Archive for September, 2007

Like it or not, fathers have lots of power in a person’s life.  A father is supposed to reveal the character and nature of God to his children (mothers are too).  As a father lives as a reflection of God’s character, he speaks the truth about who God is to his children.  When he departs from God’s character, he tells lies about God.  And this curses his children.

I’ve known people, and you probably do too, that are driven by a need for their father’s approval.  They never seemed to get it as a child, and now they are consumed with earning it.  So, they pursue success hoping that will gain dad’s attention, and finally make him proud.

Others are just the opposite.  They are driven to surpass their fathers because they are driven by bitterness.  One such person is NL homerun leader and MVP candidate Prince Fielder.  He is the son of Detroit Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder.  Like most fathers, Cecil wants to think he had something with his son’s success (and he did have something to do with it).  But seems to exaggerate that contribution, which endlessly annoys Prince. 

Prince is now the youngest player in Major League history to hit 50 homeruns.  Younger than all-time greats and Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Jimmie “the Beast” Foxx, Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle and the Babe.  What does he want to do?  Hit 52.  Why?

“My dad had 51,” Fielder said. “Then, he can’t say anything.”

Asked about the possibility of winning an MVP award, he said this: “It would be a cool award to get but that’s not something I think about,” he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “besides the fact my dad never did it. If I do get it, that shuts him up again.”

Sadly he doesn’t really see how much this animosity toward his father controls him.  It is the last thing he’d want.  But it drives him.  Bitterness is a powerful motivator, until it finally destroys you.  The fact that he wouldn’t want to celebrate either accomplishment with his father shows it is destroying him.  Apart from forgiveness (being forgiven and then forgiving others- only the gospel can break the cycle) it will succeed.  He may win the battle at the plate, but he’s losing the battle in his heart.  And his earthly father refuses to come to his rescue.

15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Hebrews 12 (NIV)

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If the atonement is the heart of gospel, as J.I. Packer says, then adoption is the height of the gospel.  We have been lifted from the plight of condemned rebels and raise to the heights of being children of the living God.  Packer also notes that we don’t understand Christianity unless we understand the biblical doctrine of adoption.  Many other doctrines intersect with it (incarnation, atonement, justification, sanctification for instance), and it has many implications (prayer, unity, love, forgiving others and more).

I’ve been thinking about that quite abit lately.  I’ve preached on it a few times in various settings.  At Covenant PCA in Winter Haven, we encountered 2 problems.  I was taking my sweet time, and the sound guy didn’t flip the tape.  So, the end is missing.  But I hope people are encouraged and edified anyway.  If I preach this again, I’ll try to change it to the full length version.

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Due to a number of distractions, it took me quite some time to read the second half of Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  The first section of the book is focused on helping you to understand the need to be simple, based on their research, and what it means to be a simple church.

The second section is more the how-to.  It describes the process of identifying a focus, a process and how to stay focused.  They don’t claim this is easy.  They recognize that there will be resistence from all corners.  Here was some disheartening honesty: “Ninety percent of heart (bypass) patients do not change.  They remain the same, living the status quo.  Study after study indicates that two years after heart surgery, the patients have not altered their behavior.  Instead of making changes for life, they choose death.”

Their point is that many churches do the very same thing.  On one level they want to live.  But they resist doing the very things necessary to live.  In talking about the dissolution of our congregation, one member remarked “Why didn’t we listen?”  She, properly, viewed this as a group endeavor.  As church leadership tries to transition to a simple, focused church people will have a difficult time leaving the familiar.  It goes beyond preferences.  We have a sinful default to resist the will of God.  Change takes so much energy.  Without more completely grasping the gospel, we won’t change.  The “engine that drives” the process of change must be the gospel of grace.  Only thru Him do we have the desire and ability to significantly, deeply change.  It is not about changing worship styles, or shuffling programs.  It is about embracing the cross, the death of self-denial, and following Jesus who alone can save us.  It is about walking the road of discipleship as justified sinners.  Unfortunately we are prone to wait for the ‘magic bullet’ (pastor, program etc) that will make our church grow.  Church grow as people grow in their faith, and live it out in real life.  It’s simple, but not easy.

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Actually, we’ll be considering the CT Article on Mark Driscoll.  I read my copy a few weeks ago, and have meant to get to this.  But… I’ve been busy.  The author, Collin Hansen, tries to paint a picture of Driscoll that is honest, balancing his strengths and the criticisms laid against him.  I found the balance a bit off.  It seemed more negative than positive- typified by the reference to Driscoll’s appearance at the 2006 Desiring God Conference, placed under the heading Throwing Rocks: “John Piper says no other speaker at his Desiring God conference has caused such a stir.”  This, in my opinion, sets Mark in an unnecessarily negative light.  His message there was powerful and truthful.  I suspect Piper will have him back again- because John Piper loves the truth and Mark Driscoll does too.  Piper often speaks at Acts 29 and Resurgence conferences.  But this statement can be read to imply that Piper regrets inviting Driscoll.

