I began re-reading Romans Monday morning. There was a particular verse that stood out to me in light of my busy schedule (though others have busier ones) and an impending Session meeting (and the need for a devotion). It was this:

13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.

Paul had intended to go to Rome. He had great aspirations to do this, but had repeatedly been prevented. He didn’t want to go once, but often. This was an on-going desire that had yet to be fulfilled.

He wanted to go, not for a memorable vacation, but for the purpose of ministry. He wanted to see the gospel make progress among the Romans. There are times, many times, when our great ministry intentions are frustrated. We don’t get all we want to get done, done. Paul was not alone in this. Let us not jump to thinking about that wily Enemy as the great frustrater of our plans. Let’s remember that providence often prevents us from doing what we plan on doing.

All of us, pastors, elders and lay people, have competing elements to our schedules. We have to take care of our selves (sleep, food, hygiene, exercise), our wives and families (if we have one), public & personal ministry (with all the preparation that goes into them). We each have the allotted 24 hour in which to do all of this each day as well as the allotted 7 days a week.

God has made us finite beings with boundaries. While we are often frustrated with our finitude (why do I need that much sleep??) and our boundaries we have to trust that this is good and for our good. This means we will inevitably leave something undone each day, week and month. How can we process or prioritize?

I’m thinking here of ministry. In most instances, I think the public takes priority over the personal ministry. I typically preach, teach SS, lead a community group and periodically lead the men’s study. Each of those responsibilities takes time to prepare. I want to do them well. As a result, I prioritize my preparation time.

I am the pastor of an established church. And a border-line introvert. And may have ADD. Some people might criticize me for “hiding” in my office. But I can’t study in Starbucks in the hopes for evangelism opportunities. I couldn’t even study in the library in seminary. I get too distracted by all that is going on around me. Some guys can do that- and God bless them but I can’t. I have to serve in light of my strengths and weaknesses, not yours.

There are times when that preparation for public ministry takes a back seat. Personal ministry in terms of hospital and death bed visitation gets pushed to the forefront. Or time in court (thankfully rare but it happens for criminal and civil cases). These are examples of personal ministry that can’t be pushed back to a time when there is more time. Some meetings with people are able to be moved around in the ebb and flow of ministry commitments.

Blogging is near the bottom of things. As you might be able to tell by the decline in blogging in recent years. Pastoring a small but growing congregation in the midst of a building project will do that. Working on books for publication are low on the scale because I don’t have hard deadlines. At some point editing may move up to high priority, like it did while on vacation. While connected to my professional, or vocational, responsibilities the church isn’t paying me to write books.

As noted above, at some point I need to take care of myself. I found myself gaining weight. I decided I want to be there for my family and congregation for years to come. Therefore getting exercise is important to me. I have to be careful it doesn’t become idolatrous. I’ve seen too many pastors that seem like Cross Fit might be a bit too important. I want to be healthy, not ready to compete with people 20-30 years younger than me in strenuous athletic activity.

I also need to spend time with my wife and kids. I’m not quite spending the time with my kids that I want to. Some of that is I’m tired when I get home, and some is that they play together.

But this I know, I cannot and will not do everything I want to do. And if I take that passage in Romans 1 seriously, that is okay. It is okay in the life of the church elders, deacons and lay people too. They have to sort that out in light of their callings and resources. But too often we just succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. We don’t necessarily see God at work in our circumstances to accomplish His priorities for us and our ministry. Perhaps that is why we often feel so frazzled. We fail, or refuse, to trust Him to accomplish His plans and agenda instead of our plan and agenda.

I spoke with an old friend today and he asked about the Red Sox. He was not jabbing me, he doesn’t follow other teams very closely. This has been a very bad season for the Red Sox. It was a team built on a lengthy series of “ifs”. Most of these things had to turn out positively if the the Red Sox were to have a good season. Here are some of them.

If Dustin Pedroia regains his stroke and stays healthy, they can be a good team. Dustin did regain his stroke. He was not up to his usual standards defensively, but still better than most second basemen. But he didn’t stay healthy, pulling a hammy he has been on the DL twice. He is close to returning but it won’t really matter.

