Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Josh Hamilton

This isn't exactly timely, but I enjoyed reading Tim Ellsworth's account of Josh Hamilton's amazing performance in MLB's Home Run Derby over the All Star break, titled "Hamilton Not The True Hero":
By the time Josh Hamilton brought down the House That Ruth Built, my son Daniel was already in bed.

He and I had started watching the Home Run Derby a little earlier, and you could tell that Daniel was impressed. For 5-year-olds who are burgeoning baseball fans, home runs are a big deal.

So we watched as Dan Uggla, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley and Evan Longoria took their turns. We counted the home runs they hit and the outs they made. I had to explain to Daniel more than once why they weren't running the bases.

Then it was bed time for him. After tucking him in, I returned to the living room intending to watch the rest of the show. That was before Hamilton, the Texas Rangers outfielder, stole it.


ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote that Hamilton had "an evening in Yankee Stadium that told a story that ought to restore our faith in mankind."

Fortunately, I recorded the entire thing. And tonight, I'll sit with Daniel and let him watch Hamilton's home run barrage for himself. He'll be impressed with the long home runs, and I fully expect to hear him exclaim, "Awesome!" multiple times.

As we watch, I'll undoubtedly tell him a little bit of Hamilton's story. And while I'll compliment Hamilton's ability, I'll tell Daniel that we should always remember from where his ability comes. For if we watch Hamilton play baseball, and marvel at him for how he has turned his life around, we miss the point entirely.

Hamilton is only a man – a man who has been incredibly gifted by God to play baseball, but a man nonetheless. As admirable as his successes are, he is not the real hero to the story. The real hero is the Lord, who is truly mighty to save. Hamilton is simply another piece of evidence that nobody is out of God's reach, and that no case is too desperate for God's saving grace.

Jayson Stark is wrong. Hamilton's accomplishment should do much more than "restore our faith in mankind." It ought to restore our faith in God.
If you're not familiar with Hamilton's story, I'd encourage you to read the whole thing. Or read Hamilton tell his story himself, from last July in ESPN the Magazine:
Addiction is a humbling experience. Getting it under control is even more humbling. I got better for one reason: I surrendered. Instead of asking to be bailed out, instead of making deals with God by saying, "If you get me out of this mess, I'll stop doing what I'm doing," I asked for help. I wouldn't do that before. I'd been the Devil Rays' No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, supposedly a five-tool prospect. I was a big, strong man, and I was supposed to be able to handle my problems myself. That didn't work out so well.


This may sound crazy, but I wouldn't change a thing about my path to the big leagues. I wouldn't even change the 26 tattoos that cover so much of my body, even though they're the most obvious signs of my life temporarily leaving the tracks. You're probably thinking, Bad decisions and addiction almost cost him his life, and he wouldn't change anything? But if I hadn't gone through all the hard times, this whole story would be just about baseball. If I'd made the big leagues at 21 and made my first All-Star team at 23 and done all the things expected of me, I would be a big-time baseball player, and that's it.

Baseball is third in my life right now, behind my relationship with God and my family. Without the first two, baseball isn't even in the picture. Believe me, I know.


Within my first week of sobriety in October 2005 -- after I showed up at my grandmother's house in Raleigh in the middle of the night, coming off a crack binge -- I had the most haunting dream. I was fighting the devil, an awful-looking thing. I had a stick or a bat or something, and every time I hit the devil, he'd fall and get back up. Over and over I hit him, until I was exhausted and he was still standing.

I woke up in a sweat, as if I'd been truly fighting, and the terror that gripped me makes that dream feel real to this day. I'd been alone for so long, alone with the fears and emotions I worked so hard to kill. I'm not embarrassed to admit that after I woke up that night, I walked down the hall to my grandmother's room and crawled under the covers with her. The devil stayed out of my dreams for seven months after that. I stayed clean and worked hard and tried to put my marriage and my life back together. I got word in June 2006 that I'd been reinstated by Major League Baseball, and a few weeks afterward, the devil reappeared.

It was the same dream, with an important difference. I would hit him and he would bounce back up, the ugliest and most hideous creature you could imagine. This devil seemed unbeatable; I couldn't knock him out. But just when I felt like giving up, I felt a presence by my side. I turned my head and saw Jesus, battling alongside me. We kept fighting, and I was filled with strength. The devil didn't stand a chance.

