Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Kagan Shouldn't Be Confirmed

In an email from Point of View, Kerby Anderson spells out the problems with Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court (besides the fact that she's never been a judge):

She believes that international law should take precedent over the Constitution. While Dean at Harvard Law, she dropped the required course on the Constitution and replaced it with a required course on international law.

She is pro-abortion and has contributed financially to pro-abortion groups. She also believes that abortions should be taxpayer funded.

She is anti-military. While Dean of Harvard Law School, she kicked military recruiters off campus in defiance of a federal law which had been upheld by the Supreme Court on a unanimous vote.

She is pro-homosexual stating she “abhorred” the military’s ban on open homosexual service calling it a “moral injustice of the first order.”

She believes that the government may ban political pamphlets and books during an election season, in violation of the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

She is pro-socialism once writing glowingly of "socialism’s greatness."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who Gets Heard at the Kagan Hearings?

As I work at my south office (McDonald’s, corner of Anthony and 27) I’m watching Fox News’ coverage of the Kagan hearings, Elena Kagan being examined by the Senate for the Supreme Court. Fortunately for me, the audio is very low, so unless I pay attention, I don’t know what they’re saying. Which is great, because the chairman of this examining committee is allowing each of the members of the committee to give a 10-minute opening statement.

There are 19 senators on this committee! That’s 190 minutes—over 3 hours of “hearings.” Only we’re not hearing Kagan. We’re hearing the senators!

I’m almost inclined to say that if Kagan can sit respectfully and attentively to all these senators talk for 3 hours with the camera alternately trained on her and the senators, she deserves the job. Okay, no, not the job; but maybe she should get a big gift certificate to a really nice restaurant.

So 3 hours of hearings, and she hasn’t really talked yet. Sounds a bit typical of Congress, I guess, putting the cart before the horse. Isn’t their job to react to what she has to share? What do they possibly have to say before she’s talked? I would know if the audio were up, but again, I’m thankful it’s not.

Fox News just put up another caption that indicates that Kagan has never served as a judge before! (You probably all knew this. I’ve been out of the news-loop lately for the sake of my mental health.) Does this not seem a little ridiculous? I guess not, in lieu of the fact that our nation’s chief executive is in his first executive job.

But shouldn’t she at least judge on a minor league bench first? As near as I can tell, she’s didn’t even play high school judging.

Wait, it’s all good. Sen. Kerry, in his introduction of Kagan, just pointed out that if she is nominated, the Supreme Court will be 1/3 female. Then why the hearings? Doesn’t that seem like reason enough?

Well, as entertaining as this has been, I wish McDonald’s would switch the channel to something more stimulating and realistic, like Gilligan’s Island.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Glad God Doesn't Always Say "Yes"

If God had answered every prayer of mine, I would have married the wrong man seven times.

--Ruth Bell Graham

Friday, June 25, 2010

We May Actually Have to Say Something

Saying “Preach the gospel; if necessary use words” is like saying “Tell me your phone number; if necessary use digits.”

--J. D. Greear, a pastor

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When I Was a Kid

My daughter and I were recently talking about the differences between my childhood and hers. It's fun to think back, especially today on my 41st birthday.

When I was a kid, if I wanted to see a TV show, I had to watch it when it was on, or I wouldn’t see it again for a very long time. We didn’t get a VCR until I was a teen.

When I was a kid, the only tattoos I saw were blue, blurred, and on older men.

When I was a kid, the phone was attached to the wall.

When I was a kid, our house was air conditioned by windows and fans.

When I was a kid, my dad’s little bit of hair was dark, and my mom’s was short.

When I was a kid, the first computer we got took forever to make its move when I played it chess, and that’s about all it was good for.

When I was a kid, I wrote and received a lot more letters than I do now.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite burger joints was Burger Chef.

When I was a kid, channel 55 showed old movies in the afternoons.

When I was a kid, I typed on a typewriter.

When I was a kid, cartoons were only on Saturday mornings.

When I was a kid, school didn’t start until the day after Labor Day, and summer break was 3 months long.

When I was a kid, K-mart was the only “mart” in town.

When I was a kid, our pop came in bottles.

When I was a kid, my bike had a banana seat.

The Great Divorce Movie

Apparently, plans are in the works to make C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce into a movie.

