12.24.2012

Christmas 1914 and the Hope for Peace

British and German officers on the Western Front during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 is fairly well-known; my brother once wrote about it here:
“The First World War broke out in August of 1914. Many rushed to war almost gleefully, confident in victory for their particular side. Many thought the war would be over by Christmas. But when Christmas came the war was still young. It would last another four years and claim the lives of some 8 million soldiers before it was through. 
In the midst of this bloodshed, though, a remarkable thing happened. In many places along the Western Front, particularly where the British and the Germans faced each other, unofficial Christmas truces were made in 1914. And here, for a brief few hours, the killing ceased.  
Instead of firing bullets at each other, the mortal enemies sang Christmas carols to one another on Christmas Eve. German soldiers even decorated their trenches with candles and with Christmas Trees—tannebaum, they called them. On Christmas morning, soldiers from both sides met in no man’s land and exchanged what gifts they had: buttons and medals, candy and tobacco and liquor. Soldiers who had once been barbers gave free haircuts. One German soldier who had been a juggler in happier times gave a performance in no man’s land.  
The goodwill between enemies was only temporary. In a matter of days they were back to the grim business of trying to blow one another apart. But for a few brief hours, the influence of the Prince of Peace had been felt.”
Moments like these where the Kingdom of God breaks into the twisted and fallen world in which we live don’t seem to come often enough. But they are made possible by the fact that 2000 years ago, the Word became Flesh and the Son of God came to earth. The baby Jesus grew to be a man, lived a perfect life, and then died on our behalf, and for Christians, that is a source of great hope. 

A lot of times we don’t understand the concept of biblical hope very well, because in everyday usage, the word hope means something very different than what it means in the Bible. We use hope as a synonym for wish, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, or “I hope our economy gets better soon”—both of these are things that people wish would happen, but they don’t actually expect either of them to happen.

Biblical hope is something different though—it is a confident expectation of something that will happen because it has been promised by God. And the entrance of Jesus into the world and his subsequent death and resurrection are a source of great hope for Christians because they make possible a Day of Peace—a day when there will be no more suffering, no more disease, no more school shootings, and no more war. For those who have made peace with God, it is a day to look forward to—an everlasting day which will find the faithful in the presence of the Heavenly Father. That’s the hope—the confident expectation— that Christians have. 

And in the meantime, as we wait for that day to come, Christians have a lot to do to keep busy:

–We gather together to remind one another of that hope and to pledge our devotion to the cause of Christ…

–We work to instill the values of the heavenly Kingdom into our earthly surroundings, so that our friends and neighbors can taste the peace of God for themselves…

–And we celebrate the small down payments on the promise of peace that God has given us…such as the few blessed hours when the armies of the world ceased their strife and remembered the Baby of Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas to you and your family this holiday season! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men!

12.18.2012

An Update On Kinsley


My wonderful wife has started a blog to keep people updated about the progress of our sweet daughter Kinsley.

Although I haven’t written about it here, Caroline and I have been concerned for several months because Kinsley was having some developmental delays. After a slew of doctor appointments and different tests, it seems very likely that she has a condition which would put her somewhere on the spectrum of congenital muscular dystrophy (we are still waiting for genetic test results to come back).

I’m sure I’ll write some about Kinsley here from time to time, but Caroline’s blog will be much more in depth. Kinsley is the light of our lives and has been such a joy to us, and will continue to be in the future. Please keep our sweet daughter in your prayers, and also pray for her Mommy and Daddy as well.

12.12.2012

Winter Retreat Recap: SHINE


This past weekend was our annual youth group Winter Retreat. This is one of my favorite youth group events of the year, because we are able to take a break from our regular schedules for a weekend and focus on other things instead. It is always a time where the kids in our group grow closer together, get spiritually re-engergized, and have a ton of fun.

This year, the theme of our retreat was “SHINE,” and we talked about light and darkness from a spiritual perspective. Throughout Scripture, God is consistently portrayed using the metaphor of light, and as followers of God, Christians are to be people of light as well.

Our teachings on this topic were organized around three lessons which showed the progression of the theme throughout the weekend:

(1) The Shining Face of Moses (Exodus 33.18-23; Exodus 34.28-35). After Moses leads the people out of Egypt, he spends 40 days and 40 nights with God on Mt. Sinai while God gives the Law to him. Moses is protected in the crevice of a rock, and is only able to see the back of God’s glory as He passes, but the glory of God is so bright that it leaves Moses with a face that literally shines. He even wears a veil to cover his face. Being in the presence of God changes us.

(2) The Shining Light Comes to Earth (John 1.1-14; The Nativity Story). With the birth of Jesus, God reveals His glory and brings His Light to the earth in a new and special way. Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time, and this means that the life of Jesus gives us the perfect example of how we can live in our dark world and still shine God’s Light.

(3) Shining God’s Light to Others (John 8.12; John 9.5; Matthew 5.14-16; Philippians 2.14-15; 1 John 1.5-7). After talking about the greatness of God’s glory and how that glory was brought to earth in a special way through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, our last lesson brought all this together, and focus on our main task as Christians: shining the light of God into our dark world.

Instead of presenting this material in a traditional lecture format, our teens were broken into discussion groups based on age, and processed and learned the material that way. We then combined the separate groups for a larger group discussion, which (hopefully) helped to reinforce the material.

It was a great weekend! We had a lot of fun, and I am optimistic that the teens learned a lot as well.

11.21.2012

Thanksgiving: Enzo the Baker, the Men of Jabesh-Gilead, and Gratitude

Some previously-published (and slightly edited) thoughts on Thanksgiving:

One of my all-time favorite movie scenes occurs fairly early in Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic classic, The Godfather.

Vito Corleone, Don of the Corleone crime family and the “Godfather” of the movie’s title, is in the hospital, having barely survived an attempt on his life. His youngest son, Michael, comes to visit him, but discovers that his father is unguarded and all by himself, and realizes that another attempt is about to be made on his life.

