Archive for December, 2009

While on vacation I started to read Tim Keller’s most recent book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope that Matters.  Yes, that is a long subtitle.  You’d think a Puritan wrote this book.

Others have tackled these topics, like Richard Foster in Money, Sex and Power.  But Tim Keller, for better or worse, frames it historically in light of the failure of many of these false gods in the economic crisis most of the world is experiencing.

This is an excellent book, though I am not sure it measures up to The Prodigal God.  Few books do.  This is a subject Tim Keller handles very well.

Some have been critical of the new, prevailing notion of idolatry as if it takes the place of sin.   Keller argues that the idea of idolatry makes more sense than the idea of sin (in this world of relativism).  Beyond that he refers to Luther’s point that idolatry is the root of sin rather than just being one of many sins.  So what Keller is doing here is trying to get to the root of our sin, the many false gods that we serve.


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While we were engaged, CavWife and I discussed any number of things.  One of them being… Christmas.  We both wanted to de-emphasize gifts for the kids to try and keep the focus on Jesus.  We are not anti-Santa, as though he were demonic or anything.  It was just that we know the human heart, and it is covetous.

So, we really haven’t talked about Santa with the kids either way.  He shows up in a few stories we read to them.  We have not stopped and said, “now kids, you know Santa…”.  We’ve sort of let sleeping dogs lie.

Fastforward to CavGirl’s dentist appointment this week.  The hygenist brings the kids back alone for the first part of the appointment.  That was when the small talk happened, and Pandora’s Box was opened, never to be closed again.

I came back to meet with the dentist and hygenist.  The dentist asks about what she wants from Santa.  Did she send him a list?  “We really don’t emphasize Santa.”

The hygenist chips in, “she wants a Barbie.”  I’m sensing implanted memories here, because she doesn’t have a Barbie, and has NEVER asked for a Barbie.

After we get home, she keeps wondering what Santa will bring- as if her parents and grandparents don’t come through for her.  Once or twice she mentions  “she of the outlandish, impossible figure”- Barbie.

The seed of covetousness found fertile soil in her heart.  Discontent may now set in.  There may be drama, crying and whining.  These people assume everyone in America is all about Santa, and now may have tainted our family celebration.  I might be bummed.  But I know that I do have to pray that covetousness will die in their hearts, and mine.

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I’ve reviewed some specific sections and issues from Andrew Farley’s The Naked Gospel.  He wrote the book in order to relieve people from the bondage of legalism which can come from misunderstanding the gospel.  That is a great thing.  But Farley seems to misunderstand the gospel in a different way.

He begins the book by inviting theological discussion.  Theological disputation is an important thing, but it must be done properly.  Where Farley, and his book,  ultimately fails is how he pursues theological disputation.

His book is filled with exegetical and hermeneutical errors.  Texts are often taken out of context.  His method of interpretation is profoundly flawed. He ignores texts that may have something to say about his points.  When talking about how we won’t stand before God at the Great White Throne, he tosses out Matthew 25 due the fact that it took place before the Cross.  Nor does he refer to Romans 14:9-12.

9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  11 It is written: ”‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’”  12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.


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Joseph is one of the forgotten men of Scripture.  Matthew’s Gospel is the only source we have for information about this pivotal man.  He is one of the links in the chains of God’s providence without which we have no Messiah, no Savior, no hope, no peace with God or one another.  Joseph … how can we not be thankful for Joseph?

Joseph is called a righteous man, and as a result he was going to divorce a mysteriously pregnant Mary.  We can see that his righteousness is like that of Abraham, who trusted God, instead of the Pharisees who sought to put God in their debt with their goodness.

They were betrothed, which in that day meant you were as good as married.  It was not broken off without just cause, and sexual indecency of some sort was about the only just cause.  It appeared that Mary had either been unfaithful, or raped.  Joseph sought to put her away quietly.  He did not want her exposed to severe penalties.  He was compassionate as well as righteous.

But here we find the first of many relevatory dreams Joseph receives.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”   24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The message is inconceivable.  A child by the Holy Spirit?  Unheard of.  Even Abraham’s child of promise was conceived the old fashioned way.  It was a miracle, though it used ordinary processes.  This was a different order of miracle- for this promised Son was to be the Savior.


