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Archive for May, 2009


“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

The man responsible for those words is Sir Winston Churchill, a man for his times.  Notice he says “those who would do us harm,” not those who did us harm.  Many think we need a man like Sir Winston Churchill who understands our times and acts in light of that reality.

We have an interesting political battle going on as we have released our interrogation methods, yet refuse to put them into the context of the information received or circumstances in which they are used.  This unfairly politicizes the issue- trying to make things black and white when they are a little less so.

This quote from Sir Winston is at the beginning of Vince Flynn’s latest Mitch Rapp novel, Extreme Measures.   It is a novel for these times, trying to explain why it is important to have such rough men ready, for there are despicable men who hide behind religion to exploit others and protect themselves as they wage a war of terror on civilians.

Yes, Vince has found a formula that works (though he deviates from it at the very end of this novel), but I enjoy his books.  I do want that man out there protecting my family from those who would harm them simply because they live in America.

As Christians we can often confuse the issues, misapply Scripture and really be muddle headed about these issues.  Emotions can cloud the issue on both sides.

First, there is a difference in Scripture between the response of an individual to unjustice, and the response of a government.  We see that clearly in Romans 12 – 13.  The individual is not to seek revenge, but entrust such justice to God.  The government, on the other hand, bears the sword to punish evildoers.

Turning the other cheek is about insult, and again is the individual forsaking retribution.  This would not rule out self-defense should one want to physically hurt you.  Context is key.

We see something of a wartime ethic in Scripture.  Both the midwives and Rahab were blessed for deceiving those who sought to perpetrate evil.  Truth is not a black and white issue- sometimes we have to consider what will be done with the truth.  Will they use the truth to rob, steal or kill?  The context of “speaking the truth in love” is the covenant community moving toward maturity.  You can lovingly speak the truth to an evil person by calling their actions what they are, while refusing to divulge the information they want.

But we have some positive encouragements about the righteous man:

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Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.  Proverbs 28(NIV)

The righteous man/person resists the wicked.  He does not stick his head in the sand and let them commit great sins against others.  This is because God is seen as the One who defends the defenseless.  As those being renewed in God’s image, we are to act like Him.  We are to defend the defenseless, protect the poor, care for the widows and orphans.

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On a recent ride home from Tampa, I listened to this disc for the first time in awhile.  I was reminded why I enjoyed it so much for such a long time.

If I recall correctly, Drowning with Land in Sight was the 77’s first release on Word, a “major” label.  It remains one of their most accessible releases.  This is odd since Gene Eugene and Ojo Taylor, though innovative and interesting musicians in their own right, weren’t exactly mainstream.  The 77’s struggled to maintain artistic integrity and the demands of the “mainstream” Christian music industry.  Derek Webb is currently fighting a bigger, uglier fight with his label.  But enough of that…

The album starts off with a  cover of Nobody’s Fault But Mine, to set the pace for this series of songs lamenting our role in all that is wrong in our world.  They do a very good job with this old blues standard, dragging it into the 90’s (the album was released in 1994).  This hard rocking beginning continues through Snowblind and Snake.  Snake was a major concession, with Mike Roe commenting on not liking the song in some live gigs captured on CD (It’s For You– which is great, simple record of his solo tour).  The first is also something of a lament about how temptation blinds us.  The second is about one of the sources of temptation.  While I enjoy the music, Snake is not one of Mike’s better lyrical and vocal performances.

Indian Winter marks a shift in direction for the album.  The chorus is slower, and there seem to be glimmers of hope.  There is some very nice guitar work during the solo.  The songs that follow are not quite as full-bore hard rock, but have a bit more space and deal mostly with relationships, and how sin and selfishness destroy them.  Film at 11 contains some of my favorite lyrics by Mike.  They are filled with longing and disappointment.

Mezzo is a guitar-focused instrumental  that has hints of surf rock among the layers.  An enjoyable, sad-tinged song.  Cold, Cold Night adds a bit more distortion, biting guitar licks and relational despair.  Mike Roe hits his stride.  Dave’s Blues returns to the theme of our guilt, moral confusion, and hope in the Savior.  Doesn’t hurt that it has some very good guitar work.

Sounds o’ Autumn is drummer Aaron Smith’s time to shine.  It is a subtle solo piece rather than over the top and bombastic.  It provides a short breather before the last 3 songs.