All of us have blind spots.  Unfortunately for Mark, the whole evangelical world seems to know some of his need for growth.  Mark recognizes many of these sins and weaknesses in his character.  A pastor receives few commendations greater than this: “He asks forgiveness more than any pastor I have ever seen,” she said. “He publicly confesses sin. He’s such a great example to young, idealistic, confident, inexperienced, immature pastors that you have to say you’re wrong when you’re wrong. And he does it to women. I know. He has apologized in times when he has gotten things wrong, and I’m thankful he doesn’t apologize for the things he hasn’t said wrong.”


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My Night at the Trop

Saturday night the Great Morgano and I went to see the Red Sox play the Rays at Tropicana Field over in St. Pete.  We went a little early so we could visit the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame.  I’ve been meaning to go there for years, and they moved it to the Trop last year.  I’ve heard Larry Lucchiano talk about trying to get some of the collection up to Boston (long overdue).  There was tons of Ted Williams memorabilia.  And it was a very interesting museum focused on hitters, and a few pitchers.  There are some guys there that need to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, like Luis Tiant and Jim Rice for starters.

Friday night I was talking with a guy from church about baseball.  He mentioned that he learned to swing a bat from Bernie Carbo at a camp.  When he told Bernie the new way he was holding the bat didn’t feel right, Bernie replied “That’s what I told Ted Williams when he showed me this.”  For those who don’t know who Bernie Carbo is…. he was a power hitter in the 70’s, who may still hold the record for most pinch hit homeruns in the World Series.  I remember him from his days with the Red Sox, particularly a game winning homerun which my father and I heard as we were heading to the car, thinking the game was over (lesson learned).

What’s the point of that?  Well, who was there signing autographs but Bernie Carbo along with other Red Sox players George “Boomer” Scott and Rich Gedman.  At Tropicana no less.  Go figure.

We sat near the foul pole in right field.  Great seats!  Facing homeplate (no neck twisting) and nearly ground level.  Only problem was a bunch of Rays fans with cow bells and horns.  The place was filled with Red Sox fans though.

Dice-K pitched and did well until the 7th inning with the Sox ahead 5-3 thanks to 3 rbi’s and a homerun by the oft-maligned J.D. Drew.  He got 2 quick outs when the wheels fell off.  Soon there were 2 men on and Dice-K was heading to the bench.  Up next, Carlos Pena, who already had a homerun.  Javier Lopez came in, and gave up another.  Rays fans were in a great mood.  I thought, “here we go again- they can’t seem to win when I’m here.”  Mike Timlin got the 3rd out, and it was 6-5 Rays.

In the eighth, the heart of the Red Sox line-up did nothing against Wheeler and his 5+ ERA.  Gagne came in to pitch the 8th for the Sox.  Which Gagne would show up- Eric Gagne, or his evil twin who goes by the name of Gag-me?  He got the first 2 outs, but this is how Gag-me likes to taunt us.  The Sox finished the 8th unscathed.

Here is where it gets surreal.  Sometime in the 8th, security descended on a section near ours.  A rowdy fan had to be cuffed and escorted out.  Two other fans soon followed, sans cuffs.

In comes the Rays closer, Reyes.  The screen is flashing his nickname- El Asisente- The Assassin.  I look at his ERA… over 4.70.  Not quite impressive if you ask me.  Or Jason Varitek who promptly deposited one of the Assassin’s pitches in the seats to tie the game.  Guess all he killed was that save opportunity.  But Hinske was up, and he last got a hit about 3 months ago.  Too much to ask, I think.  But, he drives one past Pena and into the right field corner to get a double.  The Assassin actually gets Coco Crisp out.  And here is Julio Lugo- much hated by the Rays fans because he was trade to the Dodgers last year.  Yeah, makes no sense, but they booed him lustily.  And he deposited an offering from The Assassin into the seats to make it 8-6 Red Sox.  The place is electric as the Red Sox fans go wild in Fenway Further South (Fenway South is Baltimore).  Ellsbury gets a double.  After Pedroia makes the 2nd out, they intentionally walk Ortiz.  But Lowell makes the third out (and was visibly disgusted with himself- he wants to win something fierce).

