Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I never joke. And don't call me, "Shirley."

Providence Church's own M. Jay Bennett has created another blog (E. Pluribus Uranium), this one specializing in the humor. It's not quite as funny as a one-legged man with a rubber crutch, but it's worth a look. Here's a goodie found there to whet your appetite.

His other blog (Solus Christus) is more serious. There he will never joke, nor will he allow you to call him, "Shirley."

From the minds of comedians Steven Wright and/or George Carlin. We're not sure who is responsible for which thought.


A bus station is where a bus stops.
A train station is where a Train stops.
On my desk, I have a work station.

If Barbie is so popular, why do we have to buy her friends?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 for a little bottle of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards (naive).

If quitters never win, and winners never quit, what fool came up with, "Quit while you're ahead"?

Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?

What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?

Should women put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans?

I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older, then it dawned on me. They're cramming for their finals.

I thought about how mothers feed their babies with little tiny spoons and forks, so I wonder what Chinese mothers use. Toothpicks?

Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do, write to these men? Why don't they just put their pictures on postage stamps so the mail carriers could look for them while they deliver the mail?

How much deeper would oceans be if sponges didn't live there?

If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the OTHERS here for?

Clones are people two.

If a man says something in the woods and there are no women there, is he still wrong?

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

No one ever says, "It's only a game" when their team is winning.

Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag?

If a person with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is that considered a hostage situation?

I went for a walk last night and my kids asked me how long I'd be gone. I said, "The whole time."

So what's the speed of dark?

After eating, do amphibians need to wait an hour before getting OUT of the water?

Why don't they just make mouse-flavored cat food?

If you're sending someone some Styrofoam, what do you pack it in?

I just got skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious.

Why do they sterilize needles for lethal injections?

Is it true that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny?

Isn't Disney World a people trap operated by a mouse?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "lisp" to have an "s" in it?

Since light travels faster than sound, isn't that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?

How come abbreviated is such a long word?

Last night I played a blank tape at full blast. The mime next door went nuts.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sell crazy someplace else; we're all stocked up here.

A well known acrostic is that of T.U.L.I.P., often referred to as the most beloved flower in the Lord's garden.

It refers to the "Five Points of Calvinism," which Spurgeon labeled a nickname for the Gospel.

But, were you aware of the new TULIP?

There is much discussion about the Emerging/Emergent church and what that entails and/or implies. Like most anything, there are some pros and cons, some good and some bad, some compliments and some criticisms.

This is a fun little whammy putting together some criticisms in another acrostic, the new TULIP.
Thanks to Steve Camp for
The Emerging T.U.L.I.P., pretending to be orthodox.

1. Total Ambiguity
Methodology over message
Truth is abstract; fluid, and liquid
Conversation over gospel proclamation
Ecumenism over doctrinal unity
Contantly inventing a new spiritual meta-narrative

2. Unconditional Pragmaticism
Seeker sensible and seeker sensitive
Whatever works—do it
Numbers justify everything
Program enriched
Felt need, culture-driven

3. Limited Theology
Doctrine diminished and not primary; it is the afterthought
Truth claims remain vague and undefined
No definitive agreed upon statement of faith
Very little biblical definition of ministry
Recommended reading lists of their networks remain liberal and pragmatic

4. Irresistible Contextualization
Truth must be adapted to and defined by culture
The audience, not the message, is sovereign
The focus is to be relevant and relativistic
Being missional is marked by methodological inroads, conversation, and cultural discernment of the times - not the proclamation of the gospel
Speak of the humanity of Christ in crude terms to make Jesus relatable over reverence of the transcendence of Christ

5. Postmodern Perverse Speech
Being known as the cussing pastor is good
Unwholesome talk is cultural not biblical
Coarse scatological speech is a matter of personal taste
It makes you cool to other Emerging/Emergents
If you challenge it, you are labeled as Victorian and out of date
This is an interesting take on the effects of postmodernism on the church, and I'm sure advocates thereof are not hearing such criticism for the first time.

It seems to me that postmodernism presents new challenges as well as new opportunities. As that's part of my dissertation research, I'll try to share some in this venue from time to time.