If you haven't read The Great Divorce, you should (my copy's only 128 pages). Unique perspectives on heaven and hell. Front cover describes it thus: "A fantastic bus ride from hell to heaven--a round trip for some but not for others."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2nd Sermon on the Church

In a series of 3 posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I copied a sermon I preached on 1 Peter 2:4-5. Here are parts of the sermon I preached the next week on 1 Peter 2:6-8. I decided to put it in one post.

(It's long. Don't feel obligated to read it.)

Belonging to the Church
1 Peter 2:6-8

In our passage today, Peter is talking about the Church. Now the Church we’re talking about is the one true Church. It is the whole body of believers around the world. The believers here in this local congregation are a part of that body.

Last week we noted a few things about the Church from verses 4-5.

In v. 4, the Church starts with Jesus Christ. It is bound up with him.
As people come to him in faith, they are incorporated into his Church, the worldwide body of believers. In order to become a part of the true Church, you must come to Christ and have a relationship with him.

In v. 5, the Church is more than an organization or association, for God dwells in her midst.
We are a temple where God is pleased to dwell. There is a qualitative difference between the Church and any other organization—the Church is animated by the Spirit of God himself. Jesus is called the living Stone in v. 4, and we are called living stones in v. 5, meaning that the Church is alive in ways that all other groups of people are not—the indestructible life and Spirit of Christ animate us.

In v. 5, the Church, the body of believers, is also a holy priesthood.
That means that we have access to God—direct, immediate access.
That also means that we are able to please God. We are able to offer sacrifices to God that are acceptable to him through Jesus Christ.

We could restate the whole case negatively:
Those who have not come to Christ are not part of the true Church.
Those who are not part of the Church are separated from the life of God.
Those who are not part of the Church are not able to please God in any way.

In 6-8 Peter continues to highlight reasons why it is good to belong to the Church.

(Again, not talking about church membership, but about belonging to the Church universal.)

Look at v. 6.

For in Scripture it says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame."

God says that he will lay a stone in Zion. That stone is Jesus Christ.
We here read that Jesus is a chosen and precious cornerstone. That repeats what was said about him in v. 4.

So God has laid Jesus as a valuable cornerstone in Zion. For what purpose?
We’ve already seen that: to build his Church. To constitute a people belonging to God.
And as we come to Jesus, we are incorporated into this people belonging to God—the Church.

The verse goes on to say that the one who trusts in Christ will never be put to shame. In other words, Christ is a solid, reliable, unfailing cornerstone on which to build our lives. Those who build on Christ will not be disappointed.

1. The Church, the body of believers, will be vindicated and honored (6-7a).

There are 3 things here to highlight.

a. There is an emphasis on believing.
Now it may seem to some that we at Northside put a great deal of emphasis on this notion of believing in Jesus Christ. Or it may seem that evangelical churches in general talk an awful lot about faith in Christ.

We emphasize faith because the Bible emphasizes faith. Christ died to deliver us from sin. But that does not mean that all people are automatically saved. Faith in Christ is required for a man or a woman to receive the deliverance that Christ has secured.

Peter highlights faith right here in this passage.
--He says in v. 4 that a person must come to Jesus in order to be a part of the Church. Coming to Jesus is faith.
--Then in v. 6: “the one who TRUSTS in him will never be put to shame.”
--And in v. 7, he makes a stark contrast between “you who BELIEVE” and “those who do not BELIEVE.”
--Incidentally, the word for “trusts” and the word for “believe” is the same word in the original language Peter wrote this letter.

Belief in Christ is absolutely essential in order to belong to Christ’s Church, and it’s absolutely essential to experience the vindication and honor the Church is destined for.

Let me further clarify what is meant by faith. This passage gives us a wonderful illustration. We are like living stones being built on the foundation of the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

Faith, then, is building your life on Jesus Christ. That is, life is lived according to his commands, and it is lived out by his power.
A person who builds on Christ is being conformed to the image of Christ, according to Rom 8. In other words, those who believe in Christ over time become more and more like him.

Faith is more than intellectual assent. Biblical belief involves a change of heart, a change of practice, a change of lifestyle.

Now what does Peter say about believers?

b. Believers will be vindicated.
This is the positive way of saying what Peter says at the end of 6: “the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

What does this mean?

It means that Christ is a solid, dependable cornerstone, and if you build your life on him, you will not in the end be disappointed.

