The Rants of Richelieu

Every Man's Battle

On Monday I finished the book "Every Man's Battle." This Bible-based book should be required reading for all Christian married men. It addresses the issue of sexual temptation, and emphasizes the Bible standard: that we be free of every hint of sexual immorality. That means not taking that second look, or watching movies with gratuitous nudity. This is something that ALL men struggle with. Wives, remember that marriage is no cure-all; in fact, most men find that the lure of sexual lust escalates after marriage. Now that doesn't mean that all Christian men are looking at pornography or considering an affair (although some do fall into those sins); what it does mean is that sexual temptation still exists and can seduce us--even after marriage. I suggest the book for women as well so they can gain some insight into how men's minds work. You may not like some of it, but that is how your husband's mind is working. The book includes a battle plan that involves three areas: eyes, mind, heart.
1. Bounce/Starve the eyes. This is a matter of discipline! Your thoughts and feelings will not initially want to do this. When you see an attractive woman or a sexual image of any kind, bounce your eyes away from that. Since this is a matter of discipline, you will experience failure at first--you'll look away and then look back again. Over time, though (the book says six weeks) this will become a habit. And, as the Bible says, our disciplined actions will effect a change in our feelings and thoughts: will won't have the desire to seek gratification from images of other women. "Starving the eyes" takes it one step further. If you know that you have certain problem areas (for me its images of cleavage or legs in miniskirts), then don't even look in the first place. This is big in the workplace: if you know of a woman who is attractive and wears provocative clothing, then avoid her as much as possible and limit your required contact. Starving the eyes also applies to what we watch on TV, movies, or the Internet. It doesn't help to watch movies with simulated sex, suggested sex, or just plain sexual images. Take a look at your movies and ask which ones have a sexual effect on you. (Just so you know, the answer should not be none.)
2. Take every thought captive. This must be implemented even after bouncing the eyes. Often you will bounce your eyes away from an image, but a thought about what you saw lingers in your mind. The authors of the book talk of your sword and shield. Tell yourself, "I have made a covenant with my eyes and will not look lustfully at another woman" (see Job on that one). If a thought lingers, say, "I have no right to look at that or think about that; that does not belong to me." By looking at other women we really are stealing images--things that don't belong to us. Taking thoughts captive pertains to work relationships especially. You may find a coworker whose personality appeals to you; perhaps she's interested in things that you like but your wife does not. Or there may be a coworker who is interested in you. Either way, you need to cut things off. If she likes you, play the dweeb--make yourself undesirable. If you seem to be making a connection with another woman beyond the realm of casual acquaintance, then limit your contact with her. Focus on your wife and seek to share her interests.
3. Cherish your wife. Treat her like a queen. All too often men become too comfortable with what they have and stop working to improve the relationship. No matter how long you have been married, there is always something more to learn about your wife. The more you bounce your eyes and take thoughts captive, the more attractive your wife will be to you. This is the way God intended it: sex is reserved for marriage and we are not to draw any kind of sexual gratification (that includes just looking for a few seconds at any sexual image) from anyone other than our wives.

NOTE: this battle plan will only work for those who are truly born again Christians. Those of you who are unsaved will be arrogant and feel it is your right to look at other women. I've already observed on Yappi how married men make sexual statements about women other than their wives. As despicable as I find that, I also understand that that is their sinful natures at work. Until the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sins, they will continue to get sexual gratification elsewhere.
Having issues at group therapy

There are some concerns about group therapy. Recently, I have felt some tension and just the other day I had a confrontation. Now this isn't what happened in the old group--I'm in no danger of being kicked out--but nevertheless I am concerned.

You see, the atmosphere in this group is so much better than the old group I was in. It's much more supportive and success in therapy seems to be the goal. I don't get the feel (most of the time) that the system is trying to force me into some design; that is, they don't come up with preconceived ideas as to why I did what I did. At the previous place, the therapists just heard what I did and then jumped to their own conclusion about why I did it.

Even though the atmosphere is better, there are still times when my philosophy clashes with the system. This issue has been exacerbated by my recent spiritual revival. Despite what people may think, modern psychology is not compatible with biblical principles. The Bible does not allow for things like mental illnesses where no actual physiological damage exists. Each person is a sinner and therefore makes sinful choices: his or her only choice is to surrender to God's will and experience the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that you admit what you did wrong and then repent. You change your actions--this is a matter of discipline--which then influences your feelings and eventually your thoughts. Modern psychology looks for some way to alter your thoughts, which then and change your feelings and then your actions.

There is some tension and I'm somewhat at a loss on how to handle it. I've been trying to get in touch with Pastor Jerry to discuss this issue. I need to learn how to be both cooperative in group therapy while still taking a stand on my Christian convictions.
Working on not being prejudiced

Things have gotten a bit tense with my therapy. I have to take individual sessions right now, although no one has really told me why. It's all so ambiguous, and I have been somewhat frustrated. As the events have played out, however, I've been able to see things from a different perspective--a divine perspective.

