Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

I'm very much against making New Year's resolutions. The way I see, there's no need to wait until January 1 to make one, but then again, I'm a boring guy with no sense of adventure. Even that's besides the point, the bottom line is that most of us, myself included, rarely keep them. So, this year I decided to accept the fact I never keep my resolutions and embrace failure. Here you go:

1. Gain weight. This whole eating healthy and getting exercise thing is completely over-rated. I figure with a lot of hard work and strict accountability, I could be pushing 4 bills by Thanksgiving and make a good stretch run into 2008. Ben & Jerry's, here I come.

2. Start drinking, smoking and swearing. I know most of you look at my life and think, "you know, I've never seen Danny stumble around in a drunken stupor- that could be fun", or "he could really use black lungs" or"what Danny needs is a little more vulgarity." Well, let me say, "I hear you." Maybe I'll even step it up and get a tatoo that I'll regret for years to come.

3. Vote democrat. Tax & spend, that's my new motto.

4. Get fired from my job. The way I see it, if we all work, the folks at the unemployment office will be out of jobs. So, I'll take one for the team and keep them busy. That's just the kind of guy I am.

5. Watch more NASCAR. There's nothing better than sitting on your butt for 4 hours watching a bunch of rednecks turning left.

6. Become a Calvinist. Hey, it's predestined.

Well, there you have it, a few resolutions for 2007. I hope you take the time to celebrate my failure with me.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Is it a compliment? Episode II

Welcome back to "Is it a compliment?" where we give you a statement that someone has recently said to Danny and you try to tell if it's a compliment. We'd like to give special mention to this week's runner-up, one of Danny's coworkers who said to him "You're only 27! I didn't think it was possible to get that ugly in only 27 years!"

This episode's potential compliment will probably reveal more about your take on a certain popular Christian book than anything else. Without further ado, let's play!

"You're so wild at heart."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Grammatical Poetry

To an infinitive split, some say it's debatable
I find it to still be an offense berate-able

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hymn of the Week: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Ah, the return of my favorite part of blogging, the Hymn of the Week. It's been a while, and it seems like I always promise this will happen more regularly, so this time I won't even promise that. Anyway, this week's hymn is a great one, a personal favorite of one of my readers (maybe more than one, actually). It's written by Robert Robinson, here are the lyrics.

Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

We sang this song in church this past Sunday, but there were some differences in lyrics. The version we sang had "Name" instead of "Mount" at the end of the first verse, it changed the first couple lines of the second verse and used a different word for "interposed." I presume these changes were intentional on the part of whoever rewrote it. The first change may have happened because of our poor understanding of metonymy, which is a figure of speech that takes a noun and uses it in place of a related noun (such as "The White House issued a statement", whereas "The White House" issued no statement, rather the President or his officials did). The second change was probably meant to avoid using the confusing (to us) "Ebenezer", but I think it's an opportunity to do some teaching on the meaning of the word (I'll let you look it up). I'm sure the third change was to avoid the word "interpose", which is hardly everyday language.

Anyway, this is a great song, I love some of the imagery: our hearts being tuned to sing of God's grace (you musicians should understand this even better than I), the pervasive theme of our wandering and God's rescue, and our hearts being fettered by God's grace. This is a song that deserves to be contemplated as much as sung, in my opinion. And I hope you do just that, I look forward to your thoughts.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rebirth & Birth

You may have already noticed, but I've made a couple more changes to the blog of danny. I switched to Blogger Beta, which is a better version of blogger. It allows me to spruce up the old blog without having to learn html, which I appreciate. So, you'll notice a few changes to the right. First, I added a picture with my profile. I'm not necessarily trying to make any statements about myself with that picture, although I'm sure one of you pop psychologists will begin to dig deep into my psyche and find out the truth. I think it's a funny little deal, so I put it up here for your amusement.

Second, the archives list has a new feature, it allows you to see how many posts I throw out every month. Mind you, this is completely useless information, which makes it right up my alley. You'll noticed I popped out only 1 in June. I think this was for two reasons: I was out of the country for part of that month, and my one post that month was fairly involved. I can't be expected to go crazy like that too much.

Third, you'll notice I have added a "What I've Been Reading" section, complete with pictures of the books for you visual folks. At some point I'll get around to commenting on these books, and I could probably add some more, but this will give you the idea. You'll also notice I have added a "What I've Been Hearing" section, complete with pictures of the cds for you visual folks. Again, I could add more, but this is good enough for now.

My hope is that I can make this blog more attractive without having to up the quality of posting. That would be far too much work for me, so I'll settle for appearances instead. Newer is better, right?

Speaking of newer, this rebirth of the blog comes on the heals of making a new friend, Elijah. I had an interesting phone conversation with him on Thursday morning at about 6:20am. It went somethng like this:

me: Hi, Elijah.

Elijah: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

I guess I can't blame him; after 9 months of floating around in a sac of fluid with plugs up his nose, you can't expect him to be too happy or comfortable in only 1 hour and 20 minutes. Blessings to Bruce & Morgan upon the birth of their first child, who came in screaming on December 14 at 4:59am, a healthy 7lbs 8oz and 21 inches long. May the Lord continue to bless your family.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Greater than the Great One: Bobby Orr

John Buccigross of ESPN has a quick interview with an author of a new book about Bobby Orr, in which he talks a bit about the Gretzky-Orr debate. Many, especially those with little to no knowledge of hockey history, assume Gretzky is the best hockey player ever, after all, he is called "The Great One." But there are numerous reasons to doubt this, #1 being Bobby Orr. That isn't to say that if you know enough about hockey you'll suddenly become enlightened and think Gretzky is nothing compared to Orr, men who have forgotten more hockey than I know will disagree with me.

Mind you, hockey is the sport I know least about of the 4 major sports (for non-Americans, that's baseball, football, basketball and hockey, though many wouldn't include hockey and keep the list to 3), though I still know more than probably 95% of the population. I suppose it's because I never played it. I know baseball the best, probably because I played baseball for years. And I know quite a bit about football and a decent amount about basketball, both sports I played a lot when I was younger. But hockey I never really played. I blame my father (who is probably reading this) since he never taught me how to ice skate despite being a fine young hockey player himself. He'll probably blame the US Navy for keeping him away from home so much. And the Navy will probably blame the now-defunct Soviet Union for forcing our government's hand into the Cold War, causing them to beef up the military, especially submarines, which in turn caused men like my father to go out to sea and partake in international underwater espionage (which he will neither confirm nor deny, he takes that oath very seriously, which is a shame, because I bet he's got some good stories). The point is this: I don't know hockey as well as I would like because of the Russians. Stinkin' Communists. The Iron Curtain falls and we still feel the effects almost 2 decades later.

Anyway, here's the deal about Bobby Orr: he changed the way hockey was played. He was one of the first, if not the first, great scoring defenseman. There have been other great scorers who played defense, but almost all of them give up some defense for the sake of offense. Those who watched Bobby Orr play, and even more importantly, those who played with and against him, insist that Orr was one of those rare players who played both sides with equal greatness. And his numbers bear that out, but I'll spare you. Wait, allow me just one stat. There is a stat in hockey that attempts to calculate how well your team scores when you are on the ice compared to how much the other team scores when you are on the ice. This stat is known as "Plus/Minus." If your team scores when you are on the ice, you add one to your total. If the other team scores, you take off one. Orr has the single season record at +124! That means his team scored 124 more goals than they gave up when he was on the ice (I believe this stat counts only when the teams are at even strength, someone may be able to verify). His career +/- per game is .91, the next closest guy is Larry Robinson at .53.

I remember back in college when ESPN came out with their 50 Greatest Athletes list and the shock that Orr was listed somewhere in the 30's (if I remember correctly). I chalk that up to a tendency to downplay hockey within the American sports scene, and I can understand that. But in the 30's! This is the man who singlehandedly changed the game! That has to count for something.

I'm not just saying that flippantly, either. In my opinion, if you want to compare athletes from different sports and list the greatest you should use to basic criteria: how they dominated their sport and how the sport was different after they left. The first one is included for obvious reasons. The second is included because it helps bridge the gap between sports. It's hard to look at Chamberlain's single season scoring record and Peyton Manning's record for touchdown passes and compare the two. But you can compare how they stacked up against those around them (the domination factor) and how they each changed their respective sport. Chamberlain paved the way for great big men (though still second fiddle to the great Bill Russell) and Manning, well, hasn't changed much of anything- advantage Chamberlain. I think it also helps those in sports where individual domination is more difficult (football, for example).

This is why I thought Babe Ruth should have been listed over Michael Jordan as #1. Ruth dominated his sport like no one else (at times hitting more homeruns than any other team in the league) and the sport of baseball changed forever after him. Jordan was certainly dominant (6 championships), but I can't honestly say he changed the sport. Sure, basketball is more marketable, and he's still the most well known basketball player in the world. But the sport itself hasn't changed. There were players who played his style before him (Dr J, for example) and plenty after, and even though none approach his greatness, it doesn't exactly make him unique.