In fact quite the opposite. Spurgeon once preached:

But on the contrary, you will exclaim with the Queen of Sheba, “The half has not been told me.” Even Inspiration itself could not tell us, so that we could fully understand it, how sweet, how excellent, how sure, how full our Lord is! We know His love, but yet it “passes knowledge.” When you know more of your Lord you will say, “I wish I had never doubted Him, for I never had a cause. Oh that I had trusted Him more fully, for He has never disappointed me, but far exceeded my largest hopes.” (“Faith’s Sure Foundation,” sermon #1429 on 1 Pt 2:6)

Disappointments abound in life. We all have experienced times when we have been promised much only to be disappointed by receiving much less than what we expected.

But believers’ only disappointments will not be in Christ, but in themselves
Ø for not trusting him sooner,
Ø for not trusting him more fully,
Ø for not investing themselves, not sacrificing themselves far more for him.

The fact that we will not be put to shame also means that one day we will be vindicated before the eyes of the world for having chosen to follow Christ. The world mocks Christians.

--Some of our unbelieving family and neighbors roll their eyes at our apparent stupidity.
Or they consider us fanatics. Ever notice how sports enthusiasts are called “fans,” but Christ enthusiasts are called “fanatics.”

--Hollywood mocks Christians as either naive or hypocritical or both.

--In the arena of public discussion, believers are slighted and looked down upon.

--And in other areas in the world, believers are fiercely attacked.

But despite the world’s mockery and persecution, we will not be put to shame. One day we will be vindicated for our faith in Christ.

c. Believers will receive honor.
The first line of v. 7 in the NIV reads, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.” The text literally reads: “To you, therefore, the honor, to the ones believing.” A better translation, which leads to a different meaning, is the ESV: “So the honor is for you who believe.”

Now undoubtedly Christ is precious to those who believe, but that’s not what Peter is saying here. In vss. 6-8 he’s talking about the respective fates of believers and unbelievers. And at the beginning of v. 7 he adds that believers will be honored.

Not only will they be vindicated for being a part of Christ and his Church; they will also be honored.

Look at 1:7: “[Trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

So the Church will be vindicated and honored for her faith in Christ.

2. Everyone else will fall (7b-8).

a. Now we’re talking about unbelievers.
In the first part of v. 7 Peter’s talking about those who believe. In the last part, about those who don’t believe.

Ultimately there are only two groups of people.
Those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who don’t
Those who are trusting Christ and those who aren’t
Those who build their lives on Jesus Christ and those who don’t
The Church and the world

Well, what do we learn about unbelievers?

b. Their judgment of Christ is rejected.
Unbelievers are pictured as the builders in 7, and the stone is Christ.

They rejected the stone; that is, they rejected Christ. “He is not the Messiah,” they said. Jesus told his disciples that he would be rejected.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mk 8:31 (NIV)

And indeed he was.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe."
Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Mk 15:29-32 (NIV)

Unbelievers continue to reject him. I probably don’t need to spell this out. It is an obvious truth that Jesus is rejected by many throughout our community, our country, and our world.

Even those who have respect for Jesus as a teacher, but that’s all the further they go—they, too, are rejecting him. For he is not to them the cornerstone, the means of salvation.

So that’s the judgment of unbelievers regarding Jesus. But notice what the text says: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”

You will notice the NIV footnote says that the word translated “capstone” could also be “cornerstone,” which is probably preferable here, but it makes little difference to the point being made.

The point is, the judgment of the unbelievers regarding Jesus is itself judged, and it’s judged to be wrong. They discard Jesus as useless and irrelevant. But in fact he is chosen and precious to God, and he is in fact quite the opposite. He is quite relevant. No one is saved apart from him.

The rejection of the world is itself rejected.

c. Their destruction is assured.

"A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall."
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

Not only is Christ a stone on which men can build their lives, but he is also a stone over which all other men stumble and fall.

Note here the centrality of Christ. No one ultimately avoids contact with Christ! No one.

No one gets past him without dealing with him. Believers come to him for help. Those who don’t believe stumble over him and fall. You either trust him or you trip over him.

This lends credence to the truth that the most important question you will ever deal with in life is, “How will I respond to Christ?”

If you entrust yourself to him and build your life on him, glory and honor and eternal life are yours. But if you don’t, you will trip and fall and not get up.