In comes Papelbon.  He quickly closes the book on the Devil Rays, who are once again done in by their bullpen.  The Sox pile onto the field to celebrate clinching a playoff spot.  They also maintained their 2 1/2 game lead over the Yankees, and gained ground on the Angels and Indians who both lost.  All in all, a great night.  The Magic number is now 6, and I can barely talk because of the ninth inning.  Hey, what happened to the horns and cow bell?

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David Fairchild (along with Drew Goodmanson) has been thinking about Frame’s triperspectivalism as it impacts ministry.  The diagram is his, from his post on the Transformissional Church.

If you take this from a Simple Church perspective, you see a great picture of what a church is supposed to do.  This also fits with what I wrote in my post on How Churches Change.  The means of all ministry is the Gospel.  All church problems are, somehow and someway, gospel problems.  There has been a breakdown of the gospel.  The norm for all church ministry is to be the gospel.

In the life of the believer, it is to continually produce grace renewal.  Existentially, we change and continue to change as by faith be believe and apply the gospel to our lives.

Another product in our lives is to change our circumstances from in-grown church life to missional church life (meaning we begin to live as missionaries to those around us).  We don’t keep the gospel to ourselves, but communicate it incarnationally and verbally in ways people might understand.


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The lawsuit against the Knicks is revealing the seedy underbelly of sports and subcultures in an interesting way.  It has, as others have noted, been buried under the Patriots cheating controversy.

But we find that an even bigger double standard exists regarding language used to describe people- at least in the mind of Isiah Thomas.  He explains his sad double standard here.  Where is the outrage that destroyed Imus (trust me, I’m no fan of his)? 

That African-American women should take abuse from African-American men, but not caucasian men, is quite ridiculous.  Where are the feminists???? 

HT: CelticsBlog

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From Bill Cowher (on Boston.com):

“From a coach’s perspective, trying to steal signals is part of the game. We understand that as a coach. You see walkie-talkies, tape recorders, but when you take the camera on the field, that’s just arrogance,” he said. “I think the penalty was stiff by the commissioner. I think it will be a good deterrent.”

After seeing the tape, Jimmy Johnson said:

“This is exactly how I was told to do it 18 years ago by a Kansas City Chiefs scout. I tried it, but I didn’t think it helped us.”

“Johnson added that “every team has got a file on the other team. I used to send an intern up to the opposing coach’s box after the game and go through the trash. Because after the game, what do they do? They take their game plan and their scouting reports and throw them away. My intern would get all of that stuff and put it right in the file.”

And there was more from Johnson, which should help people put this in perspective.

“Bill Belichick was wrong because he videotaped signals after a memo was sent out to all of the teams saying not to do it,” he said. “But what irritates me is hearing some reactions from players and coaches. These players don’t know what their coaches are doing. And some of the coaches have selective amnesia because I know for a fact there were various teams doing this. That’s why the memo was sent to everybody. That doesn’t make him [Belichick] right, but a lot of teams are doing this.”

This is similar to the steroid controversy.  So many atheletes did it for so long, with little to no repercussions.  But when someone was discovered…. all hades broke loose.  The cheating is wrong, but so many are doing it that it seems disingenuous at best for other teams to act “shocked” and to attack others.  People want to point the finger at others rather than face their own shortcomings.  As a result, everyone becomes suspect- just like in baseball.

Let’s bring this into the church…. There is freedom in knowing that you are the biggest sinner you know (1 Tim. 1:15).  Not just in theory, but in practice.  Paul named some of the specific sins he was guilty of committing.  We resist this.  Why?  Because we don’t believe the gospel ‘enough’.  We think it isn’t safe to really be a sinner.  People don’t distinguish between those who are repentant and confess their sin, and those who are arrogant and justify their sin.  The first should receive compassion, encouragement and prayer.  The second should receive rebuke and admonishment (and prayer).  But our pride keeps us from allowing other to see how messed up we really are.  So, we don’t make much progress in our fight with sin.  We end up either becoming judgmental jerks, or over-indulgent wimps.

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Drats… one of my ideas has been taken.  Steve Brown, one of my former profs, has a new podcast called Watching Theology.  These podcasts look at the theology and worldviews presented in various motion pictures.  They do some of my favorite movies (Pulp Fiction, Lifeboat, Die Hard) and some movies I’ve never heard of before.  Were I not switching back and forth between the Red Sox and Patriots games. I’d give a listen.  That will have to wait. 

BTW: with 31 points on the Chargers thus far (10 minutes to go in the 4th), I’m thinking their success is largely talent, teamwork and preparation.

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I had a really dumb idea this weekend. I saw a picture of myself in The ARP Bicentennial History while I was clearing out my office. It must have been taken pre-marriage because I was clean shaven. Since our engagement, I’ve had a gotee for all but about a week. That was for the 3-2-1 Penguins VBS when I played Grandmum. Didn’t want to scare the kids.

