Friday, August 31, 2007

He's a natural born world-shaker.

Friday night the Cardinals crept back to within a game of .500, which is pretty good in the NL Central this year.

However, it was quite a milestone victory, at least for manager Tony LaRussa, J.D.. With that win Tony LaRussa became the winningest Cardinals manager in the history of the organization, which is pretty impressive.
"He's third on the all-time wins list in the history of baseball. He's the only manager with 1,000 wins in each league, and one of two skippers with a World Series championship in each league."

His 1,042 wins past the tally of victories compiled by hall of famer Red Schoendienst.

LaRussa joked afterward that there should be an asterisk next to his name since LaRussa was such a "lousy player" he got started on his managerial career when he was much younger than the hall of fame player Schoendienst.

In other words, had he been a better player and subsequently played longer, then he would not have as many managerial victories.

TLR has an impressive resume, but many think his best work as a manager has come the past 2 years. Last year he won the World Series with a depleted squad wracked with injuries.

This year's roster has been even more bloodied and with the exception of the 1st game of the season, none of last year's top 5 starting pitchers have pitched for the team (2 have been injured all season and the other 3 left as free agents). And yet, they're only 2 games out of 1st place in their division.

The team may not win any awards this year, but I appreciate that he's at least been able to keep us in the hunt considering all the injuries and departure of talent.

Congratulations, Tony!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

You tell 'em I'M coming ... and hell's coming with me, you hear?

"What about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?"

“They don’t go to hell, do they?”

As much as the fact saddens my heart, the unevangelized do spend eternity in hell. You might be thinking, “That’s not justice.” But before making that accusation, think about what justice means.

Justice entails getting what you deserve. For example, if I agree to pay you $5 for washing my car and pay you $5 upon completion, justice was done. If I give you less than $5, you have cause to be angry as you received less than what you deserved. Also, if I gave you $7 instead, I was gracious to you and more than fair.

Well, is it just for those who have never heard the gospel to spend an eternity separated from God? Yes, the unevangelized go to hell, but not because they haven’t heard. Rather, they go to hell because they deserve to do so. They deserve hell because they are sinners.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because God is holy, He cannot allow sin into His presence. Because sin is breaking God’s laws (1 John 3:4) and God is a good or just Judge, He must punish crime. Only a corrupt judge would let criminals go free without punishment. That punishment is severe. We are told that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

For every member of the human race punishment either has been executed or it will.
"what Christ did by dying on the cross for sinners was to appease the wrath of God against sinners. By requiring of his Son such humiliation and suffering for the sake of God's glory, He openly demonstrated that He does not sweep sin under the rug. All contempt for His glory is duly punished, either on the cross, where the wrath of God is propitiated for those who believe, or in hell, where the wrath of God is poured out on those who don't."
-John Piper, Desiring God
We can see that one reason the unevangelized go to hell is because God is a just Judge and gives them what they deserve. They deserve hell for their crimes, but so do I. I am merely a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Sins are forgiven and paid due to Christ’s death and His death alone. For believers, "it is finished."

But this assuaging of God's wrath is only appropriated by faith. Therefore, the unevangelized do not have their sin forgiven by the only means offered in the Bible, Jesus’ death.

Are there other ways? Jesus claimed that no one could come to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). We are told that there is no other name, under heaven, given to men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12). Those who have the Son of God have eternal life and those without the Son do not (1 John 5:12). We also read that those who do not believe in Jesus are condemned already (John 3:18) and not just because they do not believe. Remember, that for those who reject Christ there is no change in status, but they remain under the wrath of God (John 3:36). Jesus says that unless one believes in Him, they will die in their sins (John 8:24).

In a book by Kenneth Boa and Larry Moody entitled I’m Glad You Asked, the authors offer 3 options to our initial question regarding those who have never heard.

These 3 options are:
(1) God will not judge them,
(2) God will judge them unfairly, or
(3) God will judge them fairly.

The Bible specifically addresses this issue in the first chapter of Romans. We are told that what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Romans 1:19). It also informs us that since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Rom 1:20).

It has been my intention to show that God will judge them, but fairly. Fairness to the lost entails punishment for their sin. In fact, God would still be fair and just if no people were saved. But, because of His love, He chooses to have mercy on some (Rom 9:18). He does not have to do so, but does so out of love. It is by God’s grace that He saves any people. None of us deserve Jesus. God does not owe us heaven, in fact God does not owe us anything, except hell.

Again, the Bible is clear. They are without excuse (Rom 1:20). The sad truth is that those who have not heard are headed toward an eternity in hell. This is illustrative of a Christian’s zeal for evangelism, sharing his/her faith. Those that understand the Bible on this subject realize the need for spreading the gospel of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

We look to the 10th chapter of Romans. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (10:13). Next a problem arises: “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (10:14). The answer to this rhetorical question is that they cannot. The following shows the responsibility of each Christian: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (10:14).

It is precisely because the unevangelized go to hell that Christians must spread the good news of Jesus Christ!

If the world's population was safe in ignorance, then one of the worst things we could do for our fellow humans we intend to love would be to share the Gospel with them, thereby making them accountable. Money spent on world missions would be blood money. If one believed the unevangelized were saved, then evangelists could only increase hell's population.

What good news would that be? The best outcome for the evangelized would be that they still get to go to heaven? Left alone they'd get that any way, right? Being evangelized the chance emerges that they could go to hell.

C'mon! That's absurd and missionaries might as well announce their vocation by saying, "You tell 'em I'M coming ... and hell's coming with me, you hear?"

But since people in their ignorance are unaware of their plight, we labor to warn them.

The bad news is that all of humanity are under the wrath of God. The good news is that there is a way of escape because of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The time is short and we must do all we can to minimize this harsh reality by leaving as few as possible unevangelized.
"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for."
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I have no idea to this day what those 2 Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid.

