Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Key: 1-10

Looking at the world cups, what is needed to win it more than anything else, is a really powerful all-round pack, and a really good half and first five combination.

In 1987, the AB's did it with a great pack and Kirk-Fox. Fox was utterly brilliant, ran the game with precision. Kirk I rate as one of NZ's most underrated players. He is second to me behind Loveridge in recent times. He was a Rhodes Scholar, say no more!

In 1991, the Wallabies had the best pack I think they have produced in my time, excellent across the board. They had what I consider the best half-back-first five combo I have seen (I didn't see Edwards-John in the flesh, they may have been better). They were streets ahead of any combo at that point.

In 1995, the South Africans had a great pack that could match the AB's (at least food poisoned), one of the best half backs of their history Joost Van der Westhuizen who is underrated by Kiwi's but was a devastating player. Joel Stransky was not utterly brilliant but with Joost, was a great combination.

1n 1999, the Australians again had a really good pack, and another utterly dynamic and brilliant half-first five combo, Gregan and Larkam. What a team!

In 2003 it was the turn of the English with the then at his absolute best Johnny Wilkinson and Matt Dawson, another underrated halfback. The pack was tremendous in every way.

In 2007 the South Africans had a great pack, especially at lineout time. Their half back Fourie Du Preez is brilliant, along with Pichot the best in the world. And we saw the coming of age of the erratic Butch James, another underrated player.

So it seems to me that to win the world cup, above all you need these elements. It helps to have flashy backs and you must have great defensive backs. But if you want to control games, you have to have a really good all round pack without weaknesses and a half and first five that can control the games. There must be a world beater in the halves somewhere. Like a Fox, Farr-Jones, Lynagh, Van der Westhuizen, Gregan, Lynagh, Wilkinson, Du Preez.

So NZ, if you want to win the world cup, you need to get the forwards to a point of completeness. No more lineout weaknesses, keep the scrum strong, and with powerful mobile loosies. You need to find a half back; at the end of the day Bachop, Marshall and Kelleher were not there. They were very good but not great. And you need Carter at his best. He is certainly there, but he has to be there when it counts.

Can we put an end to the 'end of the day'?

It was Sean Fitzpatrick who coined the term 'at the end of the day'. It is now in the NZ psychie as the way to describe the moment where it all comes to the crunch. How many times do we have to put up with it? It is driving me insane. So, in the hope that some NZ sports nuts will move to a new vocab, can I suggest:

'At the conclusion of the light hours'
'At the beginning of the night'
'At the point at which the sun goes down over the horizon'
'When we all go to bed'
There is always the 'when the fat lady sings' or the politically correct version, 'when the well-portioned man-woman sings'
'When the game is over!' How about that!
'When the pies are put out'
'When the lights go out'

Now, there are many more you may come up with. However, this is enough for now. Sean was a great captain but a boring repetitive cliche one-liner speaker. Can we see a new breed of NZ sports people who don't parrot good old Fitzy!

Knock Out Coaches

Perhaps we have all got it wrong. Without doubt the coach in NZ who knows how to win Knock Out rugby is without doubt Gordon Tietjens! He has proved it again and again, taking NZ sevens teams with a wide array of skill and experience, and more often than not, pulling it off. Perhaps it is time to give him the AB's to show us how it is done. He is a legend at getting people fit, knows how to put together a team on the smell of an oily rag and knows how to win a tournament. SOS Gordon Tietjens, coach for the 2011 rugby world cup.

The Myth of All Black Supremacy

There is this romanticism that is associated with NZ rugby supporters. We look at today's pampered AB's arguing that they have no mental toughness, cannot win the big ones, are not up to it when the pressure is on. We look back on the 'hard men' of NZ rugby in the 'good old days' and we pine for former glories. 'If they had had world cups in the good ol' days, we would have won them all'! Yeah right.

Track back into the archives and the AB's have always dominated (as they do now actually) but they had some really tough times and lost matches unexpectedly. Our best period was clearly the 60's but we still lost surprisingly to South Africa in 1960 at home, to the Aussies in 1964 in the third test (a shocker), drew against Scotland 0-0 in 1964, lost to the Springboks in 1965 in the third test when way ahead at half time. From 1965 to 1969 they were unbeaten, a time in which we possibly would have won the world cup. However, as 1970 showed, we may have lost if we had played in South Africa.

The 1970's were hit and miss. We lost to the South Africans in 1970, the Lions in 1971, drew with Ireland and lost to France and England in 1973, drew with the Aussies in the second test in 1974, lost to the Springboks in 1976, lost a test against the Lions and the French in 1977, lost the third test on Eden Park to the Aussies in 1978 and the French in 1979. We can't say we would have won a world cup in this time, we struggled with all countries at some time or another.

In the 1980's we were more dominant but still had our moments. We were beaten thoroughly by the Aussies in 1980, just pipped the Springboks in 1981, lost a test to the Aussies in 1980, drew with Scotland and lost to England in 1983 after losing a test to the Lions in 1983, lost the first test in Australia in 1984. In 1986 the Cavaliers were beaten by the Springboks, Australia took the Bledisloe 2-1 and we lost to the French. We then won the world cup! We had a good few years after this only drawing once with the Aussies until 1990 when we lost again to them.

The point is that we still had bad days where we did not front up. The difference was, that none of these fell in the final three knockout games of a World Cup. Hence, even though our record now is similar to the 'good ol' days', the World Cup now occurs.

Tracking back, we may have won in 1983, we had a really good team. Remember though, that we lost to the English in 1982, South Africa were always powerful, and the French could beat anyone on the day. Not to mention the Aussies who, with their full team, were powerful.

In 1979, I am not sure we would have won. We lost to the Aussies in the third test in 1978 and they thrashed us in 1980. The South Africans had beaten us in 1976. The French beat us once that same year and once in 1977. England beat us in 1979. I really wouldn't be sure at all.'

In 1975 we played one water-logged test, lost to the South Africans in 1976 and would have faced the powerful British teams, fresh off a good hammering of the Springboks on their home track in 1974. The French had blitzed us in 1973, as had England. I think we would not have won a 1975 world cup.

In 1971 there is no way we would have won whereever it was played. Wales would have had to be favourites with Edwards-John-JPR Williams in full flight, if their forwards were up to it. The year before the Springboks had demolished us completely. The Irish drew with us in 1973, the French beat us. I can't see NZ having won the world cup in 1971. South Africa or Wales were most likely, the Irish too, were strong (McBride-Gibson).

So 1967? Yes, we had a great team under Fred the Needle and may have pulled this one off. Remember though the South Africa were always strong in those days. If it had been played on the Veldt, I am sure they would have been almost unbeatable, as in 1970.

In 1963 it would have been another possible victory, with NZ and SA dominant. Aussie did pull out a one-off in 1964, and on the tour of Britain did not 'put the opposition away', all games were tight and close.

So we really need to get a realistic look at out ourselves. Sure, we pulled out some great teams and we were dominant, but we still are. Our record in the last 4 years is sensational. If Graham H, John H, John M or Laurie M had pulled off a WCup, they would be beside Fred the Needle in the pantheon of glory! What is to say that these other teams would not have 'choked' and failed to pull off the big one. Any world cups in South Africa would have been almost certainly won by them. Perhaps the same could be said in the 1960's, but we cannot be sure.

It might have gone like this:
1963: South Africa or NZ probably
1967: NZ but maybe South Africa, depending on where played
1971: South Africa or Wales (England and Ireland also strong)
1975: France, Wales, England, Ireland or South Africa. NZ a distant outside
1979: Australia, France, NZ, South Africa, England: anyone's guess
1983: NZ, South Africa, England, Australia

You can see, we really are a romantic lot! Who knows? We need to get over ourselves. We are a great rugby nation who are dominant. But where World Cups are concerned, can anyone ever be sure?

Note too, that if we go back to the 1950's and beyond, it was even more of a lottery. South Africa and Wales especially would have been tough to beat.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Richardson Factor

Mark Richardson rocked as a cricketer. He started off as a number 11 left arm spin bowler and ended up a NZ test opener with one of the best records of any NZ test opener, only Glen Turner can match him in terms of averages! The thing that was brilliant about Mark Richardson is that he played to his strengths and within his limitations. He was rudely exposed in One Day cricket, but in test cricket, he played to his strengths.