Yesterday was a strange day. I found out that a good friend of mine here in town, who I’d hoped to work with, was going to have to find a new call. That was pretty disappointing. In the last 24 hours, I discovered that 2 friends had loved ones die quite unexpectedly. I may end up doing one of the funerals. And today was the day the congregation was officially dissolved (I’m talking to a few churches, some preliminary, one heating up). I will confess, I’ve been really bored sitting in the pew. Not that the sermons haven’t been challenging. I’m just used to delivering them. I’m used to playing guitar. I’m not used to sitting. And I’m not excited about it.

So… this morning I told my wife to expect a different look after my shower. In the photo, I looked younger without the facial hair (which is why I grew it). Now I have these long white hairs in my gotee. I had let it grow out during vacation. So… I shaved it off.

Sorta symbolic. A new beginning. But I had longer hair back then. And I’m really hating how I look. I expect to be gotee’d once again in the near future. Either way, a new chapter of life has begun…

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There is an element of Patriots-gate (spy-gate, camera-gate) that no one is talking about.  It is connected with something they are talking about.

1. People accuse Belichick of doing this for years, including in Cleveland.

2. Mangini knew of this from his time with the Patriots coaching staff.

3. Mangini waited until he could catch Belichick in the act.

That is how the story is appearing in numerous articles and on ESPN.  Why is it that no one connects the dots?  Let’s do that.

If Belichick has done this for years, then Mangini not only knew, but was complicit.  He participated in cheating against other teams.  He had no problem, from what we can tell, benefiting from cheating.  He didn’t blow a whistle while he was a Patriot, or immediately after he left.

Mangini only had a problem being cheated against.  He’s like the man who feels free to cheat on his wife, but becomes upset when she cheats on him.  That would be called hypocrisy.  This is obviously a common problem.  Many of us call the same thing right for us and wrong for others.  Sometimes people do what they know is wrong, for themselves as well as others.  That person is not a hypocrite.

Mangini didn’t just cry ‘foul’; he waited until he could use this for his advantage.  This is why I don’t buy the Jets as victims card as presented.  They are also victims of their head coach who did not protect them from any suspected cheating in very simple ways.  He didn’t take ordinary precautions, only cried ‘wolf’.  Both coaching staffs may have victimized these players.  If this is the case, Mangini’s actions are at least as morally reprehensible as Belichick’s- if not more.  I think both men’s alleged actions are reprehensible.  But for some odd reason, Mangini comes off spotless because no one likes Belichick.

Update:  Hmmm, the Ravens have just accused the Jets of cheating.

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Most of this season Bob Ryan has been calling Papi a “warning track hitter”, lamenting the loss of power that came with the knee injury he’s planning on having repaired in the off season.  His home run numbers were seriously down after breaking the Red Sox single season record last year.  He’d become a doubles hitter.

And to make matters worse, he wasn’t coming through in the clutch.  Though he had an average over .300 all season, he didn’t seem to get any hits when they were down late in the game.  To be fair, they were able to pitch around him as Manny struggled.


Papi’s power has come back.  His homerun pace has increased in the last month or so.  And tonight his second as a walk off, as the Sox swept the Rays to remain 5 games up on the Yankees. 

“But beginning with a home run in the first game of a day-night doubleheader against the Angels Aug. 17, followed the next day by a grand slam, Ortiz has hit 12 home runs in 94 at-bats, a ratio of 1 every 7.8 at-bats. In short, he has become Ortiz again,…”

This is what we have been waiting for- the return of Big Papi, striking fear in the hearts of pitchers.

Just in time.

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Patriot-Gate is rocking the nation.  Should it?

This is the photo touchdown.org is using as proof that something fishy was up.  Yeah, that photographer is on the Jets sideline!  How did that Patriots coach get there ?  I find it amazing that a Patriots cameraman could get on the Jets sideline in the Meadowlands.

Before I say anything else, as a Christian I don’t condone cheating.  Cheating is wrong.

But, in a world filled with sinners cheating is commonplace.  Shockingly commonplace- and it isn’t just kids on the playground, or friends around the table playing a game.

MLB– confessed cheaters are in the Hall of Fame despite throwing spit balls, or finding ways to scuff the ball.  Guys on 2nd base try to steal signs from the catcher (the 90’s Indians may have used a camera in centerfield).  A-Fraud seems to routinely cheat.  Sometimes the defensive teams steal signs, knowing if a guy is going to steal and throws a pitchout.  There have been some infamous loaded bat incidents (Sosa and Nettles).  And of course there is steroids.  At least 10 more names may be released, to join Ankiel, Glaus and Gibbons.

