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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Reformation Day!!!!

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 thesis to the door of Wittenburg.

If you've never read them before, check them out! The name "95 Thesis" written by a reformer 488 years ago can seem a little intimidating. But you'll find that it's really not all that complex, and in our post reformation society, not astoundingly profound either. It does, however, through its reactionary nature, give us great exposure to the thoughts and beliefs of that time.

It sure is much more worth celebrating than ghosts, goblins and other garbage.

Sola Scriptura
Sola Fide
Soli Christo
Sola Gratia

And we can't forget "semper reformanda"...always reforming.

More Than Missed Jumped Shots

Paul Shirley is back to blogging. If you are not familiar with Shirley, he occupied the last seat on the Phoenix Sun's bench last season. Shirley makes no bones about the fact that he had a roster spot primarily because he is quite tall. Typically, his blog was filled with very modest (even self-deprecating) comments about his basketball skills, but peppered with a great deal of wit. He is obviously highly intelligent, but very materialistic in his philosophy, as well.

Currently, Shirley is unemployed. He's working out in Kansas City (his hometown), hoping to get a call from a team. As he worked out in a vacant gym, he encountered two elderly folks who were cleaning the building. Shirley explains that he noticed the couple working hard to move some bleachers, and decided to get involved. After helping, he had this interaction with the female janitor:

"When we were finished, I tried to meander back to the court on which I had been working. Before I could, the woman called out to me. She said, "Thank you so much. You're an angel without the halo."

(I should take this opportunity to remind the reader that I am really not that nice. My actions were no different than those that would be taken by even the most callous soul.)

She continued, saying, "I'm going to pray for you." I waved quickly and threw some thanks her way. Undaunted, she said, "No, I mean I'm going to pray for you right now. Come here."

I saw no way to make an escape from the brutally awkward situation I knew would be forthcoming, so I walked toward her. She grasped each of my hands in one of hers, bowed her head, and began a prayer. I am unclear as to the exact order of events, but I remember that there was a call for my "anointing," a brief spat of speaking in tongues, a prayer for my general success, the confirmation that I was indeed one hell of a guy (without the hell part, I suppose), and, lastly, the real kicker, a request for me to be "double anointed," which I gather must be better than the pedestrian solo anointing I had received earlier in the incantation.

She then slapped our hands together, touched the top of my head, and told me that all the success I ever desired would now be mine. I asked her to sign a contract to that effect and offered to put her on my permanent payroll, but she seemed uninterested, so I went back to my court and continued my workout."

Shirley is a skeptic, so he's going to have a cynical attitude. While I don't see the value of speaking in tongues or talking about "double blessings" right in front of a total stranger, my issue is more about success. Paul Shirley has had more "success" in his brief career than most have had in their life. Fame (though limited), athleticism, money have all been available to him while he plays a sport for a living. He immediately saw the fraud of this lady's promises. Even Shirley appears uninterested in a God Who just wants to provide worldly success.

God offers so much more than "success." Why do we sell Him so short by only focusing on the here and now? Paul Shirley continued to miss shots in the gym that night, and this well-meaning couple missed an opportunity to talk to Shirley about what really matters.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Response to Sheryl Swoopes

At first, I was going to title this, "How should the Christian respond to Sheryl Swoopes?" but then I realized that was rather presumptuous of me (as if I could speak for all believers) and probably could not be agreed upon anyway. So instead, here's my response to Sheryl Swoopes announcing she's gay. Some of it is just my general thoughts, some of it would be direct statements I would make to her.

1. This is the WNBA. Though espn.com jumped all over this like it's breaking news, it's really not. This is not a gender discriminatory statement but the WNBA is far from a major sport in our country. It does not even generate enough revenue to survive, but depends on money from the NBA to continue. Swoopes may be the most decorated female basketball player of all time, and though basketball is a major sport in our country, women's basketball is not. Don't get me wrong, women's basketball is great and is very popular. But for some to say this is the equivalent of Michael Jordan announcing he is gay during his prime, that's incorrect. This is more like a very successful bowler or ladies golfer announcing she's gay. It's not as huge as some may think.
2. Pray for Women's Basketball Ministries. Our church supports Shauna Stone, a missionary with Athletes in Action. Working in the Women's Basketball division, she has shared that lesbianism is a huge issue. I had no idea how huge. Consider this quote by Swoopes: "But the talk about the WNBA being full of lesbians is not true. I mean, there are as many straight women in the league as there are gay." Swoopes is defining the league as not full of lesbians because the percentages are 50-50? She then asks why people aren't talking about gays in the NBA, NFL or MLB. While I don't deny that there are probably gay athletes in each of those sports, I doubt the figure creeps up to even 5%. I now am more committed to praying specifically for Shauna, for I had no idea it was this rampant.
3. Sheryl's numbers don't add up. Sheryl does not claim to have been born gay (an admission I truly admire, by the way). She was married at one time. That marriage even produced an eight year old son. She was in counseling with a woman who encouraged her to stay in that marriage. She later became attracted to that woman, and she and the woman entered into a relationship. She and Alisa Scott (the counselor) have been in a relationship for eight years. So the woman who was encouraging her to stay in her relationship with her husband began dating her almost immediately? Heterosexual or homosexual, this appears unethical.
4. Sheryl does not understand selfless love. Love remains simply an emotion for her. Her statement near the end of her marriage: "You know what, I don't want to save my marriage. I don't. I'm done with it." She acknowledged that this announcement probably hurts her mother. And while she claims she would never, ever do anything to hurt her mom, she goes ahead and makes the announcement. She acknowledges that her announcement may make it harder for the WNBA, but she goes ahead and makes her announcement. Her explanation: "To me, the most important thing is happiness." Will that answer heal the pain when others leave her? Will she understand when someone abandons her because they just want to be happy? Any love is destined to fail when it is centered on self.
5. Sheryl doesn't understand Christianity. "I am a Christian, and my biggest dilemma is when people start throwing in the whole religion thing: you're going to hell for this or that. I think that's the hardest thing for my mom to deal with, too. She's into the Bible and church, and I'm concerned about how she's going to deal with her church friends." Perhaps I'm reading into things, but she seems to identify herself as a Christian, but then sees her mom as one who is into the Bible and church. Shouldn't any Christian be into the Bible and church? Of course, just before this, she makes the grand statement about people shouldn't judge one another, but she leaves no room for God to judge. She does not acknowledge that God determines right and wrong, but instead, leaves it up to the individual.
6. Being gay does not define you. Says Sheryl: "Being gay has nothing to do with the three gold medals or the three MVPs or the four championships I've won. I'm still the same person. I'm still Sheryl." I would agree. However, I would also say that three MVPs and four championships don't define you either. Somehow she is ok with the WNBA marketing her as a gay athlete (she encouraged them to do so in her interview) and has accepted deals from gay sponsors like Olivia, however, she does not want to be defined by it. It think it's important that we don't forget that this is just as sinful as Magic Johnson confessing he's unfaithfulness to his wife. This is just as bad as Kobe being unfaithful to his wife. This is just as bad as Michael Jordan having an affair during his playing career. It's just as bad as my lust. It is not just her homosexuality that leads to hell (as it appears some have confronted her with), but the fact that she is a sinner that leads to hell.

