Peyton Manning’s Christian Faith

Discovered this post this morning about the faith of Peyton Manning.  Loved his perspective on maintaining his priorities, keeping his faith in Christ in first position, and wanting his actions – not his rhetoric or rituals – to speak for themselves.

I also appreciate the way that he can (appropriately in my opinion) focus on playing good football, working on his craft, and pursuing excellence as an extension of his faith, not merely as a platform for persuasion or a means to a supposedly “greater” end.  This is the heart of living out the mission of God as His creature and child, in every sphere of life.

Peyton Manning’s Christian Faith.

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Review: Why Cities Matter by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard

Why Cities Matter by Um and Buzzard

Book Review: Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture and the Church by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard (Crossway, 2013)

Acknowledgment: I would like to express my gratitude to Crossway for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Why do cities matter?

This is the question that drives the book as a whole.  Both Dr. Um and Mr. Buzzard are well versed and equipped to address such a question, as they both live and minister in world-class cities (Boston and Palo Alto), and are part of church planting movements that focus on ministry in a wide variety of contexts (Acts 29 and Redeemer City to City).

What is more, this particular book is a clarion call for effective ministry in any context, not just cities.  The focus on cities is certainly present throughout the book, but filled within it’s pages is a wealth of material to help any pastor, church planter or lay leader effective engage, reach and ultimately disciple people wherever they are.  One premise that I particularly benefited from in this book though, was that ministry is not just for individuals, it’s for cities themselves.  Each city (as defined by centers of density and diversity most generally by the authors) has a personality, and if we want to minister the gospel effectively to people in cities, we must know, engage and seek to influence the structures of the city with the message of the gospel.

The authors spend a great deal of time expressing what it is that makes cities what they are.  They do emphasize that they are primarily places of density and diversity (lots of people of different backgrounds and varieties), but in addition, they talk about the ideal of the city.  A city was a place where anyone could find safety, security and promise of hope.  This was true of cities in antiquity as they were known for their fortified walls and economic prospects, and it still hold true today.  People come to cities looking to belong (safety, security) and become (hopeful of a better future).  The authors address this in a winsome and comprehensive, yet still accessible way.  They also talk about what you find inside cities; centers of power, culture and ultimately, worship.  It is because of these centers that cities often attract what the authors label the “aspirational”, the “marginal” and the “explorational.” Each group is looking for life, meaning and happiness, and cities provide the context for finding it – whether directed towards God (as Creature and Sustainer) or other false gods (the creation and psuedo-saviors). For this reason, cities matter as a strategic place to proclaim by word and deed the message of the gospel.

In addition, their chapter on Bible and the City (ch. 3) is a masterful sweep of the Biblical portrait of cities.  Every aspect of Scripture is combed for an understanding of cities – their importance, their promise and even their dangers – and what one is left with is a biblically convincing case that cities are to be places that reflect God’s will and intention for all humanity.  Cities matter to God and it is evident throughout the pages of Scripture.

I also greatly appreciated their chapters on Contextualization in the City (ch. 4) and Ministry Vision for the City (ch. 5).  Both are treasure troves for anyone looking to make an impact in their context for the gospel.  Perhaps I was drawn to these as I am an aspiring church planter, but I believe anyone could take the principles and apply them wherever they are.  Perhaps the biggest single helpful item in these chapters is the principle that in order to reach and engage people and cities with the gospel, you must first take an interest in establishing the relationship to be able to speak intelligently into their lives.  In other words, listen, then speak.  Anyone can go anywhere and just start preaching; but to preach against the false gods and psudeo-saviors of a city as well as a neighbor, one has to take the time to think through and get to know what are the hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears held by those we’re talking with.  Both chapters provide plenty of helpful insights and questions for doing just that.

The one weakness of the book as I read it was the somewhat cavalier attitude towards non-cities.  Now, in all fairness, the scope of the book was focused on cities, and no author should ever be expected to say everything and everything.  They had a focus, and overall I think they did an excellent job covering that focus.  But throughout the book, mention was made of cities as opposed to suburbs, exurbs and rural areas.   I don’t like the contemporary debate about which is more important to God and therefore ministry – cities or other places – as I think it misses the point.  God cares about every place and is redeeming all things to Himself.  There’s plenty of room under that umbrella for both cities (who granted have a greater concentration of imago Dei‘s than rural areas) and rural communities.

What I would have liked to have seen though, is mention and discussion of the relationship between cities and suburbs, exurbs and rural areas.  These divisions make for great sociological studies and discussion topics, but in real life, they are more integrated and related than we might like to believe.    Are you only reaching, engaging and discipling a “city” if you are located in the “city-center” part of that city?  Or are there ways of reading, engaging and discipling a “city” if you go to where the people live, work and play?  I think that these questions might lend towards greater nuance of the relationship between cities and other aspects of cities (suburbs, exurbs, rural) and provide a more holistic approach to ministry in our cities.

Despite this one weakness, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.  In fact, it would be a go-to resource to anyone wanting to minister in a city context as it distills a ton of information in a clear, straightforward way, and has plenty of applicable and helpful points for anyone in ministry.  To end the review on the note the book ended:

“Cities matter. Let’s get to it.”

