Monthly Archives: January 2010

Least Adopted Children, Rebuilding Men, and the Hilarious Jean-Ralphio

According to the NYT, black boys are the least likely children to be adopted.  This is helpful for Christians who have a heart for orphan care to keep in mind.

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This is an interesting website from an African-American pastor who is calling for the renewal of men in his community.  Looks like great stuff.

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Have you met Jean-Ralphio?  Many of us have, though we may not have encountered this utterly hilarious Parks & Recreation character.  Note to men: avoid being like this guy by any means possible…

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Garry Kasparov in The New York Review of Books on chess, artificial intelligence, and his career.  Quite interesting.

Did you know this:

Another staple, a variation of which is also used by Rasskin-Gutman, is to say there are more possible chess games than the number of atoms in the universe.

Wow.

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Have a great weekend, all.

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Boys and Their Games: How Far Some Men Go to Play Pickup Soccer

For those of you who have the unfortunate fate in life to be linked to a man who loves playing pickup sports (I’m thinking wives here, primarily), this selection might provide some solace.  There is strength in numbers, after all.

It comes at the beginning of a NYT Magazine piece entitled “Vigor Quest” by Tom Dunkel on the lengths to which some older folks are going to keep their bodies young in order to play sports.  That’s a matter deserving consideration.  But you’ll get no such rumination from this little blog.  Instead, I merely wanted to quote this to show that, as many know, men will go to utterly insane lengths to, well, play sports.  If that seems crazy, it’s because it is.  It’s also how things are.  Sorry.

Enough blathering.  Here’s the quotation from the article:

NEARLY EVERY SUNDAY morning — Easter and Mother’s Day included — John Bellizzi says goodbye to his wife, Francesca, grabs an equipment bag and slides into the front seat of his black BMW. He drives to a high-school soccer field about 10 miles from his home in the New York City suburb of Rye.

Bellizzi, who is 51, is a member of the Old Timers Soccer Club, a band of stubborn, aging athletes who refuse to fall under the spell of golf. Technically, these are just pickup games, but they have been happening weekly since the early 1980s. The players go to the trouble of hiring a referee and battle full tilt (think slide tackles and heels-over-head bicycle kicks) for an hour and a half. Many of them were high-school and collegiate stars, decades ago. “One guy had a hip replacement,” Bellizzi, a former soccer captain at Queens College, says. “He was out for a year, then he came back.”

Advil, hot tubs and surgery keep most of the Old Timers going, but Bellizzi has ventured further. Two summers ago he became a patient of Dr. Florence Comite, a Manhattan endocrinologist affiliated with Cenegenics Medical Institute. Cenegenics, a privately held company based in Las Vegas, claims to have 10,000 patients and annual revenue of $50 million, making it the country’s foremost purveyor of so-called age-management medicine.

I certainly don’t endorse what the article’s subject is doing to keep his body young (it seems quite dangerous and untested), but I did find it amusing that he loves soccer so much that he will spend tens of thousands of dollars just to improve his performance in pickup games.  Those of us who creak and groan our way through our weekly pickup games (at TEDS it’s Friday morning at 8am every week, rain or sun) can only dream of such enhancement.  Our wives can celebrate that no such improvement will happen.

Here’s another article about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and how he plays pickup ball (and here’s one I’ve linked to before).  I have some significant ideological differences with Duncan and other current members of the Administration, but I have to say, the amount of pickup basketball Obama, Duncan and others play is positively inspiring (to men–not necessarily to long-suffering wives!).

(Image: Henry Leutwyler for The New York Times)

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Keller’s Relaunched Redeemer Church Planting Center

Just heard word of this.  Sounds cool.

Redeemer Church Planting Center is now Redeemer City to City. Please visit our new website. We hope you will download resources, write a blog, or support our ministry online.

Looks like this new site will be of much help to church planters and others who are interested in church planting.

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The Horror of Abortion from an Abortionist’s Perspective

This chilling testimony about the emotional effect of abortion comes an article in The Weekly Standard by David Daleiden and John Shields entitled “Mugged by Ultrasound”.  It is a visceral quotation, I am warning you.

In general, abortion providers have censored their own emotional trauma out of concern to protect abortion rights. In 2008, however, abortionist Lisa Harris endeavored to begin “breaking the silence” in the pages of the journal Reproductive Health Matters. When she herself was 18 weeks pregnant, Dr. Harris performed a D&E abortion on an 18-week-old fetus. Harris felt her own child kick precisely at the moment that she ripped a fetal leg off with her forceps:

Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life.

Read the whole article.

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Reading this article coincided with some recent reflection on my part on abortion.  If we conservative evangelicals think that we can avoid preaching on abortion, we’re kidding ourselves.  The Bible is far from silent on this matter.  When you’re covering Pharoah’s sacrifice of children in Exodus, or the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11, or the effort of Herod to kill the Christ-child in Matthew 2, you are in direct contact with texts that speak to abortion and the killing of children. (Russ Moore has an article on this that I commend to you.)