I would hope that in the midst of Sheryl's fame, success and money, that someone will get the chance to share with her that none of us need to be defined by our sin. That though I have grieved God and war against Him, through the cross of Christ, He sees His Perfect Child when He looks down at me. I wish I had a chance to share with Swoopes that much of her thoughts do not add up, not soley due to the lesbian issue, but because she is looking through sin cursed eyes. She said she came out because she wants to feel free. I pray that when she discovers that feeling of freedom has once again alluded her, that someone is there to share with her the truth that can set her free.

Existentialism is Dead...(Or Why You Shouldn't Care About What I Have to Say.)

Though the average Christian probably does not claim to be an existentialist, much of it's teaching falls into the church. How many times have you heard questions like, "What does this passage mean to you?" Has a person ever responded to you with, "Well, that may be, but I don't define the word that way?" Now it may be tricky to figure out the author's original intent, and there are obviously multiple applications for God's Word, a proper understanding of verbal, plenary inspiration requires we believe the words used were the words intended. And that the definition of the word at the time of it's original usage, must be the author's desired definition.

We live in a society that claims words don't matter, but they are rather inconsistent about it. Try screaming "Fire" in the middle of a movie theatre. Or perhaps more incendiary, try blurting out racial epithets in a mixed audience. In both situations, you can claim that nothing was meant, but people are still going to get upset. We, as believers, should be even more concerned about words. Jesus sure was (Matthew 15:15-20).

Existentialism is dead. For one, it killed itself.

The very process of explaining existentialism requires words. If, in the process to explain that words only have the meaning I choose to attach to them, I must use words, and therefore you and I must agree on the definition of said words, I have only been able to communicate if existentialism is not true. Furthermore, if I choose to believe that existentialism means that every word has a specific meaning outside of the person using the word, the existentialist must concede that my definition is proper for me, if he is to be consistent. Take meaning away from words, and we can not communicate.

Existentialism is dead. More importantly, Jesus shows it is so.

As just one example, look at Matthew 16:13-17. Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" At first, the existentialist gets excited, thinking, "Aha, Jesus is about to define Himself by the perspective of others." The disciples go on to explain that there are several different options. Jesus follows with, "But who do you say that I am?" Two things to notice here. One, Jesus begins the question with the word "but." He is implying that the other answers were wanting. In essence, He's saying, "Ok, that's there opinion, but I'm looking for more." This is also obvious by the fact that in the first question He refers to Himself as the "Son of Man" and the second question makes it obvious that He considers Himself to be the Son of Man. Peter's answer, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"

But Jesus didn't really care about Peter's response. Take a look, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." Peter didn't speak anything into being. Jesus didn't become the Messiah because Peter thought He was so. In fact, Jesus didn't become Peter's Messiah simply because Peter declared it to be so. Jesus IS the Messiah and God has declared that to be the case. That's what really mattered to Jesus. Even if God had not revealed it to Peter, Jesus still would have been so.

In a society where words are defined as I want them, and something can have a meaning for you and a meaning for me, it is imperative that we let them know existentialism is terribly flawed. Jesus does not call for us to come to what we think He may be. He calls us to come to Him. We have to gently, lovingly explain to a person that their opinion doesn't really matter. It doesn't change a thing. They must see that they have to come to God, in the way He requires, as He has determined. We don't make the rules, and we don't define the rules.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

SFL--Week 7

Haiku Week

In honor of my fantasy basketball draft, and to keep this post shorter, I'm busting out haikus to summerize Week 7. I'll list the score, the "Big Matchup", and then post the haiku...

Fighting Amish 59.29
Bee Stings 99.92
Big Matchup: Trent Dilfer (-5.74), Mark Brunell (24.64)

Stings beat the Amish,
Ho Hum, just like other teams,
It's tough to be best.

Terrell's Sharpies 62.22
Attack of the Llamas 46.54
Big Matchup: Curtis Martin (12.1), Deuce McAllister (0)

Sharpies beat Llamas,
Martin's good, but not the key,
Deuce on the I.R.

the Great Danes 70.55
the REAL finch 102.66
Big Matchup: Tatum Bell (5.05), Stephen Jackson (22.2)

Ganger loses game,
Cami continues in luck,
Stings will end her luck.

Deaf Pears 109.48
Goodasgoldfinches 133.32
Big Matchup: Priest Holmes (20.6), Lamont Jordan (32.5)

Todd almost lost game,
Luck continues in form of:
Big Lamont surprise.

Derek's Derelicts 92.62
Bradshaw's Bloggers 150.05
Big Matchup: Tiki Barber (14.5), Lamont Jordan (32.5)

One hundred fifty,
from now on, simply call J
Jason Jugernaut

AJ's Wildcats 71.44
100% Cotton 85.94
Big Matchup: Terry Glenn (2.55), Wes Welker (16.92)

Cotton is quite soft,
Like all in Finch family,
Who is Wes Welker?

Galloping Greyhounds 66.71
the Great Dawgs 84.57
Big Matchup: Joey Graham (1), Jose Cortez (-2)

Greyhounds on big slide,
Lost to team with cut kicker,
What happened to Gregg?

Graceful Gorillas 99.76
Jones' Cyclones 90.96
Big Matchup: Chicago D (11), Buffalo D (-1)

Jones had the offense,
But Bills D got kicked around,
Monty's streak alive!

The Standings:

7-0 aka "Still living off of squeaking by Danny"

6-1 aka "Preying on the weak"
the REAL finch
100% Cotton

5-2 aka "Wildcats not quite in same class as other two"
Bee Stings
Bradshaw's Bloggers
AJ's Wildcats

4-3 aka "Doggy paddling over .500"
Terrell's Sharpies

3-4 aka "In the dog house"
Galloping Greyhounds
the Great Dawgs

2-5 aka "Traffic jam of mediocracy"
Deaf Pears
Great Danes
Jones' Cyclones
Graceful Gorillas
Derek's Derelicts

1-6 aka "At least Kory is trying to do this in Indiana"
Fighting Amish
Attack of the Llamas

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cycle of Purity

We gauge a child's maturity by whether they begin to think like an adult. There are the obvious avenues, such as cognitive function, abstract thought, and capacity for conceptualization. But often the standard is much more simple, and much more base.

We also seem to gauge a child's maturity by their loss of innocence. Are they naive about things (especially pertaining to sexuality)? Well, then they must still just be a child. I recently took my daughter to a "G" rated movie, and couldn't help but feel like the producers of the film wanted me to have awkward conversations with my daughter afterwards. We float enough innuendo and entendre out there that hopefully the child will begin to ask us about sex. We're conditioned to think that the first grader who really knows where babies come from is further developed and has an advantage from others who aren't even wondering such issues. We're in a hurry to grow our kids up and think evidence of that is by their knowlege and attitude about sex.

Field Research. Take this hypothesis to a mall. Scan through the clothing items intended for preteen girls. Not only will you find clothing that is immodest, but you will also find much of it is designed to make the child look older than they are. Beyond the design features, several of them have suggestive comments on them. Of clothing I've seen targeted to a preteen audience, I've seen the following slogans lately: "Nymphomaniac," "Playboy Bunny," "Flirt" and on a boy "Your parents warned you about boys like me." Just what are we trying to tell these children?

Society has changed the context of sex. It is no longer reserved for two people who have committed themselves to each other for life before their Creator. It has now become an animalistic expression of passion to be reserved for those who truly care about each other (best case scenario). Therefore, we view sex as a defining point of human maturity. If little Johnny desires sex, knows about sex and talks about sex, then Little Johnny is really growing up.