Personally, by way of preview, there is much to embrace with regard to postmodernism in what it is not. It is not modernism. The problem is that so much of our Christian worldview has been tainted by modernism that we tend to reject things because they're not modern, more so than because they're not Christian/biblical.

This is tantamount to the cry, "We've never done it that way before!" often heard in churches, a perspective we mock when we're not saying it.

The Emergent/Emerging church is one means of response to the changing trends in our world, but make no mistake ... your world has changed. The question is, do you need a new church? And, if so, what will it look like? What must change? What can never change?

Leaders of churches, in particular, must attempt to answer such questions. I love church history and love the good ol' days, but they're never coming back (if they ever were).

More to come ...

Friday, January 26, 2007

From here on in, do what I tell you to do, because it's bad for my reputation, you understand?

Okay, I've got to brag on my kids just a bit. My oldest two are in elementary school and are doing well. In fact, they even recently won some awards.

Sarah won the Hunt Hound class award for Honesty.

Rachel won the Hunt Hound class award for Overall Behavior.

I've wondered why that is such a big deal to me, why I'm particularly pleased when my children are recognized for positive things. I think it's because they are the family representatives, in their school, for example.

Wherever they go, whatever they do, they will always be representatives of our family. Consequently, their actions will always reflect on us as their parents.

When their behavior is suspect, it reflects poorly on us, as though we're slackers as parents. When their behavior is spectacular, it reflects positively on us.

But, the same is true for those claiming to be Christians. We represent the family wherever we go, whatever we do. We represent the Father wherever we go, whatever we do. We represent our Lord Christ wherever we go, whatever we do.

We are Christ's ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), representatives of His kingdom as we live in this one. Just as the "ugly American" overseas jades the perception of others via guilt by association, so we dishonor not our country, but our Lord with suspect behavior.

Why do we call Him, "Lord," but don't do what He says? (Luke 6:46) When we don't do what He tells us to do, it's bad for His reputation.

We are to be holy, just as He is holy. That's our task as we represent a kingdom vastly different from any here on earth.

Are you reflecting His glory or bringing shame and disgrace on the family name? You may not with an award for honesty or overall behavior, but you just may one day hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:14-30).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I swear I've seen a lot of stuff in my life, but that ... was ... AWESOME!

Most of the stuff I get via email is not that impressive, and not worth passing along.

But this ... this is pretty good bull.

Now I know why I possess no ability to proofread my own work. I see on the page what my mind assumes is there, particularly because I put it there.

Turn off your spell check and read on.

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be
in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.



Hate leads to suffering, human suffering, but also the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:14-15).

Isaiah 53 (ESV) & "Hallelujah! What a Savior!"
1Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Man of Sorrows, what a name
for the Son of God who came.
Ruined sinners to reclaim,
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned He stood.
Sealed my pardon with His blood,
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Guilty, vile, and helpless we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He.
“Full atonement!” Can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished!” was His cry.
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

These here spoons you keep with you. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box.

If you've been around children, you know they are prone to compare what they have with what others have, particularly their siblings. They are apt to scrutinize how they are treated in contrast with how a sibling or neighbor child is treated.

Sometimes we Christians do that as well.

We compare our lives, our ministries, our possessions, etc. with that of others, particularly with other Christians. We may not complain vocally, but there may be a lack of contentment that creeps in.

Years and years ago I came across this and found it really helpful. Finding it again today reminded me of God's loving discipline, which may at times manifest itself as extra prohibition that others don't seem to deal with.

I believe the title is Others May, You May Not and it may have been written by G. D. Watson (1845-1924).

If God has called you to be really like Jesus He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. God's call will put such demands of obedience on you that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians who seem very religious will push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans. You cannot, and if you attempt it, you will meet with failure and rebuke from the Lord.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you to despise yourself and all your good works.


Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor. God wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a
helpless dependence upon Him, that He may demonstrate His faithful love for you in supplying your needs day by day.

God may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity in order to produce some fragrant fruit for his coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it now. The reward for your work is held in the hands of Jesus, and you will not see it until He comes.


The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love. He will rebuke you for the little words and feelings or for wasting your time. So make up your mind that God is an infinite
Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He does not owe you an explanation of these mysteries. But if you give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and give you the precious blessings for those who belong, heart and soul, to Him.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. It is His option to tie your tongue, or chain your hand, or close your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with
others. And when you are so possessed by the living God that your heart delights over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

Sometimes it seems that everything you do is met with a night in the box. But God is not just a boss out to break you for sadistic enjoyment.

