Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Finally, a tear-worthy moment in Major League Baseball

On September 8, 1998 my wife mocked me as I shed tears of joy watching Mark McGwire break Roger Maris' home run record. The 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike demoralized fans so badly it almost devastated our national past time. I was having a very difficult time getting over the strike and what is said about the players and owners.  Despite the Yankees dominant push during that time frame, the money-hungry, greedy, and selfish owners and players really put myself and many fans off for some time after that strike.  1998's "incredible" home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemed to bring some kind of redemption to America's beleagured game.  So yes, I shed a tear that day in September 1998. The game had been redeemed with one swing of Big Mac's bat.

As it turned out, my wife's mockery was unwittingly prophetic. The redemption I thought was wrought with McGwire's long ball was false.  A few years later we all learned that "magical" 1998 season was an epic farce and McGwire was a fraud among a countless number of frauds. The freakish, steroidal mockery of baseball continued with Barry Bonds and a host of others. The baseball steroid era took over the early 2000's and I confess a deep cynicism grew in my inner being toward the once noble American pastime. Icon after icon fell over the next ten years in baseball. The game seemed to have lost it's honor and maybe even it's soul.

I vowed to never shed a tear again for Major League Baseball "historic feats". Who could trust any of it?

I have not rescinded or retracted or recanted my vow, but tonight, I failed to keep it. Tears snuck up on me in a truly surprising way.

For tonight was the MLB All-Star game.  Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of baseball and much beloved New York Yankee,  took the mound in what will be his last appearance at such a venue marking the halfway point of his final season.  The players on both teams and every fan in the stadium rose to give him a much deserved standing ovation while Enter Sandman played one last time.

Unlike Canseco, Giambi, Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Ramirez, Clemens, A-Rod, Cabrera, and a myriad of other cheaters, Mariano Rivera has provided a career to behold, untainted, and honorable.  I broke my vow tonight, unintentionally.  I will do my best to not let it happen again.

But yes, it's taken over fifteen years, but this evening- July 16, 2013, another tear-worthy moment happened in Major League Baseball as the greatest closer of all time began the swan song of his unmatchable career. Mariano Rivera stood on the mound, took off his cap and acknowledged the reception from the 45,000+ fans and players. He then went on to retire the side, 1-2-3, as he has done so many, many times before.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A buck head mount in the main room reveals much...

I Have lordship over just a few square feet of "my"physical house, but they are choice square feet for sure!  Above the living room mantle is mounted my best whitetail buck harvested with a bow.  My wife is not a redneck wife, so it was a major concession for her to allow such a manly display.

{stick with me, I'm going somewhere extremely insightful with this}

My friend, who will be Redeemer's next youth pastor, is in town with his wife looking for a house. Listening to them discuss the various houses they have visited reminds me of the three times Shari and I have bought one. Men and women have different perspectives and feelings about what makes a house the right buy or what makes a house "a home". Anyways, it's fun listening to them deliberate.

As providence would have it, at lunch today a friend gave me an interesting article from the National Review. Carrie Lukas reviews "Men on Strike" by Helen Smith which is about the way men are "boycotting marriage, fatherhood, and the American Dream."  Lukas makes a choice statement-

"Men's existence is curtailed not solely in the public sphere, but also often in their own homes. While women control the main living space in most homes, men and their interests and hobbies are often relegated to the basement, to what commonly is referred to as a 'man cave.' While the practice of forcing men to take refuge in a corner of their own homes is snickered at, Smith makes a compelling case that this is a demeaning, and telling, trend."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Only Jesus can make a Saint

While the Vatican headlines announce Pope Francis clearing the way for John Paul II and John XXIII to be declared “saints”, I am thankful that Jesus cleared the way for me to be a Saint categorically. I don’t deserve the title “saint”, but Jesus does, and I’m united to Him by faith.  Only Jesus can make a Saint.

