Friday, March 31, 2006

Mohler on "Methodists, Mascots and Morality"

Al Mohler posted recently about a decision by the United Methodist Church. He wrote:
In 2004, Richmond, Virginia was host to the national denominational meetings of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Pentecostal Church International, and the American Baptist Churches USA. In 2012, the United Methodist Church was to hold its General Conference in the same city. It's not going to happen. The Methodists aren't going to Richmond.
Why? Because Richmond has a minor-league baseball team called the "Braves." When this group met in Cleveland (home to another team with a Native American mascot), the Methodists initiated a resolution denouncing this sort of thing. Their resolution included these words:
"We are sad for the great United Methodists in Virginia who were excited about hosting the General Conference but are pleased to take a strong stance against teams with offensive names. However well intended, sports teams named after Native Americans demean the heritage of native peoples. They perpetuate unhealthy and unfair stereotypes."
In 2004, delegates met in Pittsburgh and in 2008, they will gather in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mohler's post points us to an online article by Mark Galli of Christianity Today, who responds with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek:

How insensitive of Richmond to allow its city to be associated with a privately owned team that denigrates Native Americans as noble, strong, and courageous. It didn't seem to faze anyone that this convention [in 2004] was being held in held in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a name that romanticizes raping, pillaging, robbery, and murder.

Fortunately, the Methodists can put all those horrific and embarrassing incidents behind them. In 2008 they're meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.

Uh, never mind. I guess the Methodists haven't heard of the local arena football team, the Ft. Worth Cavalry, a team name that glorifies militarism and violence TOWARD NATIVE AMERICANS.

Then again, momentous social change doesn't happen in a quadrennium or two. Surely by 2012, they will have corrected the Methodist ship. Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. They've chosen innocuous Tampa Bay, Florida.

Ooops. Forgot about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pirates (again!), who—at the risk of repeating myself—glorify rape, pillaging, thievery, and murder. Oh, and the 16th and 17th century's No. 1 drug abuse problem, alcoholism.

(What is it with Methodists and pirates?)

Galli goes on to explore deeper thoughts:

At any rate, as the chair of the committee who put a nix on Richmond said, "We are sad for the United Methodists in Virginia who were excited about hosting the General Conference, but are pleased to take a strong stand against sports teams with offensive names."

The reason the Methodists have taken this courageous stand is because they drop about $20 million every four years at these General Conferences. They don't want to contribute to the economy of a city that lets privately owned sports teams with offensive names operate in its boundaries.

Given that logic, I'm surprised that Methodists have continued to LIVE IN cities that have sports teams with offensive names. By paying taxes and shopping in these cities, they support cities with sports teams with offensive names, and probably spend more than $20 million over a few years collectively.

Here's a question I want to ask: "Why are people so upset over something that does not seem to upset the allegedly insulted people group?"

In a recent Sports Illustrated, we find these numbers:

The Peter Harris Research Group polled 352 Native Americans (217 living on reservations and 134 living off) and 743 sports fans; the results are published in SI's March 4 [2005] issue.

Here's the most important finding: "Asked if high school and college teams should stop using Indian nicknames, 81 percent of Native American respondents said no. As for pro sports, 83 percent of Native American respondents said teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, characters, and symbols."

The poll also found that 75 percent of Native Americans don't think the use of these team names and mascots "contributes to discrimination." Opinion is divided about the tomahawk chop displayed at Atlanta Braves games: 48 percent "don't care" about it; 51 percent do care, but more than half of them "like it." The name "Redskins" isn't especially controversial either; 69 percent of Native Americans don't object to it. As a general rule, Indians on reservations were more sensitive about team names and mascots, but not to the point where a majority of them ever sided with the activists on these questions.

Sports Illustrated writer S. L. Price reaches the obvious conclusion: "Although Native American activists are virtually united in opposition to the use of Indian nicknames and mascots, the Native American population sees the issue far differently."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Another day, another parody artist is out of a job!

If there are any people looking to write a parody about modern day Christianity, it is surely getting very hard for them to come up with original ideas. You just can't make some of this up - yet we see it happening for real right before our eyes!

Go here to see a new boardgame based on Joel Osteen's bestselling book, "Your Best Life Now." As Riddlebarger wrote, "what happens if two players each claim victory and they have equal faith? Who will win?"

Go here to see the latest sighting of Jesus. According to the news story, miracles are becoming commonplace occurrences in this Katrina-ravaged church:

"Many have been healed," said Pastor Ella Roberts. "One young man that belonged here was scheduled to go on dialysis. "The next week, he laid his hand there on the wall on the image, went to the doctor and they said they can't see where, why, how."

Church members say miracles occur when you touch the wall. "From touching that, my eyesight began to clear up completely," said Benita Bogan.

Skeptics like James Broughton are not sure what to make of it. He suffers from diabetes and is hoping for a better life. "I heard about it a couple of hours ago," said Broughton. When he was asked why he came, his response was "I don't know."

"You also have to look at it through your spiritual eyes and be able to
recognize that it is Jesus himself on that wall," said Bogan.
I need to go to the "spiritual eye doctor" because I just couldn't see an image.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Great Debate is On!

I wrote earlier about the "debate" this summer on Calvinism between Southern Seminary president Al Mohler and Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson. Even though these two are theological heavyweights in the SBC, it appears the gloves will stay off. This will not be a debate. Instead, they are saying that the event, which takes place in Greensboro during the national SBC convention, is more of a "discussion."

Now, we hear of a true debate between four very capable individuals. On Monday, October 16, 2006, Dr. Ergun Caner (Dean of Liberty Theological Seminary) and Dr. Emir Caner (Professor at Southwestern) will debate Dr. Tom Ascol of Founders' Ministry (adjunct professor for New Orleans Seminary) and Dr. James White of "Alpha & Omega Ministry" (adjunct professor for Golden Gate Seminary). The debate will take place at New Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. The debate is free and will begin at 7:00 PM. If you can't make it, the debate will be recorded via audio and video and all parties will make the recordings available to their audience.