For the Christian, only for the Christian, this is evidence of His love in the form of discipline.
5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."
7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. -Hebrews 12:5-8 (ESV)
If you found Others May, You May Not applicable,
take comfort in His love.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Open up a window; it’s getting all racial up in this piece.

Today this country celebrates Martin Luther King Day. It also happens to be the 78th anniversary of his birth.

While the man was not a saint in the sense of personal righteousness, his life was an important one, as was his message.

He is most widely known for his "I Have a Dream" speech, but one piece that has always resonated with me is the letter he wrote to his fellow clergy while in jail on April 16, 1963. It is known as his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

When I have taught church history in a seminary class I have read the portions that you find below (the full text may be found here). I read it then and I read it now as it reminds me of the lack of effort on the part of the leadership of Christ's church, in the past and now.

I share it now (emphasis mine) because it has been my contention that segregation was bad AND that segregation is bad, particularly church segregation.

As I read it again I also wonder about the need to do more not only with regard to church desegregation, but also with regard to abortion. Is there not more we could/should do to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Prov 31:8), to help those who are staggering to the slaughter (Prov 24:11)?

MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.


...

For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."


We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining
political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to diso
bey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.


...

One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.


...

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

I don't know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself, huh?

I've been thinking more than a little bit about (dis)contentment, complaining, and grumbling. Reading Numbers 11 & 12 intensified thoughts along these lines.
And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. -Numbers 11:1
The first verse of Numbers 11 tells us that the people complained about their hardships and that the LORD heard them. How did God react to their complaining? Any reader should deduce that He was not pleased to hear them complain; His anger was aroused. Obviously, their complaining angered the LORD. It angered Him so much that He sent fire that burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. Verse 2 tells us that the LORD got their attention with the fire and they cried out to Moses for help. When Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire died down.

They had complained about their hardships, which do not seem to be much upon examination of Numbers 10. One can infer that they were complaining for no “good” reason. On this verse Matthew Henry notes, “Though God graciously gives us leave to complain to him when there is cause (Ps. 142:2), He is justly provoked if we complain (of Him) when there is no cause.”

In Numbers 11:4-6 we note the second occurrence of complaining. This time the people are complaining about the food. They are unhappy with the manna the LORD has been providing. In their clouded memories they fondly recall the fish they had to eat in Egypt and the other comforts from which they now feel denied. They want meat to eat. Manna just isn’t “cutting it” for them anymore. The text spends verses 7-9 explaining to us just how well the LORD has been providing for them with the above mentioned manna. Again, it appears they are complaining without cause. Verse 10 tells us that the LORD became exceedingly angry, for "the anger of the LORD blazed hotly."

In His anger, how does God respond? Unfortunately for them, He gives them what they want. They will have meat for a whole month and they are stricken with a plague as well. How seriously does God take complaints? In 11:34, we are led to believe that those who wanted meat died there.

In Numbers 12 we find Miriam and Aaron talking against Moses because of his Cushite wife. Verse 2 prepares us with the words, “And the LORD heard it.” This complaint is actually somewhat similar to those in chapter 11, for they are finding fault with Moses and his leadership. If Moses would have left them in Egypt, they would not have all of these problems. If they would have still been Egypt, they would have good food, and so on.

It seems that chapter 12 shows us that a complaint against Moses is a complaint against God as He appointed Moses (similar to how rebellion against civil authorities is rebellion against God - Rom 13:1-7). Although they reveal their racism, their real complaint was that they were not happy with Moses, the one God chose as their leader. God upholds His choice to them by noting His friendship with Moses. Again, we read that the anger of the LORD burned against them (13:9).

How does God respond to this complaining? Miriam, who appears to be the instigator as her name was mentioned first, is punished with leprosy and is graciously kept outside the camp in isolation for a week. Scripture not only records God’s anger and disapproval of complaining, but how He acts on that anger by punishing the complaining party. We would do well to note that God is not tolerant of complaining either against Him directly or indirectly, as was the case of complaining against Moses.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning
-Philippians 2:14
Sometimes its easy to do. It's always easy to complain. Often it's hard to do and NOT complain.