No, I'm not claiming I'm divine. What I am saying is that as a born again Christian, I shouldn't be looking at life from a human perspective. The human reaction is to say, "What good could possibly come from these individual sessions?" But God is sovereign and He has a plan even when I don't know what it is. He is in control, and He is more concerned with my character than my comfort. These three months when I have to take individual sessions (in addition to my weekly group sessions) are an opportunity to have my character refined by God's Holy Spirit.

In my recent time of spiritual growth, I feel God has revealed His way of reform: discipline. You see, the secular way is the opposite of the biblical way. Modern psychology looks for some secret meaning or some event in one's past that opens the portal to the entire thought process. The Bible teaches that you do the right thing first--even before you feel like doing it!

Yes, it's that simple, although the process itself is not that simple. Here is how we often perceive how our mind and body interact:
Makes sense, doesn't it? Our thoughts stimulate feelings within us, leading us to take actions based upon those feelings. That's how things work, which is why modern psychology concentrates on the thoughts. You see, we can't influence our feelings directly; for example, if you dislike a certain type of music or food or movie or book or anything, you aren't going to suddenly like them unless your thoughts change first. The secular approach looks for some embedded secret within the thoughts. That's why they concentrate on "Why?" Why did I do what I did? If I can answer that question, then I can change my thoughts, which then alter my feelings and eventually my actions.

Well, that's not the biblical approach. The Bible teaches discipline in our actions. The Bible teaches this process:
The Bible teaches that you do right first and then let your thoughts catch up. This principle pervades scripture. You don't start reading the Bible every day because you feel like it; you do it because God said so. You read the Bible initially whether you feel like it or not. Over time, that action--now a habit--changes your feelings toward Bible reading. Eventually, your thoughts are changed; you desire to read the Bible and look forward to studying it.

This is true in all areas of life. For example, take pornography. I once had a terrible pornography habit (I purposely refrain from using the word "addiction" because that is not a biblical term and implies some mental disability), and I tried all kinds of things to stop looking at it. I looked at it in the wrong way, and my method led to binging. I would stop looking at it, but not attack the underlying issue, which was sexual lust in general. Eventually, though, I was led to see that by attacking the sexual lust issue from the actions side, I could discipline my feelings and thoughts. Now this won't happen overnight, and not at all if you aren't committed. I am committed to removing every hint of sexual immorality in my life (as the Bible says), so I employ the biblical battle plan as presented in "Every Man's Battle." By training my eyes not to dwell on sexual images and my mind to not entertain sinful thoughts, I have been able to influence my feelings and my thoughts. The battle is not finished yet, but I've seen great progress. In fact, I rarely have the desire to look at sexual images other than my lovely wife. In time, God will fully eliminate those desires.

That's how I am now approaching my Christian life now--the biblical way. I began reading the Bible and praying every day because God commanded Christians to do so. Now, my feelings and thoughts have caught up: every day I get up excited to study His Word and speak to him in prayer! The same principle works in my sexual thoughts: I no longer look at every attractive woman with lust.

Now there are still issues in which I'm still in the stage of disciplining my actions where my feelings and thoughts have not caught up yet. I'm working on being kind and courteous to all my coworkers and submissive to my superiors. Much of the time, I don't feel like doing those things; my instinct is often to be arrogant and defiant of authority. However, I work to do the right things because it is right. Already, I have seen some improvement, and I have faith that over time my feelings and thoughts will catch up.

A huge area that needs work is in the area of prejudice--prejudice based upon intellect. Pastor Jerry helped me in this area. He showed me that my method of evaluation is based upon my strengths. Actually, we all do that. If you are someone who keeps yourself in good physical shape, you'll evaluate other people by how they take care of their bodies. Or if you're compassionate, you'll judge based upon compassion. Intelligence is one of my strengths, and I've been evaluating others based upon intelligence. As Pastor Jerry so aptly put it, I'm "prejudiced against stupid people." If someone can't follow an argument or holds an unsubstantiated opinion, I judge them harshly. It's something that needs to stop.

This is something I'm very serious about, and I've been praying about it every day for over a week. I have to do the right thing first, regardless of how I feel about it. Only the Holy Spirit can provide me with that that kind of willpower, though. My instinct is to dismantle people who aren't intelligent. You know what, though? I'm intelligent because God made me that way--not because of anything I did. I'm smart because God made me that way, so there's no room for pride there on my part. Others may not be smart, but they still have strengths; I need to show them all a measure of dignity.
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Maybe the Williams sisters had it right all the time

Venus and Serena Williams have been criticized for several years for not focusing on tennis. From 2000 to 2003 they dominated women's tennis, at one point appearing in five straight Grand Slam finals. It looked as if they would be dominant for years to come, but that's not what happened. Yeah, there were some injury issues, but the main thing was that they got interested doing other things: acting, modeling, fashion design, interior decorating. It's the benefit of having lots of money: you can do whatever you want without having to work your way and establish a reputation--just look at Paris Hilton!

Since then, there has been intense criticism about dedication. Serena has been blasted many times for not being in shape, and both of them have been accused for using tournaments as practice. Their concern with side projects has widely been cited as the reason they no longer dominate women's tennis: supposedly, they just aren't focused 100% on tennis.