The seeds of this debate were sown on Dr. Ascol's blog when he posted about the likelihood of Johnny Hunt becoming the next SBC president at this summer's Greensboro meetings. That simple post (which was originally about the process of electing SBC presidents and not about Hunt) exploded over the next several days and Drs. Caner both weighed in with some vitriol I haven't seen in a while. It was almost BAPTIST FIRE level argumentation, with Ergun Caner calling Calvinism a "virus" and admitting that five point Calvinism is the exact same thing as hyper-Calvinism. (That statement made left my jaw agape.)

I weighed in on the conflagration here!

Dr. White was in England but sent emails challenging the Caners to debate on the issue. At first, they both declined but now it appears the challenge has been taken on in full. Caner the Elder's webpage mentions repeatedly that he ministers and teaches "without fear, without fail, without fliching." It's good to see he's a man of his word.

This will be a remarkable evening and I am already looking forward to it.


According the Palm Beach Post, a church in West Palm Beach, Florida, did not treat a particular "guest" all that well. Read the story for yourself:

Parishioners fed up with a string of burglaries at their West Palm Beach church took matters into their own hands by capturing and hog-tying a man who climbed in through a window early this morning.

Armed with baseball bats, members of the Church of Nazarene at 5312 Broadway spent the night in the building to guard it.

At about 1 this morning, a man broke in. Church members were waiting for him inside. They beat him with their bats and tied him up with tape.

Police identified the burglary suspect as Ralph Thomas.

Thomas was treated at a local hospital and charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools.

An accomplice got away, police said.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Would you be convicted?

According to this article in the Star-Telegram in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Abdul Rahman is a free man. Rahman was the man on trial in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity from Islam sixteen years ago. The lead sentence of the article has this to say:
An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon, officials said.
The article goes on to explain this "lack of evidence." However, it got me thinking: could I be convicted by a jury for being a Christian? Could you?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lifeway and Easter

The story below about the Easter Bunny and St. Paul, Minnesota, reminded me of a flyer I received in my office at church yesterday from Lifeway. On the inside front cover was a very large display of something called the "JELLY BEAN PRAYER BOTTLE."

Apparently, you can buy an overpriced assortment of colorful jelly beans in something like a pill bottle and use them to spread the "true meaning of Easter."

The sticker on the bottle reads: "Thank you Lord for jelly beans. They remind me of . . . ."(I am assuming "You" or "Your" - I can't read all of it due to the curvature of the bottle).

The sticker goes on to say the different colors mean something, obviously profound:
  1. SPECKLED represents the effects of sin, separating me . . .
  2. RED is for the blood you shed - a sacrifice only you . . .
  3. WHITE represents the cleansing of my soul as you wash . . .
  4. BLUE is for water baptism, an outward expression . . .
  5. YELLOW represents heaven above, a long-awaited . . .
  6. GREEN if for the growth that I must do.
  7. As I study your Word to gain closeness to you . . .
That's my Lifeway!

St. Paul, MN does Christians a favor - accidentally

In the March 23, 2006 edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, we read this:

So long, Easter Bunny.

A toy rabbit decorating the entrance of the St. Paul City Council offices went hop-hop-hoppin' on down the bunny trail Wednesday after the city's human rights director said non-Christians might be offended by it.

This is politcal correctness at its silliest. We have reached the zenith (or possibly the nadir, depending on how you view it) of the crazy tolerance movement.

Personally, as a Christian, I am more offended by the presence of the Easter Bunny and colored Easter eggs than any athiest should ever be. As the article stated,
The decorations — including the stuffed rabbit, Easter eggs and a handcrafted sign saying "Happy Easter," but nothing depicting the biblical account of Christ's death and resurrection — were put up this week in the office of the City Council by a council secretary.
That's right - NOTHING about the real meaning of Easter. Can any rational non-Christian really get tied in knots because of a bunny rabbit and colored eggs? If so, can we continue to call that person rational?

Plus, as David Taylor points out, the irony in this story is wonderful: It is reported in the ST. PAUL Pioneer Press, which is housed in ST. PAUL, Minnesota and the event happened at the ST. PAUL city council offices. Are you saying that having a public city named after the most important New Testament character after Jesus doesn't offend these same non-believers? If not, I question their consistency and their true agenda!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Parental Warning stickers on Bibles?


Zondervan has released yet another Bible targeted towards young teen girls - the "True Images" Bible. This one, however, should probably come with a "Parental Warning." From this article from WorldNetDaily, it appears the Bible contains the NIV text but also has over 1,000 sidebar articles on all kinds of subjects.

One such sidebar that is causing an uproar appears in Leviticus. Here's an excerpt from the news site:

The "In Focus" article on sex appears amidst scriptural regulations on offerings in the book of Leviticus. It profiles the fictional girl "Ashley" and is entitled "Casual or Not?"

While the message of the profile is to save sex for marriage, critics aren't convinced the frank-talk approach is appropriate for young teens.

Discussing her friend "Emma," Ashley says, "The story is that she had oral sex with a guy friend of ours last week. Just for fun. They're not dating, although they've always flirted with each other a lot. Emma took one look at my face this morning, and she knew I knew."

Emma goes on to claim that oral sex "is not even sex," but Ashley disagrees, saying, "God's definition of sexual purity covers much more than intercourse."

Following Ashley's narrative is a warning that "the physical and emotional effects of oral sex are similar to intercourse," along with tips for dealing with friends who are engaging in the practice.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Interesting - OT Citations in the NT

At least I found it interesting. Go HERE to see the numbers - its the blog for the English Standard Version of the Bible (a very good translation - somewhere between the NIV and NASB).