Is there a relationship between complaining and unbelief? If so, what is that relationship? It seems only natural that unbelief or a lack of faith would lead to complaining.

One that was believing in God and trusting Him by faith would not complain as the mere act of complaining exhibits a lack of contentment. One might even conclude that complaining is a form of covetousness. Matthew Henry notes, “It is an offense to God to let our desires go beyond our faith.

In the New Testament we read that anything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). God's people had shown a lack of faith in God and His provisions of manna by complaining and desiring meat, which the LORD had not seen fit to give to them. They did not trust in His guidance or leadership. They did not believe in His choice of Moses and thus complained again. Wanting the meat in and of itself is not a sin, but desiring something other than what the LORD has given shows a lack of contentment and unbelief. “What is lawful of itself becomes evil to us when it is what God does not allot to us and yet we eagerly desire it.” -Matthew Henry

The relationship between complaining and unbelief seems to be a rather strong one. I would consider it an odd thing indeed to hear of one complaining of God while having complete faith and belief in His handling of the situation. It seems ludicrous to even think of such a possibility.

If you find yourself with burger without meat, remember you get plenty of meat at home. Be polite and have some real tomato ketchup ... nuthin' but the best.

Suggested reading in this regard would be John Piper, (The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in) Future Grace. In it Piper explains that we are a people who forget. We forget His gracious provision in the past, whereby He establishes His character ... and trustworthiness. We rest in His provisions and rejoice in His ability and willingness to provide for our needs in the future.
Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.
-Jeremiah Burroughs
Content people do not grumble. Numbers 11-12 show us that complaining is a symptom. It is not the disease itself, but unbelief is. When we fail to believe in God and trust His control we forget Who is in control. We lose sight that He has things in hand and we see only the problems. When we forget that God is the solution to those problems, complaining will often erupt. God is gracious, and He was gracious in the Old Testament, but we need to understand the magnitude of His displeasure over complaining. Hopefully, we can see the cause is our unbelief and ask God to cure the disease rather than merely treating the symptom. We would benefit greatly by making Mark 9:24 our prayer, “...I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.

Today in 1973 began one of the worst experiments of all time. Today in 1973 the American League adopted the Designated Hitter rule.

This means that a pitcher in the American League does not have to bat; somebody else will bat for him.

Proponents of this tomfoolery maintain that it makes the game more exciting because pitchers don't typically hit very well and offense is preferred.

I have several problems with this policy:

First, it's absurd to have two different policies for the American and National Leagues. If you're going to declare the pitcher a girly man in one league, why not in the other? Praise be to God that my Cardinals are in the National League.

It's bad enough that you have 16 teams in the NL and 14 in the AL, with 6 teams in the NL Central and 4 in the AL West, but to have this glaring weirdness only further jeopardizes the label "organized sport."

Second, in general, a pitcher's batting average is about 100 points or so less than a "position" players. That means that a pitcher will get a hit about one less time than the other players every ten at bats. Assuming a pitcher gets three at-bats in a game, he would have to pitch at least three games to see any difference.

So, after doing a little research on this I discovered that, in 2002, the average AL team scored one more run every three games than the average NL team — and got one more hit every four games. So we're talking about two extra runs a week.

Third, you lose some of the managerial strategy, especially late in the game. Do you have the pitcher hit and go out for another inning or go with the double-switch? Should the pitcher bunt the runner over and give the leadoff hitter a chance to get the runner in?

Fourth, in what other sport do you see this kind of tomfoolery? Can you imagine the NBA having a designated freethrow shooter for centers ... in the Eastern Conference? Hey, Shaq and Ben Wallace are lousy freethrow shooters and that's generally the case with centers. Should they be able to have an aged Larry Bird who can't really run any more or play defense come in whenever the center goes to the line?

Well, isn't that what happens in the American League? You get some spare who can't play defense anymore, but can still have a pretty good slugging percentage serve as the DH. It encourages one-dimensional play.

Now that I think about it, not only do I hate that the pitcher doesn't have to bat, I hate that some spare can bat, but not have to play the field.