NBA– guys lie all the time about who touched the ball last.  There have been point shaving scandals.  It is harder to cheat (no signs to steal, but guys may try to listen to the other huddle- REAL hard now that they have the music jacked to deafening volumes).  So cheating here is in the form of deceit.  Flopping would be a common problem, as well as grabbing and clutching.  I guess soon we’ll hear about steroids in basketball.

NFL– Steroids are a problem.  And teams have been stealing signs for years.  This is why the QB now has an ear piece.  The coach still covers his mouth when talking to the QB lest a lip reader ‘listen in’.  It should shock NO ONE that teams steal defensive signs.  On Around the Horn, Woody Paige claimed one guy he knew was a coach on 5 NFL teams, because he was good at stealing signs.  Players try to pick up QB cadences.

Here is where the NFL Competition Committee blew it.  This past summer they had the opportunity to put earpieces in the defensive captains’ helmets.  They fell 2 votes short.  Guess some guys wanted to continue stealing signs 🙂 .  This is a big deal because this time there is physical evidence in the form of the video tape.  I haven’t seen the video tape.  I’m assuming it has close ups of the Jets’ sideline between plays.  A former cameraman calls such practices “commonplace“!

Sean Salisbury reports that teams often change their signals.  Why?  Because teams cheat.  They do this, just like in baseball, to prevent the other team from gaining an advantage.  If I were the Jets- I’d change my signs regardless of whom I’m playing.  Don’t whine- prepare.  In a Culture of cheating, expect people to cheat and act accordingly.

The piling on has begun.  Hines Ward claims the Patriots knew what was coming in the 2002 and 2004 playoff games against his Steelers. 

““Oh, they knew,” he said. “They were calling our stuff out. They knew, especially that first championship game here at Heinz Field. They knew a lot of our calls. There’s no question some of their players were calling out some of our stuff.” 

Now, Hines Ward is an offensive player.  Is he saying the Patriots’ defense knew what was coming?  If so, it was not stealing signs.  Could it be by studying tapes and knowing formations, tendencies etc.  Are the Patriots cheating because they happen to be smart enough to recognize what the Steelers were doing?  See, this is now getting stupid.

Let’s remember that most likely only the coaching staff knew.  The players just get the plays they need.  I doubt they are complicite.  Only the ones who actually cheat are cheaters, not all those who may unwittingly benefit.  But the facts remain, in football you still have to execute the plays.

This does not mean that various commissioners should let it go.  Players and teams that are caught should be penalized.  I guess the best penalty in this situation would be forfeiture of the game.  That would be stiff, and put the cheating back to old school methods so there is no incriminating evidence.  People will continue to cheat (the stakes are VERY high), and we will continue to cheer.  They are, afterall, just like the most of us.

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Considering Simple Church

Being, essentially, on sabbatical, provides me with the opportunity to do some study.  Some of it is material that is popular, and possibly unhealthy for the Church.  Some of it is popular, and for the well-being of the Church.  Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger is a book that could be of great benefit to the Church.

I’ve only read the first section, about 100 pages, thus far.  The premise, based on their research, is that healthy, growing churches are simple (not simplistic).  By this they mean that they have an understandable focus which describes their process for making disciples.  This process is understood and emphasized, and they avoid anything that keeps them from the process.  This means any programming that drains resources from the process has got to go.  Complex churches are moving in too many directions, the focus is fuzzy at best and morale tends to be low.

Here’s why it makes so much sense to me:

1998-2001  I was a new, inexperienced pastor.  The congregation had recently split.  I focused on orienting them to basic theology and biblical preaching.  This addressed some of the biblical and theological ignorance left behind by the previous pastor.  But the church didn’t have much focus, and some people were opting out.  I gave them solid theology, but not an understandable focus and process.  I was at the whim of people’s impulses when it came to programming.

2001-2004  We came up with a clear focus: Celebrating, Pursuing and Proclaiming Christ Together in 2000.  We began to grow in 2001.  We had the focus, but didn’t really put it into a clear, simple process.  During this time we experienced plenty of growing pains.  Some people weren’t happy with the direction (losing power/control), and some couldn’t put a finger on anything, but in retrospect we were still a bit fuzzy.

2003-2004  A time of transition took place.  We sold our excess property, and then decided to move to a more visible location to help us in our evangelism.  Some people, not wanting us to move, left.  We also had a key family move away.  But the main thing that happened was my proposal to simplify our process/programming.  Most of the Session seemed on-board.  At the meeting, they voted against the plan and we did not simplify.  This was a big turning point.  Our redesign for the restart, instead of being fresh as I desired, merely muddied the water.  We had a new name, and a new focus (Building Lives on Christ), but still no plan.  We ended up adapting our old focus, tacking it onto the new one creating a more complex focus.