If Hanley Ramirez can learn to play in left field, they can be a good team. This clearly didn’t happen. His frequent miscues have extended innings and cost them runs, and therefore games. This has been one of their BIG problems.

If Pablo Sandoval can keep his weight down, they can be a good team. This hasn’t happened. He has had conditioning issues running the bases. His defense has been very bad (not quite Hanley Ramirez bad) costing them runs and games. His offense has been fairly pathetic.

If Clay can pitch like early 2013, and stay healthy, they can be a good team. While he struggled early, he returned to dominant form. Until he got hurt, that is. He was the one pitcher who consistently went deep into the games, giving the bullpen a rest. His injury doomed a bullpen that was already in trouble.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. can figure out MLB pitching, they can be a good team. JBJ is an elite defender. Some say he is the best centerfielder they have ever seen. But so far he’s hit well under .200. It has only been in the last 8 days that JBJ has given us any hope that he can hit big League pitching. Too little, too late for this season. but maybe it will pay dividends in the future.

If Xander Bogaerts can improve his defense and hit better, then they can be a good team. These both happened. Xander has been one of the bright spots in this line up. His defense is much improved over last year. His time working out with Pedroia has paid off. After a slump to start the season, Xander has been their best hitter. He still doesn’t exhibit the power we think is there. Perhaps that will come next year, but he is still driving in runs.

If Mike Napoli can sleep his offense may improve and they can be a good team. He’s been getting sleep, but his offense seemed to fall asleep too, except for one weekend that got him offensive player of the week. The abysmal production from first base was a key factor in this lineup not fulfilling its predicted potential. He was hard to hate, but this was an ugly season for Napoli.

If Rusney Castillo can fulfill the promise and stay healthy we saw at the end of last year, they can be a good team. He didn’t, and he didn’t. Part of that, I think, is on Farrell. If guys don’t get consistent playing time the can’t get in a good rhythm. With increased playing time recently, he has begun to produce at the plate. Just when you think he’s going to break out, he fouls a ball off his foot and misses games. He doesn’t need to be the second coming of Mickey Mantle but Dwight Evans will do. We’ll see how he does the rest of the season.

If the new pitchers develop their evident skills, they can be a good team. Miley was an innings eater. Until this year. Though he his much improved and has lowered his ERA, there have been too many short starts which have put the bullpen in disarray. As the season wore on Porcello got worse and worse. He would give up a big inning or two, which resulted in short outings which taxed the bullpen. Joe Kelly couldn’t seem to put any movement on his pitches and was hit hard leading to short outings thereby taxing the bullpen (have you picked up on the theme????).

Eduardo Rodriquez was called up and did well initially. He has struggled lately and needs to make adjustments. Henry Owens has not really impressed in his two starts, but we’ll have to see. Steven Wright, the knuckleballer not the comedian, was just starting to put it together when he was hit in the head during batting practice and went on the concussion list.

The bullpen has chewed up and spit out pitchers. I’ve lost track of the “if they can put it together” guys who didn’t and got DFA’d.

You really can’t build a roster of “ifs”. A few are understandable, but they can’t encompass nearly every player. This is the lesson for Ben Cherington and the gang. Just like you want cost certainty, there needs to be some level of performance certainty. You can’t have too many guys who regularly end up on the DL. You can’t have too many guys at the beginning or end of their careers when production level will be a big mystery. He needs to limit those “ifs” next season. That probably means undoing some of what he did this past offseason. It may mean eating lots of salary so Pablo and Hanley aren’t killing the team. An outfield of JBJ (if his increased production lasts beyond a week or so), Betts and Castillo would be young, talented, strong defensively and better than average production-wise. Brock Holt can have you solid defense at third and hit about .280. He won’t have that corner power bat, but neither does the Panda. Shaw looks like he may be a good fit at first, flashing some power.

All is not lost. There are some good pieces moving forward. But they need to eliminate the liabilities that are killing them. I’m still not sure how to fix the rotation and bullpen.