Here's the irony. A dishonoring approach to sex is often a flare that signals issues of immaturity in a person's life. Is a woman consumed with attracting sexual attention to herself? That probably means she has some real growth areas to work on. Is a man sleeping with anyone he can? It certainly shows he has to learn some things about commitment and selflessness. Is a person constantly taking discussions to levels that become about sex? The person ought to develop their mind a little further and find some new things to talk about.

As I posted previously, I am grieved by memories of many conversations I have had in the past. But I have grown up. (I do not write that last sentence to say that I have "arrived" or that I never fall to the flesh and say inappropriate things. But I will say that I at least spot when it happens, and God has granted me much victory in this area.) I spent much of my early adult (late teen) life thinking my sex-centered comments were evidence that I was not a child. I now realize they were evidence that I still was.

Is it possible that we can teach our children a God-pleasing innocence (not ignorance) and thus help them mature beyond our society? Can we keep our culture around us from dragging our children down and stunting their growth. I look forward to the day that my son knows all he needs to know about sex and yet is also mature enough to know he doesn't need to utter a word about it to prove his maturity. Then I can delight that he is growing up.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Real World Series

Is it just me, or does the "World Series of Poker" seem to be a year round thing. By definition, shouldn't a series have a beginning and an end? Therefore, I will only acknowledge the real World Series.

Since my predictions were way off last time, I'm going to steer clear of that approach again. The team I had winning it all is still in (Houston), but I severely underestimated the White Sox. Therefore, I will only give my top 10 thoughts about the October Classic.

10. Can we have Lou Pinella in the broadcast booth for every game? He was so awful it was entertaining. It was great hearing managerial insights such as "My mother used to call me after games and questions my decisions," or "That pitching change (3 innings ago) is really paying off for the Angles" and my favoite "That's a good looking kid" (after yet another Joe Crede homerun.) I have lately thought that Joe Buck has slipped a bit, but now I wonder if he's just rubbed shoulders with too many guys like this.
9. Is anyone surprised Tony La Russa ISN'T in the World Series? I just don't understand the reputation of La Russa. Maybe it all goes back to the 90 World Series. There's no way that A's team should have been swept. He has to take some of the blame for that, right?
8. I have no idea what I think of Ozzie Guillen. Seriously, was the guy necessary in the last series? Did he do anything? Is that the sign of a great manager or does this mean the Sox could be in trouble if it comes down to strategy and not just talent?
7. AJ Pierzynski Should we just assume that this series will be full of controversy since he is playing? I can't figure out what I think about this guy. On one hand, I've heard he's a hot-head who can be bad for a locker room. On the other hand, the guy seems to make up for a lack of athleticism with sheer grit and hustle. You have to admire that.
6. I'm confused, when did David Wells begin playing outfeild for the Cardinals. Larry Walker was great in his day, but once you start looking like "Boomer" that probably indicates you should consider eliminating some stress. A career change is probably a good move.
5. There is no five. It's back, Wailer!
4. The Beard This is one of the weirdest baseball traditions, and there's a ton of weird ones. Once late October rolls around, I feel like I'm watching hockey players on a baseball feild. Of course, it's not as ridiculous as Jake Plummer's mustache.
3. There's just something about Juan Uribe. I can't put my finger on what it is, he just doesn't seem to have the typical shortstop look. I stare at the TV everytime the ball is hit his way, hoping to finally figure out what doesn't seem right.
2. Hey, Hey, Hey, Phat Albert has left the building. I do miss the fact the Pujols won't be in this series. Last night I told my wife, "Honey, look, that may be the greatest baseball player of our generation." As he grounded out to second, she seemed to be unimpressed. But I'm serious. Do we appreciate how great this guy is?
1. When he's good, he's very very good, when he's bad...well I'm not sure what I'd be thinking if I'm a White Sox player standing in the batter box with Roger Clemmons on the mound. Is this the day we should just call it quits, pack it up and save our energy for the next game? Or, sweet, it's batting practice! It will be interesting to see which Roger shows up. Traditionally, it seems he'll stink in game one, but then dominate later, either as a starter or in emergency relief.

Racism and the NBA

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why I Love/Hate This Weekend

This weekend, I trek off for the annual Fantasy Basketball Draft. I always begin the countdown about 51 weeks before it comes. I count down with eager anticipation. I count down with equal dread.

1a. Time away from family is hard. I love my wife and kids (understatement of the year). It's not fun to let a night go by without kissing each of them before they go to sleep. I also feel bad when my amazing wife is left to chase 3 kids around on her own. There's no one I'd rather spend time with than the "Wright Clan," and I also feel guilt that I should be helping my wife over the weekend.
1b. It is nice to get away. I get to find out that my three year old is acting like...well, a three year old from other dads. I get to brag about my family a little (that's always fun.) I get to goof around and play xbox and forget the issues of: "how is the church? how high will natural gas go this winter? how bad have I messed up as a dad?" for just a brief spell. It is a refreshing time away.
2a. Too much to do in Winona. There are approximately 847 people I'd like to see in Winona Lake this weekend. Of course, I won't even be there for 24 hours. I leave wishing to have some significant time to find out how students I know are doing. I'd love to catch up with some faculty. And I know I should take advantage of doing some networking in the fellowship. I leave feeling terribly frustrated.
2b. There's not much to do in Winona. I don't want to fill my time solid with "appointments." Could I really enjoy meeting with a person if I just have to quit talking after an hour to meet someone else? Do I really want to need my day timer on a weekend that is supposed to be a break? But when you find a moment of rest, and there's not much to do, you find yourself feeling guilty that it's not filled with something more productive.
3a. I enjoyed college. I had a blast and made a lot of great friendships. It will be fun to see all those people and being back on campus allows you to reminisce about days gone by.
3b. I HATE who I was in college. This is reason I dread it most. Seriously. I was a self-righteous, arrogant, foul mouth. I wasn't hurling the seven words George Carlin explained can't be used on television, but my speech was far from the standard found in Ephesians 4:29. God has severely convicted me about this over the years. It really hurts when guys remind me of old things I used to say (not to hurt me, but because they thought they were funny) or begin to have conversations I used to have. I grieve to know how vile my heart was. Of course, like Isaiah, it's good to say, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips," for then the healing comes.
4a. Too much frivolous conversation. I didn't drive all the way to Winona Lake to hear about favorite TV shows. I don't just want an update on where guys are working, how old the kids are, etc.
4b. Too many deep conversations. I also know that not everyone wants to discuss theology or philosophy. I also know that any time a person starts telling me who they are, and not just what's going on in life, it's going to take time...and it probably means others will feel left out.
5a. I'm excited about a keeper league. I've pushed for this for about 6 years, and finally, I get to come to the draft knowing I have two players for sure. It's so much more fun to make the staples of your team all-stars rather than role players you hope no one else will draft. I also love the weighted draft. Even when things are difficult (see next subpoint), this feels more like being a real GM, and is more fun.
5b. My team is doomed. My first keeper (Amare) just went down for four months (minimum) for a knee problem no one knew he had. My second keeper made a bid for Finals MVP (Ginobili), only to have the Spurs load up the backcourt with more players (VanExel, Finley) who will eat into his playing time. Odds were in my favor to come away with the sixth pick of the first round. I have the 9th. Followed by the 12th pick (of 13) in the second round. And I will be stuck with much of this team for the whole year!