All this to say, Bobby Orr 1) dominated his sport and 2) changed it forever. Gretzky may have him beat on #1, but not #2. Gretzky is like Jordan, he basically perfected an existing style of play. There were others like him before he came along and some more after. Granted, none are as good, but they're still a lot like him. There is only one Bobby Orr. Many have tried, all have failed.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is it a compliment?

I've decided to add a little game to the blog to spice things up a little bit. If I could get sound, I'd even give it a theme song, but alas, we'll each have to write our own. I was inspired last night by talking with Andrew and Matt for a few minutes. Somehow the topic of our blogs came up (as if it's not dorky enough that we have them, now we talk about them with each other) and Matt said something to me that I'm not sure whether or not it is a compliment. So you tell me, here it is:

"Reading your blog is like drinking whipped egg."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Larry Legend: at 50

Hey, just wanted to let all 2 of you know that Bill Simmons has posted an older column of his in honor of Larry Bird's 50th birthday. It's a great read from a good sports writer who grew up watching Bird in person. Read it quick, it's probably only going to be available for a few days unless you have one of those stupid ESPN subscriptions. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Emerging into Better Interpreters

I read a great post a few days ago (and am just now getting around to posting about it) at Scot McKnight's blog McKnight is an NT scholar but has interests that range beyond the academic. He writes often about the Emergent Movement, mostly favorable. For those who aren't familiar with the Emergent Movement I recommend you check out some of the links on McKnights page. At its best, those who are considered "emergent" or "emerging" are socially aware/active believers who emphasize the necessity of community in the Church's life, doctrine, evangelism and mission and provide a necessary corrective to evangelicalism. At its worst, they are theologically negligent, doctrinally evasive and just plain condescending. This, of course, is merely my opinion based on my interactions and readings. I tend to think that many, if not most, fit within the first category rather than the second.

McKnight's post is a letter largely addressing the issue that I've seen pop up periodically in the thoughts and writings of emergents: shouldn't we be more concerned with following Jesus and his teachings than with Paul? Many emergents think that the Church (especially evangelicals) has paid a disproportionate amount of attention to Paul rather than Jesus. Here is McKnight's paragraph explaining the issue with his reader:

Your point seemed to favor one idea: that Jesus is not only “the first one we need to go to” (which your friend advocates) but (what you think) the “only one we really need. After all,” you ask, “what else do we really need besides Jesus’ teaching?” Besides, you observe, Paul’s “so abstract and theoretical and all his stuff about justification doesn’t really make sense to any of us.”

I encourage you to read McKnight's post, it was thoughtful, generous and insightful. My response would probably not be any of these things.

McKnight's conversation partner reflects a common understanding within the Emergent Movement. That is, we should be what some have called "red letter Christians" who avoid the common trap of "reading Jesus through the lens of Paul." This line of thought concerns me (which should be no surprise for those who know me well), I guess for two main reasons.

One, this strikes me as awfully arrogant. What makes us think we can interpret Jesus better than Paul? I mean, wasn't Paul a Jew who lived in the same time frame as Jesus? Wasn't he the one who encountered the risen Christ and had his life radically transformed? Wasn't he the one who risked his life to preach the good news of this Savior to the entire world, and ultimately faced his death because of this? How arrogant would I be to think that I can understand and apply Jesus' teachings better than Paul?

Two, there seems to be a fundamental problem with hermeneutics here (by "hermeneutics" I mean the process of applying an ancient text to today, the basic question is "how do we get from there to here?"). Because we don't grasp the first issue (how Paul applies Jesus' teachings), we don't grasp how to apply Paul. If we studied Paul and asked the questions "how?" (how does Paul apply Jesus?) and "why?" (why does Paul apply it in this way?) we might have a clue to following Jesus' teachings. It seems to me that Paul would be a great case study for us. While our contexts are certainly different, there are striking similarities that could give us a clue how to preach the gospel faithfullly in our context. Both contexts (Paul's and ours) are pluralistic, socially diverse, economically diverse, morally loose, and so on. (It's interesting to note that Jesus ministered in a monotheistic and morally stringent- to the point of legalism in some cases- atmosphere. That doesn't sound too much like modern day America, does it?)

I think this is what bothers me when McKnight's reader says that "all his [Paul's] stuff about justification doesn’t really make sense to any of us." It was this doctrine that Paul used to defend the right of Gentiles to fellowship with Jews. It wasn't abstract or theoretical. It was practical. Justification by faith meant that Gentiles could eat with Jews (making the reverse true as well), worship with Jews, etc, without having to become "Jews" (circumcision being the most obvious issue). It doesn't get much more practical than that. Given that emergents are so concerned with equality between classes/races/cultures/etc (one of their most admirable qualities), justification should be emphasized in their circles, not diminished. I think the movement would be much more powerful and productive if it would spend more time reflecting on these things.

Friday, November 24, 2006

time to make a change (ch-ch-changes)

Well, the blog of danny has undergone a renovation. Maybe it's time for a little spring cleaning, even if it is November. I really liked the white text over the black background, but I realize that it's probably hard on the eyes, especially for a post as long as my last one. Besides, doesn't it feel like a whole new blog now?

More than just the basic look has changed. I've updated the links on the right, it includes some friends, a sports writer, a band, a Bible translation and a philosophizing second cousin. Oh, and some stupid news link that Google provides. I'm sure there are some I have forgotten, I apologize. I basically reserve it for those I'm closest with and a couple other sites of note. There are other web sites I read consistently, maybe I'll get around to putting them on here at some point. For now, this is what I have.

I also added a text to the sidebar, but it doesn't really say anything yet. It took me forever to figure out how to do that (I'm not exactly computer savvy). When I come up with something I'll change it, so be on the lookout. I would put a mini bio, but I figure most of the folks who read this blog already know me. If not, well, ask. I also added a footer (that also took me a while to figure out), I might change that around periodically. Maybe someday I'll progress to the point that I can add pictures or something.

Let me know what you think, if you have further suggestions to improve this blog I'm willing to listen. I'll bend at the whim of the masses, I assure you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Theological Consistency and Pauline Mathematics: "All Israel" in Romans 11:26

A few years back I set out to understand one of the most complicated passages in the Bible: Romans 11:25-32. In particular, I wanted to figure out what Paul meant by "all Israel" in v26. I had been taught that Paul was referring to a large group of ethnic Jews repenting and turning to their Messiah just before the 2nd coming of Jesus. For a while I accepted this and that was that, but it never really sat right with me. It just seemed to fly in the face of everything Paul had argued up to this point in Romans (and in other letters, notably Galatians and Ephesians): that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Yet, the traditional explanation I had been given seemed to sneak an escape clause for the Jews in the back door.

I suppose there are 4 main views of "all Israel."

1. It refers to every elect Jew throughout history.

2. It refers to every individual Israelite.

3. It refers to a large number of Jews toward the end of history.

4. It refers to both Jew and Gentile believers as the people of God.

For the sake of brevity, I'll discard the first 2 options (my apologies to anyone who holds one of those). The first is so obvious (oh, you mean all elect Jews will be saved!) that it seems weird Paul would be saying that. The second has the simple problem that "all Israel" never actually means every individual Israelite (there are examples of this in Jewish literature, not to mention we frequently say things like "all Boston was there" knowing full well we don't literally mean every individual Bostonian).

The third option is the most common, at least in the world of Biblical scholarship, while the fourth is definitely in the minority (actually, in my studies I've run across 3 proponents on this view: John Calvin, N T Wright and yours truly- if you know anything about the theology of these 3 theological giants [note: sarcastic self-inclusion] you'd understand what an odd grouping we make. I suppose Romans 9-11 makes strange bedfellows).

Let me try to address the main issues briefly to give you an idea of why I take the fourth view. Let's break it down to these 3 exegetical points: the meaning of "mystery" in v25, the meaning of the Greek word houtos ("so") in v26 (I wish I could figure out a Greek font, sorry for all the Hellenists out there), and the OT quotations in vv26-27.

** First is Paul's use of the word "mystery." When I set out to study this passage I never really thought this was all that important, and most scholars barely make mention of its implications for the meaning of "all Israel." Douglas Moo states, "Usually the mystery involves an event or insight associated with Christ's coming and the preaching of the gospel, but here and in 1 Cor. 15:51 it refers to an event at the end of history" (714). As great as I think Moo's commentary is, I'm not sure I could disagree more on this point. Why make the connection between this passage and 1 Corinthians 15? It seems to me that there is a better "mystery" connection, and that is with Ephesians 3. In that chapter, as with Romans 11, Paul is dealing with the issue of Jew and Gentile relations. In Ephesians 3:6 Paul gives us the content of the "mystery" he is talking about, "that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." The connection between Romans 11 and Ephesians 3 is obvious: in both places Paul is dealing with Jews and Gentiles becoming one people of God in Christ Jesus.

