Saturday, December 08, 2007

Messianic Jews Respond to Hagee

As a follow up to my previous post about John Hagee's new book, In Defense of Israel, I offer a few thoughts from the realm of Messianic Judaism. A friend, who is a Jewish believer, sent me a link to a statement put out by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) regarding the book, in which he argues that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah for the Jewish people, only the Savior of the world (the world excluding the Jewish people, presumably). It's no surprise that they do not find his views favorable; I thought they did an admirable job of shooting his claims down (which is not hard to do, hence the short space it took them to do so).

But I found their final paragraph enlightening:

To teach that Jesus did not come as the Messiah for the Jews is ultimately anti-Jewish. Jesus becomes the savior of the world, but with no particular relationship to the Jewish people. If Jews want to respond to him as savior they have to leave Israel and its messianic hope and become part of something universal. In contrast, when we declare Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, we do not invalidate Israel or the Jewish people. Yes, Jews need to respond to Jesus, as do all people, yet in this response they discover that he is distinctly Jewish, distinctly relevant to them, and very much a part of the Jewish story.

This was something I had not thought about, but is completely true if one takes Hagee's viewpoint. If Jesus did not offer salvation to the Jews, but only to the rest of the world, then for a Jewish person to follow Jesus, they would have to renounce Judaism, since Jesus never offered them salvation. They'd have to become a Gentile in order to follow Jesus. After all, as Hagee says in his promotional video, "how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered?" (For the record, I am against "blaming the Jews" on some corporate level for rejecting Jesus, that's not the point I'm arguing). Turning Hagee's thought on its head, how can the Jews accept what was never offered? The answer (as the UMJC points out): cease to be Jewish.

I encourage you to read the fuller response written by Rabbi Russell Resnik, who handles a few more issues of interest.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I don't like to make the claim of heresy, but...

it's hard to be kinder when watching this advertisement.

This is a man who pastors a church of almost 20,000 people. Thousands more watch his television programs, who knows how many people read his books. This isn't dispensationalism, this is outright denial of who Jesus is and claimed to be. Scary stuff.

He makes a couple true statements, or at least half true. I agree, it's hard to make the claim that the Jewish people "as a whole" denied Jesus as the Messiah, since the majority of the earliest Christians were Jewish. But really, that depends on how you define "as a whole" anyway.

And I agree that there was a "conspiracy" to kill Jesus, though I wouldn't include Rome within that conspiracy. The conspiracy more likely involved individuals within differing sects of Judaism (Pharisees and Sadducees) and even some of Herod's followers (Mark 3:6, 12:13). I'm not sure you can call Rome a co-conspirator, though clearly responsible for the death of Jesus (which admittedly gets underplayed in many circles).

But to claim that Jesus never claimed by word or deed to be the Messiah, well, that's outright unbiblical. In fact, I wonder if Hagee will come out with a book denying the divinity of Jesus as well, since that is even "harder" to argue from Jesus' teachings and actions (mind you, I don't think it's all that hard, but it's even less explicit than his Messiahship). I wonder what Hagee thinks the word "Christ" means. I was under the assumption that most know it is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah (Anointed One). I suppose he could argue that Christ claimed to be the Anointed One, but not the awaited Messiah. However, it would be awfully hard to argue that a Jewish person in the 1st century would differentiate.

So, I leave you with the words of John (1 John 5:1):

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

a newlywed Christmas lesson

The other night, Lisa and I set up and decorated our first Christmas tree as a married couple. After we strung the lights and took out the box of ornaments (thank you, Bruce and Morgan), Lisa was about to put a random, non-descript ball on the tree. I stopped her and said, "wait, since this is our first Christmas tree, shouldn't we put a special ornament on first?"

"Great idea!" she responded. We both reached for what we considered a "special" ornament.

She proceeded to grab an ornament that was given to us as a gift by a family member for our first tree (it has "The Pierces" and various glittery things on it).

I, on the other hand, had a slightly different definition of "special" and proceeded to grab my new Red Sox ornament.

Guess who got their ornament put on first? I have much to learn.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I've died and gone to heaven

This week was a monumental time for me, one that will go down in history as the week of 2 unexpected, life changing surprises (if I may use a little hyperbole, though not too much).

First, on Sunday, I received my favorite wedding gift of all, Gordon Fee's new (destined-to-become-a-classic) book, Pauline Christology. I love it so much, I'm giving you a picture:

Fee, as many of you know, is my favorite Bible scholar. God's Empowering Presence (on the Holy Spirit in Paul's writings) is my favorite biblical studies book, by a large margin. One point of interest for me in both of these books is that they were written largely because no one else has covered these subjects. Fee, while working on other projects, noticed that few, if anyone at all, have actually sat down to write books on these two topics, which is astonishing considered the centrality of Christ and the life in the Spirit in Paul's life and ministry (biblical studies has become such a "niche discipline" that the main points often get overlooked). I'm really looking forward to diving into this book (I've read the first 30 pages or so, which were enough to cause me to sit around and day dream about becoming a Bible scholar again).

So, thanks to my good friend who bought this book for me as a wedding gift (you know who you are). If salvation were obtained by good works, your ticket would be purchased and heavenly passport stamped.

My second unexpected blessing was the discovery of This is a site meant to provide opportunities for those who do not (or cannot) attend seminary to listen to classes given by scholars and professors. A number of my former profs are on here, including a class or two that I took in seminary. You have to register, but it is free. The classes can be listened to through Windows Media Player or Quicktime (for Mac users), and can be downloaded on MP3 (perfect for our iPod culture). Many of the classes have the lectures transcribed and outlined. They are adding more classes soon (I can't wait for some more Craig Blomberg).

I'd highly recommend Douglas Stuart's Old Testament Survey. I did not take this class in seminary, but I knew a few folks who said that this was their favorite class in their years at school, so I look forward to checking them out. Honestly, OT Survey wouldn't rank on too many people's list of anticipated classes, so if it this highly regarded, you know it has to be good. Also, I also want to give a plug for Tim Tennent's missions classes (there are more to be put up, hopefully soon). Tennent is, quite simply, one of the best professors and lecturers I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. You will be richer for listening to them.

As someone who teaches Bible classes in the local church, I've been looking for good online resources I can recommend to my classes (I teach 2 nights a week). For various reasons (maybe to be discussed in another post on another day), there has been a long standing rift between the church and the academy, one that I think is to the serious detriment of both. I seek to bridge that gap as best I can when I teach. More often than not, those in my class (I can't really call them my "students", that sounds way too formal for my teaching) have to rely on my own personal anecdotes and take my word for it that these scholars are not stuffy, ivory tower types (Doug Stuart is a great example of a world-class scholar who is anything but stuffy). This online resource enables me to point members of my church to specific lectures and classes to get a "scholar's take" on a topic. Some of the classes are even condensed to shorter classes (called "Foundations" on the site), so they don't have to listen to the full 30 hour version (though they may want to).

One feature I hope to utilize when I have more time is the "custom class" feature. I can pick lectures and classes that I want and set up a "class" for folks to log on to and listen. I may be able to supplement much of my own teaching (or am I supplementing them?). I can have a "listen to this" portion of a class, enabling folks to download them to their iPods and listen on their own time, and we can discuss the content in class. At any rate, I can't stop thinking about it and I'm beginning to become obsessed.

Yes, Christmas came a few weeks early for me this year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

God and His own glory

One of my favorite NT scholars is Ben Witherington. While I can't say I always love his stuff, some of it is downright great (The Jesus Quest, his commentary on Acts). I've been reading his blog now for sometime (apparently everyone has a blog now), and I sometimes find myself shaking my head in disappointment at his periodic unfair characterizations of others and what seems to be hastily written posts. I guess I'm so disappointed because he can be such a terrific scholar (and one with whom I have many theological agreements), I hate to see him write stuff that is not up-to-par.

Thus, today, I find myself disappointed once again. In his latest post he refers to the prominent view (particularly in Reformed circles) that God is concerned with His own glory. His post is filled with unfair characterizations such as this one:

Let me be clear that of course the Bible says it is our obligation to love, praise, and worship God, but this is a very different matter from the suggestion that God worships himself, is deeply worried about whether he has enough glory or not, and his deepest motivation for doing anything on earth is so that he can up his own glory quotient, or magnify and praise himself.

It's funny, I'm not sure I've heard any proponents of the view he is opposing (John Piper, for example) who argue that God worships Himself (though I realize I haven't read everything on this topic). I'm also not sure I've come across any that paint the picture of God as sitting around worrying about this. Lastly, I know that I've never seen anyone argue that God is trying to "up his own glory quotient." Such condescending drivel is unbecoming of a first rate scholar.

Obviously this issue is too large for a short treatment here, but I want to point out two things from his post that caused me to scratch my head. First, on Philippians 2:5-11, he writes,

If the Son is the very image and has the same character as the Father, wouldn't we expect this text to say--'who being in very nature God, devised a plan to glorify himself through his incarnation' if God really is so self-referential? In other words I am arguing Christ, the perfect image of God's character, reveals that God's character is essentially other directed self-sacrificial love. God loves people, not merely as means to his own ends, but as ends in themselves.