That view may be changing, though. Both are now in their late 20's, yet they are still going strong: both will be in the top five after the U.S. Open. They are at the age when most tennis players are on the downswing. Steffi Graf retired at 31, as did Pete Sampras--tennis is a young person's sport. While they are approaching 30, though, other great players have already retired. Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and Martina Hingis all retired by the age of 25 (although Hingis did come back after three years), and they were dedicated, focused players.

Perhaps the Williams sisters' strategy was the right one. By doing other things to fill their time, they avoided the injury issues and the psychological burnout that the others experienced. Now, they are veterans who are still in great physical shape. They are able to experience longevity, something that fewer and fewer women's players are able to enjoy.
The Roger-Rafa Mystery

The results of this year's U.S. Open produced another entry in the biggest mystery in men's tennis: how can the same guys who give Rafael Nadal trouble then get smashed by Roger Federer, and yet Federer can't dominate Nadal? This year, Andy Murray beat Nadal in the semifinals, and his tactics just flat out flummoxed Rafa. He dictated play and frustrated Nadal with his shotmaking. In the first and fourth sets, he basically dominated Nadal.

Then came the final, of course, where Murray was wiped out 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. His shotmaking was negated by Federer's net approaches, his serve wasn't having the same effect as it did on Nadal, and he was at the will of Federer, who dictated the action.

This isn't the first time this has happened. Last year Nadal lost to David Ferrer twice in big events. At both the U.S. Open and at the Tennis Masters Cup he lost to Ferrer after winning the first set. In the final of the Cup, however, Ferrer was demolished 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 by Federer. Nothing that confused Nadal worked on Federer.

In the 2007 Australian Open, Nadal was embarrassed by Fernando Gonzalez 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. In the final, though, Gonzo's powerful forehands were cancelled out by Federer's all around play. Despite a gallant fight from Gonzo, Federer prevailed in straight sets 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4.

How does this occur? Why can't Federer dominate Nadal? His only dominant win was in the Masters Cup last year when he won 6-4, 6-1. How come Federer's great skills don't seem to work on Rafa?

I don't really know. Rafa is susceptible to big hitters, and those kinds of players don't beat Nadal most of the time, but if their shots are falling in on a certain day, they can not only beat Nadal but even dominate him. Federer plays a more consistent game and doesn't go for broke as often. Still, it's basically a mystery to me.
Cell phones are now more than cell phones

I'm only 36, but that's old enough to remember the world without cell phones. It's amazing now to look back and see how things have changed. Cell phones used to be just mobile phones; they were phones you could take with you. Now, they are much more than that, and I'm not just talking about technology.

For those of you who remember a world free of cell phones, think about this: Do you treat your cell phone as just a mobile phone anymore, or does it serve other purposes? In other words, do you treat it just as a means of verbal communication?

I guess the most essential question would be, "Can you live without your cell phone?" I have a cell phone and I appreciate its convenience, but I have no problem leaving it in the car when I go to work, and I don't even take it to church. Why would I need it? Before cell phones, I would just check my messages on the landline; if someone wanted to talk with me, he or she would just leave a message. Is there any news that requires me to leave work or church? Even if there was such a severe emergency, whoever needed to contact me could call my place of work or even the church.

Cell phones have changed what the term "emergency" meant because they enable people to make personal calls. In the past, a call was made to a place--either a residence or a business--and most often more than one person shared that phone. Now, you can reach someone directly. That means that more people are losing their filter of discrimination. Call any time about anything. What's an emergency now? Have you called someone in the last year and said it was an emergency? Since I became an adult, I have never called anyone and claimed it was an emergency.

For some people, the cell phone has become their only source of organization. I know too many people who live chaotic lives that are organized only by a cell phone. Without it they wouldn't know anyone's phone number or when any appointments are; they would be lost.

For even more people, cell phones have become their friends. Before the cell phone era, people acted differently. Now, cell phones are used to fill dead time. You see people at work who feel the need to place a five-minute call to a buddy just to say, "What's up?" Or even worse, there's the text messaging thing--something I refuse to get involved in. I see people at work who use every spare minute they have (and sometimes when they don't have a spare minute) to send and receive text messages. These people must be petrified of loneliness to the extent that they rely upon a phone.

Then there are those who treat their cell phones as security blankets. These are mostly women, and I'm sure you've seen some of them. They have to always know where their phone is. Most often they clutch them. Girls who don't even have pockets in their clothing go to the mall or the movies with their phones clutched in their hands. I see women in line at the bank (a 5-10 minute wait) with their phones clutched in their hands. Then there are the ones who have to place their phones on the table when eating. Their phones are serving the same purpose that Linus's blanket did.

I think some people use them as an escape option. It's appalling how many people end up talking on their phones while eating out. What is the purpose of eating out? You want to spend time with the people with whom you're eating, right? At least, that's the way it used to be. How can you really enjoy someone's company if you're talking to someone else on the phone?

