Monthly Archives: January 2009

Inaugural thoughts

This post appeared last Thursday in the Chenoa Town Crier:

As I write this I am watching the inauguration of Barrack Hussein Obama as the President of the United States of America. This is a remarkable day in the history of this country. Inauguration Day is always a day of looking forward.

It is natural to think about what will happen in the next four years. At this inauguration, it is difficult not to think about the last forty years as well. We are at a unique place in our history – a place future historians may use to mark the change of an era.

We look back on a troubled past. We look back on three hundred years of slavery, another hundred years of segregation and Jim Crow. We look back at race riots in our cities. We look back on fire hoses spraying and dogs attacking young people in the streets. We look back at white hoods, burning crosses, and ropes hanging from trees.

On a day such as this it is difficult not to think of the road that has led to an African American man being sworn in as the President of the United States. It is a road marked with tragedies and triumphs, of villains and heroes.

As we look at Barack Obama laying his hand on the Bible that was last used to swear in Abraham Lincoln, it is easy to feel good about the journey we have made. Yes, there have been some mistakes along the way, but today we see that the ideals on which this country stands – that all men are created equal – are more than words.

We also have to know that the road has not ended. An African American in the White House does not mean that racism in America is over.

This is a lesson I learned a little over a year ago.

I received a letter with no return address, addressed in barely legible handwriting. It was a newsletter and recruitment letter into the Ku Klux Klan. This group, which has the audacity to call itself a Christian group, sent this letter to me in hopes that as a Pastor, I might be interested in joining.

It made me physically ill. I believe I was targeted in their recruitment because I am a pastor. They obviously did not know that I was a student member of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP. I don’t remember the details of their newsletter. I didn’t keep it. But it served as a stark reminder that our journey is not over.

Even as we look at our road and feel good for the distance which we have traveled, we are reminded by gestures, both large and small, that we have a long way to go. In recent months I have had conversations with people that believe we will never be one people. That race problems will always divide us.

Every day I live, every sermon I preach, every page of the Bible I read tells me that is not how God wants us to live. In the core of who I am is the belief that we as a people are created by God in God’s image, and that what unites us is stronger than the forces that try to divide us. I know the journey is not over, and it will probably not be over in my lifetime, but the struggle continues.

We may not make it to the Promised Land, but we continue to struggle. One person at a time, one relationship at a time, we move toward the day when the love of God overcomes all. As Christians we are called to do no less than work for the Kingdom of God.

So today I pray for Barrack Hussein Obama, and I pray for those that sent me that recruitment letter. I pray for our country, that we may overcome the challenges we face. And I pray for our world, that as children of God we may move together one step at a time toward the Kingdom of God.


Filed under Politics

Back at it

So, my quest to become a leaner, meaner pastor had a bit of a delay. I could list a bunch of excuses I didn’t get to the gym for almost two months, but I won’t.

What is important is that today I went back to the gym. I didn’t work out long. It was just a short walk/jog and a few arm exercises. I just wanted to wake up my muscles, and try to build a habit again.

I have set a goal to run a 5K race in Bloomington in March. The biggest upcoming obstacle is my CPE inernship. Starting in February I am not going to have a lot of free time.

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The Accuser

If you ask the average Christian in the United States about the Trinity, or about the Holy Spirit in particular, you probably will not get a very meaningful answer. On the other hand, if you ask that same person about the devil, they will probably have a very systematic and detailed view of exactly what the devil is, what his purpose is, and how he came to be. Most people would then site the Bible as their primary source of knowledge. To me, this is perplexing, even a little troubling.

Most people use the term devil, Satan, Beelzebub, and Lucifer all to mean the same thing, and believe that all the Biblical uses of these terms are about the same evil being.

The most famous cases in the Bible of the devil are in the book of Genesis, Job, and the Gospels. In Genesis, though, there is no use of any of the devil-like words. There is simply a talking serpent, who tells Eve that nothing will happen if she and Adam eat the fruit. In Job, the Hebrew ha-satan is used, which means the accuser. By making ha-satan the word Satan, it appears as if this is a proper name of a being, instead of a desrciption or title. I wonder how much of our cultural misunderstanding of Satan would be different if the King James Version had translated ha-satan into the lower-case “accuser.”

In the Gospels, the appearance of the word “devil” comes from the Greek diabalos, which also means accuser. The devil appears to Jesus in the wilderness immediately after his baptism, and tempts Jesus.

