Archive for December, 2006

Iverson Finds a New Home

In one of the stranger stories this NBA season, the 76ers de-activated leading scorer Allen Iverson until they traded him.  This ended up being, I think, like 2 weeks, during which they failed to win a game.  With Ohio State center Greg Oden as the projected #1 pick, the race is on for superior ineptitude.  It is nearly a repeat of when Duncan was entering the draft.  The Celtics tanked the season under the expert leadership of M.L. Carr.  God laughed, and the Spurs (due to a David Robinson injury) won the lottery though they had a better record. 

David Stern rants and dishes out fines to teams because their players had a fight after a flagrant foul.  But he says nothing about having the 76ers sit a former MVP who scores over 30/game.  I guess the precedent was set with Artest last season.  He was so disruptive that the Pacers sent him home until he was traded.  Was Iverson any more disruptive than usual?  Why did they send him home after missing just another practice (cue the infamous interview: “Practice?  We’re talking about practice.”)

Iverson is sent to the ice and snow of Denver to share the ball with another 30/game scorer in ‘Melo (currently sitting for 15 games for hitting a guy and running away like a 3rd grader).  The Nuggets though, with AI, ‘Melo, Nene etc enter salary cap Hades.  If this line up doesn’t work, they will become the Knicks of the Mountain Time Zone.  And no light on the horizon.

The 76ers have a chance to rebuild into a formidable team in years to come.  They get Andre Miller- a good point guard who’ll be around for awhile.  They really don’t have anyone who can score (Webber?  If his knee holds up) so they’ll continue to stink the rest of the way giving them good odds for Oden.  And they get 2 first round picks from the Nuggets to add some more players in what is shaping up to be a deep draft.  They get Joe Smith, who will make sure they stink this year before his contract ends.

So, Stern doesn’t care if teams tank and players lack the competitive fire.  He does care if your competitive fire means he gets burned and looks bad in the press.  At least that’s how it looks from where I sit.

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Leading w/a Limp: 3 Decisions

Chapter 10 of Dan Allender’s Leading with a Limp is Defining Your Calling: Three Decisions You Make as Chief Sinner.

Allender turns our view of leadership on its head, again.  We think of leaders as people who are daring, courageous, successful etc.  They raise funds, counsel the ‘troops’, shepherd everyone.  They do it all!

Most leaders view themselves as “broken, foolish, reluctant, hungry or disillusion.”  They may have the roles listed above, but this is how they view themselves in those roles.  I am a reluctant fund raiser, a disillusioned shepherd, a broken church planter/restarter.  So, Allender asks us to consider not just what we are to do, but how we do it.

1. Is It True for Me?  “The temptation for all leaders is to encroach on human freedom and take away the suffering of humanity through some form of authoritarian order.”  This was David Stern with gratuitous suspensions and fining the teams for the Knicks-Nuggets brawl.  In his press conference he warned about teams who continue to employ such players (David, you’re familiar with contracts, right?).  The best athletes are highly competitive, and sometimes that overflows in negative directions (the Bird- Dr. J fight).  But castrate them and they won’t be interesting to watch.  For David Stern there are only players, not competitive players or timid players.  Just players.

We have to face up to the adjectives that modify the nouns of leadership.  Some of those adjectives will reveal that we are far from perfect.  Leaders in the Bible were far from perfect.  Moses was reluctant, fearful and exasperated.  Joseph started as proud, but ended up as merciful and compassionate.  David was exuberant in both highs and lows.

Is the Gospel true for you as a leader?  Or do you have to measure up?  The Gospel frees us to be the leaders we really are instead of faking it.  And helps us to allow others to be who they are instead of demanding unrealistic things of them.  I’ve known of senior pastors who expect their assistant pastors to be just like them.  They had to conform to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People instead of recognizing that the other person was relationally gifted and administratively challenged.  There is room for both in leadership!

2. Is it Me?  Do you desire to be a leader?  Or what kind of leadership fits you?  If what you’re doing is ‘you’, you will do it after winning the lotto or inheriting millions.  I can’t think of doing anything else, even though it can often be REALLY frustrating.