What I find so confusing, especially coming from a NT scholar (who has written a commentary on Philippians, no less) is the complete lack of contextual reading. What we see in vv6-11 is a Cliff Notes version of Christ's story, which ends with this (9-11, NET):

As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow– in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

The passage doesn't end with Jesus' act of self-sacrificial love (though that is clearly an indispensable portion of the story), it culminates in God performing an action (exalting Jesus and giving Him a name above all names) and man performing an action (bowing and confessing that Jesus is Lord) resulting in God the Father receiving glory! Christ's sacrifice borne out of a heart of love is part of that story, but it is not the full story. The story doesn't end until God the Father is properly glorified!

Which leads me to my second criticism: Witherington acts as if those who propose the view that God is concerned with His own glory have no place for God being motivated by His love for His people. While I'm sure there are some who may minimize this too much, most will certainly give it its due. No one denies that Jesus died out of love for sinners. I agree that it would be wrong to say that Jesus' death on the cross is merely a means to an end of glorifying God (though it does do that, right!?!?!). And when Witherington writes "God it would appear is not merely a glory grabber, but rather a glory giver", I say "Amen!" God being motivated to act out of love is not incompatable with being motivated for His own glory.

Finally, I'd recommend you read Ezekiel 36 (among other places, another commentor on Witherington's post mentions Isaiah 48 as well), in particular vv22-23:

Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake that I am about to act, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy reputation which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will magnify my great name that has been profaned among the nations, that you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I magnify myself among you in their sight."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Great is Thy Faithfulness

This is one of my favorite hymns, and has been since I was a kid. The words were penned by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be

Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hands hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Summer and winter, springtime and harvest
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside


I find myself singing this particular hymn when I'm by myself; it seems to lend itself well to this. Some of the better versions I've heard are by Selah and Gary Chapman (who only sings the 1st verse and chorus on his cd Shelter). It's also one we sing periodically in church.

We've got some good scriptural allusions in here (James 1 in the 1st verse, Lamentations 3 in the chorus). And I think in light of Thanksgiving coming up, I'm encouraged to reflect on the Lord's faithfulness in my life. Admist the changes and transitions of life, God is unchanging. Despite my sin and rebellion, He provides peace and His presence. And, as the 2nd verse notes, God is even faithful to creation itself (ever thought about that?)! By the way, am I missing the significance to the number 10,000? It also reminds me of Amazing Grace ("when we've been there 10,000 years"). Is there a reason for that particular number? Any help would be appreciated.

This is one song I was hoping to sing at my wedding, but we couldn't really fit it in. But on that day (and since) I did reflect on God's faithfulness in getting me this far. I've tried, oh how I've tried!, to sabotage His work in my life, but despite by best (or worst) efforts, He has faithfully held on for dear life and showered me with new mercies every morning. I have much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

5.5 random things: a half-hearted defense of the patriots running up the score

5.5: This post is dedicated to the most oversaturated topic in football. Let me state for the record, I don't think there's any denying that the Patriots are running up the score a bit this season. Being up by 5 touchdowns in the 4th quarter and still throwing the long ball qualifies as such. Any denial of this reeks of homerism (being a "homer" means that you are completely uncritical of your hometown team, despite incriminating facts). But it isn't as bad as some might think...I think. Let me give a few reasons:

5: In Game Practice- Supposedly the Pats have used these late-game blowouts as another practice. I heard one sports journalist say that some of the plays they ran in the Indianapolis game to win were practiced late in the Redskins and Dolphins blowouts. Plus, if you get into the habit of pulling your starters too early, they are more likely to tire out late in games that are close. If you play only 3 quarters in 14 games, but the 15th is close and you're still going hard late in the 4th quarter, you may not have the "in-game" conditioning that you need.

4: The Record Books- When the beloved Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning did this a few years ago, most praised them for gunning for the touchdown record. The Pats do it, and they are unsportsmanlike. Not a defense, really, just pointing out the hypocrisy. Along those lines, since when is it bad for a team to gun for the record books? The Pats are one of the greatest dynasties in football history, they are simply adding to their accomplishments. What they don't have is statistical dominance, and in sports, statistics mean are second only to winning (some seem to place them first and foremost). Now they have it. The team may set the all-time scoring record, Brady passing records, Moss receiving records, etc.

3: Brady's vs Manning- Again, along those lines, it's interesting that so many media members have claimed Manning to be the superior quarterback to Brady because of his statistical superiority. Others, like myself, have always claimed that Brady is a better quarterback, but with inferior receivers (come on, Troy Brown and David Givens are no Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne) could not put up the Manningesque numbers. Now Brady has his shot to place himself in the #1 spot, can you blame him for aiming for it?

2: The Vengeance Factor- Some of the teams really have brought this upon themselves. Coaches such as Wade Phillips made comments to the media about the Patriots spying scandal tainting their accomplishments. Of course Belichick is going to take his anger out on them? I'm not saying it's right, but this is nothing new to the Patriots. Mind you, this doesn't excuse the Pats running it up on the Joe Gibbs coached Redskins- Gibbs has never said a negative word about anyone.

1: Settling It Like Men- Finally, I had a thought come to me this morning. Often times, players and coaches carry out their rivalries through the media, taking cheap shots at each other that have nothing to do with the game. While this can be, at times, entertaining, it's often seen as unprofessional. After all, they are football teams, they should "settle it on the field" and not use the media as their weapon. Well, the Pats are doing exactly this. Belichick and the players aren't talking trash about other teams and coaches, even though the rest of the league is doing it to them. They are taking their anger out on the field. And everyone hates them for it.

Thus concludes my half-hearted defense of the Patriots running up the score.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

what do we do now?

For my second post of the day...
So the Sox have once again won the World Series, their 2nd in 4 years after an 86 year drought. Not bad. The lovable losers have morphed into the perenniel favorites. It's a weird feeling.

But the question always remains, what do we do now? Just in case Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox front office are reading the blog of danny, here are some thoughts on the issues.

Resign Curt Schilling? Supposedly Schilling wants a one year deal at his current salary, somewhere around $13 million. I don't think there's any way you can pay him that much. That's too much money for a pitcher who is guaranteed to miss at least 10 starts next year, and pitch hurt in another 10. Yes, he's a proven postseason star and a self-proclaimed great mentor to the younger pitchers, but $13 million is more than he's worth. If he'll come back for less, and maybe work some incentives into the deal (extra money if he reaches 30 starts, etc), then you might keep him. Otherwise, he'll be bringing his decomposing body somewhere else. With that said, Schilling should never have to pay for a meal in this city again. He helped bring 2 championships to Boston and pitching in 2004 with the bloody ankle will go down in history as one of the gutsiest performances in sports. I'll love the man forever.

Resign Mike Lowell? This seems to be an obvious "yes", doesn't it? I mean, he led the team in RBI, played an outstanding 3rd base and was named MVP of the World Series. Quite a resume. But let me throw a damper on things, just for some perspective. One, this was a contract year, and there are a number of guys who had great contract years, signed for big money, then never produced like that again. It's a fact of sports (Adrian Beltre is a recent baseball example). Mind you, I don't think Lowell is the type to play hard only for the money, he takes pride in his game and is naturally competitive. I'm just pointing out the facts. Two, I don't think the Sox will end up resigning him, but not because they don't want to. They will be hesitant to offer him any contract longer than 3 years (with a club option for the 4th), and someone out there will give him more years. More years means more guaranteed money. If the Sox offer him a 3 year deal at $12 million per, and someone else offers him a 5 year deal at the same money, he'll take the second deal. Can you blame him? I hope they resign him, he's a valuable part of the team and one I'd hate to see get away. I'm just not sure it's going to happen. Which leads us to the next question...

Go after A-Rod? We Sox fans shudder at the thought of A-Rod wearing a Red Sox uniform. After all, purple lipstick doesn't coordinate well with Fenway green. He is what ever fan loves to hate: he get's paid more than anyone ever should, he's a prima donna, he plays in a way that is considered "bush league" (slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove in 2004 [see picture], distracting an infielder on a popup this year), and worst of all, he doesn't perform well in the postseason. In the world of sports, those are good reasons not to like a player. No one can deny his statistics during the regular season, but when you pay someone that much money, you want postseason results. I hope the Sox take this into consideration.

Here are a couple things to think about. One, A-Rod is looking for a deal of $30 million per year for at least 5 seasons, probably more. For that money, we can resign Lowell and go after another pitcher or two to help our rotation/bullpen. Two, he would probably bring too much baggage into the clubhouse, and the Boston team thrives on a laid back, "we are family" type atmosphere. Even though I'm sure A-Rod isn't the incarnation of evil as some seem to suppose, he has never been known to help team chemistry. Three, we have won 2 World Series with A-Rod playing for our biggest rival in our own division! How valuable can he be? Do we really need him? Would Theo really tie up that much money in a guy we have won 2 titles without?

I hope the answer is "no." We don't need him, in fact, he needs the Sox more than the Sox need him. Let him go to Chicago, or LA, or LA of Anaheim.