Romanism has many complex doctrines, practices, processes, and traditions. One of the more interesting-especially for it’s creativity- is how a person is declared a “saint”. In fairness, Romanism teaches that all people in heaven are saints. Sainthood on earth has to do with naming really special dead people saints so when referring to them, you must properly use “saint” before their name. You know- St. Mary, St.Paul, St. Bonaventure, St. Joan of Arc, St. Anthony, St. Louis, etc. What’s so special about saints that get named on earth than all those in heaven? Well, they did more impacting stuff than the rest of us, according to...someone. Mary is the mother of Jesus, so of course she’s a saint, right? Paul was an Apostle, so there again, it’s obvious he’s a saint. Bonaventure had a cool name and he was a significant church leader in his day-BAM- Saint. Joan of Arc basically championed a protestant-like position about God’s grace which got her burned at the stake by the Catholic Church...and so was made a saint. Wait a minute...that’s confusing, right? Thankfully, the matter got cleared up a few years later when the Roman Church retried the case and found her innocent. Unfortunately, she was already dead. If only the Pope would have been more involved in her case from the beginning, I’m sure he would have exerted his infallible powers and avoided the whole debacle. Instead, the Roman powers screwed up, killed her, then recanted killing her...well anyways, she’s a Saint for sticking up to an erring church. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes something like six to eight thousand saints.

How does one become a saint in the Roman system? 

I grew up Roman Catholic. I actually tried hard to be a good, learned Catholic. I remember what I was taught about this subject, but have since learned Roman doctrine usually has more than one angle or explanation. Basically the process is dependent upon evidence presented to Church officials proving the  person in consideration in fact lived a holy life, had “faith”, and had a special commission from God. Leaders in the church will also look at miracles done by the person while alive and dead (yes...miracles after dying!) as evidence that God is working through that person. After a person dies, if they are potentially saint material, they are labeled “Servant of God”. Then, shortly thereafter, the label “Venerable” will be attached to their name. “Blessed” is the next title of honor bestowed (beatification), and finally, they are called “Saint”. Canonization is being named or declared a Saint. To be canonized these days, considerable research is done about the person’s life. A certain amount of miracles have to be attributed to the person up for sainthood-which is the most mysterious of all criteria.

The actual act of canonization usually takes place in St. Peter’s Square outside the Vatican in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Word on the Vatican street is that John Paul II and John XXIII are going to made saints soon by Pope Francis. If you aren’t aware of John XXIII, you can still see his dead body on display at St. Peter’s. He was the Pope who called for the Second Vatican Counsel in the 1960's.

The current Pope, of course, in the Roman system, is the one who makes the final declaration on sainthood. The Pope is the final authority in the Roman Church, not Scripture. No, the above beatification and canonization processes are not found in Scripture, but rather the result of hundreds of years of tradition.

Protestants, in my opinion, get too bent out of shape when Roman Catholics make saints. I used to be that way, but not any more. John Paul II can be labeled a “saint” by Pope Francis, but so what, really? It’s not the same meaning as the Apostle Paul’s uses of the label “saint” for all those who are Christians, or to use Paul's designation- for those “in Christ”. To be “in Christ” is to be a person who has faith in Jesus Christ's work on the cross alone for the forgiveness of their sins. The instrument of faith is what God uses to put us “in Christ”. Once we are “in Christ”, we are, in fact, saints. Saint is just a translation of “holy one”. In Christ, we are holy. In Christ, in a legal sense, we have Christ’s righteousness credited to our account, and are therefore declared holy. If you have faith (trust, reliance, dependence) in Christ, you are a saint- even before you go to heaven.

Scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints because they are “in Christ”. The New Testament is replete with examples of Christians being called saints. In the book of Acts (9:32) "Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda". Later in the same book, chapter 26- "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons …“ Philippians 4-"Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…" How about Paul in Ephesians 5? - "For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ". So, the saints aren’t only in heaven, if a living person is “in Christ”, they are a saint on earth.

So I don’t get too wound up by the latest round of new saints named by the Roman Catholic Church. I just view it as one of their less impacting unscriptural traditions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not keen on what Pope Pius XII said and how it promotes praying to saints-

“There is good reason why the cult of the saints in heaven is valued by Christian people, that is, so that they may employ their help, and that they may be raised up by the protection of those in whose praises we delight. And from this, it may be easy to understand why the holy liturgy offers us many formulas of prayers in which it invokes the assistance of the saints in heaven.” 

But still, I have far more concern about Romanism’s view of divine authority, Mary, communion, justification, and anathema-pronouncing on us Protestants than I do their delight in declaring people like John Paul II and John XXIII saints.

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”   - Saint (when he wrote it) Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:2

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Sons of Liberty- Johnny Tremain blast from the past!

On this Fourth of July 2013 I am taken back to a classic 1957 film I saw in 6th grade- Johnny Tremain. Yes, It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree...yes we are the sons! We are the sons! The sons of liberty!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013