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It has been a strange offseason for baseball to say the least.  There have been some surprising turn of events.  It has not turned out as expected by many experts, agents and players.

Last year the Yankees spent tons of money on 3 players.  Due to the economy, and fears of a prolonged recession, many players did not get big contracts, or long contracts.  Bobby Abreu, for instance, took a cheap (by baseball standards) one-year contract with the Angels.  He had a very productive year which he leveraged into a good contract.

Experts and agents expected big money to be tossed at players like Chone Figgens, Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, Adrian Beltre and John Lackey.  That really hasn’t materialized as expected.

Figgens got a good deal from Seattle, but not quite what many expected from a guy who showed himself a very good defender and lead-off hitter.  It happened fairly quickly as the Mariners began a process of remaking the team.  Figgens essentially replaced Beltre, who is asking for another rich contract.  Like many Scott Boras clients, Beltre sits waiting for the promised big deal that doesn’t seem to be materializing since Scott can’t create competition for his client’s services.   If the Red Sox back off of Beltre because he’s asking too much, most teams are probably hanging up on Boras.


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I really appreciated the perspective on leadership presented in Roger Parrott’s book The Longview.  I found it helpful to better understand my role as a leader and to avoid many of the traps that undermine leaders or waste their time with unnecessary work.

The B&B Media Group provided me with a copy of the book.  And they just provided a brief interview with the author about the book.  Here you go:

Many of today’s ministries suffer from a near-sighted vision.  Too often leaders choose easy solutions over principled, long-term strategies.  The results can be devastating, as ignored issues become full-blown crises, and small problems become big challenges.

The Longview (David C Cook, October 2009) is a fresh approach to leadership that will transform how readers make decisions and address problems.  Author Dr. Roger Parrott offers proven, practical principles drawn from scripture and his renowned career in educational leadership.  Parrott issues readers a timely challenge: Defy the trends of short-sighted goal-making for quick returns by learning to lead for long-term significance.

Do we have a leadership void today?

The problem is not that we don’t have great leaders, in fact, we’ve probably never had more educationally well prepared leaders than we have today.  The problem is that leaders are caught in an ever tightening vice grip of unrealistic expectations that pressure them into valuing turn-around over transformation. Today’s leaders are expected to find simple solutions to complex problems, and because these quick-fixes only hold for a short time, leaders from presidents to pastors disappoint those they are leading.

I believe this pattern started in American culture in the 1980s with the quest to get rich quick from junk bonds and buy outs, through the dot.coms in the 1990s, and the explosion of “want it now” credit card debt and built into the real-estate frenzy created by leveraged speculators in the past decide.  So leaders have been reared, tutored, and equipped to operate in a world that prizes immediate results over lasting significance.

For three decades skyrocketing incentives have been the norm for all manner of short-term producers—from stockbrokers to college coaches—as leaders at every level have indoctrinated us to believe immediate gains trump long-term consequences. This nearsightedness is eroding the foundational underpinnings of organizational quality and severely handicapping the effectiveness of leaders who are robbing the future to pay for today.

How did the Church become caught up on a short view approach and what are the consequences?

As we often do in the Church, we’ve followed the pattern of the world – in this case, the best of business and organizational teaching – but in mimicking the leadership patters of business and politics, we’ve strayed from the Longview leadership model given to us by Jesus.  Because this short view corporate culture has so permeated the church today, we in ministry have loosened our grip on the biblical model for leadership. We have grown to expect and even demand an ever-increasing cycle of measureable and immediate results from our leaders.

Our theology and our ministry passion draw us to talk about Longview outcomes as our heart’s desire, but we have been duped into fostering a generation of leaders, board members, employees, and constituencies who value short-term gain over Longview significance. Ministry leaders believe it and act accordingly—hiring and rewarding people who can promote Band-Aid fixes as monumental solutions, creating plans that promise the moon and always come up short, raising funds from unrealistically compressed donor relationships, and touting those results that can most easily be measured and applauded.

Why do you believe rising leaders are the generation who will value a Longview approach to leadership?

For three reasons I’m convinced this new generation of leaders are ready to embrace Longview leadership:

1.      They know the short view doesn’t work. This is likely to be the first generation that has not had a quality of life better than their parents.  And they know the reason is we are not dealing with Longview solutions in the macro problems of health care, terrorism, energy, and the economy. And they will be the ones to pay the price for patchwork fixes.

