouldn't make us stop working, become slothful or sensational, but keep working hard until the end. Even though I'd love to see Cowher, Raheem does set for us a great example.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Goldman returns

A little while ago I wrote an article for the Bradenton Herald about David Goldman and his quest to bring his son back from the Brazilian captivity. Well he finally brought his son back (this picture is way old by the way). In an interview today on "Today," he called his son's return a "Christmas miracle," and that "somebody's definitely up there." He's right. Someone is definitely up there, and finally brought justice to this complete travesty of justice, much less travesty to common sense.

Apparently his son, still doesn't call him "Dad" yet, which breaks my heart. But the kid is now 9 years old (been away for 4-5 years), and
David believes it will take a little time.

What a good example of the pursuing love a Father has for His son, even when the son doesn't seek him out or even call him "Dad." He just never gave up no matter how bleak it seemed. I don't know David Goldman, but I sure would like to meet that joker and rejoice with him. Maybe we could talk about God's pursuing Fatherly love (which I reflected on in the article which is lost in the Bradenton Herald cyberspace). Since Amy and I have been following this story, we are really stoked about this homecoming. If you read the article here, I think you will rejoice and also want to pray imprecations on these Brazilians (but please resist because Jesus says we can't!).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Me and Bono on Christmas

I think I'm going to make it one of my Christmas traditions to reflect on this quote from Bono. I put it up last year, but to me it never gets old. Just like the Christmas story. Every part of it seems counter-intuitive to me: God in flesh, the use of shepherds (sketchy fellows), magi (also sketchy), that Jesus was laid in a manger. How crazy is that? Where dirty animals feed. The king of the universe laid where animals feed. I hope we never fail to realize how crazy that is. Blaise Paschal hit it on the nose in his Pensees (I'd love to give the reference but all the books are packed up!) when he said it is not that God has hidden this message so high so that folks can't understand it, but so low, as many will look over it.

Here's Bono's quote:

“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw…a child… I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”

Xmas or Christmas: Feel free to save space

Yesterday I saw a church marquee marquee that reads, "Merry Christmas, not Merry Xmas." Now that is by no means in the same category as this "Eat me Jesus Hater's Trollcat (that's seriously what the picture is called!). But I have recently noticed a bit of confusion on the origin of Xmas from a number of well meaning Christians. Or I should I write "Xians" to save space? I can.

In fact that's what I did on my resume to save space. During one of my interviews, one woman actually asked me why I put on my resume "Xmas" instead of "Christmas" to refer to my "Xmas Outreach parties" that we hosted at our house.

Now I found it incredibly counter-intuitive (to put it nicely) to think I was embarrassed to put Jesus name when it was He who our youth would be proclaiming during the gospel presentations! Needless to say, all doubt was removed in regards to my desire to not work for this church.

I explained to her that "Xmas" saved space on a one page resume, and that "X" is the first letter in "Christ" in the Greek spelling of it. Here's a helpful explanation by R.C. Sproul of why you may with good conscience write "Xmas" to save space on a resume or Xmas card. It is not dishonoring to Jesus in the least.

So please don't put "Xmas" in the same category of the I-don't-want-to-offend-anyone-"Happy Holidays"-even-when-Hanakah-is-over category.

On a side note, Good Morning America introduced the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir this morning as singing a "Holiday Medley." The beautiful irony of it all was that "Holiday" was said not to offend anyone, yet the choir sang nothing but Xmas carols, and concluded with a singing something to effect of "I'm not ashamed to proclaim His name...Jesus, there is no other..." I love irony!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Neighborhood Xmas Pageants and Contextualization

Just about every year for the past 20-25 years or so, my mother has put on a neighborhood Christmas pageant. Now my folks and I have lived in 4 different neighborhoods since the onset of the pageant, so the play has changed a bit over the years. At times, there were animals like sheep and donkeys, and at times there were professional musicians (of course no one could forget my "Silent Night" on electric guitar where I missed every other note). While the central message of the drama doesn't change, lines have been tweaked and added/subtracted throughout its, and my lifetime (I'm only several years older than the pageant myself).

Last year Connar was baby Jesus, but this year he outgrew the part and my brother's son Ben starred as the Savior. Having been to nearly 15-20 of them, I routinely notice line changes. The story is always first contextualized with narrators, and then the drama unfolds. And this is the part where I could tell my mother changed some lines up.

This year's pageant began with 2 kids at the bus stop fretting over their 401 K and homeowner's association (this one can be extremely anal and "fine happy" at times). Then it ended with the same conversation continued, where one kid said to the other, "That's why we can have hope despite what may happen with our 401 K and association issues. But I still wouldn't open that envelope till after Christmas if I were you!"

Everyone laughed. But it was more than funny. The gospel story was connected with real life, offering real hope, to real problems. It wouldn't have been nearly as funny with our first neighborhood in South Tampa. Different audience with no strict HOA and different socioeconomic group.