Link: Paperback and Kindle versions.

The Crazy One’s…We Should Be So Lucky!

Quote

Steve Jobs inspiration poster

Steve Jobs inspiration poster (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

The Crazy One’s….We should be so lucky!

Last night, my wife and I had a rare treat.  We got to go to the movies at a relatively decent time (not too late).  We saw Jobs, and it was great.  Sure, Woz had some historical issues with the movie, but all in all, it was great.  At the end, they ended with the best commercial I have ever heard/seen.  It’s simply Steve Jobs reading the quote below.  I was once again reminded how inspirational and moving seeing someone pursue the radical notion that things can be different matched with the conviction that it should be different – a great reminder for anyone seeking to make a dent in the universe.

Enjoy!

“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

The Upshot of Being a Stranger in a Strange Land

This is a fascinating read on why women are out-performing men in today’s economy.

As I read it, I couldn’t help being a pastor, researcher and communicator that there might also be connections to why the Christian Church has historically tended to grow the most when it was in a position of least influence. Perhaps there really is something to being “strangers in a strange land,” or to use biblical phrasing, “aliens and exiles.”

Something to consider.

Why Men Fail – NYTimes.com (HT: David Brooks)

Less is Really More, and Beware the Hunt for the Masses

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Seth’s Blog: Most people.

I am an avid reader of Seth Godin (books, blogs, anything really).  I love his ability to crystalize and disseminate wisdom that can be applied to creative (writers, artists) and organizational leaders (marketers, managers, etc.).  In this short blog, he writes on the importance of “less is more” and the danger of following after the masses.

Enjoy!

No Surprises, Please!

No surprises

No surprises (Photo credit: Pincel3d / Daniel)

I had the privilege the other week of assisting with a friend’s wedding in a Catholic wedding service.  One of the many surprises and joys of that experience was meeting and serving alongside Father Pablo Migone. He is a great guy.  I’ve enjoyed following some of his blog posts and found this one in particular to be very illuminating (Link to the whole article below).

On the nature of being surprised by God:

“I am convinced that God loves surprises…Unfortunately we oftentimes dislike surprises because they tend to destabilize things.  We want everything to be under control.  We get flustered and aggravated when things do not go exactly according to plan.  Yet consider this, had the Virgin Mary not been open to surprise and had she wanted to retain control over her life, she probably would have said “no” to the archangel.  The more open we become to the presence of God in our lives, the more He will surprise us through ordinary and extraordinary events.  The more we trust Jesus Christ has truly overcome the world, the more moldable we will become, gladly allowing His surprises to mold our will according to His own.

via Labyrinthine Mind: God of surprises.

Waiting Time

 

Waiting

Waiting (Photo credit: Iguanasan)

Waiting Time.

This is an interesting little parable on the effects of perception and organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

Sometimes, the “issue” isn’t really the issue.

Piss Christ, Revisited

Piss Christ

Piss Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend Daniel Siedell has written another excellent article over at Patheos discussing the intersection of faith, grace and life through art (see below). It is well worth your time to read what might be the best perspective I’ve heard on Serrano’s Piss Christ.  And his thoughts on what it means to be a Cultural Theologian are even better.

I remember my first exposure into both topics – Piss Christ and being a Cultural Theologian – came from my dad.  He is an artist, and I have benefited greatly from growing up in a home where art was celebrated and questions were asked that forced us to think, not just regurgitate or rearrange preconceived prejudices.  When I fist came to know Christ, I remember one such question my dad asked: “What would you do if you saw a picture of Jesus in a toilet [or jar or urine] as a work of art?”

My answer then was somewhat astute for someone my age and maturity in Christ.  I answered, “Well, Jesus was crucified in a trash heap which was the equivalent of a toilet back in his day.  Whether the artist meant it or not, I think it’s an excellent picture of the beauty and grace of God in the midst of the crap of life.”

My response has not changed to this day, and thanks to Daniel, I know now that I was on to something back then.

Enjoy!

Piss Christ, Revisited.

Addendum: To learn more about how to see and perceive art with eyes of faith, and not through culture-war jargon, I highly recommend Daniel Siedell’s book God in the Gallery (Kindle edition here)  Also, for something philosophically similar but addressing cinema and movies, I would encourage Brian Godawa’s Hollywood Worldviews (Kindle edition here).

Shooting at the Family Research Council: Hate from the left | Washington Times Communities

It is interesting to note what items get media play and attention, and what do not. If the “sides” had been reversed, but the story ended up the same (heroic security guard, taking a bullet and saving lives), would we have seen/heard about this more in the news?

Food for thought.

Shooting at the Family Research Council: Hate from the left | Washington Times Communities.

iPhone Orphans

I confess that I can struggle with this.  I wonder though how this also applies to Pastors and “books”.  I am all for redeeming the time and making the most of every opportunity, but digital devices and/or reading material of any kind, even if it’s sermon prep, can achieve this same catastrophic end.

iPhone Orphans.