Now, the contexts of these passages are not exactly the same. However, it seems that the "mystery" is the same- only it is seen from two different angles. In Ephesians, Paul is reminding the Gentiles that they have been brought into the people of God because of Christ's work on the cross (2:16). In Romans, Paul is reminding the Gentiles that just because they were "grafted in" among the already existing brances of the "rich root of the olive tree" (Romans 11:17) does not mean they are to become arrogant as if they deserved it more than the Jews. The theology which undergirds these passages is the same- that God has brought Jew and Gentile together into "one new man" (Eph 2:15), made them fellow heirs with the Jews (Eph 3:6) and grafted them into one tree (Rom 11:17-24). However, the specific emphasis Paul lays on this theological mystery is dependent on the situation. In the church of Rome, Paul needs to emphasize the rightful place of the Jewish people within the "olive tree." On the other hand, as Peter O'Brien notes, Paul "writes Ephesians to his mainly Gentile Christian readers, for whom he has apostolic responsibilities, with the intention of informing, strengthening, and encouraging them by assuring them of their place within the gracious, saving purpose of God, and urging them to bring their lives into conformity with this divine plan of summing up all things in Christ (1:10)" (57). These different situations call for Paul to present this mystery in two different ways, but the mystery itself stays the same.

My point is this: the mystery Paul is referencing is not something that will be revealed at the end of time, but rather it is something that Christ has accomplished through His death and resurrection. He has made one people out of two. The Jewish-Gentile context in both Romans and Ephesians seems too strong to miss. For some reason, many scholars have overlooked this connection and subsequently have read something completely new in Romans 11:26, something not seen elsewhere.

** The meaning of houtos in v26 is not something that needs to be drawn out, since more and more scholars are tending to agree on its proper translation. I simply want to point out that this is not likely to be a temporal usage. In other words, Paul isn't saying "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And then all Israel will be saved...." Instead, Paul is saying "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And thus (or "in this way" or "in this manner") all Israel will be saved...." Most scholars, even those who disagree with my view, understand it this way. It does not necessitate the fourth option mentioned above.

The temporal aspect is important to discuss, however. Some point to the "until" in v25 as noting that Paul must be refering to Christ's second coming. In this case, the partial hardening has come upon Israel, but when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, that hardening will be lifted and "all Israel" will be saved. But Paul doesn't talk about the lifting of the hardening, only the Gentiles coming in (which can be simultaneous with the Jews receiving mercy, see v31- I'm not sure why so many scholars miss that). Moo insists that "until" must refer to the hardening being lifted because out of the 37 temporal uses of achri ("until") "25 rather clearly denote a period of time that will come to an end and be followed by a change of those circumstances denoted" (717 n30). I have to be honest, I don't understand the logic here. Because a word denotes x roughly 2/3 of the time, it means it should here? This still leaves open 1/3 of the cases, which is no small percentage.

Anyway, my point is this: Paul is not emphasizing the end of the hardening, but rather the manner in which God's people are saved. Both Jews and Gentiles can be hardened and softened (this all throughout chapter 11). Remember that Paul is talking about a partial hardening, not a full scale hardening of the people of Israel (again, I point out v31 and 11:5, which shows that Paul didn't think a total hardening has taken place). Jews and Gentiles are not taking turns being the people of God, they have been made one and are being saved together.

** Finally, let me comment briefly on the OT quotation, which is actually a composite quotation from Isaiah 59:20-21 and 27:9 (with perhaps a little Psalm 14:7 and Jeremiah 31:33-34 thrown in for good measure). I'll make my comments brief and I'll focus mainly on Isaiah 59 (which provides the meat). Isaiah 59 is a restoration passage (actually, Isaiah 40-66 is largely restorative in nature) which Paul quotes elsewhere in Romans: in 3:15-17 he quotes Isaiah 59:7-8. This Isaiah passage talks about the sin of Israel, and Paul quotes it in a long string of such OT passages which serve as an indictment against Israel. The important thing to note is that this problem is sin that Paul sets up in Romans 3 has been solved by the sacrifice of Jesus (Rom 3:21-26). Let me stress this so we don't miss it: the problem of Israel's sin (and for that matter, the whole world) that Isaiah and others address has been answered through Jesus Christ. His life, death and resurrection have provided the atonement for these sins. So, when Paul goes back to those familiar Isaianic restoration passages here in Romans 11, he isn't talking about Christ's second coming. He's talking about the same thing he's always been talking about, that is, Jesus has defeated sin and made the way for His people to come to the Father (both Jew and Gentile, check out Galatians 3).

Surely I think Paul believes that Jesus is coming back (1 Cor 15, 1 Thess 4, etc). But here's what I think (though I need to do more research on this): Paul never quotes from the OT to refer to the second coming of Christ. The restoration promised through the Messiah has happened and still is happening. This can be misunderstood, so I hope I'm being clear. Paul's quotation must refer to Jesus' fist coming. This is consistent with his usage of restoration texts elsewhere and in Romans. This is not to deny that there is a future element to salvation, but it is to show that Paul is intending for his readers to understand that God has remained faithful to His promises. Now is the time for Israel to accept God's mercy. Indeed, they can be grafted back into God's tree precisely because of what Christ has done.

So here is my reading: Paul is telling his readers the same thing he's said all along, that there is a partial hardening on Israel (which means that some are still faithful), Gentiles are coming into the people of God, and this is how the people of God are saved. One of the criticisms against my view is that Paul must change the very definition of "Israel" within one verse, which is a legitimate observation. However, this is what Paul has been doing all along: redefining Israel. As N T Wright notes, "Paul actually began the whole section (9.6) with just such a programmatic disctinction of two 'Israels'" (250). Paul isn't talking about the salvation of one people over another, he is arguing that both are saved by God's grace through the work accomplished by Christ. Remember what he says in Romans 10:13, "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." I wonder if we could define "all Israel" in 11:26 by "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord" in 10:13 (note the parallel "will be saved" in both verses- I think I learned this from someone, but I can't recall who).

If you are still reading at this point, you have accomplished no small feat. If it makes you feel any better, I wrote a paper on this passage that was much longer and much more boring than this. I'd love some feedback, but understand that this is a short defense of my view, not a dissertation. I'm aware of holes that I have not addressed, feel free to poke at them.

Let me end with this: for Paul, 1+1=1. Jewish branches + Gentiles branches = one tree (Rom 11:17-24); believing Jews + believing Gentiles = descendents of Abraham (4:16). There is no magical escape clause or exemption for anyone, faith in Jesus is what justifies a sinner, not physical descent. The problem of changing the meaning of "Israel" abruptly is far less problematic than saying that Paul is here introducing an entirely foreign theological concept, when an explanation that fits the context is readily available.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yet Another 5.5 Random Things

5.5. This post is dedicated to all those who thought that my last post might have been a not-so-subtle cry for help. I can assure you it was no such thing. I had just finished teaching on confession for a class and we talked about that very thing. On a whim I decided to post it, not really considering whether or not people thought it was about me personally (though it is something I have learned in my life). Perhaps it was poor timing, coming right after my post on Ted Haggard. Sorry for any confusion, hope my parents weren't flipping out.

5. Little tidbit about the upcoming Patriots-Packers game at Green Bay this Sunday. The last time these two teams played a regular season game at Lambeau Field I was 16 days old.

4. Speaking of the Patriots, there is talk here in Boston that Tom Brady is playing hurt. While part of me thinks this is just the local media making excuses for their darling quarterback, they might be on to something. One of the crucial characteristics of Brady's play over the years has been his accurate arm, which has all but left him this year. I have a hard time believing that a man goes from being the best quarterback in football to struggling to hit an open receiver without some cause. An injury may explain it.

3. So the Red Sox forked over $51 million just to have the opportunity to talk with Japanese pitching star Daisuke Matsuzaka. The money doesn't really bother me, simply because they can make that back through increased revenue in Japan. But that only works if he's good (at worst), and that's tougher to tell. There isn't necessarily the greatest track record for pitchers coming over and doing well (anyone remember Hideki Irabu?). Hideo Nomo has had a decent career, but never topped his performance in his rookie year. Matsuzaka apparently dominated in the World Baseball Classic, which is encouraging. If he turns out to be as good as some folks think, this will no doubt strengthen a struggling pitching staff.

2. It's mid-November and I'm still wearing shorts to work (be jealous all you business casual suckers). This is weird. It makes me worry that we'll be punished with an even worse January (which is by far the worst month in Boston). I'll be doing my snow-shoveling stretches just in case.

1. There are some of you out there who are wicked smart, you know who you are. If that's you, do me a favor. Go check out Jeremy's Theories of Knowledge and Reality Series and explain it to me. I studied a little philosophy in undergrad and have picked up a few things along the way, but for the most part it's way over my head. In the meantime, I'll stick to my Greek grammar and baseball. Maybe I'll take a semester and go to Syracuse and audit his class. I promise I won't throw spit balls.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Life Lesson I Have Learned

Unspoken pain is as dangerous as unconfessed sin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

some late thoughts on the Haggard situation

I realize that Ted Haggard has already become yesterday's news in many circles, but I've been meaning to write something about it for a couple days. Many have voiced their thoughts, and I am hesitant to just be one of the many out there, but here it goes anyway. I apologize if this is old for you already.

It's interesting to see the varying reactions Christians have had (I won't really comment on the reaction of non-Christians for now). Some are heartbroken, some are utterly shocked, and I've even read some comments from folks who seem to feel this whole situation justifies their dislike of the megachurch movement. While I am no fan of megachurches, I'm not sure that's the point we should take from all this.