And that just set the record for the worst sentence on this entire blog.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Eating and Drinking Unworthily

In perhaps the ultimate example of the modern evangelical church forgetting about the purpose of the worship service, Christianity Today has republished an article by Jack Hayford. He is writing about including non-Christians in the worship service.

He writes at length about making the non-believer feel welcome and helping him to interact within the service. He then moves into providing ways for non-Christians to "commit." Here is where he gets on incredibly shaky ground, writing:

A less traditional means we use to encourage commitment is the Lord's Supper. We invite all the people to gather around the Lord's Table and partake in small groups. We believe it is the Lord's Table we are invited to, the Lord is doing the inviting, and no one is excluded. To us that means unbelievers are invited, as well.

We explain clearly, of course, what we are doing, and what an unbeliever is doing by partaking: making a commitment to Christ. We stress the gravity of the event to reflect the serious nature of faith in Christ.

At the same time, we want people to know that they are welcome. For example, I might say, "If you are visiting with us today, you are not only welcome to participate, you are urged to. If you were at my house and it came dinnertime, I wouldn't leave you sitting in the other room while I went to the dining room. And if you said, 'Well, I'm not really hungry,' I'd say, 'Come in and sit with us anyway.' Now, as we come to the Lord's Table, join us. And when the bread is served, take a portion."

After everyone is served, I continue, "Everyone here who knows the Lord Jesus might thank him for " and here I'll encourage them to thank God for something that relates to the morning's teaching. "If you've never received Christ," I continue, "you might say, 'God, I know I can't earn salvation by partaking of this. But in receiving this, I'm telling you I'm opening myself to your life.' " If they are not ready to take that important step and partake of Communion, they are encouraged to sit with us at the table while we partake.

So the Lord's Supper is not only a significant time for the church body, we also use it as a way to incorporate non-Christians into the service, and some into the body.

We recognize using Communion as an evangelistic opportunity troubles many people, and for understandable reasons. We're not arguing that every church should do it, or that it is necessary for churches that want to include unbelievers in their services. But it is one of the ways we incorporate unbelievers into our service.

It is the Lord's Table and no one is excluded? That is incorrect. It is disfellowship from the table that is the focus of church discipline. We don't invite those who have been excommunicated. If we don't invite Christians who are living like the world, why would we invite the world?

Hayford then says that they explain to the non-Christian who partakes exactly what he is doing in partaking: making a commitment to Christ. WOW! So a person who is dead in his sin and totally separated from God can "make a committment" to God by eating bread and drinking wine. He goes on to say later that this can't save but it is nonetheless a very misleading exercise to allow people to think they are making some spiritual advance in the kingdom by this ritual.

He even leads the sinner to say "I am opening myself to your life." What exactly does that mean? Is this what he means by "making a commitment?" Does this equal conversion? What of repentance, sin, wrath, hell? The two are not equivalent!

He uses the faulty analogy of using good manners towards people dining in his home. There is a lot of difference between Hayford's table and Hayford's meal and the Lord's table and the Lord's meal. Besides, his analogy is false. It is not Jack's table, it is the Lord's. A better analogy is for Hayford to come to my house and become dissatisfied with my guest list and then to go and invite whomever HE wants to MY party. The Lord determines who sits at the table, not us.

There is so much here that my mind can't type fast enough. The Bible tells us that light has no fellowship with darkness. Eating together (breaking bread) is a biblical image of fellowship. The Bible also says to not associate (or even eat with) a person who calls himself a Christian but lives like the world (I Cor 5:9-12). So, why is it acceptable to eat the Lord's Supper with one who openly proclaims his affiliation with the world due to his non-acceptance of the gospel? Paul says that God judges the one "outside the church" but that is different from inviting to the table.

Hayford then makes a very strange comment, writing that "the Lord's Supper is not only a significant time for the church body, we also use it as a way to incorporate non-Christians into the service and some into the body." They incorporate non-Christian into the Body of Christ?

At least he recognizes that "many" are "troubled" by this idea. For good reason! Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:

27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

Can an unbeliever judge himself rightly? If he could, he would realize immediately his need for salvation through Christ alone? The fact that he cannot recognize that fact is convinving fact that this practice of Hayford's church is in error.

Furthermore, if it is dangerous (eating and drinking DAMNATION) for the believer, how much more dangerous is it for the person who is not regenerated and still has the old stony heart encased inside the old self? How can someone who does not believe that the Messiah died and rose again and is coming again take part in a service that is expressly designed for that very purpose?

There are two ordinances the Lord instituted for the Church: the Lord's Supper and baptism. Is baptism next? As another has written elsewhere, I could say, "When you come to my house and we decide to go swimming, I'm not going to ask you to sit by the pool and watch us have fun."

This is a simple case of doing everything we can to center our services on man. The worship service is not supposed to be about us. It most certainly is not about the lost. It is all about God. To build our worship service around the hope that the lost individual is comfortable and can participate with us in worship is to attempt to do the impossible: a lost man can not and will not worship the Holy God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Boston - Day Ten

I think EVERYONE is ready to go home. It's getting harder and harder to sit in class all day. Two more groups gave class presentations and they went well. After lunch, we came back for FOUR HOURS of unguided discussion. Questions ranged from creating effective sermon introductions to how Haddon spends his day (he gets up at 5:00 every morning to exercise and he sees no difference between reading the Bible for study and reading the Bible devotionally). We also talked about the "Golden Days" at Dallas Theological Seminary back in the 60s and 70s. Haddon taught there with men like Bruce Waltke and S. Lewis Johnson and Howard Hendricks and many others.

Class ended at 5:00 and we were ushered to a building for a special dinner. We ate and then gathered in a room to "share" about the three residencies and the two years we've spent together. Haddon again made the remark that our residency seems to him to be the closest group since he started working in the D.Min. ministry. I have no frame of reference but I find it believable. It's going to be strange not returning to Boston next year at this time.

