Archive for November, 2006

Made in Japan: Bullpen Help

The Red Sox signed lefty specialist Hideki Okajima to a 2-year contract.  And they didn’t have to bid on his rights why?  I’m confused.

However, Hideki is said to have a very good curve ball, and good control.

He will also provide someone for Diasuke to hang out with and talk, making the cultural adjustment easier.  I think this is more than just a good faith effort.  Hideki is supposed to be a very good pitcher, and will help the bullpen tremendously.

Update: I felt bad for him at the press conference.  Too many questions about Matsuzaka.  This was Hideki’s moment in the sun.  Press corps- let him have it.  This guy is going to move from the other side of the planet to play ball for the Sox- for one day make him feel special for cryin’ out loud.

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The Boston Celtics, with a record of 5-8, lead the Atlantic Division by 1/2 game.

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When Pastors Crack

Most pastors have been there.  There are moments when you want to let the people ‘have it’.  Thankfully, the God of grace reminds you that you are just as much a sinner as they are.  The God of grace reminds you that you are to build them up, not tear them a new one.

But, some guys didn’t get the memo.  This pastor, in what would probably be his last sermon, went on a profanity-laden rant in which he “let them have it“, on Resurrection Day no less.  Be warned- there are no little beeps to cover the ‘cuss words.

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Just Arrived: The Choir

I just got the latest offering from The Choir- O How the Mighty Have Fallen.  I’ve only listened to it one time thus far, but I like it.  It reminds some critics of  Circle Slide (one of my all-time favorite albums).  I’m glad they did not end their careers with Flap Your Wings.  That was not one of their best efforts.  This is an improvement.  It has that etheral sound thing going for it.  It reminds me of Free Flying Soul.  I think this is the first time they have not produced their own album in quite some time (Marc Byrd did).  Marc is now ‘officially’ a member of the band, so it’s the first time in awhile Derri & Steve didn’t produce it.

“When we view ourselves truthfully as FALLEN, we may begin to comprehend and accept divine MERCY.  And in realizing such liberating spiritual redemption, hopefully, we will become less judgmental, and more forgiving of one another.”  Sounds alot like Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church.

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Review: The Island

What a difference 25 years makes.  This idea was first explored in the 1979 B-movie The Clonus Horror.  I remember watching it on The Movie Channel while I was in high school.  Human clones “created” to provide new organs for the original person (a bit different from The Seventh Day where the clones took the place of the now dead person).  This version has lots of special effects, a big budget and some well known actors (Dick Sargent and Peter Graves were the best the original had to offer).

Lincoln Echo-Six is too inquisitive.  The utopia that makes up his life does not make sense to him.  He discovers that he and his friends are being used for ‘spare parts’.  The lottery winners don’t go to the Island, but are killed to provide organs for rich people.  He is discovered, and must find a way out of their supposed utopia before the security forces eliminate them.  They must sort through the lies they’ve been told (the outside world is contaminated, & the only other safe place is the Island).  And so begins the stunt laden extravaganza.

There is much here to exceed the limits of belief.  CavWife was often saying things like, “you’ve got to be kidding me”.  Yes, the action is escapist and over the top.  Yes, I think I’d be a bit more traumatized to discover that my whole flippin’ life was a lie.  I’d be overwhelmed by the reality of ‘real life’ rather than life in Waldon II.  Sex would blow my naive litte mind.  But somehow, they cope and turn the tables on the big, bad scientists.  In this way it covers similar ground as The Seventh Day– are clones human or less than?  Unlike that movie, this one doesn’t bring religion into the picture.  But it does remind us that not every scientist is noble and free from the baser passions like greed.

However, don’t watch this for ethics.  Watch to relax and watch things blow up.  If you don’t expect you much… you’ll enjoy it.

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In chapter 6, Allender tackles the issue of complexity in leadership.  He blows the cover some of us had.  Sometimes confusion “can be a ruse to escape hard but simple decisions.”  Learned helplessness can be a dangerous thing.

Each of us has a past.  And this personal history provides a gird or schema for viewing the world and our circumstances.  “We always predict the future by reading the present from a frame of reference that was established in the past.”  This is why it is some important to be transformed through the renewing of our minds- we need a biblical grid or frame of reference to more accurately read the present and predict that future. 

“Complexity arises when the grids we use to interpret the present seem to be breaking down or when another grid competes for ascendancy.”  This is what makes life change, including conversion, so difficult.  We struggle against seeing with new eyes.  This is particularly difficult in a community.  Competing grids create conflict.  Some want to hang on to old, ineffective (non-biblical) grids.  Some want to embrace new, pragmatic (non-biblical) grids.  True, biblical frameworks for understanding the present will meet with resistance on both ends.

