Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What If Lifeway Sold...

The Christmas season is once again upon us, so I expect many students will be making out their Lifeway Christmas list. Now, I know the economy may encourage some of us to hold back this year. Others might well feel so burdened by their stewardship conscience to go so far as throwing away 10% of their library! Still, I'll bet students keep on buying those books one way or another. Lifeway sure does have a lot of diverse inventory, but have you ever wished they could push the envelop as to the quality of their stock? This idea originated years ago during late night brainstorming sessions with my friend, Jesse Florida.

So without further delay...

Rick Warren, The Prayer of the Purpose Driven Reformed Pastor to Desire God (Banner of Truth Trust, 2007) $12.99
Rick Warren's new appreciation of Richard Baxter is the first in a series of "Purpose Driven Paperbacks" by The Banner of Truth Trust. Warren offers a unique contemporary perspective that is sure to intrigue seasoned scholars and entice a new generation of believers to the wisdom of the Puritans. How would Baxter have balanced traditional and contemporary worship styles? What would he have thought of the 40 Days of Purpose? Warren tackles all these issues and more in a groundbreaking work that is sure to become an instant classic.

Warren: "My developing friendship with John Piper has resulted in my own greater appreciation of the Puritans. No one defines what a pastor should be better than Baxter. I am so grateful to Iain Murray and the Banner of Truth Trust for teaming up with Saddleback to produce the bold, new "Purpose Driven Paperbacks" series. These works will stand alongside the more traditional "Puritan Paperbacks" as a secondary source from a contemporary Christian worship and church growth perspective."

Bruce Wilkinson, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry B. Jenkins, The Purpose Driven Letter That Jabez Left Behind: Ancient Inspirations for Those Living in the End Times, 2 CD set. Narrated by Larry King (Tyndale Audio Series, 2007) $29.97

The best-selling book is now available on audio CD! Bruce Wilkinson takes us on an end times adventure through the eyes of the beloved Jabez. What would Jabez have told the tribulation saints? Did he know about the Rapture and the Millennium? These questions and more are explored through the masterful prose of Wilkinson, who has teamed up with Tim LaHaye's dispensationalism and Jerry B. Jenkins' storytelling to create an extraordinary work of fiction that will encourage any Christian who is suffering under the anxiety of our postmodern age.

Wilkinson: "Working with Tim and Jerry has really been a dream come true. I am living proof that God expands the territory of His children when we claim the promises He has offered us. What began as one small book on an obscure but powerful passage of Scripture has grown into a franchise far bigger than I could have ever imagined. Left Behind was the perfect fit for the next Jabez study because of its popularity and excellent marketing potential. And, of course, Larry King provides an excellent narration and the name recognition that will appeal to people outside the Church."
Larry King: "I admit I was surprised when Tyndale asked me to record this product. I don't have any particular connection with Christianity, but I do consider myself an agnostic seeker. I guess that is why this project appealed to me... Because it is about seeking answers to things nobody really knows for certain. When it comes down to it, you just have to take some things on faith."

And finally, a new tool for teaching theology to youth!
3-in-1-D Glasses™, by the Garland-Earl Corporation®, $7.99
Early Praise for 3-in-1-D Glasses:*
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.: "I must admit that I was skeptical about this being another cheesy gimmick. But after I put on those snazzy shades and sat down in my recliner with my storybook in hand, I was hooked! I can't remember when I've had so much fun reading a book, and I read a lot of books, trust me. I'm sure every Christian parent will want to buy a set for their kids. This is exactly the sort of ambitious product that churches should invest in for children and youth ministry."

Billy Graham: "These glasses really are amazing. Not only are they a perfect object lesson for teaching children about God, but they double as an efficient pair of sunglasses when I have to go outdoors. And they look great too."

J. I. Packer: "I wish somebody had thought of this when I was a boy. It would have given me a great head start on my theological studies. I don't give out product endorsements easily, but 3-in-1-D Glasses are deserving of my full support."

*Endorsements may or may not represent the exact views of the parties represented. Quotes were obtained through fourth and fifth degree removed sources.
All in good fun, right? But in a strange example of Christian life imitating parody, this "Magnify Your Faith" gimmick will actually be hitting shelves near you:
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Under-Rated Christmas Specials!

Oh sure, everybody loves Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, and Tim Allen when they are played constantly on TV in December, but here are some other equally worthy classics that don't seem to get played on TV as much as they deserve.

