Yesterday was an interesting day. My first destination was interesting: the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana. A Jewish man who is a follower of Jesus and a member of our church invited me to a luncheon with an introduction to the Passover Seder meal. I felt extremely welcome as perhaps the only Gentile in the place. They were all interested in my ministry and family. It was a very meaningful presentation on the events of Passover and a sacred meal which remembers God’s mighty acts in delivering His people from slavery. Then we shared a lunch together loosely based on the elements of a full Seder meal. Nice. God’s theme of redemption did not begin in the New Testament and I gained a richer appreciation of God’s early redemptive work as recorded in the Old Testament. Everything in the New Testament builds on this foundation.
I got up from my chair and drove 4 hours to watch Iowa defeat Indiana State in the first round of the NIT. All the while, I was sitting next to one of my best friends. Lon is a Christian Counselor with ministry training who has a keen interest in theology and happens to be married to a girl my wife and I grew up with. It’s endless what we have to talk about. Our discussion turned to Rob Bell and the controversy surrounding his new book. If you know theology, my opinion is that Rob Bell is trying to be like Paul Tillich, a theologian from the 1950’s. He wore big plastic glasses and started writing a series of popular theology books. The most famous was The Courage to Be, which, in my opinion was very similar in topic and impact to the new What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Bell. Tillich’s book was not really aimed at academics. It wasn’t full of long footnotes because it was trying to have a conversation with the thinking public. He went on tours, gave lectures and became a pop culture icon. When he visited the campus of the University of Chicago it was pretty big news. TCtB focused on the sense of God that all of us have in common. It became part of a larger conversation. Frustrated many, encouraged others. So I think Tillich is Bell’s template. He’s talking past the academics, trying to speak to a different audience. Now that would be fine, but here’s the problem.
Since Bell left the pastorate he never mentions being part of a community of faith. A lot of Bell’s recent public comments seem to be based on how the church needs to keep up with the world “just because.” In talking about gay marriage he said “that ship has sailed” and the church needs to affirm people where they are. No biblical justification offered. So, while I’m not one of these alarmist people who freaks out every time Bell does something new, I am a bit more concerned about the foundation of his ideas lately. I would like to hear some public comments about how he’s attending a church and serving others and in conversation about the stuff in his books somewhere besides book signings. I’m not actually going to purchase and read this book until I know more about Bell’s context. But the man does know how to come up with fresh language for talking about what he believes. Preachers should take note of that.
This brought me to reaffirm a couple things I’ve always believed. First, what Christians believe has to be grounded in what we understand the Bible to be saying. We need to give the Bible authority to speak into our lives no matter what year it is, or we’re just making up our own religion. Second, what we believe has to be continually lived out with others in the church. We are called by Jesus to be a community. I’m naturally held a accountable knowing I’ll have to see my friends there who may ask me how it’s going. If I fail to attend, someone will notice and check on me. We all need that encouragement to be faithful. By being present and caring, I do the same for others. And when we have disagreements we can talk about it based on the Bible until we get it right.
You can’t really get Jesus in a package that doesn’t include the church. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about God with my faith community.
Below is a link to a much brighter basketball story. This has absolutely been the breakout year for Lake Central sports. After the football team amazed long-suffering LC fans along comes an Indians basketball Duneland Athletic Conference Title and Sectional Championship! The reason? Two words: Glenn Robinson. You may remember his father, a standout at Roosevelt High School in 1991 who went on to play Big Ten Basketball. This descendent just wrapped up a transcendent season by snagging the Times 2012 Player of the Year award. Congratulations to Glenn and to coach Dave Milausnic on a season for the L.C. Ages. My kids attend L.C. and they told me about Glenn before they knew I knew who he was. What they told me was how he speaks to everyone and carries himself well around campus. He has committed to Michigan, which is exciting for everyone. As he prepares to move on to big time sports I pray he keeps his commitment to off-court character. And we all hope his unselfish playing style has developed other players enough for the pride to continue after he’s gone. Go L.C.!
“I told you this the other day and I believe it with all my heart: You’re good enough,” Gottfried told the team. “You’re good enough to do this. You’re good enough to advance. There’s a plane waiting for you, to take you to St. Louis. There’s hotel rooms waiting for you. There’s a game waiting for you to be played in St. Louis.”
(quote of Coach Gottfried’s speech to team by Luke Decock of The Observer)
This movie writes itself. Opening scene, actual footage from the last 5 seconds of 2010 National Championship Game, fading as the shot bounces off the rim…
TEN YEARS EARLIER appears on a black screen.
Young Brad Stevens is sitting in an office cubicle at Lilly. Picture of his girlfriend on his desk. He’s on the phone, but his mind keeps wandering back to big shots he made to secure victory for Zionsville High School. Then to the moment he received the Coaches award at DePauw.
His manager stops by to remind him how pleased they are to have him on the team. How he’s sure a bright young man like him will go far. Points to the hall where photos of Lilly leaders of the past and present line the wall. Someday you’ll be up there…
The phone rings.
“Better get that,” he says pointing again to the photo wall. “It might be your future calling!”
Picks up ringing receiver. “Brad Stevens, how can I help you?”
It’s a rather terse and disinterested woman in a very noisy office somewhere deep within the bowels of the Butler University Athletic Department.
“Is this Bradley Stevens?”
“Um, yes? Who’s calling?”
“I’m calling from Butler University. There’s an opening for a volunteer assistant position with the Bulldog basketball program. Coach wants to know if you’re interested in an interview.”
Face lights up like a Christmas tree. Drops the receiver. Starts shouting to the phone “Yes, Yes, Yes….” picks it up.
Glances at photo of girlfriend.
“…ah but I have to speak to someone else about this first… Can I call you back.”
“Yes, but let me know by tomorrow morning. Coach won’t want to delay…”
“Thank you. Thank you…um I’m sorry what did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t. But it’s Sally.”
“Sally. Sally, I think I love you!”
“Yeah, yeah. Just call me back by tomorrow…click”
On his lunch break, Brad calls the girlfriend.
“Are you crazy? You got an amazing break to get this job with a future! Our future! Remember, we talked about getting married?”
“I know, but you know it was my dream to coach. I just never thought…”
“I gotta go, click”
“Wait, no. Hello? Hello? Ugh!” end scene…
Brad is back at his cubicle prison trying to duct tape the cracked receiver when the phone rings loudly jarring Brad and us.
“Okay, here’s the plan:”
“Yes, Tracy, who else? Here’s the plan. I go back to Law school. Someone has to pay the bills for this fantasy camp! You live in Bob’s basement and get an hourly job. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Tracy, I love you forever!”
Music comes up. Brad shouts and raises his arms.
Next scene: we see practice ending and Brad is heading back to his Coordinator of Basketball Operations cubicle. New coach Todd Lickliter (in a cameo playing himself) steps up and invites Brad into his office.
Next scene: Brad carrying a box into an office where a janitor is screwing in a new nameplate above Assistant Basketball Coach.
Next scene: last few seconds of 2nd Round 2008 NCAA Tournament loss. Speech to team afterwards with freshman Matt Howard listening intently…
And the rest is history!
Will the movie end tonight? Or is the story just getting started?
Here’s to great real life stories that fill us with hope!
Just a quick note with my Final Four Picks. With my beloved Hawkeyes out of the picture, I’ll be following Notre Dame, who’ve had quite a season.
East Region: North Carolina (UNC)
West Region: Duke
Southwest Region: Notre Dame
Southeast Region: Florida
North Carolina is my overall pick.
BYU will have something to play for. MSU can never be counted out. Michigan may go farther than most think. As always it will be a fun ride!