The England rugby team demonstrated the same at the recent world cup. They played brilliantly to their strengths, forward brutality and Johnny W kicking teams off the park.

South Africa too dominated in the same way. Brilliant line out, great half back, awesome defence, and picked up the scraps with their devastatingly quick wings.

NZ on the other hand to me had an identity crisis and have fatal flaws. They want to play the razzle dazzle game but in the quarter final lost their mojo. They tried to play like England. Through the season they dropped too much ball. They are a team that has to work out their strengths and play to them. We need the Mark Richardson factor.

One more example. Two netball world cups ago, we consistently lost to Australia. We had brilliant players but the team made too many errors and lacked consistency. Eventually they settled and began to reduce the error rate and played to their strengths, especially Irene van Dyk. They won the last world cup and commonwealth games.

To me the AB's have to develop a solid game plan with a reduced error rate, but maintaining their attacking superiority over other teams. We need the Richardson factor. We need to isolate our areas of superiority and become increasingly brilliant at them. Then a very good team may become a great team.

Monday, October 22, 2007

South African Cricket Tour

Why is it that I am not confident concerning the chances of NZ in the South African cricket tour. We do not do well on tours of the subcontinent at the best of times. This time we are weak in the openers (again, what is new) and they are running well having just smashed Pakistan in Pakistan.

I don't rate our chances against Kallis, Pollock and the gang. They are a mature team with strength throughout except perhaps a quality spinner, not that seems to matter to them. They seem to crack against Australia, but we are not the Aussies. I think we are in trouble.

I can't see how we will combat Steyn and Ntini, who traditionally relish the NZ batting line up on the bouncy SA pitches. I just can't see Michael Papps and Craig Cumming putting up stern resistance, one can imagine Steyn and Ntini licking their lips with glee! Then they will face either Ross Taylor or Stephen Fleming at 3. I hope it is the latter; however, it will mean our best batsman is facing the new ball on a consistent basis. The Styris will come in and hopefully Taylor at five. Having said that, Taylor may enjoy the bouncy tracks.

We will have strength further down with Oram, McCullum, Vettori and Franklin. However, they cannot be expected to rescue us again and again and turn 5 for 100 into 450 which is what they will have to do.

They on the other hand are well equipped with a powerful batting line up on their home tracks battle hardened from Pakistan led by the absolutely world class Kallis to combat Bond, Franklin, Martin, Oram and Vettori. So I am bracing myself for a tough start to the cricket season. In light of what has gone down in the rugby season with the South Africans with the silverware, it will be hard to take! All we ask is that the boys fight and fight with all they have.

Thanks Macca

So Craig McMillan has retired. I loved the way he batted. Good test batting figures by NZ standards: 3116 runs at 38.46 with 6 centuries and 19 fifties and a high score of 142. He alos got 28 wickets at 44.89. Not many Kiwi's crack the 40 average mark. He did this with diabetes and eye-sight issues and that should not be forgotten. He also played with an almost Aussie belligerance which I liked. His one day record was not as sharp. Yet he still scored 4707 runs at 28.18 with 3 centuries and 28 half centuries with a high score of 117. He also got 49 wickets at 35.04, a fine all round performance. He was a lethal 20-20 player with 187 in 8 games with high score of 57 and impressive average of 31.16. He could hit sixes for sure, with the most at the recent 20-20 world champs. I think he has been underated by NZ cricket fans and deserves to be remembered with great fondness.

Red and Yellow Cards

After watching the AB quarter final exit with Luke M yellow carded and then the NPC final with Flavell's time in the bin, it is time to find another way to punish players. There is too much riding on a game to use the reduction of teams as a punishment. This is especially so when we see how inconsistent refs are and how they make mistakes. Rather, there should be a report system whereby there is a judiciary ruling on the offence. Perhaps the player in a case of an extreme event is sent off, but they should be replaced. It should be 15 on 15. I am not a gambler, but if we are going to have sports betting, games should not be decided on referee's whims. Take for example too Rodney S when he smashed Brent Ward in the NPC final. He was lucky not to go, but should he have? The only downside I can see is that this might lead to people targetting opposition players, but I think that the flipside is worse. I say, use the cards either as a report system or as a sending off device in which time the players can be replaced.

Tana and Justin

Is it any coincidence that the departure of these legends came about at the time when the AB's began to slip? To compound it we left Mauger, Howlett and Jack on the bench! I think we underestimate the greatness of these veterans.

All Blacks in Europe

The last world cup illustrated a real problem for us as a rugby nation. We are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand we do not want to allow players who leave NZ rugby for the dollars in Europe to be available for the AB's. This could lead to an exodus and leave NZ rugby a shell of its former selves. However, in refusing to allow these usually older veterans who will be much better players for their experiences in the rugged northern rugby leagues, we rob ourselves of their value. These guys have experienced the trench warfare of the Heinkein Cup and we need them. It also means that the NZ competition lacks hardness as the rugged, durable vets go off to Europe. We need these guys. I say it is time for the next world cup to allow any NZ player raised in our system to be available. We might find some first fives who have learnt to drop goals, players who know how to play knock out rugby. If restructure our rugby right, it will still work. At some point the European teams will cap the number of overseas players I am sure and we won't lose them all. If we reduce the number of NZ teams in the Super 14 and do not give All Black jersey's away so easily our wage bill will drop substantially. I am one who believes the winning the world cup makes it worth it. After all, where was Justin Marshall in the last few minutes of the cup? We needed the toughness of the likes of him and Tana Umaga.

That's What I'm Talking About! What a Goal!

Check this link out to You Tube. It is an extraordinary goal scored by Rey of Venezuela in the World Cup qualifying. It is not just the goal that is utterly unbelievable, it is the commentary which is worth several listens!

Click on the link and enjoy:
Or for a clearer post goal commentary:

Now that's passion!

Things Worth Dying For 3: Scripture Defines Christianity

The starting point for understanding Christianity is the Scriptures. It is the Bible in all 66 books which tells the story that lies at the heart of the faith. The core essential here is that the Bible is the authority for the faith i.e. the authority of Scripture. The Bible is utterly reliable. It is completely trustworthy. It is inspired in that in some way, God oversaw the writing of its words so that through the words of Scripture he reveals himself to humanity. I would die for this notion.

Now how we formulate this is worthy of debate. Some argue for inerrancy, in that the Scriptures are utterly flawless in their original autographs according to authorial intent. Fair enough, I agree with this in principle; except that this tells us what the Bible is not and it is difficult to prove either way. It is also hard to formulate an understanding of an inerrant song (a Psalm), an inerrant parable etc. On the other hand, errancy cannot be applied to the Bible, as no 'error' has or can been proved; although skeptics love to leap on inconsistencies and argue for errancy. These cannot be driven home, as it all depends on authorial purpose and intent. Some argue for infallibility and again, I am personally happy with this, but the same issues apply.

There is also great debate as to whether the Bible is the word of God revealed or that through the words of the Bible God, the living Word, is revealed. Is the Bible objectively the Word of God or does it become the Word of God subjectively when the Spirit meets Word in its reading and proclamation. How is the Bible both the divine word and a human word, how does the divine work through and relate to the human? What is the relationship of OT and NT? Should we weight all parts of Scripture equally or give precedence in theological decision making to the NT or the Gospels, interpreting the OT through the lense of the Jesus of the Gospels? These are huge questions that Christians differ over.

All this is important to me, but in terms of life and death stuff, it is detail. The actual formulation of a theology of Scriptures authority and reliability becomes a good discussion but not the core issue I would die for. I would die for the belief that the Scriptures are authoritative, completely trustworthy and reliable, God-inspired, and the ultimate and defining source of our knowledge concerning God.

So for me the first essential reads something like: the Scriptures are God-inspired, utterly reliable, trustworthy, and the ultimate authority for knowledge of God's character and purposes. Through the Scriptures, I know God and I know how to live. Salvation is found through its message. I am not fussed how one philosophises or theologises this; as long as this is not threatened by the construct one comes up with.

Things Worth Dying For 2: What makes something essential? What non-essential? Further Introduction.