When you consider that you are not preaching these texts in a culture that celebrates the life of the fetus, but seeks to extinguish it to the tune of millions of unborn children each year, then you have a real quandary on your hands.  Even those who do only the most elementary application of the text to our age can’t help but see that there is a massive and bloody connection between the efforts to kill children in the Bible and those that continue in our own day.

We have been led by so many different commentators to think hard and well about ways to apply the Bible’s teaching to our own day.  But we have to be very careful here.  We shouldn’t pick and choose what cultural sins we call out and what sins we leave alone.  Nobody protests when we preach against our lust for success; many will protest when, in the course of our preaching through the whole canon of Scripture, we preach on the necessity to defend the lives of unborn children.

If and when they do so, we should realize that this is not an aberration; this is the way of the cross.  Yes, we should be wise as serpents, but we are also called to be salt and light.  The examples of the apostles call us to preach boldly and courageously before the Lord with no regard for our lives.  Perhaps many of us who desire to “engage the culture” should read old texts like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and soak up a little bit of the courage contained in it.

Of course, I am not advocating that we preach in favor of certain pro-life resolutions.  I’m also not advocating that we preach single-issue messages on abortion.  I’m also not suggesting that, if we’re preaching on Matthew 2 or some other text, that we devote the majority of our sermon to the issue of abortion.  I’m merely saying that we are not being fanciful or political when we preach on abortion from texts that cry out for application of this subject to our present-day.

Sometimes we reformed practitioners of expository preaching tie ourselves up in knots on the question of preaching and politics.  Of course we should not generally preach on certain laws and resolutions; of course we should not have a political pulpit.  But just because an issue is debated in the political realm does not mean that when we are in a given text by the natural rhythm of our preaching calendar we avoid preaching on it.  Though that action may proceed from a good motive (the desire to not politicize the pulpit), it may actually end up silencing the Scripture and its relevance for our contemporary age.

We will have to preach carefully and responsibly on abortion and other scriptural subjects, but this must not, it seems to me, muzzle our clear and courageous denunciation of a practice so wicked as abortion.

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Act Like a Man, Dude (Conference Edition)

Check out the upcoming Act Like Men conference in Columbus, Ohio on February 6, 2010.  It’s hosted by Veritas Church of Columbus and looks great.  Here’s the description:

Act Like Men is a one-day conference in Columbus, Ohio that exists to rally and challenge men to live into Paul’s call for Gospel transformation in every aspect of their lives. This event features local and national speakers addressing what it means to Act Like Men. Key topics will include: personal responsibility and leadership in their homes, families, churches and culture; Godly use of time, finances and resources.

Check out the whole thing.  Speakers include Daniel Montgomery of Sojourn Community Church of Louisville, Kentucky and Nick Nye of Veritas Columbus.  Acts29, a sweet church planting group, is a sponsor.

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The NYT will start charging for a certain amount of content in 2011.  Readers of this blog will recognize that I am distraught by this news.

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Andrew Breitbart, conservative publisher and general mover-and-shaker in the political world, has launched a new website called Big Journalism.  Also note Big Government and Big Hollywood.

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Live-Stream of Rich Mouw on “Evangelical Pietism”

The Henry Center of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is pleased to make today’s 1PM CST lecture by Dr. Richard Mouw on evangelical pietism available for free by live stream.  To view the lecture, please visit http://tiuproductions.com/livestream.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Richard Mouw | Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA “Confessions of an Evangelical Pietist”  (1pm in ATO Chapel at TEDS)

    The Christian community needs to work at integrating our doctrine, action and piety (”head, hands and heart”). But which takes priority? And a closely related issue: what, in the most basic sense, is the Bible trying to “do” to us? Shape the way we think? Guide us in the activist programs we align ourselves with in the word? Transform our inner life? Obviously, all three are crucial. But Richard Mouw will explain why he keeps coming back to the fundamental need to be guided in everything else by the kind of piety that characterized the “sawdust trail” of our revivalist past.

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Tucker Carlson’s New Political Website: Daily Caller

Those of you who take an interest in politics and conservative thought should note a new website started by Tucker Carlson of Fox News.  It’s called The Daily Caller and it’s good a lot of good content, including a column by one of my favorite writers, Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard.

I’m sure that I won’t agree with everything on the site, but it looks like a good place to go for conservative political commentary. On another note, it’s interesting to see a website promoting content once reserved for more traditional journalistic endeavors. Journalists and writers may increasingly migrate to this sort of site over traditional news outlets.  We’ll see.  Whether that’s true or not, check out the site if you’re so inclined.

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Principles for Good Basketball, Or, The Exorcising of Fifteen Years of Pickup Basketball Ghosts

This post comes out of nowhere.  No one has asked for it.  It is a thought-child that must be birthed.  It stems, as the title suggests, from my years of frustration playing pickup basketball.  If you play unorganized basketball–and you are not worthy of this blog if you do not–you will understand.  Actually, you’ll understand even if you play organized ball, which actually in a good number of cases is less logical than pickup.