My feelings were varied, I suppose like many other's. My heart breaks for his family, I can't imagine what this might do to his wife and kids. My heart breaks for his church, and I pray that they haven't put too much stock in their long-time pastor, who is but a man. And my heart breaks for him as well, it's not like he's enjoying this situation, I'm sure. No matter how much of this is his fault (and it is his fault, there's no doubt about that), my heart still breaks for someone who let himself go this far. I don't want to see someone fail, no matter what size church they pastor.

There was another feeling, however, that I still have, but I'm not sure how to describe it. I guess you could call it "gratefulness", clearly not that this happened to him, but that I could be that guy. As I watched this whole thing unfold, I kept thanking the Lord that He has kept me from this. Perhaps people just don't think that something like that could happen to them, but I know it could. It wouldn't be the same type of sin, that's sure, but it would be something. I deserve to have my sins made public for everyone and be ridiculed. I'm not special. But God has been gracious to me.

There are two factors I see behind Haggard's fall. One is being honest about sin. It amazes me how much of the Church overlooks sin in its embryonic form, not realizing how it will in fact grow (I'm also speaking of myself here). So many Christians have trouble calling sin sin, they can't seem to bring themselves to call it evil, which is what it is. We accept way too much of sin in our lives (I might need to get on a Romans 7 kick at some point, but I'll refrain). While I can't accept the Wesleyan "perfection" concept (although that's often misunderstood anyway), I love John Wesley's never ending pursuit of holiness. Some call it legalistic, I call them cowards for not being able to stand before others to account for their actions (and yes, I call myself a coward all the time).

The other factor is what I just hit on, accountability. I realize accountability is not a new concept in the church, and everyone seems to be aware of it and its benefits, but rarely do we practice true accountability. How many people know the dark places of your heart? How many people know the sins that constantly hound you, the thoughts that plague your mind thoughout the day? As for me, I am a master at wording my confessions in a way that "gets me off the hook" at times. But honestly, I have those in my life who don't allow it to happen very often. The truth is I have been kept from sin many times because of the fear of having to look my pastor in the eye and tell him what I did or thought. Again, some would call it legalism. But I don't think so. God has given us people to keep up in line, we ought to use them. The Holy Spirit often convicts us through the words of our brothers and sisters, we must seek that conviction.

So I've done a lot of soul searching in this time. Am I the one who stands before God and says, "I'm glad I'm not like Ted Haggard"? Or am I the one who stands before God and says, "I'm more like Ted Haggard than I want to admit. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Articular Infinitives and 1 Corinthians 10:13

Blogger Note: this was originally posted on Saturday, November 4. However, the post was lost by some blogger-problem that I don't understand, but was miraculously saved by Isaac. Thanks Isaac, the blogosphere can now rest well.

About once a month I get together with a few friends on a Saturday morning for what we have come to call "Greek Geek" time. We preselect a text from the NT to translate on our own then come together to work through it. We discuss mostly grammar, some theology and hermeneutics, and even the occasional textual variant. It's a great time for a geek such as myself. There's something about struggling through a text that makes you appreciate it a bit more. I love how it makes me slow down and think about what the author is trying to say. I'm sad to say it, but I've read through parts of the Bible so many times over the years (in English) that I've grown accustomed to the phrasings and teachings. It's easy to skim over something. But when you work with the original languages, it forces you to plod and fight for every inch of understanding. At least it does for me.

For our 1st meeting we had translated 2 John (that's right, an entire book!), for our 2nd it was Matthew 28 (gotta have some narrative in there), and for this morning it was 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (we'll finish the chapter later). I always learn something new, or I see something that I never noticed before. Such was the case for me in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Let me give you a woodenly literal translation of the second part of the verse: "...Who will not permit you to be tempted over what you are able but will give with the temptation also the way out to be able to endure." You could smooth it out to the NIV (cf. TNIV, HCSB, NET): "...he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Notice something different between the two, in the Greek there is an article before "way out" (see NAS, ESV, in those it is translated "way of escape"). Now, Greek articles can mean different things, but we'll get to that in a second.

Let me move on to the point (and title) of this post, the articular infinitive (that is, an infinitive that has an article). These are quite common in Greek, they generally denote purpose or result. In Greek there is an article before the infinitive "to be able." Every translation that I've seen takes this as an articular infinitive denoting purpose, "He will also give with the temptation the way out, in order to be able to endure" is one way to translate it. Anthony Thiselton gives us a nice smooth translation reflecting this grammatical choice, "Now God is faithful: he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your powers, but he will make an exit path alongside the temptation. His purpose in this is for you to bear up under it" (pg 719- I love the internet, instead of typing out all the publication information I can simply link and give the page number!).

This is how I understood it the first time I went through the passage (and we have an articular infinitive with a preposition denoting purpose in v6, by the way). However, as I thought about the article before "way out" I rethought the infinitive here as well. Another grammatical possibility is that it is used as an apposition. Appositives are common in our everyday language, "my Greek Geek friend, Brian" is an example. "Brian" further defines "my Greek Geek friend." There are all sorts of uses, "God's favorite baseball team, the Red Sox, won the World Series in 2004" and so on. Our good friends at gives us this definition of apposition: "Grammar. a syntactic relation between expressions, usually consecutive, that have the same function and the same relation to other elements in the sentence, the second expression identifying or supplementing the first. In Washington, our first president, the phrase our first president is in apposition with Washington." I apologize for the American-centric example here, for those across the pond or up North I hope you can practice your contextualization skills.

So, if we were to read the articular infinitive in this way, it would be something like this "He will also give with the temptation the way out, that is, to be able to endure." The ability to endure is the way out. "To be able to endure" further defines what Paul meant by "the way out."

So what does this have to do with the definite article before "way out"? First, I think there is some importance to Paul using an article here. He didn't have to, but it makes sense given the fact he uses an article with "the temptation" as well. (By the way, I think God giving us temptation is worthy of a post of its own, someone should really take that up). Paul wanted to point out a specific way out for his readers, not just any way out. Hence the use of the article.

My boy Gordon Fee notes this as well, but doesn't say too much about it (461 n57). It seems Fee takes it as nothing more than individualizing the noun- with each temptation there is a corresponding way out. I tend to see it more as kataphoric (I love that word, it simply means "refering to what follows" or something like that). In other words, "the way out" refers to something that will be specified, like with an appositional articular infinitive. The article before "temptation" would be anaphoric (refering to something previously stated, in this the whole discussion of temptation in v13 prior to this). If you're in the mood, check out Daniel Wallace's greek grammar for a good discussion on the Greek article (a mere 85 pages or so!).

I realize this is tedious and largely uninteresting, but the use of the article makes me think about what Paul is trying to say here about the way out of temptation. My suggestions here are certainly grammatically possible, what I'm trying to figure out is if they are likely. Is Paul saying here that the way out of the temptation "common to humankind" is to be able to endure? Anybody have any thoughts on this?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott

While much of our country was celebrating Halloween by dressing up in costumes and contributing to the rise in the obesity rates, a handful of us celebrated October 31 as the 489th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the chapel in Wittenburg, Germany. This day is called "Reformation Day." It might not be the most glamorous holiday, but we managed to have fun with it in seminary. And by "have fun" I mean "joke about having school sponsored Reformation-inspired activities like 'Drown the Anabaptist' and 'Burn the Arminian at the Stake'". Just kidding, but it did give the Presbyterians an excuse to go out and drink (like they ever needed one before).

I love this day. To think that the course of the world was changed on October 31, 1517. I'd recommend that you watch the movie Luther to get an idea of Luther's life and motivations for what he did. I'm by no means a church historian, but from what I understand it's a fairly accurate portrayal given the time constraints. There's a few things about Luther I'm not particularly fond of, specifically a couple areas of his theology (like baptism and the Lord's Supper, two fairly important topics). However, when you get down to it, this is a man who zealously defended the gospel. Luther was convinced of the Truth, and was willing to stand up for it no matter the consequence.

I think this is why I was angered a couple months back as I followed a debate on a theology message board between two intelligent and educated men. I can't remember what exactly the debate was about, but I remember it not being a "crucial" issue. But, these two decided to invoke the language of Luther throughout, with such phrasings as "here I stand, I can do no other" appearing after their arguments (I've read that Luther didn't actually say those words, though he certainly could have). What angered me was how they took his words and cheapened them. Their debate was over some relatively minor detail, yet they (dare I say self-righteously) decided to use the language of Luther in order to give themselves the higher moral ground.

Luther, however, stood at the Diet of Worms with his life on the line (literally) and uttered these powerful words of faith:
"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

Here is a man who knew what was at stake, yet his love for the gospel and passion for the truth would not allow him to budge one inch. He wasn't fighting over what instruments to use in worship, maintenance budgets or the size of the pulpit. He saw corruption in the church and the perversion of the gospel and stood to fight against it. Let's not cheapen his sacrifice by using his words as rhetorical devices to win battles over non-essentials. He risked too much for that.