1. Claymation Christmas
Will Vinton's masterpiece of visuals and sound! My personal favorites are the "We Three Kings" sung by camels with "soul," and the California Raisans' big finale of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

2. Ernest Saves Christmas
Some of Jim Varney's best work!

3. Pluto's Christmas TreeEverybody remebers Mickey's Christmas Carol but few can recall this classic by name. Chip n' Dale sneak into Mickey's house and give Pluto a dose of Christ-"mess."

4. Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas
More magic from Jim Henson's hey-day!

5. A Garfield Christmas SpecialHis Halloween Special is also great!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Detroit Lions: 50 Year QB Curse

Fast Fact: As a franchise, the Detroit Lions have 4 NFL championships to their credit, ranking 8th in the league for most total championships [Green Bay (12), Chicago (9), New York Giants (7), Pittsburgh (6), Dallas, Washington, & San Francisco (5), Detroit and Baltimore/Indy Colts (4)]. Since winning their last championship in 1957, they traded their star quarterback and have not been back to the championship game since, winning only one playoff game in 1991.

I'm used to the Lions being bad. Outside of Barry Sanders, this team has given me no reason to hope they could turn their bad fortunes around. That's OK though, since as any Buffalo sports fan will tell you, "losing builds loyalty in a fan base."

But the one thing that really disappointed me about the Lions is that they lacked the mystique of a "curse" like other historic losing franchises. Take the Boston Red Sox (who have completely lost their appeal to me since winning not one but TWO World Series in the 00s) who had the Curse of the Bambino. Or the Chicago Cubs who had that crazy old man's hex he allegedly put on the team when they wouldn't let his Billy Goat into the stadium in 1945. And the Philadelphia Phillies only recently returned to World Series success after lifting the Curse of William Penn before this season started.

I always wanted the Lions to have their own curse. I kicked around the idea of a Barry Sanders Curse since he immediately retired prior to the 1999 season after Detroit refused to trade him a season shy of breaking the all-time NFL rushing record. But that doesn't answer the problem of why they have never been to a Superbowl since its inception in 1967.

Now, I have an answer, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, that is. The Curse of Bobby Layne:
Detroit enjoyed its greatest success in the 1950s. Led by quarterback Bobby Layne, and wide receiver [Jim Doran] they won the league championship in 1952, 1953, and 1957. They defeated the Cleveland Browns in each of those NFL Championship Games, but also lost to the Browns in the 1954 Championship Game.

In 1958, after leading the Lions to 3 NFL Championships and providing Detroit nearly a decade of Hall of Fame play, the Lions traded Bobby Layne. Bobby was injured during the last championship season and the Lions thought he was through and wanted to get what they could for him. According to legend, as he was leaving for Pittsburgh, Bobby said that Detroit "would not win for 50 years". Since this time, the Lions have not won another championship and have only a single playoff game win. Some have attributed the Lion's subsequent 49 years of futility to the "Curse of Bobby Layne.

Notably, the Lions succeeded in one of the greatest comeback victories in NFL post-season history. Trailing the San Francisco 49ers 27-7 in the 3rd quarter of the 1957 Western Conference Playoff game, Lions quarterback Tobin Rote rallied the team back with 24 unanswered points to beat the 49ers 31-27 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. The Lions have experienced only one post-season win since.

Appropriately, it seems Detroit has been cursed at the quarterback position. Detroit has an obsession with drafting talented wide receivers with no one to throw to them on a consistent basis. They've tried the likes of Scott Mitchell (I knew it was bad when Sports Illustrated felt the need to commend him for actually throwing spiral passes in training camp), Charlie "I liked to run until I got injured" Batch, Joey "I'm gonna bring back the winning culture" Harrington, John "I like to dress up as my naked coach who went to Wendy's" Kitna, and now a whole slew of has-beens and never-wills in 2008.

But remember, the Curse of Bobby Layne stipulated that Detroit would not win for 50 years. That hex was established in 1958. Perhaps it is fitting that the Lions look like a shoe-in for an 0-16 season in 2008. Their quarterback situation is so epically bad that some people honestly believe Allen Iverson is the best potential quarterback living in Detroit.

It has been 50 years since this Curse was issued. Come 2009, it will officially expire. Granted, there may still be a Barry Sanders Curse in effect, but don't be surprised if we see the Lions near the top of the NFL pile come next season. Remember, you heard it here first. (Too bad Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy aren't due to enter the draft until after next year, but you never know.)