Michael calls his older brother on the phone and tells him to send reinforcements, and then hides his father in another hospital room.

About this time, Enzo the Baker arrives.

Earlier in the movie, the Godfather had used his considerable influence to take care of some immigration issues that Enzo was struggling with, and now the young Sicilian has come to pay his respects to the ailing Don.

Michael tries to warn Enzo of the danger he is in, but Enzo refuses to leave:
“You better get out of here, Enzo, there’s gonna be trouble.”

“If there is trouble, I stay here to help you. For your father. For your father.”
The two men go outside and wait on the front steps, posing as bodyguards. A car of would-be assassins pulls up, but confused by the appearance of guards where they weren’t expecting to find any, they drive on.

Scared to death, Enzo begins to shake and struggles to light a cigarette. He is out of place in the world of organized crime, but a debt of gratitude has compelled an ordinary man to act in an extraordinary fashion, risking his life to save someone else.

We talk a lot about being thankful, or grateful, at this time of year, but I wonder if we don’t often mistake appreciation for gratitude.

Sure, we’re glad that we are able to gather with family, and we appreciate the fact that we have a lot of blessings—we certainly wouldn’t want to try living without those blessings—but often that’s as far as it goes.

But gratitude goes a step further than appreciation. From Wikipedia:
“Gratitude is the substance of a heart ready to show appreciation, or thankfulness; it is not simply an emotion, which involves a pleasant feeling that can occur when we receive a favor or benefit from another person, but rather the combination of a state of being and an emotion; often accompanied by a desire to thank them, or to reciprocate for a favour they have done for you.”
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation accompanied by a desire to act. It was a deep feeling of gratitude that drove Enzo to disregard his own safety in order to help the man who had helped him.

One of my favorite Old Testament stories illustrates gratitude very well, and focuses on the men of Jabesh-Gilead.

Just after Saul has been anointed as the first king of Israel, the Ammonites come and besiege the town of Jabesh-Gilead. The elders of Jabesh know that they can’t withstand the Ammonites, and they also know that they will be treated harshly if they surrender, so they send messengers throughout Israel, hoping that someone will come to their aid.

When Saul hears the news, he becomes angry and promises to deliver the town in 1 Samuel 11.9,11:
“They said to the messengers who had come, “Thus you shall say to the men of Jabesh-gilead, ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.’” So the messengers went and told the men of Jabesh; and they were glad.

The next morning Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp at the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.”
Saul’s rescuing of the town of Jabesh-Gilead serves to cement himself as the King of Israel, but if you were to stop reading there, you would be unaware of the debt of gratitude that the men of Jabesh apparently felt toward him.

In fact, you have to go many years into the future, to the very end of Saul’s reign, before Jabesh-Gilead is mentioned again.

This time, Saul has gone to war against the Philistines, and the fighting has gone very badly for the Israelites: three of Saul’s sons are killed, and Saul takes his own life after being badly wounded by an archer.

When the Philistines come upon the body of Saul, they cut off his head and take his weapons. The weapons end up in a temple to a false god, and Saul’s body is hung as a war trophy on the wall of the town of Beth-Shan.

It is at this point, many years after Saul had rescued them from the Ammonites that the men of Jabesh-Gilead make their appearance in 1 Samuel 31.11-13:
“Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
When the men of Jabesh-Gilead hear what has happened to Saul, they remember the debt of gratitude they owe him, walk all night into enemy territory, retrieve his body, and bury it honorably.

This act of gratitude is even more impressive when you realize that this is a debt that they have been waiting to pay for 40 years—the entire length of Saul’s reign. It seems likely that some of the valiant men who made the journey that night weren’t even born yet when Saul had saved their town, and yet they are still willing to risk their lives to protect his honor.

Gratitude compels people to act.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus sacrificed Himself to cleanse me of sin and to make reconciliation with God possible.

I very much appreciate that sacrifice, but more than that, I am grateful for it—I wish there was something I could do to repay the debt of gratitude that I feel.

But there isn’t. The best I can do is to try to live each day for Jesus, to live as He Himself did.

I fail often, and sometimes I fail miserably, but I am still compelled to try. Gratitude will permit nothing less.

11.20.2012

Seeing Our Problems As Blessings


Something that I realized once in a rare moment of clarity was how, as Americans, we are so incredibly blessed that even most of our “problems”—the things we worry and complain about—are really just outgrowths of our blessings.

Let me give a few examples…

(1) The main complaints you hear from college students center on (a) how expensive college is and (b) how difficult and stressful college coursework is (I have been guilty of both of these complaints in my life). But from another perspective, it’s easy to see how fortunate we are to live in a country where the government provides a great deal of assistance in paying for college and basically gives students as much time as they need to pay it back. Furthermore, whatever temporary stresses and hardships college work can bring on someone is more than made up for by the opportunities a college education affords. Having the opportunity to go to college is a great blessing!

(2) You hear people complain all the time about their cars (I especially hear this from teenagers!)—about how they are too small, or too old, or not cool enough, or get poor gas mileage, etc.—when the idea of owning a car is literally unimaginable to most people in the world. Owning a car is a great blessing!

(3) People complain about their jobs—about low pay, or how boring it is, or how mean their bosses are, or how annoying their coworkers are—when there are people all over the world who are unemployed and in desperate need of work. Having a job is a great blessing!

(4) Parents often spend a great deal of time worrying about their children. They worry about how their kids do in school, if they have the right kind of friends, if they have enough friends, getting them to every sports practice on time so the coach will give them playing time and they can grow up to become the next superstar in their sport. Some parents have children with health concerns, and worry about the uncertainty associated with that (this one strikes home with me). But all of these worries are only made possible by the fact that parents have children in the first place, and children are truly one of the great, great blessings of life!

(5) And finally, from a spiritual standpoint, I hear Christians complain all the time about problems that exist in the church of which they are a part—people they don’t like, bad sermons, unfriendliness, lack of programs—when there are millions of people throughout the world who have never even heard of Christ, or even if they have heard and decided to follow Him, have no local congregation of the church to be a part of. You wouldn’t be able to complain about your church if you didn’t have one; having a church family is a great blessing!

