October 2009


Cannon

Billy Cannon runs for an 89 yard LSU touch-down

On October 31, 1959, one of college footballs premier teams, the LSU Tigers, won a closely contested game with an amazing punt return by a Heisman trophy winner named Billy Cannon.

I was introduced to the Louisiana culture as a child, since my mother and her family for five generations were a part of it. This story over at ESPN is pure Louisiana culture if it is anything. But it is much more: it is the culture of the South and the place sports, especially football, plays in that culture. The folk heroes are more often than not, the football stars.

But Billy Cannon’s story-about a young married football star who seemed to have it all, after spending eleven years in the NFL, returned home to take up his life as a Dentist, and fell from grace. He was found guilty of counterfeiting $100 bills and sent to prison.

The Redemption of Billy Cannon is an excellent article that fully explains every factor in this story to the depth of infamy after the pinnacle of fame and the long road back to finding a place of honor in the State of Louisiana and beyond at age 72. No, you won’t find any mention of religion or religious faith in this story- it’s not that kind of redemption. I would rather call it a great example of redemption American vintage cultural style.

Be sure to read the whole story and watch the video of Cannon’s famous punt return at The Redemption of Billy Cannon. Thank you Wright Thompson and ESPN for the memory and the lesson on the American football culture.

An interview with author Tim Keller. CE

Do Christians have blind spots when it comes to false gods?

An idol is something you rely on instead of God for your salvation. One of the religious idols is your moral record: “God accepts me because I’m living a good life.” I’m a Presbyterian, so I’m all for right doctrine. But you can start to feel very superior to everyone else and think, God is pleased with me because I’m so true to the right doctrine. The right doctrine and one’s moral record are forms of power. Another is ministry success, similar to the idol of achievement. There are religious versions of sex, money, and power, and they are pretty subtle.

How does someone identify their idols?

Look at your daydreams. When you don’t have to think about something, like when you are waiting for the bus, where does your mind love to rest? Or, look at where you spend your money most effortlessly. Also, if you take your most uncontrolled emotions or the guilt that you can’t get rid of, you’ll find your idols at the bottom. Whenever I hear someone say, “I know God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself,” it means that person has something that is more important than God, because God forgives them. If you look at your greatest nightmare—if something were to happen that would make you feel you had no reason to live—that’s a god.

How do we get rid of idols?

I confess that I don’t say much about that. Practicing spiritual disciplines is another book. I do say that analyzing and recognizing an idol is a step away from its power over you. You also have to have a heck of a prayer life. That prayer life can’t just be petitioning. There has to be encounter, experience, and genuine joy. You have to have Jesus Christ increasingly capture your affections.

Is it necessary to suffer disappointment before seeing that idols don’t satisfy?

I fear you may be right. I don’t want that to be true. Very often it’s much stronger than disappointment. It’s hard for me to look at a young person and know what their idols are, because usually something has to happen in their life to frustrate them for them to see that something has inordinate power over them. No one learned about their idols by being told about them.

Go to full-interview at Christianity Today by Sarah Bailey. I found this very significant that Keller puts his finger on exactly what others have suggested is especially true of conservative Presbyterians: The relentless pursuit of “Right Doctrine”  worship.

Largely unknown in the west, the Ancient Persian empire which pre-dates the Islamic State of Iran by thousands of years, is crucial for understanding the proud heritage of Iranians. I was fortunate enough early in this blog, to discover a blogging mate from Iran who would remind me of this Persian heritage. Tragically, the armed assault on political resistance of large numbers of Iranians this summer has delayed that profitable inter-change.

After observing the veneration on Persia1 blog of Cyrus the Great, I was able to share my own admiration for the one in the Hebrew Bible who is referred to as “Anointed of God”. Now, there is an exposition of Ancient Persia in the British Museum and much available on the internet for all in the west to learn of this heritage and give it the respect that it deserves.

What did the wise man of Proverbs have in mind?