Free Agents? The Sox could use another pitcher if Schilling leaves. We'll be bringing back Beckett, Wakefield, Dice-K, Lester and Buckholz, who could join the rotation next year. Wakefield is becoming more injury prone in his old age, the Sox will need some insurance for him. They could also use some help in the bullpen, since Timlin is only getting older, Gagne will be (thankfully) gone and Okajima, while great, can get worn out. As for the offense, I'd guess that Coco Crisp will end up being traded to make room for Jacoby Ellsbury, the man who won all of America a free taco (see picture). Unfortunately, Drew will be back, since no one will take him. If Lowell walks and the Sox don't sign A-Rod, then they'll have to fill the 3rd base position and have no one in the minors to do so anytime soon. They do have the option of moving Youkilis to 3rd, his original position, and signing a 1st baseman (Carlos Pena from Tampa Bay?). Either way, they are in a good position: they don't have to make any major moves other than figuring out what to do with Lowell. That's a good place to be in coming off a championship.

After 2004, the front office decided to shake things up. They let Orlando Cabrera go and signed Edgar Renteria, who they thought was an upgrade. They let Dave Roberts, one of their most important backups, walk and never found a way to replace him. They let two pitchers, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, walk and never filled the whole. I hope they learned not to mess around this time. If you can win with this team as currently constituted, then there's no need to play around. Patch a few holes, let your young guys play and don't mess with success.

when "being myself" is a sin

Lisa and I just got our wedding video the other day and had a chance to sit down and watch it. It was great to look the ceremony again, relive some of our favorite parts (the hymns, of course, rank near the top of the list), and see our friends and family who attended. Most importantly, there is no video evidence of me making a fool of myself on the dance floor, therefore it may never have happened. Nice.

But there was something in the video that helped me see something I did not know about myself. During the ceremony, I looked completely unemotional. Honestly, my facial expressions barely changed throughout, it was eye-opening to me. What disturbs me is that I loved the ceremony and was genuinely moved throughout, there were a few times where I thought I would end up crying (and did, during How Great Thou Art). I can point those times out in the video, but if you didn't know me, you'd probably never think that was the case. After running this revelation across a few other people, I've been informed that this is often the case with me.

There's nothing wrong with looking unemotional, of course. I'm not a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, though I'd bet I'm more emotional than some might think. But this also brought to mind something I felt conviction over this past summer. You see, I was a part of a faithgroup (small group) in our church led by my good friends Matt & Pam. Every week Pam would prepare a time of worship through singing for us, but most of us rarely sang. It basically turned into the Matt and Pam Family Singalong, with a couple others singing in a barely audible voice.

I was convicted, however, in my failure to worship as a part of the community in these times. See, I often like to listen to the congregation worship on Sunday mornings. Hearing the voices of God's people singing can be a powerful experience. I also like to spend more time thinking about the words and what they teach us about God. These are both perfectly acceptable ways to worship.

However, in a smaller corporate worship setting, it may be inappropriate to do this all the time. Here's why: corporate worship, by definition, is a time for a group of people to worship the Lord in unity. While we may "connect with God" personally, that is not the primary goal of corporate worship (see some thoughts on corporate worship here and note in particular Jeremy's comment). In a smaller group, it can actually be selfish, and it certainly was for me. Sure, I can trot out the "I have a horrible voice, I'm saving you from the pain" argument (which is true, to be sure), but that again is selfish. If my silence causes discouragement for someone else, in particular the leaders, then my worship is self-focused, not blessing God or my brothers and sisters.

I can't turn myself into someone who suddenly shows every emotion on his face: I wouldn't even know how, and it would probably be dishonest to do so. However, I can, especially in corporate worship times, do a better job of promoting unity in the Spirit by participating more. A lack of participation is not "being myself", it is being selfish. And that is a sin.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

5.5 random things: world series edition

5.5: This post is dedicated to the handful of folks who still read this blog. It's funny, I think the least favorite posts on this blog are ones about sports, yet I managed to churn them out far more regularly than any other subject. Why is this? I'll give you the primary reason- they take little thought. I can pump out a Red Sox post in 20 minutes (most of which is spent checking my facts anyway), whereas a post on a biblical passage or theological issue requires much more thought and precision. So, I can assure you the quantity of posts on a given subject is not proportional to the importance I place on that subject, in fact, the inverse may be true.

5: Winning the first two games of the World Series was obviously important, but one reason I haven't heard anyone mention yet is this: we don't have to pitch Josh Beckett on 3 days rest in Game 4. Even if the Sox lose tonight, they still have a 2-1 lead going into Game 4, and you would only pitch Beckett if it were a must win game.

4: It was weird seeing Schilling walking off the mound on Thursday night and think that it may have been the last time he does that in a Red Sox uniform. Yes, he has fallen quite a bit over the last couple years as a pitcher, but that is largely due to him pitching with his ankle all sown up in 2004. The question some are asking now: is Schilling a Hall of Fame pitcher? Here are my thoughts, in a nutshell. If you are looking purely at stats and comparing them to Hall of Famers, then no, he shouldn't be elected. But when you consider that pitching statistics have changed so much over the years, I'm not sure that should be the deciding factor (just at hitters with impressive stats today should automatically be elected). His postseason exploits are legendary, and that has to count for something. And think about this: Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, Bob Lemon, Hal Newhouser, Gaylord Perry, and Don Sutton are all in the Hall of Fame. Are any of those guys really better than Curt Schilling?

3: Some of Francona's decisions made throughout the year have been proven to be genius. Two that stand out as particularly sucessful: giving Papelbon frequent rest throughout the season, and shutting down Okajima for a month near the end of the season. Both look extrememly healthy and sharp right now, and the numbers bear it out. They have been practically unhittable, and I'm beginning to wonder if Okajima could win Series MVP (even without a win or a save) if he has another game like Game 2 (7 batters, 7 outs, including getting out of a Schilling jam).

2: Francona has been put in a difficult position of choosing between Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz to play in Colorado (where there is no DH). He has opted to sit Youkilis, at least for part of their time there. That's a tough decision, and even though Youkilis is their hottest hitter, I think it may be the correct one. Sitting Lowell is difficult, his defense is outstanding and he's been swinging a great bat. I'm not sure how you can sit Ortiz, he's the best clutch hitter of his generation and hitting just fine. Youkilis is obviously a better defensive first baseman, but that rarely comes into play (and he'll get in late in the games when defense becomes especially important). And while Youkilis is hitting the cover off the ball, let's not forget he's doing so in large part due to Ortiz and Manny hitting behind him. Take Ortiz out of the equation, and I'm not sure Youkilis is batting over .500. Anyway, Francona may consider sitting Ortiz in game 5 with the left handed pitcher.

1: A few things that have stuck out to me:

I can't believe Matt Holliday got picked off first in the 9th the other night. That has to be the biggest baserunning blunder in the World Series since Jeff Suppan's brain lapse in Game 3 of 2004.

Coco Crisp has fallen so far that the Sox will barely be able to get anything for him in a trade this offseason. Can you say "package deal?"

Dice-K has recently been described as a "power nibbler", which I think is pretty accurate. He's hoping he stops nibbling and starts pitching tonight.

Can you believe JD Drew is the team leader in hitting and slugging in the World Series?

The Sox scored 15 runs in 2 games, and the only homerun was from Dustin Pedroia.

Comparing the pitching staffs: Sox pitchers have given up 3 walks and 11 hits in Games 1&2, Rockies pitchers have given up 15 walks and 23 hits.

There's an old saying in baseball: momentum is only as strong as the next day's starting pitcher. The Rockies can turn this around quickly if they get a strong performance from Josh Fogg tonight.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

more from the wedding

Some of you may have heard that I got married to a wonderful young lady named Lisa on October 6 (see my post a few days ago). The wedding was perfect and the reception was tons of fun. I'll throw a few pictures up with some comments.

Here we are during one of the hymns, you can see our pastor, Sean, in the background. You've heard mention the Charles Wesley Corollary before (my old roommate, and fellow newlywed, Jonathan calls it the Hymns-Spirit Theorem). The thought is that "the power of the Spirit evident in any given meeting is proportional to the quality and quantity of hymns that are sung." Lisa and I aimed high for our wedding, singing 3 of my favorites: Be Thou My Vision (click the Corollary link for some thoughts on that hymn), Come Thou Fount and How Great Thou Art, my favorite hymn of all. Well, the Corollary held true in our wedding, it was a powerful time of worship for everyone. Part of our goal for the wedding was to honor God by celebrating His goodness and grace, and I felt like we were able to do that during this time.

Sorry to post a picture of us smooching, but it was part of the ceremony, so what do you want from me? You'll see my best man, Ryan, giving his approving smile in this picture. You may remember Ryan from a post from a little over a year ago entitled I went to a worship service and a wedding broke out, which was my running diary of his wedding weekend. I had the pleasure of being his best man, so I was happy to return the honor. He was a great best man; I was psyched we were able to continue our tradition of going to Dunkin' Donuts on Saturday morning (as we did in seminary, and on his wedding day).