“But I also know that God doesn’t break a broken reed or snuff out smoldering flax.  I am a mess, but I am more grateful than I am discouraged, more in awe than confused, so I can carry on another day.”  This is how the Gospel grants hope to limping leaders.  The position of leadership comes by grace & we fulfill the responsibilities of leadership by grace.  We are never sufficient to the task, but rely on Him who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).

3. Is it Now?  There are too many responsibilities for any given point in time.  We have to make choices about the roles we will take today, or this year.  For the past year & a half or so I choose to watch my daughter so my wife could participate in a Bible Study.  This limited my office time & ministry energy.  I know my ‘ministry’ suffered, though I can’t say how.  But my family is better for it.  Hard for us to do that math, so let’s allow God to decide.  I choose to “lead with a limp”.  But choosing to lead with a limp now may cost you a job.  It could have cost me my job.  We have to decide if now is the time to lead with a limp.  Recognize you could deceive yourself.

“Your opportunities to limp in this life are endless, and it pleases God to orchestrate those for his glory.”

I’m not sure if any of this made sense to you.  That would be my fault, not Dan’s, as I look at this chapter thru the mess that is my life.  I keep getting back to that idea: does the Gospel matter?  If it does, you don’t have to have it all together, don’t expect others to, and can be vulnerable about that.

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I’m wrapping up my unusual Advent series called The Cosmic Christmas which focused on Revelation 12 to address the cosmic implications of the Incarnation.  Here are some of the resources I found helpful:

Steve Gregg’s Parallel Commentary on Revelation seen to the left.  It is helpful for summarizing the historicist, preterist, futurist and spiritual viewpoints on the Revelation.  When he gets to Revelation 20, he breaks it into millennial views.

I Saw Heaven Opened by Michael Wilcock from the Bible Speaks Today commentary series published by IVPress.  I really appreciated the opportunity to read some of this, since it had been on my shelf for awhile.  The title comes from the literary device used to begin new visions, or changes of ‘camera angles’ within Revelation.  I really found it a helpful, accessible volume.

The Returning King by Vern Poythress.  I had read this a few years ago.  It is not very long, but Poythress provides a good lay of the land to help you understand the overall flow of Revelation.  He then has a brief commentary.  Particularly helpful is the idea of counterfeits operating in the visions.  In 12-13 a counterfeit Trinity emerges (Dragon, Beast of the Sea & Beast of the Earth) to deceive the masses and persecute God’s people and the counterfeit Church (the harlot) which seeks to seduce God’s people.  As such Revelation provides a summary of Satan’s strategy of deception, persecution & seduction.

But Jesus is Faithful (Reliable) and True (Genuine) as revealed in Revelation 19.  He is the One we are to worship, serve and delight in.  The unholy counterfeits are no match for Him as the Warrior-King.  The emphasis, despite how fearsome the Dragon & beasts are, is that Jesus is greater, …. and good!

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John Armstrong has a post about theologian David Griffin’s book on 9/11 as a government conspiracy.  This book is published by Westminster/John Knox Press which is associated with the PC (USA).  My book on marriage doesn’t seem to be worthy to be published, but a supposedly Christian publisher releases a book that blames the government for 9/11, and advocates a new world-wide government to usher in God’s kingdom.  Yikes!

Apparently Mr. Griffin is turning this into a cottage industry.  In addition to Christian Faith and the Truth about 9/11, he has also written (or co-authored) The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11; 9/11 and the American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out; and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions.  I suspect he’s obsessing on this, but I could be mistaken.

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I was disappointed to see that Wayne Grudem backtracked on his baptismal compromise.  At the time he discussed this in his Systematic Theology, he was in an Evangelical Free Church.  According to Grudem (since I didn’t know this and could be wrong) they accept people baptized as infants into membership without baptizing them again.  They are the only denomination that does this, and he now thinks this is a mistake although the EFC has maintained peace with this compromise.  I do believe that Bethlehem Baptist, where Piper is pastor, does this as well, though such people cannot be in leadership.  The Acts 29 Network also allows some freedom among its churches on this practice.