It snowed today. Yep, that's right - snow. Hard snow. Windy snow. Snow that hurt when it hit you. But it only dusted the ground. After eight days of beautiful weather, it turned nasty very fast. I think it's called a "squall." Of course, that's nowhere close to last year's "nor'easter."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Boston - Day Nine

I never got a straight answer regarding the "Terrorist Chicken" from last night but I think it came from the office at Western Avenue. Thanks, guys!

Today was another long day in the classroom. My group was up first. We got to class around 7:15 AM for our 8:45 AM class. We printed out some papers in the computer lab and just went over some last minute preparation. We were teaching on "Three Developmental Questions." This lesson basically states that there are only four things you can do with an idea: 1) restate it, 2) explain it, 3) prove it, and 4) apply it. These questions must be asked of the text and also must be imagined from the perspective of the person in the pew.

John introduced the lesson and then I taught the meat of the lesson - explaining the three questions (you can use the first one but it doesn't advance the thought). I explained how this step in the process of sermon development was essential to move from the ancient world of the text into the modern world - to get out from behind the desk and start moving towards the pulpit.

I led them through the three questions, giving several examples from the world and the Bible. After this teaching, we gave the class six sample passages to "test" them. Steve then led the group through the passage of "The Transfiguration" and John closed the session by leading the class through some more difficult passages.

We received some good remarks from the class. Dr. Robinson and Dr. Buzzell told John later in the day that he and Haddon both remarked during our session that ours was the first one that was not a "pretend" class but that real teaching and real learning was going on in the calssroom. High praise indeed from these two!

Another group of preachers taught on outlines and after lunch a third group taught on supporting materials (illustrations, etc.). Tonight was spent at the mall, mostily sitting in the massager chairs in Brookstone. We capped it off with some milkshakes from Johnny Rockets.

Tomorrow, we have two groups teaching on "Purpose of the Sermon & Application" and "Sermon Introductions and Conclusions." Then Wednesday afternoon will be spent with some Q&A with Haddon, which is always a beneficial time as we tap into his years of wisdom.

We were told that we would be done with the course Thursday at lunch. That was disappointing news because my flight home does not leave Boston until Friday afternoon at 2:30 PM. I was told a few months ago that the classes would not be completed until 4:00 Thursday and I wanted to get a flight that would best fit my wife's schedule so she could pick me up. I called US Air about changing the flight. They had a good one available but it would cost $100 to change the ticket and then an addition FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY-EIGHT DOLLARS difference in cost. I politely declined. The only alternative was to leave around 6:00 PM and head to Philly for a long long layover and get to Charlotte around midnight. I guess I can spend the extra time trying to complete chapter two.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I need answers! NOW! There's not much time!

Tonight at 9:00, I received a phone call from the front desk asking if I ordered food. I did not so I hung up and resumed my "24" watching with Bryan Galloway from Nebraska and Darryl Dash from Ontario, Canada. Then the doorbell rang and it was some guy from a restaurant delivering a bag of food for "Jack Bauer." He didn't say anything and there was no note. Inside the bag were three portions of wings and some kind of dessert that was very good.

Bryan, Darryl and I were slightly nervous that this might be some kind of terrorist trick but we figured it would be a nice way to go out so we dug in. We also rationalized that if we didn't eat the wings, the terrorists win.

They were delicious but we still have no idea who sent them or why. If you have a clue, comment so we can solve the mystery.

And I don't need to remind you to DO IT NOW! HURRY! WE DON'T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME! Once you get the information, either patch me through or send it over to my screen.

Boston - Day Eight

I am searching for something to tell you but I'm coming up empty. Today was spent in the classroom. After last week's sessions on teaching, we are now divided up into groups and are to pretend we are teaching a freshman level "Introduction to Preaching" course at a local Christian college/seminary. Each group is assigned a class session.

Today, three groups taught lessons on "Introduction to the Course" and "Definition of Expository Preaching" and "The Big Idea."

My group is on first thing in the morning and we were assigned to teach on "The Three Developmental Questions." These are three questions that preachers must ask and answer because these are the questions our listeners are asking. People hear words from the Bible or words from the preacher and ask: "Explain that me: What does it mean?" or "Prove It: Is that true?" or Apply it: What difference does that make?"

We were out of class around 3:30 and the evening was spent doing some last minute review and practice for the lesson. In about 20 minutes, four or five guys are coming over to my hotel room to watch "24." Many of them will be watching it for the first time ever. I am hoping for some new converts tonight in my continuing witness for this show.

Bryan and I were talking about this earlier: You really do witness passionately about the things you are passionate about. What if we all talked to other people about Jesus the way we talk about ball games, television shows and restaurants? Don't you think the world would be a lot different today?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Boston - The Weekend

It has been a bee-yoo-tee-ful weekend here in the Boston area. The temperature has been in the fifties both days with lots of sun. Saturday, I was able to sleep in but that means getting out of bed around 8:30 AM. Wanted to sleep longer but just couldn’t. I spent the morning surfing the web during breakfast (Toaster Strudels) and then writing a bit on the thesis project.

At noon, the “Idaho Boys” and I went to grab a burger and then came back to play some basketball. I was amazed at how breathless I was after just a few minutes of action. We played some “21” and I “busted” on 21 twice, having to go back to 11 but still managed to hang on to win. We then played a little 1-on-1, which sent me over the edge of exhaustion.

I came back to the room and did a little more work. Then, at 3:30 PM, Daven Watkins (a young preacher (31) from Kentucky) wanted to play so we went back out again. Daven and I made up a team from the deep south and beat the northwest “Idaho Boys” 15-14 in a very tough and competitive game. At this point I think my lungs were filling up with fluids and my muscles in my legs were almost quivering. It truly was a sad sight!

