Friday, October 31, 2008

The Drama

Our competence as readers–as witnesses who attest to "what we have seen and heard"; as jury members seeking to do justice to the evidence–is what is on trial every time we interpret the Bible. For we attest what we believe–about texts, about God, about ourselves–in each and every one of our interpretations. The trial of interpretation ultimately concerns not the text but the interpreter: Will the readers respond to the word of the Lord appropriately or not?

Doctrine helps the people of God to participate fittingly in the drama of redemption, and so to be true and faithful witnesses to God's incarnate wisdom. . . Viewed against this backdrop, the church is less the cradle of Christian theology than its crucible: the place where the community's understanding of faith is lived, tested, and reformed.

Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, 21, 25.

Photo Friday: October 31

October 31st is more than just Halloween in my family. When we lived in Edmond, OK, my dad would decorate our house throughout the whole month of October leading up to Halloween. He had servos and strobe lights and miles of fishing line. All this added up to moving decorations in the windows: witches floating up and down and skeletons dancing. But the real excitement was taking place on the inside.

The foyer was transformed into a seating area for ghouls, gorillas, and giants, but the famed "Bonesy" was the one who lead the show. The kids would line up down the front walk and on to the sidewalk to wait to get in on the action-- and by action, I mean "get the piss scared out of them." Upon entering the house, there would be a monster and a gorilla seated in front of you. A 7 foot tall monster was standing off to the left. Dead in the center was the candy pot and not so dead behind it was Bonesy, a talking skull. Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in D minor would be playing in the background. Once the door was closed behind the kids, Bonesy would begin the show. Introducing them to each of the monsters around them. The older kids would play it cool, sitting on the various monsters and exclaiming inexhaustibly how they weren't scared. Eventually a rhyme came that they had to solve. Their attention would be directed to the stair landing where a strobe would reveal a gruesome scene and capture their attention long enough for the youth pastor in the gorilla suit to stand up to his own 6' 8" with his hands raised above him and styrofoam peanuts to blow out of the 7' monsters mouth. Blood-curdling screams would emit from the "coolest" of kids. Many moms that came through tinkled themselves.

I remember wanting to go in the front door after a night of trick or treating and my dad was still dressed up. He came out to greet me, using his own voice, rather than the digitally processed one. I had nothing to do with him and countered his approach with my own retreat. I wasn't cool. I was scared. And I didn't care who this man said he was, I'd been witness to what happened throughout the night. I wasn't going to fall for it.

But my dad didn't put on the production just for the pure joy of scaring hundreds of kids and adults throughout the night. It was also his birthday. And still is. So Happy Birthday Dad. Here's to many more years of scaring bowel movements out of both the young and the old.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Photo

Early this week my friend Chris and I met up at IKEA, so I could take back my flat-packed furniture I decided would just not hold all my clothes. Sad, I know. But after unloading the still boxed fake wood furniture, we hopped in Chris' car and headed north, leaving the city. It is a difficult task to leave Chicago. It takes effort and planning. Neither of which we really did. But with little more than some directions scrawled on a scrap of paper, we headed north in search of fall color and apples. We did find both, at a small little orchard, nearly sold out of many of the varieties already, near Sugar Creek, Wisconsin. We also found this little country church. It seems to have more property than the church that I'm currently at, and way more than the church I was previously a part of and the one that Chris still attends. It's great to see country churches still expanding and reaching the community around them. It would be great to see that where I am.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sermon as Narrative

Everybody loves a good story. What if every Sunday pastors stood up and told the most captivating story ever told.

[T]here is almost always a sudden change whenever the speaker launches into a narrative. The audience becomes suddenly quiet, forgetting even to cough, sniff, or squirm, as the tale is spun. When they understand that it is over (and that now the speaker will draw his moral, make important announcements, etc.), the change back to coughing, sniffing, and squirming is equally as sudden.

Actually, it hardly matters what kind of story, how good, how funny it is, how moving it is, or how well it is told. Ther is something almost automatically captivating about a story that catches our minds and makes us forget to breathe until it is over."

[The] sharp delineation between story and "regular" preaching is unnecessary. . . A sermonic idea is a homiletical bind; a sermon is a narrative plot!
G. William Jones, The Innovator, quoted in Eugene Lowry's The Homiletical Plot, p. 13, 14. (The last paragraph is Lowry's reaction.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The New Evangelism

While I'm reading about how to be the missional church and effectively reach the community around the church, some are taking another approach to reaching their neighborhoods.

"Remember, if a person's coming to Jesus on crutches, they're still coming to Jesus."

Saturday, October 18, 2008


If you're reading this in an RSS feeder, you may have to click through to hear the audio.

I thought I'd share with you some recent voicemails.

I called my grandpa the other day and he was calling me back. I like how he identifies which grandpa he is, so I don't have to guess.

This is an old one from my birthday, but I kept it because I loved it so much. I love my sister and am very thankful for her in my life.