This stumbling and falling that we see in 8 has reference to final judgment.
See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Jude 14-15 (NIV)

… if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment … 2 Pet. 2:9 (NIV)

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his [the Son of Man’s] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29 (NIV)

There is an obvious distinction between the wicked and the righteous, or between those who have faith in God and those who don’t.

The distinction will be especially obvious at the end of the age. The righteous will be established, and they will receive an inheritance that will never be revoked. The wicked will experience disaster and loss.

I want to read several passages to you that teach us this truth.

A man cannot be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted.
Prov. 12:3 (NIV)

Wicked men are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous stands firm.
Prov. 12:7 (NIV)

Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house,
do not raid his dwelling place;
for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again,
but the wicked are brought down by calamity.
Prov. 24:15-16 (NIV)

Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.
Prov. 24:19-20 (NIV)

Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will go free.
Prov. 11:21 (NIV)

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:17 (NIV)

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Dan. 12:2-3 (NIV)

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. Dan 7:18 (ESV)

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 13:47-50 (NIV)

Well, it’s a good thing to belong to the Church. These verses on the distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous, the Church and the world, bear that out. In fact Peter has given us several reasons in these 5 verses why it is a good thing to belong to the Church.

I don’t know how you view the Church today.
It may look weak and feeble to some.
It may look ugly to others.

When it was built for an international exposition in the late 1800s, the structure was called monstrous by the citizens of the city, who demanded it be torn down as soon as the exposition was over.
But its architect defended it from the beginning, and today it is one of the architectural wonders of the modern world and is a primary landmark of Paris, France. The architect was Alexandre Eiffel. (Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations #70)
The Church may look monstrous to some, and there are many cries to tear it down, including men like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. But God defends it to the hilt, and the Church will prevail.

Whatever your take on the Church, make sure you take into consideration the truth about the Church. She’s the best thing going, and she will be established forever. Everything else will fall. Those who belong to the Church will in the end prevail.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Can Do It vs. Will Do It

I posted recently about a church sign I saw that read, "Faith isn’t knowing God can, but knowing he will."

I put the question to my parents and to my blog readership, and all who responded--2 parents and 2 readers--disagreed with the sign. As my father-in-law put it, that's "a little presumptuous."

This sign message needs to be qualified in some ways, because I think there are in fact some times faith knows he will. I know that he will complete my salvation/sanctification (Php 1:6). I know that Jesus Christ will come back. I know that the Church will not ever be wiped from the face of the earth by her enemies.

But there are a lot of areas where faith is simply knowing God can. I pray my neighbor will be healed of cancer and live a long life here on earth as wife and mother. I know God can do it, but I don't know whether he will.

I readily admit some people have what that church sign asserts, a faith that knows God will.
  • David knew that he would slay Goliath: "This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel" (1 Sam 17:46 NIV).
  • Elijah knew that God would light his sacrifice up with heavenly fire: "Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God" (1 Kings 18:24 NIV).
How did David know for sure that he would kill Goliath? How did Elijah know for sure that God would answer his prayer with fire? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn't know for sure God would deliver them from the furnace: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Dan 3:17-18 NIV, emphasis added).

I think what David and Elijah had was a unique, Spirit-given insight into what God would do. It might be the spiritual gift of faith that some have and many do not (cf. 1 Cor 12:9).

George Muller appeared to have this kind of faith. I remember an account of him sailing, and he was told of bad weather, and he prayed that the weather would clear up, and he knew that it would do so, telling the sailors to proceed forward and not turn back. And the weather did clear up.

That's my neat little theology. But where God's Word shakes up my theology is with verses like Mark 11:22-24: "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (NIV).

Some people have helped shed some light on that for me, but I still need more light.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Online Journal

It’s 4:45 P.M., and I’m sitting at my south office (McDonald’s at 27 and Anthony). There are 4 customers here right now, all of us with laptops up and running. Curiously, at least 2 of these guys haven’t bought anything here. I always buy something (patting myself on the shoulder right now), though McDonald’s may question whether my usual investment of $2.16 is worth the 3+ hours I occupy a booth and an outlet.

Sara is in the 6th and final week of her real estate class. She has taken 4 of her 5 tests, and she has to have a 75% average in order to get her certificate. Her grades thus far, if memory serves, have been 82, 88, 90, and 96. And yet she’s still concerned about Friday’s test. Saturday, then, she is scheduled to take the state licensing test, the event for which the whole of this class has been preparing her.