If you read my other posts on baptism, you can see that I believe the Bible teaches 1st generation Christians to be baptized at conversion (based on profession of faith), and to baptize their children (as Paul discusses Abraham in Romans 4).  Where some go wrong, I think, is in forgetting that Paul’s letters were written to 1st generation Christians who were baptized on profession.  So in 1 Corinthians they all had put on Christ.  But this would not rule out infant baptism for a man who believed the Old Testament Scriptures are useful to train us in righteousness.

In my denomination this is becoming a problem.  In our church plants many families choose not to baptize their children.  So the question becomes… do we put them on church rolls?  Are they considered a part of the visible Church?  Obviously credo-baptists have a difficult time calling them part of the visible church (consistently) if they have not been baptized- the sign of entrance into the community of Jesus.

In our congregation, we do not have unanimity on this issue.  Our standard for membership is that you have been baptized- not when you have been baptized.  We strongly encourage people to baptize their children.  Although I may think they are wrong to not do so, we do not exercise church discipline on them.  We see this as a matter of disagreement among brothers.

I have long wished more groups could see it this way.  My mother-in-law had to be baptized again to join a church in rural NY.  If you have been in upstate NY, you know that there are not many church options.  This church asked her to violate her conscience so she could join and participate fully in the life of the church- instead of remaining a second class citizen.  I think this is horrific.

I think it is horrific that we allow a sacrament meant to unite all Christians to divide Christians who simply disagree on when baptism should be administered.  We all agree it points to more than getting wet- that it is a picture of the gospel, that baptism itself does not save.  I don’t want to violate people’s conscience on a matter that is not essential to their salvation.  And I don’t want mine violated as well (I was baptized as an adult- but I want to be free to baptize my children believing this is what God commands me to do).

This is an issue that will not go away.  It will become all the more important with church plants in relatively unreached areas.  Whose baptism will you accept?  I’ll do my piece on mode of baptism later- which will make most of the debate on that a bunch of meaningless hot air.  Really, brothers & sisters, why are we fighting about this (and I love a good theological debate)?

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He’Brew: The Chosen Beer

A friend (the Great Morgano) dropped off a bottle of brew I’d never heard of before.  It was called He’Brew: the Chosen Beer.  This particular bottle was Messiah Bold, a “rich and robust dark brown ale.”  “It’s the beer you’ve been waiting for.

Sort of a novelty beer, as you could probably guess.  Dark, brown ales are not my favorites.  I’m more of an amber ale, or pale ale kind of guy.  I also prefer lagers.  Some day I’ll list some of my favorite kinds of beer.

But… this was pretty good.  A bit heavy for my taste (though Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout is one fine beer), but still a good drink.  I’d recommend it to my friends, if you happen to run across one.

These guys must have fun.  They don’t take themselves too seriously, as the website will show. 

But they get the point: L’ Chaim!  or to you “goy”- To Life!

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Five in a Row???

I am not sure how the Celtics have done this.  And 4 of the games were road games.  Okay, some of their competition was fairly pathetic.  But they have done this without a true center, and Ryan Gomes missed the last 2 games (against Denver & Charlotte).  Al Jefferson has finally turned into the 20 pt, 10 rebound guy we hoped he’d be last year.  I am thankful…. I was beginning to wonder if I’d completely misread him.  And this opens things up for Pierce, who scored 70+ the last 2 nights.

So, we are back atop the Atlantic Division.  This will be one strange season.  But it is great to see some guys finally start to fulfill their promise/potential.

I am so glad AI isn’t coming to Boston.  BTW: the 76ers asking price has to be plummetting.  They are the ones over the barrel.  At some point the light will go on in Billy King’s head that he’s NOT going to get “fair value” for Iverson and just get it over with.  You’d think he would have learned from Bird & Walsh’s problems getting rid of Artest last year.  When you suspend the guy you essentially lose any chance of being in the driver’s seat.

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