If you think about it, pray for me this weekend.

As you can see from the distorted nature of this post, if you think about it, pray for everyone who will be stuck around me this weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Caribouyah: Where Every Vote Counts

Thank you to those of you who showed compassion for my son.

Mom and I did come to a compromise. The mullet is out, but the "cute curls" (He's going to hate hearing about that when he's 15) stayed.

Unfortunately, this picture suggests that our actions may have been too late.

SFL--Week 6

Wheat and Chaff Week

This is the week that teams finally have started separating themselves from each other. And one conference, MAY be showing it's not as weak as we thought.


Sharpies 80.61
Bee Stings 114.19

Wright proved this week that he can handle an opponent, even if he doesn't face him head on. "I still have no idea who Stephen Sharp is," Wright stated. "For all I know, it's an alias for Ty Finch. As easy as this team was to beat, I would think maybe it was Ty." Of course, Shawn Alexander (35.7) continued his run toward season MVP as he beat Corey Dillon (0) like a rented mule.

Great Danes 87.77
Attack of the Llamas 45.38

Dane came out with an entire lineup this week, and tore into the Llamas. His Buffalo defense (14) completely man-handled the Llama's New England defense (-2). Jordan is left to scramble to figure out how to get this Llama's groove back.

Deaf Pears 89.7
the REAL finch 108.86

Cami has been getting lucky during games this season. However, this week she just got lucky with scheduling. "Luck had nothing to do with it," barked CJ, "the Pears just aren't very good. He had LT (33.83) confused for a while, as he had his entire team singing "I've found my home in Indiana." However, once I reminded Dominic Davis (13.4) that this is week 6 and he should have been injured by now...Davis pretty well shut it down then."

The Fighting Amish 69.2
Goodasgoldfinches 122.27

A team will follow its quarterback, and Finch definitely won this battle. Though Kerry Collins (4.64) wasn't overly impressive, he was much better than Trent Dilfer (-3.66). Dilfer explained his dismal performance, "I was a little confused earlier this season. I thought I was a Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Browns before. But then someone explained to me that though the Ravens organization is the closest things the Browns have experienced to winning a Super Bowl, technically that wasn't with a Cleveland organization. I reviewed my Browns history this week, and found that this week's performance is much more in line with Cleveland tradition."


AJ's Wildcats 110.09
Bradshaw's Bloggers 108.48

In a battle of two of the few teams that actually employ apostrophes, Bradshaw may have had the Edge, but Lachat came out with the win. Some complain that a game should never come down to kickers (Lindell--6, Vanderjact--0), but Chris reminds us again, "Hey, this is call FOOTball."

Galloping Greyhounds 91.66
Ty's Tyrants 99.2

Remember when we used to fear Gregg's lineup. Willis McGahee (20.75) wasn't intimidated to face off with Corey Dillon (0 points). Someone needs to remind Dillon he is no longer with the Bengals. "Next week someone can remind him," stated Ty, alluding to the fact he got lucky once again.

Graceful Gorillas 76.08
The Great Dawgs 76.07

Don't let the score fool you, this game was a close one. In the end, defense wins championships and Monty's Panther defense (20) outpaced Dick's Steeler defense (8). Monty stated, "It was nice to finally get that first win behind us. I hope today's victory can translate into another victory. Of course, we can't play the Dawgs every week, so we'll just have to see."

Derek's Derelicts 61.36
Jones' Cyclones 104.55

Jones' team has kicked it into high gear. Only one win out of a secured playoff position, Jones has really put his foot down. Steve Smith (14.28) went toe-to-toe with Chris Chambers (4.95) and helped gain the victory. "We'll boot any off this team who won't go toe-to-toe and kick their opponent. I mean it. I'm putting my foot down."


6-0 aka "Beginners Luck"

5-1 aka "Obviously Beatable"
the REAL finch
ty's tyrants
AJ's Wildcats

4-2 aka "Quite Possibly the Best Teams Ever Assembled"
Bee Stings
Bradshaw's Bloggers

3-3 aka "the 500 club"
Terrell's Sharpies
Galloping Greyhounds

2-4 aka "Home of the Fishers"
Deaf Pears
Great Danes
The Great Dawgs
Jones' Cyclones
Derek's Derelicts

1-5 aka "Probably Could Beat Any Finch Team On the Right Week"
The Fighting Amish
Attack of the Llamas
Graceful Gorillas

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Please Help My Son

I'm not sure if it's to celebrate the return of hockey, or if Zeke is mocking my childhood, but my boy has decided to grow a full- blown mullet.

Not a bashful one either. We're talking the kind of mullet that would make the "Nasty Boys" from the 1990 Reds jealous.

Unfortunately, my wife finds the curls cute, and just can't bring herself to get the kid a decent haircut.

If you have any compassion whatsoever, please vote in the comment section. A yes vote means, "Yes please, give your kid a fighting chance in life. Cut that thing." A "no" vote means, "I delight in the demise of our youth! Keep the mullet."

My son is too young to care for himself. He's defenseless. Please help him get some respect back.

You must identify yourself for your vote to count!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Molehills to Die On

We should be willing to die for the preservation of the gospel. It is a mountain I should be willing to die on. If I would sacrifice my life to maintain the purity of the gospel, that means I should also be willing to sacrifice my family, my friends and any other relationships. I should be willing to be banished to an island by myself before I would recant the genuine gospel message.

I don't have a problem with that. In a weird sort of way, I sometimes long for that. There have been a few times that I have encountered strong resistance (nothing yet that I would dare call persecution, however) for the sake of the gospel message. It's actually energized me. I've found myself excited, yet calmed by the Holy Spirit as I've faced those situations. Though I would feel bad for my family, should I not be here to provide for them (though the Lord can do much better than I), I can think of no greater way to leave this globe than defending the gospel to your death. (Revelation 2:10). As a father, I can also think of nothing greater, than for your children to know you died defending that message. I hear about the mountains to die on and my personality lends itself toward looking for a helmet to put on and advance the army, rather than hide in the bunker and hope that day never comes.

My problem isn't whether I would die defending the mountain of the gospel message. My problem is figuring out whether I would die on a hill that really isn't worth giving your life. I love doctrine. Doctrine is the discovery of Who God is. It's not intended to be "cold hard intellectual facts" but rather learning more about the One Who deeply loves you. Because of this passion, I know I can get overly aggresive. I also tend to think about the implications of certain doctrines, and they then make me nervous. I want to celebrate differences theologically (as each are a reminder that we are finite and can't fully fathom an infinite God) but want to fight for that which God has clearly revealed. I worry that at times I may see a small, insignificant mound of dirt on which I am ready to plant my flag, set up post, and defend that mound to the death.