I came back into the room just in time to catch the final five minutes of the UNC-Boston College game. This area is pretty proud of the BC Eagles but we are not actually in Boston. My hotel is in Danvers, which is about 25 miles north of Boston. It is a town about the size of Hickory, if I had to guess. It is all hotels and shopping centers with three MAJOR thoroughfares running parallel right through it (US 1, I-95, and Hwy 128). All are four lanes with exits. I’m sure that contributes to this town having two huge malls bigger than anything in Hickory or Statesville.

After the game, I drove over to Salem. That is a truly amazing little town. It is amazing to drive down the streets and look at the beautiful 200-hundred-year-old homes. I also saw a few “Witch Houses” that look like something out of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Salem also had the single largest comic book store I have ever seen in my life (Harrison’s). I spent a solid hour in there and saw only about half the contents. AJ and Joey, you would have loved it. They had every single action figure and statue you can imagine and posters and cars and games and just about anything else you’ve even seen.

A quick stop at the “Super Stop-N-Shop” for some more Coke and other sundries and I was home for the evening. That meant more work on the thesis project.

As I mentioned earlier, a cohort of ours was preaching this morning. Seven us piled into the Idaho Boys’ mini-van (and I thought a Taurus was a raw deal) and we headed into Boston. I had my laptop with the GPS device plugged in and we were making great time. Then, we ran into some trouble – Boston police had blocked off the very streets we needed to travel for some 10K run. All traffic was re-routed down Beacon Street along the Charles River and we were sitting still. We got from the hotel to Boston in about 20 minutes and then spent almost forty going five blocks. We ended up parking in the underground garage in the Boston Commons (a very nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon), and took off on foot for Tremont Street.

We managed to enter Tremont Temple Baptist Church right as the choir started the service. We almost walked past the church because it looks like all the stores around it. Tremont Street is a very busy street in Boston and has all the famous stores on it. Right in the middle of is this church. It was built in the 1830s and is truly magnificent on the inside. The architecture is phenomenal and I found myself looking around a lot during the singing and other activities taking place. There was a HUGE pipe organ at the front with some incredibly elegant metalwork around it. The ceiling was ornate. It had that old “theatre” look to it with a balcony and then a second balcony on top of that. Our friend, Paul, preached the morning sermon in costume as a grown-man who was the boy with the fishes and loaves in John 6. He did a fantastic job.

After church, he took us over to Yawkey Way and we met his brother at Fenway Park. We got a personalized tour of the baseball stadium and that was a true highlight for me. We went through the Red Sox offices and then out into the stands. They are doing a LOT of renovation and have only 28 days to complete it before their home opener on April 11. They have to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day and I still don’t see how they’ll do it. We went up on top of the Green Monster and then down into the center field area. Paul’s brother offered a prize to anyone who could name the Red Sox’s retired numbers: Joe Cronin, 1; Bobby Doerr, 4, Yaz, 8; Ted Williams, 9; Fisk, 27. I first said Johnny Pesky for #1 but corrected it. I’m still waiting on my prize.

After Fenway, we went for some ribs (Rodney, I think they were authentic, nowhere-else-in-the-world ribs). We got home around 5:00 and I got to work on our project for Tuesday morning. Steve, John and I have to teach a lesson to the class on using the three developmental questions of sermon development. I think we have it pretty well nailed down and I am so thankful to be on the same group as those two guys.

I have four more days of class and it begins early tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Boston - Day Five

Today was a good day. Haddon started the class with a devotional from I Kings 22 and the story of Micaiah standing up against Ahab. This prophet alone stood up to the evil king even though all the other 400 prophets told Ahab exactly what the king wanted to hear. Micaiah's courage sprang from a phrase he used while addressing the king: "As sure as the LORD lives, ..." Haddon's point was for preachers to be just as courageous because we serve the Living Lord and we speak for Him.

We spent some time going over the different aspects of the thesis once again. I turned in my first chapter first thing this morning, hoping to get it back before we left for the weekend. Dr. Robinson gave it back to me after lunch and besides a few grammatical corrections and stylistic suggestions, his main critique was to remove some quotes from chapter one and put them in their proper places in chapters two and three. He then wrote at the end, "This should be a helpful thesis."

So, what is my thesis? I am writing on "Expository Doctrinal Preaching," using the debate of open theism's assualt on the divine exhaustive foreknowledge of God as a paradigm. Does that sound helpful to you?

This weekend will be spent correcting chapter one to Dr. Robinson's specifications and beginning to work on chapter two - the theological underpinnings of the thesis. I also have to prepare for our group teaching exercise on Tuesday morning. We also have a basketball game planned for Saturday afternoon between several guys in the class. Almost every one in the class is staying at this particular Residence Inn and there is a basketball goal between the condos. Tomorrow should be a beautiful day up here. It reached a high of 66 today and they are expecting more of the same tomorrow.

We also got our projects from the second residency back today. Everyone was nervous for some reason but there was no reason. Dr. Bryan Auday, the grader of the projects, said that our group was the first group where every single student passed. I was very pleased with my grade in the project. In fact, Dr. Auday put this note on top of the grade sheet: "Jeff, Would it be possible for me to have a copy of this project to use as an example for other D.Min. classes?"

Sunday should be fun. Paul Burton, one of my classmates who lives in the Boston area, made the mistake of letting it slip that he was preaching Sunday at his church. A bunch of us are going. I would HATE for that to happen to me but I know he'll do a good job. He also runs his father's athletic camp (The Ron Burton Training Village). We went out there last year and it is a tremendous ministry. It was once featured in a long piece on ESPN. Paul was the punter for Northwestern back when they rose to prominence and even made it to the Rose Bowl. So, Paul runs the camp (his father died of bone cancer a few years ago), ministers in a local church (Tremont Temple Baptist Church in downtown Boston, right off Boston Commons) AND he is a sportscaster for a large news network in Providence, Rhode Island. I don't know how he does it all.