Obviously, I am speaking in generalizations here, and each of us has trials and issues that we have to face in our own lives. But on the whole, we are so incredibly blessed…I don’t know what we’d do if we had to deal with real problems on a daily basis.

11.07.2012

When Nero Was On The Throne

It has been interesting to me over the last 12 hours or so to read Facebook status updates and tweets from my Christians friends about yesterday’s presidential election. The fact that some of these Christians are celebrating the reelection of President Obama while others are lamenting it tell me that either:

(a) Applying Christian values to voting is a difficult and murky process.
(b) Christians aren’t very aware of what “Christian values” actually are.
(c) Both A and B are partially true.

But I digress. If your candidate won yesterday, be happy, be thankful, and try not to gloat too much. If your candidate did not win yesterday (and if you are in this group, you are the real audience for this post), remember that as a Christian, you can glorify God by showing respect to the one who is in authority, even if he wasn’t your choice:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
(Romans 13.1-7)

Paul’s words here are pretty hard to swallow for Christians who struggle to respect and submit to their leaders. When we think about leaders that we don’t like much, it can be difficult for us to affirm statements like, “the authorities are ministers of God” and that resisting them means that we are resisting “what God has appointed”. But that’s exactly what Paul says.

Mosaic depicting a Christian martyr
And to those who are inclined to think that Paul just didn’t understand about bad leaders, realize that he wrote these words to the Christians in Rome while Nero was Emperor. Nero was a vile man and a dedicated persecutor of Christians who was known for using the bodies of captured Christians as fuel for the fires which lit his garden at night. No President that our nation has ever had could hold a candle to Nero when it comes to sheer wickedness*, and it was most likely during the reign of Nero that Paul himself was executed. And yet, to a man such as this, Paul urges Christians to be in subjection.

If your candidate didn’t win yesterday, it’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to disagree with the policies of the current President, and it’s okay to hope for a better outcome next time. But respect your President, and be in subjection to him. Even if it is hard.

*Please do not interpret this to mean that I am suggesting that President Obama is somehow equivalent to Nero. I am not.

11.02.2012

Friday Summary Report, November 2

Today’s installment will be brief, as I am in the midst of a particularly busy day:

(1) Yesterday, Harding University (my alma mater) announced that Bruce McLarty has been selected as the next President of the school. It has been interesting to me to read the array of responses from various parties about the announcements. I think Bruce firmly grasps Harding’s identity in the context of Churches of Christ, Christian colleges, and education in general, and it is my belief that he will continue to steer Harding on the unique course which it has chosen. In general, my feeling is this: if you love what Harding is, then I think Bruce is a great choice; if you are critical of Harding, then probably he is not your ideal candidate. Personally, I am excited.

(2) Here is an outstanding post from Scott Bond on “Why Little Girls Need Their Dad.” As a fairly recent father of a little girl, the post was especially meaningful for me, but I think it’s a good read for any Christian father.

(3) Last month set an all-time record in traffic here at The Doc File. This was a pleasant surprise, as my school workload really slowed down my posting after the first few days of the month. Thanks to all who continue to read!

(4) This post on Hashtag Media has gotten some attention. If you haven’t read it yet, check out the good things that these guys are doing.

10.31.2012

God Is The One We Should Rely On: Lipscomb On Human Government

David Lipscomb was a very influential leader within Churches of Christ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lipscomb served as a minister, an educator (a co-founder of the Nashville Bible School, which exists today as Lipscomb University), and an editor of the very influential Gospel Advocate.

Lipscomb was also a pacifist, and in some sense, a Christian anarchist: he believed that Christians had no business interacting with government, including voting in elections or serving on juries. My own views on government are not as extreme as Lipscomb’s, but I do think his thoughts serve as a helpful corrective to what I see from a lot of people.

It has been distressing to me during this election cycle to see so many Christians who (based on their comments on Facebook or Twitter) seem to be placing so much of their hope for the betterment of our world in political candidates (regardless of which party they happen to support). To these folks, Lipscomb offers some helpful words:
“Everyone who honors and serves the human government and relies upon it, for good, more than he does upon the Divine government, worships and serves the creature more than he does the Creator.”

On Civil Government, p. 50
With all due respect to Lipscomb, I believe that it is appropriate for Christians to vote, and that ideally, Christians should use their vote to reinforce the values of the Kingdom. And sometimes it can be easy to get pretty wrapped up in the political process, because those values can mean a lot to us.

But I think he is right on the money about this: let us never think that the president we elect or the government we put into place is the ultimate source to which we should look for guidance, protection, or good. Those things come from God, and He still sits firmly on His throne, in control of all the things we debate and worry about.

10.29.2012

A God Who Is Not Far From Us

St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

In a well-known passage in Acts 17, Paul addresses the Areopagus in Athens:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
The Greeks were a very religious people—I can remember studying in school about the various Greek gods and goddesses—and Athens was filled with temples, statues, and idols in honor of them. Apparently, in addition to these deities, they even worshipped an “unknown god”, I guess to make sure they didn’t leave anyone out.

But the point that Paul tries to make to them is that they did leave Someone out—the most important Someone of all—the God who made the world and everything in it. The Greeks were ignorant of this God…

Being ignorant of God—what He is like and what He desires of us—is a problem that was not specific to the Greeks. It’s a recurring problem that has appeared throughout history. And when it’s up to us to determine what God is like and what He wants, sometimes we end up in some pretty dark places.

Chichén Itzá was a pre-Coumbian Mayan cultural center located on the Northern Yucatán peninsula in modern day Mexico. Today it is a popular tourist attraction and every year thousands of people go and visit the ruins.