He relates this to hiring and firing practices.  Which grid should have more importance: relationship, redemption or competency?  In part it depends on the situation.  If the person is in the position to develop competency, then redemption is more important.  If they are a senior pastor or primary leader, then competency should be pretty important.  If you have to choose between 2 equally competent people, than relationship becomes more important.

But if we choose relationship despite incompetency, all will suffer.  The on-going incompetence will destroy the relationship.  And eventually the fired person will feel betrayed, even though they never should have had the position in the first place.  Anyway… back to the book.

The present is fraught with ambiguity.  My grid actively shapes how I view the present.  In the comments on racism (the Michael Richards post) you’ll see that one’s past will determine how much or little racism they see.  We will quickly filter out data that does not seem to fit our grid (see evolutionist or global warming debates).  Things look so complex (the environment/climate) that we seek a simple solution (Al Gore) at the expense of wrestling with all the data.  We err toward reductionism.  The complexity of leadership tempts us to err on the side of the status quo or the quick fix.  Both rob us of the opportunity to grow as people and leaders.

The future is beset with uncertainty.  We can’t control it, and we can’t predict what the “right” thing to do is.  Our fear leads us into anticipating a bad outcome.  This sets us up for the danger of dogmatism, or rigidity.

“Dogmatism assures us that we know the answer before we bother to look.  On the surface, this approach seems to make life easier, but it almost always steers us in the wrong direction.”  Dogmatism is the refusal to re-examine your grid.  It is the unwillingness to allow your mind to continually be renewed by God’s Spirit working thru God’s Word.  It says “my way is the only way” (welcome to the worship wars, for instance). 

The tipping point is foolishness.  “A leader must be a fool, and a foot is someone neither bound to convention nor tied to the dictates of the powerful.”  We must be willing to look foolish as we embrace the non-conventional, non-traditional and other-worldly.  If we keep in step with the Spirit, we will most likely look foolish (and feel foolish) to those who pursue life in the flesh from a fleshly perspective (see 1 Corinthians 1-2).

It takes time alone with God, or in restful community, to be creative.  We are usually not creative when we are harried and pressed for time.  It takes time to begin to see with a new pair of eyes.  This also requires faith- that there is underlying order in God’s world and that God has provided a way out of this trial even if it means going through the trial.

Complexity calls forth creativity.  Complexity calls forth risk.  This is why leadership is such a pecarious position.  It calls those who follow out of routines and comfort zones into possible loss.  But a new & better status quo cannot arise if we remain entrenched in the current one.  Rigidity will keep us where we are- often to our death.

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Leading w/a Limp: Crisis!

Not many leaders love a crisis.  Most of us grow nauseous and want to curl up in a ball.  Yet, crisis reveals what we are really about as a leader.  Crisis forces us to make choices- “either to risk and suffer with courage or to crumble under the weight of fear and threatening circumstances.”

Crisis goes far beyond a problem.  Crisis is the possibility of ruin.  Crisis is when an elder lets you know people are gunning for you.  Crisis is when a family member, or church leader, is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Crisis is when a sexual or financial scandal rocks a community.  Sometimes crisis “just happens” (please read Job 1-2).  Often it comes as a result of the choices we made or didn’t make.

This is the type of crisis that Allender addresses in this chapter.  Character, or the lack thereof, is revealed by whether or not the leader accepts a measure of the responsibility or if they just assign blame.  As I’ve worked with crises in other churches, I’ve learned to doubt the guy(s) who don’t admit they’ve done anything wrong.  The one(s) who admits at least some responsibility is more in touch with reality.

I can look back on my time in this congregation and see things I’ve done wrong.  There are situations I did not address aggressively enough, and others I addressed too aggressively.  I can see times with others have made decisions that created the trouble we are in today.  Just about all of us contributed to it.  It was not any one decision that brought us to this place, but a long series of decisions both big and small.  The issues becomes less about who is to blame, but what to do next (see my sermon God Works in a Mysterious Way).


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I was at the gym tonight working off some stress.  While on the eliptical trainer, I had Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Habakkok 1 on my MP3 player.

