Monday, July 28, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.

- Casey Stengel

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review: BiC's Baptism

Baptism, particularly when done by immersion as it is in many churches, can be a frightening prospect for any believer but particularly for younger children. However, thanks to children's author Robin Khoury (a.k.a. Miss Robin) there is a great new resource entitled BiC's Baptism (Little Light Press).

In this latest adventure of BiC (which stands for Babe in Christ), our young hero has just become a Christian. Now he faces the frightening prospect of being baptized. But first he must learn what it means to be baptized as well as overcoming his fears about the whole process. With help from friends in the church, BiC learns what baptism does and does not mean for him. In addition, he comes fact to face with his fears about being baptized.

The book is geared for children ages 4-8 but can also be used as a great framework for discussions with older believers. It addresses the common misconceptions about salvation and baptism and what the sacrament truly represents.

Both of my daughters were baptized when they were young. In some ways, I wish I had had a resource like this available so that I could adequately explain to them what it truly meant to be baptized.

Ms. Khoury deserves a lot of credit for being able to clearly explain what can easily become a very confusing issue. In addition, Kevin Scott Collier's illustrations are very visually appealing and add to the charm of this wonderful book.

BiC's Baptism is a great resource both for pastors and parents and I highly recommended it to anyone who is counselling younger new believers in preparing them for baptism.

BiC's Baptism is available in both print and e-book format at this link.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference.

~ Tommy Lasorda

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lessons of a Cubs Fan

It's been a long drought for Chicago Cubs fans. In fact, it's been exactly 100 years since their last World Series Championship in 1908. It's hard to imagine that their last championship came a time when the Cubs were considered one of the best teams in the major leagues.

Since then, the Cubs have occasionally made the playoffs and teased their fans with thoughts of another championship only to ultimately disappoint their faithful in the end. But 2008 has been an atypical season for the Cubs so far. They have one of the best records in the majors and are leading their division as play resumes this week following the All-Star break. Suddenly the idea of a World Series Championship in 2008 doesn't seem too far-fetched.

But Cubs fans know not to get their hopes up too soon. They've been down this road too many times before. Their faithful (and I admit, I have been one of them for the past twenty years) know that things could still go horribly wrong before the year is out. Often, their fans are referred to as longsuffering because of the many years they've waited for a championship team. As the Bible shows us, there is much more to longsuffering that simply waiting patiently for our hopes and dreams to be fulfilled.

The most vivid picture that Scripture gives us of longsuffering is the life of Job. The Bible tells us that Job was a righteous man and that Satan sought to test him. God allowed Job to endure trials beyond what many of us could possibly imagine. All the while he remained strong in his faith in God despite what his circumstances and his s0-called friends told him.

The apostle Paul refers to longsuffering as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Unfortunately, many modern translations substitute patience for longsuffering. The dictionary defines patience as "an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay". To me, this speaks more to how we wait in line at the drive-thru at McDonald's rather than enduring trials. Patiently waiting for something or someone holds with it a promise that the thing wished for will be provided at some point in the future.

By contrast, the dictionary defines longsuffering as "long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation". Longsuffering is the ability to endure trials and tribulations with no definite end in sight. Paul again helps us understand biblical longsuffering when speaks of the "thorn in his flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) which many speculate to be some type of ailment that plagued him throughout his life. God's purpose in not removing Paul's burden was twofold: to keep him humble and to rely on God for everything he needed.