The truth is that cell phones usage has done more to damage common etiquette principles than anything else. Instead of acting within the parameters of the situation they are in, people are writing their own rules. In essence, of course, it's selfishness. It's the idea that work rules or manners don't mean anything because that person is going to do his or her thing no matter what. So what if I'm at work and on the clock--I'm going to text my buddies. So what if I'm out with my girlfriend--I'm going to take any call that comes my way. So what if I'm talking to someone--I'm going to stop in mid-sentence and take a call. Common courtesy is experiencing a steady decline to death, and the cell phone has sped up that process immensely.
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He was right--well, sort of

A member of Yappi told me awhile back that I needed to change. The subject came up in a thread about religious beliefs. He claimed that he was a Christian but that he didn't believe the Bible was 100% true. He said that he followed the principles of Jesus Christ's teaching but didn't think Christ was the Son of God. He felt that my beliefs were flawed and that I needed to show by my actions that I was a Christian.

Well, he was right, but not from the angle he was coming in from. He felt that my intellectual convictions were incompatible with true Christianity--or at least the "Christianity" he was adhering to. He got upset when I called him an "antichrist," saying that a true Christian wouldn't say that. He was wrong about my convictions but right about my actions.

As far as head knowledge goes, nothing has changed. It's heart knowledge that has changed. The insight I have had since having faith in Christ is from the Holy Spirit. Before I put my faith in Christ--an act that has happened in the last year--I believed in creation, the divinity of Christ, heaven and ----, and the death and resurrection of Christ. I still believe those things, but now they mean even more. It's because of what Christ did by dying on the cross that I seek to life a life that is glorifying to Him.

The root of it all is God's sovereignty. He has ultimate control and wields ultimate authority. He makes decisions based on nothing more than the purpose of His own will. Our actions don't contribute at all to His decisions. He has chosen to elect me to salvation, and I fulfilled His will by accepting Christ as Savior. He has shown grace where I deserved nothing. If I believe that He is perfect, immutable, infallible, omniscient, and omnipotent, holy, and righteous, then I MUST follow His commands.

You see, I can't put my trust is a God that bases His decisions on other people's actions. If He needs other conditions, He ceases to be God. God's righteousness consists of His unswerving allegiance to always act for the glory of His name. His actions don't depend on the actions of anyone. It doesn't matter if someone is good from a human perspective because salvation is not based upon works.

You may ask, then, why I have committed myself to changing my actions, particularly in the areas of humility and sexual purity. If works can't save me, why do good? Again, the truth is in the character of God. If I believe that He saved me and that He sent Christ to die for my sins, then I must also believe in the inspiration of the Bible--that the Holy Spirit miraculously inspired the human writers to record the words of God. After all, if the Bible is not true, then what foundation does my faith in Him have? Well, if I believe in the inspiration of the Bible and in the authority of God, then I must believe that His words and commandments are true. The Bible clearly teaches that as a Christian, I must live a life that is different from those who are not redeemed. In fact, as a Christian I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who leads my actions.

The difference between me and that other Yappi member is that I am basing my actions upon my beliefs, whereas he is adapting his beliefs to fit his actions. Someone who says that Bible is a "good book" but claims there are flaws really doesn't have any true conviction about anything. That person has already decided how he is going to live his life; he then adapts the Bible to fit his own belief. This other member had made a decision to live life according to his own code of morality; he took what parts of the Bible he liked and incorporated that into his own world view.

A true Christian starts with the foundation of God's Word. He believes the Bible to be infallible and true. Upon that foundation everything else is built. His actions and his lifestyle are then dictated by the Bible. I am changing because I have the Holy Spirit, and my lifestyle is based upon the principles and commandments of God's Word.
Relatives putting up barriers

My wife and I are experiencing some problems in reaching our families spiritually. With our recent spiritual surges, we are both more in tune to what the real Christian walk looks like. We have been convicted by God to introduce spiritual dialogue into our communication. Recently, though, we have experienced some resistance.

My own sister Sarah has responded harshly to my emails. For a few months now I have been sending out emails almost weekly to both my family and friends. These have been spiritual in subject matter, and the aim is to stimulate a spiritual discussion. I've shared my own victories and failures and have asked them to share theirs. My parents have responded several times, as has my younger sister Rebecca.

Sarah, however, has thrown up a barrier. She has criticized the length and frequency of the emails. She has said that the sharing of my past pornography habit is inappropriate. She has claimed that she has her own sermons to hear so she doesn't need to read emails about the sermons I hear. In reality, she has not shown any interest at all in discussing spiritual things.

My wife's brother, Darren, has responded in a similar manner to Rhonwyyn. He has balked at any spiritual questions, and at this very moment he has her in tears. They're on the phone with each other and he has her quite worked up. She has asked him a few basic questions about his Christian walk, and he has taken offense to it.

We're praying for our families very much.
Individual therapy going well

Praise God! Individual therapy is going well. When I was told I had to take individual sessions for three months, I was concerned. With my recent spiritual surge, I had felt uncomfortable at times in group therapy. The facilitator, Amy, had a habit of rehashing past events. She liked to downplay my claims of spiritual growth by reminding me of past conflicts in group therapy--even if an even had occurred months ago.