2005-2007  I often heard that we had no focus, and this surprised me.  In reality, I think it meant that we had a fuzzy process, at best.  So we did mission statements, and vision statements.  These continued to muddy the waters, not clarify things- just as they talk about in the book.  And things continued to go south.  More key people moved away and we had a difficult time retaining new visitors.  To complicate matters, our youth intern was not on the same page I was.  We worked at cross purposes, rather than working together.  That traces back to the church not being committed to a simple, clear focus tied to a process of discipleship.

We were so close, but all of these things worked together for the dissolution of the church.  I can see this same process in other congregations.  Morale stinks, nothing is happening.  Much of this happens because there is no simple, identifiable process of discipleship for people to move through.  The church programming is complicated and in competition for volunteers.  And people move on.

I think the first section of Simple Church provided a good understanding of the problem and the solution.

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This the end of Velvet Elvis.  The final chapter is called Good.  And the point is the church should be doing good in society.  Rob Bell wants nothing to do with Christians who retreat from society, focusing on getting to heaven and “saving souls.”  In some ways, Rob provides a good critique of much dispensational thinking.  As usual, Rob seems to provide an over-correction.

Rob does a great job of laying the groundwork for the fact that Jesus will be restoring creation (Romans 8).  Our personal salvation is a part of this cosmic renewal Jesus has begun, which will be completed when He returns.

What Rob neglects is that while we await His return, those who die in Christ are in heaven with Him.  And they shall return with Him to renew the heavens and earth, which shall be our dwelling place with God forever (Revelation 21-22).  He lays this out as the expectation of the prophets in the Old Testament.  Paul’s eschatology is not a departure from OT eschatology (2 peoples => 2 destinies).  Rather, we join true Israel (not replace) in receiving the promises.

There are some “interesting” statements made.  Things that would make the Scriptures unclear to most Christians, and lead some in unhealthy directions.

“Jewish writers like John did things like this all the time in their writings.  They record what seem to be random details, yet in these details we find all sorts of multiple layers of meaning.  There are even methods to help decipher all the hidden meanings in a text.”

Hidden meanings…. dangerous stuff in my mind.  His footnote brings us to Matthew’s genealogy.  There he develops this numerology deal with David’s name in Hebrew (the numbers add to 14, which is how many people make up each section of the genealogy which is supposed to shout “King, King, King” to us.  Most people will go “Cool, I didn’t see that.”

It is not hidden.  Matthew’s Gospel starts with saying Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David.  He is the fulfilment of the promises given to these 2 great men of faith.  He is the long awaited Seed who will be for the blessing of the nations, and the King to sit on David’s throne.  It is right there in plain sight, for all to see.  And those themes (expansion to the Gentiles and Jesus as King) run all the way through Matthew’s Gospel.  No secret knowledge necessary to understand some hidden meaning.

It is this promise to Abraham that is important in understanding some of the implications of election.  Problem is, Rob ignores the issue of election for salvation (which is the context of most of the statements concerning our election).  He majors on the minor theme of how we are to be for the blessing of the nations.  Christians need to hear that message too, so we don’t run and hide from society.  We seem to forget that the early church entered a very corrupt society and transformed it with the gospel.  The early Christians took care of the poor and abandoned (as Julian the Apostate noted and applauded).  They saw this as a function and picture of the Gospel.  They did not separate this from the Gospel of salvation.

Sadly, Rob would appear to do this (as the Social Gospel did years ago taking Sheldon’s In His Steps too far).

“And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join.  It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display.  To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever.  … To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone.”

We are to love all- even our enemies.  But family ties being greater responsibilities.  We see this in Paul.  A person who calls themselves a Christian must provide for their family (1 Timothy 5:4-8).  We are to do good, especially to those in the family of believers (Galatians 6:10).  This is a function of our adoption into God’s family.  We should treat all people well, and our family in Christ better.  All people are made in the image of God, but some participate with us in the blessings of salvation.  This is the kind of neglect of God’s whole counsel that irritates me.  By flattening it out, Rob can mislead people just as much as those he is reacting against.  This is what I mean by over-correction.  If your plane is off course, you correct it so it arrives at the proper destination.  You don’t just yank the steering column hard in the other direction and pray for the best.  That is dangerous, not just for you but all those following you.

So ends a book that says some great things, and some really bad things.  Discerning people can identify both and benefit from the good things.  But Rob’s intended audience would appear to be people who don’t have the ability to discern those things.  And they will suffer for it.  And that is sad.