God uses our trials to strengthen our faith in Him (James 1:2-4). He wants us to not only patiently endure them but to develop the spirtiual discipline of longsuffering. It is not merely being patient but waiting upon the Lord to provide even when it doesn't look like He will. It also means humbling ourselves and allowing Him to complete His perfect work in us.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Fun: Five Things About Me (v.1)

I don't normally write about myself. However, I have, on occasion, run across blog posts where bloggers reveal interesting facts about themselves. So here for your enjoyment are some random things about me:

1. How many books do you have on your shelf waiting to be read?
At last count it was somewhere around 40. If I would just stop visiting used book stores like this one (my personal favorite) I might be able to catch up on my reading. Here are five random titles from the "to be read" shelf:

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
John Adams by David McCullough
Second Objective by Mark Frost
Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season by Johnathan Eig
The Faith of The American Soldier by Stephen Mansfield

2. One of my favorite foods is pizza - especially Chicago style.
I love pizza. It's one of my great weaknesses. My first exposure to truly wonderful pizza was a college trip to Chicago (in the dead of winter, no less - oh to be young and foolish) where I was introduced to Gino's East. Chicago style pizza is by far the best and Gino's is the place to get it. Giordano's is a close second and is my preferred choice when in Orlando. By the way, you can order from both places by mail. It's worth the price.

My work takes me to Louisville every year and the trip would not be complete without at least one order from Wick's Pizza. Just forget about the diet and dig in.

If you're looking for something a little more unusual in pizzas, try Blossom Cafe in Charleston, SC. They bake their pizzas in a wood-burning oven and offer more exotic topping combinations than your ordinary pizzeria.

Another Charleston-area pizzeria worth mentioning (and a little on the unusual side) is Evo. The thing that makes their pizzas so good is that they use only local, fresh ingredients.

3. My other favorite food is hot dogs.
Another food that is not diet-friendly, I became a hot dog snob living (briefly) in Chicago. Nathan's and Hebrew National may be the best known and most readily available all-beef hot dogs but nothing beats Vienna Beef. Any self-respecting hot dog joint in the city will serve them and they are absolutely the best. If you're willing to pay the price, you can purchase them on line alone or in a kit that allows you to make them the way Chicagoans eat them.

4. The person I've seen perform in concert the most times is....
James Taylor (four times). Runner up: Chris Rice (twice). They are the only two performers I have seen more than once.

5. When travelling, my favorite places to eat are....
First of all, I always make it a point to have at least one meal at a local restaurant. I've made some great discoveries by willing to break out of my comfort zone and try some place that is unique to whatever town I'm visiting. But it's inevitable that when you're on the road you'll hit some chain restaurants. Here are my three favorites:

Fast Food: Chick-Fil-A. If it's a chicken sandwich you want, where better to go than to the original source. Plus, I love the fact that our of conviction, they are closed on Sundays.

Casual Restaurant: Panera Bread. I love bread and I also love pastries. This has the best of both worlds. It's also a place I could eat any meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and be truly satisfied.

Sit-down Restaurant: Sometimes a little longer respite from travel is needed and Cracker Barrel is the perfect place. I love the down-home, Southern style cooking plus you can get breakfast any time of the day. It's also one of the few chains that is consistently good at every location.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

If I Were An Obama Supporter.....

Come November, I intend to cast my vote for John McCain. Like many other conservatives, I'm not terribly happy about having to vote for McCain but I really have no other legitimate choice. But if I were supporting Barack Obama, I would be increasingly worried about my candidate.

Given his recent track record of major flips on a variety of issues, Senator Obama is quickly making John Kerry look like a principled politician. It is becoming clearer by the day that the Senator is willing to do and say anything in order to get elected. It's not hard to imagine that if Obama wins the election his first two years in office will be marked by a hard tack to the left.

Senator Obama has been able to clinch the Democratic nomination by preaching an ambiguous message of hope and change without delving into much in the way of policy specifics. But as this campaign move into the more serious season he's going to have to make it clear what he stands for. Otherwise the "Change We Can Believe In" will be his platform that alters direction based on which way the political winds are blowing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

President Bush - Underrated?

During my recent interview with author Jane Hampton Cook, I asked her how she thought history would view President Bush. One of the interesting things she mentioned was how the President was more concerned with doing what he felt was right then what was popular or politically expedient and as a result history will likely look more favorably on his presidency than the press does now. I tend to agree with this view.

It's even more refreshing when members of the mainstream media begin to understand this dynamic. This article (from Great Britain, no less) nails it perfectly and at the same time calls liberals and Europeans on the carpet for their deranged hatred of the President (hat tip: Instapundit):

This is a man who has the courage of his convictions.