Yes, we’ve been inundated with information and reports about Deflategate since the day after the AFC Championship game. Many or most people jumped to rapid conclusions, often in accordance with their team loyalties. Patriots’ fans have by and large defended Tom Brady. The rest of the universe seemed to pile on because obviously every Patriot is a cheater. And only Patriots it would seem.

17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him. Proverbs 18

I’ve talked with some people and what is clear is that people’s presuppositions control how they view the evidence.

What is also clear to me is that the NFL has largely controlled the PR/media war on this issue. This is because they had and controlled information (thankfully there is a growing number of sports and legal writers around the country beginning to question the NFL and its narrative). Sadly this has included leaking false information, and knowingly giving the Patriots false information that prejudiced the public and was intended to intimidate the Patriots and Tom Brady. The Commish seems to have forgotten that the Code of Conduct applies to all NFL personnel, including his office. As the recently released e-mails reveal, the General Counsel of the NFL refused to correct information that unduly tarnished the reputation of a member club. As a result this has the feel of Kafka’s existential novel The Trial with Brady cast as the clueless accused man who dies but never knows the charges against him.

This “scandal” never should have gotten to this point. It should have been treated as an equipment violation and a fine in keeping with the rules. Done. It also should have prompted the NFL to improve their procedures (or more truthfully to actually have policies and procedures).  One thing the released testimony reveals is that they, like Brady, really didn’t care much about PSI, and they only selectively care about it now (they didn’t ask any questions of Adrian Rogers).

10 Unequal weights and unequal measures
    are both alike an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 20

Let’s looks at the testimony.


I think generally Brady comes off well. He is consistent in denying any knowledge or intent. The one thing that really doesn’t look good is the phone. Not so much that he had it “destroyed” (which is never really defined). The timing looks bad. The fact that he was able to produce an earlier phone looks bad. BUT, they have the logs of texts and emails from that phone. We don’t have the content, but we would have the corresponding side of the pertinent conversations from Jasremski (a fact seemingly overlooked by just about everyone wanting to string Brady up). Brady was genuinely surprised when he learned of the matter during his weekly interview with WEEI. Yes, he subsequently was in contact with Jastremski. This is for two reasons, as Brady related, which are not as nefarious as the haters want to make them. First, they were going to the Super Bowl! This was the first time that Jastremski had this position when the Patriots have gone to the Super Bowl (he has worked for them for about 12 years in other positions). The Super Bowl is a whole different enchilada. You have to prepare about 100 new balls (because the league wants to auction them off). Additionally, Brady wants to see if he is distracted by the news as they head into the biggest game in years. There is no need to import evil intentions here, unless you are already biased.

Brady did not seem to care about PSI until the Jets game when they were over-inflated by the refs (this is not the scandal you are looking for…). The NFL simply refuses to accept his repeated assertion that after that game he insisted they be at 12.5 in accordance with the rules. They aren’t the only ones as I’ve interacted with people who ignore this in the Wells’ Report as assume this means he REALLY wants them lower (biased much?).

By the way, now some of what Brady feared by giving them the phone and/or records has happened, as it did in the case of Jastremski and McNally. Irrelevant emails have been released that make him look bad. That is the kind of stuff ordinary people have to hide on their phones- snarky comments about others. In this case some comments about Peyton Manning.

Edward Snyder

He is a statistician, not a scientist. He purpose was not to question the science of Exponent, but the process of Exponent. They did have a flawed process in their experiments to attempt to replicate the events to see if the ideal gas law fully explains the deflation of the ball. They did not include time, particularly time back in the officials room. The longer they would be there, the less deflation would be registered (which explains why the Colts’ balls lost less). Since their process was flawed, their findings are not reliable. I think he’s right. This case assumes tampering with the balls, but the deflation seems to be within expectations (depending on the gauge used- more on that in a moment). The NFL has disregarded the truly independent reports that state this and seems to double down on Exponent unwisely and unfairly.