Our home phone went out yesterday, the 3rd time in 3 months. After obtaining Verizon’s pleasant digital troubleshooter and going through that artificial conversation, we (that is, Verizon) determined that my phone would be fixed Friday (3 days hence) if I would be available at my home between 8 A.M. and 8:30 P.M. So this will be roughly 10 days cumulatively we’ve been without phone service in the last couple months. Except we got it back today. Last night at supper we prayed to the Lord that he would fix our phone before Verizon had a chance to. This afternoon the phone rang, and my nephew Oliver was on the other end. Thank you, Lord.

Having the phone out doesn’t just irritate Sara and me anymore. Andrew, who uses the phone quite regularly now, was also quite perturbed.

I am unusually tired these days. I am trying to get back into the habit of earlier to bed and early to rise, and I have been successful this week, but not in recovering my rest and energy. It feels like jet lag. I am taking short power naps in my office every day, it seems. I don’t know what the deal is. Another factor: with Andrew and Caty getting older and school out, they are staying up later, which doesn’t help me get my rest.

It looks like we’ll be taking a trip later this summer to Massanutten in Virginia with my parents and most, if not all, of my brother’s kids. When we announced it to the kids, they were overjoyed. They thoroughly enjoyed our time there last year. The night of the announcement, Callie packed a small bag with a swimsuit and a drawing, I think, (the obvious necessities) and placed it next to the couch, announcing to us that she had packed.

In Adult Bible Study on Wednesday nights, we recently finished up a half-year study of 2 Corinthians 1-7. Now we’re in the midst of a short study of some Psalms. We did Ps 37. Tonight we finish up Ps 103 and possibly begin Ps 104. Not sure if we’ll do any more after that before our next series.


Seen on a church sign:

"Faith isn’t knowing God can, but knowing he will."

Do you agree or diagree?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Joseph Twichell and I

Started reading The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: A Chaplain’s Story (editors Peter Messent and Steve Courtney).

Very interesting thus far. At 22 years old, Twichell, a seminary student, signed up with a New York regiment in the Union Army. Twichell wrote his father regularly (usually at least once a week) throughout the Civil War. Bright and articulate (he was a minister), I find the letters I’ve read thus far to be fascinating. Part of that has to do with the fact that he is a minister as well. While circumstances of our ministries are different, yet there are also many commonalities.

Points of interest thus far:

Place of ministry. Twichell signed up with a particular regiment because the men were “rough, wicked men”: “If you ask why I fixed upon this particular regiment, composed as it is of rough, wicked men, I answer, that was the reason. I saw that the companies of the better class of citizens were all attended by Chaplains, but nothing was said about these. There, I thought, is a place for me” (17-18).

Ecumenism. The brigade Twichell ended up in was composed of two regiments initially, and he was eager to meet the chaplain of the other regiment, nervous that he would be an Episcopalian and not a Congregationalist. He was relieved to find the other chaplain a Congregationalist, who, incidentally, likewise feared that Twichell would be an Episcopalian, neither man desirous of adjusting to the Rome-ish formalities of worship.

Scripture distribution. A few weeks into his new role, Twichell and the other chaplain made a formal presentation of 1500 Testaments and Psalms to their brigade (Testaments donated by the American Bible Society). They organized a service with several speakers, including the brigade commander, Gen. Daniel Sickles. “In speaking I announced that they were free-gifts and that no one was compelled to accept. Only one man so far as I knew declined to receive one” (23).

Appearance of evil. Only two years prior Gen. Sickles was tried for the murder of his wife’s adulterous lover. He was acquitted on the plea of temporary insanity, the first time such a plea was used. At the time of the Scripture distribution, Twichell was invited by the other chaplain to ride in a carriage with Mrs. Sickles and her mother. Twichell declined: “Some how or other I had not the courage. I did not want to look the woman in the face. I have no doubt she has paid dearly in bitter repentance for her past dark sin, but without much reflection I preferred not to see her in so close proximity as the same courage” (24).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On This Date in (My) History

June 12, 1995 -- My first day as associate pastor at Northside. It was a Monday morning. We had a staff meeting (Pastor Ryan, the secretary, and myself) where I was given a bunch of information. Then I went down to my office and thought, "OK, now what do I do?"

