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Archive for June, 2007


“If we do not strike at the first risings of sin, we are going to end up going places and doing things that we never thought we would.”  Wayne and Joshua Mack, A Fight to the Death

If we do not kill sin, it will kill us (John Owen) for sinful desires war against us.  They lie, promising us life, but only deliver fleeting pleasures before we taste the dust of death.

I guess I see this process taking place in the life of pro wrestler Chris Benoit.  If you asked him, even last week, “do you see yourself murdering your wife, putting your finishing move on your 7-year old son until he dies and then committing suicide?” he’d laugh at the absurdity of it all.  But he went somewhere he thought he never would.

The details of this sad story are more than bizarre.  They did find anabolic steroids in the home.  He may have been involved in the Albany County, NY case concerning steroids.  He and his wife considered their son small for his age and needle marks indicate they may have given him steroids.

Steroids offered Benoit the strength necessary to attain fame and fortune.  He was about 1 inch shorter, but 40 pounds (of muscle)  heavier than me.  He was a year younger.  In an earlier court document requesting a divorce, his wife reported his income (2003) as $500,000/year.  He lived in a $900,000 home.  He won the World Championship.

He got what he wanted, and ended up a place he never wanted to be.  He didn’t leave a note, so we don’t know why he did this.  We could speculate (was she divorcing him?  was the story line at the big show going to result in him being marginalized?  paranoid?) but it doesn’t change the fact that he ended up someplace he never wanted to be, doing something he would never dream of doing.  Sin appeals to us- but if we don’t kill it, it will kill us and possibly others in the process.

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As I’ve been looking myself, I’ve seen some good things being done by search committees lately.  I thought I’d pass them on so others can benefit.

1. Set Deadlines for Applications.  This can be adjusted if you get there and discover no suitable candidates.  But one friend of mine was essentially the #1 candidate for a position when at the last moment a denominational connection recommended someone else.  They felt they should honor that recommendation, and he did get the position over my friend.  God’s providence?  Yes, but that does not rule out the possible folly of men.  Get the applications, then process them in a reasonable time frame to see if anyone stands out.  If not, open it up for another round of applications- but make your process known!  Too often churches are juggling 3-5 men who are in various stages of the process, making it clumsy.

2. Ask about character.  One church put together a good, tough application.  They asked about addictions, pornography etc. in addition to skills.  Yes, I think the Bible has something to say about the character of pastors.  Too often we focus on gifts.  As long as search committees remember that pastors are big sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) you can talk about how this person is working to put their sin to death (or not).  Our denominational forms don’t really address character.  Nor do the forms for other denominations I’ve filled out.  They assume that took place prior to ordination (it may or may not have).  But ministry can be overwhelming, and old patterns of sinful escape can re-emerge.  Or new ones can begin.

3. Set Your Boundaries.  Know what theological and cultural issues are hills you congregation will die on.  I’ve seen some strange hills.  One church wanted a post-millenial pastor, but was willing to entertain an optimistic amillennial guy.  If there are any positions held by many in your congregation, find out if they are similar.  I know some churches that almost exclusively homeschool.  Some expect you to send your kids to a classical school.  Sometimes a church can overlook these things, but that can come back to haunt you.  If you are in a denomination, what are some of the big issues?  Find a way to make sure your choice is a good fit for your denomination.

4. Know Your Congregation.  Take some time to get to know the congregation.  What kind of leadership will they respond to?  Rebel against?  Ignore?  What type of teacher do they need?  Are they looking for a “friend” or a “professional” who will maintain a polite distance?  These are important things that will cut off potential conflict in the future.

Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of more in the future.  But I think things like these will help search committees better pursue the future peace, purity and prosperity of the congregation as they search for their next pastor.

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The draft is tomorrow.  Teams are trying to wheel and deal.  They are faking and juking to get an advantage over the competition.  Rumors are flying.  It all comes fast and furious from any number of directions.

But who are you to believe?  It is hard when you have unnamed “league sources”.  You hope the writer trusts them.  If you keep track of that writer’s record you may be able to figure out if their sources are legit or the guy who washes the towel.

With the Celtics this season it is a complicated drama.  Here’s why?

Disappointing Draft Spot.  They hoped they’d at least be in the top 3.  You can be sure, in this draft, that you will get a serious baller in Oden, Durant and Horford.  After that…. there is much greater uncertainty.  Does Yi have the strength and durability to play against guys like Brand, Duncan, Randolph (or Scalabrini who seems to hurt everyone in practice)?  Is Conley tall enough?  Can Green exist outside of the Princeton offense?  Can Brewer put on weight, or is he the next Richard Hamilton except he can play defense?  These guys, and more, have talent but there are question marks.