So what makes something essential and non-essential? Those things that are essential to me are those broad themes and truths that are self-evident to anyone reading the text of scripture. Of course, that presupposes that Scripture is the first essential of Christianity (in some way) and I will discuss this in the next blog. But assuming this, the essentials are those elements of the Christian message that are utterly critical to the faith.

To illustrate from the world of sport. Critical to rugby is the lineout and ruck/maul (i.e. point of continuity). If I take the lineout out of the game, it ceases to be rugby and becomes more like league. If I take out the ruck/maul and replace it with a play the ball, despite there being a few rule differences, it is essentially league with 15 players in it.

It is probable that we can grade levels of essentiality actually. Some things are essential for salvation others are not. How created the world to me is not an essential in this regard. That God created the world is very essential. That Jesus' death paved the way to salvation is entirely essential. That the Spirit is experienced in a particular way may be of limited essentiality, that the Spirit is essential for Christian faith is an essential.

Hopefully, you get the idea.

So from the next blog on I will explore this issue... enjoy

Macro-Narrative and Text... Hermeneutics

I have been reflecting for a while on one issue in regards to hermeneutics, biblical interpretation. It stems from an observation; namely, that one of the the greatest danger to accurate biblical interpretation is what I call 'Macro-Narrative Imposition'. It works like this. People study the bible with a fine tooth comb (some finer than others). I call this 'micro-text investigation'. That is, they study the text without forcing it into a 'macro-narrative structure', exegeting, thinking through its meaning.

Over time they develop a 'macro-narrative' perspective on the text. Once established in their minds, they at some point they cease working from a 'micro-text investigation' approach and rather settle on their 'macro-narrative' and impose it on the text. The macro-narrative' view begins to be the dominant factor in interpretation. I suggest that when we get to this stage we are in danger.

To get what I am trying to say, it is better to think of examples. One example from outside the mainstream of orthodox Christianity in most evangelical's minds are the Jehovah Witnesses. They have settled on a macro-narrative that sees Jesus as less than divine, a restored earth, 144,000 going to heaven, Jesus' return etc etc. They become totally resistant to anything that threatens their macro-narrative. In the case of the divinity of Christ for example they miss the overwhelming evidence in the NT that the writers present Jesus as divine (e.g. Jn 1:1, 18; 5:18; Mt 1:23; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:1-3 etc). Why? Because they have imposed their 'macro-narrative' on the text and this warps their 'micro-text investigation'; they are forced to make texts that stand outside their 'macro-narrative' fit with creative exegesis and eisogesis.

Now we evangelicals can sit back and see this as a 'cult' problem. However, I think this is seen in a number of accepted positions. In Hyper Calvinism for example, proponents must use ingenous exegesis to remove any notion of human freedom from the text even though the whole biblical narrative screams out that there is a volitional dynamic in salvation i.e. however we understand predestination that I am convinced cannot be removed from Scripture, humans say yes or no and it is upon this basis that they are saved or not saved. Their macro-narrative obscures this. They have settled on a macro-narrative that simply will not allow them to see what is clearly there. Often it is church tradition (Catholicism) or belief in the glorious invulnerability of a particular scholar (e.g. Calvin) that contributes to this. They need to read 1 Cor 1:10-4:16!

Similarly Open Theists apply a macro-narrative that obscures the clear testimony of Scripture that God knows the future, he is omniscient. For example, the problem of Jesus' and Scriptures foreknowledge of of Judas and Simon Peter (cf. Agabus) which cannot be domesticated by this viewpoint.

'Once-saved-always-saved' proponents have settled on this macro-narrative so are forced to reach for amazing means to remove any possibility in the NT that a believer can fall away, resorting to strange ideas that they never really believed in the first place. A 'plain reading' of Hebrews, the parable of the sower and 1 Cor 15:1-2 among many others make this remarkably tenuous. Yet, they stick to their guns because their macro-narrative tells them that they have to. In fact some of them go as far as believing that belief in 'their' macro-structure is essential for salvation! Woe to them!

Universalists too are guilty of being blind to the clear micro-text certainty that some people will not be saved. Dispensationalists and cessationists are blind to the total lack of evidence in the NT that the spiritual gifts ceased at the end of the apostolic era (whatever that is?). Even great biblical scholars such as N.T. Wright have settled on a 'restored earth' continuity eschatology despite a number of texts that appear to refer to 'Christians going to heaven' (e.g. Jn 14:1-5) and refer to a cataclysmic dissolution in which the old will pass away in some way (e.g. 2 Pet 3); this leads to him having to reach for interpretations to suit his macro-narrative. Then there are the pre-mill, post-mill, realised eschatology (Dodd, Wright) etc people, who all do the same. I could go on to speak of complementarians who refuse to see the notes of egalitarianism in Paul and Jesus on women, and conversely, egalitarians that resort to the opposite to obscure texts that appear limiting to women. Then there is the place of Israel in the purposes of God, a hugely difficult and tenuous theological issue. What about baptism? What about those who impose the speaking of tongues as absolute? Or those who have a macro-narrative that includes prosperity teaching or hyper-faith, despite copious biblical data rejecting these ideas. I too have my views on these things but have found myself holding the details of my view a much more lightly than previously.

So what is the issue? The issue is that all such views are guilty of 'macro-narrative imposition' over 'micro-text investigation'. They have settled on a macro-narrative with over-certitude and are now not reading the scriptures through the eyes of the text but the narrative. Perhaps they began with 'micro-text investigation', often in reaction to another view. But at some point they turned the 'macro-narrative imposition' corner and are now to lesser or greater extent, closed off to new insights that would threaten their 'macro-narrative'.

Now I think we need to be very very careful here. Authentic biblical interpretation requires epistemological humility, whereby we admit we don't know all things and that our 'macro-narrative' is at best, partial (cf. 1 Cor 13:8-13). We must allow the text to continually readjust our macro-narrative. There is a continual interaction between text and macro-narrative. All these views are overly confident of their position and have in fact closed God out of their system. The truth is that none of us can hold all the text in our heads simultaneously, make the connections that are needed and implied by the Spirit through the authors, and put it together in totality. It is absolutely impossible for one mind other than the mind of Christ! No mind can come close. So why are we so arrogant of our 'macro-narratives'?

I suggest we all take a step back and settle on a broader 'macro-narrative' approach that accepts the 'big story' in its obvious component parts e.g. God created the heavens and the earth; God chose Abraham and Israel and worked his purposes out on earth through this nation leading to the Messiah: Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin, death and destruction; Jesus arose bodily from the dead; the church is to continue his mission of healing, feeding, saving and community restoration to the world; the Spirit dwells in us to lead us in the mission; God is one expressed in three; the Scriptures are our authority; faith in Christ saves; the church is the people of God on the earth; Jesus will return; resurrection, judgement and eternal destiny will come to pass at this point.

We will all want to add more to the macro-narrative and we should in dialogue with each other and more importantly with text. But in the detail we should acknowledge the grey, be open to the text speaking into our macro-narrative and adapting it at any point of time, be open to other ideas to adapt our macro-narrative or at least apply to parts of it less certitude and with less arrogance. We should stop judging each other for this or that position (unless the essentials are threatened), dividing over detail; and get on with it.

For me this is essential in an age in which we are struggling to work things out and where the western church is still in decline and needing unity to retain strength. We need to work hard to continually work to understand the 'macro-narrative', reading the text from a perspective like this is wonderfully helpful as we are in the midst of a glorious big story. But, we need also to never cease to work at the art of detailed exegesis as we interact between macro-narrative and micro-text analysis. It is a spiral in fact. Indeed there are other voices within the art of interpretation including experience, science and reason, tradition etc. But at the end of the day it is interplay of macro-narrative and micro-text analysis that is essential.

Micro-text analysis actually must always be allowed to dominate in the final analysis because this means that the text and God himself will never be domesticated by some external grid whether it be hyper-Calvinism, Arminianism, egalitarianism, universalism, open theism, pre-millenialism, cessationism etc; rather, the text will be allowed to continue to surprise us as the Spirit who penned it through the hearts and minds of its writers (in some mysterious way for sure) can speak through it to us in our own situations.

I myself am repenting of my own 'macro-text imposition' as I overly trusted my 'great learning' and arrogantly began to twist scripture, domesticating it to the 'system' I have created. Now I do retain a 'macro-narrative' but admit that it is tenuous at many points, a work in progress, open to others critique and adjustment, epistemologically uncertain at many points. I hope that I retain that openess and challenge you to do the same.