Repainting Mission from the Great Commission => Creation Mandate (reversing the progression of revelation)

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First, some good stuff.

– Jacoby Ellsbury continues to shine for the Red Sox.  He has had a hit in every game since being called up, at a clip of .406.  Manny’s injury has not hurt the Sox as it would have in previous years.  Here’s hoping that the rest does Manny good so he returns with some additional power.  Francona has a good problem: what to do with Jacoby when Manny comes back.

– Speaking of rest, Dice-K looks like he needs some.  He has been aweful in his last 3 starts.  Scouts say he’s overthrowing, and Farrell concurs.  I think some rest may do him good.  Hansack can fill in for a start or 2.

– The Patriots were quite impressive on Sunday.  Randy Moss looked like the Randy of old (man, wish he was on my fantasy team… Roy Williams may seriously hamper me).  Hobbs’ kick-off return for a TD was the longest in NFL history.  The Jets have a very good coach, but they just can’t match up personnel with the Patriots.  Next week at San Diego should be a great game.  In the playoffs last year the Patriots beat the Jets then the Chargers before losing to the Colts.  And, oddly enough they start off with the Jets then the Chargers this season.

– Pedroia is a great story.  Going into May, some people were calling for Francona to sit him or send him down.  Cora was hitting around .400 and Pedroia was WELL under .200.  Now, Dustin is a top candidate for Rookie of the Year.  He’s hitting over .320, only has 6 errors and has made some amazing defensive plays (including one to keep Buchholz’ no-hitter).  Patience paid off on this one.  And Pedroia is one of those sparkplug type of players.  He’s the new Dirt Dog, leaving it all on the field, refusing to back down. 

– The steroid case is making some headlines.  A number of baseball players are being named now.  This ruined the feel-good story of the season, Rick Ankiel.  Troy Glaus is another big name put out there so far.  More are sure to come.  I’m not sure how these things get leaked.  The investigators just ought to release them all at once.

– This is my first foray into Fantasy Football.  I am currently up 86-51 (final 86-62), but he has 3 guys playing tonight (one is a TE so it’s looking good for me).  Brady and Burress had incredible weeks.  My running backs stunk!  Larry Johnson should improve with time.  Portis actually did okay.  Roy Williams was very disappointing, and Joey Galloway did not benefit from Gracia passing the ball.  Let’s see how I do on the learning curve, making adjustments, waiver pickups and working matchups. 

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I read Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith’s sixth chapter, New, last night.  I nearly choked.  Rob Bell seems to have painted himself into a corner.  Any issues that popped up before are miniscule compared to what I read last night.  Any thoughts I might have that maybe I was being tough on Rob, well….. vanished.

It starts out okay.  He was weary of counseling a guy who got total depravity real well, but didn’t get the sanctifying grace part at all.  You know… worm theology- a corruption of Calvinism.

But Rob, like Robert Schuller, seems very concerned about what people think about themselves.  So he makes an over-correction to ‘worm theology’.

“Have you ever heard a Christian say, ‘I’m just a sinner’?  I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners.  Now this doesn’t mean we don’t sin; that’s obvious.”

A Christian, by definition, is not ‘just a sinner’ because of what Rob talks about next- we have been regenerated and given a new identity.  But, Paul still called himself a sinner, the foremost sinner, in 1 Timothy 1:15.  He did it in a way that he expected all of us to affirm that we are the biggest sinners we know.  BUT, that Jesus came to save sinners like us.  James 4 address Christians as sinners too.  So, while we needn’t beat ourselves up for our sin, since it accomplishes nothing, we shouldn’t avoid the fact we are sinners- not just that we sin.

“Beating others up about who they are and what they are doing is going in the wrong direction.  It is working against the purposes of God.  God is not interested in shaming people; God wants people to see who they really are.”

Now Rob starts to go down the wrong road.  He thinks that ministry is primarily telling people who they are now, not telling them to stop being who they were.  I have a hard time with this sentiment of his since much of the New Testament is filled with rebuke and admonishment.  Thankfully, the power to change comes to us from the crucified, resurrected and ascended Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We have power to live differently, and a new identity as God’s adopted children.  These go together, always together.  But sometimes we need to be rebuked so we’ll repent.  God certainly shamed Israel to try and produce repentance (read those prophets like Ezekiel, Hosea and Jeremiah- that’s some serious shaming going on).


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The next chapter in Velvet Elvis is entitled Dust.  It refers to the dust stirred up by the rabbi as he walks with his disciples.  Rob Bell provides a great deal of background information on the religious instruction of Israel’s youth in Jesus’ day.  He talks about how someone becomes a rabbi, and a disciple.  It is the conclusions that he draws that shocked me.