You can doubt me, but I swear to you I dreamed it. When I woke up, I felt at peace. I wasn't scared. To me, the lesson was obvious: Alone, I couldn't win this battle. With Jesus, I couldn't lose.


But there is one story that sticks with me, so much so that I think of it every day. I was driving out of the players' parking lot at Great American Ball Park after a game in May, with Katie and our two girls. There's always a group of fans standing at the curb, hoping to get autographs, and I stop to sign as many as I can.

And on this particular night, a little boy of about 9 or 10, wearing a Reds cap, handed me a pen and something to sign. Nothing unusual there, but as I was writing the boy said, "Josh, you're my savior."

This stopped me. I looked at him and said, "Well, thank you. Do you know who my savior is?"

He thought for a minute. I could see the gears turning. Finally, he smiled and blurted out, "Jesus Christ." He said it like he'd just come up with the answer to a test. "That's exactly right," I said.

You see, I may not know how I got here from there, but every day I get a better understanding of why.

Bullwhip Guy

A couple of years ago I posted a link to Rob Bell's Bullhorn Guy Nooma video. At the time, I declined to comment on it. But I recently ran across this video, a satirical response to Bell's Bullhorn Guy video:

(HT: Vincit Omnia Veritas)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No, John Piper Hasn't Joined a Gang

From Josh Harris's blog:


My friend Kirk emailed this picture of one of one the girls from his church with John Piper at New Attitude. Evidently she asked him to do a "W" for the "word of God" since that was the theme of the conference. Kirk pointed out that of course Piper had no idea he was also flashing the "Westside" gang symbol. Represent!

I Love Hymns

Three of my favorite:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Politics As Usual?

Are there any honest or trustworthy politicians out there? Any with integrity?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Activist Judges...

...or spineless, activist governors?

This past weekend, I violated the old adage of not talking religion or politics. No, this wasn't a first date (I'm happily married, thank you.) or at work (it was the weekend), but with gathered family. I tried to explain something I had just been reminded of, but obviously didn't explain it well, based on the replies and blank looks I received. Well, here's Gregg Jackson explaining it well:
About a month ago, the California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, issued a declaratory opinion that Proposition 22, which states that, "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California," enshrined into statutory law by 61.4% of California voters in 2000 (over four million voters), was "unconstitutional" on the basis that "gender discrimination" violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

The LA Times reported:
"The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation."
Sadly, many of the leading "conservative" and "Christian" pro-family organizations such as AFA (American Family Association), Liberty Council, ADF (Alliance Defense Fund), FRC (Family Research Council), ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) and Focus on the Family have been in full surrender mode conceding this same liberal talking point that the court "legalized same-sex marriage in California" and that the only way to ensure preserving traditional male-female marriage is through a state constitutional amendment scheduled to be on the ballot in November.

The California Supreme Court issued a declaratory opinion that, in the view of the bare majority, banning same-sex couples from marrying was unconstitutional and that the language of the initiative statute limiting marriage to one man and one woman must be stricken from the statute. Unfortunately however, the court doesn't have the constitutional authority to re-write the marriage statute nor any other initiative statute for that matter. According to the California Constitution, only the people can revoke or amend an initiative statute such as Prop 22. Same-sex "marriage" remains, therefore, illegal.


Nemo dat quod non habet, ("You cannot give what you do not have.") In other words, the California Supreme Court cannot give to the Legislature, what neither it, nor the legislature, has: the power to overturn the people's initiative legislation. No branch of government, even the branch that claims to be the final arbiter of a Constitution can gain legal authority which it does not possess. To claim then "the court legalized same-sex marriage" by "striking down" the people's initiative statute limiting marriage to one man and one woman has absolutely no constitutional basis.

Governor Schwarzenegger has violated his sworn oath to uphold the California Constitution to only enforce the current laws and statutes of the state of California by illegally authorizing changes [] to, and issuance of, marriage certificates to same-sex couples.

Like former Massachusetts Governor Romney before him, Governor Schwarzenegger has falsely asserted that the court's opinion, containing no valid or enforceable court order, "legalized same-sex marriage" and that it is his obligation to enforce the "court's decision." Romney illegally authorized [] the Department of Public Health to change the marriage certificates from "husband" and "wife" to "partner A" and "partner B" and ordered Town Clerks and Justices of the Peace to perform and solemnize same-sex "marriages," or tender their resignation (which one did), without an accompanying statute approved by the legislature.