Things Worth Dying For 1: What are the essentials worth taking a bullet for? Introduction

One of the things I have been considering lately is this question, 'what would I be prepared to die for?' I am not talking about causes here, but in terms of elements of Christian belief that are totally indispensable, things that are so essential to my belief that were I taken captive by terrorists, I would take a bullet for.

This is no academic exercise. The history of Christianity is full of the imposition of all manner of things as 'essential' to the faith. We have fought wars over some of them. People have been put to death for elements of belief. Churches have split continually over such things. As we go about preaching the gospel, we need to seek to be as certain as possible about these things, to ensure that we preach the gospel authentically. If we do not, we may sell people a lie, we may impose on them things they do not need to believe, telling them they are imperative, when in fact they are not that certain.

This was an issue in the early church. Should a new believer be circumcised and adhere to the law of Moses to be saved? Paul and Barnabas led the charge to ensure this did not happen. Why? So that new Gentile believers would not be burdened with these and because 'salvation is by faith alone' and not any work.

So over the next few entries I will address some of these questions. My feeling is that Christians are guilty of imposing the non-essential on others as essential. We have imposed ideas like a certain type of baptism is imperative, what gender can or cannot teach, a certain view of creation as definitive, a certain view on the second coming of Christ and the events that will occur, a certain view of what mission is and so on. We have fought over these things and are outrageously divided over them.

I believe this is essential too from the perspective of post-modernism and post-christendomism. That is, being Christians in this post-modern world demands of our society less absolutism and more relativism. Or perhaps better, absolutism where absolutism is due, and relativism where the grey glows in the darkness.

I am not going to sell out to post-modernism, pluralism and relativism; but I am going to allow it to speak to me and ensure that I am not preaching a gospel that is not based on the essentials, whilst allowing different views to exist in the non-essentials. Not that I won't develop my own thoughts on these issues, but I will do so with openness and humility, knowing that this is only one legitimate way of looking at the data.

I believe we will be far more effective in sharing the gospel in this context where we preach that which is essential and allow new believers to explore the faith and come to their own points of view on the non-essential.

Actually, we need to allow freedom to all who want to explore the faith. But it would help if we clarified those things that are non-negotiable.

Doing this intuitively has helped me a lot. I began as a dogmatic Christian. One who worked out his 'macro-narrative' (see above) on what was really a limited knowledge of the texts of the Bible, and I then tended to be very certain and judgemental of other points of view. Thankfully, I remained open to adapting my understanding, and I believe now I am in a much better position as a Christian and a proclaimer. That is, I major on the essentials, and hang loose on the non-essentials (while having my own view on many of them of course).

Paul was like this. In 1 Cor 9:19-22 he speaks of adapting his missiological strategy by being non-dogmatic and flexible in terms of non-essentials (adiaphora). This was to ensure he had the maximum effectiveness in his proclamation, to win the many. We see this applied in 1 Cor 8-10 and Rom 14-15 in particular, as he urged believers to be adaptable based on conscience and love.
Another reason to do this is false-absolutism comes back to bite us on the behind. Christians love to explore and test what they hear. False-absolutism where it is not due almost inevitably spawns a reaction that often divides. It would be better not to go there in the first place and not determine non-essentials as essential but major on the majors not the minors.

For me this is actually a huge issue. If we are going to effectively re-evangelise the west we need to do so from a strong unified foundation. If we are going to retain Christians we win we must allow them to work through the options themselves, let the grey be grey, present what we believe not in autocratic dogmatism, but with freedom to explore, searching into the possibilities and probabilities. For me this is one of the joys of being a Christian, exploring, testing ideas, checking out people's notions against text and context etc. We must raise students and disciples and not blind followers.
Hence, working out the things worth dying for is a worthy task. So onwards...

World War 3?

Interesting article on Wikipedia news concerning comments on WW3: See

To summarise Bush and Putin are at it again. Bush has said this week that the Iranian nuclear program may be the trigger for WW3. Bush is quoted as saying that Iran with its leader who wants to destroy Israel and desire for nuclear weapons is a danger to security against which he is seeking to rally the world. This led to a Tehran response that Bush is either made or wanting a new world order and in fact it is the US who is the threat to world peace. Putin responded by saying Russian was boosting its nations defenses with new nuclear weapons to overcome the US anti-missile systems in Europe. Putin also suggested that the US are after Siberia's resources and has considered invading Russia!

These guys are mad! I am interested in the key words Iran, US, Russian, Israel and WW3. Interesting!

As for me, I will not try and predict anything dumb, but will keep watching with interest... It is good to know that the real world leader is our Emperor, President Jesus! Yeah!

Awesome Boks!

Brilliant win South Africa. Rubbish game, but a great win. They had a great draw, England twice, no NZ, Aust or France; but, who cares, awesome! Great pack. Brilliant half back, wonderfully talented second five, great goal kicker, awesome field position and fantastic defence. They were and are the number one team at the moment. And their lineout is sensational! No holds barred, congratulations. England were gutsy but had no attacking power. They nearly scored, but the 3rd ref got it right, unfortunately. Way to go Argentina, awesome performance. Their great win over France indicates how appallingly the AB's played! In 6 months the AB's have gone from the best team in the world to well below their standard, the South Africans in the last year have gone from number 2 to number 1. Things change and so why worry about 4 years ago except to pick the best team and go for it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another way ahead for rugby

Perhaps it is time to bite the bullet and go global with world rugby. Flag the world cup which in rugby is not working. Replace it with an annual or biannual competition.

There is the 6 nations in the north and the tri-nations in the south. Why not have one international competition each year? The heart of rugby is shifting north not so much in strength but in terms of where players are going. The truth is, in 10 years, most of the NZ best players will be playing in the European competitions. So why not extend the 6 nations to a 10 (or 12) nations competition. The All Blacks, Wallabies, South Africans and Argentineans go north every second year and play in it. It could be played either as a complete round robin which may take too long, or as two pools of 5 with semis and a final.

You could extend it to 6 in each pool and on the alternate years if biannual, have the remainder of the world's nations playing off to see who gets into it in a tournament of Romania, Georgia, Portugal, the PI nations, Japan and the North Americans.

If it was bi-annual on the alternate year these teams could stay at home and host tours like in the the good old days.

The other major competitions would be the Super 14 and Heinikein cup which would run at times other than the 12 nations competition.

This would also mark the time for the All Blacks who play in Europe to be available... more on this later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nuggets of Jude 4

The final nugget reads: 'to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.' This refers to those in the context of Jude's readers who are falling into sin, particularly the sin of excessive freedom (antinomianism). The believers are to show mercy to them, indicating the grace of God demonstrated to them. 'Mixed with fear' is difficult and could be the fear of the sinners, fear of judgement or of God generally. It is probably the latter two, fear of God and the consequences of sin. In other words, show grace and mercy to these people but do so with a determination not to fall into sin. The final statement reinforces this, the believers avoiding interaction with them and so being corrupted. This resonates with 1 Cor 5 where Paul urges the expulsion of a sexual sinner from the Corinthian church because of the dangers of the church being corrupted.

So we have insight into how to respond to false teachers. We are to be merciful and gracious to them whilst being careful not to fall into the same sin and so the wrath of God. We are to avoid being corruped by their influence.

Here endeth these nuggets from Jude. It is an interesting little book. We tend to focus on the big books, Romans, 1 Corinthians etc; but there is a lot in these little ones.


Here's an article by J. Davies an ex-Welsh superstar which from a different point of view identifies where the AB's went wrong. I think it has a point:

Richard Loe too puts it well:

John Mitchell is on to it. I still think he should have been given another go after the last world cup, but he made too many enemies:

And on drop goals:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Nuggets of Jude 4

Jude 23a is one of the most direct statements on evangelism in the NT: 'snatch others from the fire and save them'. The NRSV has it better in regards to the Greek: 'save others by snatching them out of the fire'. This is the second half of a men-de construct i.e. on the one hand be merciful to those in doubt, and on the other hand, save... The imperative is 'save', the means is 'by snatching them out of the fire'. This is a call to reach out to the lost and save them. Clearly, it in the NT it is God who saves, but he works through believers as his agency, empowered by the Spirit, as they share the Gospel with the lost.