2.      They are connected to huge networks of real people through social networking, and listen to them rather than public relations messages – and they know from their peers that sugarcoating a problem doesn’t make it go away.

3.      This new generation of leaders is much more focused on mission significance and problem solving than on organizational stature and position climbing. They want to make a difference in the world, and they are willing to dig into problems to find lasting solutions.

The challenge for younger leaders is that they have never been given the tools to lead in a Longview pattern.  So the book is not just a call to Longview leadership, but mostly is deals with the everyday nitty-gritty issues of leadership from a Longview perspective.

Stay tuned for more….

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Yes, I can’t believe I had to type in 2010.  Only one more year to go, or is it 2?  I plan to be preaching for some time as God displays His patience and graciously calls people to repent and believe the Great New about His Son and Jesus’ work on the behalf of sinners.

January 17 Desert Springs Presbyterian Church Colossians 1:28-29  Messiah is the Message

January 24 Frostproof ARP Church  Colossians 1:28-29  Messiah is the Message

February 7 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach,  Colossians 1:28-29  Messiah is the Message

February 14 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach, Jonah 1  The Runaway Prophet

February 21 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach, Jonah 2  The Grateful Prophet

February 28 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach, Jonah 3 The Repentant Prophet

March 7 Desert Springs Presbyterian Church  1 John 5:21

March 14 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach, Jonah 4  The Angry Prophet and the Gracious God

March 21 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach, John 15:1-16  No Pain, No Gain

March 28 Morning Star Reformed Presbyterian Church, Vero Beach  1 Corinthians 5  Christ- the Passover Lamb

(Subject to change in accordance with the providence of God)

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Photo by Stuart Cahill

It is becoming most likely that both Jason Bay and Mike Lowell will be spending 2010 someplace other than Boston.  The left side of the field may see a complete turnover.  What gives?

Two words: offense, defense.

Defense: Lowell’s hip injury made him one of the worst 3rd basemen in baseball.  His recovery may be complete now, and he may do better next year.  But the run differential there was just too big.   The Red Sox decided they could not take the risk.  If you have great pitchers, why give the opposition some free hits?  Lowell, sadly not the defender he once was, was doing just that.

Bay’s defense was average at best.  He was better than Manny Ramirez, but that is not saying much.  One reason Texiera got so much money is that he was an elite hitter AND fielder.  Bay’s estimate of his value (greatly jaded by his agent no doubt) is overestimated, in part due to a failure to recognize his shortcomings in the field.

Offense: Both Lowell and Bay love to pull the ball.  That is a great strategy in Fenway Park.  It has that short left field.  But that strategy doesn’t always play well elsewhere.  A basehit in Fenway (thanks to that Wall) is an out in many other parks.  This was the problem Theo was talking about after the Red Sox wilted against the Angels.  Theo wants a more balanced offense to widen that run differential.  With better defense, and guys who can hit at Fenway and away from Fenway, they will get more wins and more easily.

Though these two guys are good/great teammates, and play hard each and every night, their shortcomings created problems for the Red Sox.  Those shortcomings led to their quick playoff exit.  Theo is in the process of addressing those shortcomings.  It may be painful now, but perhaps it will be a great relief later.

Update: we could include health.  Lowell’s issues are well documented.  But the Red Sox have reservations about Bay’s knee and shoulder which may have affected his game mid-season.

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The 4th part of The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley is called Burning Matryoshkas, but the basic content is about justification and regeneration.  In this section Farley displays another aspect of a hyper-dispensationalist  method of interpretation- literalism.  The result is some profound distortions of the doctrines of justification and regeneration, and their effect on sanctification.

Properly understood, a literal method should take figures of speech, metaphor, genre and more into account to proper understand the author’s intention.  Literalism often ignores these literary tools, thereby distorting the author’s intention.

He attacks the view that our justification is positional.  He never really defines justification, but as he discusses it we find a fundamental rejection of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as the foundation of our justification.