Here's some areas I struggle to know whether it is a mountain, or a molehill:

1. Evolution. Despite the fact that accepting the theory of evolution causes one to do exegetical gymastics that weren't intended, it becomes a mountain to me in regards to salvation. Soteriology is at stake when death is a process for progress and not the product of sin. If death did not enter the world through one man, did justification really enter the world through the One Man (Romans 5:18)? To some, it's just a pointless debate over Genesis. For me, it becomes a debate about whether God really desires to deliever us from death. Is that taking it too far?
2. Praying through saints. This topic seems to be coming up much more than I expected. Some argue to me that it is no big deal; that it's just asking a dead person to pray on your behalf. It's no different than when we take prayer requests and urge the Body to pray for one another. However, the practice was not introduced with this intent. The practice of praying to saints began through the idea that those saints acheived extraordinary righteousness. The belief is that God requires a certain level of devotion from all of us. Those that are deemed saints went above and beyond God's call for devotion. Therefore, when you pray to a saint, you are basically asking them to apply some of their extra righteousness to you and your situation. You are basically asking them to go before God on your behalf, reminding God that He needs to listen to them, because they have some extra righteousness they attained through works on earth. Once that is explained to a person, how can they just respond, "Well, that's not what I mean when I do it?" Isn't that participation in a practice that is anti-Biblical? Isn't this concept rancid with self-attained righteousness? These are the questions that run through my mind.
3. Losing Salvation. This one has grown for me, so I move forward with caution. I used to argue this is entirely semantical, and that the difference wasn't a big deal. However, now it's grown in me to the point that I ask, "If it is merely semantics, why wouldn't a person change their termonology to be more accurate theologically?" How does a person read Romans 8 and believe salvation can be lost? How can you claim it is grace alone, and that no sin can keep you from being forgiven, but then say that sin could cease you from being forgiven? How does a person reconcile this view with Ephesians 1:13-14, that the Holy Spirit is our earnest payment, guaranteeing that we have eternal life? I know very wonderful people who I truly believe are saved that hold to this view, so I ask these questions with hesitation. However, I find myself wanting to fight to defend the preservation of the saints because I fear the implications of the other view.
4. New Perspective of Paul. If you have no idea what that phase means, follow this link. It's the first article on the page. The link within the article is an mp3 you should download and listen to. To some, this is merely a discussion of 1st century Judaism. However, to me, I think it's extremely scary when you begin to diminish the message of imputed righteousness in Romans and Galatians. Though I know this isn't the case always, I find myself assuming that a "New Perspective Person" has thown the baby out with the bathwater, making Jesus' death more about culture than about a substituionary atonement. Then I find myself wondering if anyone even cares.
5. Openness Theology Those that hold to the view that God does not know all that is going to happen in the future. That He is still sovereign, and has millions of different possible plans, but that He's not sure which path man will chose to go down. Some say this is no big deal, it's just an attempt to reconcile man's will with God's sovereignty. To me, it is abandoning God's soveignty and elevating man's will. I don't understand how this view accepts prophecies about the Messiah (for God wasn't controlling the outcome, was He) or how it deals with the gospel message being established BEFORE the foundation of the earth. To me, a God Who is not totally sovereign is no god at all.

This is not the exhaustive list. What is one to do with these thoughts? I am such a messed up man. I find myself vacilating between fighting over every undulation or giving up too much ground for fear I am fighting over too much. Now you know how to pray for me!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

SFL--Week 5

The Week of the Goose Egg

Not giving their fans all that they've paid for, many owners seem to have lost interest in following their team. Some speculate that it is the busy fall schedule. Others claim it is that NBA preseason begins this week. But mostly, it appears, owners believe the season is over already. "Danny's probably locked up the championship," said an owner who wished to remain anonymous. "It's just not as fun playing for second place."


Great Danes 63.10
Bee Stings 132.47

Many owners' feelings of defeat were justified this weekend when Danny rattled off a league leading 132.47. After the game, Wright credited most of his players with a job well done, saying, "It's hard to say one player is the MVP when they all played so well, but I was especially pleased to see Antonio Gates (10.05) totally embarrass Tony Gonzalez (0).

Deaf Pears 70.66
Attack of the Llamas 48.09

Zach walks away with a victory in round one of the "fisher cup." After the game, Zach stated, "McNair (27.05) gets all the props in this game. He was "kruckeberg!" Wondering what "kruckeberg" meant, Jordan explained, "for some reason, ever since August, Zach keeps driving down Kruckeberg Road weeping." Jordan, however, was the one weeping this weekend, when Donovan McNabb was only able to rattle off 1.72 points.

Goodasgoldfinches 123.20
the REAL finch 88.88

The lucky breaks for the Finch household had to end for someone this week. Todd catches a break when Vick's (0 points-dnp) injury limits CJ to 88 points. Todd may have survived another week with old man McNair (27.05) but he has to wonder at what time this run is going to end.

Fighting Amish 87.49
Terrell's Sharpies 99.44

A strange set of events appeared to play into the Sharpies getting above .500 for the first time this season. Down by just 2 at half time, Coach Kory gave the symbol to trot out Viniatieri (1 point) for a field goal. However, Puckett's recently broken collarbone limited him to only raising one hand in the air. Apparently, some overly sensitive Shaprie fans thought Pucketts was signaling to Hitler. Things got ugly as fans through items on the field and began jeering the Amish. "We just weren't the same after that," Kory bemoaned, "I need a twinkie."

Speaking of Twinkies, let's turn our attention to the RED CONFERENCE

Galloping Greyhounds 76.31
Bradshaws Bloggers 76.88

Two of the powerhouse teams of this conference squared off in a much anticipated matchup. Fans were not disappointed as they witnessed one of the closest games of all time. Bradshaw, who has by far been the most concerned in the league about not showing his cards too early, really got after Keenan McCardell to keep the game close. "Keenan's the leading receiver in the league," Bradshaw explained, "but I told him I didn't need him to do that this week. This week I needed him to do just enough to counter Hines Ward's (5.35) points. With .45 points, Keenan did just that."

Graceful Gorillas 79.60
Ty's Tyrants 114.27

"I really thought 79 points would be enough to win in this conference," Monty Stump complained. "That's why I went ahead and started Gonzalez (0 points)." While he is right that 79 points would win a lot in the Red Conference, he underestimated the damage Alge Crumpler (12.15) could do.

Jones Cyclones 123.72
Great Dawgs 71.97

Andrew Jones rattles off the second best score of the week to secure his first win of the season. Said Jones, when asked about his team's new enthusiasm, "My guys just needed a swift kick to get them going." No word on whether that was a Bulgarian Toad Kick or a Dangling Participle kick. Whatever it was, it got Stephen Jackson's (17.55) attention as he out performed Deuce McAllister (6).

Derek's Derelicts 59.82
AJ's Wildcats 105.39

Continuing a very bizarre week, Gus Frerotte wins team MVP this week with 13.92. While the Wildcat media acknowledged this is the first time in history that Frerotte has won an award for positive accomlishment, it also has something to do with the fact that he was paired up against Kurt Warner (0 points).

Season Standings

5-0 aka Is the Finch Dynasty begininng to crumble?

4-1 aka I hope they haven't peaked too soon
the REAL finch
ty's tyrants
Bradshaw's Bloggers
AJ's Wildcats

3-2 aka If you're not scared of these teams, something's wrong
Bee Stings
Terrell's Sharpies
Galloping Greyhounds

2-3 aka Dick or Zach would probably jump at this record for the Browns or Pack
Deaf Pears
Great Dawgs
Derek's Derelicts

1-4 aka Asking to play Monty next week
Fighting Amish
Attack of the Llamas
Great Dawgs
Jones Cyclones

0-5 aka Can't we have a bye week?
Graceful Gorillas

Monday, October 10, 2005

Book Review

Hard to Believe by John MacArthur

Ouch. It's been a really long time since I've done a book review. Yes, this is the first book I've finished since July. I started one book that just became tedious to finish about half-way through (perhaps some day, I'll finish it and let you know) and little Kari coming right when we entered the "Grace Anatomy" series really put a crunch on my reading time.