So here we are for our first dance, with Direct Effect playing Ray LaMontagne's song Hold You in My Arms. I don't mind slow dancing, but I hate any other form of dancing. But, as a good husband ought to do, I made a fool of myself on the dance floor for the sake of my wife, who happens to love dancing. Don't worry, I was repaid by being able to watch the Red Sox and Patriots on our honeymoon. See, we're learning how to compromise already!
In all seriousness, the wedding turned out to be exactly what we wanted it to be: a celebration of the goodness of our God. We gave Sean one simple instruction: preach the gospel. At the very least, we wanted folks to come away with an understanding that there is a God in heaven who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. We chose our Scripture reading accordingly: Ephesians 2:1-10 and Psalm 103. We had so many folks come up to us and tell us how blessed they were by the service, and many mentioned how moved they were during How Great Thou Art. Lisa and I were so honored to know that the character of God was proclaimed clearly in both the preaching and the hymns, and we're thankful for the opportunity to worship the Lord in this setting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red Sox vs Rockies: 2007 World Series thoughts

For the 2nd time in 4 years the Red Sox have made the World Series. For the 1st time in their relatively short existence, the Rockies are making an appearance. I realize the oddsmakers are practically handing the Sox the title, but I'm not sure how anyone can dismiss a team that has won 21 of their last 22, including sweeping the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. Maybe it's the pre-2004 Sox fan still grumbling within me, but I'm not that confident. Here are some thoughts about what I think is not going for them, followed by a list of things working in their favor.

What is working against the Sox:

Colorado's hot streak.
Inconsistent offense
4 inches of snow in Denver
Inconsistency from any starter not named Beckett
Gagne-Lopez-Delcarmen (8 2/3 innings, 10 runs in the postseason)
Setting a record for hitting into double plays
Manny's grasp of the English language
Papelbon dancing in spandex

What is working for the Sox:

Josh Beckett
An offense that finally came alive (example: Youkilis batting .500 in the ALCS)
Putting Jacoby Ellsbury in for Coco Crisp
Homefield advantage (a big deal for this Sox team)
Timlin-Okajima-Papelbon (17 innings, 0 runs in the postseason)
Schilling remembering he's a clutch pitcher (may forget by his next start, though)

We have the advantage of pitching Josh Beckett in game 1, which gives Francona 2 options: pitch him on 3 days rest for games 4 and, if necessary, 7 or more likely pitch him on regular rest for game 5 and in relief after that (if necessary, of course). There is no doubt that Beckett is the most valuable player on this team for the postseason. He is the only starter with any sort of consistency, someone who is quickly turning his postseason exploits into legendary status. In 8 career postseason starts he has thrown 3 shutouts. This year he has walked only 1 batter in 23 innings allowing only 15 baserunners in those 23 innings. If I'm Colorado, I'm a little worried about facing him to start the series. You can't plan on scoring a lot of runs on him, so you have to make him throw a lot of pitches early and get to the bullpen (note the Gagne, Lopez, Delcarmen trifecta of crappiness).

If I'm Francona, I'd drop Gagne from the roster for the World Series and put Tavarez back on. Hopefully you won't need him, but he certainly can do better than Gagne, especially if you need a pitcher to go a few innings in an extra-inning game. I'd also leave Ellsbury in for Crisp (that's a no brainer) but not fall to the tempation of benching Lugo for Cora (who, contrary to the belief of some, would not be any better).

To be honest, I'm not sure what all there is to say about this series. I feel like at this point in the season we know what we are getting from everyone involved. The question is this: will the proven clutch players on the Sox (Beckett, Schilling, Ortiz, Manny, etc) keep it up or will this be the year that the younger, unknown players from the Rockies begin to make a name for themselves. The Sox just faced a similar team in a similar situation in Cleveland (who could be great for years to come), and proved that their experience was able to overcome. Here's hoping the same happens in this series.

Prediction: Red Sox in 6, Manny Ramirez World Series MVP #2, repeating his famous line after the 2004 World Series victory "I don't believe in curses, I believe you make your own destination." (Note, I actually think Beckett will win MVP, but I wanted to fit the Manny line in here somewhere.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October 6, 2007

Best. Wedding. Ever.

Monday, October 01, 2007

2007 baseball awards and other thoughts

It was a bit of a wild ending for the 2007 baseball season, especially with the Mets 1978-Red-Sox-esque collapse and the one game playoff between the Rockies and the Padres. Too bad no one cares because they're in the National League. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the season awards, at least the ones that matter.

NL Rookie of the Year: I'm not going to lie, I had to look this up. It looks like Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies will win it. 101 runs scored and 98 RBI is a heckuva rookie season. See Holliday above, however, for demerit points.

NL Cy Young: This is a no-brainer, Jake Peavey from the Padres. He ended up with the pitcher's triple crown (leading in wins, stikeouts and ERA), and led in ERA by .65 runs. Great season.

NL MVP: There are a number of people on the Jimmy Rollins bandwagon, and for good reason. Finishing with 139 runs, 212 hits and 20+ doubles, triples, homeruns and stolen bases is pretty remarkable. But I think I'm going with Matt Holliday. There's something about leading the league in batting average, and finishing 2nd in RBI and slugging, 3rd in OPS and leading with 91 extra base hits that strikes me as an award winning season. The point against him, however, is that he plays in Colorado, which means every offensive stat is inflated a bit. Now I'm talking myself out of this pick.

AL Rookie of the Year: Any other year and Delmon Young of the Devil Rays might win this award: 93 RBI and a .288 average is pretty good for a rookie. Unfortunately for him, he started the same year as Dustin Pedroia of our beloved Red Sox. Pedroia: .317 average, 86 runs scored and only 6 errors all season (!) for a .990 fielding percentage. That's a Gold Glove caliber year, except for a man named Placido Polanco of Detroit who made 0 errors in almost 700 chances! When you consider that Pedroia batted .182 in April, his season is even more remarkable. He batted .333 from the beginning of May, making Red Sox fans feel stupid after calling for his benching.

AL Cy Young: I felt that this was Josh Beckett's award to lose going into his final start of the season, and he did. He is the only pitcher to win 20 games in either league, and the first since 2005. He was barely behind in ERA going into that start, but got beat up enough that he ended outside of the top 15. Seeing as how CC Sabathia, John Lackey and Fausto Carmona all finished with better ERAs and 19 wins, Beckett didn't distance himself enough to take the award in my opinion. I say it should go to Sabathia, even though Carmona, his teammate, and Lackey finished with slightly better ERAs. My reasoning: of those 3 guys, who would you most want to pitch for you. I'd take Sabathia any day.

AL MVP: I really want to give this award to Magglio Ordonez of the Detroit Tigers. He won the batting title batting .363, drove in 139 runs (2nd place) and even led the league in doubles with 54. David Ortiz finished strong, batting .332, slugging .621 (3rd place), and 2nd in OPS (1.066). Though, Mike Lowell for the Sox was just as valuable this year, driving in 120 runs. In the end, this award has to go to Alex Rodriguez, who led in runs scored (143, 20 over the next guy), homeruns (54), RBI (an amazing 156 in 158 games), slugging (.645) and OPS (1.067). Mind you, he's still not even the guy I fear the most in the Yankees lineup in clutch situations, but what an amazing season. This will be his 3rd MVP, though I personally think he didn't deserve the other 2 (the 1st in 2003 with the awful Rangers and the 2nd in 2005 with the Yankees when Ortiz should have won it). Anyone who doesn't think A-Rod is the best player in baseball is lying, which is why he'll probably get $30 million per season this winter.

As for the postseason, it's a tough call. The NL is tough to figure, since they haven't even filled their playoff spots with the Rockies-Padres game tonight. I'll pick the sentimental favorite, the Cubs because I love Sweet Lou Pinella.

As for the AL teams, all of them have major flaw: Angels- offense, Indians- little postseason experience, Yankees- starting pitching, Sox- timely hitting. The truth is that the Indians are probably the most well-rounded team, but they don't play well against the better teams. I think that's due more to their inexperience in pressure situations, which is where the Sox and Yankees thrive.

So this is what I'm thinking for the AL: the Sox beat the Angels in 4, Indians beat the Yankees in 5. The Sox then beat the Indians in 6, then go on to beat the Cubs in 7 with Ellsbury stealing home to win it all. Okay, that last part won't happen, but I'll predict the Sox leaving Cubs fans in misery one more year.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

5.5 random things: random things numbering 5.5

5.5. This post is dedicated to Panera Bread, whose wi-fi and limitless coffee have provided me an office away from my office (for the record, I don't really have an office...yet).

5. In all the writings about Cameragate (and there are far too many), I read 2 that were particularly awful. The worst was Gregg Easterbrook's piece on ESPN, which I've heard (rightly) blasted by some in the media. Two aspects stand out to me as especially heinous. First, his insistance that Bill Belichick was "stonewalling" investigations, an accusation for which he offers no proof. Belichick, by all accounts, did comply with Commissioner Gooddell's request for all videotaping and has been cleared of any further charges. Doesn't sound like stonewalling to me. The only thing that Belichick may be stonewalling is the media's desire to know all information. Unfortunately, "freedom of press" for some members of the media means that they are entitled to total access to the thoughts and actions of public figures. I'm proud of Belichick on this one. Second, his column is full of terms like "perhaps", "maybe" and "might be." The Patriots might be stealing offensive calls by installing microphones on their defenders' jerseys. The Chargers defensive coordinator used to coach for the Bills and Jets, and he may have been using the same exact signals last week as he used years ago and the Patriots knew them all (of course, if he hasn't varied his signal calling over the years, he's an idiot). Let's quit with the "potentials" and stick with the facts. Easterbrook, you're an idiot.