This post is for everyone who has played with the guy who shoots every time he gets the ball; for those who have suffered through disjointed offensive schemes for hours on end; for defenders who work their tails off only to have one guy get scored on every possession; and so on.  Those who play pickup ball can come up with many more such examples of bad basketball.

I won’t drag this on forever.  I love basketball; I hate bad basketball; and I am opinionated enough to give you my rules for good basketball.  Contrary to what many high school coaches teach you, I don’t think good basketball is hard to play.  It’s actually pretty simple.  Follow some clear principles and you’ll be well on your way to efficient and fun roundball.  You may not necessarily get to the mountaintop, but you can go very far without arcane diagrams and authoritarian play-calling.

1. Move the ball.  Pass often.
2. Attack the defense, looking to kick to open shooters.  With sharp passing and the pick and roll, this is probably the easiest way to get a good offensive flow going.
3. Run pick and rolls with a guard who can shoot and a big man who can attack the basket.
4. Whenever you can, run the ball.  Get easy baskets.  Even if you don’t run and shoot, at least pick the low-hanging fruit.
5. Play good help defense.  This is not hard.  It’s 95% effort, honestly.  You don’t need to swat shots to be a good defender.  You just need to play with a reasonable amount of intelligence.
6. Encourage teammates who are working hard and taking the right kind of risks.  Talk diplomatically with those who are over-shooting.  Kindness goes a long way.  Instead of a guy getting down and making more mistakes (which almost always happens in an unkind environment), he’ll likely work hard on defense and play even better.
7.  LOOK FOR MISMATCHES.  Sorry to blast you.  But this is huge.  Note: if playing with a ball hog, this will not happen.  But it must for good basketball.  All things being equal, attack the weakest defender.
8. Go to the hot hand.  Go to the hot hand.  Go to the hot hand.  How many times have I seen this not happen?  This is one of the single best ways to lose out there.  Basketball is a highly psychological game–shooting is the crux of this.  Good shooters enjoy good psychological health.  Go to them.
9. On defense, do your best to match up well.  Shifting mid-game can really help if things aren’t working out.
10. Play to the glory of God.  Don’t play for yourself.  That will avoid all kinds of trouble–easy discouragement, ball-hogging, and so on.

Okay, that was completely unprovoked.  Thanks for reading.  May your pickup games improve exponentially.

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Announcing the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity

The Henry Center, my employer, is very pleased to make the following announcement (jointly made at the HCTU blog).

From: HCTU Director Doug Sweeney
RE: New Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS
Date: 1/12/2010

In conjunction with the Jonathan Edwards Center of Yale University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is pleased to announce the formation of a new Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS, effective immediately.  This partnership was formalized on the campus of TEDS on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.  Kenneth P. Minkema, director of the Yale Center, and Douglas A. Sweeney, director of the Trinity Center, both spoke to this groundbreaking development and noted its excellent prospects.

The Center at TEDS is the newest of several satellite Edwards Centers founded by Yale’s Edwards Center in strategic locations around the world. The purpose of these Centers is to promote awareness of and scholarship on Edwards in the academy and also the church.  Existing locations include Germany (Tübingen), Poland, South Africa, and Australia (Ridley College).  The Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity is, apart from the Yale Center, the only existing such center in North America.

The JEC at Trinity provides a rare opportunity for us to engage the larger world of Edwards studies, and to share the riches of that world with our community.  The Center will debut a website near the end of February that will offer our academic and ecclesial communities access to a wide range of Edwards resources.  The Center will also feature a designated computer terminal in the library on which students and visiting scholars will be able to access a wealth of resources for the study of Edwards and related figures and movements throughout history. Trinity is the only school in North America, other than Yale, with access to this range of materials.

As Director of the Center, Sweeney is currently planning the further development of its work. In coming weeks, the JEC will announce a program of events.  In addition to regular conferencing, the JEC at Trinity will offer two lecture series: “Jonathan Edwards and the Church,” which will feature the best Christian Edwards scholars in the world in conversation with Sweeney and a variety of clergy who are interested in Edwards and his legacies to the church; and “New Directions in Edwards Studies,” which will feature cutting-edge research on Edwards and his influence.

Furthermore, the JEC at TEDS will seek to encourage Trinity students, and other students in the region, to undertake advanced work on Edwards and his legacies around the world. It will provide pastors and scholars with up-to-date web resources for making good on Edwards’ legacy and for staying up on the most important Edwards scholarship.

Those interested in the JEC at TEDS should look for a second announcement in late February that will make public the new website and announce a range of programs.  It is with gratefulness to God, and thanks to our friends at Yale, that we announce this unique partnership.

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Stay tuned for more on this.  I’m excited for this development, and I look forward to sharing more with readers of this blog about this groundbreaking partnership.  No other American evangelical institution (or any other institution) enjoys such a partnership in Edwards studies.

As many know, the JEC at Yale is a great work, and it will is exciting to think of how the JEC at TEDS can further the work begun there and bless God’s church through its efforts.

(Photo of Sweeney (L) and Minkema (R) by Jeff Calhoun/TEDS)

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