I guess this is why I love Reformation Day: It shows us what happens when someone is convinced of the truth of the gospel and is empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand against any attempt of its perversion. If I had half of Luther's courage and passion I'm convinced I would be a better minister of the gospel.

So, while this isn't technically a Hymn of the Week post, I have decided to post the lyrics to Luther's famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, inspired by Psalm 46. I enjoyed reading through it again last night and singing it quietly to myself at Panera. Let us not forget his closing lyrics, which Luther himself lived out as an example to us: The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!

A mighty fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing;
For still our ancient Foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing;
Dost ask who that may be:
Christ Jesus it is He;
Lord Sabbaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed,
His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure,
For lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

That Word above all earthly pow'r,
No thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hymn of the Week: Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior

This selection is a song that I didn't really know until recently. I was aware of its existence, but that's about it. I have two versions of it on cd, one sung by Selah and one sung by Fernando Ortega. Good stuff, anyway, here are the lyrics, written by Fanny J Crosby.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou are calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at a throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.


Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.


Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee,
Whom in Heav’n but Thee


For some reason, Ortega sings "smiling" insteading of "calling" in the opening verse. I'm not sure if there's a textual variant somewhere, maybe someone can check the ancient Crosby Codex. Or perhaps Ortega was going for a little more variety, considering the use of "calling" in the refrain (which apparently is different from a chorus, someone care to explain?).

What I love about this song is its simplicity. There's nothing fancy about it, its just a simple prayer, one that most of us can relate to. Who among us hasn't felt "passed over" by God? Now, there are some who say this type of prayer/song reflects a sinful attitude of not trusting and not appreciating God. I suppose they would have a point. Then again, it seems David (and other psalmists) didn't mind saying that they felt like the Lord had missed them somehow amidst all the blessings others were receiving (including the wicked, which isn't a theme in this hymn). What the psalmists include, and what we see here, is the confidence that God will hear such prayers. So, when read in context, the "God have you forgotten me?" prayer is not sinful, in my opinion.

What this hymn shows us is that God alone can answer such prayers. A person who lacked faith might not even offer this prayer, but since God alone is Savior, since He alone brings relief and helps unbelief, since He alone is healer (etc), the person of faith will ask for mercy while feeling slighted. Perhaps it's a greater sign of faith to say "Lord, I feel like I'm forgotten, but I trust that You will provide me with everything I need" than to be dishonest and pretend like all is well.

At any rate, I've grown to appreciate this song and find myself singing it during rough days. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Sting of Death, or the Lack Thereof

I have to admit, death bothers me. I realize that sounds obvious, since it bothers everyone, but death really affects me. Whenever I hear about someone dying, whether or not I know them, I cringe. Just knowing that that person has family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc, who will never be able to eat dinner, watch a movie or shoot the breeze with that person again breaks my heart. It doesn't get much more permanent than that.

It breaks my heart even more when there are tragic circumstances surrounding the death. We've seen such things recently in the news: a state trooper in New Hampshire gunned down by a criminal, those poor little Amish girls killed by a psycho (that situation actually made me utter the words "hell won't be hot enough for some people"), even Steve Irwin being killed by a stingray (while many were talking about his shows and his conservation efforts, all noteworthy and appreciated, I felt awful for his poor wife and little kids). It's painful enough when a 90-year old dies after a long illness (and it is painful), it's even worse when someone's life is cut short unexpectedly.

Every year around this time I think about this because of my own experience with a friend's unexpected death. On the night of October 22, 1998 a bunch of my friends and I were sitting on the couches of our dorm talking baseball. I remember going on a prolonged rant about why Nomar Garciaparra should win MVP over Juan Gonzalez that season. Next thing I know, my friend Brian Barnes was coughing and gasping for air. We knew that Brian was born with a hole in his heart, and he had already had major heart surgery when he was 16. He was told he probably wouldn't live past 18, he was 23 that night when I watched his eyes roll back in his head as I tried to help him.

The paramedics came and revived him, but we found out the next morning (after getting absolutely no sleep) that his brain was showing no signs of activity, it had been deprived of oxygen too long. His family decided to give it one day just to see if some miracle would happen. That miracle never came, and we (his family, 3 other guys from the dorm and I) watched him breath his last on that hospital bed in Springfield, MO on the morning of Saturday, October 24.

There are plenty of great things to remember of our time together: wrestling matches, dance parties (which weren't co-ed at our Baptist school and existed mostly for comedy's sake), too many viewings of Tommy Boy. There was something more important about the relationship between Brian and our hall on the first floor of Gott Hall. Brian was never the cool kid. He was short and fat, he couldn't play sports because of his heart condition. He wore thick glasses, had a bad mustache and his haircut too closely resembled Forrest Gump's. But he was one of us. Other people made fun of him, we had fun with him. For years he was left out and pushed to the side, on our hall he was one of the guys. I'm not trying to make saints out of us, it's not like we said "he's not cool, how about we let him hang out." This wasn't a charity project, it's just the way it was. He was our friend.

I remember the wake (or whatever the non-Irish call it) and how many people showed up. There was a group of us talking with his parents and siblings and sharing memories. His father picked up the guest book that people signed when they came in and thumbed through the pages. With tears in his eyes he said "I never knew my boy had so many friends." I honestly can say that Brian died at the peak of his life. Never had he been so loved, and never had he been so close to His Savior. It was only a couple weeks before this that he wrote a cousin to whom he had been witnessing and told him that he was in fact ready to die, he had confidence in Christ (Brian had no idea he was about to die, at least not to my knowledge, he actually had a doctor's appointment not too long before this and was told there were no major problems). I have another clear memory from that semester. During a hall Bible study we started with some worship songs. Those who know me know that I rarely sing during these times, I generally prefer to listen and meditate. On this particular evening I noticed someone singing rather loudly and quite off-key, I open my eyes to see Brian with his eyes closed giving it everything he had. It's weird how that picture has stuck with me all this time.

Knowing how hard it is for me to deal with death anyway, and given that this was a good friend of mine, I was forced to face the issue head on and not avoid it. I found solace in the words of Paul found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. I encourage you to read them. Someday Christ will return. The great thing is that He will not return alone, but there will be a reunion with those who have died and those who are still alive. It sounds so cheesy to say, but we have confidence that those who are in Christ will see each other again. No wonder Paul can say in v18, "Therefore encourage one another with these words."

As time has gone on, 1 Corinthians 15 has become my very favorite chapter in the Bible. It is here where we see history, theology and application come together in a dramatic way, perhaps rivaled by only a few other places in the Bible (Philippians 2 maybe?). Because of one event, Christ's resurrection (history), we know that death has been defeated and we will rise like He did (theology), therefore we need not fear death and we know that the struggles of this life are not in vain(application). In Christ, death has become an obstacle that has been overcome, a hurdle that has been jumped, an evil that has been overpowered by good. From our vantage point this truth can be clouded, but it's power is no less real. We can grieve (read Paul's words in 1 Thess 4), but we can also boldly say "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor 15:54-55).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hymn of the Week: Nothing But the Blood

Ah, the return of the Hymn of the Week. Sorry about the delay, no excuses. This past Sunday we sung this wonderful tune and it inspired me to share it. Here are the lyrics for Nothing But the Blood, written by Robert Lowry.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Chorus: Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing, this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

(Repeat chorus)

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

(Repeat chorus)

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

(Repeat chorus)

This is such a great song, and it's been even more meaningful as I've been teaching out of the Pentateuch the last couple weeks and the issue of sacrifice comes up regularly. For a world in need of redemption and forgiveness, this simple song offers us the answer. For a people who sin and rebel against God, we need not look any further than the blood of Jesus. At the very least, as we read through Leviticus and other such books we can see that our sin is very real and deserving of punishment. This punishment has been paid. We have no other hope than this.

The line "for my cleansing, this my plea" stands out to me as I think through this song. I think of all the times I have repented before the Lord for my sin and sought to "do better" or thought that my deep contrition (real or imagined) would somehow work on my behalf. Yet, as this song reminds us, if I seek cleansing I have no other plea before God than the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice washes away my sin, nothing I have done. Simple truth, often forgotten.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another 5.5 Random Things

5.5: This post is dedicated to the neglected but not forgotten nor abandoned Hymn of the Week. It's coming back, I promise.

5: In my first 5.5 Random Things post I plugged Brian's new blog and claimed how he would not be able to keep up the post a day pace with which he started. He went on to claim that he would, in fact, do so just to spite me. Today is one month since his last post. I win.

4: Jeremy has an interesting post about a slip in the ESV dedication to non-inclusive language, found in 1 John 3:24 (where they use a singular "them" rather than "him", which would be consistent with their translation philosphy). The topic of Bible translation is worthy of its own post, but I just want to vent my frustration concerning those who are so eager to bash the NIV (and others, such as the TNIV) for something like using the singluar "they." Does it open the door for misinterpretation? Possibly. Then again, so can a very literal translation, so who cares (not to mention the fact that some of them can be so wooden they don't even make sense in English)? I don't care if someone prefers a literal translation, in fact, the NAS is still my Bible of choice. I just don't see what's so hard about understanding the reasons for the dynamic equivalent style, or, even worse, why it's so hard to accept the benefit to having multiple translations in studying the Bible. It's so basic (in fact, I say it every week in the Bible class I teach at church), why can't people grasp it?