Instead of a designated hitter, how about you instead don't have the pitcher hit? What if you just had a line-up of 8 batters? Then you couldn't hide the one-dimensional player. Then you wouldn't tie up a spot on the team with a declining player, but a younger, rising star from the minors could get a shot.

Getting rid of the DH would probably be like getting rid of some defunct and outdated government program. The DHs and the potential DHs would lobby within the players union to keep the foolishness alive.

Perhaps I'm just a baseball purist. Perhaps I'm just biased. When I played little league ball as a pitcher, I still got/had to bat. I appreciated getting to help my own cause. I appreciated getting to be a man.

24 years ago baseball scientists tried an experiment, tweaking the game of baseball, America's game. They wanted to do something to make the game more exciting, to give it more offense. But these scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

Like Crash, I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astrotruf and the designated hitter.

It seems to me that Bob Costas also agreesl:
Some changes in baseball — such as interleague play on a limited basis, or a thoughtful realignment — make perfect sense. Others — artificial turf, wild-card teams in the playoffs — make sense only to the baseball-impaired. Then, there is the designated hitter. It's an idea not without merit and one which used to make sense — for the American League, at least. In the early 1970s, baseball faced a crisis of popularity. The American League was especially hurting because of the disappearance of the Yankee dynasty and its slowness in signing black and Latin stars. That left the National League with a disproportionate number of the game's best and most exciting players. In addition, offense was at its lowest point in generations. In 1968, the entire American League hit .230. Carl Yastrzemski won the batting title with a .301 average. Some 20% of all games in the major leagues that year were shutouts. Clearly, something had to be done to juice the offense and to distinguish the American League from the National in an interesting way. The designated hitter was a logical response and it had some real benefits. It helped increase run production — the league batting average jumped from .239 in 1972 (pre-DH) to .259 in 1973 (first year of DH) — and it extended the careers of some popular players. Now, except for enabling veterans such as Minnesota's Paul Molitor to continue playing, none of the other conditions apply any more. Everyone knows the offense has gone through the roof in every measurable way. If anything, the balance needs to be tipped back in the other direction. With its new ballparks and exciting young stars, the American League no longer needs gimmickry to distinguish itself from the senior circuit. The disadvantages that were always present with the DH now tip the balance the other way. One of those disadvantages was highlighted recently by the ugly beanball incidents at Yankee Stadium and in Kansas City. Almost to a man, baseball people believe these situations would occur less frequently if the pitcher had to bat and face the prospect of retaliation. More importantly, the loss of strategy and the over-emphasis on power at the expense of some of the game's subtleties is simply too great a price to pay for the advantages of the DH. Beside, anyone who has so short an attention span and so little appreciation for baseball that he can't bear to watch a pitcher bat is probably beyond hope, anyway. The fact is the National League plays a more interesting game. The American League should try it, too."
- Bob Costas in USA Today Baseball Weekly (emphasis mine)

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You put snot on the ball?

Baseball hall of fame voting results are in, but on the outside looking in is Mark McGwire.

He was a 12 time All-Star (every other 12 time All-Star is in the hall), his slugging percentage is almost 100 points higher than Reggie Jackson. He won a Gold Glove award for defense at first base, and hit a homer every 10.6 at bats, finishing with 583 (5th at the time).

At one point, he was considered a sure thing for enshrinement, but today he garnered 23% of the vote. He needed 75% to be inducted.

Many see this as a statement being made about steroids. But many problems abound in this regard. It would be one thing if we knew he took steroids, but we don't. The problem is that for McGwire, and other big home run hitters in his era there is a great cloud of suspicion.

Major League Baseball did not test for steroids until rather recently and it's suspected that a great many players dabbled. But, how do we know which ones? Some have admitted it (e.g., Canseco) and others have recently tested positive (e.g., Palmeiro), but that's about it.

McGwire was mentioned in Canseco's book and didn't perform very well at the congressional hearing on the matter. He should have pulled a Sosa and forgot how to speak English.

Ripken and Gwynn were inducted today, but how do we know they didn't take steroids? What about pitchers?

Hey, if you cheat, that's bad bull. I'm not a fan of such (e.g., Kenny Rogers and Dirtgate), but if it's not cheating, then it's not cheating.