Well, I was apprehensive when I had my first session with Amy, but I had a good attitude. I had met with Pastor Jerry about the situation, and he showed me from the Bible where I should be submissive to authority and not prejudiced based on intelligence. That is, if she discounted my spiritual growth as being relevant, I should not judge her as being stupid. I stayed under control by the grace of God. Amy, though, essentially said that my faith was not enough to achieve full recovery.

OK, I was quite concerned at that point, because I knew what God had done in my life. Philippians 1:6 reads, "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." The Holy Spirit had been leading me since my salvation, and I had had victory over sin. Because of the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, sin no longer had control over me. In my soul, I knew that God was all I needed; He was working in me, so I really didn't need human help.

Thankfully, though, God was at work--as He always is. Amy quit! Yes, she resigned from the counseling firm, so I no longer had her for individual therapy or for group therapy. It was a blessing, because she was somewhat obtuse. When I had my initial individual session with her, she told me that she considered kicking me out of group twice. What? She never said a word to me!

Since she left, though, things have gotten better. Trish, the director of outpatient therapy, took over as interim group facilitator and also took over Amy's individual sessions. She's handling both those until the new therapist can take over. Well, I've had five sessions with her so far, and so far I'm quite satisfied. She has made me feel at ease and has respected my beliefs. She is inquisitive and desires to learn about how my faith has contributed to my recovery. Unlike Amy, she sees some benefit in my faith. Praise the Lord things have turned around and are going so well!
Phillies win World Series?!?!

I was hoping to watch Cole Hamels shut down the Rays tonight, but the rain fell too hard for them to finish the game. For someone who's not a baseball fan, I'm just bursting at the seams to see the Phils win this thing!

Most of the people where I work are at least 10 years younger than I am, so they don't have the memories of Philadelphia championships. Me? I remember Tug McGraw striking out Willie Wilson to end the 1980 World Series. Let's see, I was in third grade. My favorite player was Pete Rose, and I will always remember his great play in the ninth in Game 6 to bail out Bob Boone. Hey, I can still remember almost everyone in the starting lineup. That year also saw perhaps the greatest single playoff series in baseball history: the National League Championship series. The Phillies and the Astros played five amazing games, four of which went extra innings. In a way, the World Series was a letdown.

If the Phils win it all this year, it will be the first championship for the city of Philadelphia in 25 years. Hey, I remember that one, too. In fact, the 76ers' 1983 NBA title is one of my fondest memories. My favorite player was Moses Malone. Back then I was as obsessed with Moses as I am now with Larry Bird. Hmm, I was in fifth grade when the Sixers won that one.

Looking back, the 1980's were a pretty good decade for Philadelphia. The Phillies made it to two World Series, winning one. The Sixers were in the NBA Finals three times, winning once. The Flyers made it to three Stanley Cup Finals. Hey, even the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl in that decade.

Four teams. Nine championship appearances. Two championships. Not bad. And don't forget May 1980 through January 1981, when all four teams made it to the championships. No other city has ever accomplished that in a 365-day span.

Please, I want to say, "The Phillies won the World Series!"
I am now a Patriots fan

For this season, I am an avid New England Patriots fan. For those who know me, that should come as no surprise. The reason for that, of course, is because Tom Brady is injured and out for the year.

I've always felt Brady was overrated. He's a great quarterback and a lock for the Hall of Fame, but he's NOT the best quarterback ever. In fact, he's not even in the discussion. His reputation as a "winner" was manufactured in 2001. Yes, the Pats won the Super Bowl, but it was not because of Brady. I believe to this day that they would have won if Drew Bledsoe had never gotten injured. Brady only had one touchdown pass in the entire playoffs. He got the Tuck Rule reprieve against the Raiders. He was injured in the AFC championship game; Bledsoe led a second half comeback to beat the Steelers. And in the Super Bowl, a 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri turned a run-of-the-mill drive into a legend.

Yes, Brady has had some great seasons since then, but every accomplishment since 2001 are inflated because of that original label as "winner." Add on two more Super Bowls and Brady's reputation is now impenetrable. In the 2005 and 2006 playoffs, it was Brady interceptions that ended the Pats' seasons. (In fact, he "lost" three games with interceptions--Troy Brown bailed him out in 2006 by stripping the Chargers player after what should have been the game-clinching interception.) Last year he folded under pressure in the Super Bowl.

This year is a huge opportunity to revise the ludicrous legend that is Tom Brady. This is the sort of opportunity that opened up in 1993 when Michael Jordan (who is the only one with a more mythical reputation than Brady) retired. I was cheering for the Bulls in the playoffs that year. I wanted the Rockets to win it all because I was a fan of Hakeem Olajuwon, but if they couldn't have done it (they did), I would have loved for the Bulls to win it all. Well, they didn't, but if they had, it would have watered down all that Jordan had accomplished until then. I still do remind people, though, that the Bulls' regular season record fell only two games that season in which they didn't have Jordan for the whole season.