All three of these “appearances” differ much from the cultural understanding of Satan. With Eve, Job, and Jesus, the accuser is seen as an instrument of temptation – not the personification of evil. Many understand Satan as a fallen angel, at odds with God, trying to rule the world and overthrow God. This image does not match up with most of the Biblical images of the Satan. To a certain extent, this depiction is supported by images of Satan in Revelation.

It is unlikely though, that the Satan in Revelation is meant to be the same being as the Satan in Genesis, Job and the Gospels. Revelation was written in a rich and dense symbolic code to a people under heavy persecution by the Romans. It had a much different purpose, audience, and meaning than much of the Biblical narrative.

This is obviously a brief scratching of the surface of the concept of the devil, but I think it is an interesting topic. Maybe someday I will write a book comparing the cultural concepts of the devil, which has roots in propaganda against Pagan religions in Europe, and the Biblical concept of the accuser.

I suspect that an in-depth word study of the 51 appearances of the word “Satan” and the 36 uses of the word “devil” in the Bible, compared to a survey of what people think is in the Bible about the devil or Satan would reveal much about our culture.


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Tecmo Bowl, Part 2

Everything I know about football, I learned from Tecmo Bowl.

  1. Walter Payton is the greatest football player of all time.
  2. Bo Jackson’s career was cut way too short.
  3. Lawrence Taylor was the most dominant defensive player in the history of football.
  4. Chicago is awesome when they have a great running back and a dominant middle linebacker.
  5. Special teams can win or lose a ball game (the ability to block extra points by choosing the second guy on the line from the top with Chicago, is an extreme advantage).
  6. A good tight end can bail  you out of a lot of problems (especially when calling Pass 2 with Chicago).
  7. Tackling with one man is good, tackling with two or more is better.  And when tackling, it is very risky to leave your feet.
  8. Nothing is more embarassing on a football field that getting thrown into the air by your opponent.
  9. You need a balanced offense – If your plays are 3:1 in favor of passing, it is too easy to shut you down, no matter how great your quarterback is (sorry San Francisco and Miami).
  10.  Halftime shows are always too long.
  11. There is nothing wrong with a high-five after a touchdown.

Any more things you learned from Tecmo Bowl?

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Tecmo Bowl – the first great sports game, Part 1.

Last week I picked Super Tecmo Bowl as one of my top 5 favorite video games of all time.  The reason I picked it over Tecmo Bowl is that it was a perfect sequel.  It kept the game play similar, but added a few dimensions.  I believe that Tecmo Bowl was a revolutionary sports game.  I’m no video game historian, but it was the first game that I remember that used things that are common in football video games today. 

  1. The scrolling screen.  Before this, almost all sports games had the entire field on one screen.  Using a scrolling field allowed for much more realistic scale and better gameplay.  Madden, the most popular sports game in history, now uses the scrolling field, but switched it to a vertical field, whereas Tecmo Bowl was a horizontal field.  The horizontal field better simulates the way we watch football on TV.  The vertical screen makes for a more realistic players’-eye-view.
  2. Player’s names.  Tecmo Bowl had permission of the NFL Players Association, so actual players and stats were used.  These stats were also used to individualize each video game player.  Even though they all looked alike (except for skin tone), each player had different attributes.  Oddly enough, they did not get permission from the NFL, so the teams did not use team names – just cities, and a loosely patterned color scheme (the San Francisco team was red and gold, but Seattle was pink for some reason).  Super Tecmo Bowl remedied this problem by getting the NFL’s permission – I think the first game to do so – and used the actual logos.
  3. An ongoing season.  The game simulated a season by randomly selecting a team for each “week.”  You were given a password after each week, and if you kept winning, you would advance to the playoffs, and then the Tecmo Bowl.  Super Tecmo Bowl took this a step further, by keeping some basic stats as the season went on.
  4. Play calling.  Tecmo Bowl coaches had four plays to choose from.  For most teams there were two runs and two passes, but for some teams, the ratio was 3:1 (Miami and San Francisco had three passes, LA had three runs).  Super Tecmo Bowl expanded the play calling to eight.  The defense called plays too, guessing which of the four offensive plays their opponent would call.  If they got it right, the defense would overrun the offense (most of the time).

You might be wondering, “Why the sudden interest in Tecmo Bowl?”  Well, I just downloaded it on the Wii, and it is as fun as I remembered.


Now, my two-year-old daughter wants to type:


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