Troy Vincent

Troy’s testimony makes him, and the league office, look utterly incompetent and corrupt. What becomes clear is there was no process in place, period. No pregame recordings and notice of the the gauge used. There was not process for recording the results at halftime, and confusion about gauges. Vincent has NO explanation for why Gardi used incorrect information when contacting the Patriots about the investigation. Not one ball registered at the exceedingly low level mentioned. Kessler had him but didn’t press about whether he saw it and sought to correct it. However, it would seem like such a notice would be given to superiors and Vincent should have gotten a copy. If not, how incompetent are these people? This could explain the Ray Rice tape fiasco (cover-up? Goodell handed in his league owned phone, but not his personal phone in that investigation. Hmmmm.)

In discussing the information conveyed to the Patriots about the Colts’ balls, it is clear that the NFL is quite comfortable with using the results of one gauge to put the Colts in a good light, and the other to put the Patriots in a bad light. That is corruption, people. That is using two different standards. Additionally, they did not take weather conditions into consideration (to be fair the rules as stated make no mention of this reality either).

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20

Vincent also looks bad for basing his recommendations on the Wells’ Report which had been edited by Pash. It was not based on the full testimony of all parties involved. Once again, an improper process on the part of the league officials.

Kessler also brought to light that in the past “integrity of the game” issues were not concerning players but team employees. This would be a change in policy without notice to players. Once again, unfair procedure.

I will give Vincent the benefit of the doubt, that he misunderstood the question about when he became aware of the situation. What many people are thinking about is the memo from the Colts. The Ravens denied any responsibility in warning the Colts about “deflated balls”. Technically they are right. However, their kicking consultant Randy Brown did contact Colts coach Pagano (who used to work for the Ravens) about kicking balls being rotated in properly. They did contact them and about balls. But the Colts’ memo alleges that the Patriots have been known to deflate balls. There is question about how they realized the ball was allegedly deflated. The player who intercepted the pass denies noticing or saying anything. Which means the Colts equipment guy had a gauge and tested it. All questionable, but not addressed. Unfortunately.

The Allegedly Independent Ted Wells

Nash invoked client-attorney privilege when Wells was asked about Pash’s role in the final product. So, was he independent or an attorney hired by the league? Wells then testified he was hired as an attorney with the NFL as his client. Reisner, who represented the league in cross examining Brady, wrote the first draft of the Wells’ Report. Wells and the NFL have therefore consistently misrepresented this.

Kessler gets him to admit that he interprets comments regarding the Jets game and over-inflated balls to refer to deflating. Just how does that work? This is the whole problem- Wells (and those biased people) take these comments in the worst light which is actually contrary to what they actually mean. How can we have reasonable discussions when we do this?

A faithful witness does not lie,
    but a false witness breathes out lies. Proverbs 14

He also takes an email from McNally to Panda where McNally says the balls should have been 13 psi instead of 16 (referring to the Jets game) and then Jastremski and gets Wells to admit they were being truthful. So, where is the scheme? He admits they wanted them within the league-mandated range.

He also admitted there was no data regarding time and temperature. How then, can there be any actual evidence that someone deflated the balls. It is a supposition based on total conjecture that cost the Patriots $1 million and a 1st round pick, and may cost Brady 4 games but certainly cost him his reputation. Nice….

He presents Anderson as utterly trustworthy and reliable. Anderson says he used the logo gauge, but could be mistaken. Okay. That means we can’t be sure which gauge was used. But Wells decides Anderson was mistaken, and goes with the gauge that produced the lower readings. Reasonable, right? No, it isn’t. Perhaps I’m an idiot but I can’t understand the rationale he, and Exponent, used to claim with certainty that the non-Logo gauge was used.

He also admitted that he didn’t find Brady credible because of the phone, a phone he legally didn’t have to provide. (Reminder, Goodell never provided HIS personal phone in the Ray Rice investigation but didn’t consider that refusal to cooperate and actions detrimental to the league.) A phone his counsel advised him not to provide. A phone his union advised him not to provide. A phone which if provided would most likely have meant the release of lots of irrelevant and damaging information. Failing to exercise rights means a lack of credibility. So much for the presumption of innocence. Wells basically rejected everyone’s testimony, even the security guard who said that McNally brought the balls to the field, alone, about half the time (contrary to Mr. Anderson’s claim).

