Monday, December 29, 2008

A Look Back at 2008

2008 is drawing to an end and was a long, strange year. Dave Barry takes a humorous look back on the year that was. Read and enjoy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Prayer, Politics, and Rick Warren

Much has been written about Pastor Rick Warren's invitation to give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration in just a few weeks. Many on the left have been upset about the selection of Pastor Warren because of his stance against homosexual marriage. Some on the right are suggesting that he may be compromising the gospel for the sake of political influence.

Pastor Warren is symbolic of what's happened to evangelicals over the past 30 or so years. The church has forsaken the gospel in favor of gaining political and cultural influence. As a result, principles have been compromised.

If Pastor Warren truly wants to be effective, then he should take Cal Thomas' advice and be more like the prophet Nathan:

If Obama plans on having Warren as a presence in his presidency, Warren should seek to model himself more after Nathan the prophet. Nathan confronted King David over his affair with Bathsheba, whose husband, Uriah the Hittite, David sent to the front lines to ensure he would be killed so that David could have his wife. God sent Nathan to David. Nathan told David a story about a rich man who stole a poor man's lamb rather than take one from his own flock to feed a visitor. Nathan asked David what should happen to such a man. David replied, "that man should surely die." To which Nathan replied, "You are the man." (2 Samuel 12) Blockquote

Nathan's confrontation led to David's repentance and one of the most beautiful Psalms ever written (Psalm 51). The point is that Nathan did not compromise Truth, but confronted David with what he had done wrong. How many modern preachers would confront a president like that? Probably not many if they wanted to maintain access.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee wrote this in his book Do The Right Thing quoting his mentor James Robison:

The prophets of old were rarely invited back for a return engagement. In fact, most of them were never invited the first time. They came to speak truth to power regardless of the consequences.
Governor Huckabee goes on to note that one can be a politician or a prophet but never both. My hope is that Pastor Warren will take this opportunity to be a prophet and not worry about being invited by President Obama for another speaking engagement.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The True Meaning of Christmas

Before any gifts are opened this morning, we'll pause and read together this passage from the Bible on the ultimate gift that God has given each one of us:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Christmas Playlist

Many years ago I worked as a disc jockey for several different radio stations. One holiday season I worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day playing nothing but Christmas songs.

It was during those two shifts that I realized a couple of truths. First, there are only a limited number of Christmas songs but dozens of versions of each song. If you don't believe me, just put the name of a popular Christmas song in the search box on ITunes and see how many different versions pop up. It's staggering. My guess is that you really haven't made it as a musician until you've had a chance to record a few Christmas songs.

Second, I realized there is a lot of really bad Christmas music floating around out there. I don't mean that the songs themselves are bad but that some renditions really shouldn't have been recorded. I don't understand why artists have a need to record songs that have been done over and over again by other performers. You certainly wouldn't see that with other types of popular songs, would you?

Those two shifts at the radio station instilled in me a strong dislike for Christmas music. Because so much of it can be really cheesy it's difficult sometimes for me to bear it. But there are some things I do enjoy listening to during the holiday season.

First, I can listen to just about anything recorded by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. When you think of holiday music those are the first two folks to come to mind.

Next, I will listen to the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio over and over again. I never get tired of this holiday classic. It's also my favorite holiday TV special.

Apart from that, here is a list of my other favorite Christmas songs in no particular order.

Please Come Home For Christmas - The Eagles
I'll Be Home For Christmas - The Beach Boys
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
White Christmas - The Drifters
Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms
Run, Run Rudolph - Chuck Berry
The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Diana Krall
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Monday, December 22, 2008

Those Who Serve

It's easy sometimes to forget that there are men and women who are laying down their lives so that those of us who are comfortable at home here in America can enjoy freedom. Kevin McCullough shares about one friend of his and the hardships that his friend will willingly endure for the sake of our freedom. It's very humbling to read.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"This Generation's Bob Hope"

That's Andrew Breitbart's description of actor Gary Sinise and the comparison is very appropriate. While the media doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to Sinise's work for the USO, President George W. Bush awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal. Be sure to read Breitbart's entire column about this true American patriot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reclaiming Hymns

One of the constant challenges I face as a worship leader is figuring out how to incorporate hymns into our regular worship times. I'm at a disadvantage since I came to faith about the time that contemporary worship music started to take off. So I'm more at home singing more modern worship songs than old hymns. But there's a lot to be treasured in old songs. That's why I'm really excited to stumble across a hymn memorization project from Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. Not only are they making an effort to memorize a new hymn every month but a group of folks from the church recorded the hymns. Click on the widget below to find out how you can get a download of the songs.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Revamping History

