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Tourney Update

Friday, March 25, 2011

Well, with the Sweet Sixteen half-over, I thought I would give a quick update on The Thinking Man's Tourney Time.

We have a pretty close tourney this year, although Andy Rupert has a pretty significant lead overall and I am not sure he can be caught. Andy Efting has got a pretty solid 2 position, but the next three players are only separated by a total of four points.

In the wild world that is the tourney, last year's winner is bringing up the end, but everyone's eventual champion is still alive except for mine (Duke).

I am enjoying Bible Conference at BJU, so I have not had much time to post or to watch games.

Here are the standings so far.

1 Andy Rupert 176 points 36 correct
2 Andy Efting 164 points 32 correct
3 Ron Bean 158 points 33 correct
4 Jon Knisely 157 points 33 correct
6 Matt Jury 154 points 33 correct
7 Frank Sansone 150 points 32 correct
8 Don Johnson 140 points 30 correct
8 Sarah Nething 140 points 27 correct

A Thinking Man's Tourney Time

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Madness is my favorite sporting event of the year. I love the event for the excitement of the actual games and for the great story lines that usually come out each year. It is neat to see the little guys make a run at the big guys and send them home. It is exciting to see players come out of nowhere and have the tournament of their lives. It is cool to have so many games going on at once (at least in the early rounds) - this also allows you to skip out on the ones that are blowouts and watch the more interesting games.

Each year for a number of years, I have completed a bracket and I have run bracket competitions. I am not sure when I started this, but I know I have run bracket competitions but I remember students at HCA and GCCS being involved in bracket competitions and doing the scoring manually before the days of all these nice internet sites that figure out the scoring for you. For the last few years I have hosted a bracket challenge here at A Thinking Man's Thoughts and this year is no exception.

I have not had the opportunity to watch much of the tournament yet, but I have enjoyed the parts that I have had the opportunity to watch. (I have had the opportunity to listen to some and have found Westwood One to be doing a great job with the radio broadcasts of the game.) I happened to be home briefly (I was bringing home a couple of bookcases) on Thursday and was able to see the last minute or so of the Temple v. Penn State game. Even though I was only able to watch about a minute of the game, I saw two incredible plays in just that little time.

With about 17 seconds left, Penn State's Battle put up a three-point shot from well beyond the arc to tie the ball game. It was an incredible shot and I yelled "Wow" to my son. He came in and watched the last seconds of the game with me. If you watched the game, you know that this was not the end of the story. Temple came back with ball and Fernandez had the ball in his hands with the time running out. He pivoted over and over looking for a shot, but was pretty well defended. With one second left, he leaned over to his left and put up an incredible leaning shot that went in to win the game for Temple. Wow! What a play. THAT is why I love March Madness.

Anyway, after the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament, out standings at The Thinking Man's Tourney Time show a couple of Andy's up in the lead. Long-time sufferer Andy Efting has taken the early lead with 127 points, followed closely by Andy Rupert with 121 points.

Ron Bean has a perfect West Region Bracket so far and Jon Knisely has a perfect East Region Bracket. Everyone other than Matt Jury and I have at least all of their Elite 8 teams remaining. Matt was perhaps doing a little more "rooting" than picking since he had Penn State in the Elite 8. I was a little too convinced in the chances for St. John's since they had knocked off some pretty good teams this year.

So, here are a standings and totals after the Round of 64.

1. Andy Efting 127 points
2. Andy Rupert 121 points
3. Frank Sansone 112 points
4. Matt Jury 110 points
5. Jon Knisely 109 points
6. Ron Bean 108 points
7. Don Johnson 107 points
8. Sarah Nething 102 points

Three P's of Preaching

Saturday, March 19, 2011

John Murray was a theologian who taught at Princeton Theological Seminary and then helped to found Westminster Theological Seminary along with J. Gresham Machen and others.

I saw some comments attributed to John Murray regarding the difference between preaching and lecturing here.

The comments are simple and helpful, so I thought I would pass them on. I feel like I have heard this somewhere else before (perhaps in one of my preaching classes?), but I thought I could not hurt repeating.

So, here is what Murray says distinguishes the two:

A sermon must be Personal.

It must be Passionate.

And it must involve a Plea.

Just someone else's thoughts,


One third of a French Fry short of a Big Mac Value Meal

Friday, March 18, 2011

Warning: Political comments (sort of)

Sometimes when we hear all the big numbers involved in things like the federal budget it is easy to let it go in one ear and out the other. I read this article on the Powerline blog and thought it was a great way to illustrate the current debate over the federal budget.

Anyway, the article is here.