4. The second worst article I read came from an otherwise good football writer (also of ESPN) and member of the Hall of Fame's media wing: John Clayton. He argued that the punishment on the Patriots ($500,000 personal fine for Belichick, $250,000 fine on the team, loss of 1st round draft choice) was too lenient. His premise: "Here's the problem with Goodell's decision: Whether by design or not, the Patriots had themselves covered for such a penalty because they are so good at what they do. They acquired the 49ers' first-round pick in a trade that enabled the 49ers to select Joe Staley. They have an additional third-round pick from the Raiders in another trade. They have enough draft choices to survive the loss of one first-round choice." The problem with Clayton is that he's wanting to punish the Patriots for more than their cheating, he wants to punish them for being good. Look, the penalty for cheating ought to be the same no matter how good or bad the team is. The Patriots are the best franchise in football and have been since the beginning of the decade. Don't punish them for being better, the punishment fit the crime just fine.

3. Josh Beckett is well on his way to winning the Cy Young Award this year. It's certainly not a lock, but he'll probably be the only pitching with 20+ wins and is trailing in the ERA lead by only .11, with probably one more start before the end of the season. He's been the only consistent starter this year for the Sox, wrestling (without much of a fight) the position as ace of the staff from Curt Schilling. Terrific season.

2. Danny's Fantasy Football Update: 1-1, with my loss coming only by 1 point. I'm never happy about losing, but when you consider that LaDainian Tomlinson has only rushed for 66 yards in 2 games and Drew Brees has only thrown 1 TD, that's not too bad. Both guys are too good to keep down for very long, eventually they'll play well and my team should be doing fine. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the midget receiver named Steve Smith, who has 217 yards receiving and 4 TDs in only 2 games. My best decision of the draft was picking him up.

1. Upcoming book release alert: Rediscovering Paul, coauthored by one of my former professors, Rodney Reeves. Reeves is a quality professor, and a strong man of God who insisted on making NT studies (with all its focus on Greek Grammar, cultural backgrounds and theological insights) applicable to the church today. The book is geared more towards and undergraduate audience, rather than an upper-level textbook, which plays right into Reeves' strength (I don't know the other authors, so I can't comment on them). Craig Blomberg gives it a good review, which is enough to put it on my wishlist.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wild Card Baseball: Stealing the Heart of September

The Red Sox are currently manufacturing a terrific collapse. All season long, they have dominated the American League East. Their lead over the Yankees in late May was 14.5 games; it's been in double digits for most of the season. On July 5 their lead was 12 games (Toronto was in 2nd place at that time). Yet here they are, on the morning after being swept in Toronto, with only a 1.5 game lead. In less than 4 months, their lead has dropped 13 games.

And they don't really care.

I'm not saying they want to lose or anything like that. But there's one major reason why they don't have to worry about losing this lead to the Yankees: they will still make the playoffs. Thanks to our friendly wild card playoff system, the team with the best record that doesn't win their division will still go to the playoffs. I remember when this was instituted, the argument was that it would create more excitement because it allows for another race to make the playoffs. In my mind, it was the "race for the best 2nd place team."

Now, I know there are some who will point out that the Red Sox would never have won the World Series in 2004 if it weren't for the wild card system. In fact, they wouldn't have made the playoffs in over a decade if it weren't for the wild card system. So do I think the Sox' World Series championship is invalid?

No, I don't. And here's why: the wild card system is necessary because of the arrangement of the leagues. With a 3-division format, you need the wild card for at least two reasons. 1) You have an uneven number of playoff teams and 2) there's no guarantee that the 2nd best team is one of the 3 division winners (in fact, this has often been the case with the Sox, in '99, '03 and '04). With the current system, the wild card has to happen. It does help in making sure the top 2 teams get into the postseason. In 2004, there is no doubt the Red Sox were one of the top 2 teams in the AL (in all of baseball, actually). They had every right to be in the postseason. But the wild card also assures us of the possibility that a team will take 2nd place rather than fight it out for 1st place.

And that is exactly what is happening this September. The Sox don't have any real reason to fight the Yankees for the division. Sure, they could get homefield advantage. There's always pride in beating the Yankees. But honestly, if you ask Terry Francona (and if he's being honest), he'd rather rest his guys and have them ready for October rather than risk wearing them out, even if that means losing the division.

You can't blame him, of course. He's just taking advantage of the system. Major League Baseball has arranged the leagues in such a way that the wild card is a necessity. Short of dropping teams, the wild card must stay. But this year, it hasn't created another playoff race, it's created apathy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

cheaters never prosper...unless you're the Patriots

I have to be honest, I found the whole CameraGate scandal funny. When I found out about it, I laughed because the Pats got caught doing something that every team does in some form or another, namely, stealing signals from the other team. It's funny because that stuff happens in every sport, and everyone knows it. It's funny because the Patriots were dumb enough to get caught, which is astonishing for such an intelligently run team. Even more astonishing when you consider that they were specifically told not to do this during the off-season by the league. Gosh, Bill, you didn't think anyone was paying attention to that guy standing on the field pointing a camera directly at the other team's coaches after they told you they were going to be looking for it? Strikes me as a bit arrogant, to be honest.

But I find this less funny as time goes on, though not because of the crime, but because of the reaction. Listen, folks, there are worse problems going on in sports. Stealing a signal, which has to be deciphered accurately and quickly in order to work (which would really take quite a while, given the complexity of NFL defenses), is far less cheating (if you'll permit me gradations of cheating) than taking steroids or punching guys in the groin in the middle of a pile. It is far less worrisome than chop blocking a guy, a move which could potentially wreck a man's legs.

I'm not trying to excuse it with the "everyone's doing it" cry, although everyone is doing it (like I said, in some form or another). I'm not sure how this could taint the Patriots legacy. Check out this Bill Simmons article where he chats with Aaron Schatz of Pro Football Prospectus about this and other cheating scandals. Shoot, the Broncos have two major ones: they cheated to get around the salary cap in their 2 Super Bowl championship seasons, and their coach, Mike Shanahan, admitted to having people on staff who specifically use binoculars to steal opposing teams signals and lip read. Where's the outcry? Where's the tainted legacy of John Elway?

What bothers me the most, and this is what Simmons gets to, is that this gives folks even more reason to hate the Patriots. I hate the fact that many people treat them like they treat the Yankees- people hate dominate franchises. These two franchises are completely different. The Yankees won because they outspent everyone and changed (some say "ruined") the financial situation of Major League Baseball. The Pats have the same salary cap as the rest of the NFL, yet manage to win. They have the same restrictions, they just have better coaching and better scouting. Hating someone because they win by writing checks is one thing (though there are plenty more reasons to hate the Yankees); hating someone because they are better than your team playing within the same rules reeks of jealousy (speaking of jealousy, check out Andrew's post on Brady .

The Patriots deserve to get punished. I'll be willing to bet that the league will handle this appropriately. They cheated, they got caught, they should face the penalty without complaint. But let's not go crazy, they haven't been winning all these years because of their ability to interpret hand signals. They've won because Tom Brady can engineer a game-winning drive with time winding down, because Adam Vinatieri can't miss a clutch kick if he tried, because Belicheck can get the most out of his (sometimes average) players.

Seriously, you'd think that Ellis Hobbs was able to run the second half kickoff 108 yards only because they stole the Jets' signals and discovered they were going to be kicking off to the Patriots. What if they didn't steal signals, would Hobbs known to have run? Did stealing signals tell the Patriots to be patient with Tedy Bruschi as he made the slow adjustment from a small defensive end to middle linebacker? Did stealing signals tell them that Mike Vrabel, dwelling on the practice squad and special teams in Pittsburgh, would turn into one of the most intelligent and most underrated linebacker in football?

They didn't need to cheat, but unfortunately, they did. And they deserve to be punished. But let's not go witch hunting.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Legend of Jason Varitek

I suppose there are probably some around the country who look at Jason Varitek and wonder why a .260 hitting catcher with average power numbers is in the middle of a 4 year, $40 million contract. Why would you spend that much money for someone who produces so little.

If you watched Clay Buchholz's no-hitter last night (in only his 2nd game), you'd understand why. This is the 3rd time Varitek has called a no-hitter, the other two being Hideo Nomo and Derek Lowe (in 2001 and 2002, respectively). The Nomo game sticks out because it was his first start in a Red Sox uniform, yet he didn't shake off Varitek until something like pitch number 63. Buchholz knew better than to question Varitek. If Varitek calls the pitch, chances are it's well-informed. His preparation is unparalleled. He studies the hitters, their tendencies and their weaknesses. He knows the opposing lineup better than anyone else on the field.

Consequently, he gives the Red Sox an advantage every time they take the field. The pitchers and coaching staff can have the confidence that the pitches called by Varitek are more than likely the correct call. Granted, the pitcher still has to make the pitch, as Varitek is known to say, "I just drop the fingers, they have to make the pitch." And I'm sure Varitek has made his share of mistakes, but there is no other catcher in all of baseball who can call a game like Varitek.

Take the example of Curt Schilling. He has always been known for his preparation, with multiple 3-ring binders of notes on hitters he's faced. When he came to Boston, however, even he had to defer to Varitek. On occasion, he does not, but I think he's learning his lesson. As noted, Varitek has caught 3 no-hitters, but he should have had a 4th. Earlier this season Schilling was one out away from recording his first career no-hitter. He shook off Varitek, thinking he knew the opposing hitter better than his catcher. He proceeded to lose his no-hitter, and chances are slim he'll get that close again.

In my opinion, Varitek earns his money. His leadership is unquestionable- being named captain of the team a few years back (I believe he's one of only 4 captains in all of baseball). Sure, he won't blow too many away with his bat, though it's not like he's useless at the plate. But he gives a competitive advantage to his team with every game he pitches. He's valuable to the younger pitchers because the can ease into learning the opposing hitters. At the same time, the veterans can take comfort in knowing that their catcher knows their repetoire and how that matches the scouting reports.

Clay Buchholz knows firsthand the benefit of pitching a game called by Jason Varitek. He joins an elite group of only 2 other rookies who have thrown a no-hitter in their 1st or 2nd game. He ought to be commended for having incredible command of all 3 of his pitches, and if he can throw like that he'll have a long and successful major league career. But I'll bet when his career is done, he'll look back and be thankful he had the chance to let Jason Varitek call his pitches. He's in the record books because of it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Romans 8:15 in the TNIV

I've been using the TNIV for a while now and really enjoy it. I used it originally because I was teaching a class using a book that speaks highly of the TNIV and I wanted to check it out. For a couple terrific reviews, check out Craig Blomberg's review and one by a guy named Rick Mansfield (ht: Jeremy).

But this morning I was reading in Romans 8 and ran across v15, which reads like this:
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

It caught me off guard because I'm used to something like the NIV, which reads, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear..." Part of the reason why I like reading different translations is that it offers different renderings that cause you to go back and look at what Paul is really saying, which is what happened here.

I'll tell you what I don't like about the TNIV rendering: it causes an unnecessary tension with other passages where Paul clearly tells us that we are slaves (or servants, they are the same word in Greek). For instance, in Romans 6:22 Paul says, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." So the question is: are we slaves or not? The answer, of course, is that we are slaves, but to whom? This is the key to understanding the difference between slavery in 6:22 and in 8:15.

But if one read Romans 8:15 in the TNIV in isolation, they would assume that Paul has no place for "slavery" in the Christian life. However, when you read 6:22, and even note that Paul starts this letter with "Paul, a slave [servant] of Christ Jesus", you realize that Paul is quite comfortable with such language (as is the rest of the New Testament). Being both slaves and sons, servants and children, is an apparent paradox, but nonetheless a powerful truth. I think that the TNIV muddies the waters a bit when it doesn't have to, but perhaps I'm missing something. Can any of you think of a reason why the TNIV translation is preferable in this instance?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

on passing out tracts

I don't know too many folks who prefer to pass out tracts as their means of sharing the gospel. I do know of a few, but I wonder if it's a generational thing. My friends and I are reticent to use this form of evangelism, yet I know of some folks older than I who carry them around just in case. We have all sorts of reasons for not liking to pass out tracts, but most, I would imagine, center around our cowardice.

Late last night, my good friend Bruce and I went out and passed out water and tracts to folks cruising the bar scene in Allston. It was fairly simple, we had a folding table set up with some water and tracts. As people walked by, we offered them free water, if they stopped and took a tract, great. If not, we just said "have a nice night" or "God bless" or something like that, pretty harmless. I don't think either of us were expecting to shake the whole area or anything. No bars closed down, no healings, no mass conversions- just meeting a simple need (hydrating folks who drink too much alcohol) and offering a tract.

Now, I don't think that passing out tracts is necessarily the best form of evangelism. I think that we're better off sharing the gospel through consistent friendships and lifestyles. Generally speaking, if someone observes you and talks with you over a longer period of time, they are more likely to be impacted by what you say than if they are handed a tract by a random stranger on the street corner.

But I think we ought to reconsider our reticence. One, I don't think the damage done is nearly as bad as we would like to think. We make excuses about "scaring people off" and "leaving a bad taste in their mouth", but let's be honest: very few, if anyone, walks away from receiving a tract or pamphlet thinking "now I'll never believe in Jesus." Most are willing to walk away and throw away the tract and leave it at that, and will probably never give it another thought.

Two, it's true that the percentage of people who receive a tract and actually follow Christ is probably pretty small. Obviously we can't know that for sure, but I'd be willing to grant that point. But who cares? For little-to-no risk, if anyone is impacted isn't it worth it? I realize the "if one person comes to the Lord..." saying is as cliche as they come, but there is some merit to it. Besides, take a look at all the people you interact with any a fairly regular basis: family, friends, coworkers, corner market employees, neighbors, mailmen, coffee shop workers, etc. What percentage of these folks are coming to Christ by our "friendship evangelism" method? If it's fairly high in your life, God bless you and please share your secret. But most of us probably aren't doing too well, so we can't use the "how effective is it?" excuse regarding tracts. (Oh please Lord, help me.) While you're at it, take a second and read Mr Genor's Testimony. You can probably find the audio, I just found this transcript.

Three, there's something to be said for forcing us to do something that makes us uncomfortable. Last night I absolutely did not want to go out. Bruce and I had talked about it, and when I was more pumped up with zeal earlier in the day I was all for it. By the time 11:30pm had rolled around, I was ready to go to bed. I called Bruce and asked him what he wanted to do, to which he replied "let's go out." I think my answer was something like "that was not the answer I was rooting for" and Bruce replied "same here." Neither Bruce nor I are extroverted people, we don't strike up conversations with complete strangers on a regular basis. I'll give Bruce credit, he really pushed us out there and took the lead. Both of us wouldn't choose this form of evangelism, but it forced us to be more reliant on the Spirit than we normally would. If nothing else, we took a chance we normally wouldn't take. But, you never know, maybe one drunk frat boy will wake up this morning and read that little pamphlet two strangers handing out water gave him.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Boston Trades, Part I: the Red Sox

Note: this past week was an exciting week to be a Boston sports fan, with both the Red Sox and the Celtics making trades and generating excitement all throughout the city. These 2 posts are some thoughts I have on those deals and the implications of them.

It's interesting that a team can lead their division by 8 games and everyone in Boston is wondering what deal they'll make to help their team. But, that's Red Sox Nation. The consensus is that they had 2 needs: a right handed reliever and a right handed power hitting outfielder. They were unable to pick up a right handed hitter, although they tried to get Jermaine Dye from Chicago. The Sox had the advantage of not needing to make a trade involving one of their big prospects (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury), which is probably what Chicago was asking for. While getting another bat would have been nice, it isn't worth trading a major prospect for a .220 hitting rental.

They did, however, fill the need of a right handed reliever. It seems odd to say that they had a bullpen need, since they have what is widely regarded as the best bullpen in baseball. But there are potential problems with this bullpen: Hideki Okajima (the best setup man in baseball right now) has surpassed his highest number of innings pitched and it's the first week in August, Mike Timlin is hurt again, and Donnelly is out for the rest of the season. Papelbon is secure as the closer, though you have to be concerned with him wearing down.

What surprised me, though, is that the Sox went out and got a guy who has always been a closer. Eric Gagne was one of the best closers in baseball in Los Angeles, but he's been hurt the last couple years. His contract only runs through the end of this year, so we aren't stuck with a huge salary hit for years to come. Apparently he was willing to come and take a different role in order to have a good shot at winning a World Series, and you can't blame him. That gives us 3 guys in the bullpen who may finish with sub-2.00 ERAs. If the Sox have the lead going into the 7th, it'll be tough to come back on them.

Actually, this team now reminds me of the 2002 Angels, who won the World Series that year. Their starting pitching was good, but their bullpen was unhittable. Their offense was good enough to win, but nothing that blew you out of the water. The Sox should have a better offense than that, but they've been shaky, especially in clutch situations (which has been their area of expertise the last few years). I'm hopeful now that Manny is hitting well again that things will turn around, but they still need some more help (if only JD Drew would actually hit something...anything).

So this trade helps them solidify their place at the top of the AL East and keeps them among the top 2-3 teams in the AL. The other contenders (Tigers, Angels, Yankees, Twins) did nothing at the deadline to help their teams, which is odd. And while I'm sad to see Kason Gabbard go (I loved keeping score a couple weeks ago when he was pitching and looking at the scorecard to see so many ground ball outs, what a great performance), the trade was a good move. Now if our bats can hit enough to get us a lead by the 7th inning we should be all set.

Boston Trades, Part II: the Celtics

I'm sure you all recall last Saturday's post where I discussed the rabid obsession the city of Boston has with offseason sports talk. Normally, this involves the Red Sox and the Patriots, but this past week the Celtics finally made some waves. For the past few years, most of the city couldn't care less about the Celtics during the season, nevermind talking about them at the beginning of August. That all changed with two words: Kevin Garnett.