Yours truly, E4Unity

Yours truly, E4Unity

I’m going to have another birthday in a few days so I guess that explains why I’m doing a little more cogitating than usual, thinking about life and how to live in a manner pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
This phrase which comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,
caught my eye and off I went looking for just what the wise man meant.
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (14:12 and 16:25)
If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try to tell you the gist of my thoughts and then tell you what I discovered, from all people, Charles G. Finney, who seems to have come to the same answer.
I always took it for granted that in keeping with so many of the wise sayings about life by the wise man of Proverbs, that this “right way” of living was in stark contrast to all those he labels as “foolish”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “scoffer”, or even “backslider”, etc. It just made sense that this expression also referred to a specific, observable class of individuals who seemed to be radically different (by observation) than these others. And yet it struck me that he says these folks, living a way that seems to them to be the right way to life, ended up instead coming to the same end- death.
So I thought about other parts of the Biblical narrative, wondering if the answer was not clearly revealed in other places both in the New as well as the Old Testaments. Could it be, I mused to myself, that this has reference to the “religious” folks- those that not only believe this is the right way to live, but actually practice a specific codified system of rules of an organized religious order? In the context of the Old Testament, the keepers of the Old Covenant-those who lived by the rule of law?
Now I’ve speant a lot of time in Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last forty years or so, and I remember that part of Paul’s thesis in that letter is that there is something that the law, as perfect as it is, just can’t produce: the right way of living before God (righteous living). So to make a long time of meditating as simple as I can, that is exactly the conclusion I came to, not only reflecting upon one book of the Bible, but reflecting on the entire story-line. The reason why the announcement to the Shepherds that Jesus had been born was such good news, “tidings of great JOY to all peoples” makes sense to me now as I prepare for Advent season. Read the following Scripture and see if you see what I see:
“2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you  free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  (Romans 8:2-4)
FinneyTo see what Finney said about
this in July, 1859, Go Here! (approaching his 67th birthday)

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Dr. Kenn Gangel (1935-2009)

Dr. Kenn Gangel (1935-2009)

 

The year was 1966, I was twenty-four, happily married with three great kids. In June I left a job with Cessna Aircraft in Hutchinson, Kansas, and moved back to the Kansas City area to return to College. One of my professors that first year was Kenn Gangel. I never considered him the most important teacher I was to have in preparing for a vocation in the Christian ministry. That honor would be a toss-up between my Theology professor and my missions teacher. But still, I always knew that I owed something special to the one I would have three classes with in the field of Christian education; Introduction to the philosophy and history of CEd, Visual arts and methods, and in my senior year, Educational psychology.

Still, though I respected Kenn as a teacher, and even attended the same church that Kenn attended during my first year, I never really knew this man. Once out in ministry, I would learn from another Christian educator just how critical the “with-relationship” is between teacher and students. You know, the kind of relationship that Jesus had with his twelve disciples.

The funny thing is, that it wasn’t the age difference that kept me as a student from any kind of relationship- Kenn was only seven years older. When he first came to the College in 1960, he was about the same age that I was when I showed up at the same college six years later. I did follow Kenn’s own ministry trajectory off and on- I graduated in 1969 and he moved on tobigger and better schools in 1970. When the books started to come out, I would always say with a certain amount of pride, “This guy was my Christian education prof in college”.

Only now, as I read his on-line biography at Talbot, in a colection of twenty leaders in the field of Christian education, do I get a fuller picture of who this man was, where he came from, and how much influence he had on evangelical Christian education begining in 1970 when he went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity school to build their Christian education faculty. I hope you will read his bio, but I will list some of the more interesting details:

  • Kenn was a first generation American, son of immigrants from Austria and Switzerland.
  • At age 10, his father divorced his mother and abandoned the family; his godly working mother placed Kenn in a boarding school, the famous Stony Brook school of legendary Frank Gaebelein, for two years. Then after she obtained a job as a cook at Wheaton Academy, Kenn went to high school as a benefit of his mother’s employment. (someone was looking out for this lady and her son)
  • Kenn had a dramatic spiritual turn-around that gave him the high motivation in Academics, leadership, and the Christian family.
  • Kenneth Gangel authored or co-authored some 50 books on a wide range of topics including education, leadership/administration, family, and the Bible.