I decided to look back in my journals to see what else I have done on this date in history.

Three years ago, June 12, 2007 -- Sara and I went on a date. We ate at Culver's (yum) and saw Ocean's 13 at Carmike Theater, munching on their Chicago-style gourmet popcorn.

Twenty-six years ago, June 12, 1984 -- I was 14. I'll just quote my journal: "I didn't work today. I studied quizzing 3 hrs. I had volleyball practice at 12:30, piano at 2:30, and trumpet at 3:00. I'm watching the 7th and final game of the NBA championship. Right now in the 4th quarter Boston is winning 101-93. Boston won. NUTS!!! Larry Bird was the MVP." (I was rooting for the Lakers in that series.)

Twenty-nine years ago, June 12, 1981 -- I was 11. It was an eventful day. According to my journal I ...
  • played 2 sets of tennis at the park with my best friend Jerrod (we split)
  • received my final report card (and there was a B+ on it in Social Studies, lest anyone think I only got A's)
  • found out which Wildcat baseball team I was going to play on for the summer (the Bretts, named after Kansas City hall-of-famer George Brett)
  • and played 2 games of Putt-Putt with my parents and brother (my dad won both games).

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Importance of Understanding Faith

Calvin justifies a 50-page section on faith in his Institutes along these lines: Since the only hope of salvation we have is found in Christ, and since our only hope of obtaining this salvation is through faith, we must understand what exactly faith is. If we exercise something that is not faith in order to receive Christ’s salvation, then we will still be lost, even if we mistakenly believe the something we exercised was faith.

Calvin’s definition of faith goes like this: “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 7).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is That Really Unique?

Don't most kids?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Farewell, Elmhurst

Last day of school at my Alma Mater.


Know anybody who has to one-up you in each and every conversation? You tell the story of a fender bender, and they immediately tell you the story of having to be removed from an accident with the jaws of life. Your kids are in a musical, and their kids are advising the mayor.

This comedian so captures those kinds of people. About 4 minutes long.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thomas Sowell

I love Sowell's "Random Thoughts" commentaries. Here are some gems from his latest one.

A newspaper headline said: "U.S. Growing Impatient with Iran." Boy, won't that scare them to death? If they keep going, and make enough nuclear bombs to blast us to smithereens, we will go to the United Nations and get a resolution passed, condemning their actions-- or, if the U.N. won't go that far, deploring their lack of cooperation.

After North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors, was there even one-tenth the outrage that is ringing out loudly around the world because of 9 deaths that resulted from Israeli commandoes intercepting a ship heading for the Gaza strip?

Even though some people say we are living in a "knowledge economy," we are living in a political atmosphere in which ignorance has more power than ever. Washington politicians who have never run any business are telling all kinds of businesses-- from automobile companies and banks to hospitals and insurance companies-- how they have to run their businesses. This is the golden age of ignorance in power.

Whether Barack Obama is simply incompetent as President or has some hidden agenda to undermine this country, at home and abroad, he has nearly everything he needs to ruin America, including a fool for a Vice President.

Read the rest of Sowell's "Random Thoughts" here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Pain in the Butt, or Is It?

God has given us amazing bodies. The links between physical pain and the mind may not be as clear cut as what we think.

I include three statements, two of them extended, for your contemplation and wonder from an article by Philip Yancey.

“Consider the phenomenon of Couvade, documented in many places worldwide. In some societies in Micronesia and the Amazon Valley, for example, the mother shows no indication of suffering during delivery. She may break from work a mere two or three hours to give birth, then return to the fields. By all appearances the husband bears the pain: during the delivery and for days afterward he lies in bed, thrashing about and groaning. Indeed, if his travail seems unconvincing, other villagers will question his paternity. A journalist or anthropologist who tried to explain, ‘Sir, there’s no reason for you to feel pain because, after all, it was your wife who bore the child,' would doubtless meet a hostile reaction. For months the father has struggled with such symptoms as nausea, weight gain, constipation, headache, and other signs of distress, not to mention the agony of the ‘delivery’ itself. For him, the pain is as real as it is for the Manhattan socialite demanding her epidural.”