After church on Sunday, Paul has talked his brother (who also played football in college and now works for the Boston Red Sox) to let us take a private tour of Fenway Park. After that, we head to Firefly's Bodacious BBQ for some ribs. That's a nice day.

Dr. Robinson dismissed class today around 1:30 to give us opportunity to put in some hours in the library. I was able to find several helpful journal articles in their massive collection of periodicals. I had almost forgotten all my library 'look-up' skills from seminary but they came back quickly enough.

Tonight was my night to choose dinner and I chose "Su Chang", a Chinese restaurant I passed every day on the way home for class. It was very fancy and very nice (not a buffet type but a sit-down and order a single dish type). I got something called "General Gau's Chicken" and it was a HUGE portion and maybe the best Chinese food I've ever eaten. We all shared off each other's plates (Steve had some great spicy chicken with peanuts and Daven had some even better sweet and sour chicken). We got all that for less than ten dollars a person.

I'll probably take the weekend off from this and let you know the details of Saturday/Sunday sometime Sunday night. Now it's time to watch a little ACC Tournament (I can't believe . . . well, yes I can . . . that Wake beat State!).

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Boston - Day Four

Success! They said (well, … I thought) it couldn’t be done. All the lights were with me on Hwy 114. I made it to the interstate in well under seven minutes. Traffic was flowing at a quick page on 128. I made it to Exit 17 (Grapevine Road) right at the fourteen minute mark. I had a chance and I did it - I pulled to a stop in the seminary parking lot at the 19:54 mark. What a thrill! I appreciate all your thoughts and prayers during this difficult endeavor. But together - we did it!!!

I've also realized that when you’re away from your family and living alone in a hotel room for several days, it is the small things that make your day.

I know I am alone for another reason – I found myself talking out loud to myself in the car this morning. A regular conversation and no one else was in the Taurus. And I was using some silly half-hillbilly/half-Elvis voice. I stopped as soon as I realized what was going on.

Class began today with another devotion – this time led by Dr. Sid Buzzell, the co-teacher these two weeks and a reader/mentor for our upcoming thesis. He read from Judges 9:7ff about the fable of the trees. It’s an interested story I don’t believe I have every read. It deals with being chosen king and the lesson of the fable is (according to Dr. Buzzell), “if able aren’t willing to lead, the willing who aren’t able will lead.”

A LONG time of discussion ensued regarding the pressure to perform the professional/CEO role of pastors. Dr. Robinson noted that there has been a shift in jargon that reveals the shift in pastoral roles: it used to be called a pastor’s study but now it is called the pastor’s office.

This devotional and introspective time lasted until 1015, at which time we took a long break. Tough, huh?

When we returned from break, Dr. Robinson had us go around room and discuss our individual thesis ideas and where we are and the problems we have and the questions we want to ask. There are some very interesting subjects being pursued:

1) Marvin – Preaching first-century parables in 21st century world

2) Marshall – Effective preaching to African-american female

3) Christine – Testimony of preaching

4) Kurt – Preaching Christ in all of Scripture to postmodern

5) Jeff G – Speaking so mind sees it

6) Burt – Preaching to denominationally diverse congregation

7) Seahawk – sermon application, but want to narrow it down

8) Bill – Develop house church in ???

9) Omar – Role of preaching in Latino church in Massachusetts

10) John W – Internship for preaching majors at college – field-based education

11) Steve – Preaching in Mormon Context

12) Ken Z – Preaching in poverty areas (working class communities)

13) Ed J – Preaching that builds multi-cultural congregation (gotta narrow to specific cultures)

14) Mike R – How to use movie illustrations effectively

15) Bryan G – How D. Bonhoeffer can impact 21st century preachers

16) Mike F – Preaching in Exilic mode with primary focus on needs of Caribbean people (secondary focus on probing thesis that if not Caribbean person, as a Christian you can be considered in Diaspora) Haddon said focus only on Caribbean aspect

17) Lorna G – Homosexuality is Sexual Immorality: Let the Church say so!

18) Paul B – Teaching Teens to Lead spirit-filled life in secular world

19) Davin W – Preaching to multi-generational congregations (differences in generations) in Owenton, KY

20) Brent S – Preaching Christ with our eyes open: Apologetic of suffering

21) Jeremy M – Defining core content of gospel for British Evangelicals (attack of substitutionary atonement).

22) Duane B – Develop teaching module for Nazarene preachers for preaching holiness with biblical authority

23) Jeff S – Expository Doctrinal Preaching

24) Rick M – I can’t remember. He’s writing another book.

25) Darryl D – Theocentric preaching as opposed to anthropocentric preaching

We then broke for lunch (cheeseburger). When we returned to class, we finished discussing the thesis ideas and got into our teaching groups to discuss next week’s assignment. John, Steve and I decided we’d rather meet at the hotel so we left seminary and met for about 40 minutes in the Idaho room. We all feel pretty confident that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. We teach our lesson first thing Tuesday morning.

After a quick trip to Barnes&Noble and Border’s Books for some material on Mormonism (for Steve), we ate dinner at Johnny Rockets. I enjoyed a chili dog but the joy has left me at this point in the evening.

I returned to the hotel room at 6:30 and worked until 10:20 on chapter one of my thesis. It came in at eight pages (Dr. Robinson said between five and eight). I will turn it in to him tomorrow and hopefully get it back before the end of class. That will give me all weekend to review it and revise it before next week’s one-on-one interviews.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Boston - Day Three

I really wanted to sleep in today but got up just fifteen minutes late. Still made it to class in plenty of time although I still failed to break the 20-minute barrier (20 min, 30 seconds from hotel to school parking lot). I think the bottleneck is the path from the hotel to the interstate (lots of traffic, lots of stoplights – right now it takes right at seven minutes). If I can hit the lights just right, it can be done!