He was going on at length about how Judah had forsaken God in pursuit of worldly pleasures and wisdom.  He mentioned may examples of that he had run across (circa 2003 I think).  And there on one of the plasma TVs is the Madonna concert on NBC.  At 8 pm.  I guess it was showing at 7 pm in the Central timezone.  Oh, they didn’t have the crucifixion scene.  But plenty of sensuality, hip pumping the pole on a merry-go-round horse, and of course the great messages of songs like “Like a Virgin”.

This follower of a mystical corruption of Judaism has the audacity to quote Jesus while wearing a crown of thorns on her head.  They included everything that led up to the crucifixion.  Worldly wisdom, false religions, sensuality… all on display- the very things that had the prophet crying out to God saying “Do you see THIS?!”

And God sent the Babylonians.  No, we are not the new Israel or a nation in covenant with God.  But as a nation (that largely claims to believe in God) we have forsaken the One, True and living God for worldly wisdom, false religions, sensuality (just get a blog and sort through the spam).  I want to cry out, “Do you see THIS?!” (see the Benny Hinn stuff in particular)

Yes, He does.  Is there a Babylon headed our way?  Will God lay the royal smack down on this nation?  May His kindness lead us to repentance!

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I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with Benny Hinn.  Kind of like how I am simultaneously drawn to and repelled by snakes (no, it isn’t the really bad comb over).  Justin Taylor has some links to (yet another) expose on Benny, this time by Dateline (or just look below).

There is just so much I cannot fathom.  The deceit, the greed, the hypocrisy seem so clear.  Am I missing something, or is it the hordes who shower him with money and more that miss it?  I wonder why Jesus puts up with this, ah, stuff while faithful Christians suffer or can’t find anyone who doesn’t want their ears tickled.

There is a whole group of evangelical superstars about whom this will be said:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7, NIV)

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It would appear that another potential destination for Manny Ramirez has dried up.  Earlier this week the Mets signed Moises Alou, so they don’t need an outfielder.  The Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year deal after re-signing Aramis Ramirez to a big contract too.  That would seem to preclude a trade for Manny. 

Today, the Angels (another rumored destination, or possibility) signed Gary Matthews Jr to a 5-year deal.  Unless they suddenly decide they need another DH, they won’t go after Manny.

With each passing day, the probability of Manny returning to the city that loves him but he has a love-hate relationship increases.

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MVP Mysteries

I’ve been scratching my head over the MVP selections, and the inconsistencies that rage in the choosing.

In the NL, I would have most certainly chosen Albert Pujols.  The Cards slumped greatly while he was out, and before that he was on a pace to break the HR record.  The Cards won the World Series.  I know, the voting is done before that.  But the Cards made the playoffs man!

The winner Ryan Howard is a big homerun hitter on a team that went just about nowhere.  Not in the playoffs, and not the best player in the league, nor the most valuable.  But, in this case, home runs won the race for him.

Now to the AL.  Based on the above, you would think that Big Papi had a big shot at the MVP as he broke the Red Sox home run record and nearly kept them in competition despite having problems with an irregular heartbeat (oh, sympathy didn’t get Pujols anything either).  But Papi was a distant 3rd in the voting.  Morneau and Jeter certainly had excellent seasons.  But how can Jeter be considered an MVP in THAT line-up?

No anger.  Just head scratching, as 2 different set of criteria are used for obstensively the same award.  Hmmm.

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In response to a heckler on a bad night, Michael Richards (aka Kramer) uttered the n-word.  Then the fecal matter hit the fan.  He is being denounced and accused from all sides.

Radio host Glenn Beck makes a great point.  This term is a staple of comedy routines.  He was in a comedy club, doing a comedy routine.  Bad comedy?  YES.  Apparently he said this to someone who was from the SE because the responding word of derision was ‘cracker’.  Been called that, and most people don’t know what it means.  No one cares about the cracker comment (implies just as much hate), just the n-word.

I don’t know him.  He could very well be a racist.  But one comment in a comedy club does not a racist make.  We cannot see his heart.  But we do seem to have a big inconsistency or more going on.

But why do people give such power to words.  The reason the n-word is so offensive is because we allow it to have such power.  I get called a WOP occasionally.  It is a derogatory remark.  I can either let it roll off my back as the word of a small person, or get all bent out of shape and make a huge deal out of it having the very reaction the person who uttered it wanted me to have. 

It is time we stop wrangling about words, and get down to the real issues- racism, the victimization mentality, & the power we give to others to harm us.  It is time to address the inconsistencies the this incident reveals:

Why is such an offensive term ‘funny’?

Why is such an offensive term used so often by the people to whom it refers?