Before we get there, there was one other surprising statement.  I bring this up because he did not rightly divide the Word in this instance by neglecting some important information.  This has to do with Matthew 16, and Jesus’ discussion with his disciples in Caesarea Philippi.  He talks about their worship of Pan- the goat god-, and the natural rock formation called the Gates of Hell.

“He tells them at Caesarea Philippi that upon this rock he is going to build his new witnessing community, and the Gates of Hell won’t be able to stop it.  He is essentially saying that those kinds of people- the ones with the goats- are going to join the Jesus movement and it will be unstoppable.  How would you as a disciple even begin to process this statement?”

Rob never stops to lay out what Jesus means by rock.  The rock, in historical Protestantism, is the confession that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”  Earlier, Rob treats the divinity of Jesus as something that gained steam after Jesus’ death.  Peter seemed to think He was the Son of God (which God, not flesh and blood, revealed to him).  This is the rock upon which Jesus will build His church.  Obviously many worshippers of false gods will turn from their idols to embrace the Jesus who is Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  I guess I just can’t believe he wouldn’t make a point of this pivotal statement, Peter’s confession, in his discussion of this event.

That is not a serious error, but on the next page I find a bigger problem.  Again, Peter is interacting with Jesus.  This time, he is walking on the water to join Jesus.  He becomes afraid due to the storm and begins to sink.  Jesus says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt? (Matthew 14)”  Now, they all worshipped Jesus saying “Truly you are the Son of God (vs. 33).”

Rob doesn’t mention that- Jesus as the object of their faith and worship.  Here’s where he goes:

“Who does Peter lose faith in?  Not Jesus; Jesus is doing fine.  Peter loses faith in himself.  Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing.”

That’s a big leap, not substantiated by the text.  Peter doubted that Jesus would enable him to walk on the water in the midst of the storm.  He did not go out there on his own initiative.  Jesus is to be the object of our faith, not ourselves.  But there is more.

“God has an incredibly high view of people.  God believes that people are capable of amazing things.  I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus.  Which is a good thing.  But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me.  I have been told that I need to have faith in God.  Which is a good thing.  But what I am learning is that God has faith in me.”

Jesus was often exasperated by His disciples, and the evil and perverse generation around him.  Jesus knows we are sinners- He died because there was no other way to save us.  The whole theme of Scripture is not how great we are, but how great God is.  It is the work of His Spirit that accomplishes great things in and through us.  We see this in the Book of Acts and the numerous letters to the churches (in particular see Ephesians and Philippians).

Rob’s statements appeal to the flesh, and the American notion that all people are basically good.  But it is contrary to the gospel, and the overwhelming message of Scripture.  Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people because He knew what was in their hearts (John 2:24).

Rob repaints the object of faith from Jesus => Jesus and yourself.  And I can’t go there with him.

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The final chapter of How People Change is the story of one church.  This story is also found in a recent edition of The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Summer 2006).

It is a the story of a church that plateaued.  The pastoral staff used the model of change discussed in the book.  They identified how they had unwittingly made idols of things like theological accuracy.  They had moved from living the gospel to only talking about the gospel.

They began to focus all their ministries around life change through the gospel (I know, how novel- but we so easily get caught up in other agendas).  It reinvigorated their worship and their evangelism in the communities around them.  They had a gospel problem, and remembered it had a gospel solution (see my Gospel-Centered Leaders).

This grants me some hope as I look for a new ministerial position.  Every church has problems, some more than others.  The power of God in the gospel is sufficient to turn churches around.  But we have to believe and apply that gospel to our individual and corporate lives.  Churches can change- but it won’t happen by accident.  There must be a concerted effort to identify and repent of idols.  Churches that don’t eventually die.  This church’s story could become yours.

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I’ve been reading How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp for a few weeks, longer than I wanted to and not as long as I should.  But that I mean I will probably re-read it and spend more time working thru the material.

This was a great book, though not an easy read.  I would probably call it “How God Changes People”, for it is about how we mature in Christ.  Lane and Tripp lay out a model for looking at our lives that makes biblical sense, and is helpful for counseling- formal, pastoral and informal.

Biblical Counseling (formerly called neuthetic counseling) has itself matured beyond the polemics of Jay Adams.  We find here a model that recognizes  our painful circumstances as a result of living in a fallen world, without minimizing our sinful responses.  In fact, our difficult circumstances do not create our sin, but rather reveal the sin that is already there.

Unlike the sense I got from Jay Adams, our difficulties are not irrelevant.  They are to be lamented, laid out before God and an opportunity to trust Him.  The Psalms are filled with this.


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