3: I'm watching the Mets-Dodgers baseball game and the idiot announcer, Thom Brennamen (partner of 1st-ballot Hall of Fame crappy announcer Tim McCarver), just claimed that Grady Little did the right thing when he left Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Yankees. I believe his exact quote was "when I look at that Boston bullpen, I say Pedro Martinez was the right man for the job." My questions is this: why does this man have a job in announcing baseball? Nevermind Brennamen's tendency to go off on self-righteous tirades concerning some superstar du jour, this quote just proves he doesn't understand anything about the game of baseball, or at least wasn't watching that postseason when the Mike Timlin-Scott Williamson tandem was almost unhittable. FOX Sports is awful, absolutely awful. This is worse than Chris Berman or Joe Morgan. And that's saying something.

2: I have to admit that I really want to see The Departed, the new movie starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCraprio (not a misspelling), Matt Damon and Marky Mark, sans the Funky Bunch. Mind you, I don't like Nicholson or DiCraprio, but I'm a sucker for mob movies. Also, I think there's something inside me that longs to hear a movie with good Boston accents. Good Will Hunting wasn't bad, Damon was great and Affleck did a good job (actually, both Afflecks did), but Robin Williams was painful. He wasn't as bad as Costner, but still not good. Anyway, I have hopes that with Damon and Marky Mark (both from Boston) this movie might be able to pull it off.

1: Well, the Detroit Tigers are now everyone's favorite team as they beat the Yankees in 4 games. Early in the season, when Detroit had the best record in baseball, I had said that I hoped they would win it all if the Red Sox weren't going to do it. There are numerous reasons for me to do so: 1) they are a classic franchise, one of the old guys in the AL (a reason I rooted for the White Sox once the Sox were eliminated last year as well), 2) they've been awful for so long (something like 13 straight losing seasons) that it's a great rags-to-riches story, 3)I've loved their manager, Jim Leyland, since he was in Pittsburgh (when I was in Little League I played on the Pirates, so I rooted for them while he was bringing them to the postseason every year), 4) they've got some quality people to root for on that team, 5) I love the old Tigers teams from my childhood (Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammel, Sweet Lou Whitaker, and my favorite, Jack Morris, the most underrated pitcher of my time). I love the mixture of homegrown talent and veterans from outside the organization (which I think is a necessary feature to win these days). I love that the pitching staff relies heavily on 3 guys younger than I am (Zumaya, Verlander and Bonderman). It was great to see Jeremy Bonderman pitch so well today. It was just 3 seasons ago when he lost 19 games (for those who don't know, that is awful), and he lost 45 games from 2003-05. He came to the majors when he was 19 and many thought the Tigers had rushed him, and that his early failures would scar him for the rest of his career (like with Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals). Then today he dominates the Yankees and leaves in the 9th to a goosebump inducing ovation. You have to feel good for a guy like that, and I hope they bring the World Series Championship to Detroit.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I Went to a Worship Service and a Wedding Broke Out

On September 16, I had the honor of being best man in the wedding of my best friend, Ryan, and his wife, Amy. In my never-ending effort to steal every creative idea Bill Simmons ever conceived, I decided to keep a running diary (actually, he didn't invent it, but he made it an art form). So, this is my trip from Boston to Wethersfield, CT and back. I hope you read and enjoy.


Friday, September 15

10:30am: I pull through the toll leaving East Boston and ask the attendant how she was doing. She blew a nice cloud of smoke out of her mouth and cracked "hi" in a voice that would make Joan Rivers sound like a songbird. This is going to be a great trip.

10:43: I walk into Men's Wearhouse to get my tux. There was nothing more than a quick fitting check and a lecture from the salesman about how much better pizza is in Jersey. Why is it that people from Jersey are so proud of it? Anyway, I resisted making fun of Springsteen and was out of the store with tux in hand in 13 minutes.

The tuxedo is classic Ryan: tails that went down to the armpit of the knee, bowtie, suspenders, vest (with a touch of purple), all around classic.

11:23: Stop off at the church to see the world's best church administrator to discuss some details about a class I'm teaching. This has nothing to do the wedding, but it was part of my day, so get over it.

11:46: Quick stop at Quiznos for a Chicken Carbonara toasted sub with no mushrooms and a fountain Pepsi, one of my favorite meals. Let me explain the no mushrooms thing, because it shows you how my father scarred me for life. When I was a kid my dad was fond of saying that mushrooms are the 1st cousin to athletes foot. Now, I can't go near them, it makes me think of nasty feet and dirty locker room shower floors.

Oh yeah, went to Target real quick to buy some white undershirts, can't wear a dark shirt underneath a white one, right?

12:40: Got a call from my friend Sarah as I'm on the road, she just finished raising support for her glamorous life in missions. We talk for a bit, then it's just me and the road. At this point I'm getting worried about the speech I have to make. I don't know anyone at this wedding other than Ryan and Amy, so I have no idea how I will fit in with everyone, and the speech could totally bomb. Carumba.

2:15: I pull into the parking lot of First Church of Christ Wethersfield, a fairly large historic church. I changed in the car, which is always fun, especially when you stupidly stay in the driver's seat and have to maneuver around the steering wheel. The rehearsal doesn't start until 3, so I have some time to kill. I walked around the cemetary connected to the church property and try to think of something for my speech. I'm not sure a cemetary is the most inspiring place for such endeavors, but it worked a bit.

3:30: Rehearsal gets started a little late, and it ran like most rehearsals, so I won't go into details. The church sanctuary set-up was interesting. The main section in the middle (split into two sections) seated 125-150, and lining the walls of the room were penalty boxes, complete with hinged doors and everything. I considered cross-checking a bridesmaid to see if I'd get 2 minutes in the box. Anyway, here's the rundown of the wedding party:

Bridesmaids: Jessica (Ryan's sister), Sarah (Amy's friend), Heather (Amy's sister-in-law), and Matron of Honor Mary (Amy's sister).

Groomsmen: Stephen (Amy's brother), Matthew (Ryan's friend), David (Ryan's friend, he was a last second replacement, see below), me.

5:00: It's dinner time, and I am hungry. We go to some place that supposedly serves great seafood, which ended up being true. I got to talk to some of the wedding party and get to know them better, especially David and his wife, Samara (I think I'm spelling that right). We talked mostly about missions and other ministry related things.

7:25: Groomsman gift time, I got hooked up with the City of Champions: Best of Boston Sports dvd and a hymns cd (Fernando Ortega, quite good). You can see why Ryan is my best friend.

8:20ish: Instead of a bachelor party, we (Ryan, David and I) take a trip to the hospital. You see, 4 days before the wedding, one of the groomsman, Bill, was the victim of a freak accident. He was driving down the road and an object flew off a truck doing the other direction. That object (I believe it was a spider gear) went through Bill's windshield and hit him in the head. He has had some reconstructive surgery, but I think there's still more to come. He just got married 2 months ago, but his wife (Michelle) is staying strong. Her faith is inspiring. We prayed with the family for a bit and left. Not necessarily the ideal bachelor party, but I think it meant a lot to the family for Ryan to go and visit.

9:45: We finally arrive at the hotel. It was raining wicked hard and Ryan and I weren't really looking forward to running from the car to the hotel. So, we took a cue from our friendly neighborhood televangelist Joel Osteen and asked God to give us the best spot available. Sho 'nough we got ourselves a front row spot, forever proving that you can indeed have your best life now.

Remember, this is past my normal bedtime, so I'm tired. Ryan, Matthew and I are sharing a room; we head down to the bar with Jessica and hang out. We saw a guy wearing a funky flannel shirt tucked into his sweatpants that had a racing stripe down the side. Good times (by the way, I hate that Bill Simmons uses "good times" so much because it makes people think I'm copying him by using it when it's been a tried and true phrase for so long).

11:30: Finally, bedtime. Let me gives serious props to the Marriot for having comfortable beds and amazing pillows. I thought about stealing one, or two.

Saturday, September 16

4:30ish am: Some stupid bugs outside the window wake me up. It was so bad that I actually picked up the patterns of their noises. Is that weird? Anyway, I lay there for an hour and a half before I jump in the shower.

7:30: Ryan, Matthew and I head to Dunkin's Donuts. This was one of the most important times of the weekend. Let me explain: Ryan and I through most of seminary would go to Dunkin' Donuts (or Dunka Do, pronounced Dew) every Saturday morning for a couple hours. As we ate our donuts or bagels and drank our coffee we would discuss pretty much every topic under the sun (sports, politics, theology, etc). The most important thing we discussed was ministry, we solved pretty much all of the church's problems during those times. We often referred to ourselves as "The Idealists."