Every reader of this blog has been exposed to some Latin because the title Semper Reformanda is Latin for "Always Reforming."

It comes in handy at Providence Church because we embrace the "5 solas" of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria (id est, Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, to God's Glory Alone).

I never took Latin growing up and had to learn it while at Oxford University as a grad student. I began to compile a list of useful expressions.

So, as a public service announcement, I share with you 2 Latin lists. Mine is primarily concerned with ecclesiastical Latin, or that which refers to the church and theology.

Do you have any helpful Latin that might have been missed?

Neatorama's Latin You Should Know:
"Why do you need these Latin phrases? Well, like Latin teachers always say, Latin lives on in plenty of English words and phrases. But mostly, it’s worth learning a bit of Latin because omnia dicta fortiori, si dicta Latina: everything sounds more impressive when said in Latin."
2. Gunny's Latin List:
  • A posteriori - from the latter
  • A priori - from the former
  • Acta non verba - actions, not words
  • Ad hominem - to the man
  • Ad infinitum - To infinity
  • Addendum - thing to be added
  • Affidavit - he asserted
  • Agenda - Things to be done
  • Agnus Dei - Lamb of God
  • Alibi - elsewhere
  • Alma mater - nourishing mother
  • Alter ego - other I
  • Amor vincit omnia - Love conquers all
  • Anno Domini - In the year of the Lord
  • Ante - before
  • Ante Bellum - before (the) war
  • Ante meridiem (a.m.) - before midday
  • Antediluvian - before (the) flood
  • Ars gratia artis - art for art's sake
  • Ava Maria - Hail, Mary
  • Bona fide - In good faith
  • Bonum commune - The common good
  • Carpe Diem - Sieze the day
  • Christus Dominus - Christ the Lord
  • Christus Rex - Christ the King
  • Circa (ca.) - around
  • Coena Domini - The Lord’s Supper
  • Cogito ergo sum - I think therefore I am
  • Communio - Communion
  • Communio sanctorum - Communion of saints
  • Confer (cf.) - Bring together, Compare
  • Consensus non facit veritatem - Consensus does not make truth
  • Consummatum est - It is consummated (finished, completed)
  • Contra naturam - Against nature
  • Contra mundum - Against the (thinking of the) world
  • Cor Unum - One Heart
  • Coram Deo - In the presence of God, Before (the face of) God
  • Corpus Christi - Body of Christ
  • Creatio ex nihilo - Creation out of nothing
  • Credenda - Things to be believed
  • Credo - I believe
  • Cum grano salis - With a grain of salt
  • Cum laude - With praise
  • Cur Deus Homo - Why God Man (Why God Became Man), book by Anselm
  • De facto - in fact
  • De jure - by law
  • Dei verbum - Word of God
  • Deo gratias - Thanks be to God
  • Deo volente - God willing
  • Deus - God
  • Deus nihil facit inane - God does nothing in vain
  • Dies irae - Day of wrath
  • Domine - O Lord
  • Dominicae cenae - The Lord’s Supper
  • Dominus - Lord, master
  • Dominus illuminatio mea - The Lord is my light
  • Dominus vobiscum - The Lord be with you
  • Donum vitae - Gift of life
  • Ductus exemplo - Leadership by example
  • Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - It is always sweet and fitting to die for one's country/fatherland
  • E pluribus unum - from many (comes) one
  • Ecce Homo - behold the man
  • Emeritus - veteran, worn out
  • Ergo - Therefore
  • Errare humanum est - To err is human
  • Et alii (et al.) - and others
  • Et cetera - and other things
  • Et tu, Brute? - and you (too), Brutus?
  • Evangelium - Gospel
  • Evangelium vitae - Gospel of life
  • Ex cathedra - from the chair
  • Ex officio - from the office
  • Ex opere operato - from the work performed/worked
  • Ex post facto - from a thing done afterward
  • Exempli gratia (E.g.) - For the sake of an example
  • Exsurge Domine - Rise up Lord
  • Extra ecclesia nulla salus - Outside of the Church there is no salvation
  • Fama habet - Rumor has it
  • Fiat - Let it be done
  • Fiat lux - Let there be light
  • Fiat voluntas tua - Thy will be done
  • Fides quaerens intellectum - Faith seeking understanding
  • Gloria in excelsis Deo - Glory to God in the highest
  • Gloria Patri - Glory be to the Father
  • Gratia - Grace
  • Hoc est enim corpus meum - This is my body
  • Ibidem (ibid.) - In the same place
  • Id est (I.e.) - That is
  • Imago Dei - Image of God
  • In absentia - In (one’s) absence
  • In aeternum - In eternity
  • In loco parentis - In the place of a parent
  • In persona Christi - In the person of Christ
  • In toto - In totality
  • In vino veritas - in wine there is truth
  • Laudate Dominum - Praise the Lord
  • Laus Deo - Praise be to God
  • Lex rex - The law is king
  • Lex talionis - Law of retaliation
  • Liberum arbitrium - Free will
  • Magna carta - Great Paper
  • Magna cum laude - With great praise
  • Magnum opus - (A/The) great work
  • Mea culpa - My fault, my bad
  • Missio Dei - Mission from God
  • Modus operandi - Manner of working
  • Modus vivendi - Way of living
  • Ne plus ultra - no(thing) more beyond
  • Nihil ex nihilo fit - Nothing from nothing comes
  • Nolo contendere - No contest, I do not wish to contend
  • Non Nobis Domine - Not Unto Us, O Lord
  • Non sequitur - It does not follow
  • Nota bene - Note well
  • Omnia vincit amor - Love conquers all
  • Onus probandi - The burden of proving
  • Opere citato (Op. cit.) - In the work cited
  • Opus Dei - Work of God
  • Ora pro nobis - Pray for us
  • Pacem in terris - Peace on earth
  • Pater Noster - Our Father
  • Pater peccavi - Father, I have sinned
  • Pax Christi - Peace of Christ
  • Pax et bonum - Peace and goodness
  • Peccatum originale - Original sin
  • Per diem - Per day
  • Per ipsum - Through him
  • Per se - By itself
  • Per unitatem vis - from unity (comes) strength
  • Perfectus - Complete, finished, perfect, excellent
  • Persona non grata - person not pleasing
  • Pietas - Piety
  • post meridiem (p.m.) - after midday
  • Post mortem - After death
  • Post partum - After birth (bearing)
  • Post scriptum (P.S.) - Written afterwards
  • Prima Donna - first lady; egotistical one
  • Prima facie - At first sight
  • Pro - Before, in front of, on behalf of, in place of
  • Pro bono (publico) - For the (public) good
  • Pro rata - In proportion
  • Pro tempore - For the time being
  • Quid pro quo - Something for something (in exchange)
  • Redemptionis donum - Gift of redemption
  • Redemptor hominis - Redeemer of humankind
  • Redemptoris missio - Mission of redemption
  • Reductio ad absurdum - Reduction to the (point of the) absurd
  • Requiescat in pace (R.I.P.) - Rest in peace
  • Rigor mortis - Stiffness of death
  • Sacramentum - Sacrament, sign of a sacred thing
  • Salvator mundi - Savior of the world
  • Sanctus - Holy
  • Sapere aude! - Dare to know
  • Scripturam ex Scriptura explicandam esse - Scripture is to be explained from Scripture
  • Sed contra - But on the contrary
  • Semper fidelis - Always faithful
  • Semper idem - Always the same
  • Semper paratus - Always prepared
  • Sic et non - thus and not; yes and no
  • Simul iustus et peccator - Being at the same time justified & sinner
  • Similtudo Dei - Likeness to God
  • sine qua non - without which not, that which is necessary
  • Sola fide - Faith alone
  • Sola gratia - Grace alone
  • Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone
  • Soli Deo Gloria - To God alone the glory
  • Solus Christus - Christ alone
  • Status quo - Situation as it is
  • Summum bonum - The highest good
  • Textus receptus - The received text
  • Ut unum sint - That they may be one
  • Veni, Vidi, Vici - I came. I saw. I conquered.
  • Verbatim - word for word
  • Verbum Dei - Word of God
  • Veritas - Truth
  • Veto - I forbid.
  • Via Crucis - Way of the Cross
  • Videlicet (Viz.) - Clearly, evidently, namely
  • Vincit veritas - Truth conquers
  • Vinculum matrimonii - Bond of matrimony
  • Vita - Life
  • Vita aeterna - Eternal life
  • Viva voce - Live voice (something done orally)
  • Volo, non valeo - I am willing, (but) I am not able
  • Voluntas - Will (desire)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Free will. It's like butterfly wings: once touched, they never get off the ground.