This is a fine example of healthy contextualization. The message doesn't change, but what parts of the gospel are emphasized (new record, new heart-in this case it was "new heart" and the ability to live at peace in an unstable world-new world, new family......) will and must change to reach different people.

My Mom will be on TV this Wed on CTN at 1 pm to discuss the neighborhood pageants and will have some pictures of the most recent one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dealing with Cousin Eddies and Yourself

Here's a challenging blog post on relating with extended family during the Christmas season. For those of you reading this blog who happen to be my extended family, please know that you're not the reason for the post. Regardless, I found it a helpful look-at-the-plank-in-your-own-eye-first type attitude we all need to embrace when interacting with believing, unbelieving, or nominal extended family (a different dynamic than spending time with friends).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Good Advent sermon

I just heard a great advent sermon while working out this week. Martin Ban, pastor of Christ Church Santa Fe, illustrates well and only preaches 25 minutes, so he's easy to listen to on the computer or I-pod. He is mesmerized how God used those quite unqualified in constructing the Xmas story. Zechariah (unbelieving priest) Elizabeth (barren woman probably in her 50's), John the Baptist (not yet born though rejoices over the good news), and Mary (a young unproven inexperienced girl) all make for a quite a cast. Ban is amazed by the fact that God had all this time to plan His entrance and this is what we get! It encourages us to know what kind of people God uses. Click here and listen to "Advent Series Part #3."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good news for the Bucs

Good news for Bucs fan. The only way we can get a new GM and a coach more than 6 months older than myself is for the old coach and the old GM to find new jobs. Well today, we got one out of two. Bruce Allen, signed on with the Redskins. Since he's been a GM for Gruden's team twice, here's hoping we can say goodbye to Raheem the Dream Morris!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas isn't about Jesus....

Michael Scott (Steve Carell) of NBC's "The Office," in a powerful soliloquy, had this to say about Christmas: "Christmas isn't really about Santa Claus, or about Jesus....It's about family." Sounds a bit over the top, but at least this lovable goofball said what so many folks think. At least our actions or thoughts prove that in some way many of us believe this.

Sometimes it takes a bold statement like that to get our attention and realize that when Christmas isn't about presents, the default mode goes to family. Christmas is about family spending time together. The number one idol of most church folk like me.

This was a good reminder to be thankful for family, but to find refuge and celebration in the Savior who will return one day to finish what he started. Celebrating Advent, regular scripture readings, pageants, manger scenes, and even birthday cakes for Jesus (Amy saw one today that was amazing!) are all tools which can help us avoid substituting family for Jesus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gruden and humility

I've been very uninspired to write lately. Perhaps my muse was assassinated last month. Perhaps getting the house ready to sell and trying to figure out what life will look like in WV has left me "speechless." Perhaps it's due to being a laid-off pastor and I don't think cyber-pastorally much anymore. Whatever it is, it took Jon Gruden to get me back on track.

While watching Monday Night Football, Jon Gruden, former Bucs Coach and now Monday Night Football commentator, spoke about the difficulty of coaching in the NFL. He noted that you can't simply be up in the standings with 4 games to go and relax. "We were 9-3 and we were coasting. Then we lost the last 4 games and I lost my job."

And he said it with a smile on his face. I think the other two guys in the booth were taken by surprise. Jon wasn't afraid to talk about his failures.

Largely blasted for his super-sized ego and alleged mistreatment of players through dishonesty and deception, he showed some real maturity. Maturity in the form of humility.

The ability to admit and even laugh about your failures is something that ought to characterize the life of the Christian. The security found in the gospel-that we are loved and provided for despite our sins and failures-allows us to regularly admit our failures to friend and foe. And yes, at times, even to a national audience.

Jon, if you're reading this, thanks for the reminder of how Christians should live if we truly believe the gospel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stopping by the Woods' on a non-snowy evening

You may have heard of Tiger Woods traffic violation heard 'round the world. If not, click here. His crash cost him a fine of 165 dollars. My going 30 mph in a 20 mph school zone Tuesday on the way to fish will set me back 156 dollars! Only 9 dollars difference for those keeping score at home. Doesn't seem to add up if you ask me. But I'll take the fine over speculations (actually recorded voicemails) of infidelity and getting beaten by your spouse!

Are such things true about Tiger Woods? Possibly, but no one knows. No one really knows Tiger, since he has done a nearly impeccable job of staying out of the public when not on the PGA Tour. He's definitely no Kardashian.

Now there's no escaping the media. He's probably fortunate to escape more than scrutiny, as the investigation has ended and no medical records of what really happened will surface.

This incident reminds me of Jesus' words to the Pharisees in Luke 12, when he warns us against hypocrisy. The private life will not always be so private and one day all will be disclosed. Whether its dirt on Tiger, you, or me, all will eventually come out. A sobering thought which makes me run to Jesus, hold on to him, allow Him to be the judge, and trust that my dirt leaves no stains, nor does it disqualify me from a big old hug one day.