Since courts lack the authority to enforce their own opinions and cannot make law, they can only be considered "activist" when the executive branch enforces their opinion as if it were the "new law." While a bare majority of four members of the court no doubt issued an illegal opinion and should be impeached for doing so, Governor Schwarzenegger alone authorized the issuance of the illegally altered marriage certificates. Executive tyranny, not "judicial activism," is what occurred in California (and Massachusetts).

The bottom line is this: Same-sex "marriage" is not legal anywhere in the United States of America from Massachusetts to California. Now if only somebody would explain this basic legal concept to our superstar "conservative" leaders, lawyers, and radio-pundits who incessantly swear that it is.
(Read the full article.) Now if only we could get some elected officials to show a spine and actually side with the people who put them into office. But it sure is too bad that Romney is not the Republican nominee. Who wouldn't want a Republican who proved by his record to support gay marriage, abortion, and socialized medicine?

Monday, July 07, 2008

The "Jefferson Bible"

Coming off of the Independence Day weekend, I found this article interesting, especially for those who insist on calling America a "Christian" nation. It's about the so-called "Jefferson Bible," an edited version of the gospels put together by Thomas Jefferson:
Making good on a promise to a friend to summarize his views on Christianity, Thomas Jefferson set to work with scissors, snipping out every miracle and inconsistency he could find in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.


In a letter sent from Monticello to John Adams in 1813, Jefferson said his "wee little book" of 46 pages was based on a lifetime of inquiry and reflection and contained "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."

He called the book "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth." Friends dubbed it the Jefferson Bible. It remains perhaps the most comprehensive expression of what the nation's third president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence found ethically interesting about the Gospels and their depiction of Jesus.

"I have performed the operation for my own use," he continued, "by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter, which is evidently his and which is as easily distinguished as diamonds in a dunghill."


In Jefferson's version of the Gospels, for example, Jesus is still wrapped in swaddling clothes after his birth in Bethlehem. But there's no angel telling shepherds watching their flocks by night that a savior has been born. Jefferson retains Jesus' crucifixion but ends the text with his burial, not with the resurrection.
Was Jefferson a "red-letter Christian" before the phrase existed? Or worse? I find it troubling that he would compare the parts he cut out to "a dunghill." Especially when he cut out the resurrection. In the words of the apostle Paul, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17) But I suppose Jefferson cut that out, too.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Knowing God

I just recently finished reading J.I. Packer's classic "Knowing God." I bought the book for a theology class in college, but don't remember reading it very carefully at the time. (I didn't do much reading for class in college at all.) I'm glad God brought me back to it now. It really is a terrific book. If you can get your hands on a copy, I would especially recommend reading these three chapters:
  • Chapter 18 - "The Heart of the Gospel" - probably the best defense of and explanation of the doctrine of propitiation I've ever read. Says Packer, "The basic description of the saving death of Christ in the Bible is as a propitiation, that is, as that which quenched God's wrath against us by obliterating our sins from his sight." (p. 189)
  • Chapter 19 - "Sons of God" - the doctrine of adoption. "To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater." (p. 207) "... were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that." (p. 214)
  • Chapter 22 - "The Adequacy of God" - basically a commentary on Romans 8. A taste: "... the cross was not an isolated event; it was, rather, the focal point in God's eternal plan to save his elect, and it ensured and guaranteed first the calling (the bringing to faith, through the gospel in the mind and the Holy Spirit in the heart), and then the justification, and finally the glorification, of all for whom, specifically and personally, Christ died." (p. 265)

"Sermons Don't Produce Spiritual Maturity"

After a long hiatus, I'm back ... at least momentarily. I've been checking out another blog recently - "Vincit Omnia Veritas" (which means, Truth Always Prevails, or Truth Conquers All) - where I found this video clip:

You can agree with Rick Warren, or you can agree with the Holy Spirit-inspired apostle Paul:
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NIV)

If you check out Vincit Omnia Veritas, you may also want to check out it's "companion site," so to speak, Apostate Arminian.