A question that comes up often has to do with "free will." Do humans have a free will? What does that mean?

Cliff's Notes version: Yes ... and No.

Yes, if by a free will one means the capacity to make choices or to choose what one wants.

No, if by a free will one means the capacity to make choices free of propensity or influence.

Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will says it best, but I also love Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will. Though the titles sounds diametrically opposed, they essentially say the same thing. I recommend both, but suggest Luther first, being the more accessible to the common man, like me.

To "sum up" Edwards (in all humility, an impossibility), a person is free to choose that which he or she wants. However, he or she must choose that which he or she wants. In other words, the person's choices are limited and the person must choose that which is the strongest inclination at the time of decision.
"A man never, in any instance, wills anything contrary to his desires, or desires contrary to his will."
-Edwards, Freedom of the Will

An illustration ...

If I'm on the Atkins diet again tomorrow I will be faced with a decision when I notice that 1/2 gallon of Bluebell Cookies & Cream in the freezer. Whether I go hungry or enjoy the best ice cream in the country is a choice I make. But it's a determined choice. It's determined by my strongest inclination at the moment of decision. If my desire to drop some weight is stronger, I close the door. If my affection for ice cream wins out, then I make a dent in the carton.

A depraved and unregenerate person's problem is not the will per se, which is just the decision-making faculty, but rather the heart is the problem. Because the heart is evil, it will only choose evil.

Because people love the darkness (John 3:19-20), they will only have the (moral) ability to choose the darkness and they won't come to Christ because He is not perceived as lovely, for they hate the light.

When we share Christ with someone, we give them an option, someone in whom to believe, but they will not really be free to embrace that option until they have been regenerated to have a new heart that loves God and hates sin.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature's night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke. The dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off.
My heart was free.
I rose, went forth,
and followed Thee.
-Charles Wesley, "And Can It Be?"
This is the nature of depravity and the reason God must give "eyes to see" and "ears to hear," for people in a natural state cannot (i.e., ability) understand the things of the Spirit. (1 Cor 2:14) Until that time, Christianity looks foolish and Christ is not perceived as worthy of faith & trust.

Again, an illustration ...

In my present state there is no desire to eat green beans. They appear repulsive and I can barely tolerate to have them in my presence. They are clearly made of Kryptonite. Now, on the one hand, I have the natural ability to eat green beans, but I will never do so because I don't want to. Since I don't want to, in that sense I cannot. It would take a tongue transplant and perhaps a brain transplant to really put green beans in the realm of realistic options for me. My taste buds and food processing faculties would need to be regenerated.

So, in one sense the will is free. God's not doing anything to the will of those who reject Christ. They reject Him ... willingly. At the same time, those who come to Christ do so not out of compulsion as though they were forced, but because they desire to do so after having their eyes opened to see the beauty & majesty of the Lord.

Until a new heart is given (Ezek 36:26-27), they will always willingly reject Christ (though they might be persuaded to do some outward act of acquiescence like walking an aisle or raising a hand, etc.).

In that sense, the will is not free because the creature will not choose Christ, hence he/she cannot choose Christ. Because they do not want Him, they will not choose Him.