The Jig is Up is one of my favorite songs, a lament about a troubled man who walks alone.  When this album came out, I could identify with this song as I slogged through a very lengthy, difficult time.  This sad song gave me opportunity to grieve.  Alone Together is another of those haunting songs Mike Roe writes so well.  It is about the end of a relationship set in contrast with the great beginning.  It is strange how little things can add up, destroying good things unexpectedly- the slow drift…

The album ends with For Crying Out Loud, about looking for hope and help in the One above.  It is also about being honest with God, finally.  So ends of my favorite albums- one filled with great guitar work, honest, painful at times lyrics, and emotional openness.  How did they get this released on Word?  I’m glad they did.

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It has been an unusual month as I have preached in 4 very different congregations.  Obviously each has its strengths and weaknesses, but all were meaningful times of worship.

The first was a suburban church that has been struggling the last few years.  The facaility was built in the 1990’s.  The congregation was about 130 or so.  They were mostly empty nesters, with a few families with children.  The worship style was blended, with an emphasis on the 1970’s and 80’s.  They used a piano, guitars, saxophone and song leaders.  They had some traditional elements as well- call to worship, pastoral prayer, responsive reading from the Westminster Catechism and a benediction.

The second was a smaller suburban church of about 50.  There seemed to be a relatively even age distribution.  Musically they were also blended, but drew from the 90’s and 2000’s.  The only instrument was a piano and they had some song leaders.  They had similar traditional elements.  Though smaller, they sang louder (or at least it filled up the room better).  They were a bit less reserved, yet more formal in their dress.

The third was an urban church of about 100 that met in an old theater.  The building had lots of character with the old brick walls.  It was darker, with lights on the stage area.  It was decidedly upbeat, with more of a free church worship style.  The worship band was very good and included keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and drums in addition to the song leaders.  The congregation was multi-ethnic, but the songs drew largely from the last 2 decades.  The people tended to be younger.

The fourth was also an inner city church of about 50, which met in an old church building.  It had lots of character, like a small cathedral.  It was nice to sit in pews.  It was also multi-ethnic.  It was also a less structured service, but they also recited the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer to keep in touch with our heritage.  The worship team was a guitarist, electric bass and 2 singers.  The music focused primarily on the holiness and grace of God, drawing on music from the last decade.

It is wonderful to see the rich variety of congregations, facilities, and worship styles.  Too often we get stuck in our own little world.  I’ve enjoyed being enriched by the Body of Christ as I sought to enrich them with the Word of God.  It is encouraging to see God at work in a variety of situations.

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Jerram Barrs strikes again!  His book The Heart of Evangelism is a fantastic look at evangelism that truly gets to the heart of the matter.  He brings the same humble, gracious style to the subject of prayer with The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us.  He addresses topics that often seem to be guilt-inducing.  But he recognizes the internal and external obstacles to both evangelism and prayer.  He writes as a fellow struggler sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of as an expert practicioner.

Jerram focuses on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, so this book serves as a nice counterpart of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which focuses on Paul’s prayers.  These 2 men are very different, and both books are excellent though different.  This book is very accessible to lay people.  He tackles issues like public and private prayer, fasting, persevering in prayer, and Jesus’ prayers for His people.  He includes an appendix on mysticism.

This is an encouraging book.  It is also a humbling book.  That is a great combination.

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Here are some of the quotes I ran across as I looked at this parable.  The parable is simple, yet humbling in so many ways.  It exposes our tendency toward self-righteousness, and points to God’s incredible disposition towards mercy toward the humble.

From Turning Your World Upside Down by Richard Phillips

“Pride is one of the greatest and most deeply embedded sins in human nature.”  Richard Phillips

“Pride is the worst viper in the heart … nothing is so hateful to God, contrary to the spirit of the gospel, or of so dangerous consequence…”  Jonathan Edwards

“The Pharisee is self-righteous because his standard of comparison is other people, and especially those who stand out in depravity.”  Richard Phillips

From Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller

“Self-righteousness is like bad breath.  Others can smell it but you can’t.”

“Getting in touch with your inner tax collector makes room for God’s energy in your life.”

Jerram Barrs’ book The Heart of Prayer provided this great one.

“The most basic of all sins is seeking to live independently of God: to live pretending that we do not need him, to live as if we owned the world, to live as if we could make happen whatever we desire, to live as if we were in full control of our lives.”