This year, I want New England to win it all. That would be fabulous! It would shred the Brady legacy--well, at least damage it somewhat. If they can win it with Matt Cassel at quarterback, the Brady-worshipers (like The Moron Tony Kornheiser) will have nothing to say. It will be like, whoops, I guess Brady wasn't that important after all.

For those without short term memory loss, there should be a distinct parallel between this season and 2001. Brady replaced Bledsoe and he did not have a great statistical season. Cassel replaced Brady and so far he hasn't had a great statistical year. But they're winning! Just as he did in 2001, Bill Belichick adapted the offense to fit the backup. Bledsoe was a gunslinger, but Brady ran a more conservative offense. The more Brady played in 2001, the more comfortable and confident he became. The same thing can happen to Cassel.

Yes, I know that if New England wins the Super Bowl, they will be permanently labeled as a "dynasty." Well, I don't have a problem with that. Why? Well, I'll take that over Brady-worship any day. Besides, if they win with another quarterback, they can be labeled as a dynasty of sorts. There would be a case for that, but there is no case for Brady as the best ever.

There is a chance that Brady won't be back for the beginning of next season, what with all the problems he's had with his knee. Oh, it would be great it NE won it all this year, then Brady's return was delayed at least eight games into 2009, and then he's not up to snuff, and he gets benched. That would be the best scenario. Think of that: Matt Cassel could become Tom Brady.

Yeah, it's a longshot, but I'm cheering for a NE Super Bowl title.
How could any knowledgeable person vote for Obama?

The more I learn about Barack Obama, the more I'm baffled over how anyone with an IQ over 100 can vote for him. I mean, I understand the stupid people voting for him. They're the ones who choose him because he's black, or because he's a Democrat, or because he's not George Bush (not that McCain is either, but that doesn't matter to stupid people). But what about those who have some power to reason?

He's a socialist. He's pro-abortion and not just "pro-choice." He's pro-gay; not just equal rights, he's for affirmative action for gays. He has committed to spending more money that Bush ever did. He has made promises to help everyone--clearly not possible. He has no real leadership experience. He's a hypocrite, shown through his ditching of Jeremiah Wright and his association with anti-Israel people.

How have so many people just been bewitched? Seduced by some smooth talking, I guess. Maybe they will come to their senses when Obama proves to be a terrible president. There's no chance at all that he can be a good president, what with all the hollow promises he has made. The truth is that he's a pinko-commie-babykiller.
No longer living on the edge

It's been a year since I wrote a blog entry about my issue of "living on the edge." That was December 8, 2007, and it was a date that marked a change of direction in my life. After getting pulled over for a traffic violation (my sixth in only 4.5 years of driving), I sat down with my laptop and wrote about my destructive lifestyle. I took a hard look at my life and what it was. The choice was clear:
I want to be a good husband and father, and that requires keeping a steady job, driving safely, and not breaking the law--all issues I've had in the past or the present. Those issues can't become problems in the future though. I've got to stop living on the edge.

That day the direction of my life began to change. Oh, it wasn't instantaneous change across the board, but the philosophy changed. Before that date, I didn't realize there was a problem. It was like I was dancing on the edge of a cliff, looking the other direction. People were yelling at me to stop, but I didn't listen to them, because I didn't see the drop. On Dec. 8, I stopped dancing and turned around: I saw the cliff and realized the danger I had put myself in. In the next year, I began walking slowly away from that precipice.

The changes in my life are many, albeit most of them little. To some people--especially the ones who have constant contact with me--the changes are noticeable, but not seemingly major. However, those who don't see me all that often have noticed drastic changes in me. They have told me that I carry myself and conduct myself differently. Those closest to me have seen the most change: my wife, my family, and my accountability partner John.

Now these changes are in no way a product of my own willpower. If I had to rely on my own strength, I'd still be getting fired from jobs and watching porn all day. No, my own power is insufficient. It's only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I have experienced this change. In fact, I look to last Dec. 8 as the day of my salvation. In the year since that day I've experienced the greatest phase of spiritual growth for me. It's been truly amazing. I mean, I used to think I knew what being a Christian was all about. I was wrong.

The truth is that I was a hypocrite. I knew all the words to say but my actions did not affirm those words. My actions told a whole different story: the true story. Pride and arrogance led to a defiant attitude and a hedonistic quest for pleasure. Anything to give me a charge, including defying all authority. Plus, there was the addictive viewing of pornography. My lifestyle outside church doors did not reflect faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

James says that faith without works is dead. In 2007 and before, I had "faith" (not a real faith, though) that was not accompanied by works. Now, I am proving my faith through my works. It's a real faith now. Praise be to God who has worked this miraculous change in me--I'm no longer living on the edge.
Some clear changes in my life

Here is a list of some changes in my life in the past year. Now these aren't just changes I've noticed and am claiming. They are changes noticed by others, as well as some changes that are measurable (you'll see what I mean):

1. No traffic violations since Dec. 8, 2007. I have not been pulled over, and that's not because I'm being slick. I've adjusted my driving habits and have become more cautious. I drive slower--what's the rush anyway?