There is a cause to each effect and there cannot be a causeless cause. Which means there's a reason (at least one) for every decision made and no decisions are made apart from influence.

Incidentally, this is why we can say that every choice is determined, but also that every choice is freely made. It's determined by the heart (which can be guided by God as He wills (Prov 21:1), but made by the creature as a result.
"The choice of the mind never departs from that which, at that time, and with respect to the direct and immediate objects of that decision of the mind, appears most agreeable and pleasing, all things considered."
-Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will
Thus, the myth of free will is that humans can come to Christ on their own accord, by their own desire. They cannot (John 6:44). They cannot because they will not because they have no desire to do so.

Consequently, we labor in love for people to respond to Christ, but we humbly rely on the Spirit to enable them to see Christ as He is revealed to be altogether lovely in the Gospel, and worthy of faith, love, and obedient devotion.

When I Survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died.
My richest gain, I count but loss

and pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine

that were a present far too small.

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Football is about controlling that anger, harnessing that aggression into a team effort to achieve perfection!

The NFL draft has come and gone, which is good because the hype really beat me down. Preseason is almost over, which is good, because the hype really beats me down.

After 2 preseason games, however, I fee pretty good about my this upcoming season.

I'm a Cowboy fan, but there are certain things I hate about professional football (i.e., NFL). I thought it a good time to vent a little about what I don't like about the NFL game.

1. I hate the prevent defense. All it prevents is your team winning the game. Giving up yardage only hoping to prevent the "home run" seems like a failed bit that should have fallen out of vogue years ago, but the Cowboys have particularly enjoyed learning the hard way of its foolishness.

2. Perhaps the thing I hate most about the NFL is the guys with tons of hair protruding from the back of the helmet. White guy, black guy, it doesn't matter. I hate it. Per the rules, the hair is part of the uniform and can be used in a tackle. I would use nothing else when bringing a guy down, perhaps that would be a deterrent. NFL players can't trick up their uniforms or wear unauthorized equipment, but they can let their hair grow down their backs so we can't even read their names on the back? Silly.

3. I've already gone on record about cheer leading, but I hate coming back from commercial and enduring the uncomfortable lingering camera shots on the cleavage bearing cheerleaders.

4. The sideline reporter is a failed bit. The ladies on the side are there to add a feminine touch, but it's an unnecessary person on the payroll as we could get that information without the illusion that we need that person. Plus, the sideline reporter can actually whip you (e.g., Tony Siragusa).

5. I'm whipped by how they feel they have to trick up Monday Night Football. In particular, bringing in the spare pop music icons to assist Hank in asking, "Are you ready for some football?" has got to stop. Hank Williams Jr. was fine by himself. Plus, the player self-introductions is annoying as they announce their school. One guy will give "The U" and another "Slooge High School, Slooge, Texas" and some such. Go back to just flashing thumbnail pictures with name and position underneath, and perhaps college (since they all have one).

6. The pre half-time coach interview is a whippin. They are so cliche and predictable. "Coach, you're down 14 points, what do you need to do in the second half?" "Well, we need to protect the football, make plays on defense, and execute on offense. If we can control the clock we'll be okay." "Thanks, Coach." Please, stop beating him and us down with that foolishness.

7. Another thing that whips me, a commentator that labors the time of possession stat and its importance. This is particularly important to them because it gives your defense a rest, if you have the ball a lot on offense.

Am I the only one that knows that time of possession is not as important and number of plays run? Give me that stat. Why, because 3 runs versus 3 passes uses the same amount of real life time (same play clock, etc.), though the former uses more game clock (assuming the runner doesn't go out of bounds). An incomplete pass will stop the clock, but a team could have 5 "three and outs" whereby all plays were incomplete passes and the other team could have 5 "three and outs" whereby all plays were runs up the middle. The teams' respective defenses get the exact same amount of rest time and the offenses ran the exact same number of plays, though the time of possession will be severely lopsided. Nobody cares about time of possession. Tell me the number of plays run!

8. This is a small one, but what's up with the Cleveland Browns moving to Baltimore and changing their name, but somehow a new team is created ... a team with their name AND their history? How can we have a new team created with a 50+ year history? I will always want the Browns to lose and the Ravens to have more success just because of that historical revisionism.

9. I may not get a lot of support here, but I hate the "fair catch" rule. There shouldn't be any such thing. I'm all for letting a guy catch the ball, like with a receiver, but how much fun could it be to see the guy have to catch the ball and run with it.

10. Another rule change I'd want to see would be getting rid of the awarding of a "catch" when the receiver is pushed out of bounds prior to landing with the ball. Hey, if you're out, you're out. How you got is immaterial. I'd be willing to allow a receiver to only get 1 foot in bounds to constitute a catch to appease the whining receivers.

11. The pass interference call is a beat down. This is almost as bad as the NBA foul, where it could potentially be called on every pass play, or not called, or called the other way. I just hate that even commentators recognize the wisdom in just "throwing it down the field, hoping for a penalty."

12. Silly, tricked up, or "throwback" jersey games seem to be a curse upon the Cowboys. Let's just go with the silver helmets and white or blue jerseys, the way God intended it. I know it's another jersey to con the fan into buying, but please don't put them on the field.

13. The thing that beat me down more than anything last year was the media's obsession with Terrell Owens. I noticed it while in St. Louis the week T.O. had an overdose. It's not just the Dallas media that can't get enough of the guy. Stop beating us down with T.O. talk, particularly that which has no relation to the game of football whatsoever.

14. I also hate the anti-Cowboy bias, particularly with regard to the Hall of Fame.

15. Of course, an easy target is the ridiculous salaries, especially for the rookie who has yet to prove himself. However, I will admit that football is not like other sports where the money is guaranteed. A player can be cut, so the only guaranteed money is the "signing bonus," which is merely a few million for some of those guys.