I humbly confess that I used to dislike John MacArthur. I found him to be a legalist and too narrow in his approach. I also got so frustrated with "MacArthurites" who seemed to trust however he interpreted a passage like little lemmings. But I kept finding myself exposed to his ministry and couldn't escape the fact that he exegetes a passage as well as anyone, and is faithful to the passage, even if the results are unpopular.

If I ever meet MacArthur, I hope he'll understand I've matured, and I would owe him an apology.

While chapter one is entitled "Tastes Great, Less Filling," this book is hardly intended for pop culture. Rather, MacArthur lays out that the seeker sensitive gospel just prepares people for disappointment. MacArthur takes us through statement after statement (though this book does not address all of them) by Jesus about how being His disciple is hard.

I highly recommend this book to anyone. For those of us in ministry, I think we would all have to confess that there are times we worry about how the audience will respond (by the grace of God, however, hopefully we don't let it dictate what we say). This book will serve as encouragement to continue to be faithful to the Word, even if the results aren't applauded by the world. Even if you are not in the ministry, this is a great book to read to make sure you aren't presenting a diluted down gospel to co-workers and friends. Sadly, it's important for you to read to make sure your pastor isn't preaching "Christianity Lite" to the congregation.

MacArthur does a much better job of saying what I tried to say. If our gospel message is popular with the world, we are pulling off something that Christ Himself wasn't able to accomplish.

In the end, trusting Christ that "narrow is the road" that leads to salvation actually heightens grace. Grace is not cheaper, but rather more wonderful, when I acknowledge that my own works are not acts of righteousness. Any other thought but grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, is truly relying on my own works. Any thought of "legalism" I once attributed to MacArthur was due to my own misunderstanding of that word (as I believe much of Christianity misunderstands and misuses). The narrow message, is actually that of grace. But salvation is not found without repentance, submission and trust in Christ (As MacArthur shows the Bible teaches). Faith is not something cheap that comes by simply raising your hand, or signing a card. MacArthur even covers the issue of "What happens to people groups who die without hearing the name of Jesus?" in one of his last chapters.

Thoughts about MacArthur: Did you know he was a decorated collegiate athlete? Granted, I've never read any of his other works, and really haven't listened to him that much, but I just pictured him stuck in a library, never having anything to do with sports. I now realize he'd probably be a pretty fun guy to sit next to at a game, if he brought even a tenth of the passion for the Word to rooting for a team. That passion is also seen at one point when he states that he sometimes prays the imprecatory psalms about certain individuals that distort the gospel. While I share his absolute aversion to this (as does God) I think statements like that in print may be what gives him a bit of a bad rap.

In the end, I'd call this one a "9-point Caribou." I'm looking forward to reading more of his work sometime.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

He's at it again!

Can you imagine having a job where your performance was unrelated to your job security?

This guy can.

America's Past Pastime

First off, let me just say that I'm not nearly the baseball fan that I used to be. Part of it may have happened when my team signed Alex Rodriguez for more than the GDP of Chile. Part of the disinterest may have come from the fact that the Rangers are still paying part of his salary so he can be the best player on the Yankees. But in reality, I think it's just an issue of exposure. Charity and I are one of the 36 people still in the country that do not have a dish or cable. If you are counting on standard TV to keep you posted on baseball, you are out of the loop. Memo to Bud Selig (who is probably second only to Isiah Thomas in the "Most Incompent Person In Sports Award"): Get games on regular TV before the playoffs and not just while people are watching college football on other stations!

That said, I'm thankful the baseball's postseason. a) The drama is incredible. b) It gives me a chance to post on something other than Rick Warren for a while. (Blast! See you people. You've ruined me. I can't even post about baseball without his name coming up!)

Without further ado...here are my picks. (Warning: Do not go to Vegas with these picks. Wisdom would say to go Vegas with the opposite).

Red Sox over White Sox 3-1
While I do think the White Sox have the pitching edge, they just don't have the big game experience. This team is totally backing their way into the playoffs...I actually found myself hoping the would fall out of the race (and I hate all Cleveland teams!). However, something tells me that Boston was coasting through the season. I think Schilling is at the point in his career where he realizes his body can't handle giving 110% all season. I think he'll really step it up in the post season.

Saint Louis over San Diego 3-1
The Cardinals remind me of the San Antonio Spurs before Ginobili. Dominating, but BORING team. Seriously, Pujols may be one of the greatest players of the century, and no one even cares. But San Diego is just aweful. They were only ONE game from finishing with a .500 record. This is basically a bye round for the Cards, but I think San Diego will eek out one win, since St Louis hasn't played a meaningful game since May 3rd.

Angels over Yankees 3-2
If I'm Bud Selig (which again, I'm glad I'm not) I tell the Angels that if they want to change their name to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the United States of America in the Norther Hemisphere of the Third Planet of the Milky Way Galaxy" (or whatever their real name is now) that their entire name must appear on their uniforms. Imagine watching Bartolo Colon pitch in a jersey that has 10 point font written all over the front of it. I have to admit this is more an emotional pick for me. a) I hate the Yankees. b) My brother-in-law, Kenneth, loves the Yankees...making their dimise all the sweeter. c) The Yankees will blame Buck Showalter all off season if they lose to the Angels in a close series...which would make me feel like the Rangers won something this year!

Astros over Braves 3-2
I think this could be the best series of the entire playoffs. Leo Mazzone should go into the Hall of Fame right now. Say whatever you want about Bobby Cox, but the real reason this team wins every year is Leo. The dude turned John Burkett into a 15 game winner years ago! If I'm filing out his resume for the Hall, that's the only thing I'm putting on it. It should make him a first ballet HOFer right there. That said, he's not coaching the likes of Pettite, Clemmons or Oswalt. How do you beat that trio in a five game series? You don't.

Angels over Red Sox 4-2
Call me silly, but I think the Red Sox will be bummed to face the Angels instead of the Yankees, and will come out flat. I also think the Angels are a more rounded team, and will beat the Sox in every aspect.

Astros over Cardinals 4-3
I don't know why, I just don't think the Cards have got it this year. I think Clemmons throws the pitching rubber at Pujols, claiming he thought it was the ball, despite the fact that he had to dig it out of the mound with his own fingers, and will totally get in the Cards heads. I can't say what it is, but something about the Cardinals pitching staff does not make me rest easy. I know it should. But it doesn't.

Astros over Angels 4-1
In what will be one of those "who cares" series, the Astros will finish off the Angels, who find their tank pretty empty. This game is all about who's hot and who's not, and right now, the 'Stos are the hottest in the league. I also predict there will be a grand total of 437 people who will watch all 5 games. Unfortunately, baseball markets itself toward the big market east coast teams. When none of them find themselves in the series, baseball is left without a big draw.

(I'm so glad I'm putting this on cyberspace where my mistakes will be able to be picked apart!)

SFL--Week 4

Week 4 comes to a close with one powerhouse losing, and two showing they are certainly vunerable. The results for the conference that more than likely will represent the Super Bowl Champ...


Deaf Pears 95.08
Bee Stings 115.27

Coach Wright was glad to walk away with the win, but was quite complimentary about the Pears. "Zach's team played pretty well," said Wright, "I mean, for having the least amount of points in our entire conference, he made it a game for a little while." Most media would beg to differ; stating that most of the Pears points came in "garbage time." Zach's Pears played pretty decent defense (Cincinnatti--14 points) but were not match for Wright's Atlanta Defense (20 points). Wright humbly said, "I'm not sure our defense is that good, or it was just that we got to go up against Daunte Culpepper!"