“Every square millimeter of the body has a different sensitivity to pain, so that a speck of dirt may cause excruciating pain in the vulnerable eye whereas it would go unreported on the tough extremities. Internal organs such as the bowels and kidneys have no receptors that warn against cutting or burning—dangers they normally do not face—but show exquisite sensitivity to distention. When organs such as the heart detect danger but lack receptors, they borrow other pain cells (‘referred pain’), which is why heart attack victims often report pain in the shoulder or arm. The pain system automatically ramps up hypersensitivity to protect an injured part (explaining why a sore thumb always seems in the way) and turns down the volume in the face of emergencies (soldiers often report no pain from a wound in the course of battle, only afterwards). Pain serves us subliminally as well: sensors make us blink several times a minute to lubricate our eyes and shift our legs and buttocks to prevent pressure sores. Pain is the most effective language the body can use to draw attention to something important.”

“Or, in the case of someone who has undergone a frontal lobotomy, the patient can describe intense pain in precise detail but have no emotional reaction: ‘Yes, the pain is acute and nearly unbearable,' she says with a broad smile.”

Source: Philip Yancey, “That Hurts,” a review of Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture, ed. by Sarah Coakley and Kay Kaufman Shelemay in Books & Culture, May/June 2008, 32-33

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Permission to Forget My Reading

I read a post by Doug Wilson the other day that has given me a large measure of freedom and relief when it comes to my reading habits.

You see, I have become concerned about how little I retain of my reading, and so I have begun to sketch some brief notes or outlines on some of my reading. But that surely does slow me up, and sometimes, when I have the time to read, I shy away from the books I'm taking notes on. At other times I feel a bit overwhelmed because I'm behind on my note-taking.

I realize the last paragraph seems absurd to some of you, but there it is.

Apparently, however, Doug Wilson is at least familiar with my kind, for in a post on becoming a writer he wrote the following:

Read like a reader, and not like someone cramming for a test. If you try to wring every book out like it was a washcloth full of information, all you will do is slow yourself down to a useless pace. Go for total tonnage, and read like someone who will forget most of it. You have my permission to forget most of it, which may or may not be reassuring, but you will forget most of it in either case. Most of what is shaping you in the course of your reading, you will not be able to remember. The most formative years of my life were the first five, and if those years were to be evaluated on the basis of my ability to pass a test on them, the conclusion would be that nothing important happened then, which would be false. The fact that you can't remember things doesn't mean that you haven't been shaped by them.

Reading in the last few days has regained its old delicious flavor.

Another comment from the same post also encouraged a couple other reading habits of mine that I sometimes wonder at, reading widely and reading several books at the same time.

Read widely. Reading shapes your voice, and if you want a wide, experienced voice, you have to get out more. Reading in one genre only is a form of literary provincialism. The timbre of your voice will be affected in good ways by every place you have been, bookwise, and so you should make a point of reading novels, histories, collections of poetry, comedies, biographies, theology, and plays. And don't be a afraid to have twenty books going at once.

Read the whole post here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Case for the Crusades

What I’ve been taught about the Crusades:
  • Christians unfairly going to war against Muslims
  • A blot on the record of Church history
  • Many crusaders motivated by greed
According to Rodney Stark, that’s all wrong. He’s written a new book (which someone can buy me if they like) debunking the myths. But if you want a short cut-to-the-chase education on this bloody period of Church history, you can read this interview with Prof. Stark.

I Enthusiastically and Hesitatingly Recommend "Stranger Than Fiction"

Sara and I first saw Stranger Than Fiction in the theater a few years ago, and I watched it a second time the other night.

The movie centers on Harold Crick—a methodical IRS agent who does everything with precision, the same way, day-in and day-out, right down to the number of strokes he takes when brushing his teeth—and his watch. At least that’s what the narrator tells us.

Intriguing already, the story becomes more so when Harold himself begins to hear the narrator talking about what he is doing, and the movie then focuses on Harold trying to discover the source and meaning of the voice he hears detailing everything he’s doing, even accurately describing his feelings and motivations.

On the other side of the story is the story of the narrator (played by Emma Thompson), unaware that the novel she is writing is actually being lived out precisely as she writes it. She is experiencing writer’s block, trying to figure out how to kill off Harold Crick at the end of the book, because her books are always tragedies.

The drone-like life of Harold Crick gets another bump when he audits Ana (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), a socialist-leaning baker who intentionally only paid 78% of her taxes. Romance between these two opposites eventually blooms after it scales several hurdles.

