NFL, MLB, NBA What is up with sports?

Wow what a couple weeks it has been in sports.  Usually these last two weeks are the slowest in sports, unless you are an Arena Football fan (and I don’t think those actually exist).  But the last two weeks have been widely shocking for the big three professional sports in our country, lets recap.

1.  Dog Fighting in the NFL-    I covered this last week in a post so read that if you are behind on this story.  It has gotten worse though as PETA is now protesting outside Falcons headquarters, and the NFL offices.  Vick is most likely done for good with the Falcons, and possibly in the NFL.  At leas this league knows how to get rid of its trash.

2.  MLB and Barry Bonds-    I am tired of this story.  “Bar-roid” Bonds did steroids period. I do not care that he has not been convicted, neither was OJ Simpson.  The real controversy is that as Barry is on the verge of breaking the record, people want to know if the commish will show up.  I say who cares?  I find it more interesting that Henry Aaron has publically stated that he wants no part of it.  Personally I do not blame him.  Knowing what the guy went through in dealing with crazy racists threatening to lynch him, and the larger parks and inferior equipment this guy earned the record.  He deserves to be upset.

3.  The NBA scandal-    Well Matt might be as giddy as a school girl about this one because he loves black helicopter conspiracy mumbo jumbo and this story will now give him and all the other people who love to think things are rigged the ammo they have been waiting for.  I know this sucks and it is really bad for the game, and it might even leave many of us wondering when we see a ref make a crazy call if he is on the take.  But I am choosing to believe at the moment that this was one isolated guy who pulled a Pete Rose.  I do not think it is systematic of the NBA or will have long term consequences, truth is you are either an NBA fan or you are not.  This is not the 90’s anymore where there are casual NBA fans, those all died out when Michael Jordan left.  So for Me and Matt I am sure we will still both tune in when tip off roles around next year.

So there you have it crazy times in professional sports!  And to think that NFL is just about to get going.  I am going to Broncos training camp next week and am ready to declare that the Broncos are going to be legit this year, pending Jay Cutler learns about this thing called “his blind side.”  I will write next week about training camp, mainly for my own enjoyment.

cheers ryan

Oh @#$%, this is real

I can sit across the table and talk theology with anyone. In fact, I love to. I can sit across the table and talk church planting with anyone. In fact, I have done so for quite sometime now. My friends know me as the bold guy who says what others don’t, and isn’t afraid to get passionate or emotional. Because of this I spent the first few months of church planting afraid to be this guy. I limited myself to urging, and trying to compel for fear that I would blow too many people out of the water. That didn’t stick.

The past two months have brought “Old Matt” back. The guy who isn’t timid to passionately say what he wanted the church to look like. The guy who is ballsy enough to cut off some pieces of an already small tree, so that even if growth is small and slow, it is healthy growth. The guy who asks people to change their life plans, and be a part of what God is doing in this church plant.

I did that last one last night.

After it was over I got this horrible feeling in my stomach. I thought to myself, “Matt, you literally just asked a grown man to change his plans and compelled him to follow you. Are you crazy?” This morning, one thought has permeated my mind:

This isn’t a make-believe talk across the table. Oh @#$%, this is real.

Still, I can’t help but think: isn’t this what church planting is all about? Real lives. Sin being dealt with. People meeting Jesus. Hungry being fed. Single moms getting husbands and fathers for their children. This isn’t an across the table endeavor. Lives are at stake, people will get hurt. People will get saved. People will sin against one another and forgiveness will be needed. This is going to get bloody.

So now a verse I have never understood is beginning to take shape in my life:

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”

In order to best understand this verse I did a crazy thing: I read the whole chapter.

The best way to understand what Jesus meant by that we must look at who he compares “violent” men to:

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge and you did not mourn’”

So now it makes since. Still it forces me to think:

Oh @#$% this is real.

Michael Vick, Dog Fighting, and Tucker

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This is my dog Tucker, and I love him very much.  I never thought I would be a “dog person.”  You know the type that misses their dog when they go on vacation, talks to them frequently, and loves to just spend time with them.  Crystal and I saved Tucker from the pound about a year and half ago, and while I probably would not put him in the family Christmas card he is part of our family.  Truth is we thought he had cancer a few weeks ago, and both of us seriously got quite upset.  Tucker is part German Shepard, and Bull Mastiff.  I say all of this today because the very notion of seeing him drowned, electrocuted, hung, or body slammed to death makes me want to vomit.  These activities are what superstar QB for the Atlanta Falcons Micheal Vick was indited for today.