This verse speaks of the dangers of eternal destruction. This is clear from verse 7 where the recipients of the letter are warned of the dangers of 'the punishment of eternal fire'. Sodom and Gomorrah serves as a warning to the readers.

Here we have an appeal from Christ's earthly brother Jude, to be motivated in our evangelism because of the horrendous fate of the lost. The Greek for punishment in Jude 7 is dike which is also used by 2 Thess 1:9 which reads, 'they will be punished with eternal destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power'. We have here in Jude the same essential theme, eternal punishment in fire. 'Fire' can be literal or figurative. It is difficult to remove the punitive dimension despite many finding this distasteful.

We are then to be motivated to save the lost who will be destroyed in eternal fire. We are to look with compassion and grief upon lost humanity. We are to meditate upon their fate, allowing ourelves to be moved by their fate. We are to care deeply and as Jesus in his mercy has saved us, reach out to save others.

This should move us to action.

Now's The Time to Coach the AB's

If I was a budding rugby coach I would be desperately keen to get the AB's now. We go into the next world cup with a hometown advantage. We know that NZ is desperately difficult to beat at home, no matter how good the opposition is. I am sure that if Graham H, Laurie M, John H, John M had had the AB's for a home world cup, they would have probably won. Mind you our ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is now legendary. Now is the time to get the AB's then. Mind you the person appointed should get a 2 year contract. Worry about the World Cup after two years. This would make them accountable for success in the interim. I think it will be Deans. He is tainted by Sydney 2003, which is bad but not as being tainted by the goings on in the rotation-recycling cup! Perhaps Gatland might be a chance? Who knows? But they have a great advantage whoever they will be, for they will get to play at home. Maybe at home we can throw off the chokers tag? Perhaps not? Then again, it will probably be in Sydney anyway unless Banks, Clark and his/her cronies get sorted! Maybe National should make it an election issue. National will pay for a rebuild of Eden Park if they get in. Perhaps that is political suicide?

Eden Park Fiasco

Here we go again. Banks is in and the Eden Park games begin! Why not just give it to the Aussies now! What a mess. I hope the powers that be get sorted asap or the RFU will move it. Perhaps it is time to get the Albany Stadium plan together. It makes more sense anyway?

No surprise

South Africa's comprehensive win today is no surprise. They are a complete side now. What happened today should have happened twice for the AB's, knocking over France and then England with strong forward play, defence, goal kicking and attacking. Instead, the AB's were poorly prepared and foundered on inadequate preparation.

What a dream run for the South Africans; has any team ever had a run like this? Fiji and then Argentina in the play-offs! Neither of these sides are equipped to win the cup.

I can't see England beating the Boks. They fought well against France but the match showed that neither the French or the English have the x-factor. I predict a good win to the Boks. They are playing with passion and belief. They are fine-tuned. They have had an easy run and so have fuel in the tank. They have brilliance out wide and devastation upfront. I think it will be closer than 36-0 as the English are better than that and are playing much better. But I can't see them winning.

Who do I want to win? Neither. I can't stomach the thought that either England or SA have won 2 world cups and we in NZ only 1. Well that proves that we are not the number one team in the world despite our claims to this. We don't know how to prepare to win the cup. Oh well, I will go for the Boks. They are Southern Hemisphere and they play a good brand of rugby. For rugby's sake, I hope the Boks get up.

I think the NZRFU's decision to leave players out of the Super 14 helped this occur. In that time SA grew and arm and a leg in confidence and now are en-route to rule the world. Fancy winning a cup without playing France, NZ, Wales, Ireland, Scotland or Australia! Interesting! The cards have sure fallen for the Boks.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Give it away

I don't get boxing at the best of times. Being of the Christian persuasion and believing that the human body is a gift from God as is life, and that the human mind is the centre of all that we are and experience, I struggle with sports which involve intentional desire to damage another person's head. Boxing's goal is to knock unconscious another person. This as we are regularly told by medical experts is bad for you and can cause long-term damage. One can argue that other sports like league, gridiron and rugby are similarly dubious. And there is an argument here as these sports involve physical domination. But the difference with boxing is that boxing involves damage to the brain! Whereas to do so in these other sports is an offense (although one can be forgiven for believing so sometimes!)

So what do you do with Evander Holyfield? One week short of his 45th birthday and he goes into the ring again to fight 32 year old Sultan Ibragimov of Russia and not unsurprisingly loses. With all due respect to Evander, is he mad? Is he punch drunk? He is asking for permanent damage!

And unless he has switched religions, Evander too is a believer in Jesus Christ. He believes that his life is a gift, as is his mind, and that his body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Surely it is time to give it away! I just can't see Jesus Christ boxing! I can't see him at 45 (if he lived that long on earth) taking on a 32 year old Russian with the goal of knocking him out! I can't see the Apostle Paul congratulating believers for taking the body gifted them by God and the living temple of God's presence on earth and putting it at such risk. Perhaps he might overlook the young and fit doing so, when the powers of recovery are still strong! But to do so at 45?

Evander has a good 35 years left if he keeps his health if he lives to the average age these days. I appeal to you Evander, as a brother in the Lord, to give it away! Use your fame and prestige to influence others positively to make the world a better place. Hit the speaking circuit before you can't speak! Set an example of a man who knows when to retire. Be the ultimate Christian warrior and put yourself and your fans out of their misery! You have been a truly great champion, but I think it is time to retire!

NZ League!

58-0! OK! That is a shocker! If the AB's lost by that, there would be a government enquiry! What a sad day in NZ league. What a start for Kemble! Lack of discipline, outclassed... The sending off cannot be an excuse although it didn't help! Still, we won the Junior Kiwi's game... little consolation!

Barry Curtis 10K

Congratulations to Nina Rillstone for her great win in the Barry Curtis 10k today in the senior women. What a star! Underated. 13th in the World Champs marathon this year in Beijing in tough conditions! Keep it up, there are people who are so excited about your performances. It was an honour to see you personally!

Awesome performance too by Gracie Keown in the Juniors, winning comprehensively! Rock and roll! What an improver Gracie is this season! She no longer lives in the shadow of the younger sisters. She is out of the shadow! Way to go John Bowden, coach of the pair... another great day at the office for John!

And keep it up Kelsey Patterson, you will be back!

SPARC Funding

Now as I see it the AB's came 5th equal in the rugby world cup. Now that is the same result as Kimberley Smith the NZ middle distance runner at the recent world athletic champs. Cool! We can expect athletics to get as much financial support as the AB's. Mmmmm... some how I don't think it will work like this. Mind you, the AB's did win the Tri-Nations this year... who will remember that for the next four years!

Dear Graham...

Just watched the England-France game! England! Who would have thought it after SA, Tonga and Samoa!

Yet, months ago in this blog I warned the world that if Johnny got back in the team and in form, England would be a force! They are, they were! I hadn't realised how well Johnny was playing, brilliant. He is back, the number one first five in the world. King Johnny gave Graham, Dan C and the others a lesson in first five play today. A legend. England are timing their peak brilliantly. They are doing what must be done in a tournament, peaking at the conclusion! Well done England...

We saw starkly the problem with the AB's last week. The Poms play week in week out, huge demands on them from their clubs. They come together for their national team, usually under prepared because of club demands. Yet, when the trench warfare of international rugby at the top level begins, they are are tough! They are resilient. They have had no rotation or reconditioning, but they know how to win. They were prepared to drop goals, they know how to play this type of rugby.

I am now even more upset over last week. We have the most naturally talented and brilliant players, but they were robbed by dumb coaching! I see it now, I should have seen it earlier. I was never sure that you can prepare for rugby in the gym and training. I certainly couldn't do it when I played Auckland senior rugby in the 80's. I needed game time. I told myself, that these coaches knew better, the modern training methodologies had changed things. I see now it hasn't changed! I should have shouted from the roof, but I too was sucked in, even if I wasn't a hundred percent sure.

Like all sports, you prepare for rugby by playing. You get fit as hell, get the skills as honed as possible, then you play and get better. You don't do it training!