Despite there being leaks, and statements made by league officials that may indicate prejudice, Wells did not investigate anyone but Brady and Patriots’ personnel. No one else’s texts or emails. This despite the request of the Patriots’ organization. A truly independent investigator would have investigated league involvement and missteps in this process. Nothing about what happened after the league received the pre-game report from the Colts complaining about balls.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13

Wells admits that the league didn’t measure the Patriots’ balls after the game to see if there were any changes. This may have shown the deflation was naturally occurring and not “man-made.”

He admits that Gostkowski refused to provide his phone. But that was no big deal since they decided he wasn’t central to the investigation. No accusation of lack of cooperation.

The NFL called 3 different people from Exponent for some highly technical testimony in which they basically say they are the only ones that got the testing right, and it proves natural causes alone are not responsible. They did admit that there were too many variables to replicate in tests. Therefore the results are questionable and there is sufficient doubt, or should be . Goodell focuses, in his judgment on the phone.and suddenly seems to ignore the “science.” The bottom line is that just like global warming or any other scientific question, there are legitimate differences of opinion instead of rock solid veracity.

Jastremski & McNally

Didn’t testify. Not sure why, meaning I can’t recall who didn’t want them testifying. Since their testimony was not present in the Wells’ Report it probably is the league, not the NFLPA.

Mr. Anderson

The full-time dentist and part-time official didn’t testify. As a result there was no opportunity to discover more about normal policies and practices. For instance, do they listen to the ball guy about QB requests within the legal boundaries or not. If I’m the NFLPA I’m calling them. Did the league block this too?

Roger “the Dodger” Goodell

He didn’t testify. But he asked some questions. Some of them sound like he wasn’t really paying attention. The reality is that this makes the Commish look BAD. We get to see how he statements (and other NFL statements) have manipulated and withheld testimony to support judgments. In other words- they lied. Repeatedly. These transcripts reveal that. And they manipulated testimony to make Brady look bad, to look guilty.

If you look at the transcripts you will see that after break Kessler wants transparency. He wants them released. The NFL did NOT want them released in any way, shape or form. Why? Because they can no longer control the flow of information and therefore manipulate the outcome and cover up the pattern of deceit and corruption.

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6

It may not matter. Many people’s minds were won by the fallacious and malicious PR campaign by the NFL. No one looks good in this mess: Brady, the league, Goodell, the Colts and Ravens, Chris Mortensen … Nobody.

I’m not saying this proves Brady didn’t do anything, or that McNally did nothing (he may have acted on the demand of Brady to circumvent officials who ignore the request). But the supposedly “circumstantial” evidence begins to evaporate. There is evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the NFL. Will people ignore that? Will they shift their outrage to the people who we know who did wrong? Probably not. And the sad part is this destroyed a man’s reputation over what may have simply just an act of nature.

I have long been an admirer of John Newton. He has written many letters and hymns that not only address my mind but also my heart. He was not a “speculative” theologian but an practical or pastoral theologian. He is one of my “long distance” mentors- stretching across both time and geography thanks to God’s providential gift of the printing press. While I am surely not the pastor (and Christian) I want to be, I am a better pastor because of John Newton.

Tony Reinke has done people like me a great service with his contribution to Crossway’s series Theologians on the Christian Life. This is the first book I’ve read in the series. It makes me want to read more. But let’s look at Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ.

As Reinke notes at the end, he doesn’t say everything Newton does, nor cover every topic Newton covered. It would therefore be larger than the 4 volume Works of John Newton I also purchased recently.

In about 240 pages, Reinke summarizes Newton’s view of the Christian life and then examines key areas like Christ’s All-Sufficiency, the Daily Discipline of Joy in Jesus, Gospel Simplicity, the Discipline of Trials and so much more.