Just someone else's thoughts,



Sunday, March 13, 2011

In a couple of days is the "Ides of March." While most of us do not use the terms "ides", many of us have undoubtedly heard the expression, "Beware the ides of March."

William Shakespeare includes the following exchange in his play, Julius Ceasar.

Act 1, Scene 2
Soothsayer: Caesar!
CAESAR Ha! who calls?
CASCA Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
CAESAR : Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS : A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS : Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
Later, in Act 3, Scene 1
CAESAR [To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer Ay, Caesar; but not gone.

While we generally think of the exchange as simply a story by Shakespeare, according to ancient Greek historian Plutarch in his "Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans", a similar exchange did exist - and it was this that Shakespeare later based his scene upon.

Plutarch - Life of Caesar

The following story, too, is told by many. A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: "Well, the Ides of March are come," and the seer said to him softly: "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone."
If the story is true, Julius Caesar was warned to be on his guard and even warned what day it would be - but he refused to take the warning seriously.

Warnings are important. Warnings often make the difference between life and death and between success and failure. In Ezekiel chapter 3:16-21 and Ezekiel 33:1-9 we find some important instructions about warnings.

Eze 3:16 And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

One of the things we notice in both of these passages is that there is a proper way that warnings are to be dealt with and there is an improper way. Our need to deal properly with warnings is evident whether we are the one giving the warning or the one receiving the warning. We must deal with warnings properly.

I. If we are going to deal properly with warnings we must understand the Nature of Warnings

One of the Leadership Principles from AACS: "Discipline is good, not bad." We could correctly paraphrase that as well to tell us that "Warnings are good, not bad."

When we view warnings as bad, we are hesitant to give the needed warning and when we view warnings as bad, we are angry when we have been given a warning.

A Biblical understanding of warnings, however, tells us that warnings are not a bad thing. Warnings are not given against the person, but are given for the person.

A. Warnings are designed to enlighten, not enrage.

B. Warnings are designed to protect, not punish

When you love someone, you want to protect them and so it is necessary to warn them.

C. Warnings are a depiction of concern, not condemnation

When Paul writes to the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 4:14, he mentions the relationship in connection with the warning.
I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.

Solomon reminds us of this truth, as well:

Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Therefore, we need to understand it is the loving thing to do to warn others and that the person who is warning you is the one who is loving you. The one who is telling you it is okay to continue in your sin is the one who is hating you.

II. If We are Going to Deal Properly with Warnings, we must understand the Instruments of Warnings

There are some instruments that God uses to warn us. Two of those instruments are mentioned in this passage.

A. The Word of God - "hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me." (Ezek 3:17)

The Psalmist and Paul also remind us that the Word of God gives us warning and reproof.

Ps 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That is one reason why it is so difficult to be faithful to your devotions when you are choosing sin - you don't want to hear the warnings from God's Word. It is also one of the reasons why it is easier to get involved in sin when you are not being faithful with your time in God's Word - you are missing out on the warnings from God's word.

Someone has said "This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book."

The second instrument that God has chosen to give warning is his people.

B. The People of God

This whole passage emphasizes the fact that God has chosen people to give warnings.

The reality is that we, as believers, are to be instruments of warnings to others.

Paul repeatedly emphasizes this point:

Ac 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

1Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

Ro 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

III. The Response to Warnings

One of the most important things to understand about warnings, is the response to warnings. In Ezekiel 33:3-5, we have a record of the two responses to warnings:

If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

A. A Warning May Be Rejected

When legitimate warnings are rejected, the one rejecting the warning is heading for destruction.

Again Proverbs reminds of this:
Proverbs 29:1 ¶ He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

(See also Proverbs 1:24-31)

Repeatedly we see this in Scripture. Ahab & Jezebel rejected, rather than accepted the warnings of God through Elijah - and God destroyed them. Pharoah & the Egyptians rejected, rather than accepted the warnings of God through Moses - and God brought great destruction.

B. A Warning May Be Accepted

Ezek 33:5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

David understood the proper response to a warning and he said in Psalm 141:5 "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."

God in His great mercy and love offers you a different path. If you choose to heed His warnings, you shall be delivered rather than destroyed.

This is the desired response - by God and by the warner. (Matt 18:15 - "thou hast gained thy brother"; Gal 6:1 - "restore such a one")

Warnings are important and we must deal with warnings properly. When we understand the Biblical truth regarding warnings, we should be much more inclined to deal with warnings properly. We must understand the nature of warnings - that they are "Good, not bad" - that they are designed to enlighten, not enrage, they are designed to protect, not punish and they are a depiction of concern, not condemnation. We must understand the instruments of warning - that God has chosen to warn us through His Word and through His people. And we must make the right response to warning - accepting rather than rejecting the warnings.