Seeking an Impact Trade.  Everyone knows you want another great player to complement Pierce.  And they want to make you PAY for it.  McHale wants nothing less than Jefferson- period.  I still don’t like losing Jefferson to get Garnett.  There are rumors about Marion.  But does he fit the Celtics’ system?  He functions best in an uptempo game, which the Celtics have not demonstrated any commitment to playing.  I think they have the pieces to play it.  But seem to lack the force of will.  Jermaine O’Neal?  Over-rated, seriously over-rated.  Gasol seems to be staying put (which means he’ll probably be the only one traded :-)).

Lack of Interest.  Not from GMs, but other players.  No one wants to go to a losing team in a bad weather location.  The Celtics mystique is long gone.  The only people who say they want to play in Boston are guys in the draft.  If they were winning… it would be a different story.  With the salary cap, this makes it hard to pay guys more to come to a place to change it.  You pretty much HAVE to do it with the draft (see Chicago and Toronto).  In football, the lack of guaranteed contracts makes player movement easier, and guys can choose $ over success more often.

The Pierce Factor.  Will he become our version of Kobe and demand a trade if we pick a project like Yi?  Will he demand a trade if we pick another swing man?  Will he at least wait until free agents have signed (to see if Danny can get a good guy- Billups, Lewis, Wallace, Darko) to start whining?  Hey Paul, no one twisted your arm and building a team isn’t easy.  No other GM wants you to win.  You cannot snap your fingers and get a great trade opportunity.  And the salary cap (which Red never really had to contend with) has to make it a logistical nightmare.  Some teams may be asking for the world now in the hopes of getting Pierce on the cheap later. 

Interferring Owners:  On the BS (Bill Simmons) Report interview with Rich Bucher, he noted that there are some GMs that essentially take lots of heat for their owners.  That is their job.  The owners tells them what to do (McHale?).  Good deals for both teams can be squashed by interferring owners.  Good deals can never be looked at because of interfering owners (is Wyc one?).  They really muddy the waters.

So… we don’t know who or what to believe about the next 2 days.  Anything can happen.  I’m not even sure what I want to happen.  I am pretty sure about what I don’t want to happen (O’Neal, Yi, trading Jefferson…).

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I have been meaning to read Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community since it came out last year.  I wish I could have read this about 3 years ago.  But it was not available at the time.  Overall, this is a very good, and important book that most pastors need to read.  Oh, and their elders too.  Pastors don’t have their lay leaders read enough books.  The pastor needs to get these men on board to begin shifting the culture of the local congregation.  I’ll begin with my pet peeves, and then hit some of the highlights.

Annoyances: At times the book was a bit repetative and sometimes abstract.  I don’t have a whole lot of patience for factual errors (“North America is the most diverse nation in the world.”  page 14.  North America is a continent, not a nation.)  The editors missed lots of mistakes in spelling or punctuation.  I guess I expect more- they are professionals.  Perhaps it is my theological heritage, but I’m uncomfortable with calling living people apostles.  I know the Bible uses the term for the office and a role (essentially church planters).  But to use it in a book can be confusing.  Lastly, I’m not sure if they are perhaps a bit too broad in their grasp of orthodoxy.  It was hard to tell, but they seemed a bit too gracious toward some people I would be uncomfortable with.

The Intro: Stetzer and Putman discuss how evangelism and missions are connected.  They lay out their basic premise: “Evangelism is telling people about Jesus; missions involves understanding them before we tell them.”

The Emerging Glocal Context: The main point is that “there are cultural barriers that blind people from understanding the gospel.”  They affirm the spiritual barriers.  But most conservatives underestimate the cultural barriers.  So, one of the tasks of church leaders is to identify those barriers and then remove them.  The problem (which they keep bringing up) is that too many Christians “love their preferences and their strategies more than they love the people whom God has call them to reach.”  This is one of the most important things for church leaders to hear.  Our problem is that we live in fear of the surrounding culture.

(more…)

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I didn’t want to give up Al Jefferson and the #5 pick for Kevin Garnett.  Okay, that thought was loathesome to me.  The idea of getting Jermaine O’Neal instead just about makes me want to slit my wrists.  This is the latest rumor talked about on ESPN’s SportsCenter.  Jefferson and the pick still go to the Wolves, while KG goes to the Lakers while Bynum and Odom would go to Indiana.

I can’t see Danny being that utterly stupid.  Within a year or two, Jefferson will be better than O’Neal.  And cheaper.  And better for longer.

If the Celtics seriously consider this, it has to be as a concession to Pierce who wants veteran help.  But at what cost?  Don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to trade the second best player on the team (who has a bright future) for a marginally better player who takes up tons of cap space and is not going to get any better but will soon get worse.

May God have mercy on me, and grant Ainge some wisdom.

Update: An hour can change lots of things.  The revised rumor has the Celts only giving up the #5 (plus some contracts I’m sure) for O’Neal.  I can live with that, I think.  I’m just looking at a huge lack of salary cap flexibility.

7/30/07  For info on the renewed talks… see how I woke up to a nightmare my nightmare is true.

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(from 1999)

“You see.  Love and a bit with a dog, that’s what they want”.  So were the words of the theater owner to young and struggling Will.  So begins an exploration of what the people really want (the dog really was optional).  What people want is reflected in the relationship between William and Viola.  This movie, like Shakespeare’s plays, is successful because it strikes a cord in our hearts.  We live vicariously through the main characters, wishing we could have what they have, even if we didn’t like the outcome (witness the popularity of Romeo and Juliet, Titanic, Ghost, and City of Angels for starters).           

So, what do people really want?  Passion!  There is a deep longing inside all of us for a passionate relationship.  Will and Viola had passion, let there be no doubt.  Hence the seemingly excessive kissing, as if they are attempting to devour each other.  They cannot get enough of each other, just as we seek to consume a delicious feast after not eating all day.  Both were sufficiently thirsty and hungry for this passionate feast.  They lived in a culture like ours where sex was readily available, but true intimacy was a rare commodity.  Marriages were often for wealth or convenience instead of the soul capturing love enjoyed by our protagonists.           

But was it love?  Is passion sufficient?  Is it the totality of love, or just a great pretender?  Back to the movie.  Viola was engaged to be married to the Duke of Wessex, who needed her father’s money for his new plantation in Virginia.  He wanted to possess her.  He demanded her love instead of welcoming and cultivating it.  He was impatient, but he represented commitment.  We see commitment alone unable to sustain, much less begin, an enjoyable marriage.  He was willing to pay the price for her, but had no passion for her.           

And we see our star crossed lovers representing passion without commitment.  They have neither the option nor the means to commit to one another.  And we see their passion lead them willingly into an illicit affair which is doomed to harm the Duke, themselves and countless others.  Lust, not love, drove Will to steal the “golden apples” promised to another man.  Did this movie really wish to prove that love is passion with commitment?  I don’t know, but I walked away more sure of this truth, and desirous of real love.           

Many of our marriages begin with passion.  We are knowing and being known.  It is exciting, and we devour all we can of the other.  Then commitment enters through the marriage vows.  Passion dies.  Why?  Could it be because we think we have arrived and stop knowing and being known by the other?  Our thirst has been quenched, so we think, but reappears in attraction to others.  Instead of drinking from our own cistern, we remain thirsty or drink from another well (Proverbs 5:15-23).            In marriage we are joined to a mysterious person whose depths we can never explore fully.  We content ourselves with the surface, not willing to work to explore what lies underneath.  Passion disappears leaving us with a shallow, fragile commitment.  But our hearts still long for passion, finding it in the strangest places, like the silver screen.  Perhaps you might want to invest that  2 hours in REALLY getting to know your spouse again.  Drink deep from the well God has provided instead of licking the muddy drops of water from the street.  Rediscover love, passionate commitment to the well-being of another, instead of settling for Hollywood’s tasteless, unsatisfying substitute.

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Review: Blood Diamond


CavWife found Blood Diamond so intense she got a headache.

It is another distressing tale of some of the evil that takes place in Africa.  Like Hotel Rwanda and Black Hawk Down, it also takes place during the Clinton Administration.  And America once again seems impotent in the face of such evil.

There is a civil war in Sierra Leone, and the rebels mine for diamonds to support their efforts.  Those diamonds are purchased by the cartels and sold to the western world.  This is one of those message movies that at times seems to blame the whole bloody mess on us.  But at the end you have to place the blame on those who vied for power at the expense of so many civilians.

In this story 3 lives intertwine.  Leo plays a mercenary looking for the big score so he can get out of Africa before it kills him.  Djimon plays a fisherman who is captured by the rebels and sent to work in the mining rivers.  Just before the government forces arrive he discovers a huge diamond, which could be his family’s ticket out of Africa before they are killed.  They meet in jail.  But Solomon is concerned with his family.  A sketchy deal is made for them to help each other.

Jennifer Connelly plays a reporter wanting to bust the big story on ‘blood diamonds’.  She meets the mercenary with all the names and connections she needs.  Together they set out to get Solomon’s family, retrieve the diamond and blow the lid off the story.  And it becomes a roller coaster ride filled with competing agendas that threaten to destroy their tenuous alliances.

There is lots of action, death, destruction and some gore.  So this is not for the faint-hearted.  And there is plenty of foul language for those with sensitive ears.  But it is a compelling, interesting story, so we gave it two thumbs up.

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