After being closed to the public for more than two years, The National Museum of American History has reopened after an extensive renovation. The Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson has a detailed account of how the renovation came about and how the curators view history. It sounds like from his account that the new version of the museum is a vast improvement over the old with a lot of work still to be done. If you're ever in Washington, a few hours at the museum would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hall of Fame Class of 2014

The announcement over the weekend that Greg Maddux was retiring after recording 355 career victories reminded me of an article I ran across not long ago that looked ahead to the potential Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014 (which will be Maddux's first year of eligibility). The Hall of Fame rookies for that year could be as follows (assuming that a couple of guys decide to retire before next year):

Tom Glavine*
Randy Johnson*
Ken Griffey, Jr.*
Trevor Hoffman*
Jeff Kent
Greg Maddux
Pedro Martinez*
Mike Mussina
John Smoltz
Frank Thomas*

* indicates player is still active

With Maddux retiring, it would seem fitting for Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to both retire so they could all be inducted into the Hall the same year. Glavine is certainly a lock with 305 wins. One could argue that Smoltz is not as automatic but no one has won over 200 games and notched more than 150 saves.

Even if Randy Johnson retires I think 295 wins is enough to warrant enshrinement. And it's hard for me to see how we're going to see another closer who will earn as many saves as Trevor Hoffman.

Among the sluggers, Griffey is definitely in no matter when he decides to retire. I think Thomas gets in by virtue of his career homer numbers. Jeff Kent also seems to me to be a lock. So that's eight guys in this class that all have career stats that are worthy of the Hall.

The only debateable selections are Mussina and Martinez. Even though neither one hit one of the magic numbers (such as 300 wins) I think they both have had good enough careers to get in at some point. Given the strength of the rookie class it may not be until their second or third year of eligibility that they get in.

Depending on what happens the next couple of months 2014 could shape up as the best Hall of Fame ballot to come along in years. I don't envy the baseball writers who would have determine from that class who would be worthy of selection.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I'm Going to Miss Him Come Spring

Mark it down: Greg Maddux will make it to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. All you have to do is look back over his many accomplishments to see why. He will truly be missed. He's one of the real class acts of baseball. When he makes his retirement announcement on Monday many will mourn his leaving the game. However, I think it's only a matter of time before he's back in uniform as a pitching coach. Let's hope so.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Walk Worth Remembering

D. J. Gregory accomplished something remarkable this year. He walked every hole of every round of every PGA tournament this year. That is in and of itself remarkable. But until you learn his entire story do you realize how truly amazing this accomplishment is. D. J. Gregory is one amazing man. The word "can't" certainly doesn't exist in his vocabulary.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Some Unlikely Good Samaritans

That's the title of my new column up at BP Sports. Check it out.

While you're there, also check out Joshua Cooley's tribute to the retiring Mike Mussina. I've always admired Mussina as he is one of the truly classy guys in baseball.

Michelle Obama: Mommy

Personally, I find it reassuring that Michelle Obama says her first priority upon getting to Washington will be taking care of her children. Needless to say that statement has rankled a number of feminists as Dr. Albert Mohler explains.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gift Certificate of Death?

Apparently that's what Planned Parenthood of Indiana has in mind offering gift certificates for their services including abortions. (hat tip: LaShawn Barber)

The Washington Times rightly points out that Planned Parenthood has reached a new low. Offering these so-called gift certificates is nothing more than a political ploy:

Women do not need Planned Parenthood for their basic health care. And the vouchers are not lifesaving, they are political instruments of the pro-choice movement. More importantly, contraception and abortion are not forms of "health care": They are lifestyle choices with life-altering consequences.

This just makes me sick.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ten Trends Evangelicalism Could Do Without

Joe Carter of Culture11 and formerly of The Evangelical Outpost has compiled a list of the Ten Deadly Trappings of Evangelicalism. These are ten trends that Joe has identified that evangelicalism could just as well do without. All I can say is a hearty "Amen" to Joe's remarks. Take time to read through each post as there is a lot of great food for thought.

#1 The Sinner's Prayer and #2 Making Converts

#3 "Do You Know Jesus As...."

#4 Tribulationism and #5 Testimonies

#6 The Altar Call

#7 Witnessing and #8 Protestant Prayers

#9 The Church Growth Movement and #10 Chick Tracts