Author: Allan (Page 1 of 403)

McKenzie’s Bet

Carrie-Anne and I hosted the GCR high schoolers at our house a couple of Sundays ago to watch the Cowboys -Packers game. We played ping-pong and pool, made Dr Pepper and root beer floats, and generally hung out and watched the game together. And McKenzie and I made a bet.

McKenzie is a precious child of God. She’s a senior at Midland High School (Go Bulldogs) and an angel straight from heaven. But she is a crazy Cowboys fan. Over the top. Too much. About halfway through the first quarter, with the game tied at 7-7, I proffered a wager: If the Cowboys win, I’ll preach next Sunday wearing a Cowboys tie; if Green Bay wins, McKenzie wears a Packers shirt to youth group class and to worship on Sunday. She took the bet. Cowboys fans always take the bet.

McKenzie’s a really good sport and we had fun with it yesterday. And I’m glad we didn’t go double or nothing on the Vikings.

Peace,

Allan

Starting with Confession

Tomorrow at GCR Church, we consider together Act Two of the Story of God. Act Two is the major conflict, the thing in the drama that goes horribly wrong and must be fixed. Sin happens. Rebellion against God. And it wrecks everything.

We’re all guilty. We’ve all lived this part of the Story. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and his creation intentions for us as his people. We’ve all taken huge bites out of that apple.

Almost all Christian churches for almost all of Christian history have started almost all their Christian worship assemblies with a prayer of confession and repentance. Confession is an ancient Christian practice we’ve never really embraced in the Churches of Christ. But Holy Scripture and centuries of Church tradition and practice compel us to give it a good honest try. Confession is one of those places where our God meets us and transforms us. In confession, we acknowledge our sin before God and pledge to live more holy lives by his grace.

Tomorrow morning we will pray a prayer of confession and repentance together to begin our assembly at GCR. I’m hoping you’ll join us. If not in person, then in spirit.

“Almighty and merciful Father, we have sinned.
We have followed too much the desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy will.
We have done the things we should not have done; and we have not done the things we should have done.
There is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy on us.
Spare us, O God, who confess our sins.
Restore us who are repentant, according to your promises declared to all men and women in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, most merciful Father, that we may live godly, righteous, and holy lives.
Amen.”

The Kids are Alright

For the first time since they got married with eleven days notice back in July, Carrie-Anne and I flew to Nashville last week to spend three days and nights with our youngest daughter Carley and her new husband Collin. To those who have asked, they’re doing great. And we had a blast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collin and Carley live in a really nice 18th story condo in a downtown Nashville high rise right smack dab in the middle of everything. From their living room window you can see the Tennessee Titans stadium on the banks of the Cumberland River four blocks away. On the other side, four blocks outside their front door, is Bridgestone Arena where the NHL’s Predators play and where the CMA’s were held the evening we arrived. They’re three blocks away from the historic Ryman Auditorium and two blocks off rowdy Broadway Street where the night life goes late and loud. For a couple of kids in their 20s, I’m not sure you could find a cooler place to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collin is the content director at CBS Sports’ 24/7 headquarters in Nashville in the old CMT building downtown, three  blocks from their apartment. Collin graciously allowed me to tag along Thursday morning as he Zoomed with other CBS Sports producers, sharing content and planning the day’s tapings and broadcasts. I sat in the control room as Collin supervised a couple of in-studio college football segments previewing the weekend’s biggest games. It’s all TV and live-streaming, not radio, and the technology is so much more sophisticated than when I was in the business twenty years ago. But I did feel the bug start to nibble a little bit, especially when I disagreed with the analysis of one of their hosts.

 

 

 

 

 

We did a ton while we were there – they showed us a really great time. We saw the capitol grounds, the Vanderbilt campus, the Nashville Sounds’ super nice Triple-A ballpark, and the creepy 41-foot-tall statue of Athena inside the Parthenon. We toured Ryman Auditorium, went Duckpin bowling, ate on the balcony at Prince’s Hot Chicken, and took in the revelry on the roof at Jason Aldean’s place right after the CMA’s. We hung out at 6th and Peabody, where Carley works, and met some of her friends. And we ate and ate and ate. And talked and laughed. And reminded Carley that she’s off the health insurance and the car insurance December 1.

They got married and moved so far away so quickly, it doesn’t seem real to me most of the time. If I’m not careful, I can still think of Carley as being away at school or on a long trip and she’ll be home soon. Well, she’s home. And it’s in Nashville. And they’re doing great.