Goodasgoldfinches 102.32
Attack of the Llamas 89.05

Brett Favre (35.46) bailed the Yellow Birdies out as Donovan McNabb (31.73) just couldn't match his point total. Scouts are beginning to question whether the canaries are as strong as their 4-0 record may seem. Said one scout, who wished to remain unnamed, "As long as they keep riding Favre's back, it could become a bumpy ride." Some other owners even wonder if Todd's win this week was due to a distracted competitor. "The whole week I'm trying to work with my team, and my brother keeps bugging me about maple syrup," Jordan Fisher explains. "Not just any maple syrup either. He says it has to come from the "Maple City" (Goshen Indiana). I told him to bug off. I've got a team to coach and roof to tear off. Next week, I'll have more focus."

Fighting Amish 95.31
the REAL finch 96.35

It appears another Finch may be the recipient of good fortune more than shrewd coaching. CJ just squeaks by the Amish with nothing more than the kicking game. When Shawn Graham (4 points) out kicks Adam Vinatieri (-1 points) you know it's a weird week. The Amish however, announced a plan to upgrade Vinatieri's kicking game. "We're going to tell him that there are only 3 seconds left in the game every time he goes out to kick," Kory explained. "That way he's sure to nail it. It should be easy to do too. We had the electricity disconnected from our scoreboard last month."

Terrell's Sharpies 98.86
Great Danes 87.18

The Sharpies have bounced back from an 0-2 start to bring themselves back up to .500. Jake Delhomme (15.77) outperformed the Danes second string quarterback by 15.77 points. It appears the Danes were toying with a new offense, choosing not to start a second quarterback. Rumor is, the Danes were so worried about a quarterback controversy that they decided to bench their second quarterback.

And in the RED CONFERENCE (aka NFC aka wannabe's)

Bradshaw's Bloggers 105.14
Graceful Gorillas 90.59

From Week One, the Bloggers have continued to improve each week. The defense looked crisp (Atlanta--20) as the offense picked apart Stumps defense (Carolina--2). If the Bloggers are scoring 105.14 points in Week 4, and they are doing all they can to avoid peaking early, does that mean they will score 347 points in the first round of the playoffs?

Jones Cyclones 92.01
Fabulous Underpants 121.98

Kicking was the story in this game. Up by only 15 points, the Underpants were given a break as the referees called back a Cyclone interception returned for a touchdown. Replays showed the referees call was questionable at best. Jones, having enough of the biased officiating decided to take matters into his own hands...or should we say feet? Jones ran into the middle of the field and busted out a "Rusted-Chevette-Sleeping-Turtle Kick" on the head official. With no one sure what to do with the situation, the officials decided to award the Underpants 15 penalty kicks. Neal Rackers nailed 14/15 (securing 14 points for the week) as David Akers never made a kick for the Cyclones. The league is investigating whether Jones will suffer further consequence. Rumor is, even if there are consequences, no one wants to be the one to have to tell him.

Derek's Derelicts 97.18
Great Dawgs 125.22

Right now, the Dawgs and the NY Giants are looking like geniuses for signing Plaxico Burress (24.20). But commissioner Danny Wright just wants to remind Mr. Fisher that the Steelers front office does not make mistakes. "Plax is a head case." Wright torted. "He's just teasing Dick. As soon as it's playoff time, he'll do something stupid and cost Dick a chance at the ring." Obviously, Derek must have agreed, feeling that he didn't even need to start a wide receiver opposite of Plax. No one is sure what the Gangers are doing, sitting a player a week, but the extra rest they are giving their players could prove valuable at the end of the season.

AJ's Wildcats 73.04
Galloping Greyhounds 60.98

If you were told at the beginning of the week that Gregg's team would have 60.98 points, you probably would have asked, "Which of his players had 60.98 points?" But Chris jumped on the fact that the Hounds were overlooking him and had the surpise victory of the season. His Tampa Bay defense (9 points) embarrassed Gregg's Viking defense (-2 points) which obviously wasn't ready to play. With Gregg's diminished point total, owners were also left to ask, "Can dogs gallop anyway?"

League Standings

4-0 aka "If you've got to be good or lucky, we'll take lucky"
the REAL finch

3-1 aka "In the B league, we've beat up on the other guys"
Galloping Greyhounds
Bradshaws Bloggers
Fabulous Underpants
AJ's Wildcats

2-2 aka "Clearly some of the scariest teams in the league"
Bee Stings
Terrell's Sharpies
Great Dawgs
Derek's Derelicts

1-3 aka "Not too early to prepare for next year's draft"
Attack of the Llamas
Fighting Amish
Great Danes
Deaf Pears

0-4 aka "Hey, they have to play each other eventually"
Graceful Gorillas
Jones Cyclones

Monday, October 03, 2005

Considering Audience

Ok, I hope this is my last post regarding anything to do with PDL for quite a while. I don't like the book, but I never intended this site to become the "Anti-Warren Fan Club."

However, I do worry about some misunderstandings of my comments and would like to elaborate.

I hate the phrase: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." in evangelism.

Now, as you are choking on your keyboard, startled that you read that, allow me to say what I do agree with in that statement.

God love you. I agree. There is not a single person on the planet this statement does not deem true for. God demonstrated that love in a way that none of us comes close to doing. He sent His Son to die for our sins because He loves us so much. We can't be good enough before we come to Him, so obviously, this means He loves us even at our most godless, depraved state.

I also believe God has a wonderful plan in store for all who will come to Him. As a loving Father, why wouldn't He give us the best? As a all powerful God, who could keep Him from doing so? As the Omniscient One, what could surprise Him to keep Him from giving me His best. Certainly, if our own sinful fathers know how to give us good gifts, how much more the Heavenly Father?

Now you're confused. You're wondering what in the world I could have against the statement. Well, let's quit thinking like us, the evangelist, and start thinking like the lost person we are sharing with.

God loves you. What does this mean to them? Well, to most it comes as no real surprise. Why wouldn't God love them? They believe they are deserving of love. In our post-Christian society, people do not see themselves as alienated from God. If they do see themselves as alienated, they believe this was the action of God, not their own. In fact, the very statement "God loves you" that we intend to show them is expressed in the crucifixion gets distorted to, "Since God loves me, He won't let my little white lie keep me out of heaven." The crucifixion becomes unnecessary to them.

God has a wonderful plan for your life. Martyrdom. Death. Disease. Loss of job. Loss of a loved one. Alienation from your family. These are not the things a person thinks of when they hear a wonderful plan is in store for their life. Instead, they think new car, new job, better marriage (or better, new spouse!), and anything else some of the folks on TBN will promise. The wonderful plan is their wonderful plan...not God's.

You see, there's nothing wrong with the statement, provided it's understood in the way you intended it. But it rarely is. Then, when reality comes, the person feels like the victim of a "bait and switch." Fifty years ago, people knew about sin. They understood that there is absolute truth. They could acknowledge that God sets the rules. Today, we don't live in that society.