So for the next four years, play it all AB's. Forget the world cup until we are 6 weeks out. Play the A team in every test, ; make the AB jersey worth something; build a team of tough men who are uncompromising and can handle the pressure, who have combinations, who have been through hell fighting for their places. If they can't handle the pressure, drop them. If they want holidays on the beach, more money, moan about the workload, drop them, they are not the type of men who will win the trench warfare of world cup play-offs. They can go and dig a ditch or do a 40+ hour job like the rest of us. It is time to get hard! A few old values... so...

Dear Graham, Steve and Wayne,
Do the decent thing. Resign! You screwed up a great team. You had more depth than any other nation but decided that you needed to rotate players to increase our depth superiority, a waste of time and talent. In-so-doing you screwed them up; as the other players of the world were playing and improving their game, we sat back and thought we were there.

Just when the rest of the world was on the rack, terrified of the best AB team for 10 years, you screwed them up by wrapping them in cotton wool, training them in the gym and on the training field and not letting them play. You clearly messed with their minds. They didn't develop their top two inches, their leadership, and couldn't hack the pressure.

What better way to get hard than trying to beat down the rising South African threat in the Super 14; instead they were in the gym! Then play the A team in every test, building combinations, winning the Trinations (as you did).

Then taking on the NPC. Then they should have been pulled out with a couple of warm up games in Europe against England and France! South Africa played warm up games. So, you screwed up, admit it, humble yourselves and admit it!

Do the decent thing! I love you all. You are great coaches and have done some great things, but you got this wrong. Do the right thing, apologise to the players, to the nation and fall on your swords. Graham, you have had more than enough goes with Wales, the Lions and the AB's. Wayne, you have had a couple of goes. Steve, I know it is tough, but you are now tainted. You too bought into the rotation and reconditioning nonsense. It is over for you all! It is time for a change. I still can't believe you have not already called it quits. So, on behalf of many others, announce your resignations so we can get on with the business.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Semifinal time

So who will win the semi's now that the AB's and the Wallabies are out? France I believe will defeat England. They have had their glitch against the Argentinians. They will be too strong at home, having the psychological edge on them. Having said that, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the English got up. I hope not, it is a sad day for world rugby if 10man rugby wins the world cup. Mind you, it will, they all play it now and the AB's unbelievably did so last week, and lost!

While many commentators are picking the Argentinians I think the South Africans will be too strong. They are a great side and may win the tournament. I think the Argentinians will meet their match this time, the South Africans have to me their match up front, and superiority in the backs. Again, nothing would surprise me either way though!

The final then will probably be France-South Africa. But then I thought the AB's and Wallabies would win. How about the bloke who put a $1 million on the AB's last week; he must be feeling good!

Nuggets of Jude 3

Jude 21 reads, ' Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.' Again we are called here to take responsibility for our own faith. Remember that Jude's readers are facing false teachers and he has dished out heinous warnings to these teachers and their followers of a terrible fate. Here, the readers are to resist and keep themselves in God's love. 'Keep' is tereo and has the sense of 'guard oneself'; that is, watch your own faith. I am not one who agrees with the 'once-saved-always-saved' theology. I think such a view has to do exegetical gymnastics with a raft of texts which suggest one can initially believe, but do so in vain through falling away (e.g. 1 Cor 15:1-2; Heb warning passages). Hence, I believe Jude is warning his readers, look after yourself in the faith.

'In God's love' here is the language of relationship. Walk in faithful obedience and you remain in relationship with God. His love is there for all of us who seek to remain in that relationship. This is the language of intention not perfection, seeking to obey and honour and love God despite failing at times. It is the only place in the universe to be isn't it, in God's love.

'As you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life' is an example of the 'already-not yet' eschatology. This refers to the second coming at which time Jesus will return and take us to eternal life. Where eternal life will be lived out is ambiguous, perhaps 'in heaven', 'perhaps on a restored earth', perhaps in a merge of both in some way. 'The mercy' calls to mind the basis of salvation, Christ's mercy. As we live in obedience, this is our future hope. Where Christ through his salvation by his death and resurrection, save us despite our sin.

This is a great verse. It calls us to take responsibility for our faith, to live it out in obedience, stop blaming anyone else or expecting anyone else to do so. It tells us how to live and tells us what we live for. We live for that day when Jesus returns to live eternally with us. Thanks God for your love, thanks for your mercy. Help me to keep myself in your love!


What does one have to do?

I see Roger Kahui was convicted yesterday to 16 years in prison for rape. Now that sounds rather harsh! But to me it is not enough. This guy on a pretense got a woman to let him in to her house and for four hours brutally raped her. She only got away because he made a mistake and she was able to run to a nearby petrol station and get help. Kahui before this had spent half his life in jail and had been convicted 130 times! One NZ Herald article notes that this number would be far higher if he had not been in prison so much!

Now I am all for restorative justice to a point. It is good to see the reconciliation of victim and perpetrator, to see both parties fully restored. I do not like jail in many ways, the gathering together of criminals in what often turns out to be a school of crime. It also leads, as in the case of Kahui, to criminals who cannot function on the outside and repeatedly offend to go back to jail. Several years ago a guy walked into our house in Henderson and stole my wallet. He used my credit card to buy nearly a $1000 worth of alcohol. He did over $60,000 worth of crime that same day, brazenly stealing cards and items from shops until he was arrested. He wanted to go back inside, that was where he felt 'at home!' So there are problems with our system. Where possible I think we should work to rehabilitation and restoration.

However, there is a time when a person should go inside and stay inside. Why? Because there is also a need to balance restorative and punitive justice with protective justice. When I read a story like Kahui's, while I feel compassion for him, and there are reasons his life is a mess, he must be incarcerated indefinitely to protect society from him. I think the same of all extreme rapists, child abusers and murders that are premeditated and especially extreme. Certainly where a person repeats such violent crime, they should not ever be released again. I do not agree with the death penalty, to me the gospel clearly stands against the taking of life for a life (see Mt 5). However, there is a time to castrate or neuter a repeat sexual abuser, and to incarcerate indefinitely. Indeed, what better way to ponder one's crime than being inside indefinitely. I believe this experience should also be gruelling, if not inhumane.

What about false convictions? True, there will be some injustice and errors made. However, if one does not apply the death penalty, then the way is left open for the Joe Karam's and others of this world, to fight the injustice. I would rather see the odd mistake made with life-long consequences and the children and women of this society protected, than to have people like Kahui given a second chance in society.

I am all for restorative justice up to the point of these extreme perpretrators. I would like to see society pour more resources into victim support and care. Where we have an extreme case of violence or a residivist criminal, there is a time to say, ENOUGH! You can spend the rest of your days contemplating what you have done, considering facing God for your crime, and I pray, these people will find repentance.

And we have to work as a society to see the number of Kahui's minimised. We as the church have to be agents of helping people with parenting, helping men find other ways of dealing with their problems other than violence and anger, providing healing environments for the broken. We need to train NZers in parenting, marriage, anger management. I think actually, these should become an essential part of the NZ education system. We as the church should be seeking to go to the schools of our communities and take values training into these homes. We have a crisis.

For all that, there must be a time when a person loses the privilege of existing in our communities and Kahui is one of them. The Government has a responsibility to protect us! Women deserve protection. Children deserve protection! What does one have to do?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nuggets of Jude 2

The second glorious nugget here is 'pray in the Holy Spirit'. 'Pray' here is present middle, the present indicating 'continually pray'. 'In the Holy Spirit' can mean 'by', 'with', 'in the sphere of', 'as led by', 'in the power of' and more. It should be taken in a global way. Pray as led by, in accordance with, by the urging of, in the love of etc etc, the Spirit. It is prayer drenched in the Spirit's grace, love, guidance and urging. It recalls Paul's injunction in Eph 6:18: 'pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.'

Prayer is the basic humanward side of response to God. Worship is essentially prayer. Prayer involves lots of listening, and sharing with God one's deepest thoughts, concerns, desires and yearnings. It should characterise us as Christians. It is one of the means of 'building ourselves up in the most holy faith'.

There are two equal and opposite extremes. We can become fatalistic and extreme and believe prayer is pointless because God is sovereign and do what God wants to do despite us; that is, our prayers are really meaningless because God is God. God has promised to honour prayer, he has told us that our prayers can make a difference, he will move in response to them. On the other hand we can believe that God does nothing without our prayers and it is our prayers that are the power that changes the world. Our prayers are powerful but only in that God moves. God is what changes the world, we pray, we trust, God moves.