Peace,

Allan

195-1

The biggest fourth quarter collapse in the history of the Dallas Cowboys? Where else but at Lambeau Field against the Packers. Going into yesterday’s contest in Green Bay, the Cowboys were 195-0 when leading by at least 14-points in the fourth quarter. In 63 years of football, the Cowboys had never lost when leading by two touchdowns at some point in the final period. One-hundred-ninety-five games, one-hundred-ninety-five wins.

Until yesterday.

So delicious.

And so predictable. It’s the same problems that have plagued the Cowboys for the past two-plus seasons. These same issues, repeated week after week, don’t matter much against the Lions or the Bears. But you can’t do this against decent teams and expect to win.

Penalties, of course. Dallas continues to lead the league in yellow flags.

The run defense, yes. Green Bay ran for more than 200-yards against the Cowboys. In fact, heading into that fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers had only attempted eleven passes. If you remain committed to the run game, if you stay patient and keep pounding the ball on the ground, you will beat the Cowboys.

Turnovers, again. Dak’s two picks looked like a result of miscommunication with his intended targets, CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. Really? A franchise quarterback, a number one wide receiver, and a tight end playing with a franchise tag shouldn’t be having communication issues in November following a bye week.

Clock management, check. Mike McCarthy’s indecision and complete lack of fundamental clock management skills cost the Cowboys dearly on their last drive in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys’ playoff hopes ended yesterday with that fourth quarter meltdown. Dallas is in third place in its own division with the undefeated Eagles looking to widen the gap tonight against Washington. The Cowboys play the once-beaten Vikings in Minnesota this Sunday and then host the Giants three days later. You might be looking at a three-game losing skid here. Even if they win one of these next two, the division title and the potential first-round bye are gone. If – IF! – the Cowboys qualify for the postseason, they’re facing a wild card game against a division champ.

The biggest fourth quarter collapse in franchise history. That’s noteworthy. Significant, even. Under the leadership of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys keep breaking team records and making franchise history – just not the kind you put on the cover of your media guide.

Peace,

Allan

Accurate Interpretation

I need to offer a disclaimer as we make this shift from viewing the Bible primarily as a collection of God’s commands to reading and understanding the Bible more as the Story of God. This narrative lens is not going to suddenly give us easy answers to all the issues. We’ll actually find there are fewer rules, the lines are not as black and white, and it leads to more questions and more wrestling and more reflection. It’s not a system. It’s not an owners manual. It’s much more art than science. It can be messy. But I believe understanding the Scriptures as a broad, sweeping, epic story of who God is and what he is doing will help us better connect the dots in the Bible, make us better able to see ourselves in the drama so we can play our parts and say our lines, and enable us to more accurately interpret God’s will.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the child of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” ~2 Timothy 3:16-17

A lot of us have taken passages like the above and developed a theology about the Bible, but not a biblical theology.

We’ll read Jonah and spend four weeks researching whether a human can live inside a fish for three days and never once think about God. The story is about God and what he is doing, not about the whale and what he or she can or cannot do.

We’ll argue about Paul’s words concerning divorce and remarriage and look for legal loopholes instead of dwelling on the covenant loyalty of our God who intends our marriages to reflect and witness to his perfect love and faithfulness.

Esther is not about “you need to be more courageous.” If that’s the point of Esther, it may as well be “you need to be prettier,” too. The point of Esther is that our God is at work to redeem everything and he uses every opportunity – even our darkest moments in exile when we feel weak and powerless and trapped in circumstances beyond our control – to save us and redeem us. We are not forgotten. We are never out of God’s reach or too far away from his salvation. That’s the story.

For a long time, we have read and studied the Bible looking for commands, examples, and necessary inferences. We no longer assume that this method works consistently, if at all, or if it’s even healthy. Does anybody really believe that in the grand, sweeping narrative of Scripture, the strange fire of Nadab and Abihu belongs in a central and controlling place? Reading the Bible as a book of laws to be obeyed or as a constitution to be defended is what led to some Christians affirming that slavery must be okay because the Bible doesn’t explicitly prohibit it.

Reading the Bible as a system of laws, people take every single verse that mentions slavery and notice that none of the verses condemns slavery as sinful or prohibitive. God didn’t say it’s a sin, so it must be alright as long as you don’t violate your conscience. Yes, Christians have done this in the past, and some Christians still do. Yes.