“God’s plan was actually an exchange of nature. … People who place their faith in Christ undergo a miraculous exchange at the center of their being.  Who they were in Adam is no longer there.  They become a new person, a child of God who is in Christ.  The key event causing this exchange is a death, burial and resurrection with Christ.  This miraculous exchange is not figurative or symbolic but literal and actual.  The spiritual part of every Christian has literally and actually been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ.”

In Paul’s writings we find the concept of being “in Christ”.  We enjoy a spiritual union with Him.  Since he is our representative, instead of Adam, all that happened to Him happened to us.  When Jesus literally died and rose again, He did it as our Substitute so we receive the benefits of His actions.  In Romans 4, one of the key phrases Paul quotes from Genesis is that Abraham’s faith was “credited to him as righteousness.”  Justification is the removal of our guilt (imputed to Christ at His death) and the imputation of His obedience to us.  Though we are not personally righteous, His righteousness is credited to all who believe.  Luther would say we are “at the same time just and sinners.”


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I had been blogging through parts of The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders.  But then I became distracted from this very good book by a very bad book.  So I’m back with a less extensive review of this very good book by Roger Parrott.

I am not typically fond of books on leadership.  Particularly by Christians.  They tend to avoid the reality of the flesh which makes leading difficult in so many ways.

This is a book I wish was written long ago, for I found I could have used this book about 10 years ago.  I’ve made many of the mistakes he tackles.  I also found some of his advice counter-cultural, and more helpful than what you usually hear.


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Monday, 6:30 am:  Park my car in the satellite parking at Orlando International Airport.  My day began at 5:15 as Charlie Peacock serenaded me awake.  As I sit on the bus heading to the terminal I encounter the first of many surprises.  I usually fly Southwest (terminal A) and am the last guy on the bus.  This means It always starts on Terminal B.  Flying Delta today, which is terminal B.  The bus goes to Terminal A.  This … was a sign.

Not checking any bags so I get my e-ticket and all is well.  The line at security is short, so all looks well.  Key word: looks.  The line is short, but not moving.  Slugs have moved faster.  The problem?  Not enough security personnel. Occasionally they open the “family” and “handicapped” lanes to overflow.  They keep opening different sections, and I’m always about 2 feet way too far.  I … am … stuck (patience is a virtue which I possess in small portions- Patience Deficit Disorder or PDD for short).  I end up next to a family whose flight is earlier than mine.  “Don’t worry, they know you’re hear.”  Of course, you can’t hear an intercom here, so if they were paged they’d never know to tell the TSA guy “that’s me!”  I notice the line on the far left moves much better, and suddenly they open an overflow line there- off like a rat!  I’m now in a line that is moving  much faster.  Though I’ve got farther to go than said family, I’m through security well before them.

8 am.  “Final call for flight ### to Cincinatti.”  While talking on cell with CavWife I see the family running down the hall barely making the gate in time.  I am glad for them, not realizing this is nearly a glimpse of my future.

Atlanta, 10 am-ish.  I am reminded of my experiences at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  If I have a long layover it is the next gate.  If a short one, I have to run through the tunnels with the flashing neon lights talking back to the intercom messages about Passenger Cavman “I’m coming as fast as I can!”  I have a short layover, and anticipate running.  Oh yeah, I’m in Concourse A but need to get to B.  I notice that though I have a low # I’m near the end of the concourse.  Since I have a high number in B, I think this is a good thing.

I notice all the good restaurants here, hmmm, I may have time for dinner on my way home.  Down the escalator to the train, only to have it close mere seconds before I get there.  No time to lose (or say ‘hi’ to the Pioneer Woman who’s also supposed to be in Atlanta for a book signing) so to the moving sidewalk.  As I begin to walk down Concourse B, I notice the #s are in ascending, not descending, order.  I once again have to make my way along the length of the concourse.  Merely an annoying inconsistency, since I had enough time to sit down before they boarded my flight.


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The Annual Winter Meetings of MLB will be taking place this week.  The free agent signings have begun, but the biggest fish remain to be caught.  A few minor trades have taken place, but there may be some big ones to emerge as GMs and agents converge.

Going into the meetings, the Red Sox have lost 2 players from last season.  Billy Wagner and Saito have both shifted to the formerly of Boston now Atlanta Braves.  Losing Wagner, a type-A free agent, freed up the possibility of solving Theo’s perpetual SS dilemma by signing free agent Marco Scutaro.