The Yucatán is a dry area with no rivers above ground, but despite this, Chichén Itzá was able to thrive as a major Mayan city because of the existence of a certain type of geological formation called a cenote. A cenote is a sinkhole which had formed in the limestone foundation and contained groundwater. There are several cenotes throughout the Yucatán, and at Chichén Itzá, there were two cenotes which were substantial in size and would likely have contained adequate drinking water year round for the people of the city.
Cenote Sagrado, believed to be the home of the Mayan rain god,  Chaac.
However, of the two cenotes, only one was used for drinking water, because one of them was believed to be the home of the Mayan rain god, Chaac. In order to keep Chaac happy and the rain plentiful (and plentiful rain was a big deal in such a dry area), the Mayan people would offer human sacrifices. These sacrifices, often children, would be weighted down with gold and silver jewelry and then tossed down into the cenote where Chaac was thought to live. Hundreds of years later, when the area was excavated by archaeologists, many tiny skeletons, as well as the treasure that dragged them to their deaths, were found.

Senseless deaths…sacrifices made in order to appease a god they didn’t understand, whose will they had to guess at.

We hear that and perhaps it’s easy for us to dismiss that example as being far removed from our own circumstances, but it’s not an isolated incident—people have often justified terrible actions because they thought they were doing what God wanted: fighting in the Crusades…buying and selling people based on the color of their skin…blowing up abortion clinics…flying airplanes into skyscrapers.

When it’s up to us to determine what God is like and what He wants, sometimes we end up in some pretty dark places.

But reading further in Acts 17, Paul says that it doesn’t have to be this way—we don’t have to be ignorant of God. He tells the people of Athens that God is “not far from each one of us”, and that we are His offspring.

And then, speaking of Jesus, Paul goes on to say that God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him [Jesus] from the dead.”

Paul’s claim that God is not far from us finds fuller expression in the classic passage on the Incarnation in John 1. There, in verse 14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

A lot of times when speaking about the Incarnation, we talk about that first part: the Word becoming flesh. That’s certainly an important concept, but I want to focus on the second clause: the Word made his dwelling among us. Here John is using tabernacle language to explain how God came down to be among His people in a new and special way. A more literal translation would be something like, “He pitched His tent among us.”

In The Message, Eugene Peterson says that “the Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood”, and I love that sentiment—through Jesus, God is no longer a mysterious stranger Whom we don’t understand, because He lives right down the street from us—we can see what God is like for ourselves! 

The wonderful news of the Incarnation is that the God who does not wish to be far from each of us put on flesh, and Jesus took up residence in our neighborhood. From there, He offers the gift of friendship, and as our Friend, we are never left to wonder what He is like, or what He wants from us.

10.22.2012

Plowing Through The Semester


Ministers often get a day off during the week, and the thinking behind this is that Sunday is way too much work for a minister to be considered a part of a restful weekend. For the past few years, Monday has been my official day off, but unfortunately, this semester my work load has been such that I pretty much have to come in every Monday and work all day if I have any hope of finishing my work for the week.

The picture above shows the stack of books that I brought with me to the office today in an effort to prepare for my weekly Greek Readings quiz (technically they are quizzes, but the term quiz really doesn’t do them justice—they are tests), and to work on my Global Evangelism final which is due this Friday.

This all probably comes across as complaining, which isn’t really my intention. Certainly all of the work has provided me with an extra dose of stress, but it has also helped me to grow in my time management skills and my ministry. And perhaps most of all, I am developing perseverance: I continue to plow on through the semester (I like the word plow, because I think it accurately conveys the sense of hard work), but I am so looking forward to December 4, which is when my Christmas break officially begins.

10.19.2012

Friday Summary Report, October 19


It’s been a slow week on the blog, mainly because I have been in Memphis all week at Harding School of Theology for a Global Evangelism class. The class has been really good, but it has been an exhausting week. Here’s a peek into my week:
  • Class meets every day from 8:15-5:00, with a two-hour break for chapel and lunch. That’s a long time to be in class each day.
  • Chapel is every day at 11:00 AM, and is a nice way to break up the day with worship and remind us all of why we are here. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak today.
  • Every morning we have quizzes over some of our reading for class, so at night after class, I generally have to do some reading and studying to prepare for them. In addition to that, I’ve had Greek homework to do as well as some other research, and altogether that means I’ve been spending a lot of my time after 5:00 PM working in the library. It makes for really long days.
  • I have stayed with Kevin and Linnea Burr this week, and they have been marvelous hosts all week. It’s always tough being away from my girls for a week, but the Burrs have done a ton to make me feel at home, including cooking for me each night and buying Coke in glass bottles for me (they know what I like!). Hospitality is a Christian virtue that we often neglect, and I have been humbled by how I have been treated all week.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world…actually, I don’t really know what’s going on in the rest of the world because I’ve been super busy all week! Here’s hoping that I’ll be back to more regular blogging next week, but with a Greek quiz, a Global Evangelism final, and a sermon to prepare for, who knows?

10.09.2012

So Long, Chipper


It has been a few days now since my beloved Atlanta Braves were bumped from the playoffs in the NL Wildcard game against the St. Louis Cardinals. I didn’t get to watch the whole game because I had to be at a wedding rehearsal during the same time, but in hindsight, that was probably a good thing. A couple of takeaways from the game:
  • The Braves didn’t deserve to win. Committed too many errors and left way too many men on base. 
  • Regardless of this, they still had a chance to win, which was negated by one of the worst calls in the history of Major League Baseball. Regardless of the fact that umpire Sam Holbrook stands by his call and other officials have closed ranks around him, it was a terrible call. Not only did it betray a fundamental lack of understanding of the word ‘ordinary’, it failed to take into account the whole line of reasoning behind the institution of the Infield Fly Rule in the first place—to protect the offensive team.
  • A one-game playoff between two wildcard teams is completely stupid, as it negates the 162 game regular season. Anything can happen in a baseball game, which is why we play series in the playoffs—to more accurately and less randomly determine the better team. Add this to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s loooonnngg list of baseball sins.
So yeah, I was bummed about the game. The biggest bummer of all though is that the loss represented the end of Chipper Jones’ Hall of Fame career. 