The story of Harry Randall Truman from Mt. St. Helens is a great illustration of the danger of refusing to heed a warning. (You can read of Harry Truman at Wikipedia here.)
Harry Truman was warned again and again of the dangers, yet he refused to heed the warnings and destruction and death came.

What is God dealing with you about today? What warning has God brought up to you? Perhaps God is warning you about the danger of your eternal soul - will you heed his warning today? Perhaps God is warning you about a particular sin that you are allowing into your life - will you heed his warning today?

Will you deal properly with warnings today?

(The preceding reflection is based on this morning's sermon at Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury.)

Good Soldiers

Monday, March 07, 2011

One of our men leaves this coming week to serve our country in the middle east. He is a good man and he loves the Lord, he loves his family, and he loves his country. He will be missed around here by many (including me and my family), but I rejoice in his willingness to serve our nation and I will pray for his safety as he is away, as well as for his influence for Christ amongst his fellow-soldiers and for his family that is left behind.

The Bible often uses the picture of soldiers and physical warfare to remind believers of the very real, but invisible, spiritual warfare of which we are all involved. As I thought of my friend in preparation for leaving this week, I was drawn to Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-4

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Paul uses a number of illustrations in this passage regarding the nature of Christian service and Christian living. Among these illustrations are comparisons to racing or competition ("strive for masteries"), to farming ("the husbandman that laboureth"), and this passage here on being a good soldier.

When Paul speaks of this soldier, I find it challenging to consider the traits that he lists, for these traits ought to be evident not only in the lives of good soldiers who are fighting the physical battles, but of all of us who desire to fight successfully in the spiritual warfare.

A Good Soldier Endures Hardness

One of the realities of being a soldier is that there is often times great hardship in being a soldier. There is the hardship of the conditions in the field. There is the hardship of the lost opportunities of things that could be done were the soldier at home instead of far away. Perhaps the greatest hardship, however, is the hardship of separation from loved ones.

In the spiritual realm, there are times when there may be physical hardships in the spiritual battles - and Paul certainly knew something of those hardships (see 2 Corinthians 10, for instance), the reality for most believers in America is that any "hardness" we may have to endure for Christ is not likely to be that of the physical nature. The reality is that the hardness that you and I are most likely to be called to endure involves relationships - relationships that are strained as we seek to do those things that are pleasing to Christ rather than following through with the world's way of doing things. Of course, as believers, we can take heart in the Lord's promise that this is to be expected (John 15:18).

A Good Soldier Ends Entanglements

Another reality of being a good soldier is that the soldier who is on the battlefield has to recognize that the entanglements of this world need to be avoided if he is going to fight successfully. Focusing on the things of his world back home instead of focusing on the task at hand can be very dangerous on the battlefield. Even good things must be left behind for the sake of successful soldiering.

In the spiritual realm, the picture is again obvious. Believers need to be careful to end entanglements with the things of this world if we are going to successfully serve as soldiers for Christ. It should be obvious that the sinful things of this world ought to be avoided - after all, "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) However, successful soldiering does not just involve ending the entanglements with sinful things. Successful soldiering also often requires that we get rid of the silly things and even the "not bad, but unnecessary" things.

A Good Soldier Pleases His Commander

Another reality of the characteristics of a good soldier is that the good soldier is careful to do those things that please his commander. He does not follow his own agenda in the battle, but he instead follows the orders and instructions given unto him by his commander. A soldier that "goes rogue" is a danger to himself and those around him.

In the spiritual realm, believers need to be focused on pleasing Christ. While we recognize that we can do in our own strength apart from Christ (John 15:5), He has nevertheless given us instructions and commands and as good soldiers it should be our hearts desire and our life's practice to please Him. Too many times it is easy for believers to pursue our own agenda rather than Christ's agenda. Our flesh wants us to please it, instead of pleasing Christ. The world around us clamors for us to please the world instead of pleasing Christ. A good soldier focuses instead on pleasing Christ.

What about your life? Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ?

Have you shown yourself to be a person who is willing to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to take the ridicule of "friends" and even family for standing up for Christ and the truth? Enduring hardness requires dedication to the cause and discipline to carry through.

What is your relationship to the entanglements of this world? Are you eliminating all sinful, silly, and useless entanglements or are you caught in a web of wrong actions, wrong affections and wasted time?

When we think of our daily walk, whose agenda are we pursuing? Who are we seeking to please? Are we seeking to please our Master and Commander or are we seeking to please ourselves?

May each of us strive to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Just my thoughts,


* The preceding is (to some degree) a summarized reflection on the message I preached this morning at Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury.