Showing posts from November, 2009

4 Uniformed Officers Gunned Down

What is wrong with our world?! Why would a person walk into a coffee shop in Seattle and kill four uniformed cops in cold blood? Our men and women in blue serve us in so many ways. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. But instead of thanks, some lunatic walks in and ends their lives. How meaningless!

These murdered officers have families, friends and loved ones who will never forget the horror of this event. Why? Why must this happen, O Lord? How long must we suffer and toil in vain?
The words of scripture teach us to be blunt with God. The psalmist cries out (Ps 13), "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?"
It's no credit to you to deny your confusion and anger in times of pain and suffering. We all have moments when we want to scream out to God: "How long?!" Scripture teaches to go ahead and yell out to Him. He hears. He can take it. Let Him have it.
In the midst of such anguish, I pray that we turn to God, not aw…

California City, California

Does anyone know much about California City? My father-in-law found this VERY interesting post on the BLDG blog about a planned city near Mojave. The blog contains fascinating aerial pictures. It's 100 miles northeast of LA, and the people who planned this desert community believed it would grow to 100s of thousands of people.

The population is only about 15,000 today. Guess those dreams didn't quite come true. Many of the planned streets and neighborhoods are visible from the air -- but they lie empty.
Quite an interesting story. I'd enjoy hearing more about it you know much about it.

Components of a Western Missiology, Part 2

Continuing David Bosch's suggested components of a Western missiology: 4. Contextualization. We know that the gospel must be contextually relevant in the 3rd world. But contextualization for the Western world? Aren't most Western societies already based on Christian principles? Bosch states (and I agree) that too many people "still believe that the gospel has already been indigenized and contextualized in the West." Yet the West has mostly turned its back on the way of Jesus. Was Christianity never deeply embedded into our culture? Or did the gospel contextualize so much that it lost its distinctive character? Bosch doesn't know what Western contextualization will look like, and no one else honestly seems to know yet either. But we need to begin to re-contextualize in earnest.
5. Laity-driven. Bosch believes that the restoration of our priesthood of all believers is absolutely essential if we hope to re-evangelize the West. He makes two points in this regard. Firs…

Components of a Western Missiology, Part 1

If we were to think of ourselves as missionaries here in the Western world, what would that look like?
Just the question probably seems strange to some people. Missionaries are supposed to travel far away, learn another language, pick up foreign customs and attempt to tell the good news of Jesus in a way that makes sense to the locals. We picture people of European descent squatting in mud huts, talking to "primitive" villagers about Christianity. The stereotypes are set.
But if the Western world is increasingly non-Christian, shouldn't we become missionaries to our own culture? I believe the answer is YES. The next question to answer is HOW? What would a missiology of Western culture look like?
David Bosch suggests 6 components that we would do well to consider. (David Bosch, "Believing in the Future: Toward a Missiology of Western Culture," Trinity Press, 1995)
1. Ecology. The time is past, he argues, for Christians to ignore the environment. Part of being good s…

A Mea Culpa to Fresno State Basketball Fans

I messed up. It wasn't intentional. I assumed this as a given. But my language did not reveal that, and now I must pay. When a second person points out my guilt, then I figure it's time to publicly repent.

A couple weeks ago I blogged about my love for college basketball. I expressed my hope that some equally crazy souls might enjoy a trip to some of the many, surrounding D-I basketball venues. I mentioned St Marys, Stanford, CS-Northridge, etc.

In my mind it was already assumed that I would try to see several Fresno State games at the nearby Save Mart Center. I've already got their schedule and have circled a few games that should be great to see.

But I can't prove that intention. I didn't say this in my post. I didn't preface my comments with words about wanting to see Fresno State in action. Nothing. Just my silent assumptions.

And I got called on it. Doug Baker and now Dan Allen called my post suspiciously silent about the Bulldogs. So I repent. I'm sorry. …

Irish Lose to French When Refs Miss Obvious Handball

If you follow college football, you no doubt realize that there have been a ton of controversial calls BY REFS this fall. Well, here's proof that all sports struggle with officiating.

France was playing Ireland yesterday for a spot in next summer's World Cup. The match was played before a huge crowd in Paris. The game had gone to overtime. The winner goes to South Africa for the World Cup. The loser goes home. Watch this goal and see how the Swedish officials blew this one in a BIG way.

If you speak French, you can understand the guilty party Thierry Henry. It's translated into Czech on the video. Here's the English translation of his words:

"Yes, it was a hand. I told my Irish colleagues. It's hard to come to terms with it when I look at it on video. My teammate Toto was fighting for the the ball with two Irish players. The ball came to me. It jumped up on my hand. I played it in front of the net. I already told the Irish, 'I'm not the referee.'"…

Believing in the Future of Church

It's easy to be depressed about church. One study claims that 9 out of 10 Americans claim to be Christian, but only a third of those attend church. Why is it so easy to hate church? Why do so many people claim to like Jesus but can't stand church?

I recall a project we did on the campus of West Virginia University. It's a major, secular campus. Students can get a good education there, but they are often distracted by the "good life" of partying, gaming and goofing off. Church attendance is not high on their priority list. Like at most major universities, less than 5% of the student body attend a traditional worship service on a given weekend.

We constructed a giant stand covered with butcher paper and asked students to write their impressions of church on one side and of Jesus on the other. People overwhelmingly wrote good things about Jesus. Random students filled up several large sheets of paper with glowing comments written in Sharpie.

Their comments about church…

Nov 17 (17. listopadu), Prague & the Velvet Revolution

Twenty years ago, I was clipping articles from newspapers and stashing them in a giant scrapbook. I was dumbfounded by the events occurring in Central and Eastern Europe. All my life I had heard about the evil Soviet empire and the Communist bloc countries. They were America's sworn enemies.

In the fall of 1989, however, I was shocked by the rapid geopolitical changes. First Poland and Hungary. Then East Germany. Then it was Czechoslovakia's turn. Little did I know that in just 9 months I would be moving to Czechoslovakia to begin a major period of my life that shapes me to this day.

On November 17, 1989, a giant group of students held a rally near one of Prague's university campuses. (I would later study there.) You can see this rally in the photograph above. This rally by brave students led to the wave of events that would topple the communist regime in Czechoslovakia within one week. (An article in today's New York Times discusses the mystery surrounding one curious e…

61-Year-Old Kicker scores in D-III college game

Okay, here's a sappy blogger story. I saw a small blurb in yesterday's LA Times that put me on to this story. Tom Thompson is a 61-year-old man who started college at a non-traditional age. I guess going to class wasn't enough, so he tried out for the football team as well. And made it! As the backup kicker.

Last Saturday, he was called upon to put one through on the extra point. It wasn't enough as his Austin College Kangaroos got pummeled. But he still made the record books.

Here's proof:

Missionaries in Our Own Culture

It doesn't take a genius to realize that the world around us is changing. Some people have lived in a way, however, that isolates them from these changes. Others of us live in enclaves of homogeneity and monoethnicity. But if I pay attention, it's not too hard to see that I live around people who are very different from me.

Here's a key example of how we can start to become missionaries in our own culture:

I just went to the bank to deposit a check. It's the branch near the church office, not the one closest to my house. I had to wait a few minutes. The clerks were busy helping other customers. At first I realized that one teller was talking to a customer in Spanish. Then I heard another teller speaking Spanish to his client. All of these tellers are also very capable English speakers. But did I know that so many Hispanic clients do business at my bank? No, I hadn't noticed.

This should not surprise me. The Census Bureau says that nearly …

Painting our Boys' Rooms

I'll return to yesterday's post later. But for now, I thought it might interest you to see what Julie has been up to on the redecoration front. You may know that our 1982 house had tons of wallpaper in almost every room. And while it seems to have been put up professionally -- the seams are just oo perfect -- they cut a BIG corner by putting it up directly on the drywall with no paint under it. Taking wallpaper off is bad enough. Taking it directly off drywall is almost impossible.

At any rate, Julie worked VERY hard on this project. Her blog now has before and after pictures of most of her work. Check it out by clicking this link.

A Missiology of Western Culture

First, some definitions:
1. Missiology -- The study of Christian missions; an area of practical theology that investigates the work of Christian missions.
2. Western Culture -- The societies, nations and peoples of the Western World (primarily Europe and North America), birthplace of the Enlightenment, imperialism and industrialization, and now heirs to the major cultural shifts caused by these .
Admit it. When you think of a missionary, what image or thought first pops into your mind? Do you picture a person who travels to a faraway, foreign place to teach people about Jesus?
Okay, so what kind of work do these kinds of missionaries have to do? First, they have to learn the language and figure out some things about the culture. Right? For example, in some cultures it is considered extremely rude to cross your legs in a way that allows someone to see the bottom of your shoe. In other cultures, it is rude to visibly use a toothpick. In other cultures, you should burp if you enjoy the food.…

Looking for Some Basketball Fans

I'm a basketball junkie. Used to be a gym rat. During college I would sometimes spend two hours a day playing pick-up games, occasionally against Tech players who were temporarily suspended. I was no MJ or Dr. J, but I could hold my own.

This experience translated into 7 years of basketball in the Czech Republic. I played for a police club team. It used to be associated with military police and had the name Rudá hvězda or "Red Star." They changed their name after Communism to Sport Club Olympus. We were a lower level team that never advanced up to the higher echelons, but it gave me some great experiences and improved my Czech language skills for all kinds of reasons that I won't get into now.
Sadly, I no longer play any b'ball. Two knee surgeries have done me in. I did coach the boys in Morgantown and usually enjoyed that, even though Julie had to initially twist my arm to make me commit to coaching.
My point ... I'm looking for volunteers who also enjoy basket…

RENEW 2010: This Year's Theme

As we think about the RENEW conference, February 19-21, we want to make sure that we keep times of exciting and moving worship. These periods of praise allow God's Spirit to move mightily within, triggering renewal and giving us strength to carry on. I praise God that we have Sandra Henderson and a tremendous praise team here. They can lead us right up to the throne of our glorious Creator, causing us to fall on our knees in humility and awe.

As we fill our cups in the presence of the Almighty, we also need to remember why he gifts us. God pours out His Spirit on us so that we might bless the nations. He gifts us so that we might pass His gifts along to others. "It is too small a thing for us to simply bless ourselves," said Isaiah. "Instead God wants to make us a light to the nations" (my paraphrase). We worship, but a key component of worship is service. And we serve God by remembering and fulfilling our obligation to care for the world and for each other. We …

RENEW 2010 Conference

Many folks are wondering about our upcoming conference, RENEW 2010. The dates are February 19-21, here at the college CHURCH building.

You perhaps know that we hosted a worship conference in Fresno the last 5 years. We didn't actually organize the program. The Zoe group brought a major part of their program out and repeated it here for anyone on the West Coast who couldn't make it to Nashville for the bigger conference. Zoe has decided to pull back to just the Nashville conference.

It seemed good to us to host our own conference. We wanted to build on the momentum of hosting Zoe, but we also wanted to add new impetus that would connect worship to the need for missional Christianity. Here is some of our thinking:

Churches everywhere are struggling to cope with our changing world. Many feel that young people are abandoning faith and/or organized religion. Some wonder what future Churches of Christ have, especially on the West Coast where our best days seem to be somewhere in the re…

All Saints Day, Prague Memories and Jerry Rushford

I grew up in a preacher's family in the sheltered world of Churches of Christ. It was a good environment for growing up. No complaints from me. That would have been more than enough if I had stayed in that world.

When I went to Europe after the collapse of Communism, I discovered that I was woefully unprepared to understand the world around me. My understanding of faith was equally limited. I understood the ways of doing things "in our tribe" and knew a few things about "neighboring tribes" (like Baptists), but I was ignorant (and dismissive) of the largest branch of Christianity -- Catholicism.
I do not wish at this time to discuss Catholicism as a whole. Allow me to simply state that my lack of knowledge about Catholicism proved a roadblock in understanding the Czech culture and mindset.
Admittedly, very few Czechs practice faith of any kind. But the Catholic faith (and questions of faith in general) permeate almost every level of Czech society -- even if many …