16. Yet, even worse is the profits the owners must get and I'll have to say it's bad bull they still make money off what former players did, though the former players got/get very little in comparison with what everyone else involved is getting.

17. Lastly, I miss the days of real rivalry. The Cowboys used to really hate the Redskins and vice versa and the game was better for it. Now, there's little team loyalty as free agents are courted by the highest bidder.

Plus, there's less passion for the game. So, win or lose, the teams shake hands and hug and get in touch with each others' feelings. Where's the anger at getting humiliated on the field? Where's the revenge for last year? Where's the aggression that motivates a physical game? Football is about controlling that anger, harnessing that aggression into a team effort to achieve perfection! It's not about bolstering one's reputation and playing for the next free agency contract.

You feelin' me? What whips you about the NFL?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What will your verse be?

One of my heroes is J. I. Packer, who had been declared one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" by Time Magazine in 2005.

He helped introduce me to the Puritans (e.g., A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life) in general and in particular to John Owen, the subject of my studies at Oxford. He wrote Knowing God, an essential and one of my all time favorites and on my short list of books I've read multiple times. His list of accomplishments are great in many ways, but I often find it interesting to hear from the individual what he or she thinks is his/her greatest accomplishment.

Luther thought his greatest book was The Bondage of the Will, another classic, and I think he's right. But, perhaps the greatest thing he did was translate the Bible into German so the commoners could read it and not only the clergy. This was great in the Protestant tradition of Sola Scriptura, but also in the standardization and development of the English language. Something similar could be said for the King James Version of the Bible.

What about J. I. Packer?

Some might herald his introduction to John Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ as his greatest production. It's accessible to the common man and, though pithy, it's packed with rich theological insight.

What about Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God? It helps to show that the slanderous & libelous accusation that "Calvinism kills evangelism" is a non sequitor.

According to Dr. Packer himself (audio clip), it seems that his work as general editor of the English Standard Version (ESV) is probably his greatest contribution to the kingdom.
I find myself suspecting very strongly that this was the most important thing that I have done for the Kingdom and that the product of our labors is perhaps the biggest milestone in Bible translation in the past fifty years or more.

As a sola Scripturian, it's hard to top giving the people a Bible that's readable and faithful to the Hebrew & Greek manuscripts. What an honor & privilege that must have been for him.

We use the ESV at Providence Church and I'd recommend it (as have others). Personally, I think debate over Bible versions can be petty and counter-productive, so don't take my commendation as a condemnation of every other version.

Contrary to what you might if you use anything other than the ESV (or KJV in some circles), the terrorists have not already won. However, if you're in the market for another translation or would like a good study Bible, the ESV is the choice of The Reformation Study Bible, which I heartily recommend.

Walt Whitman wrote:
'O me! O life!...of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless...of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here...that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.'
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

God is not only the great story teller, but He is the greatest story writer, writing the glorious story of a King and His Kingdom.

You get to play a part in that drama. What will be your role in glorifying God through the advancement of His kingdom? What will your greatest contribution be?

What will your verse be?

Need a little wind here.

My first exposure to "contemporary Christian" music came from Keith Green while at Texas A&M University. I always found his music (1 & 2) emotionally stirring, challenging, and encouraging all at the same time.

While everyone was droning on about the hip & now Christian artists they wanted to see in concert, I was holding out for Keith. I was devastated to learn that he'd been dead since 1982.

Keith is not my theologian and one of his heroes is my bogeyman (i.e., Charles Grandison Finney), but he played a major part in helping me to love the Lord my God with all my heart.

Who can forget Keith's "No empty words and no white lies. No token prayers; no compromise"?

If you'd like a little taste of Keith's heart, read What's Wrong with the Gospel? (The Missing Parts & The Added Parts). Remember as you do that he died July 28th, 1982. Imagine how upset he'd be with the past 25 years of "development" in these areas.

We're going to be singing one of Keith's songs at Providence Church this Sunday, so I thought I'd share the lyrics from one of Keith's songs that captures my desire, my need.

Rushing Wind:

Rushing wind, blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within.
Come and breathe your breath upon me.
I've been born again.

Holy Spirit, I surrender;
Take me where you want to go.
Plant me by your living water;
Plant me deep so I can grow.

Jesus, you’re the one who sets my spirit free;
Use me, Lord; glorify your Holy Name through me.
Separate me from this world, Lord;
Sanctify my life for you.
Daily change me to your image,
Help me bear good fruit.

Ev'ry day you're drawing closer;
Trials come to test my faith.
But when all is said and done, Lord,
You know it's been worth the wait.

Jesus, you’re the one who set my spirit free;
Use me, Lord; glorify your Holy Name through me.

Rushing wind, blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within.
Come and breathe you breath upon me,
For I've been born again.
-Keith Green

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm not perfect, but who are we kidding, neither are you.

As I celebrate my 14th anniversary today, here are the Top 10 Things Not to Say on Your Anniversary:

10. I stopped caring about anniversaries when you stopped caring about cooking.

9. Today is our what?

8. Okay, let’s celebrate, but do we have to celebrate together?

7. I thought we only celebrated important events?

6. You can celebrate anniversaries with your next husband.

5. You don’t like what I pick out, so I thought why bother.

4. I got you a present worth a dollar for every time you were nice to me this year. Here’s a $5 gift certificate for McDonald’s.

3. If you want me to pretend like I care about our anniversary, I will.

2. You want to go out to dinner? Okay, okay, I’ll take you to Pizza Hut if it’ll shut ya up.

1. I thought you only had to celebrate anniversaries while you were still in love.

As a bonus for you single folk, what not to say in a marriage proposal:
"I'm not perfect, but who are we kidding, neither are you."
- Jeremy Grey

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cross him off then.