Those times have had a lasting impact on me. I am not an idealist by nature, in fact I've been accused of cynicism on more than one occasion, and I'm certainly prone to my times of depression. Idealism is not something that would describe me at various stages in my life. But those times with Ryan changed my attitude toward ministry and the power that we as children of God have through His grace. I can't point to any one meeting or thing that Ryan said, it was just the general attitude of optimism that came out of being with him that has changed my life. I went from a disposition of doubt to asking the question "why not?". That change is huge. So, while on this particular trip to Dunka Do we didn't get to talk in depth or for very long, it was at least symbolically important.

8:18: We arrive at the church to begin changing into our tuxes. Nothing too exciting here, except for the comedy of watching us try to put our own suspenders on and work the bow tie.

8:50: Ryan father gives me Ryan wedding band. It's my job to make sure these get to the altar.

8:56: Tux is on. Why did it take me so long? Because the wedding doesn't start until 10 and I don't want to be hot. Can you blame me?

9:00: Steve, Amy's brother, gives me her wedding band. The pressure is on.

9:14: After some quick pictures, it's boutonniere time. After a couple broken pins we finally got everybody set up. I think someone had to use a safety pin. I should have brought my duct tape.

9:29: Ryan and I head to the back room with the photographer, who takes some pictures of us lounging around. It's funny how many people know my aversion to my picture being taken, just about everybody who found out I was in a wedding asked me about it. If I'm in someone's wedding I don't fight it, it's just not that important. Even if the camera does steal my soul.

9:37: The photographer leaves and Ryan and I hang out along for a bit. We pray together for a while and share a touching Jonathan and David moment, only without the kissing. I honestly can't tell you how happy I am for Ryan and Amy and honored to have been in this wedding.

9:58: The pastor comes and gets us, the show is on. From here until the end of the wedding I don't have exact times (hey, I wasn't going to bring my cell phone up to the altar). I slip the rings onto my left pinky as we walk out the door.

10:15ish: The wedding gets started a little late. I won't go through the entire wedding, I'll just hit the high points. Everyone made it into position without any major problems, everyone except for the runner. It was Matthew and Steve's job to roll out the runner after the bridesmaids came down the aisle. However, the runner got caught in the rope or something so Steve pulls out his pocketknife and cuts the rope. Why does someone bring a knife to a wedding, let alone up to the altar? I have no idea, but it was serendipitous. Anyway, that issue is resolved and Amy begins to come out, escorted by her father. I have to be honest, I thought she was going to lose it before she ever got up to the altar. But she and Ryan did okay, not that there is anything wrong with bawling at your own wedding.

As the pastor pointed out during the ceremony, Ryan and Amy really took seriously that this was a worship service. I suppose to normal amount of hymns sung at a wedding (if any at all) would be 2-3. Ryan and Amy chose 5, and it was like an all-star cast of hymns. Here you go: To God Be The Glory, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Crown Him with Many Crowns, How Great Thou Art (the only song that does double duty in my "That Better Be Played at my Funeral" and "That Better Be Played at my Wedding" lists) and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. It was awesome, what great selection. Honestly, I think we were a Be Thou My Vision away from ushering in Christ's return.

As I stated earlier, my job was to ensure that the wedding rings got to the altar and ended up on the ring fingers of our couple. With only a minor delay to get some soap and warm water to get the rings of my pinky we had no issues. That didn't happen by the way, but it would have been funny if it did (unless Amy is reading this, then it would have been awful).

10:55: I walk out with Mary (Matron of Honor) and Ryan and Amy are officially married. Those two thoughts aren't logically connected by the way (us walking out and them being married), merely temporally. The ceremony was actually much quicker than I thought, only about 40 minutes, not bad considering we sang 5 hymns. The pastor didn't say too much, that helped keep the time down. It really was a worshipful time, moreso than most weddings I've attended. The organist was wicked good, apparently he's a world renouned organist. I haven't been able to keep up with my world class organists since the Pipe Organists Guild booted me out for allegedly playing a Casio keyboard. Bunch of snobs if you ask me.

11:15: The wedding party gathers to pose for some pictures. I really liked the photographers, they kept everything quick and painless. The would get us into position and click a few times and tell us to sit down. They were awesome (a husband and wife team, by the way).

12:10: We pull up to the Simsbury Inn where the reception was held. We posed for some more pictures at a gazebo and eat some little snack things. I was particularly fond of the bacon-wrapped scallops. I could eat those all day, and would have if they kept bringing them out.

1:15: Each member of the wedding party is announced at the reception and come out with their corresponding person. I was quite disappointed that Mary wouldn't strut out with me, especially considering the song was some funk diddy (a touch of Ryan). If you can't strut when you're all dolled up, when can you strut? Ryan and Amy have their first dance.

1:25: It's time for the best man speech, always a fun time if you aren't the one giving the speech. Like I said, I didn't know anyone at the wedding, so I was nervous. I didn't want to ruin it all in front of all these fancy family members and friends.

Coming up with something was difficult, partially because Ryan doesn't open himself up to embarassing stories. So, I opted for a poem. My goal was to write a full sonnet, a la Bill Shakespeare, but had to settle for a partial one (for those who don't know, a sonnet is a 14-line poem with 3 stanzas of 4 lines, known as a quatrain, which have an abab cdcd efef rhyming pattern and a final 2 lines, known as a couplet, that rhyme- raise your hand if you're surpised I knew that). It went fairly well. After a quick toast that got a laugh or two I sat my butt down and considered it an okay speech. Who remembers this stuff anyway?

Dinner was great, a fine job with the food. There were about 6 options for a main dish (actually, I think 4 weren't considered main dishes, but they are in my book, as one who eats cereal for dinner at least twice a week). I couldn't decide which one to have, so I didn't decide and just ate all of them. Good choice. The wedding party also got ice cream cake, my favorite.

3:53: Time to hit the dance floor. That's right, you read that correctly, Danny got out on the dance floor. The electric slide was a little rough (I ran over Sarah, one of the bridesmaids, about 6 times, poor girl, even the DJ made fun of me) but I rocked the Cotton Eyed Joe dance (which may have a name). I can also twist with the best of them.

4:10: Off the dance floor.

4:40: Back on the dance floor, I teach a girl to waltz (not that I'm good or anything).

4:50: Back off the dance floor.

5:00: The reception is now over and it's time to say goodbye. Ryan and I get to talk a few minutes and that's about it. Who am I to hold up a man's honeymoon?

5:30: After changing in the parking lot (I promise, I don't make a habit of this) and giving the tux to Ryan's father for the drop off, I'm on the road. I'm sweaty, I'm tired and I'm full. Sounds like a great wedding.

5:50: Okay, I got lost a little bit, in a neighborhood of Hartford that looked like the kind of neighborhood I didn't want to be lost in.

6:07: On the proper highway and ready to get back to Boston. Good times.


A couple quick thoughts, one not so important and one more important:

I wrote this post over a 12-day period so it's really uneven. Reading back through it, I noticed my verb tenses change throughout, very poorly written. I'm just too lazy to go back through and fix it. This is why I always wrote papers for school in one long sitting (or two long sittings at most), my brain is better off being used for long periods of time only occasionally, rather than consistently day in and day out. I guess I'm a binge thinker.

Some might not realize it, but I'm a big sap. I get incredibly happy for friends when big things happen, like getting married or having a baby (just ask Bruce about my reaction when he told me Morgan was pregnant, the ensuing mockery has taught me to subdue myself). The way I see it, there is so much that is screwed up about life and this world. It seems that things are always going wrong somewhere. Maybe I'm "overly aware" of how things are not the way they're supposed to be (which is also the title of a great book by Cornelius Plantinga), but I'm not sure it's possible to be too aware of the effects of sin and evil on this world. That's why I get so excited about my friends getting married and having children. It shows us that some things that are good and were intended to be blessing from God are still present in our lives. That's a reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Go Read Something Else...

Hey, I just wanted to direct both of my readers to something I ran across earlier today. Originally I wasn't going to link to it, but when I went back a second time it struck me again. Go check out The Jericho Road, blog of Jan McKenzie, who has commented a couple times on this very blog. I was really convicted, maybe you will be too. It's a quick read, but take the time to think about it, for your own good. Thanks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

From the Red Sox to the Patriots, it's September

It's been a while since I posted anything about sports, and this is an odd time since the most likely candidate to post any comments is Ryan, who is getting married this weekend (I'm the best man!) and will probably not make his new wife happy by checking the ole blog-of-danny. This will be fairly random, just so you know.

I hate to admit it, but Derek Jeter really stuck it good to Big Papi this week. For those who don't know, David Ortiz (that's Big Papi, for those who really don't follow sports, but if you don't there's a good chance you're not ready this post anymore) commented to the media that his road to the MVP is tougher than Jeter's because of the weaker Boston lineup. He said of Jeter, "Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup ... Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be." Jeter responded with, "I don't have to do it in his lineup. ... I'm not thinking about the MVP right now. We're thinking about winning a division. We've still got something to play for." And followed that with, "No one here's focused on individual awards." Ouch. There is no better response than "I can't worry about that, I'm too busy winning." Not only does he make Ortiz out to be selfish, he makes him out to be a loser. Mind you, Ortiz is neither of those things, but in a war of words, Jeter blew Ortiz out of the water.