Beyond that, baseball is a game where cheating seems part of the culture. Some pitchers put snot on the ball. Some hide a file or pine tar in their glove. Some put vasoline or some other slooge on the bill of their hat. Some put cork in their bat. Baseball seems to be a sport where truly it's only cheating if you get caught.

Sure, McGwire got bulkier over the years, but he was also known as a health nut and work out fanatic. He hit 49 homers as a rookie. He was a stud at USC.

The assumption is that he and others like him (e.g., Bonds, Sosa, etc.) used 'roids, but I'd be willing to bet there were a great many who were lower level players who used the juice to help them compete and stay in the league. They won't draw any attention, however.

Look, if the baseball hall of fame is about baseball, then McGwire had the best home run to at-bat ratio of all time. He's number 7 on the all time home run list. He and Sosa put baseball back on the map in '98 with their home run contest, which was sorely needed after the '94 strike.

If the hall of fame is about character, then a great many people are indeed questionable.

I'm not saying McGwire did or didn't. I don't know. My gut tells me that we'd likely be surprised by those who did and those who did not.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com explains his uncomfortable vote for Mark McGwire, criticizing baseball in the process:
Mark McGwire is the first prominent player tied to performance enhancers with Hall of Fame numbers to show up on this ballot. But he's only the beginning. So how do we know where to draw the line? How do we know which guys we should or shouldn't vote for if we want to make some kind of statement?

It was baseball that allowed all of this to happen. In a sport with no rules, no testing and no punishment for using the hottest substances of the day, this was no tiny problem, involving a few obvious home run trotters. This was the culture inside the game, just as amphetamines were part of the culture in the '60s and '70s and '80s (and beyond).

Admittedly, I am a Cardinals fan. I'm a fan of Big Mac as well. When he broke Roger Maris' record in '98, there were more than a few who renewed their affection for baseball.

For sports writers to eliminate that chapter (or the decade of the '90s) from the annals of baseball history because they think steroids were used seems beyond their task of determining those most important to the sport.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Don't be a guy, the world is full of guys. Be a man.

I'm not quite to the point where I can talk about the Cowboys loss Saturday night without having my stomach turn in knots. So, God graciously provided a Burger King commercial to lift my spirits.

My only question is why I wasn't enlisted in the lead role?!



QUOTE: "I will eat this meat til my innie turns into an outie."

If you can't be a mean, at least eat like a man, man.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

We keep you alive to serve this ship; row well and live.

Those words are from one of my favorite movies of all time, Ben Hur. I highly recommend the movie and that quote, as I deeply resonate with that sentiment, but along ecclesiastical lines.

It reminded me of why a church exists. As Christians, we are here to serve God for His glory. That is our chief end.

The organization that God deemed would do His will in the world is the church, particularly the visible church.

God, it seems to me, keeps a church alive to serve, not a ship, but His purposes. When a church forgets that, it seems it is in jeopardy of deviating from its purpose. When it no longer serves to advance the glory of God in the world, it is no longer needed and may very well die.

I came across this and found it convicting, comforting, and challenging ... but in a good way. I might have stated a few things differently, but the sentiment rings true.

I know He keeps Providence Church alive to serve His purposes. I want us to row well and live.

Dead or Alive
  1. Live churches’ expenses are always more than their income; dead churches don’t need much money!
  2. Live churches have parking problems; Dead churches have empty spaces!
  3. Live churches may have some noisy children; Dead churches are quiet as a cemetery.
  4. Live churches keep changing their ways of doing things; Dead churches see no need for change!
  5. Live churches grow so fast you can’t keep up with people’s names; In dead churches everybody always knows everybody’s name.
  6. Live churches strongly support world missions; Dead churches keep the money at home!
  7. Live churches are full of regular, cheerful givers; Dead churches are full of grudging tippers!
  8. Live churches move ahead on prayer and faith; Dead churches work only on sight!
  9. Live churches plant daughter churches; Dead churches fear spending the money, time, and talent!
  10. Live churches outgrow their Sunday School facilities; Dead churches have room to spare!
  11. Live churches welcome all classes of people; Dead churches stick to their own kind!
  12. Live churches’ members read their Bibles and bring them to church; Dead churches’ members seldom do!
  13. Live churches’ members enthusiastically support the ministries; Dead churches have no ministries—only functions!
  14. Live churches’ members look for someone they can help; Dead churches’ members look for something to complain about!
  15. Live churches’ members reach out to share their faith in Christ; Dead churches’ members don’t have enough to share.
-Source unknown

Friday, January 05, 2007

One cannot be betrayed if one has no people.