This is interesting. The Dallas Morning News reported this morning that a funeral locale had to be changed because High Point Church was not on board with the homosexual behavior of the deceased. (HT Tank)
An Arlington church volunteered to host a funeral Thursday, then reneged on the invitation when it became clear the dead man's homosexuality would be identified in the service.

There are 2 issues here for me.

1. Where is the line drawn for the behavior/lifestyle of the deceased? In other words, if you're going to allow a non-Christian to be honored in your church building, how much sinfulness is acceptable? Obviously, there are varying degrees of sin/sinfulness, but suppose the deceased was just an adulterer? What about a wife-beater?

How much obligation is there upon the church to research the deceased?

As I understand it, this situation is one where the church was surprised and felt they could not compromise their principles.
"Can you hold the event and condone the sin and compromise our principles?" he said. "We can't."

The issue was not so much that Mr. Sinclair was, from the church's perspective, an unrepentant sinner, he said. It's that it was clear from the photos that his friends and family wanted that part of his life to be a significant part of the service.

The pastor said that he could imagine a similar situation involving a different sin. Perhaps a mother who is a member of the church loses a son who is a thief or murderer, Mr. Simons said. The church would surely volunteer to hold a service, he said.

"But I don't think the mother would submit photos of her son murdering someone," he said. "That's a red light going off."

I understand where they're coming from, but at the same time. I wonder about any "unrepentent sinner" being honored in a church building, since you're not honoring Christ in that person's life. Which leads me to my 2nd question.

2. Why would a person who was not a member of any church have a "church" funeral? The deceased was not a member of any church, so why have the funeral/memorial service in a church? Is it only because the building was large?

I've often wondered about this with regard to weddings as well. Why have a wedding in a Christian church if you're not planning on having a Christian marriage or if neither of the participants is a Christian? Of course, they both ought to be, lest somebody needs a rebuke for marrying a non-believer.

I think non-believers should marry each other, but I've often wondered why they would desire a "church wedding," beyond the aesthetic value of the building.

Any way, these are questions to ponder, especially by those in church leadership. Regardless of convictions about morals and standards of behavior, churches would do well to have thought through these issues and have policies in place ahead of time.
Figuring out how to walk that line is not easy, said the Rev. Bob Stith, the recently retired pastor of Carroll Baptist Church in Southlake who is now the national strategist for gender issues for the Southern Baptist Convention. His new job is to help churches negotiate conflicts like the one faced by High Point.

The best system is to work out procedures ahead of time, he said. For instance, he tells Baptist churches they should have clear guidelines that they can give to families at the start of funeral planning. But even that can't prevent every possible awkward situation, he said.

"I know because this is such new ground for a lot of churches and pastors, you get caught off-guard and you get reactive and not proactive," he said.
I applaud the church for not compromising their convictions, but I hope their experience will be a lesson for others as there was much embarrassment for both the church and the family.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

I don't know how to put this, but it's kind of a big deal.

*Warning: The following is primarily intended for those who are convinced that a believer's baptism is the only means of "valid" baptism. I realize there will be those who disagree at this point, but the nature of the discussion centers upon how such persuaded persons should or could approach the issue of paedobaptism and church membership.*

(N.B. Wayne Grudem responded to Piper's disappointment. I've linked to it at the end.)

Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology has been revised, with the most glaring change being the change of stance on the issue of baptism and potential allowance of paedobaptism in a Baptist(ic) church.
"I did not realize this difficulty when I first published this book in 1994. I have revised this entire section for the 2007 printing."

Read the fullness of the revision. (HT Justin Taylor)

Here's a pertinent portion of the revision:
But the most serious difficulty arises when people begin to think about what such a “compromise position” implies about the views of baptism held by the people who go along with this compromise. For people who hold to infant baptism, they have to be able to say that it is acceptable for believing parents not to baptize their infant children. But according to a paedobaptist view, this seems close to saying that is acceptable for these parents to disobey a command of Scripture regarding the responsibility of parents to baptize their children. How can they really say this?

On the other side, those who hold to believer’s baptism (as I do) would have to be willing to admit into church membership people who have been baptized as infants, and who did not make a personal profession of faith at the time they were baptized. But from a believer’s baptism position, genuine baptism has to follow a personal profession of faith. So how can believer’s baptism advocates in good conscience say that infant baptism is also a valid form of baptism? That contradicts what they believe about the essential nature of baptism – that it is an outward sign of an inward spiritual change, so that the apostle Paul could say, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). [Bold mine; italics original]

In response to this revision, my beloved Dr. John Piper shares his disappointment.

In the old version, Grudem wrote:
"This would mean that Baptist churches would have to be willing to allow into membership those who had been baptized as infants and whose conviction of conscience, after careful consideration is that their infant baptism was valid and should not be repeated. Of course, Baptist churches could be free to preach and to attempt to persuade prospective churches members that they should be baptized as believers, but if some, after careful consideration, are simply not persuaded, it does not seem appropriate to make this a barrier to membership."

Dr. Piper wrote:
"I agree with this. And the main reason I do is that excluding a true brother in Christ from membership in the local church is far more serious than most of us think it is.

When I weigh the kind of imperfection involved in tolerating an invalid baptism because some of our members are deeply persuaded that it is biblically valid, over against the kind of imperfection involved in saying to a son or daughter of the living God, “You are excluded from the local church,” my biblical sense is that the latter is more unthinkable than the former. The local church is a visible expression of the invisible, universal, body of Christ. To exclude from it is virtually the same as excommunication. And no serious church takes excommunication as an invitation to attend the church down the street."

Well, I understand from where the Pipe is coming, but would he not deny a person with no baptism whatsoever from membership? I think he would, but, at least as I understand it, the essence of Baptist-ness (even his) is that infant baptism is not a valid baptism and is, therefore, not a baptism.

I realize there is a spectrum here whereby some will deny membership unless one is actually baptized in that particularly congregation, but the problem is that a paedobaptist sees a believer's baptism as a legitimate baptism, but it doesn't work vice versa.