Reading the Bible as the story of who God is and what he’s  doing in Jesus Christ makes it obviously clear that all women and men are created equal in the image of God and that all people belong to each other as complete equals. Slavery is a result of the Fall; it’s sin. Jesus destroyed all the barriers between people at the cross. In Christ, there is no slave or free, male or female, Jew or Greek – we are one and slavery is a reprehensible evil.

That’s the difference. What’s the story?

The beatitudes are not telling us to be better peacemakers or to grow in humility. It’s not that you have to develop these virtues in order to receive the blessings. Why do we try to make mourning/weeping sound good or desirable? Well, it’s mourning over sin, right? I don’t know, the text doesn’t say that. The point of the beatitudes is to express how radically present the Kingdom of God is, even and especially among those who are grieving. People in their brokenness and grief often feel like they’re left out of God’s blessings. But Jesus is telling us, “No! God’s Kingdom is bigger and better than we ever dreamed. And it’s here right now!”

What God is doing is a story. It’s a narrative. When we see the pattern of God’s Kingdom in Creation and how it went wrong, when we understand how everything God is doing through Jesus Christ is to restore our righteous relationships with him, with one another, and with all of nature, we can much more easily, consistently, and accurately interpret his will and purposes for us.

Peace,

Allan

Identity

According to the Bible, knowledge means knowing who God is and what he is doing through Jesus Christ. That knowledge, according to the Bible, leads to relationship, transformation, and mission. But most of the time, we’re primarily reading the Bible for information. We study words and the original languages behind them, we consult sources and resources for understanding the historical context, we dive deep into a fragment of a sentence and don’t come up for air until we’ve discerned the color of ink Luke used when he wrote Acts. And we don’t consider relationship, transformation, or mission.

Understanding the Bible as the Story of God will help us better connect the dots in Scripture, as observed in our last post. And it’ll  help us more easily identify with and see ourselves in the narrative.

Seeing the Scriptures as one grand, sweeping, epic story makes it easier to see ourselves in the narrative. We’re better able to place ourselves in the plot and play our parts and say our lines. We get this from inside the Bible itself, from the rich heritage of God’s people who lived and wrote and faithfully passed on the holy Scriptures.

Twelve generations after the crossing of the Red Sea, God’s people are saying, “Lord, you brought us out of Egypt!” Well, no, your grandparents and great-grandparents weren’t even alive when that happened. You never crossed the Red Sea. Oh, yes, we did; we did cross the Red Sea. We’re in this story.

In Daniel 9, the prophet is confessing sins that his ancestors committed decades before he was born. “We have sinned and done wrong; we have been wicked and rebelled!” No, Daniel, that wasn’t you. You don’t need to confess sins for which you are not personally responsible. Wrong answer. It is me. I did commit these sins. I’m in this story.

This is what the Bible does. It invites you to see yourself. It puts you in the Story.

“We thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through the Gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

The way you see other people and the way you understand the world and respond to what’s happening around you depends on the story you’re living.

You can go to a high school football game and sit by five people on the same bleacher and hear five different views of the same game depending on the role they play in the story they’re living. A scout looking at next week’s opponent says, “We’ve got to play zone against these guys; they’re fast.” A member of the board that owns the stadium thinks, “Four thousand people here, ten dollars per ticket, nachos are six bucks and Cokes are three dollars – we’ve got to figure out how to host a couple of playoff games when the season’s over.” The running back’s mom groans, “Don’t give him the ball; I don’t want him to get hurt.” The running back’s dad says, “Give him the ball! He needs more carries or he’s going to wind up at Texas A&M Commerce!” The running back’s English teacher marvels, “How can that kid memorize an 85-page playbook, yet forget to turn in his essay?”

Knowing the Story and understanding who you are in the Story informs and shapes how you see the game, how you respond to what’s happening on the field, and how you might act or speak to move the plot along and accomplish the purpose of the drama. Your identity is forged by the Story you live and the part you see yourself playing. God’s great Story is our Story.

Jesus says, “You didn’t choose me; I chose you.” The Bible says, “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens of God’s people and members of God’s household.”

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people; but now you are the people of God!” ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Understanding the Story of God helps us bring more purpose and order to our lives and experiences. What is God doing in the world? Where is all this headed? And where are we – where am I – in this Story? Well, you are the light of the world. You bear the holy image of the Lord. You are ambassadors for Christ.

A system of laws and commands compels us to obey and comply. A Story invites us into relationship and mission. Reading the Bible primarily as lists and rules doesn’t foster the intent of God’s revelation in Scripture: to draw us into loving community and partnership with him. Viewing the Bible as God’s Story invites us to join.

Peace,

Allan

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