2. Same job for over a year. For some, this would seem like nothing, but I was fired from two jobs in 2007. At my current job, though, there are no major issues. I do my job well and do what I'm told. I only worry about my own responsibilities and not about what my coworkers are or aren't doing.

3. I haven't used profanity for at least four months. Now I hadn't been swearing in conversations, but I did curse under my breath to myself many times. Once my attitude changed about work, however, I felt less anxiety and no longer got upset so quickly.

4. My bosses have complimented me often. My managers hail my thoroughness and my work ethic. They like the fact that they don't have to check up on me all the time; I do what I'm supposed to do. They have praised me for my attitude as well, saying that I perform well under pressure.

5. Coworkers compliment me as well. Not only do they praise my work, but they are starting to come to me to resolve problems that they don't think others can fix--or won't fix properly. They see me as someone who can get things done.

6. John has commented often on my spiritual change. He was a deacon at Brookfield when I was put under church discipline, and several times he has noted changes in my life since then. He saw me back in 2005 when I was horribly defiant in front of the deacon board, when I told them that I didn't want their help and that my problem with porn was none of their business. He continues to say that he loves what God is doing in my life. He considers me an accountability partner, and we meet regularly, concentrating our discussion on spiritual issues.

7. My wife has frequently noted changes in my personality. She says that I'm kinder and more approachable, among other things. In fact, she has said that she's surprised that she married me because I've changed so much for the better since we've been married. She likes what she sees in me and thanks God for what has occurred.

8. My family has noticed a change as well. My sister Rebecca said she could see change when I visited back in May. My parents see a change too. They can see that my arrogant attitude has faded.

Those are just some. Again, thanks be to God.
What to do about my father-in-law?

My father-in-law, Dan, has been anything but a "father" to me. Oh, he's been polite--I guess you could say nice--but he's no one I would like to emulate. Over Christmas, though, he dropped some news on us all that had us scratching our heads about how to deal with him.

He's already been divorced twice. His first wife was my mother-in-law, Sharon. When my wife was 12, Dan separated from Sharon after an adulterous affair had been revealed; they were divorced two years later. He left Sharon with four children. He would remarry, although not to the woman with whom he had had an affair. His second marriage--to Harriet--lasted 10 years. This one also ended because of adultery. He left her with two children that they had adopted. When I first met him, he had just left Harriet and already had a girlfriend.

Dan and this girlfriend--Ellen--have lived together for two years. His extended family have refused to invited her to any family functions. They invite him, but not her. Well, this year, he announced that he and Ellen had gotten married. Yeah, third time. They were married by the mayor on the morning of Christmas Eve. Then in the evening they had a "religious" ceremony with vows. He's Mennonite and she's Jewish, but neither of them really practice their religions.

As for "vows," what can he say? If he does take a vow, how can she think he will fulfill them? Twice he's left women after at least a decade of marriage; at least twice he's committed adultery; twice he's dumped the responsibility of raising children on women that were unprepared for such a task. There's absolutely nothing in his life that indicates he has changed one bit.

I just don't think this marriage will be any different unless he comes to repentance and accepts Jesus Christ as Savior. But who has his ear? Someone needs to confront him, but who? His parents' words have little impact. Same for his three siblings. His two adopted kids are worldly like him and don't follow God's Word. That leaves his four natural children. I think they are taking the correct approach and keeping in contact with him while not validating what he has done. Will any of them really step up and tell it to his face?

Maybe it will all fall on me...
The Big Spiritual Question

Love vs. Boldness
Comfort vs. Conflict
Superficial vs. Deep
Nonchalance vs. Care
Masking vs. Authenticity

These are all issues I am dealing with right now. My wife and I are both debating these things as we deal with her family. As born again Christians, how do we approach things? The Bible tells us to stand firm on our beliefs, but also to act out of love. The issue we're facing is this: how do we speak the truth to her family without alienating them?

This would be so much easier if we knew the spiritual conditions of Danelle and Darren (two of Rhonwyyn's three siblings) and Sharon, my mother-in-law. They were all raised Mennonite, you see. It's a belief system that I am still learning about. My wife and I spent about a year at the Mennonite church that the rest of the family attends. It was a new experience for me. The music was great, but the sermons were so shallow. They lacked punch. Simply topical in nature, with little to no real Bible exposition. Doctrine was so weak there--I was shocked to see how little people knew about what the Bible really says. This was true even with the doctrine of pacifism/nonresistance that the Mennonites hold so dear--hardly anyone really had a grasp on it. Most of all, the atmosphere was cold. Oh, there were some very friendly people, but no one was open. No one wanted to be vulnerable. Spiritual discussion was nonexistent; nobody wanted to address spiritual weaknesses and the need for growth. The majority of people kept us at arm's length. Church was more a social event than a building up of Christians.