Now I know Matt posted a few months ago about avoiding our “high horses” of thinking others are worse then us, but dog fighting is truly the bottom of the depravity barrel.  It is outrageously cruel and violent.  If nothing else the idea that one could find any sort of entertainment from watching and training dogs to maul each other to death, is callous and very sick.  Maybe this case bothers me so much because animals fall into the same group as kids, they are defenseless from abuse and evil.  Now I know we have to let due process take its course, but all evidence points toward these alligations being true.  Keep in mind he is being charged in FEDERAL court, not by some low budget, resource lacking, over ambitious, local DA.  He is dealing with the Federal government.  The Federal court Michael Vick will be appearing before is the same one that just nailed Scooter Libby, and have a 95% conviction rate.  WOW.  So yes these guys most likely have the goods on Vick, they do their homework and have all the resources you could ever imagine.  So to Michael Vick (bottom feeder) count me as one fan who will not buy any Nike products until they drop you, and will not watch anymore of your games.  Oh Tucker also does not want anything else to do with you.

Spurgeon on a Christ-Centered view of Election

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MANY persons want to know their election before they look to Christ, but they cannot learn it thus, it is only to be discovered by “looking unto Jesus.” If you desire to ascertain your own election;—after the following manner, shall you assure your heart before God. Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? go straightway to the cross of Christ, and tell Jesus so, and tell Him that you have read in the Bible, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Tell Him that He has said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Look to Jesus and believe on Him, and you shall make proof of your election directly, for so surely as thou believest, thou art elect. If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust Him, then you are one of God’s chosen ones; but if you stop and say, “I want to know first whether I am elect,” you ask you know not what. Go to Jesus, be you never so guilty, just as you are. Leave all curious inquiry about election alone. Go straight to Christ and hide in His wounds, and you shall know your election. The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you, so that you shall be able to say, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” Christ was at the everlasting council: He can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out in any other way. Go and put your trust in Him, and His answer will be—”I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” There will be no doubt about His having chosen you, when you have chosen Him.

“Sons we are through God’s election,
Who in Jesus Christ believe.”

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Discipline

Could it be that discipline regardless of the area of life is often the biggest inhibitor of us getting to where we want to go and what we believe God has called us to do?

I think this is true for me.

I am starting to realize that every area of my life that is not what I want it to be

a. physically

b. character and spritual growth

c. knowledge and occupational compentency

d. socially, even maritally

are all related to the issue of disciplines. I have long pushed back against the notion of discipline. After all I am a red blooded American who basks in my freedoms and autonomy (which if you break down the word autonomy it come from the greek word “autos” meaning self, and “nomos” meaning law, together equally self-law) and autonomy and this idea that I can be free from discipline, obligation, and diligence cripples me from being what I am made to be.

I am not advocating that we all work a lot harder and just develop militant lifestyles, but we can all use a little bit more discipline. As Christians we are to die daily to our flesh and pick up our Cross and follow Jesus. Jesus is asking us a pretty simple question in all of this, will you be reformed? Will you become a follower who is willing to be made new? One of my favorite things about Jesus is he is always completely cool with people coming to him just as they are, no matter how jacked up they are, in a sense he meets them where they are. But eventually he confronts them and calls them to be reformed or made new (John 8).

Much of this boils out of the fact that I have been trying to holistically add more healthy discipline to my life. Running/physical exercise, eating less and healthier, times of retreat with God, laboring more diligently in the tasks God has given me. What I am discovering though is that discipline is setting me free. It is a mechanism in which an idea or concept becomes a reality. I know running is a good for me, I am reformed by running. I know that eating right is wise, I am changed by the discipline of doing so. I know that God is something I believe in, I know God and am made new by him.

Maybe it is in the disciplines we are somehow changed?

ryan

Driscoll steps down as Lead Pastor of Mars Hill

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Alright, I broke the first rule of blogging: no extreme titles to bait readers. Sorry, but this one was too good to pass up.

In all seriousness though Mark Driscoll is no longer the Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, he is simply the preaching pastor serving on their executive team of elders.

I have always been intrigued and learned so much from the ever evolving ecclesiological structure of Mars Hill. Go here to read about the new structure that is the network of Mars Hill Churches in Seattle.

Matt

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Final installment of Good To Great

Dr. Collins concludes his book with the principle of the flywheel.  The idea of the flywheel is that as effort and actions build upon one another, they gain momentum.  After many pushes, things finally change and what seemed to have little impact has actually contributed to the success later on (165).  To embrace this idea requires faith that small actions today will have positive contributions later on.  If a company can embrace this philosophy and stop just looking for one giant moment or push that leads to success, they will find their company has sustaining success and momentum.
Benefits of “Good to Great” in Ministry
First, leadership has been a buzz word in the evangelical world for some time now, and I have personally begun to wonder if it was overrated.  Yet what Dr. Collins describes as Level 5 Leadership has convinced me otherwise.  This type of leadership within the church would call for a deeper commitment from pastors to the success and growth of the church.  Today many pastors have taken more of a corporate approach to the church as they seek to move up to better positions and ones of higher esteem.  In consequence, a humility that defers to the renown and mission of the church is often forsaken, because pastors are conflicted in their interests of accomplishing the goal of their ministry and keeping an eye out for a more alluring job.  If a genuine concern for the well-being of the church could take center stage, then this would help solidify the determination for the mission.  With personal agendas set aside people are freed to focus more on what needs to be done than what they want.  Level 5 Leadership would lead us away from ministries being associated with the accomplishments and character of an individual to the world seeing churches as a collective body that desires to bless and live out the Gospel.
Second, ministries are often handicapped by their subconscious fear of conflict and facing unpleasant truths.  Dr. Collins says that if churches are going to succeed then they must be willing to face facts, even when they are not what we would like to see.  For example, many ministries will remain committed to outdated methods of evangelism, apologetics, and music and then not want to face facts about why their churches are not growing.  Church boards meet all across the country ignoring the elephants in the room, because they are afraid of change or the confrontation that might ensue.  Ministries would do well to learn from Dr. Collin’s point that great organizations must be ones where debate and discussion are encouraged and fostered.  It is through these conversations and facing our faults and weaknesses that we are able to move past our pride and desire to be comfortable and start to find ways to advance our mission of seeing people resonate with the Gospel.  Being a lover of truth, as our faith commands us, is not just something to practice when things look bright, but we must also be ready to do so when in times of tribulation.  By doing this, we will not only strengthen our ministries but demonstrate that our faith and hope is not put in the status of our circumstances but in our King, leading others to do the same and become followers of Jesus.
Third, living in a culture of instant gratification we often expect that our ministries should become instantly successful and grow like the weeds in our backyard.  We believe that success and momentum in our churches is just a matter of producing the perfect service or finding that outreach event that will send people pouring in the doors.  Tragically, it is not that one dynamic series or amazing worship team that leads our churches to success.  It is often because for many years the church has done the mundane and done it faithfully, giving their time, energy, and efforts without seeing much result, but all the while God has been crafting them together to build a church of significance.
Dr. Collins says that too often organizations are looking for that one event or action that can propel them into success, but it does not work that way.  Rather, arriving into greatness is much more like pushing a flywheel for a long time with not much movement, but over time your efforts begin to build on each other moving the organization into success.  The idea is that great churches and companies do not just happen over night.  Churches need to begin to see that success is not instant and something that just happens.  We must realize that our labors are not in vain, even if they do not produce the outcome that we may want.  Possibly, the success that we are told we must achieve is not what God wants.  Instead, he may be interested in just our faithfulness in being willing to push the flywheel with all our might, regardless if it moves as much as we would like.  This change in attitude would allow us to focus more on loving Jesus and leaving the results in his hands, instead trying to make them on our own.  After all, he may allow us to work the soil, but he is the one that decides when and where something will grow.
Opinion of Good to Great
While Good to Great is written and oriented toward companies and the business world, many of its ideas that lead to greatness can easily be transposed to ministry.  As I read, I was surprised that it was not about newly discovered business techniques that would lead to greatness, but their greatness was much more human.  What I mean by that is that is Dr. Collins seems to have pinpointed values and character traits that will contribute to a great organization.  These values such as humility, perseverance, honesty, and clear direction are not just values that corporations need to embrace but all organizations should, including churches.

Sicko

Crystal and I went and saw Michael Moore’s new movie this weekend, entitled “Sicko.”

I knew as soon as we walked in the theater that it was going to be a unique experience. The majority of the theater was already filled up, mostly with people 60 or older. There were a few people in our age group but not many. As I sat there waiting for the movie to start I overheard a few of the conversations around me and could tell that word had spread fast throughout the AARP community about this movie and anticipation had been building. If anyone is wondering why this is noteworthy just think in terms of political implications. As a poly science major the first thing you learn is that senior citizens vote at an extremely higher rate than any other demographic. So the fact that there was such a high concentration of senior citizens in the theater and no buffet in sight I knew the topic of this documentary is a growing concern for many in our nation.

For those who do not know the movie is about the health care situation/crisis in the United States.

1. 50 million Americans have no health insurance

2. 250 million Americans who do have health insurance often fight a tidal wave of red tape and denials when in need of medical care.

3. Perscription drugs have become so outrageously expensive that millions of elderly people who should be retired are working part time just to be able to pay for their prescriptions. There is one guy in the movie who is 79 and works in the warehouse at a grocery store just so his wife can get her medicine. Another lady in the movie who is a who worked at ground zero on 9/11 must ante up 120 a month for an inhaler she needs from respiratory problems she developed. These same inhalers cost as little as 5 cents in other parts of the world.

4. Premiums have become so expensive that health insurance is quickly becoming unaffordable for the average american family. A typical family of a husband, wife and two children could expect to pay as much as $600 a month.

Now before I go any further I want to say that I am not a Micheal Moore fan. I got through about half of “Fahrenheit 911” and I had to turn it off. It was misleading, manipulative, and unnecessarily polemic. But seeing as health care has been and issue that I have personally been concerned about for a few years now, and noting that Fox News gave a favorable review of “Sicko” I thought I should go see it. I was not disappointed.

Outside of a few pot shots at President Bush I found the movie to be incredibly on point and well done. Micheal Moore’s basic premise is that in the United State health care system there are two foundational fundamental agendas; profit, and the health of people. And when these two agendas collide profit wins out and the health of people takes a back seat. Now I know I am simplifying here but Moore is trying to get at the fact that health insurance companies and prescription drug companies are first and foremost responsible to their shareholders and turning a profit. This goal of making money often comes at the expense of providing medical treatment for those in need. In the movie you hear testimony form people who have worked for the big insurance companies such as, Humana, Blue Cross, KP, talk about how they were rewarded or received bonuses based on their denial rate. In other words the employees got more money for denying treatment. To personalize this Moore shows us a number of families and individuals who have been on the denial end from the insurance companies and how these denials resulted in death for some of them. One lady who had a brain tumor was even told no she did not, and that surgery to remove it was considered “experimental” so it would not be covered. She died.

Moore then goes on to highlight some of the health care systems from countries such as Canada, U.K. and France. All of which have socialized medicine. Now this is the part where many of us Americans just freak out. We hear the word socialized and we get this haunting memory of the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. and Stalin. We think anything socialized is anti-democratic and most be opposed. But before we freak out it is important to remember that Canada, and the U.K. have both had socialized medicine for decades now and still remain democracies. Moore anticipates the objections that come with the idea of socialized medicine and takes them on quite well.

1. You will have to wait days to see a doctor and the treatment will be second rate. False, at the wait time in hospitals in both Canada, and the U.K. is less then America. Plus the treatment is far superior, as doctors there actually bonus off their patients improved health (such as lowering their cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, weight loss).

2. No one will want to be a doctor because they won’t get paid well. This is an argument that is typically set forth by the American Medical Association but just does not hold much weight. The doctor in Britain that Moore interviews says he makes 200k a year, plus a pension and leads a very comfortable lifestyle. He drive an Audi, has a million dollar home and says he is very happy. The doctor says that he makes plenty of money to afford all of the nice things he could want. While 200k may not be enough to have ten Audi’s and five million dollar homes, it is still a really good wage. So really the question becomes how much is enough? I am not against doctors being paid well, they deserve it, but do I do think there is a line, between being well compensated insane salaries that just drive up the price of health care.

3. Socializing health care is un-democratic. This is just a silly claim. We already have a number of socialized services in our country. The public education system is one, every child is educated, and we all chip in for the costs. The police and fire departments are both socialized institutions, and I am glad for that. If my house catches on fire, I want someone to come and put it out. I do not want to have to call a private fire company and haggle over price as my house burns down I just want someone to come and help me. Are you noticing a pattern here? The things that are of great importance, and nessisity to all of us and the welfare of society are socialized. This is not anti-democratic, we chose to socialize them, so that we all have peace and freedom of mind when it comes to knowing our society will be educated, and protected. I think health and well being of people belongs in this same category, or at least close to it.

My proposal- If I go to the Mall tomorrow and Nike is charging 20,000 for a new pair of running shoes, or Apple is charging 500,000 for an iPhone I make think that is ridiculous and insane but I am not greatly affected. I can go on with my life and survive without Nike’s or an iPhone. In capitalism people can charge whatever they want as long as someone will buy it, this is simple supply and demand. But when it comes to things that are imperative and essential for life such as water, electricity, gas, or other utilites prices are regulated. If Matt and the Southern Nevada Water Authority want to raise rates they have to go before the regulatory board and ask permission. This is to make sure that these essential utilities are affordable to the population. Health care, just like running water is not a luxory like an iPhone, but a requirment for life. People need it to live and survive. Health treatment, prescription drugs should never be so costly that only the rich can afford them, but rather should be regulated so that everyone can afford them. This is why I am not quite in favor of socialized medicine (maybe one day I will get there) but I do believe we need to regulate the costs. Personally, I believed a tiered payment structure based off of income would be best. The point would simply be that people paid what is affordable to them. So that when a man cuts off his finger he does not have to chose which one to re-attach (this actually happens to a guy in the movie with no health insurance). Truth is as Christians, we are called to care for our neighbors, and love the least of these. I think that starts with being concerned that in the most wealthy, tech savy, resourced nation in the history of the world, that all recieve medical treatment when they need it.

I believe this will be one of the biggest if not biggest issues driving the upcoming presidential election. Regardless how you feel about Micheal Moore this movie is worth your time and money. I promise that when you leave the theater, you will leave with a sense of unrest and conviction that the way it is right now is not the way it should be or has to be.

ryan