Begining with the College where I met Kenn in 1966, Kenn went on to serve on the faculty of four other Christian schools including Miami Christian College where he served as President, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Toccoa Falls College, where he spent his retirement years.

Dr. Kenneth Gangel Biography at Talbot School of Theology

A small, insignificant meeting in Madison County, Kentucky.

Sunday evening, a small group of us met together with a special guest, Dr.John H. Armstrong, President of ACT3 Ministries.( see previous post- Equipping Leaders for Unity). It was a very informal time of admittance into an intimate and personal audience with our guest who spoke to us about many experiences in the past as well as his forthcoming book. As if to highlight what we experienced, one of those present closed with a prayer of thanksgiving and intercession for this servant of God, after reading from this text of Holy Scripture:

8 “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4)

John has written at least twelve books over the years; all about his three passions: Christ, Holy Scripture, and Christ’s Church. He has made significant contributions to the churches, advocating the celebration of unity and the relentless pursuit for greater understanding of Christians for traditions other than their own . 

John Armstrong's new book (Zondervan- March 2010)

John Armstrong's new book (Zondervan- March 2010)

 Among John’s greatest gifts to the church at large, are the books in which he served as the general editor:” The Compromised Church” (1998),”The Glory of Christ” (2002), “Understanding Four Views on Baptism” (2007), and “Understanding Four Views on The Lord’s Supper” (2007). In each of these books, John brings his own wealth of knowledge of the historical churches and their doctrines as the context for authors presenting particular views on key issues of the Christian Church. His introduction serves to set the purpose and focus of the dialogue and introduce the featured contributors. Then following the presentations, John has a concluding chapter, summarizing the theme and suggesting lessons for all to be edified. Then he adds a bibliography of resources for further study. I realize that not all Christians and even leaders are ready to benefit from such contributions, but some of us are indebted to John for greatly enhancing our understanding of the family of Christ in all of her diversity.
Sometimes, the greatest gems for me personally have come from the “appendix” where additional quotes are included. In his book on the Lord’s Supper, I am finding some real treasures. I conclude with one from Emil Brunner:
“Why did Jesus command the observation of this rite? He did not give his disciples any other similiar instructions about divine worship. Why this? Is it not sufficient to preach and believe his gospel, the gospel of his atoning death? Why this ceremony in our churches?
For a long time I asked myself this question. . .without finding the right answer, until the answer sprang to my mind form this text (I Corinthians 10:16-17): we must note the dual meaning of the phrase ‘body of Christ’. On the one hand it refers to the body broken for us on the cross of Golgotha; this is symbolized or figuratively expressed in the broken bread, just as the outpoured wine represents the blood of Christ outpoured for us on the cross. That is the usual interpretation which we are familiar with from our confirmation instruction. It is correct insofar as it goes, but it is incomplete. For the body of Christ means in the New Testament something else: the church. The latter is the body of Christ because Christians are incorporated into the eternal Christ by faith and the Holy Spirit. Thus our text says: ‘ We who are many, are one body’. There arises from us, who are a multiplicity of individuals, a unity, something whole and cohesive, kneeded together.”
Brunner goes on to say what I firmly believe is the missing function in most celebrations of the Lord’s Table: “What is effected through the common participation in the atoning death of Jesus Christ is the unity of the church. . . a miracle does take place in that those individuals who formerly were their own lord and master now are ruled by the one Lord, and to form a manifold of separate individuals, each living and caring for themselves, there arises a unity, one body, of which each believer is a member and Jesus Christ the Head, controlling and guiding all.”
Can anything be more central than this when we come together to eat the bread and drink the wine? Of course Jesus the Christ, the Head of the Body himself, is in our midst reminding us all that He is the New Humanity and we are participants by virtue of His work in us constituting the unity which He controls and directs-we are celebrating the fruit and travail of His sacrifice on the cross which is the Body of Christ. And we will faithfully do this until He returns with the future consumation and glorification of what is now still under construction.
Thank you John for taking the time to share yourself and your passions and vision with us. It truly will be a night to remember for all of us present. 

from Meditation 17, By John Donne
Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris

 
Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he know not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.
The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

(posted in memory of Sandra Cathryn Overby Ward-1942-2009)

 

 

 

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