So how is your prayer life? Mine is not great at the moment. It is sure time to sort it out! Better go and pray then, bye!

Marion Jones

So she is a cheat! No surprise in this. She has now admitted it. Won't say 'good on her', because she is a cheat. Now her 100m medal will go to another drug cheat (Katerina Thanou) who has also tested positve. 2 of the other woman in her 4x100m relay are also drug cheats (Chryste Gaines and Torri Edwards). Should they all lose their medals. Absolutely! She should be banned for life and lose every medal she have ever won and all who won relays with her should lose their medals.

What is amazing is that she has professed her innocence and even passed a lie detector test in the past! Apparently she has passed 170 test! So the testing sux! So you can beat a lie detector!

Now I have three daughters who run, one of whom is on the verge of the World Junior Champs in Poland next year. I wonder whether she has a chance as the sport develops! Can she ever know whether the others are clean? There are other problems at these junior events, people lie about their age. So she as a 15 year old may race 23 year olds!

Our family are believers in God and ethics, so (I hope at least) none of them will cheat in this way. The problem is as the Marion Jones saga points out, is that not all have the same values. They may never make it because of this cheating!

I think it is time for compulsory blood samples for all athletes 6 times a year, at their check in at every world ranked event and immediately after the final. These samples should be kept and rechecked every two years as technology develops. The athletes found to be 'on the juice' with performance enhancing drugs or enhancements of any sort, are to be banned for life.

It makes me wonder about an athlete like Nick Willis. He is a strong Christian and opposed to drugs. Perhaps he is the best in the world but the only one not of the juice. Maybe Kimberley Smith is the best middle distance runner in the world too? Results may mean little! Why would anyone run anymore?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nuggets of Jude

Jude is an underated book. It is written (so I think) by Jesus' brother Jude. He describes himself as a slave (doulos) of Jesus Christ and James' brother. It is written to some unspecified Christians described as the called, the loved by God, and kept by Jesus Christ. His recipients are afflicted by false teachers against whom Jude encourages them to contend for the faith. These false teachers are infiltrating the flock and are now condemned. They are godless and distort an authentic Christian doctrine of grace into a freedom to be sexually immoral and deny Jesus Christ as King and Lord.

Jude appeals to OT and apocalyptic examples of God's judgement. These include the Exodus, angels, Sodom and Gomorrah. These are examples of those who will suffer eternal punishment. These false teachers too are unholy, reject authority and slander celestial beings. Jude warns them with the example of Michael who when disputing with Satan over Moses' body, did not dare to slander Satan. These false teachers however are happy to speak abusively and will be destroyed. Jude sees them as going the same way as Cain who killed Abel, Balaam and Korah; all OT examples of opponents of God.

These false teachers abuse the fellowship and Lord's Supper gatherings and meals. Jude has nothing positive to say about them with vivid language, speaking of their death: 'they are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead!'

He appeals to the book of Enoch warning of God's judgement.

He appeals to his readers to withstand these false teachers.

My interest in this blog for the next few entries is vs20-25; a brilliant set of injunctions and encouragements in the faith.

The first is this: Verse 20: 'But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.'

'Friends' here is 'beloved' from the Greek agape. 'Build yourselves up' suggests that we are to take personal responsibility for our own faith. For these readers, as they face false teaching, they are to take personal responsibility to grow! How do we do this? Clearly, through reading Scripture, theological reflection, reading books that grow us, fellowship that builds and encourages, prayer i.e. a devotional life that sustains. We are not then to blame others and fail to take responsibility for ourselves; we are to take personal responsibility for our own faith and its growth. 'Most holy faith' points to our belief. We are not to stray into ideas that erode our faith but remain focussed on 'the faith', that which is orthodox and which deepens our commitment and belief.

As a young Christian I was taught this verse by a friend, and it has resonated within my spirit ever since. I don't blame others when I face struggles, I take responsibility. If the preaching at church is a bit pallad and unimpressive, I take responsibility getting good books, reading the word and taking personal responsibility. Too many of us Christians blame the preacher, blame the church, blame the worship or whatever. We are responsible before God for our own faith.

On deeper reflection

So where are we at?

To me, while I have always loved Graham Henry, I think it is time for him to go. He has had a great career, won many titles, began the Welsh revival; but with the Lions and AB's he did not quite scale the heights of rugby immortality. Wayne Smith will not coach them again. I think it is Robbie Deans time. He is the man of the moment, he is at his peak, he is poised. We missed John Hart when it was his moment, he getting his chance 10 years too late. Perhaps the same is true of Graham Henry who should have coached the AB's after his glorious time with Auckland. John Mitchell was 10 years too early. Deans is ready! Don't let the Aussies have him.

What about the players? Mils is off and Leon M has had his day. Perhaps Corey Jane from Wellington will get his chance now. Doug is off, but the Fijians are ready to go and Smith is waiting in the wings. Hamilton and Hosea Gear are also good.

At centre we have good options, Tuiava, Smith and Nonu. In the midfield we are losing both Mauger and sadly Luke M, who to me is a brilliant player, who will only get better as he matures. Second five will be interesting in 2008. This is wide open to me. Perhaps Tuiava will be 2nd five and one of the others centre.

Daniel Carter, Nick Evans, Stephen Donald, Stephen Brett; we have first fives everywhere; excellent depth.

Byron chose the right time to go, he to me has never quite scaled that final summit of greatness; a fine player, but not quite a Gregan or Farr-Jones. Leonard, Wipu, Ellis; we have no problems at half back.

Nos 8 is still strong with So'oialo, Luaki, Tualii, Williams, Mika and others. Similarly the flankers with McCaw, Masoe, Collins, Latimer and others.

Locks are strong with Williams, Robinson, Eaton, Flavell, Ryan and young guys.

Props are strong with Haymen going but we still have Sommerville, Woodcock, Tialata and young guys coming through like Jamie Mackintosh.

At hooker we are losing Oliver but still have Mealamu, Hore and a host of others.

The truth is, we are still very strong.

To me the key is to forget the World Cup and seek to be the best team in the world as of the first game from the World Cup. We pick and A team of 22 and as injuries come, and they will, we build. We play week in week out. There needs to be space given for recovery and full restoration of fitness each year, but not during Super 14's, TriNations or other key events. We need to focus on the World Cup in the few months before it not now! Let's enjoy the time between and make the most of it. Let's develop mental strength, learning to win, to lose and to battle in adversity. Let's trust our depth and not worry about trying to create it, we actually have the greatest depth in the world.

Let's not worry about the Cup, who cares! We will deal with that when it comes. So bring on the Super 14 and 2008.

Are we finally growing up?

It feels different this time... losing the cup I mean. In 1999 and 2003 the losses at the world cup were more like a funeral followed by blood letting. Anger filled the airways, John Hart and John Mitchell were vilified, Taine Randell and Rueben Thorne were the world's worst captains. NZ rugby was rubbish and needed sorting.

This time it is definitely different. There was grief and sadness and there are calls for Henry's head. But this time, as we saw at Christchurch airport yesterday, things are different. I was proud to be a NZer yesterday, and my desire to support the AB's was given a great boost as 2000 or so Kiwi's welcomed home the AB's.

And that was good! The AB's have done brilliantly over the last four years. They have beaten the Lions, had a grand slam, won the trinations, Bledisloe and we have won all but one Super 14 title. It has been a very good era. They fell at the final post, well the third from final one, for sure; but one cannot be too critical.

Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Hansen have done well. They have the best scrum in the world, have improved the lineout, have a great backline, and have done well.

There were some extraordinary circumstances in the game, some out of their control, others within. They screwed up on the two R's, rotation and reconditioning to me. They should have stopped rotating (and getting dizzy), and settled on the combo's. They should not have missed so much rugby. They lost their Mo Jo in the game, lost their nerve. Mentally, they did not quite get there. Then there was the French zeal which was spectacular on the day. And of course there was our friend from England, the ref. He had a shocker. Today's Herald's analysis was utterly brilliant. To win the game, with the ref in such a mood, required the AB's being more than 10% better than the French, and while they did dominate, they did not dominate sufficiently. I don't think he was a cheat, he was just out of his league in the pressure and buckled. I feel for him, he must be gutted... well he should be!

