Friday, September 29, 2006

Flashcard Mania

This is out of control. I now own flashcards for Hebrew, Greek (two sets, one I have made, one I have purchased), German (two sets like Greek) and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I have actually looked into English Grammar flashcards and making flashcards for Ordination Preparation.


Brush up your preaching skills

Covenant Seminary hosts free mp3 downloads of our Preparation and Delivery of Sermons course which is taught by Dr. Bryan Chapell, President of the Seminary and author of numerous books, including Christ Centered Preaching.

As one who has taken this course, and benefitted greatly from the homiletics program at the Seminary, I reccomend everyone to download the lectures. They will help improve your skills and give you much to think about.

Another resource people should utilize is podcasting via iTunes. I use iTunes to download several podcasts and listen to sermons from different pastors from different parts of the country with different ministry/preaching styles. I think this is important that way you don't get stuck in a rut with what you hear and how you preach. Think about it; every Sunday there are literally hundreds of thousands of sermons preached just in the U.S. alone. If you add the whole world to that, then there are millions of sermons every Sunday, all from the same Bible. Each sermon is (or should be) derrived from its particular social/ethnic/theological context, but it is helpful for someone in St. Louis to hear something from Seattle. It gives you a little different take on a passage, as well as a better understanding of what's going on in the broader Church.

Now, I do not suggest just listening to sermon after sermon after sermon. We should study for ourselves and not "rip-off" material form others. I just think that it can be helpful to listen to people inside and outside your own tradition and context to gain better insight on delivery, interpretation (even!), illustrative material, and edification. Listening to others' sermons has helped me to improve greatly with regard to my own style and how I deliver sermons and I think it can help others as well.


Monday, September 25, 2006


From Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership:

Jesus refused to be a stunt man.
He did not come to walk on hot coals,
swallow fire, or put his head in a lion's
mouth to demonstrate that he had
something worthwhile to say.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


A closer look at Saturday's biggest games:

Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33

Memo to the people of the fine state of Oklahoma: don't riot or do anything destructive tonight ... even though you'd be justified to feel like doing something violent. After all, this game was violently taken away from a deserving bunch of Sooners by inept officiating and even more inept replay evaluators.


1. Ohio St. 37, Cincinnati 7 - Win
2. Notre Dame 21, Michigan 47 - Loss
3. Auburn 7, LSU 3 - Win
4. USC 28, Nebraska 10 - Win
5. West Virginia 45, Maryland 24 - Win
6. LSU 3, Auburn 7 - Loss
7. Florida 21, Tennessee 20 - Win
8. Texas 52, Rice 7 - Win
9. Florida St. 20, Clemson 27 - Loss
10. Georgia 34, UAB 0 - Win
11. Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21 - Win
12. Louisville 31, Miami 7 - Win
13. Tennessee 20, Florida 21 - Loss
14. Virginia Tech 36, Duke 0 - Win
15. Oklahoma 33, Oregon 34 - Loss
16. Iowa 27, Iowa State 17 - Win
17. Miami 7, Louisville 31 - Loss
18. Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33 - Win
19. Nebraska 10, USC 28 - Loss
20. TCU 12, Texas Tech 3 - Win
21. Cal 42, Portland St. 16 - Win
22. Arizona St. 21, Colorado 3 - Win
23. Boston College 30, BYU 23 OT - Win
24. Texas Tech 3, TCU 12 - Loss
25. Penn St. 37, Youngstown St. 3 - Win

Yes, it's very rare for analysis of a football game to so frontally, emotionally and nakedly talk about the officiating; this is a very rare practice, precisely because it seems like bad form on the part of the writer. An article about lousy officiating is almost never written because fans can easily interpret such an article as a sign of bias — entrenched and unprofessional — on the part of the author.

But in the wake of Saturday's game in Eugene — won by Oklahoma in every true sense, but not on the official scoreboard — normal practices have to give way to a rare approach. After all, what happened in the final minutes of this game was anything but normal.

There's no way to sugar-coat it or talk around it, and there's no need to be indirect in speaking about it: plainly put, the Pac-10 officiating crew made an incorrect ruling on Oregon's recovery of an onsides kick in the final 75 seconds. However, that is supposed to be acceptable in this day and age because if the zebras mess up, the replay review system is supposed to set things right. And when all of America saw the replay of that onsides kick, the country's football fans saw that an Oregon player touched the ball after it had traveled 9.5 yards. Not 10, but nine and a half. That much was obvious.

Players of the Oregon Ducks celebrate a gift from the officiating gods. (Jonathan Ferrey /

Not to the replay official, though, for reasons that boggle the human mind. Oregon — a dead team — was given the football equivalent of several organ transplants ... unethically. Oklahoma — who had earned a tough road victory with a surprisingly mature effort from Paul Thompson and an overwhelmingly physical second half — was given the football equivalent of hidden poison delivered by a friend, lover, or anyone else you'd expect to treat you with kindness and decency.

When this kind of an outrage occurs, the rest of the proceedings are rendered irrelevant. It's sad because a lot of players spilled their guts in Eugene. Adrian Peterson was a man among boys. OU's defense picked itself off the deck after being stunned in the game's opening minutes. Dennis Dixon overcame flop sweat to gather himself for the game's frantic finish, but it's a finish he — and Oregon — didn't deserve to have.

Oklahoma made a big statement with its performance Saturday; with this level of football, the Sooners can compete with Texas and the rest of the Big XII. But sadly, Bob Stoops and his players were robbed of a celebration they deserved to have. Such is the awful reality of this game, and its astonishing, ugly ... and tainted ... outcome.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

OU-Oregon: How Can PAC-10 Officials Be This Terrible?

Even with instant replay!