As the subtitle notes, the focus is on Christ, who as is noted above is All-Sufficient. Our Christian life is lived in union with the all-sufficient Christ. That does not mean he held to a view of Christian perfectionism. Newton made much of the reality of indwelling sin (there is an excellent chapter on the subject here). Too few pastors and theologians address this constant hindrance to our movement towards obedience. It is also the source of a steady stream of temptations. Any book on Christian living that makes little of this reality is fundamentally flawed.

One of Newton’s other contributions is the stages of Christian life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Wise pastors should consider this as they preach and structure discipleship programs. This is one of the chapters in which Keller is mentioned often, as he is nearly as dependent on Newton as he is on Lewis. We need to help people see their own immaturity and what it looks like to become more mature in Christ and how Jesus brings us there.

He includes a very convicting chapter on Seven Christian Blemishes. These are “respectable” sins that hinder our gospel proclamation and witness. He isn’t saying we aren’t Christians, but these attitudes and practices are sub-Christian. They are frequently a turn off to others. For instance, he mentions the one who quarrels about politics (I told you this was convicting). He was not against political involvement for he encouraged Wilberforce to stay in politics to put an end to the slave trade. The problem is people who are in no position to change anything (they are not politicians) and often lack sufficient information. Many people’s never-ending stream of political FB posts would fit here. These are rarely calls to prayer, or to contact your elected officials. This is one reason why some non-Christians are offended by our “politics”- not that we have views but how we express them or when we are ill-informed.

The chapter on the Discipline of Trials is also quite important. Too few pastors really spend time talking about this. We then fail our congregations in preparing them for suffering well, with an eye to Christ above all. It is a lengthy chapter, and really needed to be lengthy. We all experience trials, and unless we have a solid theological understanding of the ways God uses them we will be mired in immaturity and grow bitter against God.

The chapter on Christ-Centered Holiness was frustrating at points. I don’t disagree with what he said. I wish there was more. The focus is on beholding Christ as our Savior as well as our Pattern or Example. This is a very biblical idea (see 2 Cor. 5). Newton also talked about straining toward or agonizing toward holiness. He could have written more on this aspect of the pursuit of holiness.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time. It is much like Newton’s ministry in that it is profoundly focused on Christ. It is filled with quotes from Newton to illustrate his points, many great encouraging quotes. He brings in some others too via quotes. This produces a very encouraging book.

This is not just a book for pastors. Nor is it intended to be. Most Christians would benefit from this book. They will grow in their understanding of the Christian life, and therefore what God is up to in your life and how to grow up in Jesus. These are important things and Newton is a gentle but faithful pointer to Jesus.


I think I could sum it up like this: as goes Mookie Betts, so go the Red Sox.

When he struggled early on, the Red Sox offense pretty much stunk. Even when the pitching was good.

That surge before the All-Star break was led by Mookie Betts and Xander Boegarts. And Brock Holt filling in for Pedroia at second. This is not to put down Pedroia. His offensive production was all for naught prior to his injury.

Out of the All-Star break Mookie & Pedroia were 0-30, Brock sat to give Napoli one last chance to start hitting and the Red Sox scored a total of 4 runs while losing 4 games.

Early on they had problems in the outfield. Hanley was producing, in April and June. Victorino was invisible due to injuries. The most productive and consistent outfielder was utility man Brock Holt. JBJ and Castillo didn’t do much when called up. Some of that was because they were not used consistently. Hanley’s defense has been horrible. He should not be in left field, but the DH is being held down by Big Papi who has hit for power, and that is about it. I suspect the “pace of play” changes messed with his head. And an inconsistent strike zone.

The Big Panda has been a big flop. He has made too many errors that cost the team too many runs. They lead the league in unearned runs scored, and possibly unearned runs allowed. At this point, it was a bad move to sign him. If you get to the playoffs, he’ll probably shine. But right now, I’m holding my nose.

Napoli apparently hits much better w/out any sleep. He has been below the Mendoza Line all season. He had one great weekend, and that has pretty much been it. This is the last year of his contract so if they decide to, say, move Hanley to first they could get a better defender in LF, and some actual production at first. Or they could bring up Nava to play first. Or Craig who is at least hitting for average.