So what is one to do? I suggest we follow the evangelism pattern we find throughout Scripture. Consider the pattern in I Corinthians 15:3-4, when Paul establishes what the gospel message is:

Christ died--Paul begins with the most violent event in all of human history. That the Messiah, the Chosen One of God would be hung on a cross to suffer an excruciating death. Why? Couldn't God stop this from happening? What kind of God kills His own Son?
For our sin--After exposing the justice, wrath, and holiness of God (for those explain the harsh penalty) Paul explains the motive. My sin was the reason Christ died. I placed Him on the cross. My penalty was the one that had to be paid. I'm guilty, but I'm loved. And God has made a payment for me, if I will accept it.
And was buried--Literal death. Verified by a tomb He was placed in. Nothing figurative here. He truly died.
He rose again!--As Paul says in the chapter, had He not risen, our faith is worthless. Christ has authority over sin and death. He can offer us eternal life because He is life. Victory is His, and He invites us to enjoy it.
Three days later--This was prophesied about by Christ Himself. This plan should not surprise anyone, for it's just the way Jesus said it would be.
and appeared to many--Not a fable here. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses.

You see, there is nothing wrong with saying that God loves the sinner. That is a totally true statement. But when we come out of the gate saying that, or only establish that...we often miss what the person needs to hear. The average person hears that God can give them purpose, and they think, "Great, I can look to God to add real meaning to what I'm doing in life." That's not the perspective that saves.

As I said earlier, America is a different place now. We need to rethink the way we present the gospel. We are now a post-Christian nation and most people are unacquainted with the concepts of sin, judgment, repentance. But we aren't living in anything new. Our society just reflects the way the world looked at the time of the apostles. If you check, you'll see they most often started with the problem of sin, then moved to the solution of Christ.

I never want anyone to think they are beyond God's love. But I also don't want anyone to reason that because God loves them that they don't need Christ's atoning sacrifice.

Does Warren explain the gospel message? A couple of times (vaguely). But the majority of his time is not spent dealing with our sin, as enemies of God, being paid for ONLY through the redemptive work of Christ, efficient only for the person who repents of their sin and places their complete trust in Jesus Christ. To me, the book skims over the "negative stuff" we need as a a foundation before God's love is even comprehendable. It races on to His love and a better plan for your life, without ever establishing the exclusive nature of the complete love being received. That's why the world can read it, like it, feel like they learned from it, but never truly turn to Jesus from it.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hate It or Repent

Well, the post about Purpose Driven Meth certainly seemed to get some conversation starting. I've gotten heat from people before about posting controversial things, or about being too opinionated on this blog. I hope you understand that I fully acknowledge that I will stand before God and hear, "You got it wrong," on more than a couple things. I think we all will. That shouldn't make me complacent...I should study like mad, striving to be a workman who needs not be ashamed.

All that to say I'd like to throw another can of gas into the middle of the fire. Please hear me, this is not to be divisive or nitpicky. This blog can really be a test of my rationale at times. I have a thought. I throw it out. You get to engage with it and tell me if I'm missing the boat.

The title "Hate It or Repent" has to do with the "Purpose Driven Life." Now, at first, you may be thinking I'm asking you to hate the book or repent of your views that allow you to like the book. While that would be a tempting perspective for me, that's not my intent.

Instead, my question is, "If this book faithfully presents the gospel message of Christ, shouldn't the reaction of the non-believer be to either hate the book or to repent of their sins and call out to God?" Just follow my train of thought for a second. This book has been wildly popular. A New York Times Bestseller. That means a lot of people that are lost are reading this book. They are reading the book, and then telling someone else to read it as well. Are they repenting of their sins?

If the book is being read by the hoards, and people aren't hating it, shouldn't our society look different. Though a fictional book, Charles Sheldon had it right in "In His Steps." If people genuinely turn to Christ, and this has a viral effect in their community (so more and more people are getting saved) the entire community will begin to look different. How different does a person appear to be pre and post reading PDL? How different is our society?

"That's an unfair question!" you may pose. "How many people are different from reading Scripture? We have Bibles everywhere, but our world is still falling apart." True. We have Bibles everywhere, and the world is still falling apart. But I would argue that the only genuine change made in a person's life has come from the Word of God being applied to their hearts. Heck, not just me...but the Word actually says that.

Let's run a different litmist test: Who hates the book? I've yet to hear a secular man claim the book is too exclusive. I haven't heard any non-believer feel uncomfortable about the way Warren presents humanity. I've certainly never heard anyone claim that Warren is narrow minded or extreme. Why is this? Doesn't Scripture say that the gospel message will be an offense? If he is clearly mapping out that man is completely incapable of coming to God on his own...that man must realize his helpless state and repent of his sin...that I must come to God only by faith...that Christ alone is the only way to have a relationship with God...that any other attempt, whether apart from the gospel or blended into the gospel message is strictly idolatry...why isn't the world frustrated?

Now I'm not saying everyone has to be ticked. Hopefully, as the gospel is preached, some hearts do repent. But shouldn't the response of the world be to either hate the book (calling it narrowminded, exclusivist and repelled by a God who requires death for sin) or they should fall to their knees, confess their sin, and trust Christ alone as their means of redemption.

"What's the biggie?" you may ask. "So Warren's book is just kind of gospel neutral," you may be thinking. "It has to make people angry to be any good?" Well, Jesus said we're to expect to be hated. Isn't it just possible that Warren's book is vague enough that the believer can read it, and read into it all kinds of Biblical beliefs. At the same time, it's cloudy nature allows the unregenerate man to read the book and see his own life and views of God in it as well. That's not Warren's fault is it? Shoot, Warren may not have even intended the book to be read by non-believers.

And that's the big issue to me. I'll be honest, the way Warren handles the Word of God should embarrass anyone who is a student of the Word (has anyone heard of context?). Yes, I agree with David Nilsen, it was quite disjointed as well. But no messanger should ever assume the gospel message to their audience. I don't care if you are speaking at a pastor's convention. Scripture says the road to salvation is narrow and few find it. Therefore, I have to believe that any audience I have is filled with people who think they are headed to heaven but haven't truly understood the gospel message. (Read Matthew 7 some time. If that doesn't keep you up at night praying for the people attending your church, I don't know what will.) The gospel should be so clearly presented that a person hears it, believes it, and calls out to God, or the person rejects it (Romans 10). And this rejection does not usually appear in the form of recommending the book to someone else.

Nothing is gospel neutral. If it's vague, a person reads it and adapts their own views to what they've read. They close the book and believe they are saved (though they haven't come to God as He requires). The close their eyes that night with a false security about a relationship with God that does not exist. That's not neutral. That means we've helped confuse them.

I think too many people assume that if you don't like PDL you think Warren is the Antichrist. I'm not saying that at all. I believe Warren may be a believer. I don't believe Warren intentionally wrote a book that would allow people to make poor assumptions about the gospel message. I just don't believe he was clear enough. I believe his book may have helped steer some to the gospel found in Scripture. But I don't believe this book is nearly specific enough on the issues of salvation to be a banner flown over the Christian church.

I'm not saying we need to be abbrasive...the cross will offend on its own. But consider the following history lesson: Abel was despised for his righteous offering to God. Noah was ridiculed for his devotion to God. The prophets were killed for their proclamation of the Word of God. Jesus was crucified. Apostles were persecuted. Church fathers were tried and killed. Martyrs are still being made. But I'm to believe that in 21st century America this message will be wildly popular?

So now, tell me what you think. Hate this post? See the point? Somewhere in between?