Instead of marking someone as a racist, let’s get busy on the real issues.

Here is Anthony Bradley’s take on Michael Richards’ words and apology.

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Bad Week to be an Iman

Islamic ‘scholars’ in the US are having a rough go of it.  This morning on Fox News they had the story of the 6 Imans from AZ being removed from a flight after a few of them were praying together.  Sorry, but we’ve been told to report suspicious behavior. 

Of course the Muslim spokemen are now claiming they were ‘humiliated’, which is the worst thing you can do to a Muslim apparently.  They have no  problem blowing themselves up (and a few civilians too), but don’t you dare ‘humiliate’ one.

Then the BostonChannel.com is reporting that 2 Boston Imans were arrested for a scam by which they vouched for people to enter the country on religious visas, but they people then took secular work.  Of course, if they were not Muslim this wouldn’t matter.  Ah… so the rule of law only applies to Muslims?

I’m weary of this whole persecution angle taken by American Muslims.  Odd, but you never hear them express outrage for persecution & terrorism committed BY Muslims.  It is hard to take these people seriously (sorta becoming a parody like Al Sharpton- Tawana Brawley (sp?) need I say more).

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Sports Talk Radio Stupidity

The Ohio State – Michigan game was great.  I wanted Michigan to win, but it was still a great game.  It was much hyped, and got incredible ratings.

Since Michigan lost to the #1 team, it did not drop in the BCS (Bull Crap Stupidity) standings.  If they remain there, I think there should be a rematch.  Afterall, isn’t the championship game about having the 2 best teams?

Not according to many a mindless dweeb on STR.  I can’t count how many people I heard make mindless statements.  “You can’t have a rematch.”  Really, where precisely is that in the BCS rules?  Hmmmm.  Oh, it’s not…  “People don’t want to see a rematch.”  I guess they wouldn’t if Michigan had been blown out.  But, a Michigan icon dies the day before the game, they rally back and lose by only 3 while playing in Columbus (one of the hardest places to play if you are not Ohio State).  That’s like saying during the Bird-Magic days, ah, we’ve seen them play in the NBA Finals once.  Those legendary battles made the sport popular again.  That’s like saying no one wants to see the Sox and the Yanks have another playoff series.  Hello, Mr. SportsPundit.  Those are always the most highly watched games.  Did you see the baseball ratings this year?  People want to see a great game- and Ohio State -Michigan will be another great game.  Those are the 2 best teams in the country- let them get to it.

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Oh Yeah, Infant Baptism

Some time ago I began to explain infant baptism from the New Testament.  I wrote about Romans 4 at that time.  Today I want to look at Matthew 28 briefly.  Here is what Jesus told them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and made disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus is giving them their marching orders.  They are His ambassadors.  The main verb is to “make disciples”.  Two participles explain that.  We make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to observe all He has commanded us.

So… which comes first, the baptizing or the teaching?  Does it matter? In other words, are these words in this order for a reason or accidentally?  I have a hard time thinking that Jesus didn’t choose His words carefully (or that the Spirit was careless in the inspiration of Matthew).

Discipleship begins with baptism and continues with teaching them to obey all He commanded.  Baptism comes first.

Most credo-baptists would agree.  “Yes, baptize the adult and teach him to obey.”  But what of our children?  Do we reverse the order and teach them to obey even though they have not yet been baptized?  Or… do we not make disciples of them until such time as they make a profession of faith and THEN baptize and instruct them to obey?

Here are some of the fallacies perpetrated by many of the credo-baptist books I read when I was a credo-baptist.  They fail to distinguish between receiving the sign of the covenant and salvation.  So they often think that all who are baptized are saved.  They fail to see that God commanded Abraham to circumcise people He knew would not be saved.  So, by their reasoning I must believe that my child is saved because I have had her baptized.

No.  We recognize that the sign does not save us.  Nor does the sign mean we are saved (for there have been false professors baptized as adults).  We recognize this in the Old Testament (Genesis 17), and in the New Testament.  Not all disciples are saved.  Not all professing Christians are saved.  The sign of the covenant (as we saw from Romans 4) was not given to show they were saved, but to remind them how they were, or were to be, saved.

Baptism is the first step of disciplemaking.  My daughter was baptized, and we will be teaching her to obey everything Jesus has commanded- including to believe on Him.  Because I don’t believe the word order in this passage is accidental, I believe in infant baptism.

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Dan Allender tells of a very difficult time in the life of Mars Hill.  The resignation of a popular professor caused a big stir on campus.  There was lots of confusion and misunderstanding.  As President, he failed to handle it well- hoping instead that it would go away on its own.