Here's a little background for those of you who aren't too familiar with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have won 16 titles, the most of any NBA franchise. But there hasn't been a championship since 1986. Prior to that point the dominated the 50's-60's, won 2 titles in the 70's, and 3 more in the 80's. They had the greatest center of all time (Bill Russell), the point guard that changed the game (Bob Cousy), one of the most underrated superstars of all time (John Havlicek, who scored over 26,000 points without a 3-point line), one of the greatest clutch performers in sports history (Larry Bird) and the genius who ran the whole show (Red Auerbach). Secondary performers on this team would have been "the man" in many other places (Kevin McHale, Sam Jones). The Celtics were the best franchise in basketball, hands down, perhaps the most successful franshise in all of sports.

But in 1986 the Celtics drafted Len Bias from Maryland with the number 2 pick, then he promptly died a couple days later of a cocaine overdose. After that the stars starting getting injured, with McHale playing on a bad foot that troubles him to this day, and Bird sitting in traction all day for his back then showing up to play a game at night. They looked like they had a chance with Reggie Lewis in the early 90's, but he died suddenly with a heart condition. They've struggled in mediocrity ever since, becoming irrelevant on the Boston sports scene.

Danny Ainge returned a few years ago to help rebuild the franchise and make them a contender. He opted, understandably, to go young and give a few years to rebuild. He drafted Al Jefferson, who will be a superstar, and a few other youngsters to team up with Paul Pierce. This method didn't work too well and the Celtics have been mired in mediocrity and the apathy of their fanbase. The problem: the Red Sox and Patriots won titles and contended most years while the Celtics were irrelevant.

On May 22 the Celtics didn't get one of the top 2 picks in the draft and the general feeling was that they had lost out on their chance to become relevant again. But, give Ainge credit, the "go young" plan was thrown out the window and they traded for Ray Allen on draft day, a high scoring shooting guard from Seattle. I wrote on June 30 that the Celtics had to make another deal to get themselves into title contention. I also wrote "Thankfully, Jefferson is, as of right now, still a Celtic. If you're guaranteed a title by trading him, then maybe it would be okay; but that isn't likely to happen, so the best thing they could do is keep him."

I was right, the Celtics did have another deal to make, and it involved Jefferson. While they aren't necessarily guaranteed a title (which I suppose is impossible anyway), they are now front runners to do so. They got Kevin Garnett, one of the top 10 players in the game today, probably top 5. That gives them 2 of the top 15 (Pierce and Garnett), and 3 of the top 25 players in the game (with Ray Allen). They are the best team in the East on paper, and easily in the top 5 of the entire NBA (I'd say 4th behind San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas). They are relevant.

There are problems, or at least potential problems. Outside of the big 3, they have a young and not-quite-ready point guard (Rajon Rondo), a starting center who would be a solid backup (Kendrick Perkins) and not much else. Oh yeah, they still have a shaky coach in Doc Rivers (though Bill Simmons has pointed out that the lack of decent players may help solve Doc's inability to come up with a consistent rotation- by only having 7 NBA-quality guys he can't really mess it up). I think the big 3 is enough to win the East, I'm not sure they're enough to beat the top teams of the West, especially if one of them gets injured.

What I love about the big 3 is the "hunger factor." All 3 have had disappointing teams: Pierce has always had to carry an undertalented team, Allen has been stuck in places like Milwaukee and Seattle, and Garnett has been exiled with awful teams in Minnesota. These are 3 All-Stars who have never seriously contending for a title, and now that they are in their early 30's, they are dying for the opportunity to win it all. It bodes well that we now have 3 highly competitive veterans who are hungry to hoist the championship trophy.

I'm sad to see Jefferson go, and I hope he tears it up in Minnesota. But the bottom line is that if you have a chance to win a title soon, you make the necessary moves to do so. Give Ainge credit, he tried the youth movement and failed, so he ditched it and was able to pull off two deals to put themselves in a position to contend. Boston is now a place where veteran free agents want to play, which 2 months ago was unthinkable. And Boston is talking about the Celtics in the middle of the Red Sox leading the division and the Patriots starting training camp with an amazing roster. That was unthinkable not only 2 months ago, but for the past few years.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

a couple small changes

Every now and then I get the inspiration to update the links/pictures on the right of this page. Since I rarely even get the inspiration to post something, I figure making changes ought to be celebrated, no matter how small. So, I organized my links slightly differently. I start with blogs of people I know, but now have alphabetized them by first name (a couple of you may not have known I even read your blog), note that A-Rock's first name is actually Aarik, hence being first in my list..

From there I separate my links into 2 more categories: sites I quasi-regularly visit regarding Christianity or theology (this is broadly speaking, admittedly) and other sites I visit that don't fall under either of the other 2 categories. The first of these are in no particular order, the second in alphabetical order. Why am I not consistenly in my alphabetizing? Because this is my site and I'll do what I want, that's why. I'm assuming I don't have to say this, but just because I link to something doesn't mean I wholeheartedly endorse everything (or anything, for that matter) those sites contain. It just means I find them interesting enough to read.

I also try to update the pictures of books I'm reading and cds I'm listening to every few months or so. The books are fairly up to date, and at some point I really want post some thoughts on the "How to Read the Bible..." books now that I've used them in teaching for the last year. The cds are somewhat up to date. Truth be told, I don't listen to nearly as much music as I used to, largely because I rarely have time to sit down and listen anymore. I've added "Whole 'Nother Deal", "Photographs", and "Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince Greatest Hits" to the list, which have been my companions on the car lately. That's right, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince have made my cd rotation. You'd have to understand that I go way back with these guys. It's not so much the music as it is the trip down memory lane that I appreciate. A little nostalgia is good for the soul.

At any rate, there you go. I keep hoping I'll post more, but you know how that goes. This is, however, my second post of the day, even if this one doesn't really count. Small victories, my friends, small victories.

ah, preseason football

In a city like Boston, offseason sports talk can be just as exciting as regular season sports talk. This is especially true for the Red Sox and the Patriots. Baseball may end in October, but that doesn't stop everyone from calling in radio shows and making ridiculous trade proposals or predicting how the Sox will dominate/flop. In fact, the love for speculation has grown so powerful that I heard a guy call up a popular radio show the other day and offer thoughts on next year's pitching rotation! It's July, the Sox have a 7.5 game lead over the Yankees, we have the potential to win another World Series, and some local yokel is worrying about who is going to be our number 5 starter next season! Ah, Boston.

While the Sox normally dominate offseason speculation, the Patriots are giving them a good run for their money this time around, and for good reason. The Pats were one 1st down away from making another trip to the Super Bowl. They had no receiver who could make a defense pay for leaving them in single coverage. They didn't have a linebacker who could stop a run up the middle or provide coverage in the middle of the field (poor Tedy Bruschi has lost a step or two). They had obvious holes, but still they were this close to going to the Super Bowl (and probably winning it).

So, the Pats made a splash this offseason. For receivers, they added Wes Welker, Dante Stallworth and Randy Moss. Welker is the speedy slot receiver, the kind of guy Tom Brady loves. Stallworth and Moss give them legitimate downfield threats. All 3 of these guys are upgrades from anyone they had last year. So, on paper, they seem to have advanced significantly.

Here are the potential problems: Stallworth has a history of substance abuse problems. Moss has a history of not trying hard in practice or in the game. These are not typical Patriots guys. Patriots guys are like Bruschi or Vrabel. They are "less talented" players who have worked their butts off to learn the most difficult system in football and give up their personal stats for the sake of winning. Stallworth may be okay, but Moss is the biggest concern. He may be the most physically talented receiver in the history of football, and that's not an exaggeration. But he doesn't care. In the Patriots offense, it's unlikely he will catch more than 70 passes, and I'm not sure it'll be that many. I think Welker may end up with more catches in this offense. Will Moss survive the season not being the center of Brady's attention? As I heard someone say this week, "Brady's favorite receiver is whoever's open." He won't take a chance 50 yards downfield if there's someone open over the middle. How will Moss feel about that?

At linebacker, they added Adalius Thomas, one of the most versatile linebackers in the league. This guy, at least from a physical attribute standpoint, is a classic Belichick guy. Belichick loves guys who can play multiple roles (Troy Brown, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour), and Thomas has more raw skills (strength, speed) than any other linebacker they have. The questions are: can he learn the system and will he pass up personal glory for the sake of the team? I don't know enough about him to offer up an opinion, but I will be watching.

So on paper this team looks like it should go to the Super Bowl. In fact, most experts have written their name down in ink rather than pencil, which is enough to make me worried. As a Boston sports fan, it's in my nature to downplay my team's chances so as not to be disappointed. But the truth is this team should go to the Super Bowl. We have the best coach, the best quarterback (who now has weapons), the best defensive line, an improved linebacking core, and so on. All this for a team that was one 1st down away from going to the Super Bowl. But training camp will tell us a lot. Will Moss even get through (I'm not convinced he will, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get cut at the first sign of trouble). Will the new additions mesh well with the veterans? It makes preseason a lot of fun (but not quite as much fun as the real thing).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Red Sox midseason report

So we're coming off the All-Star break with the Sox leading Toronto and New York by 10 games in the AL East. So am I worried? Of course, but for more than the typical "I'm a Sox fan and I'm always worried" reasons, although that's true enough. But despite the large lead and impressive performances, I think there is grounds for concern.