I have always been a big Chipper fan. At the height of my baseball fandom (when, in addition to just following the Braves I was also obsessively collecting baseball cards and playing baseball all the time myself), Chipper burst onto the scene in 1995 as the Braves’ star of the future. Atlanta won the World Series that year, Chipper should have won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, and it looked like the future was very bright.

And for Chipper, it definitely was—he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer for sure, as well as being in the top 3 all time in the following categories:
  • Switch-hitters: I’d actually put him at number 2, behind Mickey Mantle. In my opinion, definitely ahead of Eddie Murray.
  • Third basemen: I think you could make a case that he’s the best of all time, but I’d put him behind Mike Schmidt and ahead of George Brett.
  • Braves: Third best Brave ever, behind Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn (apologies to Tom Glavine…you really shouldn’t have signed with the Mets though).
You might disagree with where I have Chipper ranked within the top 3 of these categories, which is fine. You might also disagree that Chipper belongs in the top 3 of these categories, but you would be wrong.

Chipper played his entire career with the Braves, and as you’ve likely heard all season if you are a baseball fan, “he played the game the way it’s supposed to be played.” The degree to which he was respected around the league was evident this season as team after team honored him when he would make his last visit to play in their stadiums. 

Chipper’s retirement is poignant for me, because he represents the last link to the dominant Braves teams of my youth, who won 14 divisional titles in a row. That streak had already begun when Chipper broke into the big leagues, but he was there for its peak, when the Braves won the World Series in his rookie season in 1995. Probably no one would have believed that it would be his last, but as it turned out, the Braves of Chipper Jones were largely characterized by great pitching, a ton of regular season wins, and disappointment in the playoffs. 

That being said, looking ahead, it’s hard to be excited about the prospect of the Braves ascending to the top of the baseball world without their best player and longtime clubhouse leader around. Over the last few years, as his skills declined (slightly) and it became harder and harder for him to stay healthy, it also became increasingly obvious how important he was to the team: when Chipper was in the lineup, it always felt like the Braves had a chance to win. Without him, any victory seemed to be a lucky one.

He’s still a good player, and could probably still be productive for a couple more seasons, but he’s made it clear over and over again this season that he’s done, and there’s a lot to be said for going out well, rather than hanging on as long as you can and potentially tarnishing your legacy.

So so long to Chipper Jones, the best Brave of my lifetime. You will be missed.

          

10.04.2012

Church Signs Revisited

I have previously shared my thoughts about church signs—you know, the ones where you can change the letters and put up (ideally) clever or inspirational messages.

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of them because I tend to think they have more influence in a negative sense than a positive one. In other words, people driving by are more likely to be turned off by a hokey saying on a church sign than they are encouraged by a thoughtful one.

Sometimes, though, a church sign goes beyond being hokey or lame and actually promotes bad theology. I saw an example of that this week. A church sign in my neck of the woods is currently displaying the following message:
RELIGION: A MIRAGE
JESUS: A REALITY
This is yet another manifestation of a common theme that you hear these days, where people are desperately trying to divorce Jesus from the church, or separate being religious (which is supposedly a bad thing) from being spiritual (which is supposed to be the ideal). There was even a YouTube video on this topic that went viral a while back (see this article which has the video embedded along with an excellent response).

Here’s the key point though: the whole Religion vs. Jesus thing is a false dichotomy because you don’t have to (and in fact, can’t) choose between them. Jesus himself was very religious (and spiritual!). Furthermore, the church was purchased with his blood (Acts 20.28), so it has great, great value to him.

End of rant.

10.03.2012

The Fall of Man and the Personal Consequences of Sin


As I discussed in the introduction to this series, Genesis 3 relates the story of the Fall of Man, where Adam and Eve commit sin in the Garden of Eden by eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil after God had specifically commanded them not to.

A whole host of negative effects befall Adam and Eve (and consequently, the rest of us) as a result of their disobedience, and the point of this series is to examine some of those effects in more detail. Basically, sin messes everything up.

In the last post, we focused on the theological consequences that came about as the result of Adam and Eve’s sin: our relationship with God is destroyed and we become slaves to sin instead.

Next, we want to turn our attention to the personal consequences of sin (which, as well shall see, are closely related to the theological consequences). Returning to our text in Genesis 3, this aspect of sin’s destructiveness is hinted at in Genesis 3.7, 10-11 where Adam and Eve realize they are naked, sew together fig leaves to make loincloths and then, because of their nakedness, hide from God when He enters the garden.

What was so bad about Adam and Eve being naked? After all, it was the way God had created them, so clearly He had no problem with it! The problem came from Adam and Eve themselves: after they sin by eating the forbidden fruit, they become self-conscious and immediately feel that there is something wrong with them, and they are ashamed of themselves.* Ever since then, men and women have felt the same way: we exist in a state of inner conflict, lacking the self-confidence and self-acceptance that we should have as God’s creatures.

Basically, the process looks something like this:
  1. Humans were created for the purpose of living in relationship with God.
  2. Sins distorts and destroys that relationship.
  3. Without a relationship with God, we are inherently unfulfilled, because we are not living out the purpose for which we were created.
  4. We feel bad about ourselves and follow all sorts of false avenues looking for fulfillment.
Just consider our world today. People desperately want to feel happy or significant or fulfilled, so they are willing to try anything: fame, fortune, career accomplishment, relationships, children, sex, drugs, sports, whatever. Why do you think the self-help industry generates billions of dollars each year? It’s because deep down, we all feel like there’s something wrong with us. We struggle with self-confidence and self-image, and we are convinced that we are deeply flawed.

And, biblically speaking, people are messed up; we are deeply flawed. But flatter abs, a more secure retirement, or a better relationship with your boyfriend won’t provide the answer. Oh sure, you might feel a little better about yourself for a while, but it won’t last. We were created to live in relationship with God, and only in the context of that relationship can we find the solution to our deep flaws.

*It is important to note that, according to the biblical account, Adam and Eve are ashamed of their nakedness, not of their sin (it should have been the other way around). Sin had fundamentally changed the way they viewed themselves.