How could they say this was Oregon's ball when the player clearly touched it before the 10 yard limit, and no Oregon player recovered it?

See videos:

If this had happened in the Texas-Ohio State game, or Notre Dame-Mich game, it would dominate ESPN's college football coverage, but since it didn't, it gets mentioned in passing. Those two terrible calls made the difference between top 10 and probably somewhere in the 18-25 range in rank. Unbelievable.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Salty Church Plant in the 'Burgh

I love it when Christians are intentional about going into the darkest places. That's so Gospel.

I don't know if the reporter "got him" by calling this church a tolerant spiritual community.
Check out their beliefs for proof.

Between Saturday night and Sunday evening, the former St. Elizabeth Church in the Strip District transforms like a theater set between acts -- from The Altar Bar nightclub to the Steel City Church. It's the mission of a 31-year-old pastor who offers a new take on what the Christian life, and nightlife, can be.

The Steel City Church held its first service Sunday for about 250 people. Earlier in the day, the pastor, Damian Williams, and his wife, Anne Williams, carried sofas and chairs from the wings and configured them around an empty dance floor for the 6 p.m. service. It was a cross between coffee house and talk show, with a rolling video presentation and food.

As offbeat as the setting is, the message is grounded in Christian orthodoxy, said Mr. Williams, who resists the title reverend.

"I think of myself as a 'pastor-preneur,' " he said.

A native of New Castle in Lawrence County and a graduate of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, he grew up working in his father's plastic factory and returned to Western Pennsylvania a year ago to plant this church.

"People have asked me why I chose a name from the past for a progressive church," he said, "but I like the values from those days. The name 'Steel City' felt right to me."

Of five churches he has planted nationwide, this is the first urban, multicultural setting and the least recognizable as a house of worship, its stained-glass windows dwarfed by a giant sound system. The church rents the space on Sunday and will open early for congregants to watch Steelers games.

"We want to create a new form to break down barriers that have kept people from connecting with God," he said. "We chose the Strip because every kind of person goes there and relates to it."

The setting -- with its disco lights and alcohol, neither of which is activated on Sundays -- belies the commitment of a year's worth of outreach to create "cells" of neighborhood apostles.

"The real church is what we do through the week," said Mr. Williams. He runs a cell group in Mount Washington, where he and his wife live with two children.

"We discuss ways to apply questions we raise. If the sermon's about loving one's neighbor as oneself, we might ask 'What does that look like?' 'How am I living that I can make that happen?' "

The church has six cells so far: two in Mount Washington and one each in the South Side, the North Side, East Pittsburgh and Homestead. The guiding principle of each is to practice the message in the neighborhood and nurture more cells to do the same.

Andy Holm leads the South Side cell of about 10 regulars.

"We're looking to have a person from our group lead a new group," he said. "It can be at people's homes, in a park, in a coffee shop, anywhere."

He spent the day after the church debut sitting in Market Square with people who smell bad, who ask for handouts, who sell drugs and sex -- people he said a traditional church would consider "the unwanted harvest." One of the street people he befriended showed up at the church service, he said.

Mr. Holm is studying to be a minister at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, "but I liked my summer here so much, I took the fall semester off."

Mr. Williams was an intern at Mr. Holm's church in North Dakota 10 years ago, which is also where he met his wife, Anne, who runs the multimedia part of the Steel City Church service.

It isn't the only nontraditional presentation of worship locally.

Four years ago, the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community established in the third-floor cafeteria of the Goodwill Industries building in the South Side. The service, at 11 a.m. Sunday, presents the teachings of the gospel in the form of a play, which the two founding pastors write.

"It makes it more real-life for people, and it's set in current times," said Renee Stanton, a spokesman. Otherwise, "we have all the elements of a traditional church service."

She said the congregation has grown to about 300 regular attendees.

"I think [alternative services] can attract a lot of Gen-Xers," said Jason Sinagra, who runs the Steel City Church's North Side cell. "Our style is going to appeal most to those who are unchurched, people not familiar with liturgy or theology. They want to be part of it but don't know how."

A graduate of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Mr. Sinagra said that, as a student, he and a friend shocked people coming out of nightclubs in the Strip by handing them bottled water.

"I felt there was a need for a place for people to worship in the Strip at night. Then through some networking I met Damian," who had exactly the same idea.

Alternative churches are as old as religious history, but Mr. Williams said the political right wing may have spurred a trend among seekers and skeptics who want a tolerant spiritual life and a return to broad-based community.

His message this Sunday will be "There is no 'me' without 'we'," he said, citing Paul's letter admonishing the Corinthians to each treat each other as wholly essential and citing the body as a metaphor for the church.

"Just as an arm can't walk down the street," said Mr. Williams, "we want to build a community in which none of us can do it on our own."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Free Book - pay shipping

If anyone is interested, I have the soft-cover, 2 in 1 volume of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I do not need it because I purchased the 2 Volume set which is the most recent translation. Email me if you are interested.

It looks like this and is in pristine shape.


Our July Vacation to SoCal

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Albert Pujols - the greatest of our time?

This weekend, Jen & I got to catch a Cards' game. We bought tickets from some people who had two extras and got a great deal. Section 153, Row 1, which retail for $45 each. We bought them both for $40.

Now only did we get that deal, we got to see Albert Pujols hit 2 of his 3 home runs that day.

Here's his second home run of that day. After all the times I have seen this guy play, I wonder if I one day argue with my grandkids that Pujols was the greatest player since Hank Aaron.

And here's video I took with my camera of number 42.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Good Job Target!

Target is selling President Franklin Roosevelt action figures. The only problem is the picture they are using is that of Benjamin Franklin.

See it for yourself here. And just in case they delete that page anytime soon, here's a pdf of the page so you can see how far the dumbing down of our country has gotten.

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