I'm no Baptist or Anabaptist apologist per se, but if it was no big deal, then why all the persecution and all to begin with. I would love to see that difference overcome in a local church, but I see it as a non-compromiseable issue.

Here's where I think the compromise is not realistic. A paedo obstinately (so it seems) refuses a believer's baptism after attempts to "persuade prospective church members that they should be baptized as believers." (Again, see Grudem's old version cited above.)

Well, I think you wind up with 2 classes of citizenship. Are there going to be certain positions in the congregation not open to him or her who was "only" paedobaptized? I think the practicality of it will be so.

Piper notes the new version from Grudem:
"For someone who holds to believer’s baptism, admitting to church membership someone who has not been baptized upon profession of faith, and telling the person that he or she never has to be baptized as a believer is really giving up one’s view on the proper nature of baptism."

Pipe disagrees, but I think Grudem is right on. If your view of the proper nature of baptism is that it is the entry rite into the new covenant community for those who have been regenerated and yet you have those who have not experienced this, how have you not given up your view of the proper nature of baptism?

I understand Piper's heart on the issue, but at the end of the day the Baptist has to cease to hold to a Baptist understanding of baptism. Is a valid baptism is necessary for church membership?

Paedobaptists would say, "Yes," and I think so would most Baptists, self included. Dr. Piper would say, "No."

I think you either say that a valid baptism is not necessary or you say that an infant baptism is valid. Dr. Piper would say no, you don't have to do either.
No. Admitting a conscientious paedobaptist to membership in a Baptist church would not say that the infant baptism is valid. What it does say is: “Your mistaken understanding of baptism and the invalid baptism that follows from it are not the kind of disagreement, mistake, and failure that we are going to use in defining the meaning of the local church. We view you as a brother whose resting place is Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone, to the glory of God alone. You are in the Body of Christ. You may be in this body of Christ.”
One on the one hand I appreciate his heart, because many of heroes of the faith are paedobaptists and I do not see the differences over baptism as prohibitive to fellowship.

However, if one believes, as I do, that a valid baptism is necessary for church membership, then I think I'm bound to insist on it. If I thought that person's understanding of baptism was "mistaken" and that the baptism following it was "invalid," don't I have an obligation to educate and help that person to more rightly walk in obedience?

Again, this is all presuming my understanding of the believer's baptism being the only correct one. I'm sure some will want to argue that point, but that's another discussion for another time.

I'm just trying to ask and answer whether or not a Baptist church can accept those into membership they see to have only experienced an invalid baptism (as they define it). I'd love to see an approach that doesn't force one group or both to compromise their deep convictions regarding baptism, but I'm not seeing it possible where one or both groups can do anything other than say, "Baptism's not that big of a deal."

(N.B. Wayne Grudem responded to Dr. Piper and the response can be read here. He seems to go my route of not being on board with a non-baptized person being a church member, which is essentially what you'd have if you allow those whom you perceive to have an invalid baptism.)

*Caveat, although this was/is primarily a discussion for the believer's baptism minded person, I also think this is uncompromisable for a paedobaptist community when it comes to believers' children, as Grudem mentioned. To have church members in a covenantal congregation not administer the sign of the covenant to their children would be sin and prohibit them from full membership in the covenant community. Again, you'd have a significant issue to overcome with 2 classes of membership at best.*

**Caveat to the above caveat, I've been reminded that there are those churches out there who seemingly have pulled this off without seeing the opposing views as being in sin.
Doug Wilson has a mixed paedo/credo church. Their micro-denom, the CREC, can admit both paedo and credo churches. As I've heard it, not administering baptism to children because you are honestly convinced of a credo position is not sin. It's not taking full advantage of the means of grace provided to you, but it's not sin.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river.

Pastor Lance of Blaque Tulip asks some good questions about Christian confidence in big business versus government and why that is.

When I realized my comment was longer than his original post, I thought it only fair to truncate my thoughts and share them more fully in this venue.

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I can only speak for mybadself, but I do fall into the category of one of those Reformed bloggers who is on the conservative side (more Libertarian, really).

Pastor Lance asked: "Why is big government always viewed suspiciously, but big business seen as the good guys because they’ll always do what’s best for the customer?"

The first part I would answer because of my belief in depravity, total depravity. Also, I believe the adage that absolute power corrupts ... absolutely. That's why I'm opposed to centralized or big government.

(I'm also a strict constructionist with regard to the US Constitution and I think the 10th Amendment* has been disregarded for almost as long as we've had a federal government, but that's another story.)

I don't have much love, if any, for big business, so I can't help on that one.

Now, I'll also offer my rationale as to why I'm not down with governmental assistance for the less fortunate among society.

Well, I should clarify that. It's not that I'm an absolutist in practice, but I certainly think less is better than more, particularly the way government assistance often transpires.

Folks eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river is not my idea of success. I'm more on board with teaching folks how to fish, as opposed to just giving them a fish, if you know what I mean.

But in reality, I don't think it's the responsibility of the state to provide for the people, nor do I think the primary Christian influence is making the state do such. Jesus fed the people and had His disciples do it. They never petitioned Rome to improve the quality of life of those in its borders.

I think helping those in need is the job of the church. It's pure & undefiled religion to look after the less fortunate (e.g., widows & orphans), per James 1:27. It's not pure & undefiled government.

But the role of taking care of the less fortunate was abdicated to the state. The church got lazy and instead of God getting the glory of love & kindness being shown, it goes to the state. Instead of people learning greater dependence on God and each other (i.e., on His people), people become dependent on the state. If the church was doing its job generations ago, people would continue to look to the church and the Almighty for aid, instead of thinking of Uncle Sam first.

If the church really wanted to help in these areas, it would get the attention of the non-Christian. But both the Christian & the non-Christian view the responsibility as not being on the church. It's either the responsibility and role of the state or the role and responsibility of the individual, depending on your ideology.