10.01.2012

Being An Introvert May Not Be What You Think

I recently came across this outstanding article by Carl King entitled, “10 Myths About Introverts.” It briefly discusses the hypothesis that the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in different neurotransmitter tendencies in the brain (specifically in regards to dopamine), and then goes on to discuss 10 popular misconceptions about introverts.

Here’s a taste:
Myth #1–Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t like to talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2–Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3–Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4–Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an Introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
I don’t want to re-post King’s entire article, so click here to continue reading

I wasn’t entirely a fan of the tone of the article that leaked through at times (which almost made it sound like you should regard Introverts as being better than Extroverts…they’re not), but all in all, I thought the author made some excellent points, and about 8-9 of the characteristics he talks about describe me with an eery amount of accuracy.

9.28.2012

Friday Summary Report, September 28


It has been a while since the last Summary Report, but things continue to be busy.

One of the grad school classes I’m taking this semester, Greek Readings, is taking a ton of my time. I’m doing well in the class (we have weekly quizzes), but between the translation assignments, the memorization of paradigms and principal parts, listening to the class lectures, and learning new vocabulary, it is just a lot of work. It’s just the end of September, and I know I’ve still got a lot of the class left, but I am looking forward to December.

I’ll be going to Memphis in a couple weeks for Global Evangelism, which is the second class I’m taking this semester. I have been so busy with the weekly work for Greek that Global Evangelism has taken a backseat, which means that I have a plethora of reading to do over the next two weeks. I honestly don’t know how I’ll be able to get it all done.

In addition to my classes, I have all of my regular ministry responsibilities, so it’s a full plate. My blogging will likely take somewhat of a hit for a few weeks.

Some random tidbits:
  • This weekend is Bikes, Blues & BBQ in Fayetteville; I will be doing my best to completely avoid it.
  • The Arkansas Razorback football team continues its complete nose dive. We are currently at 1-3, and are facing an unlikely opportunity for a road victory at Texas A&M this weekend. And we thought we had a shot at contending for the SEC title?!
And finally, a few articles from around the net worth reading:

9.27.2012

The Fall of Man and the Theological Consequences of Sin


As I discussed in the introduction to this series, Genesis 3 relates the story of the Fall of Man, where Adam and Eve commit sin in the Garden of Eden by eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil after God had specifically commanded them not to.

A whole host of negative effects befall Adam and Eve (and consequently, the rest of us) as a result of their disobedience, and the point of this series is to examine some of those effects in more detail. Basically, sin messes everything up.

In the first post, I mentioned five different categories of consequences that came about as the result of Adam and Eve’s sin: theological, personal, sociological, ecological, and physical. Those categories come from a reading of the biblical text in Genesis 3:
  • Genesis 3.8-10: Adam and Eve hide from God because they are afraid (theological effects).
  • Genesis 3.10-11: Adam and Eve realize they are naked (personal effects).
  • Genesis 3.12-13, 16: Adam and Eve refuse to take responsibility and their relationship is changed (sociological effects).
  • Genesis 3.17-19: Creation itself becomes cursed (ecological effects).
  • Genesis 3.22-23: Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden and separated from the tree of life (physical effects).
In this post, I want to look in more detail at the theological consequences of sin. This category probably won’t require as much explanation as some of the others, since this (along with physical effects) tends to be the area we hone in on.

Simply put, what I mean by “theological consequences” is that sin affects our relationship with God. Just as Adam and Eve hide from the presence of God after eating the fruit when they hear Him walking through the garden, so we too are unfit for God’s presence. Scripture repeatedly affirms that our sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59.2; Romans 3.23), and this is a big deal, because we were specifically created to live in relationship with God. With that intended relationship destroyed, people desperately seek out all sorts of ways of living out their desires in order to find meaning and fulfillment in life.

In the process, we become enslaved to sin (John 8.34; Romans 6), which is a powerful and disturbing image—the very desires that we follow after in hopes of finding fulfillment become our masters, and on our own, we are powerless to escape their bondage. It’s a desperate situation to be in, and in large part accounts for a society where there are so many people who are completely lost without any hope or direction in life.

Sin destroys our relationship with God.

9.25.2012

The Fall of Man and the Widespread Devastation of Sin: An Introduction


Most Christians are generally familiar with the story of the Fall of Man as related in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve are placed in a garden paradise to live with only one prohibition: they are not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2.16-17). But then, the crafty serpent, who elsewhere in the Bible is equated with Satan,1 comes along and entices Eve to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. Eve shares the fruit with her husband, and Adam violates the command of God as well.

Usually when we talk about this event, we focus on it in a couple of predictable ways: the disobedient act of eating of the fruit represents the first human sin, and as a result, the spiritual relationship between humanity and God is ruptured, and physical death comes to mankind as a result.

Both of those things—the disruption of our relationship with God and our mortality—are important, and are certainly framed as results of Adam and Eve’s sin in Genesis 3. But the consequences of sin don’t stop there; they are widespread, and affect all areas of life. To put it another way, sin messes everything up, and as a result, we live in a messed-up world.2

Over the next few posts, I’d like to look at the theological, personal, sociological, ecological, and physical consequences of sin,and these categories come directly from the account in Genesis 3:
  • Genesis 3.8-10: Adam and Eve hide from God because they are afraid (theological effects).
  • Genesis 3.10-11: Adam and Eve realize they are naked (personal effects).
  • Genesis 3.12-13, 16: Adam and Eve refuse to take responsibility and their relationship is changed (sociological effects).
  • Genesis 3.17-19: Creation itself becomes cursed (ecological effects).
  • Genesis 3.22-23: Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden and separated from the tree of life (physical effects).
Hopefully this series will help us to take sin more seriously, and see how all-destructive it is.