There are days I need to know that other leaders fail.  I feel so ordinary, so unspectacular.  We need to know “no one can enter the tough terrain of leadership and not fail.  But Paul did not hide his failures or defend or rationalize his choices.  He led in a way that required grace to be more real than his competency.”  Our incompetencies are more clear at some times than others.  When things seem to be going well, we seem more competent than we really are.  When they don’t, we seem less competent than we really are.  At least that is my secondary hope (the first being that Jesus has paid the price for my numerous failures).

What Allender is getting at is that leading is not to be separated from the Gospel.  We lead as people needing the Gospel, not as people somehow beyond the Gospel.  Leading is bringing people into contact with the redemption Jesus purchased, by showing them how we both need it and have received it.

We lead people, not into a cozy, secure life but into the wild unknown where God reveals both how great & terrible our sin is and how great & satisfying His grace is.  Real leadership will call people out of their comfort zones- and frankly, I have not found that to be very popular.  Fleshly, counterfeit leadership leaves people in their comfort zones and does not call them to die that they might live.

“A leader must be troubled and discontent, and he must ask the question, How can tomorrow be better than today?”  I guess I’m a leader 🙂  A leader is troubled and discontent enough to step “into the morass of hurt, accusation, and defenses in order to hear and see the real issues.”  I’ve seen lots of troubled and discontent people who aren’t leaders.  They just move on after spending some time criticizing w/out offering any real solutions. 

Leadership is fraught with danger.  On my desk I have written something like this: people court the favor of the priest, rebel against the authority of the king and despise the message of the prophet.  Why? We want peace and safety.  The seduction is to settle for a priestly ministry and be well-liked.  But a leader who exposes where they come short, and what God is calling them to (the prophet) and marshalls them to get there (the king) is in for big trouble.

It is then that we must remember: “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

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Suddenly, Three Straight

The 1-6 Celtics have now reeled off 3 straight to be 4-6.  The beat the Knicks, always a delight from my perspective in a game that saw 113 free throws.  Yes, 113 free throws.  The refs called 69 fouls in a regulation game, and 5 technical fouls just for fun.  Paul Pierce took 22 free throws.  Sounds like an U-G-L-Y game, but we will take it.

Just Tuesday, people were REALLY down on this team, and not without reason.  But they had been real close.  Suddenly, without Al Jefferson & Theo Ratliff, then the Kandi Man getting hurt Wed. they have to resort to small ball and come up with 3 wins.

Ladies & Gentlemen, will the real Celtics please stand up.  Cos though hopeful, I’m confused.

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Gonzo Gone

Free agent Alex Gonzalez, who manned shortstop for the Red Sox last season has signed with the Reds.  Gonzalez’ defense will be missed greatly.  He should have won the Golden Glove this year for another outstanding season defensively.  I think it made up for his lack of offense, but…. it is a matter of opinion.

Julio Lugo, whom the Red Sox are reported to be courting, brings a very good bat, but about twice as many errors as Gonzalez.  What the future holds for this position remains to be seen.

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Justin Childers (Cross-Eyed) came across this in his reading.

“We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ do not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed one at a time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement” (Vol. 15, 8).

Keep in mind, dear readers, that when Spurgeon said this, dispensationalism was an innovative doctrinal position and interpretive method put forth by John Nelson Darby.  Read this through Spurgeon’s eyes and time frame, not the 21st century glasses in which dispensationalism is the dominant theological view in western Christianity.


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Done: Billy Ballgame

I loved watching Bill Mueller play baseball.  Especially with the Red Sox.  Not just because he played for ‘my’ team, but he gave it all day in & day out.  He had some of his best years in Boston and was one of the gritty guys who was the backbone of the ’04 team that broke the Curse.  I still remember the game against Texas when he hit 2 grand slams, one from each side of the plate.  He won a batting title while with the Sox as part of his career year of 2003.

I was sad when they let him go as a free agent.  I knew it was probably a good thing as far as the team was concerned.  But I’d miss watching him.  He went to Red Sox West II, the Dodgers.  He signed a 2-year deal, but season ending knee surgery became career ending knee surgery.  Billy Ballgame, the ultimate professional & hustler, has hung them up to go in the front office.  Sadly, his knees are so bad any high-impact exercise is a thing of the past for him.  Billy Ballgame will go down as an important member of Red Sox history.  Thanks, Bill, we really appreciate it.

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