Dr. Robinson had us compose a Psalm for the morning devotional. He asked us to think of something that upset us or caused us sadness or pain. I couldn’t really think of anything personal except missing the family so I came up with some sort of quasi-imprecatory Psalm. Here it is:

How long, O Lord, will you allow your Church to trample your grace underfoot?

How long, O Lord, will you tarry while shepherds strive first to entertain sheep in desperate need of less entertainment?

I see some tell jokes and think we are setting the mood.

I see some bribe people with gifts to enter your sanctuary and give them nothing of real value.

I see some sell Christian breath mints that aren’t even that good and call it witnessing the gospel.

I see some think the key to winning the world is getting people to watch certain movies.

I see some trying to find "purpose" in preaching other’s sermons.

I see some more concerned with keeping Christ in the Christmas tree than keeping Christ in the Church.

I see some concerned most with not boring the flesh instead of killing it, afraid the offense of the gospel will turn people against them.

I see some trying to be all things to all people but failing to realize it was Christ’s holiness, not his coolness, that attracted and ultimately changed sinful people.

I see many who have forgotten that the gospel is the power unto salvation.

How long, O Lord, will you continue to be mocked?

How long, O Lord, will you allow us to carry the Ark with unclean hands?

How long, O Lord, will you withhold your judgment of the very house of God?

We then quoted Psalm 23 aloud as a class.

We spent the entire DAY going over more information on teaching, focusing on outcomes and goals and objectives. My mind really began to glaze over at times as the terms kept flying in with amazing regularity.

Lunch was good – spicy Cajun chicken. Rather, the spicy Cajun part was good. The chicken was dry and tough.

One thing about this third residency is that there are a lot more breaks in the class schedule and the breaks are longer. One “break” lasted almost 40 minutes. I spent the breaks in the library and bookstore. While in the library I look at old theses down in the basement near the periodicals. It helps to see what other D.Min. students have done and what I can expect to have to do in the near future. The theses run the gamut from about 100 pages to well over 300 pages. Dr. Robinson said to shoot for between 150 and 200 pages – because he stops reading after 200 pages. Of course, he was kidding but it must be brutal to have to read that much material from this many guys – plus he has other D.Min. courses on top of ours.

The afternoon classes finished around 3:30 PM and I went to the library. I checked out a copy of a thesis that is pretty close to mine and also found a few books that might prove helpful. I did some bibliographic research and found four journal articles that I photocopies. However, the copies cost ten cents for each page and I blew about $1.40 when I was holding the book the wrong way and only got half of each page on the copied paper.

I got back to the hotel around 5:00 and went out to eat with Steve and John. A favorite spot from the first two years (Jumbalayas) was turned into a different restaurant called “Red Sauce.” We didn’t know what it was but went anyway. I was hoping it was a BBQ/Chicken type place and the “red sauce” was BBQ sauce. My grandfather made an awesome sauce that we’ve always called “red sauce” and my hope was up. However, it turned out to be an Italian place so I ordered the usual when I frequent an Italian restaurant – chicken parm. It was very good but I’d rather have had Papaw’s BBQ chicken.

Back in the hotel around 7:00 PM, I sat down for an evening of reading and studying. I hope to complete chapter one of my thesis tonight.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Boston - Day Two

I slept much better last night even after the nerve-wracking double episode of “24.” There were several surprises and some classic Jack. Didn’t expect him to shoot the bad guy’s wife nor did I expect Edgar to meet a gruesome fate. I wonder how he felt about that – he basically got fired from a great acting job on a great show. Must be tough to get the script that has your death in it. Next week should be very good as the CTU gang is trapped in HQ with deadly nerve gas all around. At least Kim is back to slow things down to a crawl. Putting her and Audrey in the same episode knocks out about 20 minutes of good action. Excruciating!

My room has a fireplace in it and it burns those composite logs wrapped in paper. I fired it up last night during “24” just because it was there. Not a lot of heat but the ambience was nice. However, it took quite a long time to burn out and was still burning when I went to sleep. It was kind of creepy to open your eyes and see those dancing shadows all over the room.

Our class didn’t start until 8:45 AM this morning so the morning was a little more relaxed. However, this also meant traffic was a little more crowded. I’ve learned quickly that one thing missing in Boston traffic is the concept of a merging lane. There is no such thing here. You just have to get up to a sufficient speed and barrel into the coming traffic. Sometimes you see a timid driver sitting at a complete stop trying to find an adequate opening to enter 60 MPH traffic. I’m amazed there are no more accidents than there are – and I haven’t seen any.

Today’s trip took just over 20 minutes total travel time from hotel to seminary – I think I can get it in under twenty minutes tomorrow. Something to shoot for.

Darryl Dash finally made it to the classroom. He is a pastor from Canada (one of two Canadians in the group) and was held up at the border thanks to some new rules between our two governments. Darryl is the class techno-geek and it took him about three minutes to have the entire class connected to a wireless internet. Needless to say there was much more of a diversion today.

Dr. Robinson started the class with some prayer – having each student praise God for a certain attribute that meant something special to them. I jumped in kind of late in the circle and praised the Lord for His longsuffering on a personal, national and global basis. When you see all the sin in the world and also realize just how sinful you are as a person, God should have taken us all out a long time ago.

Today’s classes (and the next several) are all about teaching us how to teach. There’s a lot more to it than I thought. I’ve never really appreciated “theory” type classes but this is very practical theory – if there is such a thing.

We had lunch in the classroom as the secretary for the D.Min. office held an orientation type session. They served us pizza while discussing things like our upcoming thesis and graduation particulars. We must have the first chapter of our thesis completed before we leave next week. I think I am beginning to get a handle on my subject but I'll withhold comment until after my one-on-one meeting with Dr. Robinson later in the week.