• • •
1See, for example, Revelation 12.9.
2One of the biggest problems I have with folks who consider Genesis 1-11 to be allegorical rather than historical (i.e., they don’t believe that the first 11 chapters of Genesis relate actual, historical events) is that such a view strips away the Bible’s explanation for the reason why our world is the way it is. The Bible repeatedly affirms that sin is a huge problem, and our own observations repeatedly affirm that our world in its current state is fundamentally jacked up. Genesis 3 provides the biblical explanation for the enormity of sin, and a groaning creation (cf. Romans 8.22).
3This series of posts is based in considerable part on the lectures of Dr. Mark Powell in his Systematic Theology class which I took at Harding School of Theology.

9.21.2012

Revenge, the Bible, and The Count of Monte Cristo


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite books. Dumas, a French author, is better known for writing The Three Musketeers, which, although more famous and perhaps more exciting than Monte Cristo, isn’t written as well and isn’t nearly as thoughtful of a book.

The plot of The Count of Monte Cristo is incredibly intricate, but in short, it is about how the life of a young sailor named Edmond Dantes is ruined by a conspiracy of four men who each have something against him (one man is jealous of his position on the ship, another is jealous because he likes Dantes’ girlfriend, another is threatened by knowledge that Dantes possesses, etc.). Dantes is sent to prison, where, through extraordinary measures he manages figure out the plot that had brought about his downfall and also discovers the secret location of a treasure of unimaginable value. Ultimately, Dantes escapes from prison, claims the treasure, and now, with untold wealth at his disposal and taking on the mysterious persona of the Count of Monte Cristo, vows to claim vengeance on those who wronged him.

The Count possesses a near godlike ability to bring his schemes and plans to fruition, and he begins to take down his enemies one by one. However, despite his success, the Count gradually realizes that he takes no real pleasure in the downfall of his enemies and that no amount of vengeance can bring back the life he once had. Ultimately, he realizes that the best course of action is to forget about revenge and move on with his life.

Many of us struggle to learn the learn the same lesson—as tempting as revenge seems to be, it doesn’t deliver what it promises and ultimately leads us worse off than before.

We live in a world of revenge; it’s something we see all the time. We’ve seen the stories of road rage on the news where drivers get upset because another car cuts them off and so they respond by ramming into the car. In the midst of a political season, we see politicians constantly escalate the level of personal attacks they make against one another, each determined to have the last (and most vicious) word. Even in church, you’ll find one Christian who is offended by another, and in response, refuses to ever work with that person again or gossips about them behind their back.

Here’s the problem with that, though: the Bible repeatedly affirms that vengeance should have no place in the Christian’s life, and that vengeance, instead, belongs to God. First, some famous words from Jesus on vengeance from Matthew 5.38-42:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Not surprisingly, the Apostle Paul has a very similar take in Romans 12.17-21:
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
It has been said that holding a grudge is like drinking poison yourself and hoping that the other person gets sick. It’s also true for revenge (which is an outgrowth of holding a grudge against someone). If you have a grudge against someone and are tempted to look for vengeance, let it go. Revenge won’t make your life better, and it won’t make you happy, but it will damage you spiritually. In the words of Paul, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

9.18.2012

Review: Hashtag Youth Series


Our youth group recently finished up the Hashtag Youth Video Series, which served as the summer curriculum for our Wednesday night Junior and Senior High Bible Class (we were gone a few Wednesday nights because of special activities, so we ended up getting behind and finishing in September).

Some dedicated youth ministers from Churches of Christ (primarily in Tennessee) put a lot of work into the conception and production of Hashtag, and I thought I would take a few moments to review the series now that we have completed it.

Strengths
To start with, I should mention that the Hashtag Youth Series was entirely free. Thirteen videos, usually 10-15 minutes in length, and all accompanied by discussion guides and manuscripts, all were available for download free of cost. If you have any experience in finding and ordering Bible class material, you know that it can be very expensive, especially if you’re looking for videos.

Furthermore, Hashtag is incredibly easy to use. Summer can be a crazy time for youth ministers. With students out of school, it seems to be a time for constant activity, ranging from summer camps, to mission trips, to Vacation Bible School, to summer fun trips, and all of that on top of all the regular activities a youth group participates in. In the midst of all the busyness, it’s nice to be able to show a video series where you don’t have to put a ton of time into preparation and basically are able to just focus on leading a group discussion based on the video which was seen. The ease of use is also a huge benefit when it comes to finding substitute teachers—I had to be away a couple of weeks for travel or to speak elsewhere, but it was easy to find someone to take my spot, show the videos, and lead the class in discussion.

Finally, the videos themselves were of high quality. Watching the videos, it didn’t seem like you were using a free product at all. The graphic design and typography was awesome, and the video production was very good too. Nothing about the videos seemed amateurish at all.

Suggestions for Improvement
The videos were basically in the format of a summer series, where each week you have a different speaker focus on a certain topic. What I have generally found to be true with summer series also applied to Hashtag: the speakers were somewhat hit and miss. The video topics included some theologically deep concepts (see the banner at the top of this post for the topics which were covered), and although most (if not all) of the speakers were youth ministers, some did a much better job of communicating the topic at a teenage level than others.* Furthermore, the basic format of the videos was lecture: the speakers sat in a room talking to a camera. Generally, the speakers who provided visual aids or incorporated a narrative style into their lessons were better received by the audience (at least, in our case).

Also, some of the discussion guides were better than others. Some of the guides were great, providing interesting ice-breakers to introduce the videos and excellent questions for discussing them. At other times, I felt like the majority of the questions were unhelpful as discussion starters and I had to basically generate my own questions. 

Overall Assessment
All in all, I think the Hashtag Video Series was a significant accomplishment, and I would definitely recommend it to those who are looking for Bible class curriculum for teens. I’m sure that the work required to coordinate a project involving so many different ministers was extensive, and the developers should be proud of the completed project.

That the series was available free of charge meant that many congregations were able to use it which wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. The ease of use likely helped many youth ministers catch a breath in the middle of busy summers while still providing a quality Bible class (I know that was the case for me). And lastly, the technical quality of the videos went a long way towards keeping the attention of the audience—shoddy videos are easy to immediately write off, but the professional quality of the Hashtag series earned respect and attention.