Anyway, we need to be supportive. This was different to 1999 and 2003 for sure. I am pleased we are growing up.

Rebecca Smith! Far out!

Sometimes a sports story comes along and slips through the net. More often than not it involves a woman who does something extraordinary, but because of the grip rugby has on this nation, no one takes much notice.


Now forgive me if I am wrong, but this is absolutely extraordinary! We have had some great players. Wynton Rufer, the Oceania player of the century who won a UEFA cup! He and Maia Jackman have both played in Fifa All Star teams. But this is something again!

She has been named with Germany's three-time world player Birgit Prinz and Marta of Brazil, last years player of the year, the best player at the recently complete world cup and the top goal scorer for the tournament!

Sure it is 'only' women's soccer, but soccer is the nos one sport in the world! And here we have global star. So a little recognition for this effort I say! Way to go NZ soccer and way to go Rebecca Smith!


Interesting reaction in the world press to Doug Howlett's antics. At one level one can see why people are up at arms. On the large, a few too many, gets carried away, knocks about a few cars. Not the sort of behaviour one might expect from a role model to the youth of society. Binge-drinking again! All Blacks should be above that!

On the other hand, these guys are only human! Here is Doug H, a year ago ranked the 4th best wing in NZ and probably on the outer for the world cup. He has a great season and knocks out Rico Gear, a truly brilliant player. He gets picked, breaks the NZ test try scoring record, and is probably with Ali Williams the NZ star of the cup.

Then the teams for the quarter finals are named and Dougie misses out! No doubt he was gutted. As it turned out, his experience was sorely missed as were Chris Jack and Aaron Mauger. Then, before he could blink the AB's were gone, out of the cup!

So he has a few too many, makes an error of judgement and before you know it, he is all over the world media. Come on! He is human! Give the guy a break.

He has apologised and is keen to make recompense, that is enough.

I say, give the guy a break.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The power of the church

Embedded in this story ( is a cool account of a church who stood against injustice and helped to lead to the fall of communism in Germany. It speaks of the power of passive resistance in oppressive contexts. As in many of these situations, it often takes years to get there, but it can be done. We who name Jesus as Lord need to stand against injustice. The uprising was in East Germany in 1989 in a Lutheran Church led by a pastor Christian Fuhrer who simply inaugurated prayers for peace, carrying candles to indicate non-violence. This led to 400,000 filling the centre of the city and ultimately 31 days later the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania! As the writer notes, 'That church provided the institutional context in which to challenge the state. And the faith of so many ordinary people gave them the courage to go into the streets on that evening when paratroops had been flown in, the Stasi were armed and hospitals had been cleared to receive hundreds of casualties.' Cool! The writer notes too, that this doesn't always have the same result with many dying or being rejected for doing the same.

Either way, it is the call of Christ, for us to be at the forefront of such resistance, leading the world in standing against injustice, so that God's great dream can be fulfilled.

Rugby, God and all that

So what do the church's do that planned events for the coming Sunday mornings. One church had Eroni Clarke coming for a breakfast, to watch the game, and give a testimony. Many other church's have planned events, like my own, where I was going to say a few words in the outreach. Oh well! Does this mean though that Satan worked feverishly to assure that the French won to stop such outreach. A cosmic conspiracy is behind NZ's loss! I certainly prayed for an AB victory; not for the outreaches, but for the poor guys involved. I feel so sorry for them, having to come back to NZ to face the criticism; all because they lost by 2 points.

It was freaky how much went the French way. The ref made mistakes esp. the Luke M sinbinning, the forward pass in the winning try; and worse, missing offsides and the French slowing the ball down at the second half breakdowns. It is rather surprising that the French gave away not one penalty in the second half!

But hey, it actually means little. It is just a game, despite the fact that a lot of NZer's worship the god of rugby. We need to get over it.

Spin off

One thing that is rather funny as a Christian and rugby lover is the impact that this will have on churches. Many churches had prepared special events on the Sunday's leading through to the final; all based on the assumption that the AB's would be there to the end. My own church was planning a breakfast for the semi-final with me saying a few words at a special service after. Now these events are off. I simply can't see people coming out to watch the France-England semi on the big screen! I heard of one church who were preparing a big event with Eroni Clarke speaking!

Perhaps the devil did it! He didn't want these events happening because it could lead to many unbelievers becoming Christians! I am joking! I know one minister who is rather miffed, they now having to prepare a normal service with a normal sermon! Life is like that!


Months ago on this blog ( I said, 'From a NZ point of view this will be a huge challenge. To beat Ireland/France then Australia then South Africa/England in successive weeks is a huge challenge! If NZers think they have the cup in the bag, get real; this will be a gigantic challenge and it is anyone's cup!' I also suggested that we would play Ireland but possibly France. Bugger, we played France, and we lost.

So what went wrong.

1. Rotation, Reconditioning is retro! These ideas have some merit but the truth is that the AB coaching panel failed to prepare the A team in terms of combinations. Neither does reconditioning work, it leave players without enough rugby. While you need fitness and depth, you need a team well prepared with hard rugby. They didn't need the rotation, we have more players in every position than any nation in the world already! They didn't need the reconditioning, they needed to play! They should have played the Super 14, the tests and some of the NPC to be match hard. You could see at the 30 min mark that the AB's intensity began to drop. They never regained it. Shades of Sydney 2003 when the AB's fired nothing.

2. Wrong game plan! What happened. They decided to take it up the guts with one man running. It was clear early on that there was space out wide. When they went 13-0 up they should have continued to run and get Joe R and Sivivatu in the game. Instead they went into trench warfare, the French's own way of playing. Having said that, for all the talk of fitness, they weren't there. They hadn't played enough rugby or enough hard rugby.

3. A team of the wane? The signs were there earlier in the year if we admit it. In 2005-2006 this team peaked thrashing the Lions, a grand slam, Tri Nation titles etc. Most great teams last 3-4 years. I count 2003 as a its first year under Mitchell (apart from the semi) and they have lasted 3 years. The reconditioning and rotation policy was unnecessary and they lost momentum. They did not have the dominance this year in the TriNations or at the Cup. Tragic!

4. The rub of the green! It also was one of the those days. The French got up. The ref went their way, probably unintentionally and pressure from a French-supporting crowd. The sinbinning of McAlistair was simply wrong. He missed the crucial forward pass. The biggest issue remains the two problems that are ruining rugby. He allowed the French to be offside the whole game; and he allowed them at the breakdown to kill the ball. What should have happened was a series of penalties as the AB's pressured the French, yet in the second half we virtually saw none. These would have been converted into 3 points and we would have pulled away. It was one of the those days.

I listened to hours of talkback leading into this and it fulfilled the concerns of a few who realised that while this team is a great team, on any given day in a knock out tournament, with the rub of the green, they could lose. A lot of people were concerned at the preparation of the AB's but this time the public got behind the AB's rather than getting critical before the event. Sadly they are right.

Personally, I do not think they choked, I think they were beaten by a better team and were not prepared properly. I believe this is a great AB team. It is sad that Henry got fancy on it, he had the team, they didn't need to do all the reconditioning, resting and rotation! All he and the team had to do was coach them well, get their combinations strong, play them and let them loose! We have so much depth at home, if we lost a few players through injury leading in, we could bring in the newbies.

Still it is not the end of the world. NZ will win the cup one of these days, they will get it right, they will get the rub of the green, they will win. I still salute Graham Henry as he goes out, he is a great coach. So are Smith and Hanson. But they are all gone now! Welcome Robbie Deans, they are all yours. Bring on 2011.

Finally, let's get over the world cup and enjoy rugby for rugby's sake. Let's see the players play. Let's see the players stop moaning about playing too much and enjoy the privilege of being paid for the thing they love. Let's enjoy the Tri-Nations, tours, Super 14, NPC and see the game sorted out at breakdown and offside line. Let's hope for a win in 2011, but let's not be World Cup obsessed. I say, play hard until then. About 4 weeks out, pick a team for another tournament. Train hard, play hard, be hard, well prepared through playing together week in week out not sitting in the gym, and have another go. As for the exit... bugger.