Those are just some of the reasons we left Mellinger Mennonite and began attending NewSong. The differences were noticeable almost immediately. Hey, our first service there was eye-opening. During a communion service, Pastor Jamie brought up a young woman and put his arm around her. He informed us all that the woman's husband had left her, having become a slave to drug addiction. We were urged to pray for both of them, and were informed that both of them were in therapy. Pastor Jamie them prayed for her and for the couple's marriage. It was jaw-dropping. Vulnerability and honesty. No glossing over the issue and certainly no ignoring of issues. We left that service stunned--that was something you would never see in a Mennonite church!

As we began attending NewSong regularly, the truth of biblical Christianity just shone forth. Small groups encouraged sharing and bonding on a level that is not just casual. The sermons were expository in nature: dissecting Bible passages and applying them. Instead of weak 20 minute sermons we were listening to strong 50 minute sermons--and they were amazing! Pastor Jamie's (and all other's) sermons were interesting, engaging, and--most of all--convicting. No punches were pulled: we have been taught exactly what the Bible says and what we are to do--no matter how hard that might be. The Sunday School (School of Discipleship, or S.O.D.) classes were strong in doctrine and addressed the tougher concepts, like the sovereignty of God.

Since attending NewSong, Rhonwyyn and I have seen massive spiritual growth in our lives. We have a greater desire to read the Bible and pray. Perhaps the most noticeable change is that we are more aware of truth; that is, we can spot which beliefs are biblical and which are not. We spend time discussing truth based upon what we've learned reading God's Word and learned at church. We yearn to talk spiritual issues with other born again Christians. In fact, that leads to another big change we've witnessed: our lives revolve around Christ. There is no work life or marriage life or church life. All is spiritual because God is a part of every aspect of our lives. When we are with other Christians, we are going to talk spiritual things.

That's where trouble has arisen. Assuming Rhonwyyn's family is Christian, we introduced spiritual discussion. Well, conflict has ensued--not every time, but most of the time. Just as we witnessed at the Mennonite church, they have shown an ignorance of the heavier doctrinal issues. Even more concerning has been their lack of desire to address spiritual issues. When we bring up subjects like creation/evolution or the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, problems arise. Danelle flees the scene--literally. She might make a statement or two (uneducated statements), but then she leaves the room or tunes out (once she began looking at photos on her digital camera while the rest of us discussed things). Darren stays and participates in the discussion, but doesn't say much; mostly he listens. Darcy contributes to the discussion (we believe she is definitely born again), but her beliefs are liberal-leaning, to be sure. Sharon (my mother-in-law) is always combative. She never really addresses the issue, goes off on rabbit trails, makes sarcastic and judging remarks, and shows no desire to learn or follow the truth.

The concept of absolute truth has caused the most debate. Danelle has said that the Bible doesn't have to be entirely true. Darren believes in theistic evolution. Except for Darcy, they steer clear of topics like election and God's sovereignty; they prefer to avoid going to the Bible as their primary foundation of truth. They are reluctant to apply biblical principles to things like entertainment--what they watch and listen to, for example.

Recently Sharon has expressed, "we don't know how to handle you two." She's only said that to my wife, though. None of them have expressed their concerns to me. They have a habit of that, though. They won't voice their objections in the course of action, but will whisper later on. Instead of coming right out and stating concerns, they slip them in later on. There's little to no self-reflection, just lashing out at others. Darcy is the only one who has shown some legitimate understanding.

We want to have good relationships with all her family, but our first allegiance is to Jesus Christ. His Word is absolute truth to us, and we must stand firm on that. There must be a balance, however. How can we speak the truth in love? That doesn't mean there is no conflict--the Bible teaches that faith in Christ inevitably brings divisions. However, our consciences need to be clear. We must be acting out of love for them and concern for their eternal destination.
Federer blows it again

I didn't see any of this match as I don't get ESPN2, but from reading the summaries on, I can tell that Roger Federer blew this final. What is it about Nadal that gets into his head? I just can't figure it out. In the past, he has dominated men who have destroyed Nadal (Fernando Gonzalez in '07 Aussie Open, Andy Murray in last year's U.S. Open). He wins more effortless points and matches than Nadal. His serve is better than Nadal's. Why then does he struggle so much?

Now Nadal is one of the all-time greats (this was his sixth Grand Slam victory), but he has not dominated as Federer did. I mean, he won two Grand Slams last year, but Federer has done that four times--three times he has won three GS titles in a year.

I don't get it, but I'm no world class athlete, and no tennis expert. From what I read on the website, Federer should have taken the third set. And how come his service percentage isn't better? He made Nadal work, right? Tom Perrotta said that Federer seemed to be in control in the fourth set. How come he lost 6-2.

This is such a critical year for Federer. He wants #14 so badly to match Pete Sampras's total. Most of us thought he would already have the record. He's still great, let me remind people of that. He has made it to 19 straight Grand Slam semifinals--far and away the record. By comparison, Nadal's longest streak is his current one of 5. Although his record streak of 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals ended at last year's Australian Open, his current streak of 4 is the best in tennis right now.

But all that means nothing if he keeps losing to Nadal. That's five straight wins for Nadal over Federer, three straight in Grand Slams. In 2007 Federer went 3-2 against Nadal--that seems so long ago now. Federer has to beat Nadal this year in a Grand Slam final to be considered the best ever.