Even those areas where there is some room for improvement should not be barriers to those who are considering using the videos. While some of the speakers were better than others, none of them were bad, and a few of them really were excellent. And although some of the discussion guides need work, it’s really not hard to flesh out that part of the lesson yourself, especially when you are mindful of the fact that you got all of the material at no cost in the first place.

Overall, I’m thankful that I stumbled upon Hashtag at the beginning of the summer, and am very grateful to those whose diligent work made it happen.

*To be fair, I know from personal experience that communicating at a “teenage level” is incredibly difficult. Middle schoolers who are 12 or 13 operate on a completely different level than juniors or seniors in high school. Something that is on the level of one group may not (and often won’t be) on the level of the other. Our youth group is currently skewed young, and I felt like some of the series speakers were talking over their heads.

9.14.2012

On Being A Razorback Fan

A sad pig drawn by a talented artist. An appropriate representation of my current feelings about the Hogs.
Following last week’s humiliating loss to Louisiana-Monroe, and leading up to tomorrow’s seemingly impossible game against Alabama, I had intended to write a post on how frustrating and disappointing it is to be an Arkansas Razorbacks fan.

But then I came across this article, which really sums it all up nicely.

I hope that we’re able to pull off a shocker on Saturday, but honestly, I have very little faith that the Hogs will ever be nationally relevant on a consistent basis.

9.12.2012

Stronger Brother, Weaker Brother: It’s Tough Either Way

There are a few places in the New Testament where  Paul addresses the idea of the stronger brother and the weaker brother, usually in the context of the issue of eating meat which had formerly been sacrificed to idols (Romans 141 Corinthians 8.4-13; 1 Corinthians 10.25-32). 

It’s a fairly complex issue, but basically Paul says that since idols are nothing (because they represent gods which don’t actually exist), eating food which had previously been offered to them is no big deal. Stronger, more mature Christians would be able to realize this, and would see that eating such meat would not be inherently wrong.

However, weaker, newer Christians, especially those who had been recently converted from a pagan background, could struggle with the idea of eating meat which had been sacrificed to an idol, and could feel like they were compromising their faith by doing so. For these Christians it would be wrong for them to eat because doing so would violate their conscience.

Paul’s real focus in these passages is less on giving specific instructions on which activities should be partaken in and which should be abstained from, and more about teaching the stronger and weaker brothers how to interact with one another. Basically, they should treat one another with love: the stronger brother should be willing to give up meat forever in order to avoid leading his weaker brother to sin against his conscience, and the weaker brother shouldn’t try to bind his stronger brother’s actions by his own conscience.

In many ways, Paul’s thoughts are summed up in Romans 14.3:
“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”
Depending on the issue, I think I have been both the weaker and stronger brother at different times, and what Paul commands in Romans 14.3 is challenging to both groups.

The stronger brother is not to despise the weaker. I’ve seen this happen a lot, and it can be tempting to do. We grow frustrated at the qualms of our weaker brethren and so it gets easy to ridicule them as hopelessly backward and just write them off completely. Maybe make jokes about their limited understanding and speak with condescension to and about them.

The weaker brother is not to pass judgment on the stronger. This is tempting as well. Since our brothers are doing something that our own consciences won’t permit us to do, we are tempted to view them as less holy or less devoted to their faith than we are. Perhaps we even cease to think of them as faithful Christians.

As Paul points out in the verse above, both of these attitudes are wrong. Regardless of which side we find ourselves on, we have to be careful about how we treat each other: love and respect for our brethren should always be our primary response.

9.10.2012

“You! Jonah!”


You! Jonah!
by Thomas John Carlisle

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to His way of loving.

9.07.2012

Friday Summary Report, September 7


I don’t have anything too exciting to report on this Friday morning, but here are some interesting/good/important links from around the worldwide web:

(1) First, a story from Louisiana, where, in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, a father and son teamed up to rescue 120 people over a 12-hour period with boats. Jesse Shaffer, the father, insisted that he and his son are not heroes, but their neighbors would disagree. A great story, and a glimpse of what Jesus meant by “Love thy neighbor.”

(2) Here’s a cool story (with picture) about Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins getting baptized   after football practice.

(3) The last couple of weeks have been dominated by politics, with both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions taking place. I am not a fan of politics, in large part because it takes place in some weird twilight zone where the truth neither matters nor is really expected. I heard a ton of people raving about President Clinton’s speech, but was it accurate? Similar articles could probably be (and probably have been) written about every other speech that was given at either convention.

(4) Matt Dabbs wrote a really good blog post on the heinousness of abortion. The fact that abortion has been relegated to the political arena and has been turned into a mere talking point by both parties shows how warped and skewed our society has become. I mentioned this in the comments section of the blog I linked to above, but I’ll repeat it here: I am convinced that the legalized genocide against our own unborn is the greatest evil of our society. It is all too often discounted as ‘just another political issue’, but it far transcends politics. I sometimes wonder how long a nation that shows such little value for life will be allowed to continue.

(5) For those who are involved in youth ministry, here is a great post with some very practical suggestions for ways to get your students involved as leaders within your youth group. As Joseph points out, student leadership doesn’t have to be part of some big, elaborate, complicated program.

9.06.2012

“How to be a Better Twentysomething”

Relevant Magazine has posted a wonderful article by Jacqueline Ritacco entitled, “How to be a Better Twentysomething.” I wish every Twentysomething I knew would read it because it contains some great insight.

Here’s a bit from the introduction:
“Now, I finally realize I am tiring myself out. Upon reflection, I see the new Millennial generation coming up from behind with so much energy and enthusiasm, reading to take over for me. That’s a good thing—a promise for the future. I admire you for all your independence, your adventurous nature, your strong faith, your command over communication and your desire for balanced, meaningful lives. At the same time, I remain cautious on your behalf as you come of age in an expansive world in which there are seemingly no boundaries. 
As you venture forth, here is my wish list for you to do well…”
Click through for the rest of the article; it really is worth your time.

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