Yet, the conservative has adopted a misplaced confidence as well, the political machine. If we can just get a conservative (Christian would be a nice bonus) in power, then revival will break out.

Okay, that may be an overstatement, but we all know the idea. We put our faith and trust, not in the sovereign Lord, but in humans, self-interested humans who rule in a way that best serves themselves and/or their party.

"could we have a genuine disagreement over the role of government, keep that separate from our convictions concerning Christ and still genuinely enjoy the fellowship of the saints?"

I should certainly hope so, but it's a rarity. Ultimately, it always comes down to WWJV?

What Would Jesus Vote?

Democrat or Republican?

That's the true test of orthodoxy anymore.

I think there's a tension in being involved as responsible citizens of these United States and at the same time remembering that this nation is not the New Israel or God's covenant nation. It never has been and never will be.

Prior to Christ's return there will not be a "Christian Nation." I think we try to make the world a better place for the reputation of Christ, but at the same time, we realize it just may not be God's will that we prosper financially as individuals, living the most comfortable living of any group of people in the history of the planet.

I have my political biases and preferences, of course, but this is not our home, so I operate in it as a means to an end. A good America is a means to an end for me, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If God is more glorified through a "bad America" whereby I suffer or people are neglected by the government to be assisted by Christians, then I'm down with any of the above as well.

Soli Deo gloria,

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* The 10th Amendment to the US Constitution: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people."


Sunday, August 05, 2007

I'd better not. I have what doctors call a little bit of a weight problem.

Many of these will not be surprising, but I found the fullness of this list enlightening.

I've always thought it was more than coincidence that the cookies were more accessible than the brocoli. So, when I pass by, those Nutter Butters be calling me. I have to tell them, "I better not. I have what doctors call a little bit of a weight problem."

Oh, whenever I go to the grocery store I de-AID the cart with the Clorox Wipes they offer me. I'm glad I do. You should try it.

10 Things Your Grocery Store Doesn't Want You to Know
By Sally Wadyka for MSN Health & Fitness
(These are the bullet points, but you can read the commentary at the link above.)

1. The shopping carts have cooties.

2. Dates are open to interpretation.

3. Kid-friendly food is purposely placed within their reach.

4. They cut up food so they can charge more.

5. Good-for-you foods require bending and reaching.

6. End-of-aisle displays are there to distract you from your mission.

7. Bargains aren’t always a bargain.

8. You’ll walk the store the way they want you to.

9. The salad bar can make you sick.

10. They don’t always clean as often as they should.

(Read the full article.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Well, I could be wrong, but I believe, uh, diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.

Okay, I don't get to watch much television, but I discovered a show that I've found fascinating.

It's called "Without Prejudice" and I've watched the first few episodes.

The premise is that a panel of judges will determine who will win $25,000. The panel learns more about the people through each round of elimination until they choose between the remaining 2 contestants.

So, in the earlier rounds they pick & choose based on looks and their own prejudices. It's interesting to hear the panel deliberate and see how they want to convey their thoughts in a way that will put them in the best light.

They might try to be PC or sound non-racist or non-sexists or non-homophobic or whatnot, or they may be bold in their stereotypes. Some won't like a contestant based on age, others will like that person for the same reason.

Will they give the money to the person they like the most? Will they give it to the person who most needs it?

The one question they cannot ask a contestant prior to elimination is what he/she would do wit the money. So, they must guess, based primarily on their prejudice.

But they have to decide who they "like the most or hate the least."

NY Times review:
The premise: five people, sequestered in the proverbial green room, reveal tidbits about themselves — their jobs, their beliefs, their love lives — to another five people, who sit in judgment of them along with the show’s host, the psychotherapist Robi Ludwig. All 10 are “ordinary” — no celebrities in sight — though since we’re told nothing about how either group is selected, we can assume that the usual reality-show casting decisions are being made.
The contestants are diverse group of people, varying in age, gender, economic status, hairstyles, sexual orientation, etc.

So far, the same is true of the diverse panel and it's interesting to see how they prefer folks like them and not so much folks who are different. However, you will at times suspect that panelists are saying more what they think is the "right" thing to say in the eyes of the other panelists.

It's an interesting way to learn about diversity in America and how "common" folks approach the subject as they interact with other such "common" folk.

From the show's site:
WITHOUT PREJUDICE? does not support or condemn any action, attribute or value system, but rather stimulates an open debate. The diverse panel and viewers will soon need to make the ultimate determination that will impact five lives on the line. Can a life-altering decision truly be reached WITHOUT PREJUDICE?
Like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "The Weakest Link," this show is copied from its UK counterpart. I'd be curious to see how the UK version plays out.

Caution ... I do pick up on a bit of a liberal slant to the show, but there's great potential for a train wreck and tension can certainly abound. Plus, there are still many Americans who know little experientially about the rampant diversity we have and how different folks think and interact.

Thus, it could be entertaining AND educational.

It's on GSN on Tuesday nights (8PM Central), but you can always use the greatness of TiVo to track it down like I do. Our you can visit the GSN's "Without Prejudice" site and view online. I offer you Episode 3 for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

How can you diagnose someone with an obsessive compulsive disorder, then act like I have some choice about barging in here?

I've mentioned Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism, but here's a more lighthearted look at the Calvinism issue.

Remember the "Cage Stage" where the new Calvinist should be locked away in a cage for a year or so due to being such an obsessive Calvinist? Many of us have known the militant and/or obnoxious Calvinist. Some of us may have even been one.

Might that be you? Well, here are ...

25 Warning Signs That You Might Be Obsessing about Calvinism

Or, for a change of pace, how about ...

Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism
by John Piper, April 20, 2002

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.
2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.
3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.
4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.
5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.
6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.
7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God's sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.
8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.
9. These truths remind me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.
10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.
(Read the whole article.)

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