Some people have been critical of this move.  But Theo did not pull another Lugo (or Renteria).  The deal was for only 2 years (not 4), and is affordable by baseball standards.

This allows for one of two things to happen.  Either, Jed Lowrie proves he can stay healthy and productive, or more importantly international free agent signee Iglesias proves he can hit as well as field.  The Red Sox have a solid defender who can get on base and score runs in Scutaro.  Though 2009 was his best year he may benefit from being in a better line up and seeing better pitches.  One of the main needs for the Red Sox has been addressed.

That leaves left field as the biggest problem to be addressed.  Jason Bay, in the eyes of some, is their best bet.  I beg to differ.  Yes, Holliday will cost more money.  But his average production is better than Jason Bay’s.  Even when you look at this past year, Holliday is a better hitter.  Holliday strikes out considerably less than Bay.  This means he puts the ball in play more often which means that runners can advance instead of stifling the offense.  He does hit, on average, into 2 more double plays per season than Bay.  He also hits for a bit more power.  His defense is also better than Bay’s.  Bigger bat, and so is his glove.  Theo should be willing to pay a little more to get a better player.

Much has been made about a possible trade for Padres’ first baseman Adrian Gonazalez.  The Red Sox have some chips in major league ready players that could make it possible.  They can offer Lowrie and Casey Kotchman in addition to a few prospects.  Hoyer’s past with the Red Sox can work for him in this regard.  He knows the best players the Red Sox have in their system.

If they were able to pull that off (thereby getting a 2nd big bat to make it a lethal offense) it would make Lowell expendable.  I hate saying that.  He’s, by all accounts, a great guy and has played well for the Red Sox.  But Youk could shift back to 3rd, improving our defense.

This could be an important series of meetings.  I don’t expect the Red Sox to sign a left fielder, but I do expect that a lot of the groundwork for that signing and any important trades should be laid.  It should be a busy week for Theo.

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Considering Delirious?

I need a break from The Naked Gospel, something a bit more positive.  CT has an interview with Martin Smith of Delirious?, one of my favorite bands.  They have just wrapped up their farewell tour, and this makes me a bit sad.  I’ve never seen them in concert.  But bands have a knack for reuniting, so you never know.

I first learned about Delirious? while in Mexico for a mission trip.  Paco, our British guide, received King of Fools as a gift which was delivered (I think) by our team.  We listened to it a few times, and they sounded like what I imagine U2 would have sounded like had they been more evangelical.  I’ve purchased nearly every album since then.  They started as a worship band, and all of their albums had a number of worshipful songs on them, though most probably couldn’t be done in a church.

They did record their final show, so we have that to look forward to.

In the interview, Martin cites U2 and Radiohead as primary influences musically.

One of the more interesting comments was about the Church of England.  He thinks there are some incredible things happening in the Church, which will change things in the next year.  Sadly there were no specifics.

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Part 3 of The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley is called Crossing the Line.  I thought he’d cross it, and he did.  The section is essentially on his hermeneutic (or method of interpretation).  He crossed the line into what I think is a very bad place.

The matter of interpretive method is very important.  Most false teaching arises from a faulty method of interpretation.  It is Farley’s faulty method of interpretation that gives birth to the various errors in his teaching (and the strange theories he foists upon us to float some of them).

By now you are probably thinking- “get to it already”.  If you are, this is how I often feel when I listen to Glen Beck.  He also has some hermeneutical issues when it comes to theology, but I digress even further.

Farley embraces a view I have only found among hyper-dispensationalists (I’m not saying he’s a hyper-dispensationalist, just that his hermeneutic is very similar).  It is that the new covenant did not come into effect until the cross & resurrection, so (and this is the odd part) the gospels are not part of the New Testament proper.  They are written to Jews, not Christians, so Jesus’ words there are not binding upon us in any way.  The Old Testament is instructive to understand our sinfulness and how God would eventually save sinners.  But the Old Testament is not to be used as a guide for life in any way, shape or form.  We find “a thorough background in how God initiated a relationship with humankind and how we did whatever we could to ruin this relationship.”

In my previous post I forgot to interact with his material on 2 Timothy 3.  But it fits in here very well.  He quotes 2 Timothy 3:16-17, but I’ll put a few more verses in there for context.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (NIV)


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