The rotation is in serious disarray. Buchholz was on one of his amazing rolls when the inevitable happened: injury. Miley has been mostly good with some really bad performances that make him look worse than he is. Masterson: train wreck. Kelley: train wreck. Porcello started strong and has fallen into the abyss. Rookie Eduardo Rodriquez has been either dominant or horrendous. Not much in-between.

Koji and Tazawa have been solid in the bull pen but they are about the only ones.

Some of the problem is guys playing unusually bad (Napoli, Ortiz, Sandoval, Porcello), some inconsistent (Ramirez, Miley) and guys out of position.

This is a poorly constructed team. And, yes, a poorly managed team. It is really hard to figure who is really constructing this team. Ben, Larry, Tom, John? There doesn’t seem to be a consistent direction with regard to free agents. They did great setting up the team for 2013. Other than that … horrible. I suspect Ben is doing what they want him to do. They need to develop a philosophy and implement it instead of trying to hit moving targets. A core philosophy that has minor adaptations year to year. They went big on contracts before 2011. Then short contracts brought about 2013. They tried that, with the wrong guys and too many rookies, in 2014. 2015 it was the return of the big splash. Sigh.

Farrell has made some very bad in-game moves, and between game moves. Or maybe he’s being told what to do at times (play Napoli in Anaheim). If there is interference, it needs to stop. If he’s making all these bad moves, he needs to GO.

There are some very good young players on the team. Xander has made some big improvements. He is hitting over .300, driving in some runs, and playing a much improved defense. Mookie plays the game the right way and he makes everyone better when he’s hitting. Brock Holt can play just about anywhere, and has hit over .290. He has desire too- he plays hard.

I’m not sure what should be done. I do know you need a new first baseman. I do know that Ramirez needs to be moved out of left field. I’m not sure how you get this done. I’m not being paid the big money, but the ones who do better figure this thing out, and soon.

Over the last year or so I’ve read a number of commentaries on The Song of Songs. Some of them have been good, and helpful (Gledhill & Longman), and some were not so helpful.

Like Revelation (no “s” at the end) it is very difficult to interpret with the underlying principle making a huge difference. Various commentaries view the Song as a drama (literal interpretation), an allegory, and a collection of love poems seemingly w/out structure.

Tyndale is updating their OT commentary series. This includes presentation or format (context, comment & meaning). I’m not sure I want to see some of those volumes replaced. In the case of the Song of Songs, they just released a new version by Iain Duguid. Based on his previous work, I knew I should get this and read it before teaching the Song in SS this year.

I have one complaint: it is way too short. Of course it is a Tyndale commentary so it will leave you wanting more. Thankfully an expositional commentary by Dr. Duguid will be forthcoming.

I don’t usually enjoy introductions for commentaries. I enjoyed this one, and found it quite helpful. Duguid approaches the song as wisdom literature. This is slightly more complex than it sounds. Throughout the book he notes words and concepts the Song has in common with Proverbs. Part of its message is a contrast with Solomon’s view of love and marriage (hundreds of wives and concubines). He often notes particular poems, but seems to also see them telling a story instead of disconnected poems. In the meaning section he ties it in to our relationship with Christ. He doesn’t do this in allegorical fashion, but by remembering that earthly marriage is intended to point us to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5). Allegory skips over the earthly marriage part.

There were some very helpful comparisons and contrasts. He reveals some of the parallels within the book: thematic and structural.

In the introduction he notes that at times one’s interpretation says more about you than the text. This is in reference to the sexual imagery. Some commentators see nearly everything as a sexual euphemism. Duguid is a bit more reserved. While not denying sexual imagery, he doesn’t find it everywhere like, say, Longman.

This was a very helpful little volume. It is able to be read quickly due to its size. It is hard to find that balance between detailed enough to be very helpful and so detailed it becomes laborious to use. While at times I wished for more, I was not so inundated with data and ideas that I felt lost. I shall now have to go back over my curriculum and update it, possibly changing some of my conclusions. No study of The Song of Songs can be complete without this great little volume. In this case updating the TOTC was a wise choice.