We all have needs, but one of our needs is community, a need for others.

Even Abraham Maslow noted that next to biological & physiological and safety needs, need for belongingness is chief.

But why the need, from a Christian perspective, for others, for community?

There are many communities to which we belong. For me, there’s my physical family, my neighborhood, my small town, my Founders fraternal, my Los Guys mens’ group, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, an online community, and Providence Church.

However, of all of them, I think that the only one I would say is necessary in my life, from a Christian standpoint, is my church. They are all beneficial on some level, but only one is crucial, the family of faith. My church is an integral proponent of my sanctification. My church is a community of which I need to be a part and in which I am needed for the edification of others.

One can get by without online friends, interaction with neighbors, friends, parents or siblings, but one cannot effectively grow in the faith without a church family. It is in the context of the Christian community known as church that we practice the “one anothers” of Scripture (e.g., love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, etc.). It is in the context of the church as community that we neglect not the assembling, so that we might be encouraged and not hardend by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 10:24-25; 3:13). It is in that context whereby individual believers are equipped for the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-16).

It is in this community that we are hurt & helped, irritated & infuriated, disgusted & delighted, enlightened & enraged, motivated & mortified, and taught & tested. We learn about ourselves and others, as we experience depravity firsthand, ours and theirs. We will be betrayed, but so was the Christ. We will partake in the fellowship of His sufferings, even at the hands of those we labor to help. One cannot be betrayed if one has no people, but we must have people, all of whom are fallible sinners, some of whom just happen to be saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

We must have people because we must have the church, the community of like faith in Jesus Christ.
“For as long as Jesus insists on calling sinners and not the righteous to repentence-and there is no indication as yet that he has changed his policy in that regard-churches are going to be an embarrassment to the fastidious and and affront to the upright.” -Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder
The necessary community will necessarily frustrate, but in that process we develop and grow as believers, demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit to each other: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23). That is godliness, the Spirit working in and through me/you so that others, particularly those in the community, will see what God is like as the Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ.

I hope we all appreciate the role the church is to have in our lives. Find a good one, if you don’t have one already. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can effectively grow in Christ without the help of the church. Don't fool yourself into thinking you're effectively following Christ without expending energy in the congregation of which you are a member.

If you do, make sure you do your part in the community to grow and help others grow as well, sharpen as well as be sharpened (Prov 27:17).

(Some of these concepts were originally assembled upon request from Stephanie to guest post on her blog Oh Me of Little Faith.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The rules of hair care are simple and finite. Any Cosmo girl would have known.

This is not a new story, but an interesting one, at least in my mind.

We often hear folks bemoan the fact that certain animals are on the road to extinction, but what the potential extinction of blondes? Would they need to be kept in a museum or nature preserve? Would society ensure they mate with their kind, like is done with pandas, to ensure survival?

Do non-blondes relish the day? Do blondes really have more fun?

Blondes 'to die out in 200 years'
Scientists believe the last blondes will be in Finland
The last natural blondes will die out within 200 years, scientists believe.

A study by experts in Germany suggests people with blonde hair are an endangered species and will become extinct by 2202.

Researchers predict the last truly natural blonde will be born in Finland - the country with the highest proportion of blondes.

So, in less than 200 years we could be out of natural blondes. Hitler would love to rise up and tell everyone, "I told you so!" The preservation of what he considered the "master race" was at the forefront of his Nazism.

Blonde hair is a recessive gene, as we know, but there is another contributing factor, or so is speculated:
The researchers also believe that so-called bottle blondes may be to blame for the demise of their natural rivals.

They suggest that dyed-blondes are more attractive to men who choose them as partners over true blondes.
(The article in its entirety.)

There's a greater than zero chance none of us will be around to verify this doom and gloom prediction, but it is interesting to think about.

Might there be genetic traits that show up on the endangered species list? Might this further motivate stem cell research and genetic engineering, etc.?

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