Michael, or Jimmy. He actually guessed right.; it was the second one. I was at the Fleet Foxes concert and the opener was amazing in so many ways. He may have been on the Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack. I always leave Michael entertaining messages, and he never disappoints me either.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Photo Friday

Yeah, I know, I'm early. Trying to make up for all the weeks I didn't post, or posted way late. It is called Photo Friday .

I work at this church. It has two signs outside. One very obvious and pointing toward the neigborhood. The other is more subtle. It's smaller and is on the side of the building. But it's still there and may speak louder than the other.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reflections of a Young Pastor #1

I've been in my position at Bethel Reformed Church for about a month and a half now and it's been an interesting one. Full of challenges both personally and professionally-- which for me are kind of blurred together. I have yet to figure out what my overall role is and at times feel like a triangle peg in an obtuse hole. Church revitalization is a mad, mad beast that has no reigns. At times it can get very disheartening. Those who have talked to me in the last couple of weeks have certainly heard of my struggles. But where, I ask, where is the hope in all of this?

1 Timothy 4:10 has an answer:

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
If I look to any place other than God for my satisfaction in the task at hand, then I misplace my focus and make that my God. Whether I'm looking to how well I preach or how many people are coming to the church, then I have misplaced priorities and I make something other than God god. Scripture calls that idolatry and we do it all the time, regardless of our intentions.

But if I'm placing my hope on the living God that He will move in his time and in His ways, then all that I do is a reflection of this hope, a patient expectation of what God is doing. If I try to move things in my timing, if I continue to be frustrated at my sermons, if I continue to agonize over the things that I cannot control, I will never recognize where God is moving and how He is shaping me to be the pastor that He has called me to be-- not my ideal of what I am to be.

Even at 27 years of age, it becomes frustrating to think of how much longer it will take to come into "my own." But in reality, I should never come into "my own," but always be pushing on toward Jesus and drawing nearer to him.

That I may never think I have arrived, but always seek to draw closer to my Savior.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Internet

I've been working at a church for the past 6 weeks or so and as amazing as it may seem, we just got the internet.

Well, to be fair and honest, we didn't just get the internet. We had dial-up. Yes, I said "dial-up." You remember the days, when you sat down at the big beige machine and waited 10 minutes to get to some semblance of what we call the internet now. Remember waiting through "bee bee bee bee, brr brr brr, BSHSHSHSHSHSH." During which you go grab a drink of water, do some laundry, maybe run to the store, grab some groceries, come home, fold the laundry, put together your IKEA furniture, get an eye exam, maybe a root canal. Anything to occupy your time, while your computer seeks to "log on."

Maybe the irony in all of this, is not that I didn't have the internet when in the office, but that my computer, my 4 month old MacBook Pro, with all its bells and whistles, in all its Apple Glory, can't get on the internet. It's not that it won't get on the internet. It's that it can't. I mean can't in the purest sense of "lacking the ability to." I mean can't in the same way that you used to correct your friend when they asked, "Can I use the bathroom?" "I don't know, Can you?"

Oh it can go wireless. I can tap into any WiFi enabled Starbucks at 100 yards. I can surf the internet at breakneck speeds with a LAN cable. But when it comes to dial-up, that technology is so old that my computer is not that "backwards compatible." In other words, I have no modem. "Dial up," in the words of a wise, wise man, "is worst than no internet at all."

But I have the internet now. High-speed. Wireless. Flashing green lights. Always on. And am free to waste more on it than ever before.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friday Photo

Yeah, yeah, I'm late.

I keep wishing that I had my camera with me almost everyday when I left for work or just to hang out. So when I stepped out to go to dinner on Thursday night, I decided I'd take it with me. I found this bike just waiting to be photographed. Beware of the Rat Patrol.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Everyone Hates On the Cubs

I still love them. Disappointed. Let down. Doubtful. But still amazed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Drama

I got a new book in the mail yesterday. Saturday I was talking to my old roommate-- old referring both to rooming with him in the past and his decrepit and crotchety nature-- and he told me about the "big orange pumkin" that is The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer.

I read the Preface last night and I'm really looking forward to getting through it, especially since I haven't read an entire book that wasn't on a syllabus in quite a few years. And even then...

What's this book about? In Vanhoozer's words:

The Drama of Doctrine argues that there is no more urgent task in the church than to demonstrate faith's understanding by living truthfully with others before God. It further argues that doctrine is an indispensable aid to understanding and and to truthful living. Doctrine is a vital ingredient in the well-being of the church, a vital aid to the public witness. The problem is not with the doctrine per se but with a picture of doctrine, or perhaps several pictures, that have held us captive.
(Vanhoozer, xii)

Monday, October 6, 2008

DGM Conference Messages

I didn't get to go to the Desiring God National Conference this year, but thankfully God has blessed us with the internet and digital recording capabilities, so that, even though not being there, the messages can be passed on forever. Or until the server crashes.

I've listened to two of the speakers so far: Mark Driscoll and Dan Taylor. Dan's message, on Story, is extremely important for the those of us who are seeking to relate the Gospel in a way that impacts beyond head knowledge.

Go check them out.