This Sox season has really fallen apart. The truth is that when you have a team that is weak offensively and multiple starters get hurt, you don't stand a chance. I'm not sure they were going to win the division anyway, but it doesn't help when you lose your starting catcher (didn't the pitching staff fall apart after Varitek got hurt?), your starting right fielder, your starting left fielder who happens to be one of the best bats in all of baseball, your DH and baseball's premiere clutch hitter, and even your starting short stop, one of the top gloves in baseball. Add that to injuries to the pitching staff, both starters and relievers, well, you just aren't going to win.

Everyone in Boston is getting on Theo Epstein for not making any moves at the trading deadline. It is noted how he has "failed" miserably. The problem with that is that they are judging him by a different standard than what he is going by. I don't think Theo is trying to win right now, I honestly think he looked at this team and said "we don't have a deep enough team to win." And he was right. So, he decided against trading his future stars for overpriced veterans who wouldn't have been enough to win the division anyway, let alone a World Series. Honestly, can you name me one (or even two) players who they actually had a shot at getting in a trade who would have put them over the top? Let me answer that for you, you can't.

Thank God for the Patriots! Although they didn't play all that well in their 1st game, I'm still excited. As my dad pointed out the other day, they've won 2 Super Bowls in seasons where they started 2-2, most notably their 2nd Super Bowl season when they were blown out 31-0 by Buffalo in the opening game. The fact that they didn't play well in Game 1 (and they certainly didn't) doesn't mean much. Thankfully.

As for this whole Deion Branch situation, it's rather unfortunate. I liked him, and I suppose I still do. But is it that hard for him to honor the contract that he signed with the Patriots? Either way, in the end I think the Pats did the right thing. If he was really wanting a 6 year, $39 million contract, well, goodbye. I'm of the belief that almost no receiver is worth that money (the exception being Jerry Rice in his prime). Wide Receiver, though important, is a position that is completely dependent on other positions, moreso than perhaps any other position on the field (I'm open to other suggestions). Remember, the Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Troy Brown, David Patten and some other guy I can't remember right now as their 3 receivers. Not one #1 receiver in that group (Brown was no longer a #1 at that point). Branch is definitely good, but not $39 million good.

Think about this for a second. Branch has never had a 1000 yard season (998 last year, so I guess that counts) and has averaged 3.5 touchdowns a season. This is worth $39 million? Let me type that out so you can see all the 0's: 39,000,000. I realize that in the Patriots offense players will not put up the huge numbers, that just isn't the way they work. But still, this is something Seattle will regret. It reminds me of us Red Sox fans when we got Josh Beckett. We talked about potential, made excuses for his lack of big numbers in his short career (blisters, etc) and would constantly bring up the fact that he won the MVP in the World Series in 2003 against the Yankees as proof of his great potential. In the same way, Branch is being touted as someone who hasn't been able to put up big numbers in the Patriots offense (which as I noted is true) and won a Super Bowl MVP, which shows just how good he can be. Well, year 1 of the Beckett era hasn't worked out too well, and I'm not sure the Branch era will be looked at all that fondly either.

As for the current Pats lineup, they do need help at receiver (which sounds funny considering what I just wrote about letting Branch go). The Pats have two good tight ends in Watson and Graham, and that is nice. But it jams up the line of scrimmage too much. They don't really have anyone who can stretch the field, and I'm not sure where they'll find someone. I don't necessarily think that this will preclude them from winning it all, I just think it'll make things harder and force Belichek and friends to work overtime.

More important than fixing the receiving corps is fixing the offensive line. They played horribly on Sunday. It'll certainly help the receivers if Brady had a little more time to get them the ball. But when he's rushed on every play and has to throw off his back foot, well, bad throws will be made. That's just the way it is. That line needs some work.

One final note, Brady made some interesting comments the other day, and I'm not talking about the statements regarding being distracted because Branch is a good friend. During his weekly interview on a local sports station he took the blame for the offensive line's poor play, saying that he didn't make very good reads of the defense, which caused all the problems. Let it be known that no one buys this, everyone knows that the line stunk up the joint and that had nothing to do with Brady. It's just refreshing to see someone, who is the best QB in the NFL, by the way, deflect criticism of his teammates onto himself. Just the opposite of Eli's brother in the playoffs last year, who made sure to note in the media that they lost in part due to the "protection problems" the offensive line was having. I think that shows you why one quarterback has 3 rings, and the other has none.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Spirit & the Community

You may remember a week or so ago that I guest blogged at another site, or I suppose you may not remember. Well, I opted to carry the post over here, you know, just to fill some space until my overdue Hymn of the Week and much needed football posts come around. I originally wrote this late Friday the 1st and early Saturday the 2nd of September. As I reread it I'm not all that happy with it, but it's something to discuss and ponder.


Here are two stories about my church community from the past week.

1. The last couple days are some of the craziest in the city of Boston. With over 300,000 students in this small city (it really doesn’t cover much land), and most moving in or out on the same day, this week can be one of the most frustrating of the year. Nothing works out as planned, and you can forget about meals at normal times or sleeping the recommended amount (I got 7 hours of sleep in two days and skipped dinner 2 nights in a row). It just won’t happen.

Last night I got a phone call from a young lady in my church. She and her roommate had hoped to avoid the craziness of this day by hiring movers to transport their stuff, a plan that the rest of us had admired. The movers were to arrive around noon- I got a call over 6 hours later and was told that they hadn’t arrived. The landlord was screaming at them to get out and they had few options. The option they did have, however, was to ask for help from their friends from church. Before you knew it, there were 15 people (most of whom were already tired and sore from moving themselves and others for the last 2 days) bringing couches, desks, a piano (curse that piano!) and other odds and ends down the steps and into a giant truck that one of the church members donated for the evening. Odd as it sounds, it was actually a lot of fun. And of course the steak quesadilla I got to eat didn’t hurt.

2. This past Sunday 40 or so people from my church gathered in an apartment to say goodbye to 2 dear sisters. We sent these 2 out as missionaries to serve an existing church planting team, they will be gone for 1 year. At one point during the evening we gathered into the living room (yes, it was as cramped as it sounds) to have a time of encouragement and prayer for these 2 young ladies. We laughed, we cried, we shared stories and Scriptures. It was a bittersweet moment for all of us, happy to send two of our own out to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, sad to see them leave our fellowship.

As I looked around the crowd of people loving these two, I thought about some of the folks in the room. I saw some who have had their hearts broken and were cared for by others in that room. I saw some who have felt rejected all their lives and have found acceptance by others in that room. I saw some who have had wonderful times of rejoicing (weddings, engagements, babies, new jobs) and celebrated with others in that room. I saw some who have been depressed, stuck in sin and on the verge of giving up who have been loved by others in that room. The truth is that there is no community like the community of God.

That shouldn’t be surprising, though, given the fact that the Spirit of the Living God dwells within this community. Think about that for a second, the Spirit that hovered over the earth during creation, the Spirit who descended upon Christ like a dove, the Spirit who came upon the church at Pentecost like tongues of fire is the same Spirit who dwells within each heart of those who believe in Christ. It is the Spirit of God that binds us together. The community of God is powerful, and empowering, because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. As my associate pastor is fond of saying, “the great thing about us is the One who is among us.”

This small community of believers in the city of Boston has been a powerful force in the lives of many. It isn’t because we are smart, good looking and uber-spiritual. We haven’t concocted some secret formula that makes us holy, we haven’t passed out copies of the latest Christian self-help book at our services. We have been able to bless others because we are blessed with the presence of the Living God.

We most certainly aren’t perfect, I’d be willing to bet that every person involved in the 2 stories I shared have been hurt by someone else in our church, including myself. That is, unfortunately, a part of life together. But we’ve also learned how to love and forgive each other. We’ve learned that where the Spirit of God is, there is community.

Consider some of Paul’s teachings for a moment.

When Paul was dealing with the division between Jew and Gentile believers he teaches us that the Spirit brings God’s people together. “For through Him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph 2:18). “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Eph 2:22, italics mine).

The Spiritual gift of prophesy is used to edify the church (1 Cor 14:5), in fact, Paul urges the Corinthians “since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor 14:12), that is, rather than seeking personal gain. Regardless of whether or not you think spiritual gifts are still in use today, you can see the point that the believer can build up the church by the power of the Spirit.

Compare Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16-17 and you see how the believer, by being filled with the Spirit, can encourage, admonish, and teach others through songs and music. Again, the result of being Spirit-filled is worship and teaching that is community driven, not self seeking.

The Spirit in the heart of the believer is the restorative force amongst the people of God. Right after he lists some of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), Paul states, “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual [that is, living by the Spirit in the manner Paul just talked about] should restore him gently” (6:1).

My point is that when the Spirit of God is present, there should be unity and community. We are bound together by the Spirit of the Living God, that bond is far greater than cheering the same baseball team or voting for the same politician. We (and I’m speaking of all Christians here) are enabled to love each other will a sacrificial and selfless love because we have been showed love. This is nothing we can do on our own; any self-made work will surely falter in the long run. It amazes me that a group of sinful and depraved people can be brought together to worship and serve the Lord. Truly the great thing about us is the One who lives among us.