James notes something quite important about the effects of faith:

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1

James is merely applying the message of the Old Covenant to the church. These priorities are there. Protestants have typically focused on the last of these, sanctification. In the 19th century a number of orphanages were built by leading figures like Charles Spurgeon and George Mueller. In recent days we’ve seen the focus on adoption arise, in part because of this verse.

But what about widows? We haven’t focused on that very much which is to our detriment in my opinion. Though I’ve been a pastor since 1998 and a number of congregants have become widows in that time, I surely haven’t cared for them as well as I ought to have. The subject really isn’t talked about much.

Recently our men’s study went through 1 Timothy and we spent a night talking about this. At about the same time one of our members became a widow. There just don’t seem to be any books on caring for widows.

Thankfully Crossway has just released Caring for Widows by Brian Croft and Austin Walker. It is not a very long book, and it is filled with very short chapters. In this way it can quickly help pastors, deacons and ministry leaders know why they should care for widows and provide some practical ways of caring for the widows in your midst.

The first section is written by Austin Walker. Austin focuses on the precepts, principles and examples found in Scripture to communicate that widows should be cared for and how they were cared for. As a result, he focuses on God’s love and concern for widows since they were among the most vulnerable members of society. Jewish law made provision for them (tithing, gleaning, Levirate marriage) so that poverty would not destroy them or tempt them to use sinful means to survive. God demanded justice and compassion for the widows, and if they failed He would hear their cries and bring curses on Israel.

Austin also points us to God’s work to provide for particular widows. There is a chapter on Ruth and Naomi. He also reminds of of the widows that Elijah and Elisha ministered to in miraculous ways to demonstrate God’s loving compassion. Jesus also cared for widows, raising one’s dead son and making sure His own mother would be cared for prior to His death. We also see how the early church provided for widows in the book of Acts.

As noted above, the chapters are short. Walker doesn’t waste much time. There is no fluff there, but he does a fairly thorough job making his point. Any church officer or ministry leader can’t avoid his point: we need to care for the widows that God has placed in our care.

Brian Croft writes the second section of the book which focuses on some particular ways we can and should care for widows. These include the private ministry of the Word, equipping the congregation to come along side them, what it means to visit in various situations (home, hospital and nursing home),writing notes and cards, and celebrating holidays with them.

Their needs are not simply financial. He could have spent a little more time on this, at least in helping churches evaluate which widows need financial assistance or working them through the process of downsizing so they can care for themselves. Ideally, husbands provide for their spouses through savings and life insurance. Here in America, Social Security provides some benefits. But these may be insufficient should health problems arise. The family should care for them, and then the church.

The church needs to show them compassion even if they are not helping them financially. They have emotional, relational and practical needs that used to be met by their husbands which are no longer being met. Particularly if family is not nearby, the church becomes important in meeting these needs. It could be as simple as a deacon coming by to change A/C filters to fixing leaky faucets or other repairs. It is also a ministry of friendship by men acting like sons to her, or younger women acting like daughters.

In terms of visitation, I was a little surprised by how short his hospital visits were. I’ve often found people in the hospital to be quite bored and willing to visit unless they were in great pain or other distress. He is right in that the dynamics change when someone is in the hospital. But whenever we visit it is important to include the ministry of the Word and prayer.

There are also times when a widow’s loneliness is more profound: anniversaries, holidays and birthdays. These are times to send notes and cards reminding them that they are loved by God and you.

He “caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy” (Job 29:13). That should be the aim of the church in ministering the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ to widows. It is not only the ministry the church should undertake, but it is an integral part of that biblical religion which James defined as “pure and undefiled … before God and the Father” (James 1:27).

Taking care of the widows among us does not make for a dynamic program. But it is an important part of church ministry. This little book helps equip us for this important ministry. This is a book pastors, deacons and leaders should read, and implement.


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