I also found out that it's going to be hard to graduate by May 2007 and if I do, it’s going to cost well over $300 to graduate after paying for all the academic regalia they require (very nice robe with chevrons on the sleeve and then the funny-looking octagonal hat with short stubby tassel and the hood, the colorful “sash” type thing that hangs over your neck and shoulders). They only allow about 10-15 students to defend their thesis each spring and it's "first come, first served" for thos spots. Therefore, I have to have the entire 150 to 200-page paper done by mid-February in order to try to secure one of those fifteen defense spots in late March. That's going to be hard but if I don't make it, I can defend it in October and graduate in December. I also found that I can graduate in Charlotte which will be nice when that finally comes around.

After lunch we still had some time before classes resumed so I went to the campus bookstore and finally bought some Gordon-Conwell clothing. I’ve thought about it for the last two times but never did so today I got a sweatshirt and polo shirt for a very reasonable price.

We spent a lot of time in groups this afternoon preparing for next week’s praxis. In learning to teach others, we are divided into groups to teach a particular part of a semester long course in “Introduction to Preaching.” I am teamed with the same two gusy from Idaha and am very thankful for that. These two (John and Steve) actually teach a preaching course at their local Bible college (Boise Bible College) so a lot of the work is already done.

Classes were finally over today at 4:20 PM. I rushed back to the hotel to watch the USA baseball team take on Mexico in the opening round of the World Baseball Classic. I was anxious to see the Yankees on the squad (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriquez, Johnny Damon). I also wanted to see Padre pitcher Jake Peavy who started the game and threw wonderfully for three innings. He threw only 23 pitches and had two strikeouts while walking none and giving up one disputed hit. My interest lies solely in the fact that Peavy is on my fantasy squad and will be my #1 pitcher for the 2006 season. We hold our draft the week I get back and I pick tenth out of ten owners. The USA team looks pretty good - Chipper Jones just hit a home run to make it 2-0 in the 7th inning (Derrek Lee homered earlier).

After the game, I believe I’ll satisfy my craving for Chinese food. I haven’t found a restaurant nearby and the one I remember is now a “Crab House.” I guess I’ll go to the mall (two different malls within two miles of the hotel) and enjoy the food court. There are a few restaurants that we “must” eat at while here. We already enjoyed Tennessee B BBQ last night which leaves such places as Legal Seafood and Johnny Rocket’s and Firefly’s Bodacious BBQ.

We also found out that we might get to tour Fenway Park this Saturday. More on that later.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Boston - Day One

I have completed Day One of my last doctoral residency at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. I thought I would use this space to let you know how things are progressing up here.

I left Charlotte around 11:30 AM Sunday morning. The flight was packed – not an empty seat on the plane. There was one beside of me until the very last person boarding said, “Excuse me.” However, she had her pillow already out and was sleeping before takeoff. I was just getting over the flu/bronchitis doubleshot so I tried to get some sleep as well but my head was too congested to allow it. This led to a massive headache that only got worse when I landed around 1:20 PM.

I grabbed my bag off the return carousel and boarded the Hertz bus to grab my car. That’s always an exciting event – “Which car will I get?” In 2004, I got an Impala, a nice car made nicer by XM Radio. Last year, I got a four-wheel drive Pontiac Pacifica, made nicer with XM Radio and an in-dash navigation system. That GPS saved my bacon more than once in the crazy Boston traffic. I was all excited to see what vehicle God ordained for me to drive but He must be teaching me humility – I got a Ford Taurus. A brand new Ford Taurus with only 800 miles but who gets excited about a Taurus?

After two trips to Boston, I still have no idea how to get out of the massive Logan Airport. I was just blindly following signs and cannot tell anyone how to get back there but there were signs pointing me towards Hwy 1-A over to Hwy 1 (the same Hwy 1 that goes through Raleigh).

I finally made it to my hotel – a Residence Inn by Marriott (click on "view all photos" and then "Suite with fireplace"). Very nice accommodations. You enter into a sitting area with couch, chair and a working fireplace. Beyond that is the bed – a huge kingsize model. As you enter, to the left behind the couch is a desk with separates the den from the kitchen. The kitchen has a full-sized fridge with stove, microwave and dishwasher. To the left of the bed is a small hall-way that holds a closet and opens to a changing room with a door to the bathroom. All in all – a very nice getaway.

I was pretty despressed when I got here – I think I was the first one here. My head hurt and I just generally felt horrible. I called Ambra and that helped for a moment and then made it worse when we hung up. I do not see how people who travel for a living handle it. I couldn’t do it. I took a two hour nap.

For the third straight year, I ate dinner alone at Kelly’s Roast Beef – allegedly the birthplace to the roast beef sandwich. I guess before these guys in 1951, NO ONE had ever put roast beef on a slice of bread before. Regardless, it’s good and it kind of makes me feel at home. A quick trip to Wal-Mart secured me the Sudafed Sinus medicine to alleviate my headache. Back at the hotel, I was quickly bored and went to bed a little after 9:00 PM.

I awoke every hour on the hour between midnight and seven in the morning, just as I have done every other first night in Boston. Must be the nervousness. My car has a timer on it so I turned it on – my daily drive is fourteen miles and it takes 22 minutes in some pretty hectic traffic.

The first three hours of the first class was just going around and letting everyone talk about what has happened in their life since the last residency in March 2005. It was good to hear all my classmates (all 25 of them – all returned with no drop-outs, which is pretty rare for this type work).

After lunch (teriyaki wings), we spent the next three hours in class going over what we are going to try to accomplish in this residency and in the major thesis that is coming when I get home.

I just got back in from dinner with Steve and John (two guys from Idaho) and Bryan (a preacher from Nebraska). We went to Tennessee BBQ, another local favorite of ours. Now it is 6:50 PM and I am waiting til 8:00 PM when Bryan comes over to watch the two-hour special presentation of “24.” I talked Bryan into watching it last year and he got hooked and hasn’t missed a show since. John and Steve just don’t understand.