Those grounds start with the fact that this team is built to win the World Series, not just the division. If all we cared about was winning the AL East, we'll be fine. I don't think it's overconfident to say that the Sox will probably win the division. Yes, the Blue Jays are good, but they don't have the firepower in the rotation or in the lineup to overcome the Sox. The Yankees have floundered, but they have played better as of late and you know they'll have to get better. But, in all honesty, I don't think they have the pitching to pull off a comeback. Of course they could, you can't count them out, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Red Sox Nation, however, shouldn't be content with winning the division. We're passed the stage of being happy with just beating the Yankees, our payroll is too big for that. Besides, we already did that in the single greatest comeback in the history of sports in 2004. Remember when the Sox were down 3-0 against the Yankees, then Dave Roberts stole second, Bill Mueller drove him in with a clutch single off the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, and the Sox went on to beat the Yankees the next 4 games and sweep the Cardinals for their first World Series victory since 1918? Remember that? Yeah, that was awesome. (Now pause for a second and recall your favorites 2004 memories).

Anyway, so here's the deal: the Sox aren't really beating the best teams around, particularly Detroit. That scares me. There's no reason for us to be swept by the Tigers, this team is built too carefully to be able to lose like that. Yet, heading into the All-Star break, that's exactly what happened. Sure, we look great against Tampa Bay. Who cares? Unless the Devil Rays receive some special invite to the playoffs it doesn't matter.

The pitching has been great, 2nd in the AL in ERA, with the best bullpen in the game. No one can complain about it. Yet, I still find myself being a little worried. Sure, Okajima and Papelbon are the best setup-man/closer tandem in baseball. But do we have a righty out of the bullpen we can trust? Delcarmen has looked great recently, but we can't put all our stock in a 23 year old with a spotty track record for the last couple years. I love him, and I think he'll do well in the future, but for now I don't necessarily think he's our guy (though part of me hopes he is, he's a local kid making it big, gotta love that).

I've also spoken about my doubts of Curt Schilling. Yes, he almost threw a no-hitter. But then he stunk his next few starts and is now on the disabled list. He ain't a kid anymore. And Wakefield has been solid, but not great, same for Tavares (who I love, if for no other reason than his resemblance to Nosferatu, I will stand by this forever). So that leaves us with Beckett and Dice-K, which is awesome. But can we beat the Tigers with that tandem? Are they better than Verlander/Bonderman/Rogers? I'm not sure. And that worries me.

Our offense has been fairly flat. Manny and Ortiz haven't hit for power, Drew is proving to be a bust (I'd point out that I predicted that, but that wasn't exactly difficulty), Lugo can't hit any better than I can, and Coco has only recently decided to make contact with the ball. Youkilis has been phenomenal, so has Pedroia (after a horrific start), Lowell and Varitek have both been solid. All this to say, this is the area of need. They may not have to make a deal, that is, if Manny and Ortiz step it up. That would be enough. On paper this is a great offense, but they just haven't worked out so far. I'd rather not have to make a deal, since I don't want to see any prospects go.

So here's where I stand. We are actually the 2nd best team in the AL, behind Detroit. If Manny and Ortiz, particularly Manny, step up with the production (Ortiz has a decent average, but his power numbers are way down), we may not have to trade a prospect for another bat. We may need to make a deal for another starter if Schilling doesn't come back. Sigh. I hate it. My favorite team in the whole world is dominating their division and I'm still looking over my shoulder. 86 years is hard to overcome...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Rock of Ages

Has it really been 6 months since my last Hymn of the Week post? Yikes! A few weeks back we sang this hymn in church during communion time (at the request of fellow hymnophile JP). It's an 18th century hymn written by Augustus Montague Toplady in Britian. It's not necessarily one most of us sing very often or even know, but it is a terrific hymn. Check out the lyrics:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, else I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Note: the line "when my eyelids close in death" originally read "when my eyestrings break in death." I'm not sure when this line was changed, but I do have to wonder why "eyestrings" was ever a word.

You'll note how the lyrics are strongly theocentric- it places the work of salvation (presented in various metaphors and pictures) in God's hands. I've read that Toplady wrote this in response to the perceived man-centered approach of John Wesley (an assessment I disagree with). I'm quite certain that an Arminian/Wesleyan could sing this hymn without any trouble (nor more than one who is reformed singing And Can It Be).

This song, like a number of others I've mentioned, ends with an eschatological view. Many of the great hymns conclude with the hope of eternity with the Lord. I like how the hymn begins and ends with the hope of God protecting us (anyone who has heard me teach will be quick to point out that this literary device is called "inclusio") because it helps us to see that the same loving God that covers us now will continue to cover us for eternity.

One concept in this song that many may struggle with is the inadequacy of anything we can offer God. This is a song about what God has done/is doing/will do rather than what we will do. The actions that we do in this song (for example, "come to Thee", "look to Thee") are accompanied by descriptions of our inability to offer anything good on our own- "naked","helpless."

Any thoughts you'd like to share?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

thoughts on the Celtics draft day

No matter what happened on Thursday night, all of us Celtics fans were going to be slightly disappointed (or more than slightly) because we weren't getting one of the top 2 picks. It's even more deflating considering the Celts did everything they could in the last couple months to ensure they ended up with an awful record to help their chances in getting a top-2 pick. Alas, the ended up picking #5, which is generally really good in a deep draft like this. But, if management wants to win pronto, that pick wasn't going to help. Thus, I, like many others, felt the Celtics (with Danny Ainge at GM and Doc Rivers at head coach) would trade this pick and pick up a veteran in attempt to win soon.

And the Celtics did just that. They traded the #5 pick (Jeff Green of Georgetown), point guard Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to Seattle for all-star guard Ray Allen and the #35 pick (they got Big Baby Davis from LSU, a solid big man). Granted, Kevin Garnett would have been preferable to Ray Allen, but that deal wasn't going to happen on draft day. So, Ainge pulled the trigger on this deal; the question is: was it the right deal?

In assessing any deal the Celts were going to make, the number one concern for me was retaining Al Jefferson. Jefferson is one of the best young big men in the game, a soon-to-be perennial All-Star. There was plenty of trade talk regarding him, since he is one of the most coveted young players in the game, but I felt like trading him would be a panic move. In other words, Ainge and Rivers would be fearing getting fired if they don't win immediately, so they trade the future for the present. Thankfully, Jefferson is, as of right now, still a Celtic. If you're guaranteed a title by trading him, then maybe it would be okay; but that isn't likely to happen, so the best thing they could do is keep him.

So the goal was to make the team a legit contender in the East right away without giving up Jefferson. I guess the Celtics did that by getting Ray Allen. That gives them 3 legit scoring threats in Paul Pierce, Jefferson and Allen. Actually, that's more than "legit scoring threats", they are bonafide scorers. However, one of the biggest areas of concern is the lack of defense on this team, and Allen does not help in that department much at all. Then again, Szczerbiak is one of the worst defenders in the league. So, this team will score a lot of points, and they will give up a lot of points.

But they are better than they were going into the draft. I think this deal puts them somewhere around the 4-5 best team in the East. The problem is that they aren't likely to be much better than that unless they make another deal or somehow steal a great draft pick in next year's draft. This team will not contend for a title as they are presently constituted, that's all there is to it. But they are better.

Some decry this deal because of Ray Allen's age (he's turning 32 next month). For sure this has to be a concern, since most shooting guards begin to falter at about this time. Others decry this deal because of injury concerns, since Allen missed time last year due to ankle problems. I'd simply point out that he missed more time than he needed since Seattle was, just like the Celtics, attempting to lose games in order to gain a better draft pick (unlike the Celtics, they succeeded, grabbing Kevin Durant at the #2 pick).

So here is the starting lineup for next year, subject to change if they make more deals:

Point Guard- Rajon Rondo
Shooting Guard- Ray Allen
Small Forward- Paul Pierce
Power Forward- Al Jefferson
Center- Kendrick Perkins

The weakest spot here is Perkins, who is a serviceable big man, not really a center you can win a title with. The also have little help off the bench. Allan Ray (not to be confused with Ray Allen) is their best defender off the bench. If they want to go small, they could go with a combination of Rondo, Ray, Allen, Pierce and Jefferson (and that's awfully small). They don't really have a backup point guard, either, which is a shame seeing how young Rondo is. I suspect they'll make another trade, packaging Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green and some future draft pick for another veteran sometime during the season (and probably Sebastian Telfair and his gun-wielding posse, too).

All this to say, I think the Celtics made their team better. But they've locked themselves into winning with the next 2-3 years or else. If not, Pierce and Allen will be too old or gone and they're left with Jefferson and a core of mostly role players. The other option would have been to trade Paul Pierce and go completely young, like the Bulls have done (to some success). That's dangerous because you simply stockpile young players who aren't likely to win a championship in hopes that they'll stick with the teama few years down the road rather than jumping ship.

So I think this team will win about half of it's games, scoring a bunch and giving up even more, and will get bounced in the second round of the playoffs. They won't contend for an Eastern Conference title this year, but maybe the following. Of course, this is all subject to change if they make another deal, and they probably will. I give them a "B" for draft day.