Let’s not forget how Europe does wars.

Usually we wait and wait until the enemy starts attacking, then we let them win a bit, then we fight until we are tired, then we just call the US to come over to clean our mess. That is what happened in WWI, WWII, and the Balkans.

Bush is just showing us what a bunch of dangerous ditherers we are and we hate him for it. Naturally.

And the Olympics. Bush said right from the beginning that he’s going to the opening ceremony because he saw the whole boycott thing as silly and counterproductive.

Compare that with Sarkozy who has changed his mind twice so far and to Gordon Brown who, well... err.

Not much leadership from Europe here, as usual, just doublespeak. Once again, it is to Bush that we look for leadership.

Bush may not have the slickness of his predecessor, but he is a man you can trust and who prefers to tell it like it is.

This is refreshing, and very scary for us who are used to our politicians always talking grandly about principles and hiding behind political mumbo-speak.

The fact is you guys hate Mr Bush because he is not a hypocrite and you are used to hypocrites as your leaders. We hate what we don’t understand.

Yes, yes, all you bleeding heart liberals are cringing out there. I can just hear you. But the fact is, Mr Bush has had to take some very tough decisions and the world needs people who can not only talk but also act tough and admit mistakes.

Well said.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too.

- Roy Campanella

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Revolution From The Pulpit

In my previous post, I referred to the fact that churches in colonial America had much to do with the change of hearts and minds in the colonists that had to take place in order for there to be an American Revolution. This terrific article from Christian History and Biography explains further the role of the church during the Revolution. It is well worth reading.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Learning from the Revolution

When we think about the American Revolution, we tend to think about the war itself. But as John Adams once wrote, "The American Revolution was a change in the hearts and minds of the people." As Jane Hampton Cook shows in her excellent book Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War, the change of hearts and minds took place over a period of 25 years before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord. There is also no doubt that the Revolution would not have occurred if people of faith hadn't been leading the way.

"What I realized was that there really couldn't have been a revolutionary war without people of faith because part of their Christian duty, their understanding of their Judeo-Christian heritage was that they were to obey their king," Ms. Cook said in a recent interiew. (Click here to listen) "That was part of their responsibility to their faith. But they had to make this change. They ended up realizing and prioritizing Galatians 5:1 which says 'It's for freedom that Christ came, therefore, stand firm for that freedom.' The more they concluded that King George had abdicated his God-given responsibility to protect their God-given rights, the more they realized he had become a tyrant and it was part of their duty by their faith to stand firm for freedom."

Through 365 daily devotions, Ms. Cook provides insight into the hearts and minds of not just our most well know founding fathers but many others who played a vital role in the Revolution. By relying on letters, diaries, and other writings, she is able to provide a window into the minds of these courageous men and women who took up the cause of freedom as part of their Christian duty. We also get a keen insight into their own struggles and find much in their lives that is very similar to our own. The book can easily be read as a novel as Ms. Cook still manages to provide a cohesive overall narrative of the Revolution even though she is working within the devotional structure.

One of the book's greatest strengths is the incorporation of what Ms. Cook refers to as the pulpit perspective. Each week's readings conclude with an entry entitled "Sabbath Rest" that features a sermon from the time period. We get to see how pastors were also struggling with their duty to stand firm for freedom and the impact that their teachings had on the Founders.

Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War is the most comprehensive history of the Revolution that I have come across. It's devotional style makes it great daily reading for individuals or family study. I highly recommend this book as you will gian a much greater understanding of what motivated the founders to abandon their dreams of a quiet life in order to live loud for liberty.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Lost Art of Hurling A Knuckleball

At one time it was a more commonly (but not widely) utilized pitch: the knuckleball. Now only one major league pitcher employs it. Sports Illustrated has a great profile of the strangest pitch you will ever see thrown and the one guy who still uses it: Boston's Tim Wakefield.

Hat tip: Jonathan