And lastly there is this gem from Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer.  It bears much meditation and attention, though it is quite simple.

“Thus the health and life of the inner man consists in a true living faith in the mercifulness of God and a sure confidence in the forgiveness of sin which Christ the Lord has acquired and earned for us.”

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Going into this season most people, Cavman included, thought starting pitching was the Red Sox greatest strength.  I didn’t think the offense was as “average” as some people.  But so far the starting pitching has been the weakest link, despite numerous injuries to key position players.  We have seen Lowrie, Lugo, Kotsay and now Youkilis on the DL, with games also missed by Ellsbury, Drew and Papi due to injury.

Despite the games missed, the Sox are still 21-13 which would put them in first in most divisions (well, the Blue Jays have barely played any AL East teams).  No thanks to the starting pitching- Wakefield excepted.  Lester and Beckett have been greatly disappointing.

I think it is time to bring up Clay Buchholz who continues to dominate as he did in Spring Training.  This puts Masterson back in the bullpen where he is most effective.  When Dice-K gets back, give Lester and Beckett some rest.  They obviously need time to either rest or figure something out.  Go to a 6 man rotation, I don’t know.  But if the Red Sox have average starting pitching they would have a better record than the one they already do.  That speaks volumes about the fantastic job the hitters and bullpen have done, with the exception of the recently designated for assigment Javier Lopez.

I suppose they could just keep doing what they are doing.  But, will that help Beckett (6.42), Lester (6.31)and Penny (6.9) get back on track.  Seriously 3/5 of the rotation with ERAs over 6- two of them aces????  It is a miracle they aren’t hanging out with the Rays and Orioles.  I am grateful for this miracle, but we can’t expect to keep winning consistently unless we get better starting pitching.

Update: the Herald’s John Tomase agonizes over this after another lousy start by Lester.

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I was biting my nails, metaphorically, during the final minutes of last night’s Celtics-Magic game 4 as it came down to the wire.  CavWife tried to tell me something, but I reminded her- last minute of an important playoff game.  Considering that we didn’t watch most of the game, I thought I wasn’t asking too much.

I was surprised that Paul Pierce didn’t force the last shot, choosing instead to pass off to Big Baby Davis, who was the only Celtic to hit a FG in the last 6 minutes of game time.  He drained it, and in his exuberance raced down the sideline, bumping into a ref, and then into a young courtside fan who was close to the action.

I hope I am never this kind of parent:

Orlando Magic fan Ernest Provetti, whose son, 12-year-old Nicholas, was nearly run over by Glen Davis after his buzzer-beating, game-winning shot last night, is demanding an apology from the Celtics forward.

According to a report at Orlando Sentinel.com, Provetti sent an e-mail to the NBA League office this morning, saying that Davis crossed the line and embarrassed his son. Provetti said his son had to dive into his courtside seat to get out of the way, though that does not appear to be the case in the video.

In the e-mail, Provetti said Davis conducted himself like a “raging animal with no regard for fans’ personal safety.”

In a telephone interview with the Sentinel, Provetti said, “How do you like to be a 12-year-old and see a raging lunatic coming at you?”

He said noted that Davis should never have been so close to the fans in the front row.

Apparently this man has never seen an NBA.  It’s the NBA: Stuff Happens, including players diving for balls, and celebrating significant last-second victories.

But, this man’s son is embarrassed.  CavWife notes that is a common emotion for 12 year-olds.  This adult is trying to teach his son the wrong lesson.  The world will not bend to our embarrassment, it does not revolve around us.  Yet, this guy is trying to make it all about his son.  E-mails to the NBA office?  Demands????

Nor is an excited, happy, delighted man who accomplishes something he has yet to do qualify as a “raving lunatic.”  I suspect he has the wrong “raving lunatic”.  This parent is the one acting irrationally.  Davis was not angry, violent or dangerous.  No harm was intended to his son- even embarrassment.

When you sit courtside, the action may get a bit too close for comfort.  If you can’t handle that- don’t sit there and put your son “at risk”.  But a good parent will teach his son to enjoy the game, remember that the unexpected can happen, and that you’re on national TV so don’t sweat it.  Teach him to have fun rather than be self-conscious.  Teach him to calcuate risk and act accordingly.  In short- teach him about being a man.

Oh, and may the media should pursue such silly stories….

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