Crick’s awakening leaps forward when he hears the narrator’s voice say something about his imminent death.

The movie’s message, at least as I see it, is about living one’s life to the full. Ironically, Harold Crick doesn’t seem to begin to do so until confronted with the prospect of his death.

The plot is fantastical, and questions arise. If Harold Crick is the main character in a novel being written, how did he live before that? One could say that he didn’t really. Yes, he was alive in one sense—he breathed, he ate, he worked, he slept—, but he didn’t really come alive until this narrator spoke into his life, and then he eventually really started living.

It’s a brilliant movie many ways. There are other great elements I haven’t even touched on, like the role Harold’s watch plays, the help a literature professor (played by Dustin Hoffman) gives Harold in understanding the nature of story as well as the nature of life, the development of the narrator-character connection, and even the soundtrack, which is perfect for the movie.

Harold Crick is played by funny man Will Ferrell. How in the world did they think of him for this part? His part is so somber and straight-faced for much of the movie. And yet he plays it brilliantly!

I hasten to mention some serious flaws.

  • There are a few explicit lines in the movie.
  • Harold and Ana end up in bed together.
  • In one scene Crick and the professor walk through a men’s shower room where the backsides of a few showering men are shown.

These reasons alone may be enough for you to consider not seeing the movie.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Random Thoughts

Should we not question the sanity of someone who follows a dog every day until it defecates, scoops up the scat and carries it in a bag at his side?

Umpire Jim Joyce blew the rare feat of a perfect game for a Tigers' pitcher last night. Less than 20 perfect games have been pitched in Major League Baseball history. Last night Armando Galarraga had a perfect game going with 2 outs in the 9th inning when Joyce called a batter safe at 1st (when he was clearly out). Joyce says he was convinced he was safe until he saw the replay later. To his credit, Joyce sincerely apologized to Galarraga, and to his credit, Galarrage has handled himself well. My opinion: tough break, but that's part of the game. Instant replays aren't part of the game (except in rare instances, I understand), and so, until the rules change, human error in umpiring IS a part of the game of baseball.

Does anyone else roll their eyes when the government calls in Titanic director James Cameron for advice on how to deal with the oil spill problem?

Sara made an astute observation last night about cell phones. She told a friend of ours, "To Kent a cell phone would be a leash. For me, it frees me up (to be away from the house, run errands, etc.)."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pediatrics President Tells Truth about Homosexuality

“It is essential to understand there is no scientific evidence that an individual is born ‘gay’ or ‘transgender.”

This statement is lodged in the middle of a March 31st letter to school superintendents from none other than the President of the American College of Pediatricians. In the letter he encourages school counselors, when they observe possible gender confusion in a student, not to affirm that student in that sexual orientation.

The reason is that many adolescents experience some gender confusion and/or homosexual attraction, but that does not mean that all are destined for homosexuality. In fact, “most” who experience gender confusion as adolescents do not experience attraction to the opposite sex by age 25.

Counselors who rush to judgment and affirm homosexual tendencies could in fact prolong the confusion and potentially cause a great deal of trouble.

Certain lines from this letter are worth quoting.

Multiple social and familial factors that incline children and adolescents to homosexual attraction and/or gender confusion “can respond well to therapy.”

“… individuals with unwanted same sex attraction often can be successfully treated.”

“… as a group, homosexuals experience significantly higher levels of mental and physical health problems compared to heterosexuals.”

“Premature labeling may then lead some adolescents into harmful homosexual behaviors that they otherwise would not pursue” (emphasis added).

I wonder if there’s been any fallout from this letter. Hats off to President Tom Benton and the American College of Pediatricians for loving kids enough to tell the truth to their schools administrators.

If you'd like, read the whole letter.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Higgs Boson

The story of A Hole in Texas (by Herman Wouk) revolves around super colliders and the race to discover the Higgs boson. In the story China beats the U.S. to the punch.

Wouk’s author’s note at the beginning of his work intrigued me, beginning, “At a rough guess, 99.9999 percent of all Americans don’t know what the hell a Higgs boson is.”

When he mentions a super collider--a topic of interest to my brother Jeff--a couple lines later, I thought, “I wonder if Jeff is among the .0001% who does know what a Higgs boson is.” When I asked him about it a few days later, he said he had heard of it, though he didn’t know precisely what it was.

To find out more about the Higgs boson, use your search engine.